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Published by Sharon Anderson

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Published by: Sharon Anderson on Dec 22, 2010
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An address given before the Phi Alpha Literary Society at Illinois Collegeon the Political Legacy of William Jennings Bryan, on November 16, 2010,by John Remington Graham of the Minnesota BarMY FELLOW CITIZENS:
I am particularly grateful to accept induction as an honorary member of PhiAlpha, because, as I understand it, Abraham Lincoln was the first to be thus inductedhonoris causa into this distinguished literary society. As a young lawyer I wasprofoundly influenced in my thinking on the United States Constitution by AlexanderStephens of Georgia, one of the greatest statesmen of the Old South, in hisincomparable treatise in two large volumes entitled
 A Constitutional View of the LateWar Between the States,
National Publishing Co., Philadelphia, 1868-1870. Thosefamiliar with Stephens’ views and their impact on my thinking will perhaps forgiveme for saying that, aside from his correct and penetrating remarks on
 Dred Scott v.Sandford 
, 19 Howard 393 (U. S. 1857), there is not much of which I approve inLincoln’s first inaugural address; that, aside from his perfection of English as is alsofound in his letter to Mrs. Bixby, I cannot swallow the Gettysburg address; and that,aside from his remarks about the need to bind up the nation’s wounds, there is littlewith which I can favorably identify in Lincoln’s second inaugural address. And yet Ihave a deep admiration of Abraham Lincoln, albeit for personal reasons which arevery different from what is commonly felt in this part of the world.
My respect for our 16th President rests upon a little known event in Americanhistory. In my view the finest day in Lincoln’s life was February 3, 1865, aboard thesteamer
 River Queen
off Hampton Roads, Virginia, where he and his secretary of state met to discuss the hope of a peaceful end of then-raging hostilities with aSouthern delegation headed by his old friend Alexander Stephens whom he hadknown some years before as a member of Congress, with whom he had correspondedin a most amicable way after his election as President in hopes of assuringSoutherners of just treatment by his administration, who had given an address to thelegislature of Georgia on the eve of the American Civil War on the importance of preserving the Union by diplomacy and statesmanship if at all possible, and who wasserving as Vice President of the Confederate States at the time of the meeting nearHampton Roads. On that occasion, Abraham Lincoln displayed all the nobility,gentleness, and kindness in his nature. He offered and was then in a position todeliver terms of peace as magnanimous as have ever been advanced to terminate anyarmed conflict. The standard account of the meeting on the
 River Queen
is byAlexander Stephens, who with many other enlightened Southerners then living,including Robert E. Lee and John Breckinridge, agreed in principle and spirit, andwould have concluded peace very rapidly on the terms offered if they had been in aposition to arrange the necessary particulars. I shall not here comment on the detailswhich can be gathered from Stephens’ account, or the obtuse shortsightedness of those who squandered the opportunity which Lincoln then made available. Even so,

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