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MR. LINCOLN AND THE PETITIONERS.
A RECORD FROM THE EXECUTIVE CHAMBER.
It was the custom of Mr. Lincoln, with his hands clasped together and during the later years of the Rebellion, his head drooping forward. to hear petitions at certain hours of the His little son moved softly from the day from all who chose to present them ruom, returning in a few moments with to him—the formality of an introduc- a sad-faced woman, who held an infant tion from some Member of Congress in her arms. The President motioned being the condition on which they en- her to a chair, and she modestly stated tered the Executive Chamber.
that she had come from a town in the The writer of this record pleaded for far West to plead for the life of her the discharge from military service of a husband, who was sentenced to die in brother who had entered the army at six weeks for desertion. fifteen years of age. The petition was “He ran away from his regiment, granted, and the President kindly asked then?” if he could do any thing more for her. “No, sir; but they think he did." She asked if she might be present at The President frowned, and shook some of these public interviews, and his head rapidly from side to side. write notes of them for publication. “Of course, madam, you think that He answered that she could do so. he did not."
Of many hundred petitions she has “Oh, sir! oh!---" And she began selected a few only, and has endeavored to cry aloud, the baby joining the choto present a faithful record of what she actually saw and heard on the occa- The President seemed much annoyed, siuns described.*
but, turning to her, kindly said :
“If you can prove to me that your All day long President Lincoln had husband did not run away from nor dereceived petitioners, and still they came. sert his regiment, I will have him parHe could hear the murmur of voices in doned. Will you go on with your the outer rooms, as they were anxious story, and stop your crying ?” to be admitted; yet, he must rest for a
" How kind you are, sir ! ” few moments.
A faint smile played upon the Presi“ Tad, my dear son, go to your moth- dent's face, as he answered, “Please go er; you must be tired here."
on with your story." No, no, papa; I don't want to go She told him she was dangerously now-I want to stay and see the peo- sick, and her husband, hearing it from ple." And he forced his hands down a comrade, went home, about three miles deep into his pockets, threw himself from the camp. The next day he was on the door under a writing-desk which seized as a deserter, and dragged away. stood near his father, and, settling his As soon as she could walk a little, she head on a cushion, continued : “ Ain't had gone to the officers to plead for you tired of folks, pa ?”
him, but they would not listen to her. The little bell which the President She was sick after that long walk, and sounded-a signal for the doors to be as soon as she could get up again she opened--remained unrung, and he sat had started for Washington.
“It was a long and tiresome jour*. The authenticity of theso “notes” is vouched
ney," he said, sympathetically. for by the writer, whose good faith is well en.
“ Yes, sir; but, someway, I felt, if I could only see you and tell you, that In vain he shook his head and stamped you would believe my story. I have no his feet, and brought his hands violentletters to speak for me, only this one," ly down upon the table, telling them moving her hand towards her pocket. that he would not and could not listen
The President shook his head. He to such petitions. They, with an assurwas twisting a piece of paper over and ance never to be imagined, would still over through his fingers. Lifting his go on. eyes suddenly to her face, he asked: Men with defiant faces, men whining • Who is that letter from ?"
and pleading, and forward women, “ It is from a kind minister ; I asked grasped his arms to arrest his attention. him to write it. He said you did not His patience with such rudeness was know him, and would in all probability wonderful. If he expressed contempt not read the letter; yet, if it would be for affectations, he also did not forget any comfort to me, he would write it.” to respect modesty and real sorrow when “Let me see it."
he met it. As he bent forward to take the letter, Again the little bell was rung, and the infant seized his hand. The Presi- again the room was filled. Those who dent patted the little hands and face, had just gone out muttered their disand then leaned toward the light to like for the good man who listened read.
from early morning until late at night How anxiously the woman watched to people of every grade. him! But his countenance gave no in- Often the President was grave to saddication of his thoughts. He folded
ness. For hours in succession he exthe letter carefully; slowly he handed pressed no anger, no mirth, Petition it back again, saying:
after petition was presented in rapid “I am satisfied with it. I believe succession. It was the same story of your story. I shall pardon your hus- sorrow-of fathers, brothers, and husband."
bands in prison, each pleading for theirs The baby looked up steadily at him; to be the first released in the exchange the woman arose, as she exclaimed : of prisoners. Some had dear ones dy"Oh, Mr. President, how can I thank ing in camp, beyond the lines; they
were begging to go to them. Hundreds “ Take this note to the War Depart had made the same request. ment, and they will give you a paper “Oh, let us go to them-only let us of release for your husband from the go ! ” charge of desertion. It will make your There were bands of poor, oppressed journey home more comfortable. Good sewing-women stating their wrongs night."
Peace commissioners, and Southern “God bless you!” she answered, and refugees. was gone.
Towards the close of the day the The President struck the little bell, President was alone for a few moments. and a tall usher opened wide the door, The door opened a little, softly, as until the room was filled. Some of though begging an invitation to open these petitioners were insolent beyond wide. A merry face and broad shoulhuman endurance; some were silly to ders were visible; and, to the Presiexcess; some were ludicrous in their dent's cheerful “Come in,” the whole pompousness, displaying piles of letters
man entered. of introduction, which the President “Nothing to do, eh ?" said the Presiwould not look at. They would, how dent, lifting his eyebrows, and assumever, persist in their endeavors to make ing for an instant the most mirth-prohim look at such letters from such per- voking attitude.
“ That's it-just it, Mr. President, The President soon becamo exasper- your honor! Ushers and watchers have ated, as he listened to one and another. only to stare at each other. I thought
I'd show my better bringing up;" and But there were women.
Each set of he apologized for laughing and laughed petitioners were womeo, from first to for apologizing, and the President last. helped him.
Many times the President started to “So you thought you'd show your go to his private room; but sad faces better bringing up-show off by com- pressing up the stairway stopped him ing up here to disturb me! Maybe as he was crossing the hall, and he went you're afraid I rest too much-get too back again. much sleep, eh ? "
“Do, kind President, grant my re* Oh, no, Mr. President!” and the quest !” speaker shook his white head, adding, The woman's voice was very plain“ You will be so funny! Only I thought tive, and large tears were falling, but I'd just step up and tell you that there she made no sound of crying. is just one solitary lady wanting to “No, no, I cannot! I cannot, good speak to you, and you know-_" woman-I cannot! I might grant such “No, I dont know.”
requests a thousand a-day. I can't turn “ And you see--"
the Government inside out and upside “No, I don't see.”
I can't please every body. I Beg pardon! but I meant to say, must do my duty-stern duty as I see that I could not very well let her go it. Nobody wants their friends draftaway without telling you."
ed—nobody wants them taken as de" Where is she?"
serters. He should not have been ab“Outside, in a carriage. There is an sent so long; be should not have taken old black woman with her, who keeps upon himself the appearance of a detelling her that “Massa Linkum will serter. How do I know-how does. sure for sartin' let her come up.?" any body know-how does the War De
“ Yes, yes-of course; I must not re- partment know—that he did not intend. fuse any person ;” and the President to stay upon the boat where the sollaughed again in a weary fashion. diers found him? How does any body "Fetch her up,” he added, an expres- know that he didn't think about his sion of fatigue sweeping over his face. furlough being ended ? Didn't think!
The little man soon returned, say- That was his business to think, I am ing:
sorry. Every body ought to be sorry “ She won't be fetched. This is her for those who do wrong.
When he naine ”—handing a card. “When I knew the laws, why did he break told her you said she could come right them? When he knew the penalty, up, she turned pale, and trembled like why did he bring it upon himself? a leaf, and said, “Please ask the Presi- You plead for him, and tell me how dent if I may come in the morning, and upright he is. That's all very well. It I will be deeply grateful to him.' The is easy for us to overestimate the good black woman said she was jes' done ness of those we love. You are his ober trablin' in dem ingineg. She'd neighbor. It is very kind in you to be right pert in de mornin', and tell come so far and plead so strongly; but Pres'ent Linkum all 'bout it.'"
-I can't I can't do any thing for “I'm disengaged now," answered the you!" President, with a frown; “but to-mor- “Please, President Lincoln ! ” row-what do I know of to-morrow? “No, no ! no, no ! I can't-I won'tTell her to come right up. No-tell I won't !” and he sprang to his feet, her to come to-morrow morning at pre- but in an instant resumed his former cisely eleven o'clock."
position in his chair, and leaned for“Deeply grateful!” laughed the ward to snap the little bell. President, when the door closed. “I " Oh ! oh!" hope there will be no more women here It was a sound of intense grief, disto-night," he added, wearily.
appointment, and surprise, all mingled VOL. VI.-34
together; coming up so from the heart tian spirit-that is tarth in Jesus! Oh, as this peculiar sound did, it arrested let me hear you say that you believe in the band upon the bell, lifted the eyes Him!” that were growing colil and stern to the “I do," was the solemn answer. “I ple:wling face of the woman before him. believe in my Saviour.” She had left her chair, and stood so And when she arose to depart, tho near that her clothes brushed against President also arose and opened the him. Heavy were the lines upon her door for her, and led her through the face-lines of care and sorrow; carnest outer room and across the hall to the were the tear-slimmed eyes.
head of the staircase, and shook hands, “Do, kind sir, consider my case a said "good-by," and went back again moment more-oh, President Lincoln ! to receive more and still more petitionRemember, you were poor once-andand
It was past three o'clock; the Execu“Had no friends, do you mean ? " tive Mansion was silent and dark, with he interrupted, almost scornfully. only the sbaded light beside the Presi
“No-ih, no !-had a few friends — dent, as he sat with folded hands and tried and true friends, who would never mournful eyes alone. forsake you. Only one of them I know “Mr. President, your Honor," said a -one, who is alike a friend to you and languid woman in a languid voice, to me.
For his sake--for our dear opening and closing her pale-blue eyes, Lor l's sake-frant my petition !” “ Mr. President, your Honor," she re
There was a striking solemnity in peated, with a slight emphasis, and her whole attitude; and the President then, as though it were the last effort turned very pale, his eyes misty, sad, she could ever make, succeeded in sayand then sadder, as he repeated, slowly ing again, “ Mr. President, your Honor." and reverently:
He regarded her with an amused air, “For our dear Lord's sake!”
and said, “My name is Mr. Lincoln" IIere are three hundred dollars; Abraham Lincoln. I suppose you call it was made up by his neigbbors. me 'Old Abe' when you're at home.” Couldn't you save him from an igno- She dropped her head and raised her minious death, which he does not de- handkerchief to her face, heaving the serve ?-no, he does not deserve!” folds of it with a deep-drawn sigh, as
“Tike back your money!” cried the in one small eye one small tear stood President, throwing away from him her irresolute, and she murmured, extended hand. “Take it back! I do you mistake me, honored sir !" not want it!"
She paused a moment to recover from Qily an instant his hand and voice her emotion, and another woman, less were raised, and then he resumed, delicate, pushed her way up, and, with kindly :
a stout voice and important manner, be“I shall not have your money, good gan to tell her qualifications and show woman; the War Department will not her certificates, and wished to have a have it. Take it back where it came place given her in the Treasury Departfrom; and you shall take back his re- ment. lease. Your petition shall be wholly "I'd have a different order of things granted."
there, Mr. President. I could do the Ob, President Lincoln ! I believe work of two, and do it well. It's a bad you are a Christian. I thank God for thing," she went on, “ to have so many it. I will pray for you every day with young girls there; it's a crying shame my whole heart."
- it's a disgrace. You ought to turn "I have need of your prayers; I have them all out, and put in their places need of all the prayers that can be of- persons of my age." fered for me."
Before the President could answer, a “Oh, Mr. Lincoln, that is the Chris- very tall man stumbled over the feet of
two or three, and, as he picked himself languid woman, 'you have not yet up and his scattered papers, he ex- stated your petition." claimed, eagerly :
Another sigh, and then, as though “ Look at these, Mr. President-read reinforced by sudden vitality, she proall these letters; they will tell you that duced a parcel of letters, saying: I am qualified for a high position; " Read these, sir; they can tell you and he stumbled again, in his hurry to who I am. I am too timid." get up to the President..
“That's nothing to me,” he answered, “ I need not look at your letters; you sharply. speak for yourself, sir. It was a waste “ Just read them, sir.” of time for you to get these letters." “I can't; I have no time."
“ Won't you read them, Mr. Presi- “They are from head people at the dent, your Honor ?"
South." “N«, sir. We have enough paymas- “I have no doubt of it." ters, that are known to us-enough, sir “They plead for me. I have no con-enough; we hive more of them than fidence in myself.” we have money for, and, out of charity The President was getting very much to taxpayers, I ought to dismiss about annoyed, and shook his head from side fifty of them.”
to side, as he always did when he was “ It is an important thing to have a out of patience. man you can trust, Mr. President-one “ If you can tell me, madam, what who is perfectly honest. It is an easy you wish, I will listen ; if not, I will matter for money to get lost, if in the go on with the others." hanıls of easy, careless people."
“ Read this one,” she said, picking it “ Yes, it certainly is; and, judging out very carefully. from the manner in which these pre- “No; I cannot." Then, suddenly cious letters of yours have been flying looking up with an odd smile, he about, I should say Government prop- asked:
Have you one from Jeff. Daerty would be very, very safe with you." vis ?"
“ But there is excuse for me now, sir. She did not see the expression of the Tinie is very short with me."
President's face, and she replied, in a “ Time is short with all of us—or at faint voice, with her eyes cast down, least we ought to consider it so. No, have not, but I can get one." sir; I can give you no appointment." “Oh, don't put yourself to that trou
The man began to tell the President ble; I can know as much from you as that he would never regret it; he would from him. I'll take your word for it see how faithful he would be, and he that you can get one." And the Presiwould be satisfied that he was better dent's sleeves shook a little. “Please fitted for paymaster-general than the go on and tell me your story." one who held the position now.
“ Well-it is--it is-of great account “On, you wish to be paymaster-gen- to me. It's about-about my poor cow eral! Well, well! you wish me to turn which your cruel soldiers killed, and out the man I do know, and put you in -and- I want the Government to rehis place, whom I don't know ! You store the loss—to buy me a new cow." may go, sir.”
“I am sorry for your poor cow; but The President frowned, and waved we cannot buy you a new cow. I've his hand toward him.
had several cow-petitions. I expect “And you," he said, turning to the next to have some person bewailing the woman with a stout voice, “ you can't loss of a cat. I have plenty of spare have an appointment. I am sorry so time, of course-have nothing to do, many young girls are in the Treasury and ought by all means to see that Building; but that is something over every loss is made good.” which I have no control.”
“I'd like to go home,” the woman And you, madam," turning to the said.