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Lincoln's Magnanimity

( Originally Published 1902 )

I CALLED at the office of a daily newspaper in Newark, N. J., one morning and asked to see the editor, Mr. Noah Brooks. He came out, and invited me into his sanctum. After begging his pardon for intruding upon his busy hour, I said, " Mr. Brooks, I understand that you were the editor of a newspaper in Illinois, and that you were an intimate friend of Mr. Lincoln." " Yes, that is true," he answered. I said, " Mr. Brooks, would you relate to me some incident illustrating Mr. Lincoln's magnanimity ?" " There are so many I could give you," he said. " Take this one. There was quite an organized opposition on the part of the radical wing of the Republican party to Lincoln's nomination for the Presidency for the second term. Among the leaders was a John Wilson. His friends caused a change in a department at Washington to make a place for him, a place as Third Auditor of the Treasury. The orthodox Republicans were disgusted at the insolence of himself and his friends in applying for the position after his hostility to the President. I myself went to the White House to pro-test against his appointment. As I entered the door, I met Wilson and two friends coming out in great glee. I went in to see the President and he, noticing the disappointment in my face, said, ` You do not look pleased,' ` I am not,' I said. ` Is not Mr. Wilson an honest man,' asked the President. ` Yes,' said I. ` Is he not competent?' `Yes, I understand so.' `Would he make a good Third Auditor of the Treasury?" ` Yes, I presume he would.' ` Then I think that settles it. I do not allow any personal ill-treatment to affect my official administration.' Then he went on to say, ` When Moses was on the Mount receiving the law of God, Aaron made a golden calf and caused a bolt in the camp. When Moses came down he was very angry, but Aaron got his commission all the same,' that was the way he had of telling me he had given Wilson his commission despite my anger."

How few in life will forget an injury, or fail to punish an enemy if the opportunity shall offer. A man must be pretty close to the heart of the Christ to reward an enemy.

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