“Now He Belongs to the Ages”

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At 7:22 a.m., April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was pronounced dead. Stanton’s concise tribute from his deathbed still echoes. “Now he belongs to the ages.

Quoted in David Donald, Lincoln, p. 599. As David Donald notes, witnesses thought they heard several variations of Stanton’s utterance, including “He belongs to the ages now,” “He now belongs to the Ages,” and “He is a man for the ages.” Donald, Lincoln, p. 686, endnote for p. 599 beginning “to the ages.”  (Quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin,“Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”,pp. 743 )

Instantly the news spread through the city. At eleven o’clock I was myself standing before the house in which Mr. Lincoln was lying. The crowd was rapidly increasing; squads of soldiers were coming, too, and soon formed in line on the pavement. At that moment all were silent, and no one exactly knew what had happened. Suddenly I heard Booth’s name muttered by the crowd: he was the assassin, it was said. A few minutes later we heard that Mr. Seward had been murdered at his house, and soon after rumors were current of similar deeds perpetrated upon Mr. Stanton and General Grant. Then the aspect of the crowd changed all of a sudden. Until then it had seemed panic-stricken; all at once it became infuriated. Everyone thought himself in the presence of mysterious enemies hidden in the darkness of night, and from whose murderous steel it became incumbent to save those who were yet alive.

The first floor of the house where Mr. Lincoln had just been carried was composed of three rooms, opening on the same corridor. It was in the third, a small room, that the dying man lay.

His face, lighted by a gasjet, under which the bed had been moved, was pale and livid. His body had already the rigidity of death. At intervals only the still audible sound of his breathing could be faintly heard, and at intervals again it would be lost entirely. The surgeons did not entertain hope that he might recover a moment’s consciousness. Judge William T. Otto, a thirty years’ friend of Mr. Lincoln’s, was standing at the bedside holding his hand; around the bed stood also the Attorney-General, Mr. Speed, and the Rev. Mr. Gurney, pastor of the church Mr. Lincoln usually attended.

Leaning against the wall stood Mr. Stanton, who gazed now and then at the dying man’s face, and who seemed overwhelmed with emotion. From time to time he wrote telegrams or gave the orders which, in the midst of the crisis, assured the preservation of peace. The remaining members of the Cabinet and several Senators and generals were pacing up and down the corridor. Thus the night passed on. At last, toward seven o’clock in the morning, the surgeon announced that death was at hand, and at twenty minutes after seven the pulse ceased beating.

Everyone present seemed then to emerge from the stupor in which the hours of night had been spent. Mr. Stanton approached the bed, closed Mr. Lincoln’s eyes, and drawing the sheet over the dead man’s head, uttered these words in a very low voice: “He is a man for the ages.

Quoted in Marquis de Chambrun [Charles Adolphe Pineton], “Personal Recollections of Mr. Lincoln,” Scribner’s 13 (January 1893)

In the dark night of another day of evil the most sorrowful heart by the bedside of the murdered President throbbed in the bosom of his Secretary of War, and his voice it was which spoke his grandest eulogy in the words, “There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen!

Lucius E. Chittenden,”Recollections of President Lincoln and his administration” P186.

2 thoughts on ““Now He Belongs to the Ages”

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