« PreviousContinue »
close study of geometry, and by a determination to perceive the truth in all its relations and simplicity, and when perceived to utter it. It is said of him, that in childhood, when he had any difficulty in listening to a conversation to ascertain what people meant, when he retired to rest, he could not sleep until he tried to understand the precise point intended, and when understood to convey it in a clearer manner to others. Who, that has read his message fails to perceive the directness and the simplicity of his style, and this very trait which was scoffed at and derided by opponents, is now recognized as one of the strong points of that mighty mind, which has so powerfully influenced the destiny of this nation, and which shall for ages to come influence the destiny of humanity!
It was not however chiefly by his mental facnlties that he gained such control over mankind. His moral power gave him pre-eminence. The convictions of men that Abraham Lincoln was an honest man, led them to yield to his guidance. As has been said of Cobden, whom he greatly resembled, he made all men feel a kind of sense of himself a recognized individuality, a self-relying power. They saw in him a man whom they believed would do what was right regardless of all consequences. It was this moral feeling which gave him the greatest hold upon the people and made his utterances almost oracular.
When the nation was angered by the perfidy of foreign nations in allowing privateers to be fitted out, he uttered the significant expression, "one war at a time," and it stilled the national heart. When his own friends were divided as to what steps should be taken as to slavery, that simple utterance, "I will save the Union if I can with slavery, but if not, slavery must perish, for the Union must be saved," that became the rallying word. Men felt the struggle was for the Union, and all other questions must be subsidiary.
But after all, by the acts of a man shall his fame be perpetuated. Where are his acts? Much praise is due to the men who aided him. He called able councillors around him, and able generals into the field, men who have borne the sword as bravely as ever any human arm has done it. He had the aid of prayerful and thoughtful men everywhere, but under his own guiding hands the movements of our land have been conducted.
Turn towards the different departments. We had an unorganized militia, a mere skeleton army, yet under his care that army has been enlarged into a force, which for skill, intelligence, efficiency, and bravery, surpasses any which the world had ever seen. Before its veterans the fame of even the renowned veterans of Napoleon
shall pale; and the mothers and sisters on these hillsides, and all over the land, shall take to their arms again, braver men than ever fought in European wars.
The reason is obvious. Money or a desire for fame collected those armies—or they were rallied to sustain favorite thrones or dynasties. But the armies called into being fought for liberty-for the Union, and for the right of self-government, and many of them feel that the battles they won were for humanity everywhere—and for all time-for I believe that God has not suffered this terrible rebellion to come upon our land merely for a chastisement to us or a lesson to our age.
There are moments which involve in themselves eternities. There are instants which seem to contain germs which shall develope and bloom forever. Such a moment came in the tide of time to our land when a question must be settled, affecting all the powers of the earth. The contest was for human freedom. Not for this republic merely. Nor for the Union simply, but to decide whether the people, as a people, in their entire majesty, were destined to be the government, or whether they were to be subject to tyrants or aristocrats, or to class-rule of any kind.
This is the great question for which we have been fighting, and its decision is at hand, and the result of this contest will affect the ages to come. If successful, republics will spread in spite of monarchs all over this earth. I turn from the army to the navy. What was it before the war commenced? Now we have our ships of war at home and abroad, to guard privateers in foreign sympathizing forts, as to care for every port of our own coast. They have taken ports that military men said could not be taken, and a brave admiral, for the first time in the world's history, lashed himself to the mast, there to remain as long as he had a particle of skill or strength to watch over his ship while it engaged in the perilous contest of taking the strong forts of the enemy.
Then again I turn to the Treasury Department. Where should the money come from? Wise men predicted ruin, but our national credit has been maintained, and our currency is safer to-day than it ever was before. Not only so, but through our national bonds, if properly used, we shall have a permanent basis for currency, and an investment so desirable for capitalists of other nations, that, under the law of trade, I believe the centre of exchange will be transferred from England to the United States.
But the great act of the mighty chieftain, on which his fame shall rest long after his frame shall moulder away, is that of giving freedom to a race. We have all been taught to revere the sacred
characters. We have thought of Moses, of his power, and the prominence he gave to the moral law; how it lasts, and how his name towers high among the names in heaven, and how he delivered those millions of his kindred out of bondage. And yet we may assert that Abraham Lincoln, by his proclamation, liberated more enslaved people than ever Moses set free, and those not of his kindred. God has seldom given such a power or such an opportunity to man. When other events shall have been forgotten; when this world shall have become a network of Republics; when every throne shall be swept from the face of the earth; when literature shall enlighten all minds; when the claims of humanity shall be recognized everywhere, this act shall be conspicuous on the pages of history. And we are thankful that God gave to Abraham Lincoln the decision and wisdom and grace to issue that proclamation, which stands high above all other papers which have been penned by uninspired men.
Abraham Lincoln was a good man. He was known as an honest, temperate, forgiving man; a just man, a man of noble heart in every way. As to his religious experience, I cannot speak definitely, because I was not privileged to know much of his private sentiments My acquaintance with him did not give me the opportunity to hear him speak on those topics. This I know, however. He read the Bible frequently-loved it for its great truths and profound teachings, and he tried to be guided by its precepts. He believed in Christ the saviour of sinners, and I think he was sincerely trying to bring his life into harmony with the great principles of revealed religion. Certainly, if ever there was a man who illustrated some of the principles of pure religion, that man was our departed President. Look over all his speeches, listen to his utterances, he never spoke unkindly of any man. Even the rebels received no words of anger from him, and the last days of his life illustrated in a remarkable manner his forgiving disposition. A dispatch was received that afternoon that Thompson and Tucker were trying to escape through Maine, and it was proposed to arrest them. Mr. Lincoln, however, preferred to let them quietly escape. He was seeking to save the very men who had been plotting his destruction, and this morning we read a proclamation offering $25,000 for the arrest of these men, as aiders and abettors of his assassination. So that in his expiring acts he was saying-Father, forgive them; they know not what they do. As a ruler, I doubt if any President has ever showed such trust in God, or in public documents so frequently referred to Divine aid. Often did he remark to friends and delegations that his hope for our success rested in his conviction that God would bless our efforts, because we were trying to do right. To the ad
dress of a large religious body, he replied, "Thanks be unto God, who in our national trials giveth us the churches." To a minister who said "he hoped the Lord was on our side,” he replied "that it gave him no concern whether the Lord was on our side or not," for he added, "I know the Lord is always on the side of right;" and with deep feeling added, "But God is my witness that it is my constant anxiety and prayer that both myself and this nation should be on the Lord's side."
In his domestic life he was exceedingly kind and affectionate. He was a devoted husband and father. During his Presidential term he lost his second son, Willie. To an officer of the army he said not long since, "Do you ever find yourself talking with the dead," and added: "Since Willie's death, I catch myself every day involuntarily talking with him, as if he were with me." For his widow, who is unable to be here, I need only invoke the blessing of Almighty God that she be comforted and sustained. For his son, who has witnessed the exercises of this hour, all that I can desire is that the mantle of his father may fall upon him.
Let us pause a moment on the lesson of the hour before we part. This man, though he fell by the hand of the assassin, still fell under the permissive hand of God. He had some wise purpose in allowing him to fall.
What more could he have desired of life for himself? Were not his honors full? There was no office to which he could aspire. The popular heart clung around him as around no other man. The nations of the world had learned to honor our Chief Magistrate. If rumors of a desired alliance with England be true, Napoleon trembled when he heard of the fall of Richmond, and asked what nation would join him to protect him against our government. This had the guidance of such a man. His fame was full, his work was done, and he sealed his glory by being the nation's just martyr for liberty.
He had a strange presentiment, in early political life, that some day he would be President. You see it indicated in 1859, when of the slave power he said: "Broken by it, I, too, may be; bow to it, I never will. The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause which I deem to be just; it shall not deter me. If ever I feel the soul within me elevate and expand to those dimensions not wholly unworthy of its Almighty Architect, it is when I contemplate the cause of my country, deserted by all the world besides, and I standing up boldly and alone, and hurling defiance at her victorious oppressors. Here, without contemplating consequences, before High Heaven, and in the face
of the world, I swear eternal fidelity to the just cause, as I deem it, of the land of my life, my liberty, and my love.
And yet he recently said to more than one, "I never shall live out the four years of my term. When the rebellion is crushed my work is done." So it was. He lived to see the last battle fought and to dictate a dispatch from the home of Jefferson Davis-lived till the power of the rebellion was broken, and then, having done the work for which God sent him, angels, I trust, were sent to shield him from one moment of pain or suffering, and to bear him from this world to that high and glorious realm where the patriot and good shall live forever. His example teaches young men that every position of eminence is open before the diligent and the worthy. To the active men of the country his example urges to trust in God and do right.
To the ambitious there is this fearful lesson: Of the four candidates for Presidential honors in 1860, two of them, Douglas and Lincoln, once competitors-but now sleeping patriots-rest from their labors; Bell perished in poverty and misery, as a traitor might perish, and Breckinridge is a frighted fugitive, with the brand of traitor on his brow.
Standing, as we do to-day, by his coffin and his sepulchre, let us resolve to carry forward the work which he so nobly began. Let us do right to all men Let us vow in the sight of Heaven to eradicate every vestige of human slavery, to give every human being his true position before God and man, to crush every form of rebellion, and to stand by the flag God has given us. How joyful should we be that it floated over parts of every State before Mr. Linoln's career was ended. How singular that to the fact of the assassin's heel being caught in the folds of the flag we are probably indebted for his capture. The flag and the traitor must ever be enemies.
Traitors will probably suffer by the change of rulers, for one of sterner mould, and one who himself has deeply suffered from the rebellion now wields the sword of justice.
Our country, too, is stronger for the trial. A republic was declared, by monarchists, too weak to endure a civil war, yet we have crushed the most gigantic rebellion in history, and have grown in strength and population every year of the struggle. We have passed through the ordeal of a popular election while swords and bayonets were in the field, and have come out unharmed. And now, in our hour of excitement, with a large minority having proffered another man for President, the bullet of the assassin has laid our President prostrate. Has there been a mutiny? Has any rival proposed his claim? Out of the army of nearly a million, no officer