The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

By the Washingtonians this system of consigning the habitual
drunkard to hopeless ruin is repudiated. They adopt a more
enlarged philanthropy; they go for present as well as future
good. They labor for all now living, as well as hereafter to
live. They teach hope to all-despair to none. As applying to
their cause, they deny the doctrine of unpardonable sin; as in
Christianity it is taught, so in this they teach--"While--While
the lamp holds out to burn, The vilest sinner may return." And,
what is a matter of more profound congratulation, they, by
experiment upon experiment and example upon example, prove the
maxim to be no less true in the one case than in the other. On
every hand we behold those who but yesterday were the chief of
sinners, now the chief apostles of the cause. Drunken devils are
cast out by ones, by sevens, by legions; and their unfortunate
victims, like the poor possessed who were redeemed from their
long and lonely wanderings in the tombs, are publishing to the
ends of the earth how great things have been done for them.

To these new champions and this new system of tactics our late
success is mainly owing, and to them we must mainly look for the
final consummation. The ball is now rolling gloriously on, and
none are so able as they to increase its speed and its bulk, to
add to its momentum and its magnitude--even though unlearned in
letters, for this task none are so well educated. To fit them
for this work they have been taught in the true school. They
have been in that gulf from which they would teach others the
means of escape. They have passed that prison wall which others
have long declared impassable; and who that has not shall dare to
weigh opinions with them as to the mode of passing?

But if it be true, as I have insisted, that those who have
suffered by intemperance personally, and have reformed, are the
most powerful and efficient instruments to push the reformation
to ultimate success, it does not follow that those who have not
suffered have no part left them to perform. Whether or not the
world would be vastly benefited by a total and final banishment
from it of all intoxicating drinks seems to me not now an open
question. Three fourths of mankind confess the affirmative with
their tongues, and, I believe, all the rest acknowledge it in
their hearts.

Ought any, then, to refuse their aid in doing what good the good
of the whole demands? Shall he who cannot do much be for that
reason excused if he do nothing? "But," says one, "what good can
I do by signing the pledge? I never drank, even without
signing." This question has already been asked and answered more
than a million of times. Let it be answered once more. For the
man suddenly or in any other way to break off from the use of
drams, who has indulged in them for a long course of years and
until his appetite for them has grown ten or a hundredfold
stronger and more craving than any natural appetite can be,
requires a most powerful moral effort. In such an undertaking he
needs every moral support and influence that can possibly be
brought to his aid and thrown around him. And not only so, but
every moral prop should be taken from whatever argument might
rise in his mind to lure him to his backsliding. When he casts
his eyes around him, he should be able to see all that he
respects, all that he admires, all that he loves, kindly and
anxiously pointing him onward, and none beckoning him back to his
former miserable "wallowing in the mire."

But it is said by some that men will think and act for
themselves; that none will disuse spirits or anything else
because his neighbors do; and that moral influence is not that
powerful engine contended for. Let us examine this. Let me ask
the man who could maintain this position most stiffly, what
compensation he will accept to go to church some Sunday and sit
during the sermon with his wife's bonnet upon his head? Not a
trifle, I'll venture. And why not? There would be nothing
irreligious in it, nothing immoral, nothing uncomfortable--then
why not? Is it not because there would be something egregiously
unfashionable in it? Then it is the influence of fashion; and
what is the influence of fashion but the influence that other
people's actions have on our actions--the strong inclination each
of us feels to do as we see all our neighbors do? Nor is the
influence of fashion confined to any particular thing or class of
things; it is just as strong on one subject as another. Let us
make it as unfashionable to withhold our names from the
temperance cause as for husbands to wear their wives' bonnets to
church, and instances will be just as rare in the one case as the
other.

"But," say some, "we are no drunkards, and we shall not
acknowledge ourselves such by joining a reformed drunkard's
society, whatever our influence might be." Surely no Christian
will adhere to this objection. If they believe as they profess,
that Omnipotence condescended to take on himself the form of
sinful man, and as such to die an ignominious death for their
sakes, surely they will not refuse submission to the infinitely
lesser condescension, for the temporal, and perhaps eternal,
salvation of a large, erring, and unfortunate class of their
fellow-creatures. Nor is the condescension very great. In my
judgment such of us as have never fallen victims have been spared
more by the absence of appetite than from any mental or moral
superiority over those who have. Indeed, I believe if we take
habitual drunkards as a class, their heads and their hearts will
bear an advantageous comparison with those of any other class.
There seems ever to have been a proneness in the brilliant and
warm-blooded to fall into this vice--the demon of intemperance
ever seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius and
of generosity. What one of us but can call to mind some
relative, more promising in youth than all his fellows, who has
fallen a sacrifice to his rapacity? He ever seems to have gone
forth like the Egyptian angel of death, commissioned to slay, if
not the first, the fairest born of every family. Shall he now be
arrested in his desolating career? In that arrest all can give
aid that will; and who shall be excused that can and will not?
Far around as human breath has ever blown he keeps our fathers,
our brothers, our sons, and our friends prostrate in the chains
of moral death. To all the living everywhere we cry, "Come sound
the moral trump, that these may rise and stand up an exceeding
great army." "Come from the four winds, O breath! and breathe
upon these slain that they may live." If the relative grandeur
of revolutions shall be estimated by the great amount of human
misery they alleviate, and the small amount they inflict, then
indeed will this be the grandest the world shall ever have seen.

Of our political revolution of '76 we are all justly proud. It
has given us a degree of political freedom far exceeding that of
any other nation of the earth. In it the world has found a
solution of the long-mooted problem as to the capability of man
to govern himself. In it was the germ which has vegetated, and
still is to grow and expand into the universal liberty of
mankind. But, with all these glorious results, past, present,
and to come, it had its evils too. It breathed forth famine,
swam in blood, and rode in fire; and long, long after, the
orphan's cry and the widow's wail continued to break the sad
silence that ensued. These were the price, the inevitable price,
paid for the blessings it bought.

Turn now to the temperance revolution. In it we shall find a
stronger bondage broken, a viler slavery manumitted, a greater
tyrant deposed; in it, more of want supplied, more disease
healed, more sorrow assuaged. By it no Orphans starving, no
widows weeping. By it none wounded in feeling, none injured in
interest; even the drammaker and dram-seller will have glided
into other occupations so gradually as never to have felt the
change, and will stand ready to join all others in the universal
song of gladness. And what a noble ally this to the cause of
political freedom, with such an aid its march cannot fail to be
on and on, till every son of earth shall drink in rich fruition
the sorrow-quenching draughts of perfect liberty. Happy day
when-all appetites controlled, all poisons subdued, all matter
subjected-mind, all-conquering mind, shall live and move, the
monarch of the world. Glorious consummation! Hail, fall of
fury! Reign of reason, all hail!

And when the victory shall be complete, when there shall be
neither a slave nor a drunkard on the earth, how proud the title
of that land which may truly claim to be the birthplace and the
cradle of both those revolutions that shall have ended in that
victory. How nobly distinguished that people who shall have
planted and nurtured to maturity both the political and moral
freedom of their species.

This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birthday of
Washington; we are met to celebrate this day. Washington is the
mightiest name of earth long since mightiest in the cause of
civil liberty, still mightiest in moral reformation. On that
name no eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to
the sun or glory to the name of Washington is alike impossible.
Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its
naked deathless splendor leave it shining on.

TO JOSHUA F. SPEED.

SPRINGFIELD, February 25, 1842.

DEAR SPEED:--Yours of the 16th instant, announcing that Miss
Fanny and you are "no more twain, but one flesh," reached me this
morning. I have no way of telling you how much happiness I wish
you both, though I believe you both can conceive it. I feel
somewhat jealous of both of you now: you will be so exclusively
concerned for one another, that I shall be forgotten entirely.
My acquaintance with Miss Fanny (I call her this, lest you should
think I am speaking of your mother) was too short for me to
reasonably hope to long be remembered by her; and still I am sure
I shall not forget her soon. Try if you cannot remind her of that
debt she owes me--and be sure you do not interfere to prevent her
paying it.

I regret to learn that you have resolved to not return to
Illinois. I shall be very lonesome without you. How miserably
things seem to be arranged in this world! If we have no friends,
we have no pleasure; and if we have them, we are sure to lose
them, and be doubly pained by the loss. I did hope she and you
would make your home here; but I own I have no right to insist.
You owe obligations to her ten thousand times more sacred than
you can owe to others, and in that light let them be respected
and observed. It is natural that she should desire to remain with
her relatives and friends. As to friends, however, she could not
need them anywhere: she would have them in abundance here.

Give my kind remembrance to Mr. Williamson and his family,
particularly Miss Elizabeth; also to your mother, brother, and
sisters. Ask little Eliza Davis if she will ride to town with me
if I come there again. And finally, give Fanny a double
reciprocation of all the love she sent me. Write me often, and
believe me

Yours forever,

LINCOLN.

P. S. Poor Easthouse is gone at last. He died awhile before day
this morning. They say he was very loath to die....

L.

TO JOSHUA F. SPEED--ON MARRIAGE CONCERNS

SPRINGFIELD, February 25,1842.

DEAR SPEED:--I received yours of the 12th written the day you
went down to William's place, some days since, but delayed
answering it till I should receive the promised one of the 16th,
which came last night. I opened the letter with intense anxiety
and trepidation; so much so, that, although it turned out better
than I expected, I have hardly yet, at a distance of ten hours,
become calm.

I tell you, Speed, our forebodings (for which you and I are
peculiar) are all the worst sort of nonsense. I fancied, from
the time I received your letter of Saturday, that the one of
Wednesday was never to come, and yet it did come, and what is
more, it is perfectly clear, both from its tone and handwriting,
that you were much happier, or, if you think the term preferable,
less miserable, when you wrote it than when you wrote the last
one before. You had so obviously improved at the very time I so
much fancied you would have grown worse. You say that something
indescribably horrible and alarming still haunts you. You will
not say that three months from now, I will venture. When your
nerves once get steady now, the whole trouble will be over
forever. Nor should you become impatient at their being even
very slow in becoming steady. Again you say, you much fear that
that Elysium of which you have dreamed so much is never to be
realized. Well, if it shall not, I dare swear it will not be the
fault of her who is now your wife. I now have no doubt that it
is the peculiar misfortune of both you and me to dream dreams of
Elysium far exceeding all that anything earthly can realize. Far
short of your dreams as you may be, no woman could do more to
realize them than that same black-eyed Fanny. If you could but
contemplate her through my imagination, it would appear
ridiculous to you that any one should for a moment think of being
unhappy with her. My old father used to have a saying that "If
you make a bad bargain, hug it all the tighter"; and it occurs to
me that if the bargain you have just closed can possibly be
called a bad one, it is certainly the most pleasant one for
applying that maxim to which my fancy can by any effort picture.

I write another letter, enclosing this, which you can show her,
if she desires it. I do this because she would think strangely,
perhaps, should you tell her that you received no letters from
me, or, telling her you do, refuse to let her see them. I close
this, entertaining the confident hope that every successive
letter I shall have from you (which I here pray may not be few,
nor far between) may show you possessing a more steady hand and
cheerful heart than the last preceding it.
As ever, your friend,

LINCOLN.

TO JOSHUA F. SPEED.

SPRINGFIELD, March 27, 1842

DEAR SPEED:--Yours of the 10th instant was received three or four
days since. You know I am sincere when I tell you the pleasure
its contents gave me was, and is, inexpressible. As to your farm
matter, I have no sympathy with you. I have no farm, nor ever
expect to have, and consequently have not studied the subject
enough to be much interested with it. I can only say that I am
glad you are satisfied and pleased with it. But on that other
subject, to me of the most intense interest whether in joy or
sorrow, I never had the power to withhold my sympathy from you.
It cannot be told how it now thrills me with joy to hear you say
you are "far happier than you ever expected to be." That much I
know is enough. I know you too well to suppose your expectations
were not, at least, sometimes extravagant, and if the reality
exceeds them all, I say, Enough, dear Lord. I am not going
beyond the truth when I tell you that the short space it took me
to read your last letter gave me more pleasure than the total sum
of all I have enjoyed since the fatal 1st of January, 1841.
Since then it seems to me I should have been entirely happy, but
for the never-absent idea that there is one still unhappy whom I
have contributed to make so. That still kills my soul. I cannot
but reproach myself for even wishing to be happy while she is
otherwise. She accompanied a large party on the railroad cars to
Jacksonville last Monday, and on her return spoke, so that I
heard of it, of having enjoyed the trip exceedingly. God be
praised for that.

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