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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Weber, John B. 'John B. Weber 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=herndon394b.html


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289. John B. Weber to William H. Herndon.

Pawnee Ills Novem 5th 1866,

Friend Herndon,

When I last saw you at your office in Springfield, I told you an anecdote of Mr. Lincoln which you requested me to put in writing, to be inserted in the life of Mr Lincoln, which you are now writing for publication.

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In doing so, it is unecessary to say to persons who were intimate with Mr Lincoln, that his company was of the most agreable character, his conversation was simple, instructive, and amusing, and when he desired to impress his ideas upon the minds of those present, He would almost invariably illustrate his point by telling an anecdote which was always appropriate and well applied,

During the Washingtonian Temperance Reformation, Societies were organized in most of the School houses in Sangamon County, and were attended monthly by volunteer speakers, Mr Lincoln and I rendered a part of this volunteer service, I freequently succeeded in getting Mr Lincoln to fill my appointment, and on all such occasions we rode together in Mr Lincolns buggy, We were near neighbours living on the same Street nearly opposite each other.

Mr Lincoln was a deciple of Henry Clay, and the Champion of the Whig party in Centeral Illinois, and I was a member of the Democratic party until the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, Consequently, when together partisan politics were never aluded to by either of us.

On one occasion, I think in 1843, Mr Lincoln and I attended a Temperance Meeting on the north side of the Sangamon river, about 11 miles from Springfield. On our way home, the conversation between us turned upon Mr Lincolns early life,

He had been Captain of a Company in the Blackhawk war, and afterwards a candidate for a seat in the Illinois Legislature.

This was before Sangamon was divided, John Calhoun was then County surveyor, and Mr Lincoln was his Deputy for that part of the territory which is now Menard, and part of Mason Counties, Mr Lincolns home was in Salem, (now in Menard County) While living there, said he, a gentleman from Pensylvania who was said to have plenty money located down in the neck, as it was then called (now in Mason County) The fact that he had plenty money induced the people at Salem to believe him to be an old Pensylvania Miser, and under such impression very little respect was entertained for him, Sometime afterwards, Mr Lincoln was called upon to go down to the neck to survey some land in which this Pensylvanian was interested, The day was agreed upon, and at the fixed time the interested parties were all on hand, and the work was pushed forward with energy, The evening was cold, and most of the persons engaged in the work went to the Pensylvanians house to Supper, and after an excellent supper was disposed of, the Company seated themselves around a big log fire in a big fire place, such as the people had in those days, All were in fine humor for amusement, Mr. Lincoln told them an anecdote which was received with applause, The Pensylvanian then told one in reply, which was approved by an uproar of laughter, One anecdote was told after another until midnight, at which time the Pensylvanian said it was now time to retire, Mr. Lincoln replied by saying in a moment Sir, Before retiring I wish to show how easy persons may be deluded by forming conclusions upon ideas not based upon facts, He the addressed himself to the Pensylvanian, saying, that when we folks up in Salem first heard of you, we heard you were a Pensylvanian and had considerable money, from which we concluded you were an old miserly Dutch

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man, but the facts show that we were very much mistaken, and I am happy to acknowledge that I have been very agreably disappointed, Well, said the Pensylvanian, as you have done me the honor to give me an account of the first opinion formed by you of me, it is no more than right that I should now report my first opinion of you, and then said when I first heard of you, I heard that you had been a Candidate for the Legislature, consequently I had come to the conclusion that on your arival here I would see a smart looking man. At the close of this statement Mr Lincoln laughed heartily, I felt indignant, and said to Mr Lincoln, The Pensylvanians reply was very ungenerous, inasmuch as your remarks concerning him were highly complimentory, but I added, probably it was only intended for the amusement of the moment, No, No, said Mr Lincoln, He meant all he said, for it was before I was washed, and then said I will have to tell you an anecdote to give you some idea of the fix I was in before I was washed, but said I dont vouch for the truth of the anecdote,

He then said, when I was a little boy, I lived in the state of Kentucky, where drunkeness was very comon on election days, At an election said he, in a village near where I lived, on a day when the weather was inclement and the roads exceedingly muddy, A toper named Bill got brutally drunk and staggered down a narrow alley where he layed himself down in the mud, and remained there until the dusk of the evening, at which time he recovered from his stupor, Finding himself very muddy, immediately started for a pump (a public watering place on the street) to wash himself. On his way to the pump another drunken man was leaning over a horse post, this, Bill mistook for the pump and at once took hold of the arm of the man for the handle, the use of which set the occupant of the post to throwing up, Bill believing all was right put both hands under and gave himself a thorough washing, He then made his way to the grocery for something to drink, On entering the door one of his comrades exclaimed in a tone of surprise, Why Bill what in the world is the matter Bill said in reply, I G — d you ought to have seen me before I was washed,

This picture of Mr Lincolns early life drawn by himself I presume is highly colored. I have heard him tell other anecdotes relating to himself, in all of which (according to his own representation) he was made to cut but a small figure. He never blew his own trumpet, but his deeds of Patriotism, Heroism and Benevolence has introduced him to the world,

Yours very respectfully
Jno B Weber

Friend Herndon,

Please find on first page of accompanying letter, these words, And I was a member of the Democratic party until the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, These words I wish inserted as a matter of justice to myself, otherwise it may be inferred from your life of Lincoln that I was politically opposed to Mr Lincoln up to the time of his assassination, While it is known here that we were both candidates on the same tickett at the election in 1854, he for the Legislature, and I for Sherriff, In 1856 we were both members of the Bloomington Convention which

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organized the Republican party in Illinois, In 1860 I was an outsider at the Chicago convention doing all I could to secure the nomination of Mr Lincoln, and I am constrained to believe that the outside pressure on that occasion done the work, After his nomination I electioneered for him until elected When his call was made for men to suppress the rebelion, three of my sons, all under 21 years of age, left their plows in the furrow and entered the army of the U.S. two of which were lost in the service and when Lincoln fell by the hand of the assassin no man mourned more than I, Therefore, I intend that nothing shall be published with my consent, from which it may be inferred, that during the rebelion I was a member of a party composed of infamous traitors

Yours &c J B W

In relation to other anecdotes, I will see you when I visit Springfield, J B W

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2735 — 37; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:165 — 72

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Weber, John B. 'John B. Weber 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=herndon394b.html
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