Chapter 9

  1. Wilson and Davis, Herndon's Informants, 108.

    “[Lincoln] never evaded—never equivocated—never dodged nor turned a corner from chastisement or other responsibility.”

    From Sarah Bush Lincoln (WHH interview): "Abe was always fond of fun – sport – wit and jokes – He was sometimes very witty indeed.   He never drank whiskey or other strong drink – was temperate in all things – too much so I thought sometimes - He never told me a lie in his life, never evaded, never equivocated never dodged, nor turned a corner to avoid any chastisement or other responsibility."

  2. Gertz, Hidden Lincoln, 209.

    From the text: “Lincoln ‘denied the miraculous conception of Christ, ridiculed the Trinity, and denied that the Bible was the special divine revelation of God’—a position that managed in a single stroke to disenfranchise Christ’s miracles as well.”    

    From W. H. Herndon: "I have often said that Lincoln was an infidel and I say it now.   In 1835-36 Mr. Lincoln in the village of New Salem wrote a little book on infidelity.   In that little work, burnt up by a friend, Mr. Hill, Lincoln denied the miraculous conception of Christ, ridiculed the Trinity, and denied that the Bible was the divine special revelation of God.   Here are facts, well-settled facts.   Now what is an infidel?   As the infidels use the word, it means those who deny that the Bible is the divine special revelation of God."

  3. Wilson and Davis, Herndon's Informants, 576.

    “Lincoln went further against Christian belief--& doctrines & principles than any man I ever heard; he shocked me.”

    From John T. Stuart (WHH interview): "I knew Mr. Lincoln when he first came here and for years afterwards, he was an avowed and open infidel; sometimes bordered on atheism.   I have often and often heard Lincoln & one W. D. Herndon who was a free thinker talk over this subject.   Lincoln went further against Christian beliefs, & doctrines & principals than any man I ever heard: he shocked me, don't remember the exact line of his argument, suppose it was against the inherent defects so-called of the Bible.   Denied that Jesus was the son of God as understood and maintained by the Christian world."

  4. Herndon and Weik, Herndon's Life of Lincoln, 356.

    “[Lincoln] could never bring himself to believe in eternal punishment; that men lived but a little while here; and that if eternal punishment were man’s doom, he should spend that little life in vigilant and ceaseless preparation by never-ending prayer.”

    A more complete quote reads: "Another man (William H Hannah) testifies as follows: 'Mr. Lincoln told me that he was a kind of immortalist; that he never could bring himself to believe in eternal punishment; that man lived but a while here; and that if eternal punishment were man's doom, he should spend that little life in vigilant and ceaseless preparation by never ending prayer.'"

  5. Bayne, Tad Lincoln's Father, 183:   "Back in that day many families conducted some sort of family worship...but I do not remember that the Lincoln family did, although both the President and his wife were scrupulous in most of the outward observances of religion and attended church regularly."   Then on the following page: "There is a good deal on record about [Lincoln] being a man of prayer but I never heard him pray or saw him in the attitude of prayer, although I have seen him in moods when he might well have been struggling in silent prayer."

    From the text: “And speaking of prayer, the Lincoln White House saw little of it. Not only did family insiders, Julia Taft Bayne among them, notice and mention this, but close colleagues did as well.”

  6. Letter from O.H. Browning to Isaac N. Arnold, Quincy, November 25, 1872, in Sandburg MSS, Illinois Historical Society.

    “He [Lincoln] held a pew in the Presbyterian Church, of which Rev. Dr. Gurley was pastor, and often attended service there. He not infrequently sent his carriage, of Sunday mornings with a request that I would accompany him and Mrs. Lincoln to church. Sometimes, after services were over, I would return with them to the White House to dinner, and spend the afternoon with him in the library. On such occasions I have seen him reading the Bible but never knew of his engaging in any other act of devotion. He did not invoke a blessing at table, nor did he have family prayers…..

    At the time of his little son Willie’s death, Mrs. Browning and I were out of the city, but returned to Washington the evening of the same day of his death. The President and Mrs. Lincoln sent their carriage for us immediately upon learning that we were in the city, and went to the White House, and remained with them about a week. His son Tad was also very ill at the time, and I watched him several consecutive nights. The President was in the room with me a portion of each night.

    He was in very deep distress at the loss of Willie, and agitated with apprehensions of a fatal termination of Tad’s illness; but what his religious views and feelings were, I do not know. I heard no expression of them. My impression is that, during the time I remained at the White House on this occasion, he had several interviews with the Rev. Dr. Gurley but what occurred between them never came to my knowledge.”

  7. Keckley, Behind the Scenes.

    From the text: “Nor did Mary’s seamstress and close confidant, Elizabeth Keckley, in her long and intimate Behind the Scenes account of life at the White House ever mention any prayers or praying for help from Heaven, not even for Willie.”

    See entire text.

  8. Herndon, Life of Lincoln, 360.

    From the text: “In other ways Lincoln clearly did demonstrate his won brand of reverence—what Mary described to Herndon as ‘a kind of poetry in his nature.’”

    A slightly more complete quote from Herndon reads: "Mr. Lincoln had no faith and no hope in the usual acceptation of those words.   He never joined a church; but still, as I [Mary Lincoln] believe, he was a religious man by nature.   He first seemed to think about the subject when our boy Willie died, and then more that ever about the time he went to Gettysburg; but it was a kind of poetry in his nature, and he was never a technical Christian."

  9. Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln, 320.   From Lincoln, Collected Works, vol. 4, 271.

    From the text:   “In fact, it was considerably more original than that.   As the Lincoln scholar Allen Guelzo has shown, Lincoln had a way in the plainness of his language of soaring to magnificent heights, as in his first inaugural, where one hears of ‘[t]he mystic chords of memory stretching…all over this broad land’ like some celestial harp.   Even then, Guelzo nicely notes, ‘The better angels of our nature are clearly the messengers of our nature, not of God’s’.”

    From Lincoln:   “I am loathe to close.   We are not enemies, but friends.   We must not be enemies.   Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.   The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

  10. Stevens, A Reporter's Lincoln, 12.

    From the text: “Back in New Salem Parthena Hill asked Lincoln, ‘Do you really believe there isn’t any future state?’ He replied, ‘I’m afraid there isn’t [though] it isn’t a pleasant thing to think that when we die that is the last of us.’”

    A slightly more complete quote reads: "The traditions do not evidence that he had reached settled convictions on religion.   He started discussion, however, in the little community, and that was what he liked very much to do.   The wife of the man who had burned the argument asked Lincoln, 'Do you really believe there isn't any future state?' And Lincoln, so Mrs. Hill told, replied.   'Mrs. Hill, I'm afraid there isn't.   It isn't a pleasant thing to think that when we die that is the last of us.'   Mrs. Hill thought this unsettled view of religion underwent a change after Lincoln moved to Springfield."

  11. Simon, Lincoln's Preperation for Greatness, 257. 

    From the text: “In 1840, when a colleague in the legislature made a motion to adjourn from Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, a Thursday, until the following Monday, Lincoln not only voted against it, he said something to the effect that since the legislators were being paid for those days, including Christmas Day, they ought to come in and do their work.”

     This was not the only such instance; "Lincoln consistently opposed adjourning on Christmas Day," page 275.

    A slightly more complete quote reads: "When a motion was made by Hardin to adjourn from Christmas Eve, December 24, a Thursday, until the following Monday, the motion lost 51-28, Lincoln among those voting that there should be sessions on Christmas Day and on the Saturday following Christmas.   While the vote to adjourn for those days failed, neither on Christmas Day nor the next day was a quorum present, so that on both days the speaker ruled that for lack of a quorum, the House would not meet."

  12. Kinsey, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, 309.

    “The boy who becomes adolescent at 10 or 11 has not had as many years to build up inhibitions against sexual activity as the boy who does not mature until 15 or later;…the younger boy plunges into sexual activity with less restraint and with more enthusiasm than the boy who starts at a later date.”

    A slightly more complete quote reads:   “It is possible that the fact that an early aged adolescent individual becomes sexually mature and erotically responsive at an earlier age , is the significant item.   This gives him more years to be conditioned towards sexual experience before he reaches the teen-ages where social restraints become more significant.   To put the matter in another way, the boy who becomes adolescent at 10 or 11 has not had as many years to build up inhibitions against sexual activity as the boy who does not mature until 15 or later;…the younger boy plunges into sexual activity with less restraint and with more enthusiasm than the boy who starts at a later date.   Moreover, it is possible that the patterns which are established by the earliest sexual activity, meaning patterns of higher frequency for younger-maturing boys, and patterns of frequency for older-maturing boys, are the patterns by which the individual’s subsequent life is ordered.   At least part of the long-time effects may depend upon psychologic learning and conditioning.”

  13. Author's note: This brisk headway was particularly apparent in Lincoln's first-day "seduction" of Derickson; it appears as well in his first night with Billie Greene.   In any case, Lincoln's modus operandi seems to have been based much more on a mutually arrived at backing and filling than on any kind of seduction, not only with Derickson but undoubtedly so with Horace White.   With the likes of Billie Greene and A. Y. Ellis, propositions (if they deserve to be called that) were apparently delivered more to Lincoln than vice versa.

  14. Author's note: As early as the 1850's Lincoln made suggestions to a young friend (john Langdon Kaine) on the art of delivering an oration: "Try to think [of borrowed phrases as if] they're your own words and talk them as you would talk them to me."   And on the oratorical uses of literature: "It is a pleasure to be able to quote lines to fit any occasion...the Bible is the richest source of pertinent quotations."   Fehrenbacher and Ferenbacher, Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, 273.

    From the text: “On the other hand, later as president he was known to read the Bible (rather more than before) and would not infrequently quote words and phrases from it.”

  15. Lincoln, Collected Works, vol. 5, 420.

    “I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that if it is probable that God would reveal his will to others, on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed he would reveal it directly to me.”

    A slightly more complete quote, from Reply to Emancipation Memorial Presented by Chicago Christians of All Denominations, September 13, 1862:

    "The subject presented in the material is one upon which I have thought much for weeks past, and I may even say that for months.   I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice, and that by religious men, who are equally certain that they represent the Divine will.   I am sure that either the one or the other class is mistaken in that belief, and perhaps in some respects both.   I hope it would not be irreverent to say that if it is probable that God would reveal his will to others, on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed he would reveal it directly to me; for, unless I am more deceived in myself than I often am, it is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter."

  16. Lincoln, Collected Works, vol. 7, 282.   From a letter Lincoln wrote to Albert G. Hodges, April 4, 1864.

    “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”

    A slightly more complete quote: "I add a word which was not in the verbal conversation.   In telling this tale I accept no compliment to my own sagacity.   I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.   Now, at the end of three years struggle the nation's condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected.   God alone can claim it.   Whither it is tending seems plain.   If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God."

  17. Lincoln's meditations on the Divine Will, Collected Works, vol. 5, 403-4.  For   a cleared view of this meditation, see it in Nicolay and Hay's Abraham Lincoln, vol. 6, page 342 where it is pointed out that "It was not written to be seen of men" but in connection with his trying to come to terms with the facts.   The authors seem to think Lincoln was "Trying to bring [himself] into closer communication with his Maker"-a strange interpretation.   Rather, Lincoln was puzzling over the curious injustice and passivity of an on-looking Almighty, but had not yet invented the notion of the angry, retalitative God he later postulated as demanding "exact restitution" for the long past sins of slavery.

    “The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be wrong. God can not be for, and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party—and yet the human instrumentalities working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say this is probably true—that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants,   He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest.   Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”

    From Nicolay and Hay: "In this frame of mind, absolutely detached from any earthly considerations, he wrote this meditation.   It has never been published.   It was not written to be seen of men.   It was penned in the awful sincerity of a perfectly honest soul trying to bring itself into closer communion with its maker."

    From Collected Works: Meditation on the Divine Will, September 2, 1862:

    "The will of God prevails.   In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God.   Both may be, and one must be wrong.   God can not be for, and against the same thing at the same time.   In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party-and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose.   I am almost ready to say this is probably true-that God wills this contest, and wills that is shall not end yet.   By his mere quite power, on the minds of the new contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest.   yet the contest began.   And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day.   Yet the contest proceeds."

  18. Lincoln, Collected Works, vol. 8, 356.   These quoted words are from a Lincoln letter to Thurlow Weed, March 15, 1865.

    From the text: “The war continued because ‘The Almighty has His own purposes’ which are different from men’s purposes. This, Lincoln said later, was ‘a truth which I thought needed to be told’ because to deny it was ‘to deny that there is a God governing the world.’”

    Letter to Thurlow Weed, March 15, 1865:

    "Every one likes a compliment.   Thank you for yours on my little notification speech, and on the recent Inaugural Address.   I expect the latter to wear as well as-perhaps better than-anything I have produced; but I believe it is not immediately popular.   Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them.   To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governing the world.   It is a truth which I thought needed to be told; and as whatever of humiliation there is in it, falls most directly on myself, I thought others might afford for me to tell it.   Yours truly,

    A Lincoln."

  19. Donald, Lincoln, 566-67.

    From the text: “In an earlier private meditation he had that it was “probably true—that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end,” thinking it “quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party” to the conflict. But that was too gnostic a doctrine to gain general credence. Addressing a devout, Bible-reading public, Lincoln knew he would be understood if he invoked the familiar doctrine of exact retribution, the belief that the punishment for a violation of Gold’s law would equal the offense itself.”

    A slightly more complete quote reads: "Lincoln then sought, both for himself and the American people, an explanation of why the war was so protracted.   His answer showed no trace of any late-at-night anguish over his own responsibility for the conflict.   If there was guilt, the burden had been shifted from his shoulders to those of a Higher Power.   The war continued because 'the Almighty has his own purposes,' which are different from men's purposes.   This, Lincoln said later, was 'a truth which I thought needed to be told,' because to deny it was 'to deny that there is a God governing the world.'

    He might have put his argument in terms of the doctrine of necessity, in which he had long believed; but that was not a dogma accepted by most Americans.   In an earlier private meditation he had concluded that it was 'probably true-that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end,' thinking it 'quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party' to the conflict.   But that was too gnostic a doctrine to gain general credence.   Addressing a devout, Bible-reading public, Lincoln knew he would be understood when he invoked the familiar doctrine of exact retribution, the belief that the punishment for a violation of God's Law would be equal the offense itself.   Quoting from Matthew, he announced, 'Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offences come, but woe to the man by whom the offense commeth!'   That warning might seem to apply only to slaveholders, but Lincoln had consistently held Northerners as well as Southerners responsible for introducing slavery and for protecting it under the Constitution.   Consequently, as God now willed to remove the offense of slavery, he gave 'to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came.'"

  20. Author's note: This letter to Thurlow Weed is in Lincoln, Collected Works, vol. 8, page 356, with a footnote from the editors indicating that Lincoln may also have "misread or mis-recollected" Weed's note of March 4, the very day of the inaugural.   Weed evidently meant his kind words for Lincoln's "reply to the committee of Congress, informing of your re-election" (what Lincoln here speaks of as his "little notification speech").   However, Weed makes no mention of the Inaugural Address in his note.   In fact, Weed's comment on '[t]he sour weather having spoiled the celebration"-along with not a word of Lincoln's address, suggests Mr. Weed missed the entire event, and thus never heard the speech.   (Moreover, the celebration was far from "spoiled" by the weather.   At 11:40, just as Lincoln was about to speak, "the clouds parted, and sunshine streamed [down] to fall upon the head of the newly consecrated President."   Whitney, Lincoln the President, 302; Keckley, Behind the Scenes, 156.

  21. Donald, Lincoln, 568.

    “[M]ost newspapers gave Lincoln’s second inaugural address a respectful if somewhat puzzled reception. In general, English editors praised it more highly than did the Americans. But the Washington National Intelligencer felt the President’s final words, ‘equally distinguished for patriotism, statesmanship, and benevolence,’ deserved ‘to be printed in gold.’”

    A slightly more complete quote reads: "Except for Copperhead journals like the Chicago Times, which denounced the speech as 'so slip shod, so loose-jointed, so puerile' that 'by the side of it, mediocrity is superb,' most newspapers gave Lincoln's second inaugural address a respectful if somewhat puzzled reception.   In general, English editors praised it more highly than did the Americans.   But the Washington National Intelligencer felt the President's final words, 'equally distinguished for patriotism, statesmanship, and benevolence,' deserved 'to be printed in gold.'"

     

All rights reserved. Copyright Estate of C.A. Tripp 2005