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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Bliss, John S. 'John S. Bliss to William H. Herndon' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
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436. John S. Bliss to William H. Herndon.

West Milton Jan. 29th 1867

Yours was rec in due time — and herewith I send you brief notes relative to conversation with Abraham Lincoln in Springfield July 18th 1860 — at his house — and at the State House — I hope you will find the whole, or any part of the M.S.S. of use to you, in your undertaking —

If it is suitable for your use as a letter publish it — or such part as you need

I hope you will let me know just what you think of the communication, and what you think you can do with it,

Also when will your book be issued Please let me hear from you When you rec this.

Certainly Yours
J. S. Bliss

-- 551 --

Abraham Lincoln

One beautiful July morning eighteen hundred and Sixty — I awoke in the city of Springfield Illinois.

The sun arose clear and bright, and appeared to radiate peace, and tranquility, as his long Slanting beams Sped from the far east to the Western prairies

Beautiful indeed was this auspicious morning.

The rumbling of the wheels, and the clatter of hoofs on the pavements bespoke life and gladness, at the Capital of Illinois

After the luminary had gained so higher altitude, a favorable opportunity offered itself for a morning walk, and it was but a brief time before I presented myself to the door of our nominee, for the highest office in the gift of a great nation.

I say not this in egotism, or what may follow.

I was ushered into the sitting room — by the young man who answered the bell, and from that place, I Sent my verbal card to Mr Lincoln — I was prepared with no letter of introduction — but as unarmed as I was, I waited for Mr. Lincoln

I was sitting opposite the door and partly in sight of the Stairs

After a short time, Mr L. came tripping down the Stairs, as lively as a young man of sixteen years of age — sliding his right hand on the bannister — He approached me and after shaking hands — we were soon immersed in a lively conversation on various topics.

As I was from near Madison Wisconsin, he was anxious too, and did inquire, as to the resources, and developments, to which I replied, to the best of my ability.

The Black Hawk War was talked of freely, for Mr Lincoln was Capt. at that eventful period and camped on the Same ground — of which we were then Speaking, and which had been overturned by the husbandman since that time —

He spoke of the press in Wisconsin, and gave readily the course they had pursued — (especially Some of the Milwaukee papers) as readily as a resident of that City.

A connected history of the Springfield press was also given, and when I asked how the matter was politically at that particular time, he replied, that, "a few weeks ago, the chances were somewhat against us, but at present is very evenly balanced"

He cared not how high the great democratic flagstaff was that floated over the Capital City, and appeared to frown down upon his head — He did not use such words however.

While sitting there, the Chimney Swallows came down behind the fire boards, and absolutely twittered, uttered and Sung as to nearly drown our voices.

I remarked that the birds rarely decend so low, but Mr. L. replied, "that they usually came down once a day."

I decided it to be a Seranade to Mr. Lincoln and so it passed,

In answer to our interogative relatinng to the population of Springfield Mr. Lincoln Said —

"With those who want a large city, there are Sixteen and Seventeen thousand, but I suppose there is thirteen or fourteen thousand inhabitants".

-- 552 --

This showed the character of the man — that he was emphatically "honest Abe"

On a section of the wall of his parlor, hung a picture of himself and Mr Hamlin; and he said he had not seen Mr Hamlin yet.

Whereupon, I took the liberty to remark, that they would meet in the City of Washington ere long to which he smiled in his then usual good natured Style

We stepped to the opposite side of the room, where was one of the best executed pictures of Mr Lincoln I had ever Seen and it was this one, I was paying rather more than ordinary attention.

He was immediately at my left, and pointing to it said — "That picture, gives a very fair representation of my homely face"

This was in a Slow plain Style of Speech — I thought that Saying, under the circumstances was worth a trip to Springfield hence I called the debt cancelled.

A what not in the corner of the room was laden with various kinds of shells, I took one in my hand and said,

"This I suppose, is called a Trocus by the Geologist or Naturalist"

Mr Lincoln replied, "I do not Know for I never Studied it"

The time was nearing for my departure from the house of this good man and I manifested it — but Mr Lincoln said,

"You cannot get out of this town before befor a quarter past eleven" and solicited a longer Stay — but as my mission was nearly fulfilled — and being Satisfied with my visit — and putting it down as one of the, days of my life I decided to go —

"Well" said Mr Lincoln, suppose you come over to the State House before you go to Chicago".

After a moment of mental deliberation I promised to do so, and departed. Mr L. following without his hat — continuing conversation — shook hands across the gate — and Saying "Now come over"

I wended my way to my hotel, and after a brief period — was in his office at the State House, and resuming conversation, he said

"If the man comes with the key, before you go, I want to give you a book"

I certainly hoped the man would come with the key —

Some conversation had taken place at the house on which his book treated — but I had forgotten this — and soon Mr L. absented himself for perhaps two minutes and returned with a copy of the debates between him and Stephen A. Douglas [1] — placed it upon his knee — as he sat back on two legs of his chair, and wrote on the fly leaf — "J. S. Bliss from A. Lincoln"

This is written with a pencil, and is a genuine autograph,

Besides this, he marked a couple of paragraphs near the middle of the book,

This he presented me, which I still retain, and I would not part with it for all the Southern Gold, paid for assassinating him.

While Sitting in his office little Willie came in and said —

-- 553 --

"Father I want twenty five cents"

My son" said Mr Lincoln "What do you want of twenty five cents"?

"I want it to buy candy with" "My son, I Shall not give you twenty five cents, but will give you five cents", at the Same time putting his thumb and finger into his vest pocket, taking therefrom five cents in silver, and placed it upon the desk before the boy —

But this did not reach Willies' expectations, and he Scorned the pile, by turning away — and clambering down Stairs — through the halls of the Capitol, leaving behind him his five cents, and a reverberation of Sound.

Mr L. turned to me and Said —

"He will be back after that in a few moments"

"Why do you think so" said I.

"Because, as soon as he finds I will give him no more he will come and get it."

After the matter had been nearly forgotten — and conversation on different subjects indulged in — Willie came cautiously behind my chair and that of his father — picked up the Specie and went away without saying a word,

I have mentioned these plain and simple facts, and incidents to add, if possible to the characteristic of this plain hearted — honest — unassuming man. a true representative man of the West. — his equal rarely if ever to be found, and whose name will live and be remembered with the name of Washington.

I departed from him for the train, and time will never be able to efface, the recollections of that warm grasp and also the utterance of the word "Good By"

I saw no more of Abraham Lincoln, until his lifeless corpse was brought to Chicago enroute to Oak Ridge.

Indeed, a great man had fallen — by the hand of a vile assassin, and that was a time when I could cry — "Vengence is mine"

This was a time when the sun had Set — in Sorrow to this afflicted country — When a dark pall fell heavily over the entire American nation — and the Nations of the World, when from every heart heaved an unfathomable Sigh which reaches to Heaven today.

Fraternally Yours
J. S. Bliss

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2978 — 90

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Bliss, John S. 'John S. Bliss to William H. Herndon' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
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