The Great National Calamity.
Monday, April 17, 1865.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN IS DEAD! These portentous words, as they sped over the wires throughout the length and breadth of the land on Saturday morning last, sent a thrill of agony through millions of loyal hearts and shrouded a nation, so lately rejoicing in the hour of victory, in the deepest sorrow. The blow came at a moment, so unexpected and was so sudden and staggering — the crime by which he fell was so atrocious and the manner of it so revolting, that men were unable to realize the fact that one of the purest of citizens, the noblest of patriots, the most beloved and honored of Presidents, and the most forbearing and magnanimous of rulers had perished at the hands of an assassin. The horrifying details recalled only the scenes of blood which have disgraced barbaric ages. People were unwilling to believe that, in our own time, there could be found men capable of a crime so utterly fiendish and brutal. One of the assassins, in a crowded theater, stealthily approaches a man against whom he could have no just cause of enmity; a man so tender in his feelings and sympathies that all his errors were on the side of mercy; a man who had been twice elected to the highest office in the gift of a great people — and without giving any notice of his presence, while his victim, with his wife sitting by his side, is wholly unconscious of danger, deliberately discharges a pistol from behind, piercing the head of the President with the fatal ball, then availing himself of the bewilderment of the audience, leaps upon the stage, and makes his escape. The other assassin, at nearly the same moment, obtrudes himself into the sick chamber of a man who, but a few days before, had narrowly escaped death by being thrown from his carriage, whose life is hardly yet free from danger, and commences a murderous assault upon his prostrate and helpless victim, and the unarmed attendants. It is impossible to conceive anything more fiend-like and diabolical. And yet, this is called "chivalry!" — and the perpetrators profess to be influenced by the love of liberty. It is the "chivalry" of the desperado, and the love of liberty which controls the highwayman and the enemy of humanity.
The nation is bereaved. Every loyal man and woman mourns the loss of one whose unswerving justice, whose pure and unsullied honor and incorruptible integrity, whose magnanimity of character and mercifulness towards his enemies had won the respect even of those enemies themselves. All but traitors mourn him as a personal friend. At such an hour as this and in sight of the fearful crime that has been committed, the spirit of mere partisanship is disarmed and its voice silenced. Nothing but the most uncontrollable and demoniac treason dares to assail a man so foully dealt with, or gloat over the "deep damnation of his taking off."
President Lincoln died at the hand of Slavery. It was Slavery that conceived the fearful deed; it was Slavery that sought and found the willing instrument and sped the fatal ball; it is Slavery alone that will justify the act. Henceforth men will look upon slavery as indeed "the sum of all villainies," the fruitful parent of all crime. This murder was an assault upon the principles of free Government, inasmuch as he was the choice of a large majority of the nation for the office which he filled. He has fallen in the very hour of victory, when constitutional free Government was being vindicated, and when peace seemed just ready to return to a land torn and distracted by civil war. Despite he calumnies of his enemies, his fame is now secure. History and posterity will do him justice. His memory will be a rich inheritance to our nation, attracting to his tomb the lovers of freedom from all lands, and dividing with that of Washington the admiration of the world. With a slight change of phraseology, the closing lines of that magnificent lyric will apply to the death of ABRHAM LINCOLN:
"While God is marching on."