Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; online

. (page 8 of 91)
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I would desire you to give my particular respects to Fanny; but
perhaps you will not wish her to know you have received this, lest
she should desire to see it. Make her write me an answer to my last
letter to her; at any rate, I would set great value upon a note or let-
ter from her. Write me whenever you have leisure.

Yours forever, A. Lincoln.

P. S. I have been quite a man since you left.



February 22, 1842. — Address before the Springfield
Washingtonian Temperance Society.

Although the temperance cause has been in progress for near
twenty ~years, it is apparent to all that it is just now being crowned
with a degree of success hitherto unparalleled.

The list of its friends is daily swelled by the additions of fifties,
of hundreds, and of thousands. The cause itself seems suddenly
transformed from a cold abstract theory to a living, breathing, active,
and powerful chieftain, going forth " conquering and to conquer."
The citadels of his great adversary are daily being stormed and dis-
mantled; his temple and his altars, where the rites of his idolatrous
worship have long been performed, and where human sacrifices have
long been wont to be made, are daily desecrated and deserted. The
triumph of the conqueror's fame is sounding from hill to hill, from
sea to sea, and from land to land, and calling millions to his stan-
dard at a blast.

For this new and splendid success we heartily rejoice. That that
success is so much greater now than heretofore is doubtless owing
to rational causes ; and if we would have it continue, we shall do
well to inquire what those causes are.

The warfare heretofore waged against the demon intemperance
has somehow or other been erroneous. Either the champions en-
gaged or the tactics they adopted have not been the most proper.
These champions for the most part have been preachers, lawyers,
and hired agents. Between these and the mass of mankind there is
a want of approachability, if the term be admissible, partially, at
least, fatal to their success. They are supposed to have no sympathy
of feeling or interest with those very persons whom it is their object
to convince and persuade.

And again, it is so common and so easy to ascribe motives to men
of these classes other than those they profess to act upon. The
preacher, it is said, advocates temperance because he is a fanatic, and
desires a union of the church and state; the lawyer from his pride



58 ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN

and vanity of hearing himself speak ; and the hired a^ent for his
salary. But when one who has long been known as a victim of in-
temperance bursts the fetters that have bound him, and appears
before his neighbors "clothed and in his right mind/' a redeemed
specimen of long-lost humanity, and stands up, with tears of joy
trembling in his eyes, to teU of the miseries once endured, now to be
endured no more forever; of his once naked and starving children,
now clad and fed comfortably; of a wife long weighed down with
woe, weeping, and a broken heart, now restored to health, hajjpiness,
and a renewed affection; and how easily it is all done, once it is re-
solved to be done; how simple his language! — there is a logic and
an eloquence in it that few with human feelings can resist. They
cannot say that he desires a union of church and state, for he is not
a church member; they cannot say he is vain of hearing himself
speak, for his whole demeanor shows he would gladly avoid speak-
ing at all; they cannot say he speaks for pay, for he receives
none, and asks for none. Nor can his sincerity in any way be
doubted, or his sympathy for those he would persuade to imitate his
example be denied.

In my judgment, it is to the battles of this new class of cham-
pions that our late success is greatly, perhaps chiefly, owing. But,
had the old-school champions themselves been of the most wise se-
lecting, was their system of tactics the most judicious? It seems
to me it was not. Too much denunciation against dram-sellers and
dram-drinkers was indulged in. This I think was both impolitic
and unjust. It was impolitic, because it is not much in the nature
of man to be driven to anything ; still less to be driven about that
which is exclusively his own business ; and least of all where such
driving is to be submitted to at the expense of pecuniary interest
or burning appetite. When the dram-seller and drinker were inces-
santly told — not in accents of entreaty and persuasion, difiBdently
addressed by erring man to an erring brother, but in the thuur
dering tones of anathema and denunciation with which the lordly
judge often groups together all the crimes of the felon's life, and
thrusts them in his face just ere he passes sentence of death upon
him — that they were the authors of all the vice and misery and
crime in the land ; that they were the manufacturers and material
of aU the thieves and robbers and murderers that infest the eartli ;
that their houses were the workshops of the devil ; and that their
persons should be shunned by aU. the good and virtuous, as moral pesti-
lences — I say, when they were told all this, and in this way, it is
not wonderful that they were slow, very slow, to acknowledge the
truth of such denunciations, and to join the ranks of their denoun-
cers in a hue and cry against themselves.

To have expected them to do otherwise than they did — to have
expected them not to meet denunciation with denunciation, crimi-
nation with crimination, and anathema with anathema — was to ex-
pect a reversal of human nature, which is God's decree and can
never be reversed.

When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persua-
sion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an



ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN 59

old and a true maxim " that a drop of honey catches more flies than
a gallon of gall." So with men. If you would win a man to your
cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein
is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is
the great highroad to his reason, and which, when once gained, you
will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice
of your cause, if indeed that cause reaUy be a just one. On the con-
trary, assume to dictate to his judgment, or to command his action,
or to mark him as one to be shunned and despised, and he will re-
treat within himself, close all the avenues to hie head and his heart;
and though your cause be naked truth itself, transformed to the
heaviest lance, harder than steel, and sharper than steel can be
made, and though you throw it with more than herculean force and
precision, you shall be no more able to f)ierce him than to penetrate
the hard shell of a tortoise with a rye straw. Such is man, and so
must he be understood by those who would lead him, even to his
own best interests.

On this point the Washingtonians grejitly excel the temperance
advocates of former times. Those whopi they desire to convince
and persuade are their old friends and companions. They know
they are not demons, nor even the worst of men ; they know that
generally they are kind, generous, and charitable, even beyond the
example of their more staid and sober neighbors. They are practi-
cal philanthropists ; and they glow with a generous and brotherly
zeal that mere theorizers are incapable of feeling. Benevolence and
charity possess their hearts entirely ; an d out of the abundance of their
hearts their tongues give utterance; " Love through all their actions
runs, and all their words are mild." In this spirit they speak and
act, and in the same they are heard and regarded. And when such
is the temper of the advocate, and such of the audience, no good
cause can be unsuccessful. But I have said that denunciations
against dram-sellers and dram-drinkers are unjust, as well as impol-
itic. Let us see. I have not inquired at what period of time the use
of intoxicating liquors commenced ; nor is it important to know.
It is sufBcient that to all of us who now inhabit the world, the prac-
tice of drinking them is just as old as the world itself — that is, we
have seen the one just as long as we have seen the other. When aU
such of us as have now reached the years of maturity first opened
our eyes upon the stage of existence, we found intoxicating Uquor
recognized by everybody, used by everybody, repudiated by no-
body. It commonly entered into the first draught of the infant and
the last draught of the dying man. From the sideboard of the par-
son down to the ragged pocket of the houseless loafer, it was con-
stantly found. Physicians prescribed it in this, that, and the other
disease; government provided it for soldiers and sailors; and to
have a rolling or raising, a husking or " hoedown/' anywhere about
without it was positively insufferable. So, too, it was everywhere
a respectable article of manufacture and merchandise. The making
of it was regarded as an honorable livelihood, and he who could make
most was the most enterprising and respectable. Large and small
manufactories of it were everywhere erected, in which all the earthly



60 ADDKESSES AND LETTEKS OF ABKAHAM LINCOLN

goods of their owners were invested. "Wagons drew it from town
to town ; boats bore it from clime to clime, and the winds wafted it
from nation to nation ; and merchants bought and sold it, by whole-
sale and retail, with precisely the same feelings on the part of the
seller, buyer, and bystander as are felt at the selling and buying of
plows, beef, bacon, or any other of the real necessaries of life. Uni-
versal public opinion not only tolerated but recognized and adopted
its use.

It is true that even then it was known and acknowledged that
many were greatly injured by it; but none seemed to think the
injury arose from the use of a bad thing, but from the abuse of a
very good thing. The victims of it were to be pitied and compas-
sionated, just as are the heirs of consumption and other hereditary
diseases. Their failing was' treated as a misfortune, and not as a
crime, or even as a disgrace. If, then^ what I have been sayin g is true,
is it wonderful that some should think and act now as all thought
and acted twenty years ago ? and is it just to assaU, condemn, or
despise them for doing so ? The universal sense of mankind on any
subject is an argument, or at least an influence, not easily overcome.
The success of the argument in favor of the existence of an over-
ruling Providence mainly depends upon that sense ; and men ought
not in justice to be denounced for yielding to it in any case, or giving
it up slowly, especially when they are backed by interest, fixed habits,^
or burning appetites.

Another error, as it seems to me, into which the old reformers fell,
was the position that all habitual drunkards were utterly incorri-
gible, and therefore must be turned adrift and damned without
remedy in order that the grace of temperance might abound, to the
temperate then, and to all mankind some hundreds of years there-
after. There is in this something so repugnant to humanity, so un-
charitable, so cold-blooded and feelingless, that it never did nor
ever can enlist the enthusiasm of a popular cause. We could not
love the man who taught it — we could not hear him with patience.
The heart could not throw open its portals to it, the generous man
could not adopt it — it could not mix with his blood. It looked so
fiendishly selfish, so like throwing fathers and brothers overboard to
lighten the boat for our security, that the noble-minded shrank from
the manifest meanness of the tning. And besides this, the benefits
6f a reformation to be effected by such a system were too remote in
point of time to warmly engage many in its behalf. Few can be in-
duced to labor exclusively for posterity ; and none will do it enthu-
siastically. Posterity has done nothing for us ; and theorize on it
as we maj^, practically we shall do very little for it, unless we are
made to think we are at the same time doing something for ourselves.

What an ignorance of human nature does it exhibit, to ask or ex-
pect a whole community to rise up and labor for the temporal hap-
piness of others, after themselves shall be consigned to the dust, a
majority of which community take no pains whatever to secure their
own eternal welfare at no more distant day? Great distance in
either time or space has wonderful power to" lull and render quies-
cent the human mind. Pleasures to be enjoyed, or pains to be en-



ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN 61

dured, after we shall be dead and gone are but little regarded even
in our own cases, and mucli less in the cases of others. Still, in ad-
dition to this there is something so ludicrous in promises of good or
threats of evil a great way off as to render the whole subject with
which they are connected easily turned into ridicule. " Better lay
down that spade you are stealing, Paddy ; if you don't you '11 pay
for it at the day of judgment." " Be the powers, if ye 'U credit me
so long I '11 take another jist."

By the Washiugtonians this system of consigning the habitual
drunkard to hopeless ruin is repudiated. They adopt a more en-
lai'ged philanthropy; they go for present as well as future good.
They labor for all now living, as well as hereafter to live. They
teach hope to all — despair to none. As applying to their cause,
they deny the doctrine of unpardonable sin ; as in Christianity it is
taught, so in this they teach — " While the lamp holds out to burn.
The vilest sinner may return." And, what is a matter of more
profound congratulation, they, by experiment upon experiment and
example upon example, prove the maxim to be no less true in the
one case than in the other. On every hand we behold those who
but yesterday were the chief of sinners, now the chief apostles of
the cause. Drunken devils are cast out by ones, by sevens, by legions ;
and their unfortunate victims, like the poor possessed who were
redeemed from their long and lonely wanderings in the tombs, are
publishing to the ends of the earth how great things have been done
for them.

To these new champions and this new system of tactics our late
success is mainly owing, and to them we must mainly look for the
final consummation. The ball is now rolling gloriously on, and
none are so able as they to increase its speed and its bulk, to add to
its momentum and its magnitude — even though unlearned in let-
ters, for this task none are so well educated. To fit them for this
work they have been taught in the true school. They have been in
that gulf from which they would teach others the means of escape.
They have passed that prison wall, which others have long declared
impassable; and who that has not shall dare to weigh opinions with
them as to the mode of passing?

But if it be true, as I have insisted, that those who have suffered
by intemperance personally, and have reformed, are the most pow-
erful and efficient instruments to push the reformation to ultimate
success, it does not foUow that those who have not suffered have no
part left them to perform. Whether or not the world would be
vastly benefited by a total and final banishment from it of all intox-
icating drinks seems to me not now an open question. Three
fourths of mankind confess the affirmative with their tongues, and,
I believe, all the rest acknowledge it in their hearts.

Ought any, then, to refuse their aid in doing what good the good
of the whole demands ? Shall he who cannot do much be for that
reason excused if he do nothing? "But," says one, "what good
can I do by signing the pledge ? I never drink, even without sign-
ing." This question has already been asked and answered more
than a million of times. Let it be answered once more. For the



62 ADDRESSES AND LETTEKS OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN

man suddenly or in any other way to break off from the use of
drams, who has indulged in them for a long course of years, and
until his appetite for them has grown ten- or a hundred-fold
stronger, and more craving than any natural appetite can be, re-
quires a most powerful moral effort. In such an undertaking he
needs every moral support and influence that can possibly be
brought to his aid and thrown around him. And not only so, but
every moral prop should be taken from whatever argument might
rise in his mind to lure him to his backsliding. When he casts his
eyes around him, he should be able to see all that he respects, all
that he admires, all that he loves, kindly and anxiously pointing
him onward, and none beckoning him back to his former miserable
" wallowing in the mire."

But it is said by some that men will think and act for themselves;
that none will disuse spirits or anything else because his neighbors
do ; and that moral influence is not that powerful engine contended
for. Let us examine this. Let me ask the man who could maintain
this position most stiffly, what compensation he will accept to go to
church some Sunday and sit during the sermon with his wife's bon-
net upon his head? Not a trifle, I '11 venture. And why not?
There would be nothing irreligious in it, nothing immoral, nothing
uncomfortable — then why not ? Is it not because there would be
something egregiously unfashionable in it ? Then it is the influ-
ence of fashion ; and what is the influence of fashion but the in-
fluence that other people's actions have on our actions — the strong
inclination each of us feels to do as we see all our neighbors do ?
Nor is the influence of fashion conflned to any particular thing or
class of things ; it is just as strong on one subject as another. Let us
make it as unfashionable to withhold our names from the temper-
ance cause as for husbands to wear their wives' bonnets to church,
and instances will be just as rare in the one case as the other.

"But," say some, "we are no drunkards, and we shall not ac-
knowledge ourselves such by joining a reformed drunkards' society,
whatever our influence might be." Surely no Christian will adhere
to this objection. If they believe as they profess, that Omnipotence
condescended to take on himself the form of sinful man, and as such
to die an ignominious death for their sakes, surely they will not
refuse submission to the infinitely lesser condescension, for the tem-
poral, and perhaps eternal, salvation of a large, erring, and unfor-
tunate class of their feUow-ereatures. Nor is the condescension very
great. In my judgment such of us as have never fallen victims have
been spared more by the absence of appetite than from any mental
or moral superiority over those who have. Indeed, I believe if we
take habitual drunkards as a class, their heads and their hearts will
bear an advantageous comparison with those of any other class.
There seems ever to have been a proneness in the brilliant and warm-
blooded to fall into this vice — the demon of intemperance ever
seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius and of gen-
erosity. What one of us but can call to mind some relative, more
promising in youth than all his fellows, who has fallen a sacrifice to
his rapacity? He ever seems to have gone forth like the Egyptian



ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN 63

angel of death, commissioned to slay, if not the first, the fairest born
of every family. Shall he now be arrested in his desolating career?
In that arrest all eau give aid that will; and who shall be excused
that can and will not? Far around as human breath has ever blown
he keeps our fathers, our brothers, our sons, and our friends pros-
trate in the chains of moral death. To all the living everywhere
we cry, " Come sound the moral trump, that these may rise and
stand up an exceeding great army." " Come from the four winds,
O breath! and breathe upon these slain that they may live." If the
relative grandeur of revolutions shall be estimated by the great
amount of human misery they alleviate, and the small amount
they inflict, then indeed will this be the grandest the world shall
ever have seen.

Of our political revolution of '76 we are all justly proud. It has
given us a degree of political freedom far exceeding that of any other
nation of the earth. In it the world has found a solution of the
long-mooted problem as to the capability of man to govern himself.
In it was the germ which has vegetated, and still is to grow and ex-
pand into the universal liberty of mankind. But, with all these
glorious results, past, present, and to come, it had its evils too. It
breathed forth famine, swam in blood, and rode in fire ; and long,
long after, the orphan's cry and the widow's wail continued to break
the sad silence that ensued. These were the price, the inevitable
price, paid for the blessings it bought.

Turn now to the temperance revolution. In it we shall find a
stronger bondage broken, a viler slavery manumitted, a greater
tjrrant deposed; in it, more of want supplied, more disease healed,
more sorrow assuaged. By it no orphans starving, no widows
weeping. By it, none wounded in feeling, none injured in interest;
even the dram-maker and dram-seller will have glided into other
occupations so gradually as never to have felt the change, and will
stand ready to join all others in the universal song of gladness.
And what a noble ally this to the cause of political freedom; with
such an aid its march cannot fail to be on and on, till every son of
earth shall drink in rich fruition the sorrow-quenching draughts
of perfect liberty. Happy day when — all appetites controlled, all
poisons subdued, all matter subjected — mind, all conquering mind,
shall live and move, the monarch of the world. Glorious consum-
mation! Hail, fall of fury! Reign of reason, all hail!

And when the victory shall be complete, — when there shall be
neither a slave nor a drunkard on the earth, — how proud the title
of that land which may truly claim to be the birthplace and the
cradle of both those revolutions that shall have ended in that vic-
tory. How nobly distinguished that people who shall have planted
and nurtured to maturity both the political and moral freedom of
their species.

This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birthday of
Washington ; we are met to celebrate this day. Washington is the
mightiest name of earth — long since mightiest in the cause of civil
liberty, still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name no eu-
logy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun or



64 ADDEESSES AND LETTEBS OP ABEAHAM LINCOLN

glory to the name of WasHngton is alike impossible. Let none at-
tempt it. In solemn awe pronounce tlie name, and in its naked death-
less splendor leave it shining on.

February 25, 1842.— Letter to Joshua F. Speed.

Spkingfield, February 25, 1842.

Dear Speed: Yours of the 16th instant, announcing that Miss
Fanny and you are " no more twain, but one flesh," reached me this
morning. I have no way of telling you how much, happiness I wish
you bofli, though I believe you both can conceive it. I feel some-
what jealous of both of you now : you will be so exclusively con-
cerned for one another, that I sliall be forgotten entirely. My
acquaintance with Miss Fanny (I call her this, lest you should think
I am speaking of your mother) was too short for me to reasonably
hope to long be remembered by her; and still I am sure I shall not
forget her soon. Try if you cannot remind her of that debt she
owes me — and be sure you do not interfere to prevent her paying it.

I regret to learn that you have resolved to not return to Illinois.
I shall be very lonesome without you. How miserably things
seem to be arranged in this world ! If we have no friends, we have
no pleasure ; and if we have them, we are sure to lose them, and
be doubly pained by the loss. I did hope she and you would make
your home here; but I own I have no right to insist. You owe
obligations to her ten thousand times more sacred than you can owe
to others, and in that light let them be respected and observed. It
is natural that she should desire to remain with her relatives and
friends. As to friends, however, she could not need them anywhere :
she would have them in abundance here.

Grive my kind remembrance to Mr. Williamson and his family,
particularly Miss Elizabeth ; also to your mother, brother, and sis-
ters. Ask little Eliza Davis if she will ride to town with me if I
come there again. And finally, give Fanny a double reciprocation
of all the love she sent me. Write me often, and believe me

Yours forever, LmcouJ.

P. S. Poor Easthouse is gone at last. He died awhile before



Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 8 of 91)