President Lincoln Attends Lecture by Anna Dickinson at Capitol

January 16, 1864

President received young abolitionist speaker Dickinson at the White House.   Congressman William D. Kelley arranged for her to speak in the House of Representatives and meet the president.   Later that Saturday, Lincoln attended her speech at the Capitol.  Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and House Speaker Schuyler Colfax escorted Dickinson to the dais.

Historian Young wrote: “Anna was in the midst of a violent attack on Lincoln’s amnesty proclamation and his lenient plan of reconstruction announced the previous month, when the President and his wife entered the hall.  Lincoln sat with bowed head as the self-possessed oratress finished her criticisms: ‘Let no man prate of compromise.  Defeated by ballots, the South had appealed to bullet.  Let it stand by the appeal.  There was no arm of compromise long enough to stretch over the sea of blood, and the mound of fallen heroes, to shake hands with their murderers.’  The audience applauded Anna’s sentiment and the courage she exhibited in proclaiming it, while an enthusiast in the balcony wildly waved a flag over her head.”  But Anna quickly went on to advocate Lincoln’s reelection: “Granted that we had much yet to do, we had the to complete the grand and glorious work, and that work was left for his second term in office.”  Again, the audience cheered.  The anti-slavery, pro-Dickinson newspaper, the Independent, reported:

“Mr. Lincoln sat with his head bowed, rarely looking Miss Dickinson in the face, but evidently catching every word, and, I have not a doubt, admiring her courage and honesty.  When she had criticized the terms of the last proclamation, Miss Dickinson as boldly avowed her belief that the people would insist that Mr. Lincoln should retain his office for another term.”

“Washington has witnessed strange scenes,” wrote Ohio newspaper reporter Whitelaw Reid.  “I can recall none so strange as that witnessed in the Hall of the House of Representatives last Saturday night.”

The largest audience ever assembled there had gathered — the Statesmen, the Politicians, the Soldiers, the leaders of Public Opinion…The President of the Nation was present, with Cabinet officers, heads of Bureaus…There came upon the platform before the imposing audience the Vice-President of the Nation and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and between them a young Quaker girl, eighteen months ago an humble employee in the mint, to-night the bravest advocate for the integrity of the Republic and the demand for universal liberty throughout it.”

On December 31, 1863, the publishers of The North American Review had written Lincoln: ‘The subscribers respectfully request, that the President will accept the January number of the North American Review, sent by this mail, and they venture to hope that the article upon ‘The President’s Policy,’ written by James Lowell, (one of the editors), will met with his approval…” President Lincoln writes to William Crosby and Henry P. Nichols: “The number for this month and year of the North American Review was duly received, and, for which, please accept my thanks.  Of course I am not the most impartial judge; yet with due allowance for this, I venture to hope that the artical entitled the ‘Presidents Policy’ will be of value to the country.  I fear I am not quite worthy of all which is therein kindly said of me personally.”

The sentence of twelve lines commencing at the top of page 252, I could wish to be not exactly as it is.  In what is there expressed, the writer has not correctly understood me.  I have never had a theory that secession could absolve States or people from their obligations.  Precisely the contrary is asserted in the inaugeral address; and it was because of my belief in the continuation of these obligations, that I was puzzled, for a time, as to denying the legal rights of those citizens who remained individually innocent of treason or rebellion.  But I mean no more now than to merely call attention to this point.

President Lincoln writes to to Edwin M. Stanton: “Some days ago, upon the unanamous request of our friends in Congress from Connecticut, and upon what appeared to be good reason, I ordered a change of Provost Marshal & commissioner, under the enrolment law in one of the Districts–the 4th; and they are complaining now that it is now done.  Let it be done.”

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