310. John McNamar to William H. Herndon.
Petersburg Ill Nov 25th 1866
My Dear Sir
Since receiving your rather Flattering request to write up some of the Ancient reminicences of this Locality the Great Political Battle has been fought and won "Saved we the Gods" for the victory Let Andy swing as Ben Butler would say the higher the Better, he might have been a great man had not the Tayler that made him up, cabbaged the proper Trimmings "There is a tide in the affairs of men" which Andy did not take at the Ebb" but which Mr Lincoln without having read Shakespear in Early life, triumhantly [flooded?] on to lasting fame; if not to fortune. I remember Mr Lincoln's first miscellaneous Reading he got possesion of a Copy of Burns and repeated with great Glee "Sic a wife as willy had I wudna Gie a button for her," others, yourself perhaps would have joined with Tam O Shanter, in admiration of the "Cutty Sark"
There was not many Books in the region at that time I had a copy of Shakespear Popes Homer and essay on man and Don Quixotte I dont remember whether Mr Lincoln ever read Either of them when I went away I locked up Shakespear in a trunk with some other articles among which was a few packs of cards. It was afterwards Broken open Shakespear was not disturbed and I have him yet, But the cards were among the missing, you can infer which was the most popular but what I considered very remarkable at the time was seeing a copy of Homers Oddessy quite old and torn and printed with ancient type in the hands of Some of the old setters I cant remember whom now its history, the manners habits and customs of the People of those days was of that Primitive order that usually characterize New Settlements with an abundance of the necessaries of life, its Luxuries were unknown or uncared for Lavish hospitality and Brotherly love abounded and every where the Latch string hung out to all comers, The Majority of the Citizens were professing Christians or church members a second Class though not belonging to the churches associated with Church members in preference to the
3d Class which was Decidedly Rowdy, the first Class in their profession and faith were Earnest simple and childlike in their faith and practice, as the incident I related to you of stopping the effusion of blood by the Bible well prove, in fact "the Cotters Saturday Night" By Lincolns favorite Author would describe many a prarie Cabin here away in times past
Or as the homesick Englishman expressed it
The prayer of thanks giving in harmony swelling
All warm from the heart of the family Band
Half raised is from Earth to that rapturous dwelling
Described in the Bible that Lay on the Stand
The old fashioned Bible the Dear Blessed Bible
The family bible that Lay on the stand
There were four Denominations of Christians represented here, when I came, the Methodists whose headquarters were at Ezekiel Harrison's the Father of our popular County Judge he lived a little East of Jim Purkapiles where the Elder Matheny used sometimes to hold forth there was a little incident occured of which Bill Green was the Hero which may be worth relating as Lincoln enjoyed it Hugely, we the youngsters had attended a night meeting in Mass at Harrisons On starting home a young Doctor who had Set up a shop in old salem not unlike perhaps "Romeo's Apothecary" and remarkable for the frequent use of the word "Modes opperandi" he cut out Bill that is took his gal from him Bill Trudged along in Silence some time Either meditating on his sins or "Nursing his wrath to keep it warm" at length he came along side of his "Bright particular" who with the doctor was Leading the column and Began to plead his lost cause with the fair one The Girls in the rear began to hurry up to hear, After many arguments that Seemed unavailing Bill finaly put in a clincher Saying you Know we have done things that we ought not if we are going to seperate, — The Girls wilted and fell Back in the rear. while speaking of the Methodists I take Great pleasure in recording my hearty aproval of their Loyalty and Patriotism During the Late National strife. Nevertheless they have some peculiarities they as you are aware Believe in "Backsliding" some, my wife belongs to the Methodist Church consequently you will Leave the above paragraph out as not Germain to the Subject" I forward you this much of what I have written at odd times as the rest of my manuscript is in an unfinish state
The most numerous Body of professing Christians However at that time here were the Cumberland presbyterians so called from the county in which they Originated they are as I presume you are well aware an offshoot from the Old Presbyterians at an Early day there was a Great revival in the Presbyterian Church in Cumberland and perhaps other Counties on comberland river A great many of the Converts as is generally the Case wanted to preach "Dr Syntax Said nay, they wanted Preachers such as Paul Brought up at the feet of Gamalial. to stand forth "the messenger of truth the Legate of the Skies" whose theme Divine" they considered too sacred to be commited to the hands of Uneducated Men, they held to the Maxim Expressed in the Old College Saw "Ne suter ultra crepidem Est" while the young Convert Burning with Newborn Zeal considered himself abundently capable of Playing upon a harp with a thousand Strings "and he played" there is but few of that class of Preachers now they have a more educated if not a more able Ministry, the rev'd John Berry was the acknowleged Leader of the sect here
He was a large and powerfull Man had a powerful Voice and was altogether a powerfull Preacher but in Later years he became somewhat dogmatical on baptism and some other points, the People in Most Churches have adopted Douglas's "Popular Sovreignity" on the Mode of Baptism and their Pastors generally acquiesse except Perhaps the Baptist. Mr Berry however published a Book on Baptism Denounced immersion as no baptism at all, stating as one reason that the river Jordon when our Saviour was baptized was not Shoe Mouth deep, which reminds me of a little story I heard Mr Lincoln relate he said he was talking with a virginian once an FFV and while speaking of James river the Virginan said he knew it when it was only a little Brook, could step across it any where But we had other preachers one of whom I have mentioned before he like Mr Lincoln obtained a Grammar I heard him attempt to parse a little in one of his Sermons soon after, My Brethren he Says is is a verb of the diminitive Mood and the present Tense emphatically; whether he ever went beyond is this deponent Saieth not yet he was a good soul and may be pardoned a little pious vanity
Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2798 — 2800
1. President Andrew Johnson (1808 — 75).
2. A reference to Johnson's former career as a tailor.
3. "Sic a wife as Willie had, / I wad na gie a button for her" is the refrain from the Robert Burns poem "Willie Wastle." "Weel done, Cutty Sark!" is the spontaneous cry that gives away the hero of Burns's "Tam O'Shanter."
4. Alexander Pope's translation of Homer and his long poem "An Essay on Man"; Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's satiric novel Don Quixote.
5. Probably refers to a conversation between WHH and McNamar.
6. Robert Burns.
7. These verses are not identified.
8. Milton B. Harrison.
9. Charles R. Matheny (1786 — 1839), a Methodist preacher and father of AL's friend James H. Matheny.
10. Probably Jason Duncan.
11. An allusion to Robert Burns's poem "Tam O'Shanter."
12. Marginal note in McNamar's hand, referring to the last several lines: Pardon & correct Blunders.
13. A fictional clergyman created by the British satirist William Combe and the artist Thomas Rowlandson.
14. Presumably a reference to the Latin proverb "Ne sutor supra crepidam," translated as "Let the shoemaker stick to his last."
15. Possibly a reference to John M. Berry, Lectures on the Covenants, and the Right to Church Membership, with Other Subjects: To Which Is Added an Appendix (Louisville: By the author, 1849).
16. First Families of Virginia.