Rollin, Frank [Frances] A.
|CHAPTER XXIV. -- THE NATIONAL CALAMITY.|
None in all the land can forget when the telegraph flashed the fearful news upon. But if there was sorrow felt by one class more than another, we must look to the freedmen of the South, to whom the name of Lincoln and the government meant one and the same -- all justice and goodness.
On the morning of the 18th of April (communications being so irregular then), the beauty of the morning and the surroundings seeming to charm the senses, happiness came upon many a hitherto scowling face, while a sense of returning forgiveness seemed to hover above the rebellious city, and the once in frequented streets began to give evidence of returning life. The major and a friend were in King Street, when they were met by a captain, who, stepping from his buggy to the sidewalk, entered into a conversation: in the midst of it they were interrupted by a soldier, breathlessly running towards them, holding in his hand a paper, exclaiming, "My God! President Lincoln is assassinated!"
"No! no! it can't be so!" replied the captain.
"Some hoax," interposed the major, on seeing the heading of the New York Herald; but the trembling
Any description, however graphic, would fail to convey an idea of the feelings produced, as the fatal tidings circulated. If every man of secession proclivities had been put to the sword, every house belonging to such burnt to the ground, the Unionists would hardly have interfered, and would not have been surprised. The only cause for wonderment was, that there was not a scene of fire and slaughter. At the major's quarters, where, his unfeigned sorrow he had sought retirement, he was forced to show himself to the excited people; for while the Unionists generally were aroused to a point of doubtful forbearance, the intense grief, excitement, and anxiety of the new freedmen knew no bounds. The white men of undefined politics, and known secessionists, wisely avoided the blacks, or kept within doors. The avenging torch at one period seemed imminent, but the outstretched hands of reason spared the city once more. There was to the casual observer nothing extraordinary in the outward demonstration, perhaps, but a strong under-current was madly coursing along, threatening destruction to every opposing barrier. Doubtless but for the presence of the black major, whom they sought instantly, and whose influence over them was powerful, there would have been a most lamentable state of confusion, so determined were they to avenge the death of their friend. Some of these
An order was issued by the military for public mourning. The famous Zion's Church was the most tastefully draped, remaining thus for one year, the military using whatever they could command in the tradeless city, the secessionist such as was required by law, while the mourning of the new freedmen presented an incongruity in many instances extremely touching. Flags made of black cloth were nailed against the dwelling-houses, or floated from their roofs. Their black flags were intended as mourning, not as defiance.
Major Delany, in these sad days, was not unemployed. Already had he devised some tangible and practical evidence by which the colored people could demonstrate their appreciation and reverence for the memory of the martyred president. The following is an extract from a letter to the Anglo-African of April 20. We doubt whether any plan for a monument was originated previous to this.
"A calamity such as the world never before witnessed --a calamity the most heart-rending, caused by the preparation of a deed by the hands of a wretch the most infamous and atrocious --a calamity as a humiliating to America as it is infamous and atrocious--has suddenly brought our country to mourning by the untimely death of humane, the benevolent, the philanthropic, the generous, the beloved, the able, the wise, great, and good man, the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln the Just. In his fall a mighty chieftain and statesman has passed away.
"I suggest that, as a just and appropriate tribute of respect and lasting gratitude from the colored people of the United States to the memory of President Lincoln, the Father of American Liberty, every individual of our race contribute one cent , as this will enable each member of every family to contribute, parents paying for every child, allowing all who are able to subscribe any sum they please above this, to such national monument as may hereafter be decided upon by the American people. I hope it may be in Illinois, near his own family residence.
"This penny or one cent contribution would amount to the handsome sum of forty thousand ($40,000) dollars, as a tribute from the black race (I use the generic term), and would not be at all felt; and I am sure that so far as the South is concerned, the millions of freedmen will hasten on their contributions."
The following design for the monument he proposed was communicated to the same journal a month later. He, also, through the same medium, suggested that a gold medal be given to Mrs. Lincoln, as a tribute from the colored people to the memory of her noble husband. He still hopes that the suggestion concerning the medal may find favor among the colored people, and it would be more appropriate if it could be executed by a colored artist.
I propose for the National Monument, to which all the colored people of the United States are to contribute each one cent, a design, as the historic representation of the humble offering of our people. On one side of the base of the monument (the sooth side for many reasons would be the most appropriate, it being the south from which the great Queen of Ethiopia came with great offerings to the Temple at Jerusalem, the south from which the Ethiopian Ambassador came to worship to Jerusalem, as well as the month from which the greatest part of our offerings come to contribute to this testimonial) shall be an urn, at the side of which shall be a female figure, kneeling on the right knee, the left thigh projecting horizontally, the leg perpendicular to the ground, the leg and thigh forming the angle of a square, the body erect, but little inclined over the urn, the face with eyes upturned to heaven, with distinct tear drops passing down the face, falling into the urn, which is represented as being full; distinct tear-drops shall be so arranged as to represent the figures 4,000,000( four million ), which shall be emblematical not only of the number of contributor to the monument, but the number of those who shed tears of sorrow for the great and good deliverer of their race from bondage in the United States; the arms and hands extended--the whole figure to represent "Ethiopia trenching forth her hands unto God." Adrapery is to cover the whole figure, thrown back, leaving the entire arms and shoulders bare, but drawn up under the arms, covering the breast just to the verge of the swell below the neck, falling down full in front, but leaving the front of the Jane, leg, and foot fully exposed. The lower part of the drapery should be so arranged behind as just to expose the sole of the right foot in its projection. The urn should be directly in front of the female figure, so as to give the best possible effect to, or view of, it. This figure is neither to be Grecian, Caucasian, nor Anglo-Saxon, Mongolian nor Indian, but Africa -- very African--an ideal representative genius of the race, as Europe, Britannia, America, or the Goddess of Liberty, is to the European race.
Will not our clever mutual friend, Patrick Reason, of New York, sketch the outlines of a good representation of this design? This is to be prominently carved or moulded in whatever material the monument is erected of. Let the one-cent contribution at once commence everywhere throughout the United States. I hope the Independent, and all other papers friendly, especially the religious and weeklies, will copy my article published in the Anglo-African of the 13th of May; also this article on the design.
In behalf of this great nation,
Major 104th U.S.C.T.