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Character and Public Services




The public services of Abraham Lincoln, as President of the United States, are now a matter of history. The last year of his official term is passing away with the shock of battle and the promise of victory. It is well to pause, and consider how ably he has guided the Ship of State through the storm and breakers of civil war. Surely the successes of his early life were harbingers of triumphs in this period of sanguinary strife. The elements of character that adorned his youth, and blossomed into golden manhood, brightening the star of his fame as a lawyer, legislator, statesman, and patriot, prefigured his successful administration of national affairs as the ruler of the American Republic.

Abraham Lincoln was elected to the office of President of the United States on the 6th of November, 1860. On the eleventh day of February, 1861, he left his home in Springfield, Ill., where twenty-five eventful years of his life had been spent, to proceed to Washington. Thousands of his fellow-citizens, of all parties and sects, to whom he was endeared by the strongest ties of friendship, assembled at the depot to bid him farewell. They revered and loved



him as an elder brother; and, while they rejoiced that the American people had conferred the highest honor upon him, they sorrowed that the parting hour had arrived.

With deep emotion, almost forbidding utterance, Mr. Lincoln thus addressed the multitude before his departure:

“My friends, no one can appreciate the sadness I feel at this parting. To this people I owe all that I am. Here I have lived more than a quarter of a century. Here my children were born, and here one of them lies buried. I know not how soon I shall see you again. A duty devolves upon me which is perhaps greater than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. He never would have succeeded, except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same divine aid which sustained him; and in the same Almighty Being I place my reliance for support; and I hope that you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that divine assistance, without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is certain. Again I bid you all an affectionate farewell."

Many eyes were bedimmed with tears when he closed. Many hearts struggled with emotion. Many a silent “ God bless you!went up to heaven as the cars moved away.


many earnest prayers arose from the altars of Springfield, at the close of that day, for the President elect, whom the people honored and loved! They remembered his simple request, which no other than a sincerely good man would have dared to make in the circumstances ; and hundreds of fervent spirits besought Him, who preserved and guided Washington, to sustain and direct their friend in his new and trying position.

There is much of true greatness in this single request of Abraham Lincoln. He who was reared in a log-cabin is not lifted up by pride now that he is going to the White House. The President is as humble and familiar as the Pioneer Boy. His heart is oppressed by a deep sense of his responsibilities. It is not only a sacred, but also a momentous trust to which he is called. He realizes the solemn reality. “A duty devolves upon me which is perhaps greater than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington," he said. Surely that is responsibility enough! And yet he should not have excepted Washington; for even the Father of his Country” did not take the Presidential chair under circumstances so momentous and appalling. Those were peaceful days in comparison with this fearful period of civil war. Washington manned the ship, and spread her sails. Lincoln took the helm in a gale that threatened to tear her canvas to shreds; and, with the solemn charge to save the ship and her precious freight, pilots her over dangerous rocks and through stormy waves.

As he himself most beautifully expressed it, in reply to the Mayor of NewYork City, who welcomed him to that metropolis, when he was on his journey to Washington,

“ There is nothing that could ever bring me to willingly consent to the destruction of this Union, under which not only the great commercial city of New York, but the whole country, acquired its greatness, except it be the purpose for which the Union itself was formed. I understand the ship to be made for the carrying and the preservation of the cargo; and, so long as the ship can be saved with the cargo, it should never be abandoned, unless it fails the possibility of its preservation and shall cease to exist, except at the risk of throwing overboard both freight and passengers. So long, then, as it is possible that the prosperity and the liberties of the people be preserved in this Union, it shall be my purpose, at all times, to use all my powers to aid in its perpetuation.”

The welcome extended to Mr. Lincoln on his journey to the capital of the United States was a perfect ovation. The people crowded to meet and greet him at every stopping-place; and he was welcomed to the cities through which he passed with music and the ringing of bells, the waving of banners and the peal of cannon. Yet amid all these festivities, and demonstrations of joy, his mind labored with the fearful problem of national existence that loomed up in the future ; and he repeated again and again, to the multitudes who thronged to see him, the sentiments which he addressed to the President of the Ohio Senate :

“It is true, as has been said by the President of the Senate, that very great responsibility rests upon me in the position to which the votes of the American people have called me. I am deeply sensible of that weighty responsibility. I cannot but know, what you all know, that without a name, perhaps without a reason why I should have a name, there has fallen upon me a task such as did not rest upon the “Father of his Country;" and, so feeling, I cannot but turn, then, and look to the American people, and to that God who has never forsaken them.

With such feelings of patriotic trust, courage, and hope, he became President of the United States. Enemies were on his track, and plots were laid to assassinate him. He narrowly escaped from the bloody grasp of a traitorous mob, in his journey through Baltimore, by clandestinely going through the city by night. All around him were those who would gladly have seconded any secret measure to murder him. Their hands were ready for evil deeds, and blood was in their hearts. Yet no person was cooler than Mr. Lincoln. No man had so much to fear, yet no man was more fearless. He had counted the cost, and had resolved to live or perish with the Union.

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