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London: Saturday, April 29, 1865

The Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1312, p. 395.

April 29, 1865

London: Saturday, April 29, 1865.

The twice-chosen Chief Magistrate of the United States of America has died by the hand of an assassin. From castle and from cottage, from the halls of the Legislature, from the mart of commerce, from the hearthstones of English homes has gone forth one shout of execration of the deed, and the first ship from our shores goes forth bearing every form of our condolence with the American nation and with those dearest to him who has fallen. It is no idle phrase to say that the news of Wednesday sent a shudder to the great heart of our people. That news came at a moment when we were awaiting tidings of amnesty, peace, and conciliation. The supreme efforts of the Confederacy had been made, and the tidings of the fall of Richmond and Petersburg had been followed rapidly by the information that the gallant Lee had laid down his arms and was using his best endeavours to terminate a struggle that had become hopeless. We knew that the President had resolved upon a policy of mercy, and we believed that he was encouraged to it by the re-awakened good feeling of the victorious party. At this instant, when the thoughts of all men were upon the restoration of peace and the healing of the rankling wounds of four terrible years, came the fatal tidings that the man in whose honest hands the good work lay had been basely murdered by a mountebank. While we write, the excitement of the news is strong upon our thousands; and, as the lion lays his head to the ground when he would have the thunder of his voice roll the furthest, the indignant cry grows deeper and deeper as the utterance comes from the masses of the people. Their leaders have spoken for them, nobly and well; but they will also speak for themselves; and if America ever doubted the brotherly heart of England, the doubt will be done away for ever by the messages now hastening across the Atlantic.

It is not now the time to record that Abraham Lincoln, who had to make his difficult way to the confidence of a large portion of his own countrymen, had also received justice from all save an angry section of the English people. The proof that he had done so may be seen in the mode in which his latest acts and speeches had been received here. We fully recognised the honesty, courage, and perseverance of the chosen of the American people; and there was something in his calm self-possession and quaint but not unkindly humour which has endeared him to the large mass among us. We, no more than our brethren in the States, all consent to be represented by sectional organs, and the real journals of England, speaking for her people, have always paid becoming tribute to the character of Mr. Lincoln. If we mention this at such a moment, it is to prevent the possibility of our present assurances of sympathy being assigned to a temporary feeling. Let the publications of the ten days previous to the arrival of the melancholy tidings be our witness in this matter.

While we have ample details of the appalling crime and of the kindred atrocity which has but too probably given Mr. Lincoln a companion in death, in the person of his ablest adviser, we have no information as to the manifest conspiracy and the supposed accomplices. That the fierce anger of the American people will hunt out all evidence of the guilt, and will deal the swiftest doom, is certain. Omnis furiis surrexit Etruria justis. The brutality which made its way, with a lie in its mouth, to the presence of an unsuspecting man, seated beside his wife and engaged in harmless relaxation from political toil, and, without warning or challenge, basely slew him, is worthily paralleled by that which sought a sick man in his bed, mutilated, in one case nearly to the death, the family around him, and stabbed him amid the screams of his little child. It is not impossible that the first mail may tell us that the assassins have already been dealt with. For the honour of human nature we will hope that they have had no accomplices, or, at least, none of higher social position than themselves. But it were rash to say what madness, generated by recent events, may not have caused. Of one thing we take leave to be certain--namely, that were the two wretches delivered over to any dozen of Confederate gentlemen, the fate of the miscreants might, perhaps, be sterner, but would certainly not be slower, than that which may have already been theirs in Washington.

At this time it is but for us to join, with all our heart, in the expression of indignation and sympathy which has gone forth, and to add our earnest prayer that the foul deeds which have been done will have no hindering influence; that it may please Providence, who had seemed to have willed that events should turn the hearts of the Americans towards peace, will permit the good work to be accomplished; and that the last sacrifice of the expiring war may be the strong, brave, good man who has died for his country in her hour of returning tranquillity.

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