Page images

Mr. Lincoln's Self-reliance.

Reliance on the People.

State Papers.

pean powers he often acted in direct opposition to the popular wish. Nothing would have been easier than for him to have brought a foreign war upon the country; and in such action, for a time at least, he would have been sustained by the mass of the people. So, too, as to vindictive measures towards the rebels. By adopting these he would, oftentimes, have been in harmony with the general wish for vengeance and retaliation. In both these instances—to name no others -he chose to act counter to the current sentiment. More politic, with a more piercing outlook than the mass, he saw the end from the beginning, and in the one case chose to overlook what was, to bis mind, grossly wrong, and in the other, to stand up for the general interests of humanity through all time rather than to cater to the desire of the hour, natural and, perhaps, pardonable though it was.

What is meant is this—that, in the complications in which the country was involved, be invariably acted, where expediency simply and not principle was concerned, so as to feel sure that the body of the people were with him. If failure were to result, he would bave them feel that the responsibility for it rested as much upon them as upon him. He earnestly endeavored to point out what he judged the better way and to bring the people to bis conviction ; but, if they relucted, be waited till they should have advanced where, or nearly where, be was. This was generally felt, and it added largely to the confidence reposed in him. By means of it, a general acquiescence was procured in many measures earlier than could have been gained by any other course.

We Americans aie a peculiar people in some respects. We dislike to be led by any man. Nay, we stoutly deny that we are. We are not when we see the leading strings.

Mr. Lincoln's state papers in their structure and composio tion were not always what a critical scholar would have desired. Some would say they were presented quite tvo often in undress. The people are not profound critics. They

Mr. Lincoln's State Papers.

His Tenacity of Purpos

could comprehend every word. They felt that they were ad. dressed as fellow-citizens. The ordinarily formal and stilted official documents came from his plain pen a talk to them by the fireside. He said, moreover, exactly what he meant and as he meant, in his own clear cogent way, void of verbiage,

omely often but always the outgrowth of a profound intelligent conviction. And, generally, he struck home. His were the words to which “the common pulse of man keeps time." How studded are his papers with lucid illustration; how transparently honest and candid, like the man, their author !

His tenacity of purpose was marked. Signing that immortal proclamation, which made him the Liberator of America, on the afternoon of January 1st, 1863, after hours of New Year's hand-shaking, he said to friends that night“The signature looks a little tremulous, for my hand was tired, but my resolution was firm. I told them in September, if they did not return to their allegiance and cease murdering our soldiers, I would strike at this pillar of their strength. And now the promise shall be kept; and not one word of it will I ever recall." In all the varying scenes through which as our leader he passed, avoiding the extremes of sudden exultation or deep depression, calm and quiet, and resolute and determined, he kept on his course, with duty as his guiding star, an unwarped conscience his prompter. Feeling always that he bore his life in his hands, in the perilous position' in wbich he was placed, as well as he who went forth to do duty in the battle-field, he faltered not, swerved not, compromised not, retracted not, apologized not, but pursued his way with an inflexibility as rare as it is grand and inspiring. Others might doubt-not he. He saw the end toward which the nation and himself must strive. That was ever present to him, and toward that he ever worked. His mission as President was, as he so often and so pointedly stated, to save the Union. And he saved it. There may be those who will contend that such a result might have been reached by

Father of his Country.

Personal Characteristics.

Favorite Poem.

other means than those be was impelled to employ. That is theory. He reduced his to practice. For himself, he could work only in his own harness; and patiently, persistently, painfully he worked on till the goal was reached.

Well has Washington been styled the Father of his Country. Yet this arose from veneration rather than from love; for the most felt such an impassable gulf between themselves and the patriot-hero, that to them he appeared of quite another order of beings than themselves.

Abraham Lincoln was both Saviour and Father; for be preserved whatever was most valuable in the old and created a new order of things possessing an inherent dignity and importance which the old never had. And such titles the people bestow upon him through love.

The characteristics of the man stood prominently out in the statesman. He had not one garb as an official and another as a citizen. No change marked his transit from the chat of the drawing-room to the consultation of cabinet. What he was in the one situation he was in the other. His peculiar humor was not, as those who least knew bim judged, his habitual disposition. More of melancholy and sadness centred in him than most were aware. His favorite poemgiven below for the sufficient reason that it was his favorite -attests the vein of pensiveness which was in him. “There is one poem,” he remarked in conversation, " that is almost continually present with me: it comes in my mind whenever I have relief from thought and care."

Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be pruua!
Like a swift, fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around and together be laid ;
And the young and the old, and the low and the higłe,
Shall moulder to dust and together shall lie.

His Favorite Poem.

His Favorite Poem.

The infaut a mother attended and loved ;
The mother that infant's affection who proved ;
The husband that mother and infant who blessed,
Each, all, are away to their dwellings of Rest.
The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure-her triumphs are by ;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised,
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.

The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne ;
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn;
The eye of the sage and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depth of the grave.

The peasant whose lot was to sow and to reap ;
The herdsman, who climbed with his goats up the steep;
The beggar, who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

The saint who enjoyed the communion of heaven,
The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven,
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

So the multitude goes, like the flowers or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told.

For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen-
We drink the same stream and view the same sun-
And run the same course our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink,
To the life we are clinging they also would cling;
But it speeds for us all, like a bird on the wing.

Taey loved, but the story we cannot unfold;
They scorned, but the heart of the haughty is cold ;
They grieved, but no wail from their slumber will come ;
They joyed, but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

Ilis Favorite Poem.

Record of his Life.

Always a Learner.

They died, aye ! they died ; and we things that are now,
Who walk on the turf that lies over their brow,
Who make in their dwelling a transient abode,
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.
Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
We mingle together in sunshine and rain ;
And the smile and the tear, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

'Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath;
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud-
Oh why should the spirit of mortal be proud ?

No one was more modest than he. Look at the record of his life as furnished by himself, in 1858, for Lanman's Dictionary of Congress :

“ Born February 12, 1809, in Hardin county, Kentucky. “Education Defective. “Profession a lawyer. “Have been a captain of volunteers in the Black Hawk war. Postmaster at a very small office. “Four times a member of the Illinois Legislature. "And was a member of the lower House of Congress. “Yours, etc.,

A. LINCOLN." With 'no self-conceit, a pupil in the school of events, be was never ashamed to confess himself a learner, and as such he grew and ripened. Equable in his temperament, never wrathful or passionate, none need have been his enemy, unless such an one were intended for an enemy of the human race. Mild and forgiving, he never allowed the unmerited abuse which was heaped upon him to affect in the least his intercourse or dealings with its authors. His very failings leaned to mercy's side. There is scarcely a hamlet in the loyal States that does not contain some witness of his clemency and lenity. One of the most touching incidents cod

« PreviousContinue »