Abraham Lincoln.

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Complete Works of
Abraham Lincoln


This Edition de Grand Luxe is limited to
three hundred numbered and registered sets.

Number L..L -



-5 i_J

Abraham Lincoln
Steel Engraving from the Original Photograph by
Brady in 1864, ana * >l0 ' zc in in€ War
Department Collection.

Complete Works of

Abraham Lincoln

Edited by

John G. Nicolay and John Hay

With a General Introduction by

Richard Watson Gilder, and Special Articles

by Other Eminent Persons

New and Enlarged Edition


New York
Francis D. Tandy Company



Copyright, 1894, by

Copyright, 1905, by

The Life and Character of
Abraham Lincoln 1

THAT God rules in the affairs of men is
as certain as any truth of physical sci-
ence. On the great moving power
which is from the beginning hangs the world
of the senses and the world of thought and ac-
tion. Eternal wisdom marshals the great pro-
cession of the nations, working in patient con-
tinuity through the ages, never halting and
never abrupt, encompassing all events in its
oversight, and ever effecting its will, though
mortals may slumber in apathy or oppose with
madness. Kings are lifted up or thrown down,
nations come and go, republics flourish and
wither, dynasties pass away like a tale that is
told; but nothing is by chance, though men, in
their ignorance of causes, may think so. The
deeds of time are governed, as well as judged,
by the decrees of eternity. The caprice of fleet-
ing existences bends to the immovable omnipo-

1 Memorial address delivered at the request of both Houses
of Congress of the United States at a joint session on the anni-
versary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, February 12, 1866.


vi The Life and Character

tence, which plants its foot on all the centuries
and has neither change of purpose nor repose.
Sometimes, like a messenger through the thick
darkness of night, it steps along mysterious
ways; but when the hour strikes for a people,
or for mankind, to pass into a new form of be-
ing, unseen hands draw the bolts from the gates
of futurity; an all-subduing influence prepares
the minds of men for the coming revolution;
those who plan resistance find themselves in con-
flict with the will of Providence rather than
with human devices; and all hearts and all un-
derstandings, most of all the opinions and in-
fluences of the unwilling, are wonderfully at-
tracted and compelled to bear forward the
change, which becomes more an obedience to
the law of universal nature than submission to
the arbitrament of man.

In the fulness of time a republic rose up in
the wilderness of America. Thousands of years
had passed away before this child of the ages
could be born. From whatever there was of
good in the systems of former centuries she drew
her nourishment; the wrecks of the past were
her warnings. With the deepest sentiment of
faith fixed in her inmost nature, she disenthrall-
ed religion from bondage to temporal power,
that her worship might be worship only in
spirit and in truth. The wisdom which had

of Abraham Lincoln vii

passed from India through Greece, with what
Greece had added of her own ; the jurisprudence
of Rome; the mediaeval municipalities; the
Teutonic method of representation; the political
experience of England; the benignant wisdom
of the expositors of the law of nature and of
nations in France and Holland, all shed on her
their selectest influence. She washed the gold
of political wisdom from the sands wherever
it was found; she cleft it from the rocks; she
gleaned it from among ruins. Out of all the
discoveries of statesmen and sages, out of all the
experience of past human life, she compiled a
perennial political philosophy, the primordial
principles of national ethics. The wise men of
Europe sought the best government in a mix-
ture of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy;
America went behind these names to extract
from them the vital elements of social forms,
and blend them harmoniously in the free com-
monwealth, which comes nearest to the illustra-
tion of the natural equality of all men. She
intrusted the guardianship of established rights
to law, the movements of reform to the spirit of
the people, and drew her force from the happy
reconciliation of both.

Republics had heretofore been limited to
small cantons, or cities and their dependencies;
America, doing that of which the like had not

viii The Life and Character

before been known upon the earth, or believed
by kings and statesmen to be possible, extended
her republic across a continent. Under her
auspices the vine of liberty took deep root and
filled the land; the hills were covered with its
shadow, its boughs were like the goodly cedars,
and reached unto both oceans. The fame of
this only daughter of freedom went out into all
the lands of the earth ; from her the human race
drew hope.

Neither hereditary monarchy nor hereditary
aristocracy planted itself on our soil; the only
hereditary condition that fastened itself upon us
was servitude. Nature works in sincerity, and
is ever true to its law. The bee hives honey;
the viper distils poison ; the vine stores its juices,
and so do the poppy and the upas. In like
manner every thought and every action ripens
its seed, each according to its kind. In the in-
dividual man, and still more in a nation, a just
idea gives life, and progress, and glory; a false
conception portends disaster, shame, and death.
A hundred and twenty years ago a West Jersey
Quaker wrote: " This trade of importing slaves
is dark gloominess hanging over the land; the
consequences will be grievous to posterity." At
the north the growth of slavery was arrested by
natural causes ; in the region nearest the tropics
it throve rankly, and worked itself into the or-

of Abraham Lincoln ix

ganism of the rising States. Virginia stood
between the two, with soil, and climate, and re-
sources demanding free labor, yet capable of the
profitable employment of the slave. She was
the land of great statesmen, and they saw the
danger of her being whelmed under the rising
flood in time to struggle against the delusions of
avarice and pride. Ninety-four years ago the
legislature of Virginia addressed the British
king, saying that the trade in slaves was "of
great inhumanity," was opposed to the "security
and happiness" of their constituents, "would in
time have the most destructive influence," and
"endanger their very existence." And the king
answered them that, "upon pain of his highest
displeasure, the importation of slaves should not
be in any respect obstructed." "Pharisaical
Britain," wrote Franklin in behalf of Virginia,
u to pride thyself in setting free a single slave
that happened to land on thy coasts, while thy
laws continue a traffic whereby so many hun-
dreds of thousands are dragged into a slavery
that is entailed on their posterity." "A serious
view of this subject," said Patrick Henry in 1773,
"gives a gloomy prospect to future times." In
the same year George Mason wrote to the legis-
lature of Virginia: "The laws of impartial
Providence may avenge our injustice upon our
posterity." Conforming his conduct to his con-

x The Life and Character

victions, Jefferson, in Virginia, and in the Con-
tinental Congress, with the approval of Ed-
mund Pendleton, branded the slave-trade as
piracy; and he fixed in the Declaration of In-
dependence, as the corner-stone of America:
"All men are created equal, with an unalienable
right to liberty." On the first organization of
temporary governments for the continental do-
main, Jefferson, but for the default of New Jer-
sey, would, in 1784, have consecrated every part
of that territory to freedom. In the formation
of the national Constitution, Virginia, opposed
by a part of New England, vainly struggled to
abolish the slave-trade at once and forever; and
when the ordinance of 1787 was introduced by
Nathan Dane without the clause prohibiting
slavery, it was through the favorable disposition
of Virginia and the South that the clause of
Jefferson was restored, and the whole north-
western territory — all the territory that then be-
longed to the nation — was reserved for the labor
of freemen.

The hope prevailed in Virginia that the aboli-
tion of the slave-trade would bring with it the
gradual abolition of slavery; but the expecta-
tion was doomed to disappointment. In sup-
porting incipient measures for emancipation,
Jefferson encountered difficulties greater than
he could overcome, and, after vain wrestlings,

of Abraham Lincoln xi

the words that broke from him, " I tremble for
my country when I reflect that God is just, that
His justice cannot sleep forever," were words of
despair. It was the desire of Washington's
heart that Virginia should remove slavery by a
public act; and as the prospects of a general
emancipation grew more and more dim, he
in utter hopelessness of the action of the State,
did all that he could by bequeathing freedom to
his own slaves. Good and true men had, from
the days of 1776, suggested the colonizing of
the negro in the home of his ancestors; but the
idea of colonization was thought to increase the
difficulty of emancipation, and, in spite of strong
support, while it accomplished much good for
Africa, it proved impracticable as a remedy at
home. Madison, who in early life disliked
slavery so much that he wished "to depend
as little as possible on the labor of slaves;"
Madison, who held that where slavery exists
"the republican theory becomes fallacious;"
Madison, who in the last years of his life would
not consent to the annexation of Texas, lest his
countrymen should fill it with slaves; Madi-
son, who said, "slavery is the greatest evil under
which the nation labors — a portentous evil — an
evil, moral, political, and economical — a sad
blot on our free country" — went mournfully into
old age with the cheerless words: "No satis-

xii The Life and Character

factory plan has yet been devised for taking out
the stain."

The men of the Revolution passed away; a
new generation sprang up, impatient that an
institution to which they clung should be con-
demned as inhuman, unwise, and unjust. In
the throes of discontent at the self-reproach of
their fathers, and blinded by the lustre of wealth
to be acquired by the culture of a new staple,
they devised the theory that slavery, which they
would not abolish, was not evil, but good.
They turned on the friends of colonization, and
confidently demanded: "Why take black men
from a civilized and Christian country, where
their labor is a source of immense gain, and a
power to control the markets of the world, and
send them to a land of ignorance, idolatry, and
indolence, which was the home of their fore-
fathers, but not theirs? Slavery is a blessing.
Were they not in their ancestral land naked,
scarcely lifted above brutes, ignorant of the
course of the sun, controlled by nature? And
in their new abode have they not been taught
to know the difference of the seasons, to plough,
and plant, and reap, to drive oxen, to tame the
horse, to exchange their scanty dialect for the
richest of all the languages among men, and the
stupid adoration of follies for the purest re-
ligion? And since slavery is good for the

of Abraham Lincoln xiii

blacks, it is good for their masters, bringing
opulence and the opportunity of educating a
race. The slavery of the black is good in itself ;
he shall serve the white man forever." And
nature, which better understood the quality of
fleeting interest and passion, laughed as it
caught the echo, "man" and "forever!"

A regular development of pretensions follow-
ed the new declaration with logical consistency.
Under the old declaration every one of the
States had retained, each for itself, the right of
manumitting all slaves by an ordinary act of
legislation; now the power of the people over
servitude through their legislatures was cur-
tailed, and the privileged class was swift in im-
posing legal and constitutional obstructions on
the people themselves. The power of emanci-
pation was narrowed or taken away. The slave
might not be disquieted by education. There
remained an unconfessed consciousness that the
system of bondage was wrong, and a restless
memory that it was at variance with the true
American tradition; its safety was therefore to
be secured by political organization. The gen-
eration that made the Constitution took care for
the predominance of freedom in Congress by
the ordinance of Jefferson ; the new school aspir-
ed to secure for slavery an equality of votes
in the Senate, and, while it hinted at an organic

xiv The Life and Character

act that should concede to the collective South
a veto power on national legislation, it assumed
that each State separately had the right to re-
vise and nullify laws of the United States, ac-
cording to the discretion of its judgment.

The new theory hung as a bias on the foreign
relations of the country; there could be no
recognition of Hayti, nor even of the American
colony of Liberia; and the world was given to
understand that the establishment of free labor
in Cuba would be a reason for wresting that
island from Spain. Territories were annexed —
Louisiana, Florida, Texas, half of Mexico;
slavery must have its share in them all, and it
accepted for a time a dividing line between the
unquestioned domain of free labor and that in
which involuntary labor was to be tolerated.
A few years passed away, and the new school,
strong and arrogant, demanded and received an
apology for applying the Jefferson proviso to

The application of that proviso was inter-
rupted for three administrations, but justice
moved steadily onward. In the news that the
men of California had chosen freedom, Calhoun
heard the knell of parting slavery, and on his
death-bed he counselled secession. Washing-
ton, and Jefferson, and Madison had died
despairing of the abolition of slavery; Calhoun

of Abraham Lincoln xv

died in despair at the growth of freedom. His
system rushed irresistibly to its natural develop-
ment. The death-struggle for California was
followed by a short truce; but the new school
of politicians, who said that slavery was not
evil, but good, soon sought to recover the ground
they had lost, and, confident of securing Kan-
sas, they demanded that the established line in
the Territories between freedom and slavery
should be blotted out. The country, believing
in the strength and enterprise and expansive
energy of freedom, made answer, though re-
luctantly: "Be it so; let there be no strife be-
tween brethren; let freedom and slavery
compete for the Territories on equal terms,
in a fair field, under an impartial administra-
tion;" and on this theory, if on any, the con-
test might have been left to the decision of time.
The South started back in appallment from
its victory, for it knew that a fair competition
foreboded its defeat. But where could it now
find an ally to save it from its own mistake?
What I have next to say is spoken with no emo-
tion but regret. Our meeting to-day is, as it
were, at the grave, in the presence of eternity,
and the truth must be uttered in soberness and
sincerity. In a great republic, as was observed
more than two thousand years ago, any attempt
to overturn the state owes is strength to aid from

xvi The Life and Character

some branch of the government. The Chief
Justice of the United States, without any neces-
sity or occasion, volunteered to come to the
rescue of the theory of slavery; and from his
court there lay no appeal but to the bar of
humanity and history. Against the Constitu-
tion, against the memory of the nation, against
a previous decision, against a series of enact-
ments, he decided that the slave is property;
that slave property is entitled to no less protec-
tion than any other property; that the Constitu-
tion upholds it in every Terriory against any act
of a local legislature, and even against Con-
gress itself; or, as the President for that term
tersely promulgated the saying, "Kansas is as
much a slave State as South Carolina or Geor-
gia; slavery, by virtue of the Constitution,
exists in every Territory." The municipal
character of slavery being thus taken away, and
slave property decreed to be "sacred," the
authority of the courts was invoked to intro-
duce it by the comity of law into the State where
slavery had been abolished, and in one of the
courts of the United States a judge pronounced
the African slave-trade legitimate, and numer-
ous and powerful advocates demanded its

Moreover, the Chief Justice, in his elaborate
opinion, announced what had never been heard

of Abraham Lincoln xvii

from any magistrate of Greece or Rome; what
was unknown to civil law, and canon law, and
feudal law, and common law, and constitu-
tional law; unknown to Jay, to Rutledge, Ells-
worth, and Marshall — that there are "slave
races." The spirit of evil is intensely logical.
Having the authority of this decision, five States
swiftly followed the earlier example of a sixth,
and opened the way for reducing the free negro
to bondage; the migrating free negro became
a slave if he but entered within the jurisdiction
of a seventh ; and an eighth, from its extent, and
soil, and mineral resources, destined to incalcula-
ble greatness, closed its eyes on its coming pros-
perity, and enacted, as by Taney's dictum it had
the right to do, that every free black man who
would live within its limits must accept the con-
dition of slavery for himself and his posterity.

Only one step more remained to be taken.
Jefferson and the leading statesmen of his day
held fast to the idea that the enslavement of the
African was socially, morally, and politically
wrong. The new school was founded exactly
upon the opposite idea; and they resolved, first,
to distract the democratic party, for which the
Supreme Court had now furnished the means,
and then to establish a new government, with
negro slavery for its corner-stone, as socially,
morally, and politically right.

xviii The Life and Character

As the Presidential election drew on, one of
the great traditional parties did not make its
appearance; the other reeled as it sought to
preserve its old position, and the candidate who
most nearly represented its best opinion, driven
by patriotic zeal, roamed the country from end
to end to speak for union, eager, at least, to con-
front its enemies, yet not having hope that it
would find its deliverance through him. The
storm rose to a whirlwind; who should allay its
wrath? The most experienced statesmen of the
country had failed; there was no hope from
those who were great after the flesh: could
relief come from one whose wisdom was like the
wisdom of little children?

The choice of America fell on a man born
west of the Alleghanies, in the cabin of poor
people of Hardin county, Kentucky — Abra-
ham Lincoln.

His mother could read, but not write; his
father could do neither; but his parents sent him,
with an old spelling-book, to school, and he
learned in his childhood to do both.

When eight years old he floated down the
Ohio with his father on a raft, which bore the
family and all their possessions to the shore of
Indiana; and, child as he was, he gave help as
they toiled through dense forests to the interior
of Spencer county. There, in the land of free

of Abraham Lincoln xix

labor, he grew up in a log-cabin, with the sol-
emn solitude for his teacher in his meditative
hours. Of Asiatic literature he knew only the
Bible; of Greek, Latin, and mediaeval, no more
than the translation of iEsop's Fables; of Eng-
lish, John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. The
traditions of George Fox and William Penn
passed to him dimly along the lines of two cen-
turies through his ancestors, who were Quakers.

Otherwise his education was altogether Amer-
ican. The Declaration of Independence was
his compendium of political wisdom, the Life
of Washington his constant study, and some-
thing of Jefferson and Madison reached him
through Henry Clay, whom he honored from
boyhood. For the rest, from day to day, he
lived the life of the American people, walked
in its light, reasoned with its reason, thought
with its power of thought, felt the beatings of
its mighty heart, and so was in every way a child
of nature, a child of the West, a child of Amer-

At nineteen, feeling impulses of ambition to
get on in the world, he engaged himself to go
down the Mississippi in a flatboat, receiving ten
dollars a month for his wages, and afterwards
he made the trip once more. At twenty-one he
drove his father's cattle, as the family migrated
to Illinois, and split rails to fence in the new

xx The Life and Character

homestead in the wild. At twenty-three he was
a captain of volunteers in the Black Hawk war.
He kept a store. He learned something of sur-
veying, but of English literature he added to
Bunyan nothing but Shakespeare's plays. At
twenty-five he was elected to the legislature
of Illinois, where he served eight years. At
twenty-seven he was admitted to the bar. In
1837 he chose his home at Springfield, the beau-
tiful centre of the richest land in the State. In
1847 he was a member of the national con-
gress, where he voted about forty times in
favor of the principle of the Jefferson pro-
viso. In 1849 he sought eagerly, but unsuc-
cessfully, the place of Commissioner of the
Land Office, and he refused an appointment
that would have transferred his residence to
Oregon. In 1854 he gave his influence to elect
from Illinois, to the American Senate, a Demo-
crat, who would certainly do justice to Kansas.
In 1858, as the rival of Douglas, he went before
the people of the mighty Prairie State, saying,
"This Union cannot permanently endure half
slave and half free; the Union will not be dis-
solved, but the house will cease to be divided;"
and now, in 1861, with no experience whatever
as an executive officer, while States were madly
flying from their orbit, and wise men knew not
where to find counsel, this descendant of Quak-

of Abraham Lincoln xxi

ers, this pupil of Bunyan, this offspring of the
great West, was elected President of America.

He measured the difficulty of the duty that
devolved upon him, and was resolved to fulfil
it. As on the eleventh of February, 1861, he
left Springfield, which for a quarter of a cen-
tury had been his happy home, to the crowd of
his friends and neighbors, whom he was never
more to meet, he spoke a solemn farewell: "I
know not how soon I shall see you again. A
duty has devolved upon me, greater than that
which has devolved upon any other man since
Washington. He never would have succeeded,
except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon
which he at all times relied. On the same Al-
mighty Being I place my reliance. Pray that
I may receive that Divine assistance, without
which I cannot succeed, but with which suc-
cess is certain." To the men of Indiana he
said: "I am but an accidental, temporary instru-
ment; it is your business to rise up and preserve
the Union and liberty." At the capital of Ohio
he said: "Without a name, without a reason
why I should have a name, there has fallen upon
me a task such as did not rest even upon the
Father of his country." At various places in
New York, especially at Albany, before the leg-
islature, which tendered him the united sup-
port of the great Empire State, he said: "While

xxii The Life and Character

I hold myself the humblest of all the individ-
uals who have ever been elevated to the Pres-
idency, I have a more difficult task to perform
than any of them. I bring a true heart to the
work. I must rely upon the people of the
whole country for support, and with their sus-
taining aid even I, humble as I am, cannot fail
to carry the ship of state safely through the
storm." To the assembly of New Jersey, at
Trenton, he explained: "I shall take the ground
I deem most just to the North, the East, the
West, the South, and the whole country, in good
temper, certainly with no malice to any section.
I am devoted to peace, but it may be nec-
essary to put the foot down firmly." In the old
Independence Hall, of Philadelphia, he said:
"I have never had a feeling politically that did
not spring from the sentiments embodied in the
Declaration of Independence, which gave lib-

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