Six Months at the White House/XLIX
A morning or two after the visit of Mr. Greeley, I was called upon by a gentleman, who requested my assistance in securing a brief interview with the President, for the purpose of presenting him with an elaborate pen-and-ink "allegorical, symbolic" representation of the "Emancipation Proclamation;" which, in a massive carved frame, had been purchased at a recent "Sanitary Fair," in one of the large cities, by a committee of gentlemen, expressly for this object. The composition contained a tree, representing Liberty; a portrait of Mr. Lincoln; soldiers, monitors, broken fetters, etc.; together with the text of the proclamation, all executed with a pen. Artistically speaking, such works have no value,--they are simply interesting, as curiosities. Mr. Lincoln kindly accorded the desired opportunity to make the presentation, which occupied but a few moments, and was in the usual form. He accepted the testimonial, he said, not for himself, but in behalf of "the cause in which all were engaged." When the group dispersed, I remained with the President. He returned to his desk; while I examined curiously the pen work, which was exceedingly minute in detail. "This is quite wonderful!" I said, at length. Mr. Lincoln looked up from his papers; "Yes," he rejoined; "it is what I call ingenious nonsense!"
The evening following this affair, on entering the President's office, about eleven o'clock, I found him alone, seated at the long table, with a large pile of military commissions before him, which he was signing one by one. As I sat down beside him, he presently remarked, "I do not, as you see, pretend to read over these documents. I see that Stanton has signed them, so I conclude they are all right." Pausing here, he read a portion of one, beginning with the name of the individual, "---- is hereby appointed adjutant-general, with the rank of captain, etc. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War." "There;" said he, appending his own signature in the opposite corner, "that fixes him out." Thus he went on chatting and writing, until he had finished the lot; then, rising from his chair, he stretched himself, and said, "Well, I have got that job husked out; now I guess I will go over to the War Department before I go to bed, and see if there is any news. Walking over with him at his request,--to divert his mind I repeated a story told me the night previous concerning a 'contraband' who had fallen into the hands of some good pious people, and was being taught by them to read and pray. Going off by himself one day, he was overheard to commence a prayer by the introduction of himself as "Jim Williams--a berry good nigga' to wash windows; 'spec's you know me now?'"
All amusing illustration of the fact that whatever the nature of an incident related to the President, it never failed to remind him of something similar, followed. After a hearty laugh at what he called this "direct way of putting the case," he said: "The story that suggests to me, has no resemblance to it save in the 'washing windows' part. A lady in Philadelphia had a pet poodle dog, which mysteriously disappeared. Rewards were offered for him, and a great ado made without effect. Some weeks passed, and all hope of the favorite's return had been given up, when a servant brought him in one day, in the filthiest condition imaginable. The lady was overjoyed to see her pet again, but horrified at his appearance. 'Where did you find him?' she exclaimed. 'Oh,' replied the man, very unconcernedly, 'a negro down the street had him tied to the end of a pole, swabbing windows.'"