141. Joshua F. Speed to William H. Herndon.
Louisville 7 Feby 1866.
I have delayed answering yours of the 30th which I found here on my return from a short visit to Washington, till I could find time to answer it properly —
It is certainly not true that I went to Ills or any other place North, South East or west to conciliate Radicals or Conservatives — or to do or say any thing in behalf of Mr Lincoln —
During his whole administration he never requested me to do any thing except in my own State — and never much in that — except to advise him as to what measures and policy would be most conducive to the growth of a healthy Union Sentiment in the State —
My own opinion of the history of the emancipation proclamation is, that Mr Lincoln forsaw the necessity for it — long before he issued it — He was anxious to avoid it — and came to it only when he saw that the measure would subtract from their labor and add to our army quite a number of good fighting men —
I have heard of the charge of the duplicity against him by certain western Members of Congress. — I never believed the charge — because he has told me from his own lips that the charge was false — I who knew him so well could never after that credit the report — At first I was opposed to the proclamation and so told him —
I remember well our conversation on the subject — He seemed to treat it as certain that I would recognize the wisdom of the act when I should see the havest of good which we would erelong glean from it — In that conversation he alluded to an incident in his life, long passed, when he was so much deppressed that he almost contemplated suicide — At the time of his deep deppression — He said to me that he had done nothing to make any human being remember that he had lived — and that to connect his name with the events transpiring in his day & generation and so impress himself upon them as to link his name with something that would redound to the interest of his fellow man was what he desired to live for — He reminded me of the conversation — and said with earnest emphasis — I believe that in this measure (meaning his proclamation) my fondest hopes will be realized —
Your friend &c
J. F. Speed
Over 20 years had passed between these two conversations between us — You may use my name in this connection if you choose.
Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2473 — 74; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:324 — 26