« AnteriorContinuar »
THE SCENE AT FORD'S THEATRE.
In dealing with President Lincoln's speeches and writings, I have avoided all but incidental
Miss Harris and Major Rathbone, her step-brother, being in the box. The box-door was directly behind him, and remained open during the night; an attendant sate a few feet from the outer door of the vestibule. At a quarter-past ten, the actor, John Wilkes Booth, passing along the passage behind the spectators, showed a card to the attendant, and after standing for two or three minutes, looking down on the stage, entered the vestibule of the President's box, closed the door behind him, fastened it, and then entering the door of the box itself, as the President was leaning forward, shot him with a small pistol through the back of the head. Mr. Lincoln's head fell slightly forward, and his eyes closed, but his attitude remained unchanged. Hearing the report, Major Rathbone sprang forward and seized Booth, who, however, wrested himself from his grasp, wounding him severely with a long double-edged dagger, which he carried in his left hand, then rushed to the front, shouting "Sic semper tyrannis," and leaped over upon the stage; but his spur caught in the "Stars and Stripes," and he fell, breaking his leg. He sprang, however, to his feet, brandishing his dagger, and shouting again, "The South is avenged," succeeded in making his escape to the outer door of the theatre, where he mounted a horse, which was waiting for him. Embarrassed at
MR. CARPENTER'S ANECDOTES.
notice of those "good stories" and "jokes," of which so many have been fathered on him that were not his. All the more authentic of these are no doubt included in Mr. Carpenter's interesting "Anecdotes and Reminiscences" on which I have frequently drawn, and which I heartily commend to my readers. It has been said of Mr. Lincoln, by one of the most eloquent
once and tracked by his broken leg, he was, as is well known, eventually shot down like a wild beast in its lair (26th April), in a barn, on the south of the Rappahannock; so that, by a mysterious justice, the national flag may be said to have avenged its great standardbearer.
Mr. Lincoln never recovered speech or consciousness. The ball had entered three inches behind the left ear, traversing obliquely the brain, and lodging just behind the right eye. At twenty-two minutes past seven a.m. of the 15th he expired. "There was no convulsive action, no rattling in the throat, no appearance of suffering of any kind, none of the symptoms which ordinarily attend dissolution, and add to its terrors." The words of Petrarch might have been applied to him,-he "seemed to rest like one a-weary,"
Parea posar come persona stanca.
Weary no doubt of earth, but fresh for heaven.
MR. LINCOLN'S COLLOQUIALISMS.
of living men: "His very colloquialisms were mighty for his service. We must keep still pegging away,' he said, in the gloomiest part of the war; and every plain man saw his duty, and was nerved to perform it. One war at a time,'-all the orators could not answer it; a unanimous press could not have overborne the impression it made. 'The United States Government must not undertake to run the churches:'the dictum is worth a half-dozen duodecimos on the complex relations of Church and State. 'You needn't cross a bridge until you have got to it :'-if men's minds were not relieved of their fears concerning the effect of a general emancipation, they were at least widely persuaded to postpone these, by the fitting advice." As respects his jokes, properly so called, one who had close opportunities of observation, said, in reply to a question how the President endured the cares and labours that were upon him,
Nothing keeps him up but his habit of joking.
* Dr. Storrs, in his before referred to “Oration commemorative of President Abraham Lincoln."
230 MR. LINCOLN'S JOKES AND HIS SADNESS.
This affords him momentary, but complete relaxation, and is, I believe, the safety valve of his mind." Yet "nothing about Mr. Lincoln,” we are told, "has led to more complete misconception than this habit of joking. It has been, by those who did not know him, attributed to levity. Nothing was further from the truth. His jokes and stories were, in fact, his medium of illustration, and were always wonderfully to the point.”*
There remains for me only to ask, whether the speeches and papers I have referred to, do not show us one who stands forth, self-pourtrayed in them to all time, among the purest and noblest of rulers whom this earth has ever known?
* Mr. Lincoln himself said, on one occasion, during the dark days of 1862, Mr. Carpenter tells us, "Were it not for this occasional vent, I should die." And of this coarse buffoon," as the hounds of the press were wont to call him, the artist has written, "It has been the business of my life to study the human face, and I have said repeatedly to friends that Mr. Lincoln had the saddest face I ever attempted to paint."
THE MARTYRED PRESIDENT.
(From Good Words, June 1, 1865.*)
WITHIN the last few weeks a common sorrow has spread throughout our land, such as has never befallen it since the day when England's Prince was stricken down in the fulness of his manhood. And yet it is for no prince, noble, statesman, patriot, whom we have been accustomed to see among us, to look up to, or to follow. He never trod the soil of our islands; not one in many thousands among us ever saw his face. An ocean separated us from him; he ruled over another State. And yet, at such an hour as this, we feel that ABRAHAM LINCOLN was indeed
* I have let these pages stand as first published, with the exception of a few words (either restored from the original draft, or inserted to correct a misapprehension), and of the note at the end.