« PreviousContinue »
say what they think true; that is the only kind of leadership you can afford to have.
And then, last and greatest characteristic of all, a man of the people is a man who has felt that unspoken, that intense, that almost terrifying struggle of humanity, that struggle whose object is, not to get forms of government, not to realize particular formulas or make for any definite goal, but simply to live and be free. He has participated in that struggle; he has felt the blood stream against the tissue; he has known anxiety; he has felt that life contained for him nothing but effort, effort from the rising of the sun to the going down of it. He has, therefore, felt beat in him, if he had any heart, a universal sympathy for those who struggle, a universal understanding of the unutterable things that were in their hearts and the unbearable burdens that were upon their backs. A man who has that vision, of how
“Now touching good, now backward hurled,
a man like Lincoln-understands. His was part of the toil; he had part and lot in the struggle; he knew the uncertainty of the goal mankind had but just touched and from which they had been hurled back; knew that the price of life is blood, and that no man who goes jauntily and complacently through the world will ever touch the springs of human action. Such a man with such a consciousness, such a universal human sympathy, such a universal comprehension of what life means, is your man of the people, and no one else can be.
What shall we do? It always seems to me a poor tribute to a great man who has been great in action, to spend the hours of his praise by merely remembering what he was; and there is no more futile eulogy than attempted imitation. It is impossible to imitate Lincoln, without being Lincoln; and then it would not be an imitation. It is impossible to reproduce the characters, as it is impossible to reproduce the
circumstances, of a past age. That ought to be a truism; that ought to be evident. We live, and we have no other choice, in this age, and the tasks of this age are the only tasks to which we are asked to address ourselves. We are not asked to apply our belated wisdom to the problems and perplexities of an age that is gone. We must have timely remedies, suitable for the existing moment. If that be true, the only way in which we can worthily celebrate a great man is by showing to-day that we have not lost the tradition of force which made former ages great, that we can reproduce them continuously in a kind of our own. You elevate the character of a man like Lincoln for his fellow-men to gaze upon, not as if it were an unattainable height, but as one of those conspicuous objects which men erect to mark the long lines of a survey, so that when they top the next hill they shall see that mark standing there where they have passed, not as something to daunt them, but as a high point by which they can lengthen and complete their measurements and make sure of their ultimate goal and achievement. That is the reason we erect the figures of men like this to be admired and looked upon, not as if we were men who walk backward and deplore the loss of such figures and of such ages, but as men who keep such heights in mind and walk forward, knowing that the goal of the age is to scale new heights and to do things of which their work was a mere foundation, so that we shall live, like every other living thing, by renewal. We shall not live by recollection, we shall not live by trying to recall the strength of the old tissue, but by producing new tissue. The process of life is a process of growth, and the process of growth is a process of renewal; and it is only in this wise that we shall face the tasks of the future.
The tasks of the future call for men like Lincoln more audibly, more imperatively, than did the tasks of the time when civil war was brewing and the very existence of the Nation was in the scale of destiny. For the things that perplex us at this moment are the things which mark, I will not say a warfare, but a division among classes; and when
What is Where do
a nation begins to be divided into rival and contestant interests by the score, the time is much more dangerous than when it is divided into only two perfectly distinguishable interests which you can discriminate and deal with. If there are only two sides I can easily make up my mind which side to take, but if there are a score of sides then I must say to some man who is not immersed, not submerged, not caught in this struggle, "Where shall I go? What do you see? the movement of the mass? Where are we going? you propose you should go?" It is then I need a man of the people, detached from this struggle yet cognizant of it all, sympathetic with it all, saturated with it all, to whom I can say, "How do you sum it up, what are the signs of the day, what does the morning say, what are the tasks that we must set our hands to?" We should pray, not only that we should be led by such men, but also that they should be men of the particular sweetness that Lincoln possessed.
The most dangerous thing you can have in an age like this is a man who is intense and hot. We have heat enough; what we want is light. Anybody can stir up emotions, but who is master of men enough to take the saddle and guide those awakened emotions? Anybody can cry a nation awake to the necessities of reform, but who shall frame the reform but a man who is cool, who takes his time, who will draw you aside for a jest, who will say: "Yes, but not to-day, tomorrow; let us see the other man and see what he has to say; let us hear everybody, let us know what we are to do. In the meantime I have a capital story for your private ear. Let me take the strain off, let me unbend the steel. Don't let us settle this thing by fire but let us settle it by those cool, incandescent lights which show its real nature and color."
The most valuable thing about Mr. Lincoln was that in the midst of the strain of war, in the midst of the crash of arms, he could sit quietly in his room and enjoy a book that led his thoughts off from everything American, could wander in fields of dreams, while every other man was hot with the immediate contest. Always set your faith in a man who can
men, because his character was a touchstone which drew the best from every one with whom he came in contact. But, perhaps, after all, the most inspiring thought which is associated with this commemoration, is the fact that we see one great united nation, forgetful of any sectional prejudice, joining in affectionate regard to offer its tribute to the memory of our martyred President. Is it not, in fact, as if the great American Commonwealth here highly resolved that those ideals which Abraham Lincoln advocated all his life, that government "by the people, of the people, and for the people," should not perish from the earth?
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF LINCOLN
HON. J. A. MACDONALD
MONG the men born of American women, there has not
arisen a greater than Abraham Lincoln. It is fitting that throughout this Republic, from the capital to the remotest pioneer hamlet, his name should this day be lifted high in loving memory. The honor of that name is the priceless heritage of every State in this great Union, whose integrity he maintained and whose flag he saved from shame.
But if the people of other States raise their voices in this centennial celebration with pride and grateful praise, how much more you-you people of Illinois, whose State gave him the nation; you citizens of Chicago, whose city witnessed his first nomination to the Presidency-how much more should you cherish the name of Lincoln as the honorable birthright of yourselves and your children; and
"For many and many an age proclaim
With honor, honor, honor to him,
The smoke of war has long since cleared away. Even the darker clouds of ignorance and selfishness and suspicion that blinded the eyes and hardened the hearts of men on both sides, and made not only the Revolution, but the Civil War inevitable, have been shot through with the straight white light of reason and charity and truth. The men of the South to-day appreciate the work and venerate the memory of Abraham Lincoln, even as the men of the North are coming to honor the heroism and courage and personal worth of those genuine patriots and noble leaders, Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson. We meet as the reconciled members of one great family, all enriched by the memories of each,