President Lincoln’s Son Lingers Near Death

February 18, 1862

“The Prest’s 2d son, Willie, has lingered on for a week or 10 day[s], and is now thought to be in extremis[.] The Prest. is nearly worn out, with grief and watching,” wrote Attorney General Edward Bates in his diary.   President aide John G. Nicolay recorded in his journal: “Willie continues to sink and grow weaker and the President evidently despairs of his recovery.”  Presidential aide William O. Stoddard wrote of this period:

Day follows day, and the shadow deepens, and some who understand its meaning go about as if they did not wish to make a noise in walking.
“Is there no hope?” is the question which has to be asked at last.
“Not any.  So the doctors say.  But the President is in his room over there.  You can send your card in, Mr. Senator, if you wish to see him.  I’ve no doubt he will see you.”
“See him?  Send my card in, at such a time?  God help him! Seems to me he had enough to carry without this.  I won’t add a feather.”  And the kindly hearted Senator stalks out of the northeast room almost as if he had been insulted.

Death was also on the president’s mind regarding the upcoming execution of a convicted slave-tradier. Bates wrote: “Two weeks ago, I warned the Prest. against granting a respite to Nath[anie]l Gordon, under sentence of death, for Piracy (slave trade),”

“It is the first conviction under the act, and nothing shewn to impeach the legality or justice of the conviction.  I was convinced (and told the Prest: so) that the reprieve wd. be taken as an implied promise of pardon or commutation, however strongly he might asserverate to the contrary [.]
“And now, my prediction is verified.  Mrs. White (wife of Judge White of N.Y.) with the mother and wife of Gordon, are here urging both the Prest. and me to commute the sentence to imprisonment for life.
“My ground of objection is that the Prest. has no right to stop the course of law, except on grounds of excuse or mitigation found in the case itself – and not to arrest the execution of the statute merely because he thinks the law wrong or too severe.  That would be to set himself above Congress, to assume the dispensing power, and to commit the very offense which lost one king of the House of Stuart his head, and another his crown.

Published in: on February 18, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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