Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XXIV.

Abraham Lincoln—Continued.

Politician—Assassination—Stories—Final Burial—Chronology

LINCOLN IN POLITICS.

The Hon. Henry S. Boutell, member of Congress from Illinois, residing in Chicago, north side, has just received documents which show an interesting story of the political side of Abraham Lincoln's career. They consist of a couple of letters that the famous war president wrote nearly half a century ago, when he was a country lawyer and thought a seat in the United States Senate would be the limit of his political aspirations.

Just after the national elections in the fall of 1854 it appeared that the democrats had lost control of the Illinois legislature. Lincoln thought he saw a chance to get into the United States Senate, and he began the campaign, which, although it ended in defeat at that time, continued to a climax in the series of great debates four years later between himself and Senator Stephen A. Douglas.

Lincoln's Reputation Broadens.

That incident broadened the boundaries of Lincoln's reputation from the state to the nation and brought him a seat in the White House as recompense for the loss of a seat in the senate. T. J. Henderson was at that time a member of the Illinois State Senate. Later he was chosen to represent in congress for many years the district for which Congressman Reeves now sits.

To Representative Henderson Mr. Lincoln, in 1854, wrote the following letter asking for his vote for LInited States Senator:

"springfield, Iii., Nov. 27. 1854.—T. J. Henderson, Esq.—My Dear Sir: It has come round that a whig may by possibility be elected to the United States Senate, and I want the chance of being the man. You are a member of the legislature and have a vote to give. Think it over and see whether you can do better than to go for me.

"Write me at all events and let this be confidential. Yours truly,

"A. Lincoln."

There was another whig who "wanted the chance to be the man" and was equally prompt in telling the Illinois legislators so. Representative Henderson wrote Mr. Lincoln a letter, in which he expressed himself as unwilling to make any promises for the present or to commit himself between Mr. Lincoln and his leading opponent for the whig nomination.

IN RESPONSE TO HENDERSON'S REPLY.

Mr. Henderson's letter to Mr. Lincoln brought forth the following reply:

"springfield, Iii., Dec. 15, 1854.—Dear Sir: Yours of the 11th was received last night, and for which I thank you. Of course I prefer myself to all others; yet it is neither in my heart nor my conscience to say I am any better man than Mr. Williams. We shall have a terrible struggle with our adversaries. They are desperate and bent on desperate deeds. I accidentally learned of one of the leaders here writing to a member south of here in about the following language: 'We are beaten. They have a clear majority of at least 9 on joint ballot. They OUTNUMBER us, but we must OUTMANAGE them. Douglas must be sustained. We must elect a Nebraska United States Senator or elect none at all.' Similar letters, no doubt, are written to every Nebraska member. Be considering how we can best meet and foil and beat them. I send you by this mail a copy of my Peoria speech. You may have seen it before or you may not think it worth seeing now.

"Do not speak of the Nebraska letter mentioned above. I do not wish it to become public that I received such information. Yours truly,

"A. Lincoln!"

DEMOCRATS HAD LOST.

Abraham Lincoln was right when he asserted that the democrats had lost the legislature. The whigs and the anti-Nebraska democrats together possessed a narrow majority on joint ballot over the Nebraska democrats, as the followers of Douglas were called. The state of Illinois had voted at the November election of 1854 on the sole issue of supporting or condemning the action of Senator Douglas in fathering and passing the repeal of the famous dicker between the slave states known as the Missouri compromise, and the people of Illinois had pronounced their disapproval of Senator Douglas' advocacy of the repeal, which was called the Kansas-Nebraska bill. . 1

Lincoln secured the support of the majority of the whigs in the legislature and he led the whig vote for nine ballots, once coming within six votes of being elected United States Senator. At that point he became convinced that the supporters of Lyman Trumbull, who had just been elected to congress from the Belleville district as an anti-Nebraska democrat, would never vote for a whig, and rather than allow the antiDouglas factions to miss their opportunity to place a representative in the United States senate to neutralize Douglas there, Mr. Lincoln generously told his friends on the tenth ballot to vote for Congressman-elect Trumbull.

HOW TRUMBULL WAS ELECTED.

Lincoln's followers obeyed and Lyman Trumbull bore off the prize on the tenth ballot by the close vote of 51 to 47, the Douglas democrats voting for Governor Mattison. Archibald Williams, the whig opponent of Lincoln mentioned by Representative Henderson, later had coals of fire heaped upon his head by Lincoln. When the latter became president one of his first acts was to appoint Mr. Williams as United States district judge for the state of Kansas.

MURDER OF LINCOLN.

Johnson Brigham tells the story of the murder of Lincoln as follows in the Chicago Record-Herald:

Intense as is the indignation of this people, and of the world as well, over the "deed accursed" which resulted in the death of President McKinley, and deep as is the general sorrow over the nation's and the world's loss, happily there were no serious complications resultant therefrom, and consequently there was no consternation when the end came.

The killing of President Lincoln in the midst of the general rejoicing over peace, after four years of awful war, was to this people both a shock and a fierce menace. Though the war was over, the period of reconstruction was just ahead. President Lincoln had long borne the burden of a struggle unparalleled in magnitude. The burden had been lifted. The cause of the Union—his cause—had grandly triumphed. His rugged strength had overcome both ridicule and censure; his magnanimity had made his former foes his friends; his demonstrated brain power, his rare soul qualities, and bis remarkable devotion to public duty had won for him the love of his people and the admiration of the onlooking world. To him the people of the North had turned for deliverance from the new and immeasurable perils.

PEOPLE LEFT LEADERLESS.

Suddenly bereft of the one safe leader all trusted, when the shot was fired that left them leaderless, their first fierce indignation and deep rrief left them with a sinking of heart over the awful possibilities of the situation.

Let me present in outline a memory picture of that horrible night of nights and the days of gloom which followed as that picture is brought back to me by the recent memory-stirring tragedy—the accuracy of which outline I have tested by reference to letters then written by me.

On my way down Tenth street on the night of that fateful 14th of April I observed an unusual throng in front of Ford's Theater. My first intimation of the tragedy was a woman's exclamation: "Oh, it is terrible!"

"What has happened?" I asked.

"My God, boy!" exclaimed the woman; "haven't you heard? They've killed the President!"

Seeing a tall, broad-shouldered man gesticulating, I drew near. A late comer, who had heard only part of his story, said:

k'Begin again and tell us all about it."

STORY OF THE TRAGEDY.

Stepping up on the curbstone, the man began: "Well, to begin at the beginning, I was sitting in the gallery right where I could see what was going on in the President's box. About 9 I saw him come in—him. and his wife and some young couple I didn't recognize. When the audience saw him, such a hand-clapping and hurrahing you never heard. It stopped the play. The President bowed to the audience from the box and took his seat; then he turned and said something to his wife that made her smile, and then the play went on again."

"But how about the shooting?"

"I've just got to that. 'Twasn't long before I heard a pistol shot. First I,thought it was part of the play; but when I noticed the actors looking toward the President's box I knew something had happened.

MRS. LINCOLN SCREAMED.

"Then I heard Mrs. Lincoln scream; and then I saw a man break away from the young man in the box and jump down onto the stage. Just as he jumped his spur caught in one of the flags and he fell. But he was on his feet again quicker'n a flash, and, turning toward the audience, he shouted something I couldn't quite understand; and then ran behind the scenes, limping as if he'd been hurt.

"There in the box sat the President, his head dropped forward as though he'd fainted; his wife trying to bring him to, and crying and moaning as if her heart would break.

"I rushed downstairs and into the dress circle. A man at the door tried to stop me, but I shook him off, and a minute more I was wedged into the crowd in front of the box door. Some one shouted, 'Gentlemen, stand back and give him fresh air,' and then he asked if any body had any stimulants. Then they carried the President out, across the street to Peterson's, yonder."

« PreviousContinue »