Was Abraham Lincoln a Apiritualist? by Nettie Colburn Maynard 1917



Looking back upon those years of terrible struggle, Lincoln stands out in golden colours as the central figure of all persons whom I have ever met, and in my more mature judgment was representative of all that was good and great among our common humanity.

If he was not great in those qualities which made a Cicero or a Webster, he was great in that supreme goodness that allied him alike to the most brilliant minds of his time and the common people, to whose sorrows and i necessities he was ever ready to listen.

His countenance in repose always struck the beholder I as sad and expressive, which sadness his rare kindly smile could not wholly obliterate. I have watched him when listening to views and opinions presented by members of his Cabinet, both in the Executive chamber and in the parlour of the White House, also while in conversation with foreign ministers and men prominent in social and business circles, with men older and younger than himself, and in each and every instance his manner was marked by a gentleness and courtesy of demeanour, that could not fail to flatter the recipient, while the alert and clear expression of his eyes indicated that he lost no part in the conversation, nor failed to thoroughly understand it.

He listened more than he talked upon these occasions, and he was wont to express much in a few words, and if compelled to refuse a portion of the many petitions which were daily presented to him, the manner of refusal was apparently so tinged with regret of the fact that duty and inclination would not harmonise, that he seemed to have granted the favour he was compelled to deny. He was especially thoughtful of the feelings of the common people, from whom he sprang. Never was this thoughtfulness more forcibly illustrated than upon an occasion of a public reception given at the White House during the winter of 1865, at which myself and friend attended. After greeting the President on our passing him, on our way to the Blue room, at the entrance of which he was standing, we took up our place to the right of Mrs. Lincoln, who was surrounded by a bevy of ladies who, usually assisted at those receptions, for the purpose of watching the throng of visitors who were entering and passing on their way to the East room. Mr. Lincoln's manner was attentive, as his duty of host required, but I noticed that as men of fashion in faultless costume and bedecked with jewels greeted him, his handshake was mechanical and his glance indifferent, and he scarcely noticed them. But if a boy in blue entered, or a labouring man, whose ungloved hand was timidly offered in greeting, he earnestly met the offer, and giving the hard hand a hearty shake, added a cheery word and kindly smile, which was quickly reflected on the face of his humble visitor, who walked away with prouder mien and bolder step, as he wended his way through the mixed assemblage that jostled towards the exit.

On the occasion of these public receptions Mr. Lincoln always appeared well dressed in the regulation evening costume of black, his clothing seemed well fitting and his general appearance that of dignity and self-command. At other times when I have met him, both in his office and in other rooms of the White House, he impressed me as being indifferent to his apparel, his clothing at times being decidedly seedy-looking, and it may be added that at these meetings he seemed encompassed and imbued with


Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist?

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a preoccupied state of mind that forcibly impressed itself upon the memory of the onlooker as indicating great mental oppression, thought and care, plainly saying, “I am wholly the agent of a special purpose, and the servant of a condition that is not mine, but for the good of all whom I serve.” He never seemed to have an idle moment, nor did he ever appear to relax his manner of reserve, nor give way to excessive mirthfulness, even at a time when witty sayings were apart of the conversation. Rather would he smile in sympathy with those around him, showing that he was in accord with them, indicating that his mind was so fully occupied with the cares of the Nation, that he could not enter into the spirit of the hour. In such instances those present could not but feel that he was with them, but not of them. When I recall his manner, conversation and conduct at these various meetings, the feeling impresses itself upon me that he remained in the presence of his friends a sufficient time to absorb the information which they could impart, and so long as they could occupy and hold his interest, he felt a special desire for their company, but that a precedence of friendship was in favour of those only who could maintain this interest. This quality of absorbing information was, I am inclined to believe, more a mental equipment of him as a man, than a quality in him as a ruler. Lincoln lived and acted at a time, and under circumstances, without a parallel in the history of nations, and by the common standard with which ordinary men are judged he cannot be justly measured. He was “of the time” because its chief actor, and “for the time” because he created its results.

It should be borne in mind that all my meetings with Mr. Lincoln were at periods of special import, and upon occasions when he was in need of aid and direction. After the “circle,” which he attended, he invariably left with a brighter and happier look, evidencing the benefit in part which he experienced from that which had been imparted to him.