The Corner

A Contemporary of Lincoln Reacts to His Death

Here’s New York diarist George Templeton Strong (from April 17, 1865):

All over the city, people have been at work all day, draping street fronts, so that hardly a building on Wall Street, Broadway, Chambers Street, Bowery, Fourth Avenue is without its symbol of the profound public sorrow. What a place this man, whom his friends have been patronizing for four years as a well-meaning, sagacious, kind-hearted, ignorant, old codger, had won for himself in the hearts of the people! What a place he will fill in history! I foresaw most clearly that he would be ranked high as the Great Emancipator twenty years hence, but I did not suppose his death would instantly reveal — even to Copperhead newspaper editors — the nobleness and the glory of his part in this great contest. It reminds one of the last line of Blanco White’s great sonnet, “If Light can thus deceive, wherefore not Life?” Death has suddenly opened the eyes of the people (and I think of the world) to the fact that a hero has been holding high place among them for four years, closely watched and studied, but despised and rejected by a third of this community, and only tolerated by the other two-thirds.

Recommended

The Latest