Was Abraham Lincoln a
Spiritualist? by Nettie Colburn Maynard 1917
In the “Preface to the First
Edition”, published in 1917, these words were printed, the only clue to
the writer being the initials RCH.
was the most prominent President that America has known; his actions,
official and unofficial, have been, for thirty years, the constant theme
of biographers and historians,
and the fondness of the Americans for him is as warm and widespread
today as though he had died but yesterday.
contained in this volume regarding him are given to the public for the
reason that they are not less true than surprising; and being so, they
must see the light. Praise from some quarters is natural; censure from
others is to be expected. Nevertheless, what is here written is truth,
and what is more, no man should
question them. Should he do so, the field for adequate investigation is
“It is well known
that from time to time stray notices on the subject of Lincoln and
Spiritualism have appeared in various papers, not, however, in
connection with any attempt on the part of the writers or editors to
verify the same. For this reason we deemed it wise, before entering into
this matter extensively, to examine the subject with deliberation and
care. The fruits of this examination have placed upon record information
of a remarkable character, which will have a marked bearing upon the
history of Spiritualism and upon the literature of today.
Lincoln should have been a believer in, or follower of, Spiritualism, in
any form, will be an unusual statement, and to use the words of a
leading New York daily: ‘If it can be proven that Abraham Lincoln was in
any way connected with Spiritualism, or did take counsel from any medium
at a time when the nation’s weal or woe hung in the balance, or was in
any manner governed by such counsel, it would be the literary event of
the nineteenth century, and the most astonishing statement of modern
“In February of this year, the writer
had the good fortune to meet a gentleman who related that he knew from
personal experience and contact that Abraham Lincoln was a Spiritualist, and implicitly
believed in the guidance and teachings of that science and religion whichever it may be. He
further stated that he attended a séance where the President with
several other persons had sat upon a piano, and that the instrument had
been bodily lifted from the floor by means of spirit power, while the
President and his friends remained seated upon it!
“He further stated
that he knew from personal knowledge that the President had been
instructed and guided by spirits in times of particular stress in
affairs of state, and that at a period when the nation’s future was
uncertain, and while the States were in the middle of the throes of a
great civil war. He also stated that he knew of his own personal
knowledge and experience that numerous Spiritualistic séances were held
in the White House, and that they were frequented by many of the leading
men of the time, who were then located in Washington.
statement, being of such peculiar significance, the writer did not
believe it. This recitation, however, caused the writer to become
greatly interested in the subject from a purely historical standpoint,
and, therefore, he immediately started
Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist?
an investigation regarding the
matter, the results of which he is now obliged to state, reveal to the
world, matters of decided interest and importance, and which, as far as
they are related in this
volume, are capable of proof, and based upon circumstances of fact.
incidentally learned that Mrs. N.C. Maynard, of White Plains, New York,
had resided in Washington
during several years of the War of the Rebellion, and had upon numerous
occasions given sittings for the President of the United states, his
wife and friends who were present by invitation, and that she was
preparing a record of these experiences, together with other incidents
connected with an eventful life, for publication in book form.
“He suggested that
as many of the statements therein were of a personal and unusual nature,
revealing habits of character in many persons who were prominent before
the nation, it might be well to have the accounts of circumstances
verified as described, and affidavits secured from the persons who must
necessarily constitute her witnesses, as to the truthfulness of her
narrative, especially such persons as were living today, and were
connected with the subject in any manner, and who would be willing to
come forth and testify; to which suggestion she readily assented.
Immediately thereafter investigation was commenced by the writer.
movement was to ascertain from those who resided in the neighbourhood of
her home, or thereabouts, the character and standing of Mrs N. C.
Maynard. He was informed by those who had known the family for a lengthy
period, that her husband had been a resident of White Plains for
twenty-five years, was cordially indorsed by many of the leading
residents, was trustworthy and honourable, and had been doing business
during the whole of that period in that village, and that he was a man
noted for truthfulness, honesty, and general integrity of character.
“The family physician stated that he
knew Mrs Maynard and had attended her for about fifteen years; that she
is now a hopeless invalid, has been confined to her bed for nearly three
years, and cannot possibly recover; that during his experience and
contact with her, he has always found her to be an exemplary woman, but
possessed of a peculiar organism and sensitiveness of condition, and
likewise of some peculiar power of magnetism, which, to say the least,
was unexplainable, and that nothing within the science of medicine could
clearly explain her ‘psychic’ condition, or briefly, in common-place
words: ’We confess there is something about Mrs Maynard that we do not
understand; we, however, believe her to be a thorough Christian woman of irreproachable character and
“Hon. Melville C.
Smith, of New York city, a well known and responsible gentleman, informed the writer that he had known
Mrs Maynard for more than thirty years, and had placed full confidence
in her integrity of character, and of his own knowledge of her found her
to be a very remarkable woman and possessed of a peculiar ‘psychic’
condition, which permitted her to see and foresee and comprehend that
which could not be understood by ordinary people.
“Francis B. Carpenter, the
distinguished artist, and the painter of the ‘Emancipation Proclamation’
which is in the Capitol at Washington, who is also the author of the
of Abraham Lincoln, and
the painter and possessor of the last portrait in oil of Lincoln, a copy of which is in
the frontispiece of this volume states:
Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist?
“’I have known Mrs Maynard for some
years. She is a talented woman; I do not believe she would tell an untruth; she is a medium of remarkable quality.
“’I am not prepared
to state that Mr Lincoln was a Spiritualist. I do not know that he had a
faith in spiritual comfort and believed that we were, in a measure,
directed by spiritual teachers and guidance’.
“Mrs Daniel E.
Soames, of Washington, wife of the late Hon Daniel E. Soames,
Representative from Maine, in the thirty-sixth Congress, informed the
writer that she attended séances at the White House during the war when
Miss Colburn [Maynard] was the medium there, and upon one occasion met
Major-General Daniel Stickles, and that the circumstances recorded as to
that séance are fully described in this volume. This statement she fully
and completely indorses; and further adds that her husband was closely
and intimately connected with President Lincoln, and had repeatedly
informed her of interesting and remarkable incidents which occurred at
the White House at séances as herein described and mentioned. She also
states that she knows Miss
Colburn did not give séances in the White House for money.
“Col. Simon P.
Case, of Philadelphia, states that he was present at a séance with Mr.
Lincoln, and that he, with several other gentlemen, the President
included, sat upon the piano, while it was lifted bodily from the floor
by spirit power, and that Mr. Lincoln was not only interested in this
physical phenomenon, but was also intensely interested in the statements
which the medium made to President Lincoln while in a trance condition.
“Mrs Elvira M.
Debuy, of Washington, stated to the writer: ’My husband was a visitor
to séances where Mr Lincoln
was present, and he told me of many interesting occurrences which
happened thereat…In the winter of 1862-3, I attended a séance at Mrs
Laurie’s, at Georgetown, where Mrs Lincoln was present. She was
accompanied by Mr Newton, Commissioner of Agriculture. At this séance
remarkable statements were
made by Miss Colburn [Maynard] which surprised Mrs Lincoln to such a
degree that she asked that a
séance might be given to Mr Lincoln…I have always known from my husband
and others that Mr Lincoln attended circles and séances, and was greatly
interested in Spiritualism.’
Colburn, whose name finds place in this volume, now resides at White
Plains; she was with Mrs Maynard [Colburn] during 1862-3-4-5, and
frequently visits the White
House with Miss Colburn [Maynard] when Hon Daniel E. Somes and others
were present, and she has filed with the publisher an affidavit made
before the county clerk of the county of West Chester, N.Y., wherein she
solemnly avers that the statements regarding her, found in this book,
are true and fact in each and every particular. A similar affidavit is
on file with the publisher made by Mrs Nettie Colburn Maynard, the
writer of this book, taken by the county clerk of the county of West Chester, at her
bedside, and attested by him in regular legal form.
wishes it distinctly understood that the statements contained in this
book are free from all bias or interest from any cause or purpose other
than as an historical picture
of the conditions and influences which were connected with, and had
bearing upon, those turbulent times, which are known as ‘the War Years of
the Rebellion’. He trusts that nothing in these prefatory remarks will
be construed in any way to indicate an opinion, either for or against
Spiritualism, and a decision whether Abraham Lincoln was or was not, a
Spiritualist, must be reached by conclusion,
Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist?
through and by the judgement of the
individual reader, who will find this work of special and continuous
interest, and, therefore, as the title is suggestive, and the
information which the book conveys is extraordinary, it is perhaps
pertinent to ask the question, as given in the title – ‘Was Abraham
Lincoln a Spiritualist?’”
In preparing the
present edition for publication, I decided to omit, albeit reluctantly,
a great deal of interesting matter, simply because it was not germane to
the book’s title. It seemed to me that now sixty years had elapsed the
historical references to Lincoln were the most unimportant facts to be
preserved. The earlier chapters, however, are valuable for their
biographical nature and show how the medium was led to Lincoln.
The White House séances with the
President were no secret. On March 7, 1891, the
of Light, an American
Spiritualist journal, published a letter from Hudson Tuttle, a
well-known author of psychic books, which included this statement
regarding Nettie Colburn Maynard:
“For the last three
years of the war she was constantly consulted by President Lincoln,
and the communications he
received through her were of the most astonishing character. The results
of battles were foretold before the telegraphic despatches, and on
several occasions advice was given and accepted, which, acted on, proved
of momentous consequence.”
When the book was first published it
had as a subtitle,
from the Life of a Trance Medium.
I am sure that you, the reader, will
derive as much interest from this work as I found in preparing it for