Wednesday, April 15, 2015

covering the assassination of abraham lincoln, toronto-style

Abraham Lincoln, 1863
April 15, 1865: the front page of the Globe featured its usual assortment of classifieds and diplomatic dispatches from Great Britain and elsewhere. It also contained the latest news from Hamilton, publication notices for two books, and an article offering advice from a former Torontonian on moving to California. Nothing particularly earth-shattering.

Not so the headline halfway down the first column of page 2:

Globe, April 15, 1865.
The Globe then outlined what it knew about the events at Ford's Theatre the previous evening, and gave this description of Lincoln's condition:
The President was in a state of synops, totally insensible and breathing slowly. The blood oozed from the wound at the back of his head. The surgeons used every possible effort of medical skill, but all hope was gone. The parting of his family with the dying President is too sad for description.
In a separate incident, an attempt was made on the life of Secretary of State William H. Seward, which led to fears for his life.

After stories about a warm greeting given to politicians George Etienne Cartier and Alexander Tilloch Galt in Halifax, and a flood in Montreal, the paper published an editorial about Lincoln and Seward. An excerpt:
In the absence of information as to the author of these bloody deeds, the class to which they belonged and the motives which influenced them, we are left entirely to conjecture. But it is not difficult to arrive at a probable conclusion on these points. Mr. Lincoln was remarkable for his kindliness, generosity, and uprightness. He was one of the last men we should have expected to see struck down by the hand of a private enemy. No harsh exercise of authority against an individual was at all likely to have led to his assassination. To an enemy of his public career, to one who was prompted by a desire to kill the President rather than the man, we must loo for the author of the bloody deed. The act was thoroughly pre-arranged; it was not that of a madman. The preparations for escape prove that fact...That a fanatical Southerner was the author of this deed will be the conclusion of almost everybody, and the object not difficult to discover. Mr. Lincoln is unquestionably the ablest statesman whom Providence has vouchsafed to the American people in the midst of their great struggle. His sagacity, his prudence, his firmness, and above all, his honesty, which compelled popular support and sympathy, made him a tower of strength amidst the tossing waves of the revolution.
William H. Seward
The paper had reservations about Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson:
The anxiety for his safety was unquestionably sharpened by the fact that the Vice-President, Mr. Johnson, is far from being, in all respects, worthy to fill Mr. Lincoln's place. His fiasco at the inauguration ceremonies is still fresh in the memories of our readers.* Mr. Johnson was chosen by the Republican Convention at Baltimore last year, simply as a compliment to the loyal people of the Southern States. He was unquestionably the ablest representative of a slave State who adhered to the Northern cause with entire devotion, and in their eagerness to show friendliness to loyal Southerners, the Republicans forgot that other qualities were wanting in the man of their choice besides fidelity and talent...Mr. Johnson is a self-made man, and we need hardly say that any one who rises from the workman's bench to the place of United States senator must possess great qualities both of head and heart. It is alleged that the conclusion which might have been drawn from his recent escapafe in the Senate Chamber as to his habits was erroneous. He is said to be a very honest, straightforward man, with much of the roughness of the Westerner which marked Jackson and Lincoln, and also a large share of their shrewdness and sagacity. Mr. Johnson is called to a great position at an important crisis, and we hope he may prove worthy of it. In one important respect he is all that could be desired. Casting aside early prejudices, he is a friend of emancipation and warmly sympathizes with the coloured race.
Then, the final summaries:
As a friend of peace on this continent we regret the loss of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, if it be decreed that both shall die. Mr. Lincoln was too wise to have been a party to a war with European powers and Mr. Seward, strong as was his language at times, is believed to have been throughout a true friend of England and of peace...The whole world will be shocked by these frightful deeds, and the cause in support of which they were undertaken will gain only a temporary benefit from them.

Front page story, Globe, April 17, 1865.
Following the usual Sunday publishing break, the Globe returned on April 17 with the death of Lincoln as its front page story. Reaction from across America was provided to readers.

Excerpt from page 2, Globe, April 17, 1865.
Page 2 provided further updates, including the news that Seward would recover. He continued on as Secretary of State in the Johnson administration. Among his later accomplishments: the treaty bearing his name which made Alaska an American possession in 1867.

* Johnson was reputedly hung over on inauguration day. His cure was more whiskey. He gave a rambling, nearly incoherent speech in the Senate Chamber as the opening act for Lincoln's second inaugural address.

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