Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Not advertised on matchbooks

I've been reading Manhunt: The 12-day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. Fascinating stuff, but author James L. Swanson renders a famous quote in a way I'd never heard before. When Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton was told that Lincoln had died, Swanson says, Stanton uttered the words, "Now he belongs to the angels."

To the angels? In everything I've ever read about the assassination it's always been, "Now he belongs to the ages."

In his notes Swanson gives this somewhat sketchy explanation: " Most accounts of Lincoln's death quote Stanton as saying that Lincoln belongs to the 'ages,' not the 'angels.' In my view, shared by Jay Winik, the most persuasive interpretation supports 'angels' and is also more consistent with Stanton's character and faith."

Yeah, I know, who gives a Flying Wallenda. But it's important. Stanton was a hardcase, and I don't think he'd have used the word "angels" like some candyass fruitcake who took Diane Cooper's Angels Correspondence Course.

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