Five Minutes To Freedom

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I shall ever remember, with deep satisfaction, the private interview you were so kind as to accord to Mr. [Theodore] Tilton [editor of the abolitionist newspaper, The Independent ] and myself, last June. Having full faith in your integrity of purpose, and inflexible determination to stand by every word and syllable enunciated by you in your emancipation proclamations, come what may, I have frequently had occasion, both in my editorial capacity and as a lecturer, to defend you against the many sweeping accusations that have been brought against you, sometimes even on the anti-slavery platform. God be with you to the end, to strengthen, enlighten, inspire your mind and heart, and render your administration illustrious to all coming ages! God grant that it may be your enviable privilege to announce, ere long, that, by an amendment of the Constitution, slavery is forever abolished in the United States! …”

Executive Mansion Washington, 7th February, 1865 My Dear Mr. Garrison:

I have your kind letter of the 21st of January, and can only beg that you will pardon the seeming neglect occasioned by my constant engagements. When I received the spirited and admirable painting, “Waiting for the Hour,” I directed my Secretary not to acknowledge its arrival at once, preferring to make any personal acknowledgment of the thoughtful kindness of the donors; and waiting for some leisure hour, I have committed the discourtesy of not replying at all.

I hope you will believe that my thanks, though late, are most cordial, and I request that you will convey them to those associated with you in this flattering and generous gift.

I am very truly,

Your friend and servant,

A. Lincoln

A little over two months later, Garrison traveled south to Charleston to watch with other dignitaries as the tattered Union flag was raised again above Fort Sumter. Following the ceremony, Garrison attended a dinner at the Charleston Hotel and afterward spoke triumphantly of the great moral victory that Union arms had finally won. “Yes, we are living in altered times,” he said. “To me it is something like the transformation from death to life—from the cerements of the grave to the robes of heaven. ” Everything seemed to have changed for the better, even “that noble man, Abraham Lincoln.… Either he has become a Garrisonian Abolitionist or I have become a Lincoln Emancipationist, for I know that we blend together, like kindred drops, into one, and his brave heart beats for human freedom everywhere.”

As Garrison spoke that evening, Lincoln was attending Ford’s Theater in Washington.

—G.G.W.