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MARTIN B. MADDEN
Congressman from the First Illinois district. Born in England, Mr. Madden came at an early age to the United States and became an enthusiastic American, prominent in Illinois both in business and politics. The following is an excerpt from an address delivered in the House of Representatives March 17, 1914.
In a log cabin on the banks of the Sangamon River, there lived about eighty-three years ago, a long, lank, homely, sad eyed rail splitter, unknown save only to his parents and a few scattered neighbors who, like himself, were eking out by the hardest kind of labor, a mere existence, in a then wild and unpromising section of the country. He was not employed by the hour, day, week, month or year, nor did he receive a daily wage as compensation for his labor. He worked from sun-up to sundown, and when he had piled up four hundred rails he received from a poor widow, in exchange therefor, enough home-spun cloth to make him or his father a pair of trousers.
But his rail-splitting ability was not the only qualification which this young man possessed. He could run faster, jump farther, strike harder, and could throw down with ease any man bold enough to question his superiority, and although at this time his mental strength did not keep pace with his physical greatness,
he could read, write and cipher, and, above all, was absolutely honest, a characteristic which, like the rugged mountain peak, rises majestically above the clouds.
Having political ambition and being popular with his neighbors, young Lincoln gave up the rail-splitting industry to accept the office of postmaster of the little settlement. His office, as can be imagined, was a meeting place for all sorts of quaint characters, who came in crowds to listen with admiration to the witty and wise sayings of their foremost fellow citizen. His official duties were not arduous—in fact it is said he carried the mail in his hat, and when transporting even his heaviest mail in this way, there was ample room for a head destined in the near future, to furnish intelligence enough to rule with matchless splendor and success the greatest Nation on the face of the earth.
It was an easy step from the postmastership to the Legislature. He announced himself as follows:
“Fellow citizens, I am humble Abraham Lincoln. My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman's dance. I am in favor of a national bank, of internal improvements, and a high protective tariff. These are my sentiments. If elected, I shall be thankful: if not, it will be all the same.”
He was not elected, but, as he said, it was all the same. He tried again. His political history is a matter of common knowledge. State Legislature, Congress, joint debates with Douglas, President of the United States.
He was inaugurated on the fourth of March, 1861. How I should have loved to see that ceremony and listen to the words of wisdom as they fell from his lips during his inaugural address. What a privilege it must have
been to look into his sad and pensive face as he counseled his countrymen to remain cool during the pending crisis. His whole speech was summed up in two paragraphs.
“The power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect duties and imports; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no use of force among the people anywhere."
“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors."
On April 12, 1861, Beauregard's guns opened on Fort Sumter, and the war was on. A war between father and son, brother and brother-a horrible unthinkable war. Lincoln well knew, however, that the end justified the means, and realized that out of the awful slaughter of men and loss of treasure would come a reunited country and lasting peace.
Some writers hold that Lincoln's death was timely, in that it prevented a possible political error during the reconstruction period, which might have sullied in some degree his illustrious services. I do not believe it, and I am sorry he did not live to know that even the most radical of southern sympathizers now rejoice in the delivery from bondage of a race of human beings into the glorious realm of liberty; and I am persuaded that had never the fatal bullet been fired from the pistol of the assassin Booth, no public act of Lincoln's, had he lived to this good day, would have resulted in anything but good to his fellow men.
Commemoration of the Nation's heroes is not only proper but it is wise. It fosters patriotism, without which no country can be great. Lincoln's life was one of purest patriotism. It was devoted unselfishly to the promotion of the country's good. He was the friend of mankind; he wanted to see this a land of freedom in fact as well as in name. When this government was formed it was the most gigantic experiment of the kind ever attempted by man; it was given no place in the political considerations of the world; it was thought to be but a passing illusion. No one believed the experiment would succeed; failure was freely predicted. A government by the people, it was said, was impossible. But it still lives. It has grown and prospered. It has become a great world power. It thrills with potent life and exalted hopes. The Civil War was the one test needed to prove the ability of the people to govern themselves; and never was the Nation so full of life, so filled with courage, so encouraging to the friends of freedom, so menacing to the foes of the Republic as when the sun of Appomattox shone upon its banner and revealed within its azure ground the full glory of its stars.
Our hopes and aims united, our differences forgotten, our wounds healed, we live today in a land where every citizen is a sovereign, and every man, woman and child is free to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience; a land whose inventions lead the world; where the printing press and the church follow close upon the march of empire; where caste is ignored; where the humblest child of poverty may aspire, unrebuked to the highest place in the gift of the Nation.
Men from the worn out monarchies of Europe can
but discern that the noblest trend of human progress lies in the direction of republics. In this form, the latent possibilities of the human race may best find expression, and America will still stand before the nations of the world forever to exemplify the life and strength of this the greatest of all republics, and the name and works of Abraham Lincoln, emblazoned upon the page of our country's history, will forever be handed down to a grateful posterity and be applauded by the generations that are to people this continent in ages to come, as the greatest instrumentality that the world has ever seen in the dissemination of the principles of universal liberty.