James J. Lord
Dear Herndon: One morning, not long before Lincoln’s nomination-a year perhaps-I was in your office and heard the following! Mr. Lincoln, seated at the baize-covered table in the center of the office, listened attentively to a man who talked earnestly and in a low tone. After being thus engaged for some time Lincoln at length broke in, and I shall never forget his reply. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘we can doubtless gain your case for you; we can set a whole neighborhood at loggerheads; we can distress a widowed mother and her six fatherless children and thereby get for you six hundred dollars to which you seem to have a legal claim, but which rightfully belongs, it appears to me, as much to the woman and her children as it does to you. You must remember that somethings legally right are not morally right. We shall not take your case, but will give you a little advice for which we will charge you nothing. You seem to be a sprightly, energetic man; we would advise you to try your hand at making six hundred dollars in some other way.’
From undated MS., about 1866.
Quoted in Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life Written by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, ed. Herndon-332-203-11-24