Lincoln’s Death Bed

pencil sketch of Lincoln's death bed by Union artist A. R. Waud

On this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died of gun violence.  The previous evening, the president had attended the theater, where a Southern-born actor with rebel sympathies slipped into the private box where Lincoln was sitting and fired a bullet into the back of his head.  Stunned witnesses carried the badly injured president out of Ford’s Theater and across the street to a room at Peterson’s boarding house, where he died at 7:22 a.m. the next day.

It was a politically motivated crime, a vengeful coda to the Civil War, which had ended with the South’s surrender at Appomattox just one week before.  Even now, 156 years after Lincoln’s death, the despicable act that deprived this nation of one of its brightest lights casts doubt on whether our republican form of government, which depends on civility and a respect for the popular will, can prevail in the face of a vulgar resort to violence.

Image: from this source.

4 responses

  1. So true, Susan! It’s an open question whether our form of government survives. I hope and pray and try to be civil myself. But the indicators do not look good.

    • The key is focusing on what we have in common, on the higher goods we all desire. We also need gifted leaders in the Lincoln / T Roosevelt tradition.

  2. Your post brings to my mind what a great man Abraham Lincoln was.

    He was a strong and powerful leader during a tumultuous time in our country’s history—the worst of the worst—, a horrid civil war.

    His accomplishments will always be recalled. That wonderful memorial to him in D.C. is timeless.

    This hero then slain, one week after holding our nation together with what ever it took—the victim of gun violence. How many since him?

    How odd that the gun manufacturer Colt Incorporated nicknamed the revolver they invented “the peace keeper.”

    • The violence that secession and rebellion unleashed, along with the grievance politics of the antebellum period and the ensuing “Lost Cause,” have furnished baleful precedents being revived in the present day. These are the last resorts of anti-modernists, anti-federalists, losers, and aggrieved minorities. Fortunately, the nation has gone through long periods where political opponents have prudently participated in the federal system and discovered how much it benefits their interests to seek and embrace consensus. Then we all enjoy ‘domestic tranquility,’ perhaps the most scarce commodity in all this world.