President Lincoln's Last Speech in Springfield — Affecting Reminiscence.
Monday, April 17, 1865.
In the midst of our lamentations over the untimely death of President Lincoln, we deem it not out of place to recall to his sorrowing friends his parting words upon taking leave of them, for four years, to assume the duties of the exalted office to which he had then been elected. It was on the 12th day of February, 1861, that he left this city, but special train, for the National capital. We all remember the sad and impressive scene, which took place at the depot. At each step of his progress towards the cards, friendly hands were extended for a last greeting, and "God bless you" was sent up from nearly every one of the vast assembly gathered there to witness his departure. With sadness and depression, Mr. Lincoln, upon reaching the platform of the cars, turned towards the crowd, removed his hat, paused for some moments as if unable to control his feelings, and then, slowly, impressively and with profound emotion, uttered the following words:
"Friends! No one who has never been placed in a like position can understand my feelings at this hour, NOR THE OPPRESSIVE SADNESS I FEEL AT THIS PARTING. For more than a quarter of a century I have lived among you, and during all that time I have received nothing but kindness at your hands. Here I have lived from my youth, until now I am an old man. Here the most sacred ties of earth, were assumed. Here all my children were born; here one of them lies buried. To you, dear friends, I owe all that I have, all that I am. All the strange, chequered past seems now to crowd upon my mind.
"To-day I leave you. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon General Washington. Unless the Great GOD who assisted him shall be with and aid me, I must fail. But if the same Omniscient mind and the same Almighty arm that directed and protected him, shall guide and support me I shall not fail; I shall succeed. Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now. To Him I command you all — permit me to ask that, with equal sincerity and faith, you all will invoke His wisdom and guidance for me.
"With those few words I must leave you — FOR HOW LONG I KNOW NOT. Friends, one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell."
The scene was most impressive and affecting. The simple and touching eloquence of the great and good man saddened every heart and moistened every eye; and all turned away, as the train moved off, with many misgivings and forebodings for the future. He was, as he said, going to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon Washington. Traitors were then taking up arms against the lawful authority of the Government; and in the midst of the threats, which had been uttered against Mr. Lincoln's life, fears were entertained that he would never reach Washington in safety. This "oppressive sadness" was shared by all his friends. There seemed to be a prophecy in his parting words — "for how long I know not" — and many felt that they were portentous of the dreadful death which has at last overtaken him, in the second term of his office.
"For how long I know not!" It seems evident that Mr. Lincoln contemplated a return to this city — that he wished, at the last, to have his body interred here, in the home of his youth, where "the most sacred ties of life were assumed," where "all his children were born, and where one of them lies buried." We trust what seemed his wishes in this regard may be respected.
"In this trying moment, let us pray that the God of our Fathers may not forsake us." Mr. Lincoln had faith in an overruling Providence. Let us have, likewise; and notwithstanding these terrible and afflicting ordeals through which our country is compelled to pass, all shall yet be well. The great work of crushing a wicked rebellion and restoring a distracted Union, so nearly accomplished by Mr. Lincoln, will be completed, in the providence of God, by his successor in office. The blood of our martyred President will but nerve us to renewed exertions and redoubled efforts.