Abraham Lincoln Civil War Caricature
"BRUTUS AND CAESAR"
‘‘Wall, now! Do tell. Who’s you?” exclaims Lincoln.
‘‘I am dy ebil genus, Massa Linking, Dis child am awful impressional.”
Lincoln In Caricature by Rufus Rockwell Wilson
The cartoon, Brutus and Caesar drawn by Tenniel, appeared in London Punch on August 15, 1863. Mr. Lincoln as Brutus, reading a jest book in his tent at night, is confronted by a gigantic negro, the ghost of Caesar. ‘‘Wall, now! Do tell. Who’s you?” exclaims the startled Brutus. ‘‘I am dy ebil genus, Massa Linking,” is the reply. “Dis child am awful impressional.”
Contrast with the contemptuous spirit reflected in Tenniel’s drawing the account given by Frederick Douglass of his first meeting and talk with Mr. Lincoln about the time that the drawing appeared in Punch. It was in the summer of 1863 that Douglass, born a slave but long the most eminent representative of his race, called on the President to urge that if the black man was to do a soldier’s duty then the government must assure him all the rights of a soldier. “I was never more quickly or more completely put at ease in the presence of a great man than in that of Abraham Lincoln,” Douglass recorded in later years. ‘‘I at once felt myself in the presence of an honest man—one whom I could love, honor and trust without reserve or doubt.”
“Mr. Lincoln listened with patience to all I had to say. He admitted the justice of my demand for the promotion of colored soldiers for good conduct in the field, but on the matter of retaliation he differed from me entirely. It was a terrible remedy, and one which it was difficult to apply. ‘Once begun,’ said he, ‘I do not know where such a measure would stop.’ If he could get hold of persons who were guilty of killing colored prisoners in cold blood he could easily retaliate, but the thought of hanging men for a crime perpetrated by others was revolting to his feelings. In all this I saw the tender heart of the man rather than the stern commander in chief of the American army and navy, and, while I could not agree with him, I could but respect his humane spirit.”
So ended the first talk of Frederick Douglass with Abraham Lincoln. That the white man earnestly pondered what the colored man said to him became manifest when on July 30, 1863, the President issued the retaliatory order of which an account has been given in another place. Douglass had other meetings with Mr. Lincoln before the war’s end, meetings which bred in the former slave growing and grateful regard for the President’s absolute freedom from prejudice of class or condition. “He was the only man of distinction I ever met,’’ wrote Douglass in old age, “who never reminded me by word or manner of my color.”
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