Abraham Lincoln by John Drinkwater

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Bradley Norton and PG Distributed Proofreaders ABRAHAM LINCOLN A play by JOHN DRINKWATER With an introduction by ARNOLD BENNETT 1919 To THE LORD CHARNWOOD NOTE In using for purposes of drama a personality of so wide and recent a fame as that of Abraham Lincoln, I feel that one or two
This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
  • 1918
Buy it on Amazon Listen via Audible FREE Audible 30 days

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Bradley Norton and PG Distributed Proofreaders



With an introduction by ARNOLD BENNETT

[Illustration: The Riverside Press]




In using for purposes of drama a personality of so wide and recent a fame as that of Abraham Lincoln, I feel that one or two observations are due to my readers and critics.

First, my purpose is that not of the historian but of the dramatist. The historical presentation of my hero has been faithfully made in many volumes; notably, in England, by Lord Charnwood in a monograph that gives a masterly analysis of Lincoln’s career and character and is, it seems to me, a model of what the historian’s work should be. To this book I am gratefully indebted for the material of my play. But while I have, I hope, done nothing to traverse history, I have freely telescoped its events, and imposed invention upon its movement, in such ways as I needed to shape the dramatic significance of my subject. I should add that the fictitious Burnet Hook is admitted to the historical company of Lincoln’s Cabinet for the purpose of embodying certain forces that were antagonistic to the President. This was a dramatic necessity, and I chose rather to invent a character for the purpose than to invest any single known personage with sinister qualities about which there might be dispute.

Secondly, my purpose is, again, that of the dramatist, not that of the political philosopher. The issue of secession was a very intricate one, upon which high and generous opinions may be in conflict, but that I may happen to have or lack personal sympathy with Lincoln’s policy and judgment in this matter is nothing. My concern is with the profoundly dramatic interest of his character, and with the inspiring example of a man who handled war nobly and with imagination.

Finally, I am an Englishman, and not a citizen of the great country that gave Lincoln birth. I have, therefore, written as an Englishman, making no attempt to achieve a “local colour” of which I have no experience, or to speak in an idiom to which I have not been bred. To have done otherwise, as I am sure any American friends that this play may have the good fortune to make will allow, would have been to treat a great subject with levity._

J.D. _Far Oakridge, July-August, 1918_


This play was originally produced by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre last year, and it had a great success in Birmingham. But if its author had not happened to be the artistic director of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre the play might never have been produced there. The rumour of the provincial success reached London, with the usual result–that London managers magnificently ignored it. I have myself spoken with a very well-known London actor-manager who admitted to me that he had refused the play.

When Nigel Playfair, in conjunction with myself as a sort of Chancellor of the Exchequer, started the Hammersmith Playhouse (for the presentation of the best plays that could be got) we at once began to inquire into the case of Abraham Lincoln. Nigel Playfair was absolutely determined to have the play and the Birmingham company to act it. I read the play and greatly admired it. We secured both the play and the company. The first Hammersmith performance was a tremendous success, both for the author of the play and for William J. Rea, the Irish actor who in the role of Lincoln was merely great. The audience cried.

I should have cried myself, but for my iron resolve not to stain a well-earned reputation for callousness. As I returned home that night from what are known as “the wilds of Hammersmith” (Hammersmith is a suburb of London) I said to myself: “This play is bound to succeed” The next moment I said to myself: “This play cannot possibly succeed. It has no love interest. It is a political play. Its theme is the threatened separation of the Southern States from the Northern States. Nobody ever heard of a play with such an absurd theme reaching permanent success. No author before John Drinkwater ever had the effrontery to impose such a theme on a London public.”

My instinct was right and my reason was wrong. The play did succeed. It is still succeeding, and it will continue to succeed. Nobody can dine out in London to-day and admit without a blush that he has not seen ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Monarchs and princes have seen it. Archbishops have seen it. Statesmen without number have seen it. An ex-Lord Chancellor told me that he had journeyed out into the said wilds and was informed at the theatre that there were no seats left. He could not believe that he would have to return from the wilds unsatisfied. But so it fell out. West End managers have tried to coax the play from Hammersmith to the West End. They could not do it. We have contrived to make all London come to Hammersmith to see a play without a love-interest or a bedroom scene, and the play will remain at Hammersmith. Americans will more clearly realize what John Drinkwater has achieved with the London public if they imagine somebody putting on a play about the Crimean War at some unknown derelict theatre round about Two Hundred and Fiftieth Street, and drawing all New York to Two Hundred and Fiftieth Street.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN has pleased everybody, and its triumph is the best justification of those few who held that the public was capable of liking much better plays than were offered to the public. Why has ABRAHAM LINCOLN succeeded? Here are a few answers to the question: Because the author had a deep, practical knowledge of the stage. Because he disdained all stage tricks. Because he had the wit to select for his hero one of the world’s greatest and finest characters. Because he had the audacity to select a gigantic theme and to handle it with simplicity. Because he had the courage of all his artistic and moral convictions. And of course because he has a genuine dramatic gift. Finally, because William J. Rea plays Lincoln with the utmost nobility of emotional power.

Every audience has the same experience at ABRAHAM LINCOLN, and I laugh privately when I think of that experience. The curtain goes up on a highly commonplace little parlour, and a few ordinary people chatting in a highly commonplace manner. They keep on chatting. The audience thinks to itself: “I’ve been done! What is this interminable small talk?” And it wants to call out a protest: “Hi! You fellows on the stage! Have you forgotten that there is an audience on the other side of the footlights, waiting for something to happen?” (Truly the ordinary people in the parlour do seem to be unaware of the existence of any audience.) But wait, audience! Already the author is winding his chains about you. Though you may not suspect it, you are already bound…. At the end of the first scene the audience, vaguely feeling the spell, wonders what on earth the nature of the spell is. At the end of the play it is perhaps still wondering what precisely the nature of the spell is…. But it fully and rapturously admits the reality of the spell. Indeed after the fall of the curtain, and after many falls of the curtain, the spell persists; the audience somehow cannot leave its seats, and the thought of the worry of the journey home and of last ‘busses and trains is banished. Strange phenomenon! It occurs every night.




_Two Chroniclers_:

_The two speaking together_: Kinsmen, you shall behold Our stage, in mimic action, mould
A man’s character.

This is the wonder, always, everywhere– Not that vast mutability which is event, The pits and pinnacles of change,
But man’s desire and valiance that range All circumstance, and come to port unspent.

Agents are these events, these ecstasies, And tribulations, to prove the purities
Or poor oblivions that are our being. When Beauty and peace possess us, they are none But as they touch the beauty and peace of men, Nor, when our days are done,
And the last utterance of doom must fall, Is the doom anything
Memorable for its apparelling;
The bearing of man facing it is all.

So, kinsmen, we present
This for no loud event
That is but fugitive,
But that you may behold
Our mimic action mould
The spirit of man immortally to live.

_First Chronicler_: Once when a peril touched the days Of freedom in our English ways,
And none renowned in government
Was equal found,
Came to the steadfast heart of one, Who watched in lonely Huntingdon,
A summons, and he went,
And tyranny was bound,
And Cromwell was the lord of his event.

_Second Chronicler_: And in that land where voyaging The pilgrim Mayflower came to rest,
Among the chosen, counselling,
Once, when bewilderment possessed
A people, none there was might draw To fold the wandering thoughts of men,
And make as one the names again
Of liberty and law.

And then, from fifty fameless years
In quiet Illinois was sent
A word that still the Atlantic hears, And Lincoln was the lord of his event.

_The two speaking together:_ So the uncounted spirit wakes
To the birth
Of uncounted circumstance.
And time in a generation makes
Portents majestic a little story of earth To be remembered by chance
At a fireside.
But the ardours that they bear,
The proud and invincible motions of character–

These–these abide.


_The parlour of Abraham Lincoln’s House at Springfield, Illinois, early in 1860_. MR. STONE, _a farmer, and_ MR. CUFFNEY, _a store-keeper, both men of between fifty and sixty, are sitting before an early spring fire. It is dusk, but the curtains are not drawn. The men are smoking silently_.

_Mr. Stone (after a pause)_: Abraham. It’s a good name for a man to bear, anyway.

_Mr. Cuffney_: Yes. That’s right.

_Mr. Stone (after another pause)_: Abraham Lincoln. I’ve known him forty years. Never crooked once. Well.

_He taps his pipe reflectively on the grate. There is another pause_. SUSAN, _a servant-maid, comes in, and busies herself lighting candles and drawing the curtains to._

_Susan_: Mrs. Lincoln has just come in. She says she’ll be here directly.

_Mr. Cuffney_: Thank you.

_Mr. Stone_: Mr. Lincoln isn’t home yet, I dare say?

_Susan:_ No, Mr. Stone. He won’t be long, with all the gentlemen coming.

_Mr. Stone:_ How would you like your master to be President of the United States, Susan?

_Susan:_ I’m sure he’d do it very nicely, sir.

_Mr. Cuffney:_ He would have to leave Springfield, Susan, and go to live in Washington.

_Susan:_ I dare say we should take to Washington very well, sir.

_Mr. Cuffney:_ Ah! I’m glad to hear that.

_Susan:_ Mrs. Lincoln’s rather particular about the tobacco smoke.

_Mr. Stone:_ To be sure, yes, thank you, Susan.

_Susan:_ The master doesn’t smoke, you know. And Mrs. Lincoln’s specially particular about this room.

_Mr. Cuffney:_ Quite so. That’s very considerate of you, Susan.

_They knock out their pipes._

_Susan:_ Though some people might not hold with a gentleman not doing as he’d a mind in his own house, as you might say.

_She goes out._

_Mr. Cuffney (after a further pause, stroking his pipe)_: I suppose there’s no doubt about the message they’ll bring?

_Mr. Stone_: No, that’s settled right enough. It’ll be an invitation. That’s as sure as John Brown’s dead.

_Mr. Cuffney_: I could never make Abraham out rightly about old John. One couldn’t stomach slaving more than the other, yet Abraham didn’t hold with the old chap standing up against it with the sword. Bad philosophy, or something, he called it. Talked about fanatics who do nothing but get themselves at a rope’s end.

_Mr. Stone_: Abraham’s all for the Constitution. He wants the Constitution to be an honest master. There’s nothing he wants like that, and he’ll stand for that, firm as a Samson of the spirit, if he goes to Washington. He’d give his life to persuade the state against slaving, but until it is persuaded and makes its laws against it, he’ll have nothing to do with violence in the name of laws that aren’t made. That’s why old John’s raiding affair stuck in his gullet.

_Mr. Cuffney:_ He was a brave man, going like that, with a few zealous like himself, and a handful of niggers, to free thousands.

_Mr. Stone:_ He was. And those were brave words when they took him out to hang him. “I think, my friends, you are guilty of a great wrong against God and humanity. You may dispose of me very easily. I am nearly disposed of now. But this question is still to be settled–this negro question, I mean. The end of that is not yet.” I was there that day. Stonewall Jackson was there. He turned away. There was a colonel there giving orders. When it was over, “So perish all foes of the human race,” he called out. But only those that were afraid of losing their slaves believed it.

_Mr. Cuffney (after a pause):_ It was a bad thing to hang a man like that. … There’s a song that they’ve made about him.

_He sings quietly._

John Brown’s body lies a mould’ring in the grave, But his soul goes marching on…

_Mr. Stone:_ I know.

_The two together (singing quietly):_

The stars of heaven are looking kindly down On the grave of old John Brown….

_After a moment_ MRS. LINCOLN _comes in. The men rise._

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ Good-evening, Mr. Stone. Good-evening, Mr. Cuffney.

_Mr. Stone and Mr. Cuffney:_ Good-evening, ma’am.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ Sit down, if you please.

_They all sit._

_Mr. Stone:_ This is a great evening for you, ma’am.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ It is.

_Mr. Cuffney:_ What time do you expect the deputation, ma’am?

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ They should be here at seven o’clock. _(With an inquisitive nose.)_ Surely, Abraham hasn’t been smoking.

_Mr. Stone (rising):_ Shall I open the window, ma’am? It gets close of an evening.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ Naturally, in March. You may leave the window, Samuel Stone. We do not smoke in the parlour.

_Mr. Stone (resuming his seat):_ By no means, ma’am.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ I shall be obliged to you.

_Mr. Cuffney:_ Has Abraham decided what he will say to the invitation?

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ He will accept it.

_Mr. Stone:_ A very right decision, if I may say so.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ It is.

_Mr. Cuffney:_ And you, ma’am, have advised him that way, I’ll be bound.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ You said this was a great evening for me. It is, and I’ll say more than I mostly do, because it is. I’m likely to go into history now with a great man. For I know better than any how great he is. I’m plain looking and I’ve a sharp tongue, and I’ve a mind that doesn’t always go in his easy, high way. And that’s what history will see, and it will laugh a little, and say, “Poor Abraham Lincoln.” That’s all right, but it’s not all. I’ve always known when he should go forward, and when he should hold back. I’ve watched, and watched, and what I’ve learnt America will profit by. There are women like that, lots of them. But I’m lucky. My work’s going farther than Illinois–it’s going farther than any of us can tell. I made things easy for him to think and think when we were poor, and now his thinking has brought him to this. They wanted to make him Governor of Oregon, and he would have gone and have come to nothing there. I stopped him. Now they’re coming to ask him to be President, and I’ve told him to go.

_Mr. Stone_: If you please, ma’am, I should like to apologise for smoking in here.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: That’s no matter, Samuel Stone. Only, don’t do it again.

_Mr. Cuffney_: It’s a great place for a man to fill. Do you know how Seward takes Abraham’s nomination by the Republicans?

_Mrs. Lincoln_: Seward is ambitious. He expected the nomination. Abraham will know how to use him.

_Mr. Stone_: The split among the Democrats makes the election of the Republican choice a certainty, I suppose?

_Mrs. Lincoln_: Abraham says so.

_Mr. Cuffney_: You know, it’s hard to believe. When I think of the times I’ve sat in this room of an evening, and seen your husband come in, ma’am, with his battered hat nigh falling off the back of his head, and stuffed with papers that won’t go into his pockets, and god-darning some rascal who’d done him about an assignment or a trespass, I can’t think he’s going up there into the eyes of the world.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: I’ve tried for years to make him buy a new hat.

_Mr. Cuffney_: I have a very large selection just in from New York. Perhaps Abraham might allow me to offer him one for his departure.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: He might. But he’ll wear the old one.

_Mr. Stone_: Slavery and the South. They’re big things he’ll have to deal with. “The end of that is not yet.” That’s what old John Brown said, “the end of that is not yet.”

ABRAHAM LINCOLN _comes in, a greenish and crumpled top hat leaving his forehead well uncovered, his wide pockets brimming over with documents. He is fifty, and he still preserves his clean-shaven state. He kisses his wife and shakes hands with his friends._

_Lincoln:_ Well, Mary. How d’ye do, Samuel. How d’ye do, Timothy.

_Mr. Stone and Mr. Cuffney:_ Good-evening, Abraham.

_Lincoln (while he takes of his hat and shakes out sundry papers from the lining into a drawer):_ John Brown, did you say? Aye, John Brown. But that’s not the way it’s to be done. And you can’t do the right thing the wrong way. That’s as bad as the wrong thing, if you’re going to keep the state together.

_Mr. Cuffney:_ Well, we’ll be going. We only came in to give you good-faring, so to say, in the great word you’ve got to speak this evening.

_Mr. Stone:_ It makes a humble body almost afraid of himself, Abraham, to know his friend is to be one of the great ones of the earth, with his yes and no law for these many, many thousands of folk.

_Lincoln:_ It makes a man humble to be chosen so, Samuel. So humble that no man but would say “No” to such bidding if he dare. To be President of this people, and trouble gathering everywhere in men’s hearts. That’s a searching thing. Bitterness, and scorn, and wrestling often with men I shall despise, and perhaps nothing truly done at the end. But I must go. Yes. Thank you, Samuel; thank you, Timothy. Just a glass of that cordial, Mary, before they leave.

_He goes to a cupboard._

May the devil smudge that girl!

_Calling at the door._

Susan! Susan Deddington! Where’s that darnation cordial?

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ It’s all right, Abraham. I told the girl to keep it out. The cupboard’s choked with papers.

_Susan (coming in with bottle and glasses):_ I’m sure I’m sorry. I was told–

_Lincoln:_ All right, all right, Susan. Get along with you.

_Susan:_ Thank you, sir. _She goes._

_Lincoln (pouring out drink):_ Poor hospitality for whiskey-drinking rascals like yourselves. But the thought’s good.

_Mr. Stone:_ Don’t mention it, Abraham.

_Mr. Cuffney:_ We wish you well, Abraham. Our compliments, ma’am. And God bless America! Samuel, I give you the United States, and Abraham Lincoln.

MR. CUFFNEY _and_ MR. STONE _drink._

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ Thank you.

_Lincoln:_ Samuel, Timothy–I drink to the hope of honest friends. Mary, to friendship. I’ll need that always, for I’ve a queer, anxious heart. And, God bless America!

_He and_ MRS. LINCOLN _drink._

_Mr. Stone:_ Well, good-night, Abraham. Good-night, ma’am.

_Mr. Cuffney:_ Good-night, good-night.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ Good-night, Mr. Stone. Good-night, Mr. Cuffney.

_Lincoln:_ Good-night, Samuel. Good-night, Timothy. And thank you for coming.

MR. STONE _and_ MR. CUFFNEY _go out._

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ You’d better see them in here.

_Lincoln:_ Good. Five minutes to seven. You’re sure about it, Mary?

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ Yes. Aren’t you?

_Lincoln:_ We mean to set bounds to slavery. The South will resist. They may try to break away from the Union. That cannot be allowed. If the Union is set aside America will crumble. The saving of it may mean blood.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ Who is to shape it all if you don’t?

_Lincoln:_ There’s nobody. I know it.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ Then go.

_Lincoln:_ Go.

_Mrs. Lincoln (after a moment):_ This hat is a disgrace to you, Abraham. You pay no heed to what I say, and you think it doesn’t matter. A man like you ought to think a little about gentility.

_Lincoln:_ To be sure. I forget.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ You don’t. You just don’t heed. Samuel Stone’s been smoking in here.

_Lincoln:_ He’s a careless, poor fellow.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ He is, and a fine example you set him. You don’t care whether he makes my parlour smell poison or not.

_Lincoln:_ Of course I do–

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ You don’t. Your head is too stuffed with things to think about my ways. I’ve got neighbours if you haven’t.

_Lincoln:_ Well, now, your neighbours are mine, I suppose.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ Then why won’t you consider appearances a little?

_Lincoln:_ Certainly. I must.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ Will you get a new hat?

_Lincoln:_ Yes, I must see about it.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ When?

_Lincoln:_ In a day or two. Before long.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ Abraham, I’ve got a better temper than anybody will ever guess.

_Lincoln:_ You have, my dear. And you need it, I confess.

SUSAN _comes in._

_Susan:_ The gentlemen have come.

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ I’ll come to them.

_Susan:_ Does the master want a handkerchief, ma’am? He didn’t take one this morning.

_Lincoln:_ It’s no matter now, Susan.

_Susan:_ If you please, I’ve brought you one, sir.

_She gives it to him, and goes._

_Mrs. Lincoln:_ I’ll send them in. Abraham, I believe in you.

_Lincoln:_ I know, I know.

MRS. LINCOLN _goes out._ LINCOLN _moves to a map of the United States that is hanging on the wall, and stands silently looking at it. After a few moments_ SUSAN _comes to the door._

_Susan:_ This way, please.

_She shows in_ WILLIAM TUCKER, _a florid, prosperous merchant;_ HENRY HIND, _an alert little attorney;_ ELIAS PRICE, _a lean lay preacher; and_ JAMES MACINTOSH, _the editor of a Republican journal._ SUSAN _goes.

Tucker:_ Mr. Lincoln. Tucker my name is–William Tucker.

_He presents his companions._

Mr. Henry Hind–follows your profession, Mr. Lincoln. Leader of the bar in Ohio. Mr. Elias Price, of Pennsylvania. You’ve heard him preach, maybe. James Macintosh you know. I come from Chicago.

_Lincoln:_ Gentlemen, at your service. How d’ye do, James. Will you be seated?

_They sit round the table._

_Tucker_: I have the honour to be chairman of this delegation. We are sent from Chicago by the Republican Convention, to enquire whether you will accept their invitation to become the Republican candidate for the office of President of the United States.

_Price_: The Convention is aware, Mr. Lincoln, that under the circumstances, seeing that the Democrats have split, this is more than an invitation to candidature. Their nominee is almost certain to be elected.

_Lincoln_: Gentlemen, I am known to one of you only. Do you know my many disqualifications for this work?

_Hind_: It’s only fair to say that they have been discussed freely.

_Lincoln_: There are some, shall we say graces, that I lack. Washington does not altogether neglect these.

_Tucker_: They have been spoken of. But these are days, Mr. Lincoln, if I may say so, too difficult, too dangerous, for these to weigh at the expense of other qualities that you were considered to possess.

_Lincoln_: Seward and Hook have both had great experience.

_Macintosh_: Hook had no strong support. For Seward, there are doubts as to his discretion.

_Lincoln_: Do not be under any misunderstanding, I beg you. I aim at moderation so far as it is honest. But I am a very stubborn man, gentlemen. If the South insists upon the extension of slavery, and claims the right to secede, as you know it very well may do, and the decision lies with me, it will mean resistance, inexorable, with blood if needs be. I would have everybody’s mind clear as to that.

_Price_: It will be for you to decide, and we believe you to be an upright man, Mr. Lincoln.

_Lincoln_: Seward and Hook would be difficult to carry as subordinates.

_Tucker_: But they will have to be carried so, and there’s none likelier for the job than you.

_Lincoln_: Will your Republican Press stand by me for a principle, James, whatever comes?

_Macintosh_: There’s no other man we would follow so readily.

_Lincoln_: If you send me, the South will have little but derision for your choice.

_Hind_: We believe that you’ll last out their laughter.

_Lincoln_: I can take any man’s ridicule–I’m trained to it by a … somewhat odd figure that it pleased God to give me, if I may so far be pleasant with you. But this slavery business will be long, and deep, and bitter. I know it. If you do me this honour, gentlemen, you must look to me for no compromise in this matter. If abolition comes in due time by constitutional means, good. I want it. But, while we will not force abolition, we will give slavery no approval, and we will not allow it to extend its boundaries by one yard. The determination is in my blood. When I was a boy I made a trip to New Orleans, and there I saw them, chained, beaten, kicked as a man would be ashamed to kick a thieving dog. And I saw a young girl driven up and down the room that the bidders might satisfy themselves. And I said then, “If ever I get a chance to hit that thing, I’ll hit it hard.”

_A pause_.

You have no conditions to make?

_Tucker_: None.

_Lincoln (rising):_ Mrs. Lincoln and I would wish you to take supper with us.

_Tucker_: That’s very kind, I’m sure. And your answer, Mr. Lincoln?

_Lincoln_: When you came, you did not know me, Mr. Tucker. You may have something to say now not for my ears.

_Tucker_: Nothing in the world, I assure–

_Lincoln_: I will prepare Mrs. Lincoln. You will excuse me for no more than a minute.

_He goes out_.

_Tucker_: Well, we might have chosen a handsomer article, but I doubt whether we could have chosen a better.

_Hind_: He would make a great judge–if you weren’t prosecuting.

_Price_: I’d tell most people, but I’d ask that man.

_Tucker_: He hasn’t given us yes or no yet. Why should he leave us like that, as though plain wasn’t plain?

_Hind_: Perhaps he wanted a thought by himself first.

_Macintosh_: It wasn’t that. But he was right. Abraham Lincoln sees deeper into men’s hearts than most. He knows this day will be a memory to us all our lives. Under his eye, which of you could have given play to any untoward thought that had started in you against him since you came into this room? But, leaving you, he knew you could test yourselves to your own ease, and speak the more confident for it, and, if you found yourselves clean of doubt, carry it all the happier in your minds after. Is there a doubt among us?

_Hind_: } No, none.
_Price_: }

_Macintosh_: Then, Mr. Tucker, ask him again when he comes back.

_Tucker_: I will.

_They sit in silence for a moment, and_ Lincoln _comes in again, back to his place at the table_.

_Lincoln_: I wouldn’t have you think it graceless of me to be slow in my answer. But once given, it’s for the deep good or the deep ill of all this country. In the face of that a man may well ask himself twenty times, when he’s twenty times sure. You make no qualification, any one among you?

_Tucker_: None. The invitation is as I put it when we sat down. And I would add that we are, all of us, proud to bear it to a man as to whom we feel there is none so fitted to receive it.

_Lincoln_: I thank you. I accept.

_He rises, the others with him. He goes to the door and calls_.


_There is silence_. SUSAN _comes in.

Susan:_ Yes, Mr. Lincoln.

_Lincoln_: Take these gentlemen to Mrs. Lincoln. I will follow at once.

_The four men go with_ SUSAN. LINCOLN _stands silently for a moment. He goes again to the map and looks at it. He then turns to the table again, and kneels beside it, possessed and deliberate, burying his face in his hands._


_The two Chroniclers_: Lonely is the man who understands. Lonely is vision that leads a man away
From the pasture-lands,
From the furrows of corn and the brown loads of hay, To the mountain-side,
To the high places where contemplation brings All his adventurings
Among the sowers and the tillers in the wide Valleys to one fused experience,
That shall control
The courses of his soul,
And give his hand
Courage and continence.

_The First Chronicler_: Shall a man understand, He shall know bitterness because his kind, Being perplexed of mind,
Hold issues even that are nothing mated. And he shall give
Counsel out of his wisdom that none shall hear; And steadfast in vain persuasion must he live, And unabated
Shall his temptation be.

_Second Chronicler_: Coveting the little, the instant gain, The brief security,
And easy-tongued renown,
Many will mock the vision that his brain Builds to a far, unmeasured monument,
And many bid his resolutions down
To the wages of content.

_First Chronicler_: A year goes by.

_The two together_: Here contemplate
A heart, undaunted to possess
Itself among the glooms of fate,
In vision and in loneliness.


_Ten months later. Seward’s room at Washington_. WILLIAM H. SEWARD, _Secretary of State, is seated at his table with_ JOHNSON WHITE _and_ CALEB JENNINGS, _representing the Commissioners of the Confederate States_.

_White_: It’s the common feeling in the South, Mr. Seward, that you’re the one man at Washington to see this thing with large imagination. I say this with no disrespect to the President.

_Seward_: I appreciate your kindness, Mr. White. But the Union is the Union–you can’t get over that. We are faced with a plain fact. Seven of the Southern States have already declared for secession. The President feels–and I may say that I and my colleagues are with him–that to break up the country like that means the decline of America.

_Jennings_: But everything might be done by compromise, Mr. Seward. Withdraw your garrison from Fort Sumter, Beauregard will be instructed to take no further action, South Carolina will be satisfied with the recognition of her authority, and, as likely as not, be willing to give the lead to the other states in reconsidering secession.

_Seward_: It is certainly a very attractive and, I conceive, a humane proposal.

_White_: By furthering it you might be the saviour of the country from civil war, Mr. Seward.

_Seward_: The President dwelt on his resolution to hold Fort Sumter in his inaugural address. It will be difficult to persuade him to go back on that. He’s firm in his decisions.

_White_: There are people who would call him stubborn. Surely if it were put to him tactfully that so simple a course might avert incalculable disaster, no man would nurse his dignity to the point of not yielding. I speak plainly, but it’s a time for plain speaking. Mr. Lincoln is doubtless a man of remarkable qualities: on the two occasions when I have spoken to him I have not been unimpressed. That is so, Mr. Jennings?

_Jennings_: Certainly.

_White_: But what does his experience of great affairs of state amount to beside yours, Mr. Seward? He must know how much he depends on certain members of his Cabinet, I might say upon a certain member, for advice.

_Seward_: We have to move warily.

_Jennings_: Naturally. A man is sensitive, doubtless, in his first taste of office.

_Seward_: My support of the President is, of course, unquestionable.

_White_: Oh, entirely. But how can your support be more valuable than in lending him your unequalled understanding?

_Seward_: The whole thing is coloured in his mind by the question of slavery.

_Jennings_: Disabuse his mind. Slavery is nothing. Persuade him to withdraw from Fort Sumter, and slavery can be settled round a table. You know there’s a considerable support even for abolition in the South itself. If the trade has to be allowed in some districts, what is that compared to the disaster of civil war?

_White_: We do not believe that the Southern States wish with any enthusiasm to secede. They merely wish to establish their right to do so. Acknowledge that by evacuating Fort Sumter, and nothing will come of it but a perfectly proper concession to an independence of spirit that is not disloyal to the Union at heart.

_Seward_: You understand, of course, that I can say nothing officially.

_Jennings_: These are nothing but informal suggestions.

_Seward_: But I may tell you that I am not unsympathetic.

_White_: We were sure that that would be so.

_Seward_: And my word is not without influence.

_Jennings_: It can be used to bring you very great credit, Mr. Seward.

_Seward_: In the mean time, you will say nothing of this interview, beyond making your reports, which should be confidential.

_White_: You may rely upon us.

_Seward (rising with the others)_: Then I will bid you good-morning.

_White_: We are profoundly sensible of the magnanimous temper in which we are convinced you will conduct this grave business. Good-morning, Mr. Seward.

_Jennings_: And I–

_There is a knock at the door_.

_Seward_: Yes–come in.

A CLERK _comes in_.

_Clerk_: The President is coming up the stairs, sir.

_Seward_: Thank you.

THE CLERK _goes_. This is unfortunate. Say nothing, and go at once.

LINCOLN _comes in, now whiskered and bearded._

_Lincoln_: Good-morning, Mr. Seward. Good-morning, gentlemen.

_Seward_: Good-morning, Mr. President. And I am obliged to you for calling, gentlemen. Good-morning.

_He moves towards the door_.

_Lincoln_: Perhaps these gentlemen could spare me ten minutes.

_White_: It might not–

_Lincoln_: Say five minutes.

_Jennings_: Perhaps you would–

_Lincoln_: I am anxious always for any opportunity to exchange views with our friends of the South. Much enlightenment may be gained in five minutes. Be seated, I beg you–if Mr. Seward will allow us.

_Seward_: By all means. Shall I leave you?

_Lincoln_: Leave us–but why? I may want your support, Mr. Secretary, if we should not wholly agree. Be seated, gentlemen.

SEWARD _places a chair for_ LINCOLN, _and they sit at the table_.

You have messages for us?

_White_: Well, no, we can’t say that.

_Lincoln_: No messages? Perhaps I am inquisitive?

_Seward_: These gentlemen are anxious to sound any moderating influences.

_Lincoln_: I trust they bring moderating influences with them. You will find me a ready listener, gentlemen.

_Jennings_: It’s a delicate matter, Mr. Lincoln. Ours is just an informal visit.

_Lincoln_: Quite, quite. But we shall lose nothing by knowing each other’s minds.

_White_: Shall we tell the President what we came to say, Mr. Seward?

_Lincoln_: I shall be grateful. If I should fail to understand, Mr. Seward, no doubt, will enlighten me.

_Jennings_: We thought it hardly worth while to trouble you at so early a stage.

_Lincoln_: So early a stage of what?

_Jennings_: I mean–

_Seward_: These gentlemen, in a common anxiety for peace, were merely seeking the best channel through which suggestions could be made.

_Lincoln_: To whom?

_Seward_: To the government.

_Lincoln_: The head of the government is here.

_White_: But–

_Lincoln_: Come, gentlemen. What is it?

_Jennings_: It’s this matter of Fort Sumter, Mr. President. If you withdraw your garrison from Fort Sumter it won’t be looked upon as weakness in you. It will merely be looked upon as a concession to a natural privilege. We believe that the South at heart does not want secession. It wants to establish the right to decide for itself.

_Lincoln_: The South wants the stamp of national approval upon slavery. It can’t have it.

_White_: Surely that’s not the point. There’s no law in the South against slavery.

_Lincoln_: Laws come from opinion, Mr. White. The South knows it.

_Jennings_: Mr. President, if I may say so, you don’t quite understand.

_Lincoln_: Does Mr. Seward understand?

_White_: We believe so.

_Lincoln_: You are wrong. He doesn’t understand, because you didn’t mean him to. I don’t blame you. You think you are acting for the best. You think you’ve got an honest case. But I’ll put your case for you, and I’ll put it naked. Many people in this country want abolition; many don’t. I’ll say nothing for the moment as to the rights and wrongs of it. But every man, whether he wants it or not, knows it may come. Why does the South propose secession? Because it knows abolition may come, and it wants to avoid it. It wants more: it wants the right to extend the slave foundation. We’ve all been to blame for slavery, but we in the North have been willing to mend our ways. You have not. So you’ll secede, and make your own laws. But you weren’t prepared for resistance; you don’t want resistance. And you hope that if you can tide over the first crisis and make us give way, opinion will prevent us from opposing you with force again, and you’ll be able to get your own way about the slave business by threats. That’s your case. You didn’t say so to Mr. Seward, but it is. Now, I’ll give you my answer. Gentlemen, it’s no good hiding this thing in a corner. It’s got to be settled. I said the other day that Fort Sumter would be held as long as we could hold it. I said it because I know exactly what it means. Why are you investing it? Say, if you like, it’s to establish your right of secession with no purpose of exercising it. Why do you want to establish that right? Because now we will allow no extension of slavery, and because some day we may abolish it. You can’t deny it; there’s no other answer.

_Jennings_: I see how it is. You may force freedom as much as you like, but we are to beware how we force slavery.

_Lincoln_: It couldn’t be put better, Mr. Jennings. That’s what the Union means. It is a Union that stands for common right. That is its foundation–that is why it is for every honest man to preserve it. Be clear about this issue. If there is war, it will not be on the slave question. If the South is loyal to the Union, it can fight slave legislation by constitutional means, and win its way if it can. If it claims the right to secede, then to preserve this country from disruption, to maintain that right to which every state pledged itself when the Union was won for us by our fathers, war may be the only way. We won’t break up the Union, and you shan’t. In your hands, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. You can have no conflict without yourselves being the aggressors. I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, do not allow it to break our bonds of affection. That is our answer. Tell them that. Will you tell them that?

_White_: You are determined?

_Lincoln_: I beg you to tell them.

_Jennings_: It shall be as you wish.

_Lincoln_: Implore them to order Beauregard’s return. You can telegraph it now, from here. Will you do that?

_White_: If you wish it.

_Lincoln_: Earnestly. Mr. Seward, will you please place a clerk at their service. Ask for an answer.

SEWARD _rings a bell_. A CLERK _comes in_.

_Seward:_ Give these gentlemen a private wire. Place yourself at their disposal.

_Clerk_: Yes, sir.

WHITE _and_ JENNINGS _go out with the_ CLERK. _For a moment_ LINCOLN _and_ SEWARD _are silent,_ LINCOLN _pacing the room_, SEWARD _standing at the table.

_Lincoln:_ Seward, this won’t do.

_Seward_: You don’t suspect–

_Lincoln_: I do not. But let us be plain. No man can say how wisely, but Providence has brought me to the leadership of this country, with a task before me greater than that which rested on Washington himself. When I made my Cabinet, you were the first man I chose. I do not regret it. I think I never shall. But remember, faith earns faith. What is it? Why didn’t those men come to see me?

_Seward_: They thought my word might bear more weight with you than theirs.

_Lincoln_: Your word for what?

_Seward_: Discretion about Fort Sumter.

_Lincoln_: Discretion?

_Seward_: It’s devastating, this thought of war.

_Lincoln_: It is. Do you think I’m less sensible of that than you? War should be impossible. But you can only make it impossible by destroying its causes. Don’t you see that to withdraw from Fort Sumter is to do nothing of the kind? If one half of this country claims the right to disown the Union, the claim in the eyes of every true guardian among us must be a cause for war, unless we hold the Union to be a false thing instead of the public consent to decent principles of life that it is. If we withdraw from Fort Sumter, we do nothing to destroy that cause. We can only destroy it by convincing them that secession is a betrayal of their trust. Please God we may do so.

_Seward_: Has there, perhaps, been some timidity in making all this clear to the country?

_Lincoln_: Timidity? And you were talking of discretion.

_Seward_: I mean that perhaps our policy has not been sufficiently defined.

_Lincoln_: And have you not concurred in all our decisions? Do not deceive yourself. You urge me to discretion in one breath and tax me with timidity in the next. While there was hope that they might call Beauregard back out of their own good sense, I was determined to say nothing to inflame them. Do you call that timidity? Now their intention is clear, and you’ve heard me speak this morning clearly also. And now you talk about discretion–you, who call what was discretion at the right time, timidity, now counsel timidity at the wrong time, and call it discretion. Seward, you may think I’m simple, but I can see your mind working as plainly as you might see the innards of a clock. You can bring great gifts to this government, with your zeal, and your administrative experience, and your love of men. Don’t spoil it by thinking I’ve got a dull brain.

_Seward (slowly):_ Yes, I see. I’ve not been thinking quite clearly about it all.

_Lincoln (taking a paper from his pocket_): Here’s the paper you sent me. “Some Thoughts for the President’s Consideration. Great Britain … Russia … Mexico … policy. Either the President must control this himself, or devolve it on some member of his Cabinet. It is not in my especial province, but I neither seek to evade nor assume responsibility.”

_There is a pause, the two men looking at each, other without speaking_. LINCOLN _hands the paper to_ SEWARD, _who holds it for a moment, tears it up and throws it into his basket_.

_Seward:_ I beg your pardon.

_Lincoln (taking his hand_): That’s brave of you.

JOHN HAY, _a Secretary, comes in_.

_Hay:_ There’s a messenger from Major Anderson, sir. He’s ridden straight from Fort Sumter.

_Lincoln_: Take him to my room. No, bring him here.

HAY _goes_.

_Seward_: What does it mean?

_Lincoln_: I don’t like the sound of it.

_He rings a bell_. A CLERK _comes in_.

Are there any gentlemen of the Cabinet in the house?

_Clerk_: Mr. Chase and Mr. Blair, I believe, sir.

_Lincoln_: My compliments to them, and will they be prepared to see me here at once if necessary. Send the same message to any other ministers you can find.

_Clerk_: Yes, sir.

_He goes_.

_Lincoln_: We may have to decide now–now.

HAY _shows in a perspiring and dust-covered_

MESSENGER, _and retires_. From Major Anderson?

_The Messenger_: Yes, sir. Word of mouth, sir.

_Lincoln_: Your credentials?

_The Messenger (giving_ LINCOLN _a paper_): Here, sir.

_Lincoln (glancing at it_): Well?

_The Messenger_: Major Anderson presents his duty to the government. He can hold the Fort three days more without provisions and reinforcements.

LINCOLN _rings the bell, and waits until a third_ CLERK _comes in_.

_Lincoln_: See if Mr. White and Mr. Jennings have had any answer yet. Mr.–what’s his name?

_Seward_: Hawkins.

_Lincoln_: Mr. Hawkins is attending to them. And ask Mr. Hay to come here.

_Clerk_: Yes, sir.

_He goes_. LINCOLN _sits at the table and writes_. HAY _comes in_.

_Lincoln (writing):_ Mr. Hay, do you know where General Scott is?

_Hay_: At headquarters, I think, sir.

_Lincoln_: Take this to him yourself and bring an answer back.

_Hay_: Yes, sir.

_He takes the note, and goes_.

_Lincoln:_ Are things very bad at the Fort?

_The Messenger_: The major says three days, sir. Most of us would have said twenty-four hours.

_A knock at the door_.

_Seward:_ Yes.

HAWKINS _comes in_.

_Hawkins_: Mr. White is just receiving a message across the wire, sir.

_Lincoln_: Ask him to come here directly he’s finished.

_Hawkins_: Yes, sir.

_He goes_. LINCOLN _goes to a far door and opens it. He speaks to the_ MESSENGER.

_Lincoln_: Will you wait in here?

_The_ MESSENGER _goes through_.

_Seward_: Do you mind if I smoke?

_Lincoln_: Not at all, not at all.

SEWARD _lights a cigar_.

Three days. If White’s message doesn’t help us–three days.

_Seward_: But surely we must withdraw as a matter of military necessity now.

_Lincoln_: Why doesn’t White come?

SEWARD _goes to the window and throws it up. He stands looking down into the street_. LINCOLN _stands at the table looking fixedly at the door. After a moment or two there is a knock._

Come in.

HAWKINS _shows in_ WHITE _and_ JENNINGS, _and goes out_. SEWARD _closes the window_.


_White_: I’m sorry. They won’t give way.

_Lincoln_: You told them all I said?

_Jennings_: Everything.

_Lincoln_: It’s critical.

_White_: They are definite.

LINCOLN _paces once or twice up and down the room, standing again at his place at the table_.

_Lincoln:_ They leave no opening?

_White_: I regret to say, none.

_Lincoln_: It’s a grave decision. Terribly grave. Thank you, gentlemen. Good-morning.

_White and Jennings_: Good-morning, gentlemen.

_They go out_.

_Lincoln_: My God! Seward, we need great courage, great faith.

_He rings the bell. The_ SECOND CLERK _comes in._

Did you take my messages?

_The Clerk_: Yes, sir. Mr. Chase and Mr. Blair are here. The other ministers are coming immediately.

_Lincoln_: Ask them to come here at once. And send Mr. Hay in directly he returns.

_The Clerk_: Yes, sir.

_He goes_.

_Lincoln (after a pause_): “There is a tide in the affairs of men …” Do you read Shakespeare, Seward?

_Seward_: Shakespeare? No.

_Lincoln_: Ah!

SALMON P. CHASE, _Secretary of the Treasury, and_ MONTGOMERY BLAIR, _Postmaster-General, come in_.

Good-morning, Mr. Chase, Mr. Blair.

_Seward_: Good-morning, gentlemen.

_Blair_: Good-morning, Mr. President. How d’ye do, Mr. Seward.

_Chase_: Good-morning, Mr. President. Something urgent?

_Lincoln_: Let us be seated.

_As they draw chairs up to the table, the other members of the Cabinet_, SIMON CAMERON, CALEB SMITH, BURNET HOOK, _and_ GIDEON WELLES, _come in. There is an exchange of greetings, while they arrange themselves round the table_.

Gentlemen, we meet in a crisis, the most fateful, perhaps, that has ever faced any government in this country. It can be stated briefly. A message has just come from Anderson. He can hold Fort Sumter three days at most unless we send men and provisions.

_Cameron_: How many men?

_Lincoln_: I shall know from Scott in a few minutes how many are necessary.

_Welles_: Suppose we haven’t as many.

_Lincoln_: Then it’s a question of provisioning. We may not be able to do enough to be effective. The question is whether we shall do as much as we can.

_Hook_: If we withdrew altogether, wouldn’t it give the South a lead towards compromise, as being an acknowledgment of their authority, while leaving us free to plead military necessity if we found public opinion dangerous?

_Lincoln_: My mind is clear. To do less than we can do, whatever that may be, will be fundamentally to allow the South’s claim to right of secession. That is my opinion. If you evade the question now, you will have to answer it to-morrow.

_Blair_: I agree with the President.

_Hook_: We ought to defer action as long as possible. I consider that we should withdraw.

_Lincoln_: Don’t you see that to withdraw may postpone war, but that it will make it inevitable in the end?

_Smith_: It is inevitable if we resist.

_Lincoln_: I fear it will be so. But in that case we shall enter it with uncompromised principles. Mr. Chase?

_Chase_: It is difficult. But, on the whole, my opinion is with yours, Mr. President.

_Lincoln_: And you, Seward?

_Seward_: I respect your opinion, but I must differ.

_A knock at the door_.

_Lincoln_: Come in.

HAY _comes in. He gives a letter to_ LINCOLN _and goes_.

_(Reading):_ Scott says twenty thousand men.

_Seward_: We haven’t ten thousand ready.

_Lincoln_: It remains a question of sending provisions. I charge you, all of you, to weigh this thing with all your understanding. To temporise now, cannot, in my opinion, avert war. To speak plainly to the world in standing by our resolution to hold Fort Sumter with all our means, and in a plain declaration that the Union must be preserved, will leave us with a clean cause, simply and loyally supported. I tremble at the thought of war. But we have in our hands a sacred trust. It is threatened. We have had no thought of aggression. We have been the aggressed. Persuasion has failed, and I conceive it to be our duty to resist. To withhold supplies from Anderson would be to deny that duty. Gentlemen, the matter is before you.

_A pause_.

For provisioning the fort?

LINCOLN, CHASE, _and_ BLAIR _hold up their hands._

For immediate withdrawal?

SEWARD, CAMERON, SMITH, HOOK, _and_ WELLES _hold up their hands. There is a pause of some moments_.

Gentlemen, I may have to take upon myself the responsibility of over-riding your vote. It will be for me to satisfy Congress and public opinion. Should I receive any resignations?

_There is silence_.

I thank you for your consideration, gentlemen. That is all.

_They rise, and the Ministers, with the exception of_ SEWARD, _go out, talking as they pass beyond the door_.

You are wrong, Seward, wrong.

_Seward_: I believe you. I respect your judgment even as far as that. But I must speak as I feel.

_Lincoln_: May I speak to this man alone?

_Seward_: Certainly. _He goes out_. LINCOLN _stands motionless for a moment. Then he moves to a map of the United States, much larger than the one in his Illinois home, and looks at it as he did there. He goes to the far door and opens it_.

_Lincoln:_ Will you come in?

_The_ MESSENGER _comes_.

Can you ride back to Major Anderson at once?

_The Messenger_: Yes, sir.

_Lincoln_: Tell him that we cannot reinforce him immediately. We haven’t the men.

_The Messenger_: Yes, sir.

_Lincoln_: And say that the first convoy of supplies will leave Washington this evening.

_The Messenger_: Yes, sir.

_Lincoln_: Thank you.

_The_ MESSENGER goes. LINCOLN _stands at the table for a moment; he rings the bell_. HAWKINS _comes in_.

Mr. Hay, please.

_Hawkins_: Yes, sir.

_He goes, and a moment later_ HAY _comes in.

Lincoln:_ Go to General Scott. Ask him to come to me at once.

_Hay_: Yes, sir.

_He goes_.


_The two Chroniclers_: You who have gone gathering Cornflowers and meadowsweet,
Heard the hazels glancing down
On September eves,
Seen the homeward rooks on wing
Over fields of golden wheat,
And the silver cups that crown
Water-lily leaves;

You who know the tenderness
Of old men at eve-tide,
Coming from the hedgerows,
Coming from the plough,
And the wandering caress
Of winds upon the woodside,
When the crying yaffle goes
Underneath the bough;

_First Chronicler_: You who mark the flowing Of sap upon the May-time,
And the waters welling
From the watershed,
You who count the growing
Of harvest and hay-time,
Knowing these the telling
Of your daily bread;

_Second Chronicler_: You who cherish courtesy With your fellows at your gate,
And about your hearthstone sit
Under love’s decrees,
You who know that death will be
Speaking with you soon or late.

_The two together_: Kinsmen, what is
But the light of these?
Knowing these, what is there more
For learning in your little years?
Are not these all gospels bright
Shining on your day?
How then shall your hearts be sore
With envy and her brood of fears,
How forget the words of light
From the mountain-way? …

Blessed are the merciful….
Does not every threshold seek
Meadows and the flight of birds
For compassion still?
Blessed are the merciful….
Are we pilgrims yet to speak
Out of Olivet the words
Of knowledge and good-will?

_First Chronicler_: Two years of darkness, and this man but grows Greater in resolution, more constant in compassion. He goes
The way of dominion in pitiful, high-hearted fashion.


_Nearly two years later_.

_A small reception room at the White House_. MRS. LINCOLN, _dressed in a fashion perhaps a little too considered, despairing as she now does of any sartorial grace in her husband, and acutely conscious that she must meet this necessity of office alone, is writing. She rings the bell, and_ SUSAN, _who has taken her promotion more philosophically, comes in.

Mrs. Lincoln_: Admit any one who calls, Susan. And enquire whether the President will be in to tea.

_Susan_: Mr. Lincoln has just sent word that he will be in.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: Very well.

SUSAN _is going_.

Susan. _Susan_: Yes, ma’am.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: You still say Mr. Lincoln. You should say the President.

_Susan_: Yes, ma’am. But you see, ma’am, it’s difficult after calling him Mr. Lincoln for fifteen years.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: But you must remember. Everybody calls him the President now.

_Susan_: No, ma’am. There’s a good many people call him Father Abraham now. And there’s some that like him even better than that. Only to-day Mr. Coldpenny, at the stores, said, “Well, Susan, and how’s old Abe this morning?”

_Mrs. Lincoln_: I hope you don’t encourage them.

_Susan_: Oh, no, ma’am. I always refer to him as Mr. Lincoln.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: Yes, but you must say the President.

_Susan:_ I’m afraid I shan’t ever learn, ma’am.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: You must try.

_Susan_: Yes, of course, ma’am.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: And bring any visitors up.

_Susan_: Yes, ma’am. There’s a lady waiting now.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: Then why didn’t you say so?

_Susan_: That’s what I was going to, ma’am, when you began to talk about Mr.–I mean the President, ma’am.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: Well, show her up.

SUSAN _goes_. MRS. LINCOLN _closes her writing desk._ SUSAN _returns, showing in_ MRS. GOLIATH BLOW.

_Susan_: Mrs. Goliath Blow.

_She goes_.

_Mrs. Blow_: Good-afternoon, Mrs. Lincoln.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: Good-afternoon, Mrs. Blow. Sit down, please.

_They sit_.

_Mrs. Blow_: And is the dear President well?

_Mrs. Lincoln_: Yes. He’s rather tired.

_Mrs. Blow_: Of course, to be sure. This dreadful war. But I hope he’s not getting tired of the war.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: It’s a constant anxiety for him. He feels his responsibility very deeply.

_Mrs. Blow_: To be sure. But you mustn’t let him get war-weary. These monsters in the South have got to be stamped out.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: I don’t think you need be afraid of the President’s firmness.

_Mrs. Blow_: Oh, of course not. I was only saying to Goliath yesterday, “The President will never give way till he has the South squealing,” and Goliath agreed.

SUSAN _comes in_.

_Susan_: Mrs. Otherly, ma’am.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: Show Mrs. Otherly in.

SUSAN _goes_.

_Mrs. Blow_: Oh, that dreadful woman! I believe she wants the war to stop.

_Susan (at the door_): Mrs. Otherly.

MRS. OTHERLY _comes in and_ SUSAN _goes_.

_Mrs. Lincoln_: Good-afternoon, Mrs. Otherly. You know Mrs. Goliath Blow?

_Mrs. Otherly_: Yes. Good-afternoon. _She sits_.

_Mrs. Blow_: Goliath says the war will go on for another three years at least.

_Mrs. Otherly_: Three years? That would be terrible, wouldn’t it?

_Mrs. Blow_: We must be prepared to make sacrifices.

_Mrs. Otherly_: Yes.

_Mrs. Blow_: It makes my blood boil to think of those people.

_Mrs. Otherly_: I used to know a lot of them. Some of them were very kind and nice.

_Mrs. Blow_: That was just their cunning, depend on it. I’m afraid there’s a good deal of disloyalty among us. Shall we see the dear President this afternoon, Mrs. Lincoln?

_Mrs. Lincoln_: He will be here directly, I think.

_Mrs. Blow_: You ‘re looking wonderfully well, with all the hard work that you have to do. I’ve really had to drop some of mine. And with expenses going up, it’s all very lowering, don’t you think? Goliath and I have had to reduce several of our subscriptions. But, of course, we all have to deny ourselves something. Ah, good-afternoon, dear Mr. President.

LINCOLN _comes in_. THE LADIES _rise and shake hands with him_.

_Lincoln_: Good-afternoon, ladies.

_Mrs. Otherly_: Good-afternoon, Mr. President.

_They all sit_.

_Mrs. Blow_: And is there any startling news, Mr. President?

_Lincoln_: Madam, every morning when I wake up, and say to myself, a hundred, or two hundred, or a thousand of my countrymen will be killed to-day, I find it startling.

_Mrs. Blow_: Oh, yes, of course, to be sure. But I mean, is there any good news.

_Lincoln_: Yes. There is news of a victory. They lost twenty-seven hundred men–we lost eight hundred.

_Mrs. Blow_: How splendid!

_Lincoln_: Thirty-five hundred.

_Mrs. Blow_: Oh, but you mustn’t talk like that, Mr. President. There were only eight hundred that mattered.

_Lincoln_: The world is larger than your heart, madam.

_Mrs. Blow_: Now the dear President is becoming whimsical, Mrs. Lincoln.

SUSAN _brings in tea-tray, and hands tea round._ LINCOLN _takes none_. SUSAN _goes_.

_Mrs. Otherly_: Mr. President.

_Lincoln_: Yes, ma’am.

_Mrs. Otherly_: I don’t like to impose upon your hospitality. I know how difficult everything is for you. But one has to take one’s opportunities. May I ask you a question?

_Lincoln_: Certainly, ma’am.

_Mrs. Otherly_: Isn’t it possible for you to stop this war? In the name of a suffering country, I ask you that.

_Mrs. Blow_: I’m sure such a question would never have entered my head.

_Lincoln_: It is a perfectly right question. Ma’am, I have but one thought always–how can this thing be stopped? But we must ensure the integrity of the Union. In two years war has become an hourly bitterness to me. I believe I suffer no less than any man. But it must be endured. The cause was a right one two years ago. It is unchanged.

_Mrs. Otherly_: I know you are noble and generous. But I believe that war must be wrong under any circumstances, for any cause.

_Mrs. Blow_: I’m afraid the President would have but little encouragement if he listened often to this kind of talk.

_Lincoln_: I beg you not to harass yourself, madam. Ma’am, I too believe war to be wrong. It is the weakness and the jealousy and the folly of men that make a thing so wrong possible. But we are all weak, and jealous, and foolish. That’s how the world is, ma’am, and we cannot outstrip the world. Some of the worst of us are sullen, aggressive still–just clumsy, greedy pirates. Some of us have grown out of that. But the best of us have an instinct to resist aggression if it won’t listen to persuasion. You may say it’s a wrong instinct. I don’t know. But it’s there, and it’s there in millions of good men. I don’t believe it’s a wrong instinct, I believe that the world must come to wisdom slowly. It is for us who hate aggression to persuade men always and earnestly against it, and hope that, little by little, they will hear us. But in the mean time there will come moments when the aggressors will force the instinct to resistance to act. Then we must act earnestly, praying always in our courage that never again will this thing happen. And then we must turn again, and again, and again to persuasion. This appeal to force is the misdeed of an imperfect world. But we are imperfect. We must strive to purify the world, but we must not think ourselves pure above the world. When I had this thing to decide, it would have been easy to say, “No, I will have none of it; it is evil, and I will not touch it.” But that would have decided nothing, and I saw what I believed to be the truth as I now put it to you, ma’am. It’s a forlorn thing for any man to have this responsibility in his heart. I may see wrongly, but that’s how I see.

_Mrs. Blow_: I quite agree with you, Mr. President. These brutes in the South must be taught, though I doubt whether you can teach them anything except by destroying them. That’s what Goliath says.

_Lincoln_: Goliath must be getting quite an old man.

_Mrs. Blow_: Indeed, he’s not, Mr. President Goliath is only thirty-eight.

_Lincoln_: Really, now? Perhaps I might be able to get him a commission.

_Mrs. Blow_: Oh, no. Goliath couldn’t be spared. He’s doing contracts for the government, you know. Goliath couldn’t possibly go. I’m sure he will be very pleased when I tell him what you say about these people who want to stop the war, Mr. President. I hope Mrs. Otherly is satisfied. Of course, we could all complain. We all have to make sacrifices, as I told Mrs. Otherly.

_Mrs. Otherly_: Thank you, Mr. President, for what you’ve said. I must try to think about it. But I always believed war to be wrong. I didn’t want my boy to go, because I believed it to be wrong. But he would. That came to me last week.

_She hands a paper to_ LINCOLN.

_Lincoln (looks at it, rises, and hands it back to her)_: Ma’am, there are times when no man may speak. I grieve for you, I grieve for you.

_Mrs. Otherly (rising)_: I think I will go. You don’t mind my saying what I did?

_Lincoln_: We are all poor creatures, ma’am. Think kindly of me. (_He takes her hand_.) Mary.

MRS. LINCOLN _goes out with_ MRS. OTHERLY.

_Mrs. Blow_: Of course it’s very sad for her, poor woman. But she makes her trouble worse by these perverted views, doesn’t she? And, I hope you will show no signs of weakening, Mr. President, till it has been made impossible for those shameful rebels to hold up their heads again. Goliath says you ought to make a proclamation that no mercy will be shown to them afterwards. I’m sure I shall never speak to one of them again.


Well, I must be going. I’ll see Mrs. Lincoln as I go out. Good-afternoon, Mr. President. _She turns at the door, and offers_ LINCOLN _her handy which he does not take_.

_Lincoln_: Good-afternoon, madam. And I’d like to offer ye a word of advice. That poor mother told me what she thought. I don’t agree with her, but I honour her. She’s wrong, but she is noble. You’ve told me what you think. I don’t agree with you, and I’m ashamed of you and your like. You, who have sacrificed nothing, babble about destroying the South while other people conquer it. I accepted this war with a sick heart, and I’ve a heart that’s near to breaking every day. I accepted it in the name of humanity, and just and merciful dealing, and the hope of love and charity on earth. And you come to me, talking of revenge and destruction, and malice, and enduring hate. These gentle people are mistaken, but they are mistaken cleanly, and in a great name. It is you that dishonour the cause for which we stand–it is you who would make it a mean and little thing. Good-afternoon.

_He opens the door and_ MRS. BLOW, _finding words inadequate, goes_. LINCOLN _moves across the room and rings a bell. After a moment,_ SUSAN _comes in_. Susan, if that lady comes here again she may meet with an accident.

_Susan_: Yes, sir. Is that all, sir?

_Lincoln_: No, sir, it is not all, sir. I don’t like this coat. I am going to change it. I shall be back in a minute or two, and if a gentleman named Mr. William Custis calls, ask him to wait in here.

_He goes out_. SUSAN _collects the teacups. As she is going to the door a quiet, grave white-haired negro appears facing her_. SUSAN _starts violently_.

_The Negro (he talks slowly and very quietly)_: It is all right.

_Susan_: And who in the name of night might you be?

_The Negro_: Mista William Custis. Mista Lincoln tell me to come here. Nobody stop me, so I come to look for him.

_Susan_: Are you Mr. William Custis?

_Custis_: Yes.

_Susan_: Mr. Lincoln will be here directly. He’s gone to change his coat. You’d better sit down.

_Custis_: Yes.

_He does so, looking about him with a certain pathetic inquisitiveness_. Mista Lincoln live here. You his servant? A very fine thing for young girl to be servant to Mista Lincoln.

_Susan_: Well, we get on very well together.

_Custis_: A very bad thing to be slave in South.

_Susan_: Look here, you Mr. Custis, don’t you go mixing me up with slaves.

_Custis_: No, you not slave. You servant, but you free body. That very mighty thing. A poor servant, born free.

_Susan_: Yes, but look here, are you pitying me, with your poor servant?

_Custis_: Pity? No. I think you very mighty.

_Susan_: Well, I don’t know so much about mighty. But I expect you’re right. It isn’t every one that rises to the White House.

_Custis_: It not every one that is free body. That is why you mighty.

_Susan_: I’ve never thought much about it.

_Custis:_ I think always about it.

_Susan_: I suppose you’re free, aren’t you?

_Custis_: Yes. Not born free. I was beaten when I a little nigger. I saw my mother–I will not remember what I saw.

_Susan_: I’m sorry, Mr. Custis. That was wrong.

_Custis_: Yes. Wrong.

_Susan_: Are all nig–I mean are all black gentlemen like you?

_Custis_: No. I have advantages. They not many have advantages.

_Susan_: No, I suppose not. Here’s Mr. Lincoln coming.

LINCOLN, _coated after his heart’s desire, comes to the door_. CUSTIS _rises_. This is the gentleman you said, sir.

_She goes out with the tray.

Lincoln:_ Mr. Custis, I’m very glad to see you. _He offers his hand_. CUSTIS _takes it, and is about to kiss it_. LINCOLN _stops him gently. (Sitting):_ Sit down, will you? _Custis (still standing, keeping his hat in his hand):_ It very kind of Mista Lincoln ask me to come to see him.

_Lincoln_: I was afraid you might refuse.

_Custis:_ A little shy? Yes. But so much to ask Glad to come.

_Lincoln_: Please sit down.

_Custis_: Polite?

_Lincoln_: Please. I can’t sit myself, you see, if you don’t.

_Custis_: Black, black. White, white.

_Lincoln_: Nonsense. Just two old men, sitting together (CUSTIS _sits to_ LINCOLN’S _gesture_)–and talking.

_Custis_: I think I older man than Mista Lincoln.

_Lincoln_: Yes, I expect you are, I’m fifty-four.

_Custis_: I seventy-two.

_Lincoln_: I hope I shall look as young when I’m seventy-two.

_Custis_: Cold water. Much walk. Believe in Lord Jesus Christ. Have always little herbs learnt when a little nigger. Mista Lincoln try. Very good.

_He hands a small twist of paper to_ LINCOLN.

_Lincoln_: Now, that’s uncommon kind of you. Thank you. I’ve heard much about your preaching, Mr. Custis.

_Custis_: Yes.

_Lincoln_: I should like to hear you.

_Custis_: Mista Lincoln great friend of my people.

_Lincoln_: I have come at length to a decision.

_Custis_: A decision?

_Lincoln_: Slavery is going. We have been resolved always to confine it. Now it shall be abolished.

_Custis_: You sure?

_Lincoln_: Sure.

CUSTIS _slowly stands up, bows his head, and sits again_.

_Custis_: My people much to learn. Years, and years, and years. Ignorant, frightened, suspicious people. It will be difficult, very slow. (_With growing passion_.) But born free bodies. Free. I born slave, Mista Lincoln. No man understand who not born slave.

_Lincoln_: Yes, yes. I understand.

_Custis (with his normal regularity)_: I think so. Yes.

_Lincoln_: I should like you to ask me any question you wish.

_Custis_: I have some complaint. Perhaps I not understand.

_Lincoln_: Tell me.

_Custis_: Southern soldiers take some black men prisoner. Black men in your uniform. Take them prisoner. Then murder them.

_Lincoln_: I know.

_Custis_: What you do?

_Lincoln_: We have sent a protest.

_Custis_: No good. Must do more.

_Lincoln_: What more can we do?

_Custis_: You know.