William H. Herndon

“He was the Most Indulgent Parent I have ever Known”

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He exercised no government of any kind over his household. His children did much as they pleased. Many of their antics he approved, and he restrained them in nothing. He never reproved them or gave them a fatherly frown. He was the most indulgent parent I have ever known. He was in the habit, when at home on Sunday, of bringing his two boys, Willie and Thomas-or “Tad”-down to the office to remain while his wife attended church. He seldom accompanied her there. The boys were absolutely unrestrained in their amusement. If they pulled down all the books from the shelves, bent the points of all the pens, overturned inkstands, scattered law-papers over the floor, or threw the pencils into the spittoon, it never disturbed the serenity of their father’s good-nature. Frequently absorbed in thought, he never observed their mischievous but destructive pranks-as his unfortunate partner did, who thought much, but said nothing-and, even if brought to his attention, he virtually encouraged their repetition by declining to show any substantial evidence of parental disapproval. After church was over the boys and their father, climbing down the office stairs, ruefully turned their steps homeward. They mingled with the throngs of well-dressed people returning from church, the majority of whom might well have wondered if the trio they passed were going to a fireside where love and white-winged peace reigned supreme. 

By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life” ,Herndon-257-07


    Sometimes on Sunday morning, Lincoln took the boys downtown to his office. There they were permitted to run wild. “They soon gutted the shelves of books,” says Herndon, “rifled the drawers and riddled boxes, battered the point of my gold pen . . . threw the pencils into the spittoon, turned over the ink- stands on the papers, scattered letters over the office and danced on them.” And Lincoln “never reproved them or gave them a fatherly frown. He was the most indulgent parent I have ever known,” Herndon concludes.

By Dale Carnegie,“Lincoln, the Unknown” ,Carnegie-070-17

“He Read Less and Thought More than any Man”

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The truth about Mr. Lincoln is that he read less and thought more than any man in his sphere in America. No man can put his finger on any great book written in the last or present century that he read thoroughly. When young he read the Bible, and when of age he read Shakespeare; but, though he often quoted from both, he never read either one through. He is acknowledged now to have been a great man, but the question is what made him great. I repeat, that he read less and thought more than any man of his standing in America, if not in the world. He possessed originality and power of thought in an eminent degree. Besides his well established reputation for caution, he was concentrated in his thoughts and had great continuity of reflection. In everything he was patient and enduring. These are some of the grounds of his wonderful success.

Quoted in Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life Written by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, ed.   Herndon-351-20

“Hadn’t we Better Withdraw that Plea”

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Messrs. Stuart and Edwards once brought a suit against a client of ours which involved the title to considerable property. At that time we had only two or three terms of court, and the docket was somewhat crowded. The plaintiff’s attorneys were pressing us for a trial, and we were equally as anxious to ward it off. What we wanted were time and a continuance to the next term. We dared not make an affidavit for continuance, founded on facts, because no such pertinent and material facts as the law contemplated existed. Our case for the time seemed hopeless. One morning, however, I accidentally overheard a remark from Stuart indicating his fear lest a certain fact should happen to come into our possession. I felt some relief, and at once drew up a fictitious plea, averring as best I could the substance of the doubts I knew existed in Stuart’s mind. The plea was as skilfully drawn as I knew how, and was framed as if we had the evidence to sustain it. The whole thing was a sham, but so constructed as to work the desired continuance, because I knew that Stuart and Edwards believed the facts were as I pleaded them. This was done in the absence and without the knowledge of Lincoln. The plea could not be demurred to, and the opposing counsel dared not take the issue on it. It perplexed them sorely. At length, before further steps were taken, Lincoln came into court. He looked carefully over all the papers in the case, as was his custom, and seeing my ingenious subterfuge, asked, “Is this seventh plea a good one?” Proud of the exhibition of my skill, I answered that it was. “But,” he inquired, incredulously, “is it founded on fact?” I was obliged to respond in the negative, at the same time following up my answer with an explanation of what I had overheard Stuart intimate, and of how these alleged facts could be called facts if a certain construction were put upon them. I insisted that our position was justifiable, and that our client must have time or be ruined. I could see at once it failed to strike Lincoln as just right. He scratched his head thoughtfully and asked, “Hadn’t we better withdraw that plea? You know it’s a sham, and a sham is very often but another name for a lie. Don’t let it go on record. The cursed thing may come staring us in the face long after this suit has been forgotten.” The plea was withdrawn. By some agency-not our own-the case was continued and our client’s interests were saved.
I only relate this incident to illustrate Lincoln’s far-seeing capacity; it serves to show how over-cautious he seemed to be with regard to how his record might look in the future. I venture the assertion that he was the only member of the bar in Springfield who would have taken such a conscientious view of the matter.
By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life”, Herndon-295-181-10-36

“This Blade at the Point Travels Rapidly”

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I used to grow restless at Lincoln’s slow movements and speeches in court. “Speak with more vim,” I would frequently say, “and arouse the jury-talk faster and keep them awake.” In answer to such a suggestion he one day made use of this illustration: “Give me your little pen-knife, with its short blade, and hand me that old jack-knife, lying on the table.” Opening the blade of the pen-knife he said: “You see, this blade at the point travels rapidly, but only through a small portion of space till it stops; while the long blade of the jack-knife moves no faster but through a much greater space than the small one. Just so with the long, labored movements of my mind. I may not emit ideas as rapidly as others, because I am compelled by nature to speak slowly, but when I do throw off a thought it seems to me, though it comes with some effort, it has force enough to cut its own way and travel a greater distance.” This was said to me when we were alone in our office simply for illustration. It was not said boastingly.

By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life” , P339  Herndon-332-203-11