By Henry J. Raymond
MR. LINCOLN'S SADNESS.
Many persons formed their impressions of the late President from the stories in circulation attributed to him, and consequently supposed him to have been habitually of a jocund, humorous disposition. There was this element in his nature in a large degree, but it was the sparkle and ripple of the surface. Underneath was a deep undercurrent of sadness, if not melancholy. When most depressed, it was his way frequently to seek relief in some harmless pleasantry. I recollect an instance related to me, by a radical member of the last Congress. It was during the dark days of 1862. He called upon the President early one morning, just after news of a disaster. Mr. Lincoln commenced telling some trifling incident, which the Congressman was in no mood to hear. He rose to his feet, and said, "Mr. President, I did not come here this morning to hear stories; it is too serious a time." Instantly the smile disappeared from Mr. Lincoln's face, who exclaimed, "A-----, sit down! I respect you as an earnest, sincere man. You cannot be more anxious than I am constantly, and I say to you now, that were it not for this occasional vent, I should die!"
It has been the business of my life to study the human face, and I have said repeatedly to friends that Mr. Lincoln had the saddest face I ever attempted to paint. During some of the dark days of the spring and summer of 1864, I saw him at times when his care-worn, troubled appearance was enough to bring tears of sympathy into the eyes of his most bitter opponents. I recall particularly one day, when, having occasion to pass through the main hall of the domestic apartments, I met him alone, pacing up and down a narrow passage, his hands behind him, his head bent forward upon his breast, heavy black rings under his eyes, showing sleepless nights--altogether such a picture of the effects of sorrow and care as I have never seen!
"No man," says Mrs. Stowe, "has suffered more and deeper, albeit with a dry, weary, patient pain, that seemed to some like insensibility, than President Lincoln." "Whichever way it ends," he said to her, "I have the impression that I shan't last long after it is over."
After the dreadful repulse of Fredericksburg, he is reported to have said: "If there is a man out of perdition that suffers more than I do, I pity him."
The Honorable Schuyler Colfax, in his funeral oration at Chicago, said of him:--
"He bore the nation's perils, and trials, and sorrows, ever on his mind. You know him, in a large degree, by the illustrative stories of which his memory and his tongue were so prolific, using them to point a moral, or to soften discontent at his decisions. But this was the mere badinage which relieved him for the moment from the heavy weight of public duties and responsibilities under which he often wearied. Those whom he admitted to his confidence, and with whom he conversed of his feelings, knew that his inner life was checkered with the deepest anxiety and most discomforting solicitude. Elated by victories for the cause which was ever in his thoughts, reverses to our arms cast a pall of depression over him. One morning, over two years ago, calling upon him on business, I found him looking more than usually pale and careworn, and inquired the reason. He replied, with the bad news he had received at a late hour the previous night, which had not yet been communicated to the press--he had not closed his eyes or breakfasted; and, with an expression I shall never forget, he exclaimed, 'How willingly would I exchange places to-day with the soldier who sleeps on the ground in the Army of the Potomac!'"
He may not have looked for it from the hand of an assassin, but he felt sure that his life would end with the war long ago. "He told me," says a correspondent of the Boston Journal, "that he was certain he should not outlast the rebellion." It was in last July. As will be remembered, there was dissension then among the Republican leaders. Many of his best friends had deserted him, and were talking of an opposition convention to nominate another candidate; and universal gloom was among the people.
The North was tired of the war, and supposed an honorable peace attainable. Mr. Lincoln knew it was not--that any peace at that time would be only disunion. Speaking of it, he said: "I have faith in the people. They will not consent to disunion. The danger is, they are misled. Let them know the truth, and the country is safe." He looked haggard and careworn; and further on in the interview I remarked on his appearance, "You are wearing yourself out with work." "I can't work less," he answered; "but it isn't that--work never troubled me. Things look badly, and I can't avoid anxiety. Personally I care nothing about a re-election, but if our divisions defeat us, I fear for the country." When I suggested that right must eventually triumph; that I had never despaired of the result, he said, "Neither have I, but I may never live to see it. I feel a presentiment that I shall not outlast the rebellion. When it is over, my work will be done."