Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 452 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02.
Our government rests in public opinion.  Whoever can change public opinion can change the government practically just so much.  Public opinion, on any subject, always has a “central idea,” from which all its minor thoughts radiate.  That “central idea” in our political public opinion at the beginning was, and until recently has continued to be, “the equality of men.”  And although it has always submitted patiently to whatever of inequality there seemed to be as matter of actual necessity, its constant working has been a steady progress towards the practical equality of all men.  The late presidential election was a struggle by one party to discard that central idea and to substitute for it the opposite idea that slavery is right in the abstract, the workings of which as a central idea may be the perpetuity of human slavery and its extension to all countries and colors.  Less than a year ago the Richmond “Enquirer,” an avowed advocate of slavery, regardless of color, in order to favor his views, invented the phrase “State equality,” and now the President, in his message, adopts the “Enquirer’s” catch-phrase, telling us the people “have asserted the constitutional equality of each and all of the States of the Union as States.”  The President flatters himself that the new central idea is completely inaugurated; and so indeed it is, so far as the mere fact of a presidential election can inaugurate it.  To us it is left to know that the majority of the people have not yet declared for it, and to hope that they never will.  All of us who did not vote for Mr. Buchanan, taken together, are a majority of four hundred thousand.  But in the late contest we were divided between Fremont and Fillmore.  Can we not come together for the future?  Let every one who really believes, and is resolved, that free society is not and shall not be a failure, and who can conscientiously declare that in the past contest he has done only what he thought best, let every such one have charity to believe that every other one can say as much.  Thus let bygones be bygones; let past differences as nothing be; and with steady eye on the real issue, let us reinaugurate the good old “central ideas” of the republic.  We can do it.  The human heart is with us; God is with us.  We shall again be able not to declare that “all States as States are equal,” nor yet that “all citizens as citizens are equal,” but to renew the broader, better declaration, including both these and much more, that “all men are created equal.”

Though these fragments of addresses give us only an imperfect reflection of the style of Mr. Lincoln’s oratory during this period, they nevertheless show its essential characteristics, a pervading clearness of analysis, and that strong tendency to axiomatic definition which gives so many of his sentences their convincing force and durable value.  They also show us the combination, not often found in such happy balance, of the politician’s discernment of fact

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Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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