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leadership of this nation. Consciously or unconsciously, when the clash of arms had come, the hosts of loyalty and liberty could only rally around the man whose voice had first uttered the true battle-cry. And therefore it was that, when that moment came, we found Abraham Lincoln, the leader that democratic freedom had been preparing in the West, in the President's chair at Washington, and Commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States.
And now events hasten more rapidly to the grand dénouement. Yet, like Hamlet, the hero hesitates. He dreads the awful conflict. He shrinks, as it were, from the very greatness of the task imposed upon him. Already, too, villany lurks in his path, assassination is dogging his steps; and he walks henceforth as if burdened with a mysterious, foreboding consciousness of his destiny. In his kindly, democratic nature there should be, and is, no taste for civil war and blood. He tries to conciliate, - puts forth his arm to avert the rushing fates: he holds the chalice of the Constitution to the white, maddened lips of the foe. But all in vain. With boastful, furious words, the cup is dashed to the ground: "We have a new Constitution, founded on the divine right of slavery: we fight for it, and take and give no quarter!" And so freedom's leader is held to his divinely purposed work,- defied by despotism, until forced in self-defence into the impregnable citadel of equal justice.
Yet the steps were all taken, not in passion, not in routed haste, but deliberately and with dignity, some of us thought too slowly and hesitatingly taken, and feared lest freedom would be betrayed. But the great Dramatist knew better than we, — knew the metal of the man, and knew he would not, could not, yield the principle to which his life had been, as it were by solemn vow, devoted.
Months before, in his contest with Douglas, with inspired earnestness and in the old Roman spirit of absolute self-consecration to the highest welfare of the republic, he had exclaimed:
"Think nothing of me: take no thought for the political fate of any man whatsoever, but come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence. You may do anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles. You may not only defeat me for the Senate, but you may take me and put me to death. . . . I charge you to drop every paltry, insignificant thought for any man's success. It is nothing. am nothing. Judge Douglas is nothing. But do not destroy that immortal emblem of humanity,— the Declaration of Independence."
And, again, on his way to Washington, in the old Independence Hall in Philadelphia, after inquiring what great sentiment it was in the Declaration there adopted which held the colonies so firmly together in the revolutionary struggle, he answered, "It was that sentiment which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I
hope, to the world, for all future time: it was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men"; and then he added, "If this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it!" and closed the remarkable speech with the solemn words, "I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by, and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, die by." It was not in the nature of the man who had given himself to the whole truth of republican government with such vows as these, and whom the angel of the republic was guarding for her highest service and greatest glory, to betray the sacred office for which he had thus received Heaven's commission. He was cautious. He saw every difficulty in the way; for a time it seemed as if he reasoned with destiny, but he could not betray the cause so solemnly committed to his hands.
He was mortal, indeed; and, with all the care in preparing him for his high office, it was impossible that he should escape entirely all infection of the evil from which the whole nation suffered. He still had some respect for the local laws of slavery. And so the conflict must go on in him, as in the nation, until he should be purified by the fires of battle from all taint of the evil, and be lifted clear above all its entanglements, ready to strike the fatal blow with full moral strength. Observe, too, that, consistently with his past record and training,
he came to the contest, not as an abolitionist per se, but on the broad ground of democracy. was an emancipationist because a true democrat. He believed in freedom and equality for all, and therefore for the black man. He came to the conflict not avowedly to destroy slavery, but to save democratic government; and he destroyed slavery because incompatible with the continued existence of democratic government. The one is the broader position, and necessarily includes the other. mocracy necessitates abolitionism. This is the truth he is to proclaim to the world, and lead on to victory.
And now see the solemn steps of the grand march. We shall notice that there is no retrograde movement, that there is really no delay, that every step comes in its place with the sublime constancy of fate, but also with the paternal, humane promise of a tender Providence, and that every step lifts the nation upward upon higher and broader ground, and nearer to the glory of its final triumph. Even in the first Inaugural Address, though conciliatory and seeking in some respects by compromise to avert the conflict, the key-note of democratic faith and assurance is sounded. "Why," said the President, "should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of events, with his eternal truth and
justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail, by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people." We passed these words by at the time with little notice; but, now that the drama is complete, they sound like the solemn utterances of the chorus in ancient tragedy, pronouncing upon the gathering combatants the warning and the judgment of the gods. It was the presiding, oracular genius of the republic that uttered them, giving judgment in advance.
Again, in the first message to Congress, dated July 4, 1861, though slavery is not directly attacked, there are brave sentences that strike at its root, and that must one day strike the fetters from all men's limbs. "This is essentially a people's On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuits for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life." None but the Western pioneer, cradled in poverty, and, by his own sturdy hands and the "fair chance" that democratic institutions put into them, hewing his way into public position by a purely democratic path, could have uttered these words from the Presidential chair. Already we see in them the promise of a united and emancipated country. These are the same syllables that, by a little