On the 8th of April, 1865, near Hopewell, Virginia, at the mouth of the Appomattox River and some ways north of the smoldering fires of Petersburg, Abraham Lincoln’s steamer began its return trip to Washington D.C. quietly confident in the coming peace.
On the second day of the trip, while Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. Robert E. Lee were negotiating terms of surrender, Lincoln read “Macbeth” to the small party aboard ship. On one passage in particular, Lincoln lingered. In fact, he read it twice aloud:
Duncan is in his grave;
After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well;
Treason has done his worst; nor steel, nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing
Can touch him further.
I do not think Lincoln was so relieved in his hour of victory as to consider his moment magically secured from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. He knew to fear the Ides of April as much as the Ides of March. But like any just man, he knew the hope of rest and the promise of peace hereafter.
Our lovely night here is ended, and we can sleep well knowing that our father Lincoln has found his rest. So let us raise a parting glass, and let us pray that we may have Lincoln’s courage: to avoid the fantasy of false peace; his wisdom: to see the peaceful rest that waits us beyond this world; and his wit, to earn that peace as we defeat all “Malice domestic,” all “foreign levy,” and all “Treason” against Nature and Nature’s God, and against the United States.
Lincoln is in his grave; he sleeps well; nothing can touch him further.