Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

had been assassinated because he would not give them up."

This death-journey, with its incidents, was very touching. It showed beyond all question that, during his Presidency, the Illinois backwoodsman had found his way to the hearts of the people as no man had He had been with them in their sorrows

ever done.
and their joys.

Those who had wept in the family circle for a son or father lost in the war, now wept again the more because the great chief had also perished. The last victim of the war was its leader.

The final interment of the body of President Lincoln took place at Oak Ridge Cemetery, in Springfield, Illinois. Four years previously, Abraham Lincoln had left a little humble home in that place, and gone to be tried by the people in such a great national crisis as seldom falls to any man to meet. He had indeed "crossed Fox River" in such a turmoil of roaring waters as had never been dreamed of. And, having donc all things wisely and well, he passed away with the war, dying with its last murmurs.

CHAPTER XIII.

President Lincoln's Characteristics-His Love of Humour-His Stories-Pithy Sayings-Repartees-His Dignity.

WHATEVER the defects of Lincoln's character

W

were, it may be doubted whether there was ever so great a man who was, on the whole, so good, Compared to his better qualities, these faults were as nothing; yet they came forth so boldly, owing to the natural candour and manliness on which they grew, that, to petty minds, they obscured what was grand and beautiful. It has been very truly said, that he was the most remarkable product of the remarkable possibilities of American lite. Born to extreme poverty, and with fewer opportunities for culture than are open to any British peasant, he succeeded, by sheer perseverance and determination, in making himself a land-surveyor, a lawyer, a politician, and a President. And it is not less evident that even his honesty was the result of will, though his kindheartedness came by nature. What was most remarkable in him was his thorough Republicanism. He was so completely inspired with a sense that the

opinions and interests common to the community are right, that to his mind common sense assumed its deepest meaning as a rule of the highest justice. When the whole land was a storm of warring elements, and in the strife between States' Rights and National Supremacy all precedents were forgotten and every man made his own law, then Abraham Lincoln, watching events, and guided by what he felt was really the sense of the people, sometimes leading, but always following when he could, achieved Emancipation, and brought a tremendous civil war to a quiet end.

Abraham Lincoln was remarkably free from jealousy or personal hatred. His honesty in all things, great or small, was most exemplary. In appointing men, he was more guided by the interests of the country or their fitness than by any other consideration, and avoided favouritism to such an extent that it was once said, in reference to him, that honesty was undoubtedly good policy, but it was hard that an American citizen should be excluded from office because he had, unfortunately, at some time been a friend of the President. Owing to this principle, he was often accused of ingratitude, heartlessness, or indifference. Mr. Lincoln had a quick perception of character, and liked to give men credit for what they understood. Once, when his opinion was asked as to politics, he said, "You must ask Raymond about

His Love of Humour.

235

that; in politics, he is my lieutenant-gencial." The manner in which Lincoln became gradually appreciated was well expressed in the London "Saturday Review," after his death, when it said that, “during the arduous experience of four years, Mr. Lincoln constantly rose in general estimation by calmness of temper, by an intuitively logical appreciation of the character of the conflict, and by undisputed sincerity."

Mr. Lincoln was habitually very melancholy, and, as is often the case, sought for a proper balance of mind in the humour of which he had such a rare appreciation. When he had a great duty on hand, he would prepare his mind for it by reading "something funny." As I write this, I am kindly supplied with an admirable illustration by Mr. Bret Harte. One evening the President, who had summoned his Cabinet at a most critical juncture, instead of proceeding to any business, passed half-an-hour in reading to them the comic papers of Orpheus C. Kerr (office-seeker), which had just appeared. But at last, when more than one gentleman was little less than offended at such levity, Mr. Lincoln rose, laid aside the book, and, with a most serious air, as of one who has brought his mind to a great point, produced and read the slips containing the Proclamation of Emancipation, and this he did with an carnestness and feeling which were

1 The late Henry J. Raymond, then editor of the New York "Times."

electric, moving his auditors as they had seldom been moved. By far the best work of humour produced during the war, if it be not indeed the best work of purely American humour ever written, was the Petroleum V. Nasby papers. F. B. Carpenter relates that, on the Saturday before the President left Washington to go to Richmond, he had a most wearisome day, followed by an interview with several callers on business of great importance. Pushing everything aside, he said "Have you seen the 'Nasby Papers'?" "No, I have not," was the answer; "what are they?" "There is a chap out in Ohio," returned the President, "who has been writing a series of letters in the newspapers over the signature of Petroleum V. Nasby. Some one sent me a collection of them the other day. I am going to write to Petroleum to come down here, and I intend to tell him, if he will communicate his talent to me, I will swap places with him." Thereupon he arose, went to a drawer in his desk, and taking out the letters, he sat down and read one to the company, finding in their enjoyment of it the temporary excitement and relief which another man would have found in a glass of wine. The moment he ceased, the book was thrown aside, his countenance relapsed into its habitual serious expression, and business was entered upon with the utmost earnestness. The author of these "Nasby Papers" was David R. Locke. After Mr. Lincoln's death, two comic

« AnteriorContinuar »