Mr. Nelson to Mr. Seward .
Santiago de Chili, June 1, 1865.
Sir: I know not in what terms to give utterance to the feelings of grief and dismay which overpowered me upon learning of the brutal assassination of our great and good President, and of the dastardly attempt upon your own life. It is still difficult for me to realize that crimes so awful have been committed.
The effect upon the residents of Santiago and Valparaiso was sad beyond description. Strong men wandered about the streets weeping like children, and foreigners, unable even to speak our language, manifested a grief almost as deep as our own.
Being temporarily in Valparaiso I invited our countrymen to meet me at the American consulate at four o’clock upon the 29th ultimo, (the steamer having arrived that morning,) to take such action as might be proper in the premises. At that hour, the rooms, the hall, the staircase, and even the street fronting the building were crowded, and upon my addressing the assemblage, the exhibition of profound grief was such as I have never seen equalled. Several overcome by their emotion, sat down upon the very ground and wept; and men whose stoicism had never been affected gave violent course to their grief. Prayer having been offered by the Reverend Dr. Trumbull, a series of appropriate resolutions were proposed and adopted. * * * * * *
Upon the same day the intendente called upon me and stated that he had been instructed by the President to tender his earnest sympathy in this awful calamity, and to inquire in what way the government of Chili could most acceptably manifest how sincerely it mourned with the people and government of the United States. Thanking him cordially for the kind attention, I informed him that, while I should be deeply grateful for every mark of respect shown to the memory of the late President, it was not for me to indicate the form of such demonstration.
Instructions were then issued that the American and Chilian flags should be drooped at half-mast from all the native vessels in the harbor, during eight days; and as I left for Santiago on the following day, minute guns were being fired from the sloop-of war Esmeralda. The flags upon the public buildings, those of the foreign consuls, and of many private residences were also hoisted at half-mast. Similar evidences of sympathy were also shown by the government and [Page 29] diplomatic corps in Santiago; and I have been informed that the government proposes, as a further tribute of respect, to order a parade of all the military organizations in Santiago, to file past the legation with arms reversed and flags shrouded in mourning.
I have also received letters of condolence from the secretary of foreign relations; from the Spanish minister; the Society of Primary Instruction; the Workingmen’s Union, and others, to all of which I have endeavored to reply appropriately. All the members of the diplomatic corps have called to express their sympathy, as well as a large number of citizens and strangers.
The President in his message, delivered this afternoon, alluded feelingly to the great loss sustained by the United States, and congress, in an informal meeting held prior to the delivery of the message, ordered the flag of the capital to be placed at half-mast.
Mournful and depressing as is this sad bereavement, it behooves us not to forget, in our sorrow, that the Divine Ruler has preserved to us a life whose importance at this crisis of our country’s regeneration cannot be too highly estimated. Permit me, therefore, to offer you my most earnest and sincere congratulations upon your own almost miraculous escape from the hands of the assassin, and to express the hope that you may be spared for many years to receive the grateful thanks of the country for which you have so nobly labored, and to which your very life came so near being made a sacrifice.
The steadfast and self-denying devotion manifested throughout the whole of our great struggle with treason by the eminent patriot who has succeeded to the presidency, gives cheering assurance to the hearts of our countrymen that the great purpose of Mr. Lincoln will be ably, firmly, and conscientiously carried out.
* * * * * *
I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward,
Secretary of State.