NIU Libraries Digitization Projects
Lincoln/Net Prairie Fire Illinois During the Civil War Illinois During the Gilded Age Mark Twain's Mississippi Back to Digitization Projects Contact Us
BACK

Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Swett, Leonard. 'Leonard Swett 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=herndon636.html


Previous section

Next section

523. Leonard Swett to William H. Herndon.

Chicago, Aug 30 1887

My dear Sir,

Mr Henry Whitney, of this city, called upon me saturday Evening, Either to ascertain what I know of the circumstances of the appointment of David Davis, as one of the associate Justices of the Supreme Court, or to settle a law suit, we have in hand & I do not know which. Of course he put the Davis matter ahead & talked it over & over, and it seemed as though he never would come to the suit, but when I mentioned it, he tumbled to it so kindly that I still am in doubt which was his real object.

I have concluded, however to write out the Davis matter, which I have done. I sent it herewith for such use as you may cho[o]se.

I reread my letter, of twenty one years ago. [1] It comes back to me like one from the dead. I cannot remember of writing it at all I have a shadowy [&c?] remembrance of dictating something to a reporter. and as this is in some person's hand writing other than my own. I presume I did dictate it. Even the corrections are so hastily made that they, in some instances destroy, rather than correct the sense.

Notwithstanding these facts it is, in my judgement, a better analysis of Mr Lincoln than I could make without it, and I return it with some slight alterations for such use by you, as you chose to make of it.

You will note that I have striken out all allusion to Mr Lincoln's swearing, and reading the Bible, & the reason is that I am satisfied the public does not want to hear them Lamon's book fell flat, every body connected with it lost money & the public have not yet forgiven him for making it, because it stated things which the public did not want to hear of its hero. There is after all some sense in this. History is made to perpetuate a man virtues or hold up his vices to be shuned. The heroes of the world are its standards, and in time, all faults and all bad or

-- 637 --

common humanities are eliminated and they become clothed with imaginary virtues. Thus, for instance, the hatchet story of George Washington

A man in making a history of General Grant, should entirely omit to state that he used to get drunk & that when in the army and on the plains he got so bad that in a craze, he "did his business" in the mess pan of his companions His historian should rather dwell on the glories of Appomatox, & leave to oblivion this little episode.

It is said a publishing house, in our day, got on to the story of George Washington & his mistress — his illegitimate son, in Philadelphia. The fruit of his winters stay there, during the Revolutionary war, but when the facts were obtained they were so real & so human that the publisher, although he had obtained them at great expense, destroyed them, because it was believed that the public had made such a hero of George Washington & he had become so much of what Bob Ingersoll calls a steel plate engraving that these facts would not be acceptable reading to the public.

If I should say Mr Lincoln ever swore & you were to publish it, the public would believe I lied about it. It would damage your book, and if the book were otherwise acceptable, the next edition would leave out that fact, in the publication.

I will be glad to assist you in any way in my power. This letter is also confidential.

Yours Truly
Leonard Swett

Philadelphia is an old city & is full of curious things & I am informed in a way I believe it to be true that there is an original autograph letter in existence there, from George Washington from Mount Vernon that he (George) is saving up a very fine yellow girl, which he proposes when ripe to send to his friend in Philadelphia How would this story go to ornament the Steel plate Engraving [2]

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3400 — 3403

-- nts --

Previous section

Next section


Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Swett, Leonard. 'Leonard Swett 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=herndon636.html
Powered by PhiloLogic