Abbildungen der Seite

infernal world. In the evening, I was glad to take his hand, which near midnight was not too wearied to give my own a grasp that made me his personal friend. Once only, afterward, did I see him-one Sunday afternoon, in Washington, the second summer of the war. He was standing on the grass before a hospital, in the suburbs, shaking hands with a long line of invalid soldiers, and talking like a father to his sons. From the hour I first saw him I believed him the man he has become.

He was wise enough to avoid assassination before his work was begun, and went to the capital in disguise. On the 4th of March, 1861, with an imposing military and civic display, amid universal apprenension of danger, he was inaugurated sixteenth President of the United States,

It is not my purpose to follow Mr. Lincoln through the four years of his administration, or attempt any partizan advocacy of the civil or military policy of the Government under his lead. I know that policy has been contested honestly as well as dishonestly, often by political friends no less than by political enemies. We have not yet arrived at the historical point whence an impartial estimate can be made of its most important phases. But I may call attention to the great distinctive features by which it will be estimated in future times.

The first characteristic feature of his administration was his conviction that he was cast in a Providential crisis of human affairs, and could be only a humble agent of God in a mighty work of regeneration to the Republic. No man in the Union had, from the first, a profounder sense of the vast and radical nature of the nation's conflict than Abraham Lincoln.. He saw, long before the breaking forth of war, that the great American aristocracy of the South would use its institution of slavery to rule or ruin the Government, and that the attempt would result in its complete success or complete destruction. He said that Washington had not so difficult a task as himself. He saw that no party could save the Union; not even the loyal people alone; but, as he so often said. "God Almighty and the American people.” He felt he was cast in one of the great eras of history. He once said to some clergymen who proposed prayer that God would come on the country's side: “Let us get on God's side, and all will be well." He knew that such a movement of national forces could neither be hastened nor hindered by mere human will, and set himself to watching the development of the mighty

[ocr errors]

drama, and helping the American people keep step with the progress of Providential events. Nobody can understand this four years of his life at all who does not regard the solemn sense of being an agent of God in a great work as the back-ground of his whole policy.

The second characteristic feature of his policy was his great and unaffected faith in the loyal American people, and his belief that they were being led by God to a glorious end which they did not yet apprehend. He saw that while the slave aristocracy was fully educated down to its infamous work, the loyal American people were not yet educated up to the glorious part they were to play in this revolution of humanity. He knew they were divided by political habits, social sympathies, and often by radical ideas of society, and that no number of excellent speeches or no attempts at a dictatorship for freedom would convert his opponents. They must be brought into support of the great war of freedom by the inevitable progress of events; and he knew events would come to force them over to the side of the right. So he waited for the people to be educated into union for the sake of a Republic dedicated to freedom. From March, 1861, to January, 1863, he aided the people to wage war with a divided mind, on an enemy that knew just what he wanted, and never wavered in its support. If the result was not satisfactory, the fault was no imbecility in the Executive arm, but uncertainty in the popular mind, which was the source of all power.

It is only by referring to these two central ideas of Mr. Lincoln's policy, that any

fair estimate can be made of much that has been called weak and vacillating, by those who only looked on the surface of events. And these eas do light up the whole course of that administration which, beginning in apparent uncertainty, has gone on, like the operations of nature, to its present magnificent success.

It is often asked, why did he not, at his inauguration, call the loyal people to arms against a treason already consummated? Because the people were not then ready to fight; but full half the community believed war could be averted by compromise, Why, then, did he not attempt compromise? Because he saw that none was possible, except one which would change the Republic to a permanent oligarchy. He waited till popular conviction demanded war, and then compelled the aristocracy to open the conflict in the most aggravating way.

Why, then, did he not call out a million men, and crush the enemy at once ? Because the call for any such large number of soldiers would have astonished and divided the people, while the call that was made powerfully stimulated their patriotism. He determined that the people should make their own call for armies, for navies, for the frightful expense of war, for severe measures of martial law, for every thing essential to success. He was their servant, not their master. While, therefore, during the first year of the war, he was often accused of holding the people back, he always subtly and powerfully stimulated the public zeal, and never waited to be called twice to do a necessary thing.

Why did he appoint to the command of our largest armies, Generals who were either incompetent or unwilling to destroy the rebel hosts ? and why did he retain them long after a large portion of the people lost confidence in them? Because he knew that the military and naval commanders who would finally conquer, must be educated in actual war, Not one of them had ever commanded 10,000 men, or maneuvered a fleet in action. He could only choose the generals who appeared best, give them the most generous opportunity and confidence, and wait until the real man appeared. True, some of our armies were disastrously defeated, in the summer of '61' and ’62; but does any man know that they would not have been under any other commander likely then to be substituted ? Did the army of the Potomac immedi. ately succeed on the discharge of Gen. McClellan? He waited and thought and toiled, until war had educated the great leaders and the veteran host that have, within the last two years, swept the armed confederacy from the earth. Take your map of the South, and consider that on April 15th, 1861, all of it was practically in rebellion; and that on the day he died, four years later, only one small army in North Carolina stood, shaking in its shoes, the rear guard of the rebel power on its retreat to oblivion, and ask yourself sincerely if you believe any other man could have done a greater work in that time than the Presidsnt of the United States? Do you say the people did it? O! that is just the point. He had aided the people to disentangle themselves from a purely peaceful civilization, and in four years become one of the most formidable military and naval powers on the globe. And history will say, never was a great people so greatly led.

Why did he not choose better men for office? The proof of his administraiion is before you. You may or may not think


this or that civil functionary the best, but do you doubt the great work has been done? The people of the United States have learned, under Abraham Lincoln, how to govern themselvees without the aid of the slave aristocracy and its satellites. Does it matter what good man or men hold office, so that thing is done? Why did he tolerate dissensions in his Cabinet ? He had far less than Washington, and like Washington, he tried to represent all great sections of the loyal people in his administration, by appropriate men. He united the people at least, whatever friction there may have been among statesmen, and however inconsistent they may have thought his course. There were never in public office in America, so many able and patriotic men as now, and they were all the friends and sincere mourners of the people's President, who was the best of them all.

Why did he show such a spirit of conciliation to border States, to enemies abroad, to foes in the loyal States ? Because he knew that no nian loves you so much as a regenerated enemy. Because he often did thereby change the country's enemies to its friends. Because he was often compelled to endure what he could not

It was better to sin on the side of forbearance and patience in dealing with great States, like Kentucky and Missouri, than on the side of impatience and wrath. It was better to bear insult from foreign nations till we could speak and be respected. Was it not better to endure the folly and frenzy of sympathizers with rebellion at home than sow the seeds of implacable hatred through every neighborhood of the loyal States? Mr. Lincoln believed the Union was to stand and be a Union for Liberty, and he wisely believed the less of wrath the people had to forget the easier it would be, in the great day of reconstruction, to close up in a fellowship that should endure.

Why did he wait so long, almost two years, before he struck the decisive blow at slavery which has gained us the victory of arms while it has saved us a free Republic ? Because the people, even in January, 1863, were hardly prepared for so great a challenge. Consider how you regarded slavery ten years, five years ago! It was a great divinity, against which we all dreaded to speak. We may have feared and hated it, but we kept ourselves respectful in its haughty presence. I believe the Emancipation Proclamation came not one day too late. Two years ago the children in our streets were throwing stones at colored women. He waited till slavery had taught the people its hideous nature

by sending affliction into myriads of homes, and bringing the nation to death's door. So, when he did speak, a black cloud seemed to lift; and from that day our armies never lost a mile of territory really gained, and pressed on to final victory. This giant power now lies prostrate. A hundred and fifty thousand men who were slaves four years ago now carry United States muskets. The Congress of the United States has voted for, and every State will finally ratify the amendment to the Constitution that abolishes that pest forever. Is not this a success; to destroy such a huge and terrible power in five years; and will not the man who helped the people do it be called by all the holy names that mankind gives to its benefactors ?

I believe history will pronounce Abraham Lincoln's administration of our Government a triumphant success. The wisest friends of the people abroad so declare it now; the wisest men in America have been growing into this conviction month by month, and the people have not doubted it from the first. Thank God, he lived to be approved by the people, and re-elected to his great station; he lived to place Grant over the army, and Farragut over the navy, and Chase at the head of the courts ; lived till the confederacy had collapsed, and its President, legislature, and armies were fugitives; lived to show his enemies what he was willing to do for them. As he sat in that last cabinet meeting, the day before his death, urging a Christian clemency, and yearning to enfold every erring citizen in the arms of the Union, he was the noblest figure of this century. He was ready to be offered. Dreadful as was his departure, had it been less so, would it have startled out the wondrous love from the hearts of all men that now appears ? Men who have spent their days and nights for three years in bitter hostility to his person and policy were surprised into tearful admiration and sincere eulogy. The only great State that voted against his re-election, confesses through her Governor that she has lost her best friend, and Kentucky will yet explore her mountains and dive into her mammoth caves in search of marble white enough to build his monument. Was it not better he should go on to heaven as a martyr, like Socrates, like William of Orange, like Hampden; should be one of the glorious army whose Leader died on the cross, than to die as a worn-out statesman? He died when his work was done. In his death the nation has newness of life,

Abraham Lincoln has often been contrasted with Cromwell,

« ZurückWeiter »