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an exposure. Mr. Seward, in reply to a letter from Hon. John Bigelow, the American consul in Paris, wrote under date of July 15th, 1864: "There is no doubt that, from a period anterior to the breaking out of the insurrection, plots and conspiracies for the purposes of assassination have been frequently formed and organized." Mr. Bigelow had reported to Mr. Seward a plot which had become known abroad. Mr. Seward added: "Assassination is not an American practice or habit; and one so vicious and so desperate cannot be engrafted into our political system. This conviction of mine has steadily gained strength since the civil war began. Every day's experience confirms it." Notwithstanding Mr. Seward's theory, plots were formed against his own life, as well as that of Mr. Lincoln-plots, indeed, embracing more than these two persons, and extending to nearly all the prominent men in the government and in its military service. General Grant and General Sherman were both the unconscious objects of deadly conspiracies. It is now known that, not only in the States, but in Canada and Europe, plots of this character were concocted; and it is believed that, on one occasion, the President actually took poison, in the drugs that were prescribed for him by his physician, and prepared in one of the shops of the city.
Secretary Seward, even before he came so near to death through one of these conspiracies, was compelled to give up his theory, and to acknowledge that he and the President were in positive danger.
The morning of the fourteenth of April was spent by Mr. Lincoln mainly in interviews with his friends. Among those who called was Speaker Colfax, who was about setting out upon an overland journey to the Pacific coast, a journey which has since been satisfactorily accomplished; and to him the President entrusted a verbal message to the miners, assuring them of his friendliness to their interests, and telling them that their prosperity was identified with the prosperity of the nation. General Grant, it will be remembered, was in the city; and he was invited to be present at the cabinet meeting
held during the day. In public and social duties the day passed away; and in the evening Mr. Colfax came again. George Ashmun of Massachusetts also came in, and to him Mr. Lincoln gave the following little note in pencil-the last words he ever wrote:
"Allow Mr. Ashmun and friend* to come in at 9 A. M. to-morrow. "A LINCOLN."
Mr. Lincoln and General Grant were the lions of the day; and the manager of Ford's theater, with a keen eye to business, had not only invited them to witness that night the representation of "Our American Cousin," but announced them both as positively to be present. The Washington papers of the fourteenth contained the following "personal notice:"
"Lieutenant-general Grant, President and Mrs. Lincoln, and ladies, will occupy the state box at Ford's theater to-night, to witness Miss Laura Keene's company in Tom Taylor's 'American Cousin.
General Grant did not desire to attend, and so left the city. The President was equally disinclined to the entertainment; but, as his presence and that of General Grant also had been pledged to the people, he saw that there would be great disappointment if he should fail them; and, when Mrs. Lincoln entered the President's room to inquire what decision he had arrived at, he said that he had concluded to go. He invited both Mr. Ashmun and Mr. Colfax to accompany him, but both declined, pleading other engagements; and Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, attended to the carriage by Mr. Ashmun, left without other company, and drove directly to the house of Senator Harris, where they took in Miss Harris, a daughter of the Senator, and Major Rathbone, a son of the Senator's wife, who happened to be in at the time. The party reached the theater at twenty minutes before nine o'clock, to find the house filled in every part; and, as they passed to their seats in the private box reserved for them, the whole assembly rose and cheered them, with the most cordial enthusiasm. This
*Judge C. P. Daly of New York.
demonstration was intended as an expression of good-will, and as a popular congratulation on the victories that had brought the rebellion to a close. The President bowed to the audience, took his seat, and was soon afterwards absorbed in the scenes of mimic life upon the stage. Here let us leave him, to trace the movements of another person.
At half-past eleven o'clock, on the morning of the fourteenth, John Wilkes Booth, a young actor who had been openly disloyal throughout the war, visited Ford's theater, where he was informed that a box had been taken for the President and General Grant. Then he went to a stable, and engaged a high-strung mare for a saddle-ride, which he proposed to take in the middle of the afternoon. From the stable he proceeded to the Kirkwood Hotel, where he sent up to Vice-president Johnson a card, bearing the words: "I don't wish to disturb you; are you at home?" To this, his signature was appended; and it drew from Mr. Johnson only the response that he was very busily engaged. At four o'clock, he called for the mare, and rode away, leaving her at last at a point convenient for his further purposes. In the evening, he took her from her hiding-place, and rode to the theater. Summoning one Spangler, a scene-shifter, he left the animal in his charge, to be held until he should return. Then he ascended to the dress-circle, looked in upon the stage and the audience, and gradually worked his way through the crowd packed in the rear of the dress-circle, toward the box occupied by the Presidential party. This box was at the end of the dress-circle, next the stage; and was reached by passing in the rear of the dress-circle, to a door opening first into a dark, narrow passage, and then by two doors opening from the passage. This passage was contrived so that the box might be made a double one, when occasion required, by securing facilities for a double entrance, an inside sliding partition completing the arrangement. To the entrance of this passage, Booth forced himself; and, after showing a card to the President's servant, and saying that Mr. Lincoln had sent for him, he passed into the passage, and fastened the door behind
him. Presenting himself at the door of the box, he took a quick survey of the interior. He found everything favorable to his purpose; and, taking a small Derringer pistol in one hand, and a double-edged dagger in the other, he thrust his arm into the entrance, where the President, sitting in an arm-chair, presented to his full view the back and side of his head. A flash, a sharp report, a puff of smoke, and the fatal bullet had entered the President's brain. Mr. Lincoln did not stir. People thought that the report of the pistol had some connection with the play; but the awful truth was soon apparent. There was no escape for the murderer by the way through which he had reached the box; for the crowd was too great. Major Rathbone, the instant he comprehended what was done, sprang upon Booth, who, throwing him off, dropped his pistol, and struck him with his dagger, inflicting a flesh wound upon the officer's arm. Then the murderer rushed to the front of the box, parted the folds of the flag with which it was draped for the occasion, and leaped to the stage, half falling as he descended, his spurs having caught in the drapery. Then springing to his feet, he uttered with theatrical emphasis the words of the state motto of Virginia: "Sic semper tyrannis!" and added: "The South is avenged." Quickly turning, he rushed from the stage, striking from his path all whom he met, and, escaping at the rear of the theater, was in his saddle and away before the party around the President and the audience fully comprehended what had been done. Only a single man in the audience took in at once the meaning of the scene; and, although he undertook to follow Booth, the assassin had disappeared before he reached the door.
Mrs. Lincoln screamed, and Miss Harris called for water. The scene among the audience defies all description. Women shrieked and fainted. Men called for vengeance. The most terrible uproar prevailed. Laura Keene, the actress, begged the audience to be calm, and entered the box from the stage, bearing water and cordials. The President was entirely unconscious; and, as soon as the surgeons, who had gathered quickly to him, had ascertained the position and nature of the
wound, the helpless form was borne across Tenth street to the house of a Mr. Peterson. Surgeon-general Barnes, after examination, pronounced the wound a mortal one. The words fell upon the ears of Secretary Stanton, who, bursting into tears, responded: “Oh, no! General, no, no!" Attorney-general Speed, Secretary Welles, Postmaster-general Dennison, General Meigs, Mr. McCulloch, the new Secretary of the Treasury, and Senator Sumner were gathered around the bed, the last holding one of the President's hands, and sobbing like a child. In an adjoining room, supported by her son Robert and Mrs. Senator Dixon, sat Mrs. Lincoln, bewildered and crushed by her great grief. Around the unconscious form of the President the great men of the nation bowed, and wept, watching the heaving of his breast, until, at twenty-two minutes past seven in the morning, he breathed his last.
In another part of the city, at the moment of the murder and alarm at the theater, another scene of terrible violence was enacted, which showed that one of the many conspiracies that had been organized to destroy the heads of the government was in process of execution.
A few days previously, Mr. Seward had been thrown from his carriage, and severely injured. He was still very low, and under the most careful medical and surgical treatment. A little after ten, on this fatal evening, the door-bell of his residence was rung by a man who said he came with medicine from Dr. Verdi, Mr. Seward's physician, which it was necessary for him to deliver in person. The servant who admitted him protested that no one was permitted to see Mr. Seward. The man pushed him aside, and mounted the stairs. When he was about to enter the Secretary's room, Mr. Frederick Seward, the Secretary's son, appeared, and inquired his business. He gave the same reply that he had given to the servant, when the gentleman told him that he could not enter. In return for this refusal, Mr. Frederick Seward received a stunning blow upon his forehead, with the butt of a pistol; and the man pushed on to the bedside of the Secretary, mounted the bed, and, aiming at Mr. Seward's throat, stabbed him three