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.TUNE 15th, 1865,









JUNE 15th, 1865,






Ix tlie beautiful spring time — on two exquisite clan's of
last month — AYasliington witnessed a siglit to whicli Lis-
toiy furnishes no parallel. Two great armies — rivals only
in deeds of unsurpassed heroism against a common foe —
passed in review before the chiefs of the nation Avhose un-
ending gratitude they had earned, and the leaders who
had guided them to victory.

Heroes of a hundred battles, fierce, long-contested, and
sanguinary, no holiday attire won for them the deep feel-
ings which, at times, found vent in tears, at times broke
forth in wild cheers and applause. But as they swept by
in serried ranks, with measured and veteran tread, their
tattered banners, riddled by hostile bullets till the shreds
alone remained, were mutely eloquent of the deadly fray
— of privations and destruction and death. Saviours of
their country, amid the emblems of their success and the
"wreaths showered on them by a grateful people, they
proudly trod through the Capital of the nation restored
by them to Union, prosperity, and peace.

The warriors of the Potomac were there — of the Seven
Days' and Fredericksburg, Antietam and Gettysburg, the
Wilderness, Spottsylvania, and Petersburg — the conque-
rors of Eichmond! Nor they alone; the Armies of
the Tennessee and Georgia followed, the bronzed moAvers
of the South, whose advance, world-renowned, fighting
and marcliino;, from Atlanta to Savannah, from Savannah
to the sea, had led them across the plains and citadels of
treason, through its very stronghold, back again to the
metropolis of the Union.

Alas ! no ; all were not there : for, beyond the living
armies whom chance or locality deprived of the glory of
being present, the thinned ranks, the shattered flags, the

occasion itself, told too plainly that almost countless tlion-
sancls of them were sleeping the sleep which knows no
wakino- marshalled now amono- %\\q hosts of the Eternal.

They rest in the marshes, by the forests and streams of
Virginia; the air of free Pennsylvania and of freed Mary-
land breathes gently above their graves. Struck down in
sight of three great States, Lookout Mountain stands an
eternal monument to their memories. Their head-boards
dot the beautiful valleys of the Shenandoah and the Cum-
berland ; their blood consecrates the ' ramparts of Forts
Donelson and Fisher and Nashville and Vicksburg. Shiloh
and Stone River, Olustee, Murfreesboro', and Chickamauga
are eloquent of the great dead, and the Mississippi gurgles
a requiem above thousands of those who fell that this great
Father of Waters should float in peace to the ocean, a bond
of strength between the sections of our happy land, hence-
forth united and free forever.

Would to God this were all ! Let the massacred of Fort
Pillow and Plymouth — let the murdered of Libby and
Belle Isle and Andersonville tell the rest.

And as the pageant tramped past, filled with these memo-
ries of the dead, the glance quickly turned to the main
stand, whence all these living were reviewed — turned rest-
lessly, hoping, as it were, against hope — picturing one tall
form, a beaming eye, a radiant smile, which it seemed
should have been there. Ah! the embattled dead Avere
not the only absent ; for he, the civic hero of this strife for
liberty, this triumph of the right, Abraham Lincoln, twice
chosen ruler of a free people, had fallen by the bullet of
the assassin, a martyr like them in the cause of Freedom,
his place here vacant like theirs, but gathered with them
in a greater review, where praise is perfect and reward

Great occasions call forth the qualities of true greatness.
Genius frequently culls opportunities for itself, but adver-
sity is the crucible which tries men, and when the storm
comes and the waves run high and the passengers begin to

despair, the quiet faitb, and bravery, and skill of him who
guides the vessel through in safety, marks him distin-
guished among his fellow-men.

Such an one was Abraham Lincoln. His life covering
nearly all of the present century, he stands in moral gran-
deur the foremost man of his time.

The past four years have been years of sad realities, of
almost incredible romance, too. The stride of a century
was not expected to do so much. More history has been
crowded into them than will be told in tenfold their time.

Four years ago American slavery falsified the Declara-
tion of American Liberty ; to-day that slavery is dead and
waits but the forms of burial. Four years ago the art of
war, known to us in earlier struggles, seemed to have been
forgotten ; now, the most warlike people of the earth, we
again relapse into the pursuits of peace, secured to us by
the ordeal of battle.

Four 3^ears ago, civil strife, the crudest test of a nation,
long predicted, long warded off, had not yet fairly burst
upon our hitherto fortunate land ; but it came in all its
fury, and with the world as spectators, some confiding, but
more predicting disaster and political destruction, we have
passed through the fiery furnace, not unscathed it may be,
yet purified and regenerate. Republican institutions have
stood the trial. The sovereignty of the people — the right
of the majority to rule, asserted in the beginning, has been
vindicated to the end, even through rivers of blood. The
Flag was the shibboleth, but on its starry folds, in storm
and sunshine, still floated "the Union" — "the People!"

And all along this terrible struggle every eye was bent,
every thought turned to him who was at the helm — now in
doubt or despondency, now in hope and confidence.

Remembering that a soft answer turneth away wrath, the
cavil and the sneer fell harmless at his feet. With thanks
for those who approved, he kept steadily onward. True as
the needle to the pole, he only sought the salvation of his
country, never forgetting the priceless legacy committed to


his keeping, never doubting tbe justice of Lis cause or its
final triumph, never taking a step backwards. And so he
won the goal amid the hosannas of his countrymen.

Permitted, as it were, from tbe top of Pisgahi, to see the
promised land, although, not destined to enjoy the peace he
had aided to gain, he lived long enough to understand the
full fruition which awaited the people he loved. It seemed
that his mission was accomplished — a life complete, rounded
to a perfect close. Thus, in the language of his last beau-
tiful inaugural, "with malice towards none, with charity for
all," while tempering justice with mercy, he fell beneath the
blow sped by the accursed spirit of slavery, which, in its
death throes, was to have one last great victim, that it might
be marked out for the hatred of mankind forever.

"Who was this victim of a cruel conspiracy; this ruler,
faithful to his trust ; this patriot, loved by a nation ?

It has become fashionable to say that Abraham Lincoln
Avas elevated from comparative obscurity to fill the Presi-
dential chair. Such, however, is not the fact. In our im-
mense expanse of territory — single States larger than some
of the chiefest powers of Europe — it were no wonder, in-
deed, if the rarest qualities had made no ripple beyond the
city or State which they graced. In the great West the
wand of the enchanter could scarcely have been more
potent than the pioneer's axe, and the spirit of progress
which has wielded it. Towns are teeming where but a few
years since were only forests. Civilization has no more
beautiful abode. There Literature and Art drink inspira-
tion from the fountain of nature, and the statesman, pausing
only to glance at the past, seems privileged in dwelling on
the borders of a prosperous future. Bright names are there
which have scarcely reached us, and we of the East have as
many unknown to them. Mr. Lincoln's fame, however, had
become National before the Chicago Convention placed him
in nomination. Still better, that fame sprang from his own
home, widening gradually, and deepening as it went.

It is true he was a poor boy, without adventitious aid,

without collegiate teacliings, when the West was jet a
wilderness ; but it is also true that he had long before over-
come those " twin jailers of the daring heart — low birth and
iron fortune." The spoiled children of wealth may fill the
chief places in other countries ; but if you will search the
records of achievement in this, those carved highest on the
rock will often be found to have reached the elevation by
just such struggles as his.

Mr. Lincoln was always a leader. No matter what his
undertaking, from the very first he had the public con-
fidence. It is not a little singular that he who died the
civil commander-in-chief of the armies and navies of the
Eepublic, having guided their policy through a perilous
war, should have commenced his career an enlisted soldier
in the Black Hawk war, even then chosen captain.

At the age of twenty-five elected to the Legislature of
Illinois, he was returned four successive terms, in all eight
years; was six times a Presidential elector; in 1846, was
brought into the broader arena of national politics by an
election to Congress — the only Whig member from his State
— and took a prominent part in the discussions of that body.
Withdrawing his name as a candidate for United States
Senator in 1854 — declining a nomination for Governor
when success was certain — receiving one hundred and two
votes for Vice-President in the Philadelphia Convention
which nominated John C. Fremont, his name was destined
to a wider nationality through his remarkable debates with
Stephen A. Douglas, when, in 1858, as candidates for the
United States Senate, it was agreed that a Legislature
should be chosen pledged to one or other of them. The
popular vote was with Lincoln; a small majority of the
districts, however, chose Douglas Eepresentatives. Yet
this great canvass, in which the people of a State hung
upon his clear reasonings, his eloquent advocacy of the
right, his powerful analysis, his admirable illustrations,
made Mr. Lincoln's defeat a veritable success. The selec-
tion of the National Convention, he became the choice of

the people — his own great speech at the Cooper Institute
being the key-note of the campaign. Since then Abraham
Lincoln has passed into history, and the pen of the histo-
rian can trace no more eventful period of any age or clime
than that of his Presidency.

Let it not, then, be said that any body of men withdrew
him from obscurity to confer their honors on him. By his
own untiring energy; by his sagacity and knowledge of
human nature; by his professional acquirements; above
all, by his purity of purpose and the high promise of his
manhood, he had lifted himself gradually upward, and
they found him near the topmost rung of the ladder. He
came up to the Jeff'ersonian standard— honest and capable.

No man before had so won the love of his fellow-beings;
no death had ever so stricken a nation. Civilization still
stands aghast at the foul wrong, "the deep damnation of
his taking off';" and two continents mourn above his grave.

I remember well on his first nomination, a friend wrote
me fi'om Illinois, "Mr. Lincoln is more beloved than any
man in this State." What was then a river became the
ocean. The instincts of the popular heart rarel}^ err. Men
knew him as "Honest Abe." Strai<'htibrward, candid,
always truthful, he was widely sought as an advocate, for
juries were in the habit of believing him; and so when the
arena grew wider, the people were his jury. He com-
muned with them, and generally won the verdict. This
was for no mere effect, but from the very essence of his

The same characteristic marked him to the last. As
President he had no secrets from the public longer than
secrecy was demanded. He pleaded with the erring, reasoned
with the doubting, poured forth his hopes to the trusting;
an earnest, honest man. If the way was dark, he illumined
it by homely illustration ; if the path was thorny and the
rest hung back, by quaint analogy or parrjang query, he
convinced them it was still the best; and keeping the
heaviness of his heart to himself when disaster and wrongr


were uppermost, the side he took seemed ever the brightest
and proved so in the end.

How he appealed to the South in the eloquence of his
first inauguraise^ : — " My countrymen, one and all, think
calmly and well upon this whole subject * * * the
Government will not assail you. You can have no con-
flict without being yourselves the aggressors. We are not
enemies, but friends. "We must not be enemies. Though
passion may have strained, it must not break the bonds of our
afi'ection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from
every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and
hearth-stone 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."

How he implored the border slave States, in the cause of
humanity, still to save themselves by adopting compen-
sated emancipation while there was time : —

"To the people of those States I now earnestly appeal —
I do not argue. You cannot, if you would, be blind to the
signs of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged con-
sideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal
and partisan politics. This proposal makes common cause
for a common object, casting no reproaches at any. It acts
not the Pharisee. The changes it contemplates would come
gently as the dews of heaven, not rending or wrecking any-
thing. Will you not embrace it ? So much good has not
been done by one efibrt in all past time as, in the provi-
dence of God, it is now your high privilege to do. May
the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected

What more withering reply than his interrogatory to the
Vallandigham committee ? —

" Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier bo}'- who deserts,
while I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who
induces him to desert ?"

What plainer statement of the negro-enlistment question
than this : — "And now, let any Union man who complains


of this measure, test himself by ■writing down in one line,
that he is for subduing the rebellion by force of arms, and
in the next that he is for taking 130,000 men from the
Union side, and placing them where they would be best for
the measure he condemns. If he cannot face his case so
stated he cannot face the truth."

His most querulous friends, his bitterest opponents, were
still deemed worthy of reply ; and though his condescension
alarmed the timid, he always stooped to conquer, for his
pen was trencl^ant and the people at large were his confi-
dants. The r'eace Conference, so much deprecated, proved
a master stroke of policy. It gave the last moral blow to
the Eebel cause. It strengthened the arms of our soldiery,
and when it was over Mr. Lincoln confided every word of
it to an anxious country.

It is not necessary to dwell upon his most beautiful
attribute. Janvier's touching poem of the " Sleeping Sen-
tinel " has crystallized one only of his many acts of mercy.
I never knew him to deny the prayer that a soldier's life
might be spared. In fact, it was always difficult for him to
refuse an appeal to his feelings. Many a weary load he
lifted from many a weary heart — many a stain placed on
the broAV of some brave boy for a brief desertion did he
wipe away — many a tear of joy started at his bidding.
One instance I shall not soon forget. A Southern mother
had left her babe, hurrying North to her husband, a
prisoner and dying. She came too late, and in her agony
turned back towards the only being left her on earth; but
at "Washington a barrier met her in the shape of a general
order from the War Department.

Week after week she had waited, buoyed up by a
mother's hope. At last the papers said some ladies had
received passes to go South. I called upon the President,
and urged a permit in the case mentioned. He listened
sympathetically, but motioned a refusal, when I ventured
to speak of what the papers had recorded. " Ah," said
Mr. Lincoln, " this only shows that I should not have


violated tlie rule ;'' and he wrote the lines which made one
more being happy.

The last order he gave on that sad 14th of April was for
the discharge of a rebel prisoner upon his taking the oath.
The request was endorsed by a distinguished member of
Congress, then Senator, to which Mr. Lincoln added, " Let
it be done." And then he told him a beautiful story of
some children who went to an island to gather flowers, and
how one, in being carried over, had slid gradually into the
stream, and how he at first had refused theS^requests, but
his feet had touched the water, and now, when Peace
seemed so near, and everything looked bright, he could
refuse no longer, but Avas being borne along in the stream
too. Even then, when his heart was filled with pardon, the
coward plot of those for whom it throbbed had culminated,
and his feet were already laved by the waters of eternity.

His sense of justice was ever uppermost — -justice to the
rights of labor ; justice to the whole people ; justice to him
who was fighting the people's battle; and if he erred, it
was still on the side of mercy. Early in the war he fore-
bore to fill vacancies on the Supreme Bench, lest he might
disable himself "from doing justice to the South on the
return of peace." In like manner, much as he wished it
otherwise, there was a long pause before using the war
power to free the slaves, from a dislike to deprive innocent
as well as guilty of their alleged possessions. As the
Eebellion was the fruit of an aristocracy, he kept constantly
as its antidotal argument the value of popular institutions.
"Labor," he said, "is prior to and independent of capital.
Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have
existed if labor had not first existed." He declared the
war " essentially a people's contest," to maintain that Gov-
ernment " whose leading object is to elevate the condition
of men."

AVhile fully recognizing the great results effected by the
patriotism of the People, at no time were the nation's de-
fenders forgotten by him. In his first special message


decrying the treaclieTj of many officers, lie gloried that
"no common soldier or common sailor was known to have
deserted the flag." In no appropriate place did he omit to
thank- them, and never more appropriately than just one
year ago at the Fair in this city. For, said Mr. Lincoln
there, " say what you will, after all the most is due to the
soldier, who takes his life in his hands and goes to fight the
battles of his country." In the hospitals his presence was
among the gentlest — in the camp and at the front his words
were among the kindliest — mingling with the people, doing
good everywhere.

No incumbent of the Presidential chair was ever so
much seen by, so well known to, the people. From morn-
ing till night he bent attentive ear to their hopes and fears,
lightened their cares, redressed their grievances: as though
the lessening of their burthens lifted the heavy weight of
cares from his heart too.

Long years to come, many a fireside, in every corner of
the land, will be gladdened by the story of his kindnesses.
Old men will gather attentive listeners about them as, in
telling the tales of the great Rebellion and its downfall, the
sacrifices of the masses, the heroism of those who battled
for the Right, they add how they saw and spoke with the
good President, picture his winning smile, and mayhap
hand to their children's children a line from his pen.

Naturally, visitors from his own West seemed always
welcome — though it were hard to say who was most wel-
come; but his vivid descriptive powers, his wonderfully
illustrative memory, seemed then best brought into play.
Calling once late in the day, I found a clergyman from
Illinois, who had waited, fondly hoping for an interview.
He had voted for Mr. Lincoln twice,, but never saw him,
and begged an introduction, if but for a moment. I at
once obtained the privilege, and had no cause to regret it.
Familiar with every section of the State, he astonished his
visitor by his minute description of localities and manners,
^giving even the number of votes cast in many counties of


his section, and his face lit with enthusiasm as with eloquent
tongue he described their undulating valleys, their pleasant
rivers and waving prairies. My new-made acquaintance
grasped my hand warmly at parting, and said he had food
for a dozen sermons.

Such a President could not be aught but a good husband
and father, and all of this he was — passing from the care
of the nation only to the happiness of the family circle.
But above all other traits in the character of Abraham
Lincoln — trusting still to Providence, invoking the Divine
aid for himself and his country in everything — was his
distinguished love of freedom. It may have been instilled
— it seemed to be inborn. Eecognizing, obeying the laws
which prevented interference with slavery in the States, he
never acc[uiesced even (by silence in their justice — always
opposing its extension. As early as 1837, he' recorded his
belief on the Journals of the Legislature of Illinois, that
slavery is "founded on both injustice and bad policy."

In 1848, he declared in Congress, "I am a Northern man,
or rather a Western Free State man, with a constituency I
believe to be, and with personal feelings I ktipw to be, against
the extension of slavery." His votes are all so recorded.
In. 1858, with prophetic vision he foretold that the nation
could not live half slave, half free ; and if not yet the
Apostle of Liberty, was soon chosen as the Champion
against Slaivery extension..

Only last year he wrote, "If slavery is not wrong, nothing
is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think and
feel." What followed Mr. Lincoln's election is too fresh in
the memory to need repetition.

How slavery struck at the life of the Eepublic — how
little by little old fears and prejudices died away, — and the
slave was liberated and the black man allowed to fight —
how this just ruler, true to his oath, endeavored above all
to save the Union — how traitors mistook leniency for
weakness, and having broken the covenant, found at last it
no longer shielded them — and how, after timely warning,


he issued the great Proclamation of Emancipation, here-
after to be more renowned than Magna Charta — striking
the shackles from millions of human beings — breaking the
bonds of slavery at a blow.

It has been urged that Mr. Lincoln was too conservative,
too slow to act. In his own Avords, willing to adopt new
views " so fast as they appeared to be true views," he
claimed to have been controlled by events, not to control
them ; but having decided once, he was firm as the rock.

Eead his masterly letter to the Illinois Convention: "The
Proclamation as law either is valid or is not valid. If it is
not valid, it needs no retraction. If it is valid, it caruiot he
retracted any more than the dead can he hrongJit to h'fey And
again, in his message to Congress, he declared that if its
sacred promise was to be withdrawn, another, and 7iot he,
must be found to do the deed.

As the war progressed, some grew faint-hearted ; but he
never — nor fultered, nor swerved an instant from his great
object — the preservation of the Union. He often said he
would rather die than surrender the principle Avhicli lay at
the foundation of our liberties or the Government entrusted
to his keeping, preferring, if God willed, to continue the
contest "till all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two
hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil should be sunk,
and till everj^ drop drawn with the lash should be paid by
another drawn with the sword."

He died in the very fulness of a well-spent life, laid upon
the altar of his country ; just when a nation's thanks and a
nation's love seemed to encircle him ; when the sneer had
died upon the lip, and a world had learned to know the


Online LibraryLeonard MyersAbraham Lincoln : a memorial address → online text (page 1 of 2)