An old man whose son had been convicted of gross crimes in the army and sentenced to be shot came to plead with Lincoln. As the boy was an only son, the case appealed to Lincoln; but he had just received a telegram from Butler which read: "Mr. President, I beg you not to interfere with the court-martials of this army. You will destroy all discipline in the army."
Lincoln handed the old man the telegram, and he watched the shadow of disappointment and sorrow come over the man's face as he read the message. He suddenly seized his hand and exclaimed, "By jingo! Butler or no Butler, here goes!"
He wrote out an order and handed it to the father. The man read the order, which was as follows: "Job Smith is not to be shot until further orders from me. Abraham Lincoln."
"Why," said the father, "I thought it was going to be a pardon. You may order him to be shot next week."
"My old friend," said Lincoln, "evidently you do not understand my character. If your son is never shot until an order comes from me, he will live to be as old as Methuselah."
During a session of the legislature of Illinois at Springfield, a Chicago businessman had prepared for passage in the legislature a measure which would bring profit to him and others, but which was not just, honest, or right. All things having been arranged for the successful introduction and passage of the bill, and having a few hours to spend before his train left for Chicago, he went out to Oak Hill Cemetery to visit the tomb of Lincoln. As he walked in the soft twilight about the monument and looked upon the statue of Lincoln, a feeling of great discomfort came over him with regard to the bill which was to be passed in the legislature. The image of Lincoln and the thought of his noble character made the man uneasy and unhappy. He canceled his reservation on the night train to Chicago; and, after spending a sleepless night tossing on his bed at the hotel, he sent for his attorneys and had the bill withdrawn.
What caused this action? It was conscience, awakened by the memory of Abraham Lincoln, warning the man to restrain his hand from doing evil.
Standing on the oak-covered hillside at Springfield on a bright May morning in 1865, Bishop Simpson delivered a noble eulogy. In this oration Simpson revealed the fact that Lincoln had frequently said to him, "I never shall live out the four years of my term. When the rebellion is crushed, my work is done." In the concluding paragraph, Simpson said: "Chieftain, farewell! The nation mourns thee. Mothers shall teach thy name to their lisping children. The youth of our land shall emulate thy virtues. Statesmen shall study thy record, and from it learn lessons of wisdom. Mute though thy lips be, yet they shall speak. Hushed is thy voice, but its echoes of liberty are ringing through the world, and the sons of bondage listen with joy. Thou didst not fall for thyself. The assassin had no hate for thee. Our hearts were aimed at; our national life was sought. We crown thee as our martyr, and Humanity enthrones thee as her triumphant son. Hero, martyr, friend, farewell."
In his great oration delivered at the unveiling of the Lincoln Memorial at Hodgenville, Kentucky, President Wilson said of Abraham Lincoln:
"I have read many biographies of Lincoln; I have sought out with the greatest interest the many intimate stories that are told of him, the narratives of nearby friends, and sketches at close quarters, in which those who had the privilege of being associated with him have tried to depict for us the very man himself 'in his habit as he lived'; but I have nowhere found a real intimate of Lincoln's. That brooding spirit had no real familiars.
"I get the impression that it never spoke out in complete self-revelation, and that it could not reveal itself completely to anyone. It was a very lonely spirit that looked out from underneath those shaggy brows and comprehended men without fully communing with them, as if, in spite of all its genial efforts at comradeship, it dwelt apart, saw its visions of duty where no man looked on."
Ward Lamon, Lincoln's bodyguard, said: "It is very probable that much of Mr. Lincoln's unhappiness, the melancholy that 'dripped from him as he walked,' was due to his want of religious faith. When the black fit was on him, he suffered as much mental misery as Bunyan or Cowper in the deepest anguish of their conflicts with the evil one. But the unfortunate conviction fastened upon him by his early associations, that there was no truth in the Bible, made all consolation impossible, and penitence useless. To a man of his temperament, predisposed as it was to depression of spirits, there could be no chance of happiness if doomed to live without hope and without God in the world. He might force himself to be merry with his chosen comrades; he might 'banish sadness' in mirthful conversation, or find relief in a jest; gratified ambition might elevate his feelings and give him ease for a time; but solid comfort and permanent peace could come to him only through 'a correspondence fixed with heaven.' The fatal misfortune of his life, looking at it only as it affected him in this world, was the influence at New Salem and Springfield which enlisted him on the side of unbelief. He paid the bitter penalty in a life of misery."