“Sojourner truth,” the slave preacher whom Mrs. Stowe
has described as embodying all the elements of an African prophetess or sibyl, when over eighty years old, left her home, at Battlecreek
, Michigan, with the unalterable purpose of seeing the Emancipator of her race before her death.
Provided for throughout her journey, she reached Washington
the last of October, 1864, and subsequently, at her dictation, the following account of her interview with Mr. Lincoln
was written out by a friend:--
It was about eight o'clock, A. M., when I called on the President.
Upon entering his reception-room we found about a dozen persons in waiting, among them two colored women.
I had quite a pleasant time waiting until he was disengaged, and enjoyed his conversation with others; he showed as much kindness and consideration to the colored persons as to the whites,--if there was any difference, more.
One case was that of a colored woman, who was sick and likely to be turned out of her house on account of her inability to pay her rent.
The President listened to her with much attention, and spoke to her with kindness and tenderness.
He said he had
given so much he could give no more, but told her where to go and get the money, and asked Mrs. C-, who accompanied me, to assist her, which she did.
The President was seated at his desk.
Mrs. C. said to him: “This is Sojourner Truth, who has come all the way from Michigan to see you.”
He then arose, gave me his hand, made a bow, and said: “I am pleased to see you.”
I said to him: “Mr. President, when you first took your seat I feared you would be torn to pieces, for I likened you unto Daniel, who was thrown into the lions' den; and if the lions did not tear you into pieces, I knew that it would be God that had saved you; and I said if He spared me I would see you before the four years expired, and He has done so, and now I am here to see you for myself.”
He then congratulated me on my having been spared.
Then I said: “I appreciate you, for you are the best President who has ever taken the seat.”
He replied thus: “I expect you have reference to my having emancipated the slaves in my proclamation.
But,” said he, mentioning the names of several of his predecessors, (and among them emphatically that of Washington,) “they were all just as good, and would have done just as I have done if the time had come.
If the people over the river (pointing across the Potomac) had behaved themselves, I could not have done what I have; but they did not, and I was compelled to do these things.”
then said: “I thank God that you were the instrument selected by Him and the people to do it.”
He then showed me the Bible presented to him by the colored people of Baltimore, of which you have heard.
I have seen it for myself, and it is beautiful beyond description.
After I had looked it over, I said to him: “This is beautiful indeed; the colored people have given this to the Head of the Government, and that Government once sanctioned laws that would not permit its people to learn enough to enable them to read this Book.
And for what?
Let them answer who can.”
I must say, and I am proud to say, that I never was treated by any one with more kindness and cordiality than was shown me by that great and good man, Abraham Lincoln, by the grace of God President of the United States for four years more.
He took my little book, and with the same hand that signed the death-warrant of slavery, he wrote as follows:--
As I was taking my leave, he arose and took my hand, and said he would be pleased to have me call again.
I felt that I was in the presence of a friend, and I now thank God from the bottom of my heart that I always have advocated his cause, and have done it openly and boldly.
I shall feel still more in duty bound to do so in time to come.
May God assist me.
's cordial reception of Frederick Douglass
, the distinguished anti-slavery orator, also once a slave, was widely made known through that gentleman's own account of it in one of his public lectures.
In August or September, 1864, Mr. Douglass
again visited Washington
The President heard of his being in the city, and greatly desiring a second conversation upon points on which he considered the opinion and advice of a man of Mr. Douglass
's antecedents valuable, he sent his carriage to the boarding-house where he was staying, with a request that Mr.
D. would “come up and take a cup of tea” with him. The invitation was accepted; and probably never before, in our history, was the executive carriage employed to convey such
a guest to the White House
. Mr. Douglass
subsequently remarked that “Mr. Lincoln
was one of the few white men he ever passed an hour with, who failed to remind him in some way, before the interview terminated, that he was a ‘negro.’
A memorial, on a certain occasion, was presented to the President
from the children and young people of Concord, Mass.
, petitioning for the freedom of all slave children.
In reply, he wrote the following:--