图书图片
PDF
ePub

MEMORY.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

[Following poem was written in 1844, when Lincoln visited his old Indiana

to make a political speech for Henry Clay.)

[blocks in formation]

Where many were, but few remain

Of old familiar things;
But seeing them, to mind again

The lost and absent brings.
The friends I left that parting day,

How changed, as time has sped !
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,

And half of all are dead.
I heard the loud survivors tell

How naught from death could save,
Till every sound appears a knell,

And every spot a grave.
I range the fields with pensive tread,

And pace the hollow rooms,
And feel (companion of the dead)

I'm living in the tombs.

LETTER TO QUAKERS.

[Lincoln's letter, dated January 5, 1863, in reply to letter from Friends, dated

December 27, 1862.]

T is most cheering and encouraging for me to know that in

I the i

tion of a righteous peace to our country, I am upheld and sustained by the good wishes and prayers of God's people. No one is more deeply than myself aware that without His favor our highest wisdom is but as foolishness and that our most strenuous efforts would avail nothing in the shadow of His displeasure. I am conscious of no desire for my country's welfare that is not in consonance with His will, and of no plan upon which we may not ask His blessing. It seems to me that if there be one subject upon which all good men may unitedly agree, it is imploring the gracious favor of the God of Nations upon the struggles our people are making for the preservation of their precious birthright of civil and religious liberty.

INJUSTICE OF SLAVERY.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

(From speech on Missouri Compromise, in reply to Stephen A. Douglas, at Peoria,

Illinois, October 16, 1854. )

a

a

EARLY eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men

are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a “sacred right of self-government.” These principles cannot stand together. They are as opposite as God and Mammon; and whoever holds to the one must despise the other.

I object to this new position because it assumes that there can be moral right in the enslaving of one man by another. No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent. I say this is the leading principle, the sheet anchor, of American republicanism. I object to this new position as dangerous alliance for a free people—a sad evidence that we forget right; that liberty, as a principle, we have ceased to revere. I object to it because the fathers of the Republic eschewed and rejected it. Fellow countrymen, South as well as North, shall we make no effort to arrest this? Already the liberal party throughout the world express the apprehension “that the one retrograde institution in America is undermining the principles of progress, and fatally violating the noblest political system the world ever saw.”

Argue as you will, and as long as you will, this is the naked front and aspect-slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature-opposition to it in his love of justice. These principles are in eternal antagonism. Repeal the Missouri Compromise, repeal all compromises, repeal the Declaration of Independence, repeal all history, you still cannot repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man's heart that slavery is wrong, and out of the abundance of his heart his mouth will continue to speak.

Why will you ask us to deny the humanity of the slave? If he is not a man, in that case he who is a man may do just what

[ocr errors]

he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent a total destruction of self-government to say that he shall not govern himself? When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government—that is despotism. If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that "all men are created equal,” and that there can be no moral right in one man's making a slave of another.

There are in the United States and Territories, including the District of Columbia, 433,643 free blacks. At five hundred dollars per head they are worth over two hundred millions of dollars. How comes this vast amount of property to be running about without owners ? We do not see free horses or free cattle running at large. How is this? All these free blacks are the descendants of slaves, or have been slaves themselves; and they would be slaves now but for something which has operated on their white owners, inducing them at vast pecuniary sacrifice to liberate them. What is that something? Is there any mistaking it? In all these cases it is your sense of justice and human sympathy continually telling you that the poor negro has some natural right to himself—that those who deny it and make mere merchandise of him deserve kickings, contempt, and death.

We have before us the chief material enabling us to judge correctly whether the repeal of the Missouri Compromise is right or wrong. I think it is wrong—wrong in its direct effect, letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska, and wrong in its prospective principle, allowing it to spread to every other part of the wide world where men can be found inclined to take it.

This declared indifference, but, as I must think, covert real zeal, for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it because

I of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world; enables the enemies of free institutions with plausibility to taunt us as hypocrites; causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity; and especially because it forces so many good men among ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty, insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest. In our greedy chase to make profit of the negro, let us beware lest we "cancel and tear in pieces” even the white man's charter of freedom.

Our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. Let us turn and wash it white in the spirit, if not the blood, of the Revolution. Let us turn slavery from its claims of "moral right” back upon its existing legal rights and its arguments of "necessity.” Let us return it to the position our fathers gave it, and there let it rest in peace. Let us readopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it the practices and policy which harmonize with it. Let North and South-let all Americans-let all lovers of liberty everywhere join in the great and good work. If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union, but we shall have so saved it as to make and to keep it forever worthy of the saving. We shall have so saved it that the succeeding millions of free, happy people, the world over, shall rise up and call us blessed to the latest generations.

On the day of his death, Lincoln 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 he had drawn the great majority, not only of his fellow-citizens, but of mankind also, to his side. A civilian during times of the most captivating military achievements; awkward, with no skill in the lower technicalities of manners, he left behind him a fame beyond that of any conqueror, the memory of a grace higher than that of outward person, and of gentlemanliness deeper than mere breeding. Never before that startled April morning did such multitudes of men shed tears for the death of one 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,

James Russell Lowell,

« 上一页继续 »