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better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise, and break it whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public interest; but I have not yet been so convinced. I have been shown a letter on this subject, supposed to be an able one, in which the writer expresses regret that my
mind has not seemed to be definitely fixed on the question whether the seceded States, so called, are in the Union or out of it. It would perhaps add astonishment to his regret were he to learn that since I have found professed Union men endeavoring to make that question, I have purposely foreborne any public expression upon it. As appears to me, that question has not been, nor yet is, a practically material one, and that any discussion of it, while it thus remains practically immaterial, could have no effect other than the mischievous one of dividing our friends. As yet, whatever it may hereafter become, that question is bad as the basis of a controversy, and good for nothing at all a merely pernicious ab straction.
We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union, and that the sole object of the government, civil, and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe that it is not only possible, but in fact easier, to do this without deciding or even con. sidering whether these States have ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad.
I repeat the question: Oan Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the Union sooner by sustaining or by discarding her new State government? What has been said of Louisiana will apply generally to other States. And yet so great peculiarities pertain to each State, and such important and sudden changes occur in the same State, and withal so new and unpre. cedented is the whole case that no exclusive and inflexible plan can safely be prescribed as to details and collaterals. Such exclusive and inflexible plan would surely become a new entanglement. Important principles may and must be inflexible. In the present situation, as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act when satisfied that action will be proper. ii
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
(Delivered at the Dedication of the National
Cemetery, November 19, 1863)
Fourscore 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 of 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 dedicatewe 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, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
February 3, 1862 [General McClellan had succeeded General Scott on November 1, 1861, as Commanderin-Chief (under the President) of all the armies of the United States. On January 31, 1862, the President had issued his“ Special War Or. der No. 1," directing a forward movement of the Army of the Poiumac. This order conflicted with plans which McClellan had formed, and he remonstrated. Lincoln's reply is a good illustration of his power of compact statement, as well as of his mastery of the military situa. tion.]
Executive Mansion, Washington, February 3, 1862. MAJOR-GENERAL MCCLELLAN :
MY DEAR SIR : You and I have distinct and different plans for a movement of the Army of the Potomac-yours to be down the Chesapeake, up the Rappahannock to Urbana, and across land to the terminus of the railroad on the York River ; mine to move directly to a point on the railroad southwest of Manassas. If
you will give me satisfactory answers to the following questions, I shall gladly yield my plan to yours. First. Does not your plan involve a greatly