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THE LOUISIANA STATE GOVERNMENT.

217

race.

the elective franchise is not given to the coloured

I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.” Still the fact remains, that some 12,000 voters in the heretofore slave State of Louisiana have “ 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”; and this same Legislature “has already voted to ratify the constitutional amendment recently passed by Congress abolishing slavery throughout the nation."

« 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. No exclusive and inflexible plan can safely be prescribed as to details and collaterals. Important principles may, and must be, inflexible. In the present situation, as the phrase goes,

it

may be my duty to make some new

218

MR. LINCOLN'S SENSE OF DUTY.

announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act when satisfied that action will be proper."

When we consider that only three days later (April 14th) the speaker met his tragic deathstroke, we may be tempted to wish that some grander, larger words had fallen from his lips on such an occasion. And yet the speech has a quiet majesty of its own. Surely no man ever more perfectly realized those words of St. Paul, · Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” Behind is a four years' struggle for the very life of the nation, gigantic, worldfamous; behind are Sherman's strides of triumph, and Grant's patient strategy, and Sheridan's meteor-like successes, and the fall of the rival capital, and the surrender of a great general and of a long-victorious army; yet all is forgotten in a moment by him who more than any other has the right to rest upon present blessings, since he has borne the whole burthen of past anxieties and sorrows, whilst he reaches

THE 14TH APRIL, 1865.

219

forth to the things before,—to the reconstitution of the South on its new basis of freedom, and in particular to this Louisiana State Constitution. There lies his present duty, and how to fulfil that duty is now all his care. That he judged rightly as to the importance of the question of negro suffrage it is impossible to deny. I am not indeed prepared to say that he saw his way to the right solution of it. But what I do say is, that no one could have uttered such a speech at such a moment, but one in whose soul duty was a fixed, dominant, nay, all-absorbing principle; one who, simply and without effort, was fulfilling the wise man's precept: “Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”* The 14th of April came.

But for what was

* The perfect self-consistency of Mr. Lincoln's moral character may be illustrated by a comparison of this speech with the closing passage of one delivered by him before his first nomination, at the Cooper Institute, New York, on Feb. 27, 1860 :-“ Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.” Words which might have served as a motto for his whole life.

220

LAST CONVERSATION WITH SPEAKER COLFAX.

to follow at Washington, it might have been marked in the country's history only by Sherman's occupation of a third conquered State capital, Raleigh, North Carolina ; and by the raising of the United States flag once more upon Fort Sumter, on the anniversary of its surrender in 1862 by the same officer who had then defended it. After breakfasting with his son, Captain Robert Lincoln, who had witnessed Lee's surrender, the President received several public men, amongst others, Speaker Colfax, who was about to proceed overland to the Pacific coast. His words to Mr. Colfax have been recorded :

“Mr. Colfax, I want you to take a message from me to the miners whom you visit. I have very large ideas of the mineral wealth of our nation. I believe it practically inexhaustible,

and its development has scarcely commenced. During the war, when we were adding a couple of millions of dollars every day to our national debt, I did not care about encouraging the increase in the volume of our precious metals. We had the country to save first. But now that the rebellion is overthrown,

I

LAST CABINET COUNCIL.

221

and we know pretty nearly the amount of our national debt, the more gold and silver we receive, we make the payment of that debt so much the easier. Now I am going to encourage that in every possible way. We shall have hundreds of thousands of disbanded soldiers, and many have feared that their return home in such numbers might paralyse industry, by furnishing suddenly a greater supply of labour than there will be demand for. I am going to try to attract them to the hidden wealth of our mountain ranges, where there is room enough for all. Immigration, which even the war has not stopped, will land upon our shores hundreds of thousands more per year from over-crowded Europe. I intend to point them to the gold and silver that wait for them in the West. Tell the miners from me that I shall promote their interests to the utmost of my ability ; because their prosperity is the prosperity of the nation; and we shall prove, in a very few years, that we are indeed the treasury of the world.”

Full of these golden hopes,—thus already

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