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 36 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 36 of 41)
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when you will no longer be needed here." Several friends of both
parties were present on the occasion, and there was not a dry eye
that witnessed the scene.

One of the last, if not the very last story told by President Lincoln,
was to one of his Cabinet who came to see him, to ask if it would
be proper to permit Take Thompson to slip through Maine in dis-
guise and embark for Portland. The President, as usual, was dis-
posed to be merciful, and to permit the arch-rebel to pass unmolested,
but the Secretary urged that he should be arrested as a traitor. "By
permitting him to escape the penalties of treason," persistently re-
marked the Secretary, "you sanction it." "Well," replied Mr. Lin-
coln, "let me tell you a story. There was an Irish soldier here last
summer, who wanted something to drink stronger than water, and
stopped at a drug-shop, where he espied a soda-fountain. 'Mr. Doc-
tor,' said he, 'give me, plase, a glass of soda-wather, an' if yes can
put in a few drops of whiskey unbeknown to anyone, I'll be
obleeged.' Now," continued Mr. Lincoln, "if Jake Thompson is
permitted to go through Maine unbeknown to any one, what's the
harm? So don't have him arrested."

It will be remembered that an extra session of Congress was called
in July following Mr. Lincoln's inauguration. In the message then
sent in, speaking of secession, and the measures taken by the South-
ern leaders to bring it about, there occurs the following remark: —
"With rebellion thus sugar-coated, they have been drugging the pub-
lic mind of their section for more than thirty years, until at length


they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms
against the Government," &c. Mr. Defrees, the Government printer,
told me that, when the message was being printed, he was a good
deal disturbed by the use of the term "sugar-coated," and finally went
to the President about it. Their relations to each other being of
the most intimate character, he told Mr. Lincoln frankly, that he
ought to remember that a message to Congress was a different af-
fair from a speech at a mass-meeting in Illinois — that the messages
became a part of history, and should be written accordingly.

"What is the matter now?" inquired the President.

"Why," said Mr. Defrees, "you have used an undignified expres-
sion in the message;" and then, reading the paragraph aloud, he
added, "I would alter the structure of that, if I were you."

"Defrees," replied Mr. Lincoln, "that word expresses precisely my
idea, and I am not going to change it. The time will never come
in this country when the people won't know exactly what sugar-
coated means!"

On a subsequent occasion, Mr. Defrees told me, a certain sentence
of another message was very awkwardly constructed. Calling the
President's attention to it in the proof-copy, the latter acknowledged
the force of the objection raised, and said. "Go home, Defrees. and
see if you can better it." The next day Mr. Defrees took in to him
his amendment. Air. Lincoln met .him by saying: "Seward found the
same fault that you did, and he has been rewriting the paragraph
also." Then reading Mr. Defree's version, he said: "I believe you
have beat Seward; but, 'I jings' " (a common expression with him),
"I think I can beat you both." Then taking up his pen, he wrote
the sentence as it was finally printed.

A Congressman elect, from New York State, was once pressing a
matter of considerable importance upon Mr. Lincoln, urging his
official action. "You must see Raymond about this," said the Presi-
dent (referring to the editor of the New York Times) ; "he is my
Lieutenant-General in politics. Whatever he says is right in the
premises, shall be done."

The evening before I left Washington, an incident occurred, illus-
trating very perfectly the character of the man. For two days my
large painting had been on exhibition, upon its completion, in the East
Room, which had been thronged with visitors. Late in the after-
noon of the second day, the "black-horse cavalry" escort drew u^
as usual in front of the portico, preparatory to the President's leav-
ing for the "Soldiers' Home," where he spent his midsummer nights.
While the carriage was waiting. I looked around for him, wishing
to say a farewell word, knowing that I should have no other oppor-
tunity. Presently I saw him standing half-way between the portico
and the gateway leading to the War Department, leaning against the
iron fence — one arm thrown over the railing, and one foot on the
stone coping which supports it, evidently having been intercepted, on
his way in, from the War Department, by a plain-looking man, who
was giving him, very diffidently, an account of a difficulty which he

Gg6 the life, public services, and

had been unable to have rectified. While waiting, I walked out leis-
urely to the President's side. He said very little to the man, but
was intently studying the expression of his face while he was nar-
rating his trouble. When he had finished, Mr. Lincoln said to him,
"Have you a blank card?" The man searched his pockets, but find-
ing none, a gentleman standing near, who had overheard the ques-
tion, came forward, and said, "Here is one, Mr. President." Several
persons had, in the mean time, gathered around. Taking the card
and a pencil, Mr. Lincoln sat down upon the stone coping, which is
not more than five or six inches above the pavement, presenting al-
most the appearance of sitting upon the pavement itself, and wrote
an order upon the card to the proper official to "examine this man's
case." While writing this, I observed several persons passing down
the promenade, smiling at each other, at what I presume they
thought the undignified appearance of the Head of the Nation, ^ who.
however, seemed utterly unconscious, either of any impropriety in the
action, or of attracting any attention. To me it was not only a touch-
ing picture of the native goodness of the man, but of innate nobility
of character, exemplified not so much by a disregard of convention-
alities, as in unconsciousness that there could be any breach of eti-
quette, or dignity, in the manner of an honest attempt to serve, or
secure justice to a citizen of the Republic, however humble he maj


On the afternoon of Friday, February 5, 1864, I rang the bell of
Mr. Lovejoy's boarding-house, on Fifteenth street, Washington. He
was then very ill, though his friends did not apprehend that he was
so near the close of his noble and faithful career. It is a sad satis-
faction to me now to remember that one of the last acts of this good
man's life was the writing, while sitting up in his bed, of the note
introducing me to Mr. Lincoln. My first interview with the Presi-
dent took place the next day, at the customary Saturday afternoon
public reception. Never shall I forget the thrill which went through
my whole being as I first caught sight of that tall, gaunt form through
a distant door, bowed down, it seemed to me, even then, with the
weight of the nation he carried upon his heart, as a mother carries
her suffering child, and thought of the place he held in the affections
of the people, and the prayers ascending constantly, day after day, in
his behalf! The crowd was passing through the rooms, and presently
it was my turn and name to be announced. Greeting me very pleas-
antly, he soon afterward made an appointment to see me in his offi-
cial chamber, directly after the close of the "reception." The hour
named found me at the well-remembered door of the apartment^
that door watched daily, with so many conflicting emotions of hope
and fear, by the miscellaneous throng gathered there. The President
was alone, and already deep in official business, which was always
pressing. ^ He received me with the frank kindness and simplicity so
characteristic of his nature; and, after reading Mr. Lovejoy's note,
said: "Well, Mr. Carpenter, we wilt turn you in loose here, and try
to give you a good chance to work out your idea." Then giving


me a place close beside his own arm-chair, he entered upon the ac-
count which I shall now attempt to write out, as nearly as possible
in his own words, of the circumstances attending the adoption of the
Emancipation policy. First, however, let me glance very briefly at
the condition of the country at this juncture.

The summer of 1862 was the gloomiest period of the war. After
the most stupendous preparations known in modern warfare, Mc-
Clellan, with an army 'of one hundred and sixty thousand men, had
retreated from the Peninsula after the "seven days' " severe fighting
before Richmond, and great depression followed the disappointment
of the brilliant hopes of the beginning of the campaign. The "On
to Richmond", had been succeeded by "Back to Washington;" and
the Rebellion, flushed with success, was more defiant than ever!

Thus far, the war had been prosecuted by the Administration with-
out touching slavery in- any manner. The reasons for this are ad-
mirably set forth in Mr. Lincoln's letter to Colonel Hodges.

Going over substantially the same ground on an occasion I well
remember, Mr. Lincoln said: — "The paramount idea of the Consti-
tution is the preservation of the Union. It may not be specified in
so many words, but of this there can be no question; for without the
Union the Constitution would be worthless. The Union made the
Constitution, not the Constitution the Union! It seems clear that, if
the emergency should arise that slavery, or anv other institution,
stood in the way of the maintenance of the Union^ and the alterna-
tive was presented to the Executive, of the destruction of one or the
other, he could not hesitate between the two. I can now," he con-
tinued, "most solemnly assert that I did all in my judgment that
could be done to restore the Union without interfering with the in-
stitution of slavery. We failed, and the blow at slavery was struck!"

I now take up the history of the Proclamation itself, as Mr. Lin-
coln gave it to me, on "the occasion of our first interview, and writ-
ten down by myself soon afterward : —

"It had got to be," said he, "midsummer, 1862. Things had gone
on from bad to worse, until I felt that we had reached the end of our
rope on the plan of operations we had been pursuing: that we had
about played our last card, and must change our tactics or lose the
game! I now determined upon the adoption of the Emancipation
policy; and, without consultation with, or the knowledge of the
Cabinet, I prepared the original draft of the Proclamation: and, after
much anxious thought, called a Cabinet meeting upon the subject.
This was the last of July, or the first part of the month of August,
1862." (The exact date he did not remember.) "This Cabinet meet-
ing took place, I think, upon a Saturday. All were present, except-
ing Mr. Blair, the Postmaster-General, who was absent at the. open-
ing of the discussion, but came in subsequently. I said to the Cab-
inet that I had resolved upon this step, and had not called them
together to ask their advice, but to lay the subject-matter of a proc-
lamation before them; suggestions as to which would be in order,
after they had heard it read. Mr. Lovejoy." said he, "was in error
when he informed you that it excited no comment, excepting on the
part of Secretary Seward. Various suggestions were offered. Sec-
retary Chase wished the language stronger in reference to the arm-


' ing of the blacks. Mr. Blair, after he came in, deprecated the policy,
on the ground that it would cost the Administration the fall elec-
tions. Nothing, however, was offered that I had not already fully
anticipated and settled in my own mind, until Secretary Seward
spoke. Said he : — 'Mr. President, I approve of the Proclamation,
but I question the expediency of its issue at this juncture. The
depression of the public mind, consequent upon our repeated re-
verses, is so great, that I fear the effect of so important a step. It
may be viewed as the last measure of an exhausted Government— a
cry for help; the Government stretching forth its hands to Ethiopia,
instead of Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the Government.'
His idea," said the President, "was, that it would be considered our
last shriek on the retreat." (This was his precise expression.)
" 'Now,' continued Mr. Seward, 'while I approve the measure, I
suggest, sir, that you postpone its issue until you can give it to the
country supported by military success, instead of issuing it, as would
be the case now, upon the greatest disasters of the war!'" Said Mr.
Lincoln; — "The wisdom of the view of the Secretary of State struck
me with very great force. It was an aspect of the case that, in all
my thought upon the subject, I had entirely overlooked. The result
was, that I put the draft of the Proclamation aside, as you do your
sketch for a picture, waiting for a victory. From time to time I
added or changed a line, touching it up here and there, waiting the
progress of events. Well, the next news we had was of Pooe's dis-
aster, at Bull Run. Things looked darker than ever. Finally came
the week of the battle of Antietam. I determined to wait no longer.
The news came, I think, on Wednesday, that the advantage was on
our side. I was then staying at the 'Soldiers' Home' " (three miles
out of Washington). "Here I finished writing the second draft of
the preliminary Proclamation ; came up on Saturday, called the Cab-
inet together to hear it, and it was published the following Monday.

"It was a somewhat remarkable fact," he continued, "that there
were just one hundred days betwen the dates of the two proclama-
tions, issued upon the 22d of September and the 1st of January. I
had not made the calculation at the time."

At the final meeting on Saturday, another interesting incident oc-
curred in connection with Secretary Seward. The President had
written the important part of the Proclamation in these words : —

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one
thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves
within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof
shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then,
thenceforward, and forever, free; and the Executive Government of
the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof,
will recognize the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or
acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they
may make for their actual freedom." — "When I finished reading this
paragraph,'' resumed Mr. Lincoln, "Mr. Seward stopped me, and
said: 'I_ think, Mr. President, that you should insert after the word
"recognize," in that sentence, the words "and maintain." ' I replied
that I had already fully considered the import of that expression in
this connection, but I had not introduced it, because it was not my


way to promise what I was not entirely sure that I could perform,
and I was not prepared to say that I thought we were exactly able
to 'maintain' this."

"But," said he, "Mr. Seward insisted that we ought to take this
ground; and the words finally went in."

Mr. Lincoln then proceeded to show me the various positions oc-
cupied by himself and the different members of the cabinet on the
occasion of the first meeting. "As nearly as I remember," said he,
"the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of War were here,
at my right hand — the others were grouped at the left."

From the first, the President seemed much interested in my work:
but as it progressed, his interest increased. He was in the habit of
bringing many friends in to see what advance I was making from day
to day, and I have known him to come by himself as many as three
or four times in a single day. It seemed a pleasant diversion to him
to watch the gradual progress of the work, and his suggestions,
though sometimes quaint and homely, were almost invariably excel-
lent. Seldom was he heard to allude to anything that might be con-
strued into a personality in connection with any member of his Cab-
inet. On one occasion, however, I remember, with a sly twinkle of
the eye, he turned to a senatorial friend whom he had brought in to
see the picture, and said: "Mrs. Lincoln calls Mr. Carpenter's group
'The Happy Family.' "

At the end of about six months' incessant labor, the picture drew
near completion. The curiosity of the public to see it was so great
that, by special permission of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, it was placed
in the "East Room," and, for two days, thrown open for free exhibi-
tion. At the close of the second day, just previous to the canvas
being taken down and rolled up, the President came in to take, as
he said, a "farewell look at the picture." He sat in front of it for
some time, and I asked him if he had aught of criticism to make.
He said he could suggest nothing whatever as to the portraiture —
"the likenesses seemed to him absolutely perfect." I then called his
attention to the accessories of the picture, stating that these had
been selected from the objects in the Cabinet chamber with reference
solely to their bearing upon the subject. "Yes," said he, "I see the
war-maps, the portfolios, the slave-map, and all; but the book in the
corner, leaning against the chair-leg, you have changed the title of
that, I see." ."Yes," I replied, "at the last moment I learned that
you frequently consulted, during the period you were preparing the
Proclamation, Solicitor Whiting's work on the 'War Powers of the
President,' so I simply changed the title of the book, leaving the old
sheepskin binding as it was." "Now," said he. "Whiting's book is
.not a regular law-book. It is all very well that it should be there;
but I would suggest that you change the character of the binding.
It now looks like an old volume of United States Statutes." T
thanked him for this criticism, and then said, "Is there anything else
that you would like changed?" "I see nothing," said he: "all else
is perfectly satisfactory to me. In my judgment, it is as good a
piece of work as the subject will admit of." And then, in his sim-
ple-hearted, earnest way, he said to me, "And I am right glad you
have done it - !"



In February last, a few days after the passage of the "Constitutional
Amendment," I was in Washington, and was received by Mr. Lin-
coln with the kindness and familiarity which had characterized our
previous intercourse. I said to him one day that I was very proud
to have been the artist to have first conceived of the design of paint-
ing a picture commemorative of the Act of Emancipation; that sub-
sequent occurrences had only confirmed by own first judgment of
that act as the most sublime moral event in our history. "Yes," said
— he and never do I remember to have noticed in him more earnest-
ness of expression or manner — "as affairs have turned, it is the cen-
tral act of my Administration, and the great event of the nineteenth

I remember to have asked him, on one occasion, if there was not
some opposition manifested on the part of several members of the
Cabinet to the Emancipation policy. He said, in reply: "Nothing
more than I have stated to you. Mr. Blair thought we should lose
the fall elections, and opposed it on that ground only." Said I, "I
have understood that Secretary Smith was not in favor of your
action. Mr. Blair told me that, when the meeting closed, he and the
Secretary of the Interior went away together, and that the latter
told him, if the President carried out that policy, he might count on
losing Indiana, sure!" "He never said anything of the kind to me,"
returned the President. "And how," said I, "does Mr. Blair feel
about it now?" "Oh," was the prompt reply, "he proved right in
regard to the fall elections, but he is satisfied that we have since
gained more than we lost." "I have been told," said I, "that Judge
Bates doubted the constitutionality of the Proclamation." "He never
expressed such an opinion in my hearing," replied Mr. Lincoln.
"No member of the Cabinet ever dissented from the policy, in any
conversation with me."

There was one marked element of Mr. Lincoln's character admir-
ably expressed by the Hon. Schuyler Colfax, in his oration at Chi-
cago upon his death: "When his judgment, which acted slowly, but
which was almost as immovable as the eternal hills when settled, was
grasping some subject of importance, the arguments against his own
desires seemed uppermost in his mind, and, in conversing upon it, he
would present those arguments, to see if they could be rebutted."

In illustration of this, I need only here recall the fact that the in-
terviews between himself and the Chicago delegation of clergymen,
appointed to urge upon him the issue of a Proclamation of Emanci-
pation took place September 13. 1862, just about a month after the
President had declared his established purpose to take this step at
the Cabinet meeting which I have described. He said to this com-
mittee : "I do not want to issue a document that the whole world
will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against
the comet!" After drawing out their views upon the subject, he
concluded theinterview with these memorable words: —

"Do not misunderstand me. because I have mentioned these ob-
jections. They indicate the difficulties which have thus far prevented
my action in some such way as you desire. I have not decided
against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but hold the matter
under advisement. And I can assure you that the subject is on my


mind, by day and night, more than any other. Whatever shall ap-
pear to be God's will, I will do! I trust that, in the freedom with
which I have canvassed your views, I have not in any respect injured
your feelings."

In further illustration of this peculiarity of his mind, I will say
here, to silence forever the cavils of those who have asserted that he
was forced by the pressure of public opinion to nominate Mr. Chase
as Judge Taney's successor, that, notwithstanding his apparent hesi-
tation upon this subject, and all that was reported at the time in the
newspapers as to the chances of the various candidates, it is a fact
well known to several of his most intimate friends that "there had
never been a time during his Presidency, that, in the event of the
death of Judge Taney, he had not fully intended and expected to
nominate Salmon P. Chase for Chief Justice." These were his very
words, uttered in this connection.

Mr. Chase told me that at the Cabinet meeting, immediately after
the battle of Antietam, and just prior to the issue of the September
Proclamation, the President entered upon the business before them,
by saying that "the time for the annunciation of the Emancipation
policy could no longer be delayed. Public sentiment," he thought,
"would sustain it, many of his warmest friends and supporters de-
manded it — and he had promised his God that he would do it!" The
last part of this was uttered in a low tone, and appeared to be heard
by no one but Secretary Chase, who was sitting near him He
asked the President if he correctly understood him. Mr. Lincoln
replied : "I made a solemn vow before God that, if General Lee
were driven back from Pennsylvania, I would crown the result by the
declaration of freedom to the slaves!"

In concluding this article, it will perhaps be expected that I should
take some notice of an assertion, made originally in an editorial
article in The Independent, upon the withdrawal of Mr. Chase from
the political canvass of 1864, and widely copied, in which it was stated
that the concluding paragraph of the Proclamation was from the
pen of Secretary Chase. One of Mr. Lincoln's intimate friends (this
incident was related to me by the gentleman himself), who felt that
there was an impropriety in this publication, at that time, for which
Mr. Chase was in some degree responsible, went to see the Presi-
dent about it. "Oh " said Mr. Lincoln, with his characteristic sim-
plicity and freedom from all suspicion, "Mr. Chase had nothing to
do with it; I think I mentioned the circumstance to Mr. Tilton my-

The facts in the case are these : while the measure was pending.
Mr. Chase submitted to the President a draft of a proclamation,
embodying his views upon the subject, which closed with the appro-
priate and solemn words referred to : "And upon this act, sincerely

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 36 of 41)