Inhabitants of Caen


The inhabitants of the city of Caen to the honorable Mr. Johnson, President of the United States.

Sir: There are crimes which shock and distress not one nation only, but the conscience of mankind. At the first rumors of the assassination of Mr. Lincoln all Europe shudders with indignation and grief. Impelled by this emotion, spontaneous, universal, irresistible, the public authorities themselves bow with respect before that new-made grave.

Why these unanimous regrets? It was not only because, springing from the ranks of the people, Mr. Lincoln, by force of will, of toil, of energy, had reached the highest dignity of his land; it was not only because, in the face of immense difficulties, he had arranged all, smoothed all, surmounted all; but it was, above [Page 58] all, because he had accomplished that enormous task without veiling the statue of liberty; it was because he had become a great man by respecting the laws, and remaining an honest man.

This is why your sorrow is the sorrow of all good men.

But at the same time they have confidence in your institutions, and they know that the crime which has been committed will but confirm anew their vitality and power.

They intended to slay the future of a people; they have only smitten slavery. A great man is dead; a great people remains.

It is to them that we send across the ocean our deep regrets, our fraternal sympathies. Say to them that we love them; tell them that we have suffered with their sufferings; that we have followed with anguish the changing aspects of their implacable strife, and applauded their” victory with the enthusiasm of hope, and ask them also to love us, and to love our France.

Tell them to weep for their great citizen departed, but not to pity him; Lincoln had prevented the dismemberment of his country, he had abolished salvery, he had lived enough, he could die. Dulce et decorum est pro patriá mori.

Tell them, in fine, that humanity has never given birth but in sorrow; that to just and holy causes there is need of noble martyrs, and that for the ages the only true crowns are the crowns of thorns, shining over Calvaries.