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Library Reading. “The Perfect Tribute,” Andrews.
Magazine Reading. You will be interested in seeing the established version of the “Gettysburg Address.” Draw from the library and bring to class “Lincoln's Gettysburg Address," The Century, for February, 1894; note Lincoln's handwriting; compare the three versions of the address : Lii oln's rst draft, the Associated Press report, and Lincoln's revised autograph copy. Show the accepted version to the class.
No more significant memorial could have been presented to the nation than this. It expresses so much of what is singular and noteworthy in the history of the country; it suggests so many of the things that we prize most highly in our life and in 5 our system of government. How eloquent this little house within
this shrine is of the vigor of democracy! There is nowhere in the land any home so remote, so humble, that it may not contain the power of mind and heart and conscience to which nations yield
and history submits its processes. Nature pays no tribute to 10 aristocracy, subscribes to no creed of caste, renders fealty to no
monarch or master of any name or kind. Genius is no snob. It does not run after titles or seek by preference the high circles of society. It affects humble company as well as great. It pays no
special tribute to universities or learned societies or conventional 15 standards of greatness, but serenely chooses its own comrades,
its own haunts, its own cradle even, and its own life of adventure and of training. Here is proof of it. This little hut was the cradle of one of the great sons of men, a man of singular, delightful,
vital genius who presently emerged upon the great stage of the 20 nation's history, gaunt, shy, ungainly, but dominant and majestic,
a natural ruler of men, himself inevitably the central figure of the great plot. No man can explain this, but every man can see how it demonstrates the vigor of democracy, where every door is open, in every hamlet and countryside, in city and wilderness alike, for the ruler to emerge when he will and claim his leader
ship in the free life. Such are the authentic proofs of the validity 5 and vitality of democracy.
Here, no less, hides the mystery of democracy. Who shall guess this secret of nature and providence and a free polity? Whatever the vigor and vitality of the stock from which he
sprang, its mere vigor and soundness do not explain where this 10 man got his great heart that seemed to comprehend all mankind
in its catholic and benignant sympathy, the mind that sat enthroned behind those brooding, melancholy eyes, whose vision swept many an horizon which those about him dreamed not of
—that mind that comprehended what it had never seen, and un15 derstood the language of affairs with the ready ease of one to the
manner born—or that nature which seemed in its varied richness to be the familiar of men of every way of life. This is the sacred mystery of democracy; that its richest fruits spring up out of
soils which no man has prepared and in circumstances amidst 20 which they are the least expected. This is a place alike of mystery and of reassurance.
It is likely that in a society ordered otherwise than our own Lincoln could not have found himself or the path of fame and
power upon which he walked serenely to his death. In this place 25 it is right that we should remind ourselves of the solid and strik
ing facts upon which our faith in democracy is founded. Many another man besides Lincoln has served the nation in its highest places of counsel and of action whose origins were as humble as
his. Though the greatest example of the universal energy, rich30 ness, stimulation, and force of democracy, he is only one example
among many. The permeating and all-pervasive virtue of the freedom which challenges us in America to make the most of every gift and power we possess, every page of our history serves
to emphasize and illustrate. Standing here in this place, it seems 35 almost the whole of the stirring story.
Here Lincoln had his beginnings. Here the end and consummation of that great life seem remote and a bit incredible. And yet there was no break anywhere between beginning and end,
no lack of natural sequence anywhere. Nothing really incredible 5 happened. Lincoln was unaffectedly as much at home in the
White House as he was here. Do you share with me the feeling, I wonder, that he was permanently at home nowhere? It seems to me that in the case of a man—I would rather say of a spirit,
like Lincoln, the question where he was is of little significance, 10 that it is always what he was that really arrests our thought and
takes hold of our imagination. It is the spirit always that is sovereign. Lincoln, like the rest of us, was put through the discipline of the world—a very rough and exacting discipline for him,
an indispensable discipline for every man who would know what 15 he is about in the midst of the world's affairs; but his spirit got
only its schooling there. It did not derive its character or its vision from the experiences which brought it to its full revelation. The test of every American must always be, not where he
is, but what he is. That, also, is of the essence of democracy, and 20 is the moral of which this place is most gravely expressive.
We would like to think of men like Lincoln and Washington as typical Americans, but no man can be typical who is so unusual as these great men were. It was typical of American life
that it should produce such men with supreme indifference as to 25 the manner in which it produced them, and as readily here in this
hut as amidst the little circle of cultivated gentlemen to whom Virginia owed so much in leadership and example. And Lincoln and Washington were typical Americans in the use they made of
their genius. But there will be few such men at best, and we 30 will not look into the mystery of how and why they come. We
will only keep the door open for them always, and a hearty welcome—after we have recognized them.
I have read many biographies of Lincoln; I have sought out with the greatest interest the many intimate stories that are told 35 of him, the narratives of near-by friends, the sketches at close
quarters, in which those who had the privilege of being associated with him have tried to depict for us the very man himself “in his habit as he lived"; but I have nowhere found a real intimate
of Lincoln's. I nowhere get the impression in any narrative or 5 reminiscence that the writer had in fact penetrated to the heart
of his mystery, or that any man could penetrate to the heart of it. That brooding spirit had no real familiars. I get the impression that it never spoke out in complete self-revelation, and that it
could not reveal itself 'completely to anyone. It was a very 10 lonely spirit that looked out from underneath those shaggy brows
and comprehended men without fully communing with them, as if, in spite of all its genial efforts at comradeship, it dwelt apart, saw its visions of duty where no man looked on. There is a very
holy and very terrible isolation for the conscience of every man 15 who seeks to read the destiny in affairs for others as well as for
himself, for a nation as well as for individuals. That privacy no man can intrude upon. The lonely search of the spirit for the right perhaps no man can assist. This strange child of the cabin
kept company with invisible things, was born into no intimacy 20 but that of his own silently assembling and deploying thoughts.
I have come here today, not to utter a eulogy on Lincoln; he stands in need of none; but to endeavor to interpret the meaning of this gift to the nation of the place of his birth and origin. Is
not this an altar upon which we may forever keep alive the 25 vestal fire of democracy as upon a shrine at which some of the
deepest and most sacred hopes of mankind may from age to age be rekindled? For these hopes must constantly be rekindled and only those who live can rekindle them. The only stuff that
can retain the life-giving heat is the stuff of living hearts. And 30 the hopes of mankind cannot be kept alive by words merely, by
constitutions and doctrines of right and codes of liberty. The object of democracy is to transmute these into the life and action of society, the self-denial and self-sacrifice of heroic men and
women willing to make their lives an embodiment of right and 35 service and enlightened purpose. The commands of democracy
are as imperative as its privileges and opportunities are wide and generous. Its compulsion is upon us. It will be great and lift a great light for the guidance of the nations only if we are
great and carry that light high for the guidance of our own feet. 5 We are not worthy to stand here unless we ourselves be in deed
and in truth real democrats and servants of mankind, ready to give our very lives for the freedom and justice and spiritual exaltation of the great nation which shelters and nurtures us.
NOTES AND QUESTIONS Biographical and Historical Note. Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), twenty-eighth President of the United States, was a native of Virginia. He was educated at Princeton University, and later became president of that institution. He was for some years a teacher of history, and he has written many books on history and government, which are models of good English. In 1911 he became Governor of New Jersey, and in 1913 he entered upon his duties as President of the United States, serving throughout the difficult period of the World War.
This address was delivered September 4, 1916, by Mr. Wilson when the Lincoln birthplace farm near Hodgensville, Kentucky, was presented to the nation and accepted by the War Department. By popular subscription the log cabin itself was inclosed in an imposing granite memorial building.
Discussion. 1. How does Lincoln's life demonstrate "the vigor of democracy”? 2. Discuss “Genius is no snob.” 3. What sentence in the second paragraph describes Lincoln? What do you think of this sentence as an example of saying much in a few words? 4. What are some of the “mysteries of democracy” which Lincoln's life expressed? 5. How do your school and other democratic institutions help you "to make the most of every gift and power you possess”? 6. How does Mr. Wilson explain his feeling that Lincoln was “permanently at home nowhere”? 7. What is the "test of every American”? 8. In what way were Washington and Lincoln typical Americans? 9. Why does Mr. Wilson feel that Lincoln was “a lonely spirit”? 10. In what way might “this cabin” keep alive the hopes of mankind even better than "constitution, doctrines of right, and codes of liberty"? 11. What is your opinion of people who are willing to enjoy the privileges but are not willing to share the duties of the society to which they belong? 12. What is expected of “real democrats”? 13. Which sentence best visualizes for you the occasion—the cabin and the crowds