Richard Yates.

Lincoln, speech of Hon. Richard Yates, of Illinois online

. (page 1 of 3)
Online LibraryRichard YatesLincoln, speech of Hon. Richard Yates, of Illinois → online text (page 1 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


UUT^025 139 9








FEBRUARY 12, 1921

[Extract from Recokd, Feb. 4, 1921.]


Mr TowNFn Mr. Speaker, I clc^ire to ask unaiiimons consent that
on Saturday Fehniarv 12, Lincoln's birtbcla.y. the gentleman from Illi-
nois [Mr Y\TES] mav be allov,-ed to address the House for 40 minuies.

KnA in this connection I desire to make this statement. When this
wa*s sussested to me, immediately the thought of the intimate connec-
tion of the Yates family with Abraham Lincoln came to my mind. As
we all know, our colleague is the son of Gov. Yates, of Illinois, the war
covernor The personal, professional, and otBcial connection between
Richard Yates and Abraham Lincoln was remarkable. They were born
about the same time, they were admitted to the practice ot law about
the same time They lived in adjoining counties, Lincoln at bpnngheia,
in Sangamon Countv, and Gov. Yates at Jacksonville, in Morgan County.
Thev traveled the circuit together as practicing lawyers at that time.
Thev both served in the State Legislature of Illinois, and they both
served in Congress here in the lifties. The one was a candidate for
President of the Lnited States in 1860, and the other was candidate for
governor 0^ lllinm^.^^^^^ thev made the campaign together, although it
is well known that Lincoln did not leave hi.s front porch. They were in
constant consultation during these years. Daring i^^^X^'j^W'^^l
visited Washington frequently. He was elected to the benate in lSb4
and took his place in 1805, the 4th of March.. He was dai y m
consultation with Lincoln until his assassination and death the 14th of

'"^^It'is exceedingly appropriate in view of these things that the son of
Pnv Yntes who lias himself been governor of the State of Illinois and
who-rew up n an atmosphere that was born of the intimacy with the
"reat mart -red President of the United States, should deliver this ad-
dress I tliink it is indeed fortunate that wo may have an opportunity
of hearin" from him at this time and on this occasion.

The SrE.iKER. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from

Iowa? ^. ,.

There was no objection.

[Extract from Record, Feb. 12, 1921.]
The ^SpIaker.' For what purpose does the gentleman from Georgia


Mr Ursn\w. Mr. Speaker, I simply rise to say that as a son of the
South I wmild be recreant to a sacred impulse if I did not say I feel
that this wonderful hour, with its spiritual impact and Us patriotic
inspiration? has made us better Americans. [Applause.]








The SPEAKER. By .special order for to-day, Gov. Yate.s, of
Illmois, was j?iven 40 niinutes in wliicli to address tiie House
on President Lincoln. The Ciiair will ask llie gentleman from
California, Mr. Oskokxk, a veteran of the Civil War, to preside.

Mv. OSBORNE assumed the chair as Speaker pro tempore.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Illinois
[Gov. Yates] is recognized for 40 minutes. [Applause.]

Address et Richard Yates, FEUnrAnT 12, 1921.

Mi\ TATES. Mr. Speaker, a beloved poet, one of the glorious
company of poets of America, has given us these lines :

lie knew to bide liiitime.
And can his fam-^abide,
Still patient in his simple faith sublime.

Till the wise years decide.
Great captains, with their guns and drums.
Disturb our judijment for the hour.
But at last silence comes ;
These all are gone, and, standing like a tower,

Onr 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.

(Lowell-Commemoration Ode, July 21, lSCr>.)

I earnestly desii-e that my first word on this occasion be a
word of thanks, and of very sincere thanks.

Tlio privilege which has come to me by tlie gracious act of the
gentleman from Iowa, Judge Towkee, in seeking recoguitlou
and by the gracious act of tlie Speaker in granting tliat recog-
nition, and l)y the gracious act of the Ho^ise in extending unani-
mous consent Ihat I may ?peak liere is appreciated fully. It is
an adornment, an ■embeJlishment, indeed a decoration, in any
man's public service to be the one man designated esiDecially by
this House of Commons of the American people to speak on thfs

At this hour we stand in an imposing presence. For not we
only are observing this occasion. All over the land the Amexl-
can people are standing in salute to-day while Abraham Lin-
coln and all his deeds and scenes of- saci-ifice are passing ia
review. Amid a deepening sentiurent of brotherhood all classes
and <'onditions and sections combine to recall the virtues of
his life and death. There are millions upon millions with tus
thinking about Abraham Lincoln from ocean to ocean at tliis

It is, I liope, not wrong for me, while recognizing the deep
sense of responsibility of the day and occasion, to venture to
say that there is a personal reason, an intimate, delicate rea-
son, which causes nie to come to this point with deep personal

In this city of Washington, on a street corner, on a bright
morning of a day which must liave been not later than April
14, 1S6.:», the fatal day, and not earlier tlmn March 4 of tiaat
2 S41T3— 21310

lUN 1 1921

year, a very tiny boy stood on tiptoe trying with his tiny stature
to loolv lip into the face of tlie tallest man he had ever seen — a
very tall man — very dark as to hair and board. There was
doubt when the little fellow went home to his parents' boarding
house and reported that President Lincoln had stopped him
and pulled his ears and tousled his hair, but the little boy never
doubted, and to-day, after the lapse of 55 years, I am satisfied
that on that one occasion I saw and talked to Father Abraham.
[Applause.] Jlen and women are wrong who think that a
little child can not remember things which happened at the ago
of 4 or 5. All mothers know that if you talk to a child about
one thing only, morning, noon, and night, breakfast, dinner, and
supper, and around the fireside in the evening, and keep it up for
four long dramatic years, that child will remember it. It so
happened that nothing else was talked about under the roof that
.sheltered me in ISGl', aSG2, 1SG3, and 1864 but the Union and
the Flag, the Union and liberty, the Union and Abraham Lin-
coln. So it is not strange I recognized him that day — not im-
modest in me to claim that I saw him once. [Applause.]

I ^^•ill not undertake to deliver an address to-day upon that
ponderous subject the " Life and character of AbrahanT Lin-
coln." This is because the life of the hero, in whose name and
to honor whose memory we are gathered here, was a life which
touched a greL*t many spheres of human experience, and which
accordingly presents to the biographer a great many phases of
action and character — far more than is usually the case in the
life of a man, especially American man.

I will content myself with referring to a few of the things
in which I think he excelled.


For one thing, he was a peer of ablest orators. I point you to
a few examples of his eloquence:

IMarch 4, ISGl, at the close of his first inaugural address, he
said :

In j-oui- hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine,
is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail
you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors.
Von have no oath registered in heaven to destroy this Government, while
I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect, and defend it.
I am loath 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 chords 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.

While in this first inaugural Lincoln spoke of war, I believe
he really hoped that there would be no scourge of war. Yet
how apt and tit his words. Certain it is that had all men fully
understood how unalterably determined he was, there would,
somehow, have been a yielding to him.

On March 4, 1SG5, in his second inaugural address he said :

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this scourge of war
may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all
the wealth piled by the bondsman's L'.")0 years of unrequited toil shall
be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be
paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3,000 years ago,
still it must be said that "the judgments of the Lord are true and
righteous altogether." ... , ..

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the

right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are

in — to bind up the Nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have

borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphans, to do all which


may achieve nnd cliorisli a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and
with all nations.

Wlion tliis passase was uttered the thing had come to pass.
There had been a partuig in a million homes, and that parting
was forever. Tliere had been nearly a thousand battles and
American valor had written its name high on the temple of
fame. The embattled world stood in awe of the arms and
in-owess at the beck and call of him who had been the flat-
boat boy and rail splitter. And he who, in 1S30, clad in buck-
skin clothing and coonskin cap, had crossed the eastern line of
Illinois — this man was now the Commander in Chief of the
greatest of military nations, to whom the imperial Caesars
would liave yielded tribute had he then demanded it. [Ap-
plause.] Yet notice the humble and loving words.

(Let me say, by way of parenthesis, that I do verily believe
that the valor of Donelson and Shiloh, of Vicksburg and Gettys-
burg — yes, on both sides, North and South — did write its name
so high on the temple of fame that it kept the kings and the
emperors, the sultans and the czars — and the mikados — off of
us for 55 years, until 1917.)

Another instance of his eloquence:

On the 11th day of February, 1S61, a cold, bleak, rainy morn-
ing, to his neighbors and friends assembled to bid hilu fare-
well — a little company, only 200 in number, but a loving com-
pany, standing, uncovered, in the rain — he, also uncovered, in
the rain, said :

My friends, no one not in my situation can appreciate my feelings
of sadness at this parting. To this place and the kindness of this
people I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century,
and have passed from a young to an old man. Here mv children were
born and one lies buried. I novv' leave, not knowing when or whether
ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which
rested on the shoulders of Washington. Without the aid of that
Divine Being, who ever aided him, who controls mine and all destinies,
I can not succeed. With that assistance I can not fail. Trusting in
llim who can go with mc and remain with you and be everywhere, for
good, lot us confidently hope that all will be well. To His care com-
mou'liug you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid
you, friends and neighbors, an affectionate farewell.

Four years ago five men — John Bunn, William Jayne, George
Tasfield, George Brinkerhoff, and Lincoln Dubois, ail survivors
of that meeting — v/ere cheered by a vast throng, as we of
Springfield dedicated a stone, bought by the women of Spring-
field, to mark forever that spot; and all those men, deep stu-
dents of Lincoln's words and works, consider this one of his
most eloquent utterances. One of his historians, a student
in his law office, Henry Rankin, still living in Springfield, also
a survivor of that meeting, considers it unexcelled. I think so
myself, unless it be one paragraph in his speech next day at
Columbus, Ohio.

On the 13th day of February, ISGl, at Columbus, to the
Legislature of Ohio, he said :

I can not but know what .vou all know, that without a name, per-
haps without a reason why I should have a name there has fallen
upon me a task such as did not rest even upon the Father of his
Country; and feeling so. I can not but turn and look for that help
without waich it will be impossible for me to perform that great task.
I turn, then, and look for help to the great Aniericau people and to
that God who has never forsaken them.

This pas.sage appeals to me as much as anything which ever
came from his tongue or pen. You and I know that he received
tlie help he prayed for— received it from 20,000,000 l(»yal hearts,
34i7;i - i;i;;iu

iiiid ri-din tlio lulinite I'owcr on higli. He put one hand in
tlie outsvfetched palm of llio American people, ami with the
otlier lie laid a strong hold upon the almighty arm of the
almighty God, and, standing there supported by humanity and
supported by Divinity, he fought the grandest fight and won
the grandest victory for the whole country, race, and Nation,
North and South, East and West, that the world has ever
seen since the Savior walked among the sons of men. And,
very marvelously, the men who then fought him uow believe he
won a victory for them, too.

No attempt will be made to give further examples of his ora-
torical power, excepting to quote the words which he delivered,
to the edification and inspiration of the Nation and Christendom,
on the battle field of Gettysburg in November, 1SG3, They read
as follows :

" Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on
this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated
to tlie proposition that all men are created equal. Now avc are
engaged in a great civil wai', testing whether that Nation, or
any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We
are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come
to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place of
those who here gave their lives that that Nation might live. It
is altogether fitting and proper that wo should do this.

" But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not con-
secrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living
and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our
poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor
long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what
they did here. It is for lis, the living, rather, to be dedicated
here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have
thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedi-
cated to the great task remaining before lis — that from these
honored dead we take increased devotion to tluit cause for
Avhich they gave the last full measure of devotion ; that we hero
liighly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain ; that
this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ; and
that government of the people, by the people, for the people
shall not perish from the earth."

It is said that these words were first written on the backs of
envelopes in a railway car between Washington and Gettysburg.
Yet notice the grandeur of every sentence.

They leave us almost breathless at their close.


Secondly. He was the conqueror of difficulties — he was a
Knight of the Sublime Order of Disappointment.

Yearning to learn, he was censured for that disposition.
Craving information, he was deprived of almost all books ;
loving his fellow men, he was afilicted for years Avith bashful-
ness; with an eye and ear for all the beautiful in nature, in
poetry, and in song, lie was burdened, he says, with a voice,
face, and form alike unfortunate. Those who knew him, and
particularly tliose who encountered his eternal friendliness,
never deemed him uncouth or homely. Col. Freeman Thorp,
M-ho sketched him often and whose painting of him was accepted
by the Senate, assures me he saw no nncouthness, just " a tall,
spare, but well-formed, muscular man, very erect, with impres-
sive, plain, unassuming liearing."'
34173— lil.j 10

"With a desire to be a useful member of the community, he,
when he became of age, embarked, in various business ventures,
and every one of tliem, without exception at all, was signally dis-
astrous; they fastened upon him a burden of debt which he
carried for 20 years, and never did dispose of until 1S49, his
fortieth year, after his election to Congress. He called it the
" National debt." It amounted to $1,100 and was in the form of
promissory notes. When these notes became dne all the cred-
itors consented to renew them except one. This man brought
suit, obtained judgment, issued an execution, and levied upon
the surveying implements, which Lincoln called the things which
kept soul and body together. The day of sale came, but down
the dusty road that day came James Short, a farmer, and he
bought all the things at the sale and laid them at Lincoln's feet,
and said, " Here, begin again." Thirty-two years afterwards
Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, heaixl that
.Tames Short was destitute on the western border of Nebraska,
and as fast as steam and train (and pony express) could carry
it-, he sent aid and comfort, succor and support. Gratitude after
32 years ! I would love Abraham Lincoln for that, if not for
anything else. [Applause.]

Desiring to go to the legislature, he was doomed at first
to disappointment. Later, aspiring to congressional honors,
he again met with defeats — due to provoking and exasper£it-
ing misconceptions of him ; and even when a candidate for
United States Senator in 1S56 and 1S5S he still imderwent the
indescribable humiliation of being almost invariably misunder-
stood — resting, for example, under the charge of being the can-
didate of wealth, aristocracy, and family pride, he, who as a
flatboat boy, at $S per month, had had to earn his living by the
veriest sweat of liis brow. And all along the wending way the
death of beloved children and the ingratitude of pretended
friends seemed to combine to make his life unbearable and all
his hopes a mockery.

I have never seen the thought expressed in any biography,
but from the reading of some of his oaati letters and speeches
I have received the impression that, to sorne extent at least,
he himself at times gave way to the thought that his life of
continued agonizing was intended to prepare him for some
great test.

In 1900 Prof. Van Buren Denslow, of New York City, wrote
to me shiling that in 1800 he left in Illinois a copy of a speech
delivered by IMr. Lincoln in the hall of the house of representa-
tives at Springfield in 1S39 ; anotlier copy of which speecli
Prof. Denslow had never been able to secure. I took pleasure in
hunting for the lost pamphlet, was fortunate enough to find it,
and forwarded it to its owner — 40 years after he had parted
with it. But before sending it back I read it. I shall always
be impressed AAith its closing paragraph. I took a copy of it,
but unfortunately iiave lost that, and I iiave never seen it any-
where else. I can not now quote it, but in substance it was tliis :
" I never so fully realize my manhood ; I never feel myself so
fully rising to the complete exercise of the faculties which God
has given me, as when I contemplate my country, assailed and
in dangei-, and I, alone, standing between her and tlie perils
that surround her."

The si>eech was full of wliat wonld nowadays be called sopho-
niorical eloquence and, we must remember, was written at the
^417;!— 2i;uo

age of 30, wbcn Mr. Lincoln was merely a member of the litUe
Illinois Legislature, only 21 years after Illinois was made a
State and full 22 years before the eventful March, ISGl, when
he Avas inaugurated as I'resident. It certainly has a prophetic
sound, and whatever his intention when writing it, I prefer
to believe that in the midnight hour, when that sentence was
framed — in the rare and radiant moment when his wrought-up
brain conveyed that high thought to his swift and shining pen-
Abraham Lincoln was inspired. At any rate, the hour then
imagined actually came, and in a time of sadness and of dark-
ness that was to all others unutterably appalling this man who
could n.ot be appalled took into his lirm grasp the quivering hehn
of the then struggling Ship of Slate and never lifted his hand
nor rested his eye until it entered the havf-n of rest.

The lightnings b'.azed tb.eir blinding bolts about him, but he
never faltered. The thu.nders poured their awful blasts upon
him, but ho never wavered. Wave after wave of trial raised
its horrid, seething crest across his path and roared, " Thus far
and no farther,'' but he never yielded.

And at last, amidst the tears and prayers and thanksgiving
of humanity. Abraham Lincoln steered the battered but yet
beautiful ship into the harbor of i>erfect peace and anchored
her there in beauty and grandeur and grace and power, safe
from all the attacks of terrible treason and wasting war forever.


Lincoln was a paragon among lovers. He says he was awk-
Avard and bashful in the time when " young men's fancies lightly
turn to thoughts of love." I am sure he was not unlovable." He was highly regarded by not a few noble women, and
at different times four of them so treated him that ho even
felt justified in proposing marriage. Ann Rutledge, Mary
Owens, Sai-ah Kiekard, and Mary Todd— these four Wc know
lie loved. It is always a gratification to me to know that our
greatest men liave been among our most ardent lovers. Wash-
ington was devoted to five different girls within 10 years.
[Laughter.] He, however, was an elegant gentleman, a man
of fashion, and always at ease in ladies' society, and it is not
in the least surprising that a man so constantly coming into
contact with women should be attracted by and to them.
Timidity, however, in polite society, was a characteristic of
Lincoln's whole life. And strong indeed must have been his
love to enable it to overcome his natural shyness in v.oman's

Those who knew him best assert that his affection once
evoked was impetuous and fervent. Above the lonely grave in
Menard County of Ann Itutledge his great heart broke. 'To that
lovely girl he had told the old, old story as he escorted her to
the "quilting bee." The owner of a quilt made in those days
used to show to all interested the vei-y uneven and irregular
stitches which Ann liutledge made as her heart and soul
throbbed and thrilled with .joy when, sitting by her side as she
stitched and stitched at the "quilling frame." Lincoln told that
story of man's love for woman, sweet as it is old and old as it is
sweet. Thank God!

"All the world loves a lover." And no one will love Lincoln
less because of tlie historical fact that his reason, or at least
his hope and interest in life, departed from liim when Ann died.

Yes; that heart and soul and mind and intellect which in later
years could contemplate unmoved a world in arras, were all
dethroned bwause a sweet girl died in ?,Ienard County.

It was live long years before any other woman attracted him.
Then two, in somewhat rapid succession, became recipients of
his regard. Although esteeming him, they rejected him, not
fully comprehending him. When he did finally marry, 10 yeai's
later, he became and remained a model husband, and Mary Todd
Lincoln was a model wife. But many think to this day that the
fragrance of tlie memory of the loved and lost one of Nevv' Salem
hovered about him till his death and contributed to make hira
what, at times, he was — the saddest man of his time.

A kind friend, aftQr Ann Rutledge's death, took Mr. Lincoln
to his little home in a secluded spot, hidden by the hills, and
there slowly and gradually brouglit him back to reason after
weeks and weeks of suffering and peril.

In 1842 that kind friend— Bowling Greene — died, and Lincoln
was selected to deliver a funeral oration. He rose to speak,
but the old, dear memories ci'owded upon him, he broke down,
his voice choked, his lips quivered, the tears poured down his
cheeks. After repeated efforts, finding it absolutely impossible
to speak, he strode away, bitterly sobbing. Every heart was
touched by the spectacle.

I myself shall always believe that we would never have had

1 3

Online LibraryRichard YatesLincoln, speech of Hon. Richard Yates, of Illinois → online text (page 1 of 3)