Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

Lincoln, his life and times : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages, letters, and proclamations, and the closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 2) online

. (page 33 of 41)
Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and times : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages, letters, and proclamations, and the closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 2) → online text (page 33 of 41)
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Shall moulder to dust, and together shall lie

The infant a mother attended and loved;
The mother, that infant's affection who proved ;
The husband, that mother and infant who blest, —
Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.

[The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure — her triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised,
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.]

The hand of the king, that the sceptre hath borne,
The brow of the priest, that the mitre hath worn,
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave.

The peasant, whose lot was to sow and to reap,
The herdsman, who climbed with his goats up the steep,
The beggar, who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

[The saint, who enjoyed the communion of heaven,
The sinner, who dared to remain unforgiven,
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just.
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.]

So the multitude goes — like the flower or the weed,
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes — even those we behold.
To repeat every tale that has often been told:

For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, we view the same sun.
And run the same course -our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking, our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking, our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging, they also would cling —
But it speeds from us all like a bird on the wing.

They loved — but the story we cannot unfold;

They scorned — but the heart of the haughty is cold;


They grieved — but no wail from their slumber will come ;
They enjoyed — but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

They died — ay, they died — we things that are now,
That walk on the turf that lies over their brow,
And make in their dwellings a transient abode,
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road

Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
Are mingled together in sunshine and rain;
And the smile and the tear, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

'Tis the wink of an eye, — 'tis the draught of a breath;
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud: —
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?

Discussing briefly the merits of this poem, and its probable author-
ship, Mr. Lincoln continued: —

"There are some quaint, queer verses, written, I think, by Oliver
Wendell Holmes, entitled The Last Leaf,' one of which is to me
inexpressibly touching." He then repeated these also from memory.
The verse he referred to occurs in about the middle of the poem,
and is this : —

'The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that he has pressed

In their bloom,
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year

On the tomb."

As he finished this verse he said, in his emphatic way: "For pure
pathos, in my judgment, there is nothing finer than those six lines
in the English language !"

Mr. R. McCormick. in some "Reminiscences," published in the
Evening Post, says that Mr. Lincoln was fond of the works of
Robert Burns; and although I myself never heard him allude to the
great Scottish poet, I can readily conceive that it may have been
true. "There was something," says Mr. McCormick, "in the humble
origin of Burns, and in his checkered life, no less than in his tender,
homely songs, that appealed to the great heart of the plain man who,
transferred from the prairies of Illinois to the Executive Mansion at
Washington at a time of immense responsibility, gave a fresh and
memorable illustration of the truth that

The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The man's the gowd for a' that.' "


There is a very natural and proper desire, at this time, to know


something of the religious experience of the late President. Two or
three stories have been published in this connection, which I have
never yet been able to trace to a reliable source, and I feel impelled
to say here, that I believe the facts in the case— if there were such-
have been added unto, or unwarrantably embellished. Of all men in
the world, Mr. Lincoln was the most unaffected and truthful. He
rarely or never used language loosely or carelessly, or for the sake
of compliment. He was the most utterly indifferent to, and uncon-
scious of, the effect he was producing, either upon official represen-
tatives, or the common people, of any man ever in public position.
Mr. Lincoln could scarcely be called a religious man, in the com-
mon acceptation of the term, and yet a sincerer Christian I believe
never lived. A constitutional tendency to dwell upon sacred things;
an emotional nature which finds ready expression in religious con-
versation and revival meetings; the culture and development of the
devotional element till the expression of religious thought and ex-
perience becomes almost habitual, were not among his character-
istics. Doubtless he felt as deeply upon the great questions of the
soul and eternity as any other thoughtful man, but the very tender-
ness and humility of his nature would not permit the exposure of his
inmost convictions, except upon the rarest occasions, and to his
most intimate friends. And yet, aside from emotional expression, I
believe no man had a more abiding sense of his dependence upon
God, or faith in the Divine government, and in the power and ulti-
mate triumph of Truth and Right in the world. In the language
^ an eminent clergyman of this city, who lately delivered an eloauent
discourse upon the life and character of the departed President, "It
is not necessary to appeal to apocryphal stories, in circulation in the
newspapers — which illustrate as much the assurance of his visitors as
the simplicity of his faith — for proof of Mr. Lincoln's Christian char-
acter." If his daily life and various public addresses and writings do
not show this, surely nothing can demonstrate it.

But while inclined, as I have said, to doubt the truth of some of
the statements published on this subject, I feel at liberty to relate an
incident, which bears upon its face unmistakable evidence of truth-
fulness. A lady interested in the work of the Christian Commission
had occasion, in the prosecution of her duties, to have several inter-
views with the President of a business nature. He was much im-
pressed with the devotion and earnestness of purpose she manifested,
and on one occasion, after she had discharged the object of her visit,

he said to her: "Mrs. — ■ , I have formed a very high opinion

of your Christian character, and now, as we are alone, I have a
mind to ask you to give me, in brief, your idea of what consti-
tutes a true religious experience," The lady replied at some length,
stating that, in her judgment, it consisted of a conviction of one's
own sinfulness and weakness, and personal need of the Saviour for
strength and support; that views of mere doctrine mis:ht and would
differ, but when one was really brought to feel his need of Divine
help, and to seek the aid of the Holy Spirit for strength and guid-
ance it was satisfactory evidence of his having been born again.
This was the substance of her reply. When she had concluded. Mr.
Lincoln was very thoughtful for a few mornents. He at length said,


very earnestly, "If what you have told me is really a correct view
of this great subject, I think I can say with sincerity, that I hope I
am a Christian. I had lived," he continued, "until my boy Willie
died, without realizing fully these things. That blow overwhelmed
me. It showed me my weakness as I had never felt it before, and
if I can take what you have stated as a test, I think I can safely say
that I know something of that change of which you speak; and I
will further add, that it has been my intention for some time, at a
suitable opportunity, to make a public religious profession!"

A clergyman, writing to the Friends' Review of Philadelphia, gives
che following interesting incident: —

"After visiting schools, and holding meetings with the freed people,
and attending to other religious service south of Washington and
in that city I felt that I must attend to manifest duty, and offer a
visit in Gospel love to our noble President; it was immediately
granted, and a quarter past six that evening was fixed as the time.
Under deep feeling I went; my Heavenly Father went before and
prepared the way. The President gave us a cordial welcome, and
after pleasant, instructive conversation, during which he said, in
reference to the freedmen, 'If I have been one of the instruments
in liberating this long-suffering, down-trodden people, I thank
God for it' — a precious covering spread over us. The good man
rested his head upon his hand, and, under a precious, gathering in-
fluence, I knelt in solemn prayer. He knelt close beside me, and I
felt that his heart went p with every word as utterance was given. I
afterwards addressed him, and when we rose to go, he shook my
hand heartily, and thanked me for the visit."

Mr. Noah Brooks, one of Mr. Lincoln's most intimate personal
friends, in an admirable article in Harper's Magazine, gives the fol-
lowing reminiscence of his conversation : —

"Just after the last Presidential election he said, 'Being only mor-
tal, after all I should have been a little mortified if I had been beaten
in this canvass before the people; but that sting would have been
more than compensated by the thought that the people had notified
me that all my official responsibilities were soon to be lifted off my
back.' In reply to the remark that he might remember that in all
these cares he was daily remembered by those who prayed, not to
be heard of men, as no man had ever before been remembered, he
caught at the homely phrase, and said, 'Yes, I like that phrase "not
to be heard of men," and guess it is generally true as you say; at
least, I have been told so, and I have been a good deal helped by
just that thought.' Then he solemnly and slowly added, 'I should be
the most presumptuous blockhead upon this footstool, if I for one
day thought that I could discharge the duties which have come upon
me since I came into this place, without the aid and enlightenment
of One who is stronger and wiser than all others.' "

By the Act of Emancipation Mr. Lincoln built for himself forever
the first place in the affections of the African race in this country.


The love and reverence manifested for him by many of these poor,
ignorant people has, on some occasions, almost reached adoration.
One day Colonel McKaye, of New York, who had been one of a
committee to investigate the condition of the freedmen, upon his re-
turn from Hilton Head and Beaufort, called upon the President, and
in the course of the interview mentioned the following incident: —

He had been speaking of the ideas of power entertained by these
people. They had an idea of God, as the Almighty, and they had
realized in their former condition the power of their masters. Up to
the time of the arrival among them of the Union forces, they had no
knowledge of any other power. Their masters fled upon the ap-
proach of our soldiers, and this gave the slaves the conception of a
power greater than their masters exercised. This power they called
"Massa Linkum." Colonel McKaye said that their place of worship
was a large building which they called "the praise house," and the
leader of the "meeting," a venerable black man, was known as "the
praise man." On a certain day, when there was quite a large gath-
ering of the people, considerable confusion was created by different
persons attempting to tell who and what "Massa Linkum" was. In
the midst of the excitement the white-headed leader commanded si-
lence. "Brederin," said he, "you don't know nosen' what you'se
talkin' T)out. Now, you just listen to me. Massa Linkum, he ebery
whar. He knows ebery thing." Then, solemnly looking up, he added:
"He walk de earf like de Lord!"

Colonel McKaye told me that Mr. Lincoln was very much affected
by this account. He did not smile, as another might have done, but
got up from his chair and walked in silence two or three times across
the floor. As he resumed his seat, he said, very impressively, "It is
a momentous thing to be the instrument, under Providence, of the
liberation of a race!"

"At another time, he said cheerfully, 'I am very sure that if I do
not go away from here a wiser man, I shall go away a better man, for
having learned here what a very poor sort of a man I am.' After-
wards, referring to what he called a change of heart, he said he did
not remember any precise time when he passed through any special
change of purpose, or of heart; but, he would say, that his own elec-
tion to office, and the crisis immediately following, influentially de-
termined him in what he called 'a process of crystallization' then
going on in his mind. Reticent as he was, and shy of discoursing
much of his own mental exercises, these few utterances now have a
value with those who knew him, which his dying words would scarcely
have possessed."

Says Rev. Dr. Thompson, of New York: — "A calm trust in God
was the loftiest, worthiest characteristic in the life of Abraham Lin-
coln. He had learned this long ago. 'I would rather my son would
be able to read the Bible than to own a farm, if he can't have but one.'
said his godly mother. That Bible was Abraham Lincoln's guide."

"Mr. Jay states that, being on the steamer which conveyed the gov-
ernmental party from Fortress Monroe to Norfolk, after "the destruc-


tion of the Merrimac, while all on board were excited by the novelty
of the excursion and by the incidents that it recalled, he missed the
President from the company, and, on looking about, found him in a
quiet nook, reading a well-worn Testament. Such an incidental
revelation of his religious habits is worth more than pages of formal

When Mr. Lincoln visited New York in i860, he felt a great inter-
est in many of the institutions for reforming criminals and saving the
young from a life of crime. Among others, he visited, unattended,
the Five Points' House of Industry, and a teacher in the Sabbath-
school there gives the following account of the event: —

"One Sunday morning I saw a tall, remarkable-looking man enter
the room and take a seat among us. He listened with fixed attention
to our exercises, and his countenance expressed such genuine interest
that I approached him and suggested that he might be willing to say
something to the children. He accepted the invitation with evident
pleasure; and, coming forward, began a simple address, which at once
fascinated every little hearer and hushed the room into silence. His
language was strikingly beautiful, and his tones musical with intense
feeling. The little faces would droop into sad conviction as he uttered
sentences of warning, and would brighten into sunshine as he spoke
cheerful words of promise. Once or twice he attempted to close his
remarks, but the imperative shout of 'Go on! O, do go on!' would
compel him to resume. As I looked upon the gaunt and sinewy
frame of the stranger, and marked his powerful head and determined
features, now touched into softness by the impressions of the mo-
ment, I felt an irrepressible curiosity to learn something more about
him, and while he was quietly leaving the room I begged to know his
name. He courteously replied, 'It is Abraham Lincoln, from
Illinois.' "

In the article in Harper's Magazine already quoted from above, Mr.
Brooks says : —

"On Thursday of a certain week, two ladies, from Tennessee,
came before the President, asking the release of their husbands,
held as prisoners of war at Johnson's Island. They were put off until
Friday, when they came again, and were again put off until Saturday.
At each of the interviews one of the ladies urged that her husband
was a religious man. On Saturday, when the President ordered the
release of the prisoner, he said to this lady, 'You say your, husband
is a religious man; tell him, when you meet him, that I say I am not
much of a judge of religion, but that in my opinion the religion which
sets men to rebel and fight against their Government, because, as
they think, that Government does not sufficiently help some men to
eat their bread in the sweat of other men's faces, is not the sort of
religion upon which people can get to heaven.' "

The Western Christian Advocate says : — "On the day of the receipt
of the capitulation of Lee, as we learn from a friend intimate with
the late President Lincoln, the cabinet meeting was held an hour
earlier than usual. Neither the President nor any member was able,


for a time, to give utterance to his feelings. At the suggestion of
Mr. Lincoln all dropped on their knees, and offered, in silence and in
tears, their humble and heartfelt acknowledgments to the Almighty
for the triumph He had granted to the National cause."


A large number of those whom he saw every day came with appeals
to his feelings in reference to relatives and friends in confinement and
under sentence of death. It was a constant marvel to me that, with
all his other cares and duties, he could give so much time and be so
.patient with this multitude. I have known him to sit for hours lis-
'tening to details of domestic troubles from poor people — much of
which, of course, irrelevant — carefully sifting the facts, and manifest-
ing as much anxiety to do exactly right as in matters of the gravest
interest. Poorly-clad people were more likely to get a good hearing
than those who came in' silks and velvets. No one was ever turned
away from his door because of poverty. If he erred, it was sure to
be on the side of mercy. It was one of his most painful tasks to con-
firm a sentence of death. I recollect the case of a somewhat noted
rebel prisoner, who had been condemned to death, _ I believe, as a
spy. A strong application had been made to have his sentence com-
muted. While this was pending, he attempted to escape from con-
finement, and was shot by the sentinel on guard. Although he richly
deserved death, Mr. Lincoln remarked in my presence, that "it was a
great relief to him that the man took his fate into his own hands."

"No man in our era," says Mr. Colfax, "clothed with such vast
power, has ever used it so mercifully. No ruler holding the keys of
life and death, ever pardoned so many and so easily. When friends
said to him they wished he had more of Jackson's sternness, he
would say, 'I am just as God made me, and cannot change.' It may
not be generally known that his door-keepers had standing orders
from him that no matter how great might be the throng, if either
senators or representatives had to wait, or to be turned away without
an audience, he must see, before the day closed, every messenger
who came to him with a petition for the saving of life."

A touching instance of his kindness of heart was told me incident-
ally by one of the servants. A poor woman from Philadelphia had
been waiting, with a baby in her arms, for three days to see the Presi-
dent. Her husband had furnished a substitute for the army, but some
time afterwards became intoxicated while with some companions, and
in this state was induced to enlist. Soon after he reached the army
he deserted, thinking that, as he had provided a substitute, the Gov-
ernment was not entitled to his services. Returning home, he was,
of course, arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to be shot. The
sentence was to be executed on Saturday. On Monday his wife left
her home with her baby, to endeavor to see the President. Said old
Daniel, "She had been waiting here three days, and there was no
chance for her to get in. Late in the afternoon of the third day the
President was going through the back passage to his private rooms,
to get a cup of tea or take some rest." (This passage-way has lately


been constructed, and shuts the person passing entirely out of view
of the occupants of the ante-room.) "On his way through he heard
the baby cry. He instantly went back to his office and rang the bell.
'Daniel,' said he, 'is there a woman with a baby in the ante-room?'
I said there was, and if he would allow me to say it, I thought it was
a case he ought to see; for it was a matter of life and death. Said
he, 'Send her to me at once; She went in, told her story, and the
President pardoned her husband. As the woman came out from his
presence, her eyes were lifted and her lips moving in prayer, the tears
streaming down her cheeks." Said Daniel, "I went up to her and,
pulling her shawl, said, 'Madam, it was the baby that did it!'"

Another touching' incident occurred, I believe, the same week. A
woman in a faded shawl and hood, somewhat advanced in life, at
length was admitted, in her turn, to the President. Her husband and
three sons, all she had in the world, enlisted. Her husband had
been killed, and she had come to ask the President to release to her
the oldest son. Being satisfied of the truthfulness of her story, he
said, "Certainly, if her prop was taken away she was justly entitled
to one of her boys." He immediately wrote an order for the dis-
charge of the young man. The poor woman thanked him very grate-
fully, and went away. On reaching the army she found that this
son had been in a recent engagement, was wounded, and taken to a
hospital. She found the hospital, but the boy was dead, or died
while she was there. The surgeon in charge made a memorandum
of the facts upon the back of the President's order, and, almost
broken-hearted, the poor woman found her way again into his pres-
ence. He was much affected by her appearance and story, and said,
"I know what you wish me to do now, and I shall do it without your
asking: I shall release to you your second son." Upon this he took
up his pen and commenced writing the order. While he was writ-
ing the poor woman stood by his side, the tears running down her
face, and passed her hands softly over his head, stroking his rough
hair, as I have seen a fond mother caress a son. By the time he had
finished writing his own heart and eyes were full. He handed her
the paper. "Now," said he, "you have one and I one of the other
two left; that is no more than right." She took the paper, and
reverently placing her hand again upon his head, the tears still upon
her cheeks, said, "The Lord bless you, Mr. President! May you live
a thousand years, and always be the head of this great nation!"

One day the Hon. Thaddeus Stevens called with an elderly lady, in
great trouble, whoseson had been in the army, but for some offence
had been court-martialed, and sentenced either to death or imprison-
ment at hard labor for a long term, I do not recollect which. There
were # some extenuating circumstances, and after a full hearing the
President turned to the representative and said : "Mr. Stevens, do
you think this is a case which will warrant my interference?" "With
my knowledge of the facts and the parties," was the reply, "I should
have no hesitation in granting a pardon." "Then," returned Mr.
Lincoln, "I will pardon him," and he proceeded forthwith to execute
the paper. The gratitude of the mother was too deep for expression,


save by her tears, and not a word was said between her and Mr.
Stevens until they were half way down the stairs on their passage out,
when she suddenly broke forth in an excited manner with the words,
"I knew it was a copperhead lie!" "What do you refer to, madam?"
asked Mr. Stevens. "Why, they told me he was an uglv-looking
man," she replied, with vehemence. "He is the handsomest man I
ever saw in my life!" And surely for that mother, and for many
another throughout the land, no carved statue of ancient or modern
art, in all its symmetry, can have the charm which will forevermore
encircle that care-worn but gentle face, expressing as was never ex-
pressed before, "Malice towards none — Charity for all."

M. Laugel, in the Revue des Deux Mondes, relates from personal
observation one or two interesting incidents : —

"A soldier's wife, reduced almost to destitution by the absence of

Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and times : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages, letters, and proclamations, and the closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 2) → online text (page 33 of 41)