House of Representatives
MOTION IN ORDER.
Mr. Le Hardy de Beaulieu. Gentlemen, you were all horrified three days ago on hearing of the assassination of the President of the United States. You all felt that it was not only the chief of a free nation that was struck down, but at the same time it was law, the safeguard of all, and I may say civilization itself, for there is no longer any personal security when political passion substitutes brutal action for the protective power of law. I have thought it becoming, gentlemen, for us not to let this occasion pass without the expression of our painful sentiments.[Page 14]
I will not give you the history of the eminent man who is no more; he sprung from the humblest ranks of society and elevated himself by labor and industry, when the American nation, with that acumen that rarely fails an intelligent people in important emergencies, chose him as a guide to direct it through a dangerous situation, where a formidable insurrection had placed it.
You all know, gentlemen, what difficulties Mr. Lincoln had to overcome. Confronted by a portion of the nation that rebelled against the laws they themselves had made, he did not falter once in his patriotic duty. In the most perilous circumstances, in face of all kinds of dangers, external and internal, he was always calm, and I may even say benevolent to his bitterest enemies.
After gigantic efforts, after a struggle of four years, Mr. Lincoln at last reached the close of that most bloody contest on American soil, and the greatest troubles of his life seemed over. He had already expressed the sentiments of conciliation that animated him—it was in his last message, his political testament—when the assassin’s bullet struck him in the back of the head, and laid him low.
I cannot foretell the consequences of that crime, so horrid that no terms are strong enough to condemn it; all I can say is, that the parliament of a free nation like Belgium would fail in its duties of international confraternity, if it did not express its feelings of horror and regret at a crime that has robbed a great and generous nation of its eminent chief magistrate.
In expressing these sentiments we confirm the unanimous wishes that the deplorable loss may not deprive the American nation of that calmness which is necessary to finish the great work of conciliation and pacification which Mr. Lincoln has so nobly begun. I am done.
Mr. De Haerne. I agree with my honorable colleague, in the sentiments he has expressed, and I am persuaded that the feeling of horror produced by this sad news from America is felt not only in this house, but in every quarter of the globe. Yes, gentlemen, we feel the greatest indignation at this political crime that has plunged a great people in the deepest mourning, but has not discouraged it, we must hope, for the great President who was the victim of the barbarous and cowardly act has set an example which his successors should follow, for the good of the nation they represent and the enlightenment of a free people.
The dreadful catastrophe that has thrown America into the greatest consternation, and has appalled the world, contains a great lesson for the people, particularly when contrasted with the victories that had rejoiced the American Union only a few days before.
On Palm Sunday the news of General Lee’s capitulation was announced in most of the cities of the United States—on that day consecrated to the Prince of Peace, as an American paper expresses it; and on Good Friday Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward were attacked by barbarous assassins. And this recalls a profound remark of the august and holy pontiff Pius IX, who, speaking of the many vicissitudes of his reign, said, “truly Good Friday is very near to Palm Sunday!”
The people of the Union, who were identified with their chief, particularly after the last presidential election, were morally immolated with him, after enjoying the national triumph, to which Mr. Lincoln added glory by his moderation.
The nation is plunged in grief; but hope will resurrect her from the gloom, like the Prince of Peace and Glory. This grand and terrible lesson of misfortune to the people and their government will prove a valuable instruction by the spirit of conciliation bequeathed them by their worthy President, as a mysterious pledge of future prosperity, the secret of which is hidden in their past glory.
If there is a nation that ought to sympathize with America in its grief on this occasion, that nation is Belgium; for we are the only nation that has remained faithful in spirit to traditional rights, and followed America from the foundation of her political establishment and her liberal institutions. Yes, gentlemen, [Page 15] we looked upon England, on the one hand, as worthy of imitation in the march of progress in the path of true and practical liberty; but, at the same time, we were conscious that there were certain customs in the institutions of that country we could not adopt, and we cast our eyes beyond the Atlantic, where we found a great people worthy of entire imitation, and it is the institutions of that people we have chiefly inscribed upon our organic charter. We have followed their example in all that regards public liberty, the distribution of power, the election of representatives and decentralization of rule. For that reason, I say that Belgium ought to sympathize with America by expressions of horror and indignation, such as all civilized nations feel, and protest against the art of barbarism that has stained the soil of America with the last mournful trace of expiring slavery, which has now vanished before the vivifying breath of modern civilization.
The sentiments manifested in this house are felt throughout all Europe; England has protested through Parliament; France has spoken by the mouth of her Emperor; Prussia by her legislative assembly, where all the members arose to declare that the infamy of the horrid act deserved the condemnation of all civilized nations. We must also do homage to the man who was the victim of that atrocious crime, to the man who, as the honorable Mr. De Beaulieu has truly said, sprung from the people to adorn a nation, and like certain popes, come from the lowest ranks of society to be the greatest honor to the church.
Lincoln was a self-made man; he drank from the spring of liberty; he was guided by the light of a democratic nation, and merit elevated him to the highest dignities of the country.
He has set a worthy example, which his successor ought to follow, relying on the support of public opinion, which should be his constant guide, never to be abandoned or opposed.
That, gentlemen, should be his greatest honor, which, united with his firmness and wise impartiality, will mark him a place in history.
In joining other civilized nations in our protest against this political crime, we do a good deed; by our participation in the sentiment of universal indignation, we help to arrest the contagion of an abominable example that might attack other nations.
By outlawing monsters guilty of such crimes, we terrify those who might be tempted to commit them.
Mr. Rogier, minister of foreign affairs. It is useless for me to say, gentlemen, that the government participates in the sentiments so eloquently expressed by the two honorable members of this assembly entertaining different political opinions. Our government sympathizes with the bereaved nation, and has transmitted the expression of its sorrow to the government of the United States and their honorable representative in Brussels.
The motion just made is new to Belgium; but it has been made elsewhere, and the importance of the event justifies it. I consider the sympathy expressed in the speeches of the honorable Mr. De Beaulieu and Mr. l’Abbé De Haerne as the unanimous opinion of the house; and thus the legislative assembly joins the government in the regrets felt and expressed on the occasion of a crime that has filled Belgium and the rest of the world with dismay.
We must also express our wishes for the recovery of the eminent statesman who was attacked at the same time with the venerable President of the republic. His life must be preserved to insure the final pacification of a splendid country, too long desolated by the calamities of a war afflicting to all friends of true liberty.
May that great statesman, now burdened with a heavy duty, persevere in the sentiments of moderation he has always shown through the excitement of the great struggle, and may we soon hear of the restoration of his health, and the return of peace between the factions of a great people whom we admire, who [Page 16] have always had our sympathies, and who will soon resume their exalted station in the world.
The president of the house: Gentlemen, as no objection is offered, it is now decided that this house is unanimous in its approval of the sentiments just expressed by the two honorable members whose speeches you have just heard.