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Lincoln's Personal Life

Part 6 out of 8

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Grant set out for the front in Virginia. Lincoln's parting
words were this note: "Not expecting to see you again before
the spring campaign opens, I wish to express in this way my
entire satisfaction with what you have done up to this time, so
far as I understand it. The particulars of your plans I
neither know nor seek to know. You are vigilant and
self-reliant; and, pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any
constraints or restraints upon you. While I am very anxious
that any great disaster or capture of our men in great numbers
shall be avoided, I know these points are less likely to escape
your attention than they would be mine. If there is anything
wanting which is within my power to give, do not fail to let me
know it. And now,with a brave army and a just cause, may God
sustain you."[7]


If the politicians needed a definite warning, in addition to
what the ground was saying, it was given by an incident that
centered upon Chase. A few bold men whose sense of the crowd
was not so acute as it might have been, attempted to work up a
Chase boom. At the instance of Senator Pomeroy, a secret paper
known to-day as the Pomeroy Circular, was started on its
travels. The Circular aimed to make Chase the Vindictive
candidate. Like all the other anti-Lincoln moves of the early
part of 1864, it was premature. The shrewd old Senators who
were silently marshaling the Vindictive forces, let it alone.

Chase's ambition was fully understood at the White House.
During the previous year, his irritable self-consciousness had
led to quarrels with the President, generally over patronage,
and more than once he had offered his resignation. On one
occasion, Lincoln went to his house and begged him to
reconsider. Alone among the Cabinet, Chase had failed to take
the measure of Lincoln and still considered him a second-rate
person, much his inferior. He rated very high the services to
his country of the Secretary of the Treasury whom he considered
the logical successor to the Presidency.

Lincoln refused to see what Chase was after. "I have
determined," he told Hay, "to shut my eyes as far as possible
to everything of the sort. Mr. Chase makes a good secretary
and I shall keep him where he is."[1] In lighter vein, he said
that Chase's presidential ambition was like a "chin fly"
pestering a horse; it led to his putting all the energy he had
into his work.[2]

When a copy of the Circular found its way to the White House,
Lincoln refused to read it.[3] Soon afterward it fell into the
hands of an unsympathetic or indiscreet editor and was printed.
There was a hubbub. Chase offered to resign. Lincoln wrote to
him in reply:

"My knowledge of Mr. Pomeroy's letter having been made public
came to me only the day you wrote but I had, in Spite of
myself, known of its existence several days before. I have not
yet read it, and I think I shall not. I was not shocked or
surprised by the appearance of the letter because I had had
knowledge of Mr. Pomeroy's committee, and of secret issues
which I supposed came from it, and of secret agents who I
supposed were sent out by it, for several weeks. I have known
just as little of these things as my friends have allowed me to
know. They bring the documents to me, but I do not read them;
they tell me what they think fit to tell me, but I do not
inquire for more. I fully concur with you that neither of us
can be justly held responsible for what our respective friends
may do without our instigation or countenance; and I assure
you, as you have assured me, that no assault has been made upon
you by my instigation or with my countenance. Whether you
shall remain at the head of the Treasury Department is a
question which I will not allow myself to consider from any
standpoint other than my judgment of the public service, and in
that view, I do not perceive occasion for a change."[4] But this
was not the end of the incident. The country promptly
repudiated Chase. His own state led the way. A caucus of
Union members of the Ohio Legislature resolved that the people
and the soldiers of Ohio demanded the reelection of Lincoln.
In a host of similar resolutions, Legislative caucuses,
political conventions, dubs, societies, prominent individuals
not in the political machine, all ringingly declared for
Lincoln, the one proper candidate of the "Union party"-as the
movement was labeled in a last and relatively successful
attempt to break party lines.

As the date of the "Union Convention" approached, Lincoln put
aside an opportunity to gratify the Vindictives. Following the
Emancipation Proclamation, the recruiting offices had been
opened to negroes. Thereupon the Confederate government
threatened to treat black soldiers as brigands, and to refuse
to their white officers the protection of the laws of war. A
cry went up in the North for reprisal. It was not the first
time the cry had been raised. In 1862 Lincoln's spokesman in
Congress, Browning, had withstood a proposal for the trial of
General Buckner by the civil authorities of Kentucky. Browning
opposed such a course on the ground that it would lead to a
policy of retaliation, and make of the war a gratification of
revenge.[5] The Confederate threat gave a new turn to the
discussion. Frederick Douglas, the most influential negro of
the time, obtained an audience with Lincoln and begged for
reprisals. Lincoln would not consent. So effective was his
argument that even the ardent negro, convinced that his race
was about to suffer persecution, was satisfied.

"I shall never forget," Douglas wrote, "the benignant
expression of his face, the tearful look of his eye, the quiver
in his voice, when he deprecated a resort to retaliatory
measures. 'Once begun,' said he, 'I do not know where such a
measure would stop.' He said he could not take men out and kill
them in cold blood for what was done by others. If he could
get hold of the persons who were guilty of killing the colored
prisoners in cold blood, the case would be different, but he
could not kill the innocent for the guilty."[6]

In April, 1864, the North was swept by a wild rumor of
deliberate massacre of prisoners at Fort Pillow. Here was an
opportunity for Lincoln to ingratiate himself with the
Vindictives. The President was to make a speech at a fair held
in Baltimore, for the benefit of the Sanitary Commission. The
audience was keen to hear him denounce the reputed massacre,
and eager to applaud a promise of reprisal. Instead, he
deprecated hasty judgment; insisting that the rumor had not
been verified; that nothing should be done on the strength of
mere report.

"It is a mistake to suppose the government is indifferent in
this matter, or is not doing the best it can in regard to it.
We do not to-day know that a colored soldier or white officer
commanding colored soldiers has been massacred by the Rebels
when made a prisoner. We fear it--believe it, I may say-but we
do not know it To take the life of one of their prisoners on
the assumption that they murder ours, when it is short of
certainty that they do murder ours, might be too serious, too
cruel a mistake."[7]

What a tame, spiritless position in the eyes of the
Vindictives! A different opportunity to lay hold of public
opinion he made the most of. And yet, here also, he spoke in
that carefully guarded way, making sure he was not understood
to say more than he meant, which most politicians would have
pronounced over-scrupulous. A deputation of working men from
New York were received at the White House. "The honorary
membership in your association," said he, "as generously
tendered, is gratefully accepted. . . . You comprehend, as
your address shows, that the existing rebellion means more, and
tends to more, than the perpetuation of African slavery-that it
is, in fact, a war upon the rights of all working people."

After reviewing his own argument on this subject in the second
message, he concluded:

"The views then expressed now remain unchanged, nor have I much
to add. None are so deeply interested to resist the present
rebellion as the working people. Let them beware of
prejudices, working division and hostility among themselves.
The most notable feature of a disturbance in your city last
summer was the hanging of some working people by other working
people. It should never be so. The strongest bond of human
sympathy outside of the family relation, should be one uniting
all working people, of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds.
Nor should this lead to a war upon property, or the owners of
property. Property is the fruit of labor; property is
desirable; is a positive good in the world. That some should
be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just
encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is
houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work
diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuming
that his own shall be safe from violence when built."[8]

Lincoln was never more anxious than in this fateful spring when
so many issues were hanging in the balance. Nevertheless, in
all his relations with the world, his firm serenity was not
broken. Though subject to depression so deep that his
associates could not penetrate it, he kept it sternly to
himself.[9] He showed the world a lighter, more graceful aspect
than ever before. 'A precious record of his later mood is the
account of him set down by Frank B. Carpenter, the portrait
painter, a man of note in his day, who was an inmate of the
White House during the first half of 1864. Carpenter was
painting a picture of the "Signing of the Emancipation
Proclamation." He saw Lincoln informally at all sorts of odd
times, under all sorts of conditions. "All familiar with him,"
says Carpenter, "will remember the weary air which became
habitual during his last years. This was more of the mind than
of the body, and no rest and recreation which he allowed
himself could relieve it. As he sometimes expressed it, 'no
remedy seemed ever to reach the tired spot."[10]

A great shadow was darkening over him. He was more than ever
convinced that he had not long to live. None the less, his
poise became more conspicuous, his command over himself and
others more distinguished, as the months raced past. In truth
he had worked through a slow but profound transformation. The
Lincoln of 1864 was so far removed from the Lincoln of Pigeon
Creek-but logically, naturally removed, through the absorption
of the outer man by the inner--that inevitably one thinks of
Shakespeare's change "into something rich and strange."

Along with the weakness, the contradictions of his earlier
self, there had also fallen away from him the mere grossness
that had belonged to him as a peasant. Carpenter is
unconditional that in six months of close intimacy, seeing him
in company with all sorts of people, he never heard from
Lincoln an offensive story. He quotes Seward and Lincoln's
family physician to the same effect.[11]

The painter, like many others, was impressed by the tragic cast
of his expression, despite the surface mirth.

"His complexion, at this time, was inclined to sallowness his
eyes were bluish gray in color--always in deep shadow, however,
from the upper lids which were unusually heavy (reminding me in
this respect of Stuart's portrait of Washington) and the
expression was remarkably pensive and tender, often
inexpressibly sad, as if the reservoir of tears lay very near
the surface--a fact proved not only by the response which
accounts of suffering and sorrow invariably drew forth, but by
circumstances which would ordinarily affect few men in his
position."[12] As a result of the great strain to which he was
subjected "his demeanor and disposition changed-so gradually
that it would be impossible to say when the change began. . .
. He continued always the same kindly, genial, and cordial
spirit he had been at first; but the boisterous laughter became
less frequent, year by year; the eye grew veiled by constant
meditation on momentous subjects; the air of reserve and
detachment from his surroundings increased. He aged with great

Every Saturday afternoon the Marine Band gave an open-air
concert in the grounds of the White House. One afternoon
Lincoln appeared upon the portico. There was instant applause
and cries for a speech. "Bowing his thanks and excusing
himself, he stepped back into the retirement of the circular
parlor, remarking (to Carpenter) with a disappointed air, as he
reclined on a sofa, 'I wish they would let me sit there quietly
and enjoy the music.'His kindness to others was unfailing. it
was this harassed statesman who "came into the studio one day
and found (Carpenter's) little boy of two summers playing on
the floor. A member of the Cabinet was with him; but laying
aside all restraint, he took the little fellow in his arms and
they were soon on the best of terms." While his younger son
"Tad" was with his mother on a journey, Lincoln telegraphed:
"Tell Tad, father and the goats are well, especially the
goats."[14] He found time one bright morning in May to review the
Sunday-school children of Washington who filed past "cheering
as if their very lives depended upon it," while Lincoln stood
at a window "enjoying the scene... making pleasant remarks
about a face that now and then struck him."[15] Carpenter told
him that no other president except Washington had placed
himself so securely in the hearts of the people. "Homely,
honest, ungainly Lincoln," said Asa Gray, in a letter to
Darwin, "is the representative man of the country."

However, two groups of men in his own party were sullenly
opposed to him--the relentless Vindictives and certain
irresponsible free lances who named themselves the "Radical
Democracy." In the latter group, Fremont was the hero; Wendell
Phillips, the greatest advocate. They were extremists in all
things; many of them Agnostics. Furious against Lincoln, but
unwilling to go along with the waiting policy of the
Vindictives, these visionaries held a convention at Cleveland;
voted down a resolution that recognized God as an ally; and
nominated Fremont for the Presidency. A witty comment on the
movement--one that greatly amused Lincoln--was the citation of a
verse in first Samuel: "And every one that was in distress, and
every one that was in debt, and every one that was
discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a
captain over them; and there were with him about four hundred

If anything was needed to keep the dissatisfied Senators in the
party ranks, it was this rash "bolt." Though Fremont had been
their man in the past, he had thrown the fat in the fire by
setting up an independent ticket. Silently, the wise
opportunists of the Senate and all their henchmen, stood aside
at the "Union convention"--which they called the Republican
Convention--June seventh, and took their medicine.

There was no doubt of the tempest of enthusiasm among the
majority of the delegates. It was a Lincoln ovation.

In responding the next day to a committee of congratulation,
Lincoln said: "I am not insensible at all to the personal
compliment there is in this, and yet I do not allow myself to
believe that any but a small portion of it is to be
appropriated as a personal compliment. . . . I do not allow
myself to suppose that either the Convention or the [National
Union] League have concluded to decide that I am the greatest
or best man in America, but rather they have concluded that it
is best not to swap horses while crossing the river, and have
further concluded that I am not so poor a horse that they might
not make a botch of it trying to swap."[16]

Carpenter records another sort of congratulation a few days
later that brought out the graceful side of this man whom most
people still supposed to be hopelessly awkward. It happened on
a Saturday. Carpenter had invited friends to sit in his
painting room and oversee the crowd while listening to the
music. "Towards the close of the concert, the door suddenly
opened, and the President came in, as he was in the habit of
doing, alone. Mr. and Mrs. Cropsey had been presented to him
in the course of the morning; and as he came forward, half
hesitatingly, Mrs. C., who held a bunch of beautiful flowers in
her hand, tripped forward playfully, and said: 'Allow me, Mr.
President, to present you with a bouquet!' The situation was
momentarily embarrassing; and I was puzzled to know how 'His
Excellency' would get out of it. With no appearance of
discomposure, he stooped down, took the flowers, and, looking
from them into the sparkling eyes and radiant face of the lady,
said, with a gallantry I was unprepared for 'Really, madam, if
you give them to me, and they are mine, I think I can not
possibly make so good use of them as to present them to you, in

In gaining the nomination, Lincoln had not, as yet, attained
security for his plans. Grant was still to be reckoned with.
By a curious irony, the significance of his struggle with Lee
during May, his steady advance by the left flank, had been
misapprehended in the North. Looking at the map, the country
saw that he was pushing southward, and again southward, on
Virginia soil. McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, with them it
had been:

"He who fights and runs away
May live to fight another day."

But Grant kept on. He struck Lee in the furious battle of the
Wilderness, and moved to the left, farther south. "Victory!"
cried the Northern newspapers, "Lee isn't able to stop him."
The same delusion was repeated after Spottsylvania where the
soldiers, knowing more of war than did the newspapers, pinned
to their coats slips of paper bearing their names;
identification of the bodies might be difficult. The popular
mistake continued throughout that dreadful campaign. The
Convention was still under the delusion of victory.

Lincoln also appears to have stood firm until the last minute
in the common error. But the report of Grant's losses, more
than the whole of Lee's army, filled him with horror. During
these days, Carpenter had complete freedom of the President's
office and "intently studied every line and shade of expression
in that furrowed face. In repose, it was the saddest face I
ever knew. There were days when I could scarcely look into it
without crying. During the first week of the battles of the
Wilderness he scarcely slept at all. Passing through the main
hall of the domestic apartment on one of these days, I met him,
clad in a long, morning wrapper, pacing back and forth a narrow
passage leading to one of the windows, his hands behind him,
great black rings under his eyes, his head bent forward upon
his breast- altogether such a picture of the effects of sorrow,
care, and anxiety as would have melted the hearts of the worst
of his adversaries, who so mistakenly applied to him the
epithets of tyrant and usurper."[18]

Despite these sufferings, Lincoln had not the slightest thought
of giving way. Not in him any likeness to the
-sentimentalists, Greeley and all his crew, who were exultant
martyrs when things were going right, and shrieking pacifists
the moment anything went wrong. In one of the darkest moments
of the year, he made a brief address at a Sanitary Fair in

"Speaking of the present campaign," said he, "General Grant is
reported to have said, 'I am going to fight it out on this line
if it takes all summer.' This war has taken three years; it was
begun or accepted upon the line of restoring the national
authority over the whole national domain, and for the American
people, as far as my knowledge enables me to speak, I say we
are going through on this line if it takes three years more."[19]
He made no attempt to affect Grant's course. He had put him in
supreme command and would leave everything to his judgment.
And then came the colossal blunder at Cold Harbor. Grant stood
again where McClellan had stood two years before. He stood
there defeated. He could think of nothing to do but just what
McClellan had wanted to do--abandon the immediate enterprise,
make a great detour to the Southwest, and start a new campaign
on a different plan. Two years with all their terrible
disasters, and this was all that had come of it! Practically
no gain, and a death-roll that staggered the nation. A wail
went over the North. After all, was the war hopeless? Was Lee
invincible? Was the best of the Northern manhood perishing to
no result?

Greeley, perhaps the most hysterical man of genius America has
produced, made his paper the organ of the wail. He wrote
frantic appeals to the government to cease fighting, do what
could be done by negotiation, and if nothing could be done-at
least, stop "these rivers of human blood."

The Vindictives saw their opportunity. They would capitalize
the wail. The President should be dealt with yet.


Now that the Vindictives had made up their minds to fight, an
occasion was at their hands. Virtually, they declared war on
the President by refusing to recognize a State government which
he had set up in Arkansas. Congress would not admit Senators
or Representatives from the Reconstructed State. But on this
issue, Lincoln was as resolute to fight to a finish as were any
of his detractors. He wrote to General Steele, commanding in

"I understand that Congress declines to admit to seats the
persons sent as Senators and Representatives from Arkansas.
These persons apprehend that, in consequence, you may not
support the new State government there as you otherwise would.
My wish is that you give that government and the people there
the same support and protection that you would if the members
had been admitted, because in no event, nor in any view of the
case, can this do harm, while it will be the best you can do
toward suppressing the rebellion."[1]

The same day Chase resigned. The reason he assigned was,
again, the squabble over patronage. He had insisted on an
appointment of which the President disapproved. Exactly what
moved him may be questioned. Chase never gave his complete
confidence, not even to his diary. Whether he thought that the
Vindictives would now take him up as a rival of Lincoln,
continues doubtful. Many men were staggered by his action.
Crittenden, the Registrar of the Treasury, was thrown into a
panic. "Mr. President," said he, "this is worse than another
Bull Run. Pray let me go to Secretary Chase and see if I can
not induce him to withdraw his resignation. Its acceptance now
might cause a financial panic." But Lincoln was in a fighting
mood. "Chase thinks he has become indispensable to the
country," he told Chittenden. "He also thinks he ought to be
President; he has no doubt whatever about that. He is an able
financier, a great statesman, and at the bottom a patriot . .
he is never perfectly happy unless he is thoroughly miserable
and able to make everybody else just as uncomfortable as he is
himself. . He is either determined to annoy me or that I
shall pat him on the shoulder and coax him to stay. I don't
think I ought to do it. I will take him at his word."[2]

He accepted the resignation in a note that was almost curt:
"Of all I have said in commendation of your ability and
fidelity, I have nothing to unsay; and yet you and I have
reached a point of mutual embarrassment in our official
relations which it seems can not be overcome or longer
sustained consistently with the public service."[3]

The selection of a successor to Chase was no easy matter. The
Vindictives were the leaders of the moment. What if they
persuaded the Senate not to confirm Lincoln's choice of
Secretary. "I never saw the President," says Carpenter, "under
so much excitement as on the day following this event" On the
night of July first, Lincoln lay awake debating with himself
the merits of various candidates. At length, he selected his
man and immediately went to sleep.

"The next morning he went to his office and wrote the
nomination. John Hay, the assistant private secretary, had
taken it from the President on his way to the Capitol, when he
encountered Senator Fessenden upon the threshold of the room.
As chairman of the Finance Committee, he also had passed an
anxious night, and called this early to consult with the
President, and offer some suggestions. After a few moments'
conversation, Mr. Lincoln turned to him with a smile and said:
'I am obliged to you, Fessenden, but the fact is, I have just
sent your own name to the Senate for Secretary of the Treasury.
Hay had just received the nomination from my hand as you
entered.' Mr. Fessenden was taken completely by surprise, and,
very much agitated, protested his inability to accept the
position. The state of his health, he said, if no other
consideration, made it impossible. Mr. Lincoln would not
accept the refusal as final. He very justly felt that with Mr.
Fessenden's experience and known ability at the head of the
Finance Committee, his acceptance would go far toward
reestablishing a feeling of security. He said to him, very
earnestly, 'Fessenden, the Lord has not deserted me thus far,
and He is not going to now--you must accept!'

"They separated, the Senator in great anxiety of mind.
Throughout the day, Mr. Lincoln urged almost all who called to
go and see Mr. Fessenden, and press upon him the duty of
accepting. Among these, was a delegation of New York bankers,
who, in the name of the banking community, expressed their
satisfaction at the nomination. This was especially gratifying
to the President; and in the strongest manner, he entreated
them to 'see Mr. Fessenden and assure him of their support.'"[4]

In justification of his choice, Lincoln said to Hay:--"Thinking
over the matter, two or three points occurred to me: first his
thorough acquaintance with the business; as chairman of the
Senate Committee of Finance, he knows as much of this special
subject as Mr. Chase; he possesses a national reputation and
the confidence of the country; he is a Radical without the
petulance and fretfulness of many radicals."[5] In other words,
though he was not at heart one of them, he stood for the moment
so close to the Vindictives that they would not make an issue
on his confirmation.

Lincoln had scored a point in his game with the Vindictives.
But the point was of little value. The game's real concern was
that Reconstruction Bill which was now before the Senate with
Wade as its particular sponsor. The great twin brethren of the
Vindictives were Wade and Chandler. Both were furious for the
passage of the bill. "The Executive," said Wade angrily,
"ought not to be allowed to handle this great question of his
own liking."

On the last day of the session, Lincoln was in the President's
room at the Capitol Signing bills. The Reconstruction Bill,
duly passed by both Houses, was brought to him. Several
Senators, friends of the bill and deeply anxious, had come into
the President's room hoping to see him affix his signature. To
their horror, he merely glanced at the bill and laid it aside.
Chandler, who was watching him, bluntly demanded what he meant
to do. "This bill," said Lincoln, "has been placed before me a
few minutes before Congress adjourns. it is a matter of too
much importance to be swallowed in that way."

"If it is vetoed," said Chandler, whose anger was mounting, "it
will damage us fearfully in the Northwest. The important point
is that one prohibiting slavery in the Reconstructed States."

"That is the point," replied the President, "on which I doubt
the authority of Congress to act."

"It is no more than you have done yourself," retorted Chandler.

Lincoln turned to him and said quietly but with finality: "I
conceive that I may in an emergency do things on military
grounds which can not constitutionally be done by Congress."

Chandler angrily left the room. To those who remained, Lincoln
added: "I do not see how any of us now can deny and contradict
what we have always said, that Congress has no constitutional
power over slavery in the States."[6]

In a way, he was begging the question. The real issue was not
how a State should be constitutionally reconstructed, but
which, President or Congress, had a right to assume dictatorial
power. At last the true Vindictive issue, lured out of their
arms by the Democrats, had escaped like a bird from a snare and
was fluttering home. Here was the old issue of the war powers
in a new form that it was safe for them to press. And the
President had squarely defied them. it was civil war inside
the Union party. And for both sides, President and
Vindictives, there could now be nothing but rule or ruin.

In this crisis of factional politics, Lincoln was unmoved,
self-contained, lofty, deliberate. "If they (the Vindictives)
choose to make a point on this, I do not doubt that they can do
harm. They have never been friendly to me. At all events, I
must keep some consciousness of being somewhere near right. I
must keep some standard of principle fixed within myself."


Lincoln had now reached his final stature. In contact with the
world his note was an inscrutable serenity. The jokes which he
continued to tell were but transitory glimmerings. They
crossed the surface of his mood like quick flickers of golden
light on a stormy March day,-- witnesses that the sun would yet
prevail,--in a forest-among mountain shadows. Or, they were
lightning glimmers in a night sky; they revealed, they did not
dispel, the dark beyond. Over all his close associates his
personal ascendency was complete. Now that Chase was gone, the
last callous spot in the Cabinet had been amputated. Even
Stanton, once so domineering, so difficult to manage, had
become as clay in his hands.

But Lincoln never used power for its own sake, never abused his
ascendency. Always he got his end if he could without evoking
the note of command. He would go to surprising lengths to
avoid appearing peremptory. A typical remark was his smiling
reply to a Congressman whom he had armed with a note to the
Secretary, who had returned aghast, the Secretary having
refused to comply with the President's request and having
decorated his refusal with extraordinary language.

"Did Stanton say I was a damned fool?" asked Lincoln. "Then I
dare say I must be one, for Stanton is generally right and he
always says what he means."

Nevertheless, the time had come when Lincoln had only to say
the word and Stanton, no matter how fierce his temper might'
be, would acknowledge his master. General Fry, the Provost
Marshal, witnessed a scene between them which is a curious
commentary on the transformation of the Stanton of 1862.
Lincoln had issued an order relative to the disposition of
certain recruits. Stanton protested that it was unwarranted,
that he would not put it into effect. The Provost Marshal was
called in and asked to state at length all the facts involved.
When he had finished Stanton broke out excitedly--

"'Now, Mr. President, those are the facts and you must see that
your order can not be executed.'

"Lincoln sat upon a sofa with his legs crossed and did not say
a word until the Secretary's last remark. Then he said in a
somewhat positive tone, 'Mr. Secretary, I reckon you'll have to
execute the order.'

"Stanton replied with asperity, 'Mr. President, I can not do
it. The order is an improper one, and I can not execute it."

Lincoln fixed his eye upon Stanton, and in a firm voice with an
accent that clearly showed his determination, he said, 'Mr.
Secretary, it will have to be done.'"[1]

At this point, General Fry discreetly left the room. A few
moments later, he received instructions from Stanton to execute
the President's order.

In a public matter in the June of 1864 Lincoln gave a
demonstration of his original way of doing things. It
displayed his final serenity in such unexpected fashion that no
routine politician, no dealer in the catchwords of statecraft,
-could understand it. Since that grim joke, the deportation of
Vallandigham, the Copperhead leader had not had happy time.
The Confederacy did not want him. He had made his way to
Canada. Thence, in the spring of 1864 he served notice on his
country that he would perform a dramatic Part, play the role of
a willing martyr-in a word, come home and defy the government
to do its worst. He came. But Lincoln did nothing. The
American sense of humor did the rest. If Vallandigham had not
advertised a theatrical exploit, ignoring him might have been
dangerous. But Lincoln knew his people. When the show did not
come off, Vallandigham was transformed in an instant from a
martyr to an anticlimax. Though he went busily to work, though
he lived to attend the Democratic National Convention and to
write the resolution that was the heart of its platform, his
tale was told.

Turning from Vallandigham, partly in amusement, partly in
contempt, Lincoln grappled with the problem of reinforcing the
army. Since the Spring of 1863 the wastage of the army had
been replaced by conscription. But the system had not worked
well. it contained a fatal provision. A drafted man might
escape service by paying three hundred dollars. Both the
Secretary of War and the Provost Marshal had urged the
abolition of this detail. Lincoln had communicated their
arguments to Congress with his approval and a new law had been
drawn up accordingly. Nevertheless, late in June, the House
amended it by restoring the privilege of commuting service for
money.[2] Lincoln bestirred himself. The next day he called
together the Republican members of the House. "With a sad,
mysterious light in his melancholy eyes, as if they were
familiar with things hidden from mortals" he urged the
Congressmen to reconsider their action. The time of three
hundred eighty thousand soldiers would expire in October. He
must have half a million to take their places. A Congressman
objected that elections were approaching; that the rigorous law
he proposed would be intensely unpopular; that it might mean
the defeat, at the polls, of many Republican Representatives;
it might even mean the President's defeat. He replied that he
had thought of all that.

"My election is not necessary; I must put down the rebellion; I
must have five hundred thousand more men."[3]

He raised the timid politicians to his own level, inspired them
with new courage. Two days later a struggle began in the House
for carrying out Lincoln's purpose. On the last day of the
session along with the offensive Reconstruction Bill, he
received the new Enrollment Act which provided that "no payment
of money shall be accepted or received by the Government as
commutation to release any enrolled or drafted man from
personal obligation to per-form military service."

Against this inflexible determination to fight to a finish,
this indifference to the political consequences of his
determination, Lincoln beheld arising like a portentous
specter, a fury of pacifism. It found expression in Greeley.
Always the swift victim of his own affrighted hope, Greeley had
persuaded himself that both North and South had lost heart for
the war; that there was needed only a moving appeal, and they
would throw down their arms and the millennium would come.
Furthermore, on the flimsiest sort of evidence, he had fallen
into a trap designed to place the Northern government in the
attitude of suing for peace. He wrote to Lincoln demanding
that he send an agent to confer with certain Confederate
officials who were reported to be then in Canada; he also
suggested terms of peace.[4] Greeley's terms were entirely
acceptable to Lincoln; but he had no faith in the Canadian
mare's nest. However, he decided to give Greeley the utmost
benefit of the doubt, and also to teach him a lesson. He
commissioned Greeley himself to proceed to Canada, there to
discover "if there is or is not anything in the affair." He
wrote to him, "I not only intend a sincere effort for peace,
but I intend that you shall be a personal witness that it is

Greeley, who did not want to have any responsibility for
anything that might ensue, whose joy was to storm and to find
fault, accepted the duty he could not well refuse, and set out
in a bad humor.

Meanwhile two other men had conceived an undertaking somewhat
analogous but in a temper widely different. These were Colonel
Jaquess, a clergyman turned soldier, a man of high simplicity
of character, and J. R. Gilmore, a writer, known by the pen
name of Edmund Kirke. Jaquess had told Gilmore of information
he had received from friends in the Confederacy; he was
convinced that nothing would induce the Confederate government
to consider any terms of peace that embraced reunion, whether
with or without emancipation. "It at once occurred to me,"
says Gilmore, "that if this declaration could be got in such a
manner that it could be given to the public, it would, if
scattered broadcast over the North, destroy the peace-party and
reelect Mr. Lincoln." Gilmore went to Washington and obtained
an interview with the President. He assured him--and he was a
newspaper correspondent whose experience was worth
considering--that the new pacifism, the incipient "peace party,"
was schooling the country in the belief that an offer of
liberal terms would be followed by a Southern surrender. The
masses wanted peace on any terms that would preserve the Union;
and the Democrats were going to tell them in the next election
that Lincoln could save the Union by negotiation, if he would.
Unless the popular mind were disabused of this fictitious hope,
the Democrats would prevail and the Union would collapse. But
if an offer to negotiate should be made, and if "Davis should
refuse to negotiate--as he probably would, except on the basis
of Southern independence--that fact alone would reunite the
North, reelect Lincoln, and thus save the Union."[6]

"Then," said Lincoln, "you would fight the devil with fire.
You would get that declaration from Davis and use it against

Gilmore defended himself by proposing to offer extremely
liberal terms. There was a pause in the conversation. Lincoln
who was seated at his desk "leaned slightly forward looking
directly into (Gilmore's) eyes, but with an absent, far-away
gaze as if unconscious of (his) presence." Suddenly, relapsing
into his usual badinage, he said, "God selects His own
instruments and some times they are queer ones: for instance,
He chose me to see the ship of state through a great crisis."[7]
He went on to say that Gilmore and Jaquess might be the very
men to serve a great purpose at this moment. Gilmore knew the
world; and anybody could see at a glance that Jaquess never
told anything that wasn't true. If they would go to Richmond
on their own responsibility, make it plain to President Davis
that they were not official agents, even taking the chance of
arrest and imprisonment, they might go. This condition was
accepted. Lincoln went on to say that no advantage should be
taken of Mr. Davis; that nothing should be proposed which if
accepted would not be made good. After considerable further
discussion he drew up a memorandum of the terms upon which he
would consent to peace. There were seven items:

1. The immediate dissolution of the armies.

2. The abolition of slavery.

3. A general amnesty.

4. The Seceded States to resume their functions as states in
the Union as if no secession had taken place.

5. Four hundred million dollars to be appropriated by Congress
as compensation for loss of slave property; no slaveholder,
however, to receive more than one-half the former value of his

6. A national convention to be called for readjustment of all
other difficulties.

7. It to be understood that the purpose of negotiation was a
full restoration of the Union as of old.[8]

Gilmore and Jaquess might say to Davis that they had private
but sure knowledge that the President of the United States
would agree to peace on these terms. Thus provided, they set

Lincoln's thoughts were speedily claimed by an event which had
no Suggestion of peace. At no time since Jackson threw the
government into a panic in the spring of 1862, had Washington
been in danger of capture. Now, briefly, it appeared to be at
the mercy of General Early. in the last act of a daring raid
above the Potomac, he came sweeping down on Washington from the
North. As Grant was now the active commander-in-chief,
responsible for all the Northern armies, Lincoln with a
fatalistic calm made no move to take the capital out of his
hands. When Early was known to be headed toward Washington,
Lincoln drove out as usual to spend the night at the Soldiers'
Home beyond the fortifications. Stanton, in whom there was a
reminiscence at least of the hysterical Secretary of 1862, sent
after him post haste and insisted on his returning. The next
day, the eleventh of July, 1864, Washington was invested by the
Confederate forces. There was sharp firing in front of several
forts. Lincoln--and for that matter, Mrs. Lincoln also--made a
tour of the defenses. While Fort Stevens was under fire, he
stood on the parapet, "apparently unconscious of danger,
watching with that grave and passive countenance the progress
of the fight, amid the whizzing bullets of the sharp shooters,
until an officer fell mortally wounded within three feet of
him, and General Wright peremptorily represented to him the
needless risk he was running." Hay recorded in his diary "the
President in good feather this evening . . . not concerned
about Washington's safety . . . only thought, can we bag or
destroy the force in our front.'" He was much disappointed when
Early eluded the forces which Grant hurried to the Capitol.
Mrs. Lincoln was outspoken to the same effect. The doughty
little lady had also been under fire, her temper being every
whit as bold as her husband's. When Stanton with a monumental
playfulness proposed to have her portrait painted in a
commanding attitude on the parapet of Fort Stevens, she gave
him the freedom of her tongue, because of the inadequacy of his

This incident had its aftermath. A country-place belonging to
the Postmaster General had been laid waste. its owner thought
that the responsibility for permitting Early to come so near to
Washington fell chiefly on General Halleck. He made some sharp
criticisms which became public the General flew into a rage and
wrote to the Secretary of War: "The Postmaster General ought to
be dismissed by the President from the Cabinet." Stanton handed
his letter to the President, from whom the next day the General
received this note: "Whether the remarks were made I do not
know, nor do I suppose such knowledge is necessary to a correct
response. if they were made, I do not approve them; and yet,
under the circumstances, I would not dismiss a member of the
Cabinet therefor. I do not consider what may have been hastily
said in a moment of vexation at so severe a loss is sufficient
ground for so grave a step. Besides this, truth is generally
the best vindication against slander. I propose continuing to
be myself the judge as to when a member of the Cabinet shall be
dismissed." Lincoln spoke of the affair at his next conference
with his Ministers. "I must, myself, be the judge," said he,
"how long to retain in and when to remove any of you from his
position. It would greatly pain me to discover any of you
endeavoring to procure another's removal, or in any way to
prejudice him before the public. Such an endeavor would be a
wrong to me, and much worse, a wrong to the country. My wish
is that on this subject no remark be made nor question asked by
any of you, here or elsewhere, now or hereafter."[10]

Not yet had anything resulted either from the Canadian mission
of Greeley, or from the Richmond adventure of Gilmore and
Jaquess. There was a singular ominous pause in events.
Lincoln could not be blind to the storm signals that had
attended the close of Congress. What were the Vindictives
about? As yet they had made no Sign. But it was incredible
that they could pass over his defiance without a return blow.
When would it come? What would it be?

He spent his nights at the Soldiers' Home. As a rule, his
family were with him. Sometimes, however, Mrs. Lincoln and his
sons would be absent and his only companion was one of the
ardent young secretaries. Then he would indulge in reading
Shakespeare aloud, it might be with such forgetfulness of time
that only the nodding of the tired young head recalled him to
himself and brought the reading to an end. A visitor has left
this charming picture of Lincoln at the Soldiers' Home in the
sad sweetness of a summer night:

"The Soldiers' Home is a few miles out of Washington on the
Maryland side. It is situated on a beautiful wooded hill,
which you ascend by a winding path, shaded on both sides by
wide-spread branches, forming a green arcade above you. When
you reach the top you stand between two mansions, large,
handsome and substantial, but with nothing about them to
indicate the character of either. That on the left is the
Presidential country house; that directly before you, is the
'Rest,' for soldiers who are too old for further service . .
. in the graveyard near at hand there are numberless
graves--some without a spear of grass to hide their newness--that
hold the bodies of volunteers.

"While we stood in the soft evening air, watching the faint
trembling of the long tendrils of waving willow, and feeling
the dewy coolness that was flung out by the old oaks above us,
Mr. Lincoln joined us, and stood silent, too, taking in the

"'How sleep the brave who sink to rest,
By all their country's
wishes blest," he said, softly. . .

"Around the 'Home' grows every variety of tree, particularly of
the evergreen class. Their branches brushed into the carriage
as we passed along, and left us with that pleasant woody smell
belonging to leaves. One of the ladies, catching a bit of
green from one of these intruding branches, said it was cedar,
and another thought it spruce.

"'Let me discourse on a theme I understand,' said the
President. 'I know all about trees in right of being a
backwoodsman. I'll show you the difference between spruce,
pine and cedar, and this shred of green, which is neither one
nor the other, but a kind of illegitimate cypress. He then
proceeded to gather specimens of each, and explain the
distinctive formation of foliage belonging to each."[11]

Those summer nights of July, 1864, had many secrets which the
tired President musing in the shadows of the giant trees or
finding solace with the greatest of earthly minds would have
given much to know. How were Gilmore and Jaquess faring? What
was really afoot in Canada? And that unnatural silence of the
Vindictives, what did that mean? And the two great armies,
Grant's in Virginia, Sherman's in Georgia, was there never to
be stirring news of either of these? The hush of the moment,
the atmosphere of suspense that seemed to envelop him, it was
just what had always for his imagination had such strange charm
in the stories of fated men. He turned again to Macbeth, or to
Richard II, or to Hamlet. Shakespeare, too, understood these
mysterious pauses--who better!

The sense of the impending was strengthened by the alarms of
some of his best friends. They besought him to abandon his
avowed purpose to call for a draft of half a million under the
new Enrollment Act. Many voices joined the one chorus: the
country is on the verge of despair; you will wreck the cause by
demanding another colossal sacrifice. But he would not listen.
When, in desperation, they struck precisely the wrong note, and
hinted at the ruin of his political prospects, he had his calm
reply: "it matters not what becomes of me. We must have men.
if I go down, I intend to go like the Cumberland, with my
colors flying."[12]

Thus the days passed until the eighteenth of July. Meanwhile
the irresponsible Greeley had made a sad mess of his Canadian
adventure. Though Lincoln had given him definite instructions,
requiring him to negotiate only with agents who could produce
written authority from Davis, and who would treat on the basis
of restoration of the Union and abandonment of slavery, Greeley
ignored both these unconditional requirements.[13] He had found
the Confederate agents at Niagara. They had no credentials.
Nevertheless, he invited them to come to Washington and open
negotiations. Of the President's two conditions, he said not a
word. This was just what the agents wanted. It could easily
be twisted into the semblance of an attempt by Lincoln to sue
for peace. They accepted the invitation. Greeley telegraphed
to Lincoln reporting what he had done. Of course, it was plain
that he had misrepresented Lincoln; that he had far exceeded
his authority; and that his perverse unfaithfulness must be
repudiated. On July eighteenth, Hay set out for Niagara with
this paper in Lincoln's handwriting.[14]

"To whom it may concern: Any proposition which embraces the
restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the
abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with an
authority that can control the armies now at war against the
United States, will be received and considered by the executive
government of the United States, and will be met by liberal
terms on other substantial and collateral points and the bearer
or bearers thereof shall have, safe conduct both ways. ABRAHAM

This was the end of the negotiation. The agents could not
accept these terms. Immediately, they published a version of
what had happened: they had been invited to come to Washington;
subsequently, conditions had been imposed which made it
impossible for them to accept Was not the conclusion plain?
The Washington government was trying to open negotiations but
it was also in the fear of its own supporters playing craftily
a double game. These astute diplomats saw that there was a
psychological crisis in the North. By adding to the confusion
of the hour they had well served their cause. Greeley's fiasco
was susceptible of a double interpretation. To the pacifists
it meant that the government, whatever may have been intended
at the start, had ended by setting impossible conditions of
peace. To the supporters of the war, it meant that whatever
were the last thoughts of the government, it had for a time
contemplated peace without any conditions at all. Lincoln was
severely condemned, Greeley was ridiculed, by both groups of
interpreters. Why did not Greeley come out bravely and tell
the truth? Why did he not confess that he had suppressed
Lincoln's first set of instructions; that it was he, on his own
responsibility, who had led the Confederate agents astray; that
he, not Lincoln was solely to blame for the false impression
that was now being used so adroitly to injure the President?
Lincoln proposed to publish their correspondence, but made a
condition that was characteristic. Greeley's letters rang with
cries of despair. He was by far the most influential Northern
editor. Lincoln asked him to strike out these hopeless
passages. Greeley refused. The correspondence must be
published entire or not at all. Lincoln suppressed it. He let
the blame of himself go on; and he said nothing in

He took some consolation in a "card" that appeared in the
Boston Transcript, July 22. it gave a brief account of the
adventure of Gilmore and Jaquess, and stated the answer given
to them by the President of the Confederacy. That answer, as
restated by the Confederate Secretary of State, was: "he had no
authority to receive proposals for negotiations except by
virtue of his office as President of an independent Confederacy
and on this basis alone must proposals be made to him."[16]

There was another circumstance that may well have been
Lincoln's consolation in this tangle of cross-purposes. Only
boldness could extricate him from the mesh of his difficulties.
The mesh was destined to grow more and more of a snare; his
boldness was to grow with his danger. He struck the note that
was to rule his conduct thereafter, when, on the day he sent
the final instructions to Greeley, in defiance of his timid
advisers, he issued a proclamation calling for a new draft of
half a million men.[17]


Though the Vindictives kept a stealthy silence during July,
they were sharpening their claws and preparing for a tiger
spring whenever the psychological moment should arrive. Those
two who had had charge of the Reconstruction Bill prepared a
paper, in some ways the most singular paper of the war period,
which has established itself in our history as the Wade-Davis
Manifesto. This was to be the deadly shot that should unmask
the Vindictive batteries, bring their war upon the President
out of the shadows into the open.

Greeley's fiasco and Greeley's mortification both played into
their hands. The fiasco contributed to depress still more the
despairing North. By this time, there was general appreciation
of the immensity of Grant's failure, not only at Cold Harbor,
but in the subsequent slaughter of the futile assault upon
Petersburg. We have the word of a member of the Committee that
the despair over Grant translated itself into blame of the
Administration.[1] The Draft Proclamation; the swiftly traveling
report that the government had wilfully brought the peace
negotiations to a stand-still; the continued cry that the war
was hopeless; all these produced, about the first of August, an
emotional crisis--just the sort of occasion for which Lincoln's
enemies were waiting.

Then, too, there was Greeley's mortification. The
Administration papers made him a target for sarcasm. The Times
set the pace with scornful demands for "No more back door
diplomacy."[2] Greeley answered in a rage. He permitted himself
to imply that the President originated the Niagara negotiation
and that Greeley "reluctantly" became a party to it. That
"reluctantly" was the truth, in a sense, but how falsely true!
Wade and Davis had him where they wanted him. On the fifth of
August, The Tribune printed their manifesto. It was an appeal
to "the supporters of the Administration . . . to check the
encroachment of the Executive on the authority of Congress, and
to require it to confine itself to its proper sphere." It
insinuated the basest motives for the President's interest in
reconstruction, and for rejecting their own bill. "The
President by preventing this bill from becoming a law, holds
the electoral votes of the Rebel States at the dictation of his
personal ambition. . . . If electors for President be
allowed to be chosen in either of those States, a sinister
light will be cast on the motives which induced the President
to 'hold for naught' the will of Congress rather than his
government in Louisiana and Arkansas."

After a long discussion of his whole course with regard to
reconstruction, having heaped abuse upon him with shocking
liberality, the Manifesto concluded:

"Such are the fruits of this rash and fatal act of the
President--a blow at the friends of the Administration, at the
rights of humanity, and at the principles of Republican
government The President has greatly presumed on the
forbearance which the supporters of his Administration have so
long practised in view of the arduous conflict in which we are
engaged, and the reckless ferocity of our political opponents.
But he must understand that our support is of a 'cause' and not
of a man; that the authority of Congress is paramount and must
be respected; that the whole body of the Union men in Congress
will not submit to be impeached by him of rash and
unconstitutional legislation; and if he wishes our support he
must confine him-self to his executive duties--to obey and
execute, not make the laws--to suppress by arms, armed
rebellion, and leave political reorganization to Congress. If
the supporters of the government fail to insist on this they
become responsible for the usurpations they fail to rebuke and
are justly liable to the indignation of the people whose rights
and security, committed to their keeping, they sacrifice. Let
them consider the remedy of these usurpations, and, having
found it, fearlessly execute it"

To these incredible charges, Lincoln made no reply. He knew,
what some statesmen never appear to know, the times when one
should risk all upon that French proverb, "who excuses,
accuses." However, he made his futile attempt to bring Greeley
to reason, to induce him to tell the truth about Niagara
without confessing to the country the full measure of the
despair that had inspired his course. When Greeley refused to
do so, Lincoln turned to other matters, to preparation for the
draft, and grimly left the politicians to do their worst. They
went about it with zest. Their reliance was chiefly their
power to infect the type of party man who is easily swept from
his moorings by the cry that the party is in danger, that
sacrifices must be made to preserve the party unity, that
otherwise the party will go to pieces. By the middle of
August, six weeks after Lincoln's defiance of them on the
fourth of July, they were in high feather, convinced that most
things were coming their way. American politicians have not
always shown an ability to read clearly the American people.
Whether the politicians were in error on August 14, 1864, and
again on August twenty-third, two dates that were turning
points, is a matter of debate to this day. As to August
fourteenth, they have this, at least, in their defense. The
country had no political observer more keen than the Scotch
free lance who edited The New York Herald. It was Bennett's
editorial view that Lincoln would do well to make a virtue of
necessity and withdraw his candidacy because "the
dissatisfaction which had long been felt by the great body of
American citizens has spread even to his own supporters."[3]
Confident that a great reaction against Lincoln was sweeping
the country, that the Manifesto had been launched in the very
nick of time, a meeting of conspirators was held in New York,
at the house of David Dudley Field, August fourteenth. Though
Wade was now at his home in Ohio, Davis was present. So was
Greeley. It was decided to ask Lincoln to withdraw. Four days
afterward, a "call" was drawn up and sent out confidentially
near and far to be signed by prominent politicians. The "call"
was craftily worded. It summoned a new Union Convention to
meet in Cincinnati, September twenty-eighth, for the purpose
either of rousing the party to whole-hearted support of
Lincoln, or of uniting all factions on some new candidate.
Greeley who could not attend the committee which drew up the
"call" wrote that "Lincoln is already beaten."[4]

Meanwhile, the infection of dismay had spread fast among the
Lincoln managers. Even before the meeting of the conspirators
on the fourteenth, Weed told the President that he could not be

One of his bravest supporters, Washburne, came to the dismal
conclusion that "were an election to be held now in Illinois,
we should be beaten." Cameron, who had returned from Russia and
was working hard for Lincoln in Pennsylvania, was equally
discouraging. So was Governor Morton in Indiana. From all his
"stanchest friends," wrote his chief manager to Lincoln, "there
was but one report. The tide is setting strongly against us."[6]

Lincoln's managers believed that the great host of free voters
who are the balance of power in American politics, were going
in a drove toward the camp of the Democrats. It was the
business of the managers to determine which one, or which ones,
among the voices of discontent, represented truly this
controlling body of voters. They thought they knew. Two
cries, at least, that rang loud out of the Babel of the hour,
should be heeded. One of these harked back to Niagara. In the
anxious ears of the managers it dinned this charge: "the
Administration prevented negotiations for peace by tying
together two demands, the Union must be restored and slavery
must be abolished; if Lincoln had left out slavery, he could
have had peace in a restored Union." It was ridiculous, as
every one who had not gone off his head knew. But so many had
gone off their heads. And some of Lincoln's friends were
meeting this cry in a way that was raising up other enemies of
a different sort. Even so faithful a friend as Raymond, editor
of The Times and Chairman of the Republican National Executive
Committee, labored hard in print to prove that because Lincoln
said he "would consider terms that embraced the integrity of
the Union and the abandonment of slavery, he did not say that
he would not receive them unless they embraced both these
conditions."[7] What would Sumner and all the Abolitionists say
to that? As party strategy, in the moment when the old
Vindictive Coalition seemed on the highroad to complete
revival, was that exactly the tune to sing? Then too there was
the other cry that also made a fearful ringing in the ears of
the much alarmed Executive Committee. There was wild talk in
the air of an armistice. The hysteric Greeley had put it into
a personal letter to Lincoln. "I know that nine-tenths of the
whole American people, North and South, are anxious for
peace-peace on any terms-and are utterly sick of human
slaughter and devastation. I know that, to the general eye, it
now seems that the Rebels are anxious to negotiate and that we
repulse their advances. . . . I beg you, I implore you to
inaugurate or invite proposals for peace forthwith. And in
-case peace can not now be made, consent to an armistice for
one year, each party to retain all it now holds, but the Rebel
ports to be opened. Meantime, let a national convention be
held and there will surely be no war at all events."[8]

This armistice movement was industriously advertised in the
Democratic papers. It was helped along by the Washington
correspondent of The Herald who sowed broadcast the most
improbable stories with regard to it. Today, Secretary
Fessenden was a convert to the idea; another day, Senator
Wilson had taken it up; again, the President, himself, was for
an armistice.[9]

A great many things came swiftly to a head within a few days
before or after the twentieth of August. Every day or two,
rumor took a new turn; or some startling new alignment was
glimpsed; and every one reacted to the news after his kind.
And always the feverish question, what is the strength of the
faction that approves this? Or, how far will this go toward
creating a new element in the political kaleidoscope? About
the twentieth of August, Jaquess and Gilmore threw a splashing
stone into these troubled waters. They published in The
Atlantic a full account of their interview with Davis, who, in
the clearest, most unfaltering way had told them that the
Southerners were fighting for independence and for nothing
else; that no compromise over slavery; nothing but the
recognition of the Confederacy as a separate nation would
induce them to put up their bright swords. As Lincoln
subsequently, in his perfect clarity of speech, represented
Davis: "He would accept nothing short of severance of the
Union- precisely what we will not and can not give. . . .
He does not attempt to deceive us. He affords us no excuse to
deceive ourselves. He can not voluntarily reaccept the Union;
we can not voluntarily yield it"[10]

Whether without the intrusion of Jaquess and Gilmore, the
Executive Committee would have come to the conclusion they now
reached, is a mere speculation. They thought they were at the
point of desperation. They thought they saw a way out, a way
that reminds one of Jaquess and Gilmore. On the twenty-second,
Raymond sent that letter to Lincoln about "the tide setting
strongly against us." He also proposed the Committee's way of
escape: nothing but to offer peace to Davis "on the sole
condition of acknowledging the supremacy of the
Constitution--all other questions to be settled in a convention
of the people of all the States."[11] He assumed the offer would
be rejected. Thus the clamor for negotiation would be met and
brought to naught. Having sent off his letter, Raymond got his
committee together and started for Washington for a council of

And this brings us to the twenty-third of August. On that day,
pondering Raymond's letter, Lincoln took thought with himself
what he should say to the Executive Committee. A mere
opportunist would have met the situation with some insincere
proposal, by the formulation of terms that would have certainly
been rejected. We have seen how Lincoln reasoned in such a
connection when he drew up the memorandum for Jaquess and
Gilmore. His present problem involved nothing of this sort.
What he was thinking out was how best to induce the committee
to accept his own attitude; to become for the moment believers
in destiny; to nail their colors; turn their backs as he was
doing on these devices of diplomacy; and as to the rest-permit
to heaven.

Whatever his managers might think, the serious matter in
Lincoln's mind, that twenty-third of August, was the draft.
And back of the draft, a tremendous matter which probably none
of them at the time appreciated. Assuming that they were right
in their political forecast, assuming that he was not to be
reelected, what did it signify? For him, there was but one
answer: that he had only five months in which to end the war.
And with the tide running strong against him, what could he do?
But one thing: use the war powers while they remained in his
hands in every conceivable way that might force a conclusion on
the field of battle. He recorded his determination. A Cabinet
meeting was held on the twenty-third. Lincoln handed his
Ministers a folded paper and asked them to write their initials
on the back. At the time he gave them no intimation what the
paper contained. It was the following memorandum: "This
morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable
that this Administration will not be reelected. Then it will
be my duty to so cooperate with the President elect as to save
the Union between the election and the inauguration, as he will
have secured his election on such ground that he can not
possibly save it afterward."[12]

He took into his confidence "the stronger half of the Cabinet,
Seward, Stanton and Fessenden," and together they assaulted the
Committee.[13] It was a reception amazingly different from what
had been expected. Instead of terrified party diplomats
shaking in their shoes, trying to face all points at once,
morbid over possible political defeats in every quarter, they
found what may have seemed to them a man in a dream; one who
was intensely sad, but who gave no suggestion of panic, no
solicitude about his own fate, no doubt of his ultimate
victory. Their practical astuteness was disarmed by that
higher astuteness attained only by peculiar minds which can
discern through some sure interior test the rare moment when it
is the part of wisdom not to be astute at all.

Backed by those strong Ministers, all entirely under his
influence, Lincoln fully persuaded the Committee that at this
moment, any overture for peace would be the worst of strategic
blunders, "would be worse than losing the presidential
contest--it would be ignominiously surrendering it in

Lincoln won a complete spiritual victory over the Committee.
These dispirited men, who had come to Washington to beg for a
policy of negotiation, went away in such a different temper
that Bennett's Washington correspondent jeered in print at the
"silly report" of their having assembled to discuss peace.[15]
Obviously, they had merely held a meeting of the Executive
Committee. The Tribune correspondent telegraphed that they
were confident of Lincoln's reelection.[l6]

On the day following the conference with Lincoln, The Times
announced: "You may rest assured that all reports attributing
to the government any movements looking toward negotiations for
peace at present are utterly without foundation. . . . The
government has not entertained or discussed the project of
proposing an armistice with the Rebels nor has it any intention
of sending commissioners to Richmond . . . its sole and
undivided purpose is to prosecute the war until the rebellion
is quelled. . . ." Of equal significance was the
announcement by The Times, fairly to be considered the
Administration organ: "The President stands firm against every
solicitation to postpone the draft."[17]


The question insists upon rising again: were the anti-Lincoln
politicians justified in their exultation, the Lincoln
politicians justified in their panic? Nobody will ever know;
but it is worth considering that the shrewd opportunist who
expressed himself through The Herald changed his mind during a
fortnight in August. By one of those odd coincidences of which
history is full, it was on the twenty- third of the month that
he warned the Democrats and jeered at the Republicans in this
insolent fashion:

"Many of our leading Republicans are now furious against
Lincoln. . . . Bryant of The Evening Post is very angry
with Lincoln because Henderson, The Post's publisher, has been
arrested for defrauding the government.

Raymond is a little shaky and has to make frequent journeys to
Washington for instructions. . . .

"Now, to what does all this amount? Our experience of politics
convinces us that it amounts to nothing. The sorehead
Republicans complain that Lincoln gives them either too little
shoddy or too little nigger. What candidate can they find who
will give them more of either?

"The Chicago (Democratic) delegates must very emphatically
comprehend that they must beat the whole Re-publican party if
they elect their candidate. It is a strong party even yet and
has a heavy army vote to draw upon.The error of relying too
greatly upon the weakness of the Republicans as developed in
the quarrels of the Republican leaders, may prove fatal . . .
the Republican leaders may have their personal quarrels, or
their shoddy quarrels, or their nigger quarrels with Old Abe;
but he has the whip hand of them and they will soon be bobbing
back into the Republican fold, like sheep who have gone astray.
The most of the fuss some of them kick up now, is simply to
force Lincoln to give them their terms. .

"We have studied all classes of politicians in our day and we
warn the Chicago Convention to put no trust in the Republican
soreheads. Furiously as some of them denounce Lincoln now, and
lukewarm as the rest of them are in his cause, they will all be
shouting for him as the only true Union candidate as soon as
the nominations have all been made and the chances for bargains
have passed.

Whatever they say now, we venture to predict that Wade and his
tail; and Bryant and his tail; and Wendell Phillips and his
tail; and Weed, Barney, Chase and their tails; and Winter
Davis, Raymond, Opdyke and Forney who have no tails; will all
make tracks for Old Abe's plantation, and will soon be found
crowing and blowing, and vowing and writing, and swearing and
stumping the state on his side, declaring that he and he alone,
is the hope of the nation, the bugaboo of Jeff Davis, the first
of Conservatives, the best of Abolitionists, the purest of
patriots, the most gullible of mankind, the easiest President
to manage, and the person especially predestined and
foreordained by Providence to carry on the war, free the
niggers, and give all the faithful a fair share of the spoils.
The spectacle will be ridiculous; but it is inevitable."[1]

The cynic of The Herald had something to go upon besides his
general knowledge of politicians and elections. The Manifesto
had not met with universal acclaim. in the course of this
month of surprises, there were several things that an
apprehensive observer might interpret as the shadow of that
hand of fate which was soon to appear upon the wall. In the
Republican Convention of the Nineteenth Ohio District, which
included Ashtabula County, Wade's county, there were fierce
words and then with few dissenting votes, a resolution, "That
the recent attack upon the President by Wade and Davis is, in
our opinion, ill-timed, ill-tempered, and ill-advised . . .
and inasmuch as one of the authors of said protest is a citizen
of this Congressional District and indebted in no small degree
to our friendship for the position, we deem it a duty no less
imperative than disagreeable, to pronounce upon that
disorganizing Manifesto our unqualified disapproval and

To be sure there were plenty of other voices from Ohio and
elsewhere applauding "The War on the President." Nevertheless,
there were signs of a reluctance to join the movement, and some
of these in quarters where they had been least expected.
Notably, the Abolitionist leaders were slow to come forward.
Sumner was particularly slow. He was ready, indeed, to admit
that a better candidate than Lincoln could be found, and there
was a whisper that the better candidate was himself. However,
he was unconditional that he would not participate in a fight
against Lincoln. if the President could be persuaded to
withdraw, that was one thing. But otherwise--no Sumner in the

Was it possible that Chandler, Wade, Davis and the rest had
jumped too soon? To rebuild the Vindictive Coalition, the
group in which Sumner had a place was essential. This group
was composed of Abolitionists, chiefly New Englanders, and for
present purpose their central figure was Andrew, the Governor
of Massachusetts. During the latter half of August, the fate
of the Conspiracy hung on the question, Can Andrew and his
group be drawn in?

Andrew did not like the President. He was one of those who
never got over their first impression of the strange new man of
1861. He insisted that Lincoln lacked the essential qualities
of a leader. "To comprehend this objection," says his frank
biographer, "which to us seems so astoundingly wide of the
mark, we must realize that whenever the New Englander of that
generation uttered the word 'leader' his mind's eye was filled
with the image of Daniel Webster . . . his commanding
presence, his lofty tone about affairs of state, his sonorous
profession of an ideal, his whole ex cathedra attitude. All
those characteristics supplied the aristocratic connotation of
the word 'leader' as required by a community in which a
considerable measure of aristocratic sympathy still lingered.

Andrew and his friends were like the men of old who having
known Saul before time, and beholding him prophesying, asked
'Is Saul also among the prophets?'"[4]

But Andrew stood well outside the party cabals that were
hatched at Washington. He and his gave the conspirators a
hearing from a reason widely different from any of theirs.
They distrusted the Executive Committee. The argument that had
swept the Committee for the moment off its feet filled the
stern New Englanders with scorn. They were prompt to deny any
sympathy with the armistice movement.[5] As Andrew put it, the
chief danger of the hour was the influence of the Executive
Committee on the President, whom he persisted in considering a
weak man; the chief duty of the hour was to "rescue" Lincoln,
or in some other way to "check the peace movement of the
Republican managers."[6] if it were fairly certain that this
could be effected only by putting the conspiracy through,
Andrew would come in. But could he be clear in his own mind
that this was the thing to do? While he hesitated, Jaquess and
Gilmore did their last small part in American history and left
the stage. They made a tour of the Northern States explaining
to the various governors the purposes of their mission to
Richmond, and reporting in full their audience with Davis and
the impressions they had formed.[7] This was a point in favor of
Lincoln--as Andrew thought. On the other hand, there were the
editorials of The Times. As late as the twenty-fourth of
August, the day before the Washington conference, The Times
asserted that the President would waive all the objects for
which the war had been fought, including Abolition, if any
proposition of peace should come that embraced the integrity of
the Union. To be sure, this was not consistent with the report
of Jaquess and Gilmore and their statement of terms actually
set down by Lincoln. And yet--it came from the Administration
organ edited by the chairman of the Executive Committee. Was
rescue" of the President anything more than a dream?

It was just here that Lincoln intervened and revolutionized the
whole situation. With what tense interest -Andrew must have
waited for reports of that conference held at Washington on the
twenty-fifth. And with what delight he must have received
them! The publication on the twenty-sixth of the sweeping
repudiation of the negotiation policy; the reassertion that the
Administration's "sole and undivided purpose was to prosecute
the war." Simultaneous was another announcement, also in the
minds of the New Englanders, of first importance: "So far as
there being any probability of President Lincoln withdrawing
from the canvass, as some have suggested, the gentlemen
comprising the Committee express themselves as confident of his

Meanwhile the letters asking for signatures to the pro-posed
"call" had been circulated and the time had come to take stock
of the result From Ohio, Wade had written in a sanguine mood.
He was for issuing the call the moment the Democratic
Convention had taken action.[9] On the twenty-ninth that
convention met. On the thirtieth, the conspirators
reassembled--again at the house of David Dudley Field--and Andrew
attended. He had not committed himself either way.

And now Lincoln's firmness with the Executive Committee had its
reward. The New Englanders had made up their minds.
Personally, he was still obnoxious to them; but in light of his
recent pronouncement, they would take their chances on
rescuing" him from the Committee; and since he would not
withdraw, they would not cooperate in splitting the Union
party. But they could not convince the conspirators. A long
debate ended in an agreement to disagree. The New Englanders
withdrew, confessed partisans of Lincoln.[10] It was the
beginning of the end.

Andrew went back to Boston to organize New England for Lincoln.
J. M. Forbes remained to organize New York.[11] All this,
ignoring the Executive Committee. It was a new Lincoln
propaganda, not in opposition to the Committee but in frank
rivalry: "Since, or if, we must have Lincoln," said Andrew,
"men of motive and ideas must get into the lead, must elect
him, get hold of 'the machine' and 'run it' themselves."[12]

The bottom was out of the conspiracy; but the leaders at New
York were slow to yield. Despite the New England secession,
they thought the Democratic platform, on which McClellan had
been invited to stand as candidate for the Presidency, gave
them another chance, especially the famous resolution:

"That this Convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of
the American people, after four years of failure to restore the
Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the
pretense of a military necessity, or war power higher than the
Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in
every part, and the public liberty and the private right alike
trodden down and the material prosperity of the country
essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty and the public
welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation
of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the
States, or other peaceable means to the end that at the
earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis
of the Federal Union of the States."

Some of the outlying conspirators also suffered a revival of
hope. The Cincinnati Gazette came out flat foot for the
withdrawal of Lincoln.[13] So did The Cincinnati Times, pressing
hard for the new convention.[14] On the second of September,
three New York editors, Greeley for The Tribune, Parke Godwin
for The Post, and Tilton for The Independent, were busily
concocting a circular letter to Governors of the States with a
view to saving the conspiracy.[15]

But other men were at work in a different fashion, that same
day. Lincoln's cause had been wrecked so frequently by his
generals that whenever a general advanced, the event seems
boldly dramatic. While the politicians at New York and Chicago
thought they were loading the scales of fate, long lines of men
in blue were moving through broken woodland and over neglected
fields against the gray legions defending Atlanta. Said
General Hood, it was "evident that General Sherman was moving
with his main body to destroy the Macon road, and that the fate
of Atlanta depended on our ability to defeat this movement."
During the fateful pow-pow at the house of Dudley Field,
Sherman's army like a colossal scythe was swinging round
Atlanta, from the west and south, across Flint River, through
the vital railway, on toward the city. On the second of
September, the news that Atlanta was taken "electrified the
people of the North."[16]

The first thought of every political faction, when, on the
third, the newspapers were ringing with this great news, was
either how to capitalize it for themselves, or how to forestall
its capitalization by some one else. Forbes "dashed off" a
letter to Andrew urging an immediate demonstration for
Lincoln.[17] He was sure the Raymond group would somehow try to
use the victory as a basis for recovering their leadership.
Davis was eager to issue the "call" at once.[18] But his fellows
hesitated. And while they hesitated, Andrew and the people
acted. On the sixth, a huge Lincoln rally was held at Faneul
Hall. Andrew presided. Sumner spoke.[19] That same day, Vermont
held State elections and went Republican by a rousing majority.
On the day following occurred the Convention of the Union party
of New York. Enthusiastic applause was elicited by a telegram
from Vermont. "The first shell that was thrown by Sherman into
Atlanta has exploded in the Copperhead Camp in this State, and
the Unionists have poured in a salute with shotted guns."[20] The
mixed metaphors did not reduce the telegram's effect. The New
York Convention formally endorsed Lincoln as the candidate of
the Union party for President.

So much for the serious side of the swiftly changing political
kaleidoscope. There was also a comic side. Only three days
sufficed--from Davis's eagerness to proceed on the fourth to
letters and articles written or printed on the seventh--only
three days, and the leaders of the conspiracy began turning
their coats. A typical letter of the seventh at Syracuse
describes "an interview with Mr. Opdyke this morning, who told
me the result of his efforts to obtain signatures to our call
which was by no means encouraging. I have found the same
sentiment prevailing here. A belief that it is too late to
make any effectual demonstration, and therefore that it is not
wise to attempt any. I presume that the new-born enthusiasm
created by the Atlanta news will so encourage Lincoln that he
can not be persuaded to withdraw."[21] Two days more and the
anti-Lincoln newspapers began to draw in their horns. That
Independent, whose editor had been one of the three in the last
ditch but a week before, handsomely recanted, scuttling across
to what now seemed the winning side. "The prospect of victory
is brilliant. If a fortnight ago the prospect of Mr. Lincoln's
reelection seemed doubtful, the case is now changed. The
odious character of the Chicago platform, the sunshiny effect
of the late victories, have rekindled the old enthusiasm in
loyal hearts."[22] One day more, and Greeley sullenly took his
medicine. The Tribune began printing "The Union Ticket--for
President, Abraham Lincoln."

There remains the most diverting instance of the haste with
which coats were turned. On the sixth of September, only three
days after Atlanta!--the very day of the great Lincoln rally,
the crown of Andrew's generalship, at Fanuel Hall--a report was
sent out from Washington that "Senator Wade is to take the
stump for Mr. Lincoln."[23] Less than a week later The Washington
Chronicle had learned "with satisfaction, though not with
surprise, that Senator Wade, notwithstanding his signature to a
celebrated Manifesto, had enrolled himself among the Lincoln
forces."[24] Exactly two weeks after Atlanta, Wade made his first
speech for Lincoln as President. It was a "terrific assault
upon the Copperhead policy."[25]

The ship of the conspiracy was sinking fast, and on every hand
was heard a scurrying patter of escaping politicians.


The key-notes of Lincoln's course with the Executive Committee,
his refusal to do anything that appeared to him to be futile,
his firmness not to cast about and experiment after a policy,
his basing of all his plans on the vision in his own mind of
their sure fruitage--these continued to be his key-notes
throughout the campaign. They ruled his action in a difficult
matter with which he was quickly forced to deal.

Montgomery Blair, the Postmaster General, was widely and
bitterly disliked. Originally a radical Republican, he had
quarreled with that wing of the party. In 1863 the Union
League of Philadelphia, which elected all the rest of the
Cabinet honorary members of its organization, omitted Blair. A
reference to the Cabinet in the Union platform of 1864 was
supposed to be a hint that the Postmaster General would serve
his country, if he resigned. During the dark days of the
summer of 1864, the President's mail was filled with
supplications for the dismissal of Blair.[1] He was described as
an incubus that might cause the defeat of the Administration.

If the President's secretaries were not prejudiced witnesses,
Blair had worn out his welcome in the Cabinet. He had grown
suspicious. He tried to make Lincoln believe that Seward was
plotting with the Copperheads. Nevertheless, Lincoln turned a
deaf ear to the clamor against him. Merely personal
considerations were not compelling. If it was true, as for a
while he believed it was, that his election was already lost,
he did not propose to throw Blair over as a mere experiment.
True to his principles he would not become a juggler with

The turn of the tide in his favor put the matter in a new
light. All the enemies of Blair renewed their attack on a
slightly different line. One of those powerful New Englanders
who had come to Lincoln's aid at such an opportune moment led
off. On the second day following the news of Atlanta, Henry
Wilson wrote to him, "Blair, every one hates. Tens of
thousands of men will be lost to you, or will give you a
reluctant vote because of the Blairs."[2]

If this was really true, the selfless man would not hesitate
to' require of Blair the same sort of sacrifice he would, in
other conditions, require of himself. Lincoln debated this in
his own mind nearly three weeks.

Meanwhile, various other politicians joined the hue and cry.
An old friend of Lincoln's, Ebenezer Peck, came east from
Illinois to work upon him against Blair.[3] Chandler, who like
Wade was eager to get out of the wrong ship, appeared at
Washington as a friend of the Administration and an enemy of
Blair.[4] But still Lincoln did not respond. After all, was it
certain that one of these votes would change if Blair did not
resign? Would anything be accomplished, should Lincoln require
his resignation, except the humiliation of a friend, the
gratification of a pack of malcontents? And then some one
thought of a mode for giving definite political value to
Blair's removal. Who did it? The anonymous author of the only
biography of Chandler claims this doubtful honor for the great
Jacobin. Lincoln's secretaries, including Colonel Stoddard who
had charge of his correspondence, are ignorant on the subject.[5]
It may well have been Chandler who negotiated a bargain with
Fremont, if the story is to be trusted, which concerned Blair.
A long-standing, relentless quarrel separated these two. That
Fremont as a candidate was nobody had long been apparent; and
yet it was worth while to get rid of him. Chandler, or
another, extracted a promise from Fremont that if Blair were
removed, he would resign. On the strength of this promise, a
last appeal was made to Lincoln. Such is the legend. The
known fact is that on September twenty-second Fremont withdrew
his candidacy. The next day Lincoln sent this note to Blair:

"You have generously said to me more than once that whenever
your resignation could be a relief to me, it was at my
disposal. The time has come. You very well know that this
proceeds from no dissatisfaction of mine, with you personally
or officially. Your uniform kindness has been unsurpassed by
that of any friend."[6]

No incident displays more clearly the hold which Lincoln had
acquired on the confidence and the affection of his immediate
associates. Blair at once tendered his resignation: "I can not
take leave of you," said he, "without renewing the expression
of my gratitude for the uniform kindness which has marked your
course with regard to myself."[7] That he was not perfunctory,
that his great chief had acquired over him an ascendency which
was superior to any strain, was demonstrated a few days later
in New York. On the twenty-seventh, Cooper Institute was
filled with an enthusiastic Lincoln meeting. Blair was a
speaker. He was received with loud cheers and took occasion to
touch upon his relations with the President. "I retired," said
he, "on the recommendation of my own father. My father has
passed that period of life when its honors or its rewards, or
its glories have any charm for him. He looks backward only,
and forward only, to the grandeur of this nation and the
happiness of this great people who have grown up under the
prosperous condition of the Union; and he would not permit a
son of his to stand in the way of the glorious and patriotic
President who leads us on to success and to the final triumph
that is in store for us."[8]

It was characteristic of this ultimate Lincoln that he offered
no explanations, even in terminating the career of a minister;
that he gave no confidences. Gently inexorable, he imposed his
will in apparent unconsciousness that it might be questioned.
Along with his overmastering kindness, he had something of the
objectivity of a natural force. It was the mood attained by a
few extraordinary men who have reached a point where, without
becoming egoists, they no longer distinguish between themselves
and circumstance; the mood of those creative artists who have
lost themselves, in the strange way which the dreamers have,
who have also found themselves.

Even in the new fascination of the probable turn of the tide,
Lincoln did not waver in his fixed purpose to give all his best
energies, and the country's best energies, to the war. In
October, there was a new panic over the draft. Cameron
implored him to suspend it in Pennsylvania until after the
presidential election. An Ohio committee went to Washington
with the same request. Why should not the arguments that had
prevailed with him, or were supposed to have prevailed with
him, for the removal of a minister, prevail also in the way of
a brief flagging of military preparation? But Lincoln would
not look upon the two cases in the same spirit. "What is the
Presidency worth to me," he asked the Ohio committee, "if I
have no country ?"[9]

From the active campaign he held himself aloof. He made no
political speeches. He wrote no political letters. The army
received his constant detailed attention. In his letters to
Grant, he besought him to be unwavering in a relentless

As Hay records, he was aging rapidly. The immense strain of
his labor was beginning to tell both in his features and his
expression. He was moving in a shadow. But his old habit of
merriment had not left him; though it was now, more often, a
surface merriment. On the night of the October elections,
Lincoln sat in the telegraph room of the War Office while the
reports were coming in. "The President in a lull of
despatches, took from his pocket the Naseby Papers and read
several chapters of the Saint and Martyr, Petroleum V. They
were immensely amusing. Stanton and Dana enjoyed them scarcely
less than the President, who read on, con amore, until nine

The presidential election was held on the eighth of November.
That night, Lincoln with his Secretary was again in the War
Office. The early returns showed that the whole North was
turning to him in enormous majorities. He showed no
exultation. When the Assistant Secretary of the Navy spoke
sharply of the complete effacement politically of Henry Winter
Davis against whom he had a grudge, Lincoln said, "You have
more of that feeling of personal resentment than I. Perhaps I
have too little of it; but I never thought it paid. A man has
no time to spend half his life in quarrels. if any man ceases
to attack me I never remember the past against him."[11]

"Towards midnight," says Hay in his diary, "we had supper. The
President went awkwardly and hospitably to work shovelling out
the fried oysters. He was most agreeable and genial all the
evening. . . . Captain Thomas came up with a band about
half-past two and made some music. The President answered from
a window with rather unusual dignity and effect, and we came

"I am thankful to God," Lincoln said, in response to the
serenade, "for this approval of the people; but while grateful
for this mark of their confidence in me, if I know my heart, my
gratitude is free from any taint of personal triumph. I do not
impugn the motives of any one opposed to me. It is no pleasure
to me to triumph over any one, but I give thanks to the
Almighty for this evidence of the people's resolution to stand
by free government and the rights of humanity."[13]

During the next few days a torrent of congratulations came
pouring in. What most impressed the secretaries was his
complete freedom from elation. "He seemed to deprecate his own
triumph and sympathize rather with the beaten than the
victorious party." His formal recognition of the event was a
prepared reply to a serenade on the night of November tenth. A
great crowd filled the space in front of the north portico of
the White House. Lincoln appeared at a window. A secretary
stood at his side holding a lighted candle while he read from
a manuscript. The brief address is justly ranked among his
ablest occasional utterances. As to the mode of the
deliverance, he said to Hay, "Not very graceful, but I am
growing old enough not to care much for the manner of doing


In Lincoln's life there are two great achievements.

One he brought to pass in time for him to behold his own
victory. The other he saw only with the eyes of faith. The
first was the drawing together of all the elements of
nationalism in the American people and consolidating them into
a driving force. The second was laying the foundation of a
political temper that made impossible a permanent victory for
the Vindictives. It was the sad fate of this nation, because
Lincoln's hand was struck from the tiller at the very instant
of the crisis, to suffer the temporary success of that faction
he strove so hard to destroy The transitoriness of their evil
triumph, the eventual rally of the nation against them, was the
final victory of the spirit of Lincoln.

The immediate victory he appreciated more fully and measured
more exactly, than did any one else. He put it into words in
the fifth message. While others were crowing with exaltation
over a party triumph, he looked deeper to the psychological
triumph. Scarcely another saw that the most significant detail
of the hour was in the Democratic attitude. Even the bitterest
enemies of nationalism, even those who were believed by all
others to desire the breaking of the Union, had not thought it
safe to say so. They had veiled their intent in specious
words. McClellan in accepting the Democratic nomination had
repudiated the idea of disunion. Whether the Democratic
politicians had agreed with him or not, they had not dared to
contradict him. This was what Lincoln put the emphasis on in
his message: "The purpose of the people within the loyal States
to maintain the Union was never more firm nor more nearly
unanimous than now. . . . No candidate for any office, high
or low, has ventured to seek votes on the avowal that he was
for giving up the Union. There have been much impugning of
motive and much heated controversy as to the proper means and
best mode of advancing the Union cause; but on the distinct
issue of Union or No Union the politicians have shown their
instinctive knowledge that there is no diversity among the
people. In affording the people the fair opportunity of
showing one to another and to the world, this firmness and
unanimity of purpose, the election has been of vast value to
the national cause."[1]

This temper of the final Lincoln, his supreme detachment, the
kind impersonality of his intellectual approach, has no better
illustration in his state papers. He further revealed it in a
more intimate way. The day he sent the message to Congress, he
also submitted to the Senate a nomination to the great office
of Chief Justice. When Taney died in the previous September,
there was an eager stir among the friends of Chase. They had
hopes but they felt embarrassed. Could they ask this great
honor, the highest it is in the power of the American President
to be-stow, for a man who had been so lacking in candor as
Chase had been? Chase's course during the summer had made
things worse. He had played the time-server. No one was more
severe upon Lincoln in July; in August, he hesitated, would not
quite commit himself to the conspiracy but would not discourage
it; almost gave it his blessing; in September, but not until it
was quite plain that the conspiracy was failing, he came out
for Lincoln. However, his friends in the Senate overcame their
embarrassment--how else could it be with Senators?--and pressed
his case. And when Senator Wilson, alarmed at the President's
silence, tried to apologize for Chase's harsh remarks about the
President, Lincoln cut him short. "Oh, as to that, I care
nothing," said he. The embarrassment of the Chase propaganda
amused him. When Chase himself took a hand and wrote him a
letter, Lincoln said to his secretary, "What is it about?"
"Simply a kind and friendly letter," replied the secretary.
Lincoln smiled. "File it with the other recommendations," said

He regarded Chase as a great lawyer, Taney's logical successor.
All the slights the Secretary had put upon the President, the
intrigues to supplant him, the malicious sayings, were as if
they had never occurred. When Congress assembled, it was
Chase's name that he sent to the Senate. It was Chase who, as
Chief Justice, administered the oath at Lincoln's second

Long since, Lincoln had seen that there had ceased to any
half-way house in the matter of emancipation. His thoughts
were chiefly upon the future. And as mere strategy, he saw
that slavery had to be got out of the way. It was no longer a
question, who liked this, who did not. To him, the ultimate
issue was the restoration of harmony among the States. Those
States which had been defeated in the dread arbitrament of
battle, would in any event encounter difficulties, even deadly
perils, in the narrow way which must come after defeat and
which might or might not lead to rehabilitation.

Remembering the Vindictive temper, remembering the force and
courage of the Vindictive leaders, it was imperative to clear
the field of the slavery issue before the reconstruction issue
was fairly launched. It was highly desirable to commit to the
support of the governments the whole range of influences that
were in earnest about emancipation. Furthermore, the South
itself was drifting in the same direction. In his interview
with Gilmore and Jaquess, Davis had said: "You have already
emancipated nearly two millions of our slaves; and if you will
take care of them, you may emancipate the rest. I had a few
when the war began. I was of some use to them; they never were
of any to me."[3]

The Southern President had "felt" his constituency on the
subject of enrolling slaves as soldiers with a promise of
emancipation as the reward of military service.

The fifth message urged Congress to submit to the States an
amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery. Such action
had been considered in the previous session, but nothing had
been done. At Lincoln's suggestion, it had been recommended in
the platform of the Union party. Now, with the President's
powerful influence behind it, with his prestige at full circle,
the amendment was rapidly pushed forward. Before January
ended, it had been approved by both Houses. Lincoln had used
all his personal influence to strengthen its chances in
Congress where, until the last minute, the vote was still in

While the amendment was taking its way through Congress, a
shrewd old politician who thought he knew the world better than
most men, that Montgomery Blair, Senior, who was father of the
Postmaster General, had been trying on his own responsibility
to open negotiations between Washington and Richmond. His
visionary ideas, which were wholly without the results he
intended, have no place here. And yet this fanciful episode
had a significance of its own. Had it not occurred, the
Confederate government probably would not have appointed
commissioners charged with the hopeless task of approaching the
Federal government for the purpose of negotiating peace between
"the two countries."

Now that Lincoln was entirely in the ascendent at home, and
since the Confederate arms had recently suffered terrible
reverses, he was no longer afraid that negotiation might appear
to be the symptom of weakness. He went so far as to consent to
meet the Commissioners himself. On a steamer in Hampton Roads,
Lincoln and Seward had a long conference with three members of
the Confederate government, particularly the Vice-President,
Alexander H. Stephens.

it has become a tradition that Lincoln wrote at the top of a
sheet of paper the one word "Union"; that he pushed it across
the table and said, "Stephens, write under that anything you
want" There appears to be no foundation for the tale in this
form. The amendment had committed the North too definitely to
emancipation. Lincoln could not have proposed Union without
requiring emancipation, also. And yet, with this limitation,
the spirit of the tradition is historic. There can be no doubt
that he presented to the commissioners about the terms which
the year before he had drawn up as a memorandum for Gilmore and
Jaquess: Union, the acceptance of emancipation, but also
instantaneous restoration of political autonomy to the Southern
States, and all the influence of the Administration in behalf
of liberal compensation for the loss of slave property. But
the commissioners had no authority to consider terms that did
not recognize the existence of "two countries." However,
this Hampton Roads Conference gave Lincoln a new hope. He
divined, if he did not perceive, that the Confederates were on
the verge of despair. If he had been a Vindictive, this would
have borne fruit in ferocious telegrams to his generals to
strike and spare not. What Lincoln did was to lay before the
Cabinet this proposal:--that they advise Congress to offer the
Confederate government the sum of four hundred million dollars,
provided the war end and the States in secession acknowledge
the authority of the Federal government previous to April 1,
1865. But the Cabinet, complete as was his domination in some
respects, were not ripe for such a move as this. "'You are
all against me,' said Lincoln sadly and in evident surprise at
the want of statesmanlike liberality on the part of the
executive council," to quote his Secretary, "folded and laid
away the draft of his message."[5] Nicolay believes that the idea
continued vividly in his mind and that it may be linked with
his last public utterance--"it may be my duty to make some new
announcement to the people of the South. I am considering and
shall not fail to act when satisfied that action is proper."

It was now obvious to every one outside the Confederacy that
the war would end speedily in a Northern victory. To Lincoln,
therefore, the duty of the moment, overshadowing all else, was
the preparation for what should come after. Reconstruction.
More than ever it was of first importance to decide whether the
President or Congress should deal with this great matter. And
now occurred an event which bore witness at once to the
beginning of Lincoln's final struggle with the Vindictives and
to that personal ascendency which was steadily widening. One
of those three original Jacobins agreed to become his spokesman
in the Senate. As the third person of the Jacobin brotherhood,
Lyman Trumbull had always been out of place. He had gone wrong
not from perversity of the soul but from a mental failing, from
the lack of inherent light, from intellectual conventionality.
But he was a good man. One might apply to him Mrs. Browning's
line: "Just a good man made a great man." And in his case, as
in so many others, sheer goodness had not been sufficient in
the midst of a revolution to save his soul. To quote one of
the greatest of the observers of human life: "More brains, O
Lord, more brains." Though Trumbull had the making of an
Intellectual, politics had very nearly ruined him. For all his
good intentions it took him a long time to see what Hawthorne

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