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black race in America against its will was thrust across the path of the onward-marching










white race to demonstrate not only for America but for the world w hether the principles
of freedom were of universal application and ultimately, no doubt, extend its blessings to
all the races of mankind.

In the process of time, as was inevitable, these great forces of liberty and the forces
of bondage from the ships at Plymouth and Jamestown met in open conflict upon the
field of battle. And how strange it is, through the same overruling Providence, that
children of those who bought and sold their fellows into bondage should be among those
who cast aside ties of language, of race, of religion, and even of kinship in order that a
people not of their own race, nor primarily of their own creed or color, should have the
same measure of liberty and freedom which they themselves enjoyed.

What a costly sacrifice upon the altar of freedom! How costly the world can
never know nor justly estimate. The flower of the Nation's manhood and the accumu-
lated treasure of two centuries of unremitting toil were offered up; and at length, when
the bitter strife was over, when the marshaled hosts on both sides had turned again to
broken desolated firesides, a cruel fate, unsatisfied with the awful toll of four long years
of carnage, struck at the Nation's head and brought to the dust the already wearied
frame of him whose patient fortitude, whose unembittered charity, whose never failing
trust in the guiding hand of God had brought the Nation weltering through a sea of
blood, yet one and indivisible, to that peace for which his heart yearned. On that day
Abraham Lincoln laid down his life for America — the last and costliest sacrifice.

To-day, in this inspiring presence, is raised a symbol of gratitude for all who are
blest by that sacrifice. But in all our vast country there are none more reverent than
those 12,000,000 black Americans who, with their fellow countrymen of every race,
pay devout homage to him who was for them, more truly than for any other group, the
author of their freedom. There is no question that Abraham Lincoln died to save the
Union. It is equally true that to the last extremity he defended the rights of the States.
But when the last veteran has stacked his arms, when only the memory of high courage
and deep devotion remains, at such a time the united voice of grateful posterity will
say: The claim of greatness for Abraham Lincoln lies in this, that amid doubt and dis-
trust, against the counsel of chosen advisers, in the hour of the Nation's utter peril, he
put his trust in God and spoke the word that gave freedom to a race and vindicated
the honor of a Nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all
men are created equal.

But some one will ask; Has such a sacrifice been justified? Has such martyrdom
produced its worthy fruits? I speak for the Negro race. Upon us, more perhaps than
upon any other group of the Nation, rests the immediate obligation to justify so dear
a price for our emancipation. In answer let me review the Negro's past upon American
soil. No group in all our country has been more loyal. 'Whether bond or free, he has
served alike his country's need. Let it never be omitted from the Nation's annals
that the blood of a black man, Crispus Attucks, was the first to be shed for the Nation's


freedom. So again, when a world was threatened with disaster and the deciding hand
of America was lifted to stay the peril, her black soldiers were among the first to cross
the treacherous sea. No one is more sensible than the Negro himself of his incongruous
position in the great American Republic. But be it recorded to his everlasting credit
that no failure to reap the full reward of his sacrifices has e\er in the least degree qualified
his loyalty or cooled his patriotic fervor.

In like manner has he served his country in the pursuits of peace. The Negro has
been the Nation's greatest single asset in the development of its resources. Especially
is this true in the South, where his uncomplaining toil sustained the splendors of that
life which ga\'e to the Nation a Washington and a Jefferson, a Jackson and a Lee. And
afterwards, when devastating war had leveled this fair structure to the ground, the
labor of the freedman restored it to its present proportions, more substantial and more
beautiful than before.

While all this was going on, in spite of limitations within and restrictions without,
he still found a way, through industry, integrity, and thrift, to acquire 22,000,000 acres of
land, 600,000 homes, and, in addition, to own and operate business enterprises, including
banks and insurance companies, with a combined capital amounting to more than
$150,000,000. All of this, with his 100,000 professional men and women and the
reduction of his illiteracy to 20 per cent, not to mention his schools and his churches,
would seem to show some justification for the sacrifice. A race that produced a
Frederick Douglass in the midst of slavery and a Booker Washington in the aftermath
of reconstruction has gone far to justify its emancipation. And the Nation where such
achievement is possible is full worthy of such heroic sacrifice.

But Lincoln did not die for the Negro alone. He freed a Nation as well as a race.
These conflicting forces planted 250 years before slowly divided the Nation in spirit
and in ideals. Passing suddenly beyond the bitterness of controversy, his death served
more than war itself to emphasize the enormity of the breach that had developed
between the sections.

That tragic event shocked the conscience of the Nation and stirred a great resolve
to establish forever the priceless heritage so dearly bought. From that day, the noblest
minds and hearts, both North and South, were bent to the healing of the breach and the
spiritual restoration of the Union. With a devotion that counted neither personal loss
nor gain, Abraham Lincoln held steadfastly to an ideal for the Republic that measured
at full value the worth of each race and section, cherishing at the same time the hope
under God that all should share alike in the blessings and privileges of freedom.

Lincoln has not died in vain. Slowly through the years that noble spirit has been
permeating every section of our land and country. Sixty years ago he stood in lonely
grandeur above a torn and bleeding Nation, a towering figure of patient righteousness.
To-day his spirit animates the breasts of millions of his countrymen who unite with us
to pay tribute to his lofty character and his immortal deed.






And now the whole world turns with anxious heart and eager eyes toward America.
In the providence of God, there has been started on these shores the great experiment of
the ages — an experiment in human relationships, where men and women of every nation,
of every race and creed, are thrown together. Here we are engaged, consciously or uncon-
sciously, in the great problems of determining how different races can not only live
together in peace but cooperate in working out a higher and better civilization than has
yet been achieved. At the extremes, the white and black races face each other. Here
in America these two races are charged under God with the responsibility of showing to
the world how individuals, as well as races, may differ most widely in color and inherit-
ance and at the same time, without humiliation or embarrassment, make themselves
helpful and even indispensable to each other's progress and prosperity. This is especially
true in the South, where the black man is found in greatest numbers and the two races
are brought in closest contact. And there to-day are found black men and white in
increasing numbers who are working together in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln to estab-
lish in fact what his death established in principle — that a nation conceived in liberty
and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal can endure and prosper
and serve mankind.

As we gather on this consecrated spot, his spirit must rejoice that sectional rancors
and racial antagonisms are softening more and more into mutual understanding and
effective cooperation. And 1 like to think that here to-day, while we dedicate this symbol
of our gratitude that the Nation is dedicated anew by its own determined will to fulfill
to the last letter the task imposed upon it by the martyred dead, that here it firmly
resolves that the humblest citizen, of whatever color or creed, shall enjoy that equal
opportunity and unhampered freedom for which the immortal Lincoln gave the last full
measure of devotion.

Twelve million black Americans share in the rejoicing this day. As yet, no other
name so warms the heart or stirs the depths of their gratitude as that of Abraham
Lincoln. To him above all others we owe the privilege of sharing as fellow citizens
in the consecration of this spot and the dedication of this shrine. In the name of
Lincoln 12,000,000 black Americans pledge to the Nation their continued loyalty and
their unreserved cooperation in every effort to realize in deeds the lofty principles
established by his martyrdom.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God
gives us to see the right, I somehow believe that all of us, black and white, both North
and South, are going to strive on to finish the work which he so nobly began to make
America an example for the world of equal justice and equal opportunity for all who
strive and are willing to serve under the f^ag that makes men free. [Prolonged applause.]

(The United States Marine Band thereupon played "America," the great audience

The Presiding Officer (Chief Justice Taft). Mr. Edward Markham will now
deliver a poem [Applause.]



Composed and read by Mr. EDWIN MARKHAM

Mr. Taft, Mr. President, and the representatives of the American people: No
poem, no oration can rise to the level of this historic hour. Nevertheless on this great
day of dedication 1 humbly inscribe this revised version of my Lincoln poem to this
Memorial, to this far-shining monument of remembrance erected in immortal marble
to the honor of our deathless martyr, the consecrated statesman, the ideal American,
the ever-beloved friend of humanity —


When the Norn Mother saw the Whirlwind Hour
Greatening and darkening as it hurried on,
She left the Heaven of Heroes and came down
To make a man to meet the mortal need.
She took the tried clay of the common road,
Clay warm yet with the genial heat of earth,
Dasht through it all a strain of prophecy;
Tempered the heap with thrill of human tears;
Then mixt a laughter with the serious stuff.
Into the shape she breathed a flame to light
That tender, tragic, ever-changing face;
And laid on him a sense of the Mystic Powers
Moving — all husht — behind the mortal veil.
Here was a man to hold against the world,
A man to match the mountains and the sea.

The color of the ground was in him, the red earth.

The smack and tang of elemental things;

The rectitude and patience of the cliff;

The good-will of the rain that loves all leaves;

The friendly welcome of the wayside well ;

The courage of the bird that dares the sea;

The gladness of the wind that shakes the com;

The pity of the snow that hides all scars;

The secrecy of streams that make their way

Under the mountain to the riften rock;

The tolerance and equity of light

That gives as freely to the shrinking flower

As to the great oak flaring to the wind —

To the grave's low hill as to the Matterhorn

That shoulders out the sky. Sprung from the West,

He drank the valorous youth of a new world,

The strength of virgin forests braced his mind.

The hush of spacious prairies stilled his soul,

His words were oaks in acorns; and his thoughts

Were roots that firmly gript the granite truth.


Up from log cabin to the Capitol,
One fire was on his spirit, one resolve —
To send the keen ax to the root of wrong
Clearing a free way for the feet of God,
The eyes of conscience testing every stroke,
To make his deed the measure of a man.
He built the rail-pile as he built the State,
Pouring his splendid strength through every blow;
The grip that swung the ax in Illinois
Was on the pen that set a people free.
So came the Captain with the mighty heart;
And when the judgment thunders split the house.
Wrenching the rafters from their ancient rest.
He held the ridgepole up, and spikt again
The rafters of the Home. He held his place —
Held the long purpose like a growing tree —
Held on through blame and faltered not at praise.
And when he fell in whirlwind, he went down
As when a lordly cedar, green with boughs.
Goes down with a great shout upon the hills,
And leaves a lonesome place against the sky.

(Whereupon the United States Marine Band played "The Battle Hymn of the

There was prolonged applause as Mr. Taft arose to make the address of presentation :


Mr. President: The American people have waited 57 years for a National Memorial
to Abraham Lincoln. Those years have faded the figures of his contemporaries, and he
stands grandly alone. His life and character in the calmer and juster vista of half a
century inspire a higher conception of what is suitable to commemorate him.

Justice, truth, patience, mercy, and love of his kind, simplicity, courage, sacrifice, and
confidence in God were his moral qualities. Clarity of thought and intellectual honesty,
self-analysis and strong inexorable logic, supreme common sense, a sympathetic but unerr-
ing knowledge of human nature, imagination and limpid purity of style, with a poetic
rhythm of the Psalms — these were his intellectual and cultural traits. His soul and heart
and brain and mind had all these elements, but their union in him had a setting that
baffles description. His humility, his self-abnegation and devotion, his patience under
grievous disappointment, his agony of spirit in the burden he had to carry, his constant
sadness, lightened at intervals with a rare humor all his own, the abuse and ridicule of
which he was the subject, his endurance in a great cause of small obstructive minds, his
domestic sorrows, and finally his tragic end form the story of a passion and give him a
personality that is vivid in the hearts of the people as if it were but yesterday. We feel
a closer touch with him than with living men. The influence he still wields, one may say

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with all reverence, has a Christ-like character. It has spread to the four quarters of the
globe. The oppressed and lowly of all peoples, as liberty and free government spread,
pronounce his name with awe, and cherish his assured personal sympathy as a source of
hope. Their leaders quote to them his glowing words of patient courage, of sympathy
with the downtrodden, of dependence on God"s wisdom and justice, and of his never-
ceasing prayer for liberty through the rule of the people. The harmony of his message
with every popular aspiration for freedom proves his universality. It was this which
Stanton was inspired to predict when, as Lincoln lay dead, he said, "He now belongs to
the ages."

His own life without favoring chance in preparation for the task which Providence
was to put on him, his earlier humble surroundings, his touch with the soil, his oneness with
the plain people, and the wonder that out of these he could become what he was and is,
give us a soul-stirring pride that the world has come to know him and to love him as we do.
We like to dwell on the fact that his associates did not see him as he was when on earth,
and that it was for generations, born after he was gone, to feel his real greatness and to
be moved by his real personality. Not with the lowly only, but with all — rich or poor,
ignorant or learned, weak or powerful, untutored or of literary genius — has this aura
about Lincoln's head at his death grown into a halo of living light.

Therefore it is well that half a century should pass before his people's national
tribute to him takes form in marble, that it should wait until a generation instinct with
the growing and deepening perception of the real Lincoln has had time to develop an art
adequate to the expression of his greatness.

The years immediately following the Civil War were not favorable to art, and the
remains of that period in our Capital City and elsewhere show it. But new impulses
in the expansion of our country's energies were soon directed toward better things. Our
expositions have marked the steps in that progress. They called together men who had
been struggling singly to practice, preach, and bring home to us real conceptions of art
and beauty in architecture and sculpture. For 15 years following the Centennial at
Philadelphia, the nucleus there begun grew until at the Columbian Exposition at Chicago
in 1892 and 1893, there were gathered a group of artists who in the development of civic
planning, landscape architecture, and monumental and sculptural beauty were the peers
of any. Burnham, McKim, Olmsted the elder. Saint Gaudens, Atwood, and Millet
were the leading figures. In 1894 they organized the American Academy in Rome for
the graduate education of American students, where before entering upon their pro-
fessional careers they should study thoroughly that reservoir of Greek art, the greatest
of antiquity, which is at Rome, where "the noble buildings are a forest, the animals of
bronze, a herd; the statues, a population in marble."

In 1901, under the generous and farseeing favor of James McMillan, in charge in
the Senate of the affairs of the District of Columbia, a commission was appointed to








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bridge over the period between Washington and L'Enfant's plan for the Capital, and
on the basis of that plan to enlarge and give greater scope to the beauty of this seat of
government. The four men who engaged in this work were, three of them, the creators
of the "Court of Honor" and the "White City" at the Columbian Exposition, and the
fourth, the younger Olmsted, was worthy of his sire. As a new feature in that plan,
and referring to the place upon which we stand they said in their report:

Crowning the rond-point, as the Arc de Triomphe crowns the Place de L'Etoile at Paris, should
stand a memorial erected to the memory of that one man in our history as a Nation who is worthy to
be named with George Washington — Abraham Lincoln. Whatever may be the exact form selected for
the Memorial to Lincoln, in type it should possess the quality of universality, and also it should have
a character essentially different from that of any monument either now existing in the District or here-
after to be erected. The type which the Commission has in mind is a great portico of Doric columns
rising from an unbroken stylobate. This portico, while affording a point of vantage from which one
obtains a commanding outlook, both upon the river and eastward to the Capitol, has for its chief function
to support a panel bearing an inscription taken either from the Gettysburg Speech or from some one
of the immortal messages of the savior of the LInion.

Here, then, was the first conception of the Memorial we dedicate to-day. Not
until 1911 was the idea carried forward. Then two sons of Illinois, Shelby Cullom and
Joseph G. Cannon, fathered the bill for the creation of the present Commission, under
whose official supervision this work has been done. The Commission claims no credit
for it except that it asked those who knew what to do, and did it. They consulted the
Fine Arts Commission, made up of Burnham, Millet, Olmsted, French, Hastings,
Gilbert, and Moore, w ho urged the present site and recommended as the man to design
and build it Henry Bacon, the student and disciple of McKim. McKim was the dean
of the architects of this country, and did most among us to bring the art of Greece to
appreciation and noble use. Bacon has been his worthy successor.

For 10 years the structure has been rising. From the level of the Potomac, 50
feet below the original grade, it reaches a total of 122 feet above that grade. The plat-
form at its base is 204 feet long and 134 feet wide. The colonnade is 188 feet 4 inches
long and 1 18 feet 6 inches wide, the columns 44 feet high and 7 feet 5 inches in diameter
at their base. The memorial hall is 156 feet long and 84 feet wide. The central hall,
where the statue stands, is 60 feet wide, 74 feet long, and 60 feet high. The proportions
of the Memorial are so fine that its great mass and height and length and breadth are
suppressed in its unity. The outside columns are the simple Doric, the inside columns
the simple Ionic. The marble of the structure is from the Colorado-Yule mine, remark-
able for its texture and the purity of its white, and for the size of the drums which make
the columns noteworthy in the architecture of the world.

The colossal figure of the Beloved in Georgia marble, the work of another of the
group of artists of whom I have spoken, Daniel French, one of our greatest sculptors,
fills the memorial hall with an overwhelming sense of Lincoln's presence, while the


mural decorations of another great American artist, Guerin, with their all-embracing
allegory, crown the whole sacred place.

The site is at the end of the axis of the Mall, the commanding and noteworthy
spine of the L'Enfant plan. Burnham, McKim, and Saint Gaudens, who followed this
plan through to its triumph, took the Mall under their peculiar protection. It was
they who caused that wonderful bronze group of the Silent Soldier and his battling
armies to be put upon this axis at the foot of the Capitol, which he did so much to
defend. It was they who struggled against encroachments upon this capital feature
of our wonderful seat of government. It was they who put this noble structure we
celebrate to-day where it is. They sought the judgment of John Hay, secretary and
biographer of Lincoln, statesman and poet. He answered:

The place of honor is on the main axis of the plan. Lincoln, of all Americans next to Wash-
ington, deserves this place of honor. He was of the immortals. You must not approach too close
to the immortals. His monument should stand alone, remote from the common habitations of man,
apart from the business and turmoil of the city, isolated, distinguished, and serene. Of all the sites,
this one, near the Potomac, is most suited to the purpose.

And now, Mr. President, the ideal of these great American artists has found expres-
sion in the Memorial as you see it. It is a magnificent gem set in a lovely valley between
the hills, commanding them by its isolation and its entrancing beauty, an emblem of the
purity of the best period of the Greek art in the simple Doric, the culmination of the
highest art of which America is capable, and therefore fit to commemorate a people's
love for the Nation's savior and its greatest leader.

Here on the banks of the Potomac, the boundary between the two sections, whose
conflict made the burden, passion, and triumph of his life, it is peculiarly appropriate
that it should stand. Visible in its distant beauty from the Capitol, whose great dome
typifies the Union which he saved, seen in all its grandeur from Arlington, where lie
the Nation's honored dead who fell in the conflict. Union and Confederate alike, it marks
the restoration of the brotherly love of the two sections in this Memorial of one who is
as dear to the hearts of the South as to those of the North. The Southerner knows that
the greatest misfortune in all the trials of that section was the death of Lincoln. Had he
lived, the consequences of the war would not have been as hard for them to bear, the
wounds would have been more easily healed, the trying days of reconstruction would
have been softened. Rancor and resentment were no part of his nature. In all the
bitterness of that conflict, no word fell from his lips, tried as he was, which told of hatred,
malice, or unforgiving soul. Here is a shrine at which all can worship. Here an altar
upon which the supreme sacrifice was made in the cause of Liberty. Here a sacred
religious refuge in which those who love country and love God can find inspiration and

Mr. President, in the name of the Commission, I have the honor to deliver this

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Online LibraryU. S. Office of public buildings and public parksThe Lincoln memorial → online text (page 8 of 9)