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The welcome extended to Mr. Lincoln on his journey to the capital of the United States was a perfect ovation. The people crowded to meet and greet him at every stopping-place; and he was welcomed to the cities through which he passed with music and the ringing of bells, the waving of banners and the peal of cannon. Yet amid all these festivities, and demonstrations of joy, his mind labored with the fearful problem of national existence that loomed up in the future ; and he repeated again and again, to the multitudes who thronged to see him, the sentiments which he addressed to the President of the Ohio Senate:
“It is true, as has been said by the President of the Senate, that very great responsibility rests upon me in the position to which the votes of the American people have called me. I am deeply sensible of that weighty responsibility. I cannot but know, what you all know, that without a name, perhaps without a reason why I should have a name, there has fallen upon me a task such as did not rest upon the “Father of his Country;” and, so feeling, I cannot but turn, then, and look to the American people, and to that God who has never forsaken them.”
With such feelings of patriotic trust, courage, and hope, he became President of the United States. Enemies were
ck, and plots were laid to assassinate him. He narrowly escaped from the bloody grasp of a traitorous mob, in his journey through Baltimore, by clandestinely going through the city by night. All around him were those who would gladly have seconded any secret measure to murder him. Their hands were ready for evil deeds, and blood was in their hearts. Yet no person was cooler than Mr. Lincoln. No man had so much to fear, yet no man was more fearless. He had counted the cost, and had resolved to live or perish with the Union.
On that fearful night of the 18th of April, 1861, when it was confidently expected that armed traitors from Virginia would seize the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, and thence make a descent upon Washington, the President was calm, thoughtful, and determined. His evident coolness inspired the hearts of patriots in the imperilled capital with greater courage; and as two hundred of them secretly entered a church in the rear of Willard's Hotel, where they pledged themselves to die, if need be, for their bleeding country, they knew that a brave, unfaltering patriot, capable of a heroic life or a martyr's death, thought and prayed beneath the roof of the White House. With such a chieftain, in such a cause, it was not strange that loyal men resolved, with true Spartan courage, to defend the capital, or flow the streets with blood.
The President, in his Inaugural Address, clearly and forcibly enunciated his views upon the momentous issues of the hour. His words were conciliatory, but firm, dignified, and resolute. Loyal hearts that had no sympathy with the guilty cause of the Rebellion were extremely gratified with the address. Traitors and their sympathizers were displeased. Mr. Lincoln said in that address,
“I therefore consider, that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken; and, to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union shall be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this, which I deem to be a simple duty on my part, I shall perfectly perform it, so far as is practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisition, or, in some authoritative manner, direct the contrary. “I trust that this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as
the declared purpose of the Union, that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.
“In doing this, there need be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it is forced upon the national authority.
“ The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and collect the duties and imposts ; but, beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere."
His Inaugural Speech closed with the following eloquent appeal to the enemies of the country:
“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. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Gov. ernment; while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect, and defend it.'
“I am loath 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 cords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot-grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Eloquent, beautiful, fitting words! The most classic scholar who has occupied the Presidential chair never penned a paragraph that excelled the above in beauty of conception, grandeur of sentiment, and elegance of diction. They challenge the scrutiny of carping critics ; and, long
3; after the hand that penned them shall be palsied by death, History will record them with her immortal treasures.
Let those who are wont to criticise the President's State papers, pronouncing them inelegant, coarse, without rhetorical attraction, excel the foregoing if they can. The State papers of Abraham Lincoln, taken as a whole, were never excelled, and seldom equalled, by his predecessors in office. Posterity will so regard them, and point to them with an honorable pride. Their author possesses one excellence which distinguishes the finest writers, according to the rules of rhetoric; and that is, the ability to express his thoughts in a concise, clear, and forcible manner. The papers of President Lincoln are peculiarly worthy of imitation in this respect. They contain no redundant words or phrases, and are marked by such clearness and perspicuity that the common people can understand them.
True, his style is without flourishes : he never made a mere flourish in any thing; and we have reason to thank God for it. A President who was disposed to make a flourish would be disqualified for his office in such times as these. A matter-of-fact man is needed for this high position in this period of grave realities; and such is Mr. Lincoln, both in the productions of his pen and the deeds of his life.
We do not say that no defects are discoverable in his State papers; but we do say that they are offset by so many excellences as to render them of small account to the unprejudiced reader. “Glittering generalities" may entertain the promiscuous assembly, and perhaps contribute ornament to the popular oration; but there is no place for them in the
papers that emanate from the Chief Magistrate of this great nation. If his style be sometimes inelegant, he always clothes his thoughts in a clear Anglo-Saxon garb, and adds attractions to the whole by lively conceptions and winning metaphors. He oftener rises to genuine Saxon force and classic purity, than he violates the rules of rhetoric or offends good taste.
We might quote many passages from his public documents in support of this view; but we shall be content with citing his Dedicatory Address at the consecration of the national cemetery at Gettysburg, reserving other illustrations of the views expressed to appear in the sequel. On that memorable occasion of Nov. 18, 1863, when the loyal nation gathered on the crimson battle-field of Gettysburg to pay a grateful tribute to the memory of fallen heroes, the President was charged with the solemn and affecting duty of making the Dedicatory Address; and his words were as follows, — brief, appropriate, touching, and beautiful:
“Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting-place of those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
“But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our power to add or detract. 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 that they have thus far so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain; that