« PreviousContinue »
“ 'It seemed so wonderful that, for a moment, I could not realize it. To think that such humble people as we were should be there in the actual presence of the greatest and best man in the world, and to be received by him as kindly as if he were our own son, made me feel very strange. He shook hands with us and put his chair between us. Oh, how I honored the good man! But I said:
" • "Wilt thou pardon me that I do not remove my hat?" Then he smiled, and his grave face lit up as he said, “Certainly. I understand it all.” The dear, dear man'-and again Uncle Isaac stopped as though to revel, as a devout nun counts her beads, in the memory of that interview.
"But I was impatient. “What then, sir?' The answer came with a solemnity indescribable. My curiosity and his reminiscence were not in harmony.
“ 'Of that half hour it does not become me to speak." I will think of it gratefully throughout eternity. At last we had to go. The President took a hand of each of us in his, saying, “I thank you for this visit. May God bless you." Was there ever greater condescension than that? Just then I asked him if he would object to writing just a line or two, certifying that I had fulfilled my mission, so that I could show it to the council at home. He sat down to his table.
“ 'Wilt thou open the drawer of that old secretary in the corner behind thee, and hand me a little box from therein ?'
“Up to that moment I had not noticed my surroundings. The old-fashioned furniture was oiled and rubbed, and a large secretary which belonged to the Colonial period was conspicuous. I obeyed instructions, and soon placed in the old man's now trembling fingers a small square tin box which was as bright as silver. Between two layers of cotton was a folded paper, already yellow. The words were verbatim these:
“'I take pleasure in asserting that I have had profitable intercourse with friend Isaac Harvey and his good wife, Sarah Harvey. May the Lord comfort them as they have sustained me.
"ABRAHAM LINCOLN. “Sept. 19, 1862.” 1
“ 'Uncle Isaac!' I exclaimed. 'I can scarcely realize that away off here in the backwoods I should read such words traced by Mr. Lincoln's own hands. How singular !
'Not more so than the whole event was to us, dear child, from the first to the last. - The following Second-day the preliminary Proclamation of Emancipation was issued. Thank God! Thank God!
"It is not possible to depict the devout fervor of the old patriarch's thanksgiving.
“'Our new friend was waiting at the outside door when we came out. I showed him the testimonial. He nodded his head affirmatively and said, “It is well.”
“ 'We soon left Washington, for our work was done and I longed for the quiet of home. Our friend took us to the omnibus which conveyed us to the cars, having treated us with a gracious hospitality which I can never forget. May the Lord care for him as he cared for us.'
“ 'Did vou not learn is name?' I inquired, wondering what official in those days would have bestowed so much time and courtesy upon these unpretending folk.
“'Yes, he is high in the esteem of men and they call him Salmon P. Chase. "
In connection with this remarkable story, the validity of which cannot be questioned, it is interesting to note that the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation issued a few days after the visit of Isaac and Sarah Harvey as stated on preceding pages was submitted to the Cabinet by President Lincoln nearly two months before, and was at that time withheld from publication by the President that it might be issued in connection with the announcement of a great victory in the field. It is, however, certain that by his interview with the Harveys, Mr. Lincoln was encouraged and strengthened in his purposes to take that important step.
1 In a letter to H. W. W., Jesse Harvey, Isaac's son, thus accounts for this precious document: “We kept the writing given by A. Lincoln for years. It was borrowed some times, and finally was so soiled we concluded it would not be of interest to any one, and destroyed it with other old papers."
A MOTHER'S PLEA
During the dark days of the Rebellion a telegram from the front was sent to a mother living in Minnesota, informing her that her youngest son, who had recently enlisted, had been court-martialed and sentenced to be shot for sleeping while on picket duty. It was not the first heartbreaking message she had received from the front during the three years of bloody strife and she had, by severe discipline, been chastened into a spirit of patriotic and religious submission to crushing bereavement. But this, as she believed, was beyond the limit of righteous submission, and with the heroism which characterized the womanhood of those days, she exclaimed, “They shall not shoot him," and started for Washington.
There were others there when she was ushered into President Lincoln's room, but she seemed unmindful of their presence. With perfect self-control, but with intense earnestness, she briefly recited her story to the great chieftain and calmly and confidently awaited his reply.
But when she discovered by his manner that he was disinclined to grant her request for her böy's pardon, she fell upon her knees at his feet, and seizing his hands in an agonizing mother's convulsive grasp, she cried:
“Mr. President, I cannot, I will not be denied! You must save my boy! His father and three brothers have given their lives to save the nation. Three have fallen on the field of battle and one, mortally wounded, died in the hospital. Then my youngest and only remaining son, although too young to be liable to draft, when the last of his brothers fell, promptly took his place. When almost exhausted from three days and nights of a toilsome march, he was placed on picket duty, and because he was found sleeping at his post, they intend to shoot him like a dog! Mr. President, you must not permit them to do it. You must not, you will not permit my brave, heroic boy thus to be cruelly assassinated just because his youthful form was unequal to the burdens put upon him! Remember his fallen father and brothers, remember your own son, and save my boy!"
Those who witnessed the scene were deeply moved and were delighted when they saw the tender-hearted President press a handkerchief to his tearful eyes that he might see to write and sign the brave young soldier's pardon.
COURT IN A CORN-FIELD
The late Harvey Lee Ross of Oakland, California, was one of my true friends, and was always happy to converse about Abraham Lincoln, whom he had known quite intimately during his residence in Illinois. One of the many pleasing Lincoln stories he related to me is the following:
"I had a quarter section of land, two miles south of Macomb, that came to me from my father's estate. It was a fine quarter, but there was a little defect in the title, which could be remedied by the evidence of a man named Hagerty, who lived six miles west of Springfield and who knew the facts I wished to prove. I had noticed in the papers that court was in session at Springfield, and as court convened but twice a year I immediately started for that place, which was sixty miles from my home. I found my witness and took him with me. On arriving at Springfield, we went directly to Mr. Lincoln's office, which was over a store on the west side of the square. I think the office was about fourteen feet square and contained two tables, two bookcases and four or five chairs, while the floor was perfectly bare. I told Mr. Lincoln my business and showed him my title papers, which
he looked over and then remarked to me: 'I am sorry to have to tell you that you are a little too late, for this court adjourned this morning and does not convene again for six months, and Judge Thomas has gone home. He lives on his farm a mile east of the public square, but,' said he, 'we will go and see him and see if anything can be done for you.'
“I told him I would get a carriage and we would drive out, but he said, 'No; I can walk if you can.' I said I would just as soon walk as ride, and before we started he pulled off his coat and laid it on a chair, taking from the pocket a large bandana silk handkerchief to wipe the perspiration from his face, as it was a very warm day in August. He struck off across the public square in his shirt sleeves with the red handkerchief in one hand and my bundle of papers in the other, while my witness and I followed.
"We soon came to Judge Thomas's residence, which was a one-story frame house. Mr. Lincoln knocked at the doorat that time there were no doorbells—and the judge's wife came to the door. Mr. Lincoln asked if the judge was at home and she replied that he had gone to the north part of the farm, where they had a tenant house, to help his men put up a corncrib. She said if we went the main road it would be about a half mile, but we could cut across the cornfield and it would not be more than a quarter of a mile. Mr. Lincoln said if she would show us the path we would take the short cut, so she came out of the house and showed us where the path struck off across the field from their barn. We followed this path, Mr. Lincoln in the lead, and the witness and I following in Indian file, and soon came to where the judge and his men were raising a log house, about 12 by 20 feet in size, which was to serve as a corncrib and hoghouse. Mr. Lincoln told Judge Thomas how I had come from Fulton county and brought my witness to town just after court had adjourned, and said he thought he would come out and see if anything could be done. The judge looked over the title papers and stated he guessed they could fix it