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 34 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 34 of 41)
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her husband, sought to obtain his discharge from the army— this,
Mr. Lincoln told her was beyond his power; but he listened patiently
to the poor creature's tale of suffering and sorrow, cheered her and
comforted her, reminded her how not herself alone, but the nation
generally, were passing through a season of trial, and dismissed
her not only with many kind and thoughtful words, but with sub-
stantial proofs of sympathy." A beautiful and touchinar picture M.
Laugel places before us of Mr. Lincoln, in that fatal theatre — months
before the real tragedy which ended his life — listening to that repre-
sentation of manly sorrow in "King Lear" — with his little son pressed
close to his ample breast, at times answering patiently the little prat-
tling fellow — then showing in every feature how keenly he felt the
great dramatist's representation of the sorrows of paternity. To him
Shakespeare was, as to all true men, a great teacher, whose words
cannot be heard too often, and cannot be rendered more powerful by
any extrinsic circumstances. "It matters not to me," he said one day,
"whether Shakespeare be well or ill acted; with him, the thought

Here is a characteristic touch of humor as well as pathos; — the
incident is strictly true : —

A distinguished citizen of Ohio had an appointment with the Presi-
dent one evening at six o'clock. As he entered the vestibule of the
White House, his attention was attracted by a poorly-clad young
woman who was violently sobbing. He asked her the cause of her
distress. She said she had been ordered away by the servants, after
vainly waiting many hours to see the President about her only
brother, who had been condemned to death. Her story was this: —
She and her brother were foreigners, and orphans. # They had been
in this country several years. Her brother enlisted in the army, but,
through bad influences, was induced to desert. He was captured,
tried, and sentenced to be shot — the old story. The poor girl had
obtained the signatures of some persons who had formerly known
him, to a petition for a pardon, and alone had come to Washington
to lay the case before the President. Thronged as the waiting-rooms
always were, she had passed the long hours of two days trying in vain
to get an audience, and had at length been ordered away.


The gentleman's feelings were touched. He said to her that he
had come to see the President, but did not know as he should suc-
ceed. He told her, however, to follow him up-stairs, and he woilld
see what could be done for her. Just before reaching the door, Mr.
Lincoln came out, and meeting his friend said good-humoredly, "Are
you not ahead of time?" The gentleman showed him his watch, with
the hand upon the hour of six. "Well," returned Mr. Lincoln, "f
have been so busy to-day that I have not had time to get a lunch.
Go in, and sit down; I will be back directly."

The gentleman made the young woman accompany him into the
office, and when they were seated, said to her, "Now, my good girl, I
want you to muster all the courage you have in the world. When the
President comes back, he will sit down in that arm-chair. I shall
get up to speak to him, and as I do so you must force yourself be-
tween us, and insist upon his examination of your papers, telling him
it is a case of life and death, and admits of no delay." These instruc-
tions were carried out to the letter. Mr. Lincoln was at first some-
what surprised at the apparent forwardness of the young woman,
but observing her distressed appearance, he ceased conversation with
his friend, and commenced an examination of the document she had
placed in his hands. Glancing from it to the face of the petitioner,
whose tears had broken forth afresh, he studied its expression for a
moment, and then his eye fell upon her scanty but neat dress. In-
stantly his face lighted up. "My poor girl," said he, "you have come
here with no governor, or senator, or member of Congress, to plead
your cause. You seem honest and truthful; and you don't wear
hoops — and I will be whipped but I will pardon your brother."

Though kind-hearted almost to a fault, nevertheless he always en-
deavored to be just. A member of Congress called upon him one
day with the brother of a deserter who had been arrested. The ex-
cuse was that the soldier had been home on a sick-furlough, and
that he afterwards became partially insane, and had consequently
failed to return and report in proper time. He was on his way to
his regiment at the front to be tried. The President at once ordered
him to be stopped at Alexandria and sent before a board of surgeons
for examination as to the question of insanity. "This seemed to me
so proper," said the representative, "that I expressed myself sat-
isfied. But on going out, the brother, who was anxious for an imme-
diate discharge, said to me, The trouble with your President is, that
he is so afraid of doing something wrong.' "

A correspondent of the New York Times, writing from Kentucky,
gives the following: —

"Among the large number of persons waiting in the room to
speak with Mr. Lincoln, on a certain day in November last, was a
small pale, delicate-looking boy about thirteen years old. The
President saw him standing, looking feeble and faint, and said:—
Come here, my boy, and tell me what you want.' The boy advanced.
placed his hand on the arm of the President's chair, and with bowed
head and timid accents said: 'Mr. President, I have been a drum-
mer in a regiment for twQ wears, and my colonel got angry w&h


me and turned me off; I was taken sick, and have been a long time
in hospital. This is the first time I have been out, and I came to
see if you could not do something for me.' The President looked
at him kindly and tenderly, and asked him where he lived. T have
no home,' answered the boy. 'Where is your father?' 'He died in
the army,' was the reply. 'Where is your mother?' continued the
President. 'My mother is dead also. I have no mother, no father
no brothers, no sisters, and,' bursting into tears, 'no friends — nobod)
cares for me.' Mr. Lincoln's eyes filled with tears, and he said to
him, 'Can't you sell newspapers?' 'No,' said the boy, 'I am too
weak, and the surgeon of the hospital told me I must leave, and I
have no money, and no place to go to.' The scene was wonderfully
affecting. The President drew forth a card, and addressing on it
certain officials to whom his request was law, gave special directions
'to care for this poor boy.' The wan face of the little drummer lit
up with a happy smile as he received the paper, and he went away
convinced that he had one good and true friend, at least, in the
person of the President."

Mr. Van Alen, of New York, writing to the Evening Post, relates
the following: —

"I well remember one day when a poor woman sought, with the
persistent affection of a mother, for the pardon of her son con-
demned to death. She was successful in her petition. When she
had left the room, he turned to me and said: 'Perhaps I have done
wrong, but at all events I have made that poor woman happy.' "

One night Schuyler Colfax left all other business to ask him to
respite the son of a constituent, who was sentenced to be shot, at
Davenport, for desertion. He heard the story with his usual pa-
tience, though he was wearied out with incessant calls, and anxious
for rest, and then replied : — "Some of our generals complain that I
impair discipline and subordination in the army by my pardons and
respites, but it makes me rested, after a hard day's work, if I can find
some good excuse for saving a man's life, and I go to bed happy
as I think how joyous the signing of my name will make him and his
family and his friends." And with a happy smile beaming over that
care-furrowed face, he signed that name that saved that life.

Said the Rev. Dr. Storrs, in his eulogy upon Mr. Lincoln, pro-
nounced at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: —

"Of course his sensibilities came gradually to be under the con-
trol of his judgment, and the councils of others constrained him
sometimes to a severity which he hated; so that at length the order
for the merited restraint or punishment of public offenders was fre-
quently, though always reluctantly, ratified by him. But his sym-
pathy with men, in whatever condition, of whatever opinions, in
whatever wrongs involved, was so native and constant, and so con-
trolling, that he was always not so much inclined as predetermined
to the mildest and most generous theory possible. And something
of peril as well as promise was involved to the public in this element
of his nature. He would not admit that he was in danger of the


very assassination by which at last his life was taken, and only yielded
with a protest to the precautions which others felt bound to take
for him; because his own sympathy with men was so strong that
he could not believe that any would meditate serious harm to him.
The public policy of his administration was constantly in danger of
being too tardy, lenient, pacific toward those who were combined for
deadly battle against the Government, because he was so solicitous to
win, so anxious to bless, and so reluctant sharply to strike. 'Sic sem-
per tyrannis!" shouted his wild theatric assassin, as he leaped upon the
stage, making the ancient motto of Virginia a legend of shame for-
evermore. But no magistrate ever lived who had less of the tyrant
in his natural or his habitual temper. In all the veins of all' his frame
no drop of unsympathetic blood found a channel. When retaliation
seemed the only just policy for the Government to adopt to save its
soldiers from being shot in cold blood or being starved into idiocy, it
was simply impossible for him to adopt it. And if he had met the
arch-conspirators face to face, those who had racked and reallv en-
larged the English vocabulary to get terms to express their hatred
and disgust toward him individually — those who were striking with
desperate blows at the national existence — it would have been hard
for him not to greet them with open hand and a kindly welcome.
The very element of sadness, which was so inwrought with his mirth-
fulness and humor, and which will look out on coming generations
through the pensive lines upon his face and the light of his pathetic
eyes, came into his spirit or was constantly nursed there through his
sympathy with men, especially with the oppressed and the poor. He
took upon himself the sorrows of others. He bent in extremest
personal suffering under the blows that fell upon his countrymen.
And when the bloody rain of battle was sprinkling the trees and the
sod of Virginia during successive dreary campaigns, his inmost soul
felt the baptism of it, and was sickened with grief. 'I cannot bear it,'
he said more than once, as the story was told him of the sacrifice
made to secure some result. No glow even of triumph could expel
from his eyes the tears occasioned by the suffering that had bought it!"

Too much has not been said of his uniform meekness and kindness
of heart, but there would sometimes be afforded evidence that one
grain of sand too much would break even this camel's back. Among
the callers at the White House one day, was an officer who had been
cashiered from the service. He had prepared an elaborate defence
of himself, which he consumed much time in reading to the Presi-
dent. When he had finished, Mr. Lincoln replied, that even upon his
own statement of the case the facts would not warrant executive in-
terference. Disapppinted, and considerably crest-fallen, the man
withdrew. A few days afterward he made a second attempt to alter
the President's convictions, going over substantially the same ground,
and occupying about the same space of time, but without accomplish-
ing his end. The third time he succeeded in forcing himself into Mr
Lincoln's presence^ who with great forbearance listened to another
repetition of the case to its conclusion, but made no reply. Waiting
for a moment, the man gathered from the expression of his counte-
nance that his mind was unconvinced. Turning very abruptly, he


said : "Well, Mr. President, I see that you are fully determined not
to do me justice!" This was too aggravating even for Mr. Lincoln,
Manifesting, however, no more feeling than that indicated by a slight
compression of the lips, he very quietly arose, laid down a package
of papers he held in his hand, and then suddenly seizing the defunct
officer by the coat-collar, he marched him forcibly to the door, say-
ing, as he ejected him into the passage: "Sir, I give you fair warn-
ing never to show yourself in this room again. I can bear censure,
but not insult!". In a whining tone the man begged for his papers
which he had dropped. "Begone, sir," said the President; "your
papers will be sent to you. I never wish to see your face again!"

Late one afternoon a lady with two gentlemen were admitted. She
had come to ask that her husband, who was a prisoner of war, might
be permitted to take the oath and be released from confinement. To
secure a degree of interest on the part of the President, one of the
gentlemen claimed to be an acquaintance of Mrs. Lincoln; this, how-
ever, received but little attention, and the President proceeded to ask
what position the lady's husband held in the rebel service. "Oh,"
said she, "he was a captain." "A captain," rejoined Mr. Lincoln;
"indeed, rather too big a fish to set free simply upon his taking the
oath! If he was an officer, it is proof positive that he has been a
zealous rebel; I cannot release him." Here the lady's friend reit-
erated the assertion of his acquaintance with Mrs. Lincoln. Instantly
the President's hand was upon the bell-rope. The usher in attend-
ance answered the summons. "Cornelius, take this man's name to
Mrs. Lincoln, and ask her what she knows of him." The boy pres-
ently returned with the reply that "the Madam" (as she was called
by the servants) knew nothing of him whatever. "It is just as I sus-
pected," said the President. The party made one more attempt to en-
list his sympathy, but without effect. "It is of no use," was the reply.
"I cannot release him!" and the trio withdrew in high displeasure.


It has been well said by a profound critic of Shakespeare, and it
occurs to me as very appropriate in this connection, that "the spirit
which held the woe of Lear and the tragedy of Hamlet would have
broken, had it not also had the humor of the Merry Wives of Wind-
sor and the merriment of the Midsummer Night's Dream." This is
as true of Mr. Lincoln as it was of Shakespeare. The capacity to tell
and enjoy a good anecdote no doubt prolonged his life. I have often
heard this asserted by one of his most intimate friends. And the
public impression of his fecundity in this respect was not exagger-
ated. Mr. Beecher once observed to me of his own wealth of illus-
tration, that he "thought in figures," or, in other words, that an
argument habitually took on that form in his mind. This was pre-
eminently true of Mr. Lincoln. The "points" of his argument were
-driven home in this way as they could be in no other. In the social
circle this characteristic had full play. I never knew him to sit down
with a friend for a five minutes' chat without being "reminded" of
one or more incidents about somebody alluded to in the course of
the conservation. In a corner of his desk he kept a copy of the


latest humorous work; and it was frequently his habit, when greatly
fatigued, annoyed, or depressed, to take this up and read a chapter,,
with great relief.

The Saturday evening before he left Washington to go to the front,,
just previous to the capture of Richmond, I was with him from seven,
o'clock till nearly twelve. It had been one of his most trying days.
The pressure of office-seekers was greater at this juncture than I ever
knew it to be, and he was almost worn out. Among the callers that
evening was a party composed of two senators, a representative, an
ex-lieutenant governor of a Western State, and several private citi-
zens. They had business of great importance, involving the neces-
sity of the President's examination of voluminous documents. Push-
ing everything aside, he said to one of the party, "Have you seen the
Nasby papers?" "No, I have not," was the answer; "who is
Nasby?" "There is a chap out in Ohio," returned the President,
"who has been writing a series of letters in the newspapers over the
signature of Petroleum V. Nasby. Some one sent me a pamphlet
collection of them the other day. I am going to write to 'Petroleum*
to come down here, and I intend to tell him if he will communicate
his talent to me, I will swap places with him!" Thereupon he arose,
went to a drawer in his desk, and, taking out the "Letters," sat down i
and read one to the company, finding in their enjoyment of it the
temporary excitement and relief which another man would have found
in a glass of wine. The instant he had ceased, the book was thrown
aside, his countenance relapsed into its habitual serious expression,,
and the business wa s entered upon with the utmost earnestness.

Just htfee, I may say with propriety, and I feel that it is due to Mr-
Lincoln's memory to state, that, during the entire period of my stay
in Washington, after witnessing his intercourse with almost all classes,
of people, including governors, senators, members of Congress, offi-
cers of the army, and familiar friends, I cannot recollect to have ever
heard him relate a circumstance to any one of them all that would 1
have been out of place uttered in a ladies' drawing-room! I am aware
that a different impression prevails, founded it may be in some in-
stances upon facts; but where there is one fact of the kind I am
persuaded that there are forty falsehoods, at least. At any rate, what
I have stated is voluntary testimony, from a standpoint, I submit,
entitled to respectful consideration.

Among his stories freshest in my mind, one which he related to me
shortly after its occurrence, belongs to the history of the famous in-
terview on board the River Queen, at Hampton Roads, between him-
self and Secretary Seward, and the rebel Peace Commissioners. It
was reported at the time that the President told a "little story" on
that occasion, and the inquiry went around among the newspapers,
"What was it?" The New York Herald published what purported
to be a version of it, but the "point" was entirely lost, and it attracted
no attention. Being in Washington a few days subsequent to the
interview with the Commissioners (my previous sojourn there having
terminated about the first of last August), I asked Mr. Lincoln, one
day, "if it was true that he told Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell a
story." "Why, yes," he replied, manifesting some surprise, "but has
it leaked out? I was in hopes nothing would be said about it, lest


some over-sensitive people should imagine there was a degree of
levity in the intercourse between us." He then went on to relate
the circumstances which called it out. "You see," said he, "we had
reached and were discussing the slavery question. Mr. Hunter said,
substantially, that the slaves, always accustomed to an overseer, and
to work upon compulsion, suddenly freed, as they would be if the
South should consent to peace on the basis of the 'Emancipation
Proclamation,' would precipitate not only themselves but the entire
Southern society into irremediable ruin. No work would be done,
nothing could be cultivated, and both blacks and whites would
starve!" Said the President, "I waited for Seward to answer that
argument, but as he was silent, I at length said: "Mr. Hunter, you
ought to know a great deal better about this matter than I, for you
have always lived under the slave system. I can only say, in reply
to your statement of the case, that it reminds me of a man out in
Illinois, by the name of Case, who undertook, a few years ago, to
raise a very large herd of hogs. It was a great trouble to feed them,
and how to get around this was a puzzle to him. At length he hit
on the plan of planting an immense field of potatoes, and, when they
were sufficiently grown, he turned the whole herd into the field, and
let them have full swing, thus saving not only the labor of feeding
the hogs, but also that of digging the potatoes! Charmed with his
sagacity, he stood one day leaning against the fence, counting his
hogs, when a neighbor came along. 'Well, well,' said he, 'Mr. Case,
this is all very fine. Your hogs are doing very well just now, but
you know out here in Illinois the frost comes early, and the ground
freezes for a foot deep. Then what are they going to do?' This was
a view of the matter Mr. Case had not taken into account. Butcher-
ing-time for hogs was 'way on in December or January! He
scratched his head, and at length stammered, 'Well it may come
pretty hard on their snouts, but I don't see but that it will be 'root,
hog, or die!' "

The simplicity and absence of all ostentation on the part of Mr.
Lincoln, is well illustrated by an incident which occurred on the occa^
sion of a visit he made to Commodore Porter, at Fortress Monroe.
Noticing that the banks of the river were dotted with flowers, he said :
"Commodore, Tad" (the pet name for his youngest son, who had
accompanied him on the excursion) "is very fond of flowers; won't
you let a couple of men take a boat and' go with him for an hour or
two, along the banks of the river, and gather the flowers?" Look at
this picture, and then endeavor to imagine the head of a European
nation making a similar request, in this humble way, of one of his

One day I took a couple of friends from New York up-stairs, who
wished to be introduced to the President. It was after the hour for
business calls, and we found him alone, and, for once, at leisure.
Soon after the introduction, one of my friends took occasion to in-
dorse, very decidedly, the President's Amnesty Proclamation, which
had been severely censured by many friends of the Administration.
Mr. S 's approval touched Mr. Lincoln. He said, with a great


deal of emphasis, and with an expression of countenance I shall nevei
forget, "When a man is sincerely penitent for his misdeeds, and gives
satisfactory evidence of the same, he can safely be pardoned, and
there is no exception to the rule!"

Shortly afterwards, he told us this story of "Andy Johnson," as he
was familiarly in the habit of calling him. It was a few weeks prior
to the Baltimore Convention, before it was known that Governor
Johnson would be the nominee for the Vice-Presidency. Said he, "I
had a visit last night from Colonel Moody, 'the fighting Methodist
parson,' as he is called in Tennessee. He is on his way to the Phila-
delphia Conference, and, being in Washington over night, came up
to see me. He told me," he continued, "this story of Andy Johnson
and General Buel, which interested me intensely. Colonel Moody
was in Nashville the day that it was reported that Buel had decided
to evacuate the city. The rebels, strongly re-enforced, were said to
be within two days' march of the capital. Of course, the city was
greatly excited. Said Moody, T went in search of Johnson, at the
edge of the evening, and found him at his office, closeted with two
gentlemen, who were walking the floor with him, one on each side.
As I entered, they retired, leaving me alone with Johns.on, who came ! i
up to me, manifesting intense feeling, and said, "Moody, we are sold
out! Buel is a traitor! ' He is going to evacuate the city, and in
forty-eight hours we shall all be in the hands of the rebels." Then
he commenced pacing the floor again, twisting his hands, and chafing
like a caged tiger, utterly insensible to his friend's entreaties to be-
come calm. Suddenly he turned and said, "Moody, can you pray?"
"That is my business, sir, as a minister of the Gospel," returned the
Colonel. "Well, Moody, I wish you would pray," said Johnson; and
instantly both went down upon their knees, at opposite sides of the j
room. As the prayer became fervent, Johnson began to respond in {
true Methodist style. Presently he crawled over on his hands and j
knees to Moody's side, and put his arm over him, manifesting the
deepest emotion. Closing the prayer with a hearty 'Amen!' from
each, they arose. Johnson took a long breath, and said, with em-

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 34 of 41)