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A LAST WORD
Victory and death were needed to give Lincoln immediately his place at home and abroad. Criticism subsided and appreciation began. From that day to this the tide has flowed without an ebb.
Immediately after the assassination the extreme radicals — the men of more heat than judgment, of more self-appreciation than patience — were pleased, and they alone. When the President had been one day dead the committee on the conduct of the war called upon the new President, and Senator Wade said : “ Johnson, we have faith in you. By the gods, there will be no trouble now in running the government!”
There was trouble, however, and the country is not proud of the men who undertook to do what Lincoln was prevented from doing.
The funeral was on the 19th, and behind the coffin, at the head of the line, marched a detachment of negro troops. Two days the body lay in state, while the people came to the capital to look their last on Lincoln's face. The body rests in Springfield, the town in which the President had made the beginnings of his fame.
Later a monument was built there, and when it was dedicated Sherman spoke, and Grant said: “With all his disappointments from failures on the part of those to whom he had intrusted commands, and treachery on the part of those who had gained his confidence but to betray it, I never heard him utter a complaint, nor cast a censure, for bad conduct or bad faith. It was his nature to find excuses for his adversaries. In his death the nation lost its greatest hero; in his death the South lost its most just friend."
Among the expressions of grief that passed over the land none was more elevated than the mourning cry of our Democracy's first poet, Walt WHITMAN:
O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN
But O heart ! heart ! heart !
Fallen cold and dead.
a-crowding, For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning ;
Here Captain ! dear father!
It is some dream that on the deck
You've fallen cold and dead.
“My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
done, From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells !
Fallen, cold and dead.”
To the instinctive Democracy of Whitman in the same year of Lincoln's death, was added the aristocratic Democracy of Lowell:
“For him her Old World moulds aside she threw,
And, choosing sweet clay from the breast
Of the unexhausted West,
How beautiful to see
Not lured by any cheat of birth,
But by his clear-grained human worth,
They knew that outward grace is dust;
They could not choose but trust
And supple-tempered will
His was no lonely mountain peak of mind,
Thrusting to thin air o'er our cloudy bars,
Fruitful and friendly for all human kind,
Nothing of Europe here,
Ere any names of Serf and Peer
Here was a type of the true elder race,
I praise him not; it were too late ;
So always firmly he:
And can his fame abide,
Disturb our judgment for the hour,
These all are gone, and, standing like a tower,
The kindly-earnest, brave, foreseeing man,
New birth of our new soil, the first American.”
With these two tributes but one other in poetry deserves to stand, and it came as a noble retraction from the nation whose leading men had been unable to see clearly across the sea until Lee's surrender and Booth's pistol taught them how. John Bright had spoken boldly for the Union from the first, and John Stuart Mill, to plead our cause, had left the closet for the platform; but these were single figures, society and the politicians sympathizing with the haughty slave-owners, and despising the Northern tradesmen. It was late in the war that the organ of prosperous British thought, the London Times, described those who believed in the possibility of restoring the Union as a “small knot of fanatics and sciolists." When we remember that even Gladstone believed that Davis and his supporters had created a nation, we understand something of the difficulties met by Lincoln, Adams, and Seward in their foreign relations. No nobler confession could have been made than the one Tom Taylor, a few weeks after the murder, printed in the London Punch:
“ You lay a wreath on murdered Lincoln's bier !
You, who with mocking pencil wont to trace,
His length of shambling limb, his furrowed face,
“His gaunt, gnarled hands, his unkempt, bristling hair,
His garb uncouth, his bearing ill at ease,
Of power or will to shine, of art to please ;
You, whose smart pen backed up the pencil's laugh,
Judging each step, as though the way were plain;