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in the habit of going to bed at dark, should, when required to watch, fall asleep; and I cannot consent to shoot him for such an act."" This story, with its moral, is made complete by Rev. Newman Hall of London, who, in a sermon preached after and upon Mr. Lincoln's death, says that the dead body of this youth was found among the slain on the field of Fredericksburg, wearing next his heart a photograph of his preserver, beneath which the grateful fellow had written, “God bless President Lincoln!” From the same sermon, another anecdote is gleaned, of a similar character, which is evidently authentic. An officer of the army, in conversation with the preacher, said: “The first week of my command, there were twenty-four deserters sentenced by court martial to be shot, and the warrants for their execution were sent to the President to be signed. He refused. I went to Washington, and had an interview. I said: “Mr. President, unless these men are made an example of, the army itself is in danger. Mercy to the few is cruelty to the many.' He replied: “Mr. General, there are already too many weeping widows in the United States. For God's sake, do n't ask me to add to the number, for I won't do it.'
Whole chapters might be occupied by the record of such incidents as these. The woe that the war brought upon the people kept his sympathetic heart always bleeding. One of the last acts of his official life was the granting of a pardon for a military offense. A friend from Illinois called to plead for the life of a neighbor—a soldier who was on his way with his regiment through Washington, and, falling out of the ranks, entered a drinking saloon, was overcome with liquor, and failed to join his regiment before it left the city. He was arrested for desertion, and sentenced to be shot. The soldier's friend found Mr. Lincoln with a table before him literally covered with documents, which were all to be signed by him. There was not room enough on the table to hold the paper for a pardon. Mr. Lincoln heard the explanation of the case, and remarked: “Well, I think the boy can do us more good above ground than under ground;” and then he proceeded to
another table to write his pardon. Afterwards, laughingly regarding the table from which the mass of papers had driven him, he said: “By the way, do you know how the Patagonians eat oysters? They open them, and throw the shells out of the window, till the pile gets higher than the house, and then they move!” He could not omit his “little story,” even in a case of life and death.
There never lived a man more considerate of human weakness than Abraham Lincoln. He always found so many apologies for the sins of others that he could cherish no resentments against them, even when those sins were maliciously committed against himself. When his friends went
When his friends went to him with the remarks of ill-natured and inimical persons, he preferred not to have them repeated, and turned off his indignant informers with a story, or the remark: "I guess we won't talk about that now.” He never read the public abuse of himself in the newspapers; and of one of the most virulent attacks
upon him he simply remarked that it was “ill-timed.” Of one of his bitter political enemies, he said: “I've been told that insanity is hereditary in his family, and I think we will admit the plea in his case.” Charity, pity, mercy, sympathy—these were virtues which reigned in the White House during Mr. Lincoln's occupation of it.
Yet Mr. Lincoln could be severe. Toward crimes resulting from sudden anger, or untoward circumstances and sharp temptations,—the long catalogue of vices growing out of human weakness,-toward these, he was always lenient; but toward a cool, calculating crime against the race, or any member of it, from ambitious or mercenary motives, he was severe. The systematic, heartless oppression of one man by another man, always aroused his indignation to the highest pitch. An incident occurred soon after his inauguration which forcibly illustrates this point. Hon. John B. Alley of Lynn, Massachusetts, was made the bearer to the President of a petition for pardon, by a person confined in the Newburyport jail for being engaged in the slave-trade. He had been sentenced to five years' imprisonment, and the payment of a fine of one thousand dollars. The petition was accompanied by a letter to Mr. Alley, in which the prisoner acknowledged his guilt and the justice of his sentence. He was very penitent,-at least, on paper,-and had received the full measure of his punishment, so far as it related to the term of his imprisonment; but he was still held because he could not pay his fine. Mr. Alley read the letter to the President, who was much moved by its pathetic appeals; and when he had himself read the petition, he looked up, and said: “My friend, that is a very touching appeal to our feelings. You know
weakness is to be, if possible, too easily moved by appeals for mercy; and, if this man were guilty of the foulest murder that the arm of man could perpetrate, I might forgive him on such an appeal; but the man who could go to Africa, and rob her of her children, and sell them into interminable bondage, with no other motive than that which is furnished by dollars and cents, is so much worse than the most depraved murderer, that he can never receive pardon at my hands. No! He may rot in jail before he shall have liberty by any act of mine." A sudden crime, committed under strong temptation, was venial in his eyes, on evidence of repentance; but the calculating, mercenary crime of man-stealing and man-selling, with all the cruelties that are essential accompaniments of the business, could win from him, as an officer of the people, no pardon.
Two ladies, wives of rebel officers imprisoned on Johnson's Island, applied for their release, with great importunity, one of them urging that her husband was a very religious man. As he granted their request, he said to the lady who had testified to her husband's religion: “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 that sets men to rebel and fight against their government, because, as they think, that government does not sufficiently help some men to cat their bread in the sweat of other men's faces, is not the sort of religion upon which men can get to heaven."
Certainly Mr. Lincoln's religion was very different from
this. It was one which sympathized with all human sorrow; which lifted, so far as it had the power, the burden from the oppressed; which let the prisoner go free; and which called daily for supplies of strength and wisdom from the divine fountains. He grew more religious with every passing year of his official life. The tender piety that breathed in some of his later state papers is unexampled in any of the utterances of his predecessors. In all the great emergencies of his closing years, his reliance upon divine guidance and assistance was often extremely touching. “I have been driven many times to my knees,” he once remarked, “ by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” On another occasion, when told that he was daily remembered in the prayers of those who prayed, he said that he had been a good deal helped by the thought; and then he added with much solemnity: “I should be the most presumptuous blockhead upon this footstool, if I for one day thought that I could discharge the duties which have come upon me since I came into this place, without the aid and enlightenment of One who is wiser and stronger than all others.” He felt, he said, that he should leave Washington a better man if not a wiser, from having learned what a very poor sort of man he was. He always remained shy in the exposure of his religious experiences, but those around him caught golden glimpses of a beautiful Christian character. With failing strength and constant weariness, the even temper of the man sometimes gave way, while his frequent experience of the faithlessness and cupidity of men made him at last distrustful of those who approached him.
In February, 1862, Mr. Lincoln was visited by severe affliction in the death of his beautiful son Willie, and the extreme sickness of Thomas, familiarly called “Tad.” This was a new burden; and the visitation which, in his firm faith in Providence, he regarded as providential, was also inexplicable. Why should he, with so many burdens upon him, and with such necessity for solace in his home and his affections, be brought into so tender a trial? It was to him a trial of faith, indeed. A Christian lady of Massachusetts, who was officiating as nurse in one of the hospitals, came in to attend the sick children. She reports that Mr. Lincoln watched with her about the bedside of the sick ones, and that he often walked the room, saying sadly: “This is the hardest trial of my life; why is it? Why is it?” In the course of conversations with her, he questioned her concerning her situation. She told him she was a widow, and that her husband and two children were in Heaven; and added that she saw the hand of God in it all, and that she had never loved him so much before as she had since her affliction. “How is that brought about?” inquired Mr. Lincoln. “Simply by trusting in God, and feeling that he does all things well,” she replied.
“ Did you submit fully under the first loss ?” he asked. “No," she answered, “not wholly; but, as blow came upon blow, and all was taken, I could and did submit, and was very happy." He responded: “I am glad to hear you say that. Your experience will help me to bear my afflictions.”
On being assured that many Christians were praying for him on the morning of the funeral, he wiped away the tears that sprang in his eyes, and said: “I am glad to hear that. I want them to pray for me. I need their prayers.” As he was going out to the burial, the good lady expressed her sympathy with him. He thanked her gently, and said: “I will try to go to God with my sorrows." A few days afterward, she asked him if he could trust God. He replied: “I think I can, and I will try. I wish I had that childlike faith you speak of, and I trust He will give it to me.” And then he spoke of his mother, whom so many years before he had committed to the dust among the wilds of Indiana. In this hour of his great trial, the memory of her who had held him upon her bosom, and soothed his childish griefs, came back to him with tenderest recollections. “I remember her prayers," said he, "and they have always followed me.
They have clung to me all my life."
This lady was with the President on subsequent occasions.