[From the Journal des Debats, April 28, 1865.]
Fresh details have been received of the horrible crime of which Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Seward, and his son have just fallen victims. This triple assassination, it is asserted, is connected with a vast conspiracy against the principal heads of the government of the United States. We must needs hope that there is some exaggeration in this news, and that the abominable deed which has excited one universal feeling of horror is the work of some isolated fanatic. If it were otherwise, all humanity would be immeasurably afflicted. The United States have sustained an irreparable loss, and we must go back to Washington to find a citizen who has done the great American republic so much service as the noble and unfortunate President who has just fallen by the hand of a miserable assassin.
Mr. Lincoln was born in 1809. He was not an old man, and yet it can be affirmed that no career of a statesman was ever better fulfilled. In him were [Page 125] found, if not the brilliant qualities which are perhaps thought too much of in Europe, those solid virtues of a citizen, and that strong good sense, which seem to be peculiar to the American race. History, in fact, will tell with what firmness, and, at the same time, with what moderation, he knew how to direct the policy of the Union in circumstances of the greatest difficulty; and without having recourse to exceptional laws, without arming himself with dictatorial power, he passed victoriously through a crisis in which his country might have been destroyed; and it was at the very moment when, at last, he was effecting the great object of his patriotic exertions, when he was about to witness the reconstruction of the American country in all its integrity, that this great citizen was carried off by a premature and bloody death. Fate sometimes deals those blind and cruel blows which fill with consternation and grief all those for whom patriotism and virtue are not mere idle words. America will revere the memory of Lincoln equally with that of Washington; these two names will be written together in her gratitude; for if the one founded the Union, the other saved it from destruction.
Men ask themselves now what will be the political consequences of the death of the President of the United States? We do not think that the situation of affairs will be sensibly modified by this catastrophe. Certainly it is far from, our intention to make the cause of the South responsible for the crime of a few fanatics, but it is not the less true that the horror inspired by an act so atrocious can have no other effect than to lessen the sympathies which the secessionists have met with in Europe. Already materially overcome, or very nearly so, they are made to sustain a moral defeat. What is most to be feared is lest the North in its exasperation should allow itself to be drawn into a system of reprisals, or at least that the sentiments of conciliation, of which it began to give the secessionists proofs, would give place to feelings of an opposite nature, and that it would take advantage of its victory to impose hard conditions upon the South. However, we have too much confidence in the good sense of the North to entertain any serious apprehensions on this head. Its legitimate indignation will not make it deviate from the line of moderation and prudence which it has pursued up to the present time. It will understand that the best way to do honor to the memory of Mr. Lincoln is not to wander away from the political traditions of this great statesman.
Like the French press, the press of England is unanimous in the expression of horror which is felt at the assassination of the President of the United States. An address of condolence has been presented to the American minister by the members of the House of Commons.—Leading Article.