The Little People’s Petition

Early-1864, frustrated and saddened that the recently introduced Emancipation Proclamation only guaranteed the freedom of slaves in the Confederate States, 195 schoolchildren of Concord, Massachusetts signed the above “Petition of the children of the United States; (under 18 years) that the President will free all slave children” and, with the help of local teacher, author, and widow of Horace MannMary Tyler Peabody Mann, sent it to then-US President Abraham Lincoln. Much to everyone’s surprise, Lincoln – who quickly named it the “Little People’s Petition” – soon replied by way of the following letter.

Less than two years later, on December 6th of 1865, slavery was abolished in the United States.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s who, in 2008, sold the letter for US$3,401,000.


Executive Mansion,
Washington, April 5, 1864

Mrs. Horace Mann


The petition of persons under eighteen, praying that I would free all slave children, and the heading of which petition it appears you wrote, was handed me a few days since by Senator Sumner. 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 they will remember that God has, and that, as it seems, He wills to do it.

Yours truly

A. Lincoln