William Herndon gave a lecture in 1866 on Lincoln in which he spoke extensively about Lincoln and Ann Rutledge. He also had much to say about what life was like in the old days of New Salem. Harry Rosecrans Burke had this to say about Herndon in the book “Lincoln And Ann Rutledge (And the Pioneers of New Salem)” by William Herndon:
In regards to telling the story of Lincoln, Herndon “was not searching for an idol’s feet of clay. But he believed opportunity had designated him to point out that Abraham Lincoln was made of the common clay of which all men are made, although that clay had been uncommonly tempered by poignant human suffering. His Lincoln shared “hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions” with every other man.” “Those fortunate ones who then heard that lecture (Herndon’s) were present at the very fountainhead of what the lettered world now calls Lincolniana.”
B. Nash note: So Herndon cannot be ignored, obviously. It’s easy to dimiss him totally because of his stand on Lincoln & Ann Rutledge. Mary Lincoln did just that. We as modern students of Lincoln must consider all the voices in the vast sea of Lincolniana. After that consideration, we can have a truly informed opinion on matters.
So how did Mr. Herndon sum up the Lincoln and Rutledge relationship? The following is an excerpt taken directly from his lecture in Springfield in 1866:
“Abraham Lincoln loved Miss Ann Rutledge with all his soul, mind, and strength. She loved him as dearly, tenderly, and affectionately. They seemed made in heaven for each other, though opposite in many things. As before remarked, she was accidently, innocently and honestly engaged to A. Lincoln and (Mr. McNamar) at one and the same time. It is said and thought that the young lady was conditionally promised to Mr. Lincoln, to be consumated upon a release from her first engagement with (McNamar). The primary causes, facts and conditions which led to this complication shall be related to you at another time and place. There is no dishonor in it to any of the three. In her conflicts of honor, duty, love, promises, and womanly engagements-she was taken sick. She struggled, regretted, grieved, became nervous. She ate not, slept not, was taken sick of brain fever, became emanciated, and was fast sinking in the grave.” “Miss Ann Rutledge died on the 25th of August, A.D. 1835, and was buried in Concord cemetery, six miles north, bearing a little west of New Salem… Mr. Lincoln has stated that his heart, sad and broken, was buried there. “
So what do you think?
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