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[Celebration of the 76th Birthday of Abraham Lincoln, under the auspices of the
Lincoln Association.


Ar>va<r ^7 . S c*rt?


On conferring its honors, the world does not
seem to have a universal standard of a great

It is equally positive that Socrates and Alexan-
der were great men. At the same time the qual-
ities, aims and deeds of these distinguished men
were different.

One calm and temperate ;. the other rash and

One radiant with philosophic thought; the other
blazing with mad ambition.

One humbly wooed the god of truth and love ;
the other proudly proclaimed himself the god of
battle and of worship.

Greatness may be likened to the pure and col-
orless light of the sun, which embodies in its
perfect organism, heat, motion, and every color.

What heat, motion and luminosity are to solar
light, intention, action and wisdom are to great-

Each is essential. It cannot be predicated of
intention more than of action, nor of action more
than of wisdom. It consists of the highest efforts
of all blended in perfect harmony.


Any change in the proportion detracts from its
perfection ; it is the same to-day as at the dawn
of creation.

Goodness is one of the indispensable qualities
of intention. The world has produced no great
man who has not been a good man. Good inten-
tions do not alone constitute a great man ; for if
that were so, John Brown, of Harper's Ferry, was
a great man, because his intention to J< let the
bond go free" was eminently good not less so
than the great liberator himself, in his immortal
act of emancipating the same class.

Abraham, the great patriarch, standing on the
summit of Mount Moriah, with uplifted blade,
fully resolved, by Heaven's commands, to sacrifice
his son Isaac, the chief support and joy of his
declining years, furnishes not a stronger nor more
truthful example of good intentions than the
Carthagenian mother who commits her offspring
to the flames, as a sacrifice to Saturn, with tear-
less eyes, and endeavors, with embraces and
kisses, to hush its cries lest they offend the deity
of her worship.

Good intentions, unguided by wisdom like un-
restricted flames, become elements of mischief
and of destruction.

Action has two meanings one the state of act-
ing, the other the effect of acting.

Action, in the first sense, without wisdom or
the guidance of wise laws, is chaotic, destructive

Repeal the law of attraction, and the infinite
systems of worlds of supernal grandeur spring
back to utter confusion.

Repeal the law of repulsion, and the universe re-
duces to a vanishing fraction or condenses to

Repeal the law of love, which embraces wisdom
and good intentions, and Apollyon is not more
terrible than man considered as the effect of the
act. Could greatness be measured simply by act,
or deed, or by the grandeur of their results,
King John, a trifler and a coward, would occupy
a central position in the galaxy of the great, for it
was his hand that executed the great title deed to
freedom, which has been copied into every free
constitution under the heavens. England may
rejoice with pride, with the copious and sublime
effects flowing from that act, as from a living
fountain. Magna Charta has done more for civ-
ilization and civil liberty more of real and sub-
stantial good for the human race than any other
instrument ever executed by the hand of po-

Wisdom without action, is as sottish as idiocy.

Wisdom unaided, the sirens had led Ulysses
and his companions into their fatal snares.

Troy had been impregnable and Polyphemus
had retained his sun-like eye, and still gorged on
human flesh.

Wisdom unaided, the magnificent temple of
Solomon had never crowned with its transcendent
splendors, the summit of Mount Moriah ; nor had
the still more wondrous and glorious monuments
of Solomon's greatness his proverbs and songs,
glowing with the ineffable light of inspiration, been
reared from earth to heaven, to illuminate the un-
derstanding, and fill the soul with ecstacy.

Wisdom unaided, the forces of nature had not
been tamed, the winds, now obedient to the will
of man, had wafted no commerce across the ocean
wave, the iron horse had not rejoiced in his
strength and fleetness, and the thunderbolts of
Jupiter had not been wrenched from his grasp
and transformed to lightning couriers, speeding
their course across continents and through the
trackless deep.

Wisdom without action is fruitless of effects, as
" faith is dead without works/'

Wisdom, with action alone, is serpent-like
both in secular and spiritual affairs it enables
man by means of deception, fraud and force, to
acquire an undue advantage and ascendant over
his fellows.

Pope tersely says :

" If Parts allure thee, think how Bacon slimed
The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind ;
Or ravished with the whistling of a name,
See Cromwell damned to everlasting fame."

When Alexander asked the pirate tl what right
he had to infest the seas," " The same right thou
hast," replied the robber, " to infest the universe.
Because I do this in a small ship I am called a
robber, and because thou actest the same part
with a great fleet thou art entitled a conquerer."

Good Intentions, Action and Wisdom, unless
combined in due proportion, do not constitute
greatness. The same law here prevails as in
chemical combinations, in which a change in the
relative quantities of the component parts may
produce either a virulent poison or a substance
indispensable to life.

Paul was possessed of like good intentions, un-
tiring energy, great learning and towering intel-
lect, whether, on his way to Damascus, breathing
out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples
of the Lord, or standing in the midst of Mars
Hill and declaring to the Athenians the " Un-
known God" the God that made the heaven and
earth and all things therein.

An increase of wisdom has wrought tha mighty

On his way to Damascus a great bigot full of

At Mars Hill a great man full of charity.

But neither his matchless eloquence at Mars
Hill, nor at Cesarea, shows the greatness of St.


Paul in the fullness of its luster. But in the high-
est exercise of all of his powers, in their true order
and harmony, impelling him on "in journeying
often in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in
perils by his own countrymen, in perils by the
heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wil-
derness, in perils on the sea, in perils among false
brethern, in weariness and painfulness, in watch-
ing often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in
cold and nakedness."

Greatness is no part of circumstance, but is
ever active in well-doing and self-luminous like
the sun in the heaven.

By this standard, he whose birthday we cele-
brate, rises to the full stature of a great man.

His life embraces every gradation from extreme
lowliness to loftiest grandeur.

Born in the humblest conditions prevailing in
the Western wilds, he died in the greatest and
most honorable political office on this earth.

Though continually brought in contact with
vice, he maintained a spotless character. Truth-
ful and honest, he won the sobriquet of Honest
Abe a title he never dishonored, never outgrew.

His call for volunteers, varying in conditions as
the exigencies of the nation demanded ; his proc-
lamation of freedom ; his speech at Gettysburg;
his first and second inaugural ; his terms to the

conquered, all are permeated with the living truth,
with active charity, with honest intentions, and
fidelity to the great principles intrusted to his

His life was full of action.

His deeds are glowing with geod intention.

His methods, guided by a wisdom, not of this

The nation, to whose keeping he was called, had
passed through the ominous threatening^ of nulli-
fication, Missouri Compromise, Mexican wars,
squatter sovereignty, guided by the loyal utter-
ance of President Jackson " The Federal Union,
it must be preserved,'' which utterance made con-
spirators pause, and lifted the principles of Amer-
ican Government up to their perfect proportions,
and loyal to freedom, and the sacred teachings of
the Declaration of Independence.


The ballots fell as quietly as snowflakes all over
our broad and happy land. No rights were dis-
turbed, no conditions were changed, and our mar-
tyred Lincoln, by the constitutional methods, was
chosen leader of the advance guard of human

James Buchanan as President, as commander
of the army and navy, gave utterance to the her-
esy, "That no power existed in the Federal Gov-
ernment to coerce a State," that utterance massed


in one solid and aggressive column, all discon-
tented, all disloyal persons, all whose unholy am-
bition plotted treason in the very halls dedicated
to a republic whose chief corner-stone was free-
dom, and claimed that the announcement of his
just election was sufficient cause to cry " Havoc,
and let slip the dogs of war ! "

Into this mass of human passions, no man of
ambiticfn, no man treason-tainted, no man of
pliant nature, no man who loved place more than
principle, could make head or save the nation.

America demanded a new leader, nurtured in
the lap of truth, baptised with the spirit of free-
dom, and consecrated to " the government of the
people, by the people and for the people."

A new leader, American in every component
part and atom that went into his composition, a
creation of our truest type.

4< Life may be given in many ways,
And loyalty to truth be sealed,
As bravely in the closet as in the field,
So bountiful is fate ;
But then to stand beside her,
When craven churls deride her,
To front a He in arms and not to yield ;
This shows, methinks. God's plan
And measure of a stalwart man,
Limbed like the old heroic breeds,
Who stand self-poised on manhood's solid earth,

Not forced to frame excuses for his birth,

Fed from within with all the strength he needs.

" Such was he, our Martyr Chief,
Whom late the nation he had led,
With ashes on her head,
Wept with the passion of an angry grief.
Forgive me if from present things I turn,
To speak what in my heart will beat and burn,
And hang my wreath on his world-honored urn.
Nature, they say, doth dote,
And cannot make a man
Save on some worn-out plan,
Repeating us by rote.

" For him her old-world moulds aside she threw,
And, choosing sweet clay from the breast of the

unexhausted West,

W T ith stuff untainted shaped a hero new,
Wise, steadfast in the strength of God and, true,
How beautiful to see!

Once more a shepherd of mankind, indeed,
Who loved his charge, but never loved to lead ;
One whose meek flock the people joyed to be,
Not lured by any cheat of birth,
But by his clear-grained human worth,
And brave old wisdom of sincerity !
They knew that outward grace is dust ;
The could not choose, but trust
In that sure-footed mind's unfaltering skill,
And supple tempered will,
That bent like tampered steel to spring again

and thrust.
His was no lonely mountain peak of mind,


Thrusting to thin air o'er our cloudy bars,
A sea-mark now, now lost in vapors blind ;
Broad prairie rather, genial level lined,
Fruitful and friendly for all human kind,
Yet also nigh to heaven, and loved of loftiest

Nothing of Europe here ;
Or then, of Europe fronting mornward still,
Ere any names of Serf and Peer
Could nature's equal scheme deface.
Here was a type of the true elder race,
And one of Plutarch's men talked with us, face

to face.

" I praise him not ; it were too late ;
And some innate weakness there must be
In him who condescends to victory
Such as the present gives, and cannot wait,
Safe in himself as in a fate,
So always firmly he ;
He knew to bide his time,
And can his fame abide,
Still patient in his simple faith sublinj(e,
Till the wise years decide.
Great captains, with their guns and drums,
Disturb our judgment for the hour;
But at last silence comes.

These all are gone, and standing like a tower,
Our children shall behold his fame.
The kindly-earnest, brave, foreseeing man,
Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame,
New birth of our new soil, the first American."

Feb. 12, '85.

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Online LibraryIrving Murray ScottAbraham Lincoln → online text (page 1 of 1)