Was Abraham Lincoln a Apiritualist? by Nettie Colburn Maynard 1917



I lectured occasionally during the summer, and in the fall, near the close of the presidential campaign of that year (1864), found myself in New Boston, Mass., visiting old friends, and speaking for them every Sunday. Even in that quiet village, political excitement ran high, and both parties had arranged for a meeting in the town hall, where I was accustomed to speak; the Democrats occupying the first evening, the Republicans the evening following. The town hall was packed with an excited and interested crowd on both occasions.

The first evening a Democratic lawyer from Great Barrington occupied the platform. His speech consisted of story-telling, ridicule, and abuse of the government.

The following evening Henry L. Dawes, member of Congress from Massachusetts, and a staunch Republican, spoke to the same immense audience.

When Mr. Dawes had finished his able and eloquent address, the chairman of the meeting, who was also the president of our Spiritualist Society, asked him if he had any objections to my occupying the rostrum with him and addressing the company. With the courtesy that ever characterised him, he answered in the negative, and when I was introduced to him he recognised me, having met me in Washington. I felt it an honour, indeed, to be permitted to speak from the same platform with that able orator, for it was, indeed, one of the proudest moments of my life. The audience sang a ringing campaign song, when I became entranced and addressed the audience for about fifteen minutes.

The spirit controlling me stated in substance, as I was afterwards informed, that he had nothing to add to what had already been spoken, beyond predicting, with unerring certainty, that Abraham Lincoln would be re-elected at the coming national election. I awoke amid the applause of the audience, and Mr. Dawes congratulated me in his kind way upon the manner in which I had been instrumental in closing the evening's exercises.

A few weeks later found us again in Washington City, in response to urgent solicitations on the part of friends, and we were the guests of Major Chorpenning and his wife. Major George Chorpenning was the first man to carry the United States mail across the Rocky Mountains, from Salt Lake City to San Francisco, under a contract with our government, which he had entered into many years previous to the time of which I am speaking, and which was annulled through the false representations of enemies, who coveted, and finally obtained, his position. When I first met him, he was engaged in vigorously prosecuting his claim against the government for damages sustained by the annulment of his contract. He was generous and hospitable to a fault, while his wife, a brilliant society lady, entertained in a manner that insured the acceptance of their invitations. A brilliant company assembled in their parlours once a week, and the evenings were always very enjoyable. Nearly every reception, by unanimous request, was turned into a spiritual circle, and I here met many gentlemen from both branches of Congress.

These pleasant social gatherings are among the most pleasant memories of my Washington experiences. Tuesday afternoons we usually attended Mrs. Lincoln's


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receptions, often meeting there the ladies and gentlemen who graced our own. It was during this memorable winter of '64 and '65, when the Rebellion was in its death­throes, that I knew of the visits of Charles Colchester and Charles Foster (two well­known mediums of that time) to the White House, and of their sittings with President Lincoln. Through them and through myself, he received warnings of his approaching fate; but his fearless, confident nature disregarded the warnings he received.

It was during the last days of February, when the city was being filled to its utmost capacity by people from all parts of the country, to witness the second inauguration of President Lincoln, that I received a dispatch from my home telling me my father was dangerously ill, and to come to him at once. Having an appointment at the White House for the following week, I hastened with my friend, Miss Hannum, to the Executive Mansion to inform Mrs. Lincoln of the necessity that called me away. She was out, and we proceeded upstairs to the ante- room, adjacent to Mr. Lincoln's office, hoping for a last word with him.

It was two o'clock in the afternoon, and during the last days of the expiring Congress, and the waiting-room was filled with members from both Houses, all anxious to get a word with the President. Mr. Ingersoll and a number of others I knew were there, and it seemed doubtful of our obtaining an interview. Mr. Ingersoll smilingly asked if I expected to have an interview with Mr. Lincoln. I replied, “I hope so, as I am about to leave the city.” He remarked, he feared it was doubtful, as he and many others had been waiting many hours for a chance to speak with him and had failed.

Edward, the faithful and devoted usher of the White House, was passing to and fro taking in cards to Mr. Lincoln's office. Calling him to me, I explained that I wished to see the President for one brief moment, to explain why I could not keep my engagement the following week; and giving him my card, bade him watch for an opportunity when Mr. Lincoln would be parting from those that were with him, and then place my card in his hand, telling him I would detain him but an instant.

Half an hour went by, when Edward approached and bade us follow him. Mr. Ingersoll, with whom we had been talking, bade us laughingly to speak a good word for him, and we were soon ushered into Mr. Lincoln's presence. He stood at his table, busily looking over some papers, but laid them down and greeted us with his usual genial smile. In as few words as possible, knowing how precious was his time, we informed him of the cause of our unseasonable call, stating I had been summoned home by a telegram telling me my father was dangerously ill. Looking at me with a quizzical smile, he said, “But cannot our friends from the upper country tell you whether his illness is likely to prove fatal or not?” I replied that I had already consulted with our friends, and they had assured me that his treatment was wrong, and that my presence was needed to effect a cure. Turning to my friend, he said laughingly, “I didn't catch her, did I?”

Then turning to me, he said, “I am sorry you cannot remain to witness the inauguration, as no doubt you wish.” “Indeed, we would enjoy it,” I replied, “but the crowd will be so great we will not be able to see you, Mr. Lincoln, even if we remain.” “You could not help it,” he answered, drawing his tall figure to its full height, and glancing at my friend in an amused way, “I shall be the tallest man there.” “That is true,” my friend responded, “in every sense of the word.” He nodded pleasantly at the compliment, and then turning to me remarked, “But what do our


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friends say of us now?” “What they predicted for you, Mr. Lincoln, has come to pass,” I answered, “and you are to be inaugurated the second time.” He nodded his head and I continued, “But they also re-affirm that the shadow they have spoken of still hangs over you. He turned half impatiently away and said, “Yes, I know. I have letters from all over the country from your kind of people -mediums, I mean - warning me against some dreadful plot against my life. But I don't think the knife is made, or the bullet run, that will reach it. Besides, nobody wants to harm me.” A feeling of sadness that I could not conceal nor account for came over me and I said, “Therein lies your danger, Mr. President - your over-confidence in your fellow men.”

The old melancholy look that had of late seemed lifted from his face now fell over it, and he said in his subdued, quiet way, “Well, Miss Nettie, I shall live till my work is done, and no earthly power can prevent it. And then it doesn't matter so that I am ready-and that I ever mean to be.” Brightening again, he extended a hand to each of us, saying, “Well, I suppose I must bid you good-bye, but we shall hope to see you back again next fall.”

“We shall certainly come,” we replied, “if you are here,” without thinking of the doubts our words implied. “It looks like it now,” he answered, and walking with us to a side door, with another cordial shake of the hand, we passed out of his presence for the last time. Never again would we meet his welcome smile.

The Man Lincoln