"Out of the old fieldes,
Cometh al this new corne."—Chaucer.
Comrades of Lee Camp, Ladies and Gentlemen:
By a resolution adopted by the unanimous vote of this Camp, I have been asked to deliver an address on the life and character of Abraham Lincoln, late President of the United States. Believing the request a reasonable one to be preferred by the Camp, and that such a request from the Camp to one of its members is equivalent to a command, I have, with some hesitation, and with greater distrust of my ability to meet the expectations of the Camp, undertaken the fulfilment of the uncongenial and perhaps unprofitable task thus imposed upon me. I wish to state in the outset that what I shall say on this occasion will be 'said in no spirit of carping criticism, with no desire to do injustice to my remarkable subject, and will be as free from sectional prejudice and passion as one who has suffered as I have, by the conduct of Mr. Lincoln and his followers, can make it; and I shall also strive to say what I do say solely in the interest of the truth of history.
"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," is a maxim of the Divine Teacher, and it embodies a principle which should be the "guiding star" of every writer of history. The truth about the cause, the character and conduct of the leaders in the great conflict from '61 to '65 is all that we of the South ask, or have a right to ask, and we should be satisfied with nothing less than the truth about these.Whenever the good character of a person is put in issue, the party avouching that good character challenges the opposite side to show, by all legitimate means, the contrary of the fact thus put in issue. In the war between the States the character and conduct of the leaders on both sides were necessarily involved, and especially was this true of the character and conduct of the official heads of the respective sides. Last year was the centennial of the birth of Jefferson Davis, the civic leader and official head of the Southern Confederacy; the South duly celebrated that centennial