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Abraham Lincoln by James Russell Lowell
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Abraham Lincoln
by James Russell Lowell

THERE have been many painful crises since the impatient vanity of
South Carolina hurried ten prosperous Commonwealths into a
crime whose assured retribution was to leave them either at the
mercy of the nation they had wronged, or of the anarchy they had
summoned but could not control, when no thoughtful American
opened his morning paper without dreading to find that he had no
longer a country to love and honor. Whatever the result of the
convulsion whose first shocks were beginning to be felt, there
would still be enough square miles of earth for elbow-room; but
that ineffable sentiment made up of memory and hope, of instinct
and tradition, which swells every man's heart and shapes his
thought, though perhaps never present to his consciousness, would
be gone from it, leaving it common earth and nothing more. Men
might gather rich crops from it, but that ideal harvest of priceless
associations would be reaped no longer; that fine virtue which sent
up messages of courage and security from every sod of it would
have evaporated beyond recall. We should be irrevocably cut off
from our past, and be forced to splice the ragged ends of our lives
upon whatever new conditions chance might leave dangling for us.

We confess that we had our doubts at first whether the patriotism
of our people were not too narrowly provincial to embrace the
proportions of national peril. We felt an only too natural distrust of
immense public meetings and enthusiastic cheers.

That a reaction should follow the holiday enthusiasm with which