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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Duncan, Jason. 'Jason Duncan 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=herndon539.html


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428. Jason Duncan to William H. Herndon.

[late 1866 — early 1867 [1]]

I first went to reside in New Salem in August AD 1831 to practice my profession, procuring an office room in the public house of James Rutlege. I became acquainted with Abraham Lincoln late president of the United States shortly after my arrival in that place, his external apperance was not prepossessing, but on cultivating an acquaintance with him found some thing about the young man verry attractive evincing intellegence far beyond the generality of youth of his age and opportunities. he had the approachable air common to young men who like him grew up on the western frontiers entirely destitute of those conventional trammels, which are thrown around young men in the older States. the open frank manner of Mr Lincoln in his youthful days coupled with a flow of good humor and great witticism, always made him a welcome member of any group or Society of intellegent men. he was not obtrusive in his manners, but his genial nature seemed to invite any one to form his acquaintance. he was a verry obscure young man when I first became acquainted with him at New Salem. he had no influential friends to bring him into public notice or money to aid him in procuring an education: in fine I have thought that in all the range of my acquaintance never did I Know an individual who had the difficulties to Surmount to reach the pinicle of fame and usefulness that seemed to lie in the pathway of A. Lincoln, his disposition was of a concilliatory Stamp always seeking to avoid personal difficulties, hence he became popular with all classes. many men sought and made his acquaintance who were not of the most refined and quiet dispositions, yet he so managed with that pugilistic class as to obtain complete control over them. for there was a clan in that vicinity who prided themselves on their manhood and ready to measure steel with any one who could be induced to enter the Contest or trial of manhood.

his employment when I first became acquainted with him was rough clerk for a man by the name of Offit, [2] who had a lease on the Salem mill. he used to unload Sacks of wheat from farmers wagons, measure out and settle with them for the same, this I believe he followed as long as Offit continued proprietor of the Mill; the winter following Abraham requested me to assist him in the study of English Grammar, which I consented to do to the extent of my limited ability. his application through the winter was assiduous, and untiring, his intuitive faculties were Surprising. he seemed to master the construction of the english language and apply the rules for the same in a most astonishing manner, The first time I ever heard him attempt to Speak in public, was at a polemic Society meeting in an underground room of a rude log cabin which Stood on the South hillside to the right of main street looking toward the river from the west. that ancient cabin I believe has long since gone to ruins. I often bring up in my mind, the old log cabin in connection with the verry earnest and able manner in which the afterward

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Duncan, Jason. 'Jason Duncan 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=herndon539.html
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