512. Henry C. Whitney to William H. Herndon.
June 23d 1887
I much regret that while you was here for so long last winter I did not see more of you:
Lincoln used to tell me of driving up his cow: he once said, "I went out to the commons (or outskirts) to drive up my cow: she was a new cow and I didn't know her thoroughly but I did know her calf. I could not pick out my cow from other cows who resembled each other but I knew my calf & so I waited a little while & my calf went to a cow & sucked her & in that way I knew it was my cow." — Up to how late a day did he habitually drive up his cow? Did he milk her? did he clean out his own stable? & how late did he do this. I thought this "cow" story, flimsy reasoning for Lincoln but I have known him to go off "half cocked" at other times. For instance in case of "Dean v. Kelley"
I can't recollect exactly how Lincoln used to travel when I first knew him in
6171854. & from that time to 1858. when he changed some: His hat was brown & faded & had no nap — nap worn off. — a faded green umbrella with "A. Lincoln" in large white letters on the inside: knob gone: a literal carpet bag. I think he wore a short cloak: his trousers were always too short. I forget what sort of a coat — or shirt he wore: or collar or neckercheif: you can supply this. I think he wore boots. But I recollect distinctly at some times when we slept together on the circuit he slept in a short home made yellow flannel undershirt & had nothing else on. I don't know certain if that was a constant habit or not. Help me out on these.
Jim Matheney informed me in March that Lincoln was not melalcholy: that he was light-hearted & jovial always: I know better — both from you & Stuart & from my own observation: but I am surprised exceedingly that a man of the opportunity to observe that Matheney had should say this I will give you my version of Lincolns melancholy, not to tell out but it is my belief. This is private.
1st Nancy Hanks Lincoln — was in a constant trepidation and frequent affrights from reasons we have talked together about while she was pregnant & these affrights & trepidations made a maternal ante natal impression on our hero: that was the most of it. This melancholy was stamped on him while in the period of gestation: it was part of his nature and could no more be shaken off than he could part with his brains. Stuart told me his liver did not secrete bile — that he had no natural evacuation of bowels &c. That was also a cause but I beleive the former to be the principal one. My opinion is (somewhat unlike yours) that Lincoln would have greatly enjoyed married life if he had go either Ann Rutledge or Miss Edwards. I think he would have been very fond of a wife had he had one to suit. But I also doubt if he would have been as great a man as he was. I have heard him say over & over again about sexual contact: "It is the harp of a thousand strings." Oliver Davis thought his mind run on sexual [matters?]
Jim Matheny thinks that Lincoln's mind ran to filthy stories — that a story had no fun in it unless it was dirty and I must admit it looks very plausible. I can't think he gloated over filth however. I think he was some like Linder in this that he had great ideality and also a view of grossness which displaced the ideality.
I am very anxious to get hold of your lectures in some way. Were they not published anywhere? in a newspaper or a book? Who has any which I could borrow? You seem to have sent them to me and I seem to have sent them to Senator Fowler of Tennessee. I find a synopsis of one in Carpenters "6 months in the White House."
H C Whitney
appropos of the suggestion in Lamons life and also in Dubois' letter
In the summer of 1861. — There came to Washington from Illinois the following persons — all desiring to be appointed Paymasters as U.S.A. Victor B. Bell — formerly member of Legislature from Wabash Co. Whig. Ninian W. Edwards — with his wife & [others?] they lived at White House
619Robert L. Wilson — one of the long nine
and two or three utter nonentities from interior counties in Illinois.
I was in Washington in the Indian service for a few days before August and I merely said to Lincoln one day — "Everything is drifting into the war & I guess you will have to put me in the army." He said "I'm making Generals now & in a few days I will be making Quartermasters & I'll then fix you." — That was all that was ever said between Lincoln & me or anyone else on that subject. Wilson went to Lincoln and frankly said "Lincoln I have come on to secure the office of Paymaster in the Army: you know its in the line of business as Clerk and my son is excellent at accounts & I wish to make him my clerk." — Lincoln made no reply but cast his eyes down to the floor as if in the greatest mental distress & was silent for about 2 minutes. Wilson told me he was almost on the point of leaving the room & going home: but Lincoln turned the conversation on other matters & made no reply at all.
Edwards was assured tacitly at least that he should have the office. Now — on August 6th 1861. I got a N. Y. Herald & in it read the appointments of myself and all the above except Bell
& my own appointment To Victor Bell he simply gave a letter to Yates
Think of this. Two of the appointees were utterly worthless & I could just as well have been given & satisfied with a lesser place. & What meant his performance with Wilson.
Again. Ben. James (then of Chicago & formerly of Tremont) & W. O. Stoddard of Champaign — both wrote Lincoln stating they wanted to be Private Secretary. They both told me that Lincoln entertained with favor the idea of appointing one but not wishing to offend the other, he concluded to keep Nicolay: This may or may not be so: but how do you account for his failure to insist on your filling that closely confidential relation instead of the nobody he did take?
And how do you Explain his earnest desire to take into his Cabinet Judd a comparative stranger to him instead of his earnest friend Davis.
On the subject of Davis: let me give you two points.
1st. on March 5th 1861. I saw Lincoln & requested him to appoint Jim Somess (of Champaign) to a small clerkship. Lincoln was very impatient & said abruptly
620— "There's Davis, with that way of making a man do a thing whether he wants to or not, has forced me to appoint Archy Williams Judge in Kansas right off and Jno. Jones to a place in the State department: and I have got a bushel of dispatches from Kansas wanting to know if I'm going to fill up all the offices from Illinois."
H C Whitney