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man (Hon. James Speed) gave the writer, many years after, these recollections of the occasion:
Mr. Lincoln, at the advice of personal friends, left Washington in order to get some rest. His wife and a few others went with him. Whilst he was at City Point his wife came to Washington, and addressed me a note requesting me to return to City Point with her. When I received the note, being behind in my official business, I was very loth to go, but determined to consult Mr. Seward, who occupied a room in the same building. I well remember that, upon entering Mr. Seward's office, I found him lying upon the sofa, reading Montaigne's Essays. After showing him the note, I stated to him that I did not want to go, because of the pressure before mentioned, and that I did not wish to appear in the city of Richmond, which had been so recently taken by our forces, as such a visit might seem mere exultation over a fallen foe. He arose and walked the floor, and said with great emphasis, the request of the President's wife was equivalent to a command, and I must obey. He said, further, he wanted me to go on another account. The end of our troubles was fast approaching, and the Southern people would feel as though the world had come to an end; many individuals among them would be absolutely crazy.; that history and human nature taught him, if there were to be assassinations, now was the time; the President, being the most marked man on the Federal side, was the most liable to attack. He said I was the only man that could warn the President of the danger, and insisted upon this with great earnestness, making me promise to have such a talk with Mr. Lincoln.
The President and party whilst at City Point lived on board of the boat. Every day during my stay the President and myself went ashore visiting the soldiers, but more particularly the hospitals. All during my visit to him he was so occupied by company that an opportunity to have a private talk with him never presented itself, so I was unable to keep the promise made to Mr. Seward until left alone with Mr. Lincoln in the cabin of the boat as we returned to Washington. On the center-table there was a very fine copy of
Shakespeare. He reached the volume and read therefrom several passages, among others:
Duncan is in his grave :
I saw my opportunity, and commenced telling him what Mr. Seward had said. He stopped me at once, saying he had rather be dead than to live in continual dread; any precautions against assassination would be to him perpetual reminders of danger; expressing at the same time confidence that his only safeguard was that the severe penalties which would be visited upon such a crime would be appalling to any man w:l: an atom of sound sense.
A prominent officer of the Sanitary Commission Dr. George Mendenhall — gave these particulars of the President's visit in a private letter to the author (May 2, 1865):
On the 8th of April (the day before Lee's surrender), as I was going to the hospital at City Point, I met the carriage containing the President, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Sumner, and Mrs. Lincoln, who were returning from the hospital, where Mrs. Lincoln had been spending the day with the sick and wounded. On arriving there the Medical Director informed me that the President said he came to see the “boys " who had fought the battles of the country, and particularly the battles which resulted in the evacuation of the rebel capital. He wanted to take them by the hand, as it would probably be the last opportunity of meeting them. His will was good to see them in Washington on their return homeward from the war, but it would be impossible to see so many of them again; he therefore devoted the day to shaking hands with over six thousand soldiers fresh from the bloody fields of battle, and giving such words of encouragement as the circumstances suggested from time to time. It was like the visit of a father to his children, and was appreciated in the same kindly spirit by the soldiers. They loved to talk of his kindness and unaffected manner, and to dwell upon the various incidents of this visit as a green spot in the soldier's hard life. At one point in his visit he observed an axe, which he picked up and examined, making some pleasant remark about having been once himself considered to be a good chopper. He was invited to try his hand upon a log of wood lying near, from which he made the chips fly in primitive style. The "boys” seemed to worship him, and the visit of the President to City Point Hospital will long be remembered by many a soldier who was only too happy in its enjoyment. The description of this visit made a strong impression on my mind.
The President arrived in Washington on Sunday evening, the 9th. Next morning the capital - as, indeed, the whole North — was wild with joy over the news of Lee's surrender. All through the day restless and excited humanity was drawn toward the White House as by a magnet. In the morning, while cannon salutes, martial music, and a tumult of voices resounded on every side, the President presented himself at the window from which he had so many times before responded to calls from the people. When the storm of welcoming shouts had given place to a listening attitude, he spoke but briefly, promising to say more at
sort of a formal demonstration," for which he understood that arrangements were being made, for that or the following day:
“I see you have a band,” he said. (“Three of them,” voices replied.) “I propose now closing up by requesting you to play a certain air or tune. I have always thought Dixie' one of the best tunes I ever heard. I have heard that our adversaries over the way have attempted to appropriate it as a national air. I insisted yesterday that we had fairly captured it. I presented the question to the AttorneyGeneral, and he gave his opinion that it is our lawful prize. I ask the band to give us a good turn upon it.”
On Tuesday evening, the 11th, he was serenaded, and to the waiting multitude he made a carefully prepared address — his last public speech - of which the main points were:
We meet this evening not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace, whose joyous expression cannot be restrained.
By these recent successes the re-inauguration of the national authority, reconstruction, which has had a large share of thought from the first, is pressed much more closely upon our attention. It is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike the case of a war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with. No one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with and mould from disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to the mode, manner and means of reconstruction.
In the annual message of December, 1863, and accompanying proclamation I presented a plan of reconstruction (as the phrase goes) which I promised, if adopted by any State, should be acceptable to and sustained by the Executive Government of the nation. I distinctly stated that this was not the only plan which might possibly be acceptable; and I also distinctly protested that the Executive claimed no right to say when or whether members should be admitted to seats in Congress from such States. This plan was, in advance, submitted to the then Cabinet, and distinctly approved by every member of it. ..
The message went to Congress, and I received many commendations of the plan, written and verbal; and not a single objection to it, from any professed emancipationist, came to my knowledge until after the news reached Washington that the people of Louisiana had begun to move in
accordance with it. From about July, 1862, I had corresponded with different persons, supposed to be interested, seeking a reconstruction of a State government for Louisi
When the message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned, reached New Orleans, General Banks wrote me he was confident that the people, with his military co-operation, would reconstruct substantially on that plan. I wrote him, and some of them, to try it. They tried it, and the result is known. Such only has been my agency in getting up the Louisiana government. As to sustaining it, my promise is out, as before stated. But as bad promises are better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise and break it whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public interest. But I have not yet been so convinced.
We all agree that the seceded States, so-called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union, and that the sole object of the Government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but, in fact, easier to do this without deciding, or even considering, whether these States have ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between the States and the Union, and each forever after innocently indulge his own opinion whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.
Some twelve thousand voters in the heretofore slave State of Louisiana have sworn allegiance to the Union, assumed to be the rightful political power of the State, held elections, organized a State government, adopted a free State Constitution, giving the benefit of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man. Their Legislature has already voted to ratify the constitutional amendment recently passed by Congress, abolishing slavery throughout the nation. These twelve thousand persons are thus fully committed to the Union, and to perpetual freedom in the States - committed to the very things and nearly all the