Francis Le Baron Robbins.

A discourse on the death of Abraham Lincoln online

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Nos. 1102 and 1104 Sansom Street.





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Nos. 1102 and 1104 Sansom Street.




What a contrast ! How strange and startling the
vicissitudes of human life !

A few weeks since, President Lincoln, for the second
time, stood on the steps of the Capitol at Washington,
to be re-invested with power and dominion over this
vast empire.

He had been tried and was found faithful. He had
been re-elected by overwhelming majorities, and on the
fourth of March last he received and took the oath of of-
fice, amidst the homage of millions of rejoicing citizens.
Under the brightest auspices he entered upon his
second term of office. The clouds of war were roll-
ing away. The golden rays of the sun of peace
were beginning to be seen and felt. Men comforted
and congratulated themselves, and each other, saying,
The era of wild war is passing; the reign of peace
and prosperity is at hand. Everywhere, victories upon
victories were being piled up, and rebellion was going
down before the resistless march of our armies.


Soon came the news, stirring in its very depths the
the mighty heart of the nation, and causing the Repub-
lic to rock, and heave, and sway, by reason of its pro-
found emotions of joy and gratitude — "Richmond is
taken !" Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, for
the hour of her judgment is come, and her princes and
they who were made rich by reason of their merchan-
dise of " slaves and souls of men," stand afar off weep-
ing and wailing for fear of her torment, saying,
Alas ! alas that strong city, for in one hour is she de-
serted and made desolate !

Then came the news — swift succeeding — " Lee has
surrendered !" — the power that so long defied the Union
armies is shivered at last — rebellion is crushed — the
Union is saved — authority and law, justice and freedom
are triumphant !

We were wild with excitement — delirious with joy.
Probably the sun never shone upon a more intensely ju-
bilant, self-confident people. Noio, we said, is it proven
that our Government will stand like the everlasting;
mountains. Noiv, is it demonstrated that our Republic,
though rocked on the earthquake of internal treason, or
assailed by external combinations of hostile power, can-
not be subverted or overthrown, for the might of Omni-
potence is in the just principles upon which it is based.
JYoiv, let Despotism tremble on its iron throne, for there
is contagion in the example of Freedom, contending for
existence, offering its best blood in sacrifice, and at

length emerging from the long and bloody struggle, tri-
umphant over the old spirit of caste, the spirit of slavery,
fell and fiendish, the spirit of oppression and wrong,
and rising in a cloudless sky, glorious and resistless as
the sun in its path of fiery splendor.

But alas, alas ! while these grand anticipations for the
future of our Republic remain to us — while, indeed,
under that mysterious Providence which rules our human
affairs, the hearts of millions have been drawn together,
and the nation has been made mightier in its power to
hate the spirit of treason, and to hate Slavery, its ac-
cursed mother ; while millions have been led to swear by
the Eternal, never to consent to any re-adjustment until
every vestige of this inhumanity is swept away forever,
under the influence of this unutterable sorrow — how
changed is the mood and the posture of this nation !
Let there be no more ringing of bells — no processions
and illuminations in honor of victories — no mirth and
feasting, and revelry and hilarity. All over the land
for these past eight days there has rested the cloud of
gloom, and the thick clouds of the nation's infinite grief,
and our thrilling wail of sorrow has been increasingly
ascending to Him — God over all immortal, eternal, invi-
sible, and blessed forever — " in whose hands our breath
is, and whose are all our ways."

" Our feasts have been turned into mourning, and all
our songs into lamentation ; sackcloth was brought upon
all loins and baldness upon every head ; our sun has gone

down at noon ; we are made to mourn as for an only
son, and the end thereof as a bitter day."

Humanity has lost a lover. Freedom has lost a
mighty champion. The poor slave has lost his true
friend and deliverer — but, thank God, not his deliver-
ance. Abraham Lincoln did his work well, and when
he gave to the wings of the wind the immortal procla-
mation of emancipation, he spake words which can never
be recalled, and proclaimed a fiat of destiny which can
never be annulled; he sent forth an influence which
shall work on and on through the agencies of war and of
statesmanship, nor cease, until not a slave in all our vast
domain can be found.

Who, now that America's pure patriot and just ruler
has hallowed the act of emancipation by his most pre-
cious blood, securing thus the permanence of his work,
and the immortality of his fame, will dare to say aught
in opposition to emancipation, or in extenuation of
slavery and treason — one and the same — which mur-
dered him ? And not alone in this land and among con-
tiguous peoples, will the influence of this calamity be
felt, but in far off lands, wherever men are oppressed
and sigh for freedom ; wherever men work or wait in
hope, looking for a political regeneration ; wherever men
— and there be many such among the nations of the old
Continent — have been anxiously looking upon our strug-
gle and have felt for us true sympathy ; there will be
felt unfeigned emotions of sorrow, and inexpressible ab-


horrence of the crime which has smitten down the man ,
the philanthropist, the emancipationist, the patriot, the
incorruptible ruler, whom they with us had learned to
love and reverence as the man raised up by God to
achieve the redemption of the liberties of mankind.

To-clay, this night, we have all that remains of our
murdered President among us, and it seems befitting to
consecrate this evening hour to meditation upon the
character and virtues and services of the man gone from
us to God, and his reward. Indeed, until the last fu-
neral rites have been performed, and these remains are
entombed in the church-yard at Springfield, there to
await the resurrection morning, other feelings and other
thoughts will be excluded from the heart of this great
nation, and the people will continue to give themselves
up to tears and suffocating emotions.

Perhaps I can say nothing that has not already been
well said ; but it is a relief to our oppressed and wounded
feelings to meet together and tell each other how
much we loved Abraham Lincoln ; just as affectionate
children incline to come together and talk over the
goodness and virtues of a beloved father, after his de-
cease, speaking with loving charity of his traits, and re-
calling with fondness remote and almost forgotten, or
of recent and familiar incidents in his life.

It is remarkable to notice how personal is the feeling
we have, and how grievously the late President is
mourned, as if indeed he were the real father of all the


people. Never was a man carried to his grave ainid
such universal and profound grief. Why is this so ? Is
it because the best and most capacious intellect has
passed away ? no ! And yet Mr. Lincoln was a man
of marked intellectual traits and vigor ; not narrow, cer-
tainly, if not capacious and colossal in power of brain.
Is it because we fear a revolution? In other coun-
tries the assassination of the monarch would be the sig-
nal for a revolution. But our system of government is
such, that upon the removal of the Chief Magistrate
there is no revolution, no friction, no jar ; the scheme of
government and the order of society move on, undis-

Indeed, our Government never was so firm, our insti-
tutions never were so rooted and grounded in the hearts
of the people as since the murder of Mr. Lincoln; for
under the good providence of God, it seems that this
last baptism of blood and tears is destined to inspire the
hearts and nerve the arms of our citizens, and concen-
trate and consolidate and intensify their love and de-
votion for the republic. Indeed, the blood of Abraham
Lincoln seems destined to be the cement which is to fas-
ten in its place the keystone of the arch of the restored,
and henceforth indissoluble Union.

Why, then, was this man so tenderly loved ? and why
is there such touching, pathetic, universal grief over his
death ?

The people loved him because he was a man of blame-


less life ; of an elevated, transparent, firm character, and
of an affectionate, benign disposition. I will not weaken
commendation by giving utterance to indiscriminate
praise of Mr. Lincoln. If he was the perfect and match-
less man he is described to be in many of the eulogiums
which have been pronounced since his death ; if he was
so immeasurably removed in high superiority, and by
transcendent abilities above other men, the nation might
have been proud of him, but never would common
men — the millions — have felt that familiarity of friend-
ship which was so generally felt, or loved him with so
filial a love as they did.

Mr. Lincoln was not highly prominent for intellectual
abilities. He had not the grand imperial mind of a
Webster, nor the subtle, metaphysical, intense intellect
of a Calhoun, nor the splendid and ready powers and
eloquence of a Fox or a Chatham; and yet his intel-
lectual abilities were adequate to every occasion; in-
deed, they were such as seem to have admirably fitted
him for the work which he has so ably accomplished.

Where others with higher range and more profound
faculties might have failed, doubtless would have failed,
he has succeeded, guided by his matchless sagacity, and
prudence, and common sense, and native shrewdness.

His thoughts were his own; they were fresh and
original, and were clothed with a quaintness, a direct-
ness, a simplicity of style peculiar to himself.

The American mind is quick, rapid, eager, impatient of


slow and elaborate methods and processes; hence whatever
emanated from Mr. Lincoln's lips or pen was sure to en-
gross general attention, for it went directly to the root
of the matter. Everybody understood him ; and often
the most agreeable surprise has been expressed, when
others have darkened " counsel by words without know-
ledge," as a subject has opened, and a practical solution
of a perplexing question has been suggested in a few para-
graphs put in his clear, concise, forcible manner.

But Mr. Lincoln's greatness was not the greatness of
intellect, nor of genius, nor of eloquence, nor of place
and power. Like the illustrious Washington, he had no
pre-eminent quality. Like Washington, he was great
by reason of the moral heroism of his transcendent char-

His affections were pure and ardent, and in his heart
there was no guile. His temperament was emotional ;
his disposition was sweet and gentle as a woman's; his
sensibilities were quick and acute; his impulses were
warm and generous. He understood and felt in his in
most soul the worth of human nature, and the inalienable
rights of man. He felt for the poor and the oppressed,
and his ear was ever open to the voice of their pleadings.
As the great Emancipator of a doivn-trodden race, he zvill
go into history, and his name vnll be cherished and his
memory kept fragrant through the revolving centwies. For
these qualities men loved him. They were proud that he
was eminently a man of the people, and sprung from them.

1 o

He knew them and they knew him. They read his
character ; they knew his heart ; they understood him.

It may be that his work was done. Perhaps his death
was not untimely. Possibly, had he survived, his dis-
position would have inclined him to a too lenient policy
toward the leaders of this atrocious rebellion. It re-
mains to be seen what their course will be. I trust
and pray God that their hearts may be touched by
the influence of this last baptism of blood and sor-
row, and that with deep penitence they will throw them-
selves upon the clemency of the Government.

But if it shall be otherwise — if they stubbornly, sul-
lenly persist in cherishing and manifesting the spirit of
treason, making their motto to read, " Bound, but not
broken," then let the severities of immutable justice be
meted out to them : let them die the death. So let it
be, and may God have mercy upon their guilty souls.

Ah ! my friends, these are solemn words. But the
unspeakably vast interests of this Republic and of man-
kind may summon this Government to their fulfillment.
It may be that a man of sterner mood than the late
President is required in the high place which has been
so ably filled for over four years.

In any event the Republic will survive, and the new
President will receive the prayers and sympathies and
support of the people, while they will not forget to bow
down and thank God for the faithful services, the wis-
dom, the unostentatious goodness, and the Christian
heroism of Abraham Lincoln.


The deceased President, let me further add, was im-
measurably above the use of those methods and arts to
which men of inferior minds resort, to advertise them-
selves. He appeared to be all unconscious of himself.
He never aimed to seem to be, but to be what he seemed.
From centre to circumference his character was honest,
luminous, truthful. He spake just what he believed,
and believed just what he spake.

Was he a Christian man? I think he was. He
said, " I do love Jesus." I believe what he said. We
have it on unquestioned authority, that the first hour
of the morning he was accustomed to devote to
prayer and the reading of his Bible. I have myself
been profoundly impressed, hearing him give utterances
to the most devout sentiments in connection with the
issue of this war, that he was a man of prayer and reli-
gious faith.

All his State papers breathed the very spirit of reli-
gious reverence and trust, especially the later ones.
After he had promulgated the proclamation of emanci-
pation, he said to an eminent clergyman of New York,
"I did not think the people had been educated up to it;
yet I thought it was rigid to issue it, and I did it."
Here is an instance of his reliance on God, indicating
the spirit of true religion. His moral courage was such
as seldom appears save in conjunction with deep religious
faith, and the consciousness of soul integrity. From the
commencement to the close of his official career the ma-


lignant spirit of treason sought his life, and he knew it?
nevertheless he marched right forward in the path of
duty, not counting his life dear unto himself. He had
the faith in God, the reverent spirit, the firmness and
consistency of moral principle, the purity of heart and
character, the sweet and loving disposition, the Christ-
like quality of forbearance toward his enemies, which,
in our view, are only to be found in the character of a
man of God; and perhaps there is no better thing I can
wish for each of my audience than that when you come
to stand before God's judgment, it may be as well with
you as it is with him, and that your record may be as
clean, and your destiny as high for eternity as was his.

In deliberation Mr. Lincoln was not hasty, nor pre-
mature ; but when once he had taken his stand, he was
the last man to swerve from the course marked out for

Tender and benignant as was his disposition, his con-
duct was marked by unwavering fidelity to truth, jus-
tice, and right. If he deliberated well, and looked with
clear-eyed sagacity down to the bottom before he ven-
tured, there was no after hesitation, no quibbling, no
fear of consequences. He paid no lip service, no half
allegiance. What he believed he believed with all his
heart, and what he did he did from conscientiousness.
He was thus ever true to principle, and ever true to
himself, and I am constrained to believe, ever strove to
realize in his conduct and character, and official acts,


religious rectitude; and to exhibit, in conjunction with
his living, gushing sympathy for men, inflexible devotion
to truth, justice, and right.

Such were the character and virtues and services of
Abraham Lincoln.

In after times the American people will cherish his
memory as a precious legacy, nor will they suffer any
detraction from the merit of his character or his services.
His name and fame will be identified with all that is
great and glorious in the cause and principles for which
the people have made such immense sacrifices in this
great struggle, and to which he fell a martyr. May his
illumined spirit find eternal repose above the skies !

My friends, I have ceased to think and feel as I did.
At first I was inexpressibly shocked, appalled, de-
pressed. I said, is this so? Is the Chief Magistrate
of this nation murdered ? They have been trying for
four years to do the deed. Is it accomplished at last ?
Is he dead ? Are those dreamy eyes closed in death ?
Has that warm heart, that genial smile, that honest brain
passed away forever ?

I could not think at first of anything but the deed.
In vain I strove, as we all did, for words to express my
abhorrence of it. I could only think of Abraham Lin-
coln as a murdered man. But now I think of the glori-
ous spirit — of the immortal part — which malignity and
murder could not touch, — as garnered and glorious, and
eternally safe with God. He rises now before me in


vision, bright and beautiful as the star of the morning.
Immortality has now put its impress upon his goodness
and worth. My faith contemplates now only the image
from which death can efface nothing more. Henceforth
I shall think of him as numbered with the immortals,
sharing their communion and their joys.

And now what shall we say of the spirit which slew
him ? He was no tyrant. He did no wrong for which
he was worthy of death. In his great heart there was
pity even for traitors. He was their best friend; and

" He hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking off."

As for the spirit which slew him, let us hate it, and pray
God for more strength and more power and more inten-
sity and more capacity to hate it. I tell you, my friends,
it is the very spirit of hell. It is the very spirit that
long defeated public justice, debauched the conscience,
ruled in the halls of legislation, and sat on the bench of
the highest court in this land, perverting justice and
judgment. It is the very spirit which organized this
rebellion, and which has suggested and sanctioned its
atrocious wrongs. It is the dark spirit, invested with
the guilt of immeasurable crimes, the spirit of Slavery.
May, then, this spirit be cast down to everlasting death.
Standing together, heart speaking to heart, hand grasp-
ing hand, let us— and with us may the loyal millions—


swear to avenge the martyrdom of Abraham Lincoln,
by consenting to no terms of pacification, until the work,
so gloriously begun and carried forward by him, is com-
pleted; until treason is forever silenced, and slavery is for-
ever dead, and the Republic, regenerated and redeemed,
emerges from its long eclipse of darkness, "fair as the sun,
clear as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners."

As for the miscreant that did the deed of murder, the
brand of Cain's infamy is upon his brow — the eye of
Omniscience is upon him. He may possibly elude de-
tection, and baffle man's justice, — which is extremely
doubtful — but God's vengeance will follow him wherever
over the earth he wanders. There is no place of hiding,
no nook or corner or crevice in the universe where he
can escape the presence of Omnipotent Justice. " There
is no darkness, neither shadow of death, where he may
hide himself." For ever has he doomed himself to en-
dure the burning consciousness that he is a murderer.
Ten thousand years hence must he feel and know him-
self to be a guilty spirit — the murderer of the innocent
and just man.

What a doom and destiny is his ! In my soul I
pity this man of blood, and I pray God that he may
be overtaken by a sense of his guilt, surrender him-
self to justice, and apply to the infinite Saviour for
pardon, ere his soul pass into eternity.

Meantime the Republic lives, and will live forever.
The assassinating spirit that slew the man who, under God,


presided over the destinies of the nation, was, and is,
powerless to harm the life of the nation.

So far from producing terror; so far from causing di-
vided counsels, or inaugurating a reign of anarchy; the
deed of blood and murder has welded the people into an
inflexible purpose, and into a tremendous power, bent
upon accomplishing retributive justice. It has inclined
the nation to think and determine, less upon clemency
and more upon justice. There will be no concessions
now to the master spirits of rebellion. They have made
their self-destruction sure.

Meanwhile this Republic lives, and will live forever.
Our grand chief is slain, but our grand cause is trium-
phant. Men may die, but principles are immortal.
Though treason had struck down every member of the
cabinet, not a stone would have been misplaced or loos-
ened in the arch of our nationality.
Slavery has staked all and lost.
Liberty has won for itself an immortal existence.
Now let Republicanism, purer, better, stronger, holier,
through sacrifices and martyrdoms, lift up her head
among the family of nations.

Though our most eminent statesmen pass hence, and
the delegated head of the Government meet with sudden
and violent death, the Government itself cannot be over-
thrown ; for the foundations upon which it stands are
Liberty, Justice, and Equality; and neverwere thefriends.
of these so numerous, so determined, so devoted as now.


Thank God, there is no hatred malignant enough, and
no power strong enough to quench the nation's life, or
arrest its advancing destiny. Now let the influence of
Freedom go forth and encompass the earth. Now let
the star of our destiny rise on the world's horizon, bright
and beautiful, climbing higher and higher, until it at-
tracts the admiring gaze of distant nations, and becomes
the world's star of hope. May God speed the day; and
to Him be all the praise. Amen and amen!

And now shall I err, my friends, if I summon you —
in view of all that God is doing for us — in his most holy
name, to put away sin ; to put your trust in the infinite
Redeemer and devote your lives to his service ; to do
justice, walk in the light, and live for immortality ? God
has given us a fair land, and a noble Government. His
hand is holding us up in this great struggle, and crown-
ing our cause with victory. Here then and now, let us
gratefully consecrate ourselves to his service. May
none of us hesitate or falter in our allegiance to Heaven.
May every heart throb with gratitude for Divine bless-
ings. May every life be holy, and every lover of his
country be a lover of God and a follower of Jesus.
Here and now, let us offer prayers for our country, in-
voking the blessing of our covenant-keeping God, with
whom are the hidings of power, and the consolations of

May our country be Immanuel's possession, — a de-
lightsome land, exalted, as in privileges so in right-


eousness. May our rulers be men of God, and our
people be virtuous and good. God bless and save the
Republic !

. ^■- " »'»l»^.





Online LibraryFrancis Le Baron RobbinsA discourse on the death of Abraham Lincoln → online text (page 1 of 1)