Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
- That will be the last speech he will ever make.
- John Wilkes Booth, to Lewis Powell after Lincoln's last public address (11 April 1865), as quoted in Blood on the Moon (2002), by Edward Steers, Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, p. 91. Also mentioned in Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, by James Swanson, Harper Collins
- [T]he cause of peace will triumph and that ours can be the future that Lincoln gave his life for; a future free of both tyranny and fear.
- George H. W. Bush, remarks introducing the Presidential Lecture Series (7 January 1990)
- The assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It was a new crime, a pure act of malice. No purpose of the rebellion was to be served by it. It was the simple gratification of a hell-black spirit of revenge.
But it has done good after all. It has filled the country with a deeper abhorrence of slavery and a deeper love for the great liberator. Had Abraham Lincoln died from any of the numerous ills to which flesh is heir; had he reached that good old age of which his vigorous constitution and his temperate habits gave promise; had he been permitted to see the end of his great work; had the solemn curtain of death come down but gradually, we should still have been smitten with a heavy grief, and treasured his name lovingly.
But dying as he did die, by the red hand of violence, killed, assassinated, taken off without warning, not because of personal hate, for no man who knew Abraham Lincoln could hate him, but because of his fidelity to union and liberty, he is doubly dear to us, and his memory will be precious forever.
- In April 1865, shortly before his death, Lincoln for the first time publicly stated his support for this kind of limited black suffrage... [H]is assassination brought to the White House a man unable to rise to the demands of one of the most challenging moments in our nation's history.
- President Abraham Lincoln, shot just five days later by the famous actor and Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, has sometimes been called the last casualty of the war. But Lincoln could easily be seen as the first casualty of the failed post-war peace. Booth killed Lincoln in order to destroy the tyrant who had ravaged the South. After firing his pistol, he supposedly cried out "Sic semper tyrannus' – "Thus always to tyrants," the state motto of Virginia and the alleged words of Brutus upon assassinating Caesar – and while hiding out after the assassination he bemoaned his fate for "doing what Brutus was honored for." He was also known to revere Charlotte Corday and Felice Orsini. But Booth's assassination of Lincoln was also part of a larger plot to throw the North into chaos. Thus the killing could be called equal parts terrorism and tyrannicide. What is clear is that Lincoln died a martyr and that his death complicated efforts to heal the Union.
- Randall D. Law, Terrorism: A History, p. 123
- I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here and adopted that Declaration of Independence; I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army, who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the colonies from the mother land; but something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration of Independence.
Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world if I can help to save it. If it can't be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But, if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle. I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it.
- Abraham Lincoln, speech in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (22 February 1861); quoted in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 4 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953), p. 204
- Within that door
A man sits or the image of a man
Staring at stillness on a marble floor.
No drum distracts him nor no trumpet can
Although he hears the trumpet and the drum.
He listens for the time to come.
Within this door
A man sits or the image of a man
Remembering the time before.
He hears beneath the river in its choking channel
A deeper river rushing on the stone,
Sits there in his doubt alone,
Discerns the Principle,
The guns begin,
Emancipates—but not the slaves,
The Union—not from servitude but shame:
Emancipates the Union from the monstrous name
Whose infamy dishonored
Even the great Founders in their graves …
He saves the Union and the dream goes on.
- Archibald MacLeish, "At the Lincoln Memorial", stanza 4, lines 1–6, and stanza 5, New & Collected Poems, 1917–1976 (1976), p. 433–35. This poem was written for ceremonies marking the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and was read by MacLeish at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., September 22, 1962.
- If Lincoln had been a failure, he would have lived a longer life.
- Scorned and ridiculed by many critics during his presidency, Lincoln became a martyr and almost a saint after his death. His words and deeds lived after him, and will be revered as long as there is a United States. Indeed, it seems quite likely that without his determined leadership the United States would have ceased to be...
More than any other American, Lincoln's name has gone into history. He gave all Americans, indeed all people everywhere, reason to remember that he had lived.
- 'What is the matter with you?' I asked. 'Be a man and tell me; is the President dead?' My prophetic soul told me that must be so. It was some time before the man could speak. At length he stammered out, 'Assassinated!' and then I knew I had come too late. I might, perhaps, have saved his life with my persistent precautions, which he did not at all object to. I should have been about him until all excitement was over, and would have impressed the Cabinet with the necessity of guarding his person. I am not now, and never have been, given to great emotions; but when I heard of Mr. Lincoln's cruel actions I was completely unmanned. I went immediately to Washington and saw him as he lay in his grave-clothes; the same benevolent face was there, but the kindly smile had departed from his lips, and the soft, gentle eyes were closed for ever.
- 'There,' I said to a friend, 'lies the best man I ever knew or ever expect to know; he was just to all men, and his heart was full to overflowing with kindness toward those who accomplished his death.' I have been satisfied that the persons who called at the Malvern were some of the assassins who would have killed him there if they could have got on board, and they could easily have escaped in the confusion by jumping overboard and swimming to the shore, which was not more than twenty yards distant. More-over, I do not think that the prime instigator of the deed was ever suspected, though I have my own opinion on the subject, as also had Senator Nye, that stanch old patriot who held, in the latter part of the war, a position somewhat analogous to that of a minister of police, or was in consultation, by the wish of President Lincoln, with the police authorities of our great cities. He picked up many interesting incidents in relation to the President's assassination which he talked about freely to me; but he was a prudent man, and a politician, and did not desire to raise questions which might affect his personal interests in the future.
- Perhaps it was better for Mr. Lincoln's happiness that he died when he did. Had he lived, he would likely have been involved in bitter political feuds, owing to his liberal opinions in regard to the reconstruction of the States. He was of too sensitive a nature not to feel the shafts that would have been hurled at him by those whom he thought to be his friends, and he would not likely have been permitted to carry out his ideas. As it was, he died a martyr to a great cause, and venerated by all those who loved the Union; and while the names of many who held high places in the State will be forgotten, the memory of Abraham Lincoln will live in the hearts of his countrymen while the art of printing exists by which his name can be handed down to posterity.
- [H]e fell victim to an assassin's bullet because that assassin could not bear the thought of black equality.
- Brooks D. Simpson, "Race and Slavery, North and South: Some Logical Fallacies" (18 June 2011), Crossroads, WordPress
- There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen. Now he belongs to the ages.
- Edwin M. Stanton, at Lincoln's death (15 April 1865). As quoted in Abraham Lincoln: A History (1890) by John George Nicolay and John Hay, p. 302. Though "Now he belongs to the ages" is by far the most accepted quotation of this remark, it is sometimes contended that he said "Now he belongs to the angels" but occurrences of this date back only a very few years.. Stanton had originally opposed Lincoln, dubbing him "The Original Gorilla" because of his looks and frontier speech, but eventually grew to admire him.
- Abraham Lincoln's assassination. This sickening act of violence, when added to all the others, brought a definitive feeling that an era had ended, as surely as Lincoln's election in November 1860 had precipitated it. The funeral train that carried Lincoln's remains home to Springfield, Illinois, drew millions, and while the tragedy felt senseless, it also offered the nation a chance to mourn something much larger than the death of a single individual. To the end, Lincoln served a higher cause.