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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Scott, John M. 'John M. Scott 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=herndon193.html


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137. John M. Scott to William H. Herndon.

Bloomington Feby 2nd 1866

Dr Sir

Your letter was received during the session of Court and I had no time to give it any attention —

If I were in possession of any incidents in the life of Mr Lincoln It would give me great pleasure to communicate the same to you. But I remmenber nothing that is worthy to be recorded in history. And there is a reason for this. Mr Lincoln in the ordinary walks of life did not appear the "great man", that he really was — We all remember him well, and yet it is difficult to tell the peculiarities of his character — The ground work of his social nature was Sad — but from the fact that he studiously cultivated the humorous it would have been very sad indeed — His mirth to me always seemed to be put on and did not properly belong there Like a plant produced in the hot-bed it had an unnatural and luxuriant growth — In all the points of his character with which I was ever familiar, I think you have very justly and Elegantly set them forth in your lectures which I have read with great interest and I shall look to the publication of your work with all the more interest for having read them — It is not possible to select any one essential of character and say that it was that which constituted Mr Lincoln great — for great he surely was — When you come to analize his character, the elements that entered into it, you will find that he possessed no one element of character in any higher degree than many of his cotemporaries. His greatness sprang from a strange combination of all the essentials of character entering into and forming a grand and heroic character, independent of any one great essential — And such a character is always Self-reliant — He would gather up difficulties, though they were mountainous, in their proportions and would toss them out of his way as lightly as a boy would his Shuttle-cock —

Lincoln was a bold and courageous man — I don't mean that mere physical courage that meets death in its most awful forms undaunted, nor yet that higher form of courage that inspires noble action in times of public or private danger — nor yet that still higher form of courage that invests the countenance of the hero with that strange and flashing light in the hour of battle amidst the shock and conflict of armies, leading on to deeds of valor that startle and dazzle the world. All this he may have had I know not — But that highest of all forms of courage, that is only ambitious to do good, that rising far above the selfish prejudices of men strikes out boldly and grandly for liberty and humanity — that lofty courage that is inspired of Heaven — that dares to do right whatever may be the opinion of the world and fears only to do wrong. In this regard the history of Earths great men, will present few — if any, — more prominent characters —

I can add nothing to what you have already said — and so wel said — of Mr Lincoln — and need not perhaps have written the little that I have written —

-- 194 --

I regret that I have not power to pen a thought that would be worthy of the great and good man whose life and public Services you propose to record —

Yours truly
John M Scott

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2463; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:337 — 39138.

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Scott, John M. 'John M. Scott 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=herndon193.html
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