The country at this time was agitated over two great questions: the question of slavery and that of secession. The South was ready to separate from the North, and the entire country was in a most critical condition. Such was the state of affairs when Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office as president of the United States. Lincoln was scarcely three weeks in office when the great war of the Rebellion between the North and the South broke out; a war of which there is no parallel in history. Brother fought against brother, and father against son. Here it was that Lincoln showed his heroic courage, and by his indomitable will kept the reins of government firmly in his hands, thus saving the country from utter anarchy. The war continued with unrelenting vigor for two years, and its horrible consequences were sorely felt throughout the land. In September, 1862, Lincoln issued his famous Emancipation Proclamation, by which slavery was forever banished from this country. Still the warring did not cease. In 1864 Lincoln was elected for a second term in office. The people knew his noble character and they had full confidence in him.
At last peace seemed to be in sight. The North had sacrificed the blood of thousands of its men as well as the wealth of its treasuries. The South, in the same manner, had not only lost tens of thousands of its bravest men, but it was utterly ruined, on account of the terrible punishment the war had inflicted upon that sunny land.
Richmond, the stronghold of the rebellion, had fallen, and victory was on the side of the Union. Amidst universal rejoicings, there came the saddest news. On the 14th day of April, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
The whole nation was thrown into deepest mourning. The noble heart of Lincoln beat no more. He is called the “Martyr President.”
His remains were taken to Springfield, Illinois, where they rest at the foot of a small hill in Oakwood Cemetery. A simple monument, with the name—“Lincoln”—upon it, is the only epitaph of him, who next to Washington was the greatest man of our glorious Republic.
ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE DEDICATION OF THE CEMETERY AT GETTYSBURG
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.