May 3, 1865
At the recent session of the Grand Jury of Hancock county the following resolutions and respose of Judge Caldwell were ordered to be published:
Circuit Court of Hancock County, W. Va.,
April 18, A. D, 1865.
The Grand Jury in attendance at this term of this Circuit Court through their foreman, Hon J. H. Atkinson, presented to the Court their action in reference to the death of the President, which is ordered to be entered upon these minutes, to wit:
Resolved, That as a Grand Jury, for the county of Hancock, we desire to united with the loyal men of this country in an expression of sorrow over the said calamity which has befallen us as a nation. Never perhaps in the history of the world has such a fearful tragedy taken place. We mourn to-day a murdered President. An assassin hand, has taken away our Chief Executive. But last week this nation was rejoicing over the glorious victories which had crowned our brave soldiers with glory; over the disenthrallment of patriots from Southern treason, as they came back in crowds to welcome the old flag that is to wave over the prospect of returning peace. To day the land is covered with mourning and filled with lamentations over the murder of our President at the moment he was holding out the olive branch to thousands who had forfeited their lives to the jaws of our country. In this hour we would counsel forbearance, and while we would desire that the majesty of the laws may be maintained, we would remember that vengeance belongeth to the Lord.
Resolved, That we request from Hon. E. H. Caldwell, Judge of this Court, a copy of his address this day delivered to this Grand Jury for publication, and that the editor of the Wellsburg Herald be requested to publish the same, with these resolutions in his next issue.
A true copy teste,
Dan’l Donehoo, Clerk.
Hancock County, W. Va.
Gentlemen—It has been just cause of congratulation, during the rebellion, that our loyal citizens have been singularly free from a spirit of revenge although the provocations to it have been very great. The utter wantonness of the rebellion, its evil principle and purpose, have greatly lacerated the nation’s heart. Yet, all the time, while that heart ached with anguish and throbbed with intense indignation it has not counseled revenge.
This spirit predominant during the nation’s st[r]uggle for existence, had only the more decidedly manifested itself in the hour of victory. We all rejoiced in it, believing it to be the result of a universal, Christian sentiment. It is in harmony also with the moral laws of our being, that the spirit of hatred and revenge should be on the side of the wrong doer. Let a man injure you and you may be sure of his subsequent hatred. The aggressor must be vindictive in spirit. The wronged may be forgiving and magnanimous.
The public press had sounded the keynote of forgiveness and magnanimity.—Few, if any, would have had it otherwise. But notwithstanding this wide spread, manly, Christian feeling, and at the time every one was rejoicing over the prospect of a speedy end of this sanguinary war, the nation’s heart is sadly stricken.—The hand of the ruthless assassin, without provocation, struck down the Executive head of the nation—the upright Magistrate, a man remarkable for his honesty of purpose, and who all along this terrible strife, manifested, in so eminent a degree, a spirit of kindness and forgiveness towards his enemies—those in arms against the authority of the Federal government. In his death, these erring people and their sympathizers, have lost their best friend.
I would not conceal revenge, we have had enough of blood, but the future is full of apprehension; other hellish crimes may be perpetrated, who can restrain the just resentment of an outraged people, in the hour of a nation’s grief from the sacrifice of her best citizens, upon the altar of this unhallowed rebellion; the rebellion itself is a great sin. It is proper perhaps to forgive even so great iniquity. But it is wrong to forgive it in such a manner as to diminish a sense of its enormity. We shall not act in a true line of moral duty unless we forgive this awful crime in such a manner and at the same time to show its hideous and fearful wrong.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: April 1865