Proceedings of the City council of Providence on the death of Abraham Lincoln, with the oration delivered before the municipal authorities and citizens June 1, 1865 online

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O l^ A T 1 O N

JUAE 1, 1865,

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JUNE 1, 1865,





ABEAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States,
died in the city of Washington, on the 15th day of April,
1865, by the foul hand of assassination. The telegraph, which
had been flashing the joyful news of victory and the fall of the
rebellion, carried the tidings throughout the land. Deep sor-
row filled all hearts which had learned to resj)ect and then love
the pure patriot who had gone.

The Mayor of the City of Providence called a special meet-
ing of the City Council, on the j 7tli of April, and delivered
the foUowino: messase : —


Mayor's Ofi-ice, |

Providence, April 17tli, 1805. '

Gentlemen of the City Council : —

I have convened you, at this time, to take such action as you
may deem expedient, in reference to the great calamity that
has just fallen upon our nation. The President of the United
States has come to his death by the hands of an assassin.
History aflfords no parallel to this atrocious crime.

Abraham Lincoln, called for the second term, by the free
voice of the people, to be the guide of the nation's destiny,
while unceasingly devoting his term of service to its welfare.

4 Proceedings of the City Council

and knowing no policy, save that which should best secure its
prosperity, — exercising the powers of government at his com-
mand, solely for the restoration of the national authority, —
ever tempering justice with much mercy, — has fallen a victim
to the power that he was seeking to overcome with love.

The events of the past week have given rise to the feeling,
that although the dawn of peace seemed breaking and the dark
clouds of war seemed rolling away, yet our nation was really
in greater danger than at any previous time. The liberal terms
granted, upon its surrender, to the army under the command of
the second of arch traitors ; the indications that were being
manifested of a magnanimous treatment of men, guilty of the
blackest of crimes ; the feeling of generosity that was being
cultivated among the people of the North, towards the men
who had not only raised their hand against the government,
but who also visited upon its captured soldiers a line of treat-
ment unparalleled in the history of civilized warfare ; — these
were greater dangers than any we have yet encountered, and
they are only checked by a crime, whose baseness will astound
the world, and which clearly signifies that the power which
has instigated and carried on this wicked rebellion is capable
of any barbarity which will aid its infamous designs.

That Divine Providence, which through these years of trial
has strengthened and protected our President, upon which he
leaned with confidence and submission, and to which he looked
at all times for consolation and support, has, at the very hour
of his triumph, permitted his removal, and granted to him, as
to the Patriarch of old, only a distant view of the promised

Let us, in this hour of bereavement, trust in that same Prov-
idence, to guide us safely on as a nation, and to grant unto us
that the successor of him who hath been so suddenly removed
may be armed with power and might to drive our enemies out
from among us, and by a strong and vigorous policy, teach the
world and the generations yet to come, that treason against
such a government as ours is not to be rewarded with honor or

On the Death of Abraham Lincoln. 5

Since the death of the first President of the United States,
no man has passed away whose death has called forth such gen-
eral expressions of sorrow, and such universal lamentations, as
that of Abraham Lincoln. His honesty of pui-pose, his integ-
rity of character, his simplicity of heart, all endeared him to
the nation ; and the spontaneous bursts of grief from the stout-
est hearts are the evidences of the love and veneration in which
the loyal people held their chosen ruler. That one so kind and
gentle in his disposition should have died by the hand of the
murderer, a victim to the power of darkness, has stirred the
feelings of our citizens as they were never moved before.

Wednesday, the 10th instant, being the day designated for
the funeral of the venerated dead, I recommend that it be set
apart as a day of public mourning, and that a Committee of
your body be authorized to make arrangements for suitable ser-
vices on the occasion.


president of the common c0un( ie.

Mk. President : —

There are occasions in life when the human tongue, however
eloquent, has an opportunity to learn its utter feebleness.
There are griefs of which the only palliatives are silence and
reflection. There are crises in the life of the nation, when the
soul of every man, prostrated by the perception of gloom on
every hand, turns in upon itself, and is paralyzed by the con-
sciousness of an equal sympathetic gloom within ; and when
feeling, with the force of an instinct, bids us to commune with
ourselves and be still. I need not say, Sir, that this is such an
occasion ; and did I listen to my own desires, no word of mine
should intrude between the thoughts of any in this assembly,
and their own convictions of our terrible calamity. But, Sir,

6 Proceedings of the City Council

I do not forget that the privileges which are allowed to indi-
viduals must be abandoned, when, however humble, they stand
as representatives of the community in which they live ; or that
propriety and decency demand that the spontaneous sorrow
of the members should have an opportunity to crystalize itself
into the more formal grief of the body politic. It is for this
reason, and because this Council is the formal representative of
the citizens of Providence, that I address you these few words.
Before the fatal year of 1861 had dawned upon this country,
the present generation of men had known but few such epochs
as those to which I have alluded ; but in the four long years
which since then have passed over our land, — at times irradia-
ting it with the full brilliancy of sunlight, and at times covering
it with a thick impenetrable cloud, — your own memory will
suo-fTcst but too many instances. I need but recall the
bewilderment which brooded on every face when the news
of our first great defeat fell on us like a thunder-bolt from the
clear sky ; or to that day when we learned slowly and by
fragments that all the struggles of the Peninsula, its bloody
battles, its weary marches, its patient watchings, the un-
yielding faith of its heroic army, were as yet all in vain ;
and that the host which had listened to the bells of Rich-
mond as they beleaguered it, now beaten and crushed back,
could send us no brighter bulletin than temporary safety
on the banks of the James. I could point you to that day,
when, with beating hearts, we almost counted the footsteps of
an insolent enemy marching on to our very capital, and when
we scarcely dared to breathe, until Antietam gave us courage.
I could point you to that cloud which, rising behind the AVil-
derness and Chancellorsville, swept noi'thward until it burst
upon the hillside of Gettysburg, and though it burst in blood
upon that consecrated spot, yet there, rolled back its torn and
emptied bulk and came no farther. But, Sir, be your memory,
never so retentive of the vicissitudes of these slow rolling years,
I feel that you will agree with me that in all their sorrowful
record they can show us no such day as the fifteenth day of
A])ril IBl)'). Then, for the first time, the nation began to see

On the Death of Ann aha m Lincolx. 7

the dawning of an abiding peace. Victory after victory had
ghiddencd our ears. The chief army of the rebellion was cap-
tive to that army which had so long watched and fought it.
Bonfires and torches all over the land gave expression to the
general hilarity ; when, in an instant, upon the stillness of that
tranquil morning, the ai)palling news crashed over us, that our
President had been assassinated — that that great and jrood
man, that man dear to our hearts beyond all other men, that
man precious to the nation beyond all other men, was rapidly
dying, if not dead, and this, too, at the hands of a rebel assassin.
Sir, he is dead, and it is around his mangled but peaceful re-
mains that the nation is pouring out unpurchasable tears. In
the presence of such a mysterious and such an immeasurable
calamity, it cannot be expected that we should rightly appre-
ciate what it is that we have lost. This is not the time, nor
are mine the lips, to tell what that man was to this nation,
much less to utter any conjecture of what, in the Providence of
God, he might have been. If we desire his portrait Ave can
find it shrined in the grateful hearts of millions of freemen,
both white and black, all over this land. If we desire to know
what he has done, we can look around. Look not only here to
this community, whose soil was never tainted by the foot of an
armed rebel, and where peaceful industry has been permitted to
create its blessings in unexpected plenty, but look over our con-
tinent : we can behold that majestic river of the West again offer-
ing its broad bosom as the highway for a nation of freemen ; Ave
can see enfranchised Maryland, liberated Louisiana, free Mis-
souri, the Atlantic seaboard opened to a peaceful commerce from
one end of our domain to the other ; Ave can see a purged Consti-
tution ; Slavery transformed from a hideous fact into a ghastly
but harmless memory ; a disintegrated Confederacy ; its Con-
gress fugitives, its arch traitor a A^agabond in the land ; or
again we can behold the flood of love pouring from a grateful
nation tOAvard that man, and SAVclling back to every human
beino' in it from the fullness of his oAvn jjjreat heart. And if avc
will venture into the future, Ave may behold that sagacious,
kindly nature, harmonizing, arranging, re-adjusting a restored

8 Proceedings of the City Council.

government, and then administering it, in the principles of
obedience to God and love to man. Then, sir, if we have the
heart to do it, we can turn and look upon that silent corpse.
It seems to me, Mr. President, that the humblest man in the
nation may feel what the most eloquent never can express.

I have said already too. much, or too little. I have the honor
to offer for the adoption of this Council the resolutions which
I hold in my hand, and which, with the permission of the chair,
I will read.

Mr. Binney offered the following resolutions, which were
unanimously adopted by both boards of the City Council : —


PASSED APRIL 17, 1865.

Whereas, Under every dispensation of an AH Wise and
Merciful God, the only attitude for a Christian people is that of
truthful submission.

Resolved^ That we, the City Council of the City of Provi-
dence, representing a loyal and a Christian community, do bow
our hearts before Almighty God, under the crushing blow
which he has permitted us to receive, and that we humbly im-
plore Him who maketh rulers, and unmaketh them at Plis will,
to be henceforth in an especial manner, the Ruler, Guide and
Governor of our sorrow stricken land.

Resolved, That in the death of the late President of the
United States, at this crisis of their destiny, we endure the
culminating calamity of our nation. In his murder, we behold
the crowning infamy of our age. Yet, " though perplexed we
arc not in despair ; though cast down we are not destroyed ;
and over his yet unburied body, we renew our allegiance to
the great cause for which he lived, and pledge a deathless
opposition to the rebellion at whose felon hand, he died.

Resolved, That so long as patriotism shall be accounted a
virtue ; so long as untarnished honesty, unflinching courage, a

On the Death of Abraham Lincoln. 9

life-long devotion to duty, and the sacrifice of life in its de-
fense, can wake an echo in the soul ; while a thoughtful and
sagacious intellect can claim the admiration of man, or a blame-
less life challenge his respect ; while firmness that reverses
cannot shake, nor slander dissolve, shall merit his praise, or the
consciousness of benefits confessed awaken his gratitude and
love ; so long shall the name and memory of Abraham Lincoln
be consecrated in the hearts and history of this preserved and
grateful nation.

Resolved^ That in this awful crime at which humanity stands
aghast, we see the familiar features of that rebellion whose
hell-given energies have so long desolated our land. It was
not enough to delude the nation with the sophistries of per-
verted intellect, to corrupt it with the poison of a baneful ex-
ample, to insult it with the arrogance of a more than Pagan
barbarism. It has demanded the nation's life, and has wielded
the sword, the torch, and the dagger, with undiscriminating
and congenial joy. Surging forth upon a peaceful land, with
Slavery as its new Gospel of conquest, it has, for four long
years, defied the clemency of God and the authority of human
law. Unnumbered battle-fields retain tlic victims of its open
warfare ; the bones of sixty thousand of our brethren starved
in its prisons, attest the infamy of its secret decrees ; the mid-
night ocean has grown lurid with the flames of its piracies ;
and now, in the hour of its prostration, when the Majesty of
the Republic had well nigh crushed its organized strengtli, the
most precious life of our people has gone out before the pistol
of its assassins. An outraged nation must henceforth regard
the friends of fetich a rebellion as the enemies of the Imman

Resolved, That we tender to the aflflicted widow and family
of our late President, our most earnest and heartfelt sympathy
in this their terrible calamity. Bereaved for the nation, they
should be, and we feel that henceforth they are, the Nation's

Resolved, That for him who is now the President of the Uni-
ted States, and upon whom this darkest villany of rebellion has

10 Proceedings of the City Council

laid the responsibility and duty of its complete extinction, we
invoke the protection and the blessing of God, and the loyalty
and confidence of our fellow-countrymen. May his mind be
enlightened, his courage sustained, his hand strengthened, and
his efforts directed and prospered in the great work before him ;
until, in the full success of a stable peace, a united nation, and
a vanquished and extirpated treason, he and the whole people
may live to enjoy that great blessing for which the loved and
lamented Lincoln prayed and toiled and died.

Resolved, That His Honor the Mayor be, and he is hereby,
requested to transmit a copy of the resolutions just passed to
the President of the United States, asking him to communi-
cate the same to the family of the deceased.

Mr. Coggeshall offered the following resolutions, which
were also adopted : —


Resolved, That Messrs. Metcalf, Coggeshall, Gladding,
Whitaker, Parkhurst, Robbins and Thomas, with Aldermen
Jones and Lester, be appointed a committee to make such ar-
rangements as may seem to them advisable in commemoration
of the sad event that has fallen upon this nation.

Resolved, That said committee be authorized to draw on
the City Treasurer for such sum of money as may be required
to defray the expenses of a proper expression of the love and
respect which this community bear to the memory of the late
President of the United States.

Under and pursuant to the aforegoing resolutions, the Com-
mittee of Arrangements issued the following notice : —

0^' THE Death of Abraham Lincoln. 11



The following arrangements have been made for the observ-
ance of Thursday, June 1st, by the City Government, through
the Committee ap])ointed for that purpose.

A procession will be formed from the Council Chamber,
under the direction of the City Marshal, at 3J o'clock, r. m.,
in the following order : —

Detachment of Police.


Committee of Arrangements.

Orator of the Day and Officiating Clergymen.

City Marshal.
His Honor the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

Members of the Common Council.

City Clerk and Clerk of the Common Council.

City Officers.

His Excellency the Governor and Staff.

Militia Officers, General, Regimental, Line and Staff.

His Honor the Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State.

Attorney General, State Auditor and General Treasurer.

United States Senators and liepresentatives.

Officers of the United States Army and Navy.

Retired Officers of the United States Army and Navy.

Judges of State Courts and Clerks.

District Judge, Attorney, Clerk and Marshal.

Officers of the Customs and Post Office Department.

Members of the State Legislature.



Members elect of the City Government.

Members of the School Committee.

12 Proceedings of the City Council

Superintendent of Public Schools, and Grammar Masters.

Clergymen of the City and vicinity.

President and Officers of Brown University.

President and Officers of all Civic Bodies.

The procession will march to the Beneficent Congregational
Church, on Broad street, where an Oration will be delivered
by the Hon. William Binney, and appropriate services will be
held, commencing at 4 o'clock.

Persons intending to join the procession will meet at the
Council Chamber at 3 o'clock p. m.


JUNE 1, 1865.

E. A. Kelley, Organist and Music Director.

1. Voluntary on the Organ. Funeral March. Battiste.

2. Chorus. Columbia Mourns Neukomm.

Columbia, mourn ! His course is o'er; the brave, the mighty is no more!
Mourn, Columbia! let all your streams of sorrow flow. We have sinned; we
fell; we scorned our God! He died beneath the assassin's rod. O day of bit-
terness! O day of woe! Mourn, Columbia! Mourn!

3. Reading the Scriptures.

4. Quartette Spohr.

Blest are the dei)arted who in the Lord are sleeping.

o. Prayer.

<i. Chorus for men's voices. "Integer ViT^." Flcniinfj^

On the Death of Abraham Lincoln. 13

" He who is uprisht, kind, and free from errors,
Seeks not tlie aid of men to K"^rd him ;
Calmly he moves, untouched by guilty terrors,
Strong in his virtues.

"Tranquil and peaceful is his path to heaven,
Where, in the brightness of the Saviour's presence,
Souls of the martyrs, purified by suflF'ring,
Wait to receive him.

"Leader and martyr, fallen in his armor!
Lives yet our Captain, strong is our salvation,
Fails not our victory, dies not the nation, —
Christ our deliv'rer."

7. Oration, by William Binney, Esq.

8. Chorus. " I HEARD A Voice." . . . E. A. Kelley.

"I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me. Write, from henceforth
blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labors, and
their works do follow them."

9. Concluding Prayer.

10. Hymn, by O. W. Holmes.

Music— 0\A) HUNDKBD.

O Lord of Hosts! Almighty King!

Behold the sacrifice we bring!
To every arm Thy strength impart,
Thy Spirit shed through every heart.

Wake in our breasts the living fires,
The holy faith that warmed our sires:
Thy hand hath made our nation free ;
To die for her is serving Thee .

God of all Nations! Sovereign Lord!
In Thy dread name we draw the sword,
We lift the starry flag on high,
That fills with light our stormy sky.

No more its flaming emblems wave
To bar from hope the trembling slave;
No more its radiant glories shine
To blast with woe a child of Thine.

From treason's rent, from murder's stain,
Guard Thou its folds till Peace shall reign,—
Till fort and field, till shore and sea,
Join our loud anthem, Pkaise to Thee !

11. Benediction.


CJ) ii \ T i O N .

My Fellow Citizens : —

WHEN a human life is transferred from this world,
how seldom do we apprehend what has been
done. Revelation assures us that for one immortal
being, a catastrophe has been reached, more portentous
than the dissolution of a world. Instmct and reason
assent to the truth. Some momentary palpitations
warn us of its import for ourselves, but the influence is
feeble and evanescent. Here and there in retired spots,
there is a pause. In isolated homes, there are a few
sorrowing hearts. A few eyes drop bitter tears, a few
prayers press up to God from the depths of a heaving
breast, a corpse remains to be reverently committed to
the earth, and the minister of God repeats his words of
warning or of resignation. But the great aggregate
of humanity advances in its solemn progress, scarcely
conscious that an atom has been withdrawn from its
bulk. The numberless activities of man are unrestrained.
Ambition glows with unslackened fire, toil struggles
with the same anxiety, science explores with undiverted
attention, thought and fancy soar with unrestricted
sweep, and the very mourners make haste to resume
their places in the moving throng.

1« OliATION.

That majestic ocean current which borders our land
moves ever on its destined course. From all sides, it is
dissolving into the cold abyss which environs it, but the
lightnings flash about it, the vapor exhales from it, and
it presses onward tempering a continent, its energies
the unconscious ministers of the Almighty's love.

To the law which controls its movement there is no
interruption, but that which humanity obeys is happily
more yielding. Hence it is, that when the life with
which we part has been conspicuous above its fellows,
from whatever cause ; when the lustre of position, the
splendor of talent, the radiance of virtue, or the glare of
wealth, has fixed the eyes of men upon some unit of their
number, we do for a moment stop. We turn our gaze
from what is, to what has been ; and consent to ask of
death, what life is. Yet the pause, at most, is brief

But should there come a time when millions swell
the note of lamentation, and the sun sets and rises
again upon an unsubsided sorrow ; should we perceive
the ordinary pursuits of a nation suspended, its usual
interests laid aside, its common topics abjured ; and did
we hear the throbbing of unnumbered hearts in the
solemn unison of griefj we might feel assured that we
then beheld humanity in the rarest and most majestic
of its attitudes.

Such a spectacle the American nation has but recently
exhibited. If the deepest melancholy has surrounded
it, it has yet been full of a gracious benediction. Like
all great blessings, it has been purchased with a sacrifice,
and the price we have paid for it has been our choicest

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Online LibraryUnknownProceedings of the City council of Providence on the death of Abraham Lincoln, with the oration delivered before the municipal authorities and citizens June 1, 1865 → online text (page 1 of 4)