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Unroln i ana


The Boy, the Man and the President,

Dk. Johnson commences his history of Rasselas, Prince
ol Abyssinia by what is declared by critics to be without
exception the most complete sentence in the English
language as follows : "Ye who listen with credulity to the
whispers of fancy and pursue with eagerness the phantoms
of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of
youth, and that the deficiencies of the presentjday will be
supplied by the morrow, attend to'the history of Rasselas,
Prince of Abyssinia."

It is not, my friends, to the excellencies of Dr. Johnson's
literary style, nor to the history of his Prince to which I
wish to call your attention, but to the story of a greater
than a prince, the story of Abraham Lincoln, One of the
most interesting, fascinating and I almost said astonishing
stories of human life is condensed in the words, a life of
Abraham Lincoln. The sound of his name brings back to us
the days of early Illinois; and the then almost unknown great
West; the struggles of freedom against slavery, and slave
laws; the boom of the cannon at Sumpter; the clanking of
shackles as they fell from the limbs of millions of human
beings freed by a^stroke of his pen. The trumpet of vic-
tory at Appomattox; the shot of the assassin Booth, and
the wails of a mourning nation more than a quarter of a
century ago at the death bed of this Abraham Lincoln.
His influence Julian says is "wider than the Republic; a
unique man without ancestor or si'ccehsoi."


[Read from Stoddard's Life of Lincoln.]

"That's the place, Abe. You was born thar."

" 'Taint much of a place to be born in — its a heap meaner'n
the place we'r alivin' in now."

A man of little over the middle heii^ht, broad shouldered,
powerfully built, and somewhat rough looking, leaned upon
a long rifle and gazed at a forlorn looking log house, not
far from the road side, in a wretched, ill tended corn field.
At his side was a slim overgrown boy of seven years who
might easily have passed for three years older. The growth
which had come to him so fast was indicated — not only by
his size, but by the queer, thoughtful expression of his
strongl}' marked, sunburned face. It was full of boyish
fun, to recklessness, and yet wore an unchildlike look of
sadness also, as if the kind of human life into which he had
been born was already teaching him its lessons and leaving
upon him its forever indelible marks.

"They call it 'Rock Spring Farm,'" remarked his father.

"Do they ? Wall I remember the spring well enough
and the rocks too, but pop, whar's the farm ?"

"All around, hereaway. It was the first piece of land I
ever owned, such as it was. I didn't own it very much
nuther." He did not look like a man who had ever owned
much of land or anything else. He was barefooted, and
his patched homespun trousers barely reached his ankles;
but that was more than could be said of Abe's. On his
head too was a coonskin cap, while his odd looking son wore
nothing above his uncombed shock ot dark hair. A
greasy buckskin shirt completed the outer garments of Tom
Lincoln, with a powder horn and bullet pouch slung over
his shoulders in lieu of all ornament. His leather waist-
belt marked yet one more difference in the apparel of the
two, as Abe's left shoulder was crossed by the one suspen-
der with which his trousers were tied up, and it met no
. buttons ,at its Jower^^njis.;



"Pop, do you reckon you'll find anything neaner'n that
over in Injianny ?"

"I'll tell ye when I git back. We'd best be movin' now,
I want to get out of Kaintucky ; I jest do."

"Wall pop, I don't know's I keer much whar we go to."

Such are the opening pages of Stoddard's Life of Lincoln,
as I have read them to you because I believe they give
us all a truer idea of the real beginning of Abraham
Lincoln's boy lite than any of the many histories we have
of him.

How strange the mutations of time, how amazing the
history of individuals, and of nations. Forty five years
from that day, and spot, this tall, raw-boned lad, this
angular, tow-headed, Kentucky boy, his gait shambling, his
figure ungainly, walked, a man marked among men, in the
whole Nation, as he had been in his own neighberhood. A
man upon whose now more than ever rugged face and
form all the civilized world was looking — this man walked
into the White House, as its master, the President of the
mightiest of Republics.

From the wretched log hut to the Nation's palace; from
from the ugly, ill kept, poverty stricken corn field at Roll-
ing Forks to the battle fields of the Republic; from the
nondescript uniform of a one suspendered shoulder and
buttonless trousers to the full uniform of the foremost
citizen of the land, as the Commander in Chief of all its
armies and navies.

Here and there amid the ruins of half buried cities there
arises some bolder ruin, some taller tower, and some more
shapely shaft from the ruin strewed plain, as landmarks to
tell the traveler that here was once a Thebes or a Tyre, but
the majority of the dwellings, the temples, the towers have
disappeared from the earth as if those cities had not been.
So it is with nations. Of all the myriads who have peopled
the earth how few the names which have been preserved in


history or whose memories even survive the universal
wreck of time. The masses of men and women have come
and gone hke the leaves of the forest, with the summer's sun
and winter's storm, the old and the young, the grave and
the gay, the dull tongued and the eloquent, the rich and
the poor, the powerful and the weak, the infidel and the
believer all have fled away, like the morning clouds before
the rising sun, and their footprints once imprinted on the
shores of time are erased by the ebb and flow of the human
tide. But upon this historic shore here and there is left a
footstep, there remains a name, there arises a tower which
was not destroyed in the ebb and flow of that tide, and
there are a few names likewise which have never and never
will die, who are types of the nation to which they be-
longed, and whose lives are the history of the nation
during the period in which they lived. Nineveh has her
iNimrod, Babylon her Nebuchednezzar, Jerusalem her
David, Rome her Caesar, France her Napoleon, England
her Alfred the Great, America her Washington, her
Lincoln. Yet out of the many how few names are these.
161 times has the earth been populated and depopu-
lated, 54 times has the human tide ebbed and flowed on
these shores of time since the time of the Christ, and yet
how few the names surviving. The many have disappeared.
What number of the 25 millions alive in the United States
in 1860, when Mr. Lincoln was elected still survive? Mr.
Lincoln well pictured this and his sense of its truth, in that
poem, "O, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal be Proud?"
and which I will read to you in full, both on account of its
own intrinsic merit, and because it was his favorite poem.


Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud ?
Like a swift-lieeting meteor, a fast flying cloud.
A fiash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passes from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade.
Be scattered around around and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high
Shall moulder to dust and together shall lie.

The infant a mother attended and loved,
The mother that infant's affection who proved;
The husband that mother and infant who blessed.
Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.

The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure, her triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised,
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.

The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne.
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn;
The eye of the craven, the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave.

The peasant whose lot was to sow and to reap,
The herdsman who climbed with his goats up the steep;
The beggar who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

The saint who enjoyed the communion of heaven;
The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven;
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

So the multitude goes, like the flower or the weed,
That withers away to let others succeed ;
So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told.

For we are the same as our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same streams we view the same sun.
And run the same course that our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think,
From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink.
To the life we are clinging they also would cling;
But it speeds for us all, like a bird on the wing.

They loved, but the story we cannot unfold,
They scorned but the heart of the haughty is cold,
They grieved, but no wail from their slumber will come,
They joyed, but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.


They died, aye, they died; we things that are now,
That walk on the turf that lies over their brow,
And make in their dwellings a transient abode,
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.

Yea ! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
We mingle together in sunshine and rain;
And the smile and the tear, the song and the dirge
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

'Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death.
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud —
Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?

Tlie authorship of this poem has been made known since
this pnbHcation in the Evening Post. It was written by
Wilham Knox, a young Scotchman, a contemporary of Sir
Walter Scott. He died in Edinburgh in 1825 at the age
of 36.

This was Mr. Lincohi's favorite poem. Taken from
Carpenter's Inner Life of Lincoln.

Mr. Lincoln's name has faded from history as a political
partisan, but like faded writing exposed to the heat, it has
come out strong and luminous in the light of history,
as Lincoln, the American Statesman and Emancipator.
Years have but begun to show the world what he really was.
In his day, to some he went too slow, in the work he had
to do; to others he was too advanced. To the radical
abolitionist of that day he was deemed semi-pro-slavery.
To the "Constitution as it was" citizen of that day he was
regarded as almost an anarchist. In his own political
party, men were found who freely denounced both him and
his measures, and his political opponents did not liesitate to
dignify him by the name of "ape and gorilla." To the
enemies of the Federal Government he was all and more
than all these. The newspapers of that day teem with epi-
thets of Mr. Lincoln, which if they were uttered to-day
would speedily cause the type of the paper which printed
them to be "knocked into pi," by an indignant and justly


incensed populace. The lapse of years and historical re-
search, have shown how unjust their opinions, how uncalled
for their epithets. As his physical frame towered above
his fellows so his mind and soul, and to-day those who vili-
fied and defamed him are alike with some who praised,
known only to history, because they were, in the environ-
ments of that day brought into contact with him, and
revolved like lesser suns around a p^reater, he the great
central figure, and living actor of them all — Abraham
Lincoln. The period at which Mr. Lincoln was called
upon to preside over the affairs of this nation was a critical
one. The Federal form of government was looked upon
by statesmen of all nations, including some of our own, as
an experiment, and not only that, but as an untried experi-
ment, something unique, original, and if you please almost
an eccentric experiment, by a zealous and inexperienced
people, along lines hitherto untried in the formation of a
government. For 6000 years forms of popular government
had been tried, to result only in the inevitable Dictator,
King or Emperor. Where the people failed, the few suc-
ceeded. More than this, the test of its strength always
came, and as often the people's fabric collapsed, and
tumbled to the ground, so that the monarchies of the old
world prophesied a like fate for ours. They called the
Union a rope of sand, a travesty upon the true idea of a
government; a political paradox; a union of conflicting in-
terests, whose life blood was carried along by the current
of disunion; an integer whose only end was disintegration;
and a national life which only meant dissolution of that
body politic. A voluntary United States could result in
but a voluntary Disunited States whenever a single State
saw fit to withdraw. The test so long prophesied had
come ; the grains of the rope of sand were slipping
away;'^the units of the integer had begun to subtract
themselves ; disunion for union ; secession for adhesion
was the shibboleth as well as the war cry. To stop this

process of dissolution was Mr. Lincoln's task. Even before
he could constitutionally begin his task, and be inaugurated
the government of which he was elected head, had well
nigh ceased to exist, and when Mr. Lincoln arrived in
Washington there was but the outward show or semblanct
of submission to the authority of the United States.
Traitors were every where, and nothing, except the bold
front of a few sturdy patriots like Dix and Scott, prevented
the Capital from falling into their hands. Mr. Lincoln
well understood the task before him, and on Feb. 11th,
1861, on leaving Springfield, 111., for Washington said,
"Friends, no one who has never been placed in a like po-
sition can understand my feelings at this hour, nor the
oppressive sadness I feel at this parting. For more than a
quarter of a century I have lived among you, and during
all that time I have received nothing but kindness at your
hands. Here I have lived from my youth until now I am an
old man. Here the most sacred ties of earth were assumed.
Here all my children were born and here one of them lies
buried. To you, dear friends, I owe all that 1 have, all
that I am. All the strange, checkered past seems to crowd
now upon my mind. To-day I leave you. I go to assume
a task more difficult than that which devolved upon Wash-
ington. Unless the great God who assisted him shall be
with and assist me I shall fail; but if the same omniscient
mind and Almighty arm that directed and protected him
shall guide and support me, I shall not fail, I shall succeed.
Let us pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us
now. To Him I commend you all. Permit me to ask
that, with equal security and faith, you will invoke His
wisdom and guidance for me. With these few words I
must leave you for how long I know not. Friends, one
and all, I must bid you an affectionate farewell.' The rail-
way train bore him away and they saw his face no more.
[From Stoddard's Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 202-3.]

It is worthy of noJte at this point, how entirely every


trace of skepticism concerning God and his active provi-
dence in hnman affairs had vanished from the mind of Mr,
Lincoln. The fact should also be noted that he had not
enrolled himself as a member of any one sect, or declared
his unquestioning acceptance of any one creed, selected
from among the many formulas presented by professional
theologians. The first fact becomes of greater importance,
and the second of less and less henceforward. The man
who could not lie, and did not know how to be a hypocrite
publicly and before the world declared his simple faith,
both then and afterwards. So doing, he continually called
upon his countrymen to join him in acts of repentance, for-
giveness, prayer, thanksgiving, hope, trust; reassuring them
in God's when their own hearts sank and their own faith
failed. He waded through deep waters and found God
with him there, and he reverently said so. It is too late
now rationally to accuse Abraham Lincoln of having acted
and uttered a solemn lie."

[Stoddard's Life, page 203.]

The fame of great men is not measured by the years
they lived, l)ut by their acts. 50 years is but a day and a
day as 50 years. General Grant's great fame was won in
less than two short years, Mr. Lincoln's in five, and began
after he was over the half century of his age. Such men's
bodies die but their deeds are immortal, and men think as
reading of them that their age and fame must have co-
existed, but their contemporaries know better. An old
farmer acquaintance of the President expressed the feeling
exactly, when he was told of the nomination of Mr. Lincoln
for the Presidency: "Shucks, Abe Lincoln ! huh ! knowed
him ever sence I was a boy — Abe Lincoln ! he aint no
great shakes." All the incidents, all the (I almost said) ac-
cidents; all the circumstances of a man's life are but the
training school; development in the direction of the evo-
lution of that life. To the ordinary observer Mr. Lincoln's
defeat for the office of U. S. Senator meant relegation to

everlasting political obscurity, but that very defeat^ the in-
cidents leading up to it first brought him to notice as a great
public leader outside his own State, and led to his subse-
quent engagement to speak in this State on the slavery
question. His great speech at Cooper Institute delivered
Feb'y 27, 1860, where he took for his text the sentence of
his great opponent Senator Douglass, "Our fathers when
they framed the government under which we now live
understood this question, the slavery question, just as well
and even better than we do now,'^ was the first knowledge
that the metropolis had of so great a mind — so fluent an
orator — so logical a rsasoner — so great a patriot as Abraham
Lincoln of Illinois. That pure English, that rhetorical
finish, that magic eloquence so impressed a distinguished
professor of elecution that he journeyed from town to town
* to hear him nightly and afterwards advised all his pupils
to copy this man whose feet, bare, unshod, whose bony arms
had never any other master in the art of learning the posture
eloquent or the waving lines of perfect gesticulation than the
sweeping winds of his prairie home, and waving branches
of the trees he helped to hew into rails; whose homely face
and head had never crossed the threshold of any college of
learning; whose mind was trained by the help of borrowed
books and tallow dips, but had never the scholastic advan-
tages and training supposed necessary to make the orator
the statesman, the successful man. His only teacher had
been his noble step mother who loved him to his death.
This man rose in spite of influence rather than with its aid,
to above the learned scholar of his day, above the scheming
politician, above the best known statesman, above the most
influential journalist of his time at once to a position where
he looked down upon^them all while they up to him; edu-
cational*advantages had done'much for them, ^/i^?/ needed it
to make them much;|but nature had [already made Abra-
ham Lincoln original and great,'and 'nature builds and edu-
cates better than art. Edward Everett said he would rather


be the author of Lincohi's Gettysburg speech than to have
the brightest name in literature. Here it is:

Lincoln's the best of all.

St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

Matiy great speeches were made in different paits of the
country on Tuesday, but the short addresss delivered by
Mr. Lincoln at Gettysburg more than 25 years ago will
probably outlive them all. It was in these words:

"Fourscore-and seven years ago our fathers brought forth
upon 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 sodedicited,
can long endure. We are met on a great battlelield of that
war. We have come to dedicate and portion off" 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
cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow
this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who
struggled here have consecrated it far above our power to
to add'or detract.] [^The world will little note, nor long re-
member what we say here; but it can never forget what
they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedi-
cated 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, and for the people, shall not perish
from the earth."— [July 4, 1864.

at the dedication of tlie cemetery at t^etty^burK, ^Ji*^ P^«^';«^"^^\^i, ,86,, but he
the dedication of the National Cemetery thrN^^^^^^^ at

made an autographic copy of ^h^^ff^l^^f^^^ ^f' \^fe e°4or^^ date as to the address
^r^c!rTee%. s': f^J^^^ ^AbVlhaC ^Un^ol'" "rHistory, by Nicolay ^and


Mr. Lincoln's anecdotes revealed his quick and accurate
preception of a real issue; he going at once to the marrow
of the question, cutting all red tape and dispensing with
much verbiage did what we call in homely phrase "hit the nail
squarely on the head." With your kind permission I will
read a few of them taken from Carpenter's Home Life of
Lincoln. The value of some of the army generals is plainly
shown by the following:

A juvenile Brigadier from New York with a small de-
tachment of cavalry having imprudently gone within the
rebel liness near Fairfax Court House was captured by
guerillas. Upon the fact being reported to Mr. Lincoln, he
said that he was very sorry to lose the horses. "What do
you mean," inquired his informant. "Why," rejoined the
President, "I can make a heiter Brigadier' any day but
those horses cost the government $125 a head."

His sense of justice was very strong and sometimes he
swept aside with a few strokes of his pen a mass ot legal
technicalities in a comprehensive and amusing summing up.
During the war Franklin W. Smith was a member of a
Boston firm which had large dealings with the government.
Some of his enemies accused him of dishonesty, and he
was brought before a court-martial. Over 4,000 letters
were seized, and from these only eight were produced by
the ])rosecution, and the evidence of this number was of no
force whatever. The late Vice President Wilson, Senator
Chailes Sumner and H. L. Dawes, besides the entire Mass-
achusetts delegation, supported Mr. Smith through his
trying ordeal, and President Lincoln, moreover, after an
exhaustive review of the case dissolved the court martial
and annulled the whole trial. The decision of President
Lincoln, the original draft of which is now given by Towri
Topics, in its phraseology will be recognized as chrracter-
istic of the man while especially flattering to Franklin W.
Smith. The decision reads: "Whereas, Franklin W. Smith
had transactions with the navy department to the amount


of one million and a quarter of dollars; and whereas, he
had the chance to steal a quarter of a million and was only
charged with stealing twenty-two hundred dollars, and the
question is now about his stealing one hundred, / donH he-
lieve he stole anything at all. Therefore the records and
findings ai-e disapproved — declared null and void and the
defendant is discharged."

It would be difficult, says the New York Tribune, to sum
up the rights and wrongs of business more briefly than
that or to find a paragraph more characteristically and un-
mistakably Mr. Lincoln's.

A needed lesson was that to some undul}' anxious croak-
ers — to aid the government by a well ordered silence. At
the White House one day some gentlemen were present
from the west, excited and troubled about the comraisi-ions
and omissions of the Administration. The President heard
them patiently, and then replied, "Gentlemen, suppose all

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Online LibraryCharles Halsey MooreAbraham Lincoln → online text (page 1 of 3)