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STORIES ABOUT LINCOLN
LED BY THE SPIRIT
SAAC and Sarah Harvey, very devout Quakers, resided
in Clinton County, Ohio, about fifty miles northwest
of Cincinnati. They were ardent abolitionists and Isaac was so obedient to "the movings of the Spirit” that his neighbors, who held him in reverence and esteem, regarded him as very eccentric in some of his religious convictions and conduct. In 1868 Mrs. Nellie Blessing-Eyster, who now resides in Berkeley, California, visited the Harveys and received from Isaac, who had become blind, an account of an interview with President Lincoln in September, 1862. The story as told by Mrs. Eyster is here published by her permission and is as follows:
"Folding his thin hands, his face wearing an expression of sweet gravity, and his words coming slowly as if he were weighing the value of each, he said:
“ 'I will answer thy question. My quiet life has known few storms. I have loved God as my first, best and dearest friend, and He has ever dealt most tenderly with me. During the first years of the great rebellion, when I read and heard of the condition of the poor crushed Negroes, I tried to think it was a cunning device of bad men to create greater enmity between the North and the South; but when I read Lincoln's speeches, I thought so good and wise a man could not be deceived, and then I resolved to go and see for myself. At one of our First-day meetings I spoke of my intention, but although the brethren felt as I did upon the subject they
said it was rash for me to expose my life, for I could do no good. Nevertheless I went, traveling on horseback through most of the Southland.
“ 'Often my life was in danger from guerrillas, but there was always an unseen arm between me and the actual foe, and in a few weeks I returned, saying the half liad not been told of the sufferings of these poor, despised, yet God-fearing and God-trusting people.'
“Here his voice trembled with the overflow of pity of which his heart seemed the fountain.
“ 'That summer,' he continued, 'I plowed and reaped and gathered in my harvest as usual. Day by day I prayed, at home and in the field, that God would show His delivering power as he had to the children of Israel. Nothing seemed to come in answer. Occasionally during the beginning of the war, news reached us that battles had been fought by the Northern men and victories won, but still the poor colored people were not let go.
“ 'One day while plowing I heard a voice, whether inside me or outside of me I know not, but I was awake. It said: "Go thou and see the President." I answered: "Yea, Lord, Thy servant heareth.” And unhitching my plow, I went at once to the house and said to mother: “Wilt thou go with me to Washington to see the President?"
““"Who sends thee?" she asked. """The Lord," I answered.
"•"Where thou goest I will go,” said mother, and began to make ready.
‘My friends called me crazed; some said that this trip would be more foolish than the first, and that I, who had never been to Washington and knew no one in it, could not gain access to the great President.
"'The Lord knew I did not want to be foolhardy, but I had that on my mind which I must tell President Lincoln, and I had faith that He who feedeth the sparrows would direct me.
“'We left here on the 17th of Ninth month, 1862, the first time mother had been fifty miles from home in sixty years. It was a pleasant morning. Before we left the house we prayed that God would direct our wandering, or, if He saw best, direct us to return. Part of our journey was by stage. Every one looked at and spoke to us kindly. Oh, God's world is beautiful when we see the invisible in it.
“ 'We got to Washington the next evening. It was about early candle light, and there was so much confusion at the depot and on the street that mother clung to my arm saying: "Oh, Isaac, we ought not to have come here! It looks like Babylon!"
“But the Lord will help us if we have faith that we are doing His will," I replied, and we walked away from the cars.
“ 'Under a lamp-post there stood a noble-looking man, reading a letter. I stepped before him and said: "Good friend, wilt thou tell us where to find President Lincoln ?"
“ 'He looked us all over before he spoke. We were neat and clean, and soon his face got bright and smiling, and he asked us a few plain questions. I told him we were Friends from Ohio who had come all of these weary miles to say a few words with President Lincoln, because the Lord had sent us.
''He nodded his head and said, “I understand." Then he took us to a large house called Willard's Hotel, and up to a little room away from all the noise.
“Stay here,” he said, “and I will see when the President can admit you."
'He was gone a long time, but meanwhile a young man brought us up a nice supper, which mother said was very hospitable in him, and when the gentleman returned he handed me a slip of paper upon which was written, “Admit the bearer to the chamber of the President at 9:30 o'clock tomorrow morning.” My heart was so full of gratitude that I could not express my thanksgiving in words. That night was as peaceful as those at home in the meadows.
**The next morning the kind gentleman came and conducted us to the house nearby in which the President lived. Every one whom we met seemed to know our conductor and took off their hats to him. I was glad that he had so many friends. At the door of the big porch he left us, promising to return in an hour. "You must make your talk with him brief,” he said. “A big battle has just been fought at Antietam. The North is victorious, but at least 12,000 men have been killed or wounded, and the President, like the rest of us, is in great trouble.”
“ 'I did not speak. I could not. The room into which we were first shown was full of people, all waiting, we supposed, to see the President. "Ah, Isaac, we shall not get near him today. See the anxious faces who come before us," whispered mother.
“«"As God wills," I said.
'It was a sad place to be in, truly. There were soldiers' wives and wounded soldiers sitting around the large room, and not a soul but from whom joy and peace seemed to have fled. Some were weeping; soldiers with clanking spurs and short swords were rapidly walking through the halls; men with newspapers in their hands were reading the news from the seat of war, and the President's house seemed the center of the world. I felt what a solemn thing it must be to have so much power.'
“Here Uncle Isaac's voice got husky and tears fell from his sightless eyes upon his wrinkled hands. I reverently brushed them off, and in a few minutes he continued:
'When the summons came for us to enter-it was an advance of the others—my knees smote together, and for an instant I tottered. "Keep heart, Isaac," mother whispered, and we went forward. I fear thou wilt think me vain if I tell what followed.'
“ 'No fear, Uncle Isaac. Please proceed.'