Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Abraham Lincoln birthday event: February 12, 1921
THE MIDDLESEX CLUB, "LINCOLN NIGHT," AT
HOTEL SOMERSET, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
The Middlesex Club mission statement: True to the Faith of Washington,
Holds fast the Principles of Lincoln, Grant, and Roosevelt
OFFICERS OF THE MIDDLESEX CLUB
Louis A. Coolidge, newspaper correspondent, not directly related to Calvin Coolidge
Henry Cabot Lodge - U.S. Senator, MA
John W. Weeks - Former U.S. Senator, MA
CHARLES NAGEL - Texas born, six children, state representative from MO, served under President Taft as Secretary of Commerce and Labor
[The following are excerpts of Nagel's speech to give you a flavor of what was being said about Abraham Lincoln 92 years ago.]
It is my belief that as time passes Abraham Lincoln's name will be honored more and more. By degrees the twelfth of February will be regarded as the day for the expression of the most solemn political sentiments and convictions. Even more, I believe that the years that have just passed have presented to us problems that can be best solved in the light of the counsel of eternal wisdom, toleration and magnanimity uttered by Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln's life to my mind is like great music. It may be criticized by this man or that, this phase or that may be dwelt upon, brought out, or obscured; but the composition is grasped in its entirety by the mass of the people. No artist and no representation can give its meaning as the people themselves have registered it in their hearts and their minds. Instinctively the people knew him first, and always knew him best.
We ask ourselves what was the thought that gave greatest significance to Lincoln's life. I should say that it was his grasp at the pivotal moment of the meaning of equality. He seized upon the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence at a moment when its fundamental thought was challenged to the danger of our people and our government. Up to that time we had lived in the sweet belief, as we have since been wont to do, that we should be satisfied with promises and with phrases. The Declaration of Independence was a noble instrument, but we had shown by our conduct that we did not quite mean what we said. "All men are created equal." The danger lest that phrase be untrue had been apparent enough. But when the moment of actual test came, it was Lincoln who seized upon the situation to show that this principle must be redeemed if our country was to stand. We cannot, a people cannot be half free and half slave. A house divided against itself can not stand. These plain, obvious truths Lincoln drove home with his persuasive power and undaunted courage until a whole nation was aroused to the moral issue. It was a marvelous triumph for this country that a man like Abraham Lincoln, rising from the very bottom, developed the power to present this great moral issue, and to bring it into such prominence before the whole nation as to make him the popular choice for president, and to decide the nation's fate at the same time.
Lincoln stood for actual equality, not in the abstract, but equality in the concrete. It was then, in the memorable debate with Douglas, that he stated what we ought to remember now, and, ladies and gentlemen, what we must live by today:
(Words of Lincoln)
"We have among us — besides these men descended by blood from our ancestors — perhaps half our people, who are not descendants at all of these men; they are men who have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they can not carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us; but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence, they find that those old men say that 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,' and then they feel that that moral sentiment, taught in that day, evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration; and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together; that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world."
This was his answer to Douglas, who was trying to interpret the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in a narrow or racial sense. In standing for that doctrine in that debate of marvelous ability and boldness, Abraham Lincoln established the one principle upon which the unity of this country, states and people, the development of the genius of our institutions will have to depend. It was no longer a question of great men of English descent. It had become a question of worthy men and women of all lands. And for them it was no longer a question of paper equality, but it had become a question of practical freedom.
He was our greatest purely American President. He started with the lowliest and rose to the highest. He never abused authority. As the power grew in his hands, he became more restrained in its use. He bore famine worthily, but never lost his head at the feast. He never promised in the first person to his people, but he bent his energy and his thought to inspire the people with hope and confidence in their ability to achieve the things that belonged to them. He was a representative man, not to recede with time, but to grow in our esteem as the true standard-bearer of the genius and the hope and the promise of America. We celebrate this day because we have learned to recognize as the one typical great American — Abraham Lincoln.