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The Boys' Life of Abraham Lincoln by Helen Nicolay

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we find it still continues, and we must believe that He permits
it for some wise purpose of His own, mysterious and unknown to
us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able
to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe that He who made the
world still governs it."

Children held a warm place in the President's affections. He was
not only a devoted father; his heart went out to all little folk.
He had been kind to babies in his boyish days, when, book in
hand, and the desire for study upon him, he would sit with one
foot on the rocker of a rude frontier cradle, not too selfishly
busy to keep its small occupant lulled and content, while its
mother went about her household tasks. After he became President
many a sad-eyed woman carrying a child in her arms went to see
him, and the baby always had its share in gaining her a speedy
hearing, and if possible a favorable answer to her petition.

When children came to him at the White House of their own accord,
as they sometimes did, the favors they asked were not refused
because of their youth. One day a small boy, watching his chance,
slipped into the Executive Office between a governor and a
senator, when the door was opened to admit them. They were as
much astonished at seeing him there as the President was, and
could not explain his presence; but he spoke for himself. He had
come, he said, from a little country town, hoping to get a place
as page in the House of Representatives. The President began to
tell him that he must go to Captain Goodnow, the doorkeeper of
the House, for he himself had nothing to do with such
appointments. Even this did not discourage the little fellow.
Very earnestly he pulled his papers of recommendation out of his
pocket, and Mr. Lincoln, unable to resist his wistful face, read
them, and sent him away happy with a hurried line written on the
back of them, saying: "If Captain Goodnow can give this good
little boy a place, he will oblige A. Lincoln."

It was a child who persuaded Mr. Lincoln to wear a beard. Up to
the time he was nominated for President he had always been
smooth-shaven. A little girl living in Chautauqua County, New
York, who greatly admired him, made up her mind that he would
look better if he wore whiskers, and with youthful directness
wrote and told him so. He answered her by return mail:

Springfield, ILL., Oct. 19, 1860.

Miss Grace Bedelt,

My dear little Miss: Your very agreeable letter of the fifteenth
is received. I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughter.
I have three sons, one seventeen, one nine, and one seven years
of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family. As
to the whiskers, never having worn any, do you not think people
would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin

Your very sincere well-wisher,

A. Lincoln.

Evidently on second thoughts he decided to follow her advice. On
his way to Washington his train stopped at the town where she
lived. He asked if she were in the crowd gathered at the station
to meet him. Of course she was, and willing hands forced a way
for her through the mass of people. When she reached the car Mr.
Lincoln stepped from the train, kissed her, and showed her that
he had taken her advice.

The Secretary who wrote about the President's desire to save the
lives of condemned soldiers tells us that "during the first year
of the administration the house was made lively by the games and
pranks of Mr. Lincoln's two younger children, William and Thomas.
Robert the eldest was away at Harvard, only coming home for short
vacations. The two little boys, aged eight and ten, with their
western independence and enterprise, kept the house in an uproar.
They drove their tutor wild with their good-natured disobedience.
They organized a minstrel show in the attic; they made
acquaintance with the office-seekers and became the hot champions
of the distressed. William was, with all his boyish frolic, a
child of great promise, capable of close application and study.
He had a fancy for drawing up railway time-tables, and would
conduct an imaginary train from Chicago to New York with perfect
precision. He wrote childish verses, which sometimes attained the
unmerited honors of print. But this bright, gentle and studious
child sickened and died in February, 1862. His father was
profoundly moved by his death, though he gave no outward sign of
his trouble, but kept about his work, the same as ever. His
bereaved heart seemed afterwards to pour out its fulness on his
youngest child. 'Tad' was a merry, warm-blooded, kindly little
boy, perfectly lawless, and full of odd fancies and inventions,
the 'chartered libertine' of the Executive Mansion." He ran
constantly in and out of his father's office, interrupting his
gravest labors. Mr. Lincoln was never too busy to hear him, or to
answer his bright, rapid, imperfect speech, for he was not able
to speak plainly until he was nearly grown. "He would perch upon
his father's knee, and sometimes even on his shoulder, while the
most weighty conferences were going on. Sometimes, escaping from
the domestic authorities, he would take refuge in that sanctuary
for the whole evening, dropping to sleep at last on the floor,
when the President would pick him up, and carry him tenderly to

The letters and even the telegrams Mr. Lincoln sent his wife had
always a message for or about Tad. One of them shows that his
pets, like their young master, were allowed great liberty. It was
written when the family was living at the Soldiers' Home, and
Mrs. Lincoln and Tad had gone away for a visit. "Tell dear Tad,"
he wrote, "that poor Nanny Goat is lost, and Mrs. Cuthbert and I
are in distress about it. The day you left, Nanny was found
resting herself and chewing her little cud on the middle of Tad's
bed; but now she's gone! The gardener kept complaining that she
destroyed the flowers, till it was concluded to bring her down to
the White House. This was done, and the second day she had
disappeared and has not been heard of since. This is the last we
know of poor Nanny."

Tad was evidently consoled by, not one, but a whole family of new
goats, for about a year later Mr. Lincoln ended a business
telegram to his wife in New York with the words: "Tell Tad the
goats and Father are very well." Then, as the weight of care
rolled back upon this greathearted, patient man, he added, with
humorous weariness, "especially the goats."

Mr. Lincoln was so forgetful of self as to be absolutely without
personal fear. He not only paid no attention to the threats which
were constantly made against his life, but when, on July 11,
1864, the Confederate General Early appeared suddenly and
unexpectedly before the city with a force of 17,000 men, and
Washington was for two days actually in danger of assault and
capture, his unconcern gave his friends great uneasiness. On the
tenth he rode out, as was his custom, to spend the night at the
Soldiers' Home, but Secretary Stanton, learning that Early was
advancing, sent after him, to compel his return. Twice afterward,
intent upon watching the fighting which took place near Fort
Stevens, north of the city, he exposed his tall form to the gaze
and bullets of the enemy, utterly heedless of his own peril; and
it was not until an officer had fallen mortally wounded within a
few feet of him, that he could be persuaded to seek a place of
greater safety.


In the summer of 1863 the Confederate armies reached their
greatest strength. It was then that, flushed with military ardor,
and made bold by what seemed to the southern leaders an unbroken
series of victories on the Virginia battlefields, General Lee
again crossed the Potomac River, and led his army into the North.
He went as far as Gettysburg in Pennsylvania; but there, on the
third of July, 1863, suffered a disastrous defeat, which
shattered forever the Confederate dream of taking Philadelphia
and dictating peace from Independence Hall. This battle of
Gettysburg should have ended the war, for General Lee, on
retreating southward, found the Potomac River so swollen by heavy
rains that he was obliged to wait several days for the floods to
go down. In that time it would have been quite possible for
General Meade, the Union commander, to follow him and utterly
destroy his army. He proved too slow, however, and Lee and his
beaten Confederate soldiers escaped. President Lincoln was
inexpressibly grieved at this, and in the first bitterness of his
disappointment sat down and wrote General Meade a letter. Lee
"was within your easy grasp," he told him, "and to have closed
upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have
ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely.
. . . Your golden opportunity is gone and I am distressed
immeasurably because of it." But Meade never received this
letter. Deeply as the President felt Meade's fault, his spirit of
forgiveness was so quick, and his thankfulness for the measure of
success that had been gained, so great, that he put it in his
desk, and it was never signed or sent.

The battle of Gettysburg was indeed a notable victory, and
coupled with the fall of Vicksburg, which surrendered to General
Grant on that same third of July, proved the real turning-point
of the war. It seems singularly appropriate, then, that
Gettysburg should have been the place where President Lincoln
made his most beautiful and famous address. After the battle the
dead and wounded of both the Union and Confederate armies had
received tender attention there. Later it was decided to set
aside a portion of the battlefield for a great national military
cemetery in which the dead found orderly burial. It was dedicated
to its sacred use on November 19, 1863. At the end of the stately
ceremonies President Lincoln rose and said:

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to
the proposition that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that
nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long
endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have
come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place
for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.
It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate--we cannot consecrate-
-we cannot hallow--this ground. The brave men, living and dead,
who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power
to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember
what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It
is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the
unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly
advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great
task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take
increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last
full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these
dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the
people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the

With these words, so brief, so simple, so full of reverent
feeling, he set aside the place of strife to be the resting place
of heroes, and then went back to his own great task--for which
he, too, was to give "the last full measure of devotion."

Up to within a very short time little had been heard about
Ulysses S. Grant, the man destined to become the most successful
general of the war. Like General McClellan, he was a graduate of
West Point; and also like McClellan, he had resigned from the
army after serving gallantly in the Mexican war. There the
resemblance ceased, for he had not an atom of McClellan's vanity,
and his persistent will to do the best he could with the means
the government could give him was far removed from the younger
general's faultfinding and complaint. He was about four years
older than McClellan, having been born on April 27, 1822. On
offering his services to the War Department in 1861 he had
modestly written: "I feel myself competent to command a regiment
if the President in his judgment should see fit to intrust one to
me." For some reason this letter remained unanswered, although
the Department, then and later, had need of trained and
experienced officers. Afterward the Governor of Illinois made him
a colonel of one of the three years' volunteer regiments; and
from that time on he rose in rank, not as McClellan had done, by
leaps and bounds, but slowly, earning every promotion. All of his
service had been in the West, and he first came into general
notice by his persistent and repeated efforts to capture
Vicksburg, on whose fall the opening of the Mississippi River
depended. Five different plans he tried before he finally
succeeded, the last one appearing utterly foolhardy, and seeming
to go against every known rule of military science. In spite of
this it was successful, the Union army and navy thereby gaining
control of the Mississippi River and cutting off forever from the
Confederacy a great extent of rich country, from which, up to
that time, it had been drawing men and supplies.

The North was greatly cheered by these victories, and all eyes
were turned upon the successful commander. No one was more
thankful than Mr. Lincoln. He gave Grant quick promotion, and
crowned the official act with a most generous letter. "I do not
remember that you and I ever met personally," he wrote. "I write
this now as a grateful acknowledgement for the almost inestimable
service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further."
Then, summing up the plans that the General had tried, especially
the last one, he added: "I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to
make the personal acknowledgement that you were right and I was

Other important battles won by Grant that same fall added to his
growing fame, and by the beginning of 1864 he was singled out as
the greatest Union commander. As a suitable reward for his
victories it was determined to make him Lieutenant-General. This
army rank had, before the Civil War, been bestowed on only two
American soldiers--on General Washington, and on Scott, for his
conquest of Mexico. In 1864 Congress passed and the President
signed an act to revive the grade, and Grant was called to
Washington to receive his commission. He and Mr. Lincoln met for
the first time at a large public reception held at the Executive
Mansion on the evening of March 8. A movement and rumor in the
crowd heralded his approach, and when at last the short, stocky,
determined soldier and the tall, care-worn, deep-eyed President
stood face to face the crowd, moved by a sudden impulse of
delicacy, drew back, and left them almost alone to exchange a few
words. Later, when Grant appeared in the great East Room, the
enthusiasm called forth by his presence could no longer be
restrained, and cheer after cheer went up, while his admirers
pressed about him so closely that, hot and blushing with
embarrassment, he was forced at last to mount a sofa, and from
there shake hands with the eager people who thronged up to him
from all sides.

The next day at one o'clock the President, in the presence of the
cabinet and a few other officials, made a little speech, and gave
him his commission. Grant replied with a few words, as modest as
they were brief, and in conversation afterward asked what special
duty was required of him. The President answered that the people
wanted him to take Richmond, and asked if he could do it. Grant
said that he could if he had the soldiers, and the President
promised that these would be furnished him. Grant did not stay in
Washington to enjoy the new honors of his high rank, but at once
set about preparations for his task. It proved a hard one. More
than a year passed before it was ended, and all the losses in
battle of the three years that had gone before seemed small in
comparison with the terrible numbers of killed and wounded that
fell during these last months of the war. At first Grant had a
fear that the President might wish to control his plans, but this
was soon quieted; and his last lingering doubt on the subject
vanished when, as he was about to start on his final campaign,
Mr. Lincoln sent him a letter stating his satisfaction with all
he had done, and assuring him that in the coming campaign he
neither knew, for desired to know, the details of his plans. In
his reply Grant confessed the groundlessness of his fears, and
added, "Should my success be less than I desire and expect, the
least I can say is, the fault is not with you."

He made no complicated plan for the problem before him, but
proposed to solve it by plain, hard, persistent fighting. "Lee's
army will be your objective point," he instructed General Meade.
"Where Lee goes there you will go also." Nearly three years
earlier the opposing armies had fought their first battle of Bull
Run only a short distance north of where they now confronted each
other. Campaign and battle between them had swayed to the north
and the south, but neither could claim any great gain of ground
or of advantage. The final struggle was before them. Grant had
two to one in numbers; Lee the advantage in position, for he knew
by heart every road, hill and forest in Virginia, had for his
friendly scout every white inhabitant, and could retire into
prepared fortifications. Perhaps the greatest element of his
strength lay in the conscious pride of his army that for three
years it had steadily barred the way to Richmond. To offset this
there now menaced it what had always been absent before--the
grim, unflinching will of the new Union commander, who had
rightly won for himself the name of "Unconditional Surrender"

On the night of May 4, 1864, his army entered upon the campaign
which, after many months, was to end the war. It divided itself
into two parts. For the first six weeks there was almost constant
swift marching and hard fighting, a nearly equally matched
contest of strategy and battle between the two armies, the
difference being that Grant was always advancing, and Lee always
retiring. Grant had hoped to defeat Lee outside of his
fortifications, and early in the campaign had expressed his
resolution "to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer";
but the losses were so appalling, 60,000 of his best troops
melting away in killed and wounded during the six weeks, that
this was seen to be impossible. Lee's army was therefore driven
into its fortifications around the Confederate capital and then
came the siege of Richmond, lasting more than nine months, but
pushed forward all that time with relentless energy, in spite of
Grant's heavy losses.

In the West, meanwhile, General William T. Sherman, Grant's
closest friend and brother officer, pursued a task of almost
equal importance, taking Atlanta, Georgia, which the Confederates
had turned into a city of foundries and workshops for the
manufacture and repair of guns; then, starting from Atlanta,
marching with his best troops three hundred miles to the sea,
laying the country waste as they went; after which, turning
northward, he led them through South and North Carolina to bring
his army in touch with Grant.

Against this background of fighting the life of the country went
on. The end of the war was approaching, surely, but so slowly
that the people, hoping for it, and watching day by day, could
scarcely see it. They schooled themselves to a dogged endurance,
but there was no more enthusiasm. Many lost courage. Volunteering
almost ceased, and the government was obliged to begin drafting
men to make up the numbers of soldiers needed by Grant in his
campaign against Richmond.

The President had many things to dishearten him at this time,
many troublesome questions to settle. For instance, there were
new loyal State governments to provide in those parts of the
South which had again come under control of the Union armies--no
easy matter, where every man, woman and child harbored angry
feelings against the North, and no matter how just and forbearing
he might be, his plans were sure to be thwarted and bitterly
opposed at every step.

There were serious questions, too, to be decided about negro
soldiers, for the South had raised a mighty outcry against the
Emancipation Proclamation, especially against the use of the
freed slaves as soldiers, vowing that white officers of negro
troops would be shown small mercy, if ever they were taken
prisoners. No act of such vengeance occurred, but in 1864 a fort
manned by colored soldiers was captured by the Confederates, and
almost the entire garrison was put to death. Must the order that
the War Department had issued some time earlier, to offset the
Confederate threats, now be put in force? The order said that for
every negro prisoner killed by the Confederates a Confederate
prisoner in the hands of the Union armies would be taken out and
shot. It fell upon Mr. Lincoln to decide. The idea seemed
unbearable to him, yet, on the other hand, could he afford to let
the massacre go unavenged and thus encourage the South in the
belief that it could commit such barbarous acts and escape
unharmed? Two reasons finally decided him against putting the
order in force. One was that General Grant was about to start on
his campaign against Richmond, and that it would be most unwise
to begin this by the tragic spectacle of a military punishment,
however merited. The other was his tender-hearted humanity. He
could not, he said, take men out and kill them in cold blood for
crimes committed by other men. If he could get hold of the
persons who were guilty of killing the colored prisoners in cold
blood, the case would be different; but he could not kill the
innocent for the guilty. Fortunately the offense was not
repeated, and no one had cause to criticize his clemency.

Numbers of good and influential men, dismayed at the amount of
blood and treasure that the war had already cost, and
disheartened by the calls for still more soldiers that Grant's
campaign made necessary, began to clamor for peace--were ready to
grant almost anything that the Confederates chose to ask. Rebel
agents were in Canada professing to be able to conclude a peace.
Mr. Lincoln, wishing to convince these northern "Peace men" of
the groundlessness of their claim, and of the injustice of their
charges that the government was continuing the war unnecessarily,
sent Horace Greeley, the foremost among them, to Canada, to talk
with the selfstyled ambassadors of Jefferson Davis. Nothing came
of it, of course, except abuse of Mr. Lincoln for sending such a
messenger, and a lively quarrel between Greeley and the rebel
agents as to who was responsible for the misunderstandings that

The summer and autumn of 1864 were likewise filled with the
bitterness and high excitement of a presidential campaign; for,
according to law, Mr. Lincoln's successor had to be elected on
the "Tuesday after the first Monday" of November in that year.
The great mass of Republicans wished Mr. Lincoln to be reelected.
The Democrats had long ago fixed upon General McClellan, with his
grievances against the President, as their future candidate. It
is not unusual for Presidents to discover would-be rivals in
their own cabinets. Considering the strong men who formed Mr.
Lincoln's cabinet, and the fact that four years earlier more than
one of them had active hopes of being chosen in his stead, it is
remarkable that there was so little of this.

The one who developed the most serious desire to succeed him was
Salmon P. Chase, his Secretary of the Treasury. Devoted with all
his powers to the cause of the Union, Mr. Chase was yet strangely
at fault in his judgment of men. He regarded himself as the
friend of Mr. Lincoln, but nevertheless held so poor an opinion
of the President's mind and character, compared with his own,
that he could not believe people blind enough to prefer the
President to himself. He imagined that he did not want the
office, and was anxious only for the public good; yet he listened
eagerly to the critics of the President who flattered his hopes,
and found time in spite of his great labors to write letters to
all parts of the country, which, although protesting that he did
not want the honor, showed his entire willingness to accept it.
Mr. Lincoln was well aware of this. Indeed, it was impossible not
to know about it, though he refused to hear the matter discussed
or to read any letters concerning it. He had his own opinion of
the taste displayed by Mr. Chase, but chose to take no notice of
his actions. "I have determined," he said, "to shut my eyes, so
far as possible, to everything of the sort. Mr. Chase makes a
good Secretary, and I shall keep him where he is. If he becomes
President, all right. I hope we may never have a worse man, and
he not only kept him where he was, but went on appointing Chase's
friends to office.

There was also some talk of making General Grant the Republican
candidate for President, and an attempt was even made to trap Mr.
Lincoln into taking part in a meeting where this was to be done.
Mr. Lincoln refused to attend, and instead wrote a letter of such
hearty and generous approval of Grant and his army that the
meeting naturally fell into the hands of Mr. Lincoln's friends.
General Grant, never at that time or any other, gave the least
encouragement to the efforts which were made to array him against
the President. Mr. Lincoln, on his part, received all warnings to
beware of Grant in the most serene manner, saying tranquilly, "If
he takes Richmond, let him have it." It was not so with General
Fremont. At a poorly attended meeting held in Cleveland he was
actually nominated by a handful of people calling themselves the
"Radical Democracy," and taking the matter seriously, accepted,
although, three months later, having found no response from the
public, he withdrew from the contest.

After all, these various attempts to discredit the name of
Abraham Lincoln caused hardly a ripple on the great current of
public opinion, and death alone could have prevented his choice
by the Republican national convention. He took no measures to
help on his own candidacy. With strangers he would not talk about
the probability of his reelection; but with friends he made no
secret of his readiness to continue the work he was engaged in if
such should be the general wish. "A second term would be a great
honor and a great labor; which together, perhaps, I would not
decline," he wrote to one of them. He discouraged officeholders,
either civil or military, who showed any special zeal in his
behalf. To General Schurz, who wrote asking permission to take an
active part in the campaign for his reelection, he answered: "I
perceive no objection to your making a political speech when you
are where one is to be made; but quite surely, speaking in the
North and fighting in the South at the same time are not
possible, nor could I be justified to detail any officer to the
political campaign . . . and then return him to the army."

He himself made no long speeches during the summer, and in his
short addresses, at Sanitary Fairs, in answer to visiting
delegations, and on similar occasions where custom and courtesy
obliged him to say a few words, he kept his quiet ease and
self-command, speaking heartily and to the point, yet avoiding
all the pitfalls that beset the candidate who talks.

When the Republican national convention came together in
Baltimore on June 7, 1864, it had very little to do, for its
delegates were bound by rigid instructions to vote for Abraham

He was chosen on the first ballot, every State voting for him
except Missouri, whose representatives had been instructed to
vote for Grant. Missouri at once changed its vote, and the
secretary of the convention read the grand total of 506 for
Lincoln, his announcement being greeted by a storm of cheers that
lasted several minutes.

It was not so easy to choose a Vice-President. Mr. Lincoln had
been besieged by many people to make known his wishes in the
matter, but had persistently refused. He rightly felt that it
would be presumptuous in him to dictate who should be his
companion on the ticket, and, in case of his death, his successor
in office. This was for the delegates to the convention to
decide, for they represented the voters of the country. He had no
more right to dictate who should be selected than the Emperor of
China would have had. It is probable that Vice-President Hamlin
would have been renominated, if it had not been for the general
feeling both in and out of the convention that, under all the
circumstances, it would be wiser to select some man who had been
a Democrat, and had yet upheld the war. The choice fell upon
Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, who was not only a Democrat, but had
been appointed by Mr. Lincoln military governor of Tennessee in

The Democrats at first meant to have the national convention of
their party meet on the fourth of July; but after Fremont had
been nominated at Cleveland and Lincoln at Baltimore, they
postponed it to a later date, hoping that something in the
chapter of accidents might happen to their advantage. At first it
appeared as if this might be the case. The outlook for the
Republicans was far from satisfactory. The terrible fighting and
great losses of Grant's army in Virginia had profoundly shocked
and depressed the country. The campaign of General Sherman, who
was then in Georgia, showed as yet no promise of the brilliant
results it afterward attained. General Early's sudden raid into
Maryland, when he appeared so unexpectedly before Washington and
threatened the city, had been the cause of much exasperation; and
Mr. Chase, made bitter by his failure to receive the coveted
nomination for President, had resigned from the cabinet. This
seemed, to certain leading Republicans, to point to a breaking up
of the government. The "Peace" men were clamoring loudly for an
end of the war; and the Democrats, not having yet formally chosen
a candidate, were free to devote all their leisure to attacks
upon the administration.

Mr. Lincoln realized fully the tremendous issues at stake. He
looked worn and weary. To a friend who urged him to go away for a
fortnight's rest, he replied, "I cannot fly from my thoughts. My
solicitude for this great country follows me wherever I go. I do
not think it is personal vanity or ambition, though I am not free
from these infirmities, but I cannot but feel that the weal or
woe of this great nation will be decided in November. There is no
program offered by any wing of the Democratic party but that must
result in the permanent destruction of the Union."

The political situation grew still darker. Toward the end of
August the general gloom enveloped even the President himself.
Then what he did was most original and characteristic. Feeling
that the campaign was going against him, he made up his mind
deliberately the course he ought to pursue, and laid down for
himself the action demanded by his strong sense of duty. He wrote
on August 23 the following memorandum: "This morning, as for some
days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this administration
will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate
with the President-elect as to save the Union between the
election and the inauguration, as he will have secured his
election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it

He folded and pasted the sheet of paper in such a way that its
contents could not be seen, and as the cabinet came together
handed it to each member successively, asking him to write his
name across the back of it. In this peculiar fashion he pledged
himself and his administration to accept loyally the verdict of
the people if it should be against them, and to do their utmost
to save the Union in the brief remainder of his term of office.
He gave no hint to any member of his cabinet of the nature of the
paper thus signed until after his reelection.

The Democratic convention finally came together in Chicago on
August 29. It declared the war a failure, and that efforts ought
to be made at once to bring it to a close, and nominated General
McClellan for President McClellan's only chance of success lay in
his war record. His position as a candidate on a platform of
dishonorable peace would have been no less desperate than
ridiculous. In his letter accepting the nomination, therefore, he
calmly ignored the platform, and renewed his assurances of
devotion to the Union, the Constitution, and the flag of his
country. But the stars in their courses fought against him. Even
before the Democratic convention met, the tide of battle had
turned. The darkest hour of the war had passed, and dawn was at
hand, and amid the thanksgivings of a grateful people, and the
joyful salute of great guns, the real presidential campaign
began. The country awoke to the true meaning of the Democratic
platform; General Sherman's successes in the South excited the
enthusiasm of the people; and when at last the Unionists, rousing
from their midsummer languor, began to show their faith in the
Republican candidate, the hopelessness of all efforts to
undermine him became evident.


The presidential election of 1864 took place on November 8. The
diary of one of the President's secretaries contains a curious
record of the way the day passed at the Executive Mansion. "The
house has been still and almost deserted. Everybody in Washington
and not at home voting seems ashamed of it, and stays away from
the President. While I was talking with him to-day he said: "It
is a little singular that I, who am not a vindictive man, should
always have been before the people for election in canvasses
marked for their bitterness. Always but once. When I came to
Congress it was a quiet time; but always besides that the
contests in which I have been prominent have been marked with
great rancor."

Early in the evening the President made his way through rain and
darkness to the War Department to receive the returns. The
telegrams came, thick and fast, all pointing joyously to his
reelection. He sent the important ones over to Mrs. Lincoln at
the White House, remarking, "She is more anxious that I am." The
satisfaction of one member of the little group about him was
coupled with the wish that the critics of the administration
might feel properly rebuked by this strong expression of the
popular will. Mr. Lincoln looked at him in kindly surprise. "You
have more of that feeling of personal resentment than I," he
said. "Perhaps I have too little of it, but I never thought it
paid. A man has not time to spend half his life in quarrels. If
any man ceases to attack me, I never remember the past against
him." This state of mind might well have been called by a higher
name than "lack of personal resentment."

Lincoln and Johnson received a popular majority of 411,281, and
212 out of 233 electoral votes--only those of New Jersey,
Delaware and Kentucky, twenty-one in all, being cast for

For Mr. Lincoln this was one of the most solemn days of his life.
Assured of his personal success, and made devoutly confident by
the military victories of the last few weeks that the end of the
war was at hand, he felt no sense of triumph over his opponents.
The thoughts that filled his mind found expression in the closing
sentences of the little speech that he made to some serenaders
who greeted him in the early morning hours of November 9, as he
left the War Department to return to the White House:

"I am thankful to God for this approval of the people; but while
deeply grateful for this mark of their confidence in me, if I
know my heart, my gratitude is free from any taint of personal
triumph. . . . It is no pleasure to me to triumph over anyone,
but I give thanks to the Almighty for this evidence of the
people's resolution to stand by free government and the rights of

Mr. Lincoln's inauguration for his second term as President took
place at the time appointed, on March 4, 1865. There is little
variation in the simple but impressive pageantry with which the
ceremony is celebrated. The principal novelty commented on by the
newspapers was the share which the people who had up to that time
been slaves, had for the first time in this public and political
drama. Associations of negro citizens joined in the procession,
and a battalion of negro soldiers formed part of the military
escort. The central act of the occasion was President Lincoln's
second inaugural address, which enriched the political literature
of the nation with another masterpiece. He said:

"Fellow-countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of
the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended
address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat
in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper.
Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public
declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and
phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and
engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be
presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly
depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is,
I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With
high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is

"On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all
thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All
dreaded it--all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address
was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving
the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking
to destroy it without war--seeking to dissolve the Union and
divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but
one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive;
and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the
war came.

"One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not
distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the
southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and
powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the
cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate and extend this
interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the
Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do
more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

"Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration
which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause
of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict
itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a
result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible,
and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the
other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just
God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other
men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The
prayers of both could not be answered--that of neither has been
answered fully.

"The Almighty has his own purposes. 'Woe unto the world because
of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to
that man by whom the offense cometh.' If we shall suppose that
American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the
providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued
through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he
gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due
to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any
departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a
living God always ascribe to him? Fondly 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, 'The judgments of
the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in
the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to
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 orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just
and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations."

The address ended, the Chief Justice arose, and the listeners
who, for the second time, heard Abraham Lincoln repeat the solemn
words of his oath of office, went from the impressive scene to
their several homes in thankfulness and confidence that the
destiny of the nation was in safe keeping.

Nothing would have amazed Mr. Lincoln more than to hear himself
called a man of letters; and yet it would be hard to find in all
literature anything to excel the brevity and beauty of his
address at Gettysburg or the lofty grandeur of this Second
Inaugural. In Europe his style has been called a model for the
study and imitation of princes, while in our own country many of
his phrases have already passed into the daily speech of mankind.

His gift of putting things simply and clearly was partly the
habit of his own clear mind, and partly the result of the
training he gave himself in days of boyish poverty, when paper
and ink were luxuries almost beyond his reach, and the words he
wished to set down must be the best words, and the clearest and
shortest to express the ideas he had in view. This training of
thought before expression, of knowing exactly what he wished to
say before saying it, stood him in good stead all his life; but
only the mind of a great man, with a lofty soul and a poet's
vision; one who had suffered deeply and felt keenly; who carried
the burden of a nation on his heart, whose sympathies were as
broad and whose kindness was as great as his moral purpose was
strong and firm, could have written the deep, forceful,
convincing words that fell from his pen in the later years of his
life. It was the life he lived, the noble aim that upheld him, as
well as the genius with which he was born, that made him one of
the greatest writers of our time.

At the date of his second inauguration only two members of Mr.
Lincoln's original cabinet remained in office; but the changes
had all come about gradually and naturally, never as the result
of quarrels, and with the single exception of Secretary Chase,
not one of them left the cabinet harboring feelings of resentment
or bitterness toward his late chief. Even when, in one case, it
became necessary for the good of the service, for Mr. Lincoln to
ask a cabinet minister to resign, that gentleman not only
unquestioningly obeyed, but entered into the presidential
campaign immediately afterward, working heartily and effectively
for his reelection. As for Secretary Chase, the President was so
little disturbed by his attitude that, on the death of Roger B.
Taney, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, he
made him his successor, giving him the highest judicial office in
the land, and paying him the added compliment of writing out his
nomination with his own hand.

The keynote of the President's young life had been persevering
industry. That of his mature years was self-control and generous
forgiveness. And surely his remark on the night of his second
election for President, that he did not think resentment "paid,"
and that no man had time to spend half his life in quarrels, was
well borne out by the fruit of his actions. It was this spirit
alone which made possible much that he was able to accomplish.
His rule of conduct toward all men is summed up in a letter of
reprimand that it became his duty, while he was President, to
send to one young officer accused of quarreling with another. It
deserves to be written in letters of gold on the walls of every
school and college throughout the land:

"The advice of a father to his son, 'beware of entrance to a
quarrel, but, being in, bear it that the opposed may beware of
thee,' is good, but not the best. Quarrel not at all. No man
resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal
contention. Still less can he afford to take all the
consequences, including the vitiating of his temper and the loss
of self-control. Yield larger things to which you can show no
more than equal right; and yield lesser ones though clearly your
own. Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by him in
contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the

It was this willingness of his to give up the "lesser things,"
and even the things to which he could claim an equal right, which
kept peace in his cabinet, made up of men of strong wills and
conflicting natures. Their devotion to the Union, great as it
was, would not have sufficed in such a strangely assorted
official family; but his unfailing kindness and good sense led
him to overlook many things that another man might have regarded
as deliberate insults; while his great tact and knowledge of
human nature enabled him to bring out the best in people about
him, and at times to turn their very weaknesses into sources of
strength. It made it possible for him to keep the regard of every
one of them. Before he had been in office a month it had
transformed Secretary Seward from his rival into his lasting
friend. It made a warm friend out of the blunt, positive,
hot-tempered Edwin M. Stanton, who became Secretary of War in
place of Mr. Cameron. He was a man of strong will and great
endurance, and gave his Department a record for hard and
effective work that it would be difficult to equal. Many stories
are told of the disrespect he showed the President, and the
cross-purposes at which they labored. The truth is, that they
understood each other perfectly on all important matters, and
worked together through three busy trying years with
ever-increasing affection and regard. The President's kindly
humor forgave his Secretary many blunt speeches. "Stanton says I
am a fool?" he is reported to have asked a busy-body who came
fleet-footed to tell him of the Secretary's hasty comment on an
order of little moment. "Stanton says I am a fool? Well"--with a
whimsical glance at his informant--"then I suppose I must be.
Stanton is nearly always right." Knowing that Stanton was "nearly
always right" it made little difference to his chief what he
might say in the heat of momentary annoyance.

Yet in spite of his forbearance he never gave up the "larger
things" that he felt were of real importance; and when he learned
at one time that an effort was being made to force a member of
the cabinet to resign, he called them together, and read them the
following impressive little lecture:

"I must myself be the judge how long to retain in, and when to
remove any of you from his position. It would greatly pain me to
discover any of you endeavoring to procure another's removal, or
in any way to prejudice him before the public. Such endeavor
would be a wrong to me, and much worse, a wrong to the country.
My wish is that on this subject no remark be made, nor question
asked by any of you, here, or elsewhere, now, or hereafter."

This is one of the most remarkable speeches ever made by a
President. Washington was never more dignified; Jackson was never
more peremptory.

The President's spirit of forgiveness was broad enough to take in
the entire South. The cause of the Confederacy had been doomed
from the hour of his reelection. The cheering of the troops which
greeted the news had been heard within the lines at Richmond, and
the besieged town lost hope, though it continued the struggle
bravely if desperately. Although Horace Greeley's peace mission
to Canada had come to nothing, and other volunteer efforts in the
same direction served only to call forth a declaration from
Jefferson Davis that he would fight for the independence of the
South to the bitter end, Mr. Lincoln watched longingly for the
time when the first move could be made toward peace. Early in
January, 1865, as the country was about to enter upon the fifth
year of actual war, he learned from Hon. Francis P. Blair, Sr.,
who had been in Richmond, how strong the feeling of
discouragement at the Confederate capital had become. Mr. Blair
was the father of Lincoln's first Postmaster-General, a man of
large acquaintance in the South, who knew perhaps better than
anyone in Washington the character and temper of the southern
leaders. He had gone to Richmond hoping to do something toward
bringing the war to a close, but without explaining his plans to
anyone, and with no authority from the government, beyond
permission to pass through the military lines and return. His
scheme was utterly impracticable, and Mr. Lincoln was interested
in the report of his visit only because it showed that the
rebellion was nearing its end. This was so marked that he sent
Mr. Blair back again to Richmond with a note intended for the eye
of Jefferson Davis, saying that the government had constantly
been, was then, and would continue to be ready to receive any
agent Mr. Davis might send, "with a view of securing peace to the
people of our one common country."

Hopeless as their cause had by this time become, the Confederates
had no mind to treat for peace on any terms except independence
of the southern States; yet, on the other hand, they were in such
straits that they could not afford to leave Mr. Lincoln's offer
untested. Mr. Davis therefore sent north his Vice-President,
Alexander H. Stephens, with two other high officials of the
Confederate government, armed with instructions which aimed to be
liberal enough to gain them admittance to the Union lines, and
yet distinctly announced that they came "for the purpose of
securing peace to the two countries." This difference in the
wording of course doomed their mission in advance, for the
government at Washington had never admitted that there were "two
countries," and to receive the messengers of Jefferson Davis on
any such terms would be to concede practically all that the South

When they reached the Union lines the officer who met them
informed them that they could go no farther unless they accepted
the President's conditions. They finally changed the form of
their request, and were taken to Fortress Monroe. Meantime Mr.
Lincoln had sent Secretary Seward to Fortress Monroe with
instructions to hear all they might have to say, but not to
definitely conclude anything. On learning the true nature of
their errand he was about to recall him, when he received a
telegram from General Grant, regretting that Mr. Lincoln himself
could not see the commissioners, because, to Grant's mind, they
seemed sincere.

Anxious to do everything he could in the interest of peace, Mr.
Lincoln, instead of recalling Secretary Seward, telegraphed that
he would himself come to Fortress Monroe, and started that same
night. The next morning, February 3, 1865, he and the Secretary
of State received the rebel commissioners on board the
President's steamer, the River Queen.

This conference between the two highest officials of the United
States government, and three messengers from the Confederacy,
bound, as the President well knew beforehand, by instructions
which made any practical outcome impossible, brings out, in
strongest relief, Mr. Lincoln's kindly patience, even toward the
rebellion. He was determined to leave no means untried that
might, however remotely, lead to peace. For four hours he
patiently answered the many questions they asked him, as to what
would probably be done on various subjects if the South
submitted; pointing out always the difference between the things
that he had the power to decide, and those that must be submitted
to Congress; and bringing the discussion back, time and again, to
the three points absolutely necessary to secure peace-- Union,
freedom for the slaves, and complete disbandment of the
Confederate armies. He had gone to offer them, honestly and
frankly, the best terms in his power, but not to give up one atom
of official dignity or duty. Their main thought, on the contrary,
had been to postpone or to escape the express conditions on which
they were admitted to the conference.

They returned to Richmond and reported the failure of their
efforts to Jefferson Davis, whose disappointment equalled their
own, for all had caught eagerly at the hope that this interview
would somehow prove a means of escape from the dangers of their
situation. President Lincoln, full of kindly thoughts, on the
other hand, went back to Washington, intent on making yet one
more generous offer to hasten the day of peace. He had told the
commissioners that personally he would be in favor of the
government paying a liberal amount for the loss of slave
property, on condition that the southern States agree of their
own accord to the freedom of the slaves.* This was indeed going
to the extreme of liberality, but Mr. Lincoln remembered that
notwithstanding all their offenses the rebels were American
citizens, members of the same nation and brothers of the same
blood. He remembered, too, that the object of the war, equally
with peace and freedom, was to preserve friendship and to
continue the Union. Filled with such thoughts and purposes he
spent the day after his return in drawing up a new proposal
designed as a peace offering to the States in rebellion. On the
evening of February 5 he read this to his cabinet. It offered the
southern States $400,000,000 or a sum equal to the cost of war
for two hundred days, on condition that all fighting cease by the
first of April, 1865. He proved more liberal than any of his
advisers; and with the words, "You are all against me," sadly
uttered, the President folded up the paper, and ended the

* Mr. Lincoln had freed the slaves two years before as a military
necessity, and as such it had been accepted by all. Yet a
question might arise, when the war ended, as to whether this act
of his had been lawful. He was therefore very anxious to have
freedom find a place in the Constitution of the United States.
This could only be done by an amendment to the Constitution,
proposed by Congress, and adopted by the legislatures of
three-fourths of the States of the Union. Congress voted in favor
of such an amendment on January 31, 1865. Illinois, the
President's own State, adopted it on the very next day, and
though Mr. Lincoln did not live to see it a part of the
Constitution, Secretary Seward, on December 18, 1865, only a few
months after Mr. Lincoln's death, was able to make official
announcement that 29 States, constituting a majority of three-
fourths of the 36 States of the Union, had adopted it, and that
therefore it was the law of the land.

Jefferson Davis had issued a last appeal to "fire the southern
heart," but the situation at Richmond was becoming desperate
Flour cost a thousand dollars a barrel in Confederate money, and
neither the flour nor the money were sufficient for their needs.
Squads of guards were sent into the streets with directions to
arrest every able-bodied man they met, and force him to work in
defense of the town. It is said that the medical boards were
ordered to excuse no one from military service who was well
enough to bear arms for even ten days. Human nature will not
endure a strain like this, and desertion grew too common to
punish. Nevertheless the city kept up its defense until April 3.
Even then, although hopelessly beaten, the Confederacy was not
willing to give in, and much needless and severe fighting took
place before the final end came. The rebel government hurried
away toward the South, and Lee bent all his energies to saving
his army and taking it to join General Johnston, who still held
out against Sherman. Grant pursued him with such energy that he
did not even allow himself the pleasure of entering the captured
rebel capital. The chase continued six days. On the evening of
April 8 the Union army succeeded in planting itself squarely
across Lee's line of retreat; and the marching and fighting of
his army were over for ever. On the next morning the two generals
met in a house on the edge of the village of Appomattox,
Virginia, Lee resplendent in a new uniform and handsome sword,
Grant in the travel-stained garments in which he had made the
campaign--the blouse of a private soldier, with the
shoulderstraps of a Lieutenant-General. Here the surrender took
place. Grant, as courteous in victory as he was energetic in war,
offered Lee terms that were liberal in the extreme; and on
learning that the Confederate soldiers were actually suffering
with hunger, ordered that rations be issued to them at once.

Fire and destruction attended the flight of the Confederates from
Richmond. Jefferson Davis and his cabinet, carrying with them
their more important state papers, left the doomed city on one of
the crowded and overloaded railroad trains on the night of April
2, beginning a southward flight that ended only with Mr. Davis's
capture about a month later. The legislature of Virginia and the
governor of the State departed hurriedly on a canal-boat in the
direction of Lynchburg, while every possible carriage or vehicle
was pressed into service by the inhabitants, all frantic to get
away before their city was "desecrated" by the presence of the
Yankees. By the time the military left, early on the morning of
April 3, the town was on fire. The Confederate Congress had
ordered all government tobacco and other public property to be
burned. The rebel General Ewell, who was in charge of the city,
asserts that he took the responsibility of disobeying, and that
the fires were not started by his orders. Be that as it may, they
broke out in various places, while a mob, crazed with excitement,
and wild with the alcohol that had run freely in the gutters the
night before, rushed from store to store, breaking in the doors,
and indulging in all the wantonness of pillage and greed. Public
spirit seemed paralyzed; no real effort was made to put out the
flames, and as a final horror, the convicts from the
penitentiary, overpowering their guards, appeared upon the
streets, a maddened, shouting, leaping crowd, drunk with liberty.

It is quite possible that the very size and suddenness of the
disaster served in a measure to lessen its evil effects; for the
burning of seven hundred buildings, the entire business portion
of Richmond, all in the brief space of a day, was a visitation so
sudden, so stupefying and unexpected as to overawe and terrorize
even evildoers. Before a new danger could arise help was at hand.
Gen. Weitzel, to whom the city surrendered, took up his
headquarters in the house lately occupied by Jefferson Davis, and
promptly set about the work of relief; fighting the fire, issuing
rations to the poor, and restoring order and authority. That a
regiment of black soldiers assisted in this work of mercy must
have seemed to the white inhabitants of Richmond the final drop
in their cup of misery.

Into the rebel capital, thus stricken and laid waste, came
President Lincoln on the morning of April 4. Never in the history
of the world has the head of a mighty nation and the conqueror of
a great rebellion entered the captured chief city of the
insurgents in such humbleness and simplicity. He had gone two
weeks before to City Point for a visit to General Grant, and to
his son, Captain Robert Lincoln, who was serving on Grant's
staff. Making his home on the steamer that brought him, and
enjoying what was probably the most restful and satisfactory
holiday in which he had been able to indulge during his whole
presidential service, he had visited the various camps of the
great army, in company with the General, cheered everywhere by
the loving greetings of the soldiers. He had met Sherman when
that commander hurried up fresh from his victorious march from
Atlanta; and after Grant had started on his final pursuit of Lee
the President still lingered. It was at City Point that the news
came to him of the fall of Richmond.

Between the receipt of this news and the following forenoon,
before any information of the great fire had reached them, a
visit to the rebel capital was arranged for the President and
Rear Admiral Porter. Ample precautions for their safety were
taken at the start. The President went in his own steamer, the
River Queen, with her escort, the Bat, and a tug used at City
Point in landing from the steamer. Admiral Porter went in his
flagship; while a transport carried a small cavalry escort, as
well as ambulances for the party. Barriers in the river soon made
it impossible to proceed in this fashion, and one unforeseen
accident after another rendered it necessary to leave behind the
larger and even the smaller boats; until finally the party went
on in the Admiral's barge rowed by twelve sailors, without escort
of any kind. In this manner the President made his entry into
Richmond, landing near Libby Prison. As the party stepped ashore
they found a guide among the contrabands who quickly crowded the
streets, for the possible coming of the President had already
been noised through the city. Ten of the sailors armed with
carbines were formed as a guard, six in front, and four in rear,
and between them the President and Admiral Porter, with the three
officers who accompanied them, walked the long distance, perhaps
a mile and a half, to the centre of the town.

Imagination can easily fill in the picture of a gradually
increasing crowd, principally of negroes, following the little
group of marines and officers with the tall form of the President
in its centre; and, when they learned that it was indeed "Massa
Lincum," expressing their joy and gratitude in fervent blessings
and in the deep emotional cries of the colored race. It is easy
also to imagine the sharp anxiety of those who had the
President's safety in their charge during this tiresome and even
foolhardy march through a town still in flames, whose white
inhabitants were sullenly resentful at best, and whose grief and
anger might at any moment break out against the man they looked
upon as the chief author of their misfortunes. No accident befell
him. He reached General Weitzel's headquarters in safety, rested
in the house Jefferson Davis had occupied while President of the
Confederacy; and after a day of sightseeing returned to his
steamer and to Washington, there to be stricken down by an
assassin's bullet, literally "in the house of his friends."


Refreshed in body by his visit to City Point and greatly cheered
by the fall of Richmond, and unmistakable signs that the war was
over, Mr. Lincoln went back to Washington intent on the new task
opening before him--that of restoring the Union, and of bringing
about peace and good will again between the North and the South.
His whole heart was bent on the work of "binding up the nation's
wounds" and doing all which lay in his power to "achieve a just
and lasting peace." Especially did he desire to avoid the
shedding of blood, or anything like acts of deliberate
punishment. He talked to his cabinet in this strain on the
morning of April 14, the last day of his life. "No one need
expect that he would take any part in hanging or killing these
men, even the worst of them," he exclaimed. Enough lives had been
sacrificed already. Anger must be put aside. The great need now
was to begin to act in the interest of peace. With these words of
clemency and kindness in their ears they left him, never again to
come together under his wise chairmanship.

Though it was invariably held in check by his vigorous
common-sense, there was in Mr. Lincoln's nature a strong vein of
poetry and mysticism. That morning he told his cabinet a strange
story of a dream that he had had the night before--a dream which
he said came to him before great events. He had dreamed it before
the battles of Antietam, Murfreesboro, Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
This time it must foretell a victory by Sherman over Johnston's
army, news of which was hourly expected, for he knew of no other
important event likely to occur. The members of the cabinet were
deeply impressed; but General Grant, who had come to Washington
that morning and was present, remarked with matter-of-fact
exactness that Murfreesboro was no victory and had no important
results. Not the wildest imagination of skeptic or mystic could
have pictured the events under which the day was to close.

It was Good Friday, a day observed by a portion of the people
with fasting and prayer, but even among the most devout the great
news of the week just ended changed this time of traditional
mourning into a season of general thanksgiving. For Mr. Lincoln
it was a day of unusual and quiet happiness. His son Robert had
returned from the field with General Grant, and the President
spent an hour with the young captain in delighted conversation
over the campaign. He denied himself generally to visitors,
admitting only a few friends. In the afternoon he went for a long
drive with Mrs. Lincoln. His mood, as it had been all day, was
singularly happy and tender. He talked much of the past and
future. After four years of trouble and tumult he looked forward
to four years of quiet and normal work; after that he expected to
go back again to Illinois and practice law. He was never more
simple or more gentle than on this day of triumph. His heart
overflowed with sentiments of gratitude to Heaven, which took the
shape, usual to generous natures, of love and kindness to all

From the very beginning there had been threats to kill him. He
was constantly receiving letters of warning from zealous or
nervous friends. The War Department inquired into these when
there seemed to be ground for doing so, but always without
result. Warnings that appeared most definite proved on
examination too vague and confused for further attention. The
President knew that he was in some danger. Madmen frequently made
their way to the very door of the Executive Office; sometimes
into Mr. Lincoln's presence; but he himself had so sane a mind,
and a heart so kindly even to his enemies, that it was hard for
him to believe in political hatred deadly enough to lead to
murder. He summed up the matter by saying that since he must
receive both friends and strangers every day, his life was of
course within the reach of any one, sane or mad, who was ready to
murder and be hanged for it, and that he could not possibly guard
against all danger unless he shut himself up in an iron box,
where he could scarcely perform the duties of a President.

He therefore went in and out before the people, always unarmed,
generally unattended. He received hundreds of visitors in a day,
his breast bare to pistol or knife. He walked at midnight, with a
single Secretary or alone, from the Executive Mansion to the War
Department and back. In summer he rode through lonely roads from
the White House to the Soldiers' Home in the dusk of the evening,
and returned to his work in the morning before the town was
astir. He was greatly annoyed when it was decided that there must
be a guard at the Executive Mansion, and that a squad of cavalry
must accompany him on his daily drive; but he was always
reasonable, and yielded to the best judgment of others.

Four years of threats and boastings that were unfounded, and of
plots that came to nothing passed away, until precisely at the
time when the triumph of the nation seemed assured, and a
feeling of peace and security settled over the country, one of
the conspiracies, seemingly no more important than the others,
ripened in a sudden heat of hatred and despair.

A little band of desperate secessionists, of which John Wilkes
Booth, an actor of a family of famous players, was the head, had
their usual meeting-place at the house of Mrs. Mary E. Surratt,
the mother of one of the number. Booth was a young man of
twenty-six, strikingly handsome, with an ease and grace of manner
which came to him of right from his theatrical ancestors. He was
a fanatical southerner, with a furious hatred against Lincoln and
the Union. After Lincoln's reelection he went to Canada, and
associated with the Confederate agents there; and whether or not
with their advice, made a plan to capture the President and take
him to Richmond. He passed a great part of the autumn and winter
pursuing this fantastic scheme, but the winter wore away, and
nothing was done. On March 4 he was at the Capitol, and created a
disturbance by trying to force his way through the line of
policemen who guarded the passage through which the President
walked to the East front of the building to read his Second
Inaugural. His intentions at this time are not known. He
afterwards said he lost an excellent chance of killing the
President that day.

After the surrender of Lee, in a rage akin to madness, he called
his fellow-conspirators together and allotted to each his part in
the new crime which had risen in his mind. It was as simple as it
was horrible. One man was to kill Secretary Seward, another to
make way with Andrew Johnson, at the same time that he murdered
the President. The final preparations were made with feverish
haste. It was only about noon of the fourteenth that Booth
learned that Mr. Lincoln meant to go to Ford's Theatre that night
to see the play "Our American Cousin." The President enjoyed the
theatre. It was one of his few means of recreation, and as the
town was then thronged with soldiers and officers all eager to
see him, he could, by appearing in public, gratify many whom he
could not personally meet.

Mrs. Lincoln asked General and Mrs. Grant to accompany her. They
accepted, and the announcement that they would be present was
made in the evening papers, but they changed their plans and went
north by an afternoon train. Mrs. Lincoln then invited in their
stead Miss Harris and Major Rathbone, daughter and stepson of
Senator Ira Harris. Being detained by visitors, the play had made
some progress when the President appeared.. The band struck up
"Hail to the Chief," the actors ceased playing, the audience rose
and cheered, the President bowed in acknowledgment, and the play
went on again.

From the moment he learned of the President's intention Booth's
actions were alert and energetic. He and his confederates were
seen in every part of the city. Booth was perfectly at home in
Ford's Theatre. He counted upon audacity to reach the small
passage behind the President's box. Once there, he guarded
against interference by arranging a wooden bar, to be fastened by
a simple mortice in the angle of the wall and the door by which
he entered, so that once shut, the door could not be opened from
the outside. He even provided for the chance of not gaining
entrance to the box by boring a hole in the door, through which
he might either observe the occupants, or take aim and shoot. He
hired at a livery stable a small fleet horse.

A few moments before ten o'clock, leaving his horse at the rear
of the theatre, in charge of a call-boy, he entered the building,
passing rapidly to the little hallway leading to the President's
box. Showing a card to the servant in attendance, he was allowed
to enter, closed the door noiselessly, and secured it with the
wooden bar he had made ready, without disturbing any of the
occupants of the box, between whom and himself yet remained the
partition and the door through which he had bored the hole.

No one, not even the actor who uttered them, could ever remember
the last words of the piece that were spoken that night--the last
that Abraham Lincoln heard upon earth; for the tragedy in the box
turned play and players alike to the most unsubstantial of
phantoms. For weeks hate and brandy had kept Booth's brain in a
morbid state. He seemed to himself to be taking part in a great
play. Holding a pistol in one hand and a knife in the other, he
opened the box door, put the pistol to the President's head, and
fired. Major Rathbone sprang to grapple with him, and received a
savage knife wound in the arm. Then, rushing forward, Booth
placed his hand on the railing of the box and vaulted to the
stage. It was a high leap, but nothing to such a trained athlete.
He would have got safely away, had not his spur caught in the
flag that draped the front of the box. He fell, the torn flag
trailing on his spur; but though the fall had broken his leg, he
rose instantly brandishing his knife and shouting, "Sic Semper
Tyrannis!" fled rapidly across the stage and out of sight. Major
Rathbone shouted, "Stop him!" The cry, "He has shot the
President!" rang through the theatre, and from the audience,
stupid at first with surprise, and wild afterward with excitement
and horror, men jumped upon the stage in pursuit of the assassin.
But he ran through the familiar passages, leaped upon his horse,
rewarding with a kick and a curse the boy who held him, and
escaped into the night.

The President scarcely moved. His head drooped forward slightly,
his eyes closed. Major Rathbone, not regarding his own grievous
hurt, rushed to the door to summon aid. He found it barred, and
someone on the outside beating and clamoring to get in. It was at
once seen that the President's wound was mortal. He was carried
across the street to a house opposite, and laid upon a bed. Mrs.
Lincoln followed, tenderly cared for by Miss Harris. Rathbone,
exhausted by loss of blood, fainted, and was taken home.
Messengers were sent for the cabinet, for the Surgeon-General,
for Dr. Stone the President's family physician, and for others
whose official or private relations with Mr. Lincoln gave them
the right to be there. A crowd of people rushed instinctively to
the White House, and bursting through the doors shouted the
dreadful news to Robert Lincoln and Major Hay who sat together in
an upper room.

The President had been shot a few minutes after ten o'clock. The
wound would have brought instant death to most men. He was
unconscious from the first moment, but he breathed throughout the
night, his gaunt face scarcely paler than those of the sorrowing
men around him. At twenty-two minutes past seven in the morning
he died. Secretary Stanton broke the silence by saying, "Now he
belongs to the ages."

Booth had done his work thoroughly. His principal accomplice had
acted with equal audacity and cruelty, but with less fatal
result. Under pretext of having a package of medicine to deliver,
he forced his way to the room of the Secretary of State, who lay
ill, and attacked him, inflicting three terrible knife wounds on
his neck and cheek, wounding also the Secretary's two sons, a
servant, and a soldier nurse who tried to overpower him. Finally
breaking away, he ran downstairs, reached the door unhurt, and
springing upon his horse rode off. It was feared that neither the
Secretary nor his eldest son would live, but both in time

Although Booth had been recognized by dozens of people as he
stood before the footlights brandishing his dagger, his swift
horse soon carried him beyond any hap-hazard pursuit. He crossed
the Navy Yard bridge and rode into Maryland, being joined by one
of his fellow-conspirators. A surgeon named Mudd set Booth's leg
and sent him on his desolate way. For ten days the two men lived
the lives of hunted animals. On the night of April 25 they were
surrounded as they lay sleeping in a barn in Caroline County,
Virginia. Booth refused to surrender. The barn was fired, and
while it was burning he was shot by Boston Corbett, a sergeant of
cavalry. He lingered for about three hours in great pain, and
died at seven in the morning. The remaining conspirators were
tried by military commission. Four were hanged, including the
assailant of Secretary Seward, and the others were sentenced to
imprisonment for various lengths of time.

Upon the hearts of a people glowing with the joy of victory the
news of the President's death fell as a great shock. In the
unspeakable calamity the country lost sight of the great national
successes of the past week; and thus it came to pass that there
was never any organized celebration in the North over the
downfall of the rebellion. It was unquestionably best that it
should be so. Lincoln himself would not have had it otherwise,
for he hated the arrogance of triumph. As it was, the South could
take no offense at a grief so genuine; and the people of that
section even shared, to a certain extent, in the mourning for one
who, in their inmost hearts, they knew to have wished them well.

Within an hour after Mr. Lincoln's body was taken to the White
House the town was shrouded in black. Not only the public
buildings, the shops, and the better class of dwellings were
draped in funeral decorations; still more touching proof of
affection was shown in the poorest class of homes, where laboring
men of both colors found means in their poverty to afford some
scanty bit of mourning. The interest and veneration of the people
still centered at the White House, where, under a tall catafalque
in the East Room the late chief lay in the majesty of death,
rather than in the modest tavern on Pennsylvania Avenue, where
the new President had his lodgings, and where the Chief Justice
administered the oath of office to him at eleven o'clock on the
morning of April 15.

It was determined that the funeral ceremonies in Washington
should be held on Wednesday, April 19, and all the churches
throughout the country were invited to join at the same time in
appropriate observances. The ceremonies in the East Room were
simple and brief, while all the pomp and circumstance that the
government could command were employed to give a fitting escort
from the Executive Mansion to the Capitol, where the body of the
President lay in state. The procession moved to the booming of
minute guns, and the tolling of all the bells in Washington,
Georgetown and Alexandria; while, to associate the pomp of the
day with the greatest work of Lincoln's life, a detachment of
colored troops marched at the head of the line.

When it was announced that he was to be buried at Springfield
every town and city on the way begged that the train might halt
within its limits, to give its people opportunity of showing
their grief and reverence. It was finally arranged that the
funeral cortege should follow substantially the same route over
which Lincoln had come in 1861 to take possession of the office
to which he added a new dignity and value for all time. On April
21, accompanied by a guard of honor, and in a train decked with
somber trappings, the journey was begun. At Baltimore, through
which, four years before, it was a question whether the
President-elect could pass with safety to his life, the coffin
was taken with reverent care to the great dome of the Exchange,
where, surrounded with evergreens and lilies, it lay for several
hours, the people passing by in mournful throngs. The same
demonstration was repeated, gaining constantly in depth of
feeling and solemn splendor of display in every city through
which the procession passed. In New York came General Scott, pale
and feeble, but resolute, to pay his tribute of respect to his
departed friend and commander.

Springfield was reached on the morning of May 3. The body lay in
state in the Capitol, which was richly draped from roof to
basement in black velvet and silver fringe, while within it was a
bower of bloom and fragrance. For twenty-four hours an unbroken
stream of people passed through, bidding their friend and
neighbor welcome home and farewell. At ten o'clock on the morning
of May 4 the coffin lid was closed, and vast procession moved out
to Oak Ridge, where the town had set apart a lovely spot for his
grave. Here the dead President was committed to the soil of the
State which had so loved and honored him. The ceremonies at the
grave were simple and touching. Bishop Simpson delivered a
pathetic oration, prayers were offered, and hymns were sung, but
the weightiest and most eloquent words uttered anywhere that day
were those of the Second Inaugural, which the Committee had
wisely ordained to be read over his grave, as centuries before,
the friends of the painter Raphael chose the incomparable canvas
of "The Transfiguration" to be the chief ornament of his funeral.

Though President Lincoln lived to see the real end of the war,
various bodies of Confederate troops continued to hold out for
some time longer. General Johnston faced Sherman's army in the
Carolinas until April 26, while General E. Kirby Smith, west of
the Mississippi River, did not surrender until May 26.

As rapidly as possible Union volunteer regiments were disbanded,
and soon the mighty host of 1,000,000 men was reduced to a peace
footing of only 25,000. Before the great army melted away into
the greater body of citizens its soldiers enjoyed one final
triumph--a march through the capital of the nation, undisturbed
by death or danger, under the eyes of their highest commanders
and the representatives of the people whose country they had
saved. Those who witnessed the solemn yet joyous pageant will
never forget it; and pray that their children may never see its
like. For two days this formidable host marched the long stretch
of Pennsylvania Avenue, starting from the shadow of the Capitol
and filling the wide street as far as Georgetown, its serried
ranks moving with the easy yet rapid pace of veterans in cadence
step. As a mere spectacle this march of the mightiest host the
continent has ever seen was grand and imposing, but it was not as
a spectacle alone that it affected the beholder. It was no
holiday parade. It was an army of citizens on their way home
after a long and terrible war. Their clothes were worn, and
pierced with bullets, their banners had been torn with shot and
shell, and lashed in the winds of many battles. The very drums
and fifes had called out the troops to night alarms, and sounded
the onset on historic fields. The whole country claimed these
heroes as part of themselves. They were not soldiers by
profession or from love of fighting; they had become soldiers
only to save their country's life. Now, done with war, they were
going joyously and peaceably back to their homes to take up the
tasks they had willingly laid down in the hour of their country's

Friends loaded them with flowers as they swung down the Avenue--
both men and officers, until some were fairly hidden under their
fragrant burden. Grotesque figures were not absent, as Sherman's
legions passed with their "bummers" and their regimental pets.
But with all the shouting and the joy there was, in the minds of
all who saw it, one sad and ever-recurring thought--the memory of
the men who were absent, and who had, nevertheless, so richly
earned the right to be there. The soldiers in their shrunken
companies thought of the brave comrades who had fallen by the
way; and through the whole vast army there was passionate
unavailing regret for their wise, gentle and powerful friend
Abraham Lincoln, gone forever from the big white house by the
Avenue--who had called the great host into being, directed the
course of the nation during the four years that they had been
battling for its life, and to whom, more than to any other, this
crowning peaceful pageant would have been full of deep and happy

Why was this man so loved that his death caused a whole nation to
forget its triumph, and turned its gladness into mourning? Why
has his fame grown with the passing years until now scarcely a
speech is made or a newspaper printed that does not have within
it somewhere a mention of his name or some phrase or sentence
that fell from his lips? Let us see if we can, what it was that
made Abraham Lincoln the man that he became.

A child born to an inheritance of want; a boy growing into a
narrow world of ignorance; a youth taking up the burden of coarse
and heavy labor; a man entering on the doubtful struggle of a
local backwoods career--these were the beginnings of Abraham
Lincoln if we look at them only in the hard practical spirit
which takes for its motto that "Nothing succeeds but success. If
we adopt a more generous as well as a truer view, then we see
that it was the brave hopeful spirit, the strong active mind, and
the great law of moral growth that accepts the good and rejects
the bad, which Nature gave this obscure child, that carried him
to the service of mankind and the admiration of the centuries as
certainly as the acorn grows to be the oak.

Even his privations helped the end. Self-reliance, the strongest
trait of the pioneer was his by blood and birth and training, and
was developed by the hardships of his lot to the mighty power
needed to guide our country through the struggle of the Civil

The sense of equality was his also, for he grew from childhood to
manhood in a state of society where there were neither rich to
envy nor poor to despise, and where the gifts and hardships of
the forest were distributed without favor to each and all alike.
In the forest he learned charity, sympathy, helpfulness--in a
word neighborliness--for in that far-off frontier life all the
wealth of India, had a man possessed it, could not have bought
relief from danger or help in time of need, and neighborliness
became of prime importance. Constant opportunity was found there
to practice the virtue which Christ declared to be next to the
love of God--to love one's neighbor as oneself.

In such settlements, far removed from courts and jails, men were
brought face to face with questions of natural right. The
pioneers not only understood the American doctrine of
self-government--they lived it. It was this understanding, this
feeling, which taught Lincoln to write: "When the white man
governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs
himself and also governs another man, that is more than
self-government that is despotism;" and also to give utterance
to its twin truth: "He who would be no slave must consent to have
no slave."

Lincoln was born in the slave State of Kentucky. He lived there
only a short time, and we have reason to believe that wherever he
might have grown up, his very nature would have spurned the
doctrine and practice of human slavery. Yet, though he hated
slavery, he never hated the slave-holder. His feeling of pardon
and sympathy for Kentucky and the South played no unimportant
part in his dealings with grave problems of statesmanship. It is
true that he struck slavery its death blow with the hand of war,
but at the same time he offered the slaveowner golden payment
with the hand of peace.

Abraham Lincoln was not an ordinary man. He was, in truth, in the
language of the poet Lowell, a "new birth of our new soil." His
greatness did not consist in growing up on the frontier. An
ordinary man would have found on the frontier exactly what he
would have found elsewhere--a commonplace life, varying only with
the changing ideas and customs of time and place. But for the man
with extraordinary powers of mind and body--for one gifted by
Nature as Abraham Lincoln was gifted, the pioneer life with its
severe training in self-denial, patience and industry, developed
his character, and fitted him for the great duties of his after
life as no other training could have done.

His advancement in the astonishing career that carried him from
obscurity to world-wide fame--from postmaster of New Salem
village to President of the United States, from captain of a
backwoods volunteer company to Commander-in-Chief of the Army and
Navy, was neither sudden nor accidental, nor easy. He was both
ambitious and successful, but his ambition was moderate, and his
success was slow. And, because his success was slow, it never
outgrew either his judgment or his powers. Between the day when
he left his father's cabin and launched his canoe on the
headwaters of the Sangamon River to begin life on his own
account, and the day of his first inauguration, lay full thirty
years of toil, self-denial, patience; often of effort baffled, of
hope deferred; sometimes of bitter disappointment. Even with the
natural gift of great genius it required an average lifetime and
faithful unrelaxing effort, to transform the raw country
stripling into a fit ruler for this great nation.

Almost every success was balanced--sometimes overbalanced, by a
seeming failure. He went into the Black Hawk war a captain, and
through no fault of his own, came out a private. He rode to the
hostile frontier on horseback, and trudged home on foot. His
store "winked out." His surveyor's compass and chain, with which
he was earning a scanty living, were sold for debt. He was
defeated in his first attempts to be nominated for the
legislature and for Congress; defeated in his application to be
appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office; defeated for
the Senate when he had forty-five votes to begin with. by a man
who had only five votes to begin with; defeated again after his
joint debates with Douglas; defeated in the nomination for
Vice-President, when a favorable nod from half a dozen
politicians would have brought him success.

Failures? Not so. Every seeming defeat was a slow success. His
was the growth of the oak, and not of Jonah's gourd. He could not
become a master workman until he had served a tedious
apprenticeship. It was the quarter of a century of reading,
thinking, speech-making and lawmaking which fitted him to be the
chosen champion of freedom in the great Lincoln-Douglas debates
of 1858. It was the great moral victory won in those debates
(although the senatorship went to Douglas) added to the title
"Honest Old Abe," won by truth and manhood among his neighbors
during a whole lifetime, that led the people of the United States
to trust him with the duties and powers of President.

And when, at last, after thirty years of endeavor, success had
beaten down defeat, when Lincoln had been nominated, elected and
inaugurated, came the crowning trial of his faith and constancy.
When the people, by free and lawful choice, had placed honor and
power in his hands, when his name could convene Congress, approve
laws, cause ships to sail and armies to move, there suddenly came
upon the government and the nation a fatal paralysis. Honor
seemed to dwindle and power to vanish. Was he then after all not
to be President? Was patriotism dead? Was the Constitution only a
bit of waste paper? Was the Union gone?

The outlook was indeed grave. There was treason in Congress,
treason in the Supreme Court, treason in the army and navy.
Confusion and discord were everywhere. To use Mr. Lincoln's
forcible figure of speech, sinners were calling the righteous to
repentance. Finally the flag, insulted and fired upon, trailed in
surrender at Sumter; and then came the humiliation of the riot at
Baltimore, and the President for a few days practically a
prisoner in the capital of the nation.

But his apprenticeship had been served, and there was to be no
more failure. With faith and justice and generosity he conducted
for four long years a war whose frontiers stretched from the
Potomac to the Rio Grande; whose soldiers numbered a million men
on each side. The labor, the thought, the responsibility, the
strain of mind and anguish of soul that he gave to this great
task, who can measure? "Here was place for no holiday magistrate,
no fair weather sailor," as Emerson justly said of him. "The new
pilot was hurried to the helm in a tornado. In four years-- four
years of battle days--his endurance, his fertility of resources,
his magnanimity, were sorely tried and never found wanting." "By
his courage, his justice, his even temper, his humanity, he stood
a heroic figure in the centre of a heroic epoch."

What but a lifetime's schooling in disappointment, what but the
pioneer's self-reliance and freedom from prejudice, what but the
clear mind, quick to see natural right and unswerving in its
purpose to follow it; what but the steady self-control, the
unwarped sympathy, the unbounded charity of this man with spirit
so humble and soul so great, could have carried him through the
labors he wrought to the victory he attained?

With truth it could be written, "His heart was as great as the
world, but there was no room in it to hold the memory of a
wrong." So, "with malice toward none, with charity for all, with
firmness in the right as God gave him to see the right" he lived
and died. We who have never seen him yet feel daily the influence
of his kindly life, and cherish among our most precious
possessions the heritage of his example.

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