網頁圖片
PDF

ways, but also in re-uniting and strengthening the ruptured bonds of union and national concord.

President Lincoln shared in the common joy and rejoicing of the people, beside having reason for special thankfulness and joy on his own account. His had been no position to be envied for four years past, and he, if any man, in the whole country, was able to rejoice in seeing the end of a struggle which had been one of life or death to the Republic. We may well believe, from what we know of the man, that while he rejoiced unfeignedly in the overthrow of the rebellion, he rejoiced even more in the glad prospect of carrying forward work of another kind, consequent upon the state of things which resulted from crushing the traitorous designs of the ambitious and unscrupulous leaders in the revolt; we mean, the work of healing the wounds which war had made, and by a wise, manly, and conciliatory policy, bringing together again in harmony and good will the severed sections of our common country.

It was a noble desire, a magnaminous resolve, worthy of the chief magistrate of a great nation, which animated the bosom of Abraham Lincoln ; and so far as human sagacity can venture to judge of results yet in the future, it seemed to be a special privilege belonging to the American people, that the man who had established, on the most solid foundation, a character for honesty, uprightness, unselfishness, candor, and gentleness of heart, should be the one into whose hands was committed for solution the most difficult of all pro

1

blems under our republican form of government, viz., how to restore the rebellious states and people to the full enjoyment of all the rights and privi- | leges which they had insanely endeavor- i ed to destroy, and at the same time j vindicate the majesty and dignity of the violated Constitution and laws of the land. So far as the foresight of man could reach, Mr. Lincoln seemed to be the one whose training and discipline, during the past four years, rendered him essential to the country's safety, in its present critical condition; and the people were full of hope, that, under his firm, judicious, common-sense management of national affairs, it would not be long ere light would emerge out of gloom and darkness, and order, peace, and concord resume theii wonted reign.

But, alas for all human calculations' a mysterious Providence had otherwise J! ordered the coui*se of events, and the sixteenth president of the United States was stricken down so suddenly, and in 1' so horrible a manner, that, for the time, the national heart was paralyzed, and the ship of state, for the moment, appeared to be cut loose from her moor ings, and, without chart or rudder, to be rushing swiftly to destruction. The narrative of the termination of Mr. Lincoln's life must now be given. It is a mournful task, but it forms a part of our history which cannot be overlooked, in its consequences and results, Bo far as they have, as yet, been developed.

The evil passions engendered by civil war, and the demon-like spite and hatred of many among the rebel synxCn. XXL]

pathizers and agents, had led more than one of the friends of the government to apprehend, that some attempt would be made upon the life of the president and other prominent men in our public affairs. Mr. Liucoln had been warned several times of threats and dangers from various quarters,* and he had been entreated to be more careful and watchful in respect to personal exposure; but he uniformly treated all apprehensions of the kind as unfounded, and seems never to have been troubled with any fears on the subject. He had passed unscathed through the four years of the war, and now, as there appeared to be no reason for an assault upon his life, nothing to be gained by the enemies of the government by such a course, he regarded the anxieties of his friends and supporters as needless and uncalled for, and he looked upon the future with bright expectations unmarred by any fears of personal harm or injury.

Mr. Lincoln, after a brief visit to Richmond (p. 532) returned to Washington, April 9th, his return having been hastened by the serious accident to Mr. Seward, who, having been thrown from his carriage, had had his right arm and jaw broken. The news

* These warnings were so distinct and direct, Mr. Raymond assures us, that Mr. Seward consulted Secretary. Stanton in regard to them, and it was agreed that he should lay the subject before the president the next day, and earnestly represent to him the expediency of avoiding, for a time, all public gatherings, and all needless exposure to possible assault. But the next day Mr. Seward was thrown from his carriage, and, his foot catching in the steps, he was dragged for some distance and so seriously injured that he was compelled to dismiss all thought of public matters from his mind. See " Life of Abraham Lincoln," p 693.

541

of Lee's surrender came directly after, and the president was waited on by a large company to congratulate him on this important event. The next evening, April 11th, Mr. Lincoln made some extended remarks, which, being the last of his public speeches, are worthy the reader's thoughtful consideration. They arc given in full by Mr. Raymond, pp. 684-687.

On that last, fatal day, Friday, April 14th, a cabinet meeting was held at eleven o'clock, at which Gen. Grant was present; various matters of policy were discussed; and the president's views met with the approbation of all his constitutional advisers. As this was the day appointed for the raising the flag of the United States on Fort Sumter, it was generally expected that, besides the president, Gen. Grant and others would show themselves in public, and make meet recognition of so interesting an event. Mr. Lincoln, on invitation, consented to visit Ford's Theatre, in Tenth street, Washington, that evening, and it was thought that the lieutenant-general and other notabilities would also be present. About eight o'clock, in company with Mrs. Lincoln, Major Rathbone, and Miss Harris, the president proceeded to the theatre, and took his place in a box near and looking down upon the stage. Gen. Grant, having left the city during the day, did not attend the theatre this evening. The house was full on the occasion, and the box in which the president was, was decorated with an American flag draped in front.

The door of the box was directly behind where Mr. Lincoln was sitting,

ABRAHAM LINCOLN ASSASSINATED.

[ocr errors]

not more than five feet distant, and was left open during the evening. At fifteen minutes past ten, John Wilkes Booth, an actor, made his way along the passage in the rear of the dress circle, and stealthily entering the vestibule of the president's box, closed the door behind him, and fastened it, so that it could not be opened from the outside. Booth then drew a small, silver-mounted Derringer pistol, which he carried in his right hand, holding a long double-edged dagger in his left, aud stepping within the box, held the pistol just over the back of the chair in which Mr. Lincoln sat, and shot him through the back of the head. The murdered man's head fell slightly forward, and his eyes closed forever on this mortal scene.

Startled by the report of the pistol, and discovering through the slight smoke a man in the box, Major Rathbone sprang towards and seized him; but the assassin, wresting himself out of his grasp, and dropping his pistol, struck at the major with the dagger, aud wounded him severely in the left arm near the shoulder. Booth then rushed to the front of the box, shouted "sic semper tyrannis /" and made a leap over the railing on to the stage below. A spur which he had on caught in the flag draped in front of the box, and Booth fell; but jumping up quickly, he brandished his dagger in face of the horrified assemblage, exclaiming, "the South is avenged!" He then rushed from the stage and made his exit from a door in the rear of the house. There he found a lad holding a horse all ready for him to mount, and the wretched parricide hastened away

across the Potomac, and for a while found refuge among the rebel sympathizers in Lower Maryland.*

Immediate efforts were made to i obtain medical assistance, and several surgeons examined the fatal wound in! hope of being able to minister relief; but it was all in vain. The murdered president was never conscious after the assassin's ball struck him. The audience in the theatre broke up in confusion and inexpressible astonishment; and Mr. Lincoln, carried to the White House, and surrounded by the various officers of the government, was watched by them through the night. Gradually the remnant of life faded away, aud at 1I twenty-two minutes past seven, on the morning of April 15th, he breathed his j last.

As if what has just been briefly narrated were not enough of horror and dismay, this same Friday evening was noted for a murderous and brutal assault upon the secretary of state. Mr.

Seward (p. 541) was confined to his

||

• Immediate steps were taken to arrest Booth and his accomplices. A reward of $50,000 was offered by the war department, April 20th, for Booth's apprehen- I sion; the sum of $25,000 was offered for G. A. Atzerott's, and the same sum for D. C. Harold's apprehension. Booth and Harold were chased to Garret's Farm, near Port Royal, on the Rappahannock, by CoL Baker. Booth was shot by Sergeant Corbott in attempting to escape from the barn in which he and Harold were; Harold gave himself up. This was April 26th. Atzerott, Payne, Mary E. Suratt, O'Laughlin, Spongier, Arnold, and Mudd were soon after arrested as accomplices. They were tried by military commission, com- , mencing May 13th, and lasting until the end of June. On the 5th of July, Harold, Atzerott, Payne, and Suratt were condemned, and the president approving, they were hung on the 7th of July. Of the others, O'Laughlin, Arnold, and Mudd were sentenced to hard labor for life, Spangler to hard labor for six years. Thoy were sent to the Dry Tortugas in accordance with the president's direction.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

bed, and reduced to great debility. One of the band of murderers, named Payne, made his way into Mr. Seward's house, at ten o'clock in the evening, under pretence of bringing medicines from the physician, and though hindered in his progress by Mr. Seward's son, who forbad his entering the room, he succeeded in getting to the third story and forcing his way into the presence of the utterly helpless invalid. Throwing himself upon the bed, Payne made three powerful stabs at Mr. Seward's throat, gashing him badly, but not fatally. An invalid soldier, named Robinson, acting as nurse, seized Payne about the body and tried to drag him away; and Mr. Seward crept quickly off the bed at the further side. The murderer, having broken away from Robinson, rushed to the door, and despite all obstacles, escaped into the street, mounted a horse he had there, and rode quickly away.

"When the news of this appalling tragedy," says Mr. Raymond, "spread through the city, it carried consternation to every heart. Treading close on the heels of the president's murder— perpetrated indeed at the same instant —it was instinctively felt to be the work of a conspiracy, secret, remorseless, and terrible. The secretary of war, Mr. Stanton, had left Mr. Seward's bedside not twenty minutes before the assault, and was in his private chamber, preparing to retire, when a messenger brought tidings of the tragedy, and summoned his instant attendance. On his way to Mr. Seward's house, Mr. Stanton heard of the simultaneous murder of the president, and instantly

felt that the government was enveloped in the meshes of a conspiracy, whose agents were unknown, and which was all the more terrible for the darkness and

mystery in which it moved

All these feelings, however, gradually subsided, and gave way to a feeling of intense anxiety for the life of the president. Crowds of people assembled in the neighborhood of the house where the dying martyr lay, eager for tidings of his condition, throughout the night; and when early in the morning it was announced that he was dead, a feeling of solemn awe filled every heart, and sat, a brooding grief, upon every face. "* We need not enlarge upon the feel ing produced by what has just been narrated. The news, as carried by the telegraph over the country, on the morning of April loth, excited everywhere profound astonishment and horror; and as the crime of assassination was one unknown in our annals, and utterly abhorrent to the spirit and genins of our people, it stirred to their very depths the indignation of Americans, and the sense of wrong and insult received at the hands of the shameless wretches who had taken this course in order to gratify the malignity and bitterness of their depraved souls. Quite possibly, Booth and his fellow con spirators and employers had some insane notion that Mr. Lincoln's death would involve dire confusion, perhaps revolution, in the government; and under such a state of things, they may

* '• Life of Abraham Lincoln," p. 700. Of the funeral honors paid to Mr. Lincoln, in the several portions of the country through which his remains passed on their way to Illinois, Mr. Raymond gives a full and interesting account, pp. 703-712.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

have thought that the rebels would gain some advantage to themselves or their cause; but they little knew or appreciated the strength of the Constitution, and the spirit of willing obedience which the people always render to its provisions. There was no political agitation or danger, no disturbance of the finances, no outbreaks, no doubt anywhere as to the stability of the government. The attorney - general, James Speed, in behalf of the cabinet of Mr. Lincoln, immediately and officially informed Andrew Johnson, vicepresident, of the facts of the case, and that he was now, by the Constitution, president of the United States.* That same morning, April 15th, 1865, at ten o'clock, the chief-justice, Salmon P. Chase, administered the oath of office to Andrew Johnson, who made some appropriate remarks on the occasion, but declined to indicate any line of policy at present. The country was duly informed, by Secretary Stanton, of what had been done, and Mr. Johnson, retaining the same gentlemen in the cabinet, the regular routine of government affairs went on as quietly

* For a brief sketch of Andrew Johnson's life, see p. 47 of the present volume.

and regularly as if the deplorable murder of Abraham Lincoln had never been committed.

Here we bring our present labors to | a close. We do not attempt to give expression to sentiments which might I; naturally be uttered on such an occa-' sion. We indulge in no words of eulogy; we venture upon no criticism; the day has not arrived for either. The narrative of the progress of affairs, subsequently to Andrew Johnson's accession to the presidency, must be deferred to a later occasion. Then, probably, it will be seen and understood, what peculiar trials, and testings of its strength and adaptedness to the needs of a free people, the Constitution was called upon to endure; and how the nation advanced in those onward steps towards its high destiny, and its rightful place among the controlling powers of the world. In due time, we believe, it will become evident, far more so than it is now, what are the permanent re sults of the fearful struggle of four years of civil war, and the succeeding years, hardly less fearful, of political, sectional strife and discord in the Republic. Eslo peiyjetua.

« 上一頁繼續 »