William Goodell Frost.

Abraham Lincoln; online

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Washington's girthday


l^as it fhy ilestiny thai made ihee greuiV
H"f? -fo .^uc7i heigliis tan never man ailalh-
%ighs hopeless oimv the aspirant for thy .rfate?
"Wyas he oiD choice but sigh for it in vain?
l|.s- there snch glory fur beyDnd mir reach ?
11^ 6/ ^n. To him who sT-rnggJes for the pri-r
i^rund is the lesson that thy life clcxth teach :
'^ruth was the Poiver that raised thee to the shies,
©n tr^ih and honor vas thy gceatne.-s founrled.
t^oi else through time had thus thy praise resDunilc

1/ riicodosia Cn

V I-I 1







Great Captains, with their guns and drams,"

Disturb our judgment for an hour,g

But at last silence comes;

These all are gone, and, standing like a tower.

Our children shall behold his fame,

The kindly-earnest, brave, foreseeing man,

Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame,

New birlh of our new soil, the first American.

• — Lowell.



CotyrighUd 1891, l>y Wm. G. Frost


Mr. President^ JLadics and Gentlemen :

The best teaching is by example. Ideas are most
potent when embodied ir\ living men, and thus invested
with personality. The surest way to foster any noble
sentiment is to select some event which illustrates it, or
some hero who personifies it, and to set apart for that
event or that hero a commemorative day. Let the arti-
san lay aside his tools, the matron her household cares,
the student his Dooks, and the very children their play.
Let the pressure of routine be lifted ; let our souls ex-
pand, and our best feelings assert themselves, while the
great lesson is impressed upon our hearts.

American patriotism is reenforced by four such
commemorative days. The sun of July is greeted by
earth-shaking cannon and sky-piercing rockets, which
assert with boisterous acclaim the independence of a new

The breath of May sweeps over a more quiet gath-
ering. It brings flowers — as though kind nature were
a sharer of our grief — flowers for the humble <rrave of
the private soldier; and it reminds us of the million arms
that can strike as one for the defence of a righteous

The dull sky of November is a fitting background
ior the festival of household cheer. Thanksgiving
teaches us to love our homes, to revere a pious ancestry,
and to worship God.

And there is one other national day. The snows
of February remind us of the spotless fame of him who
was our first great national representative and leader.


This is a most important anniversary. Aristotle
reminds us that praise is an inverted precept. To say,
" Do thus and so," is a precept ; to say, " He is noble
because he hath done thus and so," is praise. It is a
worthy task therefore to praise, to eulogise such a man
as Washington. What does our country need more
than those precepts regarding public service and leader-
ship which come to us from a lile like his?

Doubtless we shall make the best use of this oc-
casion if we interpret it broadly and liberally. We need
not confine ourthoughts to a single name — although that
were amply sufficient — but may make of this a kind of
♦'Leader's Day." We cannot set apart a day for each
of our great m.en, — there are too many, thank God,
even in our first century - but w^e may group them all
with Washington who was the first.

One year ago we listened to a descripdon of the Fa-
ther of his Country which I am sure we can never for-
get. It would be presumptuous for me to touch that
theme to-da}'. I ask your leave, therefore, to present
a kindred subject the Preserver of his Country,
Abraham Lincoln.

Our great representative leaders are perhaps our
chief national possession. They are not ancient land-
marks, but beacon-lights for the future. They have set
a standard of public and private excellence. Aeschines,
the second orator of Greece, has left us the profound
maxim that

'•'' 2 he -people b€co7nc like to the State^-nian zvhoni
they crozvn.'"

Happy is that people which has, in the saints, or
martyrs, or heroes whom it reveres, noble ideals.

Every nation, too, is judged largely by its great
men. We judge Rome by Julius Cav-iar, and Sweeden

by Gustavus Adolphus. If men ask what the British
Islands can produce they are pointed to Cromwell or
to Gladstone. If we inquire for the flowering of their
race the Frenchman will perhaps name Lafayette, and
the German will say, "Look at Luther."

We could scarcely be a nation without possessing
some such champions as these— without being able to
contribute one or two names at least to the world's list
ofcrreatmen. How invaluable was the character of
Washington in securing our first recognition among for-
eign peoples ! The toast of Benjamin Franklin had a
significance which give it a claim to be often repeated.
The embassador of England had eulogised his country
as the sun in the heavens, traversing the entire globe,
and blessing every land. Then the representative of
France arose and likened his country to the moon, tread-
ing a pathway as majestic as that of the sun, and shin-
incr with a more refined lustre. Franklin stood up in
his turn, and the resources of comparison seemed to be
exhausted. Will he compare the United States to some
star, or to some comet? "Gentlemen," said the Ameri-
can, "I propose to you the name of George Washington,
the Joshua at whose bidding the sun and the moon stood


What men has America produced since the time of
Washington who have caused the sun and the moon to
stand still? I believe that there has been at least one.

It is nicrh four hundred vears since the keel of Co-
lumbus grated upon the beach of San Salvador. It
would be hard to show that any event in secular history
has been more important than that. New worlds are
not found every day. The devising of a path of com-
merce from this planet to the moon could not affect the
life of man so much as did the discovery of this new

world. It was a discovery without a precedent and
without a parallel, and we are preparing to celebrate it.
We have been preparing through all these four hundred
years. We have a city which sits by the inland sea,
like Venice among her marshes. Chicago, with its
million inhabitants where so recently the buffalo fed
unscared, will make itself into an epitome of America,
and send out its card of invitation to all the earth.

And the whole world will come to visit us. The
Spaniard will come to see the continent which he dis-
covered. The Frenchman will come to look upon ihe
vast empires which he once coveted, and then helped to
free. The Britain will come to mark the progress of
his own race in a newer clime. The German will come
claiming also a near relationship. The Russian will
come to find out what liberty is like. There will be the
Icelander with his fur, the Italian with his music, and
the Chinaman with his cue. The motley procession
will be filled out by wierd costumes from Egypt and
Labrador, and all the other highways and hedges of the
world. Those who do not come in person will come in
thought, and the attention of the world will be focussed
upon America.

We shall have much to show them. They will sail
up the storied Hudson, stand beside the sublimity of
Niagara, visit the far Yosemite, and the Yellowstone,
and compare Lake Superior and the Mississippi with the
Mediterranean and the Nile. They will compute our
forests and our prairies, gauge our wells of oil and of
gas, estimate our mmes, and appraise all our natural re-
sources. They may have the experience of Sheba's
queen when they pass through our Patent Office, inspect
our manufactories, traverse our railway systems, and
visit our cities -cities which do not stand knee-deep in

the dust of ages, but which are struggling up through
the intoxication of prosperity toward self-possession.

But while our visitors stand thus astonished at our
material glories, and acknowledge that the half was not
told them, they will still make some further inquiries.
"What are ihe ideas," they will ask, "which all this
wealth represents? What types of manhood does
America produce? Who are your national heroes?'*
And we shall say to them : "If you would come near to
the heart of America, and feel the breath of that spirit
which has made her truly great, pass by New York with
the thunder of its commerce, pass by Washington with
the glitter of its display, and spend a thoughtful hour at
Mt. Vernon. And when you have done that, pass by
Chicago with its roar of traffic, and pause beside the
tomb at Springfield."

The career of Lincoln may reveal, more than that
of any other single individual, the genius of American
institutions and of the American people. He was all
American. The heroes of the old world are linked to-
gether in one vast dynasty of greatness. The Ptolemies,
the Cgesars, the Plantagenets, still bear sway among
their descendants and "rule us from their urns." But
Columbia begins a new order. The shadow of the
pyramids falls upon every European, but it does not
cross the sea. Like the Greek colonists, to be sure, we
brought the coals which were to kindle the altar fires of
our civilization from the hearth of our mother city.
But we have received fresh fire, also. The Promethean
torch of our genius has been kindled from God's light-
ning above us, and from hard blows upon the flinty rock
beneath us. We indeed revere the gracious influences
which come to us from the cradle lands, but we have at-
tained our intellectual majority, and we prove it by


pointing to men of finest grain and most heroic mould
developed among surroundings which savor least of the
old world.

So, too, the life of Lincoln is an epitome of Ameri-
ca's history and aspirations. The political, constitu-
tional, and moral struggles of all our annals converge
upon the few eventful years of his public life. And so
it happens that this man came to posses three kinds of
greatness : He was great for the acts which he per-
formed ; the liberator of a race deserves to rank above
the founders of dynasties, or the discoverers of conti-
nents. But many whose lot it has been to perform
great deeds have been themselves unworthy, while
Lincoln was in his own personality greater than any of
his achievements. The one proclamation by which he
will be remembered forever did not exhaust his powers.
It was in him to write a hundred such proclamations.
There is a third kind of greatness which belongs es-
pecially to those who serve republics, and which we
may call representative greatness. There was a time
when Napoleon had so engrossed the loyalty of hia
countrymen that he could sa.}', "*/ am France." It was
a far greater triumph, because a moral one, w^hen
Pericles enslaved the Athenians to his patriotism and
his intellect^ so that when he spoke it seemed the voice
of the state. Such wasthe greatness of Lincoln. Hecame
to be the representative and embodiment of the best
sentiments, the triumphant sentiments of his nation, so
that loyal millions spoke through his lips.

Lincoln was, first of all, God's man, raised up to
meet a great emergency. We in America beHeve that
"There's a divin.ty that shapes our ends, rough-hew
them as we will."

He might have worn some other name, but without
such a leader, it may almost be said, America could not
have fulfilled her destiny.

This continent lay fallow for a hundred years after its
discovery. The Spaniards laid hold of it, but God said,
"I am tired of your cruelty and rapacit3^" and it began
to rslip from their grasp. The Frenchmen seemed to do
better, but God said, "The Catholic religion is too gross
and formal for this new world," and the Frenchmen fell
back. England had her day, but in district schools,
free churches, and town meetings the colonists were
made ready for the day of independence. No more
foreiirn dominion! The last sail of the retiring British
fleet melts into the horizon. America is free !

Free ! But now confronted by the problems of self-
government. And first she must make in a day what it
took the English people five hundred years to make —
a constitution.

Before the constitution came the famous "Ordinace of
1787," which marked out several great lines of policy.
This ordinance appropriated public lands for the support
of common schools. It provided that the territories
should ultimately be admitted as equal states, thus set-
tling in advance for America all questions of " Home
Rule." And thirdly, it decreed that throughout the
North-west territory,

*' There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a
punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."

This third provision introduces us to what the impar-
tial foreign historian Von Hoist has called " the pivotal
question in American history" — the question of slavery.
This was the sphinx which in Abraham Lincoln found its
Oedipus !


We have now to trace the decline and revival of the
spirit of liberty in America. Our national triumph —
like most human triumphs perhaps — consists in having
cured a great fault. The ordiance of '87 was the voice
of the revolution, expressing the aspirations of ultimate
America, but it was nearly four-score years before this
ideal was realized, and the language of the ordinance
written into the constitution as the XIII Amendment.

We must not be swift to blame the slave-holders
for not overturning their social system in a day by an
act o{ immediate emancipation. It is due, however, to
the truth of history to show^ how, by unprincipailed lead-
ers, a portion of our countrymen were induced to resist
all plans for ^rafi??/«/ emancipation, and finally to de-
mand as the dearest of their rights the privilege of ex-
tending ^d,v^xy over the entire Union.

When our constitution was formed slavery was uni-
versal, but gradual emancipation was favored by all
the colonies except Georgia and the Carolinas. Charles
Pincknev and General Davie were the men who discov-
ered the value of threats against the union. By such
threats they secured certain concessions to slavery in the
Constitution itself— concessions, however, which would
never have been made had it not been for the general
belief that slaver}' would die out under existing

It was not until 1820 that the mistake was discover-
ed, and that discovery, in the words of the aged Jeffer-
son, startled the countr}^ ''like a fire-bell in the night."
It was proposed in Congress to extend the ordinance of
'87, prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, to the
new state of Missouri, and this proposition was opposed
by the Southern members. The country awoke to the


fact that the South was ready to contend for the exten-
sion of slavery .

Evidently there had been a great change since the
revolution. The Northern states had nearly completed
the work of gradual emancipation, but in the South the
putting together of a few rods and wheels and pinions to
form the cotton-gin had made slavery the source of vast
wealth. This wealth was shared by the slave-breeders
of the border states, the slave drivers of the cotton
states, and the manufacturers of the North. And here
appeared a marvel — as slavery grew n\ore -profit-
able it appeared to grow less sinful! So vast
was this chancre that the religious bodies which in 1800
denounced slavery as "the sum of all villanies" by 1840
were defending it as a scriptural institution ! With this
change came the spirit of intolerance. It became im-
possible for any Virginian to follow Washington's ex-
ample and emancipate his own slaves. All freedom of
speech upon this subject was suppressed at the South,
and the mere discussion of the question at the North was
denounced as a crime.

The Missouri matter was settled by a solemn com-
promise which became a landmark in our history. The
immediate demand of the South was granted, and
Missouri admitted as a slave state, but "slavery and in-
voluntary servitude" were prohibited in all other territory
north of 36 degrees and 30 minutes.

We cannot trace in detail the aggressions of the
slave power. Calhoun was the great advocate of "slav-
ery as a positive good," but he could not silence the ab-
olitionists, nor could he make the Southern states grow
in wealth and population as rapidly as those of the North.
"The peculiar institution," as they called it, forbade all
manufacture, and repelled all emigration. The slave-


holders were fighting against all the laws— moral, social
and economic — of God's universe, and they made a gal-
lant fight.

But at each national census God held up the scales
between the pine and the palmetto, between free labor
and the labor of chattels, and it was the Southern arm
which smote the beam. It was this fact, silently and
sullenly noted by the Southern leaders, which made
them eager to annex new territory, and then to force
slavery by law into all the states, and, when that failed,
to hasten their appeal to the sword. There was logic
back of the movement for secession.

They purchase Florida and Louisiana, but that is
not enough. The}'^ acquire a vast territory from Mex-
ico, and vote down the proposition to exclude slavery
therefrom, but that is not enough. Proposing to in-
trench themselves in conititutional interpretation they
invent the doctrine of popular sovereignty. "Congress,"
they say, "has no power to prohibit slavery in the terri-
tories. That power belongs to the people of each terri-
tory. The Missouri Compromise is null and void.
And more than that, we must have a new, iron-
clad fugitive slave law. Unless this is granted we will
destroy the Union."

By this time the moral sense of our people had been
quickened. In fact there had never been an hour when
the majority did not really regard slavery as an ev^il and
a sin. But it takes a long time for the people to organ-
ize a political machine to carry out their will. Both of
the existing political parties contained slave-holders. If
either party, therefore, should offend the slave power it
would lose its southern supporters and meet with disas-
ter. The politicians had an interested motive in desir-
ing to grant the demands of the South. Ostensibly to


save the Union, really to save their party, Northern
men yield to the pressure. "Let us settle this exciting
question by a compromise." Both parties accede to the
Southern demand, invoke a thousand maledictions upon
any man who shall ever bring up the slavery question
again, and call this a "finality "

Let it be remembered forever that there is no finality
which is not founded upon right. They called the Mis-
souri Compromise a finality in 1820. They called the
death of the Wilmot Proviso a finality. They shouted
"Finality" in 1850. In 1852 their chorus was "Finality."
And in 1854 ^^^^y 'airly shieked "Finality." The con-
temporary newspaper-man caught the ludicrous aspect
of the case and produced a little ode :

To kill twice dead a rattlesnake,
And off his scaly skin to take,
And through his head to drive a stake.
And every bone within him break,
And of his flesh mincemeat to m;-ke,
To burn, to sear, to boil, to bake.
Then in a heap the whole to rake,
And over it the benson shake,
And sink it fathoms in the lake —
Whence after all, quite wideawake,
Comes back that very same old snake!

The finality measures were the very ones which
compelled agitation. The new law for reclaiming fugi-
tives brought the horrors of slavery before the people
with a pathos which no abolition speaker could equal.
To give a crust of bread, or to point out the North Star,
was now punishable b}' law.

"The evil days are come, the poor

Arc made a prey.

l-!ar up the hospitable door,

Put out the fire-lights, point no more

The wanderer's way.

For pity now is crime."


The moral strength of the North rose against the
Fugitive Slave law in awful majesty. Even the superb
fame of Webster could not avail, and the Whig party
was disintergrated almost in a day. The popular ver-
dict was, " Died from the attempt to swallow the fugitive
slave law." A new party arose in its place. Public
interest flamed out in songs, and banners, and torch-light
processions, and a million votes were rolled up for
"Free Soil, Free Men, Fremont and Victory."

But the slave power marched on. It set its foot up-
on "bleeding Kansas," and proclaimed through the Su-
preme Court that slaves were property, and as such
might be carried without forfeiture to any part of the
Union. The Southerner's threat that he would yet call
the roll of his slaves at the foot of Bunker Hill Monu-
ment seemed likely to be fulhlled.

The cry went up to God for a leader. Give us a
calm, determined man ; one who will not join in the de-
nunciations of the ultra abolitionists, nor quail before
the bluster of the slave-driver; a man of the people; a
man who understands the situation, and can expound it
to the masses ; a man who can save the country from
the South, and the South from herself.

The man appeared. It was reported that Senator
Douf^lass, "the little giant" of Illinois, has met his match
in debating with an untitled lawyer in his own State.
The country w^as anxious to see this new man - this
stump speaker from the West, and the brains of New
York city filed into the Cooper Institute to listen to an
address from Abraham Lincoln.

He began with a deliberate historical argument,
proving to a demonstration that the framers of our Con-
stitution never dreamed that slavery in the Territories
was beyond the reach of Congress, and consequently


that the recent theor}-^ of popular sovereignty and the
right to carry slave property to any part of the Union
was a sheer invention and innovation.

The threats of destroying the Union, which, as we
have seen, had thus far prevailed with Northern men
were next swept aside. He answered them in the spirit
which was becoming in a freeman.

"You will not abide the election of a Republican President. In that
supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then you say. the
great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us. That is cool. A high-
wayman holds his pistol to my ear and mutters through his teeth, 'Stand and
deliver, or I will kill you, and then you will be a murderer.' * * The
threat of death to me to extort my money, and the threat of destruction to the
Union to extort my vote, can scarcely be distinguished in principle."

And in conclusion iie defined the proper course of

"Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion or ill-
temper, * * Let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if,
in our deliberate view of duty, we possibly can. * * Thinking slavery right,
as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition as being
right, but thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them?

Wrong as we think slavery is, wc can yet afford to let it alone where it
is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence
in the nation, but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread
into the national territories, and to overrun us here in the free states? If
our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and
effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances
wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored, contrivances such asas
groping for some middle ground oetween the right and the wrong, vain as the
search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man; such a
policy of 'don't care' on a question about which all true men do care; such as
union appeals beseeching true union men to yield to disunionists; reversing
the Divine rule, and calling not the sinners but the righteous to repentance;
such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washing-
ton said, and undo what \Vashin.^ton did. * * Let us have faith that
right makes might, and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as
■we understand it."

There was a program which met the situation.
There was a man who could grasp great principles, and


explain them to the humblest voter in the nation. There
was a leader whom the workingmen of the North and
the great Northwest could look up to as their champion.

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Online LibraryWilliam Goodell FrostAbraham Lincoln; → online text (page 1 of 3)