Today is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. I have always respected, even revered President Lincoln. Many years ago, I had heard a story about Lincoln's pardon of a young soldier. I did some research and found the following story:
A Congressman went up to the White House one morning on business, and saw in the anteroom an elderly man, crouched all alone in a corner, crying as if his heart would break. The Congressman passed into the President's room, transacted his business, and went on his way.
The next morning he was obliged again to go to the White house, and he saw the same old man crying, as before, in the corner. He stopped, and said to him, "What's the matter with you, old man?" The man told him the story of his son; that he was a soldier in the Army of the James - General Butler's army - that he had been convicted by a court-martial of an outrageous crime and sentenced to be shot next week; and that his Congressman was so convinced of the convicted man's guilt that he would not intervene.
"Well," said Mr. Alley, "I will take you into the Executive Chamber after I have finished my business, and you can tell Mr. Lincoln all about it."
"Well, my old friend, what can I do for you to-day?" Lincoln asked.
'The old man then repeated to Mr. Lincoln what he had already told the Congressman in the anteroom. Sorrow came over the President's face as he replied, "I am sorry to say I can do nothing for you. Listen to this telegram received from General Butler yesterday: "President Lincoln, I pray you not to interfere with the courts-martial of the army. You will destroy all discipline among our soldiers."- B.F. Butler."
Every word of this dispatch sent a fresh wave of despair to the old man's newly awakened hopes. Mr. Lincoln watched his grief for a minute, and then exclaimed, "By jingo, Butler or not Butler, here goes!'" Writing a few words and handing them to the old man.
The soldier's father broke down when he read, "Job Smith is not to be shot until further orders from me". - ABRAHAM LINCOLN.'
"Why," said the old man, "I thought it was to be a pardon; but you say, 'not to be shot till further orders,' and you may order him to be shot next week"
The president smiled at the old man's fears, and replied, "Well, my old friend, I see you are not very well acquainted with me. If your son never looks on death till further orders come from me to shoot him, he will live to be a great deal older than Methuselah.."So, for today, I am grateful for the compassionate legacy of a great man.