JULY 4, 1951
HYDE PARK—The other day I received an address made by Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 22, 1861, at Independence Hall, Philadelphia. The letter accompanying this address said it was little known and rarely quoted, but that the writer felt it has value at the present time.
This Fourth of July column seems to be the appropriate place for certain things that are pertinent and need saying for all of us on the day when we celebrate the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Here, in part, is what our Civil War President said:
"I am filled with deep emotion to find myself standing in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the patriotism, the devotion to principle, from which sprang the institutions under which we live. You have kindly suggested that in my hands is the task of restoring peace to our distracted country. I can say in return, sir, that all the political sentiments I entertained have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which originated in and were given to the world from this hall.
"I have never had a feeling, politically, that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.
"I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here and framed and adopted that declaration. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the Army who achieved that independence. I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this confederacy so long together.
"It was not the mere matter of separation of the colonies from the motherland, but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world, for all future time. It was that which gave, promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence.
"Now, my friends, can this country be saved on that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.
"Now, in my view of the present aspect of affairs, there is no need of bloodshed and war. There is no necessity for it. I am not in favor of such a course, and I may say in advance that there will be no bloodshed unless it is forced upon the government. The government will not use force, unless force is used against it.
"My friends, this is wholly an unprepared speech. I did not expect to be called upon to say a word when I came here . . . but I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by, and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, to die by."
At this moment of our history I think it is worth celebrating the Declaration of Independence by realizing that it has an application not only to us but to all the world. And it is something priceless that came from us and which we have a duty to translate into, hope and opportunity for the peoples of the world. The truths set forth in the Declaration of Independence are even more explicitly stated in the Bill of Rights and we must be careful that we guard these liberties because they are not only valuable to us but valuable to the people throughout the world.