Hiram Sears.

The people's keepsake; or, Funeral address on the death of Abraham Lincoln ... with the principal incidents of his life online

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Online LibraryHiram SearsThe people's keepsake; or, Funeral address on the death of Abraham Lincoln ... with the principal incidents of his life → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1805,


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern
District of Illinois.




"Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day
in Israel?'' 2 Samuel iii, 38.

fOW inscrutable are the ways of Divine Providence !
How incomprehensible his majestic plans and pur-
poses ! Although inscrutable to us, they are nevertheless
for the best, upon the- whole. Why the good and great of
earth should be so frequently taken away in their years
of usefulness, and the depraved and vicious left to vex and
torment society with their diabolical plots and practices, we
can not tell. But we are sure that the God of infinite
benevolence and power will make even the wrath of man
to praise him, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain.
His purposes will yet be accomplished. Our finite minds
may not comprehend them, but they are all perfectly known
to Him who sees the end from the beginning. Though they
appear to us to move slowly, yet they are ever going for-
ward to their completion. Guizot, one of the first French
Protestant writers, says on this subject, that " Providence
moves through time as the gods of Homer through space —
it makes a step, and ages have rolled away." We must not
grow impatient, therefore. We must not complain that the
great thread of events, now unwinding from the reel of
God's providence, runs off too slowly. The significant hand
upon the dial of time is working round, and a just and
righteous retribution is awaiting the enemies of human prog-
ress and truth throughout the world. Though the one we
recognized as the Chief Magistrate of our nation and the



flower of our Israel has been suddenly and ruthlessly stricken
down, yet God rules and reigns, and will forever reign.

To-day our nation is in mourning. The world resounds
with the fall of its mighty chieftain. Our whole land is
filled with lamentations of no ordinary character. The wail
has gone up from every loyal house and home from the lakes
to the gulf, and from ocean to ocean. In this vast funeral
dirge which the nation chants over her mighty dead, all
loyal hearts and voices are inseparably joined. In this
great national mourning it is meet and proper for all ranks,
sexes, and conditions to take a part. Let the officers of the
General Government, the heads of all departments, the
generals and commodores in our army and navy, join with
the soldier, sailor, citizen, and freedman, and give vent to
their inconsolable grief in a fit and becoming manner. And
let the widow, the orphan, the matron, and the blushing
maid all mingle their sobs and tears at the shrine of public
sorrow. We need not tell you the sad and fearful import
of these sable weeds around us to-day; nor need we com-
ment upon the tears you have already shed in this time of
public lamentation. All know too Avell the cause of this
funeral occasion, and will join with us in swelling the gen-
eral deluge of grief which has burst upon our country.
For "there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in"
our common "Israel."

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United
States, the subject of our remarks to-day, was born in Har-
din county, Kentucky, February 12, 1809. In Mr. Lin-
coln's boyhood his father, Thomas Lincoln, emigrated with
his family to the State of Indiana, where he spent a number
of years, and from thence he removed to Illinois. He set-
tled near Decatur, where his late distinguished son won for
himself the conspicuous and enviable name among the indus-
trial classes of "rail-splitter." Though a young man well
grown up, he determined not to leave his father and set up
for himself in the world till he had seen him and his family



comfortably settled in their new home, a good farm opened,
and -well secured by a fence, the material of which ho pre-
pared with his own industrious hands. Like many others
of his times in the West, Mr. Lincoln had to overcome the
embarrassments of a meager early education by close and
untiring application and study after he had become a man.
How nobly he accomplished this his various successes in
subsequent life will fully prove. If the sources from which
we derive our information be correct, it would seem that
throughout his life Mr. Lincoln was a most stirring and
laborious man.

In 1832 he was elected captain in a volunteer company,
and served his country as such in the Blackhawk war.

In 1834 he was sent by his constituents to the Legislature
of his State.

In 1836 he obtained license in the profession of the law.
In 1837 he removed to Springfield, the capital of the
State, and made it the place of his general residence there-
after, and his family. Mr. Lincoln served several terms in
the Illinois Legislature, where he became acquainted with
the late lamented Stephen A. Douglas.

In 1817 Mr. Lincoln first took his seat in Congress. In
politics he was an old-line Whig, and became an able advo-
cate and defender of the jreneral doctrines of that once great
and powerful party. Whenever the subject of slavery came
up in Congress in the form of petitions, motions, or public
debates, he always paid a profound deference to the princi-
ples of human liberty. His great and good heart was too
soft to support the barbarities of slavery, and his ear Avas
too delicate to hear the clankings of its merciless chains.
He became, therefore, a warm and vigorous supporter of the
Wilmot Proviso in all territorial questions, a noble defender -
of the right of petition on the slavery question, and an able
advocate for the abolition of slavery in the District of
Columbia, and of the infamous slave-trade throughout the




In 1848 Mr. Lincoln was elected a member of the Na-
tional Convention, held in Philadelphia, which nominated
General Taylor for President.

In 1854 the famous Kansas-Nebraska Bill, by which the
Missouri Compromise was abolished, was introduced into
Congress by Mr. Douglas, and was finally passed. This gave
rise to long and heated debates all over the country. Mr.
Lincoln joined issue with Mr. Douglas upon the precedent
and principles involved in that celebrated bill, and met him
at Springfield and Peoria in public debate.

Meanwhile the slavery question gave rise to the organiza-
tion of the Republican party; not that the party ever in-
tended to interfere with slavery in the Southern States, but
simply to check the vaunting claims of the pro-slavery party,
that it was a national institution, and that the Constitution
defended them in their rights of human property any where
within the territories of the General Government.

In 18-56 Mr. Lincoln stood next to Mr. Dayton for the
Vice-Presidency, in the Republican Convention, held at

In 1858 he was nominated by the Republicans, in their
State Convention at Springfield, as a candidate for the
United States Senate. This gave rise to those, seven great
tournaments of public debate between himself and Mr. Dou-
glas, which added much to his popularity, and secured him a
handsome majority over Mr. Douglas in the popular vote,
though Mr. Douglas siained his re-election to the Senate
finally by the vote of the Legislature.

In the Spring of 1860 Mr. Lincoln was nominated, by the
Republican National Convention, held at Chicago, for the
Presidency of the United States, and was duly elected at the
subsequent Fall elections.

It has been thought — and the opinion is not easy to con-
trovert — that the pro-slavery party at the South endeavored
to favor his election by dividing the Democratic party at
the Charleston Convention, so as to take advantage of his



promotion, and secure a pretext for an attempt to divide
the Union.

On March 4, 1861, Mr. Lincoln was sworn into office.
Never before had an American statesman to confront such
difficulties and dangers as he had. A plot had been laid for
his assassination. The life of General Scott was threatened
also, if he should attempt to defend his inauguration. The
tempest of sedition was already blowing. Most of the arms
and munitions for defense had been purposely transferred to
the South, by a Southern Secretary of War. The army had
been scattered to the four winds, and the navy to the ends
of the earth. Six of the slaveholding States had declared
themselves out of the Federal Union, and had set up for
themselves, under the name of the "Southern Confederacy,"
and had placed Mr. Davis at its head. But Mr. Lincoln did
not falter. In his inaugural address he placed himself
squarely in the gap, and proclaimed, "On earth peace, and
good-will toward men." "In your hands, my dissatisfied fel-
low-countrymen," said he, "and not in mine, is the moment-
ous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you.
You can have no conflict without being yourselves the ag-
gressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy
the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to
preserve, protect, and defend it. I am loth to close. We
are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.
Though passion may have strained, it must not break our
bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory, stretching
from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living
heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet
swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely
they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

Thus the great and good man thought, and thus he spoke.
And when it was announced that the inauguration was over,
the great General Scott, wiping the tears from his furrowed
cheeks, exclaimed, " Thank God ! we have a country and a
President !"




But the President soon found that the angry clouds were
sweeping up toward the zenith; and on the 12th day of
April they culminated into a storm, when Sumter shook
under the lightning shock and thundering roar of open and
defiant rebellion. Meanwhile the President had made up his
mind, in accordance with the oath he had taken to preserve
the Union, and so called out seventy-five thousand troops for
that purpose. This movement was seconded hy a host of
compatriots, who rallied nobly around him from all political
parties in the country. Mr. Douglas, the world-renowned
champion of the Democratic party, though one of the unsuc-
cessful competitors in the late Presidential campaign, had,
up to the time of the unprovoked assault upon Fort Sumter,
hoped for peace, but was now one of the first to stand up in
the great national awakening. He came forward, in the
spirit of patriotism and enthusiasm, to the support of the
Administration and the Government: and, hurrying home to
Illinois, he gave the people the reflections of his gigantic
mind and the best advices of his glowing heart. " That the
present danger is imminent," said he, " no man can conceal.
If war must come, if the bayonet must be used to maintain
the Constitution, I can say, before God, that my conscience
is clear." " What cause, what excuse do disunionists give
us for breaking up the best government on which the sun
of heaven ever shed its rays? They are dissatisfied with
the result of a Presidential election. Did they never get
beaten before ? Are we to resort to the sword when Ave get
defeated at the ballot-box? I understand it that the voice
of the people, expressed in the mode appointed by the Con-
stitution, must command the obedience of every citizen.
They assume, on the election of a particular candidate, that
their rights are not safe in the Union. What evidence do
they present of this? I defy any man to show any act on
which it is based. What act has been omitted to be done ?
I appeal to these assembled thousands that, so far as the
constitutional rights of the Southern States — I will say the





constitutional rights of slaveholders — are concerned, nothing
has been done and nothing omitted of which they can com-
plain." " There has never been a time, from the day that
Washington was inaugurated first President of these United
States, when the rights of the Southern States stood firmer
under the laws of the land than they do now; there never
was a time when they had not as good a cause for disunion
as they have to-day."

" The slavery question is a mere excuse ; the election of
Lincoln is a mere pretext. The present secession movement
is the result of an enormous conspiracy, formed more than a
year since — formed by leaders in the Southern Confederacy
more than twelve months ago." "But this is no time for a
detail of causes. The conspiracy is now known. Armies
have been raised ; war has been levied to accomplish it.
There are only two sides to the question. Every man must
be for the United States or against it. There can be no
neutrals in this war — only patriots and traitors."

But before Mr. Douglas had uttered these glowing truths
at Chicago, he had thundered them into the ears of the Leg-
islature at Springfield, in which he rose to the very climax
of majestic statesmanship and eloquence. " Whenever,"
said he, " our Government is assailed, when hostile armies
are marching under new and odious banners against the
Government of our country, the shortest way to peace is the
most stupendous and unanimous preparation for war. The
greater the unanimity the less blood will be shed. The more
prompt and energetic the movement, and the more imposing
in numbers, the shorter will be the struo^le."

I need not stop to give you in detail the stupendous
and unprecedented difficulties which still surrounded the
President. The whole machinery of the civil Government
required his prompt and indefatigable attention. Appoint-
ments to the various offices at home were yet to be made by
thousands. Ministers and consuls were to be dispatched to
foreign governments. The army was still to be increased




beyond all precedent, and to be furnished with commissary
stores, arms, and transportation. The numbers in the navy
were to be doubled, or perhaps quadrupled, and vessels fitted
out in numbers and magnitude equal to the occasion. The
mind staggers under the contemplation of his countless
duties and obligations. But you all remember how nobly
he stood up for his country.

Still his great heart ever yearned for his deluded enemies,
and while he pressed on heroically to meet the mighty strug-
gle which their vaunting ambition had inaugurated, he always
held out to them the olive-branch of peace.

It is a historical fact that nearly four years of unprece-
dented war, pressed on with vigor, but with that clemency
which is the characteristic of a great and unsullied mind,
brought the country around to another Presidential cam-
paign. Mr. Lincoln's course had been marked with calm-
ness, moderation, fortitude, and patriotism, which amounted
to moral heroism. Under his administration our country had
prospered, notwithstanding the general embarrassments of a
gigantic civil war. Our army and navy were crowned with
unprecedented triumphs and universal glory. The wily foes
of our country, both North and South, were being fast sub-
dued. Our relation with foreign powers had been marked
with friendship and cordiality, and our commerce still com-
manded the attention of the world. All these things made a
powerful appeal to the hearts of his countrymen, and richly
did they repay him with the honor of a second election to
office by overwhelming majorities, before unknown in the
annals of American history.

But before the President had taken his seat in his second
term of office, another deep, diabolical, and deadly plot was
laid by conspirators for his assassination. And in less than
six weeks from the time of his late inauguration he was shot
down in cold blood by the fiendish assassin, in the very heart
of the nation's capital. My God ! has it come to this ?
Have we sunk so prematurely to the level of the heathen?




Is there no security for human life among us ? Must the
infamous crime of the most unprovoked and fiendish mur-
der of our President be added to the insults and injuries
imposed upon our country's yeomanry ? Must the very
pillars of our General Government be hewn down by the
foul hand of traitors and assassins, and the joy of an
exultant people at the very dawn of returning peace, and
the peans of victory over a conquered and scattered enemy,
be so suddenly exchanged for the wail of unspeakable an-
guish and the funeral dirge of their martyred President and
friend ? " Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets
of Askelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest
the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph."

God, have mercy upon us ! May the disconsolate widow
and orphans of his family receive His sovereign smiles and
blessings ! and may He ever comfort the crushed and sor-
rowful hearts of all who have been called to mourn the loss
of husbands, brothers, and friends in this patriotic struo-o-l e
for the preservation of the Union and the protection of our
homes !

We come now to notice the characteristics of the great
American statesman, from several interesting stand-points.

Mr. Lincoln was emphatically a national man and a
patriot. The constant devotion of his energies for pre-
serving the life of the nation throughout this sanguinary
struggle appears to have been the one great purpose of his
Administration. His heart was too large to love a General
Government less comprehensive than his whole country.
We can confidently say that to no man of any age was there
ever intrusted greater interests and responsibilities, and that
no man was ever better calculated to dispose of them in a
manner every way creditable to himself, honorable to his
country, and agreeable to the general sense of mankind.
No man elected to the Presidency since the days of Wash-
ington ever had such a hold upon the hearts and affections
of the people, or was able to gather around him a brighter





constellation of civil and military officers. When standing
at the helm of state, hie party feelings, if any he had,
melted away into a noble patriotism, as quenchless and
refulgent as the light of yonder sun. At his call the masses
rose, in their majesty and might, to crush the hydra of
rebellion, which was breathing out fire and death. And, by
watchful days of anxious toil and wakeful nights of reflection
and care, he taught the people a lesson which should have
been learned before, that "eternal vigilance is the price of

Mr. Lincoln was a moral man. As to his character, built
upon the moral sentiments, he stands confessedly, in the eyes
of all parties, unimpeachable. He was free from all those
weak and vicious traits which go to make a bad man. He
was as proverbial for his honesty as Aristides, the celebrated
Athenian statesman, was for his justice. His sayings, like
the axioms of mathematics, needed no proof, but gained at
once the assent of the public mind. And his whole life
was marked with temperance, industry, and hospitality. In
many acts of his Administration he may have erred, yet he
was doubtless as honest and sincere in his convictions of
duty as he was firm and unyielding in the execution of them.
If he erred at all, it was on the side of mercy. It seemed
to us sometimes that we were infinitely more endangered by
the characteristic kindness of his loving heart than we were
by any weakness or error of his head.

Mr. Lincoln was a benevolent man. What Chief Exec-
utive of the nation had ever distributed so lavishly the public
and lucrative offices of the Government among his political
opponents before ? What rebel prisoner, condemned to death
by the inexorable laws of war, ever failed to reach his sym-
pathy and secure his pardon, who appealed to his clemency?
What heart of wife or mother was not gladdened by his
smiles and beneficence when he had heard its tale of sorrow ?
Even the reckless deserter from his post in the army Avas
melted to tears by his tenderness, and at his appeals went





1 o

back like a man to -win glory for himself and an honorable
name for his posterity

Aside from these noble traits of character, there were
three things for which President Lincoln was deservedly
noticeable, and will render him renowned throughout the
civilized world. The first was the sanctity of his proclama-
tions, in the appointment of public days for national humil-
iation and thanksgiving. His proclamations were always
orthodox in sentiment and profoundly religious. The second
was the wisdom, benevolence, and statesmanship he mani-
fested in issuing his great proclamation of freedom. There
are still some opposers of this policy, even in the Church of
God. But, we must say, by this one act he has accomplished
more good than thousands and tens of thousands of such
persons will accomplish in all their lives. And eternity
alone can tell the glorious results of this truly-beneficent
and morally-sublime act. The third great thing of which we
wish to speak was the giving his heart to God. In early life
he is said to have been skeptical, but not so in his after
years. We have not had a President since the days of
Washington who, in his public walks, seemed to have a
better appreciation of this particular Scripture than himself:
"In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy
paths." Upon leaving Springfield for the City of AVashing-
ton, he said to those who accompanied him to the cars :

'•My friends, no one not in my position can appreciate the
sadness 1 feel at this parting. To this people I owe all that
I am. Here I have lived more than a quarter of a century;
here my children were born, and here one of them lies
buried. I know not how soon I shall see you again. A
duty devolves upon me which is perhaps greater than that
which has devolved upon any other man since the days of
Washington. He never would have succeeded except for the
aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied.
I feel that I can not succeed without the same Divine aid
which sustained him, and on the same Almighty Being I




place my reliance for support ; and I hope you, my friends,
will all pray that I may receive that Divine assistance with-
out which I can not succeed, but with which success is

It is said, upon the authority of the best public prints,
that the President confessed that, after the loss of his son at
"Washington, his mind underwent a great change on the sub-
ject of religion ; that upon visiting the battle-field of Get-
tysburg he gave himself up to God, and that with tearful
eyes he professed to love the blessed and ever-adorable
Jesus. The previous acknowledgments of the existence and
providence of the Divine Being, the subsequent exhibition
of a noble Christian spirit, and his settled habits of daily
communion with his God in prayer of late, establish the
above statements beyond doubt or controversy.

Standing like some venerable patriarch among the Chris-
tian denominations of the country, he once said, "Blessed
be God, who, in this our great trial, giveth us the Churches !"
And at another time, "God is my witness that it has been
my constant anxiety and prayer that both myself and this
nation should be on the Lord's side."

An extract from his late inaugural address will also throAv
light upon this pleasing subject, and strengthen our con-
fidence in his Christian integrity :

" Woe unto the world," says he, quoting from the Great
Teacher, " because of oifenses, for it must needs be that


Online LibraryHiram SearsThe people's keepsake; or, Funeral address on the death of Abraham Lincoln ... with the principal incidents of his life → online text (page 1 of 2)