Chase Previews Gettysburg

A month before Lincoln gave his great speech at Gettysburg, in November 1863, Chase gave a good speech, although much longer, at Indianapolis. Chase had traveled from Washington to Cincinnati, Ohio, to vote in the state election there, in favor of the Union ticket. On the day after the Ohio election, Chase went by train to Indianapolis, giving speeches at small towns along the way. When he reached Indianapolis, he was greeted by a crowd at the train station, and escorted to the State House, outside of which a speaking platform had been erected.

Chase talked about how many men from the slave states, such as Andrew Johnson, had come to oppose slavery and favor emancipation.

“All of them feel that this war was born of slavery, grew by slavery, lives by slavery, and that until slavery dies there can be no peace. All of these men rejoice that in the rebel states when it became clear that slavery stood in the way of the successful prosecution of the war, the President struck it down by the Proclamation.

Is there a man here today who wants it to live again? [shouts of “no, no”] Is there a man here who would have the President shrink from maintaining that Proclamation [“no, no”] Is there anybody here who would consent to the re-enslavement of a single man, woman or child made free by that Proclamation [“no,no”] . . . Is not God’s hand in all this?

Why, gentlemen, this nation had to be born again. Nothing seems clearer to me than that those of us who never desired to touch the institution of slavery in the slave states, but only to prevent its extension beyond state limits, were not moving in the path of God’s providence, and that this war came upon us in order that the nation might be born again into a new life, ennobled and made glorious by justice and freedom.

For what end? It is presumptuous to attempt to penetrate the counsels of Providence, and yet the future may sometimes be seen in the past and in the present; and I cannot help thinking that this country has a great work before it, which it cannot fulfill while it remains a slaveholding country. When the increase of population and the growth of commerce required better means of intercourse than common roads, Macadam was born and invented turnpikes. When the advance of civilization required steam engines, and steamboats, and locomotives, and railways, Fulton and Stevenson were called to the work of invention and construction. When the further progress of human society demanded means by which intelligence could be transmitted from continent to continent, and from ocean to ocean, scores of intellects were set to work to devise modes of instantly communicating thought by light and lightning, until at length Morse invented the magnetic telegraph. And now it seems no less necessary that there should be a great nation in the world, governing itself, loving justice, respecting all rights, prepared for all duties, and hating  nothing but oppression and wrong. Is it a wild belief that now amid the fierce pangs of this war this nation is being regenerated for these great ends, and that the war will end and only end when the regeneration is complete? It was the reverent belief of Washington, that God was in the American Revolution bringing a mighty nation to birth. Am I wrong in the reverent belief that God is in this second revolution, bringing this same mighty nation to a second birth?

When I came to Cincinnati day before yesterday to vote the Union ticket, some one handed me a copy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Some of you may have seen it. Its tone has been somewhat changed in forty-eight hours. But it then said that “Secretary Chase has come to Ohio to vote for Brough, but the man that carries a hod can kill Chase’s vote. This, my countrymen, is the crowning glory of our institutions. [Cheers.] I am glad and proud to know that there is a country in which no man, however high in office or rich in possessions, or distinguished by talents, can give a vote which cannot be balanced by the vote of the poorest man in all the land. [Cheers.] It is to preserve the institutions which secure to the poor man this equal vote that we now wage war. The war will end when that sacred object is fully accomplished.”

Chase’s repeated reference to “born again” and “second birth” are, I think, references to the Gospel, which states that a man must be “born again” to enter Heaven. Lincoln expressed the same point, and made the same reference, in Gettysburg, when he prayed that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”