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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Gillespie, Joseph. 'Joseph Gillespie 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=herndon180.html


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-- 181 --

Lincoln was ambitious but not very aspiring He was anxious to be in Congress but I think he never aspired to any thing higher untill the prospect for the Presidency burst upon him I am very sure that Mr Lincoln was not aware of his own abilities or standing & that he never expected to attain a very marked distinction In 1858 he made a speech in this place & had an appointment for one next day at Greenville I took him out in my buggy On the way the principal subject of conversation was the canvass he was conducting with Mr Douglass Knowing Lincolns power of using anecdotes I asked why he did not employ them in the discussion He replied that he thought the occasion was too grave & serious He said that the principal complaint he had to make against Mr Douglass was his continual assumption of superiority on account of his elevated position Mr Lincolns idea was that in the discussion of great questions nothing adventious should be lugged in as a make weight That was contrary to his notions of fairness His love of wealth was very weak I asked him on the trip above spoken of how much land he owned He said that the house & lot he lived on and one forty acre tract was all the real estate he owned and that he got the Forty for his services in the Black Hawk war [3] I inquired why he never speculated in land and pointed to a tract that I had located with a land warrant which cost me ninety cents an acre He said he had no capacity whatever for speculation and never attempted it All the use Mr Lincoln had for wealth was to enable him to appear respectable He never hoarded nor wasted but used money as he needed it and gave himself little or no concern about laying up He was the most indulgent parent I ever knew His children litterally ran over him and he was powerless to withstand their importunities He was remarkably tender of the feelings of others & never wantonly offended even the most despicable although he was a man of great nerve when aroused I have seen him on several occasions display great heroism when the circumstances seemed to demand it He was very sensitive where he thought he had failed to come up to the expectations of his friends I remember a case He was pitted by the Whigs in 1840 to debate with Mr Douglass the Democratic champion Lincoln did not come up to the requirements of the occasion He was conscious of his failure and I never saw any man so much distressed He begged to be permitted to try it again and was reluctantly indulged and in the next effort he transcended our highest expectations I never heard & never expect to hear such a triumphant vindication as he then gave of Whig measures or policy He never after to my knowledge fell below himself

In religious matters Mr Lincoln was theoretically a predestinarian His stem logic & perhaps early bias led him to that result He was never ashamed of the poverty and obscurity of his early life He was thoroughly master of all the phases of frontier life and woods craft and his most amusing stories consisted of incidents
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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Gillespie, Joseph. 'Joseph Gillespie 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=herndon180.html
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