Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 7.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Reply to Loyal Colored People of Baltimore upon Presentation of a Bible [1]

September 7, 1864

This occasion would seem fitting for a lengthy response to the address which you have just made. I would make one, if prepared; but I am not. I would promise to respond in writing, had not experience taught me that business will not allow me to do so. I can only now say, as I have often before said, it has always been a sentiment with me that all mankind should be free. So far as able, within my sphere, I have always acted as I believed to be right and just; and I have done all I could for the good of mankind generally. In letters and documents sent from this office I have expressed myself better than I now can. In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man.

All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it. To you I return my most sincere thanks for the very elegant copy of the great Book of God which you present.

Annotation

[1]   Washington Daily Morning Chronicle, September 8, 1864. Reports in the New York Tribune and Baltimore Sun are less complete. On July 6, 1864, R. Stockett Mathews of Baltimore wrote Lincoln asking him to name the day when he could receive the committee representing the loyal colored men of Baltimore who wished to present him with a Bible. No reply seems to have been made. On August 26, James W. Tyson wrote Lincoln further, and on August 31, Mathews wrote again: ``I have the honour of requesting you to refer to the letter which was addressed to you by myself at the instance of a Committee of Colored Men of this City, and to beg that you will give me an answer to it, at your earliest convenience. I have taken it for granted that your Excellency's multifarious and harassing engagements since July 7th ult. have caused you to overlook the fact, that the colored people are quite as eager to present to you the very handsome expression of their gratitude which they have prepared---as they were to get it up---and I also venture to suggest . . . that its early presentation will be productive of some good in a public sense---independently of the profound gratification which these grateful people will feel in knowing that their superb Bible is at last in the hands for which it was designed.'' (DLC-RTL).

The Bible, now in the Fisk University Library, Nashville, Tennessee, is inscribed

Page  543``To Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, the Friend of Universal Freedom, from the Loyal Colored People of Baltimore, as a token of respect and Gratitude. Baltimore, 4th July 1864.'' The Chronicle account of the presentation is as follows:

``Yesterday afternoon a Bible was presented, on behalf of the loyal colored residents of Baltimore, by Revs. A. W. Wayman, S. W. Chase, and W. H. Brown, and Mr. William H. Francis, to President Lincoln. The members of the committee were introduced by Mr. S. Mathews, of Maryland, and individually welcomed by the President. This ceremony having been concluded, Rev. S. W. Chase addressed the President as follows:

`` `MR. PRESIDENT: The loyal colored people of Baltimore have entrusted us with authority to present this Bible as a testimonial of their appreciation of your humane conduct towards the people of our race. While all others of this nation are offering their tribute of respect to you, we cannot omit suitable manifestation of ours. Since our incorporation into the American family we have been true and loyal, and we are now ready to aid in defending the country, to be armed and trained in military matters, in order to assist in protecting and defending the star-spangled banner.

`` `Towards you, sir, our hearts will ever be warm with gratitude. We come to present to you this copy of the Holy Scriptures, as a token of respect for your active participation in furtherance of the cause of the emancipation of our race. This great event will be a matter of history. Hereafter, when our children shall ask what mean these tokens, they will be told of your worthy deeds, and will rise up and call you blessed.

`` `The loyal colored people of this country everywhere will remember you at the Throne of Divine Grace. May the King Eternal, an all-wise. Providence protect and keep you, and when you pass from this world to that of eternity, may you be borne to the bosom of your Saviour and your God.' ''