« PreviousContinue »
beyond all reasonable doubt, you will convict him. If such reasonable doubts of guilt still remain, you will acquit him. You are the judges of the whole case. You owe a duty to the
public, as well as to the prisoner at the bar. You cannot pre5 sume to be wiser than the law. Your duty is a plain, straight
forward one. Doubtless we would all judge him in mercy. Towards him, as an individual, the law inculcates no hostility; but towards him, if proved to be a murderer, the law, and the
oaths you have taken, and public justice, demand that you 10 do your duty.
125. With consciences satisfied with the discharge of duty, no consequences can harm you. There is no evil that we cannot either face or fly from, but the consciousness of duty
disregarded. A sense of duty pursues us ever. It is omni15 present, like the Deity. If we take to ourselves the wings of
the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, duty performed, or duty violated, is still with us, for our happiness or our misery. If we say the darkness shall cover us, in the
darkness as in the light our obligations are yet with us. We 20 cannot escape their power, nor fly from their presence. They
are with us in this life, will be with us at its close; and in that scene of inconceivable solemnity which lies yet farther onward, we shall still find ourselves surrounded by the conscious“A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF
ness of duty, to pain us wherever it has been violated, and to 25 console us so far as God may have given us grace to. per
A SPEECH OF ACCEPTANCE OF THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION
FOR UNITED STATES SENATOR AT SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS,
The biography of Abraham Lincoln, up to the time that he became a figure of national importance, may best be told in his own words. Answering one who, in 1859, had asked him for some biographic particulars, Lincoln wrote:
“ I was born February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks. My father (Thomas Lincoln), by the early death of his father, and the very narrow circumstances of his mother, was, even in childhood, a wandering, laboring boy, and grew up literally without education. He never did more in the way of writing than bunglingly to write his own name. He removed from Kentucky to what is now Spencer County, Indiana, in my eighth year. It was a wild region, with many bears and other animals still in the woods. There were some schools, so-called, but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond readin', writin', and cipherin' to the Rule of Three'. If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard. Of course, when I came of
age I did not know much. Still, somehow I could read, write, and cipher to the Rule of Three. The little advance I now have upon this store of education I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity.
" I was raised to farm work till I was twenty-two. At twentyone I came to Illinois, Macon County. Then I got to New Salem, where I remained a year as a sort of clerk in a store. Then came the Black Hawk War and I was elected captain of a volunteer regiment, a success that gave me more pleasure than any I have had since. I went the campaign, was elated, ran for the legislature the same year (1832), and was beaten the only time I ever have been beaten by the people. The next, and three succeeding biennial elections, I was elected to the legislature. I was not a candidate afterward. During the legislative period I had studied law and removed to Springfield to practice it. In 1846 I was elected to the lower house of Congress. Was not a candidate for reëlection. From 1849 to 1854, inclusive, practiced law more assiduously than ever before, was always a Whig in politics, and generally on the Whig electoral tickets, making active canvasses. losing interest in politics when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused me again.
“ If any personal description of me is thought desirable, it may be said that I am in height six feet four inches, nearly; lean in flesh, weighing on an average one hundred and eighty pounds; dark complexion, with coarse black hair and gray eyes. No other marks or brands recollected.”
In 1858 Lincoln may be said to have taken up the slavery question where Webster left it in his speech of March 7, 1850. Though Lincoln, in the quotation above, speaks of the period from 1849 to 1854 as one of political inactivity, it seems to have been utilized by him as a period of preparation for his great work, and the result is enunciated in the speech in this volume. The issue, as defined by him in this speech, though Lincoln, with many statesmen on both sides, tried to effect a peaceable settlement, fought out in the Civil War.
When Lincoln was assassinated (April 14, 1865) he was the idol of a section. With the passing of time he has come to be looked upon as the national man-type, so that the poetic eulogy of Lowell is applicable now in a fuller sense than when it was first written.
Standing like a tower,
Although Lincoln is chiefly remembered as a statesman rather than as an orator, he nevertheless wielded a tremendous influence through his speeches. This must be attributed to the matter and style of his address rather than to any so-called arts of delivery. As to the latter, he was a “natural orator,” owing as little to books and teachers as any man of equal eminence. He had a falsetto and not particularly strong voice, a plain and unimpassioned delivery, an awkward and ungainly carriage, and yet he convinced and persuaded his hearers by his clear, simple statements, homespun diction, and intense moral earnestness. Lincoln's style, from the standpoints of clearness and simplicity, may well be studied by any one who expects 'to address a popular audience. He learned the art of putting things to an average American audience as few political speakers have acquired it. “His happy statement of a case was better than most men's argument." Yet more than Webster, far more than Burke, his style is marked by great simplicity. There is no needless amplification or “excursus.” Take the speech in this volume, for example. Condensation is impossible. Not a paragraph — if indeed a word — could be omitted without taking away something vital to the discussion. It is solid argument, as sententious and axiomatic as if made to a bench of jurists.
Regarding his training in attaining clearness of statement, Lincoln once said to a friend : “I remember how, when a mere child, I used to get irritated when anybody talked to me in a way I could not understand. I don't think I ever got angry at anything else in my life. But that always disturbed my temper, and has ever since. I can remember going to my bedroom, after hearing the neighbors talk of an evening with my father, and spending no small part of the night walking up and down, and trying to make out what was the meaning of some of their, to me, dark sayings. I could not sleep, though I often tried to, when I got on such a hunt after an idea, until I had caught it; and when I thought I had got it, I was
Ι not satisfied until I had repeated it over and over, until I had put it in language plain enough, as I thought, for any boy I knew to comprehend. This was a kind of passion with me, and it has stuck by me, for I am never easy now, when I am handling a thought, till I have bounded it north and bounded it south and bounded it east and bounded it west."
The “ Divided House” Speech was delivered in the Statehouse at Springfield, Illinois, on the evening of April 17, 1858, at the close of the Republican State Convention held at that time and place, the convention having unanimously passed a resolution which declared that “ Abraham Lincoln is our first and only choice for United States Senator as the successor of Stephen A. Douglas.” Lincoln had expected the nomination, and for a long time previously had been working on his speech of acceptance. It was no doubt the most carefully prepared speech of his whole life. Every word of it was written, every sentence had been tested. In the process of composition it is said 1 that he ceaselessly turned over the subject-matter in his mind, frequently stopping short to jot an idea or expression upon some scrap of paper, which he then thrust into his hat. Thus, piece by piece, the accumulation grew alike inside and outside of his head, and at last he took all his fragments and with infinite consideration molded them into unity. By the time of delivery he had committed the whole speech accurately to memory, and it was spoken without manuscript or notes. The evening of the day previous to its delivery he had produced the finished manuscript and read the opening paragraph to his law partner, Mr. Herndon. “ Is it politic,” Mr. Herndon asked, “ to speak it as it is written ?” referring to the expression, “ A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln answered, “I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times. I would rather be defeated with this expression in the speech, and have it held up and discussed before the people, than to be victorious without it." Other close political friends were called in council. They thought his utterance impolitic and sure to lead to his defeat. Lincoln heard them patiently and then said :
“ Friends, I have thought about the matter a great deal, have weighed the question well from all corners, and am thoroughly convinced that the time has come when it should be uttered, and if it must be that I must go down with this speech, then let me go down linked to truth, die in the advocacy of what is just and right. This nation cannot live on injustice. A house divided against itself cannot stand,' I say again and again.”
The speech was given in the original form, and events soon proved the importance of Lincoln's painstaking preparation. It
1 Morse, Abraham Lincoln (American Statesman Series), Vol. I, p. 117.