L. M. (Livingston Maturin) Glover.

The character of Abraham Lincoln : a discourse delivered April 23d, 1865, at Strawn's Hall, Jacksonville, Ill. online

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Online LibraryL. M. (Livingston Maturin) GloverThe character of Abraham Lincoln : a discourse delivered April 23d, 1865, at Strawn's Hall, Jacksonville, Ill. → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

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Pastor lBt Presbyterian Church.




Jacksonville, April 24, 1865.

Rev. L. M. Glover, D. D. :

Dear Sir — The undersigned, partaking of the common admira-
tion of the very able and just manner in which yon. have delineated
the life and character of the late lamented President of the United
States, Abraham Lincoln, in your commemorative discourse pro-
nounced yesterday, respectfully solicit a copy for publication if con-
sistent with your feelings on the subject.

And. McFarland, Joshua Moore,

James Dunlap, Robt. Hockenhull,

¥m. M. Foster, O. D. Fitzslmmons,

Thomas W. Melendt, Ralph Reynolds,

F. E. Dayton, John Loomis,

C. H. Ten Eyck, H. K Jones,

J. Neely, A. McDonald.

Jacksonville, May 3, 1865.

Dr. A. McFarland, Col. James Dunlap and others :

Gentlemen — Yours of the 24th ult. is before me. Thanking you
for the kind terms in which you speak of my discourse on the char-
racter of Abraham Lincoln, I cheerfully accede to your request,
and herewith commit the manuscript of said discourse to your care
for publication. Partaking of the common grief of the people at the
irreparable loss which has befallen us, I am, in the bonds of Christ
and of country, Yours, L. M. Glover.


2nd. Samuel, 1 : 19: — The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places ;
how are the mighty fallen ! ,

2nd. Samuel, 3 : 38 : — And the King said unto his servants, Know ye not that
there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel ?

Louis XIY of France, by a reign of dazzling splendor, impressed
himself upon the imagination of his people as "the Grand Monarch,"
and was familiarly called, in his day, "Louis the Great." But
when Massillon, the prince of the French pulpit, rose in the church
of "Notre Dame," to pronounce his oration at the obsequies of that
King, the first words he uttered were these, " God alone is great,"
at which the whole vast assembly spontaneously and reverently rose
to their feet as if thrilled and awed by that simple, but impressive,
announcement. That involuntary act of the congregation was less
a tribute to the commanding power of the speaker than to the elo-
quence of the occasion and the sublime authority of truth.

Greatness is relative. In respect to God every created being is
small — exceedingly diminutive. The finite can sustain no proper
comparison with the Infinite. Hence Moses said, "Ascribe ye
greatness unto our God." His is the true, the absolute greatness.
What is any man, however exalted in the gradations of earth and
time, in contrast with Him? When set in the relation they sustain
to that uncaused and eternal being what are the princes, the poten-
tates, the intellectual giants who figure on this narrow scene of
things; what an Alexander, a Caesar, a Newton or an Edwards?
Only as sparks to the glowing fires which warm the universe; only
as struggling rays to the central orb which floods that universe
with light. When such comparisons are drawn, how little the crea-
ture called man appears, even the greatest man, the noblest of his
race; for, in this view, the most exalted and the most abject stand
well nigh upon the same level, since nothing, which in its measure

is limited, can approach that which is absolute or unlimited. In-
deed, all men are so far equal that they are subject to like passions,
infirmities, distempers, down-castings and fatal issues both of con-
duct and of life. They are alike crushed before the moth. Acci-
dent, disaster, sickness, death, these fall indiscriminately upon the
children of Adam's race. "Man, at his best estate, is altogether
vanity." The prince hath no certain exemption from evil to which
the peasant is not equally entitled. In the grave, all human dust
mingles ; the humblest and most unknown lying down in the last
sleep with kings and conquerors, the noble and honored of earth ;
for a solemn voice crieth, " All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness
thereof is as the flower of the field ; the grass withereth, the flower
fadeth, because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it, surely the
people is grass." Well, then, did the mighty preacher, already re-
ferred to, as the splendors of a throne lay shrunk and fading in the
coffin before him, exclaim, " God alone is great," an utterance to
which I would fain give an echo to-day in view of an event no less
impressive, and far more afflicting than that which called forth the
remark at first.

Human greatness is only seen and appreciated when withdrawn
from these high contrasts, and reckoned by the common ideas which
rule the subject among men in their relations one to another. Some
persons rise high above then fellows in natural gifts, in acquirements,
in wealth, in social position, in rank, and in the various resources of
influence and of honor. There is some, perhaps much, true great-
ness in the world, and yet there is more passing under the name that
is factitious, essentially accidental and without reality. Such is usu-
ally the distinction which birth creates, which large inheritances
give rise to, and which, in so many instances, grows out of mere fa-
voring circumstances. Thus some men come to station and power
rather by what seems chance or a fortuitous combination of events
than by the exertion of those commanding qualities by which me-
diocrity is overreached and the rewards of rarest excellence are won;
And yet the general fact remains, that substantial greatness is not
the outgrowth of accident in any case ; that it is never a prize care-
lessly and blindly drawn out as in a lottery, but universally is the
result of a developing and compacting of noble qualities, through
the regular operation of those laws by which an unseen but vigilant

and ever-working Providence cultures particular men for particular
destinies of responsibility, work, and glory.

And, I doubt not, this is the light in which history, when it shall
be impartially written in a subsequent age, will place the name and
character of Abraham Lincoln, late Chief Magistrate of the United
States, and whose untimely and tragic end has shrouded a continent
in gloom, and will send a thrill of horror around the globe. "The
beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places ; how are the mighty
fallen!" "Know ye not that there is a prince and a g-keat man
. fallen this day in Israel?"

The estimate of the lamented President, which is to be presented
in this discourse, shall be both careful and candid; unbiased by
partisan dislike on the one hand, and by the partialities of personal
or political friendship on the other. On an occasion like this all
generous minds are eager for the truth, and are quite willing that
any former errors of judgment or feeling should be subverted and
rectified. This is not the hour for party spirit to assert itself either
in empty laudation of the departed, or in a poorly concealed delight
that he is no more. It is a time, if ever, when men should be seri-
ous, impartial, and magnanimous; when they should deliver up
their minds to truth, to the culture of a wholesome grief, and to com-
mon expressions of horror at the enormity of that crime which has
brought a nation down to the dust in the very moment of its unre-
strained joy at the prospect of speedy restoration and peace.

In regard to Abraham Lincoln, I think it no venture to say that
he was not a common man, or to add to this, that he was a truly
great man. Regarded officially, as to the trust he held, the authori-
ty he wielded, and the honor he enjoyed, it may safely be affirmed
that none of earth's potentates surpassed him ; he stood at the very
apex of human ambition and hope, both as relates to earthly good
actually attained and an earthly immortality virtually secured. —
That there was something apparently adventitious in the sudden-
ness of his rise from a humble sphere to the most exalted station has
struck us all, and that a fortunate concurrence of circumstances had
more to do with this than any foreseen talent, genius, or qualifica-
tion for statesmanship, is what every one is ready to admit ; and yet
none will deny that the pressure of responsibility and the process of

trial developed in him an unexpected capacity, and brought to view-
that solid substratum of character on which true greatness is built.
The intellectual qualities of Mr. Lincoln were well denned. They
were strong and solid. Like the granite rock, his mind was some-
what rough, but it was massive. It had never been subjected to
any very systematic culture, and hence it wanted the polish and
beauty of which it was in a high degree susceptible. The Univer-
sity did nothing for it, and it remained to the last essentially a piece
of nature's work on which the hand of art had not expended its skill.
In the workings of that mind we discern many elements of power.
It was not only strong, but lively and quick ; in analysis, clear ; in
reasoning, cogent ; in humor sparkling. It resembled the other works
of nature in variety and exuberance, combining diversity in unity.
One who cast his eye over it saw no dead level there, but pleasing
alternations of hill and vale, waterfall and quiet stream, rock and
flower. We cannot speak of it as profound; we cannot attribute
to it genius; strong common sense was its predominating quality.
Mr. Lincoln looked at things pretty much as they are. He took the
world as it is. He was bewildered by no philosophies. He gave
himself up to no hair-splitting casuistry. He followed off no "ignis
fatuus" of speculation. His mind moved about among realities.
What of truth he saw, he saw directly, as it were intuitively ; hence
his first view of a matter involving questions of propriety, prudence,
and right was quite likely to be as sound as that to which others
arrive only by a lengthened consideration. This quick and pene-
trating good sense is ever an element of greatness. It went far, in
the case before us, towards supplying deficiencies of culture and
learning. A talent so discerning and practical is more useful than
any other, and it is vain to deny that it must and will have power.
With the lamented President it was great power.

He also possessed that soundness of judgment with which wisdom
is associated. The man who has exalted talents and little pru-
dence, is like a well built vessel set afloat without sails or rudder;
or he is like a meteor which blazes for an instant and then goes out
in darkness. A person so constituted does not win confidence read-
ily ; people are slow in entrusting important interests to his care ;
they speak of him as unreliable, unsafe. But good judgment as
evinced in a practical prudence wins favor ; it is more mighty than

genius, learning, or eloquence; it gains ascendancy over men's
minds when these fail to do so. This quality was prominent in him
we mourn. Though a man of warm impulses, he had these under
a masterly control ; hence he did not yield to momentary ebulli-
tions of feeling, or under the pressure of excitement give way to
rashness of speech or of conduct. Through the obscurities which
prejudice and passion throw over a matter, his calm eye penetrated
to the light, When the conflict of extremes raged about him he
had more than common of that wisdom which discerns the golden
mean and steadily makes towards it. This quick perception of
what is proper and best I think was quite characteristic of him.
Hence the general prudence of his counsels, and his own unusual
self-possession in the midst of perplexities and dangers. Had he
been less calm and judicious he would have been less a man for the
time. His rare good sense was a prime quality for the hour, concil-
iating confidence, and inspiring in the breasts of the people those
sentiments of good will and approbation without which no ruler
could bear up manfully or go forward steadily in the midst of such
difficulties, and under such a burden of care and trouble. The na-
tion believed his judgment sound and therefore implicitly trusted
him. This shows that true power lies in those qualities which are
least brilliant, and which are commonly thought to give the smal-<
lest promise of eminence; qualities which, when furnished with an
opportunity and called into exercise, as they were in his case, con-
fer greatness upon character which the eye of the historian is sure
to discern and his pen to record.

Another characteristic of the man was simplicity. They whom
circumstances rather than merit elevate to high positions often be-
come ostentatious, and exhibit towards their inferiors a haughtiness
which offends and repels. This disposition is the more disagreea-
ble and unpardonable in those who have risen from humble fortune
to lofty estate, and in the pride of their elevation quite forget the
day of small things, ignore, so far as possible, their origin and turn
their backs upon the associates and friends of other years. Mr.
Lincoln was eminently simple in his tastes, manners, and habits.
He was in no respect urbane or courtly. In dress and address he
was plain and unadorned. He took on no airs. He looked down'
contemptuously upon no man, but ever put himself on terms of fa-


miliarity with all who approached him in a proper manner. Nor
did the dignities to which he attained dazzle or bewilder him so but
that he could recognize still the acquaintances of former times,
and meet any man, however humble, face to face on the common
terms of an equal humanity. He was, to the last, th e same unas-
suming and simple minded man; true to his former history; true
to early sympathies and friendships ; true, perfectly true to the
bent of his own genial nature. Such simplicity is a condition of
real greatness, nay an essential element in it. False greatness is
starched and showy, lofty and assuming, but actual greatness is in-
versely to such dispositions. A man is usually small in proportion
as he fancies himself large, and struts, and puts on consequential
airs, and demands respect. John Milton, Isaac Newton, and
George Washington were simple and guileless as childhood itself;
so was Abraham Lincoln, and true excellence, high worth and real
greatness are ever so characterized.

Let me remark further that all the natural instincts of Mr. Lin-
coln's mind and heart lay in the same general direction as the qual-
ities already named.

Among these was his sense of right. This seems to have been
inborn, and it exhibited itself as a determining force in his charac-
ter and life. He had a strong natural conscience, an inate sense
of rectitude which led him to make a broad distinction between good
and bad principles, and between right and wrong conduct. These
are things which political men have been too much in the habit of
confounding, and hence the moral blindness and infatuation which
we have too often had occasion to complain of and to mourn over
in the high places of the land, as evinced in the practical adoption
of the maxim which is as much apart from real patriotism as it is
from true religion, "Our country right or wrong," and as evinced
further in the disposition and tendency to merge the idea of right
into the idea of legality, thus exalting the legislation of men into
equality with the legislation of God. Whatever weaknesses Mr.
Lincoln had, and whatever errors he committed as a politician and
a statesman, they did not lie in that direction. I am not now at-
tributing to him the cultivated heart of piety ; I speak here of the
promptings of nature in him, that they were unmistakably and pow-
erfully in favor of what is good and right. Hence, when a matter


involving any principle of rectitude was committed to his judgment,
there was always a strong presumption amounting to certainty that
his mind would gravitate towards a just view of it — that he would
give his ultimate preference and preponderating choice to that side
of the subject on which the moral considerations clustered. It can-
not be doubted that he was ambitious to please, and that he was
politic in the choice of means to secure popularity, but it is also
clear that he was disposed rather to strive for the favor of the good
than for the favor of the bad, that on all accounts he preferred the
approbation and applause of the sober minded and right hearted
portion of his fellow men. With such an instinctive tendency it
may with propriety be said of him that " even his failings leaned to
virtue's side."

Closely associated with that sense of right, was a quick intuition
and love of justice. Having such inborn convictions of rectitude,
he would be wanting in sympathy with wrong in the relations of
man to man. All injustice would naturally be abhorrent and a grief
to him. He would instinctivly take the part of the injured against
his injurer. The oppressions practiced by the rich upon the poor
would incite in such a breast the sentiment of indignation. The
law's delay to vindicate the wronged, the quibbles of advocates de-
signed to darken counsel and to hinder the vindication of truth
would create a burning impatience in a mind so constituted. With
the struggles and sorrows of the bondman a spirit so alive to jus-
tice would readily bear a part. Mr. Lincoln carried in him such a
heart, and it gave quality to his treatment of men in every private
and social relation. Respecting the rights of all, he sought to do
justly with all. This devotion to rectitude ruled his practice as a
lawyer and a politician. It also entered into his statesmanship when
called to execute the highest trusts in the gift of the nation. We
see in his public conduct no letting down of principle for the sake of
advantage; no compromise between the convictions of his under-
standing and that desire too natural to man to conciliate the favor
of those who do wrong.

At the same time he was eminently characterized by kind and
lenient dispositions. The justice, of which he had so keen a sense,
was not that severe and unbending attribute which is not assuaged
by mercy or softened by compassion. There was nothing fierce or


savage in his nature. No element of cruelty entered into Lis spirit.
He was morally incapable of the tyranny which rebels, who were
conscious of having forfeited his clemency, were, of course, ready
to charge him with, and of which the murderer, in the moment of
his crime, proclaimed himself avenged. Abraham Lincoln a ty-
rant ! Abraham Lincoln a Nero, a Caligula, a Charles IX, a Henry
VIII ! Impartial history will make no such record of him. Rather
will it associate him with the most humane and beneficent of rulers,
with Augustus, with Marcus Aurelius, with William III, and with
Washington. His temper was not caustic and biting, but mild and
amiable. The sarcasm which goes scathing through a man's soul
is not ascribed to him, but rather a genial humor which sends sun-
shine and good cheer through all the avenues of feeling. His kind
heartedness and clemency were proverbial. The law of kindness
was in his mouth. He opened his lips to gratify and instruct, not
to inflict a wound or to produce pain in any. He was a friend of
the poor. He commiserated the down trodden and injured. He
had no malignity towards any, even his bitterest enemies, but char-
ity towards all. He loved man as man irrespective of color, con-
dition, or circumstances. He was a sincere philanthropist, a friend
of his race — of all races of human beings — but of the colored man
especially, because more cast down than others and needing more
sympathy and help to enable him to rise.

These moral instincts of our late President — his sense of right,
of justice, and humanity were elements of real greatness. It is of
such materials that the "column of true majesty in man" is reared.
Intellect, learning, eloquence alone do not carry up the shaft.
Power is not its base; genius is not its apex. Without high moral
qualities it cannot rise in strength and beauty. These alone give
consistency and weight to character. Without them, a man of
larger gifts in all other respects would not make an Abraham Lin-
coln. Without them, he himself would have been diminutive and
obscure. It was confidence in his character that carried him up,
once and again, to the dazzling heights of power. In this their
choice, the instincts of the people were not at fault. What they
wanted in a President, they believed was realized in him, viz: ca-
pacity and honesty. They did not fear for his statesmanship when
they saw that his heart was right. They were ready to take him


on trust as to all matters of public policy when convinced that he
was a true man. They had little apprehension that he could wreck
the Ship of State while such moral qualities with vigilant eyes were
at the helm — that the Union could fall to pieces when such a girdle
of virtues was lashed about it.

If it be said that it was the Presidency which made Mr. Lincoln
great, it may be admitted that this was a condition of his greatness,
the essential means of its full development. But mark, it is not
every man that even the Presidency would make great. It has al-
ready failed to make some great who enjoyed its emoluments and
honors. Elevation to that exalted place will not impart the elements
of greatness to him who did not possess them before. Mr. Lincoln
carried up to the nation's capitol the essential materials of all he af-
terwards became ; and those materials, when cast into the fiery cru-
cible of responsibility and trial, were molten into the shape and forms
of majesty that now present themselves to view while we contem-
plate him as one of the noblest of men, and the most eminent ruler
of his time.

Many persons, in the outburst of their partiality, speak of Abra-
ham Lincoln as the second Washington, and the second father of his
country. Now, to place any man in such proximity to that revered
personage who, by common consent, is reckoned the greatest of
earth's great ones, may appear quite presumptuous ; the similarity
and correspondence must be very striking to justify or give perti-
nence to any such comparison. Upon a careful analysis, however,
of these two very illustrious characters I must candidly confess that
there appears to me to be not a little in common between them.
Both lived in stormy times ; both passed through a revolution; both
were manifestly born of and for the most fearful exigencies ; both
were men of rare good sense, of uncommon prudence, and of right
moral sympathies ; both, in their way, exhibited the lofty traits of
corn-age, fortitude, patience, and magnanimity. General Washing-
ton, however, united in himself the military and civic virtues. The
latter only can be claimed for Mr. Lincoln. It will not do, there-
fore, to press the comparison, though it may so touch at various
points as to admit of its being drawn in general terms ; at the same
time it must be borne in mind that these men had qualities pecu-
liar to themselves; also, that they lived at different eras, and acted


in the midst of emergencies somewhat similar, indeed, and yet, for
the most part, entirely unlike. If it is events which, in the eye of
history, give character to an administration then none can be more
signalized in the future records of this country than the one which
has just now so tragically closed. None is so crowded with occur-
rences of profound and lasting interest; none so stained with blood
and yet none so marked with promise. Indeed, if it shall not be re-
garded as the most illustrious of all up to this date, it can only be be-
cause it was not the first in order of time. And I have no doubt
that the judgment of posterity will be that George "Washington was
the instrument under God of founding this glorious Republic, and
that Abraham Lincoln was the instrument under God of saving it.


Online LibraryL. M. (Livingston Maturin) GloverThe character of Abraham Lincoln : a discourse delivered April 23d, 1865, at Strawn's Hall, Jacksonville, Ill. → online text (page 1 of 2)