No Sorrow like Our Sorrow: Northern Protestant Ministers and the Assassination of Lincoln

By David B. Chesebrough | Go to book overview

4
The Demand for Justice

We have lost all sentiment of clemency. -- ROBERT LOWRY

PRIOR TO LINCOLN'S assassination, the Northern preachers had been divided as to how the South, most especially its leaders, should be treated after the war. Many wanted stern judgment and appropriate punishments; others spoke of the need for mercy, forgiveness, and conciliation; and several took no strong positions at all on the matter. The assassination seemingly altered the degree of division by bringing about a more homogeneous attitude among Northern preachers, an attitude that demanded swift, harsh, and certain justice.

Robert Lowry, an Episcopalian from New York City, spoke of the unity the assassination had brought to the North. "See the effect on the people of this dastard blow," he said. "We are melted down into unity.... We have lost all sentiment of clemency." A number of preachers spoke of this change in attitude. Samuel C. Baldridge, of the Presbyterian Church of Friendsville, Illinois, commented that "The current of a credulous sympathy was beginning to flow towards the ruined Traitors. Since they had not succeeded in destroying the government, we were falling into the absurdity of pitying them for their want of success and their misfortunes. This murder, perpetrated in their behalf, and by their inspiration, has violently checked the tide." Morgan Dix spoke of the change the assassination had wrought in his own personal attitudes. Prior to April 14, he believed the Southern civilization was based upon "the principles of Christianity and that the moral condition of the people is not below that of the rest of civilized mankind." For Dix, Lincoln's murder changed that charitable point of view. "But now," he charged, "the thing is to be determined -- the truth is to be made plain -- in the red and bloody light of this cruel and bloody outrage." Denis Wortman also preached of the change in Northern sentiments: "For one, I doubt

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No Sorrow like Our Sorrow: Northern Protestant Ministers and the Assassination of Lincoln
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - A Nation Grieves 1
  • 2 - The Character of Abraham Lincoln 16
  • 3 - Responsibility for the Assassination 41
  • 4 - The Demand for Justice 53
  • 5 - The Assassination As an Act of Providence 66
  • 6 - Sermon Conclusions 79
  • Conclusion 90
  • Appendix 112
  • Notes 139
  • Bibliography 149
  • Index 196
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