C. M. (Clement Moore) Butler.

Funeral address on the death of Abraham Lincoln : delivered in the Church of the Covenant, April 19, 1865 online

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973o7L63 Butler, CM.

Funeral AdJress on Death of Ab-
raham Lincoln.




the Class of 1901

founded by









April 19, 1865,


Rev. C. M. BUTLER, D.D.




Nos. 1102 and 1104 Sansom Street.


Rev. and Dear Doctor:

We were so much interested, gratified, and, we hope, benefited, by your
touching and eloquent address this morning, and felt that it so perfectly reflected
the feelings and sentiments of our own hearts, that, desirous in common with many
others of preserving it in a permanent form, we venture to ask a copy of your notes
for publication. With great respect and esteem,

Truly yours,

W. T. Sabine,
Andrew Wheeler,
John Tanguy,
John P. Rhoads,
James A. Kirkpatrick,
Paul G. Oliver,
Robert Reed,
Samuel Simes, •

Charles G. Sower.
Philadelphia, April 10, 1SG5.

West Philadelphia, April 24, 1S65.
Dear Brethren:

I have written out as perfectly as my memory would enable me, the
hastily prepared address, delivered from a few meagre notes, which you received so
kindly, and have requested for publication. Conscious as I am that it is your pro-
found interest in the subject which has led to your high estimate of my most
imperfect presentation of it, I yet too completely share the universal desire of the
people to render honor to the memory of our dear departed President, to feel at
liberty to withhold the address from publication.

Very respectfully, yours,

C. M. Butler.
Rev. W. T. Sabine, Andrew Wheeler, &c, &c.












We attend to-day an exceedingly solemn and affect-
ing funeral service. I say that we attend the service —
because, although the remains of our late lamented
President are not here, we nevertheless take a real and
substantial part in the high and sacred ceremonial ap-
pointed for his obsequies. The marvellous agency of
the telegraph has annihilated distances, and brought the
most remote States, as it were, around his bier. And
to-day there is no distinction between friends and
mourners. We are all mourners. There is scarcely a
house in all our broad land which is not draped in the
symbols of sorrow, or a heart that is not heavy with its
reality. We are all children, gathered in passionate and
sobbing grief around the prostrate form of our murdered,
beloved, and honored father. To-day tens of thousands
of ministers of God speak to millions of the assembled
people. Their voice is one, their theme one, their lam-
entations and their affectionate eulogies the same. They
all unite in the same faith, the same prayer, the same

vow. Their faith is unshaken that God has not for-
saken, though he has chastened us, in our hour of
triumph. Their prayer is that, chastened and corrected,
but not given over unto death, God's " loving correction
may make us great." Their vow is to cleave with new
purpose of heart to the God who in wrath remembers
mercy, and who fits us for high duties only by subject-
ing us to the discipline of mighty sorrows.

It is a new thing, this actual participation of a whole
nation in the funeral obsequies of its fallen chief.
When the lamented Henry Clay was buried, a large
portion of the country was conscious, at the moment,
that the mournful ceremonies were in progress ; but not
then, as now, was the whole nation officially invited and
expected to take a part in the funeral obsequies, by
gathering in their houses of worship and joining in the
offices for the burial of the dead. But, indeed, every-
thing connected with this tragedy is new. Such a re-
bellion as that which has brought this revolting atrocity
in its train is new in the history of the world. There
have been revolutions against oppressive governments,
or in behalf of rights withheld; there have been conspir-
acies and revolts like that of Cataline, by bad men for
the indulgence of atrocious passions, and the overthrow
of states; but, like Cataline's, they have been limited in
their field, and speedily suppressed. But never before
did a revolt from a beneficent government occur for the
purpose of obtaining freedom to make and keep men

slaves; and never before did so vile a scheme cover such
a wide area with desolation, and hurry such multitudes
into graves, and keep itself alive in evil power for a pe-
riod so long. It is a new thing in these latter days to
have at the head of a nation a man of such unique and
simple greatness; and new certainly is that unparalleled
and profound sorrow which has benumbed us into indif-
ference for victories, and changed the rapturous hope of
anticipated peace into the inconsolable anguish in which,
for the moment, peace or war, victory or defeat, seem
equal, because he, our father, is not with us to sustain
us in the one and rejoice with us in the other. And
new no less are the stupendous events and contrasts
which have been crowded in the first two weeks of April.
Within that period the triple lines that guarded Peters-
burgh and Richmond have been stormed, General Lee
with the remnant of his army has surrendered, Mobile
has fallen, Raleigh has been occupied, and Jefferson
Davis has become a fugitive, who will either escape in
company with eternal infamy, or be laid hold of by in-
exorable justice. Within that period the old tattered
flag of Fort Sumter, reverently preserved for such an
occasion, was raised over the ruins of the fortification
from which treason struck it down, on the fourth anni-
versary of the fatal day that saw it lowered; and the
same devout soldier who surrendered it with patriotic
agony lifted it to its old place, with a gratitude that w r as
too sacred to be exultation, amid the choaking cheers of


assembled thousands and the thunder of the victorious
fleets and armies. And then, on that very night, when
our beloved President had reached the point which he
had been patiently laboring and hoping to attain for four
long cruel years — at the precise crisis of his profoundest
satisfaction and his brightest promise, he was instantly
struck dead by the hand of an assassin ! Surely these
are solemn events — startling contrasts. Surely the
crime of murdering such a man, so merciful and mag-
nanimous, at such a time and amid such events, and
with such a place of honor and veneration in the nation's
heart, is new and unparalleled in its guilt. Surely God
is moving among us with majesty and power, and speak-
ing to us in trumpet tones. Let us bow in filial awe
beneath his chastenings, and listen reverently to his

And now it becomes us to endeavor to interpret this
awful providence, to comprehend the causes and the
character of the profound emotion which fills our hearts,
and to study the solemn lessons which God intends that
w T e should learn.


We are so startled and stricken by the event, in part,
because we had a strong persuasion that our President
came to the kingdom "for such a time as this;" and was
designated by God as the chosen instrument to take us
safely through the perils and perplexities in which we


are involved. And now he is taken away from us!
Hence we feel bewildered, as well as bereaved. It had
come to be a settled conviction of the people of this
country that Abraham Lincoln had been trained and led
and elected to accomplish the work of our national re-
generation. When we look back to the period of his
election, we see that the time was then ripe for revolu-
tion. We had been for half a century sowing the wind,
and then was heard the first hoarse breathing of the
awakening whirlwind. The slaveholding South had
been led, through interest, to stifle its convictions of the
sin of slavery. It had learned successively to tolerate,
vindicate, and applaud this institution ; until at length
it claimed for it a divine sanction, and denounced as in-
fidel all who believed that it was evil. Under its influ-
ence, character in the slave States had become arrogant,
dictatorial, self-willed, unrestrained, and, when thwarted,
cruel. It is now evident that the irrepressible moral
conflict between the principles of free and slaveholding
communities was about to be transferred from the arena
of discussion and of politics to the battle-field. Our
Government was to be tried to the uttermost. We were
to be sorely tried and chastened, but not given over
unto death. In that crisis we looked to Mr. Lincoln to
weather the storm, and felt that God had placed him at
the helm. If when the storm raged highest, and we
seemed about to be engulphed or driven and crushed
upon the rocks, we doubted for a moment his ability and


skill, or feared that God had given us up to destruction,
that apprehension did not long continue. We were soon
settled in the conviction that he was our Heaven desie-
nated preserver ; and that some of the qualities and
peculiarities which had created our misgivings, were
precisely those which fitted him for this fearful crisis.
We saw that he was at the same time firm to principle
and pliant to circumstance — like a ship which is held by
its anchor, but yields gracefully to the sway of tides.
If he had been less firm to principle, he would have
yielded to the enormous pressure of intimidation and
cajolement which friends and foes brought to bear upon
him. If he had been of more rigid personal will as to
modes and policies, then he could not so wisely have
adapted himself to the rapidly changing exigencies of
the times, and the corresponding moods of the public
mind. The nation was to be brought to its present con-
victions by the stern logic of events. These convictions
constituted his starting-point. And yet he was ready to
step back, and stand with the people at the point which
they had gained, in the full conviction that they would
soon advance with him to his position. It w T as this re-
ligious faith that our President had been given to us and
fitted for us, in order to save us at this time of peril,
that caused us to be so startled when he was suddenly
removed. It is difficult for us to comprehend, as w T e no
doubt shall, that his peculiar work was done, his mission
ended, his rew r ard ready.


And we feel this death profoundly, because we affec-
tionately regarded Mr. Lincoln as pre-eminently our
President — our chosen and our real representative.
Louis XIV called himself the state. The two Napo-
leons have claimed that they were the people repre-
sented, — the incarnation of the nation. What Louis
claimed on a theory of divine, and the Napoleons on a
theory of human right, Mr. Lincoln tvas for us, in our
theory, and in our feeling. He w T as more than our
official, he was our actual representative. He was the
concentration of our principles, purposes, and feelings —
many consentient wills and hearts compacted into one.
And this is what he supremely wished and aimed to be.
He regarded it as his highest honor and duty to repre-
sent the conscience and patriotism and will of this great
nation. He had full faith in the theory of our Govern-
ment as a self-government by elected magistrates, which
was no less from God, because it was through and for
the people. Hence he felt that he was sent, not to de-
feat, but to further the people's settled will. Hence all
our enthusiasm and generosity and magnanimity and
patriotism were bidden to go to Washington, and to
speak and act through him. Hence, as the incarnation
of all that was best, without that which was poorest and
lowest in us, we loved him as a second and better self —
the possible self which we wished to be. When there-
fore he was struck down, stunned and speechless, we


too were stunned. We were at first cast into a silent
and stupid apathy of grief, to be succeeded, when we
were roused from it, by a passion of keen and indignant
sorrow. Then it was revealed to us how much we had
loved and confided in him. We had come to feel that
Ave were sure he was doing wise and right things, even
when we could not see them to be so; because it had
proved to have been so, many times before. We felt
that if we knew all the complications of his position we
should see that he was acting wisely — just as we would
act, and as we would have him act, in such a crisis.
Therefore, when he was so suddenly removed, it seemed
as if there could be no one to take us into his heart and
counsels as he had done, and understand and feel with
us as had understood and felt. lie was our Moses who
had only just taken us over the blood-red sea of rebellion,
and had but begun to sing with us the song of triumph,
when he was taken away; and we had expected that he
would lead us across the desert into the promised land.
But indeed there is no wide desert to pass over. We
are on the borders of that land. On the very day of his
death our great leader had looked upon it from his
Pisgah of observation, and had rejoiced at the goodly
heritage upon which his people were about to enter.
Oh faithless, impatient, sorrowing hearts, Be still, be still,
and know that God is God ; God not only in his justice
but in his rounded attributes of wisdom, righteousness,
and truth, which are all but ministers of his love.



Our grief is profound, not only because of the startling
nature of this blow; not only because our President
seemed providentially designated and supremely quali-
fied for his high office, but because we had come to feel
for him a warm personal regard, and to take great pride
and satisfaction in his peculiar character and gifts. He
was so utterly void of pretension, so simple and plain in
speech and manners, that it took us some time to learn
that he was no less great than good. We had come to
understand him well and to rejoice in him. He was dis-
tinctively a product of our institutions. Most of our
eminent statesmen upon the seaboard have been more or
less modified by the influences of foreign culture and as-
sociation. Not so Mr. Lincoln. He had taken into his
great nature all the influences, and ideas, and feelings of
the West, from all its classes; and stood forth the rep-
resentative of its vigor, its humor, its energy, its confi-
dence and its success. He was one of the most genuine
and truthful of men. He made no professions and had
no affectations ; and was to a marvel, for a man who had
risen from so humble a position, free from egotism. He
had not even that subtlest of all egotism which besets
especially plain men who have risen high; that which
hides itself under the profession of being void of it. He
was simply himself, and acted out himself, and said no-
thing about himself.

He had a big and busy brain. His mind was not in-


deed elegantly cultured, nor did he possess a brilliant
imagination, nor, so far as we know, strong powers of
philosophical insight into abstruse themes. But his mind
was singularly sound, sagacious and shrewd. It was
also self-distrustful, slow and pains-taking. He came to
understand men and things, not by sudden insight, but
by careful and repeated meditations. He looked wide,
and he looked deep, and he looked all around, and he
looked inside and outside, and he looked many times be-
fore he came to a conclusion. And then it was a conclu-
sion. And although he was not imaginative, he was
gifted with a sort of witty and quaint fancifulness, which
clothed his thoughts in epigrammatic forms, which com-
mended them to the popular apprehension, and fixed
them in the memory.. And then the thorough honesty
of the man's nature, and his freedom from passions and
resentments, allowed his clear mind to work strait for-
ward to just conclusions. Hence it was that the whole
nation had learned to feel confident that the President
would not represent their first impulsive and hasty judg-
ments, but their sober second thoughts.

But it was the character rather than the intellect of
Mr. Lincoln that made him so dear to the people. His
character was indeed beautiful and noble. So simple,
so honest, so just, so benevolent ! I should say that he
was a man of full and tender benevolence, and with an
affectionateness and sensibility that were deep and true,
without being sentimental or demonstrative. But he was


altogether peculiar in this — that the whole big volume
of his nature rolled on in one current of justice, gener-
osity, mercifulness and magnanimity. There did not
seem to be even any little eddies of resentment and ani-
mosity. It was a deep, clear placid stream that filled,
but did not overflow its banks. If it had not the rush
of the torrent, neither did it have its turbiclness; if it
was without its sparkle, so also it was without its shal-
lowness. It is remarkable, very remarkable, that during
all the exciting years of his administration, there is no
record of a word of passion or resentment spoken or
written by him. There have been no deeds of personal
revenge. Severity was most alien from his kind forgiv-
ing and genial nature. Not only in public, as an homage
to the proprieties of his exalted station, has he uttered
no sentiments unbecoming the placable Father of all his
people; but it is well known that in the intimacies of
social life he never gave way to those impulses of indig-
nation which w T ere felt for him by all patriotic and loyal
hearts. Never, since our Government was organized,
has such vile vituperation been heaped upon a public
man as upon Mr. Lincoln. Without one particle of reason
for such a representation he has been depicted, at home
and abroad, as a hideous monster in character, in morals
and in manners. And yet he has never noticed these
foul libels. He seems to have known from what spirit
they came, and to have expected them; and to have
estimated the force of the violent passions raised against


him and his governmmt, with the unimpassioned calm-
ness with which he would calculate mechanical powers-
And yet, no doubt, this persistant defamation must have
wounded his affectionate and honorable nature. As it
did not embitter, it must have ennobled and exalted
him. When I recently saw him at the anniversary of the
Christian Commission in the Capitol, the central figure
of that vast assembly, as I looked down upon him from
the clerk's desk, I was struck with the change that had
taken place in his countenance since I had last seen him,
three years before. His face was furrowed as by many
cares, but had a strange look of patience, meekness and
fatherhood, mellowing his old look of honest and genial
energy. He entered into the exercises of that evening
with an absorbed earnestness which suffered no abate-
ment to the end of the five hours during which they con-
tinued. It was indeed towards the close of it that a
simple but impressive little ballad, called "Your Mission"
was repeated, as it was whispered to me. by his request.
There were stirring songs of patriotism that night, whose
choruses were like the clash of cymbals ; but that which
he wished to hear again was the simple and touching
little ballad, "Your Mission." There was something very
affecting to me in this circumstance. He seemed to sit
among his people as one of them, and to feel and to de-
sire to have them feel that in this great crisis each should
know and fulfill his work for his country and humanity,
whether that work were great or small. The object of


the ballad was to make the humblest feel that he had
some task to do; and that it was important because the
combined result of all that was to be done would be
glorious. At one verse of the ballad sung with exquis-
itely simple pathos, I observed that his face worked with
deep emotion. This was the verse —

If you cannot in the conflict,

Prove yourself a soldier true,
If where fire and smoke are thickest,

There's no work for you to do :
When the battle-field is silent,

You can go with silent tread ;
You can bear away the wounded,

You can cover up the dead.

These things, and things like these — sympathy with
the suffering, generosity to foes, a strong mind and a
full heart, a spirit not of fear, but of love, and of power,
and of a sound mind — these are the characteristics
which have so endeared him to the nation, and explain
its passionate outburst of universal sorrow !


It is one of the chief elements of our admiration and
reverence for Mr. Lincoln that he was the champion and
emancipator and the martyr to the emancipation, of four
millions of slaves. And yet he was the fartherest possi-
ble from being a theoretical, hasty, impulsive reformer.
It is true that from his first entrance into public life he
was profoundly impressed with the evil and the sin of


slavery, and with its absolute incompatibility with the
first principles of our Republican institutions. He began
his political career with the announcement that there
were two systems, two forms of society — the slave-hold-
ing and the free — which could not continue to subsist
side by side. His one great political principle which
shaped all his subsequent opinions and policy, was the
essential equality in right of all men, and therefore the
duty of human governments to secure to them that right
by law. He knew that this was the prime principle of
our confederation; and he believed that the false gloss
upon it which slavery had introduced would finally be
expunged. But this was always with him a principle,
and never a fanaticism. Hence he was patient, steady,
slow sometimes — too slow and undecided we thought —
in his dealings with it. He did not believe that this
evil fruit of slavery, grafted on the stock of liberty, was
to be removed by cutting down the tree. If he could
not discern how it was to be done, he was very sure it
was not to be done that way ; and had full faith that in
some way it would be accomplished. Hence, never for
a moment did he give in to the feeling of some of the
more vehement anti-slavery men, that the slave States
might be permitted to establish their secession. That in
his opinion, would be, if not the cutting down of the tree,
at least he feared the throwing of all its generous
juices into the grafted branches, to nourish and multiply
the poisoned fruit. How strong his faith and feeling


upon this subject were, appears to us now, with new dis-
tinctness, from the remarkable declaration which he made
when he stood under the folds of the flag which he raised
four years ago on Independence Hall. As he thus raised
it and stood beneath it and spoke, he said in substance
to all the world: "This is the banner under which I en-
list, and this is what I understand to be meaning of the
service in which I am engaged." His observation was
to the effect that the Declaration of Independence gave
promise that in due time, " the weights should be lifted
from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have
an equal chance;" and to this he added, with a reference
to his own feelings, which was unusual, the solemn assev-
eration "that if the country could not be saved without
giving up that principle, he was about to say that he
would rather be assassinated upon the spot than to sur-
render it." The Lord be praised that the country has
been saved, not by the sacrifice, but by the maintenance
of that principle; and that he who uttered this noble
sentiment has been the instrument of providence in its
realization. And alas ! he has been assassinated, not
because of its failure, but because he was the agent of
its success. In time, "due" but earlier that he or any
one deemed possible, the awful weight of bondage has
been lifted from the shoulders of an outraged race; and
to us, in dying, he has left the duty of seeing that they
"have an equal chance." These are plain words, but
they have mighty meanings, and involve lofty obliga-


Seldom has any man been placed in a position to be-
stow such a boon upon a race, a country, and the world.
For it was not only liberty to four millions of present
slaves, but no less to the multiplying millions of their
descendants, who would have succeeded to their bond-
age. It was not only a liberation of the slaves, but of


Online LibraryC. M. (Clement Moore) ButlerFuneral address on the death of Abraham Lincoln : delivered in the Church of the Covenant, April 19, 1865 → online text (page 1 of 2)