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place is too high for tlie humblest, was perpetually manifest, so that his simple presence was a proclamation of the equality of all men.”
During the whole of the struggle he was a tower of strength to the union. Whether in defeat or victory, he kept right on, dismayed at nothing, and never to be diverted from the pathway of duty. Always cool and determined, all learned to gain renewed courage, calmness and wisdom from him, and to lean upon his strong arm for support. The proud designation “Father of His Country," was not more appropriately bestowed upon Washington, than the affectionate title “Father Abraham” was given to Lincoln by the soldiers and loyal people of the north.
HIS EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION. The crowning glory of Lincoln's administration, and the greatest executive act in American history, was his immortal proclamation of emancipation. Perhaps more clearly than any one else Lincoln had realized years before he was called to the presidency that the country could not continue half slave and half free. He declared it before Seward proclaimed the “irrepressible conflict.” The contest between freedom and slavery was inevitable; it was written in the stars. The nation must be either all slave or all free. Lincoln with almost supernatural prescience foresaw it. His prophetic vision is manifested through all his utterances, notably in the great debate between himself and Douglas. To him was given the duty and responsibility of making that great classic of liberty, the declaration of independence, no longer an empty promise, but a glorious fulfillment.
Many long and thorny steps were to be taken before this great act of justice could be performed. Patience and forbearance had to be exercised. It had to be demonstrated that the union could be saved in no other way. Lincoln, much as he abhorred slavery, felt that his chief duty was to save the union, under the constitution, and within the constitution. He did not assume the duties of his great office with the purpose of abolishing slavery, nor changing the constitution, but as a servant of the constitution and the laws of the country then existing. In a speech delivered in Ohio in 1859 he said: "The people of the United States are the rightful masters of both congress and the courts—not to overthrow the constitution, but to overthrow the men who would overthrow the constitution."
This was the principle which governed him, and which he applied in his official conduct when he reached the presidency. We now know that he had emancipation constantly in his mind's eye for nearly two years after his first inauguration. It is true he said at the start: “I believe I have no lawful right to interfere with slavery where it now exists, and have no intention of doing so”; and that the public had little reason to think he was meditating general emancipation until he issued his preliminary proclamation Sept. 22, 1862.
Just a month before, exactly, he had written to the editor of the New York Tribune:
“My paramount object is to save the union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”
HE SAW THE PURPOSES OF GOD. The difference in his thought and purpose about "the divine institution” is very apparent in these two expressions. Both were made in absolute honor and sincerity. Public sentiment had undergone a great change, and Lincoln, valiant defender of the constitution that he was and faithful tribune of the people that he always had been, changed with the people. The war had brought them and him to a nearer realization of absolute dependence upon a higher power, and had quickened his conceptions of duty more acutely than the public could realize. The purposes of God, working through the ages, were perhaps more clearly revealed to him than to any other.
Besides, it was as he himself once said: “It is a quality of revolutions not to go by old times or old laws, but to break up both and make new ones.” He was “naturally anti-slavery," and the determination he formed when, as a young man, he witnessed an auction in the slave shambles of New Orleans, never forsook him. It is recorded how his soul burned with indignation, and that he then exclaimed: “If ever I get a chance to hit that thing, I'll hit it hard.” He “hit it hard” when, as a member of the Illinois legislature, he protested that "the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy. He "hit it hard" when, as a member of congress, he “voted for the Wilmot proviso as good as forty times." He “hit it hard” when he stumped his state against the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and on the direct issue carried Illinois in favor of anti-slavery by a majority of 4,414 votes. He “hit it hard” when he approved the law abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, an antislavery measure that he had voted for in congress. He “hit it hard” when he signed the acts abolishing slavery in all the territories, and for the repeal of the fugitive slave law. But it still remained for him to strike slavery its death blow. He did that in his glorious proclamation of freedom.
VALUE OF THE BLACK SOLDIERS. It was in this light that Lincoln himself viewed these great events. He wrote to a mass meeting of unconditional union men at Springfield, Ill., Aug. 26, 1863, as follows:
"The emancipation policy and the use of colored troops constitute the heaviest blow yet felt to the rebellion, and at least one of these important successes could not have been achieved when it was but for the aid of black soldiers. * * * The job was a great national one, and let none be banned who bore an honorable part in it. * * * Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time. It will then have proved that among free men there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet, and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case and pay the cost. And then there will be some black men who can remember that with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation, while I fear there will be some white ones unable to forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech they strove to hinder it.”
Secretary Seward tells how when he carried the historic proclamation to the President for signature at noon on the ist day of January, 1863, he said: “I have been shaking hands since 9 o'clock this morning, and my right hand is almost paralyzed. If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I sign the proclamation all who examine the document hereafter will say, 'he hesitated.'” He turned to the table, took up his pen, and slowly, firmly wrote that ‘Abraham Lincoln' with which the whole world is now familiar. Then he looked up and said: “That will do."
In all the long years of slavery agitation, unlike any of the other antislavery leaders, Lincoln always carried the people with him. In 1854 Illinois cast loose from her old democratic moorings and followed his leadership in a most emphatic protest against the repeal of the Missouri compromise. In 1858 the people of Illinois indorsed his opposition to the aggressions of slavery, in a state usually democratic, even against so popular a leader as “the Little Giant.” In 1860 the whole country indorsed his position on slavery, even when the people were continually harrangued that his election meant the dissolution of the union. During the war the people advanced with him, step by step, to its final overthrow. Indeed, in the election of 1864, the people not only indorsed emancipation, but went far toward recognizing the political equality of the negro. They heartily justified the President in having enlisted colored soldiers to fight, side by side, with the white man in