Lincoln

Donald, David Herbert

Simon & Schuster, 1995

pp. 100 - 102

After Lincoln and Logan dissolved their Springfield law partnership in the fall of ’44 Lincoln took as a partner William H. Herndon (‘Billy’), a surprisingly young and altogether unknown attorney who had been studying law with Lincoln and Logan. Billy was a voracious reader who became a kind of “frontier evangelist for transcendentalism, that Emersonian faith that the questioning heart could, without mediation of religion or authority, discern truth. He prided himself on his ‘mud instinct,’ his ‘dog sagacity,’ which enabled him to see ‘to the gizzard’ of questions. He and Lincoln were in almost every way exact opposites. Lincoln was tall, slow-moving, and careless in dress; Herndon was short, quick, and something of a dandy, affecting patent-leather shoes and kid gloves. Lincoln was melancholy, his depressed moods interrupted by outbursts of antic humor; Herndon was always upbeat and optimistic, and he had no sense of humor at all.” Lincoln had wanted Billy to keep the office in order, but Billy wasn’t any more orderly than he. “The firm had no filing cabinets and no files. In one corner of the office was a bundle of papers with a note in Lincoln’s handwriting: ‘When you can’t find it anywhere else, look in this.’ Herndon sometimes took legal papers home, where they were lost. Lincoln frequently stuck documents and correspondence in his stovepipe hat, which Herndon said was his ‘desk and his memorandum-book.’ As a result, the partners were constantly looking for misplaced letters and documents, and there were times when they had to confess frankly that papers sent to them were ‘lost or destroyed and cannot be found after search among the papers of Lincoln and Herndon.’”