Mr. Sanford to Mr. Seward

No. 261.]

Sir: His royal highness the Count de Flanders sent to me yesterday one of his officers of “ordnance” to express in his name his condolence on the untimely death of the President. I also received in the afternoon a private note from M. Rogier, expressive of his sentiments, of which, as he refers to it in public debate, I venture to enclose a copy, A. I replied to it by a few lines of thanks.

In the House of Representatives, this afternoon, M. Hardy de Beaulieu, a member of the extreme left, moved, in accordance with previous notice, for an expression of feeling at the late tragic event at Washington. He was followed and warmly seconded by the late Canon de Hearne, of the “conservative” party, who is the author of a widely disseminated pamphlet on our war, and is an ardent friend of the cause of the Union, and by M. Rogier, who announced that he adopted on the part of the government the views just expressed, and that he [Page 83] hoped the House would join in the expression of his desire for the recovery of the eminent statesman, Mr. Seward, to whose existence was attached, in so great a degree, the definitive pacification of the country for too long a time desolated by war; and, after rendering homage to the moderation which he had displayed, the minister expressed the hope “that they might one day rejoice over the restoration of his health, at the same time with the re-establishment of peace between the fractions of a great people whom they admired, and who had always had their sympathies, and which he hoped would take again in the world the great part which is assigned to it.” All which, interrupted by frequent marks of approval by the members, was declared by the president to be the unanimous sentiment of the House.

I enclose the report of the same from the Moniteur, (B.)

I wrote to thank M. Hardy de Beaulieau and the Canon de Hearne for initiating this expression of opinion by the House, and transmit (C) copies of my letters to them.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, &c., &c., &c.



My Dear Minister: While I transmit to Washington the expression of the sentiments of the government of the King, on account of the horrid crime perpetrated upon your venerable President, I must inform you of our astonishment at the sad news that has resounded through the entire country, and beg you to be the medium of our sentiments to your government.

I also take the liberty of asking you to have the kindness to be my interpreter with the family of Mr. Seward, for whom I have always professed a particular regard. The news given by the papers leave some hope for the recovery of the eminent statesman; and it is my dearest wish that he may be restored to perfect health, and give peace to a country so long desolated by the calamities of a war greatly to be deplored by all friends of liberty.

Accept, my dear minister, the new assurance of my very high and affectionate consideration.

CH. ROGIER, Minister of Foreign Affairs.



Motion in order.

Mr. Le Hardy de Beaulieu. Gentlemen: You were all horrified three days ago on hearing of the assassination of the President of the United States. You all felt that it was not only the chief of a free nation that was struck down, but at the same time it was law, the safeguard of all, and I may say civilization itself; for there is no longer any personal security when political passion substitutes brutal action for the protective power of law. I have thought it becoming, gentlemen, for us not to let this occasion pass without the expression of our painful sentiments.

I will not give you the history of the eminent man who is no more: he sprung from the humblest ranks of society, and elevated himself by labor and industry, when the American nation, with that acumen that rarely fails an intelligent people in important emergencies, chose him as a guide to direct it through a dangerous situation, where a formidable insurrection had placed it.

You all know, gentlemen, what difficulties Mr. Lincoln had to overcome.

Confronted by a portion of the nation that rebelled against the laws they themselves had made, he did not falter once in his patriotic duty. In the most perilous circumstances, in face of all kinds of dangers, external and internal, he was always calm, and, I may even say, benevolent to his bitterest enemies.

After gigantic efforts, after a struggle of four years, Mr. Lincoln at last reached the close of that most bloody contest on American soil, and the greatest troubles of his life seemed over. [Page 84] He had already expressed the sentiments of conciliation that animated him—it was in his last message, his political testament—when the assassin’s bullet struck him in the back of the head, and laid him low.

I cannot foretell the consequences of that crime, so horrid that no terms are strong enough to condemn it; all I can say is, that the parliament of a free nation like Belgium would fail in its duties of international confraternity, if it did not express its feelings of horror and regret at a crime that has robbed a great and generous nation of its eminent Chief Magistrate.

In expressing these sentiments, we confirm the unanimous wishes that the deplorable loss may not deprive the American nation of that calmness which is necessary to finish the great work of conciliation and pacification which Mr. Lincoln had so nobly begun. I am done.

Mr. de Hearne. I agree with my honorable colleague in the sentiments he has expressed, and I am persuaded that the feeling of horror produced by this sad news from America is felt not only in this house, but in every quarter of the globe. Yes, gentlemen, we feel the greatest indignation at this political crime that has plunged a great people in the deepest mourning, but has not discouraged it, we must hope; for the great President, who was the victim of the barbarous and cowardly act, has set an example which his successors should follow for the good of the nation they represent and the enlightenment of a free people.

The dreadful catastrophe that has thrown America into the greatest consternation and has appalled the world contains a great lesson for the people, particularly when contrasted with the victories that had rejoiced the American Union only a few days before.

On Palm Sunday the news of General Lee’s capitulation was announced in most of the cities of the United States—on that day consecrated to the Prince of Peace, as an American paper expresses it—and on Good Friday Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward were attacked by barbarous assassins. And this recalls a profound remark of the august and holy pontiff Pius IX, who, speaking of the many vicissitudes of his reign, said: “Truly, Good Friday is very near to Palm Sunday!”

The people of the Union who were identified with their chief, particularly after the last presidential election, were morally immolated with him, after enjoying the national triumph, to which Mr. Lincoln added glory by his moderation.

The nation is plunged in grief, but hope will resurrect her from the gloom, like the Prince of peace and glory. This grand and terrible lesson of misfortune to the people and their governments will prove a valuable instruction by the spirit of conciliation bequeathed them by their worthy President, as a mysterious pledge of future prosperity, the secret of which is hidden in their past glory.

If there is a nation that ought to sympathize with America in its grief on this occasion, that nation is Belgium; for we are the only nation that has remained faithful in spirit to traditional rights, and followed America from the foundation of her political establishment and her liberal institutions. Yes, gentlemen, we looked upon England, on the one hand, as worthy of imitation in the march of progress, in the path of true and practical liberty; but, at the same time, we were conscious that there were certain customs in the institutions of that country we could not adopt, and we cast our eyes beyond the Atlantic, where we found a great people worthy of entire imitation; and it is the institutions of that people we have chiefly inscribed upon our organic charter, We have followed their example in all that regards public liberty, the distribution of power, the election of representatives, and decentralization of rule. For that reason, I say that Belgium ought to sympathize with America by expressions of horror and indignation, such as all civilized nations feel, and protest against the act of barbarism that has stained the soil of America with the last mournful trace of expiring slavery, which has now vanished before the vivifying breath of modern civilization.

The sentiments manifested in this house are felt throughout all Europe: England has protested through Parliament; France has spoken by the mouth of her Emperor; Prussia by her legislative assembly, where all the members rose to declare that the infamy of the horrid act deserved the condemnation of all civilized nations. We must also do homage to the man who was the victim of that atrocious crime—to the man who, as the honorable Mr. de Beaulieu has truly said, sprung from the people to adorn a nation, and, like certain popes, came from the lowest ranks of society to be the greatest honor to the church.

Lincoln was a self-made man; he drank from the spring of liberty; he was guided by the light of a democratic nation; and merit elevated him to the highest dignities of the country.

He has set a worthy example, which his successor ought to follow, relying on the support of public opinion, which should be his constant guide, never to be abandoned or opposed.

That, gentlemen, should be his greatest honor, which, united with his firmness and wise impartiality, will mark him a place in history.

In joining other civilized nations in our protest against this political crime, we do a good deed; by our participation in the sentiment of universal indignation, we help to arrest the contagion of an abominable example that might attack other nations.

By outlawing monsters guilty of such crimes, we terrify those who might be tempted to commit them.

Mr. Rogier, minister of foreign affairs. It is useless for me to say, gentlemen, that the government participates in the sentiments so eloquently expressed by the two honorable members of this assembly, entertaining different political sentiments. Our government [Page 85] sympathizes with the bereaved nation, and has transmitted the expressions of its sorrow to the government of the United States and their honorable representative in Brussels.

The motion just made is new to Belgium; but it has been made elsewhere, and the importance of the event justifies it. I consider the sympathy expressed in the speeches of the honorable Mr. de Beaulieu and Mr. l’Abbé”de Hearne as the unanimous opinion of the House; and thus the legislative assembly joins the government in the regrets felt and expressed on the occasion of a crime that has filled Belgium and the rest of the world with dismay.

We must also express our wishes for the recovery of the eminent statesman who was attacked at the same time with the venerable President of the republic. His life must be preserved to insure the final pacification of a splendid country too long desolated by the calamities of a war afflicting to all friends of true liberty.

May that great statesman, now burdened with a heavy duty, persevere in the sentiments of moderation he has always shown through the excitement of the great struggle, and may we soon hear of the restoration of his health and the return of peace between the factions of a great people whom we admire, who have always had our sympathies, and who will soon resume their exalted station in the world.

The President of the House. Gentlemen: As no objection is offered, it is now decided that this house is unanimous in its approval of the sentiments just expressed by the two honorable members, whose speeches you have just heard.


Mr. Sanford to M. de Beaulieu

My Dear Sir: I write to thank you for initiating in the House of Representatives, yesterday, the expression by it of its horror and regret at the last rebel atrocity which has brought to an untimely end our loved Chief Magistrate. I could not doubt that the national representatives of liberal Belgium would give public token to its appreciation of this crime, and of its sympathy for a sister nation, and I thank you again for having elicited it.

Yours truly,


Monsieur Hardy de Beaulieu, Representant de Peuper, &c., &c.


Mr. Sanford to M. le Chanoine

Cher Monsieur le Chanoine: I cannot allow the words you uttered in the House of Representatives yesterday, in the reprobation of the last infamous act of an expiring rebellion, and of sympathy for the cause of the United States, to pass without writing to thank you for them. I have known you too long as one of the most ardent and best-informed defenders of the cause of right, justice, and liberty, against this atrocious attempt to overthrow free institutions in America for the benefit of slavery, not to be certain that your voice would be raised on such an occasion, and that your words would find echo not only in the chambers, but in the country. Certainly, as you say in your speech, if there is any nation which ought to associate itself with our mourning in these circumstances, it is Belgium, whose institutions have been in so large part formed upon our own; and I am happy to testify to you, as one of the originators of this expression of horror, regret, and sympathy by the House, the satisfaction it has given me, and which I know will be shared by all loyal people in my country; and I pray you at the same time to accept the assurance of my cordial regard.


Monsieur le Chanoine de Hearne, Representant du people, &c., &c., &c.