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Memorial Address on the Life and Character of Abraham Lincoln Delivered at the request of both Houses of Congress of America   By: (1800-1891)

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[Frontispiece: Abraham Lincoln]

MEMORIAL ADDRESS

ON THE

LIFE AND CHARACTER

OF

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

DELIVERED,

AT THE REQUEST OF BOTH HOUSES OF THE

CONGRESS OF AMERICA,

BEFORE THEM,

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

AT WASHINGTON,

ON THE 12TH OF FEBRUARY, 1866.

BY GEORGE BANCROFT.

WASHINGTON:

GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.

1866.

ORATION.

SENATORS, REPRESENTATIVES OF AMERICA:

That God rules in the affairs of men is as certain as any truth of physical science. On the great moving power which is from the beginning hangs the world of the senses and the world of thought and action. Eternal wisdom marshals the great procession of the nations, working in patient continuity through the ages, never halting and never abrupt, encompassing all events in its oversight, and ever effecting its will, though mortals may slumber in apathy or oppose with madness. Kings are lifted up or thrown down, nations come and go, republics flourish and wither, dynasties pass away like a tale that is told; but nothing is by chance, though men, in their ignorance of causes, may think so. The deeds of time are governed, as well as judged, by the decrees of eternity. The caprice of fleeting existences bends to the immovable omnipotence, which plants its foot on all the centuries and has neither change of purpose nor repose. Sometimes, like a messenger through the thick darkness of night, it steps along mysterious ways; but when the hour strikes for a people, or for mankind, to pass into a new form of being, unseen hands draw the bolts from the gates of futurity; an all subduing influence prepares the minds of men for the coming revolution; those who plan resistance find themselves in conflict with the will of Providence rather than with human devices; and all hearts and all understandings, most of all the opinions and influences of the unwilling, are wonderfully attracted and compelled to bear forward the change, which becomes more an obedience to the law of universal nature than submission to the arbitrament of man.

In the fulness of time a republic rose up in the wilderness of America. Thousands of years had passed away before this child of the ages could be born. From whatever there was of good in the systems of former centuries she drew her nourishment; the wrecks of the past were her warnings. With the deepest sentiment of faith fixed in her inmost nature, she disenthralled religion from bondage to temporal power, that her worship might be worship only in spirit and in truth. The wisdom which had passed from India through Greece, with what Greece had added of her own; the jurisprudence of Rome; the mediaeval municipalities; the Teutonic method of representation; the political experience of England; the benignant wisdom of the expositors of the law of nature and of nations in France and Holland, all shed on her their selectest influence. She washed the gold of political wisdom from the sands wherever it was found; she cleft it from the rocks; she gleaned it among ruins. Out of all the discoveries of statesmen and sages, out of all the experience of past human life, she compiled a perennial political philosophy, the primordial principles of national ethics. The wise men of Europe sought the best government in a mixture of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy; America went behind these names to extract from them the vital elements of social forms, and blend them harmoniously in the free commonwealth, which comes nearest to the illustration of the natural equality of all men. She intrusted the guardianship of established rights to law, the movements of reform to the spirit of the people, and drew her force from the happy reconciliation of both.

Republics had heretofore been limited to small cantons, or cities and their dependencies; America, doing that of which the like had not before been known upon the earth, or believed by kings and statesmen to be possible, extended her republic across a continent. Under her auspices the vine of liberty took deep root and filled the land; the hills were covered with its shadow, its boughs were like the goodly cedars, and reached unto both oceans... Continue reading book >>




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