BECK index


Victory and Death

by Sanderson Beck



White House
December 1864


It has been nearly two months
since Chief Justice Taney died.
I have come to urge you
to appoint Mr. Chase in his place.
I think you can afford to overlook
the harsh and indecorous things
he said about you during the summer.

Oh, as to that I care nothing.
Of Mr. Chase’s ability and of his soundness
on the general issues of the war
there is, of course, no question.
I have only one doubt about his appointment.
He is a man of unbounded ambition
and has been working all his life
to become President.
That he can never be;
and I fear that if I make him chief justice,
he will simply become more restless
and uneasy and neglect the place
in his strife and intrigue
to make himself President.
If I were sure that he would go on the bench
and give up his aspirations
and do nothing but make himself a great judge,
I would not hesitate a moment.


Lincoln is talking with Congressman ALBERT RIDDLE.

Do you expect that Chase will relinquish
his desire to become President?

Mr. Chase’s ambition springs from
a consciousness of great ability to serve.
It is said a man once bitten
of the Presidency dies of it.

I should deplore seeing a man trying to swap
the Chief-Justiceship for the Presidency.

Mr. President, you are fully aware that
Mr. Chase is a man
of the most elevated character
and that personal dignity in him
rises to grandeur.
A traffic such as you suggest
would be impossible.
There is a consideration
which I beg to suggest.
The weighty matters involved in this war
have been thoroughly discussed
by Congress and the President.
They are undergoing the arbitration of battle.
They will next inevitably
be submitted to the Supreme Court
for the last and final human decision.
Do you know a man in the world
to whom you would sooner submit them?

Would you have me pack
the Supreme Court, Mr. Riddle?

Would you appoint a man
with no preconceived notions of law?

LINCOLN (Laughing)
True, true, how could I find anyone,
fit for the place,
who has not some definite notions
on all questions likely to arise?
This is a matter for reflection.



December 6

Lincoln is talking with JOHN ALLEY.

I have something to tell you
that will make you happy.
I have just sent Mr. Chase word
that he is to be appointed Chief Justice,
and you are the first man I have told of it.

Mr. President, this is an exhibition
of magnanimity and patriotism
that could hardly be expected of anyone.
After what he has said
against your administration,
which has undoubtedly been reported to you,
it was hardly to be expected that
you would bestow the most important office
within your gift on such a man.

To have done otherwise
I should have been recreant
to my convictions of duty
to the Republican party and to the country.
As to his talk about me, I do not mind that.
Chase is, on the whole,
a pretty good fellow and a very able man.
His only trouble is that
he has the “White House fever” a little too bad,
but I hope this may cure him
and that he will be satisfied.


Lincoln is meeting with TWO WOMEN FROM TENNESSEE.

Mr. President,
we have come again to plead with you
to release our imprisoned husbands
so that they can return to Tennessee.

Sir, my husband is a devoutly religious man.

Tell him when you meet him that I say
I am not much of a judge of religion,
but that, in my opinion,
the religion that sets men to rebel
and fight against the Government
because, as they think,
the Government does not sufficiently help
some men to eat their bread
in the sweat of other men’s faces,
is not the sort of religion
upon which people can get to heaven.



January 18, 1865

Lincoln is talking with FRANCIS BLAIR.

Using the note you provided,
I was able to pass through our lines,
see General Grant, and visit Richmond.
After waiting a while to meet with Mr. Davis,
I returned to Washington;
but I received a letter from him in which
Mr. Davis has conveyed to you that
he would be willing to send a commission
to negotiate a restoration of peace
or to receive a commission
if the United States were to send one.

Yes, Mr. Blair,
I have read the letter he sent you.
I have written this letter to you
to assure Mr. Davis
that I have always been ready to receive
any agent now resisting national authority
who may be informally sent to me
with the view of securing peace
for the people of our common country,
not for “two countries”
as Mr. Davis stated in his letter to you.

Lincoln hands his letter to Blair.

Thank you, Mr. President.
I shall take this to Richmond.

However, I reject your scheme
for a joint invasion of Mexico
in order to enforce the Monroe Doctrine
against the French meddling of Louis Napoleon
and his Austrian deputy Maximilian.
I hope that you will be able to assist
this administration as much as you were able
to do for that of President Jackson.

I hope so too, Mr. President.
I am glad to see that
the portrait of General Jackson
still hangs in this office.


JOHN NICOLAY comes in to talk with Lincoln.

Mr. President, we may be able
to get the extra votes needed in the House
for the two-thirds required to pass
the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery.


Mr. Ashley has told me that
the Camden and Amboy Railroad interest
promised him that if he would help postpone
the Raritan railroad bill over this session,
they would in return
make the New Jersey Democrats
help pass the amendment,
either by votes or by their absence.

Is not Senator Sumner
the champion of the Raritan bill?

Yes, Ashley went to him to ask him
to drop it for this session;
but Sumner is reluctant
to adopt Mr. Ashley’s suggestion
because he hopes
the amendment will pass anyhow.
Ashley thinks that Sumner expects that
if the present Senate resolution
is not adopted by the House,
then another with Sumner’s phraseology
would most likely be adopted.
Sumner also believes that
defeating the Camden and Amboy monopoly
will establish a principle
by legislative enactment
which will effectively crush out
the last lingering relics
of the states’ rights dogma.
Therefore Mr. Ashley wants you
to send for Sumner and urge him
to be practical and secure the passage
of the amendment as suggested by Mr. Ashley.

I can do nothing
with Mr. Sumner in these matters.
While Mr. Sumner is very cordial with me,
he is making his history in an issue
with me on this very point.
He hopes to succeed in beating the President
so as to change this Government
from its original form
and make it a strong centralized power.

Mr. Ashley is waiting to see you.

Send him in.

Nicolay steps out and comes back with JAMES ASHLEY. Lincolns stands up and shakes hands with him.

Thank you for seeing me, Mr. President.
I know that since I introduced
Senator Trumbull’s resolution to abolish slavery
by amending the Constitution,
you have invited several House members here
to appeal for its passage.

Mr. Ashley, I am anxious
to have this measure pass
because I think it will
bring the war rapidly to a close
and free our country of slavery forever.
Yet I think I understand Mr. Sumner,
and I think he would be all the more resolute
in his persistence on the points
which Mr. Nicolay has mentioned to me
if he supposed I were at all
watching his course in this matter.

Then how are we to proceed?
Mr. President, we still need two more votes.

The abolition of slavery
by constitutional provision
settles the fate for all coming time,
not only of the millions now in bondage,
but of unborn millions to come.
It is a measure of such importance
that those two votes must be procured.
I leave it to you to determine
how it should be done;
but remember that I am
President of the United States,
clothed with immense power,
and I expect you to procure those votes.



January 31

Lincoln is talking with WILLIAM HENRY SEWARD.

Mr. Seward,
I am sending you to Fortress Monroe
to meet informally with
Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell
based on the letter I gave Francis Blair.
This letter to you indicates that
three things are indispensable.
First, national authority must be restored
throughout all the states.
Second, I will not recede
on the abolition of slavery.
Third, the war must be ended
and all hostile forces must be disbanded.
Until then General Grant is
not to delay any military movements.

I understand, Mr. President.
Did you hear that the thirteenth amendment
passed the House today?

Yes, I am delighted.
Tomorrow I shall submit it
to the states for ratification.
Three-fourths of the states must ratify it.



February 1

Lincoln speaks to serenaders below.

I suppose the passage through Congress
of the constitutional amendment
for the abolishment of slavery
throughout the United States
is the occasion to which I am indebted
for the honor of this call.
This occasion is one of congratulation
to the country and to the whole world.
But there is a task yet before us—
to go forward and consummate
by the votes of the states
that which Congress so nobly began yesterday.

There is applause and cries of “They will do it.”

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
I have the honor to inform you that
Illinois has already today done the work.
Maryland is about half through;
but I am proud that Illinois is a little ahead.
I think this measure is a very fitting,
if not an indispensable adjunct,
to the winding up of the great difficulty.
I wish the reunion of all the states perfected
and so effected as to remove
all causes of disturbance in the future;
and to attain this end it is necessary that
the original disturbing cause should,
if possible, be rooted out.
I think all will bear witness that
I have never shrunk from doing
all that I can to eradicate slavery
by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.
But that proclamation falls far short
of what the amendment will be
when it is fully consummated.
A question might be raised
whether the proclamation was legally valid.
It might be added that it only aided those
who came into our lines
and that it was inoperative as to those
who did not give themselves up,
or that it would have no effect upon
the children of the slaves born hereafter.
It may be urged that it did not meet the evil.
But this amendment is
a king’s cure for all the evils.
It winds the whole thing up.
I repeat that it is the fitting,
if not indispensable,
adjunct to the consummation
of the great game we are playing.
I congratulate all present, myself,
the country, and the whole world
upon this great moral victory.



February 3

Lincoln and Seward are meeting with ALEXANDER STEPHENS, JOHN CAMPBELL, and ROBERT HUNTER on a ship near Fort Monroe. They shake hands and sit down.

Mr. Lincoln, I am glad to see you again
after so many years.
I remember our friendship as Whigs
in the Congress during the Mexican War.
I hope that we can restore
the harmony and happiness of our former days.

Mr. Stephens,
there is but one way that I know of
and that is for those who are resisting
the laws of the Union to cease that resistance.

I have been induced to believe that both parties
might leave the present strife in abeyance
while we occupy ourselves
with a continental question
so that our anger may cool,
and accommodation may become possible.

I suppose you refer to something
that Mr. Blair said.
That was without any authority from me.
The restoration of the Union
is a sine qua non with me,
and no conference is to be held
except upon that basis.

I propose that during an armistice
a joint Mexican expedition could be undertaken
to establish the right of self-government
to all peoples on this continent
against the dominion of any European power.


There can be no war
without the consent of Congress
and no treaty
without the consent of the United States Senate.
I can make no treaty with the Confederate States
because that would recognize those states,
and this could never be done.
We are determined
not to suspend the operations
for bringing the existing struggle to a close.


LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
The shortest way to reconstruction
is for the insurgents to disband their armies
and permit the National authorities
to resume their functions.

The war will cease
on the part of the Government
whenever it shall have ceased
on the part of those who began it.

I believe the rebel states
should be represented in Congress,
and I think they will be.
In regard to the confiscation acts
I will exercise the power of the executive
with the utmost liberality.
It was not my intention in the beginning
to interfere with slavery in the states;
but in order to maintain the Union
the Emancipation Proclamation
was decreed as a war measure.
I leave it to the courts
to decide about emancipation.
I believe the people of the North
were also responsible for slavery,
and they should be willing to be taxed
to remunerate Southerners for their slaves;
but I can give no assurance of this.

How is the restoration to take place
if the Confederate States were to consent to it?

President Lincoln has repeated that
he will not attempt to retract or modify
the Emancipation Proclamation
nor return to slavery any person
who is free by its terms.
A few days ago Congress passed
the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Upon its ratification by three-fourth of the states
slavery will be abolished throughout the Union.

I can promise nothing
without the pledge of reunion
and the cessation of resistance.
I can enter into no agreement with parties
in arms against the Government.

These terms force the Confederate States
to unconditional surrender and submission.

No words like that have been used by us
nor any implying degradation or humiliation.
I do not think that yielding
to the execution of the laws
under the Constitution of the United States
with all its guarantees
for personal and political rights
could properly be considered
as unconditional submission to conquerors.
The southern people will have similar rights
as the people of the other states.

Lincoln speaks directly to Stephens.

If I resided in Georgia,
I’ll tell you what I would do.
I would go home
and get the Governor of the state
to call the legislature together
and get them to recall
all the state troops from the war,
elect senators and members of Congress,
and ratify this constitutional amendment
so as to take effect—say in five years.
I believe such a ratification would be valid.
Whatever may have been the views
of your people before the war,
they must be convinced now
that slavery is doomed.
It cannot last long in any event.

Mr. Lincoln, I hope that
you will consider an armistice
so that we could join together
in a Mexico expedition
commanded by Jefferson Davis.

Well, Stephens, I will reconsider it;
but I do not think my mind will change.
Well, there has been nothing
we could do for our country.
Is there anything I can do for you personally?

Nothing, unless you can send me my nephew,
who has been for twenty months
a prisoner on Johnson’s Island.

I shall be glad to do it.
Let me have his name.

Stephens writes the name on a piece of paper and hands it to Lincoln. Then the three commissioners depart.


Lincoln is meeting with his cabinet, but Seward is absent. JAMES SPEED has replaced Bates as Attorney General. Others attending are EDWIN STANTON, GIDEON WELLES, WILLIAM DENNISON, WILLIAM FESSENDEN, and JOHN USHER. Lincoln is reading aloud from a paper.

“… that all political offenses will be pardoned;
that all property, except slaves,
liable to confiscation or forfeiture,
will be released therefrom, except in cases
of intervening interests of third parties;
and that liberality will be recommended
to Congress upon all points
not lying within executive control.”
That is the proposed proclamation.
What are your views?

You are asking the taxpayers
to give four hundred million dollars
to all the former slave states!
I think this is overdoing a cause
and will provoke distrust and adverse feeling.
The present Congress would never pass
such a proposition.

This depends on resistance ending by April,
and the thirteenth amendment
being ratified by July.
We are spending now in carrying on the war
three million dollars a day,
which in a few months
will amount to all this money,
besides all the lives.

This is wasteful and unnecessary.
Why should we provide compensation
for slaves that are already freed
by the Emancipation Proclamation?

I believe the radicals in Congress
would make this an occasion
for a violent assault upon the Presidency.

The only way to effectually end the war
is by force of arms.
Until the war is ended,
I don’t think any proposition to pay money
should come from us.

Mr. Dennison?

I am opposed to it.

Mr. Speed?

I cannot support it either, Mr. President.

You are all opposed to me,
and I will not send the message.



February 23

Lincoln is meeting with Chicago Tribune editor JOSEPH MEDILL and two other men from Chicago.

Mr. Lincoln, it has only been one month
since your last call,
and now you are asking for
two hundred thousand more men?!
Do you want riots in Chicago
like you had in New York?

Gentlemen, after Boston,
Chicago has been the chief instrument
for bringing this war on the country.
The Northwest has opposed the South
as New England has opposed the South.
It is you who are largely responsible
for making the blood flow as it has.
You called for war until we had it.
You called for emancipation,
and I have given it to you.
Whatever you have asked, you have had.
Now you come here begging to be let off
the call for men which I have made
to carry out the war you have demanded.
You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.
Go home and raise
your six thousand extra men.
And you, Medill,
you are acting like a coward.
You and your Tribune have had more influence
than any paper in the northwest
in making this war.
You can influence great masses,
and yet you cry to be spared
at a moment when your cause is suffering.
Go home and send us these men.

The chastened men leave the office.



March 3

Lincoln is sitting at a table signing bills when Nicolay comes in with Stanton and Seward. Nicolay hands Lincoln a telegram.

This just arrived from General Grant.

Lincoln quickly reads the telegram and begins writing a response.


Lincoln hands his response to Stanton.

Mr. Stanton, I suggest that
you send this response to General Grant.
Please read it aloud for Mr. Seward.

STANTON (Reading)
“The President directs me to say that
he wishes you to have
no conference with General Lee
unless it be for capitulation
of General Lee’s army
or on some minor or purely military matter.
He instructs me to say that
you are not to decide, discuss, or confer
upon any political questions.
Such questions the President
holds in his own hands and will submit them
to no military conferences or conventions.
Meanwhile you are to press to the utmost
your military advantages.”

That is a good policy for
ending the war as quickly as possible.

Stanton signs the response.

I have signed this
and will have it sent immediately.



March 4

The dome of the capitol has been completed with a bronze statue of Freedom on top. A large crowd has gathered on a rainy day for the inauguration; but as Lincoln steps up to the podium, the clouds clear away and let sunshine through.

Fellow countrymen:
At this second appearing
to take the oath of the presidential office,
there is less occasion for an extended address
than there was at the first.
Then a statement, somewhat in detail,
of a course to be pursued,
seemed fitting and proper.
Now at the expiration of four years,
during which public declarations
have been constantly called forth
on every point and phase of the great contest
which still absorbs the attention
and engrosses the energies of the nation,
little that is new could be presented.
The progress of our arms,
upon which all else chiefly depends,
is as well known to the public as to myself;
and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory
and encouraging to all.
With high hope for the future,
no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion
corresponding to this four years ago,
all thoughts were anxiously directed
to an impending civil war.
All dreaded it; all sought to avert it.
While the inaugural address
was being delivered from this place,
devoted altogether
to saving the Union without war,
insurgent agents were in the city
seeking to destroy it without war—
seeking to dissolve the Union
and divide effects by negotiation.
Both parties deprecated war;
but one of them would make war
rather than let the nation survive;
and the other would accept war
rather than let it perish.
And the war came.

One eighth of the whole population
were colored slaves,
not distributed generally over the Union,
but localized in the southern part of it.
These slaves constituted
a peculiar and powerful interest.
All knew that this interest was
somehow the cause of the war.
To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend
this interest was the object for which
the insurgents would rend the Union,
even by war;
while the government claimed no right
to do more than to restrict
the territorial enlargement of it.
Neither party expected for the war
the magnitude or the duration,
which it has already attained.
Neither anticipated that
the cause of the conflict might cease with,
or even before, the conflict itself should cease.
Each looked for an easier triumph
and a result less fundamental and astounding.
Both read the same Bible
and pray to the same God,
and each invokes his aid against the other.
It may seem strange that any men should dare
to ask a just God’s assistance
in wringing their bread
from the sweat of other men’s faces;
but let us judge not, that we be not judged.
The prayers of both could not be answered;
that of neither has been answered fully.
The Almighty has his own purposes.
“Woe unto the world because of offences!
for it must needs be that offences come;
but woe to that man
by whom the offence cometh!”
If we shall suppose that American slavery
is one of those offences which,
in the providence of God must needs come,
but which, having continued
through his appointed time,
he now wills to remove,
and that he gives to both North and South,
this terrible war as the woe
due to those by whom the offence came,
shall we discern therein any departure
from those divine attributes
which the believers in a living God
always ascribe to him?
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray
that this mighty scourge of war
may speedily pass away.
Yet if God wills that it continue
until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s
two hundred and fifty years
of unrequited toil shall be sunk
and until every drop of blood
drawn with the lash
shall be paid by another
drawn with the sword,
as was said three thousand years ago,
so still it must be said,
“The judgments of the Lord
are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all,
with firmness in the right,
as God gives us to see the right,
let us strive on to finish the work we are in;
to bind up the nation’s wounds;
to care for him who shall have borne the battle
and for his widow and his orphan;
to do all which may achieve and cherish
a just and a lasting peace
among ourselves and with all nations.

As people applaud, Chief Justice SALMON CHASE steps forward to administer the oath of office. Lincoln places his left hand on a Bible and raises his right hand.

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute
the office of President of the United States
and will to the best of my ability
preserve, protect, and defend
the Constitution of the United States.

People applaud.


People are lined up to shake hands with Lincoln. When FREDERICK DOUGLASS tries to get in line at the door, TWO POLICEMAN stationed there immediately react. The FIRST POLICEMAN takes his arm and removes him from the line.

Stand back;
no persons of color are to be admitted.

There must be some mistake,
for no such order could have emanated
from President Lincoln.
If he knew I was at the door,
he would desire my admission.


The Second Policeman has come to Lincoln for instruction.

Please let him come to me at once.

Yes, sir.


Douglass approaches Lincoln in the line.

Here comes my friend, Douglass.
I am glad to see you.
I saw you in the crowd today
listening to my inaugural address.
How did you like it?

Lincoln has been shaking the hand of Douglass and does not let go.

Mr. Lincoln, I must not detain you
with my poor opinion
when there are thousands waiting
to shake hands with you.

No, no, you must stop a little, Douglass.
There is no man in the country
whose opinion I value more than yours.
I want to know what you think of it.

Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort.

I am glad you liked it.



March 17

Lincoln is speaking to the 140th Indiana Regiment after a flag was presented to Governor Morton.

Fellow citizens: a few words only.
I was born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana,
and resided in Illinois.
Now I am here,
where it is my duty to care equally
for the good people of all the states.
I am today glad of seeing it
in the power of an Indianan regiment
to present this captured flag
to the good governor of their state.
And yet I would not wish to compliment
Indiana above other states,
remembering that all have done so well.
There are but few aspects of this great war
on which I have not already
expressed my views by speaking or writing.
There is one—
the recent effort of our erring brethren,
as they are sometimes called,
to employ the slaves in their armies.
I have neither written
nor made a speech on that subject
because that was their business, not mine;
and if I had a wish on that subject,
I had not the power to introduce it
or make it effective.
The great question with them has been,
“Will the Negro fight for them?”
I do not know and therefore cannot decide.
They ought to know better than we,
and doubtless do know better than we.
I may incidentally remark, however,
having in my life heard many arguments—
or strings of words
meant to pass for arguments—
intended to show that
the Negro ought to be a slave.
But if they fight for those
who would keep them in slavery,
it will be a far better argument
why he should remain a slave
than I have ever before heard.
He perhaps ought to be a slave
if he desires it ardently enough to fight for it.
They have concluded at last
to take one out of four of the slaves
and put them in the army.
If one out of four will for his own freedom
fight to keep the other three in slavery,
he ought to be a slave
for his selfish meanness.
I have always thought that
all men should be free;
but if any should be slaves,
it should be first those
who desire it for themselves
and secondly those who desire it for others.
Whenever I hear of anyone arguing for slavery,
I feel a strong impulse
to see it tried on him personally.

There is one thing about
the Negroes fighting for the rebels
which we can know as well as they can,
and that is that they can not at the same time
fight in their armies
and stay at home and make bread for them.
As one is about as important
as the other to them,
I don’t care which they do.
I am rather in favor of having them
try them as soldiers.
They lack one vote of doing that,
and I wish I could send my vote over the river
so that I might cast it
in favor of allowing the Negro to fight.
But they cannot fight and work both.
We must now see the bottom
of the insurgent resources.
They will stand out as long as they can;
and if the Negro will fight for them,
they must allow him to fight.
They have drawn upon
their last branch of resources,
and we can now see the bottom.
I am glad to see the end is so near at hand.
I have said more than I intended
and will therefore bid you goodbye.



Mr. President, do you want us
to try to catch Jefferson Davis?

No, let him go; I don’t want him.

What should be done with the political leaders?

Let them all go, officers and all.
I want submission and no more bloodshed.
There is no point in keeping rebel prisoners now.
I just want you to defeat the opposing armies
and let the men go back to their homes
to work on their farms and in their shops.
Let them once surrender and reach their homes;
they won’t take up arms again.
Let them have their horses to plow with
and, if you like, their guns to shoot crows.
I want no one punished;
treat them liberally all round.
We want those people to return
to their allegiance to the Union
and submit to the laws.
Sherman, do you know why
I took a shine to Grant and you?

I don’t know, Mr. Lincoln;
you have been extremely kind to me,
far more than my deserts.

Well, you never found fault with me.
Also your taking Atlanta last September
was a turning point in the war
and helped get me re-elected.



April 4

Lincoln is surrounded by a guard of TEN SAILORS. Some BLACK WORKMEN see Lincoln.

Bless the Lord, there is the great Messiah!

The black workmen drop their spades, rush over to Lincoln, and kneel before him.

Glory hallelujah!
Praise God!
Father Abraham’s come.

Don’t kneel to me.
That is not right.
You must kneel to God only
and thank him for the liberty
you will hereafter enjoy.

Lincoln and the guard begin walking to the house of Jefferson Davis in a chaotic city that includes fires and drunken rebels. Some NEGROES who see them follow behind, rejoicing as they go.


Lincoln and the guard meet up with GENERAL WEITZEL and some officers.

Mr. President, I am General Weitzel.
You can stay here at the home of Jeff Davis.


Lincoln, Weitzel, and the officers have entered the luxurious house, and Lincoln sits down in an easy chair.

The servants of Davis said they prepared for you.

I need a cup of water.

A soldier goes out to get it.

Mr. President, what should I do
in regard to this conquered people?

I do not wish to give any orders on that subject.
If I were in your place, I’d let ‘em up easy.


Lincoln and Weitzel are meeting with Judge Campbell and Confederate general J. R. ANDERSON.

Mr. President, the war is over,
and I would like to know
what measures and conditions
are necessary for peace.
I urge you to meet with the public men
of Virginia in order to restore civil order.

Your general principles are right.
The trouble is how to apply them.
This memorandum outlines
the necessary conditions, which are:
restoring the authority of the United States,
no receding on the abolition of slavery,
and an end to the war by disbanding
all forces hostile to the Government.

If you will allow
the Virginia legislature to meet,
it would at once repeal
the ordinance of secession,
and then General Robert E. Lee
and every other Virginian would submit.


Lincoln, MARY, WARD HILL LAMON, and NOAH BROOKS are talking.

Mr. Lincoln’s face has become so solemn,
and he has lost considerable weight.

It seems strange how much
there is in the Bible about dreams.
If we believe the Bible, we must accept the fact
that in the old days God and his angels
came to men in their sleep
and made themselves known in dreams.
Nowadays dreams are regarded as very foolish
and are seldom told, except by old women
and by young men and maidens in love.

Why, you look dreadfully solemn.
Do you believe in dreams?

I can’t say that I do,
but I had one the other night
which has haunted me ever since.
After it occurred,
the first time I opened the Bible,
strange as it may appear,
it was at the 28th chapter of Genesis,
which relates the wonderful dream Jacob had.
I turned to other passages
and seemed to encounter a dream or a vision
wherever I looked.

You frighten me! What is the matter?

I am afraid that I have done wrong
to mention the subject at all,
but somehow the thing
has got possession of me,
and, like Banquo’s ghost, it will not down.

I do not believe in dreams,
but I wish to know what it is
you have seen in your sleep
that now has such a hold on you.

About ten days ago I retired very late.
I had been up waiting
for important dispatches from the front.
I could not have been long in bed
when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary.
I soon began to dream.
There seemed to be
a death-like stillness about me.
Then I heard subdued sobs,
as if a number of people were weeping.
I thought I left my bed
and wandered downstairs.
There the silence was broken
by the same pitiful sobbing,
but the mourners were invisible.
I went from room to room;
no living person was in sight,
but the same mournful sounds of distress
met me as I passed along.
It was light in all the rooms;
every object was familiar to me;
but where were all the people
who were grieving
as if their hearts would break?
I was puzzled and alarmed.
What could be the meaning of all this?
Determined to find the cause of a state of things
so mysterious and so shocking,
I kept on until I arrived at the East Room,
which I entered.
There I met with a sickening surprise.
Before me was a catafalque, on which rested
a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments.
Around it were stationed soldiers
who were acting as guards;
and there was a throng of people,
some gazing mournfully upon the corpse,
whose face was covered,
others weeping pitifully.
“Who is dead in the White House?”
I demanded of one of the soldiers.
“The President,” was his answer;
“he was killed by an assassin!”
Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd,
which awoke me from my dream.
I slept no more that night;
and although it was only a dream,
I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.

This is horrid!
I wish you had not told it.
I am glad I don’t believe in dreams,
or I should be in terror from this time forth.

Well, it is only a dream, Mother.
Let us say no more about it
and try to forget it.



April 9

GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE and his secretary COL. CHARLES MARSHALL are meeting with Generals Grant, GIBBON, GRIFFIN, and MERRITT. Lee has just read a letter written by Grant.

Allowing us to keep our side-arms
will have a happy effect on my army.
In our army the cavalry and artillerists
own their horses.
Would the terms permit them to retain them?

As the terms are written, they would not,
except for the officers.
I sincerely hope that
this will be the last battle of the war.
I take it that most of the men
in the ranks are small farmers,
and as the country has been so raided
by the two armies,
it is doubtful whether they will be able
to put in a crop to carry themselves
and their families through the next winter
without the aid of the horses
they are now riding.
The United States does not want them.
Therefore I will instruct these officers,
who will receive the paroles of the troops,
to let the men who claim
to own a horse or a mule
to take the animals home with them
to work their little farms.

This will have the best possible effect
upon the men.
It will be gratifying and will do much
toward conciliating our people.


Lee and Marshall begin to leave, and then Lee pauses.

LEE (Cont’d.)
A thousand Union prisoners,
including some officers,
have been living the past few days
on parched corn only.
They require attention and provisions.
I have, indeed, nothing for my own men.
My army is in very bad condition
for want of food, and we are without forage.
I have to ask you for rations and forage.

Certainly, for how many men?

About twenty-five thousand.

I authorize you to send your commissary
and quartermaster to Appomattox Station
for all the provisions you want.

Thank you.

Lee and Marshall leave.



April 10

A crowd has gathered outside the White House. Lincoln comes out on the balcony, is applauded, and begins speaking.

Fellow citizens:
I am very greatly rejoiced to find that
an occasion has occurred so pleasurable
that the people cannot restrain themselves.
I suppose that arrangements are being made
for some sort of a formal demonstration,
this, or perhaps, tomorrow night.

People shout, “We can’t wait,” and “We want it now.”

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
If there should be such a demonstration,
I, of course, will be called upon to respond,
and I shall have nothing to say
if you dribble it all out of me before.
(Laughter and applause.)
I see you have a band of music with you.

Someone shouts, “We have two or three.”

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
I propose closing up this interview
by the band performing a particular tune
which I will name.
Before this is done, however, I wish to mention
one or two little circumstances connected with it.
I have always thought “Dixie”
one of the best tunes I have ever heard.
Our adversaries over the way
attempted to appropriate it,
but I insisted yesterday
that we fairly captured it.
I presented the question to the Attorney General,
and he gave it as his legal opinion
that it is our lawful prize.
(Laughter and applause.)
I now request the band
to favor me with its performance.

The band begins to play “Dixie.”



April 11

Lincoln is talking with Stanton.

Mr. President, you may recall that
I agreed to serve as Secretary of War
until the conflict came to an end.
Now the war is over for practical purposes,
and here is my resignation.

Stanton hands him a paper, but Lincoln tears it up and hugs Stanton.

Stanton, you have been a good friend
and a faithful public servant,
and it is not for you to say
when you will no longer be needed.


During a celebration SENATOR JAMES HARLAN is speaking to a small group that includes Lincoln, Mary, and their son TAD.

What shall we do with the rebels?

Hang them!

Tad is playing with pens at a table and looks up at his father.

No, no, Papa, not hang them.
Hang on to them!

LINCOLN (Happily)
That’s it—Tad has got it.
We must hang on to them!


Ward Hill Lamon and Secretary JOHN USHER come in to speak to Lincoln.

I am leaving now for Richmond.
Mr. President, will you make me a promise?

What is it? I venture I will.

Promise me you will not go out after nightfall
while I am gone,
particularly that you not go to the theater.

Usher, this boy is a monomaniac
on the subject of my safety.
I can hear him or hear of his being around
at all times of the night
to prevent somebody from murdering me.
He thinks I shall be killed,
and we think he is going crazy.
What does anybody want to assassinate me for?
If anyone wants to do so,
he can do it any day or night,
if he is ready to give his life for mine.
It is nonsense.

Mr. Lincoln, it is well to listen
and give heed to Lamon.
He is thrown among people
that give him opportunities to know more
about such matters than we can know.

Will you promise, Mr. President?

Well, I promise to do the best I can towards it.
Goodbye. God bless you, Hill.

They shake hands, and Lamon goes out.


Lincoln delivers a prepared speech to the serenaders outside.

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.
It all belongs to General Grant,
his skilful officers, and brave men.

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 mould 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
for 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 the accompanying Proclamation
I presented a plan of reconstruction 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 such states.
This plan was in advance
submitted to the cabinet
and distinctly approved by every member.
The new constitution of Louisiana,
declaring emancipation for the whole state,
practically applies the Proclamation
to the part previously excepted.
The Message went to Congress,
and I received many commendations of the plan,
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.

We all agree that the seceded states are out of
their proper practical relation with the Union;
and that the sole object of the Government
in regard to those states is to again
get them into that proper practical relation.
I believe it is not only possible
but in fact easier to do this without deciding
or even considering whether
these states have even been out of the Union.

The amount of constituency
on which the new Louisiana government rests
would be more satisfactory to all
if it contained fifty, thirty, or twenty thousand
instead of only about twelve thousand.
It is also unsatisfactory to some
that the elective franchise
is not given to the colored man.
I would myself prefer that
it were now conferred on the very intelligent
and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.

Some twelve thousand voters
in the heretofore slave-state of Louisiana
have sworn allegiance to the Union,
held elections, organized a state government,
adopted a free-state constitution,
giving the benefit of public schools
equally to black and white,
and empowering the Legislature to confer
the elective franchise upon the colored man.
Their Legislature has already voted
to ratify the constitutional amendment
recently passed by Congress,
abolishing slavery throughout the nation.
These twelve thousand persons
are thus fully committed to the Union
and to perpetual freedom in the state—
committed to the very things the nation wants—
and they ask the nation’s recognition
and its assistance to make good their committal.

Now, if we reject and spurn them,
we do our utmost to disorganize
and disperse them.
We in effect say to the white men,
“You are worthless, or worse—
we will neither help you
nor be helped by you.”
To the blacks we say, “This cup of liberty
which these, your old masters, hold to your lips,
we will dash from you and leave you
to the chances of gathering the spilled
and scattered contents in some vague
and undefined when, where, and how.”
If this course, discouraging and paralyzing
both white and black,
has any tendency to bring Louisiana
into proper practical relations with the Union,
I have so far been unable to perceive it.

If, on the contrary, we recognize and sustain
the new government of Louisiana,
the converse of all this is made true.
We encourage the hearts and nerve the arms
of the twelve thousand to adhere to their work
and argue for it and proselyte for it
and fight for it and feed it and grow it
and ripen it to a complete success.
The colored man too,
in seeing all united for him,
is inspired with vigilance and energy
and daring to the same end.
Grant that he desires the elective franchise,
will he not attain it sooner
by saving the already advanced steps toward it
than by running backward over them?
Concede that the new government of Louisiana
is only to what it should be
as the egg is to the fowl,
shall we sooner have the fowl
by hatching the egg than by smashing it?

Again, if we reject Louisiana,
we also reject one vote
in favor of the proposed amendment
to the national constitution.
To meet this proposition it has been argued that
no more than three fourths of those states
which have not attempted secession
are necessary to validly ratify the amendment.
I do not commit myself against this,
further than to say that such a ratification
would be questionable
and sure to be persistently questioned,
while a ratification
by three fourths of all the states
would be unquestioned and unquestionable.

I repeat the question.
“Can Louisiana be brought into
proper practical relation with the Union sooner
by sustaining or by discarding
her new state government?”

What has been said of Louisiana
will apply generally to other states.
Yet so great peculiarities pertain to each state;
and such important and sudden changes
occur in the same state;
and so new and unprecedented
is the whole case,
that no exclusive and inflexible plan
can safely be prescribed
as to details and collaterals.
Such an exclusive and inflexible plan
would surely become a new entanglement.
Important principles may and must be inflexible.

In the present situation it may be my duty
to make some new announcement
to the people of the South.
I am considering and shall not fail to act
when satisfied that action will be proper.

Lincoln waves as people applaud. In reaction JOHN WILKES BOOTH talks with LEWIS POWELL and DAVID HEROLD.

That means nigger citizenship.
That is the last speech he will ever make.
Powell, why don’t you shoot him right now?

No, not me.

By God, I’ll put him through.



April 14

Lincoln and Mary are having breakfast with their son Captain ROBERT LINCOLN.

Today is Good Friday.

Well, Captain Lincoln, how do you like
being in General Grant’s military family?

Very much, sir.
The General is an outstanding leader.

You look very handsome in your uniform, son.

You have returned safely from the front.
The war is now closed,
and we soon will live in peace
with the brave men
that have been fighting against us.
I urge you to lay aside your uniform
and finish your education.
You have not yet graduated
from Harvard Law School.


Lincoln is meeting with his cabinet and General Grant. HUGH MCCULLOCH has replaced Fessenden, and FREDERICK SEWARD is sitting in for his recovering father.

General Grant has answered many questions
about the movements of General Sherman.
The news will come soon.
I have no doubt that it will be favorable,
for last night I had a dream which has preceded
nearly every important event in the war.
The dream itself is always the same.

What was this dream?

It is in your department, Neptune,
because it relates to the element of water.
In the dream I seem to be
in a singular and indescribable vessel,
which is always the same,
and I am moving with great rapidity
toward a dark and indefinite shore.
I have had this singular dream
preceding the firing on Sumter,
the battle of Bull Run,
and the victories at Antietam,
Stone River, Gettysburg,
Vicksburg, and Wilmington.

Mr. President,
the battle of Rosecrans and Thomas
at Stone River was no victory.
A few such fights would have ruined us.

I think my dream indicates that
Sherman will beat or has beaten Johnston.
My thoughts are in that direction,
as are most of yours.

Now let us discuss Mr. Stanton’s project
for an executive ordinance to preserve order
and rehabilitate the legal processes
in the states lately in rebellion.


LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
As to Stanton’s plan for a temporary military
government of Virginia and North Carolina,
I agree with Mr. Welles and Mr. Dennison
that the two states
should have separate governments.
I do not wish the autonomy
nor the individuality of the states destroyed.
Nothing is more important
than this reconstruction.
It is providential that this matter has arisen
when the Congress is not in session.
If we are wise and discreet,
we can reanimate the states
and get their governments operating
with order prevailing
and the Union reestablished
before Congress comes together in December.
I feel kindly toward the South
and am anxious to close the period of strife.
No one need expect that I will take part
in hanging or killing these men,
even the worst of them.
Frighten them out of the country,
open the gates, let down the bars,
scare them off.

As he says this, Lincoln throws up his hands as if he were scaring sheep.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
Enough lives have been sacrificed.
We must extinguish our resentments
if we expect harmony and union.
There is too much desire on the part of
our very good friends to be masters,
to interfere with and dictate to those states,
to treat people not as fellow citizens.
There is too little respect for their rights.
I do not sympathize with those feelings.
We can’t take to running state governments
in all these southern states.
Their people must do that,
although I reckon at first they may do it badly.
We shall resume this discussion on Tuesday.
It is the great question pending.
We must now begin
to act in the interest of peace.


Lincoln and Mary are getting into their carriage, and they go for a ride.

Should anyone accompany us?

No, I prefer to ride by ourselves today.

Dear husband, you almost startle me
by your great cheerfulness.

I am feeling very happy today.

Don’t you remember feeling just so
before our little boy died?

And well may I feel so, Mother.
I consider this day the war has come to a close.
We must both be more cheerful in the future.
Molly, we have had a hard time of it
since we came to Washington.
Between the war
and the loss of our darling Willie
we have both been very miserable.
Now the war is over,
and with God’s blessing we may hope
for four years of peace and happiness.
Then we shall go back to Illinois
and pass the rest of our lives in quiet.
We have laid by some money,
and during this term
we will try and save up more;
but we shall not have enough to support us.
I will open a law office at Springfield
or Chicago and practice law,
at least to do enough
to help give us a livelihood.
Before settling down I would like to travel.
We could go to California,
where our soldiers are digging the gold
that is paying our national debt.

I would like to go to Paris.

I could take you and the family to Europe.
Would you like that?

Oh, yes!


Lincoln and Mary have dressed for the theater.

It is a pity that General Grant and his wife
can not come to the theater tonight.

Stanton has assigned Henry Rathbone
and his fiancée, Miss Clara Harris
to accompany us.

They are a nice young couple.

I am not sure I wish to see this play tonight.
I would rather see Shakespeare.

Well, we could stay home.
I have a slight headache.

I don’t like to disappoint people.
It has been announced,
and people will be disappointed
that Grant will not be there.


On stage LAURA KEENE is playing the role of Florence Trenchard. Lincoln, Mary, MAJOR HENRY RATHBONE, and CLARA HARRIS come in and are noticed by many.

Good gracious! What a number of draughts.
You have almost a game of draughts.
The draft has been suspended.

I do not see the joke.

Well, anybody can see that!

The large audience laughs and applauds the President. As the orchestra plays “Hail to the Chief,” the presidential party goes up the stairs and enters the presidential box. The guard JOHN F. PARKER follows them and sits in the little room between their box and the hallway. The play continues.

Why that wath a joke, that wath.

Where was the joke?

Especially, ha! ha!


Parker leaves his post and takes a seat where he can see the play. Mary is leaning against Lincoln with affection and takes his hand.

What will Miss Harris think
of my hanging on to you so?

She won’t think anything about it.


Parker is drinking with some companions as the intermission ends.


Lincoln is talking with Mary, Rathbone and Miss Harris.

There is no city I desire to see
so much as Jerusalem.

As the house lights dim, they sit down again.


John Wilkes Booth arrives on a horse and gets a BOY to hold it.

Hold my horse, and I shall pay you later.

Booth goes in the rear entrance, showing his card to the guard at the door.


Booth goes from backstage up stairs to the balcony. He shows his calling card to the footman and is allowed to pass. He sees the hallway door to the little room is open and that no one is in there. He goes in, places a board in a niche he previously made to bar the outer door. Then he looks through a hole that was drilled into the other door and sees Lincoln sitting in his rocking-chair. Booth takes out a derringer and a steel dagger. He slowly opens the door and sneaks into the presidential box. When he is within five feet of Lincoln, he aims and shoots him in the back of the head. Lincoln slumps in the chair as his body falls unconscious and against the wall to his left. Rathbone jumps up and rushes at Booth, who tries to stab him in the chest. Rathbone blocks this and is stabbed badly in his upper arm. Mary screams. Booth mounts the railing and leaps on to the stage below; but his spur catches a draped Union flag, causing him to land on his other leg, breaking the shin bone. Booth stands up, brandishes the dagger, and shouts to the audience.

Sic temper tyrannis!
The South is avenged!

RATHBONE (Shouting)
Stop that man!

MARY (Screaming)
They have shot the President!
They have shot the President!

Booth rushes backstage, stabs the gasman, and pulls the lever that plunges the theater in darkness. Other men climb on the stage and try to follow him.


Booth comes out the back entrance, limping. He gets on the horse. As the boy puts out his hand, Booth kicks him and gallops away.


People are in a panic as many try to leave. The lights come back on. Two hundred soldiers come in and begin clearing the theater.

Water! Bring us water!

A surgeon! A surgeon!

Rathbone with his arm bleeding, manages to remove the board barring the door. DR. CHARLES LEALE has arrived.

I am an Army surgeon.

Will you treat my wound?

Leale puts his hand under Rathbone’s chin and looks into his eyes. Seeing he is not in mortal danger, he turns to examine Lincoln.

Look to the President!
Oh, Doctor! Is he dead? Can he recover?
Will you take charge of him?
Do what you can for him.
Oh, my dear husband! Oh, my dear husband!

I will do all that I can.
Help me put him on the floor.

Other men help Leale lift Lincoln’s body from the chair and lay him on the floor. Leale looks for a stab wound by slitting open his shirt. Then he finds blood clotted on the back of his head and removes some of it. He puts two fingers into the throat to free the larynx and gets Lincoln breathing. Lincoln’s eyes are closed, and he never regains consciousness.

LEALE (Cont’d.)
His heart is beating, and he is breathing;
but he has been shot in the head.
I fear the wound is mortal.
It is impossible for him to recover.

Leale is joined by DR. CHARLES TAFT and DR. ALBERT KING.

Can you take him to the White House?

If it is attempted, the President will die
long before we reach there.

If only he could see Tad.
I think he would talk to him
because he loves him so well.

I will try to remove the bullet.

May I hold the President’s head?

Leale nods; she sits on the floor and holds Lincoln’s head in her lap while Leale tries to probe for the bullet.


The three doctors have decided to move Lincoln.

Guards, clear the passage!
Doctors, help me carry him.

Leale takes the head, and Taft and King each take a shoulder. Four soldiers help them lift and carry Lincoln’s body.


They are carrying Lincoln’s body but have not been able to find a place for him. They see a man in a doorway holding a candle and beckoning them to come in. They carry the body into Peterson’s house.


Lincoln’s body has been placed on a simple bed that is covered with sheets. Leale continues to remove the clotted blood from time to time to make the breathing easier.

I need to make a thorough search
of his body for wounds.
Everyone must leave this room
except for the doctors.


Mary, Stanton, and others are anxiously waiting. Robert Lincoln comes in with Hay. Robert tries to comfort his mother.

He must live!
Oh, Robert; I am glad you are here.
His dream was prophetic.

We have heard startling news.
Mr. Seward and his son Frederick
were also attacked,
and others in the house were wounded.

I believe Secretary Seward will recover.



April 15

Lincoln’s breathing has become difficult and loud. Mary is sitting nearby. She cries out, stands up, and, fainting, falls on the floor. Stanton comes in from the adjoining room.

Take that woman out
and do not let her in again.

Robert helps Mary up, and they go out of the room.


Robert is quietly sobbing at the head of the bed, and he turns his head and leans on the shoulder of SENATOR CHARLES SUMNER. Surgeon General JOSEPH BARNES has his finger over the carotid artery. Leale’s finger is on the right wrist pulse, and Taft’s hand is over the heart. PHINEAS GURLEY is praying.

His breathing has stopped again.

Now his heart has stopped too.

Dr. Barnes goes into the adjoining room to tell Mary.

It is all over.
The President is no more.

Mary comes in and throws herself on Lincoln’s body as she sobs. Robert helps her to stand up again.

O my God,
I have given my husband to die!

Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we ask that you receive
this soul into your eternal kingdom
and that this man’s country
and family may be comforted.

Everyone is silent for a few moments.

Now he belongs to the ages.



April 14, 1876

Frederick Douglass is giving an oration to dedicate the Freedom Monument in Memory of Abraham Lincoln.

Friends and fellow citizens:
the story of our presence here is easily told.
We are here in the city of Washington,
the most luminous point of American territory,
to express our grateful sense
of the vast, high, and preeminent services
rendered to ourselves, to our race, to our country,
and to the whole world by Abraham Lincoln.

He was preeminently the white man’s President,
entirely devoted to the welfare of white men.
He was ready and willing at any time
during the first years of his administration
to deny, postpone, and sacrifice
the rights of humanity in the colored people
to promote the welfare
of the white people of this country.
In all his education and feeling
he was an American of the Americans.
He came into the Presidential chair
upon one principle alone,
namely, opposition to the extension of slavery.
His arguments in furtherance of this policy
had their motive and mainspring
in his patriotic devotion
to the interests of his own race.
To protect, defend, and perpetuate slavery
in the states where it existed
Abraham Lincoln was not less ready
than any other President
to draw the sword of the nation.
He was ready to execute all the supposed
guarantees of the United States Constitution
in favor of the slave system
anywhere inside the slave states.
He was willing to pursue, recapture,
and send back the fugitive slave to his master,
and to suppress a slave rising for liberty,
though his guilty master were already
in arms against the Government.
The race to which we belong were not
the special objects of his consideration.
Knowing this, I concede to you,
my white fellow-citizens, a pre-eminence
in this worship at once full and supreme.
First, midst, and last, you and yours
were the objects of his deepest affection
and his most earnest solicitude.
You are the children of Abraham Lincoln.
We are at best only his step-children;
children by adoption,
children by forces of circumstances and necessity.
To you it especially belongs to sound his praises,
to preserve and perpetuate his memory,
to multiply his statues,
to hang his pictures high upon your walls,
and commend his example,
for to you he was a great
and glorious friend and benefactor.
But while in the abundance of your wealth,
and in the fullness of your just
and patriotic devotion, you do all this,
we entreat you to despise not the humble offering
we this day unveil to view;
for while Abraham Lincoln
saved for you a country,
he delivered us from a bondage,
according to Jefferson, one hour of which
was worse than ages of the oppression
your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose.

Fellow citizens, ours is no new-born zeal
and devotion—merely a thing of this moment.
The name of Abraham Lincoln was near
and dear to our hearts in the darkest
and most perilous hours of the Republic.
We were no more ashamed of him
when shrouded in clouds of darkness,
of doubt, and defeat
than when we saw him crowned
with victory, honor, and glory.
Our faith in him was often taxed
and strained to the uttermost,
but it never failed.
When he tarried long in the mountain;
when he strangely told us that
we were the cause of the war;
when he still more strangely told us that
we were to leave the land
in which we were born;
when he refused to employ
our arms in defense of the Union;
when, after accepting our services
as colored soldiers,
he refused to retaliate our murder
and torture as colored prisoners;
when he told us he would save the Union
if he could with slavery;
when he revoked the Proclamation
of Emancipation of General Fremont;
when he refused to remove
the popular commander
of the Army of the Potomac,
in the days of its inaction and defeat,
who was more zealous
in his efforts to protect slavery
than to suppress rebellion;
when we saw all this, and more,
we were at times grieved,
stunned, and greatly bewildered;
but our hearts believed
while they ached and bled.
Nor was this, even at that time,
a blind and unreasoning superstition.
Despite the mist and haze that surrounded him;
despite the tumult, the hurry,
and confusion of the hour,
we were able to take
a comprehensive view of Abraham Lincoln,
and to make reasonable allowance
for the circumstances of his position.
We saw him, measured him, and estimated him;
not by stray utterances
to injudicious and tedious delegations,
who often tried his patience;
not by isolated facts torn from their connection;
not by any partial and imperfect glimpses,
caught at inopportune moments;
but by a broad survey,
in the light of the stern logic of great events,
and in view of that divinity
which shapes our ends,
rough hew them how we will,
we came to the conclusion that
the hour and the man of our redemption
had somehow met
in the person of Abraham Lincoln.
It mattered little to us what language
he might employ on special occasions;
it mattered little to us,
when we fully knew him,
whether he was swift or slow in his movements;
it was enough for us that
Abraham Lincoln was at the head
of a great movement, and was in living
and earnest sympathy with that movement,
which, in the nature of things,
must go on until slavery should be utterly
and forever abolished in the United States.

When, therefore, it shall be asked
what we have to do
with the memory of Abraham Lincoln,
or what Abraham Lincoln had to do with us,
the answer is ready, full, and complete.
Though he loved Caesar less than Rome,
though the Union was more to him
than our freedom or our future,
under his wise and beneficent rule
we saw ourselves gradually lifted
from the depths of slavery
to the heights of liberty and manhood;
under his wise and beneficent rule,
and by measures approved
and vigorously pressed by him,
we saw that the handwriting of ages,
in the form of prejudice and proscription,
was rapidly fading away
from the face of our whole country;
under his rule, and in due time,
about as soon after all as the country
could tolerate the strange spectacle,
we saw our brave sons and brothers
laying off the rags of bondage,
and being clothed all over in the blue uniforms
of the soldiers of the United States;
under his rule we saw two hundred thousand
of our dark and dusky people
responding to the call of Abraham Lincoln,
and with muskets on their shoulders,
and eagles on their buttons,
timing their high footsteps
to liberty and union under the national flag;
under his rule we saw the independence
of the black republic of Haiti,
the special object of slave-holding
aversion and horror, fully recognized,
and her minister, a colored gentleman,
duly received here in the city of Washington;
under his rule we saw the internal slave-trade,
which so long disgraced the nation, abolished,
and slavery abolished in the District of Columbia;
under his rule we saw for the first time
the law enforced against the foreign slave trade,
and the first slave-trader hanged
like any other pirate or murderer;
under his rule, assisted by
the greatest captain of our age and his inspiration,
we saw the Confederate States,
based upon the idea that our race must be slaves,
and slaves forever,
battered to pieces
and scattered to the four winds;
under his rule, and in the fullness of time,
we saw Abraham Lincoln,
after giving the slave-holders
three months’ grace in which
to save their hateful slave system,
penning the immortal paper, which,
though special in its language,
was general in its principles and effect,
making slavery forever impossible
in the United States.
Though we waited long,
we saw all this and more.

Can any colored man,
or any white man
friendly to the freedom of all men,
ever forget the night which followed
the first day of January, 1863,
when the world was to see
if Abraham Lincoln would prove to be
as good as his word?
I shall never forget that memorable night,
when in a distant city I waited
and watched at a public meeting
with three thousand others
not less anxious than myself,
for the word of deliverance
which we have heard read today.
Nor shall I ever forget the outburst
of joy and thanksgiving that rent the air
when the lightning brought to us
the Emancipation Proclamation.
In that happy hour we forgot all delay
and forgot all tardiness,
forgot that the President had bribed the rebels
to lay down their arms
by a promise to withhold the bolt
which would smite the slave-system
with destruction;
and we were thenceforward willing to allow
the President all the latitude of time,
phraseology, and every honorable device
that statesmanship might require
for the achievement of a great
and beneficent measure of liberty and progress.

Fellow citizens,
there is little necessity on this occasion
to speak at length and critically
of this great and good man,
and of his high mission in the world.
His personal traits and public acts
are better known to the American people
than are those of any other man of his age.
He was a mystery to no man
who saw him and heard him.
Though high in position,
the humblest could approach him
and feel at home in his presence.
Though deep, he was transparent;
though strong, he was gentle;
though decided
and pronounced in his convictions,
he was tolerant towards those
who differed from him,
and patient under reproaches.
Even those who only knew him
through his public utterance
obtained a tolerably clear idea
of his character and personality.
The image of the man went out with his words,
and those who read them knew him.

I have said that President Lincoln
was a white man and shared the prejudices
common to his countrymen
towards the colored race.
Looking back to his times
and to the condition of his country,
we are compelled to admit that
this unfriendly feeling on his part
may be safely set down
as one element of his wonderful success
in organizing the loyal American people
for the tremendous conflict before them,
and bringing them safely through that conflict.
His great mission was to accomplish two things:
first, to save his country
from dismemberment and ruin;
and, second, to free his country
from the great crime of slavery.
To do one or the other, or both,
he must have the earnest sympathy
and the powerful cooperation
of his loyal fellow-countrymen.
Without this primary
and essential condition to success
his efforts must have been vain
and utterly fruitless.
Had he put the abolition of slavery
before the salvation of the Union,
he would have inevitably driven from him
a powerful class of the American people
and rendered resistance
to rebellion impossible.
Viewed from the genuine abolition ground,
Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy,
cold, dull, and indifferent;
but measuring him
by the sentiment of his country,
a sentiment he was bound
as a statesman to consult,
he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.

Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices
of his white fellow-countrymen
against the Negro,
it is hardly necessary to say that
in his heart of hearts
he loathed and hated slavery.
The man who could say, “Fondly do we hope,
fervently do we pray,
that this mighty scourge of war
shall soon pass away,
yet if God wills it continue
till all the wealth piled
by two hundred years of bondage
shall have been wasted,
and each drop of blood drawn by the lash
shall have been paid for
by one drawn by the sword,
the judgments of the Lord
are true and righteous altogether,”
gives all needed proof of his feeling
on the subject of slavery.
He was willing, while the South was loyal,
that it should have its pound of flesh,
because he thought that
it was so nominated in the bond;
but farther than this
no earthly power could make him go.

Fellow citizens,
whatever else in this world may be partial,
unjust, and uncertain,
time, time! is impartial,
just, and certain in its action.
In the realm of mind,
as well as in the realm of matter,
it is a great worker and often works wonders.
The honest and comprehensive statesman,
clearly discerning the needs of his country,
and earnestly endeavoring
to do his whole duty,
though covered and blistered with reproaches,
may safely leave his course
to the silent judgment of time.
Few great public men
have ever been the victims
of fiercer denunciation
than Abraham Lincoln was
during his administration.
He was often wounded
in the house of his friends.
Reproaches came thick and fast upon him
from within and from without,
and from opposite quarters.
He was assailed by Abolitionists;
he was assailed by slave-holders;
he was assailed by the men
who were for peace at any price;
he was assailed by those who were for
a more vigorous prosecution of the war;
he was assailed for not making
the war an abolition war;
and he was bitterly assailed for making
the war an abolition war.

But now behold the change:
the judgment of the present hour is
that taking him for all in all,
measuring the tremendous magnitude
of the work before him,
considering the necessary means to ends,
and surveying the end from the beginning,
infinite wisdom has seldom sent any man
into the world better fitted for his mission
than Abraham Lincoln.
His birth, his training,
and his natural endowments,
both mental and physical,
were strongly in his favor.
Born and reared among the lowly,
a stranger to wealth and luxury,
compelled to grapple single-handed
with the flintiest hardships of life,
from tender youth to sturdy manhood,
he grew strong in the manly
and heroic qualities demanded
by the great mission to which
he was called by the votes of his countrymen.
The hard condition of his early life,
which would have depressed
and broken down weaker men,
only gave greater life, vigor, and buoyancy
to the heroic spirit of Abraham Lincoln.
He was ready for any kind
and any quality of work.
What other young men dreaded
in the shape of toil,
he took hold of with the utmost cheerfulness.

“A spade, a rake, a hoe,
A pick-axe, or a bill;
A hook to reap, a scythe to mow,
A flail, or what you will.”

All day long he could split
heavy rails in the woods,
and half the night long
he could study his English Grammar
by the uncertain flare and glare
of the light made by a pine-knot.
He was at home in the land with his axe,
with his maul, with gluts, and his wedges;
and he was equally at home on water,
with his oars, with his poles, with his planks,
and with his boat-hooks.
And whether in his flat-boat
on the Mississippi River,
or at the fireside of his frontier cabin,
he was a man of work.
A son of toil himself,
he was linked in brotherly sympathy
with the sons of toil
in every loyal part of the Republic.
This very fact gave him tremendous power
with the American people,
and materially contributed
not only to selecting him to the Presidency,
but in sustaining his administration
of the Government.

Upon his inauguration
as President of the United States,
an office, even when assumed
under the most favorable condition,
fitted to tax and strain the largest abilities,
Abraham Lincoln was met
by a tremendous crisis.
He was called upon not merely
to administer the Government,
but to decide, in the face of terrible odds,
the fate of the Republic.

A formidable rebellion
rose in his path before him;
the Union was already practically dissolved;
his country was torn
and rent asunder at the center.
Hostile armies were already
organized against the Republic,
armed with the munitions of war
which the Republic had provided
for its own defense.
The tremendous question for him to decide
was whether his country should
survive the crisis and flourish,
or be dismembered and perish.
His predecessor in office
had already decided the question
in favor of national dismemberment,
by denying to it the right of self-defense
and self-preservation—
a right which belongs to the meanest insect.

Happily for the country,
happily for you and for me,
the judgment of James Buchanan, the patrician,
was not the judgment of
Abraham Lincoln, the plebeian.
He brought his strong common sense,
sharpened in the school of adversity,
to bear upon the question.
He did not hesitate, he did not doubt,
he did not falter;
but at once resolved that at whatever peril,
at whatever cost,
the union of the states should be preserved.
A patriot himself,
his faith was strong and unwavering
in the patriotism of his countrymen.
Timid men said
before Mr. Lincoln’s inauguration,
that we have seen the last
President of the United States.
A voice in influential quarters said,
“Let the Union slide.”
Some said that a Union
maintained by the sword was worthless.
Others said a rebellion of 8,000,000
cannot be suppressed;
but in the midst of all this tumult and timidity,
and against all this,
Abraham Lincoln was clear in his duty
and had an oath in heaven.
He calmly and bravely heard
the voice of doubt and fear all around him;
but he had an oath in heaven,
and there was not power enough on earth
to make this honest boatman, backwoodsman,
and broad-handed splitter of rails
evade or violate that sacred oath.
He had not been schooled
in the ethics of slavery;
his plain life had favored his love of truth.
He had not been taught that
treason and perjury were
the proof of honor and honesty.
His moral training was against
his saying one thing when he meant another.
The trust that Abraham Lincoln had in himself
and in the people was surprising and grand,
but it was also enlightened and well founded.
He knew the American people better
than they knew themselves,
and his truth was based upon this knowledge.

Fellow citizens,
the fourteenth day of April, 1865,
of which this is the eleventh anniversary,
is now and will ever remain a memorable day
in the annals of this Republic.
It was on the evening of this day,
while a fierce and sanguinary rebellion
was in the last stages of its desolating power;
while its armies were broken and scattered
before the invincible armies
of Grant and Sherman;
while a great nation, torn and rent by war,
was already beginning to raise to the skies
loud anthems of joy at the dawn of peace,
it was startled, amazed, and overwhelmed
by the crowning crime of slavery—
the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
It was a new crime, a pure act of malice.
No purpose of the rebellion
was to be served by it.
It was the simple gratification
of a hell-black spirit of revenge.
But it has done good after all.
It has filled the country
with a deeper abhorrence of slavery
and a deeper love for the great liberator.

Had Abraham Lincoln died from any
of the numerous ills to which flesh is heir;
had he reached that good old age
of which his vigorous constitution
and his temperate habits gave promise;
had he been permitted
to see the end of his great work;
had the solemn curtain of death
come down but gradually—
we should still have been smitten
with a heavy grief
and treasured his name lovingly.
But dying as he did die,
by the red hand of violence, killed,
assassinated, taken off without warning,
not because of personal hate—
for no man who knew Abraham Lincoln
could hate him—
but because of his fidelity to union and liberty,
he is doubly dear to us,
and his memory will be precious forever.

The end of Part 9

Copyright © 2008 by Sanderson Beck

Learning Politics and Law
In Congress and Out
Debating Douglas
Becoming President
Civil War Begins
Proclaiming Emancipation
War by Conscription
Getting Re-elected
Victory and Death

How Lincoln Could Have Prevented Civil War
Lincoln Bibliography
Lincoln Chronology

BECK index