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ANECDOTES AND REMINISCENCES
BY FRANK B. CARPENTER.
I WENT to Washington the last week in February, 1864, for the purpose of carrying out my cherished project of painting the scene commemorative of the first reading in cabinet council of the Emancipation Proclamation. To my friends, Samuel Sinclair and F. A. Lane, of New York, the Honorable Schuyler Colfax, and Honorable Owen Lovejoy, shall I ever be indebted for the opening up of the way for the successful accomplishment of this undertaking. Through the latter gentleman arrangements were made with the President and Mrs. Lincoln, by which the spacious "State dining-room" of the Executive Mansion was placed at my disposal for a studio, in order that I might enjoy every facility for studying my subjects from the life.
The painting of the picture occupied about six months. It embraced full-length life-size portraits of the President and entire cabinet, and portrays, as faithfully as I was capable of rendering it, the scene as it transpired in the old cabinet chamber of the White House, when the Act of Emancipation first saw the light.
My relations with Mr. Lincoln of course became of an intimate character. Permitted the freedom of his private office at almost all hours, I was privileged to see and know more of his daily life than has perhaps fallen to the lot of any one not sustaining to him domestic or official relations.
In compiling a chapter of anecdotes, I have endeavored to embrace only those which bear the marks of authenticity. Many in this collection I myself heard the President relate; others were communicated to me by persons who either heard or took part in them. Sev
eral have had a wide circulation, in connection with subjects of interest at different times which called them out. The reminiscences are mainly my own, and are taken, for the most part, from articles contributed on various occasions, since the assassination, to the public press.
MR. LINCOLN'S SADNESS.
Many persons formed their impressions of the late President from the stories in circulation attributed to him, and consequently supposed him to have been habitually of a jocund, humorous disposition. There was this element in his nature in a large degree, but it was the sparkle and ripple of the surface. Underneath was a deep undercurrent of sadness, if not melancholy. When most depressed, it was his way frequently to seek relief in some harmless pleasantry. I recollect an instance related to me, by a radical member of the last Congress. It was during the dark days of 1862. He called upon the President early one morning, just after news of a disaster. Mr. Lincoln commenced telling some trifling incident, which the Congressman was in no mood to hear. He rose to his feet, and said, "Mr. President, I did not come here this morning to hear stories; it is too serious a time." Instantly the smile disappeared from Mr. Lincoln's face, who exclaimed, "A-, sit down! I respect you as an earnest, sincere man. You cannot be more anxious than I am constantly, and I say to you now, that were it not for this occasional vent, I should die!"
It has been the business of my life to study the human face, and I have said repeatedly to friends that Mr. Lincoln had the saddest face I ever attempted to paint. During some of the dark days of the spring and summer of 1864, I saw him at times when his care-worn, troubled appearance was enough to bring tears of sympathy into the eyes of his most bitter opponents. I recall particularly one day, when, having occasion to pass through the main hall of the domestic apartments, I met him alone, pacing up and down a narrow passage, his hands behind him, his head bent forward upon his breast, heavy black rings under his eyes, showing sleepless nights-altogether such a picture of the effects of sorrow and care as I have never seen!
"No man," says Mrs. Stowe, "has suffered more and deeper, albeit with a dry, weary, patient pain, that seemed to some like insensibility, than President Lincoln." "Whichever way it ends," he said to her, "I have the impression that I shan't last long after it is over."
After the dreadful repulse of Fredericksburg, he is reported to have said: "If there is a man out of perdition that suffers more than I do, I pity him."
The Honorable Schuyler Colfax, in his funeral oration at Chicago, said of him:
"He bore the nation's perils, and trials, and sorrows, ever on his mind. You know him, in a large degree, by the illustrative stories of which his memory and his tongue were so prolific, using them to point a moral, or to soften discontent at his decisions. But this was the mere badinage which relieved him for the moment from the heavy weight of public duties and responsibilities under which he often wearied. Those whom he admitted to his confidence, and with whom he conversed of his feelings, knew that his inner life was checkered with the deepest anxiety and most discomforting solicitude. Elated by victories for the cause which was ever in his thoughts, reverses to our arms cast a pall of depression over him. One morning, over two years ago, calling upon him on business, I found him looking more than usually pale and careworn, and inquired the reason. He replied, with the bad news he had received at a late hour the previous night, which had not yet been communicated to the press-he had not closed his eyes or breakfasted; and, with an expression I shall never forget, he exclaimed, 'How willingly would I exchange places to-day with the soldier who sleeps on the ground in the Army of the Potomac!"
He may not have looked for it from the hand of an assassin, but he felt sure that his life would end with the war long ago. "He told me," says a correspondent of the Boston Journal, "that he was certain he should not outlast the rebellion." It was in last July. As will be remembered, there was dissension then among the Republican leaders. Many of his best friends had deserted him, and were talking of an opposition convention to nominate another candidate; and universal gloom was among the people.
The North was tired of the war, and supposed an honorable peace attainable. Mr. Lincoln knew it was not-that any peace at that time would be only disunion. Speaking of it, he said: "I have faith in the people. They will not consent to disunion. The danger is, they are misled. Let them know the truth, and the country is safe." He looked haggard and careworn; and further on in the interview I remarked on his appearance, "You are wearing yourself out with work." "I can't work less," he answered; "but it isn't that-work never troubled me. Things look badly, and I can't avoid anxiety. Personally I care nothing about a re-election, but if our divisions defeat us, I fear for the country." When I suggested that right must eventually triumph; that I had never despaired of the result, he said, "Neither
have I, but I may never live to see it. I feel a presentiment that I shall not outlast the rebellion. When it is over, my work will be done."
HIS FAVORITE POEM.
The evening of March 22d, 1864, was a most interesting one to ma I was with the President alone in his office for several hours. Busy with pen and papers when I went in, he presently threw them aside and commenced talking to me of Shakspeare, of whom he was very fond. Little "Tad," his son, coming in, he sent him to the library for a copy of the plays, and then read to me several of his favorite passages. Relapsing into a sadder strain, he laid the book aside, and leaning back in his chair, said:
"There is a poem which has been a great favorite with me for years, which was first shown to me when a young man by a friend, and which I afterwards saw and cut from a newspaper and learned by heart. I would," he continued, "give a great deal to know who wrote it, but I have never been able to ascertain.' ""
Then, half closing his eyes, he repeated the verses to me. Greatly pleased and interested, I told him I would like some time to write them down. A day or two afterwards, he asked me to accompany him to the temporary studio in the Treasury Department of Mr. Swayne, the sculptor, who was making a bust of him. While "sitting," it occurred to me that then would be a good opportunity to secure the lines. He very willingly complied with my request to repeat them, and, sitting upon some books at his feet, as nearly as I remember, I wrote the verses down, one by one, as he uttered them :*—
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud ?–
The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
The infant a mother attended and loved;
The authorship of this poem has been made known since its publication in the Evening Post. It was written by William Knox, a young Scotchman, a contemporary of Sir Walter Scott-who thought highly of his promise. He died quite young.
The two verses in brackets were not repeated by Mr. Lincoln, but belong to the original
The husband, that mother and infant who blest,-
[The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
The hand of the king, that the sceptre hath borne,
The peasant, whose lot was to sow and to reap,
[The saint, who enjoyed the communion of heaven,
So the multitude goes-like the flower or the weod,
For we are the same our fathers have been;
The thoughts we are thinking, our fathers would think;
They loved-but the story we cannot unfold;
They died-ay, they died-we things that are now,
Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
Are mingled together in sunshine and rain;