Part 7 out of 8
saw at first sight-that Lincoln was both a powerful character
and an original mind. Still, because Trumbull was really a
good man, he found a way to recover his soul. What his insight
was not equal to perceiving in 1861, experience slowly made
plain to him in the course of the next three years. Before
1865 he had broken with the Vindictives; he had come over to
Lincoln. Trumbull still held the powerful office of Chairman
of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He now undertook to be the
President's captain in a battle on the floor of the Senate for
the recognition of Louisiana.
The new government in Louisiana had been in actual operation
for nearly a year. Though Congress had denounced it; though
the Manifesto had held it up to scorn as a monarchial outrage;
Lincoln had quietly, steadily, protected and supported it. It
was discharging the function of a regular State government. A
governor had been elected and inaugurated-that Governor Hahn
whom Lincoln had congratulated as Louisiana's first Free State
Governor. He could say this because the new electorate which
his mandate had created had assembled a constitutional
convention and had abolished slavery. And it had also carried
out the President's views with regard to the political status
of freedmen. Lincoln was not a believer in general negro
suffrage. He was as far as ever from the theorizing of the
Abolitionists. The most he would approve was the bestowal of
suffrage on a few Superior negroes, leaving the rest to be
gradually educated into citizenship. The Louisiana Convention
had authorized the State Legislature to make, when it felt
prepared to do so, such a limited extension of suffrage.
In setting up this new government, Lincoln had created a
political vessel in which practically all the old electorate of
Louisiana could find their places the moment they gave up the
war and accepted the two requisites, union and emancipation.
That electorate could proceed at once to rebuild the
social-political order of the State without any interval of
"expiation." All the power of the Administration would be with
them in their labors. That this was the wise as well as the
generous way to proceed, the best minds of the North had come
to see. Witness the conversion of Trumbull. But there were
four groups of fanatics who were dangerous: extreme
Abolitionists who clamored for negro equality; men like Wade
and Chandler, still mad with the lust of conquest, raging at
the President who had stood so resolutely between them and
their desire; the machine politicians who could never
understand the President's methods, who regarded him as an
officious amateur; and the Little Men who would have tried to
make political capital of the blowing of the last trump. All
these, each for a separate motive, attacked the President
because of Louisiana.
The new government had chosen Senators. Here was a specific
issue over which the Administration and its multiform
opposition might engage in a trial of strength. The Senate had
it in its power to refuse to seat the Louisiana Senators.
Could the Vindictive leaders induce it to go to that length?
The question took its natural course of reference to the
Judiciary Committee. On the eighteenth of February, Trumbull
opened what was destined to be a terrible chapter in American
history, the struggle between light and darkness over
reconstruction. Trumbull had ranged behind Lincoln the
majority of his committee. With its authority he moved a joint
resolution recognizing the new government of Louisiana.
And then began a battle royal. Trumbull's old associates were
promptly joined by Sumner. These three rallied against the
resolution all the malignancy, all the time-serving, all the
stupidity, which the Senate possessed. Bitter language was
exchanged by men who had formerly been as thick as thieves.
"You and I," thundered Wade, "did not differ formerly on this
subject We considered it a mockery, a miserable mockery, to
recognize this Louisiana organization as a State in the Union."
He sneered fiercely, "Whence comes this new-born zeal of the
Senator from Illinois? . . . Sir, it is the most miraculous
conversion that has taken place since Saint Paul's time."
Wade did not spare the President. Metaphorically speaking, he
shook a fist in his face, the fist of a merciless old giant
"When the foundation of this government is sought to be swept
away by executive usurpation, it will not do to turn around to
me and say this comes from a President I helped to elect. . .
. if the President of the United States operating through his
major generals can initiate a State government, and can bring
it here and force us, compel us, to receive on this floor these
mere mockeries, these men of straw who represent nobody, your
Republic is at an end . . . talk not to me of your ten per
cent. principle. A more absurd, monarchial and anti-American
principle was never announced on God's earth."
Amidst a rain of furious personalities, Lincoln's spokesman
kept his poise. It was sorely tried by two things: by Sumner's
frank use of every device of parliamentary obstruction with a
view to wearing out the patience of the Senate, and by the
cynical alliance, in order to balk Lincoln, of the Vindictives
with the Democrats. What they would not risk in 1862 when
their principles had to wait upon party needs, they now
considered safe strategy. And if ever the Little Men deserved
their label it was when they played into the hands of the
terrible Vindictives, thus becoming responsible for the
rejection of Lincoln's plan of reconstruction. Trumbull
upbraided Sumner for "associating himself with those whom he so
often denounced, for the purpose of calling the yeas and nays
and making dilatory motions" to postpone action until the press
of other business should compel the Senate to set the
resolution aside. Sumner's answer was that he would employ
against the measure every instrument he could find "in the
arsenal of parliamentary warfare."
With the aid of the Democrats, the Vindictives carried the day.
The resolution was "dispensed with."
As events turned out it was a catastrophe. But this was not
apparent at the time. Though Lincoln had been beaten for the
moment, the opposition was made up of so many and such
irreconcilable elements that as long as he could hold together
his own following, there was no reason to suppose he would not
in the long run prevail. He was never in a firmer, more
self-contained mood than on the last night of the session.
Again, as on that memorable fourth of July, eight months
before, he was in his room at the Capitol signing the
last-minute bills. Stanton was with him. On receiving a
telegram from Grant, the Secretary handed it to the President
Grant reported that Lee had proposed a conference for the
purpose of "a satisfactory adjustment of the present unhappy
difficulties by means of a military convention." Without asking
for the Secretary's opinion, Lincoln wrote out a reply which he
directed him to sign and despatch immediately. "The President
directs me to say that he wishes you to have no conference with
General Lee, unless it be for the capitulation of General Lee's
army, or on some minor or purely military matter. He instructs
me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon
any political questions, such questions the President holds in
his own hands and will submit them to no military conferences
or conventions. Meanwhile, you are to press to the utmost your
In the second inaugural  delivered the next day, there is not
the faintest shadow of anxiety. It breathes a lofty confidence
as if his soul was gazing meditatively downward upon life, and
upon his own work, from a secure height. The world has shown a
sound instinct in fixing upon one expression, "with malice
toward none, with charity for all," as the key-note of the
final Lincoln. These words form the opening line of that
paragraph of unsurpassable prose in which the second inaugural
"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness
in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on
to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds;
to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his
widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a
just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations."
XXXVI. PREPARING A DIFFERENT WAR
During the five weeks which remained to Lincoln on earth, the
army was his most obvious concern. He watched eagerly the
closing of the enormous trap that had been slowly built up
surrounding Lee. Toward the end of March he went to the front,
and for two weeks had his quarters on a steamer at City Point.
It was during Lincoln's visit that Sherman came up from North
Carolina for his flying conference with Grant, in which the
President took part. Lincoln was at City Point when Petersburg
fell. Early on the morning of April third, he joined Grant who
gives a strange glimpse in his Memoirs of their meeting in the
deserted city which so recently had been the last bulwark of
the Confederacy. The same day, Richmond fell. Lincoln had
returned to City Point, and on the following day when confusion
reigned in the burning city, he walked through its streets
attended only by a few sailors and by four friends. He visited
Libby Prison; and when a member of his party said that Davis
ought to be hanged, Lincoln replied, "Judge not that ye be not
judged." His deepest thoughts, however, were not with the
army. The time was at hand when his statesmanship was to be
put to its most severe test. He had not forgotten the anxious
lesson of that success of the Vindictives in balking
momentarily the recognition of Louisiana. it was war to the
knife between him and them. Could he reconstruct the Union in
a wise and merciful fashion despite their desperate opposition?
He had some strong cards in his hand. First of all, he had
time. Congress was not in session. He had eight months in
which to press forward his own plans. If, when Congress
assembled the following December, it should be confronted by a
group of reconciled Southern States, would it venture to refuse
them recognition? No one could have any illusions as to what
the Vindictives would try to do. They would continue the
struggle they had begun over Louisiana; and if their power
permitted, they would rouse the nation to join battle with the
President on that old issue of the war powers, of the
But in Lincoln's hand there were four other cards, all of which
Wade and Chandler would find it hard to match. He had the
army. In the last election the army had voted for him
enthusiastically. And the army was free from the spirit of
revenge, the Spirit which Chandler built upon. They had the
plain people, the great mass whom the machine politicians had
failed to judge correctly in the August Conspiracy. Pretty
generally, he had the Intellectuals. Lastly, he had--or with
skilful generalship he could have--the Abolitionists.
The Thirteenth Amendment was not yet adopted. The question had
been raised, did it require three-fourths of all the States for
its adoption, or only three-fourths of those that were ranked
as not in rebellion. Here was the issue by means of which the
Abolitionists might all be brought into line. It was by no
means certain that every Northern State would vote for the
amendment. In the smaller group of States, there was a chance
that the amendment might fail. But if it were submitted to the
larger group; and if every Reconstructed State, before Congress
met, should adopt the amendment; and if it was apparent that
with these Southern adoptions the amendment must prevail, all
the great power of the anti-slavery sentiment would be thrown
on the side of the President in favor of recognizing the new
State governments and against the Vindictives. Lincoln held a
hand of trumps. Confidently, but not rashly, he looked forward
to his peaceful war with the Vindictives.
They were enemies not to be despised. To begin with, they were
experienced machine politicians; they had control of
well-organized political rings. They were past masters of the
art of working up popular animosities. And they were going to
use this art in that dangerous moment of reaction which
invariably follows the heroic tension of a great war. The
alignment in the Senate revealed by the Louisiana battle had
also a significance. The fact that Sumner, who was not quite
one of them, became their general on that occasion, was
something to remember. They had made or thought they had made
other powerful allies. The Vice President, Andrew Johnson-the
new president of the Senate-appeared at this time to be cheek
by jowl with the fiercest Vindictives of them all. It would be
interesting to know when the thought first occurred to them:
"If anything should happen to Lincoln, his successor would be
one of us!"
The ninth of April arrived and the news of Lee's surrender.
"The popular excitement over the victory was such that on
Monday, the tenth, crowds gathered before the Executive Mansion
several times during the day and called out the President for
speeches. Twice he responded by coming to the window and
saying a few words which, however, indicated that his mind was
more occupied with work than with exuberant rejoicing. As
briefly as he could he excused himself, but promised that on
the following evening for which a formal demonstration was
being arranged, he would be prepared to say something."
The paper which he read to the crowd that thronged the grounds
of the White House on the night of April eleventh, was his last
public utterance. It was also one of his most remarkable ones.
In a way, it was his declaration of war against the
Vindictives. It is the final statement of a policy toward
helpless opponents--he refused to call them enemies--which among
the conquerors of history is hardly, if at all, to be
"By these recent successes the reinauguration of the national
authority-reconstruction-which has had a large share of thought
from the first, is pressed more closely upon our attention. It
is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike a case of war between
independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to
treat with-no one man has authority to give up the rebellion
for any other man. We simply must begin with, and mould from,
disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a small
additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ
among ourselves as to the mode, manner and measure of
reconstruction. As a general rule, I abstain from reading the
reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by
that to which I can not properly offer an answer. In spite of
this precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that I am
much censured for some supposed agency in setting up and
seeking to sustain the new State government of Louisiana.
He reviewed in full the history of the Louisiana experiment
From that he passed to the theories put forth by some of his
enemies with regard to the constitutional status of the Seceded
States. His own theory that the States never had been out of
the Union because constitutionally they could not go out, that
their governmental functions had merely been temporarily
interrupted; this theory had always been roundly derided by the
Vindictives and even by a few who were not Vindictives. Sumner
had preached the idea that the Southern States by attempting to
secede had committed "State suicide" and should now be treated
as Territories. Stevens and the Vindictives generally, while
avoiding Sumner's subtlety, called them "conquered provinces."
And all these wanted to take them from under the protection of
the President and place them helpless at the feet of Congress.
To prevent this is the purpose that shines between the lines in
the latter part of Lincoln's valedictory:
"We all agree that the Seceded States, so called, are out of
their proper practical relation with the Union, and that the
sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to
those States, is to again get them into that proper practical
relation. I believe that it is not only possible, but in fact
easier, to do this without deciding or even considering whether
these States have ever been out of the Union, than with it
Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly
immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join
in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical
relations between these States and the Union, and each forever
after innocently indulge his own opinion whether in doing the
acts he brought the States from without into the Union, or only
gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.
The amount of constituency, so to speak, on which the new
Louisiana government rests would be more satisfactory to all if
it contained 50,000 or 30,000, or even 20,000 instead of only
about 12,000, as it does. It is also unsatisfactory to some
that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I
would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very
intelligent, and on those who served our cause as soldiers.
"Still, the question is not whether the Louisiana government,
as it stands, is quite all that is desirable. The question is,
will it be wiser to take it as it is and help to improve it, or
to reject and disperse it? Can Louisiana be brought into
proper practical relation with the Union sooner by sustaining
or by discarding her new State government? Some twelve
thousand voters in the heretofore slave State of Louisiana have
sworn allegiance to the Union, assumed to be the rightful
political power of the State, held elections, organized a State
government, adopted a free State constitution, giving the
benefit of public schools equally to black and white and
empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise
upon the colored man. Their Legislature has already voted to
ratify the constitutional amendment recently passed by Congress
abolishing slavery throughout the nation. These 12,000
persons are thus fully committed to the Union and to perpetual
freedom in the State--committed to the very things, and nearly
all the things, the nation wants--and they ask the nation's
recognition and its assistance to make good their committal.
"Now, if we reject and spurn them, we do our utmost to
disorganize and disperse them. We, in effect, say to the white
man: You are worthless or worse; we will neither help you nor
be helped by you. To the blacks we say: This cup of liberty
which these, your old masters, hold to your lips we will dash
from you and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled
and scattered contents in some vague and undefined when, where
and how. If this course, discouraging and paralyzing both
white and black, has any tendency to bring Louisiana into
proper practical relations with the Union, I have so far been
unable to perceive it. If, on the contrary, we recognize and
sustain the new government of Louisiana, the converse of all
this is made true. We encourage the hearts and nerve the arms
of 12,000 to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and
proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it,
and ripen it to a complete success. The colored man, too, in
seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance and
energy, and daring, to the same end. Grant that he desires the
elective franchise, will he not attain it sooner by saving the
already advanced steps toward it than by running backward
over them? Concede that the new government of Louisiana is
only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall
sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it.
"Again, if we reject Louisiana, we also reject one vote in
favor of the proposed amendment to the national Constitution.
To meet this proposition it has been argued that no more than
three-fourths of those States which have not attempted
secession are necessary to validly ratify the amendment I do
not commit myself against this further than to say that such a
ratification would be questionable, and sure to be persistently
questioned, while a ratification by three-fourths of all the
States would be unquestioned and unquestionable. I repeat the
question: Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical
relation with the Union sooner by sustaining or by discarding
her new State government? What has been said of Louisiana will
apply generally to other States. And yet so great
peculiarities pertain to each State, and such important and
sudden changes occur in the same State, and with also new and
unprecedented is the whole case that no exclusive and
inflexible plan can safely be prescribed as to details and
collaterals. Such exclusive and inflexible plan would surely
become a new entanglement. Important principles may and must
be inflexible. In the present situation, as the phrase goes,
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 will be proper."
XXXVII. FATE INTERPOSES
There was an early spring on the Potomac in 1865. While April
was still young, the Judas trees became spheres of purply,
pinkish bloom. The Washington parks grew softly bright as the
lilacs opened. Pendulous willows veiled with green laces
afloat in air the changing brown that was winter's final
shadow; in the Virginia woods the white blossoms of the dogwood
seemed to float and flicker among the windy trees like enormous
flocks of alighting butterflies. And over head such a glitter
of turquoise blue! As lovely in a different way as on that
fateful Sun-day morning when Russell drove through the same
woods toward Bull Run so long, long ago. Such was the
background of the last few days of Lincoln's life.
Though tranquil, his thoughts dwelt much on death. While at
City Point, he drove one day with Mrs. Lincoln along the banks
of the James. They passed a country graveyard. "It was a
retired place," said Mrs. Lincoln long afterward, "shaded by
trees, and early spring flowers were opening on nearly every
grave. It was so quiet and attractive that we stopped the
carriage and walked through it. Mr. Lincoln seemed thoughtful
and impressed. He said: 'Mary, you are younger than I; you
will survive me. When I am gone, lay my remains in some quiet
place like this.'"
His mood underwent a mysterious change. It was serene and yet
charged with a peculiar grave loftiness not quite like any
phase of him his friends had known hitherto. As always, his
thoughts turned for their reflection to Shakespeare. Sumner
who was one of the party at City Point, was deeply impressed by
his reading aloud, a few days before his death, that passage in
Macbeth which describes the ultimate security of Duncan where
nothing evil "can touch him farther."
There was something a little startling, as if it were not quite
of this world, in the tender lightness that seemed to come into
his heart. "His whole appearance, poise and bearing," says one
of his observers, "had marvelously changed. He was, in fact,
transfigured. That indescribable sadness which had previously
seemed to be an adamantine element of his very being, had been
suddenly changed for an equally indescribable expression of
serene joy, as if conscious that the great purpose of his life
had been achieved."
It was as if the seer in the trance had finally passed beyond
his trance; and had faced smiling toward his earthly comrades,
imagining he was to return to them; unaware that somehow his
emergence was not in the ordinary course of nature; that in it
was an accent of the inexplicable, something which the others
caught and at which they trembled; though they knew not why.
And he, so beautifully at peace, and yet thrilled as never
before by the vision of the murdered Duncan at the end of
life's fitful fever--what was his real feeling, his real vision
of himself? Was it something of what the great modern poet
strove so bravely to express--
And yet Dauntless the slughorn to my lips I set,
And blew: Childe Roland to the dark tower came."
Shortly before the end, he had a strange dream. Though he
spoke of it almost with levity, it would not leave his
thoughts. He dreamed he was wandering through the White House
at night; all the rooms were brilliantly lighted; but they were
empty. However, through that unreal solitude floated a sound
of weeping. When he came to the East Room, it was explained;
there was a catafalque, the pomp of a military funeral, crowds
of people in tears; and a voice said to him, "The President has
He told this dream to Lamon and to Mrs. Lincoln. He added that
after it had occurred, "the first time I opened the Bible,
strange as it may appear, it was at the twenty-eighth chapter
of Genesis which relates the wonderful dream Jacob had. I
turned to other passages and seemed to encounter a dream or a
vision wherever I looked. I kept on turning the leaves of the
Old Book, and everywhere my eye fell upon passages recording
matters strangely in keeping with my own thoughts--supernatural
visitations, dreams, visions, etc."
But when Lamon seized upon this as text for his recurrent
sermon on precautions against assassination, Lincoln turned the
matter into a joke. He did not appear to interpret the dream
as foreshadowing his own death. He called Lamon's alarm
Another dream in the last night of his life was a consolation.
He narrated it to the Cabinet when they met on April
fourteenth, which happened to be Good Friday. There was some
anxiety with regard to Sherman's movements in North Carolina.
Lincoln bade the Cabinet set their minds at rest. His dream of
the night before was one that he had often had. It was a
presage of great events. In this dream he saw himself "in a
singular and indescribable vessel, but always the same . . .
moving with great rapidity toward a dark and indefinite shore."
This dream had preceded all the great events of the war. He
believed it was a good omen.
At this last Cabinet meeting, he talked freely of the one
matter which in his mind overshadowed all others. He urged his
Ministers to put aside all thoughts of hatred and revenge. "He
hoped there would be no persecution, no bloody work, after the
war was over. None need expect him to take any part in hanging
or killing these men, even the worst of them. 'Frighten them
out of the country, let down the bars, scare them off,' said
he, throwing up his hands as if scaring sheep. Enough lives
have been sacrificed. We must extinguish our resentment if we
expect harmony and union. There was too much desire on the
part of our very good friends to be masters, to interfere and
dictate to those States, to treat the people not as fellow
citizens; there was too little respect for their rights. He
didn't sympathize in these feelings."
There was a touch of irony in his phase "our very good
friends." Before the end of the next day, the men he had in
mind, the inner group of the relentless Vindictives, were to
meet in council, scarcely able to conceal their inspiring
conviction that Providence had intervened, had judged between
him and them. And that allusion to the "rights" of the
vanquished! How abominable it was in the ears of the grim
Chandler, the inexorable Wade. Desperate these men and their
followers were on the fourteenth of April, but defiant. To the
full measure of their power they would fight the President to
the last ditch. And always in their minds, the tormenting
thought-if only positions could be reversed, if only Johnson,
whom they believed to be one of them at heart, were in the
first instead of the second place!
While these unsparing sons of thunder were growling among
themselves, the lions that were being cheated of their prey,
Lincoln was putting his merciful temper into a playful form.
General Creswell applied to him for pardon for an old friend of
his who had joined the Confederate Army.
"Creswell," said Lincoln, "you make me think of a lot of young
folks who once started out Maying. To reach their destination,
they had to cross a shallow stream and did so by means of an
old flat boat when the time came to return, they found to their
dismay that the old scow had disappeared. They were in sore
trouble and thought over all manner of devices for getting over
the water, but without avail. After a time, one of the boys
proposed that each fellow should pick up the girl he liked best
and wade over with her. The masterly proposition was carried
out until all that were left upon the island was a little short
chap and a great, long, gothic-built, elderly lady. Now,
Creswell, you are trying to leave me in the same predicament.
You fellows are all getting your own friends out of this
scrape, and you will succeed in carrying off one after another
until nobody but Jeff Davis and myself will be left on the
island, and then I won't know what to do--How should I feel? How
should I look lugging him over? I guess the way to avoid such
an embarrassing situation is to let all out at once."
The President refused, this day, to open his doors to the
throng of visitors that sought admission. His eldest son,
Robert, an officer in Grant's army, had returned from the front
unharmed. Lincoln wished to reserve the day for his family and
intimate friends. In the afternoon, Mrs. Lincoln asked him if
he cared to have company on their usual drive. "No, Mary,"
said he, "I prefer that we ride by ourselves to-day." They
took a long drive. His mood, as it had been all day, was
singularly happy and tender. He talked much of the past and
the future. It seemed to Mrs. Lincoln that he never had
appeared happier than during the drive. He referred to past
sorrows, to the anxieties of the war, to Willie's death, and
spoke of the necessity to be cheerful and happy in the days to
come. As Mrs. Lincoln remembered his words: "We have had a
hard time since we came to Washington; but the war is over, and
with God's blessings, we may hope for four years of peace and
happiness, and then we will go back to Illinois and pass the
rest of our lives in quiet. We have laid by some money, and
during this time, we will save up more, but shall not have
enough to support us. We will go back to Illinois; I will open
a law office at Springfield or Chicago and practise law, and at
least do enough to help give us a livelihood."
They returned from their drive and prepared for a theatre party
which had been fixed for that night. The management of the
Ford's Theatre, where Laura Keene was to close her season with
a benefit performance of Our American Cousin, had announced in
the afternoon paper that "the President and his lady" would
attend. The President's box had been draped with flags. The
rest is a twice told tale--a thousandth told tale.
An actor, very handsome, a Byronic sort, both in beauty and
temperament, with a dash perhaps of insanity, John Wilkes
Booth, had long meditated killing the President. A violent
secessionist, his morbid imagination had made of Lincoln
another Caesar. The occasion called for a Brutus. While
Lincoln was planning his peaceful war with the Vindictives,
scheming how to keep them from grinding the prostrate South
beneath their heels, devising modes of restoring happiness to
the conquered region, Booth, at an obscure boarding-house in
Washington, was gathering about him a band of adventurers, some
of whom at least, like himself, were unbalanced. They
meditated a general assassination of the Cabinet. The unexpected
theatre party on the fourteenth gave Booth a sudden
opportunity. He knew every passage of Ford's Theatre. He
knew, also, that Lincoln seldom surrounded himself with guards.
During the afternoon, he made his way unobserved into the
theatre and bored a hole in the door of the presidential box,
so that he might fire through it should there be any difficulty
in getting the door open.
About ten o'clock that night, the audience was laughing at the
absurd play; the President's party were as much amused as any.
Suddenly, there was a pistol shot. A moment more and a woman's
voice rang out in a sharp cry. An instant sense of disaster
brought the audience startled to their feet. Two men were
glimpsed struggling toward the front of the President's box.
One broke away, leaped down on to the stage, flourished a knife
and shouted, "Sic semper tyrannis!" Then he vanished through
the flies. It was Booth, whose plans had been completely
successful. He had made his way without interruption to within
a few feet of Lincoln. At point-blank distance, he had shot
him from behind, through the head. In the confusion which
ensued, he escaped from the theatre; fled from the city; was
pursued; and was himself shot and killed a few days later.
The bullet of the assassin had entered the brain, causing
instant unconsciousness. The dying President was removed to a
house on Tenth Street, No. 453, where he was laid on a bed in
a small room at the rear of the hall on the ground floor.
Swift panic took possession of the city. "A crowd of people
rushed instinctively to the White House, and bursting through
the doors, shouted the dreadful news to Robert Lincoln and
Major Hay who sat gossiping in an upper room. . . . They
ran down-stairs. Finding a carriage at the door, they entered
it and drove to Tenth Street."
To right and left eddied whirls of excited figures, men and
women questioning, threatening, crying out for vengeance.
Overhead amid driving clouds, the moon, through successive
mantlings of darkness, broke periodically into sudden blazes of
light; among the startled people below, raced a witches' dance
of the rapidly changing shadows.
Lincoln did not regain consciousness. About dawn his pulse
began to fail. A little later, "a look of unspeakable peace
came over his worn features", and at twenty-two minutes after
seven on the morning of the fifteenth of April, he died.
It is said that a complete bibliography of Lincoln would
include at least five thousand titles. Therefore, any limited
bibliography must appear more or less arbitrary. The following
is but a minimum list in which, with a few exceptions such as
the inescapable interpretative works of Mr. Rhodes and of
Professor Dunning, practically everything has to some extent
the character of a source.
Alexander. A Political History of the State of New York. By
De Alva Stanwood Alexander. 3 vols. 1909.
Arnold. History of Abraham Lincoln and the Overthrow of
Slavery. By Isaac N. Arnold. 1866.
Baldwin. Interview between President Lincoln and Colonel John
B. Baldwin. 1866.
Bancroft. Life of William H. Seward. By Frederick Bancroft. 2
Barnes. Memoir of Thurlow Weed. By Thurlow Weed Barnes. 1884.
Barton. The Soul of Abraham Lincoln. By William Eleazar
Bigelow. Retrospections of an Active Life. By John Bigelow. 2
Blaine. Twenty Years of Congress. By James G. Blaine. 2
Botts. The Great Rebellion. By John Minor Botts. 1866.
Boutwell. Reminiscences of Sixty Years in Public Affairs. By
George S. Boutwell 2 vols. 1902.
Bradford. Union Portraits. By Gamaliel Bradford. 1916.
Brooks. Washington in Lincoln's Time. By Noah Brooks, 1895.
Carpenter. Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln.
By F. B. Carpenter. 1866.
Chandler. Life of Zachary Chandler. By the Detroit Post and
Chapman. Latest Light on Abraham Lincoln. By Ervin Chapman.
1917. The Charleston Mercury.
Chase. Diary and Correspondence of Salmon Chase. Report,
American Historical Association, 1902, Vol. II.
Chittenden. Recollections of President Lincoln and His
Administration. By L. Chittenden. 1891.
Coleman. Life of John J. Crittenden, with Selections from his
Correspondence and Speeches. By Ann Mary Coleman. 2 vols.
Conway. Autobiography, Memories and Experiences of Moncure
Daniel Conway. 2 vols. 1904.
Correspondence. The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H.
Stephens, and Howell Cobb. Edited by U. B. Phillips. Report
American Historical Association, 1913, Vol. II.
Crawford. The Genesis of the Civil War. By Samuel Wylie
C. W. Report of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.
Dabney. Memoir of a Narrative Received from Colonel John B.
Baldwin, of Staunton, touching the Origin of the War. By Reverend
R. L. Dabney, D. D., Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 1.
Davis. Rise and Fail of the Confederate Government. By
Jefferson Davis. 2 vols. 1881.
Dunning. Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction and Related
Topics. By William A. Dunning. 1898.
Field. Life of David Dudley Field. By Henry M. Field. 1898.
Flower. Edwin McMasters Stanton. By Frank Abial Flower. 1902.
Fry. Military Miscellanies. By James B. Fry. 1889.
Galaxy. The History of Emancipation. By Gideon Welles.
The Galaxy, XIV, 838-851.
Gilmore. Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil
War. By James R. Gilmore. 1899.
Gilmore, Atlantic. A Suppressed Chapter of History. By
James R. Gilmore, Atlantic Monthly, April, 1887.
Globe. Congressional Globe, Containing the Debates and
Godwin. Biography of William Cullen Bryant. By Parke Godwin.
1883. Gore. The Boyhood of Abraham Lincoln. By J. Rogers
Gorham. Life and Public Services of Edwin M. Stanton. By George
C. Gorham. 2 vols. 1899.
Grant. Personal Memoirs. By Ulysses S. Grant. 2 vols. 1886.
Greeley. The American Conflict. By Horace Greeley. 2 vols.
Gurowski. Diary from March 4, 1861, to November 12, 1862. By
Adam Gurowski. 1862.
Hanks. Nancy Hanks. By Caroline Hanks Hitchcock. 1900.
Harris. Public Life of Zachary Chandler. By W. C. Harris,
Michigan Historical Commission. 1917.
Hart. Salmon Portland Chase. By Albert Bushnell Hart. 1899.
Hay MS. Diary of John Hay. The war period is covered by three
volumes of manuscript. Photostat copies in the library of the
Massachusetts Historical Society, accessible only by special
Hay, Century. Life in the White House in the Time of Lincoln. By
John Hay, Century Magazine, November, 1890.
The New York Herald.
Herndon. Herndon's Lincoln. The True Story of a Great Life: The
History and Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln. By W. H.
Herndon and J. W. Weik. 3 vols. (paged continuously). 1890.
Hill. Lincoln the Lawyer. By Frederick Trevers Hill 1906.
Hitchcock. Fifty Years in Camp and Field. Diary of
Major-General Ethan Allen Hitchcock, U. S. A. Edited by W.
Johnson. Stephen A. Douglas. By Allen Johnson. 1908.
The Journal of the Virginia Convention. 1861.
Julian. Political Recollections 1840-1872. By George W. Julian.
Kelley. Lincoln and Stanton. By W. D. Kelley. 1885.
Lamon. The Life of Abraham Lincoln. By Ward H. Lamon.
Letters. Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln. Now first
brought together by Gilbert A. Tracy. 1917.
Lieber. Life and Letters of Francis Lieber. Edited by Thomas S.
Lincoln. Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln. Edited by John G.
Nicolay and John Hay. 2 vols. New and enlarged edition. 12
volumes. 1905. (All references here are to the Colter edition.)
McCarthy. Lincoln's Plan of Reconstruction. By Charles M.
McClure. Abraham Lincoln and Men of War Times. By A. K. McClure.
Merriam. Life and Times of Samuel Bowles. By G. S. Merriam. 2
Munford. Virginia's Attitude toward Slavery and Secession. By
Beverley B. Munford. 1910.
Moore. A Digest of International Law. By John Bassett Moore.
8 vols. 1906.
Newton. Lincoln and Herndon. By Joseph Fort Newton. 1910.
Nicolay. A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln. By John G. Nicolay.
Nicolay, Cambridge. The Cambridge Modern History: Volume VII.
The United States. By various authors. 1903.
Miss Nicolay. Personal Traits of Abraham Lincoln. By Helen
N. and H. Abraham Lincoln: A History. By John G. Nicolay and
John Hay. 10 vols. 1890.
N. P. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies.
First series. 27 vols. 1895-1917.
O. P. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
128 vols. 1880-1901.
Outbreak. The Outbreak of the Rebellion. By John G. Nicolay.
Own Story. McClellan's Own Story. By George B. McClellan.
Paternity. The Paternity of Abraham Lincoln. By William Eleazer
Pearson. Life of John A. Andrew. By Henry G. Pearson. 2 vols.
Pierce. Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner. By Edward
Lillie Pierce. 4 vols. 1877-1893.
Porter. In Memory of General Charles P. Stone. By Fitz John
Public Man. Diary of a Public Man. Anonymous. North American
Rankin. Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln. By Henry B.
Raymond. Journal of Henry J. Raymond. Edited by Henry W.
Raymond. Scribner's Magazine. 1879-1880.
Recollections. Recollections of Abraham Lincoln. By Ward Hill
Reminiscences. Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, by Distinguished
Men of his Time. Edited by Allen Thorndyke Rice. 1886.
Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, first session,
Rhodes. History of the United States from the Compromise of
1850. By James Ford Rhodes. 8 vols. 1893-1920.
Riddle. Recollections of War Times. By A. G. Riddle. 1895.
Schrugham. The Peaceful Americans of 1860. By Mary Schrugham.
Schure. Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers of
Carl Schure. Selected and edited by Frederick Bancroft. 1913.
Scott. Memoirs of Lieutenant General Scott, LL.D. Written
by himself. 2 vols. 1864.
Seward. Works of William H. Seward. 5 vols. 1884.
Sherman. Memoirs of William T. Sherman. By himself. 2 vols.
1886. Sherman Letters.
Letters of John Sherman and W. T. Sherman. Edited by Rachel
Sherman Thorndike. 1894.
Southern Historical Society Papers.
Stephens. Constitutional View of the Late War between the
States. By Alexander H. Stephens. 2 vols. 1869-1870.
Stoddard. Inside the White House in War Times. By William O.
Stories. "Abe" Lincoln's Yarns and Stories. With introduction
and anecdotes by Colonel Alexander McClure. 1901.
The New York Sun.
Swinton. Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac. By William
Tarbell. The Life of Abraham Lincoln. By Ida M. Tarbell. New
edition. 2 vols. 1917.
Thayer. The Life and Letters of John Hay. By William Roscoe
Thayer. 2 vols. 1915.
The New York Times.
The New York Tribune.
Tyler. Letters and Times of the Tylers. By Lyon G. Tyler.
3 vols. 1884-1896.
Van Santvoord. A Reception by President Lincoln. By C. J. Van
Santvoord. Century Magazine, Feb., 1883.
Villard. Memoirs of Henry Villard. 2 vols. 1902.
Wade. Life of Benjamin F. Wade. By A. G. Riddle. 1886.
Warden. Account of the Private Life and Public Services of Salmon
Portland Chase. By R. B. Warden. 1874.
Welles. Diary of Gideon Welles. Edited by J. T. Morse, Jr. 3
White. Life of Lyman Trumbull. By Horace White. 1913.
Woodburn. The Life of Thaddeus Stevens. By James Albert
I. THE CHILD OF THE FOREST.
1. Herndon, 1-7, 11-14; 1, anon, 13; N. and H., 1, 23-27.
This is the version of his origin accepted by Lincoln. He
believed that his mother was the illegitimate daughter of a
Virginia planter and traced to that doubtful source "all the
qualities that distinguished him from other members" of his
immediate family. Herndon, 3. His secretaries are silent upon
the subject. Recently the story has been challenged. Mrs.
Caroline Hanks Hitchcock, who identifies the Hanks family of
Kentucky with a lost branch of a New England family, has
collected evidence which tends to show that Nancy was the
legitimate daughter of a certain Joseph H. Hanks, who was
father of Joseph the carpenter, and that Nancy was not the
niece but the younger sister of the "uncle" who figures in the
older version, the man with whom Thomas Lincoln worked. Nancy
and Thomas appear to have been cousins through their mothers.
Mrs. Hitchcock argues the case with care and ability in a
little book entitled Nancy Hanks. However, she is not
altogether sustained by W. E. Barton, The Paternity of Abraham
Scandal has busied itself with the parents of Lincoln in
another way. It has been widely asserted that he was himself
illegitimate. A variety of shameful paternities have been
assigned to him, some palpably absurd. The chief argument of
the lovers of this scandal was once the lack of a known record
of the marriage of his parents. Around this fact grew up the
story of a marriage of concealment with Thomas Lincoln as the
easy-going accomplice. The discovery of the marriage record
fixing the date and demonstrating that Abraham must have been
the second child gave this scandal its quietus. N. and H., 1,
23-24; Hanks, 59-67; Herndon, 5-6; Lincoln and Herndon, 321.
The last important book on the subject is Barton, The Paternity
of Abraham Lincoln.
2. N. and H., 1-13.
3. Lamon, 13; N. and H., 1, 25.
4. N. and H., 1, 25.
5. Gore, 221-225.
6. Herndon, 15.
7. Gore, 66, 70-74, 79, 83-84, 116, 151-154, 204, 226-230, for
all this group of anecdotes.
The evidence with regard to all the early part of Lincoln's
life is peculiar in this, that it is reminiscence not written
down until the subject had become famous. Dogmatic certainty
with regard to the details is scarcely possible. The best one
can do in weighing any of the versions of his early days is to
inquire closely as to whether all its parts bang naturally
together, whether they really cohere. There is a body of
anecdotes told by an old mountaineer, Austin Gollaher, who knew
Lincoln as a boy, and these have been collected and recently
put into print. Of course, they are not "documented" evidence.
Some students are for brushing them aside. But there is one
important argument in their favor. They are coherent; the boy
they describe is a real person and his personality is
sustained. If he is a fiction and not a memory, the old
mountaineer was a literary artist--far more the artist than one
finds it easy to believe.
8. Gore, 84-95; Lamon, 16; Herndon, 16.
9. Gore, 181-182, 296, 303-316; Lamon, 19-20; N. and H., I,
II. THE MYSTERIOUS YOUTH.
1. N. and H., I, 32-34.
2. Lamon, 33-38, 51-52, 61-63; N. and H., 1, 34-36.
3. N. and H., 1, 40.
4. Lamon, 38, 40, 55.
5. Reminiscences, 54, 428.
III. A VILLAGE LEADER.
1. N. and H., 1, 45-46, 70-72; Herndon, 67, 69, 72.
2. Lamon, 81-82; Herndon, 75-76.
3. Lincoln, 1, 1-9.
4. Lamon, 125-126; Herndon, 104.
5. Herndon, 117-118.
6. N. and H., 1, 109.
7. Stories, 94.
8. Herndon, 118-123.
9. Lamon, 159-164; Herndon, 128-138; Rankin, 61-95.
10. Lamon, 164.
11. Lamon, 164-165; Rankin, 95.
1. Riddle, 337.
2. Herndon, 436.
3. N. and H., I, 138.
4. Lincoln, I, 51-52.
5. McClure, 65.
6. Herndon, 184.185.
7. Anon, 172-183; Herndon, 143-150, 161; Lincoln, 1, 87-92.
8. Gossip has preserved a melodramatic tale with regard to
Lincoln's marriage. It describes the bride to be, waiting,
arrayed, in tense expectation deepening into alarm; the guests
assembled, wondering, while the hour appointed passes by and
the ceremony does not begin; the failure of the prospective
bridegroom to appear; the scattering of the company, amazed,
their tongues wagging. The explanation offered is an attack of
insanity. Herndon, 215; I,anon, 239-242. As might be expected
Lincoln's secretaries who see him always in a halo give no hint
of such an event. It has become a controversial scandal. Is
it a fact or a myth? Miss Tarbell made herself the champion of
the mythical explanation and collected a great deal of evidence
that makes it hard to accept the story as a fact Tarbell, I,
Chap. XI. Still later a very sane memoirist, Henry B. Rankin,
who knew Lincoln, and is not at all an apologist, takes the
same view. His most effective argument is that such an event
could not have occurred in the little country town of
Springfield without becoming at the time the common property of
all the gossips. The evidence is bewildering. I find myself
unable to accept the disappointed wedding guests as established
facts, even though the latest student of Herndon has no doubts.
Lincoln and Herndon, 321-322. But whether the broken marriage
story is true or false there is no doubt that Lincoln passed
through a desolating inward experience about "the fatal first
of January"; that it was related to the breaking of his
engagement; and that for a time his sufferings were intense.
The letters to Speed are the sufficient evidence. Lincoln, I,
175; 182-189; 210-219; 240; 261; 267-269. The prompt
explanation of insanity may be cast aside, one of those foolish
delusions of shallow people to whom all abnormal conditions are
of the same nature as all others. Lincoln wrote to a noted
Western physician, Doctor Drake of Cincinnati, with regard to
his "case"--that is, his nervous breakdown--and Doctor Drake
replied but refused to prescribe without an interview. Lamon,
1. Carpenter, 304-305.
2. Lamon, 243, 252-269; Herndon, 226-243, 248-251; N. and H.,
3. A great many recollections of Lincoln attempt to describe
him. Except in a large and general way most of them show that
lack of definite visualization which characterizes the memories
of the careless observer. His height, his bony figure, his
awkwardness, the rudely chiseled features, the mystery in his
eyes, the kindliness of his expression, these are the elements
of the popular portrait. Now and then a closer observer has
added a detail. Witness the masterly comment of Walt Whitman.
Herndon's account of Lincoln speaking has the earmarks of
accuracy. The attempt by the portrait painter, Carpenter, to
render him in words is quoted later in this volume. Carpenter,
217-218. Unfortunately he was never painted by an artist of
great originality, by one who was equal to his opportunity. My
authority for the texture of his skin is a lady of unusual
closeness of observation, the late Mrs. M. T. W. Curwen of
Cincinnati, who saw him in 1861 in the private car of the
president of the Indianapolis and Cincinnati railroad. An
exhaustive study of the portraits of Lincoln is in preparation
by Mr. Winfred Porter Truesdell, who has a valuable paper on
the subject in The Print Connoisseur, for March, 1921.
4. Herndon, 264.
6. Ibid., 515.
7. A vital question to the biographer of Lincoln is the
credibility of Herndon. He has been accused of capitalizing
his relation with Lincoln and producing a sensational image for
commercial purposes. Though his Life did not appear until 1890
when the official work of Nicolay and Hay was in print, he had
been lecturing and corresponding upon Lincoln for nearly
twenty-five years. The "sensational" first edition of his Life
produced a storm of protest. The book was promptly recalled,
worked over, toned down, and reissued "expurgated" in 1892.
Such biographers as Miss Tarbell appear to regard Herndon as a
mere romancer. The well poised Lincoln and Herndon recently
published by Joseph Fort Newton holds what I feel compelled to
regard as a sounder view; namely, that while Herndon was at
times reckless and at times biased, nevertheless he is in the
main to be relied upon.
Three things are to be borne in mind: Herndon was a literary
man by nature; but he was not by training a developed artist;
he was a romantic of the full flood of American romanticism and
there are traceable in him the methods of romantic portraiture.
Had he been an Elizabethan one can imagine him laboring hard
with great pride over an inferior "Tamburlane the Great"--and
perhaps not knowing that it was inferior. Furthermore, he had
not, before the storm broke on him, any realization of the
existence in America of another school of portraiture, the
heroic--conventual, that could not understand the romantic. If
Herndon strengthened as much as possible the contrasts of his
subject--such as the contrast between the sordidness of
Lincoln's origin and the loftiness of his thought--he felt that
by so doing he was merely rendering his subject in its most
brilliant aspect, giving to it the largest degree of
significance. A third consideration is Herndon's enthusiasm
for the agnostic deism that was rampant in America in his day.
Perhaps this causes his romanticism to slip a cog, to run at
times on a side-track, to become the servant of his religious
partisanship. In three words the faults of Herndon are
exaggeration, literalness and exploitiveness.
But all these are faults of degree which the careful student
can allow for. By "checking up" all the parts of Herndon that
it is possible to check up one can arrive at a pretty confident
belief that one knows how to divest the image he creates of its
occasional unrealities. When one does so, the strongest
argument for relying cautiously, watchfully, upon Herndon
appears. The Lincoln thus revealed, though only a character
sketch, is coherent. And it stands the test of comparison in
detail with the Lincolns of other, less romantic, observers.
That is to say, with all his faults, Herndon has the inner
something that will enable the diverse impressions of Lincoln,
always threatening to become irreconcilable, to hang together
and out of their very incongruity to invoke a person that is
not incongruous. And herein, in this touchstone so to speak is
8. Herndon, 265.
9. Lamon, 51.
10. Lincoln, I, 35-SO.
11. The reader who would know the argument against Herndon
(436-446) and Lamon (486-502) on the subject of Lincoln's early
religion is referred to The Soul of Abraham Lincoln, by William
Eleazer Barton. It is to be observed that the present study is
never dogmatic about Lincoln's religion in its early phases.
And when Herndon and Lamon generalize about his religious life,
it must be remembered that they are thinking of him as they
knew him in Illinois. Herndon had no familiarity with him
after he went to Washington. Lamon could not have seen very
much of him--no one but his secretaries and his wife did. And
his taciturnity must be borne in mind. Nicolay has recorded
that he did not know what Lincoln believed. Lamon, 492. That
Lincoln was vaguely a deist in the 'forties--so far as he had any
theology at all--may be true. But it is a rash leap to a
conclusion to assume that his state of mind even then was the
same thing as the impression it made on so practical,
bard-headed, unpoetical a character as Lamon; or on so
combatively imaginative but wholly unmystical a mind as
Herndon's. Neither of them seems to have any understanding of
those agonies of spirit through which Lincoln subsequently
passed which will appear in the account of the year 1862. See
also Miss Nicolay, 384-386. There is a multitude of
pronouncements on Lincoln's religion, most of them superficial.
12. Lincoln, I, 206.
13. Nicolay, 73-74; N. and H., 1, 242; Lamon, 275-277.
14. Lamon, 277-278; Herndon, 272-273; N. and H., 1, 245-249.
VI. UNSATISFYING RECOGNITION.
1. N. and H., I, 28~28&
2. Tarbell, 1, 211.
3. Ibid., 210-211.
4. Herndon, 114.
5. Lincoln, II, 28-48.
6. Herndon, 306-308, 319; Newton, 4(141).
7. Tarbell, I, 209-210.
8. Herndon, 306.
9. Lamon, 334; Herndon, 306; N. and H., I, 297.
VII. THE SECOND START.
1. Herndon, 307, 319.
2. Herndon, 319-321.
3. Herndon, 314-317.
4. Herndon, 332-333.
5. Herndon, 311-312.
6. Herndon, 319.
7. Lamon, 165.
8. Herndon, 309.
9. Herndon, 113-114; Stories, 18~
10. Herndon, 338.
11. Lamon, 324.
12. Lincoln, 11, 142.
13. Herndon, 347.
14. Herndon, 363.
15. Herndon, 362.
16. Lincoln, II, 172.
17. Lincoln, II, 207.
18. Lincoln, II, 173.
19. Lincoln, II, 165.
VIII. A RETURN TO POLITICS.
1. Johnson, 234.
2. I have permission to print the following letter from the
Honorable John H. Marshall, Judge Fifth Judicial Circuit,
"Your letter of the 24th inst. at hand referring to slave
trial in which Lincoln was interested, referred to by Professor
Henry Johnson. Twenty-five years ago, while I was secretary of
the Coles County Bar Association, a paper was read to the
Association by the oldest member concerning the trial referred
to, and his paper was filed with rue. Some years ago I spoke
of the matter to Professor Johnson, and at the time was unable
to find the old manuscript, and decided that the same had been
inadvertently destroyed. However, quite recently I found this
paper crumpled up under some old book records. The author of
this article is a reputable member of the bar of this country
of very advanced age, and at that time quoted as his authority
well-known and very substantial men of the county, who had
taken an active interest in the litigation. His paper referred
to incidents occurring in 1847, and there is now no living
person with any knowledge of it. The story in brief is as
"In 1845, General Robert Matson, of Kentucky, being hard
pressed financially, in order to keep them from being sold in
payment of his debts, brought Jane Bryant, with her four small
children to this county. Her husband, Anthony Bryant, was a
free negro, and a licensed exhorter in the Methodist Church of
Kentucky. But his wife and children were slaves of Matson. In
1847, Matson, determined to take the Bryants back to Kentucky
as his slaves, caused to be issued by a justice of the peace of
the county a writ directed to Jane Bryant and her children to
appear before him forthwith and answer the claim of Robert
Matson that their service was due to him, etc. This action
produced great excitement in this county. Practically the
entire community divided, largely on the lines of pro-slavery
and anti-slavery. Usher F. Linder, the most eloquent lawyer
in this vicinity, appeared for Matson, and Orlando B. Ficklin,
twice a member of Congress, appeared for the negroes. Under the
practice the defendant obtained a hearing from three justices
instead of one, and a trial ensued lasting several days, and
attended by great excitement. Armed men made demonstrations
and bloodshed was narrowly averted. Two of the justices were
pro-slavery, and one anti-slavery. The trial was held in
Charleston. The decision of the justice was discreet. It was
held that the court had no jurisdiction to determine the right
of property, but that Jane and her children were of African
descent and found in the state of Illinois without a
certificate of freedom, and that they be committed to the
county jail to be advertised and sold to pay the jail fees.
"At the next term of the circuit court, Ficklin obtained an
order staying proceedings until the further order of the court.
Finally when the case was heard in the circuit court Linder and
Abraham Lincoln appeared for Matson, who was insisting upon the
execution of the judgment of the three justices of the peace so
that he could buy them at the proposed sale, and Ficklin and
Charles Constable, afterward a circuit judge of this circuit,
appeared for the negroes. The judgment was in favor of the
negroes and they were discharged.
"The above is a much abbreviated account of this occurrence,
stripped of its local coloring, giving however its salient
points, and I have no doubt of its substantial accuracy."
3. Lincoln, II, 185.
4. Lincoln, II, 186.
5. Lamon, 347.
6. Lincoln, II, 232-233.
7. Lincoln, II, 190-262.
8. Lincoln, 274-277.
IX. THE LITERARY STATESMAN.
1. Herndon, 371-372.
2. Lincoln, II, 329-330.
3. Lincoln, III, 1-2.
4. Herndon, 405-408.
5. Lincoln. II, 279.
6. Lamon, 416.
X. THE DARK HORSE.
1. Lincoln, V, 127.
2. Tarbell, I, 335.
3. Lincoln, V, 127,138, 257-258.
4. Lincoln, V, 290-291. He never entirely shook off his
erratic use of negatives. See, also, Lamon, 424; Tarbell, I,
5. Lincoln, V, 293-32&6. McClure, 23-29; Field, 126,137-138;
Tarbell, I, 342-357.
XII. THE CRISIS
1. Letters, 172.
2. Lincoln, VI, 77, 78, 79, 93.
3. Bancroft, 11,10; Letters, 111.
1. Bancroft, II, 10; Letters, 172.
2. Bancroft, II, 9-10.
3. Herndon, 484.
4. McClure, 140-145; Lincoln, VI, 91, 97.
5. Recollections, 111.
6. Recollections, 121.
7. Recollections, 112-113; Tarbell, I, 404-415.
8. Tarbell, 1, 406.
9. Tarbell, I, 406.
10. Lincoln, VI, 91.
11. Tarbell, 1, 406.
12. Herndon, 483-484
13. Lamon, 505; see also, Herndon, 485.
14. Lincoln, VI, 110.
XIV. THE STRANGE NEW MAN.
1. Lincoln, VI, 130.
2. Merriam, I, 318.
3. Public Man, 140.
4. Van Santvoord.
5. N. and H., I, 36; McClure, 179.
6. Herndon, 492.
7. Recollections, 39-41.
8. Lincoln, VI, 162-164.
9. Bancroft, II, 38-45.
10. Public Man, 383.
11. Chittenden, 89-90.
12. Public Man, 387.
XV. PRESIDENT AND PREMIER.
1. Hay MS, I, 64.
2. Tyler, II, 565-566.
3. Bradford, 208; Seward, IV, 416.
4. Nicolay, 213.
5. Chase offered to procure a commission for Henry Villard,
"by way of compliment to the Cincinnati Commercial" Villard,
6. N. and H., III, 333, note 12.
7. Outbreak, 52.
8. Hay MS, I, 91; Tyler, II, 633; Coleman, 1, 338.
9. Hay MS, I, 91; Riddle, 5; Public Man, 487.
10. Correspondence, 548-549.
11. See Miss Schrugham's monograph for much important data
with regard to this moment. Valuable as her contribution is, I
can not feel that the conclusions invalidate the assumption of
12. Lincoln, VI, 192-220.
13. Sherman, I, 195-1%.
14. Lincoln, VI, 175-176.
15. 127 0. R., 161.
16. Munford, 274; Journal of the Virginia Convention, 1861.
17. Lincoln, VI, 227-230.
18. N. R., first series, IV, 227.
19. Hay MS, I, 143.
20. The great authority of Mr. Frederick Bancroft is still on
the side of the older interpretation of Seward's Thoughts,
Bancroft, II, Chap. XXIX. It must be remembered that
following the war there was a reaction against Seward. When
Nicolay and Hay published the Thoughts they appeared to give
him the coup de grace. Of late years it has almost been the
fashion to treat him contemptuously. Even Mr. Bancroft has
been very cautious in his defense. This is not the place to
discuss his genius or his political morals. But on one thing I
insist, Whatever else he was-unscrupulous or what you will-he
was not a fool. However reckless, at times, his
spread-eagleism there was shrewdness behind it. The idea that
he proposed a ridiculous foreign policy at a moment when all
his other actions reveal coolness and calculation; the idea
that he proposed it merely as a spectacular stroke in party
management; this is too much to believe. A motive must be
found better than mere chicanery.
Furthermore, if there was one fixed purpose in Seward, during
March and early April, it was to avoid a domestic conflict; and
the only way he could see to accomplish that was to side-track
Montgomery's expansive all-Southern policy. Is it not fair,
with so astute a politician as Seward, to demand in explanation
of any of his moves 'he uncovering of some definite political
force he was playing up to? The old interpretation of the
Thoughts offers no force to which they form a response.
Especially it is impossible to find in them any scheme to get
around Montgomery. But the old view looked upon the Virginia
compromise with blind eyes. That was no part of the mental
prospect. In accounting for Seward's purposes it did not exist.
But the moment one's eyes are opened to its significance,
especially to the menace it had for the Montgomery program, is
not the entire scene transformed? Is not, under these new
conditions, the purpose intimated in the text, the purpose to
open a new field of exploitation to the Southern expansionists
in order to reconcile them to the Virginia scheme, is not this
at least plausible? And it escapes making Seward a fool.
21. Lincoln, VI, 23~237.
22. Welles, 1,17.
23. There is still lacking a complete unriddling of the
three-cornered game of diplomacy played in America in March and
April, 1861. Of the three participants Richmond is the most
fully revealed. It was playing desperately for a compromise,
any sort of compromise, that would save the one principle of
state sovereignty. For that, slavery would be sacrificed, or
at least allowed to be put in jeopardy. Munford, Virginia's
Attitude toward Slavery and Secession; Tyler, Letters and Times
of the Tylers; Journal of the Virginia Convention of 1861.
However, practically no Virginian would put himself in the
position of forcing any Southern State to abandon slavery
against its will. Hence the Virginia compromise dealt only
with the expansion of slavery, would go no further than to give
the North a veto on that expansion. And its compensating
requirement plainly would be a virtual demand for the
acknowledgment of state sovereignty.
Precisely what passed between Richmond and Washington is still
something of a mystery. John Hay quotes Lincoln as saying that
he twice offered to evacuate Sumter, once before and once after
his inauguration, if the Virginians "would break up their
convention without any row or nonsense." Hay MS, I, 91; Thayer,
I, 118-119. From other sources we have knowledge of at least
two conferences subsequent to the inauguration and probably
three. One of the conferences mentioned by Lincoln seems
pretty well identified. Coleman II, 337-338. It was informal
and may be set aside as having little if any historic
significance. When and to whom Lincoln's second offer was made
is not fully established. Riddle in his Recollections says
that he was present at an informal interview "with loyal
delegates of the Virginia State Convention," who were wholly
satisfied with Lincoln's position. Riddle, 25. Possibly, this
was the second conference mentioned by Lincoln. It has
scarcely a feature in common with the conference of April 4,
which has become the subject of acrimonious debate. N. and H.,
III, 422-428; Boutwell, II, 62-67; Bancroft, II, 102-104;
Munford, 270; Southern Historical Papers, 1, 449; Botts, 195-
201; Crawford, 311; Report of the Joint Committee on
Reconstruction, first session, Thirty-Ninth Congress; Atlantic,
April, 1875. The date of this conference is variously given as
the fourth, fifth and sixth of April. Curiously enough Nicolay
and Hay seem to have only an external knowledge of It; their
account is made up from documents and lacks entirely the
authoritative note. They do not refer to the passage in the
Hay MS, already quoted.
There are three versions of the interview between Lincoln and
Baldwin. One was given by Baldwin himself before the Committee
on Reconstruction some five years after; one comprises the
recollections of Colonel Dabney, to whom Baldwin narrated the
incident in the latter part of the war; a third is in the
recollections of John Minor Botts of a conversation with
Lincoln April 7, 1862. No two of the versions entirely agree.
Baldwin insists that Lincoln made no offer of any sort; while'
Botts in his testimony before the Committee on Reconstruction
says that Lincoln told him that he had told Baldwin that he was
so anxious "for the preservation of the peace of this country
and to save Virginia and the other Border States from going out
that (he would) take the responsibility of evacuating Fort
Sumter, and take the chances of negotiating with the Cotton
States." Baldwin's language before the committee is a little
curious and has been thought disingenuous. Boutwell, I, 66.
However, practically no one in this connection has considered
the passage in the Hay MS or the statement in Riddle. Putting
these together and remembering the general situation of the
first week of April there arises a very plausible argument for
accepting the main fact in Baldwin's version of his conference
and concluding that Botts either misunderstood Lincoln (as
Baldwin says he did) or got the matter twisted in memory. A
further bit of plausibility is the guess that Lincoln talked
with Botts not only of the interview with Baldwin but also of
the earlier interview mentioned by Riddle and that the two
became confused in recollection.
To venture on an assumption harmonizing these confusions. When
Lincoln came to Washington, being still in his delusion that
slavery was the issue and therefore that the crisis was
"artificial," he was willing to make almost any concession, and
freely offered to evacuate Sumter if thereby he could induce
Virginia to drop the subject of secession. Even later, when he
was beginning to appreciate the real significance of the
moment, he was still willing to evacuate Sumter if the issue
would not be pushed further in the Border States, that is, if
Virginia would not demand a definite concession of the right of
secession. Up to this point I can not think that he had taken
seriously Seward's proposed convention of the States and the
general discussion of permanent Federal relations that would be
bound to ensue. But now he makes his fateful discovery that
the issue is not slavery but sovereignty. He sees that
Virginia is in dead earnest on this issue and that a general
convention will necessarily involve a final discussion of
sovereignty in the United States and that the price of the
Virginia Amendment will be the concession of the right of
secession. On this assumption it is hardly conceivable that he
offered to evacuate Sumter as late as the fourth of April. The
significance therefore of the Baldwin interview would consist
in finally convincing Lincoln that he could not effect any
compromise without conceding the principle of state
sovereignty. As this was the one thing he was resolved never
to concede there was nothing left him but to consider what
course would most strategically renounce compromise.
Therefore, when it was known at Washington a day or two later
that Port Pickens was in imminent danger of being taken by the
Confederates (see note 24), Lincoln instantly concentrated all
his energies on the relief of Sumter. All along he had
believed that one of the forts must be held for the purpose of
"a clear indication of policy," even if the other should be
given up "as a military necessity." Lincoln, VI, 301. His
purpose, therefore, in deciding on the ostentatious
demonstration toward Sumter was to give notice to the whole
country that he made no concessions on the matter of
sovereignty. In a way it was his answer to the Virginia
At last the Union party in Virginia sent a delegation to confer
with Lincoln. It did not arrive until Sumter had been fired
upon. Lincoln read to them a prepared statement of policy
which announced his resolution to make war, if necessary, to
assert the national sovereignty. Lincoln, VI, 243-245.
The part of Montgomery in this tangled episode is least
understood of the three. With Washington Montgomery had no
official communication. Both Lincoln and Seward refused to
recognize commissioners of the Confederate government Whether
Seward as an individual went behind the back of himself as an
official and personally deceived the commissioners is a problem
of his personal biography and his private morals that has no
place in this discussion. Between Montgomery and Richmond
there was intimate and cordial communication from the start.
At first Montgomery appears to have taken for granted that the
Secessionist party at Richmond was so powerful that there was
little need for the new government to do anything but wait But
a surprise was in store for it During February and March its
agents reported a wide-spread desire in the South to compromise
on pretty nearly any terms that would not surrender the central
Southern idea of state sovereignty. Thus an illusion of that
day--as of this--was exploded, namely the irresistibility of
economic solidarity. Sentimental and constitutional forces
were proving more powerful than economics. Thereupon
Montgomery's problem was transformed. Its purpose was to build
a Southern nation and it had believed hitherto that economic
forces had put into its hands the necessary tools. Now it must
throw them aside and get possession of others. It must evoke
those sentimental and constitutional forces that so many rash
statesmen have always considered negligible. Consequently, for
the South no less than for the North, the issue was speedily
shifted from slavery to sovereignty. Just how this was brought
about we do not yet know. Whether altogether through foresight
and statesmanlike deliberation, or in part at least through
what might almost be called accidental influences, is still a
little uncertain. The question narrows itself to this: why was
Sumter fired upon precisely when it was? There are at least
three possible answers.
(1) That the firing was dictated purely by military necessity.
A belief that Lincoln intended to reinforce as well as to
supply Sumter, that if not taken now it could never be taken,
may have been the over-mastering idea in the Confederate
Cabinet. The reports of the Commissioners at Washington were
tinged throughout by the belief that Seward and Lincoln were
both double-dealers. Beauregard, in command at Charleston,
reported that pilots had come in from the sea and told him of
Federal war-ships sighted off the Carolina coast. O. R.
297, 300, 301, 304, 305.
(2) A political motive which to-day is not so generally
intelligible as once it was, had great weight in 1861. This
was the sense of honor in politics. Those historians who brush
it aside as a figment lack historical psychology. It is
possible that both Governor Pickens and the Confederate Cabinet
were animated first of all by the belief that the honor of
South Carolina required them to withstand the attempt of what
they held to be an alien power.
(3) And yet, neither of these explanations, however much
either or both may have counted for in many minds, gives a
convincing explanation of the agitation of Toornbs in the
Cabinet council which decided to fire upon Sumter. Neither of
these could well be matters of debate. Everybody had to be
either for or against, and that would be an end. The Toombs of
that day was a different man from the Toombs of three months
earlier. Some radical change had taken place in his thought
What could it have been if it was not the perception that the
Virginia program had put the whole matter in a new light, that
the issue had indeed been changed from slavery to sovereignty,
and that to join battle on the latter issue was a far more
serious matter than to join battle on the former. And if
Toombs reasoned in this fearful way, it is easy to believe that
the more buoyant natures in that council may well have reasoned
in precisely the opposite way. Virginia had lifted the
Southern cause to its highest plane. But there was danger that
the Virginia compromise might prevail. If that should happen
these enthusiasts for a separate Southern nationality might
find all their work undone at the eleventh hour. Virginians
who shared Montgomery's enthusiasms had seen this before then.
That was why Roger Pryor, for example, had gone to Charleston
as a volunteer missionary. In a speech to a Charleston crowd
he besought them, as a way of precipitating Virginia into the
lists, to strike blow. Charleston Mercury, April 11, 1861.
The only way to get any clue to these diplomatic tangles is by
discarding the old notion that there were but two political
ideals clashing together in America in 1861. There were three.
The Virginians with their devotion to the idea of a league of
nations in this country were scarcely further away from Lincoln
and his conception of a Federal unit than they were from those
Southerners who from one cause or another were possessed with
the desire to create a separate Southern nation. The Virginia
program was as deadly to one as to the other of these two
forces which with the upper South made up the triangle of the
day. The real event of March, 1861, was the perception both by
Washington and Montgomery that the Virginia program spelled
ruin for its own. By the middle of April it would be difficult
to say which had the better reason to desire the defeat of that
program, Washington or Montgomery.
24. Lincoln, VI, 240, 301, 302; N. R., first series, IV, 109,
235, 239; Welles, I, 16, 22-23, 25; Bancroft, II, 127,
129-130,138,139, 144; N. and H., III, Chap. XI, IV, Chap. I.
Enemies of Lincoln have accused him of bad faith with regard to
the relief of Fort Pickens. The facts appear to be as follows:
In January, 1861, when Fort Pickens was in danger of being
seized by the forces of the State of Florida, Buchanan ordered
a naval expedition to proceed to its relief. Shortly
afterward--January 2--Senator Mallory on behalf of Florida
persuaded him to order the relief expedition not to land any
troops so long as the Florida forces refrained from attacking
the fort. This understanding between Buchanan and Mallory is
some-times called "the Pickens truce," sometimes "the Pickens
Armistice." N. and H., III, Chap. XI; N. R., first series, 1,
74; Scott, II, 624-625. The new Administration had no definite
knowledge of it. Lincoln, VI, 302. Lincoln despatched a
messenger to the relief expedition, which was still hovering
off the Florida coast, and ordered its troops to be landed.
The commander replied that he felt bound by the previous orders
which had been issued in the name of the Secretary of the Navy
while the new orders issued from the Department of War; he
added that relieving Pickens would produce war and wished to be
sure that such was the President's intention; he also informed
Lincoln's messenger of the terms of Buchanan's agreement with
Mallory. The messenger returned to Washington for ampler
instructions. N. and H., IV, Chap. I; N. R., first series, I,
Two days before his arrival at Washington alarming news from
Charleston brought Lincoln very nearly, if not quite, to the
point of issuing sailing orders to the Sumter expedition.
Lincoln, VI, 240. A day later, Welles issued such orders. N.
IL, first series, I, 235; Bancroft, II, 138-139. On April
sixth, the Pickens messenger returned to Washington. N. and
H., IV, 7. Lincoln was now in full possession of all the
facts. In his own words, "To now reinforce Fort Pickens before
a crisis would be reached at Fort Sumter was impossible,
rendered so by the exhaustion of provisions at the latter named
fort. . . . The strongest anticipated case for using it (the
Sumter expedition) was now presented, and it was resolved to
send it forward." Lincoln, VI, 302. He also issued peremptory
orders for the Pickens expedition to land its force, which was
done April twelfth. N. R., first series, I, 110-111, 115. How
he reasoned upon the question of a moral obligation devolving,
or not devolving, upon himself as a consequence of the
Buchanan-Mallory agreement, he did not make public. The fact
of the agreement was published in the first message. But when
Congress demanded information on the subject, Lincoln
transmitted to it a report from Welles declining to submit the
information on account of the state of the country. 10. IL,
25. Lincoln, VI, 241.
XVI. ON TO RICHMOND.
1. May MS, I, 23.
2. N. and H., IV, 152.
3. Hay MS, I, 45.
4. Hay MS, I, 46.
5. Hay MS, I, 5~56.
6. Sherman, I, 199.
7. Nicolay, 213.
8. N. and H., IV, 322-323, 360.
9. Bigelow, I, 360.
10. Nicolay, 229.
11. Lincoln, VI, 331-333.
12. Own Story, 55, 82.
XVII. DEFINING THE ISSUE.
1. Lincoln, VI, 297-325.
2. Lincoln, X, 199.
3. Lincoln, X, 202-203.
4. Lincoln, VI, 321.
5. Lincoln, VII, 56-57.
6. Bancroft, II, 121; Southern Historical Papers, I, 446.
7. Lincoln, VI, 304.
8. Hay MS, I, 65.
9. Lincoln, VI, 315.
10. 39 Globe, I, 222; N. and H., IV, 379.
XVIII. THE JACOBIN CLUB.
1. White, 171.
2. Riddle, 40-52.
3. Harris, 62.
4. Public Man, 139.
5. 37 Globe, III, 1334.
6. Chandler, 253.
7. White, 171.
8. Conway, II, 336.
9. Conway, II, 329.
10. Rhodes, III, 350.
11. Lincoln, VI, 351.
12. Hay MS, I, 93.
13. Hay MS, 1, 93.
14. Bigelow, I, 400.
15. Chandler, 256.
XIX. THE JACOBINS BECOME INQUISITORS.
1. Lincoln, VII, 28-60.
2. Nicolay, 321.
3. C. W. I 3 66
4. Julian, 201.
5. Chandler, 228.
6. 37 Globe, II, 189-191; Lincoln, VII, 151-152; O. R.,
341-346; 114 0. R., 786, 797; C. W., I, 5, 74, 79; Battles and
Leaders, II, 132-134; Blaine, I, 383-384, 392-393; Pearson, 1,
312-313; Chandler, 222; Porter.
7. Swinton, 79-85, quoting General McDowell's memoranda of
8 37 Globe, II, 15.
9 Riddle, 296; Wade, 316; Chandler, 187.
10. C. W., 1, 74.
11. 37 Globe, II, 1667.
12. 37 Globe, II, 1662-1668, 1732-1742.
13. Lincoln, VII, 151-152.
XX. IS CONGRESS THE PRESIDENT'S MASTER.
1. 37 Globe, II, 67.
2. Rhodes, III, 350.
3. 37 Globe, II, 3328.
4. 37 Globe, II, 2764.
5. 37 Globe, II, 2734.
6. 37 Globe II, 2972-2973.
7. 37 Globe, II, 440.
8. 37 Globe, II, 1136-1139.
9. Quoting 7 Howard, 43-46.
XXI. THE STRUGGLE TO CONTROL THE ARMY.
1. N. and H., IV, 444.
2. Own Story, 84.
3. Own Story, 85.
4. Gurowski, 123.
5. Hay MS, 1, 99; Thayer, 1,125.
6. N. and H., IV, 469.
7. Hay MS, I, 93.
8. 5 0. R., 41.
9. Swinton, 79-84; C. W., 1, 270.
10. C. W., I, 270, 360, 387; Hay MS, II, 101.
11. Gorham, I, 347-348; Kelly, 34.
12. Chandler, 228; Julian, 205.
13. Hay MS, I, 101; 5 0. R., 1~
14. 5 0. R., 50.
15. 5 0. R., 54-55; Julian, 205.
16. Hay MS, I, 103.
17. Hitchcock, 439.
18. Hitchcock, 440. The italics are his.
19. 5 0. R., 58.
20. 5 0. R., 59.
21. 5 0. R, 63.
22. Own Story, 226; 5 0. R., 18.
23. C. W., I, 251-252.
24. C. W., 1, 251-253, 317-318.
25. 15 0. R., 220; Hitchcock, 439, note.