Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 30.djvu/132

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124 Southern Historical Society Papers.


In responding to the toast to Abraham Lincoln, " He was not for an age, but for all time," Colonel Henry Watterson incidentally said:

"Jefferson Davis, than whom there never lived, in this or any other land, a noblier gentleman, and a knightlier soldier; Jefferson Davis, who, whatever may be thought of his opinions and actions, said always what he meant and meant always what he said; Jefferson Davis declared that next after the surrender at Appomattox, the mur- der of Abraham Lincoln made the darkest day in the calendar for the South and the people of the South. Why ? Because Mr. Davis had come to a knowledge of the magnanimity of Mr. Lincoln's heart and the generosity of his intentions.

"If Lincoln had lived there would have been no era of reconstruc- tion, with its repressive agencies and oppressive legislation. If Lin- coln had lived there would have been wanting to the extremism of the time the cue of his taking off to spur the -steeds of vengeance. For Lincoln entertained, with respect to the rehabilitation of the Union, the single wish that the Southern States, to use his homely phraseology, ' should comeback home and behave themselves;' and, if he had lived, he would have made this wish effectual, as he made everything effectual to which he seriously addressed himself.


"The story that he offered payment for the slaves, so often affirmed and denied, is in either case but a quibble with the actual facts. He could not have made such an offer, except tentatively, lacking the means to carry it out. He was not given the opportunity to make it, because the Confederate Commissioners were under instructions to treat solely on the basis of the recognition of the independence of the Confederacy. The conference came to naught. It ended where it began. But there is ample evidence that he went to Hamp- ton Roads resolved to commit himself to that proposition. He did, according to the official reports, refer to it in specific terms, having already formulated a plan of procedure. This plan required no veri- fication. It exists and may be seen in his own handwriting."

The final toast of the evening was to " The Silent Brigade," all rising, and a bugler sounding " taps."