Author: By David Usborne, US Editor
And then there was the letter, a short one, that he wrote to an eight-year-old boy who was being tormented by his incredulous schoolfellows.
The boy was named George Evans Patten and the note Lincoln sent him, written and dispatched two weeks after his first inauguration in 1861, will go on sale in Philadelphia this morning for $60,000 (£36,000).
A high price, perhaps, for a single sheet of yellowed paper bearing the late President’s looping script. But the letter, being sold by the Raab Collection that specialises in historical letters and documents, will attract attention because of the unusual glimpse it affords of the humanity of Lincoln, the bi-centenary of whose birth has been marked with celebrations across America for much of this year.
He wrote it, one would assume, out of a vague sense of responsibility towards Master Patten who was being mocked by his schoolmates for having told them that he had met the newly-minted President in person. The encounter happened while he was travelling with his father, a journalist, to Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln is buried.
When George bragged of meeting the 16th President and commander-in-chief, however, his schoolmates would have none of it. So their class teacher wrote to Lincoln to explain the playground dispute and seek the truth. Lincoln wrote back confirming the event. His note reads simply: “Whom it may concern, I did see and talk with master George Evans Patten, last May, at Springfield, Illinois. Respectfully, A Lincoln.”
According to Nathan Raab, the vice-president of the Raab Collection ? a Philadelphia house of historical manuscripts which has bought and sold numerous examples of Lincoln’s writing over the years, including full speeches ? this sale is of particular importance. It is the only known letter written by the 16th US President ? who guided America through the Civil War and the end of slavery before being assassinated in Washington in 1865 ? to someone so young.
As part of the bicentenary this year, museums and archives in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have put examples of Lincoln’s writing online for perusal by the public for the first time.
Lincoln “could say the most powerful things in the fewest number of words”, Mr Raab noted earlier this year. “His words spoke worlds of him as a person… There is so much about him we want to call our own.”
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