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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1865

26 April 1865
262
Wednesday 26th
London
CFA AM

The quiet tenor of my life was this day completely overturned by the reception from Mr Stanton, the Secretary of War at Washington, of a telegraphic Dispatch giving a clear and succinct narrative of the assassination of President Lincoln by a ruffian at the Theatre, whilst another succeeded in making his way to the sick bed of Mr Seward, there to deal death and destruction to its inmates. At the last moment, both father and son were still alive, but with slight prospect of recovery. At first, this news seemed to stun me, but as my mind came to comprehend it more clearly, I could not see that this was only a legitimate sequence to the origin of this rebellion. It was fitting that what began with perjury, fraud, and treachery should end in private assassination. Such is the fruit of the seed that was sown in the slavery of the African race. To the country, the loss of Lincoln is hardly reparable. There was a grandeur about the national movement under his direction which even he might not have been able fully to sustain, but which his successor will not attempt to continue. For his own fame the President could not have selected a more happy close. The just doubts about his capacity for reconstruction are scattered to the winds in the solemnity of the termination. From that moment his fame becomes like that of Washington the priceless treasure of the nation. With regard to Mr Seward, I regard the possibility of his loss as infinitely more grave. He has been the guiding principle through this struggle, the balance wheel of the machine of government. I will not however despair yet of his restoration. Neither will I think of the possibilities of the future under the Vice President, Andrew Johnson. His beginning was unfortunate, but with my recollection of his hones and brave course in the Senate in the midst of the trials of 1860–1861 when all his Southern colleagues were false, I do not apprehend any diminution of the vigour of the Government or change of its policy, unless indeed with the exception that it will be far less conciliatory and forgiving. Singularly enough Mr Stanton tells of the proceedings of the Cabinet meeting on the morning of the event, when in the conference with General Grant the President had expressed the most kindly and hopeful sentiments in regard to the restoration of the South. It263 would almost seem as if there was a divine interposition to prevent the carrying out of such a policy, and to bring on a retribution by the very act of the criminal. Numbers of person on learning the news called at this house, but I was in no mind to see them— And the telegrams of enquiry from all quarters kept coming until midnight. I could fix my attention upon nothing and so wore out the day. Mr Alward who seemed much overcome by the event, especially in connection with the Seward family, with whom he is intimate stopped to dine and we afterwards took a solitary walk around the outer line of the Regent’s park.

Cite web page as:

Charles Francis Adams, Sr., [date of entry], diary, in Charles Francis Adams, Sr.: The Civil War Diaries (Unverified Transcriptions). Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2015. http://www.masshist.org/publications/cfa-civil-war/view?id=DCA65d116