Le 2 mars 2016, 05:46 dans Humeurs • 0
My friends: no one not in my position can realize the sadness I feel at this parting. To this people I owe all that I am. Here I have lived more than a quarter of a century. Here my children were born and here one of them lies buried. I know not how soon I shall see you again. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. He never would have succeeded except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same Divine blessing which sustained him; and on the same Almighty Being I place my reliance for support. And I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that Divine assistance, without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is certain. Again I bid you an affectionate farewell."
Mrs. Lincoln died at the residence of her sister, Mrs. Ninian W. Edwards, in Springfield, July 16, 1882. Dr. Thomas W. Dresser, her physician during her last illness, says of her, "In the late years of her life mental peculiarities were developed which finally culminated in a slight apoplexy, producing paralysis of which she died. Among the peculiarities alluded to, one of the most singular was the habit she had during the last year or so of her life of immuring herself in a perfectly dark room and, for light, using a small candle-light, even when the sun was shining bright out of doors. No urging would induce her to go out into the fresh air. Another peculiarity was the accumulation of large quantities of silks and dress goods in trunks and by the cart-load, which she never used and which accumulated until it was really feared that the floor of the storeroom48 would give way. She was bright and sparkling in conversation, and her memory remained singularly good up to the very close of her life. Her face was animated and pleasing, and to me she was always an interesting woman; and while the whole world was finding fault with her temper and disposition, it was clear to me that the trouble was really a cerebral disease."
In appearance Lincoln was a very plain man. Folks called him ugly, but his ugliness was impressive. He was gaunt and awkward, his limbs and arms were very long, his hands and feet were large, and his knuckles were prominent. His neck was long, the skin was coarse and wrinkled and the sinews showed under it. There was so little flesh upon his face that his features were more pronounced than they otherwise would have been. His nose and chin were especially prominent. In all his movements he was as awkward as he was uncouth in appearance, but it was an awkwardness that was often eloquent.
General Fry left this pen portrait: "Lincoln was tall and thin; his long bones were united by large joints, and he had a long neck and an angular face and head. Many likenesses represent his face well enough, but none that I have ever seen do justice to the awkwardness and ungainliness of his figure. His feet, hanging loosely to his ankles, were prominent objects; but his hands were more conspicuous even than his feet,—due, perhaps, to the fact that ceremony at times compelled him to clothe them in white kid gloves, which always fitted loosely. Both in the height of conversation and in the depth of reflection his hand now and then ran over or supported his head, giving his hair habitually a disordered aspect."
Mr. Lincoln's indifference about dress did not improve his appearance. His old-fashioned "stovepipe hat" was as familiar an object around Washington as it49 was in Springfield, and his family and associates were unable to induce him to purchase a new one. He usually wore a suit of broadcloth with a long frock coat, the customary garments of the legal profession in the West and South in those days, and, instead of an overcoat, a gray shawl which was more than half the time hanging carelessly over one shoulder.
He enjoyed jokes at the expense of his personal appearance, and used to appropriate to himself this ancient incident which has been told of so many other ugly men. "In the days when I used to be on the circuit," he often said, "I was once accosted in the cars by a stranger, who said, 'Excuse me, sir, but I have an article in my possession which belongs to you.' 'How is that?' I asked, considerably astonished. The stranger took a jack-knife from his pocket. 'This knife,' said he, 'was placed in my hands some years ago with the injunction that I was to keep it until I found a man uglier than myself. I have carried it from that time until this. Allow me now to say, sir, that I think you are fairly entitled to the property.'"
Another of his stories about himself concerned a certain honest old farmer who, visiting the capital for the first time, was taken by the member from his "deestrick" to some large gathering at which he was told he could see the President. Unfortunately, Mr. Lincoln did not appear; and the Congressman, being a bit of a wag and not liking to have his constituent disappointed, pointed out a gentleman of a particularly round and rubicund countenance. The worthy farmer, greatly astonished, exclaimed, "Is that Old Abe? Well, I do declare! He's a better-looking man than I expected to see; but it does seem as if his troubles had driven him to drink."
One night Lincoln had a dream which he used to relate with great gusto to his friends and family. He said that he was in some great assembly and the crowd opened to let him pass. One of the multitude remarked,50 "He is a common-looking fellow," whereupon Lincoln turned and rebuked him, saying, "Friend, the Lord prefers common-looking people; that is why he made so many of them."
As is well known, Mr. Lincoln's nature sought relief in trying situations by recalling incidents or anecdotes of a humorous character. It was his safety-valve, and when his memory awakened the story he sought, there would be a sudden and radical transformation of his features. His face would glow, his eyes would twinkle, and his lips would curl and quiver. His face was often an impenetrable mask, and people who watched him when a perplexing question was proposed, or when he was in doubt as to his duty, could never interpret what was going on in his mind. He never declined to face any person, however annoying or dangerous, and this faith in his own strength sufficed to guide him through some of the severest trials that have ever fallen to the lot of a public man.
At times Mr. Lincoln stood almost transfigured, and those who were with him declare that his face would light up with a beauty as if it were inspired. When in repose it wore an expression of infinite sadness, which was due to his natural melancholy temperament as well as to the continual strain of anxiety and his familiarity with the horrors inseparable from war. There was no heart so tender for the sufferings and sorrows of the soldiers and their families in all the country, and he seemed to share the anguish of the broken-hearted mothers whose sons had fallen in battle or were starving in prison beyond his rescue. When death entered his own household his sorrow could scarcely be measured; his sympathetic soul yielded so often to importunities that his generals declared that he was destroying the discipline of the army. His own career had been an incessant struggle, a ceaseless endeavor, and his tenderness is traceable to impressions thus formed. No man51 ever occupied a similar position whose experience had been so closely parallel with that of the plain people he represented. Nowhere in all literature can be found a more appropriate or touching expression of sympathy than his letter to Mrs.
Bixby, of Boston, who, it was then supposed, had given :
"Dear Madam:—I have been shown, in the files of the War Department, a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic that they have died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
"Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
Mr. D. R. Locke (Petroleum V. Nasby), of whose writings he was so fond, said, "Those who accuse Lincoln of frivolity never knew him. I never saw a more thoughtful face, I never saw a more dignified face, I never saw so sad a face. He had humor of which he was totally unconscious, but it was not frivolity. He said wonderfully witty things, but never from a desire to be witty. His wit was entirely illustrative. He used it because, and only because, at times he could say more in this way and better illustrate the idea with which he was pregnant. He never cared how he made a point so that he made it, and he never told a story for the mere sake of telling a story. When he did it, it was for the purpose of illustrating and making clear a point. He52 was essentially epigrammatic and parabolic. He was a master of satire, which at times was as blunt as a meat-axe and at others as keen as a razor; but it was always kindly except when some horrible injustice was its inspiration, and then it was terrible. Weakness he was never ferocious with, but intentional wickedness he never spared."
One day the Hon. Thaddeus Stevens called at the White House with an elderly lady in great trouble, whose son had been in the army, but for some offence had been court-martialled and sentenced either to death or imprisonment at hard labor for a long term. There were extenuating circumstances, and after a full hearing the President said, "Mr. Stevens, do you think this is a case which will warrant my interference?" "With my knowledge of the facts and parties," was the reply, "I should have no hesitation in granting a pardon." "Then," returned Mr. Lincoln, "I will pardon him," and he proceeded forthwith to execute the paper. The gratitude of the mother was too deep for expression, save by tears, and not a word was said until half-way down the stairs, when she suddenly broke forth, in an excited manner,—
"I knew it was a Copperhead lie!"
"What do you mean, madam?" asked Mr. Stevens.