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3d Congress, [ HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. J Document

U Session. \ j No. 823.



ABRAHAM LINCOLN.



PEECH OF HON. S. D. FESS, OF OHIO, IN THE HOUSE OF REPRE-
SENTATIVES, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1914.



Makch 12, 1914. — Ordered to be printed.



The House met at 12 o'clock noon.

The Chaplam, Rev. Henry N. Couden, D. D., offered the following
rayer :

God our Father, make us worthy of the memory of Abraham Lincoln, a great soul
lom Thou didst send into the world with a destiny to fulfill, not only for his people
it for all the world; a superb intellect; a heart of love; a devination which enabled
m to see far beyond the vision of his contemporaries; a courage which swept him on
ithout fear where others faltered; a faith which in the darkest hours failed him not.
irely he belongs to the ages, will live in the ages, and while he lives this Republic
ill live to bless mankind. "0 Lord, God of hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget"
8 sublime example and the stupendous work he accomplished, "That government
the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." For
hine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

The Journal of the proceedings of yesterday was read and approved.

Tlie Speaker. By special order, the gentleman from Ohio [Mr.
ess] is permitted to address the House for 30 minutes on the life
id character of Abraham Lincoln. [Applause.]

Mr. Fess. Mr. Speaker and Members of the House, I esteem it no
nail pri\41ege or little honor to be permitted to speak to this group
I legislators upon what I regard as one of the most remarkable char-
3ters in human history. Just 53 years ago yesterday, standing
pon the platform of a train that was to bear him to Washington,
braham Lincoln addressed a large concourse of people in his city
I Springfield, in which address he said:

Will you not pray for me that the same Arm that supported the great Washington
ay be my support? For with that support I can accomplish my duty; without it
can not do anything.

The train stopped at the little town of Tolono, where, as in every
)wn through which the train passed, a large concourse of people
athered. The train stopped for the engine to take water. Mr.
incoln was not expected to speak, but finally he did respond to the
reat cry of the people who had gathered, and came out on the plat-
)rm and said :

I am upon a journey fraught with a great deal of concern to you and to me. May the
ords of the poet still be true, "Behind the clouds the sun is still shining." Good-by.
od bless you. -^l-p-t-i^.- -2- .



ABEAHAM LINCOLN. "^ '

. 2>



He then resumed his seat in the train. - ^-^

Some men make their place in history by notable utterances, others
by notable deeds. Few in the world's history have the credit of both,
and to that class belongs Abraham Lincoln. At an early time in
his political career, speaking upon the most sensitive question be-
fore the country then or since, he showed Ms courage by saying:

JJroken by it I, too, may be; b6w to it, I never will. The probability that we may
fail in a worthy cause is not a sufficient justification for our refusing to support it.

In 1855, in a letter to Judge Robertson, of Kentucky, he said:

The one question that wears upon me is. Can our country permanently endure half
slave and half free? It is too much for me. May God in his mercy superintend the
solution.

Three years later, in 1858, in a convention in Springfield, 111.,
where he was nominated for the position of Senator — for the seat
then occupied by Douglas — he announced the same principle, "I do
not believe that this Government can permanently endure half slave
and half free." This announcement sounded like a fire bell would
sound at the hour of midnight in a country village. It was taken up
by the entire country. It was quoted in the London Times and other
publications of Europe. It was pronounced by many of our states-
men as revolutionary. Stephen A. Douglas, one of the brainiest men
of the country, and one of the most courageous as well as patriotic,
believed that it was a dangerous doctrine, and announced that he
would reply to it in his home city of Chicago on the 9th of July.

Mr. Lincoln went to Chicago to be present on that occasion. He
heard one of the most powerful arguments against his position that
probably could be made. At the close of that meeting he arose and,
in substance, said:

I shall be here to-morrow night at which time I will pay my respects to my friend,
the judge, who has charged me with an attempt to array one section of the country
against the other. I hope some of you wUl come out to hear my side of the story.

The next night Mr. Lincoln greeted a great audience, upon which
'he made a profound impression. When Air. Douglas went to Bloom-
ington, III., to speak, Mr. Lincoln followed liim. Mr. Douglas
noticed while he was speaking that Mr. Lincoln was in his audience
again. He referred to the fact with some feeling. On the afternoon
of tlie 17th of July Mr. Douglas spoke in Springfield, and on that
night Mr. Lincoln also spoke. Then Mr. Lincoln wrote a challenge
to Mr. Douglas; asked him to go on the same platforjn with him,
divide the time, and discuss the question. The result of this was
that a series of debates, seven in number, the most notable in Am.eri-
can political history, was arranged. In the debate, when Mr. Douglas
propounded a series of questions to Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Lincoln replied
to them categorically, and then pro})ounded a series, and dwelt upon
one as the key to the entire situation. That question was:

Can the people of a Territory in any lawful manner against the wishes of the citi-
zens of any of the States exclude slavery h'om witliin its limit prior to the adoption
of a State constitution?

He pressed it. Mr. Douglas was the author of the popular sover-
eignty scheme, as you all know, the authority of control of such ques-
tions must be left to the peo])le of the States. The friends of Mr.
Lincoln went to him and said, "Do not ])ress that question; if you

n. 0F 9.



I:\^



ABRAHAM LINCOLX. 6

insist on an answer you can never be elected to the senatorship in this
country." Mr. Lincohi replied, "If Mr. Douglas answers my question,

J'^es or no, he can never be elected President of this Nation, and I am
ooking for larger game." That did not mean that Mr. Lincoln was
at that time looldng for himself to the Presidency, because that debate
was in 1858, and as late as 1859 Mr. Lincoln replied to a letter written
to him by a friend about being Vice President, "I am not fit to be
Vice President of the Ignited States." Mr. Lincoln in 1858 was sim-
pl}^ stating that if Mr. Douglas answered that question he, Mr. Doug-
las, could never be elected to the highest position in the gift of the
people of the country. In 1859 Mr. Lincoln made that notable speech
in Columbus, Ohio, one of the greatest contributions to the political
literature of his day. Then in February of 1860, speaking in the
heart of New York City at Cooper Union, he gave, I think, the finest
type of the periodic sentence in a long speech to be found anywhere.
From the standpoint of the rhetorician as a critic this long speech is a
gem in xVmerican ))olitical literature. This is the meeting over which
the eminent poet Bryant presided and introduced Lincoln as a "dis-
tinguished citizen of the L^nited States." I believe, gentlemen, that
the Cooper Union speech is the finest exposition of the sensitive issue,
and that it was put in the most i-hetorical form of any long speech in
our literature, and he did it with such magnanimity. He said :

If slavery is right, then all that the South asks we can readily grant. If slavery is
wrong, then all that the North asks the South can readily grant. Their thinking it
right and our thinking it wrong is the precise point upon which turns this whole con-
troversy; but thinking it wrong, as we do, we can afford to leave it where it now exists
by virtue of the law, but can we afford to allow it to go into new territory?

There, for the first time the real issue was presented by Mr. Lincohi;
not the issue of the abolitionist, but the issue of Mr. Lincohi of the
constitutional power of the Congress to control property in a Terri-
tory, which was to give rise to an organizati )n of puolic opinion that
was not to abate until slavery was no more. That was in 1860. In
1861, in his famous inaugural address, he saitl:

Friends can make laws easier than enemies can make treaties. We must not be
enemies; we must be friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break
the bonds of our affection. The mystic chords of memory stretching from every
battle field and patriot's grave to every heart and hearthstone all over this broad land
■will swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as it surely will be, by the
better angels of our nature .

With his keen perception of the mighty issue he was also wonder-
fully magnanimous.

This magnanimity that was uttered at that time had been uttered
in the town of Steubenville, Ohio, a little while before, when on his
way to Washington, looking across to the State of Virginia, his father's
native State, he said to that concourse of people on the Ohio side:

Only the river divides us, and you on the other side are just as sincere in your
contention as we on this side.

On this trip he addressed the Legislatures of Indiana, Ohio, New
York, and Pennsylvania, all notable speeches, teeming with evidence
of his grasp of the situation facing him. When he reached Phila-
delphia, out in front of old Independence Plall, he said, on the occa-
sion of raising the American Flag over the hall:

What principle has kept our States so long together? It is not the mere fact o f
separation fiom the mother country, but it is the princi]:)le found in the Declaration
of Independence, penned by the immortal Jefferson and adapted in this hall, that gave



4 ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

promise not alone to the people of our own country but to all the people of all the
world that ere long the weight shall be lifted from the shoulders of all men and all
shall have an equal chance. Now, my fellow citizens, can the Nation be saved upon
that basis? If it can and I can help to save it, I am the happiest man in it, but if
it can not I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to sur-
render it.

That was on the 22d day of February, 1861, in the famous Inde-
pendence City, out in front of Independence Hall. I mention these
historical utterances, so notable and significant in their meaning,
])ecause I would like to have this body recall this wonderful ability
in expression, the like of which probably is not known in any political
orator or figure in our country. Why, it was none other than Prof.
Bailey, a professor of rhetoric in a famous American college, who had
been so charmed with the pure English of this plain statesman of the
West that he sou«;ht an interview to ascertain the secret of his power.
Mr. Lmcoln at hrst expressed surprise that he had any power in
utterance, but when pressed he substantially said: "Well, all I can
remember is that when neighbors would come to my father's house
and talk to father in language I did not understand, I would become
offended, sometimes, and I would find myself going to bed that night
unable to sleep. I bounded it on the north, south, east, and west
tuitil I had caught the idea, and then I said it myself, and when I said
it I used the language I would use when talking to the boys on the
street." Prof. Bailey said: "That is one of the most splendid edu-
cational principles I have ever received from any man." To which
Mr. Lincoln expressed great surprise.

Mr. Lincoln's ability to express the English language consisted in
the use of the small word. Eighty-five per cent of his words are
monosvllabic. He never employed a big word when a little one would
do. He never clouded his thought by a multiplicity of words. His
sentences were alwavs short and their meaning never involved. In
a word, he never spoke to be heard, but always to be understood; and
therefore he was not always elegant from the standpoint of the
rhetorician, but wonderfully expressive. For example, he woidd
say, ''T dumped it into a hole"; but Douglas, the rhetorician, woidd
say, "I deposited it into a cavity," which is a good deal better from
the standard rule of expression. Lincoln would sav, "I dug a ditch" ;
Douglas would say, "I excavated a channel." Lincoln said, "My
defeat bv Douglas in 1858 was due to bad luck; I ran at the wrong
time" ; Douglas said, "It was due to a strange fortuitous combination
of importune contingencies that nobody could have foreseen."
Here stands Stephen A. Douglas, a master of rhetoric; Abraham
Lincoln, a master of logic; Stephen A. Douglas, elocpient in words;
Abraham Lincoln, eloc[uent in thought; Stephen A. Douglas appealing
to expediency; Abraham Lincoln, ap])ealing to right. Douglas said,
"I do not care whether you vote slavery up or vote it down."
Lincoln said, "I care very much about what most people care most
about. " He turned his back upon his audience and spoke to Douglas,
"Is it not a false philosophy to build a system upon the basis that
you do not care anything about what most ])eople care most about'!'"
It was for that sentence that Mr. Douglas ])aid him siu'h a tribute in
three weeks after the close of those debates. Mr. Lmcoln was power-
ful in this series of debates, and it was here that his wonderful ability
as a thinker and debater was first disclosed to the pi blic. I sa}' to



ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

you men of Congress that Abraham Lincoln had not an c(inal on the
American platform in the use of pure Anglo-Saxon.

If you think that I am overstating, I have two items of evidence
that any lawyer will accept as fairly conclusive. In Oxford Univer-
sity, England, you will hear the finest English taught and spoken of
any place in the world. An American visiting this great seat of learn-
ing will be led to a corridor where can be read one of the famovis
letters written by this man, known to the world as unlettered, or
illiterate, because he was not a collegiate, the letter to Mrs. Bixby,
the mother of five sons, all of whom gave their lives for their country.

Dear Madam: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement
of the adjutant general of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have
died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words
of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.
But I can not refrain from tendering to you the consolation which may be found in the
thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage
the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the
loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacri-
fice on the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln.

This letter, thus permanently preserved, is pronounced by the
savants of Oxford as one of the finest letters of condolence ever writ-
ten in our language. Note its beauty, its purity, its sublimity.

If that is not sufficient e\ddence, then go to the Bi-itish Museum,
where can be found books enough, if put -on a single shelf, to reach 40
miles. Ask the authorities there what their judgment is as to the
finest short speech in the English language. You will be handed
at once this splendid piece of rhetoric and high mark of literary
appreciation, as well as statesmanHke delivery, at Gettysburg,
November 19, 1863:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new
Nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created
equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that Nation, or any nation
so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of
that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for
those who here gave their lives that that Nation might live. It is altogether fitting
and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow
this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated
it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long
remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for
us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who
fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated
to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased
devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we
here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this Nation under
God shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the
people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

When he finished, the orator of the day, p]dward Everett, walked
over to the President, took his hand, and in substance said: "Mr.
President, if I could congratulate myself upon the belief that in two
and a quarter hours I had been enabled to put the issue as clearly
as you have done it in two and a quarter minutes, I would regard
myself as a happy man."

This speech the British Museum authorities regard as one of the
finest short speeches uttered in the English language. Who is this



6 ABRAPIAM LINCOLN,

man that ho could thus speak and write ? Born in a hut, of the most
humble surroundings, at the age of 7 he accompanied his parents
and sister into Indiana, where the}' lived one winter in an open camp
with but three ^-ides to it. And yet, without ever having, as a pupil,
a lead pencil or a piece of paper, a slate pencil or a slate, without
having gone to school but six months all told, according to his own
statement, here is a man thus starting with no convenience who has
reached a j)lane, an ability to speak the English language, not 3'et
reached by scholars of the day. Where is the secret? I think that
it might be found in the sort of books he read. What are they?

The one book with which he was quite familiar was King James's
version of the Bible. I once heard Parks Cadman, pastor of the
greatest Congregational Church in the world, say that Abraham Lin-
coln's verbal knowledge of the Bible was not equaled by the theo-
logians. I would not state that upon ni}^ own authority, but I cite
it upon his authority. He knew Shakespeare, and in the darkest
hours of the Nation's life, in the midst of great depression, often when
the Cabinet was in session, Mr. Lincoln would throw himself back in
an armchair and quote page after page of Shakespeare, until the
scholarlv Seward would turn to him and say: "Why, Mr. President,
our understanding has been from the beginning that you have never
gone to school, and yet you quote Shakespeare as I do not, and I am
regarded as somewhat of a Shakespearean scholar."

Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress was another book that he read.
Feed a growing mind upon the English of these texts and you will
have a choice of English. I concede the speeches before mentioned
to be a high rank of expression, but I think the high-water mark was
reached on another occasion, when looking back over four years of
awful war, a period of the bitterest hatred and almost vicious calumny,
on the part of his foes at least, and during which period no man's
heart was bleeding more than his, he said:

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid
against the other. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has
been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. H we shall suppose that
American slavery is one of those offenses which in the providence of God must needs
come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to
remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due
to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those
divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may
speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled up
by the bondman's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop
of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as was
said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said: "The judgments of the Lord are true and
righteous altogether." With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness
in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are
now in, to bind up the Nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the
battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish
a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Here is one of the finest prose poems in the literature of our
language, and, in my judgment, is the highest reach in refinement of
utterance we have from this remarkable leader of men not only in
thought but as well in deed.

And I think of how he suffered in the White House as the head of
the Nation, so distracted by civil war and he helpless to end the
strife. One night he said to Frank Carpenter at the dead hour of



ABEAHAM LINCOLN. 7

midnight, standing with his hands m this shape [indicating]: "Oh,
Carp, Carp, what would I give to-night in exchange for this weari-
some hospital of pain and woe that they call the White House for
the place that is occupied by some poor boy that sleeps under the
sod in a southern battle field? I can not stand this thing much
longer. I have got to have some relief." Wlien I read from Car-
penter, the painter of the famous emancipation picture, I instinctively
say: "Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered thee
as a hen gathereth her chicks under her wings, but ye would not."

Oh, my dissatisfied countrymen, you who can not understand the
suffering and the heartbeats, the great distress of the head of the
Nation, how changed would be your attitude if you could but see him
in his agony for the Nation. If we could have understood his suffer-
ings, we would not have had the feeUngs of bitterness that were so
often expressed. My friends, this hatred was not confined to any
one section of the country, as you well know. I was rocked in a
cradle over which was sung the lullaby:

Old Abe Lincoln is dead and gone.
Hurrahi Hurrah!

And I am not the only one in the State of Ohio who was taught
that he was not a patriot. But when I come to look into his words
and to study his acts and ^\^th regard for his magnanimity, together
udth his intellectuality, I can easily understand why, in the lapse of
half a. century, there' is such universal -approval now of the char ac-
istics of that great man in all ]:>arts not only of our Nation but of the
world.

I once asked one of the best editors in this country or in any other,
Charles A. Dana, who knew Mr. Lincoln as perhaps no other man
knew him daring the period that covered the war, what he thought
was Lincoln's secret of greatness. Quickly he said: "His control of
men." And then he added: "If a man can not control other men,
then his power is limited to what he can do alone. On the other
hand, if he can control men his power is multipUed just to the number
of men he controls."

In view of this theory I am not so sure but that we might possibly
for a moment pause to fix our eyes upon the Wliite House now, wdth
reference to that quality of leadership. But this is not the place nor
the hour for making comparisons. They might be misunderstood.
Mr. Lincoln had that ability to differ from men and yet to win them..
Note how he struggled with the great commoner, Thaddeus Stevens.
When Lincoln insisted upon his method of Reconstruction, which
Stevens denounced as his shorthand method, destined to swamp the
American Congress by Confederate leaders, Lincoln put it in this
homely way, or substantially in these terms: "Stevens, you want
what I want, but we do not go after it in the same way. Concede that


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