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309. Daniel W. Wilder to William H. Herndon.

Rochester, N.Y. Nov. 24th 1866.

Dear Sir —

Having an item in regard to your book in the paper this morning it gives me an excuse for writing to you.

You may have forgotten, but I most pleasurably remember meeting you at Springfield in the summer of 1859. I was there to see Chas. B. Brown (since Killed while most gallantly standing by our colors) and met you and Mr. Lincoln. — Well, here is a little of my history since — I was then publishing the Elwood (Kan.) Free Press. In the summer of '60 I went into the St. Joseph (Mo.) Free Democrat. We managed it so spiritedly and Republicanly that we got 410 votes for Lincoln there (where not one Repub. vote had ever been cast before) and, in Dec., got ourselves indicted for publishing an "incendiary" sheet. That stopped the paper (for we were guilty by Mo. law and should have been convicted if tried) — we had lost our cause, time & money, and had to cross over into Kansas to escape the Sheriff 's process. Two of the Editors became Capts. in our Army, one printer, a Major (he is now in the Mo. Legislature making another kind of laws) one printer a Capt. and I think everybody in that little printing office served in our army in one way or another before the war was over. Some of them made histories which it would be a delight to write out & publish.

I went down to Leavenworth & became Editor of the Conservative (always intensely Radical, saying in the first number that it was Freedom that we were to conserve) started in Jan. '61 on the day that Kansas was admitted. Soon afterwards I became proprietor, and remained with the paper about four years. In '63 Mr. Lincoln (at the solicitation of Jim Lane) made me Surveyor General of Kan. &.


Nebraska. In March '65, at the same solicitation, he removed me. (Mark W. Delahay, of Leavenworth, my predecessor in office, ought to give you many facts in regard to Mr. L., but he is a very diffuse writer & not famous for hard sense. He corresponded much with Lincoln during the war.)

The cause of Lane's opposition and my removal was my going against his reelection as U.S. Senator — a record with which I am well pleased — his vote on the Civil Rights bill &c. showing just what he was.

Mr. Lincoln Knew Lane well even when I first saw him ('59) and it is one of the most surprising of his many contradictions of character that he should have taken into his confidence a man whom he Knew was utterly rotten, heartless and corrupt. I believe Lane dispensed more patronage than any other western Senator, and some of it corruptly. Still, when the re-nomination came along, Lane was for Chase (without Lincoln's Knowledge, I suppose) until about Feb'y '64 when he wrote me a letter that it was time to come out openly (in the paper) for Lincoln. Lincoln was not my first choice; I preferred somebody more radical. Lane simply wanted the man who was to win — and for the sake of the spoils.

Wm P. Dole of Indiana is another man (and a bad one too, I believe,) who had much to do with Lincoln. For a long time he had an exclusive back-stairs entrance to the White House and intrigued for himself (in thieving Indian contracts) and for Lane. Cale Smith (dead) was another Indian contract jobber, yet Mr. Lincoln made him U.S. Judge afterwards. Millions of money were dispensed in Kansas & the story connected with it would be a strange one — could it ever come to light, as it never will. The orthodox ministers who make Mr. Lincoln a part of the Godhead (you told me he was not Orthodox when I was in Springfield, but inclined to our own Theodore Parker {in writing his life, as I wish you had, you would have had no contradictions to reconcile} — a fact he bravely concealed while President) would be terribly shocked could they Know that Mr. Lincoln was the most adroit of the political schemers of his day. Thurlow Weed was not a fractional quarter section to Lincoln's township.

From all this don't understand (as I Know you will not understand) that I do not appreciate that part of Mr. Lincoln's morality which sometimes made him an Apostle and a Prophet. I remember all those words and acts and Know that no other American President — not Washington — Ever approached them in sublimity. When Lincoln wrote to the Copperheads he used to tell them that he was following, not leading, the people. There must have been a twinkle in his eye when he wrote those things, for, though the Radicals led him, he was, by those very words, converting and leading Copperheads. It was "strategy, my boy."

By the way, Lincoln's greatest speech, Gettysburg, has two ideas — self-consecration and a "government of the people, for the people and by the people." This last is word for word from Theodore Parker (unconsciously, of course, to Lincoln at the time, his mind having assimilatied it) and you must give him the credit for


it. I can find the Sermon where it occurs. — I am now (since April 1st) one of the Editors and publishers of the Rochester Express.

Your friend,
Daniel W. Wilder.

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2796 — 97; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:414 — 17



1. A quarter-section is 160 acres; a township is 36 sections, or 23,040 acres.

2. AL's phraseology is not identical but apparently owes much to Parker's. See Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America (New York, 1992), 107, 281n.