Six Months at the White House/XXV
Dr. Holland, in his "Life of Abraham Lincoln," I regret to observe, has thought it worth while to notice the reports, which in one way and another have obtained circulation, that the President habitually indulged, in ordinary conversation, in a class of objectionable stories. The biographer, it is true, attempts to palliate this, on the ground that it was no innate love of impurity which prompted such relations, but a keen relish for wit, in any form, the lack of refining influences in early life, and his experience as a lawyer, which necessarily induced professional familiarity with the foulest phases of human nature. The fault is a common one with many men of otherwise unblemished reputation, and cannot be too severely reprehended. The sooner, however, such things can be forgotten, of neighbor, friend, or President, the better. Weaknesses and blemishes are inseparable from common humanity in the present stage of its development; and though, like the spots on the sun, they may serve to inspire in us a feeling of kindred,--let the orb once set, never again to rise on the world, and he who should remember the trifling defects in the universal loss would certainly be considered, if not captious, at least a most inopportune critic.
Mr. Lincoln, I am convinced, has been greatly wronged in this respect. Every foul-mouthed man in the country gave currency to the slime and filth of his own imagination by attributing it to the President. It is but simple justice to his memory that I should state, that during the entire period of my stay in Washington, after witnessing his intercourse with nearly all classes of men, embracing governors, senators, members of Congress, officers of the army, and intimate friends, I cannot recollect to have heard him relate a circumstance to any one of them, which would have been out of place uttered in a ladies' drawing-room. And this testimony is not unsupported by that of others, well entitled to consideration. Dr. Stone, his family physician, came in one day to see my studies. Sitting in front of that of the President,--with whom he did not sympathize politically,--he remarked, with much feeling, "It is the province of a physician to probe deeply the interior lives of men; and I affirm that Mr. Lincoln is the purest hearted man with whom I ever came in contact." Secretary Seward, who of the Cabinet officers was probably most intimate with the President, expressed the same sentiment in still stronger language. He once said to the Rev. Dr. Bellows: "Mr. Lincoln is the best man I ever knew!"