Longman's English Classics
LINCOLN'S INAUGURALS, ADDRESSES AND LETTERS
WITH AN INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR AND NOTES
DANIEL KILHAM DODGE, PH.D.
PROFESSOR OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
FOURTH AVENUE & 30TH STREET, NEW YORK
PRAIRIE AVENUE & 25TH STREET, CHICAGO
LONGMANS GREEN AND CO.
FIRST EDITION, JULY, 1910
REPRINTED, JUNE, 1913, MAY, 1915, MARCH, 1917
INAUGURALS, ADDRESSES, AND LETTERS
Address to the People of Sangamon County, March 9, 1832 The Perpetuation of our Political Institutions, January 27, 1837 Speech at Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858 Second Joint Debate at Freeport, August 27, 1858 The Cooper Institute Address, Monday, February 27, 1860 Farewell Address at Springfield, Illinois, February 12, 1861 Farewell Address at Springfield, Illinois, February 11, 1861 Address in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, February 22, 1861 First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861 Response to Serenade, March 4, 1861 Letter to Colonel Ellsworth's Parents, May 25, 1861 Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862 Extract from the Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862 The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation, July 15, 1863 Letter to J. C. Conkling, August 26, 1863 Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863 Letter to Mrs. Bixby, November 21, 1864 Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865 Last Public Address, April 11, 1865
APPENDIX. Autobiography, December 20, 1859
The facts of Lincoln's early life are best stated in his own words, communicated in 1859[see Appendix] to Mr. J. W. Fell, of Bloomington, Illinois. Unlike many men who have risen from humble surroundings, Lincoln never boasted of his wonderful struggle with poverty. His nature had no room for the false pride of a Mr. Bounderby, even though the facts warranted the claim. Indeed, he seldom mentioned his early life at all. On one occasion he referred to it as "the short and simple annals of the poor." Lincoln himself did not in any way base his claims to public recognition upon the fact that he was born in a log cabin and that he had split rails in his youth, although, on the other hand, he was not ashamed of the facts. More, perhaps, than any other man of his time he believed and by his actions realized the truth of Burns' saying, "The man's the goud, for a' that." The real lesson to be drawn from Lincoln's life is that under any conditions real success is to be won by intelligent, unwavering effort, the degree of success being determined by the ability and character of the individual. Still less profitable is the attempt to contrast the success of Lincoln with that of Washington, or Jefferson or of any other American whose early circumstances were more favorable than Lincoln's. In each case success has been worthily won, and we Americans of the present generation should rejoice that our country has produced so many great men. True patriotism does not consist in the recognition of only one type of Americanism, but rather in the grateful acceptance of every service that advances the fortunes and raises the reputation of the republic. Peculiar interest attaches to the character of Lincoln's early reading and especially to the small number of books that were accessible to him. In these days of cheap and plentiful literature it is hard for us to realize the conditions in pioneer Kentucky and Indiana, where half a dozen volumes formed a family library and even newspapers were few and far between. There was no room for mental dissipation, and the few precious volumes that could be obtained were read and re-read until their contents were fully mastered. When Sir Henry Irving was asked to prepare a list of the hundred best books he replied, "Before a hundred books, commend me to the reading of two, the Bible and Shakespeare." Fortunately these two classics came at an early age within the reach of Lincoln and the frequency with which he quotes from both at all periods of his career, both in his writings and in his conversation, shows that he had made good use of them. The boy Lincoln not only read books, he made copious extracts from them, often using a smooth shingle in the absence of paper and depending upon the uncertain light of the log fire in his father's cabin. Such use of books makes for intellectual growth, and much of Lincoln's later success as a writer can be referred back to this careful method of reading.
Lincoln's later reading shows considerable variety within certain limits. He himself once remarked that he liked "little sad songs." Among, his special favorites in this class of poetry were "Ben Bolt," "The Lament of the Irish Emigrant," Holmes' "The Last Leaf," and Charles Mackay's "The Enquiry." The poem from which he most frequently quoted and which seems to have impressed him most was, "Oh, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal be Proud?" His own marked tendency to melancholy, which is reflected in his face, seemed to respond to appeals of this sort. Among his favorite poets besides Shakespeare were Burns, Longfellow, Hood, and Lowell. Many of the poems in his personal anthology were picked from the poets' corner of newspapers, and it was in this way that he became acquainted with Longfellow. Lincoln was especially fond of humorous writings, both in prose and verse, a taste that is closely connected with his lifelong fondness for funny stories. His favorite humorous writer during the presidential period was Petroleum V. Nasby (David P. Locke), from whose letters he frequently read to more or less sympathetic listeners. It was eminently characteristic of Lincoln that the presentation to the Cabinet of the Emancipation Proclamation was prefaced by the reading of the latest Nasby letter.
Lincoln's statement in the Autobiography that he had picked up the little advance he had made upon his early education, or rather lack of education, is altogether too modest. It is known that after his term in Congress he studied and mastered geometry; and, like Washington, he early became a successful surveyor. His study of the law, too, was characteristically thorough, and his skill in debate, in which he had no superior, was the result of careful preparation. During the presidential period Lincoln gave evidence of critical ability that is little short of marvellous in a man whose schooling amounted to less than a year. In a letter to the actor Hackett and in several conversations he analyzed passages from "Hamlet," "Macbeth," and other plays with an insight and sympathy that have rarely been surpassed even by eminent literary critics.
At an early age Lincoln's interest was aroused in public speaking and he soon began to exercise himself in this direction and to attend meetings addressed by those skilled in the art of oratory. Many stories are told of his local reputation as a speaker and story-teller even before he moved to Illinois, much of his success then as in later life being due to the singular charm of his personality. Lincoln never overcame a certain awkwardness, almost uncouthness of appearance, and he never acquired the finer arts of oratory for which his rival Douglas was so conspicuous. But in spite of these physical difficulties he was acknowledged by Douglas to be the man whom he most feared in debate; and Lincoln was able to sway the critical, unfamiliar audience assembled in Cooper Union as readily as the ruder crowds gathered about the Illinois stump.
On the subject of Lincoln's religious belief, about which such varying opinions have been held, it is sufficient to state that, although he was not a member of any religious body, he had a firm conviction of the protecting power of Providence and the efficacy of special prayer. This latter characteristic seems to have been especially developed during the presidential period. Both in his proclamations and in many private interviews and communications he expresses himself clearly and emphatically upon this subject. It is probable, too, that Lincoln read more deeply and more frequently in the Bible during the storm and stress of the Civil War than at any other period of his life. There seems to be no authority for the statement sometimes made that after the death of his son Willie, Lincoln showed a tendency to believe in the doctrines of spiritualism. He was not free, however, from a belief in the significance of dreams as portending important events. He was also not a little of a fatalist, as he himself once stated to his friend Arnold.
Perhaps the most striking characteristic of Lincoln's personality apart from his honesty and sincerity was his perfect simplicity and naturalness. Frederick A. Douglass, the great leader of the colored race, once remarked that President Lincoln was the only white man that he had ever met who never suggested by his manner a sense of superiority. Not that Lincoln was lacking in personal dignity. Neither as a practising lawyer nor as President of the United States, would he permit anyone to take what he regarded as liberties with him. But, on the other hand, he did not allow his elevated position to change his personal relations. His old Illinois friends found in the White House the same cordial welcome and simple manners to which they had been accustomed in the pleasant home at Springfield.
During the first few weeks of the administration it was believed by many persons, including Mr. Seward himself, that President Lincoln would be greatly influenced in his policy by the superior experience in public affairs of his Secretary of State. Mr. Seward even went so far as to draw up a plan of action, which he submitted to his chief. Lincoln soon showed, however, that he was not a follower, but a leader of men, beneath whose good nature and kindly spirit was a power of initiative that has rarely been equalled among the statesmen of the world. Even the dictatorial Secretary of War found it necessary to yield to the President on all points that the latter regarded as being fundamental. Few other presidents have been so bitterly attacked and so cruelly misrepresented as Lincoln, but nothing could turn him from his purpose when that was once formed. Like the wise man that he was, Lincoln was always ready to listen to the suggestions of others, but the conclusion finally reached by him was always his own. He applied to questions of state the same methods of careful, impartial inquiry that had served him so well as a lawyer on the Illinois circuit, and if, being human, he did not always avoid committing errors, he never acted from impulse or prejudice. Lincoln was a strong leader, but he was at the same time a wise leader.
Turning now from the man to his works, we note first that the development of Lincoln's style was slow. One might almost be tempted to say that Lincoln developed several different styles in succession. This, however, is hardly true, for in spite of the numerous marked changes and improvements in Lincoln's manner of writing, certain fundamental qualities remained, the real expression of his personality, that is, the real style of Lincoln. From the beginning to the end we find an effort to say something and to say it in as clear a manner as possible, an effort without which there can be no real success in writing. After a practice in public speaking of over thirty years Lincoln as President could still say: "I believe I shall never be old enough to speak without embarrassment when I have nothing to talk about."
The first specimen of Lincoln's writings that has been preserved is a communication to the voters of Sangamon County in 1832, when Lincoln was for the first time a candidate for the State legislature. It is significant of Lincoln's imperfect command of English at that time that "some of the grammatical errors" were corrected by a friend before the circular was issued. Although this circumstance makes it impossible for us to judge exactly what his style was at this period, we may be sure that the changes were comparatively slight and that the general form at least was Lincoln's. The question naturally arises whether there is anything in this first specimen of Lincoln's writing that suggests, however remotely, the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural. A little study will discover suggestions at least of the later manner, just as in the uncouth and awkward young candidate for the Illinois State Legislature, we can note many traits, intellectual and moral, that distinguish the mature and well-poised statesman of thirty years later. It is the same man, but developed and strengthened, it is the same style, strengthened and refined. If Nicolay and Hay go too far when they say of the address: "This is almost precisely the style of his later years," it would be quite as wrong to deny any likeness between the two. In the first place, we have the same severely logical treatment of the subject matter, from which Lincoln, a lawyer and public speaker, never departed. Lincoln's grammar may not have been impeccable at this time, but his thinking powers were already little short of masterly. This, then, is the first element in the makeup of Lincoln's style, the ability to think straight and consequently to write straight. His legal training, which was then very meagre, cannot account for his logical thinking; it is more correct to say that he later became a successful lawyer because of the logical bent of his mind.
Closely connected with this early development of the form of thinking was Lincoln's interest in words, and his desire always to use words with a perfect understanding of their meaning. Even in his boyhood he found pleasure in discovering the exact meaning of a new word and in later life he was constantly adding to his verbal stores. Shortly before his inauguration Lincoln remarked to a clergyman, who had asked him how he had acquired his remarkable power of "putting things": "I can say this, that among my earliest recollections I remember how, when a mere child, I used to get irritated when anybody talked to me in a way I could not understand. I don't think I ever got angry at anything else in my life. But that always disturbed my temper, and has ever since. I can remember going to my little bedroom, after hearing the neighbors talk of an evening with my father, and spending no small part of the night walking up and down, trying to make out what was the exact meaning of their, to me, dark sayings."
In this first address we find no loose use of words. The character of the address does not of course admit of ornament or figurative language, but any subject, however simple, admits of digressions and mental excursions by the illogical and careless writer. Of these there is not a trace. Even in the most informal letters and telegrams, written at post haste and at times under the most extreme pressure of business and anxiety, Lincoln shows a natural feeling for the appropriate expression that is found only in the masters of language.
Five years later, in 1837, the interval being represented by only a few unimportant letters, Lincoln entered upon a period distinguished by qualities that are not usually associated with his name, a tendency to fine writing that we should look for earlier than at the age of twenty-eight. The subject of the address is "The Perpetuation of our Political Institutions," and the complete text is given in this volume. Here for once Lincoln speaks of an Alexander, a Buonoparte, a Washington. The influence of Webster is apparent, in this first purely oratorical attempt of Lincoln's. It could hardly have been otherwise at a time when the great Whig orator was making the whole country ring with his wonderful speeches. It is almost certain, too, that Henry Clay, to whom Lincoln later referred as beau ideal of an orator, had a part in moulding this early manner, though this is probably less apparent here than in the later soberer addresses.
But it must not be supposed that this speech consists merely of what Hamlet would call "words, words, words." Neither are all the figures inferior and commonplace. Although it is more ornate than anything in the later period, the following description of the passing away of the heroes of the Revolution is a fine example of the Websterian style: "They were a forest of giant oaks; but the all-resistless hurricane has swept over them, and left only here and there a lonely trunk, despoiled of its verdure, shorn of its foliage, unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a few more ruder storms, then to sink and be no more." The closing sentence of the address is almost wholly, in the later style and might have served for the close of the First Inaugural, which, in its original form, did actually contain a Biblical quotation.
That the rhetorical manner had not gained entire possession of Lincoln at that time, but was simply used by him on what seemed to be appropriate occasions, is sufficiently shown by a speech delivered in the legislature early in 1839, in which we find the strictly logical discussion of the first address. This speech is especially interesting because of the fact that it is the earliest encounter of Lincoln and Douglas that has been preserved. In a way, therefore, it may be regarded as the first Lincoln-Douglas debate.
One other rhetorical effort was made, in 1842, and then we find no more specimens of this class of speaking until the so-called Lost Speech of 1856. This address of 1842 was delivered before the Springfield Washingtonian Temperance Society, on Washington's Birthday, and it is even more inflated than the first specimen. Combined with the rhetoric, however, there is a mass of sober argument that again suggests the later Lincoln. The arguments, too, are characterized by a sound common sense that is no less characteristic of the speaker. The peroration deserves quotation as being one of the finest and at the same time one of the least familiar passages in Lincoln's writings: "This is the one hundredth and tenth anniversary of the birthday of Washington. We are met to celebrate this day. Washington is the mightiest name of earth: long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty, still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name a eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun or glory to the name of Washington is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked, deathless splendor leave it shining on." This approaches very closely the beauty and strength of the presidential period.
In 1844 Lincoln wrote several poems, which are not without merit. As a boy he was famous among his companions for his skill in writing humorous verses, but these later specimens of his muse are serious, even melancholy in their tone.
We next come to the congressional period, from 1847 to 1849. The best-known speech from this period, Lincoln's introduction to a national public, is that of July 27, 1848, on General Taylor and the veto, Taylor being then the Whig candidate for the presidency. This speech, which was received with immense applause, owes its special prominence to the fact that it is the only purely humorous speech by Lincoln that has been preserved. The subject of the attack is General Cass, Taylor's Democratic opponent, whom Lincoln treats in a manner that somewhat suggests Douglas' later treatment of Lincoln on the stump. Its peroration is of peculiar interest, since it consists of a funny story.
To anyone familiar with Lincoln's habit of story-telling the introduction of a story at the end of a speech may not seem strange. But, as a matter of fact, this is the only case of the kind that has been noted, and a careful reading of the speeches shows either that they were not fully reported or that as a rule he confined his story-telling to conversation. Even in the debates with Douglas, when he was addressing Illinois crowds from the stump at a time when stories were even more popular than they are now, Lincoln seldom used this device to rouse interest or to strengthen his argument. A partial explanation of this curious contrast between his conversation and his writing, so far as the debates are concerned, may be found in a remark made by Lincoln to a friend who had urged him to treat the subject more popularly. Lincoln said; "The occasion is too serious, the issues are too grave. I do not seek applause, or to amuse the people, but to convince them." With Lincoln the desire to prove his proposition, whatever it might be, was always uppermost. In the earliest speeches were noted the severe logic and the strict adherence to the subject in hand. To the end Lincoln never changed this principle of his public speaking.
Although the stories, then, have but little direct bearing upon Lincoln's writings, they are so characteristic a feature of the man that they cannot be wholly disregarded. In the two cases already noted the stories were illustrative, and this appears to be true of all of Lincoln's anecdotes, whether they occur in his conversation or in his writings. He apparently never dragged in stories for their own sake, as so many conversational bores are in the habit of doing, but the story was suggested by or served to illustrate some incident or principle. Indeed, in aptness of illustration Lincoln has never been surpassed. Emerson said of him: "I am sure if this man had ruled in a period of less facility of printing, he would have become mythological in a very few years, like Aesop or Pilpay, or one of the Seven Wise Masters, by his fables and proverbs." Many of the anecdotes attributed to Lincoln are undoubtedly to be referred to other sources, but the number of authentic stories noted, especially during the presidency, is very large.
The question has often been raised whether Lincoln originated the stories he told so well. Fortunately we have his own words in this matter. To Noah Brooks he said: "I do generally remember a good story when I hear it, but I never did invent anything original. I am only a retail dealer." Slightly differing from this, though probably not contradicting it, is Lincoln's statement to Mr. Chauncey M. Depew: "I have originated but two stories in my life, but I tell tolerably well other people's stories."
During the Civil War Lincoln's stories served a special purpose as a sort of safety valve. To a Congressman, who had remonstrated with him for his apparent frivolity in combining funny stories with serious discussion, he said: "If it were not for these stories I should die." The addresses of the presidential period, however, with the exception of a few responses to serenades, are entirely without humorous anecdotes. Although Lincoln never hesitated to clear the discussion of the most momentous questions through the medium of a funny story, his sense of official and literary propriety made him confine them to informal occasions.
The Eulogy of Henry Clay of 1852 is of interest as being the only address of this kind that Lincoln ever delivered. It might perhaps better be called an appreciation, and because of its sincerity and deep sympathy it may be regarded as a model of its kind. Two years later Lincoln engaged in his first real debate with Douglas on the burning question of the day, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. From the purely literary point of view the Peoria Speech is superior to the better-known debates of four years later. While it lacks the finish and poise of the two Inaugurals it is far more imaginative than the Debates. One of its most striking features is the comparatively large number of quotations, both from the Bible and from profane writings. Although as a rule Lincoln quotes sparingly, this one speech contains no fewer than twelve quotations, seven of these being from the Bible. The only other speech that equals this one in the number of quotations is the so-called Lost Speech of 1856, the authenticity of which is doubtful. The very much shorter Second Inaugural, however, with its four Bible quotations, has a larger proportionate number. Lincoln's quotations seem to be suggested emotionally rather than intellectually. This is indicated by the fact that the most emotional speeches contain the greatest number of quotations. The first Inaugural, for example, which is in the main a sober statement of principles, intended to quiet rather than to excite passion, is four times as long as the emotional Second Inaugural, but contains only one quotation to the four of the other. We may note in this connection that almost exactly one-half of the total number of quotations occurring in Lincoln's writings are taken from the Bible, and that a large proportion of the profane quotations are from Shakespeare. Lincoln was also fond of using proverbial sayings, a habit that emphasized his character as a popular or national writer. For most of his proverbs are local and many of them are intensely homely. Quotations of this class occur at all periods of his life, beginning with the first address, and they are sometimes used in such unexpected places as official telegrams to officers in the field. Strange to say, the maxim that is most frequently associated with Lincoln's name cannot with any certainty be regarded as having been used by him, either as a quotation or as an original saying, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
At the first regular Republican State Convention in Illinois, held at Bloomington, May 29, 1856, Lincoln delivered an address on the public issues of the day that roused the enthusiasm of his hearers to such a degree that the reporters forgot to take notes and therefore failed to furnish the text to their respective newspapers. In the course of time it came to be known as the Lost Speech, and such, in the opinion of many who were present on the occasion, it continued to be. Mr. W. C. Whitney, a young lawyer from the neighboring town of Champaign, later prepared a version based upon notes, from which some general idea of the character of the speech can perhaps be gained.
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates furnish perhaps the best example of this class of public speaking that is available. Although they were extempore, as far as the actual language is concerned, they have been preserved in full. In spite of the informal style appropriate to the "stump," these discussions of the Dred Scott decision, Popular Sovereignty, and the other questions suggested by slavery are marked by a closeness of reasoning and a readiness of retort that show the great master in the difficult art of debate. These qualities are not confined to the one speaker, for his opponent was no less adroit and ready. We may well say in this connection, "there were giants in those days."
Much of Lincoln's success in these historic debates was due to his intense conviction of the righteousness of the cause for which he was pleading. As lawyer and political speaker Lincoln always felt the necessity of believing in his case. He frequently refused to appear in suits because he could not put his heart into them, and he never defended a policy from mere party loyalty. Much of Lincoln's success as a speaker was due to the fact that his hearers felt that they could trust him. This is simply a new application of the old principle that the chief qualification for success in oratory is character. In reading a man's books we may forget his character for the time, but in listening to an orator we have the man himself constantly before us, and he himself makes or mars his success.
In 1859 Lincoln delivered his second and last long occasional address—a discussion of agriculture at the Wisconsin State Fair at Milwaukee. This is the only important non-political speech by Lincoln that has been preserved and it is interesting as showing his ability to treat a subject of general interest. Here, as in his discussions of political questions, Lincoln displayed true statesmanlike insight and foresight, long before the time when experiment stations and farmers' institutes began to teach the very principles that he so wisely and effectively expounded.
In 1860 Lincoln appeared for the first time before a New York audience and we have his own word for it that he suffered a severe attack of stage fright on that occasion. The event showed, however, that he had no reason to fear the judgment of one of the most critical audiences that ever assembled in the Cooper Union. The Hon. Joseph H. Choate, who was present, writes of his appearance: "When he spoke he was transformed, his eye kindled, his voice rang, his face shone and seemed to light up the whole assembly. For an hour and a half he held his audience in the hollow of his hand." This address may be regarded as a precursor, and a worthy precursor, of the First Inaugural, and by many competent critics it has been given the first place among the discussions of the political situation just before the war. After such a performance there could be no hesitation on the part of those that heard it in acknowledging Abraham Lincoln as one of the most powerful speakers of his day. Before returning to Illinois Lincoln travelled through several of the New England States, making speeches in a number of the larger towns.
The speeches delivered by Lincoln on the journey to Washington, in 1860, beginning with the exquisite Farewell Address at Springfield, include some of the best of his shorter addresses. The most interesting of these is the one delivered in Independence Hall.
The First Inaugural Address was not received at the time of its first publication in the newspapers, even at the North, with the general enthusiasm that we should now be inclined to assume; and in the South it was severely criticised for its alleged lack of force and definiteness. Its effect, however, upon the immense audience gathered in front of the Capitol seems to have been immediate. The document had been written with great care at Springfield, some changes being made after the arrival at Washington. The most important of these were the substitution for the original closing paragraph of the beautiful peroration suggested by Secretary Seward. In beauty of language and elevation of thought this first public utterance by President Lincoln may be compared to the great political utterances of Burke.
First among the little classics of the world stands the Gettysburg Address. At the time of its delivery it does not seem to have been generally accepted as a notable utterance. By many of the newspaper correspondents it was referred to as "remarks by the President," and some of the papers contained no comment upon it. By others it was dismissed with a few words of mild praise. Even after the death of Lincoln there was no general agreement as to its supreme merits as a part of our national literature. Conflicting stories still pass current in books and articles on Lincoln about its composition, and original reception. An examination of the testimony shows that the following facts may be accepted as fairly proved. The greater part of the address was written in Washington after very careful preparation, and profound reflection. The address was read from MS., but with some variations that apparently occurred to the speaker at the time of delivery. Mr. Everett did not clasp the President's hand while he expressed a willingness to exchange his hundred pages for the twenty lines just read. It is uncertain whether Lincoln said at the time that the address did not "scour," but if he did use such an expression it was not because of a consciousness of having failed to make adequate preparation for the occasion.
One of the best commentaries on the Second Inaugural Address appeared in an article in the London Spectator: "We cannot read it without a renewed conviction that it is the noblest political document known to history, and should have for the nation and the statesmen he left behind him something of a sacred and almost prophetic character." Carl Schurz compared it to a sacred poem, and all discriminating readers agree in placing it by the side of the Gettysburg Address as an almost perfect specimen of pure English prose.
The other addresses of the presidential period are, with the exception of the last speech, on the reconstruction of Louisiana, of minor importance. They consist in the main of responses to serenades, a form of address which Lincoln cordially detested and in which as a rule he achieved only a moderate degree of success. The cares of his great office made such cruel demands upon his time and strength that he declined many requests to speak in public, and whenever he did appear he confined his remarks within the smallest possible limits. Furthermore, Lincoln was not a reader speaker and rarely did himself justice without careful preparation. Writers on Lincoln have failed to note the severe criticisms upon Lincoln's impromptu remarks that appeared in the opposition press and in the English newspapers. Even as late as 1863 newspaper writers not opposed to him did not hesitate to refer to the plainness of the President's public speaking.
The Messages to Congress are distinguished from most documents of that class by their frequent purple patches. To the enumeration of dry facts furnished by the various departments they add an elevation and breadth of thought of the first order.
In a class by themselves are the various proclamations, some of them of a purely formal character, such as those announcing blockades, others of a distinctly literary character, like the announcements of fasts and feasts. Midway between these two classes is the most important of all, the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, which, with the exception of the concluding sentence, is entirely free from ornament. Perhaps Lincoln felt here, as with the Debates, that the occasion was too serious, not only for jesting but even for attempting the mere graces of language.
Finally, mention should be made of the letters and telegrams written by President Lincoln. Although many letters have been preserved from earlier times, none make special claims to attention outside of the information that they furnish. But during the last four years of his life Lincoln wrote some of the most beautiful letters that have ever been composed. One of these, the letter to Mrs. Bixby, has been given a place on the walls of one of the Oxford colleges, as a model of noble English. The Conkling letter and the letter to Horace Greeley are among the most important statements of Lincoln's policy and are really short political tracts.
The First Inaugural can be traced through the Cooper Union Address and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, the Peoria Speech, and the speeches of 1854 to the seed of 1832, the plain, logical, direct statement of principles of Lincoln's first address to the public. The development of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural, those supreme expressions of Lincoln's feelings, is not, in the main, to be traced through complete speeches, but it must be sought for in isolated passages, when he left logic for the moment and gave himself up to the passing emotion. The real seed of the majestic simplicity of those addresses is perhaps to be found in those rhetorical speeches of an early period, so lacking apparently in the qualities that we love and admire. In writing, as in so many other things, we reap not what we sow, but its fruition. The effect may seem very remotely related to the cause, but he would be a fool who would deny the relation between them.
The complete works of Abraham Lincoln have been compiled and edited by his biographers, John G. Nicolay and John Hay (two vols., Century Company). Their life of Lincoln in ten volumes (Century Company) is the standard authority. There is also an excellent condensation in one volume. Other biographies are by W. H. Herndon, Lincoln's law partner (two vols., Putnam); by Miss Ida Tarbell (two vols., McClure); by John T. Morse, Jr., in the American Statesmen Series (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.); and by Norman Hapgood (Macmillan).
Among the many tributes to Lincoln, are the essays by James Russell Lowell, Carl Schurz, the address by Emerson; and poems by Stedman, Bryant, Holmes, Stoddard, Gilder, and Whitman, and the noble lines in Lowell's Commemoration Ode.
The student of Lincoln's writings should be familiar with the history of the United States, and should consult the standard histories for explanation of the references to events in the long struggle which culminated in the Civil War.
LIFE OF LINCOLN. CONTEMPORARY CONTEMPORARY BIOGRAPHY. AMERICAN HISTORY.
1809. Lincoln born, 1809. Gladstone, 1809. Madison President. Feb. 12. Darwin, Tennyson, Poe, Holmes born.
1813. Douglas born.
1816. Family moved 1816. Indiana admitted to Indiana. as a state.
1818. Mother died. 1818. Illinois admitted as a state.
1819. Father married Sarah Johnston.
1820. Missouri Compromise.
1821. Missouri admitted as a state.
1822. Grant born.
1829. Jackson President.
1830. Family moved 1830. Douglas moved 1830. Speeches of Hayne to Illinois. to New York. and Webster.
1831. Settled in 1831. Publication of New Salem. The Liberatur.
1832. Enlisted in the 1832. Founding of the Black Hawk War: New England Anti-Slavery unsuccessful Society. candidate for the legislature
1833. Postmaster of 1833. Douglas moved 1833. Founding of the New Salem; deputy to Illinois. American Anti-Slavery surveyor's clerk. Society.
1834. Elected to the 1834. Douglas admitted legislature. to the bar.
1835. Douglas elected State's Attorney.
1836. Reelected to 1836. Douglas elected the legislature. to the legislature. Presidential Elector.
1837. Admitted to 1837. Douglas 1837. Van Buren the bar. Moved appointed Registrar President. Murder to Springfield. of the Land Office; of Owen Lovejoy. nominated for Congress.
1838. Reelected to the legislature.
1840. Presidential 1840. Douglas Elector. appointed Judge of the Illinois Supreme Court.
1841. Harrison President. Tyler President.
1843. Married to Mary Todd.
1844. Presidential 1844. Douglas elected Elector. to Congress.
1845. Polk President. Texas admitted as a state.
1846. Elected to 1846-48. War with Mexico. Congress.
1847. Douglas elected U.S. Senator; moved to Chicago.
1848. Presidential Elector.
1849. Taylor President.
1850. Death of Calhoun.
1850. Fillmore President. Clay's Compromise Measure.
1852. Death of Clay and of Webster.
1853. Douglas 1853. Pierce President. reelected Senator.
1854. Reelected to the 1854. Kansas-Nebraska legislature. Bill.
1855. Resigned from the legislature. Candidate for the U. S. Senate.
1856. Candidate for 1856. Fremont first nomination for Republican candidate for Vice-President. the presidency. Civil war in Kansas.
1857. Buchanan President. The Dred Scott Decision.
1858. Candidate for 1858. Lincoln-Douglas the U. S. Senate. Debates.
1859. Douglas 1859. Death of John reelected Brown. to the Senate.
1860. Cooper Institute 1860. Douglas 1860. South Carolina Address. Elected Democratic Ordinance of Secession. President. candidate for the Presidency.
1861. Left Springfield, 1861. Douglas died, 1861. Fall of Fort Sumter, Feb. 11; inaugurated June 3. April 12. Battle March 4. McClellan of Bull Run, July 21. Commander-in-Chief. Kansas admitted as a state.
1862. The Preliminary 1862. Slavery abolished Emancipation in the District of Proclamation, Sept. 22. Columbia, April 16.
1863. The Final 1863. Battle of Emancipation Gettysburg, July 1-5. Proclamation, Jan. 1. The Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19.
1864. Reelected to 1864. Grant 1864. Battles of the the Presidency. appointed Wilderness, May 6-7. Lieutenant-General.
1865. Inaugurated, 1865. Fall of Richmond, Mar. 4. Assassinated, April 3. Surrender of April 14; died April Lee, April 9. Johnson 15; buried at sworn in as President, Springfield, May 4. April 15.
SELECTIONS FROM INAUGURALS, ADDRESSES AND LETTERS
LINCOLN'S INAUGURALS, ADDRESSES AND LETTERS
ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE OF SANGAMON COUNTY, MARCH 9, 1832
FELLOW-CITIZENS: Having become a candidate for the honorable office of one of your representatives in the next General Assembly of this state, in accordance with an established custom and the principles of true republicanism, it becomes my duty to make known to you—the people whom I propose to represent—my sentiments with regard to local affairs.
Time and experience have verified to a demonstration, the public utility of internal improvements. That the poorest and most thinly populated countries would be greatly benefited by the opening of good roads, and in the clearing of navigable streams within their limits, is what no person will deny. But yet it is folly to undertake works of this or any other kind, without first knowing that we are able to finish them—as half finished work generally proves to be labor lost. There cannot justly be any objection to having railroads and canals, any more than to other good things, provided they cost nothing. The only objection is to paying for them; and the objection to paying arises from the want of ability to pay.
With respect to the county of Sangamon, some more easy means of communication than we now possess, for the purpose of facilitating the task of exporting the surplus products of its fertile soil, and importing necessary articles from abroad, are indispensably necessary. A meeting has been held of the citizens of Jacksonville, and the adjacent country, for the purpose of deliberating and enquiring into the expediency of constructing a railroad from some eligible point on the Illinois river, through the town of Jacksonville, in Morgan county, to the town of Springfield in Sangamon county. This is, indeed, a very desirable object. No other improvement that reason will justify us in hoping for, can equal in utility the railroad. It is a never failing source of communication, between places of business remotely situated from each other. Upon the railroad the regular progress of commercial intercourse is not interrupted by either high or low water, or freezing weather, which are the principal difficulties that render our future hopes of water communication precarious and uncertain. Yet, however desirable an object the construction of a railroad through our country may be; however high our imaginations may be heated at thoughts of it—there is always a heart appalling shock accompanying the account of its cost, which forces us to shrink from our pleasing anticipations. The probable cost of this contemplated railroad is estimated at $290,000;—the bare statement of which, in my opinion, is sufficient to justify the belief, that the improvement of the Sangamon river is an object much better suited to our infant resources.
Respecting this view, I think I may say, without the fear of being contradicted, that its navigation may be rendered completely practicable, as high as the mouth of the South Fork, or probably higher, to vessels of from 25 to 30 tons burthen, for at least one half of all common years, and to vessels of much greater burthen a part of that time. From my peculiar circumstances, it is probable that for the last twelve months I have given as particular attention to the stage of the water in this river, as any other person in the country. In the month of March, 1831, in company with others, I commenced the building of a flatboat on the Sangamon, and finished and took her out in the course of the spring. Since that time, I have been concerned in the mill at New Salem. These circumstances are sufficient evidence, that I have not been very inattentive to the stages of the water.—The time at which we crossed the milldam, being in the last days of April, the water was lower than it had been since the breaking of winter in February, or than it was for several weeks after. The principal difficulties we encountered in descending the river, were from the drifted timber, which obstructions all know is not difficult to be removed. Knowing almost precisely the height of water at that time, I believe I am safe in saying that it has as often been higher as lower since.
From this view of the subject, it appears that my calculations with regard to the navigation of the Sangamon, cannot be unfounded in reason; but whatever may be its natural advantages, certain it is, that it never can be practically useful to any great extent, without being greatly improved by art. The drifted timber, as I have before mentioned, is the most formidable barrier to this object. Of all parts of this river, none will require so much labor in proportion, to make it navigable as the last thirty or thirty-five miles; and going with the meanderings of the channel, when we are this distance above its mouth, we are only between twelve and eighteen miles above Beardstown in something near a straight direction, and this route is upon such low ground as to retain water in many places during the season, and in all parts such as to draw two-thirds or three-fourths of the river water at all stages.
This route is up on prairieland the whole distance;—so that it appears to me, by removing the turf, a sufficient width, and damming up the old channel, the whole river in a short time would wash its way through, thereby curtailing the distance, and increasing the velocity of the current very considerably, while there would be no timber upon the banks to obstruct its navigation in future; and being nearly straight, the timber which might float in at the head, would be apt to go clear through. There are also many places above this where the river, in its zigzag course, forms such complete peninsulas, as to be easier cut through at the necks than to remove the obstructions from the bends—which if done, would also lessen the distance.
What the cost of this work would be, I am unable to say. It is probable, however, that it would not be greater than is common to streams of the same length. Finally, I believe the improvement of the Sangamon river, to be vastly important and highly desirable to the improvement of the county; and if elected, any measure in the legislature having this for its object, which may appear judicious, will meet my approbation and shall receive my support.
It appears that the practice of loaning money at exorbitant rates of interest, has already been opened as a field for discussion; so I suppose I may enter upon it without claiming the honor, or risking the danger, which may await its first explorer. It seems as though we are never to have an end to this baneful and corroding system, acting almost as prejudicial to the general interests of the community as a direct tax of several thousand dollars annually laid on each county, for the benefit of a few individuals only, unless there be a law made setting a limit to the rates of usury. A law for this purpose, I am of opinion, may be made without materially injuring any class of people. In cases of extreme necessity there could always be means found to cheat the law, while in all other cases it would have its intended effect. I would not favor the passage of a law upon this subject which might be very easily evaded. Let it be such that the labor and difficulty of evading it could only be justified in cases of greatest necessity.
Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the history of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period.
With regard to existing laws, some alterations are thought to be necessary. Many respectable men have suggested that our estray laws—the law respecting the issuing of executions, the road law, and some others, are deficient in their present form, and require alterations. But considering the great probability that the framers of those laws were wiser than myself, I should prefer [not] meddling with them, unless they were first attacked by others, in which case I should feel it both a privilege and a duty to take that stand, which in my view, might tend most to the advancement of justice.
But, fellow-citizens, I shall conclude.—Considering the great degree of modesty which should always attend youth, it is probable I have already been more presuming than becomes me. However, upon the subjects of which I have treated, I have spoken as I thought. I may be wrong in regard to any or all of them; but, holding it a sound maxim, that it is better to be only sometimes right, than at all times wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them.
Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed. I am young and unknown to many of you. I was born and have ever remained in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relations to recommend me. My case is thrown exclusively upon the independent voters of this county, and if elected they will have conferred a favor upon me, for which I shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate. But, if the good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.
Your friend and fellow-citizen, A. LINCOLN.
NEW SALEM, March 9, 1832.
THE PERPETUATION OF OUR POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS, JANUARY 27, 1837
In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American People, find our account running under date of the nineteenth century of the Christian era.—We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them—they are a legacy bequeathed us by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed, race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves us, of this goodly land, and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; 'tis ours only to transmit these, the former unprofaned by the foot of an invader; the latter undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation—to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.
How, then, shall we perform it?—At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never!—All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions in lieu of the sober judgment of courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth and an insult to our intelligence to deny. Accounts of outrages committed by mobs form the every-day news of the times. They have pervaded the country from New England to Louisiana;—they are neither peculiar to the eternal snows of the former nor the burning suns of the latter; they are not the creature of climate, neither are they confined to the slave-holding or the non-slave-holding states. Alike they spring up among the pleasure-hunting masters of Southern slaves, and the order-loving citizens of the land of steady habits.—Whatever, then, their cause may be, it is common to the whole country.
It would be tedious as well as useless to recount the horrors of all of them. Those, happening in the State of Mississippi and at St. Louis are, perhaps, the most dangerous in example and revolting to humanity. In the Mississippi case they first commenced by hanging the regular gamblers—a set of men certainly not following for a livelihood a very useful or very honest occupation; but one which, so far from being forbidden by the laws, was actually licensed by an act of the Legislature passed but a single year before. Next negroes suspected of conspiring to raise an insurrection were caught up and hanged in all parts of the State; then, white men supposed to be leagued with the negroes; and finally, strangers from neighboring States, going thither on business, were, in many instances, subjected to the same fate. Thus went on this process of hanging, from gamblers to negroes, from negroes to white citizens, and from these to strangers, till dead men were seen literally dangling from the boughs of trees upon every roadside, and in numbers almost sufficient to rival the native Spanish moss of the country, as a drapery of the forest.
Turn, then, to that horror-striking scene at St. Louis. A single victim only was sacrificed there. This story is very short, and is perhaps the most highly tragic of anything of its length that has ever been witnessed in real life. A mulatto man by the name of McIntosh was seized in the street, dragged to the suburbs of the city, chained to a tree, and actually burned to death; and all within a single hour from the time he had been a freeman, attending to his own business and at peace with the world.
Such are the effects of mob law, and such are the scenes becoming more and more frequent in this land so lately famed for love of law and order, and the stories of which have even now grown too familiar to attract anything more than an idle remark.
But you are perhaps ready to ask, "What has this to do with the perpetuation of our political institutions?" I answer, it has much to do with it. Its direct consequences are, comparatively speaking, but a small evil, and much of its danger consists in the proneness of our minds to regard its direct as its only consequences. Abstractly considered, the hanging of the gamblers at Vicksburg was of but little consequence. They constitute a portion of population that is worse than useless in any community; and their death, if no pernicious example be set by it, is never matter of reasonable regret with any one. If they were annually swept from the stage of existence by the plague or small-pox, honest men would perhaps be much profited by the operation.—Similar too is the correct reasoning in regard to the burning of the negro at St. Louis. He had forfeited his life by the perpetration of an outrageous murder upon one of the most worthy and respectable citizens of the city, and had he not died as he did, he must have died by the sentence of the law in a very short time afterwards. As to him alone, it was as well the way it was as it could otherwise have been. But the example in either case was fearful. When men take it in their heads to-day to hang gamblers or burn murderers, they should recollect that in the confusion usually attending such transactions they will be as likely to hang or burn some one who is neither a gambler nor a murderer as one who is, and that, acting upon the example they set, the mob of to-morrow may, and probably will, hang or burn some of them by the very same mistake. And not only so; the innocent, those who have ever set their faces against violations of law in every shape, alike with the guilty fall victims to the ravages of mob law; and thus it goes on, step by step, till all the walls erected for the defence of the persons and property of individuals are trodden down and disregarded. But all this, even, is not the full extent of the evil. By such examples, by instances of the perpetrators of such acts going unpunished, the lawless in spirit are encouraged to become lawless in practice; and having been used to no restraint but dread of punishment, they thus become absolutely unrestrained. Having ever regarded government as their deadliest bane, they make a jubilee of the suspension of its operations, and pray for nothing so much as its total annihilation. While, on the other hand, good men, men who love tranquillity, who desire to abide by the laws and enjoy their benefits, who would gladly spill their blood in the defence of their country, seeing their property destroyed, their families insulted, and their lives endangered, their persons injured, and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better, become tired of and disgusted with a government that offers them no protection, and are not much averse to a change, in which they imagine they have nothing to lose. Thus, then, by the operation of this mobocratic spirit which all must admit is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed—I mean the attachment of the people. Whenever this effect shall be produced among us; whenever the vicious portion of population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands and burn churches, ravage and rob provision-stores, throw printing-presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure and with impunity, depend on it, this government cannot last. By such things the feelings of the best citizens will become more or less alienated from it, and thus it will be left without friends, or with too few, and those few too weak to make their friendship effectual. At such a time, and under such circumstances, men of sufficient talent and ambition will not be wanting to seize the opportunity, strike the blow, and overturn that fair fabric which for the last half century as been the fondest hope of the lovers of freedom throughout the world.
I know the American People are much attached to their government; I know they would suffer much for its sake; I know they would endure evils long and patiently before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come.
Here, then, is one point at which danger may be expected.
The question recurs, "How shall we fortify against it?" The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well-wisher to his posterity swear by the blood of the Revolution never to violate in the least particular the laws of the country, and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor:—let every man remember that to violate the law is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own and his children's liberty. Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in primers, spelling books, and in almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay of all sexes and tongues and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.
While ever a state of feeling such as this shall universally or even very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.
When I so pressingly urge a strict observance of all the laws, let me not be understood as saying there are no bad laws, or that grievances may not arise for the redress of which no legal provisions have been made. I mean to say no such thing. But I do mean to say that although bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible, still they continue in force, for the sake of example they should be religiously observed. So also in unprovided cases. If such arise, let proper legal provisions be made for them with the least possible delay, but, till then, let them, if not too intolerable, be borne with.
There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law. In any case that may arise, as, for instance, the promulgation of abolitionism, one of two positions is necessarily true—that is, the thing is right within itself, and therefore deserves the protection of all law and all good citizens, or, it is wrong, and therefore proper to be prohibited by legal enactments; and in neither case is the interposition of mob law either necessary, justifiable, or excusable.
But it may be asked, why suppose danger to our political institutions? Have we not preserved them for more than fifty years? And why may we not for fifty times as long?
We hope there is no sufficient reason. We hope all dangers may be overcome; but to conclude that no danger may ever arise would itself be extremely dangerous. There are now, and will hereafter be, many causes, dangerous in their tendency, which have not existed heretofore, and which are not too insignificant to merit attention. That our government should have been maintained in its original form, from its establishment until now, is not much to be wondered at. It had many props to support it through that period, which now are decayed and crumbled away. Through that period it was felt by all to be an undecided experiment; now it is understood to be a successful one.—Then, all that sought celebrity and fame and distinction expected to find them in the success of that experiment. Their all was staked upon it; their destiny was inseparably linked with it. Their ambition aspired to display before an admiring world a practical demonstration of the truth of a proposition which had hitherto been considered at best no better than problematical—namely, the capability of a people to govern themselves. If they succeeded they were to be immortalized; their names were to be transferred to counties, and cities, and rivers, and mountains; and to be revered and sung, toasted through all time. If they failed, they were to be called knaves, and fools, and fanatics for a fleeting hour; then to sink and be forgotten. They succeeded. The experiment is successful, and thousands have won their deathless names in making it so. But the game is caught; and I believe it is true that with the catching end the pleasures of the chase. This field of glory is harvested, and the crop is already appropriated. But new reapers will arise, and they too will seek a field. It is to deny what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And, when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion as others have done before them. The question then is, Can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot. Many great and good men, sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found whose ambition would aspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or a presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion, or the tribe of the eagle. What! think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon? Never! Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored. It sees no distinction in adding story to story upon the monuments of fame erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves or enslaving freemen. Is it unreasonable then, to expect that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.
Distinction will be his paramount object, and, although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm, yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.
Here then is a probable case, highly dangerous, and such an one as could have well existed heretofore.
Another reason which once was, but which, to the same extent, is now no more, has done much in maintaining our institutions thus far, I mean the powerful influence which the interesting scenes of the Revolution had upon the passions of the people as distinguished from their judgment. By this influence, the jealousy, envy, and avarice incident to our nature, and so common to a state of peace, prosperity, and conscious strength, were for the time in a great measure smothered and rendered inactive, while the deep-rooted principles of hate, and the powerful motive of revenge, instead of being turned against each other, were directed exclusively against the British nation. And thus, from the force of circumstances, the basest principles of our nature were either made to lie dormant, or to become the active agents in the advancement of the noblest of causes—that of establishing and maintaining civil and religious liberty.
But this state of feeling must fade, is fading, has faded, with the circumstances that produced it.
I do not mean to say that the scenes of the Revolution are now or ever will be entirely forgotten, but that, like everything else, they must fade upon the memory of the world, and grow more and more dim by the lapse of time. In history, we hope, they will be read of, and recounted, so long as the Bible shall be read; but even granting that they will, their influence cannot be what it heretofore has been. Even then they cannot be so universally known nor so vividly felt as they were by the generation just gone to rest. At the close of that struggle, nearly every adult male had been a participator in some of its scenes. The consequence was that of those scenes, in the form of a husband, a father, a son, or a brother, a living history was to be found in every family—a history bearing the indubitable testimonies of its own authenticity, in the limbs mangled, in the scars of wounds received, in the midst of the very scenes related—a history, too, that could be read and understood alike by all, the wise and the ignorant, the learned and the unlearned.—But those histories are gone. They can be read no more forever. They were a fortress of strength; but what invading foeman could never do, the silent artillery of time has done—the levelling of its walls. They are gone. They were a forest of giant oaks; but the all-restless hurricane has swept over them, and left only here and there a lonely trunk, despoiled of its verdure, shorn of its foliage, unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a few more gentle breezes, and to combat with its mutilated limbs a few more ruder storms, then to sink and be no more.
They were pillars of the temple of liberty; and now that they have crumbled away that temple must fall unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason. Passion has helped us, but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason—cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason—must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence. Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and, in particular, a reverence for the Constitution and laws; and that we improved to the last, that we remained free to the last, that we revered his name to the last, that during his long sleep we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting-place, shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our WASHINGTON.
Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis, and, as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
SPEECH, AT SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, JUNE 16, 1858
Mr. President, and Gentlemen of the Convention: If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new,—North as well as South.
Have we no tendency to the latter condition?
Let any one who doubts carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination—-piece of machinery, so to speak—compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted; but also let him study the history of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design and concert of action among its chief architects, from the beginning.
The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the States by State constitutions, and from most of the national territory by Congressional prohibition. Four days later commenced the struggle which ended in repealing that Congressional prohibition. This opened all the national territory to slavery, and was the first point gained.
But, so far, Congress only had acted, and an indorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable, to save the point already gained, and give chance for more.
This necessity had not been overlooked, but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of "squatter sovereignty," otherwise called "sacred right of self-government," which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object. That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska bill itself, in the language which follows: "It being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom; but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States." Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of "Squatter Sovereignty" and "sacred right of self-government." "But," said opposition members, "let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the Territory may exclude slavery." "Not we," said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.
While the Nebraska bill was passing through Congress, a law case involving the question of a negro's freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free State and then into a Territory covered by the Congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave for a long time in each, was passing through the United States Circuit Court for the District of Missouri; and both Nebraska bill and lawsuit were brought to a decision in the same month of May, 1854. The negro's name was "Dred Scott," which name now designates the decision finally made in the case. Before the then next presidential election, the law case came to and was argued in the Supreme Court of the United States; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election. Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requested the leading advocate of the Nebraska bill to state his opinion whether the people of a Territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answers: "That is a question for the Supreme Court."
The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the indorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The indorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly four hundred thousand votes, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory. The out-going President, in his last annual message, as impressively as possible echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the indorsement. The Supreme Court met again; did not announce their decision, but ordered a reargument. The presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the court; but the incoming President in his inaugural address fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then, in a few days, came the decision.
The reputed author of the Nebraska bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital indorseing the Dred Scott decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it. The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to indorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained!
At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of the Nebraska bill, on the mere question of fact, whether the Lecompton Constitution was or was not, in any just sense, made by the people of Kansas; and in that quarrel the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up. I do not understand his declaration that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up to be intended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind—the principle for which he declares he has suffered so much, and is ready to suffer to the end. And well may he cling to that principle. If he has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine. Under the Dred Scott decision "squatter sovereignty" squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding—like the mould at the foundry served through one blast and fell back into loose sand,—helped to carry an election, and then was kicked to the winds. His late joint struggle with the Republicans against the Lecompton Constitution involves nothing of the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a point—the right of a people to make their own constitution—upon which he and the Republicans have never differed.
The several points of the Dred Scott decision, in connection with Senator Douglas's "care not" policy, constitute the piece of machinery in its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained. The working points of that machinery are:
(1) That no negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and no descendant of such slave, can ever be a citizen of any State, in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States. This point is made in order to deprive the negro, in every possible event, of the benefit of that provision of the United States Constitution which declares that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."
(2) That, "subject to the Constitution of the United States," neither Congress nor a Territorial Legislature can exclude slavery from any United States Territory. This point is made in order that individual men may fill up the Territories with slaves, without danger of losing them as property, and thus to enhance the chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.
(3) That whether the holding a negro in actual slavery in a free State makes him free as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave State the negro may be forced into by the master. This point is made, not to be pressed immediately; but, if acquiesced in for a while, and apparently indorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott's master might lawfully do with Dred Scott, in the free State of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or one thousand slaves, in Illinois, or in any other free State.
Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mould public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, not to care whether slavery is voted down or voted up. This shows exactly where we now are; and partially, also, whither we are tending.
It will throw additional light on the latter, to go back and run the mind over the string of historical facts already stated. Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than they did when they were transpiring. The people were to be left "perfectly free," "subject only to the Constitution." What the Constitution had to do with it outsiders could not then see. Plainly enough now, it was an exactly fitted niche for the Dred Scott decision to afterward come in, and declare the perfect freedom of the people to be just no freedom at all. Why was the amendment, expressly declaring the right of the people, voted down? Plainly enough now, the adoption of it would have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision. Why was the court decision held up? Why even a Senator's individual opinion withheld till after the presidential election? Plainly enough now, the speaking out then would have damaged the perfectly free argument upon which the election was to be carried. Why the outgoing President's felicitation on the indorsement? Why the delay of a reargument? Why the incoming President's advance exhortation in favor of the decision? These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a spirited horse preparatory to mounting him, when it is dreaded that he may give the rider a fall. And why the hasty after-indorsement of the decision by the President and others?
We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen,—Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance—and we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortices exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few, not omitting even scaffolding—or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece in—in such a case we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.
It should not be overlooked that, by the Nebraska bill, the people of a State as well as Territory were to be left "perfectly free," "subject only to the Constitution." Why mention a State? They were legislating for Territories, and not for or about States. Certainly the people of a State are and ought to be subject to the Constitution of the United States; but why is mention of this lugged into this merely Territorial law? Why are the people of a Territory and the people of a State therein lumped together, and their relation to the Constitution therein treated as being precisely the same? While the opinion of the court, by Chief Justice Taney, in the Dred Scott case, and the separate opinions of all the concurring judges, expressly declare that the Constitution of the United States neither permits Congress nor a Territorial Legislature to exclude slavery from any United States Territory, they all omit to declare whether or not the same Constitution permits a State, or the people of a State, to exclude it. Possibly, this is a mere omission; but who can be quite sure, if McLean or Curtis had sought to get into the opinion a declaration of unlimited power in the people of a State to exclude slavery from their limits, just as Chase and Mace sought to get such declaration, in behalf of the people of a Territory, into the Nebraska bill—I ask, who can be quite sure that it would not have been voted down in the one case as it had been in the other? The nearest approach to the point of declaring the power of a State over slavery is made by Judge Nelson. He approaches it more than once, using the precise idea, and almost the language too, of the Nebraska act. On one occasion his exact language is: "except in cases where the power is restrained by the Constitution of the United States, the law of the State is supreme over the subject of slavery within its jurisdiction." In what cases the power of the States is so restrained by the United States Constitution is left an open question, precisely as the same question as to the restraint on the power of the Territories was left open in the Nebraska act. Put this and that together, and we have another nice little niche, which we may, ere long, see filled with another Supreme Court decision declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a State to exclude slavery from its limits. And this may especially be expected if the doctrine of "care not whether slavery be voted down or voted up" shall gain upon the public mind sufficiently to give promise that such a decision can be maintained when made.
Such a decision is all that slavery now lacks of being alike lawful in all the States. Welcome, or unwelcome, such decision is probably coming, and will soon be upon us, unless the power of the present political dynasty shall be met and overthrown. We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free, and we shall awake to the reality instead that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State. To meet and overthrow the power of that dynasty is the work now before all those who would prevent that consummation. That is what we have to do. How can we best do it?
There are those who denounce us openly to their own friends, and yet whisper us softly that Senator Douglas is the aptest instrument there is with which to effect that object. They wish us to infer all from the fact that he now has a little quarrel with the present head of the dynasty; and that he has regularly voted with us on a single point, upon which he and we have never differed. They remind us that he is a great man, and that the largest of us are very small ones. Let this be granted. But "a living dog is better than a dead lion." Judge Douglas, if not a dead lion for this work, is at least a caged and toothless one. How can he oppose the advances of slavery? He don't care anything about it. His avowed mission is impressing the "public heart" to care nothing about it. A leading Douglas Democratic newspaper thinks Douglas's superior talent will be needed to resist the revival of the African slave-trade. Does Douglas believe an effort to revive that trade is approaching? He has not said so. Does he really think so? But if it is, how can he resist it? For years he has labored to prove it a sacred right of white men to take negro slaves into the new Territories. Can he possibly show that it is less a sacred right to buy them where they can be bought cheapest? And unquestionably they can be bought cheaper in Africa than in Virginia. He has done all in his power to reduce the whole question of slavery to one of a mere right of property; and, as such, how can he oppose the foreign slave-trade—how can he refuse that trade in that "property" shall be "perfectly free"—unless he does it as a protection to the home production? And as the home producers will probably not ask the protection, he will be wholly without a ground of opposition.
Senator Douglas holds, we know, that a man may rightfully be wiser to-day than he was yesterday—that he may rightfully change when he finds himself wrong. But can we, for that reason, run ahead, and infer that he will make any particular change, of which he himself has given no intimation? Can we safely base our action upon any such vague inference? Now, as ever, I wish not to misrepresent Judge Douglas's position, question his motives, or do aught that can be personally offensive to him. Whenever, if ever, he and we can come together on principle so that our great cause may have assistance from his great ability, I hope to have interposed no adventitious obstacle. But clearly he is not now with us—he does not pretend to be—he does not promise ever to be.
Our cause, then, must be intrusted to, and conducted by, its own undoubted friends—those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work, who do care for the result. Two years ago the Republicans of the nation mustered over thirteen hundred thousand strong. We did this under the single impulse of resistance to a common danger, with every external circumstance against us. Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy. Did we brave all then to falter now?—now, when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered, and belligerent? The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail—if we stand firm, we shall not fail. Wise counsels may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later, the victory is sure to come.
SECOND JOINT DEBATE AT FREEPORT, AUGUST 27, 1858
Ladies and Gentlemen; On Saturday last, Judge Douglas and myself first met in public discussion. He spoke one hour, I an hour and a half, and he replied for half an hour. The order is now reversed. I am to speak an hour, he an hour and a half, and then I am to reply for half an hour. I propose to devote myself during the first hour to the scope of what was brought within the range of his half-hour speech at Ottawa. Of course, there was brought within the scope of that half-hour's speech something of his own opening speech. In the course of that opening argument Judge Douglas proposed to me seven distinct interrogatories. In my speech of an hour and a half, I attended to some other parts of his speech, and incidentally, as I thought, answered one of the interrogatories then. I then distinctly intimated to him that I would answer the rest of his interrogatories on condition only that he should agree to answer as many for me. He made no intimation at the time of the proposition, nor did he in his reply allude at all to that suggestion of mine. I do him no injustice in saying that he occupied at least half of his reply in dealing with me as though I had refused to answer his interrogatories. I now propose that I will answer any of the interrogatories, upon condition that he will answer questions from me not exceeding the same number. I give him an opportunity to respond. The Judge remains silent. I now say that I will answer his interrogatories, whether he answers mine or not; and that after I have done so, I shall propound mine to him.
I have supposed myself, since the organization of the Republican party at Bloomington, in May, 1856, bound as a party man by the platforms of the party, then and since. If in any interrogatories which I shall answer I go beyond the scope of what is within these platforms, it will be perceived that no one is responsible but myself.
Having said thus much, I will take up the Judge's interrogatories as I find them printed in the Chicago Times, and answer them seriatim. In order that there may be no mistake about it, I have copied the interrogatories in writing, and also my answers to them. The first one of these interrogatories is in these words:
Question 1. "I desire to know whether Lincoln today stands as he did in 1854, in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law?"
Answer. I do not now, nor ever did, stand in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law.
Q. 2. "I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to-day as he did in 1854, against the admission of any more slave States into the Union, even if the people want them?"
A. I do not now, nor ever did, stand pledged against the admission of any more slave States into the Union.
Q. 3. "I want to know whether he stands pledged against the admission of a new State into the Union with such a constitution as the people of that State may see fit to make?"
A. I do not stand pledged against the admission of a new State into the Union with such a constitution as the people of that State may see fit to make.
Q. 4. "I want to know whether he stands to-day pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia?"
A. I do not stand to-day pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.
Q. 5. "I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to the prohibition of the slave-trade between the different States?"
A. I do not stand pledged to the prohibition of the slave-trade between the different States.
Q. 6. "I desire to know whether he stands pledged to prohibit slavery in all the Territories of the United States, North as well as South of the Missouri Compromise line?"