Tag Archives: LaSalle Pickett

Following in Their Footsteps

Professor Stephen Berry was kind enough to send along this wonderful letter after reading yesterday’s post.  In the following 1930 letter, Lexington lawyer and Lincoln-historian, William Henry Townsend, responds to the cranky “posts” of  Mary Carter, who has charged Lincoln with the usual tyrannies and abuses.  Apparently, angry “Lady Rebs” have been unleashing their venom in defense of the “Lost Cause” for a long time.  It’s nice to know that I am in such good company.  Enjoy

Dear Miss Carter:

I have your letter…. Thank you very kindly.  You will pardon me, however, if I say that a careful reading of your lengthy letter fails to disclose much that I had hoped to find in it….  Although it was time for a rebuttal, I find that you abandoned the argument as to all of the…issues…and in lieu thereof, dumped into the hopper of our discussion a putrid mass of undigested vituperation.  Really, my dear Miss Carter, let me say in all good temper that you apparently have run into the same error that the “old tyrant” Lincoln once admonished against when he said: “One ought never plead what he need not, lest he be compelled to prove what he can not!”…  Lincoln once said that “a mathematician could hardly disprove Euclid by calling Euclid a liar.” Yet, you fall into this error also. Dr. Cravens is a liar! Allen Clark is a liar! Mrs. Pickett, the widow of a brave Confederate soldier, is a liar! Mrs. Davis is a weak, unstable creature with traitorous inclinations!! Everybody is either a traitor or a liar who has a good word for poor old homely, kind, tragic Abraham Lincoln!…  I have carefully read the enclosures….  I am sorry to say that they are all alike—bald, blatent assertion, vituperation and abuse, dripping with prejudice and a black, stifling heat that sheds no light….  You say that you will “cease firing” when Lincoln the man is divorced from Lincoln the myth. Why, bless you dear lady, you do not need to do that if it is any sport you. Abraham Lincoln is as far removed from blank cartridges as Mount McKinley was from the “Big Berthas” on the Western Front. If Lincoln himself were here, he would smile and say, in that slow Kentucky drawl: “Will, it don’t hurt me any, and it does her good, so let her alone.”…

Miss Carter, are there really any enemies of the south, or do we see only windmills which prejudice and bias have distorted into pugnacious knight errants of old? Who, at this time, are the traducers of Davis and Lee in the south? What organization of the north is now engaged in vicious propaganda against our southland and its heroes? I have traveled through the north and east extensively, and if we have any enemies, any persons who possess a settled hostility to the south, I have neither read nor heard of them. Name me, please, any man or set of men who are today flooding the mails with defamatory matter concerning any southern soldier or statesman….  Miss Carter, if the tone of this letter has been too emphatic, I confess that I was somewhat nettled at first by the accusation of “posing” in my respect for Lee and Davis and the rather surprising reference to “men of your ilk.”  I had hardly supposed that my two courteous letters merited such an appraisal of me, but I waive these small matters in deference to a southern gentlewoman, doubtless quite sincere, though sadly misguided, who will frankly and candidly, as becomes her breeding, take it all back when she meets Abraham Lincoln in heaven.  With very best regards and many thanks for writing me, I am, sincerely [W.H. Townsend, to Miss Mary D. Carter, August 29, 1930]