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1865 April 22: Editorial on the Murder of President Lincoln

April 24, 2015

The following editorial, probably by Editor Sam Fifield, appeared in the April 22, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.

Murder of President Lincoln.

Before this paper reaches our readers, the dreadful tidings of the death of Abraham Lincoln, by assassination, will have brought unuterable [sic] grief to the loyal millions of our land.

Scanning the history of the nation from its first days until the present time, with the astonishing occurences [sic] of the last five years freshly remembered, we hesitate to say, that no event has more profoundly shirred the depths of the hearts of the American people, than this latest culminating act of a rebellion, which, originating like the primal revolt of Satan, in a wicked and audacious ambition, like that ends, when foiled at last, in an exhibition of diabolical malignity worthy of the hell whence it draws its imspiration.  For though the murderer of the President, as is now susposed [sic], is a man—no, a wretch—of the north, of the loyal section of the country, it is none the less palpable that the fell deed was perpetrated, in the name and for the sake of the unholy rebellion which has been maintained now, with varied fortunes for more than four years, until at length virtually conquered, and about to be crushed under the heel of a virtuous and indignant patriotism, it rallies all its power and venom, not for the furtherance of any of its special and avowed objects,—it is impotent for that—but only to show in a mad, blind, reckless impulse, the intensity of its malice, the bitterness of its disappointment, the fury of its rage, the extremity of its despair, at its utter and dire discomfiture, and by some fell sting or blow to leave as poignant a pang as it might, in the great loyal heart of the nation.  nd only too successfully has that end been effected.

Abraham Lincoln, the people’s chosen chief, freedom’s annointed [sic] evangelist, the defender of the constitution, the vindicator of outraged law, the foe of traitors and oppressors, the friend of the poor, the lowly and the injured, the chief magistrate who, as has been said, was too merciful to be just, the man who in the exaltation of supreme office, forgot not with yearning love to seek the welfare of his fellow men,—this ruler, philanthropist, hero and friend, beloved at home and abroad by the good, hated by the bad, is dead—a murdered martyred victim of the hell-born hatred which the evil ever bear towards the good.  He is dead, and the bitter grief of a nation, prove how truly his murderers divined where was the most sensitive point at which to inflict pain on a loyal freedom loving people.

There is a mournful satisfaction in the thought that the President in the unconsciousness which instantly followed the unforseen [sic] and fatal wound, was never for a moment agonized by a sense of calamity to himself, his country or his family—that the serene mind induced by the assured triumph of the cause in which he had so faithfully labored, and by the glorious results, but recently developed, of the grand and benevolent policy of his administration, was never for a moment disturbed, but that his great soul, released from its mortal tenement, emerged into another world there first to learn of the tremendous event which had wrought the change he then first realized—there were he may comprehend by sight, what we know by faith, that out of this evil, God will bring good; that as the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, so this costly immolation will multiply the number of those who abhor human slavery, and seek its extirpation.  For beyond a doubt it was in their character of illustrious and successful champions of the down-troden [sic] ones of our race, that Abraham Lincoln and William H. Seward, were especially obnoxious to the assassins and traitors of the land, north and south.

The life of Secretary Seward, who at about the same hour of the attack on the President, was also murderously assaulted, in his sick bed, is not according to our latest advices despaired of.  It will seem wonderful, if the venerated old Statesman now advanced in years, and of infirm health shall survive such a shock.  And yet it is not wonderful that even the brutal hand which held the dagger above him should have been unnerved, and almost turned from its savage purpose, and should have descended with faltering force, before the imploring eyes and beseeching deprecatory gestures of that helpless, prostrate old man.

It were scarcely wonderful that even the cold glittering steel, more merciful than the fiend who grasped it, should refuse to penetrate the heart which had throbed [sic] so long and faithfully in pity for human suffering.

As to the assassins, their instigators, their accessories, if any there are, before or after the fact—the northern rebels, whose malign and baleful influence has so infected the moral atmosphere about them, as that such crimes have become possible in our country, tens of thousands of their wreched [sic] lives would be no expiation of the deed which has brought us such mourning and such loss.  Let the law be vindicated; but we have no vengeance to wreak on their miserable bodies, or souls.  In this connection the scripture aptly quoted in the inaugural message, the last official communication of our lamented President to his people, will be sadly remembered, “Woe unto the world because of offences !  for it must needs be that offences come, but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.”¹

1.  From the Bible, book of Matthew, chapter 18, verse 7; King James version.

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