Abraham Lincoln, Volume II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 309 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume II.
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 and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”

This speech has taken its place among the most famous of all the written or spoken compositions in the English language.  In parts it has often been compared with the lofty portions of the Old Testament.  Mr. Lincoln’s own contemporaneous criticism is interesting.  “I expect it,” he said, “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 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.”

CHAPTER XII

EMANCIPATION COMPLETED

On January 1, 1863, when the President issued the Proclamation of Emancipation, he stepped to the uttermost boundary of his authority in the direction of the abolition of slavery.  Indeed a large proportion of the people believed that he had trespassed beyond that boundary; and among the defenders of the measure there were many who felt bound to maintain it as a legitimate exercise of the war power, while in their inmost souls they thought that its real basis of justification lay in its intrinsic righteousness.  Perhaps the President himself was somewhat of this way of thinking.  He once said:  “I felt that measure, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution through the preservation of the Union....  I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the Union, and with it the Constitution, or of laying strong hand upon the colored element.”  Time, however, proved that the act had in fact the character which Mr. Lincoln attributed to it as properly a war measure.  It attracted the enlistment of negroes,

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Abraham Lincoln, Volume II from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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