A True Estimate of Abraham Lincoln
and Vindication of the South
by Mildred Lewis Rutherford
Lamon and Herndon both testified that Mr. Lincoln would have resented such adulation. He was a plain man and expected plain language in praising him and only the truth to be recorded.
Before his death it was said:
He was the jolliest man. He sang vulgar songs.
He was known for his coarse and vulgar jokes.
He was a perfect boor
As a lawyer, he was a cunning clown.
He was a man of indomitable will.
He was a perfect tyrant. He soon forgot his friends.
His duplicity brought on the war.
He only retailed the wit of other men.
He was the most cunning man in the world.
He had no religion at all.
He was full of mirth.
He drank with the crowd.
He hated the slave.
He was never tactful. He knew not the word gratitude. He never remembered a favor.
He was very ambitious. His sole ambition was to gain office.
He was a man without personal attachments. He was incapable of feeling pity for the suffering.
He had not the instincts of a gentleman.
He was very awkward in ladies’ presence.
His vulgar stories are too indecent to print.
What was said about Lincoln after his death?
He was the saddest man in the world.
He was remarkable for his pure mindedness.
He was a gentleman by instinct.
At the bar he was a genius.
He was a man without a will.
He was the softest hearted man in the world.
He never forgot a kindness.
He was a man without duplicity.
He was the wittiest of men.
He had not a particle of cunning.
He was the godliest man since the Nazarene.
He rarely smiled.
He never touched liquor.
He freed the slave.
He was exceedingly tactful.
He had not a particle of ambition.
He was very literary.
He was a man of God and found often on his knees.
He was a man after God’s own pattern.
He never acquired a vice, and never had an impure thought.
Books portraying the life of Lincoln, written by many of his glorifiers since his death, cannot be relied upon for truthfulness. Much in these volumes is given from the "inner consciousness" of the writers, and is not founded on truth. If one gives a careful examination of the printed conversations with friends or foes, the private and public letters to friends, relatives and politicians, public speeches, political documents and reports, and all that is recorded of Mr. Lincoln in State or Congressional Records while living, there will not be found anything to warrant those beautiful sentiments and humane and religious expressions which abound in these late works. Lincoln did not talk in language like that.
That exquisite little story of Lincoln’s writing the will for a dying Confederate soldier is, by the confession of the author, a story taken from her "inner consciousness." Yet it is incorporated in the readers for children and widely used in our Southern schools. Likewise, that incident recorded of Lincoln’s walking back several miles to place some fallen birds back into their nests does not tally with the lack of humaneness to animals as related by Lamon and Herndon in anecdotes of Lincoln.
Lincoln’s tenderness to his little Tad is an undisputed point — found in early and late writings — but other instances of humaneness and tenderness are far from being substantiated. The Life of Lincoln, by Hay and Nicolay, cannot be relied on as Lamon’s and Herndon’s for by Hay’s own confession, they were in the habit of "telling the truth about everything and everybody like two everlasting angels with one exception — Lincoln." This was because "we are Lincoln men through and through."(1)
It is perfectly natural for the Rev. John Wesley Hill, Chancellor of the Lincoln Memorial University, to glorify Abraham Lincoln in his Lincoln, Man of God. The success of his university, like the success of the Republican party, depended upon it, but the very fact that this was necessary, and that the writer of this and other like books had to go out of their way to prove that Lincoln was a Christian is the strongest proof of the doubt of these statements. Who ever thought of writing a book to prove Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, or Stonewall Jackson were Christians? Dr. Hill was born in 1863, and could not have known Lincoln personally as Lamon and Herndon did, and their statements on this subject are most explicit. Not a minister in Springfield wold vote for Lincoln, and not a relative has ever testified to his religious faith. Even his stepmother, a very religious woman who loved him devotedly, denied the statement that "Abe shed penitential tears over his Bible." The testimony of his wife should be the strongest of all testimonies for she knew him best. She said, "Mr. Lincoln had no faith, no hope."
How can any true estimate be reached about a man whose friends so grossly falsify to make him appear great? After Lincoln’s death, Lamon said:
The ceremony of Mr. Lincoln’s apotheosis was planned and executed after his death by men who were unfriendly to him while he lived. Men who had exhausted the resources of their skill and ingenuity in venomous detractions of the living Lincoln were the first after his death, to undertake the task of guarding his memory not as a human being, but as a god.
There was fierce rivalry who should canonize Mr. Lincoln in the most solemn words; who should compare him to the most sacred character in all history. He was prophet, priest, and king, he was Washington, he was Moses, he was likened to Christ the Redeemer, he was likened unto God. After that came the ceremony of apotheosis. And this was the work of men who spoke of the living Lincoln except with jeers and contempt. After his death it became a political necessity to pose him as "the greatest, wisest, godliest man that ever lived."
Those who scorned and reviled him while living were Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase; Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton; Vice-President, Hannibal Hamlin; Secretary of State, Wm. Seward, Fremont; Senators Sumner, Trumbull, Ben Wade, Henry Wilson, Thaddeus Stevens, Henry Ward Beecher, Wendell Phillips, Winter Davis, Horace Greeley, Zack Chandler of Michigan, and a host of others.(2)
General Don Piatt, who traveled with Lincoln when he was making his campaign speeches and hence knew him intimately, said:
When a leader dies all good men go to lying about him. From the moment that covers his remains to the last echo of the rural press, in speeches, in sermons, eulogies, reminiscences, we hear nothing but pious lies.
Abraham Lincoln has almost disappeared from human knowledge. I hear of him, I read of him in eulogies and biographies but I fail to recognize the man I knew in life.(3)
1. New York Times, 24 October 1915.
2. Lamon, Life of Lincoln.
3. Piatt, Reminiscences of Lincoln.