the momentous issues of civil war; that they were friends and not enemies; and that, "though passion had strained, it must not break the bonds of their affections."
But four years had changed all this, not excepting the President himself, at least his position and policy upon the great question of slavery and its abolishment. His "dissatisfied fellow-countrymen " had treated with contempt his conciliatory and loving words, and had fulfilled and more than fulfilled all their threats. Uncertainty had become certainty, apprehension had ripened into conviction, and events had shown the people that their most fearful forebodings were justified, that they were enemies and not friends, and that the bonds of affection had been broken. Not only had a single national vessel on the peaceful errand of bearing bread to a beleaguered garrison been fired upon, not only had one fort been reduced, but the whole naval and military force of the nation had been assaulted and resisted with marvellous energy and endurance. Slavery which the President had in his first message treated so forbearingly, whose claims he did not feel called upon to question, as with which he did not propose to interfere, had gone down amid and in consequence of the storms of war, and had been made by a constitutional amendment no longer possible. Absolved from obligations which he had hitherto accepted as among the compromises of the Constitution, confirmed and strengthened by subsequent legislation and the traditions of the past, having so signally failed in his earnest. and repeated efforts to conciliate those thus "dissatisfied," and being instructed by the stern teachings of Providence, the President was prepared, as never before, to discuss the questions at issue according to their intrinsic merits and the demands of those fundamental principles on which the government had been professedly based. Having become deeply impressed with the conviction that the Divine justice was an important if not a controlling factor of the great practical problem they were endeavoring to solve, he did not hesitate to summon Congress and the country to listen to teachings he had been constrained to accept, and to mark the existence and requirements of the "higher law." He pointed them
to their relations to God's government, expressed his fear of its righteous retributions, and avowed the conviction that there was little hope of any abiding peace, except through a national recognition of human rights and their correlative but long-disregarded obligations.
Alluding to his first inaugural and to subsequent declarations as sufficiently indicative of the general purpose and policy of his administration concerning "the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation," leaving little "new," he said, to be presented, he spoke of the progress of arms as "reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all." Referring to the doubts and anxieties that existed in the public mind on the occasion of his first inauguration, he spoke of the great desire of the loyal States to save the Union without war, while the insurgent States were plotting its destruction. Both deprecated war, he said, "but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish." Speaking of slavery as the cause of the struggle, he said the insurgent States sought "to strengthen, perpetu ate, and extend it"; while "the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it." He spoke of the disappointment of both parties in regard to the magnitude of the war and the destruction of its "cause." "Each," he said, "looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.”
Alluding to the facts that both combatants read the same Bible and prayed to the same God, that the prayers of both could not be answered, and that neither had been answered "fully," he reminded his countrymen of their relation to and dependence upon the Divine purposes, and of what the nation had to fear from the execution of those retributive judgments, which their offences in the matter of slavery rendered imminent if not certain. If slavery be the offence, and "this terrible war be the woe due to those by whom the offence came," given to both North and South, he put the inquiry with an apparent conviction and a seeming assurance of the validity of the claim and the legitimacy of his appeal seldom
excelled or equalled, "Shall we discern there any departure from those Divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?" "Fondly," he continued, "do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue. until all the wealth piled by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." Thus boldly did the President remind his countrymen of the Divine government as a great practical fact that American statesmanship should recognize, arraign them for their great and persistent crimes, and point them to the punishment which was their "due." No ruler of men, not even those of the Jewish theocracy, ever spoke more reverently and unquestioningly of the Divine prerogative, and of human responsibility and obligation consequent thereon. But if some of his passages, by their stern and uncompromising character, call to mind the utterances of the old Hebrew prophets, there were others whose charity and forbearance recall the words of the Great Teacher, so deeply imbued did they seem with the spirit and purpose of the gospel. Hardly could one who had not read the Sermon on the Mount have written the closing paragraph: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
The message produced a profound impression both here and elsewhere, and was made the subject of the most unqualified commendation. Not only was it pronounced by partial Americans as "the finest state paper in all history," but it received the highest eulogiums from abroad. Its influence at home was in the highest degree salutary. Its profoundly religious tone struck the popular chord and evoked hearty responses, giving
as it did expression to a growing sentiment and the sanction of high official utterance to what the people, with few excep tions, had already begun to look upon as the only probable solution of the problem before them. Its determined purpose not to stop short of a complete vindication of the national authority, and the expressed confidence that the end was at hand, encouraged and nerved the people for the remaining sacrifices required. It strengthened the President with them and largely increased his popularity. Its dignified and Christian tone deepened the popular conviction of his personal integrity and worth, while its forceful and felicitous phrases found a lodgement in the memory from which they have not faded, and will not fade for long years to come.
But very different was the speech, as also its reception, of the Vice-President. Mr. Johnson had hardly begun his remarks when his wandering and maudlin words excited the suspicion, for which there was too much occasion, that he was speaking under other inspiration than that afforded by the occasion. The feelings of the Republicans were those of mingled indig nation and disgust. That one whom they had so honored by their confidence and suffrages should so disgrace them, as well as himself, by his unseemly conduct, seemed an outrage too great to be borne. So profound was this feeling that a meeting of Republicans was soon held, at which Mr. Sumner introduced a resolution requesting him to resign the office he had so disgraced. It was very warmly debated, but a majority could not be secured for so summary a measure; it being deemed wiser to pursue a more forbearing course, and to make the best of what all regretted. Among those who counselled thus were Wade of Ohio, Doolittle of Wisconsin, and Preston King of New York. But the occurrence unquestionably be came the occasion of that estrangement between the VicePresident and the party which had elected him that soon led to an open rupture, and was the beginning at least of those avowed antagonisms which characterized the whole of Mr. Johnson's administration.
MR. LINCOLN'S ASSASSINATION.
Appalling intelligence. - Ford's Theatre. - The President shot. Assassin's es
- Assault on Mr. Seward.
Wide-spread impression. - Feeling of personal loss.
Concerted plan. Remembered virtues.
- Rewards offered. - Prob
- Political fears. - Confederate leaders suspected.
- Universal mourning. Funeral cortège - DemonSpringfield. — His character. — Closing scenes. stration in other countries. - Disraeli. — London "Times" and "Daily News." - General estimate. Inadequate apprehension of reconstruction.
In the midst of the general rejoicings which followed the surrender of Lee's army came intelligence that appalled, and for the moment paralyzed, the land. On the very day that was promulgated the order, so longed for and so welcome, to suspend recruiting men and procuring supplies, thus assuring the people of what they had at first received with a kind of bewildering incredulity, that the "cruel war" was "over," and that peace had come, and had "come to stay," - the tidings was flashed over the wires that their leader was dead, that he whom they had learned to love and trust had fallen by the hand of the assassin.
In the Washington papers of the 14th of April, 1865, it was announced that the President and his victorious general, just from the front, would be present at the entertainment at Ford's Theatre on the evening of that day. General Grant having been called away, the President — it is said reluctantly, because he would not disappoint the public expectation — resolved to attend. At a little past ten o'clock, while he was listening to the play, John Wilkes Booth, with pistol and dagger, crowded into the box in which he was seated, shot the