The President's Message.
If all men divest themselves of the narrow prejudices of party, we presume there would be but one opinion in reference to the honesty of Present Lincoln's views as expressed in his recent message. They might — and, no doubt, would — still differ in reference to the wisdom of its recommendations, and the practicability of carrying them into effect; but as to the honest and patriotic purposes of the man who makes these recommendations, there can be no diversity of belief. But, however desirable such a state of society would be, especially at some momentous a crisis in our national affairs as this, it would, perhaps, be absurd to anticipate either fairness or candor form political opponents in the treatment of questions, on the proper issues to which depend our national existence. And yet, for the sake of the country and the tremendous issues involved, we will hope that patriots, regardless of name of political association and prejudices will come to the consideration of these momentous questions in the spirit demanded by patriotism and earnest humanity.
Though narrow and mercenary partisans have already assailed the Message as a "wretched attempt at sophistry and hood-winking," to an unprejudiced mind, no fact will appear more prominent than that it is the frank, manly and honest utterance of a man thoroughly imbued with a conviction of the vast responsibilities resting upon him, and influenced by a sincere desire to discharge his duty with fidelity to his country and to posterity. "In times like the present, " says Mr. Lincoln, "men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity." This is the great central idea of the message. It is the thought which pervades and permeates the whole.
In Mr. Lincoln's strongly individualized mind, there is no characteristics more strongly marked than a frank, earnest contempt for all sophistry, and a moral courage which carries him to logical results regardless of prejudices and preconceived opinions. No man, not filled with partisan prejudice, who has ever heard him in debate, can have failed to remark his generous liberality to his opponent, conceding all that the most exacting could demand, and often, in the opinion of friends, unjustly and unnecessarily weakening his own cause. And yet, the clearness and completeness with which he strips off the sophistries and disguises of his opponent, and makes the truth stand out in clean and unmistakable colors, is at once a proof of the honesty of the man and the completeness of his clear and inexorable logic.
What Mr. Lincoln was as a reasoner in the arena of politics, he is, with the additional motives to frank and manly dealing, as the Executive of the United States. Interests, such as were never confided in the hands of any man, are entrusted to his keeping. Responsibilities too vast almost for conception, and reaching down through future generations, rest upon him. So far, we believe, as any unprejudiced mind can perceive, there is no pride or self sufficiency manifest in his conduct. There is only apparent a thorough conviction of the importance of the trust reposed in him, and a humble and earnest desire, coupled with an intense solicitude for its faithful execution.
The words with which he closes his message betray this solicitude. When the distinctions of party shall have passed away, and men's minds shall have been cleared of the mists of prejudice, these words will then have become immortal, and will be quoted as the utterances of a man, who, forgetful of all other considerations, labored to save his country from ruin. They will be quoted in other lands as one of the noblest defenses of the rights of man ever uttered:
We cannot escape history. We of this Congress will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery ordeal through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor ro the latest generation. We forget that while we say this, that we know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save. We, eve we, hold the power and bear the responsibility.
In giving freedom to the slave we insure freedom to the free. Honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve, we shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of the earth. Other means may succeed, this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just, a way which, if followed, the world will applaud, and God must forever bless.
Can any patriot read these words and not be inspired with a determination to stand by the executive and constitutional head of the nation?
We shall take occasion to refer to the measures proposed in the message hereafter.