From The Works of John Greenleaf Whittier: Old Portraits and Modern Sketches
DEATH OF PRESIDENT JAMES GARFIELD
Danvers, Mass., 9th Mo., 24, 1881
I regret that it is not in my power to join the citizens of Amesbury and Salisbury in the memorial services on the occasion of the death of our lamented President. But in heart and sympathy I am with you. I share the great sorrow which overshadows the land; I fully appreciate the irretrievable loss. But it seems to me that the occasion is one for thankfulness as well as grief.
Through all the stages of the solemn tragedy which has just closed with the death of our noblest and best, I have felt that the Divine Providence was overruling the mighty affliction,—that the patient sufferer at Washington was drawing with cords of sympathy all sections and parties nearer to each other. And now, when South and North, Democrat and Republican, Radical and Conservative, lift their voices in one unbroken accord of lamentation; when I see how, in spite of the greed of gain, the lust of office, the strifes and narrowness of party politics, the great heart of the nation proves sound and loyal, I feel a new hope for the republic, I have a firmer faith in its stability. It is said that no man liveth and no man dieth to himself; and the pure and noble life of Garfield, and his slow, long martyrdom, so bravely borne in view of all, are, I believe, bearing for us as a people "the peaceable fruits of righteousness." We are stronger, wiser, better, for them.
With him it is well. His mission fulfilled, he goes to his grave by the Lakeside honored and lamented as man never was before. The whole world mourns him. There is no speech nor language where the voice of his praise is not heard. About his grave gather, with heads uncovered, the vast brotherhood of man.
And with us it is well, also. We are nearer a united people than ever before. We are at peace with all; our future is full of promise; our industrial and financial condition is hopeful. God grant that, while our material interests prosper, the moral and spiritual influence of the occasion may be permanently felt; that the solemn sacrament of Sorrow, whereof we have been made partakers, may be blest to the promotion of the righteousness which exalteth a nation.