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Abraham Lincoln; (Volume 2) online

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ABRAHAM LINCOLN



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From an ambrotype taken at

Princeton, Illinois, July 4th 1856

by William Masters



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ABRAHAM
LINCOLN



THREE ADDRESSES BY

MELANCTHON WOOLSEY STRYKER

i,

PRESIDENT OF HAMILTON COLLEGE



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Copyrighted 1917
By M. W. Stryker

All rights reserved




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SDerreeD ttjr Captain of tbosc luriD rears,
ilonrling of <Eime, mitl) suffocating tears
UaiD tenDcrly among tJje migljtiest DeaD,
W\)&t trust, uitjat lotie, tyy totnering spirit ieD
GTbro Darfe, tremenDous Davs! I^tjat sanity
<Siroro tt)? saDness, 1131 $€®\L$ ! H?umaniti?
Ctnj mystic bin, mtjose life mitb longing bleD.
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3f|n ttje mar blast, simple, so unatoarc
&{ tty rare Dignity, pitiful anD mise,
gearing tlje undertones tbat summoneo forttj
<Sreat hosts to Die, uUien all mas Done, to bear
WW *eD libation to tbe sacrifice!



I



Hbrabam Xincoln

FIRST SAID TO THE UNION LEAGUE CLUB OF
BROOKLYN, FEBRUARY 12, 1895.




OUBT not, all you true gentlemen, that it
is time for an American Book of Days.
This land we love is old enough and rich
enough in men and achievements to have
a rubricated record all its own.
The dates which punctuate its great
events, its births and burials, its successive and inter-
woven crises of national evolution, its high tides and
low, its " storms and tempests greater than almanacs
can report," its feasts and fasts, its anguish and its
anthems— these dates make a calendar with all its weeks
illuminated and emphatic. More than we often pause to
remember are we rich in history, not merely of a conti-
nental, but of a world-wide significance. Our life is of
inter-centurial and planetary import. Each month is a
volume, with its peculiar, illustrious and garlanded
events. Wonder at all that our American Aprils have
witnessed, recall the annals of our great Julys, and then,
you who love your country and treasure in your hearts
her excellences of character and action, with also her sins,
her repentances, her renewed probations, turn your
thoughts to February, least in length of the twelve, but
with two natal days, starset and resplendent, and own
that the month with such a 22d and such a 12th, is the
chief and brightest in all the round of the zodiac !

We are met, under the compulsions of a common rev-
erence, to keep high festival, upon one of Columbia's
cradle-nights, nay, to recall the gift, thro us, of one of
the royal heirs of a world's admiration and wistful affec-



2 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

tion. Ours indeed he is : but not ours only. The pantheon
of Time claims him as one of Humanity's types and
leaders. The "razure of oblivion" shall never touch his
story, nor devotion to its high import become obsolete.

Amid the awed and woful group that watched that
wild April night sink to the ashen dawn, Stanton was
one, and when all was ended, it was his voice that spake
out in solemn and befitting prophecy, "Now he belongs
to the ages." The ages claim Lincoln. Thenceforward no
one city, commonwealth or clime could appropriate him.
History admits no transient and local monopoly to in-
trude between her and her elect dead. Thev are her own.
She is their Rizpah and their Rachel.

"Never before that startled morning" — wrote Lowell,
(at the conclusion of that essay whose strong and chiseled
paragraphs go with the masculine emotion of the Com-
memoration Ode to make up his complete and unsur-
passed tribute) — "Never before that startled morning
did such multitudes of men shed tears for one they had
never seen. Never was funeral panegyric so eloquent as
the silent look of sympathy which strangers exchanged
when they met on that day. Their common manhood
had lost a kinsman."

That day is one of the strange indelible memories of
my boyhood. How long and how little seems this inter-
val of thirty years! But as each year has gone, with
what certainty of just conviction, it has added one more
tier to the masonrv whereon is founded that ascendant
and invulnerable fame. How such a story effaces the
poor pride of language! How unequal are iridescent
word-bubbles to catch and carrv the tremulous half-
lights and the true splendors of that luminiferous char-
acter ! How must the soul stammer and sob that yields
to the whole appeal of a spirit so great, so genuine, so
gentle. Little indeed will the world heed, nor long re-



AN IMMORTAL MEMORY 3

member, what any lips can now say of him, — enough
that it will never forget what he did for us and for all
men.

Who, then, shall presume to think that he has well
summarized or at all completely analyzed the contents
of such a life? I lay my withering blossoms with those
of his innumerable lovers, knowing that were their stems
of gold and their petals of ruby, these would rust and
dim long before the tooth of time had touched his im-
mortal renown. I deprecate your heed to me, even while
I entreat it. Think round, past, over, beyond, my frail
and slender utterances. Let your reasoned gratitude
and heartfelt admiration weave their own tributes in
words that no man can utter. Let the " mystic chords "
that he knew so well to touch into music, sound their
master's requiem. Sursum Corda! He was God's gra-
cious gift to a tormented and distracted time. He took
Who gave. He Who gave and took, guards the inacces-
sible honor of a supreme and solitary soul, who, "having
served his generation by the will of God, fell on sleep."

Bare-browed and wet-eyed, we stand in this our day
under a firmament whose four-and-forty stars, unnamed
and indistinguishable by any claim of severalty, make
one unrivalled and unquenchable constellation, and
highly resolve that Abraham Lincoln shall not have
lived in vain nor vainly died !

And we declare our faith that the theme of that lost
leader's greatness will still be new, curious, alluring, in-
spiring, until America shall have failed of her memory,
until patriotism is senile, until self-sacrifice is no longer
cogent, until popular government is moribund and de-
mocracy is numbered with the lost arts.

In the city of Chicago, at the entrance of the beautiful
park that bears his name, there is placed commandingly
a statue of our greatest President.



4 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Doubtless nearly all of you are familiar with its noble
and unassuming pose. But what has always most im-
pressed my imagination is that which stands just behind
the exalted figure of the man — that empty chair ! Never
was vacant throne so suggestive and so full. Well might
those words have been sculptured there which Lincoln
uttered so early as 1858 — "Tho I now sink out of view,
I believe I have made some marks which will tell for the
cause of liberty long after I am gone." All of the memo-
rials of such a nature and the reminiscences of such a
life are significant and inestimably precious. We are to
be glad that the narrative by his partner, Herndon, both
establishes so much intimate fact and dispels so much
possible myth. It was an unusual witticism of Longfel-
low's that auto-biography is what biography ought to
be! In counterpart language, this close friend more
than any other, or than all others, sets forth the real
personality without gloss or apology. We want the neg-
ative to be untouched in a single line, that we may get
the truest impression of one who sat, quite behind what
any strange or casual eye could see, within a most sensi-
tive reticence. Frank as Lincoln was, unaustere, acces-
sible — there was an inwardness and reserve behind whose
further curtains few penetrated and they but seldom. It
is in his public words that we receive the deepest revela-
tions of the strong and longing soul, so tender and so
taciturn. His phenomenal gift of narrative was the
alleviation not the assertion of his inmost self. Talk
was his refuge from a proud and stately sorrow, — a
most pathetic and melancholy reverie. He was born
under the sign of Aquarius. His life was clouded and
rainy. Some of the sweetest sources of happiness were
frozen to him. His yearning spirit turned upon itself and
for the most part sealed its records. Upon that Crom-
wellian face (for tho it was more than Cromwell's, it was



HIS INDIVIDUALITY 5

Cromwellian, wart and all) there were the seams of early
responsibility and long restraint, and in all the humor of
his smile there lurked the twitch of pain.

We all know the story of his early days — Kentucky,
Indiana, Illinois — the bare poverty, the indomitable
struggle to learn, the country law office with its rough
clinic of human beings — its pathology of affairs, his small
book lore and yet his keen literary susceptibility, that
apparent listlessness in which he thought, and thought,
and grew. All around, as we see it, what a wretched
school, and yet what a schooling God gave him there !
Soft raiment never sat well upon that home-spun king.
Here, providentially, and out of the unlikeliest origins,
was six feet and four inches of man. Little thripenny
minds once sneered at his suburbanity and thought him
outlandish, but splitting fencing or riving sophistry,
steering a flatboat or a government, at the cabin hearth
or at the capital of the Republic, in county law or com-
mander of armies and fleets — that man, uncouth of limb
and courtly of heart, is always and only Abraham Lin-
coln! There was but one. There will be no other.
The mould is broken. "The case of that huge spirit is
now cold."

Where did he get that aquiline wit, that shrewd and
sensitive judgment, that pronged logic, that felicity of
instance, that sure touch of nature, that vital and saline
style? For he was cunning in the niceties of language
and coined wisdom into colloquial aphorism. What
tough sense, what absence of vaporing, what conclusive
directness, what sagacious transparency ! " Honest Old
Abe' ? — what a thirty-third degree of popular confidence
was that ! Which of us does not remember his wish that
other generals "would get some whisky of the same
kind" — his ballot-winning remark about "swapping
horses while crossing a stream " — his appealing fun over



6 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

" Uncle Sam's web feet." Thackeray, once for all, defined
a snob as "one who admires mean thing's meanly." A
great man is one who seeks great things in a great way.
So was Lincoln great. He "never sold the truth to serve
the hour."

With marvelous development he rose to each new
demand and met it adequately, and there never was a
day when he was not more of a man than the day before.
Vast tact and absolute rectitude went together. He was
a student of occasion, but never in the shifty and selfish
sense an opportunist. He discerned concrete issues and
was no doctrinaire. He cared for results and was no
respecter of persons. He used what he could get and so
got what he could use, knowing how to pursue that high
expediency whose duty it is both to forego and to trans-
cend mere legalities. Astute in deliberation and biding
his time, he never surrendered to others one ounce of his
own responsibility and he proved his wisdom in taking
all the advice he could get and using what he thought
best.

"Gentle, plain, just and resolute," he surprised those
who had thought to control him, by his revelations of
aptitude and of decision. Lowell wrote : " While dealing
with unheard of complications at home, he must soothe
a hostile neutrality abroad, waiting only a pretext to
become war." What tasks were these and with what
untried tools ! His temper equalled the emergency. He
wielded war measures without flinching, yet always as
an elect citizen, and so loved both the Union and the
Constitution, that in their preservation he saved the one
from those who would have destroyed it, and the other
from those who would have defended it to death by quib-
bles. He saw that the Union was the very life of the Con-
stitution — that academic distinctions are trivial in a
struggle for existence — he could not consent to the cult



HIS AUGUST PATIENCE 7

of a disembodied spirit, nor protect the constitution of a
corpse ! His elastic tact was also stubborn. He refused
to embroil us with angry England in the Trent affair,
yet made her better sense halt when thro the lips of Min-
ister Adams he said: ''It is unnecessary for me to re-
mind your lordship that this means war ! ' Even to
John Bull what "Hosea Bigelow" called "the fencin'
stuff," seemed likely to come a little too high !

Lincoln's self-restraint was not that of "a being with-
out parts and passions," but of one controlling his forces
for use. Of slavery he said in '55: "I bite my lips and
keep quiet": but, a while later, stirred to the depths by
the seizure of a free black boy at New Orleans, he said —
and I take his indignation not as an oath but as a vow
— "By God, gentlemen, I'll make the ground of this
country too hot for the feet of slaves ! ' It was in that
resolve that he entered upon the great debate in Illinois.
He loved peace: but as a "just and lasting peace." "I
hope it will come soon, and come to stay, and so come as
to be worth the keeping for all future time." But his integ-
rity never blenched. His utterances always ' meant busi-
ness.' In the teeth of the counsels of timid friends he
crystalized the truth in 1858. "This Union cannot
endure, half slave and half free. A house divided against
itself cannot stand." Withal, his rugged patience was
as cautious, strategic, diplomatic, as it was persistent
and courageous. Patience in him became a genius, a
purpose that censors could neither hurry nor hinder.

; ' He know to bide his time ;

And can his fame abide
Still patient, in his simple faith sublime.

Till the wise years decide.
Great captains with their guns and drums.

Disturb our judgments for the hour:
But at last silence comes.

These all are gone, and, standing like a tower.



8 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Our children shall behold his fame ;

The kindly, earnest, brave, far-seeing man,
Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame.

New birth of our new soil, the first American."

This many-sided, yet directly simple President, this
greatest Democrat of history, ennobled the people by
trusting them and trusting himself to them, as they en-
nobled themselves by responding to that trust. "When
he speaks," (wrote Lowell in 1864, in that monumental
essay which I have before quoted) "it seems as if the
people were listening to their own thinking aloud." His
alert ear heard always that little click which precedes the
striking of the clock. "It is most proper (he said at
Buffalo) that I should wait and see the developments
and get all the light possible, so that when I do speak
authoritatively I may be as near right as possible/ ?
"Why should there not be (so went his first inaugural)
a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the peo.
pie?" At "this great tribunal" he pleaded. "This is
essentially a peoples' contest," ran his first message.

He knew how to interpret public opinion, and it an-
swered him with a mighty and unbetrayed confidence.
He both roused it to self -recognition and registered its
vast resolve. He knew how to speak for the Nation,
without obtruding himself. He knew how to speak to
the nation as the voice of its own conscience. He had no
conceit of vocabulary. The, to me, most moving lyric
of those days utters that response of the nation, as the
deed vindicated the song :

"Six hundred thousand loyal men

And true have gone before.
And we're coming, Father Abraham,
Three hundred thousand more! "

Verily be had prophesied well, in his good-bye to the
citizens of Indianapolis: "Of the people when they rise
in mass in behalf of the union and liberties of their coun-



HIS SUPREME FAITH 9

try, truly it may be said, ' The gates of Hell shall not
prevail against them.' "

This soul to whose noble abstraction and dedicated
purpose the small gossip of the world was naught, drank
deep the cup of vicarious pain. He paid daily the pen-
alty of heroic love. In his sympathy he became a sacri-
fice. He " bore his cross " for the soldiers in the field and
the mothers in their homes. And all the while he was
" sustained and cheered by an unfaltering trust," a
"faith that right makes might," "that in some way
men can not see all will be well in the end." He deserves
a place with "the elders who obtained a good report
thro faith," and yet who only foresaw Canaan and the
Christ to be. He came, like Moses, no further than
Pisgah. But he believed. He believed in himself, in
America, in man, in God, and in that faith he climbed the
steps of the altar.

He was at once a poet and a prophet ; he had that in-
tuition which is the common differential of both — that
insight which is foresight. For hear him, when leaving
Springfield for "a duty greater than has devolved upon
any man since Washington" — "Unless the great God
who assisted him shall be with me and aid me, I must
fail : but if the same omniscient and almighty Arm that
directed and protected him shall guide and support me,
I shall not fail — I shall succeed." By that token so was
it unto him. I read and reread that pathetic invocation,
I trace his growing trust in supreme mercy, I witness him
"lead the whole nation thro paths of repentance and
submission to the Divine will," I hear him urge "humble
penitence for national perverseness and disobedience,"
and as our representative and spokesman say, "If every
drop of blood drawn by the lash thro years of unrequited
toil shall be repaid by one drawn by the bullet, still must
we say our God is righteous." I see him not shrinking



10 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

nor counting the chances of his own life. And blessing
God for such a heart-born testimony as that one more,—
"Die when I may, I want it said of me by those who
knew me best that I always plucked a thistle and planted
a flower where I thought a flower would grow," — I chal-
lenge those who question his intrinsic truth toward the
Highest.

Whatever were his speculative doubts, born of wholly
inadequate religious teaching and hetchelled by exper-
iences that embitter many — justice, mercy, humility,
reverence, love, steadfast submission to God's will and
way, these are the elements of the piety that Heaven
accepts. He learned to pray and to intercede, and thro
a temperate life he pitied the widow and the fatherless
and kept himself unspotted from the world. " Pure relig-
ion and undefiled before God and the Father is this."
Who loves what Christ loves, loves Christ. This high
faith availed him in all affairs. He was no vagarist. Yet
seeing and seizing the possible, he strove toward the
stars. He was the most practical of idealists, believing
that what should be can be, and that what should be and
can be shall be !

Per aspera ad astra — thro stripes to stars, for that
stands our dear flag. It is the seal of the national wed-
lock between each state and the Union, and that which
God hath joined together no man shall put asunder!

"Hard, heavy, knotty, gnarly, backed with wrath,"
says Herndon, were Lincoln's words as in '56 he joined
the party pledged to resist the extension of slavery.

Lincoln felt the unconscious destiny of America and
helped, in the forefront, to abate the taunt of the world
that our eagle was but a vulture. In that stumbling
and disastrous night his soul was one that believed in
the morning. Only a base and bastard mind can forget
that he was a part of the great price wherewith we ob-



HIS INDIVIDUALITY 11

tained this freedom. The lost cause of caste was a tri-
umphant failure. It freed the white man most.
" So find we profit by losing of our prayers."
"The struggle of today (said Lincoln's message of
December, 1861) is for a vast future also." Thankfully
I quote from that true poet,— Maurice Thompson :

" I love the South. I fought for her

From Lookout Mountain to the sea :
But from my lips thanksgivings broke,

When that black idol, breeding drouth
And dearth of human sympathy

Thro all our sweet and sensuous South,
Was, with its chains and human yoke,

Blown hell-ward from the cannon's mouth,
While Freedom cheered behind the smoke."

Gentlemen, recall, you who can, that Good Friday, all
those April days of 1865, when God " shewed us hard
things and made us to drink of the wine of astonish-
ment," — when victory was turned to mourning!

Horror, incredulity, anguish— one wild, convulsed
sob, "It can not, must not, shall not be!" And then
the reeling certainty that it was, and an orphaned nation
calling, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and
the horsemen thereof!' All the lowly of the Earth
mourned and in that mourning took hope for the uni-
versal cause of the people and so the great conclave of
human hearts canonized him by acclaim. Party passions
withered in that august homage. Critics and detractors
stood abashed or repentant. In the knowledge of what
it had lost the land first realized what it had had.

So that catafalque moved thro its slow procession of
sixteen hundred miles. Dirges, minute guns, flambeaux,
choirs, bells, and everywhere black misery and piteous
tears— at last, Springfield. The faithful tomb unveiled
its bosom to take to its trust this new treasure and the
troubled soul was at peace. But already that soul had



12 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

begun to keep its endless Easter. The hand that penned
the proclamation has touched the hand of that lost child
whom the father's heart had never ceased to mourn.
Those steps have come out of tribulation to find that
One who " saved others and himself could not save." An
offering? Yes — his own tired and thankful soul ! A gift?
Y es _ not a sceptre, but a pen ; not a crown, but a broken
manacle. ' ' Well done, good and"— the gates are closed !

Once more I cite him. "We cannot escape history.
The fiery trial thro which we pass will light us down in
honor or dishonor to the latest generation." To honor,
noble one I In contrast, how poor are the powers and
ambition of mere conquerors ! Where is the Bonaparte
by the side of that tall spirit. Lincoln has one solitary
peer in history — William of Orange, like himself , a martyr
to his patriotism. The first administration of Washing-
ton gives parallel in the state of the army, the treasury
and public opinion : but these were not war. The sorrow
for Hamilton is an analog. I think of these three as the
first three Americans.

If Lincoln had not the charm of Hamilton and the
urbane dignity of Washington, he had a sagacity rival-
ing the one, a patience rivaling the other, and a tenacity
that surpassed them both. But I would not compare
them ; I would blend them all. They have passed under
Time's impartial and dispassionate recognition. The
place of Lincoln is secure in the judgment of mankind.
Words can add nothing now to that monolithic fame.
Death hath no more dominion over him. He was the
top man of the century that is hurrying to its end. Let
the ascription of the French people, so significant in its
allusion to the lower empire, stand as our ultimate trib-
ute— "He saved the Republic without veiling the statue
of Liberty."



II



Hbrabam ^Lincoln



SAID TO THE REPUBLICAN CLUB OF
NEW YORK CITY, FEBRUARY 12, 1897.



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UR President of the night, and my fellow-
Republicans, (without distinction as to
present condition of servitude) ; tho it is
somewhat out of my line, you will permit
me to remark that clubs are trumps. I
suppose I should add that of them all this
club is the ace. Certainly in the last twelvemonth a
remarkable hand has been played for all it was worth.
The superiority of the American lead to " bumble
puppy" has been demonstrated, and the absurd finesse
from a two-spot to a jack — from the platform to the
candidate — having failed, the best hand won by tre-
mendous odds, with what Charles Lamb delighted in, —
" A clean hearth, a good fire and the rigors of the game."
Brighter days are at the door. Empiricism is passing.


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