In Gentryville, Indiana, in the year 1816, might have been seen a log
cabin without doors or window-glass, a dirt floor, a bed made of dried
leaves, and a stool or two and table formed of logs. The inmates were
Thomas Lincoln, a good-hearted man who could neither read nor write;
Nancy Hanks, his wife, a pale-faced, sensitive, gentle woman, strangely
out of place in her miserable surroundings; a girl of ten, Sarah; and a
tall, awkward boy of eight, Abraham.
The family had but recently moved from a similar cabin in Hardin County,
Kentucky, cutting their way through the wilderness with an ax, and
living off the game they could obtain with a gun.
Mrs. Lincoln possessed but one book in the world, the Bible; and from
this she taught her children daily. Abraham had been to school for two
or three months, at such a school as the rude country afforded, and had
learned to read. Of quick mind and retentive memory, he soon came to
know the Bible wellnigh by heart, and to look upon his gentle teacher as
the embodiment of all the good precepts in the book. Afterward, when
he governed thirty million people, he said, "All that I am or hope to
be, I owe to my angel mother. Blessings on her memory!"
When he was ten years old, the saintly mother faded like a flower amid
these hardships of pioneer life, died of consumption, and was buried in
a plain box under the trees near the cabin. The blow for the girl, who
also died at fifteen, was hard; but for the boy the loss was
irreparable. Day after day he sat on the grave and wept. A sad, far-away
look crept into his eyes, which those who saw him in the perils of his
later life well remember.
Nine months after this, Abraham wrote a letter to Parson Elkins, a good
minister whom they used to know in Kentucky, asking him to come and
preach a funeral sermon on his mother. He came, riding on horseback over
one hundred miles; and one bright Sabbath morning, when the neighbors
from the whole country around had gathered, some in carts and some on
horseback, he spoke, over the open grave, of the precious, Christian
life of her who slept beneath. She died early, but not till she had laid
well the foundation-stones in one of the grandest characters in history.
The boy, communing with himself, longed to read and know something
beyond the stumps between which he planted his corn. He borrowed a copy
of Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," and read and re-read it till he could
repeat much of it. Then some one loaned him "AEsop's Fables" and
"Robinson Crusoe," and these he pored over with eager delight. There
surely was a great world beyond Kentucky and Indiana, and perhaps he
would some day see it.
After a time Thomas Lincoln married a widow, an old friend of Nancy
Hanks, and she came to the cabin, bringing her three children; besides,
she brought what to Abraham and Sarah seemed unheard-of elegance,--a
bureau, some chairs, a table, and bedding. Abraham had heretofore
climbed to the loft of the cabin on pegs, and had slept on a sack filled
with corn-husks: now a real bed would seem indeed luxurious.
The children were glad to welcome the new mother to the desolate home;
and a good, true mother she became to the orphans. She put new energy
into her somewhat easy-going husband, and made the cabin comfortable,
even attractive. What was better still, she encouraged Abraham to read
more and more, to be thorough, and to be somebody. Besides, she gave his
great heart something to love, and well she repaid the affection.
He now obtained a much-worn copy of Weem's "Life of Washington," and the
little cabin grew to be a paradise, as he read how one great man had
accomplished so much. The barefoot boy, in buckskin breeches so shrunken
that they reached only half way between the knee and ankle, actually
asked himself whether there were not some great place in the world for
him to fill. No wonder, when, a few days after, making a noise with some
of his fun-loving companions, a good woman said to him, "Now, Abe, what
on earth do you s'pose'll ever become of ye? What'll ye be good for if
ye keep a-goin' on in this way?" He replied slowly, "Well, I reckon I'm
goin' to be President of the United States one of these days."
The treasured "Life of Washington" came to grief. One stormy night the
rain beat between the logs of the cabin, and flooded the volume as it
lay on a board upheld by two pegs. Abraham sadly carried it back to its
owner, and worked three days, at twenty-five cents a day, to pay
damages, and thus made the book his own.
The few months of schooling had already come to an end, and he was
"living out," hoeing, planting, and chopping wood for the farmers, and
giving the wages to his parents. In this way, in the daytime he studied
human nature, and in the evenings he read "Plutarch's Lives" and the
"Life of Benjamin Franklin." He was liked in these humble homes, for he
could tend baby, tell stories, make a good impromptu speech, recite
poetry, even making rhymes himself, and could wrestle and jump as well
as the best.
While drinking intoxicants was the fashion all about him, taught by his
first mother not to touch them, he had solemnly carried out her wishes.
But his tender heart made him kind to the many who, in this pioneer
life, had been ruined through drink. One night, as he was returning from
a house-raising, he and two or three friends found a man in the ditch
benumbed with the cold, and his patient horse waiting beside him. They
lifted the man upon the animal, and held him on till they reached the
nearest house, where Abraham cared for him through the night, and thus
saved his life.
At eighteen he had found a situation in a small store, but he was not
satisfied to stand behind a counter; he had read too much about
Washington and Franklin. Fifteen miles from Gentryville, courts were
held at certain seasons of the year; and when Abraham could find a spare
day he walked over in the morning and back at night, listening to the
cases. Meantime he had borrowed a strange book for a poor
country-lad,--"The Revised Statutes of Indiana."
One day a man on trial for murder had secured the able lawyer, John A.
Breckenridge, to defend him. Abraham listened as he made his appeal to
the jury. He had never heard anything so eloquent. When the court
adjourned the tall, homely boy, his face beaming with admiration for the
great man, pressed forward to grasp his hand; but, with a contemptuous
air, the lawyer passed on without speaking. Thirty years later the two
met in Washington, when Abraham Lincoln was the President of the United
States; and then he thanked Mr. Breckenridge for his great speech in
In March, 1828, the long-hoped-for opportunity to see the world outside
of Gentryville had come. Abraham was asked by a man who knew his honesty
and willingness to work, to take a flat-boat down the Mississippi River
to New Orleans. He was paid only two dollars a week and his rations; and
as a flat-boat could not come up the river, but must be sold for lumber
at the journey's end, he was obliged to walk the whole distance back.
The big-hearted, broad-shouldered youth, six feet and four inches tall,
had seen in this trip what he would never forget; had seen black men in
chains, and men and women sold like sheep in the slave-marts of New
Orleans. Here began his horror of human slavery, which years after
culminated in the Emancipation Proclamation.
Two years later, when he had become of age, Abraham helped move his
father's family to Illinois, driving the four yoke of oxen which drew
the household goods over the muddy roads and through the creeks. Then he
joined his adopted brothers in building a log house, plowed fifteen
acres of prairie land for corn, split rails to fence it in, and then
went out into the world to earn for himself, his scanty wages heretofore
belonging legally to his father. He did not always receive money for his
work, for once, for a Mrs. Miller, he split four hundred rails for every
yard of brown jeans, dyed with white walnut bark, necessary to make a
pair of trowsers.
He had no trade, and no money, and must do whatever came to hand. For a
year he worked for one farmer and another, and then he and his
half-brother were hired by a Mr. Offutt to build and take a flat-boat to
New Orleans. So pleased was the owner, that on Abraham's return, he was
at once engaged to manage a mill and store at New Salem. Here he went by
the name of "Honest Abe," because he was so fair in his dealings. On one
occasion, having sold a woman a bill of goods amounting to two dollars
and six and a quarter cents, he found that in adding the items, he had
taken six and a quarter cents too much. It was night, and locking the
store, he walked two or three miles to return the money to his
astonished customer. Another time a woman bought a half pound of tea. He
discovered afterward that he had used a four-ounce weight on the scales,
and at once walked a long way to deliver the four ounces which were her
due. No wonder the world, like Diogenes, is always looking for an honest
He insisted on politeness before women. One day as he was showing goods,
a boorish man came in and began to use profanity. Young Lincoln leaned
over the desk, and begged him to desist before ladies. When they had
gone, the man became furious. Finding that he really desired to fight,
Lincoln said, "Well, if you must be whipped, I suppose I may as well
whip you as any other man," and suiting the action to the word, gave
him a severe punishing. The man became a better citizen from that day,
and Lincoln's life-long friend.
Years afterward, when in the Presidential chair, a man used profanity in
his presence, he said, "I thought Senator C. had sent me a gentleman. I
was mistaken. There is the door, and I wish you good-night."
Hearing that a grammar could be purchased six miles away, the young
store-keeper walked thither and obtained it. When evening came, as
candles were too expensive for his limited wages, he burnt one shaving
after another to give light, and thus studied the book which was to be
so valuable in after years, when he should stand before the great and
cultured of the land. He took the "Louisville Journal," because he must
be abreast of the politics of the day, and made careful notes from every
book he read.
Mr. Offutt soon failed, and Abraham Lincoln was again adrift. War had
begun with Blackhawk, the chief of the Sacs, and the Governor of
Illinois was calling for volunteers. A company was formed in New Salem,
and "Honest Abe" was chosen captain. He won the love of his men for his
thoughtfulness of them rather than himself, and learned valuable lessons
in military matters for the future. A strange thing now happened,--he
was asked to be a candidate for the State Legislature! At first he
thought his friends were ridiculing him, and said he should be defeated
as he was not widely known.
"Never mind!" said James Rutledge, the president of their little
debating club. "They'll know you better after you've stumped the county.
Any how, it'll do you good to try."
Lincoln made some bright, earnest stump speeches, and though he was
defeated, the young man of twenty-three received two hundred and
seventy-seven votes out of the two hundred and eighty cast in New Salem.
This surely was a pleasant indication of his popularity. It was a common
saying, that "Lincoln had nothing, only plenty of friends."
The County-surveyor needed an assistant. He called upon Lincoln,
bringing a book for him to study, if he would fit himself to take hold
of the matter. This he did gladly, and for six weeks studied and recited
to a teacher, thus making himself skilled and accurate for a new
country. Whenever he had an hour's leisure from his work, however, he
was poring over his law-books, for he had fully made up his mind to be a
He was modest, but ambitious, and was learning the power within him. But
as though the developing brain and warm heart needed an extra stimulus,
there came into his life, at this time, a beautiful affection, that left
a deeper look in the far-away eyes, when it was over. Ann Rutledge, the
daughter of his friend, was one of the most intelligent and lovely girls
in New Salem. When Lincoln came to her father's house to board, she was
already engaged to a bright young man in the neighborhood, who, shortly
before their intended marriage, was obliged to visit New York on
business. He wrote back of his father's illness and death, and then his
Mouths passed away. Meantime the young lawyer had given her the homage
of his strong nature. At first she could not bring herself to forget her
recreant lover, but the following year, won by Lincoln's devotion, she
accepted him. He seemed now supremely happy. He studied day and night,
eager to fill such a place that Ann Rutledge would be proud of him. He
had been elected to the Legislature, and, borrowing some money to
purchase a suit of clothes, he walked one hundred miles to the State
capitol. He did not talk much in the Assembly, but he worked faithfully
upon committees, and studied the needs of his State.
The following summer days seemed to pass all too swiftly in his
happiness. Then the shadows gathered. The girl he idolized was sinking
under the dreadful strain upon her young heart. The latter part of
August she sent for Lincoln to come to her bedside. What was said in
that last farewell has never been known. It is stated by some that her
former lover had returned, as fond of her as ever, his silence having
been caused by a long illness. But on the twenty-fifth of August, death
took her from them both.
Lincoln was overwhelmed with anguish; insane, feared and believed his
friends. He said, "I can never be reconciled to have the snow, rains,
and storms beat upon her grave." Years after he was heard to say, "My
heart lies buried in the grave of that girl." A poem by William Knox,
found and read at this time, became a favorite and a comfort through
"Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?"
Mr. Herndon, his law partner, said, "The love and death of that girl
shattered Lincoln's purposes and tendencies. He threw off his infinite
sorrow only by leaping wildly into the political arena." The memory of
that love never faded from his heart, nor the sadness from his face.
The following year, 1837, when he was twenty-eight, he was admitted to
the bar, and moved from New Salem to the larger town of Springfield,
forming a partnership with Mr. J. P. Stuart of whom he had borrowed his
law-books. Too poor even yet to pay much for board, he slept on a narrow
lounge in the law-office. He was again elected to the legislature, and
in the Harrison Presidential campaign, was chosen one of the electors,
speaking through the State for the Whig party. To so prominent a
position, already, had come the backwoods boy.
Four years after Ann Rutledge's death, he married, Nov. 4, 1839, Mary
Todd, a bright, witty, somewhat handsome girl, of good family, from
Kentucky. She admired his ability, and believed in his success; he
needed comfort in his utter loneliness. Till his death he was a true
husband, and an idolizing father to his children,--Robert, Willie, and
In 1846, seven years after his marriage, having steadily gained in the
reputation of an honest, able lawyer, who would never take a case unless
sure he was on the right side, Mr. Lincoln was elected to Congress by an
uncommonly large majority. Opposed to the war with Mexico, and to the
extension of slavery, he spoke his mind fearlessly. The "Compromise
measures of 1850," by which, while California was admitted as a free
State, and the slave-trade was abolished in the District of Columbia,
the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, giving the owners of slaves the right
to recapture them in any free State, had disheartened all lovers of
freedom. Lincoln said gloomily to his law partner, Mr. Herndon, "How
hard, oh, how hard it is to die and leave one's country no better than
if one had never lived for it!"
His father died about this time, his noble son sending him this message,
"to remember to call upon and confide in our great and good and merciful
Maker, who will not turn away from him in any extremity. He notes the
fall of the sparrow, and numbers the hairs of our heads; and He will not
forget the dying man who puts his trust in Him."
In 1854, through the influence of Stephen A. Douglas, a brilliant
senator from Illinois, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, whereby
those States were left to judge for themselves whether they would have
slaves or not. But by the Missouri Compromise of 1820, it was expressly
stated that slavery should be forever prohibited in this locality. The
whole North grew to white heat. When Douglas returned to his Chicago
home the people refused to hear him speak. Illinois said, "His arguments
must be answered, and Abraham Lincoln is the man to answer them!"
At the State Fair at Springfield, in October, a great company were
gathered. Douglas spoke with marked ability and eloquence, and then on
the following day, Abraham Lincoln spoke for three hours. His heart was
in his words. He quivered with emotion. The audience were still as
death, but when the address was finished, men shouted and women waved
their handkerchiefs. Lincoln and the right had triumphed. After this,
the two men spoke in all the large towns of the State, to immense
crowds. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill worked out its expected results. Blood
flowed in the streets, as pro-slavery and anti-slavery men contested the
ground, newspaper offices were torn down by mobs, and Douglas lost the
great prize he had in view,--the Presidency of the United States.
When the new party, the Republican, held its second convention in
Philadelphia, June 17, 1856, Abraham Lincoln received one hundred and
ten votes for Vice President. What would Nancy Hanks Lincoln have said
if she could have looked now upon the boy to whom she taught the Bible
in the log cabin!
An incident occurred about this time which increased his fame. A man was
murdered at a camp-meeting, and two young men were arrested. One was a
very poor youth, whose mother, Hannah Armstrong, had been kind to
Lincoln in the early years. She wrote to the prominent lawyer about her
troubles, because she believed her son to be innocent. The trial came
on. The people were clamorous for Armstrong to be hanged. The principal
witness testified that "by the aid of the brightly shining moon, he saw
the prisoner inflict the death-blow with a slung shot."
After careful questioning, Mr. Lincoln showed the perjury of the
witness, by the almanac, no moon being visible on the night in question.
The jury were melted to tears by the touching address, and their
sympathy went out to the wronged youth and his poor old mother, who
fainted in his arms. Tears, too, poured down the face of Mr. Lincoln, as
the young man was acquitted. "Why, Hannah," he said, when the grateful
woman asked what she should try to pay him, "I shan't charge you a cent;
never." She had been well repaid for her friendliness to a penniless
The next year he was invited to deliver a lecture at Cooper Institute,
New York. He was not very well known at the East. He had lived
unostentatiously in the two-story frame-house in Springfield, and when
seen at all by the people, except in his addresses, was usually drawing
one of his babies in a wagon before his door, with hat and coat off,
deeply buried in thought. When the crowd gathered at Cooper Institute,
they expected to hear a fund of stories and a "Western stump speech."
But they did not hear what they expected. They heard a masterly review
of the history of slavery in this country, and a prophecy concerning the
future of the slavery question. They were amazed at its breadth and its
eloquence. The "New York Tribune" said, "No man ever before made such an
impression on his first appeal to a New York audience."
After this Mr. Lincoln spoke in various cities to crowded houses. A Yale
professor took notes and gave a lecture to his students on the address.
Surprised at his success among learned men, Mr. Lincoln once asked a
prominent professor "what made the speeches interest?"
The reply was, "The clearness of your statements, the unanswerable style
of your reasoning and your illustrations, which were romance, and
pathos, and fun, and logic, all welded together."
Mr. Lincoln said, "I am very much obliged to you for this. It throws
light on a subject which has been dark to me. Certainly I have had a
wonderful success for a man of my limited education."
The sabbath he spent in New York, he found his way to the Sunday-school
at Five Points. He was alone. The superintendent noticing his interest,
asked him to say a few words. The children were so pleased that when he
attempted to stop, they cried, "Go on, oh! do go on!" No one knew his
name, and on being asked who he was, he replied, "Abraham Lincoln of
Illinois." After visiting his son Robert at Harvard College, he returned
When the Republican State Convention met, May 9, 1860, at Springfield,
Ill., Mr. Lincoln was invited to a seat on the platform, and as no way
could be made through the dense throng, he was carried over the people's
heads. Ten days later, at the National Convention at Chicago, though
William H. Seward of New York was a leading candidate, the West gained
the nomination, with their idolized Lincoln. Springfield was wild with
joy. When the news of his success was carried to him, he said quietly,
"Well, gentlemen, there's a little woman at our house who is probably
more interested in this dispatch than I am; and if you will excuse me, I
will take it up and let her see it."
The resulting canvass was one of the most remarkable in our history. The
South said, "War will result if he is elected." The North said, "The
time has come for decisive action." The popular vote for Abraham Lincoln
was nearly two millions (1,857,610), while Stephen A. Douglas received
something over a million (1,291,574). The country was in a fever of
excitement. The South made itself ready for war by seizing the forts.
Before the inauguration most of the Southern States had seceded.
Sad farewells were uttered as Mr. Lincoln left Springfield for
Washington. To his law partner he said, "You and I have been together
more than twenty years, and have never passed a word. Will you let my
name stay on the old sign till I come back from Washington?"
The tears came into Mr. Herndon's eyes, as he said, "I will never have
any other partner while you live," and he kept his word. Old Hannah
Armstrong told him that she should never see him again; that something
told her so; his enemies would assassinate him. He smiled and said,
"Hannah, if they do kill me, I shall never die another death."
He went away without fear, but feeling the awful responsibility of his
position. He found an empty treasury and the country drifting into the
blackness of war. He spoke few words, but the lines grew deeper on his
face, and his eyes grew sadder.
In his inaugural address he said, "In your hands, my dissatisfied
fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.
The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without
being yourselves the aggressors.... Physically speaking we cannot
The conflict began April 12, 1861, by the enemy firing on Fort Sumter.
That sound reverberated throughout the North. The President called for
seventy-five thousand men. The choicest from thousands of homes quickly
responded. Young men left their college-halls and men their places of
business. "The Union must and shall be preserved," was the eager cry.
Then came the call for forty-two thousand men for three years.
The President began to study war in earnest. He gathered military books,
sought out on maps every creek and hill and valley in the enemy's
country, and took scarcely time to eat or sleep. May 24, the brilliant
young Colonel Ellsworth had been shot at Alexandria by a hotel-keeper,
because he pulled down the secession flag. He was buried from the east
room in the White House, and the North was more aroused than ever. The
press and people were eager for battle, and July 21, 1861, the Union
army, under General McDowell, attacked the Confederates at Bull Run and
were defeated. The South was jubilant, and the North learned, once for
all, that the war was to be long and bloody. Congress, at the request of
the President, at once voted five hundred thousand men, and five hundred
million dollars to carry on the war.
Vast work was to be done. The Southern ports must be blockaded, and the
traffic on the Mississippi River discontinued. A great and brave army of
Southerners, fighting on their own soil, every foot of which they knew
so well, must be conquered if the nation remained intact. The burdens of
the President grew more and more heavy. Men at the North, who
sympathized with the South,--for we were bound together as one family
in a thousand ways,--said the President was going too far in his
authority; others said he moved too slowly, and was too lenient to the
slave power. The South gained strength from the sympathy of England, and
only by careful leadership was war avoided with that country.
General McClellan had fought some hard battles in Virginia--Fair Oaks,
Mechanicsville, Malvern Hill, and others--with varying success, losing
thousands of men in the Chickahominy swamps, and after the battle of
Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862, one of the severest of the war, when each side
lost over ten thousand men, he was relieved of his command, and
succeeded by General Burnside. There had been some successes at the West
under Grant, at Fort Donelson and Shiloh, and at the South under
Farragut, but the outlook for the country was not hopeful. Mr. Lincoln
had met with a severe affliction in his own household. His beautiful son
Willie had died in February. He used to walk the room in those dying
hours, saying sadly, "This is the hardest trial of my life; why is it?
why is it?"
This made him, perhaps, even more tender of the lives of others' sons. A
young sentinel had been sentenced to be shot for sleeping at his post;
but the President pardoned him, saying, "I could not think of going into
eternity with the blood of the poor young man on my skirts. It is not to
be wondered at that a boy raised on a farm, probably in the habit of
going to bed at dark, should, when required to watch, fall asleep, and I
cannot consent to shoot him for such an act." This youth was found among
the slain on the field of Fredericksburg, wearing next his heart a
photograph of his preserver, with the words, "God bless President
An army officer once went to Washington to see about the execution of
twenty-four deserters, who had been sentenced by court-martial to be
shot. "Mr. President," said he, "unless these men are made an example
of, the army itself is in danger. Mercy to the few is cruelty to the
"Mr. General," was the reply, "there are already too many weeping widows
in the United States. For God's sake, don't ask me to add to the number,
for I won't do it." At another time he said, "Well, I think the boy can
do us more good above ground than under ground."
A woman in a faded shawl and hood came to see the President, begging
that, as her husband and all her sons--three--had enlisted, and her
husband had been killed, he would release the oldest, that he might care
for his mother. Mr. Lincoln quickly consented. When the poor woman
reached the hospital where her boy was to be found, he was dead.
Returning sadly to Mr. Lincoln, he said, "I know what you wish me to do
now, and I shall do it without your asking; I shall release your second
son.... Now you have one, and I one of the other two left: that is
no more than right." Tears filled the eyes of both as she reverently
laid her hand on his head, saying, "The Lord bless you, Mr. President.
May you live a thousand years, and always be at the head of this great
Through all these months it had become evident that slavery must be
destroyed, or we should live over again these dreadful war-scenes in
years to come. Mr. Lincoln had been waiting for the right time to free
the slaves. General McClellan had said, "A declaration of radical views,
especially upon slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present armies";
but Sept. 22, 1862, Mr. Lincoln told his Cabinet, "I have promised my
God that I will do it"; and he issued the immortal Emancipation
Proclamation, by which four million human beings stepped out from
bondage into freedom. He knew what he was doing. Two years afterward he
said, "It is the central act of my administration, and the great event
of the nineteenth century."
The following year, 1863, brought even deeper sorrows. The "Draft Act,"
by which men were obliged to enter the army when their names were drawn,
occasioned in July a riot in New York city, with the loss of many lives.
Grant had taken Vicksburg on July 4, and General Meade had won at the
dreadful three days' fight at Gettysburg, July 1-4, with a loss of more
than twenty thousand on either side; but the nation was being held
together at a fearful cost. When Mr. Lincoln announced to the people
the victory at Gettysburg, he expressed the desire that, in the
customary observance of the Fourth of July, "He whose will, not ours,
should everywhere be done, be everywhere reverenced with profoundest
gratitude." He reverenced God, himself, most devoutly. "I have been
driven many times upon my knees," he said, "by the overwhelming
conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all
about me seemed insufficient for that day."
On Nov. 19, of this year, this battle-field was dedicated, with solemn
ceremonies, as one of the national cemeteries. Mr. Lincoln made a very
brief address, in words that will last while America lasts, "The world
will little note, nor long remember, what we say here; but it can never
forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be
dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have
thus far so nobly advanced. It is, rather, for us to be here dedicated
to the great task remaining for us, that from these honored dead we take
increased devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full
measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall
not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new
birth of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people,
and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Emerson says of these words, "This, and one other American speech, that
of John Brown to the court that tried him, and a part of Kossuth's
speech at Birmingham, can only be compared with each other, and no
The next year, Feb. 29, 1864, the Hero of Vicksburg was called to the
Lieutenant-Generalship of the army, and for the first time Mr. Lincoln
felt somewhat a sense of relief from burdens. He said, "Wherever Grant
is, things move." He now called for five hundred thousand more men, and
the beginning of the end was seen. Sherman swept through to the sea.
Grant went below Richmond, where he said, "I propose to fight it out on
this line if it takes all summer."
Mr. Lincoln had been re-elected to the Presidency for a second term,
giving that beautiful inaugural address to the people, "With malice
toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God
gives us to see the right, let us strive on to 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 widows and orphans; to do all which may achieve
and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all
nations." On April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, and
the long war was ended. The people gathered in their churches to praise
God amid their tears. Abraham Lincoln's name was on every lip. The
colored people said of their deliverer, "He is eberywhere. He is like de
bressed Lord; he walks de waters and de land."
An old colored woman came to the door of the White House and met the
President as he was coming out, and said she wanted to see "Abraham the
"And who was Abraham the First?" asked the good man.
"Why, Lor' bless you, we read about Abraham de First in de Bible, and
Abraham de Second is de President."
"Here he is!" said the President, turning away to hide his tears.
Well did the noble-hearted man say, "I have never willingly planted a
thorn in any man's bosom."
Five days after the surrender of General Lee, Mr. Lincoln went to Ford's
Theatre, because it would rest him and please the people to see him. He
used to say, "The tired part of me is inside and out of reach.... I feel
a presentiment that I shall not outlast the rebellion. When it is over,
my work will be done."
While Mr. Lincoln was enjoying the play, John Wilkes Booth, an actor,
came into the box behind him and fired a bullet into his brain; then
sprang upon the stage, shouting, "Sic semper tyrannis! The South is
avenged!" The President scarcely moved in his chair, and, unconscious,
was taken to a house near by, where he died at twenty-two minutes past
seven, April 15, 1865. Booth was caught twelve days later, and shot in a
The nation seemed as though struck dumb; and then, from the Old World
as well as the New, came an agonizing wail of sorrow. Death only showed
to their view how sublime was the character of him who had carried them
through the war. While the body, embalmed, lay in state in the east room
of the White House tens of thousands crowded about it. And then,
accompanied by the casket of little Willie, the body of Abraham Lincoln
took its long journey of fifteen hundred miles, to the home of his early
life, for burial. Nothing in this country like that funeral pageant has
ever been witnessed. In New York, in Philadelphia, and in every other
city along the way, houses were trimmed with mourning, bells tolled,
funeral marches were played, and the rooms where the body rested were
filled with flowers. Hundreds of thousands looked upon the tired, noble
face of the martyred President.
In Oak Ridge Cemetery, at Springfield, Illinois, in the midst of a dense
multitude, a choir of two hundred and fifty singing by the open grave of
him who dearly loved music,
"Children of the Heavenly King,"
Abraham Lincoln was buried, Bishop Simpson, now dead, spoke eloquently,
quoting Mr. Lincoln's words, "Before high Heaven and in the face of the
world I swear eternal fidelity to the just cause, as I deem it, of the
land of my life, my liberty, and my love."
Charles Sumner said, "There are no accidents in the Providence of God."
Such lives as that of Abraham Lincoln are not accidents in American
history. They are rather the great books from whose pages we catch
inspiration, and in which we read God's purposes for the progress of the