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Lincoln's Personal Life

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said--especially in the speech at Harrisburg--but with what a

"In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in
mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will
not assail you. You can have no conflict without being
yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in
Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most
solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.

"I am loath to close. We are not enemies but friends. Though
passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of
affection. The mystic chords of memory stretching from every
battle-field and patriot grave, to every living heart and
hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus
of the Union when again touched as surely they will be, by the
better angels of our nature."*

*Lincoln VI, 184; N. & H., III, 343. Seward advised the
omission of part of the original draft of the first of these
two paragraphs. After "defend it," Lincoln had written, "You
can forbear the assault upon it. I can not shrink from the
defense of it. With you and not with me is the solemn question
'Shall it be peace or a sword?'" Having struck this out, he
accepted Seward's advice to add "some words of affection--some
of calm and cheerful confidence."

The original version of the concluding paragraph was prepared
by Seward and read as follows: "I close. We are not, we must
not he aliens or enemies, but fellow-countrymen and brethren.
Although passion has strained our bonds of affection too
hardly, they must not, I am sure, they will not, be broken.
The mystic chords which, proceeding from so many battlefields
and so many patriot graves, pass through all the hearts and all
hearths in this broad continent of ours, will yet again
harmonize in their ancient music when breathed upon by the
guardian angel of the nation."

These words, now so famous, were spoken in the east portico of
the Capitol on "one of our disagreeable, clear, windy,
Washington spring days."[10] Most of the participants were
agitated; many were alarmed. Chief Justice Taney who
administered the oath could hardly speak, so near to
uncontrollable was his emotion. General Scott anxiously kept
his eye upon the crowd which was commanded by cannon. Cavalry
were in readiness to clear the streets in case of riot.
Lincoln's carriage on the way to the Capitol had been closely
guarded. He made his way to the portico between files of
soldiers. So intent--overintent--were his guardians upon his
safety that they had been careless of the smaller matter of his
comfort. There was insufficient room for the large company
that had been invited to attend. The new President stood
beside a rickety little table and saw no place on which to put
his hat. Senator Douglas stepped forward and relieved him of
the burden. Lincoln was "pale and very nervous," and toward
the close of his speech, visibly affected. Observers differ
point-blank as to the way the inaugural was received. The
"Public Man" says that there was little enthusiasm. The
opposite version makes the event an oratorical triumph, with
the crowd, at the close, completely under his spell.[11]

On the whole, the inauguration and the festivities that
followed appear to have formed a dismal event. While Lincoln
spoke, the topmost peak of the Capitol, far above his head, was
an idle derrick; the present dome was in process of
construction; work on it had been arrested, and who could say
when, if ever, the work would be resumed? The day closed with
an inaugural ball that was anything but brilliant. "The great
tawdry ballroom . . not half full-and such an assemblage of
strange costumes, male and female. Very few people of any
consideration were there. The President looked exhausted and
uncomfortable, and most ungainly in his dress; and Mrs. Lincoln
all in blue, with a feather in her hair and a highly flushed


The brilliant Secretary, who so promptly began to influence the
President had very sure foundations for that influence. He was
inured to the role of great man; he had a rich experience of
public life; while Lincoln, painfully conscious of his
inexperience, was perhaps the humblest-minded ruler that ever
took the helm of a ship of state in perilous times.
Furthermore, Seward had some priceless qualities which, for
Lincoln, were still to seek. First of all, he had
audacity--personally, artistically, politically. Seward's
instantaneous gift to Lincoln was by way of throwing wide the
door of his gathering literary audacity. There is every reason
to think that Seward's personal audacity went to Lincoln's
heart at once. To be sure, he was not yet capable of going
along with it. The basal contrast of the first month of his
administration lies between the President's caution and the
boldness of the Secretary. Nevertheless, to a sensitive mind,
seeking guidance, surrounded by less original types of
politicians, the splendid fearlessness of Seward, whether wise
or foolish, must have rung like a trumpet peal soaring over
the heads of a crowd whose teeth were chattering. While the
rest of the Cabinet pressed their ears to the ground, Seward
thought out a policy, made a forecast of the future, and
offered to stake his head on the correctness of his reasoning.
This may have been rashness; it may have been folly; but,
intellectually at least, it was valor. Among Lincoln's other
advisers, valor at that moment was lacking. Contrast, however,
was not the sole, nor the surest basis of Seward's appeal to
Lincoln. Their characters had a common factor. For all their
immeasurable difference in externals, both at bottom were void
of malice. It was this characteristic above all others that
gave them spiritually common ground. In Seward, this quality
had been under fire for a long while. The political furies of
"that iron time" had failed to rouse echoes in his serene and
smiling soul. Therefore, many men who accepted him as leader
because, indeed, they could not do without him--because none
other in their camp had his genius for management, for the
glorification of political intrigue--these same men followed him
doubtfully, with bad grace, willing to shift to some other
leader whenever he might arise. The clue to their distrust was
Seward's amusement at the furious. Could a man who laughed
when you preached on the beauty of the hewing of Agag, could
such a man be sincere? And that Seward in some respects was not
sincere, history generally admits. He loved to poke fun at his
opponents by appearing to sneer at himself, by ridiculing the
idea that he was ever serious. His scale of political values
was different from that of most of his followers. Nineteen
times out of twenty, he would treat what they termed
"principles" as mere political counters, as legitimate subjects
of bargain. If by any deal he could trade off any or all of
these nineteen in order to secure the twentieth, which for him
was the only vital one, he never scrupled to do so. Against a
lurid background of political ferocity, this amused, ironic
figure came to be rated by the extremists, both in his own and
in the enemy camp as Mephistopheles.

No quality could have endeared him more certainly to Lincoln
than the very one which the bigots misunderstood. From his
earliest youth Lincoln had been governed by this same quality.
With his non-censorious mind, which accepted so much of life
as he found it, which was forever stripping principles of their
accretions, what could be more inevitable than his warming to
the one great man at Washington who like him held that such a
point of view was the only rational one. Seward's ironic
peacefulness in the midst of the storm gained in luster because
all about him raged a tempest of ferocity, mitigated, at least
so far as the distracted President could see, only by self-
interest or pacifism.

As Lincoln came into office, he could see and hear many signs
of a rising fierceness of sectional hatred. His secretary
records with disgust a proposal to conquer the Gulf States,
expel their white population, and reduce the region to a
gigantic state preserve, where negroes should grow cotton under
national supervision.[1] "We of the North," said Senator Baker of
Oregon, "are a majority of the Union, and we will govern our
Union in our own way."[2] At the other extreme was the
hysterical pacifism of the Abolitionists. Part of Lincoln's
abiding quarrel with the Abolitionists was their lack of
national feeling. Their peculiar form of introspection had
injected into politics the idea of personal sin. Their
personal responsibility for slavery--they being part of a
country that tolerated it--was their basal inspiration.
Consequently, the most distinctive Abolitionists welcomed this
opportunity to cast off their responsibility. If war had been
proposed as a crusade to abolish slavery, their attitude might
have been different But in March, 1860, no one but the few
ultra-extremists, whom scarcely anybody heeded, dreamed of such
a war. A war to restore the Union was the only sort that was
considered seriously. Such a war, the Abolitionists bitterly
condemned. They seized upon pacifism as their defense. Said
Whittier of the Seceding States:

They break the links of Union: shall we light
The fires of hell to weld anew the chain,
On that red anvil where each blow is pain?

The fury and the fear offended Lincoln in equal measure. After
long years opposing the political temper of the extremists, he
was not the man now to change front. To one who believed
himself marked out for a tragic end, the cowardice at the heart
of the pacifism of his time was revolting. It was fortunate
for his own peace of mind that he could here count on the
Secretary of State. No argument based on fear of pain would
meet in Seward with anything but derision. "They tell us," he
had once said, and the words expressed his constant attitude,
"that we are to encounter opposition. Why, bless my soul, did
anybody ever expect to reach a fortune, or fame, or happiness
on earth or a crown in heaven, without encountering resistance
and opposition? What are we made men for but to encounter and
overcome opposition arrayed against us in the line of our

But if the ferocity and the cowardice were offensive and
disheartening, there was something else that was beneath
contempt. Never was self-interest more shockingly displayed.
It was revealed in many ways, but impinged upon the new
President in only one. A horde of office-seekers besieged him
in the White House. The parallel to this amazing picture can
hardly be found in history. It was taken for granted that the
new party would make a clean sweep of the whole civil list,
that every government employee down to the humblest messenger
boy too young to have political ideas was to bear the label of
the victorious party. Every Congressman who had made promises
to his constituents, every politician of every grade who
thought he had the party in his debt, every adventurer who on
any pretext could make a showing of party service rendered,
poured into Washington. It was a motley horde.

"Hark, hark, the dogs do bark,
The beggars are coming to town."

They converted the White House into a leaguer. They swarmed
into the corridors and even the private passages. So dense was
the swarm that it was difficult to make one's way either in or
out. Lincoln described himself by the image of a man renting
rooms at one end of his house while the other end was on fire.[4]
And all this while the existence of the Republic was at stake!
It did not occur to him that it was safe to defy the horde, to
send it about its business. Here again, the figure of Seward
stood out in brilliant light against the somber background.
One of Seward's faculties was his power to form devoted
lieutenants. He had that sure and nimble judgment which
enables some men to inspire their lieutenants rather than
categorically to instruct them. All the sordid side of his
political games he managed in this way. He did not appear
himself as the bargainer. In the shameful eagerness of most of
the politicians to find offices for their retainers, Seward was
conspicuous by contrast. Even the Cabinet was not free from
this vice of catering to the thirsty horde.[5] Alone, at this
juncture, Seward detached himself from the petty affairs of the
hour and gave his whole attention to statecraft.

He had a definite policy. Another point of contact with
Lincoln was the attitude of both toward the Union,
supplemented as it was by their views of the place of slavery
in the problem they confronted. Both were nationalists ready
to make any sacrifices for the national idea. Both regarded
slavery as an issue of second importance. Both were prepared
for great concessions if convinced that, ultimately, their
concessions would strengthen the trend of American life toward
a general exaltation of nationality.

On the other hand, their differences--

Seward approached the problem in the same temper, with the same
assumptions, that were his in the previous December. He still
believed that his main purpose was to enable a group of
politicians to save their faces by effecting a strategic
retreat. Imputing to the Southern leaders an attitude of pure
self-interest, he believed that if allowed to play the game as
they desired, they would mark time until circumstances revealed
to them whether there was more profit for them in the Union or
out; he also believed that if sufficient time could be given,
and if no armed clash took place, it would be demonstrated
first, that they did not have so strong a hold on the South as
they had thought they had; and second, that on the whole, it
was to their interests to patch up the quarrel and come back
into the Union. But he also saw that they had a serious
problem of leadership, which, if rudely handled, might make it
impossible for them to stand still. They had inflamed the
sentiment of state-patriotism. In South Carolina,
particularly, the popular demand was for independence. With
this went the demand that Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor,
garrisoned by Federal troops, should be surrendered, or if not
surrendered, taken forcibly from the United States. A few
cannon shots at Sumter would mean war. An article in Seward's
creed of statecraft asserted that the populace will always go
wild over a war. To prevent a war fever in the North was the
first condition of his policy at home. Therefore, in order to
prevent it, the first step in saving his enemies' faces was to
safeguard them against the same danger in their own calm. He
must help them to prevent a war fever in the South. He saw but
one way to do this. The conclusion which became the bed rock
of his policy was inevitable. Sumter must be evacuated.

Even before the inauguration, he had broached this idea to
Lincoln. He had tried to keep Lincoln from inserting in the
inaugural the words, "The power confided to me will be used to
hold, occupy and possess the property and places belonging to
the government." He had proposed instead, "The power
confided in me shall be used indeed with efficacy, but also
with discretion, in every case and exigency, according to the
circumstances actually existing, and with a view and a hope of
a peaceful solution of the national troubles, and the
restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections."[6] With the
rejection of Seward's proffered revision, a difference between
them in policy began to develop. Lincoln, says one of his
secretaries, accepted Seward's main purpose but did not share
his "optimism."[7] It would be truer to say that in this stage of
his development, he was lacking in audacity. In his eager
search for advice, he had to strike a balance between the
daring Seward who at this moment built entirely on his own
power of political devination, and the cautious remainder of
the Cabinet who had their ears to the ground trying their best
to catch the note of authority in the rumblings of vox populi.
For his own part, Lincoln began with two resolves: to go very
cautiously,--and not give something for nothing. Far from him,
as yet, was that plunging mood which in Seward pushed audacity
to the verge of a gamble. However, just previous to the
inauguration, he took a cautious step in Seward's direction.
Virginia, like all the other States of the upper South, was
torn by the question which side to take. There was a "Union"
party in Virginia, and a "Secession" party. A committee of
leading Unionists conferred with Lincoln. They saw the
immediate problem very much as Seward did. They believed that
if time were allowed, the crisis could be tided over and the
Union restored; but the first breath of war would wreck their
hopes. The condition of bringing about an adjustment was the
evacuation of Sumter. Lincoln told them that if Virginia could
be kept in the Union by the evacuation of Sumter, he would not
hesitate to recall the garrison.[8] A few days later, despite
what he had said in the inaugural, he repeated this offer. A
convention was then sitting at Richmond in debate upon the
relations of Virginia to the Union. If it would drop the
matter and dissolve--so Lincoln told another committee--he would
evacuate Sumter and trust the recovery of the lower South to
negotiation.[9] No results, so far as is known, came of either of
those offers.

During the first half of March, the Washington government
marked time. The office-seekers continued to besiege the
President. South Carolina continued to clamor for possession
of Sumter. The Confederacy sent commissioners to Washington
whom Lincoln refused to recognize. The Virginia Convention
swayed this way and that.

Seward went serenely about his business, confident that
everything was certain to come his way soon or late. He went
so far as to advise an intermediary to tell the Confederate
Commissioners that all they had to do to get possession of
Sumter was to wait. The rest of the Cabinet pressed their ears
more tightly than ever to the ground. The rumblings of vox
populi were hard to interpret. The North appeared to be in two
minds. This was revealed the day following the inauguration,
when a Republican Club in New York held a high debate upon the
condition of the country. One faction wanted Lincoln to
declare for a war-policy; another wished the Club to content
itself with a vote of confidence in the Administration. Each
faction put its views into a resolution and as a happy device
for maintaining harmony, both resolutions were passed.[10] The
fragmentary, miscellaneous evidence of newspapers, political
meetings, the talk of leaders, local elections, formed a
confused clamor which each listener interpreted according to
his predisposition. The members of the Cabinet in their
relative isolation at Washington found it exceedingly difficult
to make up their minds what the people were really saying. Of
but one thing they were certain, and that was that they
represented a minority party. Before committing themselves any
way, it was life and death to know what portion of the North
would stand by them.[11]

At this point began a perplexity that was to torment the
President almost to the verge of distraction. How far could he
trust his military advisers? Old General Scott was at the head
of the army. He had once been a striking, if not a great
figure. Should his military advice be accepted as final?
Scott informed Lincoln that Sumter was short of food and that
any attempt to relieve it would call for a much larger force
than the government could muster. Scott urged him to withdraw
the garrison. Lincoln submitted the matter to the Cabinet. He
asked for their opinions in writing.[12] Five advised taking
Scott at his word and giving up all thought of relieving
Sumter. There were two dissenters. The Secretary of the
Treasury, Salmon Portland Chase, struck the key-note of his
later political career by an elaborate argument on expediency.
If relieving Sumter would lead to civil war, Chase was not in
favor of relief; but on the whole he did not think that civil
war would result, and therefore, on the whole, he favored a
relief expedition. One member of the Cabinet, Montgomery
Blair, the Postmaster General, an impetuous, fierce man, was
vehement for relief at all costs. Lincoln wanted to agree with
Chase and Blair. He reasoned that if the fort was given up,
the necessity under which it was done would not be fully
understood; that by many it would be construed as part of a
voluntary policy, that at home it would discourage the friends
of the Union, embolden its adversaries, and go far to insure to
the matter a recognition abroad.

Nevertheless, with the Cabinet five to two against him, with
his military adviser against him, Lincoln put aside his own
views. The government went on marking time and considering the
credentials of applicants for country post-offices.

By this time, Lincoln had thrown off the overpowering gloom
which possessed him in the latter days at Springfield. It is
possible he had reacted to a mood in which there was something
of levity. His oscillation of mood from a gloom that nothing
penetrated to a sort of desperate mirth, has been noted by
various observers. And in 1861 he had not reached his final
poise, that firm holding of the middle way,---which afterward
fused his moods and made of him, at least in action, a
sustained personality.

About the middle of the month he had a famous interview with
Colonel W. T. Sherman who had been President of the
University of Louisiana and had recently resigned. Senator
John Sherman called at the White House with regard to "some
minor appointments in Ohio." The Colonel went with him. When
Colonel Sherman spoke of the seriousness of the Secession
movement, Lincoln replied, "Oh, we'll manage to keep house."
The Colonel was so offended by what seemed to him the flippancy
of the President that he abandoned his intention to resume the
military life and withdrew from Washington in disgust.[13]

Not yet had Lincoln attained a true appreciation of the real
difficulty before him. He had not got rid of the idea that a
dispute over slavery had widened accidentally into a needless
sectional quarrel, and that as soon as the South had time to
think things over, it would see that it did not really want the
quarrel. He had a queer idea that meanwhile he could hold a
few points on the margin of the Seceded States, open custom
houses on ships at the mouths of harbors, but leave vacant all
Federal appointments within the Seceded States and ignore the
absence of their representatives from Washington.[14] This
marginal policy did not seem to him a policy of coercion; and
though he was beginning to see that the situation from the
Southern point of view turned on the right of a State to resist
coercion, he was yet to learn that idealistic elements of
emotion and of political dogma were the larger part of his

Meanwhile, the upper South had been proclaiming its idealism.
Its attitude was creating a problem for the lower South as well
as for the North. The pro-slavery leaders had been startled
out of a dream. The belief in a Southern economic solidarity
so complete that the secession of any one Slave State would
compel the secession of all the others, that belief had been
proved fallacious. It had been made plain that on the economic
issue, even as on the issue of sectional distrust, the upper
South would not follow the lower South into secession. When
delegates from the Georgia Secessionists visited the
legislature of North Carolina, every courtesy was shown to
them; the Speaker of the House assured them of North Carolina's
sympathy and of her enduring friendliness; but he was careful
not to suggest an intention to secede, unless (the condition
that was destiny!) an attempt should be made to violate the
sovereignty of the State by marching troops across her soil to
attack the Confederates. Then, on the one issue of State
sovereignty, North Carolina would leave the Union.[15] The
Unionists in Virginia took similar ground. They wished to stay
in the Union, and they were determined not to go out on the
issue of slavery. Therefore they laid their heads together to
get that issue out of the way. Their problem was to devise a
compromise that would do three things: lay the Southern dread
of an inundation of sectional Northern influence; silence the
slave profiteers; meet the objections that had induced Lincoln
to wreck the Crittenden Compromise. They felt that the first
and second objectives would be reached easily enough by
reviving the line of the Missouri Compromise. But something
more was needed, or again, Lincoln would refuse to negotiate.
They met their crucial difficulty by boldly appealing to the
South to be satisfied with the conservation of its present life
and renounce the dream of unlimited Southern expansion. Their
Compromise proposed a death blow to the filibuster and all he
stood for. It provided that no new territory other than naval
stations should be acquired by the United States on either side
the Missouri Line without consent of a majority of the Senators
from the States on the opposite side of that line.[16]

As a solution of the sectional quarrel, to the extent that it
had been definitely put into words, what could have been more
astute? Lincoln himself had said in the inaugural, "One
section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to
be extended; while the other believes it is wrong and ought not
to be extended. That is the only substantial dispute." In the
same inaugural, he had pledged himself not to "interfere with
the institution of slavery in the States where it now exists;"
and also had urged a vigorous enforcement of the Fugitive Slave
Law. He never had approved of any sort of emancipation other
than purchase or the gradual operation of economic conditions.
It was well known that slavery could flourish only on fresh
land amid prodigal agricultural methods suited to the most
ignorant labor. The Virginia Compromise, by giving to slavery
a fixed area and abolishing its hopes of continual extensions
into fresh land, was the virtual fulfillment of Lincoln's

The failure of the Virginia Compromise is one more proof that a
great deal of vital history never gets into words until after
it is over. During the second half of March, Unionists and
Secessionists in the Virginia Convention debated with deep
emotion this searching new proposal. The Unionists had a fatal
weakness in their position. This was the feature of the
situation that had not hitherto been put into words. Lincoln
had not been accurate when he said that the slavery question
was "the only substantial dispute." He had taken for granted
that the Southern opposition to nationalism was not a real
thing,--a mere device of the politicians to work up excitement.
All the compromises he was ready to offer were addressed to
that part of the South which was seeking to make an issue on
slavery. They had little meaning for that other and more
numerous part in whose thinking slavery was an incident. For
this other South, the ideas which Lincoln as late as the middle
of March did not bring into play were the whole story.
Lincoln, willing to give all sorts of guarantees for the
noninterference with slavery, would not give a single guarantee
supporting the idea of State sovereignty against the idea of
the sovereign power of the national Union. The Virginians,
willing to go great lengths in making concessions with regard
to slavery, would not go one inch in the way of admitting that
their State was not a sovereign power included in the American
Union of its own free will, and not the legitimate subject of
any sort of coercion.

The Virginia Compromise was really a profound new complication.
The very care with which it divided the issue of nationality
from the issue of slavery was a storm signal. For a
thoroughgoing nationalist like Lincoln, deep perplexities lay
hidden in this full disclosure of the issue that was vital to
the moderate South. Lincoln's shifting of his mental ground,
his perception that hitherto he had been oblivious of his most
formidable opponent, the one with whom compromise was
impossible, occurred in the second half of the month.

As always, Lincoln kept his own counsel upon the maturing of a
purpose in his own mind. He listened to every adviser--opening
his office doors without reserve to all sorts and
conditions--and silently, anxiously, struggled with himself for
a decision. He watched Virginia; he watched the North; he
listened--and waited. General Scott continued hopeless, though
minor military men gave encouragement. And whom should the
President trust-the tired old General who disagreed with him,
or the eager young men who held views he would like to hold?
Many a time he was to ask himself that question during the
years to come.

On March twenty-ninth, he again consulted the Cabinet.[17] A
great deal of water had run under the mill since they gave
their opinions on March sixteenth. The voice of the people was
still a bewildering roar, but out of that roar most of the
Cabinet seemed to hear definite words. They were convinced
that the North was veering toward a warlike mood. The phrase
"masterly inactivity," which had been applied to the
government' s course admiringly a few weeks before, was now
being applied satirically. Republican extremists were
demanding action. A subtle barometer was the Secretary of the
Treasury. Now, as on the sixteenth, he craftily said something
without saying it. After juggling the word "if," he assumed
his "if" to be a fact and concluded, "If war is to be the
result, I perceive no reason why it may not best be begun in
consequence of military resistance to the efforts of the
Administration to sustain troops of the Union, stationed under
authority of the government in a fort of the Union, in the
ordinary course of service."

This elaborate equivocation, which had all the force of an
assertion, was Chase all over! Three other ministers agreed
with him except that they did not equivocate. One evaded. Of
all those who had stood with Seward on the sixteenth, only one
was still in favor of evacuation. Seward stood fast. This
reversal of the Cabinet's position, jumping as it did with
Lincoln's desires, encouraged him to prepare for action. But
just as he was about to act his diffidence asserted itself. He
authorized the preparation of a relief expedition but withheld
sailing orders until further notice.[18] Oh, for Seward's
audacity; for the ability to do one thing or another and take
the consequences!

Seward had not foreseen this turn of events. He had little
respect for the rest of the Cabinet, and had still to discover
that the President, for all his semblance of vacillation, was a
great man. Seward was undeniably vain. That the President
with such a Secretary of State should judge the strength of a
Cabinet vote by counting noses--preposterous! But that was just
what this curiously simple-minded President had done. If he
went on in his weak, amiable way listening to the time-servers
who were listening to the bigots, what would become of the
country? And of the Secretary of State and his deep policies?
The President must be pulled up short--brought to his
senses--taught a lesson or two.

Seward saw that new difficulties had arisen in the course of
that fateful March which those colleagues of his in the
Cabinet--well-meaning, inferior men, to be sure--had not the
subtlety to comprehend. Of course the matter of evacuation
remained what it always had been, the plain open road to an
ultimate diplomatic triumph. Who but a president out of the
West, or a minor member of the Cabinet, would fail to see that!
But there were two other considerations which, also, his
well-meaning colleagues were failing to allow for. While all
this talk about the Virginia Unionists had been going on, while
Washington and Richmond had been trying to negotiate, neither
really had any control of its own game. They were card players
with all the trumps out of their hands. Montgomery, the
Confederate Congress, held the trumps. At any minute it could
terminate all this make-believe of diplomatic independence,
both at Washington and at Richmond. A few cannon shots aimed
at Sumter, the cry for revenge in the North, the inevitable
protest against coercion in Virginia, the convention blown into
the air, and there you are--War!

And after all that, who knows what next? And yet, Blair and
Chase and the rest would not consent to slip Montgomery's
trumps out of her hands--the easiest thing in the world to do!-
-by throwing Sumter into her lap and thus destroying the
pretext for the cannon shots. More than ever before, Seward
would insist firmly on the evacuation of Sumter.

But there was the other consideration, the really new turn of
events. Suppose Sumter is evacuated; suppose Montgomery has
lost her chance to force Virginia into war by precipitating the
issue of coercion, what follows? All along Seward had
advocated a national convention to readjust all the matters "in
dispute between the sections." But what would such a convention
discuss? In his inaugural, Lincoln had advised an amendment to
the Constitution "to the effect that the Federal government
shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the
State, including that of persons held to service." Very good!
The convention might be expected to accept this, and after
this, of course, there would come up the Virginia Compromise.
Was it a practical scheme? Did it form a basis for drawing
back into the Union the lower South?

Seward's whole thought upon this subject has never been
disclosed. It must be inferred from the conclusion which he
reached, which he put into a paper entitled, Thoughts for the
President's Consideration, and submitted to Lincoln, April

The Thoughts outlined a scheme of policy, the most startling
feature of which was an instant, predatory, foreign war. There
are two clues to this astounding proposal. One was a political
maxim in which Seward had unwavering faith. "A fundamental
principle of politics," he said, "is always to be on the side
of your country in a war. It kills any party to oppose a war.
When Mr. Buchanan got up his Mormon War, our people, Wade and
Fremont, and The Tribune, led off furiously against it. I
supported it to the immense disgust of enemies and friends. If
you want to sicken your opponents with their own war, go in for
it till they give it up."[19] He was not alone among the
politicians of his time, and some other times, in these cynical
views. Lincoln has a story of a politician who was asked to
oppose the Mexican War, and who replied, "I opposed one war;
that was enough for me. I am now perpetually in favor of war,
pestilence and famine."

The second clue to Seward's new policy of international
brigandage was the need, as he conceived it, to propitiate
those Southern expansionists who in the lower South at least
formed so large a part of the political machine, who must
somehow be lured back into the Union; to whom the Virginia
Compromise, as well as every other scheme of readjustment yet
suggested, offered no allurement. Like Lincoln defeating the
Crittenden Compromise, like the Virginians planning the last
compromise, Seward remembered the filibusters and the dreams of
the expansionists, annexation of Cuba, annexation of Nicaragua
and all the rest, and he looked about for a way to reach them
along that line. Chance had played into his hands. Already
Napoleon III had begun his ill-fated interference with the
affairs of Mexico. A rebellion had just taken place in San
Domingo and Spain was supposed to have designs on the island.
Here, for any one who believed in predatory war as an
infallible last recourse to rouse the patriotism of a country,
were pretexts enough. Along with these would go a raging
assertion of the Monroe Doctrine and a bellicose attitude
toward other European powers on less substantial grounds. And
amid it all, between the lines of it all, could not any one
glimpse a scheme for the expansion of the United States
southward? War with Spain over San Domingo! And who, pray,
held the Island of Cuba! And what might not a defeated Spain
be willing to do with Cuba? And if France were driven out of
Mexico by our conquering arms, did not the shadows of the
future veil but dimly a grateful Mexico where American capital
should find great opportunities? And would not Southern
capital in the nature of things, have a large share in all that
was to come? Surely, granting Seward's political creed,
remembering the problem he wished to solve, there is nothing to
be wondered at in his proposal to Lincoln: "I would demand
explanations from Spain and France, categorically, at once." .
. . And if satisfactory explanations were not received from
Spain and France, "would convene Congress and declare war
against them."

His purpose, he said, was to change the question before the
public, from one upon slavery, or about slavery, for a question
upon Union or Disunion. Sumter was to be evacuated "as a safe
means for changing the issue," but at the same time,
preparations were to be made for a blockade of the Southern
coast.[20] This extraordinary document administered mild but
firm correction to the President. He was told that he had no
policy, although under the circumstances, this was "not
culpable"; that there must be a single head to the government;
that the President, if not equal to the task, should devolve it
upon some member of the Cabinet. The Thoughts closed with
these words, "I neither seek to evade nor assume

Like Seward's previous move, when he sent Weed to Springfield,
this other brought Lincoln to a point of crisis. For the
second time he must render a decision that would turn the
scale, that would have for his country the force of destiny.
In one respect he did not hesitate. The most essential part of
the Thoughts was the predatory spirit. This clashed with
Lincoln's character. Serene unscrupulousness met unwavering
integrity. Here was one of those subjects on which Lincoln was
not asking advice. As to ways and means, he was pliable to a
degree in the hands of richer and wider experience; as to
principles, he was a rock. Seward's whole scheme of
aggrandizement, his magnificent piracy, was calmly waved aside
as a thing of no concern. The most striking characteristic of
Lincoln's reply was its dignity. He did not, indeed, lay bare
his purposes. He was content to point out certain
inconsistencies in Seward's argument; to protest that whatever
action might be taken with regard to the single fortress,
Sumter, the question before the public could not be changed by
that one event; and to say that while he expected advice from
all his Cabinet, he was none the less President, and in last
resort he would himself direct the policy of the government.[21]

Only a strong man could have put up with the patronizing
condescension of the Thoughts and betrayed no irritation. Not
a word in Lincoln's reply gives the least hint that
condescension had been displayed. He is wholly unruffled,
distant, objective. There is also a quiet tone of finality,
almost the tone one might use in gently but firmly correcting a
child. The Olympian impertinence of the Thoughts had struck
out of Lincoln the first flash of that approaching
masterfulness by means of which he was to ride out
successfully such furious storms. Seward was too much the man
of the world not to see what had happened. He never touched
upon the Thoughts again. Nor did Lincoln. The incident was
secret until Lincoln's secretaries twenty-five years afterward
published it to the world.

But Lincoln's lofty dignity on the first of April was of a
moment only. When the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles,
that same day called on him in his offices, he was the
easy-going, jovial Lincoln who was always ready half-humorously
to take reproof from subordinates--as was evinced by his
greeting to the Secretary. Looking up from his writing, he
said cheerfully, "What have I done wrong?"[22] Gideon Welles was
a pugnacious man, and at that moment an angry man. There can
be little doubt that his lips were tightly shut, that a stern
frown darkened his brows. Grimly conscientious was Gideon
Welles, likewise prosaic; a masterpiece of literalness, the
very opposite in almost every respect of the Secretary of State
whom he cordially detested. That he had already found
occasion to protest against the President's careless mode of
conducting business may be guessed--correctly--from the way he
was received. Doubtless the very cordiality, the whimsical
admission of loose methods, irritated the austere Secretary.
Welles had in his hand a communication dated that same day and
signed by the President, making radical changes in the program
of the Navy Department. He had come to protest.

"The President," said Welles, "expressed as much surprise as I
felt, that he had sent me such a document. He said that Mr.
Seward with two or three young men had been there during the
day on a subject which he (Seward) had in hand and which he had
been some time maturing; that it was Seward's specialty, to
which he, the President, had yielded, but as it involved
considerable details, he had left Mr. Seward to prepare the
necessary papers. These papers he had signed, many of them
without reading, for he had not time, and if he could not trust
the Secretary of State, he knew not whom he could trust. I
asked who were associated with Mr. Seward. 'No one,' said the
President, 'but these young men who were here as clerks to
write down his plans and orders.' Most of the work was done, he
said, in the other room.

"The President reiterated that they [the changes in the Navy]
were not his instructions, though signed by him; that the paper
was an improper one; that he wished me to give it no more
consideration than I thought proper; to treat it as cancelled,
or as if it had never been written. I could get no satisfactory
explanation from the President of the origin of this strange
interference which mystified him and which he censured and
condemned more severely than myself. . . . Although very much
disturbed by the disclosure, he was anxious to avoid difficulty,
and to shield Mr. Seward, took to himself the whole blame.

Thus Lincoln began a role that he never afterward abandoned.
It was the role of scapegoat Whatever went wrong anywhere could
always be loaded upon the President. He appeared to consider
it a part of his duty to be the scapegoat for the whole
Administration. It was his way of maintaining trust, courage,
efficiency, among his subordinates.

Of those papers which he had signed without reading on April
first, Lincoln was to hear again in still more surprising
fashion six days thereafter.

He was now at the very edge of his second crucial decision.
Though the naval expedition was in preparation, he still
hesitated over issuing orders to sail. The reply to the
Thoughts had not committed him to any specific line of conduct.
What was it that kept him wavering at this eleventh hour?
Again, that impenetrable taciturnity which always shrouded his
progress toward a conclusion, forbids dogmatic assertion. But
two things are obvious: his position as a minority president,
of which he was perhaps unduly conscious, caused him to delay,
and to delay again and again, seeking definite evidence how
much support he could command in the North; the change in his
comprehension of the problem before him-his perception that it
was not an "artificial crisis" involving slavery alone, but an
irreconcilable clash of social-political idealism--this
disturbed his spirit, distressed, even appalled him. Having a
truer insight into human nature than Seward had, he saw that
here was an issue immeasurably less susceptible of compromise
than was slavery. Whether, the moment he perceived this, he at
once lost hope of any peaceable solution, we do not know. Just
what he thought about the Virginia Compromise is still to
seek. However, the nature of his mind, the way it went
straight to the human element in a problem once his eyes were
opened to the problem's reality, forbid us to conclude that he
took hope from Virginia. He now saw what, had it not been for
his near horizon, he would have seen so long before, that, in
vulgar parlance, he had been "barking up the wrong tree." Now
that he had located the right tree, had the knowledge come too

It is known that Seward, possibly at Lincoln's request, made an
attempt to bring together the Virginia Unionists and the
Administration. He sent a special representative to Richmond
urging the despatch of a committee to confer with the

The strength of the party in the Convention was shown on April
fourth when a proposed Ordinance of Secession was voted down,
eighty-nine to forty-five. On the same day, the Convention by
a still larger majority formally denied the right of the
Federal government to coerce a State. Two days later, John B.
Baldwin, representing the Virginia Unionists, had a
confidential talk with Lincoln. Only fragments of their talk,
drawn forth out of memory long afterward--some of the reporting
being at second hand, the recollections of the recollections of
the participants--are known to exist. The one fact clearly
discernible is that Baldwin stated fully the Virginia position:
that her Unionists were not nationalists; that the coercion of
any State, by impugning the sovereignty of all, would
automatically drive Virginia out of the Union.[23]

Lincoln had now reached his decision. The fear that had dogged
him all along--the fear that in evacuating Sumter he would be
giving something for nothing, that "it would discourage the
friends of the Union, embolden its adversaries"--was in
possession of his will. One may hazard the guess that this
fear would have determined Lincoln sooner than it did, except
for the fact that the Secretary of State, despite his faults,
was so incomparably the strongest personality in the Cabinet.
We have Lincoln's own word for the moment and the detail that
formed the very end of his period of vacillation. All along he
had intended to relieve and hold Fort Pickens, off the coast of
Florida. To this, Seward saw no objection. In fact, he urged
the relief of Pickens, hoping, as compensation, to get his way
about Sumter. Assuming as he did that the Southern leaders
were opportunists, he believed that they would not make an
issue over Pickens, merely because it had not in the public eye
become a political symbol. Orders had been sent to a squadron
in Southern waters to relieve Pickens. Early in April news was
received at Washington that the attempt had failed due to
misunderstandings among the Federal commanders. Fearful that
Pickens was about to fall, reasoning that whatever happened he
dared not lose both forts, Lincoln became peremptory on the
subject of the Sumter expedition. This was on April sixth. On
the night of April sixth, Lincoln's signatures to the unread
despatches of the first of April, came home to roost. And at
last, Welles found out what Seward was doing on the day of All

While the Sumter expedition was being got ready, still without
sailing orders, a supplemental expedition was also preparing
for the relief of Pickens. This was the business that Seward
was contriving, that Lincoln would not explain, on April first.
The order interfering with the Navy Department was designed to
checkmate the titular head of the department. Furthermore,
Seward had had the amazing coolness to assume that Lincoln
would certainly accept his Thoughts and that the simple
President need not hereinafter be consulted about details. He
aimed to circumvent Welles and to make sure that the Sumter
expedition, whether sailing orders were issued or not, should
be rendered innocuous. The warship Powhatan, which was being
got ready for sea at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, was intended by
Welles for the Sumter expedition. One of those unread
despatches signed by Lincoln, assigned it to the Pickens
expedition. When the sailing orders from Welles were received,
the commander of the Sumter fleet claimed the Powhatan. The
Pickens commander refused to give it up. The latter
telegraphed Seward that his expedition was "being retarded and
embarrassed" by "conflicting" orders from Welles. The result
was a stormy conference between Seward and Welles which was
adjourned to the White House and became a conference with
Lincoln. And then the whole story came out. Lincoln played
the scapegoat, "took the whole blame upon himself, said it was
carelessness, heedlessness on his part; he ought to have been
more careful and attentive." But he insisted on immediate
correction of his error, on the restoration of the Powhatan to
the Sumter fleet. Seward struggled hard for his plan. Lincoln
was inflexible. As Seward had directed the preparation of the
Pickens expedition, Lincoln required him to telegraph to
Brooklyn the change in orders. Seward, beaten by his enemy
Welles, was deeply chagrined. In his agitation he forgot to be
formal, forgot that the previous order had gone out in the
President's name, and wired curtly, "Give up the Powhatan.

This despatch was received just as the Pickens expedition was
sailing. The commander of the Powhatan had now before him,
three orders. Naturally, he held that the one signed by the
President took precedence over the others. He went on his way,
with his great warship, to Florida. The Sumter expedition
sailed without any powerful ship of war. In this strange
fashion, chance executed Seward's design.

Lincoln had previously informed the Governor of South Carolina
that due notice would be given, should he decide to relieve
Sumter. Word was now sent that "an attempt will be made to
supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that if such
attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms or
ammunition will be made without further notice, or in case of
an attack upon the fort."[25] Though the fleet was not intended
to offer battle, it was supposed to be strong enough to force
its way into the harbor, should the relief of Sumter be
opposed. But the power to do so was wholly conditioned on the
presence in its midst of the Powhatan. And the Powhatan was
far out to sea on its way to Florida.

And now it was the turn of the Confederate government to
confront a crisis. It, no less than Washington, had passed
through a period of disillusion. The assumption upon which its
chief politicians had built so confidently had collapsed. The
South was not really a unit. It was not true that the
secession of any one State, on any sort of issue, would compel
automatically the secession of all the Southern States. North
Carolina had exploded this illusion. Virginia had exploded it.
The South could not be united on the issue of slavery; it could
not be united on the issue of sectional dread. It could be
united on but one issue-State sovereignty, the denial of the
right of the Federal Government to coerce a State. The time
had come to decide whether the cannon at Charleston should
fire. As Seward had foreseen, Montgomery held the trumps; but
had Montgomery the courage to play them? There was a momentous
debate in the Confederate Cabinet. Robert Toombs, the
Secretary of State, whose rapid growth in comprehension since
December formed a parallel to Lincoln's growth, threw his
influence on the side of further delay. He would not invoke
that "final argument of kings," the shotted cannon. "Mr.
President," he exclaimed, "at this time, it is suicide, murder,
and will lose us every friend at the North. You will instantly
strike a: hornet's nest which extends from mountain to ocean,
and legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It
is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal." But
Toombs stood alone in the Cabinet. Orders were sent to
Charleston to reduce Fort Sumter. Before dawn, April twelfth,
the first shot was fired. The flag of the United States was
hauled down on the afternoon of the thirteenth. 'Meanwhile the
relieving fleet had arrived--without the Powhatan. Bereft of
its great ship, it could not pass the harbor batteries and
assist the fort. Its only service was to take off the garrison
which by the terms of surrender was allowed to withdraw. On
the fourteenth, Sumter was evacuated and the inglorious fleet
sailed back to the northward.

Lincoln at once accepted the gage of battle. On the fifteenth
appeared his proclamation calling for an army of seventy-five
thousand volunteers. Automatically, the upper South fulfilled
its unhappy destiny. Challenged at last, on the irreconcilable
issue, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, seceded.
The final argument of kings was the only one remaining.


It has been truly said that the Americans are an unmilitary but
an intensely warlike nation. Seward's belief that a war fury
would sweep the country at the first cannon shot was amply
justified. Both North and South appeared to rise as one man,
crying fiercely to be led to battle.

The immediate effect on Washington had not been foreseen. That
historic clash at Baltimore between the city's mob and the
Sixth Massachusetts en route to the capital, was followed by an
outburst of secession feeling in Maryland; by an attempt to
isolate Washington from the North. Railway tracks were torn
up; telegraph wires were cut. During several days Lincoln was
entirely ignorant of what the North was doing. Was there an
efficient general response to his call for troops? Or was
precious time being squandered in preparation? Was it
conceivable that the war fury was only talk? Looking forth
from the White House, he was a prisoner of the horizon; an
impenetrable mystery, it shut the capital in a ring of silence
all but intolerable. Washington assumed the air of a
beleaguered city. General Scott hastily drew in the small
forces which the government had maintained in Maryland and
Virginia. Government employees and loyal Washingtonians were
armed and began to drill. The White House became a barracks.
"Jim Lane," writes delightful John Hay in his diary, which is
always cool, rippling, sunny, no matter how acute the crisis,
"Jim Lane marshalled his Kansas warriors today at Williard's;
tonight (they are in) the East Room."[1] Hay's humor brightens
the tragic hour. He felt it his duty to report to Lincoln a
"yarn" that had been told to him by some charming women who had
insisted on an interview; they had heard from "a dashing
Virginian" that inside forty-eight hours something would happen
which would ring through the world. The ladies thought this
meant the capture or assassination of the President. "Lincoln
quietly grinned." But Hay who plainly enjoyed the episode,
charming women and all, had got himself into trouble. He had
to do "some very dexterous lying to calm the awakened fears of
Mrs. Lincoln in regard to the assassination suspicion." Militia
were quartered in the Capitol, and Pennsylvania Avenue was a
drill ground. At the President's reception, the distinguished
politician C. C. Clay, "wore with a sublimely unconscious air
three pistols and an 'Arkansas toothpick,' and looked like an
admirable vignette to twenty-five cents' worth of yellow
covered romance."

But Hay's levity was all of the surface. Beneath it was
intense anxiety. General Scott reported that the Virginia
militia, concentrating about Washington, were a formidable
menace, though he thought he was strong enough to hold out
until relief should come. As the days passed and nothing
appeared upon that inscrutable horizon while the telegraph
remained silent, Lincoln became moodily distressed. One
afternoon, "the business of the day being over, the executive
office deserted, after walking the floor alone in silent
thought for nearly a half-hour, he stopped and gazed long and
wistfully out of the window down the Potomac in the direction
of the expected ships (bringing soldiers from New York); and
unconscious of other presence in the room, at length broke out
with irrepressible anguish in the repeated exclamation, 'Why
don't they come! Why don't they come!'"[2]

His unhappiness flashed into words while he was visiting those
Massachusetts soldiers who had been wounded on their way to
Washington. "I don't believe there is any North. . . " he
exclaimed. "You are the only Northern realities."[3] But even
then relief was at hand. The Seventh New York, which had
marched down Broadway amid such an ovation as never before was
given any regiment in America, had come by sea to Annapolis.
At noon on April twenty-fifth, it reached Washington bringing,
along with the welcome sight of its own bayonets, the news that
the North had risen, that thousands more were on the march.

Hay who met them at the depot went at once to report to
Lincoln. Already the President had reacted to a "pleasant,
hopeful mood." He began outlining a tentative plan of action:
blockade, maintenance of the safety of Washington, holding
Fortress Monroe, and then to "go down to Charleston and pay her
the little debt we are owing there."[4] But this was an
undigested plan. It had little resemblance to any of his
later plans. And immediately the chief difficulties that were
to embarrass all his plans appeared. He was a minority
President; and he was the Executive of a democracy. Many
things were to happen; many mistakes were to be made; many
times the piper was to be paid, ere Lincoln felt sufficiently
sure of his support to enforce a policy of his own, defiant of
opposition. Throughout the spring of 1861 his imperative need
was to secure the favor of the Northern mass, to shape his
policy with that end in view. At least, in his own mind, this
seemed to be his paramount obligation. And so it was in the
minds of his advisers. Lincoln was still in the pliable mood
which was his when he entered office, which continued to be in
evidence, except for sudden momentary disappearances when a
different Lincoln flashed an instant into view, until another
year and more had gone by. Still he felt himself the
apprentice hand painfully learning the trade of man of action.
Still he was deeply sensitive to advice.

And what advice did the country give him? There was one
roaring shout dinning into his ears all round the Northern
horizon-"On to Richmond!" Following Virginia's secession,
Richmond had become the Confederate capital. It was expected
that a session of the Confederate Congress would open at
Richmond in July. "On to Richmond! Forward to Richmond!"
screamed The Tribune. "The Rebel Congress must not be allowed
to meet there on the 20th of July. By that date the place must
be held by the national army." The Times advised the
resignation of the Cabinet; it warned the President that if he
did not give prompt satisfaction he would be superseded.
Though Lincoln laughed at the threat of The Times to "depose"
him, he took very seriously all the swiftly accumulating
evidence that the North was becoming rashly impatient Newspaper
correspondents at Washington talked to his secretaries
"impertinently."[5] Members of Congress, either carried away by
the excitement of the hour or with slavish regard to the
hysteria of their constituents, thronged to Washington
clamoring for action. On purely political grounds, if on no
other, they demanded an immediate advance into Virginia.
Military men looked with irritation, if not with contempt, on
all this intemperate popular fury. That grim Sherman, who had
been offended by Lincoln's tone the month previous, put their
feeling into words. Declining the offer of a position in the
War Department, he wrote that he wished "the Administration all
success in its almost impossible task of governing this
distracted and anarchial people."[6]

In the President's councils, General Scott urged delay, and the
gathering of the volunteers into camps of instruction, their
deliberate transformation into a genuine army. So inadequate
were the resources of the government; so loose and uncertain
were the militia organizations which were attempting to combine
into an army; such discrepancies appeared between the nominal
and actual strength of commands, between the places where men
were supposed to be and the places where they actually were;
that Lincoln in his droll way compared the process of
mobilization to shoveling a bushel of fleas across a barn
floor.[7] From the military point of view it was no time to
attempt an advance. Against the military argument, three
political arguments loomed dark in the minds of the Cabinet;
there was the clamor of the Northern majority; there were the
threats of the politicians who were to assemble in Congress,
July fourth; there was the term of service of the volunteers
which had been limited by the proclamation to three months.
Late in June, the Cabinet decided upon the political course,
overruled the military advisers, and gave its voice for an
immediate advance into Virginia. Lincoln accepted this rash
advice. Scott yielded. General Irwin McDowell was ordered to
strike a Confederate force that had assembled at Manassas.[8] On
the fourth of July, the day Congress met, the government made
use of a coup de theatre. It held a review of what was then
considered a "grand army" of twenty-five thousand men. A few
days later, the sensibilities of the Congressmen were further
exploited. Impressionable members were "deeply moved," when
the same host in marching order passed again through the city
and wheeled southward toward Virginia. Confident of victory,
the Congressmen spent these days in high debate upon anything
that took their fancy. When, a fortnight later, it was known
that a battle was imminent, many of them treated the Occasion
as a picnic. They took horses, or hired vehicles, and away
they went southward for a jolly outing on the day the
Confederacy was to collapse. In the mind of the unfortunate
General who commanded the expedition a different mood
prevailed. In depression, he said to a friend, "This is not an
army. It will take a long time to make an army. But his duty
as a soldier forbade him to oppose his superiors; "the poor
fellow could not proclaim his distrust of his army in public."[9]
Thoughtful observers at Washington felt danger in the air, both
military and political.

Sunday, July twenty-first, dawned clear. It was the day of the
expected battle. A noted Englishman, setting out for the front
as war correspondent of the London Times, observed "the
calmness and silence of the streets of Washington, this early
morning." After crossing the Potomac, he felt that "the promise
of a lovely day given by the early dawn was likely to be
realized to the fullest"; and "the placid beauty of the scenery
as we drove through the woods below Arlington" delighted him.
And then about nine o'clock his thoughts abandoned the scenery.
Through those beautiful Virginia woods came the distant roar of

At the White House that day there was little if any alarm.
Reports received at various times were construed by military
men as favorable. These, with the rooted preconception that
the army had to be successful, established confidence in a
victory before nightfall. Late in the afternoon, the President
relieved his tension by taking a drive. He had not returned
when, about six o'clock, Seward appeared and asked hoarsely
where he was. The secretaries told him. He begged them to
find the President as quickly as possible. "Tell no one," said
he, "but the battle is lost. The army is in full retreat."

The news of the rout at Bull Run did not spread through
Washington until close to midnight. It caused an instantaneous
panic. In the small hours, the space before the Treasury was
"a moving mass of humanity. Every man seemed to be asking
every man he met for the latest news, while all sorts of rumors
filled the air. A feeling of mingled horror and despair
appeared to possess everybody. . . . Our soldiers came
straggling into the city covered with dust and many of them
wounded, while the panic that led to the disaster spread like a
contagion through all classes." The President did not share the
panic. He "received the news quietly and without any visible
sign of perturbation or excitement"'[10] Now appeared in him the
quality which led Herndon to call him a fatalist. All night
long he sat unruffled in his office, while refugees from the
stricken field--especially those overconfident Senators and
Representatives who had gone out to watch the overthrow of the
Confederates--poured into his ears their various and conflicting
accounts of the catastrophe. During that long night Lincoln
said almost nothing. Meanwhile, fragments of the routed army
continued to stream into the city. At dawn the next day
Washington was possessed by a swarm of demoralized soldiers
while a dreary rain settled over it.

The silent man in the White House had forgotten for the moment
his dependence upon his advisers. While the runaway Senators
were talking themselves out, while the rain was sheeting up the
city, he had reached two conclusions. Early in the morning, he
formulated both. One conclusion was a general outline for the
conduct of a long war in which the first move should be a call
for volunteers to serve three years.[11] The other conclusion
was the choice of a conducting general. Scott was too old.
McDowell had failed. But there was a young officer, a West
Pointer, who had been put in command of the Ohio militia, who
had entered the Virginia mountains from the West, had engaged a
small force there, and had won several small but rather showy
victories. Young as he was, he had served in the Mexican War
and was supposed to be highly accomplished. On the day
following Bull Run, Lincoln ordered McClellan to Washington to
take command.[12]


While these startling events were taking place in the months
between Sumter and Bull Run, Lincoln passed through a searching
intellectual experience. The reconception of his problem,
which took place in March, necessitated a readjustment of his
political attitude. He had prepared his arsenal for the use of
a strategy now obviously beside the mark. The vital part of
the first inaugural was its attempt to cut the ground from
under the slave profiteers. Its assertion that nothing else
was important, the idea that the crisis was "artificial," was
sincere. Two discoveries had revolutionized Lincoln's thought.
The discovery that what the South was in earnest about was not
slavery but State sovereignty; the discovery that the North was
far from a unit upon nationalism. To meet the one, to organize
the other, was the double task precipitated by the fall of
Sumter. Not only as a line of attack, but also as a means of
defense, Lincoln had to raise to its highest power the argument
for the sovereign reality of the national government. The
effort to do this formed the silent inner experience behind the
surging external events in the stormy months between April and
July. It was governed by a firmness not paralleled in his
outward course. As always, Lincoln the thinker asked no
advice. It was Lincoln the administrator, painfully learning a
new trade, who was timid, wavering, pliable in council. Behind
the apprentice in statecraft, the lonely thinker stood apart,
inflexible as ever, impervious to fear. The thinking which he
formulated in the late spring and early summer of 1861 obeyed
his invariable law of mental gradualness. It arose out of the
deep places of his own past. He built up his new conclusion by
drawing together conclusions he had long held, by charging them
with his later experience, by giving to them a new turn, a new

Lincoln's was one of those natures in which ideas have to
become latent before they can be precipitated by outward
circumstance into definite form. Always with him the idea that
was to become powerful at a crisis was one that he had long
held in solution, that had permeated him without his
formulating it, that had entwined itself with his heartstrings;
never was it merely a conscious act of the logical faculty.
His characteristics as a lawyer--preoccupation with basal ideas,
with ethical significance, with those emotions which form the
ultimates of life--these always determined his thought. His
idea of nationalism was a typical case. He had always believed
in the reality of the national government as a sovereign fact.
But he had thought little about it; rather he had taken it for
granted. It was so close to his desire that he could not
without an effort acknowledge the sincerity of disbelief in it.
That was why he was so slow in forming a true comprehension of
the real force opposing him. Disunion had appeared to him a
mere device of party strategy. That it was grounded upon a
genuine, a passionate conception of government, one
irreconcilable with his own, struck him, when at last he
grasped it, as a deep offense. The literary statesman sprang
again to life. He threw all the strength of his mind, the
peculiar strength that had made him president, into a statement
of the case for nationalism.

His vehicle for publishing his case was the first message to
Congress.[1] It forms an amazing contrast with the first
inaugural. The argument over slavery that underlies the whole
of the inaugural has vanished. The message does not mention
slavery. From the first word to the last, it is an argument
for the right of the central government to exercise sovereign
power, and for the duty of the American people--to give their
lives for the Union. No hint of compromise; nought of the
cautious and conciliatory tone of the inaugural. It is the
blast of a trumpet--a war trumpet. It is the voice of a stern
mind confronting an adversary that arouses in him no sympathy,
no tolerance even, much less any thought of concession.
Needless to insist that this adversary is an idea. Toward
every human adversary, Lincoln was always unbelievably tender.
Though little of a theologian, he appreciated intuitively some
metaphysical ideas; he projected into politics the
philosopher's distinction between sin and the sinner. For all
his hatred of the ideas which he held to be treason, he never
had a vindictive impulse directed toward the men who accepted
those ideas. Destruction for the idea, infinite clemency for
the person--such was his attitude.

It was the idea of disunion, involving as he believed, a
misconception of the American government, and by implication, a
misconception of the true function of all governments
everywhere, against which he declared a war without recourse.

The basis of his argument reaches back to his oration on Clay,
to his assertion that Clay loved his country, partly because it
was his country, even more because it was a free country. This
idea ran through Lincoln's thinking to the end. There was in
him a suggestion of internationalism. At the full height of
his power, in his complete maturity as a political thinker, he
said that the most sacred bond in life should be the
brotherhood of the workers of all nations. No words of his are
more significant than his remarks to passing soldiers in 1863,
such as, "There is more involved in this contest than is
realized by every one. There is involved in this struggle the
question whether your children and my children shall enjoy the
privileges we have enjoyed." And again, "I happen temporarily
to occupy this White House. I am a living witness that any one
of your children may look to come here as my father's child

This idea, the idea that the "plain people" are the chief
concern of government was the bed rock of all his political
thinking. The mature, historic Lincoln is first of all a
leader of the plain people--of the mass--as truly as was Cleon,
or Robespierre, or Andrew Jackson. His gentleness does not
remove him from that stern category. The latent fanaticism
that is in every man, or almost every man, was grounded in
Lincoln, on his faith--so whimsically expressed--that God must
have loved the plain people because he had made so many of
them.[3] The basal appeal of the first message was in the words:

"This is essentially a people's contest. On the side of the
Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form
and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate
the condition of men; to lift artificial weights from all
shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all; to
afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of
life."[4] Not a war over slavery, not a war to preserve a
constitutional system, but a war to assert and maintain the
sovereignty of--"We, the People."

But how was it to be proved that this was, in fact, the true
issue of the moment? Here, between the lines of the first
message, Lincoln's deepest feelings are to be glimpsed. Out of
the discovery that Virginia honestly believed herself a
sovereign power, he had developed in himself a deep,
slow-burning fervor that probably did much toward fusing him
into the great Lincoln of history. But why? What was there in
that idea which should strike so deep? Why was it not merely
one view in a permissible disagreement over the interpretation
of the Constitution? Why did the cause of the people inspire
its champion to regard the doctrine of State sovereignty as
anti-christ? Lincoln has not revealed himself on these points
in so many words. But he has revealed himself plainly enough
by implication.

The clue is in that element of internationalism which lay at
the back of his mind. There must be no misunderstanding of
this element. It was not pointing along the way of the modern
"international." Lincoln would have fought Bolshevism to the
death. Side by side with his assertion of the sanctity of the
international bond of labor, stands his assertion of a sacred
right in property and that capital is a necessity.[5] His
internationalism was ethical, not opportunistic. It grew, as
all his ideas grew, not out of a theorem, not from a
constitutional interpretation, but from his overpowering
commiseration for the mass of mankind. It was a practical
matter. Here were poor people to be assisted, to be enriched
in their estate, to be enlarged in spirit. The mode of
reaching the result was not the thing. Any mode, all sorts of
modes, might be used. What counted was the purpose to work
relief, and the willingness to throw overboard whatever it
might be that tended to defeat the purpose. His
internationalism was but a denial of "my country right or
wrong." There can be little doubt that, in last resort, he
would have repudiated his country rather than go along with it
in opposition to what he regarded as the true purpose of
government. And that was, to advance the welfare of the mass
of mankind.

He thought upon this subject in the same manner in which he
thought as a lawyer, sweeping aside everything but what seemed
to him the ethical reality at the heart of the case. For him
the "right" of a State to do this or that was a constitutional
question only so long as it did not cross that other more
universal "right," the paramount "charter of liberty," by
which, in his view, all other rights were conditioned. He
would impose on all mankind, as their basic moral obligation,
the duty to sacrifice all personal likes, personal ambitions,
when these in their permanent tendencies ran contrary to the
tendency which he rated as paramount. Such had always been,
and was always to continue, his own attitude toward slavery.
No one ever loathed it more. But he never permitted it to take
the first place in his thoughts. If it could be eradicated
without in the process creating dangers for popular government
he would rejoice. But all the schemes of the Abolitionists,
hitherto, he had condemned as dangerous devices because they
would strain too severely the fabric of the popular state,
would violate agreements which alone made it possible.
Therefore, being always relentless toward himself, he required
of himself the renunciation of this personal hope whenever, in
whatever way, it threatened to make less effective the great
democratic state which appeared to him the central fact of the

The enlargement of his reasoning led him inevitably to an
unsparing condemnation of the Virginian theory. One of his
rare flashes of irritation was an exclamation that Virginia
loyalty always had an "if."[6] At this point, to make him
entirely plain, there is needed another basic assumption which
he has never quite formulated. However, it is so obviously
latent in his thinking that the main lines are to be made out
clearly enough. Building ever on that paramount obligation of
all mankind to consider first the welfare of God's plain
people, he assumed that whenever by any course of action any
congregation of men were thrown together and led to form any
political unit, they were never thereafter free to disregard in
their attitude toward that unit its value in supporting and
advancing the general cause of the welfare of the plain people.
A sweeping, and in some contingencies, a terrible doctrine!
Certainly, as to individuals, classes, communities even, a
doctrine that might easily become destructive. But it formed
the basis of all Lincoln's thought about the "majority" in
America. Upon it would have rested his reply, had he ever made
a reply, to the Virginia contention that while his theory might
apply to each individual State, it could not apply to the group
of States. He would have treated such a reply, whether fairly
or unfairly, as a legal technicality. He would have said in
substance: here is a congregation to be benefited, this great
mass of all the inhabitants of all the States of the Union;
accident, or destiny, or what you will, has brought them
together, but here they are; they are moving forward,
haltingly, irregularly, but steadily, toward fuller and fuller
democracy; they are part of the universal democratic movement;
their vast experiment has an international significance; it is
the hope of the "Liberal party throughout the world"; to check
that experiment, to break it into Separate minor experiments;
to reduce the imposing promise of its example by making it seem
unsuccessful, would be treason to mankind. Therefore, both on
South and North, both on the Seceders he meant to fight and on
those Northerners of whom he was not entirely sure, he aimed to
impose the supreme immediate duty of proving to the world that
democracy on a great scale could have sufficient vitality to
maintain itself against any sort of attack. Anticipating
faintly the Gettysburg oration, the first message contained
these words: "And this issue embraces more than the fate of
these United States. It presents to the whole family of man
the question whether a constitutional republic, or democracy--a
government of the people by the same people--can or can not
maintain its integrity against its own domestic foes. . . .
Must a government of necessity be too strong for the liberties
of its people or too weak to maintain its own existence?"[7] He
told Hay that "the crucial idea pervading this struggle is the
necessity that is upon us to prove that popular government is
not an absurdity"; "that the basal issue was whether or no the
people could govern themselves."[8]

But all this elaborate reasoning, if it went no further, lacked
authority. It was political speculation. To clothe itself
with authority it had to discover a foundation in historic
fact. The real difficulty was not what ought to have been
established in America in the past, but what actually had been.
Where was the warrant for those bold proposition--who "we, the
people," really were; in what their sovereign power really
consisted; what was history's voice in the matter? To state an
historic foundation was the final aim of the message. To hit
its mark it had to silence those Northerners who denied the
obligation to fight for the Union; it had to oppose their "free
love" ideas of political unity with the conception of an
established historic government, one which could not be
overthrown except through the nihilistic process of revolution.
So much has been written upon the exact location of sovereignty
in the American federal State that it is difficult to escape
the legalistic attitude, and to treat the matter purely as
history. So various, so conflicting, and at times so tenuous,
are the theories, that a flippant person might be forgiven did
he turn from the whole discussion saying impatiently it was
blind man's buff. But on one thing, at least, we must all
agree. Once there was a king over this country, and now there
is no king. Once the British Crown was the sovereign, and now
the Crown has receded into the distance beyond the deep blue
sea. When the Crown renounced its sovereignty in America, what
became of it? Did it break into fragments and pass peacemeal
to the various revolted colonies? Was it transferred somehow to
the group collectively? These are the obvious theories; but
there are others. And the others give rise to subtler
speculations. Who was it that did the actual revolting against
the Crown--colonies, parties, individuals, the whole American
people, who?

Troublesome questions these, with which Lincoln and the men of
his time did not deal in the spirit of historical science.
Their wishes fathered their thoughts. Southerners, practically
without exception, held the theory of the disintegration of the
Crown's prerogative, its distribution among the States. The
great leaders of Northern thought repudiated the idea.
Webster and Clay would have none of it. But their own theories
were not always consistent; and they differed among themselves.
Lincoln did the natural thing. He fastened upon the tendencies
in Northern thought that supported his own faith. Chief among
these was the idea that sovereignty passed to the general
congregation of the inhabitants of the colonies--"we, the
people"--because we, the people, were the real power that
supported the revolt. He had accepted the idea that the
American Revolution was an uprising of the people, that its
victory was in a transfer of sovereign rights from an English
Crown to an American nation; that a new collective state, the
Union, was created by this nation as the first act of the
struggle, and that it was to the Union that the Crown
succumbed, to the Union that its prerogative passed. To put
this idea in its boldest and its simplest terms was the
crowning effort of the message.

"The States have their status in the Union and they have no
other legal status. If they break from this, they can only do
so against law and by revolution. The Union, and not
themselves separately, procured their independence and their
liberty. By conquest or purchase, the Union gave each of them
whatever of independence and liberty it has. The Union is
older than any of the States, and in fact, it created them as
States. Originally some dependent colonies made the Union, and
in turn, the Union threw off this old dependence for them and
made them States, such as they are."[9]

This first message completes the evolution of Lincoln as a
political thinker. It is his third, his last great landmark.
The Peoria speech, which drew to a focus all the implications
of his early life, laid the basis of his political
significance; the Cooper Union speech, summing up his conflict
with Douglas, applied his thinking to the new issue
precipitated by John Brown; but in both these he was still
predominantly a negative thinker, still the voice of an
opposition. With the first message, he became creative; he
drew together what was latent in his earlier thought; he
discarded the negative; he laid the foundation of all his
subsequent policy. The breadth and depth of his thinking is
revealed by the fulness with which the message develops the
implications of his theory. In so doing, he anticipated the
main issues that were to follow: his determination to keep
nationalism from being narrowed into mere "Northernism"; his
effort to create an all- parties government; his stubborn
insistence that he was suppressing an insurrection, not waging
external war; his doctrine that the Executive, having been
chosen by the entire people, was the one expression of the
sovereignty of the people, and therefore, the repository of all
these exceptional "war powers" that are dormant in time of
peace. Upon each of those issues he was destined to wage
fierce battles with the politicians who controlled Congress,
who sought to make Congress his master, who thwarted, tormented
and almost defeated him. In the light of subsequent history
the first message has another aspect besides its significance
as political science. In its clear understanding of the
implications of his attitude, it attains political second
sight. As Lincoln, immovable, gazes far into the future, his
power of vision makes him, yet again though in a widely
different sense, the "seer in a trance, Seeing all his own

His troubles with Congress began at once. The message was
received on July fourth, politely, but with scant response to
its ideas. During two weeks, while Congress in its fatuousness
thought that the battle impending in Virginia would settle
things, the majority in Congress would not give assent to
Lincoln's view of what the war was about. And then came Bull
Run. In a flash the situation changed. Fatuousness was puffed
out like a candle in a wind. The rankest extremist saw that
Congress must cease from its debates and show its hand; must
say what the war was about; must inform the nation whether it
did or did not agree with the President.

On the day following Bull Run, Crittenden introduced this
resolution: "That the present, deplorable civil war has been
forced upon the country by the Disunionists of the Southern
States, now in arms against the constitutional government, and
in arms around the capital; that in this national emergency,
Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion and
resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country;
that this war is not waged on their part in any spirit of
oppression or for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, or
purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or
established institutions of these States, but to defend and
maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the
Union, with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the
several States unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects
are accomplished, the war ought to cease." This Crittenden
Resolution was passed instantly by both Houses, without debate
and almost without opposition. [10]

Paradoxically, Bull Run had saved the day for Lincoln, had
enabled him to win his first victory as a statesman.


The keen Englishman who had observed the beauty of the
Virginian woods on "Bull Run Sunday," said, after the battle
was lost, "I hope Senator Wilson is satisfied." He was sneering
at the whole group of intemperate Senators none of whom had
ever smelled powder, but who knew it all when it came to war;
who had done their great share in driving the President and the
generals into a premature advance. Senator Wilson was one of
those who went out to Manassas to see the Confederacy
overthrown, that fateful Sunday. He was one of the most
precipitate among those who fled back to Washington. On the
way, driving furiously, amid a press of men and vehicles, he
passed a carriage containing four Congressmen who were taking
their time. Perhaps irritated by their coolness, he shouted
to them to make haste. "If we were in as big a hurry as you
are," replied Congressman Riddle, scornfully, "we would."

These four Congressmen played a curiously dramatic part before
they got back to Washington. So did a party of Senators with
whom they joined force& This other party, at the start, also
numbered four. They had planned a jolly picnic--this day that
was to prove them right in hurrying the government into battle!-
-and being wise men who knew how to take time by the forelock,
they had taken their luncheon with them. From what is known of
Washington and Senators, then as now, one may risk a good deal
that the luncheon was worth while. Part of the tragedy of that
day was the accidental break-up of this party with the result
amid the confusion of a road crowded by pleasure-seekers, that
two Senators went one way carrying off the luncheon, while the
other two, making the best of the disaster, continued southward
through those beautiful early hours when Russell was admiring
the scenery, their luncheon all to seek. The lucky men with
the luncheon were the Senators Benjamin Wade and Zachary
Chandler. Senator Trumbull and Senator Grimes, both on
horseback, were left to their own devices. However, fortune
was with them. Several hours later they had succeeded in
getting food by the wayside and were resting in a grove of
trees some distance beyond the village of Centerville.
Suddenly, they suffered an appalling surprise; happening to
look up, they beheld emerging out of the distance, a stampede
of men and horses which came thundering down the country road,
not a hundred yards from where they sat. "We immediately
mounted our horses," as Trumbull wrote to his wife the next
day, "and galloped to the road, by which time it was crowded,
hundreds being in advance on the way to Centerville and two
guns of Sherman's battery having already passed in full

We kept on with the crowd, not knowing what else to do. We fed
our horses at Centerville and left there at six o'clock. . .
. Came on to Fairfax Court House where we got supper and,
leaving there at ten o'clock reached home at half past two this
morning. . . . I am dreadfully disappointed and

Meanwhile, what of those other gay picnickers, Senator Wade and
Senator Chandler? They drove in a carriage. Viewing the
obligations of the hour much as did C. C. Clay at the
President's reception, they were armed. Wade had "his famous
rifle" which he had brought with him to Congress, which at
times in the fury of debate he had threatened to use, which had
become a byword. These Senators seem to have ventured nearer
to the front than did Trumbull and Grimes, and were a little
later in the retreat At a "choke-up," still on the far side of
Centerville, their carriage passed the carriage of the four
Congressmen--who, by the way, were also armed, having among them
"four of the largest navy revolvers."

All these men, whatever their faults or absurdities, were
intrepid. The Congressmen, at least, were in no good humor,
for they had driven through a regiment of three months men
whose time expired that day and who despite the cannon in the
distance were hurrying home.

The race of the fugitives continued. At Centerville, the
Congressmen passed Wade. Soon afterward Wade passed them for
the second time. About a mile out of Fairfax Court House, "at
the foot of a long down grade, the pike on the northerly side
was fenced and ran along a farm. On the other side for a
considerable distance was a wood, utterly impenetrable for men
or animals, larger than cats or squirrels." Here the Wade
carriage stopped. The congressional carriage drove up beside
it. The two blocked a narrow way where as in the case of
Horatius at the bridge, "a thousand might well be stopped by
three." And then "bluff Ben Wade" showed the mettle that was in
him. The "old Senator, his hat well back on his head," sprang
out of his carriage, his rifle in his hand, and called to the
others, "Boys, we'll stop this damned runaway." And they did
it. Only six of them, but they lined up across that narrow
road; presented their weapons and threatened to shoot; seized
the bridles of horses and flung the horses back on their
haunches; checked a panic-stricken army; held it at bay, until
just when it seemed they were about to be overwhelmed, military
reserves hurrying out from Fairfax Court House, took command of
the road. Cool, unpretentious Riddle calls the episode "Wade's
exploit," and adds "it was much talked of." The newspapers
dealt with it extravagantly.[2]

Gallant as the incident was, it was all the military service
that "Ben" Wade and "Zach" Chandler--for thus they are known in
history-over saw. But one may believe that it had a lasting
effect upon their point of view and on that of their friend
Lyman Trumbull. Certain it is that none of the three
thereafter had any doubts about putting the military men in
their place. All the error of their own view previous to Bull
Run was forgotten. Wade and Chandler, especially, when
military questions were in dispute, felt that no one possibly
could know more of the subject than did the men who stopped the
rout in the narrow road beyond Fairfax.

Three of those picnickers who missed their guess on Bull Run
Sunday, Wade, Chandler and Trumbull, were destined to important
parts in the stern years that were to come. Before the close
of the year 1861 the three made a second visit to the army; and
this time they kept together. To that second visit momentous
happenings may be traced. How it came about must be fully

Two of the three, Wade and Chandler, were temperamentally
incapable of understanding Lincoln. Both were men of fierce
souls; each had but a very limited experience. Wade had been a
country lawyer in Ohio; Chandler, a prosperous manufacturer in
Michigan. They were party men by instinct, blind to the faults
of their own side, blind to the virtues of their enemies. They
were rabid for the control of the government by their own
organized machine.

Of Chandler, in Michigan, it was said that he "carried the
Republican organization in his breeches pocket"; partly through
control of the Federal patronage, which Lincoln frankly
conceded to him, partly through a "judicious use of money."[3]
Chandler's first clash with Lincoln was upon the place that the
Republican machine was to hold in the conduct of the war.

From the beginning Lincoln was resolved that the war should not
be merely a party struggle. Even before he was inaugurated, he
said that he meant to hold the Democrats "close to the
Administration on the naked Union issue."[4] He had added, "We
must make it easy for them" to support the government "because
we can't live through the case without them." This was the
foundation of his attempt--so obvious between the lines of the
first message--to create an all-parties government. This,
Chandler violently opposed. Violence was always Chandler's
note, so much so that a scornful opponent once called him
"Xantippe in pants."

Lincoln had given Chandler a cause of offense in McClellan's
elevation to the head of the army.* McClellan was a Democrat.
There can be little doubt that Lincoln took the fact into
account in selecting him. Shortly before, Lincoln had aimed to
placate the Republicans by showing high honor to their popular
hero, Fremont.

* Strictly speaking he did not become head of the army until
the retirement of Scott in November. Practically, he was
supreme almost from the moment of his arrival in Washington.

When the catastrophe occurred at Bull Run, Fremont was a
major-general commanding the Western Department with
headquarters at St. Louis. He was one of the same violent
root-and-branch wing of the Republicans--the Radicals of a
latter day--of which Chandler was a leader. The temper of that
wing had already been revealed by Senator Baker in his
startling pronouncement: "We of the North control the Union,
and we are going to govern our own Union in our own way.
Chandler was soon to express it still more exactly, saying, "A
rebel has sacrificed all his rights. He has no right to life,
liberty or the pursuit of happiness."[5] Here was that purpose to
narrowing nationalism into Northernism, even to radicalism, and
to make the war an outlet for a sectional ferocity, which
Lincoln was so firmly determined to prevent. All things
considered, the fact that on the day following Bull Run he did
not summon the Re publican hero to Washington, that he did
summon a Democrat, was significant. It opened his long duel
with the extremists.

The vindictive Spirit of the extremists had been rebuffed by
Lincoln in another way. Shortly after Bull Run, Wade and
Chandler appealed to Lincoln to call out negro soldiers.
Chandler said that he did not care whether or no this would
produce a servile insurrection in the South. Lincoln's refusal
made another count in the score of the extremists against him.[6]

During the late summer of 1861, Chandler, Wade, Trumbull, were
all busily organizing their forces for an attack on the
Administration. Trumbull, indeed, seemed out of place in that
terrible company. In time, he found that he was out of place.
At a crucial moment he came over to Lincoln. But not until he
had done yeoman service with Lincoln's bitterest enemies.
The clue to his earlier course was an honest conviction that
Lincoln, though well-intentioned, was weak.[7] Was this the
nemesis of Lincoln's pliability in action during the first
stage of his Presidency? It may be. The firm inner Lincoln,
the unyielding thinker of the first message, was not
appreciated even by well-meaning men like Trumbull. The inner
and the outer Lincoln were still disconnected. And the outer,
in his caution, in his willingness to be instructed, in his
opposition to extreme measures, made the inevitable impression
that temperance makes upon fury, caution upon rashness.

Throughout the late summer, Lincoln was the target of many
attacks, chiefly from the Abolitionists. Somehow, in the
previous spring, they had got it into their heads that at heart
he was one of them, that he waited only for a victory to
declare the war a crusade of abolition.[8] When the crisis passed
and a Democrat was put at the head of the army, while Fremont
was left in the relative obscurity of St. Louis, Abolition
bitterness became voluble. The Crittenden Resolution was
scoffed at as an "ill-timed revival of the policy of
conciliation." Threats against the Administration revived,
taking the old form of demands for a wholly new Cabinet The
keener-sighted Abolitionists had been alarmed by the first
message, by what seemed to them its ominous silence as to
slavery. Late in July, Emerson said in conversation, "If the
Union is incapable of securing universal freedom, its
disruption were as the breaking up of a frog-pond."[9] An outcry
was raised because Federal generals did not declare free all
the slaves who in any way came into their hands. The
Abolitionists found no solace in the First Confiscation Act
which provided that an owner should lose his claim to a slave,
had the slave been used to assist the Confederate government.
They were enraged by an order, early in August, informing
generals that it was the President's desire "that all existing
rights in all the States be fully respected and maintained; in
cases of fugitives from the loyal Slave States, the enforcement
of the Fugitive Slave Law by the ordinary forms of judicial
proceedings must be respected by the military authorities; in
the disloyal States the Confiscation Act of Congress must be
your guide."[10] Especially, the Abolitionists were angered
because of Lincoln's care for the forms of law in those Slave
States that had not seceded. They vented their bitterness in a
famous sneer--"The President would like to have God on his side,
but he must have Kentucky."

A new temper was forming throughout the land. It was not
merely the old Abolitionism. It was a blend of all those
elements of violent feeling which war inevitably releases; it
was the concentration of all these elements on the issue of
Abolition as upon a terrible weapon; it was the resurrection of
that primitive blood-lust which lies dormant in every peaceful
nation like a sleeping beast. This dreadful power rose out of
its sleep and confronted, menacing, the statesman who of all
our statesmen was most keenly aware of its evil, most
determined to put it under or to perish in the attempt With its
appearance, the deepest of all the issues involved, according
to Lincoln's way of thinking, was brought to a head. Was the
Republic to issue from the war a worthy or an unworthy nation?
That was pretty definitely a question of whether Abraham
Lincoln or, say, Zachary Chandler, was to control its policy.

A vain, weak man precipitated the inevitable struggle between
these two. Fremont had been flattered to the skies. He
conceived himself a genius. He was persuaded that the party of
the new temper, the men who may fairly be called the
Vindictives, were lords of the ascendent. He mistook their
volubility for the voice of the nation. He determined to defy
Lincoln. He issued a proclamation freeing the slaves of all
who had "taken an active part" with the enemies of the United
States in the field. He set up a "bureau of abolition."

Lincoln first heard of Fremont's proclamation through the
newspapers. His instant action was taken in his own
extraordinarily gentle way. "I think there is great danger,"
he wrote, "that the closing paragraph (of Fremont's
proclamation) in relation to the confiscation of property and
the liberating of slaves of traitorous owners, will alarm our
Southern Union friends and turn them against us; perhaps ruin
our rather fair prospect for Kentucky. Allow me, therefore, to
ask that you will, as of your own motion, modify that paragraph
so as to conform" to the Confiscation Act. He added, "This
letter is written in the Spirit of caution, not of censure."[11]

Fremont was not the man to understand instruction of this sort.
He would make no compromise with the President. If Lincoln
wished to go over his head and rescind his order let him do
so-and take the consequences. Lincoln quietly did so. His
battle with the Vindictives was on. For a moment it seemed as
if he had destroyed his cause. So loud was the outcry of the
voluble people, that any one might have been excused
momentarily for thinking that all the North had risen against
him. Great meetings of protest were held. Eminent men--even
such fine natures as Bryant--condemned his course. In the wake
of the incident, when it was impossible to say how significant
the outcry really was, Chandler, who was staunch for Fremont,
began his active interference with the management of the army.
McClellan had insisted on plenty of time in which to drill the
new three-year recruits who were pouring into Washington. He
did not propose to repeat the experience of General McDowell.
On the other hand, Chandler was bent on forcing him into
action. He, Wade and Trumbull combined, attempting to bring
things to pass in a way to suit themselves and their faction.
To these men and their followers, clever young Hay gave the apt
name of "The Jacobin Club."

They began their campaign by their second visit to the army.
Wade was their chief spokesman. He urged McClellan to advance
at once; to risk an unsuccessful battle rather than continue to
stand still; the country wanted something done; a defeat could
easily be repaired by the swarming recruits.[12]

This callous attitude got no response from the Commanding
General. The three Senators turned upon Lincoln. "This
evening," writes Hay in his diary on October twenty-sixth, "the
Jacobin Club represented by Trumbull, Chandler and Wade, came
out to worry the Administration into a battle. The agitation
of the summer is to be renewed. The President defended
McClellan's deliberateness. The next night "we went over to
Seward's and found Chandler and Wade there." They repeated
their reckless talk; a battle must be fought; defeat would be
no worse than delay; "and a great deal more trash."

But Lincoln was not to be moved. He and Hay called upon
McClellan. The President deprecated this new manifestation of
popular impatience, but said it was a reality and should be
taken into account. "At the same time, General," said he, "you
must not fight until you are ready."[13]

At this moment of extreme tension occurred the famous incident
of the seizure of the Confederate envoys, Mason and Slidell,
who were passengers on the British merchant ship, the Trent.
These men had run the blockade which had now drawn its
strangling line along the whole coast of the Confederacy; they
had boarded the Trent at Havana, and under the law of nations
were safe from capture. But Captain Wilkes of the United
States Navy, more zealous than discreet, overhauled the Trent
and took off the two Confederates. Every thoughtless
Northerner went wild with joy. At last the government had done
something. Even the Secretary of the Navy so far forgot
himself as to telegraph to Wilkes "Congratulate you on the
great public service you have rendered in the capture of the
rebel emissaries."[14] Chandler promptly applauded the seizure
and when it was suggested that perhaps the envoys should be
released he at once arrayed himself in opposition.[15] With the
truculent Jacobins ready to close battle should the government
do its duty, with the country still echoing to cheers for
Fremont and hisses for the President, with nothing to his
credit in the way of military success, Lincoln faced a crisis.
He was carried through the crisis by two strong men. Sumner,
head and front of Abolitionism but also a great lawyer, came at
once to his assistance. And what could a thinking Abolitionist
say after that! Seward skilfully saved the face of the
government by his management of the negotiation. The envoys
were released and sent to England.

It was the only thing to do, but Chandler and all his sort had
opposed it. The Abolition fury against the government was at
fever heat. Wendell Phillips in a speech at New York denounced
the Administration as having no definite purpose in the war,
and was interrupted by frantic cheers for Fremont. McClellan,
patiently drilling his army, was, in the eyes of the Jacobins,
doing nothing. Congress had assembled. There was every sign
that troubled waters lay just ahead.


The temper animating Hay's "Jacobins" formed a new and really
formidable danger which menaced Lincoln at the close of 1861.
But had he been anything of an opportunist, it would have
offered him an unrivaled opportunity. For a leader who sought
personal power, this raging savagery, with its triple alliance
of an organized political machine, a devoted fanaticism, and
the war fury, was a chance in ten thousand. It led to his door
the steed of militarism, shod and bridled, champing upon the
bit, and invited him to leap into the saddle. Ten words of
acquiescence in the program of the Jacobins, and the dreaded
role of the man on horseback was his to command.

The fallacy that politics are primarily intellectual decisions
upon stated issues, the going forth of the popular mind to
decide between programs presented to it by circumstances,
receives a brilliant refutation in the course of the powerful
minority that was concentrating around the three great
"Jacobins." The subjective side of politics, also the
temperamental side, here found expression. Statecraft is an
art; creative statesmen are like other artists. Just as the
painter or the poet, seizing upon old subjects, uses them as
outlets for his particular temper, his particular emotion, and
as the temper, the emotion are what counts in his work, so with
statesmen, with Lincoln on the one hand, with Chandler at the
opposite extreme.

The Jacobins stood first of all for the sudden reaction of bold
fierce natures from a long political repression. They had
fought their way to leadership as captains of an opposition.
They were artists who had been denied an opportunity of
expression. By a sudden turn of fortune, it had seemed to come
within their grasp. Temperamentally they were fighters.
Battle for them was an end in itself. The thought of Conquest
sang to them like the morning stars. Had they been literary
men, their favorite poetry would have been the sacking of Troy
town. Furthermore, they were intensely provincial. Undoubted
as was their courage, they had also the valor of ignorance.
They had the provincial's disdain for the other side of the
horizon, his unbounded confidence in his ability to whip all
creation. Chandler, scornfully brushing aside a possible
foreign war, typified their mood.

And in quiet veto of all their hopes rose against them the
apparently easy-going, the smiling, story-telling,
unrevengeful, new man at the White House. It is not to be
wondered that they spent the summer laboring to build up a
party against him, that they turned eagerly to the new session
of Congress, hoping to consolidate a faction opposed to

His second message [1], though without a word of obvious
defiance, set him squarely against them on all their vital
contentions. The winter of 1861-1862 is the strangest period of
Lincoln's career. Although the two phases of him, the outer and
the inner, were, in point of fact, moving rapidly toward their
point of fusion, apparently they were further away than ever
before. Outwardly, his most conspicuous vacillations were in
this winter and in the following spring. Never before or after
did he allow himself to be overshadowed so darkly by his
advisers in all the concerns of action. In amazing contrast,
in all the concerns of thought, he was never more entirely
himself. The second message, prepared when the country rang
with what seemed to be a general frenzy against him, did not
give ground one inch. This was all the more notable because
his Secretary of War had tried to force his hand. Cameron had
the reputation of being about the most astute politician in
America. Few people attributed to him the embarrassment of
principles. And Cameron, in the late autumn, after closely
observing the drift of things, determined that Fremont had hit

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