Defense of Lincoln

William Lloyd Garrison

May 20, 1864

Grant that there are many sad things to look in the face; grant that the whole of justice has not yet been done to the negro; grant that here and there grievances exist which are to be deplored and to be redressed; still, looking at the question broadly, comprehensively, and philosophically, I think the people will ask another question—whether they themselves have been one hair’s breadth in advance of Abraham Lincoln? (Applause.) Whether they are not conscious that he has not only been fully up with him, but, on the whole, a little beyond them? (Applause.) As the stream cannot rise higher than the fountain, so the President of the United States, amenable to public sentiment, could not, if he wished to do it, far transcend public sentiment in any direction. (Applause.) For my own part, when I remember the trials through which he has passed, and the perils which have surrounded him—perils and trials unknown to any man, in any age of the world, in official station—when I remember how fearfully pro-slavery was the public sentiment of the North, to say nothing of the South—when I remember what he has had to deal with—when I remember how nearly a majority, even at this hour, is the seditious element of the North, and then remember that Abraham Lincoln has struck the chains from the limbs of more than three millions of slaves (applause); that he has expressed his earnest desire for the total abolition of slavery; that he has implored the Border States to get rid of it; that he has recognized the manhood and citizenship of the colored population of our country; that he has armed upwards of a hundred thousand of them, and recognized them as soldiers under the flag; when I remember that this Administration has recognized the independence of Liberia and Haiti; when I remember that it has struck a death blow at the foreign slave trade by granting the right of search; when I remember that we have now nearly reached the culmination of our great struggle for the suppression of the rebellion and its cause, I do not feel disposed, for one, to take this occasion, or any occasion, to say anything very harshly against Abraham Lincoln. (Loud and prolonged applause.)

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