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.
I don’t know about you, but I am struck by Lincoln’s sensitivity to their request and I love that reference to the students as "little people". First, he takes their request seriously by acknowledging their emotional convictions, but at the same time manages to point to his own limits as president. In other words, Lincoln is saying that it is unfortunate that the issue of slavery cannot be decided based on "generous sympathy" alone. In addition, Mann’s students learn that their president is not all-powerful, but constrained by the Constitution. The reference to God’s will perhaps would have sounded familiar if their teacher had introduced Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in the classroom.