Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

(1809-1865)

Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky; but when he was a boy of seven his father wandered into Indiana, and, after a dozen years' trial of that State,

[graphic]

betook himself and his family to Illinois. Lincoln was by this time twenty-one years old, and had seen a good deal of the poor side of the world. ' His education had been irregular, and he knew what he did know from life, rather than from books.

He was admitted to the bar in 1836. Lincoln's utterances, homely, humorous, but earnest, attracted the attention of the North; and the new Republican party began to regard him as a possible candidate for the presidency. He was close to the common people, and yet he seemed to have elements in him that were above the common. He was a new man, without any record in particular, but he seemed willing and able to make one. Every Northern State, except one, voted for him, and every Southern State voted against him. His election was followed by the secession of eleven Southern States, and the Civil War ensued. He was reëlected to the presidency in 1864. The Civil War was brought to a close on April 9, 1865; and on the fourteenth of that month he was shot, at Ford's Theater, Washington, by J. Wilkes Booth, and died the day following.

The idea of being eloquent never entered Lincoln's mind until after the speech at Gettysburg; and he would not have given a second thought to that, but for the insistence of others.

That short and plain address, however, was the most eloquent utterance called forth by the war; and nothing more eloquent is known to have been spoken in the same compass by any man.

SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS, BY

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

DELIVERED AT WASHINGTON, MARCH 4, 1865

This famous address was made shortly before the close of the Civil War. It shows the great heart of Lincoln, and makes it plain that if the assassin's bullet had not ended his life, the horrors of “reconstruction days” would have been spared the South, and the country much earlier united in spirit as in law.

Fellow Countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued seemed very fitting and proper. 5 Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be 10 presented.

With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an im- 15 pending civil war. All dreaded it; all sought to avoid it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to sav

ing the Union without war, insurgent agents were in 20 the city seeking to destroy it with war — seeking to

dissolve the Union and divide the effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive,

and the other would accept war rather than let it 25 perish, and the war came. .

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict

might cease when, or even before, the conflict itself 30 should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph,

and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.

Let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayer 35 of both could not be answered. That of neither has

been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. Woe unto the world because of offenses, for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in, to bind up

the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have

borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphans, 45 to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and

a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations,

[ocr errors]

40

ORATIONS ON RECONSTRUCTION

After the close of the Civil War, to “reconstruct” the broken nation by restoring the seceded States to their place in the national life was a problem full of difficulties, which were at first most unhappily met. The sectional feelings roused by the long and terrible struggle naturally died hard, particularlyin the States that had suffered most.

The following speeches were made by two of the wisest and most patriotic of the Southern leaders, and had great influence in tempering violent passions both North and South.

[graphic]

ALEXANDER HAMILTON STEPHENS

(1812–1883)

Alexander Stephens was born in Georgia, on February 11, 1812. He was raised on the soil of slavery. He was a believer in the doctrine of State

« AnteriorContinuar »