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Abraham Lincoln 

An Address by George Turner 

Delivered at the First M. E. Church 

in Spokane, Washington 

February 13, 1916 

OCT 4 W§ 

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One who would take in the grandeur and sublimity 
of a great mountain must look at it from afar, so that 
its individual features are swallowed up in the majestic 
whole. The same rule prevails proximately with respect 
to a mental picture of a great man or an important event. 
The senses are charmed by the exciting and dramatic 
in human affairs as well as by the sublime and beautiful 
in nature. But much that is valuable to contemplate in 
the life of Abraham Lincoln would be lost if considera- 
tion were given alone to the events that exhibited him at 
the height of his career and amid the stirring scenes of 
the war for the Union which he brought to a successful 
conclusion and signalized, in the end, by "that last full 
measure of devotion," eulogized in his Gettysburg ad- 
dress. He was never in personal appearance or bearing 
a dramatic figure at any period of his career, and after 
his elevation to the presidency he took care to avoid the 
pomp and circumstance usually associated with greatness. 
But in great mental and moral attributes, and in that 
something that makes exceptional men sufficient unto 
themselves under every stress and in every crisis, he was 
a giant among men, towering above his fellows as some 
great mountain towers above the foothills that surround 
and guard its base. These great qualities, and the dra- 
matic and tragic events which exhibited them during the 
closing years of his life, must not be lost sight of if we 
would visualize the majestic outline that his career pre- 
sents to history. But if we would know the man, which 
is more important than a vivid picture, we must look at 
his beginning, and note the successive steps that made him 


at last the chosen leader of the nation in its hour of ut- 
most peril and greatest need. I propose, with your per- 
mission, to pursue this last course in the development of 
my subject. 

Abraham Lincoln in his character, his attainments and 
his personality, was an evolution, a natural outgrowth, 
of free American institution, and the sociological con- 
ditions that they produced. His life and career would 
have been impossible in any other country. Born there 
to poverty and obscurity, he would have lived and died 
unheralded and unsung. But, fortunately, he was born 
in a land of freedom, where opportunity sits at the right 
hand of all by right of organic law, and he was reared, 
if that term can be properly used with respect to his 
upbringing, in that particular part of the land where 
democratic equality was most deeply ingrained, and man 
measured, solely and alone, by the inherent qualities of 
his head and heart. There, surrounded in his family 
by the most pitiless poverty, inured during his minority 
to the hardest and meanest toil, he reached manhood 
with as meagre an equipment for greatness and dis- 
tinction, judged by educational and social standards, as 
was ever possessed by man. We know that he was with- 
out schooling, save and except the simplest rudiments 
that he had picked up at night before the fire in his 
father's cabin ; that he had been thrown on the world 
without a dollar, to make his way as best he could; that 
he was without friends to advance his fortunes by a 
single hair's breadth; and, to make the outlook more dis- 
couraging, that he was awkward and ungainly in his 
person, and remained so through his whole life. But, 
as against these adventitious drawbacks, he was a young 
giant in physical strength, with a mind attuned to deep 
poetic conceptions, and with a moral nature as sweet 
and fresh and uncontaminated as the birds that sum- 
moned him every morning to his day of hard and un- 


remitting toil. He had a fund of common sense that 
approached genius, a high sense of humor, and an im- 
perturbable good nature that was rarely disturbed. He 
was also brave and self reliant, and he had been taught 
by., the social organism surrounding him, that he started 
in the race of life the equal of any of his fellows, no 
matter how highly placed in wealth or social position. 
But it would be a mistake to suppose that he harbored 
in the beginning any great ambition. Conscious of 
the poverty of his attainments, it is doubtful if he had 
any conception of a life before him other than that 
which he had theretofore lived, a life of labor and toil, 
to be blessed by possible but slow acquisitions, by wife 
and children, by the respect of his neighbors, and in 
the end to be gathered peacefully to his fathers as his 
fathers before him had been gathered to theirs. So he 
went out from the squalid home that he had known 
from childhood to do his part in the great unknown 
world, and to accept cheerfully and courageously the 
good and ill that it held for him. What he was at 
that time and had been as a boy is thus told by his step- 
mother, who lived until after his tragic death, a vener- 
able woman possessing the homely virtues of her time 
and station, to whom undoubtedly he was indebted for 
the fundamentals of character that marked his after life. 
She said: 

"Abe was a good boy, and I can say what one woman 
— a mother — can say in a thousand: Abe never gave 
me a cross word or look, and never refused, in fact or 
appearance, to do anything I requested him. I never 
gave him a cross word in my life. His mind and mine — 
what little I had — seemed to run together. He was 
here after he was elected President. He was a dutiful 
son to me, always; I think he loved me truly. I had 
a son, John, who was raised with Abe. Both were good 
boys, but I must say, both being now dead, that Abe 
was the best boy I ever saw, or expect to see." 


This simple testimony from the loving and sorrow- 
ing heart of a mother in Israel is the finest tribute that 
could have been paid him, and it gives a key to his 
character that explains the possibility of his extraordi- 
nary career. 

The first few years of adult manhood were spent 
much like those of his early boyhood — working as a 
farm hand, splitting rails, clearing and fencing the 
rude homesteads of his neighbors, flatboating on the 
Mississippi River, clerking in a village store — in short, 
doing anything that came to his hand, but whatever he 
was called to do, doing it well and honestly. It was 
at this time that he earned the subriquet of honest Abe, 
a name that became a political slogan in after years and 
carried him to the highest and most distinguished honor 
and trust that it was within the power of the American 
people to confer and impose. During those early and 
laborious years he made friends of all with whom he 
came in contact. His primacy in the rough and uncouth 
sports of the day, his unfailing fund of humor, and 
facility in expressing it, coupled with his rugged honesty 
and strong common sense, soon made him a neighborhood 
leader sought after and consulted on all occasions, 
whether of business or pleasure. Possibly at this time he 
may have had an inkling of a larger leadership that was 
to come to him. At any rate, when he was twenty- two 
years of age he aspired to the legislature, but was in- 
terrupted in that aspiration by the Black Hawk war, for 
which he enlisted in a company raised in his neighbor- 
hood, of which company, to his surprise, he was elected 
captain. He said many times afterwards, that no honor 
that had ever come to him gratified him so much as that 
early honor conferred on him by his immediate neigh- 
bors. Before that, however, he had made an announce- 
ment of his candidacy and a statement of his views on 
the questions of the day. The concluding paragraph of 


that announcement exhibits the modesty, good sense and 
good taste that marked all his public utterances through- 
out his life, and in its indirect but powerful appeal it also 
marked the acute sense always exhibited by him of the 
psychology of the human mind. The announcement con- 
cluded in these words: 

"Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. 
Whether it be true or not, I can say, for one, that I have 
no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my 
fellowmen, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. 
How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition is 
yet to be developed. I am young and unknown to many 
of you. I was born, and have ever remained, in the most 
humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular 
relations or friends to recommend me. My case is 
thrown exclusively on the independent voters of the 
country; and, if elected they will have conferred a favor 
upon me for which I shall be unremitting in my labors 
to compensate. But, if the good people in their wisdom 
shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been 
too familiar with disappointments to be very much 

The raw and inexperienced youth of twenty-two who 
could write that gave much indeed of promise to the 

After a few weeks' service in the Black Hawk war, 
in which nobody distinguished himself very much, but 
in which he had done the part assigned him with courage 
and assiduity, he returned home and pressed his an- 
nounced candidacy for the legislature, but was defeated, 
although running far ahead of his party strength. He 
again became a candidate at the next election and was 
successful, and then succeeded himself for a number of 
terms. His legislative service was useful but not par- 
ticularly brilliant. But it brought him in contact with 
the prominent men of the state, most of them young 
and cultivated, with whom he measured himself, not 


entirely to his own disadvantage, and it fixed in him 
the resolve to make himself their equal in intellectual 
attainments as he had found himself to be in natural 

Up to the time of his emancipation from parental 
control, but few books came in his way, but such as he 
could get he greedily devoured. Among these were the 
Bible, Aesops Fables, Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress, and 
WeerrTs Life of Washington. With more freedom, espe- 
cially after his employment as a clerk, came a thirst for 
more knowledge, a fact noted by his associates and 
friends, who assisted him with the loan of books and with 
helpful advice. At this time he borrowed Kirkham's 
Grammar, and with the assistance of the village school- 
master, perfected himself, as far as that work would en- 
able him to do, in that branch of education. Now, after 
his experience in the legislature, he set to himself seri- 
ously the task of self education. He studied other 
branches of learning, and read books of history, science, 
poetry, and everything else within his reach that would 
cultivate the mind. About the same time he resolved to 
become a law}rer, and while improving his mind gener- 
ally, perfected himself in the study of the law and was 
admitted to the bar; but this step in his advancement did 
not come until he had reached the age of twenty-seven 

From this time forward we find him associating on 
terms of entire intellectual equality with the ablest men 
in the state of Illinois, many of them college and univer- 
sity graduates, governors, senators, judges, and notable 
lawyers. His time was spent in the practice of the 
profession of the law, and in that vocation, we are told, 
he soon had no superior in the state. While not a fluent 
orator, nor graceful in delivery, his diction was excellent 
and his logical arrangement unsurpassed. Among a 
galaxy of orators, jurists and statesmen belonging to the 


Whig party of that day, most of whom had then acquired, 
or later acquired, national fame, he became easily the 
first, both in party counsels and in the exposition of party 
principles. For many years he led the Whig electoral 
ticket in Illinois and in every campaign was the most 
prominent expositor of its principles on the stump. In 
1846 he was elected to congress, but retired at the expira- 
tion of his first term, not desiring re-election. If his 
career had ceased at this point it would constitute a 
prodegy to make men wonder. A barefoot boy, born to 
the bitterest poverty, and thrown upon the world without 
education and without friends, had arisen by his own 
unaided exertions in a few years until he had become 
the first man in a state full of great men, to whom he 
spoke with the authority of a leader and in words which 
none of them could surpass. It will be valuable to stop 
at this time and inquire how it was possible to achieve 
so much from such an unpromising, such an almost im- 
possible, beginning. It has been ascribed to divine in- 
spiration; to the setting up, by the Almighty, of an in- 
spired instrumentality to work out the divine will in a 
grave crisis in the country's history. But it does not 
seem to me necessary to go so far. To find his equal in 
mental and moral endowments, and in courage, resolution 
and ambition to succeed, would be hard indeed, yet if a 
young man so endowed could be found, he might, I be- 
lieve, become all that Mr. Lincoln was and do all that 
he did under similar conditions. Rural communities in 
this country in that day, and indeed most of them in this 
day, partake of the nature of universities in which knowl- 
edge in all its branches is freely dispensed. A spirit of 
democratic equality promotes free social intercourse, 
and invites all to come in and partake of the intellectual 
pabulum that the community table affords. Intellectual 
and moral development is thereby stimulated, and it only 
requires ambition, assiduity in study, and social qualities 


that invite helpful assistance, to develop the raw and in- 
experienced youth into a fairly accomplished and self 
reliant man of the world, capable of holding his own in 
all the exigencies with which time and circumstance 
may confront him. There are many depths of knowl- 
edge that such an education does not touch. A man, 
even of great ability, so educated, goes through life feel- 
ing the lack of fundamentals which another, possessing 
them, does not prize, but which, if he possessed them, 
would place his feet on a solid foundation, and make him 
invincible at the bar, on the bench, in the pulpit or in the 
forum. In one respect, however, such an education has 
an advantage over that of the college or university. It 
is not a cloistered education. It is acquired as part of an 
active, busy life. Precept and example go hand in hand, 
and fit the individual, as precept alone cannot do, to 
meet the eventualities of life as they unfold themselves 
before him from day to day. At any rate, such was the 
education and training of Abraham Lincoln. He always 
called himself an uneducated man; yet his education 
fitted him at an early age for the leadership of a great 
party in a great state, and it made him in the maturity of 
his powers, and at a time when great mental and moral 
powers were required, the chosen and accepted leader 
of a great nation. If we reject the theory that he was 
raised up by the Almighty as an inspired instrumentality, 
we cannot reject the theory that being an instrumentality 
fitted for the purpose, the divine hand so disposed events 
that our nation in its hour of need was enabled to avail 
itself of his unrivaled powers of head and heart. 

He had always been an opponent of human slavery, 
although not an extremist like Garrison and Phillips. 
The free institutions organized and guaranteed by the 
Federal Constitution were his first thought and his 
supremest love. If the blot of slavery could be wiped 
out without breaking that great instrument or seriously 


impairing it, he wanted it done. But, with or without 
slavery, he wanted to preserve the Union of the states, 
that the great experiment of free government inaugurated 
by the Fathers might not prove a failure, and thereby 
set back human liberty at large for untold generations. 
It was in this frame of mind that he approached political 
crisis of 1860, when the pro-slavery party, fortified 
by the Dred Scott decision, was preparing to force 
African slavery into the Territories and eventually, 
as many feared, through the instrumentality of judge- 
made law, into all the free states of the Union. He 
entered into that contest on the side of human liberty 
with all the force and power of his great mind and 
heart. Hitherto his reputation had been state wide. 
Now it became nation wide. His debates with Mr. 
Douglas in 1858 brought his name and fame to the at- 
tention of every lover of liberty in the land, with the 
result that he became in the campaign of 1860 the can- 
didate of the republican party for president. It was a 
memorable political struggle, causing intense excitement 
throughout the land, and arousing strong passions on 
both sides that nothing could still but the hand of war 
and the misery of desolation. The republican party was 
successful and Abraham Lincoln became the sixteenth 
President of the United States. 

And now we have followed the friendless, barefoot 
boy until he has reached the pinnacle of human ambition; 
he sits in the seat of Washington, and is the chief 
magistrate of a nation of sixty millions of free men. How 
did the transition affect him in his habits and modes of 
thought, in his introspective measurement of himself, 
in his capacity to see clearly, to judge correctly, to de- 
cide justly? If we can determine from the unanimous 
testimony of all observers, friend and foe alike, the 
answer must be, not at all. He was the same modest, 
unassuming, right minded, clear headed, open hearted, 


resolute soul — no more and no less — that he had always 
been. He was confronted immediately with a great war 
for the preservation of the Union, and with foreign 
and domestic problems of the utmost difficulty on which 
the very life of the nation depended. The task before 
him was one to try the powers of seasoned statesman- 
ship, fortified by the widest reading and the largest ex- 
perience. He entered upon it, not, indeed, with arrogant 
self-sufficiency, because such a state of mind was foreign 
to his nature, but with the assured confidence with 
which he had undertaken and carried through every 
work that had come to his hands. That he was exalted 
in soul by the supreme trust and inspired thereby with 
a sense of his sufficiency to meet its requirements, is 
undoubtedly true. He surrounded himself with a cab- 
inet composed of the most eminent men in the nation, 
but at the council table, after full discussion, his was 
the voice that decided every question, foreign and do- 
mestic. This was because he felt the responsibility that 
had come to him, and that it was his alone to deal with 
under the favor of God and the advice of the friends of 
freedom and nationality. That he knew his own mind, 
and would not delegate the great trust with which he had 
been charged, was soon made known to those who sur- 
rounded him. When Mr. Seward, presuming on his 
inexperience, wrote him within a month after his inaugu- 
ration, complaining of the want of a fixed foreign and 
domestic policy, and saying that it must be somebody's 
business to pursue and direct such a policy incessantly, 
winding up with the naive suggestion, "It is not irfy 
especial province, but I neither seek to evade or assume 
responsibility," Mr. Lincoln replied in effect with his 
usual placid good nature, that it was his business and 
would be his pleasure to pursue and direct any policy or 
policies that might be adopted. Again, when Mr. Sew- 
ard, who was easily, by long service and popular acclaim, 


the first statesman of the day, wrote a bellicose dispatch 
to Great Britain and France, Mr. Lincoln calmly blue 
penciled it, muttering as he did so that one war at a time 
was all he wanted on his hands. But while he was firm 
and decided he was never self-willed or opinionated. In 
the direction of the war he was always amenable to ad- 
vice and correction. His letters to McClellan, Hooker 
and Burnside, are models of confidence and loyal sup- 
port, only withdrawn after they had proven their incom- 
petency. His support of Grant was never withdrawn, 
and when a committee of temperance advocates com- 
plained to him that Grant drank to excess, he replied 
humorously: "Gentlemen, I wish you would find out 
the brand of whiskey Grant drinks. I want to send 
a barrel to each of my other generals." With Stanton, 
the great war minister, who was directing the war 
and had all its threads in his hands, he would never 
make an issue. When it was brought to his attention 
by a disappointed suitor that Stanton had refused to 
obey a written order given by him, he remarked with 
a twinkle in his eye that he had very little influence with 
this administration but hoped to have more with the next. 

And so it went throughout the entire four years of that 
bitter struggle, sanity and strength ever marking his 
course, both in the assertion of his just prerogative and 
in that self-effacement which is at times the greatest evi- 
dence of strength ; his only weakness a tenderness of 
heart, of which his generals complained, in the matter of 
military offenses, but a weakness that brought balm to 
many an innocent heart yearning anxiously for loved 
ones in the extended and far flung battle line of the 

He was oppressed throughout the entire struggle 
with the angry and conflicting insistence of professed 
friends, some of whom thought he was not proceeding 


fast enough and others that he was proceeding too fast. 
With all such he dealt with the canny wisdom that was 
natural to him and that his life experience had seasoned 
and ripened. When reasoning and expostulation failed 
he would turn the argument with a funny story, and thus 
avoid the wrath that blunt opposition would have been 
likely to provoke. 

There has been much speculation as to his religious 
belief. While not an adherent of any Christian creed, 
his faith in an omnipotent hand that rules all things 
was firm and strong. His state papers abound with 
declarations of his faith in and reliance on a just and 
righteous God. 

He had long debated with himself the propriety of a 
proclamation emancipating the slaves. He was also be- 
ing urged to that step by the abolitionists of the North 
and warned against it by the Union men of the border 
states. The state of his mind on the subject is exhibited 
in his reply to a rabid attack made on him by Mr. Greely 
in the New York Tribune: "If," said he, "there be 
those who would not save the Union unless they could 
at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. 
If there be those who would not save the Union unless 
they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not 
agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle 
is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to de- 
stroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing 
any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing 
all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by 
freeing some and leaving others alone, I would do that. 
What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do be- 
cause I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I 
forbear I forbear because I do not believe it would help 
to save the Union." But he had been coming more and 
more to the view that an emancipation proclamation, if 


not a necessary, was at least a desirable war measure, and 
he called his cabinet together on September 22, 1862, and 
announced to the members his purpose to issue such a 
proclamation. He said to them, among other things, 
as recorded by Secretary Chase: 

"When the rebel army was at Frederick I determined 
as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, to issue 
a proclamation of emancipation, such as I thought most 
likely to be useful. I said nothing to anyone, but I made 
the promise to myself and to my maker. The rebel army 
is now driven out, and I am going to fulfill that promise. 
I have got you together to hear what I have written 
down. I do not wish your advice about the main matter, 
for that I have determined for myself. This I say with- 
out intending anything but respect for any one of you." 

This measure, which was consummated the first day 
of the succeeding January, and which gained him the 
title of the great liberator, was, as we see from his own 
statement, a convenant with Almighty God, which he 
felt obligated to carry out and fulfill, and against which 
he would listen to no argument, even from his chosen ad- 
visers. Such a man must have been filled with venera- 
tion for Almighty God, and with reverent faith in His 
power for good. If, in the multiplicity of creeds, he 
was unable to fasten his faith to any one of them, who 
can doubt that the Omnipotent being, whose charity is 
as broad and mercy as infinite as the universe, received 
him into His bosom on the last great day as one of the 
elect of mankind? 

The lineaments of his face, limned at that time, are 
now familiar to every school boy in the civilized world. 
Their normal cast is that of profound melancholy, as if 
he were brooding over the miseries of his fellowmen. 
There was much in his situation to induce such a state 
of mind. The tribulations of the war, the disappointment 


of early defeats, the complaints of unsuccessful generals, 
who affected to believe that they had not been properly 
supported, the everlasting and importunate and contra- 
dictory urgings and promptings of professed friends, 
the heavy burden of life and death lodged in his hands 
in the matter of military offenses usually punishable with 
death, and finally, at the climax of the struggle, the 
tidings of death and desolation coming to him incessantly 
and on the wings of lightning from the bloodstained bat- 
tlefields of the South, all had their effect to cast down 
his mind and bow down his soul. In this humble and 
contrite frame of mind, it was a melancholy pleasure 
to him to repeat the opening lines of his favorite poem: 

"O! Why should the spirit of mortal be proud? 
Like a swift fleeting meteor, like a fast flying cloud, 
Like a flash of lightning, like a break of the wave, 
Man passes from life to his death in the grave." 

His only safety valve was his sense of humor, which 
he indulged when the occasion permitted, by pointing 
with humorous stories his position on the questions of 
war and peace constantly arising for discussion. His 
early critics, thus misled as to the bent of his mind, 
called him frivolous. His enemies called him a buffoon. 
The truth is, his was the saddest, sanest, most earnest 
mind that ever consecrated itself to a great cause. But 
no mind could have borne his burdens without some 
mental anodyne that would bring surcease of care and 
sorrow. His humorous sallies constituted such an ano- 
dyne, and the sense of humor with which the Almighty 
had endowed him is now seen to have been a necessary 
part of his equipment for the superhuman task he was 
called on to perform. 

One thing that engaged the attention of his con- 
temporaries, and that has been of absorbing interest to 
succeeding generations, was the intellectual exaltation 


that came to Mr. Lincoln with his responsibilities, result- 
ing in a remarkable clarity of thought and richness of 
expression in his public utterances and state papers. 
His diction and his imagery, always marvelous, con- 
sidering his opportunities, now rose to the height of 
Miltonic sublimity. 

In his speech at Springfield, preceding the noted de- 
bates with Douglas, he gave the first evidence of this 
mental exaltation. He said: 

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I be- 
lieve this government cannot endure permanently, half 
slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be 
dissolved, I do not expect the house to fall, but I do 
expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all 
one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of 
slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place 
it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it 
is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will 
push it forward, till it shall be alike lawful in all the 
states, old as well as new, North as well as South." 

The great issue of that day could not have been 
stated in fewer words, or in words that defined it more 
perfectly, or in words better calculated by their colloca- 
tion and their majestic sweep, to arrest and engage the 
public attention. 

In his first inaugural address, speaking to the people 
of the South, he made an appeal never surpassed for 
the beauty of its imagery and its moving and touching 
force. It was in these words: 

"In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, 
is the momentous issue of civil war. The government 
will not assail you. You can have no conflict without 
being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath 
registered in heaven to destroy the government; while 
I have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and de- 
fend it. I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but 
friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may 
have strained, it must not break the bonds of affection. 


"The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every 
battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and 
hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the 
chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they 
will be, by the better angels of our nature." 

After four years of bloody war, inaugurated by the 
South in the face of his fraternal appeal, the iron had 
entered his soul, and he registered his unalterable pur- 
pose to continue the struggle in the following elevated 
passage contained in his second inaugural: 

"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this 
mighty scourge of war may soon pass away. Yet, if 
God wills that it continue until the wealth piled by the 
bondsmen's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited 
toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn 
by the lash shall be paid with another drawn with the 
sword; as was said three thousand years ago, so still it 
must be said: 'The judgments of the Lord are true and 
righteous altogether.' 

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with 
firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, 
let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up 
the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have 
borne the battle and for his widow and orphan, to do 
all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting 
peace among ourselves and with all nations." 

His letter to Mrs. Bixby, who had lost five sons on 
the field of battle, is one of the most beautiful and 
pathetic things ever written in any language. But his 
Gettysburg address, in beauty of diction, and in the 
clarity of the sublime thoughts conveyed, is perhaps the 
most perfect of all his productions. I can only stop to 
quote a single paragraph: 

"But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot 
consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave 


men, living and dead, who struggled here, have con- 
secrated it far above our power to add or detract. The 
world will little note, nor long remember, what we say 
here; but it can never forget what they did here." 

This address followed one delivered by Edward 
Everett, and was lost to the immediate hearers in the 
florid splendor with which Mr. Everett had captivated 
their senses. But the address of Mr. Everett has been 
forgotten, while that of Mr. Lincoln will live, "a gem 
of purest ray serene," as long as the English language 
shall endure. 

These glimpses of Lincoln, man and boy, have been 
sufficient, I hope, to give some insight into his great 
character, crystal clear on its moral side as a mountain 
brook, as complex and universal on the intellectual side 
as the ether of the universe that holds in their places 
the stars that stud the heavens. Humble and devout, 
wise and far sighted, faithful and trustworthy, courage- 
ous and resovled, he undoubtedly was. Aided by those 
qualities, he pursued the task to which he had been 
called until it had been successfully accomplished. He 
had the satisfaction, before the light faded from his 
eyes forever, of beholding the flag of the Union floating 
in triumph over every section of the land that he loved, 
and floating over a land that contained none but free 
men. It is doubtful if any other in the land could have 
achieved the task; and that fact confirms the reverent 
belief, often expressed, that the Almighty, in every crisis 
involving the establishment of the maintenance of human 
liberty, raises up that human instrumentality best fitted 
to cope with the crisis and to advance the divine prin- 

When kingly prerogative threatened the established 
liberties of Englishmen, Cromwell emerged from ob- 
scurity to chasten with his stout heart and iron hand the 
devotees of arbitrary power, and to leave the indelible 


and ineffaceable impress of democracy on English insti- 
tutions. When the American colonies revolted against 
the tyranny of the Mother Country, imposed on them 
by king and parliament, Washington was brought to 
the front, an aristocrat and a slave holder, but a lover 
of liberty of Greek and Roman mould; a man of majestic 
poise, whose influence would hold the wavering resolu- 
tion of his compatriots; a trained soldier, whose skill 
and fortitude would guide them through the perils of 
war to ultimate triumph, and the establishment of 
American nationality. When in 1860 the rage of 
faction and pride of power threatened to undo the 
work of Washington and the fathers, quite another 
personality was required. A man of force and reso- 
lution to hold the national power aloft, but with 
gentleness of heart to mitigate its severity that the 
bonds of amity might not be irretrievably broken; a man 
with the guile of much political experience, but with 
the ingenuous honesty of an exalted soul, to guide the 
storm tossed ship of state through the cross-currents of 
diverging and opposing views urged by its professed 
friends and supporters. Such an instrument was found 
in the person of the martyred President. He might have 
been expected to look forward, and doubtless did look 
forward, to a period of repose after his work had been 
done, in which to enjoy the well earned plaudits of his 
countrymen. But we know from contemporary history 
that he did not consider his work done with the cessation 
of hostilities. On the contrary, his mind was filled with 
high hopes, with generous resolves, with benignant pur- 
poses, toward the people and the section so lately in arms 
against the government. But alas! he was not destined 
to enjoy any period of repose; to see his hopes realized, 
his resolves entered upon, his purposes carried out. He 
had nearly reached the end of his pilgrimage. The gates 
were already ajar that were to admit him to the com- 


panionship of the great and good of earth from the be- 
ginning of time. While the American people were still 
rejoicing over a nation redeemed, dedicated anew and 
in a larger sense, to the ideals of the Fathers, and ac- 
claiming him as its savior and preserver, he was stricken 
down by the hand of an assassin nerved to the act by the 
madness of mock tragedy; the most insensate blow ever 
struck, viewed from the standpoint of utility to the cause 
then already lost; the most cruel and desolating to the 
anguished heart of the nation that had accompanied 
him in his long struggle, and was then rejoicing with him 
over its happy ending. As the result of his tragic death 
the wounds of the two sections were torn open afresh, 
resulting in the imposition of conditions on the prostrate 
people of the South never contemplated by his lofty and 
magnanimous soul. And thus both the people of the 
North and the South were chastened by the hand of a 
madman, to the divine end apparently that union should 
come, when it did come, with a better knowledge by 
each of the other, although after much misunderstanding 
and suffering, and upon terms that should make it a 
Union forever, one and indissoluble and indestructible. 
I have now come to the end. The bullet of the assassin 
that ended the life of Abraham Lincoln fixed the seal 
of immortality on his name and fame. It is not too much 
to say that his place is fixed in history forever as the 
sanest mind, the bravest heart, the gentlest soul, the most 
exalted spirit, to animate mortal clay, since the son of 
God expiated the sins of men on the cross of calvary. 



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