Imperial ParliamentThe Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1313, p. 430-431.
May 6, 1865
Earl Russell moved an address to the Crown expressing the sorrow and indignation with which the House had heard of the assassination of Mr. Lincoln. He believed that the motion would receive the entire concurrence of their Lordships. Having stated that her Majesty had written an autograph letter to Mrs. Lincoln condoling with her in her bereavement, the noble Earl observed that no such crime had been committed in modern times as the murder of the twice-elected President of the great American Republic, who had borne his honours meekly; had displayed so much integrity, sincerity, and straightforwardness, and had done so much to alleviate the miseries of war; and who appeared disposed to follow up the success achieved by arms by a wise, conciliatory, and generous policy towards the South. He was sure that there was in this country a universal sympathy with the United States in their great deprivation, as well as a hope that the successor of Mr. Lincoln would follow the example of moderation set him by his predecessor. He trusted that the policy of neutrality which had been adopted by her Majesty's Government in reference to the civil war, and the moderation which had characterised that of the United States towards this country, would continue; and that this special proceeding of Parliament would have the effect of convincing the people of America that every class in this country felt the deepest sympathy with them in the loss they had sustained.
The motion was seconded by the Earl of Derby, who said that the House, in expressing its sorrow and indignation at the atrocious crime by which the United States had been deprived of its chief magistrate, only followed the universal sympathy which prevailed from one end of the country to the other; and such an expression of feeling must prove a complete refutation of any idea or impression which might lurk in the mind of the people of the United States that any unfriendly feeling existed towards them on the part of any section of the people of England. For the crime which had been committed no palliation could be offered, and, whatever difference of opinion there might be as to the respective rights of the North and the South, all must agree that it could not serve the cause of the South. It was, he thought, impossible to believe that the Confederate Government could in any way approve an act which was not only a crime but a blunder. He joined with Earl Russell in lamenting the loss of a man who had conducted the affairs of the United States amidst great difficulties with singular moderation and prudence, and who was bent on trying a system of conciliation. The death of such a man, and in such a manner, was not only a subject of deep regret but also a serious misfortune to the country of which he was the chief, and it was to be hoped that his successor would see the wisdom of following out that conciliatory line of policy which there was every reason to believe the late President was preparing to inaugurate when his valuable life was taken.
After a few words from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe in favour of the motion, it was unanimously agreed to....
The orders of the day were postponed for the purpose of enabling the Government to propose an address to the Crown on the assassination of President Lincoln.
Sir G. Grey, having expressed his regret at the unavoidable absence of Lord Palmerston, observed that it was comparatively unimportant by whom the motion was made, because he felt confident that the address which he was about to move would meet with the cordial and unanimous assent of the House. When the news of the assassination of President Lincoln and of the attempt on the life of Mr. Secretary Seward reached this country, the first impression on the mind of every one was that the intelligence could not be true. But when the fact became fully known a feeling of deep sorrow, horror, and indignation pervaded the public mind, and the people of the United Kingdom felt as if some great calamity had befallen themselves. Whatever might be the conflicting opinions or sympathies of the public as between North and South, they had completely vanished in the presence of the great crime which all Europe now deplored. He was persuaded that this sentiment also animated every man in the Southern as well as in the Northern States. The American nation now mourned the loss of their trusted and chosen chief, struck down by the hand of an assassin at the most eventful period of his country's history. Just as it was hoped that the civil war was about to be brought to a close, all eyes were turned towards Mr. Lincoln, in the expectation that in the hour of victory he would have shown that forbearance and just consideration which would have added tenfold to the energy and ability by which he had prosecuted the war. Unfortunately, the hand of an assassin had deprived him of the opportunity of displaying his magnanimity; but it was to be hoped that the good sense and right feeling of those on whom the arduous duty of conducting public affairs would devolve would lead them to act with the same wisdom and sagacity which there was reason to believe he would have exhibited had his life been spared to accomplish the pacification of his country. Sir George Grey, who was frequently cheered throughout his speech, concluded as follows:--"Sir, I wish it were possible for us to convey to the people of the United States an adequate idea of the depth and universality of the feeling which this sad event has occasioned in this country. From the highest to the lowest there has been but one feeling entertained. Her Majesty's Minister at Washington will, in obedience to the Queen's commands, convey to the Government of the United States an expression of the feelings of her Majesty and of her Majesty's Government on this deplorable event. And her Majesty, with that tender consideration which she has always evinced for the sorrows and sufferings of others in whatever rank and station (hear, hear), has with her own hand written a letter to Mrs. Lincoln (hear, hear), conveying the heartfelt sympathy of a widow to a widow (hear, hear) suffering from an overwhelming calamity that has so suddenly come upon her (hear, hear). From every part of this country, and from every class of the community, one voice is now raised--a voice of abhorrence at the crime, and of sympathy and interest in that country which has this great loss to mourn. The British residents in the United States have met, as may have been expected, to express their feelings against the crime committed; and we read that our British North American colonies are vieing with each other to give expression to the same sentiments of sympathy. And not only is it from men of that race which is connected with the inhabitants of the United States by the tie of origin, language, and blood that a feeling of this kind arises, but I believe that every country in Europe is giving expression to the same sentiments and sending them to the Government of the United States. But I am sure, therefore, I am not wrong in anticipating that this House, in the name of the people of England, of the people of Scotland, and of the people of Ireland, will be anxious to record its expression of the same sentiments and feelings to the Government of the United States. Of this I am confident, that this House could never more fully and never more adequately represent the feelings of the people of this United Kingdom than by agreeing to the address which it is now, Sir, my duty to move, expressing to her Majesty our sorrow and indignation at the assassination of the President of the United States and praying her Majesty, in conveying her own sentiments to the Government of that country upon this deplorable event, that she will express at the same time upon the part of this House their abhorrence of the crime and their sympathy with the Government and the people of the United States in the deep affliction into which they have been plunged." (Loud cheers from all parts of the house.)
Mr. Disraeli: "Sir, there are rare instances when the sympathy of a nation approaches those tender feelings that, generally speaking, are supposed to be peculiar to the individual, and to form the happy privilege of private life, and I think this is one of them (Hear, hear). Under all circumstances we should have bewailed the catastrophe at Washington; under all circumstances we should have shuddered at the means by which it was accomplished. But in the character of the victim, and in the very accessories of his almost latest moments, there is something so homely and so innocent that it takes the subject, as it were, out of the pomp of history and out of the ceremonial of diplomacy. It touches the heart of nations, and appeals to the domestic sentiments of mankind (Hear, hear). Sir, whatever may be the various and varying opinions of this House and the country generally of the policy of the late President of the United States, of this, I think, all must be agreed, that in a trial which, perhaps more than any other, tested the moral quality of the man he performed his duty with simplicity and strength (Hear, hear). Nor is it possible for the people of England to forget at this moment that he sprang from the same fatherland, and spoke the same mother tongue (Hear, hear). When crimes of this character are perpetrated the public mind is apt to fall into gloom and perplexity, and that has arisen because it is as ignorant of the causes as it is of the consequences of such an act, But it is our part, I think, to reassure them under any unreasoning panic or despondency (Hear, hear). Assassination has never changed the history of the world. I will not refer to instances of remote antiquity, although an accident has made the most memorable example of those times familiar at this moment to the mind and memory of most gentlemen present. But even the costly sacrifice of a Cæsar did not propitiate the inevitable destiny of his country. But in more modern times, the people of which were animated and influenced by the same interests as ourselves, the violent deaths of two heroic men, Henry IV. of France and the Prince of Orange, are conspicuous illustrations of this great truth. Therefore at this moment, while I second the address to the Crown, and express upon my own part, and I hope on the part of every member of the house, feelings of unaffected and profound sympathy with the citizens of the United States at the untimely end of their elected chief, I would not sanction any sentiment of depression. I would rather take this opportunity of expressing my fervent hope that from these awful years of trial the various populations of North America may come out elevated, chastened, rich in that accumulative wisdom, and strong in that disciplined energy which a young nation can only acquire in a protracted and perilous struggle. Then will be open to them again, not merely the same course of power and prosperity which they have heretofore pursued, but they will pursue that course of power and prosperity for the general happiness of mankind (Hear, hear). It is with these feelings, Sir, that I now second the address to the Crown." (Loud and general cheering.)
The motion was then put by the Speaker, and carried unanimously....
Viscount Sydney, as Lord Chamberlain, made known to their Lordships her Majesty's reply to the address presented by them in reference to the assassination of President Lincoln, as follows:--
"I entirely participate in the sentiments which you have expressed in your address to me on the assassination of the President of the United States. I have given directions to my Minister at Washington to make known to the Government of that country the feelings which you have entertained in connection with myself and my whole people with regard to this deplorable event."
Lord Proby, the Comptroller of the Household, brought down the answer of the Queen to the address of the House relating to the assassination of President Lincoln.
[The Royal reply was precisely similar in terms to that which was read by Lord Sydney to the House of Lords.]