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PRESIDENT LINCOLN.



From the Princeton Review, July 1865.



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1865.] President Lincoln. 435



Art, V. — President Lincoln.

The scriptural doctrine of Providence assumes: 1. The real
existence of the external world. 2. The efficiency of secondary
causes. That is, that created minds as agents, originate their
own acts; and that material substances have properties or
forces inhering in them, which make them the efficient and
necessary antecedents of their effects. 3. That all events,
whether in nature or history (supernatural events excepted),
have their proximate and adequate causes in the agency and
properties of created substances, spiritual or material. 4. That
God, as an infinite and omnipresent spirit, is not a mere spec-
tator of the world, looking on as a mechanist upon the machine
which he has constructed; nor is he the only efficient cause,
so that all effects are to be referred to his agency, and so that
the laws of nature are only the uniform methods of his operation ;
but he is everywhere present, upholding all things by the word
of his power, and controlling, guiding, and directing the action
of second causes, so that all events occur according to the
counsel of his will. An abundant harvest is proximately due
to the operation of second causes, but God so determines and
directs those causes as to secure the designed result. The pros-
perity of individuals, of communities, and of nations, is due to
secondary causes, but those causes are so determined by God,
that he is to be acknowledged as the Giver of all good. This
is equally true of all events, whether prosperous or adverse,
whether in themselves good or evil. Nothing happens by
necessity or by chance. God governs all his creatures and all
their actions. This universal and absolute control of Divine
Providence is, on the one hand, consistent with the character
of God, so that he is, in no sense, the author of sin; and, on
the other hand, with the nature of his creatures. He governs
free agents with certainty, but without destroying their liberty,
and material causes, without superseding their efficiency.

It is impossible to express or to conceive the importance of



436 President Lincoln. [July

these familiar principles of scriptural truth. They are not the
discoveries of human reason; neither philosophy nor science
(when divorced from the Bible) even accepts them. They are
however the foundation of all religion, of all order, of all Chris-
tian civilization ; and the only ground of confidence or hope.

Every great event therefore is to be viewed in two diiferent
aspects: first, as the effect of natural causes; and, secondly, as
a design and result of God's providence. The interpretation
of Divine providence is indeed often a matter of great difficulty
and responsibility. It requires humility and caution. Some
of his dispensations are, as to their design, perfectly clear,
others are doubtful, and others to us and for the present inscru-
table. In one thing however we are safe; we have a right to
infer that the actual consequences of any event, whether great
or small, are its designed consequences ; whether intended in
judgment or mercy to those affected by them must be deter-
mined partly by their nature, partly by their attendant circum-
stances, and partly by the course of subsequent events. Why
the Reformation was suppressed in Italy and Spain, and allowed
to succeed in Northern Germany and Great Britain, we cannot
even now determine; but it is none the less our duty to recog-
nize these events as due to the ordering providence of God, and
to study them as such.

No Christian can look upon the events of the last four years
without being deeply impressed with the conviction that they
have been ordered by God to produce great and lasting changes
in the state of the country, and probably of the world. Few
periods of equal extent in the history of our race are likely to
prove more influential in controlling the destinies of men.
Standing, as we now do, at the close of one stage at least of
this great epoch, it becomes us to look back and to look around
us, that we may in some measure understand what God has
wrought.

Although at the South, and by the partisans of the Southern
cause at the North, the cause of the desolating war just brought
to a close has been sought elsewhere than in the interests of
slavery, the conviction is almost universal, both at home and
abroad, that the great design and desire of the authors of the
late rebellion were the perpetuation and extension of the system



1865.] President Lincoln. 437

of African slavery. That this conviction is well-founded is
plain, because slavery has been from the formation of the
government the great source of contention between the two
sections of the country ; because the immediate antecedents of
secession were the attempts to extend slavery into the free Ter-
ritories of the Union ; the abrogation of the Missouri compro-
mise, in order to facilitate that object; the Dred Scott decision,
which shocked and roused the whole country, because it was
regarded as proof that even the Supreme Court, the sacred
palladium of our institutions, had become subservient to the
slave power. The reaction produced by these attempts to per-
petuate and extend the institution of slavery, led to the election
of Mr. Lincoln, on the avowed platform that while slavery was
not to be interfered with within the limits of the States which
had adopted the institution, its extension to the free Territories
belonging to the United States was to be strenuously resisted.
The success of the party holding this principle was the irume-
diate occasion of secession, and the formation of the Southern
Confederacy. Besides these obvious facts, it is notorious that
the public mind at the South had been exasperated by exagge-
rated accounts of the anti-slavery feeling at the North, and
inflamed by glowing descriptions of an empire founded on
slavery, where all property and power should be concentrated
in the hands of slaveholders, and all labour performed by slaves.
This was advocated as the best organization of society, as the
only secure foundation for what was called free institutions, and
the only method in which the highest development of man was to
be attained. Accordingly slavery was declared to be the corner-
stone of the new Confederacy ; slaveholders were called upon by
the Richmond editors to sustain, the burdens of the war, because
the war was made for them ; and the editor of the leading journal
in Charleston, South Carolina, declared that the South sought
and desired independence only for the sake of slavery ; that if
slavery were to be given up, they care not for independence.
It cannot therefore be reasonably doubted that the great design
of the authors of the rebellion was the extension and preserva-
tion of the system of African slavery.

As little can it be doubted that this was a most unrighteous
end. Without going to the unscriptural extreme of maintaining



438 President Lincoln. [July

that all slaveholding is sinful, two things are, in the judgment
of the Christian world, undeniable ; first, that however it may
be right in certain states of society and for the time being to
hold a class of men in the condition of involuntary bondage,
any effort to keep any such class in a state of inferiority or
degradation, in order to perpetuate slavery, is a great crime
against God and man; and, secondly, that the slave laws of the
South, being evidently designed to accomplish that end, were
unscriptural, immoral, and in the highest degree cruel and
unjust. It is self-evident that only an inferior race can perma-
nently be held in slavery, and it is therefore unavoidable that
the effort to perpetuate slavery involves the necessity of the
perpetual degradation of a class of our fellow-men. Such was the
design and effect of the laws which forbade slaves to be taught
to read or write ; which prohibited their holding property; which
made it a legal axiom that slaves cannot marry; which author-
ized the separation of parents and children, and of those living
as husbands and wives. These laws, which no Christian can
justify, had been for more than a century operating at the
South. The state of the slaves therefore in 1860 was little, if
any, better than it was a hundred years before. Household
servants, and, to a certain degree, the slaves in the Border
States, had made advances in knowledge and in their social con-
dition; but the great mass of the bondmen in the cotton, rice,
and sugar plantations was to the last degree degraded. The
journal of Mrs. Fanny Kemble, written a few years ago, pho-
tographs these Southern plantations, the slaves, their habita-
tions, their food, dress, and social state, their sufferings and
wrongs, in such a way as to compel faith in the fidelity of the
picture, while it revolts and horrifies the beholder. To lament
over this system as an evil entailed by former generations, to
admit that it ought not to be perpetuated, and to acknowledge
the obligation to labour for its removal, is one thing; to main-
tain that the system which necessitates this degradation of
millions of our race, is a good system, which ought to be con-
tinued and extended, is a very different thing. It is the great
revolution which the high price of Southern productions, and
the consequent profitableness of slavery, wrought in the opinions
and feelings of Southern men on this subject, which is the true



1865.] President Lincoln. 439

cause of the terrible evils which have rendered the South a
desolation. It could not be that an oifence so great as the
indefinite perpetuity of a system so fraught with evil, and the
avowal of the purpose not only to perpetuate but to extend it,
could long continue without provoking the Divine displeasure.
There is not one man in a thousand who will not be more or
less corrupted by the possession of absolute power, even when
that power is legitimate. But when it is illegitimate, and
requires for its security the constant exercise of injustice, no
community and no human being can escape its demoralizing
influence. This is evinced in the cast of character which it
produces; the arrogance, insubordination, recklessness of the
interests and rights of others, the loss of the power to restrain
the passions which have few external restraints, which it
unavoidably engenders. The moral sense becomes perverted
by the necessity of justifying what is wrong, so that we see even
good men, men whom we must regard as children of God, vin-
dicating what every unprejudiced mind instinctively perceives
to be wrong. It is enough to humble the whole Christian world
to hear our Presbyterian brethren in the South declaring that
the great mission of the Southern, church was to conserve the
system of African slavery. Since the death of Christ no such
dogma stains the record of an ecclesiastical body. We are not
called upon to dwell on the manifold evils, which, until recently,
even Southern statesmen and Christians acknowledged to be the
inevitable fruits of slavery. It is enough that it operates so
unfavourably on the character of the masters, that it dooms the
slave to degradation, that by rendering manual labour deroga-
tory, it consigns a large class of the white inhabitants of slave
countries to poverty and ignorance. The picture drawn by
Southern men of the class known as the "poor whites," is the
severest condemnation of slavery which has ever been exhibited
to the world.

The first and most obvious consequence of the dreadful civil
war just ended, has been the final and universal overthrow of
slavery within the limits of the United States. This is one of
the most momentous events in the history of the world. That
it was the design of God to bring about this event cannot be
doubted. Although sagacious men predicted that such must be



440 President Lincoln. [July

the result of secession and an attempt to overthrow the consti-
tution, it was not contemplated at the beginning, and for a long
time after the commencement of the war it did not appear to
be probable. Almost all foreigners, and a large class of our
own people predicted the success of the South, and the chances
were, so to speak, in favour at least of a compromise, which
would leave slavery untouched within the limits of the States.
But God has ordered it otherwise. Resistance to the constitu-
tional limitation of slavery to the States in which it already
existed, resistance to all plans of gradual emancipation, the
insane purpose to dissolve the Union and overthrow the govern-
ment in favour of this system, have led to its sudden and final
overthrow. The inevitable difficulties and sufferings consequent
on such an abrupt change in the institutions and social organiza-
tion of a great people, must be submitted to, as comprehended
in the design of God in these events.

Although the destruction of slavery seems to have been the
great end intended in our recent trials, it is plain that this
war was designed to affect other important changes in the state
of the country. It has settled some of those political questions
which kept the public mind iij a state of constant agitation. It
has determined the limits of State sovereignty. Sovereignty is
independence ; freedom from any control which is not inward or
subjective. He is a sovereign who has the right and the power
to do as he pleases. A ruler is sovereign when his own will is
his only law; a State is sovereign when it has the right to regu-
late all its affairs, internal and external, according to its own good
pleasure. It is plain that sovereignty is a matter of degrees.
Absolute independence belongs only to God. There is no ruler
on earth who is not more or less bound by the usages, traditions,
and rights of the people whom he governs. There is no nation
that is not restricted by the common law of nations. The war
has not destroyed the sovereignty of the States; it has simply
defined it. It has not obliterated State lines nor abrogated
State rights ; it has only settled the fact that we are a nation,
and not a confederacy of nations, from which any member or
any number of members may withdraw at pleasure. The United
States are an indissoluble whole, composed of many self-govern-
ing communities, whose rights and sovereignty are limited in an



1865.] President Lincoln. 441

equal degree bj a common constitution. The great point
decided is, that the allegiance of every American citizen is
primarily due to the United States, and not to the particular
State to which he may belong. This is only saying that the
constitution, of the United States, and the laws and treaties
made in accordance therewith, bind the conscience of the people,
anything in the laws, constitution, or acts of their own States
to the contrary notwithstanding. To this conclusion the w^ar
forced the South itself. It was seen that the self-defence of
their Confederacy as a whole was impossible on the theory of
the independent sovereignty of its several parts. To this con-
clusion, therefore, the whole country has been brought. We
are one nation henceforth, so long as it shall please God to
grant us his favour.

Another consequence of the war, nearly allied to the one
just mentioned, has been the development of the sentiment of
nationality. .This sentiment was deeply settled in the public
mind; but it was in a measure dormant. The war has called it
into vigorous and conscious exercise. When the assault oni
Fort Sumter roused the nation from its slumber, the people
started to their feet in the full consciousness of their nationality.
That sentiment has nerved their arms, sustained their faith,
courage, and patience through four terrible years. It made
them willing to send fathers, sons, and brothers to the battle-
field, and cheerfully to bear the heavy load of taxation required
by the exigencies of the country. It cherished in the popular
mind the settled purpose to save the life of the nation at what-
ever cost. No one can doubt that this sentiment is stronger and
more general now than it ever was before. Nor can it be
doubted that it must tend to strengthen the bonds of our
government, and to give consistency and power to our govern-
ment, both at home and abroad.

Another no less obvious effect of the war has been the aston-
ishing development of the power and resources of the country.
It never entered the imagination of any man that the United
States would be able to raise, equip, and sustain, year after
year, an army of from five to eight hundred thousand men ;
a navy of several hundred armed vessels; to raise from the
voluntary contributions of the people three thousand millions

VOL. XXXVII. — NO. III. 56



442 President Lincoln. [July

of dollars ; to provide the immense stores of ordnance, arms,
and other munitions of war necessary for such a conflict; to
organize the vast material of the quartermaster, commissary,
hospital and ambulance departments; in short, no one dreamed
that we could rise in four years from one of the lowest to the
very highest of the military powers of the earth. What are to
be the effects of this astonishing development of power, or what
the design of God in thus rousing the nation to exhibit its giant
strength in the face of the whole world, we can but conjecture
and hope. The effect must necessarily be to increase our self-
respect. We have earned the right to place ourselves in the
rank of the foremost nations of the age. God grant that the
consciousness of strength may not render us arrogant, unjust,
or aggressive. It will be a great blessing if this giant should
now seek repose, or devote his strength to the works of peace ;
to conquering the wilderness, to developing the resources of the
country, and to making it the refuge of the oppressed and the
home of the free. The impression produced on foreign nations
by this exhibition of the power and resources of the United
States, must be no less profound, and tend, it is to be hoped,
to lead them to be less disparaging and contemptuous in their
language and spirit, and more disposed to cultivate the relations
of amity and peace. If such power and resources are pos-
sessed, and capable of being called into action by a moiety of
the nation, what may be expected from its energy as a whole,
from the united North and South, should any great emergency
call for the manifestation of our combined strength?

Another consequence of the war, for which we are bound to
be deeply grateful to God, is the astonishing exhibition of bene-
volence of which it has been the occasion. The history of the
Christian and Sanitary Commissions will constitute one of the
brightest pages in the records of the human race. Never before
were millions of money raised annually by voluntary contribu-
tions for the alleviation of human suffering; never before were
so many persons of both sexes found willing to devote their
time and labour, and risk life and health to carry relief to the
suffering, and instruction and consolation to the dying. Our
land was covered with ministering angels, and our armies and
hospitals everywhere attended and followed by these messengers



1865.] President Lincoln. 443

of mercy. Still further, at no period of our history has there
been such a religious spirit generally manifested by the people
of this land. More prayer has probably been offered to God
during the past years, from sincere hearts, than in any ten
years of the previous history of our country. Never before
have there been such frequent, open, and devout recognitions of
the authority of God as the Ruler of nations, and of Jesus
Christ, his Son, as the Saviour of the world, by our public men,
as during the progress of this terrible war.

The war has closed. It has done its work for the present,
both of judgment and mercy. While it has reformed some great
evils, and conferred upon us some great national blessings, it
has left us a heritage of new and difficult problems, in the solu-
tion of which the character of the nation and the welfare of
this and of coming generations is deeply involved. Among
these problems are, 1, The proper treatment of those who have
been engaged in the rebellion; 2. The reorganization of society
necessary on the sudden transition from slave to free labour;

3. The means to be adopted to secure the rights of the freedmen,
and to promote their mental, moral, and social improvement;

4. How far they are to be admitted, and by what degrees, and
on what terms, to the right of suffrage and all other privileges
of citizenship. These are subjects on which extreme opinions
are zealously advocated by earnest and powerful parties. Just
when these momentous questions arise for decision, the man
who, of all others, by common consent was the best qualified,
both by his character and adventitious circumstances, to deal
with them, has been called away. The government has changed
hands, not by the expiration of the term of one chief magistrate
and the election of another; not even by the death of the
President in the course of nature, but by the sudden, unex-
pected blow of an assassin. This is the event which summoned
the nation to humiliation and prayer. Never were these duties
more incumbent. The fact that all things are ordered by God,
and must work out his wise designs, does not change the nature
of afflictions, or modify the duties which flow from them as
afflictions. When God brings. any great calamity upon us, he
means us to feel it. He designs that we should be humbled,
that we should mourn and pray. It is thus that he makes our



444 President Lincoln. [July

trials the means of good. If we harden our hearts under his
chastising hand; if we refuse to mourn and to humble ourselves
in his sight, our afflictions become punishments, and work out
for us only evil, however they may minister to the good of
others.

The violent death of such a man as President Lincoln in such
a crisis, was therefore a proper occasion for national sorrow,
humiliation, and prayer.

It is, in the first place, a most mysterious event. We cannot
see the reason for it, nor conjecture the end it is designed to
accomplish. We can see the reason for many of our recent
national disasters. Had we been as overwhelmingly successful
at the beginning as we have been at the close of the war, none
of the great results to which we just referred would have fol-
lowed. Slavery would not have been overthrown, and nation-
ality would not have been vitalized ; our power would not have
been developed, and our stand among the nations of the earth
would have been very different from what it is at present. But
why Mr. Lincoln should have been murdered just when he was
most needed, most loved, and most trusted, is more than any
man can tell. God however is wont to move in a mysterious
way. It was mysterious to the struggling church of the first
centuries, when the apostles, and aftervrards one great leader,
and another, and another were cut down. It was and is a
mystery why the early Reformers had their voices, when raised
to proclaim the gospel in a corrupt age, choked in the flames ;
why Henry IV. of France, who stood between the cruel fana-
ticism of the Romanists and the Protestants of that fair land,
should be the victim of assassination; or why the pious and
lovely Edward VI. of England, should have been taken away
at the dawn of the Reformation; or why the graceful head of
the godly Lady Jane Grey should have fallen on the scaffold.
These are things we cannot, even after the lapse of centuries,
understand. There is a use in mystery. What are we, that
we should pretend to understand the Almighty unto perfection,
or that we should assume to trace the ways of him whose foot-
steps are in the great deep? It is good for us to be called
upon to trust in God when clouds and darkness are round
about him. It makes us feel our own ignorance and impotency,



1865.] President Lincoln. 445

and calls into exercise the highest attributes of our Christian
nature. It is therefore doubtless a beneficent dispensation
which calls upon this great nation to stand silent before God,
and say, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth good in his
sight. The Judge of all the earth must do right.

The death of Mr. Lincoln is not only a mysterious event ; it
is just cause of great national sorrow. The leader in the oppo-
sition in the British House of Commons recently said, in refe-
rence to this event, that on rare occasions national calamities
assume the character of domestic afflictions. This is eminently


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