The Times/1865/News/Assassination of President Lincoln

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Assassination of President Lincoln

27th April 1865

The Times (1865) Assassination of President Lincoln.jpg



On receiving the melancholy intelligence of the lamentable occurrences in the United States, the Members of Parliament assembled, consisting of gentlemen of all parties immediately signed the following address of sympathy to the resident American Minister, and to whom it was presented at 6 o'clock yesterday evening:-

"We, the undersigned, members of the British House of Commons, have learnt with the deepest horror and regret that the President of the United States of America has been deprived of life by an act of violence; and we desire to express our sympathy on the sad event with the American Minister now in London, as well as to declare our hope and confidence in the future of that great country, which we trust will continue to be associated with enlightened freedom and peaceful relations with this and every other country.' "London, April 26."

The intelligence of the assassination of President Lincoln and of the attempt to assassinate Mr. Seward caused a most extraordinary sensation in the city yesterday. Towards noon the news became known, and it spread rapidly from mouth to mouth in all directions. At first many were incredulous as to the truth of the rumour, and some believed it to have been set afloat for purposes in connexion with the Stock-Exchange. The house of Peabody and Co., American bankers, in Broad-street, had received early intelligence of tho assassination, and from there the news was carried to the Bank of England, whence it quickly radiated in a thousand directions. Meanwhile it was being wafted far and wide by the second editions of the morning papers, and was supplemented later in the day by the publication of additional particulars. Shortly after 12 o'clock it was communicated to the Lord Mayor while he was sitting in the Justice-room of the Mansion-house, and about the same time "the star-spangled banner" was hoisted half-mast high over tho American Consulate at the corner of Grace-church-street. The same flag had but a few days before floated in triumph from the same place on the entry of the Federals into Richmond, and still later on the surrender of General Lee. Between 1 and 2 o'clock the third edition of The Times, containing a circumstantial narrative of the affair, made its appearance in the city, and became immediately in extraordinary demand. A newsvendor in the Royal Exchange was selling it at half-a-crown a copy,and by half-past 3 o'clock it could not be had there for money. The excitement caused by the intelligence was manifest in the public streets, and the event was the theme of conversation everywhere. The revival of the affair of the Road-hill murder, which in the earlier part of the day had created a profound sensation, sank into insignificance in comparison with the interest and astonishment excited by the news of the tragedy at Washington. A photographer in Cornhill," taking time by the forelock," exhibited cartes of the deceased President in his window, inscribed "the late Mr. Lincoln," and accompanied by an account of the assasination, cut from the second edition of a contemporary. Throughout the remainder of the day the evening papers were sold in unexampled numbers, and often at double and tretle the ordinary price, all evincing the universal interest flt in the astounding intelligence.


The reading of the telegram announcing the assassination of President Lincoln produced a general expression of horror and disgust on the Liverpool Exchange to-day. At first it was alleged that the assassin was a Confederate, but the Southern men indignantly repudiated the imputation, and some of them who had known Booth positively asserted that he was an abolitionist of the Johnston and Butler school, and had been known to be mad for some months. The flags on the Town-hall and Exchange-buildings were hoisted half-mast, and in the course of the day a proposal to hold separate meetings of the Northern and Southern men for the purpose of expressing their abhorrence at the crime met with general acquiescence. The effect of the news on 'Change was a rise in cotton and the Confederate Loan, and a decline in Federal securities.


Such a state of excitement as was produced by the news of President Lincoln's assassination this morning was never witnessed here before. On the Exchange and everywhere the general expression was one of reprobation and horror that such a crime should have been committed. The news put a stop to all business, and the day has passed away in mere talk and excitement.


The news of the assassination of the President of the United States has produced a profound sensation here, and as much of sympathy, consternation, and dismay as can be conceived in fact, as to all of these feelings, second only to one other calamity which might have afflicted this nation and the world. It was a little past 12 o'clock when the first telegram was received here announcing this sad occurrence. Like all other bad news this spread rapidly, and in less than half an hour the Exchange, where the telegrams were posted, was thronged with persons in whose faces were depicted an expression of the deepest anxiety. Very many were reluctant to believe the news, and in a state of feverish and eager desire clung to the hope that the telegram was some stock-jobbing trick or fraud for some sinister purpose; and in these times when so much is done for the sake of creating a sensation, or for some more unworthy end, it is no wonder that even the public should at length have been taught to be cautious, and be reluctant to swallow the highly-spiced dishes set before it.

Nearly three hours passed away without the receipt of any confirmation of the first telegram, and hope was reviving when the full details of the appalling tragic occurrences just perpetrated at Washington came to hand. There was no face in which grief was not depicted, no sentiment uttered but that of abhorrence at these foul crimes. Of the truth of that the American people may rest assured, so far as this town is concerned, for although there has always been a strong feeling of sympathy here for the Southerners, and never more so than during the last hours of the gigantic efforts of the noble-hearted Lee and his valiant soldiers, there is nothing but detestation at the foul murder with which this fratricidal war has been crowned.

The Mayor was absent in London when this afflicting news was received, but his worship was immediately telegraphed to by Mr. Alderman Hawkes, with the view of some immediate expression in reference to this untoward event by the people of the town.

Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln, is said to be the son of an English tragedian, whom some of our theatrical readers may, perhaps recollect. He (the father) is thus described in the American Encyclopedia:—

"Booth, Junius Brutus, an English tragedian, born in London, May 1, 1796, died on the passage from New Orleans to Cincinnati, December, 1852. After fulfilling engagements at Deptford, near London, and other places, and even performing at Brussels in 1814 he made his début at Covent-garden Theatre, in London, as Richard III. His personal resemblance to the crookbacked tyrant conformed exactly to the traditions of the stage, and his parsonification of the character was in other respects so striking that he competed successfully with Edmund Kean, then just rising into fame. The managers of Drury-lane induced him to act there in the same plays with Kean; but when, after a few nights, he was again announced at Covent-garden, his appearance was the signal for a serious theatrical riot, which resulted in driving him for a time from the London stage. In 1821 he made his first appearance in the United States at Petersburg, Virginia, and in New York, at the Park Theatre, in the succeeding year, on both of which occasions he assumed his favourite character of Richard III. From that [time until the close of his life he acted repeatedly in every theatre in the Unites States, and in spite of certain irregular habits, which sometimes interfered with the performance of his engagements, enjoyed a popularity which a less gifted actor would have forfeited. During the latter part of his life he resided with his family at Baltimore, making occasional professional excursions to other cities. He had just returned from a lucrative tour to California when he died. The range of characters which Booth assumed was limited, and was confined almost exclusively to those which he had studied in the beginning of his career. He is most closely identified with that of Richard, in which, after the death of Edmund Kean, he had no rival. Among his other most familiar personations were Iago, Shylock, Hamlet, Sir Giles Overreach, and Sir Edmund Mortimer. In his peculiar sphere—the sudden and nervous expression of concentrated passion —as also in the more quiet and subtle passages of his delineations, he exercised a wonderful sway over his audience, and his appearance upon the stage has been known to awe a crowded and tumultuous house into instant silence. His presence and action, notwithstanding his short stature, were imposing, and his face, originally moulded after the antique type, was capable of wonderful expression under the influence of excitement. Several of his children have inherited a portion of his dramatic talent, and are now prominent actors on the American stage."

Wilkes Booth is also said to have been on the stage, and to have been an especial favourite at Mobile. It was probably by means of his familiarity with the arrangements behind the scenes that he contrived to effect his escape from the theatre.