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A LECTURE




BY



ROBERT G. INGERSOLL.

Nothing is grander than to break chains from the bodies of men — nothing
nobler than to destroy the phantoms of the soul



NEW YORK.

C P. FARRELL, PUBLISHER,

1907



Col. Robert G. IngersolTs

COMPLETE WORKS

Dresden Edition of 12 Handsome Octavo Volumes

Complete index to all the volumes and table of contents to each volume



THE only authorized and complete edition of Ingersoll's works. Published with
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\ \

ABRAHAM LINCOLN



ABRAHAM LINCOLN,



A LECTURE



2Y



Robert G: Ingersoll.



Nothing is grander than to break chains from the bodies of men — nothing
nobler than to destroy the phantoms c-f the soul.



NEW YORK.

C. P. FARRELL, PUBLISHER,

1907



.PV7



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1894, by

ROBERT G. INGERSOLL

in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C,



3aSmO.



ABRAHAM LINCOLN,



i.



/^""\N the 1 2th of February, 1809, two babes were
^" > ^ born — one in the woods of Kentucky, amid
the hardships and poverty of pioneers ; one in Eng-
land, surrounded by wealth and culture. One was
educated in the University of Nature, the other at
Cambridge.

One associated his name with the enfranchisement
of labor, with the emancipation of millions, with the
salvation of the Republic. He is known to us as
Abraham Lincoln.

The other broke the chains of superstition and

filled the world with intellectual light, and he is

known as Charles Darwin.

Nothing is grander than to break chains from the

(123)



124 ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

bodies of men — nothing nobler than to destroy the.
phantoms of the soul.

Because of these two men the nineteenth century
is illustrious.

A few men and women make a nation glorious —
Shakespeare made England immortal, Voltaire civil-
ized and humanized France ; Goethe, Schiller and
Humboldt lifted Germany into the light. Angelo,
Raphael, Galileo and Bruno crowned with fadeless
laurel the Italian brow, and now the most precious
treasure of the Great Republic is the memory of
Abraham Lincoln.

Every generation has its heroes, its iconoclasts, its
pioneers, its ideals. The people always have been
and still are divided, at least into classes — the many,
who with their backs to the sunrise worship the
past, and the few, who keep their faces toward the
dawn — the many, who are satisfied with the world
as it is ; the few, who labor and suffer for the future,
for those to be, and who seek to rescue the op-
pressed, to destroy the cruel distinctions of caste,
and to civilize mankind.

Yet it sometimes happens that the liberator of one
age becomes the oppressor of the next. His repu-
tation becomes so great — he is so revered and wor-



ABRAHAM LINCOLN, I 2 ^

shiped — that his followers, in his name, attack the
hero who endeavors to take another step in advance.

The heroes of the Revolution, forgetting the jus-
tice for which they fought, put chains upon the limbs
of others, and in their names the lovers of liberty
were denounced as ingrates and traitors.

During the Revolution our fathers to justify their
rebellion dug down to the bed-rock of human rights
and planted their standard there. They declared
that all men were entitled to liberty and that govern-
ment derived its power from the consent of the
governed. But when victory came, the great prin-
ciples were forgotten and chains were put upon the
limbs of men. Both of the great political parties
were controlled by greed and selfishness. Both
were the defenders and protectors of slavery. For
nearly three-quarters of a century these parties had
control of the Republic. The principal object of
both parties was the protection of the infamous in-
stitution. Both were eager to secure the Southern
vote and both sacrificed principle and honor upon
the altar of success.

At last the Whig party died and the Republican
was born. This party was opposed to the further
extension of slavery. The Democratic party of the



126 ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

South wished to make the " divine institution "
national — while the Democrats of the North wanted
the question decided by each territory for itself.

Each of these parties had conservatives and ex-
tremists. The extremists of the Democratic party
were in the rear and wished to go back ; the ex-
tremists of the Republican party were in the front,
and wished to go forward. The extreme Democrat
was willing to destroy the Union for the sake of
slavery, and the extreme Republican was willing to
destroy the Union for the sake of liberty.

Neither party could succeed without the votes of
its extremists.

This was the condition in i858-6o.

When Lincoln was a child his parents removed
from Kentucky to Indiana. A few trees were felled
— a log hut open to the south, no floor, no window,
was built — a little land plowed and here the Lincolns
lived. Here the patient, thoughtful, silent, loving
mother died — died in the wide forest as a leaf dies,
leaving nothing to her son but the memory of her
love.

In a few years the family moved to Illinois. Lin-
coln then almost grown, clad in skins, with no woven
stitch upon his body — walking and driving the



ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 12/

cattle. Another farm was opened — a few acres
subdued and enough raised to keep the wolf from
the door. Lincoln quit the farm — went down the
Ohio and Mississippi as a hand on a flat-boat — ■
afterward clerked in a country store — then in part-
nership with another bought the store — failed.
Nothing left but a few debts — learned the art of
surveying — made about half a living and paid some-
thing on the debts — read law — admitted to the bar
— tried a few small cases — nominated for the Legis-
lature and made a speech.

This speech was in favor of a tariff, not only for
revenue, but to encourage American manufacturers
and to protect American workingmen. Lincoln
knew then as well as we do now, that everything,
to the limits of the possible, that Americans use
should be produced by the energy, skill and in-
genuity of Americans. He knew that the more
industries we had, the greater variety of things we
made, the greater would be the development of the
American brain. And he knew that great men and
great women are the best things that a nation can
produce, — the finest crop a country can possibly
raise.

He knew that a nation that sells raw material will



128



ABRAHAM LINCOLN.



grow ignorant and poor, while the people who man-
ufacture will grow intelligent and rich. To dig, to
chop, to plow, requires more muscle than mind, more
strength than thought.

To invent, to manufacture, to take advantage of
the forces of nature — this requires thought, talent,
genius. This develops the brain and gives wings
to the imagination.

It is better for Americans to purchase from Amer-
icans, even if the things purchased cost more.

If we purchase a ton of steel rails from England
for twenty dollars, then we have the rails and Eng-
land the money. But if we buy a ton of steel rails
from an American for twenty-five dollars, then
America has both the rails and the money.

Judging from the present universal depression and
the recent elections, Lincoln, in his first speech,
stood on solid rock and was absolutely right. Lin-
coln was educated in the University of Nature —
educated by cloud and star — by field and winding
stream — by billowed plains and solemn forests — by
morning's birth and death of day — by storm and
night — by the ever eager Spring — by Summer's
wealth of leaf and vine and flower — the sad and
transient glories of the Autumn woods — and Win-



ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 129

ter, builder of home and fireside, and whose storms
without, create the social warmth within.

He was perfectly acquainted with the political
questions of the day — heard them discussed at
taverns and country stores, at voting places and
courts and on the stump. He knew all the argu-
ments for and against, and no man of his time was
better equipped for intellectual conflict. He knew
the average mind — the thoughts of the people, the
hopes and prejudices of his fellow-men. He had
the power of accurate statement. He was logical,
candid and sincere. In addition, he had the " touch
of nature that makes the whole world kin."

In 1 858 he was a candidate for the Senate against
Stephen A. Douglas.

The extreme Democrats would not vote for Doug-
las, but the extreme Republicans did vote for Lin-
coln. Lincoln occupied the middle ground, and was
the compromise candidate of his own party. He
had lived for many years in the intellectual territory
of compromise — in a part of our country settled by
Northern and Southern men — where Northern and
Southern ideas met, and the ideas of the two sec-
tions were brought together and compared.

The sympathies of Lincoln, his ties of kindred,



11,0 ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

were with the South. His convictions, his sense of
justice, and his ideals, were with the North. He
knew the horrors of slavery, and he felt the un-
speakable ecstasies and glories of freedom. He had
the kindness, the gentleness, of true greatness, and
he could not have been a master ; he had the man-
hood and independence of true greatness, and he
could not have been a slave. He was just, and was
incapable of putting a burden upon others that he
himself would not willingly bear.

He was merciful and profound, and it was not
necessary for him to read the history of the world to
know that liberty and slavery could not live in the
same nation, or in the same brain. Lincoln was a
statesman. And there is this difference between a
politician and a statesman. A politician schemes
and works in every way to make the people do
something for him. A statesman wishes to do some-
thing for the people. With him place and power
are means to an end, and the end is the good of his
country.

In this campaign Lincoln demonstrated three things
— first, that he was the intellectual superior of his op-
ponent ; second, that he was right ; and third, that a
majority of the voters of Illinois were on his side.



II.

IN i860 the Republic reached a crisis. The con-
flict between liberty and slavery could no longer
be delayed. For three-quarters of a century the
forces had been gathering for the battle.

After the Revolution, principle was sacrificed for
the sake of gain. The Constitution contradicted the
Declaration. Liberty as a principle was held in con-
tempt. Slavery took possession of the Government.
Slavery made the laws, corrupted courts, dominated
Presidents and demoralized the people.

I do not hold the South responsible for slavery
any more than I do the North. The fact is, that
individuals and nations act as they must. There is
no chance. Back of every event — of every hope,
prejudice, fancy and dream — of every opinion and
belief — of every vice and virtue — of every smile
and curse, is the efficient cause. The present mo-
ment is the child, and the necessary child, of all the
past.

Northern politicians wanted office, and so they
defended slavery ; Northern merchants wanted to
sell their goods to the South, and so they were the

enemies of freedom. The preacher wished to please

C13O



I3 2 ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

the people who paid his salary, and so he denounced
the slave for not being satisfied with the position in
which the good God had placed him.

The respectable, the rich, the prosperous, the
holders of and the seekers for office, held liberty in
contempt. They regarded the Constitution as far
more sacred than the rights of men. Candidates
for the presidency were applauded because they had
tried to make slave States of free territory, and the
highest court solemnly and ignorantly decided that
colored men and women had no ripdits. Men who

o

insisted that freedom was better than slavery, and
that mothers should not be robbed of their babes,
were hated, despised and mobbed. Mr. Douglas
voiced the feelings of millions when he declared that
he did not care whether slavery was voted up or
down. Upon this question the people, a majority
of them, were almost savages. Honor, manhood,
conscience, principle — all sacrificed for the sake of
gain or office.

From the heights of philosophy — standing above
the contending hosts, above the prejudices, the
sentimentalities of the day ■ — Lincoln was great
enough and brave enough and wise enough to utter
these prophetic words :



ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 133

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this
Government cannot permanently endure half slave and hali
free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved ; I do not ex-
pect the house to fall ; but I do expect it will cease to be
divided. It will become all the one thing or the other. Either
the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and
place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is
in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push
it further until it becomes alike lawful in all the States, old as
well as new, North as well as South."

This declaration was the standard around which
gathered the grandest political party the world has
ever seen, and this declaration made Lincoln the
leader of that vast host.

In this, the first great crisis, Lincoln uttered the
victorious truth that made him the foremost man in
the Republic.

The Republican party nominated him for the
presidency and the people decided at the polls that
a house divided against itself could not stand, and
that slavery had cursed soul and soil enough.

It is not a common thing to elect a really great
man to fill the highest official position. I do not say
that the great Presidents have been chosen by acci-
dent. Probably it would be better to say that they
were the favorites of a happy chance.

The average man is afraid of genius. He feels as



134 ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

an awkward man feels in the presence of a sleight-
of-hand performer. He admires and suspects.
Genius appears to carry too much sail — to lack
prudence, has too much courage. The ballast of
dullness inspires confidence.

By a happy chance Lincoln was nominated and
elected in spite of his fitness — and the patient,
gentle, just and loving man was called upon to bear
as great a burden as man has ever borne.

III.

r "PHEN came another crisis — the crisis of Seces-
sion and Civil war.
Again Lincoln spoke the deepest feeling and the
highest thought of the Nation. In his first message
he said :

" The central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy."

He also showed conclusively that the North and
South, in spite of secession, must remain face to
face — that physically they could not separate ■ — that
they must have more or less commerce, and that
this commerce must be carried on either between
the two sections as friends, or as aliens.

This situation and its consequences he pointed
out to absolute perfection in these words :



ABRAHAM. LINCOLN. I3*>

" Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws ?
Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than
laws among friends ? "

After having stated fully and fairly the philosophy
of the conflict, after having said enough to satisfy
any calm and thoughtful mind, he addressed himself
to the hearts of America. Probably there are few
finer passages in literature than the close of Lin-
coln's inaugural address :

" 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 chords of
memory stretching from every battlefield and patriotic grave to
every loving heart and hearthstone all over this broad land,
will swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as
surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. ' '

These noble, these touching, these pathetic words,
were delivered in the presence of rebellion, in the
midst of spies and conspirators — surrounded by but
few friends, most of whom were unknown, and some
of whom were wavering in their fidelity — at a time
when secession was arrogant and organized, when
patriotism was silent, and when, to quote the ex-
pressive words of Lincoln himself, " Sinners were
calling the righteous to repentance."

When Lincoln became President, he was held in



I36 ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

contempt by the South — underrated by the North
and East — not appreciated even by his cabinet —
and yet he was not only one of the wisest, but one
of the shrewdest of mankind. Knowing that he had
the right to enforce the laws of the Union in all
parts of the United States and Territories — know-
ing, as he did, that the secessionists were in the
wrong, he also knew that they had sympathizers not
only in the North, but in other lands.

Consequently, he felt that it was of the utmost im-
portance that the South should fire the first shot,
should do some act that would solidify the North,
and gain for us the justification of the civilized world.

He proposed to give food to the soldiers at Sum-
ter. He asked the advice of all his cabinet on this
question, and all, with the exception of Montgomery
Blair, answered in the negative, giving their reasons
in writing. In spite of this, Lincoln took his own
course — endeavored to send the supplies, and while
thus engaged, doing his simple duty, the South
commenced actual hostilities and fired on the fort.
The course pursued by Lincoln was absolutely right,
and the act of the South to a great extent solidified
the North, and gained for the Republic the justifica-
tion of a great number of people in other lands.



ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 137

At that time Lincoln appreciated the scope and
consequences of the impending conflict. Above all
other thoughts in his mind was this :

"This conflict will settle the question, at least for
" centuries to come, whether man is capable of
" governing himself, and consequently is of greater
" importance to the free than to the enslaved."

He knew what depended on the issue and he said :

" We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last,
" best hope of earth."

IV.

T^HEN came a crisis in the North. It became
clearer and clearer to Lincoln's mind, day by
day, that the Rebellion was slavery, and that it was
necessary to keep the border States on the side of
the Union. For this purpose he proposed a scheme
of emancipation and colonization — a scheme by
which the owners of slaves should be paid the full
value of what they called their " property."

He knew that if the border States agreed to grad-
ual emancipation, and received compensation for
their slaves, they would be forever lost to the Con-
federacy, whether secession succeeded or not. It
was objected at the time, by some, that the scheme



I38 ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

was far too expensive ; but Lincoln, wiser than his
advisers — far wiser than his enemies — demon-
strated that from an economical point of view, his
course was best.

He proposed that $400 be paid for slaves, includ-
ing men, women and children. This was a larqe:
price, and yet he showed how much cheaper it was
to purchase than to carry on the war.

At that time, at the price mentioned, there were
about #75o,ooo worth of slaves in Delaware. The
cost of carrying on the war was at least two millions
of dollars a day, and for one-third of one day's ex-
penses, all the slaves in Delaware could be purchased.
He also showed that all the slaves in Delaware,
Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri could be bought,
at the same price, for less than the expense of carry-
ing on the war for eighty-seven days.

This was the wisest thing that could have been
proposed, and yet such was the madness of the
South, such the indignation of the North, that the
advice was unheeded.

Again, in July, 1862, he urged on the Representa-
tives of the border States a scheme of gradual com-
pensated emancipation ; but the Representatives
were too deaf to hear, too blind to see.



ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 1 39

Lincoln always hated slavery, and yet he felt the
obligations and duties of his position. In his first
message he assured the South that the laws, includ-
ing the most odious of all — the law for the return
of fugitive slaves — would be enforced. The South
would not hear. Afterward he proposed to pur-
chase the slaves of the border States, but the propo-
sition was hardly discussed — hardly heard. Events
came thick and fast ; theories gave way to facts, and
everything was left to force.

The extreme Democrat of the North was fearful
that slavery might be destroyed, that the Constitu-
tion might be broken, and that Lincoln, after all,
could not be trusted ; and at the same time the radi-
cal Republican feared that Lincoln loved the Union
more than he did liberty.


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