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little company of friends of the family had dined together, he laid a roll of manuscript on a table, and, noticing a look of surprise on the countenance of one of these, he said:
“I know what you are thinking about. You think it mighty queer that an old stump-speaker like myself should not be able to address a crowd like this outside without a written speech. But you must remember I am, in a certain way, talking to the country, and I have to be mighty careful. Now, the last time I made an offhand speech, in answer to a serenade, I used the phrase, as applied to the Rebels, ' turned tail and ran.' Some very nice Boston folks, I am grieved to hear, were very much outraged by that phrase, which they thought improper. So I resolved to make no more impromptu speeches if I could help it."
Subsequently he said that it was Senator Sumner who had given voice to the complaint of "the nice Boston folks,” and with considerable emphasis.
It was a notable, even an historic occasion. At last the war was over.
Outside of the house was a vast crowd, cheering and shouting with a roar like that of the sea. A small battery from the navy yard occasionally rent the air with a salute, and the clamor of brass bands and the hissing of fireworks added to the confusion and racket in front of the mansion. Lincoln and a few friends lingered until it was time for him to begin his speech. As the little party mounted the stairs to the upper part of the house, there was a tremendous din outside, as if roars of laughter were mingling with the music and cheers.
Inside of the house, at one of the front windows on the right of the staircase, was old Edward, the conservative and dignified butler of the White House, struggling with Tad and trying to drag him back from the window, from which he was waving a Confederate flag, captured in some fight and given to the boy. The crowd recognized Tad, who frantically waved the flag as he fought with Edward, while the people roared with delight.
Edward conquered, and, followed by a parting cheer from the throng below, Tad rushed to his father with his complaints. But the President, just then approaching the centre window overlooking the portico, stood with a beaming face before the vast assembly beneath, and the mighty cheer that arose drowned all other sounds. The speech began with the words, “We meet this evening not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart."
As Lincoln spoke, the multitude below was as silent as if the great court-yard were deserted. Then as his speech was written on loose sheets, and the candles placed for him were too low, he took a light in his hand and went on with his reading. Soon coming to the end of a page, he found some difficulty in handling the manuscript and holding the candlestick. A friend who stood behind the drapery of the window reached out and took the candle, and held it until the end of the speech, and the President let the loose pages fall on the floor one by one, Tad picking them up as they fell and impatiently calling for more as they fluttered from his father's hand.
The speech, it must be said, was not what the peo
ple had expected. It was not a shout of jubilation and triumph. It was a political address. The Unionists of Louisiana had formed a State Legislature, abolished slavery, and enacted a law giving the blacks the right to vote. Many conservative persons thought this was too rapid a movement, and that there was no legal right residing in the so-called Legislature to pass such measures. Much of Lincoln's speech on this occasion, after a few sentences referring to the great topic of the day, was devoted to a discussion of the Louisiana question, as it was already called. One of his illustrations was this: “Concede that the new government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching it than by smashing it.” This figure of speech was disliked by those who did not agree with Lincoln.
Lincoln had made his last speech. Great events hurried after each other from that night to the morning of the 14th of April, 1865. These marked the disappearance of the last vestiges of the fallen and broken Confederacy. At noon on the 14th was held the last meeting of the Cabinet, at which General Grant was present. While waiting for the latest arrival of the ministers, Lincoln was observed to wear a grave look. He explained that he had had a strange dream,-a remarkable presentiment. What it was he did not say, but abruptly proceeded to business. After the Cabinet meeting, he drove out for an hour with Mrs. Lincoln, talking cheerfully about their plans for the future and what would be possible and best for them and the boys when they
should finally leave the White House, at the end of his second term. Mrs. Lincoln desired to visit Europe, and Lincoln was not wholly certain whether it would be best to fix his residence finally in his old home in Springfield, or in California, where he thought the boys might have a better start in life than in any of the older portions of the Republic.
That night, as had been arranged, Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, accompanied by General Grant and a few personal friends, were to visit the theatre. The fact had been announced in the newspapers, and an unusually large audience collected. General Grant was detained by business, and the President, Mrs. Lincoln, Miss Clara Harris (a daughter of Senator Ira Harris, of New York), and Major Rathbone, of the army, occupied a box near the stage, in the upper tier of boxes. John Wilkes Booth, an actor, had conspired with certain others to take the President's life on the first convenient occasion. This man, so far as known, had no personal grievance of which to complain. He had been possessed by an insane notion that Lincoln was an inhuman tyrant whose death was desirable. He and his companions had made their plans with great care and forethought. On this night he had a fleet horse ready in the rear of the theatre to bear him away when the deed should be done.
At half-past ten o'clock in the evening, while those present were absorbed in what was happening on the stage, the assassin, who had passed unnoticed into the rear of the box occupied by the President and his friends, held a pistol within a few inches of the head of
Lincoln, near the base of the brain, as he crept behind his illustrious victim, and fired. The ball entered the brain, and Lincoln fell forward insensible. The shot startled the great audience, but the position of the box did not allow many to see what had happened. Major Rathbone sprang to his feet and attempted to seize the assassin, who, drawing a long knife, stabbed Rathbone in the arm, and, profiting by the Major's repulse, jumped from the box to the stage. Striding across the stage, he brandished the knife, crying: “Sic semper tyrannis!”—the motto of the State of Virginia—“Ever so to tyrants.” Then adding, “The South is avenged!” he vanished and was seen no more.
In the midst of confusion and lamentation indescribable, the insensible form of Lincoln was carried from the theatre to a private residence across the street, and his family were sent for, and members of the Government made haste to assemble. Robert Lincoln, his mother, the secretaries of the President, members of the Cabinet, and a few of the personal friends of the family watched by the bed of the dying President through the night. No human skill could save that precious life, and all that science could do was merely to support the vigorous and well-trained natural powers as they struggled involuntarily with approaching death. The President uttered no word, and gave no sign of being conscious of what had taken place, or of the presence of those about him. The tremulous whispers of medical attendants, the suppressed sobs of strong men, and the labored breathing of the dying man were the only sounds that broke