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But this same Constitution gave the President the right to seize the property of the enemy, and to take all measures necessary for the suppression of the rebellion. After waiting more than a year, therefore, Mr. Lincoln issued a proclamation, September 22, 1862, declaring that, from the first of January, 1863, all slaves belonging to the States at war with the Union should be for ever free. From this epoch, liberty legally took a place on the soil of America: it remains now to establish it there in fact,a great measure, which would have demanded all the prudence of Mr. Lincoln.
In the four years of a presidency sustained amidst the hazards of civil war, this obscure Illinois lawyer, elevated to the Chief Magistracy by the caprice of a popular vote, succeeded in winning public esteem to such a degree, by his firmness and good sense, that a unanimous vote called for the second time to a seat in the White House him whom public opinion had so justly named " Honest Abraham.” This time it was not only the partisans of the first election that united to secure the success of their candidate and to profit by his success; but his former adversaries, with one of the most important men in America, Edward Everett, at their head, hastened in crowds to rally round the President, and energetically to oppose the unlucky election of General McClellan. By his patriotic devotion, Lincoln ha with his country: without seeking it, he had become the man of the situation. His triumph was the triumph of the Union, and the end of the civil war. His victory was the victory itself of the Constitution and the laws.
To him, still as simple and as modest, — I should say still more modest and more deeply penetrated with the sentiment of his responsibility, - this honor only seemed a new means of serving his country. His Inaugural Address to Congress, March 4, 1865, shows us what progress had been made in his soul. This
piece of familiar eloquence is a masterpiece: it is the testament of a patriot. I do not believe that any eulogy of the President would equal this page on which he has depicted himself in all his greatness and all his simplicity.
I know not whether I am mistaken; but it seems to me, that, in these words, so different from the ordinary language of the politician, in this appeal to humility and resignation, in this religious submission, we feel an indescribable self-abnegation, and a presentiment, as it were, of a speedy end, which makes us shudder. Mr. Lincoln, however, did not fear death. To all the threats that were addressed to him, as to all the anxiety with which it was sought to inspire him, he had an answer ready at the bottom of his heart, — that of our old knights, whose soul was not more noble than that of the Springfield lawyer, -Do thy devoir, happen what may.
In the present situation, the loss of Mr. Lincoln is a great one to America. I know that in a country which rules itself a man is less necessary than elsewhere; and there is reason to have confidence in the new president, who also has elevated himself by persistent labor, and who has long shown courage and energy. But, whatever may be the merit of Mr. Johnson, he has not behind him four years of moderation which gives confidence to all, and which might disarm the hatred in the North as in the South. We may hope, however, that Mr. Lincoln's policy will be followed by his successor: he will find around him statesmen like Mr. Seward, generals like Grant, a whole tradition which cannot be too carefully preserved, if it is wished to complete the work of Mr. Lincoln. To pacify minds after four years of civil war is an undertaking even more difficult than to pacify the country: it needs as much goodness as energy.
America will not be the only one that will honor Mr. Lincoln. It is not to his country alone that Mr. Lincoln has rendered a
service: it is to all humanity. History, it must be admitted, is too often only a school of immorality. It shows us the victory of force or stratagem, much more than the success of justice, moderation, and probity. It is too often only the apotheosis of triumphant selfishness. There are noble and great exceptions: happy those who can increase the number, and thus bequeatha noble and beneficent example to posterity! Mr. Lincoln is among these. He would willingly have repeated, after Franklin, that le falsehood and artifice are the practice of fools, who have not wit enough to be honest:” all his private life, and all his political life, was inspired and directed by this profound faith in the omnipotence of virtue. It is through this again that he deserves to be compared to Washington: it is through this that he will remain in history with the most glorious name that can be merited by the head of a free people, – a name given him by his contemporaries, and which will be preserved to him by posterity, — that of HONEST ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
CLAVERY, before expiring, has gathered up the remnants of
its strength and rage to strike a coward blow at its conquerer..
The satanic pride of that perverted society could not resign itself to defeat: it did not care to fall with honor, as all causes fall which are destined to rise again: it dies as it has lived, violating all laws, divine and human.
In this we have the spirit, and perhaps the work, of that famous secret association, " The Golden Circle,” which, after preparing the great rebellion for twenty years, and spreading its accomplices throughout the West and North, around the seat of the presidency, gave the signal for this impious war on the day when the public conscience finally snatched from the slaveholders the Government of the United States.
The day on which the excellent man whom they have just made a martyr was raised to power, they appealed to force, to realize what treason had prepared.
They have failed. They did not succeed in overthrowing Lincoln from power by war: they have done so by assassination.
The plot appears to have been well arranged. By striking down with the President his two principal ministers, one of whom they reached, and the General-in-chief, who was saved by an
accidental occurrence, the murderers expected to disorganize the Government of the Republic, and give fresh life to the rebellion.
Their hopes will be frustrated. These sanguinary fanatics, whose cause has fallen not so much by the material superiority as the moral power of democracy, have become incapable of understanding the effects of the free institutions which their fathers gloriously aided in establishing. A fresh illustration will be seen of what those institutions can produce.
The indignation of the people will not exhaust itself in a momentary outburst; it will concentrate and embody itself in the unanimous, persevering, invincible action of the universal will: whoever may be the agents, the instruments of the work, that work, we may rest assured, will be finished. The event will show that it did not depend upon the life of one man, or of several men.
The work will be completed after Lincoln, as if finished by him; but Lincoln will remain the austere and sacred personification of a great epoch, the most faithful expression of democracy.
This simple and upright man, prudent and strong, elevated* step by step from the artisan's bench to the command of a great nation, and always, without parade and without effort, at the height of his position; executing without precipitation, without flourish, and with invincible good sense, the most colossal acts; giving to the world this decisive example of the civil power in a republic; directing a gigantic war, without free institutions being for an instant compromised or threatened by military usurpation; dying, finally, at the moment in which, after conquering, he was intent on pacification, – and may God grant, that the atrocious madmen who killed him have not killed clemency with him, and determined, instead of the peace he wished, pacification by force! this man will stand out, in the traditions of his country and the