Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On April 22, 1861

On this day in 1861, President Lincoln met with approximately "twenty highly respectable citizens of Baltimore" who had traveled to see him in person at the White House to request that he halt all travel of Union troops through Maryland.

According to the Evening Star [Washington, DC, 22 April 1861,] Lincoln responded that his goal was simply to secure the capitol of the Union and protect the lives of its citizens.

The newspaper went on to report: "While it is evident that it is the earnest desire of the President to prevent bloodshed in Maryland, he is doubtless unflinchingly determined that, forcibly, if necessary, the communication of this city with the progressing bodies of troops coming to its relief shall be kept open."

Lincoln's reply to the delegation, as reported by the newspapers of that time:

April 22, 1861

You, gentlemen, come here to me and ask for peace on any terms, and yet have no word of condemnation for those who are making war on us. You express great horror of bloodshed, and yet would not lay a straw in the way of those who are organizing in Virginia and elsewhere to capture this city. The rebels attack Fort Sumter, and your citizens attack troops sent to the defense of the Government, and the lives and property in Washington, and yet you would have me break my oath and surrender the Government without a blow. There is no Washington in that--- no Jackson in that--- no manhood nor honor in that. I have no desire to invade the South; but I must have troops to defend this Capital. Geographically it lies surrounded by the soil of Maryland; and mathematically the necessity exists that they should come over her territory. Our men are not moles, and can't dig under the earth; they are not birds, and can't fly through the air. There is no way but to march across, and that they must do. But in doing this there is no need of collision. Keep your rowdies in Baltimore, and there will be no bloodshed. Go home and tell your people that if they will not attack us, we will not attack them; but if they do attack us, we will return it, and that severely.


[1] Hertz, II, 830-31. Although the source of Lincoln's remarks as printed by Hertz is probably a newspaper, the editors have been unable to locate it. Hertz dates the event April 28, 1861, but reports in the Baltimore Daily Exchange and The South, April 23, 1861, indicate conclusively that this reply was made to committee of fifty representing the Young Men's Christian Associations of Baltimore on Monday, April 22. Reports in the Philadelphia and New York papers as well as the Baltimore papers give only fragments of Lincoln's remarks as printed by Hertz, and the editors have reproduced the Hertz text for want of a satisfactory contemporary source.

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