Abraham Lincoln had a heart that was full of mercy; he could not bear to see even an animal suffer, and would not tolerate any wanton cruelty to animals. There are numerous instance of his mercifulness, but the following story will serve to show how kindly disposed the man was:
One day the major-general commanding the forces in and around Washington, came to the office of Mr. Dana with a spy whom one of his men had captured. Mr. Dana was assistant secretary of war. The officer informed Mr. Dana that the spy had been tried by court-martial and had been sentenced to death. He handed Mr. Dana the warrant for his execution, which was to take place at six o’clock the following morning. The warrant must be signed by the President, or in his absence by some officer with authority to sign it. President Lincoln was absent from Washington at that time and was not expected back before the afternoon of the next day. It therefore became necessary for Mr. Dana to sign the warrant for the execution of the spy, in accordance with the decision of the court. But President Lincoln got home at two o’clock in the early morning and on learning of the affair at once stopped the whole thing and thus spared the man’s life. It may be here stated that the law of nations in regard to the punishment of spies when captured is death.