|Believer? Newly resurfaced letter written|
by a close friend of Abraham Lincoln raises
questions about the president's views on
religion, faith and God
But a newly resurfaced letter raises questions about Abraham Lincoln’s views on religion, faith and God.
In the message, which provides a rare and intimate glimpse into the religious views of the Civil War president, a close friend writes that Lincoln was a 'rationalist’ who doubted ‘the immortality of the soul’.The letter suggests that Lincoln was not religious for most of his life, but his faith seems to have evolved and progressed during his presidency.
‘Mr Lincoln’s religion is too well known to me to allow of even a shadow of a doubt. He is or was a theist, a rationalist, denying all extraordinary, supernatural inspiration or revelation, William Herndon wrote in the letter to Edward McPherson, clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.
‘At one time in his life, to say the least, he was an elevated Pantheist, doubting the immortality of the soul as the Christian world understands that term.
‘He believed that the soul lost its identity and was immortal as a force. Subsequent to this he rose to the belief of a God.’
The three-page letter, which is being offered for sale by the Raab Collection for $35,000, was written by Mr Herndon, one of Lincoln's closest friends, in February 1866, less than a year after his death.
The pair had practised law together for 17 years before Lincoln became president in 1861.
After Lincoln's assassination on April 14 1865, he authored ‘Herndon's Lincoln’, a biography considered among the most authoritative for its closeness to the mysterious president.
Document: The three-page letter is being offered for sale for $35,000
Lincoln’s faith has long been an elusive topic for historians. He was never baptised, did not join a church and usually did not discuss his beliefs.
‘In rare instances, he divulged his true feelings to one close friend, long-time confidant and law partner, William Herndon,’ said Nathan Raab, vice president of the Raab Collection. ‘He did believe in God, however difficult it might be to easily define those beliefs.’
|Revealed: Letter said that Lincoln 'at one time in his life' doubted the 'immortality of the soul as the Christian world understands that term'|
In the letter, Mr Herndon writes: ‘I love Mr Lincoln dearly, almost worship him, but that can’t blind me. He’s the purest politician I ever saw, and the justest man.
‘I am scribbling, that’s the word, away on a life of Mr Lincoln, gathering known authentic true facts of him.’
|In the money: Portrait of Abraham Lincoln appears on five-dollar-bill |
alongside the country's motto 'In God We Trust'