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´╗┐Title: Abraham Lincoln's Cardinal Traits; - A Study in Ethics, with an Epilogue Addressed to Theologians
Author: Beardslee, Clark S.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Abraham Lincoln's Cardinal Traits; - A Study in Ethics, with an Epilogue Addressed to Theologians" ***








    _Copyright 1914, by C. S. Beardslee_

    _All rights reserved_

    _The Gorham Press, Boston, U. S. A._

    _To my sister Alice--
    A living blend
    Of love and loyalty,
    Of modesty and immortal hope._


Abraham Lincoln was a man among men. He was earnest and keen. He was
honest and kind. He was humble and inwardly refined. He was a freeman
in very deed. His conscience was king.

These few words contain the total sum of the following book. In
unfolding what they severally mean, and what their living unison
implies, the aim has been to bring to view the clear and simple beauty
of a noble personality; to show how such a human life contains the
final test of any proper claim in all the bounds of Ethical research;
and to stir in thoughtful minds the query whether such a character as
Lincoln's life displays, instinct as it is with Godliness, may not
yield forms of statement ample and exact enough for all the essential
formulas of pure Religion.

Assuredly his aspirations were ideal. Quite as certainly his ways with
men were practical. The call and need today of just his qualities are
past debate.

If only in our national senate chamber the ever-shifting group of
senators could hear the voice of Lincoln at every roll-call and in
each debate! If only in all our universities our studious youth could
glean each day from Lincoln, as he speaks of politics and of logic, of
ethics and of history! If only in every editorial room, where current
events are registered and reviewed, Lincoln's wit and wisdom might
illumine and advise! If only at every council, conference, or
convention, where leaders of our churches debate religious themes, the
reverence of Lincoln might preside! If only in the council chambers
where directors meet to plan and govern our modern enterprises in
industry and finance, Lincoln's broad humaneness might be felt! If
only every artist at his exalted and elusive task could every day
obtain new views of Lincoln's full nobility! If only toilers in the
shop and field could feel each day the friendly brotherhood in
Lincoln's rough, hard hand!

Then toil, while losing naught of eagerness, would become content.
Art, while losing naught of beauty, would become unfailingly
ennobling. Commerce, while losing naught of enterprise, would grow
benign. Religion, while retaining a becoming dignity, would not fail
to be sincere. The public press would grow more savory and sane. Our
schools would be nurseries of manliness. And our conscience would be
embodied in our law.

But Lincoln's face is vanished. Lincoln's voice is hushed. What
remains is that Lincoln's sentiments be republished every day in lives
that reverence and reproduce his excellence. To indicate this path, to
embolden and embody this aspiration is the service this volume

Throughout this study, thought is fastened centrally upon Lincoln's
last inaugural address. There Lincoln stands complete. And that
completeness is vividly conscious in Lincoln's own understanding.
Eleven days after its delivery, and one month before his death, he
wrote to Thurlow Weed, saying that he expected that speech "to wear as
well as--perhaps better than--anything I have produced." Of almost
incredible brevity, containing as it left his hands, but five short
paragraphs, the compass and burden of thought within that address are
every way notable. It is in fact Lincoln's digest of the course and
trend of our national life; while on the side of character it is
replete with telling intimations of Lincoln's own moral effort,
purpose, and point of view. Here are in visible action all the
elements of essential manhood, all the virtues of a balanced
character. Here are insight, judgment, resolution. Here is momentum.
Here is something that endures. Here are ends worth any cost. Here is
wariest use of means. And here are wrongs, engendering anguish, and
mortal strife. And here are ultimate alternatives. And all is grasped
and even merged in Lincoln as he speaks. Here is wealth of ready
matter and direct allusion quite enough for any volume to lay open and

Such a moral inventory and evaluation this study undertakes. Its
method is to subject this short address to the strictest ethical
analysis, to identify the elements that are integral and cardinal in
the moral being of God, and man, and government. Then, to articulate
and unify these elements into a vital ethical synthesis, to
demonstrate and manifest the living unison of character. Then, to
designate and undertake to clarify the major problems which such an
analysis and such a synthesis of such a speech and such a man open to
a student's mind.

In this procedure it is the aim to show how from first to last in
Lincoln's life his mental clarity and his moral honesty are held in
model parity; how in his daily walk law and liberty go hand in hand;
how his cardinal moral qualities are to be defined; and how these
elemental virtues may avail in their own authority and right to guide
the eyes of men towards beauty, to guard the souls of men against
despair, to find the stable base of government, to overcome all guilt
by grace, to prove the perfect manliness of patience, to ground the
thought of men upon reality, to pierce the gloom of woe, to find the
core of piety, to perfect persuasive speech, and to win a vision of
the soul. Hereby and thus it may at last stand plain that in the soul
of Lincoln there is a moral universe; and that within the verities and
mysteries of this universe he alone is truly wise and fully free who
knows and proves the worth of faith.

That so broad a study should be based upon so brief a speech, or
indeed upon Lincoln's single personality, may seem to some a fatal
fault. Such a thought, when facing such a method and such a theme, is
surely natural. As to its validity there need be no debate. The field
is free. Let any number of other speeches, or of other people be
assembled and placed beside the material handled in this book, for its
re-examination. In such a process, the further it is pursued, if only
Lincoln and the words of this inaugural are also held in thorough and
continual review, it may come the more fully clear that in a theme
like ethics mere multitude is not the measure of immensity; that the
structure of this book is organic, not mechanical; that the single
chapter on Lincoln's Moral Unison comprehends all that the volume
anywhere contains or intimates; that all the problems handled in Part
IV are only sample studies, and handled only suggestively; that the
volume might be expanded indefinitely or much reduced, and its
significance remain in either case unchanged; that correspondingly
Lincoln's last inaugural and Lincoln's public life, each and both,
outline in very deed a moral universe; that to rightly understand this
single character and this one address is to understand humanity, and
identify the ethical finalities; that to scan the soul of Lincoln in
his religious attitudes is to gaze upon God's image, and face the
reality and the rationale of the true religious life; and that, in
consequence, any reader who hesitates to venture such vast conclusions
upon so scant material may finally be induced to submit to a
substantial remeasurement his present estimates of brevity and



    Lincoln's Mental Energy

    Lincoln's Moral Earnestness


    His Reverence for Law--Conscience

    His Jealousy for Liberty--Free-will

    His Kindliness--Love   }
    His Pureness--Life     }
                           } The Cardinal Virtues
    His Constancy--Truth   }
    His Humility--Worth    }


    Lincoln's Moral Unison


    His Symmetry--The Problem of Beauty

    His Composure--The Problem of Pessimism

    His Authority--The Problem of Government

    His Versatility--The Problem of Mercy

    His Patience--The Problem of Meekness

    His Rise from Poverty--The Problem of Industrialism

    His Philosophy--The Problem of Reality

    His Theodicy--The Problem of Evil

    His Piety--The Problem of Religion

    His Logic--The Problem of Persuasion

    His Personality--The Problem of Psychology


    Lincoln's Character

    Lincoln's Preference

    AN EPILOGUE--Addressed to Theologians





In ethics, if anywhere, a master needs to be mentally sane and strong.
Truth cannot be trifled with here. Error here, whether in judgment or
as to fact, is fatal. Insight to exactly discern, and balance to
considerately compare must be the mental instincts of a moralist.

How was this with Lincoln? What was his outfit and what his discipline
mentally? Was he unfailingly shrewd? Was he sufficiently sage? Was he
by instinct and by habit truly an explorer and a philosopher? Did he
have in store, and did he have in hand, the needful wealth of
pertinent facts? Had he the logical strength and breadth to set them
all in order and to see them all as one?

Such inquiries are severe--too severe to be pressed or faced by anyone
in haste. But in this study of Lincoln such inquiries are not to be
escaped. To fairly answer them is worth to any man the toil of many
days. For just as surely as such research is resolutely pushed through
all its course, the eye will come to see where wisdom dwells, and to
learn what mental judgment and mental insight truly mean. And it will
grow clear as day that Lincoln mentally, as well as physically, was no
weakling; that in intellect, as in stature, he stands among the first.

In many places this stands clear. There is no better way to trace it
out than to start from his last inaugural. To fully explore one single
paragraph of this address, the paragraph with which it opens, will
make one's examination of Lincoln's mental competence all but
complete. Its opening sentence alludes to his first inaugural. That
one allusion will repay pursuit.

There Lincoln assumed the presidency. In that act and under that oath
he stepped to the executive headship of the Republic. By that step he
faced seven states in secession. It was a civil crisis, never one more
grave, or dark, or ominous. It threatened to subvert our national
history and to undermine our national hope. It was crowding on towards
bloody war a debate that dealt with the very basis of manhood in men.
To see the meaning of that crisis and to govern its issue required an
eye and a mind of Godlike vision and poise.

Here is an excellent place to examine the outfit and the action of
Lincoln's intellect. His first inaugural is a masterpiece of
intellectual equipoise and energy. Any mind that will fasten firmly
upon the substance and the sequence of its thought may feel distinctly
the struggle, and the strength, and the steadiness of Lincoln's mind.
His arguments and his admonitions are impressive models of sanity and
power. Which is the more notable, his insight or his outlook, it is
hard to tell. The marvel is that the soberness and the force of his
appeal rest quite as firmly upon the prophetic as upon the historic
base. So clear is his grasp of the past, so sure is his sense of the
present, and so deliberate is the poise of his judicial thought that
his vision into the future has been found by time to be unerringly

Let any student put this to test. That address is an appeal. From
beginning to end it pleads. Set all its parts asunder. Then bind them
all together as Lincoln has done. And so find out what are its
elements; whence they are gathered; what is fact; what is principle;
what is prophecy; on what plan they are assembled; by what art they
are displayed; to what they owe their force; if in any spot of its
argument there is a break; and if the onset of the whole is
irresistible. Distinct replies to these distinct inquiries will tell
one all he needs to know about Lincoln's mental strength. Without
wandering any further one can find that Lincoln's methods and
conquests attest a student's patience, and a scholar's power; that his
wisdom was ripe, entirely adequate to devise safe counsel for a Nation
in civil strife.

A striking feature of the address is its philosophic finish. Though
solidly set in concrete facts, and fitted ideally to the day of its
delivery, it is replete with counsel good for every time, so phrased
as to become the very proverbs of civil politics. Total paragraphs are
little more than clustered apothegms of consummate statesmanship. To
get the style and cast of Lincoln's mind let any student comprehend
the girth, and ponder the weight of each following sentence, all
gathered from this one address:--

The intention of the lawgiver is the law.

I hold that in contemplation of universal law, and of the
Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual.

Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all
national governments.

It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in
its organic law for its own termination.

Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national
Constitution, and the Union will endure forever.

Can a contract be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who
made it?

That in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual is confirmed by the
history of the Union itself.

No State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union.

Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written
provision has ever been denied.

All the vital rights of minorities and of individuals are so plainly
assured to them by affirmations and negations, guarantees and
provisions in the Constitution, that controversies never arise
concerning them.

If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the
government must cease.

If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they
make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them.

Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy.

A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and
limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of
popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free

Unanimity is impossible.

One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be
extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be
extended. This is the only substantial dispute.

Physically speaking we cannot separate.

Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws?

Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws
among friends?

Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always.

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inherit

The chief magistrate derives all his authority from the people.

Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice
of the people?

If the Almighty Ruler of nations, with his eternal truth and justice,
be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and
that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of this great
tribunal of the American people.

This people have wisely given their public servants but little power
for mischief.

Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.

Here are six and twenty sentences, culled from this one address, that
are nothing less than the maxims of a political sage, as lasting as
they are apt. As a glove fits a hand, so did these counsels fit that
day. As the needle guides all ships that sail, so their wisdom directs
all politics still. They embody sure witness of an eye that is keen to
see--none more narrowly; and of a mind that is trained to think--none
more thoroughly. Their author was a man who knew. He knew the past. He
knew things current. He knew what their coming issues were sure to be.
He knew the grounds of government. He knew the omens of anarchy. He
knew the awful possibilities in fraternal hate. And he knew the need
and the awful cost of patient forbearance. Here is a man well past
childhood intellectually. He has the eye and the mind of a man long
schooled by discipline. And he has a tongue expert in speech, well
freighted with tremendous sense, but lucid too, and graceful, and void
of all offense. This one address displays a man, though pathetically
unfamiliar with childhood schools, of consummate intellectual balance
and force.

But, for its cherished end this inaugural proved pathetically
incompetent. And when it became his duty to pronounce a second
inaugural oath, the Nation had been four years in terrible war. That
war levied a terrible tax upon the president's intellectual strength.
The mental perplexities of those endless days and nights cannot be
told. Much less can they be understood. It may be doubted whether any
other man could have brought a mind to uphold and command those years
with any approach to Lincoln's mental honesty. It was, under God,
within the steadfast, tenacious grasp of Lincoln's exhaustless and
invincible mental loyalty that our national destiny lay secure. To all
the phases of all the problems of all those years, and to his own
judgment and endeavor concerning them all, this same first paragraph
of his second inaugural also alludes. This allusion, too, if any one
would compass the full measure of Lincoln's mental strength, demands
review, and will reward pursuit. The records are well preserved. And
they bear abounding witness to Lincoln's almost superhuman sanity and
insight and energy and mental equilibrium. If any one will follow
through this honest and perfectly honorable hint, he will come to feel
that the mind of Lincoln was the Nation's crucible in which all the
Nation's problems were resolved.


In the central paragraph of his last inaugural Lincoln enshrined
compelling demonstration of his moral soundness. That single paragraph
is nothing less than a solid section of a finished moral philosophy.
It reckons right and wrong incapable of any reconciliation, God as
Almighty Judge, and all his judgments just. But that opinion was no
word in haste. Deliberate as he always was, when voicing any estimate
as President, never was he more deliberate than when penning that
moral explanation of the war. In four stern years he had
been revolving surveying and pondering that sternest of all
debates:--Should the war go on or should it cease? Every argument on
either side, that heart or thought of man could feel or see, had been
driven by every sense into the faithful heed of his honest soul. He
bent his ear obediently to every plea, binding his patient mind to
register fairly every weighty word, designing with absolute honesty
that, when at last he spoke the executive decree, his decision should
bind the Nation for the single perfect reason that it was right. And
when finally and persistently he upheld the war and ordered its
relentless prosecution to the end, no one may truthfully charge that
opinion and command to ignorance or malice, to prejudice or haste.
Moral grounds alone were the basis and motive of that conclusion and
behest. The war was caused by slavery. With Southern success slavery
would spread and become perpetual. If slavery was not wrong, nothing
was wrong. That this great wrong should be restrained and in the end
removed, the war must be put through.

But that was not all his thought and argument in this last inaugural.
The war, for the time, parted the Nation sectionally. But the sin and
guilt of slavery, in Lincoln's feeling, rested upon the Nation as a
whole; and upon the Nation as a whole he adjudged the burden of its
woe. Here the moral grandeur of Lincoln comes fully into view. His
affirmation of that awful iniquity, inwrought in two centuries and a
half of slavery, is no pharisaic indictment of the South. It is a
repentant confession of his own and all the Nation's equal part in its
infinite wrong. Among the guilty authors and abettors of that wrong he
identifies himself. He deems the war God's righteous judgment upon the
national inhumanity, and meekly bows his head, among the humblest and
most afflicted of those who suffer and sorrow beneath that scourge.

That kindly fellowship with all the Nation in the sorrows of the war,
with its lowly confession of all the guilt, and its patient endurance
of all the atoning cost, proclaims and demonstrates that Lincoln's
respect for righteousness was supreme. It betokens a living sense of
law, a hearty assent to duty, a careful reckoning of guilt, an
uncomplaining readiness to own and rectify all wrong, a manly purpose
to inaugurate a new rule of equity, a reverent acknowledgment of God,
an ideal esteem for manhood everywhere, freedom from the dominion of
greed, friendliness for the erring, pity for the hurt and poor. Above
all it shows the faith of a moral seer in its manifest confidence that
human evil, and all its awful sorrow, are under the joint divine and
human control and can be absolutely and joyfully overthrown and done

Here is a type of manhood that, under the discipline of God, grew
sterling to the core, and by a signal favoring Providence provided an
ample basis for a national moral ideal. Here is an ideal where
conscience and righteousness stand in close affiance, where liberty
springs from equity, and where pity never fails. Here is a person and
a name worthy and able demonstrably to inspire and lead to national
triumph a new political league. And here is an official whose
spontaneous honesty has left upon all his state papers an indelible
moral stamp, creating thereby out of his official documents a national
literature of finished beauty and excellence and power.



Deeply set within the heart of Lincoln in this last inaugural was his
binding sense of right. This obligation was civic. The speech can be
described as a statement of what a loyal citizen under confederate law
is bound to do, when his civic loyalty is put to a final test. It is
an illustration of obedience facing rebellion. It is an exposition of
a confederate's duty, when confederates secede. It is a civilian's
announcement of the law that is singly and surely sovereign, when the
sole alternative in the Nation's life is dissolution or blood. It is a
revelation of the law that still prevails among and above a Republic
of freemen, when all law is faced by the challenge and defiance of

Here is a supreme exhibit of a solid co-efficient in Lincoln's
character. It shows in a commanding way how moral duty held dominion
in his life. He had no predilection for war. That he must face its
menace, or forswear his fealty to his freeman's covenant, was a
pathetic fate. And when in that alternative he upheld his oath and
endured the war, it is past all denial that he was bowing under an
inexorable constraint. He was plainly ordering his speech and conduct
in submission to an all-commanding, all-reviewing moral regimen. His
will was listening to a moral behest. His judgment was pondering a
moral choice. His eye was forecasting a moral award. He was shaping
sovereign issues with a sovereign responsibility.

This experience and this expression of Lincoln's life unearths
foundations in his character which demand precise examination. What
was the nature of the law which held and swayed the soul of Lincoln
with such an overmastering control? Whence came its authority? Wherein
rested its validity? Is there record of its origin and authorship?
Where is it recorded? By whose hand was it transcribed? Precisely what
are its so imperative terms?

In attempting an answer, one's first impulse is to say that in this
address Lincoln was speaking as citizen and official, as subject and
chief executive of an openly organized civil government, with written
Constitution and laws; and that what he was saying in this inaugural
address contained and involved no more and no less than those
regulations expressed; that he simply adopted and echoed what they
defined and described; that the sole and only authority he assumed to
cite or urge was this well-known published law of the land; and that
in those open records one may find in fullness and precision the full
definition of the nature and validity, the authority and authorship
and origin, the very terms and abiding form of all the moral mandates
he here obeyed.

In such a statement there is abounding truth. Lincoln explicitly shows
explicit allegiance in all his political life to the dominion of our
national law. He revered our Constitution. And that the Constitution
should likewise be revered by all was all he gave his life to realize.
Grounded as that Constitution was upon our American Bill of Rights,
acknowledging as it did that all men were created equal, owning as it
openly did the sovereignty of the popular will, and allowing no other
lord, he found within its reverent and reverend affirmations the
dignity, authority, and power all-sufficient and supremely valid for
him as a fellow-citizen among his fellowmen.

But in such a statement something is left unsaid. As one listens
through this address to Lincoln's voice, he instantly and continuously
feels that he is hearing there no mere echo of quoted words. There is
in the vibrant tone a note that is original. His voice is his own. His
words are of his own selection. His phrases were fashioned by himself.
His paragraphs embody the shape and bear the stamp of his peculiar and
painstaking invention and argument. In his utterance are the
inflection and accent, the very passion of unforced and independent
conviction. He speaks as one who finds within himself, in some true
sense, the authority for what he says.

But not merely are his words valid for himself, as he shapes his
ordered speech. They are irrepressible. His convictions throb with
urgency. The constraint to which he bows is enthroned and exercised
within. The law he obeys is just as truly a law he ordains. But on
either view it is a mandate which he humbly and grandly obeys. It is
an imperative to which he yields his life.

Just here emerges another phase of his amenability to law. It operates
as an impulse to plead. It drives him to the rostrum, and makes of him
one of the foremost masters of public address our civic life and
history have produced. As Lincoln voices this address he is speaking
not merely to himself, nor for himself, nor to ease and unburden his
mind, nor yet to open and indicate his view. As he spoke those words
his eye was fixed upon a mighty multitude of his fellowmen. As he
unfolded his thought before their attentive, waiting minds, it was as
though a banner were being unfurled to symbolize and signify to a
Nation's multitudes the sovereign duty of all true patriots. In that
transaction he became undeniably prophet and lawgiver to the Nation.
The obligations that supremely bind his life he urges and attests as
binding with equal and evident urgency upon the millions upon millions
of the members in the same free and solemn political league. When his
speech is done, he would have all who hear conjoined indefeasibly with
him in loyalty to his law. Every sentence of the address bears
evidence of this design. He is aiming to bring the Nation's conscience
and will to embody and obey the identical mandates that govern him.

But his appeal is vestured in ideal deference. He deals with law. But
he does not command. Throughout his solemn exposition there is no note
or hint of dictatorship of any sort. Not a breath in any accent
suggests any undertaking to coerce. He simply strives, as a man with
his friend, to persuade.

And yet as he sets forth his speech, within the comely apparel of its
courteous words gleams the regal form of duty, imperial offspring of
inflexible law. Those words were no empty phrasings of indifferent
platitudes, disposed and pronounced to dignify a passing pageant in
the formal rounds of our civic life. They trembled with anxiety. He
spoke of nothing less than the Nation's life and death, the Nation's
duty, and the Nation's doom. The honor of the Republic was being
sternly tried, to see if it was sound or rotten in its very heart.
Lincoln was dealing with things that all men owned to be above all
price. He was striving, as for life, to achieve agreement as to duties
that should transcend all possible denial. He was trying to fasten
upon every American conscience constraints that no American conscience
could possibly escape.

Here is a cognizance of law and deference before its claims that is
curiously composite, if not complex, or even innerly contraposed. He
acknowledges the written Constitution to bind all citizens with
supreme authority; and gives his solemn oath to honor, uphold, and
execute its plain behests. He as plainly betrays the presence within
his individual breast of a moral sovereign to which he bows with just
as loyal reverence. And before every man with whom he pleads he orders
his behavior, even while he pleads, as before a throne whose moral
majesty he has no right or power to nullify. And yet within the terms
embodying such a deference he expounds the genesis and justifies the
conduct of a long-drawn civil conflict, in which his own official
decrees can be carried out only by the aid of the death and desolation
entailed by war. And when, despite death-dealing guns and deferential
pleas alike, vast multitudes of men, even all the captains and armies
of the South, despise his arguments and defy his arms, he continues to
urge his convictions and appeals, and to reinforce his words with war.

Can such a complex attitude be shown and seen to rest in moral
harmony? Were his conscience, and the Constitution, and his deference
before other men, and his summons of the land to arms equally and
alike compelling morally, all indeed morally akin? Beneath the
unsparing gaze of his conscience-searching eye, under all the awful
testing of his loyalty to oath, in all his patient and persistent
pleadings for other men's agreement, and through all the torture and
distress of war, what explanation and account can be given of any
obligation adequate to bind and justify his course? Instinct himself
with deference, and averse to any form of tyranny, how could he so
rigidly refuse to yield? Prone toward conciliation in every fiber of
his life, how did he inwardly, how could he openly vindicate his
unbending determination to uphold his faith, and carry through the

This forces a final and vital inquiry touching the nature of the law
that was so regnant and compelling in Lincoln's personal life; and
that he was struggling here in this address with such consuming
desire, and by the unabetted efficiency of oral appeal, to implant in
other breasts. From Lincoln's balanced words it stands apparent that
the problems bound up in this inquiry beleaguered him on every side.
His throbbing syllables, and the tactics by which his sentences are
arranged, attest impressively that while he was facing problems too
profound for human thought to solve, he was also facing laws that he
could not escape, and dared not disobey. It was not for his kind heart
to sanction and encompass such a war, and stand so solidly against the
solid South, while yet behaving with so unfeigned respect for every
other man, except beneath compulsion of a law supremely gentle and
invincibly severe. He was plainly viewing some behest too plain to be
denied, too sacred to be disobeyed, too insistent to be withheld, and
yet too reverend and benign to suffer any champion to be rude--a
behest around whose throne hung sanctions, true to fact, waiting to
adjudge, certain to descend.

In the effort now to trace in the soul of Lincoln the birth and growth
and manly stature of this deep sense of law, some things stand plain.
In this, his consciousness of sovereign duty and supreme allegiance,
Lincoln stands entire. In this address will and thought and sentiments
combine. He is not swept against his will. What he decides he eagerly
desires. And with his will and wish his best intelligence co-operates.
If any man essay to overthrow his argument, he has the total Lincoln
to overturn. Determined, impassioned, and convinced, he confronts all
men, whether they be adversaries or friends. In his contention and
defense his being is completely unified. He is employing upon his
master task his total strength. Distressful, dark and difficult as is
his environment and time, he suffers and ponders and resolves, with
forces undivided, none reserved. With such convictions, such desires,
and such determination, the assurance in his onset was in itself

Upon what foundations now for such unyielding confidence and appeal
did Lincoln take his stand? For Lincoln's own deliberate reply, let
all men read again, and then again, and still again, this second
inaugural address. Those words are appareled with a beautiful charity.
But from deep within their kindliness resounds the clear, firm voice
of heaven-ordered, all-prevailing law--a law that comprehends beneath
its strong and high dominion the long career of American slavery,
defining its sin, awarding its doom, and dealing justly with the
contending imprecations and the pleading intercessions that strangely
voice the deep confusion of embattling hosts. American slavery, its
sin and doom--in his exposition of that dark theme, Lincoln gave his
exposition of all-compelling law.

All men were created equal. The right of all men to liberty is
likewise a primitive endowment. Upon this one broad base, and upon no
other, did Lincoln ever set up any claim to voice for himself, or for
his fellowman, a civic obligation. To that creative decree can be
traced all the civic appeals that Lincoln ever made. In fixing there
the ground of every plea, he had indomitable assurance of faith that
he was defining and declaring for every man an irreducible and
ineffaceable moral law. All men were created equal. All men were
divinely entitled to be free. That fiat of God Americans had tried and
dared to invalidate. Its authority it was now the Almighty's purpose,
by the obedient hand of Lincoln, to reinaugurate. Its simple terms,
that had forever been indelible, were now to be made universally
legible, and everywhere visible, by the obedient consent of all his

In all of this the chiefest thing to note is that this same
all-commanding moral law is born within. Written precepts and
published constitutions are but transcriptions. They are not original.
They are only copies. Not at the tip of a moving pen, but in our
forefathers' reverent and independent hearts, did our noble
Constitution come to birth. And in the time of Lincoln it was in
Lincoln's heart that this venerable law was born again. In the heart
of Washington, in the heart of Lincoln, in the heart of every man, as
fashioned and over-shadowed evermore by God, all moral regimen has its
stately origin.

To this grave oracle, deep within Lincoln's Godlike soul, did Lincoln
fashion utterance. To this same reverend oracle, deep-lodged within
the Godlike soul of every listener, Lincoln made appeal. Here is all
the urgency of all his argument. Here is the secret of all his
confidence. Herein alone shines all his moral majesty.

Something such was Lincoln's exposition to himself, and to his time,
of the majesty and mandatory force of civic law. Its authority rests
in God. Its validity rests as well in man. It has been written down
most nobly in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Its terms spell
freedom and equality for all. In the light of our common human
sentiments, kindling within us from heavenly fires, its printed copies
may be easily revised. And while its concrete regulations are far too
manifold for any general document to possibly contain, its dictates
are all as concrete and corresponsive to our human civic life as is
the heaven-born and reverent human friendliness with which the life of
Lincoln was continually graced.

Deferring then to future pages all specific analysis and appraisal of
the pregnant interior wealth of Lincoln's sense of moral obligation,
two momentous affirmations touching Lincoln's reverence for law lie
already right at hand. The law he reverenced held high and wide
dominion. It shaped and swayed and judged at once and alike both his
own and his Nation's destiny.

And its terms were plain. It was no timid, dusky lamp, held in
trembling hand, throwing uncertain rays, and flickering towards
extinction. The law that shines in this inaugural is a glowing,
radiant orb, bringing day when first it dawned, and shedding still
full light of day over all the earth.


This second inaugural address had its birth in the breast of a man
freeborn, and resolute to remain forever free. To find within this
speech this living seed, to trace and sketch its bursting growth, and
to gather up its fruit, is well worth any toil or cost. To begin with,
this speech is undeniably Lincoln's own. That in any sense it was born
of any other man's dictation, Lincoln would never admit, and no other
man would ever affirm. As its words gain voice, every listener feels
that Lincoln was their only author, and that even in their utterance,
though in the living presence of an un-numbered multitude, this
speaker was standing in a majestic solitude. That exposition of the
war, of the Union, and of slavery was of and by and for himself. What
he was uttering was original. The convictions he affirmed were his
personal faith. The decision his words so delicately veiled was his
personal resolve. The issue towards which they aimed was the outlook
of his lone heart's hope. The appeal he voiced was warmed and winged
by his own desire. The argument he so deftly inwrought was his
invention and device. The words he singled out were his selection.
The total aspect and onset and effect of the address, as it looked and
worked on the day of its delivery, and as it looks and works today,
were of his unforced and free election and intent. All the volume,
burden and design of those pregnant, urgent, far-seeing paragraphs are
the first hand product of a freeborn man, adapted and addressed to men

Here is for any student of ethics an imposing spectacle. For here is a
commanding demonstration that mortal man is in very deed a responsible
author of moral deeds. That this inaugural scene gives this stupendous
truth an indeniable vindication, no man may lightly undertake to
disapprove. But within that undeniable verity are involved all the
mighty revolutions of a moral universe.

This import of this speech can never be made too plain. To this end
let any reader note the fact that in that stern day, and in this plain
speech, Lincoln faced, and that under a pitiless compulsion, an
exigent alternative. When he penned, and when he spoke its freighted
words, he stood in the very brunt of war. His thoughts were tracing
battle lines. His eye was fixed on bayonets. Before him stood
far-ranging ranks of men in mutual defiance, men at variance upon
fundamental things, men in conflict over claims irreconcilable by God
or man. By no device of argument or of compromise could those
contending claims become identical, or even mutually tolerant. Men's
paths had parted. Armies had taken sides. Difference had deepened into
intolerance; intolerance had heightened into hate; and hate had flared
up into war. Secession had proclaimed that the Union must dissolve,
that confederates were foes, that one Nation must be two. And men
based their reasons for rending the land and for rallying ranks in
arms, upon opposing views of God's decree, and of the nature of men.
One side claimed that God ordained that black men should be slaves.
This claim the other side denied; and avowed instead that God in his
creation and endowment of the human race ordained that all men should
be equal and free. So appalling and so passing plain in our political
life was the alternative which this inaugural had to confront.

Equally plain upon the face of this inaugural is the fact that, in the
presence of that dread and stern alternative, Lincoln made a choice.
He picked his flag. He chose the banner of the free. The standard of
the slaveholder he spurned. Responsibly, deliberately, he selected
where to stand, fully and consciously purposing that in such selection
he was enlisting and employing all the voluntary powers of his life.
Here was conscious choice. He did select. He did reject. He could have
taken another, an oppugnant stand, as many a familiar confederate did.
Two paths were surely possible. And they did undeniably diverge. That
divergence he soberly surveyed, and traced down through all its
devious ways to their final consequence. In act and motive, in
judgment and intent, he was self-poised, self-determined, self-moved.
When, in this second inaugural scene, removed from his former
inaugural oath by four imperious years of sobering and awakening
thought, but facing still a frowning South, he swore a second time to
preserve, protect and defend the Constitution--that was a freeman's
choice. And it was Lincoln's own. Between his soul and heaven, as he
registered that resolve, no third authority intervened. As he stood
and published and defined that reiterated pledge, his soul was
sovereignly, supremely free.

And within that sovereign freedom its even-balanced deliberation
should not be overlooked. Those days that filed between those two
inaugurals had been replete with studied meditation. The mighty
problems precipitated by the war he had taken and turned and poised
and sought to estimate and solve in every possible way. He pondered
every ounce of their awful gravity. He paced the total course of their
development. He knew our history, with all its ideals and all its
errors by heart. He inspected with peculiar carefulness the drift and
trend of our national career. It is doubtful if any one ever studied
so incessantly the current of our affairs, or peered so anxiously and
with such far-sighted calculation into the hidden and distant issues
of the stupendous enterprise in which he was predestined to act so
commanding a part. So when his free decision was ushered forth and
projected among the contending determinations of his day, to play its
part, it was the ripe conclusion of a thoughtful mind, like the
well-poised verdict of a judge.

And his free choice was resolute. His will was without wavering. The
side he made his own was forced to face the musketry and forts, the
arsenals and fleets, of a would-be nation of angry, determined
men--men who would rather die than yield. The choice he made involved
the shedding of human blood. This he sadly knew. In four endless years
he had been compelled to defend his resolution with arms. And now as
he volunteered his oath a second time, his free decision involved
again the frightful corollary of war. This meant that within his
voluntary oath was a conscious determination, too vigorous and
resolute for any threat to daunt, for any form of terror to reverse.
His choice was no feeble leaning to one side. Into its formation and
into its fulfillment poured all the energy of his life. It was vastly,
radically more than impulse, or propensity, or easy, unconsidered
inclination. It was a freeman's choice, poised and edged and
energized by a freeman's will. It had firmness like the firmness of
the hills.

This choice of Lincoln was ponderous. His exercise of freedom, as
shown in this inaugural, was dealing, not with things indifferent, not
with trifles void of moral moment, nor with empty, immaterial
suppositions. When Lincoln shaped and welcomed to himself this
preference, he was handling nothing less than the affronts of human
arrogance, the greed of human avarice, the cruelty of human slavery,
and a confederate's disloyalty. That preference was his free election
to enthrone within himself, and within all other men, the stability of
a firm allegiance, the grace of human friendliness, the worthy
valuation of human souls, and the surpassing beauty of a true
humility. It was between such values that his election took its shape.
His decision dealt with things primary, enduring, and universal. It
was concerned with the elemental affections and convictions of men,
while all the time supremely respecting the decrees and judgments of
Almighty God. Upon such a level, and amid such values, did the will of
Lincoln trace out its path. It was a Godlike energy, sovereign,
soberminded, original, free.

But though this freedom of Lincoln, as it reigns through this
inaugural, was individually his own, and wrought out into precise
experience in personal singleness and independency, by no manner of
means was he standing in this scene in moral isolation. He was beset
about and wrought upon from many sides by mighty moral energies. For
one thing, a vast Republic held him fast in the bonds of loyal
citizenship. It was a Republic composed of freemen, to be sure. But
those freemen were by no means a miscellany of mutually indifferent
and disconnected units. They had formed a Union. That Union had a
definite and inviolable integrity. That corporate integrity laid an
unrenounceable obligation upon all its membership. It was the sacred
respect for the sacred honor of that political bond that proved a man
a patriot. To assert the freeman's right to cast aside those bonds
proved a man a traitor, and gendered unto bondage. Here unfolds a
veritable mesh of moral obligations--obligations of compelling
potency. It was precisely in defence and demonstration of those
enveloping claims that Lincoln advocated and prosecuted a defensive
but relentless war.

The South resented all such claims. They were resolute that national
bonds should be defied, that their authority should be annulled. And
this they urged explicitly in the very name of freedom. This defiant
protest Lincoln's opposite preference had to face. This involved his
mind in the study of a problem that is never out of date--a study that
will test any student's moral honesty to the quick. Lincoln's
championship of moral liberty had to grapple, in the counter
championship of Southern arms, a type and sort of freedom that he
forever disowned for himself, and that he could never consent to in
any other man. This drove him into the study of the nature of a human
soul and the nature of social bonds. This inquiry uncovered two
foundation rocks, laid deep by our forefathers beneath the fabric of
our republic, supports to human honor and stability which no man nor
any confederation of men can undermine and overthrow without turning
upside down the fundamental supports of harmony and honor among
civilians that are free. These two foundation rocks are the divine
design that all men should be equal and free; and the certain
corollary that governments among men derive their just powers from the
consent of the governed. The equality of freemen when they stand
apart, and their free consent, when they join in a political
league--these are the immovable pillars of character and order among
intelligent men. Upon such foundations this government has been
placed. That sure basis the South assailed. In the name of freedom
that assault must be repulsed. The national environment, the national
integrity, the national honor, the existence of the Nation, conceived
as it was in liberty, made all such liberty as the South preferred,
not a freeman's right, but a sorry simulation, a moral wrong.
Government of the people, by the people, was freedom to the core, the
core of civic righteousness. In such a government popular and
everlasting allegiance was elemental uprightness. Among freemen, the
cornerstone of civics is a plighted troth to liberty.

Thus Lincoln argued. And with him to argue thus was to obey. As thus
conceived, obedience to his civic pledge went hand in hand with
liberty. Enlistment under a government and laws framed by
fellow-freemen was to him no limitation of his personal rights.
Instead it involved and assured for every bondman a full emancipation,
and for every freeman full title forever to every unalienable right.
Such a view was indeed ideal, as Lincoln soberly knew; but for that
ideal every power of his kingly manhood was ready to struggle and
suffer and serve. To bind his hand to such a league was his free
choice. To live in loyalty to such a bond was a living pride and joy.
Such an agreement was to the end of his days unresented and

But it cost him dearly. No indentured bonds-man ever wrought out sorer
toil. None ever suffered through longer, heavier, sadder days. It wore
away his life. The war was to his tender soul, as he termed it, "a
dreadful scourge." But as he interpreted its trend, its certain
winnings outvalued and outweighed its woe. It was freely and
willingly, not by any irksome and alien coercion, that he opened his
soul to all its sorrows, and poured out all his strength to direct and
hasten its consummation. He saw unerringly that it had to do with
government by free consent, with the tenure of a freeman's oath, with
the validity of a freeman's right. And by a preference that in his
freeman's breast was irrepressible, he selected with an open,
far-ranging eye to take his place in that terrific conflict in the
very brunt, that the Nation and all the world and coming ages might
see and enjoy its happy issue in a Union built and compacted
indissolubly upon the inviolable oaths and rights of men who are free.

This was Lincoln's law of liberty. It secures to men their freedom;
but it binds those freemen in a league. Their civic life is not a
solitude. It is a covenant.

But when freemen form a league, their solemn oath, as this inaugural
shows, embodies awful sanctions. From such a league and covenant,
seven confederate parts were affirming and defending their right to
secede, and that by force of arms. This forced freedom to a final
definition, and a final test. What follows when a Republic fails? What
form of civic order lies beyond, when a league of freemen is violently
dissolved? Where will freedom find sure footing, when the fundamental
laws of freemen are defied? On this stern question Lincoln fixed his
eye. And as his vision cleared and deepened, he grew to see that if
freedom among men could ever survive, a freeman's mutual covenant must
be inviolate. A freeman's compact must be kept, else on all the earth
freedom could find no resting place. If this should ever be denied,
that denial must be sternly smitten to the ground. Thus for the very
cause of freedom, and as a freeman, Lincoln was driven into war. He
was put where he had no other choice. He was forced to fight.

But in that war the havoc and disaster were mutual. Both sides
suffered terribly. The conflict dealt out torture that neither party
could evade. It was mighty ponderings on these conditions that wrung
from Lincoln's heart the heart of this inaugural, wherein he traces
with a humble, deep-searching carefulness the cause of all the war to
that prolonged infraction of the law of liberty in the lot of the
American slave; and the guilt of that enormous sin to North and South
alike; and the moral explanation of the sorrows of the war to the
judgments of Almighty God.

Herein he learned that among freemen freedom is in no sense arbitrary
and absolute. Laws lie in its very being. Their presence is
spontaneous indeed, as is every impulse of their promulgation and
rule. But they must be obeyed. If their self-framed mandates are
disobeyed, then freemen are no longer free. If freemen dare to bind
and rob their fellows and aggrandize their own advantages, then the
yoke they bind on other men, by a sanction no mortal can escape, will
be bound upon their own necks, until their false advantages are all
surrendered, and the freedom that is claimed by anyone is given
equally to every other man. To the fulfillment and preservation of
that law Lincoln freely bowed his life. This is the core of this
address. Thus Lincoln illustrates true liberty. In the crucible of war
was his vision of the worth of freedom finally refined. It was through
a costly sacrifice of peace. But it was alone and all for freedom, for
freedom and for nothing else, that his peace and ours was sacrificed.

This exposition of Lincoln's pure ideal of independent, virile manhood
has embraced, in passing, a phase of the vast environment in which he
felt his manhood framed, that calls for separate remark--the relation
of his human freedom to the rule of God. The war is traced in this
address to a threefold origin: it was projected in the resolution of
the South that slavery should be given leave to spread; it was
accepted in the decision of the North that the present bounds of
slavery should not be passed; the whole affair was overturned, and the
war was over-ruled in the purpose of Almighty God, that North and
South, as a single Nation, guilty in common for slavery as a national
sin, should make full requital for all its cruelty. In this thought of
Lincoln, the conflicting purposes of the North and the South, and his
own determination too, were being made to bow beneath the mightier
dominion of Almighty God. In the realm of human politics this is a
rare and notable confession. And that it was published beneath the
open sky, at noon, before a peopled Nation's open eye, as a thoughtful
explanation of his inaugural oath as president of a mighty government
upon the earth, must be conceded to mightily enhance its notability.
It lacks but little of rising to the rank of prophecy. But equally
notable with its publicity is its conscious, free submissiveness.
Clear to discern, he is also prompt to own the over-mastering rule of
God. His attitude in this inaugural is an attitude of explicit
subordination to a higher power. But it is clear as day that this
subordination is voluntary. There is no sign of reluctance or
unwillingness, as though he were being forced, not even though all
expectations of his own were being over-ruled in the inscrutable plans
of God. This address reveals this man in a mood and tone of complete
submission, ready for rebuke, surrendering all his ways to God. This
posture of acquiescence, in God's revolution of his plans, and
reconstruction of his hopes, is the factor to notice here, as we
examine the actual operation of Lincoln's will. Above his private
liberty, above his high official authority, above the great Republic
in which his own decisions merge, reigns the hidden hand of God. To
the power and majesty of that unseen sway he summons every dignity
and every desire of his own to render unreserved obedience.

In seeing and saying this, however, one must never omit to observe and
add that Lincoln's eye observed with solemn joy a precious moral
meaning in the divine omnipotence. Heaven's unexpected guidance and
consummation of the war were only adding clarity and emphasis to the
principle of liberty. It only drove the demonstration home, and that
with irresistible cogency, that human bondage must be avenged. And so
in fact Lincoln's solemn reverence for the divine control was a girdle
confirming the strength of the fine jealousy that guarded for himself
and for all mankind the sacredness and the majesty of the human will.
Within the deeper deeps of his own free preference he coincided and
co-operated with the will of God. His obedience to God, his allegiance
to his civic covenant, and his individual, cherished preference
coalesce ideally; while each, without any diversion or loss, preserves
its own integrity.

Thus with life-exhausting, sacrificial toil, with genuine originality,
ever exemplifying in his chastened life all the burden of his thought,
by a decisive choice between divergent paths, with the careful
deliberateness of a full-grown man, with unconquerable determination,
gravely sensible of every ponderous consequence, in unbroken and
intimate companionship with all his fellow-men, with vision sharp to
detect and uncover every simulation and counterfeit of his wish,
through solemn fellowship with redemptive sorrows, bowing without
repugnance to every sanction that free equality enjoins, and in humble
reverence for the all-commanding, all-subduing will of God, Lincoln
here unfolds the central and infolded implications in his
all-consuming jealousy to be free.


A genuine and generous goodwill to other men breathes warmly through
this second inaugural, as the glowing breath of life pervades the
bodily frame of a living child. This manifests itself, as seen in his
impassioned zeal for freedom, in a vivid consciousness of
companionship. He felt his life and destiny interlaced inseparably
with all Americans, nay with all the world of human kind. With this
widely expanded and ever expanding Republic, he felt himself in these
inaugural scenes peculiarly identified. In that great pageant he was
deeply sensible of holding the central place. His inaugural oath,
though his single, individual act, announced his conscious purpose to
be the Nation's head. In that station his person became supremely
representative. It was for him to incorporate nobly, mightily,
judicially, the national dignity, authority, and design.

Many phases of this profound coincidence of the life of Lincoln with
the Nation's life come into sight whenever his life's career is
carefully reviewed. But among all the illustrations of his
self-submergence deep within the overflowing fullness of our national
history, there is one that demonstrates his tender kindliness beyond
all possibility of refutation. This is his profound participation with
the Nation in her fate because of slavery. Around this awful issue
circles all the thought of this, as of the first address. That this
puissant co-efficient of our national history was somehow the cause of
the existing war he said that all men felt. He registered his own
opinion that all the sorrows of the war were in requital for that sin.
Into those sorrows no man entered more profoundly than did Lincoln
himself. They sobered all his joy. They solemnized him utterly. It is
true few heard his groans. In his patience he was mainly silent. None
ever heard him make complaint. All impulse to resentment was subdued.
But the nation's sorrows were on his heart. Through all those days he
was our confessor, self-sacrificed, sorrow-laden, faithful absolutely,
but uncomplaining. Upon his head an angry, unanimous South, and many
thousands in the North dealt vengeful, malicious blows, denying him
all joy, crying out against him ruthlessly. All this he bore, as
though he heard them not, and continued day and night to seek the
Nation's peace. With marvelous freedom from malice himself, with
fullness of charity for all, he taught a Nation how a Nation's sorrows
should be patiently borne. And yet through all the days, in all this
land, no man was more purely innocent of the Nation's sin of slavery
than this same man. Here is friendship. Here is neighborly compassion
written large. This is generosity, untinctured with any selfish
reservation. Amid all the sorrows and fortunes of our history no sight
is half as pathetic as this deep, free, silent companionship of
Lincoln with his Nation's griefs in the deepest period of her
affliction. And yet he almost seemed to cherish his fate. He bore it
all so quietly, and with such a steady heart and eye, that in his
seeming calm we are unconscious of his pain. He gives no hint of
faltering and drawing back. He even strove repeatedly to lure the
Nation to his side, to enter into sacrificial fellowship with the
hapless South. But to nothing of this would the people hear.

This commanding fact, the moral mutualness of the innocent Lincoln's
sorrows with the sorrows of a guilty land, is a primary factor in this
historic scene. From such a moral complication momentous questions
emerge. How can such confusion of moral issues be ever justified? Why
do guilty and innocent suffer and sorrow alike? In such a glaring
moral inequality how could Lincoln himself ever bring his candid mind
to honestly acquiesce? Why should a later generation suffer vengeance
for their father's sins? Why the black man's fate? How can moral
judgments diverge so hopelessly upon such basic moral themes? If God's
judgment is just, why are his judgments upon such inhumanity so long
delayed? How about those kindred sufferings of those earlier days that
for total generations were unavenged? Questions such as these must
have risen in Lincoln's mind as he drained his bitter cup. Such
questions are not to be evaded or suppressed. It should rather be said
that Lincoln's undeniable gentleness in enduring, as the Nation's
head, and for his country's sake, a Nation's curse for a national sin
forces just such questions into sharpest definition, and focuses them
insistently and unavoidably before every thoughtful eye. They are
shaped and fastened here solely to render aid in indicating, as they
undeniably do, the supreme refinement of Lincoln's friendliness. He
held by kindly fellowship with his fellowmen, even when that
fellowship involved his innocent life in the moral shame and pain of
their reprobation and woe. Here is an interchange of guilt and
innocence, in Lincoln's undeniable experience, undeniably resolved and
harmonized. Here is human kindliness, triumphant, transcending all

Around this exalted illustration of the strength and purity of
Lincoln's benevolence cluster many statements eager to be heard. His
kindness showed in many ways, but they were all but varying, accordant
forms of pure neighborliness. His mastery of all malice, his unfailing
charity, the kindliness of his cherished hope, his companionship with
others' sorrow, his longings for peace at home and among all men, his
pity for the bereft, his tenderness before our human wounds, his
reluctance to go to war, his championship of the oppressed, his
willingness to bear another's blame, his silence before abuse, his
mighty predilections towards universal friendliness, are all
concordant and coincident types and forms of his prevailing,
spontaneous companionship with men. Each phase deserves elaborate
description. But it is in closer keeping with the treatment here to
name some general qualities of his kindliness, qualities that are
common to all its forms.

His friendliness was immediate. When human needs appealed for comfort
and aid, it was not his way to send a deputy. He appeared himself.
Here is something nothing less than marvelous. An intimate friend of
all, he stood in conscious touch with all the Nation's citizenship. At
first thought this may seem to be in consequence and by means of his
eminence and office as the people's president. As chief executive of
the people's will, and as foremost representative citizen, he stood
for every man in that man's place; and his universal friendliness
found open avenues to every individual citizen's consciousness. Here
is truth. But this truth only partially meets this case. The
operations of his benevolence were somehow independent of space and
time. His tours while president were short and few. Back and forth
between the White House, the war office, and the soldier's home he
wore a historic path. It is almost overwhelmingly sad to realize how
almost all his movements while president were within the
sorrow-shadowed walls and the hidden solitudes of his official home.
As said before, he seemed to exist apart from men, in a pathetic
isolation. Nevertheless, it is plain to all that Lincoln's
uncalculating generosity reached, like the shining of the sun, to the
limits of the land. It is most surprising when one thinks. But when
one thinks, it is most clear that there was in Lincoln's kindliness a
Nation-wide capacity for intimacy. In the open genial presence of his
good-will all men feel they have an immediate and equal share. And
this holds true whether one is near enough to feel the warmth of his
living breath, or whether half a continent intervenes.

This fact forces into view and consciousness the pure excellence of
his love. It was in its nature deeply real. He did in verity live
close to every man. He wore no distant air. He practised no reserve.
He felt and proved himself to be the kin of all. His pictured face and
published speech were a perfect symbol, a convincing pledge to every
honest man of close and equal partnership. His ways are often said to
have been homely. But their very homeliness was all human and all
humane. And in his presence, or in the presence of any truthful
impress or echo of his life, no honest nature but feels itself
instantly at ease and quite at home. This habitude in him of
overcoming distance, and absence, and all other obstacles to his
far-ranging love, and winning entrance everywhere into the affections
of all kindly men, is a notable stamp upon the total texture of his
friendliness. He stood with men in personal partnership, immediate,
intimate, real.

And in all his intimate and immediate fellowship with men his personal
contribution was entire. In his co-partnership he had no treasure too
precious to invest. He gave his all. Imposing, almost impossible as is
the meaning of these words, all mankind do recognize, and that with
wondering reverence, that when Lincoln rose to take the presidential
oath, he held nothing back. In his service of the Union he invested
his life, his honor, his hope, even all he had. It was little else he
had to give. His lineage was of the lowliest. His education was of the
meagerest, and wholly a by-achievement. In social graces he was quite
unversed and unadorned. He was no flatterer. The fawner's dialect he
never knew. He would not boast. To beg he was ashamed. He was too
honest for any knavery. Pure integrity was his only asset. As he took
his stand at the presidential post, he stood without a single
decoration, unsupported, all alone. It was literal truth that when he
took his official oath the only bond he had to furnish was his naked
honor. But that possession was no counterfeit. Its value did not
fluctuate. It was solid gold. In his honest rating, the plighted faith
in the words of his official pledge was beyond all price. As he
discerned and understood the crisis of his day, the Nation's very
being was at mortal stake. And when in that momentous hour she
summoned him to take the presidency, she laid sovereign requisition
upon his total being. And when he obeyed the call, he invested all. No
reserve of his possession was kept in hiding for his refuge and
reimbursement, in case the Nation failed. He ventured all he had, even
all his honor. And this complete consignment by Lincoln to the
Nation's use of all his moral wealth, of all his pure and priceless
personal worth, was an act of unalloyed benignity. It was for the
Nation's welfare that he devoted himself. It was that the Union might
be preserved, and that all men might be free, that he plighted his

This investment of Lincoln's friendliness for the well-being of all
the land, even of all the men therein, was not alone immediate,
winning direct attachment to every man; nor merely all-absorbing on
Lincoln's part, impressing into kindly service every value and every
capacity of his total life; it also enshrined a deathless hope.
Lincoln's patriotic devotedness was no venture of a day or of a
decade. Lincoln's good-will looked far ahead. He had a passion for
immortality. His total effort and aim in all his generous endeavors
and hopes, as he served in his public life, can be defined as a
sovereign aspiration that our government should be so guided and
chastened in all its life that the Union should never be dissolved. To
his kindly heart no possible event seemed more appalling than that
this hope should fail. So far as his words reveal, this central,
sovereign passion of his glowing heart was all but exclusively
patriotic. He apparently forgot himself in his wistful anxious hope
that the Nation's peace might long endure. His faith in the Union's
indestructibility may be said to spring out of his undying continual
love for his fellowman. Indeed just here seems to be the birthplace of
all his prophetic ponderings over the final issues of our civic life.
The very stature of the government which his ideal conceived and which
he thankfully saw that our Republic designed, was deemed by him to be
copied from nothing other than the divinely fashioned moral nature
which he found alike in himself and in all his fellowmen. Deep within
his friendly heart he cherished the vision of a Republic of freemen
leagued together indissolubly as mutual friends. It was to realize and
certify that hope that he dedicated his life. And when he pledged and
sealed that offering, it was with no design that the seal should ever
be broken, or the pledge be ever recalled. Here is another primary
quality of Lincoln's friendliness. It was inwrought with personal
durability. Grounded as was his civic hope in the freedom and
conscience of Godlike men, it was impossible for him to consent that
such a hope should ever encounter defeat or decay. Deep and sure
within its essential nature were the urgent promptings and the soaring
promise of immortality.

These observations upon the immediate directness, the integral
whole-heartedness, and the deathless eagerness of Lincoln's
friendliness, if thoughtfully compared together, reveal that these
distinctive phases of his outpouring good-will are in nature
identically the same, and spring from an identical source. This
essential coincidence, this mutual convergence deserves attention. It
intimates wherein the very essence and being of his neighborly
kindness consists. And in Lincoln's life this indication of the
precise whereabouts and substance of the essential and innermost
quality and being of human kindliness is certain and clear, as in
hardly any other man. His benignance in his dealings with men is of
well-nigh unparalleled openness and freedom from all admixture and
alloy. Lincoln's kindness embodies and conveys Lincoln's self. In
every favor from him he is in the gift. In the center of all the
friendliness that is characteristic of Lincoln, Lincoln himself stands
erect and entire, offering and commending in every case his
full-sized, undivided self. This is the core and this the
circumference, this is the sum and this the substance of his
good-will. It is rich with all his personal wealth, solid with all his
personal worth. In him an act of friendship was an inauguration of
personal copartnership. In his good-will was all the energy of his
life. In his benefactions he gave himself. Just so with his
compassions. With the sorrows of humanity it was his way to enter into
personal fellowship. This was the form and being of all his
generosity. His mastery over all malice when facing a foe, his
abounding charity when judging a wrong, his hearty gladness in the
presence of human joy, his cordial ways in greeting friends, his
fatherly affection for his boy, his love for his native land, his pity
in presence of the bereft, his sadness at sight of wounds, his
readiness to share evenly with all his Nation all that guilty Nation's
painful discipline--all this variety and plenitude of ample,
open-hearted tenderness towards other men was alike and always the
complete and conscious contribution of himself. In brief, in full, and
finally, Lincoln's friendliness, through all its beautiful
versatility, was a free and facile, a full and total, personal
self-devotion. This is the common content giving all its value to all
the forms of his human kindliness.


In the exposition just foregoing, the thought has been drawn into
allusions to Lincoln's premonitions or aspirations towards
immortality, for the Union, if not for himself. This was in the course
of an effort to find the spring-head of his kindliness. And it
culminated in the suggestion that deep within Lincoln's being there
was enshrined an assurance, however unconfessed or even half
unconscious, of personal immortality. And that from within this shrine
of living hope, common to him with every man, he drew his inspiration
and his very pattern of a national Union and a national peace that
would endure forever.

Here is something that calls for examination, for in this we touch a
radical quality of Lincoln's moral being. This eager craving after
permanence was in him an appetite that could never be fed or satisfied
by any things that perish. In itself and in its nutriment there is an
irrepealable call for something indefeasable, something utterly
superior to all fear of death, something never amenable to any form of
dissolution or decay, something spiritually pure, and essentially
kindred to the essential being of a deathless soul.

The matter may be approached to start with by saying some things
negatively. Lincoln was centrally in no sense a materialist. He was
indeed firmly sensitive to the physical majesties of this continent,
though in his day they were hardly half disclosed. He calculated with
carefulness our material capacities for expansion in power and wealth.
He foresaw our certain outward growth into a puissant Nation, the
coveted and ample resort and refuge and home of hordes of men from
other lands. In his own well-seasoned and resourceful physique he felt
and knew the worth of physical virility. He could thoughtfully compute
the glittering values, the goodly financial revenues, the days and
months and total seasons of physical idleness and delights that accrue
to human owners from the unrequited toil of human slaves. And in the
current civil war he completely understood that no less a concern than
the perpetuity of the American Union was pending upon contests largely
consisting of encounters of physical prowess, of tests of muscular
endurance and strength.

But not in calculations such as these did his thoughtful studies of
human welfare take ultimate resort, or find final rest. His conception
of the ideal state, of the ideal citizen, of the ideal life, was not
constructed or inspired from carnal elements. He noted with life-long
sadness the sordid baseness inseparably attending the fact of owning
or being a slave. He deeply saw that those battles in the Wilderness
were no mere conflicts of beasts. And never could he imagine or allow
that his personal weight, and force, and worth were ratable by
gymnastic tests. It was not upon things like these that Lincoln's
attention and hope were fixed, when his hopes and plans for our
prosperity took form. To the whole world of his material environment
he was marvelously indifferent. On every perusal of his life one
grieves at the story of his poverty, and the sad infrequency and
meagerness in his daily life of the pleasures and recreations which
are for the comfort and happiness of men in material things. But in
this he seems as though unconscious of any disappointment. For
himself as for the Nation, and for the Nation as for himself, his
satisfaction and confidence were not born and fed of things that
perish in their use. Luxury in food or attire, however toothsome or
attractive to other natures, stirred but the feeblest hankerings, if
any at all, in him. Towards sensualism of any sort, whether gluttony,
drunkenness or lust, his sound and temperate manliness did not
incline. And in his estimate of personal character his eye and respect
did not rest in outer attitudes, on printed, age-long codes of manner.
He was no slave of stately ceremonies, or artificial etiquette. Nor in
religion did he bind his tongue to creeds however hoary, nor to
rituals however august. He swore not by the oaths of any sect, however
ancient and renowned. Neither in this mountain nor in that did he
worship God.

But on the other hand, and now to speak affirmatively, Lincoln lived
no penury-stricken life. The resources within his personality were
well-nigh incalculable. Few men in all our national catalogue have
been endowed by God with so sterling and abundant interior wealth. And
of all American patriotic benefactors few indeed have left in their
single individual name and right such priceless legacies to their
native land. What is life? What is human life? Wherein, completely and
precisely wherein, is man distinguishable from the beast? For answer,
study Lincoln and see. In the full development of such a study many
massive verities will unfold. But the feature in Lincoln's manhood,
which this chapter is set apart to designate and clarify, is the
simple purity, the elemental spirituality of all his elemental traits.
His dominant sentiments, his primary convictions, his main and
all-mastering decisions were never born to die. They were instinct
with life, with life indeed, a life never failing, ever more abundant
and free.

This interior vitality, this unalloyed and undecaying purity may be
described one way as a real idealism. But in ascribing idealism to
Lincoln, it needs to be said at once that Lincoln's idealism, real and
glorious as it must surely be confessed to be, was transparently and
unvaryingly practical. In one way it may be defined as hope. A waiting
hope was a standard characteristic of Lincoln's attitude. His
sorrowful eye held fast to things as yet unrealizable. It is
impressive to see how often and how fondly he mentioned the future,
the "vast future," as he termed it, of our American career. The secret
of the beauty and of the power of some of his loftiest and most
spontaneous rhetoric is due to just this solemn eagerness towards the
coming days. As one comes to study more intently into the outlay of
his heroic strength, his struggle and toil are seen to be leashed
about his consuming wish that the Nation in its undivided might could
be unified about the speedy fulfillment of his prophetic aims. He
never forgot the mighty lesson, nor lost the living inspiration of his
own advancement from humblest station of ignorance and toiling poverty
to the presidency. That transformation he loved to humbly hold before
the attention of his fellow Americans, as a pattern of what might
anywhere occur again. He loved to linger upon the possibilities of
upward movement in the ranks of all laboring men. Large place and
honorable position were given to this arousing theme in his first
annual message to Congress. This general topic--the far-set, soaring
possibilities of human betterment--held constant and commanding
eminence in the ranging measure of his eagle-searching thought. For
the Nation, and for its every inhabitant, he was a true idealist.

But Lincoln's idealism, again be it said, was no wild indulgence of a
vagrant and untrained imagination. It was utterly sober-minded. It
took its form and found its force in the center of his sanest
thoughtfulness. The terms in which its description has just been
illustratively traced show it to be perfectly rational, and even
matter-of-fact. Lincoln's idealism was nothing else but a heedful
interpretation of the proper destiny of man. It was a reflection in
terms of carefulest thought, albeit also in the guise of ardent hope,
of the essential lineaments in the nature of man. And no human
portrait by any artist was ever truer to fact, while yet tinged with
fancy, pure and free. In all his picturing of things yet to be, but
not yet in hand, his eye was fastened with an anatomist's intentness
upon the actual human nature imperishably present in every man.
Nothing that Lincoln's idealism ever proposed ever diverged from the
bounds of the original fiat creating all men equal and free. That
undeniable initial verity, itself the keystone of our national
Constitution and Bill of Rights, supplied to Lincoln's hope its total
and only inspiration. In those ancient and elemental realities,
realities that deeply underlie and long outlast all the cults and
customs and centuries which human thought is so prone to differentiate
and divide, Lincoln detected solid foundations and ample warrant for
age-long, undissolving expectations. In every human face there are
outlines that are forever indelible. These unfailing lineaments
Lincoln had the eye to see. And what is vastly more, he had the
courage and the honesty to adopt them as the pattern of the platform,
and to voice them as the notes of the battle-peal of his
statesmanship. And this he did right wittingly, knowing assuredly that
therein his vision had caught the gleam of things eternal; that
therein he had made discovery that man, even the humblest of his
race, could claim to be, as he phrased it to a company of blacks,
"kindred to the great God who made him." This amounts to saying that
Lincoln's statesmanship may be completely and precisely defined as the
studied and deliberate exploitation, upon the field of politics, of
those forces, central and common in all mankind, that are Godlike,
immortal, spiritual.

Here we reach a definition that outlines with close precision a trait
of Lincoln's full-formed character that held a primary place in
winning for Lincoln his immortal renown. He attached himself to things
themselves immortal. His ideal hope had no admixture of clay, nor even
of gold. He made no composition or compromise with anything that dies.
His supreme desire was of a nature never to decay. It was pure with
the deathless purity of the human soul. To this pure principle,
eternal loyalty to the immortal dignity of man, he signed and sealed
his soul's allegiance with bonds that even death could never relax.
Such statements describe a primary co-efficient in Lincoln's ethical
life. Abjuring the unnumbered allurements of the material world,
allurements whose fascinations unfailingly fade, and reposing his
confidence wholly in treasures that time and use only brighten and
refine, Lincoln reveals in the realm of ethics the singular excellence
of an ideal that can kindle in an immortal man an immortal hope.
Purging every sort of baseness out of the central life, and enthroning
an all-refining pureness in the sovereign desires and visions and
designs, he has inaugurated in the field of civics an idealism that
will honor every man, fit actual life, and endure forever. Personal
pureness, this pervades the life of Lincoln as crystalline beauty
pervades a block of marble.

This refining trait in Lincoln, this inner hunger for his living
soul's true nutriment, this thirst for the pure, perennial springs,
finds signal illustration in the closing sentence of this last
inaugural, where he pleads with all his fellow-citizens to so conduct
all civic interests as to secure among ourselves and with all Nations
a "lasting peace." That craving after permanence in civic harmony
betokens an impulse towards immortality; and rests down, as the entire
inaugural explains, upon that only basis of enduring civic quietude,
an honest and universal recognition and respect for those indelible
and universal lineaments of personal dignity which the Creator of men
has traced upon every human soul--lineaments from which the obscuring
dross of centuries was being purged in the Providential fires of an
awful war. Just this was the meaning of the war, as Lincoln understood
its work. That earth-born sordidness which marked all slaves as common
chattels, was being burnt out of our national life, as our basest
national sin. Thenceforth, forevermore, it was Lincoln's living hope
that all mankind might peacefully agree to supremely cherish and
mutually respect those human values that human unfriendliness, and
centuries of contempt, however deeply they may obscure, can never
obliterate. Upon such enduring foundations, and upon such foundations
alone, Lincoln clearly saw, could human peace endure.

And upon this same foundation rests his first inaugural as well. In
all those months of special study, ensuing between his election in
November of 1860 and his inauguration in March in 1861, and for an
ample seven years before, Lincoln was feeling after civic perpetuity.
And when he stood before the Nation to publish his first inaugural
address, his supreme concern was fixed upon the threatened and
impending ruin of the Republic. He there faced a menacing South,
irreconcilable, and resolute for dissolution or blood. That outcrying
situation brought final issues near. Must the Union perish? Could the
Union endure? Civic dissolution or civic perpetuity--this was the
immediate, the unrelieved, the ominous alternative. In the fiery heat
of civic hate, flaming into civil war, Lincoln had to seek for civic
principles that hate could not subvert, nor the fires of war consume;
principles too strong to admit defeat, too pure to be dissolved.

Never did a statesman bend over a graver task, nor with a more honest
and patient heart, nor with a mind more divinely fashioned and
furnished to comprehend and penetrate the actual case in hand. As in a
chemist's alembic, he fused and tried our Constitution and all our
history. Into that first inaugural he incorporated the issues of his
thought. And this was its simple, sole result:--Slavery is "the only
substantial dispute." With the people is "ultimate justice." With God
is "ultimate truth." We are not "enemies." We are "friends." In this
supreme dispute let us confer and legislate as friends, and then as
friends live together in an amity that shall be perpetual. This is the
uncompounded essence of his first inaugural, as of all his political
philosophy. In universal freedom, by mutual persuasion, and in even
friendliness, let our Union forever endure. Here again is a
statesman's publication and heroic defense of a pure, immortal hope,
voiced in an appeal and upheld by arguments as spiritual and pure as
the inmost being and utmost destiny of the living souls of men.

No study of the transcendent momentum in Lincoln's life of spiritual
realities can fairly overlook his speech in Peoria, October 16, 1854.
It is, as he said at the time, "substantially" a repetition of an
address at Springfield, twelve days before. It "made Lincoln a power
in national politics." It was the commanding beginning of his
commanding career. That year, 1854, began the convulsion which made
him president, involved the war, and ended in his violent death. As
matters stood on New Year of 1854, slavery was, by act of Congress in
the Missouri Compromise of 1820, thenceforth forbidden to spread
anywhere in United States territory north of the southern boundary of
Missouri. In the early half of 1854 Senator Douglas drove through
Congress a bill, creating the territory of Nebraska, which declared
the Compromise prohibition of 1820 "inoperative and void." Thenceforth
slavery might spread anywhere. This is the "repeal" of the Missouri

That "repeal" brought Lincoln to his feet. And from the day of that
Peoria speech Lincoln was, to seeing eyes, a man of destiny. For, not
for that day, nor for that century, nor for this continent alone did
Lincoln frame and join that speech. Let any logical mind attempt a
logical synthesis of that address, marking well what affirmations are
supreme. Not out of conditions that vary with the latitudes, nor out
of opinions that change as knowledge improves, and not from sentiments
that bloom and fade as do the passing flowers, was that address
constructed. It handles things eternal. Its central propositions
outwear the centuries. Its conclusions are compounded from stuff that
is indestructible. And the piers upon which they rest are as steadfast
as the everlasting hills. Freedom, union, perpetuity were its only
positive themes. Let us "save the Union" was its central call; and
"so" save it as to "make and keep it forever worth the saving"--so
save it "that the succeeding generations of free, happy people, the
world over, shall rise up and call us blessed to the latest
generations." The perpetual Union of freemen--this was his one pure
hope. Of this freedom slavery was a "total violation." Such a Union
the principle of secession made forever impossible. And in the
continual presence of tyranny, and under ever impending threats of
disruption, perpetuity in peace was an impossibility. Liberty,
equality, loyalty--only upon these enduring verities could
self-government ever be built, or ever abide. Here is stability. Here
is harmony. Here are truths "self-evident." Against cruelty,
disloyalty, and pride these eternal principles are in "eternal
antagonism." And when the two collide, "shocks and throes and
convulsions must continually follow." Against human slavery, and all
that human slavery entails, humanity instinctively and universally
revolts. It is condemned by human righteousness and human sympathy
alike. "Repeal the Missouri Compromise, repeal all compromises, repeal
the Declaration of Independence, repeal all past history, you still
cannot repeal human nature."

Thus Lincoln bound together the arguments of this appeal. The
irrepealability of the human sympathies in the nature of all men, the
undeniable humanity of the black, self-government built upon the
creative fiat of freedom and equality for all--upon these enduring
propositions a Nation could be built whose resources either to
eliminate all evils, pacify all convulsions, and resolve all debates,
or to achieve a lasting progress, dignity and peace, would be
inexhaustible. Thus, at the very start, his eye pierced through the
political turmoil of his time, fixing in the central place before the
Nation's gaze those "great and durable" elements which "no statesman
can safely disregard."

Plainly notable in all this is that powerful and habitual proclivity
in Lincoln to find out and publish abroad those civic propositions and
principles that are inwrought with perpetuity. He was straining and
toiling towards a triumph that time could never reverse. Foundations
that were sure to shift, or disintegrate, or sink away, he was
resolute to overturn, and clear away. He chose and strove to toil and
speak for the immortal part in man, for ages yet to come, and for the
immediate justice of Almighty God. And so he fashioned forth a
programme that, like the programme of the Hebrew prophets,
circumvented death.


This second inaugural contains a fine example of free and reasoned
reliability. It is in fact, in its total stature, a stately exhibit of
deliberate steadfastness. Let this short document be read, meanwhile
remembering that other inaugural document, and not forgetting all the
unspeakable strain and struggles of those four intervening years. The
man who spoke in 1861, and the man who speaks now again in 1865,
stands forth in the heart of those bewildering confusions of our
political life, a living embodiment of civic constancy. In his person
national firmness stands enshrined. In those ripe convictions, in
those cool and poised determinations, in those ardent, prophetic
desires--steadfast, consistent, and sure--are traceable the rock-like
foundations of our confederate Republic. In those inaugurals stands a
monument not liable soon to crumble away. But within that monument
insuring its durability, rests as within and upon a steadfast throne,
Lincoln's everlasting fidelity.

To win clear vision of this fine trait, let one read again this second
inaugural, and locate truly the center of gravity of its second
paragraph. There Lincoln is tracing in broad, plain strokes the origin
and on-coming of the war. In the center of his steady thought the
interest centrally at stake was the Union. On the one hand he recalls
his own address at his first inauguration, "devoted," as he says,
"altogether to saving the Union without war." On the other hand, he
recalls "insurgent agents" seeking to destroy it without war. War was
deprecated and dreaded by both parties. But one would make war rather
than let the Nation survive. And the other would accept war rather
than let the Nation perish. "And the war came." As a register of
Lincoln's capacity for free, intelligent stability, no passing glance
can in any sense exhaust or apprehend the depth and sweep and energy
of those last four words. When loyalty to the Union was the issue and
interest at stake, Lincoln would "accept war." "And the war came."

When Lincoln voiced those four words, his eye was looking back through
four dreadful, bloody years--years, whether in prospect or in
reminiscence, fit to make any human heart recoil. But as he surveys
those scenes of hate and carnage and desolation, retracing and
reckoning again the sum of their awful sorrow and cost, and rehearses
again his resolution to "accept the war," it is without a shadow or a
hint of wavering or remorse. In fact he is recalling that fateful day
of four years before with an eye to review and vindicate that fateful
resolve. At the end of those eventful and sorrow-laden years, he is as
steady as at their start. Not by the breadth of a hair have his
footing and purpose, his judgment and endeavor been made to swerve.
Then as now, now as then, his loyalty is absolute. And in that sturdy
loyalty of that lone man a seeing eye discerns nothing less than the
unbending majesty of a Nation's self-respect. It is the Nation's
sacred honor that he has in sacred charge. In him the integrity of the
Nation at large finds a champion and a living voice. In his firm-set
decision the Nation's destiny takes shape. In those short pregnant
words the proud consistency of our total national career, and his
superb reliability, become, instantly and for all time, freely, nobly,
and completely identified. This is not to say that in the teeming
history of those eventful years Lincoln's mind and will and sentiments
had stood in stolid immobility. He freely concedes that the years have
brought him lessons he had never foreseen. And his central attitude in
this second scene is a reverent inquiry into the ways of Him whose
purposes transcend all human wisdom, and require full centuries to
complete. But strong and clear within his reverent and lowly
acceptance of divine rebukes, stands unbent and unchanged his
steadfast, invincible pledge to reveal, on his own and on his Nation's
behalf, the sovereign grandeur of civic reliability.

In his first message to Congress this integral trait of his personal
and official life finds majestic and most definite explication. It is
the passage explaining to Congress, in precise and minute recital,
just how the war began. It deals with those ominous events in
Charleston harbor, centering about heroic Major Anderson, a federal
officer, and within Fort Sumter, a federal fort. That assault upon a
national garrison by Confederate guns was no haphazard event. At just
that moment, and in just that spot the national crisis became acute.
Upon that spot, and upon those events Lincoln's eye was fixed with a
physician's anxiety. There he knew he could feel the pulse of the
resentment and resolution of the South. Day and night he held his
finger upon its feverish beat. And as the fever rose, he marked with
exactest attentiveness its registration of one condition of the
Southern heart:--Was that heart so hot with civic hate that, when
every lesser issue was set aside, and the only issue under review was
the right of the Republic to stand by its officers and its flag, then
those Southern leaders would fire upon those officials in a federal
fort, and pull down that flag upon federal soil? If in a federal fort
the major in command, and his uniformed men, while making no
aggression nor voicing any threat, but acting only as peaceful
exponents of the Nation's authority, and being in exigent need of
food, were to be visited by a national transport bearing nought but
bread, upon such a ship, upon such a mission, would seceding soldiers
open fire? If they would, and if that onslaught passed without rebuke,
then that Nation's federal integrity was dissolved. Such was the
unmixed issue, and so sharply edged was its final and decisive
definition under Lincoln's hand. And on his part there was here no
accident. With foresight, and by careful design Lincoln "took pains"
to make the problem plain. With impressive and ideal carefulness he
guided the action of his own heart to its final resolution, and
predetermined the final verdict of the world.

In the last supreme alternative, when government agents stand in need
of food, and citizens who repudiate all loyalty fire upon government
transports freighted only with bread, what shall a government do? This
was the naked question that Lincoln faced, when he decided to accept
and prosecute the war. Upon this one plain question, and upon his one
convinced determination he massed and compacted his first
Congressional address. Right well he understood its point, its
gravity, and its range. And surpassing well was he fitted to be the
man to frame and demonstrate the true reply. In all the land no finer,
firmer exemplar of elemental constancy could ever have been found to
guide and cheer the Nation's course in this extremest test of
elemental self-respect. Let those words be written and read again. It
was a test of national self-respect, elemental and supreme. It was a
question that concerned, as Lincoln saw and said, "the whole family
of man." "Government of the people, by the same people"--can or
cannot such a government "maintain its own integrity against its own
domestic foes?" Can it "maintain its own integrity?" Can it master
"its own domestic foes?" Can men who assume their self-control be
trusted to maintain their self-respect? Here is a problem that is in
verity elemental and supreme. What, in very deed and in solid fact,
what is civic reliability? Where, among all the governments by men,
where can steadfastness, civic steadfastness be found? Nowhere,
Lincoln had the eyes to see; nowhere, but in the civic constancy of
men at once governing and governed. Only thus and only there, only so
and only here, in this heaven-favored land, did Lincoln see, can any
government of men by men find fundamental base and final form that
shall be consistent, stable, and real. This is government indeed. Here
is elemental, civic verity. A community held in common self-control
upon the basis of common self-respect--such a union alone has
constancy. This is the sublime and radical civic truth that Lincoln
forged out upon his steadfast heart, as he bent with mighty ponderings
over those scenes in Charleston harbor, and reviewed and expounded
their pregnant implications in his initial message to Congress in

In many ways this constancy of Lincoln rewards attentive thought. For
one thing, it was radiant with intelligence. Indeed in him the two
became identified. As thus conceived, it shows as pure and clear
consistency. His fully tried reliability was the well-poised balance
of a mind long-schooled in the art of steadiest deliberation. When
Lincoln held immutably fast, it was due to his invincible faith that
the conviction to which he clung involved abiding truth. This quality
tempered all his firmness. Just here one finds the genesis and motive
of all his skilled invention of reasoned, pleading speech. Lincoln's
prevailing power of urgent argument roots in the deep persistency of
his convinced belief. It was because of an impassioned confidence, an
assurance that was vibrant with a note of triumph, that his grasp of
any ruling purpose was so unwaveringly firm. This was his mood and
attitude in all the major contentions of his life. To the central
tenets that those contentions involved he held with all the firmness
of the rooted hills. Touching those primary principles in his
character and politics his mind and faith seem to have attained an
absolute confirmation. And from those settled positions he could never
be moved. Constancy in him was nothing more nor less than the
energetic affirmation of intellectual rectitude.

His steadfastness, thus, was a mental poise. It can be defined as
ripened judgment, a conclusion of thought, safeguarded on every side
by a discernment not easily confused, by a penetration not easy to
escape. This involved a wonderful flexibility. While steadfast unto
the grade of immutability, where honor was involved, no student of his
ways could call him obstinate. While firm and strong enough to hold
the Nation to her predestined course upon an even keel, he held her
helm with a gentle, pliant grasp. Being in every mental trait
inherently honest and deliberate, he could at once be resolute and

This blend within his being of thoughtfulness and determination, of
openness and immutability, this candid, conscientious, mental poise,
this Godlike apprehension of the larger equilibrium, qualified him
peculiarly to interpret the major movements of his time, to trace in
the deep, prevailing sentiments of the human soul the chart of our
national destiny.

Here is in Lincoln something wonderful. Among the millions of his
fellowmen he counts but one. But in the range and grasp of his
thought, in the eager passion of his heart, in the controlling power
of his commanding will, he comprehends them all. Stable and heedful at
once, he could challenge unanswerably every man's esteem. His symbol
is the firm, benignant oak, the sheltering, abiding hills. Thus he
stood to help and hold, to serve and rule among his fellowmen. Thus he
wrought coherence into our great career. Thus he linked together those
mighty political events with a logic which succeeding times have
proved powerless to refute, but strong and glad to confirm. He had
marvelous capacity to divine. With him to reason was to illuminate.
Things bewilderingly obscure, within his thought and speech grew
plain. He was our prime interpreter. He explained the Nation to
itself. But in every such elucidation the Nation was made to
co-operate. His instinctive, habitual attitude toward other men was
that of a conferee. He was sensitively open to complaints and appeals.
Delegations and private supplicants always found him courteous. This
courtesy was never formal. To a degree altogether noteworthy the words
of other men found entrance into the counselings of his mind. He was
not merely accessible. He was impressible, sensitive, quick to
appreciate and honor the sentiments of another man. With the earnest
plea of balanced, honest argument, hailing from whatever source, he
was facile to correspond. His judgments and decisions were amenable to
estimates wholly novel to him. Indeed, to an almost astonishing degree
his major movements were commensurate with the progress and pace of
the national events that environed his life. In some of his mightiest
accomplishments he seemed to do little more than register the
conclusions of the national mind.

All this is to say that Lincoln's constancy was poise, not obstinacy;
a well-reflected equilibrium, not a stiff rigidity. All his steadiness
was studied. Never can it be said of Lincoln that his verdicts were
snap judgments. On the contrary, with him deliberation and delay were
so habitual and so excessively indulged, while pondering some massive,
political perplexity, that the patience of some of our greatest
statesmen repeatedly broke down, and he was charged repeatedly with
criminal, and all but wanton indifference, inertia, and neglect. But
never was sorer libel. Through it all he was only too intent. Through
it all his eye refused to sleep, while his steady and steadying mind
pursued the vexing task, until its permanent solution stood clear. And
then, with his eye steadily single to the guiding hand of God, to the
Nation's immortal weal, and to his own unsurrendered integrity, he
would publish and fulfill his studied and sturdy resolve. Upon the
basis of these internal mental conquests did all his firmness rest.
Hence his life-long evenness and freedom from fluctuation.

But this challenges still further study. Given this notable blending
in his mental habits of independent stalwartness and amenability to
others' views, what is the inmost secret and explanation of his
undeniable consistency? It lay in his human sincerity. His affinity
with his neighbor was a reality. The Nation's deepest concerns were as
deeply his own. Hence his ultimate convictions, though ripening in a
single decade, proved to be in deep and enduring agreement with the
ultimate convictions of the Nation at large, though requiring a full
century to mature. The sentiments that were essentially his own were
seen, when openly published upon his lips, to be the sentiments
essential and common to his fellowmen. His personal aspiration was a
national goal. His personal character was a national type. Truly
representative, he was at the same time as truly unique. Always
facing towards other men, he always stood erect.

This was Lincoln's constancy. It was not the stubbornness of an
arbitrary will, although his will had regal energy. It was not a
frigid intellectualism, although in mental penetration he could not be
surpassed. It was not a tide of swelling enthusiasm, although the
supreme emotion of his heart was the passion of an ideal patriotism.
His commanding constancy, potent to compose a Nation's turbulence, was
but the outer stature of his typical interior integrity. It was the
open assertion and attestation of his personal self-respect.

Thus Lincoln's convictions and verdicts were unfailingly his own. And
thus those verdicts and convictions had continental breadth. Dealing
with a Nation's destiny, he came to be clothed with a Nation's
majesty. In his own great heart, as in a Nation's crucible, he
assembled and resolved the Nation's complexities; and in his own pure
desire, as in a Nation's purified hopes, he defined and described our
national goal. Of all things narrow and peculiar, of all things
partisan and sectional, he purged his eye, until with malice toward
none, with charity for all, with reverence towards God, he could see
the total vastness of the things with which he had to deal.

Here is a loyalty worthy of the name--the plighted troth of one in
whom the Nation's noblest hopes stand forth already realized, assured,
secure. This defines and describes the force at play in this last
inaugural. In the volume of those words Lincoln's message and
Lincoln's manhood were identical. Its utterance was the voice of his
self-respect. Herein Lincoln the patriot and Lincoln the man are one.
Here was Lincoln's standard. His search for verity was a study of
himself--of himself as true kindred of God and of his fellowmen. This
is the core of Lincoln's honesty. This is the key to Lincoln's
constancy. This is the secret of Lincoln's authority. This was the
goal of Lincoln's quest for verity. This was for Lincoln the one
reality. As child of the one great God, as closest kin of every man,
he is our model champion and exemplar of the one abiding
truth--personal self-respect. That this should be held unperverted and
preserved intact was in the thought of Lincoln the primal equity, the
very substance of a man's integrity.


The name of Lincoln is linked inseparably with the lot of the slave.
That the fortune of the lowly might be improved was the supreme
enterprise of his life. As conceived by him, that enterprise concerned
all men. Not for black men alone, and not alone for men in literal and
evident bonds, was this, his major interest, engaged. Quite as keenly,
nay even more, was his heart concerned for his closer kinsmen of Saxon
blood, who never felt the slave driver's lash. But even here his
prevailing inclination was a kindly solicitude for people of meager
comfort, culture and liberty. Towards men whose fortune was adverse,
and from whom more favored ones were prone to turn their face, his
heart was prone to be compassionate. His very instincts seemed
inclined to make the poor his intimates. And when he stood among the
lowly, he never showed a sign that he had entered the shadow of any
shame. Richly dowered with nobility himself, himself superior to every
fortune, incapable of subjugation by any fate, a master owned among
the mightiest, the dominant function of his life was ministration.
This was his ambition. And it was sovereign. His towering aspiration
was that the needy be relieved, that poor men might have means, that
bondmen might be free.

This was a soaring, imperial wish. But it sent him where men were most
down-trodden and overborne. It forced his name and reputation to
become identified with the gross and low condition of the rudest, most
untutored mortals of our land, the humble Afro-American slave. This
lowly fellowship he never attempted to disguise nor consented to
disclaim. He rather seemed to welcome whatever burden or reproach it
might seem to involve. Before and against the white man who held the
whip, beside and befriending the black who felt its lash, he chose to
take, and persisted to keep, his stand. Many a time was this
co-partnership flung in Lincoln's face with stinging words as a
mongrel, shameful thing--with most vigorous persistence by Douglas in
their famous debates. But it was not in Lincoln to desert and disown
the poor, nor yet to apologize, nor to retort, nor even to reply. As
champion and companion of the despised and embondaged victims of the
white man's greed and contempt, Lincoln stands by the negro, as full
of resoluteness, and as free from shame, as though defending his own

Here is genuine humility, not an attitude assumed, but a virtue
inwrought. That this rare and Christian grace was planted deep in
Lincoln's heart, and pervaded the total fullness of his life, may be
argued from the very texture of his last inaugural. Upon just this
point that document deserves minute attention. From the vantage ground
of April 4, 1865, and from the point of view of slavery, that address
is a profound and most commanding interpretation of the philosophy and
phenomena of our American life. The war, God's Providence, and
slavery--they are its sovereign themes. God's Providence shaping into
national discipline the tragedy of the war; slavery "somehow" its
deepest, fateful "cause:" there are thoughts for thoughtful men, who
may wish to understand the meaning of our national life. The point to
notice here is to observe how in Lincoln's mind in 1865, the course,
and curse, and fate of slavery connect. It is nothing less than a
profound elucidation of outstanding American events. It intimates
impressively how Lincoln's mind had brooded and pondered over the lot
of the African slave. He had reckoned all the value of their
unrequited toil. The marks of their bruises and wounds were seared
upon his soul. And of all the meaning of that sore humiliation, in
terms of our national destiny and of the Divine dominion, he became
the supreme and sympathetic expositor. In his unfolding of that
meaning was infolded the master motive of his life. Under the hand of
God he was having bitter but submissive share in setting forever right
the cruel, age-long wrongs of the African slave. That such sentiments
should take such shape at such a time is signal demonstration that
they were the central sentiments of his heart. He was highly
designated to a humble task; and he knew no higher honor than to keep
close friendship with the poor, until his high commission stood
complete. And to this close affiliation of lowliest lives with the
loftiest aims and issues of his great career, he devotes well-nigh the
whole of his inaugural address as our Nation's president to expound,
therein betraying no slightest sign that he sees in that alliance the
slightest incongruity. In that defense and championship of the rights
that were elemental to men, though the most despised, he saw his
highest dignity as president. And to that lowly aim he shaped and
pledged his policy, his party, his fortune, and his fame.

In truth this affinity of Lincoln with his neighbor in need was the
very fruitage of the fortune of his life. He was fitted and
predestined for it by his birth. His station was of the lowliest. His
setting-up was pathetically scant. All his discipline was cruelly
stern. In ease and plenty he had no share. Of sweets and luxury he had
no taste. Born of parents pitifully poor, nurtured in painful penury,
poorly sheltered, scantily clad, accustomed to neglect, intimate with
want, trained to disappointment, toiling in untamed scenes against
hard odds with rudest tools, the kindred and daily familiar of
unassuming men, denied the commonest aids to personal refinement, he
was to the atmosphere and temperament of genuine, undisguised humility
native born, and fully bred. From such a hopeless start, in such a
hostile environment, he made his way alone. It can be said with almost
literal truth that he never had any help. His only friend was his
modest, resolute heart. His winnings were all by wrestling--and the
struggle never relaxed. When every antagonist had been met and
overthrown, and his gaunt stature stood in the Nation's arena alone
and undefeated, then upon that unbent but unpretending form his Nation
and his Nation's God laid a burden, such as no man in all our history
had ever borne. When beneath that great final task he meekly bowed,
its superhuman responsibility and weight were all-sufficient to crush
forever all vain-glorious pride, if in his tried heart any pride had
ever entered, and having entered had still remained. Before the
majesty of his commission, and amid the inscrutable perplexities of
each unparalleled day, he must always be fain, even though never
forced, to walk humbly among his people, and before his God. From
birth to death, by fortune and by Providence, as though by
overmastering fate, he was fashioned for humility.

From all these grounds he was predisposed to modesty. Over against the
vastness of his task, facing daily all its formidable difficulties,
and sensible evermore of his infinite insufficiency, the posture of
his spirit and the tone of his daily speech unfailingly betokened a
moderate estimate of his personal significance. The overspreading
majesty of the work to which he set his hand, always towering vividly
before his thought, kept vividly active the consciousness that he was
quite incompetent to accomplish aught, except the God of Nations
tendered daily help.

As thus inclined and thus disposed in body and in mind, he became a
man of prayer. That he should often fall upon his knees was but the
consequence of his daily discovery that his burdens and his strength
were widely incommensurate.

Many times those supplications seemed as though unheard. The heavens
gave no sign. Then malice raged against him. But then his
unsurrendered faith in God, his reverence for his task, and his
sobering estimate of himself would show as meekness. It was not his
way to retaliate or rail. In darkness, before delay, and beneath
abuse, he bore and suffered long without complaint. In this pathetic
quietness his humility becomes heroic.

This bent towards lowliness, tempered through and through, as it was,
with his clear intelligence, saved him from vaunting and all vanity.
There was habitually in his posture a grave solidity. This often
seemed like carefulness and caution. But it was born of modesty. If
there was ever a time when ever a man might be suffered to boast, the
date of this second inaugural was the time, and the author of that
inaugural was the man. The hour of that address marked the opening of
Lincoln's second presidential term. It was the crowning vindication of
his presidential policy. After four years of war the national poll at
the last electoral vote had shown the North stronger in men than when
the war began. The status of the South was desperate. But five weeks
lay between him and the surrender of Lee. Lincoln was not lacking in
foresight, nor in careful calculation. His skill therein was
preeminent. Wary, discerning, resolute, his assurance of ultimate
victory no doubt firm and clear, no breath of boasting was given vent.
Instead, with almost painful reserve, he modestly said, "With high
hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured."
Lincoln was one of those rarest of men, invincible in resolution, at
the same time invincible in reserve.

This inner mood of modesty showed in all his outer furnishing. It was
not his way to publish his distinction. For him to signalize his
primacy by any decoration would be an incongruity. In any group of men
where precedence was emphasized he was ill at ease. Any attempt by him
to designate his official elevation by some gilded ornament or plume
would have been grotesque. His eyes were not lofty nor his heart
haughty. His feet were for the furrow. His hands were for the axe. His
lips were for friendly salutation of all the people on the street. Any
outer token, intended to mark him for separation or any superiority,
would have excited nothing but sorrow in him. Fabrics however costly
and rare, jewels however brilliant and pure, designed and disposed for
distinction and display, awakening envy and unrest quite as much as
admiration and delight, were not for him. Plain man among the
lowliest, true nobleman among the noblest, he wore all his honors in
uttermost innocence of all parade.

Nor were the features of Lincoln ever intended to be employed as
instruments of scorn. Into the hellish ministry of curling contempt
those gracious lips could never be impressed. His heart was far too
kindly; and that were safeguard enough. But his unalloyed humility was
far too potent to ever encourage or permit in him any indulgence of
disdain. Truly lowly himself, it was not in him to coldly despise any
of his fellowmen. Just here his humility displayed its sterling
honesty. And just here his honor and his glory blend. Here is his sure
title to nobility--a title that neither time nor eternity can ever
tarnish or bedim. By every right is this nobility his. By his earthly
fortune, as by a hard, relentless fate, his lot was cast among the
poor; and by that same appointment the lot of all earth's poor has
gained perennial dignity. But he graced those ranks also as a
volunteer. By his own consent, with sovereign free selection, he
elected to sustain and overcome all the impediments of the station of
his birth, and so to demonstrate the full capacity of the humblest
human life for high endeavor and desire. Thus he was alike and at once
filled with a deep compassion, and free from high contempt. Here lies
the firm foundation of his proud renown. This is the true birthmark of
his nobility. He was above the baseness and the meanness of scorning
any brother man.

And so he avoided arrogance. It was not the way of Lincoln to forever
reiterate, if even to allow, his own importance. He was acutely
sensitive, to the meaning and worth of an honorable renown. Especially
was his cool, gray eye awake to the future issues of the pregnant
deeds of his teeming times. But therein his eager concern was a
patriot's anxiety--an anxiety in which he mingled his fortune and fame
with the destiny of his native land. Therein the jealousy of his
desire for the national welfare burned away, as in sacrificial fires
and upon a sacred altar, all ambitions for himself. At any cost to
others, or through any other man's neglect, it was not in the heart of
Lincoln to demand and heap together honors or advantages for himself.
Well might he be justified, if ever such a course were fair, in
claiming for himself exceptional rewards. Chief executive of a great
Republic, commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the North,
assured of the major momentum of military success, in immediate reach
of vast and ever increasing resources, whether for war or peace,
chosen the second time to be the Nation's head, charged the second
time to consummate the Nation's perpetual unity--surely he had ample
guaranty for imputing to his own sole hand, in a supreme degree,
mighty prowess, imposing achievements, a vast and spreading authority
and power. At such a time and amid such surroundings, a generous
measure of self-aggrandizement would have seemed quite warranted and
well sustained. But never was a mighty commander freer from that
uncomely fault. The mention of victory makes him strangely unmindful
of himself. The thought of his vast authority makes him the lowliest
in the land. Lincoln was not arrogant. He made no effort after
aggregated honors, however deserved, much less after honors unearned.
In particular he showed no inclination to appropriate another's fame.
For one thing, he knew too well the awful cost of magistracy. The
right to be commander-in-chief of a Nation's resources and arms, so
coveted a right in aspiring men, became transmuted in the cup which
Lincoln drank into a terrible, an almost impossible responsibility.
Nor was it of his nature to subtract from other men for his own
increase. At the price of a brother's freedom, or happiness, or life,
the gaining of ease, or wealth, or joy of any sort for himself would
be far too dear. In the soul of Lincoln extortion could find no soil.
His mien among men was that of indulgent ministry, not of exacting
mastery. With the lower level and the lesser meed he could be well
content. Morbid jealousy for his own acclaim, hungry greed for
another's reward, satisfaction in plaudits that were undeserved, or
comfort from robbery or extortion of any sort were sentiments for
which the refined and genuine modesty of Lincoln had no appetite or
taste. The honors that surrounded and invested him were up-springing,
spontaneous and free; in no least measure accumulated, artificial or

The native purity of Lincoln's lowliness shows best in his reverence
for God. He lived in a daily consciousness of Providence. As a
statesman he was thoroughly a man of God, full of a patriot's adoring
and acquiescent thankfulness, as he watched and studied the wonderful
unfolding of God's just and kindly government of this most favored
land. This mood of humble reverence was deeply wrought. It was of the
texture of his character. It was not a vesture or a posture, a gesture
or a phrase, assumed here and discarded there, and often counterfeit.
It was essential, like his integrity, pervading and indeed controlling
all his responsible life. And it was wholly undisguised. In his most
formal public documents--papers in which statesmen as a rule make
scant allusion to Deity--Lincoln's allusions to God are their most
imposing feature. Beyond all contradiction, Lincoln enacted his public
responsibilities in the fear of God. This was the beginning of his
wisdom. Just this is the secret of the sanity of this last inaugural.
And it is the secret of its immortal beauty. And it is the girdle of
its strength. In framing its central argument, and thereby steadying
the Nation's heart in the convulsions of war, he was expounding the
hidden ways of God. There grew a mighty paragraph. It reads smoothly
now. But when it passed through Lincoln's lips, it was the issue of a
hard-pent agony. When he voiced those words he stood before an altar,
and made confession, like a very priest, for both North and South. All
the land had behaved with unbecoming confidence. All alike were under
discipline. God was in dominion. Even in their prayers both North and
South had been contending against the Lord. The prayers of both could
not be answered. That of neither had been answered fully. The Almighty
had his own purposes. The expectations of all had gone astray. The
contending struggles of either side, despite their contending prayers,
were being turned by the judgments of God against them both into a
terrible national chastisement. So Lincoln discerned, and so he
humbly, vicariously confessed. But beneath this high dominion his
heart too had been bowed down, and overwhelmed, and chastened sore.
Repeatedly his counsels had been overturned, and his expectations had
been reversed; and that too, as he devoutly believed, by the
over-ruling purposes of God. Hence, as in this inaugural scene he
faced the future, though he was head of a puissant people, he behaved
like a little child. In a chastened sense of the mystery and authority
of the overruling designs of Almighty God, he forebore to boast. And
then he said in rhythmic words of almost prophetic majesty, and in the
attire of all but sacrificial humility: "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.'"

This is indeed in prophetic strain. But he forbears to prophesy. He
longed with sacrificial eagerness for national prosperity, in lasting
freedom and unison and happiness. As he renewed his official pledge to
preserve, protect, and defend the world's greatest charter of
equality and freedom for all mankind, his heart and hope held high and
firm. But his total being was subdued. God had crossed his path. The
long-drawn war was God's rebuke. The Nation had gone sadly astray. The
Almighty had taken her waywardness in hand. His purposes were in
control. And He was supreme. And His ways were unrevealed. Lincoln
stood to his task unflinchingly, ready either for sorrow or relief,
ready either for death or life, as the Most High might appoint.

Here is statesmanship indeed. But it is altogether unique. A mighty
Nation's executive head, discerning, devoted, and devout, holding in
his steady hand the charge of a Nation's destiny, pledging in the
Nation's name to lay upon the altar, if need be for the Nation's
honor, the Nation's life, and there before the altar waiting humbly
upon God. Many a theme of profoundest purport opens instantly into
view. Just now our eye is fixed upon its illustration of humility.

On the one hand, and in the first place, its exhibition of the dignity
of pure manhood is sublime. In this inaugural scene, beneath the awful
stress of a Nation in war, upon the basis of the pledged covenant of
the free, invincible faith that a free Republic can sustain and
fulfill all its solemn responsibility, and with unquenchable hope in
the vast and unseen future of his land, Lincoln took his stand, and
held his ground, and put on record before God and all the world his
reverent and resolute oath. Here is manhood, noble, majestic,
decisive, free--a manhood that embraces the worth, voices the hope,
and confronts with open breast the destiny of the race.

But in this same scene these mighty energies pause. Lincoln
consciously faces God. For himself and for the Nation he makes humble
acknowledgment that the Lord is Almighty and Most High. And to God's
full sovereignty he yields spontaneous consent. With lowliest
submission and confession he concedes and declares that all his
rebukes and all his rule are in righteousness.

Here is a place where any man may properly pause. Here the orbit of
our proudest being strikes its verge. Here God and manhood meet. Here
human power faints. Here human resolution halts. Here human foresight
dims. Here human wisdom becomes a void. Here all our pride becomes
perforce humility; and all our counselings merge in faith. Here human
grandeur touches its outer rim.

But here, too, human eyes awaken. Here human aspirations rise. Here
human wisdom becomes newly informed. Here human forecasts brighten
into hope. Here human strength revives. Here human purpose tightens.
Here in reverence human wisdom begins. Here in human lowliness appears
a Godlike dignity. Here our human stature shows its noblest. Lincoln
is at the utmost bound of his knowledge, and his liberty; and yet he
is displaying just here a discernment and a decision of the most
exalted type--a discernment, however, whose insight is a vision of
faith, and a decision whose resolve is an exercise of trust. In this
scene statesmanship is transmuted into religion, undefiled and pure.
Man in his loftiest hope and uttermost need, and God in his
transcendent royalty of equity and goodwill meet face to face, and
stand in open, free and friendly covenant. Here is at once a portrait
of true humility, and the acme of high nobility. Here in childlike
trust and childlike faith the wisdom and the freedom of man attain
their goal. Here statesmanship and reverence, wisdom and trust,
freedom and acquiescence, dignity and lowliness harmonize and
interblend. And in the unison either one remains uncompounded and

Here many questions press to be resolved. This signal scene in
Lincoln's career--what has it to say about the inner nature of man?
What about the nature of God? What about the nature of our human
insight into the essential qualities of things? What about the
relation of will to thought? What about the sovereignty of character?
When human character touches the limit of human life, is it facing
night or day? These are ultimate inquiries. And they are immediate.
For answer to these inquiries, let Lincoln and Hegel meet. And let the
Nations listen to their replies; and so discern what problems clear,
where dignity and lowliness convene. For here is a shining scene,
where any man may see that in a lowly heart wisdom and nobility may
sit together as on a throne. Modesty like Lincoln's is a courtly
grace. Reverence such as his beseems a prince. Such humility,
reflecting with heavenly beauty the immediate presence of God, may
clothe a mighty man, and hold the center of a mighty scene, without
unseemliness, and it wants not intelligence. This at least this scene
makes clear.



The marvelous beauty of the Athenian Parthenon is displayed in four
fa├žades. Upon these four sides runs a frieze in a continuous band,
crowning all the columns, and binding all the structure into a single
shrine. Comprehended within the stately course of that all-encircling
frieze is classic demonstration how an impressive manifoldness of
sculptural form may present a perfect and impressive unison.

Something such is Lincoln's character, as it stands in this second
inaugural. In this address four personal qualities stand forth, as
distinct and clear to the eye and thought as are the faces of the
Parthenon; while, like the Parthenon, the author of that address is
indivisibly and undeniably one. Both are alike composite, and both
alike are one. Both embrace diversity, but all in perfect harmony.
Both have perfect unity, but without monotony. Like the temple of
Athene, greeting from its single altar every horizon of the Grecian
sky, Lincoln, voicing his solemn oath as the Nation's president, gives
utterance to every moral element in our American life. Here is
something worth minute inspection. Here, upreared upon our Western,
modern American soil, is a noble work of art, as noble as any in the
ancient East--finished, balanced, and enduring--the ripened moral
character of a people's patriot.

First to notice narrowly is that Lincoln's moral texture is fourfold.
Four virtues stamp this speech. Four strands compose its web. Four
hues commingle in its light. Four parts convey its harmony. This
four-foldness is discernible distinctly.

Plain to see through all the features of this address, as well-defined
as the features of his friendly face, is his kindliness. Of all
things, war was most deplorable. Of all things, peace was most to be
desired. All malice was to be disowned. All charity was to be
indulged. All wounds were to be bound up. All sorrows were to be
consoled. There spoke the pleading voice of love. All men were bidden
to love their neighbors as they loved themselves. Here the quality of
moral kindliness is unmistakably and indelibly distinct.

Quite as plain is his ideal and illustration of integrity. As manifest
to all the world is his inflexible uprightness, as is the outer
stature of his erect physique. For the equity in the bondman's protest
against two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil he had an open
ear and a profound respect. In the confidence that the judgments of
Almighty God were altogether just he was not ashamed to make public
announcement of his abiding faith. Eager that peace among ourselves
and with all Nations might always last, he was also eager that it
should be just. Firmly based, for his Nation and for himself, upon
such foundations of self-respect, resting on God, and resolute for the
right, he had no other thought but to strive with unremitting
constancy, until his work was done. Here is moral loyalty, plainly
visible, and as plainly inviolate.

Quite as clear is his humility. The war, as Lincoln viewed it, was a
humbling visitation upon the Nation of the Nation's sins, a mighty
rebuke upon all human scorn and pride. In all that sin and scorn and
pride--the crime and guilt of slavery--Lincoln had no slightest,
conscious, personal share. But the shame and woe of that rebuke, as
it fell from the hand of God upon the Nation as a whole, he bore with
quiet, meek humility. And to whatever further judgment the Almighty
might allot he humbly bowed his head, confessing openly that, in his
own heart and thought, God's ways had been proudly misunderstood. Here
is reverent humility, and here is humble reverence, undeniable and

And just as clear is his supreme esteem for values that are permanent
and pure. Above all changing accidents Lincoln honored the Godlike
human soul. In harmony herewith his thoughts and arguments were prone
to handle centuries. And in rating worth his standard was a man's
humanity. Thus he shaped the records and the prospects of our history
into a philosophy. Thus he interpreted the war. It was God's
vindication of the immortal value of the humblest man. Carnal
pleasures and worldly gains, wrung from human lives at the cost of the
degradation and debasement of the human soul, and in defiance of God's
eternal and indefeasible laws, Lincoln saw to be of all things the
most foolhardy and crude. So spiritual and pure was his conception of
God and man, and his active understanding of the meaning of historic
efforts and events. Ideals, endeavors, and enjoyments, even though
normal and worthy, if they dealt with values that were decaying and
gross, were cheaply rated by him; while the Nation's perpetuity, each
man's spiritual quality, and God's eternal purity held eminence
unfailingly in his affection and esteem. Here is spirituality, pure
within, and by the inwardly pure plain to see.

As in the shapely quadrilateral of the Parthenon, this fourfoldness in
the character of Lincoln is cardinal. Each quality is an element, each
conforming with an elemental factor in the nature of every man. This
involves that in its essential substance each trait, so far
considered, is incapable of analysis. And each refuses to be resolved
into something else. Each one is a simple and a constant co-efficient
in Lincoln's moral being. Each one exists within his life in a
complete integrity, indivisible, self-contained.

His humility, thus, is integral and unmixed. When Lincoln bows, as he
does in this inaugural, before his God, and therein offers his life in
a bending ministry to all his fellowmen, that reverence and that
ministry are, as ministry and as reverence, pure lowliness. The phases
of that lowliness may pass through continual transformation. And those
changing forms may have changing designations. It may be submission
before God's sovereignty, reverence before his majesty, awe before his
mystery, obedience before his authority, trust beneath his Providence,
confession under his rebukes; but common, essential, and unchanged
within them all is simple, pure humility.

So with the fashion of his humble ways among his fellowmen. It also
wears a varying guise. It may be modest reticence, abhorrence of
parade, companionship with need, submission to abuse, co-partnership
with a brother's shame, preferring another's gain, honoring other's
worth, seeking ways to serve. But common, essential and unchanged
within all these as well, is simple, pure humility. It is a solid
moral trait, substantial and irreducible. As illustrated in Lincoln's
life, it is entirely dignified and beautiful, essential and
inseparable. As shown in his behavior, it corresponds with a
relationship, as inherent and inwrought in his very being as his very
breath. As a trait of Lincoln's character, his humility has a root, as
firm and durable as is the transcendence of God, and as are the
opportunity and obligation of every man among his brothermen to bear,
forbear, and serve.

It is just the same with his fidelity. It too, is an uncompounded and
imperative moral trait. It is a living, facile grace, easily capable
of many kinds of affirmation. It may identify itself with truth, in
reasoned or implicit faith; with promise, pledge, or oath, in loyalty;
with proof by testing fires, as fidelity, steadfastness, or
reliability; with unvarying, free adhesion to eternal principles, as
consistency; with clear conviction of sure reality, as verity; with
ethical straightforwardness, as rectitude, sincerity, or honesty; with
even, balanced justice, as equity; with the innermost and final norm
of truth in any personal life, as self-assertion, or self-respect. But
common within them all, unaltered and unalterable amid all those
varied and varying forms, is simple, unmixed constancy. In any
analysis of Lincoln's moral life this moral trait will forever demand
distinct and distinctive recognition and name. It is based and
centered in his estimate and estimation of himself, the eye of his
very honor, the core of his nobility, the very sense within his living
soul of the life of his integrity. It is the inward attitude of his
moral worth, as invincible, insistent, and elemental as any purest
action of his self-consciousness.

The same holds true of Lincoln's kindliness. In the balanced harmony
of his character the note of human friendliness is a persistent and
indispensable strain. Without that melody his moral consonance would
be painfully and irretrievably impaired. Like every other fundamental
trait, this too may be voiced with every sort of easy, fluent
variation. It may spring spontaneously from deep within the heart, as
benign and all-embracing benevolence. It may overflow with benefits,
in active, bounteous generosity. It may bind together an ideal home in
parental, filial, fraternal affection. It may kindle at the altars of
one's native land, and influence the heart of the patriotic devotee.
It may break through all the accidents of birth and race into
universal brotherhood. It may befriend the hurt, and needy, and
bereft, as sympathy. It may so prevail as to bear up beneath the cruel
sin of alien hearts in the sorrow of vicarious love, to the end that
guilty men may be redeemed and reconciled. In myriad ways this human
kindliness may speak its gentle words of mercy, grace, and peace. But
every word is keyed to kindly fellowship. Through all those variations
this note is prevalent. And it is keyed to a relationship as universal
and as unavoidable as are the bonds of human brotherhood. This wanting
in any moral character in fact or in idea, that moral character is
unbalanced and incomplete. Its mighty influence and its constant
evidence in Lincoln's active life supply an elemental requisite to
that life's harmony. It is his full-voiced answer to the world-wide
plea for human friendliness.

And just such affirmations must be made concerning Lincoln's pureness.
Like each of the other three, this quality, too, holds a place and
eminence distinctly and uniquely its own. No other trait can do its
part or take its place. Its function and its office permit no
substitute. Nor can its ministry be divided. Its claim is regal. And
in any rating and apportionment among the other three this trait must
be granted equal primacy. Its presence and its purport in Lincoln's
total life are clear and fair and absolutely radical. Its aspect
varies like the aspect of the sky. But deep within those variations
gleams the pure and shining blue. It may win triumph over greed of
appetite in temperance; or over fleshly passion in continence. It may
fix supreme desire, not on decaying things, but on undying life; not
on things that change and disappoint, but on values that abide and
hold their own. It may search far beyond things visible for things
unseen; and look within all symbols, discerning what they mean. It may
detect within down-trodden, untutored men souls kindred to their
Maker. It may transcend all idol forms, and make all worship
spiritual. It may see how ends outvalue means; and how bottles should
not outvalue wine. In the midst of our universal lot of accident,
disease and death it may hold fast, for all the pure in heart, to the
hope of a happy immortality. But enduring and undying, common and
unchanged within them all is simple, spiritual purity. The soul
asserts supremacy. Things that fluctuate and finally dissolve, however
befitting and beautiful while they thrive, are admired and valued far
beneath the immortal and unchanging worth of God and Godlike souls of
men. This clear vision and high evaluation of spiritual things in the
thought and life of Lincoln can never be omitted nor excluded in any
final analysis of his moral life. It ranks among the elements of his
character, as each or any one of its facades holds rank about the

Thus in the composition of Lincoln's moral being there are four solid,
permanent, radical integers--his kindliness, his loyalty, his
pureness, and his humility. And these four elements of his character
face the four cardinal points in the compass of his life--his brother
man, his conscious self, his flesh-bound soul, and his sovereign Lord.
So inherent in his very structure, so inwrought in his conscious
character, so deeply based, so cardinal, and so enduring and
irreducible is this fourfoldness in Lincoln's inward life.

And now, as with the Parthenon, this finished circuit of these four
constituents makes the outline of Lincoln's character not only clear
and cardinal, but inclusive and complete. Combining in their
significance and sweep all fleshly and material things; all things
superior and supreme; all the realm and range of human brotherhood;
and all the truth and worth within his own identity--every factor and
relation of his conscious life has been embraced. His neighbor and
himself as conscious peers, each in loyalty and love demanding and
awarding equal mutual heed; his spirit and his flesh, the two and only
two constituents of his personal life; his finite nature, facing, with
the daily meed and due of humble reverence, his infinite Creator, the
Lord of grace and truth--these exhaust the primal co-efficients of his
life; these enjoin and specify his primal obligations; these inspire
and consummate every moral excellence. When these four virtues are
discovered and admired, when each and all are elected and achieved;
when any man stands true and firm in self-respecting constancy; benign
and kind in self-devoting love; spiritually refined and pure amid a
world of corroding change; bending before the Most High God with the
adoration and awe that are forever so beautiful and meet, his moral
stature stands fully finished, balanced, and mature. So plain to see,
so integral, and so comprehensive are these four qualities of
Lincoln's character.

And now a mighty statement is waiting to be made. These four
constituents of Lincoln's virtue are not four fractions of his
character, each possessing and commanding in solitude and exclusively
some separate segment of his morality. Not alone is each one integral,
but Lincoln is integrally in each. His kindliness is not the action of
a section of his character; it enlists and occupies his being as a
whole and indivisibly. In Lincoln's faithfulness Lincoln's stature
stands complete. Pureness is by no means an occasional or intermittent
exercise of his judgment or choice. Nor in the geography of his life
is Lincoln's lowliness local or sectional. The total Lincoln is
kindly, faithful, pure, and lowly equally, fully and continually. When
in this address he calls the Nation to firmness in the right as God
reveals the right, his manhood stands full-sized in its exercise and
pledge of patriotic loyalty to duty and oath. When again with pitying
heart he makes reference to the slave driver's lash, to those
centuries of unpaid toil, to the terrible cruelty of the war with its
sorrowful entail of widows and orphans and wounds and graves, and,
disowning all malice, voices his great-souled plea for universal
charity and everlasting peace, the full flood of his full strength is
pouring through his speech. When he reminds his fellowmen how far the
worth of man transcends all other wealth, he is professing and
commending a faith to which all his hopes stand pledged. And when in
humble fellowship with humble men he abjures all hollow boasts and
pride, and, bending beneath God's just rebukes, voices for all the
land our national guilt, from that humiliation and lowliness no
portion of his being is exempt. Each cardinal virtue engrosses and
engages all his soul.

And now ensues with a sequence that is irresistible, an affirmation
that in all this study of Lincoln's character must stand supreme.
Integral as is each several one of these four virtues in Lincoln's
life, and integral as is Lincoln's life in each single several trait,
these two integrities can be clearly seen to deeply interblend and
truly coincide. There is among the four qualities within his life no
dissonance. Here emerges Lincoln's moral unison. As in the Parthenon
all the elements harmonize and the edifice is one, so in Lincoln moral
manifoldness unifies. There is throughout coincidence. The heart that
bows towards God, in that very act of meekest acquiescence swells with
pity for all who mourn and bleed, with indignant jealousy for equity,
and with a supreme esteem for immortal souls. These four virtues do
not exist and operate asunder. They do not come into view in this
inaugural in sequence, each one in turn displacing and eclipsing the
one that went and shone before. They coexist, each one continuing
undiminished and unobscured, each one fully active and plain to see,
their confluent tides pouring through the same identical phrase, the
total strength of Lincoln surging alike in each. Through the whole
address thrills Lincoln's whole conviction, all his passion, and the
total vigor of his will respecting truth and falsity, hate and
charity, greed and purity, pride and humility. Here is moral unison.

To find the secret to this moral synthesis demands and deserves the
sharpest scrutiny. That this may be understood it requires to be seen
that these four virtues, so clearly distinguishable and so perfectly
combined, are as clearly and perfectly akin. Lincoln's equity and
charity, as voiced in this address, are not alien energies. They
vitally correspond. They bear mutual resemblance. Each springs from
deep within himself, from his elemental manhood, a manhood that finds
in his brother's life and liberty as deep rejoicing as in his own. And
herein he is also kindred with God, as God's purposes and ways are
defined in this address. God, too, is deeply just and kind. Here roots
Lincoln's meekness under God's rebuke, and Lincoln's firmness in his
understanding of what is right. Between his heart's chief wish and
God's high will the moral correspondence becomes identity. So deep is
the coincidence and agreement of Lincoln's reverence and equity and
charity within himself and with his God. The same inwrought agreement
shines in the profound affinity of Lincoln's kindliness and
faithfulness and lowliness with his pure idealism. In him they are all
as fully unified as is his manliness. So deeply intimate is the vital
synthesis of Lincoln's moral unison.

This position is pivotal. If either of these four virtues, here
defined and designated as elementally distinct and cardinal, can be
ever merged into any one, or any two, or all the other three; or if
any one can be dissolved, or analyzed into something else still more
elemental and pure, that possibility should be made passing sure and
clear at just this point. For from the affirmations, thus far laid
down, as to the cardinal validity and vital harmony of these four
moral traits, and of the four foundations in which these virtues rest,
follow other affirmations in the chapters that now ensue, which no
artificial postulate can ever uphold.

But here, in passing, two standard affirmations are required. It is
not to be asserted or assumed that Lincoln's personal life attained
perfection, and transcended sin. In the chapter on humility, and in
chapters yet to come his own deep sense of deep unworthiness stands
evident. But in his clear and firm ideal and desire, aglow throughout
with Godlike grief for all delinquency, appear the qualities above

And then these qualities, which his unique career displays, are, as
moral qualities, in no respect unique or beyond the measure of any
man. They beseem quite normally the plainest of us all. This truth
deserves full heed and unreserved respect. Lincoln was beautifully
like a little child. He was indeed a hero and performed heroic deeds.
But with all his heroism, as regards his moral qualities, the humblest
mortal may be his peer. Here is the hidden secret of the universal and
ungrudging admiration which his heroic character commands. He is the
world's model and guarantee of a world democracy.



In Lincoln's character is a beautiful illustration of moral balance.
He stands before the eye unchangeably, like the Capitol dome at
Washington, a signal exhibition of firmness, harmony, and repose. As
he fills his place as president, he seems to face the whole horizon at
once. A study of his life leaves the impression that he is resting
upon a solid, ample base; that his weight is well distributed; that
his energies are united evenly; that all his parts agree together;
that throughout his structure he is at ease; while yet there swell and
rise within his breast proud, far-seeing hopes that only a Nation's
grandest magnitude could give complete embodiment. This massive poise,
and breadth, and balanced evenness are the seemly vesture of his
character. They well become his inner attitude. They are the open
intimation of the shapeliness and majesty of the unseen soul within.
And quite as worthy of study and admiration as our national dome, is
this well-poised nobility of Lincoln's personality.

With this intent one may well review this last inaugural, for it
enshrines superior beauty. Not unfittingly did it find first utterance
beneath the presence of that imposing masterpiece at our national
Capitol. As in that circling colonnade, so in the measured cadences of
this address, there is exalted harmony. Its phrases, rhythmic and
pleasurable, rank almost as music. Read however many times, its
sentences never tire. Minds the most refined are glad to point to
this address as to a noble monument, assured that its perusal will
awaken in any American high national pride, and in the minds of all
men a pure delight.

This commanding, gracious dignity is not alone a matter of even
rhythms and pleasing cadences. It is to its author's moral poise and
full harmony that this speech owes its symmetry. Indeed this is all
its substance. Of rhetorical decoration it is absolutely bare. Its
only title to its universal admiration is the patent fact that its
author has traced and set therein, as with an engraver's nicest art,
the princely fashion of his high-born soul. Its finished ethical
symmetry is all the art that gives this speech its everlasting charm.

What now is the inmost nature of the attractiveness that holds
possession of this last inaugural? In this inquiry is extended a
winsome invitation to any beauty-loving mind. As such a mind fixes its
inspection intently upon the vital structure of this address, he sees
within its shapely borders four princely virtues, standing together in
a courtly league. Each virtue stands mature in unrestrained virility,
no one of them overbearing the other three, nor being overborne. With
easy, manly grace each virtue does its part, while all harmoniously
combine, to support with Godlike sagacity and strength the problems of
a Nation's destiny in days and tasks that mock the sagest counsel and
baffle the proudest might of man.

Like stately columns beneath a stately dome, these virtues deserve
regard. Each one is integral in Lincoln's personal majesty, and in the
finely finished power of this address. The exhibition of personal
self-respect, the very eye of moral verity, as displayed in Lincoln's
own reliability, and idealized within his steadfast plan for national
consistency, is fashioned forth within the well-set features of this
address with all the well-poised grandeur of the Olympian Zeus. The
tones of kindliest friendliness towards detractors and defenders
alike, repelling all malignity, unfailingly benign, cannot in any
cadence be misunderstood. They fall like healing music, reminding
listeners of home, and hearthstone, and a father's heart. The lowly
attitude of penitent submissiveness towards God, with its wonderful
mingling of solemn awe, adoring worship, and conscious fellowship,
undeniably without hypocrisy, as without restraint, institutes in this
address nothing less than the model and inspiration of a reverent,
religious liturgy, fit to lead and voice a Nation's humble penitence
and praise. The kindled and enkindling zeal for the transcendent worth
of men above all other wealth, the burning hearth from whose free
flame springs up every passion glowing through this speech, is like
the fervent ardor of a prophet's heart, watching with a patient, eager
wistfulness towards the dawning of a day that shall never pass away.

These are signal qualities in this address, each one erect and free,
its signal beauty and virility undiminished and complete. But to be
noticed here is, not their individual comeliness, but the beauty of
their companionship. They consort together perfectly. And in that
unison is a peculiar, an individual attractiveness. Here is a symmetry
that pleads for appreciation. It is the beauty of this unison
throughout this speech that constitutes its eloquence. See how
Lincoln's very confession of error puts him in line with God. Feel how
his righteousness affiliates with tenderness. Mark how his heed for
earthly things provides a body for his idealism. Within the unyielding
rigor of his resolute will see how bending and genial is his attitude.
Here is marvelous symphony--sin and error and war, light and truth and
peace, so comprised and combined, so resolved and reconciled in this
speaker and in this address, as to show a Nation how in the discord of
arms heaven's own harmonies may be heard. To this fine blending of
tones that are distinct, to this pure consonance of notes that are
diverse, it were well for all our ears to become accustomed. This
would mean a true and real refinement. To this refinement Lincoln did
achieve. With this deep consonance his ear became familiar. Hence the
deep-toned fulness and carrying power in the moral resonance of this
address. It faces a manifold emergency with sentiments likewise
manifold, but so composed together as to lead all discordant voices
into lasting peace.

This moral equilibrium carried within it generous breadth. This is a
striking aspect of this inaugural. It comprehends and resolves
together, with an ease that seems an instinct, the total orbit of our
national life. Within its little compass is the easy movement of the
full momentum of our past. It holds in easy grasp the full
circumference of concurrent events. It evinces, though with amazing
brevity, that the ponderous issues of the coming day are a familiar
topic in his brooding thought. And all of this consists together
within his thought with even, equal recognition. Events are made to
balance. Causes and effects are so held face to face as to declare by
demonstration their true comparison. Great issues and mighty forces
are given their needed amplitude in his observation and review. The
weight of centuries is in his ponderings. This was the style and
attitude of his mental deliberations. He was predisposed to cast and
arrange his thoughts in national dimensions. Union, liberty, manhood,
Providence, were the themes to which his soul was drawn, as though by

Thus Lincoln's influence attained solidity. The place of this
inaugural, and of its author's honor, in our American life, and in
the larger world of worthy civics is well-secured. The qualities
embodied in this address, each one so elemental, and all so eternally
allied, are more enduring, as they stand poised within those balanced
paragraphs, than any qualities resident in marble or bronze. The
proposition that the hostile interests of a mighty Nation be
reconciled into eternal friendliness and constancy under the awful
discipline of God through sacrificial baptisms of blood, contains
within its balanced and majestic terms an interior cohesion and
stability that nothing can ever disintegrate or move. It is without a
bias anywhere. Through all its massiveness the weight is even
absolutely. And its moral proportions are in perfect truth. It is a
monument of finished majesty, solidity, and grace. It is a masterpiece
of moral symmetry.

This massive grandeur in Lincoln's moral character finds an exalted
illustration in the closing half of his message to Congress in
December of 1862. It forms in itself a document that may well be held
before the eye as a companion piece to his last inaugural. He is
making an elaborate argument for "compensated emancipation." He is
laboring to make clear that the issues pending in the center of the
war are no concern of mere geography, but rather a problem hanging
upon the free decisions of living citizens; and that in the interest
of universal liberty a full agreement by Congress and the chief
executive to tax the Nation peaceably, to remunerate all loss entailed
by freeing every slave, would surely win the requisite electoral
support, stay the war at once, establish lasting peace, and give
demonstration of a civic character and courage fit to brighten and
enhearten all the world. He closes his appeal with these following

"Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and
this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No
personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of
us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor
or in dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union.
The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the
Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We--even we
here--hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to
the slave, we assure freedom to the free--honorable alike in what we
give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the
last, best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not
fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just--a way which, if
followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."

There is in that message a document that has the scope and the
grandeur of the Alps. It offers an imposing illustration how politics,
so prone to become and to remain ignoble, may come to have surpassing
beauty; how statesmanship, vested in a worthy character, may wear
transcendent dignity. This appeal, as shaped by Lincoln, is a monument
fashioned by a master hand. Note its basis in equity, all the Nation
in common accepting their money cost of a common complicity in wrong.
Note its inscription to human goodwill, curtailing the period, and
staying the bloodshed of the war. Note its enduring substance and
composition, built up of human hearts, cemented in the action of
freedom in the human soul, a towering protest against all gains and
consequences where human liberty is denied. Note the humble reverence
in the soaring appeal to the benediction of God, with which the whole
address concludes. Note the conscience-stirring reference to
inevitable and over-ruling law, in the ominous intimation that the
light of history would luminously adjudge each several man. And note,
with all the imperial urgency of the appeal, its vesture of infinite
respect for the right of every congressman to make a free decision of
and by and for himself alone.

Here is something at once most imposing and most engaging. Here is
handicraft of the highest grade. The man that conceived and drafted
that political appeal was, in the realm of politics, no mean
architect. He is, in these arguments, measuring the forces elemental
in a great Republic, as Michael Angelo measured gravitation. He is
dealing with decades, and with centuries, with freedom and with
slaves, with a transient Congress and the course of history, as
builders deal with granite blocks. Embracing things dispersed and
widely variant, as also things mutually inclined towards fellowship,
he defines and demonstrates, as a master artisan, how they may all be
grasped and overcome and harmonized in a commanding unison. With a
skilled designer's easy grace he drafts a sketch of our transformed
career, as plain and open to the observing eye as are the massive,
graceful movements of deploying clouds across the sky. Here is
majesty, lofty, balanced, and secure. And all its excellence is
ethical. And it pleads to be made supreme in earthly politics. In such
a message is ideal courtliness. Its bearer must be a comely prince.
The man and author upon whose polished tongue those sentiments found
birth must be of royal lineage.

Thus Lincoln has given to civics ideal comeliness and dignity. In his
hand, and under his design, politics wears heavenly majesty. In his
conception of a State, though devised and traced in times when cruelty
and sordidness and unfairness and negligence of God were sadly
prevalent through the Nation's life, there rose to view, in his pure
patriotism, a civic standard in which, through holy fear of God, all
men were rated at their immortal worth, and treated with the love and
fairness that were the mutual due of freemen who were peers. Here is a
portrait of a patriot upon which no artist can easily improve--a
portrait which attests in Lincoln's soul a pure and a free idea of
what true art must ever be.

And it is not without profound significance for art that Lincoln's
statesmanship has become one of the finest objects in our modern world
for artists to idealize. The very features of his face, that were wont
to be esteemed most plain, have come to show a symmetry that is
beautiful. And his whole outward frame, that men so many times have
called ungainly, has come to bear and body forth a dignity such as
summons finest bronze and marble to their most exalted ministry.
Whence came to that plain face and plainer frame such symmetry and
dignity? Let artists contemplate and reply. For in Lincoln's manhood
stature, where utmost rudeness has become transmuted to refinement,
all men are taught that true beauty and true art are ethical. In moral
harmony is found ideal symmetry.


In the foregoing pages reference has been made repeatedly to Lincoln's
poise. In the chapter just concluded this poise has been studied for
its beauty. This attitude will repay still further scrutiny. For
looked at again, and from another point of view, it reveals itself as
a reservoir of energy. Seen thus, Lincoln's notable poise becomes a
mighty store of potential, and indeed of active force. It may be
described as a mingling of energy and repose, of resourcefulness and
rest, showing and playing through all his influence among other men,
and largely explaining its potency.

Of just this personal habitude, through all the years of Lincoln's
participation in our national affairs, there was strenuous need and
requisition. His public course ran through an era in our national
career of unprecedented internal turbulence. The house was divided
against itself. The cause of the dissension was a diametrical
opposition and an irreconcilable contention of views touching a matter
so radical as the basis of our Declaration of Independence, and the
purport of our fundamental national document, the Constitution. To the
men on either side of this contention it seemed as though their
antagonists were bent upon uprooting and removing the very hills. This
obstinate and inveterate disagreement revolved about the single,
simple, fateful question of the right and wrong of holding men in
bonds. For a full generation before Lincoln entered the lists the
conflict had been bitterly intense, refusing to be composed or
assuaged. Near the beginning of the last decade of Lincoln's life he
put on his armor and chose his side. In 1858, while competing with
Douglas for a seat in the U. S. Senate, Lincoln made a declaration
that, for its bearing upon his own career and its influence in
national affairs, has become historic; while for its testimony to the
topic of this chapter it has the very first significance. The core of
that declaration was a quotation from words of Christ, when refuting
the charge that he was in league with Beelzebub:--"A house divided
against itself cannot stand." This quotation was cited by Lincoln to
edge his affirmation that the national agitation concerning slavery,
then in full course, and continually augmenting, would not cease until
a crisis should be reached and passed. This was his firm assurance. A
national crisis was at hand. But to this assurance, that the
government could not endure permanently half slave and half free, he
attested another confidence equally assured:--"I do not expect the
Union to be dissolved--I do not expect the house to fall--but I do
expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or
all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further
spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the
belief that is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates
will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the
States, old as well as new, North as well as South."

That was said with resolute and imposing deliberation in July of 1858.
In that utterance Lincoln's attitude deserves analysis, and for many
reasons; but in particular for its revelation of his composure. He
knew full well what tremendous issues for himself and for the Nation
were involved in what he said. He knew that his appeal for the
senatorship at Washington was thereby gravely imperiled. He knew that
it foreboded national convulsions and throes. He knew that for himself
and for the government a mighty crisis was ahead. And he knew that in
that crisis the alternatives were for all humanity supreme. The issues
were nothing less than human freedom and equality, or human tyranny
and bonds. In the stress and strain of an age-long strife like this,
many a man has swerved to moral pessimism.

From the date of that speech Lincoln stood in the face of that
vicissitude. Indeed for his few remaining years he was, in all that
deepening commotion, an energetic and influential central force. And
he never yielded to despair. In this same month he issued to Senator
Douglas his doughty challenge to a series of debates. During those
debates Lincoln forged his way into a preeminence that amounted almost
to solitude, as champion of a people and a cause that, for weary
generations, had been under all but hopeless oppression and reproach.
Through all those debates Lincoln's single heart was nothing less
than a national theater of a solicitude nothing less than national.
Upon his lone shoulders lay the gravest burdens of his day. The ideals
of a Nation lay upon his anvil; the national temper was being forged
beneath his hand. Highest chivalry waged against him, bearing tempered
steel, and jealous of an old and proud prestige.

In the immediate outcome of those debates Lincoln met defeat. But
farther on he only found himself involved more deeply still in the
anguish of the crisis he had foretold. The national disagreement was
verging towards the Nation's dissolution, heightening at length into
secession and actual, long-drawn civil war. So tremendous was the
crisis Lincoln foresaw. And this was precipitated directly by his
election to the presidency. So vitally were his own fortune and fate
bound up in the crisis he foretold. So pitiless and fundamental was
the challenge to his hope. His total administration was spent in the
tumult of arms. By no possibility in any Nation's conscious life could
civil confusion be worse confounded than during the period of his
presidential terms. Beginning with seven states in open secession, and
brought to an end by assassination, the measure of his supreme
official life was full to either brim with perils and sorrows and
fears, such as any single human heart could hardly contain. But the
undiminished, overwhelming volume of those fears and sorrows and cares
was encompassed every day within his anxious, ample, patriot heart.
When facing in August of 1864 the national election, upon which this
last inaugural oath was based, he said:--"I cannot fly from my
thoughts--my solicitude for this great country follows me wherever I
go. I do not think it is personal vanity or ambition, though I am not
free from these infirmities; but I cannot but feel that the weal or
woe of this great Nation will be decided in November." So momentous
and grave seemed to him the meaning and weight of the contention that
drove the Nation into war. In this estimate, as said before, he stood
almost in solitude. "Our best and greatest men," he said in New Haven
in 1860, "have greatly underestimated the size of this question. They
have constantly brought forward small cures for great sores--plasters
too small to cover the wound." To Lincoln's credit it must forever be
said that he had a true prevision of the agony through which the
Nation must strive, as she reached and passed the crisis which he saw
in 1858 to be her predestined and impending fate.

And so it came to pass that in 1861, when Fort Sumter was assailed,
and the sharp imperious alternative of immediate dissolution or blood
faced the Nation's eye, he was not surprised or unprepared; as
likewise, when in 1865 at his second inaugural scene, after four full
years of awful war, he is still found waiting in sacrificial patience
to hail the culmination of his assured interpretation and hope. Here
in 1865 as there in 1858, there in 1858 as here in 1865, he is
cherishing the patriot-prophet's confidence that the crisis would be
passed, that the Nation would not be dissolved, that the house would

And to Lincoln's singular honor it must always be allowed that through
all the terrible hours while that crisis was being passed, it was
pre-eminently due to Lincoln's mighty moral optimism that our Union
was preserved. Amid all the turbulence of armies and arms, his
assurance of our national perpetuity was so deeply, firmly based, as
to be itself invested and informed with perpetuity. So commanding was
his posture of heroic, triumphant confidence, that it mightily availed
to guide and steady the Nation through the crisis into an era of
internal and international peace.

But not merely did Lincoln's composure prevail to secure that this
Nation should not dissolve. It also wrought prevailingly to perpetuate
our liberty. Throughout the crisis the issue held in stake was whether
the Nation should be wholly slave or wholly free. Those were the
alternatives between which Lincoln's care and fear, and the Nation's
fortune and fate were hung. Throughout the crisis Lincoln's hope was
that the Nation should be forever wholly free. His fear was that the
Nation might be wholly slave. But above that fear, that hope
steadfastly prevailed. One who studies Lincoln through those days
comes to feel unerringly that deep beneath an anxiety that seemed at
times almost to overwhelm his life, there lay a supreme assurance
that, when the crisis should have passed, it should stand clear beyond
debate, and sure beyond all doubt, that here in this favored land the
chance of all the sons of men should be forever equal, fair, and free.
Astutely heedful of the power of selfish, sordid greed; deeply
conscious of the blind defiance of scorn and pride; painfully aware of
the awful capacity of a human heart for cruelty and hate; and sharp to
see how reason yields to prejudice, when chivalry becomes a
counterfeit; he still found grounds to hold his anchored hope for
universal liberty and brotherhood.

This deep-based confidence deserves to be well understood. It is a
primary phenomenon in Lincoln's life. How in the deepest welter of
violence and strife could Lincoln's mood retain such level evenness?
How in all that continental turbulence could he keep so unperturbed?
How, through all that confusion was he never confused? In truth his
days were mostly dark and sad. Sorrows did overwhelm him. How did his
anchorage hold unchanged? When the very hills gave way, his
foundations seemed to stay. The assurance to which his soul was
attached seemed all but omnipotent. What was the secret, what the
ground of such phenomenal steadiness?

To answer these inquiries is but to rehearse again what has already
been repeatedly made plain. This massive sturdiness of Lincoln's
statesmanship, this unalterable political reliability lay inwrought in
the hardy fiber of his moral character.

One factor here may be termed intellectual. Lincoln's study made him
steady. His untiring thoughtfulness secured to Lincoln's soul a fine
deposit of pure assurance. It was with him a jealous and guarded
custom to make examinations exhaustive. He was always seeking
certainty. Few men ever dealt more sparingly in conjecture. Always
eager towards the future, and often making statements touching things
to come, he was nevertheless a model of mental caution. It was this
passion to make his footing fully secure that kindled in him such zest
for history. It was this same passion that glowed in his eye, as he
inspected in common men their common humanity. And likewise it was
this that led him into the fear of God, and made him a student of the
Bible, and a man of prayer. The full capacity of his mind was taxed
unceasingly, in order to secure to his ripening judgments their
majestic equipoise.

But with saying this not enough is said to describe the grounds of his
composure. It was not merely that his mind, through thoughtful inquiry
and comparison, grew far-sighted, and balanced, and clear. What gained
for Lincoln his solid anchorage was his deep, strong hold upon all
that was inmost and permanent in the heart and nature of men. Every
inch a man himself, the one ambition of his mental research was to
make every responsible thought and deed conduce to guide every brother
man to the destiny which his nature decreed. This was the research
that made his eye so clear. This was the study that made his hope so
sure. Outcome of unsparing intellectual toil, this was the assurance
that won for Lincoln his unique and most honorable diploma and degree.
This was Lincoln's standing and this its warrant among all thoughtful
men, alike the learned and the unlettered. This was the secret of that
marvelous calmness, that was so potent to compose the fears of other
men. He studied man, until he attained a magisterial power to
understand and explain result and cause, issue and origin, amid
historic, surrounding, and impending events. In the field where
Lincoln stood and toiled he was an adept. He was a worthy master of
the humanities. He took a liberal course in the liberal arts. And out
of this broad course he constructed politics. He came to see
unerringly, and to believe unwaveringly, and to contend unwearyingly
that man, that all men should hold, in a universal equilibrium, their
regard for God, their self-respect, their brother love, and a true,
comparative esteem for things that perish and souls that survive. This
reasoned, hopeful faith, adopted with all his heart as the comely
pattern and well-set keystone of all his politics and statesmanship,
is what secured to Lincoln through all those tumultuous days his
far-commanding political equanimity. That all men were designed and
entitled by their Creator to be free, and that in this liberty, as in
the elemental right to life and self-earned happiness, all are
likewise created equal, Lincoln did devoutly, profoundly, and
invincibly believe. Confirmed by all his ranging observation and
incessant, pondering thought, this faith was also rooted beyond repeal
in his own deep reverence for God, in his own instinctive respect for
himself, in irrepressible friendliness, and in his unabashed

Such a man could never be a pessimist. Such a faith in such a soul
could not be plucked away. Nor could its protestations be variable.
That each, as alike the handiwork of God, should alike be always fair,
and that all should always and alike be free, was the base of his
political philosophy, and the bond of his consistency. This was the
teaching of the past. This was the harbinger of the day to come. And
in this long-pondered wisdom and belief lay the explanation of his
underlying peacefulness through the war, and of his singular ability
to prevail above the fears of other men, when in other hearts every
hope gave way. He deeply saw that underneath all battlefields, and
within all antagonisms, these simple principles, so surely sovereign
and so certainly immortal, encompassed a breadth and strength
sufficient to circumvent and overcome all hate and doubt and fear,
doing to no freeman any vital harm, shielding from essential evil
every toil-bowed slave. This is the source and secret of Lincoln's
unexampled composure amid scenes of unexampled anxiety and unrest.

And this composure, being so inwrought with hope, was unfailingly
active and alert. It was never mere endurance, stolid and inert. It
enshrined a powerful momentum. It was alive with purpose, conscious,
vigorous, resolute. One of its fairest features was a seeing eye--an
eye transfixed upon a goal. Things as yet invisible, and still
unrealized, his earnest, unwearying eye prevailed to see. Hence his
optimism was astir with enterprise. Anticipation, quite as truly as
peacefulness, marked the constant attitude of his life. His composure
could be closely defined as confidence respecting things to come.
Always environed by difficulties, and all but blinded by their strife,
his faith struck through their turmoil, and his hope rose free and
strong into a jubilant salutation of man's undoubted destiny, and
into a victorious companionship with God's clear, certain will.

And so there throbbed in this habitual posture of Lincoln's heart a
mighty potency. His composure was prevailing. His deep and calm
security dissipated other men's dismay. Repeatedly beneath the
presence of his stately quietness the Nation felt its turbulence
subside. This efficiency can be felt at work in this last inaugural
address; and its action well deserves to be identified. In his
exposition of its theme, and in his registration of his presidential
pledge, he seems by one hand to have fast hold of things immutable,
while with the other hand he is helping to steady things that tremble
and change. Here is kingly mastery. Things mightily disturbed are
being mightily put to rest, as though from an immutable throne. The
open figure of that throne may well be scanned by all the Nation and
by all the world. It is built and stands foursquare. Its measure
conforms in every part with the measure of a man. It is shaped and set
to stand and abide where men consort, to unify their minds, and
tranquillize their strifes. With sobered and sobering insight into the
human soul, with resolute and expectant will before our human goal,
this address inscribes and upholds, as at once an outcome and an ideal
of human events, a universal amity compacted of loyal, friendly men
who walk in reverence before God, and cherish treasures that can never
fail. Purity, humility, charity, loyalty--these are the constituents
in the structure, and the explanation of the power of Lincoln's
composure. Fully illumined, firmly convinced, evenly at rest upon
principles that stand foursquare upon the balanced manhood of Godlike
men, his civic hopefulness stood in the midst of his practical
statesmanship, like an invincible, immovable throne.


The study in the preceding chapter of Lincoln's even-paced serenity,
culminating in the symbol of a throne, conducts directly to an
examination of his influence and mastery over other men. During those
troubled days in Washington, despite all the malice, defiance, and
active abuse which he daily bore, his power to persuade, conciliate,
and govern other men was, in all the land, without a parallel. In
fact, as well as in name, he was throughout those presidential days
the Nation's chief magistrate. And since his death that dominion has
increased, until it stands today above comparison. Here is an
opportunity, not easily matched, to explore a theme whose importance
in the field of ethics no other topic can surpass--the seat and nature
of moral authority. And here in this second inaugural is a transparent
illustration of the firm security in which that authority rests, and
of the method by which it prevails.

As in his own inner reverence for law, so in his sway of other men,
his posture towards the national Constitution demands attention first.

"The supreme law of the land"--thus the Constitution of the United
States, in its sixth article, defines itself. In its fifth article,
the same fundamental document provides that "Amendments," properly
made, "shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of this
Constitution." This primary authority for the rule of the land is
further affirmed to have been ordained and established by "the people
of the United States." Here are three noteworthy features of this "law
of the land:"--it is supreme; it is amendable; it arises from the

This written standard of our national life, its amendability, and its
primal origin in the people's will, were matters much in Lincoln's
eye. Each separate one of these three features of our national civic
life had reverent respect in Lincoln's mind, in all his conception and
exercise of authority over other men. It was this "supreme law" that
he swore in both inaugurations to "preserve, protect, and defend." An
amendment to the Constitution, that was pending at the time of his
first inaugural oath, he took unusual pains in that address to mention
and approve. And it was to "the people," on both occasions of his
inauguration as president, and at all other times of public and
responsible address, that he paid supreme respect, in his most
finished and earnest eloquence and appeal. Here was a threefold
ultimate standard to which Lincoln always made final appeal--the
original Constitution; its amenability to due revision; and the
people's free and deliberate decree. This triangular base-line was for
Lincoln's politics and jurisprudence and statesmanship the supreme and
finished standard of last appeal. He deferred to it submissively,
habitually, and with reverence.

All this can be truly said. And yet all this does not say all the
truth. Respectful as Lincoln was for all that he found thus
fundamentally prescribed, and heedful as he was to indulge in no
executive liberty inconsonant with those express decrees, he found his
fortune as chief executive forcing him to move where all explicit
regulations failed to specify the path. The Constitution does not
include all details. It does not vouchsafe specific counsel for
specific needs. Its guidance is as to principles. "No foresight can
anticipate, nor any document of reasonable length contain, express
provisions for all possible questions." This he declared in his first
inaugural. Then he mentions three such unprescribed details:--the
method of returning fugitive slaves; the power of Congress to
prohibit; and the duty of Congress to protect slavery in the
Territories. Touching those three civic interests, civic duties and
civic standards were undirected and undefined. But even while he
spoke, those three unsettled problems in the Nation's life were
kindling the national pulse to an uncontrollable heat. Nothing less
than civil war was certainly impending, over controversies touching
which the sovereign standards of the civic life did not expressly

Upon these momentous, undecided questions Lincoln, in his high
authority as president, had to bring his judgment, his action, and his
influence into settled shape. Deep in the heart of these unsettled
regions he set his camp, and toiled away his life. This heroic and
patriotic act may be called a detail of constitutional interpretation.
But it was for Lincoln a labor of Hercules. It opened a gigantic
controversy. The land was convulsed with contending explications.
Views, held essential to the vital honor of separate sections of the
land, were in essential hostility. As the dissension deepened, two
questions rose, outstanding above the rest:--the Constitutional
integrity of the several States (might States secede?); and the
Constitutional rights of slavery (should slavery spread?). Both these
problems were mortally acute in 1861. Both were still in hand in 1865.
Under the Constitution could the Union be legitimately dissolved?
Under the Constitution should slavery be permanently approved? To both
these questions Southern leaders answered, Yes. To both these
questions Lincoln answered, No.

Of these two questions and asseverations, it is plain to see that the
second is the more profound. So this second inaugural affirms:
"Somehow" slavery was the cause of the secession and the war. This
"all knew." Upon this pivot, all the chances and contentions of the
great debate were compelled to turn. Here lay all the meaning of the
war. All those awful battles were trembling, struggling arguments;
thrilling, impassioned affirmations striving to finally and forever
decide whether human slavery was justified to spread.

Here was a supreme divergence of conviction, and a supreme debate. In
all the realm of social morals, no divergence and no debate could be
more radical. Into this supreme contention Lincoln was compelled to
enter. To some conclusion that should be supreme he was, by his
official station and responsibility, compelled to lead. To find his
way through such a controversy, and to guide the land through all that
strife to some sovereign reconciliation, involved this common citizen
in the presidential chair in an assumption and exercise of authority
nothing less than sovereign.

Face to face with this impending and decisive agony, Lincoln took his
stand in his first inaugural, not flinching even from war, if war must
come. A mighty wrestler in the awful throes of mortal civic strife, he
held his determined stand in the act of his second inaugural oath,
after war had raged for four full years. The great debate is unsettled
still. Still Lincoln has to bear the awful burden of responsible
advice. He is still the Nation's chief magistrate. An authority
pregnant to predetermine continental issues for unnumbered years to
come, however dread its weight, and however frail and faint his mortal
strength, he may not demit. Within the darkness and amid the din, he
must think and speak, he must judge and act, he must rise and lead,
while a Nation and a future both too vast for human eye to scan and
estimate, stand waiting on his word and deed.

It was a time for omens. But never did Lincoln's ways show fuller
sanity. In such a day, and for such a responsibility this, his second
inaugural address, is Lincoln's perfect vindication. Here the true
civilian's true democracy stands vested with an authority both
sovereign and beautiful. Here political expertness becomes consummate.
Here the very throne of civil authority is unveiled. Here leadership
and fellowship combine. Here a master, though none more modest in all
the land, demonstrates his mastery in the mighty field of national
politics. Here it may be fully seen how in a true democracy a true
dominion operates.

Here emerges, in the ripened, rugged, mellowed, moral character of
Lincoln, and in the finished, immortal formulation of his uttermost
contention and appeal, a marvelous illumination of an inquiry, that is
always alike the last and the first, the first and the last in ethical
research--the inquiry about ethical authority. Where did Lincoln
finally rest his final appeal? He is assuming to venture a
preponderant claim. He is speaking as a Nation's president. And in a
conflict of radical views that for four dread years has been a
conflict of relentless arms, he argues still, and without a quaver,
for the thorough prosecution of the war. Divergence of judgment on
moral grounds could never be brought to a sharper edge. Contention
over issues in the moral realm could never be harder pressed. On what
authority could Lincoln push a moral argument unto blood? Is there
moral warrant for such a deed? If ever there be, then where is its
base, and whence its awful sanctity?

To shape reply to this is but to shape more sharply still the naked
substance of the debate--the crying issue of the war. The core of that
insistent strife concerned the essential nature of man. Was slavery
legitimate? Might a white man enslave a black? Could a strong man
enslave the weak? Dare some men forswear toil? May any men who toil
be pillaged of the food their hands have earned? Are some men entitled
to a luxury and ease they never earned, while to other men the luxury
and ease they have fairly won may be denied? Are some men so inferior
that they can have no right to life, and liberty, and happiness,
however much they strive and long for such a simple, common boon? Are
other men so super-excellent that life, and liberty, and happiness are
theirs by right, though never earned or even struggled for at all?

This was the central issue of that war; and this the central theme of
this inaugural. Are common people to be forever kept beneath, and
traded on, and eyed with scorn; while favored men are to be forever
set on high, and filled with wealth, and fed with flattery? This was
the quivering question that was brought on Lincoln's lips to its
sharpest edge. Well he knew its momentousness and its antiquity.

In its very formulation, as Lincoln gave it shape, there loomed the
formulation of its reply, perhaps still to be bitterly defied, perhaps
to be still long deferred; but inevitable at last, and sure finally to
find agreement everywhere. This final answer Lincoln's vision saw. In
that clear vision he discerned the certain meaning of the battles of
the war. In the great debate they were the solemn, measured arguments.
Amid those awful arguments this inaugural took its place, the oracle
of a moral prophet, explaining how the war arose, by whose high hand
the war was being led, and in what high issue the war must attain its
end. As the arguments of this address advance, one grows to feel that
Lincoln's thought is forging a reply, in which emerges a moral law
whose authority no man may ever dare rebuke.

But as that authority comes to view in Lincoln's speech, its form is
shorn of every shred of arrogance. Never was mortal man more modest
than in the tone and substance of this address. This modesty is indeed
throughout devoid of wavering. His tones ring with confidence and
decisiveness. But in that confidence, though girt for war, there are
folded signs of deference and gentleness and solemn awe, as though
confessing error and confronting rebuke. Even of slavery, that most
palpable and abhorrent evil, as he forever avers; and of slaveholders,
who wring their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, and then
dare to pray for heaven's favor on their arms, he says in this
address:--"let us not judge that we be not judged;" as though the germ
of that dark error might then be swelling in his and all men's hearts.
And as to the war itself, for which he bade the Nation stand with
sword full-drawn, the central passage in this speech more than
intimates, what in an earlier part he fully concedes, that he and all
the people had availed but poorly to understand the Almighty's plans.
In all of this Lincoln seems to say that he found himself, in common
with all the land, but imperfectly in harmony with God, as to his
judgment concerning the sin inwrought in holding slaves, and as to the
primacy of the Union among the interests pending in the war. He seems
in this address, so far from affirming his right to judge and govern
arbitrarily, instead confessing that love of ease, greed for gain, the
mood of scorn, and proneness to be cruel--those inhuman roots that
rear up slavery--were apt to find hidden nutriment in his and all
men's hearts, yielding everywhere the baleful harvest of inhumanity;
confessing further that this deep-rooted tendency in human hearts to
undo God's primal decree of freedom and equality was far more needful
to eradicate than any proneness to secede within any confederacy of
States; and confessing in consequence and finally that it was for all
Americans to accept the war as God's rebuke of their common
propensity to be unkind, and as God's correction of their false rating
of their national concerns. This then seems to be Lincoln's posture in
this address--no lofty arrogance of authority to decree and execute
the right; but a humble confession of error and guilt; an acquiescent
submission to God's correction and reproof. This modest hue must
tincture this address through all its web.

And yet the dominant note of this inaugural is clear decisiveness, an
unwavering firmness in his own opinion, a classic illustration of
persuasion and appeal, as though from the vantage ground of
convictions perfectly assured. Where now, in full view of all that has
been said, is the basis of Lincoln's argument and authority to be
placed? In an argument where conviction seems to be transmuted into
penitence, and where confession seems transfigured into confidence,
how can the logic be resolved; and where at last can the authority

The full reply to this inquiry can be found only when we find where
Lincoln's conviction and confession coalesce. Touching this, one thing
is clear. Both bear upon the same concern. Deep within them both
slavery is the common theme. Assured that slavery is wrong, he
confesses that its roots run everywhere. Honest to the core, he bows
beneath the scourge of war, convinced that it is heaven's penalty upon
all the land. Throughout he is pleading and suffering consistently
that all men may be free. This is the sum of the address. In this it
all coheres. Thus he divines and understands the ways of God. And so
he stands, as poised in this address, in ideal fellowship, at once
with men who have held slaves, with slaves in their distress, with the
Creator in his primal decree, and with the Providential meaning of the

To all this problem, vexing so many generations, the clear and
witting touch of Lincoln's sacrificial penitence is the master key. In
this all contradictions, all hostilities, all sufferings, all
transgressions, and all pure longings are harmonized. In assurance and
repentance he has found how truth and grace, blending together in
humble heed for God and for undying souls, hold complete dominion in
the moral realm. These pure principles, congenial alike to God and
men, he welcomes to himself, and commends to all his fellowmen in
sacrificial partnership.

Here is Lincoln's prevailing faith. This is the secret of his
strength. Herein vests his commanding and enduring power. This is
Lincoln's self--his very manhood. This is the man in this address whom
the world beheld, and still beholds--the man he was, the man he aimed
and strove to be, the man he recommended all the Nation to combine to
reproduce, the man in whom the fear of God, the love of men, the zeal
for life, and true reliability, mingle evenly, at whatever cost. This
is the man, and this the mighty influence over other men, enthroned
imperishably in this address.

Here is the throne, the scepter, and the key to Lincoln's vast
authority. It is patterned and informed from the cardinal constituents
of a balanced moral character. It is inwrought within a life that
heeds harmoniously, and with heroic earnestness, his own integrity,
his God, his fellowman, and things immortal. Holding souls above
goods, holding his fellow as himself, holding himself in true respect,
and holding God above all, he stands and pleads, with a cogency that
is unanswerable, for verities as self-evident to any man as any man's
self-consciousness. All his claims in the heart of this address are
self-apparent. They are original convictions. They prove and approve
themselves. They make no call for substantiation. They confront every
man within himself, the light in his eye, the life in his heart, the
spring in his hope. They confront every man again within his neighbor.
They confront both men again, when together they look up to God. And
far within all forms that change, they confront all men forevermore in
things that immortally abide.

This is the truth to which Lincoln pledged his troth, and in which he
besought all other men to plight their faith, in this address. The
vivid, ever-living dignity in man, discoverable by every man within
himself, to be greeted by every one in his brother-man, at once the
image and the handiwork of God--this defined all his faith, fired all
his zeal, woke all his eloquence, shaped all his argument, winged all
his hope. That such a being should be a slave, that such a being
should have a slave, was in his central conviction, of all wrong
deeds, the least defensible. It was the primal moral falsity, cruelty,
insult, and debasement. That such a sin should be atoned, at whatever
cost, was the primal task of purity, reverence, tenderness, and truth.
Holding such convictions, handling such concerns, for him to make the
statement was to give it demonstration. Against such convictions, and
in scorn of such concerns, no man could seriously contend without
assailing and, in the end, undoing himself. This was the citadel and
the weaponry of Lincoln's authority.

And Lincoln found within these views the pledge of permanence. He saw
them bulwarked and corroborated by all the lessons and revelations of
history. All devices of human society, contending against these
rudimentary verities, had been proved pernicious and self-defeating a
thousand times. Only such behavior of man with man as harmonized with
the creative design, and sprang from endowments that were common to
all, could ever hope to last. Here is the sovereign lesson from all
the centuries past, and a sovereign challenge for all the centuries
to come. As Lincoln viewed it, he was handling a matter beyond debate,
when he talked of two centuries and a half of unrequited toil. If that
was not wrong, then nothing was wrong. There is the whole of Lincoln's
argument, and the whole of his authority. It stood true two hundred
and fifty years ago. It will hold fast two hundred and fifty years
hence. To deny this is to dethrone all law, turn every freeman's
highest boast to shame, and finally banish moral order from human
government and from human thought. That this could never be suffered
or confessed was the substance of Lincoln's argument, and the sum of
his authority. This and this alone was the sovereign lesson that the
sacrificial sorrows of the war were searing so legibly, that all the
world could read, upon the sinful Nation's breast. And in saying this,
Lincoln's voice was pleading as the voice of God.


The study of Lincoln's authority, as it wields dominion in the last
inaugural, has brought to prominence his humble readiness to share
repentantly with all the Nation, in the bitter sorrows of the war, the
divine rebuke for sin. That sin was the wrong of holding slaves. But
in all the land, if any man was innocent of that iniquity, it was
Lincoln. And yet the honest Lincoln was never more sincere, more nobly
true and honest with himself, than in this deep-wrought co-partnership
with guilt. Surely here is call for thought.

Lincoln's character was fertile. The principles that governed his
development were living and prolific. In his ethics, as in his bodily
tissues, he was alive. As the days and years went on, he grew. Like
vines and trees, he added to his stature constantly. New twigs and
tendrils were continually putting out, searching towards the sunshine
and the springs, and embracing all the field. And in all this increase
he was supremely pliable. While always firm and strong, he had a
wonderful capacity to bend.

The primary, towering impulse working in Lincoln's life was ethical.
Amid the continual medley and confusion of things, he was continually
reaching and searching to find and plainly designate the right and the
wrong. This stands evident everywhere. Nowhere does this stand plainer
than in the period, when, at his second inaugural, he faced a second
presidential term. Still straining in the toil and turmoil, in the
intense and blinding passion of the war, he halts upon the threshold
of a second quadrennium of supreme responsibility, to see if he can
surely trace God's indication of what is right. The eternally right
was what he sought. He was after no mere expediency, no ephemeral
shift for ephemeral needs. The judgments of the Almighty Ruler of
Nations, true and righteous altogether and evermore, were what he
prayed to find and know. Then, if ever, Lincoln's earnestness was

And for this search at just this time his eye was peculiarly sobered
and grave. Portentous problems were emerging, as the finish of the war
drew near. And these problems were new. What should the Nation, when
it laid aside its arms, decide to do with the seceded States, and with
those millions of untutored slaves? For that no precedent was at hand,
no direction in the laws. The conclusion must be original. And it must
be supreme. And its issues must hold wide sway for generations of
imperial, expanding growth. There loomed an impending peril, and a
test of statesmanship, demanding the wisdom, and integrity, and deep
foresight of a moral prince--a peril and a moral test but poorly met
by the men whom his untimely death thrust into Lincoln's place. For
bringing to perfection his ripening judgment upon that task, and so
for displaying another historic demonstration of Lincoln's moral
adaptability, the few short requisite years were mysteriously to be

But upon other problems and in other days, there was ample revelation
of Lincoln's agile moral strength. His entire career in national
prominence provides outstanding demonstration of the continual full
mobility and plastic freedom of his moral powers. The civil war, which
he was conducting with such determination to its predestined end, as
he stood the central figure in this second inaugural scene, was but
the central vortex of a moral agitation in which all our national
principles and precedents were challenged and defied; and in which
statesmen of supremely facile, virile, moral sense were in exigent
demand. Problems were propounded constantly upon which our
Constitution shed no certain light, and the Constitution itself was in
a way to be overturned.

Throughout this period of national discord and moral instability,
Lincoln was a leading, creative mind. The circuit of that career was
brief indeed, scarcely more than one decade. But in those dark, swift
years shine and cluster many illustrations of the rich and ready
fertility of his ethical postulates in the political realm. Man of the
people though he was, and acutely sensitive of his responsibility to
the people for every responsible act, he was in every judgment and
resolve every inch a king, openminded, original, free. Again, and
again, and again, he was the man for the hour.

One demonstration of this is shown in his surprising readiness. With
whatever situation, he behaved as though familiar. Undisciplined in
diplomacy, he proved himself almost instantly a finished diplomat.
Totally untutored in all the acts and practices of war, but compelled
by his office to take sovereign command of the Nation's arms, and that
so suddenly that even the arms themselves could not be found, he
became one of the foremost critics and counselors of perilous and
intricate military campaigns. Unaccustomed to authority, but advanced
at a leap to the Nation's head, beleaguered by deadly animosities
among cliques and sections and States, encompassed by shameless
cabinet intrigues, he developed, as in one day, into manager, adviser,
administrator of political affairs, the most astute in all the land.

A most impressive example of this adjustability is seen in his
manifold capacity for moral patience. It reveals how he could keep his
full integrity, while binding up his life and fortune inseparably with
men whose moral standards swayed far from his. Lincoln's first
inaugural gave luminous definition of his designs and hopes. The
principles there propounded were the ripe and firm convictions of a
thoughtful, honest life. They had been pronounced repeatedly before.
To their defense and consummation his heart and honor were pledged
irrevocably. Those propositions were the irreducible rudiments of his
faith, the permanent constituents of his hope. Surrender those
convictions and desires he never did, he never could. Within the ample
compass and easy play of those glowing sentiments there was no room
for secession, nor for war, nor for any bitterness, but only for
loyalty, fellowship, peace. But as he turned from that inauguration
and its declaration of his policy toward the execution of his trust,
he had to face and handle secession, war, and malicious defamation. He
had to see the Nation's holiest dignity desecrated, all his brotherly
offices disdained, the souls of men still held as rightful objects of
common trade, and the plainest decrees of God defied. This as shown
in the spirit and uprising of the impatient, imperious South.

And within the North, in the very armies assembled for the Union's
defence, he had to find the very leaders and plotters of his campaigns
absorbed and overcome by petty jealousies, too despicable and
unpatriotic to be believed, and yet so real and vicious as to defeat
their battles before they were fought. And back among the Union
multitudes around his base, were men of might and standing, and men in
multitudes, who maligned his motives, and entangled his plans, until
antagonism the most malignant and resolved to all his views and
undertakings seemed to environ him on every side.

To such conditions it was Lincoln's bitter obligation to conform. Many
men were ready with many fond prescriptions for the case; but they all
were marked by weak futility. They either brought the Nation no
complete relief, or else surrendered the Nation's very life. Within
the strain and pull from every side Lincoln felt the obligation of his

The mood and method he employed (and let not the phrase be
misunderstood) was moral relaxation. This did not mean that he altered
aught of his pronounced belief, or varied by a single hair from his
announced design. He remembered his inaugural oath. He retained his
faith and hope, and held to his prime resolve unchanged. But he gave
the opposition time. He suffered malignants to malign, seceders to
rebel, detractors to impugn; and bore their taunts and blows and
wounds patiently, still abiding by his word. His very war was simply
for defense. The honor of the Union he would not yield up. His
brotherly friendliness he would not forego. His rating of freemen he
would not discount. The mandates of God he would not disobey. But
while on every hand these might be assailed and abjured, he repressed
all violence and vehemence of heart, and endured, and indulged, and
was still.

Herein, however, his convictions and hopes wore a modified guise.
Their rigor softened; their lustre mellowed; their angles broadened;
their rudeness ripened; and his aspect passed through change; the
while his honor brightened and became more clear. This adjustment of
such a nature to such a fate is a massive illustration of moral
versatility. It is like keeping the steed to the course, while yet
laying the rein upon his neck.

Through experience such as this it must have been that Lincoln
traversed his profoundest sorrow. Just here his critics and traducers
had their firmest hold. To the world at large his tactics did seem
slack, his method dilatory, his mood indifferent. Men wearied past
endurance at his delay, and charged repeatedly that he had betrayed
his trust. Such accusations must have been to his pure loyalty like
gall. And yet he must perforce be mute. It was not he, it was the
awful situation in which his noble life was manacled, that was so
incorrigible. With God and man he pleaded day and night that bloodshed
might be stayed, and peace possess the land. But an enemy was in the
land, determined not to leave his guns until the Union was dissolved,
and slavery vindicated as right. Rather than forsake the Union, and
own that men were as the brutes, he would die a thousand times. And
with a patience that no malice and no misfortune could wear away, he
held his post and kept his word, through torments too severe for
unheroic men to bear, producing thus upon his silent, sorrowful face a
humble replica of the divine long-suffering of the meek and lowly
Christ. And so he taught the world how in patience the righteousness
that abhors all wrong may turn its face toward sin with humble
meekness, through years that seem like centuries, and cause thereby
that pure and Godlike truth and love shall only be more glorious.

But even with this the description of this case stands incomplete. To
understand it rightly further statements are required. After all his
patience, the South was obdurate. Even while in this last inaugural
Lincoln was pleading for universal charity, and seeking to banish
malice everywhere, the leaders of the armies in the South were
rallying their unrecruited ranks in a very desperation of hatred for
his principles, and of scorn for his forbearance. While he was
interpreting the desolations and sorrows of the war as God's
all-powerful punishment of slavery, our common national sin, they
resented with impassioned vehemence such an explanation, disclaimed
all guilt, and denied that slavery was wrong.

Here emerged in Lincoln's thought Lincoln's supreme perplexity. He was
dealing with right and wrong, both only the more intensely real,
because so really concrete. Liberty and loyalty, loyalty to liberty,
the dignity of man, and the good pleasure of God--these were the
eternal principles, and the personal interests at stake. Antagonisms
were deadly virulent; and they were unrelenting. Compulsion was not
availing. Patience likewise failed. Here was a desperate call for
moral mastership. The man to meet the crisis, to join the cleft, to
reduce to moral harmony this discord of right and wrong, the man who
could resolve and morally unify this moral disagreement must have a
soul and an understanding whose insight and moral comprehension were

Here Lincoln's moral grandeur gains its full dimension. And in this
consummation it comes clear to see how in very deed right and wrong,
evil and good, can be encompassed in a moral unison such that evil
remains the all-abhorrent thing, and good is proved to be alone
desired. This marvelous explication is found within the words and
tone of this last inaugural. It stands contained in perfect poise
within the mutual balancings of his princely pledge to abjure all
malice, show universal charity, and still pursue the awful guidance of
Almighty God in the prosecution of the war. Herein moral rigor,
forbearance, and gentleness do majestically coalesce.

The breath and voice of this same moral mystery are felt and heard
again within this same inaugural in that bold prophetic exposition of
the Providential purport of the war. In the burning furnace of those
last four years, Lincoln's eyes had been purged to see how the ways of
God transcend the ways and thoughts of men. Both North and South, in
battle and in prayer, had failed to comprehend the thoughts of God.
All the movements of all their armies were being mightily over-ruled.
The purposes of the Almighty were his own. Both North and South had
gone astray. Neither side was wholly right. The land was under
discipline. The Nation had committed sin. That sin was destined for
requital. That requital was to be complete. The ways of God were true
and righteous altogether. All this the Nation must acquiescently
confess. For all the wrong of slavery requital must be made,
submissively, ungrudgingly, repentantly. Beneath that judgment every
heart must bow. The sin must be abjured. Its wrong must be abhorred.
Goodwill to all alike must be restored. And through it all the
Almighty must be adored.

Like a solemn litany within a great cathedral, these solemn sentiments
of Lincoln resounded through the land, as, in want of any other
priest, Lincoln himself led the Nation to the altar of the Lord. He
truly led. And to an altar. In this inaugural, Lincoln, for all
Americans, bows and veils his own brave heart in sacrificial sorrow
and confession, to bear and suffer all that, as the Nation's due, and
for the Nation's rescue, it is the will of holy heaven to inflict.

In this profound, spontaneous assumption of full co-partnership with
all the Nation in a Nation's undivided ill-desert; in this
uncomplaining acquiescence, while God inflicted upon the land, as an
awful scourge, all the shame and cost and sorrow that the woful wrong
of slavery had entailed; in this deep discernment that deep in every
heart ran and flourished all the baleful roots of greed and pride, of
injustice and cruelty, out from which all man's enbondagement of
brother man springs up; in this estimation of human slavery as a
primary sin, while receiving without repining its ultimate
doom--Lincoln unveils in his single heart, an abhorrence and an
endurance of our national sin, that makes him enduringly and
indivisibly the friend and brother of us all, accomplishing, in a
single moral experience, the pattern of the confession, and of the
resolution of our common wrong. Unto this, Lincoln's moral versatility
attained. Beyond this, moral versatility could never go.

The same moral dextrousness, this facile power and fluent readiness to
fully comprehend and fitly meet the moral mastery of a problem, in
itself all but absolutely obstinate and impossible, this wondrous
deftness in compounding together guilt and grace in mutual compassion
and repentance, is shown in Lincoln's patiently repeated, but always
futile efforts to persuade the North and the South to come together,
and so bring slavery and all dissension to an end, by giving and
receiving fiscal reimbursement for the emancipation of the slaves. To
this magnanimous and unexampled proposition, offered in the midst of
war, and urged in words and tones of classic winsomeness, the North
and South could never be brought unitedly to consent. Therein this
moral hero stood like a king against the wrong, argued like a prophet
for the right, and led towards mutual penitence and sacrifice like a
priest. It is in human history one of the supremest illustrations of
moral versatility. Never were Lincoln's character and aim more stable
than in that plea. But never was mortal man more mobile. Beyond all
his contemporaries he observed and regarded the signs of the times. He
saw that the ancient order was certainly to change. He felt that an
almighty, a just, and a benignant Providence had assumed control. He
discerned that the new order was freighted with vast store of good. To
make its entrance gentle, so that nothing should be rent or wrecked,
was the sum of all his thought and toil. He took for pattern the
coming of the dew. For his method he adopted his own well-mastered and
transcendent art of brotherly persuasion. As to manner, he was
vestured in humility, desiring to eject and ban the pharisee from his
own and all other hearts. For prevailing motive he designated the
passing hour as a time of unexampled opportunity. "So much good," he
said, "has not been done by one effort in all past time, as in the
Providence of God it is now your high privilege to do." And for
admonition he pointed to the vastness of the future, and a possible
lament over a pitiful neglect. But it was all for naught. For such a
moral transmutation and free triumph the embattled Nation was

But over against that unrelenting rigor, his moral readiness to meet
his brother, friend or foe, in free and mutual sacrifice, glows
beautifully. Deep in the heart of his design was struggling
heroically, and in balanced moral unison, the Godlike spirit of
eternal justice, mercy, and conciliation. In his strong breast all
pride was crucified, malice was melted down to tenderness, hypocrisy
and sordidness were purged away. His moral outlook was now
unobstructed, open every way. Then his soul stood fleet and free for
any path within the moral universe. With every man in this broad land
he stood ready to journey or sojourn, meek to suffer, resolute to
prevail. Sharing with the wrongdoer and the wronged alike their shame
and suffering and sin, while urging with immortal eagerness towards
fairness and happiness and peace, he resolved and overcame the problem
of the slaveholder and the slave, and made this land forever the
universal refuge of the free. In such a transmutation, first within
himself, and then throughout the land, moral as it is in every fiber,
and from circumference to core, is perfect moral concord. Thus, in
moral discord, moral freedom finds the way to peace, while full
responsibility remains unchangeably supreme. Here is the final,
perfect triumph of moral ingenuity. Thus by means of mercy, freely
offered and freely received, through mutual fellowship in moral
suffering, wrong may be comprehended, and fully overcome, in the
unchanged dominion of the right. So moral freedom and moral
consistency combine. Men's lives become vicarious. Thus moral
versatility culminates, and overcomes, and wins the sovereign moral


In the chapter just preceding, Lincoln's patience came into allusion
and review. That quality deserves a somewhat closer, separate
examination. When Lincoln took his last inaugural oath, he based its
meaning upon a statement in his inaugural address, that all the havoc
of the war was, under God, a penalty and atonement for a wrong that
had been inflicted and endured for centuries. In this interpretation
he subtly interwove a pleading intimation that all the land, in
reverent acquiescence with the righteous rule of God, should meekly
bow together to bear the awful sacrifice. And, deep within this open
exposition of his prophetic thought, there gleamed the hidden pledge,
inherent in his undiluted honesty, that he himself would not decline,
but would rather stand the first, to bear all the sorrow consequent
upon such wrong.

Here is an attitude, and here a proposition which men and Nations are
forever prone to scorn; but which all Nations and all men will be
compelled or constrained at last to heed. Therein are published and
enacted verities, than which none known to men are more profound, or
vast, or vested with a higher dignity. They demand attention here.

The statement made by Lincoln pivots on "offenses." Strong men, in
pride and arrogance of strength, had wronged the weak. Weak men, in
the lowliness and impotence of their poverty, had borne the wrong. In
such conditions of painful moral strain the centuries had multiplied.
Those long-drawn years of violence had heightened insolence into a
defiance all but absolute. Those selfsame years of suffering had
deepened ignominy into all but absolute despair. Through banishment of
equity and charity, of purity and humility, while all the heavenly
oracles seemed mute, fear and hope alike seemed paralyzed. The
oppressor seemed to have forgotten his eternal obligation to be kind
and fair. The oppressed seemed to have surrendered finally his
God-like dignity. The times seemed irreversible.

Here is a problem that, while ever mocking human wisdom, refuses to be
mocked. It enfolds a wrong, undoubted moral wrong; else naught is
right. It overwhelms. Within its awful deeps multitudes have been
submerged. And it is unrelieved. It outwears the protests and appeals
of total generations of unhelped, indignant hearts.

This problem Lincoln undertook to understand. In his conclusion was
proclaimed the vindication of the meek. Beneath that age-long wrong,
beneath the silence and delay of God, and beneath the final
recompense, he prevailed upon his heart, and pleaded with other hearts
to stand in suffering, hopeful acquiescence. Among these sorrows, so
wickedly inflicted, without relief, and without rebuke, let patience
be perfected. Here let meekness grow mature. Let confidence in our
equal and unconquered manhood, and let faith in God not fail to
overcome all Godlessness and inhumanity. Let time be trusted
absolutely to prove all wrong iniquitous. Let the worth inherent in
undying souls be shown to be indeed immortal.

Here is Lincoln's resolution of this profound enigma, a resolution
unfolding all its mystery, and involving all his character. Here
Lincoln won his crown. This is all his meaning in abjuring malice, and
invoking charity. Too kindly to indulge resentment, whatever the
provocation, and too sensible of his own integrity to ever court
despair, he appealed to God's eternal justice and compassion, and
clung to a hope that no anguish or delay could overcome. This is
Lincoln's patience. This is the inmost secret of his moral strength.
This is his piercing and triumphant demonstration that in this
troubled world, where sin so much abounds, it is the meek who shall
finally prevail.

This moral patience deserves to be explored. It comprehends
ingredients, quite as worthy to be kept distinct, as to be seen in
unison. For one thing it identified him with slaves. Therein he bore a
grave reproach. Its weight only he himself could rightly compute.
Beneath the rude and among the hurt he took deliberate stand. Among
the lowly, before the scorner, he held his place. He braved the
master's taunts. He penetrated to its heart the cause that kept the
black man mute. He measured out, but without indifference, as without
complaint, the divine delay. He courted in his thought on slavery a
perfect consciousness of its sin. He examined with nicest carefulness
the sufferers' impulse towards revenge. He knew the awful misery in
human shame. He shared with honest men their proudest aspirations. And
all of this, he shared with blacks, not by compulsion, but as a

Herein, and in the second place, he held fast the fundamental claims
that every slave retained an ineffaceable affinity with God; that this
divine inheritance, however deep the negro's poverty, could never be
annulled or forfeited; that friendliness with fellowmen, however hard
or sad their lot, was no reproach; that in human sorrows it well
becometh human hearts, as it becometh God, to remember to be pitiful;
that all invasion or neglect of those inherent human rights and
dignities was bound to be avenged; that in God's good time all patient
souls would be crowned with song; and that thus his open championship
of the cause of slaves was in perfect keeping with his own unaltered
and unalterable self-respect.

A third ingredient in Lincoln's patience was its conspicuous and
inseparable impeachment of oppression. Lincoln's patience under moral
wrong made him no neutral morally. Without fear and without reserve,
he held before oppressors, however hard or strong, the enormity of
their wrong. Before the cruel their cruelty was displayed. Before the
arrogant their arrogance was reflected back. Before the base and foul
their sordidness was brought to light. Before disloyal men the perfidy
of covenant disloyalty was nakedly unveiled. All the wrongs inwrought
and undergone in slavery were recited with insistent accuracy and
unreserve. Of all those centuries of unpaid toil each month and year
were reckoned up. Of all those sins against pure womanhood and
helpless infancy each tell-tale face was told numerically. The moral
wrong in slavery was set before its advocates and beneficiaries
unsparingly. Patience, whether God's or man's, and whether for one day
or for a thousand years, can never be interpreted or understood to
diminish sin's iniquity. Its prolonged persistence only aggravates its

In the fourth place, there was in Lincoln's patience a waiting
deference before God's silence and delay. His total confidence was in
God. That God was negligent, or indifferent, he would not concede. His
whole abhorrence of oppression was based on God's decree. Here rested
also all his hope of recompense. Vengeance belongs to God. He will
rebuke the mighty, and redeem the meek. In both, his righteousness
will be complete. And when his judgments fall, all men must own
adoringly his perfect equity.

Finally, in Lincoln's patience there is explicit recognition and
confession of his own complicity with all the land, in the wrong to
slaves, and of his own and all the land's delinquency before the Lord,
in failure to discern and approbate the divine designs. It had been
left with God's far greater patience and far higher moral jealousy to
overcome and overwhelm and overrule the devious plans and ways of
erring men. In lowly acquiescence it was for him and the land to
acquaint themselves with God's designs, confess their wanderings,
accept his will alike in redemption and rebuke, and unite henceforth
to represent and praise on earth his perfect equity and grace.

Here are the elements in Lincoln's patience, and here their sum.
Forming with the lowly and oppressed a free and intimate partnership;
avowing jealously for all mankind a coequal dignity among themselves
and an imperishable affinity with God; declaring unflinchingly to all
who tyrannize the full enormity of their primal sin; restraining
malice and all avenging deeds; confessing his own misjudgments and
misdeeds among his fellowmen and before the Lord; he endures
submissively the divine delays, and shares repentantly with all who
sin the judgments of a perfect righteousness. Genuinely pitiful for
suffering men, sharply jealous for human worth, direct as light to
designate the shame in pride, docile as a child before the righteous
and eternal rule of God, he illustrates and demonstrates how a perfect
patience makes requisition in a noble man of all his noblest

But worthy as are all its qualities, its exercise entails stern
discipline in suffering. It costs a man his life. That this was
Lincoln's understanding, as he traversed the responsibility of that
last inauguration day, is witnessed unmistakably by his letter to
Thurlow Weed respecting his inaugural address. These are his words,
well worthy to be reproduced a second time:--

"I believe it (the address) is not immediately popular. Men are not
flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose
between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is
to deny that there is a God governing the world. It is a truth which I
thought needed to be told, and, as whatever of humiliation there is in
it falls most directly on myself, I thought others might afford for me
to tell it."

"Most directly on myself." There Lincoln bares his heart to God and
man, in order that upon himself might fall the first, the deepest, and
the most direct humiliation. At one with slaves, despised by pride,
astray from God prepared for sacrifice--but attesting still that
slaves were men, that robbery was wrong, that God was just--so he

But, be it said again and yet again, in such a posture looms nobility.
In meekness such as this is nothing craven. It beseems true royalty.
Bowing before his God to receive rebuke, bowing to make confession
before his fellowmen, he stands as on a hilltop, announcing and
declaring to all the world how arrogance proves men base, how
lowliness may be beautiful, how reverend are God's mysteries, how just
and pitiful his ways. Here is a kingliness that no crown can rightly
symbolize. Here is a victory that is not won with swords. In the very
attitude is final triumph. It bravely claims, and truly overcomes the
world. In such a patience there is present instantly, and in full
possession, the vigor of undying hope, and the title of a firstborn
son to the heritage of the earth.

This capacity in Lincoln's patience for the close allegiance of
self-devotion and self-respect, of sympathy and jealousy, is shown
dramatically in his tournament with Douglas in 1858. Throughout those
speeches, replies, and rejoinders Lincoln held fast his full
fraternity with the slaves, while repressing with his fullest vigor
every onslaught against his personal integrity.

The date of those debates marked over four full years, since Douglas
had championed through Congress into finished legislation a bill that
abrogated all federal limitation of slavery, and opened an
unrestricted possibility of its further spread forever, wherever any
local interest might so desire. That bill obtained the presidential
signature in May of 1854. During the succeeding years Douglas had been
shaping public sentiment by his almost royal influence in public
speech towards a stereotyped acceptance of the principles and
implications of that law. Under his aggressive leadership his party
had been well solidified upon three political postulates, which he
declared essential not alone to party fealty, but to any permanent
national peace. These three postulates were the following:--

Slavery is in no sense wrong.

Slavery is to be treated as a local interest only.

These principles have been sanctioned perfectly by history.

From these fundamental postulates flowed numerous corollaries:--

Black men are an inferior race. This inferiority has been stamped upon
this race indelibly by God. The Declaration of Independence did not
and does not include the blacks in its affirmations about equality.

This country contains vast sections precisely fitted to be occupied by

Local interests being essentially diverse, as for example between
Alabama and Maine, decisions as to local affairs will also be diverse.
This entails divergent treatment of black men, just as of herds and

To the rights of stronger races to enslave the blacks, the fathers who
framed our government, our national history since, and the age-long
fate of Africa unitedly bear witness.

Counter to these three major postulates of Douglas, Lincoln set the
following three:--

The enslavement of men is wrong.

The treatment of slavery is a federal concern.

Our history has contained, and still contains a compromise. Our
fathers deemed slavery a wrong. But finding it present when they
framed our government, and finding its removal impossible at the time,
they arranged for its territorial limitation, for its gradual
diminishment, and for its ultimate termination.

From these three fundamental postulates in Lincoln's arguments flowed
also various corollaries:--

The sinfulness of slavery roots in the elemental manhood of the slave.
This manhood warrants his elemental claim to the employment and
enjoyment of his life in liberty.

In our form of government, things local and things federal being held
within their respective realms respectively supreme, things locally
divergent lead to federal compromise.

Certain sections of the country in particular, and the Nation in
general being committed, either from policy or from choice, to foster
slavery; men who hate the thing as wrong must in patient meekness
endure its presence, until in God's own time its presence and its sin
and guilt shall be removed.

As will be seen at once, for the purposes of a popular debate, the
postulates of Douglas were easier to defend. Of the two sets of
premises, his seemed the more simple, more explicit, more direct, more
telling with a crowd; while those of Lincoln, by reason of that moral
and historical compromise, seemed more confused, more evasive, and not
so apt to take the multitude. In the nature of the debate Lincoln had
to shape his propositions and replies to face two ways:--towards the
practical emergencies of our history and form of government, on the
one hand; and on the other hand, towards an ideal nowhere yet
attained, and seemingly unattainable. Whereas Douglas, quite
unconcerned about any ideal motives in the past, as of any vision of
an ideal day to come, but dealing solely with the political situation
that day occurrent, could make every affirmation and every thrust
against his adversary seem straight, and clear, and impossible to
refute. This very practical and substantial disadvantage Lincoln had
to bear. Questions that Douglas would answer decisively, and
instantly, and with absolute distinctness, Lincoln would be compelled
to labor with, in careful deference both to our Constitutional
protection of slavery, and to its moral wrong.

This situation in those debates deserves a close attention. The
difference in the two positions was most profound. That this deep
difference was laid fully bare was the supreme resultant of the
debate. It was indeed a difference in principles. But stated yet more
narrowly, it was a difference in nothing less than estimates of men,
and attitudes towards wrong. It was not a difference in abstract
theorems. It was vastly more. It was a difference in the personal
qualities of the two protagonists. To test this affirmation let any
one imagine Douglas producing from his heart the sentiments, and
arranging in his thought the arguments of Lincoln's last inaugural.
Douglas sadly erred in his opinion of his time. In Lincoln, in those
debates, our government, our history, our ideal as a great Republic
stood incorporate. Like our noble history, he patiently endured and
bore what he instinctively and inveterately abhorred. This pathetic
situation, this invincible anomaly in our national career, is
pathetically re-enacted in the fate of Lincoln in these debates.

This at bottom, and this at last is what those flashing falchions and
ringing shields declare. This explains the genesis and the actual
course of those painful personalities. And it is to study this that
these debates have been introduced. In the personal thrusts of those
debates two qualities in Lincoln become pre-eminent. He would not
forsake his humble championship of slaves. He would accept no thrust
against his personal integrity. Let those debates be read, and
re-perused until those cardinal elements in Lincoln's attitude come
clear. And let it be observed that in no single personality was
Lincoln's thrust initial. Douglas opened the debate. In his opening
speech he made direct assertions and indirect intimations too gross to
be termed subtle, and too staring to be called disguised; imputing and
suggesting that Lincoln was in character a coward and a cheat, in his
politics a revolutionary, and in his social proclivities contemptible.
These same charges were made with unrelenting persistency and
reiteration by Douglas throughout the series of the debates.

To every imputation Lincoln made definite and reiterated reply,
denouncing them roundly as unwarranted and inexcusable impeachment of
his honor, his veracity, and his candor. And then, with measured and
exact equivalence, he dealt out to Douglas's face a list of counter
personalities of sharply parallel and actual transactions in Douglas's
life, meriting precisely his own reproach. And he pressed the battle
home so hard that Douglas, in an impassioned height of protest,
demanded if Lincoln meant to carry his tactics up to "personal

All this is painful confessedly to review. One wishes earnestly, just
as with the later civil war, it might never have occurred. But it
should be remembered that every retort of Lincoln was, as in the war
itself, in personal defense. Lincoln was not the assailant. But once
his honor was assailed, it was not the nature of that honor to stand
so mute that his own character seemed rightly smirched, while justice
rested with his adversary. And so, in self-defense, as in his speech
at Quincy, he carefully details, he vigorously returned each thrust.
And this, be it constantly recalled, not in any selfishness, not for
wounded pride, not for unction to a hurt, not in any vengeful heat;
but just as in the following war, in absolute unselfishness, void of
malice, in the ministry of charity, that the honor of all men might be
saved, and that the Union with its boon of universal freedom and
equality might not perish from the earth.

Such was Lincoln's patience, in those earlier debates, and in this
last inaugural, the same. While bearing voluntarily in his single life
all the opprobrium borne by slaves; through all that fellowship and
sympathy, and on its sole behalf, he guarded his own honor with an
infinite jealousy. But it was honor saved for suffering. His life was
sacrificial. He learned to know full well, but willingly, what
meekness costs. Not alone from a political antagonist and an embattled
South, but from a multitude of active dissentients besides throughout
the North, from Congress, and from the close circle of his cabinet he
had to bear with blind misunderstandings, and malignant
misrepresentations of the deeds and qualities and motives of his
perplexed and overburdened life.

But whatever his shortcomings or mistakes, whatever his follies or
sins, two affirmations about his life will hold forever true. He bore
his load. And he kept his path. Through all that stern campaign for
liberty and union he turned neither to the right nor to the left.
Sorrows and contentions surrounded him continually. But he descried a
better time. To speed that day he welcomed sacrifice. He lived and
died for nothing else. To show the priceless worth of freemen in a
mighty multitude, in a civic league of lasting unison and peace was
his supreme commission and consuming wish. To bring that vision near
he aspired and submitted to be its pattern and its devotee.


In his first public speech, seeking election to the State Legislature
of Illinois in 1832, Lincoln said: "I was born, and have ever
remained, in the most humble walks of life." He adds: "If the good
people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I
have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much
chagrined." In the same speech he said: "I have no other (ambition) so
great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men, by rendering
myself worthy of their esteem."

Here are three phrases that epitomize Lincoln's ideals and Lincoln's
career:--"the most humble walks of life;" "too familiar with
disappointments;" and "rendering myself worthy of their esteem." There
at the age of twenty-three we are apprised of Lincoln's poverty, of
his ambition, and of his adversity. In the same address he says: "I
have no wealthy or popular relatives or friends to recommend me." At
that time he had been but two years in the State.

In pondering this brief and frank appeal one wonders at the blending
of the youthful and the mature, the daring and the wary, the ardent
and the chastened, the eager and the sedate, the wistful and the
resigned. What had been the inner and the outer history and fortune of
him, who at the age of twenty-three could talk of being "familiar with
disappointments"--so familiar with experiences of reverse that he
could bear the public refusal of his one greatest ambition, that
public's "true esteem," without being "much chagrined." Plainly in
Lincoln's early life there was a great heart, cherishing a high hope,
but environed with poverty, familiar with reversals, unchampioned,
unknown. Already he was being refined by manifold discipline. Already
in that refining fire he had fixed his eye and set his face to win his
neighbor's true esteem. Therein one comprehends his whole career. Out
of oblivion and solitude and direst poverty he passed by sheer
self-mastery to the highest national authority and renown. Of all the
distance and of all the way between those "humblest walks" and that
commanding eminence, and of all the pregnant meaning to him and to all
Americans, and indeed to every son of Adam, of that achievement,
Lincoln had a marvelous discerning sense. He knew full well its vast
significance and he never let its vivid recollection lapse. It was
always in his living consciousness.

One impressive proof and token that the meaning of his advancement had
permanent place in his remembrance, and that he deemed his fortune an
ideal and a type of our American government and life has been
preserved in the tone and substance of his address in Independence
Hall, when on his way to his first great inauguration. Standing there
at the age of forty-one, the Nation's president-elect, and "filled
with deep emotion," he said: "I have never had a feeling politically
that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of
Independence." And to give that statement explanation he said, "I have
often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept
this Confederacy so long together." And for answer to that inquiry he
points to "that sentiment in the Declaration which gave liberty not
alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world for all
future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the
weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all
should have an equal chance." "Liberty," "hope," "promise," "weights
lifted," "an equal chance," "to all," "for all," "of all," "all," "in
due time"--these are the terms that answered the question over which
he "often pondered" and "often inquired." This was the "great
principle," the "idea" which held the Confederacy together. This was
the "basis" on which, if he could save the country, he would be "one
of the happiest men in the world, if he could help to save it." This
was the principle concerning which he exclaimed: "If this country
cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say
that I would rather be assassinated upon this spot than surrender
it"--words whose purport is seen to be nothing less than tragic, when
we recall the peril of death, which he was consciously facing in that
very hour from a deep laid conspiracy against his life.

Thus spoke Lincoln within ten days of his inauguration, in a speech
which he says was "wholly unprepared." But the day before, in a speech
at Trenton, he characterized that same "idea" as that "something more
than common" which away back in childhood, the earliest days of his
being able to read, he recollected thinking, "boy though I was," was
the "treasure" for which "those men struggled." That "something" he
then defines as "even more than national independence;" and as holding
out "a great promise to all the people of the world to all time to

This lifting of weights from the shoulders of men, this equal chance
for all; this was the liberty for which the fathers fought, this was
the hope which their Declaration enshrined, this it was whose
preservation Lincoln longed to secure above any other happiness, this
it was for which he was all but ready to die.

There Lincoln spoke his heart. There he voiced his highest hopes.
There he traced his patriotism to its roots. And there too he touched
the quick nerve of his own disappointments, of his own often futile
endeavors and desires. And there as well his living sympathy with
other men, encumbered with disadvantage and defeat, found mighty
utterance. Lifting weights from the shoulders of all men--that in "due
time" this should be achieved he judged and felt to be the single
sovereign meaning of our national destiny.

Of just this national destiny Lincoln's personal life was a strangely
full epitome. His shoulders knew full well the pressure of those
"weights." His soul knew all the awful volume of sorrow as of joy,
that poured about the denial or the enjoyment of an "equal chance."
From the humblest walks to the foremost seat he had been permitted to
thread his way. That liberty he chiefly sought in struggling youth.
That liberty he chiefly prized as president. And this, not alone for
himself, not alone for all Americans, but for "all the world." Thus
spoke Lincoln, "all unprepared" in February of 1861.

But these spontaneous words were no passing breath of transient
sentiments. In July of that same year he sent to Congress his first
Message. That paper was Lincoln's studied and formal argument, a
president's deliberate State Paper, addressing to Congress his
responsible demonstration that the war was a necessity. In that
argument and demonstration his fundamental postulate was a definition
of our government. In that definition he affirms its "leading object"
to be "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights
from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to
afford all an unfettered start, and a fair chance in the race of
life." And so he calls the war a "people's contest." And he speaks of
its deeper purport as something that "the plain people understand."
And he speaks of the loyalty of all the common soldiers--not one of
whom was known to have deserted his flag--as "the patriotic instinct
of the plain people."

Those words of Lincoln in Trenton and Philadelphia, defining the
"leading object" in the minds of the founders of our government in the
hours of its birth-travail, define his own idea and ideal as he
approached the hour of his presidential oath. That a national
government, thus beneficently designed for the equal weal of all,
should be preserved inviolate and preserved from dissolution was his
supreme desire and his supreme resolve. Its majesty and its integrity
must be held most sacred and most jealously preserved. This was the
apple of his eye. By the light of this ideal and in the pursuit of
this alluring, wistful hope he studied and judged all the movements of
his time. And in this, his initial message, he registers his official
verdict upon those surrounding evolutions and events. A vast and
ever-expanding Confederacy of intelligent and resolute men, leagued
together in a Union of Confederate States, and pledged to secure to
all men within its bounds a clear path, an unfettered start, and a
fair chance in every laudable pursuit, was judged by him a civic
undertaking too preciously freighted with promise and hope for the
welfare of the world to be ever disrupted and destroyed by the
disloyalty and the withdrawal of any one or any cluster of its
constituent parts. It was a Union as sacred and holy as all the worth
and all the hopes of men. To separate from such a league was a capital
disloyalty. To disintegrate such a unison was the ultimate inhumanity.
To stand fast forever by such a federation was a crowning fidelity. To
preserve, protect and defend such a Union, at whatever cost of life or
wealth, and therein to adventure however sacred honor was a primary
and a final obligation. By its perpetual preservation unimpaired was
secured to all mankind the vision and the priceless promise of liberty
and hope. By secession, defiance, and violent assault, that precious
human treasure was being endangered and defiled. Hence his anxious
all-consuming eagerness as he approached his ominous task. Hence his
firm acceptance of awful, inevitable war.

Such were the marshalings of Lincoln's thoughts and sentiments as he
approached and undertook his mighty work--fit prelude in Independence
Hall, and befitting explanation and defense in the Halls of Congress
of the mighty rallying of those regiments of men for the awful combats
of a people's war.

This was Lincoln's argument. That the rights of life and liberty and
happiness were designed and decreed by the Maker of all to be equal
for all was for him, as an American, and for him as a fellow and a
friend of all, under God, an axiom. And to that firm truth the war was
but a corollary. Because the Union was a league of freemen, kindred to
God, and peers among themselves, bound together in mutual goodwill and
for mutual weal, it must at all hazards and through all perils and
sorrows be made perpetual. Not that slavery should be immediately
removed, though its existence in such a league was an elemental
unworthiness and affront; but that the Union should be forever secured
was his immediate aspiration and resolve. This once achieved and
forever assured, and slavery with every other kindred inequality would
in "due time" be done away.

This is the key and the core of his ringing and irresistible retort to
Greeley. This was the inspiration of that immortal appeal at
Gettysburg, the very pledge and secret of its excellence and
immortality--the plea that government of the people, by the people,
for the people should not perish from the earth.

And it was definitively this axiomatic verity that provided to his
deeply thoughtful mind that deeply philosophic interpretation of the
divine intention in the war, which he so carefully enshrined within
his last inaugural. The sin of slavery had transgressed a primary law
of God. Human shoulders had been heavily laden with artificial
weights. Brother men had been denied by fellow-men an equal start. The
paths of laudable pursuit were not kept equally clear to all.
Multitudes of men, by the inhuman tyranny of the strong upon the
weak, and that from birth to death, had been accorded no fair chance.
Men had toiled for centuries, and that beneath the lash, without
requital. Hence the awful doom and woe of war--God's visitation upon
ourselves of our own offense, the wasting of our unholy wealth and the
leveling of our inhuman pride. And all of this was being guided
through to its predestined and most holy end with the divine design
that through the awful baptism of blood our national life should begin
anew in humble reverence for him whose just and fiery jealousy demands
that all his little ones shall share with all the mightiest in equal
rights. Thus Lincoln viewed the war as God's avenging vindication of
the just and gracious principles that all men everywhere are entitled
to share together equally in liberty and hope.

But Lincoln felt all of this to be, not alone the law of God, but
quite as truly the common and compelling affirmation of the human
heart. This way and style of phrasing it found eloquent annunciation
in that earliest and unanswerable address respecting slavery at Peoria
in October of 1854, where were deeply laid and may still be seen the
foundations of all his power and fame. In that address he said, "My
faith in the proposition, that each man should do precisely as he
pleases with all which is exclusively his own, lies at the foundation
of the sense of justice there is in me." And upon that foundation he
laid this cornerstone of social and civic order: "No man is good
enough to govern another man without that other man's consent." To so
invade the liberty of another man is "despotism." Such invasion is
"founded in the selfishness of man's nature." "Opposition to it is
founded in his sense of justice." "These principles are in eternal
antagonism." When they collide, "shocks and throes and convulsions
must ceaselessly follow." These sentiments of liberty are above
repeal. Though you repeal all past history, "you cannot repeal human
nature." Out of the "abundance of man's heart" "his mouth will
continue to speak." And to demonstrate that this sentiment of liberty,
this consciousness that human worth is sovereign, is a verity of human
nature which even holders of slaves corroborate, he points to the over
400,000 free negroes then in the land. Their presence is proof that
deep in all human hearts is a "sense of human justice and sympathy"
continually attesting "that the poor negro has some natural right to
himself, and that those who deny it and make merchandise of him
deserve kickings, contempt and death." This irrepealable law of the
human heart was a mighty rock of confidence in Lincoln's social and
political faith. All men were made to be free, and entitled equally to
a happy life; and of this divine endowment all men everywhere were
well aware. Human nature is by its nature the birthplace and the home
of liberty and hope.

Especially serviceable for the purposes of this study upon
Industrialism is the section in Lincoln's Message to Congress of
December, 1861, dealing with what he calls our "popular institutions."
With his eagle eye he discerns in the Southern insurrection an
"approach of returning despotism." The assault upon the Union was
proving itself, under his gaze, an attack upon "the first principles
of popular government--the rights of the people." And against that
assault he raised "a warning voice."

In this warning he treats specifically the relation of labor and
capital. In this discussion his motive is single and clear. He detects
a danger that so-called labor may be assumed to be so inseparably
bound up and indentured with capital as to be subject to capital in a
sort of bondage; and that, once labor, whether slave or hired, is
brought under that assumed subjection, that condition is "fixed for

Both of these assumptions he assails. Labor is not a "subject state;"
nor is capital in any sense its master. There is "no such thing as a
free man's being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer."
So he affirms. And then he argues that "labor is prior to and
independent of capital." "Capital is only the fruit of labor." "Labor
is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher
consideration." Hired labor, and capital that hires and labors
not--these do both exist; and both have rights. But "a large majority
belong to neither class--neither work for others, nor have others
working for them." This is measurably true even in the Southern
States. While in the Northern States a large majority are "neither
hirers nor hired." And even where free labor is employed for hire,
that condition is not "fixed for life." "Many independent men
everywhere in these Northern States, a few years back in their lives,
were hired laborers." The "penniless," if "prudent," "labors for wages
awhile;" "saves a surplus;" "then labors on his own account;" and "at
length hires another new beginner to help him." "This is the just and
generous and prosperous system which opens the way to all, gives hope
to all." Here is a form of "political power;" here is a "popular
principle" that underlies present national prosperity and strength,
and infolds a pledge of its certain future abounding expansion. Thus
Lincoln argued in his Annual Message of 1861.

In his Annual Message of 1862, he pursued in a similar strain, a vital
and kindred aspect of the same industrial theme. He was arguing with
Congress in favor of compensated emancipation. In the course of that
argument, speaking of the relation of freed negroes to white labor
and white laborers, he said: "If there ever could be a proper time for
mere catch arguments, that time surely is not now. In time like the
present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly
be responsible through time and in eternity." And then, after
appealing with utmost patience and consideration and with ideal
persuasiveness to every better sentiment and to every proper interest,
he drew towards the close of his plea with these arresting, prophetic,
almost forboding words, words richly worth citation for a second
time:--"The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise
with the occasion." "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall
save our country." "We cannot escape history." "The fiery trial
through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the
latest generation." "We know how to save the Union." "We--even we
here--hold the power and bear the responsibility." "In giving freedom
to the slave, we assure freedom to the free--honorable alike in what
we give and what we preserve." "We shall nobly save or meanly lose the
last, best hope of earth." "The way is plain, peaceful, generous,
just--a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and
God must forever bless."

Thus Lincoln voiced, and in terms that human-kind will not lightly
suffer to be forgotten, his seasoned and convinced belief about the
principles that should hold dominion in the industrial realm. They
reveal that in his chastened and chastening faith Civics and Economics
are merged forever in Ethics, and that therein they are forever at
one. Individuals, however lowly or however strong; parties or
combinations of men or wealth, however massive or however firm;
governments or nations, however puissant, ambitious or proud, are
alike endowed and alike enjoined with sovereign duties and with
sovereign rights. The negro, however poor, may not be robbed or
exploited or bound by any master, however grand. The soil of a
neighboring government, however alluring its promise of expansion or
wealth, may never be invaded or annexed by force of any Nation's arms,
however exalted and humane that Nation's professions and aims. If any
man, or any Nation of men be but meagerly endowed, that humble
heritage is inviolably theirs forever to enjoy. The person of Dred
Scott and the soil of Mexico are holy ground--heaven-appointed
sanctuaries that no oppressor or invader may ever venture to profane.
If to any nation, or to any man "God gave but little, that little let
him enjoy." Slavery and tyranny are iniquitous economy. "Take from him
that is needy" is the rule of the slaveholder and the tyrant. "Give to
him that is needy" is the rule of Christian charity. As between the
strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the timid and the bold,
"this good earth is plenty broad enough for both."

Here is indeed an eternal struggle. But underneath is "an eternal
principle." And among the many Nations of the earth this American
people are bringing to this principle in the face of all the world a
world-commanding demonstration of its benign validity. By the sweat of
his face shall man eat bread. And the fruit of his toil shall man

So would Lincoln guard, in the industrial world, against all
exaggeration and all infringement of human liberties and rights, and
this quite as much for the sake of the strong as in defense of the
weak. Tyranny, in despoiling the weak, despoils the tyrant too.
Liberty does harm to none, but brings rich boon to all. Thus Lincoln
cherished freedom.

But deep within this treasured liberty Lincoln saw the shining jewel
of human hope. And hope with him was ever neighborly. And this
generous sentiment, expanding forever in his heart, he cherished, not
merely as common civilian, but as president. It was while at
Cincinnati, on his way to his inauguration, that he said, "I hold that
while man exists it is his duty not only to improve his own condition,
but also to assist in ameliorating mankind." "It is not my nature,
when I see people borne down by the weight of their shackles ... to
make their life more bitter by heaping upon them greater burdens; but
rather would I do all in my power to raise the yoke."

But true as was Lincoln's view of our national mission, and clear and
just and generous as was his own desire, he saw in the Nation's path
before his face a mighty obstacle. He knew the fascination of
"property." And he knew that this fascination held its malevolent
sway, even though that "property" was vested in human life. Here was
the brunt of all his battle. The slaves of his day had a "cash value"
at a "moderate estimate" of $2,000,000,000. He saw that this property
value had "a vast influence on the minds of its owners." And he knew
that this was so "very naturally" that the same amount of property
"would have an equal influence ... if owned in the North;" that "human
nature is the same;" that "public opinion is founded to great extent
on a property basis;" that "what lessens the value of property is
opposed;" that "what enhances its value is favored."

With this prevailing tendency, native and universal in all men alike,
he had to deal. Indeed he had no other problem. All his presidential
difficulties reduced to this:--the universal greed of men for gain;
and deep within this inborn greed, man's inborn selfishness. And all
his all-absorbing toil and thought as statesman and as president were
to exalt in human estimation the values in men above all other gain.
This desire lay deep in his heart at the beginning of his struggle in
1854. At the end of his conflict in those closing days of his life in
1865 this longing came forth as pure and shining gold thrice refined.

From the time of his second election his thoughts moved with an almost
unwonted constancy upon these upper heights. With immeasurable
satisfaction he brooded and pondered over the emerging issues of the
stupendous strife. With an almost mother's love he considered and
counted over and reckoned up those outcomes of the sacrifice that
should worthily endure. With a vision purged of every form of vanity
and every form of selfishness, not as a miser, but in very deed with a
mother's pride and inner joy, he recited over the precious inventory
of the chastened Nation's wealth.

Touching evidence of this is in his habitual tone of speech when
addressing soldiers returning from the field to their homes. Over and
over again he would remind the men of the vital principle at stake,
alike in war and in peace. "That you may all have equal privileges in
the race of life;" that there may be "an open field and a fair chance
for your industry, enterprise, and intelligence--this is 'our
birthright,' our 'inestimable pearl.' Nowhere in the world is
presented a government of so much liberty and equality." "To the
humblest and the poorest among us are held out the highest privileges
and positions." It is hard to say, when he was voicing his
satisfaction and his gratitude to these returning regiments, to which
his words were most directly addressed, to the soldier in the uniform,
or to the citizen. All those veteran soldiers were to his discerning
eyes the precious sterling units of the Nation's lasting wealth. In
their service as defenders of the Union they had saved the most
precious human heritage that human history ever knew or human hope
conceived. And of that heritage and hope they were themselves the
exponent. Their service under arms and their civilian life in coming
days of peace were one. And with a deep and fond solicitude he would
charge them to shield and guard, to champion and defend with ballot as
with sword their dear-bought liberty and right. These peaceable
precious fruits of the deadly terrible war he well foresaw and greeted
eagerly. The verdict of the ballots in his re-election in 1864
proclaimed afar a word the world had never heard before. It
"demonstrated that a people's government can sustain a national
election in the midst of a great civil war." That verdict declared
authoritatively that government by the people was "sound and strong."
And it also showed by actual count that after four terrible years of
war the government had more supporting men than when the war began.
This abounding victory filled and satisfied his heart. And in the
presence of that unexampled proof that equal liberty for all was safe
within the guardianship of common men, he exclaimed with a prophet's
vision of the living unison of civic and economic weal:--"Gold is good
in its place, but living, brave, patriotic men are better than gold."

Such were Lincoln's principles as he defined a Nation's true
prosperity and wealth. A Nation's strength, a Nation's honor, a
Nation's truest treasure is in her men. Men of freedom and men of
hope, men intolerant of tyranny, men resolved to be worthy of
themselves and conscious of kinship with their Maker, men jealous
equally of their own and their brother's liberty, men who welcome all
the bonds involved in a friendly league of equal duties and equal
rights, men in whom the amelioration of all is a ruling desire, these
are the chief and best achievement in the proudest Nation's wealth. To
undervalue men, preferring any other good, is to cherish in a Nation's
heart the source of its undoing. More to be prized than finest gold
is every citizen. However weak and humble any man may be, his honor is
sacredly above offense. To leave the burden of the feeble unrelieved,
or to clog the progress of the slow is in any Nation's history a
primal sin, and is sure to be abundantly revenged. For such a sin no
store of wealth has power to atone. A sin like that a sinner himself
must bear. This is the central thought of the last inaugural. These
were the human sentiments lying underneath all Lincoln's economic
faith. To these firm verities he held devotedly, whether counseling
the Nation as its president, projecting negro colonies as the negro's
friend, or offering to an idling, impecunious brother a dollar gratis
for every dollar earned.

Men are equal; men are free. Men are royal; men are kin. Men are
hopeful; men aspire. Men are feeble; men have need. Men may prosper;
men may rise. Melioration is for all. Men have duties; men have
rights. Rights are mutual; duties bind. Every man resents offense.
Only despots can offend. Human tyranny is doomed. Vengeance waits on
every wrong. God is sovereign, kind and just. These are Lincoln's
sentiments. These he nobly illustrates. These are laws which he
defends. These are truths he vindicates.

These few fundamental principles, applied anywhere in the industrial
field, would soon and certainly put in force wholesome, everlasting,
all-embracing laws. If, like Lincoln himself, men start in penury with
never a favor and never a friend, then, like him, they must hire
themselves to other men for the going wage. But every such a contract
must be forever subject to a fair and orderly recall. The humblest
earner of a daily wage must be forever free, free to continue or to
withdraw. To his freedom and improvement, to his enheartenment and
hope all industrial regulations must conduce. This is basic. This
alone is generous and fair. And only here can any government win
permanence and peace.

Here are Lincoln's primal postulates in social economics. Moral
imperatives are over every man. Moral freedom is in every breast.
Within the nethermost foundations of any mortal's share in any social
fellowship must rest his own self-wrought integrity and self-respect.
To make that social fellowship in any form perpetually secure each man
must seek with all his heart and with continual willing sacrifice the
lasting welfare of every party and of every part. That this be safely
guaranteed each man must learn to estimate his brother-man, not by
epaulets and coins, but by immortal standards, such as only living
persons can achieve. To make this social league invincible within,
each member in the fellowship must show a true humility, abjuring all
temptation or desire to be a despot or a grandee. And through it all
this social compact must be cherished and revered as ordained by a God
of pure and sovereign truth and love. Thus by friendly ministry, in
unpretending honesty, in brother-kindliness, as sharing in a common
immortality, under the favor and in the fear of God, may fellowmen in
multitudes be fellow citizens in a civic order that may hope for
perpetual prosperity. This is the resounding message that Lincoln's
life transmuted into speech through his pathetic and inspiring rise
from poverty.


The study of Lincoln's moral versatility, examined in a former
chapter, ranging as it does through all the measure of the moral
realm, verges all along its border on the domain of philosophy.
Lincoln has scant familiarity, it is true, with the rubrics and the
problems, the theories and the methods of the schools. His boyhood was
in the wilderness; locusts and wild honey were his food. Such
education as he achieved was in pathetic isolation. It was a naked
earth, unfurnished with any aids or guides, from which his homely
hard-earned wisdom was laboriously wrung. But his Maker dowered him
with a mind attempered to defiance of every difficulty. And, however
stern the face of his life's fortune might become, his sterner will
and diligence found in her solitudes her choicest treasures. To minds
that nimbly traverse many books, thinking to have gained the substance
of great truths, when they have only gained vain forms, this may seem
to be impossible. But Lincoln's mind had traversed severest
discipline. He found rare substance of intellectual wealth. And he
knew its solid worth. Of this, as has been shown, his first inaugural
yields shining proof. Almost every sentence is as the oracle of a

But his second inaugural, too, is a gem of wisdom, clear and pure, fit
ornament for any man to wear in any place where wisest men convene.
Let keenest eyes examine narrowly the aspiration with which this
second inaugural concludes. There shines a wish as bright as any human
hope that ever shone in human breast--a wish that all the earth might
gain to just and lasting peace. That yearning plea was voiced upon the
very breath that spoke of the battles and wounds, the dead and the
bereft, of a mighty Nation in fratricidal war. The peace he sought for
within all the land, and through all the earth, was to be the national
consummation of a conflict in which multitudes of men and millions of
treasure had been offered up under God in the name of charity and
right. Such was the wording and the setting of this wish.

Comprehend its girth. It encircled all the earth. This cannot be said
to be nothing but the ill-considered aspiration of an inexperienced
underling. It is the prayer of one who for four terrific years had
held the chief position in conducting the executive affairs of one of
the major empires of the world. During all that time, among the
bewildering and imperious problems of an era of unexampled civil
convulsion, hardly any complications had been more obstinate or more
disturbing than those bound up in the relation of the United States to
the other major Nations of the world. Within those international
complications were infolded problems and principles as profoundly
fundamental as any within any Nation's single life, or within all the
reach of international law. In such a situation and out of such a
career Lincoln culminates the declaration of his policy for a second
presidential term with an invocation of just and lasting peace among
ourselves and with all Nations.

Again let it be said, and be it not forgotten, that it is from the
lips of Lincoln that this appeal ascends. He is not a novice. He is a
seasoned veteran. Coming from that heart, and spoken in that hour,
those words cannot be lightly flung aside. They are the longing of a
man who, through almost unparalleled discipline, has attained an
almost peerless sobriety, sincerity, and clear-sightedness. Too honest
to utter hollow words, too deliberate to accept an ill-judged phrase,
too discerning to recommend a futile and unlikely proposition, and
sobered far beyond any power or inclination to play the hypocrite, we
must concede that Lincoln meant and measured what he said. In simple
fairness, and in all sobriety, we must allow that Lincoln understood
that the principles which guided him as national chief magistrate, and
the goal towards which he was driving everything in his conduct of the
war, contained all needed light and power for winning all the world
to perpetual harmony. This is nothing less than to allow in Lincoln's
deeds and words the sweep and insight of a philosopher. And it is but
simple justice, though of vast significance, to append just here that
it was in the office and person of John Hay, Lincoln's private
secretary, when later he was our Secretary of State, that there dawned
and brightened the new era in international diplomacy, now in our day
so widely inaugurated, and so well advanced. It can be truly added
that in this vast arena, where mighty Nations are the actors, and in
very fact all the world is the stage, those cardinal moral traits of
Lincoln, and his transparent and commanding personality, so steadfast
and vivid and gentle and meek, have no need to borrow from other and
ancient theories and illustrations of world-wide statesmanship either
light or power. That each individual retain unsmirched and
undiminished his pristine self-respect as the cornerstone of all
reliability, his neighborly kindness as the prime condition of all
true comity, his child-like deference towards God as the basis of all
genuine dignity, and his rating of human souls above all perishable
goods as the absolute and essential foundation of any perpetuity,
forms a programme as elemental and imperial among mightiest Nations,
as among humblest neighborhoods of men. Lincoln's obedient recognition
of the Almighty's purposes in over-ruling national affairs, his
king-like resolution to hold loyally by his innate sense of equity,
his eagerness for the elevation of all the oppressed, his instinctive
aspiration in his civic life for foundations that cannot fail, and his
uncomplaining fellowship with the penal sorrows of his erring fellow
citizens,--all apprehended and defended and adhered to with such a
lucid mind and steadfast will and prophetic hope upon the open
platform of our American Republic--propose both in active practice and
in reasoned theory a pattern of statesmanship, capable of
comprehending the political conditions, and directing the diplomacy of
all the governments of the world. Here are the primal conditions and
constituents of international amity. Agreements constructed and
defended thereupon among the Nations could not fail to be fair. They
would surely endure. And as the centuries passed, the faith of Lincoln
in a Ruler of Nations, just, benign, eternal, supreme, would
aboundingly increase.

But once again it must be said that these are not the themes, nor this
the flight of an untrained imagination. The peace among all Nations
towards which Lincoln's hope appealed, was being patterned upon a just
and lasting achievement among ourselves. And among ourselves the
government was being tried in the burning, fiery furnace of a civil
war. It was being proved in flames what factors in a national civic
order were permanent, and fair, and approved of God. It was out of
deep affliction and unsparing discipline, rebuking all our sins,
humbling all our vanity, purging all our hopes, and cementing among
ourselves a just and lasting brotherhood, that Lincoln found the heart
to hope for perpetual fraternity through all the world. Within his
wish deep-wrought, hard-earned, clear-eyed wisdom was crystallized. It
was an imperial proposition, momentous, comprehensive, profound. It
embodied nothing less than a political philosophy.

But these assertions demand a closer scrutiny. Does Lincoln's thought,
in scope and mode, deserve in any sense to be entitled a philosophy?
In soberness, is any such pretension justified? Are Lincoln's
principles so radical, so comprehensive, so well-ordered, as to
deserve a title so supreme?

All turns on truly understanding Lincoln's apprehension of reality.
Lincoln's world was a society of persons. God, himself, his fellowman
engrossed his thought and interest. Among all persons, as seen and
known by him, there was a full affinity. All men were equal, and all
were kindred to the great God. This was the starting point, this the
circuit, and this the goal of all his conscious thought and toil. This
was his world. To penetrate its nature was to handle elements. To
grasp those elements was to be inclusive. And to comprehend their
native correlation was to master fundamental wisdom.

Here Lincoln shows his mental strength. Among all these elements he
traced a fundamental similarity. A common pattern embraced them all.
The highest and the lowest were essentially alike. All were dowered
with kindred capacities for nobility. He never suffered himself or any
of his fellowmen to forget his own elevation from lowliest ignorance
and poverty to the presidency. However humble, all could rise. However
ignorant, all could learn. However unbefriended, all deserved regard.
Life and liberty and happiness were a common boon, an even, universal
right. For fellowship with God, even when buffeted beneath divine
rebukes, all might hope. The ultimate, open possibility of such divine
companionship is shown in this last inaugural, where Lincoln's keen
discernment avails to comprehend, that even sinning men may, through
penitent acceptance of heaven's rebukes, win heaven's favor and walk
with God. Thus Lincoln learned and knew that among all men, and
between all men and God there was a fundamental ground of imperishable
affiance. Here lies the foundation of his philosophy.

And this affiance was in its being moral. With him the real was
ethical. Pure equity was the primal verity. By character were all
things judged. Politics and ethics were identical. In the thought of
Lincoln the qualities constituting our American Union, the qualities
that defined and contained its very being, the qualities that made it
a civic entity, securing to it its coherence and perpetuity, the
qualities guaranteeing that it should not dissolve and disappear in
the fate and wreck of all decaying things, the qualities that made it
worth the faithful care of God and the loving loyalty of men, were
identical with the qualities constituting himself a free, responsible
soul. The same humble reverence, the same mutual goodwill, the same
regard for durability, the same jealousy for integrity as informed his
personal conscience and inspired his personal will, should form the
law and determine the deeds of the Nation as well, if the Nation was
ever to have in its civic being a dignity worthy to survive. Here is a
standard conformable at once with the measure of things in heaven, the
measure of a Nation, and the measure of every man.

Such is the scope of this inaugural. In penning that grave paragraph
touching "unrequited toil," Lincoln had his eye alike upon the
individual slave, upon the Nation as a whole, upon long centuries, and
upon the ways of God. It may be said with equal truth that he was
pondering the sin and hurt of a single act of fraud, the vital
structure of organic civic life, the continual tenure of right and
guilt through lives and times that seem diverse, and the unison of
moral estimates that hold with God and men alike forever. This may not
be denied. The sin inflicted in a single wrong, like that of slavery,
may implicate a Nation in a guilt that, under the impartial and
upright rule of God, the centuries cannot obliterate. Inhuman scorn,
short-sighted greed, disloyalty and cruelty, however disguised, or
however upheld, entail a doom too certain and too sovereign for the
centuries to unduly defer, or for any nation to ever annul.

Here are principles undeniably. And as undeniably these principles
are supreme. A just God is over all. To his high purposes all things,
even the most perverse, must eventually conform. To his right rule
even unrighteous men must bend. Into intelligent harmony with his will
all upright men may come, finding in lowly acknowledgment of his great
majesty their true dignity, in loyalty to his pure righteousness their
own complete integrity, in imitation of his universal benignity their
perfect mutual friendliness, and in a vision of his eternal purity
their assurance of personal and civic perpetuity. Thus in the midst of
all being, and in the conscious presence of Him in whom all being
finds its source, our personal, human being finds its transcendent
dignity and crown. Living thus, and living thus together, men find
life indeed. Thus all, endowed alike with the common sanctity of life,
enjoying equally the common right to liberty, share equally a common
boon of happiness. Thus each man alone and thus the civic order as a
whole may survive and flourish under God in just and lasting peace.

This, in Lincoln's thought, was final, comprehensive truth. Taken in
all its foursquare amplitude and unison, there was nothing human it
did not avail to fitly arrange and fully circumscribe. Whether for man
alone or for men in leagues, whether for States supreme or for States
confederate, it provided every needful guide and bond. As for the
international arena, so for every lesser realm of social life, the
principles enshrined in this inaugural are civic wisdom crystallized.
They proffer to our human social life nothing less than a philosophy.

This is the wisdom literally inscribed upon the tablet of this last
inaugural. To unveil its face before an ever heedful and ever more
attentive world is being found a sovereign function of succeeding
time. Men are ever learning, but have ever yet to learn what Lincoln
was. Despite his fame, his proper glory has been veiled. His features
have been shadowed, almost smirched. His reputation has been overlaid
with rumours and reports of excessive pleasure in ribald, rollicking
hours in wayside inns. But in his very laughter there were deep hints
of measured soberness. Seasoned wisdom flavored all his wit. His very
folly was profound. But when his mood of frolic passed, when, and
almost without any inner change, his outer mien grew serious, and
sadness brooded on his face, then his speech was fed from nether
springs. Then his lips were freighted from afar, and his speech was
rich with precious lore.

In his inmost instinct Lincoln was a philosopher. Out of life's
complexities he was always searching for its clue. His speeches deal
at bottom with nothing but details. But out of the mesh of those
details he was always weaving principles. It is this that gives his
words their weight. He is by his own right a true philosopher. It was
true wisdom with which he dealt. With true wisdom he was in love. In
his own character he has garnered all his gains. By self-refinement he
has become a Nation's pattern. In himself are treasured all the
honors, dignities, and rewards that appertain to a worthy devotee of
wisdom. Assuredly, and beyond all fair dispute, the author of this
last inaugural, when fairly measured and esteemed for what he was, and
what he did, and what he overcame in civic realms by sheer original
research, far more than any Dr. Faust, deserves his doctorate and
degree. In sober verity the author of this inaugural is a true Doctor
of Philosophy.


The last preceding chapter closed with an allusion to Dr. Faust. That
reference may now be profitably resumed. Goethe's Faust is introduced
as in deep uneasiness before the unsolved mysteries of life. He is
described as having mastered all that all the Faculties can give, but
all to no sure end, and as being then beguiled into other paths and
scenes, there to prosecute afresh his quest for present satisfaction.
In this new quest he accepts the guidance of a scorner into realms of
magic, sorcery, and witchcraft; into scenes of ribaldry, debauchery,
and basest sordidness; into lust, murder, and treacherous
unfaithfulness; into a devilish trade for present carnal happiness, at
cost of freedom, reason, and any heed for future destiny.

One notable feature in all this quest is its submergence in the sea of
things that surge up around the passing life, only to pass away
themselves and disappear. His riddles and his quests, his ideals and
delights are largely physical. His guide does not conduct him into the
steadfast presence and observation of things permanent and spiritual.
He is prone to make him roam in realms of magic, where forms and deeds
are too thin and vague to be even shadows, and too false to be even
artificial, but where yet each scene excites the imagination to
perishing desires for joys of sense. Carnal potions, charms, and lust;
physical tumults and delights so largely occupy the central place in
all the scenes, that the riddles Faust would fain resolve are, to a
large degree, the mysteries of the universe of sense.

Now let any man compare the major problems in the mind of Goethe's
Faust with the problems that Lincoln felt to be supreme. One discovers
instantly a vast divergence. Themes and questions, that to the very
end of Goethe's life perplexed and vexed his thought, were in
Lincoln's writings not so much as named.

But far beyond all this. The vast, unwieldly world of solid sense, so
baffling, but so sure, now so terrible, and now so kind, now serving,
and now crushing boastful, trembling man, now begetting, and now
absorbing endless, countless generations and multitudes, seems not to
constitute a vexing or perplexing theme in Lincoln's most insistent
thought. This can never be explained as due to a painless, care-free,
earthly lot; nor to a pampering environment; nor to physical
stolidity; nor to incapacity for aesthetic joys. The lines that seamed
his face, the muscles that leashed his frame, the structure of his
hands, the meaning message upon his lips, his shadowed, sobered,
brooding eyes attest a different tale. Lincoln was sufficiently aware
of the plain and common sorrows incident to our earthly environment.
He knew what havoc cold and heat, hunger and pain, toil and want,
plague and death could visit upon our human life. But none of these
things seemed to trouble him. So engrossed was he with questions he
called "durable," that all physical discomforts and distresses, with
their connected pleasures and desires and hopes and fears, were but
passing, minor incidents.

This undoubted fact in Lincoln's mental habitude is a signal and
significant factor, to be held in careful estimation in a final
judgment of Lincoln's character. Ethics, pure ethics, themes that
dealt with realms where man is truly responsible and truly free, were
his supreme concern from first to last. And so it comes to pass that
the problem, which for him is truly fundamental and ultimate, passes
wholly by at once all that burden of so-called evil, in the fear and
hurt and mystery of things inflexible, and clings fast hold of things
alone that are responsible and free.

Touching the theme of this chapter, and touching also this last
inaugural, the following letter, written March 15, 1865, to Thurlow
Weed, already cited and considered once, deserves a bit of heed

     Every one likes a compliment. Thank you for yours on my little
     notification speech and on the recent inaugural address. I
     expect the latter to wear as well as--perhaps better
     than--anything I have produced; but I believe it is not
     immediately popular. Men are not flattered by being shown that
     there is a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them.
     To deny it however, in this case, is to deny that there is a
     God governing the world. It is a truth which I thought needed
     to be told, and, as whatever of humiliation there is in it
     falls most directly on myself, I thought others might afford
     for me to tell it.
                                                Truly yours,
                                                        A. LINCOLN.

This letter shows what Lincoln judged to be the secret of this
inaugural's permanent hold on human approbation. It was its humble
testimony to the fact that, amidst and above the errors and sins, the
struggles and failures of men and Nations, there is a world-governing
God. Here opens a theme that is truly sovereign and ultimate.

The last inaugural reveals that Lincoln was closely pondering two
incongruous themes: the bitter career of slavery; and the just rule of

Touching the first--the fact of human slavery--whatever other men
might think, in Lincoln's view it was always abhorrent, a primary
immorality. He was naturally "anti-slavery." Even in this address,
guarded against all malice, and suffused with charity, he could not
forbear from saying:--"It may seem strange that any men should dare
to seek a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from other
men's faces." Man's right to live was in his thought primal. That
right carried with it the right to enjoy the bread that his own hands
had earned. Such a privilege was the central element in human
happiness. Such felicity was elemental. Such freedom and such joy were
the simplest common boon in our common, earthly lot.

The institution of slavery blasted that joy, denied that liberty,
robbed that right to life. This annihilated hope. It ranked men with
brutes. Such a ravaging of human desires and human rights Lincoln
judged, from the side of the slave-holder, a paramount crime; and from
the side of the slave, an insufferable curse. The terrible enormity of
both crime and curse was measured in Lincoln's estimation by the
enormity of the war. Viewed any way, that war was the indication and
register of the wrong done, and the wrong borne, by men in the
centuries of slavery. Arrogance and insolence, ruthlessness and
cruelty, dishonesty and faithlessness, luxury and lust, trailed all
along its path. That, in a Republic dedicated to liberty, men would go
to war and fight to the death with their fellow-citizens in defense
and perpetuation of tyranny and bonds, gave evidence to the strange
and obdurate perverseness involved and nurtured in the mood and
attitude of men that were bent on holding fellow men as slaves. The
existence of such an institution in any land Lincoln deemed a national
calamity; in a free Republic he felt it to be a heaven-braving anomaly
and affront. It was a flagrant evil, bound to bring down woe.

But in the deep entanglements of history this baleful institution had
to be condoned, even in this land made sacred to the free. Inbred
within the Nation in the Nation's very birth, that it be sheltered
within the Nation's life became a national responsibility. From this
firm bond Lincoln himself could not escape. In the Constitution that
Lincoln swore to uphold, when first he took the presidency, slavery
was sheltered, if not entrenched. As chief magistrate of the whole
Republic, however obnoxious slavery might be, he had the obnoxious
thing to protect. This he freely admitted, and explicitly declared in
his first inaugural.

Here was the beginning of his final, moral debate. How should he
morally justify himself in defending what he morally abhorred? That
this dual attitude should be assumed he seemed fully to concede. This
shows most clearly, and in its sharpest moral contradiction, when, in
his first inaugural, he volunteered to permit an amendment to the
Constitution, enacting, as the supreme law of the land, that slavery
should remain thereafter undisturbed forever. How he brought his mind
to take that stand has never been made clear. He said in that
connection that such an amendment was in effect already Constitutional
law. But previous to that date he had always pledged and urged
forbearance with slavery, on the understanding that such forbearance
was only for a time; that, as foreseen and designed by the men who
framed the Constitution, slave holding was always to be so handled, as
to be always on the way to disappear. It is not easy to see how a man,
to whom the practice of holding slaves was so morally repellent, could
participate in making it perpetual. One could wish that just this
problem had been frankly handled under Lincoln's pen. It must have
been plainly before his thought. And the words of few men would be
more worthy of careful record and review than deliberate words from
Lincoln upon this world-perplexing query:--how adjust one's thoughts
and acts to a moral evil, that inveterately endures, and is never
atoned? But in fact that amendment was never carried through. One of
the fruits of slavery was its rash unwisdom at just this juncture.

Still, though the amendment lapsed, slavery held on. And slaveholders
tightened their resolution to retain their rights in slaves, or rend
the Union. This precipitated war. This may seem to have doubled
Lincoln's problem, slavery and national dissolution. Standing at the
apex of national responsibility, he had to bear the hottest brunt of
the physical anguish, the mental perplexity, and the moral sorrows of
a war waged by a slave-holding South in militant secession. But in
reality, in his thought, the two were one. All turned on slavery. This
was the burning blemish in the Constitution. This was the intent of
the war. This was the burden on his heart. Here was a load too
grievous for any man to bear. It bore preponderantly on him. And yet,
as regards any personal and conscious desire or deed, he was through
and in it all conscious within himself of innocence. His trial and
sorrow were without cause. How now, in his soberest thought, was all
this moral confusion explained? Hating slavery with all his heart,
innocent all his life of any inclination to rob another man of
liberty, but pledged and sworn to shelter slavery under the arm of his
supreme and free authority, how could he prove himself consistent

Here emerge the profoundest thoughts of Lincoln on the ways of God.
And herein appears his contribution to a theodicy--a vindication of
God's moral honor, where his moral government seems slack. How can
thoughtful men conceive and hold that God is just, when such injustice
and disaster are allowed at all, much less for centuries; in any
corner of the earth, much less where heaven's favor seems to dwell?

Upon this subduing theme this last inaugural gives us Lincoln's most
explicit words. Of God's personal being, and of his personal care,
this address shows Lincoln to be perfectly assured. This was his
standing attitude and confidence. Throughout his years in the
presidency this trust had seemed unwavering. Indeed, by repeated,
almost unconscious attestations, it was his stablest trust. Some of
his utterances are tender and touching testimonials to his belief that
God rules in his own personal career. But mainly his confessions of
belief in the Providence of God are connected with national concerns.
He did joyfully, almost jubilantly believe that this Republic was
under God's special watch and care. His own hope for our national
future well-being and honor rested mainly, we must judge, upon the
tokens he thought he could trace in our thrilling and inspiring
history of the divine controlling care. At bottom it was this faith
that underlay all his patriotism. That the fundamental affirmations of
our Constitution were rescripts and digests from the will and word of
God was the lively ground and unfailing confirmation of his pure
devotion to his Nation's honor and weal. More than aught in all the
world beside, it was this religious faith that steadied and girded his
will through all those strenuous days.

It is just here that this study of a theodicy sets in. Above all his
former thoughts about himself, about his land, about the clash of
right and wrong; above all thoughts of other men, and other times;
even above his own and his opponents' former prayers and faith, he
lifts new thoughts in new reverence and new docility towards God.

Still naught but slavery in his theme--its undeniable iniquity; its
strange, prolonged permission; his own, and all other men's
responsibility; its unavoidable entail in penalty; and the divine,
enduring terms of new liberty and peace. Here are themes and fixed
realities that seem eternally to disagree. Can they ever all be
morally harmonized? Could even God enlighten that dark past? Could his
own historic acts be morally unified? Nothing he had ever done with
slavery, not even its utter elimination in his act of freedom, had
ever been done, he explicitly affirmed, on moral grounds. Yet slavery,
and by his own hand, was indeed undone. But even so the spirit of the
South was still invincible, and war was holding on. What indeed could
be the thoughts and plans of God?

To begin with, he confesses both North and South and all the land gone
wrong. This is the first component in his theodicy. Neither North nor
South, not even in the act of prayer, had walked with God, nor found
the truth, nor gained its wish. All thoughts of men, in the righteous
rule of God, were being overturned. This confession verges near to
worship, acclaiming, as it does, the Almighty's designs; and venturing
as it does, to trace and reproduce the Almighty's thoughts.

Here is seen how genuine is the moral earnestness in Lincoln's earnest
thoughtfulness. As though by a very instinct, his form of words
betrays his reverence. He refrains from dogmatism. He refrains even
from affirmation. He knows he is venturing upon a daring flight. He is
assuming to conjoin together into a moral unison that bitter sample of
the age-long cruelty of man against his brother, and the transcendent
sovereignty, the eternal justice, and the age-long silence of God. His
formula is a modest supposition. But within its modesty is an eye that
searches far.

He takes resort in one of the most trenchant declarations of Christ,
that momentous saying in his colloquy about the majesty and modesty of
a little child:--"Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must
needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense

In this colloquy Jesus seems to be moved by a tender impulse of
affectionate jealousy for the model beauty and grace of children. But
that tenderness is roused into one of the most terrific outbursts that
ever passed his lips. Little children are Christlike, Godlike, models
of the citizenship in the heavenly Kingdom. God is their jealous
guardian and defender. But Godlike, and of heavenly dignity though
they be, they are shy and frail. And men, as they grow gross and
impudent, abuse and offend their defenselessness. So things have to
be. But woe to such offenders. They were better tied to that mammoth
stone that the mule turns in the mill, and submerged in the abyss of
the deep of the great sea.

Here are four noteworthy elements:--a blended heavenly modesty and
majesty and innocence; an insufferable insolence; a trebly-terrible
penalty; and a strange and ominous necessity.

Over these four factors Lincoln's mind must have pondered long. Else
how explain their place in this inaugural? They form the foundation of
its central paragraph, and constitute its paramount argument; forming
alike a sobering admonition, and a humble ground of hope to all the
Nation, while at the same time holding aloft before the Nation's
thought the outline and substance of a stately vindication of the ways
of God. Evidently here is shapely fashioning in lucid speech of
Lincoln's ripest, surest thought. As one faces all its range, it seems
like the open sky, clear but fathomless. But its wisdom is doubly
sealed, and it bears a double claim to our respect. It shows the way
of Lincoln's mind, and the way of the mind of Christ. Not quickly will
any other thinker, however disciplined, traverse all its course. But
travel where he will in the mighty orbit of this inquiry, the modern
thinker, whatever his attainment, may find in this inaugural shining
indications that Lincoln's thought has gone before.

In this modest, far-searching supposition, transferred to American
history from the lips of Christ, Lincoln firmly grasps two solid
facts, elemental and universal in human life:--the beautiful modesty
of the meek; and the ugly arrogance in the strong. Strength and
weakness needs must be. These invite to rudeness and retreat. Then the
powerful overbear. The gentle are overborne. Offenses multiply. The
arrogant prevail. So must it be. But when the meek go down beneath the
wicked rudeness of the strong, then the Most High God, within whose
firm dominion both strong and weak share equally in all the privileges
and rights of liberty and law, sets over the offended one his shield,
and against the proud offender his sword, until pity and equity are
enthroned upon the earth again. Thus must it be. The meek must suffer.
Offenders must arise. But meekness is a heavenly, Godlike quality. And
as with God, so with his gentle little ones, patient gentleness will
be duly vindicated; rude arrogance will meet exact and fit rebuke; and
it will stand clear that strength and weakness may dwell together in
equity and liberty and peace.

This was the age-long moral process which Lincoln's eye discerned, and
the final issue which his expectation hailed. Then and therein his eye
discerned that all voices would be constrained to proclaim that in all
the moral world pity and equity were prevalent; that the least had
Godlike majesty; that humility gave to all the great their
courtliness; and that there was within all men a fadeless worth, far
outranking all other wealth.

But it is essential to note, not alone that Lincoln offers this in the
modest form of supposition; but that, as it leaves his lips, it
assumes the formula of a confession. Even the meek receive rebuke. The
gentlest have wandered also away from God. The problem has surpassed
us all. All have somewhat to learn from God. That arrogance may meet
its due, meekness must be yet more meek. It must needs be that
offenses come. Greater than all our wrong, and all our patience, is
the patient truth of God. This must be fully learned. It is under
wrong that wrong is made right. It is by meekness under arrogance that
arrogance is put to shame. It is by gentleness under rudeness that
rudeness is subdued. Offenses must needs be. Only in sacrificial
submission to its woe is the problem of evil ever resolved. Only thus
is the iniquity of the sin measured back upon the evil doer in a
symmetrical and equivalent rebuke.

But this is never to exculpate the offender or condone the offense.
Blood with the sword, drop for drop, must be meted out to the
slaveholder, as he meted out to the slave blood with the lash. All the
wealth that the bonds-man's lord has snatched from the toiling slave
must be yielded up. Over human scorn and greed and injustice and
cruelty hang unfailingly judgments that are true and righteous
altogether. Neither may they who are offended rail, nor they who
offend exult, over the divine delay. Nor when God's judgments fall may
they who are rebuked complain, nor they who are redeemed turn
exultation into arrogance. God's ways, and his alone are even, and
altogether true.

In thoughts like these Lincoln's final explanation of the ways of God
took form. In patient, repentant, adoring acquiescence his heart found
rest. His sorrows were profound, the sorrows of a patriot, kinsman to
all the sorrowful in the land. But he learned, however deep the
stroke, to forbear complaint. He received the sorrows of the war into
his own breast as heaven's righteous woe upon a haughty land, and as
heaven's discipline, teaching offenders the woe of their offense. So
his ways became coincident with the greater ways of God.

But in this moral explication of the war, and of all that the war
involves, two vastly different types of character persist. Lincoln's
solution of the enigma was in diametrical contrast with the views of
the leading spirits of the South. Not like him did they rate slavery,
nor conceive the war, nor understand the ways of God. How, now, could
Lincoln's view assimilate this obduracy in the South? This question
was clearly within the scope of Lincoln's thought, and its answer is
embraced in what has already been explained. Given an even penalty for
any sin, drop for drop with the avenging sword for blood with the
lash, and it is morally indifferent whether men rail, or whether they
acquiesce. The wrong is made right. The meek are redeemed. God's delay
is vindicated. Rudeness is reversed. The law is fully revealed. Man's
liberty is honored equally. Cruelty and unfairness are rebuked. The
gains of greed are scattered. Humblest men are crowned with eternal
dignity. To such, whether from the North or from the South, as with
melting sorrow and repentance welcomed to their bosoms this bitter
vindication of those primal rights, the sorrows of the war opened into
perennial peace. To such as repelled that proffered vindication, there
was in the sorrows of the war no alleviation. But for both,
nevertheless, and for both identically, the sorrows of the war
completed the moral vindication of a pure and Christlike equity and
friendliness. Thus all the ways of God, with the repentant and the
rebellious alike, are just and righteous altogether. This it is the
highest wisdom of men to acquiescently confess. To this even those who
rebelliously complain and rail must finally utterly submit.

And now one final matter remains--the idea and definition of
happiness. When men discuss the problem of evil in the universe, and
in its awful presence try to substantiate their confidence in the just
and friendly care of a transcendent Deity, one subtle touchstone
governs all they say:--What is their conception of human weal, and of
human woe? What in actual fact is deepest misery; and what is true
felicity? What do they assume man's highest good to be?

Just here is wide and multiform diversity. For illustration, let
thought recur to the contrast with which the topic of this chapter was
introduced. The idea of happiness that Goethe plants in Dr. Faust, and
the idea of happiness that ruled in Lincoln, are as separate as the
poles. And again, to keep within the setting of this inaugural, the
happiness towards which Lincoln strove, and in which his thought found
satisfaction, contrasted mightily with the happiness that informed the
aspirations of the leaders of the South. In their ideal, disdain of
all inferiors, delight in easy luxury, unequal acknowledgment of
rights, and a cruel stifling of the very rudiments of love, were mixed
and working mightily. Desiring and enjoying that Elysium, their
estimate of evil, their definition of the highest good, and their
programme for a final consummation under God could have no fellowship
with any final plan of thought approved by Lincoln.

What was Lincoln's highest happiness? This merits pondering anywhere;
but compellingly, where one tries to trace his views upon this
problem of theodicy; and yet still more when one conceives in this
inquiry how in Lincoln's life his ethics, his civics, and his religion
became coincident.

As this mighty problem resolves itself in Lincoln's mind, it
comprehends, along with his own welfare and worth and true
contentment, the equal dignity and happiness of every other man, and a
harmonious consonance with the being and decree of God. He sees that
scorn of any other man involves in time the scorner's shame. He sees
that robbery, however veiled, entails a debt whose perfect
reimbursement the slowest centuries will in their time exact. He sees
that any form of malice or unfriendliness, housed and fed in any
heart, will forfeit all the joy of gratitude, and fill that heart at
last with vindictive hate and bitterest loneliness. He sees that
fleshly joys, however lush and full, are marked and destined for a
swift and sure decay and weariness and vanity. And so, to realize the
perfect welfare, he commends to himself, and urges persuasively on all
other men, the sovereign good of an even justice, upheld within
himself, and so measured out to other men by the perfect standard of
God's self-respecting loyalty; of universal charity, eager everywhere
to minister universal benefit and peace; of supreme enthusiasm for
enduring life; and of a genuine humility, that shares all hope with
all the lowly, and trusts and honors God. In this fourfold, composite
unison of conscious, deathless life Lincoln sees the fairest goal, the
choicest boon, the highest good of man. In the presence of such a
standard, and before the outlook of such a hope Lincoln fashions his

Here then is the sum of Lincoln's thought upon this bewildering

The evil that makes this earthly lot so dark and hard is man's wrong
to man; the awful sorrows of the meek; the offenses wrought upon the
helpless by the arrogant.

Before this mystery all other mysteries, however deep and terrible,
such as hurricanes and famine, plagues and death, may not be named.

This most sovereign evil is most clearly understood by those who are
oppressed. Their eyes pierce all its deeps. The rude are, by their
rudeness, blind.

The names of all who suffer and are still are registered on high for
full solace and redemption.

The register of the rudeness of the strong is also full, and destined
for full requital.

This redemption and requital shall be wrought by God.

In this redemption the ruthless may relent and share with all the meek
the full measure of all their sorrows, and so become partakers of all
their joy.

If ruthlessness persist, full requitals shall still descend, and in
the presence of God's even righteousness every mouth shall be stopped.

And so shall all evil be fully rectified.


Of all the words of Lincoln, evincing what he thought of God, none
outweigh the witness of this last inaugural. His reply to Thurlow Weed
regarding this address, referred to in another place, concerned
precisely just this point--the movements and the postulates of his
religious faith. As his ripened mind prepared and pondered and
reviewed this speech, there accrued within his consciousness a solemn
confidence that it was destined to become his most enduring monument;
and that as coming generations became aware of its outstanding
eminence, their eyes and hearts would fasten on those words about the
age-long, just, and overturning purposes of God. There was a
confession, so Lincoln felt assured, embracing and conjoining North
and South and East and West in an equal lowliness and shame; and
declaring and extolling God's divine supremacy over all the erring
waywardness and awful sufferings of men.

In this outpouring of his burdened heart before his God, and in the
presence of his fellowmen, there is evidence respecting Lincoln's
piety that courts reflection.

In the first place it indicates where Lincoln's sense of moral
rectitude found out its final bearings. Those purposes of God, as
Lincoln watched their operation, were working out the moral issues in
the awful wrong of age-long, unrequited toil in perfect equity. Strong
men had been wronging weaklings and inferiors. Helpless men had been
suffering untold sorrows. Indignant men had been crying out in hot and
hasty protest for full and speedy vengeance. Thoughtful men had been
tortured over weary, futile wonderings as to how the baffling problem
could be solved. Convulsions and confusion, which no arm or thought of
man could start or stay, were shaking and bewildering all the land.

But through and over all, as Lincoln came reverently to believe, a
sovereign God held righteous government; and out of all the baffling
turmoil he was, by simple righteousness, bringing perfect unison and
peace. The dark mystery of unrequited wrong was being illuminated by
the righteous majesty of complete requital. But in its full
perfection, it was a righteousness such as no mind of man devised. It
was the righteousness of God. Here Lincoln's moral sense was purified.
He was being taught of God. And this he clearly, humbly recognized.
And he took full pains in this address to give God all the praise. And
so his reverence towards Deity, and his affirmation touching
righteousness became identical. His sense of equity stood clothed in

In the second place, deep within the heart of these divine
instructions were such unveilings of God's high majesty, in his
steadfast reign above the passing centuries, as awoke on Lincoln's
lips such lowly adoration as attuned these words of Godly
statesmanship unto a psalm of praise. Here Lincoln's lowliness attains
consummate beauty. It is indeed an utterance of profound abasement. It
sinks beneath a strong rebuke. It acknowledges sad wanderings. It
accepts correction, and meekly takes God's guiding hand. It also sees
God's excellence, his high thoughts and ways, his irresistible
dominion, his moral spotlessness. And before that revelation he humbly
walks among his fellow-citizens, the lowliest of them all, confessing
that the reproach involved in what he said fell heaviest upon himself;
and therein, as a priest, leading the Nation in an act of worshipping
submissiveness before the Lord. Herein his comely, moral modesty
becomes an act and attitude of simple reverence towards God. And thus
his humility, just like his sense of righteousness, becomes apparelled
all about with Godly piety.

In the third place, this new discernment of the ways of God unfolds
profound discoveries of the divine evaluation of the diverse,
contending interests in our commingled life. It makes clear which
values fade, and which shine on eternally. The problem upon which
Lincoln had transfixed his eye was that two and one-half centuries of
hard and sad embondagement. By that gross sin men's deathless souls
were bought and sold for transient gain. Past all denial, therein was
moral wrong; else moral wrong had no existence. Its presence, every
time he faced it, tortured Lincoln, and made him miserable. And it
affronted heaven, overturning God's creative fiat of equality in all
mankind. It set and ranked brief creature comforts and desires above
the worth of heaven's image in a brother man. Every day it challenged
heaven's curse. But heaven's judgment was delayed. Long centuries
seemed to show that heaven was indifferent whether human souls or
carnal pleasures held superior rank.

But now, within the awful tumult of the war there boomed an undertone,
conveying unto all who had quick ears to hear, how God adjudged that
wrong. Upon dark battle clouds shone heavenly light, making newly
plain God's estimate of slaveholder and of slave; of joys and gains
that perish with their use, or await recall; and of souls that never
die. Those awful tidings told how ill-gotten, carnal wealth is
mortgaged under woe, and to the uttermost farthing must be released;
how offending men affront the Lord; and how all offenses must be
avenged. They made full clear how he who grasps at earthly gain by
wrecking human dignity commits a primal sin--a sin that time, though
it run into centuries, cannot obscure, or mitigate, or exempt from
strict review. They reveal infallibly that God's pure eye is on God's
image in every son of man; that supreme, far-seeing ends are lodged in
all the good but unenduring gifts wherewith God's wise and kindly
bounties crown man's toil; that a perfect moral government holds
dominion everywhere and forevermore; and that beneath this rule, in
God's own time, it shall come supremely clear that feasts and luxury
and fine attire, that wealth and lust and pampered flesh have lesser
worth and pass away, while souls of men may thrive, and gain, and win
new worth eternally.

As Lincoln's eye reviewed these centuries of reveling wealth, and
impoverished hearts; and beheld, in the issues of the resultant war,
that wealth laid waste, and those pure hearts fed and filled with hope
and liberty; his wisdom to compare all earth-born, mortal things with
things unperishing and heavenly passed through new birth, new growth
to new completeness in depth and clarity and confidence. And all this
gain to Lincoln, while wholly ethical, dealing as it did with the
wrong and right in human slavery and liberty, owed all its increase to
truer understanding of the Lord. Here again his ethics was purified by
faith. His faith was deeply ethical. As with his lowliness, and his
rectitude, so with his moral valuation of the human soul. It was
vestured all about with Godly piety.

In the fourth place, within the awful wreckage of the war, with which
this last inaugural is so absorbed, there were mighty attestations
that God was pitiful. That war could be defined as God's vengeance on
man's cruelty. Precisely this was what Lincoln grew to see. To all who
toiled in slavery the war had brought deliverance. Thereby the
stinging lash was snatched from human hands; the human heel was thrust
from human necks; the shameless havoc of the homes of lowly men was
stayed; countless sufferings were assuaged; and true blessedness was
restored to souls hard-wonted to unrelenting grief.

And this achievement was alone the Lord's. Of all down-trodden men
high heaven became the champion. In all its awful judgments he who
ruled that conflict remembered mercy. High above all the bloody
carnage of those swords there swayed the scepter of the All-pitiful.
In the very doom upon the strong God wrought redemption for the poor.
And so, as that dreadful wreckage brought to nothing all the pride in
the extorted gain of centuries, it published most impressively that he
who reigned above all centuries was All-compassionate.

To this great thought of God, Lincoln keyed this last inaugural. The
majesty of God's sovereign law of purity and righteousness was robed
in kindliness. Into this high truth ascended Lincoln's patriot hope.
Let men henceforth forswear all cruelty, and follow God in showing all
who suffer their costliest sympathy. This was a mighty longing in his
great heart, as he prepared this speech. Before God's vindication of
the meek, let the merciless grow merciful. Yea, let all the land, for
all the land had taken part in human cruelty, confess its wrong,
accept God's scourge without complaint, thus opening every heart to
God's free, healing grace, and binding all the land in leagues of
friendliness. Let men, like God, be pitiful. Like God, let men be
merciful. In mutual sympathy let all make clear how men of every sort
may yet resemble God, the All-compassionate. This was the trend and
strength of Lincoln's gentleness, as it stood and wrought in full
maturity beneath God's discipline, within this last inaugural. It was
nothing but an echo and reflection of the gentleness of God. And so,
in his benignity, as in his rectitude and lowliness and purity, he
stood in this address attired in Godly piety.

So Lincoln's ethics can be described, in his ripened harvest-tide of
life. So it stands in this inaugural. It is alike a living code for
daily life, and a religious faith. It is born and taught of God. It is
Godliness without disguise, upon the open field of civic
statesmanship. It is a prophet's voice, in a civilian's speech. It is
the seasoned wisdom of a man familiar equally with the field of
politics, and the place of prayer. It shows how God may walk with men,
how civic interests deal with things divine. It proves that a civilian
in a foremost seat may without apology profess himself a man of God,
and gain thereby in solid dignity. It shows how heaven and earth may

But this manly recognition in Lincoln's mind of the inner unison of
ethics and religion was in no respect ephemeral, no careless utterance
of a single speech, no flitting sentiment of a day. It was the
fruitage of an ample season's growth. It was royally deliberate, the
issue of prolonged reflection, the goal of mental equipoise and rest
to which his searching, balanced thought had long conduced. It was in
keeping with an habitual inclination in his life.

This proclivity of his inwrought moral honesty to find its norm and
origin, its warrant and secure foundation in his and his Nation's God
must have taken shape controllingly within those silent days that
intervened between his first election in 1860, and the date of his
inaugural oath in 1861. Else, in those brief addresses on his way to
Washington, that marvelous efflorescence upon his honest lips of an
ideal heavenward expectancy is unaccountable. In those dispersed and
fugitive responses, from Springfield to Independence Hall and
Harrisburg, there breathed such patriotic sentiments of aspiration and
anxiety as owed their ardor, their excellence, and their very loyalty
to his eager trust and hope, that all his deeds as president should
execute the will of God. Throughout his presidential term this wish to
make his full official eminence a facile instrument of God, attains in
his clear purpose and intelligence a solid massiveness, all too
unfamiliar in the craft of politics.

The witness to this, in a letter to A. G. Hodges of April, 1864, is
most explicit and unimpeachable. This letter is a transcript of a
verbal conversation, is written by request, and is designed distinctly
to make the testimony of his mortal lips everywhere accessible and
permanent. Its major portion aims to give his former spoken words a
simple repetition. Then he says:--"I add a word which was not in the
verbal conversation." And upon this he appends a paragraph, as of
something he could not restrain, the while he was conscious perfectly
that what he was about to write was certain to be published and
preserved among all men. In this letter, so doubly, so explicitly
deliberate, he is defending his decree for unshackling the slave, by
the plea, that only so could the Union be preserved. In the appended
paragraph, he disclaims all compliment to his own sagacity, and
accredits all direction and deliverance of the Nation's life, in that
dark mortal crisis, to the hidden, reverend government of a kind and
righteous God.

If any man desires to probe and understand the thoughtfulness of
Lincoln's piety, let him place this doubly-pondered document and the
last inaugural side by side, remembering discerningly the date of
each, detecting how each conveys Lincoln's well-digested judgment of
unparalleled events, and not forgetting that Lincoln foresaw how both
those documents would be reviewed in generations to come. Here are
signs assuredly that Lincoln's lowliness and reverence, his
prayerfulness and trust, his steadfastness and gratitude towards God
had been balanced and illumined beneath the livelong cogitations of an
even, piercing eye. Pursuing and comparing every way the tangled,
complex facts of history; the endless strifes of men; the broken
lights in minds most sage; and the awful evidence, as the centuries
evolve, that greed and scorn and hate and falsity lead to woe; his
patient mind grows poised and clear in faith that a good and righteous
God is sovereign eternally. The truth he grasped transcended
centuries. His grasping faith transcends change.

But Lincoln's piety was not alone deep-rooted and deliberate, the
ripened growth of mixed and manifold experience. It was heroic. It was
the mainspring and the inspiration of a splendid bravery. This is
finely shown in the early autumn of 1864. On September 4 of that year
he wrote a letter to Mrs. Gurney, a Quakeress. This letter bears a
most curious and intimate resemblance to the central substance of the
last inaugural. It witnesses to his earnest research after the hidden
ways of God.

Within this search he sees some settled certainties. He sees that he
and all men are prone to fail, when they strive to perceive what God
intends. Into such an error touching the period of the war all had
fallen. God's rule had overborne men's hopes. God's wisdom and men's
error therein would yet be acknowledged by all. Men, though prone to
err, if they but earnestly work and humbly trust in deference to God,
will therein still conduce to God's great ends. So with the war. It
was a commotion transcending any power of men to make or stay. But in
God's design it contained some noble boon. And then he closes, as he
began, with a tender intimation of his reverent trust in prayer. The
whole is comprehended within this single central sentence, a sentence
which involves and comprehends as well the total measure of the last
inaugural:--"The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must
prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them
in advance."

Here is a confession notable in itself. It would be notable in any
man, and at any time. But when one marks its date, its notability is
enhanced impressively. For Lincoln was traversing just there some of
the darkest hours of his overshadowed life. It was the period
following his second nomination for the presidency in May of 1864, and
before the crisis of election in November of the same year. Central in
that season of wearisome and ominous uncertainty fell the failure of
the battle in the Wilderness under Grant; the miscarriage of his plans
for Richmond; and the awful carnage by Petersburg. Here fell also the
date of Early's raid, with its terrible disclosure of the helplessness
in Washington. Thereupon ensued, in unexampled earnestness, a
recrudescence of the great and widespread weariness with the war; and
of an open clamor for some immediate conference and compromise for
peace. Foremost leaders and defenders of the Union cause throughout
the North sank down despairingly, convinced that at the coming
national vote Lincoln was certain to meet defeat. At the same time the
army sorely needed new recruits; but another draft seemed desperate.
Then Lincoln's closest counselors approached his ears with heavy words
of hopelessness about the outlook in the Northern States confessedly
most pivotal.

In the midst of those experiences, on August 23, 1864, Lincoln penned
and folded away with singular care from all other eyes, these
following words:--

"This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable
that this administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my
duty to so co-operate with the president-elect as to save the Union
between the election and the inauguration, as he will have secured his
election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterward."

Those words were written eleven days before he penned the sentiments
cited above from the letter to the Quakeress. Between those two dates
the Democratic Convention of Chicago had convened and nominated
General McClellan.

Amid such scenes, in the presence of such events, and among such
prognostications, Lincoln chiseled out those phrases about the
perfect, hidden, but all-prevailing purposes of God. Here is Godly
piety in the sternest stress of politics. Here faith is militant, and
unsubdued. Its face is like a burnished shield. Its patience no
campaign outwears. In its constancy suggestions of surrender can find
no place. It was forged upon a well-worn anvil, under mighty strokes,
and at a fervent heat. Fires only proved its purity. It was fighting
battles quite as sore as any fought with steel. It was the deathless,
truceless courage of a moral hero. It was pure and perfect fortitude.
Its struggle, its testing, and its victory had not been wrought on
earthly battle-fields. Its strife had been with God. More than with
the South, Lincoln's controversy had been with the Most High. He
wrestled with the heavenly angel through the night, like the ancient
patriarch. Like the ancient saint, he bore the marks of grievous
conflict. And like him of old, he gained his boon. He achieved to see
that God and perfect righteousness were in eternal covenant.

Such was Lincoln's piety. His view of God gave God an absolute
pre-eminence. In Lincoln's day, as in the day when Satan tempted
Christ, vast areas of human life seemed to give all faith in God's
control the lie; and men in multitudes abjured such futile confidence.
But Lincoln kept his faith in God, and truth, and love, and
immortality. And in that faith he judged his trust, and hope, and
prayer to be preserved on high inviolate. There above, he firmly held,
were lodged eternally the perfect pattern and assurance of full
rectitude and charity. And in that understanding he held on earth
unyieldingly to the perfect image of that heavenly norm, in a pure and
acquiescent loyalty and love. Thus discerningly, submissively,
triumphantly did Lincoln's heart aspire to unify an honest earthly
walk with a living faith in God.

One word remains. As Lincoln makes confession of his faith in this
inaugural, extolling God supremely, and therein announcing to his
fellowmen the groundwork of his morality, it comes to view that the
qualities held fast in Lincoln's heart, and the attributes of God have
marvelous affinity. The equity he adores in God he cherishes within
himself, and recommends to all. God's estimate of the incomparable
value of a human soul, when set beside the variable treasures men
exchange, Lincoln's judgment reverently approves, and as reverently
adopts, establishing thereby a standard quality in his conscious life.
God's tender pity for the poor, hidden deep in his divine rebuke of
slavery, and hidden deeper still within his mercy for all who help to
bear its awful sacrifice, melts and molds the heart of Lincoln to the
same compassion. And to the very outlines of God's majesty, as his
sovereign purposes are all unrolled and all fulfilled throughout the
earth, Lincoln's soul conforms ideally, in its humble vision and
expression of devout, discerning praise.

Here is something passing wonderful. Between a fragile, mortal man and
the eternal God, when each is limned in terms of ethics, appears a
deep and high agreement. There is enthroned in each a common
righteousness. In each, the laws of mercy are the same. In each are
constituted principles inwrought with immortality. And within the
eternal interplay of reverence and majesty between mankind and God,
there is a fellowship in dignity that proves the holy Maker and his
moral creature to be immediately akin. And so the mind and will of
Lincoln, in this their moral plenitude, may interpret and recommend,
may apprehend and execute the eternal purposes of God. This high
commission Lincoln humbly, firmly undertook. And in his commanding
life there is a mighty hint, not easy to silence or erase, that
Godliness and ethics, which have been set so often far apart, were
eternally designed for unison.


In the study of Lincoln's ethics it is not enough to describe it as an
ideal scheme of thought, however notable its range and poise and
insight may be seen to be. As Lincoln's character stands forth in
national eminence among our national heroes, he figures as a man of
deeds, a man of powerful influence over the actions of other men, a
man of masterly exploits. However truly it may be affirmed that
multitudes of adjutants reinforced his undertakings at every turn and
on every side, it still holds also true, and that a truth almost
without a parallel, that his sheer personal force was the single,
undeniable, over-mastering energy that shaped this Nation's evolution
through an outstanding epoch in its career. It was primarily out of
those prolific and exhaustless energies, stored and mobilized within
himself, that he rose, as though by nature, to be national chief
executive. It was straight along the line of his far-seeing vision and
advice that Congress and the Nation were guided to accept and
undertake that terrible enterprise of war. In that great struggle he
came to be in firm reality, far more than any other man, the
competent, effective commander-in-chief. He was chief councilor in a
cabinet whose supreme function dealt singly with matters wholly
executive. It was by the almost marvelous unison of wisdom and
decision resident in him that Congress and the Nation were day by day
induced to hold with an almost preternatural inflexibility to the
single, sovereign issue of the strife. When, after four years of
unexampled bitterness, multitudes were wearying of all patience in
further hostilities, it was his personal momentum and weight, more
than any other influence, that held the prevailing majority of the
national electorate to predetermine by their free ballots that, at
whatever cost of further war, the principles of liberty, equality, and
national integrity should be placed above all possible challenge or
assault forever.

And in the period before the war and before his elevation to the
presidency this same executive efficiency, this singular capacity to
mold the views and stir the motives of other men, was likewise in
continual demonstration. Discerning how supreme a factor in our
American affairs was the power of public sentiment, and observing how
that power was being utilized to undermine the national tranquillity,
he challenged and overthrew single handed the leading master of the
day in the field of political management and debate. Trusting in the
same confidence, and pursuing the same device, he appealed to the
civic consciences of men in the open field of free debate, by the
single instrument of reasoned speech, until, by his persuading
arguments, he consolidated into effective harmony and led to national
victory a party of independent voters, with watchword, platform, and
experience all untried. In all the process by which that new-formed
party gained access to national pre-eminence it was Lincoln's
governing influence that went ahead and gave the movement steadiness.
And through it all he vitally inspired a Nation, now undivided and
indivisible, with a prevailing, corporate desire, that all succeeding
days and all beholding Nations are now deeming, for any stable civic
life, the true enduring ideal.

And all of this was compassed and set afoot within scarcely more than
one decade. In October of 1854 at Peoria, he consciously took up his
strenuous enterprise. In April of 1865, he laid it down and ceased to
strive. Single handed he undertook the task. Through all its progress
the weight of that one hand was undeniably preponderant. And when that
hand relaxed, the task that its release left trembling was one that
stirred a mighty Nation's full solicitude.

Here is something marvelous. These affirmations, as thus far made,
seem certainly overdrawn, and totally incredible. An agency and an
efficiency of national dimensions, introducing and completing an epoch
in our national history; but an agent and an outfit almost defying
inventory, his personality seeming in every phase so simple and
without prestige, and all his ways and means seeming so unpromising
and plain; the while through all his course he was confronting a
resistance and a hostility whose impulse was rooted in centuries of
firm and proud dominion, and whose onset made a Nation tremble. How
can such stupendous affirmations be clothed with credibility? Was it
indeed the hand of Lincoln that turned the Nation from its mistaken
path? Was it Lincoln's will that reinaugurated our predestined course?
Was it Lincoln's overcoming confidence that established in the land
again a good assurance that its integrity was indestructible?

If questions such as these were addressed to Lincoln himself for his
reply, we may be sure his answer, like all his ways, would contain a
beautiful mingling of modesty and confidence. Heeding well the mortal
crisis, and hearing the Nation's call for help, he would not refuse,
when bidden and appointed, to take his stand alone at the very apex of
the strain, knowing well that the burdens to be borne would be greater
than tasked the strength of even Washington; and affirming as he
advanced warily to his post, that in his appointment many abler men
had been passed by. But then he would re-affirm and urge again all the
arguments of his great addresses and messages and debates, beginning
with that initial trumpet peal in Peoria in 1854, and not concluding
until, after all had been rehearsed and reavouched, he recited again
with prophetic earnestness this last inaugural. And throughout all
his devout re-affirmation of all the spoken and written appeals to
which his patriotic mind gave studied form and utterance in that
intense decade, a discerning ear could distinguish in every paragraph
profound and penetrating attestations, such as these:--This is a
mighty Nation. Its future is far more vast. Its present perplexities
are intricate. It has been misled. It needs most sane direction. I am
stationed at her head. Difficulties environ me. My burdens outweigh
Washington's. But this land was conceived in liberty. It was dedicated
to be free. Here all are peers. God's hand has been on our history.
Our destiny enfolds the highest human weal. God is with us still.
Human hearts are with us. Here is overcoming power. Despite my frailty
and poor descent, I will never leave my place. I see how other men
prevail with multitudes by personal appeal. This shall be my
confidence. Though I have no name, though there is perhaps no reason
why I should ever have a name, I can plead. I can plead with men. It
is a Godlike art. Grave as is my problem, this is its grand solution.
I will study to persuade. I will take refuge in the mighty power of
argument. I will confer, and conciliate, and convince. I will employ
my reason to the full. I will address, and assail, and enlist the
reason of other men. I will put all my trust in speech, in ordered,
reasoned speech. I will arrange all my convictions and hopes and plans
in arguments. I will approach men's wills with momentous propositions.
I will open a path to human hearts through open ears by my living
voice. I will make righteousness vibrate vocally. To men's very faces
will I rebuke their wrong. Argument, pure argument shall be my only
weapon, my only agency, my only way. By naked argument, honest and
unadorned, I will undertake to turn this Nation back to rectitude. I
will rest all my confidence in truth, truth unalloyed, abjuring every
counterfeit and all hypocrisy. It is truth's primal and mightiest
function to persuade. Through persuasion alone can freemen be induced
by freemen to yield a free obedience. The heavenly art of persuading
speech shall be for me the first and the last resort. By this most
comely instrument shall my most eager and ambitious wish gain access
to all this peopled land, and win vindication through all coming time.

Something such as this, as one must judge from Lincoln's practice, was
Lincoln's science and evaluation of the art of logical appeal. By
every token Lincoln was a master of assemblies. Upon a public platform
he was in his native element. There he won his place and name.
Whatever any one may say about Lincoln's reputation or Lincoln's
power, that power and that reputation were mined and minted in the
very act and exercise of reasoning appeal. As iron sharpeneth iron, so
he, in the immediate presence of audiences of freeborn men, assembled
from his very neighborhood, shaped and edged and tempered his total
influence. It was when upon the hustings, and while engaged in
pleading speech, that he commanded the Nation's eye and gained the
Nation's ear. And once advanced to national pre-eminence, it was still
by logical persuasion that the Nation's deference was retained.

What now was the inner nature of Lincoln's arguments? What was the
fiber, what the texture in the composition of his thought that made
its arguments so convincing? What was the structure, and what the
carrying power in his appeals that made their logic so prevailing, so
compelling, so enduring?

To find an answer to this inquiry let men review yet once again this
last inaugural. Here is a product of Lincoln's mind whose single
motive is persuasion, whose momentum does not diminish, and which
seems destined to be adjudged by history a master's masterpiece. What
does this short speech contain that gave it in 1865, and gives it yet,
an influence almost magical?

There can be but one possible reply. The factor in that address that
makes its influence so imperial is the moral majesty of the argument
in its major paragraph. That paragraph enshrines an argument. Though
fashioned in the mode and aspect of a reverent supposition, the steady
pace and import of its ordered thought is such as every ordered mind
admits to be compelling. But in substance and in structure that
argument is purely ethical. All turns upon that cited, undoubted fact
of age-long, unrequited toil. Upon that stern actuality hinges all the
arrangement of the thought. Its phrases move with rhythmic fluency;
but they bind together inseparably a Nation's duty, sin, and doom; not
omitting to enfold, with a marvel of moral insight, an almost hidden
intimation of a healing cure.

Here are weighty thoughts, thoughts that press and urge, thoughts that
carry and communicate the gravity of centuries. They contain an
interpretation. They clarify and illuminate. And they all co-ordinate.
They combine and operate together to enforce agreement. They
demonstrate that tyranny breeds a baleful progeny of guilt and woe;
that robbery binds the robber under debt to the full measure of his
rapine; that such guilt can never be forgotten; that such a woe is
pitiless; that the centuries, though slow and mute, are attentive and
impartial witnesses; and that God's even judgments are over all, and
are altogether just. This is all the content and all the purport of
this paragraph, and of all this speech: an exposition of American
slavery and of its resultant civil war, in moral terms, before the
moral bar of every hearer's conscience, and beneath the thought of
God's eternal righteousness; all turning upon the self-evident verity
that unpaid toil is wrong. In this prolific affirmation is the fertile
germ of all that Lincoln ever thought or undertook in that supreme
decade. Here are enfolded all his axioms and postulates and
propositions. By interlocking its multiform, infolded, self-evident
certitudes he framed all his arguments. Its overflowing, resistless
demonstrations in active human affairs formed all his corollaries.
Toil unrequited is a moral wrong. It cries to heaven, and shall be
avenged. In this avenging, if we but see our day, there is an open
door to join with heaven, and transmute its vengeance into recompense
and reconciliation.

This was Lincoln's logic. It was purely ethical. This was the
master-key to his transcendent statesmanship. Here was the secret of
his political efficiency. Thus, and in no other way, he swayed the
Nation. Himself a Godlike man, and discerning in every other man the
same Godlikeness; trusting his own soul's honesty, and appealing to
honest manhood in all other men; he took his stand beside all the
oppressed, and against all extortion; and voiced and urged and trusted
the sovereign moral plea for perfect charity, and perfect equity for

But Lincoln's logic was interlaced with history. All through his
debates and addresses are woven the facts and sequences of our
national career. And to these connected events he clung in all his
arguments, as a man clings to the honor of his home. There was in
those events an argument. To tamper with that history, discrediting
its sure occurrences, or distorting their right connection, was in his
conception a downright immorality.

But mere historical exactitude was not the motive of Lincoln's appeal
to past events. The momentum of our past was for Lincoln's use
entirely moral. Here upon this continent, as he conceived our great
experiment, was being tried, in the presence and on behalf of all
mankind, a government in which the governed were the governors. Here
men are inquiring and being taught what true manhood can create,
uphold, and consummate upon a continental scale, in mutual equality.
Here men are schooled for independence. Here men may dare to fashion
their own law. Here men are nurtured towards full fraternity. Here men
are forced to heed the civic necessity of being fair. Here a boundless
impending future has to be kept steadily in view. Here the God of
Nations is teaching a Nation that he should be revered. Here, in brief
and in sum, men are being disciplined to know and cherish the
rudiments of civic character.

Thus Lincoln interpreted the meaning of our national history. In his
rating, its total purport was ethical. Any logical exposition of our
national career, if its statements are historically exact, will carry
moral consequences. If the logical sequence of any statement of our
historical course is morally perverse, then that statement of our
history is historically untrue. Thus Lincoln's jealous zest for
truthful history, for truthful argument, and for true morality became

But Lincoln's logic was his own. His zeal for history was a freeman's
zest. His arguments were not the cold reflection of a borrowed light.
They were the fervid affirmations of his own convictions, compacted
into reasoned unison, out of the indivisible constituents of his very
manhood's honor. When in his appeal his soul most glowed, when the
ordered sequence and pressure of his thought waxed irresistible, he
was simply opening to his auditors the balanced burden of his honest
heart. Then genuine manhood became articulate. Then pure honor found
a voice. Then eloquence became naught but plain sincerity. Then
arguments became transparent, and affirmations convinced like axioms.
Then demonstrations moved. Assertions did persuade. Then the very
being of the orator took possession of the auditor in an intelligent
fraternity. True, indeed, a solid South, and multitudes besides,
derided his postulates, contemned his arguments, and scorned
derisively his tenderest appeals. But better than they themselves he
understood their hearts; and holding fast forever his deeper faith and
confidence, he maintained his reasoning and his plea, knowing surely
that in some future day their chastened hearts would vindicate his

But in all of this exposition of Lincoln's logical force and skill
there has been no mention of a syllogism. Did Lincoln then neglect
that famous formula of argumentative address? To this natural inquiry
it must be replied that Lincoln understood right well the fine utility
of this strict norm of formal thought. Indeed, he had taken special
pains to perfect his skill in just that form of argument. To the
logical click in a well-formed syllogism his inner ear was well
attuned. Repeatedly he summoned in its aid. An excellent illustration
may be seen in his rejoinder to Douglas at Galesburg in September of
1858. But Lincoln's confidence was not in syllogistic forms, however
trim. His trust was in his moral axioms. Unaided, naked truth; truth
whose total urgency is self-contained, whose perfect verity is
self-displayed, and whose proudest triumphs are self-achieved; pure
truth, shaped forth in speech of absolute simplicity; truth that works
directly in the human mind, like sunshine in the eye, was Lincoln's
handiest and most common instrument in an argument. Thus he sought to
so use reason as to awaken conscience and arouse the will. And thus
his arguments prevailed.

This was Lincoln's logic. It was the orderly exposition of his honest
manhood, pleading with the honest intelligence of every other man for
his free assent. Himself a freeman whom God made free, and greeting in
every other man an equal dignity; with loyalty to himself and with
charity for all; with Godly deference and unfailing hope; he urged and
argued from his own true manhood, and from no other grounds, with a
logic that no true freeman can ever refute: that in this heaven
favored land, and for the welfare of all the world, these ethical
foundations of all true civic welfare be kept unmoved forever. In such
a moral character, and in such a moral argument is this expanding
Nation's only pride and sure defense. At any modern Round Table of
civic knights Lincoln is true King Arthur, and his persuading speech
the true Excalibur.


When Plato took his pen to write his dialogues; when Michael Angelo
took his chisel to fashion his Moses; when Raphael took his brush to
paint his Madonna; they were designing to make their several ideals of
personality pre-eminently beautiful and distinct. And each artist in
his way won a signal, a supreme success. Moses, Socrates, the Madonna,
are shining revelations of human personality. Success herein is the
height of highest art.

But what is personality? It seems an eternal secret, despite all human
search and art. Yet its secret is everywhere felt instinctively to be
of all quests the most supreme. By every avenue men are trying to
reach and reveal its hiding place. Our goal is nothing less than the
human soul. And upon this inquest the eyes and instruments of our
inspection are being sharpened with a determination and zeal hitherto

Suppose this quest be turned to Lincoln. Surely here is a human
person. He stands enough apart in his preeminence to be pre-eminently
distinguishable and distinct; while yet his face beams near enough to
be as familiar and accessible as our most accessible and familiar
friend. For surely, despite all his proneness towards a musing
solitude, Lincoln, of all Americans, displays through all his
published statements, and in all his public life, an instructive and
unstudied openness and unreserve. Just here his marvelous power and
influence lie. He practiced no concealment. He held communion with all
his fellowmen. Herein consists his honesty.

Now may not an honest scholarship, honestly conceiving that of all
investigations our pursuit for the ways and dwelling place of
personality is easily supreme, as honestly believe that in the open,
waiting heart of Lincoln that supreme inquiry may find its supreme
reward? Surely here is promise of a labor that will pay. In Lincoln's
personality is a vein, a mine whose worth and sure utility no mineral
wealth can parallel.

What in very truth, what in solid fact, what in absolute reality is
Lincoln's personality? For undeniably in facing and regarding him, we
confront and apprehend a human life, compact and self-controlled, the
native home and throne of all the conscious and self-directed energies
that are ever resident within and representative of any man. If human
personality ever took evident and conscious shape and form, then
Lincoln is an open and easily approachable illustration of its
embodiment. Upon no object may a student of psychology more easily or
more wisely fix his eye than upon the soul of Lincoln, when it
thrills in resolute, intense endeavor, as in this last inaugural.

For one thing, that Lincoln should be the specimen of psychology
commanding any student's choice is suggested by Lincoln's notability.
Here is an exhibit in no way ordinary. He has secured the attention of
us all. And the attention of us all is athrill with mighty interest.
However it has come about, in some way, as a human personality, he
illustrates a type, he presents a sample so powerful and positive as
to stand before all eyes almost alone, while also so attractive as to
be by everyone beloved. This fact may fairly beget assurance from the
start that in any heedful search for the very substance of human
personality, an interior and intimate fellowship with Lincoln may show
us closely and clearly where it dwells, and what it is. For from the
start it stands plain that Lincoln's hold upon our hearts is in its
controlling co-efficients purely personal. That hold clings fast and
spreads afar, indifferent to space, or time, or even death. His
influence over us, so gladly welcomed and so clearly felt, is no wise
physical or temporal. It cannot be handled or weighed. It is personal.
Herein is high encouragement. And that in this sense of our response
to his enduring sway should be enfolded on our part, a kindred, pure,
enduring delight attests convincingly that within Lincoln's
personality and our own there is something mutual. Within the thing we
search and us who seek there is profound affinity. In this our
encouragement may heighten, and that with solid soberness, unto hope.

And then the scene of this his last inaugural is all aglow with
promise. For here if anywhere Lincoln's personality may be seen
engaged in the ripeness of his finished discipline, and the fullness
of his manhood's strength. The scene itself swells full of meaning;
and Lincoln's part and contribution fix and fill the center of its
significance. Surely if anything within that scene is plain to see and
localize, it is Lincoln's own identity. The living Lincoln is surely
there, wholly unreserved and unconcealed. There Lincoln's personality
is in fullest play, an evident and mighty revelation, plainly felt and

But it is only in the action that the actor comes to view; only in his
words does the thinker stand revealed. Here and thus, and nowhere else
or otherwise, is Lincoln's personality unveiled. And yet herein,
within the compass of this speech, Lincoln unlades a burden of such
grave concern, and unrolls a problem of such profound complexity as
could nowhere come to birth and utterance but in a mighty human heart.
In the vastness of that problem and anxiety can be gauged the vastness
of the measure of that heart. Here open into immediate view at once an
object and a method of research, fitted at once to challenge and
appall the bravest student's heart. But once its summons is
distinguished, it is irresistible.

One thing that meets the student, as he seeks the speaker in this
speech, is its witness to his titanic and pathetic toil. The words he
utters are the message of a laborer far forespent, voiced with mingled
weariness and hope, well towards the sunset of a weary day. The sun
had been fiercely hot. The field had been full of thorns. And through
the arid hours he had tasted little food, or rest, or joy. No
husbandman ever chose his seed or tilled his ground at greater cost of
patient care. None ever had to bend his frame to ruder weather, or
battle against more malicious and persistent pests. And all the agony
of that toil had been wrought through within the anguish of his mind.
In exactest and exacting thought he had engrossed and consumed the
full measure of his full strength. On all he had to bear and do he
pondered mightily. No mortal ever pondered more intently on all that
mortals ever have to meet. In this inaugural scene the soul of Lincoln
is straining at its full strength. No portion of his personal life is
idling. If a student's hand is truly deft, he can feel, as he fingers
the throbbing life of this address, the pulse beats of a full heart.

And within the grasp and compass of that heart are revolving vast and
strenuous themes. The soul of Lincoln is dealing with a Nation's
destiny. His speech is borne upon his single voice; but with that
single voice he pleads for millions; and its vibrations carry through
a continent, as a national oracle. Expounder and defender of the
Nation's vital honor, beleaguered all about with war, distressed by
all oppression, eager with a sacrificial passion that all men
everywhere may have liberty and an equal share in equity, searching
for a just and stable basis for the world's tranquillity, as he stands
and strives throughout that speech the structure of his soul grows
luminous. As he studied Providence and scanned the grounds of
government; as he peered far into the deeps of freedom, the majesty of
duty, and the sanctions of inviolable law; as he pondered the nature
of eternal right, and the deadly mischief of moral wrong; as he
watched the ways of hate and pride and falsity and sensual delights,
he was not alone compacting the substance and order of this immortal
address; but in the shapely body of his argument he has embodied and
uncovered his honest, guileless heart. In the very scars and seams
upon his sorrow-shadowed face, as he overcomes his task and fills out
his duty in this address, discerning eyes can see through the furnace
of how deep refinement his humble and majestic soul has been forever
beautified. Transforming themes possessed his mind. By the ministry
and inner influence of these themes he grew to be transformed; and in
the process and issue of that change the outline and texture of his
inner being becomes traceable.

And of this inner revelation the most notable mark is its simplicity.
As in this speech his inner life is introduced, its texture is not
perplexing and intricate. It is perfectly apprehensible. The total
speech can be quickly scanned. Its sentiments barely get your full
attention before they are at an end. Its entire compass can be
comprehended in a single glance. Its whole sum can be reviewed in a
single breath. And still its themes and propositions are imperial.
Within its fine simplicity its stateliness stands uneclipsed. Hence
its marvelous power to command. Upon all who look and listen, its
action and appeal are like the dawning of a day. Its major
propositions are assented to unconsciously. It works like light. It is
genial, winsome, clear. And it is irresistible. It moves. It rules. It
is an argument, the ordered appeal of a candid, earnest mind to the
reasoned thought of honest men. Gentle and modest throughout, it
contains and conveys compelling energy. It has the sturdiness of a
hardy oak. And yet its first appearing was like a new unfolding of our
flag. It is a kingly word, alike in lasting beauty and enduring
strength. In this there is surely some sure reflection of that hidden
man within, Lincoln's real, undying self.

And this still further may be said. Amid these sovereign interests and
affirmations their agent is thus employed of his own free choice. He
is no automaton. The Lincoln whom we seek, the Lincoln whom this
address is helping us to see can never be defined by physical terms.
Through the realm of physics things move as they are moved. Lincoln in
this address moves and guides and governs himself. And he is here
self-judged. This inaugural teems with moral verdicts, verdicts that
define eternal issues irrevocably. No higher function than this can be
imagined in any sphere of being, or in any form. These verdicts
Lincoln fastens upon himself. And before the same complete authority
he summons the whole Nation to bow. Deep within those verdicts there
throbs omnipotently a sense of moral duty, moral right, man's highest
good and goal. This ideal of what should be stands evident in this
inaugural in Lincoln's own humble conformity with God, in his own
unimpeachable integrity, in his unreserved benevolence, and in his
pure esteem for souls. In each one of these constituents of human duty
Lincoln sees unchallengeable authority. For the honor of each one he
deems himself responsible. Their mingled rays create the light in
which he writes this speech, by which this speech is read, and under
whose clear radiance he records his oath. Surely here are more than
hints for any one, who seeks to see just where this speech originates,
and most precisely how its author may be defined.

Within this last preceding paragraph one feels again the presence and
the movement of all that all the chapters of this volume have
contained. Herein we seem to face a sort of final synthesis of all our
study. If this be true, or only true approximately, then its face and
contents should be scrutinized until they are cleared of every shadow
or alloy. For this research is surely approaching its goal, and some
of its boundaries may surely be defined.

One line that shows indelibly is his intelligence; an intelligence
comprehending total centuries, and assembling within its scope extreme
diversities; an intelligence that has a piercing eye, acute to
distinguish and divide; an intelligence that has power to estimate,
compare, and summarize; an intelligence intolerant of error, and
eager after truth; an intelligence that can frame an argument
designed to clarify, convince, and win all other minds; an
intelligence that assumes to deal with God, receiving and reflecting
within its own interior and proper vision a revelation of the divine
intent. Here is an energy, at once receptive and original, fitted
marvelously for a reflection that can embrace and authorize eternal

This intelligence is within control. It is not a vagrant or unguided
force. It is under conduct, all its action to observe, inspect, and
estimate being ordered reasonably. And all this influence operating to
understand and counsel, all this wisdom, while gathering light and
substance from everywhere, is informed within, and wonderfully
self-contained. As Lincoln reasons in this inaugural, as he resolves
and purifies his argument, its power to convince is most intimate and
deep within himself. As he guides and shapes his thoughts for the
thought of other men, the convictions within the speaker, and their
power to persuade, so inwrought in the speech, become identical. In
his own consent choice and judgment are combined. Here is freedom
indeed, a freedom to discern as truly as to choose, to distinguish as
truly as to decide, to estimate as truly as to select, the freedom of
the intelligence, an intelligence that is truly free.

This freedom fashions character. It is a moral architect. It is
original, able to create. The author of this speech is self-produced.
The personality that comes to view among those words is
self-determined and self-made. Its plan was sketched by his own hand.
His position and his posture, his sentiments and his sympathies, his
bent and inclination, his moral postulates and axioms, his moral stamp
and trend and tone, his stability and moral sturdiness are all his own
invention, originally, essentially, inseparably his own. Lincoln's
character is Lincoln's handicraft. Its title vests in him. It never
was, nor could it ever become the property of another man. This all
men recognize. But this universal recognition is pregnant with
significance to any seeker amid the phenomena of Lincoln's life for
the substance of his personality. Somewhere within those statements
just now made, somewhere within Lincoln's conscious authorship and
invention of his moral worth is precious intimation of the whereabouts
and constitution of his personality.

This blend in Lincoln of freedom and intelligence, of liberty and
sanity is notable for its evenness. Lincoln's liberty is not
chimerical or riotous. It is regulated, orderly, real. Within himself
and over his full destiny, an unimpeachable sovereign though he is, he
is not prone towards wilfulness, but towards composure and sobriety.
He moves as one fast-held beneath the law that for all his movements
he will be accountable. He always wears the mien of one who carries
high responsibilities. Far from being arbitrary, he behaves as facing
within himself a court of arbitration, truly self-invested, and just
as truly sovereign. Of all his words and deeds and attitudes he is
himself self-constituted, reverend judge. Whether seeking to resolve a
doubt, or waiting to receive a verdict, his appeal is finally to
himself. This is his mood and posture in this inaugural. He is giving
an opinion. This scene is a literal crisis in a review in which a
Nation's history and delinquency have met incisive, balanced
examination, to the end that his own view of duty as president might
come clear to his own judicial eye, and all gain the approbation of
all mankind. In his loftiest originality, where his conscious power
and right to elect the path he takes is most self-evident, the way he
takes is also owned to be an unimpeachable obligation. Here is
another signal hint for the seeker after the living and abiding source
of Lincoln's words and deeds. Somewhere within this sense of duty, so
sane and free and serious, lives the very Lincoln whom we seek.

This judicial evenness within the free and reasoned movements of
Lincoln's action and argument is due to a balanced store of moral
ballast. His stalwart mind and sturdy will and steadfast consciousness
that duty binds his life stand leagued together in a partnership
employing infinite wealth. With these resources he daily ventures vast
investments. This speech is such a venture, laden with most goodly
merchandise. Indeed he ventures here, as everywhere, his all. His fear
of God, his self-respect, his neighbor love, his thirst for things
that last--these are the priceless treasure he examines with a
searching insight, estimates with judicial carefulness, enjoys with
soul-filling admiration, and then responsibly invests. On these and
these alone he chooses and resolves to seek returns. These are the
only seas where sail his ships. Here is all his merchandise. Here is
the only exchange where Lincoln ever resorts. Here and here alone can
one make computation of his wealth. If he has wisdom, it is here. Here
is all his liberty. Here is a full register of his life's accounts,
and of his full accountability. Here are all his goodly pearls. These
are the jewels that delight his heart. And if only students have the
eye to see, within this joy deep secrets are revealed.

Just here this study has to pause. For while it seems to be facing
straight for that in Lincoln which is innermost--his essential and
immortal self, transcending all the mere phenomena of life--and
standing where nothing intervenes between our eager search and his
steadfast soul, the outlook, as it is scanned by different eyes,
reflects in different minds world-wide diversity. Lincoln sees this
difference, and deals with it in this speech. He knows his chosen
estimates of God and man and government, of prayer and equity and
happiness, of right and wrong and penalty, awake resentful protest.
Just here his manhood shows its breed. Without resentment, but without
surrender, he takes and keeps his oath, expecting that God, humanity,
and time will vindicate his insight and his choice. This valiant
expectation stands today fulfilled, a commanding testimony that
Lincoln's personality, though so simply childlike in its every trait,
has majestic permanence and comprehension. Its inmost attributes, as
purified in him, reflect and clarify to other souls, however opposite
and hostile they may seem, their own essential and enduring rank. This
gives pointed intimation that in Lincoln's conscious life, deep
underneath his daily words and deeds, there is a conscious unity, the
very seat of freedom and law, a shrine of reverence, an altar of love,
a throne of truth, a fountain-head of purity--a unity that no
antagonist can overcome, that neither time nor death can decompose.

But an objection still persists. Some man will say that the search for
Lincoln's personality, as thus far carried on, has only dealt with
ethics, whereas research in personality is at bottom a problem of pure
psychology; and that in pure psychology the position holds impregnable
that naught beneath men's words and deeds can ever be discerned; that
naught indeed is real for this investigation but sensible phenomena;
that a human soul is something it is impossible to place.

This matter plainly claims respect. As an objection it is inveterate;
and whenever urged, it gains wide heed. In treating with it some
things rise up for hearing. To begin with, the intimation cited in the
former paragraph will honor pondering. Though that paragraph is
intent on ethics in its every word, no paragraph in all the volume
more strictly so, still its statements clear more ground than a single
hasty glance is liable accurately to survey. It is concerned with
ethics truly--again be that conceded. But in no concern of morals
whatsoever did Lincoln vacate intelligence. Never was pure
intelligence more intellectually engaged than when Lincoln's mind was
scanning moral problems. In such engagements Lincoln's total being was
occupied. And if amid the clustering multitudes of moral judgments and
decisions that attend his moral inquiries and activities, there is
witness to the presence of a freeborn judge whose identity remains
continuously and consciously single and the same, that fact sheds
searching light upon the problem with which this paragraph deals.

Let one listen again to this address--listen with a due intentness as
it speaks of Union and destruction and defense; of bondage and lash
and unpaid toil; of offenders, offenses and woe; of malice and charity
and right; of God and Bible and prayer; of widows and orphans and
wounds; of war and sorrow and peace; of Nations and centuries and
Providence. Here are trilogies and tragedies and millenniums, in
ethics and religion and philosophy--but borne from perishing lips to
perishing ears upon the perishing vehicle of a passing breath. This
human breath is frail, these human words are faint, this scene bursts
forth and vanishes. But those trilogies! They are more than flitting
words, and shifting scenes, and dying breath. The actor outlasts the
scene; the speaker outlives his word; the mortal breath is not the
measure of the man. He by whom these massive trilogies were marshaled
and deployed before a national audience, upon a Nation's stage, to
form a national spectacle, and expound a Nation's history, does not
perish with his breath, nor vanish with this scene. Before, within and
afterwards he lives, pre-arranging, fulfilling and surviving this
mighty drama of his life, mightily resembling God. A speech and scene
like this bear witness to an author and actor outdating and outranking
both scene and speech. An author looms within this speech, self-moved,
creative, free. An actor moves within this scene, self-made, poetic,
unconstrained. Speech and scene, voice and form are not the man. These
are but his fading vesture. Deep within those solemn trilogies, as
within a kingly robe, conveying to his vestment all its dignity,
though all unseen among its shapely folds, stands Lincoln's living,
Godlike self. It was to this the people paid their deference. Through
those clear syllables that came to utterance upon those mortal lips it
was Lincoln's immortal soul that became articulate. In those ringing
accents Lincoln's self became identified. If ever a human personality
crossed a human stage, not as actor echoing the words and attitudes of
other men, but as an author and creator, fulfilling within himself, in
God's fear, on other men's behalf, and with an eye to deathless
destinies, his own responsible trust, that man was Lincoln in this
second inaugural address. There he asserted and declared himself.

Here then, in the tone and impress of this address is the sovereign
place to find the tone and impress of Lincoln's soul. If that living
soul ever gave a conscious hint of its living lineaments and hidden
dwelling place, here is that hint's finest published utterance. Here,
then, is the total measure of our task. Upon this transparent speech,
and not upon vacant air, is the student of psychology to direct his
eye. Here is the final challenge. Deep within the deeps of this
supreme address, clear within the rhythms of these resounding
trilogies, what does one see and hear?

To the question thus defined an answer something such as this must be

Here in this inaugural address is designation and signature of a man
astute to comprehend a Nation's history, reverent towards
responsibility, a champion and exponent of liberty, commending with
radiant earnestness that all his fellow men so walk with God, so
cherish equity, and so walk in charity as to secure in all the earth
an amity that time can never disrupt.

Something such is the personality which this address attests. While
this speech exists, this testimony will endure. Its word stands firm.
And its signature is plain. He who wrote the speech has left upon its
manuscript his clear and sacred seal. He who gave its body shape was a
freeman none could bend, heedful of the arbiter none might disobey,
humble towards God, loyal to himself, a friend to every man, an
aspirant for life.

Surely these are intimations of personality. Here is Lincoln, a vivid
plenitude in living unison of timeless quietness and harmony,
ordaining freely his own law of even heed for self and brother man,
for God and spirit life. Here is the full manhood of a living soul,
Godlike and earthly-born. None of its features are solidified in
flesh, to be again and soon resolved. All its face is spiritual; all
its action free, self-ordered, and self-judged; all preserving
jealously its own kingly honor; all beaming graciously on other men;
all bearing homage up to God; all vivid with immortality; abhorring
mightily all pride and hate, all falsehood and decay; all sharing
sacrificially with other men the cost and shame entailed in righting
human wrong. This is Lincoln's personality. In Godlike, friendly,
undying self-respect; in heavenly, upright, immortal kindliness; in
humane, divine, self-honoring heed for spirit-life--in each and any
one of these four identical affirmations is Lincoln's personality
exhaustively engrossed, each and any one declaring that he contains
within himself a free and deathless soul, akin alike to God and man,
and bound therein by the self-wrought law of love and truth.

These terms define a life at once of human and of heavenly range, at
once inhabiting and transcending realms of change, at once self-ruled
and environed with responsibility. Here is elemental personality, in
inwrought and indivisible unity, with measureless capacity for
versatility, easily blending fulness of vigor with complete repose,
vestured and transfused with native symmetry and grace. In some such
living, breathing words, themselves transfigured and illumined by the
quickening verities they strive to body forth, may the pure, immortal
soul of Lincoln, and of every child of man, be defined, unburdened,
and declared.

Something thus must written words describe the soul that surged
beneath this speech, and freely gave this speech its being. Surely
such an undertaking must not be despised. That aspiring, creative
spirit, so earnest and so resolute, far more than any speech its
vision or its passion may body forth, demands to be portrayed. Grand
as are these paragraphs, their author has a far surpassing majesty.
Fitted as are these accents to reach and stir the auditors of a
continent, the soul from which these accents rise has an access to all
those auditors far more intimate.

If readers of this essay spurn the effort which it undertakes, let
them not be scorners merely. From among their number, let some one
arise, artist enough in insight and handicraft to make some truer
delineation of that living Lincoln, the abiding origin and author of
this and his every other noble speech and deed. Such an artist is sure
to find, if ever the conscious soul of Lincoln shines through his
hand, that when the inner face of Lincoln is portrayed, that portrait
will carry speaking evidence of a joyful and abiding consciousness of
liberty and law, of self and brother man, of things eternal, and of
God; that in his countenance, so sorrow-shadowed and yet so serene,
will shine a close resemblance to every other man; that through his
quiet eye will gleam that image of God in which he and all his fellow
men have been made; and that deep within it all will beam a radiant
assurance that by the way of sacrifice the awful mystery of sin has
been resolved.

Hitherward must men who seek the soul of Lincoln turn their eye.
Humble, gentle, and loyal, eager after the life that is its own
reward, at once dutiful and free, lavishing out his life to take the
sting from sin--this is the soul of Lincoln. In this image every man
will see himself reflected, either in affinity, or by rebuke, herein
revealing how all men resemble God. Something such is man. Something
such is our common manhood. Something such is our inherent testimony
as to our origin and source. And something such is the task of him who
would frame a valid definition of personality. No undertaking is more
profound, none more supreme. And once it is accomplished, forms of
statement will have been found availing to embody all man can ever
know of self or God.



In all the chapters that have gone before, the essential constructive
factors have been very few. This is evident from their continual
reiteration--a reiteration that is too conspicuous to be overlooked.
In this is intimation that the last inclusive affirmation of this
study will be remarkable for its brevity and also for its open
clarity. The simple elements of such a closing synthesis may be here
set down.

As encouraging this attempt, it may be first remarked that Lincoln's
life attests and demonstrates the primacy of character. This is the
foundation of his fame; and hereby his fame is felt to be secure. To
this all men agree. This world-wide consent may be said to be
unhesitant, spontaneous, unforced, arising as though by common
instinct, or by a moral intuition, all men everywhere viewing him
alike, even as all eyes everywhere act alike in receiving and
reflecting light. Here is something of a significance nothing less
than imperial for a student of ethics. For it seems to say that by
universal suffrage an international tribute is rendered to a common
pattern of human life; that there is a world ideal in the moral realm;
that this ideal is visibly near; and that this realized ideal is so
altogether friendly, admirable and excellent as to win from every land
an overflowing flood of thankfulness and joy. So genuine, so genial,
and so grand is Lincoln's moral life. In the face of such a life, and
of such a tribute, a student of ethics may be emboldened to assume
that his science has indeed foundations; that those sure grounds are
after all not far to seek; and that when those cornerstones are once
uncovered, they will be within the easy comprehension of common men.
Here, then, in Lincoln's open and exalted life is at once a challenge
and a test for all who would like to attempt a careful survey of the
moral realm.

One sterling, standing coefficient of Lincoln's character was its
thoughtfulness. Piercing, pondering thought was with him a habitude.
His mind had insight, and he used its eye unsparingly. This was no
mere mental cunning, though he was surely passing shrewd and keen. In
Lincoln insight was so inseparably allied with an active sense of
responsibility that it may be best defined as searching honesty. Into
the massive, solid, stubborn problems of his perplexing day he drilled
and pierced by plodding, patient, penetrating thought. Kepler never
fixed his mind more steadily upon any study of geometric curves than
Lincoln his upon the intricate questions of government. And not in
vain. It may be truly said that Lincoln's moral judgments and resolves
were without exception the long-sought winnings of exactest and most
exacting mental toil.

One fruit of this sharp scrutiny was a quite unusual foresight. In
this keen certitude touching things to come he was almost without a
peer. But its design and its utility for him were ethical. The coming
issues towards which he explored were moral. The future he foresaw was
thick with evolving sanctions involved in moral deeds. For such
events, whether near or far, he had a seeing eye. And with a steady
view to those oncoming certainties he shaped his resolutions, and
plotted out his life. That those high purposes involved his soul in
untold sorrow he well and unerringly foresaw. It was not by mental
blunders that he became enmeshed in the anguish and anxiety that made
his life so shadowed and solitary. And it was not by shrewder wits
that other men escaped his all but constant fellowship with reproach
and grief. Lincoln saw beforehand whither his studied view of duty and
his clear-eyed obedience led. Where other men stood blind he achieved
to see that his selected, sorrow-burdened path was the only way to the
happiness that could wear and satisfy. His insight was betrothed right
loyally to the faithful league of moral verities. Thus Lincoln's
character was stamped and sealed with prudence. Here gleams his
wisdom. His thought was balanced, looking many ways and comprehending
many parts. Hence his sane judiciousness.

But this well-pondered carefulness was no mere mental sapience. The
world of Lincoln's painstaking thought was a world of character; a
world of liberty; a world of binding obligation; a world of right and
wrong; a world of God-like opportunities; a world of awful sanctions;
a world where dignity and shame are infinite; a world of manhood and
of brother men; a world where human souls outrank all other things,
like God.

These were the themes that Lincoln's mind inspected and adjudged. It
is by virtue of his life-long search to find in such mighty interests
as these their rational consistency, that mental values of the highest
grade pervade and signalize his character. No mortal course in all our
history was ever reasoned out more carefully than the course that
Lincoln chose and held with moral heroism to his death. To overlook or
underrate this thoughtfulness in any reasoned estimate or exposition
of Lincoln's character would be infinitely unfair. As with light and
vision, his thoughtfulness is the medium in which his character stands

Quite as elemental in Lincoln's character as his thoughtfulness is his
courtly deference to duty. Lincoln's conscience controlled and held
him in his course, as gravitation holds and guides this globe. This
all men discern; and discerning, they admire. Deep in the center of
this unanimous admiration is a respect for Lincoln that amounts almost
to reverence. Lincoln's estimate of law was most profound. When, after
humble and all-engrossing search, he found and traced those sovereign
obligations to which he bowed his life, his estimate and attitude were
as though he stood face to face with God. But in that deference was a
courtliness that was beautifully Lincoln's own. He too admired, where
he obeyed. His thoughtfulness was a stately, sovereign court that
sanctioned and made supreme every law that he revered. This
transcendent, all-commanding sense of duty, springing from within, and
also descending from above, seated centrally within his character, is
centrally and inseparably inwrought within his fame. While his name
abides this princely heed for duty will persist to challenge and to
test each studied statement of his character.

Another factor of Lincoln's character, likewise radical, impossible to
omit, is his free and self-formed choice. That Lincoln's choice was
truly free, self-moved, and truly unconstrained comes clear
impressively when one for long inspects and understands his
thoughtfulness. Lincoln's mental action in its riper stages was a pure
deliberation. In that careful pondering we can feel and see his
ripening moral preference grow clear and free from trammels of every
sort, and gain towards decisions that know no other influence but
reason wholly purified. So inseparable in him were choice and seasoned
wisdom. From this it follows that Lincoln's ripe decisions can be
understood only when one comprehends his mental equilibrium.

And here it comes to view that Lincoln's moral resolutions led him far
asunder from the multitudes. It is here that Lincoln's isolation takes
departure. This parting of the ways needs noting narrowly. From his
selection of his path for life the world at large draws back. Yet even
so he still retains the world's applause. Here opens the true secret
of his distinction, as of his excellence and power. This secret lies
deeply hidden, and yet openly revealed in the comely balanced law his
thoughtful wisdom led his noble will loyally to admire, adopt, and
struggle unto death to keep.

What now in true precision was this comely, balanced programme of a
moral life that Lincoln's wisdom led his will to adopt? Here is the
apex of this study. That it is not beyond man's reach, the world's
applause and Lincoln's lowly plainness and full accessibility may well
encourage any man to hope. That this inquiry should stand unanswered,
or be answered heedlessly, or with any vagueness, is unworthy of our
day or of our land. But in the answer should be verbally embodied
adequate and intelligible explanation of Lincoln's moral majesty, of
his unexampled intimateness with every sort of men, and of an
undivided world's applause.

These tests are heeded by the answer which this study ventures to
suggest, when it says that Lincoln's thoughtful ponderings on the ways
of God, on the souls and lives of men, on the microcosm in every man,
and on the principles of all society, revealed to him the obligation,
in deference to himself, to his neighbor, and to his God, and with
full heed to immortality, to choose and follow to its full perfection
the law of even truth and love. To be fair, and kind, and pure, as a
lowly, kingly child of God--this was the wisdom, the obligation, the
aspiration of Lincoln's life. This was the moral sum and substance of
his thoughtful, free, obedient life. Here in brief and in full is
Lincoln's character.

In such a character is Godlike potency, and fluency, and dignity.
Within its easy interplay is true simplicity, and unison. Within its
harmony shines the eye of beauty. Amid all turbulence it holds serene.
Its movements convey a majesty that awakens deference. It is free,
like God, to devise, adjust, and originate, ever having inner power
creatively to overcome or reconcile outright antagonism. Its
thoughtfulness has a master's power to divide, combine, and
comprehend. It can gaze unblenched and unamazed into the awful face of
evil. It can plant and wield a leverage that can overturn every evil
argument. In its finished ministry it can present a portrait of the
human soul true to its very life. In such a character, though
compassed in a single life, and marked with signal modesty, there
dwells a fulness adequate to delineate and comprehend all the mighty
magnitudes within the moral universe.

Such is the character that Lincoln's life leads all the world to
admire. Its beauty lies enshrined within the blended light of wisdom,
freedom and obedience along the way where loyalty, charity, humility
and hope of immortality shine ever brighter unto perfect day. Here is
wisdom. And here is worth. And here these two are one.


In the chapter just concluded, the field of ethics is termed a
"universe." In the chapter upon Theodicy, it was noted that in
Lincoln's most thoughtful ponderings, the great world of reality that
passes under the name of physics, or the physical world, seemed to lie
outside the field of his concern. Here is a matter demanding something
more than a bare allusion. The ponderable universe of material things
has impressive majesty. It is too solid and real and present in our
life to be ignored. Among the stars and beneath the hills and within
the seas are solid and substantial verities. We are environed by their
influences on every side. It is deep within their strong embrace that
our predetermined fate is being continuously unrolled. What can be the
scope and what must be the value of any view of ethics or any plan of
life in which this solid, ever-present, all-embracing material world
is so indifferently esteemed?

It is with just this query in mind that this research into the mind of
Lincoln was first conceived. And the query which has been throughout
in immediate review, but unpropounded openly as yet, now demands to be
defined and scrutinized. Did the mind of Lincoln, engrossed as it was
upon interests supremely ethical, and ignoring, as it seemed to do,
all those vast and deep complexities of the purely physical world,
find for our unquiet human thought the true and perfect equilibrium?
Or was the thought of Lincoln unbalanced and incomplete, misguided and
inadequate essentially? In brief, how must ethics and physics, these
two and only two supreme realities, when each is most fairly
understood, be conceived to correlate and harmonize? As between these
two realities, each so imperial and so irreducible, which holds

Here is for any thoughtful mind well nigh the last interrogation. To
attain a competent reply the essential qualities of each and either
realm must be uncovered and compared. In physics here, and in ethics
there, what attributes pervade, abide, and are essential? And, these
true qualities being seen in each, as between the two, which proves
itself superior; in which does the soul of man find rest?

In the universe of physics, in all the world of things men see and
touch and weigh one pervading and abiding quality is change. We speak
indeed of the eternal hills; and before their age-long steadfastness
that phrase seems accurate. But it is only soaring rhetoric, surely
sinking from its flight, when sober science sets about to cipher from
the distinct confessions of their very rocks the date of their birth,
the story of their growth, and the sure predictions of their complete
decay. In all the stability of the solid hills there is nothing
permanent. So with the ageless stars. So with the ever-flowing sea.
And so with the very elements of which hills and stars and sea are
mixed. All the story of all their genesis and journeying and vanishing
is a never-ending tale of change. Nothing physical abides the same.
Beneath the daring rays of present-day research all things are being
proved impermanent, all found verging over the infinite abyss.
Transmutations are in progress everywhere.

In the soul of Lincoln there was craving for a sort of satisfaction
which nothing mutable could ever meet. Amid this pageantry of change,
among these ceaseless transformations, with all their passing beauty,
and all their final disappointment, there was in him a hungering after
something that should hold eternally. And within this very eagerness
was genuine kinship with the changeless foothold in things eternal
which it aspired to find. His very longing was innerly undying. His
thirst for immortality was in itself averse and opposite to death
essentially. Deep within his desire, deep within himself were living
verities, within themselves immutable. His admiration before God's
majesty, his free covenant with perfect loyalty, his friendly
kindliness towards all others like himself, and his God-like
sacrificial grief for all wrongdoing, held within their pure vitality
visions and passions and aspirations that no mortal darts could touch.
And when with clear discernment he freely chose to fill his soul with
hopes and deeds that eternally evade decay, he selected, as between
things that change and things that abide, that reality to whose
eternal primacy every passing day yields perfect demonstration.
Nowhere in physics, in ethics alone could be found the perfect solace
of conscious perpetuity.

Another quality of all things physical, a quality likewise
all-pervading and persistent, is their want of spontaneity. Within the
nature of this mighty physical bulk, that is forever altering its garb
and form, and within all its flowing change there is no liberty.
Through all the ever-varying orbit of the moon; in all the marvelous
wedlock of the elements within the rocks and soils and plants; in all
convulsions and explosions of air and sea and fluent gas; in
lightning, fire, and plague; in all the age-long monotony of instinct,
habit, and proclivity, there is no conscious choice, no
character-worth, no ennobling and terrifying responsibility. Through
all this change of mortal things all things are fixed. Naught is nobly

In the soul of Lincoln there was a passion to be free. In this desire
there was a clear intelligence, and a purpose like to God's. He
coveted a dignity that was self-achieved. He deemed that worth, and
that alone, supreme that was his own creation. Only in deeds that he
himself determined could he discern true excellence. Herein he stood
apart from brutes, ranked above the hills, and pierced beyond the
stars. And when, with such an insight, and such a soaring wish, and in
such high dignity, he freely chose to hold supreme the life and
thought and joy that are truly free, rating all things fixed and
physical as forever far beneath, he allotted certain primacy to that
which he discreetly judged undoubtedly pre-eminent. In closest
consonance with what has last been said, comes now to be affirmed, a
central quality of all things purely physical--persistent and
pervading everywhere--their absolute inertia morally. They move as
they are moved, and never otherwise. The law by which their being is
controlled is not their own. At the last and evermore physics, though
the measureless arena of unmeasured active energy, is powerless. It
cannot even obey. But most demonstrably it can never command, not even
itself. It is vastly, deeply, and forever only passive; although
within its ponderous frame are playing with baffling constancy forces
that weary all too easily our most stalwart thought.

In such a realm as this, forever unawakened and evermore unjudged,
Lincoln's awakened and judicial soul could never find contentment.
Within that manly heart was enthroned a conscience, alert alike to
receive and to originate, as also to approve and fulfill all noble and
ennobling obligations. He knew the meaning and the sense of duty, the
weight of duty claimed, and the worth of duty done. In his true heart
was a living spring of moral law. And in cherishing with exalted
satisfaction this imperial quality of all true moral life, therein
deciding that physics held nothing worthy of any comparison, he gave
kingly utterance to a judgment and decision and desire that could
estimate infallibly the ultimate competitors within his conscious life
for primacy. For ever in ethics, as never in physics, right judgment
finds its source.

Yet another quality of physics, likewise all-pervasive and permanent,
is the mocking, paralyzing mystery in which all its certainties are
veiled. The mighty acquisitions to our certain knowledge in the realm
of nature are superbly manifold and as superbly sure. The swelling
catalogue of things well certified in the material world seems to
advance the modern scientific mind almost to genuine apotheosis. But
of all these stately certitudes there is not one but walks in darkness
no human eye nor thought can penetrate. Before heroic and unexampled
diligence and daring the scientific frontiers are receding everywhere;
but only to make still more amazing and unbearable their
inscrutability. On every horizon of the physical realm yawn
infinitudes, whether of space or time, of geometry or arithmetic, of
electron or of cell, so defiant, so bewildering, and so overwhelming
in their complete defeat and mockery of our bravest and best
intelligence that our proudest powers are palsied utterly. Whichever
ways we turn, whatever gains we win, we face at last, in the very eye
of our research, and in the very heart of our desire, a changeless
silence that mocks all hope, and leaves us standing in an utter void.
In the realm of simple physics the human intellect, despite the fact
that in the physical realm the mind of man has triumphed gloriously,
is faced forever with the taunting consciousness that its primal task
is still undone.

In an undertaking such as this, and in such a hapless outcome, the
mind and life of Lincoln could never be engrossed. He was ever facing
mystery indeed in the perplexities that throng the moral realm. In
fact, in the darkness and confusion that enshroud and mystify the
world of duty and award were all his sorrows born. But in those
mysteries moral honesty is not mocked. Where iniquities prevail, the
soul that bows towards God sees light. Where sin abounds, the heart
that yields the sacrifice of penitence finds peace. In the face of
hate and strife and bloodshed, to banish malice and to cherish charity
is to enter and to introduce complete tranquillity. Where lives grow
coarse and souls are base and purity is all denied, the soul that
seeks refinement grows refined and consciously approaches God. When
God is mocked and scorners multiply and hearts grow hard in pride, the
heart that meekly, humbly holds its confidence in the transcendent,
all-controlling Deity opens in that lowly faith deep springs of
never-failing hope. In these mysteries, however baffling and
persistent, these efforts towards relief find sure and great reward.

In such a field and in such endeavors it was Lincoln's sovereign
preference to measure out all the forces of his conscious life. Attent
towards God, benign towards men, upright within, and prizing life, he
found, not defiance and despair, but perennial quickening and
encouragement, whatever problems darkened round his life. For him such
soul-filling verities, and such a corresponding faith held
far-transcending primacy. And so in conscious, sovereign and
everlasting preference for the truth that shows all its light in
character, and for the faith that such clear truth forever
illuminates, Lincoln testified his confidence that in the face of
physics ethics holds supreme pre-eminence.

Of all this searching estimate and supreme comparison of these two
divergent realms one's mind may gravely doubt whether Lincoln's mind
had perfect consciousness. Concerning this no one may speak, except
with hesitance. But any one whose mind has entered into intimate
partnership with all the wealth of Lincoln's words is well aware that
it was a habit of his mind to pursue its themes to their farthest
bourne. In penetration and in pondering not many minds were ever more
evenly taxed. His mental persistence and deliberation were almost
preternatural. Discovering this, a student of his mental ways will
grow to feel that, in a likelihood almost equivalent to full
certainty, Lincoln was wittingly aware of all the meaning in his
proclivity to rate ethical interests uppermost.

At any rate, in his life and writings, so the matter stands. And
standing thus in the deeply conscious soul of Lincoln, the matter has
a high significance. It seems to testify with a prophet's steady voice
that in all the total realm of being, the realm of freedom, of
consciousness, and of character is the first and sovereign verity;
that the real is fundamentally ethical; that he who seeks for perfect
satisfaction must bring to his inquiry the glad allegiance of a moral
freeman and a moral judge; that in every undertaking becoming him as
man each cardinal moral excellence must grow and shine increasingly;
that every mental acquisition must conduce to a lowliness that adores,
to a gentleness that loves, to a purity that pledges immortality, to a
self-respect that is the mirror and original of all reality; that only
thus, in all this universe, and to all eternity, can the soul of man
gain triumphs that can satisfy. Only so will truth grow fully radiant,
and mystery become benign. Only so can finite man find peace before
his Maker, and face serenely all that wisest unbelief finds terrible.
This is truth. Here is freedom. Such is faith. Thus, in a freeman's
faith truth stands complete.

Such is Lincoln's preference. Like another Abraham, and with a kindred
insight and determination, he won all his triumphs and renown by
faith--a free and conscious faith in God, and soul, and character.

Here are designations, at once so plastic and so precise, at once so
simple and so profound, as to signify and demonstrate how souls of men
may conquer death; how one may be a perfect devotee to another
person's weal, and still preserve his own integrity; how perfect
sanctity may assume a full companionship with sin, whether by
redemption or rebuke, and still remain unflecked; and how in man's
humility may be enshrined a dignity wherein supernal majesty may be

In some such vivid, moral terms, mobile to grasp and manifest the
boundless range and priceless worth within the sovereign moral law; as
also to declare unerringly the fateful and unbounded issues of a moral
choice, may students hope to trace with true intelligence the real
foundations of Lincoln's all but unexampled power and fame.



In designing and constructing the chapters that precede, three motives
have been actively at work. There has been a desire to set within the
realm of Civics a clear and balanced exposition of Lincoln's moral
grandeur. There has been a desire to introduce within the realm of
Ethics a fertile method of discussion and research. There has been a
desire to intimate how in the realm of pure Religion the finished
outline of a transparent character may provide a pattern for a true
description of the problems of Theology.

Of these three motives the one last named has been preponderant.
Lincoln's public life was keyed alike to moral honor and to faith in
God. In his most quickening aspirations and in his most sacrificial
sorrows his sense of personal obligation and his belief in an
over-ruling Providence held fast together in a most notable unison.
Guileless, luminous, and single-hearted in his rectitude and in his
reverence, he affords a signal illustration of the way in which faith
and conscience may vitally co-operate and even coalesce. He presents
in consequence a signal opportunity for exploring the inner kinship of
ethics and religion. His personality challenges us to inquire and see
how honesty and godliness consort; how in a complete and balanced
character the categories that define the basis of one's moral
excellence may prove themselves to be the very categories that inform
and underlie the religious life.

Here opens an engaging investigation. May the ultimate principles of a
true ethical theory and the ultimate rationale of a true theology be
found in living deed to coincide? To bring this question into open
view is the ulterior aim of this book, and more particularly of this
appended Epilogue.

In the open petals of the plainest flower soil and sunlight, earth and
heaven meet in almost mystic union. Be this our parable. In the ample
compass of a normal character, such as Lincoln shows, there is in very
deed a mystic union--a vital partnership of man with fellowman, and of
men with God. Be this deep fellowship described; for here commingle
indivisibly the essential elements in any pure and full display in
human life of morals and religion.

In Lincoln's public life there was undeniably a close companionship
with God. Earth-born and earth-environed though he was, he had supreme
affinity with heavenly realms. His face was seamed with suffering; he
wore a humble mien; his habitual posture was a pattern of unstudied
modesty. But through those sorrow-shadowed features shone a radiant
exalted hope, as he walked and toiled in reverend covenant with the
sovereign God of Nations. Besieged by day and night with difficulties
and distresses such as rarely burden mortal men, in his nightly vigils
and in his daily labors he clung to Deity, true civilian and true man
of God at once. The terms of this high covenant were specific and
distinct. They were the very terms that defined the conscious
qualities of his upright, God-revering character. Be those qualities

In the first place, here in Lincoln's open character it becomes
heavenly clear how profoundly intimate and at one are majesty and true
humility. When the guise of each is fully genuine, they minutely
correspond. In Lincoln's lowliness lay the very image of the majesty
of God. To that high majesty his lowliness conformed. As in a mountain
lake may be enshrined a perfect pattern of the heavenly firmament, so
was Lincoln's reverence a conscious, free reflection of the excellence
of God. His obedience was an intelligent recognition and
re-enthronement of the sovereign law of God. His lowly posture, when
in supplicating or interceding prayer, was induced by the bending pity
of a compassionate God. That trusting appeal was the very echo of
God's benign concern; and within the wrestlings of those intense
entreaties the divine designs gained place in human history. Lincoln
in his lowliness was Godlike. His humility was supremely dignified,
supremely beautiful. In its open face, as in the face of a flower
opening towards the sun, was resident a heavenly glory.

In the second place, this vital unison of man with God stands superbly
evident in the stately wedlock of Lincoln's honesty with God's
righteousness. In Lincoln's soul there lived a faith in God's
integrity which no dark storm of human faithlessness, and no delay of
heaven's righteous judgments could eclipse or wear away. This belief
was in him an active energy. It grew to be a partnership with God's
uprightness--a covenant in which his own soul's eagerest ambitions and
resolves became upright. In his inmost soul it was his inmost
aspiration to be an agent for enthroning here on earth the equity of
God. And so, in fact, as a mighty nation's chief executive, he did
become the executive of the will of God. In his transparent honesty
there was a reflection of the sincerity of God. In his firm constancy
there was upheld before this people's eye an index finger pointing to
the steadfast constancy of God. In his pure jealousy for the utter
sanctity of his plighted word there burned a fire that was kindled in
the eye of God. In all his even, glowing zeal for righteousness he has
been adjudged by all his fellowmen pre-eminently a man of God. And as
signal devotee to honesty he demonstrates most signally that God and
man may set their lives in unison.

In the third place there was in Lincoln's patient gentleness a
profound resemblance to the all-enduring gentleness of God. His
mastery of malice and his universal charity in the face of multitudes
of bitter and malignant men attest eternally an intimate companionship
with divine forbearing grace. His sacrificial intervention on behalf
of all God's little ones whom human heartlessness had oppressed is
world-arresting evidence and demonstration that in his kindly heart
was throned the Heavenly Father's sympathy. Unto costly fellowship
with this divine forbearance and compassion Lincoln opened
unreservedly all the compass of his life. For afflicted and afflicting
men he felt a sorrow, mixed with pity and rebuke, both born of the
affection fathers feel, both proved sincere by years of sacrificial
anguish unto death. And this he did with a discerning and deliberate
mind. It was thus he understood the heart and ways of God; and thus by
clear design he undertook in his own life to recommend the ways of God
to men. In verity he was partaker and dispenser of the manifold grace
of God. In him the mighty love of God found living medium. Like a
gentle flower drinking gratefully the warmth and beauty flowing
towards it from the sun, his soul absorbed the gentle ways of God and
itself grew kind and beautiful. Here again it may be seen how intimate
may be the life of man in God, the life of God in man.

In the fourth place there was in Lincoln's soul an all-prevailing
confidence touching future destiny. This living confidence was the
outcome of his close partnership with God. His faith believed that
God's designs held fast eternally, and that conviction clouds and
night and death were impotent to overshadow or obscure. The rather, as
his faith and hope confided in that unfailing verity, that faith and
hope became themselves unfailing. His sure belief became participant
in God's dependability. Here is the deepest secret of his abiding
steadiness. Hence his calm indifference to death.

And this illumines all his great appeals to his fellowmen with the
light of a prophetic vision. For his fellow-citizens, as for himself,
his sovereign aspiration was after permanence. This abiding life,
whether in the Nation or in himself, he had the mind to comprehend,
must be the very life of God within the soul. In civic Godliness alone
could there be civic permanence. In the Nation's life the life of God
must be incorporate. Then and then alone would any Nation long endure.
For this bright civic hope, for this alone he lived. And this
ever-springing hopefulness and confidence is the shining efflorescence
of his Godliness. He clung to things eternal in a conscious league
with God.

Here is something wonderful--something replete alike with mystery and
with certitude--a vital unison of God and man in undeniable verity--a
unison in righteousness and kindliness, in lowly and majestic dignity,
in immortal spirit purity--a unison in which all that is most sacredly
elemental in God and man most intimately coalesce, while yet remaining
most unmistakably distinct--a unison in which is freely and
consciously engaged all that personality, however self-discerning and
free, can ever contribute or contain--a unison as historically real as
it is immeasurably profound--a unison in which space and time provide
the theater, while yet a unison in which time and space dissolve. Here
is surely ample range for ample exposition of many a major problem in
theology, and all within the open and familiar bounds of a normal
moral life.

In close alliance and affinity with Lincoln's vital partnership with
God, and of almost equal pregnancy for the problems of religious
thought, is the marvelous intimacy of his inner and essential
fellowship with men. This feature of his public life is becoming more
commanding and impressive every year. To a degree altogether notable
it is becoming widely understood how he and all his fellowmen were
wonderfully allied. It is becoming seen by all of us that the
qualities essential to his commanding excellence are qualities deeply
typical of us all. His attitudes of deference and modesty, his
promptings towards things permanent and durable, his equities, his
kindnesses are universal. They are enthroned within us all.
Everywhere, in everyone they ultimately predominate.

Wonderful as it may seem, this holds as true of enemies as it does of
friends. Hosts of people, while Lincoln lived, held him their
deadliest foe. Through all those bitter years, while they defamed, he
meekly, mightily held his own, subduing malice, disdaining subtlety,
despising scorn and arrogance, abhorring sordid greed; pleading
humbly, but as a prince instead, for righteousness and charity and
man's immortal destiny. And now all men detect that however deep and
overmastering those aversions and animosities may have been, there was
in his enemies and himself a moral kinship and agreement far more
powerful and profound. His humble, hopeful plea that every man be fair
and pitiful is winning everywhere today glad witness to its eternal
and imperial validity.

And the wonder of this deep partnership with men but deepens, when we
consider that the form of this all-appealing, all-prevailing
partnership was sacrificial. This leads straight into the innermost
interior of the problem of vicarious suffering--one mortal, suffering
in another's place and for another's sake. Never in all that era of
civic anguish in the civil war did any human mortal suffer keener or
more continual sorrow than did he who of all the Nation's multitudes
stood most untainted and innocent of the iniquity which that stern
civic judgment was to purge away. Guiltless utterly of any part in
slavery for his own profit or by his own consent, he partook with all
the guilty ones of all the sorrows of its expurgation.

And yet more wonderful is the sequent fact that in precisely this
voluntary and conscious unison of innocence and suffering in his
outstanding life stood and moved the pillar of fire and the pillar of
cloud that led this Nation through those sorrows by night and day.

Here again is something wonderful--something again replete with
mystery and with certitude. And here again do mystery and certitude
stand truly unified and harmonized. Truly they are unified. But in
that unison their identity stands clarified. There where Lincoln's
manhood shows most humane and universal, a Nation's common symbol,
outlining nothing less than a puissant Nation's boundless majesty,
there stands defined, as with engraver's finished art, his separate,
ever sacred, individual nobility. Even there where his moral being
merges most completely into deepest sympathy with the afflictions that
descend on sin, there his own integrity and personal jealousy for
righteousness are most outstanding and distinct. But be it said again,
in Lincoln do that broad humaneness and that erect nobility, that
sympathy and that jealousy subsist in unison. In strict verity he is
our Nation's surrogate. Surely here again is ample range for ample
exposition of many a major problem of theology, and all still held
within the open and familiar bounds of a normal moral life.

So Lincoln stood in unison with God and fellowman. Ideally complete in
his own identity, he was ideally allied with other lives through all
the personal realm. And be it well and truly seen that the elements of
this affiance with his God, and the elements of his firm league with
brothermen were identically the same. In each and either realm the
binding bonds were fealty to charity, to equity, to humility, to
purity. These four qualities explain and guarantee completely his
allegiance. These and these alone were the constituent elements of all
his brotherhood and of all his reverence. And it is within the nature
of these four vital qualities, at once so Godlike and so human, and
within their ever-living interplay that one must look to find whatever
Lincoln's character can contribute to the problems of theology.

What averments tremble here! Our mighty human race does truly live in
unison. Within that peopled unison the life of one may have
far-ranging partnership. That partnership is closely definable in
terms of character. In Lincoln's life as private soul, and as vicar of
us all alike, his constancy and kindliness, his purity and lowliness
embrace and body forth his total being, with all he bore and wrought.
Herein unfolded all his beauty and all his worth, whether as a single
citizen or as a Nation's representative.

And our humble human life does also truly share the life in God.
Within that heavenly unison the lowliest soul may have exalted
fellowship. And so in Lincoln's loyalty and tenderness, his lowliness
and thirst for immortality, as man of God, unfolds the heavenly beauty
of God's eternal purity and majesty, God's benignity and faithfulness.

So do lives of free and conscious beings most truly flourish and so do
they most truly blend. Our fellowship with Lincoln, and Lincoln's
fellowship with us; God's fellowship with Lincoln and Lincoln's
fellowship with God; this mystic unrestricted partnership of noble
souls; unfolding and unrolling sovereign harmonies, even when they
antagonize; in vengeance or compassion fulfilling all their mission
and dominion through the earth--these are indeed our sovereign
realities. In scanning these we may indeed discern deep ways of God
and men.

Mighty highways open here--highways that enter every major province of
theology. Be these avenues observed.

Whence came the blight of slavery? How in human soil could such
inhumanity germinate? What is the virus of its contagion? What makes
its guilt so terrible?

Must inhumanity be avenged? May avengers still be merciful? May
hardened men become regenerate? May guilt and innocence be reconciled?

Why such anguish on the innocent? Why should little ones be crushed?
Why such hosts of patient ones meekly bearing wrong and shame? Why do
offenses need to come? How does patience work on sin? How does sorrow
work on guilt?

What is human brotherhood? May fellowmen be surrogates? May men's
honor interchange?

Wherein stands human character? What makes a man responsible? How
sovereign is man's liberty? How supreme is man's intelligence? Are
moral beings subject to decay?

May finite man come near to God? Does God come near to finite man? May
plans of men and God's designs combine? May God be seen in human life?
May human hearts partake of God? Are love and truth and liberty, the
crown of human dignity, enthroned in God ideally?

Is Christ indeed the Lord of men? Is he our life? Are his teachings
true? Is his love divine? Can he indeed redeem?

Upon such queryings as these, all running deeply into mystery, each
one fast rooted in reality, and each one voicing in each human soul an
urgent quest, those sterling elements of Lincoln's character, his
lowliness, his living hope, his pity, and his faithfulness shed
grateful light.

Be these four qualities unveiled before the face of sin, that sin may
be defined.

When in the presence of some noble majesty or of some courtly modesty
a free and conscious soul is arrogant or insolent; when a being born
for endless life in freedom, light and purity, exchanges God and
immortality for idol forms and baseness and decay; when recipients of
God's unnumbered benefits, and participants in the joys and sorrows of
a teeming world of brothermen remain ungrateful and unpitiful; when
beings destined to be sons of light prefer hypocrisy and unbelief;
then, irreverent, corrupt, ungracious, and untrue, sin shows all its
horridness and iniquity.

And when in the presence of pure grace and truth all such perverseness
stands revealed; then the beauty of a quiet modesty, as it respects
all worthy majesty, will make supremely plain the ugliness of every
form of insolence; then the life that opens towards perpetual dawn
will most mightily and forevermore reproach the life that feasts upon
corroding food, fattening and hardening towards decay; then
outpouring, patient love will visit on ingratitude and hate their most
unbearable rebuke; and then the radiant light of simple truth and pure
sincerity will set all falsity and unbelief in uttermost disgrace. In
such an awful penalty, supreme and unavoidable, will sin incur its

But in the very penalty it stands proclaimed how sinful souls may be
transformed, and hostile hearts be reconciled.

When pride, subdued by majesty, rejoices in humility; when grossness,
shamed by purity, welcomes purging fires; when malice, melted by
forbearance, partakes the sacrifice and becomes itself compassionate;
when falsity, unveiled by verity, submits to its rebuke and welcomes
truth with deep docility and faith; then within the sinner's penitence
is every penalty absolved, and between embittered souls comes perfect

Be these four qualities addressed to that supreme transaction named

When, in perfect loyalty and in perfect lowliness, with a perfect
charity and with an utter trust in immortality, one like a Son of Man
consents to bear the dark affront of insolence and perfidy from base
and deadly men, enduring meekly what his soul abhors, then to all the
sons of men is published equally, and with supreme assurance, that
sins of men must be indeed avenged, and that sinful men may be indeed

In that transaction malice faces patience, and patience faces malice
for a final strife. There candor bears the lying taunt of acting in
disguise. Humility endures the shameful charge of shameless arrogance.
Compassion bows as though a thief to all the brutal rudeness of a mob.
The soul of immortal purity is bartered for by traders greedy after
silver coins, and driving through their trade with lamps and clubs.

But in the measure and in the manner of that transcendent patience
malice is preparing for itself the manner and the measure of its own
just doom. And in the measure and the manner of that same transcendent
patience contrition may discern the manner and the measure of its
release. In that mighty mingling of aversion and endurance sin must
behold alike its omnipotent redemption and its omnipotent rebuke. Thus
love, in perfect sympathy, and truth, in perfect equity set forth in
heavenly purity the sovereign majesty of an atonement for the world.

Be these four radiant qualities applied to him we call alike the son
of Mary and the Son of God. In him, the Son of God, shines such a
plenitude of grace and truth as becomes the glory of the very God,
revealed in such immortal purity as proves him heir and very Lord of
all eternity, and wearing such a dignity as belongs at once to
heaven's majesty and our most genuine humility; while deep within his
open life as son of Mary there shines such a full and genial truth and
grace as proves his true humanity, so free from mortal taint through
all our transient scenes as proves his spirit's immortality, and
manifesting everywhere to all the sons of man their own ideal
lowliness. These are all his beauty. In him they fully blend. They
blend in him indeed. But they do not dissolve. And so may we with
souls akin to him whom Mary bore behold in him the proper image of our
complete humanity; and still with eyes and vision all unchanged,
behold within those same fair traits the very image and the unbounded
fulness of the glory of the infinite God.

Be these same radiant qualities our proper medium for beholding Deity.
Conceive of One in whose being the only light and glory reside in the
pure majesty of a perfect grace and truth. Conceive how these free
living qualities permit a unison in fellowship, a fellowship in
unison. Conceive how such a unison permits to each participant
complete equality and a full infinity. Conceive thus how perfect
constancy and perfect kindliness, revealed in perfect purity, and clad
in perfect majesty may manifest eternally in mystic unison the
blessedness of a perfect personality. Conceive how such a partnership
in unison, and unison in partnership will be evermore containing and
enjoying within itself an evermore unsullied Spirit life, engendering
and completing all the finite forms of being of the created universe;
an evermore unfolding Love that is the one original of every
fatherhood in heaven and earth; and an evermore Responding Love that
is the primal inspiration of the admiring and adoring thankfulness of
every child of God; while evermore displaying in a loyal self-respect
the eternal archetype and origin of every verity and every equity
enthroned in any earnest upright mind. And so conceive in terms as
vivid as our own intelligence and liberty how true transcendent Deity
may wield no other energy and know no other blessedness than unfolds
forever in a free and conscious unison and partnership in pure
transcendent love and truth.

Transcendent thoughts and ventures these. But abounding other thoughts
and ventures no less transcendent wait and urge for utterance. They
all assume no less, and nothing more, than that in the living vision
of a living personality hides and shines the harmony that may unite
the mysteries and the certainties of this universe. Let Truth, as
personal self-respect; and Love, as self-devoting life; and Purity,
that fears no death; and Dignity, that crowns all worth--let these be
clearly seen, each one apart; and clearly seen again when fully
unified--and human thought holds categories in hand whereby the
problems of our mental and ethical and religious life may be resolved.

Of all of this what goes before is but a brief and bare suggestive
hint. Its development and vindication call for the completed
exposition of such a balanced round of thought as may be found in a
prophet like Isaiah, an apostle like Paul, or an evangelist like



At this second appearing to take the oath of the 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 fitting and 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. 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 the Nation survive; and the other would accept 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 men 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.

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 offense came, 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 a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and
with all Nations.

Transcriber's Notes:

Inconsistent/archaic spelling and punctuation retained from original.

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