Page images

He never compromised. Why? Because he was taught in the school of Nature in the West, and Nature never compromises. You have to pay the penalty of Nature every time. And if he had lived, I believe he would have spared us that awful period which we call "reconstruction." Take the Southern people to-day. Have they lost the bitterness of the Civil War? Yes, but they cannot forget the reconstruction. That was a bitter period, when the "carpet-bagger" plundered the South and placed the negro in the saddle. I believe Lincoln would have saved us that experience. Why? Because he was by birth a Southerner. If there is a Southerner here, he has a right to claim Lincoln. Lincoln was born in the slave State of Kentucky, and he was surrounded by Southern people when he moved over into Indiana in the early days. Then he moved to the southern part of Illinois, which was settled by Southern people. He loved the South. He never wanted to take away their slaves, and to the day of his death he supported the theory of compensated emancipation. "Let us buy their slaves, and not take their slaves away, " he said. In the midst of the War he secured the passage of a bill by Congress offering to buy the slaves of any State not in rebellion; that was his theory. He was a Southern man and he loved the South. One day he threw his great long arms around Senator Speed of Kentucky, whom he had known in boyhood. "Oh, Speed," he said, "if we could get one State, if we could only get Kentucky, to accept our offer to buy their slaves rather than take them away, then you and I would not have lived in vain." They would not do it, and he had to take away the slaves in some of the States, and allow the people by an amendment to the Constitution to take them away in all the States.

I believe, also, on the basis of the last speech that he ever made, that he would have saved us reconstruction. Lee had surrendered. Great crowds flocked into the White House grounds and called for Lincoln, who stepped out on the south portico. His long, gaunt figure and homely face appealed to the crowd in the flaring light of the many torches. He got the crowd quiet and then he said, "Now, my friends,"

-raising his voice to a thrilling falsetto, as he always did when he was anxious to make everybody hear,-"Now, my friends, the good news which has reached us, that Lee has surrendered, bids us fair to think that the end of the War is at hand. Now will come the great task of reconstructing the Union."

"Whether the Southern States have been out of the Union, or whether they have not been out of the Union," was the question which Congress and President Johnston fought over for three years. What did Lincoln say? "As to whether they have been out of the Union or have not been out of the Union, I consider all that merely a pernicious abstraction. They have not been in their proper relations, and it is your duty to get them back into their proper relations as soon as possible."

That was his simple plan; that is the way he would have done it. But it was not to be. Walt Whitman, the poet, said there were three days when it seemed to him the world had come to an end. The first was the day when he heard that Fort Sumter was fired upon; the second was the day he heard of the fearful loss of the Northern forces at Manassas Junction; and the third was the dawn of the April morning when he heard the newsboys crying through the streets of Washington that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. Soon after, Walt Whitman heard how Lincoln told his dream to his Cabinet three days before his death. What other President has ever gone before his Cabinet and professed his reliance in dreams? But Lincoln always depended upon his dreams. He said to his Cabinet, "Don't worry; we shall have another victory." They said, "Have you had some news?" "No, but I have had my dream, and just as sure as I have that dream, we shall have a victory." What was the significant dream? He dreamed of a ship coming in under full sail, every mast and sail and rope in its place. He believed that whenever he dreamed that dream, we had a victory. Walt Whitman, after Lincoln's death, only three days later, said, "I can interpret that dream. The ship is the ship of state. It has come in under full sail; every sail

and mast and rope in its place. It is the Union. The Union is saved, but the Captain of the vessel lies dead on the deck." And with this thought in mind, Walt Whitman wrote these beautiful lines with which I close:

"O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather'd every rock, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

"O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up for you the flag is flung-for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths-for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here, Captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head!

It is some dream that on the deck,

You've fallen cold and dead.

"My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won.
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!

But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.”

[ocr errors]


(A Speech of Introduction)


T is well in this great Republic that we do not forget her distinguished sons. By studying the lessons of their lives, by frequently recalling their virtues and their excellencies, national ideals are elevated and national character strengthened and developed.

We are met to commemorate upon this centennial anniversary, the birth and the life of a great American.

Born in obscurity and of humble parentage, reared in want and poverty, denied almost all educational advantages, the plainest of the plain people, he stands to-day, secure in the Pantheon of Nations, the great colossal figure of his age and time.

Disappointed and embittered, as he sometimes seems to have been by his earlier political experiences, he lived to witness that great triumph of human freedom, to the struggle for which his life was consecrated, and to which he was designated by a higher than any earthly power.

In a peculiar sense Abraham Lincoln belongs to Illinois. Here in this city, amid the gathering clouds of civil strife and discord, he was selected to bear the banner of freedom. From his humble home at our capital he went forth to his stupendous career, to his glorious martyrdom. Thither he was borne after the last sad tragedy, and there upon our soil he sleeps until the earth shall give up its dead.

We knew him when we gave him to mankind. The world knows him now; and to the last syllable of recorded time he can not be forgotten.



REAT men are like towering mountain peaks. They stand out in bold and sharp loneliness above the lowlands of the many-companied multitude of the undistinguished and the unfamed. And yet they are, for all their grandeur, of one formation with the deeper levels. But they catch the first flash of the morning sun, and the expiring day's regretful good-night kiss is imprinted upon their brow. And when thus the breaking dawn's blush is upon them and the glow of the retreating twilight weaves around them its golden halo, they loom up veritable torches kindled to light the path for the wayfarers in the valleys beneath. Like mountains, their magnitude escapes the beholder from too near a point of observation. While they live they jostle against the throng in the market and the street. Their voice rings out from the platform, indeed, but its peculiar note is not detected because others of lesser quality have aroused the echo as well. And they who in heated debate heard their appeal and argument or touched elbows with them as they hurried to their daily task, cannot but carry from the contact and concourse the feeling that even giants are kneaded of the clay that mothers all mortality. Only when time has raised a screen between the days in which it was theirs to act their part, and subsequent years-when what was a burning issue around which flamed passion and flowered intrigue has grown to be the cherished conviction of the later born-they who in the days of their vigorous manhood were rated and berated partisans are summoned from their graves, exemplars of patriotic devotion, monuments of human greatness. When they and their generation have entered into rest, their fame leaps to the welcoming skies. It is hailed a talisman for the nation

« PreviousContinue »