This past week a letter surfaced written by William Herndon in 1866, which tells us nothing new about Abraham Lincoln’s faith. You can purchase it for $35,000.
“Mr. Lincoln’s religion is too well known to me to allow of even a shadow of a doubt; he is or was a Theist & a Rationalist, denying all extraordinary — supernatural inspiration or revelation,” Herndon wrote in the letter, signed Feb. 4, 1866, a year after Lincoln’s assassination. “At one time in his life, to say the least, he was an elevated Pantheist, doubting the immortality of the soul as the Christian world understands that term,” continued the letter, addressed to Edward McPherson, Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. “I love Mr. Lincoln dearly, almost worship him, but that can’t blind me. He’s the purest politician I ever saw, and the justest man.”
Note: Civil War Memory is not an affiliate of this company. I just think it’s a hilarious video.
I couldn’t be more excited about this talk. This is my first public presentation on the subject and my first opportunity to formally outline my own thinking about the kinds of questions that need to be explored as well as the pitfalls involved in the current debate and reliance on the Internet as a reliable source. The story of Silas and Andrew Chandler is the perfect case study for such a presentation.
Sadly, 150 years after Edmund Ruffin fired on Fort Sumter, large numbers of Americans remain in the thrall of a romanticized Confederacy. At Civil War reenactments far more people show up dressed as Johnny Reb than as Billy Yank. The fact that it is acceptable to put a Confederate flag on a car bumper and to portray Confederates as brave and gallant defenders of states’ rights rather than as traitors and defenders of slavery is a testament to 150 years of history written by the losers.
Over the past few months I’ve done a number of interviews about the Civil War Sesquicentennial. At the end of my latest interview this past Friday the reporter noted that this was not the story that she anticipated writing. What she meant was that she was not going to write up a story around the standard narrative of lingering disagreements and bitterness between North and South and black and white. As I’ve suggested on numerous occasions, that narrative simply does not hold up given the political and demographic shifts that have taken place throughout much of the country over the past few decades.