Robert W.] [Thompson.

A tribute to the memory of Abraham Lincoln. Albion lodge no. 26, F. & A. M. February 12, 1906 online

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Online LibraryRobert W.] [ThompsonA tribute to the memory of Abraham Lincoln. Albion lodge no. 26, F. & A. M. February 12, 1906 → online text (page 1 of 1)
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JIddress by tDe
master of Jllbion
lodge on tbe m-
niversary of Citt=
coin's Blrtbday '06







AIL.BION UODQE No. 2e, R. Oc A. M.

February 12, 1Q06




%^km Ij t\t ^mitx.


On February 13th, 1809, ninety-seven years ago,
there was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, in the
log cabin of a poor farmer, one whose name will
remain linked with that of Washington, one o£ the
greatest names, that history has inscribed on its
annals. It has seemed to me, fitting and proper^
that on this anniversary of his birth, we, the
members of Albion Lodge, pay our tribute to the
memory of Abraham Lincoln, philosopher, orator,
and statesman, by recalling the great principles
that he defended and the majestic simplicity of
the man. His career has often been described and
his character analyzed, but the story cannot be
told too often. The old hymns usually sound
better than the new ones and we can afford to
travel old paths when they lead to hallowed
ground. As American citizens, we are bound to
do everything in our power to keep alive the
memory of him whom we humbly acknowledge


and reverently proclaim the savior of our Republic.
So, to-night, on tliis anniversary of his birth, some
of the old things should be said, and everywhere
throughout our land, in the epoch of peace and
increasing prosperity that is dawning, they will
surely be said every year more simply and sin-

I scarcely suppose that there is one present
who has not read his Gettysburg address. It is
known wherever the English language is spoken,
and so I shall, w4th your permission, refresh our
recollection of this gem of clear, expressive and
persuasive eloquence. Although we are told that
it was hastily penned on a piece of crumpled
paper, and read awkwardly from this poorly
written manuscript, it cannot fail to be treas-
ured from generation to generation of American
citizens as the only adequate tribute to this
martyred President, who carried the sorrows of
his country as truly as he bore its burdens in the
dark hours of civil war.

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers
brought forth upon this continent a new nation,
conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the pro-
position that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war,
testing whether that nation, or any nation so con-
ceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are
met on a great battlefield of that war. We have

come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final
resting-place for those who here gave their lives
that that nation might live. It is altogether fit-
ting and proper that we should do this.

" But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate,
we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this
ground. The brave men, living and dead, who
struggled here, have consecrated it far above our
power to aid 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 us, the
living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinish-
ed work which they who fought here have thus
far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be
here dedicated to the great task remaining before
us; that from these honored dead we take
increased devotion to that cause for which they
gave the last full measure of devotion ; that we
here highly resolve that these dead shall not have
died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall
have a new birth of freedom ; and that govern-
ment of the people, by the people, and for the
people, shall not perish from the earth."

And then we recall the conclusion of his first
inaugural address : —

"Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity and a
firm reliance or Him, who has never yet forsaken
this favored land, are still competent to adjust
in the best way all our present difficulty.

" In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-country-
men, and not in mine, in the momentous issue of
civil war. The government will not assail you.
You can have no conflict without being your-
selves the aggressors. You have no oath regis-
tered in heaven to destroy the 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
passions may have strained, it must not break our
bonds of affection. The mystic chords of mem-
ory, stretching from every battlefield 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.''

And reading from his second Annual Message,

•' Is it doubted, then, that the plan I propose, if
adopted, would shorten the war, and thus lessen
its expenditure of money and of blood? Is it
doubted that it would restore the national author-
ity and national prosperity and perpetuate both
indefinitely? Is it doubted that we here, —
Congress and Executive— can secure its adoption ?
Will not the good people respond to a united and
earnest appeal from us? Can we, can they, by
any other means, so certainly or so speedily assure
these vital objects ? We can succeed only by con-

cert. It is not, — ' Can any of us imagine better',
but 'Can we all do better '? Object whatsoever is
possible, still the question recurs, 'Can we do
better ' ? The dogmas of the quiet past are inade.
quate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled
high with difficulty, and we must rise with the
occasion. As our case is new, so we must think
anew and act anew. We must disenthrall our
selves, and then we shall save our country.

" Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We
of this Congress and this Administration will be
remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal
significance or insignificance can spare one or
another of us. The fiery trial through which we
pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to
the latest generation. We say we are for the
Union. The world will not forget that we say
this. We know how to save the Union. The
world knows we do know how to save it. We,
even we here, hold the power and bear the
responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave we
assure freedom to the free —honorable alike in
what we give and what we preserve. We shall
nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of

And finally we read from the conclusion of his
second Inaugural Address, when the great civil
contest was still absorbing the attention of the
nation : —

" With malice toward none, with charity for
all,' with firmness in the right as God gives us to see
the right, let us strive on to 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 orphan, to do all which may
achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace
among ourselves and with all nations "

Who was this man who rose from obscurity to
occupy the most exalted and honored station
within the gift of a free people ? Born on a farm,
in poverty, reared without the advantages of
schools, but persistently training and disciplining
himself and extending his knowledge by his
marvelous powers of observation, learning to
read and write by the light of the kitchen fire, in
the woods of Indiana, a boat-n<an on the Mis-
sissippi, an awkward farm hand of the Sangamon,
who covered his bare feet in the fresh dirt which
his plow had turned up, to keep them from
getting sun burned, the country lawyer who
rode on horseback from county to county
with nothing in his saddle bags except a clean
shirt and the Code of Illinois, to try his cases and
to air his views in the cheerful company which
always gathered about the Court House, the
daring debater of whom it was said that his
clothes did not fit him, that he stretched his long
legs in ungainly postures, that he was common


and uncouth in his appearance, his critics little
dreaming that the rude cabin yonder on the edge
of the hill country of Kentucky was about to be
transformed by the tender imagination of the
people into a mansion more stately than the
White House itself. The cabin of Nancy Hanks
did not shelter the childhood of a king, but more
royal than all the palaces of earth, it was the first
habitation of one of nature's noblemen, possessing
the highest and noblest qualities of manhood, spot-
less integrity and unbounded faith in the Union
of these United States.

As has been well said by a master of epigram,
his was the power that commanded admiration
and the humanity that invited love ; he possessed
a head that commanded men and a heart that
attracted babes. He leaned upon no fiction
of nobility and kissed no hand to obtain his lank,
but the stamp of nobility and power which he
wore, was conferred upon him in that log hut in
Kentucky, that day in 1809, when he and Nancy
Hanks were first seen together and it w&s con-
firmed by a power, which, unlike earthly poten-
tates, never confers a title without a character
that will adorn it.

Regarding Lincoln while the important thing
is of course to comprehend ^lat he became, what
he did and what he taught,— yet we love to dwell
on the becoming, — the early processes, and to go

over the dramatic outward incidents of his life.
He received his education from contact veith his
fellow men in every station of life, and by his
marvelous powers of observation learned to
understand their weaknesses and their strength,
and understanding, learned to sympathize. He
knew men, as only one can whose knowledge is
derived from experience.

We follow him from Kentucky into Indiana.
We see him at school there, in the open woods all
day and by the firelight after the day's work was
done. We take interest in nis early manhood ; we
see him at his athletics in that wide, leafy, whis-
pering gymnasium of his, — axe in hand, — building
him a body of iron ; and we see him in the solitude
of nature with the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress
and Shakespeare and the Declaration of Independ-
ence and the Constitution of the United States ;
and who would have the temerity to doubt that
these professors of his, Moses, and David, and
Isaiah, and Bunyan, and Shakespeare, and Wash-
ington, and Jefferson, and the Great World of
Nature, are never in the future to be in 'dny wise
ashamed of their handiwork.

In 1830 we see him moving his family, with
their scant and meagre chattels, westward to
Illinois ; we see him on his southern journey float-
ing slowly down to his first shuddering contact
with human slavery ; — that thing which he said,


"had, and continually exercised, the power of
making him miserable." He is a farm laborer, a
flat boatman, a clerk, a small merchant. He
meditates becoming a blacksmith. He is a captain
in the Black Hawk war. He becomes a surveyor
and a postmaster, and finally devotes himself to
the study and practice of the law. He is elected
in 1834 one of the members of the Illinois Legis-
lature and in A.ugust 1846 a Repret^entative to Con-
gress where he only serves one term, for he finds
it disappointing and resolves to give up politics,

And now, after a considerable interval of quiet
professional life, comes an ominous and fateful
year, The rumblings of coming conflict between
North and South are heard.

The period of mutual restraint is at an end ;
slavery must be extended and live, or it must be
restricted and die. Positive law can no longer
withstand the onslaughts of ethical law. The
Missouri Compromise is repealed and the great
battle has begun.

The year 1854, marks the beginning of the last
decade of Lincoln's life. It marks the beginning
of his ministry. Now we are to find out what
manner of man he has become, and what place
he is to hold in the history of the nation, and of
the world. From this time on he stands always
in the white light. From this on w^e can see for
ourselves the great, patient purpose driving, the


greafc intellect executing, the great heart suffering.
What a marvelous record he has left in his
letters, speeches, messages and proclamations,
models of clear exposition abounding in patriotism,
wisdom and common sense !

He believed in the Declaration of Independence.
He believed that the suffering, the life and death
struggle of the Eevolutionary Fathers, lifted them
for the time-being, to new heights of spiritual
vision: and that in the end they conquered not
merely the armies of King George, but they con-
quered themselves and Old World prejudices, and
inherited evils and errors. The Declaration was
the source of all his political sentiment : he fre-
quently said so. It is the text of all his political
teaching and the motive of all his political meas-
ures, and runs like a strand of gold through the
whole fibre of his life.

"All men are created equal," He believed in
equality. In that attitude of mind under which
society says to every one not, "What have you ?",
not "Whence came you ?", race, caste, class,
color?— but simply "What are you?" "What can
you do ?" He believed that equality was the very
sun of the true social and political system.

He not only believed in the Declaration as a re-
ligion, but he understood it as a policy— definite,
clear cut and practical, he saw more and more, as
time went on, the spread of intelligence that lay


in it, the growth of virtue that lay in it,, the in-
crease of wealth that lay in it, the perpetual har-
vest of patriotism, of manhood, of national
strength and power, to spring from that simply
stated truth if really understood and faithfully
followed. History has certainly justified his faith
and we have seen his prophesies realized.

He appreciated the value of the Union. The
Union was everything. The extreme abolution-
ists hating slavery, were demanding immediate
universal emancipation ; otherwise, dis-union. The
extreme Southern leaders, as you remember under-
standing slavery, — that it must be extended or die,
were demanding extension or dis-union and seces-
sion. And there were those who said "Let the
erring sisters go," accepting the doctrine of State
Rights through indifference.

Mr. Lincoln saw, that to give up the Union was
to confess the failure of free institutions before the
world,— the inability of democracy to maintain
itself in a crisis. The spirit of slavery and the
spirit of the Declaration of Independence cannot
stand together. As he said in 1858 to the conven-
tion which placed him in nomination against
Douglas. " A house divided against itself cannot
stand, I believe, this government cannot endure
permanently half slave and half free, I do not
expect the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect
the house to fall, but I do expect that h will cease


to be divided."

Quoting from the eulogy of Congressman James
Willis Gleed:—

" There have been leaders of men who awe and
dazzle us like the storm. Rut beyond the roar and
dazzle of the storm, above the angry cloud, behind
the thunderbolt, is the Firmament, is Providence,
is Supreme Intelligence, emanating from the great
Architect of the Universe. So the silent, patient,
intelligent Lincoln, always supremely sane, keen
witted and practical stands in majestic nakedness
an instrument in the hands of Providence to save
a nation.

*'Mr. Lincoln was not a self-made man, nor a
luck-made man, but a God-made man, — God need-
ed him, and God made him, and God took him."
When the great sad eyes were closed, Stanton
said, "And now he belongs to the ages". Let us
brethern, thank God for Abraham Lincoln,
the inspiration of patriotism brought by the record
of his prophetic words and noble deeds no less than
for the blessings of prosperity and happiness which
we now enjoy, for which he labored not in vain.


LRB D '13


Online LibraryRobert W.] [ThompsonA tribute to the memory of Abraham Lincoln. Albion lodge no. 26, F. & A. M. February 12, 1906 → online text (page 1 of 1)