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´╗┐Title: Abraham Lincoln: Was He A Christian?
Author: Remsburg, John B.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Abraham Lincoln: Was He A Christian?" ***


By John B. Remsburg

     "I am not a Christian."--Lincoln.















Almost immediately after the remains of America's most illustrious son
were laid to rest at Springfield, one of his biographers put forward
the claim that he was a devout believer in Christianity. The claim was
promptly denied by the dead statesman's friends, but only to be renewed
again, and again denied. And thus for a quarter of a century the
question of Abraham Lincoln's religious belief has been tossed like a
battledoor from side to side.

As a result of this controversy, thousands have become interested in a
subject that otherwise might have excited but little interest. This
is the writer's apology for collecting the testimony of more than one
hundred witnesses, and devoting more than three hundred pages to the
question, "Was Lincoln a Christian?"

About few other men has so much been written as about Abraham Lincoln;
while no other American's life has engaged the pens of so many
biographers. A thousand volumes record his name and refer to his deeds.
In a hundred of these he is the central figure. Nearly a score of
elaborate biographies of him have been written. As many more books
pertaining wholly to his life, his martyrdom, and his character have
been published. Of the many works on Lincoln which the writer has
consulted in the preparation of this volume, the following deserve to be
mentioned: Nicolay and Hay's "Life of Lincoln," Herndon and Weik's "Life
of Lincoln," Lamon's "Life of Lincoln," Holland's "Life of Lincoln,"
Arnold's "Life of Lincoln," Raymond's "Life of Lincoln," Stoddard's
"Life of Lincoln," Barrett's "Life of Lincoln," "Every-Day Life of
Lincoln," Arnold's "Lincoln and Slavery," Carpenter's "Six Months at
the White House with Lincoln," "Reminiscences of Lincoln," "Anecdotes
of Lincoln," "Lincolniana," "The President's Words," "The Martyr's
Monument," "Tribute of the Nations to Lincoln," "Lincoln Memorial" and
"Lincoln Memorial Album."

The testimony concerning Lincoln's religious belief presented in this
volume has been derived chiefly from three sources. 1. A part of it
has been gathered from the works above named. In a single volume is
published for the first time matter which heretofore was only to be
found scattered through numerous volumes, some of them inaccessible to
the general reader. 2. A considerable portion of it has been gleaned
from newspapers and periodicals containing statements brought out
by this controversy, many of which would otherwise soon be lost or
forgotten. 3. A very large share of it has been obtained by the writer
from personal friends of Lincoln; and when we realize how rapidly those
who lived and moved with him are passing away--that erelong none of them
will remain to testify--the importance of this evidence can hardly be

The writer believes that he has fully established the negative of the
proposition that forms the title of his book. He does not expect to
silence the claims of the affirmative; but he has furnished an arsenal
of facts whereby these claims may be exposed and refuted as often as

This effort to prove that Lincoln was not a Christian will be condemned
by many as an attempt to fasten a stain upon this great man's character.
But the demonstration and perpetuation of this fact will only add to his
greatness. It will show that he was in advance of his generation. The
fame of Abraham Lincoln belongs not to this age alone, but will endure
for all time. The popular faith is transient and must perish. It is
unpopular now to reject Christianity, but the day is fast approaching
when to accept its dogmas will be considered an evidence of human
weakness. To perpetuate the claim that Lincoln was a Christian is to
perpetuate an idea that in a future age will lessen the luster of his

It will be urged by some that the intent and purpose of this work is
solely to promote the interests of Freethought. But it is not. The
writer advocates no cause that requires the prestige of a great name
to make it respectable. The cause that requires the indorsement of the
great to sustain it is not worthy to survive. He has prosecuted this
investigation, not in the interest of any belief or creed, but in the
interest of truth; and truth is certainly as high as any creed, even if
that creed be true. In proving Lincoln a disbeliever he does not presume
to have proved Christianity false, or Freethought true; but he has shown
that some Christians are not honest, and that an honest man may be a
Freethinker. Atchison, Kan., April, 1893.


Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian? Many confidently believe and earnestly
contend that he was; others as confidently believe and as earnestly
contend that he was not.

Before attempting to answer this question, let us define what
constitutes a Christian. A Christian is one who, in common with the
adherents of nearly all the religions of mankind, believes, 1. In the
existence of a God; 2. In the immortality of the soul. As distinguished
from the adherents of other religions, he believes, 1. That the Bible is
a revelation from God to man; 2. That Jesus Christ was the miraculously
begotten son of God. He also believes in various other doctrines
peculiar to Christianity, the chief of which are, 1. The fall of man; 2.
The atonement.

Those who in nominally Christian countries reject the dogmas of
Christianity are denominated Infidels, Freethinkers, Liberals,
Rationalists, unbelievers, disbelievers, skeptics, etc. These Infidels,
or Freethinkers, represent various phases of belief, among which are,
1. Deists, who affirm the existence of a God and the immortality of the
soul; 2. Atheists, who deny the existence of a God, and, generally,
the soul's immortality; 3. Agnostics, who neither affirm nor deny these

The following are the religious views Lincoln is said to have held as
presented by those who affirm that he was a Christian:

1. He believed in the existence of a God, and accepted the Christian
conception of this Being.

2. He believed in the immortality of the soul, and in the Christian
doctrine of the resurrection.

3. He believed that the Bible is a revelation from God--the only
revealed will of God.

4. He believed in the divinity of Christ--believed that Christ is God.

5. He believed in the efficacy of prayer, and was accustomed to pray

6. He believed in the doctrine of experimental religion, and had
experienced a change of heart.

7. Although he never united with any church, he was contemplating such a
step at the time of his assassination.

8. The church with which he would have united, we are led to infer, was
the Presbyterian.

The following is a statement of the theological opinions of Lincoln as
understood by those who deny that he was a Christian:

1. In regard to a Supreme Being he entertained at times Agnostic and
even Atheistic opinions. During the later years of his life, however, he
professed a sort of Deistic belief, but he did not accept the Christian
or anthropomorphic conception of a Deity.

2. So far as the doctrine of immortality is concerned, he was an

3. He did not believe in the Christian doctrine of the inspiration of
the Scriptures. He believed that Burns and Paine were as much inspired
as David and Paul.

4. He did not believe in the doctrine of Christ's divinity. He affirmed
that Jesus was either the son of Joseph and Mary, or the illegitimate
son of Mary.

5. He did not believe in the doctrine of a special creation.

6. He believed in the theory of Evolution, so far as this theory had
been developed in his time.

7. He did not believe in miracles and special providences. He believed
that all things are governed by immutable laws, and that miracles
and special providences, in the evangelical sense of these terms, are

8. He rejected the doctrine of total, or inherent depravity.

9. He repudiated the doctrine of vicarious atonement.

10. He condemned the doctrine of forgiveness for sin.

11. He opposed the doctrine of future rewards and punishments.

12. He denied the doctrine of the freedom of the will.

13. He did not believe in the efficacy of prayer as understood by
orthodox Christians.

14 He indorsed, for the most part, the criticisms of Thomas Paine on the
Bible and Christianity, and accepted, to a great extent, the theological
and humanitarian views of Theodore Parker.

15. He wrote a book (which was suppressed) against the Bible and

16. His connection with public affairs prevented him from giving
prominence to his religious opinions during the later years of his life,
but his earlier views concerning the unsoundness of the Christian system
of religion never underwent any material change, and he died, as he had
lived, an unbeliever.



     Dr. J. G. Holland--Hon. Newton Bateman--Rev. J. A. Reed--
     Rev. James Smith. D.D.--N. W. Edwards--Thomas Lewis--Noah
     Brooks--Rev. Byron Sunderland. D.D.--Rev. Dr. Miner--Rev.
     Dr. Gurley--Hon. I. N. Arnold--F. B. Carpenter--Isaac
     Hawley--Rev. Mr. Willets--A Pious Nurse--Western Christian
     Advocate--An Illinois Clergyman--Rev. J. H. Barrows. D D.--
     Rev. Francis Vinton, D.D.--Bishop Simpson.

In confirmation of the claim that Lincoln was a Christian, the following
evidence has been adduced:


President Lincoln died on the 15th of April, 1865. In the same year, the
"Life of Abraham Lincoln," written by Dr. J. G. Holland, appeared. In
the fields of poetry and fiction, and as a magazine writer, Dr. Holland
had achieved an enviable reputation. His "Life of Lincoln" was written
in his usually entertaining style and secured a wide circulation. He
affirmed that Lincoln was a Christian, and by means of this work,
and through _Scribner's Magazine_, of which he was for many years the
editor, contributed more than any other person to render a belief in
this claim popular. Referring to Lincoln's administration, Dr. Holland

"The power of a true-hearted Christian man, in perfect sympathy with a
true-hearted Christian people, was Mr. Lincoln's power. Open on one side
of his nature to all descending influences from him to whom he prayed,
and open on the other to all ascending influences from the people whom
he served, he aimed simply to do his duty to God and man. Acting rightly
he acted greatly. While he took care of deeds fashioned by a purely
ideal standard, God took care of results. Moderate, frank, truthful,
gentle, forgiving, loving, just, Mr. Lincoln will always be remembered
as eminently a Christian President; and the almost immeasurably great
results which he had the privilege of achieving were due to the fact
that he was a Christian President" (Life of Lincoln, p. 542).


Dr. Holland's claim rests chiefly upon a confession which Lincoln is
said to have made to Newton Bateman in 1860. During the Presidential
campaign Lincoln occupied the Executive Chamber at the State House. Mr.
Bateman was Superintendent of Public Instruction at the time, had his
office in the same building, and was frequently in Lincoln's room. The
conversation in which Lincoln is alleged to have expressed a belief in
Christianity is thus related in Holland's "Life of Lincoln:"

"On one of these occasions Mr. Lincoln took up a book containing a
careful canvass of the city of Springfield in which he lived, showing
the candidate for whom each citizen had declared it his intention to
vote in the approaching election. Mr. Lincoln's friends had, doubtless
at his own request, placed the result of the canvass in his hands.
This was toward the close of October, and only a few days before the
election. Calling Mr. Bateman to a seat at his side, having previously
locked all the doors, he said: 'Let us look over this book. I wish
particularly to see how the ministers of Springfield are going to vote.'
The leaves were turned, one by one, and as the names were examined Mr.
Lincoln frequently asked if this one and that were not a minister, or an
elder, or the member of such or such a church, and sadly expressed his
surprise on receiving an affirmative answer. In that manner they went
through the book, and then he closed it and sat silently and for some
minutes regarding a memorandum in pencil which lay before him. At length
he turned to Mr. Bateman, with a face full of sadness, and said: 'Here
are twenty-three ministers, of different denominations, and all of them
are against me but three; and here are a great many prominent members of
the churches, a very large majority of whom are against me. Mr. Bateman,
I am not a Christian--God knows I would be one--but I have carefully
read the Bible, and I do not so understand this book;' and he drew from
his bosom a pocket New Testament. 'These men well know,' he continued,
'that I am for freedom in the territories, freedom everywhere as far
as the Constitution and laws will permit, and that my opponents are for
slavery. They know this, and yet, with this book in their hands, in the
light of which human bondage cannot live a moment, they are going
to vote against me. I do not understand it at all.' Here Mr. Lincoln
paused--paused for long minutes--his features surcharged with emotion.
Then he rose and walked up and down the room in the effort to retain or
regain his self-possession. Stopping at last, he said, with a trembling
voice and his cheeks wet with tears: 'I know there is a God, and that he
hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that his
hand is in it. If he has a place for me--and I think he has--I believe I
am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything. I know I am right, for
Christ teaches it, and Christ is God.'

"The effect of this conversation upon the mind of Mr. Bateman, a
Christian gentleman whom Mr. Lincoln profoundly respected, was to
convince him that Mr. Lincoln had, in his quiet way, found a path to the
Christian standpoint--that he had found God, and rested on the eternal
truth of God. As the two men were about to separate, Mr. Bateman
remarked: 'I have not supposed that you were accustomed to think so
much upon this class of subjects. Certainly your friends generally
are ignorant of the sentiments you have expressed to me.' He replied
quickly: 'I know they are. I am obliged to appear different to them; but
I think more upon these subjects than upon all others, and I have done
so for years; and I am willing that _you_ should know it'" (Life of
Lincoln, pp. 236-239).


In 1872, seven years after the publication of Holland's work, Lamon's
"Life of Abraham Lincoln" was published. In this work the statements of
Holland and Bateman concerning Lincoln's religious belief are disputed,
and the testimony of numerous witnesses cited to prove that he lived and
died a disbeliever. Soon after Lamon's book was published, the Rev. J.
A. Reed, a Presbyterian clergyman, of Springfield, Ill., delivered
a lecture in which he attempted to refute or modify the evidence of
Lamon's witnesses and prove that Lincoln died a Christian. He admitted
that Lincoln was an Infidel up to 1848, and possibly as late as 1862,
but endeavored to show that previous to his death he changed his views
and became a Christian. The following extracts present the salient
points in his discourse:

"Having shown what claims Mr. Lamon's book has to being the 'only fair
and reliable history' of Mr. Lincoln's life and views, and of what
'trustworthy materials' it is composed, I shall now give the testimony
I have collected to establish what has ever been the public impression,
that Mr. Lincoln was in his later life, and at the time of his death, a
firm believer in the truth of the Christian religion. The Infidelity of
his earlier life is not so much to be wondered at, when we consider the
poverty of his early religious instruction and the peculiar influences
by which he was surrounded." "It does not appear that he had ever
seen, much less read, a work on the evidences of Christianity till his
interview with Rev. Dr. Smith in 1848. We hear of him as reading Paine,
Voltaire, and Theodore Parker, but nothing on the other side.

"While it is to be regretted that Mr. Lincoln was not spared to indicate
his religious sentiments by a profession of his faith in accordance with
the institutions of the Christian religion, yet it is very clear that he
had this step in view, and was seriously contemplating it, as a sense of
its fitness and an apprehension of his duty grew upon him."

In support of his claims, Dr. Reed presents the testimony of Rev.
Dr. Smith, Ninian W. Edwards, Thomas Lewis, Noah Brooks, Rev. Dr.
Sunderland, Rev. Dr. Miner, and Rev. Dr. Gurley.


The Rev. James Smith was for many years pastor of the First Presbyterian
Church of Springfield. Lincoln formed his acquaintance soon after
he located there, remained on friendly terms with him, and with Mrs.
Lincoln frequently attended his church. Dr. Smith was one of the three
Springfield clergymen who supported Lincoln for President in 1860,
and in recognition of his friendship and fidelity, he received the
consulship at Dundee. Dr. Reed quotes from a letter to W. H. Herndon,
dated East Cainno, Scotland, January 24, 1867, in which Dr. Smith says:

"It is a very easy matter to prove that while I was pastor of the First
Presbyterian Church of Springfield, Mr. Lincoln did avow his belief in
the divine authority and inspiration of the scriptures, and I hold that
it is a matter of the last importance not only to the present, but all
future generations of the great Republic, and to all advocates of civil
and religious liberty throughout the world, that this avowal on his
part, and the circumstances attending it, together with very interesting
incidents illustrative of the excellence of his character, in my
possession, should be made known to the public.... It was my honor
to place before Mr. Lincoln arguments designed to prove the divine
authority and inspiration of the scriptures accompanied by the arguments
of Infidel objectors in their own language. To the arguments on
both sides Mr. Lincoln gave a most patient, impartial, and searching
investigation. To use his own language, he examined the arguments as
a lawyer who is anxious to reach the truth investigates testimony. The
result was the announcement by himself that the argument in favor of the
divine authority and inspiration of the Scriptures was unanswerable."


Ninian W. Edwards, a brother-in-law of Lincoln, writes as follows:

"Springfield, Dec. 24th, 1872.

"Rev. Jas. A. Reed:

"Dear Sir--

"A short time after the Rev. Dr. Smith became pastor of the First
Presbyterian church in this city, Mr. Lincoln said to me, 'I have been
reading a work of Dr. Smith on the evidences of Christianity, and have
heard him preach and converse on the subject, and I am now convinced of
the truth of the Christian religion.'

"Yours truly,

"N. W. Edwards."


In corroboration of Mr. Edwards's statement, Thomas Lewis, of
Springfield, Ill., testifies as follows:

"Springfield, Jan. 6th, 1873.

"Rev. J. A. Reed:

"Dear Sir--

"Not long after Dr. Smith came to Springfield, and I think very near the
time of his son's death, Mr. Lincoln said to me, that when on a visit
somewhere, he had seen and partially read a work of Dr. Smith on the
evidences of Christianity which had led him to change his views about
the Christian religion; that he would like to get that work to finish
the reading of it, and also to make the acquaintance of Dr. Smith. I
was an elder in Dr. Smith's church, and took Dr. Smith to Mr. Lincoln's
office and introduced him; and Dr. Smith gave Mr. Lincoln a copy of his
book, as I know, at his own request.

"Yours etc.,

"Thos. Lewis."

NOAH BROOKS. Noah Brooks, a newspaper correspondent of New York, and the
author of a biography of Lincoln, gives the following testimony:

"New York, Dec. 31,1872.

"Rev. J. A. Reed,

"My Dear Sir:

"In addition to what has appeared from my pen, I will
state that I have had many conversations with Mr. Lincoln, which were
more or less of a religious character, and while I never tried to draw
anything like a statement of his views from him, yet he freely expressed
himself to me as having 'a hope of blessed immortality through Jesus
Christ.' His views seemed to settle so naturally around that statement,
that I considered no other necessary. His language seemed not that of an
inquirer, but of one who had a prior settled belief in the fundamental
doctrines of the Christian religion. Once or twice, speaking to me of
the change which had come upon him, he said, while he could not fix any
definite time, yet it was after he came here, and I am very positive
that in his own mind he identified it with about the time of Willie's
death. He said, too, that after he went to the White House he kept up
the habit of daily prayer. Sometimes he said it was only ten words, but
those ten words he had. There is no possible reason to suppose that Mr.
Lincoln would ever deceive me as to his religious sentiments. In many
conversations with him, I absorbed the firm conviction that Mr. Lincoln
was at heart a Christian man, believed in the Savior, and was seriously
considering the step which would formally connect him with the
visible church on earth. Certainly, any suggestion as to Mr. Lincoln's
skepticism or Infidelity, to me who knew him intimately from 1862 till
the time of his death, is a monstrous fiction--a shocking perversion.

"Yours truly,

"Noah Brooks."


Mr. Reed presents a lengthy letter from the Rev. Byron Sunderland, of
Washington, dated Nov. 15, 1872. Dr. Sunderland in company with a party
of friends visited the President in the autumn of 1862. In this letter
he says:

"After some conversation, in which he seemed disposed to have his joke
and fun, he settled down to a serious consideration of the subject
before his mind, and for one half-hour poured forth a volume of the
deepest Christian philosophy I ever heard."


The Rev. Dr. Miner, who met Lincoln in Washington, says:

"All that was said during that memorable afternoon I spent alone with
that great and good man is engraven too deeply on my memory ever to be
effaced. I felt certain of this fact, that if Mr. Lincoln was not really
an experimental Christian, he was acting like one. He was doing his duty
manfully, and looking to God for help in time of need; and, like the
immortal Washington, he believed in the efficacy of prayer, and it was
his custom to read the Scriptures and pray himself."


While in Washington, Lincoln with his family attended the Presbyterian
church of which the Rev. Dr. Gurley was pastor. Mr. Reed cites the
following as the testimony of Dr. Gurley in regard to the alleged
Infidelity of Lincoln:

"I do not believe a word of it. It could not have been true of him while
here, for I have had frequent and intimate conversations with him on the
subject of the Bible and the Christian religion, when he could have
had no motive to deceive me, and I considered him sound not only on the
truth of the Christian religion but on all its fundamental doctrines and
teachings. And more than that, in the latter days of his chastened and
weary life, after the death of his son Willie, and his visit to the
battlefield of Gettysburg, he said, with tears in his eyes, that he
had lost confidence in everything but God, and that he now believed
his heart was changed, and that he loved the Savior and, if he was not
deceived in himself, it was his intention soon to make a profession of


One of the most ardent friends and admirers of Abraham Lincoln was Isaac
N. Arnold, for several years a member of Congress from Illinois. Mr.
Arnold wrote a work on "Lincoln and Slavery," and a "Life of Lincoln"
which was published in 1885. Lincoln's religious views are thus
described by Mr. Arnold:

"No more reverent Christian than he ever sat in the Executive chair,
not excepting Washington. He was by nature religious; full of religious
sentiment. The veil between him and the supernatural was very thin.
It is not claimed that he was orthodox, for creeds and dogmas he cared
little. But in the great fundamental principles of religion, of the
Christian; religion, he was a firm believer. Belief in the existence of
God, in the immortality of the soul, in the Bible as the revelation of
God to man, in the efficacy and duty of prayer, in reverence toward the
Almighty, and in love and charity to man, was the basis of his religion"
(Life of Lincoln, p. 446).

"His reply to the Negroes of Baltimore when they, in 1864, presented him
with a magnificent Bible, ought to silence forever those who charge him
with unbelief. He said: 'In regard to the Great Book I have only to say
that it is the best gift which God has given to man. All the good from
the Savior of the world is communicated through this book'" (Ibid., p.

"His faith in a Divine Providence began at his mother's knee, and ran
through all the changes of his life. Not orthodox, not a man of creeds,
he was a man of simple trust in God" (lb., p. 448).


Mr. Carpenter, the artist, in his popular book, entitled "Six Months in
the White House with Abraham Lincoln," uses the following language:

"I would scarcely have called Mr. Lincoln a religious man--and yet I
believe him to have been a sincere Christian" (Six Months in the White
House, p. 185).


In the spring of 1887, in going from Springfield to Havana, I met Isaac
Hawley, one of the early settlers of Illinois, and who for nearly twenty
years resided within a few blocks of Lincoln in Springfield. In answer
to the question, "Was Lincoln a Christian?" Mr. Hawley replied:

"I believe that Lincoln was a Christian, and that he was God's chosen
instrument to perform the mighty work he did."


The Rev. Mr. Willets, of Brooklyn, N. Y., is credited with the following
statement concerning Lincoln's reputed conversion. The information
it contains was obtained, it is said, from a lady of Mr. Willets's
acquaintance who met Lincoln in Washington:

"The President, it seemed, had been much impressed with the devotion
and earnestness of purpose manifested by the lady, and on one occasion,
after she had discharged the object of her visit, he said to her: "Mrs.
--------, I have formed a high opinion of your Christian character, and
now, as we are alone, I have a mind to ask you to give me, in brief,
your idea of what constitutes a true religious experience." The lady
replied at some length, stating that, in her judgment, it consisted of a
conviction of one's own sinfulness and weakness, and personal need of a
Savior for strength and support; that views of mere doctrine might and
would differ, but when one was really brought to feel his need of divine
help, and to seek the aid of the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance,
it was satisfactory evidence of his having been born again. This was
the substance of her reply. When she had concluded, Mr. Lincoln was very
thoughtful for a few moments; He at length said, very earnestly, 'If
what you have told me is really a correct view of this great subject, I
think I can say with sincerity that I hope I am a Christian'" (Anecdotes
of Lincoln, pp. 166, 167).


A pious lady, who served in the capacity of a hospital nurse at
Washington, and who sometimes visited the White House, testifies to
Lincoln's belief in the efficacy of prayer. The incident narrated
occurred while a battle was in progress. The report says:

"The possibility of defeat depressed him greatly; but the lady told
him he must trust, and that he could at least pray. 'Yes,' said he, and
taking up a Bible, he started for his room. Could all the people of the
nation have overheard the earnest petition that went up from that inner
chamber as it reached the ears of the nurse, they would have fallen
upon their knees with tearful and reverential sympathy" (Anecdotes of
Lincoln, p. 120).


Soon after the close of the war, the _Western Chris-tian Advocate_, the
leading Christian journal of the West, published the following:

"On the day of the receipt of the capitulation of Lee, as we learn from
a friend intimate with the late President Lincoln, the cabinet meeting
was held an hour earlier than usual. Neither the President nor any
member was able, for a time, to give utterance to his feelings. At the
suggestion of Mr. Lincoln all dropped on their knees, and offered in
silence and in tears their humble and heartfelt acknowledgment to the
Almighty for the triumph he had granted to the national cause."

The above is quoted by Raymond and other biographers of Lincoln.


In the "Lincoln Memorial Album" appears what is reported to be Lincoln's
"Reply to an Illinois Clergyman:"

"When I left Springfield I asked the people to pray for me. I was not
a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was
not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg, and saw the graves
of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to
Christ. Yes, I _do_ love Jesus" (L. M. A., p. 366).


In the "Lincoln Memorial Album," Dr. J. H. Barrows contributes an
article on "The Religious Aspects of Abraham Lincoln's Career," from
which I quote as follows:

"In the anxious uncertainties of the great war, he gradually rose to the
hights where Jehovah became to him the sublimest of realities, the ruler
of nations. When he wrote his immortal Proclamation, he invoked upon it
not only 'the considerate judgment of mankind,' but 'the gracious favor
of Almighty God.' When darkness gathered over the brave armies fighting
for the nation's life, this strong man in the early morning knelt and
wrestled in prayer with him who holds in his hand the fate of empires.
When the clouds lifted above the carnage of Gettysburg, he gave his
heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. When he pronounced his matchless oration
on the chief battlefield of the war, he gave expression to the resolve
that 'this nation, under God, should have a new birth of freedom.'
And when he wrote his last Inaugural Address, he gave to it the lofty
religious tone of an old Hebrew psalm" (L. M. A., p. 508).


This clergyman, a resident of New York, and a stranger to Lincoln,
visited the White House in 1862, it is claimed, and indulged in an
argument and exhortation, the effect of which was to convert the
President to a belief in the Christian doctrine of the resurrection
and the immortality of the soul. During the interview, Lincoln, it is
reported, fell upon the neck of his clerical visitor and wept like a

Before retiring, Dr. Vinton said: "I have a sermon upon this subject
which I think might interest you." "Mr. Lincoln," the report continues,
"begged him to send it at an early day, thanking him repeatedly for his
cheering and hopeful words. The sermon was sent, and read over and over
by the President, who caused a copy to be made for his own private use
before it was returned" (Anecdotes of Lincoln, pp. 107, 108).


The most eminent Methodist divine of that period was Bishop Simpson.
During the war his commanding influence and rare eloquence did much to
secure for the Union cause the united support of Northern Methodists.
Lincoln appreciated the services of the distinguished divine, and they
became warm friends. When the remains of the President were conveyed to
their final resting-place at Springfield, Bishop Simpson was selected
to deliver the funeral oration. Alluding to the religious phase of
Lincoln's character, he spoke as follows:

"As a ruler, I doubt if any President has ever shown such trust in God,
or in public documents so frequently referred to divine aid. Often did
he remark to friends and to delegations that his hope for our success
rested in his conviction that God would bless our efforts because we
were trying to do right" (Lincoln and Slavery, p. 673).


     Character of Holland's "Life of Lincoln"--The Bateman
     Interview--Inconsistency and untruthfulness of its
     statements--Holland's Subsequent Modification and Final
     Abandonment of his original Claims.

In the preceding chapter has been presented the Christian side of this
question. It has been presented fully and fairly. Even the Christian
claimant must admit that it is the longest and most complete array of
testimony that has yet been published in support of his claim.
This evidence is explicit and apparently conclusive. To attempt its
refutation may seem presumptuous. And yet, in the face of all this
evidence, the writer does not hesitate to declare that Abraham Lincoln
was not a Christian, and pledge himself to refute the statements of
these witnesses by a volume of testimony that is irresistible and

Before introducing this testimony the evidence already adduced will be
reviewed. This evidence may properly be grouped into three divisions: 1.
The testimony of Holland and Bateman; 2. The testimony of Reed and his
witnesses; 3. The testimony of Arnold and the miscellaneous evidence

Holland's "Life of Lincoln," from a literary point of view, is a work
of more than ordinary merit. It possesses a beauty of diction and
an intellectual vigor seldom surpassed; but as an authority it
is unreliable. Like Weems's "Life of Washington," it is simply a
biographical romance founded upon fact, but paying little regard to
facts in presenting the details. Following the natural bent of Christian
biographers, Holland parades the subject of his work as a model
of Christian piety. He knew that this was false; for, while he was
unacquainted with Lincoln, he had been apprised of his unbelief--had
been repeatedly told of it before he wrote his biography. But this did
not deter him from asserting the contrary. He knew that if he stated the
facts the clergy would condemn his book. They needed the influence of
Lincoln's great name to support their crumbling creed, and would have it
at any sacrifice, particularly when its possession required no greater
sacrifice than truth. Holland was equal to the emergency. When one of
Lincoln's friends in Springfield suggested that the less said about his
religious views the better, he promptly replied: "Oh, never mind; I'll
fix that." And he did. With dramatic embellishments, he presented to
the delight of the orthodox world the now famous, or rather infamous,
Bateman interview.

The publication of this story produced a profound sensation among
the personal friends of the dead President. It revealed to them the
unpleasant fact, assuming Holland's account to be correct, either that
Newton Bateman, who had hitherto borne the reputation of being a man
of veracity, was an unscrupulous liar, or that Abraham Lincoln, whose
reputation for honesty and candor, long anterior to 1860, had become
proverbial, was a consummate hypocrite; and loath as they were to
believe the former, they rejected with disdain the latter.

Referring to this story, Lamon, in his "Life of Lincoln," says:

"There is no dealing with Mr. Bateman except by a flat contradiction.
Perhaps his memory was treacherous or his imagination led him astray,
or, peradventure, he thought a fraud no harm if it gratified the strong
desire of the public for proofs of Mr. Lincoln's orthodoxy" (Life of
Lincoln, p. 501).

While Bateman undoubtedly misrepresented Lincoln in his account of
their conversation--for it is not denied that he had an interview with
Lincoln--it is quite probable that he did not to the extent represented
by Holland. Bateman doubtless exaggerated the affair, and Holland
magnified Bateman's report of it. In an article originally published in
the _Index_, and subsequently quoted by Lamon, Lincoln's law partner,
Mr. Herndon, says:

"I doubt whether Mr. Bateman said in full what is recorded there. I
doubt a great deal of it. I know the whole story is untrue--untrue in
substance, untrue in fact and spirit. As soon as the [Holland's] 'Life
of Lincoln' was out, on reading that part here referred to, I instantly
sought Mr. Bateman and found him in his office. I spoke to him politely
and kindly, and he spoke to me in the same manner. I said substantially
to him that Mr. Holland, in order to make Mr. Lincoln a technical
Christian, made him a hypocrite; and so his 'Life of Lincoln' quite
plainly says. I loved Mr. Lincoln, and was mortified, if not angry, to
see him made a hypocrite. I cannot now detail what Mr. Bateman said, as
it was a private conversation, and I am forbidden to make use of it in
public. If some good gentleman can only get the seal of secrecy removed
I can show what was said and done. On my word, the world may take it
for granted that Holland is wrong--that he does not state Mr. Lincoln's
views correctly" (Lamon's Life of Lincoln, p. 496).

In a lecture on "Lincoln's Religion," delivered in Springfield in 1874,
alluding to the same subject, Mr. Herndon says:

"My notes of our conversation bear date December 3, 12, and 28, 1865.
Our conversations were private, I suppose. However, I can say this much:
that Mr. Bateman expressly told me Mr. Lincoln was, in the conversation
related in Holland, talking _politics_ and not religion, nor
Christianity, nor morals, as such. I have persistently dogged Mr.
Bateman for the privilege of publishing my notes, or to give me a letter
explaining what Mr. Lincoln did say, so that I might make known the
facts of the case. Mr. Bateman has as stoutly refused."

Dr. Bateman finally permitted Mr. Herndon to make public a letter,
marked "confidential," which he had written Mr. Herndon in 1867. In this
letter Bateman says:

"He [Lincoln] was applying the principles of moral and religious truth
to the duties of the hour, the condition of the country, and the conduct
of public men--ministers of the gospel. I had no thought of orthodoxy or
heterodoxy, Unitarianism, Trinitarianism, or any other ism, during the
whole conversation, and I don't suppose or believe he had."

Had Lincoln made the confession he is reported to have made, this would
have suggested to Mr. Bateman the idea of his admitted orthodoxy as well
as his reputed heterodoxy. Had Lincoln declared that "Christ is God,"
this would have suggested to him the idea of Trinitarianism. It will
be seen, even from this letter, that instead of talking theology
and professing a belief in Christianity, he was talking politics and
denouncing the intolerance and bigotry of Christian ministers.

Dr. Bateman privately asserts that he was not correctly reported, that
Holland's version of the interview "is colored." It is to be regretted
that he had not the courage to state this fact to the public, and his
plea, "My aversion to publicity in such matters is intense," is a poor
apology for refusing to do so.

As previously intimated, this story is probably founded on fact and
has an element of truth in it. Lincoln and Bateman had a political
interview, and the object of this interview was the examination and
discussion of the list of Springfield voters. This list revealed the
fact that twenty out of twenty-three clergymen and a very large majority
of the church-members of Springfield were opposed to Lincoln. The
significance of this fact Dr. Holland and Dr. Bateman have apparently
overlooked. Why was the church opposed to him? It must have been either
because it was opposed to the Republican party, or because he was
personally objectionable to the members of that party. His political
principles were the principles of his party, his ability was conceded,
and his moral character was above reproach. It is fair to assume
that the political sentiment of the Christians of Springfield was
substantially the political sentiment of Northern Christians generally.
Now, was the Northern Church overwhelmingly in favor of the extension of
slavery? Were eighty-seven per cent, of Northern Christians Democrats?
Or did the Christians of Springfield oppose Lincoln because he was an

Holland makes Bateman affirm that Lincoln "drew from his bosom a pocket
New Testament." It is generally believed by Lincoln's friends that he
did not have a New Testament, that the only book used in the interview
was the book containing the list of Springfield voters. One of them
says: "The idea that Mr. Lincoln carried the New Testament or Bible in
his bosom or boots, to draw on his opponents in debate, is ridiculous."
It is possible, however, that there was a New Testament in the room, and
that Lincoln used it to enforce an argument. Indeed, there is internal
evidence in the story, aside from the declaration of Bateman, that such
was the case. The central idea in his political creed--the keynote of
his campaigns, both in 1858 and in 1860--was contained in that memorable
passage, "'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' This government
can not endure permanently half slave and half free." The figure quoted
was a familiar and powerful one, and Lincoln recognized its force in
dealing with the masses. It was taken from the New Testament, and
from the words of Christ himself. That he should use it against those
Christians who were acting contrary to this well-known truth, is not
strange. Immediately after the declaration, "Christ is God," he is
reported as saying: "I have told them that a house divided against
itself cannot stand, and Christ and reason say the same." This furnishes
a solution to the whole story. This shows what he was doing with a New
Testament. In connection with this, nothing is more natural than that he
should exclaim: "Christ teaches it, and Christ is [their] God!" That he
was terribly in earnest, that he was deeply agitated and pained to learn
that his Christian neighbors were opposed to him, is not improbable.
Thus the incidents of a simple political interview that were natural
and reasonable have been perverted to make it appear that he was a
Christian. A mere reference to the New Testament and Christ have been
twisted into an acknowledgment of their divinity. Bateman himself admits
that Lincoln said: "I am not a Christian." Why not accept his statement,
then? Why then distort his words and in the face of this positive
declaration attempt to prove that he was a Christian? Bateman reports
him as modifying the statement by adding: "God knows I would be one."
Yes, "God knows I would be one were I convinced that Christianity is
true, but not convinced of its truth, I am an unbeliever." Lincoln is
also reported to have said that in the light of the New Testament "human
bondage can not live a moment." But he did not utter these words. He did
not utter them because they are untrue, and none knew this better than
himself. He knew that in the light of this book human bondage had lived
for nearly two thousand years; he knew that this book was one of the
great bulwarks of human slavery; he knew that there was not to be found
between its lids a single text condemning slavery, while there were to
he found a score of texts sustaining it; he knew that that infamous law,
the Fugitive Slave law, received its warrant from this book--that Paul,
in the light of its earliest teachings, had returned a fugitive slave to
his master.

In this story Lincoln is charged with the grossest hypocrisy. He is
declared to have professed a belief in Christ and Christianity, and when
Bateman observed that his friends were ignorant of this, he is made to
reply: "I know they are. I am obliged to appear different to them." Now,
to use Lincoln's own words, "A sane person can no more act without a
motive than can there be an effect without a cause," and what possible
motive could he have had for such conduct? Supposing that he was base
enough to be a hypocrite, what could induce him to lead the world
to suppose he was an Infidel if he were not? In the eyes of the more
ignorant and bigoted class of Christians, Infidelity is a more
heinous crime than murder, and an Infidel is a creature scarcely to be
tolerated, much less to be intrusted with a public office. Freethinkers
generally detest the dogmas of Christianity as thoroughly as Christians
possibly can the principles of Freethought. But free thought and free
speech are the leading tenets of their creed. They recognize the fact
that we are all the children of circumstances, that our belief is
determined by our environments, and while they reject Christianity, they
have nothing but charity for those who conscientiously profess it. They
may repudiate a bigot, but will not oppose a man merely because he is
a Christian. If Lincoln were an Infidel, discretion might urge a
concealment of his views; if he were a Christian, policy would prompt
him to give it as wide a publicity as possible, especially when he
rested under the imputation of being a disbeliever. Had he changed his
belief and become a convert to Christianity, a knowledge of the fact
would not have lost him the support of his friends, even though some
of them were Freethinkers; while it would have secured for him a more
cordial support from the Republican side of the church, many of whom had
been alienated on account of his supposed anti-Christian sentiments.
It is hard to believe that Lincoln was a hypocrite; but this story,
if true, makes him not only a hypocrite but a fool. If he believed in
Christianity there can be but one reason advanced for his desiring to
keep it a secret--he was ashamed of it.

Holland, in trying to explain away the inconsistencies of this
fabrication, repeatedly blunders. In one of his attempts he makes use of
the following remarkable language:

"It was one of the peculiarities of Mr. Lincoln to hide these religious
experiences from the eyes of the world.... They [his friends] did not
regard him as a religious man. They had never seen anything but the
active lawyer, the keen politician, the jovial, fun-loving companion
in Mr. Lincoln. All this department of his life he had kept carefully
hidden from them. Why he should say that he was obliged to appear
differently to others does not appear; but the fact is a matter of
history that he never exposed his own religious life to those who had
no sympathy with it. It is doubtful whether the clergymen of Springfield
knew anything of these experiences" (Life of Lincoln, pp. 239, 240).

What! had the clergymen of Springfield no sympathy with a religious
life? A person can utter one falsehood with some degree of plausibility;
but when he attempts to verify it by uttering another, he usually trips
and falls. The above passage is mere hypocritical cant. It carries
with it not only its own refutation, but that of the rest of Holland's
testimony also. It is the language of the man who is conscious of having
stated a falsehood; conscious that there are others who believe it to be
a falsehood. He knew that the personal friends of Lincoln all understood
him to be a disbeliever. He knew that the church-members of Springfield
all entertained the same opinion. He virtually says to these people: "It
is true that Lincoln professed to be an Infidel, but he was not; he was
a Christian. The fact has been kept a profound secret. Bateman and I
have been the sole custodians of this secret, and we now give it to the

A Christian writer, apologizing for the absurd and contradictory
statements of Holland and Bateman, says, "They aimed at the truth." I
do not believe it. It is clearly evident that they aimed at a plausible
lie. But in either case they made a bad shot.

In his "Life of Lincoln," Holland endeavors to convey the impression
that Lincoln was always a devout Christian. He declares that even during
the years of his early manhood at New Salem, "he was a religious man;"
that "he had a deep religious life." When Herndon and Lamon exposed his
shameful misrepresentations he retreated from his first position, and in
_Scribner's Monthly_ wrote as follows:

"What Abraham Lincoln was when he lived at New Salem and wrote an
anti-Christian tract (which the friend to whom he showed it somewhat
violently but most judiciously put in the fire) is one thing, and it may
be necessary for an impartial historian to record it. What he was when
he died at Washington with those most Christian words of the Second
Inaugural upon his lips, and that most Christian record of five years of
patient tenderness and charity behind him, is quite another thing."

He admits that Lincoln was an Infidel in Illinois, but would have us
believe that he was a Christian in Washington. He refers to "those
most Christian words of the Second Inaugural," and "that most Christian
record of five years of patient tenderness and charity." In the Second
Inaugural there is not a word affirming a belief in Christianity--not a
word in reference to Christianity. He mentions God, and quotes from
the Bible, but does not intimate that the Bible is God's word. That
Christians have a monopoly of "patient tenderness and charity," can
hardly be accepted. The history of the church does not confirm this
assumption. Many Christians have possessed these virtues. So have
the votaries of other religions. These attributes belong to good men
everywhere, but they are the distinguishing features of no particular

Smarting under his exposure, with that whining cant so peculiar to the
vanquished religionist, Holland finally sent forth this parting wail and
virtually abandoned the whole case:

"The question is, not whether Abraham Lincoln was a subscriber to the
creeds of orthodoxy, but whether he was a believing--that is to say,
a truthful Christian man; not whether he was accustomed to call Jesus
Christ 'Lord, Lord,' but whether he was used to do those things which
Jesus Christ exemplified and enforced. He was accustomed, as we know
well enough, to speak of an Almighty Father, of whom justice and mercy
and sympathy with weak and suffering humanity were characteristic
attributes. Who was it that revealed to man a God like this? Who was it
that once 'showed us the Father and it sufficed us?' Whoever it was that
made this revelation to mankind it was of him that this man, even though
he knew it not, had learned, and it was in his spirit that he acted"
(Scribner's Monthly).

The concluding words of Dr. Holland's testimony, as quoted from his
"Life of Lincoln," are as follows:

"Moderate, frank, truthful, gentle, forgiving, loving, just, Mr. Lincoln
will always be remembered as eminently a Christian President; and
the almost immeasurably great results which he had the privilege of
achieving were due to the fact that he was a Christian President."

This prediction and this assumption are false, change one word and make
them grandly true.

"Moderate, frank, truthful, gentle, forgiving, loving, just, Mr. Lincoln
will always be remembered as eminently a Liberal President; and
the almost immeasurably great results which he had the privilege of
achieving were due to the fact that he was a Liberal President."


     Reed--Smith--Edwards--Lewis--Brooks--Statements of Edwards,
     Smith, and Brooks Compared--Sunderland--Miner--Gurley--
     Failure of Reed to Establish his Claims.

Of the twenty Christian witnesses whose testimony is given in
Chapter I., ten admit that, during a part of his life, Lincoln was an
unbeliever, or Infidel. Of the remaining ten, not one denies the fact.
It is conceded, then, that he was once an Infidel. Now, it is a rule of
law that when a certain state or condition of things is once proven to
exist, that state or condition is presumed to continue to exist until
the contrary is proven. If Lincoln was, at one time, an Infidel, it is
fair to assume that he remained an Infidel, unless it can be shown that
he changed his belief and became a Christian. This Dr. Reed attempts to

His lecture, under the caption of "The Later Life and Religious
Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln," will be found in _Scribner's Monthly_
for July, 1873. The evidence presented by Lamon had placed Dr. Holland
in a most unenviable light. As Reed's lecture reaffirmed the claim
made by Holland, and brought forward fresh evidence to substantiate the
claim, it was naturally regarded by many Christians as a vindication of
Holland's position, especially by those who had not read Lamon's work.
Holland was particularly pleased at its opportune appearance, and
cheerfully gave it a place in his magazine.

Reed's individual testimony proves nothing. He does not profess to know,
from personal knowledge, what Lincoln's religious views were. The object
of his lecture was to invalidate, if possible, the testimony of those
who affirmed that he died an Infidel, and to present, in addition to
what had already been presented by Holland, the testimony of those who
affirmed that during the last years of his life he was a Christian. To
answer his witnesses is to answer his lecture.

The Rev. Dr. Smith affirms that he converted Lincoln to a belief in
"_the divine authority and inspiration of the Scriptures._" It was
imperative that he should, for, said he, "It was my honor to place
before Mr. Lincoln arguments designed to prove _the divine authority and
inspiration of the Scriptures._" As a matter of course, "the result was
the announcement by himself that the arguments in favor of _the divine
authority and inspiration of the Scriptures_ were unanswerable."
Consequently, "Mr. Lincoln did avow his belief in the _divine authority
and inspiration of the Scriptures_."

Impressed with a deep sense of the gravity and importance of his work,
he declares that "It is a matter of the last importance not only to the
present but to all future generations of the great Republic, and to all
advocates of civil and religious liberty throughout the world that this
avowal on his part,... should be made known to the public," coupled with
the more important fact, of course, that it was Dr. Smith who did it.
It is to be regretted that his waiting until after Lincoln's death to
announce it, prevented the convert's Christian friends from tendering
their congratulations and extending the hand of fellowship. It is
possible that he counseled Dr. Smith not to divulge the secret for fear
it might injure his political prospects. Certain it is, his neighbors
were ignorant of this remarkable change. When Holland canvassed
Springfield, in 1865, eager to obtain a morsel of evidence upon which to
base his claim that Lincoln was a Christian, he failed to catch even the
faintest whisper regarding this alleged conversion.

When Dr. Smith's letter was made public, the Christians of Springfield
generally smiled, but said nothing, while unbelievers laughed outright
and pronounced it the acme of absurdity. Dr. Reed read it to his
audience and tried to look serious.

Concerning this claim, Lincoln's biographer, Colonel Lamon, says:

"The abilities of this gentleman to discuss such a topic to the
edification of a man like Mr. Lincoln seem to have been rather slender;
but the chance of converting so distinguished a person inspired him with
a zeal which he might not have felt for the salvation of an obscurer
soul. Mr. Lincoln listened to his exhortations in silence, apparently
respectful, and occasionally sat out his sermons in church with as much
patience as other people. Finding these oral appeals unavailing, Mr.
Smith composed a heavy tract out of his own head to suit the particular
case. 'The preparation of that work,' says he, 'cost me long and arduous
labor;' but it does not appear to have been read. Mr. Lincoln took the
'work' to his office, laid it down without writing his name on it,
and never took it up again to the knowledge of a man who inhabited the
office with him, and who saw it lying on the same spot every day for
months. Subsequently Mr. Smith drew from Mr. Lincoln an acknowledgment
that his argument was unanswerable--not a very high compliment under the
circumstances" (Life of Lincoln, p. 498).

The gentleman whom Colonel Lamon refers to as testifying that Lincoln
did not read Dr. Smith's book was Lincoln's partner, Mr. Herndon. In his
lecture on "Lincoln's Religion," Mr. Herndon says:

"Mr. Lincoln received a book from Dr. Smith on Infidelity. He placed it
on our law table. He never opened it--never read it to my knowledge."

If Dr. Smith had converted Lincoln, as claimed, is it not reasonable
to suppose that he would have joined Dr. Smith's church? Had he been
converted would the clergymen of Springfield have denounced him as
an Infidel in 1860? Again, if Dr. Smith's book was so effective as to
convert from Infidelity to Christianity as great a mind as Lincoln, why
have we not heard more of it? Why has it not been used to convert other
Infidels? Was its vitality as an evangelizer exhausted in converting

Mr. Reed was a trifle more successful than Dr. Holland in obtaining
witnesses; for while Holland was able to secure but one witness in
Illinois, Reed was able to summon two--Ninian Edwards and Thomas Lewis.

The testimony of Mr. Edwards, providing that he was the author of the
letter accredited to him, can only be accounted for on the following
supposition. Being a believer in Christianity himself, he considered
Lincoln's Infidelity a grave defect in his character, and was vexed to
see that this controversy had given it such wide publicity. To assist
in removing this stain, as he regarded it, from his kinsman's name, he
allowed to be published over his signature a statement which, unless his
memory was very treacherous, he must have known was untrue.

It may be that Lincoln did change his views in regard to some historical
or doctrinal point connected with Christianity, and informed Mr. Edwards
and other friends at the time of the fact. He might have changed his
opinions on a hundred theological questions without having in the least
changed his views in relation to the main or fundamental doctrines of
Christianity. An admission concerning some trivial question connected
with Christianity has been tortured to convey the idea that he accepted
the whole system.

A prominent and respected citizen of Springfield, a gentleman whose name
has, as yet, not been mentioned in connection with this controversy,
had a conversation with Mr. Edwards relative to this subject, soon after
Reed's lecture was published, and, as the result of that conversation,
he writes as follows: "Mr. Edwards was not as good a witness on oral
examination as he was in print."

The letter of Mr. Edwards is dated Dec. 24, 1872. On Jan. 6, 1873, the
letter of Thomas Lewis was written. After two weeks of arduous labor,
Reed, it seems, succeeded in finding one witness in Springfield who was
prepared to corroborate the testimony of Edwards--Thomas Lewis.

In a lecture on Lincoln which appeared in the _State Register_, of
Springfield, Mr. Herndon disposed of this witness as follows:

"Mr. Lewis's veracity and integrity in this community need no comment.
I have heard good men say they would not believe his word under any
circumstances, especially if he were interested. I hate to state this
of Tom, but if he will obtrude himself in this discussion, I cannot help
but say a word in self-defense. Mr. Lincoln detested this man, I know.
The idea that Mr. Lincoln would go to Tom Lewis and reveal to him his
religious convictions, is to me, and to all who know Mr. Lincoln and Tom
Lewis, too absurd."

The introduction of this Lewis as a witness demonstrates the paucity
of evidence to be obtained on this side of the question among Lincoln's
neighbors. Reed, living in a city of twenty thousand inhabitants, many
of them the personal friends of Abraham Lincoln, after a vigorous search
for evidence, is able only to present this pitiable apology.

I have reason to believe that the letters of Edwards and Lewis were
drafted, not by the persons whose signatures they bear, but by the Rev.
J. A. Reed.

We come next to the testimony of Noah Brooks. Mr. Edwards, supported
by Mr. Lewis, states that Lincoln was converted soon after Dr. Smith
located at Springfield, and about the time of his son Eddie's death. Dr.
Smith came to Springfield in 1848, and Eddie died toward the close of
the same year. Dr. Smith, in his letter, does not state when Lincoln's
conversion took place, but it is understood from other sources that he
claimed that it occurred about the year 1858. Mr. Brooks, in his letter
to Dr. Reed, says: "Speaking to me of the change which had come upon
him, he said, while he could not fix any definite time, yet it was after
he came here [Washington], and I am very positive that in his own mind
he identified it with about the time of Willie's death."

Willie's death occurred in February, 1862, nearly fourteen years after
the death of Eddie, and four years after Smith claimed to have converted
Lincoln. Thus it will be seen that these witnesses nullify each other.
The testimony of each is contradicted and refuted by the testimony of
the other two. Mr. Edwards says that Lincoln was converted in 1848. This
is contradicted by the testimony of both Smith and Brooks. According to
Dr. Smith his conversion happened about 1858. This is contradicted by
the testimony of both Edwards and Brooks. Mr. Brooks is quite positive
that it took place about the time of Willie's death, in 1862. This, in
turn, is contradicted by the testimony of both Edwards and Smith. If Mr.
Edwards is right, both Dr. Smith and Mr. Brooks are wrong. If Dr. Smith
is correct, both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Brooks are incorrect. If Mr.
Brooks has stated the truth both Mr. Edwards and Dr. Smith have stated

The testimony of these witnesses does not strengthen Reed's case, but
weakens it. The testimony of two of them is self-evidently false, and
this is a sufficient reason for doubting the truthfulness of the third.
Had the evidence of neither Edwards nor Smith been invalidated by the
evidence of the others, the fact that Lincoln is so generally conceded
to have been an unbeliever up to the time that he became President,
would render it unworthy of consideration. The testimony of Brooks alone
demands notice. Did Lincoln change his belief after he left Springfield
and went to Washington? The evidence upon this point is decisive.

The man who stood nearest to President Lincoln at Washington--nearer
than any clergyman or newspaper correspondent--was his private
secretary, Col. John G. Nicolay. In a letter dated May 27, 1865, Colonel
Nicolay says:

"Mr. Lincoln did not, to my knowledge, in any way change his religious
ideas, opinions, or beliefs from the time he left Springfield to the day
of his death."

In a letter to his old friend, Judge Wakefield, written after Willie's
death, he declared that his earlier views of the unsoundness of the
Christian scheme of salvation, and the human origin of the Scriptures,
had become clearer and stronger with advancing years, and he did not
think he should ever change them.

After his assassination Mrs. Lincoln said: "Mr. Lincoln had no hope and
no faith in the usual acceptance of these words." His lifelong friend
and executor, Judge David Davis, affirmed the same: "He had no faith
in the Christian sense of the term." His biographer, Colonel Lamon,
intimately acquainted with him in Illinois, and with him during all the
years that he lived in Washington, says: "Never in all that time did he
let fall from his lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied
the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men."

Why do the statements of these witnesses, Smith, Edwards, and Brooks,
not agree respecting the date of Lincoln's conversion? When their
testimony was given, Smith was in Scotland, Edwards was in Illinois, and
Brooks was in New York.

If he was converted, why was the fact not revealed before his death? Why
did these men wait until he died to make these statements to the world?
Simply because the dead can make no reply.

Had Lincoln been converted, the news would have been wafted on the wings
of lightning from one end of the continent to the other. It would have
been published in every newspaper; it would have been proclaimed from
every pulpit; it would have been a topic of conversation at every
fireside. When Henry Wilson, a man of far less note than Lincoln, was
converted to Christianity, the fact was heralded all over the land.

Lincoln's home was twice visited by death during his lifetime, and both
occasions have been seized upon to assert that he experienced a change
of heart. The death of a beloved child is no common sorrow, and the
womanly tenderness of Lincoln's heart made it doubly poignant to him.
"When death entered his household," says his friend, George W. Julian,
"his sorrow was so consuming that it could only be measured by the
singular depth and intensity of his love." That Mr. Edwards and Mr.
Brooks did each observe a change in the demeanor of the grief-stricken
father, following the sad events referred to, is not improbable. But a
manifestation of sorrow is no proof of a theological change.

Three of Reed's witnesses remain--three clergymen--Dr. Sunderland, Dr.
Miner, and Dr. Gurley. Dr. Sunderland is a man of distinction. He has
had the honor of praying for the United States Senate and officiating at
the marriage of a President. Yet, distinction is not always the badge of
honesty. W. H. Burr, a literary gentleman, of Washington, writing to
a Boston paper in 1880, paid the following tribute to Dr. Sunderland's
veracity: "He can probably put more falsehood and calumny in a page of
foolscap than any priest out of prison."

Mr. Sunderland called upon the President in 1862. In his letter to Reed
he says: "For one half hour [he] poured forth a volume of the deepest
Christian philosophy I ever heard." Notwithstanding ten years had
elapsed since that visit, he proceeded to give from memory a verbatim
report of Lincoln's remarks. The report is too long to reproduce in
this work, and even if correct, would add but little to the weight of
Christian evidence already presented. It is merely an ethical discourse,
and aside from a few indirect admissions in favor of Christianity for
which Sunderland doubtless drew upon his imagination, there is nothing
that Paine or any other Deist might not with propriety have uttered.
Those who wish to peruse Mr. Sunderland's letter will find it in
_Scribner's Monthly_ for July, 1873.

Dr. Miner, like Dr. Sunderland, had a quiet chat with the President, and
what was said he assures us is too deeply engraved on his memory ever
to be effaced. But, unlike Dr. Sunderland, he does not favor us with a
transcript of it. He does not repeat a word that was uttered. He states,
however, that, "If Mr. Lincoln was not really an experimental Christian,
he was acting like one." But how does an experimental Christian act? If
he behaves himself, if he is intelligent and honest, his actions are not
materially different from those of a good Freethinker. Dr. Miner did not
believe that Lincoln was an experimental Christian, and in his article
there is an implied admission that he knew nothing about his religion.

He says that, "Like the immortal Washington, he believed in the efficacy
of prayer." The comparison is happily drawn. Lincoln probably did
believe as much in the efficacy of prayer as Washington; that is to say,
he did not believe in it at all, in the evangelical sense. There is
no evidence that Washington believed in prayer, no proof that he ever
uttered a prayer. That story about his praying at Valley Forge is as
truly a myth as the story about the hatchet. The Rev. E. D. Neill, an
eminent Episcopal minister, and a relative of the person who is reported
to have seen Washington engaged in prayer, pronounces it a fiction.

Dr. Gurley is represented as saying: "I considered him sound not only
on the truth of the Christian religion, but on all its fundamental
doctrines and teachings." This, remember, is from a Calvinistic
standpoint. Lincoln, then, not only accepted Christianity, but its most
ultra variety--Calvinism. He believed in original sin, predestination
(including infant damnation), particular redemption, irresistible grace,
and perseverance of the saints. Because he sometimes went with his wife
to the Presbyterian church, of which she was an adherent, the priests of
this denomination have the contemptible assurance to assert that he was
a rigid Calvinist!

When he died Dr. Gurley, being Mrs. Lincoln's pastor, delivered the
funeral oration in Washington. In that oration Dr. Gurley did not affirm
that Lincoln was a Christian, a thing he would not have failed to do
had it been true. Long after Lincoln's death, Dr. Gurley, if Reed has
correctly reported him, makes a statement that he had not the courage to
make over his dead body.

A reputable Christian gentleman, of Springfield, who desires to have
his name withheld from the public, declares that Dr. Gurley knew and
admitted that Lincoln was a disbeliever in Christianity.

It is quite probable that Gurley did not state in full what Reed reports
him to have stated. A man who can take up his pen and at one sitting
indite a score of falsehoods and misrepresentations, as Reed, on a
subsequent occasion, is shown to have done, can not be relied upon for
accuracy as a reporter.

The reader has doubtless not failed to notice the introduction of
a claim by Reed to the effect that Lincoln at the time of his
assassination was intending to unite with the church. That the idea was
suggested by Reed is shown by the fact that no less than three of these
witnesses, including Reed, allude to it. Reed says: "While it is to
be regretted that Mr. Lincoln was not spared to indicate his religious
sentiments by a profession of his faith in accordance with the
institutions of the Christian religion, yet it is very clear that he
had this step in view." Dr. Gurley is made to say: "It was his intention
soon to make a profession of religion." Mr. Brooks says: "I absorbed
[the porosity of some of these witnesses is remarkable] the firm
conviction that Mr. Lincoln... was seriously considering the step which
would formally connect him with the visible church on earth."

This _dernier resort_ of an argument has been repeated respecting nearly
every notable person who has died outside of the church. Soon after
the publication of Reed's lecture, the New York _World_ contained the
following pertinent answer to this stale fabrication:

"It is admitted by Mr. Reed and everybody else that Mr. Lincoln was a
working Infidel up to a very late period of his life, that he wrote a
book and labored earnestly to make proselytes to his own views, that he
never publicly recanted, and that he never joined the church. Upon
those who, in the face of these tremendous facts, allege that he was
nevertheless a Christian lies the burden of proof. Let them produce it
or forever hold their peace. In the mean time it is a sad and puerile
subterfuge to argue that he _would_ have been a Christian if he had
lived long enough, and to lament that he was not 'spared' for that
purpose. He _had_ been spared fifty-six years and surrounded by every
circumstance that might soften his heart and every influence that might
elevate his faith. If he was at that late, that fatal hour standing
thus gloomily without the pale, what reason have we to suppose that he
intended ever to enter?"

Reed speaks of "the poverty of his early religious instruction,"
apparently forgetting that he was raised by Christian parents. His
father was a church-member, his mother was a church-member, and his
stepmother was a church-member. Reed states, also, that the books he
read were all of an anti-religious character. Holland, on the contrary,
declares that better books than those he read could not have been chosen
from the richest library. The fact is, Abraham Lincoln did not become an
Infidel to Christianity from a lack of knowledge respecting its claims.
He thoroughly examined its claims, and rejected them because he found
them untenable.

One important feature of this subject Reed has either inadvertently
omitted or purposely ignored, and that is in regard to the validity of
the Bateman story. As the result of previous controversy this evidence
had been rendered valueless. Lincoln's partner had declared it to be
false, had asserted that Mr. Bateman in private conversations
acknowledged it to be in part untrue, and announced his readiness to
substantiate his assertions if Mr. Bateman could be prevailed upon to
permit the publication of his notes of these conversations taken at the
time. If Mr. Herndon's affirmations were true, it destroyed the
testimony of Holland and Bateman; if untrue, it challenged Mr. Bateman
to reaffirm the statements recorded by Holland, and allow the seal of
privacy to be removed from his conversations on the subject. Why did Mr.
Reed not rehabilitate this damaged evidence? Did he forget it? No, it is
plainly evident that he did not dare to attempt it.

In reviewing this Calvinistic _coterie_ of witnesses (they are all
Calvinists, and nearly all Presbyterians), one is struck with the
formidable display of theological appendages. What an imposing array
of D.D.'s! Rev. J. A. Reed, D.D.! Rev. James Smith, D.D.! Rev. Byron
Sunderland, D.D.! Rev. Mr. Miner, D.D.! Rev. Mr. Gurley, D.D.! It was a
desperate case--divinity was sick and needed doctoring. The doctors of
divinity were accordingly called in, and prescribed "The Later Life and
Religious Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln," after which it was supposed
that divinity would recover. He may be better, but it is painfully
apparent that some of these D.D.'s are themselves sadly in need of a


     Arnold's "Life of Lincoln"--Claims Concerning Lincoln's
     Religious Belief--Address to Negroes of Baltimore--
     Carpenter--Hawley--Willets--Pious Nurse--"Western Christian
     Advocate"--Illinois Clergyman--Barrows--Vinton--Simpson.

With the Christian masses whose minds have become warped by the bigoted
teachings of their clerical leaders, nothing affects the reputation of a
man so much as his religious belief. Public men who are disbelievers
are fully cognizant of this, and generally refrain from expressing
sentiments that would tend to alienate those upon whom the retention
of their positions depends. Biographers understand this, too, and are
likewise aware that a dead Infidel is as cordially hated as a live one.
They know that a cold reception awaits their works unless they are
able to clothe the characters of their subjects in the robes of popular
superstition. Mr. Arnold realized this when he wrote his "Life of
Lincoln." He had been most forcibly reminded of the fact by the fate of
two biographies of his own subject which had already appeared--Holland's
and Lamon's. Holland's work by catering to popular prejudice, regardless
of truth, had been financially a success; Lamon's work by adhering to
truth, regardless of popular prejudice, had been financially a failure.

Determined to profit by these examples, and intimidated by the threats
and entreaties of those who had resolved to secure for Christianity
the influence of the Great Emancipator's name, Arnold dare not give the
facts regarding Lincoln's religious belief. Nor is it to be presumed
that he desired to. He had previously appeared as a special pleader for
the popular faith.

He affirms that "No more reverent Christian than Lincoln ever sat in
the Executive chair, not excepting Washington." The fact is, when Arnold
wrote his biography of Lincoln, no very reverent Christian ever had
occupied the Executive chair. Previous to the installation of Gen. B. H.
Harrison no real orthodox Christian communicant had held the office of

If Mr. Arnold knew no more about Lincoln's religion than he appears
to have known about Washington's, a more charitable reason than those
suggested might be assigned for his statements concerning the former.
Washington, like Lincoln, has been claimed by the church; yet,
Washington, like Lincoln, was a Deist. This is admitted even by the
leading churchmen of his day. Three of the most eminent divines of his
age, and the three to whom he was most intimately related in a social
way, were Bishop White, Rev. Dr. Abercrombie, and Rev. Dr. Ashbel Green.
Bishop White declares that Washington was not a communicant, as
claimed by some, and intimates that he was a disbeliever. The Rev. Dr.
Abercrombie, whose church he attended while he was President, said:
"Washington was a Deist." The Rev. Dr. Ashbel Green, chaplain to
Congress during his administration, said: "Like nearly all the founders
of the Republic, he was not a Christian, but a Deist."

Arnold presents the following as the basis of Lincoln's religion, and
proofs of his Christianity: "(1) Belief in the existence of God, (2) in
the immortality of the soul, (3) in the Bible as the revelation of God
to man, (4) in the efficacy and duty of prayer, (5) in reverence toward
the Almighty, and (6) in love and charity to man."

1. "Belief in the existence of God." This does not prove a belief in
Christianity. The Jew believes in the existence of God; the Mohammedan
believes in the existence of God; the Deistic Infidel believes in the
existence of God.

2. "Belief in the immortality of the soul." That he believed in the
immortality of the soul is a claim that cannot be clearly established;
and even if it could, would not confirm the assumption that he was a
Christian. Deists, many of them, believe in the doctrine of immortality.
Paine believed in immortality; Voltaire believed in immortality.

3. "Belief in the Bible as the revelation of God to man." This, if
true, would be evidence of his Christianity; but, unfortunately for Mr.
Arnold's claim, Lincoln did not entertain this belief.

4. "Belief-in the efficacy and duty of prayer." This, in the orthodox
sense of these terms, is not true; and if it were, would not furnish
conclusive evidence that he was a Christian. Jews pray; Mohammedans
pray; Buddhists pray; some Deists pray. Franklin believed in the
efficacy and duty of prayer, and Franklin was an Infidel.

5. "Belief in reverence to the Almighty." This does not demonstrate
a belief in Christianity, for all Deists believe in reverence to the

6. "Belief in love and charity to man." When it can be shown that only
Christians believe in love and charity, then will it be time to affirm
that Lincoln was a Christian.

Arnold confounds Christianity with Deism. In the following words he
admits that Lincoln was simply a Deist: "Not orthodox, not a man of
creeds, he was a man of simple trust in God."

When the subject of Lincoln's belief was once mentioned to Mr. Arnold,
he said: "Lincoln was a rational Christian because he believed in
morality." With equal propriety one might say of an upright Christian,
"He is a rational Freethinker because he believes in morality."

"His reply to the Negroes of Baltimore," he says, "ought to silence
forever those who charge him with unbelief." This alleged reply of
Lincoln was as follows:

"In regard to the Great Book I have only to say that it is the best gift
which God has given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world
is communicated to us through this book. But for this book we could not
know right from wrong. All those things desirable to man are contained
in it" (Lincoln Memorial Album, p. 340).

The writer of this was in Washington when the colored deputation
from Baltimore presented the President with a $500 Bible. The papers
mentioned the fact at the time, but no such speech as Lincoln is said
to have made appeared in the reports. About two months later, this
apocryphal version of his remarks on the occasion referred to, made its

The first two sentences contained in this speech (the only part of it
that Arnold has quoted), Lincoln, if a Christian, might have uttered.
They are words that any intelligent Christian might, from his
standpoint, with propriety affirm. We are familiar with these claims.
We are also familiar with the claims embodied in the last two sentences.
They are repeatedly made. But they are made only by very ignorant
persons, or by clerical hypocrites who try to impose upon the ignorance
and credulity of their hearers. Had Lincoln been a Christian he would
not have used these words, because he was too intelligent to believe
them, and too honest to pretend to believe them.

Concerning this speech, Lincoln's partner, Mr. Herndon, thus vigorously,
yet truthfully, remarks:

"I am aware of the fraud committed on Mr. Lincoln in reporting some
insane remarks supposed to have been made by him, in 1864, on the
presentation of a Bible to him by the colored people of Baltimore. No
sane man ever uttered such folly, and no sane man will ever believe it.
In that speech Mr. Lincoln is made to say: 'But for this book we could
not know right from wrong.' Does any human being believe that Lincoln
ever uttered this? What did the whole race of man do to know right from
wrong during the countless years that passed before this book was given
to the world? How did the struggling race of man build up its grand
civilizations in the world before this book was given to mankind? What
do the millions of people now living, who never heard of this book, do
to know how to distinguish right from wrong? Was Lincoln a fool, an
ass, a hypocrite, or a combination of them all? or is this speech--this
supposed--this fraudulent speech--a lie?"

Arnold would have his readers believe that this speech is genuine.
And yet it is plainly evident that he himself does not believe it.
He mutilates it by omitting the more orthodox portion of it--the very
portion he would have retained had he believed it to be genuine. The
first part would suffice to serve his purpose; the remainder he knew was
too incredible for belief and would stamp the whole as a fraud.

Arnold says: "The veil between him and the supernatural was very thin."
Yes, so thin that he easily saw through it and recognized the greater
part of it to be a sham.

"His faith in a Divine Providence began at his mother's knee, and ran
through all the changes of his life." I do not desire to charge Mr.
Arnold with plagiarism, but the foregoing recalls the following much
admired passage to be found in Holland: "This unwavering faith in a
Divine Providence began at his mother's knee, and ran like a thread of
gold through all the inner experiences of his life" (Life of Lincoln,
pp. 61, 62).

There is much in Arnold's biography, aside from the above, to suggest
that Holland's work formed the basis and model of his own. While more
accurate in the main than Holland's "Life," Arnold's "Life" is in some
respects equally unreliable, and less readable.

Adverting to the many fraudulent stories that have been circulated
concerning Lincoln, in an address delivered in London, Mr. Arnold said:
"The newspapers in America have always been full of Lincoln stories and
anecdotes, some true and many fabulous." Unfortunately for the cause of
truth, Mr. Arnold has himself recorded some of these fabulous stories,
not because he deemed them authentic, but because they agreed with his
preconceived prejudices, or the prejudices of those whom he wished to

Mr. Carpenter says: "I would scarcely have called Mr. Lincoln a
religious man, and yet I believe him to have been a sincere Christian."

In a letter, Mr. Herndon makes the following correction in regard to his
friend Carpenter's statement:

"Mr. Carpenter has not expressed his own ideas correctly. To say that a
man is a Christian and yet not a religious man is absurd. _Religion_ is
the generic term including all forms of religion; _Christianity_ is a
specific term representing one form of religion. Carpenter means to say
that Mr. Lincoln was a religious man but not a Christian, and this is
the truth."

It is unfortunate that while in many cases we have several words to
express the same idea, the same word in many cases is employed to
express different ideas. Ideas thus become confused. If the terms
_morality, religion, and Christianity_, were always used in their
legitimate sense--used to express the ideas of which they were the
original signs--much trouble and ambiguity would be avoided. As it is,
they are promiscuously used as interchangeable terms. Many use the
word _religion_ and even _Christianity_ when they mean morality. Mr.
Carpenter uses the word _religious_ in its proper sense, and the word
_Christian_ to mean a _moral man_. The following examples will serve to
illustrate the various forms employed to express the thought now under

"I would scarcely have called Mr. Lincoln a religious man, and yet I
believe him to have been a sincere Christian."--_Carpenter_.

"I would scarcely have called Mr. Lincoln a Christian, and yet I believe
him to have been a truly religious man."--_Herndon_.

I would scarcely have called Mr. Lincoln a religious man, and yet I
believe him to have been a truly moral man.--_Author_.

We all desire to express substantially the same thought. I do not wish
to dictate to Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Herndon what words they shall
employ to convey an idea, but this explanation is essential to a proper
understanding of the question in dispute and will help to reconcile much
of the apparently conflicting testimony presented in this work.

As Lincoln was in a certain sense a Deist, the religious element was not
entirely wanting in him, and hence the statement of Mr. Herndon that he
was a religious man is, in a degree, true.

The basis of Carpenter's work was a series of articles contributed to
the New York _Independent_. When it was decided to publish these in book
form, to swell them into a volume of the desired size, to his personal
reminiscences he added many of the stories pertaining to Lincoln then
going the rounds of the press. Although he was as it were a member of
Lincoln's household six months he failed to hear from Lincoln's lips a
word expressing a belief in Christianity. These apocryphal stories, and
these alone, contain all the evidences of Lincoln's alleged piety to
be found in Carpenter's book. And his admission that Lincoln was not a
religious man disproves them.

Mr. Hawley professed to believe that Lincoln was a Christian, but he had
no personal knowledge of the fact, although his neighbor for many years.
The only reasons he was able to adduce upon which to predicate his
belief were the Bateman story and his farewell speech on leaving
Springfield. The former has been exploded, the latter proves nothing.

During all the later years of his life Lincoln generally refrained from
expressing his anti-Christian opinions, except to friends who shared his
views. This silence, in connection with his sterling moral character,
might lead some of his Christian neighbors to suppose that he was a
believer, the more especially as Christians are generally ignorant of
the extent of unbelief, and are loath to believe that a person, unless
he openly avows his disbelief, can be an Infidel.

According to Mr. Willets, Lincoln, during the war, had an attack of what
he thought might be a "change of heart." He consulted a pious lady in
regard to it and requested her to describe to him the symptoms attending
this theological disease. She defined "a true religious experience" as
"a conviction of one's own sinfulness and weakness, and personal need of
the Savior for strength and support." She said that "when one was really
brought to feel his need of divine help, and to seek the aid of the Holy
Spirit for strength and guidance, it was satisfactory evidence of his
having been born again." Lincoln replied that if what she had told him
was "a correct view of this great subject," he hoped he was a Christian.
But was this a correct view of it? I was not aware that conviction
constituted conversion. We have been taught that conviction is but a
preliminary step toward conversion. If Lincoln relied upon this as a
true exposition of this doctrine, the genuineness of his conversion may
well be questioned.

It is to be regretted that Mr. Willets did not give the name of
his informant. As it is, we do not know whether to credit "a lady
acquaintance of his," or himself, with the invention of a first-class

In regard to the story of the "Pious Nurse," we have not even a
clergyman to vouch for its authenticity. We do not know the name of this
witness; we do not know whom she communicated the story to; we do not
know when nor where it made its first appearance. We only know that for
years it has been floating through the columns of the religious press, a
companion-piece to Washington's devotional exercise at Valley Forge.

"History," said Napoleon, "is a set of lies agreed upon." Of the many
lies agreed upon by Christian writers in making up the history of
Lincoln, none has become more thoroughly established than the one
originally published by the _Western Christian Advocate_. It has been
incorporated into the works of a score of historians and biographers,
and is almost universally accepted as a historical fact.

Nearly all the pious stories relating to Lincoln, while palpably false
in the eyes of those who knew him, are yet of such a nature as to render
a complete refutation of them extremely difficult. The story under
consideration, however, is of a different character. Its truthfulness
or falsity could at the time of its publication have been easily
ascertained. If true, any member of Lincoln's cabinet could have
verified it. I knew that it was untrue--at least I knew that a Cabinet
meeting had never been transformed into a prayer meeting at Lincoln's
suggestion. I finally resolved to demonstrate its falsity if possible.
But a quarter of a century had passed away, and every member of
Lincoln's Cabinet was dead save one, Hugh McCulloch, his last Secretary
of the Treasury. With the aid of a friend, Mr. N. P. Stockbridge, of
Ft. Wayne, Ind., an old acquaintance of Mr. McCulloch's, I succeeded
in bringing the matter before this only surviving witness, and received
from his pen, in February, 1891, the following prompt denial:

"The description of what occurred at the Executive Mansion, when the
intelligence was received of the surrender of the Confederate forces,
which you quote from the _Western Christian Advocate_, is not only
absolutely groundless, but absurd. After I became Secretary of the
Treasury I was present at every Cabinet meeting, and I never saw Mr.
Lincoln or any of his ministers upon his knees or in tears.

"We were not especially jubilant over Lee's surrender, for this we had
been prepared for some days. The time for our great rejoicing was a
little earlier. After Sherman had commenced his celebrated march to the
sea, and long and weary days had passed without any reliable reports
from him, we were filled with anxiety and apprehension. It was when
the news came that he and his army, in excellent condition, were in the
neighborhood of Charleston, that our joy was irrepressible; not only
because of their safety, but because it was an assurance that the days
of the Confederacy were nearly ended. With Grant before Richmond in
command of superior forces, and Sherman with the finest army in the
world, ready to move northward, everybody felt that the war must be soon
concluded, and that the Union was safe.

"We were, of course, happy when General Lee and his severely tried
soldiers laid down their arms, but this, as I have said, was not
unexpected. It was when our anxiety in regard to Sherman was succeeded
by hopefulness and confidence that our joy became exuberant. But there
was no such exhibition of it as has been published by the _Advocate._"

An "Illinois Clergyman" reports Lincoln as saying that when he left
Springfield he was not a Christian, that when his son Willie died he was
not a Christian, but that when he visited the battlefield of Gettysburg
he gave his heart to Christ. Christians cite the testimony of this
anonymous witness, seemingly unconscious of the fact that if true
it refutes the testimony of every other Christian witness. If this
statement be true what becomes of the testimony of Holland and Bateman?
What becomes of the testimony of Reed's witnesses? The testimony of
Brooks invalidated the testimony of every other witness; the testimony
of this Illinois clergyman invalidates the testimony of Brooks itself.

Reed did not present this evidence, doubtless aware that his lecture
already contained a sufficient number of discrepancies. He was
thoughtful enough, however, to anticipate it. He had Dr. Gurley refer to
Lincoln's conversion as taking place "after the death of his son Willie
and his visit to the battlefield of Gettysburg." These events are
referred to as if they occurred in close proximity to each other;
whereas the death of Willie occurred during the first year of his
administration, his visit to Gettysburg less than seventeen months
before his assassination.

The passage quoted from Dr. Barrows contains six specific affirmations.

1. "In the anxious uncertainties of the great war, he gradually rose to
the hights where Jehovah became to him the sublimest of realities, the
ruler of nations."

Collect all the utterances of Abraham Lincoln, all the letters he ever
wrote, all the speeches he ever delivered, all the state papers he gave
to the public; and from this full store of words that fell from his lips
and flowed from his pen, I challenge Dr. Barrows to produce one word
expressing a recognition of Jehovah. Jehovah was to him, not "the
sublimest of realities," not "the ruler of nations," but a hideous
phantom. He recognized a God, but his God was not Jehovah, the God of
Dr. Barrows.

2. "When he wrote his immortal Proclamation, he invoked upon it not
only 'the considerate judgment of mankind' but 'the gracious favor of
Almighty God.'"

When he wrote his immortal Proclamation he did not invoke "the gracious
favor of Almighty God." This instrument, as drafted by Lincoln,
contained no allusion to God. The paragraph containing the words quoted
was drafted by Secretary Chase and inserted in the Proclamation at his
urgent request after it was printed and ready for delivery.

3. "When darkness gathered over the brave armies fighting for the
nation's life, this strong man, in the early morning, knelt and wrestled
in prayer with Him who holds in his hand the fate of empires."

A "Christian lady from Massachusetts" (name unknown), and a Christian
gentleman from New York (Noah Brooks), declare that Lincoln was
accustomed to pray. This declaration is echoed by Arnold, and reechoed
by Barrows. If true, is it not strange that a hospital nurse and
a newspaper reporter were in possession of the fact while his most
intimate friends were entirely ignorant of it?

4. "When the clouds lifted above the carnage of Gettysburg, he gave his
heart to the Lord Jesus Christ."

This is the fifth time that Lincoln gave his heart to Christ. The above
statement is the vital one in Dr. Barrows's testimony--the keystone in
the arch comprising "the religious aspects" of Lincoln's Presidential
career. The others, even if true, only prove a Theistic belief. This
statement affirms that he became a Christian--a statement evidently
based upon the anonymous story of the "Illinois clergyman." Between
the original presented by the "Illinois clergyman" at large, and that
presented by the Illinois clergyman from Chicago, however, a grave
discrepancy appears. From the time that "the clouds lifted above the
carnage of Gettysburg" to the time that Lincoln visited its cemetery, a
period of twenty weeks had elapsed. Now, did Lincoln give his heart to
Christ when the battle ended on the 3rd of July, as stated by the one,
or not until he stood upon the battle-field on the 19th of November, as
asserted by the other? This is a question that we leave for the Illinois
clergymen themselves to decide.

5. "When he pronounced his matchless oration on the chief battle-field
of the war, he gave expression to the resolve that 'this nation, under
God, should have a new birth of freedom.'"

This simple Deistic phrase, "under God," is the only utterance of a
religious character to be found in that oration. When this speech was
delivered, Lincoln, it is claimed, had experienced a change of
heart, and consecrated himself to Christ. This address furnishes an
overwhelming refutation of the claim. At the dedication of a cemetery,
surrounded by thousands of graves, he ignores Christianity, and even the
doctrine of immortality.

6. "And when he wrote his last Inaugural Address, he gave to it the
lofty tone of an old Hebrew psalm."

This is true; and it is likewise true that in that document he made no
more reference to Christianity than did the Hebrew psalmist who lived
and wrote a thousand years before it had its birth.

The "Lincoln Memorial Album," in which Dr. Barrows's article appears,
contains the offerings of two hundred contributors, twenty of them
divines, and among them Lyman Abbot, Dr. Bellows, Theodore L. Cuyler,
Eobert Collyer, Bishop Coxe, Dr. Crosby, Bishop Haven, Philip Schaaf,
and Bishop Simpson. The work is prefaced with a biographical sketch of
Lincoln, written by Isaac N. Arnold, in which he makes substantially the
same statements regarding Lincoln's belief as those made in his "Life
of Lincoln." Aside from this, Dr. Barrows is the only one of these
two hundred memorialists who ventures to affirm that Lincoln was a

The story of Dr. Vinton, too absurd to demand serious
consideration--apparently too incredible for belief--is yet believed by
thousands. When such fabulous tales are told by men who are looked upon
as the exponents of morality, and published in papers and periodicals
that are presumed to be the repositories only of truth, it is not
strange that such stories as Washington's Praying at Valley Forge, Ethan
Allen and His Daughter, Don't Unchain the Tiger, Paine's Recanting, and
a thousand and one other pious fictions of a similar character,
have gained popular credence. To read the fabrications of this class
pertaining to Lincoln alone, one would suppose that this
astute statesman, this Chief Magistrate of a great nation, this
Commander-in-Chief of two millions of soldiers, engaged in the most
stupendous civil conflict the world has known, occupied the greater
portion of his time in studying the Scriptures, poring over doctrinal
sermons, participating in prayer-meetings led by pious nurses, and
weeping upon the necks of clerical visitors.

Bishop Simpson's remarks have been presented, not because they furnish
any proofs of Lincoln's reputed Christianity, but because he was one of
the clergymen who officiated at Lincoln's funeral, and because his words
on that occasion have been cited in support of this claim. But he does
not assert that Lincoln was a Christian. He simply testifies to his
belief and trust in God--to his Deistic faith--nothing more.

I am aware that in some of the published reports of his address there
have been interpolated words intended to convey the idea that Lincoln
accepted Christ. Bishop Simpson, I am sure, never authorized the
insertion of these words. They express a claim he never made--a claim he
certainly did not make on the day of Lincoln's interment.

In his funeral address at Washington, Dr. Gurley did not affirm that
Lincoln was a Christian, or that he was intending to make a profession
of religion. Bishop Simpson, in his oration at Springfield, made no
mention of these claims, and Dr. Gurley and Bishop Simpson are known to
have held a consultation before that oration was delivered.

This silence is conclusive evidence that these men knew that Lincoln was
an unbeliever. Commenting on this notable omission, Mr. Herndon says:

"Bishop Simpson delivered the funeral oration, and in that oration there
was not one word about Mr. Lincoln's Christianity. Bishop Simpson was
Lincoln's friend; Dr. Gurley was Lincoln's pastor in Washington, Now
these men knew or had reason to know, Lincoln's religion, and the world
would have heard of his Christianity on the day of his burial if it had
been known. But Simpson and Gurley are silent--dumb before the Christian

One of the most beautiful and exhaustive tributes ever paid to Lincoln,
aside from the matchless tribute paid by Colonel Ingersoll, is that from
the pen of Bishop Simpson which appears in the "Lincoln Memorial Album."
In this tribute he does not make even the remotest allusion to Lincoln's
religious belief. He appears to have heeded the advice tendered a
less discreet Christian writer, and recognized the fact that, from
his standpoint, the less said about the subject the better. Had all
Christians acted as wisely and as honorably in this matter as Bishop
Simpson, this controversy about Lincoln's religion would never have

I have now reviewed the testimony of these witnesses. Tested in the
crucible of honest criticism, little remains of their statements save
the dross of falsehood and error. I may be charged with unjust severity
toward these witnesses, nearly all of whom are men of recognized
respectability and distinction. But a majority of them have testified to
what they know to be false, and against those who knowingly bear false
witness no censure can be too severe. Thousands of Christian men and
women, misled by this false testimony, honestly believe and contend
that Lincoln was a Christian. Against these I have not an unkind word
to offer. But I am resolved to disabuse their minds of this erroneous
belief. Painful as the birth of an unwelcome idea is, they shall know
the truth.


     Herndon's Association with Lincoln--Character--Writings--
     Competency as a Witness,--The Abbott Letter--Contribution to
     the Liberal Age--Article in the Truth Seeker--Herndon's
     "Life of Lincoln."

Having presented and reviewed the evidence in behalf of the affirmative
of this question, the evidence in support of the negative will next be
given, and in consideration of his long and intimate association with
Lincoln, and the character and comprehensiveness of his testimony, the
first to testify will be Hon. Wm. H. Herndon, of Springfield, Ill.

In 1843, Lincoln formed a partnership with Mr. Herndon in the law
business, which existed for a period of twenty-two years, and was only
dissolved by the bullet of the assassin. The strong attachment that
these men had for each other is illustrated in the following touching
incident, related in "The Everyday Life of Lincoln:"

"When he was about to leave for Washington, he went to the dingy little
law office which had sheltered his saddest hours. He sat down on the
couch and said to his law-partner, Herndon, 'Billy, you and I have been
together more than twenty years, and have never "passed a word." Will
you let my name stay on the old sign till I come back from Washington?'
The tears started to Mr. Herndon's eyes. He put out his hand. 'Mr.
Lincoln,' said he, 'I will never have any other partner while you live;'
and to the day of the assassination all the doings of the firm were in
the name of 'Lincoln & Herndon'" (Everyday Life of Lincoln, p. 377).

Mr. Herndon died in 1891. Though younger than his illustrious partner,
he was at the time of his death well advanced in years. He had retired
from the active practice of law, and resided at his country home
near Springfield. He was noted for his rugged honesty, for his broad
philanthropy, and for his strong and original mental qualities. He was
one of the pioneers in the antislavery movement, and one of the founders
of the Republican party. He was the Republican nominee for Presidential
Elector of the Springfield district when the first Republican ticket,
Fremont and Dayton, was placed in the field. Governor Bissell, Governor
Yates and Governor Oglesby successively appointed him Bank Commissioner
of Illinois. His talents were recognized and his friendship was sought
by many of the most eminent men in the nation. Garrison stopped for
weeks at his home; Theodore Parker was his guest; Horace Greeley was his
devoted friend, and Charles Sumner was his friend and correspondent.

When Lincoln and Herndon were first thrown into each other's society,
Lincoln's mind was dwelling, for the most part, in the theological (or
rather anti-theological) world, while Herndon's found a most congenial
habitation in the world of politics. They were destined to exercise
an important influence in molding each other's characters. Herndon was
indebted chiefly to Lincoln for the religious views he entertained,
while Lincoln was indebted mainly to Herndon for the political
principles which he finally espoused. Colonel Lamon, in his "Life of
Lincoln," gives the following truthful sketch of the character of the
man whom Lincoln made a Deist, and who in turn made an Abolitionist of
Lincoln. Alluding to the Abolitionists of Illinois, as they appeared in
1854, when Lincoln took his stand on the side of freedom, Lamon says:

"Chief among them was Owen Lovejoy; and second to him, if second to any,
was William H. Herndon. But the position of this latter gentleman
was one of singular embarrassment. According to himself, he was an
Abolitionist 'some time before he was born,' and hitherto he had made
his 'calling and election sure' by every word and act of a life devoted
to political philanthropy and disinterested political labors. While the
two great national parties divided the suffrages of the people, North
and South, everything in his eyes was dead. He detested the bargains by
which those parties were in the habit of composing sectional troubles,
and sacrificing the principle of freedom. When the Whig party paid its
breath to time, he looked upon its last agonies as but another instance
of divine retribution. He had no patience with time-servers, and
regarded with indignant contempt the policy which would postpone
the natural rights of an enslaved race to the success of parties and
politicians. He stood by at the sacrifice of the Whig party in Illinois
with the spirit of Paul when he held the clothes of them that stoned
Stephen. He believed it was for the best, and hoped to see a new party
rise in its place, great in the fervor of its faith, and animated by
the spirit of Wilberforce, Garrison, and the Lovejoys. He was a fierce
zealot, and gloried proudly in his title of 'fanatic;' for it was his
conviction that fanatics were at all times the salt of the earth, with
power to save it from the blight that follows the wickedness of men. He
believed in a God, but it was the God of Nature--the God of Socrates and
Plato, as well as the God of Jacob. He believed in a Bible, but it
was the open scroll of the universe; and in a religion clear and well
defined, but it was a religion that scorned what he deemed the narrow
slavery of verbal inspiration. Hot-blooded, impulsive, brave, morally
and physically, careless of consequences when moved by a sense of
individual duty, he was the very man to receive into his inmost heart
the precepts of Mr. Seward's 'higher law'" (Life of Lincoln, pp. 350,

His literary abilities, both as a speaker and as a writer, were of a
high order. He had written a meritorious work on Mental Philosophy,
and a "Life of Lincoln," which had just been published when he died. In
addition to numerous addresses upon historical, economical, and other
subjects he prepared and delivered several able and interesting lectures
on Lincoln: "Abraham Lincoln and Ann Rutledge," a beautiful and touching
representation of that pathetic and romantic love episode which forms
one of the saddest chapters in Lincoln's history; "The Analysis of
Lincoln's Character," which appears in the "Lincoln Memorial Album," and
"Lincoln's Religion," which was published in the _State Register_, of
Springfield, Ill.

Carpenter, and in fact nearly every writer on Lincoln, has made free use
of Herndon's writings. Carpenter declares that his "masterly 'Analysis
of Lincoln's Character' has scarcely an equal in the annals of
biographical literature." Both Holland and Lamon acknowledge that they
were more deeply indebted to him in the preparation of their respective
works than to any other person. The Petersburg _Democrat_, published in
Menard county, where Lincoln spent the first years of his manhood, says:
"Mr. Herndon was the law partner of Mr. Lincoln from 1843 to 1860, and
knew his inner life better than any other man." The Sangamon county
_Monitor_, of Springfield, where Lincoln lived for a quarter of a
century, says: "Herndon knew Lincoln's views better than any man in
America." Judge David Davis, the lifelong friend of Lincoln, in whose
court both Lincoln and Herndon practiced for years, declared that
Herndon knew more about Lincoln's religion than any other man.

In this chapter will be reproduced the evidence of Mr. Herndon that has
already been made public.

The first elaborate exposition of Lincoln's Free-thought views was made
in 1870, in what is known as the "Abbott Letter," an article which Mr.
Herndon by request contributed to the _Index_, a paper then published at
Toledo, O., and edited by Francis E. Abbott. The article was extensively
copied and commented upon, and produced a profound sensation in the
religious world, which, to a great extent, had been misled by such
writers as Holland. The first and more important part of Mr. Herndon's
article will now be presented:

"Mr. Abbott: Some time since I promised you that I would send a letter
in relation to Mr. Lincoln's religion. I do so now. Before entering on
that question, one or two preliminary remarks will help us to understand
why he disagreed with the Christian world in its principles as well as
in its theology. In the first place, Mr. Lincoln's mind was a purely
logical mind; secondly, Mr. Lincoln was a purely practical man. He
had no fancy or imagination, and not much emotion. He was a realist
as opposed to an idealist. As a general rule, it is true that a purely
logical mind has not much hope, if it ever has faith in the unseen and
unknown. Mr. Lincoln had not much hope and no faith in things that
lie outside of the domain of demonstration; he was so constituted, so
organized, that he could believe nothing unless his senses or logic
could reach it. I have often read to him a law point, a decision, or
something I fancied. He could not understand it until he took the
book out of my hand, and read the thing for himself. He was terribly,
vexatiously skeptical. He could scarcely understand anything, unless he
had time and place fixed in his mind.

"I became acquainted with Mr. Lincoln in 1834, and I think I knew him
well to the day of his death. His mind, when a boy in Kentucky, showed a
certain gloom, an unsocial nature, a peculiar abstractedness, a bold and
daring skepticism. In Indiana, from 1817 to 1830, it manifested the same
qualities or attributes as in Kentucky: it only intensified, developed
itself, along those lines in Indiana. He came to Illinois in 1830, and,
after some little roving, settled in New Salem, now in Menard county
and state of Illinois. This village lies about twenty miles northwest of
this city. It was here that Mr. Lincoln became acquainted with a class
of men the world never saw the like of before or since. They were large
men--large in body and large in mind; hard to whip and never to be
fooled. They were a bold, daring, and reckless sort of men; they were
men of their own minds--believed what was demonstrable; were men of
great common sense. With these men Mr. Lincoln was thrown; with them
he lived, and with them he moved and almost had his being. They were
skeptics all--scoffers some. These scoffers were good men, and their
scoffs were protests against theology--loud protests against the follies
of Christianity. They had never heard of Theism and the newer and better
religious thoughts of this age. Hence, being natural skeptics, and being
bold, brave men, they uttered their thoughts freely. They declared
that Jesus was an illegitimate child. They were on all occasions, when
opportunity offered, debating the various questions of Christianity
among themselves. They took their stand on common sense and on their
own souls; and, though their arguments were rude and rough, no man
could overthrow their homely logic. They riddled all divines, and not
unfrequently made them skeptics, disbelievers as bad as themselves.
They were a jovial, healthful, generous, social, true, and manly set of
people. It was here and among these people that Mr. Lincoln was thrown.
About the year 1834 he chanced to come across Volney's 'Ruins' and
some of Paine's theological works. He at once seized hold of them, and
assimilated them into his own being. Volney and Paine became a part of
Mr. Lincoln from 1834 to the end of his life. "In 1835 he wrote out a
small work on Infidelity, and intended to have it published. This book
was an attack upon the whole grounds of Christianity, and especially
was it an attack upon the idea that Jesus was the Christ, the true and
only-begotten son of God, as the Christian world contends. Mr. Lincoln
was at that time in New Salem, keeping store for Mr. Samuel Hill,
a merchant and postmaster of that place. Lincoln and Hill were very
friendly. Hill, I think, was a skeptic at this time. Lincoln, one day
after the book was finished, read it to Mr. Hill, his good friend. Hill
tried to persuade him not to make it public, not to publish it. Hill
at that time saw in Mr. Lincoln a rising man, and wished him success.
Lincoln refused to destroy it--said it should be published. Hill
swore it should never see light of day. He had an eye on Lincoln's
popularity--his present and future success; and believing that if the
book was published it would kill Lincoln forever, he snatched it from
Lincoln's hand when Lincoln was not expecting it, and ran it into
an old-fashioned tinplate stove, heated as hot as a furnace; and so
Lincoln's book went up to the clouds in smoke. It is confessed by all
who heard parts of it that it was at once able and eloquent; and, if I
may judge of it from Mr. Lincoln's subsequent ideas and opinions, often
expressed to me and to others in my presence, it was able, strong,
plain, and fair. His argument was grounded on the internal mistakes of
the Old and New Testaments, and on reason and on the experiences and
observations of men. The criticisms from internal defects were sharp,
strong, and manly.

"Mr. Lincoln moved to this city in 1837, and here became acquainted
with various men of his own way of thinking. At that time they called
themselves Freethinkers, or free thinking men. I remember all these
things distinctly; for I was with them, heard them, and was one of them.
Mr. Lincoln here found other works--Hume, Gibbon, and others--and drank
them in. He made no secret of his views; no concealment of his religion.
He boldly avowed himself an Infidel.

"When Mr. Lincoln was a candidate for our Legislature, he was accused
of being an Infidel and of having said that Jesus Christ was an
illegitimate child. He never denied his opinions nor flinched from his
religious views. He was a true man, and yet it may be truthfully said
that in 1837 his religion was low indeed. In his moments of gloom he
would doubt, if he did not sometimes deny, God.

"Mr. Lincoln ran for Congress against the Rev. Peter Cartwright in the
year 1846. In that contest he was accused of being an Infidel, if not
an Atheist. He never denied the charge--would not--'would die first.'
In the first place, because he knew it could and would be proved on him;
and in the second place, he was too true to his own convictions, to his
own soul, to deny it.

"When Mr. Lincoln left this city for Washington, I knew he had undergone
no change in his religious opinions or views. He held many of the
Christian ideas in abhorrence, and among them there was this one,
namely, that God would forgive the sinner for a violation of his laws.
Lincoln maintained that God could not forgive; that punishment has to
follow the sin; that Christianity was wrong in teaching forgiveness.

"From what I know of Mr. Lincoln, and from what I have heard and
verily believe, I can say, first, that he did not believe in a special
creation, his idea being that all creation was an evolution under
law; secondly, that he did not believe that the Bible was a special
revelation from God, as the Christian world contends; thirdly, he
did not believe in miracles as understood by Christians; fourthly, he
believed in universal inspiration and miracles under law; fifthly,
he did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the son of God, as the
Christian church contends; sixthly, he believed that all things,
both matter and mind, were governed by laws, universal, absolute, and
eternal. All his speeches and remarks in Washington conclusively prove
this. Law was to Lincoln everything, and special interferences, shams
and delusions."

In 1874 Mr. Herndon delivered in Springfield a lecture on "Lincoln's
Religion." It was a reply to Reed's lecture, and was published in the
_State Register_, of Springfield. In this lecture he reaffirms the
statements made in the "Abbott Letter," supports them with substantial
arguments and proofs, and completely overthrows the claims advanced by
Reed. From it I quote the following:

"It is a curious fact that when any man by his genius, good fortune,
or otherwise rises to public notice and to fame, it does not make much
difference what life he has led, that the whole Christian world claims
him as a Christian, to be forever held up to view as a hero and a saint
during all the coming ages, just as if religion would die out of the
soul of man unless the great dead be canonized as a model Christian.
This is a species of hero or saint worship. Lincoln they are determined
to enthrone among the saints, to be forever worshiped as such."

"I believe that Mr. Lincoln did not late in life become a firm believer
in the Christian religion. What! Mr. Lincoln discard his logical
faculties and reason with his heart? What! Mr. Lincoln believe that
Jesus was the Christ of God, the true and only begotten son of him, as
the Christian creed contends? What! Mr. Lincoln believe that the New
Testament is of special divine authority, and fully and infallibly
inspired, as the Christian contends? What! Mr. Lincoln abandon his
lifelong ideas of universal, eternal and absolute laws and contend that
the New Testament is any more inspired than Homer's poems, than Milton's
'Paradise Lost,' than Shakspere, than his own eloquent and inspired
oration at Gettysburg? What! Mr. Lincoln believe that the great Creator
had connection through the form and instrumentality of a shadow with a
Jewish girl? Blasphemy! These things must be believed and acknowledged
in order to be a Christian."

"One word concerning this discussion about Mr. Lincoln's religious
views. It is important in this: 1. It settles a historic fact. 2. It
makes it possible to write a true history of a man free from the fear
of fire and stake. 3. It assures the reading public that the life of Mr.
Lincoln will be truly written. 4. It will be a warning forever to all
untrue men, that the life they have lived will be held up to view. 5. It
should convince the Christian pulpit and press that it is impossible in
this day and generation, at least in America, to daub up sin, and make
a hero out of a fool, a knave, or a villain, which Mr. Lincoln was not.
Some true spirit will drag the fraud and lie out to the light of day. 6.
Its tendency will be to arrest and put a stop to romantic biographies.
And now let it be written in history, and on Mr. Lincoln's tomb: 'He
died an unbeliever.'"

In January, 1883, Mr. Herndon contributed an article on "Lincoln's
Religion" to the _Liberal Age_, of Milwaukee. From this article the
following extracts are taken and submitted:

"In 1837, Mr. Lincoln moved to the city of Springfield, and there came
across many people of his own belief. They called themselves at that
time Freethinkers. Some of these men were highly educated and polished
gentlemen. Mr. Lincoln read in this city Hume, Gibbon, and other
Liberal books. He was in this city from 1837 to 1861, an
Infidel--Freethinker--Liberal--Free Religionist--of the radical type."

"In his philosophy, he was a realist, as opposed to an idealist; he was
a sensationalist, as opposed to an intuitionalist; and was a materialist
as opposed to a spiritualist."

"Some good men and women say that Mr. Lincoln was a Christian, because
he was a moral man. They say that he was a _rational_ Christian, because
he loved morality. Do not other people, who are not Christians, love
morality? Morality is not _the_ test of Christianity, by any means.
If it is the test, then all moral men, Atheists, Agnostics, Infidels,
Mohammedans, Buddhists, Mormons, and the rest, are Christians. A
_rational_ Christian is an anomaly, an impossibility; because when
reason is left free, it demands proofs--it relies on experience,
observation, logic, nature, laws. Why not call Mr. Lincoln a rational
Buddhist, a rational Mohammedan, a rational Confucian, a rational
Mormon, for all these, if true to their faith, love morality."

"Did Mr. Lincoln believe in prayer as a means of moving God? It is said
to me by Christians, touching his religion: 'Did not he, in his parting
speech in Springfield, in 1861, say, "I hope you, my friends, will
pray that I may receive," etc.?' and to which I say, yes. In his last
Inaugural he said: 'Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray.' These
expressions are merely conventional. They do not prove that Mr. Lincoln
believed that prayer is a means of moving God.... He believed, as I
understood him, that human prayer did the prayer good; that prayer
was but a drum beat--the taps of the spirit on the living human soul,
arousing it to acts of repentance for bad deeds done, or to inspire it
to a loftier and a higher effort for a nobler and a grander life."

"Did Mr. Lincoln, in his said Inaugural, say: 'Both read the same _Word
of God?_' No, because that would be admitting revelation. He said: 'Both
read the same _Bible_' Did Mr. Lincoln say: 'Yet if God wills that
it [the war] continue till all the wealth piled by the bondman's two
hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until
every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid with another drawn
by the sword, _as was said by God_ three thousand years ago?' He did
not; he was cautious, and said: 'As was said_ three thousand years ago_.'
Jove never nods."

A little later Mr. Herndon wrote an article entitled, "Abraham Lincoln's
Religious Belief," which appeared in the _Truth Seeker_ of New York.
From this article I quote the following passages:

"In 1842 I heard Mr. Lincoln deliver a speech before the Washingtonian
Temperance Society, of this city.... He scored the Christians for the
position they had taken. He said in that lecture this: 'If they [the
Christians] believe, as they profess--that Omnipotence condescended
to take on himself the form of sinful man,' etc. This was spoken with
energy. He scornfully and contemptuously emphasized the words _as they
profess_. The rebuke was as much in the manner of utterance as in
the substance of what was said. I heard the criticisms of some of
the Christians that night. They said the speech was an insult and an

"It is my opinion that no man ever heard Mr. Lincoln pray, in the true
evangelical sense of that word. His philosophy is against all human
prayer, as a means of reversing God's decrees."

"He has told me often that there was no freedom in the human will, and
no punishment beyond this world. He denied God's higher law, and wrote
on the margin of a newspaper to his friends in the Chicago convention
in 1860, this: 'Lincoln agrees with Seward in his irrepressible-conflict
idea; but he is opposed to Seward's _higher law_' This paper was handed
to Judge Davis, Judge Logan, and other friends."

"Mr. Lincoln and a minister, whose name is kept in the dark, had a
conversation about religion. It appears that Mr. Lincoln said that when
his son--bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, and blood of his own
heart--died, though a severe affliction, it did not arouse him to think
of Christ; but when he saw the graves of so many soldiers--strangers to
him--... that sad sight aroused him to love Jesus.... It is a fine thing
for the reputation of the 'Illinois Clergyman' that his name is to the
world unknown. It is a most heartless thing, this supposed conversation
of Lincoln with the Illinois clergyman. What! Lincoln feel more for the
_graves_ of strangers than for the death of his once living, loving, and
lovable son, now dead, moldering to ashes in the silent tomb! The charge
is barbarous. To make Lincoln a lover of Jesus, whom he once ridiculed,
this minister makes him a savage." "I wish to give an illustration
of the uncertainty and unreliability of those loose things that float
around in the newspapers of the day, and how liable things are to be
inaccurate--so made even by the best of men. Mr. Lincoln on the morning
he started for Washington to take the oath of office, and be inaugurated
President of this great Republic, gave a short farewell address to his
old friends. It was eloquent and touching. That speech is copied in
Holland's 'Life of Lincoln,' in Arnold's 'Lincoln and Slavery,' and in
Lamon's 'Life of Lincoln,' and no two are exactly alike. If it is hard
to get the exact truth on such an occasion as this, how impossible is it
to get at Mr. Lincoln's sayings which have been written out by men weeks
and months after what he did say have passed by! All these loose and
foolish things that Mr. Lincoln is supposed to have said are like the
cords of driftwood, floating on the bosom of the great Mississippi, down
to the great gulf of--Forgetfulness. Let them go."

Herndon's "Life of Lincoln," is a most important contribution to
biographical literature. It will enable the present and future
generations to become better acquainted with Lincoln the man than with
any other prominent American. The author has performed substantially the
same work for Lincoln that Boswell performed for Johnson; only he has
performed it more faithfully. Political partisans and religious bigots
may condemn the work, but impartial critics are almost unanimous in
their praise of it.

The metropolitan journals of Lincoln's and Hern-don's own state commend
the work. The Chicago Tribune says: "All these loving adherents [of
Lincoln] will hail Herndon's 'Lincoln' with unmixed, unbounded joy." The
Chicago _Times_ says: "Herndon's 'Life' is the best yet written." The
_Inter Ocean_ says that Herndon "knew more of Lincoln's inner life than
any living man." The Chicago _Herald_ says: "It enables one to approach
more closely to the great President." The Chicago _Evening Journal_
says: "It presents a truthful and living picture of the greatest of

The _Nation_ thus refers to it: "The sincerity and honesty of the
biographer appear on every page." The New York _Sun_ says: "The marks of
unflinching veracity are patent in every line." The Washington _Capital_
says that it places "Lincoln before the world as he really was." The
_Commercial Gazette_, of Cincinnati, says: "He describes the life of his
friend Lincoln just as he saw it." The _Morning Call_, of San Francisco,
affirms that it "contains the only true history of the lamented
President." The St. Louis _Republic_ says: "It will do more to shape the
judgment of posterity on Mr. Lincoln's character than all that has been
written or will be hereafter written."

In this work Mr. Herndon states in brief the substance of the articles
already quoted in this chapter. I quote as follows:

"No man had a stronger or firmer faith in Providence--God--than Mr.
Lincoln, but the continued use by him late in life of the word God must
not be interpreted to mean that he believed in a personal God. In 1854
he asked me to erase the word _God_ from a speech which I had written
and read to him for criticism, because my language indicated a personal
God, whereas he insisted that no such personality ever existed" (Life
of Lincoln, pp. 445, 446).

"The world has always insisted on making an orthodox Christian of him,
and to analyze his language or sound his belief is but to break the idol"

"The benevolence of his impulses, the seriousness of his convictions,
and the nobility of his character, are evidences unimpeachable that his
soul was ever filled with the exalted purity and the sublime faith of
natural religion" (Ib.).


     Extracts from Herndon's Letters--The Books Lincoln Read--His
     Philosophy--His Infidelity--Refutation of Christian Claims--
     Attempts to Invalidate Herndon's Testimony--Reed's

In the preceding chapter has been submitted the evidence of Mr. Herndon
that has already been published. In this chapter will be presented some
hitherto unpublished testimony.

The writer corresponded with Mr. Herndon for many years. Much of this
correspondence related to Abraham Lincoln, and no inconsiderable portion
of it to the subject under consideration. Permission was granted by Mr.
Herndon to use such parts of this correspondence as may be deemed of
value. The limits of this work preclude the presentation of much that is
really interesting, but no apology is needed for devoting space to
the following extracts from his letters, written at various intervals
between 1880 and 1890:

"I was the personal friend of Mr. Lincoln from 1834 to the day of his
death. In 1843 we entered into a partnership which was never formally
dissolved. When he became unpopular in this Congressional district
because of his speeches on the Mexican war, I was faithful to him.
When he espoused the antislavery cause and in the eyes of most men had
hopelessly ruined his political prospects, I stood by him, and through
the press defended his course. In these dark hours, by our unity of
sentiment and by political ostracism we were driven to a close and
enduring friendship. You should take it for granted, then, that I knew
Mr. Lincoln well. During all this time, from 1834 to 1862, when I last
saw him, he never intimated to me, either directly or indirectly, that
he had changed his religious opinions. Had he done so--had he let drop
one word or look in that direction, I should have detected it.

"I had an excellent private library, probably the best in the city for
admired books. To this library Mr. Lincoln had, as a matter of course,
full and free access at all times. I purchased such books as Locke,
Kant, Fichte, Lewes; Sir Wm. Hamilton's 'Discussions on Philosophy;'
Spencer's 'First Principles,' 'Social Statics,' etc.; Buckle's 'History
of Civilization,' and Lecky's 'History of Rationalism.' I also possessed
the works of Parker, Paine, Emerson, and Strauss; Gregg's 'Creed of
Christendom,' McNaught on Inspiration, Volney's 'Ruins,' Feuerbach's
'Essence of Christianity,' and other works on Infidelity. Mr. Lincoln
read some of these works. About the year 1843 he borrowed 'The Vestiges
of Creation' of Mr. James W. Keys, of this city, and read it carefully.
He subsequently read the sixth edition of this work, which I loaned him.
Mr. Lincoln had always denied special creation, but from his want
of education he did not know just what to believe. He adopted the
progressive and development theory as taught more or less directly
in that work. He despised speculation, especially in the metaphysical
world. He was purely a practical man. He adopted Locke's notions as his
system of mental philosophy, with some modifications to suit his own
views. He held that reason drew her inferences as to law, etc., from
observation, experience, and reflection on the facts and phenomena
of nature. He was a pure sensationalist, except as above. He was
a materialist in his philosophy. He denied dualism, and at times
immortality in any sense.

"Before I wrote my Abbott letter I diligently searched through Lincoln's
letters, speeches, state papers, etc., to find the word _immortality_,
and I could not find it anywhere except in his letter to his father. The
word _immortality_ appears but once in his writings."

"If he had been asked the plain question, 'Do you _know_ that a God
exists?' he would have said: 'I do _not know_ that a God exists.'"

"At one moment of his life I know that he was an Atheist. I was
preparing a speech on Kansas, and in it, like nearly all reformers, I
invoked _God_. He made me wipe out that word and substitute the word
_Maker_, affirming that said Maker was a principle of the universe. When
he went to Washington he did the same to a friend there."

"Mr. Lincoln told me, over and over, that man has no freedom of will,
or, as he termed it, 'No man has a freedom of mind.' He was in one sense
a fatalist, and so died. He believed that he was under the thumb of
Providence (which to him was but another name for fate). The longer he
lived the more firmly he believed it, and hence his invocations of God.
But these invocations are no evidence to a rational mind that he adopted
the blasphemy that God seduced his own daughter, begat a son on purpose
to have mankind kill him, in order that he, God, might become reconciled
to his own mistakes, according to the Christian view."

"Lincoln would wait patiently on the flow and logic of events. He
believed that conditions make the man and not man the conditions. Under
his own hand he says: 'I attempt no compliment to my own sagacity. I
claim not to have controled events, but confess plainly that events have
controled me.' He believed in the supreme reign of law. This law
_fated_ things, as he would express it. Now, how could a man be a
Christian--could believe that Jesus Christ was God--could believe in the
efficacy of prayer--and entertain such a belief?"

"He did not believe in the efficacy of prayer, although he used
that conventional language. He said in Washington, 'God has his own
purposes.' If God has his own purposes, then prayer will not change
God's purposes."

"I have often said to you, and now repeat it, that Lincoln was a
scientific Materialist, i.e., that this was his tendency as opposed
to the Spiritualistic idea. Lincoln always contended that general and
universal laws ruled the universe--always did--do now--and ever will. He
was an Agnostic generally, sometimes an Atheist."

"That Mr. Lincoln was an Infidel from 1834 to 1861, I know, and that
he remained one to the day of his death, I honestly believe. I always
understood that he was an Infidel, sometimes bordering on Atheism. I
never saw any change in the man, and the change could not have escaped
my observation had it happened."

"Lincoln's task was a terrible one. When he took the oath of office his
soul was bent on securing harmony among all the people of the North, and
so he chose for his Cabinet officers his opponents for the Presidential
candidacy in order and as a means of creating a united North. He let all
parties, professions, and callings have their way where their wishes did
not cut across his own. He was apparently pliant and supple. He ruled
men when men thought they were ruling him. He often said to me that the
Christian religion was a dangerous element to deal with when aroused. He
saw in the Kansas affairs--in the whole history of slavery, in fact--its
rigor and encroachments, that Christianity was aroused. It must be
controled, and that in the right direction. Hence he bent to it, fed
it, and kept it within bounds, well knowing that it would crush his
administration to atoms unless appeased. His oft and oft invocations
of God, his conversations with Christians, his apparent respect for
Christianity, etc., were all means to an end. And yet sometimes he
showed that he hated its nasal whines."

"A gentleman of veracity in Washington told me this story and vouched
for its truthfulness: 'A tall saddle-faced man,' said he, 'came
to Washington to pray with Lincoln, having declared this to be his
intention at the hotel About 10 o'clock A.M. the bloodless man, dressed
in black with white cravat, went to the White House, sent in his card,
and was admitted. Lincoln glanced at the man and knew his motives in an
instant. He said to him angrily: "What, have you, too, come to
torment me with your prayers?" The man was squelched--said, "No, Mr.
Lincoln"--lied out and out. Lincoln spoiled those prayers.'"

"Mr. Lincoln was thought to be understood by the mob. But what a
delusion! He was one of the most reticent men that ever lived. All of
us--Stuart, Speed, Logan, Matheny, myself, and others, had to guess at
much of the man. He was a mystery to the world--a sphinx to most men.
One peculiarity of Mr. Lincoln was his irritability when anyone tried to
peep into his own mind's laboratory. Considering all this, what can
be thought of the stories about what he is said to have confided to
strangers in regard to his religion?"

"Not one of Lincoln's old acquaintances in this city ever heard of his
conversion to Christianity by Dr. Smith or anyone else. It was never
suggested nor thought of here until after his death."

"I never saw him read a second of time in Dr. Smith's book on
Infidelity. He threw it down upon our table--spit upon it as it
were--and never opened it to my knowledge."

"My opinion is, from what I have heard and know, that these men--Gurley
and Simpson--refused to be a party to a fraud on the public touching
Lincoln's religion. I think that they understood each other the day that
the remains of Lincoln were put to rest."

"Holland came into my office, in 1865, and asked me this question: 'What
about Mr. Lincoln's Christianity?' To this, I replied: 'The less said
about it the better.' Holland then said to me, 'Oh, never mind, I'll fix
that,' and went over to Bateman and had it fixed."

"Lincoln never revealed to Judge Davis, Judge Matheny, Joshua F. Speed,
Joseph Gillespie, nor myself that he was a Christian, or that he had
a change of heart, or anything like it, at any time. Now, taking into
consideration the fact that he was one of the most non-communicative of
men--that Bateman was, as it were, a mere stranger to him--that Bateman
was frightened, excited, conscience-smitten when I approached him on the
subject, and that in after years he confessed to me that his notes
in Holland's 'Life of Lincoln' _were colored_--taking all this into
consideration, I say, can you believe Bateman's story to be true?"

"I see quoted frequently a supposed speech made by Mr. Lincoln to the
colored people of Baltimore, on the presentation, of a Bible to him.
This supposed speech contains the following: 'All the good from the
Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book.' This idea
is false and foolish. What becomes of nine-tenths of the life of Jesus
of which we have no history--nine-tenths of the great facts of this
grand man's life not recorded in this book? Mr. Lincoln was full and
exact in his language. He never used the word Savior, unless in a
conventional sense; in fact, he never used the word at all. Again, he is
made to say: 'But for this book we could not know right from wrong.' The
lowest organized life, I was about to say, knows right from wrong in its
particular sphere. Every good dog that comes into possession of a bone,
knows that that bone belongs to him, and he knows that it is wrong
for another dog to rob him of it. He protests with bristling hair and
glistening teeth against such dog robbery. It requires no revelation to
teach him right from wrong in the dog world; yet it requires a special
revelation from God to teach us right from wrong in the human world.
According to this speech, the dog has the advantage. But Mr. Lincoln
never uttered such nonsense."

"I do think that anyone who knew Mr. Lincoln--his history--his
philosophy--his opinions--and still asserts that he was a Christian,
is an unbounded falsifier. I hate to speak thus plainly, but I cannot
respect an untruthful man."

"Let me ask the Christian claimant a few questions. Do you mean to say,
when you assert that Mr. Lincoln was a Christian, that he believed that
Jesus was the Christ of God, as the evangelical world contends? If so,
where do you get your information? Do you mean to say that Mr. Lincoln
was a converted man and that he so declared? If so, where, when, and
before whom did he declare or reveal it? Do you mean to say that Mr.
Lincoln joined a church? If so, what church did he join, and when did
he join it? Do you mean to say that Mr. Lincoln was a secret Christian,
acting under the cloak of the devil to advance Christianity? If so,
what is your authority? If you will tell me when it was that the Creator
caught with his almighty arms, Abraham, and held him fast while he
poured the oil of grace on his rebellious soul, then I will know-when it
was that he was converted from his Infidel views to Christianity."

"The best evidence this side of Lincoln's own written statement that he
was an Infidel, if not an Atheist, as claimed by some, is the fact that
he never mentions the name of Jesus. If he was a Christian it could be
proved by his letters and speeches. That man is a poor defender of
a principle, of a person, or of a thing, who never mentions that
principle, person, or thing. I have never seen the name of Jesus
mentioned by Mr. Lincoln."

"Mr. Lincoln never mentioned the name of Christ in his letters and
speeches as a Christian. I have searched for such evidence, but could
not find it. I have had others search, but they could not find it. This
dead silence on the part of Mr. Lincoln is overwhelming proof that he
was an unbeliever."

"While Lincoln frequently, in a conventional way, appeals to God,
he never appeals to Christ nor mentions him. I know that he at first
maintained that Jesus was a bastard, and later that he was the son of
Joseph and not of God."

"Lincoln was not a Christian in any sense other than that he lived
a good life and was a noble man. If a good life constitutes one a
Christian, then Mill and a million other men who repudiated and denied
Christianity were Christians, for they lived good and noble lives."

"If Mr. Lincoln changed his religious views he owed it to me to warn me,
as he above all other men caused me to be an unbeliever. He said nothing
to me, intimated nothing to me, either directly or indirectly. He
owed this debt to many young men whom he had led astray, if astray the
Christian calls it. I know of two young men of promise, now dead
and gone--gone into endless misery, according to the evangelical
creed--caused by Mr. Lincoln's teachings. I know some of the living
here, men in prominent positions of life, who were made unbelievers by

"One by one, these apocryphal stories go by the board. Courageous and
remorseless criticism will wipe out all these things. There will not be
a vestige of them in fifty years to laugh at or to weep at."

Mr. Herndon's testimony, even in the absence of all other evidence, is
conclusive. This was recognized by the Christian claimants after the
appearance of his "Abbott Letter." They employed various measures to
break the force of his testimony by trying to induce him either to
retract or modify his statements. But they were not successful. He
was not to be coaxed, he was not to be purchased, he was not to be
intimidated. He had stated the truth and by the truth he proposed to
stand. Foiled in these efforts, their last resort was to destroy his
credibility as a witness by destroying his character. The most brazen
falsehoods were invented and the most cruel calumnies circulated in
order to crush him. Some of these stated that he was a drunkard, others
that he was a pauper, and still others that he had become insane.

These defamatory statements were usually first noticed in some religious
paper or periodical. From this they were naturally copied into the
secular papers and sent broadcast over the land. Journalists who
had once known Mr. Herndon, either personally or by reputation, were
surprised and shocked at the announcements, and wrote articles like the
following which appeared in a Kansas paper:

"Bill Herndon is a pauper in Springfield, Ill. He was once worth
considerable property. His mind was the most argumentative of any of the
old lawyers in the state, and his memory was extraordinary.

"For several years before Lincoln was nominated for the Presidency,
Herndon was in some respects the most active member of the firm,
preparing the greatest number of cases for trial and making elaborate
arguments in their behalf. It is said that he worked hard with Lincoln
in preparing the memorable speeches delivered by the man who afterward
became President, during the debates between Lincoln and Douglas in
1858, and in constructing the Cooper Institute address delivered by
Lincoln a short time before the war. Herndon, with all his attainments,
was a man who now and then went on a spree. This habit became worse
after Lincoln's death, and, like poor Dick Yates, he went down step
by step till his old friends and associates point to him as a common

I was in Springfield the very week that this article was published, and
passed a day with Mr. Herndon at his home. I was prepared to testify,
as all his neighbors were, that the charges it contained, together with
others that were being circulated, were false. I knew that he still
possessed a sound and vigorous intellect; I knew that he was in
comfortable circumstances financially; I knew that he was an earnest
advocate of temperance, and that he practiced what he preached; in
short, I knew him to be a man of pure morals and exemplary character. At
the very time that he was declared to be an inmate of the insane asylum,
the Old Settlers' Society selected him to examine and report upon the
correctness of the "History of Sangamon County," which, as it included
a history of the capital of the state where, at one time or another,
had resided a majority of Illinois's most gifted sons, was an important
work, and one whose revision would not likely be intrusted to a
lunatic. At the very time that he was said to be a pauper in the county
poorhouse, he was entertaining such distinguished guests as William
Lloyd Garrison. At the very time that he was reported to be a common
drunkard, his neighbors had just appointed him guardian of the
educational interests of their children.

All efforts to trace these slanders to their source and discover their
author proved futile until 1880, when the writer of this saw in an Ohio
paper an article on Lincoln, in which was quoted a portion of a letter
which the contributor of the article stated had just been received from
the Rev. J. A. Reed, of Springfield. It related wholly to Mr. Herndon,
and did not contain one fair, truthful statement. In thirty brief lines
were concentrated, in addition to several statements calculated and
intended to deceive, no less than sixteen deliberate falsehoods, some of
them of the most cruel and infamous character. It was evident that Reed
had intended that the substance of his letter should be given to the
public without disclosing its authorship. But, thanks to the innocent
credulity and indiscreetness of the friend to whom it was sent, the
defamer was discovered and exposed. And this sneaking, cowardly assassin
was the "defender of Lincoln's Christian faith!" Could the inanimate
remains of Abraham Lincoln have been revivified when this exposure was
made, he would have arisen from his mausoleum at Oak Bidge, have come
into the city, and have kicked this pretended "defender," this base
calumniator of his beloved friend and associate, out of Springfield.

The cause of all the vituperation which for years had been heaped upon
Mr. Herndon was now apparent. He had replied to Reed's lecture, and
openly, honestly, and courteously, but effectively, refuted it; and
because the latter could not come forward with a successful rejoinder,
he was thus heartlessly and covertly plunging a dagger into the
reputation of his chivalrous opponent.

The intercession of friends secured for the culprit immunity from
arrest for libel, but in the newspapers of his city he received such
a castigation as he will not soon forget. The _Daily Monitor_, in an
editorial replying to the slanders that were being circulated concerning
Mr. Herndon, said:

"Mr. Herndon is not a pauper, is not a drunkard; whisky did not ruin
him, and, in a word, the whole thing is a lie. Mr. Herndon lives on his
farm near this city. He is a great admirer of nature, loves flowers,
and spends his whole time on the farm, except when doing his trading,
or coming into the city to see his children and grandchildren. He don't
drink, he don't chew tobacco, he don't gamble, he is honorable and
truthful, and he is highly respected by his fellow-citizens. He is a
great reader, a great thinker, loves his neighbors and his neighbors
love him. He has a great, big, kind heart for his fellow-man in
distress, and, while never worth 'considerable property,' he has always
had enough for his generous purposes. Just why this thing should be
allowed we are at a loss to know, and have waited to see if some of
those who profess so much of the Christ-like in their composition would
not have enough of the man-like to be men, and not allow a good and true
man as Mr. Herndon is to be thus infamously maligned and belied by those
whose works in the salvation of men would have more effect if more akin
to Christ in practice."

After a life of honest toil, much of it in behalf of the poor and the
weak, without reward and without the expectation of reward, to be in his
old age thus shamefully robbed of his good name, was an outrage almost
without a parallel, save in the treatment received by Thomas Paine. That
Mr. Herndon was keenly sensitive to this great wrong is disclosed by the
tone of his letters written at the time. In one he says: "I have done
nothing in the spirit of self-laudation. I prefer moving down the
grooves of time unnoticed and unknown, except to friends. I have no
ambition for fame or money. My ambition is to try to do good. I spent
ten or more years of my best life for the negro, liberty, and union,
not forgetting Kansas and her brave people. But let it all go; I make no
complaint. I try to live a moral and a manly life, love my fellow man,
love freedom, love justice, and would die for the eternal right."

As an index of public sentiment in the community where the defamed and
the defamer resided, I will state two facts. On a pleasant September
evening, in 1882, I attended Dr. Reed's church in Springfield. In that
commodious edifice, built to accommodate an audience of nearly one
thousand, I found assembled to listen to this renowned "defender of
Lincoln's Christian faith," an audience of forty-four persons. About
the same time, in the published report of a public meeting held near
Springfield, appeared the following: "Five thousand people hovered
around the speaker's stand for the purpose of listening to the able,
eloquent, and well-known Hon. W. H. Herndon."

It has been charged that Mr. Herndon's statements concerning Lincoln's
unbelief were inspired by a spirit of revenge in consequence of
Lincoln's not having recognized him with an appointment. This charge and
this assumption are both false. There is now on file at Washington and
at Springfield a telegram from Lincoln tendering him a judgeship, which
he declined.

To know Lincoln was to love him. None knew him better than Mr. Herndon,
and none entertained a deeper affection for his memory. In a letter to
me, dated Nov. 4, 1881, he pays this tribute to his dead friend:

"Some people say that Mr. Lincoln was an ungrateful man. This is not
true, and especially when applied to myself. He was always kind, tender,
and grateful to me--clung to me with hooks of steel. I know that I was
true to him. It is said that no man is great to his valet. If I was Mr.
Lincoln's valet, the rule does not apply in this case, for my opinion of
him is too well known. His was a grand, noble, true, and manly life. He
dreamed dreams of glory, and glory was justly his. He was growing and
expanding to the day of his death. He was slow in his development, but
strong and big when he did come. The last letter which I ever received
from him concluded thus: 'God bless you, says your friend.--_A.
Lincoln_' He felt what he expressed, and in return I say, _God bless you,


     Lamon's "Life of Lincoln"--Lincoln's Early Skepticism--His
     Investigations at New Salem--His Book on Infidelity--His
     Religious Opinions Remain Unchanged--Holland's Condemnation
     of Lamon's Work--Holland's and Lamon's Works Compared.

In 1872, seven years after the President's assassination, appeared the
"Life of Abraham Lincoln," written by Col. Ward H. Lamon. As a faithful
record of the life of one of the most sublime characters in the world's
history, this work stands unrivaled. More accomplished writers have
written biography--have written the biography of Lincoln. But no writer
has ever been more thoroughly informed respecting his subject, and no
writer has ever made a more conscientious use of the information in his
possession than has Colonel Lamon in his "Life of Lincoln." In Illinois
he was the friend and confidant of Lincoln. When the time approached for
Lincoln to take the Executive chair, and the journey from Springfield
to Washington was deemed a dangerous undertaking, to Colonel Lamon
was intrusted the responsible duty of conducting him to the national
capital. During the eventful years that followed, he remained at the
President's side, holding an important official position in the
District of Columbia. When Lincoln died, at the great funeral pageant
in Washington, he led the civic procession, and was, with Major General
Hunter and Judge David Davis, selected to convey the remains to their
final resting-place at Springfield.

The following extract, from the preface to his work, shows what an
inexhaustible mine of materials he had with which to prepare a full and
authentic record of Lincoln's life and character:

"At the time of Mr. Lincoln's death, I determined to write his history,
as I had in my possession much valuable material for such a purpose....
Early in 1869, Mr. Herndon placed at my disposal his remarkable
collection of materials--the richest, rarest, and fullest collection
it was possible to conceive.... Mr. Herndon had been the partner
in business and the intimate personal associate of Mr. Lincoln for
something like a quarter of a century; and Mr. Lincoln had lived
familiarly with several members of his family long before their
individual acquaintance began. New Salem, Springfield, the old judicial
circuit, the habits and friends of Mr. Lincoln, were as well known
to Mr. Herndon as to himself. With these advantages, and from the
numberless facts and hints which had dropped from Mr. Lincoln during the
confidential intercourse of an ordinary lifetime, Mr. Herndon was able
to institute a thorough system of inquiry for every noteworthy
circumstance and every incident of value in Mr. Lincoln's career. The
fruits of Mr. Herndon's labors are garnered in three enormous volumes of
original manuscripts and a mass of unarranged letters and papers. They
comprise the recollections of Mr. Lincoln's nearest friends; of the
surviving members of his family and his family-connections; of the men
still living who knew him and his parents in Kentucky; of his
schoolfellows, neighbors, and acquaintances in Indiana; of the better
part of the whole population of New Salem; of his associates and
relatives at Springfield; and of lawyers, judges, politicians, and
statesmen everywhere, who had anything of interest or moment to relate.
They were collected at vast expense of time, labor, and money, involving
the employment of many agents, long journeys, tedious examinations, and
voluminous correspondence. Upon the value of these materials it would be
impossible to place an estimate. That I have used them conscientiously
and justly is the only merit to which I lay claim."

Lamon's evidence concerning Lincoln's unbelief is complete and
unanswerable. He did not present it because he was himself an unbeliever
and wished to support his views with the prestige of Lincoln's great
name. While the Freethinker regards Lincoln's rejection of Christianity
as in the highest degree meritorious--a proof of his strong logical
acumen, his sterling common sense, and his broad humanity--Lamon
considered it a grave defect in his character. He states the fact
because it is a fact, and because the purpose of his work is to disclose
and not conceal the facts of Lincoln's life. If he devotes considerable
space to the subject, and exhibits a special earnestness in its
presentation, the misrepresentations of Lincoln's Christian biographers
have furnished a reasonable pretext for it.

In the pages immediately following will be given the individual
testimony of Colonel Lamon:

"Any analysis of Mr. Lincoln's character would be defective that did not
include his religious opinions. On such matters he thought deeply, and
his opinions were positive. But perhaps no phase of his character has
been more persistently misrepresented and variously misunderstood, than
this of his religious belief. Not that the conclusive testimony of many
of his intimate associates relative to his frequent expressions on such
subjects has ever been wanting; but his great prominence in the world's
history, and his identification with some of the great questions of our
time, which, by their moral import, were held to be eminently religious
in their character, have led many good people to trace in his motives
and actions similar convictions to those held by themselves. His
extremely general expressions of religious faith called forth by the
grave exigencies of his public life, or indulged in on occasions of
private condolence, have too often been distorted out of relation to
their real significance or meaning to suit the opinions or tickle the
fancies of individuals or parties.

"Mr. Lincoln was never a member of any church, nor did he believe in the
divinity of Christ, or the inspiration of the Scriptures in the sense
understood by evangelical Christians" (Life of Lincoln, p. 486).

Holland and other Christian biographers have represented Lincoln as
a youth of extreme piety, whose constant companion was the Bible. The
concurrent testimony of the friends of his boyhood compels Colonel Lamon
to affirm that the reverse of this is true--that Lincoln, at an early
age, was noted for his skepticism. He says:

"When a boy, he showed no sign of that piety which his many biographers
ascribe to his manhood.... When he went to church at all, he went to
mock, and came away to mimic" (Ibid, pp. 486, 487).

"At an early age he began to attend the 'preachings' roundabout, but
principally at the Pigeon Creek church, with a view to catching whatever
might be ludicrous in the preacher's air or matter, and making it the
subject of mimicry as soon as he could collect an audience of idle boys
and men to hear him. A pious stranger, passing that way on a Sunday
morning, was invited to preach for the Pigeon Creek congregation; but
he banged the boards of the old pulpit, and bellowed and groaned so
wonderfully, that Abe could hardly contain his mirth. This memorable
sermon was a great favorite with him; and he frequently reproduced it
with nasal tones, rolling eyes, and all manner of droll aggravations, to
the great delight of Nat Grigsby and the wild fellows whom Nat was able
to assemble" (lb., p. 55).

"His chronicles were many, and on a great variety of subjects. They
were written, as his early admirers love to tell us, 'in the Scriptural
style;' but those we have betray a very limited acquaintance with the
model" (Ib., p. 63).

Of his Freethought reading and theological investigations at New Salem,
and his book on Infidelity, Lamon says:

"When he came to New Salem, he consorted with Freethinkers, joined with
them in deriding the gospel history of Jesus, read Volney and Paine,
and then wrote a deliberate and labored essay, wherein he reached
conclusions similar to theirs. The essay was burnt, but he never denied
or regretted its composition. On the contrary, he made it the subject
of free and frequent conversations with his friends at Springfield, and
stated, with much particularity and precision, the origin, arguments,
and objects of the work" (lb., p. 487).

"The community in which he lived was preeminently a community of
Freethinkers in matters of religion; and it was then no secret, nor has
it been a secret since, that Mr. Lincoln agreed with the majority of his
associates in denying to the Bible the authority of divine revelation.
It was his honest belief, a belief which it was no reproach to hold
at New Salem, Anno Domini 1834, and one which he never thought of
concealing. It was no distinction, either good or bad, no honor, and no
shame. But he had made himself thoroughly familiar with the writings of
Paine and Volney--the 'Ruins' by the one, and 'The Age of Reason' by
the other. His mind was full of the subject, and he felt an itching to
write. He did write, and the result was a little book. It was probably
merely an extended essay, but it is ambitiously spoken of as 'a book' by
himself and by the persons who were made acquainted with its contents.
In this work he intended to demonstrate--

"'First, that the Bible was not God's revelation;

"'Secondly, that Jesus was not the son of God.'

"No leaf of this little volume has survived. Mr. Lincoln carried it in
manuscript to the store of Mr. Samuel Hill, where it was read and
discussed. Hill was himself an unbeliever, but his son considered his
book 'infamous.' It is more than probable that Hill, being a warm
personal friend of Lincoln feared that the publication of the essay
would some day interfere with the political advancement of his favorite.
At all events, he snatched it out of his hand, and thrust it into the
fire, from which not a shred escaped" (lb., pp. 157, 158).

Colonel Lamon is confident that while Lincoln finally ceased to openly
promulgate his Freethought opinions, he never abandoned them. He says:

"As he grew older, he grew more cautious; and as his New Salem
associates, and the aggressive Deists with whom he originally united
at Springfield, gradually dispersed, or fell away from his side,
he appreciated more and more keenly the violence and extent of the
religious prejudices which freedom in discussion from his standpoint
would be sure to arouse against him. He saw the immense and augmenting
power of the churches, and in times past had practically felt it. The
imputation of Infidelity had seriously injured him in several of his
earlier political contests; and, sobered by age and experience, he was
resolved that that same imputation should injure him no more. Aspiring
to lead religious communities, he foresaw that he must not appear as an
enemy within their gates; aspiring to public honors under the auspices
of a political party which persistently summoned religious people to
assist in the extirpation of that which is denounced as the 'nation's
sin,' he foresaw that he could not ask their suffrages whilst aspersing
their faith. He perceived no reason for changing his convictions, but he
did perceive many good and cogent reasons for not making them public"
(lb., pp. 497, 498).

But he never told anyone that he accepted Jesus as the Christ, or
performed a single one of the acts which necessarily follow upon such a

"At Springfield and at Washington he was beset on the one hand by
political priests, and on the other by honest and prayerful Christians.
He despised the former, respected the latter, and had use for both. He
said with characteristic irreverence that he would not undertake to 'run
the churches by military authority;' but he was, nevertheless, alive to
the importance of letting the churches 'run' themselves in the interest
of his party. Indefinite expressions about 'Divine Providence,' the
'Justice of God,' 'the favor of the Most High,' were easy, and not
inconsistent with his religious notions. In this, accordingly, he
indulged freely; but never in all that time did he let fall from his
lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied the slightest faith
in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men" (Ib., p. 502).

Lamon was Lincoln's intimate and trusted friend at Washington, and had
he changed his belief, his biographer, as well as Noah Brooks and the
Illinois clergyman, would have been in possession of the fact.

In 1851 Lincoln wrote a letter of consolation to his dying father, in
which he counseled him to "confide in our great and good and merciful
Maker." This letter was given to the public by Mr. Herndon, and has been
cited by the orthodox to prove that Lincoln was a believer. Adverting to
this letter Lamon says:

"If ever there was a moment when Mr. Lincoln might have been expected to
express his faith in the atonement, his trust in the merits of a living
Redeemer, it was when he undertook to send a composing and comforting
message to a dying man.... But he omitted it wholly. He did not even
mention the name of Jesus, or intimate the most distant suspicion of the
existence of a Christ" (Ibid., p. 497).

Lincoln's mind was not entirely free from superstition, but though born
and reared in Christendom, the superstitious element in his nature was
not essentially Christian. His fatalistic ideas, so characteristic of
the faith of Islam, have already been mentioned by Mr. Herndon, and are
thus referred to by Colonel Lamon:

"Mr. Lincoln was by no means free from a kind of belief in the
supernatural.... He lived constantly in the serious conviction that he
was himself the subject of a special decree, made by some unknown and
mysterious power, for which he had no name" (Ibid., p. 503).

"His mind was filled with gloomy forebodings and strong apprehensions
of impending evil, mingled with extravagant visions of personal grandeur
and power. His imagination painted a scene just beyond the veil of the
immediate future, gilded with glory yet tarnished with blood. It was
his 'destiny'--splendid but dreadful, fascinating but terrible. His case
bore little resemblance to those of religious enthusiasts like Bunyan,
Cowper, and others. His was more like the delusion of the fatalist
conscious of his star" (Ibid,, p. 475).

When Lamon's work appeared, Holland, backed by the Christian element
generally, fell upon it like a savage and sought, as far as possible,
to suppress it. Lamon had committed an unpardonable offense. He had
declared to the world that Lincoln had died a disbeliever, and, what was
worse, he had proved it. Holland's attack was made in an eight-column
review of Lamon's "Life," which was published in _Scribner's Monthly_,
for August, 1872. In order to give an air of candor and judicial
fairness to his venomous criticisms, he opens with this flattering
recognition of its merits: "It is not difficult to see how Colonel Lamon,
who during Mr. Lincoln's Presidency held an office in the District of
Columbia, which must have brought him into somewhat frequent intercourse
with the President, and who, indeed, had come with him from Springfield
to the Capital, should feel that there rested on him a certain
biographical duty. And certainly he was in possession of a mass of
material so voluminous, so original, and so fresh that in this respect
at least his fitness for the work was remarkably complete. Moreover, Mr.
W. H. Herndon, who was Mr. Lincoln's partner in the practice of the law
at Springfield, and was, of course, closely intimate with his partner
in a business way,... added to Colonel Lamon's material the valuable
documents which he had himself collected, and the memoranda which,
with painstaking and lawyer-like ability, he had recorded from the oral
testimony of living witnesses.

"As far as the story of Mr. Lincoln's childhood and early life is
concerned, down to the time when his political life began, it has never
been told so fully, with such spirit and zest, and with such evident
accuracy, as by Colonel Lamon."

Nearly the entire review is devoted to a denunciation of Lamon's
exposition of Lincoln's religious opinions. He repeatedly pronounces
this "an outrage on decency," and characterizes Lincoln's Free-thought
companions as "heathen," "barbarians," and "savages." The review
concludes as follows:

"The violent and reckless prejudice, and the utter want of delicacy and
even of decency by which the book is characterized, in such instances as
this, will more than counterbalance the value of its new material,
its fresh and vigorous pictures of Western life and manners, and
its familiar knowledge of the 'inside politics' of Mr. Lincoln's
administration, and will even make its publication (by the famous
publishers whose imprint imparts to it a prestige and authority which
its authorship would fail to give) something like a national misfortune.
In some quarters it will be readily received as the standard life of the
good President. It is all the more desirable that the criticism upon it
should be prompt and unsparing."

Christianity must have the support of Lincoln's great name. To secure it
Holland is willing to misrepresent the honest convictions of Lincoln's
lifetime, to traduce the characters of his dearest friends, and to rob a
brother author and a publisher of their just reward.

Lamon states that during the last years of Lincoln's life he ceased to
proclaim his Infidel opinions because they were unpopular. Referring
to this statement, Holland says: "The eagerness with which this volume
strives to cover Mr. Lincoln's memory with an imputation so detestable
is one of the most pitiable exhibitions which we have lately witnessed."

This outburst of righteous indignation, coming from the source it
does, is peculiarly refreshing. To appreciate it, we have only to open
Holland's work, and read such passages as the following: "I am obliged
to appear different to them." "It was one of the peculiarities of Mr.
Lincoln to hide these religious [Christian] experiences from the eyes of
the world." "Who had never in their whole lives heard from his lips one
word of all these religious convictions and experiences." "They [his
friends] did not regard him as a religious man." "All this department of
his life he had kept carefully hidden from them." "There was much of his
conduct that was simply a cover to these thoughts--an effort to conceal
them" (Holland's Life of Lincoln, pp. 239, 240).

Consummate hypocrisy in a Christian is all right with this moralist;
but for a Freethinker to withhold his views from an intolerant religious
world is a detestable crime.

As a biographer of Lincoln, Holland possessed many advantages over
Lamon. His work was written and published immediately after the awful
tragedy, when almost the entire reading public was deeply interested
in everything that pertained to Lincoln's life. So far as Lincoln's
religious views are concerned, he advocated the popular side of the
question; for while those outside of the church cared but little about
the matter, the church desired the influence of his great name, and was
ready to reward those who assisted her in obtaining it. Holland, too,
had an established reputation as an author--had nearly as large a class
of readers as any writer in this country. His name alone was sufficient
to guarantee a large circulation to any book he might produce. Lamon, on
the other hand, possessed but a single advantage over his rival, that of
having the truth on his side. And while "truth is mighty," and will in
the end prevail, yet how often is it "crushed to earth" and for the time
obscured. In view of all this, it is not strange that the public should
be so slow to reject the fictions of Holland and accept the facts of

That Lamon's "Life of Lincoln" is wholly undeserving of adverse
criticism, is not claimed. He has, perhaps, given undue prominence to
some matters connected with Lincoln's private affairs which might with
propriety have been consigned to oblivion. A larger manifestation of
charity, too, for the imperfections of those with whom Lincoln mingled,
especially in the humbler walks of life, would not have detracted from
its merit. And yet, those who desire to know Lincoln as he really
was, should read Lamon rather than Holland. In Lamon's work, Lincoln's
character is a rugged oak, towering above its fellows and clothed in
nature's livery; in Holland's work, it is a dead tree with the bark
taken off, the knots planed down, and varnished.

In the New York _World_ appeared the following just estimate of these
two biographies:

"Mr. Ward H. Lamon is the author of one 'Life of Lincoln,' and Dr. J.
G. Holland is the author of another. Mr. Lamon was the intimate personal
and political friend of Mr. Lincoln, trusting and trusted, from the time
of their joint practice in the Illinois Quarter Sessions to the moment
of Mr. Lincoln's death at Washington. Dr. Holland was nothing to Mr.
Lincoln--neither known nor knowing. Dr. Holland rushed his 'Life' from
the press before the disfigured corpse was fairly out of sight, while
the public mind lingered with horror over the details of the
tragedy, and, excited by morbid curiosity, was willing to pay for its
gratification. Mr. Lamon waited many years, until all adventitious
interest had subsided, and then with incredible labor and pains,
produced a volume founded upon materials which for their fulness,
variety, and seeming authenticity are unrivaled in the history of

"Dr. Holland's single volume professed to cover the whole of Mr.
Lincoln's career. Mr. Lamon's single volume was modestly confined to a
part of it. Dr. Holland's was an easy, graceful, off-hand performance,
having but the one slight demerit of being in all essential particulars
untrue from beginning to end. Mr. Lamon's was a labored, cautious,
and carefully verified narrative which seems to have been accepted by
disinterested critics as entirely authentic.

"Dr. Holland would probably be very much shocked if anybody should
ask him to bear false witness in favor of his neighbor in a court of
justice, but he takes up his pen to make a record which he hopes and
intends shall endure forever, and in that record deliberately bears
false witness in favor of a public man whom he happened to admire, with
no kind of offense to his serene and 'cultured' conscience. If this were
all--if Dr. Holland merely asserted his own right to compose and publish
elaborate fictions on historical subjects--we might comfort ourselves
with the reflection that such literature is likely to be as evanescent
as it is dishonest, and let him pass in silence. But this is not all. He
maintains that it is everybody's duty to help him to deceive the public
and to write down his more conscientious competitor. He turns up the
nose of 'culture' and curls the lip of 'art' at Mr. Lamon's homely
narrative of facts, and gravely insists that all other noses and all
other lips shall be turned up and curled because his are. He implores
the public, which he insulted and gulled with his own book, to damn Mr.
Lamon's, and he puts his request on the very ground that Mr. Lamon has
stupidly gone and narrated undeniable truths, whereby he has demolished
an empty shrine that was profitable to many, and broken a painted idol
that might have served for a god.

"The names of Holland and Lamon are not of themselves and by themselves
illustrious; but starting from the title-pages of the two Lives of
Lincoln, and representing, as they do, the two schools of biography
writers, the one stands for a principle and the other for the want of


     Testimony of Hon. John T. Stuart--Testimony of Col. James
     H. Matheny--Stuart's Disclaimer--Matheny's Disclaimer--
     Examination and Authorship of Disclaimers, Including the
     Edwards and Lewis Letters.

Besides his own testimony concerning Lincoln's unbelief, Colonel Lamon
cites the testimony of ten additional witnesses: Hon. Wm. H. Herndon,
Hon. John T. Stuart, Col. James H. Matheny, Dr. C. H. Ray, Wm. H.
Hannah, Esq, Mr. Jas. W. Keys, Hon. Jesse W. Fell, Col. John G. Nicolay,
Hon. David Davis and Mrs. Mary Lincoln. The testimony of Mr. Herndon
having already been presented, the testimony of Mr. Stuart and Colonel
Matheny will next be given. This testimony was procured by Mr. Herndon
for the purpose of refuting the erroneous statements of Dr. Holland.

Hon. John T. Stuart, who was for a time a member of Congress from
Illinois, was the first law partner of Lincoln. He says:

"Lincoln went further against Christian beliefs and doctrines and
principles than any man I ever heard: he shocked me. I don't remember
the exact line of his argument--suppose it was against the inherent
defects, so called, of the Bible, and on grounds of reason. Lincoln
always denied that Jesus was the Christ of God--denied that Jesus was
the son of God, as understood and maintained by the Christian church.
The Rev. Dr. Smith, who wrote a letter, tried to convert Lincoln
from Infidelity so late as 1858, and couldn't do it" (Lamon's Life of
Lincoln, p. 488).

Col. James H. Matheny was one of Lincoln's most intimate friends, and
was for many years his chief political manager. He testifies as follows:

"I knew Mr. Lincoln as early as 1834-7; know he was an Infidel. He and
W. D. Herndon used to talk Infidelity in the Clerk's office in this
city, about the years 1837-40. Lincoln attacked the Bible and the
New Testament on two grounds: first, from the inherent or apparent
contradictions under its lids; second, from the grounds of reason.
Sometimes he ridiculed the Bible and the New Testament, sometimes seemed
to scoff at it, though I shall not use that word in its full and literal
sense. I never heard that Lincoln changed his views, though his personal
and political friend from 1834 to 1860. Sometimes Lincoln bordered on
Atheism. He went far that way and shocked me. I was then a young man,
and believed what my good mother told me. Stuart and Lincoln's office
was in what is called Hoffman's Row, on North Fifth street, near the
public square. It was in the same building as the Clerk's office, and on
the same floor. Lincoln would come into the Clerk's office, where I and
some young men--Evan Butler, Newton Francis and others--were writing or
staying, and would bring the Bible with him; would read a chapter, argue
against it. Lincoln then had a smattering of geology, if I recollect it.
Lincoln often, if not wholly, was an Atheist; at least, bordered on it.
Lincoln was enthusiastic in his Infidelity. As he grew older, he grew
more discreet, didn't talk much before strangers about his religion; but
to friends, close and bosom ones, he was always open and avowed, fair
and honest; but to strangers, he held them off from policy. Lincoln used
to quote Burns. Burns helped Lincoln to be an Infidel, as I think; at
least he found in Burns a like thinker and feeler.

"From what I know of Mr. Lincoln and his views of Christianity, and from
what I know as honest, well-founded rumor; from what I have heard his
best friends say and regret for years; from what he never denied when
accused, and from what Lincoln has hinted and intimated, to say no
more, he did write a little book on Infidelity, at or near New Salem, in
Menard county, about the year 1834 or 1835. I have stated these things
to you often.

"Judge Logan, John T. Stuart, yourself, know what I know, and some of you

"Mr. Herndon, you insist on knowing something which you know I possess,
and got as a secret, and that is, about Lincoln's little book on
Infidelity. Mr. Lincoln _did_ tell me that he _did write a little book
oil Infidelity_. This statement I have avoided heretofore; but, as you
strongly insist upon it--probably to defend yourself against charges of
misrepresentations--I give it to you as I got it from Lincoln's mouth"
(Life of Lincoln, pp. 487, 488).

The evidence of Stuart and Matheny, as recorded in Lamon's work, having
been presented, it is now proper to state that this evidence has, in
a measure, been repudiated by them. Dr. Reed, in his lecture, produced
letters from them disclaiming in part or modifying the statements
imputed to them. Dr. Reed says: "I have been amazed to find that the
principal persons whose testimony is given in this book to prove that
their old friend lived and died an Infidel, never wrote a word of it,
and never gave it as their opinion or allowed it to be published as
covering their estimate of Mr. Lincoln's life and religious views."
Alluding to Stuart's evidence, he says: "Mr. Lamon has attributed to
Mr. Stuart testimony the most disparaging and damaging to Mr. Lincoln's
character and opinions--testimony which Mr. Stuart utterly repudiates,
both as to language and sentiment." Regarding Matheny's testimony,
he says: "Mr. Matheny testifies that he never wrote a word of what is
attributed to him; that it is not a fair representation of either his
language or his opinions, and that he never would have allowed such an
article to be published as covering his estimate of Mr. Lincoln's life
and character."

The following is the disclaimer of Mr. Stuart:

"Springfield, Dec. 17th, 1872.

"Rev. J. A. Reed:

"Dear Sir--

"My attention has been called to a statement in relation to the
religious opinions of Mr. Lincoln, purporting to have been made by
me, and published in Lamon's 'Life of Lincoln.' The language of that
statement is not mine; it was not written by me, and I did not see it
until it was in print. I was once interviewed on the subject of Mr.
Lincoln's religious opinions, and doubtless said that Mr. Lincoln was in
the earlier part of his life an Infidel. I could not have said that
'Dr. Smith tried to convert Lincoln from Infidelity so late as 1858,
and couldn't do it.' In relation to that point I stated, in the same
conversation, some facts which are 'omitted in that statement, and which
I will briefly repeat. That Eddie, a child of Mr. Lincoln, died in 1848
or 1849, and that he and his wife were in deep grief on the account That
Dr. Smith, then pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Springfield,
at the suggestion of a lady friend of theirs, called upon Mr. and Mrs.
Lincoln, and that first visit resulted in great intimacy and friendship
between them, lasting till the death of Mr. Lincoln, and continuing with
Mrs. Lincoln till the death of Dr. Smith. I stated that I had heard at
the time that Dr. Smith and Mr. Lincoln had much discussion in relation
to the truth of the Christian religion, and that Dr. Smith had furnished
Mr. Lincoln with books to read on that subject, and among others one
which had been written by himself, sometime previous, on Infidelity;
and that Dr. Smith claimed that after this investigation Mr. Lincoln
had changed his opinions, and became a believer in the truth of the
Christian religion; that Mr. Lincoln and myself never conversed upon
that subject, and I had no personal knowledge as to his alleged change
of opinion. I stated, however, that it was certainly true that up
to that time Mr. Lincoln had never regularly attended any place of
religious worship, but that after that time he rented a pew in the First
Presbyterian church, and with his family constantly attended the worship
in that church until he went to Washington as President. This much I
said at the time, and I can now add that the Hon. Ninian W. Edwards, the
brother-in-law of Mr. Lincoln, has, within a few days, informed me that
when Mr. Lincoln commenced attending the First Presbyterian church he
admitted to him that his views had undergone the change claimed by Dr.
Smith. I would further say that Dr. Smith was a man of great ability,
and on theological and metaphysical subjects had few superiors and
not many equals. Truthfulness was a prominent trait in Mr. Lincoln's
character, and it would be impossible for any intimate friend of his
to believe that he ever aimed to deceive, either by his words or his

"Yours truly,

"John T. Stuart."

Col. Matheny's disclaimer is as follows:

"Springfield, Dec. 16th, 1872.

"Rev. J. A. Reed:

"Dear Sir--

"The language attributed to me in Lamon's book is not from my pen. I
did not write it, and it does not express my sentiments of Mr. Lincoln's
entire life and character. It is a mere collection of sayings gathered
from private conversations that were only true of Mr. Lincoln's earlier
life. I would not have allowed such an article to be printed over my
signature as covering my opinion of Mr. Lincoln's life and religious
sentiments. While I do believe Mr. Lincoln to have been an Infidel in
his former life, when his mind was as yet unformed, and his associations
principally with rough and skeptical men, yet I believe he was a very
different man in later life, and that after associating with a different
class of men and investigating the subject, he was a firm believer in
the Christian religion.

"Yours truly,

"Jas. H. Matheny."

This disclosure startles you, my dear reader. But be patient. I will
show you that this apparently mortal thrust of Dr. Reed's was made, not
with a lance, but with a boomerang.

When Reed made his assault upon Lamon's witnesses, all stood firm but
two--two old Springfield politicians whose political aspirations had not
yet become extinct--John T. Stuart and James H. Matheny.

These men had been among the first to testify in regard to Lincoln's
unbelief. His Christian biographers had misrepresented his religious
views; they believed that the fraud ought to be exposed, and they
were ready and willing to aid in the work. Their testimony exhibits a
frankness that is truly commendable. They knew that lying was a vice,
but they did not know that truth-telling was a crime. They had yet
to learn that the church tolerates murder more readily than the
promulgation of a truth that is antagonistic to her creed. But this fact
they were destined to learn. Lamon's work had scarcely been issued
from the press before he was anathematized and his book proscribed. The
merciless attack that had already been commenced upon Herndon portended
danger to them. Nor had they long to wait. In December, 1872, they were
approached by Reed and his coadjutors. They were informed that the idol
which their ruthless iconoclasm had helped to break must be repaired.
They were given to understand that if they repented of the part they had
performed and recanted, peace would be their portion here and endless
bliss hereafter; but that if they did not, endless misery would begin on
Jan. 1, a.d. 1873.

The situation was critical. They did not like to tell the world that
they had borne false witness against the dead, nor did they, any more
than Galileo, wish to wear a martyr's crown. A compromise was finally
effected. It was incidentally ascertained by Reed that their evidence as
presented by Lamon was not originally given in the shape of a letter or
a written statement, but orally. A happy thought suggested itself--one
worthy of the unscrupulous theological pettifogger that he is. The
thought was this: "Say to the public, or rather let me say it for you,
that you did not _write_ a word of the testimony attributed to you."
Just as a witness in court might point to the stenographer's report of
his testimony and say, "I did not write a word of that."

In addition to this, Mr. Stuart, in endeavoring to explain away, as far
as possible, the obnoxious character of his testimony, declared that
some things which he did say at the time his testimony was given had
been omitted; while something he did not say was inserted. They were
both trivial matters, hardly worthy of notice, even if true, and having
no especial bearing upon the case. But they served an admirable
purpose in enabling Reed to say that the testimony adduced by Lamon was
"abridged and distorted."

Stuart's disclaimer, then, divested of its misleading verbiage, contains
but two points. In the first place, he says: "I could not have said that
'Dr. Smith tried to convert Lincoln from Infidelity so late as 1858,
and couldn't do it.'" This sentence, like everything else in these
disclaimers, is cunningly worded and intended to deceive. One would
naturally suppose the idea he intends to convey is that he never
declared that Dr. Smith tried to convert Lincoln and couldn't do it.
This, it has been ascertained, is not his meaning. What he means is
this: "I could not have said that 'Dr. Smith tried to convert Lincoln
from Infidelity, _so late as_ 1858, and couldn't do it.'" His denial
is a mere quibble about a date. He did undoubtedly say just what he is
reported to have said. But admitting a doubt, and giving him the benefit
of this doubt, by throwing out the disputed date, the passage is not
less damaging than it was before: "Dr. Smith tried to convert Lincoln
from Infidelity, and couldn't do it." But let us omit the entire
sentence, and the testimony of Mr. Stuart that remains, about which
there is no dispute, that portion of his testimony which he admits to be
correct--is as follows:

"Lincoln went further against Christian beliefs and doctrines and
principles than any man I ever heard; he shocked me. I don't remember
the exact line of his argument; suppose it was against the inherent
defects, so called, of the Bible, and on grounds of reason. Lincoln
always denied that Jesus was the Christ of God--denied that Jesus was
the Son of God, as understood and maintained by the Christian church."

In the second place, Mr. Stuart complains that the rumors concerning Dr.
Smith's attempted conversion of Lincoln which he had mentioned to Mr.
Herndon at the time of giving his testimony, were omitted. They were,
and very properly, too. Mr. Stuart, or any other good lawyer, would have
omitted them. Mr. Herndon desired him to testify about what he _knew_,
and not about what he had _heard_, especially as he was going to
headquarters in regard to these rumors. He wrote to Dr. Smith himself
about them, received his testimony, and gave it to the public.

Stuart affects to believe that this story, which Ninian Edwards is
dragged around by Reed to verify, may possibly have been true. But in
the same sentence, he refutes this idea, and refutes the claim itself,
by saying: "I had no personal knowledge as to his alleged change of
opinion." Stuart was a family connection of Lincoln, and if Lincoln had
been converted, he, as well as every other person in Springfield, would
have known it.

He states that Dr. Smith's first visit to Lincoln was "at the suggestion
of a lady friend." To have avoided another glaring contradiction in the
evidence of his witnesses, Reed should have had Major Stuart state that
this "lady friend" was Thomas Lewis. As it is, the account given by
Stuart of Dr. Smith's first visit and acquaintance with Lincoln is
entirely at variance with the account given by Mr. Lewis in his letter,
quoted in chapter I.

Mr. Stuart evidently entertained no very kind opinion of Colonel Lamon's
work, and this made him all the more disposed to accede to Reed's
demands. His position on the slavery question, for a time, was one
which, in the light of subsequent events, he had no reason to be proud
of, and Lamon in narrating the acts of Lincoln's life found it necessary
frequently to refer to this. Such passages as the following were
calculated not only to make him offended at Lamon, but jealous of
Herndon: "John T. Stuart was keeping his eye on Lincoln, with the view
of keeping him on his side--the totally dead conservative side." "Mr.
Lincoln was beset by warm friends and by old coadjutors, and besought to
pause in his anti-slavery course while there was yet time. Among these
there was none more earnest or persuasive than John T. Stuart, who was
but the type of a class.... But Mr. Herndon was more than a match for
the full array against him. An earnest man, instant in season and out
of season, he spoke with the eloquence of apparent truth and of real
personal love" (Life of Lincoln, pp. 374, 352).

Colonel Matheny was not prepared to deny the correctness of a single
statement in his testimony, but was forced to modify its bearing as a
whole. He was made to say: "It does not express my sentiments of Mr.
Lincoln's entire life and character." Now, anyone who reads his evidence
cannot fail to observe that he did intend to cover Lincoln's entire
life and character. There is not in it the slightest intimation that he
referred merely to a part of his life. Indeed, there is one statement
in his evidence which utterly precludes such an assumption. He expressly
says: "I never heard that Lincoln changed his views, though his personal
and political friend from 1834 to 1860." But Reed must have a sufficient
portion of his life reserved in which to inject the story of his alleged
conversion; and so Matheny's offense was condoned on the condition that
he retain the earlier part of Lincoln's life for his testimony to
rest upon, and concede the remainder to Reed for "The Later Life and
Religious Sentiments of Lincoln." This division of Lincoln's life is
quite indefinite, but Reed would have us believe that Colonel Matheny's
evidence relates wholly to that portion of his life anterior to
1848, when Dr. Smith began the task of Christianizing him. Matheny's
disclaimer is dated Dec. 16, 1872. On Dec. 9, 1873, he made the
following explanation, which was published in a Springfield paper:

"What I mean, in my Reed letter, by Mr. Lincoln's earlier life, is his
whole life and history in Illinois. In Illinois, and up to the time he
left for Washington, he was, as I understand it, a confirmed Infidel.
What I mean by Mr. Lincoln's later life, is his Washington life, where
he associated with religious people, when and where I believe he thought
he became a Christian. I told Mr. Reed all this just before signing the
letter spoken of. I knew nothing of Mr. Lincoln's investigation into the
subject of Christianity."

He says that his evidence "is a mere collection of sayings gathered from
private conversations." It is doubtless true that he had many private
conversations with Mr. Herndon on this subject; but his published
testimony was all given at one sitting, and more, _he signed that
testimony_. Every word attributed to him in Lamon's work, and repeated
in this chapter, originally appeared above his signature.

The concluding words of his disclaimer are as follows:

"While I do believe Mr. Lincoln to have been an Infidel in his
former life, when his mind was as yet unformed, and his associations
principally with rough and skeptical men, yet I believe he was a very
different man in later life; and that after associating with a different
class of men, and investigating the subject, he was a firm believer in
the Christian religion."

These words, as modified by the following, constitute a most remarkable

"In Illinois, and up to the time he left for Washington, he was, as I
understand it, a confirmed Infidel. What I mean by Mr. Lincoln's
later life, is his Washington life, where he associated with religious

Colonel Matheny confines Lincoln's Infidelity to that portion of his
life "when his mind was as yet unformed," and affirms that this portion
comprised all the years preceding his removal to Washington in 1861.
Thus during the first fifty-two years of Lincoln's life, "his mind was
as yet unformed." His enviable reputation as one of the foremost lawyers
of Illinois was achieved while "his mind was as yet unformed;" when his
friends sent him to Congress "his mind was as yet unformed;" when he
made his Bloomington speech, "his mind was as yet unformed;" when he
delivered his famous Springfield speech, "his mind was as yet unformed;"
when he conducted his masterly debates with Stephen A. Douglas, "his
mind was as yet unformed;" when he prepared and delivered that model of
political addresses, the Cooper Institute address, "his mind was as yet
unformed;" when at the Chicago Convention he outstripped in the race for
Presidential nominee such eminent leaders as Seward and Chase, "his mind
was as yet unformed;" when he was elected Chief Magistrate of this great
nation, "his mind was as yet unformed."

It was only by leaving Illinois and going to Washington that he was
thrown into religious society. Washington politicians are noted for
their piety, you know. According to Matheny et al., New Salem was a
second Sodom, Springfield a second Gomorrah and Washington a sort of New
Jerusalem, inhabited chiefly by saints.

Neither in Matheny's letter, nor in his interpretation of this letter,
is there a word to indicate that he recognized the fact that Lincoln
went to Washington to assume the office and perform the duties of
President. On the contrary, the whole tenor of his remarks is to the
effect that he believed the people sent him there on account of his
wickedness, and while "his mind was as yet unformed," to attend a reform
school, and that subsequently he entered a theological seminary, and
there died.

The most amusing feature of Matheny's letter is that he unwittingly
certifies that his own character was not good. He declares that Lincoln
was an Infidel because his associations were "with rough and skeptical
men;" but that after removing to Washington and "associating with a
different class of men" he became a Christian. Now, it is well known
that one of the most conspicuous of his "rough and skeptical" associates
in Illinois was James H. Matheny.

Colonel Matheny, in his explanatory remarks, says: "I _believe_ he
_thought_ he became a Christian;" and in almost the next breath says,
"I knew nothing of Mr. Lincoln's investigation into the subject of
Christianity." Can anything be more unreasonable than this? Colonel
Matheny knowing that Lincoln was a confirmed Infidel--an Infidel when
he went to Washington--knowing nothing about his having afterward
investigated Christianity--knowing that he had no time for such an
investigation, and yet believing that Lincoln thought he became a
Christian! Why did he not mention this when he gave his testimony? The
fact is, he did not believe that Lincoln became a Christian; but with
an orthodox club raised above his head, he found it very convenient to
_profess_ to believe it.

As Mr. Reed has endeavored to prove that Lamon and Herndon did not
faithfully report the evidence of Stuart and Matheny, it is but just
that Mr. Herndon, who took down their testimony, be permitted to speak
in his own defense. In his Springfield lecture, delivered in Major
Stuart's town, if not in his presence, referring to Stuart's testimony,
he says:

"Mr. Stuart did not write the note and no one ever said he did. What is
there stated was the substance of a conversation between Mr. Stuart and
myself about Mr. Lincoln's religion. I took down in a note in his office
and in his presence his words and ideas as I did in other cases. The
conversation spoken of took place in Mr. Stuart's office, and in the
east room. Mr. Stuart does not deny that the note is substantially
correct. He simply says he could not have said that Dr. Smith tried to
convert Mr. Lincoln, and couldn't do it. I well remember that he did use
this language. It seemed to do him good to say it.... It seems that
Mr. Stuart had heard that Mr. Lincoln and Dr. Smith had much discussion
about Christianity, but he failed to hear of Mr. Lincoln's conversion,
or anything like it, and well might he say, _as he did_, that 'Dr. Smith
tried to convert Mr. Lincoln, _but couldn't do it_.'"

Any charitably disposed person, knowing the general good character of
both men, instead of crying "Fraud!" as Reed has done, will readily
conclude that Mr. Herndon was mistaken, or that Mr. Stuart had forgotten
just what he did say, and is it not more reasonable to suppose that the
latter gentleman, in the lapse of six years, should have forgotten some
things he said, than that Mr. Herndon, who recorded them the moment they
were uttered, should be mistaken?

Alluding to Colonel Matheny's evidence, in the same lecture, Mr. Herndon

"The next gentleman introduced by Mr. Reed is Col. James H. Matheny. He
is made to say, in a letter addressed to Mr. Reed, that he did not write
the statement in Lamon's 'Life of Lincoln.' I do not claim that he did.
I wrote it in the court house--this hall--in Mr. Matheny's presence, and
at his dictation. I read it over to him and he approved it. I wrote it
all at once as he spoke it to me; it is not made up of scraps--'a mere
collection of sayings gathered from private conversations, that were
only true of Mr. Lincoln's earlier life.' I say that this statement
was written all at one time and place, and not at different times and
places. Let any critic, any man of common sense, read it and he will
say: 'This was all written at once.' I appeal to the manner--the close
connection of words and ideas in which it runs--word with word, sentence
with sentence, and idea with idea, for the proof that it was made at one
sitting. Mr. Matheny has often told me that Mr. Lincoln was an Infidel.
He admits this in his letter to Mr. Reed. He never intimated in that or
any other conversation with me that he believed that Mr. Lincoln in his
later life became a Christian."

In a letter dated Sept. 14, 1887, Mr. Herndon writes:

"I acted in this matter honestly, and I will always abide by my notes
taken down at the time. I was cautious--very careful of what I did,
because I knew that the church would damn me and prove me false if it
could. I stood on the exactness of truth squarely."

I have thus far assumed that Stuart and Matheny really wrote the letters
of disclaimer addressed to Reed. Mr. Reed states that he is "amazed
to find" that they did not write the statements attributed to them
by Lamon. The reader is by this time sufficiently familiar with this
reverend gentleman's methods that he will _not_ be "amazed to find" that
Stuart and Matheny did not write these disclaimers. I now affirm that
James H. Matheny did not write a word of the letter purporting to have
been written by him. _It was written by the Rev. J. A. Reed!_ We have
not the expressed declaration of Mr. Stuart that this is true of the
letter imputed to him, but there is other evidence which makes it
clearly apparent that this letter was also written by Mr. Reed.

Nor is this all. I shall now endeavor to show that the greater part of
the evidence presented by Reed, in his lecture, was composed and written
by himself. Let us take the four letters credited respectively to
Edwards, Lewis, Stuart, and Matheny. I shall attempt to demonstrate the
common origin of these letters, first, by their form; secondly, by the
language of their contents.

The different forms employed in epistolary correspondence are numerous,
far more numerous than generally supposed. To illustrate: four hundred
letters, written by as many different persons, and all addressed to the
same person, were, without examination, divided into one hundred parcels
of four letters each. They were then examined in regard to the form
employed by the writer. The heading, the address, the introduction, and
the subscription were noted--no attention being paid to the body of the
letter, or the signature. In not one of these one hundred parcels were
found four letters having the same form. The heading of these letters
exhibited nine different forms; the address, fourteen; the introduction,
eight; and the subscription, eleven.

Again, nearly every writer employs certain idioms of language that are
peculiar to him, and which reveal his identity, even though he tries to
conceal it.

Let us now institute a brief analysis of the four letters under
consideration. Errors will be noticed, not for the purpose of reflecting
upon the literary attainments of the writer, but solely with a view
of discovering his identity. These are mostly of a trivial character,
confined to marks of punctuation, etc.; and it is a recognized fact that
a majority of educated persons, including many professional writers, are
more or less deficient in the art of punctuation. In proof of the common
authorship of these four letters, the following reasons are submitted:

1. In all of them we recognize a stiff formality--a studied effort to
conform to one ideal standard.

2. All of them were written at Springfield, Ill., and all omit the name
of the state.

3. In each of them, the day of the month is followed by the suffix,
"th." This, if not wholly improper, is not common usage. Had these
letters been written by the four persons to whom they are ascribed, at
least three of them would have omitted it.

4 In all, but one, the address is "Rev. J. A. Reed," and in the
exception the writer merely substitutes "Jas." for "J."

5. In each of them the address is followed by a colon instead of a
comma, the proper mark to use. Had they been written by four persons, it
is possible that a part, or even all, would have made an error, but it
is highly improbable that all would have made the _same_ error.

6. In these letters, the introductory words are uniformly "Dear
Sir"--the most common form of introduction, and the one that a writer,
in drafting a letter addressed to himself, would most naturally employ.

7. In every instance, the introduction is followed by a dash instead of
a colon--a uniformity of error, again.

8. In the subscription, the term, "Yours truly," is invariably used,
except in the Lewis letter, which concludes with "Yours, etc."

9. The Edwards letter and the Lewis letter begin with the same idea,
expressed in nearly the same words. Edwards is made to say, "A short
time after the Rev. Dr. Smith," etc.; and Lewis--"Not long after Dr.

10. Omitting the introductory sentence in the Stuart letter, which is
merely the expansion of an idea used in writing the Matheny letter on
the preceding day, the Stuart and Matheny letters begin with the same
idea. Stuart says: "The language of that statement is not mine; it was
not written by me." Matheny says: "The language attributed to me... is
not from my pen. I did not write it." Reed himself uses substantially
the same language that is ascribed to them. Had their statements, as
published in Lamon's work, been forgeries, or grossly inaccurate, they
might have used the language quoted above. Under the circumstances they
would not have used it. Major Stuart and Colonel Matheny were lawyers,
not pettifoggers.

11. These prefatory sentences of Stuart and Matheny both begin with the
same words--"the language."

12. In both the Edwards and Lewis letters, reference is made to a
theological work which Dr. Smith is said to have written. The writer of
neither letter is able to state the name of the book; Dr. Reed is unable
to state the name of it; Dr. Smith himself does not mention the name of
it; but he does plainly state that it was a work on the Bible. For "the
business he had on hand," however, it suited Reed's purpose better to
give a semi-erroneous impression of its character, and so he affirms
that it was a work on "the evidences of Christianity." Curiously
enough, in the Edwards letter and again in the Lewis letter, the book is
described as a work on "the evidences of Christianity."

13. The Edwards letter reports Lincoln as saying: "I have been reading
_a work of Dr. Smith on the evidences of Christianity_." The Lewis
letter represents him as saying that "He had seen and partially read
_a work of Dr. Smith on the evidences of Christianity_" Here are ten
consecutive words in the two letters identical.

14. Mr. Reed, in his lecture, never once uses the word "Christianity,"
except as above noticed to describe Dr. Smith's book; he always uses the
words "the Christian religion"--employing this term no less than seven
times. This usage is not common. An examination of various theological
writings shows that "Christianity" is used twenty times where "the
Christian religion" is used once. Yet in these letters the word
"Christianity" is not to be found, except in the same sense as used
by Dr. Reed, while "the Christian religion" occurs in each of the four

15. "The truth of the Christian religion" is a favorite phrase with
Reed, occurring three times in his lecture. This phrase also occurs
three times in these letters--once in the Edwards letter, and twice in
the Stuart letter.

16. Reed has much to say about Lincoln's "life and religious
sentiments;" in fact, his lecture is entitled, "The Later Life and
Religious Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln." In the Matheny letter, too, we
find "Mr. Lincoln's life and religious sentiments."

17. The words "earlier" and "later" are frequently used by Reed in
connection with Lincoln's life. The same words are used in the Stuart
and Matheny letters, and in the same connection.

18. The Stuart letter is, for the most part, devoted to the narration of
"some facts" which Mr. Stuart is said to have presented to Mr. Herndon,
beginning with this: "That Eddie, a child of Mr. Lincoln, died in 1848
or 1849," etc. Now, Mr. Stuart well knew that, during all this time, Mr.
Herndon was the intimate associate of Lincoln and thoroughly familiar
with every event in his history. The "facts" given in this letter are
not such as Mr. Stuart would have communicated to Mr. Herndon, but they
are such as Mr. Reed would naturally desire to place before the public.

19. Nothing in Dr. Reed's career has excited his vanity more than
the fact that he was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of
Springfield--the church which Lincoln once attended. Consequently, the
"First Presbyterian Church" is a conspicuous object in his lecture,
and nowhere is it more conspicuous than in these letters. In the Stuart
letter it appears three times, and the writer never fails to state that
it was the "First Presbyterian Church"--the church of which Dr. Reed was

20. According to the principle of accretion, if two articles or letters
are written on the same subject, the second will usually be longer than
the first. This is true of these letters. The Lewis letter, relating
to Smith's reputed conversion of Lincoln, was written after the
Edwards letter relative to the same subject, and is longer. The Stuart
disclaimer, which is the longer of the two, was written after the
Matheny disclaimer.

From the foregoing, is it not clearly evident that these four letters
were all written by the same person? If so, then knowing that Dr. Reed
wrote one of them, the Matheny letter, does it not necessarily follow
that he wrote them all?

In the Gurley testimony, such expressions as "the Christian religion"
and "the truth of the Christian religion," together with the Reed story
concerning Lincoln's intention of making a profession of religion,
reveal the authorship of this testimony also.


     Dr. C. H. Ray--Wm. H. Hannah, Esq.--James W. Keys--Hon.
     Jesse W. Fell--Col. John G. Nicolay--Hon. David Davis--Mrs.
     Mary Lincoln--Injustice to Mrs. Lincoln--Answer to Reed's
     Pretended Refutation of the Testimony of Lamon's Witnesses.

Seven of Lamon's witnesses--Ray, Hannah, Keys, Fell, Nicolay, Davis, and
Mrs. Lincoln--remain to testify. The testimony of these witnesses will
now be presented.

DR. C. H. RAY.

Dr. Kay, editor of the Chicago Tribune, a prominent figure in Illinois
politics thirty years ago, and a personal friend and admirer of Lincoln,
testifies as follows:

"You knew Mr. Lincoln far better than I did, though I knew him well; and
you have served up his leading characteristics in a way that I should
despair of doing, if I should try. I have only one thing to ask: that
you do not give Calvinistic theology a chance to claim him as one of its
saints and martyrs. He went to the Old School Church; but, in spite of
that outward assent to the horrible dogmas of the sect, I have reason
from himself to know that his 'vital purity.' if that means belief in
the impossible, was of a negative sort" (Lamon's Life of Lincoln, pp.
489, 490).

Dr. Kay states that Lincoln held substantially the same theological
opinions as those held by Theodore Parker.


A leading member of the Bloomington bar, when Lincoln practiced there,
was Wm. H. Hannah. He was an honest, truthful man, and knew Lincoln
well. Concerning Lincoln's views on the doctrine of endless punishment,
Mr. Hannah says:

"Since 1856 Mr. Lincoln told me that he was a kind of immortalist; but
that he never could bring himself to believe in eternal punishment; that
man lived but a little while here, and that, if eternal punishment were
man's doom, he should spend that little life in vigilant and ceaseless
preparation by never-ending prayer" (Life of Lincoln, p. 489).


Mr. Jas. W. Keys, an old and respected citizen of Springfield, who
became acquainted with Lincoln soon after his removal there, and who had
many conversations with him on the subject of theology, says:

"As to the Christian theory, that Christ is God, or equal to the
Creator, he said that it had better be taken for granted; for, by the
test of reason, we might become Infidels on that subject, for evidence
of Christ's divinity came to us in a somewhat doubtful shape" (Life of
Lincoln, p. 490).


Jesse W. Fell, who died at Bloomington in the spring of 1887, was one
of the best known and most highly respected citizens of Illinois. He was
Secretary of the Republican State Central Committee during the memorable
Lincoln-Douglas campaign, and was largely instrumental in bringing
Lincoln forward as a candidate for the Presidency in 1860. It was for
him that Lincoln wrote an autobiographical sketch of his life, which
formed the basis of his campaign biographies, the _facsimile_ of which
appears in Lamon's "Life of Lincoln," and in the "Lincoln Memorial
Album." Mr. Fell was a Christian of the Unitarian denomination, and
there were few men for whom Lincoln had a more profound respect. The
following is his testimony:

"Though everything relating to the character of this extraordinary
personage is of interest, and should be fairly stated to the world, I
enter upon the performance of this duty--for so I regard it--with some
reluctance, arising from the fact that, in stating my convictions on the
subject, I must necessarily place myself in opposition to quite a
number who have written on this topic before me, and whose views largely
pre-occupy the public mind. This latter fact, whilst contributing to
my embarrassment on this subject, is, perhaps, the strongest reason,
however, why the truth in this matter should be fully disclosed; and I
therefore yield to your request. If there were any traits of character
that stood out in bold relief in the person of Mr. Lincoln, they were
those of truth and candor. He was utterly incapable of insincerity,
or professing views on this or any other subject he did not entertain.
Knowing such to be his true character, that insincerity, much more
duplicity, were traits wholly foreign to his nature, many of his
old friends were not a little surprised at finding, in some of the
biographies of this great man, statements concerning his religious
opinions so utterly at variance with his known sentiments. True, he may
have changed or modified those sentiments after his removal from among
us, though this is hardly reconcilable with the history of the man, and
his entire devotion to public matters during his four years' residence
at the national capital. It is possible, however, that this may be the
proper solution of this conflict of opinions; or, it may be, that, with
no intention on the part of anyone to mislead the public mind, those who
have represented him as believing in the popular theological views of
the times may have misapprehended him, as experience shows to be quite
common where no special effort has been made to attain critical
accuracy on a subject of this nature. This is the more probable from the
well-known fact that Mr. Lincoln seldom communicated to anyone his views
on this subject. But, be this as it may, I have no hesitation whatever
in saying that, whilst he held many opinions in common with the great
mass of Christian believers, he did not believe in what are regarded as
the orthodox or evangelical views of Christianity.

"On the innate depravity of man, the character and office of the great
head of the church, the atonement, the infallibility of the written
revelation, the performance of miracles, the nature and design of
present and future rewards and punishments (as they are popularly
called) and many other subjects, he held opinions utterly at variance
with what are usually taught in the church. I should say that his
expressed views on these and kindred topics were such as, in the
estimation of most believers, would place him entirely outside the
Christian pale. Yet, to my mind, such was not the true position, since
his principles and practices and the spirit of his whole life were of
the very kind we universally agree to call Christian; and I think this
conclusion is in no wise affected by the circumstance that he never
attached himself to any religious society whatever.

"His religious views were eminently practical, and are summed up, as
I think, in these two propositions: 'the fatherhood of God, and
the brotherhood of man.' He fully believed in a superintending and
overruling Providence that guides and controls the operations of the
world, but maintained that law and order, and not their violation
or suspension, are the appointed means by which this Providence is

"I will not attempt any specification of either his belief or disbelief
on various religious topics, as derived from conversations with him
at different times during a considerable period; but, as conveying a
general view of his religious or theological opinions, will state
the following facts: Some eight or ten years prior to his death, in
conversing with him on this subject, the writer took occasion to refer,
in terms of approbation, to the sermons and writings generally of Dr.
W. E. Channing; and, finding he was considerably interested in the
statement I made of the opinions held by that author, I proposed to
present him a copy of Channing's entire works, which I soon after did.
Subsequently, the contents of these volumes, together with the writings
of Theodore Parker, furnished him, as he informed me, by his friend and
law-partner, Mr. Herndon, became naturally the topics of conversation
with us; and though far from believing there was an entire harmony of
views on his part with either of those authors, yet they were generally
much admired and approved by him.

"No religious views with him seemed to find any favor, except of the
practical and rationalistic order; and if, from my recollections on
this subject, I was called upon to designate an author whose views
most nearly represented Mr. Lincoln's on this subject, I would say that
author was Theodore Parker. As you have asked from me a candid statement
of my recollections on this topic, I have thus briefly given them, with
the hope that they may be of some service in rightly settling a question
about which--as I have good reason to believe--the public mind has been
greatly misled. Not doubting that they will accord, substantially, with
your own recollections, and that of his other intimate and confidential
friends, and with the popular verdict after this matter shall have been
properly canvassed, I submit them" (Life of Lincoln, pp. 490-492).

Mr. Fell's testimony is full and explicit. He affirms that Lincoln
rejected nearly all the leading tenets of orthodox Christianity; the
inspiration of the Scriptures, the divinity of Christ, the innate
depravity of man, the atonement, the performance of miracles, and future
rewards and punishments. "His expressed views on these and kindred
topics," Mr. Fell says, "were such as, in the estimation of most
believers, would place him entirely outside the Christian pale." Mr.
Fell, himself, was not disposed to withhold from Lincoln the appellation
of Christian, but it was only because he stood upon the broad Liberal
Christian, or rather non-Christian, platform which permitted him to
welcome a Theist, like Parker; a Pantheist, like Emerson; or even an
Agnostic, like Ingersoll.


The next witness introduced by Lamon, is Col. John G. Nicolay, Lincoln's
private secretary at the White House. Nicolay's relations with the
President were more intimate than those of any other man. To quote the
words of Lincoln's partner, "Mr. Lincoln loved him and trusted him."
His testimony is among the most important that this controversy has
elicited. It proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that all these stories
concerning Lincoln's alleged conversation at Washington are false, that
he did not change his belief, that he died as he had always lived--a
Freethinker. In a letter written May 27, 1865, just six weeks after
Lincoln's death, Colonel Nicolay says: "Mr. Lincoln did not, to my
knowledge, in any way, change his religious ideas, opinions or beliefs,
from the time he left Springfield till the day of his death. I do not
know just what they were, never having heard him explain them in detail,
but I am very sure he gave no outward indications of his mind having
undergone any change in that regard while here" (Life of Lincoln, p.


One of the most important, and in some respects the most eminent witness
summoned to testify in regard to this question, is the Hon. David Davis.
In moral character he stood above reproach, in intellectual ability,
almost without a peer. Every step in his career was marked by unswerving
integrity and freedom from prejudice. His rulings and decisions in the
lower courts of Illinois, and on the bench of the Supreme Court of the
United States, commanded universal respect. As a legislator, his love
of truth and justice prevented him from being a political partisan. As
United States Senator and Vice-President of the United States, the party
that elected him could obtain his support for no measure that he deemed
unjust. Referring to his acquaintance with Lincoln, Judge Davis says: "I
enjoyed for over twenty years the personal friendship of Mr. Lincoln.
We were admitted to the bar about the same time, and traveled for many
years what is known in Illinois as the Eighth Judicial Circuit. In 1848,
when I first went on the bench, the circuit embraced fourteen counties,
and Mr. Lincoln went with the court to every county." A large portion
of this time they passed in each other's company. They often rode in
the same vehicle, generally ate at the same table, and not infrequently
slept together in the same bed. The closest intimacy existed between
them as long as Lincoln lived, and when he died, Mr. Davis became his
executor. Judge Davis would not intentionally have misrepresented the
opinions of an enemy, much less the opinions of his dear dead friend.
Briefly, yet clearly, he defines the theological views of Lincoln:

"He had no faith, in the Christian sense of the term--had faith in laws,
principles, causes, and effects--philosophically" (Life of Lincoln, p.

Speaking of the many stories that had been circulated concerning
Lincoln's religious belief, such as the Bateman and Vinton interviews,
together with the various pious speeches he is reported to have made
to religious committees and delegations that visited him, such as his
reputed speech to the Negroes of Baltimore, Judge Davis says:

"The idea that Lincoln talked to a stranger about his religion or
religious views, or made such speeches, remarks, &c, about it as are
published, is to me absurd. I knew the man so well. He was the most
reticent, secretive man I ever saw, or expect to see" (Ibid).


But one of Lamon's witnesses remains--the wife of the martyred
President. Her testimony ought of itself to put this matter at rest
forever. Mrs. Lincoln says:

"Mr. Lincoln had no hope, and no faith, in the usual acceptation of
those words" (Life of Lincoln, p. 489).

In addition to what Colonel Lamon has presented, Mrs. Lincoln also
stated the following:

"Mr. Lincoln's maxim and philosophy were, 'What is to be, will be, and
no prayers of ours can arrest the decree.' He never joined any church.
He was a religious man always, I think, but was not a technical
Christian" (Herndon's "Religion of Lincoln").

It may be charged that Mrs. Lincoln subsequently repudiated a portion of
this testimony. In anticipation of such a charge I will here state a
few facts. This testimony was given by Mrs. Lincoln in 1865. When it was
given, while her heart was pierced by the pangs of her great grief, her
mind was sound. About Jan. 1, 1874, a brief article, purporting to come
from her pen, appeared, in which the testimony attributed to her was in
part denied. At the time this denial was written, Mrs. Lincoln had been
for more than two years insane. The chief cause in dethroning her reason
was the death of her universally beloved Tad (Thomas), which occurred
on July 15, 1871. Referring to this sad event, Mr. Arnold, one of the
principal witnesses on the Christian side of this controversy, says:
"From this time Mrs. Lincoln, in the judgment of her most intimate
friends, was never entirely responsible for her conduct" (Life of
Lincoln, p. 439).

The only effect of this denial on the minds of those acquainted with the
circumstances, was to excite a mingled feeling of pity and disgust--pity
for this unfortunate woman, and disgust for the contemptible methods of
those who would take advantage of her demented condition and make her
contradict the honest statements of her rational life.

Before dismissing this witness, I wish to advert to a subject with
which many of my readers are familiar. For years, both before and after
Lincoln's death, the religious press of the country was continually
abusing Mrs. Lincoln. If a ball was held at the White House, she became
at once the recipient of unlimited abuse. If Lincoln attended the
theater, she was accused of having dragged him there against his will.
It was almost uniformly asserted that he would not have gone to the
theater on that fatal night had it not been for her, and in not a few
instances it was infamously hinted that she was cognizant of the plot
to murder him. But even the Rev. Dr. Miner, who was acquainted with the
facts, is willing to vindicate her from these imputations. He says: "It
has been said that Mrs. Lincoln urged her husband to go to the theater
against his will. This is not true. On the contrary, she tried to
persuade him not to go."

Lincoln's biographers have, for the most part, endeavored to do his wife
justice, and have rebuked the insults showered upon her. Alluding to
President and Mrs. Lincoln, Mr. Herndon says: "All that I know ennobles
both." Colonel Lamon says: "Almost ever since Mr. Lincoln's death a
portion of the press has never tired of heaping brutal reproaches upon
his wife and widow, whilst a certain class of his friends thought they
were honoring his memory by multiplying outrages and indignities upon
her at the very moment when she was broken by want and sorrow, defamed,
defenseless, in the hands of thieves, and at the mercy of spies." Mr.
Arnold says: "There is nothing in American history so unmanly, so devoid
of every chivalric impulse as the treatment of this poor, broken-hearted

The evidence of Colonel Lamon's ten witnesses has now been presented.
This evidence includes, in addition to the testimony of other intimate
friends, the testimony of his wife; the testimony of his first law
partner, Hon. John T. Stuart; the testimony of his last law partner,
Hon. Win. H. Herndon; the testimony of his friend and political adviser,
Col. James H. Matheny; the testimony of his private secretary, Col. John
G. Nicolay; and the testimony of his lifelong friend and executor
after death, Judge David Davis. No one can read this evidence and
then honestly affirm that Abraham Lincoln was a Christian. This is the
evidence, the perusal of which so thoroughly enraged that good Christian
biographer, Dr. J. G. Holland; this is the evidence, the truthfulness of
which the Rev. J. A. Reed, unmindful of the fate of Ananias, attempted
to deny.

As a full and just answer to this attempted refutation of Lamon's
witnesses by Reed, I quote from the New York _World_ the following:

"This individual testimony is clear and overwhelming, without the
documentary and other evidence scattered profusely through the rest
of the volume. How does Mr. Reed undertake to refute it? In the first
place, firstly, he pronounces it a 'libel,' and in the second place,
secondly, he is 'amazed to find'--and he says he has found--that the
principal witnesses take exception to Mr. Lamon's report of their
evidence. This might have been true of many or all of Mr. Lamon's
witnesses without exciting the wonder of a rational man. Few persons,
indeed, are willing to endure reproach merely for the truth's sake,
and popular opinion in the Republican party of Springfield, Ill., is
probably very much against Mr. Lamon. It would, therefore, be quite
in the natural order if some of his witnesses who find themselves
unexpectedly in print should succumb to the social and political
terrorism of their place and time, and attempt to modify or explain
their testimony. They zealously assisted Mr. Herndon in ascertaining the
truth, and while they wanted him to tell it in full they were prudently
resolved to keep their own names snugly out of sight. But Mr. Reed's
statement is not true, and his amazement is entirely simulated. Two only
out of the ten witnesses have gratified him by inditing, at his request,
weak and guarded complaints of unfair treatment. These are John T.
Stuart, a relative of the Lincolns and Edwardses, and Jim Matheny, both
of Springfield, whom Mr. Lincoln taught his peculiar doctrines, but who
may by this time be deacons in Mr. Reed's church. Neither of them helps
Mr. Reed's case a particle. Their epistles open, as if by concert,
in form and words almost identical. They say they did not _write_ the
language attributed to them. The denial is wholly unnecessary, for
nobody affirms that they did write it. They talked and Mr. Herndon
wrote. His notes were made when the conversation occurred, and probably
in their presence. At all events, they are both so conscious of the
general accuracy of his report that they do not venture to deny a single
word of it, but content themselves with lamenting that something else,
which they did _not_ say, was excluded from it. They both, however,
in these very letters, repeat emphatically the material part of the
statements made by them to Mr. Herndon, namely, that Mr. Lincoln was
to their certain knowledge, until a very late period of his life, an
'Infidel,' and neither of them is able to tell when he ceased to be an
Infidel and when he began to be a Christian. And this is all Mr. Reed
makes by his re-examination of the two persons whom he is pleased to
exalt as Mr. Lamon's 'principal witnesses.' They are but two out of the
ten. What of the other eight? They have no doubt been tried and plied by
Mr. Reed and his friends to no purpose; they stand fast by the record.
But Mr. Reed is to be shamed neither by their speech nor their silence."


     Mrs. Sarah Lincoln--Dennis F. Hanks--Mrs. Matilda Moore--
     John Hall--Win. McNeely--Wm. G. Green--Joshua F. Speed--
     Green Caruthers--John Decamp--Mr. Lynan--James B.
     Spaulding--Ezra Stringham--Dr. G. H Ambrose--J. H. Chenery--
     Squire Perkins--W. Perkins--James Gorley--Dr. Wm. Jayne--
     Jesse K. Dubois--Hon. Joseph Gillespie--Judge Stephen T.
     Logan--Hon. Leonard Swett

Were I to rest my case here, the evidence already adduced is sufficient,
I think, to convince any unprejudiced mind that Lincoln was not a
Christian. But I do not propose to rest here. I have presented the
testimony of half a score of witnesses; before I lay down my pen I shall
present the testimony of nearly ten times as many more.

In this chapter will be given the testimony of some of the relatives and
intimate associates of Lincoln. The testimony of his relatives confirms
the claim that he was not religious in his youth; the others testify to
his unbelief while a resident of New Salem and Springfield.


If there was one person to whom Lincoln was more indebted than to
any other, it was his stepmother, Sally Lincoln, a beautiful
woman--beautiful not only in face and form, but possessed of a most
lovely character. She was not highly educated, but she loved knowledge,
and inspired in her step-son a love for books. She was a Christian, but
she attached more importance to deed than to creed. She loved Lincoln.
After his death she said: "He was dutiful to me always. I think he loved
me truly. I had a son, John, who was raised with Abe. Both were good
boys; but I must say, both now being dead, that Abe was the best boy I
ever saw, or expect to see." Lincoln was too good and too great not to
appreciate this woman's care and affection.

When the materials for Lincoln's biography were being collected, Mrs.
Lincoln was considered the most reliable source from which to obtain the
facts pertaining to his boyhood. Her recollections of him were recorded
with the utmost care. His Christian biographers, in order to make a
Sunday-school hero of him, have declared him to be a youth remarkable
for his Christian piety and his love of the Bible. The statements of
Mrs. Lincoln disprove this claim. The substance of her testimony,
as given by Lamon, is given as follows: "His step-mother--herself
a Christian, and longing for the least sign of faith in him--could
remember no circumstance that supported her hope. On the contrary, she
recollected very well that he never went off into a corner, as has been
said, to ponder the sacred writings, and to wet the page with his tears
of penitence" (Life of Lincoln, pp. 486, 487).

"The Bible, according to Mrs. Lincoln, was not one of his studies; 'he
sought more congenial books.' At that time he neither talked nor read
upon religious subjects. If he had any opinions about them, he kept them
to himself" (Ibid, p. 38).


The next witness is Lincoln's cousin, Dennis Hanks. Mr. Hanks held "the
pulpy, red, little Lincoln" in his arms before he was "twenty-four hours
old," and remained his constant companion during all the years that
he lived in Kentucky and Indiana. He lived a part of the time in the
Lincoln family, and married one of Lincoln's step-sisters. I met him
recently at Charleston, Ill. With evident delight he rehearsed the story
of Lincoln's boyhood, and reaffirmed the truthfulness of the following
statements attributed to him by Lincoln's biographers:

"Abe wasn't in early life a religious man. He was a moral man
strictly.... In after life he became more religious; but the Bible
puzzled him, especially the miracles" (Every-Day Life of Lincoln, p.

"'Religious songs did not appear to suit him at all,' says Dennis Hanks;
but of profane ballads and amorous ditties he knew the words of a vast

"Another was:

     'Hail Columbia, happy land!
     If you ain't drunk, I'll be damned,'

a song which Dennis thinks should be warbled only in the 'fields;' and
tells us they knew and enjoyed all such songs as this'" (Lamon's Life of
Lincoln, pp. 58, 59).

The fitness of the above coarse travesty to be warbled, even in the
fields, may well be doubted. Lamon would hardly have recorded it, and
I certainly should not quote it, but for the fact that it strikingly
illustrates one phase of Lincoln's "youthful piety."

Among the many Christian hymns which Lincoln parodied, Mr. Hanks recalls
the following:

     "How tedious and tasteless the hours."
     "When I can read my title clear."
     "Oh! to grace how great a debtor!"
     "Come, thou fount of every blessing."


Lincoln's first husband was named Johnston. By him she had three
children, a son and two daughters. The latter, like their mother,
developed into noble specimens of womanhood; and both loved Lincoln as
tenderly as though he had been their own brother. The elder was married
to Dennis Hanks; the younger, Matilda, married Lincoln's cousin, Levi
Hall, and, after his death, a gentleman named Moore.

Lamon says that Lincoln in his youth made a mockery of the popular
religion; not from any lack of reverence for what he believed to be
good, but because "he thought that a person had better be without it."
That he was accustomed to turn so-called sacred subjects into ridicule
is attested by his stepsister, Mrs. Moore. She says:

"When father and mother would go to church, Abe would take down the
Bible, read a verse, give out a hymn, and we would sing. Abe was about
fifteen years of age. He preached and we would do the crying" (Every-Day
Life of Lincoln, p. 71).


On the 28th of April, 1888, the writer, in company with Mr. Charles
Biggs, of Westfield, Ill., visited the old Lincoln homestead, near
Farmington, Ill. We dined with Mr. John Hall, a son of Lincoln's
stepsister Matilda, in the old log-house built by Lincoln's father sixty
years ago, and in which his father and step-mother died. Mr. Hall, who
owns the homestead and preserves with zealous care this venerable relic,
is an intelligent farmer over sixty years of age. He greatly reveres
the memory of his illustrious uncle and loves to dwell on his many noble
traits of character. He stated that the family tradition is that while
Abe was a most honest and humane boy he was not religious. He referred
to the mock sermons he is said to have preached. "At these meetings,"
said Mr. Hall, "my mother would lead in the singing while Uncle Abe
would lead in prayer. Among his numerous supplications, he prayed God to
put stockings on the chickens' feet in winter."


William McNeely, of Petersburg, Ill., who became acquainted with Lincoln
in 1831, when he arrived at New Salem on a flatboat, says:

"Lincoln said he did not believe in total depravity, and although it was
not popular to believe it, it was easier to do right than wrong; that
the first thought was: what was right? and the second--what was wrong?
Therefore it was easier to do right than wrong, and easier to take care
of, as it would take care of itself. It took an effort to do wrong, and
a still greater effort to take care of it; but do right and it would
take care of itself.

"I was acquainted with him a long time, and I never knew him to do a
wrong act" (Lincoln Memorial Album, pp. 393-395).


One of Lincoln's early companions at New Salem was William G. Green.
He and Lincoln clerked in the same store and slept together on the same
cot. The testimony of Mr. Green has not been preserved. We have simply
an observation of his, incidentally made, the substance of which is thus
presented by Lamon:

"Lincoln's incessant reading of Shakspere and Burns had much to do in
giving to his mind the 'skeptical' tendency so fully devoloped by the
labors of his pen in 1834-5, and in social conversations during many
years of his residence at Springfield" (Life of Lincoln, p. 145).

Mr. Green's conclusion, especially in regard to Burns, is quite
generally shared by Lincoln's friends. Burns's satirical poems were
greatly admired by-Lincoln. "Holy Willie's Prayer," one of the most
withering satires on orthodox Christianity ever penned, was memorized by
him. Every one of its sixteen stanzas, beginning with the following,
was an Infidel shaft which he delighted to hurl at the heads of his
Christian opponents:

     "O thou, wha in the heavens dost dwell,
     Wha, as it pleases best thysel',
     Sends ane to heaven and ten to hell,
     A' for thy glory,
     And no for ony guid or ill
     They've done afore thee!"


Another of Lincoln's earliest and best friends was Joshua F. Speed. When
he was licensed as a lawyer and entered upon his professional career at
Springfield without a client and without a dollar, Speed assisted him to
get a start. W. H. Herndon was clerking for Speed at the time, and for
more than a year Lincoln, Herndon and Speed roomed together. Referring
to the religious views held by Lincoln at that time, Mr. Speed, in a
lecture, says:

"I have often been asked what were Mr. Lincoln's religious opinions.
When I knew him, in early life, he was a skeptic. He had tried hard
to be a believer, but his reason could not grasp and solve the great
problem of redemption as taught."

This is the testimony of an orthodox Christian, and a church-member. Mr.
Speed, during the years that he was acquainted with Lincoln, was not
a member of any church; but late in life he united with the Methodist
church. As "the wish is father to the thought," Mr. Speed professed
to believe that Lincoln before his death modified, to some extent, the
radical views of his early manhood.


Soon after Lincoln removed to Springfield, he became acquainted with Mr.
Green Caruthers and remained on intimate terms with him during all the
subsequent years of his life. Mr. Caruthers was a quiet, unobtrusive old
gentleman, universally respected by those who knew him. The substance of
his testimony is as follows:

"Lincoln, Bledsoe, the metaphysician, and myself, boarded at the Globe
hotel in this city. Bledsoe tended toward Christianity, if he was not
a Christian. Lincoln was always throwing out his Infidelity to Bledsoe,
ridiculing Christianity, and especially the divinity of Christ."


Another of Lincoln's most intimate Springfield friends was John Decamp.
Mr. Decamp was interviewed by Mr. Herndon regarding Lincoln's religious
views in July, 1887. His statement was brief, but to the point. He says:

"Lincoln was an Infidel."

MR. LYNAN. In 1880, at Bismarck Grove, Kan., the writer of this
delivered a lecture entitled, "Four American Infidels," a portion of
which was devoted to a presentation of Lincoln's religious views. In
its report of the lecture, the Lawrence _Standard_, edited by Hon. E.
G. Ross, formerly United States Senator from Kansas, and more recently
Governor of New Mexico, said:

"In regard to Abraham Lincoln being an Infidel, the evidence adduced was
overwhelming, and was confirmed by a gentleman present, Mr. Lynan, who
had known him intimately for thirty years. Mr. Lynan declared that none
but personal acquaintance could enable one to realize the nobility and
purity of Lincoln's character, but that he was beyond doubt or question
a thorough disbeliever in the Christian scheme of salvation to the end
of his life" (Lawrence Standard, Sept. 4, 1880).


Mr. J. B. Spaulding, well known as one of the leading nurserymen
and horticulturists of the United States, a man of broad culture and
refinement, who resides near Springfield, became intimately acquainted
with Lincoln as early as 1851, and for a long time resided on the same
street with him in Springfield. Mr. Spaulding says:

"Lincoln perpetrated many an irreverent joke at the expense of church
doctrines. Regarding the miraculous conception, he was especially
sarcastic. He wrote a manuscript as radical as Ingersoll which his
political friends caused to be destroyed."


A short time since I was conversing with a party of gentlemen in
Riverton, Ill. It being near Lincoln's old home, the subject of his
religious belief was introduced. An old gentleman, who up to this time
had not been taking part in the conversation, quietly observed: "I think
I knew Lincoln's religious views about as well as any other man." "What
was he?" said one of the party. "An Infidel of the first water," was the
prompt response. The old gentleman was Ezra Stringham, one of Lincoln's
early acquaintances in Illinois.


Dr. G. H. Ambrose, of Waldo, Fla., who was associated in the law
business at Springfield from 1846 to 1849 with a relative of Mrs.
Lincoln, says: "Mr. Lincoln was an Infidel--an outspoken one."


Mr. J. H. Chenery, one of Springfield's pioneers--for many years owner
and proprietor of the leading hotel of Springfield--says:

"Reed tried to prove that Lincoln was a church man; but everybody here
knows that he was not. Once in a great while, and only once in a great
while, I saw him accompany his wife and children to church. His attacks
upon the church were most bitter and sarcastic. He wrote a book against
Christianity, but his friends got away with it."


A few years ago there died near Atchison, Kan., an old gentleman named
Perkins. He was poor, but honest, and a bright man intellectually. He
was a son of Major Perkins who was killed in the Black Hawk war. Lincoln
after the fight discovered the scalp of Major Perkins, which his savage
assassin had taken but lost. His first impulse was to keep it and take
it home to the family of the dead soldier. Then realizing that it would
only tend to intensify their grief, he opened the grave and deposited
it with the body. This incident led to an intimate acquaintance between
Lincoln and the younger Perkins. In June, 1880, Mr. Perkins made the
following statement relative to Lincoln's religious belief:

"During all the time that I was acquainted with Abraham Lincoln I know
that he was what the church calls an Infidel. I do not believe that he
ever changed his opinions. When Colfax was in Atchison I had a talk with
him about Lincoln. Among other things, I asked him if Lincoln had ever
been converted to Christianity. He told me that he had not."


Mr. Perkins, an old lawyer and journalist of Illinois, who was
acquainted with Lincoln for upward of twenty years, and who was his
associate counsel in several important cases, writing from Belleview,
Fla., under date of August 22, 1887, says:

"The unfair efforts that Christians have been putting forth to drag
Lincoln into their waning faith betray a pitiable imbecility. Were
it possible for them to get the world to believe that Washington,
Jefferson, and Lincoln, all prayed, had faith, and were washed in the
blood of the Lamb, would that prove the inspiration of their Bible,
harmonize its contradictions, put a ray of reason in its gross
absurdities, or humanize the first one of its numerous bloody
barbarities? I knew Mr. Lincoln from the spring of 1838 till his death.
Like Archibald Williams, our contemporary, an able Lord Coke lawyer, he
no more believed in the inspiration of the Bible than Hume, Paine,
or Ingersoll. Less inclined openly to denounce its absurdities and
cruelties, or to antagonize the well-meaning credulous professors, than
was Williams. Mr. Lincoln had no faith whatever in the first miracle of
the Bible, or the scheme of bloody redemption it teaches. To attribute
such sentiments to him, is to tarnish his well-earned reputation for
common sense, and to impair the estimation of his countrymen and the
world of his high sense of humanity, justice, and honor. Two of my
Presbyterian friends at Indian Point, near Petersburg, told me that
they had interviewed Mr. Lincoln to prevent his impending duel with
Shields--claiming that it was contrary to the Bible and Christianity. He
admitted that the dueling code was barbarous and regretted much to
find himself in its toils, but said he, 'The Bible is not my book, nor
Christianity my profession.'"

In some reminiscences of Lincoln, recently published, referring to a
celebrated murder case in which they were counsel for the defendant, Mr.
Perkins says: "I reminded him that from the first I had seen, and to him
said, the case is hopeless, and that he must have expected to work
a miracle to save the accused. He answered that I did him injustice,
_since he_ had no faith in miracles."

Alluding to Lincoln's alleged change of heart, he writes:

"He never changed a sentiment on the subject up to his final sleep."


Mr. Gorley, who was the confidential friend of Lincoln, and who
spent much time with him, both at home and abroad, made the following

"Lincoln belonged to no religious sect. He was religious in his own
way--not as others generally. I do not think he ever had a change of
heart, religiously speaking. Had he ever had a change of heart he would
have told me. He could not have neglected it."


Dr. Jayne, who was appointed Governor of Dakota by Lincoln, is one of
the most prominent citizens of Springfield, and was one of Lincoln's
ablest and most faithful political friends. He secured Lincoln's
nomination for the Legislature once, and was one of the first to pit
him against Douglas. In a letter to me, dated August 18, 1887, Dr. Jayne

"His general reputation among his neighbors and friends of twenty-five
years' standing was that of a disbeliever in the accepted faith of
orthodox Christians. His mind was purely logical in its construction
and action. He believed nothing except what was susceptible of
demonstration.... His most intimate friends here, and close to him in
the confidential relations of life, assert, in regard to those who claim
for Lincoln a faith in the orthodox Christian belief, that the claim is
a fraud and utter nonsense."


Jesse K. Dubois, for a time State Auditor of Illinois, a noble and
gifted man, and one whom Lincoln dearly loved, once related an anecdote
which shows that if Lincoln did believe in a Supreme Being, he had
little reverence for the God of Christianity. In company with Dubois, he
was visiting a family in or near Springfield. It was summer, and while
Dubois was in the house with the family, Lincoln occupied a seat in the
yard with his feet resting against a tree, as was his wont. The lady,
who was a very zealous Christian, called attention to his appearance
and commented rather severely upon his ugliness. When they returned home
Dubois referred to the lady's remarks. Lincoln was silent for a moment,
and then said: "Dubois, I know that I am ugly, but she worships a God
who is uglier than I am."


Judge Gillespie, of Edwardsville, Ill., one of Lincoln's most valued
friends, writes as follows:

"Mr. Lincoln seldom said anything on the subject of religion. He said
once to me that he never could reconcile the prescience of Deity with
the uncertainty of events." "It was difficult," says Judge Gillespie,
"for him to believe without demonstration."


Lincoln was admitted to the bar in 1837, when he was twenty-eight years
of age, Judge Logan being on the bench at the time. Soon after his
admission he formed a partnership with John T. Stuart which existed
nearly four years, or until Mr. Stuart entered Congress. He then became
the partner of Judge Logan, and continued in business with him until
1843, when he united his practice with that of Mr. Herndon. The
testimony of Mr. Stuart and Mr. Herndon has already been given. No
formal statement of Judge Logan concerning this question has been
preserved. All that I have been able to find is contained in a letter
from Mr. Herndon dated Dec. 22, 1888. Mr. Herndon wrote in relation
to Lincoln's letter of consolation to his dying father. In Lincoln's
letter, while Christ and Christianity are wholly ignored, there is an
implied recognition of immortality and an expressed hope that he may
meet his father again. Lincoln's friends, for the most part, consider
the letter merely conventional, not an expression of his real
sentiments, but simply an effort to console his Christian father whom
he could never meet again on earth. Mr. Herndon, however, is inclined to
believe that while the tone of the letter is not exactly in accordance
with the views generally held by Lincoln, it is yet a sincere expression
of the feelings he entertained at the time. Referring to this letter,
Mr. Herndon says:

"I showed the letter to Logan, Stuart, _et al,_ Logan laughed in my face
as much as to say: 'Herndon, are you so green as to believe that letter
to be Lincoln's real ideas?' I cannot give the exact words of Logan,
but he in substance said: 'Lincoln was an Infidel of the most radical


I close this division of my evidence with the testimony of that gifted
lawyer and honored citizen of Illinois, Leonard Swett. Previous to his
removal to Chicago, in 1865, Mr. Swett resided in Bloomington, and for
a dozen years traveled the old Eighth Judicial Circuit with Lincoln.
Few men knew Lincoln better than did Swett, and none was held in higher
esteem by Lincoln than he. It was he who placed Lincoln in nomination
for the Presidency at Chicago in 1860. I quote from a letter written by
Mr. Swett in 1866:

"You ask me whether he [Lincoln] changed his religious opinions toward
the close of his life. I think not. As he became involved in matters of
the greatest importance, full of great responsibility and great doubt,
a feeling of religious reverence, a belief in God and his justice and
overruling providence increased with him. He was always full of natural
religion. He believed in God as much as the most approved church member,
yet he judged of him by the same system of generalization as he judged
everything else. He had very little faith in ceremonials or forms. In
fact he cared nothing for the form of anything.... If his religion were
to be judged by the lines and rules of church creeds, he would fall far
short of the standard."


     Hon. W. H. T. Wakefield--Hon. D. W. Wilder--Dr. B. P.
     Gardner--Hon. J. K. Vandemark--A. Jeffrey--Dr. Arch E.
     McNeal--Charles McGrew--Edward Buller--Joseph Stafford--
     Judge A. D. Norton--J. L. Morrell--Mahlon Ross--L. Wilson--
     H. K. Magie--Hon. James Tuttle--Col. P. S. Rutherford--Judge
     Robert Leachman--Hon. Orin B. Gould--M. S. Gowin--Col. R. G.
     Ingersoll--Leonard W. Volk--Joseph Jefferson--Hon. E. B.
     Washburn--Hon. E. M. Haines.

I will next present the evidence that I have gleaned from the lips or
pens of personal friends of Lincoln who were acquainted with him in
Illinois. The relations of these persons to Lincoln were, for the
most part, less intimate than were those of the persons named in the
preceding chapter; but all of them enjoyed in no small degree his
confidence and esteem.


Mr. Wakefield, our first witness, is a son of the distinguished jurist,
Judge J. A. Wakefield. He is a prominent journalist, and was the nominee
of the United Labor party, for Vice-President, in the Presidential
contest of 1888. In a letter to the author, dated Lawrence, Kan., Sept.
28, 1880, Mr. Wakefield says: "My father, the late Judge J. A. Wakefield,
was a life-long friend of Lincoln's, they having served through the
Black Hawk war together and been in the Illinois Legislature together,
during which latter time Lincoln boarded with my father in Vandalia,
which was then the state capital. I remember of his visiting my father
at Galena, in 1844 or 1845. They continued to correspond until Lincoln's
death. My father was a member of the Methodist church and frequently
spoke of and lamented Lincoln's Infidelity, and referred to the many
arguments between them on the subject. The noted minister, Peter
Cartwright, boarded with my father at the same time that Lincoln
did, and my father and mother told me of the many theological and
philosophical arguments indulged in by Lincoln and Cartwright, and
of the fact that they always attracted many interested listeners and
usually ended by Cartwright's getting very angry and the spectators
being convulsed with laughter at Lincoln's dry wit and humorous

Lincoln's legislative career at Vandalia extended from 1834 to 1837. It
was about the beginning of this period that he wrote his book against
Christianity. He was thoroughly informed and enthusiastic in his Infidel
views, and it is not to be wondered at that on theological questions,
he was able to vanquish in debate even so eminent a theologian as Peter
Cartwright. Ten years later, Lincoln was the Whig, and Cartwright the
Democratic candidate for Congress. In this campaign a determined effort
was made by the church to defeat Lincoln on account of his Infidelity.
But his popularity, his reputation for honesty, his recognized ability,
and his transcendent powers on the stump, carried him successfully
through, and he was triumphantly elected.


One of the most gifted and honorable of Western journalists is D. W.
Wilder, of Kansas. He was Surveyor General of Kansas before it was
admitted into the Union, and after it became a state, he held the office
of State Auditor. Many years ago Gen. Wilder wrote and published an
editorial on Lincoln's religious views in which he affirmed that Lincoln
was a disbeliever in Christianity. The article excited the wrath of the
clergy, among them the Rev. D. P. Mitchell, the leading Methodist
divine of Kansas, who replied with much warmth, but without refuting the
statements of Gen. Wilder. Some of my Western readers will recall the
article and the controversy it provoked. I have been unable to procure
a copy of it, but in its place I present the following extract from a
letter received from Gen. Wilder, dated St. Joseph, Mo., Dec. 29, 1881:

"Lincoln believed in God, but not in the divinity of Christ. At first,
like Franklin, he was probably an Atheist. Although a 'forgiving' man
himself, he did not believe that any amount of 'penitence' could affect
the logical effects of violated law. He has a remarkable passage on that

Concerning Lincoln's partner, Mr. Herndon, with whom he was acquainted,
Gen. Wilder says:

"Write to Wm. H. Herndon, a noble man, Springfield, Ill. Send him your
book ['Life of Paine']. He will reply. The stories told about him are


Dr. Gardner, an old and respected resident of Atlanta, Ill., in March,
1887, made the following statement in regard to Lincoln's views:

"I knew Lincoln from 1854 up to the time he left Springfield. He was
an Infidel. He did not change his belief. Herndon told the truth in
his lecture. Lincoln did not believe that prayer moved God. When he
requested the prayers of his neighbors on leaving Springfield for
Washington, he saw that & storm was coming and that he must have the
support of the church."

These words of Lincoln in his farewell speech requesting the prayers of
his friends, though used merely in a conventional way, have been
cited by Holland, Arnold, and others, to prove that he believed in the
efficacy of prayer. That no such import was attached to them at the
time is admitted by Holland himself. He says: "This parting address
was telegraphed to every part of the country, and was strangely
misinterpreted. So little was the man's character understood that his
simple and earnest request that his neighbors should pray for him was
received by many as an evidence both of his weakness and his hypocrisy.
No President had ever before asked the people, in a public address,
to pray for him. It sounded like the cant of the conventicle to ears
unaccustomed to the language of piety from the lips of politicians. The
request was tossed about as a joke--'old Abe's last'" (Holland's Life of
Lincoln, p. 254).


J. K. Vandemark, who formerly resided near Springfield, Ill., and who
was well acquainted with Lincoln, on the 13th of October, 1887, at
Valparaiso, Neb., testified as follows:

"I met Lincoln often--had many conversations with him in his office. To
assert that he was a believer in Christianity is absurd. He had no faith
in the dogmas of the church."

Mr. Vandemark at the time his testimony was given was a member of the
State Senate of Nebraska.


Mr. Jeffrey, who has resided near Waynesville, Ill., for a period of
fifty years, and who was in the habit of attending court with Lincoln,
year after year, in an interview on the 1st of March, 1887, made the
following statement:

"Lincoln was decidedly Liberal. He admitted that he wrote a book against
Christianity. In later years he seldom talked on this subject, but
he did not change his belief. A thrust at the doctrine of endless
punishment always pleased him. This doctrine he abhorred."


Dr. McNeall, an old physician of Bowen, Ill., who was a delegate to the
Decatur Convention which brought Lincoln forward as a candidate for the
Presidency, says:

"I met Lincoln often during our political campaigns, and was quite well
acquainted with him. I know that he was a Liberal thinker."


Dr. McGrew is a resident of Coles County, Ill.--the county in which
nearly all of Lincoln's relatives have resided for sixty years. He is a
cousin of Hon. Allen G. Thurman, and is a man of sterling character.
He was for a time related to Lincoln, in a business way, and met
him frequently. I met Dr. McGrew in 1888, and when I propounded the
question, "Was Lincoln a Christian?" he replied: "Lincoln was not a
Christian. He was cautious and reserved and seldom said anything about
religion except when he was alone with a few companions whose opinions
were similar to his. On such occasions he did not hesitate to express
his unbelief."


Early in 1858, Lincoln delivered his memorable Springfield speech which
prepared the way for his debates with Douglas, and made him President of
the United States. Mr. Edward Butler, who resided in Springfield for a
period of twenty-six years, and who was well acquainted with Lincoln,
was leader of the band which furnished the music on this occasion. In
a letter written at Lyons, Kan., Jan. 16,1890, Mr. Butler relates
some incidents connected with the meeting, and quotes a passage from
Lincoln's speech to the effect that from the agitation of the slavery
question, truth would in the end prevail Alluding to this passage, Mr.
Butler says: "Shortly after the meeting referred to, I chanced to be
talking with Lincoln and quizzingly enquired how he could reconcile this
and similar utterances with Holy Writ? Without committing himself, he
enquired if I had read Gregg's 'Creed of Christendom.' I informed him
that I had not. 'Then,' said he, 'read that book and perhaps you may
ascertain my views about truth prevailing.' I never conversed with
Lincoln afterwards, but I obtained the book, which I keep treasured
in my library. I am well convinced that no man who is used to weighing
evidence, especially of Lincoln's humane and unbiased disposition, can
read the book in question without truth coming to the surface."

It is hardly necessary to state that Gregg's "Creed of Christendom" is a
standard work in Infidel literature, one of the most scholarly, powerful
and convincing arguments against orthodox Christianity ever written.


Joseph Stafford, a resident of Galesburg, Ill., and an acquaintance of
Lincoln, says:

"I know that Lincoln was a Liberal."


In April, 1893, at Ardmore, I. T., I met Judge Norton, of Gainesville,
Tex., an old acquaintance of Lincoln and Douglas. Judge Norton related
many interesting reminiscences of these noted men. Speaking of Lincoln's
religion, he said:

"For nearly fifty years I was a resident of Illinois. I practiced for
many years in the same courts with Lincoln and knew him well. He was an
Infidel. In his early manhood he wrote a book against Christianity which
his friends prevented him from publishing. Because he had become famous,
the church preached him from a theatre to heaven."


Mr. J. L. Morrell, a worthy citizen of Virden, Ill., who came to
Illinois soon after Lincoln did, settled in the adjoining county to
him, and like him followed for a time the avocation of surveyor, in a
conversation with the writer, on the 8th of February, 1889, made the
following statement:

"I knew Lincoln well--met him often. His religion was the religion of
common sense. He went into this subject as deep as any man. He did not
believe the inconsistencies of theology. He was not a Christian."


Squire Boss, another old resident of Virden, Ill., a lawyer, and a
writer of some repute, says:

"I was acquainted with Lincoln, but never talked with him on religion.
He did not belong to church, and his friends say that he was not a


Similar to the above is the testimony of Mr. Lusk Wilson, a prominent
and respectable citizen of Litchfield, Ill.:

"I was acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, but never heard him give his
views on the subject of religion. His partner, Herndon, and other
friends, state that he was not a believer in Christianity."


Two miles east of Atlanta, Ill., resides one of the pioneers of
Illinois, James Tuttle, now over eighty years of age. He was a member of
the Constitutional Convention of 1847, and is a man universally esteemed
for his love of truth and honesty. Mr. Tuttle's residence is situated
on the state road leading from Springfield to Bloomington. In going
from Springfield to Bloomington, to attend court, and in returning home
again, Lincoln always stopped over night with Mr. Tuttle. Theological
questions were favorite topics with both of them, and the evening
hours were usually spent in conversations of this character. Mr. Tuttle
accordingly became well acquainted with Lincoln's religious views. Feb.
26, 1887, at Minier, Ill., he made the following statement relative
to them: "Mr. Lincoln did not believe in Christianity. He denounced it
unsparingly. He had the greatest contempt for religious revivals, and
called those who took part in them a set of ignoramuses. He was one of
the most ardent admirers of Thomas Paine I ever met. He was continually
quoting from the 'Age of Reason.' Said he, 'I never tire of reading

Mr. Tuttle is confident that Lincoln always remained a Freethinker, and
believes that those who claim to have evidence from him to the contrary,
willfully affirm what they know to be false.


Mr. Magie formerly lived in Illinois, and was for a time connected with
the State Department at Springfield. Writing from Brooklyn, N. T., March
19, 1888, he says:

"My acquaintance with Mr. Lincoln was limited, as I did not reside in
Springfield during his residence there. I met him during his campaign
with Douglas at different times, and was with him once for three
days.... Mr. Lincoln was a Freethinker of the Thomas Paine type. There
have been picked up some of Mr. Lincoln's utterances about 'Providence,'
'God,' and the like, on which an attempt is made to make him out a
Christian. Those who knew him intimately agree in the statement that he
was a pronounced skeptic."

Mr. Magie also refers to the Infidel pamphlet written by Lincoln.
His knowledge regarding this, however, was derived, not from Lincoln
himself, but from his friends. He says: "At one time he wrote a criticism
of the New Testament which he proposed to publish and which his friends
succeeded in having suppressed, solely because of their regard for his
political future."

In a recent contribution to a New York paper from Washington, D. C, Mr.
Magie writes as follows: "I have always been fully persuaded in my own
mind that it would have been utterly impossible for a man possessing
that intuitive wisdom, keenness of logic, and discernment of truth,
which were the marked characteristics of Mr. Lincoln's mind, ever to
have subscribed to the atrocious doctrines of the Christian church. He
was developed far above it, and although making no war upon the church,
he did not hesitate to speak his mind freely upon these subjects upon
all proper occasions. I lived in Springfield among his old neighbors for
many years, and I have talked with many of them, and to those who had
good opportunity to know his views touching religious matters. All,
without exception, classed him among the skeptics. It was not until
after his death that he was claimed as a Christian. I am sorry for
Newton Bateman. He has placed himself in a most awkward predicament by
trying to keep out of one.... He permitted Mr. Holland to circulate
an atrocious falsehood in his 'Life of Lincoln' rather than incur
'unpleasant notoriety' by a firm and courageous denial." "It is not a
matter of much importance as to just what Abraham Lincoln did believe
concerning God, the Bible, or the man Jesus, but when we discover an
earnest, persistent, mean, and wicked attempt by lying and deceitful men
to pervert the truth in this matter, in order that their 'holy religion'
shall profit by their lies, the matter does become of some importance,
and I am glad that Mr. -------- has taken hold of this subject with that
zeal and earnestness which usually characterize his great ability, and
from what I know in this matter I can assure all whom it may concern
that by the time he is through with the subject it will be deemed
settled that Mr. Lincoln was not a hypocrite, neither was he a believer
in the monstrous and superstitious doctrines of the Christian church."

The foregoing evidence, with the exception of a portion of Mr. Magie's
testimony, was all given to the writer by the witnesses themselves,
either by letter or orally, and he hereby certifies to its faithful
transcription. This evidence is from men whose characters as witnesses
cannot be impeached, and it is hardly possible that one of them will
ever favor the other side with a disclaimer.


I wish now to record a statement from Colonel Rutherford, a well-known
citizen and soldier of Illinois. It was not made to the writer, but was
made during the war to Mr. W. W. Fraser, a member of his regiment, and
a man of unquestionable veracity. I will let Mr. Fraser present it,
together with the circumstances which called it out. I quote from a
letter dated Ottawa, Kan., Dec. 16, 1881: "During the siege of Vicksburg
our colonel, F. S. Rutherford, Colonel of the 97th 111. Vol. Inft., was
about to leave us, and I went to see him about taking a small package to
Alton--his home and mine. He had been sick and quite unable to do active
service. During our conversation I said that many of the Alton boys did
not like to be left under the command of ----------. Colonel Rutherford
then said:

'If my life is worth anything I owe it as much to my family as my
country, and it will be worthless to either if I stay much longer in
camp, but I hate to leave the boys.' Colonel Rutherford said that he
had stumped his district for Mr. Lincoln, and had expected, from Mr.
Lincoln's promises, something better than a colonelcy. I told Colonel
Rutherford that I was sorry to hear that, as I had always thought so
well of Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Rutherford then said: 'What more could you
expect of an Infidel?' I said:

'Why, Colonel, doesn't Lincoln believe in a God?'

He replied: 'Well, he may believe in God, but he doesn't believe in the
Bible nor Christ. I know it, for I have heard him make fun of them and
say that Christ was a bastard if Joseph was not his father, and I
have some sheets of paper now at home that he wrote, making fun of the


The venerable Southern jurist, Judge Leachman, was one of Lincoln's
intimate and valued friends. He is a Christian, but candidly confesses
that Lincoln was not a believer. In the autumn of 1889, at Anniston,
Ala., Judge Leachman made the following statement to Mr. W. S. Andres,
of Portsmouth, O.:

"Lincoln was not such a Christian as the term is used to imply by
church members and church-going people. He was in the strictest sense a
moralist, he looked to actions and not to belief. He greatly admired the
Golden Rule, and was one of those who thought that 'One world at a time'
was a good idea.... He thought this a good place to be happy as is shown
by his wonderful love for liberty and mercy. No, I can truthfully say,
Abraham Lincoln was not a Christian."


Another friend and admirer of Lincoln was Orin B. Gould, of Franklin
Furnace, O. Mr. Gould was one of the noted men of Southern Ohio. He
was a man of sterling worth and extensive knowledge, and was familiarly
known as the "Sage of the Furnace." He became acquainted with Lincoln
in Illinois at an early day, and a close friendship existed between them
while Lincoln lived. Mr. Gould survived his illustrious friend nearly a
quarter of a century, dying recently at his beautiful home on the banks
of the Ohio. Previous to his death the question of Lincoln's religion
was presented to him and his own views on the subject solicited. His
response was as follows:

"He, like myself, recognized no monsters for Gods. He, like myself,
discarded the divinity of Christ, and the idea of a hell's fire. He,
like myself, admired Christ as a man, and believed the devil and evil to
be simply 'truth misunderstood.' He, like myself, thought good wherever
found should be accepted and the bad rejected."


Mr. Gowin, an old and prominent citizen, and a Justice of the Peace, of
McCune, Kan., in a recent article, has this to say regarding Lincoln:

"I lived near Springfield, Ill., from the time that I was a child, and
at the time Lincoln came before the people, and during the time he was
President, his enemies called him an Infidel, and his friends did not
deny it."


On the eighty-fourth anniversary of Lincoln's birth, Col. Ingersoll
delivered in New York his masterly oration on Abraham Lincoln. In this
oration he affirmed that the religion of Lincoln was the religion of
Voltaire and Paine. Immediately after its delivery Gen. Collis, of New
York, addressed the following note to Col. Ingersoll:

"Dear Col. Ingersoll: I have just returned home from listening to your
most entertaining lecture upon the life of Abraham Lincoln. I thank you
sincerely for all that was good in it, and that entitles me to be frank
in condemning what I consider was bad. You say that Lincoln's religion
was the religion of Voltaire and Tom Paine. I know not where you get
your authority for this, but if the statement be true Lincoln himself
was untrue, for no man invoked 'the gracious favor of Almighty God' in
every effort of his life with more apparent fervor than did he, and
this God was not the Deists' God but the God whom he worshiped under the
forms of the Christian Church, of which he was a member. I do not write
this in defense of his religion or as objecting to yours, but I think it
were better for the truth of history that you should blame him for what
he was than commend him for what he was not.

"Sincerely yours,

"Charles H. T. Collis."

In answer to the above Col. Ingersoll penned the following reply:

"Gen. Charles H. T. Collis,

"My dear sir:

"I have just received your letter in which you criticise a statement
made by me to the effect that Lincoln's religion was the religion of
Voltaire and Thomas Paine, and you add, 'I know not where you get your
authority for this, but if the statement be true Lincoln himself was
untrue, for no man ever invoked the gracious favor of Almighty God in
every effort of his life with more apparent fervor than did he.'

"You seem to be laboring under the impression that Voltaire was not a
believer in God, and that he could not have invoked the gracious favor
of Almighty God. The truth is that Voltaire was not only a believer in
God, but even in special Providence. I know that the clergy have always
denounced Voltaire as an Atheist, but this can be accounted for in two
ways: (1) By the ignorance of the clergy, and (2) by their contempt of
truth. Thomas Paine was also a believer in God, and wrote his creed as
follows: 'I believe in one God and no more, and hope for immortality.'
The ministers have also denounced Paine as an Atheist. You will,
therefore, see that your first statement is without the slightest
foundation in fact. Lincoln could be perfectly true to himself if he
agreed with the religious sentiments of Voltaire and Paine, and yet
invoke the gracious favor of Almighty God. You also say, 'This God'
(meaning the God whose favor Lincoln invoked) 'was not the Deists' God.'
The Deists believe in an Infinite Being, who created and preserves the
universe. The Christians believe no more. Deists and Christians believe
in the same God, but they differ as to what this God has done, and to
what this God will do. You further say that 'Lincoln worshiped his God
under the forms of the Christian Church, of which he was a member.'
Again you are mistaken. Lincoln was never a member of any church. Mrs.
Lincoln stated a few years ago that Mr. Lincoln was not a Christian.
Hundreds of his acquaintances have said the same thing. Not only so, but
many of them have testified that he was a Freethinker; that he denied
the inspiration of the Scriptures, and that he always insisted that
Christ was not the son of God, and that the dogma of the atonement was
and is an absurdity. I will very gladly pay you one thousand dollars for
your trouble to show that one statement in your letter is correct--even
one. And now, to quote you, 'Do you not think it were better for the
truth of history that you should state the facts about Lincoln, and that
you should commend him for what he was rather than for what he was not?'

"Yours truly,

"R. G. Ingersoll."


In the spring of 1860, just before Lincoln was nominated for the
Presidency, the celebrated sculptor, Volk, made a bust of him. He spent
a week in Chicago and made daily sittings in the artist's studio. Mr.
Volk relates the following incident, which hardly accords with the tales
told about Lincoln's reverence for the Sabbath, and his love for church
services: "He entered my studio on Sunday morning, remarking that a
friend at the hotel had invited him to go to church. 'But,' said Mr.
Lincoln, 'I thought I'd rather come and sit for the bust. The fact is,'
he continued, 'I don't like to hear cut-and-dried sermons.'"


It is difficult for orthodox Christians to reconcile Lincoln's fondness
for the play with his reputed piety. That his last act was a visit to
the theater is a fact that stands out in ghastly prominence to them. To
break its force they offer various explanations. Some say that he went
to avoid the office-seekers; others that Mrs. Lincoln compelled him to
go; and still others that he was led there by fate. The truth is he was
a frequent attendant at the theater. He went there much oftener than he
went to church. The visit of a clergyman annoyed him, but the society of
actors he enjoyed. He greatly admired the acting of Edwin Booth. He sent
a note to the actor Hackett, praising him for his fine presentation
of Falstaff. He called John McCulloch to his box one night and
congratulated him on his successful rendition of the part he was

In his autobiography, which recently appeared in the _Century Magazine_,
Joseph Jefferson gives some interesting reminiscences of Lincoln. In the
earlier part of his dramatic career he was connected with a theatrical
company, the managers of which, one of whom was his father, built
a theater in Springfield, Ill. A conflict between the preachers and
players ensued. The church was powerful then, and the city joined with
the church to suppress the theater. The history of the struggle and its
termination, as narrated by Mr. Jefferson, is as follows:

"In the midst of their rising fortunes a heavy blow fell upon them. A
religious revival was in progress at the time, and the fathers of the
church not only launched forth against us in their sermons, but by some
political maneuver got the city to pass a new law enjoining a heavy
license against our 'unholy' calling; I forget the amount, but it
was large enough to be prohibitory. Here was a terrible condition of
affairs--all our available funds invested, the Legislature in session,
the town full of people, and by a heavy license denied the privilege of
opening the new theater!

"In the midst of their trouble a young lawyer called on the managers. He
had heard of the injustice, and offered, if they would place the matter
in his hands, to have the license taken off, declaring that he only
desired to see fair play, and he would accept no fee whether he failed
or succeeded. The case was brought up before the council. The young man
began his harangue. He handled the subject with tact, skill, and humor,
tracing the history of the drama from the time when Thespis acted in a
cart to the stage of to-day. He illustrated his speech with a number of
anecdotes, and kept the council in a roar of laughter; his good humor
prevailed, and the exorbitant tax was taken off. This young lawyer was
very popular in Springfield, and was honored and beloved by all who knew
him, and, after the time of which I write, he held rather an important
position in the Government of the United States. He now lies buried
near Springfield, under a monument commemorating his greatness and his
virtues--and his name was Abraham Lincoln."


The ball-room, too, had its attractions for him. Some years ago Hon. E.
B. Washburn contributed to the _North American Review_ a lengthy article
on Lincoln. When President Taylor was inaugurated, Lincoln was serving
his term in Congress. Alluding to the inaugural ball, Mr. Washburn
says: "A small number of mutual friends including Mr. Lincoln--made up a
party to attend the inauguration ball together. It was by far the most
brilliant inauguration ball ever given.... We did not take our departure
until three or four o'clock in the morning" (Reminiscences of Lincoln,
p. 19).


In February, 1859, Governor Bissell gave a reception in Springfield
which Lincoln attended. Hon. E. M. Haines, then a member of the
Legislature, and one of Lincoln's supporters for the Senate, referring
to the affair, says:

"Dancing was going on in the adjacent rooms, and Mr. Lincoln invited my
wife to join him in the dancing, which she did, and he apparently took
much pleasure in the recreation" (Every-Day Life of Lincoln, p. 308).

Early in January, 1863, President and Mrs. Lincoln gave a reception and
ball at the White House. This was a severe shock to the Christians of
the country, and provoked a storm of censure from the religious press.

According to Ninian Edwards, Lincoln is converted to Christianity about
1848. In March, 1849, he attends the inauguration ball and "Won't go
home till morning." According to Dr. Smith, he is converted in 1858. In
February, 1859, he attends and participates in a ball at Springfield.
According to Noah Brooks, he is converted in 1862. In January, 1863, he
gives a ball himself. In every instance he retires from the altar only
to enter the ball-room.


     Hon. Geo. W. Julian--Hon. John B. Alley--Hon. Hugh McCulloch--
     Donn Piatt--Hon. Schuyler Colfax--Hon. Geo. S.
     Boutwell--Hon. Wm. D. Kelly--E. H. Wood--Dr. J. J. Thompson--
     Rev. James Shrigley--Hon. John Covode--Jas. E. Murdock--
     Hon. M. B. Field--Harriet Beecher Stowe--Hon. J. P. Usher--
     Hon. S. P. Chase--Frederick Douglas--Mr. Defrees--Hon. Wm.
     H. Seward--Judge Aaron Goodrich--Nicolay and Hay's "Life of
     Lincoln"--Warren Chase--Hon. A. J. Grover--Judge James M.

The evidence of more than fifty witnesses has already been adduced to
prove that Lincoln was not a Christian in Illinois. Those who at first
were so forward to claim that he was, have generally recognized the
futility of the claim. They have abandoned it, and content themselves
with affirming that he became a Christian after he went to Washington.
These claimants, being for the most part rigid sectarians themselves,
endeavor to convince the world that he not only became a Christian, but
an orthodox Christian, and a sectarian; that even from a Calvinistic
standpoint, he was "sound not only on the truth of the Christian
religion but on all its fundamental doctrines and teachings."

The testimony of Colonel Lamon, Judge Davis, Mrs. Lincoln, and Colonel
Nicolay, not only refutes this claim, but shows that he was not in any
just sense of the term a Christian when he died. In addition to this
evidence, I will now present the testimony of a score of other witnesses
who knew him in Washington. These witnesses do not all affirm that he
was a total disbeliever in Christianity; but a part of them do, while
the testimony of the remainder is to the effect that he was not orthodox
as claimed.


Our first witness is George W. Julian, of Indiana. Mr. Julian was for
many years a leader in Congress, was the Anti-Slavery candidate for
Vice-President, in 1852, and one of the founders of the party that
elected Lincoln to the Presidency. He was one of Lincoln's warmest
personal friends and intimately acquainted with him at Washington.
Writing to me from Santa Fe, N. M., under date of March 13,1888, Mr.
Julian says: "I knew him [Lincoln] well, and I know that he was not a
Christian in any old-fashioned orthodox sense of the word, but only a
religious Theist. He was, substantially, such a Christian as Jefferson,
Franklin, Washington, and John Adams; and it is perfectly idle to assert
the contrary."


In 1886, the publishers of the _North American Review_ issued one of
the most unique, original, and interesting works on Lincoln that has
yet appeared--"Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln." It was edited by Allen
Thorndike Rice, and comprises, in addition to a biographical sketch of
Lincoln's life by the editor, thirty-three articles on Lincoln written
by as many distinguished men of his day. One of the best articles in
this volume is from the pen of one of Boston's merchant princes, John
B. Alley. Mr. Alley was for eight years a member of Congress from
Massachusetts, serving in this capacity during all the years that
Lincoln was President. To his ability and integrity as a statesman this
remarkable yet truthful tribute has been paid: "No bill he ever reported
and no measure he ever advocated during his long term of service failed
to receive the approbation of the House." Lincoln recognized his many
sterling qualities, and throughout the war his relations with the
President were of the most intimate character. Mr. Alley is one of the
many who know that Lincoln was not a Christian, and one of the few
who have the courage to affirm it. He says: "In his religious views
Mr. Lincoln was very nearly what we would call a Freethinker. While
he reflected a great deal upon religious subjects he communicated his
thoughts to a very few. He had little faith in the popular religion of
the times. He had a broad conception of the goodness and power of an
overruling Providence, and said to me one day that he felt sure the
Author of our being, whether called God or Nature, it mattered little
which, would deal very mercifully with poor erring humanity in the
other, and he hoped better, world. He was as free as possible from all
sectarian thought, feeling, or sentiment. No man was more tolerant
of the opinions and feelings of others in the direction of religious
sentiment or had less faith in religious dogmas" (Reminiscences of
Lincoln, pp. 590, 591).

In conclusion, Mr. Alley says: "While Mr. Lincoln was perfectly honest
and upright and led a blameless life, he was in no sense what might be
considered a religious man" (Ibid).


Hon. Hugh McCulloch, a member of Lincoln's Cabinet, his last Secretary
of the Treasury, writes: "Grave and sedate in manner, he was full of kind
and gentle emotion. He was fond of poetry. Shakspere was his delight.
Few men could read with equal expression the plays of the great
dramatist. The theater had great attractions for him, but it was comedy,
not tragedy, he went to hear. He had great enjoyment of the plays
that made him laugh, no matter how absurd and grotesque, and he gave
expression to his enjoyment by hearty and noisy applause. He was a man
of strong religious convictions, but he cared nothing for the dogmas of
the churches and had little respect for their creeds" (Reminiscences of
Lincoln, pp. 412, 413).


The distinguished lawyer, soldier and journalist, Donn Piatt, who knew
Lincoln in Illinois and who met him often in Washington, writes: "I soon
discovered that this strange and strangely gifted man, while not at
all cynical, was a skeptic. His view of human nature was low, but
good-natured. I could not call it suspicious, but he believed only what
he saw" (Reminiscences of Lincoln, p. 480).

Those who are disposed to believe that Lincoln's Christian biographers
have observed an inflexible adherence to truth in their statements
concerning his religious belief would do well to ponder the following
words of Mr. Piatt: "History is, after all, the crystallization of
popular beliefs. As a pleasant fiction is more acceptable than a naked
fact, and as the historian shapes his wares, like any other dealer, to
suit his customers, one can readily see that our chronicles are only a
duller sort of fiction than the popular novels so eagerly read; not that
they are true, but that they deal in what we long to have--the truth.
Popular beliefs, in time, come to be superstitions, and create gods and
devils. Thus Washington is deified into an impossible man, and Aaron
Burr has passed into a like impossible monster. Through the same process
Abraham Lincoln, one of our truly great, has almost gone from human
knowledge" (Ibid, p. 478).


Previous to the war no class of persons were louder in their
denunciation of Abolitionism than the clergy of the North. When at last
it became evident that the institution of slavery was doomed, in their
eagerness to be found on the popular side, they were equally loud in
their demands for its immediate extirpation. In September, 1862, a
deputation of Chicago clergymen waited upon the President for
the purpose of urging him to proclaim the freedom of the slave.
Notwithstanding he had matured his plans and was ready to issue his
Proclamation, he gave them no intimation of his intention. In connection
with their visit, Colfax relates the following: "One of these ministers
felt it his duty to make a more searching appeal to the President's
conscience. Just as they were retiring, he turned, and said to Mr.
Lincoln, 'What you have said to us, Mr. President, compels me to say
to you in reply, that it is a message to you from our Divine Master,
through me, commanding you, sir, to open the doors of bondage that the
slave may go free!' Mr. Lincoln replied, instantly, 'That may be, sir,
for I have studied this question, by night and by day, for weeks and for
months, but if it is, as you say, a message from your Divine Master, is
it not odd that the only channel he could send it by was that roundabout
route by that awfully wicked city of Chicago?" (Reminiscences of
Lincoln, pp. 334, 335).

In a lecture delivered in Brooklyn, N. T., in 1886, Mr. Colfax stated
that Lincoln was not a Christian, in the evangelical sense. To a
gentleman who visited him at his home in South Bend, Ind., he declared
that Lincoln was not a believer in orthodox Christianity. Again at
Atchison, Kan., he informed Mr. Perkins that Lincoln had never been
converted to Christianity, as claimed.


William D. Kelley, for thirty years a member of Congress from
Pennsylvania, relates an incident similar to the one related by Mr.
Colfax. A "Quaker preacher" called at the White House to urge the
President to proclaim at once the freedom of the slave. To illustrate
her argument and emphasize her plea, she cited the history of
Deborah. "Having elaborated this Biblical example," says Mr. Kelley,
"the speaker assumed that the President was, as Deborah had been, the
appointed minister of the Lord, and proceeded to tell him that it
was his duty to follow the example of Deborah, and forthwith abolish
slavery, and establish freedom throughout the land, as the Lord had
appointed him to do.

"'Has the Friend finished?' said the President, as she ceased to speak.
Having received an affirmative answer, he said: 'I have neither time
nor disposition to enter into discussion with the Friend, and end this
occasion by suggesting for her consideration the question whether, if it
be true that the Lord has appointed me to do the work she has indicated,
it is not probable that he would have communicated knowledge of the fact
to me as well as to her'" (Reminiscences of Lincoln, pp. 284, 285).


A great many pious stories have been circulated in regard to the
Emancipation Proclamation. We are told that he made a "solemn vow to
God" that if Lee was defeated at Antietam he would issue the Preliminary
Proclamation. And yet this document contains no recognition of God. He
even completed the draft of it on what Christians are pleased to regard
as God's holy day. Mr. Boutwell states that Lincoln once related to
him the circumstances attending the promulgation of the instrument. He
quotes the following as Lincoln's words: "The truth is just this: When
Lee came over the river, I made a resolution that if McClellan drove him
back I would send the Proclamation after him. The battle of Antietam was
fought Wednesday, and until Saturday I could not find out whether we
had gained a victory or lost a battle. It was then too late to issue the
Proclamation that day, and the fact is _I fixed it up a little Sunday_,
and Monday I let them have it" (Reminiscences of Lincoln, p. 126).


Mr. E. H. Wood, one of Lincoln's old Springfield neighbors, who visited
him at Washington during the war, made the following statement to Mr.
Hern-don, in October, 1881:

"I came from Auburn, N. Y.--knew Seward well--knew Lincoln very
well--lived for three years just across the alley from his residence. I
had many conversations with him on politics and religion as late as
1859 and '60. He was a broad religionist--a Liberal. Lincoln told me
Franklin's story. Franklin and a particular friend made an agreement
that when the first one died he would come back and tell how things
went. Well, Franklin's friend died, but never came back. 'It is a
doubtful question,' said Lincoln, 'whether we get anywhere to get back.'
Lincoln said, 'There is no hell.' He did not say much about heaven. I
met him in Washington and saw no change in him."

I have given the testimony of two of Lincoln's nearest neighbors in
Springfield, Isaac Hawley and E. H. Wood. Mr. Hawley _believes_ that
Lincoln was a Christian; Mr. Wood _knows_ that he was not. Mr. Hawley
never heard Lincoln utter a word to support his belief; Mr. Wood
obtained his knowledge from Lincoln himself. Mr. Hawley's belief is of
little value compared with Mr. Wood's knowledge. Mr. Hawley never heard
Lincoln defend Christianity and probably never heard him oppose it.
Lincoln knew that Mr. Hawley was a Christian--that he had no sympathy
with his Freethought views. He did not desire to offend or antagonize
him, and hence he refrained from introducing a subject that he knew was
distasteful to him. Mr. Wood, on the other hand, was a man of broad and
Liberal ideas, and Lincoln did not hesitate to express to him his views
with freedom.


Dr. J. J. Thompson, an old resident of Illinois, now in Colorado, in a
letter, dated March 18, 1888, writes as follows: "I knew Abraham Lincoln
from my boyhood up to the time of his death. I was in his law office
many times and met him several times in Washington. He was a Liberal,
outspoken, and seemed to feel proud of it."

"This great and good man," concludes Dr. Thompson, "claimed Humanity as
his religion."


Rev. Jas. Shrigley, of Philadelphia, who was acquainted with President
Lincoln in Washington, and who received a hospital chaplaincy from him,
says: "President Lincoln was also remarkably tolerant. He was the friend
of all, and never, to my knowledge, gave the influence of his great
name to encourage sectarianism in any of its names and forms" (Lincoln
Memorial Album, p. 335).


In connection with Mr. Shrigley's appointment, the following anecdote
is related. Mr. Shrigley was not orthodox, and when it became known that
his name had been sent to the Senate, a Committee of "Young Christians"
waited upon the President for the purpose of inducing him to withdraw
the nomination. Hon. John Covode, of Pennsylvania, was present during
the interview and gave it to the press. It is as follows:

"'We have called, Mr. President, to confer with you in regard to the
appointment of Mr. Shrigley, of Philadelphia, as hospital chaplain.'

"The President responded: 'Oh, yes, gentlemen; I have sent his name to
the Senate, and he will no doubt be confirmed at an early day.'

"One of the young men replied: 'We have not come to ask for the
appointment, but to solicit you to withdraw the nomination.'

"'Ah,' said Lincoln, 'that alters the case; but on what ground do you
ask the nomination withdrawn?'

"The answer was, 'Mr. Shrigley is not sound in his theological

"The President inquired: 'On what question is the gentleman unsound?'

"Response: 'He does not believe in endless punishment; not only so, sir,
but he believes that even the rebels themselves will finally be saved.'

"'Is that so?' inquired the President.

"The members of the committee both responded, 'Yes,' 'Yes.'

"'Well, gentlemen, if that be so, and there is any way under heaven
whereby the rebels can be saved, then, for God's sake and their sakes,
let the man be appointed'" (L. M. A., pp. 336, 337).

And he was appointed.


It is claimed that few public men have made greater use of the Bible
than Lincoln. This is true. He was continually quoting Scripture or
alluding to Scriptural scenes and stories, sometimes to illustrate or
adorn a serious speech, but more frequently to point or emphasize a
joke. The venerable actor and elocutionist, James E. Murdoch, who had
met Lincoln, both in Springfield and Washington, relates an anecdote of
him while at Washington which serves to illustrate this propensity: "One
day a detachment of troops was marching along the avenue singing the
soul-stirring strain of 'John Brown.' They were walled in on either side
by throngs of citizens and strangers, whose voices mingled in the roll
of the mighty war-song. In the midst of this exciting scene, a man had
clambered into a small tree, on the sidewalk, where he clung, unmindful
of the jeers of the passing crowd, called forth by the strange antics
he was unconsciously exhibiting in his efforts to overcome the swaying
motion of the slight stem which bent beneath his weight. Mr. Lincoln's
attention was attracted for a moment, and he paused in the serious
conversation in which he was deeply interested and in an abstracted
manner, yet with a droll cast of the eye, and a nod of the head in the
direction of the man, he repeated, in his dry and peculiar utterance,
the following old-fashioned couplet:

     'And Zaccheous he did climb a tree,
     His Lord and Master for to see.'"

     (L. M. A., pp. 349, 350).

Mr. Murdoch states that in connection with this incident Lincoln was
charged "with turning sacred subjects into ridicule." He apologizes
for, and attempts to palliate this levity, and affects to believe that
Lincoln was a Christian. But almost daily Lincoln indulged in jokes at
the expense of the Bible and Christianity, many of them ten-fold more
sacrilegious in their character than this trifling incident related
by Mr. Murdoch. If the scrupulously pious considered this simple jest,
uttered in the midst of a mixed crowd, irreverent, what would have been
their horror could they have listened to some of his remarks made
when alone with a skeptical boon companion? With Christians and with
strangers he was generally guarded in his speech, lest he should give
offense; but with his unbelieving friends, up to the end of his career,
his keenest shafts of wit were not infrequently aimed at the religion
of his day. This shows that the popular faith had no more sacredness
for Lincoln, the President, in Washington, than it had for Lincoln, the
farmer's boy, who mocked and mimicked it in Indiana, or Lincoln, the
lawyer, who scoffed at it and argued against it in Illinois.


Mr. Field, who had met nearly all the noted characters of his day,
both of Europe and America, in his "Memories of Many Men," has this
significant sentence respecting Lincoln:

"Mr. Lincoln was entirely deficient in what the phrenologists call
_reverence [veneration]_."

This made it easy for him to emancipate himself from the slavery of
priestcraft and become and remain a Freethinker. Professor Beall, one of
the ablest of living phrenological writers, says:

"No man can 'enjoy religion,' as the Methodists express it, unless he
has well developed veneration and wonder" (The Brain and the Bible,
p. 109). "All those who rebel against any form of government which
in childhood they were taught to revere, must of necessity do so in
opposition to the faculty of veneration. Thus it is obvious that the
less one possesses of the conservative restraining faculties, the
more easily he becomes a rebel or an Infidel to that which his
reason condemns. On the other hand, the profoundly conscientious and
reverential man, who sincerely regards unbelief as a sin, of course
instinctively antagonizes every skeptical thought, and is thus likely to
remain a slave to the religion learned at his mother's knee" (Ibid, p.

Mr. Field also relates the following anecdote of Lincoln: "I was once
in Mr. Lincoln's company when a sectarian controversy arose. He himself
looked very grave, and made no observation until all the others had
finished what they had to say. Then with a twinkle of the eye he
remarked that he preferred the Episcopalians to every other sect,
because they are equally indifferent to a man's religion and his


The noted author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" had several interviews with the
President. She wrote an article on him which has been cited in proof
of his "deeply religious nature." But if her words prove anything, they
prove that he was not an evangelical Christian. They are as follows:

"But Almighty God has granted to him that clearness of vision which he
gives to the true-hearted, and enabled him to set his honest foot in
that promised land of freedom which is to be the patrimony of all men,
black and white; and from henceforth nations shall rise up and call him
blessed. _We believe he has never made any religions profession_, but we
see evidence that in passing through this dreadful national crisis,
he has been forced by the very anguish of the struggle to look upward,
where any rational creature must look for support. No man in this agony
has suffered more and deeper, albeit with a dry, weary, patient pain,
that seemed to some like insensibility. 'Whichever way it ends,' he said
to the writer, 'I have the impression that I shan't last long after it's
over'" (Every-Day Life of Lincoln, pp. 575, 576).

Mrs. Stowe was herself an orthodox Christian communicant, but her
store of good sense was too great to allow her to inflict her religious
notions upon the unbelieving President, and, as a consequence, she did
not see him rush out of the room with a Bible under his arm to--I was
going to say--pray God to deliver him from an intolerable nuisance.

That the mighty burden which pressed upon Lincoln made him a sadder
and more serious man at Washington than he had been before is true.
Christians are always mistaking sadness for penitence and seriousness
for piety, and so they claim that he experienced a change of heart.


Christians and Theists are wont to speak of Lincoln's constant and firm
reliance upon God. But it is a little remarkable that in the preparation
of his greatest work he did not rely upon God. In the supreme moments
of his life he forgot God. Dr. Barrows says: "When he wrote his immortal
Proclamation, he invoked upon it... 'the gracious favor of Almighty

When he wrote his immortal Proclamation he had no thought of God. Judge
Usher, a member of his Cabinet, tells us how God came to be invoked: "In
the preparation of the final Proclamation of Emancipation, of January 1,
1863, Mr. Lincoln manifested great solicitude. He had his original draft
printed and furnished each member of his Cabinet with a copy, with the
request that each should examine, criticise, and suggest any amendments
that occurred to them. At the next meeting of the Cabinet Mr. Chase
said: 'This paper is of the utmost importance--greater than any state
paper ever made by this Government. A paper of so much importance, and
involving the liberties of so many people, ought, I think, to make some
reference to Deity. I do not observe anything of the kind in it.' Mr.
Lincoln said: 'No; I overlooked it. Some reference to Deity must be
inserted. Mr. Chase, won't you make a draft of what you think ought
to be inserted?' Mr. Chase promised to do so, and at the next meeting
presented the following: 'And upon this Act, sincerely believed to be an
act of justice warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity,
I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of
Almighty God'" (Reminiscences of Lincoln, pp. 91, 92).


In the New York _Tribune_ of Feb. 22d, 1893, appeared an article on "How
the Emancipation Proclamation was made," written by Mrs. Janet Chase
Hoyt, daughter of Salmon P. Chase. In this article Mrs. Hoyt gives
the following extract from a letter written to her by her father in
1867: "Looking over old papers, I found many of my memoranda, etc.,
of the war, and among them my draft of a proclamation of emancipation
submitted to Mr. Lincoln the day before his own was issued. He asked
all of us for suggestions in regard to its form and I submitted mine in
writing, and among other sentences the close as it now stands, which he
adopted from my draft with a modification. It may be interesting to you
to see precisely what I said, and I copy it. You must remember that in
the original draft there was no reference whatever to Divine or human
sanction of the act. What I said was this at the conclusion of my
letter: 'Finally, I respectfully suggest that on an occasion of such
interest there can be no imputation of affectation against a solemn
recognition of responsibility before men and before God, and that
some such close as this will be proper: "And upon this act, sincerely
believed to be an act of justice warranted by the Constitution (and
of duty demanded by the circumstances of the country), I invoke the
considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty
God.'" Mr. Lincoln adopted this close, substituting only for the words
inclosed in parentheses these words: 'upon military necessity,' which I
think was not an improvement.'"


During his Presidency the clergy petitioned him to recommend in his
message to Congress an amendment to the Constitution recognizing the
existence of God. In preparing his message it seems that he inserted
the request. Referring to this, Mr. Defrees, Superintendent of Public
Printing during Lincoln's administration, says: "When I assisted him in
reading the proof he struck it out, remarking that he had not made up
his mind as to its propriety" (_Westminster Review_, Sept. 1891).


In his "Travels Around the World," Seward records one of Lincoln's
sarcastic hits at the doctrine of endless punishment. Speaking of
England's jealousy of the United States in certain matters, Seward says:

"That hesitation and refusal recall President Lincoln's story of the
intrusion of the Universalists into the town of Springfield. The several
orthodox churches agreed that their pastors should preach down the
heresy. One of them began his discourse with these emphatic words: 'My
Brethren, there is a dangerous doctrine creeping in among us. There are
those who are teaching that all men will be saved; but my dear brethren,
_we_ hope for better things'" (Travels Around the World, p. 513).


Judge Goodrich, of Minnesota, Lincoln's minister to Belgium, who was one
of the most accomplished scholars in the West, and an author of note,
and who was on terms of close intimacy with Lincoln, both before and
after he became President, says:

"He [Lincoln] believed in a God, i.e., Nature; but he did not believe in
the Christ, nor did he ever affiliate with any church."


Abraham Lincoln believed in a Supreme Being, but he did not believe in
the God of Christians. The God of Christians was to him the most hideous
monster that the imagination of man had ever conceived. There were
two doctrines taught in connection with this deity which he especially
abhorred--the doctrine of endless punishment, and the doctrine
of vicarious atonement. That the innocent should suffer for the
guilty--that God should permit his sinless son to be put to a cruel
death to atone for the sins of wicked men--was to him an act of the
most infamous injustice. His whole nature rebelled against the idea.
Frederick Douglas narrates an incident which, while it has no direct
reference to this theological doctrine, yet tends to disclose his
abhorrence of the idea. Mr. Douglas was engaged in recruiting colored
troops and visited the President for the purpose of securing from him
a pledge that colored soldiers would be allowed the same privileges
accorded white soldiers. As the Confederate Government had declared
that they would be treated as insurgents, he also urged upon him the
necessity of retaliating, if colored prisoners were put to death. But to
the latter proposition Lincoln would not listen. Mr. Douglas says:

"I shall never forget the benignant expression of his face, the tearful
look of his eye and the quiver of his voice, when he deprecated a resort
to retaliatory measures. He said he could not take men out and kill them
in cold blood for what was done by others. If he could get hold of the
persons who were guilty of killing the colored prisoners in cold blood,
the case would be different, but _he could not kill the innocent for the
guilty_" (Reminiscences of Lincoln, pp. 188, 189).


Of the numerous biographies of Lincoln that have been published,
the authors of three, above all others, were specially qualified
and possessed the necessary materials for a reliable biography of
him--Herndon, Lamon, and Nicolay and Hay.

As Colonel Lamon's "Life" covers but a part of Lincoln's career, and
as Mr. Herndon's "Life" deals more with his private life than with his
public history, the biography of Lincoln that is likely to be
accepted as the standard authority, is the work written by his private
secretaries, Col. John G. Nicolay and Col. John Hay, which originally
appeared in the _Century Magazine_. In the chapter on "Lincoln and the
Churches," the religious phase of Lincoln's character is presented. In
dealing with this question the authors have carefully avoided the
rock upon which Lamon's "Life" was wrecked, and at the same time have
refrained from repeating the misrepresentations of Holland and Arnold.
They do not offend the church by openly declaring that Lincoln was
an Infidel; neither do they outrage truth by asserting that he was
a Christian. They affirm that during the latter years of his life
he recognized a "superior power," but they do not intimate that he
recognized Jesus Christ as this power, or any part of it, nor that
he accepted the Bible as a special revelation of this power. In the
following passage they impliedly deny both his alleged Atheism and his
alleged orthodoxy: "We have no purpose of attempting to formulate his
creed; we question if he himself ever did so. There have been swift
witnesses who, judging from expressions uttered in his callow youth,
have called him an Atheist, and others who, with the most laudable
intentions, have remembered improbable conversations which they bring
forward to prove at once his orthodoxy and their own intimacy with him."

As it is not claimed that Lincoln was an Atheist, especially during the
last years of his life, the above can very properly be brought forward
in support of the negative of this question. In the last clause it
is intended by the authors to administer a sarcastic rebuke to
such witnesses as Brooks, Willets and Vinton, as well as deny the
truthfulness of their statements.

In regard to Lincoln's youth, the following from Nicolay and Hay's work
corroborates Lamon's statements and refutes those of Holland: "We are
making no claim of early saintship for him. He was merely a good boy,
with sufficient wickedness to prove his humanity.... It is also reported
that he sometimes impeded the celerity of harvest operations by making
burlesque speeches, or worse than that, comic sermons, from the top
of some tempting stump, to the delight of the hired hands and the
exasperation of the farmer."


In 1888, I received a brief letter from Warren Chase pertaining to
Lincoln's religious belief. Mr. Chase was acquainted with Lincoln in
Washington. His letter has been mislaid, but I recall the principal
points in it, which are as follows: 1. Lincoln was not a believer
in Christianity; 2. He was much interested in the phenomena of


A. J. Grover, a life-long reformer, an old-time Abolitionist, an able
advocate of human liberty, and a personal friend and admirer of Lincoln,
in a letter written April 13, 1888, sends me the following as his

"Mr. Lincoln was not a religious man in the church sense. He was an
Agnostic. He did not believe in the Bible as the infallible word of God.
He believed that Nature is God's word, given to all men in a universal
language which is equally accessible to all, if all are equally
intelligent. That this great lesson, God's word in his works, is
infinite, and that men have only learned a very little of it, and have
yet the most to learn. That the religions of all ages and peoples are
only very feeble and imperfect attempts to solve the great problems
involved in nature and her laws. Mr. Lincoln heartily disliked the
narrow and silly pretensions of the church and priesthood who now
falsely claim him, as they do Washington, Franklin and others.

"I knew Mr. Lincoln from the Douglas campaign in Illinois in 1858 until
his death, and I never heard him on any occasion use a single pious
expression in the sense of the church--not a word that indicated that
he believed in the church theology. But I have heard him use many
expressions that indicated that he did not know much, or pretend to know
much, and had no settled convictions concerning the great questions that
theology deals so flippantly with, and pretends to know all about. And
I know to my own knowledge that the claim the church now sets up that he
was a Christian is false--as false as it is in regard to Washington."

Writing to me again under date of Jan. 12, 1889, Mr. Grover says: "I knew
Mr. Lincoln in Illinois and in Washington. I was in the War office,
for a time, in a department which had charge of the President's
books, so-called. I met him in passing between the White House and the
buildings then occupied by the War Department, almost every day. I
often had to go to Mr. Stanton's office, and have often seen Mr. Lincoln
there. I frequently had to go to the White House to see him. It was
known to all of his acquaintances that he was a Liberal or nationalist."


The last, and in some respects the most important, of our Washington
witnesses is Judge James M. Nelson. Judge Nelson for many years has been
a resident of New York, but he formerly lived in Kentucky and Illinois,
Lincoln's native and adopted states. He is a son of Thomas Pope Nelson,
a distinguished member of Congress from Kentucky, and the first United
States Minister to Turkey. His great grandfather was Thomas Nelson, Jr.,
a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Virginia. He was long
and intimately acquainted with Lincoln both in Illinois and Washington.
About the close of 1886, or early in 1887, Judge Nelson published his
"Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln" in the Louisville, Ky., _Times_.
In reference to Lincoln's religious opinions he says: "In religion, Mr.
Lincoln was about of the same belief as Bob Ingersoll, and there is no
account of his ever having changed. He went to church a few times with
his family while he was President, but so far as I have been able to
find out he remained an unbeliever." "Mr. Lincoln in his younger days
wrote a book," says Judge Nelson, "in which he endeavored to prove the
fallacy of the plan of salvation and the divinity of Christ."

I have yet another passage from Judge Nelson's "Reminiscences" to
present, a passage which, more than anything else in this volume,
perhaps, is calculated to provoke the wrath of Christian claimants.
To lend an air of plausibility to their claims these claimants are
continually citing expressions of a seemingly semi-pious character
occasionally to be met with in his speeches and state papers. These
expressions, in a measure accounted for by Mr. Herndon, Colonel Lamon,
and others, are still further explained by a revelation from his own
lips. Judge Nelson says: "I asked him once about his fervent Thanksgiving
Message and twitted him with being an unbeliever in what was published.
'Oh,' said he, 'that is some of Seward's nonsense, and it pleases the


     New York World--Boston Globe--Chicago Herald--Manford's
     Magazine--Herald and Review--Chambers's Encyclopedia--
     Encyclopedia Britannica--People's Library of Information--
     The World's Sages--Every-Day Life of Lincoln--Hon. Jesse W.
     Weik--Chas. W. French--Cyrus O. Poole--A Citizen of
     Springfield--Henry Walker--Win. Bissett--Frederick Heath--
     Rev. Edward Eggleston--Rev. Robert Collyer--Allen Thorndike
     Rice--Robert C. Adams--Theodore Stanton-Geo. M. McCrie--Gen.
     M. M. Trumbull--Rev. David Swing, D.D.--Rev. J. Lloyd Jones--
     Rev. John W. Chadwick.

The matter selected for this chapter is of a miscellaneous nature,
consisting of the statements of those who, for the most part, are not
known to have been personally acquainted with Lincoln. It embraces the
opinions of journalists, encyclopedists, biographers, and others. If
their words cannot be accepted as the testimony of competent witnesses,
they may at least be regarded as the verdict of honest jurors.


In the New York _World_, fifteen years ago, appeared the
following: "While it may fairly be said that Mr. Lincoln entertained many
Christian sentiments, it cannot be said that he was himself a Christian
in faith or practice. He was no disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. He did
not believe in his divinity and was not a member of his church. He
was at first a writing Infidel of the school of Paine and Volney, and
afterward a talking Infidel of the school of Parker and Channing."

Alluding to the friendly attitude he assumed toward the church and
Christianity during the war, this article concludes:

"If the churches had grown cold--if the Christians had taken a stand
aloof--that instant the Union would have perished; Mr. Lincoln regulated
his religious manifestations accordingly. He declared frequently that he
would do _anything_ to save the Union, and among the many things he did
was the partial concealment of his individual religious opinions.
Is this a blot upon his fame? Or shall we all agree that it was a
conscientious and patriotic sacrifice?"


As evidence of Lincoln's piety, we are referred to a picture where
Lincoln, with his son Tad, is supposed to be reverentially poring over
the pages of the Bible. The history of this picture, however, has often
been explained, and its apparently religious character shown to be quite
secular. The Boston _Globe_, in a recent issue, says: "The pretty little
story about the picture of President Lincoln and his son Tad reading
the Bible is now corrected for the one-hundredth time. The Bible was
Photographer Brady's picture album, which the President was examining
with his son while some ladies stood by. The artist begged the President
to remain quiet and the picture was taken. The truth is better than
fiction, even if its recital conflicts with a pleasing theory."


During February, 1892, the Chicago _Herald_ published an editorial
on Lincoln's religion. Being one of the latest contributions to this
subject, and appearing in one of the principal journals of Lincoln's own
state, it is of especial importance. It is a candid statement of what
nearly every journalist of Illinois knows or believes to be the facts.
From it I quote as follows: "He was without faith in the Bible or its
teachings. On this point the testimony is so overwhelming that there
is no basis for doubt. In his early life Lincoln exhibited a powerful
tendency to aggressive Infidelity. But when he grew to be a politician
he became secretive and non-committal in his religious belief. He was
shrewd enough to realize the necessity of reticence with the convictions
he possessed if he hoped to succeed in politics.

"It is matter of history that in 1834, at New Salem, Ill., Lincoln read
and circulated Volney's 'Ruins' and Paine's 'Age of Reason,' giving to
both books the sincere recommendation of his unqualified approval.
About that time or a little later he wrote an extensive argument against
Christianity, intending to publish it. In this argument he contended
that the Bible was not inspired and that Jesus Christ was not the son of
God. He read this compilation of his views to numerous friends, and
on one occasion when so engaged his friend and employer, Samuel Hill,
snatched the manuscript from the author's hands and threw it into the
stove, where it was quickly consumed. A Springfield friend said of him
in 1838, 'Lincoln was enthusiastic in his Infidelity.' John T. Stuart,
who was his first law partner, declares: 'Lincoln was an avowed and open
Infidel. He went further against Christian belief than any man I ever
heard. He always denied that Jesus was the Christ of God.' David Davis
stated that 'Lincoln had absolutely no faith in the Christian sense
of the term.'

"These authorities ought to be conclusive, but there is further
testimony. This latter is important as explanatory of Lincoln's frequent
allusions in his Presidential messages and proclamations to the Supreme
Being. To the simplicity of his nature there was added a poetic
temperament. He was fond of effective imagery, and his references to the
Deity are due to the instinct of the poet. After his death Mrs. Lincoln
said: 'Mr. Lincoln had no faith and no hope in the usual acceptation of
those words. He never joined a church.' She denominates what has been
mistaken for his expressions of religious sentiment as 'a kind of poetry
in his nature,' adding 'he was never a Christian.' Herndon, who was his
latest law partner and biographer, is even more explicit. He says: 'No
man had a stronger or firmer faith in Providence--God--than Mr. Lincoln,
but the continued use by him late in life of the word God must not be
interpreted to mean that he believed in a personal God. In 1854 he asked
me to erase the word 'God' from a speech which I had written and read to
him for criticism, because my language indicated a personal God, whereas
he insisted no such personality ever existed.' So it must be accepted as
final by every reasonable mind that in religion Mr. Lincoln was a
skeptic. But above all things he was not a hypocrite or pretender. He
was a plain man, rugged and earnest, and he pretended to be nothing
more. He believed in humanity, and he was incapable of Phariseeism. He
had great respect for the feelings and convictions of others, but he was
not a sniveler. He was honest and he was sincere, and taking him simply
for what he was, we are not likely soon to see his like again."


There are two Christian publications that have had the fairness to admit
the truth respecting Lincoln's belief. _Manford's Magazine_, a religious
periodical published in Chicago, in its issue for January, 1869,
contained the following: "That Mr. Lincoln was a believer in the
Christian religion, as understood by the so-called orthodox sects of the
day, I am compelled most emphatically to deny; that is, if I put
faith in the statements of his most intimate friends in this city
[Springfield]. All of them with whom I have conversed on this subject,
agree in indorsing the statements of Mr. Herndon. Indeed, many of them
unreservedly call him an Infidel." "The evidence on this subject is
sufficient, the writer says, to place the name of Lincoln by the side
of Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and [Ethan] Allen, of Revolutionary
notoriety, as Rationalists; besides being in company with D'Alembert,
the great mathematician, Diderot, the geometrician, poet, and
metaphysician; also with Voltaire, Hume, Gibbon, and Darwin."

Referring to the Infidel book, written by Lincoln, the writer says: "This
work was subsequently thrown in Mr. Lincoln's face while he was stumping
this district for Congress against the celebrated Methodist preacher,
Rev. Peter Cartwright. But Mr. Lincoln never publicly or privately
denied its authorship, or the sentiments expressed therein. Nor was he
known to change his religious views any, to the latest period of his

The article concludes with these truthful words:

"Mr. Lincoln was too good a man to be a Pharisee; too great a man to be
a sectarian; and too charitable a man to be a bigot."


This work, in an abridged form, originally appeared in the _Truth
Seeker_ in 1889 and 1890. After its appearance, the Adventist _Herald
and Review_, one of the fairest and most ably conducted religious
journals in this country, said:

"The _Truth Seeker_ has just concluded the publication of a series of
fifteen contributed articles designed to prove that Abraham Lincoln,
instead of being a Christian, as has been most strongly claimed by some,
was a Freethinker. The testimony seems conclusive.... The majority of
the great men of the world have always rejected Christ, and, according
to the Scriptures, they always will; and the efforts of Christians to
make it appear that certain great men who never professed Christianity
were in reality Christians, is simply saying that Christianity cannot
stand on its merits, but must have the support of great names to entitle
it to favorable consideration."


Alden's American Edition of "Chambers's Encyclopedia," one of the most
popular as well as one of the most reliable of encyclopedias, says: "He
[Lincoln] was never a member of a church; he is believed to have had
philosophical doubts of the divinity of Christ, and of the inspiration
of the Scriptures, as these are commonly stated in the system of
doctrines called evangelical. In early life he read Volney and Paine,
and wrote an essay in which he agreed with their conclusions. Of modern
thinkers he was thought to agree nearest with Theodore Parker" (Art.
Lincoln, Abraham).


By whom the article on Lincoln in "Chambers's Encyclopedia" was written,
whether by one of Lincoln's personal friends, or by a stranger, I
know not. The article in the "Britannica" was written by his private
secretary, Colonel Nicolay. In this article his religion is briefly
summed up in the following words: "His [Lincoln's] nature was deeply
religious, but he belonged to no denomination; he had faith in the
eternal justice and boundless mercy of Providence; and made the Golden
Rule of Christ his practical creed" (Am. Ed., vol. xiv, p. 669).

This statement at first glance presents a Christian appearance, and the
reader is liable to infer that the writer aims to state that Lincoln was
a Christian. But he does not. He aims to state in the least offensive
manner possible that he was not--that he was simply a Deist. A person
may have a "deeply religious" nature, and not be a Christian. He may
have "faith in the eternal justice and boundless mercy of Providence,"
and yet have no faith whatever in Christianity. He may make "the Golden
Rule of Christ [or Confucius] his practical creed," and at the same time
wholly reject the dogma of Christ's divinity. The above statement is
substantially true as applied to Lincoln, and it would be equally true
if applied to that prince of Infidels, Thomas Paine. His nature was
deeply religious; he had faith in the justice and mercy of Providence;
and he, too, made the Golden Rule his practical creed.


Mrs. Lincoln was nominally a Presbyterian, and frequently, though not
regularly, attended the Rev. Dr. Gurley's church in Washington. Lincoln
usually accompanied her, not because he derived any pleasure or benefit
from the services, but because he believed it to be a duty he owed to
his wife who, in turn, generally accompanied him when he went to his
church, the theater. "The People's Library of Information" contains the
following relative to his church attendance:

"Lincoln attended service once a day. He seemed always to be in
agony while in church.... His pastor, Dr. Gurley, had the 'gift
of continuance,' and the President writhed and squirmed and gave
unmistakable evidence of the torture he endured."


In "The World's Sages," Mr. Bennett writes as follows concerning
Lincoln's belief: "Upon the subject of religious belief there is some
diversity of claims. All his friends and acquaintances readily admit
that in early manhood and middle age he was an unbeliever, or a Deist.
In fact, he wrote a book or pamphlet vindicating this view. His most
intimate friends that knew him best, claim that his opinions underwent
no change in this respect; while a certain number of Christians have,
since his death, undertaken to make out that he had become a convert
to Christianity" (World's Sages, p. 773). "When the contradictory
character of the evidence is taken into consideration, together with the
fact that his nearest and most intimate friends would be most likely
the ones to know of Mr. Lincoln's change, had any such taken place, the
incredibility of the asserted change is easily appreciated" (Ibid,


In the Emancipation Proclamation appears the following paragraph,
which contains the only allusion to Deity to be found in this immortal
document: "And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice,
warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the
considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God."

The appearance of the above paragraph in the Proclamation is thus
accounted for in Francis F. Brown's "Every-Day Life of Lincoln," and
agrees with Judge Usher's and Chief Justice Chase's account of it:

"It is stated that Mr. Lincoln gave the most earnest study to the
composition of the Emancipation Proclamation. He realized, as he
afterward said, that the Proclamation was the central act of his
administration, and the great event of the Nineteenth Century. When the
document was completed, a printed copy of it was placed in the hands of
each member of the Cabinet, and criticisms and suggestions were invited.
Mr. Chase remarked: 'This paper is of the utmost importance, greater
than any state paper ever made by this Government. A paper of so much
importance, and involving the liberties of so many people, ought, I
think, to make some reference to Deity. I do not observe anything of the
kind in it" (Every-Day Life of Lincoln, pp. 549,550).

The amendment suggested was allowed by the President, and Mr. Chase
requested to supply the words he desired to be inserted. The paragraph
quoted was accordingly prepared by him and included in the Proclamation.
This fact is also admitted by Holland in his "Life of Lincoln" (p. 401).


Judge Weik, of Greencastle, Ind., who was associated with Mr. Herndon
in the preparation of his "Life of Lincoln," in a lecture on "Lincoln's
Boyhood and Early Manhood," delivered in Plymouth Church, Indianapolis,
Feb. 4, 1891. said:

"As a young man he sat back of the country store stove and said
the Bible was not inspired, and Christ was not the Son of God"
(Indianapolis News, Feb. 5, '91).


One of the last biographies of Lincoln that has appeared is "Abraham
Lincoln The Liberator," written by Charles W. French. After citing with
approval some of Mr. Herndon's statements regarding Lincoln's belief,
Mr. French says:

"The world was his [Lincoln's] church. His sermons were preached in
kindly words and merciful deeds" (p. 91).


I quote next from a monograph on "The Religious Convictions of Abraham
Lincoln," written by Cyrus O. Poole. Referring to Arnold's and Holland's
biographies of Lincoln, Mr. Poole says: "Most sectarians now think,
write, and act as if they had a copyright to apply 'Christian' to
everything good and God-like about this President; yet no one presumed
to call him a Christian until after his death. It may be a soul-saving
process like the ancient one of Pope Gregory in the sixth century. It
is related that one day he was meditating on an anecdote of the Pagan
Emperor Tragan's having turned back, when at the head of his legions on
his way to battle, to render justice to a poor widow who flung herself
at his horse's feet. It seemed to Gregory that the soul of a prince so
good could not be forever lost, Pagan though he was; and he prayed
for him, till a voice declared Tragan to have been saved through his
intercession. And thus, through the prayer of a Christian Pope, a pagan
of the first, was materialized into a Christian in the sixth century,
and was, of course, transferred from hell to heaven. Now behold how a
modern politician [Arnold] can play theologian in Christianizing Abraham

"There is now hope for Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas
Jefferson, as well as the chieftains, Red Jacket, Tecumseh, and Black

Respecting Lincoln's message to his dying father, Mr. Poole, himself
a firm believer in the doctrine of immortality, says: "This prophetic
affirmation of a continued existence, is the only written evidence of
his views on this momentous question that can be found."

In addition to the above, I cull from the same work the following brief

"He lived in a remarkably formative and progressive period, and was
in all matters fully abreast with his time. As a truthful thinker, he
greatly excelled any of the statesmen of his day."

"Lincoln, like Socrates, was a man so natural, so thoughtful, rational,
and sagacious, that he clearly saw that the popular traditional theology
of his day and age was not religion."


A gentleman residing in Springfield, Ill., who was intimately acquainted
with Lincoln from the time he located in that city up to the time he
removed to Washington, a period of nearly twenty-five years, in a letter
dated Aug. 20, 1887, writes as follows: "I will say in regard to Mr.
Lincoln's religious views that he was not orthodox in his belief, unless
he changed after he left Springfield. He was heterodox--did not believe
in the divinity of Christ--in short, was a Freethinker. Now I do not
want to be brought into public notice in this matter."

In deference to this writer's request his name is omitted, and this
omission destroys, to a great extent, the value of his testimony. It
is inserted not because it adds any particular weight to the evidence
already adduced, but as a specimen of a very large amount of evidence
of the same character that must be withheld simply because the persons
writing or interviewed shrink from publicity. A chapter, yes, a volume,
of this anonymous testimony might be given. At least a hundred personal
friends of Lincoln, living in and about Springfield, privately and
confidentially assert that he was an Infidel, but will not permit their
names to be used. Twenty years ago a majority of them would not have
objected to their statements being published: but the relentless war
waged by the church against those who have publicly certified to the
facts has sealed their lips.


I now present to the reader another citizen of Springfield, one who is
not afraid to publicly express an honest opinion. Mr. Henry Walker, who
has resided in that city for many years, writes as follows concerning
Lincoln's religious belief: "After inquiring of those who were intimate
and familiar with him, I arrive at the conclusion that he was a Deist."
"There is a rumor current here that he once wrote an anti-Christian
pamphlet, but his friends persuaded him not to publish it."

Mr. Walker was not personally acquainted with Lincoln. His conclusion
is simply based upon the information obtained from those who were
acquainted with him. His statement, like the preceding one, is
introduced not so much because of any especial value attaching to it as
mere testimony, but because it fairly represents the common sentiment of
those who have investigated this subject, and particularly those who
are on familiar terms with Lincoln's old associates in Illinois. The
knowledge of our anonymous witness was shared by Dr. Smith, Mr. Arnold,
and Mr. Edwards; the opinion expressed by Mr. Walker was the opinion
privately entertained by Dr. Holland, it is the opinion privately
entertained by Mr. Bateman, yes, and unquestionably the opinion
privately entertained by Mr. Reed himself.


An article on Lincoln's religion written by Mr. Wm. Bissett, of Santa
Ana, Cal., and recently published in the _Truth Seeker_, contains
some evidence that deserves to be recorded. Mr. Bissett narrates the
following: "In the Spring of 1859 we moved into Livingston county, Mo.,
near Chillicothe. We at once became acquainted with a man by the name
of William Jeeter. Mr. Jeeter was a native of Kentucky, and if I mistake
not, was born and raised in the same part of the country that Mr.
Lincoln was but about that I am not sure. Mr. Jeeter told me that
Lincoln and himself settled in Illinois when they were young men, and
boarded together for a number of years. He says he knew every act of
Lincoln's life up to the time he (Jeeter) left Illinois, a few years
before Mr. Lincoln's nomination for the Presidency. I was helping Jeeter
build a house for himself when we received the news of Mr. Lincoln's
nomination; that is why we came to speak so particularly about him.

"Mr. Jeeter told me that Mr. Lincoln was not a believer in the Christian
religion; that is, he did not believe the Bible was an inspired work,
nor that Jesus Christ was the son of God. 'Nevertheless,' said Mr.
Jeeter,' he was one of the most honest men I ever knew. If I had a
million dollars I wouldn't be afraid to trust it to Lincoln without
the scratch of a pen, I know the man so well.' Mr. Jeeter was a strong
believer in the Christian religion and a mem-bier of the Cumberland
Presbyterian church, and a very fine and reliable man."


The following is from an article on Lincoln by Mr. Frederick Heath, of
Milwaukee, Wis.:

"Two years ago I was associated with Major Geo. H. Norris, a wealthy
orange-grower of Florida, in that state, and was in a degree his
_confidant_. In earlier years, while a lawyer in Illinois, Major Norris
(he was at one time mayor of Ottawa, Ill.) was quite closely associated
with Mr. Lincoln, and he gave me to understand that Mr. Lincoln was an
extreme skeptic. They were thrown together a good deal at Springfield,
where they were trying cases before the supreme court. Lincoln would
frequently keep them from sleep by his stories and arguments, and
frequently spoke of religious matters in a way that showed he was
convinced of the delusion of faith. I wish I could quote the Major's
words as to Lincoln's remarks on religion, but will not venture to frame
them, as this is a subject that demands truth and exactness."


When Lincoln went to New York in the winter of 1860, to deliver his
Cooper Institute address, he had occasion to remain over Sunday in that
city. At the suggestion of a friend, he visited the famous Five Points,
and attended a Sunday-school where the spawn of New York's worst
inhabitants to the number of several hundred were assembled. Importuned
for a speech, he made a few remarks to the children, and the fact was
published in the papers. The idea of this Infidel politician addressing
a Sunday-school was so ludicrous that it caused much merriment among
his friends at Springfield. When he returned home one of them,
probably Colonel Matheny, called on him to learn what it all meant.
The conversation that followed, including Lincoln's explanation of
the affair, is thus related by the noted preacher and author, Edward
Eggleston: "He started for 'Old Abe's' office; but bursting open the
door impulsively, found a stranger in conversation with Mr. Lincoln. He
turned to retrace his steps, when Lincoln called out, 'Jim! What do you
want?' 'Nothing.' 'Yes, you do; come back.'

"After some entreaty Jim approached Mr. Lincoln, and remarked, with a
twinkle in his eye, 'Well, Abe, I see you have been making a speech to
Sunday-school children. What's the matter?' 'Sit down, Jim, and I'll
tell you all about it.' And with that Lincoln put his feet on the stove
and began: 'When Sunday morning came, I didn't know exactly what to do.
Washburne asked me where I was going. I told him I had nowhere to go;
and he proposed to take me down to the Five Points Sunday-school, to
show me something worth seeing. I was very much interested by what
I saw. Presently, Mr. Pease came up and spoke to Mr. Washburne, who
introduced me. Mr. Pease wanted us to speak. Washburne spoke, and then I
was urged to speak. I told them I did not know anything about talking to
Sunday-schools, but Mr. Pease said many of the children were friendless
and homeless, and that a few words would do them good. Washburne said
I must talk. And so I rose to speak; but I tell you, Jim, I didn't know
what to say. I remembered that Mr. Pease said that they were homeless
and friendless, and I thought of the time when I had been pinched
by terrible poverty. And so I told them that I had been poor; that I
remembered when my toes stuck out through my broken shoes in winter;
when my arms were out at the elbows; when I shivered with the cold. And
I told them there was only one rule.

"That was, always do the very best you can. I told them that I had always
tried to do the very best I could; and that, if they would follow
that rule, they would get along somehow. That was about what I said'"
(Every-Day Life of Lincoln, pp. 322, 323).

The foregoing is significant. Lincoln was not an advocate of
Sunday-schools. He had probably never visited one before. As generally
conducted, he regarded them as simply nurseries of superstition. He
could not indorse the religious ideas taught in them, and he was
not there that day to antagonize them. As a consequence, this ready
talker--this man who had been making speeches all his life--was, for
the first time, at a loss to know what to say. He could not talk to them
about the Bible--he could not tell them that "it is the best gift which
God has given to man"--that "all the good from the Savior of the world
is communicated to us through this book"--that "but for this book we
could not know right from wrong"--he could not tell them how Jesus had
died for little children, and all this, because he did not believe it.
But he obeyed his own life-long rule, did the best he could under the
embarrassing circumstances, and gave them a little wholesome advice
entirely free from the usual Sunday-school cant.


Robert Collyer states that Lincoln, just before he was elected
President, visited the office of the Chicago _Tribune_, and picking up a
volume of Theodore Parker's writings, turned to Dr. Ray and remarked: "I
think that I stand about where that man stands."


The lamented Allen Thorndike Rice, whose brilliant editorial management
of the _North American Review_ has placed this periodical in the front
rank of American magazines, in his Introduction to the "Reminiscences
of Lincoln," says: "The Western settlers had no respect for English
traditions, whether of Church or of State. Accustomed all their lives to
grapple with nature face to face, they thought and they spoke, with all
the boldness of unrestrained sincerity, on every topic of human interest
or of sacred memory, without the slightest recognition of any right
of external authority to impose restrictions, or even to be heard in
protest against their intellectual independence. As their life developed
the utmost independence of creed and individuality, he whose originality
was the most fearless and self-contained was chief among them. Among
such a people, blood of their blood and bone of their bone, differing
from them only in stature, Abraham Lincoln arose to rule the American
people with a more than kingly power, and received from them a more than
feudal loyalty."

So eager is the church for proofs of Lincoln's piety that the most
incredible anonymous story in support of this claim is readily accepted
and published by the religious press as authentic history. By this means
the masses have gradually come to regard Lincoln as a devout Christian.
It is evident that Mr. Rice had these fabulous tales in mind when he
wrote the following: "Story after story and trait after trait, as varying
in value as in authenticity, has been added to the Lincolniana, until
at last the name of the great war President has come to be a biographic
lodestone, attracting without distinction or discrimination both the
true and the false."


The noted author, Capt. Robert C. Adams, of Montreal, Can., says: "It is
significant that in political revolution it is the Freethinker who is
usually the leader. Franklin, Paine, Jefferson, Washington, were the
chief founders of the American Republic, and _Lincoln presided at its
second birth_ Mazzini and Garibaldi are the heroes of United Italy;
Rousseau, Voltaire, and Victor Hugo have been the chief inspirers of
Democratic France "(_New Ideal_).


In the _Westminster Review_ for September, 1891, Mr. Stanton had an
article discussing the moral character and religious belief of Abraham
Lincoln. Of his religious belief, he says: "If Lincoln had lived and died
an obscure Springfield lawyer and politician he would unquestionably
have been classed by his neighbors among Freethinkers. But, as is
customary with the church, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, when
Lincoln became one of the great of the world an attempt was made to
claim him. In trying to arrive at a correct comprehension of Lincoln's
theology this fact should be borne in mind in sifting the testimony.

"Another very important warping influence which should not be lost
sight of was Lincoln's early ambition for political preferment. Now, the
shrewd American politician with an elastic conscience joins some
church, and is always seen on Sunday in the front pews. But the shrewd
politician who has not an elastic conscience--and this was Lincoln's
case--simply keeps mum on his religious views, or, when he must touch on
the subject, deals only in platitudes."

After citing the testimony of many of Lincoln's friends, Mr. Stanton
concludes: "A man about whose theology such things can be said is of
course far removed from orthodoxy. It may even be questioned whether he
is a Theist, whether he is a Deist. That he is a Freethinker is evident;
that he is an Agnostic is probable."


In the _Open Court_ for Nov. 26, 1891, Mr. McCrie contributes an article
on "What Was Abraham Lincoln's Creed?" Concerning Lincoln's allusions
to God, he says: "A Deity thus shelved or not shelved, according to the
dictates of political expediency, or of individual opinion as to the
'propriety' of either course is no Deity at all. He is as fictional as
the 'John Doe' or 'Richard Roe' of a legal writ, and anyone making use
of such a creation--the puppet, not the parent, of his own Egoity--is
supposed to know with what he is dealing. Orthodox religionism may well
despair of Abraham Lincoln as of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin,
or President Jefferson."


Gen. Trumbull, of Chicago, in the _Open Court_ of Dec. 3,1891,
writes: "The religion that begs the patronage of presidents doubts its
own theology, for the true God needs not the favor of men.... Some of
his [Lincoln's] tributes to Deity are merely rhetorical emphasis, but
others were not. Cicero often swore 'By Hercules,' as in the oration
against Catiline, although he believed no more in Hercules than Abraham
Lincoln believed in any church-made God."


In a sermon on "Washington and Lincoln," the most eminent and popular
divine of Chicago, Dr. Swing, said:

"It is often lamented by the churchmen that Washington and Lincoln
possessed little religion except that found in the word 'God.' All that
can here be affirmed is that what the religion of those two men lacked
in theological details it made up in greatness. Their minds were born
with a love of great principles.... There are few instances in which
a mind great enough to reach great principles in politics has been
satisfied with a fanatical religion.... It must not be asked for
Washington and Lincoln that, having reached greatness in political
principles, they should have loved littleness in piety."


The Rev. J. Lloyd Jones, one of Chicago's most eloquent divines, in a
sermon preached in All Souls Church, Dec. 9, 1888, gave utterance to the

"Are there not thousands who have loved virtue who did not accept Jesus
Christ in any supernatural or miraculous fashion, who if they knew of
him at all knew of him only as the Nazarine peasant--the man Jesus? Such
was Abraham Lincoln, the tender prophet of the gospel of good will upon
earth; Charles Sumner, the great apostle of human liberty; Gerrit Smith,
the St. John of political reform; William Ellery Channing, our sainted
preacher; Theodore Parker, the American Luther, hurling his defiance at
the devils of bigotry; John Stuart Mill and Harriet Martineau--yes, to
take an extreme case, the genial and over-satirical Robert G. Ingersoll,
are among those who love goodness and foster nobility, though they have
no clear vision into futurity and confess no other lordship in him of
Nazareth save the dignity of aim and tenderness of life."


In an address delivered in Tremont Temple, Boston, May 30, 1872, the
Rev. John W. Chadwick, of Brooklyn, N. Y., referring to the proposed
religious amendment to the Constitution of the United States, said: "Of
the six men who have done most to make America the wonder and the joy
she is to all of us, not one could be the citizen of a government so
constituted; for Washington and Franklin and Jefferson, certainly the
three mightiest leaders in our early history, were heretics in their
day, Deists, as men called them; and Garrison and Lincoln and Sumner,
certainly the three mightiest in these later times, would all be
disfranchised by the proposed amendment.

"Lincoln could not have taken the oath of office had such a clause been
in the Constitution."


     The Bible and Christianity--Christ's Divinity--Future
     Rewards and Punishments--Freedom of Mind--Fatalism--
     Providence--Lines in Copy-book--Parker--Paine--Opposition of
     Church--Clerical Officious-ness Rebuked--Irreverent Jokes--
     Profanity--Temperance Reform--Indorsement of Lord
     Bolingbroke's Writings--Golden Rule.

The testimony of one hundred witnesses will now be supplemented by
evidence from the tongue and pen of Lincoln himself. The greater portion
of what he wrote and uttered against Christianity has perished; but
enough has been preserved to demonstrate, even in the absence of other
evidence, that he was not a Christian. From his letters, speeches,
and recorded conversations, the following radical sentiments have been

Notwithstanding the efforts of Holland and Bate-man to prove that
Lincoln was a believer in Christianity, it is admitted that in his
conversation with Bateman, he said:

"I am not a Christian" (Holland's Life of Lincoln, pp. 236, 237).

When his Christian friends at Petersburg interfered to prevent his
proposed duel with Shields, and told him that it was contrary to the
teachings of the Bible and Christianity, he remarked:

"The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession" (Letter of
W. Perkins). While at Washington, in a letter to his old friend, Judge
Wakefield, written in 1862, in answer to inquiries respecting his belief
and the expressed hope that he had become convinced of the truth of
Christianity, he replied as follows:

"My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of
salvation and the human origin of the Scriptures have become clearer and
stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall
ever change them."

In a discussion touching upon the paternity of Jesus, he said:

"There must have been sexual intercourse between man and woman, and not
between God and his daughter."

The above words were uttered in the presence of Mr. Green Caruthers and
Mr. W. A. Browning, of Springfield.

Lincoln contended that Jesus was either the son of Joseph and Mary, or
the illegitimate son of Mary.

In a conversation with his friend, Mr. E. H.

Wood, of Springfield, concerning the doctrine of endless punishment, he

"There is no hell."

In regard to this subject, he often observed: "If God be a just God, all
will be saved or none" (_Manford's Magazine_).

The orthodox idea of God--a God that creates poor, fallible beings, and
then forever damns them for failing to believe what it is impossible for
them to believe--he abhorred. The Golden Rule was his moral standard,
and by this standard he measured not only the conduct of man, but of God
himself. Like the irrepressible Dr. T. L. Brown, he wanted God to
"damn others as he would be damned himself." He delighted to repeat the
epitaph of the old Kickapoo Indian, Johnnie Kongapod:

     "Here lies poor Johnnie Kongapod;
     Have mercy on him, gracious God,
     As he would do if he were God
     And you were Johnnie Kongapod."

Lincoln thought that God ought at least to be as merciful as a
respectable savage.

Many contend that the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, even
if untrue, has a restraining influence upon the masses of mankind. That
Lincoln did not share this fallacious opinion, is shown by the following
extract from an address delivered in Springfield in 1842: "Pleasures to
be enjoyed, or pains to be endured, after we shall be dead and gone, are
but little regarded.... There is something so ludicrous, in promises
of good, or threats of evil, a great way off, as to render the whole
subject with which they are connected, easily turned into ridicule.
'Better lay down that spade you're stealing, Paddy--if you don't, you'll
pay for it at the Day of Judgment.' 'Be the powers, if ye'll credit me
so long I'll take another'" (Lincoln Memorial Album, p. 91).

Commenting upon the question of one's returning and communicating with
his friends after death, he observed: "It is a doubtful question whether
we ever get anywhere to get back" (Statement of E. H. Wood).

He did not believe in the freedom of the will. An observation which he
repeatedly made was the following:

"No man has a freedom of mind" (Testimony of W. H. Herndon).

His fatalistic notions are confirmed by his own words: "I have all my
life been a fatalist. What is to be will be; or, rather, I have found
all my life, as Hamlet says:

      'There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
      Rough-hew them how we will.'"

      (Every-Day Life of Lincoln, p. 198).

The following was a favorite maxim with him:

"What is to be will be, and no prayers of ours can arrest the decree"
(Statement of Mrs. Lincoln).

In a speech on Kansas, delivered in 1856, he used the following words
in regard to Providence: "Friends, I agree with you in Providence; but
I believe in the Providence of the most men, the largest purse, and the
longest cannon" (Lincoln's Speeches, p. 140).

The writer has in his possession, among others of Lincoln's papers, a
leaf from his copybook, tattered and yellow from age, on which, seventy
years ago, Lincoln, a school-boy of fourteen, wrote the following
characteristic lines:

     "Abraham Lincoln, his hand and pen;
     He will be good, but God knows when."

If by _good_ he meant _pious_, the prophecy was never fulfilled.

But a short time before he was elected President, he said to Dr. Ray: "I
think that I stand about where that man [Theodore Parker] stands"
(Statement of Rev. Eobert Collyer).

The author whose writings exerted the greatest influence upon Lincoln's
mind, in a theological way, was Thomas Paine. Ah! that potential "Age of
Reason!" Criticise it as you may, no one ever yet carefully perused its
pages and then honestly affirmed that the Bible is the infallible word
of God. Hern-don and others declare that Paine was a part of Lincoln
from 1834 till his death. To a friend he said:

"I never tire of reading Paine" (Statement of James Tuttle).

In the later years of his life, when the subject of religion was
mentioned, with a knowing smile, he was wont to remark:

"It will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as
it is apt to lead to Infidelity" (_Manford's Magazine_).

It has been stated that Lincoln was opposed in his political campaigns
on account of his disbelief. This is confirmed by a letter he wrote to
Martin M. Morris, of Petersburg, Ill., March 26,1843. In this letter, he

"There was, too, the strangest combination of church influence against
me. Baker is a Campbellite; and therefore, as I suppose, with few
exceptions, got all that church. My wife has some relatives in the
Presbyterian churches, and some with the Episcopal churches; and
therefore, wherever it would tell, I was set down as either the one or
the other, while it was everywhere contended that no Christian ought
to go for me, because I belonged to no church--was suspected of being a
Deist.... Those influences levied a tax of a considerable per cent
upon my strength throughout the religious controversy" (Lamon's Life of
Lincoln, p. 271).

He never changed his opinions, and the church never ceased to oppose
him. In the Bateman interview, seventeen years later, he was compelled
to note its relentless intolerance:

"Here are twenty-three ministers of different denominations, and all
of them are against me but three; and here are a great many prominent
members of the churches, a very large majority of whom are against me"
(Holland's Life of Lincoln, p. 236).

For thirty years the church endeavored to crush Lincoln, but when, in
spite of her malignant opposition, he achieved a glorious immortality,
this same church, to hide the mediocrity of her devotees, attempts to
steal his deathless name.

In a speech delivered in Springfield, in 1857, alluding to the negro,
he said: "All the powers of the earth seem rapidly combining against him.
Mammon is after him,... and the theology of the day is fast joining in
the cry" (Lincoln Memorial Album, p. 100).

The theology of the day was orthodox Christianity. "In this sentence,"
says Mr. Herndon, "he intended to hit Christianity a left-handed blow,
and a hard one."

In his Second Inaugural address, referring to the contending Christian
elements in the civil war, he says: "Both read the same Bible and pray to
the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other."

What a commentary upon the hypocritical assumption that Christians
possess an infallible moral standard, is contained in the above words!

The "Lincoln Memorial Album" pretends to give the Second Inaugural
complete, but omits the words quoted. As this address comes almost
immediately after his reputed speech to the "Illinois clergyman," the
editor probably noticed a lack of harmony between the two, and thought
that the retention of these heretical words would cast suspicion upon
the genuineness of that remarkable confession. The "Memorial Album" is
a meritorious work, but had Mr. Oldroyd manifested as great a desire to
present the genuine utterances of Lincoln as the apocryphal, its value
would have been enhanced. The unmutilated version of the last Inaugural
may be found in Holland's "Life of Lincoln," pp. 503, 504; Arnold's
"Life of Lincoln," pp. 403, 404; Arnold's "Lincoln and Slavery," pp.
625-627; and "The Every-Day Life of Lincoln," pp. 681, 682.

No President, probably, was ever so much annoyed by the clergy as
Lincoln. The war produced an increased religious fervor, and theological
tramps innumerable, usually labeled "D. D.," visited the
White House, each with a mission to perform and a precious morsel
of advice to offer. In the following caustic words, he expresses his
contempt for their officiousness: "I am approached with the most opposite
opinions and advice, and by religious men who are certain they represent
the Divine will.... I hope it will not be irreverent in me to say, that
if it be probable that God would reveal his will to others, on a point
so connected with my duty, it might be supposed he would reveal it
directly to me" (Religious Convictions of Abraham Lincoln).

Equally pertinent, and, indeed, similar was his language to a pious
lady, a Friend, who came as God's agent to instruct him what to do: "I
have neither time nor disposition to enter into discussion with the
Friend, and end this occasion by suggesting for her consideration the
question, whether, if it be true that the Lord has appointed me [she
claimed that he had] to do the works she has indicated, it is [(is it)
PG Ed.] not probable that he would have communicated knowledge of the
fact to me as well as to her?" (Every-Day Life of Lincoln, pp. 536,

He steadily prohibited his generals from meddling with the religious
affairs of those residing within the limits of their respective
departments, and at the same time counseled them not to permit the
pretended sanctity of the church to shield offenders from justice.

In a letter to General Curtis, censuring the provost marshal of St.
Louis for interfering with church matters, he writes: "The United States
Government must not undertake to run the churches. When an individual in
a church, or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest he must
be checked" (Nicolay and Hay's Life of Lincoln).

In an order relating to a church in Memphis, issued May 13, 1864, he
said: "If there be no military need for the building, leave it alone,
neither putting any one in or out of it, except on finding some one
preaching or practicing treason, in which case lay hands upon him, just
as if he were doing the same thing in any other building" (Ibid).

During the war his attention was called to the notoriously bad character
of army chaplains. He expressed his contempt for them, and for
orthodox preachers generally, by relating the following story: "Once, in
Springfield, I was going off on a short journey, and reached the depot
a little ahead of time. Leaning against the fence just outside the depot
was a little darky boy, whom I knew, named Dick, busily digging with his
toe in a mud-puddle. As I came up, I said, 'Dick, what are you about?
'Making a church,' said he. 'A church?' said I; 'what do you mean?'
'Why, yes,' said Dick, pointing with his toe, 'don't you see? there
is the shape of it; there's the steps and front door--here's the pews,
where the folks set--and there's the pulpit.' 'Yes, I see,' said I, 'but
why don't you make a minister?' 'Laws,' answered Dick, with a grin, 'I
hain't got _mud_ enough'" (Anecdotes of Lincoln, p. 86).

The most highly aristocratic church in Washington is St John's Episcopal
church. So very aristocratic is it that applicants for membership deem
it necessary to give references respecting their social standing in the
community. The New York _Star_ relates the following joke which Lincoln
once perpetrated at the expense of this church: "One day during the war
a young officer called on him to secure an appointment in the army, and
brought with him letters of recommendation signed by the F. E. V.'s
in the District of Columbia. There had been no application for office
before President Lincoln so strongly supported by the aristocracy, and,
turning to the young man, he said he would give him the appointment
and handed him back the papers. 'Don't you want to place the papers on
file?' asked the office-seeker. 'I supposed that was the custom.' 'Yes,
that is the custom,' said President Lincoln, 'but you had better take
them with you, as you might want to join St. John's church.'"

Did Lincoln ever use profane language? If he did, this fact will afford
no evidence to Freethinkers that he was a disbeliever in Christianity.
Freethinkers are as free from this vice, if vice it be, as Christians.
Very pious persons, however, such as Lincoln is represented to have
been by his Christian biographers, are very careful about their use of
profane words. Christ commanded his followers to pray in private, and
bade them swear not at all. Devout Christians usually pray in public and
swear in private. Lincoln was but little addicted to profanity, but if
he had occasion to use a word of this character he did not go to his
closet to use it. In a business letter to a friend, he said:

"A d------d hawk-billed Yankee is here besetting me at every turn"
(Lamon's Life of Lincoln, p. 316).

In a letter to Speed, concerning an alleged murder case, he wrote:

"Hart, the little drayman that hauled Molly home once, said it was too
_damned_ bad to have so much trouble and no hanging" (Ibid, p. 321).

For the sake of pleasing the "fools," he attached his signature to "the
pious nonsense of Seward," With equal readiness he indorsed the profane
nonsense (?) of Stanton. During the war the patriotic Lovejoy had
devised a military scheme which he believed would prove beneficial
to the Union cause, and obtained an order from the President for its
execution. He took the order to Stanton, but all that ever resulted from
it was the following spirited colloquy:

"'Did Lincoln give you an order of that kind?' said Stanton. 'He did,
sir.' 'Then he is a d------d fool,' said the irate Secretary. 'Do
you mean to say the President is a d------d fool?' asked Lovejoy,
in amazement. 'Yes, sir, if he gave you such an order as that.' The
bewildered Illinoisan betook himself at once to the President, and
related the result of his conference. "Did Stanton say I was a d------d
fool?' asked Lincoln at the close of the recital. 'He did, sir, and
repeated it.' After a moment's pause, and looking up, the President

'If Stanton said I was a d------d fool, then _I must be one_, for he is
nearly always right, and generally says what he means'" (Every-Day Life
of Lincoln, pp. 483, 484).

At a Cabinet meeting, in 1863, when a conflict between the President and
Congress regarding the admission of certain representatives from loyal
districts of the South, which he favored, was threatened, he turned to
Secretary Chase, and exclaimed: "There it is, sir. I am to be bullied by
Congress, am I? If I do I'll be d------d!"

When Lincoln visited New Orleans he attended a slave sale. A beautiful
girl, almost white, was placed upon the auction block and exposed to the
grossest indignities. As he turned to leave, boiling with indignation,
he exclaimed:

"By God, if I ever get a chance to hit that institution, I will hit it
hard" (Arnold's Life of Lincoln, Note).

Thirty years later the chance came. He struck the blow--a mortal one.

The following is a prayer which Lincoln, while at the White House,
put into the mouth of a belated traveler who was caught in a violent

"O Lord, if it is all the same to you, give us a little more light and a
little less noise!" (Six Months at the White House, p. 49).

Is it possible that a Christian and a Calvinist would repeat such an
irreverent, not to say blasphemous, supplication? According to the
Brooklyn Calvinist, God visits such supplicants with paralysis and

Like most Freethinkers, Lincoln was a genuine reformer. The Antislavery
reform was not the only reform that enlisted his support. At an early
day he espoused the Temperance cause. When the church was the ally of
intemperance as it was of slavery--when, to use his own words, "From
the sideboard of the parson down to the ragged pocket of the houseless
loafer intoxicating liquor was constantly found," he was laboring and
lecturing in behalf of the Washingtonian movement. With the fervor of an
enthusiast, he exclaims in true Free-thought language: "Happy day, when,
all appetites controlled, all passions subdued, all matter subjugated,
mind, all-conquering mind, shall live and move, the monarch of the
world! Glorious consummation! Hail, fall of fury! _Reign of Reason, all
hail!_" (Lincoln Memorial Album, p. 96).

To sumptuary laws and to the denunciatory methods so common among
orthodox Christians to-day, he was, however, strenuously opposed. He
says: "It is not much in the nature of man to be driven to anything;
still less to be driven about that which is exclusively his own
business" (Ibid, p. 86).

"When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind,
unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted" (lb., p. 87).

His nephew, Mr. Hall, informed me that Lincoln once made it cost a
meddlesome clergyman, of Coles County, eighty dollars for seizing and
destroying a quart of whisky, valued at twelve and a half cents, and
belonging to a relative of theirs.

In this chapter I wish to present some radical thoughts, not from the
pen of Lincoln himself, but which in the work from which they are taken
bear unmistakable signs of his approval. Mr. D. W. C. Shattuck, an old
and respected merchant of Way-land, Mich., has in his possession a book
which belonged to Lincoln. Its history is as follows: Shortly after
Lincoln's election to the Presidency a young man from Springfield, Ill.,
and a relative or intimate acquaintance of Lincoln's, came to board with
Mr. Shattuck, who then resided in Kalamazoo. Looking over the contents
of his trunk one day the young man picked up a book and at the same time
remarked: "That book belongs to Abe Lincoln. I forgot to return it to
him before leaving Springfield. It is his favorite book, and I must not
fail to return it." Mr. Shattuck expressing a desire to peruse the work,
it was handed to him, and the young man being soon after unexpectedly
called away, it was forgotten. It proved to be a volume of the writings
of Lord Bolingbroke, the great English Infidel. On a fly-leaf was the
signature of Abraham Lincoln. In the work certain passages which seem
to have especially impressed Lincoln are marked with a pencil and in a
manner peculiar to him. The following are the passages he marked,
which I have copied from the book, and which evidently received his
unqualified indorsement:

"Abbadie says in his famous book, that the Gospel of St. Matthew is
cited by Clemens Bishop of Borne, a disciple of the Apostles; that
Barnabas cites it in his epistle; that Ignatius and Polycarp receive
it; and that the same Fathers, that give testimony for Matthew, give
it likewise for Mark. Nay, your lordship will find, I believe, that the
present Bishop of London, in his third pastoral letter, speaks to the
same effect. I will not trouble you nor myself with any more instances
of the same kind. Let this, which occurred to me as I was writing,
suffice. It may well suffice; for I presume the fact advanced by the
minister and the Bishop is a mistake. If the Fathers of the First
Century do mention some passages that are agreeable to what we read in
our Evangelists, will it follow that these Fathers had the same gospels
before them? To say so is a manifest abuse of history, and quite
inexcusable in writers that knew, or should have known, that these
Fathers made use of other gospels, wherein such passages might be
contained, or they might be preserved in unwritten tradition. Besides
which I could almost venture to affirm that these Fathers of the First
Century do not expressly name the gospels we have of Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John." "Writers of the Roman religion have attempted to show,
that the text of the Holy Writ is on many accounts insufficient to be
the sole criterion of orthodoxy; I apprehend too that they have shown
it. Sure I am that experience, from the first promulgation of Christianity
to this hour, shows abundantly with how much ease and success the most
opposite, the most extravagant, nay the most impious opinions, and
the most contradictory faiths, may be founded on the same text; and
plausibly defended by the same authority. Writers of the Reformed
religion have erected their batteries against tradition; and the only
difficulty they had to encounter in this enterprise lay in leveling and
pointing their cannon so as to avoid demolishing, in one common ruin,
the traditions they retain, and those they reject. Each side has been
employed to weaken the cause and explode the system of his adversary;
and, whilst they have been so employed, they have jointly laid their
axes to the root of Christianity; for thus men will be apt to reason
upon what they have advanced. 'If the text has not that authenticity,
clearness, and precision which are necessary to establish it as a divine
and a certain rule of faith and practice; and if the tradition of the
church from the first ages of it till the days of Luther and Calvin, has
been corrupted itself, and has served to corrupt the faith and practice
of Christians; there remains at this time no standard at all of
Christianity. By consequence either this religion was not originally
of divine institution, or else God has not provided effectually
for preserving the genuine purity of it, and the gates of hell have
prevailed, in contradiction to his promise, against the church.'" "I
have read somewhere, perhaps in the works of St. Jerome, that this
Father justifies the opinion of those who think it impossible to fix
any certain chronology on that of the Bible; and this opinion will be
justified still better, to the understanding of every man that considers
how grossly the Jews blunder whenever they meddle with chronology." "The
resurrection of letters was a fatal period; the Christian system has
been attacked, and wounded too, very severely since that time."

When interrogated as to why he had never united with any church, Lincoln
replied: "When you show me a church based on the Golden Rule as its only
creed, then I will unite with it."

He never joined a church, because of all the Christian sects, not one
could show such a creed. The Golden Rule--conceding to others the same
rights he claimed for himself--was, however, the very cornerstone of
Freethought, and hence he remained a Freethinker.


     Character of Christian Testimony--Summary of Evidence
     Adduced in Proof of Lincoln's Unbelief--Douglas an
     Unbeliever--Theodore Parker's Theology--Fallacy of Claims
     Respecting Lincoln's Reputed Conversion--His Invocations of
     Deity--His Alleged Regard for the Sabbath--The Church and
     Hypocrisy--Lincoln's Religion.

In the prosecution of this inquiry, the testimony of one hundred and
twenty witnesses has been presented. The testimony of twenty of these
witnesses is to the effect that Lincoln was a Christian; the testimony
of one hundred is to the effect that he was not.

Of those who have testified in support of the claim that Lincoln was a
Christian, ten admit that during a part of his life he was a disbeliever
in Christianity, while not one of the remaining ten disputes the fact.
If he never changed his belief then he died an unbeliever. Did he change
his belief and become a convert to Christianity? It devolves upon those
who affirm that he did to prove it. Have they done this? They have
not. Their attempts have been in every instance pitiable failures. The
unreasonable and conflicting character of the testimony adduced refutes
itself. When was he converted? No less than five different dates have
been assigned. One witness states that it was in 1848; one, that it was
in 1858; another, that it was in 1862; another, that it was in July,
1863; and still another, that it was in November, 1863.

The remarkable character of the statements recorded in Chapter
I.--remarkable when compared with the statements given in the preceding
ten chapters, and not less remarkable when compared with each other--may
be variously accounted for. A part of them are based upon a false
premise, an erroneous conception of what the term _Christian_ means;
a portion of them are merely the expressions of beliefs unsupported
by actual knowledge; while a not inconsiderable share of them are the
statements of those who have knowingly and deliberately borne false
witness. These witnesses comprise: 1. Those who do not know what
constitutes a Christian--who confound Christianity with morality--who
affirm that he was a Christian simply because he was a moral man. 2.
Those who do not know what his religious views were, but who infer that
he was a Christian because others have declared that he was, and because
of the frequent allusions to Deity that occur in his speeches and state
papers. 3. Those who know that he was not a Christian, but who believe
it to be right and proper to lie for the glory of Christianity and the
profit of its priests.

The testimony advanced in support of the claim of Lincoln's Christianity
is, for the most part, the testimony of orthodox Christians--a majority
of them orthodox clergymen. Dr. Holland, the chief of these Christian
claimants, says: "The fact is a matter of history that he never exposed
his own religious life to those who had no sympathy with it." This, so
far as the later years of his life are concerned, is substantially true;
and this very fact precludes the possibility of these orthodox witnesses
being able to state from personal knowledge what his religious views

In refutation of this claim, I have presented the testimony of those who
were nearest to Lincoln, in the confidential relations of life. I have
presented the testimony of his wife, the testimony of his stepmother,
the testimony of his step-sister, the testimony of his cousin, the
testimony of his nephew, the testimony of his three law partners, the
testimony of four members of his Cabinet, the testimony of his private
secretary, the testimony of his executor, the testimony of seven of his
biographers, and the testimony of many more of his most intimate friends
both in Illinois and at Washington.

That he was not an orthodox Christian, as claimed, is attested by nearly
all of the one hundred witnesses whose testimony has been given; that he
was not in any sense of the term a Christian is proved by the testimony
of a majority of them.

I affirmed that he was not religious in his youth--that he was a
skeptic in Indiana. In proof of this I have adduced the testimony of his
step-mother, Sarah Lincoln; his step-sister, Matilda Moore; his cousin,
Dennis F. Hanks; his nephew, John Hall; his law partner, W. H. Herndon,
and his biographer, Col. Ward H. Lamon.

I affirmed that he was an Infidel or Freethinker, during the thirty
years that he resided in Illinois. In support of this I have given the
testimony of Colonel Lamon, W. H. Herndon, Maj. John T. Stuart, Col.
James H. Matheny, Dr. C. H. Ray, W. H. Hannah, James W. Keys, Jesse W.
Fell, Judge David Davis, Wm. McNeely, Mr. Lynan, Wm. G. Green, Joshua
F. Speed, Green Caruthers, Squire Perkins, Judge Gillespie, John Decamp,
James Gorley, Dr. Wm. Jayne, Jesse K. Dubois, Judge Logan, Leonard
Swett, W. H. T. Wakefield, D. W. Wilder, Dr. B. F. Gardner, J. K.
Vandemark, Judge Leachman, Orin B. Gould, Edward Butler, M. S. Go win,
J. H. Chenery, J. B. Spalding, Ezra Stringham, Col. R. G. Ingersoll, A.
Jeffrey, Dr. McNeal, Charles McGrew, J. L. Morrell, Judge A. D. Norton,
W. W. Perkins, H. K. Magie, James Tuttle, Leonard Volk, Col. F. S.
Rutherford, E. H. Wood, Dr. J. J. Thomson, A. J. Grover, Judge Nelson,
and others.

I affirmed that he did not change his belief after leaving
Illinois--that he was not converted to Christianity at Washington--that
he died an unbeliever. In confirmation of this I have presented the
testimony of his wife, Mary Lincoln; of his private secretary, Colonel
Nicolay; of his executor, Judge Davis; of his biographer, Colonel Lamon;
and of his intimate associates, Geo. W. Julian, John B. Alley, Schuyler
Colfax, Hugh McCulloch, A. J. Grover, Donn Piatt, Judge Nelson, and

Many of these witnesses simply testify to his disbelief in the Christian
system as a whole without reference to his particular views concerning
its individual tenets. Every statement of his unbelief as presented in
the introduction has, however, been substantiated by the testimony of
one or more witnesses. That he did not believe in the Christian Deity,
that he even held Agnostic and Atheistic views, at times, is proved by
the testimony of W. H. Herndon, Colonel Matheny, Judge Nelson, Jesse K.
Dubois, and D. W. Wilder

That he was an Agnostic in regard to the immortality of the soul is
attested by E. H. Wood, Judge Nelson, and W. H. Herndon.

That he did not believe that the Bible is the word of God is affirmed
by Colonel Lamon, John T. Stuart, Judge Matheny, W. H. Herndon, Jesse
W. Fell, Dennis Hanks, W. Perkins, Colonel Rutherford, and Chambers'

That he did not believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God is affirmed
by Colonel Lamon, W. H. Herndon, Jesse W. Fell. Colonel Matheny, John
T. Stuart, Jas. W. Keys, Judge Nelson, D. W. Wilder, Green Caruthers,
Colonel Rutherford, Rev. J. Lloyd Jones, Chambers' Encyclopedia, and the
New York _World_.

That he did not believe in a special creation, the statements of Mr.
Herndon clearly prove.

That he accepted the theory of Evolution, so far as this theory had been
developed in the "Vestiges of Creation" and other writings of his day,
is attested by the same witness.

That he did not admit the possibility of miracles is confirmed by the
statement of Jesse W. Fell, W. Perkins, Dennis Hanks, and Mr. Herndon.

That he rejected the Christian doctrine of total or inherent depravity,
William McNeely and Jesse W. Fell affirm.

That he repudiated the doctrine of vicarious atonement is sustained by
the testimony of Jesse W. Fell, Joshua F. Speed, W. Perkins, and Colonel

That he condemned the doctrine of forgiveness for sin, General Wilder
and Mr. Herndon both testify.

That he opposed the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, Win. H.
Hannah, E H. Wood, A. Jeffrey, Jesse W. Fell, and _Manford's Magazine_,
all testify.

That he denied the freedom of the will, Mr. Herndon explicitly affirms.

That he did not believe in the efficacy of prayer is fully established
by the evidence of Mrs. Lincoln, Mr. Herndon, and Dr. Gardner.

That he was a disciple of Thomas Paine and Theodore Parker is shown by
the evidence of Colonel Lamon, W. H. Herndon, James Tuttle, Jesse W.
Fell, Dr. Ray, Robert Collyer, the New York _World_, and Chambers'

That he wrote a book against Christianity is sustained by the testimony
of Colonel Matheny, Judge Nelson, W. H. Herndon, Colonel Lamon, J.
B. Spalding, A. Jeffrey, J. H. Chenery, Chicago _Herald_, _Manford's
Magazine_, and Chambers' Encyclopedia.

That Lincoln did not believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures, that
he did not believe in the divinity of Christ, that he did not believe in
the freedom of the will, that he did not believe in future rewards and
punishments, that he did not believe in the efficacy of prayer, that he
was, in short, a disbeliever in Christianity, is also attested by the
evidence cited from his own recorded words.

In connection with this controversy the significance of the following
facts cannot be overlooked: 1. Notwithstanding the strong temptation to
credit Lincoln to the popular faith, a majority of his biographers have
either declared that he was not a Christian, or have refrained from
affirming that he was. 2. The secular press, fearing to offend the
church, has generally been silent regarding the question. When it has
ventured to express an opinion, however, it has been to concede
his unbelief. 3. The leading encyclopedias, such as the Britannica,
Chambers', New American, etc., have either admitted that he was a
Freethinker, or have made no reference to his religious belief. 4. In
the "Lincoln Memorial Album" appear two hundred tributes to Lincoln, the
greater portion of them from the pens of Christians. In but two of
these two hundred tributes is it claimed that Lincoln was a believer
in Christianity. 5. The "Reminiscences of Lincoln" contain thirty-three
articles on Lincoln, written by as many distinguished men who were
acquainted with him. In not a single instance in this work, is it
asserted that he was a Christian. 6. In none of the leading eulogies
pronounced upon his character, at the time of his demise, is it affirmed
that he accepted Christ.

It is stated that during the last years of his life Lincoln held
substantially the same theological opinions held by Theodore Parker. His
own words are, referring to Parker: "I think that I stand about where
that man stands." Where did Theodore Parker stand? The following
extracts from his writings will show: "To obtain a knowledge of duty, a
man is not sent away, outside of himself, to ancient documents; for the
only rule of faith and practice, the Word, is very nigh him, even in
his heart, and by this Word he is to try all documents." "There is no
intercessor, angel, mediator, between man and God; for man can speak and
God hear, each for himself. He requires no advocates to plead for men."
"Manly, natural religion--it is not joining the church; it is not
to believe in a creed--Hebrew, Christian, Catholic, Protestant,
Trinitarian, Unitarian, Nothingarian. It is not to keep Sunday idle;
to attend meeting; to be wet with water; to read the Bible; to offer
prayers in words; to take bread and wine in the meeting-house; love a
scapegoat Jesus, or any other theological claptrap."

If Lincoln was known to be a Freethinker, it may be asked why this
fact was not more generally published and urged against him during the
Presidential campaign of 1860. The answer is easy. His chief opponent,
Douglas, was himself a Freethinker. Stephen A. Douglas, like Abraham
Lincoln, died an unbeliever. Like Washington, he declined the services
of a clergyman in his last hours. The following is an extract from
a monograph on "The Deathbed of Douglas," published in the Boston
_Budget_: "When Stephen A. Douglas lay stricken with death at Chicago,
his wife, who was a devout Roman Catholic, sent for Bishop Duggan, who
asked whether he had ever been baptized according to the rites of any
church. 'Never,' replied Mr. Douglas. 'Do you desire to have mass said
after the ordinances of the holy Catholic church?' inquired the Bishop.
'No, sir!' answered Douglas; 'when I do I will communicate with you

"The Bishop withdrew, but the next day Mrs. Douglas sent for him again,
and, going to the bedside, he said: 'Mr. Douglas, you know your own
condition fully, and in view of your dissolution do you desire the
ceremony of extreme unction to be performed?' 'No!' replied the dying
man, 'I have no time to discuss these things now.'

"The Bishop left the room, and Mr. Rhodes, who was in attendance, said:
'Do you know the clergymen of this city?' 'Nearly every one of them.'
'Do you wish to have either or any of them call to see you to converse
on religious topics?' 'No, I thank you,' was the decided answer."

Among America's most eminent statesmen none probably ever possessed a
more logical mind than Lincoln. Judge Davis says: "His mind was
logical and direct." James G. Blaine says: "His logic was severe and
faultless." George S. Boutwell says: "He takes rank with the first
logicians and orators of every age." In his funeral oration at
Springfield, Bishop Simpson said: "If you ask me on what mental
characteristic his greatness rested, I answer, on a quick and ready
perception of facts; on a memory unusually tenacious and retentive; and
on a logical turn of mind, which followed sternly and unwaveringly
every link in the chain of thought on every subject he was called to

Lincoln was once called to investigate the subject of Christianity. He
"followed sternly and unwaveringly every link in the chain of thought"
suggested by this subject, and the result was its rejection by him.

If he was subsequently converted to Christianity, it was only after a
reexamination and a thorough and exhaustive investigation of its
claims. This his friends positively state never took place, and the
circumstances associated with each and every period assigned for his
reputed conversion confirm their statements. In 1848 he was a member
of Congress, his mind absorbed with the novelties, the duties, and the
aspirations that usually attend a first term in this important capacity.
In 1858, and for years preceding and following, the great political
questions of the day occupied his mind. He was engaged in a mortal
struggle with one of the most powerful intellectual athletes of his
time. He was contending with Douglas for a prize, and that prize was the
Presidency. He must be ever on the alert. He must crush his antagonist
or his antagonist would crush him. Think of Lincoln sitting down in the
very crisis of this conflict and engaging in the study of theology! In
1862, and 1863, the other years assigned for his conversion, he was in
the midst of the great Rebellion, all his thoughts and all his energies
enlisted in the mighty task of saving the Union.

That Lincoln was a Freethinker in Illinois, that he was for a time a
zealous propagandist of his faith, that he was instrumental in making
unbelievers of many of his associates, it is useless to deny. If he was
afterward converted to Christianity, his friends were ignorant of his
conversion. He failed to notify them of his previous mistake and warn
them of their impending danger. If it could be shown that he renounced
his former views and became a Christian, this fact would be one of the
most damaging arguments against Christianity that could be advanced.
As a Freethinker he was one of the most tender and humane of men,
ever solicitous for the welfare of his fellow-beings. Did Christianity
transform him into a selfish, heartless being, who coolly disregarded
even the eternal welfare of his best and dearest friends? Think of a man
directing a friend to take a road which he afterward discovers leads to
certain death, and then not lifting a finger of warning to save him from
destruction, when it is in his power to do so!

The Freethinker will require no other evidence to convince him that
Lincoln died a disbeliever than the fact that he once fully investigated
this subject and proclaimed himself an Infidel. The mere skeptic who
has no settled convictions--who has never examined the evidences against
historical Christianity--may become a sincere believer in the Christian
religion. The confirmed Freethinker never can, albeit a Thomas Cooper,
a Joseph Barker and a George Chainey may profess to. As Col. Thomas
Wentworth Higginson happily expresses it: "You may take the robin's egg
from the nest in yonder tree, and so near is the bird to being hatched
you may crack it with the edge of your nail, and the bird is free. But
all your power, and all your patient fidelity, and all the mucilage and
sticking plaster you can put on it, will never get that birdling back
into that little egg again. So complete is the sense of satisfaction,
such is the feeling of freedom, which comes from once finding yourself,
not merely out of these little sectarian names, but out of the name of
the larger and grander sect, which is Christianity, that you will find
when the egg is once broken, the _bird_ is free forever."

From the church steward's standpoint, there is nothing so desirable as
the early conversion of one who is destined to become rich. From
the evangelist's point of view, there is nothing like the deathbed
repentance of one who has become great. Had the bullet of the assassin
not immediately destroyed consciousness, all these stories that we have
heard about Lincoln's conversion--the Edwards story, the Smith story,
the Brooks story, the Willets story, the Vinton story, and the story of
the Illinois clergyman--would never have been invented. Instead of these
we would have the story of some domestic, or some intruding priest who
saw him during his dying hours. Aaron Burr was kinder to the church than
John Wilkes Booth.

But whatever the religious opinions of Lincoln were when he died,
whether he had changed his belief or not, in view of the fact that he
never thought enough of the church to unite with it, the frantic efforts
of clergymen and church-members to claim him seem quite uncalled for, if
not ridiculous.

The opinion of a writer previously quoted in this work, is that the
bitter war waged against the persons who have declared that Lincoln was
not a Christian arises, not from a belief that they have stated what
is false, but from a consciousness that they have "demolished an empty
shrine that was profitable to many, and broken a painted idol that
might have served for a god." It is strange how Christians tend toward
fetichism. Not satisfied with three Gods, they must canonize and deify
men and make saints and demi-gods. They have already deified three
Americans--Washington, Grant, and Lincoln--and what is remarkable, in
each instance they have selected an unbeliever--an Infidel. It is said
that men have stolen the livery of heaven in which to serve the devil;
but it seems hardly consistent with the pretensions of the church that
she should be compelled to appropriate the beadroll of Infidelity in
order to make her appear respectable.

Lincoln's speeches and state papers contain many allusions to Deity. As
Colonel Lamon observes, "These were easy, and not inconsistent with his
religious notions." But it is a mistake to attribute all the Deistic
expressions that appear in his state papers to him. Just how much
of this was the work of his private secretaries, how much of it was
"Seward's nonsense," or how much of it was suggested by Chase and other
Cabinet ministers, can never be determined. It is significant, however,
that in those documents of least importance, those which he would most
likely leave to his secretaries or other officials to draft, these
expressions are chiefly to be found. In his debates with Douglas, and
his other great political speeches delivered in Illinois, he seldom
refers to Deity. In his carefully prepared Cooper Institute address,
that model of political addresses, the name of Deity does not once
occur. In his First Inaugural Address, he refers to God, and makes
a complimentary reference to Christianity intended to conciliate
the church and gain for his administration its support in the coming
struggle with the South. One paragraph of the second Inaugural contains
allusions to Deity and quotations from the Bible; but in this address he
makes no recognition of Christ or Christianity. Even his quotations from
the Bible are made in a guarded manner which clearly indicates that
he did not believe in its divinity. In the Preliminary Proclamation of
Emancipation, which was drafted by himself, the name of Deity does not
appear. In the final Proclamation, an acknowledgment of God was
inserted only at the urgent request of Secretary Chase. The Emancipation
Proclamation, with the possible exception of the Declaration of
Independence and the Constitution of the United States, is the most
important political document ever issued in America. He knew that this
was the crowning act of his career, that it would place him among the
immortals. In the preparation of this work he expended much thought
and labor, and it was his desire that it should be free from religious
verbiage. In that masterpiece of eloquence, the Gettysburg oration,
the name of God occurs but once, while not the remotest reference
to Christianity or even immortality appears. When we take into
consideration the fact that this address was made at the dedication of a
cemetery, the significance of this omission can not be overlooked. This
speech was the product of Lincoln's own mind free from the suggestions
and emendations of others, and the occasion was too sacred to indulge in
pious cant in which he did not believe.

The clergy parade Lincoln's recognitions of a Supreme Being as a
triumphant refutation of the claim that he was an Infidel. Yet, at
the same time, they do not hesitate to denounce as Infidels, Paine and
Voltaire, when they know, or ought to know, that two more profound
and reverential believers in God never lived and wrote than Paine and

If Infidelity and Atheism were synonymous terms it would be difficult to
maintain that Lincoln, during the last years of his life at least, was
an Infidel. But Infidelity and Atheism are not synonymous terms. An
Atheist is an Infidel, but an Infidel is not necessarily an Atheist. A
Presbyterian is a Christian, but all Christians are not Presbyterians.
Christians themselves coined the word _Infidel_, and they have used
it to denote a disbeliever in Christianity. A disbelief or denial of
Christianity is not necessarily a denial of God. Christians, many of
them, regard the term as odious and as carrying with it the idea of
immorality, notwithstanding the most intelligent and the most highly
moral class in Christendom are these so-called Infidels. "Who are
to-day's Infidels?" says the Rev. William Ohanning Gannett. He answers:
"Very many of the brightest minds, the warmest hearts, the most loyal
consciences, the most zealous seekers after God, the most honest tellers
of what they find--yes, and the most successful finders. Infidels to
what are they? Not to morality: Infidels to morality are too wise to
train with them."

It is not claimed that Lincoln was wholly free from a belief in the
supernatural. He possessed in some respects a simple, childlike
nature, and carried with him through life some of the superstitions of
childhood. But the dogmas of Christianity were not among them; these he
had examined and discarded.

As a proof of Lincoln's regard for Christian institutions, great
prominence is given to his proclamation to the army enjoining the
observance of the Sabbath. This document gives expression to sentiments
regarding the sanctity of the Christian Sabbath that Lincoln personally
did not entertain. It was issued to appease the clamor of the clergy
who demanded it, and was drafted, not by Lincoln, but by some pious
Sabbatarian. Lincoln himself attached no more sanctity to Sunday than to
other days. He worked on Sunday himself. In Springfield his Sundays were
frequently spent in preparing cases for court. In company with his boys
he often passed the entire day making excursions into the country or
rambling through the woods that skirted the Sangamon. He seldom went to
church either in Springfield or Washington, the claims of some of his
Christian biographers to the contrary notwithstanding. Previous to
his nomination, in 1860, we find him sitting for a bust on Sunday in
preference to attending church. On the Sunday immediately following
his nomination an artist was busy with him molding his hands and taking
negatives for a statue. The draft of the preliminary Proclamation of
Emancipation was finished on Sunday. The last Sunday of his life was
spent, not in studying the Scriptures, but in reading his beloved

It was stated by friends of Lincoln that he generally refrained from
giving publicity to his religious opinions while in public life because
of their unpopularity. In answer to this the Christian claimant retorts:
"If this be true then he was a hypocrite." But let us be honest. Nearly
every person entertains opinions which he does not deem it discreet or
necessary to make public. You, my Christian friend, entertain doubts and
heresies concerning your creed which you keep a secret or disclose
only to your most intimate associates. If you, in private life, and not
dependent upon the public, hide your unpopular thoughts from the world,
can you consistently blame Lincoln for his silence when the fate of a
nation depended upon him and the alienation even of a few bigots might
turn the scales against him? A Christian general does not hesitate to
deceive the enemy or withhold his plans even from his own soldiers.
Again, the clergy are forever advising and entreating men not to publish
their doubts and heresies. Is it consistent in them to condemn a man for
following their advice?

The church should learn to respect honesty herself before she charges
others with dishonesty. It is the shame of Christianity that men have
been obliged to conceal their honest convictions in order to escape
ostracism and persecution. When the church herself becomes honest
enough to tolerate and respect the honest opinions of those who cannot
conscientiously accept her creed, then will it be time for her to charge
Lincoln with hypocrisy for having partially withheld his unpopular views
from religious ruffians. It does not evince a want of honesty, nor even
a lack of moral courage, to flee from a tiger or avoid a skunk.

To do good was Lincoln's religion. To live an honest, manly life--to add
to the sum of human happiness--to make the world better for his having
lived--this was the aspiration of his life and the essence of his faith.

In youth, the meanest creature found in him a friend, and if need be, a
defender. He wrote essays and made speeches against cruelty to animals,
and sought to impress upon his playmates' minds the sacredness of life.
The same tender regard for the weak and unfortunate characterized his
manhood. Whilst riding through a forest once with a party of friends,
he saw a brood of young birds on the ground which a storm had blown from
their nest. He dismounted from his horse, and after a laborious search,
found the nest and placed the birdlings snugly in their little home.
When he reached his companions, and was chided by them for his delay, he
said: "I could not have slept to-night if I had not given those birds to
their mother."

The narration of his many deeds of kindness and mercy while at
Washington would fill a volume. He loved to rescue an erring soldier boy
from the jaws of death and fill a mother's eyes with tears of joy. He
loved to dispel the clouds of sorrow from a wife's sad heart and warm
it with the sunshine of happiness. He loved to take the child of poverty
upon his knee and plant within its little breast the seeds of confidence
and hope.

A giant in stature, and a lion in strength and courage, he possessed
the gentleness of a child and the tenderness of a woman. The sufferings,
even of a stranger, would fill his eyes with tears, and the death of a
friend would overwhelm him. In his tenth year his mother died, and for
a time his heart was desolate and he could not be consoled. In his
fifteenth year his only sister, a lovely, fragile flower, just blooming
into womanhood, drooped and died, and life seemed purposeless to him
again. Of his four children, two died while he was living--Eddie, a
fair-haired babe, and his beloved Willie. When death took these his
sorrow was unutterable. The untimely death of his young friend, the
gallant Colonel Ellsworth, at Alexandria, and the death of his life-long
friend, the lamented Edwin F. Baker, at Ball's Bluff, were blows that
staggered him. At the death of his good friend, Bowlin Green, he was
chosen to deliver a funeral address. When the hour arrived, and he
stepped forward to perform the sacred task, his eyes fell upon the
coffin of his dead friend and for a time he stood transfixed--helpless
and speechless. The only tribute he could pay was the tribute of
his tears. When he turned for the last time from the bedside of the
beautiful Ann Rut-ledge, his betrothed, it was with a broken heart and
a mind dethroned. "Oh! I can never be reconciled to have the snow, the
rain, and the storm beat upon her grave," was the pitiful burden of his
plaint for weeks. Reason after a time returned, but his wonted gladness
never; and down through all those eventful years to that fatal April
night when his own sweet life-blood slowly oozed away, beneath that
sparkling surface of feigned mirth, drifted the memory and the agonies
of that great grief.

In the social relations of life, he was a most exemplary man. He was
a devoted husband, an indulgent father, an obliging neighbor, and a
faithful friend. Mrs. Colonel Chapman, a lady who lived for a time in
his family, pays this tribute to his private life: "He was all that a
husband, father, and neighbor should be, kind and affectionate to his
wife and child, and very pleasant to all around him. Never did I hear
him utter an unkind word." "His devotion to wife and children," says
George W. Julian, "was as abiding and unbounded as his love of country."
The strong attachment always manifested by him for his friends has often
been remarked. Rich and poor, great and humble, all were equally dear
to him and alike the recipients of his regard and love. The prince he
treated like a man, the humblest man he treated like a prince. Nothing
in his career exhibits the greatness and nobleness of his character in
a loftier degree than the cordial and unaffected manner in which, at
Washington, in the midst of wealth, and splendor, and refinement, he
was accustomed to receive and entertain the plain, uncultured friends of
other days.

Upon his rugged honesty, I need not dwell. The _sobriquet_ of "Honest
Abe" was early won by him and never lost. In his profession--a
profession in which, too often, cunning and deceit, falsehood and
dishonesty, are the means, and robbery the end--a profession in which,
too often, Injustice is a purpled Dives sitting at a bounteous board,
and Justice, a ragged Lazarus lying at the gate--he never wavered in his
loyalty to truth, to justice, and to honesty. Engaged in a just cause,
he was one of the most powerful advocates that ever addressed a judge or
jury; engaged in an unjust cause, he was the weakest member of his bar.
In fact, he could not be induced to plead a cause in which he did not
see some element of justice, even though the technicalities of law
insured success. To one who had sought his services and had stated
his case, he replied: "Yes, I can win it; but there are some things
_legally_ right that are not _morally_ right; this is one: I cannot take
your case." He was once employed to defend a person accused of murder.
As the trial progressed, it became apparent to him that his client
had done the deed. Turning to his associate counsel, with a look of
disappointment and pain, he said: "Swett, the man is guilty; you defend
him; I cannot." On another occasion, when he discovered that his client
had grossly imposed upon his confidence and instituted an unjust
suit, he left the court-room, and when the bailiff called for him,
he answered: "Tell Judge Treat that I can't come; _I have to wash my

He was the most magnanimous of men. William H. Seward, his chief
opponent for the Presidential nomination, he made the Premier of his
Cabinet. Secretary Chase became his political, if not his personal,
enemy. Yet, recognizing his fitness for the place, he waived all
personal grievances and appointed him to the exalted position of Chief
Justice of the United States, the highest gift within the power of
a President to bestow. During his professional career he was sent to
Cincinnati to assist Edwin M. Stanton in an important legal case.
The grim Stanton had never met this plain, Western lawyer before, and
displeased at his uncouth appearance, and apparent lack of ability,
treated him so discourteously that Lincoln's self-respect compelled
him to practically withdraw from the case. It was a brutal affront, too
poignant for him ever to forget, but not to forgive, and linked together
on one of the most momentous pages of history stand the names of Lincoln
and Stanton, an enduring witness to his sublime magnanimity.

The murder of this loving savior of our Union was a disastrous blow,
not to the victorious North alone, but to the vanquished South as well.
Could he have lived, the balm of his great, kindly nature would have
quickly healed the nation's wounds. At the commencement of the conflict,
in pleading tones, he said: "We are not enemies, but friends." And at
its close, notwithstanding all the cruel, bitter anguish he had endured
during those four long years of fratricidal strife, "With malice toward
none, with charity for all," he died, and many a brave Confederate

     The deep damnation of his taking off.

When Stonewall Jackson died, he paid a touching tribute to his
gallantry, and said: "Let us forget his errors over his fresh-made
grave." in the darkness of night, on a bloody field of the Peninsula,
he bent beside the prostrate form of a dying soldier of the South, and
while the hot tears rolled down his furrowed cheeks, soothed him with
words of tender-est sympathy, and, by the dim rays of a lantern, took
down from his lips a message to his mother, and sent it by a flag of
truce into the enemies' lines to be transmitted to his home.

Glorious apostle of humanity! When shall we look upon his like again? so
honest, so truthful, so just, so charitable, so loving, so merciful! Law
was his God, justice his creed, and liberty his heaven. If he sinned,
mercy prompted him. In the presence of such a man, and in the presence
of such a religion, how contemptible your puny theologians and their
narrow creeds appear! Born in the cabin of a Western wild, dying in
a nation's capital, its honored chief, enshrined in the hearts of an
admiring world, Abraham Lincoln stands to-day the gentlest, purest,
noblest character in human history. Millenniums may pass away,
unnumbered generations come and go, creeds rise and fall; but the divine
faith of Freedom's martyr--a faith based upon immutable law, eternal
justice, universal liberty--a faith formulated not in perishable words,
but in immortal deeds, will live through all the years to come, a torch
of hope to every son of toil.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Abraham Lincoln: Was He A Christian?" ***

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