Friday, November 27, 2009 11/27/09 - lincoln ejects a visitor

In today's encore excerpt - the
portrait artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter
(1830-1900), who used the White House as a
studio while painting Abraham Lincoln,
studied and painted Lincoln for nearly six
months. On at least one notable occasion, he
saw the forceful side of Lincoln's
personality. He wrote:

"It has been the business of my life to study
the human face, and I have said repeatedly to
friends that Mr. Lincoln had the saddest face
I ever attempted to paint. During some of the
dark days of the spring and summer of 1864, I
saw him at times when his care-worn, troubled
appearance was enough to bring the tears of
sympathy into the eyes of his most bitter
opponents. I recall particularly one day,
when, having occasion to pass through the
main hall of the domestic apartments, I met
him alone, pacing up and down a narrow
passage, his hands behind him, his head bent
forward upon his breast, heavy black rings
under his eyes, showing sleepless
nights--altogether such a picture of the
effects of sorrow and care as I have never
seen! ...

"A great deal has been said of the uniform
meekness and kindness of heart of Mr.
Lincoln, but there would sometimes be
afforded evidence that one grain of sand too
much would break even this camel's back.
Among the callers at the White House one day
was an officer who had been cashiered from
the service. He had prepared an elaborate
defense of himself, which he consumed much
time in reading to the President. When he had
finished, Mr. Lincoln replied that even upon
his own statement of the case, the facts
would not warrant executive interference.
Disappointed, and considerably crestfallen,
the man withdrew. ...

"[However, the man returned on two additional
occasions and presented the same case in its
entirety, and was twice again dismissed]
Turning very abruptly, the officer said:
'Well, Mr. President, I see you are fully
determined not to do me justice!' This was
too aggravating, even for Mr. Lincoln.
Manifesting, however, no more feeling than
that indicated by a slight compression of the
lips, he very quietly arose, laid down a
package of papers he held in his hand, and
then suddenly seized the defunct officer by
the coat-collar, he marched him forcibly to
the door, saying, as he ejected him into the
passage: 'Sir, I gave you fair warning never
to show yourself in this room again. I can
bear censure, but not insult!' In a whining
tone the man begged for his papers, which he
had dropped. 'Begone, sir,' said the
President, 'your papers will be sent to you.
I never wish to see your face again.' "

Harold Holzer, Lincoln as I Knew Him,
Algonquin, Copyright 1999 by Harold Holzer,
pp. 193-195.


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