The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, v1
Abraham Lincoln

Part 2 out of 5

opposition as a tyrant and a usurper, for having gone beyond his
constitutional powers in authorizing or permitting the temporary
suppression of newspapers, and in wantonly suspending the writ of
habeas corpus and resorting to arbitrary arrests. Nobody should
be blamed who, when such things are done, in good faith and from
patriotic motives protests against them. In a republic,
arbitrary stretches of power, even when demanded by necessity,
should never be permitted to pass without a protest on the one
hand, and without an apology on the other. It is well they did
not so pass during our civil war. That arbitrary measures were
resorted to is true. That they were resorted to most sparingly,
and only when the government thought them absolutely required by
the safety of the republic, will now hardly be denied. But
certain it is that the history of the world does not furnish a
single example of a government passing through so tremendous a
crisis as our civil war was with so small a record of arbitrary
acts, and so little interference with the ordinary course of law
outside the field of military operations. No American President
ever wielded such power as that which was thrust into Lincoln's
hands. It is to be hoped that no American President ever will
have to be entrusted with such power again. But no man was ever
entrusted with it to whom its seductions were less dangerous than
they proved to be to Abraham Lincoln. With scrupulous care he
endeavored, even under the most trying circumstances, to remain
strictly within the constitutional limitations of his authority;
and whenever the boundary became indistinct, or when the dangers
of the situation forced him to cross it, he was equally careful
to mark his acts as exceptional measures, justifiable only by the
imperative necessities of the civil war, so that they might not
pass into history as precedents for similar acts in time of
peace. It is an unquestionable fact that during the
reconstruction period which followed the war, more things were
done capable of serving as dangerous precedents than during the
war itself. Thus it may truly be said of him not only that under
his guidance the republic was saved from disruption and the
country was purified of the blot of slavery, but that, during the
stormiest and most perilous crisis in our history, he so
conducted the government and so wielded his almost dictatorial
power as to leave essentially intact our free institutions in all
things that concern the rights and liberties of the citizens. He
understood well the nature of the problem. In his first message
to Congress he defined it in admirably pointed language: "Must a
government be of necessity too strong for the liberties of its
own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence? Is there
in all republics this inherent weakness?" This question he
answered in the name of the great American republic, as no man
could have answered it better, with a triumphant "No...."

It has been said that Abraham Lincoln died at the right moment
for his fame. However that may be, he had, at the time of his
death, certainly not exhausted his usefulness to his country. He
was probably the only man who could have guided the nation
through the perplexities of the reconstruction period in such a
manner as to prevent in the work of peace the revival of the
passions of the war. He would indeed not have escaped serious
controversy as to details of policy; but he could have weathered
it far better than any other statesman of his time, for his
prestige with the active politicians had been immensely
strengthened by his triumphant re-election; and, what is more
important, he would have been supported by the confidence of the
victorious Northern people that he would do all to secure the
safety of the Union and the rights of the emancipated negro, and
at the same time by the confidence of the defeated Southern
people that nothing would be done by him from motives of
vindictiveness, or of unreasoning fanaticism, or of a selfish
party spirit. "With malice toward none, with charity for all,"
the foremost of the victors would have personified in himself the
genius of reconciliation.

He might have rendered the country a great service in another
direction. A few days after the fall of Richmond, he pointed out
to a friend the crowd of office-seekers besieging his door.
"Look at that," said he. "Now we have conquered the rebellion,
but here you see something that may become more dangerous to this
republic than the rebellion itself." It is true, Lincoln as
President did not profess what we now call civil service reform
principles. He used the patronage of the government in many
cases avowedly to reward party work, in many others to form
combinations and to produce political effects advantageous to the
Union cause, and in still others simply to put the right man into
the right place. But in his endeavors to strengthen the Union
cause, and in his search for able and useful men for public
duties, he frequently went beyond the limits of his party, and
gradually accustomed himself to the thought that, while party
service had its value, considerations of the public interest
were, as to appointments to office, of far greater consequence.
Moreover, there had been such a mingling of different political
elements in support of the Union during the civil war that
Lincoln, standing at the head of that temporarily united motley
mass, hardly felt himself, in the narrow sense of the term, a
party man. And as he became strongly impressed with the dangers
brought upon the republic by the use of public offices as party
spoils, it is by no means improbable that, had he survived the
all-absorbing crisis and found time to turn to other objects, one
of the most important reforms of later days would have been
pioneered by his powerful authority. This was not to be. But
the measure of his achievements was full enough for immortality.

To the younger generation Abraham Lincoln has already become a
half-mythical figure, which, in the haze of historic distance,
grows to more and more heroic proportions, but also loses in
distinctness of outline and feature. This is indeed the common
lot of popular heroes; but the Lincoln legend will be more than
ordinarily apt to become fanciful, as his individuality,
assembling seemingly incongruous qualities and forces in a
character at the same time grand and most lovable, was so unique,
and his career so abounding in startling contrasts. As the state
of society in which Abraham Lincoln grew up passes away, the
world will read with increasing wonder of the man who, not only
of the humblest origin, but remaining the simplest and most
unpretending of citizens, was raised to a position of power
unprecedented in our history; who was the gentlest and most
peace-loving of mortals, unable to see any creature suffer
without a pang in his own breast, and suddenly found himself
called to conduct the greatest and bloodiest of our wars; who
wielded the power of government when stern resolution and
relentless force were the order of the day and then won and ruled
the popular mind and heart by the tender sympathies of his
nature; who was a cautious conservative by temperament and mental
habit, and led the most sudden and sweeping social revolution of
our time; who, preserving his homely speech and rustic manner
even in the most conspicuous position of that period, drew upon
himself the scoffs of polite society, and then thrilled the soul
of mankind with utterances of wonderful beauty and grandeur; who,
in his heart the best friend of the defeated South, was murdered
because a crazy fanatic took him for its most cruel enemy; who,
while in power, was beyond measure lampooned and maligned by
sectional passion and an excited party spirit, and around whose
bier friend and foe gathered to praise him which they have since
never ceased to do--as one of the greatest of Americans and the
best of men.



[This Address was delivered before the Edinburgh Philosophical
Institution, November 13, 1900. It is included in this set with
the courteous permission of the author and of Messrs. Thomas Y.
Crowell & Company.]


When you asked me to deliver the Inaugural Address on this
occasion, I recognized that I owed this compliment to the fact
that I was the official representative of America, and in
selecting a subject I ventured to think that I might interest you
for an hour in a brief study in popular government, as
illustrated by the life of the most American of all Americans. I
therefore offer no apology for asking your attention to Abraham
Lincoln--to his unique character and the part he bore in two
important achievements of modern history: the preservation of the
integrity of the American Union and the emancipation of the
colored race.

During his brief term of power he was probably the object of more
abuse, vilification, and ridicule than any other man in the
world; but when he fell by the hand of an assassin, at the very
moment of his stupendous victory, all the nations of the earth
vied with one another in paying homage to his character, and the
thirty-five years that have since elapsed have established his
place in history as one of the great benefactors not of his own
country alone, but of the human race.

One of many noble utterances upon the occasion of his death was
that in which 'Punch' made its magnanimous recantation of the
spirit with which it had pursued him:

"Beside this corpse that bears for winding sheet
The stars and stripes he lived to rear anew,
Between the mourners at his head and feet,
Say, scurrile jester, is there room for you?


"Yes, he had lived to shame me from my sneer,
To lame my pencil, and confute my pen
To make me own this hind--of princes peer,
This rail-splitter--a true born king of men."

Fiction can furnish no match for the romance of his life, and
biography will be searched in vain for such startling
vicissitudes of fortune, so great power and glory won out of such
humble beginnings and adverse circumstances.

Doubtless you are all familiar with the salient points of his
extraordinary career. In the zenith of his fame he was the wise,
patient, courageous, successful ruler of men; exercising more
power than any monarch of his time, not for himself, but for the
good of the people who had placed it in his hands; commander-in-
chief of a vast military power, which waged with ultimate success
the greatest war of the century; the triumphant champion of
popular government, the deliverer of four millions of his fellow-
men from bondage; honored by mankind as Statesman, President, and

Let us glance now at the first half of the brief life of which
this was the glorious and happy consummation. Nothing could be
more squalid and miserable than the home in which Abraham Lincoln
was born--a one-roomed cabin without floor or window in what was
then the wilderness of Kentucky, in the heart of that frontier
life which swiftly moved westward from the Alleghanies to the
Mississippi, always in advance of schools and churches, of books
and money, of railroads and newspapers, of all things which are
generally regarded as the comforts and even necessaries of life.
His father, ignorant, needy, and thriftless, content if he could
keep soul and body together for himself and his family, was ever
seeking, without success, to better his unhappy condition by
moving on from one such scene of dreary desolation to another.
The rude society which surrounded them was not much better. The
struggle for existence was hard, and absorbed all their energies.
They were fighting the forest, the wild beast, and the retreating
savage. From the time when he could barely handle tools until he
attained his majority, Lincoln's life was that of a simple farm
laborer, poorly clad, housed, and fed, at work either on his
father's wretched farm or hired out to neighboring farmers. But
in spite, or perhaps by means, of this rude environment, he grew
to be a stalwart giant, reaching six feet four at nineteen, and
fabulous stories are told of his feats of strength. With the
growth of this mighty frame began that strange education which in
his ripening years was to qualify him for the great destiny that
awaited him, and the development of those mental faculties and
moral endowments which, by the time he reached middle life, were
to make him the sagacious, patient, and triumphant leader of a
great nation in the crisis of its fate. His whole schooling,
obtained during such odd times as could be spared from grinding
labor, did not amount in all to as much as one year, and the
quality of the teaching was of the lowest possible grade,
including only the elements of reading, writing, and ciphering.
But out of these simple elements, when rightly used by the right
man, education is achieved, and Lincoln knew how to use them. As
so often happens, he seemed to take warning from his father's
unfortunate example. Untiring industry, an insatiable thirst for
knowledge, and an ever-growing desire to rise above his
surroundings, were early manifestations of his character.

Books were almost unknown in that community, but the Bible was in
every house, and somehow or other Pilgrim's Progress, AEsop's
Fables, a History of the United States, and a Life of Washington
fell into his hands. He trudged on foot many miles through the
wilderness to borrow an English Grammar, and is said to have
devoured greedily the contents of the Statutes of Indiana that
fell in his way. These few volumes he read and reread--and his
power of assimilation was great. To be shut in with a few books
and to master them thoroughly sometimes does more for the
development of character than freedom to range at large, in a
cursory and indiscriminate way, through wide domains of
literature. This youth's mind, at any rate, was thoroughly
saturated with Biblical knowledge and Biblical language, which,
in after life, he used with great readiness and effect. But it
was the constant use of the little knowledge which he had that
developed and exercised his mental powers. After the hard day's
work was done, while others slept, he toiled on, always reading
or writing. From an early age he did his own thinking and made
up his own mind--invaluable traits in the future President.
Paper was such a scarce commodity that, by the evening firelight,
he would write and cipher on the back of a wooden shovel, and
then shave it off to make room for more. By and by, as he
approached manhood, he began speaking in the rude gatherings of
the neighborhood, and so laid the foundation of that art of
persuading his fellow-men which was one rich result of his
education, and one great secret of his subsequent success.

Accustomed as we are in these days of steam and telegraphs to
have every intelligent boy survey the whole world each morning
before breakfast, and inform himself as to what is going on in
every nation, it is hardly possible to conceive how benighted and
isolated was the condition of the community at Pigeon Creek in
Indiana, of which the family of Lincoln's father formed a part,
or how eagerly an ambitious and high-spirited boy, such as he,
must have yearned to escape. The first glimpse that he ever got
of any world beyond the narrow confines of his home was in 1828,
at the age of nineteen, when a neighbor employed him to accompany
his son down the river to New Orleans to dispose of a flatboat of
produce--a commission which he discharged with great success.

Shortly after his return from this his first excursion into the
outer world, his father, tired of failure in Indiana, packed his
family and all his worldly goods into a single wagon drawn by two
yoke of oxen, and after a fourteen days' tramp through the
wilderness, pitched his camp once more, in Illinois. Here
Abraham, having come of age and being now his own master,
rendered the last service of his minority by ploughing the
fifteen-acre lot and splitting from the tall walnut trees of the
primeval forest enough rails to surround the little clearing with
a fence. Such was the meagre outfit of this coming leader of
men, at the age when the future British Prime Minister or
statesman emerges from the university as a double first or senior
wrangler, with every advantage that high training and broad
culture and association with the wisest and the best of men and
women can give, and enters upon some form of public service on
the road to usefulness and honor, the University course being
only the first stage of the public training. So Lincoln, at
twenty-one, had just begun his preparation for the public life to
which he soon began to aspire. For some years yet he must
continue to earn his daily bread by the sweat of his brow, having
absolutely no means, no home, no friend to consult. More farm
work as a hired hand, a clerkship in a village store, the running
of a mill, another trip to New Orleans on a flatboat of his own
contriving, a pilot's berth on the river--these were the means by
which he subsisted until, in the summer of 1832, when he was
twenty-three years of age, an event occurred which gave him
public recognition.

The Black Hawk war broke out, and, the Governor of Illinois
calling for volunteers to repel the band of savages whose leader
bore that name, Lincoln enlisted and was elected captain by his
comrades, among whom he had already established his supremacy by
signal feats of strength and more than one successful single
combat. During the brief hostilities he was engaged in no battle
and won no military glory, but his local leadership was
established. The same year he offered himself as a candidate for
the Legislature of Illinois, but failed at the polls. Yet his
vast popularity with those who knew him was manifest. The
district consisted of several counties, but the unanimous vote of
the people of his own county was for Lincoln. Another
unsuccessful attempt at store-keeping was followed by better luck
at surveying, until his horse and instruments were levied upon
under execution for the debts of his business adventure.

I have been thus detailed in sketching his early years because
upon these strange foundations the structure of his great fame
and service was built. In the place of a school and university
training fortune substituted these trials, hardships, and
struggles as a preparation for the great work which he had to do.
It turned out to be exactly what the emergency required. Ten
years instead at the public school and the university certainly
never could have fitted this man for the unique work which was to
be thrown upon him. Some other Moses would have had to lead us
to our Jordan, to the sight of our promised land of liberty.

At the age of twenty-five he became a member of the Legislature
of Illinois, and so continued for eight years, and, in the
meantime, qualified himself by reading such law books as he could
borrow at random--for he was too poor to buy any to be called to
the Bar. For his second quarter of a century--during which a
single term in Congress introduced him into the arena of national
questions--he gave himself up to law and politics. In spite of
his soaring ambition, his two years in Congress gave him no
premonition of the great destiny that awaited him,--and at its
close, in 1849, we find him an unsuccessful applicant to the
President for appointment as Commissioner of the General Land
Office--a purely administrative bureau; a fortunate escape for
himself and for his country. Year by year his knowledge and
power, his experience and reputation extended, and his mental
faculties seemed to grow by what they fed on. His power of
persuasion, which had always been marked, was developed to an
extraordinary degree, now that he became engaged in congenial
questions and subjects. Little by little he rose to prominence
at the Bar, and became the most effective public speaker in the
West. Not that he possessed any of the graces of the orator; but
his logic was invincible, and his clearness and force of
statement impressed upon his hearers the convictions of his
honest mind, while his broad sympathies and sparkling and genial
humor made him a universal favorite as far and as fast as his
acquaintance extended.

These twenty years that elapsed from the time of his
establishment as a lawyer and legislator in Springfield, the new
capital of Illinois, furnished a fitting theatre for the
development and display of his great faculties, and, with his new
and enlarged opportunities, he obviously grew in mental stature
in this second period of his career, as if to compensate for the
absolute lack of advantages under which he had suffered in youth.
As his powers enlarged, his reputation extended, for he was
always before the people, felt a warm sympathy with all that
concerned them, took a zealous part in the discussion of every
public question, and made his personal influence ever more widely
and deeply felt.

My, brethren of the legal profession will naturally ask me, how
could this rough backwoodsman, whose youth had been spent in the
forest or on the farm and the flatboat, without culture or
training, education or study, by the random reading, on the wing,
of a few miscellaneous law books, become a learned and
accomplished lawyer? Well, he never did. He never would have
earned his salt as a 'Writer' for the 'Signet', nor have won a
place as advocate in the Court of Session, where the technique of
the profession has reached its highest perfection, and centuries
of learning and precedent are involved in the equipment of a
lawyer. Dr. Holmes, when asked by an anxious young mother, "When
should the education of a child begin?" replied, "Madam, at least
two centuries before it is born!" and so I am sure it is with the
Scots lawyer.

But not so in Illinois in 1840. Between 1830 and 1880 its
population increased twenty-fold, and when Lincoln began
practising law in Springfield in 1837, life in Illinois was very
crude and simple, and so were the courts and the administration
of justice. Books and libraries were scarce. But the people
loved justice, upheld the law, and followed the courts, and soon
found their favorites among the advocates. The fundamental
principles of the common law, as set forth by Blackstone and
Chitty, were not so difficult to acquire; and brains, common
sense, force of character, tenacity of purpose, ready wit and
power of speech did the rest, and supplied all the deficiencies
of learning.

The lawsuits of those days were extremely simple, and the
principles of natural justice were mainly relied on to dispose of
them at the Bar and on the Bench, without resort to technical
learning. Railroads, corporations absorbing the chief business
of the community, combined and inherited wealth, with all the
subtle and intricate questions they breed, had not yet come in--
and so the professional agents and the equipment which they
require were not needed. But there were many highly educated and
powerful men at the Bar of Illinois, even in those early days,
whom the spirit of enterprise had carried there in search of fame
and fortune. It was by constant contact and conflict with these
that Lincoln acquired professional strength and skill. Every
community and every age creates its own Bar, entirely adequate
for its present uses and necessities. So in Illinois, as the
population and wealth of the State kept on doubling and
quadrupling, its Bar presented a growing abundance of learning
and science and technical skill. The early practitioners grew
with its growth and mastered the requisite knowledge. Chicago
soon grew to be one of the largest and richest and certainly the
most intensely active city on the continent, and if any of my
professional friends here had gone there in Lincoln's later
years, to try or argue a cause, or transact other business, with
any idea that Edinburgh or London had a monopoly of legal
learning, science, or subtlety, they would certainly have found
their mistake.

In those early days in the West, every lawyer, especially every
court lawyer, was necessarily a politician, constantly engaged in
the public discussion of the many questions evolved from the
rapid development of town, county, State, and Federal affairs.
Then and there, in this regard, public discussion supplied the
place which the universal activity of the press has since
monopolized, and the public speaker who, by clearness, force,
earnestness, and wit; could make himself felt on the questions of
the day would rapidly come to the front. In the absence of that
immense variety of popular entertainments which now feed the
public taste and appetite, the people found their chief amusement
in frequenting the courts and public and political assemblies.
In either place, he who impressed, entertained, and amused them
most was the hero of the hour. They did not discriminate very
carefully between the eloquence of the forum and the eloquence of
the hustings. Human nature ruled in both alike, and he who was
the most effective speaker in a political harangue was often
retained as most likely to win in a cause to be tried or argued.
And I have no doubt in this way many retainers came to Lincoln.
Fees, money in any form, had no charms for him--in his eager
pursuit of fame he could not afford to make money. He was
ambitious to distinguish himself by some great service to
mankind, and this ambition for fame and real public service left
no room for avarice in his composition. However much he earned,
he seems to have ended every year hardly richer than he began it,
and yet, as the years passed, fees came to him freely. One of
L 1,000 is recorded--a very large professional fee at that time,
even in any part of America, the paradise of lawyers. I lay
great stress on Lincoln's career as a lawyer--much more than his
biographers do because in America a state of things exists wholly
different from that which prevails in Great Britain. The
profession of the law always has been and is to this day the
principal avenue to public life; and I am sure that his training
and experience in the courts had much to do with the development
of those forces of intellect and character which he soon
displayed on a broader arena.

It was in political controversy, of course, that he acquired his
wide reputation, and made his deep and lasting impression upon
the people of what had now become the powerful State of Illinois,
and upon the people of the Great West, to whom the political
power and control of the United States were already surely and
swiftly passing from the older Eastern States. It was this
reputation and this impression, and the familiar knowledge of his
character which had come to them from his local leadership, that
happily inspired the people of the West to present him as their
candidate, and to press him upon the Republican convention of
1860 as the fit and necessary leader in the struggle for life
which was before the nation.

That struggle, as you all know, arose out of the terrible
question of slavery--and I must trust to your general knowledge
of the history of that question to make intelligible the attitude
and leadership of Lincoln as the champion of the hosts of freedom
in the final contest. Negro slavery had been firmly established
in the Southern States from an early period of their history. In
1619, the year before the Mayflower landed our Pilgrim Fathers
upon Plymouth Rock, a Dutch ship had discharged a cargo of
African slaves at Jamestown in Virginia: All through the colonial
period their importation had continued. A few had found their
way into the Northern States, but none of them in sufficient
numbers to constitute danger or to afford a basis for political
power. At the time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution,
there is no doubt that the principal members of the convention
not only condemned slavery as a moral, social, and political
evil, but believed that by the suppression of the slave trade it
was in the course of gradual extinction in the South, as it
certainly was in the North. Washington, in his will, provided
for the emancipation of his own slaves, and said to Jefferson
that it "was among his first wishes to see some plan adopted by
which slavery in his country might be abolished." Jefferson
said, referring to the institution: "I tremble for my country
when I think that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep
forever,"--and Franklin, Adams, Hamilton, and Patrick Henry were
all utterly opposed to it. But it was made the subject of a
fatal compromise in the Federal Constitution, whereby its
existence was recognized in the States as a basis of
representation, the prohibition of the importation of slaves was
postponed for twenty years, and the return of fugitive slaves
provided for. But no imminent danger was apprehended from it
till, by the invention of the cotton gin in 1792, cotton culture
by negro labor became at once and forever the leading industry of
the South, and gave a new impetus to the importation of slaves,
so that in 1808, when the constitutional prohibition took effect,
their numbers had vastly increased. From that time forward
slavery became the basis of a great political power, and the
Southern States, under all circumstances and at every
opportunity, carried on a brave and unrelenting struggle for its
maintenance and extension.

The conscience of the North was slow to rise against it, though
bitter controversies from time to time took place. The Southern
leaders threatened disunion if their demands were not complied
with. To save the Union, compromise after compromise was made,
but each one in the end was broken. The Missouri Compromise,
made in 1820 upon the occasion of the admission of Missouri into
the Union as a slave State, whereby, in consideration of such
admission, slavery was forever excluded from the Northwest
Territory, was ruthlessly repealed in 1854, by a Congress elected
in the interests of the slave power, the intent being to force
slavery into that vast territory which had so long been dedicated
to freedom. This challenge at last aroused the slumbering
conscience and passion of the North, and led to the formation of
the Republican party for the avowed purpose of preventing, by
constitutional methods, the further extension of slavery.

In its first campaign, in 1856, though it failed to elect its
candidates; it received a surprising vote and carried many of the
States. No one could any longer doubt that the North had made up
its mind that no threats of disunion should deter it from
pressing its cherished purpose and performing its long neglected
duty. From the outset, Lincoln was one of the most active and
effective leaders and speakers of the new party, and the great
debates between Lincoln and Douglas in 1858, as the respective
champions of the restriction and extension of slavery, attracted
the attention of the whole country. Lincoln's powerful arguments
carried conviction everywhere. His moral nature was thoroughly
aroused his conscience was stirred to the quick. Unless slavery
was wrong, nothing was wrong. Was each man, of whatever color,
entitled to the fruits of his own labor, or could one man live in
idle luxury by the sweat of another's brow, whose skin was
darker? He was an implicit believer in that principle of the
Declaration of Independence that all men are vested with certain
inalienable rights the equal rights to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness. On this doctrine he staked his case and
carried it. We have time only for one or two sentences in which
he struck the keynote of the contest

"The real issue in this country is the eternal struggle between
these two principles--right and wrong--throughout the world.
They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the
beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. The one
is the common right of humanity, and the other the divine right
of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops
itself. It is the same spirit that says, 'You work and toil and
earn bread and I'll eat it.'"

He foresaw with unerring vision that the conflict was inevitable
and irrepressible--that one or the other, the right or the wrong,
freedom or slavery, must ultimately prevail and wholly prevail,
throughout the country; and this was the principle that carried
the war, once begun, to a finish.

One sentence of his is immortal:

"Under the operation of the policy of compromise, the slavery
agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented.
In my opinion it will not cease until a crisis shall have been
reached and passed. '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 it will cease
to be divided. It will become all one thing or all 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 forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the
States, old as well as new, North as well as South."

During the entire decade from 1850 to 1860 the agitation of the
slavery question was at the boiling point, and events which have
become historical continually indicated the near approach of the
overwhelming storm. No sooner had the Compromise Acts of 1850
resulted in a temporary peace, which everybody said must be final
and perpetual, than new outbreaks came. The forcible carrying
away of fugitive slaves by Federal troops from Boston agitated
that ancient stronghold of freedom to its foundations. The
publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which truly exposed the
frightful possibilities of the slave system; the reckless
attempts by force and fraud to establish it in Kansas against the
will of the vast majority of the settlers; the beating of Summer
in the Senate Chamber for words spoken in debate; the Dred Scott
decision in the Supreme Court, which made the nation realize that
the slave power had at last reached the fountain of Federal
justice; and finally the execution of John Brown, for his wild
raid into Virginia, to invite the slaves to rally to the standard
of freedom which he unfurled:--all these events tend to
illustrate and confirm Lincoln's contention that the nation could
not permanently continue half slave and half free, but must
become all one thing or all the other. When John Brown lay under
sentence of death he declared that now he was sure that slavery
must be wiped out in blood; but neither he nor his executioners
dreamt that within four years a million soldiers would be
marching across the country for its final extirpation, to the
music of the war-song of the great conflict:

"John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
But his soul is marching on."

And now, at the age of fifty-one, this child of the wilderness,
this farm laborer, rail-sputter, flatboatman, this surveyor,
lawyer, orator, statesman, and patriot, found himself elected by
the great party which was pledged to prevent at all hazards the
further extension of slavery, as the chief magistrate of the
Republic, bound to carry out that purpose, to be the leader and
ruler of the nation in its most trying hour.

Those who believe that there is a living Providence that
overrules and conducts the affairs of nations, find in the
elevation of this plain man to this extraordinary fortune and to
this great duty, which he so fitly discharged, a signal
vindication of their faith. Perhaps to this philosophical
institution the judgment of our philosopher Emerson will commend
itself as a just estimate of Lincoln's historical place

"His occupying the chair of state was a triumph of the good sense
of mankind and of the public conscience. He grew according to
the need; his mind mastered the problem of the day: and as the
problem grew, so did his comprehension of it. In the war there
was no place for holiday magistrate, nor fair-weather sailor.
The new pilot was hurried to the helm in a tornado. In four
years--four years of battle days--his endurance, his fertility of
resource, his magnanimity, were sorely tried, and never found
wanting. There, by his courage, his justice, his even temper,
his fertile counsel, his humanity, he stood a heroic figure in
the centre of a heroic epoch. He is the true history of the
American people in his time, the true representative of this
continent--father of his country, the pulse of twenty millions
throbbing in his heart, the thought of their mind--articulated in
his tongue."

He was born great, as distinguished from those who achieve
greatness or have it thrust upon them, and his inherent capacity,
mental, moral, and physical, having been recognized by the
educated intelligence of a free people, they happily chose him
for their ruler in a day of deadly peril.

It is now forty years since I first saw and heard Abraham
Lincoln, but the impression which he left on my mind is
ineffaceable. After his great successes in the West he came to
New York to make a political address. He appeared in every sense
of the word like one of the plain people among whom he loved to
be counted. At first sight there was nothing impressive or
imposing about him--except that his great stature singled him out
from the crowd: his clothes hung awkwardly on his giant frame;
his face was of a dark pallor, without the slightest tinge of
color; his seamed and rugged features bore the furrows of
hardship and struggle; his deep-set eyes looked sad and anxious;
his countenance in repose gave little evidence of that brain
power which had raised him from the lowest to the highest station
among his countrymen; as he talked to me before the meeting, he
seemed ill at ease, with that sort of apprehension which a young
man might feel before presenting himself to a new and strange
audience, whose critical disposition he dreaded. It was a great
audience, including all the noted men--all the learned and
cultured of his party in New York editors, clergymen, statesmen,
lawyers, merchants, critics. They were all very curious to hear
him. His fame as a powerful speaker had preceded him, and
exaggerated rumor of his wit--the worst forerunner of an orator--
had reached the East. When Mr. Bryant presented him, on the high
platform of the Cooper Institute, a vast sea of eager upturned
faces greeted him, full of intense curiosity to see what this
rude child of the people was like. He was equal to the occasion.
When he spoke he was transformed; his eye kindled, his voice
rang, his face shone and seemed to light up the whole assembly.
For an hour and a half he held his audience in the hollow of his
hand. His style of speech and manner of delivery were severely
simple. What Lowell called "the grand simplicities of the
Bible," with which he was so familiar, were reflected in his
discourse. With no attempt at ornament or rhetoric, without
parade or pretence, he spoke straight to the point. If any came
expecting the turgid eloquence or the ribaldry of the frontier,
they must have been startled at the earnest and sincere purity of
his utterances. It was marvellous to see how this untutored man,
by mere self-discipline and the chastening of his own spirit, had
outgrown all meretricious arts, and found his own way to the
grandeur and strength of absolute simplicity.

He spoke upon the theme which he had mastered so thoroughly. He
demonstrated by copious historical proofs and masterly logic that
the fathers who created the Constitution in order to form a more
perfect union, to establish justice, and to secure the blessings
of liberty to themselves and their posterity, intended to empower
the Federal Government to exclude slavery from the Territories.
In the kindliest spirit he protested against the avowed threat of
the Southern States to destroy the Union if, in order to secure
freedom in those vast regions out of which future States were to
be carved, a Republican President were elected. He closed with
an appeal to his audience, spoken with all the fire of his
aroused and kindling conscience, with a full outpouring of his
love of justice and liberty, to maintain their political purpose
on that lofty and unassailable issue of right and wrong which
alone could justify it, and not to be intimidated from their high
resolve and sacred duty by any threats of destruction to the
government or of ruin to themselves. He concluded with this
telling sentence, which drove the whole argument home to all our
hearts: "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."
That night the great hall, and the next day the whole city, rang
with delighted applause and congratulations, and he who had come
as a stranger departed with the laurels of great triumph.

Alas! in five years from that exulting night I saw him again, for
the last time, in the same city, borne in his coffin through its
draped streets. With tears and lamentations a heart-broken
people accompanied him from Washington, the scene of his
martyrdom, to his last resting-place in the young city of the
West where he had worked his way to fame.

Never was a new ruler in a more desperate plight than Lincoln
when he entered office on the fourth of March, 1861, four months
after his election, and took his oath to support the Constitution
and the Union. The intervening time had been busily employed by
the Southern States in carrying out their threat of disunion in
the event of his election. As soon as the fact was ascertained,
seven of them had seceded and had seized upon the forts,
arsenals, navy yards, and other public property of the United
States within their boundaries, and were making every preparation
for war. In the meantime the retiring President, who had been
elected by the slave power, and who thought the seceding States
could not lawfully be coerced, had done absolutely nothing.
Lincoln found himself, by the Constitution, Commander-in-Chief of
the Army and Navy of the United States, but with only a remnant
of either at hand. Each was to be created on a great scale out
of the unknown resources of a nation untried in war.

In his mild and conciliatory inaugural address, while appealing
to the seceding States to return to their allegiance, he avowed
his purpose to keep the solemn oath he had taken that day, to see
that the laws of the Union were faithfully executed, and to use
the troops to recover the forts, navy yards, and other property
belonging to the government. It is probable, however, that
neither side actually realized that war was inevitable, and that
the other was determined to fight, until the assault on Fort
Sumter presented the South as the first aggressor and roused the
North to use every possible resource to maintain the government
and the imperilled Union, and to vindicate the supremacy of the
flag over every inch of the territory of the United States. The
fact that Lincoln's first proclamation called for only 75,000
troops, to serve for three months, shows how inadequate was even
his idea of what the future had in store. But from that moment
Lincoln and his loyal supporters never faltered in their purpose.
They knew they could win, that it was their duty to win, and that
for America the whole hope of the future depended upon their
winning; for now by the acts of the seceding States the issue of
the election to secure or prevent the extension of slavery--stood
transformed into a struggle to preserve or to destroy the Union.

We cannot follow this contest. You know its gigantic
proportions; that it lasted four years instead of three months;
that in its progress, instead of 75,000 men, more than 2,000,000
were enrolled on the side of the government alone; that the
aggregate cost and loss to the nation approximated to
1,000,000,000 pounds sterling, and that not less than 300,000
brave and precious lives were sacrificed on each side. History
has recorded how Lincoln bore himself during these four frightful
years; that he was the real President, the responsible and actual
head of the government, through it all; that he listened to all
advice, heard all parties, and then, always realizing his
responsibility to God and the nation, decided every great
executive question for himself. His absolute honesty had become
proverbial long before he was President. "Honest Abe Lincoln"
was the name by which he had been known for years. His every act
attested it.

In all the grandeur of the vast power that he wielded, he never
ceased to be one of the plain people, as he always called them,
never lost or impaired his perfect sympathy with them, was always
in perfect touch with them and open to their appeals; and here
lay the very secret of his personality and of his power, for the
people in turn gave him their absolute confidence. His courage,
his fortitude, his patience, his hopefulness, were sorely tried
but never exhausted.

He was true as steel to his generals, but had frequent occasion
to change them, as he found them inadequate. This serious and
painful duty rested wholly upon him, and was perhaps his most
important function as Commander-in-Chief; but when, at last, he
recognized in General Grant the master of the situation, the man
who could and would bring the war to a triumphant end, he gave it
all over to him and upheld him with all his might. Amid all the
pressure and distress that the burdens of office brought upon
him, his unfailing sense of humor saved him; probably it made it
possible for him to live under the burden. He had always been
the great story-teller of the West, and he used and cultivated
this faculty to relieve the weight of the load he bore.

It enabled him to keep the wonderful record of never having lost
his temper, no matter what agony he had to bear. A whole night
might be spent in recounting the stories of his wit, humor, and
harmless sarcasm. But I will recall only two of his sayings,
both about General Grant, who always found plenty of enemies and
critics to urge the President to oust him from his command. One,
I am sure, will interest all Scotchmen. They repeated with
malicious intent the gossip that Grant drank. "What does he
drink?" asked Lincoln. "Whiskey," was, of course, the answer;
doubtless you can guess the brand. "Well," said the President,
"just find out what particular kind he uses and I'll send a
barrel to each of my other generals." The other must be as
pleasing to the British as to the American ear. When pressed
again on other grounds to get rid of Grant, he declared, "I can't
spare that man, he fights!"

He was tender-hearted to a fault, and never could resist the
appeals of wives and mothers of soldiers who had got into trouble
and were under sentence of death for their offences. His
Secretary of War and other officials complained that they never
could get deserters shot. As surely as the women of the
culprit's family could get at him he always gave way. Certainly
you will all appreciate his exquisite sympathy with the suffering
relatives of those who had fallen in battle. His heart bled with
theirs. Never was there a more gentle and tender utterance than
his letter to a mother who had given all her sons to her country,
written at a time when the angel of death had visited almost
every household in the land, and was already hovering over him.

"I have been shown," he says, "in the files of the War Department
a statement that you are the mother of five sons who have died
gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless
must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you
from your grief for a loss so overwhelming but I cannot refrain
from tendering to you the consolation which may be found in the
thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our
Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and
leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and the lost,
and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a
sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."

Hardly could your illustrious sovereign, from the depths of her
queenly and womanly heart, have spoken words more touching and
tender to soothe the stricken mothers of her own soldiers.

The Emancipation Proclamation, with which Mr. Lincoln delighted
the country and the world on the first of January, 1863, will
doubtless secure for him a foremost place in history among the
philanthropists and benefactors of the race, as it rescued, from
hopeless and degrading slavery, so many millions of his fellow-
beings described in the law and existing in fact as "chattels-
personal, in the hands of their owners and possessors, to all
intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever." Rarely does
the happy fortune come to one man to render such a service to his
kind--to proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the
inhabitants thereof.

Ideas rule the world, and never was there a more signal instance
of this triumph of an idea than here. William Lloyd Garrison,
who thirty years before had begun his crusade for the abolition
of slavery, and had lived to see this glorious and unexpected
consummation of the hopeless cause to which he had devoted his
life, well described the proclamation as a "great historic event,
sublime in its magnitude, momentous and beneficent in its far-
reaching consequences, and eminently just and right alike to the
oppressor and the oppressed."

Lincoln had always been heart and soul opposed to slavery.
Tradition says that on the trip on the flatboat to New Orleans he
formed his first and last opinion of slavery at the sight of
negroes chained and scourged, and that then and there the iron
entered into his soul. No boy could grow to manhood in those
days as a poor white in Kentucky and Indiana, in close contact
with slavery or in its neighborhood, without a growing
consciousness of its blighting effects on free labor, as well as
of its frightful injustice and cruelty. In the Legislature of
Illinois, where the public sentiment was all for upholding the
institution and violently against every movement for its
abolition or restriction, upon the passage of resolutions to that
effect he had the courage with one companion to put on record his
protest, "believing that the institution of slavery is founded
both in injustice and bad policy." No great demonstration of
courage, you will say; but that was at a time when Garrison, for
his abolition utterances, had been dragged by an angry mob
through the streets of Boston with a rope around his body, and in
the very year that Lovejoy in the same State of Illinois was
slain by rioters while defending his press, from which he had
printed antislavery appeals.

In Congress he brought in a bill for gradual abolition in the
District of Columbia, with compensation to the owners, for until
they raised treasonable hands against the life of the nation he
always maintained that the property of the slaveholders, into
which they had come by two centuries of descent, without fault on
their part, ought not to be taken away from them without just
compensation. He used to say that, one way or another, he had
voted forty-two times for the Wilmot Proviso, which Mr. Wilmot of
Pennsylvania moved as an addition to every bill which affected
United States territory, "that neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude shall ever exist in any part of the said territory,"
and it is evident that his condemnation of the system, on moral
grounds as a crime against the human race, and on political
grounds as a cancer that was sapping the vitals of the nation,
and must master its whole being or be itself extirpated, grew
steadily upon him until it culminated in his great speeches in
the Illinois debate.

By the mere election of Lincoln to the Presidency, the further
extension of slavery into the Territories was rendered forever
impossible--Vox populi, vox Dei. Revolutions never go backward,
and when founded on a great moral sentiment stirring the heart of
an indignant people their edicts are irresistible and final. Had
the slave power acquiesced in that election, had the Southern
States remained under the Constitution and within the Union, and
relied upon their constitutional and legal rights, their favorite
institution, immoral as it was, blighting and fatal as it was,
might have endured for another century. The great party that had
elected him, unalterably determined against its extension, was
nevertheless pledged not to interfere with its continuance in the
States where it already existed. Of course, when new regions
were forever closed against it, from its very nature it must have
begun to shrink and to dwindle; and probably gradual and
compensated emancipation, which appealed very strongly to the new
President's sense of justice and expediency, would, in the
progress of time, by a reversion to the ideas of the founders of
the Republic, have found a safe outlet for both masters and
slaves. But whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad,
and when seven States, afterwards increased to eleven, openly
seceded from the Union, when they declared and began the war upon
the nation, and challenged its mighty power to the desperate and
protracted struggle for its life, and for the maintenance of its
authority as a nation over its territory, they gave to Lincoln
and to freedom the sublime opportunity of history.

In his first inaugural address, when as yet not a drop of
precious blood had been shed, while he held out to them the olive
branch in one hand, in the other he presented the guarantees of
the Constitution, and after reciting the emphatic resolution of
the convention that nominated him, that the maintenance inviolate
of the "rights of the States, and especially the right of each
State to order and control its own domestic institutions
according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that
balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our
political fabric depend," he reiterated this sentiment, and
declared, with no mental reservation, "that all the protection
which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be
given, will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully
demanded for whatever cause as cheerfully to one section as to

When, however, these magnanimous overtures for peace and reunion
were rejected; when the seceding States defied the Constitution
and every clause and principle of it; when they persisted in
staying out of the Union from which they had seceded, and
proceeded to carve out of its territory a new and hostile empire
based on slavery; when they flew at the throat of the nation and
plunged it into the bloodiest war of the nineteenth century the
tables were turned, and the belief gradually came to the mind of
the President that if the Rebellion was not soon subdued by force
of arms, if the war must be fought out to the bitter end, then to
reach that end the salvation of the nation itself might require
the destruction of slavery wherever it existed; that if the war
was to continue on one side for Disunion, for no other purpose
than to preserve slavery, it must continue on the other side for
the Union, to destroy slavery.

As he said, "Events control me; I cannot control events," and as
the dreadful war progressed and became more deadly and dangerous,
the unalterable conviction was forced upon him that, in order
that the frightful sacrifice of life and treasure on both sides
might not be all in vain, it had become his duty as Commander-in-
Chief of the Army, as a necessary war measure, to strike a blow
at the Rebellion which, all others failing, would inevitably lead
to its annihilation, by annihilating the very thing for which it
was contending. His own words are the best:

"I understood that my oath to preserve the Constitution to the
best of my ability imposed upon me the duty of preserving by
every indispensable means that government--that nation--of which
that Constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose
the nation and yet preserve the Constitution? By general law,
life and limb must be protected, yet often a limb must be
amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to
save a limb. I felt that measures otherwise unconstitutional
might become lawful by becoming indispensable to the preservation
of the Constitution through the preservation of the nation.
Right or wrong, I assumed this ground and now avow it. I could
not feel that to the best of my ability I had ever tried to
preserve the Constitution if to save slavery or any minor matter
I should permit the wreck of government, country, and
Constitution all together."

And so, at last, when in his judgment the indispensable necessity
had come, he struck the fatal blow, and signed the proclamation
which has made his name immortal. By it, the President, as
Commander-in-Chief in time of actual armed rebellion, and as a
fit and necessary war measure for suppressing the rebellion,
proclaimed all persons held as slaves in the States and parts of
States then in rebellion to be thenceforward free, and declared
that the executive, with the army and navy, would recognize and
maintain their freedom.

In the other great steps of the government, which led to the
triumphant prosecution of the war, he necessarily shared the
responsibility and the credit with the great statesmen who stayed
up his hands in his cabinet, with Seward, Chase and Stanton, and
the rest,--and with his generals and admirals, his soldiers and
sailors, but this great act was absolutely his own. The
conception and execution were exclusively his. He laid it before
his cabinet as a measure on which his mind was made up and could
not be changed, asking them only for suggestions as to details.
He chose the time and the circumstances under which the
Emancipation should be proclaimed and when it should take effect.

It came not an hour too soon; but public opinion in the North
would not have sustained it earlier. In the first eighteen
months of the war its ravages had extended from the Atlantic to
beyond the Mississippi. Many victories in the West had been
balanced and paralyzed by inaction and disasters in Virginia,
only partially redeemed by the bloody and indecisive battle of
Antietam; a reaction had set in from the general enthusiasm which
had swept the Northern States after the assault upon Sumter. It
could not truly be said that they had lost heart, but faction was
raising its head. Heard through the land like the blast of a
bugle, the proclamation rallied the patriotism of the country to
fresh sacrifices and renewed ardor. It was a step that could not
be revoked. It relieved the conscience of the nation from an
incubus that had oppressed it from its birth. The United States
were rescued from the false predicament in which they had been
from the beginning, and the great popular heart leaped with new
enthusiasm for "Liberty and Union, henceforth and forever, one
and inseparable." It brought not only moral but material support
to the cause of the government, for within two years 120,000
colored troops were enlisted in the military service and
following the national flag, supported by all the loyalty of the
North, and led by its choicest spirits. One mother said, when
her son was offered the command of the first colored regiment,
"If he accepts it I shall be as proud as if I had heard that he
was shot." He was shot heading a gallant charge of his
regiment.... The Confederates replied to a request of his
friends for his body that they had "buried him under a layer of
his niggers....;" but that mother has lived to enjoy thirty-six
years of his glory, and Boston has erected its noblest monument
to his memory.

The effect of the proclamation upon the actual progress of the
war was not immediate, but wherever the Federal armies advanced
they carried freedom with them, and when the summer came round
the new spirit and force which had animated the heart of the
government and people were manifest. In the first week of July
the decisive battle of Gettysburg turned the tide of war, and the
fall of Vicksburg made the great river free from its source to
the Gulf.

On foreign nations the influence of the proclamation and of these
new victories was of great importance. In those days, when there
was no cable, it was not easy for foreign observers to appreciate
what was really going on; they could not see clearly the true
state of affairs, as in the last year of the nineteenth century
we have been able, by our new electric vision, to watch every
event at the antipodes and observe its effect. The Rebel
emissaries, sent over to solicit intervention, spared no pains to
impress upon the minds of public and private men and upon the
press their own views of the character of the contest. The
prospects of the Confederacy were always better abroad than at
home. The stock markets of the world gambled upon its chances,
and its bonds at one time were high in favor.

Such ideas as these were seriously held: that the North was
fighting for empire and the South for independence; that the
Southern States, instead of being the grossest oligarchies,
essentially despotisms, founded on the right of one man to
appropriate the fruit of other men's toil and to exclude them
from equal rights, were real republics, feebler to be sure than
their Northern rivals, but representing the same idea of freedom,
and that the mighty strength of the nation was being put forth to
crush them; that Jefferson Davis and the Southern leaders had
created a nation; that the republican experiment had failed and
the Union had ceased to exist. But the crowning argument to
foreign minds was that it was an utter impossibility for the
government to win in the contest; that the success of the
Southern States, so far as separation was concerned, was as
certain as any event yet future and contingent could be; that the
subjugation of the South by the North, even if it could be
accomplished, would prove a calamity to the United States and the
world, and especially calamitous to the negro race; and that such
a victory would necessarily leave the people of the South for
many generations cherishing deadly hostility against the
government and the North, and plotting always to recover their

When Lincoln issued his proclamation he knew that all these ideas
were founded in error; that the national resources were
inexhaustible; that the government could and would win, and that
if slavery were once finally disposed of, the only cause of
difference being out of the way, the North and South would come
together again, and by and by be as good friends as ever. In
many quarters abroad the proclamation was welcomed with
enthusiasm by the friends of America; but I think the
demonstrations in its favor that brought more gladness to
Lincoln's heart than any other were the meetings held in the
manufacturing centres, by the very operatives upon whom the war
bore the hardest, expressing the most enthusiastic sympathy with
the proclamation, while they bore with heroic fortitude the
grievous privations which the war entailed upon them. Mr.
Lincoln's expectation when he announced to the world that all
slaves in all States then in rebellion were set free must have
been that the avowed position of his government, that the
continuance of the war now meant the annihilation of slavery,
would make intervention impossible for any foreign nation whose
people were lovers of liberty--and so the result proved.

The growth and development of Lincoln's mental power and moral
force, of his intense and magnetic personality, after the vast
responsibilities of government were thrown upon him at the age of
fifty-two, furnish a rare and striking illustration of the
marvellous capacity and adaptability of the human intellect--of
the sound mind in the sound body. He came to the discharge of
the great duties of the Presidency with absolutely no experience
in the administration of government, or of the vastly varied and
complicated questions of foreign and domestic policy which
immediately arose, and continued to press upon him during the
rest of his life; but he mastered each as it came, apparently
with the facility of a trained and experienced ruler. As
Clarendon said of Cromwell, "His parts seemed to be raised by the
demands of great station." His life through it all was one of
intense labor, anxiety, and distress, without one hour of
peaceful repose from first to last. But he rose to every
occasion. He led public opinion, but did not march so far in
advance of it as to fail of its effective support in every great
emergency. He knew the heart and thought of the people, as no
man not in constant and absolute sympathy with them could have
known it, and so holding their confidence, he triumphed through
and with them. Not only was there this steady growth of
intellect, but the infinite delicacy of his nature and its
capacity for refinement developed also, as exhibited in the
purity and perfection of his language and style of speech. The
rough backwoodsman, who had never seen the inside of a
university, became in the end, by self-training and the exercise
of his own powers of mind, heart, and soul, a master of style,
and some of his utterances will rank with the best, the most
perfectly adapted to the occasion which produced them.

Have you time to listen to his two-minutes speech at Gettysburg,
at the dedication of the Soldiers' Cemetery? His whole soul was
in it:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the
proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged
in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation
so conceived 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
fitting 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 poor power to add 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 unfinished 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 government of the people, by the
people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth."

He lived to see his work indorsed by an overwhelming majority of
his countrymen. In his second inaugural address, pronounced just
forty days before his death, there is a single passage which well
displays his indomitable will and at the same time his deep
religious feeling, his sublime charity to the enemies of his
country, and his broad and catholic humanity:

"If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those
offences which in the Providence of God must needs come, but
which, having continued through the appointed time, He now wills
to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this
terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came,
shall we discern therein any departure from those divine
attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to
Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty
scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it
continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsmen's two hundred
and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every
drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid with another
drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so
still it must be said, 'the judgments of the Lord are true and
righteous altogether.'

"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."

His prayer was answered. The forty days of life that remained to
him were crowned with great historic events. He lived to see his
Proclamation of Emancipation embodied in an amendment of the
Constitution, adopted by Congress, and submitted to the States
for ratification. The mighty scourge of war did speedily pass
away, for it was given him to witness the surrender of the Rebel
army and the fall of their capital, and the starry flag that he
loved waving in triumph over the national soil. When he died by
the madman's hand in the supreme hour of victory, the vanquished
lost their best friend, and the human race one of its noblest
examples; and all the friends of freedom and justice, in whose
cause he lived and died, joined hands as mourners at his grave.





March 9, 1832.

FELLOW CITIZENS:--Having become a candidate for the honorable
office of one of your Representatives in the next General
Assembly of this State, in according with an established custom
and the principles of true Republicanism it becomes my duty to
make known to you, the people whom I propose to represent, my
sentiments with regard to local affairs.

Time and experience have verified to a demonstration the public
utility of internal improvements. That the poorest and most
thinly populated countries would be greatly benefited by the
opening of good roads, and in the clearing of navigable streams
within their limits, is what no person will deny. Yet it is
folly to undertake works of this or any other without first
knowing that we are able to finish them--as half-finished work
generally proves to be labor lost. There cannot justly be any
objection to having railroads and canals, any more than to other
good things, provided they cost nothing. The only objection is
to paying for them; and the objection arises from the want of
ability to pay.

With respect to the County of Sangamon, some....

Yet, however desirable an object the construction of a railroad
through our country may be, however high our imaginations may be
heated at thoughts of it,--there is always a heart-appalling
shock accompanying the amount of its cost, which forces us to
shrink from our pleasing anticipations. The probable cost of
this contemplated railroad is estimated at $290,000; the bare
statement of which, in my opinion, is sufficient to justify the
belief that the improvement of the Sangamon River is an object
much better suited to our infant resources.......

What the cost of this work would be, I am unable to say. It is
probable, however, that it would not be greater than is common to
streams of the same length. Finally, I believe the improvement
of the Sangamon River to be vastly important and highly desirable
to the people of the county; and, if elected, any measure in the
Legislature having this for its object, which may appear
judicious, will meet my approbation and receive my support.

It appears that the practice of loaning money at exorbitant rates
of interest has already been opened as a field for discussion; so
I suppose I may enter upon it without claiming the honor or
risking the danger which may await its first explorer. It seems
as though we are never to have an end to this baneful and
corroding system, acting almost as prejudicially to the general
interests of the community as a direct tax of several thousand
dollars annually laid on each county for the benefit of a few
individuals only, unless there be a law made fixing the limits of
usury. A law for this purpose, I am of opinion, may be made
without materially injuring any class of people. In cases of
extreme necessity, there could always be means found to cheat the
law; while in all other cases it would have its intended effect.
I would favor the passage of a law on this subject which might
not be very easily evaded. Let it be such that the labor and
difficulty of evading it could only be justified in cases of
greatest necessity.

Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan
or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the
most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.
That every man may receive at least a moderate education, and
thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other
countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free
institutions, appears to be an object
of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing
of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being
able to read the Scriptures, and other works both of a religious
and moral nature, for themselves.

For my part, I desire to see the time when education--and by its
means, morality, sobriety, enterprise, and industry--shall become
much more general than at present, and should be gratified to
have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of
any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate that happy

With regard to existing laws, some alterations are thought to be
necessary. Many respectable men have suggested that our estray
laws, the law respecting the issuing of executions, the road law,
and some others, are deficient in their present form, and require
alterations. But, considering the great probability that the
framers of those laws were wiser than myself, I should prefer not
meddling with them, unless they were first attacked by others; in
which case I should feel it both a privilege and a duty to take
that stand which, in my view, might tend most to the advancement
of justice.

But, fellow-citizens, I shall conclude. Considering the great
degree of modesty which should always attend youth, it is
probable I have already been more presuming than becomes me.
However, upon the subjects of which I have treated, I have spoken
as I have thought. I may be wrong in regard to any or all of
them; but, holding it a sound maxim that it is better only
sometimes to be right than at all times to be wrong, so soon as I
discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to
renounce them.

Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be
true or not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so great as
that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men, by rendering
myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in
gratifying this ambition is yet to be developed. I am young, and
unknown to many of you. I was born, and have ever remained, in
the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular
relations or friends to recommend me. My case is thrown
exclusively upon the independent voters of the county; and, if
elected, they will have conferred a favor upon me for which I
shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate. But, if the
good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the
background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be
very much chagrined.

Your friend and fellow-citizen,

New Salem, March 9, 1832.



Aug. 10, 1833


Dear Sir:--In regard to the time David Rankin served the enclosed
discharge shows correctly--as well as I can recollect--having no
writing to refer. The transfer of Rankin from my company
occurred as follows: Rankin having lost his horse at Dixon's
ferry and having acquaintance in one of the foot companies who
were going down the river was desirous to go with them, and one
Galishen being an acquaintance of mine and belonging to the
company in which Rankin wished to go wished to leave it and join
mine, this being the case it was agreed that they should exchange
places and answer to each other's names--as it was expected we
all would be discharged in very few days. As to a blanket--I
have no knowledge of Rankin ever getting any. The above embraces
all the facts now in my recollection which are pertinent to the

I shall take pleasure in giving any further information in my
power should you call on me.

Your friend,




At your request I send you a receipt for the postage on your
paper. I am somewhat surprised at your request. I will,
however, comply with it. The law requires newspaper postage to
be paid in advance, and now that I have waited a full year you
choose to wound my feelings by insinuating that unless you get a
receipt I will probably make you pay it again.




New Salem, June 13, 1836.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE "JOURNAL"--In your paper of last Saturday I
see a communication, over the signature of "Many Voters," in
which the candidates who are announced in the Journal are called
upon to "show their hands." Agreed. Here's mine.

I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist
in bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for admitting all
whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no
means excluding females).

If elected, I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon my
constituents, as well those that oppose as those that support me.

While acting as their representative, I shall be governed by
their will on all subjects upon which I have the means of knowing
what their will is; and upon all others I shall do what my own
judgment teaches me will best advance their interests. Whether
elected or not, I go for distributing the proceeds of the sales
of the public lands to the several States, to enable our State,
in common with others, to dig canals and construct railroads
without borrowing money and paying the interest on it. If alive
on the first Monday in November, I shall vote for Hugh L. White
for President.

Very respectfully,



New Salem,
June 21, 1836

DEAR COLONEL:--I am told that during my absence last week you
passed through this place, and stated publicly that you were in
possession of a fact or facts which, if known to the public,
would entirely destroy the prospects of N. W. Edwards and
myself at the ensuing election; but that, through favor to us,
you should forbear to divulge them. No one has needed favors
more than I, and, generally, few have been less unwilling to
accept them; but in this case favor to me would be injustice to
the public, and therefore I must beg your pardon for declining
it. That I once had the confidence of the people of Sangamon, is
sufficiently evident; and if I have since done anything, either
by design or misadventure, which if known would subject me to a
forfeiture of that confidence, he that knows of that thing, and
conceals it, is a traitor to his country's interest.

I find myself wholly unable to form any conjecture of what fact
or facts, real or supposed, you spoke; but my opinion of your
veracity will not permit me for a moment to doubt that you at
least believed what you said. I am flattered with the personal
regard you manifested for me; but I do hope that, on more mature
reflection, you will view the public interest as a paramount
consideration, and therefore determine to let the worst come. I
here assure you that the candid statement of facts on your part,
however low it may sink me, shall never break the tie of personal
friendship between us. I wish an answer to this, and you are at
liberty to publish both, if you choose.

Very respectfully,


December 13, 1836.

MARY:--I have been sick ever since my arrival, or I should have
written sooner. It is but little difference, however, as I have
very little even yet to write. And more, the longer I can avoid
the mortification of looking in the post-office for your letter
and not finding it, the better. You see I am mad about that old
letter yet. I don't like very well to risk you again. I'll try
you once more, anyhow.

The new State House is not yet finished, and consequently the
Legislature is doing little or nothing. The governor delivered
an inflammatory political message, and it is expected there will
be some sparring between the parties about it as soon as the two
Houses get to business. Taylor delivered up his petition for the
new county to one of our members this morning. I am told he
despairs of its success, on account of all the members from
Morgan County opposing it. There are names enough on the
petition, I think, to justify the members from our county in
going for it; but if the members from Morgan oppose it, which
they say they will, the chance will be bad.

Our chance to take the seat of government to Springfield is
better than I expected. An internal-improvement convention was
held there since we met, which recommended a loan of several
millions of dollars, on the faith of the State, to construct
railroads. Some of the Legislature are for it, and some against
it; which has the majority I cannot tell. There is great strife
and struggling for the office of the United States Senator here
at this time. It is probable we shall ease their pains in a few
days. The opposition men have no candidate of their own, and
consequently they will smile as complacently at the angry snarl
of the contending Van Buren candidates and their respective
friends as the Christian does at Satan's rage. You recollect
that I mentioned at the outset of this letter that I had been
unwell. That is the fact, though I believe I am about well now;
but that, with other things I cannot account for, have conspired,
and have gotten my spirits so low that I feel that I would rather
be any place in the world than here. I really cannot endure the
thought of staying here ten weeks. Write back as soon as you get
this, and, if possible, say something that will please me, for
really I have not been pleased since I left you. This letter is
so dry and stupid that I am ashamed to send it, but with my
present feelings I cannot do any better.

Give my best respects to Mr. and Mrs. Able and family.

Your friend,



January [?], 1837

Mr. CHAIRMAN:--Lest I should fall into the too common error of
being mistaken in regard to which side I design to be upon, I
shall make it my first care to remove all doubt on that point, by
declaring that I am opposed to the resolution under
consideration, in toto. Before I proceed to the body of the
subject, I will further remark, that it is not without a
considerable degree of apprehension that I venture to cross the
track of the gentleman from Coles [Mr. Linder]. Indeed, I do not
believe I could muster a sufficiency of courage to come in
contact with that gentleman, were it not for the fact that he,
some days since, most graciously condescended to assure us that
he would never be found wasting ammunition on small game. On the
same fortunate occasion, he further gave us to understand, that
he regarded himself as being decidedly the superior of our common
friend from Randolph [Mr. Shields]; and feeling, as I really do,
that I, to say the most of myself, am nothing more than the peer
of our friend from Randolph, I shall regard the gentleman from
Coles as decidedly my superior also, and consequently, in the
course of what I shall have to say, whenever I shall have
occasion to allude to that gentleman, I shall endeavor to adopt
that kind of court language which I understand to be due to
decided superiority. In one faculty, at least, there can be no
dispute of the gentleman's superiority over me and most other
men, and that is, the faculty of entangling a subject, so that
neither himself, or any other man, can find head or tail to it.
Here he has introduced a resolution embracing ninety-nine printed
lines across common writing paper, and yet more than one half of
his opening speech has been made upon subjects about which there
is not one word said in his resolution.

Though his resolution embraces nothing in regard to the
constitutionality of the Bank, much of what he has said has been
with a view to make the impression that it was unconstitutional
in its inception. Now, although I am satisfied that an ample
field may be found within the pale of the resolution, at least
for small game, yet, as the gentleman has traveled out of it, I
feel that I may, with all due humility, venture to follow him.
The gentleman has discovered that some gentleman at Washington
city has been upon the very eve of deciding our Bank
unconstitutional, and that he would probably have completed his
very authentic decision, had not some one of the Bank officers
placed his hand upon his mouth, and begged him to withhold it.
The fact that the individuals composing our Supreme Court have,
in an official capacity, decided in favor of the
constitutionality of the Bank, would, in my mind, seem a
sufficient answer to this. It is a fact known to all, that the
members of the Supreme Court, together with the Governor, form a
Council of Revision, and that this Council approved this Bank
charter. I ask, then, if the extra-judicial decision not quite
but almost made by the gentleman at Washington, before whom, by
the way, the question of the constitutionality of our Bank never
has, nor never can come--is to be taken as paramount to a
decision officially made by that tribunal, by which, and which
alone, the constitutionality of the Bank can ever be settled?
But, aside from this view of the subject, I would ask, if the
committee which this resolution proposes to appoint are to
examine into the Constitutionality of the Bank? Are they to be
clothed with power to send for persons and papers, for this
object? And after they have found the bank to be
unconstitutional, and decided it so, how are they to enforce
their decision? What will their decision amount to? They cannot
compel the Bank to cease operations, or to change the course of
its operations. What good, then, can their labors result in?
Certainly none.

The gentleman asks, if we, without an examination, shall, by
giving the State deposits to the Bank, and by taking the stock
reserved for the State, legalize its former misconduct. Now I do
not pretend to possess sufficient legal knowledge to decide
whether a legislative enactment proposing to, and accepting from,
the Bank, certain terms, would have the effect to legalize or
wipe out its former errors, or not; but I can assure the
gentleman, if such should be the effect, he has already got
behind the settlement of accounts; for it is well known to all,
that the Legislature, at its last session, passed a supplemental
Bank charter, which the Bank has since accepted, and which,
according to his doctrine, has legalized all the alleged
violations of its original charter in the distribution of its

I now proceed to the resolution. By examination it will be found
that the first thirty-three lines, being precisely one third of
the whole, relate exclusively to the distribution of the stock by
the commissioners appointed by the State. Now, Sir, it is clear
that no question can arise on this portion of the resolution,
except a question between capitalists in regard to the ownership
of stock. Some gentlemen have their stock in their hands, while
others, who have more money than they know what to do with, want
it; and this, and this alone, is the question, to settle which we
are called on to squander thousands of the people's money. What
interest, let me ask, have the people in the settlement of this
question? What difference is it to them whether the stock is
owned by Judge Smith or Sam Wiggins? If any gentleman be entitled
to stock in the Bank, which he is kept out of possession of by
others, let him assert his right in the Supreme Court, and let
him or his antagonist, whichever may be found in the wrong, pay
the costs of suit. It is an old maxim, and a very sound one,
that he that dances should always pay the fiddler. Now, Sir, in
the present case, if any gentlemen, whose money is a burden to
them, choose to lead off a dance, I am decidedly opposed to the
people's money being used to pay the fiddler. No one can doubt
that the examination proposed by this resolution must cost the
State some ten or twelve thousand dollars; and all this to settle
a question in which the people have no interest, and about which
they care nothing. These capitalists generally act harmoniously
and in concert, to fleece the people, and now that they have got
into a quarrel with themselves we are called upon to appropriate
the people's money to settle the quarrel.

I leave this part of the resolution and proceed to the remainder.
It will be found that no charge in the remaining part of the
resolution, if true, amounts to the violation of the Bank
charter, except one, which I will notice in due time. It might
seem quite sufficient to say no more upon any of these charges or
insinuations than enough to show they are not violations of the
charter; yet, as they are ingeniously framed and handled, with a
view to deceive and mislead, I will notice in their order all the
most prominent of them. The first of these is in relation to a
connection between our Bank and several banking institutions in
other States. Admitting this connection to exist, I should like
to see the gentleman from Coles, or any other gentleman,
undertake to show that there is any harm in it. What can there
be in such a connection, that the people of Illinois are willing
to pay their money to get a peep into? By a reference to the
tenth section of the Bank charter, any gentleman can see that the
framers of the act contemplated the holding of stock in the
institutions of other corporations. Why, then, is it, when
neither law nor justice forbids it, that we are asked to spend
our time and money in inquiring into its truth?

The next charge, in the order of time, is, that some officer,
director, clerk or servant of the Bank, has been required to take
an oath of secrecy in relation to the affairs of said Bank. Now,
I do not know whether this be true or false--neither do I believe
any honest man cares. I know that the seventh section of the
charter expressly guarantees to the Bank the right of making,
under certain restrictions, such by-laws as it may think fit; and
I further know that the requiring an oath of secrecy would not
transcend those restrictions. What, then, if the Bank has chosen
to exercise this right? Whom can it injure? Does not every
merchant have his secret mark? and who is ever silly enough to
complain of it? I presume if the Bank does require any such oath
of secrecy, it is done through a motive of delicacy to those
individuals who deal with it. Why, Sir, not many days since, one
gentleman upon this floor, who, by the way, I have no doubt is
now ready to join this hue and cry against the Bank, indulged in
a philippic against one of the Bank officials, because, as he
said, he had divulged a secret.

Immediately following this last charge, there are several
insinuations in the resolution, which are too silly to require
any sort of notice, were it not for the fact that they conclude
by saying, "to the great injury of the people at large." In
answer to this I would say that it is strange enough, that the
people are suffering these "great injuries," and yet are not
sensible of it! Singular indeed that the people should be
writhing under oppression and injury, and yet not one among them
to be found to raise the voice of complaint. If the Bank be
inflicting injury upon the people, why is it that not a single
petition is presented to this body on the subject? If the Bank
really be a grievance, why is it that no one of the real people
is found to ask redress of it? The truth is, no such oppression
exists. If it did, our people would groan with memorials and
petitions, and we would not be permitted to rest day or night,
till we had put it down. The people know their rights, and they
are never slow to assert and maintain them, when they are
invaded. Let them call for an investigation, and I shall ever
stand ready to respond to the call. But they have made no such
call. I make the assertion boldly, and without fear of
contradiction, that no man, who does not hold an office, or does
not aspire to one, has ever found any fault of the Bank. It has
doubled the prices of the products of their farms, and filled
their pockets with a sound circulating medium, and they are all
well pleased with its operations. No, Sir, it is the politician
who is the first to sound the alarm (which, by the way, is a
false one.) It is he, who, by these unholy means, is endeavoring
to blow up a storm that he may ride upon and direct. It is he,
and he alone, that here proposes to spend thousands of the
people's public treasure, for no other advantage to them than to
make valueless in their pockets the reward of their industry.
Mr. Chairman, this work is exclusively the work of politicians; a
set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the
people, and who, to say the most of them, are, taken as a mass,
at least one long step removed from honest men. I say this with
the greater freedom, because, being a politician myself, none can
regard it as personal.

Again, it is charged, or rather insinuated, that officers of the
Bank have loaned money at usurious rates of interest. Suppose
this to be true, are we to send a committee of this House to
inquire into it? Suppose the committee should find it true, can
they redress the injured individuals? Assuredly not. If any
individual had been injured in this way, is there not an ample
remedy to be found in the laws of the land? Does the gentleman
from Coles know that there is a statute standing in full force
making it highly penal for an individual to loan money at a
higher rate of interest than twelve per cent? If he does not he
is too ignorant to be placed at the head of the committee which
his resolution purposes and if he does, his neglect to mention it
shows him to be too uncandid to merit the respect or confidence
of any one.

But besides all this, if the Bank were struck from existence,
could not the owners of the capital still loan it usuriously, as
well as now? whatever the Bank, or its officers, may have done, I
know that usurious transactions were much more frequent and
enormous before the commencement of its operations than they have
ever been since.

The next insinuation is, that the Bank has refused specie
payments. This, if true is a violation of the charter. But
there is not the least probability of its truth; because, if such
had been the fact, the individual to whom payment was refused
would have had an interest in making it public, by suing for the
damages to which the charter entitles him. Yet no such thing has
been done; and the strong presumption is, that the insinuation is
false and groundless.

From this to the end of the resolution, there is nothing that
merits attention--I therefore drop the particular examination of

By a general view of the resolution, it will be seen that a
principal object of the committee is to examine into, and ferret
out, a mass of corruption supposed to have been committed by the
commissioners who apportioned the stock of the Bank. I believe
it is universally understood and acknowledged that all men will
ever act correctly unless they have a motive to do otherwise. If
this be true, we can only suppose that the commissioners acted
corruptly by also supposing that they were bribed to do so.
Taking this view of the subject, I would ask if the Bank is
likely to find it more difficult to bribe the committee of seven,
which, we are about to appoint, than it may have found it to
bribe the commissioners?

(Here Mr. Linder called to order. The Chair decided that Mr.
Lincoln was not out of order. Mr. Linder appealed to the House,
but, before the question was put, withdrew his appeal, saying he
preferred to let the gentleman go on; he thought he would break
his own neck. Mr. Lincoln proceeded:)

Another gracious condescension! I acknowledge it with gratitude.
I know I was not out of order; and I know every sensible man in
the House knows it. I was not saying that the gentleman from
Coles could be bribed, nor, on the other hand, will I say he
could not. In that particular I leave him where I found him. I
was only endeavoring to show that there was at least as great a
probability of any seven members that could be selected from this
House being bribed to act corruptly, as there was that the
twenty-four commissioners had been so bribed. By a reference to
the ninth section of the Bank charter, it will be seen that those
commissioners were John Tilson, Robert K. McLaughlin, Daniel
Warm, A.G. S. Wight, John C. Riley, W. H. Davidson, Edward
M. Wilson, Edward L. Pierson, Robert R. Green, Ezra Baker,
Aquilla Wren, John Taylor, Samuel C. Christy, Edmund Roberts,
Benjamin Godfrey, Thomas Mather, A. M. Jenkins, W. Linn, W.
S. Gilman, Charles Prentice, Richard I. Hamilton, A.H.
Buckner, W. F. Thornton, and Edmund D. Taylor.

These are twenty-four of the most respectable men in the State.
Probably no twenty-four men could be selected in the State with
whom the people are better acquainted, or in whose honor and
integrity they would more readily place confidence. And I now
repeat, that there is less probability that those men have been
bribed and corrupted, than that any seven men, or rather any six
men, that could be selected from the members of this House, might
be so bribed and corrupted, even though they were headed and led
on by "decided superiority" himself.

In all seriousness, I ask every reasonable man, if an issue be
joined by these twenty-four commissioners, on the one part, and
any other seven men, on the other part, and the whole depend upon
the honor and integrity of the contending parties, to which party
would the greatest degree of credit be due? Again: Another
consideration is, that we have no right to make the examination.
What I shall say upon this head I design exclusively for the law-
loving and law-abiding part of the House. To those who claim
omnipotence for the Legislature, and who in the plenitude of
their assumed powers are disposed to disregard the Constitution,
law, good faith, moral right, and everything else, I have not a
word to say. But to the law-abiding part I say, examine the Bank
charter, go examine the Constitution, go examine the acts that
the General Assembly of this State has passed, and you will find
just as much authority given in each and every of them to compel
the Bank to bring its coffers to this hall and to pour their
contents upon this floor, as to compel it to submit to this
examination which this resolution proposes. Why, Sir, the
gentleman from Coles, the mover of this resolution, very lately
denied on this floor that the Legislature had any right to repeal
or otherwise meddle with its own acts, when those acts were made
in the nature of contracts, and had been accepted and acted on by
other parties. Now I ask if this resolution does not propose,
for this House alone, to do what he, but the other day, denied
the right of the whole Legislature to do? He must either abandon
the position he then took, or he must now vote against his own
resolution. It is no difference to me, and I presume but little
to any one else, which he does.

I am by no means the special advocate of the Bank. I have long
thought that it would be well for it to report its condition to
the General Assembly, and that cases might occur, when it might
be proper to make an examination of its affairs by a committee.
Accordingly, during the last session, while a bill supplemental
to the Bank charter was pending before the House, I offered an
amendment to the same, in these words: "The said corporation
shall, at the next session of the General Assembly, and at each
subsequent General Session, during the existence of its charter,
report to the same the amount of debts due from said corporation;
the amount of debts due to the same; the amount of specie in its
vaults, and an account of all lands then owned by the same, and
the amount for which such lands have been taken; and moreover, if
said corporation shall at any time neglect or refuse to submit
its books, papers, and all and everything necessary for a full
and fair examination of its affairs, to any person or persons
appointed by the General Assembly, for the purpose of making such
examination, the said corporation shall forfeit its charter."

This amendment was negatived by a vote of 34 to 15. Eleven of
the 34 who voted against it are now members of this House; and
though it would be out of order to call their names, I hope they
will all recollect themselves, and not vote for this examination
to be made without authority, inasmuch as they refused to receive
the authority when it was in their power to do so.

I have said that cases might occur, when an examination might be
proper; but I do not believe any such case has now occurred; and
if it has, I should still be opposed to making an examination
without legal authority. I am opposed to encouraging that
lawless and mobocratic spirit, whether in relation to the Bank or
anything else, which is already abroad in the land and is
spreading with rapid and fearful impetuosity, to the ultimate
overthrow of every institution, of every moral principle, in
which persons and property have hitherto found security.

But supposing we had the authority, I would ask what good can
result from the examination? Can we declare the Bank
unconstitutional, and compel it to desist from the abuses of its
power, provided we find such abuses to exist? Can we repair the
injuries which it may have done to individuals? Most certainly we
can do none of these things. Why then
shall we spend the public money in such employment? Oh, say the
examiners, we can injure the credit of the Bank, if nothing else,
Please tell me, gentlemen, who will suffer most by that? You
cannot injure, to any extent, the stockholders. They are men of
wealth--of large capital; and consequently, beyond the power of
malice. But by injuring the credit of the Bank, you will
depreciate the value of its paper in the hands of the honest and
unsuspecting farmer and mechanic, and that is all you can do.
But suppose you could effect your whole purpose; suppose you
could wipe the Bank from existence, which is the grand ultimatum
of the project, what would be the consequence? why, Sir, we
should spend several thousand dollars of the public treasure in
the operation, annihilate the currency of the State, render
valueless in the hands of our people that reward of their former
labors, and finally be once more under the comfortable obligation
of paying the Wiggins loan, principal and interest.



January 27, 1837.

As a subject for the remarks of the evening, "The Perpetuation of
our Political Institutions "is selected.

In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the
American people, find our account running under date of the
nineteenth century of the Christian era. We find ourselves in
the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth as
regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of
climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of
political institutions conducing more essentially to the ends of
civil and religious liberty than any of which the history of
former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence,
found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental
blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of
them; they are a legacy bequeathed us by a once hardy, brave, and
patriotic, but now lamented and departed, race of ancestors.
Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess
themselves, and through themselves us, of this goodly land, and
to uprear upon its hills and its valleys a political edifice of
liberty and equal rights; it is ours only to transmit these--the
former unprofaned by the foot of an invader, the latter undecayed
by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation--to the latest
generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task
gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to
posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively
require us faithfully to perform.

How then shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the
approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?
Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the
ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe,
Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth
(our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for
a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or
make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I
answer: If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it
cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must
ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we
must live through all time, or die by suicide.

I hope I am over-wary; but if I am not, there is even now
something of ill omen amongst us. I mean the increasing
disregard for law which pervades the country--the growing
disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions in lieu
of the sober judgment of courts, and the worse than savage mobs
for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is
awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours,
though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation
of truth and an insult to our intelligence to deny. Accounts of
outrages committed by mobs form the everyday news of the times.
They have pervaded the country from New England to Louisiana;
they are neither peculiar to the eternal snows of the former nor
the burning suns of the latter; they are not the creature of
climate, neither are they confined to the slave holding or the
non-slave holding States. Alike they spring up among the
pleasure-hunting masters of Southern slaves, and the order-loving
citizens of the land of steady habits. Whatever then their cause
may be, it is common to the whole country.

It would be tedious as well as useless to recount the horrors of
all of them. Those happening in the State of Mississippi and at
St. Louis are perhaps the most dangerous in example and
revolting to humanity. In the Mississippi case they first
commenced by hanging the regular gamblers--a set of men certainly
not following for a livelihood a very useful or very honest
occupation, but one which, so far from being forbidden by the
laws, was actually licensed by an act of the Legislature passed
but a single year before. Next, negroes suspected of conspiring
to raise an insurrection were caught up and hanged in all parts
of the State; then, white men supposed to be leagued with the
negroes; and finally, strangers from neighboring States, going
thither on business, were in many instances subjected to the same
fate. Thus went on this process of hanging, from gamblers to
negroes, from negroes to white citizens, and from these to
strangers, till dead men were seen literally dangling from the


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