Monday, October 10, 2011

A Ring With Strings Attached

This entry come from The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.  It is a letter  D. N Smith of California wrote Lincoln in which he enclosed a most unique gift, a wooden ring.  The letter explains the ring's symbolism, and then the writer goes on to ask Lincoln a favor.

From D. N. Smith to Abraham Lincoln, October 10, 1861
San Bernardino California
October 10th 1861
Dear Sir,
Your meritorious acts, in behalf of our glorious republic, are worthy the highest commendation, of every lover of his country; & wishing to demonstrate my gratitude in more ways than by merely sustaining them; I send you a natural curiosity. Although not as great, as the Buck's horn chair [Seth Kinman, a California hunter and frontiersman, presented President Buchanan with a chair made from elk horns in 1857] it nevertheless seems fully as applicable. It seems but a simple wooden ring interspersed with specks of gold; but this is not all; in the first place, the wood from which it was made, is a rare shrub indigenous to the western slope of the Rockey Mountains; possessing peculiar medicinal properties. The bark is smooth, of a bright red colour, constrasting beautifuly with its dark green leaf; which gives the shrub an appearance of grandeur, not possessed by any of its associate Shrubery. It bears a fruit which in flavour is similar to a sour apple; from which I suppose it derives its spanish name, (mensenita.) The greatest curiosity pertaining to this ring; is the fact it was made by a freak of nature, as you can perceive from the grains of the wood running around the ring. It was a complete single tie of a twig, which had become perfectly consolidated, forming a loop in the centre, nearly as large as the present size of the ring; considering in connection with the above, the place from whence it was taken, & we have quite a remarkable ring. I broke it from a bush growing on the San Bernardino mountain which is the highest mountain in southern California.

Deffinition of the Ring
The Natural ring represents the geographical, & constitutional unity of the United States. When I found it, it was dry, at the heart rotten, & worms had commenced to destroy it. Emblematical of our government when it fell into your hands.
With judgment, Skill, Labour & the tools I brought to bear; I removed the decayed portions, destroyed the worms, & thus perfected the natural ring; As you will the United States. The thirtytwo golden stars (of pure quartz gold) in close proximity, represent the thirtytwo states east of the Rockey Mountains; & the two in the small of the ring our states on this side; though a little farther removed from the balance, we are nevertheless connected by the same principal or ring of Nature. The stars I cut from pure quartz gold in its original state; which represents the states in purity as they will be; when you have destroyed the polutions of past administrations.
With kind regard your humble subject
D. N. Smith
P. S. I am reading medicine, & you would confer a great favour, if you could give me a place in the army as assistant Surgeon; where I could gain much experience. I would be happy to serve my country thus. My constitution is to frail to join the army as a common Soldier
N. B. I send this by way of my Brother in Ohio, because the Post & Express offices are in the hands of the Secessionists, or at least those opposed to our administration, & I do not wish to excite their Suspicion

Petersburg, Va. Three surgeons of 1st Division, 9th Corps, Library of Congress Collection

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