Mill’s Reaction to the Assassination

During the Civil War, the British philosopher and economist J. S. Mill wrote extensively in support of the North. In “The Contest in America” (1862), Mill argued: “The world knows what the question between the North and South has been for many years, and still is. Slavery alone was thought of, alone talked of. Slavery was battled for and against on the floor of Congress. . . . on the Slavery question exclusively was the party constituted which now rules the United States; on slavery Fremont was rejected, on slavery Lincoln was elected; the South separated on slavery, and proclaimed slavery as the one cause of separation.” This letter was written four days after news of Lincoln’s assassination appeared in the Times of London.

I have rec’d. the Portrait of your lamented President which you & Mr. Marshall have kindly sent me. I could scarcely have rec’d. anything from your Country that would have given me more pleasure. I shall value it greatly as a token of the friendly feeling you bear to me, & as a grand historic portrait of a man for whose character & memory I feel a profound veneration. He taught the United States & the world that a love of truth & a high morality are the main qualities of real statesmanship, & this is a lesson which many of the public men of all Countries have yet to learn.