Emma Hardinge Britten.

The great funeral oration on Abraham Lincoln online

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Nassau Street.


Press op Wvnkoop & HiLlExBEOK, No. 113 FntTOH Street, N. T.











Nassau Street.




The news of the death of Abraham Liiicohi, President of
the United States, was telegraphed to Kew York on Saturday
morning, April 15. Toward the close of the day. Miss
Emma Hardinge received an invitation from several influen-
tial citizens to deliver an oration upon the lamented Chief
Magistrate of the nation. The invitation was accepted, and
the time agreed upon for its delivery was the next day, Sun-
day, at three o'clock, P. M., at Cooper Institute. There was
no time for preparing an address of so important a character,
and the effort was entirely extemporaneous. The attention
with which the speaker was listened to, the deep interest
aroused, and the irrepressible applause with which an assem-
bly of upward of ?/<rcei'//o?^s,'z;ic^ persons in rerrupted her dis-
course, sufficiently testified not less to the earnestness and
justice of the tribute paid to the illustrious martyr than io
the eloquence that characterized this most valuable oration.

The oration having fortunately been phonographically
reported, is now published in response to a very generally
expressed desire on the part of citizens of all shades of polit-
ical belief, who are solicitous that so fitting a memento of
the virtues of Abraham Lincoln should be read by every
American patriot.


Thou that hearest prayer ! Look upon iis, Thy
children, in this hour of deepest soul-affliction! Lord of
the sunshine and the storm, God of the starry night and
sunlit day. Thou who art our joy, our grief, our all ! teach
us to remember, in the darkness as the light, that 'tis our
Father's hand that's dealing \yith ns; our Father's footsteps
leading us, through mystery and gloom, to pierce the ever-
brightening path of His omniscient goodness. Eighteen
hundred years ago Thy best beloved meekly stood to hear
the roaring multitude reject him for Barabbas. Eighteen
hundred years ago and the rocking earth sustained a dying
Angel on the cross of shame, while a murderer went forth
free. Once more we see Thy sou beloved, Thy child of
light, and faithful servant, struck down beneath the hand of
guilt and crime, a sacrifice to the lost and darkened souls
that choose a Barabbas and reject a Jesus ! Thou whose
still small voice we wait to hear when the whirlwind of our
grief sweeps by, and the tempest of our anguish is sobbed
out ! Teach us, as we mourn the day of Crucifixion, to
turn with brightening memory to the hopes of Easter.
Teach us to recollect that, if the best and purest that ever
walked the earth must needs be lifted up on the cross of
death, all earth might rejoice in a resurrecting Easter, so
has the martyr whom we mourn this hour gone from our
mortal eyes, a sign to all mankind of this day of Resurrec-
tion — a bright and strong assurance for us, who so dearly
loved him, that as the Master so the servant rises, and, like
the blessed Nazarene, His follower in life, His prototype in
death, he has joined the sons of light, the hosts of victory
crowned, and wears the palm of a glorious immortality,
arisen, arisen ! to his Father's home, and ours.


It seems to me as if I heard a tone, borne on the winss of
time and soanding through the corridors of space, sweepioff
the earth Hke a breeze, from the shores of the remotest East
to this land of the distant West — a voice that for eighteen
hundred rears has pleaded before the throne of Almightv
Jostice in the only strain that can solve the dire and dreadful
problem of red marder saying, " Father, fordve them,
they know net what thty Jo.'^ Friends, this voice most surely
speaks, both to you and nie, in this hour of awful grief.
There seems no other utterance fit to explain its meanins:,
or able to pronounce sentence on the terrible cause of pain
that afflicts us in this most unparalleled and sublime national
woe. I recall the page of history in vain to find any prece-
dent (save the one which laid the foundations of your re-
ligion) for this foul and monstrous act of guilt which forms
the record of this solemn hour.

When I remember the circumstances, time, and person-
ages of this tragic history, all attempts at parallel grow
pale and fail us utterly. Rome's Caesar pleads to us with the
dumb but most eloquent voices of " his bleeding wounds ;"
but before that piteous sacrifice stand the avenging forms of
patriots. France points to a Louis Capet, and the execrat-
ing hiss of abashed posterity pronounces his doom was
martyrdom ; but even then his guiltless life was yielded up
to rime and preparation, a show of justice, and the sancrion
of a multitude. The wrongs of an oppressed people and the
ruin of a nation were on the heads of both the Roman and
French rulers.

The shadow, if not the- substance, of justice condemned

them, and the contagious barbarism of the times exceeds in
each case the atrocity of the murderous act. But where is
the plea which we can hand down to a candid posterity m
exculpation, wholly or partially, of the parricidal act which
has robbed the American nation of a father, every Amencan
cHizen of a friend, factious pai-ties of their most generous
judge, a relentless enemy of their best protector, and the
whole world of an honest man ? Where is the precedent m
history for the insanity which destroys in a nation's pre-
server a nation's institutions ; in a nation's noblest man her
brightest jewel; and in the hour of his noblest recorded acts
inflicts on him the blow that recoils in an immortal stain upon

a nation's honor ? . , . j

Pass over the perilous scenes of strife, political hatred,
and factional discord, that might have drawn lines of sepa-
-ation between himself and those who could not appreciate
his acts of policy, and follow him to the time when he stands
the central firrure of the dark and distracting scenes of war.
Behold him therein the mid<t of contending armies, confront-
in- the friends who were so often unfaithful and cold, and
the enemy that was always pitiless and cruel ; see him ex-
tending the blessed flag of peace and reconciliation over all
alike; stretchin- his paiernal arm over every American, and,
like the almi-htvand merciful father of the parable, receiv-
ing the prodigal back to his heart with a magnanimity^ and
beneficence that challenges the deepest gi-atitude of the
wrong-doer, the fealty of friends, and the admiration of the
whole worid. Strong, brave, and immovable in the hour ot
trial and calamitv, Abraham Lincoln practiced the last
crowning virtue of a great man's life, the divine attribute of
mercy; and after having gallantly conquered, generously
forgav^e the foe, uniting again in one fraternal clasp the se^^-
ered hands of North and South, and silenced every jealous

lip or rebellious tongue by a clemency calculated to win
more hearts by liis kindness than the invincible armies of the
North have subdued by their arms. In all his public acts,
even to the very last, we see him ever casting himself trust-
ingly and nobly on the fealty of the people. Surely he must
have loved them, for who ever before so trusted them ?

Despite of the fearful storm which treason had conjured
up around him, in defiance of the insolent presence of the
rebellion and the infamous serpent-trail of conspiracy, the
geneious, unselfish heart of the man still confided in the
people, and he went among them with none of the panoply
of state, none of the assumptions of power or place, common
to others of his position; he went without guard or protec-
tion but in the peojjle's fealty and love ; and it was even for
their sakes, to please the people, nor suffer a shade of dis-
appointment to embitter, by his absence, their hours of
recreation, that the noble heart went forth to its death, the
tender f\ither to cast himself into the arms of the parricide
that struck him down. Oh ! what an hour, and under what
a sacred trust, to consummate this deep and burning stain
upon humanity ! Accursed be the liand, the time, the place,
that wrote upon the page of history the foulest blot that
page has ever borne.

'Tis well the dying Master on the cross plead, in his pity-
ing love, for the children of perdition. Our lips are too
iinchristlike, face to faci^ with such an act as this, to say
amen for the prayer of mercy on this wretch.

In view of the special infamy which time, circumstance,
and person all so fearfully aggravate, permit me here to
speak my deep conviction that this act, however fatally we
know it is the work of plot and rebellion, still cannot be, for
the honor of humanity, the organized act of any great section
of the land we call American. I cannot believe it the work

of South, North, West, the common enemy, or even a foreign
foe. The act of a demon scarcely suffices to brand a whole
humanity ; and we should pause long ere we accept, as con-
clusive, evidence to show that a knot of inliuman serpents
wealing tlie shape of men, or a coil of conspirators doing
the deeds of demons, should represent the country of our
birth and manhood. Of this I shall speak, more hereafter,
but having entered my protest against the belief tliat an
enemy w^e once called brother, still Americans, an ! always
mrn^ could have wrought the deed which none but earth's
Cains are capable of doing. I propose to extract whatever
remains of use or instruction in this hour of gloom by trac-
ing, as we may, the deep, mysterious purposes of God dis-
closed in this solemn lesson. Fiist, then, we are called upon
to review the noble teaching in our lost friend's history ;
next, to scrutinize the deed which closed it ; and then deter-
mine what the trumpet-voice of this dread hour demands of
us as dutij.

I cannot think it is out of place to-day to retrace " those
shining foot-prints on the sands of time" which he we mourn
has lett behind him, although they are, as they justly should
be, already household words among the people of his love.

Now, will you deem it less in order that I should pre-
sume to be your memento of this sacred page? Month after
month it has seemed my special ins[>iration to call upon the
people, whom it was my privilege to ad Iress, to study out
and comprehend the acts of him whom I iAt and named as
the true " Preserver of his Country."

Scarcely ten days have passed since these walls re-echoed
to the gallant cheer that hailed ray voice when I told you
of the sterling worth, the loyal faith, and providential wisdom
of this noble incarnation of earth's best republicanism — the
man of the people, the People's Abraham Lincoln. Some


of you heard me then, but none of you know that the high-
est hope that my ambition cherished was that some future day
should see me clasp his honest hand in mine, as the noblest
meed I ever could receive for unpaid and zealous service.
My hope is quenched, and the kind paternal hand is marble
now ; nor you nor I shall clasp it, until that day when we
stand with him " where the sun goes down no more ; where
the mourners cease to weep; and the just rejoice forever."

What a retrospect of a splendid career developed, if not
wholly fashioned, by the fostering sun of American repub-
licanism, does our great chief magistrate's history present us
■with ! Fifty-six years ago, and the lowsigh of the breeze stir-
ring the trees of old Kentucky,the song of the lonely woodbird^
and the chirp of the tenants of the wildest solitudes were the
natal songs that welcomed into life the child whose name has to
reverberate through the earth in the clariontonesof a world-
wide fame ; born to the inheritance of stern poverty and rude
toil, a log-cabin was his only shelter, the cathedral arches of
the green forest his baptismal roof, and the lonely stars and
voiceless flowers, the backwoodsman father and humble
mother, his only friends and teachers ; and yet we trace the
germs of Nature's truest nobility unfolding themselves in
every year of his faithful life; always the gcod and dutiful
child, the industrious little aid of the toiling father, the will-
ing little drudge of the patient mother.

At seven years he goes forth with the spelling-book, one
of the three volumes that constitute the family library. At
eight he learns the first dread lesson of slavery, namely, that
free white labor has no chance in competition with captive
black ; that the condition of a poor white laborer in a slave
State is more hopeless than the slave himself ; and hence him-
self and little household endure the toil and hardship of a
weary pioneer journey from Kentucky slavery and darkness,


to Indiana freedom and light. Remember, thus early did
Abraham Lincoln learn his first practical lessons of the cor-
rupting and festering influences of slavery. At ten years
old the little backwoodsman's boy, by industr}^ and (for
time and condition) most arduous study, had become the
wonder of the scattered population in which he dwelt for
his skill in reading, and his yet more astonishing faculty for
writing, only equaled by the kindness which urged him to
become the scribe of all who sought the good boy's service
in this humble way. At nineteen he is the Mississippi boat-
man, intrusted with wealth and others' welfare, honored and
sought for himself and his honest manhood.

At twenty -one he first set foot in that Illinois whose
proudest boast to-day is to call him hers. Here he makes
his father's home, helps build his house, and fence his farm,
and immortalized that humble form of labor wiiich renders
the title of the " raU-splitter^^ a patent of America's nobility.
From this we trace him from his final exodus from the pater,
rial roof, now the hired farm hand, the clerk in the
petty store, the agent, buyer, scribe, postmaster, captain
in the Black Hawk war, surveyor, lawyer, legislator, but
ever the same, good, self-made, self-taught, toiling, honest,
truthful, studious man. O earthly potentates ! proud Euro-
pean princes! fortune's favored children! how would you
smile to be bid to school in the forest log-hut ; to study the
ragged page of one single volume ; to learn of the teachers
grinding poverty and toil, and prepare for a rule more large,
more onerous and high in import, than Asia or Europe's
greatest monarchs know in the farmer's barn, the boat-
man's raft, the village store, or the poor clerk's office !
Bright, beautiful, and just republicanism, thou knowest
thy kings, and never can mistake thy princes ! And in every
step of this great magic ladder cut by his hands, erected by


his indiistiy, and trod by the unwearying feet of good
Abraham Lincohi. thou didst determine that the lowest
round of that ladder, the people's ladder, the ladder of
Nature's royalty and God's nobility, wis filly placed in the
old Kentucky woods, the last and highest in the New World's
presidential mansion.

Don't you remember, you who are familiar with this won-
derful page of human liistory, how nobly and skillfully the
kind young lawyer used one of his first exercises in his sub-
tle profession for the saving of tliat precious boon of life
\\'hich has been so savagely wrung from him.
Oh, how the heart aches at the fearful contrast !
Young Armstrong, the son of a poor widow, who had once
been kind to the boy Lincoln, stood arraigned on the charge
of murder, in danger of his life.

The young lawyer Lincoln, never forgetful of the least of
kindnesses, came forward in the hour of the widow's desola-
tion and her son's dire need, and, without the least expecta-
tion of other reward than the applause of his noble heart,
tendered his service to the wretched pair. They say, on the
day of the trial he promised the widow he would give her
back her son to life and freedom "before the sun went
down." By the keen pe:ception of his lucid mind to per-
ceive his client's innocence, aided by genius, skill, and elo-
quence to prove it, he kept his word, and, with the last
lingering rays of the setting sun gilding his noble brow, he
bestowed on the widow her son, " her only son," restored
by him to life and light and liberty. Such was the youth's
career; the statesman's is public history — the history of that
mighty struggle in which the noble heart of the man and
the clear head of the politician became both alike so remark-
ably distinguished.

The most prominent and renowned evidence of this is


found in his famous senatorial contest vvitli Judge Douglas.
No one can fait to perceive, from the entire tenor of Mr.
Lincoln's remarkable life, that he fully understood and com-
pletely loathed the monstrous blot that had crept into the
national legislation in the form of legalized slavery.

He was its o^jen and avowed enemy, ever voting in his
place, whenever occasion served, against its extension in any
form ; the contest I have alludeLl to, enabled liim to bring all
the powers of his acute and logical mind and forcible nervous
oratory, to bear on the monstrous evil of its extension into
the Territories, or the perpiituation of the gigantic wrong in
any form outside of its then existing State limits. And yet,
despite the unequivocal opposition which he maintained so
constantly to the character, political influence, and destructive
nature of this suicidal institution, we find Mr. Lincoln just
as firm in his defense of that State-right sovereignty which
granted the constitutional privilege of retaining slavery in
each State's precinct unrestrained by the interference of the
central government. I do not propose in this place to dis-
cuss the vexed problem of the just equilibrium to be attained
between the powers of the States as petty sovereignties and
the central government as a whole. I notice the subject
here to point to the fact, that while the known beneficence
and wisdom of Mr. Lincoln's character inclined us to expect
of him an uncompromising war on slavery, by wiiat I believe
to be the providential character of his mind, anticipating the
irrepressible conflict in which the nation's life was yet to be
involved, he was ever led to refuse his sanction to a single
act, by which (as we now perceive) in after years the rebel-
lious South couldjiave founded a plea upon, to excuse their
base secession.

That rash and hasty zeal that would have hurried the
nation's Chief Magistrate into acts which ignored the letter

— ^i" lM*Ui.

* 7Twy

-!.-.i_r:"~ 1


vast and oiomentoas issues, where are the acts or words,
the noble State papers, brilliant messages, or clear and
UDwaveriog deeds of Abraham Lincoln ever fonnd at fault ?
I answer, boldly challenging earth's statesmen to disprove
my words — not in one single instamce!

' There's not a statesman of ths age bat might read a les-
son in the firm and lofty dignity of tone in which the na-
tion's status was defined, aye, and maintained, too, in all his
foreign messaffes and ministerial instructions. When dark,
impending ruhi shook the earth beneath his feer, where will
you find the evidence of we ikness in one angle word to any
foreisn power ? Where one joi of yielding of the nation's
undivi le<l dignity ? Where one base concession to the des-
pot's aim to force him to subniission through the country's
real internal weakness t He took with the tiath of office
the nation's weal or woe upon his shoulders ; wore it as a
mantle ; girdled it about his towering form with his heart-
strinss ; a^nd wraps it now around the lifeless ruin of bis still
and pulseless heart as a windir g-sheet of glory. To him you
owe it that the name and dignity of the still united States
towered like a monitor above the wreck and ruin, so high
and grand and threatening, that no hand but an armed Am-
erican's dare rise in presumptuous threat against the Srars
and Stripes. One of the noblest State papers that the re-
cords of any narion can show is, to my thinking, to be found
in Mr. Lincoln's first inaugural address to this nation. Tnere
the entire question of the Protean Problem— Slavery— in cod-
necriou with its legalized existence in the States as guaran-
teed bv the Consritution, is fairiy and fully laid out, the
suicidal character of secession unvailed, and the magnificent
projumions of a united American republicanism grandly
depicted. A mind capable of analyzing with such irresistible
a-id clear deductions the entangled meshes of treason in which


the nation's life was involved, never could fail in steering the
ship of State through all the shoals and reefs in which she
was subsequently to struggle for the port ot safety. The
prescient wisdom of the many great statesmen who had pre-
ce.led him seemed to culminate in his simple yet lucid defi-
nition of the nation's situation, in a speech made by him, as
early as 1S5S, on the occasion of his nomination as candi-
date for senator in Illinois, when he says : " A house divided
against itself cannot stand ; I believe this government
cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do
not expect the Union to be dissolved ; I do not ex-
pect the house to fall ; but I do expect it will ceaie to be
divided. It will become all one thing or all the other."
These and many other such utterances of his public life
conclusively prove not only his perfect understanding of the
vexed questions that were agitating the land, but also give
the key to that policy which his opponents have so olten
and so rashly denounced as "time-serving," but which now
looms up as the {)rovidential wisdom which not only foresees,
but knows Uow to await the ripening of the proper time for
action. And when that time came, was Mr. Lincoln slow,
fearful, or disobedient to '' the higher law" that ever ruled
his life in availing himself of it? I allude to the enuncia-
tion of the immortal proclamation of emancipation, the deed
which, beyond all others of his life, crowns him with eternal
honor, and will hand his name down to an immortal glory
through all posterity. Up to the end of the first, three
years ot the war Mr. Lincoln had robbed the rebellious foe
of every shadow of plea against his administration by a
guard over the very rights they had forfeited, as jealous as
themselves could have exercised, retaining by his wise policy
the strength of the vacillating western and border States
still attached to the Union.


Assailed by unwise friends and bitter foes, with taunts and
revilings on every hand, still he moved not ; but when the
crisis came in which the nation's life was balanced against
protective southern policy, how long did the noble statesman
hesitate ? The cry of the discontented and disloyal raised
its accustomed wail against freedom and howled out
" abolitionism ;" but above the murmur of the storm arose
in his ear the grand Mosaic cry of " Let my people go ! "
and although that voice has been thundering down the
ages, and a burning bush and a fire-crowned Sinai has
flashed before the eyes of despots in every century of time,
whenever God's oppressed and captive people cried to Him
for deliverance, three thousand years has seen that awful
charge held disregarded, mocked, and spit upon, until good
Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, proclaimed it in " Liberty
throughout the land, to every inhabitant thereof!" God
bless him for it !

I was present in San Francisco one year after this memor-
able deed, and, in company with the only other white orator
who could be found to take part on such an occasion,
helped the enfranchised race to honor the glorious anniver-

The memory of the sable martyrs that had perished at

Port H udson and Fort Pillow was still green in memory ;

they told of the black regiments, formed of men whose

ancestors' unpaid toil had made the country rich, whose

backs were still seamed with lashes, and whose limbs still

gashed with the mark of fetters, but whose freed lives were

now devoted to the salvation of the land that had enslav-3d

them. These pictures were vividly portrayed in strains of

their own peculiar, wild, and touching eloquence ; but all was

forgotten, all forgiven when the name of their modern


Online LibraryEmma Hardinge BrittenThe great funeral oration on Abraham Lincoln → online text (page 1 of 2)