President Lincoln Meets Sojourner Truth

October 29, 1864

Early in the morning, President Lincoln meets with Sojourner Truth, evangelist, and former slave. Lincoln signs her autograph album, Carpenter, p. 203.

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 [202] 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.” I [203] 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:–

For Aunty Sojourner Truth,

Oct. 29, 1864.

  1. Lincoln.

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.

Louisiana Governor Michael Hahn writes President Lincoln: I congratulate you on the results of the recent State elections, and sincerely hope that the vote for yourself in November may be so large and overwhelming as to put to rest all doubts on the question of the entire and early restoration of the Union.

I now address you on a subject of great importance to us, the loyal men in Louisiana, and to the Union. The military officers now in power in this Department seem not only to ignore all civil authority, but their acts look as if they were determined to prevent the organization of a loyal State government, and to extinguish as much of it as has been established. I would be the last man in the world to complain of any act properly within the jurisdiction (if I may use that term) of the military authorities, or any act of theirs outside of their proper duties which would benefit the cause of the Union or the Army. But I cannot remain silent when I see the most barefaced and unnecessary attempts made to crush out a State government which was formed to aid the country and the administration. I hope you will lose no delay in sending to us Gen. Banks, or some man to take charge of the Department of the Gulf who will have the power and the desire to aid us. I speak plainly because I feel deeply the injustice which is being done us.

From Pennsylvania, Thomas Fitzgerald writes President Lincoln regarding the political situation in Pennsylvania: “Saturday, Oct. 29th, will long be remembered in Wellsboro’, Tioga Co. Pa. The country people were here for the day from miles around, and to the number of thousands. Col. Forney made the great speech of the campaign on this occasion. It was strong, yet temperate and judicious, and it produced a great effect.

So far far as this Northern tier of counties is concerned, our entire canvas has been mismanaged. But for the Leagues and the integrity of our cause, we should have failed, so bitter and persistent have been the efforts of the Copperheads.

Col. Forney knows all the people in this part of the country, and he has filled them with enthusiasm.

We go to Danville on Monday — then to Williamsport, Harrisburgh, etc.

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