"O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!"
 NO one had suffered more deeply during the war than the President. His purpose never faltered. Even at
the moment when success seemed farthest distant, his resolve stood firm; cost what it might the
Union must be preserved. When almost every other man despaired of the Northern cause, Lincoln's
invincible faith in the right and justice of their purpose sustained his country.
To attain that purpose thousands of lives had to be sacrificed; but the purpose was worth the loss
of thousands of lives. Yet Lincoln's heart bled for every one them.
All day long he received visits from, distracted relations, mothers and wives asking him to pardon
their sons or
hus-  bands in prison as deserters or captured from the enemy; asking for tidings of their beloved ones at
the front. His generals complained that he undermined the discipline of the army by pardoning what
he called his "leg" cases—cases where men had run away before the enemy. "If Almighty God
gives a man a cowardly pair of legs, how can he help their running away with him?" said Lincoln.
The story of William Scott is a case which shows the way in which Lincoln used to act. William Scott
was a young boy from a Northern farm, who, after marching for forty-eight hours without sleep,
offered to stand on guard duty for a sick comrade. Worn out, he fell asleep, and was condemned to be
shot for being sleep on duty in face of the enemy. Lincoln made it his custom to visit all the
divisions of his army in turns, and, as it happened, two days before the execution he was with the
division in which Scott was, and heard of the case. He went to see the boy, and talked to him about
his him and his mother. As he was leaving the prison tent he put hands on the lad's shoulders, and
 "My boy, you are not going to be shot to-morrow . . . . I am going to trust you and send you back to
your regiment. But I have been put to a great deal of trouble on your account. I have come here from
Washington, where I had a great deal to do. Now what I want to know is, how are you going to pay my
Willie did not know what to say: perhaps he could get his friends to help him, he said at last.
"No," said Lincoln, "friends cannot pay it; only one man in the world can pay it, and that is
William Scott. If from this day on William Scott does his duty, my bill is paid."
William Scott never forgot these words. Just before his death in one of the later battles of the
war, he asked his comrades to tell President Lincoln that he had never forgotten what he had said.
All the time, people who did not know the President threw on his shoulders all the blame for the
long continuance of the war. Until the last year of the war, the newspapers abused him continually.
The horrible loss of life in Grant's last campaign was laid to
 his charge. Only those who came to the President to ask his help in their own suffering, understood
what his suffering was; he suffered with each of them—he suffered with the South as well as
the North. After Antietam, he had said, "I shall not live to see the end; this war is killing me."
The crushing burden he had borne so long and patiently had bent even his strong shoulders.
But it had not been borne in vain. The time seemed at last to have come when all America would
understand how much they owed to the patient endurance of the President. And there was work still to
be done which needed all his wisdom. The South was conquered. It had to be made one with the North.
The pride of the conquerors had to be curbed, the bitterness of the conquered softened.
Lincoln returned form Richmond to Washington, in his heart the profound resolve "to bind up the
nation's wounds" as he, and only he, could do it.
April 14 was Good Friday, and a day of deep thankfulness in the North. In the morning Lincoln held a
Cabinet meeting, at which General Grant was present. The
 question of reconstruction, of making one whole out of the divided halves, was discussed. Some of
the Cabinet were anxious to wreak vengeance on the South, to execute the leaders of the rebellion.
Such was not Lincoln's view.
"Enough lives have been sacrificed. We must extinguish our resentments if we expect harmony and
His noble patriotism could still say to the South, "We are not enemies, but friends." His life was
now even more precious to the South than to the North.
After the Cabinet meeting, Lincoln spent some time in talking with his son Robert, who had returned
from the field with General Grant, under whom he had served as a captain. In the afternoon he went
for a drive with Mrs. Lincoln. His mood was calm and happy: for the first time for four years he
could look forward peacefully to the future, and to the great tasks still before him.
In the evening he went to the theatre with his wife and two young friends: the play was "Our
American Cousin." The President was fond of the theatre—it was ore of his few recreations: his
appearance on this night
 was something of a public ceremony; therefore, although he was tired when evening came, he went
because he knew that many people would be disappointed if he did not. The President had a box to the
left of the stage. Suddenly, about the middle of the last act, a man appeared at the back of the
box, a knife in one hand and a pistol in the other, put the pistol to the President's head and
fired; then wounding Major Rathbone, the only other man in the box, with his knife, he vaulted on to
the stage. As he leapt his spur caught the flag hanging from the box and he fell, breaking his leg.
Nevertheless he rose instantly, and brandishing his knife and crying, "Sic scalper
tyrannis!"—"The South is avenged!" fled across the stage and out of sight.
The horrified audience was thunderstruck. The President lay quite still: the bullet had passed right
through his head. The wound was mortal. He was carried to a house across the street, where he lay,
quite unconscious, till the morning, surrounded by his friends, their faces as pale and haggard as
his own. About seven, "a look of unspeakable peace came upon his worn features." Stanton, the War
Secretary, rose from his
 knees by his side, saying, " Now he belongs to the ages."
There was profound sorrow through the whole of America; sorrow that checked all rejoicings over the
victory of the North. Thus, indirectly, Lincoln's death helped the reconciliation between North and
South, though nothing could counterbalance the loss of his wise guidance.
Washington was shrouded in black: even the poorest inhabitants showing their sorrow in their dress.
The body was taken to Springfield, Illinois, to be buried; and all the towns on the way showed their
deep mourning and respect. Now, and not till now, did Americans begin to understand what a man they
"He knew to bide his time,
And can his fame abide,
Still patient in his simple faith sublime
Till the wise years decide.
Great captains with their guns and drums
Disturb our judgment for the hour,
But at last silence comes:
These all are gone, and, standing like a tower,
Our children shall behold his fame,
The kindly, earnest, brave, far-seeing man,
Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame,
New birth of our new soil, the first American."
 So James Russell Lowell wrote of Lincoln when the celebration of Independence Day in the year of his
death revived the vivid sense of loss.
The passage of years have only made clearer how great he was. Perfectly simple, perfectly sincere,
he thought out for himself an ideal, and spent the whole of his life and all his strength in
He loved America, not because it was powerful and strong, but because it had been based on a great
idea—the idea of liberty: his work for America was to realise that idea. He never thought of
his own personal success: he wanted to be President because he saw a great work to be done and
believed that he could do it. He never became rich: his own tastes remained entirely simple. He was
said to have worn the same top-hat all his life.
The first thing that struck any one about Lincoln was his extraordinary appearance. He always
dressed in black, with a big black tie, very often untied, or in the wrong place: his clothes looked
as if they had been made to fit some one else, and had never been new. His feet were enormous; so
 hands, covered on state occasions with white kid gloves.
In cold weather he used to wear a large grey shawl instead of an overcoat. One day, before he was
made President, some friends were discussing Lincoln and Douglas, and comparing their heights. When
Lincoln came into the room some one asked him, "How long ought a man's legs to be?"
"Long enough to reach from his body to the ground," said Lincoln coolly.
Lincoln might look uncouth or even grotesque, but he did not look weak: he was the most striking
figure wherever he went. No one who saw him often, no one who went to him in trouble, or to ask his
advice, thought long of his appearance. Those who had once felt the sympathy of his wonderful, sad
eyes, thought of that only. Those who really knew him, knew him to be the best man they had ever
Lincoln was often profoundly sad, and then suddenly boisterously gay. He enjoyed a joke or a funny
story immensely: he often used to shock thoughtless people by telling some comic story on what they
 thought an unsuitable occasion; but he told it so well that however much they might disapprove they
were generally forced to laugh.
Always rather a dreamer, he was fond of poetry. He knew long passages of Shakespeare by heart,
especially Hamlet, Macbeth, and Richard III. The Bible he had known from his childhood; of Burns he
was very fond.
Lincoln's rise to power, as even so short an account as this will have shown you, was not due to any
extraordinary good fortune or any advantages at start. He taught himself all that he knew; he made
himself what he was.
It was his character more than anything else that made him great. His early struggles had taught him
that self-reliance which enabled him to persevere in a course which he thought right in spite of
opposition, disloyalty, and abuse; they taught him the toleration which made him slow to judge
others, generous to praise them, little apt to expect them to understand or praise him. He stood
Not till he had gone did his people realise
 how much he had given them; how much they had lost in him. He gave them, indeed, the most priceless
gift a patriot can give his country—the example of sincere, devoted, and unselfish service.
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