Here's how Imperial Russia reacted to Abraham Lincoln's assassination

Alexander Mikhailovich GorchakovPublic DomainPrince Alexander Mikhailovich Gorchakov

Abraham Lincoln was shot 150 years ago today while attending a performance of the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC.

Struggling to hold onto life, Lincoln would ultimately die from a head wound at 7:22 am on April 15.

Within a day of Lincoln’s death, condolences began to pour in from the major world leaders of the time. The Office of the Historian of the Department of State has digitalized and kept on record the outpouring of grief after Lincoln’s death.

One of the more amazing responses to the assassination came from Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Gorchakov, Russia’s foreign minister from 1856 — 1882.

Following news of the assassination, Gorchakov sent his immediate condolences on behalf of Imperial Russia to both US ambassador Cassius Marcellus Clay and to Russian ambassador Eduard de Stoeckl, who later negotiated the purchase of Alaska.

According to the State Department, Gorchakov’s following message to Stoeckl was sent from St. Petersburg between April 16 to 28:

Sir: The telegraph has brought ns [sic] the news of the double crime of which the President of the United States has fallen a victim and Mr. Seward [the secretary of state] 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 realise in advance the impression which the news of this odious crime will cause his Imperial Majesty to experience.

I have hastened to testify to General Clay the earnest and cordial sympathy of the imperial cabinet with the federal government.

Please to express this in the warmest terms to President Johnson, adding thereto our most sincere wishes that this new and grievous trial may not impede the onward march of the American people toward the re-establishment of the Union, and of that concord which is the source of its power and of its prosperity.

Receive, sir, the assurance of my very distinguished consideration.

The following message was sent from Gorchakov to US ambassador Clay between April 16 and 28:

Sir: Although the absence of his Majesty the Emperor makes it impossible for me to obtain and communicate to you the expression of the sentiments which my august master would have felt at the news of the foul crime to which the President of the United States has just fallen a victim, and which Mr. Seward has barely escaped, I did not wish to delay in testifying to you the lively and profound sympathy of the imperial cabinet for the federal government in this new trial which Providence had reserved for it. I have asked our minister at Washington to communicate it to the Vice-President, Mr. Johnson. Will your excellency transmit it to him, together with our sincere wishes that this abominable crime will not hinder the progress of the American nation toward the establishment of the Union and of peace, which are the pledges of its power and its prosperity?

Will your excellency be pleased to accept the assurance of my most distinguished consideration?

h/t Miriam Elder

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