524. John Palmer, Alfred Orendorff, Shelby Cullom, William Jayne, James H. Matheny, Richard Oglesby (William H. Herndon interviews)
Tuesday Septr 6th, 1887.
(Let all this be private as to names)
I saw Govr. Palmer at his office privately and talked to him freely about Mr Lincoln — his mother — and Thomas Lincoln, and their ancestry — and origen.
638This was at 9 o'c am. I asked him his advice — asked him to give me his opinion as best how to proceed — in writing the life of Lincoln, whether to state all the facts or to state none or only so much as history and the nations, world demanded. I carefully and cautiously related the facts — told him all I knew as well for Thomas — Nancy & Abraham as against them. Govr Palmer thought one moment and said — "This is too delicate a question and I do now
I saw A. Orendorff
I saw at Senator Cullom's
I saw Judge Matheny at his office 11.30 am and had a private conversation with him — told him all the facts just as I did to all others — Palmer — Orendorff — Cullom & Jayne, — and when I had stated over all the facts I then asked him to give me his opinion — give me his advice as to the best method of dealing with
639the matter and to which question he said — "If you can clearly make Lincoln out to be a legitimate — , a lawful child of Thomas & Nancy and make it out that Nancy Lincoln, Thomas Lincolns wife was chaste &c &c I would do it by all means, not thereby injuring others &c The whole story is new to me, but by all means clear Lincoln & his mother, if you treat the subject". I said this cannot be done without touching up Thomas Lincoln. The judge said — "That's bad but put Lincoln & his mother in their proper place." All persons Examined — advice & opinions asked for all seemed to talk honesty and fairly, though I kept my eyes open. — wide open.
I had a long and a good conversation with Govr. Oglesby — told him over & over all the facts of the case just as I did to all others and said to him that I had the materials out of which, by a lawyer's argument, that I could make it appear that Lincoln was the lawful child of Thomas & Nancy — told him that Thomas was castrated but that no time was fixed by the witnesses of the said event. The Govr. then said — "The very idea that old Thomas Lincoln would fool Mrs Johnson was foolish — (Here he gave his reasons). That Theory won't do — better go upon the Theory — proposition that Nancy Hanks was the illegitimate child of the Virginia planter and that the people had mixed things up. This is the best explanation, but it would be better for your book to say nothing about it at all. That the People's good sense had settled the whole matter long ago — That the People don't care about such things anyway. They go upon merit — the man and his own genius & character." This Conversation with the Govr was private as in all other cases and it took place in the Govr's room at 11 Ë o'c AM — possibly 12
W H Herndon
Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3411 — 13