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370. Joshua F. Speed (William H. Herndon Interview).

[1865 — 66]

J. F. Speed

In 1840 Lincoln went into the Southern partt of the State as Elector Canvasser debator Speaker — Here first wrote his Mary — She darted after him — wrote him — Lincoln — seeing an other girl — & finding he did not love his wife wrote


a leter saying he did not love her — Speed Saw the letter — tell the Conversation — between Lincoln & Speed — Went to see "Mary" — told her that he did not love her — She rose — and Said "The deciever shall be decieved wo is me."; alluding to a young man She fooled — Lincoln drew her down on his Knee — Kissed her — & parted — He going one way & She an other — Lincoln did Love Miss Edwards — "Mary" Saw it — told Lincoln the reason of his Change of mind — heart & soul — released him — Lincoln went Crazy — had to remove razors from his room — take away all Knives and other such dangerous things — &c — it was terrible — was during the Special session of the Ills Legislature in 1840 Lincoln Married her for honor — feeling his honor bound to her —

Lincoln made a great Speech in 1837. or 8 — on internal improvements —

Money — given him in 1837 or 8 — $200 — Spent 75c — paid back. $199.25 Saying I didnt Know how to Spend it. This money was given him to sustain & Maintain the Internal improvement policy as well as himself as its defender &c —

In 1840 Reuben Radford ran the Rail Road, East about 5 Miles — the august Election Came off. & during the day of voting: it was rumored that Radford had taken the polls and was Excluding the whigs. Lincoln jumped up and went down to see what was the Matter and to see fair play. Radford was angry — Said much to Lincoln. Lincoln — said "Radford you will spoil & blow if you live much longer." Lincoln wanted to hit Radford, but Could get no chance to do so. Lincoln said "I intended to Knock him down & go away and leave him a-Kicking" —

When Lincoln was Elected Presdt he sent for me at Chicago whither he had gone — took Lincoln's letter — Couldn't get in till he Showed Lincolns letter — that let him in — Lincoln was much worn down & fatigued — After the Compliments — Lincoln Said — Speed have you got a room — "Yes" — Said Speed — "Name your hour Speed and I'll Come & see you, — will bring my wife. Lincoln went — took his wife — Said — "Mary & Fanny can Stay her — lets you and I go into your room — Lincoln threw himself on the bed — and Said — Speed what are your pecuniary Conditions — are you rich, or poor" Speed Said — "Mr Presdt. I think I Know what you wish. I'll Speak Candidly to you — My pecuniary Conditions are good — I do not think you have any office within your gift that I can afford to take".

Lincoln wanted to make Guthry of Ky Secy of War — didn't want to write to him So that he could turn the refusal on me. You go and feel of Guthrie. Speed went — Guthrie refused. Guthrie Said the Union must be maintained. I am old and don't want the position anymore.

Lincoln said in reference to Fort Sumpter — My Mind was fixed on this Matter — Called my Cabinet — had just 1˝ man — I was firm about its defence. &c. and my Cabinet was a unit when I was determined.


Mr Lincoln in reference to Internal improvements & the best interest and advancement of this State, that his highest ambition was to become the De Witt Clinton of Ills.

Messr Douglas — Baker — Lincoln and others were in Speeds Store one Evening in Decr 1839 — . They got to talking politics — got warm — hot — angry. Douglas Sprang up and Said — Gentlemen, this is no place to talk politics — We will discuss the questions &c publicly with you — Then the banter came — see Journal. Decr. 1839.

Religion — Beard of Ky was a Know nothing — went into a catholic Section of Ky to make Speeches against Foreigners — was making a Speech — Some one in the Crowd — a revered and gray haired leader — and Said — "Have you any Religion" — Beard Said it — the question was a poser — a Stumper — Yet gather himself Beard said — "Yes Stranger — thank God — I have got Some Religion — I had better be without money than with out Religion So far from home. From this time he swayed the crowd "for there was a great truth in this reply said" Lincoln. Speed you had better be without money than without Religion Said Lincoln. Speed is Satisfied that Mr Lincoln was a growing man in Religion — (this is true as to Religion though not so as to Christianit

Lee had surrendered — Davis had fled. and Lincoln joyous — Called his Cabinet togethe about the only one he Ever had. and asked Each one of his Cabinet what had better be done. Some were one way & Some an other — Speed was Sharp & hard on the Traitors — Said they ought to be hung — Each one Expressed his own opinions. After all had Expressed their Opinions — Lincoln turned to Speed and Said — Speed you are hot after the Rebel. I Should have though that you would have been for mercy — Kindness — tenderness &c — Speed Said — Mr Presdt you asked me my opinion and I gave it honestly — Tut — Tut Said Lincoln patting Speed on the Shoulders I Know that and admire you the More for it, yet I say I am mistaken. Mr Lincoln made a Speech to his Cabinet: it was sublime for it was in spired. (I can't get this — H.) Lincoln Said I can describe my feelings by telling a story "I feel" said Lincoln jokingly — like a litte neighbor boy of mine in Indiana his father was a hunter: he was tender & chicken hearted: his father one night Caught an old Coon and her young — Killed the old one — and all the young Except one — tied a little rope around the neck of it and told the boy to watch it while he the father went & got a chain — the boy was afraid his father would treat it Cruelly — Lincoln went over to see the boy — the boy was apparently crying — was tender — never would throw at a bird — Said to Abe — "I wish this Coon would get away — , but if I let him go, dad will whip me — I do wish it would run off — So I feel by these leading rebels.


— Davis — Lee &c — I wish they Could get away — yet if I let 'em loose — dad — the People would whip me — and yet I do wish they would run away out of the land — &c.

Speed Saw the letter to "Mary" written by Mr Lincoln. Speed tried to persuade Lincoln to burn it up. Lincoln Said — "Speed I always Knew you were an obstinate man. If you won't deliver it I will get Some one to do it. I Shall not deliver it nor give it to you to be delivered: Words are forgotten — Misunderstood — passed by — not noticed in a private Conversation — but once put your words in writing and they Stand as a living & eternal Monument against you. If you think you have will & Manhood Enough to go and see her and Speak to her what you say in that letter, you may do that. Lincoln did go and see her — did tell her &c — Speed said — Lincoln tell me what you said and did" — Lincoln told him — Speed Said — The last thing is a bad lick, but it cannot now be helped — Lincoln Kept his promises and did not go to see her for months — they got together somehow.

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3968 — 73; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:59 — 64



1. See below for another segment of this letter, beginning "Speed saw the letter," intended to be inserted here. For an explanation of why it is given separately, see p. 477, note 7.

2. Lincoln went crazy . . . in 1840 is written in the margin, with the insertion point indicated by carets.

3. The Northern Cross Railroad began building at Meredosia, Morgan County, Illinois, in 1838 and did not reach Springfield until 1842.

4. Messr Douglas . . . Decr. 1839. is written in the margin, with the insertion point indicated by carets.

5. James Speed (1812 — 87), the elder brother of Joshua F. Speed, served as attorney general under AL.

6. Lincoln Said . . . a story is written in the margin, with the insertion point indicated by carets.

7. Speed saw the letter . . . got together somehow. This passage, written on a separate sheet, is WHH's attempt to expand on what, in writing out his interview with Speed, he had first put down about AL's engagement to Mary Todd. A caret at the point early in the narrative where WHH first wrote Speed saw the letter and the striking of these same words clearly indicate the point at which WHH intended that this passage be inserted. It is given separately here in the interest of chronological clarity. Because it inadvertently carries the story far beyond the conversation between Lincoln and Speed, inserting the entire passage at the place indicated (as the Springer transcription does) has the effect of seriously disrupting the chronology of events, particularly when the text reverts to the original version of Speed's testimony. For a reconstruction of this testimony in chronological order, see Wilson, 102 — 3.