« AnteriorContinuar »
44 My poor girl," said lie, "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 endeavored to be just. A member of Congress called upon him one day with the brother of a deserter who had been arrested. The excuse 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 satisfied. But on going out, the brother, who was anxious for an immediate 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 :—
u 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:— 4 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: 4 Mr. President, I have been a drummer in a regiment for two years, and my colonel got angry with 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. 41 have no home/ answered the boy. 4 Where is your father?' 'He died in the army,' was the reply. 4Where is your mother?' continued the President. 4My mother is dead also. I have no mother, no father, no brothers, no sisters, and,' bursting into tears, 4no friends—nobody cares for me.' Mr. Lincoln's eyes filled with tears, and he said to him, 4 Can't you sell newspapers?' 4No,' said the boy, 4I 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:—
441 well remember one day when a poor woman sought, with the persistent affection of a mother, for the pardon of her son condemned to death. She was successful in her petition. When she had left the room, he turned to me and said: 4 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 patience, 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, pronounced at the Brooklyn Academy of Music :—
"Of course his sensibilities came gradually to be under the control 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 frequently, though always reluctantly, ratified by him. But his sympathy with men, in whatever condition, of whatever opinions, in whatever wrongs involved, was so native and constant, and so controlling, 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 veiy 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 berious 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 semper tyrannis P shouted his wild theatric assassin, as he leaped upon the stage, making the ancient motto of Virginia a legend of shame forevermore. 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 really enlarged 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 mirthfulness 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 bis 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 President. When he had finished, Mr. Lincoln replied, that even upon his own statement of the case the facts would not warrant executive interference. Disappointed, 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 Sic 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 countenance that his mind was unconvinced. Turning very abruptly, he said: u Well, Mr. President, I see that you are fully determined not to do n.e 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, saying, as he ejected him into the passage: "Sir, I give you fair warning never to show yourself in this room again. I can bear censure, but not insult!" In p 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 wras 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, however, 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 reiterated the assertion of his acquaintance with Mrs. Lincoln. Instantly the President's hand was upon the bell-rope. The usher in attendance answered the summons. "Cornelius, take this man's name to Mrs. Lincoln, aiyl ask her what she knows of him." The boy presently returned, with the reply that "the Madam" (as she was called by the servants) knew nothing of hirn whatever. "It is just as I suspected," said the President. The party made one more attempt to enlist his sympathy, but without effect "It is of no use," was the reply. "I cannot release him !" and the trio withdrew in high displeasure.
HIS HUMOR, SHREWDNESS, AND SENTIMENT. It has been well said by a profound critic of Shakspeare, 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 Windsor and the merriment of the Midsummer Night's Dream." This is as true of Mr. Lincoln as it was of Shakspeare. 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 exaggerated. Mr. Beecher once observed to me of his own wealth of illustration, 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 chis 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 conversation. 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 citizens. 'They had business of great importance, involving the necessity of the President's examination of voluminous documents. Pushing every thing 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 i Petroleum' to c«me 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 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 was entered upon with the utmost earnestness.