565. Edward L. Pierce to William H. Herndon.
Milton (Mass) 15 Sept '89
I have just finished reading, though too hastily, your most interesting life of Mr Lincoln.
I lived in Chicago from Jan '56 to July '57 and heard him speak in the canvass of John Wentworth for the mayoralty. I had not heard of him before and was greatly impressed with his logical and reflective style, so different from what was common in the West at the time. The next day I was introduced to him in the Tribune office by Dr Ray or Medill. I remember one sentence of Wentworth at the meeting "I'll tell you why they hate me: It is because they know I shall leave No stone unturned to place that man, (pointing to Lincoln) in the seat now disgraced by Stephen A Douglass."
I was a Mass delegate (Gov Clain my colleague,) to the National Convention of 1860 and was a friend of Mr Lincoln from the start — tho' in order to keep company with my delegation voting for Mr Seward on the 1st two ballots. I was the guest of Dr Ray — and had corresponded with him about Lincoln before going to the convention.
Too much weight has been given to possible or probable bargains on Mr Lincolns account. Our delegation and all I met were governed by no such considerations. He was nominated because his debates with Douglass & his Cooper Institute Speech showed him to be sound, and because he was the only candidate truly reliable who would not, like Seward & Chase, encounter conservative prejudices. He would have been the candidate if no bargains had been made with Penn delegation. I remember well a talk with Carter. He did not care for Cameron, but said only (urging thus) that they could not elect Seward. I was satisfied before reaching Chicago on the Saturday before, when meeting the Indiana delegation at Michigan City, that Lincoln would be nominated. That made two of the 4 northern states which were lost in '56 for him, and the same considerations would carry Penn & New Jersey
I met Mr Lincoln twice at Washington, once when a private soldier in '61 when taken to him by my friend, Mr Chase, & a year later when I had charge of freedmen at Port Royal. Mr Chase sent me to him about them, but he did not behave well. He talked about "the itching to get niggers into our lines" His son was very ill, and quite likely that had something to do with his temper at the time. I never met him again, and as I remember, did not care to. I was appointed by him without my knowledge, at Mr Chase's request, Collector of Int Rev for Boston when I was taking care of freedmen in South Carolina.
I had some correspondence with yourself in '60 — '61 when I was anxious that Mr Lincoln should stand firm and I feared that he would come too much under the compromising influence of Mr. Seward.
You may perhaps recal my name in connection with a law book on railways and Mr Sumner's Memoirs
I have said to Mr Hay that biographers of Mr Lincoln avoid the subject of Mr Lincoln's great unpopularity with Congress in 1863 or about that period. I was myself at the time greatly disgusted with his scheme for the transporting the negro population out of the country — which was the subject of the Ile Å Vache expedition under Senator Pomeroys patronage He was at the time as strong with the people as ever, but few MC's spoke well of him. Mr Blaine in his history touches upon one cause — his treatment of the reconstruction bill. His retention of Seward had probably something to do with it — and there was also a feeling growing out of Mr Lincolns manner and style of conversation that he was not profoundly in earnest. This last feeling passed away with the Gettysburg speech.
Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3582 — 83
1. Dr. Charles H. Ray (1821 — 70) was editor-in-chief and Joseph Medill (1823 — 99) was managing editor of the Chicago Tribune.
2. William Clain (1818 — 1905), governor of Massachusetts from 1869 to 1871.
3. David K. Cartter (1812 — 87), Ohio delegate to the 1860 Republican convention.
4. Simon Cameron (1799 — 1889), U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and AL's first secretary of war.
5. A Treatise on American Railroad Law (New York, 1857); Memoir and Letters of Charles Sumner, 4 vols. (Boston, 1877, 1893).
6. John Hay.
7. This sentence was written in the margin.
8. James G. Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress: From Lincoln to Garfield, 2 vols. (Norwich, Conn., 1884 — 86).
9. In a letter to WHH dated September 27, 1889 (LC: HW3598 — 99), Pierce apologized for not signing his name to this letter.