« PreviousContinue »
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."
On the evening of the same day-Saturday, April 8th-the fate of Lee's army not being yet definitely known to him, but its capture a well assured result, Mr. Lincoln embarked on his way back to Washington, with Mrs. Lincoln and accom. panying friends. During the voyage, he was at times occupied in reading the tragedy of Macbeth, a favorite drama in which he seemed now to take an unusual interest. Some passages ho read aloud to the friends near him, adding remarks on the peculiar beauties that most impressed his mind. He dwelt particularly on the following lines, which he read with feeling, and again read, giving emphasis to his admiration :
" Duncan is in his grave,
President Lincoln, almost on the first occupation of Rich mond, had visited the city-amid many anxious misgivings of his friends—but slightly guarded, for two days appearing more or less in the streets where his name had so lately been rarely mentioned except in scorn or hate. He was now returning homeward unharmed, gliding quietly along the Potomac, surrounded only by friends. Did a thought of coming danger visit him? To many hearts it was a relief to know that he had safely reached the White House, on Sunday evening, haying witnessed the triumph of weary years of war. Late at night came the tidings which gladdened the land, and which on the morrow was to open again—more widely if possible, than on the preceding Monday-the floodgates of gladness. Lee had surrendered.
On the 10th of April, the country was jubilant with the glad tidings. The streets of the national capital again overfowed with enthusiastic crowds. Reverberations of cannon
were heard in city, town, and hamlet throughout the land. Millions of flags were dancing to the movements of the winds. Te Deum was sung in New York, and thanksgiving notes of "peace on carth, good will to men," in audible strain, or in the silent rhythm of the heart, swelled in one grand harmony through all the nation. A day which none now living can ever forget: a day which future generations will think of, bu never adequately imagine.
An unnumbered throng gathered before the White House, while cannon were resounding, and bands playing, and voices spontaneously joining in choral accompaniment. Mr. Lincoln, in response to the calls of the besieging multitude, appeared at the window above the main entrance, amid excited demonstrations of affectionate respect. Declining at this moment to make any extended speech, he only said:
I am very greatly rejoiced that an occasion has occurred so pleasurable that the people can't restrain themselves. I suppose that arrangements are being made for some sort of formal demonstration, perhaps this evening or to-morrow night. If there should be such a demonstration I, of course, shall have to respond to it, and I shall have nothing to say if I dribble it out before. _[Laughter and cries of “We want to hear you now,” etc.] I see you have a band. [Voices, “We have three of them."] 1 propose now closing up by requesting you to play a certain air
, or tune. I have always thought one of the best tuncs I ever heard. [Laughter.] 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 ques. tion to the Attorney General, and he gave his opinion that it is our lawful prize. [Laughter and cheers.] I ask the band to give us a good turn upon
" Dixio" was played with a vigor suited to the temper of the people, Mr. Lincoln still remaining at the window. As the music ceased, he proposed "three good, rousing, hearty cheers for Lieut.-Gen. Grant and all under his command," which were given. He then called for “ three more cheers for our gallant navy," which were no less energetically given. The President then bowed and retired.
Considerable numbers were assembled in front of the Execu. tive Mansion at several times during the day. After fire o'clock in the evening, he again appeared at the window, in answer to repeated calls of a large crowd, and made the follow ing speech :
MY FRIENDS: I am informed that you have assembled here this afternoon under the impression that I had made ao appointment to speak at this time. This is a mistake. I have made no such appointment. More or less persons have been gathered here at different times during the day, and in the exuberance of their feeling, and for all of which they are greatly justified, calling upon me to say something, and I have, from time to time, been sending out what I supposed was proper to disperse them for the present. (Laughter and applause.]
I said to a larger audience this morning which I desire now to repeat. It is this: That I supposed in consequence of the glorious news we have been receiving lately, there is to be some general demonstration, cither on this or to-morrow evening, when I will be expected, I presume, to say something. Just here, I will remark, that I would much prefer having this demonstration take place to-morrow evening, as I would then be much better prepared to say what I have to say
than I am now or can be this evening
I therefore say to you that I shall be quite willing, and I hope ready, to say something then ; whereas just now I am not ready to say anything that one in my position ought to say. Everything I say, you know, goes into print. [Laugh. ter and applause]. If I make a mistake it doesn't merely affect me, or you, but the country. I, therefore, ought at least try not to make mistakes.
If, then, a general demonstration be made to-morrow eren. ing, and it is agreeable, I will codeavor to say something, and not make a mistake, without at least trying carefully to avoid it. [Laughter and applause). Thanking you for the compli pient of this call, I bid you good evening.
On the evening of Tuesday, April 11th, Mr. Lincoln was screnaded; and the general expectation of a somewhat claborate speech, giving a definite foreshadowing of his future policy in regard to the Rebel States, attracted a very large gathering of the people. The remarks he designed to make on this occasion were carefully written out, and will be ever
memorable as the final words of political counsel which he has left as a legacy to his country.
MR. LINCOLN'S LAST SPEECH. 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 can not be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated. Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing be overlooked. Their honors must not be parceled out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of transmitting much of the good news to you; but no part of the honor, for plan or execution, is mine. To Gen. Grant, his skillful officers and brave men, all belongs. The gallant navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part.
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 mold 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.
As a general rule, I abstain from reading the reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by that to which I can not properly offer an answer. In spite of this precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that I am much censured from some supposed agency in setting up and seeking to sustain the new State Government of Louisiana. In this I have done just so much as, and no more than, the public knows. 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 buch States. This plan was, in advance, submitted to the then
Cabinet, and distinctly approved by every member of it. One of them suggested that I should then, and in that connection, apply the Emancipation Proclamation to the theretofore excepted parts of Virginia and Louisiana ; that I should drop the suggestion about apprenticeship for freed people, and that I should omit the protest against my own power, in regard to the admission of members of Congress, but even he approved every part and parcel of the plan which has since been employed or touched by the action of Louisiana.
The new Constitution of Louisiana, declaring emancipation for the whole State, practically applies the proclamation to the part previously excepted. It does not adopt apprenticeship for freed people, and it is silent, as it could not well be otherwise, about the admission of members to Congress. So that, as it applies to Louisiana, every member of the Cabinet fully approved the plan. 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 Louisiana. When the message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned, reached New Orleans, Gen. 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.
I have been shown a letter on this subject, supposed to be an able one, in which the writer expresses regret that my mind has not seemed to be definitely fixed on the question whether the seceded States, so-called, are in the Union or out of it. It would, perhaps, add astonishment to his regret were he to learn that, since I have found professed Union men endeavoring to make that question, I have purposcly forborne any public expression upon it. As appears to me, that question has not been, nor yet is, a practically material one, and that any discussion of it, while it thus remains practically immaterial, could have no cffect other than the mischievous one of dividing our friends. As yet, whatever it may hereafter become, that ques.