The source that Abraham Lincoln had been infected with syphilis is none other than Lincoln himself, according to his biographer, friend, and law partner, William Herndon.

In a letter to his co-author, Herndon wrote: “When I was in Greencastle in 1887, I said to you that Lincoln had, when a mere boy, the syphilis, and now let me explain the matter in full. About the year 1835-36, Mr. Lincoln went to Beardstown and during a devilish passion had connection with a girl and caught the disease. Lincoln told me this and in a moment of folly I made note of it in my mind.

In my chapter on Lincoln, I made the point that there is quite a bit of circumstantial evidence that Lincoln did have syphilis, and that he was probably taking the “little blue mercury pills” not for melancholia as has been suggested, but for on-going syphilis.

What is remarkable about this whole story is how it has been almost completely ignored in the vast Lincoln scholarship. The question of whether or not Lincoln had syphilis, and how good the clinical evidence of that is, demands further research. But there is a more interesting question. What if Lincoln believed that he had syphilis? And why have there been so many biographies of Lincoln that don’t even mention Herndon’s letter, let alone ponder the implications?

Source: Read the full story in Vanity Fair

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