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The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth George Alfred Townsend

Letter VII: The Martyr

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Here once came Mr. Stanton, saying in his hard and positive way:

"Mr. Lincoln, I have found it expedient to disgrace and arrest General Stone."

"Stanton," said Mr. Lincoln, with an emotion of pain, "when you considered it necessary to imprison General Stone, I am glad you did not consult me about it."

And for lack of such consultation, General Stone, I learn, now lies a maniac in the asylum. The groundless pretext, upon which he suffered the reputation of treason, issued from the Department of War--not from this office.

But as to his biography, it is to be written by Colonel Nicolay and Major Hay. They are to go to Paris together, one as attache of legation, the other as consul, and while there, will undertake the labor. They are the only men who know his life well enough to exhaust it, having followed his official tasks as closely as they shared his social hours.

Major Hay is a gentleman of literary force. Colonel Nicolay has a fine judgment of character and public measures. Together they should satisfy both curiosity and history.

As I hear from my acquaintances here these episodes of the President's life, I recall many reminiscences of his ride from Springfield to Harrisburg, over much of which I passed. Then he left home and became an inhabitant of history. His face was solid and healthy, his step young, his speech and manner bold and kindly. I saw him at Trenton stand in the Legislature, and say, in his conversational intonation:

"We may have to put the foot down firm."

How should we have hung upon his accents then had we anticipated his virtues and his fate.

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Death is requisite to make opinion grave. We looked upon Mr. Lincoln then as an amusing sensation, and there was much guffaw as he was regarded by the populace; he had not passed out of partisan ownership. Little by little, afterward, he won esteem, and often admiration, until the measure of his life was full, and the victories he had achieved made the world applaud him. Yet, at this date, the President was sadly changed. Four years of perplexity and devotion had wrinkled his face, and stooped his shoulders, and the failing eyes that glared upon the play closed as his mission was completed, and the world had been educated enough to comprehend him.

The White House has been more of a Republican mansion under his control than for many administrations. Uncouth guests came to it often, typical of the simple western civilization of which he was a graduate, and while no coarse altercation has ever ensued, the portal has swung wide for five years.

A friend, connected with a Washington newspaper, told me that he had occasion to see Mr. Lincoln one evening, and found that the latter had gone to bed. But he was told to sit down in the office, and directly the President entered. He wore only a night shirt, and his long, lank hirsute limbs, as he sat down, inclined the guest to laughter. Mr. Lincoln disposed of his request at once, and manifested a desire to talk. So he reached for the cane which my friend carried and conversed in this manner:

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The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth
George Alfred Townsend

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