Funeral Oration on Abraham Lincoln, Hardinge,
Emma, April 16, 1865,
Cooper Institute, New York.
MISS EMMA HARDINGE.
DELIVERED SUNDAY, APRIL 16, 1865, AT COOPER INSTITUTE,
NEW YORK, BEFORE UPWARDS OF THREE
AMERICAN NEWS COMPANY
The news of the death of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, was telegraphed to New York on Saturday morning, April 15. Toward the close of the day, Miss Emma Hardinge received an invitation from several influential citizens to deliver an oration upon the lamented Chief Magistrate of the nation. The invitation was accepted, and the time agreed upon for its delivery was the next day, Sunday, at three o'clock, P. M., at Cooper Institute. There was no time for preparing an address of so important a character, and the effort was entirely extemporaneous. The attention with which the speaker was listened to, the deep interest aroused, and the irrepressible applause with which an assembly of upward of three thousand persons interrupted her discourse, sufficiently testified not less to the earnestness and justice of the tribute paid to the illustrious martyr than to the eloquence that characterized this most valuable oration.
The oration having fortunately been phonographically reported, is now published in response to a very generally expressed desire on the part of citizens of all shades of political belief, who are solicitous that so fitting, a memento of the virtues of Abraham Lincoln should be read by every American patriot.
0 Thou that hearest prayer! Look upon us, Thy children, in this hour of deepest soul-affliction! Lord of the sunshine and the storm, God of the starry night and sunlit day, Thou who art our joy, our grief, our all! teach us to remember, in the darkness as the light, that 'tis our Father's hand that's dealing with us; our Father's footsteps leading us, through mystery and gloom, to pierce the ever-brightening path of His omniscient goodness. Eighteen hundred years ago Thy best beloved meekly stood to bear the roaring multitude reject him for Barabbas. Eighteen hundred years ago and the rocking earth sustained a dying Angel on the cross of shame, while a murderer went forth free. Once more we see Thy son beloved, Thy child of light, and faithful servant, struck down beneath the hand of guilt and crime, a sacrifice to the lost and darkened souls that choose a Barabbas and reject a Jesus! 0 Thou whose still small voice we wait to hear when the whirlwind of our grief sweeps by, and the tempest of our anguish is sobbed out! Teach us, as we mourn the day of Crucifixion, to turn with brightening memory to the hopes of Easter. Teach us to recollect that, if the best and purest that ever walked the earth must needs be lifted up on the cross of death, all earth might rejoice in a resurrecting Easter, so has the martyr whom we mourn this hour gone from our mortal eyes, a sign, to all mankind of this day of Resurrection--a bright and strong assurance for us, who so dearly loved him, that as the Master so the servant rises, and, like the blessed Nazarene, His follower in life, His prototype in death, he has joined the sons of light, the hosts of victory crowned, and wears the palm of a glorious immortality, arisen, arisen! to his Father's home, and ours.
It seems to me as if I heard a tone, borne on the wings of time and sounding through the corridors of space, sweeping the earth like a breeze, from the shores of the remotest East to this land of the distant West--a voice that for eighteen hundred years has pleaded before the throne of Almighty Justice in the only strain that can solve the dire and dreadful problem of red murder saying, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Friends, this voice most surely speaks, both to you and me, in this hour of awful grief. There seems no other utterance fit to explain its meaning, or able to pronounce sentence on the terrible cause, of pain that afflicts us in this most unparalleled and sublime national woe. I recall the page of history in vain to find any precedent (save the one which laid the foundations of your religion) for this foul and monstrous act of guilt which forms the record of this solemn hour.
When I remember the circumstances, time, and personages of this tragic history, all attempts at parallel grow pale and fail us utterly. Rome's Caesar pleads to us with the dumb but most eloquent voices of "his bleeding wounds;" but before that piteous sacrifice stand the avenging forms of patriots. France points to a Louis Capet, and the execrating hiss of abashed posterity pronounces his doom was martyrdom; but even then his guiltless life was yielded up to time and preparation, a show of justice, and the sanction of a multitude. The wrongs of an oppressed people and the ruin of a nation were on the heads of both the Roman and French rulers.
The shadow, if not the substance, of justice condemned
Pass over the perilous scenes of strife, political hatred, and factional discord, that might have drawn lines of separation between himself and those who could not appreciate his acts of policy, and follow him to the time when he stands the central figure of the dark and distracting scenes of war. Behold him there in the midst of contending armies, confronting the friends who were so often unfaithful and cold, and the enemy that was always pitiless and cruel; see him extending the blessed flag of peace and reconciliation over all alike; stretching his paternal arm over every American, and, like the almighty and merciful father of the parable, receiving the prodigal back to his heart with a magnanimity and beneficence that challenges the deepest gratitude of the wrong-doer, the fealty of friends, and the admiration of the whole world. Strong, brave, and immovable in the hour of trial and calamity, Abraham Lincoln practiced the last crowning virtue of a great man's life, the divine attribute of mercy; and after having gallantly conquered, generously forgave the foe, uniting again in one fraternal clasp the severed hands of North and South, and silenced every jealous
Despite of the fearful storm which treason had conjured up around him, in defiance of the insolent presence of the rebellion and the infamous serpent-trail of conspiracy, the generous, unselfish heart of the man still confided in the people, and he went among them with none of the panoply of state, none of the assumptions of power or place, common to others of his position; he went without guard or protection but in the people's fealty and love; and it was even for their sakes, to please the people, nor suffer a shade of disappointment to embitter, by his absence, their hours of recreation, that the noble heart went forth to its death, the tender father to cast himself into the arms of the parricide that struck him down. Oh! what an hour, and under what a sacred trust, to consummate this deep and burning stain upon humanity! Accursed be the hand, the time, the place, that wrote upon the page of history the foulest blot that page has ever borne.
'Tis well the dying Master on the cross plead, in his pitying love, for the children of perdition. Our lips are too unchristlike, face to face with such an act as this, to say amen for the prayer of mercy on this wretch.
In view of the special infamy which time, circumstance, and person all so fearfully aggravate, permit me here to speak my deep conviction that this act, however fatally we know it is the work of plot and rebellion, still cannot be, for the honor of humanity, the organized act of any great section of the land we call American. I cannot believe it the work
I cannot think it is out of place to-day to retrace "those shining foot-prints on the sands of time" which he we mourn has left behind him, although they are, as they justly should be, already household words among the people of his love.
Now, will you deem it less in order that I should presume to be your memento of this sacred page? Month after month it has seemed my special inspiration to call upon the people, whom it was my privilege to address, to study out and comprehend the acts of him whom I felt and named as the true "PRESERVER OF HIS COUNTRY."
Scarcely ten days have passed since these walls, re-echoed to the gallant cheer that hailed my voice when I told you of the sterling worth, the loyal faith, and providential wisdom of this noble incarnation of earth's best republicanism--the man of the people, the PEOPLE'S ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Some
What a retrospect of a splendid career developed, if not wholly fashioned, by the fostering sun of American republicanism, does our great chief magistrate's history present us with! Fifty-six years ago, and the low sigh of the breeze stirring the trees of old Kentucky, the song of the lonely woodbird, and the chirp of the tenants of the wildest solitudes were the natal songs that welcomed into life the child whose name has to reverberate through the earth in the clarion tones of a worldwide fame; born to the inheritance of stern poverty and rude toil, a log-cabin was his only shelter, the cathedral arches of the green forest his baptismal roof, and the lonely stars and voiceless flowers, the backwoodsman father and humble mother, his only friends and teachers; and yet we trace the germs of Nature's truest nobility unfolding themselves in every year of his faithful life; always the good and dutiful child, the industrious little aid of the toiling father, the willing little drudge of the patient mother.
At seven years he goes forth with the spelling-book, one of the three volumes that constitute the family library. At eight he learns the first dread lesson of slavery, namely, that free white labor has no chance in competition with captive black; that the condition of a poor white laborer in a slave State is more hopeless than the slave himself; and hence himself and little household endure the toil and hardship of a weary pioneer journey from Kentucky slavery and darkness,
At twenty-one he first set foot in that Illinois whose proudest boast to-day is to call him hers. Here he makes his father's home, helps build his house, and fence his farm, and immortalized that humble form of labor which renders the title of the "rail-splitter" a patent of America's nobility. From this we trace him from his final exodus from the paternal roof, now the hired farm hand, the clerk in the petty store, the agent, buyer, scribe, postmaster, captain in the Black Hawk war, surveyor, lawyer, legislator, but ever the same, good, self-made, self-taught, toiling, honest, truthful, studious man. 0 earthly potentates! proud European princes! fortune's favored children! how would you smile to be bid to school in the forest log-hut; to study, the ragged page of one single volume; to learn of the teachers grinding poverty and toil, and prepare for a rule more large, more onerous and high in import, than Asia or Europe's greatest monarchs know in the farmer's barn, the boat-man's raft, the village store, or, the poor clerk's office! Bright, beautiful, and just republicanism, thou knowest thy kings, and never can mistake thy princes! And in every step of this great magic ladder cut by his hands, erected by
He was its open and avowed enemy, ever voting in his place, whenever occasion served, against its extension in any form; the contest I have alluded to, enabled him to bring all the powers of his acute and logical mind and forcible nervous oratory, to bear on the monstrous evil of its extension into the Territories, or the perpetuation of the gigantic wrong in any form outside of its then existing State limits. And yet, despite the unequivocal opposition which he maintained so constantly to the character, political influence, and destructive nature of this suicidal institution, we find Mr. Lincoln just as firm in his defense of that State-right sovereignty which granted the constitutional privilege of retaining slavery in each State's precinct unrestrained by the interference of the central government. I do not propose in this place to discuss the vexed problem of the just equilibrium to be attained between the powers of the States as petty sovereignties and the central government as a whole. I notice the subject here to point to the fact, that while the known beneficence and wisdom of' Mr. Lincoln's character inclined us to expect of him an uncompromising war on slavery, by what I believe to be the providential character of his mind, anticipating the irrepressible conflict in which the nation's life was yet to be involved, he was ever led to refuse his sanction to a single, act, by which (as we now perceive) in after years the rebellious South could have founded a plea upon, to excuse their base secession.
That rash and hasty zeal that would have hurried the nation's Chief Magistrate into acts which ignored the letter
Surrounded by treason, environed by secret foes, the ground beneath him undermined by plots, a vast and relentless offensive war already thundering at the nation's gate, while the thews and sinews of defense were stolen, removed, and broken; ships, arsenals, forts, treasuries despoiled and plundered; a navy to create, an army to raise, a treasury to improvise; a people, all unused to war and taxes, to bend and discipline, to both equip and provide for all; no section of a continent, like European lands, to garrison or conquer, but a vast New World to cover, guard, and conquer with great armies, any one of which would eat up or destroy a country of any other quarter of the globe; the taunts of enemies to bear; the fearful changes and chances of a gigantic war to calculate upon and provide for; foes to repel, treason to subdue; clamorous harpies to satisfy, presumptuous friends to check; the whole seaboard of the wide Atlantic coast, a highway for treacherous foreign despot powers, all waiting, longing greedily to aid the ruin of the earth's democracy, their own most dreaded foe--and yet, in any of these
There's not a statesman of the age but might read a lesson in the firm and lofty dignity of tone in which the nation's status was defined, aye, and maintained, too, in all his foreign messages and ministerial instructions. When dark, impending ruin shook the earth beneath his feet, where wilt you find the evidence of weakness in one single word to any foreign power? Where one jot of yielding of' the nation's undivided dignity? Where one base concession to the despot's aim to force him to submission through the country's real internal weakness? He took with the oath of office the nation's weal or woe upon his shoulders; wore it as a mantle; girdled it about his towering form with his heart-strings; and wraps it now around the lifeless ruin of his still and pulseless heart as a winding-sheet of glory. To him you owe it that the name and dignity of the still united States towered like a monitor above the wreck and ruin, so high and grand and threatening, that in no hand but an armed American's dare rise in presumptuous threat against the Stars and Stripes. One of the noblest State papers that the records of any nation can show is, to my thinking, to be found in Mr. Lincoln's first inaugural address to this nation. There the entire question of the Protean Problem--Slavery--in connection with its legalized existence in the States as guaranteed by the Constitution, is fairly and fully laid out, the suicidal character of secession unvailed, and the magnificent proportions of a united American republicanism grandly depicted. A mind capable of analyzing with such irresistible and clear deductions the entangled meshes of treason in which
Assailed by unwise friends and bitter foes, with taunts and revilings on every hand, still he moved not; but when the crisis came in which the nation's life was balanced against protective southern policy, how long did the noble statesman hesitate? The cry of the discontented and disloyal raised its accustomed wail against freedom and howled out "abolitionism;" but above the murmur of the storm arose in his ear the grand Mosaic cry of "Let my people go!" and although that voice has been thundering down the ages, and a burning bush and a fire -crowned Sinai has flashed before the eyes of despots in every century of time, whenever God's oppressed and captive people cried to Him for deliverance, three thousand years has seen that awful charge hold disregarded, mocked, and spit upon, until good Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, proclaimed it in "Liberty throughout the land, to every inhabitant thereof!" God bless him for it!
I was present in San Francisco one year after this memorable deed, and, in company with the only other white orator who could be found to take part on such an occasion, helped the enfranchised race to honor the glorious anniversary.
The memory of the sable martyrs that had perished at Port Hudson and Fort Pillow was still green in memory; they told of the black regiments, formed of men whose ancestors' unpaid. toil had made the country rich, whose backs were still seamed with lashes, and whose limbs still gashed with the mark of fetters, but whose freed lives were now devoted to the salvation of the land that had enslaved them. These pictures were vividly portrayed in of their own peculiar, wild, and touching eloquence; but all was forgotten, all forgiven when the name of their modern Moses was pronounced, and then it was that a shout went
But wherever I turn my eyes in his unprecedented career I find some fresh challenge to my wonder and admiration. No man in history was ever before, intrusted with the charge of such vast armies, the disbursements of such enormous sums of money, or the exercise of such stupendous powers. Mr. Lincoln modestly professed himself unequal to the task of directing the military situations of his vast armies, yet his correspondence with General McClellan proves that either his clear intuitions or his real ability always dictated the wisest and most able instructions to his generals, the only real failure of which was the disregard with which they were received. No scrutiny however searching, has yet disclosed one jot of selfishness, dishonesty, or aught but generous singleness of purpose in the use of all the power, finance, and vast resources intrusted to his charge. Oh people of the land he blessed and saved! can I deal justly with his sacred name, unless I present it to your undivided admiration as your "Father Abraham Lincoln!"--a man whose page of history stands without a blemish, whose bright escutcheon will shine through all futurity without one single spot. My retrospect of this noble life is almost ended. It but remains in this place to remind you that if our Chief Magistrate was, in his own unassuming phrase, "too deficient in military experience to general the situation," he was amply supplied with that moral fitness for command which has made the world's most potent conquests and furnished in history its brightest wreaths of victory. From the very
True to the genius of the opposing sections, behold the pampered aristocrats of the South, made rich on stolen labor sending their "Commissioners" to treat with the nation they had so recklessly sought to destroy; on the other hand, see the man who held the highest dignity the earth could confer on man going, in his simple presence, almost unattended--with none of the guards his sacred life required, none of the outward shows of form his stupendous charge might sanction, going himself, in person, father-like, to receive and welcome back his prodigal child.
What a contrast does the simple, unassuming presence of the man, conferring with the rebel emissaries, present to the lofty and unflinching tone of the President when he spoke for the nation! He was nothing for himself, all for the people; he went forth, the unassuming backwoodsman's boy, to meet his southern brothers; he stood, the chief of the great New World, to speak of the terms on which its peace
We have traced him as the incarnate spirit of true republicanism, the self-made boy, the unimpeachable youth, the noble man, the legislator, statesman, orator, chief magistrate, and father of a mighty people, their staff in the earthquake's shock, their anchor in the storm. What more remains than to contemplate him obeying the behests of his Almighty Father, killing the fatted calf to welcome back the returning prodigal, following the foot- of his Christian Master, returning good for evil, dispensing blessings for curses, and conquering foes more surely with his generous acts of mercy than all the armies of the earth could do with sword and cannon. Did be forget the miserable wrecks of manhood incarcerated in Libby prison and Castle Thunder? Did he cease to mourn the heroes slain, the homes made desolate, the hearts bereaved, the thousands fiercely massacred? Had he forgotten the emaciated shadows of what once were men returned from the fiendish grasp of demon captors ? Or had his ear grown dull to the dying shrieks from Fort Pillow and many a battlefield? He forgot nothing, this brave, great heart! but he forgave far more than he forgot. And however WE MAY KNOW in the awful lesson of his shameful murder that his magnanimity upreared his own funeral pyre, I do believe, when this dark record of the great American conflict and its termination shall pierce the astounded ears of foreign nations, all other acts will be forgotten, all other blood-stained memories wiped away, and all other stormy passages of this tempestuous time be obliterated in the triumph of that Christ-like spirit which opened its arms of welcome to the fallen
He who knows the secrets of all hearts can best decide how many of His creatures sink so low beneath the human image of Himself as to be concerned in the act that struck down the noblest in his very noblest hour, and added to the impious crime of parricidal murder the wanton, miserable waste of golden opportunities, the only ones that could save the fallen South or rejoice the conquering North. I still hope, for the honor of humanity, for the name of free America, for the sake of judgment, reason, sanity, and manhood, that this deed does not represent more than a petty band of Cains. But while the hiss of a whole earth's execration hoots the wretch from life who was the foremost hand to strike the
There are men now who sit beneath the southern orange and magnolia and weep for him as we weep; hearts in the unhappy South as sorrowful as ours; heads bowed with shame, and many a one who would--as I or many of you would--cheerfully lay down his life to recall the precious one the country mourns.
Thousands of southern Rachels weep this day for our dead chief; and wide, clear-sighted men in the furthest South know their best friend and the country's true preserver will lie low in the grave of Lincoln.
But what is that to the past? Who can recall it? God's footsteps never return upon themselves. The southern institution, enemy alike of God and man, has slain the South, and as the monstrous blossom of a poison-tree, has slain its friend and honor in Abraham Lincoln. For never man would have dared to raise his wicked band to slay a good man in the very hour when his goodness shone most brightly; never coward stolen to the helpless bed of an almost dying creature to cut and back the unresisting form of sickness--but those who had learned to love the traffic in human life; but those whom the groans of lacerated black men had made callous,
Oh, friends! the prayer of the gentle Master, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," constitutes the history of this dreadful wrong, but nevertheless it must not close our ears to the mighty right. We know that the cause that makes men forget their humanity; the mean and truckling spirit that lives on others' labor; the greedy and insatiate purpose that determines to govern others without their consent, and compels all men to bow to them; the aristocratic spirit that can never be satisfied, and cries "Give, give," incessantly; the dark and terrible necessity that demands more territory for its growing millions, more lands, more States, more funds, more power; that fatal institution that dare not trust the spelling-book and Bible, that gags free speech and keeps back the light of intelligence from the darkened minds of ignorance--must culminate at last in the arm of force and murder; must throw away the ballot and take instead the bullet, and send its worst fanatics forth to do deeds that recoil in nameless horror on itself. And thus believing, I do dismiss the hideous contemplation of the deed. And for the doer, what is he now but Cain?--a fugitive and a vagabond, henceforth he'll live till the earth shall weary of him, yet the terrible hereafter refuse to give him shelter. The sobs of the widow and the orphan his noble victim cheered, the hiss of a loathing world whose every heart is closed against him, shall murder his sleep for evermore; the gates of every home on earth all violated by his parricidal act, shall close against him; the curse of every fettered captive
Friends, the hour has come to try men's souls. The country waits for you, with arm and heart and bead, to rebuild its shattered altars, remould its glory, and restore or reconstruct, if need be, the charter of its life and all your liberties--your national Constitution. Permit me, then, to close up this address by a brief reference to this absorbing subject of your duties.
The very night before that fatal one that robbed us of our nation's strong right arm, the people's voice demanded of me, in the city of Philadelphia, suggestive words on the theme of reconstruction.
I then said what I now repeat--that the question of reconstruction depends almost solely ON THE TIME that is chosen, an THE CONDITIONS under which the work commences
Rally around your President with heart and head and hand, and be sure of this, that, if the mantle of the too-merciful Lincoln has not fallen upon his shoulders, that of bold Andrew Jackson has, and that in these troublous times,
Mourn for Abraham Lincoln with your hearts, but prove your love to him by taking up the burden he's laid down and finishing the noble purposes of his great life so untimely quenched. For you, his country, and the holy cause of patriotism, he perished. He spoke no word, he made no sign, nor left a single charge on mortal man; but, oh, if ever silence was most eloquent, if speechless, dying martyrdom. pleads now, as in the days of' "righteous Stephen," with an angel light upon its blood-stained brow, obey that dumb behest, and do his work, and break the last blood-crusted link of those iron bonds that have well-nigh killed the earth's last, best republic. We must have no treasonable words; no more disloyal murmurs; no more pretense of plain, blunt speech to stab the government, ruin the nation, and kill its best defenders. Crush out the serpent in the egg, the henbane in the seed, and we'll have no more such bitter fruit as murder and rebellion.
Trust to the man of the people, raised up, in this hour of sudden need and strange calamity, like a God-given answer to a prayer our lips have not had time to fashion. Question not his faults, but regard his sterling qualities. Follow his brave, strong footsteps in his great ascent of life; his noble words and pledges of good faith ere the nation's need had come, and be sure that God has sent him to our rescue, and your part is to give him added strength in a nation's united heart and faith,
What matters it, then, that he we love and so bitterly deplore has gone before us? Sooner or later, for us all, his summons will be ours. God only give us grace to follow him to