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structure that he foresaw must soon fall. But Davis, who had courage, enterprise, and daring suitable for so desperate a cause, made the most of every circumstance. Public meetings were held, at which he and other impressive orators aroused the passions and determination of the people until all came to believe that victory was still within their reach.
The North soon learned the chief facts about the conference. Although it had failed in one sense, it was very successful in another: it convinced all sensible men that the peace demanded could only be obtained by a thorough conquest.
Already Sherman's vast devastating flood was sweeping northward from Savannah. Nothing but fear of the popular effect of abandoning Richmond had caused the government to hold out so desperately against the Federal forces, which were working successfully on the plan of strangulation. On the night of April 2d, Petersburg and Richmond were abandoned, and the army and the government officials, with the archives, hurried off southwestward, hoping to make a successful stand on reaching the Blue Ridge mountains, if not before. But Sheridan cut off Lee's retreat. After quickly occupying Petersburg and Richmond, Grant followed up and surrounded Lee. The end came at Appomattox Court House April 9, 1865. What followed was merely gathering up the scattered fragments.
During the two months since the meeting at Hampton Roads, Seward had watched the course of events with great satisfaction. "Our foreign relations are closing up finely," he wrote home, shortly after the conference. His pen was not less active than formerly, for he was inditing long despatches about the numerous military engagements. He could write a smooth, clear story of whatever occurred in the field, and the pleasure he found
in keeping an open diary on the war led him to give much time and labor to it. What afforded him the most satisfaction was to mark the growing disorder and desperation in Richmond:
"The dismay at Richmond rises to distraction. It is not doubtful that there has been a conspiracy to force Davis to resign." "It is understood that the insurrectionary cabal has at last, under Virginia's dictation, passed a bill for arming slaves-leaving to the states the question, whether the negroes thus brought into the field shall be emancipated." "The so-called Congress, on the eve of an intended adjournment, was detained by a message from Davis, announcing that Richmond is in imminent danger, and demanding extreme measures and virtually dictatorial powers, including a suspension of the habeas corpus, unlimited control over exemptions, and authority to seize gold for the uses of the rebel authorities. The so-called legislature listened and adjourned, as is understood, without reviewing the policy of which Davis complained, and without conceding the most, much less all, of the extraordinary powers demanded."1
1 3 Seward, 266, 267, 268.
On a bright spring afternoon, April 5, 1865, Seward went for a drive with his daughter, one of her friends, and his son Frederick. The horses became frightened, and the Secretary, in attempting to get out of the carriage, was thrown to the ground with great force. He was picked up unconscious; his jaw was broken in two places; his right shoulder was badly dislocated, and nearly his whole body was bruised and strained. The jaw was set in an iron frame, and in every way he received the best scientific care. Nevertheless, he remained unconscious for several hours and then was delirious for many more. Fever set in, and there were serious doubts as to his recovery. But in a few days favorable signs appeared.
Lincoln was absent on a visit to Grant's army when
the accident occurred. On his return he went to see Seward. Sitting on the bed by the invalid, he quietly described what he had seen in and about the late capital of the Confederacy. Seward could not even whisper without great pain. So the monologue was continued in soft tones for an hour or so, until Seward fell asleep; then the President quietly slipped away. They never saw each other again.
About ten o'clock in the evening of April 14th, when Seward's sick-room had been put in order for the night, an unknown man rang the door-bell and told the servant that he brought a message from the physician. As there was nothing suspicious about him, he was allowed to pass up-stairs; but at Seward's door he was refused admission by Frederick W. Seward. The stranger tried in vain to fire his revolver, and then savagely beat the Assistant Secretary over the head with it, until the weapon broke. Then bursting open the door, he rushed at the Secretary, striking furious blows at his head and throat with a bowie-knife, until Seward rolled from the other side of the bed to the floor. The male nurse, who tried to protect the Secretary, received some bad cuts, and so did Augustus Seward, who undertook to expel the assassin. As the assailant was leaving he wounded a fifth man, and then rode off on the horse he had left near the front door. Seward's throat had been "cut on both sides, his right cheek nearly severed from his face." Probably it was the iron frame on his jaw that turned a blow that might have caused instant death. As it was, the chances seemed to be that either the wounds or the terrible shock would be fatal.' The life of the Assistant Secretary was despaired of, for his skull was badly fractured in two places. At nearly the precise moment of
1 For a full account of Seward's accident and attempted assassination, and of the fate of Powell, alias Payne, see 3 Seward, 270 ff., and 10 Nicolay and Hay, 303 ff.
the assault upon Seward, Lincoln was shot while at Ford's theatre, and he died early the following morning.
As far back as June, 1862, John Bigelow had written to Seward from Paris about a rumored plot to assassinate the President and some of his Cabinet. In a letter of July 15, 1862, Seward replied as follows:
"There is no doubt that from a period anterior to the breaking out of the insurrection, plots and conspiracies for purposes of assassination have been frequently formed and organized. And it is not unlikely that such an one as has been reported to you is now in agitation among the insurgents. If it be so it need furnish no ground for anxiety. Assassination is not an American practice or habit, and one so vicious and 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. The President, during the heated season, occupies a country-house near the Soldiers' Home, two or three miles from the city. He goes to and comes from that place on horseback, night and morning, unguarded. I go there unattended at all hours, by daylight and by moonlight, by starlight and without any light.
Seward had a philosophical theory for everything he wished to believe. But, alas! the unexpected happened. Fortunately, the five men wounded at his house re
1 Bigelow MSS.
SEWARD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD FRENCH INTERVENTION IN
SEWARD'S treatment of Napoleon's attempt to overthrow a republican form of government in Mexico and to place in its stead an imperial throne with an Austrian prince was his most perfect achievement in diplomacy. No other question in his department was for a long time so puzzling, so changing, so dangerous, or so misjudged by the people and the public men of the United States. No mere accident, no circumstance, no fortune, good or ill, could have given Seward success; one or all of these might have helped, but a genius for diplomacy was necessary.
Ever since the Spanish yoke had been thrown off, in 1821, Mexico had been subject to revolution and counterrevolution, generally led by some chief of either the Liberal or the Clerical party. In forty years there had been nearly forty revolutions and over seventy different supreme executives. Government was hardly more than a name. Assaults and murders were frequent in the capital, guerilla warfare was common in the provinces, and banditti infested the highways. Even the British legation had been robbed of about six hundred thousand dollars in coin. So insufferable had become the outrages upon foreigners that the French and the English Ministers loudly protested; and President Buchanan, in his last annual message, recommended intervention on the part of the United States to obtain indemnity. In 1861 the