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  --  CHANGING POSITION.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XIX.

Rollin, Frank [Frances] A.
Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany



THE 6th of February, 1865, found him in Washington, for the purpose of having an interview, if possible, with President Lincoln and the secretary of war. To his friend, the Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, whose guest he was, he made known the principles on which he based his intended interview.

Mr. Garnet, living in Washington, and cognizant of every measure inaugurated among the colored people relative to the war, and remembering their ill success with the executive, at first attempted to discourage him. Mr. Garnet said to him, "Don't aim to say too much in that direction. While your position is a good one, yet I am afraid you will not see the president. So many of our men have called upon him of late, all expecting something, and coming away dissatisfied, some of them openly complaining, that I am fearful he has come to the conclusion to receive no more black visitors." To this he replied, "Mr. Garnet, I see you are mistaken in regard to my course. I am here to ask nothing of the president, but to offer him something for the government. If it suits him, and he accepts, I will take anything he may offer me in return."

His friend, still persisting, responded to him: said he,

"Doctor, I see you are on the 'right track,' but I am fearful, after all, that you will not get to see him." On Major Delany proposing the secretary of war as a medium through which to reach the president, Mr. Garnet exclaimed, "My dear sir, you have made maters worse. I have been abroad; I have been near the persons of nobility and royalty; but I never saw personages so hard to reach as the heads of government in Washington." This information by no means deterred him. It was impossible for a host to turn Martin Delany from his task, determined as he was to continue it to the end.

He remarked to the reverend gentleman that "that mansion of every government has outer and inner doors, the outer defended by guards; the security of the inner is usually a secret, except to the inmates of the council-chamber. Across this inner lies a ponderous beam, of the finest quality, highly polished, designed only for the finest cabinet-work; it can neither be stepped over nor passed around, and none can enter except this is moved away; and he that enters is the only one to remove it at the time, which is the required passport for his admission. I can pass the outer door, through the guards, and I am persuaded that I can move this polished beam of cabinet-work, and I will do it."

Mr. Garnet, becoming convinced by his persistency, that if that strength of will and perseverance of a most untiring character, which had contributed so much to his successes on other occasions, could avail, then his friend's success in this case was certain. Turning to his lady, who was present, he said, "I believe he will

do it. Go, my brother," added he, "and may God speed you to a full accomplishment of your desires." The lady's response, "Of course he will," was not without effect, coming when most needed, and ratifying a faith in perseverance.

He set himself to work to devise some means by which to gain the desired interview, and succeeded so far, that on Monday, 8th of February, he sent his card up to the president, and on the same afternoon, about three o'clock, while visiting the patent officer, a message was received by him, that an audience was granted for the next morning at eight o'clock.

The auspicious morning dawned upon him, and the appointed hour found him advanced within the "outer gate." The President was absent, at the war department. But not unmindful of his engagement, he left a messenger to be sent after him.

In the appointment of Martin Delany, it was for no holiday service, or for conciliatory measures towards the colored people and their friends, for that could have been more easily and consistently effected by promoting some from among the gallant soldiers already in the service. Their heroism and endurance in the field, their discipline and manly bearing in the camp, are the nation's household stories. Familiar to all is the splendid martial fame acquired by the colored regiments of Massachusetts, while their repeated refusal, to a man, for nearly one year, to receive from the government less than the fulfilment of its pledges, under which they enrolled as soldiers of Massachusetts, has passed into the history of our counter, furnishing an attitude of the moral sublime unparalleled amid the many glorious achievements of our war.


But the new appointment was made to carry out certain policies of the administration, which remain undeveloped in consequences of the termination of the rebellion.

If the rebellion had continued, these measures would have been developed of necessity, and like all other good measures of the war, would have been approved by a generous public sentiment. But the war having ceased, they remain on record, to the honor of the two great heads and hearts that conceived them and anticipated their adoption.

In speaking of Mr. Stanton, he says, "The secretary of war ever stood side by side with the great and good President Lincoln, in every advanced measure. He stood foremost in the cabinet in the interest of the colored people. Now that the president has passed away, I trust that the noble war minister will receive the reward due to him by a grateful people."


  --  CHANGING POSITION.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XIX.