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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; McNeely, Thompson Ware. 'Thompson Ware McNeely 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
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon424.html


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313. Thompson Ware McNeely to William H. Herndon.

Petersburg Ills Nov 28th 1866

Friend Herndon

I have delayed answering yours of the 20th inst on account of illness and am not now able to leave my room to inquire into the facts suggested in your last but will do so in a few days with pleasure.

I have carefully read your lecture [1] and will briefly answer your questions as you have asked them —

I think you correctly describe Lincoln's condition except when you say that the "mental dethronement of his reason could only be detected by his closest friends." He may not have been "for a time totally insane" but he was so near that condition that every body who saw & knew him at once set him down as insane — Your

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description of New Salem in its hopeful days is perfect. I have hunted over & around its hills & fished at its mill so often that I can see its log house, its long single street its branches bluffs flowers trees fruits birds &c just as you have discribed them. A correct discription of Mr Lincoln's town home & their surroundings at that period of his life where about to turn his steps into intellectual paths is very necessary to the student of his after life. The superficial reader may object to your discription on account of its minutness & extent but that is necessary in order to distinguish it from hundreds of other towns & spots of Earth —

I read your discription of the early people of New Salem with a great deal of interest as it is my idea of New Salem in its palmiest days ever before written which I had formed from hearing the early history of the Town reported for the last twenty years by those who then lived in & about it & helped to make its history.

I have so often heard these men and their doings of which you speak described & talked of by eye-witnesses that I endorse what you say but you will find it difficult to convince your readers who reside at a distance — say in the East, that you do not speak extravigantly — Such men did live then & there and made their kind of history all of which you correctly set down but many will not believe it.

I like your lecture as a whole and most if not all of its philosophy.

Your long association with Mr Lincoln in business — in the same office, your knowledge of his opinions expressed on the various subjects political religious social &c which came up in his daily conversation with you during that time & your personal acquaintance with his early associates enables you above all others to give a true & faithful story of his life. If Law-partners do not become acquainted with each other in hand & heart discussing with each other & with clients as they do every subject known to men in that free candor & sometimes confidential way peculiar to a lawyers office life then it is impossible for one man to know another —

The task you have Entered upon is a difficult one — He is a bold man who undertakes to write true biography of a public man especially of one called by the world — a Martyr —

Wishing you success in the undertaking and hoping that you may give the world at least one true picture of an eventful human life with all its lights & shades

I am very truly

Your Friend
T W McNeely

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2806 — 7; Huntington Library: LN2408, 1:303 — 5

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; McNeely, Thompson Ware. 'Thompson Ware McNeely 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
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon424.html
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