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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Whitney, Henry C. 'Henry C. Whitney (Statement for William H. Herndon)' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: history]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon647b.html


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535. Henry C. Whitney (Statement for William H. Herndon).

[1887?]

I first saw Lincoln on June 3d 1854. He — Davis — Swett — & D. B. Campbell were in a light wagon in front of Baileys tavern in Champaign Co. returning from Danville Court. I was just coming to Champaign to settle as a lawyer. On Oct. 24. '54. Lincoln drove into our town Urbana to attend Court — Davis & Swett had just preceded him. That night after rest he made his "Springfield" speech once again. It was masterly. Next morning he went north via I.C.R.R. and as he went in an old 'bus. he played on a boys harp [1] all the way to the deppot I used to attend the Danville Court regularly as well as our own, of course. At Urbana I used to room with Lincoln & Davis frequently — same at Danville: Davis found me to be useful in doing errands. At Danville we used to stop at McCormicks hotel an old fashioned frame country hotel & jurors counsel prisoners & everybody all ate at a long table: After Judge [D?] Lincoln & I had the ladies parlor fitted up with 2 beds. at Danville Lincoln — Swett & McWilliams of Bloomington — Whitney of Urbana — Voorhees of Covington Indiana — O.L. Davis, Drake Lamon, Lawrence, Beckwith, O.F. Harmon of Danville — Chandler of Williamsport Indiana and Whiteman of Iroquois were the lawyers. It was quite a big court.

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The way we travelled was thus: Lincoln, Davis, Swett, O.L. Davis, Lamon, Drake & myself would ride from Urbana in livery rigs to Danville — take a day — 36 miles: sing & tell stories all the way: stop at a farm house & wait for them to kill & cook chickens for our dinner: get to Danville at dark. Lamon would have whiskey in his office for the drinking ones: those who indulged in petty gambling would get by themselves & play till late in the night. Lincoln and Davis & a few local wits would spend the evening in Davis room talking politics, wisdom & fun. Lincoln & Swett were the great lawyers. O. L. Davis was an irascible but good lawyer. Lincoln always wanted Swett in jury cases: regarded him as first rate before a jury — We who stopped at the hotel would all breakfast together — then all go out in the woods: hold Court and sometimes go to a ball or a party or to take tea with some one. We were of more consequence then than a Court & bar is now. sometimes we would be invited out in the Country to tea or to eat fruit. The feelings were those of great fraternity in the bar: Davis would freeze out of the charmed circle any disagreeable persons: no lawyer came to Urbana or Danville in my day from the West except Lincoln Swett & McWilliams. I attended Court once at Bloomington. In addition to the local bar there was Stuart & Moore & Weldon from Clinton besides Lincoln. Lincoln was fond of going all by himself to any little show or concert: I have known of his going to a small show of magic lanterns &c. really for children

He was in one town two days once holding Court all alone for Davis — a special term. on Sunday he & I went into the big grove after breakfast & neither of us had a watch & when we got back it was ½ past 3. He would tell stories in Court: Davis was always willing to stop business to hear Lincolns stories. Davis was somewhat particular what he ate or where he slept: Lincoln didnt care what he ate — who he ate with or where he slept or who he slept with. Just before Lincoln was nominated for President he was in Chicago trying the "Johnson" sand bar case: (I lived at Chicago then) he made our office his head quarters & I spent the evenings with him: one night I said to him: "Mr. Lincoln I have got 3 complimentary tickets to a high toned nigger show won't you go"? "Of all things in the world I should like that": and I never saw Lincoln happier than at that show which really was first rate: "Dixie" was played & sung & he was especially fond of that. It was entirely new.

I came to Covington Indiana in a canal boat on June 3d 1854. and took stage for Urbana — passed through Danville about 10 o'clock a.m. and at 12 o'clock m. overhauled a 2 seated carriage on the road at Baileys tavern with 4 gentlemen in it: and an hour later we drove up to Jo. Kelleys log hotel and overtook the same party who had just dined. this party consisted of Judge Davis: Leonard Swett David B. Campbell & Abraham Lincoln just going home from Danville court: singular to say I noted well & have always recollected the three former on account of some peculiarity — but have no especial recollection of Lincoln except as he made up the four persons: I saw them in fact only for about two minutes as they were just in the act of leaving as we drove up.

On October 24th 1854. Abraham Lincoln came to Urbana where I then lived to attend court: he had the appearance of a rough intelligent farmer: and his rough,

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homemade buggy & rawboned horse enforced this belief. This Court was a very small & not very dignified one: and Lincoln had scarcely any business but was in fine spirits & full of stories which he told in and out of court: and Kept it lively for us: on Oct. 25th he delivered in a dingy, dirty court house: lit with a few tallow candles the famous "Peoria" speech: and I marked him then — and correctly as it seems — as one of the greatest men on Earth: He towered way up majestically above all other men I ever saw: I have never heard that speech equalled before or since except by Lincoln himself.

On March 5th or immediately thereafter (I think it was after 5th) 1861. I called at the White House with a young friend of both of us to procure for him a small clerkship. It was about noon, and we were soon admitted, altho' a large crowd was waiting for admission. The President was sitting before a fire in the fire place, very gloomy and dejected. He received us cordially, but abstractedly: and in reply to my request, said wearily: "Just let Jim wait a little: don't press anything now: I am much annoyed about something that has just happened: Davis, with that way of making a man do a thing whether he wants to or not made me appoint Williams [2] Judge in Kansas and John Jones in the State department: and I've got a hat full of dispatches already from Kansas cheifly: protesting against it, and asking if I was going to fill up all the offices from Illinois."

Not long after the inauguration Davis went with Lawrence Weldon to the White House: and demanded that he should be appointed District Attorney for Southern Illinois, and it was done. It was largely at Davis' importunity that Caleb Smith was appointed to a cabinet position and William P. Dole as Commissioner of Indian affairs: he failed, however, to get either himself or his cousin, Henry Winter Davis, in the cabinet. In appointing Judge Davis on the Supreme bench; he did no more than common gratitude demanded: for to Davis more than to any other man, he owed his nomination. I think Lincoln rather too hard on the "Davis" family in his interview with Thurlow Weed, as appears in the autobiography of the latter. [3]

I don't Know whether or not you want to correct errors in your book: but a great many creep into biography: I note some I think of: Father Chiniquy (the recusant Catholic Priest) recently writes [4] that he was a great friend of Lincoln — that Lincoln was his lawyer — & that Lincoln told him a lot of sickly sentimality about his destiny &c. that was not like Lincoln and I doubt if it ever happened: but it is true Lincoln was his lawyer in one case in Champaign "Spink v. Chiniquy for slander: [5] We tried the case twice & got a jury to try it a third time when

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by Lincolns earnest efforts it was settled & by virtue of admissions made by Chiniquy of record as I recollect Chiniquy in some was got out of the Catholic church.

Leonard Swett in every speech he makes says that Lincoln & his father migrated from South. Indiana to Coles Co. Ill. and two years later Lincoln left home & emigrated to Macon Co. Now I Know this is not true: Lincoln & his Father emigrated directly to Macon County from Southern Indiana for Lincoln has not only told me so but has showed me all the landmarks of his arrival at Decatur on the spots themselves.

In Lamons life it is stated that in the "Tom Patterson" murder case in Champaign, [6] Lincoln beleived Patterson to be guilty & declined to take any fee & would not argue the case: this is not true. Patterson was guilty & we all thought so but Lincoln Swett & myself each got the same amt of fee $200.# each & each Kept his & Lincoln made the closing speech & I can to this day repeat almost verbatim a part of his speech [7]

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3997 — 4000

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Whitney, Henry C. 'Henry C. Whitney (Statement for William H. Herndon)' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: history]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon647b.html
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