American Abolitionists and Antislavery Activists:
Conscience of the Nation

Updated April 4, 2021

l to r: Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips

Updated May 3, 2015

Lincoln Reply to Eliza P. Gurney, October 26, 1862

Reply to Eliza P. Gurney[1]

October 26, 1862

I am glad of this interview, and glad to know that I have your sympathy and prayers. We are indeed going through a great trial---a fiery trial. In the very responsible position in which I happen to be placed, being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father, as I am, and as we all are, to work out his great purposes, I have desired that all my works and acts may be according to his will, and that it might be so, I have sought his aid---but if after endeavoring to do my best in the light which he affords me, I find my efforts fail, I must believe that for some purpose unknown to me, He wills it otherwise If I had had my way, this war would never have been commenced; If I had been allowed my way this war would have been ended before this, but we find it still continues; and we must believe that He permits it for some wise purpose of his own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that he who made the world still governs it.



[1]   Copy, DLC-RTL. The copy of the interview preserved in the Lincoln Papers is in an unknown handwriting and bears the date 1862, ``Sept (28?)'' having been inserted in a different handwriting. Under this date Lincoln's reply is printed in the Complete Works (VIII, 50-51). The New York Tribune, October 28, 1862, however, gives an account of the interview as occurring on October 27, but Lincoln's letter to Mrs. Gurney, September 4, 1864, infra, specifies Sunday, September 26. Mrs. Gurney was the widow and third wife of Joseph J. Gurney, English Quaker, philanthropist and religious writer. Her address to the president as reproduced in the copy of the interview in the Lincoln Papers is in effect a sermon, at the conclusion of which Mrs. Gurney knelt ``and uttered a short but most beautiful, eloquent, and comprehensive prayer that light and wisdom might be shed down from on high, to guide our President . . . . After a brief pause the President replied.'' No newspaper which gives a verbatim report similar to the copy in the Lincoln Papers has been found.

Source:  Basler, Collected Works, Vol. V, p. 478.  [Downloaded 5/3/2015 from]