« PreviousContinue »
ABRAHAM LINCOLN-HIS RELIGIOUS CHAR
ACTER AND NOBILITY OF HEART-ADDRESS OF THE HON. SCHUYLER COLFAX, AT BRYAN HALL, CHICAGO, SUNDAY, APRIL 30, 1865.
Every seat in Bryan Hall, and every inch of standing room, was occupied by the audience, who came, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, to hear SchuyLER COLFAX, the Speaker of the National House of Representatives, speak of the virtues and character of the dead President.
The Chair was occupied by JOHN V. FARWELL, Esq., the President of the Northwestern Pranch of the Christian Commission. The services were opened with Prayer by Professor F. W. FISK, D. D., of the Chicago Theological Seminary; after which Mr. FARWELL introduced the eloquent speaker, in a few befitting and appropriate remarks. Mr. COLFAX was loudly applauded. After requesting the audience to omit all manifestations of applause, Mr. COLFAX said :
HON. SCHUYLER COLFAX'S ADDRESS.
“ Over two centuries and a half have passed away since the Ruler of any great nation of the world has fallen by the murderous attack of an assassin ; and, for the first time in our history, there is blood on the Presidential Chair of the Republic. Death is almost always saddening. The passing away of some dear friend from our earthly sight forever, fills the heart with
When it strikes down one who fills honorably a position of influence and power, as in the case of our two Presidents who died of disease in the White House, the sincerest grief is felt throughout the land. But when this affliction is aggravated by death coming through the hand of a murderer, it is not strange that the wave of woe sweeps gloomily over a nation, which sits down to mourn in sackcloth, and feels in every individual heart as if there was one dead at their own hearthstones. It seems, too, as if this wicked deed was intensified, in all its horror, by every attendant circumstance. The fatal shot was fired on the very day when the nation's flag was again unfurled in triumph over that fort in Charleston harbor, which, in four years' time, had been the cradle and the grave of the Rebellion. It was at an hour when the death of the President could not be of the slightest avail to the treasonable conspiracy against the Republic, which its military leaders acknowledged, at last, was powerless and overthrown. And it was aimed, alas, with too sure a hand, at the life of that one man in the Government whose heart was tenderest towards the would be assassins of the nation's life.
“ You may search history, ancient and modern, and when the task is ended, all will concede that Abraham Lincoln was the most merciful ruler who ever put down a powerful rebellion. He had so won the hearts of the people, and so entwined himself in their regard and affection, that he was the only man living who could have stood in the breach between the leaders of this iniquity and the wrath of the country they had plunged into bloody war. Feeling, as so many did, that his kindly heart almost forgot justice in its throbbings for mercy, yet, knowing his unfaltering devotion to his country his inflexible adherence to principle, bis unyielding determination for the restoration of our national unity, there was a trust in him almost filial in its loving confidence, that whatever he should finally resolve on would prove in the end to be for the best. Had he been an unforgiving ruler; had his daily practice been to sit in his high place and there administer with unrelenting severity the pen. alties of offended law; had he proclaimed bis resolution to consign all the plotters against his country to the gallows they had carned, we might have understood why the Rebel assassins conspired against his life. But no assassination in historynot even that of Henry IV. of France, for which Ravaillac was jorn in pieces by horses--nor William of Orange-approximates in utterly unpalliated infamy to this.
In the midst of the national rejoicings over the assured triumph of the national cause—with illuminations and bonfires blazing in every town, and the merry peal of the festive bell in every village, our cities blossoming with flags, our hearts beating high with joy, the two great armies of Grant and Lee fraternizing together after their long warfare, and exulting together over the return of peace—we were brought from the utmost beights of felicity to the deepest valleys of lamentation. No wonder that Rebel Generals acknowledged that it sent down their cause through all the coming centuries to shameless dishonor. For, disguise it as some may seek to do, behind the form of the assassin as his finger pulled the fatal trigger, looms up the dark and fiendish Spirit of the Rebellion, which, baffled in its work of assassinating the nation's life, avenged itself on the life of him who represented the nation's contest and the nation's victory. As surely as the infamous offer of twenty-five thousand crowns, by Pbilip of Spain, to wbomsoever would rid the world of the pious William of Orange, the purest aud bestloved ruler of his times—who, by a striking coincidence, was called Father William, as we called our heloved President
Father Abraham-as surely as this public offer, with its false denunciations of William's offences, inspirited the murderous Balthazar to shoot him through the body, so surely are the Chiefs of this gigantic rebellion of our times responsible for the fatal bullet that carried death to our Chief Magistrate and filled the land with unavailing sorrow.
“ Unrebuked by them, history repeated itself in the following infamous proffer, published in the Selma (Alabama) Dispatch of last December, and copied approvingly into other Rebel organs :
"ONE MILLION DOLLARS WANTED, TO HAVE PEACE BY THE First of March.-If the citizens of the Southern Confederac, will furnish me with the cash, or good securities, for the sum of One Million Dollars, I will cause the lives of Abraham Lincoln, William H. Seward, and Andrew Johnson, to be taken by the 1st of March next. This will give us peace, and satisfy the world that cruel tyrants cannot live in a land of liberty. If this is not accomplished, nothing will be claimed beyond the sum of fifty thousand dollars, in advance, which is supposed to be necessary to reach and slaughter the three villains. "• I will give, myself, one thousand dollars towards this patri
Every one wishing to contribute will address Box X, Cahawba, Ala.
December 1, 1864.' "And, to fix upon them the brand, ineffaceably and forever, as the miscreant leaped upon the stage, his shout of Virginia's motto, Sic semper tyrannis,' with his own addition, “The South is avenged,' proclaims to the civilized world, which will be filled with horror at the deed, as well as to posterity, which will ever loathe the crime and the cause for whose interest it was committed, the authorship of this unparalleled atrocity. It seems, however, but a natural sequel to the infamous plot to murder him as he passed through Baltimore when first elected; to the brutalities on our dead soldiers at Bull Run, burying them face downwards, and carving up their bones into trinkets; to the piracies on the high seas, and attempts to burn women and children to death in crowded hotels and theatres ; to Fort Pillow massacres, and to the systematic and inexpiable starvatior of thousands of Union prisoners in their horrid pens.
“I can scarcely trust myself to attempt the portraiture of our Martyred Chief, whose death is mourned as never man's was mourned before ; and who, in all the ages that may be left to America, while time may last, will be enshrined in solemn memory with the Father of the Republic which he saved. How much I loved him personally I cannot express to you. Honored always by his confidence, treated ever by him with affectionate regard ; sitting often with him familiarly at his table; his last visitor on that terrible night; receiving his last message, full