« PreviousContinue »
talked with Jesus, and became like a child in spirit. John saw a new heaven and a new earth descending from God out of heaven. Upon a house-top in Joppa, Peter, in mid-day slumbers, beheld phenomena far more mysterious than that dreamed by President Lincoln, and heard from one unseen a truth never before announced--that they who fear God and work righteousness in every nation are accepted of Him. Thrice that vision. More than three times sailed the ship that was bearing President Lincoln to the shadowy shore. At that noon hour the nation and himself were approaching a haven of peace.
We are not to conclude that the President believed in omens. Neither may we say that what he had seen was a hallucination or the phantasm of a disordered imagination. The reality of his dreaming cannot be questioned. We may conclude that philosophy has not as yet fully comprehended mental and psychic conditions.
The Cabinet took up the great questions of the hour— the restoration of the revolted States, and what should be done with the Confederate leaders.
“I have no desire,” said the President, “ to kill or hang them. Let us frighten them out of the country--open the gates, let down the bars, scare them off. Enough lives have been sacrificed; we must extinguish our resentments if we expect to live in harmony and peace.'
In the afternoon the President, with Mrs. Lincoln, drove in his carriage through the suburbs of the city. He was welcomed every. where by affectionate recognition. He was very happy, and talked of the past and also of the future. “When these four years are over, Mary,” he said, “ we will go
back to Illinois, and I will again be a country lawyer. God has been very good to us."
Mr. Lincoln occasionally sought rest and recreation by attending the theatre. On that evening the drama of “Our American Cousin” was to be enacted at Ford's Theatre. Miss Laura Keene, a favorite actress, had chosen it on the occasion of her benefit. It was known that the President and Mrs. Lincoln, and possibly General and Mrs. Grant, would be present. The desire to see the two men foremost in the affections of the people filled the theatre. General and Mrs. Grant, desiring to leave the city, informed the President that they could not accept the proffered invitation to accompany himself and Mrs. Lincoln. Invitations were accordingly sent to Miss Harris and Major Rathburn, daughter and stepson of Senator Harris.
Early in the evening Mr. Colfax called again at the White House to
say farewell. He was accompanied by Mr. Ashman, who was president of the Republican Convention which nominated Mr. Lincoln in 1860.
" Was it not," asked Mr. Ashman, " rather imprudent for you to expose yourself in Richmond? We were much concerned for your safety.”
“I would have been alarmed myself if any other person had been President and gone there, but I did not find any danger whatever,” Mr. Lincoln replied.
Upon a matter of business the President made a remark which he saw disturbed Mr. Ashman.
“ You did not understand me,” Mr. Lincoln quickly said. “I did not mean it. I take it all back. I apologize for it.” The carriage was waiting to convey the President to the theatre.
. He desired to see Mr. Ashman again early the next morning, and wrote
upon a card :
Allow Mr. Ashman to come at
o'clock A.M. to-morrow..
At the door of the White House the President said to Colfax: “Sen ator Sumner has the gavel of the Confederate Congress, which he got at Richmond to hand to the Secretary of War; but I maintained he must give it to you. You tell him to hand it over. You are going to the Pacific Coast. Do not forget to tell the people in the mining region what I told you this morning about their development. Good-bye.”
The audience crowding the theatre rose and cheered as the presidential party entered the box assigned them. The orchestra played “ Hail to the Chief.” The President acknowledged the kind reception, and the performance went on. Mr. Lincoln greatly enjoyed it. The curtain rose upon the second scene of the last act. Miss Keene, personating Mrs. Montchessington, was saying to Asa Trenchard :
" You don't understand good society. That alone can excuse the impertinence of which you are guilty.”
“ I guess I know enough to turn you inside out,” the reply of Trenchard.
A pistol report startles the laughing audience. A man leaps from the President's box, falls upon the stage, rises, flourishing a knife dripping with blood.
“Sic semper tyrannis ! The South is avenged !” he shouts, and disappears.
“ John Wilkes Booth !" some one exclaims. There is instant commotion--a rush towards the stage and the box.
The President had fallen forward. Major Rathburn had received a fearful wound in his arm.
The President was borne to a small house across the street. Mrs. Lincoln, dazed and wild with grief, followed, tenderly cared for by Miss Harris. Physicians and the members of the Cabinet were summoned.
All Washington was in commotion - tbronging the streets, learning not only that the President had been shot, but that another assassin had gained entrance to the house of Mr. Seward as a messenger with medicine from his physician. The assassin had snapped a pistol at Mr. Frederick Seward, and beaten him senseless with the weapon; had inflicted sereral wounds upon Mr. Seward with a knife, and also wounded two attendants.
Through the night the members of the Cabinet, physicians, and the weeping family watched the ebbing tide of life. ()
A little past seven o'clock in the morning Abraham Lincoln died, with inexpressible peace upon his face.
“Now he belongs to the ages," said Secretary Stanton,
breaking the silence. Who was John Wilkes Booth? What motive impelled him to commit the crime ?
The Confederate Government, in its desperation during the last months of the war, had used pitiable and despicable means to postpone approaching doom. The Confederate agents in Canada had employed William L. McDonald to manufacture an explosive compound to be placed in hotels and steamships for their destruction. On the evening
of November 5, 1864, while the people of New York were rejoicing over the re-election of President Lincoln, incendiary fires were kindled in thirteen places, which, however, were quickly extinguished. Steamboats had been burned on the western rivers.
John Y. Beall, educated in the University of Virginia, owner of 100 slaves, captain in the Confederate Army, an accredited agent of the Confederacy, had been employed to wreck railroad trains. When arrested and brought to trial he took a commission from his pocket, signed by Jefferson Davis, to show that he was an officer in the Confederate service, and ought not to be held accountable as a private individual for throwing a railroad train from its track and endangering the lives of innocent passengers.
He manifested no sorrow for what he had done. While President Lincoln was having the interview with the Confederate commissioners at Fortress Monroe, Professor McCullough was presenting to Senator Oldham, of Texas, a scheme which the Senator in turn laid before Jefferson Davis. It was a proposition to burn all the shipping of the Northern States. (*)
“We can burn,” he wrote, “every transport that leaves the harbor of New York or other Northern port with supplies for the armies of the enemy, burn every transport and gunboat on the Mississippi River, as well as devastate the country, and fill the people with consternation.”
Jefferson Davis did not thrust this letter into the fire, but wrote the following words: “ Hon. W. I. Oldham :
February 12, 1865. " In relation to plans and means to burn the enemy's shipping, towns, etc., preparations are in the hands of Professor McCullough, and are known only to one party. Ask the President to have an interview with General Harris, formerly of Missouri, on this subject. Secretary of War at his convenience please see General Harris, and learn what plan he has for overcoming difficulties heretofore experienced.
J. D." ()
Soon after the re-election of President Lincoln an advertisement appeared in a newspaper published in Selma, Ala., proposing to raise a fund for the assassination of the President and Vice-president of the United States.
A letter from Lieutenant Alston, proposing assassination, was turned over to Mr. Seddon by Jefferson Davis, bearing this indorsement: “For attention.” (TM)
Among those who were ready to engage in desperate undertakings for the benefit of the Confederacy was John Wilkes Booth, a dramatic actor. I saw him frequently during the war. After John Brown seized Harper's Ferry, Booth had assisted at his capture. He visited Richmond, making his way secretly through the lines. He was in communication with Confederate agents in Canada. He was twentysix years old ; his form was manly, his bearing that of a gentleman. In parlor and drawing-room he was ever an attractive figure. He delighted in tragic and startling scenes. He had tasted the wine of popular applause upon the stage, and delighted to be before the public.
Booth did not imitate those who conspired against Cæsar, and select his associates in crime from those occupying high social position, but chose his accomplices from a gang of ruffians. Among them was Lewis Powell, often known as Lewis Payne. He had served the Confederates as a spy. George Atzeroth had frequently been in Richmond with an invoice of goods contraband of war. Daniel E. Harold had been a student of pharmacy. Spangler, Arnold, McLaughlin, and Dr. Mudd were lesser accomplices. Their rendezvous was in a boardinghouse kept by Mary E. Surratt, whose son John was also an accomplice. () Just when Booth made their acquaintance is not known. By his almost hypnotic power they became obedient to his imperious will.
During the four years of the war President Lincoln had been denounced as “usurper," "autocrat," " tyrant," "czar" in the newspapers of the Peace Democracy. This destroyer of the liberties of the Southern people, as Booth regarded President Lincoln, had turned loose 4,000,000 slaves, thus robbing the masters of their property. The Ides of March had brought humiliation to the Confederacy. Why should not the world be rid of such a despot! Booth had often exclaimed upon the stage:
“Shall Rome stand under one man's awe? What Rome?
Why should not John Wilkes Booth enact in life what he had performed upon the stage-avenge the South and make his name famous ? It is not probable that he gave any thought as to what benefit or loss might come to the people of the Southern States by murdering the President. Revenge and vanity impelled him. He determined to send a bullet through the brain of the “tyrant " who had conquered and despoiled the South, who had walked in triumph through the streets of the capital of the Confederacy. Passion and self-gratulation had taken