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“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 bondman'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 orphanto do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations."
Some of his frequent warnings about plans to kill him, Lincoln kept in his desk marked “ Assassination Letters." He deemed it impossible to avoid this risk, and he took few steps for protection, even when his dreams were of evil
On the last day of the President's life Grant arrived in Washington, and attended the cabinet meeting, where he showed some anxiety about Sherman. Lincoln assured him that there would soon be good news, as he had had his dream about the vessel, the same which had presaged Antietam, Murfreesboro, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg. Members of the cabinet looked impressed, but Grant replied simply that “Murfreesboro was no victory, and had no important results.” He was not a poet, and the President, in his way, was.
He referred, a few days before the end, to the number of warnings by dream in the Bible, the book which had of late taken such a hold upon him. Finally he said :
“ About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important despatches 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 deathlike 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 ali 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 dream continued to disturb him. A few days after, he said to Lamon: “To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub.”
On the evening of April 14, Good Friday, he went to the theatre. In the door of his box a hole had been cut by a body of conspirators, so that the occupants could be watched. Just after ten o'clock, John Wilkes Booth, an actor, entered the box, shot the President with a pistol in the back of the head, stabbed one of the theatre party who tried to stop him, and leaped upon the stage. In the folds of the American flag he caught his spur, and broke his leg. Limping across the stage, swinging his dagger, he cried, “ Sic semper tyrannis,” the motto of Virginia, and escaped, soon to be killed. The bullet, passing through the brain, left its victim unconscious, and at twenty-two minutes past seven on the following morning Abraham Lincoln was dead.