[Translation from a Stockholm paper of April 27, 1865.]
During the whole time civil war was raging in the United States, we had been accustomed to receive information of the most varied and changeable description. It was seldom the friends of liberty here received any good tidings without having them followed by others most painful in their character; but surely, after the last week’s glorious bulletins, bringing news of victory upon victory, nobody expected to receive a message so painful and full of grief as the telegram brought us last evening, in the moment of his triumph, when the rebellion was nearly crushed and everybody again was thinking sincerely of the regeneration of the Union, Abraham Lincoln was struck by the assassin’s bullet—He who, during the war, the whole world was looking up to as the true symbol of that great idea, the abolition of slavery, the established fact of universal freedom, and that free labor is honorable: he should be sacrificed when these sublime thoughts were almost realized. It is a beautiful death; the martyr’s wreath of freedom has to engrave on its leaves the name of a new victim for its holy cause, and Lincoln will be forever surrounded by an imperishable glory of honor. But the victim has in this instance, as has happened many times before, when the blood of heroes for liberty was spilt, fallen by the assassin’s hand, which will brand with eternal infamy all those protectors of slavery who, rising under the plea of defending the rights of the single state, properly only fought for the preservation of their feodal institutions, thereby being able to live by the sweat of the brow of slavery. It may seem hard and strange to throw the blame on those persons before knowing something more particular about this most painful event; but it has too much of probability in itself not to suppose at once that the whole plan had its origin from that very source.
We remember still quite distinctly how Lincoln, on his way to Washington to be inaugurated as President of the United States on the 4th of March, 1861, was compelled against his own will, but by the pressing entreaties of all his friends, to make his journey through Maryland on by-roads and during the darkness of night to avoid these protectors of slavery who there laid in ambuscade for him. Already then did those wretches aspire after his life, believing in their shortsightedness that their cause could be saved by the death of one of their fellow-beings. Rumors have afterwards been busy about conspiracy against his life No one would believe it at, the time; but now, when we have seen that the parties never tired before they gained the end they sought for, it looks very probable. Yes; they have gained it, but their cause shall not gain anything by it. A party which uses such miserable means has pronounced its own sentence, and even their friends in Europe, must surely take part in the general outcry of indignation which now sounds through the whole civilized world, and perhaps be compelled to turn their backs on their cause, if they do not desire to be counted as accomplices in the deed. In the North this outcry will have serious consequences for those who have been the cause of it. Immediately after the last great victory of Grant, several of the most prominent men, and almost all the principal papers in the United States, advised Lincoln and his cabinet to issue a general amnesty for the rebels, only on the condition that the seceded States should submit and again join the Union. Slavery was already considered abolished. Does any one now believe that the same spirit of reconciliation will exist? Does any one doubt that this crime will not cry out for vengeance? If so, we must acknowledge we have been entirely mistaken in the Yankees. The original good-natured humor in these men makes it very easy for them to offer the hand of reconciliation, knowing themselves to be the victors. But should their passions be roused once more before they hardly have had time to be calmed, they will, of course, be furious against all who stand behind this infamous deed and are its nearest accomplices. We observed already, a few days ago, [Page 550] that this war, as far as the North is concerned, does not show a single death-sentence for political offences, which, at least, if we make any comparison with what we have been used to see under similar circumstances in our old Europe, will grant them an everlasting honor. The war has been one of the most spirited and hottest fought party wars, and in the North treachery has often raised its head so high that the most severe punishment could with justice have been applied. Shall we still be so fortunate as to see that same moderation continued? We do wish it for the sake of liberty; but who would dare to reproach those republicans now, if at the height of this excitement they should exercise retaliation? What we at least now are sure in saying is, that peace now will cost the southern States a great deal more, than otherwise would have been the case. (Here follows a sketch of Mr. Lincoln’s life.)
To write the history of Abraham Lincoln during the time he was President, even as brief as possible, would be the same as to write the history of the Union during the whole important period from 1860 to 1865, when the future of the republic was in the balance. Room for that is not in a short sketch like this, and the time to do it in with impartiality will not be reached for many years. Many have reproached Lincoln for irresolution as a statesman, and accused him of being without determination to meet the issue of the day. This is said more specially with regard to his position on the slavery question when the rebellion first commenced. Nothing was more natural than an accusation of this kind upon a time when the different political parties were arraigned against each other in fierce combat; but the future will give him credit for his strength and determination—that, surrounded as he was by that turmoil of wild passions, he was yet able to control himself and preserve that firmness of purpose which the leader of the destines of a great people so much needs, but which we do not always find in them.
He often resisted the impetuous patience of his own party, which, without consideration or forethought, declared slavery abolished without paying the slightest attention to the words of the Constitution. Being cognizant of that fact, he tried in the beginning a conciliatory mode, and would accede to the rebellious States the right to govern themselves. He appointed afterwards a certain time at the expiration of which they had to submit or to lose their privileges. He also procured a consent of Congress to recompense those States who by their own consent abolished slavery, and to give them a limited compensation for their “living” property. First, when every effort failed, and not only a party, but the whole people of the North—of course we do not include that party called “Peace democrats”—had arrived at the conclusion that nothing could be done in that way; first then took Abraham Lincoln the reins in his own hands and procured the consent of Congress to abolish slavery unconditionally. If we can judge from his actions and by their effects, does it not seem as if it had been his plan from the beginning to make that the opinion of the whole people which had hitherto only been the opinion of a few, and under these circumstances can he not with justice be called a far-seeing statesman? He was, besides all this, the type of the so-called Yankee people, of that pure northern Anglo-Saxon race, persevering and determined to obtain the object he had in view. In this way he had gradually become a man of the people, who knew how to select the very moment when to speak, and also to choose the best practical way fit for the occasion. He was a good citizen, and to every American and to every friend of the progress of liberty his name will through centuries shine beside that of Washington. Peace to his ashes, and may, they bring forth blessed fruit to the cause of everything that is good. The telegram informs us that the assassins have not been contented with one victim. Grant seems only to have an accident to thank for the preservation of his life, and the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward—the right hand of the President—though on his sick-bed at the time, was not spared by the hands of the murderer. His fate is not decided, but his brave son has fallen, trying to defend the life of a father.