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THE GREAT AMERICAN.
Was it only because Abraham Lincoln was the President of a great republic which had just ended successfully a long and terrible civil war that there came from all over the world tributes to his memory? No. From the throne to the humblest cottage the wail of sorrow was heard; for a man who blessed the world had gone from it. Queen Victoria with her own hand wrote to Mrs. Lincoln her message of sorrow. From Parliament and Westminster Abbey, from India and Australia, and Canada, and the isles of the sea, from the whole English-speaking race, everywhere, came the voice of sorrow. And not the English alone, but all nations sent their word of grief and sympathy for us. Mr. Seward called all these messages from abroad which were sent to the State Department of our Government: "The Tribute of the Nations to Abraham Lincoln." They were printed, and fill
a quarto volume of almost one thousand pages, "unique in its character," comments one writer, "and a tribute never before in any age paid to any man.
In the famous cemetery of Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland, stands a beautiful monument erected to Abraham Lincoln, with a statue of Lincoln and at his feet a freedman kneeling with broken chains.
To the world, as well as to his countrymen, Abraham Lincoln is "the great American.” He and Washington are the only men who can be compared. "Washington is the great man of the era of the Revolution," says an historian; "and so will Lincoln be of this (the Civil War): but Lincoln will reach the higher position in history."
The prediction he made in leaving his Springfield friends for his inauguration, that the task before him was harder than Washington's had proved true. And, under the guidance of God whom he came to recognize more and more, he performed this task with a perfection which even Washington, born in a different era and differently trained, could not have reached.
If Abraham Lincoln had been born anywhere, and at any time, he must have been great. But only in America could he have reached the place he did, and done the great work for which
we are thankful to him. But he is "the great American" in a deeper sense than that he was born and did his wonderful work in this land. He is the highest example that the world has seen, and perhaps ever will see, of what America means and wants to be. For the American republic in its ideal is the highest form of government in the world and requires the highest kind of man to carry it out perfectly; and this Lincoln was. Every man should be good and true. But a man born in a republic has a special responsibility, because here every man has a voice and is in that sense a ruler, and to the extent of his power the fate of the country rests upon him; he should think of public affairs, and have a broad outlook, know what is going on and what ought to be done; he should not be ignorant; and he should be interested in everything helpful to free institutions and should work for these.
In his love for free institutions Abraham Lincoln stands second to none in the world. In upholding these against one of the greatest attacks upon them that the world has seen, he stands the very first. His brains were as much above the brains of ordinary men as his inches were; the work he did was stupendous; and the way he did it won the admiration of the whole world and the deep gratitude of his countrymen.
To have been born in a log-cabin and to have risen to be the President of one of the greatest countries in the world is much; yet other men also have from humble birth risen to great power. But no man who has so risen has used his great power as Lincoln did; and no man not born on a throne has ever freed four millions of human beings, as Lincoln did. And all the while that he fought the confederacy at the South, he led and guided the people at the North, persuading, convincing, as no other man could do. As an orator he was wonderful; and for clearness and power and greatness his public letters and state papers will live as long as the English language. It was no wonder that his secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, as he stood gazing at Abraham Lincoln dead by the bullet of an assassin, said: "There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.
But intellect alone never blesses.
When the young man, "Abe Lincoln," clerk in a country store, locked the door of his shop and walked miles to return to a customer a few cents that he had overcharged by mistake, he showed that quality which afterward held to him in the dark days of the war the "plain people" of whom he was always so fond, and so appreciative. No matter how much they blamed him-and at times the blame was ter
rible-under it all was the absolute faith that he meant well. Although the title, "honest Abe" was buried under the later honors poured out on him, yet his unswerving fidelity was the real cause of his success.
And when, years after the store-keeping, he gave up the chance of being senator from Illinois -a place he wanted much-because he held it of more importance to speak a truth which might help to lead his country to perceive whither slavery was leading it, and to resistwhen Abraham Lincoln did this, he proved that he held his country and free institutions higher than place for himself, and that he could not be bought to be silent when he ought to speak. That was an honesty which, joined to his great power of mind, made him worthy to lead the nation through its peril, as God gave him to do; and to speak the great word of freedom to the slave and wipe out slavery from our land.
One thing more. A real republic is always a theocracy, which means that it has God for its ruler; or it cannot continue. No man ever believed this more than Abraham Lincoln. God must have been often in his thoughts, for Lincoln came to speak of Him and His help and guidance as the most natural force in life. He had suffered so much and done so much, that the more honors he had put upon him, the more