« PreviousContinue »
In this brief memoir of one of the most remarkable
of the book renders this impossible. We have selected from the best sources those facts of a most remarkable career, which we thought most likely to interest the English reader. The work is compiled largely from the “ Life of Abraham Lincoln,” by Orville J. Victor, and larger biographies by J. H. Barrett and H. J. Raymond. We must also acknowledge our indebtedness to “The American Conflict,” by Horace Greeley, * “ Victor's History of the Southern Rebellion," " Greeley's Political TextBook," and “The Lincoln and Douglas Debates." All of these are American productions, and consequently cannot be expected to be entirely free from party bias. Perhaps a similar leaning may be detected in these pages, but it is believed that the closest scrutiny will fail to discover a single statement of fact which cannot be sustained by a reference to authentic documents.
The Appendix will be found to contain a collection of rare and important documents, in addition to which it has been deemed not out of place to present in a connected view the comments of the English and French press on the late melancholy event, which so greatly enhances the interest that is already attached to Mr. Lincoln's career.
* 0. D. Case and Co., Hartford, U.S. ; Bacon and Co., L ndon.
A few years ago, scarcely a man in the whole eastern hemisphere, few even in America, beyond the limits of his own State, had heard the name of Abraham Lincoln. It is now vocal upon the lips, and engraved in the hearts, of every lover of humanity, not in America alone, but in all Christendom. How shall we account for so marvellous a phenomenon ? Had he been gifted with eloquence, with military genius, had be been possessed of extraordinary learning or science, to startle the world with some wonderful and unexpected discovery or invention, the solution would be obvious. But that an individual whose intellectual capacity was certainly by no means extraordinary, and who, so far from being aided by any accident of birth or fortune, was compelled to struggle through a youth and manhood of extreme penury and utter obscurity, unprepossessing in appearance, nay, with an ungainliness of manner almost as obtrusive as were analogous defects in our own Dr. Johnson
that such a waif upon the sea of life should, in so marvellously brief a period, attain the very pinnacle of fame, and win from the people of even distant continents a love and admiration co-extensive therewith, is an event unprecedented in the history of the world.
We think that the facts of his biography, if rightly interpreted, point to a solution which has only to be suggested to become evident; it is this—a great humanitarian development had been ripening on the American continent—was struggling into the world of fact. It sought a fit exponent - sought an exponent where Christianity itself had resorted—among the meek, the lowly, and simple-hearted. Genius was not wanted, because genius is egotistical, and seeks to impress its own individuality upon those pregnant events which only ask for development. Give space, light, and freedom, and the great human “leviathan” will grow apace. A passive but loving faith in the future was all that was wanting, and this was found in the broad, genial, and guileless nature of the American backwoodsman. And this one quality is the simple secret of his success in safely piloting the great nation which had wisely chosen him for her ruler through a crisis whose dangers and difficulties might well have appalled and would doubtless have foiled a statesman of the Napoleonic type.
“I claim not to have controlled events, but confess “plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the “ end of three years' struggle, the nation's condition is “ not what either party or any man devised or expected
-God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong,
and wills that we of the North shall pay fairly “ for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will “ find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice " and goodness of God."
Abraham Lincoln was not permitted to behold the complete fruition of his noble faith. Yet he had restored and enlarged the boundaries of freedom, and had inducted an oppressed race within its pale. He had, at least, seen the revolution safely through all danger, and clearly perceived “whither it is tending." The oppressed of the earth, and the friends of the oppressed, will bewail his death-so sudden, so cruel, and untimely. But there is compensation in all misfortunes. He had lived his higher existence, he had fulfilled his mission, and the vile assassin who deprived him of a few short years, added to him another crown of immortality. He was already one of the heroes of progress; he is now one of its martyrs.