On a more inspiring note, one of the most important highlights of the Small collection is Abraham Lincoln’s impassioned answer to “The little People’s Petition” which was written to him in 1864 by a group of Concord, Ma. schoolchildren who asked that the president free all the little slave children in the country. Lincoln’s eloquent response, addressed to their teacher Mrs. Mann but penned clearly for the ears of the youngsters, 195 little boys and girls under the age of eighteen, was heartbreakingly simple. “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.” Lincoln wrote frequently about the issue of slavery but was particularly touched by the appeal of the schoolchildren and his personal response to their letter remains today as an example of his determination to abolish slavery. The Small Collection features the greatest concentration of important Lincoln letters to appear on the market since the Collection of Philip and Elsie Sang, which was sold at Sotheby’s over several years beginning in 1978.
The letter was estimated to achieve between $3 and $5 million dollars and was expected to go down in auction history as the most expensive Lincoln manuscript ever sold. In a packed salesroom at Sotheby’s on April 3rd, the Children’s Petition to the President sold for a record price of $3,401,000.00. The letter, which was the centerpiece of the auction, sold to an American private collector who was bidding via telephone. Selby Kiffer, a Senior Vice President in Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts department stated post-auction, “ it deserved to make a record price and it did, not only for Lincoln, but also for any Presidential or American manuscript at auction.” The grand total for the entire collection of Presidential and Other Manuscripts from the Dr. Robert Small Trust was $5,649,330.00.