Sir: Having followed the fortunes of the federal government and people during the terrible war of the last four years with intense and undisguised sympathy, we cannot now refrain from expressing our profound and grateful joy in the magnificent triumph which has crowned the northern arms—a triumph which, in sealing forever the fate of the most infamous of rebellions, also pronounces the final doom of the foulest slavery the world has ever known. A triumph, not of arms merely, but of principles—the principles of “liberty, equality, and fraternity.” Alas, sir, that a nation’s joy should be so suddenly eclipsed—that a short-sighted malignity, born only of slavery, should rob the world of a man so true and noble-hearted, so just yet gentle, so sagacious and humane, as Abraham Lincoln. While, sir, we are shocked at this accursed deed, and execrate the foul conspiracy of which it formed but a part, we cease to be astonished when we remember that the history of the slave power is a history of crime and corruption, of satanic cruelty and baseness. Having first sought to murder liberty, we do not wonder that its guilt should culminate in the assassination of the great liberator. But, sir, though he dies, liberty survives! It lives in the aspirations of a race uprising from beneath the burden of centuries of wrong and misery. It is seen emerging from the dismal night of a dead past, rejoicing in its native air and the early morn of its redemption. The redeeming sacrifice has indeed been precious, but around its altar stand a chastened but disenthralled, a purified and ennobled people, who bow the head and exclaim with their martyred chief: “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether;” “For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
We rejoice, sir, that the control and governance of the great republic should in this crisis of its history have been committed to one who, by a long and honorable career of public service, by fidelity to constitutional law and moral conviction, has merited the entire confidence of the American people. In the presence of the manifold and great difficulties involved in a state of social and national transition, our congratulations upon your ascension to the presidential chair may fittingly assume the form of sincere desire and earnest hope that, endowed with wisdom and knowledge, strengthened by conscious rectitude and the love of truth, you may tread the future as firmly and as nobly as the past, maintaining justice, yet delighting in mercy, healing the nation’s wounds, and rebuilding her waste places, until “peace be in her walls, and joy in all her palaces, her cottages and halls.”
Accept, sir, for yourself and the American people, this assurance of our sympathy in your joy and in your grief, and of our best wishes for your prosperity and welfare, and for the maintenance and increase of our mutual amity and friendship.
Signed on behalf of the Preston Union and Emancipation Society:
His Excellency Andrew Johnson,
President of the United States.