“It was Impossible to Detect In him the Slightest Feeling of Pride”

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It was at City Point, on Wednesday, April 6 th, that a small party of invited guests, which comprised members of the Cabinet and distinguished Senators, and in which Mrs. Lincoln had been kind enough to include me, came to join the President. We found him established on board the River Queen.

He led us at once to the drawing-room of that handsome boat. Curiously enough, it was in that very drawing-room, two months previous, that there had taken place, between Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell, delegates from the Richmond government, on the one hand, and Messrs. Lincoln and Seward, on the other, the conference called that of Hampton Roads.

Mr. Lincoln showed us the place that each delegate had occupied, and spoke a moment about the details of that historic interview, which took place, as he himself told us, unrecorded by any secretary, the five men present not even having with them a pencil or bit of paper to note down what had been said or done.

But he remained silent regarding the questions agitated during the conference. One of the few confidants of Mr. Lincoln’s thoughts, however, added, indicating the place occupied by Mr. Campbell at the interview : “ From there came the only serious proposition.” He was alluding to the proposed war with Mexico, which the rebel government had submitted, and which Mr. Lincoln’s political uprightness had made him decline.

Drawing then from his pocket a bundle of papers, the President read to us the despatches he had just received from General Grant. In the midst of this reading he paused a moment, and went to fetch his maps. He soon returned holding them in his hands, and spreading them on a table, he showed us the place of each army corps, indicating further the exact spot where, according to General Grant’s precise messages, it was certain that the rebels would lay down their arms.

It seemed evident that his mind was satisfied and at rest ; but in spite of the manifest success of his policy it was impossible to detect in him the slightest feeling of pride, much less of vanity. He spoke with the modest accent of a man who realizes that success has crowned his persistent efforts, and who finds in that very success the end of a terrible responsibility. He had visited Richmond, he said to us ; the reception given him there did not seem to be of good omen ; his only preoccupation appeared to be the necessity of wiping out the consequences of the civil war, and to drive the war itself from the memory of all, nay, even of its criminal instigators ; far then, from feeling any resentment against the vanquished, he was rather inclined to place too much confidence in them.

After having thus explained to us the state of affairs, which seemed so satisfactory, Mr. Lincoln left us and went ashore to the headquarters. He was obliged, he told us, to draw up instructions for the Lieutenant-General. We then spent the entire forenoon visiting the Federal encampments.

Quoted in Marquis de Chambrun, “Personal Recollections of Mr. Lincoln,” Scribner’s 13 (January 1893), p. 28.

2 thoughts on ““It was Impossible to Detect In him the Slightest Feeling of Pride”

    Others About Modesty « Abraham Lincoln said:
    April 22, 2020 at 16:18

    […] “It was Impossible to Detect in him the Slightest Feeling of Pride” […]

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    April 23, 2020 at 20:22

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