Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Sorrow tempered with Mercy. Inaugural Redeemed. Flag over Fort Sumter.

until a benignant Providence had permitted him to enjoy a foretaste, at least, of the blessings which he had been instrumental in conferring upon the land he loved so well. The pledges of his first Inaugural Address had been amply *edeemed—those pledges which so many declared impossible of fulfilment, which not a few mocked as beyond human power to accomplish. The power confided to him had been successfully used “to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government.” No United States fort at the time of his fall flaunted treason in the eyes of the land. The day of his murder the old flag had been flung to the breeze from Sumter with ceremonies befitting the joyous occasion, by the very hands that four years before had been compelled to lower it to arrogant traitors; and friends of freedom for man, irrespective of color or race, walked the streets of Charleston—a city of desolation, a skeleton of its former self —jubilant that, since God so willed it, in His own good time, Freedom was National and Slavery but a thing of the past. When he fell, the Nation, brought by the stern necessities of direful war to the discharge of duties befitting a better manhood, passing by all projects for an emancipation of slaves, which should be merely gradual, not content even that such emancipation had been proclaimed as a measure of military necessity, had spoken in favor of such an amendment of the Constitution as should forever prohibit any claim of property in man. Though the final consummation of that great measure had not been reached when our President was removed, it was given him to feel assured that the end was not distant, was even then close at hand. When he fell, that body of traitors which had assumed to be a Government had fled, one scarcely knew whither, with whatever of ill-gotten gains their greedy hands could grasp—their main army captive, the residue of their military force on the point of surrendering. From what had been their

The Nation's Sorrow. Houses Draped. Minute Guns Fired.

capital, in the mansion appropriated to the special use of the chiefest among the conspirators, he had been permitted to send words of greeting to the nation. When he fell, treason throughout the land lay gasping, dying. It needed not that dismal, dreary, mid-April day to in tensify the sorrow. As on the wings of lightning the news sped through the land – “the President is Shot”—“is dying”—“is dead”—men knew scarcely how to credit the tale. When the fearful certainty came home to each, strong men bowed themselves and wept—maid and matron joined in the plaint. With no extraneous prompting, with no impulse save that of the heart alone, the common grief took on a common garb. Houses were draped—the flag of our country hung pensive at half-mast—portraitures of the loved dead were found on all. And dreary as was the day when first the tidings swept through the country, patriot hearts were drearier still. It was past analysis. It was as if chaos and dread night had come again. Meanwhile the honored dead lay in state in the country's capitol. On that dreamy, hazy nineteenth of April—suggesting, were it not for the early green leaves, the fresh springing grass, the glad spring caroling of birds, “that sweet autumnal summer which the Indian loved so well”—on that day when sleep wooed one even in the early morn, his obsequies were celebrated in the country's metropolis. And throughout the land, minute guns were fired, bells tolled, business suspended, and the thoughtful betook themselves to prayer, if so be that what verily seemed a curse might pass from us. Thence the funeral cortege moved to the final resting-place —the remains of a darling son, earlier called, accompanying those of the father—by the route the President had taken

The Funeral Cortege. Death of the Assassin. Burial at Springfield.

when first he had been summoned to the chair of State. Before half of the mournful task was done, came tidings that the assassin had been sent to his final account by the avenger's hand, gurgling out, as his worthless life ebbed away, “useless useless 1” As the sad procession wended its way, where hundreds had gathered in '61, impelled by mere curiosity or by partisan sympathy, thousands gathered, four years later, through affection, through reverence, through deep, abiding sorrow. Flowers beautified the lifeless remains—dirges were sung —the people's great heart broke out into sobs and sighing. And so, home to the prairie they bore him whom, when first he was called, the Nation knew not—whom, mid the storms and ragings of those years of civil war, they had learned, had loved, to call father and friend. In the Oak Ridge Cemetery, in his own Springfield, on the fourth of May, 1865, they laid him to rest, at the foot of a knoll, in the most beautiful part of the ground, over which forest trees—rare denizens of the prairie—look lovingly. There all that is mortal of ABRAHAM LINCOLN reposes. “The immortal 7” Hail, and farewell !

[merged small][ocr errors]

Reasons for His Re-election—What was Accomplished—Leaning on the People—State Papers—His Tenacity of Purpose–Washington and Lincoln—As a Man—Favorite Poem —Autobiography—His Modesty—A Christian—Conclusion.

WHAT shall be said, in summing up, of Abraham Lincoln as a statesman and a man 7 That from such humble beginnings, in circumstances so adverse, he rose to be the Chief Magistrate of one of the leading countries of the world, would

The Prosident as a Man. Why Re-elected.

were it in any other country, be evidence of ability of the very highest order. Here, however, so many from similar surroundings have achieved similar results that this fact of itself does not necessarily unfold the man clearly and fully to us. He might have been put forward for that high station as a skillful and accomplished politician, from whose elevation hosts of partisans counted upon their own personal advancement and profit. Or he might have been a successful general; or one possessing merely negative qualities, with no salient points, all objectionable angularities rounded off till that desirable availability, which has at times been laid hold of for the Presidency had been reached; or, yet again, one who had for a long time been in the front ranks of an old and triumphant party, and, therefore, as such matters have been managed with us, admitted to have strong claims upon such party; or, lastly, one who, having for many years schemed and plotted and labored, in season and out of season, for the nomination, at last achieved it. For such Presidents have been furnished us. But he was neither. And yet the highest point to which an American may aspire he reached. Clearly, then, there must have been something of strength and of worth in the man. He was reëlected, the first President since Jackson to whom that honor had been accorded. And thirty-two years had passed—eight Presidential terms—since Jackson's reëlection. He was, moreover, reëlected by a largely increased Vote. The years covered by his administration were the stormiest in American history, “piled high,” as he himself said, “with difficulties.” No President was ever more severely attacked, more unsparingly denounced than he. None more belittled than he. Aird yet he was triumphantly reëlected. Why? For the same reason that first brought him before the country. Primarily and mainly because the mass of the people had

Devotion to Principle. As a Statesman. Leaning on the People.

unbounded confidence in his honesty and devotion to principle. Though these qualities, it is pleasant to say, have been by no means rare in our Presidents, yet Abraham Lincoln seemed so to speak, so steeped and saturated in them that a hold was thereby obtained upon the common mind, the like of which no other President since Washington had secured. The bitterest opponent of his policy was constrained, if candid, to admit, if not the existence of these qualities, at least the prevailing popular belief in their existence. What shall be said of him as a statesman 7 That he found the fabric of our National Government rocking from turret to foundation stone—that he left it, after four years of strife such as, happily, the world rarely witnesses, firmly fixed, and sure; this should serve in some sort, as an anSWer. But might not this be owing, or principally so, to the ability of the counsellors whom he gathered about him 7 Beyond a doubt the meed of praise is to be shared. Yet we should remember that few Presidents have so uniformly acted of and for themselves in matters of state policy, as did Mr. Lincoln. Upon many questions the opinions of his Cabinet were sought—a Cabinet representing the various shades of thought, the various stages of progress, through which the people, of whom they were the exponents, were passing from year to year—after obtaining which, he would act. But, in most instances, perhaps, he struck out for himself, after careful, conscientious reflection, launching his policy upon unknown seas, quietly assured that truth was with him and that he could not be mistaken. Nor was he often. Having to feel his way along, for the most part—groping in the dark—he could not push on so fast and far as to leave the people out of breath or staring far in his rear. Still, it must not be understood that he never acted against what was plainly the popular will. The man was not of that mould. Unquestionably in his dealings with the two leading Euro

« AnteriorContinuar »