The Worlds Famous Orations. America: II. (18181865). 1906.
III. His Farewell Words in Springfield
Abraham Lincoln (180965)
Born in 1809, died in 1865; began to practise law in 1837; served in the Black Hawk War in 1832; elected to Congress in 1847; the unsuccessful Republican candidate for the United States Senate in 1858; elected President in 1860; issued the Emancipation Proclamation September 22, 1862; reelected President in 1864; entered Richmond with the Federal Army on April 4, 1865; assassinated ten days later.
MY1 friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place and the kindness of this people I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born and one is buried.
I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him I can not succeed. With that assistance I can not fail.
Trusting in Him who can go with me and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
Note 1. Delivered on February 11, 1861, and here given as printed by Nicolay and Hay from the original manuscript, having been written down immediately after the train started, partly by Mr. Lincolns own hand and partly by that of his private secretary at his dictation. Herndon gives a somewhat longer and textually different version of the speech, as printed at the time in a Springfield newspaper:
Friends, no one who has never been placed in a like position can understand my feelings at this hour, nor the oppressive sadness I feel at this parting. For more than a quarter of a century I have lived among you, and during all that time I have received nothing but kindness at your hands. Here I have lived from my youth until now I am an old man. Here the most cherished ties of earth were assumed. Here all my children were born and here one of them lies buried. To you, dear friends, I owe all that I have, all that I am. All the strange checkered past seems to crowd now upon my mind.
To-day I leave you. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon Washington. Unless the great God who assisted him shall be with and aid me I must fail; but if the same omniscient mind and mighty arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support me I shall not failI shall succeed. Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now. To Him I commend you all. Permit me to ask that with equal sincerity and faith you will invoke His wisdom and guidance for me. With these words I must leave youfor how long I know not. Friends, one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell.
Nicolay and Hay, both of whom were with Lincoln at the time, describe the circumstances in which Lincoln made the speech:
Early Monday morning (the 11th) found Mr. Lincoln, his family and suite at the rather dingy little railway station at Springfield, with a throng of at least one thousand of his neighbors who had come to bid him good-by. It was a stormy morning which served to add gloom and depression to their spirits. The leave-taking presented a scene of subdued anxiety, almost of solemnity. Mr. Lincoln took a position in the waiting-room where his friends filed past him, merely pressing his hand in silent emotion. The half-finished ceremony was broken in upon by the ringing bells and rushing train. The crowd closed about the railroad car into which the president-elect and his party made their way. Then came the central incident of the morning. The bell gave notice of starting, but as the conductor paused, with his hand lifted to the bell-rope, Mr. Lincoln appeared on the platform of the car and raised his hand to command attention. The bystanders bared their heads to the falling snowflakes, and standing thus his neighbors heard his voice for the last time, in the city of his home in a farewell address, so chaste and pathetic, that it reads as if he already felt the tragic shadow of forecasting fate.