Slike strani

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 moment, 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 manifesting 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 confirm 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 commuted. While this was pending, he attempted to escape from confinement, 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 incidentally 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 President. 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 Government 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 con

structed, 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, 'Madain, it was the baby that did it!'"

[ocr errors]

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 discharge of the young man. The poor woman thanked him very gratefully, 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 Presi dent's order, and, almost broken-hearted, the poor woman found her way again into his presence. 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 writing 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!"

[ocr errors]

One day the Hon. Thaddeus Stevens called with an elderly lady, in great trouble, whose son had been in the army, but for some offence

had been court-martialled, and sentenced either to death or imprisonment at hard labor for a long term, I do not recollect which. There were some extenuating circumstances, and after a full bearing 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." 66 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 ugly-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 through out 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 expressed before, "Malice towards none-Charity for all."


[ocr errors]

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 her husband, sought to obtain his discharge from the armythis, 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 substantial proofs of sympathy." A beautiful and touching picture M. Laugel places before us of Mr. Lincoln, in that fatal theatre-months before the real tragedy which ended his lifelistening to that representation of manly sorrow in "King Lear"-with his little son pressed close to his ample breast, at times answering patiently the little prattling fellow-then showing in every feature how keenly he felt the great dramatist's representation of the sorrows of paternity. To him Shakspeare 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 Shakspeare be well or ill acted; with him, the thought suffices."

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 succeed. He told her, however, to follow him up-stairs, and he would 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. (4 Well," returned Mr. Lincoln, "I 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 arin-chair. I shall get up to speak to him, and as I do so you must force yourself between 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 instructions were carried out to the letter. Mr. Lincoln was at first somewhat 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. Instantly his face lighted up.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »