« PreviousContinue »
veloped sorrow. They met each other as if each would ask the other, ‘Am I awake, or do I dream ?' There was a piteous helplessness. Strong men bowed down and wept. Other and common griefs belong to some one in chief, they are private property; but this was each man's and every man's. Every virtuous household in the land felt as if its first-born were gone. Men took it home. They were bereaved, and walked for days as if a corpse lay unburied in their dwellings. There was nothing else to think of; they could speak of nothing but that, and yet of that they could speak only falteringly. All business was laid aside, pleasure forgot to smile.
“The city for nearly a week ceased to roar, and the great Leviathan laid down and was still. Even Avarice stood still, and Greed was strangely moved to generous sympathy with universal sorrow. Rear to his name monuments, found charitable institutions, and with his name above their heights, but no monument will ever equal the universal, spontaneous and sublime sorrow that in a moment swept down lines and parties, and covered up animosities, and in an hour brought a divided people with unity of grief and indivisible fellowship of anguish! For myself, I cannot yet command that quietness of spirit needed for a just and temperate delineation of a man whom goodness has made great. I páss, then, to some considerations aside from the martyr President's character. And, first, let us not mourn that his departure was so sudden, nor fill our imagination with horror at its method. When good men pray for deliverance from hidden death, it is only that they may not be plunged, without preparation and all disrobed, into the presence of the Judge.
Men long eluding and evading sorrow, when suddenly overtaken, seem enchanted to make it great to the uttermosthabit which is not Christian, although it is doubtless natural. When one is ready to depart, suddenness is a blessing. It is a painful sight to see a tree overthrown by a tornado, wrenched from its foundations and broken down like a reed; but it is yet more painful to see a vast and venerable tree lingering with vain strife, when age and infirmity have marked it for destruction. The process of decay is a spectacle humiliating and painful ; but it seems good and grand for one to go from duty done with pulse high, with strength full and nerve strong, terminating a noble life in a fitting manner. Nor are we without Scripture warrant for these thoughts : 'Let your loins be girded about. Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching.'
Not those who die in a stupor are blessed, but they who go with all their powers about them, and wide awake, as to a wedding: He died watching. He died with armor on. In the midst of hours of labor, in the very heart of patriotic consultations, just returned from camps and council, he was stricken down.
"No fever dried his blood, 110 slow waste consumed bim. All at once, in full strength and manhood, with his girdle tight about him, he departed, and walks with God. Nor was the manner of his death more shocking, if we will surround it with higher associations. Have not thousands of soldiers fallen on the field of battle by the bullets of an enemy, and did not he ? All soldiers that fall ask to depart in the hour of victory, and at such an hour he fell. There was not a poor drummer boy in all this war, that has fallen, for whom the great heart of Lincoln would not have bled; there is not one private soldier without note or name slain among thousands, and hid in the pit among hundreds, without even the memorial of a separate burial, for whom the President would not have wept. He was a man from and of the people, and now that he who might not bear the march, the toil and battle, with these humble citizens, has been called to die by the bullet, as they were, do you not feel that there is a peculiar fitness to his nature and life, that he should in death be joined with them in a final common experience ? For myself, when any event is susceptible of a nobler garnishing, I cannot understand the nature or character of those who seek rather to drag it down, degrading and debasing, rather than ennobling and sanctifying it.
Secondly : This blow was but the expiring rebellion ; and as a miniature gives all the form and features of its subject, so, epitomized in this foul act, we find the whole nature and disposition of slavery. It begins in a wanton destruction of all human rights, and in the desecration of all the sanctities of heart and home. It can be maintained only at the sacrifice of every right moral feeling in its abettors and upholders. It is a two-edged sword, cutting both ways, desolating alike the oppressed and the oppressor, and violently destroying manhood in the victim, it insidiously destroys manhood in the master. No man born and bred under the influence of the accursed thing can possibly maintain his manhood, and I would as soon look for a saint in the darkness of perdition, as for a man of honor in this hot-bed of iniquity. The problem is solved, its demonstration is complete. Slavery wastes its victims, it wastes estates. It destroys public morality, it corrupts manhood in its centre. Communities in which it exists are not to be trusted. Its products are rotten. No timber grown in its cursed soil is fit for the ribs of our ship of State or for our household homes.
“The people are selfish in their patriotism, and brittle; whoever leans on them for support is pierced in his hand. Their honor is not honor, but a bastard quality which disgraces the name of honor, and for all time the honor of the supporters of slavery will be throughout the earth a by-word and a hissing. Their whole moral nature is death-smitten. The needless rebellion, the treachery of its leaders to oaths and trusts, their violations of the commonest principles of fidelity, sitting in Senates, Councils and places of trust, only to betray them ; the long, general and unparalleled cruelty to prisoners, without provocation or excuse; their unreasoning malignity and fierceness, all mark the symptoms of the disease of slavery, that is a deadly poison to soul and body. There may be exceptions, of course, but as a rule, malignity is the nature and the essence. Slavery is itself barbarous, and the nation which upholds and protects it is likewise barbarous. It is fit that its expiring blow should be made to take away from men the last forbearance, the last pity, and fire the soul with invincible determination that the breeding ground of such mischiefs and monsters shall be utterly and forever destroyed.
" It needed noť that the assassin should put on paper his belief in slavery. He was but the sting of the monster slavery which has struck this blow, and as long as this nation lasts, it will not be forgotten that we have had our · Martyr President,' nor while Heaven holds high court or Hell rots beneath, will it be forgotten that slavery murdered him.
“ Third: This blow was aimed at the life of government and of the nation. Lincoln was slain, but America was meant. The man was cast down, but the Government was smitten at. The President was killed, but national life-breathing freedom and benignity was sought. He of Illinois, as a private man, might have been detested, but it was because he represented the cause of just government, liberty and kindness, he was slain.
It was a crime against universal government, and was aimed at all. Not more was it at us than at England or France or any well compacted government. It was aimed at mankind. The whole world will repudiate it, and stigmatize it as a deed without a redeeming feature. It was not the deed of the oppressed, stung to madness by the cruelty of the oppressor; it was not the avenging hand against the heart of a despot; it was the exponent of a venomous hatred of liberty, and the avowed advocacy of slavery.
[Mr. Beecher illustrated the point by a report of the interview between Governor Pickens and Lieutenant Talbot, a few days prior to the attack ou Fort Sumter, wherein Pickens admitted that the South had really no cause of complaint; but that the leaders, hoping to deceive the people, had manufactured the necessary indignation at Northern insults, and were determined to separate, even though confessedly without good grounds.]
“Fourth. But the blow has signally failed. The cause is not stricken, but strengthened; men hate slavery the more, and love liberty better. The nation is dissolved, but only in tears, and stands more square and solid to-day than any pyramid in Egypt. The Government is not weakened, it is strengthed. How readily and easily the ranks closed up. We shall be more true to every instinct of liberty, to the Constitution, and to the principles of universal freedom. Where, in any other community--the crowned head being stricken by the hand of an assassin-would the funds have stood firm, as did ours, not wavering the half of one per cent?
“After four years of drastic war, of heavy drafts upon the people, on top of all, the very head of the nation is stricken down, and the funds never quivered, but stand as firm as the granite ribs in the mountains. Republican institutions have been vindicated in this very evidence. God has said, by the voice of his Providence, that republican liberty, based upon universal freedom, shall be as firm as the foundation of the globe.
' Fifth. Even he, who now sleeps, bas by this event been clothed with new influence. Dead, he speaks to men who now willingly hear what before they shout their ears to. Like the words of Washington, will his simple, mighty words be pondered on by your children, and children's children. Men will receive a new accession to their love of patriotism, and will, for his sake, guard with more zeal the welfare of the whole country. On the altar of this martyred patriot I swear you to be more faithful to your country. They will, as they follow his hearse, swear a new hatred to that slavery which has made him a martyr. By this solemn spectacle. I swear you to renewed hustility to slavery, and to a never-ending pursuit of it to its grave. They will admire and imitate his firmness in justice, his inflexible conscience for the right, his gentleness and moderation of spirit, and I swear you to a faithful copy of his justice, his mercy, and his gentleness.
“ You I can comfort, but how can I speak to the twilight millions, who revere his name as the name of God. Oh, there will be wailing for him, in hamlet and cottage, in woods and in wilds, and the fields of the South. Her dusky children looked on him, as on a Moses come to lead them out from the land of bordage. To whom can we direct them but to the Shepherd of Israel, and to his care commit them, for help, for comfort, and protection. And now, the Martyr is moving in triumphal march mightier than when alive. The nation rises up at his coming. Cities and States are his pall-bearers, and cannon beat the hours withi solemn procession. Dead--dead--dead--he yet speaketh! Is Washington dead? Is Hampden dead? Is David dead ? Now, disenthralled of flesh, and risen to the unobstructed sphere where passion never comes, he begins his illimitable work. His life is grafted upon the Infinite, and will be fruitful now as no earthly life can be.
• Pass on, thou that hast overcome! Your sorrows, oh people, are his pean! Your bells, and bands, and muffled drums, sound in his ear a triumph. You wail and weep here--God makes it triumph there. Four years ago, oh Illinois, we took him from your midst, an untried man from among the people. Behold, we return him, a mighty Conqueror! Not thine, but
the Nation's--not ours, but the world's. Give him place, ye Prairies! In the midst of this great continent, his dust shall rest, a sacred treasure to myriads who shall pilgrim to that shrine to kindle anew their zeal and patrioism. Ye winds, that move over the mighty spaces of the West, chant his requiem ! Ye people, behold a martyr whose blood, as articulate words, pleads for fidelity, for law, for liberty.”
At the conclusion of the discourse, during which many of the congregation were affected to tears, Mr. Beecher offered another Prayer-a Hymn of Victory was sungand the services closed with a Benediction.
ADDRESS BY GENERAL HIRAM WALBRIDGE.
At a large meeting of the congregation connected with Dr. Dowling's church, New York, General Walbridge was introduced, and delivered the following noble address on the death of the President:
GENERAL WALBRIDGE'S SPEECH,
“The history of a nation is nothing more or less than the biography of its distinguished sons. Whenever, therefore, a citizen of any community has attained such a position as to concentrate within his own person the affections of his countrymen, whatever affects him, for the time being, affects the State. And whenever such an individual is transferred to that list which makes up the record of the distinguished dead, just in proportion to the extent of his influence while living will be the respect paid his memory by those who shall come after him. The just appreciation by posterity of those who have rendered eminent services either in the Cabinet or in the field, is one of the strongest incentives to virtue and moral worth-an obligation which it is the highest duty of society to protect and cherish. Thus impressed, the American people since the assassination of their lamented President, with hearts overflowing with sadness, have gathered in their primary assemblages in every section of the Union, to pay appropriate tributes to the memory of the great and good man who, springing from the loins of the people, without adventitious aid, by the force of his eminent virtues, his patriotic services, his strict adherence to principle, and the fidelity with which he pursued his convictions on all questions affecting the interests of the State and influencing the destiny of the people, rose to the highest dignity recognized in the land. The peaceful death by tlie ordinary course of nature of a citizen occupying such an exalted position, and invested with such