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447. Edgar Conkling to William H. Herndon.

Cincinnati O. August 3d 1867

Dr Sir.

I have just talked with Mr. Collins & he has just talked with Rev. Dr Montfort (Publisher of Presbyterian) who well remembers teaching Mr. Lincoln at Camden Preble Co. Ohio, near Richmond Ia. about 1827. He thinks valuable facts can be obtained there & incidents about Mr Lincoln some of which I learn but cannot now relate, Montfort will gladly aid you & go with you there. If you should show Mr. Lincoln's likeness there it might be seen how it resembles his reputed father. so his likeness compared with that of his real father in Ky. might lead to facts from old citizens there Collins says the more he thinks of it the more he can post you up. He published Danville Review years since with Rev. Dr Breckenridge of Lexington Ky where the Todd family lived. He says Dr R. took Mrs. Lincoln into his church. That among the administration papers in the estate of Mrs. Lincoln's parents may be found letters from Mr. Lincoln ordering sale of slaves or a slave, his wife was interested in showing his views at that time; that he thinks


Prentice of Louisville Journal & others at that time thought of publishing Parentage of Lincoln but suppressed it fearing it would re-act on them. Doubtless one fact will lead to another not now thought of & which may make an unprecedented demand for such a history in this country & Europe & the track I am putting you on is reliable & gets down to the very core of the matter. I think you will be able to account for the long hesitancy of Mr Lincoln to hurt slavery from inheriting his real fathers instincts for it & customs as a slave holder. Mr Lincoln was divided in his nature on it. He felt for freedom inherited from his Mother less aristocratic & had to struggle against the instincts inherited from his real father as well as influenced by his wife and her family & Democratic party making him slow to strike down slavery the most I differed with him for.

Should you be able to identify a family likeness between Mr Lincoln & his real father either from discovering likenesses or portraits or opinions of other citizens you will have established an interesting fact; but which can only be done by your visiting several localities & carefully consulting with Mr. Lincoln's relatives on each side of his parents & their characters etc. This as yet has not been done nor likely to be as you can do it & while parties are living it should now be done. No man can do it as well as you can nor will you be willing to treat as facts as they should be done unless you yourself get them from sources that you can verify to the world as personally known to you. I look on it as important to get Mr. Lincoln's letters from the administrators estate in Lexington on the subject of selling slaves, his wife was interested in. Did he seek to prevent it? or did he personally favor selling them for money, or for Mrs Lincoln. I doubt not Mrs Lincoln had notions not very agreeable to him and which so affected his domestic peace as to force him off in the circuit & thus prepared the way for him becoming a public man as well as tinged his course as President which if so if not creditable to her is due to the world to know. I doubt her affection as genuine for him as his for her from what I learn & her not as yet visiting his grave She had the opportunity of earning a world-wide reputation for sympathy for her country and the oppressed but rebellion & pride absorbed her powers & deprived her of national sympathy. Whatever may be the parentage of Mrs Lincoln if you suppress it others will yet publish it to your injury as a historian. If you could get likenesses of Mrs Lincoln's parents all the better. All of them I sent you some days since Mr. Collins address

Very Respy
Edgar Conkling

Bancrofts Memorial address p. 16 says Lincoln floated down the Ohio to Spencer Co. Ia. When 8 years old Mother could read not write, father do neither. But they sent him to school &c. Where is all this verified? Dr Montfort claims to have taught


him in Ohio in 1827 at age of 19. With which father reputed or real does the traits of Mr. Lincoln correspond with as well as his likeness agree? E. C.

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3022 — 23



1. George Dennison Prentice, an early biographer of Henry Clay, edited the Louisville Journal from 1830 to 1866.

2. Such letters are unknown.