Excerpt of Theodore Roosevelt’s Comments on Lincoln: February 13, 1905

On February 13, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt gave an Address to the Republican Club during the Lincoln Dinner in New York City. As I have mentioned in other posts on this blog site, Roosevelt was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. He would later give a speech at the Lincoln birthplace site when the cornerstone of the memorial building was laid in 1909. It is said that as a young boy (age 5), he witnessed the funeral procession of Lincoln as it made its way through New York City in 1865. It must have made a lasting impression on him! It’s also interesting to note that Roosevelt’s father was an ardent Unionist and supporter of Lincoln but his mother had Confederate sympathies-and came from a slave-holding family. In fact, Roosevelt had maternal relatives that served in the Confederacy. Below is the ending portion of the speech he gave at the 1905 Lincoln dinner. It is noteworthy-even for today:

“I am speaking on the occasion of the celebration of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, and to men who count it their peculiar privilege that they have the right to hold Lincoln’s memory dear and the duty to strive to work along the lines that he laid down. We can pay most fitting homage to his memory by doing the tasks allotted to us in the spirit in which he did the infinitely greater and more terrible tasks allotted to him.

Let us be steadfast for the right, but let us err on the side of generosity rather than on the side of vindictiveness toward those who differ from us as to the method of attaining the right. Let us never forget our duty to help in uplifting the lowly, to shield from wrong the humble, and let us likewise act in a spirit of the broadest and frankest generosity toward all our brothers, all our fellow countrymen; in a spirit proceeding not from weakness, but from strength, a spirit which is resolutely bent on seeing that the Union which Washington founded and which Lincoln saved from destruction shall grow nobler and greater throughout the ages for evermore.

I believe in this country with all my heart and soul. I believe that our people will in the end rise level to every need, will in the end triumph over every difficulty that rises before them. I could not have such confident faith in the destiny of this mighty people if I had it merely as regards one portion of that people. Throughout our land things on the whole have grown better and not worse, and this is as true of one part of the country as it is of another. I believe in the Southerner as I believe in the Northerner. I claim the right to feel pride in his great qualities and in his great deeds exactly as I feel pride in the great qualities and deeds of every other American. For weal or for woe we are knit together, and we shall go up or go down together, and I believe we shall go up and not down, that we shall go forward instead of halting and falling back, because I have an abiding faith in the generosity, the courage, the resolution and the common sense of all my countrymen.”

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