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ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1809-1865)
The circumstances of the writing and delivery of Lincoln 's address at Gettysburg are so well known as scarcely to need recounting. The battle had been fought July 1-2-3 of 1863 and the check there sustained by the Confederacy marked the turning point in the Civil War. Lincoln's address, delivered Nov. 19, 1863, at the Dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, has remained one of the most important and striking documents in the history of American Democracy. His definition of our system of rule "as government of the people, by the people, for the people” has become a touchstone of one's Americanism.
The reading of this famous passage, almost universally adopted in our time, which places the emphasis on the prepositions of, by, and for is incorrect in the sense that it is not that used by Lincoln himself. President John Grier Hibben of Princeton University informs the editor that one of the audience on that memorable day has assured him that the emphasis was placed by Lincoln unmistakably on the word people, which he made stronger with each repetition, government of the people, by the PEOPLE, for the PEOPLE.” It is natural that Lincoln should have done this, for to him one of the greatest advantages in our system of government was the importance and the opportunity it gave to the young citizen poor in purse and social station. This was one of the reasons why he believed slavery hostile to the spirit of democracy. He was proud to count himself one of the people. The point was brought out sharply in his speech delivered at New Haven, March 6, 1860, before his election to the Presidency.
“One of the reasons why I am opposed to slavery is just this: what is the true condition of the laborer? I take it that. it is best for all to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can. Some will get wealthy. I don't believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more:
harm than good. So while we do not propose any war on capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else. When one starts poor, as most of us do in the race of life, free society is such that he knows he can better his condition; he knows that there is no fixed condition of labor for his whole life. I am not ashamed to confess that twenty-five years ago I was a hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a flatboat-just what might happen to any poor man's son. I want every man to have a chanceand I believe a black man is entitled to it-in which he can better his condition-where he may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him. That is the true system.”
Further light on the character of Lincoln will be found in President Wilson's address on Abraham Lincoln, pages 96-101.
LINCOLN'S GETTYSBURG ADDRESS (Bold face figures refer to pages; plain figures to note numbers in text.)
1. Lincoln with characteristic modesty little thought that his address would go down to posterity. Before its delivery he told a friend: “It is a flat failure. The people won't like it.”
2. This definition of our government may possibly have been suggested to Lincoln by a phrase of the abolitionist preacher, Theodore Parker, in a speech delivered in 1858. Parker's statement ran “Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, by all the people, for all the people.” Lincoln's simpler statement is in any case more effective.
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL James Russell Lowell, 1819-1891, added to his fame as poet and essayist, the distinction of having served his country as ambassador to Spain 1876-1880, and to Great Britain, 18801885. He performed a particularly useful service in interpreting England and the United States to each other. The address on Democracy, which shows his optimistic faith and native Americanism, was delivered during this period of his stay in England. It should be remembered that as late as 1884, American democracy was still in European eyes on the defensive.
1. Plato is more idealistic than Aristotle; hence “the tower of Plato." His works, with those of Aristotle, constitute the most important body of ancient philosophy.
2. Lowell, born in 1819 at Cambridge, Mass., on the edge of the open country, had seen the transformation of his section from a rural to an industrial population. The French travelers had brought back glowing accounts of the simple life of the American settlers and even of the American Indians. Though Lowell did not like the change he would not willingly testify against it; hence the reference to Balaam. See Numbers, xxii, xxiii.
3. The property qualification for suffrage, general in the early years of our government, had been abolished in Massachusetts at the Constitutional Convention in 1820.
4. In the period of the Civil War Massachusetts paid out in bounties and bounty loans $26,000,000 and the war debt of the state at the close of the war was $15,000,000.
5. In the speech on Moving his Resolution for Conciliation with the Colonies, March 22, 1775, Burke says, “I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people.” Select Works, Clarendon Press, 1892, Vol. I, p. 192. It is impossible to identify exactly the “French gentleman” referred to. Lowell may have been thinking of the wellknown critic and historian, Taine, who satirized certain Ameri. can tendencies in his Life and Opinions of F. T. Graindorge.
6. Zola (1840-1902) was at this time (1884) the most discussed novelist in France. His novels include "naturalistic" pictures of the worst and most depraved elements in French life.
7. Democracy was not nearly so popular in Europe in 1884 as it is at present. The excesses of the Paris Commune in 1871 had dealt a severe blow to the idea that the people can govern themselves.
The great Civil War through which we ourselves had passed had likewise discouraged enthusiasm for democracy.
8. A species of grape louse which at this time was ruining the vineyards of France.
8a. The Boers had started a revolt in 1880 and in 1881 routed the small British force at Majuba Hill.
9. A distinguished Venetian ambassador (1507-1565).
10. Not one but many of the fathers of the church contested the rights of property. The medieval church held that the taking of interest was sinful and it was this condemnation that threw money-lending as a business into the hands of the Jews. It made no distinction between usury and interest.
11. Proudhon (1809-1865), a French radical and socialist who summarily defined property as a theft in his famous volume What Is Property? published in 1840.
12. Bourdaloue (1632-1704), a famous French pulpit orator, not at all revolutionary in his general conceptions.
13. Montesquieu (1689-1755), author of The Spirit of the Laws and historically the most important of the modern political writers. His work influenced the framers of our Constitution and he is frequently referred to by Jefferson.
National workshops (ateliers nationaux) were established in France just before the French Revolution, but Lowell is doubtless thinking about the national workshops which were founded after the Revolution of 1848 in France and which were a failure. Lowell strains his point when he attributes them to Montesquieu. He is trying to prove in this passage that most of the “heresies” attributed to American Democracy were in existence before we had declared our independence.
14. Like all the above statements, true in a measure. In the Church of the Middle Ages a career was open to young men of ability, whatever their station, far more readily than at the court or in the army from which persons not of noble birth were in most cases excluded.
15. Charles V. (1500-1555), Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in the time of Luther. More clearly than most of his contemporaries he saw the leaven of “ democracy” working in the reforms demanded of the church. The Reformation was a protest against outside authority in religious matters; the
American and French Revolutions were protests against submission to authority in political matters. The refusal to submit to the rule of any power outside ourselves is the first step in democracy. The idea of “government by the consent of the governed " is fundamental to it and is frequently emphasized by President Wilson, as in the close of his A World League for Peace. Contrast this with Emperor William's attitude in Note 15 to Wilson's War Message, page 261.
16. That is, extreme poverty (Lazarus) and what it entails, slums, unsanitary conditions, criminality, are plague-spots in a state, which the existence of a very wealthy class (Dives) does not cure or compensate for.
“Forge of the races or mother of peoples.” The British have of course been recognized as the colonizing people par excellence.
18. Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2.
19. The “rights of man,” a phrase frequently used by radical thinkers in France in the 18th century, became a shibboleth of the French Revolutionists. Thomas Paine adopted it as the title of his famous reply to Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. These natural rights of men are emphasized in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Many modern political thinkers disagree with this doctrine of "natural rights."
20. Lowell was evidently quoting from memory the opening lines of Coleridge's Ode to France. His memory tricked him for the first line should read
"The Sensual and the Dark rebel in vain."
23. Joseph Priestly (1733-1804), a nonconformist minister of liberal tendencies, famous in the history of science as well as of religion. He was mobbed in Birmingham in 1791 but not so much for his religious opinions as for his sympathies with the French Revolution. He spent his last years in America
24. The fear that democracy will reduce all to a "dead