Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On April 18, 1865

From the May 16, 1865 edition of Harper's Weekly

On this day in 1865, Lincoln's body lay in state in the East Room of the White House. The body would remain there until April 19th, when the formal funeral was held and a funeral procession carried the fallen president to a waiting catafalque in the rotunda of the Capitol Building.

Mourners lined up outside White House, waiting for the 9:30 A.M. opening of the White House gate. Many had to wait more than six hours to pay their respects. About 25,000 walked through the South Portico into the entry hall and the Green Room before entering the East Room, which had been darkened for the occasion. The mirrors in the room were covered -- as they were for other funerals held there -- and the frames swathed in black crepe. Black cloth also covered the walnut, lead-lined coffin -- which was only two inches longer than the 6-4 President. A silver plate on the lid read: "ABRAHAM LINCOLN, 16TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, BORN FEBRUARY 12, 1809, DIED APRIL 15, 1865." On each side of the coffin were four silver handles and four shamrocks formed by silver tacks. The coffin itself sat on a platform covered in black cloth. Flowers from the White House grounds and greenhouse encircled the coffin and perfumed the air. Two dozen ranking Union officers formed an honor guard. Journalist Noah Brooks wrote in Washington in Lincoln's Time:

"The great room was draped with crape and black cloth, relieved only here and there by white flowers and green leaves. The catafalque upon which the casket lay was about fifteen feet high, and consisted of an elevated platform resting on a dais and covered with a domed canopy of black cloth which was supported by four pillars, and was lined beneath with fluted white silk. In those days the custom of sending 'floral tributes' on funeral occasions was not common, but the funeral of Lincoln was remarkable for the unusual abundance and beauty of the devices in flowers that were sent by individuals and public bodies. From the time the body had been made ready for burial until the last services in the house, it was watched night and day by a guard of honor, the members of which were one major-general, one brigadier-general, two field officers, and four line officers of the army and four of the navy. Before the public were admitted to view the face of the dead, the scene in the darkened room - a sort of chapelle ardente - was most impressive. At the head and foot and on each side of the casket of their dead chief stood the motionless figures of his armed warriors.

When the funeral exercises took place, the floor of the East Room had been transformed into something like an amphitheatre by the erection of an inclined platform, broken into steps, and filling all but the entrance side of the apartment and the area about the catafalque. This platform was covered with black cloth, and upon it stood the various persons designated as participants in the ceremonies, no seats being provided...

For eight hours, the public passed by the coffin. Only then were special groups of visitors allowed to pay their respects. After mourners departed about 7:30 P.M., carpenters built platforms all around the East Room for guests invited to the funeral. The noise nearly drove Mary Todd Lincoln crazy -- indeed, it so disturbed her that at her request it was not dismantled until after she moved out of the White House in May.

In one of the strange twists of history, Lincoln himself spoke (to his aides John Nicolay and John Hay, and to others) and apparently wrote about a strange dream he had of his own impending death, while working and sleeping on board the River Queen in City Point, Virginia a few weeks before:

"About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. 'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one of the soldiers, 'The President,' was his answer; 'he was killed by an assassin.' Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since."

p. 116-117 of Recollections of Abraham Lincoln 1847-1865 by Ward Hill Lamon (Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1994).

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