The Story of Abraham Lincoln

by James Baldwin

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Chapter XV: The End of a Great Life

At the close of Mr. Lincoln's first term, he was again elected President of the United States. The war was still going on, but the Union arms were now everywhere victorious.

His second inaugural address was very short. He did not boast of any of his achievements; he did not rejoice over the defeat of his enemies. But he said:

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Five weeks after that, on the 9th of April, 1865, the Confederate army surrendered, and the war was at an end.

Abraham Lincoln's work was done.

The 14th of April was Good Friday. On the evening of that day, Mr. Lincoln, with Mrs. Lincoln and two or three friends, visited Ford's Theatre in Washington. At a few minutes past 10 o'clock, an actor whose name was John Wilkes Booth, came into the box where Mr. Lincoln sat. No one saw him enter. He pointed a pistol at the President's head, and fired. He leaped down upon the stage, shouting "Sic semper tyrannis! The South is avenged!" Then he ran behind the scenes and out by the stage door.

The President fell forward. His eyes closed. He neither saw, nor heard, nor felt anything that was taking place. Kind arms carried him to a private house not far away.

At twenty minutes past seven o'clock the next morning, those who watched beside him gave out the mournful news that Abraham Lincoln was dead.

He was fifty-six years old.

The whole nation wept for him. In the South as well as in the North, the people bowed themselves in grief. Heartfelt tributes of sorrow came from other lands in all parts of the world. Never, before nor since, has there been such universal mourning.

Such is the story of Abraham Lincoln. In the history of the world, there is no story more full of lessons of perseverance, of patience, of honor, of true nobility of purpose. Among the great men of all time, there has been no one more truly great than he.

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