[From the Avenir National, April 28, 1865.]
Abraham Lincoln receives his reward—the only one doubtless which he would be ambitious to obtain if any ambition whatever could have entered the heart of that great citizen. The old and the new worlds are mourning for his death.
What is particularly striking in the effect produced here by this unexpected intelligence, and which it is important to note, is the conviction universally entertained that the death of a man, however great he may be, can neither disturb public affairs, nor shake the institutions of the American republic. Among a people really free, there are no men who are indispensable, nor men providentially raised up. There are citizens; so much the better for that people if these citizens are great, devoted and honest like Lincoln; but, as there, it is the institutions which make the men; the grandeur of a citizen has never anything detrimental in it to the happiness of the nation.
With the theory of providential men we begin with Washington, but we never know with whom we shall end; with the theory which designates men for the institutions, and which makes especially the greatest of them the pillars of the land, a commencement is made with Washington to end with Lincoln, or rather not to end thus. The list goes on from one honest man to another; from one good citizen to another good citizen. We see Andrew Johnson installed President, twelve hours after the death of Lincoln, bowing to the national representatives, speaking not of his rights, but of his duties, and declaring that he will faithfully perform them.
The government of the United States is the freest, the mildest, and at the same time the strongest on the face of the earth, and what especially distinguishes the United States is not so much the courage with which they achieved their independence, as the wisdom with which they have constituted their liberty. That a people driven to extremities should overturn their oppressors is the most common thing in history; what is more rare is to see a people sufficiently energetic to assert their rights, vigilant and firm enough to preserve them. To conquer liberty, to lose it, to possess it and not know how to enjoy it—that is to say, to be ignorant of the way to be free—such has been the spectacle afforded more than once by European democracy.
But to consolidate liberty after having acquired it, to seek the guarantee of liberty in vigorous institutions, to form around it the impenetrable rampart of [Page 111] good laws, preserving it in this way from its own erratic courses, that is a secret which antiquity never learnt, which Europe knows but little, and which the new world has revealed to the old.
It is in fidelity to principles that the guarantee of liberty is found; they are the light which in great political crises is a guide to men who preside over the destinies of nations, and it is because he has been devoted to liberty, even to martyrdom, that Lincoln is lamented in the two worlds, and that he has, as we said three days ago, his appointed place by the side of Washington.
We acknowledge that he was not what is called a man of genius; and far from regretting it, we must rejoice at it, for it proves what can be done, even without great talents, by loftiness and firmness of character, political honesty, and devotedness to the cause of justice and liberty.