Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward

No. 102.]

Sir: The impression created in this capital by the horrible murder and attempts to murder just committed in Washington has been intense.

The whole diplomatic corps, with scarcely an exception have called upon me, as representative of the United States, and their warm and sincere expressions of sympathy at our national loss, of cordial good will for the Union, and, more important than all, of decided respect and admiration for the character of our lamented President, have been most grateful to my heart.

The journals of the capital—all of them, as I have often had occasion to remark, conducted with great ability—have vied with each other in eloquent tributes to the virtues of Mr. Lincoln, in expressions of unaffected sympathy for the great cause of which he was the impersonation, and of horror at the accursed crime by which one of the best of men has been taken from the world.

I enclose (marked A and B) the correspondence between the minister of foreign affairs and myself in relation to this event. I send, further, a translation (marked C) of the report, taken from the journals of the day, of the action taken on the subject in the Reichsrath. Dr. Berger, the member who pronounced the brief but feeling eulogy upon Mr. Lincoln, is one of the most distinguished and eloquent members of the house.

I have the honor to remain, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.

[Page 23]


The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America, deems it his duty to state to his excellency Count Mensdorff, imperial royal minister of foreign affairs, and through him (if such a course be considered proper) to his Majesty the Emperor, that official intelligence has been received by telegraph at this legation of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in his box at the theatre at Washington, on the evening of the 14th April. The President died on the morning following.

The extent of this calamity can hardly now be duly measured.

No President of the United States, since Washington, has so thoroughly possessed the confidence and the veneration of the great majority of the American nation as did Mr. Lincoln. No man doubted his purity of character, his patience, his firmness of purpose, his benignity, his wise cheerfulness in the darkest hours, and his transparent honesty.

His love of his whole country was perfect. To restore the blessed Union which the rebellion of a vast number of misguided individuals, acting in the interest of negro slavery, had attempted to destroy, was the object of his administration. That object had been secured after four, years of terrible warfare, by the capture of all the strongholds of the insurrection, the capitulation of its principal armies, and by due legal provisions for the emancipation of the slaves.

The President was on the point of issuing an address to the people of the insurgent States, doubtless with the intent of expressing the terms of that amnesty and pardon which Congress, relying upon his wisdom and generosity, had already empowered him, at his discretion to grant, when the hand of the assassin took his life.

The undersigned will not even allude to the universal distress which this tragic termination to the virtuous career of their Chief Magistrate must cause in the hearts of the whole American people. Words are too weak to depict such a universal sorrow as this; but if an excuse be thought necessary on the part of the undersigned for thus dwelling upon the events which have just overwhelmed him with grief, it must be found in the fact that the imperial royal government has ever so frankly and so nobly manifested its sentiments towards the United States government in its contest with this iniquitous rebellion, as to justify the hope of its sympathy at this tragic moment. It is a consolation to the undersigned to remember that one of the last public utterances of the lamented President in regard to foreign affairs was a recent acknowledgment of the magnanimity and friendly attitude of his imperial royal Majesty towards the United States throughout the course of the great contest.

No details as to the condition of the United States minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Seward, has yet been received, but the critical state of his health, caused by a severe accident a very kittle while before the murderous attempt upon his life, makes it but too probable that the United States may soon be called on to mourn also for the loss of this most eminent and accomplished statesman.

The undersigned seizes the opportunity to renew to Count Mensdorff the expression of his most distinguished consideration.


His Excellency Count Mensdorff, Imperial Royal Minister of Foreign Affairs.


The undersigned has the honor to acknowledge the receipt from the Hon. J. Lothrop Motley, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America, of the esteemed note concerning the frightful act perpetrated against the President, Mr. Abraham Lincoln, and to state that he at once laid the said note before his most gracious Majesty the Emperor.

The imperial government could not receive the news of this horrible event without the deepest indignation, which has made upon it the more painful impression, as shortly before it had seen reason to instruct its minister at Washington to express to the government there its sincere congratulations upon the brilliant results which promised a speedy end of the bloody contest in the States of the Union.

The horrid crime of which Mr. Lincoln was the victim could not but inspire the government of his Majesty the Emperor with the more sincere grief, as at no time have the relations between Austria and the United States borne a more friendly character than during the official term of Mr. Lincoln.

The imperial government cannot but cherish the liveliest desire that the hopes of a happy future for the United States, which in this country it was believed might be confidently [Page 24] based on the distinguished characteristics, the wisdom and moderation of the lamented President, may be fulfilled under his successor, and the peaceful relations between the United States and foreign powers be preserved undisturbed.

In conclusion, the undersigned feels it his duty to give expression to the sincere wish of the imperial government, that it may please Providence to preserve to the country still further the eminent Secretary of State, whose life has also been in danger from murderous hands.

The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to renew to the honorable minister the assurance of his distinguished consideration.

In the absence of the minister of foreign affairs,

MEYSENBUG, The Under Secretary of State.

His Excellency J. Lothrop Motley, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the U. S of America.


The session opened at 10.40. Deputy Dr. Berger spoke as follows:

Gentlemen: The news of the tragical fate which has befallen the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, through a murderous hand, at the very moment in which the cause of the northern States, and with it the cause of freedom and civilization and humanity, was victorious, has, I believe I may announce, deeply moved all circles and all classes of society in our fatherland also.

From the very beginning of that eventful and bloody struggle, which has lasted several years, Austria Was always on the side of the north, and on the day on which the news of the last victory of the northern States reached Washington, the man who now stands at the head of the United States declared that the sovereign of the state to which we belong, from the beginning an enemy of every rebellion, had always stood on the side of the north.

I think that it becomes this house, which represents the population of Austria, to express its sympathy for the cause of the northern States, its sympathy for the tragic fate of Abraham Lincoln, the plain, simple man, who has risen out of the people to be placed at the head of the greatest state, and I move that the president should summon the house to signify, by rising from their places, this its double sentiment—sympathy for the tragic fate of President Lincoln—sympathy for the cause of the northern States.

The President. I doubt not that the house shares the views and feelings which the deputy, Berger, has expressed, and will be ready to give proper evidence thereof by rising from their seats.

(The assembly rises. During this ceremony the ministers are in their places as deputies)