Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Lincoln letter for sale
Abraham Lincoln letter goes up for sale
President's acknowledgement of a meeting with an eight-year-old boy could fetch £36,000
* Ed Pilkington in New York
* guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 18 November 2009 19.37 GMT
President Abraham Lincoln letter
The letter President Abraham Lincoln wrote to a boy in 1861. Photograph: Raab Collection/AP
The lesson of history for any small child is that if you are lucky enough to be presented to the future president of the US, then make sure you have evidence of the encounter before bragging about it to your classmates.
George Patten, aged eight, discovered the bitter truth of that maxim in 1860 after he boasted at school about having met Abraham Lincoln, having been introduced to the then presidential candidate with his journalist father.
The boy's friends thought he had made the story up, and bullied him. To settle the matter, Patten's teacher wrote to the White House asking for clarification about whether there was any truth to the anecdote.
On 19 March 1861, two weeks after his inauguration and despite being preoccupied with forming an administration and the early slide into civil war, Lincoln took the trouble to reply: "To whom it may concern: I did see and talk with George Evans Patten, last May, at Springfield, Illinois. Respectfully, A. Lincoln."
The letter has now been put up for auction by Philadelphia's Raab Collection at an estimated price of $60,000 (£36,000).
Last year another letter written by Lincoln to a group of children sold for $3.4m – a record for a manuscript in the United States.
That was an 1864 reply to a petition made by 195 children who asked him to ensure the freedom of "all the slave children in this country".
In the letter, dated 5 April 1864, he wrote: "Please tell these little people I am very glad their young hearts are so full of just and generous sympathy, and that while I have not the power to grant all they ask, I trust that they will remember that God has, and that, as it seems, He wills to do it."