« PreviousContinue »
The speech was, in the popular acceptation of the phrase, a great success. Through all his passages of close and crowded reasoning, his audience followed him with an interest that produced the profoundest silence, and at every triumphant establishment of a point broke out into sudden and hearty applause. Those who came from motives of curiosity went away thoughtful. Many who had entered the hall in doubt as to their duty, went away with their path bright before them. Most of all were the New York politicians affected; and it is not to be doubted that the impressions of that evening left them convinced that if Mr. Seward, the man of their choice, should be set aside, as the republican candidate for the presidency, Mr. Lincoln, the favorite of the West, would be abundantly worthy of their support.
At the conclusion of the speech, a few friends took the speaker to the rooms of the Atheneum Club for supper. Mr. Lincoln appreciated his success, and was in good humor over it. He was as happy at the table as he was upon the platform-full of good humor, and abounding with jokes and pleasant stories. Throwing off all reserve, and opening his heart like a boy, he talked long and late; and when he parted with his friends for the night they were as much charmed with the man as they had been instructed by his speech and entertained by his conversation.
The papers of the city were full of his address and with comments upon it the next day. The Illinois lawyer was a lion. Critics read the speech, and marveled at its pure and compact English, its felicity of statement and its faultless logic. It was read during the day not only by New York but by nearly all New England.
After the speech, he spent several days in New York, familiarizing himself with its wonders. Some of his explorations he made alone, and on one occasion found his way into the Sunday School of the Five Points Mission. The superintendent noticing his look of interest in the proceedings, invited him to speak to the children. His remarks interested his young audience so much that on every attempt to stop they
cried out "go on, oh! do go on!" None knew who he was, and as he turned to depart, the superintendent inquired his "Abraham Lincoln of Illinois," was the answer.
Invitations were received by Mr. Lincoln from many places in New England, to speak on political questions. On the fifth of March, he spoke at Hartford, in the city hall, and was escorted to the hall by the first company of " Wide-Awakes” ever organized in the country. This organization became universal throughout the free states, but was intended only for campaign service. He had an immense audience in Hartford, and produced a powerful impression. On the following day he was waited upon by a number of prominent citizens, and visited several objects of interest in the city, among which were the armories of Colt and Sharp. On the sixth of March, he spoke at New Haven, at Meriden on the seventh, at Woonsocket, Rhode Island, on the eighth, at Norwich, Connecticut, on the ninth, and at Bridgeport on the tenth. His speaking was always to immense audiences. Connecticut was that year carried by the republicans by about five hundred majority, against the most powerful efforts of the democrats—a fact which was due more to the speeches of Mr. Lincoln than to any other cause.
Some very interesting reminiscences of this trip were communicated to the public in 1864, by Rev. John P. Gulliver of Norwich, who listened to his address in that city.* On the morning following the speech, he met Mr. Lincoln upon a train of cars, and entered into conversation with him. In speaking of his speech, Mr. Gulliver remarked to Mr. Lincoln that he thought it the most remarkable one he ever heard. "Are you sincere in what you say?" inquired Mr. Lincoln. "I mean every word of it," replied the minister. "Indeed, sir," he. continued, “I learned more of the art of public speaking last evening than I could from a whole course of lectures on rhet、 oric." Then Mr. Lincoln informed him of “ a most extraordinary circumstance" that occurred at New Haven a few days previously. A professor of rhetoric in Yale College, he had
*New York Independent of September 1, 1864.
been told, came to hear him, took notes of his speech, and gave a lecture on it to his class the following day; and, not satisfied with that, followed him to Meriden the next evening, and heard him again for the same purpose. All this seemed to Mr. Lincoln to be "very extraordinary." He had been sufficiently astonished by his success at the West, but he had no expectation of any marked success at the East, particularly among literary and learned men. "Now," said Mr. Lincoln, "I should like very much to know what it was in my speech which you thought so remarkable, and which interested my friend the professor so much?" Mr. Gulliver's answer was: "The clearness of your statements, the unanswerable style of your reasoning, and, especially, your illustrations, which were romance and pathos and fun and logic all welded together."
After Mr. Gulliver had fully satisfied his curiosity by a further exposition of the politician's peculiar power, Mr. Lincoln said, "I am much obliged to you for this. I have been wishing for a long time to find some one who would make this analysis for me. It throws light on a subject which has been dark to me. I can understand very readily how such a power as you have ascribed to me will account for the effect. which seems to be produced by my speeches. I hope you have not been too flattering in your estimate. Certainly I have had a most wonderful success for a man of my limited education." Then Mr. Gulliver inquired into the processes by which he had acquired his education, and was rewarded with many interesting details. When they were about to part, the minister said: "Mr. Lincoln, may I say one thing to you before we separate?" "Certainly; anything you please," was the response. "You have just spoken," said Mr. Gulli"of the tendency of political life in Washington to debase the moral convictions of our representatives there, by the admixture of considerations of mere political expediency. You have become, by the controversy with Mr. Douglas, one of our leaders in this great struggle with slavery, which is undoubtedly the struggle of the nation and the age. What I would like to say is this, and I say it with a full heart: Be
true to your principles, and we will be true to you, and God will be true to us all.” Mr. Lincoln, touched by the earnestness of his interlocutor, took his hand in both of his own, and, with his face full of sympathetic light, exclaimed: "I say amen to that! amen to that!”
After visiting his son at Harvard College, making many acquaintances among the prominent men of New England, and looking with curious eyes upon New England scenes, and observing with his native shrewdness the characteristics of New England habits and manners, he turned his face homewards, spending a Sabbath in New York while on the way, and again attending Mr. Beecher's church.
One thing, at least, he had learned by this visit: that the people of the older states judge a man by the same rule that prevails on an Illinois prairie-by what he is, and what he can do, and not by the cloth he wears, the knowledge he has acquired, the wealth he possesses, or the blood that flows in his veins. He had been accepted as an honest, fresh, original and powerful man; and he went home gratified. Could he have made his visit longer, and been seen more generally by the people, it would not have been necessary for them to wait so long before knowing how great and good a man the providence of God had given to be their ruler.
THE frequent allusions in Mr. Lincoln's speeches to threats of secession on the part of the South, in the event of the success of the republican party, have already shown the reader that secession had become a matter of consideration and discussion among those interested in the perpetuation and nationalization of slavery. It was evident that the southern leaders were preparing the minds of their people for some desperate step, and that many of them desired, rather than deprecated, the election of a republican president. Many of them openly said that they should prefer the election of Mr. Seward or Mr. Lincoln to the election of Mr. Douglas, because then they should know exactly what they were to meet. The reason thus given was undoubtedly a fraud. They found themselves in desperate circumstances. All their schemes for the extension of slavery and the reinforcement of the slave power had miscarried. Kansas and California were lost to them. There was no hope for them in Nebraska or any of the new territories. The hope of acquiring Cuba was gone, and the fillibustering operations of Walker which they had patronized were failures. They knew of but one remedythat which the great mischief-maker of South Carolina had pointed out to them many years before, viz: secession. It is doubtful whether they preferred secession to predominance in the nation, but, basing their policy on the doctrine of “state rights," their aim was to secede, and either to insist on a permanent separation, or by secession to coerce the government