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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=herndon213.html


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152. Leonard Swett to William H. Herndon.

Chicago Feb 14. 1866.

Dear Sir.

Returning from Washington I found my wife very sick, so much so as to give me great concern for her recovery Since then I have been with a council of Physicians and giving my attention to her.

I cannot probably in less than a week write you what came under my observation at Washington and particularly in reference to the Emancipation Proclamation. I may be able to do so before, some night at my house, if so I will.

One thing you must remember in writing history. That is no man is great to his "Valet de chambre" There is but one true history in the world — that is the Bible. It is often said those old characters were bad men They are contrasted with other characters in history & much to the detriment of some of the old worthies. The reason is the historian of the worthies told the whole truth, the inner

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life The heart and secret acts are brought to life & photographed In other history virtues are perpetuated & vices concealed

If the history of King David had been written by an ordinary historian, the affair of Uriah would at most have been a quashed indictment with a denial of all the substantial facts. Sombody asked another what history was. He began to trace the word Says he history comes from Histoire. L'Histoire means a story & a story means a lie Now while I would have your history true. I would not have it too rigid There's a skeleton in Every house. The finest character dug out thoroughly & faithfully Photographed & judged by that morality or excellence which we exact as a standard for other men is spoiled Some men are cold some lewd, some dishonest some cruel The trail of the serpent touches all characters Excellence consists not in the absence of these unworthy attributes but in the degree to which they are redeemed by the graces and virtues of life

Lincoln's Character will bear a close scrutiny but even with him you must not let your Efforts run in the line of develloping his weaknesses. Now I am not afraid of you in this direction Dont let anything deter you from diging to the bottom but in diging these & drawing the portrait dont forget if Lincoln had some faults Washington had more — few men have less.

I would like to have you write me what the skeleton was with Lincoln. What gave him that peculiar melancholy? What cancer had he inside? You may send it by express and as soon as I read it, I will express it back to you. I always thought there was something but never knew what. Must stop

Yours Truly
Leonard Swett

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2497 — 98; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:287 — 89

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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=herndon213.html
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