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Reading 3: Abraham Lincoln's Springfield Farewell Address
On February 11, 1861, Abraham Lincoln departed Springfield for Washington, DC and an uncertain presidency of a nation on the brink of civil war. He was met at the Springfield train station by an estimated 1,000 of his friends and neighbors who wanted to wish him well. The following is an account of the farewell as reported in a Springfield newspaper the following day.
Daily State Journal
Long before the hour appointed for the departure of the special train for Mr. Lincoln and suit, hundreds of his friends and fellow-citizens, without distinction of party, had assembled at the station of the Great Western Railway to tender him their respects, grasp once more that honest hand, and bid him God speed on his eventful journey. A subdued and respectful demeanor characterized the vast assemblage. All seemed to feel that they were about to witness an event which, in its relations to the future, was of no ordinary interest.
At precisely five minutes before eight o'clock, Mr. Lincoln, slowly made his way from his room in the station, through the expectant masses which respectfully parted right and left at his approach to the car provided for his use. At each step of his progress towards the car, friendly hands were extended for a last greeting. On reaching the platform of the car, Mr. Lincoln turned toward the people, removed his hat, paused for several seconds, till he could control his emotions, and then slowly, impressively and with profound emotion uttered the following words:
Friends, no one 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 sacred 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 chequered past seems to crowd now upon my mind. Today I leave you; I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved on General Washington. Unless the great God who assisted him, shall be with and aid me, I must fail. But if the same omniscient mind, and the same almighty arm that directed and protected him, shall guide and support me I shall not fail, I 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 serenity and faith, you will invoke His wisdom and guidance for me. With these few words I must leave you - for how long I know not. Friends one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell.
It was an impressive scene. We have known Mr. Lincoln for many years; we have heard him speak upon a hundred different occasions; but we never saw him so profoundly affected, nor did he ever utter an address, which seemed to us as full of simple and touching eloquence, so exactly adopted to the occasion, so worthy of the man and the hour. Although it was raining fast when he began to speak, every hat was lifted and every head bent forward to catch the last words of the departing chief. -- When he said, with the earnestness of a sudden inspiration of feeling, that with God's help he should not fail, there was an uncontrollable burst of applause.
At precisely eight o'clock, city time, the train moved off, bearing our honored townsman, our noble chief, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, to the scenes of his future labors, and as we firmly believe of his glorious triumph. God bless honest ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
Questions for Reading 3
1. What did the reporter mean when he wrote that Lincoln's departure was an event "of no ordinary interest?"
2. According to this reporter, what is the sentiment of the people of Springfield towards Abraham Lincoln?
3. How would you describe Abraham Lincoln's Farewell Address? How long was it? How does Abraham Lincoln's sentiments compare to any prior image or perception of Abraham Lincoln that you may have had before reading the Farewell Address?
4. How does Lincoln compare the challenge of his presidency with that of George Washington? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?