Table of Contents
We have now followed the career of Lincoln throughout. It is fitting that this book should conclude with a record of what some observant men have said about him. Accordingly this, the last, chapter is willingly given up to these testimonies. Of course such a list could easily be extended indefinitely, but the quotations here given are deemed sufficient for their purpose.
H. W. Beecher:
Who shall recount our martyr’s sufferings for this people? Since the November of 1860 his horizon has been black with storms. By day and by night, he trod a way of danger and darkness. On his shoulders rested a government dearer to him than his own life. At its integrity millions of men were striking home. Upon this government foreign eyes lowered. It stood like a lone island in a sea full of storms; and every tide and wave seemed eager to devour it. Upon thousands of hearts great sorrows and anxieties have rested, but not on one such, and in such measure, as upon that simple, truthful, noble soul, our faithful and sainted Lincoln. Never rising to the enthusiasm of more impassioned natures in hours of hope, and never sinking with the mercurial in hours of defeat to the depths of despondency, he held on with immovable patience and fortitude, putting caution against hope, that it might not be premature, and hope against caution, that it might not yield to dread and danger. He wrestled ceaselessly through four black and dreadful purgatorial years, wherein God was cleansing the sin of his people as by fire....
Then the wail of a nation proclaimed that he had gone from among us. Not thine the sorrow, but ours, sainted soul! Thou hast indeed entered the promised land, while we are yet on the march. To us remains the rocking of the deep, the storm upon the land, days of duty and nights of watching; but thou art sphered high above all darkness and fear, beyond all sorrow and weariness. Rest, O weary heart! Rejoice exceedingly, thou that hast enough suffered! Thou hast beheld Him who invisibly led thee in this great wilderness. Thou standest among the elect. Around thee are the royal men that have ennobled human life in every age. Kingly art thou, with glory on thy brow as a diadem. And joy is upon thee forevermore. Over all this land, over all this little cloud of years, that now from thine infinite horizon moves back as a speck, thou art lifted up as high as the star is above the clouds that hide us, but never reach it. In the goodly company of Mount Zion thou shalt find that rest which thou hast sorrowing sought in vain; and thy name, an everlasting name in heaven, shall flourish in fragrance and beauty as long as men shall last upon the earth, or hearts remain, to revere truth, fidelity, and goodness.
... Four years ago, O Illinois, we took from your midst an untried man, and from among the people. We return him to you a mighty conqueror. Not thine any more but the Nation’s; not ours, but the world’s. Give him place, O ye prairies! In the midst of this great continent his dust shall rest, a sacred treasure to myriads who shall pilgrim to that shrine to kindle anew their zeal and patriotism. Ye winds that move over the mighty places of the West, chant his requiem! Ye people, behold a martyr whose blood, as so many articulate words, pleads for for fidelity, for law, for liberty!
He became the type, flower, and representative of all that is worthily American; in him the commonest of human traits were blended with an all-embracing charity and the highest human wisdom; with single devotion to the right he lived unselfishly, void of selfish personal ambition, and, dying tragically, left a name to be remembered with love and honor as one of the best and greatest of mankind.
W. C. Bryant:
Oh, slow to smite and swift to spare, Gentle and merciful and just! Who, in the fear of God, didst bear The sword of power, a nation’s trust!
In sorrow by thy bier we stand, Amid the awe that hushes all, And speak the anguish of a land That shook with horror at thy fall.
Thy task is done; the bond are free: We bear thee to an honored grave, Whose proudest monument shall be The broken fetters of the slave.
Pure was thy life; its bloody close Hath placed thee with the sons of light, Among the noble host of those Who perished in the cause of Right.
J. H. Choate:
A rare and striking illustration of the sound mind in the sound body. He rose to every occasion. He led public opinion. He knew the heart and conscience of the people. Not only was there this steady growth of intellect, but the infinite delicacy of his nature and capacity for refinement developed also, as exhibited in the purity and perfection of his language and style of speech.
R. W. Emerson:
He had a face and manner which disarmed suspicion, which inspired confidence, which confirmed good will. He was a man without vices. He had a strong sense of duty.... He had what the farmers call a long head.... He was a great worker; he had a prodigious faculty of performance; worked easily.... He had a vast good nature which made him accessible to all.... Fair-minded ... affable ... this wise man.
What an occasion was the whirlwind of the war! Here was the place for no holiday magistrate, no fair-weather sailor; the new pilot was hurled to the helm in a tornado. In four years,–four years of battle-days,– his endurance, his fertility of resources, his magnanimity, were sorely tried and never found wanting. There, by his courage, his justice, his even temper, his fertile counsel, his humanity, he stood a heroic figure in the center of a heroic epoch. He is the true history of the American people in his time. Step by step he walked before them; slow with their slowness, quickening his march by theirs, the true representative of this continent; an entirely public man; father of his country, the pulse of twenty millions throbbing in his heart, the thought of their minds articulated by his tongue.
J. G. Holland:
Conscience, and not expediency, not temporary advantage, not popular applause, not the love of power, was the ruling and guiding motive of his life. He was patient with his enemies, and equally patient with equally unreasonable friends. No hasty act of his administration can be traced to his impatience. He had a tender, brotherly regard for every human being; and the thought of oppression was torment to him.... A statesman without a statesman’s craftiness, a politician without a politician’s meannesses, a great man without a great man’s vices, a philanthropist without a philanthropist’s impracticable dreams, a Christian without pretensions, a ruler without the pride of place and power, an ambitious man without selfishness, and a successful man without vanity.
O. W. Holmes:
Our hearts lie buried in the dust With him so true and tender, The patriot’s stay, the people’s trust, The shield of the offender.
J. R. Lowell:
On the day of his death, this simple Western attorney, who, according to one party was a vulgar joker, and whom the doctrinaires among his own supporters accused of wanting every element of statesmanship, was the most absolute ruler in Christendom, and this solely by the hold his good-humored sagacity had laid on the hearts and understandings of his countrymen. Nor was this all, for it appeared that he had drawn the great majority not only of his fellow-citizens, but of mankind also, to his side. So strong and so persuasive is honest manliness without a single quality of romance or unreal sentiment to help it! A civilian during times of the most captivating military achievement, awkward, with no skill in the lower technicalities of manners, he left behind a fame beyond that of any conqueror, the memory of a grace higher than that of outward person, and of a gentlemanliness deeper than mere breeding. Never before that startled April morning did such multitudes of men shed tears for the death of one whom they had never seen, as if with him a friendly presence had been taken away from their lives, leaving them colder and darker. Never was funeral panegyric so eloquent as the silent look of sympathy which strangers exchanged when they met on that day. Their common manhood had lost a kinsman.
Wise, steadfast in the strength of God, and true. How beautiful to see Once more a shepherd of mankind indeed, Who loved his charge, but never loved to lead; One whose meek flock the people joyed to be, Not lured by any Cheat of birth, But by his clear-grained human worth, And brave old wisdom of sincerity!
Great Captains, with their guns and drums, Disturb our judgment for the hour, But at last silence comes; These all are gone, and, standing like a tower, Our children shall behold his fame, The kindly-earnest, brave, foreseeing man, Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame, New birth of our new soil, the first American.
God’s anointed–the great, the blameless Lincoln.... The homely, tender-hearted “Father Abraham"–rare combination of courage, justice, and humanity.
H. J. Raymond:
But there was a native grace, the out-growth of kindness of heart, which never failed to shine through all his words and acts. His heart was as tender as a woman’s,–as accessible to grief and gladness as a child’s,–yet strong as Hercules to bear the anxieties and responsibilities of the awful burden that rested on it. Little incidents of the war,–instances of patient suffering in devotion to duty,–tales of distress from the lips of women, never failed to touch the innermost chords of his nature, and to awaken that sweet sympathy which carries with it, to those who suffer, all the comfort the human heart can crave. Those who have heard him, as many have, relate such touching episodes of the war, cannot recall without emotion the quivering lip, the face gnarled and writhed to stifle the rising sob, and the patient, loving eyes swimming in tears, which mirrored the tender pity of his gentle and loving nature. He seemed a stranger to the harsher and stormier passions of man. Easily grieved, he seemed incapable of hate.... It is first among the marvels of a marvelous time, that to such a character, so womanly in all its traits, should have been committed, absolutely and with almost despotic power, the guidance of a great nation through a bloody and terrible civil war....
As the state of society in which Abraham Lincoln grew up passes away, the world will read with increasing wonder of the man who, not only of the humblest origin, but remaining the simplest and most unpretending of citizens, was raised to a position of power unprecedented in our history; who was the gentlest and most peace-loving of mortals, unable to see any creature suffer without a pang in his own breast, and suddenly found himself called to conduct the greatest and bloodiest of our wars; who wielded the power of government when stern resolution and relentless force were the order of the day, and then won and ruled the popular mind and heart by the tender sympathies of his nature; who was a cautious conservative by temperament and mental habit, and led the most sudden and sweeping social revolution of our time; who, preserving his homely speech and rustic manner, even in the most conspicuous position of that period, drew upon himself the scoffs of polite society, and then thrilled the soul of mankind with utterances of wonderful beauty and grandeur; who, in his heart the best friend of the defeated South, was murdered because a crazy fanatic took him for its most cruel enemy; who, while in power, was beyond measure lampooned and maligned by sectional passion and an excited party spirit, and around whose bier friend and foe gathered to praise him–which they have since never ceased to do–as one of the greatest of Americans and the best of men.
He went on and on, and never backward, until his time was come, when his genius, fully developed, rose to the great exigencies intrusted to his hands.
Where did he get his style? Ask Shakespeare and Burns where they got their style. Where did he get his grasp upon affairs and his knowledge of men? Ask the Lord God, who created miracles in Luther and Bonaparte!... Where did Shakespeare get his genius? Where did Mozart get his music? Whose hand smote the lyre of the Scottish plowman, and stayed the life of the German priest? God, God, and God alone; and as surely as these were raised up by God, inspired by God, was Abraham Lincoln; and a thousand years hence, no drama, no tragedy, no epic poem, will be filled with greater wonder, or be followed by mankind with deeper feeling, than that which tells the story of his life and death.