The Life of Abraham Lincoln (Holland)/Chapter XXX
Mr. Lincoln had reached the pinnacle of his life. By careful and painful steps he had mounted from the foot of the ladder of American society to its topmost round. He had done this by the forces of his nature and character, without adventitious aids, or favoring circumstances. He had accomplished the greatest work for his country and for mankind that had ever been committed to a mortal to perform. A great nation had been saved from wreck by his hands; a race had been disenthralled by his word and his policy; and a popular government had been established in the faith and affections of its subjects, and in the respect of the governments of the world. His enemies had been silenced, his friends had been reassured, his motives and his policy had been vindicated, and his person had come to be regarded with tender affection by tens of millions of men. Up to him were wafted the acclamations of millions of freemen. Across the ocean came appreciative and plauditory words from other continents. Benedictions were breathed upon him by multitudes of humble people whom he had enfranchised. Is it strange that the instincts of his own logical mind should forecast death as the next logical step in such a course?
Throughout all the later months and years of the war, he had freely said that he did not expect to outlast the rebellion; but in the flush of triumph,--in his large, loving, and liberal plans for the good of the people whom the fortunes of war had left at his feet,--in his dreams of the future Union and harmony of the states,--he forgot this, and was hopeful and happy. He talked to his friends, his cabinet, and his family cheerfully of the future, and gratefully of the past. He had no resentment to gratify, no revenge to inflict, no malicious passion that clamored for indulgence. The thought of being able to prove to the people of the South that he owed them no ill-will, and the determination to deal with them as gently as would be for the public safety, filled his magnanimous spirit with the sweetest satisfaction.
It is hardly to be supposed that the possibility of assassination was ever long absent from his mind, during the four years of his presidency. The threats began before he left Springfield for Washington. The attempt to assassinate him was made upon the train that bore him from his home. It was repeated upon that which bore him from Cincinnati. He ran through the meshes of a conspiracy against his life at Baltimore. He was in the constant receipt of threatening letters; and these were kept in a package by themselves, appropriately labeled. He did not permit these, however, to trouble him, regarding them as only the malicious missives of bullies and cowards. He undoubtedly regarded himself as always in a dangerous position, though the fact had no tendency to make him careful of himself. He reasoned upon this, as upon other subjects, and could never see that anything would be gained by his death. He had no comprehension of the malice that would delight in his assassination, as a measure of revenge. He supposed that every man would require some rational purpose to be answered by so terrible a crime. "If they kill me," said he, on one occasion, "the next man will be just as bad for them; and, in a country like this, where our habits are simple, and must be, assassination is always possible, and will come if they are determined upon it." He went to and from the War Department with perfect freedom; drove out to the Soldiers' Home, his summer residence, and back at night, often in an open carriage, alone. He walked the streets of Washington at night, with only an unarmed companion, who trembled with the apprehension of the possible consequences of such an exposure. Mr. Seward, in reply to a letter from Hon. John Bigelow, the American consul in Paris, wrote under date of July 15th, 1864: "There is no doubt that, from a period anterior to the breaking out of the insurrection, plots and conspiracies for the purposes of assassination have been frequently formed and organized." Mr. Bigelow had reported to Mr. Seward a plot which had become known abroad. Mr. Seward added: "Assassination is not an American practice or habit; and one so vicious and so desperate cannot be engrafted into our political system. This conviction of mine has steadily gained strength since the civil war began. Every day's experience confirms it." Notwithstanding Mr. Seward's theory, plots were formed against his own life, as well as that of Mr. Lincoln--plots, indeed, embracing more than these two persons, and extending to nearly all the prominent men in the government and in its military service. General Grant and General Sherman were both the unconscious objects of deadly conspiracies. It is now known that, not only in the States, but in Canada and Europe, plots of this character were concocted; and it is believed that, on one occasion, the President actually took poison, in the drugs that were prescribed for him by his physician, and prepared in one of the shops of the city.
Secretary Seward, even before he came so near to death through one of these conspiracies, was compelled to give up his theory, and to acknowledge that he and the President were in positive danger.
The morning of the fourteenth of April was spent by Mr. Lincoln mainly in interviews with his friends. Among those who called was Speaker Colfax, who was about setting out upon an overland journey to the Pacific coast, a journey which has since been satisfactorily accomplished; and to him the President entrusted a verbal message to the miners, assuring them of his friendliness to their interests, and telling them that their prosperity was identified with the prosperity of the nation. General Grant, it will be remembered, was in the city; and he was invited to be present at the cabinet meeting held during the day. In public and social duties the day passed away; and in the evening Mr. Colfax came again. George Ashmun of Massachusetts also came in, and to him Mr. Lincoln gave the following little note in pencil--the last words he ever wrote:
"Allow Mr. Ashmun and friend to come in at 9 A.M. to-morrow.
Mr. Lincoln and General Grant were the lions of the day; and the manager of Ford's theater, with a keen eye to business, had not only invited them to witness that night the representation of "Our American Cousin," but announced them both as positively to be present. The Washington papers of the fourteenth contained the following "personal notice:"
"Lieutenant-general Grant, President and Mrs. Lincoln, and ladies, will occupy the state box at Ford's theater to-night, to witness Miss Laura Keene's company in Tom Taylor's 'American Cousin.'"
General Grant did not desire to attend, and so left the city. The President was equally disinclined to the entertainment; but, as his presence and that of General Grant also had been pledged to the people, he saw that there would be great disappointment if he should fail them; and, when Mrs. Lincoln entered the President's room to inquire what decision he had arrived at, he said that he had concluded to go. He invited both Mr. Ashmun and Mr. Colfax to accompany him, but both declined, pleading other engagements; and Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, attended to the carriage by Mr. Ashmun, left without other company, and drove directly to the house of Senator Harris, where they took in Miss Harrill, a daughter of the Senator, and Major Rathbone, a son of the Senator's wife, who happened to be in at the time. The party reached the theater at twenty minutes before nine o'clock, to find the house filled in every part; and, as they passed to their seats in the private box reserved for them, the whole assembly rose and cheered them, with the most cordial enthusiasm. This demonstration was intended as an expression of good-will, and as a popular congratulation on the victories that had brought the rebellion to a close. The President bowed to the audience, took his seat, and was soon afterwards absorbed in the scenes of mimic life upon the stage. Here let us leave him, to trace the movements of another person.
At half-past eleven o'clock, on the morning of the fourteenth, John Wilkes Booth, a young actor who had been openly disloyal throughout the war, visited Ford's theater, where he was informed that a box had been taken for the President and General Grant. Then he went to a stable, and engaged a high-strung mare for a saddle-ride, which he proposed to take in the middle of the afternoon. From the stable he proceeded to the Kirkwood Hotel, where he sent up to Vice-president Johnson a card, bearing the words: "I don't wish to disturb you; are you at home?" To this, his signature was appended; and it drew from Mr. Johnson only the response that he was very busily engaged. At four o'clock, he called for the mare, and rode away, leaving her at last at a point convenient for his further purposes. In the evening, he took her from her hiding-place, and rode to the theater. Summoning one Spangler, a scene-shifter, he left the animal in his charge, to be held until he should return. Then he ascended to the dress-circle, looked in upon the stage and the audience, and gradually worked his way through the crowd packed in the rear of the dress-circle, toward the box occupied by the Presidential party. This box was at the end of the dress-circle, next the stage; and was reached by passing in the rear of the dress-circle, to a door opening first into a dark, narrow passage, and then by two doors opening from the passage. This passage was contrived so that the box might be made a double one, when occasion required, by securing facilities for a double entrance, an inside sliding partition completing the arrangement. To the entrance of this passage, Booth forced himself; and, after showing a card to the President's servant, and saying that Mr. Lincoln had sent for him, he passed into the passage, and fastened the door behind him. Presenting himself at the door of the box, he took a quick survey of the interior. He found everything favorable to his purpose; and, taking a small Derringer pistol in one hand, and a double-edged dagger in the other, he thrust his arm into the entrance, where the President, sitting in an arm-chair, presented to his full view the back and side of his head. A flash, a sharp report, a puff of smoke, and the fatal bullet had entered the President's brain. Mr. Lincoln did not stir. People thought that the report of the pistol had some connection with the play; but the awful truth was soon apparent. There was no escape for the murderer by the way through which he had reached the box; for the crowd was too great. Major Rathbone, the instant he comprehended what was done, sprang upon Booth, who, throwing him off, dropped his pistol, and struck him with his dagger, inflicting a flesh wound upon the officer's arm. Then the murderer rushed to the front of the box, parted the folds of the flag with which it was draped for the occasion, and leaped to the stage, half falling as he descended, his spurs having caught in the drapery. Then springing to his feet, he uttered with theatrical emphasis the words of the state motto of Virginia: "Sic semper tyrannis!" and added: "The South is avenged." Quickly turning, he rushed from the stage, striking from his path all whom he met, and, escaping at the rear of the theater, was in his saddle and away before the party around the President and the audience fully comprehended what had been done. Only a single man in the audience took in at once the meaning of the scene; and, although he undertook to follow Booth, the assassin had disappeared before he reached the door.
Mrs. Lincoln screamed, and Miss Harris called for water. The scene among the audience defies all description. Women shrieked and fainted. Men called for vengeance. The most terrible uproar prevailed. Laura Keene, the actress, begged the audience to be calm, abd entered the box from the stage, bearing water and cordials. The President was entirely unconscious; and, as soon as the surgeons, who had gathered quickly yo him, had ascertained the position and nature of the wound, the helpless form was borne across Tenth street to the house of a Mr. Peterson. Surgeon-general Barnes, after examination, pronounced the wound a mortal one. The words fell upon the ears of Secretary Stanton, who, bursting into tears, responded: "Oh, no! General, no, no!" Attorney-general Speed, Secretary Welles, Postmaster-general Dennison, General Meigs, Mr. McCulloch, the new Secretary of the Treasury, and Senator Sumner were gathered around the bed, the last holding one of the President's hands, and sobbing like a child. In an adjoining room, supported by her son Robert and Mrs. Senator Dixon, sat Mrs. Lincoln, bewildered and crushed by her great grief. Around the unconscious form of the President the great men of the nation bowed, and wept, watching the heaving of his breast, until, at twenty-two minutes past seven in the morning, he breathed his last.
In another part of the city, at the moment of the murder and alarm at the theater, another scene of terrible violence was enacted, which showed that one of the many conspiracies that had been organized to destroy the heads of the government was in process of execution.
A few days previously, Mr. Seward had been thrown from his carriage, and severely injured. He was still very low, and under the most careful medical and surgical treatment. A little after ten, on this fatal evening, the door-bell of his residence was rung by a man who said he came with medicine from Dr. Verdi, Mr. Seward's physician, which it was necessary for him to deliver in person. The servant who admitted him protested that no one was permitted to see Mr. Seward. The man pushed him aside, and mounted the stairs. When he was about to enter the Secretary's room, Mr. Frederick Seward, the Secretary's son, appeared, and inquired his business. He gave the same reply that he had given to the servant, when the gentleman told him that he could not enter. In return for this refusal, Mr. Frederick Seward received a stunning blow upon his forehead, with the butt of a pistol; and the man pushed on to the bedside of the Secretary, mounted the bed, and, aiming at Mr. Seward's throat, stabbed him three times. He would undoubtedly have killed him, had he not been seized around the body by the nurse of Mr. Seward, a soldier named Robinson. While the assassin was struggling with Robinson, Mr. Seward summoned sufficient strength to roll himself off the bed. The murderer, inflicting severe wounds upon Robinson, burst away from him, rushed to the door, forced his way down stairs, stabbing Major Augustus Seward and one of his father's attendants on the way, and escaped into the street. He had stabbed no less than five persons. This conspirator, known afterward to the public by the name of Payne, was Lewis Payne Powell.
The effect of these two tragedies upon the popular feeling in the city of Washington may possibly be imagined, but it cannot be described. Some cried for retaliation upon the leaders of a rebellion that could inspire such deeds, and for revenge even upon the helpless prisoners in our hands. Others were possessed by a sense of horror; others by emotions of terror; others by an overwhelming grief; and all by a feeling of uncertainty and insecurity. How wide was the conspiracy? How comprehensive was the plot? Who were the designated victims? What would be the next development? There was no sleep in Washington that night. A terrible solemnity took possession of the noisy capital. Only the military were busy. All the drinking shops of the city were closed, the outlets of the city were guarded, and every necessary step was taken for the protection of the persons of the other members of the government.
The effect of these terrible events upon the popular heart throughout the country was touching in the extreme. From the sunniest hills of joy, the people went down weeping into the darkest valleys of affliction. The long, sad morning of the President's death was full of the sound of tolling bells. It was everywhere the same. By a common impulse the bells from every tower in the land gave voice to the popular grief; and from every dwelling and store and shop, from every church and public building, the insignia of sorrow were displayed. The markets were literally cleared of every fabric that could be used for the drapery of mourning. Men met in the streets, and pressed each other's hands in silence, or burst into tears. The whole nation, which, the previous day, was jubilant and hopeful, was precipitated into the depths of a profound and tender woe. Millions felt that they had lost a brother, or a father, or a dear personal friend. It was a grief that brought the nation more into family sympathy than it had been since the days of the Revolution. Men came together in public meetings, to give expression to their grief. The day on which the murder was announced to the country was Saturday; and on Sunday all the churches were draped with mourning; and from every pulpit in the land came the voice of lamentation over the national loss, and of eulogy to the virtues of the good President who had been so cruelly murdered. There were men engaged in the rebellion who turned from the deed with horror. Many of these had learned something of the magnanimity of Mr. Lincoln's character; and they felt that the time would come when the South would need his friendship. These regarded his death as a great calamity; but it must seem doubtful whether those who could starve helpless prisoners, and massacre black soldiers after they had surrendered, and murder in cool blood hundreds of Union men, for no crime but affection for the government which Mr. Lincoln represented, could have been greatly shocked by his assassination. They made haste, however, to disown and denounce the deed; and pretended to regard it, not as an act of the rebellion, but as the irresponsible act of a crazed desperado.
After the death of the President, his body was removed to the White House, from which he had gone on the previous evening, under such happy circumstances. A room had been prepared for its reception; and there it was placed in a coffin, which rested upon a grand catafalque. The affection and grief of the people were manifested by offerings of flowers, with which the room was kept constantly supplied. On Monday, the seventeenth, a meeting of congressmen and others was held at the Capitol, presided over by Hon. Lafayette S. Foster of Connecticut. A committee, of which Senator Sumner of Massachusetts was chairman, was appointed to make arrangements for the funeral; and this committee reported at an adjourned meeting, held at four o'clock in the afternoon, that they had selected as pall-bearers Messrs. Foster, Morgan, Johnson, Yates, Wade, and Conness, on the part of the Senate, and Messrs. Dawes, Coffroth, Smith, Colfax, Worthington, and Washburne, on the part of the House. They also presented the names of gentlemen, one from each state and territory of the Union, to act as a congressional committee, to accompany the remains to their final resting-place in Illinois.
Meantime, the body of the President had been embalmed; and, at ten o'clock, on Tuesday morning, the White House was thrown open to give the people an opportunity to take their farewell of the familiar face, whose kind smile death had forever quenched. At least twenty-five thousand persons availed themselves of this liberty; and thousands more, seeing the crowd, turned back unsatisfied. Hundreds of those who pressed around the sacred dust, uttered some affectionate word, or phrase, or sentence. The rich and the poor, the white and the black, mingled their tokens of affectionate regard, and dropped side by side their tears upon the coffin. It was humanity weeping over the dust of its benefactor.
On Wednesday, the day of the funeral, all the departments were closed, all public work was suspended, flags were placed at half-mast, and the public buildings were draped with mourning. The funeral services were held in the East Room, which was occupied by the relatives of the deceased (with the exception of Mrs. Lincoln, who was too much prostrated to leave her room,) and by governmental and judicial dignitaries, and such high officials from the states as had gathered to the capital to pay their last tribute of respect to the illustrious dead. The ceremonies were conducted with great solemnity and dignity. The scriptures were read by Rev. Dr. Hale, of the Episcopal church; the opening prayer was made by Bishop Simpson, of the Methodist church; the funeral address was delivered by Rev. Dr. Gurley, of the Presbyterian church which Mr. Lincoln and his family had attended; and the closing prayer was offered by Rev. Dr. Gray, the chaplain of the Senate, and the pastor of a Baptist church. Among those present from the states were Governors Fenton of New York, Andrew of Massachusetts, Parker of New Jersey, Brough of Ohio, Oglesby of Illinois, and Buckingham of Connecticut. Dr. Gurley's tribute was a noble one--entirely worthy of the occasion. "Probably no man since the days of Washington," said he, "was ever so deeply and firmly imbedded and enshrined in the hearts of the people as Abraham Lincoln. Nor was it a mistaken confidence and love. He deserved it; deserved it well; deserved it all. He merited it by his character, by his acts, and by the tenor and tone and spirit of his life... His integrity was thorough, all-pervading, all-controlling and incorruptible." Speaking of the great national emergency in which Mr. Lincoln was called to power, he said: "He rose to the dignity and momentousness of the occasion; saw his duty as the chief magistrate of a great and imperiled people; and he determined to do his duty and his whole duty, seeking the guidance, and leaning upon the arm, of Him of whom it is written--'He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.' Yes, he leaned upon His arm. He recognized and received the truth that the kingdom is the Lord's."
At the close of the ceremonies in the White House, the august personages present, and various bodies of civil and military officials, joined in the procession which accompanied the sacred remains to the Capitol. It was the most impressive procession that ever passed through the grand avenue which leads from the presidential mansion to the Capitol. The avenue was cleared; and every piazza, window, veranda, and house-top, was filled with eager but mournful faces. Funereal music filled the sweet spring air; and this was the only sound, except the measured tread of feet, and the slow roll of wheels upon the pavement. This procession was so long that the head of it had begun to disperse at the Capitol, before the rear had passed the Treasury Department. As the hearse, drawn by six gray horses, reached the Capitol grounds, the bands burst forth in a requiem, and were answered by minute-guns from the fortifications. The body of the President was borne into the rotunda, where Dr. Gurley completed the religious exercises of the occasion. Here the remains rested, exposed to public view, but guarded by soldiery, until the next day. Thousands who had had no other opportunity to take their farewell of the beloved dust thronged the Capitol all night. The pageant of the day, in many of its aspects, was never paralleled upon this continent. Nothing like it--nothing approaching it--had ever occurred in this country, if indeed, in the world.
While these funeral services and ceremonies were in progress in Washington, similar ceremonies were observed in every part of the country. Churches were thrown open, where prayer and sermon and music united in the expression of affection for the dead, and lamentation for the national loss. Great public gatherings were held, in which the memory of the good President was celebrated in impulsive speech or studied eulogy. The whole nation suspended its business, and gave itself up to the mournful services and associations of the day. Never had such a funeral been given to a national ruler. Never had died a man who received such testimonials of universal affection and grief. A whole nation mourned its dead. One thought enthralled every heart--the thought of a great, good man--the father of his people--cruelly murdered; and all animosities were overwhelmed in the general grief. All detraction was hushed; and every heart that had done him wrong, made its amends to his memory, and won peace for itself, by awarding to him his just meed of praise.
As there was never such a funeral as this, so there was never such a procession. That which moved from the White House, on the nineteenth, was but the beginning of a pageant that displayed its marvelous numbers and its ever-varying forms, through country, and village, and city, winding across the territories of vast states, along a track of more than fifteen hundred miles. The President was to be borne back to his own people, and to be buried among the scenes of his early life. He had told the people of Springfield, Illinois, when he parted with them, more than four years before, that he owed to them all that he was. It was but right that they should have his dust.
On the twenty-first, the funeral train left Washington, amid the silent grief of thousands who had gathered to witness its departure. With the coffin which contained the remains of the President, went back to the western home the coffin which contained the dust of his beloved Willie, whose death has already been mentioned; and father and son, in the touching companionship of death, traveled together the long journey. At ten o'clock, the train reached Baltimore. The immense crowd that had assembled here to pay their last tribute of respect to the departed President, was full of its suggestions of the change which four years had wrought upon the city. It seemed incredible that this was the city through which the living President had so lately passed, in fear of the fate which had at last overtaken him. Nothing that the ingenuity of grief could devise was left undone to make the return passage an imposing testimonial to his memory. The display of military was large; and all the ceremonies of the occasion were such as did honor, alike to the people of the city, and to the man they mourned. In the afternoon, the train moved for Harrisburg, but not until a multitude had improved the opportunity to obtain a view of the pale, dead face of their friend. On the way, new mourners were taken on; and at every considerable station people had gathered to see the solemn pageant sweep by. At York, six ladies came into the car, and deposited upon the coffin an exquisite wreath of flowers, while all who witnessed the affectionate tribute were moved to tears. Bells were tolled, and bands breathed forth their plaintive music, at every village. The funeral obsequies at Harrisburg were observed in the evening. Until midnight, the people crowded into the State Capitol, to obtain a view of the remains; and, from seven to nine on the following morning, the catafalque was surrounded by the anxious throngs that had come in from all the country round, for the purpose. At this place, as at all the places on the route, there were new pall-bearers, new processions, and new expressions of the popular grief. A very large procession accompanied the remains to the cars; and from Harrisburg to Philadelphia the funeral train moved through crowds of people, assembled at every convenient point. For several miles before the train reached Philadelphia, both sides of the railway were occupied by almost continuous lines of men, women, and children, who stood with uncovered heads as the train passed them.
Philadelphia was draped with mourning, to give a fitting reception to the honored dead. The streets were filled with people, long before the funeral train arrived; and cannon thundered forth the announcement of its coming. All that ingenuity, aided by abundant means, could do, to make the fresh pageant a worthy one, was done. A new hearse had been built, and this was drawn by eight splendid black horses, in silver-mounted harnesses. The procession itself was composed of eleven divisions, and was one of the most remarkable, in every respect, with which the remains of the President were honored during their long passage to their resting-place. What place more fit for the brief sojourn of these remains than Independence Hall, intimately associated, as it was, with the principles which the sleeping patriot had faithfully defended, and still echoing to the ear of sorrowing affection with the sound of his living voice? To this hall he was borne, amid the tears of a vast multitude. The hall was literally filled with the most exquisite flowers. From ten o'clock until midnight, the people had the opportunity to view the remains of their beloved chief magistrate. Then the doors were closed; but hundreds remained around the building all night, that they might be first in the morning. The following day was Sunday, and from six o'clock in the morning until one o'clock on Monday morning, during which the remains were exposed to view, a dense, unbroken stream of men, women, and children, pressed into and out of the building. The Philadelphia Inquirer, in its report of the occasion, said: "Never before in the history of our city was such a dense mass of humanity huddled together. Hundreds of persons were seriously injured, from being pressed in the mob; and many fainting females were extricated by the police and military, and conveyed to places of security." After a person was once in the line, it took from four to five hours to reach the hall. At one o'clock, on Monday morning, the procession recommenced its march, bearing the body to Kensington Station, which was left at four, for the passage to New York. Bells were tolled, mottoes were displayed, minute-guns were fired, and the people were gathered at the various stations along the entire passage through New Jersey. It seemed as if the whole state had come to the railroad line, simply to witness the passage of the funeral train.
It is bewildering to read the accounts of the ceremonies at New York, and impracticable to reproduce them. The passage of the beloved remains into and through the great city, and the interval of their brief rest while they lay in state in the City Hall, were marked at every stage by some new and impressive expression of the public grief. Minute-guns, tolling bells, requiems by choirs of singers, dirges by bands of musicians, military and civic displays, suspended business, draped flags, and shrouded private and public buildings, all mingled their testimony to the universal sorrow, and the common wish to do justice and honor to a hallowed memory. Every street and avenue around the City Hall was filled with people. The first line formed for viewing the remains was three quarters of a mile long, and reached far up the Bowery. From the moment when the coffin-lid was removed, until nearly noon on the following day, through all the long night, the people pressed into the hall, caught a hasty glimpse of the beloved features, and then retired; until it was estimated that one hundred and fifty thousand persons had gained their object, while it was evident that twice that number had failed to win the patiently awaited vision. The military procession which accompanied the remains to the depot of the Hudson River Railroad was the most remarkable ever witnessed in the city, numbering fully fifteen thousand troops. The carriages in the procession were filled with federal and state dignitaries, and representatives of foreign governments in full court costume; and the line of the procession was thronged from the beginning to the end by crowding multitudes of spectators. The New York Herald's report says: "The people, with tearful eyes, under the shadow of the great affliction, watched patiently and unmurmuringly the moving of the honored dead and the mournful procession, and silently breathed over them the most heartfelt and fervent prayers... Such an occasion, such a crowd, and such a day, New York may never see again."
At a quarter past four, on the afternoon of the twenty-fifth, the train which bore the funeral party from New York left the station, drawn by the "Union," the same locomotive that brought Mr. Lincoln to New York, on his passage to Washington, more than four years previously. The train passed to Albany without stopping, except at Poughkeepsie, where a delegation from the city government of Albany was taken on board; but the people were gathered at every point to witness the passage. Mottoes were displayed, draped flags floated everywhere, and all along the route stood the silent crowds, with heads uncovered, as the train which bore the martyred President swept by. It was nearly midnight when Albany was reached; and it was not until one o'clock, on the morning of the twenty-sixth, that the removal of the coffin-lid exposed, in the State Capitol, the white face that so many were anxious to see. From that time until two o'clock in the afternoon, there was a constant throng, the line reaching four deep from the State House to the foot of State street. It was estimated that there were sixty thousand people in the streets of Albany. Here was another great procession; and, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the train started for Buffalo. Throughout the entire range of large and beautiful towns which the Central Railroad threads in its passage from Albany to Buffalo, the same demonstrations of grief and respect were witnessed which had thus far distinguished the homeward journey of the dead President. The reporter of the New York Tribune wrote that "a funeral in each house in Central New York would hardly have added solemnity to the day."
At seven o'clock on the morning of the twenty-seventh, the funeral train reached Buffalo; and the sacred remains were taken to St. James' Hall, where, from half-past nine until eight o'clock in the evening of the next day, they were visited by an immense throng of persons. Buffalo had already paid its tribute to Mr. Lincoln's memory by a large procession on the day of the funeral ceremonies at Washington, and omitted the usual pageant on this occasion; but a fine military escort, accompanied by a crowd of citizens, conducted the remains to the depot in the evening, which was left by the funeral train at ten o'clock, for the pursuit of the journey to Cleveland. The demonstrations of the popular grief which had been witnessed throughout the journey, were repeated at every station along the route. Not only men, but women and children were up and wakeful all night, to catch a glimpse of the car which bore the precious dust of the beloved ruler; and, whenever the train stopped, flowers were brought in and deposited upon the coffin. At Cleveland, great preparations were made to receive the President's remains and the funeral party, with befitting honors. A building for the deposit of the coffin was erected in the park, that the people might have easy access to it. The city was crowded at an early hour, on Friday morning; and on every hand were displayed the symbols of mourning. At seven o'clock, the train arrived at the Union depot, amid a salute of artillery; and from this point it was taken back to the Euclid Street station of the Cleveland and Pittsburg Railroad, whence the procession moved--the most imposing pageant that this beautiful city on the lake had ever created or witnessed. Bishop McIlvaine, of the diocese of Ohio, read the Episcopal burial service on the opening of the coffin, and offered prayer; after which the long procession filed through the pavilion, and caught a last glimpse of the honored dead. All day long, through falling rain, the crowd, unabated in numbers, pressed through the little building. At ten o'clock at night, one hundred thousand people had viewed the remains; and then the gates were shut. Soon afterwards, the coffin was taken from its beautiful resting-place; and, at twelve o'clock, the funeral party was again in progress, on the way to Columbus, the capital of the state.
But why repeat the same story again, and again? Why say more than that at Columbus and Indianapolis and Chicago, as well as at all the intermediate places, men did what they could, and all that they could, to honor him who had died in their service--who had been murdered for his truth to them and to freedom? It was a most remarkable exhibition of the popular feeling, and is unparalleled in history. There was nothing empty, nothing fictitious about it. There was never a sincerer tribute of affection rendered to a man than this. It was a costly one, but men rendered it gladly, and hesitated no more at the cost than if they were expressing their grief over the lost members of their own homes.
It seemed almost like profanation of the sleeping President's rest, to bear him so far, and expose him so much; but the people demanded it, and would take no denial. All parties, all sects--friends and foes alike--mingled in their affectionate tributes of honor and sorrow.
When the remains of the President reached Chicago, they were at home. They were in the State in which he had spent the most of his life; and the people grasped him with almost a selfish sense of ownership. He was theirs. Only a short distance from the spot, lay his old antagonist, Douglas, in his last sleep. The party champions were once more near each other, upon their favorite soil; but their eloquent lips were silent--silent with an eloquence surpassing sound, in the proclamation of mighty changes in the nation, and the suggestions of mutability and mortality among men. One more journey, and the weary form would rest. The people of Chicago honored the dead President with emotions that few thus far had experienced. Mr. Lincoln had been loved and admired by the people of Illinois, long before the rest of the nation knew anything about him. His face and voice had been familiar to them for many years; and they had introduced him to the country and to immortality. He had walked through the portals of the new city into a fame as wide as the world. "He comes back to us," said the Chicago Tribune, "his work finished, the republic vindicated, its enemies overthrown and suing for peace... He left us, asking that the prayers of the people might be offered to Almighty God for wisdom and help to see the right path and pursue it. Those prayers were answered. He accomplished his work, and now the prayers of the people ascend for help, to bear the great affliction which has fallen upon them. Slain as no other man has been slain, cut down while interposing his great charity and mercy between the wrath of the people and guilty traitors, the people of Chicago tenderly receive the sacred ashes, with bowed heads and streaming eyes."
The remains reached Springfield on the morning of May third. Throughout the long ride of two hundred miles, over the continuous prairie that lies between Chicago and Springfield, there had transpired the most affecting demonstrations of the popular grief. Mottoes, flags, minute-guns, immense gatherings of the people, music, flowers, and copious tears, testified the universal sorrow. But in Springfield lived the heartiest mourners. Here were his intimate and life-long personal friends; and they received the dust of their murdered neighbor and fellow-citizen with a tenderness of which the people of no other community were capable. The President was forgotten in the companion and friend, endeared to them by a thousand ties. The State House, the Lincoln residence, and every store, public building, and dwelling, were draped heavily with mourning--a manifestation of the public sorrow which remained for weeks and months after it had disappeared from all other places that had been passed in the long procession. For twenty-four hours, or until ten o'clock on the morning of May fourth, the people pressed into the State House, to gain a last glimpse of their departed friend. Through all the long night of the third, the steady tramp of thousands was heard, winding up the stair-case that led to the Representatives' Chamber, and passing out again. Silently, patiently, sorrowfully, the unfailing procession moved; and it did not stop until the coffin-lid was shut down, no more to be opened. The procession which conducted the remains to their final resting-place, in a tomb prepared for them at Oak Ridge Cemetery, a beautiful spot about two miles from the city, was under the immediate charge of Major-general Joseph Hooker. The town was thronged; and every train that arrived augmented the crowd. A large choir of two hundred and fifty singers sang the familiar hymn, beginning with the words,
"Children of the Heavenly King,"
as the coffin was borne out to the hearse; and amid the sound of solemn dirges and minute-guns the mournful procession moved. The cemetery was occupied by a vast multitude, before the procession arrived; and from hill and tree they looked tearfully on, while the coffin which contained the dust of their friend was consigned to its sepulcher. By the side of it was placed the coffin of "little Willie;" while the living sons, Robert and Thomas, standing by the tomb, were objects of an affectionate interest only equaled by the deep sorrow for their own and their country's loss. Rev. A. Hale of Springfield opened the religious exercises with prayer; a hymn written for the occasion was sung; selections from Scripture, and Mr. Lincoln's last Inaugural were read; and Bishop Simpson, a favorite of Mr. Lincoln while living, delivered an eloquent address. Requiems and dirges, sung and played, completed the exercises of the occasion, closing with a benediction by Rev. Dr. Gurley of Washington.
The address of Bishop Simpson, able, affectionate, and excellent as it was, contained nothing more notable than the quotation that the speaker made from one of Mr. Lincoln's speeches, uttered in 1859, in which, speaking of the slave power, he said: "Broken by it I, too, may be, bow to it, I never will. The probability that we may fail in the struggle, ought not to deter us from the support of a cause which I deem to be just; and it shall not deter me. If ever I feel the soul within me elevate and expand to those dimensions not wholly unworthy of its Almighty Architect, it is when I contemplate the cause of my country, deserted by all the world besides, and I, standing up boldly and alone, and hurling defiance at her victorious oppressors. Here, without contemplating consequences, before high Heaven and in the face of the world, I swear eternal fidelity to the just cause, as I deem it, of the land of my life, my liberty and my love." No inspiration finer than this breathes in any of Mr. Lincoln's utterances. It almost seems as if an intimation of his life and death were given to him at the moment--as if a glimpse into his own and his country's future had been vouchsafed to his excited vision.
The crowd slowly separated; the citizens moved back to their homes; those who had accompanied the precious remains--at last resting, and in safe and affectionate keeping--from Washington and points along the route, took their departure by the out-going trains; the guard paced their little round before the tomb, where through the grate the large and the little coffin lay in the dim light; and the people of Springfield were left to their grief and their glory.
There, surrounded by the sweetest scenes of nature, his tomb a shrine, his name the watchword of liberty, his fame in the affectionate keeping of mankind, his memory hallowed by martyrdom for the humane and Christian principles to which his life was devoted, the weary patriot rests. His sun went down suddenly, and whelmed the country in a darkness which was felt by every heart; but far up the clouds sprang soon the golden twilight, flooding the heavens with radiance, and illuminating every uncovered brow with the hope of a fair to-morrow. The aching head, the shattered nerves, the anxious heart, the weary frame, are all at rest; and the noble spirit that informed them, bows reverently and humbly in the presence of Him in whom it trusted, and to whose work it devoted the troubled years of its earthly life.
The death of Mr. Lincoln wrought great change in the feelings of all the representatives of foreign opinion, not only toward him, but toward the country and its cause; and many were the testimonials that came in every ship, of foreign sympathy with the nation in its bereavement and with those whose family life had been so cruelly dissolved by the deed of the assassin. The British Queen wrote to Mrs. Lincoln a letter of condolence, with her own hand. All the foreign governments took occasion to express their horror at the crime which had deprived the nation of its head, and their sympathy with the people thus suddenly and violently bereft. The London Times, which had always been unjust to Mr. Lincoln, said: "It would be unjust not to acknowledge that Mr. Lincoln was a man who could not, under any circumstances, have been easily replaced." Further on in its article, it confessed that "Englishmen learned to respect a man who showed the best characteristics of their race, in his respect for what is good in the past, acting in unison with a recognition of what was made necessary by the events of passing history." The London Star said: "It can never be forgotten, while history is read, that the hands of southern partisans have been reddened by the foulest assassin-plot the world has ever known; that they have been treacherously dipped in the blood of one of the best citizens and purest patriots to whom the land of Washington gave birth." The London Spectator spoke of Mr. Lincoln as "the noblest President whom America has had since the time of Washington;" and "certainly the best, if not the ablest, man ruling over any country in the civilized world." The London Saturday Review said: "During the arduous experience of four years, Mr. Lincoln constantly rose in general estimation, by calmness of temper, by an intuitively logical appreciation of the character of the conflict, and by undisputed sincerity." The Economist said, "The murder of Mr. Lincoln is a very great and very lamentable event--perhaps the greatest and most lamentable which has occurred since the Coup d'etat, if not since Waterloo. It affects directly and immensely the welfare of the three most powerful countries in the world,--America, France and England,--and it affects them all for evil." Goldwin Smith, in Macmillan's Magazine, said: "He (Mr. Lincoln) professed to wait on events, or, rather, on the manifestations of the moral forces around him, wherein, with a mind sobered by responsibility and unclouded by selfishness, he earnestly endeavored to read the will of God, which, having read it, he patiently followed to the best of his power. In him, his nation has lost, not a king, or a prophet,--not a creative moulder of its destinies, or an inspired unfolder of its future,--but simply a sensible interpreter, and a wise, temperate, honest executor of its own better mind."
Even these expressions of the British press do not indicate the popular feeling with which the English people received the announcement of Mr. Lincoln's assassination. The excitement which filled the public mind, on the reception of the startling tidings, in all the great cities and considerable towns of England, was only equaled by that which swept over those of our own country. It was hard to tell whether horror at the crime or grief for its victim was the predominant emotion of the British people. Men who applauded the deed, were kicked out of assemblies in London, as they were in New York. The dignified Mr. Mason, the rebel commissioner, was boldly condemned for an attempt to extenuate the crime on the ground that it was a natural incident of civil war.
At home, the change of feeling was hardly less marked and gratifying. Presses that had done Mr. Lincoln injustice throughout his whole career, made haste to lay their tribute of respectful praise upon his bier. Men who had cursed him, joined tearfully in the processions which attended his long journey homeward. Even from the depths of the dead rebellion, there came honest lamentations, and sincere praises. The eyes of his "blinded fellow countrymen," which he so ardently desired to open, were unsealed at last, to behold, in the man they had so long regarded with hatred or contempt, the friend they had always possessed, and the benefactor they sorely needed, but had lost forever.
Andrew Johnson, the Vice-president, became, under the provisions of the Constitution, the President of the United States, by taking the oath of office, on the morning of the murder. The people who had battled for the Constitution and the laws so long, did not dream of a resort to any other course. The speculations of a portion of the foreign press, concerning this event, showed how unworthy and inadequate still was the estimate of the American people and their institutions. There was not a hand lifted, or a word uttered, to question or dispute the step which installed a new President over the republic; and there was not, in a single American heart, a doubt as to the result. There was no panic, no excitement, no danger, no disaster; but the country kept to its groove, and felt no jar as it slid into the new administration.
The world could not conceal Mr. Lincoln's murderer. It had no waste so wide, no cavern so deep, as to give him a safe hiding-place. That was evident to everybody; and would have been foreseen by himself, had he not been stultified by his greed for blood. Large rewards were offered for his apprehension, and military and police were quickly on the alert. After a few days of doubt, it became evident that Booth, with a companion, had passed over the Navy Yard Bridge, which crosses the eastern branch of the Potomac. It was known that the assassin had been in the habit of spending much time in Charles County, Maryland, and had been in correspondence with the disloyal people there. It afterwards appeared that Booth, accompanied by David C. Harold, rode all night after the commission of the murder; and that near Bogantown he called on one Dr. Mudd, to have his leg dressed, which had been fractured by his leap upon the stage, at the time he committed the murder. The detectives, reaching this region, and hearing that Dr. Mudd had received the visit of two suspicious strangers, arrested him and all his family. From this point, Booth and his accomplice were tracked toward the Potomac. The ruffians were undoubtedly aided in their progress by disloyal citizens, for the officers were frequently not more than an hour behind them. Although gunboats were patrolling the river, the murderer and his accomplice crossed the Potomac under cover of darkness. It was soon afterwards ascertained where they had crossed, and the cavalry started in pursuit. The men were found at last in a barn belonging to William Garratt. The building was surrounded, and Booth was called upon to surrender himself. He flatly refused to do so. Harold was ready to surrender, but Booth cursed him for a coward; and declared to Colonel Baker, at the head of the force, that he would not be taken alive. The barn was fired, and Booth attempted to extinguish the flame, but failed. Harold then gave himself up, while the murderer remained, displaying all the qualities of the hardened desperado. Sergeant Boston Corbett, moved by a sudden impulse, drew up his pistol, and fired upon Booth, who was seen standing in the barn, with a revolver in each hand; and planted a ball in his neck, which passed entirely through his head. He died within less than three hours, sending to his mother a message to the effect that he had died for his country, and exhibiting no penitence whatever for the terrible deed he had committed. He was shot on the twenty-sixth of April, twelve days after the murder. His body was taken back to Washington, and was buried, no one save those to whom the task of sepulture was assigned having any knowledge of its place of burial. Harold was committed to prison to await his trial.
John Wilkes Booth was the son of the famous actor, Junius Brutus Booth, and had attained some celebrity in his father's profession. He was an exceedingly handsome man; but he had been notoriously and grossly profligate and immoral in his habits. Still, his gifts and his beauty had made him a favorite in certain nominally respectable social circles. His sympathy with the rebellion was well understood in Washington, but he was never regarded as a dangerous man. That he committed the crime which cost him his life from any romantic love of the South, or from any desire to avenge the South for fancied wrongs, is not probable. The deed seems to have been the offspring of a morbid desire for immortality. He had given frequent hints, in his conversation, of the miserable passion which possessed him; and there is no doubt that he had worked himself into a belief that he should rid the world of a tyrant by murdering the President, and thus link his name with a startling deed which, in the future, would be admired as a glorious act of heroism. Certainly his deed was one of wonderful boldness; and the bravery which he exhibited at his capture was worthy of a better cause and a better man.
Fortunately, no fatal wounds were inflicted upon Mr. Seward in Payne's attempt upon his life, or upon any of those who were subjects of violence at that ruffian's hands. The Secretary and his son, Mr. Frederick Seward, were desperately wounded; but, under skillful surgical care, they entirely recovered. Payne was arrested, and, with his fellow conspirators--David E. Harold (who was captured with Booth,) George A. Atzerodt, Michael O'Laughlin, Edward Spangler (who held Booth's horse at the theater, and aided his escape,) Samuel Arnold, Mary E. Surratt and Dr. Samuel Mudd--was tried by a military commission. The conspiracy contemplated not only the murder of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, but that of Vice-president Johnson and Lieutenant-general Grant. Booth alone accomplished his task. Payne made a desperate effort,--such as only a man of his great physical strength could make; but failed. Atzerodt, to whose hands the murder of the Vice-president was committed, was not competent, morally or physically, to the task he undertook; while General Grant escaped the projected attempt upon his life by leaving the city. Harold, Atzerodt, Payne and Mrs. Surratt, the latter of whom aided and abetted the plot, were sentenced to be hanged; and they suffered the penalty of their crimes on the seventh day of July. Dr. Mudd, Samuel Arnold, and Michael O'Laughlin were sentenced to hard labor for life, and were consigned to the Dry Tortugas. Edward Spangler accompanied them, sentenced to hard labor for six years.
The writer cannot bid farewell to the reader, and to the illustrious subject of this biography, without a closing tribute to a character unique in history, and an administration that stands alone in the annals of the nation. We have seen one of the humblest of American citizens struggling through personal trials and national turmoils, into the light of universal fame, and an assured immortality of renown. We have seen him become the object of warm and devoted affection to a whole nation. We have witnessed such manifestations of grief at his loss as the death of no ruler has called forth, within the memory of man. We have seen a great popular government, poisoned in every department by the virus of treason, and blindly and feebly tottering to its death, restored to health and soundness through the beneficent ministry of this true man, who left it with vigor in its veins, irresistible strength in its arms, the fire of exultation and hope in its eyes, and with such power and majesty in its step, that the earth shook beneath its stately goings. We have seen four millions of African bondmen who, groaning in helpless slavery when he received the crown of power, became freemen by his word before death struck that crown from his brow. We have seen the enemies of his country vanquished and suing for pardon; and the sneering nations of the world, whose incontinent contempt and spite were poured in upon him during the first years of his administration, becoming first silent, then respectful, and then unstinted in their admiration and approbation.
These marvelous changes in public feeling, and the revolutions imbodied in these wonderful results, were not the work of a mighty genius, sitting above the nation, and ordering its affairs. That Mr. Lincoln was much more than an ordinary man, in intellectual power, is sufficiently evident; but it was not by intellectual power that he wrought out the grand results of his life. These were rather the work of the heart, than the head. With no wish to depreciate the motives or undervalue the names of Mr. Lincoln's predecessors in office, it may be declared that never, in the history of the government, have the affairs of that office been administered with such direct reference to the will of God, and the everlasting principles of righteousness and justice, as they were during his administration. It was eminently a Christian administration--one which, in its policy and acts, expressed the convictions of a Christian people. Standing above the loose morality of party politics, standing above the maxims and conventionalisms of statesmanship, leaving aside all the indirections and insincerities of diplomacy, trusting the people, leaning upon the people, inspired by the people, who in their Christian homes and Christian sanctuaries gave it their confidence, this administration of Abraham Lincoln stands out in history as the finest exhibition of a Christian democracy the world has ever seen. The power of a true-hearted Christian man, in perfect sympathy with a true-hearted Christian people, was Mr. Lincoln's power. Open on one side of his nature to all descending influences from Him to whom he prayed, and open on the other to all ascending influences from the people whom he served, he aimed simply to do his duty, to God and men. Acting rightly, he acted greatly. While he took care of deeds, fashioned by a purely ideal standard, God took care of results. Moderate, frank, truthful, gentle, forgiving, loving, just, Mr. Lincoln will always be remembered as eminently a Christian President; and the almost immeasurably great results which he had the privilege of achieving, were due to the fact that he was a Christian President.
Conscience, and not expediency, not temporary advantage, not popular applause, not the love of power, was the ruling and guiding motive of his life. He was conscientious in his devotion to the Constitution and the laws. In this he was in advance of his people, and in advance of a multitude of his own friends. With every constitutional right, he dealt tenderly and carefully, while taunted by his own friends with subserviency to an institution which, in his inmost soul, he hated. His respect for law was as profound and sincere as his respect for God and his will. Uninfluenced by popular clamor, and unbent by his own humane and Christian desire to see all men free, he did not speak the word of emancipation until his duty to the Constitution which he had sworn to protect and defend demanded it. There is no doubt that, if he could have saved the country without destroying slavery, he would have done it, and done it against the most ardent wishes of his heart, through his regard for the Constitution which protected the inhuman institution, and the oath by which he had been invested with power. It was not slowness, nor coldness, nor indifference, that delayed the emancipation of the slaves. It was loyal, devoted, self-denying virtue.
Mr. Lincoln was conscientious in his patience. He knew and felt the weakness of human nature, and appreciated the force of education in moulding character and opinion. Hence, he was patient with his enemies, and equally patient with equally unreasonable friends. No hasty act of his administration can be traced to his impatience. When such an act was performed, and was followed by its inevitable consequences of evil, it originated in the impatience of those whom he could not control. His steps were taken with the deliberateness of destiny; and, as these steps are retraced by the historian, he can compare them to nothing but those leisurely and irresistible proceedings by which the Great Father in whom the good President trusted had wrought out his will in creation and Providence. Step by step, hand in hand with events, he worked and waited patiently, for the great consummation to which all the efforts of his life were devoted. Maligned, misunderstood, abused, cursed, his motives the foot-balls of malice and envy and pride and foolishness, he waited patiently for history to vindicate him, and permitted no smarting sense of personal injustice to divert him from his duty to his country.
He was conscientious in his regard for human rights. His opposition to slavery, and his love of the African, were no mere matters of policy, or means for winning power. He had a tender, brotherly regard for every human being; and the thought of oppression was a torment to him. There was nothing that moved him to such indignation as a wrong committed against the helpless ones of his own kind. He believed that negroes were men, endowed by their Creator with the rights of men; and, thus believing, there was no manly privilege which he enjoyed, that he would not have been glad to see conferred upon them. Hence, had he lived, he would logically have numbered himself among those who will agitate the right of universal loyal suffrage until that right shall be secured to every loyal man living under the American flag.
In Mr. Lincoln's life and character, the American people have received a benefaction not less in permanent importance and value, than in the revolution in opinion and policy by which he introduced them to a new national life. He has given them a statesman without a statesman's craftiness, a politician without a politician's meannesses, a great man without a great man's vices, a philanthropist without a philanthropist's impracticable dreams; a Christian without pretensions, a ruler without the pride of place and power, an ambitious man without selfishness, and a successful man without vanity. On the basis of such a manhood as this, all the coming generations of the nation will not fail to build high and beautiful ideals of human excellence, whose attractive power shall raise to a nobler level the moral sense and moral character of the nation. This true manhood--simple, unpretending, sympathetic with all humanity, and reverent toward God--is among the noblest of the nation's treasures; and through it, God has breathed, and will continue to breathe, into the nation, the elevating and purifying power of his own divine life.
Humble child of the backwoods--boatman, ax-man, hired laborer, clerk, surveyor, captain, legislator, lawyer, debater, orator, politician, statesman, President, savior of the republic, emancipator of a race, true Christian, true man--we receive thy life and its immeasurably great results, as the choicest gifts that a mortal has ever bestowed upon us; grateful to thee for thy truth to thyself, to us, and to God; and grateful to that ministry of Providence and grace which endowed thee so richly, and bestowed thee upon the nation and mankind.
- Judge C.P. Daly of New York.