Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Abraham Lincoln, Vol. II by John T. Morse

Part 4 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

given to his name; and his wish was respected. After this collapse Mr.
Lincoln's renomination was much less opposed by the politicians of
Washington. Being naturally a facile class, and not so narrowly wedded
to their own convictions as to be unable to subordinate them to the
popular will or wisdom, they now for the most part gave their
superficial and uncordial adhesion to the President. They liked him no
better than before, but they respected a sagacity superior to their own,
bowed before a capacity which could control success, and, in presence of
the admitted fact of his overwhelming popularity, they played the part
which became wise men of their calling.

However sincerely Mr. Chase might resolve to behave with magnanimity
beneath his disappointment, the disappointment must rankle all the same.
It was certainly the case that, while he professed friendship towards
Mr. Lincoln personally, he was honestly unable to appreciate him as a
president. Mr. Chase's ideal of a statesman had outlines of imposing
dignity which Mr. Lincoln's simple demeanor did not fill out. It was now
inevitable that the relationship between the two men should soon be
severed. The first strain came because Mr. Lincoln would not avenge an
unjustifiable assault made by General Blair upon the secretary. Then Mr.
Chase grumbled at the free spending of the funds which he had succeeded
in providing with so much skill and labor. "It seems as if there were no
limit to expense.... The spigot in Uncle Abe's barrel is made twice as
big as the bung-hole," he complained. Then ensued sundry irritations
concerning appointments in the custom-houses, one of which led to an
offer of resignation by the secretary. On each occasion, however, the
President placated him by allowing him to have his own way. Finally, in
May and June, 1864, occurred the famous imbroglio concerning the choice
of a successor to Mr. Cisco, the assistant treasurer at New York. Though
Mr. Chase again managed to prevail, yet he was made so angry by the
circumstances of the case, that he again sent in his resignation, which
this time was accepted. For, as Mr. Lincoln said: "You and I have
reached a point of mutual embarrassment in our official relation, which
it seems cannot be overcome or longer sustained consistently with the
public service." This occurrence, taking place on June 29-30, at the
beginning of the difficult political campaign of that anxious summer,
alienated from the President's cause some friends in a crisis when all
the friends whom he could muster seemed hardly sufficient.

The place of Mr. Chase was not easy to fill. Mr. Lincoln first nominated
David Tod of Ohio. This was very ill received; but fortunately the
difficulty which might have been caused by it was escaped, because
Governor Tod promptly declined. The President then named William Pitt
Fessenden, senator from Maine, and actually forced the office upon him
against that gentleman's sincere wish to escape the honor. A better
choice could not have been made. Mr. Fessenden was chairman of the
Committee on Finance, and had filled the position with conspicuous
ability; every one esteemed him highly; the Senate instantly confirmed
him, and during his incumbency in office he fully justified these
flattering opinions.

There were other opponents of the President who were not so easily
diverted from their purpose as the politicians had been. In Missouri an
old feud was based upon his displacement of Fremont; the State had ever
since been rent by fierce factional quarrels, and amid them this
grievance had never been forgotten or forgiven. Emancipation by state
action had been chief among the causes which had divided the Union
citizens into Conservatives and Radicals. Their quarrel was bitter, and
in vain did Mr. Lincoln repeatedly endeavor to reconcile them. The
Radicals claimed his countenance as a matter of right, and Mr. Lincoln
often privately admitted that between him and them there was close
coincidence of feeling. Yet he found their specific demands
inadmissible; especially he could not consent to please them by removing
General Schofield. So they, being extremists, and therefore of the type
of men who will have every one against them who is not for them, turned
vindictively against him. They found sympathizers elsewhere in the
country, sporadic instances of disaffection rather than indications of
an epidemic; but in their frame of mind they easily gained faith in the
existence of a popular feeling which was, in fact, the phantasm of
their own heated fancy. As spring drew on they cast out lines of
affiliation. Their purpose was not only negatively against Lincoln, but
positively for Fremont. Therefore they made connection with the Central
Fremont Club, a small organization in New York, and issued a call for a
mass convention at Cleveland on May 31. They expressed their disgust for
the "imbecile and vacillating policy" of Mr. Lincoln, and desired the
"immediate extinction of slavery ... by congressional action,"
contemning the fact that Congress had no power under the Constitution to
extinguish slavery. Their call was reinforced by two or three others, of
which one came from a "People's Committee" of St. Louis, representing
Germans under the lead of B. Gratz Brown.

The movement also had the hearty approval of Wendell Phillips, who was
very bitter and sweeping in his denunciations of an administration which
he regarded "as a civil and military failure." Lincoln's reelection, he
said, "I shall consider the end of the Union in my day, or its
reconstruction on terms worse than disunion." But Mr. Phillips's
friendship ought to have been regarded by the Fremonters as ominous, for
it was his custom always to act with a very small minority. Moreover he
had long since ceased to give voice to the intelligence of his party or
even fairly to represent it. How far it had ever been proper to call the
Abolitionists a party may be doubted; before the war they had been
compressed into some solidity by encompassing hostility; but they would
not have been Abolitionists at all had they not been men of exceptional
independence both in temper and in intellect. They had often dared to
differ from each other as well as from the mass of their fellow
citizens, and they had never submitted to the domination of leaders in
the ordinary political fashion. The career of Mr. Lincoln had of course
been watched by them keenly, very critically, and with intense and
various feeling. At times they had hopefully applauded him, and at times
they had vehemently condemned what had seemed to them his halting,
half-hearted, or timid action. As the individual members of the party
had often changed their own minds about him, so also they had sometimes
and freely disagreed with each other concerning his character, his
intentions, his policies. In the winter and spring of 1864, however, it
seemed that, by slow degrees, observation, their own good sense, and the
development of events had at last won the great majority of the party to
repose a considerable measure of confidence in him, both in respect of
his capacity and of his real anti-slavery purposes. Accordingly in the
present discussions such men as Owen Lovejoy,[68] William Lloyd
Garrison, and Oliver Johnson came out fairly for him,--not, indeed,
because he was altogether satisfactory to them, but because he was in
great part so; also because they easily saw that as matter of fact his
personal triumph would probably lead to abolition, that he was the only
candidate by whom the Democracy could be beaten, and that if the
Democracy should not be beaten, abolition would be postponed beyond
human vision. Lovejoy said that, to his personal knowledge, the
President had "been just as radical as any of his cabinet," and in view
of what the Abolitionists thought of Chase, this was a strong
indorsement. The old-time charge of being impractical could not properly
be renewed against these men, now that they saw that events which they
could help to bring about were likely to bring their purpose to the
point of real achievement in a near future. In this condition of things
they were found entirely willing to recognize and accept the best
practical means, and their belief was clear that the best practical
means lay in the renomination and reelection of Abraham Lincoln. Their
adhesion brought to him a very useful assistance, and beyond this it
also gave him the gratification of knowing that he had at last won the
approval of men whose friendly sympathy he had always inwardly desired.
Sustained by the best men in the party, he could afford to disregard the
small body of irreconcilable and quarrelsome fault-finders, who went
over to Fremont, factious men, who were perhaps unconsciously controlled
more by mere contradictoriness of temperament than by the higher motives
which they proclaimed.

At Cleveland on the appointed day the "mass convention" assembled, only
the mass was wanting. It nominated Fremont for the presidency and
General John Cochrane for the vice-presidency; and thus again the
Constitution was ignored by these malcontents; for both these gentlemen
were citizens of New York, and therefore the important delegation from
that State could lawfully vote for only one of them. Really the best
result which the convention achieved was that it called forth a bit of
wit from the President. Some one remarked to him that, instead of the
expected thousands, only about four hundred persons had assembled. He
turned to the Bible which, say Nicolay and Hay, "commonly lay on his
desk,"[69] and read the verse: "And every one that was in distress, and
every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented,
gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and
there were with him about four hundred men."[70]

The Fremonters struck no responsive chord among the people. The
nomination was received by every one with the same tranquil
indifference, tinged with ridicule, which the President had shown. In
vain did Fremont seek to give to his candidacy a serious and dignified
character. Very few persons cared anything about it, except the
Democrats, and their clamorous approval was as unwelcome as it was
significant. Under this humiliation the unfortunate candidate at last
decided to withdraw, and so notified his committee about the middle of
September. He still stood by his principles, however, and asserted that
Mr. Lincoln's administration had been "politically, militarily, and
financially a failure;" that the President had paralyzed the generous
unanimity of the North; and that, by declaring that "slavery should be
protected," he had "built up for the South a strength which otherwise
they could have never attained." The nation received the statement
placidly and without alarm.

A feeble movement in New York to nominate General Grant deserves
mention, chiefly for the purpose of also mentioning the generous manner
in which the general decisively brushed it aside. Mr. Lincoln quietly
said that if Grant would take Richmond he might also have the
presidency. But it was, of course, plain to every one that for the
present it would be ridiculous folly to take Grant out of his tent in
order to put him into the White House.

During this same troubled period a few of the Republican malcontents
went so far as to fancy that they could put upon Mr. Lincoln a pressure
which would induce him to withdraw from the ticket. They never learned
the extreme absurdity of their design, for they never got enough
encouragement to induce them to push it beyond the stage of preliminary

All these movements had some support from newspapers in different parts
of the country. Many editors had the like grievance against Mr. Lincoln
which so many politicians had. For they had told him what to do, and too
often he had not done it. Horace Greeley, it is needless to say, was
conspicuous in his unlimited condemnation of the President.

The first indications of the revolt of the politicians and the radicals
against Mr. Lincoln were signals for instant counteracting activity
among the various bodies which more closely felt the popular impulse.
State conventions, caucuses, of all sizes and kinds, and gatherings of
the Republican members of state legislatures, overstepped their regular
functions to declare for the renomination of Mr. Lincoln. Clubs and
societies did the same. Simon Cameron, transmitting to the President a
circular of this purport, signed by every Unionist member of the
Pennsylvania legislature, said: "Providence has decreed your
reelection;" and if it is true that the _vox populi_ is also the _vox
Dei_, this statement of the political affiliations of Providence was
entirely correct. Undoubtedly the number of the President's adherents
was swelled by some persons who would have been among the disaffected
had they not been influenced by the reflection that a change of
administration in the present condition of things must be disastrous.
This feeling was expressed in many metaphors, but in none other so
famous as that uttered by Mr. Lincoln himself: that it was not wise to
swap horses while crossing the stream. The process was especially
dangerous in a country where the change would involve a practical
interregum of one third of a year. The nation had learned this lesson,
and had paid dearly enough for the schooling, too, in the four months of
its waiting to get rid of Buchanan, after it had discredited him and all
his ways. In the present crisis it was easy to believe that to leave Mr.
Lincoln to carry on for four months an administration condemned by the
people, would inflict a mortal injury to the Union cause. Nevertheless,
though many persons not wholly satisfied with him supported him for this
reason, the great majority undeniably felt implicit faith and intense
loyalty towards him. He was the people's candidate, and they would not
have any other candidate; this present state of popular feeling, which
soon became plain as the sun in heaven, settled the matter.

Thereupon, however, the malcontents, unwilling to accept defeat,
broached a new scheme. The Republican nominating convention had been
summoned to meet on June 7, 1864; the opponents of Mr. Lincoln now
sought to have it postponed until September. William Cullen Bryant
favored this. Mr. Greeley also artfully said that a nomination made so
early would expose the Union party to a dangerous and possibly a
successful flank movement. But deception was impossible; all knew that
the postponement itself was a flank movement, and that it was desired
for the chance of some advantage turning up for those who now had
absolutely nothing to lose.

Mr. Lincoln all the while preserved the same attitude which he had held
from the beginning. He had too much honesty and good sense to commit the
vulgar folly of pretending not to want what every one knew perfectly
well that he did want very much. Yet no fair enemy could charge him with
doing any objectionable act to advance his own interests. He declined to
give General Schurz leave of absence to make speeches in his behalf.
"Speaking in the North," he said, "and fighting in the South at the same
time are not possible; nor could I be justified to detail any officer to
the political campaign during its continuance, and then return him to
the army." When the renomination came to him, he took it with clean
hands and a clear conscience; and it did come surely and promptly. The
postponers were quenched by general disapproval; and promptly on the
appointed day, June 7, the Republican Convention met at Baltimore. As
Mr. Forney well said: the body had not to originate, but simply to
republish, a policy; not to choose a candidate, but only to adopt the
previous choice of the people. Very wisely the "Radical-union," or
anti-Lincoln, delegation from Missouri was admitted, as against the
contesting pro-Lincoln delegates. The delegations from Tennessee,
Arkansas and Louisiana were also admitted. The President had desired
this. Perhaps, as some people charged, he thought that it would be a
useful precedent for counting the votes of these States in the election
itself, should the Republican party have need to do so. The platform,
besides many other things, declared against compromise with the rebels;
advocated a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery; and praised the
President and his policy. The first ballot showed 484 for Lincoln, 22
for Grant. The Missouri radicals had cast the vote for Grant; they rose
and transferred it to Lincoln, and thus upon the first ballot he was
nominated unanimously.

There was some conflict over the second place. A numerous body felt, and
very properly, that Mr. Hamlin deserved the approval of renomination.
But others said that policy required the selection of a war Democrat.
The President's advice was eagerly and persistently sought. Messrs.
Nicolay and Hay allege that he not only ostensibly refused any response,
but that he would give no private hint; and they say that therefore it
was "with minds absolutely untrammeled by even any knowledge of the
President's wishes, that the convention went about its work of selecting
his associate on the ticket." Others assert, and, as it seems to me,
strongly sustain their assertion, that the President had a distinct and
strong purpose in favor of Andrew Johnson,--not on personal, but on
political grounds,--and that it was due to his skillful but occult
interference that the choice ultimately fell upon the energetic and
aggressive war Democrat of Tennessee.[71] The first ballot showed for
Mr. Johnson 200, for Mr. Hamlin 150, and for Daniel S. Dickinson, a war
Democrat of New York, 108. The nomination of Mr. Johnson was at once
made unanimous.

To the committee who waited upon Mr. Lincoln to notify him formally of
his nomination, he replied briefly. His only noteworthy remark was made
concerning that clause in the platform which proposed the constitutional
abolition of slavery; of which he said, that it was "a fitting and
necessary conclusion to the final success of the Union cause."

During the ensuing summer of 1864 the strain to which the nation was
subjected was excessive. The political campaign produced intense
excitement, and the military situation caused profound anxiety. The
Democrats worked as men work when they anticipate glorious triumph; and
even the Republicans conceded that the chance of their opponents was
alarmingly good. The frightful conflict which had devoured men and money
without stint was entering upon its fourth year, and the weary people
had not that vision which enabled the leaders from their watch-tower to
see the end. Wherefore the Democrats, stigmatizing the war policy as a
failure, and crying for peace and a settlement, held out an alluring
purpose, although they certainly failed to explain distinctly their plan
for achieving this consummation without sacrificing the Union.
Skillfully devoting the summer to assaults on the Republicans, they
awaited the guidance of the latest phase of the political situation
before making their own choice. Then, at the end of August, their
convention nominated General George B. McClellan. At the time it seemed
probable that the nomination was also the gift of the office. So
unpromising was the outlook for the Republicans during these summer
months that many leaders, and even the President himself, felt that
their only chance of winning in November lay in the occurrence before
that time of some military success great enough to convince the people
that it was not yet time to despair of the war.

It was especially hard for the Republicans to make head against their
natural enemies, because they were so severely handicapped by the bad
feeling and division among themselves. Mr. Wade, Henry Winter Davis,
Thaddeus Stevens, and a host more, could not do otherwise than accept
the party nominee; yet with what zeal could they work for the candidate
when they felt that they, the leaders of the party, had been something
worse than ignored in the selection of him? And what was their influence
worth, when all who could be reached by it knew well their extreme
hostility and distrust towards Mr. Lincoln? Stevens grudgingly admitted
that Lincoln would not be quite so bad a choice as McClellan, yet let no
chance go by to assail the opinions, measures, and policy of the
Republican President. In this he was imitated by others, and their
reluctant adhesion in the mere matter of voting the party ticket was
much more than offset by this vehemence in condemning the man in whose
behalf they felt it necessary to go to the polls. In a word the
situation was, that the common soldiers of the party were to go into the
fight under officers who did not expect, and scarcely desired, to win.
Victory is rare under such circumstances.

The opposition of the Democratic party was open and legitimate; the
unfriendliness of the Republican politicians was more unfortunate than
unfair, because it was the mistake of sincere and earnest men. But in
the way of Mr. Lincoln's success there stood still other opponents whose
antagonism was mischievous, insidious, and unfair both in principle and
in detail. Chief in this band appeared Horace Greeley, with a following
and an influence fluctuating and difficult to estimate, but
considerable. His present political creed was a strange jumble of
Democratic and Republican doctrines. No Democrat abused the
administration or cried for "peace on almost any terms" louder than he
did; yet he still declaimed against slavery, and proposed to buy from
the South all its slaves for four hundred millions of dollars.
Unfortunately those of his notions which were of importance in the
pending campaign were the Democratic ones. If he had come out openly as
a free lance, which was his true character, he would have less seriously
injured the President's cause. This, however, he would not do, but
preferred to fight against the Republicans in their own camp and
wearing their own uniform, and in this guise to devote all his capacity
to embarrassing the man who was the chosen president and the candidate
of that party. Multitudes in the country had been wont to accept the
editorials of the "Tribune" as sound political gospels, and the present
disaffected attitude of the variable man who inspired those vehement
writings was a national disaster. He created and led the party of peace
Republicans. Peace Democracy was a legitimate political doctrine; but
peace Republicanism was an illogical monstrosity. It lay, with the
mortal threat of a cancer, in the political body of the party. It was
especially unfortunate just at this juncture that clear thinking was not
among Mr. Greeley's gifts. In single-minded pursuit of his purpose to
destroy Mr. Lincoln by any possible means, he had at first encouraged
the movement for Fremont, though it was based on views directly contrary
to his own. But soon losing interest in that, he thereafter gave himself
wholly to the business of crying aloud for immediate peace, which he
continued to do throughout the presidential campaign, always
unreasonably, sometimes disingenuously, but without rest, and with
injurious effect. The vivid picture which he loved to draw of "our
bleeding, bankrupt, and almost dying country," longing for peace and
shuddering at the "prospect of new rivers of human blood," scared many
an honest and anxious patriot.

In July and August Mr. Greeley was misled into lending himself to the
schemes of some Southerners at Niagara Falls, who threw out intimations
that they were emissaries from the Confederacy and authorized to treat
for peace. He believed these men, and urged that negotiations should be
prosecuted with them. By the publicity which he gave to the matter he
caused much embarrassment to Mr. Lincoln, who saw at once that the whole
business was certainly absurd and probably treacherous. The real purpose
of these envoys, he afterwards said, was undoubtedly "to assist in
selecting and arranging a candidate and a platform for the Chicago
Convention." Yet clearly as he understood this false and hollow scheme,
he could not altogether ignore Greeley's demands for attention to it
without giving too much color to those statements which the editor was
assiduously scattering abroad, to the effect that the administration did
not desire peace, and would not take it when proffered. So there were
reasons why this sham offer must be treated as if it were an honest one,
vexatious as the necessity appeared to the President. Perhaps he was
cheered by the faith which he had in the wisdom of proverbs, for now,
very fortunately, he permitted himself to be guided by a familiar one;
and he decided to give to his annoyer liberal rope. Accordingly he
authorized Mr. Greeley himself to visit in person these emissaries, to
confer with them, and even to bring them to Washington in case they
should prove really to have from Jefferson Davis any written
proposition "for peace, embracing the restoration of the Union and
abandonment of slavery." It was an exceedingly shrewd move, and it
seriously discomposed Mr. Greeley, who had not counted upon being so
frankly met, and whose disquietude was amusingly evident as he
reluctantly fluttered forth to Niagara upon his mission of peace, less
wise than a serpent and unfortunately much less harmless than a dove.

There is no room here to follow all the intricacies of the ensuing
"negotiations." The result was an utter fiasco, fully justifying the
President's opinion of the fatuity of the whole business. The so-called
Southern envoys had no credentials at all; they appeared to be mere
adventurers, and members of that Southern colony in Canada which became
even more infamous by what it desired to do than mischievous by what it
actually did during the war. If they had any distinct purpose on this
occasion, it was to injure the Republican party by discrediting its
candidate in precisely the way in which Mr. Greeley was aiding them to
do these things. But he never got his head sufficiently clear to
appreciate this, and he faithfully continued to play the part for which
he had been cast by them, but without understanding it. He persistently
charged the responsibility for his bootless return and ignominious
situation upon Mr. Lincoln; and though his errand proved conclusively
that the South was making no advances,[72] and though no man in the
country was more strictly affected with personal knowledge of this fact
than he was, yet he continued to tell the people, with all the weight of
his personal authority, that the President was obstinately set against
any and all proffers of peace. Mr. Lincoln, betwixt mercy and policy,
refrained from crushing his antagonist by an ungarbled publication of
all the facts and documents; and in return for his forbearance he long
continued to receive from Mr. Greeley vehement assurances that every
direful disaster awaited the Republican party. The cause suffered much
from these relentless diatribes of the "Tribune's" influential manager,
for nothing else could make the administration so unpopular as the
belief that it was backward in any possible exertion to secure an
honorable peace.

If by sound logic the Greeley faction should have voted with the
Democrats,--since in the chief point in issue, the prosecution of the
war, they agreed with the Democracy,--so the war Democrats, being in
accord with the Republicans, upon this same overshadowing issue should,
at the coming election at least, have voted with that party. Many of
them undoubtedly did finally prefer Lincoln, coupled with Andrew
Johnson, to McClellan. But they also had anxieties, newly stirred, and
entirely reasonable in men of their political faith. It was plain to
them that Mr. Lincoln had been finding his way to the distinct position
that the abolition of slavery was an essential condition of peace. Now
this was undeniably a very serious and alterative graft upon the
original doctrine that the war was solely for the restoration of the
Union. The editor of a war-Democratic newspaper in Wisconsin sought
information upon this point. In the course of Mr. Greeley's negotiatory
business Mr. Lincoln had offered to welcome "any proposition which
embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and
the abandonment of slavery." Now this, said the interrogating editor,
implies "that no steps can be taken towards peace ... unless accompanied
with an abandonment of slavery. This puts the whole war question on a
new basis and takes us war Democrats clear off our feet, leaving us no
ground to stand upon. If we sustain the war and war policy, does it not
demand the changing of our party politics?" Nicolay and Hay print the
draft of a reply by Mr. Lincoln which, they say, was "apparently
unfinished and probably never sent." In this he referred to his past
utterances as being still valid. But he said that no Southerner had
"intimated a willingness for a restoration of the Union in any event or
on any condition whatever.... If Jefferson Davis wishes for himself, or
for the benefit of his friends at the North, to know what I would do if
he were to offer peace and reunion, saying nothing about slavery, let
him try me." It must be admitted that this was not an answer, but was a
clear waiver of an answer. The President could not or would not reply
categorically to the queries of the editor. Perhaps the impossibility of
doing so both satisfactorily and honestly may explain why the paper was
left unfinished and unsent. It was not an easy letter to write; its
composition must have puzzled one who was always clear both in thought
and in expression. Probably Mr. Lincoln no longer expected that the end
of the war would leave slavery in existence, nor intended that it should
do so; and doubtless he anticipated that the course of events would
involve the destruction of that now rotten and undermined institution,
without serious difficulty at the opportune moment. The speeches made at
the Republican nominating convention had been very outspoken, to the
effect that slavery must be made to "cease forever," as a result of the
war. Yet a blunt statement that abolition would be a _sine qua non_ in
any arrangements for peace, emanating directly from the President, as a
declaration of his policy, would be very costly in the pending campaign,
and would imperil rather than advance the fortunes of him who had this
consummation at heart, and would thereby also diminish the chance for
the consummation itself. So at last he seems to have left the war
Democrats to puzzle over the conundrum, and decide as best they could.
Of course the doubt affected unfavorably the votes of some of them.

A measure of the mischief which was done by these suspicions and by
Greeley's assertions that the administration did not desire peace, may
be taken from a letter, written to Mr. Lincoln on August 22 by Mr. Henry
J. Raymond, chairman of the National Executive Committee of the
Republican party. From all sides, Mr. Raymond says, "I hear but one
report. The tide is setting strongly against us." Mr. Washburne, he
writes, despairs of Illinois, and Mr. Cameron of Pennsylvania, and he
himself is not hopeful of New York, and Governor Morton is doubtful of
Indiana; "and so of the rest." For this melancholy condition he assigns
two causes: the want of military successes, and the belief "that we are
not to have peace in any event under this administration until slavery
is abandoned. In some way or other the suspicion is widely diffused that
we can have peace with union, if we would." Then even this stanch
Republican leader suggests that it might be good policy to sound
Jefferson Davis on the feasibility of peace "on the sole condition of
acknowledging the supremacy of the Constitution,--all other questions to
be settled in a convention of the people of all the States." The
President might well have been thrown into inextricable confusion of
mind, betwixt the assaults of avowed enemies, the denunciations and
predictions of inimical friends, the foolish advice of genuine
supporters. It is now plain that all the counsel which was given to him
was bad, from whatsoever quarter it came. It shows the powerfulness of
his nature that he retained his cool and accurate judgment, although
the crisis was such that even he also had to admit that the danger of
defeat was imminent. To Mr. Raymond's panic-stricken suggestions he made
a very shrewd response by drafting some instructions for the purpose of
sending that gentleman himself on the mission to Mr. Davis. It was the
same tactics which he had pursued in dispatching Mr. Greeley to meet the
Southerners in Canada. The result was that the fruitlessness of the
suggestion was admitted by its author.

As if all hurtful influences were to be concentrated against the
President, it became necessary just at this inopportune time to make
good the terrible waste in the armies caused by expiration of terms of
service and by the bloody campaigns of Grant and Sherman. Volunteering
was substantially at an end, and a call for troops would have to be
enforced by a draft. Inevitably this would stir afresh the hostility of
those who dreaded that the conscription might sweep into military
service themselves or those dear to them. It was Mr. Lincoln's duty,
however, to make the demand, and to make it at once. He did so;
regardless of personal consequences, he called for 500,000 more men.

Thus in July and August the surface was covered with straws, and every
one of them indicated a current setting strongly against Mr. Lincoln.
Unexpectedly the Democratic Convention made a small counter-eddy; for
the peace Democrats, led by Vallandigham, were ill advised enough to
force a peace plank into the platform. This was at once repudiated by
McClellan in his letter of acceptance, and then again was reiterated by
Vallandigham as the true policy of the party. Thus war Democrats were
alarmed, and a split was opened. Yet it was by no means such a chasm as
that which, upon the opposite side, divided the radicals and politicians
from the mass of their Republican comrades. It might affect ratios, but
did not seem likely to change results. In a word, all political
observers now believed that military success was the only medicine which
could help the Republican prostration, and whether this medicine could
be procured was very doubtful.


[64] Arnold, _Lincoln_, 384, 385. Nicolay and Hay seem to me to go too
far in belittling the opposition to Mr. Lincoln within the Republican

[65] See Arnold, _Lincoln_, 385. But the fact is notorious among all who
remember those times.

[66] _Polit. Recoll. 243 et seq._ Mr. Julian here gives a vivid sketch
of the opposition to Mr. Lincoln.

[67] In the _National Intelligencer_, February 22, 1864.

[68] Lovejoy had generally stood faithfully by the President.

[69] N. and H. ix. 40.

[70] I Samuel xxii. 2.

[71] See, more especially, McClure, _Lincoln and Men of War-Times_,
chapter on "Lincoln and Hamlin," 104-118. This writer says (p. 196) that
Lincoln's first selection was General Butler.

[72] Further illustration of this unquestionable fact was furnished by
the volunteer mission of Colonel Jaquess and Mr. Gilmore to Richmond in
July. N. and H. vol. ix. ch. ix.



It is necessary now to return to military matters, and briefly to set
forth the situation. No especial fault was found with General Meade's
operations in Virginia; yet it was obvious that a system quite different
from that which had hitherto prevailed must be introduced there. To
fight a great battle, then await entire recuperation of losses, then
fight again and wait again, was a process of lingering exhaustion which
might be prolonged indefinitely. In February, 1864, Congress passed,
though with some reluctance, and the President much more readily signed,
a bill for the appointment of a lieutenant-general, "authorized, under
the direction and during the pleasure of the President, to command the
armies of the United States."[73] All understood that the place was made
for General Grant, and it was at once given to him by Mr. Lincoln. On
March 3 the appointment was confirmed by the Senate. By this Halleck was
substantially laid aside; his uselessness had long since become so
apparent, that though still holding his dignified position, he seemed
almost forgotten by every one.

Grant came to Washington,[74] arriving on March 8, and there was induced
by what he heard and saw to lay aside his own previous purpose and the
strenuous advice of Sherman, and to fall in with Mr. Lincoln's wishes;
that is to say, to take personal control of the campaign in Virginia. He
did this with his usual promptness, and set Sherman in command in the
middle of the country, the only other important theatre of operations.
It is said that Grant, before accepting the new rank and taking Virginia
as his special province, stipulated that he was to be absolutely free
from all interference, especially on the part of Stanton. Whether this
agreement was formulated or not, it was put into practical effect. No
man hereafter interfered with General Grant. Mr. Lincoln occasionally
made suggestions, but strictly and merely as suggestions. He distinctly
and pointedly said that he did not know, and did not wish to know, the
general's plans of campaign.[75] When the new commander had duly
considered the situation, he adopted precisely the same broad scheme
which had been previously devised by Mr. Lincoln and General McClellan;
that is to say, he arranged a simultaneous vigorous advance all along
the line. It was the way to make weight and numbers tell; and Grant had
great faith in weight and numbers; like Napoleon, he believed that
Providence has a shrewd way of siding with the heaviest battalions.

On April 30, all being ready for the advance, the President sent a note
of God-speed to the general. "I wish to express," he said, "my entire
satisfaction with what you have done up to this time, so far as I
understand it. The particulars of your plan I neither know, nor seek to
know.... If there is anything wanting which is within my power to give,
do not fail to let me know it." The general replied in a pleasant tone:
"I have been astonished at the readiness with which everything asked for
has been yielded, without even an explanation being asked. Should my
success be less than I desire and expect, the least I can say is, the
fault is not with you." When the President read these strange words his
astonishment must have far exceeded that expressed by the general. Never
before had he been thus addressed by any commander in Virginia!
Generally he had been told that a magnificent success was about to be
achieved, which he had done nothing to promote and perhaps much to
retard, but which would nevertheless be secured by the ability of a
general in spite of unfriendly neglect by a president.

On May 4 General Grant's army started upon its way, with 122,146 men
present for duty. Against them General Lee had 61,953. The odds seemed
excessive; but Lee had inside lines, the defensive, and intrenchments,
to equalize the disparity of numbers. At once began those bloody and
incessant campaigns by which General Grant intended to end, and finally
did end, the war. The North could afford to lose three men where the
South lost two, and would still have a balance left after the South had
spent all. The expenditure in this proportion would be disagreeable; but
if this was the inevitable and only price, Grant was willing to pay it,
justly regarding it as cheaper than a continuation of the process of
purchase by piecemeal. In a few hours the frightful struggle in the
Wilderness was in progress. All day on the 5th, all day on the 6th, the
terrible slaughter continued in those darksome woods and swamps. "More
desperate fighting has not been witnessed on this continent," said
Grant. The Union troops could not force their way through those tangled
forests. Thereupon, accepting the situation in his imperturbable way, he
arranged to move, on May 7, by the left flank southerly towards
Spottsylvania. Lee, disappointed and surprised that Grant was advancing
instead of falling back, could not do otherwise than move in the same
course; for, in fact, the combatants were locked together in a grappling
campaign. Then took place more bloody and determined fighting. The Union
losses were appalling, since the troops were attacking an army in
position. Yet Grant was sanguine; it was in a dispatch of May 11 that
he said that he had been getting the better in the struggle, and that he
proposed to fight it out on that line if it took all summer. The result
of the further slaughter at Spottsylvania was not a victory for either
leader, but was more hurtful to Lee because he could less well afford to
have his men killed and wounded. Grant, again finding that he could not
force Lee out of his position, also again moved by the left flank,
steadily approaching Richmond and dragging Lee with him. The Northern
loss had already reached the frightful total of 37,335 men; the
Confederate loss was less, but enormous. Amid the bloodshed, however,
Grant scented success. On May 26 he wrote: "Lee's army is really
whipped.... Our men feel that they have gained the morale over the
enemy.... I may be mistaken, but I feel that our success over Lee's army
is already assured." He even gratified the President by again
disregarding all precedent in Virginian campaigns, and saying that the
promptness with which reinforcements had been forwarded had contributed
largely to the promising situation! But almost immediately after this
the North shuddered at the enormous and profitless carnage at Cold
Harbor. Concurrently with all this bloodshed, there also took place the
famous and ill-starred movement of General Butler upon Richmond, which
ended in securely shutting up him and his forces at Bermuda Hundred, "as
in a bottle strongly corked."

Such was the Virginian situation early in June. By a series of most
bloody battles, no one of which had been a real victory, Grant had come
before the defenses of Richmond, nearly where McClellan had already
been. And now, like McClellan, he proposed to move around to the
southward and invest the city. It must be confessed that in all this
there was nothing visible to the inexperienced vision of the citizens at
home which made much brighter in their eyes the prestige of Mr.
Lincoln's war policy. Nor could they see, as that summer of the
presidential campaign came and went, that any really great change or
improvement was effected.

On the other hand, there took place in July what is sometimes lightly
called General Early's raid against Washington. In fact, it was a
genuine and very serious campaign, wherein that general was within a few
hours of capturing the city. Issuing out of that Shenandoah Valley
whence, as from a cave of horrors rather than one of the loveliest
valleys in the world, so much of terror and mischief had so often burst
out against the North, Early, with 17,000 veteran troops, moved straight
and fast upon the national capital. On the evening of July 10 Mr.
Lincoln rode out to his summer quarters at the Soldiers' Home. But the
Confederate troops were within a few miles, and Mr. Stanton insisted
that he should come back. The next day the Confederates advanced along
the Seventh Street road, in full expectation of marching into the city
with little opposition. There was brisk artillery firing, and Mr.
Lincoln, who had driven out to the scene of action, actually came under
fire; an officer was struck down within a few feet of him.

The anticipation of General Early was sanguine, yet by no means ill
founded. The veterans in Washington were a mere handful, and though the
green troops might have held the strong defenses for a little while, yet
the Southern veterans would have been pretty sure to make their way. It
was, in fact, a very close question of time. Grant had been at first
incredulous of the reports of Early's movements; but when he could no
longer doubt, he sent reinforcements with the utmost dispatch. They
arrived none too soon. It was while General Early was making his final
arrangements for an attack, which he meant should be irresistible, that
General Wright, with two divisions from the army of the Potomac, landed
at the river wharves and marched through the city to the threatened
points. With this the critical hours passed away. It had really been a
crisis of hours, and might have been one of minutes. Now Early saw that
the prize had slipped through his fingers actually as they closed upon
it, and so bitter was his disappointment that--since he was
disappointed--even a Northerner can almost afford him sympathy. So, his
chance being gone, he must go too, and that speedily; for it was he who
was in danger now. Moving rapidly, he saved himself, and returned up
the Shenandoah Valley. He had accomplished no real harm; but that the
war had been going on for three years, and that Washington was still
hardly a safe place for the President to live in, was another point
against the war policy.

* * * * *

Sherman had moved out against Johnston, at Dalton, at the same time that
Grant had moved out against Lee, and during the summer he made a record
very similar to that of his chief. He pressed the enemy without rest,
fought constantly, suffered and inflicted terrible losses, won no signal
victory, yet constantly got farther to the southward. Fortunately,
however, he was nearer to a specific success than Grant was, and at last
he was able to administer the sorely needed tonic to the political
situation. Jefferson Davis, who hated Johnston, made the steady retreat
of that general before Sherman an excuse for removing him and putting
General Hood in his place. The army was then at Atlanta. Hood was a
fighting man, and immediately he brought on a great battle, which
happily proved to be also a great mistake; for the result was a
brilliant and decisive victory for Sherman and involved the fall of
Atlanta. This was one of the important achievements of the war; and
when, on September 3, Sherman telegraphed, "Atlanta is ours, and fairly
won," the news came to the President like wine to the weary. He hastened
to tender the "national thanks" to the general and his gallant soldiers,
with words of gratitude which must have come straight and warm from his
heart. There was a chance now for the Union cause in November.

About ten days before this event Farragut, in spite of forts and
batteries, iron-clads and torpedoes, had possessed himself of Mobile Bay
and closed that Gulf port which had been so useful a mouth to the hungry
stomach of the Confederacy. No efficient blockade of it had ever been
possible. Through it military, industrial, and domestic supplies had
been brought in, and invaluable cotton had gone out to pay for them.
Now, however, the sealing of the South was all but hermetical. As a
naval success the feat was entitled to high admiration, and as a
practical injury to the Confederacy it could not be overestimated.

Achievements equally brilliant, if not quite so important, were quickly
contributed by Sheridan. In spite of objections on the part of Stanton,
Grant had put this enterprising fighter in command of a strong force of
cavalry in the Shenandoah Valley, where Lee was keeping Early as a
constant menace upon Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Three
hard-fought battles followed, during September and October. In each the
Federals were thoroughly victorious. The last of the three was that
which was made famous by "Sheridan's ride." He had been to Washington
and was returning on horseback, when to his surprise he encountered
squads of his own troops hurrying back in disorderly flight from a
battle which, during his brief absence, had unexpectedly been delivered
by Early. Halting them and carrying them back with him, he was relieved,
as he came upon the field, to find a part of his army still standing
firm and even pressing the Confederates hard. He communicated his own
spirit to his troops, and turned partial defeat into brilliant victory.
By this gallant deed was shattered forever the Confederate Army of the
Valley; and from that time forth there issued out of that fair
concealment no more gray-uniformed troopers to foray Northern fields or
to threaten Northern towns. For these achievements Lincoln made Sheridan
a major-general, dictating the appointment in words of unusual

Late as the Democrats were in holding their nominating convention, they
would have done well to hold it a little later. They might then have
derived wisdom from these military and naval events, and not improbably
they would have been less audacious in staking their success upon the
issue that the war was a failure, and would have so modified that craven
proposition as to make it accord with the more patriotic sentiment of
their soldier candidate. But the fortunes alike of the real war and of
the political war were decidedly and happily against them. Even while
they were in session the details of Farragut's daring and victorious
battle in Mobile Bay were coming to hand. Scarcely had they adjourned
when the roar of thunderous salvos in every navy yard, fort, and
arsenal of the North hailed the triumph of Sherman at Atlanta. Before
these echoes had died away the people were electrified by the three
battles in Virginia which Sheridan fought and won in style so brilliant
as to seem almost theatrical. Thus from the South, from the West, and
from the East came simultaneously the fierce contradiction of this
insulting Copperhead notion, that the North had failed in the war. The
political blunder of the party was now much more patent than was any
alleged military failure on the part of its opponents. In fact the
Northerners were beholding the sudden turning over of a great page in
the book of the national history, and upon the newly exposed side of it,
amid the telegrams announcing triumphs of arms, they read in great plain
letters the reelection of Mr. Lincoln. Before long most persons conceded
this. He himself had said, a few months earlier, that the probabilities
indicated that the presidential campaign would be a struggle between a
Union candidate and a Disunion candidate. McClellan had sought to give
to it a complexion safer for his party and more honorable for himself,
but the platform and events combined to defeat his wise purpose. In
addition to these difficulties the South also burdened him with an
untimely and compromising friendship. The Charleston "Courier," with
reckless frankness, declared that the armies of the Confederacy and the
peace-men at the North were working together for the procurement of
peace; and said: "Our success in battle insures the success of
McClellan. Our failure will inevitably lead to his defeat." No words
could have been more imprudent; the loud proclamation of such an
alliance was the madness of self-destruction. In the face of such talk
the Northerners could not but believe that the issue was truly made up
between war and Union on the one side, peace and disunion on the other.
If between the two, when distinctly formulated, there could under any
circumstances have been doubt, the successes by sea and land turned the
scale for the Republicans.

* * * * *

During the spring and summer many prominent Republicans strenuously
urged Mr. Lincoln to remove the postmaster-general, Montgomery Blair,
from the cabinet. The political purpose was to placate the Radicals,
whose unnatural hostility within the party greatly disturbed the
President's friends. Many followers of Fremont might be conciliated by
the elimination of the bitter and triumphant opponent of their beloved
chieftain; and besides this leader, the portentous list of those with
whom the postmaster was on ill terms included many magnates,--Chase,
Seward, Stanton, Halleck, and abundance of politicians. Henry Wilson
wrote to the President: "Blair every one hates. Tens of thousands of men
will be lost to you, or will give a reluctant vote, on account of the
Blairs." Even the Republican National Convention had covertly assailed
him; for a plank in the platform, declaring it "essential to the
general welfare that harmony should prevail in the national councils,"
was known to mean that he should no longer remain in the cabinet. Yet to
force him out was most distasteful to the President, who was always slow
to turn against any man. Replying to a denunciatory letter from Halleck
he said: "I propose continuing to be myself the judge as to when a
member of the cabinet shall be dismissed." He made a like statement,
curtly and decisively, in a cabinet meeting. Messrs. Nicolay and Hay say
that he did not yield to the pressure until he was assured of his
reelection, and that then he yielded only because he felt that he ought
not obstinately to retain an adviser in whom the party had lost
confidence. On September 23 he wrote to Mr. Blair a kindly note: "You
have generously said to me more than once that whenever your resignation
could be a relief to me, it was at my disposal. The time has come. You
very well know that this proceeds from no dissatisfaction of mine with
you, personally or officially. Your uniform kindness has been
unsurpassed by that of any friend." Mr. Blair immediately relieved the
President from the embarrassing situation, and he and his family behaved
afterward with honorable spirit, giving loyal support to Mr. Lincoln
during the rest of the campaign. Ex-Governor Dennison of Ohio was
appointed to the vacant office.

[Illustration: M. Blair]

Many and various were the other opportunities which the President was
urged to seize for helping both himself and other Republican
candidates. But he steadfastly declined to get into the mud of the
struggle. It was a jest of the campaign that Senator King was sent by
some New York men to ask whether Lincoln meant to support the Republican
ticket. He did: he openly admitted that he believed his reelection to be
for the best interest of the country. As an honest man he could not
think otherwise. "I am for the regular nominee in all cases," he bluntly
said, in reply to a request for his interference concerning a member of
Congress; and the general principle covered, of course, his own case. To
the postmaster of Philadelphia, however, whose employees displayed
suspicious Republican unanimity, he administered a sharp and imperious
warning. He even would not extend to his close and valued friend, Mr.
Arnold, assistance which that gentleman too sorely needed. More
commendable still was his behavior as to the draft. On July 18, as has
been said, he issued a call for 500,000 men, though at that time he
might well have believed that by so doing he was burying beyond
resurrection all chance of reelection. Later the Republican leaders
entreated him, with earnest eloquence and every melancholy presage, to
suspend the drafting under this call for a few weeks only. It seemed to
him, however, that the army could not wait a few weeks. "What is the
presidency worth to me, if I have no country?" he said; and the storm of
persuasion could not induce him to issue the postponing order.

Campaign slanders were rife as usual. One of them Mr. Lincoln cared to
contradict. Some remarks made by Mr. Seward in a speech at Auburn had
been absurdly construed by Democratic orators and editors to indicate
that Mr. Lincoln, if defeated at the polls, would use the remainder of
his term for doing what he could to ruin the government. This vile
charge, silly as it was, yet touched a very sensitive spot. On October
19, in a speech to some serenaders, and evidently having this in mind,
he said:--

"I am struggling to maintain the government, not to overthrow it. I am
struggling especially to prevent others from overthrowing it.... Whoever
shall be constitutionally elected in November shall be duly installed as
President on the fourth of March.... In the interval I shall do my
utmost that whoever is to hold the helm for the next voyage shall start
with the best possible chance to save the ship. This is due to the
people both on principle and under the Constitution.... If they should
deliberately resolve to have immediate peace, even at the loss of their
country and their liberty, I know [have?] not the power or the right to
resist them. It is their business, and they must do as they please with
their own."

In this connection it is worth while to recall an incident which
occurred on August 26, amid the dark days. Anticipating at that time
that he might soon be compelled to encounter the sore trial of
administering the government during four months in face of its near
transmission to a successor all whose views and purposes would be
diametrically opposite to his own, and desiring beforehand clearly to
mark out his duty in this stress, Mr. Lincoln one day wrote these

"This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that
this administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so
cooperate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the
election and the inauguration, as he will have secured his election on
such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards."

He then closed the paper so that it could not be read, and requested
each member of the cabinet to sign his name on the reverse side.

In the end, honesty was vindicated as the best policy, and courage as
the soundest judgment. The preliminary elections in Vermont and Maine in
September, the important elections in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana in
October, showed that a Republican wave was sweeping across the North. It
swept on and gathered overwhelming volume in the brief succeeding
interval before November 8. On that momentous day, the voting in the
States showed 2,213,665 Republican votes, to which were added 116,887
votes of soldiers in the field, electing 212 presidential electors;
1,802,237 Democratic votes, to which were added 33,748 votes of soldiers
in the field, electing 21 presidential electors. Mr. Lincoln's plurality
was therefore 494,567; and it would have been swelled to over half a
million had not the votes of the soldiers of Vermont, Kansas, and
Minnesota arrived too late to be counted, and had not those of Wisconsin
been rejected for an informality. Thus were the dreary predictions of
the midsummer so handsomely confuted that men refused to believe that
they had ever been deceived by them.

On the evening of election day Mr. Lincoln went to the War Department,
and there stayed until two o'clock at night, noting the returns as they
came assuring his triumph and steadily swelling its magnitude. Amid the
good news his feelings took on no personal complexion. A crowd of
serenaders, meeting him on his return to the White House, demanded a
speech. He told them that he believed that the day's work would be the
lasting advantage, if not the very salvation, of the country, and that
he was grateful for the people's confidence; but, he said, "if I know my
heart, my gratitude is free from any taint of personal triumph. I do not
impugn the motives of any one opposed to me. It is no pleasure to me to
triumph over any one; but I give thanks to the Almighty for this
evidence of the people's resolution to stand by free government and the
rights of humanity." A hypocrite would, probably enough, have said much
the same thing; but when Mr. Lincoln spoke in this way, men who were
themselves honest never charged him with hypocrisy. On November 10 a
serenade by the Republican clubs of the District called forth this:--

"It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too
strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain
its own existence in great emergencies. On this point the present
rebellion brought our republic to a severe test, and a presidential
election occurring in regular course during the rebellion added not a
little to the strain. If the loyal people united were put to the utmost
of their strength by the rebellion, must they not fail when divided and
partially paralyzed by a political war among themselves? But the
election was a necessity. We cannot have free government without
elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego or postpone a
national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and
ruined us. The strife of the election is but human nature practically
applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case must
ever recur in similar cases. Human nature will not change. In any future
great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as
weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us,
therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom
from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged. But the election, along
with its incidental and undesirable strife, has done good, too. It has
demonstrated that a people's government can sustain a national election
in the midst of a great civil war. Until now, it has not been known to
the world that this was a possibility. It shows, also, how sound and
how strong we still are. It shows that, even among candidates of the
same party, he who is most devoted to the Union and most opposed to
treason can receive most of the people's votes. It shows, also, to the
extent yet known, that we have more men now than we had when the war
began. Gold is good in its place; but living, brave, patriotic men are
better than gold.

"But the rebellion continues; and, now that the election is over, may
not all having a common interest reunite in a common effort to save our
common country? For my own part, I have striven and shall strive to
avoid placing any obstacle in the way. So long as I have been here, I
have not willingly planted a thorn in any man's bosom. While I am deeply
sensible to the high compliment of a reelection, and duly grateful, as I
trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right
conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my
satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the

"May I ask those who have not differed with me to join with me in this
same spirit towards those who have? And now let me close by asking three
hearty cheers for our brave soldiers and seamen, and their gallant and
skillful commanders."

* * * * *

The unfortunate disputes about reconstruction threatened to cause
trouble at the counting of the votes in Congress. Of the States which
had seceded, two, Arkansas and Tennessee, had endeavored to reconstruct
themselves as members of the Union; and their renewed statehood had
received some recognition from the President. He, however, firmly
refused to listen to demands, which were urgently pushed, to obtain his
interference in the arrangements made for choosing presidential
electors. To certain Tennesseeans, who sent him a protest against the
action of Governor Johnson, he replied that, "by the Constitution and
the laws, the President is charged with no duty in the conduct of a
presidential election in any State; nor do I in this case perceive any
military reason for his interference in the matter.... It is scarcely
necessary to add that if any election shall be held, and any votes shall
be cast, in the State of Tennessee, ... it will belong not to the
military agents, nor yet to the executive department, but exclusively to
another department of the government, to determine whether they are
entitled to be counted, in conformity with the Constitution and laws of
the United States." His prudent abstention from stretching his official
authority afterward saved him from much embarrassment in the turn which
this troublesome business soon took. In both Arkansas and Tennessee
Republican presidential electors were chosen, who voted, and sent on to
Washington the certificates of their votes to be counted in due course
with the rest. But Congress jealously guarded its position on
reconstruction against this possible flank movement, and in January,
1865, passed a joint resolution declaring that Virginia, North and South
Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas,
Arkansas, and Tennessee were in such a condition on November 8 that no
valid election of presidential electors was held in any of them, and
that therefore no electoral votes should be received or counted from any
of them. When this resolution came before Mr. Lincoln for his signature
it placed him in an embarrassing position, because his approval might
seem to be an implied contradiction of the position which he had taken
concerning the present status of Tennessee and Arkansas. It was not
until February 8, the very day of the count, that he conquered his
reluctance, and when at last he did so and decided to sign the
resolution, he at the same time carefully made his position plain by a
brief message. He said that he conceived that Congress had lawful power
to exclude from the count any votes which it deemed illegal, and that
therefore he could not properly veto a joint resolution upon the
subject; he disclaimed "all right of the executive to interfere in any
way in the matter of canvassing or counting electoral votes;" and he
also disclaimed that, by signing the resolution, he had "expressed any
opinion on the recitals of the preamble, or any judgment of his own upon
the subject of the resolution." That is to say, the especial matter
dealt with in this proceeding was _ultra vires_ of the executive, and
the formal signature of the President was affixed by him without
prejudice to his official authority in any other business which might
arise concerning the restored condition of statehood.

When the counting of the votes began, the members of the Senate and
House did not know whether Mr. Lincoln had signed the resolution or not;
and therefore, in the doubt as to what his action would be, the famous
twenty-second joint rule, regulating the counting of electoral votes,
was drawn in haste and passed with precipitation.[76] It was an instance
of angry partisan legislation, which threatened trouble afterward and
was useless at the time. No attempt was made to present or count the
votes of Arkansas and Tennessee, and the president of the Senate acted
under the joint resolution and not under the joint rule. Yet the vote of
West Virginia was counted, and it was not easy to show that her title
was not under a legal cloud fully as dark as that which shadowed
Arkansas and Tennessee.

* * * * *

When Mr. Lincoln said concerning his reelection, that the element of
personal triumph gave him no gratification, he spoke far within the
truth. He was not boasting of, but only in an unintentional way
displaying, his dispassionate and impersonal habit in all political
relationships,--a distinguishing trait, of which history is so chary of
parallels that perhaps no reader will recall even one. A striking
instance of it occurred in this same autumn. On October 12, 1864, the
venerable Chief Justice Taney died, and at once the friends of Mr. Chase
named him for the succession. There were few men whom Mr. Lincoln had
less reason to favor than this gentleman, who had only condescended to
mitigate severe condemnation of his capacity by mild praise of his
character, who had hoped to displace him from the presidency, and who,
in the effort to do so, had engaged in what might have been stigmatized
even as a cabal. Plenty of people were ready to tell him stories
innumerable of Chase's hostility to him, and contemptuous remarks about
him; but to all such communications he quietly refused to give ear. What
Mr. Chase thought or felt concerning him was not pertinent to the
question whether or no Chase would make a good chief justice. Yet it was
true that Montgomery Blair would have liked the place, and the President
had many personal reasons for wishing to do a favor to Blair. It was
also true that the opposition to Mr. Chase was so bitter and came from
so many quarters, and was based on so many alleged reasons, that had the
President chosen to prefer another to him, it would have been impossible
to attribute the preference to personal prejudice. In his own mind,
however, Mr. Lincoln really believed that, in spite of all the
objections which could be made, Mr. Chase was the best man for the
position; and his only anxiety was that one so restless and ambitious
might still scheme for the presidency to the inevitable prejudice of his
judicial duties. He had some thought of speaking frankly with Chase on
this subject, perhaps seeking something like a pledge from him; but he
was deterred from this by fear of misconstruction. Finally having, after
his usual fashion, reached his own conclusion, and communicated it to no
one, he sent the nomination to the Senate, and it received the honor of
immediate confirmation without reference to a committee.


[73] The rank had been held by Washington; also, but by brevet only, by

[74] For curious account of his interview with Mr. Lincoln, see N. and
H. viii. 340-342.

[75] In this connection, see story of General Richard Taylor, and
contradiction thereof, concerning choice of route to Richmond, N. and H.
viii. 343.

[76] This was the rule which provided that if, at the count, any
question should arise as to counting any vote offered, the Senate and
House should separate, and each should vote on the question of receiving
or not receiving the vote; and it should not be received and counted
except by concurrent assent.



When Congress came together in December, 1864, the doom of the
Confederacy was in plain view of all men, at the North and at the South.
If General Grant had sustained frightful losses without having won any
signal victory, yet the losses could be afforded; and the nature of the
man and his methods in warfare were now understood. It was seen that,
with or without victory, and at whatever cost, he had moved relentlessly
forward. His grim, irresistible persistence oppressed, as with a sense
of destiny, those who tried to confront it; every one felt that he was
going to "end the job." He was now beleaguering Petersburg, and few
Southerners doubted that he was sure of taking it and Richmond. In the
middle country Sherman, after taking Atlanta, had soon thereafter
marched cheerily forth on his imposing, theatrical, holiday excursion to
the sea, leaving General Thomas behind him to do the hard fighting with
General Hood. The grave doubt as to whether too severe a task had not
been placed upon Thomas was dispelled by the middle of the month, when
his brilliant victory at Nashville so shattered the Southern army that
it never again attained important proportions. In June preceding, the
notorious destroyer, the Alabama, had been sunk by the Kearsarge. In
November the Shenandoah, the last of the rebel privateers, came into
Liverpool, and was immediately handed over by the British authorities to
Federal officials; for the Englishmen had at last found out who was
going to win in the struggle. In October, the rebel ram Albemarle was
destroyed by the superb gallantry of Lieutenant Cushing. Thus the rebel
flag ceased to fly above any deck. Along the coast very few penetrable
crevices could still be found even by the most enterprising
blockade-runners; and already the arrangements were making which brought
about, a month later, the capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington.

Under these circumstances the desire to precipitate the pace and to
reach the end with a rush possessed many persons of the nervous and
eager type. They could not spur General Grant, so they gave their
vexatious attention to the President, and endeavored to compel him to
open with the Confederate government negotiations for a settlement,
which they believed, or pretended to believe, might thus be attained.
But Mr. Lincoln was neither to be urged nor wheedled out of his simple
position. In his message to Congress he referred to the number of votes
cast at the recent election as indicating that, in spite of the drain of
war, the population of the North had actually increased during the
preceding four years. This fact shows, he said, "that we are not
exhausted nor in process of exhaustion; that we are _gaining_ strength,
and may, if need be, maintain the contest indefinitely. This as to men.
Material resources are now more complete and abundant than ever. The
natural resources, then, are unexhausted, and, as we believe,
inexhaustible. The public purpose to reestablish and maintain the
national authority is unchanged, and, as we believe, unchangeable. The
manner of continuing the effort remains to choose. On careful
consideration of all the evidence accessible, it seems to me that no
attempt at negotiation with the insurgent leader could result in any
good. He would accept nothing short of severance of the
Union,--precisely what we will not and cannot give. His declarations to
this effect are explicit and oft-repeated. He does not attempt to
deceive us. He affords us no excuse to deceive ourselves. He cannot
voluntarily re-accept the Union; we cannot voluntarily yield it. Between
him and us the issue is distinct, simple, and inflexible. It is an issue
which can only be tried by war, and decided by victory. If we yield, we
are beaten; if the Southern people fail him, he is beaten. Either way,
it would be the victory and defeat following war.

"What is true, however, of him who heads the insurgent cause is not
necessarily true of those who follow. Although he cannot re-accept the
Union, they can; some of them, we know, already desire peace and
reunion. The number of such may increase. They can at any moment have
peace simply by laying down their arms and submitting to the national
authority under the Constitution.

"After so much, the government could not, if it would, maintain war
against them. The loyal people would not sustain or allow it. If
questions should remain, we would adjust them by the peaceful means of
legislation, conference, courts, and votes, operating only in
constitutional and lawful channels. Some certain, and other possible,
questions are, and would be, beyond the executive power to adjust,--as,
for instance, the admission of members into Congress, and whatever might
require the appropriation of money.

"The executive power itself would be greatly diminished by the cessation
of actual war. Pardons and remissions of forfeitures, however, would
still be within executive control. In what spirit and temper this
control would be exercised can be fairly judged of by the past."

If rebels wished to receive, or any Northerners wished to extend, a
kindlier invitation homeward than this, then such rebels and such
Northerners were unreasonable. Very soon the correctness of Mr.
Lincoln's opinion was made so distinct, and his view of the situation
was so thoroughly corroborated, that all men saw clearly that no
reluctance or unreasonable demands upon his part contributed to delay
peace. Mr. Francis P. Blair, senior, though in pursuit of a quite
different object, did the service of setting the President in the true
and satisfactory light before the people. This restless politician was
anxious for leave to seek a conference with Jefferson Davis, but could
not induce Mr. Lincoln to hear a word as to his project. On December 8,
however, by personal insistence, he extorted a simple permit "to pass
our lines, go South, and return." He immediately set out on his journey,
and on January 12 he had an interview with Mr. Davis at Richmond and
made to him a most extraordinary proposition, temptingly decorated with
abundant flowers of rhetoric. Without the rhetoric, the proposition was:
that the pending war should be dropped by both parties for the purpose
of an expedition to expel Maximilian from Mexico, of which tropical
crusade Mr. Davis should be in charge and reap the glory! So ardent and
so sanguine was Mr. Blair in his absurd project, that he fancied that he
had impressed Mr. Davis favorably. But in this undoubtedly he deceived
himself, for in point of fact he succeeded in bringing back nothing more
than a short letter, addressed to himself, in which Mr. Davis expressed
willingness to appoint and send, or to receive, agents "with a view to
secure peace to the two countries." The last two words lay in this rebel
communication like the twin venom fangs in the mouth of a serpent, and
made of it a proposition which could not safely be touched. It served
only as distinct proof that the President had correctly stated the
fixedness of Mr. Davis.

Of more consequence, however, than this useless letter was the news
which Mr. Blair brought: that other high officials in Richmond--"those
who follow," as Mr. Lincoln had hopefully said--were in a temper far
more despondent and yielding than was that of their chief. These men
might be reached. So on January 18, 1865, Mr. Lincoln wrote a few lines,
also addressed to Mr. Blair, saying that he was ready to receive any
Southern agent who should be informally sent to him, "with the view of
securing peace to the people of our one common country." The two
letters, by their closing words, locked horns. Yet Mr. Davis nominated
Alexander H. Stephens, R.M.T. Hunter, and John A. Campbell, as informal
commissioners, and directed them, "in conformity with the letter of Mr.
Lincoln," to go to Washington and informally confer "for the purpose of
securing peace to the two countries." This was disingenuous, and so
obviously so that it was also foolish; for no conference about "two
countries" was "in conformity" with the letter of Mr. Lincoln. By reason
of the difficulty created by this silly trick the commissioners were
delayed at General Grant's headquarters until they succeeded in
concocting a note, which eliminated the obstacle by the simple process
of omitting the objectionable words. Then, on January 31, the President
sent Mr. Seward to meet them, stating to him in writing "that three
things are indispensable, to wit: 1. The restoration of the national
authority throughout all the States. 2. No receding by the executive of
the United States on the slavery question from the position assumed
thereon in the late annual message to Congress, and in preceding
documents. 3. No cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war and
the disbanding of all forces hostile to the government. You will inform
them that all propositions of theirs, not inconsistent with the above,
will be considered and passed upon in a spirit of sincere liberality.
You will hear all they may choose to say, and report it to me. You will
not assume to definitely consummate anything."

The following day Mr. Lincoln seemed to become uneasy at being
represented by any other person whomsoever in so important a business;
for he decided to go himself and confer personally with the Southerners.
Then ensued, and continued during four hours, on board a steamer in
Hampton Roads, the famous conference between the President and his
secretary of state on the one side and the three Confederate
commissioners on the other. It came to absolutely nothing; nor was there
at any time pending its continuance any chance that it would come to
anything. Mr. Lincoln could neither be led forward nor cajoled sideways,
directly or indirectly, one step from the primal condition of the
restoration of the Union. On the other hand, this was the one
impossible thing for the Confederates. The occasion was historic, and
yet, in fact, it amounted to nothing more than cumulative evidence of a
familiar fact, and really its most interesting feature is that it gave
rise to one of the best of the "Lincoln stories." The President was
persisting that he could not enter into any agreement with "parties in
arms against the government;" Mr. Hunter tried to persuade him to the
contrary, and by way of doing so, cited precedents "of this character
between Charles I. of England and the people in arms against him." Mr.
Lincoln could not lose such an opportunity! "I do not profess," he said,
"to be posted in history. On all such matters I will turn you over to
Seward. All I distinctly recollect about the case of Charles I. is,
_that he lost his head_!" Then silence fell for a time upon Mr. Hunter.

Across the wide chasm of the main question the gentlemen discussed the
smaller topics: reconstruction, concerning which Mr. Lincoln expressed
his well-known, most generous sentiments; confiscation acts, as to which
also he desired to be, and believed that Congress would be, liberal; the
Emancipation Proclamation, and the Thirteenth Amendment, concerning
which he said, that the courts of law must construe the proclamation,
and that he personally should be in favor of appropriating even so much
as four hundred millions of dollars to extinguish slavery, and that he
believed such a measure might be carried through. West Virginia, in his
opinion, must continue to be a separate State. Yet there was little
practical use in discussing, and either agreeing or disagreeing, about
all these dependent parts; they were but limbs which it was useless to
set in shape while the body was lacking. Accordingly the party broke up,
not having found, nor having ever had any prospect of finding, any
common standing-ground. The case was simple; the North was fighting for
Union, the South for disunion, and neither side was yet ready to give up
the struggle. Nevertheless, it is not improbable that Mr. Lincoln, so
far as he personally was concerned, brought back from Hampton Roads all
that he had expected and precisely what he had hoped to bring. For in
the talk of those four hours he had recognized the note of despair, and
had seen that Mr. Davis, though posing still in an imperious and
monumental attitude, was, in fact, standing upon a disintegrated and
crumbling pedestal. It seemed not improbable that the disappointed
supporters of the rebel chief would gladly come back to the old Union if
they could be fairly received, although at this conference they had felt
compelled by the exigencies of an official situation and their
representative character to say that they would not. Accordingly Mr.
Lincoln, having no idea that a road to hearty national re-integration
either should or could be overshadowed by Caudine forks, endeavored to
make as easy as possible the return of discouraged rebels, whether
penitent or impenitent. If they were truly penitent, all was as it
should be. If they were impenitent, he was willing to trust to time to
effect a change of heart. Accordingly he worked out a scheme whereby
Congress should empower him to distribute between the slave States
$400,000,000, in proportion to their respective slave populations, on
condition that "all resistance to the national authority [should] be
abandoned and cease on or before the first day of April next;" one half
the sum to be paid when such resistance should so cease; the other half
whenever, on or before July 1 next, the Thirteenth Amendment should
become valid law. So soon as he should be clothed with authority, he
proposed to issue "a proclamation looking to peace and reunion," in
which he would declare that, upon the conditions stated, he would
exercise this power; that thereupon war should cease and armies be
reduced to a peace basis; that all political offenses should be
pardoned; that all property, except slaves, liable to confiscation or
forfeiture, should be released therefrom (except in cases of intervening
interests of third parties); and that liberality should be recommended
to Congress upon all points not lying within executive control. On the
evening of February 5 he submitted to his cabinet a draft covering these
points. His disappointment may be imagined when he found that not one of
his advisers agreed with him; that his proposition was "unanimously
disapproved." "There may be such a thing," remarked Secretary Welles,
"as so overdoing as to cause a distrust or adverse feeling." It was also
said that the measure probably could not pass Congress; that to attempt
to carry it, without success, would do harm; while if the offer should
really be made, it would be misconstrued by the rebels. In fact scarcely
any Republican was ready to meet the rebels with the free and ample
forgiveness which Lincoln desired to offer; and later opinion seems to
be that his schemes were impracticable.

The fourth of March was close at hand, when Mr. Lincoln was a second
time to address the people who had chosen him to be their ruler. That
black and appalling cloud, which four years ago hung oppressively over
the country, had poured forth its fury and was now passing away. His
anxiety then had been lest the South, making itself deaf to reason and
to right, should force upon the North a civil war; his anxiety now was
lest the North, hardening itself in a severe if not vindictive temper,
should deal so harshly with a conquered South as to perpetuate a
sectional antagonism. To those who had lately come, bearing to him the
formal notification of his election, he had remarked: "Having served
four years in the depths of a great and yet unended national peril, I
can view this call to a second term in no wise more flattering to myself
than as an expression of the public judgment that I may better finish a
difficult work, in which I have labored from the first, than could any
one less severely schooled to the task." Now, mere conquest was not, in
his opinion, a finishing of the difficult work of restoring a Union.

The second inaugural was delivered from the eastern portico of the
Capitol, as follows:--

"FELLOW COUNTRYMEN,--At this second appearing to take the oath of the
presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than
there was at the first. Then, a statement, somewhat in detail, of a
course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration
of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly
called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still
absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little
that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all
else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and
it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With
high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

"On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were
anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it,--all
sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from
this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war,
insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without
war--seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation.
Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than
let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let
it perish. And the war came.

"One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed
generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it.
These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that
this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen,
perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the
insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government
claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement
of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration
which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the
conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should
cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental
and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and
each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men
should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from
the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not
judged. The prayers of both could not be answered,--that of neither has
been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. 'Woe unto the
world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but
woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.' If we shall suppose that
American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of
God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed
time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South
this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came,
shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes
which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we
hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily
pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled
by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be
sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by
another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so
still it must be said, 'The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the
right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the
work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who
shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan,--to do
all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among
ourselves, and with all nations."

This speech has taken its place among the most famous of all the written
or spoken compositions in the English language. In parts it has often
been compared with the lofty portions of the Old Testament. Mr.
Lincoln's own contemporaneous criticism is interesting. "I expect it,"
he said, "to wear as well as, perhaps better than, anything I have
produced; but I believe it is not immediately popular. Men are not
flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose
between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case is to
deny that there is a God governing the world. It is a truth which I
thought needed to be told; and as whatever of humiliation there is in it
falls most directly on myself, I thought others might afford for me to
tell it."



On January 1, 1863, when the President issued the Proclamation of
Emancipation, he stepped to the uttermost boundary of his authority in
the direction of the abolition of slavery. Indeed a large proportion of
the people believed that he had trespassed beyond that boundary; and
among the defenders of the measure there were many who felt bound to
maintain it as a legitimate exercise of the war power, while in their
inmost souls they thought that its real basis of justification lay in
its intrinsic righteousness. Perhaps the President himself was somewhat
of this way of thinking. He once said: "I felt that measure, otherwise
unconstitutional, might become lawful by becoming indispensable to the
preservation of the Constitution through the preservation of the
Union.... I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of
either surrendering the Union, and with it the Constitution, or of
laying strong hand upon the colored element." Time, however, proved that
the act had in fact the character which Mr. Lincoln attributed to it as
properly a war measure. It attracted the enlistment of negroes, chiefly
Southern negroes, in the army; and though to the end of the war the
fighting value of negro troops was regarded as questionable, yet they
were certainly available for garrisons and for many duties which would
otherwise have absorbed great numbers of white soldiers. Thus, as the
President said, the question became calculable mathematically, like
horse-power in a mechanical problem. The force of able-bodied Southern
negroes soon reached 200,000, of whom most were in the regular military
service, and the rest were laborers with the armies. "We have the men,"
said Mr. Lincoln, "and we could not have had them without the measure."
Take these men from us, "and put them in the battlefield or cornfield
against us, and we should be compelled to abandon the war in three

But the proclamation was operative only upon certain individuals. The
President's emancipatory power covered only those persons (with,
perhaps, their families) whose freedom would be a military loss to the
South and a military gain to the North in the pending war. He had no
power to touch the _institution of slavery_. That survived, for the
future, and must survive in spite of anything that he alone, as
President, could do. Nevertheless, in designing movements for its
permanent destruction he was not less earnest than were the radicals and
extremists, though he was unable to share their contempt for legalities
and for public opinion. It has been shown how strong was his desire
that legislative action for abolition should be voluntarily initiated
among the border slave States themselves. This would save their pride,
and also would put a decisive end to all chance of their ever allying
themselves with the Confederacy. He was alert to promote this purpose
whenever and wherever he conceived that any opportunity offered for
giving the first impulse. In time rehabilitated governments of some
States managed with more or less show of regularity to accomplish the
reform. But it was rather a forced transaction, having behind it an
uncomfortably small proportion of the adult male population of the
several States; and by and by the work, thus done, might be undone; for
such action was lawfully revocable by subsequent legislatures or
conventions, which bodies would be just as potent at any future time to
reestablish slavery as the present bodies were now potent to
disestablish it. It was entirely possible that reconstruction would
leave the right of suffrage in such shape that in some States
pro-slavery men might in time regain control.

In short, the only absolute eradicating cure was a constitutional
amendment;[77] and, therefore, it was towards securing this that the
President bent all his energies. He could use, of course, only personal
influence, not official authority; for the business, as such, lay with
Congress. In December, 1863, motions for such an amendment were
introduced in the House; and in January, 1864, like resolutions were
offered in the Senate. The debate in the Senate was short; it opened on
March 28, and the vote was taken April 8; it stood 38 ayes, 6 noes. This
was gratifying; but unfortunately the party of amendment had to face a
very different condition of feeling in the House. The President, says
Mr. Arnold, "very often, with the friends of the measure, canvassed the
House to see if the requisite number could be obtained, but we could
never count a two-thirds vote." The debate began on March 19; not until
June 15 was the vote taken, and then it showed 93 ayes, 65 noes, being a
discouraging deficiency of 27 beneath the requisite two thirds.
Thereupon Ashley of Ohio changed his vote to the negative, and then
moved a reconsideration, which left the question to come up again in the
next session. Practically, therefore, at the adjournment of Congress,
the amendment was left as an issue before the people in the political
campaign of the summer of 1864; and in that campaign it was second only
to the controlling question of peace or war.

Mr. Lincoln, taking care to omit no effort in this business, sent for
Senator Morgan, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, which
was to make the Republican nomination for the presidency and to frame
the Republican platform, and said to him: "I want you to mention in your
speech, when you call the convention to order, as its keynote, and to
put into the platform, as the keystone, the amendment of the
Constitution abolishing and prohibiting slavery forever." Accordingly
the third plank in that platform declared that slavery was the cause and
the strength of the rebellion, that it was "hostile to the principle of
republican government," and that the "national safety demanded its utter
and complete extirpation from the soil of the Republic," and that to
this end the Constitution ought to be so amended as to "terminate and
forever prohibit the existence of slavery within the limits or the
jurisdiction of the United States." Thus at the special request of the
President the issue was distinctly presented to the voters of the
country. The Copperheads, the conservatives, and reactionaries, and many
of the war Democrats, promptly opened their batteries against both the
man and the measure.

The Copperhead Democracy, as usual, went so far as to lose force; they
insisted that the Emancipation Proclamation should be rescinded, and all
ex-slaves restored to their former masters. This, in their opinion,
would touch, a conciliatory chord in Southern breasts, and might lead to
pacification. That even pro-slavery Northerners should urgently advocate
a proposition at once so cruel and so disgraceful is hardly credible.
Yet it was reiterated strenuously, and again and again Mr. Lincoln had
to repeat his decisive and indignant repudiation of it. In the message
to Congress, December, 1863, he said that to abandon the freedmen now
would be "a cruel and astounding breach of faith.... I shall not attempt
to retract or modify the Emancipation Proclamation, nor shall I return
to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or
by any of the acts of Congress." In May, 1864, he spurned the absurdity
of depending "upon coaxing, flattery, and concession to get them [the
Secessionists] back into the Union." He said: "There have been men base
enough to propose to me to return to slavery our black warriors of Port
Hudson and Olustee, and thus win the respect of the masters they fought.
Should I do so, I should deserve to be damned in time and eternity. Come
what will, I will keep my faith with friend and foe." He meant never to
be misunderstood on this point. Recurring to it after the election, in
his message to Congress in December, 1864, he quoted his language of the
year before and added: "If the people should, by whatever mode or means,
make it an executive duty to reinslave such persons, another, and not I,
must be their instrument to perform it." All this was plain and
spirited. But it is impossible to praise Mr. Lincoln for contemning a
course which it is surprising to find any person sufficiently ignoble to
recommend. It was, nevertheless, recommended by many, and thus we may
partly see what extremities of feeling were produced by this most
debasing question which has ever entered into the politics of a
civilized nation.

The anxieties of the war Democrats, who feared that Mr. Lincoln was
making abolition an essential purpose of the war, have already been set
forth. In truth he was not making it so, but by the drifting of events
and the ensnarlment of facts it had practically become so without his
responsibility. His many utterances which survive seem to indicate that,
having from the beginning hoped that the war would put an end to
slavery, he now knew that it must do so. He saw that this conclusion lay
at the end of the natural course of events, also that it was not a goal
which was set there by those to whom it was welcome, or which could be
taken away by those to whom it was unwelcome. It was there by the
absolute and uncontrollable logic of facts. His function was only to
take care that this natural course should not be obstructed, and this
established goal should not be maliciously removed away out of reach.
When he was asked why his expressions of willingness to negotiate with
the Confederate leaders stipulated not only for the restoration of the
Union but also for the enfranchisement of all slaves, he could only
reply by intimating that the yoking of the two requirements was
unobjectionable from any point of view, because he was entirely assured
that Mr. Davis would never agree to reunion, either with or without
slavery. Since, therefore, Union could not be had until after the South
had been whipped, it would be just as well to demand abolition also; for
the rebels would not then be in a position to refuse it, and we should
practically buy both in one transaction. To him it seemed an appalling
blunder to pay the price of this great war simply in order to cure this
especial outbreak of the great national malady, and still to leave
existing in the body politic that which had induced this dissension and
would inevitably afterward induce others like unto it. The excision of
the cause was the only intelligent action. Yet when pushed to the point
of declaring what he would do in the supposed case of an opportunity to
restore the Union, with slavery, he said: "My enemies pretend I am now
carrying on the war for the sole purpose of abolition. So long as I am
President, it shall be carried on for the sole purpose of restoring the
Union." The duty of his official oath compelled him to say this, but he
often and plainly acknowledged that he had no fear of ever being brought
face to face with the painful necessity of saving both the Union and

It is worth noticing that the persons who charged upon the President
that he would never assent to a peace which was not founded upon the
abolition of slavery as one of its conditions or stipulations, never
distinctly stated by what right he could insist upon such a condition or
stipulation, or by what process he could establish it or introduce it
into a settlement. Mr. Lincoln certainly never had any thought of
negotiating with the seceded States as an independent country, and
making with them a treaty which could embody an article establishing
emancipation and permanent abolition. He had not power to enter with
them into an agreement of an international character, nor, if they
should offer to return to the Union, retaining their slave institutions,
could he lawfully reject them. The endeavor would be an act of
usurpation, if it was true that no State could go out. The plain truth
was that, from any save a revolutionary point of view, the
constitutional amendment was the only method of effecting the
consummation permanently. When, in June, 1864, Mr. Lincoln said that
abolition of slavery was "a fitting and necessary condition to the final
success of the Union cause," he was obviously speaking of what was
logically "fitting and necessary," and in the same sentence he clearly
specified a constitutional amendment as the practical process. There is
no indication that he ever had any other scheme.

In effect, in electing members of Congress in the autumn of 1864, the
people passed upon the amendment. Votes for Republicans were votes for
the amendment, and the great Republican gain was fairly construed as an
expression of the popular favor towards the measure. But though the
elections thus made the permanent abolition of slavery a reasonably sure
event in the future, yet delay always has dangers. The new Congress
would not meet for over a year. In the interval the Confederacy might
collapse, and abolition become ensnarled with considerations of
reconciliation, of reconstruction, of politics generally. All friends
of the measure, therefore, agreed on the desirability of disposing of
the matter while the present Congress was in the way with it, if this
could possibly be compassed. That it could be carried only by the aid of
a contingent of Democratic votes did not so much discourage them as
stimulate their zeal; for such votes would prevent the mischief of a
partisan or sectional aspect. In his message to Congress, December 6,
1864, the President referred to the measure which, after its failure in
the preceding session, was now to come up again, by virtue of that
shrewd motion for reconsideration. Intelligibly, though not in terms, he
appealed for Democratic help. He said:--

"Although the present is the same Congress and nearly the same members,
and without questioning the wisdom or patriotism of those who stood in
opposition, I venture to recommend the reconsideration and passage of
the measure at the present session. Of course the abstract question is
not changed; but an intervening election shows, almost certainly, that
the next Congress will pass the measure if this does not. Hence there is
only a question of _time_ as to when the proposed amendment will go to
the States for their action; and as it is so to go, at all events, may
we not agree that the sooner the better. It is not claimed that the
election has imposed a duty on members to change their views or their
votes, any further than, as an additional element to be considered,
their judgment may be affected by it. It is the voice of the people now
for the first time heard upon the question. In a great national crisis
like ours unanimity of action among those seeking a common end is very
desirable,--almost indispensable. And yet no approach to such unanimity
is attainable unless some deference shall be paid to the will of the
majority. In this case the common end is the maintenance of the Union,
and among the means to secure that end, such will, through the election,
is more clearly declared in favor of such a constitutional amendment."

In the closing sentence the word "maintenance" is significant. So far as
the _restoration_ of Union went, the proclamation had done nearly all
that could be done. This amendment was to insure the future
_maintenance_ of the Union by cutting out the cause of disunion.

The President did not rest content with merely reiterating sentiments
which every man had long known that he held. Of such influence as he
could properly exert among members of the House he was not chary. The
debate began on January 6, 1865, and he followed it closely and eagerly.
On the 27th it was agreed that the voting should take place on the
following day. No one yet felt sure of the comparative strength of the
friends and opponents of the measure, and up to the actual taking of the
vote the result was uncertain. We knew, says Arnold, "we should get some
Democratic votes; but whether enough, none could tell." Ex-Governor
English of Connecticut, a Democrat, gave the first Aye from his party;
whereupon loud cheers burst forth; then ten others followed his example.
Eight more Democrats gave their indirect aid by being absent when their
names were called. Thus both the great parties united to establish the
freedom of all men in the United States. As the roll-call drew to the
end, those who had been anxiously keeping tally saw that the measure had
been carried. The speaker, Mr. Colfax, announced the result; ayes 119,
noes 56, and declared that "the joint resolution is passed." At once
there arose from the distinguished crowd an irrepressible outburst of
triumphant applause; there was no use in rapping to order, or trying to
turn to other business, and a motion to adjourn, "in honor of this
immortal and sublime event," was promptly made and carried. At the same
moment, on Capitol Hill, artillery roared loud salutation to the edict
of freedom.

The crowds poured to the White House, and Mr. Lincoln, in a few words,
of which the simplicity fitted well with the grandness of the occasion,
congratulated them, in homely phrase, that "the great job is ended."
Yet, though this was substantially true, he did not live to see the
strictly legal completion. Ratification by the States was still
necessary, and though this began at once, and proceeded in due course as
their legislatures came into session, yet the full three quarters of the
whole number had not passed the requisite resolutions at the time of
his death. This, however, was mere matter of form. The question was
really settled when Mr. Colfax announced the vote of the


[77] A constitutional amendment requires for its passage a two thirds
vote in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and ratification by
three fourths of the States.

[78] Thirteenth Amendment. _First_: Neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have
been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place
subject to their jurisdiction. _Second_: Congress shall have power to
enforce this article by appropriate legislation.



From the Capitol, where he had spoken his inaugural on March 4, 1865,
Mr. Lincoln came back to the White House with less than five weeks of
life before him; yet for those scant weeks most men would have gladly
exchanged their full lifetimes. To the nation they came fraught with all
the intoxicating triumph of victory; but upon the President they laid
the vast responsibility of rightly shaping and using success; and it was
far less easy to end the war wisely than it had been to conduct it
vigorously. Two populations, with numbers and resources amply enough for
two powerful nations, after four years of sanguinary, relentless
conflict, in which each side had been inspired and upheld by a faith
like that of the first crusaders, were now to be reunited as fellow
citizens, and to be fused into a homogeneous body politic based upon
universal suffrage. As if this did not verge closely enough on the
impossible, millions of people of a hitherto servile race were suddenly
established in the new status of freedom. It was very plain that the
problems which were advancing with approaching peace were more
perplexing than those which were disappearing with departing war. Much
would depend upon the spirit and terms of the closing of hostilities.

If the limits of the President's authority were vague, they might for
that very reason be all the more extensive; and, wherever they might be
set, he soon made it certain that he designed to part with no power
which he possessed. On the evening of March 3 he went up, as usual, to
the Capitol, to sign bills during the closing hours of the last session
of the Thirty-eighth Congress. To him thus engaged was handed a telegram
from General Grant, saying that General Lee had suggested an interview
between himself and Grant in the hope that, upon an interchange of
views, they might reach a satisfactory adjustment of the present unhappy
difficulties through a military convention. Immediately, exchanging no
word with any one, he wrote:--

"The President directs me to say that he wishes you to have no
conference with General Lee, unless it be for the capitulation of
General Lee's army, or on some minor or purely military matter. He
instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon
any political questions. Such questions the President holds in his own
hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions.
Meanwhile, you are to press to the utmost your military advantages."

This reply he showed to Seward, then handed it to Stanton and ordered
him to sign and dispatch it at once.

About this same time General Lee notified Mr. Davis that Petersburg and
Richmond could not be held many more days. Indeed, they would probably
have been evacuated at once, had not the capital carried so costly a
freight of prestige as well as of pride. It was no surprising secret
which was thus communicated to the chief rebel; all the common soldiers
in the Confederate army had for a long while known it just as well as
the general-in-chief did; and they had been showing their appreciation
of the situation by deserting and coming within the Union lines in such
increasing numbers that soon General Grant estimated that the
Confederate forces were being depleted by the equivalent of nearly a
regiment every day. The civilian leaders had already suggested the last
expedients of despair,--the enrolling of boys of fourteen years and old
men of sixty-five, nay, even the enlistment of slaves. But there was no
cure for the mortal dwindling. The Confederacy was dying of anaemia.

Grant understood the situation precisely as his opponents did. That
Petersburg and Richmond were about to be his was settled. But he was
reaching out for more than only these strongholds, and that he could get
Lee's army also was by no means settled. As March opened he lay down
every night in the fear that, while he was sleeping, the evacuation
might be furtively, rapidly, in progress, and the garrison escaping. He
dreaded that, any morning, he might awake to find delusive picket lines,
guarding nothing, while Lee and his soldiers were already well in the
lead, marching for the South. For him, especially, it was a period of
extreme tension. Since the capture of Savannah and the evacuation of
Charleston several weeks ago, Sherman with his fine army had been moving
steadily northward. In front of Sherman was Johnston, with a
considerable force which had been got together from the remnants of
Hood's army and other sources. At Bentonsville a battle took place,
which resulted in Johnston's falling back, but left him still
formidable. General Grant had not yet been able to break the Richmond
and Danville Railroad, which ran out from Richmond in a southwesterly
direction; and the danger was that by this and the "South Side"
railroad, Lee might slip out, join Johnston, and overwhelm Sherman
before Grant could reach him. In time, this peril was removed by the
junction of Schofield's army, coming from Wilmington, with that of
Sherman at Goldsboro. Yet, even after this relief, there remained a
possibility that Lee, uniting with Johnston, and thus leading a still
powerful army of the more determined and constant veterans, might
prolong the war indefinitely.

Not without good reason was Grant harassed by this thought, for in fact
it was precisely this thing that the good soldier in Petersburg was
scheming to do. The closing days of the month brought the endeavor and
the crisis. To improve his chances Lee made a desperate effort to
demoralize, at least temporarily, the left or western wing of the Union
army, around which he must pass in order to get away, when he should
actually make his start. March 25, therefore, he made so fierce an
assault, that he succeeded in piercing the Union lines and capturing a
fort. But it was a transitory gleam of success; the Federals promptly
closed in upon the Confederates, and drove them back, capturing and
killing 4000 of them. In a few hours the affair was all over; the
Northern army showed the dint no more than a rubber ball; but the
Confederates had lost brave men whom they could not spare.

On March 22 Mr. Lincoln went to City Point; no one could say just how
soon important propositions might require prompt answering, and it was
his purpose to be ready to have any such business transacted as closely
as possible in accordance with his own ideas. On March 27 or 28, the
famous conference[79] was held on board the River Queen, on James River,
hard by Grant's headquarters, between the President, General Grant,
General Sherman, who had come up hastily from Goldsboro, and Admiral
Porter. Not far away Sheridan's fine body of 13,000 seasoned cavalrymen,
fresh from their triumphs in the Shenandoah Valley, was even now
crossing the James River, on their way into the neighborhood of
Dinwiddie Court House, which lies southwest of Richmond, and where they
could threaten that remaining railroad which was Lee's best chance of
escape. General Sherman reported that on April 10 he should be ready to
move to a junction with Grant. But Grant, though he did not then
proclaim it, did not mean to wait so long; in fact he had the secret
wish and purpose that the Eastern army, which had fought so long and so
bloodily in Virginia, should have all to itself the well-deserved glory
of capturing Richmond and conquering Lee, a purpose which Mr. Lincoln,
upon suggestion of it, accepted.[80] The President then returned to City
Point, there to stay for the present, awaiting developments.

On April 1 General Sheridan fought and won the important battle at Five
Forks. Throughout that night, to prevent a too vigorous return-assault
upon Sheridan, the Federal batteries thundered all along the line; and
at daybreak on the morning of April 2 the rebel intrenchments were
fiercely assaulted. After hard fighting the Confederates were forced
back upon their inner lines. Then General Grant sent a note to City
Point, saying: "I think the President might come out and pay us a visit
to morrow;" and then also General Lee, upon his part, sent word to
Jefferson Davis that the end had come, that Petersburg and Richmond must
be abandoned immediately.

The news had been expected at any moment by the Confederate leaders,
but none the less it produced intense excitement. Away went Mr. Davis,
in hot haste, also the members of his cabinet and of his congress, and
the officials of the rebel State of Virginia, and, in short, every one
who felt himself of consequence enough to make it worth his while to run
away. The night was theirs, and beneath its friendly shade they escaped,
with archives and documents which had suddenly become valuable chiefly
for historical purposes. Grant had ordered that on the morning of April
3 a bombardment should begin at five o'clock, which was to be followed
by an assault at six o'clock. But there was no occasion for either; even
at the earlier hour Petersburg was empty, and General Grant and General
Meade soon entered it undisturbed. A little later Mr. Lincoln joined
them, and they walked through streets in which neither man nor animal,
save only this little knot, was to be seen.[81]

At quarter after eight o'clock, that same morning, General Weitzel, with
a few attendants, rode into the streets of Richmond. That place,
however, was by no means deserted, but, on the contrary, it seemed
Pandemonium. The rebels had been blowing up and burning warships and
stores; they had also gathered great quantities of cotton and tobacco
into the public storehouses and had then set them on fire. More than 700
buildings were feeding a conflagration at once terrible and magnificent
to behold, and no one was endeavoring to stay its advance. The negroes
were intoxicated with joy, and the whites with whiskey; the convicts
from the penitentiary had broken loose; a mob was breaking into houses
and stores and was pillaging madly. Erelong the Fifth Massachusetts
Cavalry, a negro regiment under Colonel C.F. Adams, Jr., paraded
through the streets, and then the Southern whites hid themselves within
doors to shun the repulsive spectacle. It may be that armed and hostile
negroes brought to them the dread terror of retaliation and massacre in
the wild hour of triumph. But if so, their fear was groundless; the
errand of the Northern troops was, in fact, one of safety and charity;
they began at once to extinguish the fires, to suppress the riot, and to
feed the starving people.

On the following day President Lincoln started on his way up the river
from City Point, upon an excursion to the rebel capital. Obstructions
which had been placed in the stream stopped the progress of his steamer;
whereupon he got into a barge and was rowed to one of the city wharves.
He had not been expected, and with a guard of ten sailors, and with four
gentlemen as comrades, he walked through the streets, under the guidance
of a "contraband," to the quarters of General Weitzel. This has been
spoken of as an evidence of bravery; but, regarded in this light, it
was only superfluous evidence of a fact which no one ever doubted; it
really deserves better to be called foolhardiness, as Captain Penrose,
who was one of the party, frankly described it in his Diary. The walk
was a mile and a half long, and this gentleman says: "I never passed a
more anxious time than in this walk. In going up [the river] ... we ran
the risk of torpedoes and the obstructions; but I think the risk the
President ran in going through the streets of Richmond was even greater,
and shows him to have great courage. The streets of the city were filled
with drunken rebels, both officers and men, and all was confusion.... A
large portion of the city was still on fire." Probably enough the
impunity with which this great risk was run was due to the dazing and
bewildering effect of an occasion so confused and exciting. Meantime,
Lee, abandoning Petersburg, but by no means abandoning "the Cause,"
pushed his troops with the utmost expedition to gain that southwestern
route which was the slender thread whence all Confederate hope now
depended. His men traveled light and fast; for, poor fellows, they had
little enough to carry! But Grant was an eager pursuer. Until the sixth
day that desperate flight and chase continued. Lee soon saw that he
could not get to Danville, as he had hoped to do, and thereupon changed
his plan and struck nearly westward, for open country, via Appomattox
Court House. All the way, as he marched, Federal horsemen worried the
left flank of his columns, while the infantry came ever closer upon the
rear, and kept up a ceaseless skirmishing. It had become "a life and
death struggle with Lee to get south to his provisions;" and Grant was
struggling with not less stern zeal, along a southerly line, to get
ahead of him in this racing journey. The Federal troops, sanguine and
excited, did their part finely, even marching a whole day and night
without rations. On April 6 there was an engagement, in which about 7000
Southerners, with six general officers, surrendered; and perhaps the
captives were not deeply sorry for their fate. Sheridan telegraphed: "If
the thing is pressed, I think that Lee will surrender." Grant repeated
this to the President, who replied: "Let the thing be pressed,"--not
that there was any doubt about it! Yet, April 7, General Lee was cheered
by an evanescent success in an engagement. It was trifling, however, and
did not suffice to prevent many of his generals from uniting to advise
him to capitulate. Grant also sent to him a note saying that resistance
was useless, and that he desired to shift from himself the
responsibility of further bloodshed by asking for a surrender. Lee
denied the hopelessness, but asked what terms would be offered. At the
same time he continued his rapid retreat. On April 8, about sunset, near
Appomattox Station, his advance encountered Sheridan's cavalry directly
across the road. The corral was complete. Nevertheless, there ensued a
few critical hours; for Sheridan could by no means stand against Lee's
army. Fortunately, however, these hours of crisis were also the hours of
darkness, in which troops could march but could not fight, and at dawn,
on April 9, the Southerners saw before them a great force of Federal
soldiery abundantly able to hold them in check until Grant's whole army
could come up. "A sharp engagement ensued," says General Grant, "but Lee
quickly set up a white flag." He then notified Sheridan, in his front,
and Meade, in his rear, that he had sent a note to General Grant with a
view to surrender, and he asked a suspension of hostilities. These
commanders doubted a ruse, and reluctantly consented to hold their
troops back for two hours. That was just enough; pending the recess
Grant was reached by the bearer of the dispatch, and at once rode in
search of Lee.

The two met at the house of a villager and easily came to terms, for
Grant's offer transcended in liberality anything which Lee could fairly
have expected. General Grant hastily wrote it out in the form of a
letter to Lee: The Confederates, officers and men, were to be paroled,
"not to take up arms against the government of the United States until
properly exchanged;" arms, artillery, and public property were to be
turned over to the Federals except the side-arms of the officers, their
private horses, and baggage. "This done, each officer and man will be
allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States
authority so long as they observe their parole and the laws in force
where they may reside." This closing sentence practically granted
amnesty to all persons then surrendering, not excluding even the rebel
general-in-chief. It was afterward severely criticised as trenching upon
the domain of the President, and perhaps, also, on that of Congress. For
it was practically an exercise of the pardoning power; and it was, or
might be, an element in reconstruction. Not improbably the full force of
the language was not appreciated when it was written; but whether this
was so or not, and whether authority had been unduly assumed or not, an
engagement of General Grant was sure to be respected, especially when it
was entirely in harmony with the spirit of the President's policy,
though it happened to be contrary to the letter of his order.

General Lee had no sooner surrendered than he asked for food for his
starving troops; and stated, by way of estimate, that about twenty-five
thousand rations would be needed. The paroles, as signed, showed a total
of 28,231. To so trifling a force had his once fine army been reduced by
the steady drain of battles and desertions.[82] The veterans had long
since understood that their lives were a price which could buy nothing,
and which therefore might as well be saved.

The fall of Richmond and the surrender of Lee were practically the end
of the war. Remnants of secession indeed remained, of which Mr. Lincoln
did not live to see the disposition. Johnston's army was still in the
field; but on learning that there really was no longer either a
Confederacy or a cause to fight for, it surrendered on April 26.
Jefferson Davis also arranged for himself[83] the most effectual of all
amnesties by making himself ridiculous; for though some persons had

Book of the day: