Abraham Lincoln: From His Own Words and Contemporary Accounts

By Roy Edgar Appleman; Abraham Lincoln | Go to book overview

would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment is not the sole question, if, indeed, it is any part of it. A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded. We cannot make them equals. It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their tardiness in this, I will not undertake to judge our brethren of the South.

When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives, which should not, in its stringency, be more likely to carry a free man into slavery, than our ordinary criminal laws are to hang an innocent one.

LINCOLN REPLY IN OTTAWA JOINT DEBATE, AUGUST 21, 1858.


18. "AND THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS AWAY"

Few sentences in the English language can equal in majesty and grandeur of thought and simplicity of expression the following words of Lincoln.

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! "And this, too, shall pass away." And yet, let us hope, it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world beneath and around us, and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.

LINCOLN, ANNUAL ADDRESS BEFORE THE WISCONSIN STATE AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY, SEPTEMBER 30, 1859.


19. AT COOPER INSTITUTE

In October 1859, Lincoln received an invitation to speak at Henry Ward Beecher's church in Brooklyn. He replied that he could give a speech in February if it could be on a political subject. This was agreed to. On Monday evening, February 27, 1860, a committee waited on Lincoln at his New York hotel to accompany him to Cooper Institute, which had replaced Plymouth Church as the place of the meeting. They found Lincoln dressed in a sleek shining new suit of black covered with creases and wrinkles. The committee conducted Lincoln to the hall and ushered him to the platform. Here he found the most cultivated men and women of the city awaiting him. An immense audience filled the hall. No less a person than William Cullen Bryant introduced him. It is doubtful if Lincoln ever prepared another speech as carefully as the one he gave that night. Herndon has testified to the great effort

-21-

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