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Robert Ingersoll On Abraham Lincoln

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On Abraham Lincoln

Robert Green Ingersoll

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On the 12th of February, 1809, two babes were born -- one in
the woods of Kentucky, amid the hardships and poverty of pioneers;
one in England, surrounded by wealth and culture. One was educated
in the University of Nature, the other at Cambridge.

One associated his name with the enfranchisement of labor,
with the emancipation of millions, with the salvation of the
Republic. He is known to us as Abraham Lincoln.

The other broke the chains of superstition and filled the
world with intellectual light, and he is known as Charles Darwin.

Nothing is grander than to break chains from the bodies of men
-- nothing nobler than to destroy the phantoms of the soul.

Because of these two men the nineteenth century is

A few men and women make a nation glorious -- Shakespeare made
England immortal, Voltaire civilized and humanized France; Goethe,
Schiller and Humboldt lifted Germany into the light. Angelo,
Raphael, Galileo and Bruno crowned with fadeless laurel the Italian
brow, and now the most precious treasure of the Great Republic is
the memory of Abraham Lincoln.

Every generation has its heroes, its iconoclasts, its
pioneers, its ideals. The people always have been and still are
divided, at least into classes -- the many, who with their backs to
the sunrise worship the past, and the few, who keep their faces
toward the dawn -- the many, who are satisfied with the world as it
is; the few, who labor and suffer for the future, for those to be,
and who seek to rescue the oppressed, to destroy the cruel
distinctions of caste, and to civilize mankind.

Yet it sometimes happens that the liberator of one age becomes
the oppressor of the next. His reputation becomes so great -- he is
so revered and worshiped -- that his followers, in his name, attack
the hero who endeavors to take another step in advance.

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The heroes of the Revolution, forgetting the justice for which
they fought, put chains upon the limbs of others, and in their
names the lovers of liberty were denounced as ingrates and

During the Revolution our fathers to justify their rebellion
dug down to the bed-rock of human rights and planted their standard
there. They declared that all men were entitled to liberty and that
government derived its power from the consent of the governed. But
when victory came, the great principles were forgotten and chains
were put upon the limbs of men. Both of the great political parties
were controlled by greed and selfishness. Both were the defenders
and protectors of slavery. For nearly three-quarters of a century
these parties had control of the Republic. The principal object of
both parties was the protection of the infamous institution. Both
were eager to secure the Southern vote and both sacrificed
principle and honor upon the altar of success.

At last the Whig party died and the Republican was born. This
party was opposed to the further extension of slavery. The
Democratic party of the South wished to make the "divine
institution" national -- while the Democrats of the North wanted
the question decided by each territory for itself.

Each of these parties had conservatives and extremists. The
extremists of the Democratic party were in the rear and wished to
go back; the extremists of the Republican party were in the front,
and wished to go forward. The extreme Democrat was willing to
destroy the Union for the sake of slavery, and the extreme
Republican was willing to destroy the Union for the sake of

Neither party could succeed without the votes of its

This was the condition in 1858 - 60.

When Lincoln was a child his parents removed from Kentucky to
Indiana. A few trees were felled -- a log hut open to the south, no
floor, no window, was built -- a little land plowed and here the
Lincolns lived. Here the patient, thoughtful, silent, loving mother
died -- died in the wide forest as a leaf dies, leaving nothing to
her son but the memory of her love.

In a few years the family moved to Illinois. Lincoln then
almost grown, clad in skins, with no woven stitch upon his body --
walking and driving the cattle. Another farm was opened -- a few
acres subdued and enough raised to keep the wolf from the door.
Lincoln quit the farm -- went down the Ohio and Mississippi as a
hand on a flat-boat -- afterward clerked in a country store -- then
in partnership with another bought the store -- failed. Nothing
left but a few debts -- learned the art of surveying -- made about
half a living and paid something on the debts -- read law --
admitted to the bar -- tried a few small cases -- nominated for the
Legislature and made a speech.

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This speech was in favor of a tariff, not only for revenue,
but to encourage American manufacturers and to protect American
workingmen. Lincoln knew then as well as we do now, that
everything, to the limits of the possible, that Americans use
should be produced by the energy, skill and ingenuity of Americans.
He knew that the more industries we had, the greater variety of
things we made, the greater would be the development of the
American brain. And he knew that great men and great women are the
best things that a nation can Produce, -- the finest crop a country
can possibly raise.

He knew that a nation that sells raw material will grow
ignorant and poor, while the people who manufacture will grow
intelligent and rich. To dig, to chop, to plow, requires more
muscle than mind, more strength than thought.

To invent, to manufacture, to take advantage of the forces of
nature -- this requires thought, talent, genius. This develops the
brain and gives wings to the imagination.

It is better for Americans to purchase from Americans, even if
the things purchased cost more.

If we purchase a ton of steel rails from England for twenty
dollars, then we have the rails and England the money. But if we
buy a ton of steel rails from an American for twenty-five dollars,
then America has both the rails and the money.

Judging from the present universal depression and the recent
elections, Lincoln, in his first speech, stood on solid rock and
was absolutely right. Lincoln was educated in the University of
Nature -- educated by cloud and star -- by field and winding stream
-- by billowed plains and solemn forests -- by morning's birth and
death of day -- by storm and night -- by the ever eager Spring --
by Summer's wealth of leaf and vine and flower -- the sad and
transient glories of the Autumn woods -- and Winter, builder of
home and fireside, and whose storms without, created the social
warmth within.

He was perfectly acquainted with the political questions of
the day -- heard them discussed at taverns and country stores, at
voting places and courts and on the stump. He knew all the
arguments for and against, and no man of his time was better
equipped for intellectual conflict. He knew the average mind -- the
thoughts of the people, the hopes and prejudices of his fellow-men.
He had the power of accurate statement. He was logical, candid and
sincere. In addition, he had the "touch of nature that makes the
whole world kin."

In 1858 he was a candidate for the Senate against Stephen A.

The extreme Democrats would not vote for Douglas, but the
extreme Republicans did vote for Lincoln. Lincoln occupied the
middle ground, and was the compromise candidate of his own party.
He had lived for many years in the intellectual territory of
compromise -- in a part of our country settled by Northern and

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Southern men -- where Northern and Southern ideas met, and the
ideas of the two sections were brought together and compared.

The sympathies of Lincoln, his ties of kindred, were with the
South. His convictions, his sense of justice, and his ideals, were
with the North. He knew the horrors of slavery, and he felt the
unspeakable ecstasies and glories of freedom. He had the kindness,
the gentleness, of true greatness, and he could not have been a
master; he had the manhood and independence of true greatness, and
he could not have been a slave. He was just, and was incapable of
putting a burden upon others that he himself would not willingly

He was merciful and profound, and it was not necessary for
him, to read the history of the world to know that liberty and
slavery could not live in the same nation, or in the same brain.
Lincoln was a statesman. And there is this difference between a
politician and a statesman. A politician schemes and works in every
way to make the people do something for him. A statesman wishes to
do something for the people. With him place and power are means to
an end, and the end is the good of his country.

In this campaign Lincoln demonstrated three things -- first,
that he was the intellectual superior of his opponent; second. that
he was right; and third, that a majority of the voters of Illinois
were on his side.


In 1860 the Republic reached a crisis. The conflict between
liberty and slavery could no longer be delayed. For three-quarters
of a century the forces had been gathering for the battle.

After the Revolution, principle was sacrificed for the sake of
gain. The Constitution contradicted the Declaration. Liberty as a
principle was held in contempt. Slavery took possession of the
Government. Slavery made the laws, corrupted courts, dominated
Presidents and demoralized the people.

I do not hold the South responsible for slavery any more than
I do the North. The fact is, that individuals and nations act as
they must. There is no chance. Back of every event -- of every
hope, Prejudice, fancy and dream -- of every opinion and belief --
of every vice and virtue -- of every smile and curse, is the
efficient cause. The present moment is the child, and the necessary
child, of all the Past.

Northern politicians wanted office, and so they defended
slavery; Northern merchants wanted to sell their goods to the
South, and so they were the enemies of freedom. The preacher wished
to please the people who paid his salary, and so he denounced the
slave for not being satisfied with the position in which the good
God had placed him.

The respectable, the rich, the prosperous, the holders of and
the seekers for office, held liberty in contempt. They regarded the
Constitution as far more sacred than the rights of men. Candidates
for the presidency -- were applauded because they had tried to make

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slave States of free territory, and the highest court solemnly and
ignorantly decided that colored men and women had no rights. Men
who insisted that freedom was better than slavery, and that mothers
should not he robbed of their babes, were hated, despised and
mobbed. Mr. Douglas voiced the feelings of millions when he
declared that he did not care whether slavery was voted up or down.
Upon this question the people, a majority of them, were almost
savages. Honor, manhood, conscience, principle -- all sacrificed
for the sake of gain or office.

From the heights of philosophy -- standing above the
contending hosts, above the prejudices, the sentimentalities of the
day -- Lincoln was great enough and brave enough and wise enough to
utter these prophetic words: "A house divided against itself cannot
stand. I believe this Government cannot permanently endure half
slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I
do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to
be divided. It will become all the one thing or the other. Either
the opponents of slavery will arrest further spread of it, and
place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is
in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it
further until it becomes alike lawful in all the States, old as
well as new, North as well as South."

This declaration was the standard around which gathered the
grandest political party the world has ever seen, and this
declaration made Lincoln the leader of that host.

In this, the first great crisis, Lincoln uttered the
victorious truth that made him the foremost man in the Republic.

The Republican party nominated him for the presidency and the
people decided at the polls that a house divided against itself
could not stand, and that slavery had cursed soul and soil enough.

It is not a common thing to elect a really great man to fill
the highest official position. I do not say that the great
Presidents have been chosen by accident. Probably it would be
better to say that they were the favorites of a happy chance.

The average man is afraid of genius. He feels as an awkward
man feels in the presence of a sleight-of-hand performer. He
admires and suspects. Genius appears to carry too much sail -- to
lack prudence, has too much courage. The ballast of dullness
inspires confidence.

By a happy chance Lincoln was nominated and elected in spite
of his fitness -- and the patient, gentle, just and loving man was
called upon to bear as great a burden as man has ever borne.


Then came another crisis -- the crisis of Secession and Civil

Again Lincoln spoke the deepest feeling and the highest
thought of the Nation. In his first message he said:

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"The central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy."

He also showed conclusively that the North and South, in spite
of secession, must remain face to face -- that physically they
could not separate -- that they must have more or less commerce,
and that this commerce must be carried on either between the two
sections as friends, or as aliens.

This situation and its consequences he pointed out to absolute
perfection in these words:

"Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws?
Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws
among friends?"

After having stated fully and fairly the philosophy of the
conflict, after having said enough to satisfy any calm and
thoughtful mind, he addressed himself to the hearts of America.
Probably there are few finer passages in literature than the close
of Lincoln's inaugural address:

"I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must
not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not
break, our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory
stretching from every battlefield and patriotic grave to every
loving heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will swell
the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be,
by the better angels of our nature."

These noble, these touching, these pathetic words, were
delivered in the presence of rebellion, in the midst of spies and
conspirators -- surrounded by but few friends, most of whom were
unknown, and some of whom were wavering in their fidelity -- at a
time when secession was arrogant and organized, when patriotism was
silent, and when, to quote the expressive words of Lincoln himself,
"Sinners were calling the righteous to repentance."

When Lincoln became President, he was held in contempt by the
South -- underrated by the North and East -- not appreciated even
by his cabinet -- and yet he was not only one of the wisest, but
one of the shrewdest of mankind. Knowing that he had the right to
enforce the laws of the Union in all parts of the United States and
Territories -- knowing, as he did, that the secessionists were in
the wrong, he also knew that they had sympathizers not only in the
North, but in other lands.

Consequently, he felt that it was of the utmost importance
that the South should fire the first shot, should do some act that
would solidify the North, and gain for us the justification of the
civilized world.

He proposed to give food to the soldiers at Sumter. He asked
the advice of all his cabinet on this question, and all with the
exception of Montgomery Blair, answered in the negative, giving
their reasons in writing. In spite of this, Lincoln took his own
course -- endeavored to send the supplies, and while thus engaged,
doing his simple duty, the South commenced actual hostilities and
fired on the fort.

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The course pursued by Lincoln was absolutely right, and the
act of the South to a great extent solidified the North, and gained
for the Republic the justification of a great number of people in
other lands.

At that time Lincoln appreciated the scope and consequences of
the impending conflict. Above all other thoughts in his mind was

"This conflict will settle the question, at least for
centuries to come, whether man is capable of governing himself, and
consequently is of greater importance to the free than to the

He knew what depended on the issue and he said: "We shall
nobly save, or meanly lose, the last, "best hope of earth."


Then came a crisis in the North. It became clearer and clearer
to Lincoln's mind, day by day, that the Rebellion was slavery, and
that it was necessary to keep the border States on the side of the
Union. For this purpose he proposed a scheme of emancipation and
colonization -- a scheme by which the owners of slaves should be
paid the full value of what they called their "property."

He knew that if the border States agreed to gradual
emancipation, and received compensation for their slaves, they
would be forever lost to the Confederacy, whether secession
succeeded or not. It was objected at the time, by some, that the
scheme was far too expensive; but Lincoln, wiser than his advisers
-- far wiser than his enemies -- demonstrated that from an
economical point of view, his course was best.

He proposed that $400. be paid for slaves, including men,
women and children. This was a large price, and yet he showed how
much cheaper it was to purchase than to carry on the war.

At that time, at the price mentioned, there were about
$750,000. worth of slaves in Delaware. The cost of carrying on the
war was at least two millions of dollars a day, and for one-third
of one day's expenses, all the slaves in Delaware could be
purchased. He also showed that all the slaves in Delaware,
Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri could be bought, at the same price,
for less than the expense of carrying on the war for eighty-seven

This was the wisest thing that could have been proposed, and
yet such was the madness of the South, such the indignation of the
North, that the advice was unheeded.

Again, in July, 1862, he urged on the Representatives of the
border States a scheme of gradual compensated emancipation; but the
Representatives were too deaf to hear, too blind to see.

Lincoln always hated slavery, and yet he felt the obligations
and duties of his position. In his first message he assured the
South that the laws, including the most odious of all -- the law

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for the return of fugitive slaves -- would be enforced. The South
would not hear. Afterward he proposed to purchase the slaves of the
border States, but the proposition was hardly discussed -- hardly
heard. Events came thick and fast; theories gave way to facts, and
everything was left to force.

The extreme Democrat of the North was fearful that slavery
might be destroyed, that the Constitution might be broken and that
Lincoln, after all, could not be trusted; and at the same time the
radical Republican feared that Lincoln loved the Union more than he
did liberty.

The fact is, that he tried to discharge the obligations of his
great office, knowing from the first that slavery must perish. The
course pursued by Lincoln was so gentle, so kind and persistent, so
wise and logical, that millions of Northern Democrats sprang to the
defence, not only of the Union, but of his administration. Lincoln
refused to be led or hurried by Fremont or Hunter, by Greeley or
Sumner. From first to last he was the real leader, and he kept step
with events.


On the 22d of July, 1862, Lincoln sent word to the members of
his cabinet that he wished to see them. It so happened that
Secretary Chase was the first to arrive. He found Lincoln reading
a book. Looking up from the page, the President said: "Chase, did
you ever read this book?" "What book is it?" asked Chase. "Artemus
Ward," replied Lincoln. "Let me read you this chapter, entitled
'Wax Wurx in Albany.'" And so he began reading while the other
members of the cabinet one by one came in. At last Stanton told Mr.
Lincoln that he was in a great hurry, and if any business was to be
done he would like to do it at once. Whereupon Mr. Lincoln laid
down the open book, opened a drawer, took out a paper and said:
"Gentlemen, I have called you together to notify you what I have
determined to do. I want no advice. Nothing can change my mind."

He then read the Proclamation of Emancipation. Chase thought
there ought to be something about God at the close, to which
Lincoln replied: "Put it in, it won't hurt it." It was also agreed
that the President would wait for a victory in the field before
giving the Proclamation to the world.

The meeting was over, the members went their way. Mr. Chase
was the last to go, and as he went through the door looked back and
saw that Mr. Lincoln had taken up the book and was again engrossed
in the Wax Wurx at Albany.

This was on the 22d of July, 1862. On the 22d of August of the
same year -- after Lincoln wrote his celebrated letter to Horace
Greeley, in which he stated that his object was to save the Union;
that he would save it with slavery if he could; that if it was
necessary to destroy slavery in order to save the Union, he would;
in other words, he would do what was necessary to save the Union.

This letter disheartened, to a great degree, thousands and
millions of the friends of freedom. They felt that Mr. Lincoln had
not attained the moral height upon which they supposed he stood.

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And yet, when this letter was written, the Emancipation
Proclamation was in his hands, and had been for thirty days,
waiting only an opportunity to give it to the world.

Some two weeks after the letter to Greeley, Lincoln was waited
on by a committee of clergymen, and was by them informed that it
was God's will that he should issue a Proclamation of Emancipation.
He replied to them, in substance, that the day of miracles had
passed. He also mildly and kindly suggested that if it were God's
will this Proclamation should be issued, certainly God would have
made known that will to him -- to the person whose duty it was to
issue it.

On the 22d day of September, 1862, the most glorious date in
the history of the Republic, the Proclamation of Emancipation was

Lincoln had reached the generalization of all argument upon
the question of slavery and freedom -- a generalization that never
has been, and probably never will be, excelled: "In giving freedom
to the slave, we assure freedom to the free."

This is absolutely true. Liberty can be retained, can be
enjoyed, only by giving it to others. The spendthrift saves, the
miser is prodigal. In the realm of Freedom, waste is husbandry. He
who puts chains upon the body of another shackles his own soul. The
moment the Proclamation was issued the cause of the Republic became
sacred. From that moment the North fought for the human race. From
that moment the North stood under the blue and stars, the flag of
Nature, sublime and free.

In 1831, Lincoln went down the Mississippi on a flat-boat. He
received the extravagant salary of ten dollars a month. When he
reached New Orleans, he and some of his companions went about the

Among other places, they visited a slave market, where men and
women were being sold at auction. A young colored girl was on the
block. Lincoln heard the brutal words of the auctioneer -- the
savage remarks of bidders. The scene filled his soul with
indignation and horror.

Turning to his companions, he said, "Boys, if I ever get a
chance to hit slavery, by God I'll hit it hard!"

The helpless girl, unconsciously, had planted in a great heart
the seeds of the Proclamation.

Thirty-one years afterward the chance came, the oath was kept,
and to four millions of slaves, of men, women and children, was
restored liberty, the jewel of the soul.

In the history, in the fiction of the world, there is nothing
more intensely dramatic than this.

Lincoln held within his brain the grandest truths, and he held
them as unconsciously, as easily, as naturally, as a waveless pool
holds within its stainless breast a thousand stars.

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In these two years we had traveled from the Ordinance of
Secession to the Proclamation of Emancipation.


We were surrounded by enemies. Many of the so-called great in
Europe and England were against us. They hated the Republic.
despised our institutions, and sought in many ways to aid the

Mr. Gladstone announced that Jefferson Davis had made a
nation, and that he did not believe the restoration of the American
Union by force attainable.

From the Vatican came words of encouragement for the South.

It was declared that the North was fighting for empire and the
South for independence.

The Marquis of Salisbury said: "The people of the South are
the natural allies of England. The North keeps an opposition shop
in the same department of trade as ourselves."

Not a very elevated sentiment -- but English. Some of their
statesmen declared that the subjugation of the South by the North
would be a calamity to the world.

Louis Napoleon was another enemy, and he endeavored to
establish a monarchy in Mexico, to the end that the great North
might be destroyed. But the patience, the uncommon common sense,
the statesmanship of Lincoln -- in spite of foreign hate and
Northern division -- triumphed over all. And now we forgive all
foes. Victory makes forgiveness easy.

Lincoln was by nature a diplomat. He knew the art of sailing
against the wind. He had as much shrewdness as is consistent with
honesty. He understood, not only the rights of individuals, but of
nations. In all his correspondence with other governments he
neither wrote nor sanctioned a line which afterward was used to tie
his hands. In the use of perfect English he easily rose above all
his advisers and all his fellows.

No one claims that Lincoln did all. He could have done nothing
without the generals in the field, and the generals could have done
nothing without their armies. The praise is due to all -- to the
private as much as to the officer; to the lowest who did his duty,
as much as to the highest.

My heart goes out to the brave private as much as to the
leader of the host.

But Lincoln stood at the center and with infinite patience,
with consummate skill, with the genius of goodness, directed,
cheered, consoled and conquered.

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Slavery was the cause of the war, and slavery was the
perpetual stumbling-block. As the war went on, question after
question arose -- questions that could not be answered by theories.
Should we hand back the slave to his master, when the master was
using his slave to destroy the Union? If the South was right,
slaves were property, and by the laws of war anything that might be
used to the advantage of the enemy might be confiscated by us.
Events did not wait for discussion. General Butler denominated the
negro as "a contraband." Congress provided that the property of the
rebels might be confiscated.

The extreme Democrats of the North regarded the slave as more
sacred than life. It was no harm to kill the master -- to burn his
house, to ravage his fields -- but you must not free his slave.

If in war a nation has the right to take the property of its
citizens -- of its friends -- certainly it has the right to take
the property of those it has the right to kill.

Lincoln was wise enough to know that war is governed by the
laws of war, and that during the conflict constitutions are silent.
All that he could do he did in the interests of peace. He offered
to execute every law -- including the most infamous of all -- to
buy the slaves in the border States -- to establish gradual,
compensated emancipation; but the South would not hear. Then he
confiscated the property of rebels -- treated the slaves as
contraband of war, used them to put down the Rebellion, armed them
and clothed them in the uniform of the Republic -- was in favor of
making them citizens and allowing them to stand on an equality with
their white brethren under the flag of the Nation. During these
years Lincoln moved with events, and every step he took has been
justified by the considerate judgment of mankind.


Lincoln not only watched the war, but kept his hand on the
political pulse. In 1863 a tide set in against the administration.
A Republican meeting was to be held in Springfield, Illinois, and
Lincoln wrote a letter to be read at this convention. It was in his
happiest vein. It was a perfect defence of his administration,
including the Proclamation of Emancipation. Among other things he
said: "but the proclamation, as law, either is valid or it is not
valid. If it is not valid it needs no retraction, but if it is
valid it cannot be retracted, any more than the dead can be brought
to life."

To the Northern Democrats who said they would not fight for
negroes, Lincoln replied: "Some of them seem willing to fight for
you -- but no matter."

Of negro soldiers: "but negroes, like other people, act upon
motives. Why should they do anything for us if we will do nothing
for them? If they stake their lives for us they must be prompted by
the strongest motive -- even the promise of freedom. And the
promise, being made, must be kept."

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There is one line in this letter that will give it
immortality: "The Father of waters again goes unvexed to the sea."

This line is worthy of Shakespeare.

Another: "Among free men there can be no successful appeal
from the ballot to the bullet." He draws a comparison between the
white men against us and the black men for us: "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 fear there
will be some white ones unable to forget that with malignant heart
and deceitful speech they strove to hinder it."

Under the influence of this letter, the love of country, of
the Union, and above all, the love of liberty, took possession of
the heroic North.

There was the greatest moral exaltation ever known.

The spirit of liberty took possession of the people. The
masses became sublime.

To fight for yourself is natural -- to fight for others is
grand; to fight for your country is noble -- to fight for the human
race -- for the liberty of hand and brain -- is nobler still.

As a matter of fact, the defenders of slavery had sown the
seeds of their own defeat. They dug the pit in which they fell.
Clay and Webster and thousands of others had by their eloquence
made the Union almost sacred. The Union was the very tree of life,
the source and stream and sea of liberty and law.

For the sake of slavery millions stood by the Union, for the
sake of liberty millions knelt at the altar of the Union; and this
love of the Union is what, at last, overwhelmed the Confederate

It does not seem possible that only a few years ago our
Constitution, our laws, our Courts, the Pulpit and the Press
defended and upheld the institution of slavery -- that it was a
crime to feed the hungry -- to give water to the lips of thirst --
shelter to a woman flying from the whip and chain!

The old flag still flies -- the stars are there -- the stains
have gone.


Lincoln always saw the end. He was unmoved by the storms and
currents of the times. He advanced too rapidly for the conservative
politicians, too slowly for the radical enthusiasts. He occupied
the line of safety, and held by his personality -- by the force of
his great character, by his charming candor -- the masses on his

The soldiers thought of him as a father.

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All who had lost their sons in battle felt that they had his
sympathy -- felt that his face was as sad as theirs. They knew that
Lincoln was actuated by one motive, and that his energies were bent
to the attainment of one end -- the salvation of the Republic.

They knew that he was kind, sincere and merciful. They knew
that in his veins there was no drop of tyrants' blood. They knew
that he used his power to protect the innocent, to save reputation
and life -- that he had the brain of a philosopher -- the heart of
a mother.

During all the years of war, Lincoln stood the embodiment of
mercy, between discipline and death. He pitied the imprisoned and
condemned. He took the unfortunate in his arms, and was the friend
even of the convict. He knew temptation's strength -- the weakness
of the will -- and how in fury's sudden flame the judgment drops
the scales, and passion -- blind and deaf -- usurps the throne.

One day a woman, accompanied by a Senator, called on the
President. The woman was the wife of one of Mosby's men. Her
husband had been captured, tried and condemned to be shot. She came
to ask for the pardon of her husband. The President heard her story
and then asked what kind of man her husband was. "Is he
intemperate, does he abuse the children and beat you?" "No, no,"
said the wife, "he is a good man, a good husband, he loves me and
he loves the children, and we cannot live without him. The only
trouble is that he is a fool about politics -- I live in the North,
born there, and if I get him home, he will do no more fighting for
the South." "Well," said Mr. Lincoln, after examining the papers,
"I will pardon your husband and turn him over to you for safe
keeping." The poor woman, overcome with joy, sobbed as though her
heart would break.

"My dear woman," said Lincoln, "if I had known how badly it
was going to make you feel, I never would have pardoned him." "You
do not understand me," she cried between her sobs. "You do not
understand me." "Yes, yes, I do," answered the President, "and if
you do not go away at once I shall be crying with you"

On another occasion, a member of Congress, on his way to see
Lincoln, found in one of the anterooms of the White House an old
white-haired man, sobbing -- his wrinkled face wet with tears. The
old man told him that for several days he had tried to see the
President -- that he wanted a pardon for his son. The Congressman
told the old man to come with him and he would introduce him to Mr.
Lincoln. On being introduced, the old man said: "Mr. Lincoln, my
wife sent me to you. We had three boys. They all joined your army.
One of 'em has been killed, one's a fighting now, and one of 'em,
the youngest, has been tried for deserting and he's going to be
shot day after to-morrow. He never deserted. He's wild, and he may
have drunk too much and wandered off, but he never deserted. 'Taint
in the blood. He's his mother's favorite, and if he's shot, I know
she'll die." The President, turning to his secretary, said:
"Telegraph General Butler to suspend the execution in the case of
----- [giving the name] until further orders front me, and ask him
to answer."

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The Congressman congratulated the old man on his success --
but the old man did not respond. He was not satisfied. "Mr.
President," he began, "I can't take that news home. It won't
satisfy his mother. How do I know but what you'll give further
orders to-morrow?" "My good man," said Mr. Lincoln," I have to do
the best I can. The generals are complaining because I pardon so
many. They say that my mercy destroys discipline. Now, when you get
home you tell his mother what you said to me about my giving
further orders, and then you tell her that I said this: 'If your
son lives until they get further orders from me, that when he does
die people will say that old Methuselah was a baby compared to

The pardoning power is the only remnant of absolute
sovereignty that a President has. Through all the years, Lincoln
will be known as Lincoln the loving, Lincoln the merciful.


Lincoln had the keenest sense of humor, and always saw the
laughable side even of disaster. In his humor there was logic and
the best of sense. No matter how complicated the question, or how
embarrassing the situation, his humor furnished an answer and a
door of escape.

Vallandigham was a friend of the South, and did what he could
to sow the seeds of failure. In his opinion everything, except
rebellion, was unconstitutional.

He was arrested, convicted by a court martial and sentenced to

There was doubt about the legality of the trial, and thousands
in the North denounced the whole proceeding as tyrannical and
infamous. At the same time millions demanded that Vallandigham
should be punished.

Lincoln's humor came to the rescue. He disapproved of the
findings of the court, changed the punishment, and ordered that Mr.
Vallandigham should be sent to his friends in the South.

Those who regarded the act as unconstitutional almost forgave
it for the sake of its humor.

Horace Greeley always had the idea that he was greatly
superior to Lincoln, because he lived in a larger town, and for a
long time insisted that the people of the North and the people of
the South desired peace. He took it upon himself to lecture
Lincoln. Lincoln, with that wonderful sense of humor, united with
shrewdness and profound wisdom, told Greeley that, if the South
really wanted peace, he (Lincoln) desired the same thing, and was
doing all he could to bring it about. Greeley insisted that a
commissioner should be appointed, with authority to negotiate with
the representatives of the Confederacy. This was Lincoln's
opportunity. He authorized Greeley to act as such commissioner. The
great editor felt that he was caught. For a time he hesitated, but
finally went, and found that the Southern commissioners were

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willing to take into consideration any offers of peace that Lincoln
might make, consistent with the independence of the Confederacy.

The failure of Greeley was humiliating, and the position in
which he was left, absurd.

Again the humor of Lincoln had triumphed.

Lincoln, to satisfy a few fault-finders in the North, went to
Grant's headquarters and met some Confederate commissioners. He
urged that it was hardly proper for him to negotiate with the
representatives of rebels in arms -- that if the South wanted
peace, all they had to do was to stop fighting. One of the
commissioners cited as a precedent the fact that Charles the First
negotiated with rebels in arms. To which Lincoln replied that
Charles the First lost his head.

The conference came to nothing, as Mr. Lincoln expected.

The commissioners, one of them being Alexander H. Stephens,
who, when in good health, weighed about ninety pounds, dined with
the President and Gen. Grant. After dinner, as they were leaving,
Stephens put on an English ulster, the tails of which reached the
ground, while the collar was somewhat above the wearer's head.

As Stephens went out, Lincoln touched Grant and said: "Grant,
look at Stephens. Did you ever see as little a nubbin with as much

Lincoln always tried to do things in the easiest way. He did
not waste his strength. He was not particular about moving along
straight lines. He did not tunnel the mountains. He was willing to
go around, and reach the end desired as a river reaches the sea.


One of the most wonderful things ever done by Lincoln was the
promotion of General Hooker. After the battle of Fredericksburg,
General Burnside found great fault with Hooker, and wished to have
him removed from the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln disapproved of
Burnside's order, and gave Hooker the command. He then wrote Hooker
this memorable letter: "I have placed you at the head of the Army
of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me
to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know
that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite
satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skillful
soldier -- which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix
politics with your profession -- in which you are right. You have
confidence -- which is a valuable, if not an indispensable,
quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does
good rather than harm; But I think that during General Burnside's
command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition to
thwart him as much as you could -- in which you did a great wrong
to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother
officer. I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your
recently saying that both the army and the Government needed a
dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that

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I have given you command. Only those generals who gain successes
can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success,
and I will risk the dictatorship. The Government will support you
to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than
it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the
spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticizing
their commander and withholding confidence in him, will now turn
upon you. I shall assist you, so far as I can, to put it down.
Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive, can get any good out
of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now beware of
rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless
vigilance go forward and give us victories."

This letter has, in my judgement, no parallel. The mistaken
magnanimity is almost equal to the prophecy: "I much fear that the
spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticizing
their command and withholding confidence in him, will now turn upon

Chancellorsville was the fulfillment.


Mr. Lincoln was a statesman. The great stumbling-block -- the
great obstruction -- in Lincoln's way, and in the way of thousands,
was the old doctrine of States Rights.

This doctrine was first established to protect slavery. It was
clung to protect the inter-State slave trade. It became sacred in
connection with the Fugitive Slave Law, and it was finally used as
the corner-stone of Secession.

This doctrine was never appealed to in defence of the right --
always in support of the wrong. For many years politicians upon
both sides of this question endeavored to express the exact
relations existing between the Federal Government and the States,
and I know of no one who succeeded, except Lincoln. In his message
of 1861, delivered on July the 4th, the definition is given, and it
is perfect: "Whatever concerns the whole should be confided to the
whole -- to the General Government. Whatever concerns only the
State should be left exclusively to the State."

When that definition is realized in practice, this country
becomes a Nation. Then we shall know that the first allegiance of
the citizen is not to his State, but to the Republic, and that the
first duty of the Republic is to protect the citizen, not only when
in other lands, but at home, and that this duty cannot be
discharged by delegating it to the States.

Lincoln believed in the sovereignty of the people -- in the
supremacy of the Nation -- in the territorial integrity of the


A great actor can be known only when he has assumed the
principal character in a great drama. Possibly the greatest actors
have never appeared, and it may be that the greatest soldiers have

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


lived the lives of perfect peace. Lincoln assumed the leading part
in the greatest drama ever enacted upon the stage of this

His criticisms of military movements, his correspondence with
his generals and others on the conduct of the war, show that he was
at all times master of the situation -- that he was a natural
strategist, that he appreciated the difficulties and advantages of
every kind, and that in "the still and mental" field of war he
stood the peer of any man beneath the flag.

Had McClellan followed his advice, he would have taken

Had Hooker acted in accordance with his suggestions,
Chancellorsville would have been a victory for the Nation.

Lincoln's political prophecies were all fulfilled. We know now
that he not only stood at the top, but that he occupied the center,
from first to last, and that he did this by reason of his
intelligence, his humor, his philosophy, his courage and his

In passion's storm he stood, unmoved, patient, just and
candid. In his brain there was no cloud, and in his heart no hate.
He longed to save the South as well as North, to see the Nation one
and free.

He lived until the end was known.

He lived until the Confederacy was dead -- until Lee
surrendered, until Davis fled, until the doors of Libby Prison were
opened, until the Republic was supreme.

He lived until Lincoln and Liberty were united forever.

He lived to cross the desert -- to reach the palms of victory
-- to hear the murmured music of the welcome waves.

He lived until all loyal hearts were his -- until the history
of his deeds made music in the souls of men -- until he knew that
on Columbia's Calendar of worth and fame his name stood first.

He lived until there remained nothing for him to do as great
as he had done.

What he did was worth living for, worth dying for. He lived
until he stood in the midst of universal joy, beneath the
outstretched wings of Peace -- the foremost man in all the world.

And then the horror came. Night fell on noon. The Savior of
the Republic, the breaker of chains, the liberator of millions, he
who had "assured freedom to the free," was dead.

Upon his brow Fame placed the immortal wreath, and for the
first time in the history of the world a Nation bowed and wept.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


The memory of Lincoln is the strongest, tenderest tie that
binds all hearts together now, and holds all States beneath a
Nation's flag.

Abraham Lincoln -- strange mingling of mirth and tears, of the
tragic and grotesque, of cap and crown, of Socrates and Democritus,
of AEsop and Marcus Aurelius, of all that is gentle and just,
humorous and honest, merciful, wise, laughable, lovable and divine,
and all consecrated to the use of man; while through all, and over
all, were an overwhelming sense of obligation, of chivalric loyalty
to truth, and upon all, the shadow of the tragic end.

Nearly all the great historic characters are impossible
monsters, disproportioned by flattery, or by calumny deformed. We
know nothing of their peculiarities, or nothing but their
peculiarities. About these oaks there clings none of the earth of

Washington is now only a steel engraving. About the real man
who lived and loved and hated and schemed, we know but little. The
glass through which we look at him is of such high magnifying power
that the features are exceedingly indistinct.

Hundreds of people are now engaged in smoothing out the lines
of Lincoln's face -- forcing all features to the common mould -- so
that he may be known, not as he really was, but, according to their
poor standard, as he should have been.

Lincoln was not a type. He stands alone -- no ancestors, no
fellows, and no successors.

He had the advantage of living in a new country, of social
equality, of personal freedom, of seeing in the horizon of his
future the perpetual star of hope. He preserved his individuality
and his self-respect. He knew and mingled with men of every kind;
and, after all, men are the best books. He became acquainted with
the ambitions and hopes of the heart, the means used to accomplish
ends, the springs of action and the seeds of thought. He was
familiar with nature, with actual things, with common facts. He
loved and appreciated the poem of the year, the drama of the

In a new country a man must possess at least three virtues --
honesty, courage and generosity. In cultivated society, cultivation
is often more important than soil. A well-executed counterfeit
passes more readily than a blurred genuine. It is necessary only to
observe the unwritten laws of society -- to be honest enough to
keep out of prison, and generous enough to subscribe in public --
where the subscription can be defended as an investment.

In a new country, character is essential; in the old,
reputation is sufficient. In the new, they find what a man really
is; in the old, he generally passes for what he resembles. People
separated only by distance are much nearer together, than those
divided by the walls of caste.

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It is no advantage to live in a great city, where poverty
degrades and failure brings despair. The fields are lovelier than
paved streets, and the great forests than walls of brick. Oaks and
elms are more poetic than steeples and chimneys.

In the country is the idea of home. There you see the rising
and setting sun; you become acquainted with the stars and clouds.
The constellations are your friends. You hear the rain on the roof
and listen to the rhythmic sighing of the winds.

You are thrilled by the resurrection called Spring, touched
and saddened by Autumn -- the grace and poetry of death. Every
field is a picture, a landscape; every landscape a poem; every
flower a tender thought, and every forest a fairy-land. In the
country you preserve your identity -- your personality. There you
are an aggregation of atoms, but in the city you are only an atom
of an aggregation.

In the country you keep your cheek close to the breast of
Nature. You are calmed and ennobled by the space, the amplitude and
scope of earth and sky -- by the constancy of the stars.

Lincoln never finished his education. To the night of his
death he was a pupil, a learner, an inquirer, a seeker after
knowledge. You have no idea how many men are spoiled by what is
called education. For the most part, colleges are places where
pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed. If Shakespeare had
graduated at Oxford, he might have been a quibbling attorney, or a
hypocritical parson.

Lincoln was a great lawyer. There is nothing shrewder in this
world than intelligent honesty. Perfect candor is sword and shield.

He understood the nature of man. As a lawyer he endeavored to
get at the truth, at the very heart of a case. He was not willing
even to deceive himself. No matter what his interest said, what his
passion demanded, he was great enough to find the truth and strong
enough to pronounce judgment against his own desires.

Lincoln was a many-sided man, acquainted with smiles and
tears, complex in brain, single in heart, direct as light; and his
words, candid as mirrors, gave the perfect image of his thought. He
was never afraid to ask -- never too dignified to admit that he did
not know. No man had keener wit, or kinder humor.

It may be that humor is the pilot of reason. People without
humor drift unconsciously into absurdity. Humor sees the other side
-- stands in the mind like a spectator, a good-natured critic, and
gives its opinion before judgment is reached. Humor goes with good
nature, and good nature is the climate of reason. In anger, reason
abdicates and malice extinguishes the torch. Such was the humor of
Lincoln that he could tell even unpleasant truths as charmingly as
most men can tell the things we wish to hear.

He was not solemn. Solemnity is a mask worn by ignorance and
hypocrisy -- it is the preface, prologue, and index to the cunning
or the stupid.

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He was natural in his life and thought -- master of the story-
teller's art, in illustration apt, in application perfect, liberal
in speech, shocking Pharisees and prudes, using any word that wit
could disinfect.

He was a logician. His logic shed light. In its presence the
obscure became luminous, and the most complex and intricate
political and metaphysical knots seemed to untie themselves. Logic
is the necessary product of intelligence and sincerity. It cannot
be learned. It is the child of a clear head and a good heart.

Lincoln was candid, and with candor often deceived the
deceitful. He had intellect without arrogance, genius without
pride, and religion without cant -- that is to say, without bigotry
and without deceit.

He was an orator -- clear, sincere, natural. He did not
pretend. He did not say what he thought others thought, but what he

If you wish to be sublime you must be natural, you must keep
close to the grass. You must sit by the fireside of the heart;
above the clouds it is too cold. You must be simple in your speech;
too much polish suggests insincerity.

The great orator idealizes the real, transfigures the common,
makes even the inanimate throb and thrill, fills the gallery of the
imagination with statues and pictures perfect in form and color,
brings to light the gold hoarded by memory the miser, shows the
glittering coin to the spendthrift hope, enriches the brain,
ennobles the heart, and quickens the conscience. Between his lips
words bud and blossom.

If you wish to know the difference between an orator and an
elocutionist -- between what is felt and what is said -- between
what the heart and brain can do together and what the brain can do
alone -- read Lincoln's wondrous speech at Gettysburg, and then the
oration of Edward Everett.

The speech of Lincoln will never be forgotten. It will live
until languages are dead and lips are dust. The oration of Everett
will never be read.

The elocutionists believe in the virtue of voice, the
sublimity of syntax, the majesty of long sentences, and the genius
of gesture.

The orator loves the real, the simple, the natural. He places
the thought above all. He knows that the greatest ideas should be
expressed in the shortest words -- that the greatest statues need
the least drapery.

Lincoln was an immense personality -- firm but not obstinate.
Obstinacy is egotism -- firmness, heroism. He influenced others
without effort, unconsciously; and they submitted to him as men
submit to nature -- unconsciously. He was severe with himself, and
for that reason lenient with others.

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He appeared to apologize for being kinder than his fellows.

He did merciful things as stealthily as others committed

Almost ashamed of tenderness, he said and did the noblest
words and deeds with that charming confusion, that awkwardness,
that is the perfect grace of modesty.

As a noble man, wishing to pay a small debt to a poor
neighbor, reluctantly offers a hundred-dollar bill and asks for
change, fearing that he may be suspected either of making a display
of wealth or a pretence of payment, so Lincoln hesitated to show
his wealth of goodness, even to the best he knew.

A great man stooping, not wishing to make his fellows feel
that they were small or mean.

By his candor, by his kindness, by his perfect freedom from
restraint, by saying what he thought, and saying it absolutely in
his own way, he made it not only possible, but popular, to be
natural. He was the enemy of mock solemnity, of the stupidly
respectable, of the cold and formal.

He wore no official robes either on his body or his soul. He
never pretended to be more or less, or other, or different, from
what he really was.

He had the unconscious naturalness of Nature's self.

He built upon the rock. The foundation was secure and broad.
The structure was a pyramid, narrowing as it rose. Through days and
nights of sorrow, through years of grief and pain, with unswerving
purpose, "with malice towards none, with charity for all," with
infinite patience, with unclouded vision, he hoped and toiled.
Stone after stone was laid, until at last the Proclamation found
its place. On that the Goddess stands.

He knew others, because perfectly acquainted with himself. He
cared nothing for place. but everything for principle; little for
money, but everything for independence. Where no principle was
involved, easily swayed -- willing to go slowly, if in the right
direction -- sometimes willing to stop; but he would not go back,
and he would not go wrong.

He was willing to wait. He knew that the event was not
waiting, and that fate was not the fool of chance. He knew that
slavery had defenders, but no defence, and that they who attack the
right must wound themselves.

He was neither tyrant nor slave. He neither knelt nor scorned.

With him, men were neither great nor small -- they were right
or wrong.

Through manners, clothes, titles, rags and race he saw the
real -- that which is. Beyond accident, policy, compromise and war
he saw the end.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


He was patient as Destiny, whose undecipherable hieroglyphs
were so deeply graven on his sad and tragic face.

Nothing discloses real character like the use of power. It is
easy for the weak to be gentle. Most people can bear adversity. But
if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power. This is
the supreme test. It is the glory of Lincoln that, having almost
absolute power, he never abused it, except on the side of mercy.

Wealth could not purchase, power could not awe, this divine,
this loving man.

He knew no fear except the fear of doing wrong. Hating
slavery, pitying the master -- seeking to conquer, not persons, but
prejudices -- he was the embodiment of the self-denial. the
courage, the hope and the nobility of a Nation.

He spoke not to inflame, not to upbraid, but to convince.

He raised his hands, not to strike, but in benediction.

He longed to pardon.

He loved to see the pearls of joy on the cheeks of a wife
whose husband he had rescued from death.

Lincoln was the grandest figure of the fiercest civil war. He
is the gentlest memory of our world.

****     ****

Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

The Bank of Wisdom is a collection of the most thoughtful,
scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of
suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the
Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our
nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and
religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to
the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so
that America can again become what its Founders intended --

The Free Market-Place of Ideas.

The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old,
hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts
and information for today. If you have such books please contact
us, we need to give them back to America.

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The Bank of Wisdom is run by Emmett Fields out of his home in Kentucky. He painstakingly scanned in these works and put them on disks for others to have available. Mr. Fields makes these disks available for only the cost of the media.

Files made available from the Bank of Wisdom may be freely reproduced and given away, but may not be sold.

Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

Bank of WisdomThe Bank of Wisdom is a collection of the most thoughtful, scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so that America can again become what its Founders intended --

The Free Market-Place of Ideas.

The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old, hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts and information for today. If you have such books please contact us, we need to give them back to America.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926
Louisville, KY 40201