162. Charles H. Hart to William H. Herndon.

Phila Mar 3d. 1866

My dear Sir/

I owe you an apology for not having written before, but to tell you the truth, I have had a great deal of mental excitement during the last three week which has almost totally unfitted me for any thing. This must be my excuse.

I will now give you a recitation of the conversation I wrote about, and you can take it for what it's worth.

In February '63 my father accompanied by mother and sister being in Washington, called one evening on Mr. Lincoln. after a little delay they were ushered very unceremoniously into his library where he sat with no other companionship than his books and public documents He received them most cordially and thanked them with great apparent sincerity for their disinterested visit "saying" it was of no ordinary occurrence for it had not happened for months that a friendly visit was paid to him The conversation naturally turned upon the war, he spoke with much sympathy of the slain and wounded and seemed wonderfully interested in many civilians who had entered upon a martial career. My father said his position had been and still was a very anxious one, he replied; "My dear sir never aspire to the Presidential chair I have neither rest by day nor sleep by night am surrounded by people of such clashing ideas. For instance in regard to Grant. I have testimony from men who I am told are most worthy honorable men, that Grant is a drunkard, very immoral and every thing that is bad; on the other hand I have the same amount of testimony, from men of the same station, saying he is every thing that can be wanted, of a high moral character &c; now I have to weigh each in my own mind and pass my judgment upon it; I have decided in his favor, and time will show who is right. So it is with every appointment I make, after every small victory I am crowded by men of every rank from a Colonel down to a corporal, each one claiming the honor to themselves, they stating their superior officer being absent &c &c and of course demanding promotion. My father then remarked there were too many who wanted to be officers who are not suited to it, &c. Mr L. replied "Yes, it is so. That reminds me of a story I heard in a small town in Illinois where I once lived. Every man in town owned a fast horse, each one considering his own the fastest, so to decide the matter there was to be a trial of all the horses to take place at the same time. One old man living in the town known as "Uncle" was selected as umpire, when it was over and each one anxious for his decision, the old man putting his hands behind his back "said" I have come to one


conclusion, that when there are so many fast horses in one little town, none of them are any great shakes."

There was a particularly honest open manner in his conversation. He spoke most freely upon his election, saying he did not feel suited to the position, that he filled it because it had been thrown upon him for when he was informed of his nomination he was as much surprised as many others must have been. he said I only accepted it as I considered it was my duty, for I know very little of public life. I have only been [twice] in the state legislature and once in Congress I was then so disgusted, I made up my mind to retire to private life and practice my profession.

As they were leaving he asked them if they had seen Mrs Lincoln, on their replying in the negative he said "just wait a minute and I will go and see where she is," leaving them alone in his library with all his papers loose about. He returned in a few moments out of breath and said "Mrs L was in the first parlor and would be most happy to see them.

Upon their departure he shook each one separately by the hand and thanked them most warmly for the pleasure he had received from their visit, remarking it was the first one in six months he had had of a purely disinterested nature, for many called with that appearance but before they left, it invariably wound up with seeking for a position for themselves or some friend and hoped if they ever came to Washington again during his stay, he might have the pleasure of seeing them again.

The above will I suppose be of very little use to you, except personally and even in that sense not as much to you who knew him so well as to those who knew him but passing.

How would you like to have an appendix to your volume in the shape of a "Bibliography of Lincolniana," containing the full title and size of every Eulogy, Sermon &c, which has appeared since his death. I think I could prepare a pretty full one if I had any time I have now over 200, and by the by must thank you for sending for Nelson's sermon which was new to me. Who is to be your publisher?

Very truly yours
Chas. H. Hart

I have just thought of a very good [illegible] Mr L.s which may not have reached your ears, it had just a run in this city. After the Great Sanitary Fair which was held in June '64 and which Mr L. visited; a man by the name of [Orne?] who had been very officious to Mr L. during his visit to the Fair, and who keeps a Carpet store, applied to the President for a foreign Mission. which was needless to say refused. He afterwards in speaking of it to a Philadelphian said he supposed, when he returned he wanted to have a new sign painted as Aixmunster from Bruxelles. (Exminister from Brussels). This I think worthy the wit of a Sidney Smith or a Jeffrey.

Illinois State Historical Library: Weik Papers, box 1; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:293 — 97



1. Sydney Smith and Francis Jeffrey were two prominent British writers renowned for their wit.