LINCOLN, Abraham. Manuscript document endorsed ("Approved, February 27, 1865") and signed ("Abraham Lincoln") as President, presenting the text of "An Act to pay to each of the surviving soldiers of the Revolution, five in number, whose names are in the pension rolls, [$300] annually, as a gratuity..."; countersigned by the Vice-President ("H.Hamlin, Vice-Pres United States") and by the Speaker of the House "Schuyler Colfax"). [Washington, D.C.], 27 February 1865.
Folio (15¾ x 8¼ in.), CALLIGRAPHIC MANUSCRIPT engrossed in a fine italic hand in black ink ON FINE PARCHMENT, originally folded horizontally, with minor abrasion of three or four lines text (slightly affecting legibility), Colfax's signature and the loop of the L in "Lincoln" a bit pale. Silk matted alongside five original 1864 cartes-de-visite by Brady and others, depicting surviving Revolutionary War veterans (3 referred to in the document), enclosed in a fine giltwood frame.
LINCOLN AND CONGRESS SALUTE THE LAST LIVING VETERANS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION: SURVIVORS OF WHAT LINCOLN TERMED "THE SILENT ARTILLERY OF TIME"
Elias B. Hilliard's Last Men of the Revolution (Hartford, 1864), enumerated only six last survivors of the 1776-1783 conflict. It rekindled the nation's interest in the few veterans of its first war, but by the time Congress passed the present act, only five were stil alive. The documents presents the text of the act, granting an annual stipend to the five surviving warriors: "...Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives...That...there shall be paid out of any monies in the Treasury...[$300]...annually, to each of the persons herinafter named...during their natural lives, as a gratuity on the part of the government--the five persons...being the sole survivors of the Army of the Revolution whose names are enrolled in the Books of the Pension Office..." Beneath, the document enumerates the five Revolutionary War veterans and notes their age, enlistment and present residences: 1) Lemuel Cook, about 98 years of age, enlisted at Hatfield, Massachusetts; 2) Samuel Downing, about 98, enlisted in Carroll County, New Hampshire; 3) William Hutchings, 100, enlisted at Newcastle, Maine; 4) Alexander Moroney, about 94, "enlisted at Lake George, New York as a drummer boy"; and 5) James Barham, 101, a "substitute for a drafted man in Compton County, Virginia." The act also called upon the Commissioner of Pensions to send a copy of the engrossed and signed document to each of the five Revolutionary War veterans. There is no record of which veteran may have owned the present document, and we are aware of only one other example, in a private collection.
In his Springfield Lyceum Address (27 January 1838), Lincoln memorably evoked the legacy of the American Revolution and the passing of the generation that fought to acheive Independence: "Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution," he proclaimed (Basler, 2:112). And, in the peroration, Lincoln predicted that Americans' memory of that conflict "must...grow more and more dim by the lapse of time." The veterans in particular, those with living memories of the nation's birth, are disappearing. "At the close of that struggle," he reminds us, "nearly every adult male had been a participant in some of its scenes," which meant that "a husband, a father, a son or a brother," constituted "a living history...in every family--a history bearing the indubitable testimonies of its own authenticity, in the limbs mangled, in the scars of wounds received...." But, "Those histories are gone. They can be read no more forever. They were a fortress of strength; but, what invading foemen could never do, the silent artillery of time has done...They are gone...." Those veterans, living reminders of the nation's difficult birth, "were the pillars of the temple of liberty; and now, that they have crumbled away, that temple must fall, unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars...." (Basler 2:115).