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

Lincoln's Personal Life

Part 5 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

epoch of his audacities began in a reaction; that after too
much self-distrust, he went briefly to the other extreme,
indulging in too much self-confidence. Be that as it may, he
had formed exaggerated opinions of both these Western generals,
Halleck and Pope. Somehow, in the brilliant actions along the
Mississippi they had absorbed far more than their fair share of
credit. Particularly, Lincoln went astray with regard to Pope.
Doubtless a main reason why he accepted the plan of campaign
suggested by Halleck was the opportunity which it offered to
Pope. Perhaps, too, the fatality in McClellan's character
turned the scale. He begged to be left where he was with his
base on James River, and to be allowed to renew the attack on
Richmond.1 But he did not take the initiative. The government
must swiftly hurry up reinforcements, and then--the old, old
story! Obviously, it was a question at Washington either of
superseding McClellan and leaving the army where it was, or of
shifting the army to some other commander without in so many
words disgracing McClellan. Halleck's approval of the latter
course jumped with two of Lincoln's impulses--his trust in Pope,
his reluctance to disgrace McClellan. Orders were issued
transferring the bulk of the army of the Potomac to the new
army of Virginia lying south of Washington under the command of
Pope. McClellan was instructed to withdraw his remaining
forces from the Peninsula and retrace his course up the

Lincoln had committed one of his worst blunders. Herndon has a
curious, rather subtle theory that while Lincoln's judgments of
men in the aggregate were uncannily sure, his judgments of men
individually were unreliable. It suggests the famous remark of
Goethe that his views of women did not derive from experience;
that they antedated experience; and that he corrected
experience by them. Of the confessed artist this may be true.
The literary concept which the artist works with is often,
apparently, a more constant, more fundamental, more significant
thing, than is the broken, mixed, inconsequential impression
out of which it has been wrought. Which seems to explain why
some of the writers who understand human nature so well in
their books, do not always understand people similarly well in
life. And always it is to be remembered that Lincoln was made
an artist by nature, and made over into a man of action by
circumstance. If Herndon's theory has any value it is in
asserting his occasional danger--by no means a constant
danger--of forming in his mind images of men that were more
significant than it was possible for the men themselves to be.
John Pope was perhaps his worst instance. An incompetent
general, he was capable of things still less excusable. Just
after McClellan had so tragically failed in the Seven Days,
when Lincoln was at the front, Pope was busy with the
Committee, assuring them virtually that the war had been won in
the West, and that only McClellan's bungling had saved the
Confederacy from speedy death.[7] But somehow Lincoln trusted
him, and continued to trust him even after he had proved his
incompetency in the catastrophe at Manassas.

During August, Pope marched gaily southward issuing orders that
were shot through with bad rhetoric, mixing up army routine and
such irrelevant matters as "the first blush of dawn."

Lincoln was confident of victory. And after victory would come
the new policy, the dissipation of the European storm-cloud,
the break-up of the vindictive coalition of Jacobins and
Abolitionists, the new enthusiasm for the war. But of all
this, the incensed Abolitionists received no hint. The country
rang with their denunciations of the President. At length,
Greeley printed in The Tribune an open letter called "The
Prayer of Twenty Millions." It was an arraignment of what
Greeley chose to regard as the pro-slavery policy of the
Administration. This was on August twentieth. Lincoln, in
high hope that a victory was at hand, seized the opportunity
both to hint to the country that he was about to change his
policy, and to state unconditionally his reason for changing.
He replied to Greeley through the newspapers:

"As to the policy I 'seem to be pursuing,' as you say, I have
meant to leave no one in doubt.

"I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way
under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can
be restored, the nearer the Union will be 'the Union as it was'
If there be those who would not save the Union unless they
could at the same time save Slavery, I do not agree with them.
If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they
could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with
them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the
Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. if I
could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it;
and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do
it; and if I could save it by freeing some of the slaves and
leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about
slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it will
help to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I
do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do
less whenever I shall believe that what I am doing hurts the
cause; and I shall do more whenever I believe that doing more
will help the cause."[8] The effect of this on the Abolitionists
was only to increase their rage. The President was compared to
Douglas with his indifference whether slavery was voted "up or
down."[9] Lincoln, now so firmly hopeful, turned a deaf ear to
these railing accusations. He was intent upon watching the
army. It was probably at this time that he reached an
unfortunate conclusion with regard to McClellan. The transfer
of forces from the James River to northern Virginia had
proceeded slowly. It gave rise to a new controversy, a new
crop of charges. McClellan was accused of being dilatory on
purpose, of aiming to cause the failure of Pope. Lincoln
accepted, at last, the worst view of him. He told Hay that "it
really seemed that McClellan wanted Pope defeated. . . .
The President seemed to think him a little crazy."[10]

But still the confidence in Pope, marching so blithely through
"the blush of dawn," stood fast. If ever an Administration was
in a fool's paradise, it was Lincoln's, in the last few days of
August, while Jackson was stealthily carrying out his great
flanking movement getting between Pope and Washington.
However, the Suspicious Stanton kept his eyes on McClellan. He
decided that troops were being held back from Pope; and he
appealed to other members of the Cabinet to join with him in a
formal demand upon the President for McClellan's dismissal from
the army. While the plan was being discussed, came the
appalling news of Pope's downfall.

The meeting of the Cabinet, September second, was another
revelation of the new independence of the President. Three
full days had passed since Pope had telegraphed that the battle
was lost and that he no longer had control of his army. The
Ministers, awaiting the arrival of the President, talked
excitedly, speculating what would happen next. "It was
stated," says Welles in his diary, "that Pope was falling back,
intending to retreat within the Washington entrenchments, .
Blair, who has known him intimately, says he is a braggart and
a liar, with some courage, perhaps, but not much capacity. The
general conviction is that he is a failure here, and there is a
belief . . . that he has not been seconded and sustained as
he should have been by McClellan . . ." Stanton entered;
terribly agitated. He had news that fell upon the Cabinet like
a bombshell. He said "in a suppressed voice, trembling with
excitement, he was informed that McClellan had been ordered to
take command of the forces in Washington."

Never was there a more tense moment in the Cabinet room than
when Lincoln entered that day. And all could see that he was
in deep distress. But he confirmed Stanton's information.
That very morning he had gone himself to McClellan's house and
had asked him to resume command. Lincoln discussed McClellan
with the Cabinet quite simply, admitting all his bad qualities,
but finding two points in his favor--his power of organization,
and his popularity with the men.[11]

He was still more frank with his Secretaries. "'He has acted
badly in this matter,' Lincoln said to Hay, 'but we must use
what tools we have. There is no man in the army who can man
these fortifications and lick these troops of ours into shape
half as well as he.' I spoke of the general feeling against
McClellan as evinced by the President's mail. He rejoined:
'Unquestionably, he has acted badly toward Pope; he wanted him
to fail. That is unpardonable, but he is too useful now to
sacrifice.'"[12] At another time, he said: " 'If he can't fight
himself, he excels in making others ready to fight.'"[13]

McClellan justified Lincoln's confidence. In this case,
Herndon's theory of Lincoln's powers of judgment does not
apply. Though probably unfair on the one point of McClellan's
attitude to Pope, he knew his man otherwise. Lincoln had also
discovered that Halleck, the veriest martinet of a general, was
of little value at a crisis. During the next two months,
McClellan, under the direct oversight of the President, was the
organizer of victory.

Toward the middle of September, when Lee and McClellan were
gradually converging upon the fated line of Antietam Creek,
Lincoln's new firmness was put to the test. The immediate
effect of Manassas was another, a still more vehement outcry
for an anti-slavery policy. A deputation of Chicago clergymen
went to Washington for the purpose of urging him to make an
anti-slavery pronouncement. The journey was a continuous
ovation. If at any time Lincoln was tempted to forget Seward's
worldly wisdom, it was when these influential zealots demanded
of him to do the very thing he intended to do. But it was one
of the characteristics of this final Lincoln that when once he
had fully determined on a course of action, nothing could
deflect him. With consummate coolness he gave them no new
light on his purpose. Instead, he seized the opportunity to
"feel" the country. He played the role of advocate arguing the
case against an emancipation policy.[14] They met his argument
with great Spirit and resolution. Taking them as an index,
there could be little question that the country was ripe for
the new policy. At the close of the interview Lincoln allowed
himself to jest. One of the clergymen dramatically charged him
to give heed to their message as to a direct commission from
the Almighty. "Is it not odd," said Lincoln, "that the only
channel he could send it was that roundabout route by the
awfully wicked city of Chicago?"*

* Reminiscences, 335. This retort is given by Schuyler Colfax.
There are various reports of what Lincoln said. In another
version, "I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that
if it is probable that God would reveal His will to others on a
point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed He would
reveal it directly to me." Tarbell, II, l2.

Lincoln's pertinacity, holding fast the program he had
accepted, came to its reward. On the seventeenth occurred that
furious carnage along the Antietam known as the bloodiest
single day of the whole war. Military men have disagreed,
calling it sometimes a victory, sometimes a drawn battle. In
Lincoln's political strategy the dispute is immaterial.
Psychologically, it was a Northern victory. The retreat of Lee
was regarded by the North as the turn of the tide. Lincoln's
opportunity had arrived.

Again, a unique event occurred in a Cabinet meeting. On the
twenty-second of September, with the cannon of Antietam still
ringing in their imagination, the Ministers were asked by the
President whether they had seen the new volume just published
by Artemus Ward. As they had not, he produced it and read
aloud with evident relish one of those bits of nonsense which,
in the age of Dickens, seemed funny enough. Most of the
Cabinet joined in the merriment--Stanton, of course, as always,
excepted. Lincoln closed the book, pulled himself together,
and became serious.

"Gentlemen," said he, according to the diary of Secretary
Chase, "I have, as you are aware, thought a great deal about the
relation of this war to slavery; and you all remember that
several weeks ago I read you an order I had prepared on this
subject, which, on account of objections made by some of you,
was not issued. Ever since, my mind has been much occupied
with this subject, and I have thought all along that the time
for acting on it might probably come. I think the time has
come now. I wish it was a better time. I wish that we were in
a better condition. The action of the army against the Rebels
has not been quite what I should have best liked. But they
have been driven out of Maryland; and Pennsylvania is no longer
in danger of invasion. When the Rebel army was at Frederick, I
determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, to
issue a proclamation of emancipation, such as I thought most
likely to be useful. I said nothing to any one, but I made the
promise to myself, and [hesitating a little] to my Maker. The
Rebel army is now driven out and I am going to fulfill that
promise. I have got you together to hear what I have written
down. I do not wish your advice about the main matter, for
that I have determined for myself. This, I say without
intending anything but respect for any one of you. But I
already know the views of each on this question. They have
been heretofore expressed, and I have considered them as
thoroughly and as carefully as I can. What I have written is
that which my reflections have determined me to say. . . .
I must do the best I can, and bear the responsibility of taking
the course which I feel I ought to take."[15] The next day the
Proclamation was published.

This famous document [16] is as remarkable for the parts of it
that are now forgotten as for the rest. The remembered portion
is a warning that on the first of January, one hundred days
subsequent to the date of the Proclamation--"all persons held as
slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the
people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United
States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." The
forgotten portions include four other declarations of executive
policy. Lincoln promised that "the Executive will in due time
recommend that all citizens of the United States who have
remained loyal thereto shall be compensated for all losses by
acts of the United States, including the loss of slaves." He
announced that he would again urge upon Congress "the adoption
of a practical measure tendering pecuniary aid" to all the
loyal Slave States that would "voluntarily adopt immediate or
gradual abolishment of slavery within their limits." He would
continue to advise the colonization of free Africans abroad.
There is still to be mentioned a detail of the Proclamation
which, except for its historical setting in the general
perspective of Lincoln's political strategy, would appear
inexplicable. One might expect in the opening statement, where
the author of the Proclamation boldly assumes dictatorial
power, an immediate linking of that assumption with the matter
in hand. But this does not happen. The Proclamation begins
with the following paragraph:

"I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America,
and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy thereof, do hereby
proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war
will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the
constitutional relation between the United States and each of
the States and the people thereof in which States that relation
is or may be suspended or disturbed."


By the autumn of 1862, Lincoln had acquired the same political
method that Seward had displayed in the spring of 1861. What a
chasm separates the two Lincolns! The cautious, contradictory,
almost timid statesman of the Sumter episode; the confident,
unified, quietly masterful statesman of the Emancipation
Proclamation. Now, in action, he was capable of staking his
whole future on the soundness of his own thinking, on his own
ability to forecast the inevitable. Without waiting for the
results of the Proclamation to appear, but in full confidence
that he had driven a wedge between the Jacobins proper and the
mere Abolitionists, he threw down the gage of battle on the
issue of a constitutional dictatorship. Two days after
issuing the Proclamation he virtually proclaimed himself
dictator. He did so by means of a proclamation which divested
the whole American people of the privileges of the writ of
habeas corpus. The occasion was the effort of State
governments to establish conscription of their militia. The
Proclamation delivered any one impeding that attempt into the
hands of the military authorities without trial.

Here was Lincoln's final answer to Stevens; here, his audacious
challenge to the Jacobins. And now appeared the wisdom of his
political strategy, holding back emancipation until Congress
was out of the way. Had Congress been in session what a hubbub
would have ensued! Chandler, Wade, Trumbull, Sumner, Stevens,
all hurrying to join issue on the dictatorship; to get it
before the country ahead of emancipation. Rather, one can not
imagine Lincoln daring to play this second card, so soon after
the first, except with abundant time for the two issues to
disentangle themselves in the public mind ere Congress met.
And that was what happened. When the Houses met in December,
the Jacobins found their position revolutionized. The men who,
in July at the head of the Vindictive coalition, dominated
Congress, were now a minority faction biting their nails at the
President amid the ruins of their coalition.

There were three reasons for this collapse. First of all, the
Abolitionists, for the moment, were a faction by themselves.
Six weeks had sufficed to intoxicate them with their
opportunity. The significance of the Proclamation had had time
to arise towering on their spiritual vision, one of the gates
of the New Jerusalem.

Limited as it was in application who could doubt that, with one
condition, it doomed slavery everywhere. The condition was a
successful prosecution of the war, the restoration of the
Union. Consequently, at that moment, nothing that made issue
with the President, that threatened any limitation of his
efficiency, had the slightest chance of Abolitionist support.
The one dread that alarmed the whole Abolitionist group was a
possible change in the President's mood, a possible recantation
on January first. In order to hold him to his word, they were
ready to humor him as one might cajole, or try to cajole, a
monster that one was afraid of. No time, this, to talk to
Abolitionists about strictly constitutional issues, or about
questions of party leadership. Away with all your "gabble"
about such small things! The Jacobins saw the moving hand--at
least for this moment--in the crumbling wall of the palace of
their delusion.

Many men who were not Abolitionists perceived, before Congress
met, that Lincoln had made a great stroke internationally. The
"Liberal party throughout the world" gave a cry of delight, and
rose instantly to his support. John Bright declared that the
Emancipation Proclamation "made it impossible for England to
intervene for the South" and derided "the silly proposition of
the French Emperor looking toward intervention."[1] Bright's
closest friend in America was Sumner and Sumner was chairman of
the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He understood the
value of international sentiment, its working importance, as
good provincials like Chandler did not. Furthermore, he was
always an Abolitionist first and a Jacobin second--if at all.
From this time forward, the Jacobins were never able to count
on him, not even when they rebuilt the Vindictive Coalition a
year and a half later. In December, 1862, how did they
dare--true blue politicians that they were--how did they dare
raise a constitutional issue involving the right of the
President to capture, in the way he had, international

The crowning irony in the new situation of the Jacobins was the
revelation that they had played unwittingly into the hands of
the Democrats. Their short-sighted astuteness in tying up
emancipation with the war powers was matched by an equal
astuteness equally short-sighted. The organization of the
Little Men, when it refused to endorse Lincoln's all-parties
program, had found itself in the absurd position of a party
without an issue. It contained, to be sure, a large proportion
of the Northerners who were opposed to emancipation. But how
could it make an issue upon emancipation, as long as the
President, the object of its antagonism, also refused to
support emancipation? The sole argument in the Cabinet against
Lincoln's new policy was that it would give the Democrats an
issue. Shrewd Montgomery Blair prophesied that on this issue
they could carry the autumn elections for Congress. Lincoln
had replied that he would take the risk. He presented them
with the issue. They promptly accepted it But they did not
stop there. They aimed to take over the whole of the position
that had been vacated by the collapse of the Vindictive
Coalition. By an adroit bit of political legerdemain they
would steal their enemies' thunder, reunite the emancipation
issue with the issue of the war powers, reverse the
significance of the conjunction, and, armed with this double
club, they would advance from a new and unexpected angle and
win the leadership of the country by overthrowing the dictator.
And this, they came very near doing. On their double issue
they rallied enough support to increase their number in
Congress by thirty-three. Had not the moment been so tragic,
nothing could have been more amusing than the helpless wrath of
the Jacobins caught in their own trap, compelled to gnaw their
tongues in silence, while the Democrats, paraphrasing their own
arguments, hurled defiant at Lincoln.

Men of intellectual courage might have broken their party
ranks, daringly applied Lincoln's own maxim "stand with any one
who stands right," and momentarily joined the Democrats in
their battle against the two proclamations. But in American
politics, with a few glorious exceptions, courage of this sort
has never been the order of the day. The Jacobins kept their
party line; bowed their heads to the storm; and bided their
time. In the Senate, an indiscreet resolution commending the
Emancipation Proclamation was ordered to be printed, and laid
on the table.[2] In the House, party exigencies were more
exacting. Despite the Democratic successes, the Republicans
still had a majority. When the Democrats made the repudiation
of the President a party issue, arguing on those very grounds
that had aroused the eloquence of Stevens and the rest--why,
what's the Constitution between friends! Or between political
enemies? The Democrats forced all the Republicans into one boat
by introducing a resolution "That the policy of emancipation as
indicated in that Proclamation is an assumption of powers
dangerous to the rights of citizens and to the perpetuity of a
free people." The resolution was rejected. Among those who
voted NO was Stevens.[3] Indeed, the star of the Jacobins was
far down on the horizon.

But the Jacobins were not the men to give up the game until
they were certainly in the last ditch. Though their issues had
been slipped out of their hands; though for the moment at
least, it was not good policy to fight the President on a
principle; it might still be possible to recover their prestige
on some other contention. The first of January was
approaching. The final proclamation of emancipation would
bring to an end the temporary alliance of the Administration
and the Abolitionists. Who could say what new pattern of
affairs the political kaleidoscope might not soon reveal?
Surely the Jacobin cue was to busy themselves, straightway,
making trouble for the President. Principles being
unavailable, practices might do. And who was satisfied with
the way the war was going? To rouse the party against the
Administration on the ground of inefficient practices, of
unsatisfactory military progress, might be the first step
toward regaining their former dominance.

There was a feather in the wind that gave them hope. The
ominous first paragraph of the Emancipation Proclamation was
evidence that the President was still stubbornly for his own
policy; that he had not surrendered to the opposite view. But
this was not their only strategic hope. Lincoln's dealings
with the army between September and December might, especially
if anything in his course proved to be mistaken, deliver him
into their hands.

Following Antietam, Lincoln had urged upon McClellan swift
pursuit of Lee. His despatches were strikingly different from
those of the preceding spring. That half apologetic tone had
disappeared. Though they did not command, they gave advice
freely. The tone was at least that of an equal who, while not
an authority in this particular matter, is entitled to express
his views and to have them taken seriously.

"You remember my speaking to you of what I called your
overcautiousness? Are you not over-cautious when you assume
that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should
you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess and act upon
that claim . . . one of the standard maxims of war, as you
know, is to operate upon the enemy's communications as much as
possible without exposing your own. You seem to act as if this
applies against you, but can not apply in your favor. Change
positions with the enemy and think you not he would break your
communications with Richmond within the next twenty-four
hours. . .

"If he should move northward, I would follow him closely,
holding his communications. if he should prevent your seizing
his communications and move toward Richmond; I would press
closely to him, fight him if a favorable opportunity should
present, and at least try to beat him to Richmond on the inside
track. I say 'try'; if we never try we shall never succeed. .
. . We should not operate so as to merely drive him away. .
. . This letter is in no sense an order."[4]

But once more the destiny that is in character intervened, and
McClellan's tragedy reached its climax. His dread of failure
hypnotized his will. So cautious were his movements that Lee
regained Virginia with his army intact. Lincoln was angry.
Military amateur though he was, he had filled his spare time
reading books on strategy, Von Clausewitz and the rest, and he
had grasped the idea that war's aim is not to win technical
victories, nor to take cities, but to destroy armies. He felt
that McClellan had thrown away an opportunity of first
magnitude. He removed him from command.[5]

This was six weeks after the two proclamations. The country
was ringing with Abolition plaudits. The election had given
the Democrats a new lease of life. The anti-Lincoln
Republicans were silent while their party enemies with their
stolen thunder rang the changes on the presidential abuse of
the war powers. It was a moment of crisis in party politics.
Where did the President stand? What was the outlook for those
men who in the words of Senator Wilson "would rather give a
policy to the President of the United States than take a policy
from the President of the United States."

Lincoln's situation was a close parallel to the situation of
July, 1861, when McDowell failed. Just as in choosing a
successor to McDowell, he revealed a political attitude, now,
he would again make a revelation choosing a successor to
McClellan. By passing over Fremont and by elevating a
Democrat, he had spoken to the furious politicians in the
language they understood. Whatever appointment he now made
would be interpreted by those same politicians in the same way.
In the atmosphere of that time, there was but one way for
Lincoln to rank himself as a strict party man, to recant his
earlier heresy of presidential independence, and say to the
Jacobins, "I am with you." He must appoint a Republican to
succeed McClellan. Let him do that and the Congressional Cabal
would forgive him. But he did not do it. He swept political
considerations aside and made a purely military appointment
Burnside, on whom he fixed, was the friend and admirer of
McClellan and might fairly be considered next to him in
prestige. He was loved by his troops. In the eyes of the
army, his elevation represented "a legitimate succession rather
than the usurpation of a successful rival."[6] He was modest. He
did not want promotion. Nevertheless, Lincoln forced him to
take McClellan's place against his will, in spite of his
protest that he had not the ability to command so large an

When Congress assembled and the Committee resumed its
inquisition, Burnside was moving South on his fated march to
Fredericksburg. The Committee watched him like hungry wolves.
Woe to Burnside, woe to Lincoln, if the General failed! Had the
Little Men possessed any sort of vision they would have seized
their opportunity to become the President's supporters. But
they, like the Jacobins, were partisans first and patriots
second. In the division among the Republicans they saw, not a
chance to turn the scale in the President's favor, but a chance
to play politics on their own account. A picturesque Ohio
politician known as "Sunset" Cox opened the ball of their
fatuousness with an elaborate argument in Congress to the
effect that the President was in honor bound to regard the
recent elections as strictly analogous to an appeal to the
country in England; that it was his duty to remodel his policy
to suit the Democrats. Between the Democrats and the Jacobins
Lincoln was indeed between the devil and the deep blue sea with
no one certainly on his side except the volatile Abolitionists
whom he did not trust and who did not trust him. A great
victory might carry him over. But a great defeat--what might
not be the consequence!

On the thirteenth of December, through Burnside's stubborn
incompetence, thousands of American soldiers flung away their
lives in a holocaust of useless valor at Fredericksburg.
Promptly the Jacobins acted. They set up a shriek: the
incompetent President, the all-parties dreamer, the man who
persists in coquetting with the Democrats, is blundering into
destruction! Burnside received the dreaded summons from the
Committee. So staggering was the shock of horror that even
moderate Republicans were swept away in a new whirlpool of

But even thus it was scarcely wise, the Abolitionists being
still fearful over the emancipation policy, to attack the
President direct. Nevertheless, the resourceful Jacobins found
a way to begin their new campaign. Seward, the symbol of
moderation, the unforgivable enemy of the Jacobins, had
recently earned anew the hatred of the Abolitionists. Letters
of his to Charles Francis Adams had appeared in print. Some
of their expressions had roused a storm. For example: "extreme
advocates of African slavery arid its most vehement exponents
are acting in concert together to precipitate a servile war."[8]
To be sure, the date of this letter was long since, before he
and Lincoln had changed ground on emancipation, but that did
not matter. He had spoken evil of the cause; he should suffer.
All along, the large number that were incapable of appreciating
his lack of malice had wished him out of the Cabinet. As
Lincoln put it: "While they seemed to believe in my honesty,
they also appeared to think that when I had in me any good
purpose or intention, Seward contrived to suck it out of me

The Jacobins were skilful politicians. A caucus of Republican
Senators was stampeded by the cry that Seward was the master of
the Administration, the chief explanation of failure. It was
Seward who had brought them to the verge of despair. A
committee was named to demand the reorganization of the Cabinet
Thereupon, Seward, informed of this action, resigned. The
Committee of the Senators called upon Lincoln. He listened;
did not commit himself; asked them to call again; and turned
into his own thoughts for a mode of saving the day.

During twenty months, since their clash in April, 1861, Seward
and Lincoln had become friends; not merely official associates,
but genuine comrades. Seward's earlier condescension had
wholly disappeared. Perhaps his new respect for Lincoln grew
out of the President's silence after Sumter. A few words
revealing the strange meddling of the Secretary of State would
have turned upon Seward the full fury of suspicion that
destroyed McClellan. But Lincoln never spoke those words.
Whatever blame there was for the failure of the Sumter
expedition, he quietly accepted as his own. Seward, whatever
his faults, was too large a nature, too genuinely a lover of
courage, of the nonvindictive temper, not to be struck with
admiration. Watching with keen eyes the unfolding of Lincoln,
Seward advanced from admiration to regard. After a while he
could write, "The President is the best of us." He warmed to
him; he gave out the best of himself. Lincoln responded.
While the other secretaries were useful, Seward became
necessary. Lincoln, in these dark days, found comfort in his
society.[10] Lincoln was not going to allow Seward to he driven
out of the Cabinet. But how could he prevent it? He could not
say. He was in a quandary. For the moment, the Republican
leaders were so nearly of one mind in their antagonism to
Seward, that it demanded the greatest courage to oppose them.
But Lincoln does not appear to have given a thought to
surrender. What puzzled him was the mode of resistance.

Now that he was wholly himself, having confidence in whatever
mode of procedure his own thought approved, he had begun using
methods that the politicians found disconcerting. The second
conference with the Senators was an instance. Returning in the
same mood in which they had left him, with no suspicion of a
surprise in store, the Senators to their amazement were
confronted by the Cabinet--or most of it, Seward being
absent.[11] The Senators were put out. This simple maneuver by
the President was the beginning of their discomfiture. It changed
their role from the ambassadors of an ultimatum to the
participants in a conference. But even thus, they might have
succeeded in dominating the event, though it is hardly
conceivable that they could have carried their point; they
might have driven Lincoln into a corner; had it not been for
the make-up of one man. Again, the destiny that is in
character! Lincoln was delivered from a quandary by the course
which the Secretary of the Treasury could not keep himself from

Chase, previous to this hour, may truly be called an imposing
figure. As a leader of the extreme Republicans, he had earned
much fame. Lincoln had given him a free hand in the Treasury
and all the financial measures of the government were his.
Hitherto, Vindictives of all sorts had loved him. He was a
critic of the President's mildness, and a severe critic of
Seward. But Chase was not candid. Though on the surface he
scrupulously avoided any hint of cynicism, any point of
resemblance to Seward, he was in fact far more devious, much
more capable of self-deception. He had little of Seward's
courage, and none of his aplomb. His condemnation of Seward
had been confided privately to Vindictive brethren.

When the Cabinet and the Senators met, Chase was placed in a
situation of which he had an instinctive horror. His caution,
his secretiveness, his adroit confidences, his skilful
silences, had created in these two groups of men, two
impressions of his character. The Cabinet knew him as the
faithful, plausible Minister who found the money for the
President. The Senators, or some of them, knew him as the
discontented Minister who was their secret ally. For the two
groups to compare notes, to check up their impressions, meant
that Chase was going to be found out. And it was the central
characteristic of Chase that he had a horror of being found

The only definite result of the conference was Chase's
realization when the Senators departed that mischance was his
portion. In the presence of the Cabinet he had not the face to
stick to his guns. He feebly defended Seward. The Senators
opened their eyes and stared. The ally they had counted on had
failed them. Chase bit his lips and was miserable.

The night that followed was one of deep anxiety for Lincoln.
He was still unable to see his way out. But all the while the
predestination in Chase's character was preparing the way of
escape. Chase was desperately trying to discover how to save
his face. An element in him that approached the melodramatic
at last pointed the way. He would resign. What an admirable
mode of recapturing the confidence of his disappointed friends,
carrying out their aim to disrupt the Cabinet! But he could
not do a bold thing like this in Seward's way--at a stroke,
without hesitation. When he called on Lincoln the next day
with the resignation in his hand, he wavered. It happened that
Welles was in the room.

"Chase said he had been painfully affected," is Welles'
account, "by the meeting last evening, which was a surprise,
and after some not very explicit remarks as to how he was
affected, informed the President he had prepared his
resignation of the office of Secretary of the Treasury. 'Where
is it,' said the President, quickly, his eye lighting up in a
moment. 'I brought it with me,' said Chase, taking the paper
from his pocket. 'I wrote it this morning.' 'Let me have it,'
said the President, reaching his long arm and fingers toward
Chase, who held on seemingly reluctant to part with the letter
which was sealed and which he apparently hesitated to
surrender. Something further he wished to say, but the
President was eager and did not perceive it, but took and
hastily opened the letter.

"'This,' said he, looking towards me with a triumphal laugh,
'cuts the Gordian knot.' An air of satisfaction spread over his
countenance such as I had not seen for some time. 'I can
dispose of this subject now without difficulty,' he added, as
he turned in his chair; 'I see my way clear.'"[12] In Lincoln's
distress during this episode, there was much besides his
anxiety for the fate of a trusted minister. He felt he must
not permit himself to be driven into the arms of the
Vindictives by disgracing Seward. Seward had a following which
Lincoln needed But to proclaim to the world his confidence in
Seward without at the same time offsetting it by some display
of confidence, equally significant in the enemies of Seward,
this would have amounted to committing himself to Seward's
following alone. And that would not do. Should either faction
appear to dominate him, Lincoln felt that "the whole government
must cave in. It could not stand, could not hold water; the
bottom would be out."[13]

The incredible stroke of luck, the sheer good fortune that
Chase was Chase and nobody else,--vain, devious, stagey and
hypersensitive,--was salvation. Lincoln promptly rejected both
resignations and called upon both Ministers to resume their
portfolios. They did so. The incident was closed. Neither
faction could say that Lincoln had favored the other. He had
saved himself, or rather, Chase's character had saved him, by
the margin of a hair.

For the moment, a rebuilding of the Vindictive Coalition was
impossible. Nevertheless, the Jacobins, again balked of their
prey, had it in their power, through the terrible Committee, to
do immense mischief. The history of the war contains no other
instance of party malice quite so fruitless and therefore so
inexcusable as their next move. After severely interrogating
Burnside, they published an exoneration of his motives and
revealed the fact that Lincoln had forced him into command
against his will. The implication was plain.

January came in. The Emancipation Proclamation was confirmed.
The jubilation of the Abolitionists became, almost at once, a
propaganda for another issue upon slavery. New troubles were
gathering close about the President The overwhelming benefit
which had been anticipated from the new policy had not clearly
arrived. Even army enlistments were not satisfactory.
Conscription loomed on the horizon as an eventual necessity. A
bank of returning cloud was covering the political horizon,
enshrouding the White House in another depth of gloom.

However, out of all this gathering darkness, one clear light
solaced Lincoln's gaze. One of his chief purposes had been
attained. In contrast to the doubtful and factional response
to his policy at home, the response abroad was sweeping and
unconditional. He had made himself the hero of the "Liberal
party throughout the world." Among the few cheery words that
reached him in January, 1863, were New Year greetings of trust
and sympathy sent by English working men, who, because of the
blockade, were on the verge of starvation. It was in response
to one of these letters from the working men of Manchester that
Lincoln wrote:

"I have understood well that the duty of self-preservation
rests solely with the American people; but I have at the same
time been aware that the favor or disfavor of foreign nations
might have a material influence in enlarging or prolonging the
struggle with disloyal men in which the country is engaged. A
fair examination of history has served to authorize a belief
that the past actions and influences of the United States were
generally regarded as having been beneficial toward mankind. I
have therefore reckoned upon the forbearance of nations.
Circumstances--to some of which you kindly allude--induce me
especially to expect that if justice and good faith should be
practised by the United States they would encounter no hostile
influence on the part of Great Britain. It is now a pleasant
duty to acknowledge the demonstration you have given of your
desire that a spirit of amity and peace toward this country may
prevail in the councils of your Queen, who is respected and
esteemed in your own country only more than she is, by the
kindred nation which has its home on this side of the Atlantic.

"I know and deeply deplore the sufferings which the working men
at Manchester, and in all Europe, are called on to endure in
this crisis. It has been often and studiously represented that
the attempt to overthrow this government which was built upon
the foundation of human rights, and to substitute for it one
which should rest exclusively on the basis of human slavery,
was likely to obtain the favor of Europe. Through the action
of our disloyal citizens, the working men of Europe have been
subjected to severe trials for the purpose of forcing their
sanction to that attempt. Under the circumstances, I can not
but regard your decisive utterances upon the question as an
instance of sublime Christian heroism which has not been
surpassed in any age or in any country. It is indeed an
energetic and reinspiring assurance of the inherent power of
the truth, and of the ultimate and universal triumph of
justice, humanity and freedom. I do not doubt that the
sentiments you have expressed will be sustained by your great
nation; and on the other hand, I have no hesitation in assuring
you that they will excite admiration, esteem, and the most
reciprocal feelings of friendship among the American people. I
hail this interchange of sentiment, therefore, as an augury
that whatever else may happen, whatever misfortune may befall
your country or my own, the peace and friendship which now
exist between the two nations, will be, as it shall he my
desire to make them, perpetual."[14]


While the Jacobins were endeavoring to reorganize the
Republican antagonism to the President, Lincoln was taking
thought how he could offset still more effectually their
influence. in taking up the emancipation policy he had not
abandoned his other policy of an all-parties Administration,
or of something similar to that. By this time it was plain
that a complete union of parties was impossible. In the autumn
of 1862, a movement of liberal Democrats in Michigan for the
purpose of a working agreement with the Republicans was
frustrated by the flinty opposition of Chandler.[1] However, it
still seemed possible to combine portions of parties in an
Administration group that should forswear the savagery of the
extreme factions and maintain the war in a merciful temper.
The creation of such a group was Lincoln's aim at the close of
the year.

The Republicans were not in doubt what he was driving at.
Smarting over their losses in the election, there was angry
talk that Lincoln and Seward had "slaughtered the Republican
party."[2] Even as sane a man as John Sherman, writing to his
brother on the causes of the apparent turn of the tide could
say "the first is that the Republican organization was
voluntarily abandoned by the President and his leading
followers, and a no-party union was formed to run against an
old, well-drilled party organization."[3] When Julian returned to
Washington in December, he found that the menace to the
Republican machine was "generally admitted and (his) earnest
opposition to it fully justified in the opinion of the
Republican members of Congress."[4] How fully they perceived
their danger had been shown in their attempt to drive Lincoln
into a corner on the issue of a new Cabinet.

Even before that, Lincoln had decided on his next move. As in
the emancipation policy he had driven a wedge between the
factions of the Republicans, so now he would drive a wedge into
the organization of the Democrats. It had two parts which had
little to hold them together except their rooted partisan
habit.[5] One branch, soon to receive the label "Copperhead,"
accepted the secession principle and sympathized with the
Confederacy. The other, while rejecting secession and
supporting the war, denounced the emancipation policy as
usurped authority, and felt personal hostility to Lincoln. It
was the latter faction that Lincoln still hoped to win over.
Its most important member was Horatio Seymour, who in the
autumn of 1862 was elected governor of New York. Lincoln
decided to operate on him by one of those astounding moves
which to the selfless man seemed natural enough, by which the
ordinary politician was always hopelessly mystified. He called
in Thurlow Weed and authorized him to make this proposal: if
Seymour would bring his following into a composite Union party
with no platform but the vigorous prosecution of the war,
Lincoln would pledge all his influence to securing for Seymour
the presidential nomination in 1864. Weed delivered his
message. Seymour was noncommittal and Lincoln had to wait for
his answer until the new Governor should show his hand by his
official acts. Meanwhile a new crisis had developed in the
army. Burnside's character appears to have been shattered by
his defeat. Previous to Fredericksburg, he had seemed to be a
generous, high-minded man. From Fredericksburg onward, he
became more and more an impossible. A reflection of McClellan
in his earlier stage, he was somehow transformed eventually
into a reflection of vindictivism. His later character began
to appear in his first conference with the Committee subsequent
to his disaster. They visited him on the field and "his
conversation disarmed all criticism." This was because he
struck their own note to perfection. "Our soldiers," he said,
"were not sufficiently fired by resentment, and he exhorted me
[Julian] if I could, to breathe into our people at home the
same spirit toward our enemies which inspired them toward us."[6]
What a transformation in McClellan's disciple!

But the country was not won over so easily as the Committee.
There was loud and general disapproval and of course, the
habitual question, "Who next?" The publication by the Committee
of its insinuation that once more the stubborn President was
the real culprit did not stem the tide. Burnside himself made
his case steadily worse. His judgment, such as it was, had
collapsed. He seemed to be stubbornly bent on a virtual
repetition of his previous folly. Lincoln felt it necessary to
command him to make no forward move without consulting the

Burnside's subordinates freely criticized their commander.
General Hooker was the most outspoken. It was known that a
movement was afoot--an intrigue, if you will-to disgrace
Burnside and elevate Hooker. Chafing under criticism and
restraint, Burnside completely lost his sense of propriety. On
the twenty-fourth of January, 1863, when Henry W. Raymond, the
powerful editor of the New York Times, was on a visit to the
camp, Burnside took him into his tent and read him an order
removing Hooker because of his unfitness "to hold a command in
a cause where so much moderation, forbearance, and unselfish
patriotism were required." Raymond, aghast, inquired what he
would do if Hooker resisted, if he raised his troops in mutiny?
"He said he would Swing him before sundown if he attempted such
a thing."

Raymond, though more than half in sympathy with Burnside, felt
that the situation was startling. He hurried off to
Washington. "I immediately," he writes, "called upon Secretary
Chase and told him the whole story. He was greatly surprised
to hear such reports of Hooker, and said he had looked upon him
as the man best fitted to command the army of the Potomac. But
no man capable of so much and such unprincipled ambition was
fit for so great a trust, and he gave up all thought of him
henceforth. He wished me to go with him to his house and
accompany him and his daughter to the President's levee. I did
so and found a great crowd surrounding President Lincoln. I
managed, however, to tell him in brief terms that I had been
with the army and that many things were occurring there which
he ought to know. I told him of the obstacles thrown in
Burnside's way by his subordinates and especially General
Hooker's habitual conversation. He put his hand on my shoulder
and said in my ear as if desirous of not being overheard, 'That
is all true; Hooker talks badly; but the trouble is, he is
stronger with the country today than any other man.' I ventured
to ask how long he would retain that strength if his real
conduct and character should be understood. 'The country,'
said he, 'would not believe it; they would say it was all a

Whether Chase did what he said he would do and ceased to be
Hooker's advocate, may be questioned. Tradition preserves a
deal between the Secretary and the General--the Secretary to
urge his advancement, the General, if he reached his goal, to
content himself with military honors and to assist the
Secretary in succeeding to the Presidency. Hooker was a public
favorite. The dashing, handsome figure of "Fighting Joe"
captivated the popular imagination. The terrible Committee
were his friends. Military men thought him full of promise.
On the whole, Lincoln, who saw the wisdom of following up his
clash over the Cabinet by a concession to the Jacobins, was
willing to take his chances with Hooker.

His intimate advisers were not of the same mind. They knew
that there was much talk on the theme of a possible
dictator-not the constitutional dictator of Lincoln and
Stevens, but the old-fashioned dictator of historical melodrama.
Hooker was reported to have encouraged such talk. All this
greatly alarmed one of Lincoln's most devoted henchmen--Lamon,
Marshal of the District of Columbia, who regarded himself as
personally responsible for Lincoln's safety. "In conversation
with Mr. Lincoln," says Lamon, "one night about the time
General Burnside was relieved, I was urging upon him the
necessity of looking well to the fact that there was a scheme
on foot to depose him, and to appoint a military dictator in
his stead. He laughed and said, 'I think, for a man of
accredited courage, you are the most panicky person I ever
knew; you can see more dangers to me than all the other friends
I have. You are all the time exercised about somebody taking
my life; murdering me; and now you have discovered a new
danger; now you think the people of this great government are
likely to turn me out of office. I do not fear this from the
people any more than I fear assassination from an individual.
Now to show my appreciation of what my French friends would
call a coup d'etat, let me read you a letter I have written to
General Hooker whom I have just appointed to the command of the
army of the Potomac."[9]

Few letters of Lincoln's are better known, few reveal more
exactly the tone of his final period, than the remarkable
communication he addressed to Hooker two days after that
whispered talk with Raymond at the White House levee:

"General, I have placed you at the head of the army of the
Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to
be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know
that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite
satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skilful
soldier, which of course I like. I also believe you do not mix
politics with your profession, in which you are right. You
have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an
indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which within
reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that
during General Burnside's command of the army you have taken
counsel of your ambition and thwarted him as much as you could,
in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most
meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard in
such a way as to believe it, of your recently Saying that both
the army and the government needed a dictator. Of course it
was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the
command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up
dictators. What I now ask you is military success, and I will
risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the
utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it
has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the
spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of
criticizing their commander and withholding confidence from
him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I
can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive
again, could get any good out of an army while such a Spirit
prevails in it; and now beware of rashness. Beware of
rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward
and give us victories."[10]

The appointment of Hooker had the effect of quieting the
Committee for the time. Lincoln turned again to his political
scheme, but not until he had made another military appointment
from which at the moment no one could have guessed that trouble
would ever come. He gave to Burnside what might be called the
sinecure position of Commander of the Department of the Ohio
with headquarters at Cincinnati.[11]

During the early part of 1863 Lincoln's political scheme
received a serious blow. Seymour ranked himself as an
irreconcilable enemy of the Administration. The anti-Lincoln
Republicans struck at the President in roundabout ways.
Heralding a new attack, the best man on the Committee, Julian,
ironically urged his associates in Congress to "rescue" the
President from his false friends--those mere Unionists who were
luring him away from the party that had elected him, enticing
him into a vague new party that should include Democrats." It
was said that there were only two Lincoln men in the House.[12]
Greeley was coquetting with Rosecrans, trying to induce him to
come forward as Republican presidential "timber." The
Committee in April published an elaborate report which
portrayed the army of the Potomac as an army of heroes
tragically afflicted in the past by the incompetence of their
commanders. The Democrats continued their abuse of the

It was a moment of strained pause, everybody waiting upon
circumstance. And in Washington, every eye was turned
Southward. How soon would they glimpse the first messenger
from that glorious victory which "Fighting Joe" had promised
them. "The enemy is in my power," said he, "and God Almighty
can not deprive me of them."[13]

Something of the difference between Hooker and Lincoln, between
all the Vindictives and Lincoln, may be felt by turning from
these ribald words to that Fast Day Proclamation which this
strange statesman issued to his people, that anxious
spring,--that moment of trance as it were--when all things seemed
to tremble toward the last judgment:

"And whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to
own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to
confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet
with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy
and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the
Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations
only are blessed whose God is the Lord:

"And insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like
individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in
this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of
civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment
inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end
of our national reformation as a whole people. We have been
the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have
been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We
have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has
ever grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the
gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and
enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in
the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were
produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too
self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and
preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us:

"It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended
Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency
and forgiveness.

"All this being done in sincerity and truth, let us then rest
humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings. that
the united cry of the nation will be heard on high, and
answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national
sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering
country to its former happy condition of unity and peace."[14]

Alas, for such men as Hooker! What seemed to him in his
vainglory beyond the reach of Omnipotence, was accomplished by
Lee and Jackson and a Confederate army at Chancellorsville.
Profound gloom fell upon Washington. Welles heard the terrible
news from Sumner who came into his room "and raising both hands
exclaimed, 'Lost, lost, all is lost!'"[15]

The aftermath of Manassas was repeated. In the case of Pope,
no effort had been spared to save the friend of the Committee,
to find some one else on whom to load his incompetence. The
course was now repeated. Again, the Jacobins raised the cry,
"We are betrayed!" Again, the stir to injure the President.
Very strange are the ironies of history! At this critical
moment, Lincoln's amiable mistake in sending Burnside to
Cincinnati demanded expiation. Along with the definite news of
Hooker's overthrow, came the news that Burnside had seized the
Copperhead leader, Vallandigham, and had cast him into prison;
that a hubbub had ensued; that, as the saying goes, the woods
were burning in Ohio.

Vallandigham's offense was a public speech of which no accurate
report survives. However, the fragments recorded by "plain
clothes" men in Burnside's employ, when set in the perspective
of Vallandigham's thinking as displayed in Congress, make its
tenor plain enough. it was an out-and-out Copperhead harangue.
If he was to be treated as hundreds of others had been, the
case against him was plain. But the Administration's policy
toward agitators had gradually changed. There was not the same
fear of them that had existed two years before. Now the
tendency of the Administration was to ignore them.

The Cabinet regretted what Burnside had done. Nevertheless,
the Ministers felt that it would not do to repudiate him.
Lincoln took that view. He wrote to Burnside deploring his
action and sustaining his authority.1[6] And then, as a sort of
grim practical joke, he commuted Vallandigham's sentence from
imprisonment to banishment. The agitator was sent across the
lines into the Confederacy.

Burnside had effectually played the marplot. Very little
chance now of an understanding between Lincoln and either wing
of the Democrats. The opportunity to make capital out of the
war powers was quite too good to be lost! Vallandigham was
nominated for governor by the Ohio Democrats. In all parts of
the country Democratic committees resolved in furious protest
against the dictator. And yet, on the whole, perhaps, the
incident played into Lincoln's hands. At least, it silenced
the Jacobins. With the Democrats ringing the changes on the
former doctrine of the supple politicians, how certain that
their only course for the moment was to lie low. A time came,
to be sure, when they thought it safe to resume their own
creed; but that was not yet.

The hubbub over Vallandigham called forth two letters addressed
to protesting committees, that have their place among Lincoln's
most important statements of political science. His argument
is based on the proposition which Browning developed a year
before. The core of it is:

"You ask in substance whether I really claim that I may
override all guaranteed rights of individuals on the plea of
conserving the public safety, whenever I may choose to say the
public safety requires it. This question, divested of the
phraseology calculated to represent me as struggling for an
arbitrary personal prerogative, is either simply a question who
shall decide, or an affirmation that no one shall decide, what
the public safety does require in cases of rebellion or

"The Constitution contemplates the question as likely to occur
for decision, but it does not expressly declare who is to
decide it. By necessary implication, when rebellion or
invasion comes, the decision is to be made from time to time;
and I think the man whom, for the time, the people have, under
the Constitution, made the Commander-in-chief of their army
and navy, is the man who holds the power and bears the
responsibility of making it. If he uses the power justly, the
same people will probably justify him; if he abuses it, he is
in their hands to be dealt with by all the modes they have
reserved to themselves in the Constitution."[17]

Browning's argument over again-the President can be brought to
book by a plebiscite, while Congress can not. But Lincoln did
not rest, as Browning did, on mere argument. The old-time jury
lawyer revived. He was doing more than arguing a theorem of
political science. He was on trial before the people, the
great mass, which he understood so well. He must reach their
imaginations and touch their hearts.

"Mr. Vallandigham avows his hostility to the war on the part of
the Union, and his arrest was made because he was laboring with
some effect, to prevent the raising of troops, to encourage
desertions from the army, and to leave the rebellion without an
adequate military force to sup-press it. He was not arrested
because he was damaging the political prospects of the
Administration or the personal interests of the Commanding
General, but because be was damaging the army, upon the
existence and vigor of which the life of the nation depends.
He was warring upon the military, and this gave the military
constitutional jurisdiction to lay hands upon him.

"I understand the meeting whose resolutions I am considering,
to be in favor of suppressing the rebellion by military
force-by armies. Long experience has shown that armies can not
be maintained unless desertion shall be punished by the severe
penalty of death. The case requires, and the Law and the
Constitution sanction this punishment. Must I shoot a
simple-minded soldier boy who deserts while I must not touch a
hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert?"[18]

Again, the ironical situation of the previous December; the
wrathful Jacobins, the most dangerous because the most sincere
enemies of the presidential dictatorship, silent, trapped,
biding their time. But the situation had for them a distinct
consolation. A hundred to one it had killed the hope of a
Lincoln-Democratic alliance.

However, the President would not give up the Democrats without
one last attempt to get round the Little Men. Again, he could
think of no mode of negotiation except the one he had vainly
attempted with Seymour. As earnest of his own good faith, he
would once more renounce his own prospect of a second term.
But since Seymour had failed him, who was there that could
serve his purpose? The popularity of McClellan among those
Democrats who were not Copperheads had grown with his
misfortunes. There had been a wide demand for his restoration
after Fredericksburg, and again after Chancellorsville.
Lincoln justified his reputation for political insight by
concluding that McClellan, among the Democrats, was the coming
man. Again Weed was called in. Again he became an ambassador
of renunciation. Apparently he carried a message to the effect
that if McClellan would join forces with the Administration,
Lincoln would support him for president a year later. But
McClellan was too inveterate a partisan. Perhaps he thought
that the future was his anyway.[19]

And so Lincoln's persistent attempt to win over the Democrats
came to an end. The final sealing of their antagonism was
effected at a great Democratic rally in New York on the Fourth
of July. The day previous, a manifesto had been circulated
through the city beginning, "Freemen, awake! In everything,
and in most stupendous proportion, is this Administration
abominable!"[20] Seymour reaffirmed his position of out-and-out
partisan hostility to the Administration. Vallandigham's
colleague, Pendleton of Ohio, formulated the Democratic
doctrine: that the Constitution was being violated by the
President's assumption of war powers. His cry was, "The
Constitution as it is and the Union as it was." He thundered
that "Congress can not, and no one else shall, interfere with
free speech." The question was not whether we were to have
peace or war, but whether or not we were to have free
government; "if it be necessary to violate the Constitution in
order to carry on the war, the war ought instantly to be

Lincoln's political program had ended apparently in a wreck.
But Fortune had not entirely deserted him. Hooker in a fit of
irritation had offered his resignation. Lincoln had accepted
it. Under a new commander, the army of the Potomac had moved
against Lee. The orators at the Fourth of July meeting had
read in the papers that same day Lincoln's announcement of the
victory at Gettysburg.[22] Almost coincident with that
announcement was the surrender of Vicksburg. Difficult as was
the political problem ahead of him, the problem of finding some
other plan for unifying his support without participating in a
Vindictive Coalition, Lincoln's mood was cheerful. On the
seventh of July he was serenaded. Serenades for the President
were a feature of war-time in Washington, and Lincoln utilized
the occasions to talk informally to the country. His remarks
on the seventh were not distinctive, except for their tone,
quietly, joyfully confident. His serene mood displayed itself
a week later in a note to Grant which is oddly characteristic.
Who else would have had the impulse to make this quaint little
confession? But what, for a general who could read between the
lines, could have been more delightful?[23]

"My dear General: I do not remember that you and I ever met
personally. I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for
the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I
wish to say a word further. When you first reached the
vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do what you finally
did-march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with
the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith
except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the
Yazoo Pass expedition and the like could succeed. When you got
below and took Port Gibson, Grand Gulf and the vicinity, I
thought you should go down the river and join General Banks,
and when you turned Northward, east of the Big Black, I feared
it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal
acknowledgment that you were right and I was wrong.

"Very truly,



Between March and December, 1863, Congress was not in session.
Its members were busy "taking the sense of the country" as they
would have said: "potting their ears to the ground," as other
people would say. A startling tale the ground told them. it
was nothing less than that Lincoln was the popular hero; that
the people believed in him; that the politicians would do well
to shape their ways accordingly. When they reassembled, they
were in a sullen, disappointed frame of mind. They would have
liked to ignore the ground's mandate; but being politicians,
they dared not.

What an ironical turn of events! Lincoln's well-laid plan for
a coalition of Moderates and Democrats had come to nothing.
Logically, he ought now to be at the mercy of the Republican
leaders. But instead, those leaders were beginning to be
afraid of him, were perceiving that he had power whereof they
had not dreamed. Like Saul the son of Kish, who had set out to
find his father's asses, he had found instead a kingdom. How
had he done it?

On a grand scale, it was the same sort of victory that had made
him a power, so long before, on the little stage at
Springfield. It was personal politics. His character had
saved him. A multitude who saw nothing in the fine drawn
constitutional issue of the war powers, who sensed the war in
the most simple and elementary way, had formed, somehow, a
compelling and stimulating idea of the President. They were
satisfied that "Old Abe," or "Father Abraham," was the man for
them. When, after one of his numerous calls for fresh troops,
their hearts went out to him, a new song sprang to life, a
ringing, vigorous, and yet a touching song with the refrain,
"We're coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more."

But how has he done it, asked the bewildered politicians, one
of another. How had he created this personal confidence?
They, Wade, Chandler, Stevens, Davis, could not do it; why
could he?

Well, for one thing, he was a grand reality. They, relatively,
were shadows. The wind of destiny for him was the convictions
arising out of his own soul; for them it was vox populi. The
genuineness of Lincoln, his spiritual reality, had been
perceived early by a class of men whom your true politician
seldom understands. The Intellectuals--"them literary
fellers," in the famous words of an American Senator--were
quick to see that the President was an extraordinary man; they
were not long in concluding that he was a genius. The subtlest
intellect of the time, Hawthorne, all of whose prejudices were
enlisted against him, said in the Atlantic of July, 1863: "He
is evidently a man of keen faculties, and what is still more to
the purpose, of powerful character. As to his integrity, the
people have that intuition of it which is never deceived he has
a flexible mind capable of much expansion." And this when
Trumbull chafed in spirit because the President was too "weak"
for his part and Wade railed at him as a despot. As far back
as 1860, Lowell, destined to become one of his ablest
defenders, had said that Lincoln had "proved both his ability
and his integrity; he . . . had experience enough in public
affairs to make him a statesman, and not enough to make him a
politician." To be sure, there were some Intellectuals who
could not see straight nor think clear. The world would have
more confidence in the caliber of Bryant had he been able to
rank himself in the Lincoln following. But the greater part of
the best intelligence of the North could have subscribed to
Motley's words, "My respect for the character of the President
increases every day."[1] The impression he made on men of
original mind is shadowed in the words of Walt Whitman, who saw
him often in the streets of Washington: "None of the artists or
pictures have caught the subtle and indirect expression of this
man's face. One -of the great portrait painters of two or
three centuries ago is needed."[2]

Lincoln's popular strength lay in a combination of the
Intellectuals and the plain people against the politicians.
He reached the masses in three ways: through his general
receptions which any one might attend; through the open-door
policy of his office, to which all the world was permitted
access; through his visits to the army. Many thousand men and
women, in one or another of these ways, met the President face
to face, often in the high susceptibility of intense woe, and
carried away an impression which was immediately circulated
among all their acquaintances.

It would be impossible to exaggerate the grotesque miscellany
of the stream of people flowing ever in and out of the
President's open doors. Patriots eager to serve their country
but who could find no place in the conventional requirements of
the War Office; sharpers who wanted to inveigle him into the
traps of profiteers; widows with al their sons in service,
pleading for one to be exempted; other parents struggling with
the red tape that kept them from sons in hospitals; luxurious
frauds prating of their loyalty for the sake of property
exemptions; inventors with every imaginable strange device;
politicians seeking to cajole him; politicians bluntly
threatening him; cashiered officers demanding justice; men with
grievances of a myriad sorts; nameless statesmen who sought to
teach him his duty; clergymen in large numbers, generally with
the same purpose; deputations from churches, societies,
political organizations, commissions, trades unions, with every
sort of message from flattery to denunciation; and best of all,
simple, confiding people who wanted only to say, 'We trust
you--God bless you!"

There was a method in this madness of accessibility. Its
deepest inspiration, to be sure, was kindness. in reply to a
protest that he would wear himself out listening to thousands
of requests most of which could not be granted, he replied with
one of those smiles in which there was so much sadness, "They
don't want much; they get but little, and I must see them."[3]

But there was another inspiration. His open doors enabled him
to study the American people, every phase of it, good and bad.
"Men moving only in an official circle," said he, "are apt to
become merely official--not to say arbitrary--in their ideas, and
are apter and apter with each passing day to forget that they
only hold power in a representative capacity. . . . Many of
the matters brought to my notice are utterly frivolous, but
others are of more or less importance, and all serve to renew
in me a clearer and more vivid image of that great popular
assemblage out of which I sprung, and to which at the end of
two years I must return. . . . I call these receptions my
public opinion baths; for I have but little time to read the
papers, and gather public opinion that way; and though they may
not be pleasant in all their particulars, the effect as a
whole, is renovating and invigorating to my perceptions of
responsibility and duty."[4]

He did not allow his patience to be abused with evil intent.
He read his suppliants swiftly. The profiteer, the shirk, the
fraud of any sort, was instantly unmasked. "I'll have nothing
to do with this business," he burst out after listening to a
gentlemanly profiteer; "nor with any man who comes to me with
such degrading propositions. What! Do you take the President
of the United States to be a commission broker? You have come
to the wrong place, and for you and for every one who comes for
the same purpose, there is the door."[5]

Lincoln enjoyed this indiscriminate mixing with people. It was
his chief escape from care. He saw no reason why his friends
should Commiserate him because of the endless handshaking.
That was a small matter compared with the interest he took in
the ever various stream of human types. Sometimes, indeed, he
would lapse into a brown study in the midst of a reception.
Then he "would shake hands with thousands of people, seemingly
unconscious of what he was doing, murmuring monotonous
salutations as they went by, his eye dim, his thoughts far
withdrawn. . . Suddenly, he would see some familiar face--his
memory for faces was very good-and his eye would brighten and
his whole form grow attentive; he would greet the visitor with
a hearty grasp and a ringing word and dismiss him with a cheery
laugh that filled the Blue Room with infectious good nature."[6]
Carpenter, the portrait painter, who for a time saw him daily,
says that "his laugh stood by itself. The neigh of a wild
horse on his native prairie is not more undisguised and
hearty." An intimate friend called it his "life preserver."[7]

Lincoln's sense of humor delighted in any detail of an event
which suggested comedy. His genial awkwardness amused himself
quite as much as it amused the world. At his third public
reception he wore a pair of white kid gloves that were too
small. An old friend approached. The President shook hands so
heartily that his glove burst with a popping sound. Holding up
his hand, Lincoln gazed at the ruined glove with a droll air
while the arrested procession came to a standstill. "Well, my
old friend," said he, "this is a general bustification; you and
I were never intended to wear these things. If they were
stronger they might do to keep out the cold, but they are a
failure to shake hands with between old friends like us. Stand
aside, Captain, and I'll see you shortly."[8]

His complete freedom from pose, and from the sense of place,
was glimpsed by innumerable visitors. He would never allow a
friend to address him by a title. 'Call me Lincoln," he would
say; "Mr. President is entirely too formal for us."[9]

In a mere politician, all this might have been questioned. But
Hawthorne was right as to the people's intuition of Lincoln's
honesty. He hated the parade of eminence. Jefferson was his
patron saint, and "simplicity" was part of his creed. Nothing
could induce him to surround himself with pomp, or even--as his
friends thought--with mere security. Rumors of plots against
his life were heard almost from the beginning. His friends
begged long and hard before he consented to permit a cavalry
guard at the gates of the White House. Very soon he
countermanded his consent. "It would never do," said he, "for
a president to have guards with drawn sabers at his door, as if
he fancied he were, or were trying to be, or were assuming to
be, an emperor."[10]

A military officer, alarmed for his safety, begged him to
consider "the fact that any assassin or maniac seeking his
life, could enter his presence without the interference of a
single armed man to hold him back. The entrance doors, and all
doors on the official side of the building, were open at all
hours of the day and very late into the evening; and I have
many times entered the mansion and walked up to the rooms of
the two private secretaries as late as nine or ten o'clock at
night, without Seeing, or being challenged by a single soul."
But the officer pleaded in vain. Lincoln laughingly
paraphrased Charles II, "Now as to political assassination, do
you think the Richmond people would like to have Hannibal
Hamlin here any more than myself? . . . As to the crazy
folks, Major, why I must only take my chances-the most crazy
people at present, I fear, being some of my own too zealous
adherents."[11] With Carpenter, to whom he seems to have taken a
liking, he would ramble the streets of Washington, late at
night, "without escort or even the company of a servant."[12]
Though Halleck talked him into accepting an escort when driving
to and fro between Washington and his summer residence at the
Soldiers' Home, he would frequently give it the slip and make
the journey on horseback alone. in August of 1862 on one of
these solitary rides, his life was attempted. It was about
eleven at night; he was "jogging along at a slow gait immersed
in deep thought" when some one fired at him with a rifle from
near at hand. The ball missed its aim and the President's
horse, as Lincoln confided to his familiars, "gave proof of
decided dissatisfaction at the racket, and with one reckless
bound, he unceremoniously separated me from my eight-dollar
plug hat . . . At break-neck speed we reached a haven of
safety. Meanwhile, I was left in doubt whether death was more
desirable from being thrown from a runaway Federal horse, or as
the tragic result of a rifle ball fired by a disloyal
bushwhacker in the middle of the night"[13]

While carrying his life in his hands in this oddly reckless
way, he belied himself, as events were to show, by telling his
friends that he fancied himself "a great coward physically,"
that he felt sure he would make a poor soldier. But he was
sufficiently just to himself to add, "Moral cowardice is
something which I think I never had."[14]

Lincoln's humor found expression in other ways besides telling
stories and laughing at himself. He seized every opportunity
to convert a petition into a joke, when this could be done
without causing pain. One day, there entered a great man with
a long list of favors which he hoped to have granted. Among
these was "the case of Betsy Ann Dougherty, a good woman," said
the great man. "She lived in my county and did my washing for
a long time. Her husband went off and joined the Rebel army
and I wish you would give her a protection paper." The pompous
gravity of the way the case was presented struck Lincoln as
very funny. His visitor had no humor. He failed to see jokes
while Lincoln quizzed him as to who and what was Betsy Ann. At
length the President wrote a line on a card and handed it to
the great man. "Tell Betsy Ann to put a string in this card
and hang it round her neck," said he. "When the officers (who
may have doubted her affiliations) see this they will keep
their hands off your Betsy Ann." On the card was written, "Let
Betsy Ann Dougherty alone as long as she behaves herself. A.

This eagerness for a joke now and then gave offense. On one
occasion, a noted Congressman called on the President shortly
after a disaster. Lincoln began to tell a story. The
Congressman jumped up. "Mr. President, I did not come here
this morning to hear stories. It is too serious a time."
Lincoln's face changed. "Ashley," said he, "sit down! I
respect you as an earnest, sincere man. You can not be more
anxious than I have been constantly since the beginning of the
war; and I say to you now, that were it not for this occasional
vent, I should die."[16] Again he said, "When the Peninsula
Campaign terminated suddenly at Harrison's Landing, I was as
near inconsolable as I could be and live."[17]

Lincoln's imaginative power, the ineradicable artist in him,
made of things unseen true realities to his sensibility.
Reports of army suffering bowed his spirit. "This was
especially' the case when the noble victims were of his own
acquaintance, or of the narrower circle of his familiar
friends; and then he seemed for the moment possessed of a sense
of personal responsibility for their individual fate which was
at once most unreasonable and most pitiful." On hearing that
two sons of an old friend were desperately wounded and would
probably die, he broke out with: "Here, now, are these dear
brave boys killed in this cursed war. My God! My God! It is
too bad! They worked hard to earn money to educate themselves
and this is the end! I loved them as if they were my own."[18] He
was one of the few who have ever written a beautiful letter of
condolence. Several of his letters attempting this all but
impossible task, come as near their mark as such things can.
One has become a classic:

"I have been shown," he wrote to Mrs. Bixby, "in the files of
the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of
Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have
died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and
fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to
beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I
can not refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may
be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I
pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your
bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the
loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have
laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."[19]

All these innumerable instances of his sympathy passed from
mouth to mouth; became part of a floating propaganda that was
organizing the people in his support. To these were added many
anecdotes of his mercy. The American people had not learned
that war is a rigorous thing. Discipline in the army was often
hard to maintain. Impulsive young men who tired of army life,
or who quarreled with their officers, sometimes walked away.
There were many condemnations either for mutiny or desertion.
In the stream of suppliants pouring daily through the
President's office, many were parents imploring mercy for rash
sons. As every death-warrant had to be signed by the
President, his generals were frequently enraged by his refusal
to carry out their decisions. "General," said he to an angry
commander who charged him with destroying discipline, "there
are too many weeping widows in the United States now. -For
God's sake don't ask me to add to the number; for I tell you
plainly I won't do it."[20]

Here again, kindness was blended with statecraft, mercy with
shrewdness. The generals could not grasp the political side of
war. Lincoln tried to make them see it. When they could not,
he quietly in the last resort counteracted their influence.
When some of them talked of European experience, he shook his
head; it would not do; they must work with the tools they had;
first of all with an untrained people, intensely sensitive to
the value of human life, impulsive, quick to forget offenses,
ultra-considerate of youth and its rashness. Whatever else the
President did, he must not allow the country to think of the
army as an ogre devouring its sons because of technicalities.
The General saw only the discipline, the morale, of the
soldiers; the President saw the far more difficult, the more
roundabout matter, the discipline and the morale of the
citizens. The one believed that he could compel; the other
with his finger on the nation's pulse, knew that he had to

However, this flowing army of the propaganda did not always
engage him on the tragic note. One day a large fleshy man, of
a stern but homely countenance and a solemn and dignified
carriage, immaculate dress--"swallow-tailed coat, ruffled
shirt of faultless fabric, white cravat and orange-colored
gloves"--entered with the throng. Looking at him Lincoln was
somewhat appalled. He expected some formidable demand. To his
relief, the imposing stranger delivered a brief harangue on the
President's policy, closing with, "I have watched you narrowly
ever since your inauguration. . . . As one of your
constituents, I now say to you, do in future as you damn
please, and I will support you." "Sit down, my friend," said
Lincoln, "sit down. I am delighted to see you. Lunch with us
today. Yes, you must stay and lunch with us, my friend, for I
have not seen enough of you yet."[21] There were many of these
informal ambassadors of the people assuring the President of
popular support. And this florid gentleman was not the only
one who lunched with the President on first acquaintance.

This casual way of inviting strangers to lunch with him was
typical of his mode of life, which was exceedingly simple. He
slept lightly and rose early. in summer when he used the
Soldiers' Home as a residence, he was at his desk in the White
House at eight o'clock in the morning. His breakfast was an
egg and a cup of coffee; luncheon was rarely more than a glass
of milk and a biscuit with a plate of fruit in season; his
dinner at six o'clock, was always a light meal. Though he had
not continued a total abstainer, as in the early days at
Springfield, he very seldom drank wine. He never used tobacco.
So careless was he with regard to food that when Mrs. Lincoln
was away from home, there was little regularity in his meals.
He described his habits on such occasions as "browsing

Even when Mrs. Lincoln was in command at the White House, he
was not invariably dutiful. An amusing instance was observed
by some high officials. The luncheon hour arrived in the midst
of an important conference. Presently, a servant appeared
reminding Mr. Lincoln of the hour, but he took no notice.
Another summons, and again no notice. After a short interval,
the door of the office flew open and the titular "First Lady"
flounced into the room, a ruffled, angry little figure, her
eyes flashing. With deliberate quiet, as if in a dream,
Lincoln rose slowly, took her calmly, firmly by the shoulders,
lifted her, carried her through the doorway, set her down,
closed the door, and went on with the conference as if
unconscious of an interruption.[23] Mrs. Lincoln did not return.
The remainder of the incident is unknown.

The burden of many anecdotes that were included in the
propaganda was his kindness to children. It began with his
own. His little rascal "Tad," after Willie's death, was the
apple of his eye. The boy romped in and out of his office.
Many a time he was perched on his father's knee while great
affairs of state were under discussion.[24] Lincoln could
persuade any child from the arms of its mother, nurse, or play
fellow, there being a "peculiar fascination in his voice and
manner which the little one could not resist."[25]

All impressionable, imaginative young people, brought into
close association with him, appear to have felt his spell. His
private secretaries were his sworn henchmen. Hay's diary rings
with admiration-the keen, discriminating, significant
admiration of your real observer. Hay refers to him by pet
name-"The Ancient," "The Old Man," "The Tycoon." Lincoln's
entire relation with these gifted youngsters may be typified by
one of Hay's quaintest anecdotes. Lincoln had gone to bed, as
so often he did, with a book. "A little after midnight as I
was writing . the President came into the office laughing,
with a volume of Hood's Works in his hand, to show Nicolay and
me the little caricature, 'An Unfortunate Being'; seemingly
utterly unconscious that he, with his short shirt hanging about
his long legs, and setting out behind like the tail feathers of
an enormous ostrich, was infinitely funnier than anything in
the book he was laughing at. What a man it is! occupied all
day with matters of vast moment, deeply anxious about the fate
of the greatest army of the world, with his own plans and
future hanging on the events of the passing hour, he yet has
such a wealth of simple bonhomie and good fellowship that
he gets out of bed and perambulates the house in his shirt to
find us that we may share with him the fun of poor Hood's queer
little conceits."[26]

In midsummer, 1863, "The Tycoon is in fine whack. I have
rarely seen him more serene and busy. He is managing this war,
the draft, foreign relations, and planning a reconstruction of
the Union, all at once. I never knew with what a tyrannous
authority he rules the Cabinet, until now. The most important
things he decides and there is no cavil. I am growing more
convinced that the good of the country demands that he should
be kept where he is till this thing is over. There is no man
in the country so wise, so gentle, and so firm."[27]

And again, "You may talk as you please of the Abolition Cabal
directing affairs from Washington; some well-meaning newspapers
advise the President to keep his fingers out of the military
pie, and all that sort of thing. The truth is, if he did, the
pie would be a sorry mess. The old man sits here and wields,
like a backwoods Jupiter, the bolts of war and the machinery of
government with a hand especially steady and equally firm. .
I do not know whether the nation is worthy of him for another
term. I know the people want him. There is no mistaking that
fact. But the politicians are strong yet, and he is not their
'kind of a cat.' I hope God won't see fit to scourge us for our
sins by any of the two or three most prominent candidates on
the ground."[28] This was the conclusion growing everywhere among
the bulk of the people. There is one more cause of it to be
reckoned with. Lincoln had not ceased to be the literary
statesman. in fact, he was that more effectively than ever.
His genius for fable-making took a new turn. Many a visitor
who came to find fault, went home to disseminate the apt fable
with which the President had silenced his objections and
captured his agreement. His skill in narration also served him
well. Carpenter repeats a story about An-drew Johnson and his
crude but stern religion which in mere print is not remarkable.
"I have elsewhere insinuated," comments Carpenter, "that Mr.
Lincoln was capable of much dramatic power. . . . It was
shown in his keen appreciation of Shakespeare, and unrivaled
faculty of Storytelling. The incident just related, for
example, was given with a thrilling effect which mentally
placed Johnson, for the time being, alongside Luther and
Cromwell. Profanity or irreverence was lost sight of in a
fervid utterance of a highly wrought and great-souled
determination, united with a rare exhibition of pathos and

In formal literature, he had done great things upon a far
higher level than any of his writings previous to that sudden
change in his style in 1860. For one, there was the Fast Day
Proclamation. There was also a description of his country, of
the heritage of the nation, in the third message. Its aim was
to give imaginative reality to the national idea; just as the
second message had aimed to give argumentative reality.

"There is no line, straight or crooked, suitable for a national
boundary upon which to divide. Trace through from east to
west, upon the line between the free and the slave Country and
we shall find a little more than one-third of its length are
rivers, easy to be crossed, and populated, or soon to be
populated, thickly upon both sides; while nearly all its
remaining length are merely surveyors' lines, over which people
may walk back and forth without any consciousness of their
presence. No part of this line can be made any more difficult
to pass by writing it down on paper or parchment as a national

"But there is another difficulty. The great interior region,
bounded east by the Alleghanies, north by the British
dominions, west by the Rocky Mountains, and south by the line
along which the culture of corn and cotton meets, and which
includes part of Virginia, part of Tennessee, all of Kentucky,
Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas,
Iowa, Minnesota, and the Territories of Dakota, Nebraska, and
part of Colorado, already has above ten millions of people, and
will have fifty millions within fifty years, if not prevented
by any political folly or mistake. It contains more than
one-third of the Country owned by the United States--certainly
more than one million square miles. Once half as populous as
Massachusetts already is, it would have more than seventy-five
millions of people. A glance at the map shows that,
territorially speaking, it is the great body of the republic.
The other parts are but marginal borders to it, the magnificent
region sloping west from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific
being the deepest and also the richest in undeveloped
resources. In the production of provisions, grains, grasses,
and all which proceed from them, this great interior region is
naturally one of the most important in the world. Ascertain
from the statistics the small proportion of the region which
has, as yet, been brought into cultivation, and also the large
and rapidly increasing amount of its products and we shall be
overwhelmed with the magnitude of the prospect presented; and
yet, this region has no seacoast, touches no ocean anywhere.
As part of one nation, its people now find, and may forever
find, their way to Europe by New York, to South America and
Africa by New Orleans, and to Asia by San Francisco. But
separate our common country into two nations as designed by the
present rebellion, and every man of this great interior region
is thereby cut off from some one or more of these outlets-not,
perhaps, by a physical barrier, but by embarrassing and onerous
trade regulations.

"And this is true wherever a dividing or boundary line may be
fixed. Place it between the now free and slave country, or
place it south of Kentucky or north of Ohio, and still the
truth remains that none south of it can trade to any port or
place north of it, and none north of it can trade to any port
or place south of it, except upon terms dictated by a
government foreign to them. These outlets east, west, and
south, are indispensable to the well-being of the people
inhabiting and to inhabit, this vast interior region. Which of
the three may be the best is no proper question. All are
better than either; and all of right belong to that people and
?o their Successors forever. True to themselves, they will not
ask where a line of separation shall be, but will vow rather
that there shall be no such line. Nor are the marginal regions
less interested in these communications to and through them to
the great outside world. They, too, and each of them, must
have access to this Egypt of the West without paying toll at
the crossing of any national boundary.

"Our national strife springs not from our permanent part, not
from the land we inhabit, not from our national homestead.
There is no possible severing of this but would multiply, and
not mitigate, evils among us. In all its adaptations and
aptitudes it demands union and abhors separation. In fact, it
would ere long, force reunion, however much of blood and
treasure the separation might have cost."[30]

A third time he made a great literary stroke, gave utterance,
in yet another form, to his faith that the national idea was
the one constant issue for which he had asked his countrymen,
and would continue to ask them, to die. it was at Gettysburg,
November 19, 1863, in consecration of a military
burying-ground, that he delivered, perhaps, his greatest

"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate--we can not
consecrate--we can not hallow--this ground. The brave men,
living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far
above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little
note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never
forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather,
to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who
fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for
us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before
us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to
that cause for which they gave the last full measure of
devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not
have died in vain; that this nation under God, shall have a new
birth of freedom; and that government of the people, for the
people, by the people, shall not perish from the earth."[31]


Toward the end of 1863, Lowell prepared an essay on "The
President's Policy." It might almost be regarded as a manifesto
of the Intellectuals. That there was now a prospect of winning
the war "was mainly due to the good sense, the good humor, the
sagacity, the large- mindedness, and the unselfish honesty of
the unknown man whom a blind fortune, as it seemed, had lifted
from the crowd to the most dangerous and difficult eminence of
modern times." When the essay appeared in print, Lincoln was
greatly pleased. He wrote to the editors of the North American
Review, "I am not the most impartial judge; yet with due
allowance for this, I venture to hope that the article entitled
'The President's Policy' will be of value to the country. I
fear I am not quite worthy of all which is therein so kindly
said of me personally."[1]

This very able defense of his previous course appeared as he
was announcing to the country his final course. He was now
satisfied that winning the war was but a question of time.
What would come after war was now in his mind the overshadowing
matter. He knew that the vindictive temper had lost nothing of
its violence. Chandler's savagery--his belief that the
Southerners had forfeited the right to life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness--was still the Vindictive creed. 'Vae
victi'! When war ended, they meant to set their feet on the
neck of the vanquished foe. Furthermore, Lincoln was not
deceived as to why they were lying low at this particular
minute. Ears had been flattened to the ground and they were
heeding what the ground had said. The President was too
popular for them to risk attacking him without an obvious
issue. Their former issue had been securely appropriated by
the Democrats. Where could they find another? With consummate
boldness Lincoln presented them an issue. It was
reconstruction. When Congress met, he communicated the text of
a "Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction."[2] This great
document on which all his concluding policy was based, offered
"a full pardon" with "restoration of all rights of property,
except as to slaves, or in property cases, where rights of
third persons shall have intervened" upon subscribing to an
oath of allegiance which required only a full acceptance of the
authority of the United States. This amnesty was to be
extended to all persons except a few groups, such as officers
above the rank of colonel and former officials of the United
States. The Proclamation also provided that whenever, in any
Seceded State, the new oath should be taken by ten per cent.
of all those who were qualified to vote under the laws of 1860,
these ten per cent. should be empowered to set up a new State

From the Vindictive point of view, here was a startling
announcement. Lincoln had declared for a degree of magnanimity
that was as a red rag to a bull. He had also carried to its
ultimate his assumption of war powers. No request was made for
congressional cooperation. The message which the Proclamation
accompanied was informative only.

By this time, the Vindictive Coalition of 1861 was gradually
coming together again. Or, more truly, perhaps, various of its
elements were fusing into a sort of descendant of the old
coalition. The leaders of the new Vindictive group were much
the same as the leaders of the earlier group. There was one
conspicuous addition. During the next six months, Henry Winter
Davis held for a time the questionable distinction of being
Lincoln's most inveterate enemy. He was a member of the House.
In the House many young and headstrong politicians rallied
about him. The Democrats at times craftily followed his lead.
Despite the older and more astute Vindictives of the Senate,
Chandler, Wade and the rest who knew that their time had not
come, Davis, with his ardent followers, took up the President's
challenge. Davis brought in a bill designed to complete the
reorganization of the old Vindictive Coalition. It appealed to
the enemies of presidential prerogative, to all those who
wanted the road to reconstruction made as hard as possible, and
to the Abolitionists. This bill, in so many words, transferred
the whole matter of reconstruction from the President to
Congress; it required a majority (instead of one-tenth)of all
the male citizens of a Seceded State as the basis of a new
government; it exacted of this -majority a pledge never to pay
any State debt contracted during the Confederacy, and also the
perpetual prohibition of slavery in their State constitution.

Davis got his bill through the House, but his allies in the
Senate laid it aside. They understood the country too -well
not to see that they must wait for something to happen. if the
President made any mistake, if anything went wrong with the
army-they remembered the spring of 1862, McClellan's failure,
and how Chandler followed it up. And at this moment no man was
chafing more angrily because of what the ground was saying, no
man was watching the President more keenly, than Chandler.
History is said to repeat itself, and all things are supposed
to come to him who waits. While Davis's bill was before the
House, Lincoln accepted battle with the Vindictives in a way
that was entirely unostentatious, but that burned his bridges.
He pressed forward the organization of a new State government
in Louisiana under Federal auspices. He wrote to Michael Hahn,
the newly chosen governor of this somewhat fictitious State: "I
congratulate you on having fixed your name in history as the
first Free State governor of Louisiana."[3]

Meanwhile, the hotheads of the House again followed Davis's
lead and flung defiance in Lincoln's face. Napoleon, who had
all along coquetted alarmingly with the Confederates, had also
pushed ahead with his insolent conquest of Mexico. Lincoln and
Seward, determined to have but one war on their hands at a
time, had skilfully evaded committing themselves. The United
States had neither protested against the action of Napoleon,
nor in any way admitted its propriety. Other men besides the
Vindictives were biding their time. But here the hotheads
thought they saw an opportunity. Davis brought in a resolution
which amounted to a censure of the Administration for not
demanding the retirement of the French from Mexico. This was
one of those times when the Democrats played politics and
followed Davis. The motion was carried unanimously.[4] It was so
much of a sensation that the 'American Minister at Paris,
calling on the Imperial Minister of Foreign Affairs, was met by
the curt question, "Do you bring peace or war?"

But it was not in the power of the House to draw Lincoln's fire
until he chose to be drawn. He ignored its action. The
Imperial Government was informed that the acts of the House of
Representatives were not the acts of the President, and that in
relation to France, if the President should change his policy,
the imperial Government would be duly in formed.[5]

It was Lincoln's fate to see his policy once again at the mercy
of his Commanding General. That was his situation in the
spring of 1862 when everything hung on McClellan who failed
him; again in the autumn of the year when McClellan so narrowly
saved him. The spring of 1864 paralleled, in this respect,
that other spring two years earlier. To be sure, Lincoln's
position was now much stronger; he had a great personal
following on which he relied. But just how strong it was he
did not know. He was taking a great risk forcing a policy
high-handed in defiance of Congress, where all his bitterest
enemies were entrenched, glowering. If his General failed him

The man on whom this huge responsibility rested was Grant.
Lincoln had summoned him from the West and placed him at the
head of all the armies of the Republic. As to Halleck who had
long since proved himself perfectly useless, he was allowed to
lapse into obscurity.

Grant has preserved in his Memoirs his first confidential talk
with Lincoln: "He told me he did not want to know what I
proposed to do. But he submitted a plan of campaign of his own
that he wanted me to hear and then do as I pleased about. He
brought out a map of Virginia on which he had evidently marked
every position occupied by the Federal and Confederate armies
up to that time. He pointed out on the map two streams which
empty into the Potomac, and suggested that an army might be
moved on boats and landed between the mouths of those streams.
We would then have the Potomac to bring our supplies, and the
tributaries would protect our flanks while we moved out. I
listened respectfully, but did not suggest that the same
streams would protect Lee's flanks while he was shutting us

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest