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I add a word which was not in the verbal conversation. In telling this tale, I attempt no compliment to my own sagacity. I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now at the end of three years' struggle, the nation's condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North, as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new causes to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.
A. LINCOLN. A. G. HODGES, Esq., Frankfort Ky.
MR. LINCOLN'S LAST SPEECH. The following is the full text of the speech delivered at Washington on the evening of the 11th of April, 1865, by President Lincoln:
“ We meet this evening not in sorrow but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and surrender of the principal insurgent army, gives hopes of a righteous peace, whose joyous expression cannot be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be promulgated throughout the country. Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing be overlooked; their honours must not be parcelled out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of transmitting much of the good news to you, but no part of the honour for the plan or execution is mine. To General Grant, his skilful officers and brave men, it all belongs. The gallant navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part. By these recent successes the reinauguration of the national authority, the reconstruction of which has had a large share of thought from the first, is pressed much more closely upon our attention. It is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike a case of war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with; no one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any
other man. We simply must begin with, and mould from, disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and measure of reconstruction. As a general rule, I abstain from reading the reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by that to which I cannot properly return an answer. In spite of this precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that I am much censured for some supposed agency in setting up and seeking to sustain the new States Government of Louisiana. In this I have done just so much and no more than the public knows. In the annual message of December, 1863, and accompanying proclamation, I presented a plan of reconstruction, as the phrase goes, which I promised, if adopted by any State, would be acceptable to and sustained by the Executive Government of the nation. I distinctly stated that this was not the only plan which might possibly be accepted, and I also distinctly protested that the Executive claimed no right to say when or whether members should be entitled to seats in Congress from such States. This plan was in advance submitted to the Cabinet, and approved by every member of it. One of them suggested that I should then, and in that connection, apply the emancipation proclamation to the excepted parts of Virginia and Louisiana; that I should drop the suggestion about apprenticeship for freed people, and that I should omit the protest against my own power in regard to the admission of members to Congress; but even he approved every part and parcel of the plan which has since been employed or touched by the action of Louisiana. The new constitution of Louisiana, declaring emancipation of the whole State, practically applies the proclamation to the whole part previously excepted; it does not adopt apprenticeship for freed people, and is silent, as it could not well be otherwise, about the admission of members to Congress. So that, as it applied to Louisiana, every member of the Cabinet fully approved the plan. The message went to Congress, and I received many commendations of the plan, written and verbal, and not a single objection to it from any professed emancipationist came to my knowledge until after the news had reached Washington that the people of Louisiana had begun to move in accordance with it. From about July, 1862, I had corresponded with different persons supposed to be interested in the reconstruction of the State Government for Louisiana. When the Message of 1863, with the
plan before-mentioned, reached New Orleans, General Banks wrote me that he was confident the people, with his military co-operation, would reconstruct substantially on that plan. I wrote to him and some of them to try it. They tried it, and the result is known. Such has been my only agency in getting up the Louisiana Government. As to sustaining it, my promise is but as before stated; but as bad promises are better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise, and break it whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public interest; but I have not yet been so convinced. I have been shown a letter on this subject, supposed to be an able one, in which the writer expresses regret that my mind has not seemed to be definitely fixed on the question whether the seceded States, so called, are in the Union or out of it. It would, perhaps, add astonishment to his regret, were he to learn that since I have found professed Union men endeavouring to answer that question, I have purposely foreborne any public expression upon it. As it appears to me, that question has not been, nor yet is, a practically material one, and that any discussion of it while it thus remains practically immaterial, could have no effect other than the mischievous one of dividing our friends. As yet, whatever it may become, that question is bad as a basis of controversy, and good for nothing at all. We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union and the sole object of the Government, civil and military, in regard to these States, is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but, in fact, easier to do this without deciding, or even considering, whether those States have ever been out of the Union than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restore the proper practical relations between these States and the Union, and each for ever after innocently indulge his own opinion, whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it. The amount of constituency, so to speak, on which the Louisiana Government rests would be more satisfactory to all if it contained 50,000, or 30,000 or even 20,000, instead of 12,000, as it does. It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the coloured men. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers. Still the question is not whether the Louisiana Government, as it stands, is quite all that is desirable. The question is, will it be wiser to take it as it is, and help to improve it, or to reject it? Can Louisiana be brought into the proper practical relation with the Union sooner by sustaining or discarding her new State Government? Some 12,000 voters in the heretofore slave State of Louisiana have sworn allegiance to the Union, assumed to be the rightful political power of the State, held elections, organized a State Government, adopted a free State Constitution, giving the benefit of the public schools equally to white and black, and empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the coloured man. This Legislature has already voted to ratify the constitutional amendment recently passed by Congress abolishing slavery throughout the nation. These 12,000 persons are thus fully committed to the Union, and to perpetuate freedom in the State, committed to the very things, and nearly all the things, the nation wants, and they ask the nation's recognition and its assistance to make this committal. Now, if we reject and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. We, in fact, say to the white man, you are worthless or worse; we will neither help you nor be helped by you. To the blacks we say, this cup of liberty which these your old masters hold to your lips we will dash from you, and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and undefined when, where, or how. If this course -disparaging and paralyzing both white and black-has any tendency to bring Louisiana into proper practical relations with the Union, I have so far been unable to perceive it. If, on the contrary, we recognize and sustain the new Government of Louisiana, the adverse of all this is true. We encourage the hearts and nerve the arms of 12,000 to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it to a complete success. The coloured man, too, in seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance, and energy, and daring to the same end. Grant that he desires the elective franchise, will he not obtain it sooner by saving the already advanced steps towards it than by falling backwards over them ? Concede that the new Government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl; we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it. (Laughter.) Again, if we reject Louisiana. we also reject our vote in favour of the proposed amendment to the national constitution. To meet this proposition it has been argued that no more than three-fourths of those States which have not attempted secession are necessary to validly ratify the amendment. I do not commit myself against this further than to say that such a ratification would be questionable, and sure to be persistently questioned; while its ratification by three-fourths of all States would be unquestioned and unquestionable. I repeat the question, Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relations with the Union sooner by sustaining or discarding her new State Government? What has been said of Louisiana will apply to other States; and yet so great peculiarities pertain to each State, and such important and sudden changes occur in the same State, and withal so new and unprecedented is the whole case, that no exclusive and inflexible plan can safely be prescribed as to details and collaterals. Such an exclusive and inflexible plan would surely become an entanglement. Important principles may and must be inflexible. In the present situation, as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act when satisfied that action will be