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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Whitney, Henry C. 'Henry C. Whitney 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=herndon627.html


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521. Henry C. Whitney to William H. Herndon.

Chicago August 27th 1887.

Friend H.

I recd your letter of August 25th this A.M. and in reply to your side question answer that you may use my information if you please in your book of course. I have just mailed you todays "Chicago News" which has the first of Lamons copyright article on "Lincoln" [1] in which he rehashes the old stories about his dreams: if you fail to get the paper advise me as you will want to see it: He is going to publish a series of articles on Lincoln. I think they will be interesting but Hill will be sensational at the expense of truth probably. I cannot exactly say now what grave errors I saw in Lamons life of L. [2] I took no note of them at the time: but they are

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chiefly such errors as a biographer unacquainted with his subject would be apt to commit. a successful biographer must know his subject as Boswell knew Johnson or you knew Lincoln. appropos of that I refer you to Jno P. Ushers article on "Lincoln" in Allen G. Rices book [3] in which he says that Lincoln never had a doubt but that he would conquer the Rebellion at any time: now I happen to know from L. himself that he had the gravest doubts about it in 1861, and did not expect to do it. Mr Swett [4] in his article in the same Book says that L. told him that when he emigrated from Indiana he came direct to Coles County: I told Swett that Lincoln at Decatur showed me exactly where they went through Decatur on that trip: but Swett persisted that Lincoln told him it was Coles Co. of course he is wrong: then one of his biographers speaks of the historic rails split in Coles Co. I spent ½ day with Lincoln at the White House all alone with Lincoln just after Bull Run. Lincoln then said to me "I am going to enforce the blockade as rigidly as I can — its mighty hard to do as the line is so long but will do the best I can about it: I am then going to push an Army into East Tennessee and liberate the Union sentiment there: I am going to cut them off from supplies from the outer world and make them feel the privations of war in the hope that the people will arise and say to the politicians, ‘this thing has got to stop’: for there is no use, Whitney, in trying to conquer so many people so long as they are united on the proposition that they wont be conquered".

Those are almost his exact words. So Usher is wrong. — Now as to Davis: The old man justly felt as if he should have been rewarded: and Lincoln couldn't see the exact place for him: I have no idea he intended to make him Supreme Judge: When Swayne [5] was appointed D. was mad but he thought possibly that L. felt a necessity of naming a man from McLeans [6] state: but when he passed over Illinois to appoint Miller, [7] he felt that his chances were getting desperate: so I supose: he went to work with extraordinary vigor. Among the men whom he doubtless relied on to punch Lincoln up were Lamon — W. P. Dole Comr of Indian affairs: Caleb Smith Secy of the Interior & Swett. I will go to Swett tonight and ask him as I see you want to know and advise you what he says. I have no doubt he has been sent to Washington often by Davis at his own expense about this matter. Davis had very few cordial friends. He complained to me that Lamon wouldn't do anything for him: Dole and Swett were doubtless the most active. No doubt L. heard of Davis' indignation as the latter was very loud & noisy and would send for every body he knew to come to him at their expense & pour out his sorrows: at Washington in March, as he left, he told me he had no doubt Lincoln would give him an office if he would ask him for it but he never would do that — no sir: he wasn't that kind of a man. But he set others on the hunt. Dole is still living & could tell. I know him well but have forgotten his address. I will get it if you wish.

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You are in error in supposing that I attribute any errors to you in Lamons life: not so: any errors are those of Chauncey F. Black who wrote it: and arose from not knowing Lincoln and from misconceiving you. I will get Lamons life soon and inform you of what I consider errors. If I knew the plan and scope of your Book I might help you more. My memory is good and I took to Lincoln on the Circuit from the start and happened to have rather more intimacies with him than ordinary. Davis and Swett were more intimate — Lamon, Weldon, Parks, Moore, Hogg, Voorhees & McWilliams [8] less so. Oliver L. Davis at Danville he despised and Oliver hated him: Lincoln had no love for Voorhees: but you are in Indiana and must look out. One reason I think likely, for his not liking D. Davis [9] & C. H. Moore better was their sordidness and avarice. I could narrate incidents of Lincoln by the hour which occurred on the Circuit as my memory is good, but I don't know the scope or design of your work. I understand it is a social, & not a political history: The idea that Allen G. Rice should publish a Book of Remeniscences of Lincoln [10] & go to such codfish as Ben Perley Poore Dan Voorhees Walt Whitman: and not seek you John T. Stuart & Jim Matheny shows how humbug rules the world. The mode of getting out your book — who publishes it and how extensively it is advertised will largely determine how great a run it will have. I have not been able to do anything with my lecture of late: I have been away and have also been busy and shall be for some little time but I want to get at it and get into the lecture field this winter and I rely on you to aid me. I don't think L. considered Davis a suitable kind of a lawyer for the supreme bench.

Swett says that the reason why Lincoln did not act in the matter of the appointment of a Supreme Judge when Davis was appointed sooner was that it got the goby &c. and that he vacillated between Browning & Davis and that he intended to appoint Browning all along: and that in Bloomington they heard definitely that Lincoln said: "If I had made the appointment before this time, there was no single day in all the time that I would not have appointed Browning": upon hearing this a consultation was had in Bloomington & Swett said "I am going to Washington": Davis said "don't go: its of no use": (that was shrewd way he had of not paying his expenses.) Swett went however & talked with Lincoln ½ a day about it: they went over the whole subject of his former relations with Davis & covered the whole ground & the result was that Lincoln at once made the appointment. I think you may safely say that Davis [11] fully intended to appoint Browning and simply did not do it from not having fully made up his mind about it's effect on Davis; or rather had nothing at the time to offer Davis as a counterpoise and while in this condition Swett came along with his wonderful persuasiv powers & converted Lincoln over and thus Swett rescued Davis from utter oblivion and made him

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a great man. Swett has always been poor except for about a year during the war: and Davis was always rich and always a hog: would it not have been well for Davis to give Swett a present of $10,000.#? But he wouldn't have given him a cent to save his life: nor would his heirs do so. But you must not mention this: Swett did not: but I can't help thinking. Had Davis not been appointed Sup. Judge he would have died, an obscure hog financially: and left no reputation behind him beyond that of a circuit Judge. still I think Lincoln did right to appoint him but awfully wrong to not give Swett anything.

Davis used to get Lincoln to hold court for him and Lincoln was always ready & willing: Davis liked to get out in town & meet the people. Lincoln held court a great deal for Davis. Lincoln was very bashful when women were called on. I once went with him to Mayor Boydens [12] at Urbana to tea: — he got on so-so while I was in the room but I was called to the gate by a client and on my return was as bashful as a school boy. Lincoln was so good natured & so willing to give advice that young lawyers went to him a great deal. He was at Urbana once prosecuting a man named A. G. Carle in Urbana for seduction & one S. H. Busey an adverse witness tried to create the impression that he was a great ladies man. Lincoln went for him in his speech thus, "there is Busey — he pretends to be a great heart smasher — does wonderful things with the girls — but I'll venture that he never entered his flesh but once & that is when he fell down & stuck his finger in his — "; right out in open Court. Things were free & easy in Urbana & Danville: There was a hard crowd used to meet us in the latter town.

Lincoln was not as gloomy in that end of the Circuit as in yours. I was Atty for the Ill. Cen. R.R. & we had a contract that Lincoln was to take no case against us & I could call on him to help me when he was there: & when my clients wanted help I always got Lincoln. The most noted cases in which Lincoln & I were together were "People v. Patterson" manslaughter "Spink v. Chiniquy" Slander from Kankakee Co. "Harvey v. Campbell" chancery case about part of Champaign City: "Dean v. Campbell Kelley: chy. case about the most valuable farm in Champaign. "People v. Barrett" murder, "Van Onum v. —— sheep rot case. Brock v. I.C.R.R. — Cunningham v. Phifer — partnership [13] When he struck one end of the Circuit I was with him continuously till he left it: after I moved to Chicago & went in with Gen. Wallace [14] he made our office his head quarters. He carried on the circuit a shirt cloak — a striped carpet bag & a faded green umbrella with cloth letters "A. Lincoln" sewed on the inside as baggage. He slept in a home made — yellow flannel undershirt. He got the inspiration for his lecture; from Bancrofts

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lecture of Nov. '54, [15] which I read to him on the route from Urbana to Danville. Lincoln & George Lawrence — a [noteless?] drunken lawyer used to play billiards together: one played about as well as the other / Lincoln used to always attend the circuits of the Marshall family of Jacksonville when they sang: Mrs Hilliss one of them he said was the only woman who liked him. Davis said "I thought you was an universal beau." He bought his first pair of spectacles at a little shop in Bloomington in May '56. — gave 37 1/2 for them; we were stopping together at Davis': — Dickey — Williams, [16] Lincoln & myself — at the great convention. During the setting of the Philadelphia convention in 1856, Lincoln was attending a special term of court in Urbana & Davis Lincoln & myself roomed together at the American House: I read him the accounts of the convention each noon from the Chicago paper: he paid but little attention to it & was not gloomy as Lamons life has it: he was very gloomy one day after all the news was in. I showed him Fremonts head in the paper, "says I What a head!", Lincoln looked at it & said "I don't see anything wrong about that head." said I; "a man who will part his hair in the middle like a woman aint fit to be President": He looked at it again a moment & gave me the paper without any more comment. He was very gloomy on that day but on no other day then. Have I written enough Billy?

W.

Lamons life. [17]
on p. 481. he does not depict L. correctly: he did not make boon companions of the coarsest men: he did praise rivals — as A Williams — Judge Logan — Browning — Dickey — Swett. his encomiums were not incinsere.
p. 480. Lincoln drank temporately &c. — he did not drink at all. p. 468. "Few men believed that L. possessed a single qualification for his great office" x x "he was a very common ordinary man" &c. This is a lie.
p. 471. Herndon locked the front office & Lincoln returned to the back office &c. — You know this aint so. [18]

The whole talk about Mrs Lincoln is not true: she belonged to the pro slavery crowd as the Blacks [19] did: and they want to ennoble her at Lincolns expense.
p. 475. What Stuart said was this "Lincoln's digestion was organically defective so that the excreta escaped through the skin pores instead of the bowels": and I "advised him to take Blue Mass and he did take it before he went to Washington & for five months while he was President but when I went to Congress he told me

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he had quit because it made him cross." Black has no such statement on p. 475. [20] in 478. stated that he read "Childe Harold". In my office in 1854. he picked up "Byron" and read commencing "They mourned but smiled at length" &c. to "He who ascends to mountain heights shall find. &c. [21] out loud; as impressively as it ever was read in the world. D. Davis: Swett: Lamon Alex Harrison & myself were present. "The mossy marbles rest" [22] &c. was a great favorite: but his greatest favorite, Alas!, was "Mortal man with face of clay

"Here tomorrow: gone to day."

What Davis & Scott say on p. 479. is substantially my idea of his frivolity [23]
p. 481. I don't believe he "damned with faint praise" at all: this is not true at all. I do think however that the next sentence commencing "fully alive" is correct. in fact all the succeeding lot of short sentences is correct. [24]

I don't think he forgot the devotion of his warmest partizans (482.) that is a clear mistake: take Lamons case: or mine: or Judds. He was eccentric in this matter. His secretiveness we will all agree on alike. I never heard him mention religion at all.

P. 83. Jno. Hanks came to Washington in a new suit of blue jeans — wanted an Indian agency: Lincoln really wanted him to have it but he couldnt read or write. Lincoln talked with me about its propriety — said Hank's son could be his clerk &c. wanted to appoint him but did not.


about Henry Clay: Lincoln admired him greatly while I knew him: spoke of him in the warmest terms.
P. 312. "At the 1st opportunity he commissioned Davis" &c This is not true as I have shown.
p. 322. The "Patterson" case was thus: Tom Patterson was a worthless doggery keeper at Sadorus: an old good natured drunkard who had then got drunk & talked rambling drunken talk in the crowd & picked up a spade & spoke of hitting some one &c — He was too drunk to hold the spade steady: Tom was several feet away

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with a two pound flat lead weight in his hand concealed: he seized a time when the drunkards head was turned away & threw the weight with such force that his own coat tail flew over his head & the weight hit him just back of his ear & penetrated the scull & the victim fell at once & when picked up the weight (whose edge struck first) was imbedded in the scull so that it stayed in as he was lifted up. Lincoln Swett & myself were employed by Pattersons wifes relations (who were rich Quakers) to defend we each got $200.# & each took & kept it: Patterson was indicted for manslaughter (through an influence) and the next term we tried him: Ficklin did not help Lamon but Jno. C. Moses did: and they insisted that the real crime was murder (as it was): Swett made a first rate speech: & Lincoln who closed our case a very poor one for us: and he got 3 years: & Lincoln got Wood to pardon him out after one year so you can see how little reliable biography is. Turn to your books in Spring of 1858. You will find that L. got $200.# for Patterson's case. [25]

Lamons life. P. 331. "Lincoln v. I.C.R.R." — L. claimed $5000.# and took judgement by default: but Jno: M. Douglass solr went to Bloomington after the default and asked L. to set it aside which L. did: then Douglass had a talk with me & Davis (I was Atty for the Company in our county) and we concluded that it was very poor policy to make an enemy of Lincoln so Douglas settled it for the full amt. as I remember: there was no contested trial. [26] It was not Douglass our Solicitor, but Jas. F. Joy advisory counsel who treated Lincoln rudely. (P. 332.) Reaping machine case. Lincoln formed a poor opinion of Judge Mc Lean [27] at that time: thought him an old Granny & with no discrimination.
P. 358. Lincoln told me the reason he didnt speak any more with Douglas in 1854. was that D. claimed to be sick & unable to speak but that he also didnt want L. to speak to which he agreed. [28]
P. 359. On Oct. 24, 1854. L. made the Springfield speech at Urbana. I heard it myself: he was then at court. P. 421. Lincoln got the inspiration for his lecture from a lecture by Bancroft in Nov. '54. [29] This I read to him in 1855. as we were going to Danville court: it was on the wonderful progress of man: Lincoln then told us — Swett, Mrs. Swett & I, that he had thought much of the subject & believed he would write a lecture on Man and his progress. Afterward I read in a paper that he had come to either Bloomington or Clinton to lecture & no one turned out. [30] the paper added "that don't look much like his being President". I joked him about it: he said good naturedly "don't: that plagues me".

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I may remark that I have not had time to go carefully through the "Lamons" life: but I make the above suggestions as they occur to me. I shall be busy for a few weeks but I hope to be able to write out my lecture as I wish to have it done.

Now as to a publisher: You want Harper or J. R. Osgood & Co. or some publisher who will have great facilities for advertising it.

Lew Wallace (my intimate friend) got Harper Bros & his book (Ben Hur) has had 185,000 circulation. He is at Atlantic City now but lives at Crawfordsville near Greencastle: & if a letter to him will do you any good I will send it to you. I don't know how he got the Harpers for a publisher but he can tell you.

I will want to see you after a while and I will stay with you 2 or 3 days might come to Greencastle or Springfield

The proper way for you to write a book is to have a clerk by the month who is a stenographer and type writer both: you can get up a book in that way in ¼ the time you can do it by old fashioned methods.

Swett says you sent him a letter which he wrote some years since with a request to know if you might publish it and that he is going to answer soon. Of course you will know what is proper to publish of what I tell you & what not. I don't want any reflection on any body living or dead but what Lincoln told me is all right & now belongs to history & can do no harm. Swett corroborates what I say about Ls view of success in the war Lincoln had no faith in success in '61. & '62.

Your Friend as ever
H. C. Whitney

Speaking of Lincoln holding Court for Davis, several of us lawyers annoyed him very much in attempting to defend against a note to which there were many makers. We had no genuine defence but wanted to [stay?] it over the term by one expedient & another

Here is the order as Lincoln entered it: the original was cut out of the docket and sent to a Sanitary Fair.

"Plea in abatement by B. Z. Greene, a defendant not served filed Saturday at 11 o'clock am April 24th 1856; stricken from the files by order of Court. Demurrer to declaration if there ever was one, overruled. Defts. — who are served now at 8 o'clock pm. of the last day of the term ask to plead to the merits, which is denied by the Court on the ground that the offer comes too late: and therefore, as by nil dicet judgement is rendered for the Plaintiff against the Defendants who are served with process. Clerk assess damages."

Said I "How can we get this up: He looked at me quizzically & said: "You have all been so mighty smart about this case that you can find out how to take it up".

This was in Champaign Co. [31]

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3393, Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3395, Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3394, Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3396 — 97, Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 4001

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Whitney, Henry C. 'Henry C. Whitney 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=herndon627.html
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