Just Six Weeks Before His Assassination, Abraham Lincoln Wants a Boy to Find Service in His Administration

He assists him after the boy was refused army enlistment because of his age

An uncommon autograph, showing Lincoln’s tender-heartedness and compassion as President, and his concern for the boys of the Civil War

Lincoln earned a reputation as a deeply compassionate and kind man, and this reputation reached from the battlefields into American legend. This is the picture that has come down to...

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Just Six Weeks Before His Assassination, Abraham Lincoln Wants a Boy to Find Service in His Administration

He assists him after the boy was refused army enlistment because of his age

An uncommon autograph, showing Lincoln’s tender-heartedness and compassion as President, and his concern for the boys of the Civil War

Lincoln earned a reputation as a deeply compassionate and kind man, and this reputation reached from the battlefields into American legend. This is the picture that has come down to us, and we envision him as a man who was generous of spirit, who pardoned soldiers who fell asleep on guard duty, showed leniency whenever possible, and aided the needy.  Because of his position as President, he had opportunities to prove or disprove this reputation, as many requests for assistance, pardons, deferrals of executions, and pleas to aid soldiers came to him. His writings show that he seldom turned the needy aside.

Lincoln always displayed this compassion in his treatment of the young, perhaps due to his having lost three of his own when they were still young.  It is uncommon for any autograph or document of Lincoln’s relating to them  to reach the marketplace, this being one of that small number.

Here, on February 28, 1865, he intervenes to find government employment for a boy too young for military service, and whose mother was sickly and unable to support herself. Autograph endorsement signed, Washington, February 28, 1865. “I shall be obliged if any Department or Bureau can give this young man the employment he seeks.”

The boy had prepared a letter for the President asking directly for aid. Although only part of his letter is still present, and his name is unknown, we learn a great deal from the portion that remains. He wrote, “…being considered too young to join in the service of his country after twice making the attempt, desires to get employment in one of the departments as assistant messenger, and by that to help support his mother who is aged and not able to support herself. His father served in the War of 1812 and has been dead some six years…”. The endorsement having no addressee, it is clear that he received it from the President in person, with the intention of walking the endorsement around to departments in search of work.

Throughout his presidency, anyone could come and see President Lincoln just by showing up, and discuss with him any subject. Lincoln’s open office door policy and remarkable accessibility had a powerful and personal effect on the nation. Originally he had no time limits, but eventually was required to limit the general public to twice weekly, for five hours each session, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. By war’s end the public hours were cut back to three hours per session. Under the revised system, Lincoln joked, every applicant had to take his turn “as if waiting to be shaved at a barber’s shop.” So this boy had walked into the President’s office, and walked out with this endorsement.

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