5. ADVICE TO A YOUNG FRIEND
In 1848, while serving in Washington as a
Congressman from Illinois, Lincoln received a letter from his young law
partner, William H. Herndon, complaining of some fancied grievances he
held against certain Illinois personages. The following excerpt from
Lincoln's reply discloses not only his sound advice to young Herndon but
reveals something of his own character as well.
The way for a young man to rise is to improve himself
every way he can, never suspecting that anybody wishes to hinder him.
Allow me to assure you that suspicion and jealousy never did help any
man in any situation. There may sometimes be ungenerous attempts to
keep a young man down; and they will succeed, too, if he allows his mind
to be diverted from its true channel to brood over the attempted injury.
Cast about, and see if this feeling has not injured every person you
have ever known to fall into it.
Now, in what I have said, I am sure you will suspect
nothing but sincere friendship. I would save you from a fatal error.
You have been a laborious, studious young man. You are far better
informed on almost all subjects than I have ever been. You cannot fail
in any laudable object, unless you allow your mind to be improperly
directed. I have somewhat the advantage of you in the world's
experience, merely by being older; and it is this that induces me to
LINCOLN TO HERNDON, JULY 10, 1848.
6. BEFRIENDING A SOLDIER'S WIDOW
William H. Herndon tells of a stirring scene in
which Lincoln's righteous indignation was thoroughly aroused.
I once saw Mr. Lincoln look more than a man; he was
inspired by the occasion. There was a man living here by the name of
Erastus Wright; he was, his business rather was, to obtain pensions for
the soldiers of the Revolution's heirs, widows, etc., the soldiers of
1812's widows, heirs, etc. An old revolutionary soldier's widow applied
to Wright, about 184950 to get her pension, which amounted to
about $400. Wright made out the papers, got the pension, and charged the
poor widow $200, half of what he got. The poor old woman came into our
office quite blind, deaf, and on crutches, and stated to Mr. Lincoln her
case. Lincoln at once sympathized with the woman and said: "Wright shall
pay you back $100 or more." Lincoln went and saw Wright in person.
Wright refused to refund. The old woman commenced suit, Lincoln giving
security for costs. The case finally got before the jury with all the
facts of the case fully told. Lincoln loomed up, rose up to be about
nine feet high, grew warm, then eloquent with feelings, then blasting as
with a thunderbolt the miscreant who had robbed one that helped the
world to liberty, to Wright's inalienable rights. Lincoln was
inspired if man was ever inspired. The jury became indignant and would
have torn Wright up, mobbed in a minute, burst into tears at one moment
and then into indignation the next. The judge and spectators did the
same, according to the term that Lincoln gave his eloquence. The jury
made Wright disgorge all except about $50.
HERNDON TO JESSE W. WEIK, NOVEMBER 12, 1885.
This photograph gives a clear impression of
Lincoln's physical proportions. It probably was made in 1860 and is his
earliest full length portrait. A print of this photograph was found in
1931 in the effects of Henry Kirk Brown,famous sculptor and friend of
Lincoln. Reproduced from a photograph in the possession of the L. C.
Hand)' Studios, Washington, D. C.