The complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Miscellanies [Vol. 11]
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882., Emerson, Edward Waldo, 1844-1930.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

In the year 1865, the people of Concord gathered on the Nineteenth of April, as had been their wont for ninety years, but this time not to celebrate the grasping by the town of its great opportunity for freedom and fame. The people came together in the old meeting-house to mourn for their wise and good Chief Magistrate, murdered when he had triumphantly finished the great work which fell to his lot. Mr. Emerson, with others of his townsmen, spoke.

Page 331, note 1. On the occasion of his visit to Washington in January, 1862, Mr. Emerson had been taken to the White House by Mr. Sumner and introduced to the President. Mr. Lincoln's first remark was, "Mr. Emerson, I once heard you say in a lecture that a Kentuckian seems to say by his air and manners, 'Here am I; if you don't like me, the worse for you.'"

The interview with Mr. Lincoln was necessarily short, but he left an agreeable impression on Mr. Emerson's mind. The full account of this visit is printed in the Atlantic Monthly for July, 1904, and will be included among the selections from the journals which will be later published.

Page  613

Page 332, note 1. Mr. Emerson's poem, "The Visit," shows how terrible the devastation of the day of a public man would have seemed to him.

Page 336, note 1. The brave retraction by Thomas Taylor of the hostile ridicule which Punch had poured on Lincoln in earlier days contained these verses:—

"Beside this corpse, that bears for winding-sheet
The Stars and Stripes he lived to rear anew,
Between the mourners at his head and feet,
Say, scurrile jester, is there room for you?
"Yes, he had lived to shame me from my sneer,
To lame my pencil, and confute my pen;—
To make me own this hind of princes peer,
This rail-splitter a true-born king of men."

The whole poem is included in Mr. Emerson's collection Parnassus.

Page 337, note 1. This thought is rendered more fully in the poem "Spiritual Laws," and in the lines in "Worship,"—

This is he men miscall Fate,
Threading dark ways, arriving late,
But ever coming in time to crown
The truth, and hurl wrong-doers down.

Page 338, note 1. The following letter was written by Mr. Emerson in November, 1863, to his friend, Mr. George P. Bradford, who, as Mr. Cabot says, came nearer to being a "crony" than any of the others:—

CONCORD.

DEAR GEORGE, —I hope you do not need to be reminded Page  614 that we rely on you at 2 o'clock on Thanksgiving Day. Bring all the climate and all the memories of Newport with you. Mr. Lincoln in fixing this day has in some sort bound himself to furnish good news and victories for it. If not, we must comfort each other with the good which already is, and with that which must be.

Yours affectionately, R. W. EMERSON.

A year later, he wrote to the same friend:—

I give you joy of the Election. Seldom in history was so much staked on a popular vote—I suppose never in history.

One hears everywhere anecdotes of late, very late, remorse overtaking the hardened sinners and just saving them from final reprobation."

Journal, 1864-65. "Why talk of President Lincoln's equality of manners to the elegant or titled men with whom Everett or others saw him? A sincerely upright and intelligent man as he was, placed in the chair, has no need to think of his manners or appearance. His work day by day educates him rapidly and to the best. He exerts the enormous power of this continent in every hour, in every conversation, in every act;—thinks and decides under this pressure, forced to see the vast and various bearings of the measures he adopts: he cannot palter, he cannot but carry a grace beyond his own, a dignity, by means of what he drops, e. g., all pretension and trick, and arrives, of course, at a simplicity, which is the perfection of manners."