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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFrom Canal Boy To President; Or, The Boyhood And Manhood Of James A. Garfield - Chapter 34. The Tragic End
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From Canal Boy To President; Or, The Boyhood And Manhood Of James A. Garfield - Chapter 34. The Tragic End Post by :66319 Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :2314

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From Canal Boy To President; Or, The Boyhood And Manhood Of James A. Garfield - Chapter 34. The Tragic End

CHAPTER XXXIV. THE TRAGIC END

I should like to end my story here, and feel that it was complete. I should like with my countrymen to be still looking forward with interest to the successful results of an administration, guided by the experienced statesman whose career we have followed step by step from its humble beginnings. But it can not be.

On the second of July, in the present year, a startling rumor was borne on the wings of the lightning to the remotest parts of the land:

"President Garfield has been assassinated!"

The excitement was only paralleled by that which prevailed in 1865, when Abraham Lincoln was treacherously killed by an assassin. But in this later case the astonishment was greater, and all men asked, "What can it mean?"

We were in a state of profound peace. No wars nor rumors of war disturbed the humble mind, and the blow was utterly unexpected and inexplicable.

The explanation came soon enough. It was the work of a wretched political adventurer, who, inflated by an overweening estimate of his own abilities and importance, had made a preposterous claim to two high political offices--the post of Minister to Austria, and Consul to Paris--and receiving no encouragement in either direction, had deliberately made up his mind to "remove" the President, as he termed it, in the foolish hope that his chances of gaining office would be better under another administration.

My youngest readers will remember the sad excitement of that eventful day. They will remember, also, how the public hopes strengthened or weakened with the varying bulletins of each day during the protracted sickness of the nation's head. They will not need to be reminded how intense was the anxiety everywhere manifested, without regard to party or section, for the recovery of the suffering ruler. And they will surely remember the imposing demonstrations of sorrow when the end was announced. Some of the warmest expressions of grief came from the South, who in this time of national calamity were at one with their brothers of the North. And when, on the 26th of September, the last funeral rites were celebrated, and the body of the dead President was consigned to its last resting-place in the beautiful Lake View Cemetery, in sight of the pleasant lake on which his eyes rested as a boy, never before had there been such imposing demonstrations of grief in our cities and towns.

These were not confined to public buildings, and to the houses and warehouses of the rich, but the poorest families displayed their bit of crape. Outside of a miserable shanty in Brooklyn was displayed a cheap print of the President, framed in black, with these words written below, "We mourn our loss." Even as I write, the insignia of grief are still to be seen in the tenement-house districts on the East Side of New York, and there seems a reluctance to remove them.

But not alone to our own country were confined the exhibitions of sympathy, and the anxious alternations of hope and fear. There was scarcely a portion of the globe in which the hearts of the people were not deeply stirred by the daily bulletins that came from the sick couch of the patient sufferer. Of the profound impression made in England I shall give a description, contributed to the New York _Tribune by its London correspondent, Mr. G.W. Smalley, only premising that the sympathy and grief were universal: from the Queen, whose messages of tender, womanly sympathy will not soon be forgotten, to the humblest day-laborers in the country districts. Never in England has such grief been exhibited at the sickness and death of a foreign ruler, and the remembrance of it will draw yet closer together, for all time to come, the two great sections of the English-speaking tongue. Were it not a subject of such general interest, I should apologize for the space I propose to give to England's mourning:

"It happened that some of the humbler classes were among the most eager to signify their feelings. The omnibus-drivers had each a knot of crape on his whip. Many of the cabmen had the same thing, and so had the draymen. In the city, properly so called, and along the water-side, it was the poorer shops and the smaller craft that most frequently exhibited tokens of public grief. Of the people one met in mourning the same thing was true. Between mourning put on for the day and that which was worn for private affliction it was not possible to distinguish. But in many cases it was plain enough that the black coat on the workingman's shoulders, or the bonnet or bit of crape which a shop-girl wore, was no part of their daily attire. They had done as much as they could to mark themselves as mourners for the President. It was not much, but it was enough. It had cost them some thought, a little pains, sometimes a little money, and they were people whose lives brought a burden to every hour, who had no superfluity of strength or means, and on whom even a slight effort imposed a distinct sacrifice. They are not of the class to whom the Queen's command for Court mourning was addressed. Few of that class are now in London. St. James' Street and Pall Mall, Belgravia and May Fair are depopulated. The compliance with the Queen's behest has been, I am sure, general and hearty, but evidences of it were to be sought elsewhere than in London.

"Of other demonstrations it can hardly be necessary to repeat or enlarge upon the description you have already had. The drawn blinds of the Mansion House and of Buckingham Palace, the flags at half-mast in the Thames on ships of every nationality, the Stock and Metal Exchanges closed, the royal standard at half-mast on the steeple of the royal church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields; the darkened windows of great numbers of banking houses and other places of business in the city itself--of all these you have heard.

"At the West End, the shops were not, as a rule, draped with black. Some of them had the Union Jack at half-mast; a few the Stars and Stripes in black with white and black hangings on the shop fronts. The greater number of shop-keepers testified to their association with the general feeling by shutters overhanging the tops of the windows, or by perpendicular slabs at intervals down the glass. Some had nothing; but in Regent Street, Bond Street, St. James' Street, and Piccadilly, which are the fashionable business streets of the West End, those which had nothing were the exception. The American Legation in Victoria Street, and the American Consulate in Old Broad Street, both of which were closed, were in deep mourning. The American Dispatch Agency, occupying part of a conspicuous building in Trafalgar Square, had nothing to indicate its connection with America or any share in the general sorrow.

"In many private houses--I should say the majority in such streets as I passed through during the day--the blinds were down as they would have been for a death in the family. The same is true of some of the clubs, and some of the hotels. The Reform Club, of which Garfield is said to have been an honorary member, had a draped American flag over the door.

"To-day, as on every previous day since the President's death, the London papers print many columns of accounts, each account very brief, of what has been done and said in the so-called provincial towns. One journal prefaces its copious record by the impressive statement that from nearly every town and village telegraphic messages have been sent by its correspondents describing the respect paid to General Garfield on the day of his funeral. These tributes are necessarily in many places of a similar character, yet the variety of sources from which they proceed is wide enough to include almost every form of municipal, ecclesiastical, political, or individual activity. Everywhere bells are tolled, churches thrown open for service, flags drooping, business is interrupted, resolutions are passed. Liverpool, as is natural for the multiplicity and closeness of her relations with the United States, may perhaps be said to have taken the lead. She closed, either in whole or in part, her Cotton Market, her Produce Markets, her Provision Market, her Stock Exchange. Her papers came out in mourning. The bells tolled all day long.

"Few merchants, one reads, came to their places of business, and most of those who came were in black. The Mayor and members of the Corporation, in their robes, attended a memorial service at St. Peter's, and the cathedral overflowed with its sorrowing congregation. Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, Glasgow, Bradford, Edinburgh were not much behind Liverpool in demonstrations, and not at all behind it in spirit. It is an evidence of the community of feeling between the two countries that so much of the action is official. What makes these official acts so striking, also, is the evident feeling at the bottom of this, that between England and America there is some kind of a relation which brings the loss of the President into the same category with the loss of an English ruler.

"At Edinburgh it is the Lord Provost who orders the bells to be tolled till two. At Glasgow the Town Council adjourns. At Stratford-on-Avon the Mayor orders the flag to be hoisted at half-mast over the Town Hall, and the blinds to be drawn, and invites the citizens to follow his example, which they do; the bell at the Chapel of the Holy Cion tolling every minute while the funeral is solemnized at Cleveland. At Leeds the bell in the Town Hall is muffled and tolled, and the public meeting which the United States Consul, Mr. Dockery, addresses, is under the presidency of the acting Mayor. Mr. Dockery remarked that as compared with other great towns, so few were the American residents in Leeds, that the great exhibition of sympathy had utterly amazed him. The remark is natural, but Mr. Dockery need not have been amazed. The whole population of Leeds was American yesterday; and of all England. At Oxford the Town Council voted an address to Mrs. Garfield. At the Plymouth Guildhall the maces, the emblems of municipal authority, were covered with black At Dublin the Lord Mayor proposed, and the Aldermen adopted, a resolution of sympathy.

"In all the cathedral towns the cathedral authorities prescribed services for the occasion. I omit, because I have no room for them, scores of other accounts, not less significant and not less affecting. They are all in one tone and one spirit. Wherever in England, yesterday, two or three were gathered together, President Garfield's name was heard. Privately and publicly, simply as between man and man, or formally with the decorous solemnity and stately observance befitting bodies which bear a relation to the Government, a tribute of honest grief was offered to the President and his family, and of honest sympathy to his country. Steeple spoke to steeple, distant cities clasped hands. The State, the Church, the people of England were at one together in their sorrow, and in their earnest wish to offer some sort of comfort to their mourning brothers beyond the sea. You heard in every mouth the old cry, 'Blood is thicker than water.' And the voice which is perhaps best entitled to speak for the whole nation added, 'Yes, though the water be a whole Atlantic Ocean.'"

In addition to these impressive demonstrations, the Archbishop of Canterbury held a service and delivered an address in the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, on Monday. Mr. Lowell had been invited, of course, by the church wardens, and a pew reserved for him, but when he reached the church with his party half his pew was occupied.

"The Archbishop, who wore deep crape over his Episcopal robes, avoided calling his discourse a sermon, and avoided, likewise, through the larger portion of it, the purely professional tone common in the pulpit on such occasions. During a great part of his excellent address he spoke, as anybody else might have done, of the manly side of the President's character. He gave, moreover, his own view of the reason why all England has been so strangely moved. 'During the long period of the President's suffering,' said the Archbishop, 'we had time to think what manner of man this was over whom so great a nation was mourning day by day. We learned what a noble history his was, and we were taught to trace a career such as England before knew nothing of.'

"Among the innumerable testimonies to the purity and beauty of Garfield's character," says Mr. Smalley, "this address of the Primate of the English Church surely is one which all Americans may acknowledge with grateful pride."

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