Abraham Lincoln – Standing as a Hero

Allan Pinkerton, President Lincoln, and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand, 1862

Allan Pinkerton, President Lincoln, and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand, 1862

He is not only a great and commanding figure among the great statesmen and leaders of history, but he personifies, also, all the sadness and the pathos of the war, as well as its triumphs and its glories. No words that anyone can use about Lincoln can, however, do him such justice as his own, and I will close this volume with two of Lincoln’s speeches, which show what the war and all the great deeds of that time meant to him, and through which shines, the great soul of the man himself. On November 19, 1863, he spoke as follows at the dedication of the National Cemetery on the battlefield of Gettysburg:

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on 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 have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for 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 poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note or 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 have fought here, have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from the honored dead we take increased devotion to that 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 government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

On March 4, 1865, when he was inaugurated the second time, he made the following address:

Fellow-Countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed proper. 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 presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. 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 impending Civil War. All dreaded it–all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war–seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the Territorial enlargement of it. 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 with or even before, the conflict itself 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. It may seem strange that any man should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered that of neither has been answered fully.

Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, Wherwood Lithograph, 1906

Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, Wherwood Lithograph, 1906

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.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offenses come, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

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 widow, and his orphan-to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, a lasting, peace among ourselves and with all nations.

 

By Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt, 1895. Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated July 2017.

Also See:

15th Amendment

15th Amendment

A House Divided Speech

Assignation of President Abraham Lincoln

The Civil War

The Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863 Speech at Gettysburg National Cemetery Dedication)

The Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment

John Wilkes Booth – Actor to Assassin

About the Author: The latter part of this article was written by Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt and included in the book Hero Tales From American History, first published in 1895 by The Century Co, New York. The text as it appears here, however, is not verbatim as it has been edited for clarity and ease of the modern reader.

5 thoughts on “Abraham Lincoln – Standing as a Hero”

    1. There was a period, due to the climate of slavery and attitudes toward blacks in the U.S., that Lincoln couldn’t see how a biracial society would work. Therefore he, like many others at the time, thought through all the possibilities of what would happen “after” the freeing of the slaves. His feelings toward all this evolved through out the Civil War, but in his Peoria, IL speech in 1854 he said:

      “If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do as to the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves and send them to Liberia, to their own native land. But a moment’s reflection would convince me, that whatever of high hope, as I think there is, there may be in this, in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible.

      What then, free them all, and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition? Free them and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not.”

      With regard to his statement about sending slaves back to their original country, my own personal opinion would be to compare being kidnapped and enslaved in another country. If that country were to set me free, would I want to stay there, or go back to my home country? Even if I were generations removed from the original kidnapping, but still enslaved by a country not of my heritage, would I want to stay there? It’s possible that was part of his thinking, but that’s just my opinion.

  1. Well except for a few exceptions. Why did he only free the slaves in the South? But as they say, history is written by the victors with little regard for truth.

    1. Actually, he couldn’t in the “United States” without a Constitutional Amendment. In our article The Emancipation Proclamation page 3 John Hope Franklin, Prologue Magazine, notes in his article:

      “Meanwhile, no one appreciated better than Lincoln the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation had a quite limited effect in freeing the slaves directly. It should be remembered, however, that in the Proclamation he called emancipation “an act of justice,” and in later weeks and months he did everything he could to confirm his view that it was An Act of Justice. And no one was more anxious than Lincoln to take the necessary additional steps to bring about actual freedom. Thus, he proposed that the Republican Party include in its 1864 platform a plank calling for the abolition of slavery by constitutional amendment. When he was “notified” of his re-nomination, as was the custom in those days, he singled out that plank in the platform calling for constitutional emancipation and pronounced it “a fitting and necessary conclusion to the final success of the Union cause.”

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