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States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status.”ı “ Our popular government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it our people have settled, — the successful establishing and the successful administering of it. One still remains, - its successful maintenance against a formidable attempt to overthrow it.” 2 And in that brief address at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, with a simple pathos that places this among the masterpieces of eloquence, Mr. Lincoln said, “ 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 the nation shall, under God, 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.”3 That prophetic hope was realized when slavery and secession were extinguished together.
But the vindication of the Union against separatism was not the only triumph of the war. The prolonged and 1 First message, July 4, 1861., 2 Ibid. 8 Nov. 19, 1863.
4 See note at close of Lecture.
terrible strain to which the nation was subjected in spirit, men, and resources, showed the energy, the endurance, the voluntary sacrifice, the patriotic devotion, of a people self-developed under the institutions of liberty. The rapid equipment of a nation surprised by an attempt upon its organic life demonstrated that a free people can adapt themselves to any emergency, and learn from disaster new lessons of courage, patience, and success. The generalship brought out in Lee and Jackson on the one side, and in Grant, Sherman, Thomas, and others, on the other, and the bravery of the men on both sides, showed that the noblest qualities of heroism and chivalry can be brought out by occasion, where the government is not military, and the people are not compelled to learn the art of war. And the sublime moral spectacle of the disbanding of vast armies, and their quiet return with their leaders to the occupations of peace, has taught the world how a great free nation can accept war as a stern necessity, without courting it as an excitement, or toying with it as a game. And, above all, the war that fought out a political quarrel to the end fought the contestants into that mutual prowess and respect that shall cement a manly and enduring friendship. The nation having passed this fiery ordeal, there was but one more test to which it could be put, — an assault upon its head, with a view to paralyze the government, and throw the country into anarchy. The assassination of Cæsar paved the way for the empire. The assassination of the Prince of Orange was followed by the disastrous dissensions between Maurice and Barneveld. The assassination of Mr. Lincoln was absolutely without effect upon the normal functions of the government. It rekindled for a while the smouldering animosities of the war, and gave greater stringency to the terms of settlement; it elevated to the presidency a man whom the people had not soberly thought of for that contingency, and whose violent eccentricities provoked a somewhat demagogic movement for his impeachment. He was a man of strong, untrained powers, and stronger untamed will, and, in an arbitrary government, might have made an uncomfortable despot. But at heart Andrew Johnson had an honest, even fiery, devotion to the Union; and his gross
infirmities of habit, of ignorance, of vanity, and of temper, may be gently buried with his dying request, “ Wrap me in the flag of my country.”
Of Abraham Lincoln it could be said, as of William of Orange, “He went through life bearing the load of a people's sorrows upon his shoulders with a smiling face. ... As long as he lived, he was the guiding star of a whole brave nation; and, when he died, the little children cried in the streets.” But, though the nation felt the shudder of his death in all its veins, it gathered from his death the whole vigor and virtue of his patient, heroic life. After the lapse of ten years, I can find no fitter words to describe its effect than those with which I sought to re-assure my countrymen on the very day of his assassination: 66 A chief lesson impressed upon us to-day is the imperishable vitality of government, and the grandeur of our Constitution under all emergencies. We have seen it tested in conflict with foreign powers; we have seen it tested by the fearful strain of civil war, and by the scarce less anxious trial of a presidential election in the midst of war; and it has stood. And now, under this severest shock, - a shock that might shatter a kingdom or an empire into chaos, — it still stands. That mysterious, invisible, impalpable entity we call the State, that intangible something that we call Government, stands forth to-day in awful reality. The sovereignty of the people lifts its. next representative into the just vacant chair. The State moves on without pause at the nation's grief, without. concussion from the blow that struck down the nation's head. The bullet of the assassin did not touch its vitality. The life of the Constitution was not endangered. The State moves calmly, steadily onward, with no jar in any of its functions. It seems to me that the statue of Liberty which crowns the dome of the Capitol, — that worthy and typical memorial of Abraham Lincoln's administration, - looking calmly down upon the august presence of death, beckoned to the State beyond, saying, . Let the dead bury their dead : follow thou me. And the State moved on, and will move on, in the line of freedom and justice, unshaken forever.” 1
1- Speech at the Union League Club, New York, April 15, 1865.
NOTE ON FOREIGN PREDICTIONS CONCERNING THE
THERE is a curious tendency in foreign critics of American society to resolve every social and political problem within the republic into the question of the continuance of the republic itself. This is done even by critics who bear no ill-will toward America, and are not averse to popular government. A striking example of such political pessimism occurs in the address of Prof. Huxley at the opening of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Huxley had spoken generously enough of America as a whole, and his own reception in particular; but he closed his address with these words :
“I cannot say that I am in the slightest degree impressed by your bigness, or your material resources as such. Size is not grandeur, and territory does not make a nation. The great issue about which hangs a true sublimity and the terror of overhanging fate is, What are you going to do with all these things? What is to be the end to which these are to be the means? You are making a novel experiment in politics on the greatest scale which the world has yet seen. Forty millions at your first centenary, it is reasonably to be expected, that, at the second, these States will be occupied by two hundred millions of English-speaking people spread over an area as large as that of Europe, and with climates and interests as diverse as those of Spain and Scandinavia, England and Russia. You and your descendants have to ascertain whether this great mass will hold together under the forms of a republic and the despotic reality of universal suffrage; whether State-rights will hold out against centralization without separation; whether centralization will get the better without actual or disguised monarchy; whether shifting corruption is better than a permanent bureaucracy: and as population thickens in your great cities, and the pressure of want is felt, the gaunt spectre of pauperism will stalk among you, and communism and socialism will claim to be heard.
“Truly, America has a great future before her, - great in toil, in care, and in responsibility; great in true glory, if she be guided in wisdom and righteousness; great in shame, if she fail. I cannot understand why other nations should envy you, or fail to see that it is for the highest interests of mankind that you should succeed; but the one condition of success, your sole safeguard, is the moral worth and intellectual clearness of the individual citizen. Education cannot give these; but it can cherish them, and bring them to the front, in whatever station of society they are to be found; and the universities ought to be and may be the fortresses of the higher life of the nation.”
All this is meant for friendly counsel, and it should be received in the same spirit; though the ill-concealed tone of patronage reminds one of “a certain condescension in foreigners, with which the English critic is especially apt to divert us. But no well-informed American can read without a smile the assumption of Prof. Huxley, that every problem that he fancies to arise in the future of American society must involve the existence of the republic; that our “novel experiment” is oscillating between “separation” and “monarchy," and that all our energies must be strained to the one purpose of making the mass “hold together." A scientific study of American institutions might have acquainted him with the protoplasm of our national life, — that local self-government whose vital force is not impaired by extent of territory, or mass of population. This is the 66 yeast” that leavens the whole lump, and whose fermentation renders the mass porous without destroying its cohesion.
Or, had Prof. Huxley studied scientifically the Machinery Hall at the Philadelphia Exposition, it might have occurred to him that the great Corliss Engine was the analogue of the National Constitution ; each separate machine being connected with this by its own band, sharing the central impulse and control, yet doing its own work in its own way; and the vast aggregate of machines, wheels within wheels, performing their diversified functions with a sublime harmony of movement, and conservation of energy, without either concentration, collision, or divergence.
There are certain scolds in England, from Matthew Arnold down to Mrs. Partington, who fancy that the British Constitution is threatened by every new agitation in the politics or the economics of society. An estimable lady said to me in England the other day, “Do you see any hope for England ? I fear it is all over with us. We have provoked the Lord by our doings in China and India, and by our worldliness and luxury at home; and now it would seem that the plagues of Darwinism and Ritualism are let loose upon us to devour us. Don't you think we are living under the Sixth Vial?”.
I was so irreverent as to doubt whether the writer of the Apocalypse looked much beyond the plagues and vials of his own time, and had so much as a speck of England in his prophetic eye; and I felt confident, that, however Darwin and Huxley might disturb the foundations of the universe, they would never lay sacrilegious hands upon the British Constitution; while, as to Ritualism, I was sure the average Englishman had too much common sense in his head to be lured to destruction by the gyrations of some weaker Englishman's heels. No doubt England has to do with problems of very grave import. No doubt exigencies will continue to arise that shall task all the wisdom of her statesmen, and all the patriotism and endurance of her people. The question of dis-establishing the National Church; the labor question, – agricultural, mining, manufacturing; the education question, hitherto but glozed over; the Irish question, that will not down; the Indian question, with the glowing heat of native intelligence, and the Russian glacier crowding on; the woman question, that in England means something more than the airy nothings and puffings of American platforms; the coal question, now that the exhaustion of English mines is matter of mathematical calculation; the industrial question, now that American manufactures begin to compete with English in foreign markets; the navy question, now that other nations are creating fleets to dispute tho dominion of the sea; the army question, now that the Continent is transformed into a camp of nations in arms, — these, and many others, are grave and perilous questions for England to grapple with : but he would be a neophyte in political philosophy who should confound such questions with the existence of the British Constitution. The monarchy might not be able to survive another George upon the throne; but, aside from this, the advent of a democracy in England is hardly more likely than the return of a Stuart or a Tudor.