The best known letter between President Abraham Lincoln and the Shakers is Lincoln’s August, 1864 note thanking the Shakers for a rocking chair they’d sent him. That letter is in the Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon collection and a draft of it is in the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Most other correspondence between the Shakers and Lincoln concerned the Shakers’ desire for exemption from military service. There are, however, drafts of two letters in the museum’s collection that add insight into the Shakers’ opinion of and concern for the President as the Civil War came to an end.
These letters, written by Elder Frederick W. Evans and Brother Benjamin Gates, are both dated March 19, 1865, barely a month before President Lincoln’s assassination. The first is addressed to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of State William H. Steward, urging them to “send and entrust him [Lincoln] to us,” so the Shakers could “nurse him up with the ‘milk of human kindness’ administered by Common Sense.” It was meant to accompany the second letter, a direct invitation to the President to come to Mount Lebanon to recover his health after the stresses of the war. It reads:
We are impressed to invite you to our quiet home in Mount Lebanon, as a place of rest for body and mind.
If you prefer, come incog. leaving the President in Washington, to be worshiped and worried by the ‘Sovereign People.’
We will meet and receive you as sympathizing friends; brothers and sisters in Christ, who regard you as a servant of God to humanity, on the outer wheel.
We will ask for no favors, and you shall hear no complaints; nor any petitions, except to God for the restoration of your health and that you may be strengthened to accomplish your allotted task in the order of Divine Providence.
It is not known if letters prepared from these drafts were ever sent and, if sent, were received; if received, answered. Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon contributed copies of these letters to the Abraham Lincoln Papers with the hope they will be connected eventually with pieces of related correspondence as the project’s editors continue to work through Lincoln’s papers.