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during the four years of his administration, he led the American people. The unfolding of events in the history we are yet to enact will alone determine the limits of such influence. It is enough for his immortal glory that he faithfully represented this people, their confidence in democratic government, their constancy in the hour of adversity, and their magnanimity in the hour of triumph.”
Yet whether fully acknowledged as a leader by all, or not, Abraham Lincoln was truly great, and his course one of profoundest wisdom. He was "great in clearness of thought, great in calm deliberation, great in earnestness, in unaffectedness, in unselfish devotion to duty. . .
" Raised moderately to the station which Washington was the first to fill, his sudden elevation sent a pang to the hearts of many, as though a sad degeneracy had fallen on our times; while others shuddered at the un. equalness of the man for the most critical position which had yet arisen in American affairs.
"Four years have so changed all this, that his name is universally revered; the great qualities which he really possessed, his knowledge of men, his uprightness and honesty, his kindness of heart, his extreme caution in the unnumLered difficulties that daily arose in the constant civil and military emergencies, with a firmness that was never swerved by flattery or fear,— all these, and the great results effected under his administration, have given him in the heart of the people a place second only to that of the father of his country.” *
Not always did the President find a hearty co-operation in his plans, or a rightful appreciation of his course. We can see the straightforward, positive, yet peaceful
* “ Lincoln Memorial."
character of the man in his words to some such cavillers. Said he, in August, 1863,
“ To those who are dissatisfied with me, I would say, You desired peace, and you blame me that we do not have it. But how can we attain it? There are but three conceivable ways. First, to suppress the Rebellion by force of arms. This I am trying to do. Are you for it? If you are, so far we are agreed. If you are not for it, a second way is to give up the Union. I am against this. Are you for it? If you are, you should say so plainly. If you are not for force, nor yet for dissolution, there only remains some imaginable compromise.'
And as to compromise, he could only say, "I do not believe that any compromise, embracing the maintenance of the Union, is now possible. All that I learn tends to a directly opposite belief. Tho strength of the Rebellion is its military,—its army. In any compromise, we should waste time, which the enemy would improve to our disadvantage ; and that would be all."
Again: in reference to his course, he uttered, not an apology, but words of manly defence, saying, in April, 1864, “ 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 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 altogether."
It was not his party, it was not himself, but it was his country, for which he labored. The course he pursued while President had only the good of the united whole in view. Hence, on one occasion, he advised that all work together for the nation's good, in these words:
"Let the nation take hold of the larger works, and the States the smaller ones ; and thus, working in a meeting direction, discreetly, but steadily and firmly, what is made unequal in one place may be equalized in another, extravagance avoided, and the whole country put on that career of prosperity which shall correspond with its extent of territory, its natural resources, and the intelligence and enterprise of its people.”
Hear the words of the senator whose personal wounds from the minions of slavery give him the right to be known as Liberty's champion. What says he of Abraham Lincoln in the troublous times, and of the course he pursued ? This :
"He was placed by Providence at the head of his country during an unprecedented crisis, when the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and men turned for protection to military power. Multitudinous armies were mustered. Great navies were set on foot. Of all these he was the constitutional commander-in-chief. As the war proceeded, all his prerogatives enlarged, and others sprang into being, until the sway of a Republican President became imperatorial and imperial. But not for one moment did the modesty of his nature desert him. His constant thought was his country, and how to serve it. Personal ambition at the expense of patriotism was as far removed from the simple purity of his nature as poison from a strawberry. And thus with equal courage in the darkest hour he continued on, heeding as little the warnings of danger as the temptations of power.
. • It would not do for a President,' he said, 'to have guards with drawn sabres at his door, as if he fancied ho were, or were trying to be, or were assuming to be, an emperor.' And in the same simplicity, he spoke of his return at morning to his daily duties as opening shop.'
“When he became President, he was without any considerable experience in public affairs; nor was he much versed in history, whose lessons would have been most valuable. As he became more familiar with the place, his facility evidently increased. He had learned the ropes,' so he said. But his babits of business were irregular, and they were never those of despatch. He did not see at once the just proportions of things, and allowed himself to be. too much occupied by details. Even in small things, as well as in great, there was in him a certain resistance to be overcome. There were moments when this delay caused impatience, and important questions seemed to suffer. But, when the blow was struck, there was nothing but gratitude; and all confessed the singleness with which he had sought the public good. There was also a conviction, that, though slow to reach his conclusion, he was inflexible in maintaining it. Pompey boasted that by the stamp of his foot he miglit raise an army. The President might have done the same; but, according to his own words, he put his foot down,' and saved a principle.”
Let it be remembered evermore that the course of events beyond his control, and the course he pursued when the power was in his hands for a season, both culminated in the triumph of freedom in our libertyboasting land. In a letter dated April 4, 1864, President Lincoln declared, “ If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong;” and as an English divine has well said, -
“This wrong of slavery, he, more than any other man of our day, has been instrumental in removing. It was
his well-known hostility to it, which, on his election, was the proximate and avowed cause of the Rebellion. As far as his pledges to the law and the course of events permitted, he steadily pursued this great object. Under his auspices, slavery was speedly abolished in Columbia, and probibited in the Territories. The slave-trade was declared penal, and the right of search fully granted. The loyal States were invited to emancipate their slaves, full compensation being offered. Then the proclamation was issued by which all slaves in rebel States were declared free; and though, for a season, this was inoperative over a large district, it is now not only law, but fact. During the war, two millions of slaves actually gained their freedom, and were protected wherever the power of the President extended. And now throughout those Southern States, long a house of cruel bondage, the jubilee trumpet is sounding deliverance to the captive, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”
The President was not only nominally the commanderin-chief of the Union forces, but he assumed active command, and gave evidence of his independence and fearlessness in the discharge of duty by promulgating three important military orders, -ordering a general and combined movement of the forces on land and sea, requiring that the Army of the Potomac be organized into corps; confining Gen. McClellan to the command of the Department of the Potomac; and organizing the Department of the Mississippi and the Mountain Department.
This was in March, 1862. On the 19th of the previous month, he had issued a proclamation requesting the people of the United States to assemble on the anniversary of Washington's birth, and celebrate the day by reading the memorable "Farewell Address." This was done in almost every town and city of the loyal States.