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Contents > Author > Abraham Lincoln > Letter to Allen N. Ford, 1846 1809- 1865
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Abraham Lincoln
Letter to Allen N. Ford, 1846
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Springfield, Illinois
August 11, 1846

Mr. Ford: -- I see in your paper of the 8th inst. a communication
in relation to myself, of which it is perhaps expected of me to
take some notice.

Shortly before starting on my tour through yours, and the other
Northern counties of the District, I was informed by letter from
Jacksonville that Mr. Cartwright was whispering the charge of
infidelity against me in that quarter. I at once wrote a contradiction
of it, and sent it to my friends there, with the request that they
should publish it or not, as in their discretion they might think
proper, having in view the extent of the circulation of the charge,
as also the extent of credence it might be receiving. They did
not publish it. After my return from your part of the District, I
was informed that he had been putting the same charge in
circulation against me in some of the neighborhoods in our own,
and one or two of the adjoining counties. I believe nine persons
out of ten had not heard the charge at all; and, in a word, its
extent of circulation was just such as to make a public notice of it
appear uncalled for; while it was not entirely safe to leave it
unnoticed. After some reflection, I published the little hand-bill,
herewith enclosed, and sent it to the neighborhoods above
referred to.

I have little doubt now, that to make the same charge -- to slyly
sow the seed in select spots -- was the chief object of his
mission through your part of the District, at a time when he knew
I could not contradict him, either in person or by letter before the
election. And, from the election returns in your county, being so
different from what they are in parts where Mr. Cartwright and I
are both well known, I incline to the belief that he has succeeded
in deceiving some honest men there.

As to Mr. Woodward, "our worthy commissioner from Henry,"
spoken of by your correspondent, I must say it is a little singular
that he should know so much about me, while, if I ever saw him,
or heard of him, save in the communication in your paper, I have
forgotten it. If Mr. Woodward has given such assurance of my
character as your correspondent asserts, I can still suppose him
to be a worthy man; he may have believed what he said; but
there is, even in that charitable view of his case, one lesson in
morals which he might, not without profit, learn of even me --
and that is, never to add the weight of his character to a charge
against his fellow man, without knowing it to be true. I believe it
is an established maxim in morals that he who makes an assertion
without knowing whether it is true or false, is guilty of falsehood;
and the accidental truth of the assertion, does not justify or excuse
him. This maxim ought to be particularly held in view, when we
contemplate an attack upon the reputation of our neighbor. I
suspect it will turn out that Mr. Woodward got his information in
relation to me, from Mr. Cartwright; and I here aver, that he,
Cartwright, never heard me utter a word in any way indicating my
opinions on religious matters, in his life.

It is my wish that you give this letter, together with the
accompanying hand-bill, a place in your paper.

Yours truly,
A. Lincoln




HANDBILL REPLYING TO CHARGES OF INFIDELITY
To the Voters of the Seventh Congressional District.

FELLOW CITIZENS:
A charge having got into circulation in some of the neighborhoods
of this District, in substance that I am an open scoffer at Christianity,
I have by the advice of some friends concluded to notice the subject
in this form. That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true;
but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never
spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or any
denomination of Christians in particular. It is true that in early life I
was inclined to believe in what I understand is called the "Doctrine
of Necessity" -- that is, that the human mind is impelled to action,
or held in rest by some power, over which the mind itself has no
control; and I have sometimes (with one, two or three, but never
publicly) tried to maintain this opinion in argument. The habit of
arguing thus however, I have, entirely left off for more than five
years. And I add here, I have always understood this same opinion
to be held by several of the Christian denominations. The foregoing,
is the whole truth, briefly stated, in relation to myself, upon this
subject.

I do not think I could myself, be brought to support a man for office,
whom I knew to be an open enemy of, and scoffer at, religion.
Leaving the higher matter of eternal consequences, between him
and his Maker, I still do not think any man has the right thus to insult
the feelings, and injure the morals, or the community in which he
may live. If, then, I was guilty of such conduct, I should blame no
man who should condemn me for it; but I do blame those, whoever
they may be, who falsely put such a charge in circulation against me.

A. Lincoln

July 31, 1846



(Both the letter to Allen N. Ford, editor of the Lacon Illinois
Gazette in Marshall County, and the accompanying, previously
printed handbill refuting Cartwright's charges, were published
in the Gazette on August 15, 1846.)
 

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