Page images

A portion of Scripture was then read by Rev. N. W. Miner, after which the choir sang "To Thee, O Lord," from the Oratorio of St. Paul.

'The President's last Inangural was read by Rev. A. C. Hubbard.

After the reading of the Inaugural, the choir sang the dirge, "As when thy Cross was Bleeding," by Otto.

At the conclusion of the singing, Bishop Simpson delivered the following


Fellow-citizens of Illinois, and of many parts of our entire Union— Near the capital of this large and growing State, in the midst of this beautiful grove, and at the mouth of this vault which has just received the remains of our fallen chieftain, we gather to pay a tribute of respect, and to drop the tear of sorrow around the ashes of the mighty dead.

A little more than four years ago, from his plain and quiet home in yonder city, he started, receiving the parting words of the concourse of friends who gathered around him; and in the midst of the dropping of the gentle shower, he told of the pangs of parting from the place where his children had been born and his home had been made pleasant by early recollections; and as he left he made an earnest request, in the hearing of some who are present at this hour, that as he was about to enter upon responsibilities which he believed to be greater than any which had fallen upon any man since the days of Washington, that the people would offer up prayers that God would aid and sustain him in the work which they had given him to do.

His company left your quiet city, but as it went snares were in waiting for the Chief Magistrate. Scarcely did he escape the dangers of the way or the hands of the assassin, as he neared Washington, and I believe he escaped only through the vigilance of of ficers and the prayers of his people. So that the blow was suspended for more than four years, which was at last permitted through the providence of God to fall. How different the occasion which witnessed his departure from that which witnessed his return! Doubtless he expected to visit you all again, doubtless you expected to take him by the hand, and to feel the warm grasp which you had felt in other days, and to see the tall form walking among you, which you had delighted to honor in years past. But he was never permitted to return until he came with lips mute and silent, the

frame encoffined, and a weeping nation following as his mourners. Such a scene as his return to you was never witnessed among the events of history. There have been great processions of mourners. There was one for the patriarch Jacob, which came up from Egypt, and the Egyptians wondered at the evidences of reverence and filial affection which came up from the hearts of the Israelites.

There was mourning when Moses fell upon the heights of Pisgah, and was hid from human view. There has been mourning in the kingdoms of the earth, when kings and princes have fallen; but never was there in the history of man such mourning as that which has accompanied this funeral procession, and has gathered around the mortal remains of him who was our loved one, and who now sleepeth among us.

If we glance at the procession which followed him, we see how the nation stood aghast, tears filled the eyes of many sunburnt faces-strong men, as they clasped the hands of their friends, were unable to find vent for their grief in words. Women and little children caught up the tidings as they ran through the land, and were melted into tears. The nation stood still. Men left their plows in the fields, and asked what the end should be. The hum of manufactories ceased, and the sound of the hammer was not heard; busy merchants closed their doors, and in the exchange gold passed no more from hand to hand. Though three weeks have passed, the nation has scarcely breathed easily yet. A mournful silence is abroad upon the land. Nor is this mourning confined to any one class or to any district of country. Men of all political parties and of all religious creeds have united in paying this mournful tribute. The Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in New York and a Protestant minister walked side by side in the sad procession, and a Jewish Rabbi performed a part of the solemn services. Here are gathered around his tomb the representatives of the army and navy, senators, judges, governors, and officers ́of all the branches of the Government.

Here, too, are members of civic professions, with men and women, from the humblest as well as the highest occupations. Here and there, too, are tears as sincere and warm as any that drop, which come from the eyes of those whose kindred and whose race have been freed from their chains by him whom they mouru as their deliverer.

Far more eyes have gazed upon the face of the departed than ever looked upon the face of any other departed man. More eyes have looked upon the procession for sixteen hundred miles or more,

by night and by day, by sunlight, dawn, twilight, and by torchlight, than ever before watched the progress of a procession.

We ask, why this wonderful mourning-this great procession? I answer, first: A part of the interest has arisen from the times in which we live and in which he that had fallen was a principal actor. It is a principle of our nature that feelings once excited pass readily from the object by which they are excited to some other object which may for the time being take possession of the mind.

Another principle is, that the deepest affections of our hearts gather around some human form, in which are incarnated the living thoughts and ideas of the passing age. If we look, then, at the times we see an age of excitement. For four years the popular heart has been stirred to its utmost depths. War had come upon us, dividing families, separating nearest and dearest friends. A war, the extent and magnitude of which no one could estimate; a war in which the blood of brethren was shed by a brother's hand. A call was made by this voice, now hushed, and all over this land, from hill and mountain, from plain and prairie, there sprang up hundreds of thousands of bold hearts, ready to go forth and save our National Union. This feeling of excitement was transferred next into a feeling of deep grief, because of the danger in which our country was placed. Many said, is it possible to save the nation? Some in our country, and nearly all the leading men in other countries, declared it to be impossible to maintain the Union, and many an honest and patriotic heart was deeply pained with apprehensions of common ruin, and many in grief and almost in despair anxiously inquired what shall the end of these things be? In addition to this, wives had given their husbands, mothers their sons -the pride and joy of their hearts. They saw them put on the uniform. They saw them take the martial step, and they tried to hide their deep feeling of sadness. Many of these dear ones sleep upon the battle-field never to return again, and there was mourning in every mansion and every cabin of our land. Then came a feeling of deeper sadness as the story came of prisoners tortured to death, or starved through the mandates of those who are called the representatives of the chivalry, or who claim to be the honorable ones of the earth, and as we read the stories of frames attenuated and reduced to mere skeletons, our grief turned partly into horror, and partly into a cry for vengeance.

Then this feeling was changed to one of joy. There came signs. of the end of this rebellion. We followed the career of our glorious Generals; we saw our armies under the command of the brave officer who is guiding this procession, climb up the heights of Look

out Mountain, and drive the rebels from their strongholds. Another brave general swept through Georgia, South and North Carolina, and drove the combined armies of the rebels before him, while the honored Lieutenant-General held Lee and his hosts in a death grasp. Then the tidings came that Richmond was evacuated and that Lee had surrendered. The bells rang merrily all over the land; booming of cannon was heard; illuminations and torch-light processions manifested the general joy, and families were looking for the speedy return of their loved ones from the field of battle. Just in the midst of this wildest joy, in one hour, nay, in one moment, the tidings thrilled through our land that Abraham Lincoln, the best of Presidents, had perished by the hand of an assassin, and then all that feeling which had been gathering for four year in forms of grief, horror, and joy, turned in an instant into one wail of woe-a sadness inexpressible, an anguish unutterable.

But it is not the times merely which cause this mourning. The mode of his death must be taken into account. Had he died on a hed of illness, with kind friends around him; had the sweat of death been wiped from his brow by gentle hands while he was yet conscious; could he have lived to speak words of affection to his stricken widow, or words of counsel to us, like those we heard in his parting address-that inaugural which shall now be immortal, how it would have softened or assuaged something of the grief. There might at least have been preparation for the event. But no moment of warning was given to him or to us. He was stricken down, too, when his hopes for the end of the rebellion were bright, and the prospects of a joyous life were before him. There was a Cabinet meeting that day, said to have been the most cheerful and happy of any held since the beginning of the rebellion.

After this meeting he talked with his wife-spoke of the four years of tempest-of the storm being over, and of the four years of pleasure and joy now awaiting him, as the weight of care and anguish would be taken from his mind, and he could have happy days with his family again. In the midst of these anticipations he left his home never to return alive. The evening was Good Friday— the saddest day in the whole calendar for the Christian churchhenceforth in this country to be made sadder, if possible, by the memory of our nation's loss. And so filled with grief was every Christlan heart that even all the joyous hopes of Easter Sunday failed to remove the crushing sorrow under which the true worshipers bowed in the house of God.

But the great cause of this mourning is to be found in the man himself. Mr. Lincoln was no ordinary man, and I believe the con

viction has been growing on the nation's mind, as it certainly has been on my own, especially in the last years of his administration. By the hand of God he was especially singled out to guide our government in these troublous times, and it seems to me that the hand of God may be traced in many events connected with his history.

First, then, I recognize this in his physical education, which he received, and which prepared him for enduring herculean labors. In the toils of his boyhood and the labors of his manhood, God was giving him an iron frame. Next to this was his identification with the heart of the great people, understanding their feelings because he was one of them, and connected with them in their movements and life. His education was simple. A few months spent in the schoolhouse gave him the elements of education. He read few books but mastered all. He read Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Æsop's Fables, and the life of Washington, which were his favorites. In these we recognize the works which gave the bias to his character, and which partly moulded his style.

His early life with its varied struggles, joined him indissolubly to the working masses, and no elevation in society diminished his respeet for the sons of toil. He knew what it was to fell the tall trees of the forest, and to stem the current of the broad Mississippi. His home was in the glowing West—the heart of the republic-and invigorated by the winds that swept over its prairies, he learned lessons of self-reliance that sustained him in scenes of adversity.

His genius was soon recognized, as true genius always will be, and he was placed in the Legislature of his State. Already acquainted with the principles of law, he devoted his thoughts to matters of public interest, and began to be looked upon as the "coming statesmen." As early as 1839 he presented resolutions to the Legislature, asking for emancipation in the District of Columbia, while, with but rare exceptions, the whole popular mind of his State was opposed to the measure. From that hour he was a steady and uniform friend of humanity, and was preparing for the conflict of later years.

If you ask me on what mental characteristic his greatness rested, I answer, on a quick and ready perception of facts-on a memory unusually tenacious and retentive, and on a logical turn of mind which followed sternly and unwaveringly every link in the chain of thought on any subject which he was called upon to investigate. I think there have been minds more broad in their character, more comprehensive in their sweep, but I doubt whether there has been a mind which could follow step by step with logical power the points which he desired to illustrate. He gained this power by the

« PreviousContinue »