Imágenes de páginas



ruler of the greatest of earth's republics. Before the purely human emotions excited by that event have entirely died away from our memories-from our hearts-it is well, I think, to consider whether the sudden halo of universal regret which flashed into being round the memory of the late President of the United States, on the news of his assassination, sprang only from those emotions, and is to pass away like them, or whether it is really the abiding glory of a noble and righteous life. With this view I should like to judge Abraham Lincoln out of his own mouth, by his own recorded words; selecting, moreover, for the purpose, almost exclusively those belonging to the period of his presidency,-words which, in fact, under the fires of that terrific crisis which seems only now coming to an end, must have had all the weight and metal of very deeds, if they were not to burn up the utterer himself. Even of these I shall have space but to notice a few; referring my readers for an ampler collection of them to Mr. H. J. Raymond's "Life and

[blocks in formation]

Public Services of Abraham Lincoln" (New York, 1865).

Of Mr. Lincoln's life itself, prior to his election as President, the briefest sketch must here suffice.* Born 12th of February, 1809, of a poor white family in the slave State of Kentucky-and Mr. Beecher has said that he knows "nothing lower than that"-he had at least the blessing of a Christian mother, and of a father who, though uneducated himself, sent his child to school, and migrated from slave into free soil, literally hewing his way for the last few miles to his future home. After earning his

*Not so brief, however, as his own, sent, in 1858, to the compiler of the "Dictionary of Congress :"

"Born February 12th, 1809, in Harden County, Kentucky.

Education defective.

Profession, a lawyer.

Have been a Captain of Volunteers in Black Hawk


Postmaster of a very small office.

Four times a Member of the Illinois Legislature, and was a Member of the Lower House of Congress."

[blocks in formation]

livelihood first by manual labour, then (after a bit of soldiering in 1832,* and an unsuccessful venture as a store-keeper), like George Washington before him, by surveying, Abraham Lincoln entered the legislature of his adoptive State, Illinois, in 1834, began thereupon the study of law, received his "license" in 1836, and prac

[ocr errors]

* Thus humorously described by himself, in after life, while in Congress

"By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I was a military hero? Yes, sir, in the days of the Black Hawk war I fought, bled, and came away. 'Speaking of General Cass's career reminds me of my own. I was not at Sullivan's defeat, but I was about as near to it as Cass was to Hull's surrender, and, like him, I saw the place soon after. It is quite certain that I did not break my sword, for I had none to break; but I bent my musket pretty badly on one occasion. If Cass broke his sword, the idea is, he broke it in desperation. I bent the

musket by accident. If General Cass went in advance of me in picking whortleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges upon the wild onions. If he saw any

live fighting Indians, it was more than I did; but I had a great many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes; and, although I never fainted from loss of blood, I certainly can say I was often very hungry."

[blocks in formation]

tised the law as a profession from 1837 to the time of his election to the Presidency. During this period of twenty-four years, besides sitting occasionally in the State Legislature, he was elected in 1847 to the House of Representatives of the United States, where he signalised himself by a motion, by way of amendment, for declaring free, after January 1, 1850 (but with compensation to the owners), all slaves born within the district of Columbia (that small space of fifty square miles, carved out of slave-soil, which, by a peculiar provision of the United States Constitution, is under the immediate government of Congress); was twice a candidate for the United States' Senate; and stood, in 1856, second on the list of Republican candidates for the Vice-Presidency of the United States. Roughly speaking, his life thus divides itself into two nearly equal portions, the latter of which was spent in the practice of the law. The fact is only worth pointing out by way of rebuke to the puppyism of such would-be gentlemen as, in the barrister-attorney of nearly twenty-five years' standing, who, on the 4th of



March, 1861, ascended the steps of the Capitol of Washington as first magistrate of the United States, long refused to see anything else but a "rail-splitter" or a "bargee."

It was the lot of Abraham Lincoln to embody in his own person the first signal triumph of the principles which he professed. Up to the time of his election, the United States were ruled by the slave-owners of the South, allied to the so-called "Democrats" of the North. He was, moreover, citizen of a State (Illinois) which, although free, bordered to the south and partly to the west on two slave States, Kentucky and Missouri, and was as hostile to the slave himself as to his chains (since her "Black Laws," forbidding the sojourn of coloured people upon her soil, &c., have only been repealed within the last few months), and various of whose most prominent citizens were themselves slave-owners beyond her borders. It was under these circumstances that Abraham Lincoln fought his way into public notice as an anti-slavery politician.

The most insidious form in which the slavery

« AnteriorContinuar »