back to top

The 9 Most Heartfelt Responses From Foreign Leaders To Lincoln's Assassination

Lincoln's death lead to an outpouring of sincere — and loquacious — grief from countries around the world.

Posted on

After President Abraham Lincoln was shot in the Ford Theatre on April 15, 1865, it fell to American diplomats around the world to gather the condolences.

The end of the Civil War just prior to the assassination was also commented on in a lot of the correspondence passed on, some of which is dated weeks or months after Lincoln's death. The U.S. didn't have a minister — the term "ambassador" wasn't used as freely then — in every country then, leaving the countries left out to convey their respects through their minister to wherever an American was actually stationed.

The State Department has gathered all of them in a browsable collection, giving us the opportunity to look through and marvel at not only how wordy the diplomats of 1865 could be but also see how they paid their respects to the recently deceased president.

The telegraph has brought us the news of the double crime of which the President of the United States has fallen a victim and Mr. Seward barely escaped.The blow which has struck Mr. Lincoln, at the very moment when he seemed about to harvest the fruits of his energy and perseverance, has been deeply felt in Russia.Because of the absence of the Emperor I am not in a position to receive and transmit to you the expression of the sentiments of his Imperial Majesty. Being acquainted, nevertheless, with those which our august master entertains toward the United States of America, it is easy for me to realize in advance the impression which the news of this odious crime will cause his Imperial Majesty to experience.
Identified as are the people of the republic of Liberia, over whose national affairs I am, in the providence of God, at present presiding, with millions of their race in America, and being so sensibly and gratefully impressed with a knowledge of the numerous favors directly and indirectly received from the United States government, first in their struggle to gain these shores from oppression, and then in their efforts to establish here a home and build up a negro nationality this side of the waters for themselves and their children after them, it were impossible for them to be indifferent to the grave events now taking place in that country.They have been looking, and continue to look, with intense anxiety and concern upon those events. They have been duly impressed with just views of the great contest now going on in America between truth and error, between liberty and oppression, and have longed to see the contest cease, and a bright day of peace dawn upon that land, scattering far and wide the dark cloud which has for many years been hanging so portentously over it. They have ardently wished that both the originating cause of the unhappy civil discord now distracting a great people, and every circumstance contributing fuel to keep it at such heat and proportions as the world has witnessed and heartily lamented, could be forever done away.These were some of their sincere desires and cherished hopes; and they were consoling themselves in the belief that they should soon realize them.But when they received the distressing intelligence of the death of President Lincoln, that able Chief Magistrate, who had for four long, consecutive years, and under the severest mental anguish, been defending the cause of liberty, and endeavoring to open "the prison to them that are bound," that the prisoners might go free, their hearts were saddened, and they could not suppress the deep sorrow they felt at so mournful and sad an event, and now more than before they sympathize with the American nation in the deep troubles it is at this time experiencing. They record their deep grief at the loss it has sustained in the death of so indulgent, kind, liberal, and fatherly chief as it found in President Lincoln, and I feel that I can assure you, sir, of the sympathy of these people of Liberia for yourself, and of their unfeigned hope that you will be fully sustained by the great God of nations in the execution of the mighty duties devolving upon you, and in the prosecution of the great undertaking now before you.
Praise to the only God![...]Rendering due honor to the distinguished office and to the high character of your excellency, we make known to you that his Highness our august sovereign ceases not to entertain for your government an abiding and ever increasing friendship and regard, the cause of which is your admirable conduct and your noble policy. His Highness has received the news of the re-establishment of peace and tranquillity in your great country. This news has afforded him unmeasured satisfaction; and sincere friendship makes him share with you the pleasure consequent upon this happy result and great event.To this end, then, his Highness sends to your government the honorable, the beloved, the elect, General Otman Hashem, to express to the President his sincere felicitations, and also to express to the President the heartfelt grief which his Highness experienced at the death of the lamented President, Abraham Lincoln, which sad event wounded all our hearts. We pray God that this may be the end of trials and misfortunes to your beloved country. His Highness also sends with his ambassador his portrait, to serve as a souvenir of his friendship, as stated in his letter.
The Sultan, my august sovereign, has learned with profound affliction the mournful news of the cruel death of President Lincoln, and of the wounding of the Secretary of State, and I have been commanded to convey to you an expression of the regrets of his Imperial Majesty.I need not state to you, sir, how much the imperial government, in its character of sincere friend of the United States, is interested in their prosperity, and how great has been the sorrow which this event has occasioned.Be pleased, sir, to accept assurances of my high consideration.
At the conference I had yesterday with J. Watson Webb, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from the United States of America, I manifested to him the great sorrow caused by the information of the dreadful crime perpetrated in Washington, on the 14th of last month, on the person of his Excellency the Honorable Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.It is my painful duty now to tender to General Webb, in the name of the government of his Imperial Majesty, the expressions of the feelings with which it finds itself overwhelmed. The imperial government, with the highest severity, condemns an act so criminal as the one which has for its victim the Chief Magistrate of the Union; and it comprehends the infinite pain thus inflicted upon American citizens, with whom ours so sincerely sympathize, in consequence of the close relations of the two countries.With the hope that General Webb will be pleased to convey this sincere manifestation to the knowledge of his government, I have the honor to reiterate the assurances of my perfect esteem and distinct consideration.
The Peruvian minister at Brazil has the honor to address himself to his excellency General Webb, minister plenipotentiary of the United States, in order to express to him the great sorrow with which he has received the news of the tragic death of the very excellent Abraham Lincoln, that powerful nation's President.Wounded to death by a fanatic's weapon, when he finished to surround himself with the purest glory, at a final victory of the redemption war which he conducted as far as his arm reached, the pain of his martyrdom, the feeling of his loss, and the mourning of the North American people will reach every christian soul, every freeman, every civilized people, and especially the Peruvians and their government, who, closely connected with the Union's people and their government, and sympathizing with that great upholder of human dignity, will lament his death more than they perhaps applauded his victories.
We also received the day before yesterday the news of the total defeat of the confederate army on the 9th of April. The great pleasure this news afforded us was marrred by the very sad impression which the shocking intelligence of President Lincoln's assassination produced upon us. That great misfortune has profoundly impressed me, as Mr. Lincoln, who worked with so much-earnestness and abnegation for the cause of nationality and freedom, was worthy of a better fate than the poniard of a coward assassin. I do most earnestly hope that Mr. Seward's wounds would not be mortal, and that his son, too, may have been saved. I beg of you to pay a private visit to Mr. Seward in my name, expressing to him my grief for the misfortunes befallen upon him, and my best wishes for his speedy and complete recovery.
I had the honor yesterday to receive your excellency's communication informing me that the President of the United States had been removed by death, an announcement that inexpressibly shocked and startled me. But, as you add that on the same day the Vice-President succeeded to the position without any disturbance, and the assassin had been arrested, so that the affairs of government were going on quietly as usual, I hope that these considerations will alleviate your grief at the event, and you will be able to attend to public business.I shall be pleased to embody the particulars connected with this event in a memorial to his Majesty, and thereby evince the cordial relations which now exist between our countries, which is the purpose of sending the present reply.
Now the citizen President ad interim has ordered the sympathies of the people and government of Venezuela to be reiterated to the United States of America for the loss it has just experienced. Those crimes, atrocious in all their circumstances, and which demonstrate on the part of their authors the extremity of wickedness, unavailing to the object which they propose to themselves, if any, always condemned by universal opinion, even when they may seem pardonable by causes of great magnitude, acquire extraordinary proportions on this occasion, in which a virtuous man, tenacious of the fulfilment of his duty, and who triumphantly sustained the cause of the Union and the extirpation of slavery in the great democracy of the New World, fell by the hands of an infamous perfidy.Formed by himself in the practical school of life, and amidst the severities of fate, his deserts were the result of his own effort, and through them he twice reached the presidency of the American federation. The integrity, the moderation, the energy with which he discharged that office in the most calamitous times of his country, contending with obstacles of every kind, which his sagacity foresaw and his ability overcame, will ever do honor to his political qualities and to the country which produces such men; and his opinions, permanently inimical to slavery, which in the end he succeeded in seeing suppressed by a constitutional amendment now very nearly consummated, place him among the benefactors of his fellow-creatures. All these talents, if, on the one hand, they assign to him an eminent position in the estimation of his contemporaries and of posterity, on the other hand, but redouble the grief for his death, and of the attempt which, adding to the injuries of nature those of human wickedness, increased the dangers of the wise statesman who, in so high a degree, was the sharer of his toils and measures, and which were extended even to his Assistant Secretary.The government of the United States of Venezuela which, scarcely installed, commissioned a minister to Washington to represent the sympathies of this federation to that of the North, during the cruel trials through which it was passing, by using his efforts to cultivate the friendship, and multiplying the relations of both countries, proves itself faithful to its antecedents, if it to-day equally participates in the grief of that nation for the loss of its President, snatched from life when about to reach the end of his hopes and toils, and condemns an offence which the unanimous opinion of the present generation will transmit to the future ones under the appellation of execrable.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.