« AnteriorContinuar »
"I have here stated my purpose according to my views of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft. expressed personal wish, that all men everywhere could be free.
"A. LINCOLN." ,
Here, again, we see the wisdom of the serpent, and the harmlessness of the dove, in the letter which shows him ready to follow the path of duty whenever clearly seen, and that was all the men of any party could rightfully ask.
When he could consistently plead for emancipation, how earnest and outspoken were his words! In his Annual Message he said, “We cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. . . . We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free, — honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed: this could not, cannot fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just, - a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."
The noble author of a glorious proclamation never retracted it, never changed his views concerning it. In a letter written in August, 1863, he said, referring to the peace that he expected, but hardly lived to see, “And then there will be some black men who can remember that with silent tongue, and clinched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind
on to this great consummation; while I lear that there will be some white men unable to forget, that, with malig. nant heart and deceitful speech, they have striven to hinder it."
In his Annual Message, December, 1863, he referred to the success which had attended the proclamation of emancipation, and added, “ While I remain in my present position, I shall not attempt to retract or modify the Emancipation Proclamation; nor shall I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the acts of Congress.”
More and more clearly will it be seen, as time rolls on, that the President could not have done his duty, and yet have failed to free the slave.
“From the first cannon-shot, it was plain that the Rebellion was nothing but slavery in arms; but such was the power of slavery, even in the free States, that months elapsed before this giant criminal was directly attacked. Generals in the field were tender with regard to it, as if it were a church, or a work of the fine arts. It was only under the teaching of disaster that the country was aroused. The first step was taken in Congress after the defeat at Bull Run. But still the President hesitated. Disaster thickened and graves opened, until, at last, the country saw that only by justice could we hope for divine favor; and the President, who leaned so closely upon the popular heart, pronounced that great word by which all slaves in the rebel States were set free. Let it be named forever to his glory, that he grasped the thunderbolt, even though tardily, under which the Rebellion staggered to its fall; that, following up the blow, he enlisted colored citizens as soldiers in the national army; and that he declared his final purpose never to retract or modify the Emancipation Proclamation, nor to
return into slavery any person free by the terms of that instrument, or by any of the acts of Congress, saying loftily, 'If the people should, by whatever mode or means, make it an executive duty to re-enslave such persons, another, and not I, must be the instrument to perform it.'
" It was sometimes said that the proclamation was of doubtful constitutionality. If this criticism did not proceed from sympathy with slavery, it evidently proceeded from the prevailing superstition with regard to this idol. Future jurists will read with astonishment that once a flagrant wrong could be considered at any time as having any rights which a court was bound to respect, and especially that rebels in arms could be considered as having any title to the services of people whose allegiance was primarily due to the United States. But, turning from these conclusions, it seems to be plain, that slavery, which stood exclusively on local law, without any support in natural law, must have fallen with the local government, both legally and constitutionally : legally, inasmuch as it ceased to have any valid legal support; and constitutionally, inasmuch as it came at once within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Constitution, where liberty is the prevailing law. The President did not act upon these principles; but, speaking with the voice of authority, he said, 'Let the slaves be free!' What Court and Congress hesitated to declare, he proclaimed, and thus enrolled himself among the world's emancipators." *
Little did that gentle mother, long vanished from her dear son's earthly path, imagine, when she so desired that he shɔuld learn to read and write, that his pen would ever trace such life-giving, joy-inspiring words. Glad hearts
* Hon. Charles Sumner.
everywhere among true men and women welcomed the glorious decree. The pencil of the artist * and the pen
of the poet + vied in commemorating the event, and exI pressing their exultant joy; and human eloquence is
powerless to express the blissful gratitude with which it was received by the long-oppressed race whom it lifted from the degradation of slavery to the glorious heights of freedom.
No document can tower above the last mentioned; for its altitude will remain unsurpassed, till, in the fulness of God's time, the chains of sin shall be broken, evil shall be overcome with good, and the proclamation of universal freedom from sin and sorrow shall be uttered in the words, “ The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ,” and “God shall be all and in all."
This chapter may fittingly close with a document, than which none more chaste and beautiful in style can be found. It is a proclamation for a day of thanksgiving. One has already been given which proclaimed a day of fasting. A proclamation, recommending that the people in
* W. T. Carleton of Loston painted an exquisite picture, entitled “ Waiting for the Hour," depicting their anxiety who waited for the time when the chains would fall as the proclamation came in force on the first day of January, 1863. This picture was afterward presented to President Lincoln.
† Among other hearty tributes to the President was one entitled “God bless Abraham Lincoln!” It was written by Mrs. Caroline A. Mason, whose touching song, “Do they miss me at home?” has been sung by Union soldiers with tearful eyes beside many a camp-fire and in many a hospital. Her poem closes thus:
“God bless him: can we more? In this
The perfectness of human bliss,
And so God bless him! Once again
formally assemble and thank God for victories in East Tennessee, was issued in December, 1863. Ono to which allusion is here specially made was as follows:
“ It has pleased Almighty God to hearken to the supplications and prayers of an afflicted people, and to vouchsafo to the army and the navy of the United States, on the land and on the sea, victories so signal and so effective as to furnish reasonable grounds for augmented confidence that the union of these States will be maintained, their constitutions preserved, and their peace and prosperity permanently preserved.
" But these victories have been accorded not without sacrifice of life, limb, and liberty, incurred by the brave, patriotic, and loyal citizens. Domestic affliction in every part of the country follows in the train of these fearful bereavements. It is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father, and the power of his hand, equally in these triumphs and these sor
Now, therefore, be it known that I do set apart Thursday, the sixth day of August next, to be observed as a day for national thanksgiving, praise, and prayer: and I invite the people of the United States to assemble on that occasion in their customary places of worship, and, in the forms approved by their own conscience, render the homage due to the Divine Majesty for the won. derful things he has done in the nation's behalf, and invoke the influence of bis Holy Spirit to subdue the anger which has produced and so long sustained a need. less and cruel rebellion ; to change the hearts of the insurgents; to guide the counsels of the Government with wisdom adequate to so great a national emergency; and to visit with tender care and consolation, throughout the length and breadth of our land, all those who, through