Abraham Lincoln.

Complete works of Abraham Lincoln (Volume 15) online

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Complete Works of
Abraham Lincoln


Being the Second Printing from the Plates
of the Celebrated




Complete Works of

Abraham Lincoln

Edited by

John G. Nicolay and John Hay

With a General Introduction by

Richard Watson Gilder, and Special Articles

by Other Eminent Persons

ISlew and Enlarged Edition


New York
Francis D. Tandy Company

Copyright, j8g4, by


Copyright, igoS, hy



Abraham Lincoln

and the Promises of the

Declaration of Independence'

FOR the second time in our annals the
country has been summoned by the Presi-
dent to unite, on an appointed day, m
commemorating the life and character of the
dead The first was on the death of George
Washington, when, as now, a day was set apart
for simultaneous eulogy throughout the land
and cities, towns, and villages all vied m tribute.
More than half a century has passed since this
early observance in memory of the Father of his
country, and now it is repeated in memory of
Abraham Lincoln.

Thus are Washington and Lincoln associated
in the grandeur of their obsequies. But this as-
sociation is not accidental. It is from the nature
of things, and because the part which Lincoln
was called to perform resembled in character
the part which was performed by Washington.
The work left undone by Washington was con-
tinued by Lincoln. Kindred in service, kindred
in patriotism, each was naturally surrounded at

.A Eulogy on Abraham Lincoln, delivered before the Mu-
nicipal Authorities of the City of Boston, June ., .865.

vi Abraham Lincoln

death by kindred homage. One sleeps in the
East, and the other sleeps in the West; and thus,
in death, as in life, one is the complement of the

The two might be compared after the manner
of Plutarch; but it will be enough for the pres-
ent if we glance only at certain points of resem-
blance and of contrast, so as to recall the part
which each performed.

Each was at the head of the Republic during
a period of surpassing trial; and each thought
only of the public good, simply, purely, con-
stantly, so that single-hearted devotion to coun-
try will always find a synonyme in their names.
Each was the national chief during a time of
successful war. Each was the representative of
his country at a great epoch of history. But
here, perhaps, the resemblance ends and the con-
trast begins. Unlike in origin, conversation, and
character, they were unlike also in the ideas
which they served, except as each was the servant
of his country. The war conducted by Wash-
ington was unlike the war conducted by Lincoln
— as the peace which crowned the arms of the
one was unlike the peace which began to smile
upon the other. The two wars did not differ
in the scale of operations, and in the tramp of
mustered hosts, more than in the ideas involved.
The first was for National Independence; the

Charles Sumner vii

second was to make the Republic one and indi-
visible, in the indestructible foundations of Lib-
erty and Equality. The first only cut the con-
nection with the mother country, and opened the
way to the duties and advantages of Popular
Government. The second will have failed un-
less it performs all the original promises of that
Declaration which our fathers took upon their
lips when they became a Nation. In the rela-
tion of cause and effect the first was the natural
precursor and herald of the second. National
Independence was the first epoch in our history,
and such was its importance that Lafayette
boasted to the First Consul of France that,
though its battles were but skirmishes, they de-
cided the fate of the world.

The Declaration of our fathers, which was en-
titled simply "the unanimous Declaration of the
Thirteen United States of America," is known
familiarly as the Declaration of Independence,
because the remarkable words with which it
concludes made independence the absorbing
idea, to which all else was tributary. Thus did
the representatives of the United States of Amer-
ica in General Congress assembled, solemnly
publish and declare " that these United Colonies
are, and of right ought to be, free and inde-
pendent States; that they are absolved from all
allegiance to the British Crown, and that all

vill Abraham Lincoln

political connection between them and the State
of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dis-
solved . . . and for the support of this
Declaration, with a firm reliance in the protec-
tion of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge
to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our
sacred honor." To sustain this mutual pledge
Washington drew his sword and led the national
armies, until at last, by the Treaty of Peace in
1783, Independence was acknowledged.

Had the Declaration been confined to this
pledge, it would have been less important than
it was. Much as it might have been to us, it
would have been less of a warning and trumpet-
note to the world. There were two other pledges
which it made. One was proclaimed in the des-
ignation " United States of America," which
it adopted as the national name, and the other
was proclaimed in those great words, fit for the
baptismal vows of a Republic: " We hold these
truths to be self-evident; that all men are created
equal; that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain inalienable rights; that among these
are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;
that to secure these rights governments are insti-
tuted among men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed." By the
sword of Washington Independence was se-
cured; but the Unity of the Republic and the

Charles Sumner ix

principles of the Declaration were left exposed
to question. From that day to this, through va-
rious chances, they have been questioned and
openly dishonored, — until at last the Republic
was constrained to take up arms in their defence.
And yet, since enmity to the Union proceeded
entirely from enmity to the great ideas of the
Declaration, history must record that the ques-
tion of the Union itself was absorbed in the
grander conflict to uphold those primal truths
which our fathers had solemnly proclaimed.

Such are these two great wars in which these
two chiefs bore each his part. Washington
fought for National Independence and tri-
umphed, — making his country an example to
mankind. Lincoln drew his reluctant sword to
save those great ideas, essential to the life and
character of the Republic, which, unhappily,
the sword of Washington had failed to put be-
yond the reach of assault.

It was by no accident that these two great men
became the representatives of their country at
these two different epochs, so alike in peril, and
yet so unlike in the principles involved. Wash-
ington was the natural representative of Na-
tional Independence. He might also have rep-
resented National Unity had this principle been
challenged to bloody battle during his life; for
nothing was nearer his heart than the consolida-

X Abraham Lincoln

tion of our Union, which, in his letter to Con-
gress transmitting the Constitution, he declared
to be "the greatest interest of every true Amer-
ican." Then again, in a remarkable letter to
John Jay, he plainly said he did not conceive
"we can exist long as a nation without lodging
somewhere a power which will pervade the
Union in as energetic a manner as the authority
of the State governments extends over the several
States." But another person was needed of dif-
ferent birth and simpler life to represent the
ideas which were now assailed.

Washington was of a family which may be
traced in English heraldry. Some of his ances-
tors sleep in close companionship with the noble
name of Spencer. By inheritance and marriage
he was rich in lands, and, let it be said in re-
spectful sorrow, rich also in slaves, so far as
slaves breed riches rather than curses. At the
age of fourteen he refused a commission as a
midshipman in the British Navy. At the age
of nineteen he was military inspector with the
rank of major. At the age of twenty-one he
was selected by the British Governor of Virginia
as Commissioner to the French posts. At the
age of twenty-two he was colonel of a regiment,
and was thanked by the House of Burgesses in
Virginia. Early in life he became an observer
of form and ceremony. Always strictly just,

Charles Sumner xi

according to prevailing principles, and ordering
at his death the emancipation of his slaves, he
was a general and a statesman rather than a
philanthropist; nor did he seem to be inspired,
beyond the duties of patriotism, to any active
sympathy with Human Rights. In the ample
record of what he wrote or said there is no word
of adhesion to the great ideas of the Declaration.
Such an origin— such an early life— such oppor-
tunities — such a condition— such a character,
were all in contrast with the origin, the early
life, the opportunities, the condition, and the
character of him whom we commemorate to-day.
Abraham Lincoln was born, and until he be-
came President always lived in a part of the
country which at the period of the Declaration
of Independence was a savage wilderness.
Strange but happy Providence, that a voice from
that savage wilderness, now fertile in men, was
inspired to uphold the pledges and promises of
the Declaration! The Unity of the Republic
on the indestructible foundation of Liberty and
Equality was vindicated by the citizen of a com-
munity which had no existence when the Re-
public was formed.

At a later day, he became a representative in
Congress for a single term, beginning in Decem-
ber 1847, being the only Whig representative

xii Abraham Lincoln

from Illinois. His speeches during this Hrief
period have many of the characteristics of his
later productions. They are argumentative,
logical, and spirited, with that quaint humor
and sinewy sententiousness which belonged to
his nature. His votes were constant against
Slavery For the Wilmot Proviso, he had
voted, according to his own statement, ''in one
way and another about forty times." His vote
is recorded against the pretence that slaves were
property under the constitution. From Con-
gress he again passed to his profession. The
day was at hand when all his powers, enlarged
by experience and quickened to their highest
activity, would be needed to repel that haughty
domination which was already undermining the

The first field of conflict was in his own State,
with no less an antagonist than Stephen A.
Douglas, unhappily at that time in alliance with
the Slave Power. The too famous Kansas and
Nebraska bill, introduced by him into the Sen-
ate, assumed to set aside the venerable safe-
guard of freedom in the territory west of the
Missouri, under the pretence of allowing the in-
habitants "to vote Slavery up or to vote it down"
according to their pleasure, and this barbarous
privilege was called by the fancy name of Pop-
ular Sovereignty. The future President did

Charles Sumner xlli

not hesitate to denounce this most baleful meas-
ure in a series of popular addresses, where truth,
sentiment, humor, and argument all were
blended. As the conflict continued, he was
brought forward as a candidate for the Senate
against its able author. The debate that ensued
is one of the most memorable in our political
history, whether we consider the principles in-
volved, or the way in which it was conducted.

It commenced with a close, well-woven speech
from the Republican champion, in which he
used words which showed his insight into the
actual condition of things, as follows: "A
house divided against itself cannot stand. I be-
lieve this Government cannot endure perma-
nently 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." Only a few days before his
death, when I asked him if at the time he had
any doubt about this remark, he replied, "Not
in the least. It was clearly true, and time has
justified me." With like plainness he exposed
the Douglas pretence of Popular Sovereignty
as meaning simply "that if any one man shall
choose to enslave another, no third man shall be
allowed to object," and he announced his belief
in "the existence of a conspiracy to perpetuate

XIV Abraham Lincoln

and nationalize Slavery," of which the Kansas
and Nebraska Bill and the Dred Scott decision
were essential parts. Such was the character of
this debate at the beginning, and so it continued
on the lips of our champion to the end.

But the inevitable topic to which he returned
with the most frequency, and to which he clung
with all the grasp of his soul, was the practical
character of the Declaration of Independence
in announcing the Liberty and Equality of all
men. These were no idle words, but substantial
truth, binding on the conscience of mankind.
I know not if this grand pertinacity has been
noticed before; but I deem it my duty to say,
that to my mind it is by far the most important
incident of that controversy, and perhaps the
most interesting in the biography of the speaker.
Nothing previous to his nomination for the
Presidency is comparable to it. Plainly his
whole subsequent career took its impulse and
character from that championship. And here
too is our first debt of gratitude. The words
which he then uttered live after him, and no-
body can hear how he then battled without feel-
ing a new motive to fidelity in the cause of Hu-
man Rights.

In the winter of the next year the Western
champion appeared at New York; and, in a re-

Charles Sumner xv

markable address at the Cooper Institute, Feb-
ruary 27, i860, vindicated the policy of the
Fathers of the Republic and the principles of
the Republican party. After showing with curi-
ous skill and minuteness the original under-
standing on the power of Congress over Slavery
in the territories, he demonstrated that the Re-
publican party was not in any just sense sec-
tional; and he proceeded to expose the perils
from the pretensions of slave-masters, who, not
content with requiring that "we must arrest and
return their slaves with greedy pleasure," in-
sisted that the Constitution must be so interpre-
ted as to uphold the idea of property in man.
The whole address was in a subdued and argu-
mentative style, while each sentence was like a
driven nail, with a concluding rally that was a
bugle-call to the lovers of right. "Let us have
faith," said he, "that right makes might, and in
that faith, let us to the end dare to do our duty
as we understand it."

A few months later this champion of the
right, who would not see the colored man shut
out from the promises of the Declaration of In-
dependence, and who insisted upon the exclu-
sion of Slavery from the territories, after sum-
moning his countrymen to dare to do their duty,
was nominated by a great political party as their
candidate for President of the United States.

xvi Abraham Lincoln

Local considerations, securing to him the sup-
port of certain States beyond any other candi-
date, exercised a final influence in determining
his election ; but it is easy to see how, from posi-
tion, character, and origin, he was at that mo-
ment especially the representative of his country.
The Unity of the Republic was menaced. He
was from that vast controlling Northwest,
which would never renounce its communications
with the sea, whether by the Mississippi or by
eastern avenues. The birthday Declaration of
the Republic was dishonored, in the denial of
its primal truths. He had already become
known as a volunteer in its defence. Republi-
can Institutions were in jeopardy. He was the
child of humble life, through whom Republi-
can Institutions would stand confest. These
things which are so obvious now, in the light of
history, were less apparent then in the turmoil
of party. But that Providence, in whose hands
are the destinies of nations, which had found
out Washington to conduct his country through
the war of Independence, now found out Lin-
coln to wage the new battle for the Unity of
the Republic on the foundations of Human

The election took place. Of the popular
vote, Abraham Lincoln received 1,857,610, rep-
resented by 180 electoral ballots; Stephen A.

Charles Sumner xvii

Douglas received 1,365,976, represented by 12
electoral ballots; John C. Breckenridge re-
ceived 847,953, represented by 72 electoral bal-
lots; and John Bell received 590,631, repre-
sented by 39 electoral ballots. By this vote
Abraham Lincoln became President. The tri-
umph at the ballot-box w^as flashed by the tele-
graph over the whole country, from north to
south, from east to west; but it was answered
by defiance from the slavemasters, speaking in
the name of State Rights and for the sake of
Slavery. The declared will of the American
people, registered at the ballot-box, was set at
naught. The conspiracy of years blazed into
day. The National Government, which Alex-
ander H. Stephens characterized as "the best
and freest government, the most equal in its
rights, the most just in its decisions, the most
lenient in its measures, the most aspiring in its
principles to elevate the race of man that the
sun of heaven ever shone on ;" and which Jeffer-
son Davis himself pronounced "the best govern-
ment that has ever been instituted by man," — ■
that National Government, whose portrait is
thus drawn by its enemies, was defied. South
Carolina was the first in crime, and before the
elected champion had turned his face from the
beautiful prairies of the West to enter upon his
dangerous duties, State after State had under-

xviii Abraham Lincoln

taken to abandon its place in the Union, — sena-
tor after senator had dropped from his seat, —
fort after fort had been lost, — and the mutter-
ings of war had begun to fill the air, while the
actual President, besotted by Slavery, tran-
quilly witnessed the gigantic treason, as he sat
at ease in the Executive Mansion — and did

It was time for another to come upon the
scene. You do not forget how the new Presi-
dent left his village home, never to return except
under the escort of death. In words of fare-
well to the friendly multitude who surrounded
him, he dedicated himself to his country and
solemnly invoked the aid of Divine Providence.
"I know not," he said, "how soon I shall see
you again;" and then, with a prophetic voice
he announced that a duty devolved upon him
"greater than that which has devolved upon any
other man since the days of Washington," and
he asked his friends to pray that he might re-
ceive that Divine assistance, without which he
could not succeed, but with which success was
certain. Others have gone forth to power and
fame with gladness and with song. He went
forth prayerfully as to a sacrifice.

You do not forget how at each resting-place
on the road he renewed his vows, and when at
Philadelphia, visiting Independence Hall, his

Charles Sumner xix

soul broke forth in homage to the vital truths
which were there declared. Of all his utter-
ances on the way to the national capital, after
his farewell to his neighbors, there is nothing
so prophetic as these unpremeditated words: —

All the political sentiments I entertain have been
drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them,
from the sentiments which ongmated, and were
given to the world from this hall. I have never had
a feeling politically that did not spring from the
sentiments embodied in the Declaration ot inde-
pendence. . . . Now, my friends, can this
country be saved on this basis? If it can, I shall
consider myself one of the happiest men in the
world if I can help to save It. If it cannot be saved
upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But it
this country cannot be saved without giving up that
principle, I was about to say I would rather be
assassinated on the spot.

And then, after adding that he had not ex-
pected to say a word, he repeated again the con-
secration of his life, exclaiming,

I have said nothing but what I am willing to live
by, and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, to
die by.

He was about to raise the national banner over
the old hall. But before this service he took
up the strain which he loved so well, saying:—

It is on such an occasion as this that we can reason

XX Abraham Lincoln

together, reaffirm our devotion to the country and
the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

Thus constantly did he bear his testimony.
Surely this fidelity will be counted ever after
among his chief glories. I know no instance in
history more touching, especially when we con-
sider that his support of those principles caused
his sacrifice. "Though every tile were a devil,
yet will I enter Worms," said Luther. Our re-
former was less defiant, but hardly less deter-
mined. Three times he had already announced,
that, for the great truths of the Declaration, he
was willing to die; three times he had offered
himself on that alter; three times he had vowed
himself to this martyrdom.

Slavery was already pursuing his life. An
attempt was made to throw from the track a
train in which he was journeying, and a hand
grenade was found secreted in another. Bal-
timore, which lay directly on his way, was the
seat of a murderous plot against him. Avoid-
ing the conspirators of Slavery, he came from
Philadelphia to Washington unexpectedly in
the night; and thus, for the moment cheating
assassination of its victim, he entered the Na-
tional capital.

From this time forward his career broadens
into the history of his country and of the age.
You all know it by heart. Therefore a few

Charles Sumner xxi

glimpses will be enough, that I may exhibit its
moral rather than its story.

The Inaugural Address — the formation of his
cabinet — his earliest acts — his daily conversa-
tion — all attested the spirit of moderation with
which he approached his perilous position. At
the same time he declared openly, that in the
contemplation of universal law and of the Con-
stitution, the Union of these States is perpetual;
that no State, upon its own mere motion, can
lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and
ordinances to that effect are legally void; that
acts of violence within any State are insurrec-
tionary or revolutionary; and that, to the extent
of his ability, he should take care, according to
the express injunction of the Constitution, that
the laws of the Union should be faithfully ex-
ecuted in all the States. But, while thus posi-
tive in upholding the Unity of the Republic, he
was determined that on his part there should
be no act of offence; that there should be no
bloodshed or violence unless forced upon the
country; that it was his duty to hold, occupy,
and possess the property and places belonging to
the Government, but beyond what was necessary
for this object, there should be no exercise of
force, and the people everywhere would be left
in that perfect security which is most favorable
to calm thought and reflection.

xxii Abraham Lincoln

But the madness of Slavery knew no bounds.
It had been determined from the beginning that
the Union should be broken, and no modera-
tion could change this wicked purpose. A pre-
tended power was organized, in the form of a
Confederacy, with Slavery as the declared cor-
ner-stone. You know what ensued. Fort
Sumter was attacked, and, after a fiery storm of

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