Lincoln, Abraham (1809–1865)
Sixteenth president of the United States, who, it has been
claimed, was influenced in his decision to free the slaves by
Spiritualist experiences. Immediately after his election to the
presidency, an article was published in the Cleveland Plaindealer
based on statements of medium J. B. Conklin, who identified
Lincoln as a sympathizer with Spiritualism. Conklin said Lincoln
was the unknown individual who frequently attended his
séances in New York, asked mental questions, and departed as
unnoticed as he had arrived. When the article was shown to
Lincoln, he reportedly did not contradict it but said ‘‘The only
falsehood in the statement is that the half of it has been told.
This article does not begin to tell the wonderful things I have
In a letter to Horace Greeley in August 1862, Lincoln stated
‘‘My paramount object is to save the union, and not either
to save or destroy slavery.’’ The antislavery proclamation was
dated a month later, September 1862, and was issued in January
1863. The change in Lincoln’s attitude was at least in part
brought about by the influences of Senator Thomas Richmond,
by his experiences through the mediums J. B. Conklin, Mrs.
Cranston Laurie, Mrs. Miller, Nettie Colburn (later known
under her married name Henrietta Maynard), and by Dr.
Farnsworth’s predictions. Senator Richmond, one of the leading
businessmen of Chicago, had a controlling interest in the
grain and shipping industries. While chairman of the committee
on banks and corporations, he became a personal friend of
Lincoln. In his book, God Dealing with Slavery (1870), Richmond
reproduced the letters which, under psychic influence, he sent
to the president.
Col. S. P. Kase claimed in the Spiritual Scientist that ‘‘for four
succeeding Sundays Mr. Conklin, the test medium, was a guest
at the presidential mansion. The result of these interviews was
the President’s proposition to his cabinet to issue the proclamation.’’
Col. Kase also narrated President Lincoln’s visit, in the
company of his wife, in Mrs. Laurie’s house. Laurie was a wellknown
medium. The colonel’s daughter, Mrs. Miller, produced
strong physical phenomena.
Colburn was another guest. She later became famous as an
inspirational speaker, but then she was scarcely out of her
teens. She passed into trance, approached the president with
closed eyes, and addressed him for a full hour and a half. The
sum total of her address was ‘‘This civil war will never cease.
The shout of victory will never ring through the North, till you
issue a proclamation that shall set free the enslaved millions of
your unhappy country.’’
In the same séance President Lincoln witnessed powerful
physical manifestations. The piano on which the medium was
playing rose four inches from the floor in spite of the efforts of
Col. Kase, Judge Wattles, and the two soldiers who accompanied
the president to weigh it down.
In 1891 Colburn (then Mrs. Maynard) published the book
Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist in which she described her
very first meeting with President Lincoln. In 1862 in Washington,
Mrs. Lincoln had a sitting with her and was so much impressed
that she asked her to come and see the president. According
to Maynard’s account in her book, she delivered a
trance address in which the President
‘‘was charged with the utmost solemnity and force of manner
not to abate the terms of its [Emancipation Proclamation]
issue and not to delay its enforcement as a law beyond the
opening of the year; and he was assured that it was to be the
crowning event of his administration and his life; and that while
he was being counselled by strong parties to defer the enforcement
of it, hoping to supplant it by other measures and to delay
action, he must in no wise heed such counsel, but stand firm to
his convictions and fearlessly perform the work and fulfill the
mission for which he had been raised by an overruling Providence.
Those present declared that they lost sight of the timid
girl in the majesty of the utterance, the strength and force of
the language, and the importance of that which was conveyed,
and seemed to realise that some strong masculine spirit force
was giving speech to almost divine commands. I shall never forget
the scene around me when I regained consciousness. I was
standing in front of Mr. Lincoln, and he was sitting back in his
chair, with his arms folded upon his breast, looking intently at
me. I stepped back, naturally confused at the situation—not remembering
at once where I was; and glancing around the
group where perfect silence reigned. It took me a moment to
remember my whereabouts. A gentleman present then said in
a low tone ‘Mr. President, did you notice anything peculiar in
the method of address’ Mr. Lincoln raised himself, as if shaking
off his spell. He glanced quickly at the full-length portrait
of Daniel Webster that hung above the piano, and replied ‘Yes,
and it is very singular, very!’ with a marked emphasis.’’
On Mr. Some’s inquiry whether there had been any pressure
brought to bear upon the president to defer the enforcement
of the proclamation, Lincoln admitted, ‘‘It is taking all my
nerve and strength to withstand such a pressure.’’
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Britten, Emma Hardinge. Nineteenth-Century Miracles. London
& Manchester, 1883.
Fleckles, Elliott V. Willie Speaks Out The Psychic World of Abraham
Lincoln. St. Paul, Minn. Llewellyn Publications, 1974.
Maynard, Nettie Colburn. Was Abraham Lincoln A Spiritualist
Philadelphia R. C. Hartrampft, 1891. Reprint, London
Psychic Book Club, 1956.
Shirley, Ralph. Short Life of Abraham Lincoln. London 1919.