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Abraham Lincoln, Vol. II by John T. Morse

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mists which shrouded the mid-mountain from the anxious view of General
Grant, they planted the stars and stripes on top of Lookout Mountain.
They had fought and won what was poetically christened "the battle above
the clouds." Sherman, with seven divisions, had meanwhile been making
desperate and bloody assaults upon Missionary Ridge, and had gained the
first hilltop; but the next one seemed impregnable. It was, however, not
necessary for him to renew the costly assault; for Hooker's victory,
which was quickly followed by a handsome advance by Sheridan, on
Sherman's right, so turned the Confederate position as to make it

The Northerners were exasperated to find, among the Confederate troops
who surrendered as captives in these two battles, prisoners of war taken
at Vicksburg and Port Hudson, who had been paroled and never exchanged.

On the eve of this battle Longstreet had started northward to cut off
and destroy Burnside in Knoxville, and no sooner was the actual fighting
over than Grant sent Sherman in all haste to Burnside's assistance.
Thereupon Longstreet fell back towards Virginia, and came to a
resting-place midway, where he afterward lay unharmed and unharming for
many months. Thus at last the long-deferred wish of the President was
fulfilled, and the chief part of East Tennessee was wrested from
Confederate occupation. Among the loyal inhabitants the great rejoicing
was in proportion to the sufferings which they had so long been

Meanwhile, since Gettysburg, no conspicuous event had attracted
attention in Virginia. The President had been disappointed that Meade
had not fought at Williamsport, but soon afterward he gave decisive
advice against forcing a fight at a worse place in order to cure the
blunder of having let go the chance to fight at the right place. About
the middle of September, however, when Lee had reduced his army by
leaves of absence and by dispatching Longstreet to reinforce Bragg, Mr.
Lincoln thought it a good time to attack him. Meade, on the other hand,
now said that he did not feel strong enough to assault, and this
although he had 90,000 men "between him and Washington," and by his
estimate the whole force of the enemy, "stretching as far as Richmond,"
was only 60,000. "For a battle, then," wrote Mr. Lincoln, "General Meade
has three men to General Lee's two. Yet, it having been determined that
choosing ground and standing on the defensive gives so great advantage
that the three cannot safely attack the two, the three are left simply
standing on the defensive also. If the enemy's 60,000 are sufficient to
keep our 90,000 away from Richmond, why, by the same rule, may not
40,000 of ours keep their 60,000 away from Washington, leaving us 50,000
to put to some other use?... I can perceive no fault in this statement,
unless we admit we are not the equal of the enemy man for man." But
when, a few days later, Stanton proposed to detach 30,000 men from Meade
to Rosecrans, Mr. Lincoln demurred, and would agree only to let go
13,000, whom Hooker took with him to Chattanooga. Probably he did not
wish to diminish the Federal strength in Virginia.

Late in October, Lee, overestimating the number of troops thus
withdrawn, endeavored to move northward; but Meade outmanoeuvred and
outmarched him, and he fell back behind the Rapidan. General Meade next
took his turn at the aggressive. Toward the close of November he crossed
the Rapidan with the design of flanking and attacking Lee. But an
untoward delay gave the Southerners time to intrench themselves so
strongly that an attack was imprudent, and Meade returned to the north
bank of the stream. The miscarriage hurt his reputation with the people,
though he was not to blame for it.

Now, as the severe season was about to begin, all the armies both of the
North and of the South, on both sides of the mountain ranges, turned
gladly into winter quarters. Each had equal need to rest and recuperate
after hard campaigns and bloody battles. For a while the war news was
infrequent and insignificant; and the cessation in the thunder of cannon
and the rattle of musketry gives opportunity again to hear the voices of
contending politicians. For a while we must leave the warriors and give
ear to the talkers.


[43] Palfrey, _The Antietam and Fredericksburg_, 132.

[44] Swinton says: "The moment he confronted his antagonist he seemed to
suffer a collapse of all his powers." _Army of Potomac_, 280.

[45] But, says Swinton, there was less disproportion than usual; for the
great army which Hooker had had before Chancellorsville had been greatly
reduced, both by casualties and by the expiration of terms of service.
On May 13 he reported that his "marching force of infantry" was "about
80,000 men." A little later the cavalry was reported at 4677. _Army of
Potomac_, 310.

[46] Swinton says that whether Meade should have attacked or not, "will
probably always remain one of those questions about which men will
differ." He inclines to think that Meade was right. _Army of Potomac_,
369, 370.

[47] Grant disliked Rosecrans, and is said to have asked for this



It has been pleasant to emerge from the dismal winter of 1862-63 into
the sun-gleam of the Fourth of July of the latter year. But it is
necessary to return for a while into that dusky gloom, for the career of
a "war president" is by no means wholly a series of campaigns. Domestic
politics, foreign relations, finance, make their several demands.

Concerning one of these topics, at least, there is little to be said.
One day, in a period of financial stress, Mr. Chase expressed a wish to
introduce to the President a delegation of bankers, who had come to
Washington to discuss the existing condition with regard to money.
"Money!" exclaimed Mr. Lincoln, "I don't know anything about 'money'! I
never had enough of my own to fret me, and I have no opinion about it
any way." Accordingly, throughout his administration he left the whole
subject in the hands of the secretary of the treasury. The tariffs and
internal revenue bills, the legal tender notes, the "five-twenties," the
"ten-forties," and the "seven-thirties," all the loans, the national
banking system, in short, all the financial schemes of the
administration were adopted by Mr. Lincoln upon the recommendation of
Mr. Chase, with little apparent study upon his own part. Satisfied of
the ability of his secretary, he gave to all the Treasury measures his
loyal support. In return, he expected the necessary funds to be
forthcoming; for he had implicit confidence in the willingness of the
people to pay the bills of the Union; and he expected the secretary to
arrange methods by which they could do so with reasonable convenience.
Mr. Chase was cast for the role of magician, familiar with those
incantations which could keep the Treasury ever full. It was well thus,
for in fact no word or incident in Mr. Lincoln's life indicates that he
had any capacity whatsoever in financiering. To live within his income
and pay his dues with a minute and careful punctuality made the limit of
his dealings and his interest in money matters.

* * * * *

Foreign affairs, less technical, could not in like easy manner be
committed to others, and in these Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward labored
together. The blackest cloud was the Trent affair, yet after that had
passed the sky by no means became clear. In the spring of 1862 the Oreto
went out from Liverpool to become the rebel privateer Florida. Before
her departure Mr. Adams complained concerning her to the English
government, but was assured that the vessel was designed for the
Sicilian fruit trade! As it is not diplomatic to say that gentlemen in
office are telling lies, the American minister could push the matter no
farther. The Florida, therefore, escaped, not to conduct commerce with
Sicily, but to destroy the commerce of the United States. At the same
time that she was fitting out, a mysterious craft, oddly known only as
the "290," was also building in the Liverpool docks, and against her Mr.
Adams got such evidence that the queen's ministers could not help
deciding that she must be detained. Unfortunately, however, and by a
strange, if not a significant chance, they reached this decision on the
day after she had sailed! She became the notorious Alabama. Earl Russell
admitted that the affair was "a scandal," but this did not interfere
with the career of Captain Semmes. In these incidents there was both
cause and provocation for war, and hot-headed ones cried out for it,
while prudent men feared it. But the President and the secretary were
under the bonds of necessity to keep their official temper. Just at this
juncture England would have found it not only very easy, but also very
congenial to her real sympathies, to play for the South a part like that
which France had once played for certain thirteen revolted colonies, and
thereby to change a rebellion into a revolution. So Mr. Lincoln and Mr.
Seward, not willing to give the unfriendly power this opportunity, only
wrote down in the national ledger sundry charges against Great Britain,
which were afterward paid, not promptly, yet in full!

Another provoking thing was the placing of

Confederate loans in London. This could not be interfered with. The
only comfort was that the blockaded South had much difficulty in laying
hands upon the proceeds of the bonds which English friends of the Slave
Empire were induced to buy. Yet time, always the faithful auxiliary of
the North, took care of this matter also. When the news of Gettysburg
and Vicksburg came, the investors, who had scarcely finished writing the
cheques with which to pay their subscriptions, were obliged to face a
drop of thirty per cent, in the market price of their new securities.
For many years after the war was over British strong boxes wasted space
in accommodating these absurd documents, while the idea of their
worthlessness was slowly filtering through the minds of their owners.

Another thing, which did no harm at all, but was exceedingly vexatious,
was the constant suggestion of European mediation. For a couple of
years, at least, the air was full of this sort of talk. Once, in spite
of abundant discouragement, the French emperor actually committed the
folly of making the proposal. It came inopportunely on February 3, 1863,
after the defeat of Fredericksburg, like a carrion bird after a battle.
It was rejected very decisively, and if Napoleon III. appreciated Mr.
Seward's dispatch, he became aware that he had shown gross lack of
discernment. Yet he was not without some remarkable companions in this
incapacity to understand that which he was observing, as if from aloft,
with an air of superior wisdom. One would think that the condition of
feeling in the United States which had induced Governor Hicks, in the
early stage of the rebellion, to suggest a reference to Lord Lyons, as
arbitrator, had long since gone by. But it had not; and it is the
surprising truth that Horace Greeley had lately written to M. Mercier,
the French minister at Washington, suggesting precisely the step which
the emperor took; and there were other less conspicuous citizens who
manifested a similar lack of spirit and intelligence.

All this, however, was really of no serious consequence. Talk about
mediation coming from American citizens could do little actual injury,
and from foreigners it could do none. If the foreigners had only been
induced to offer it by reason of a friendly desire to help the country
in its hour of stress, the rejection might even have been accompanied
with sincere thanks. Unfortunately, however, it never came in this
guise; but, on the contrary, it always involved the offensive assumption
that the North could never restore the integrity of the Union by force.
Northern failure was established in advance, and was the unconcealed, if
not quite the avowed, basis of the whole transaction. Now though mere
unfriendliness, not overstepping the requirements of international law,
could inflict little substantial hurt, yet there was something very
discouraging in the unanimity and positiveness with which all these
experienced European statesmen assumed the success of the Confederacy
as the absolutely sure outcome; and in this time of extreme trial to
discourage was to injure. Furthermore, the undisguised pleasure with
which this prospect was contemplated was sorely trying to men oppressed
by the burdens of anxiety and trouble which rested on the President and
his ministers. The man who had begun life as a frontiersman had need of
much moral courage to sustain him in the face of the presagings, the
condemnations, and the hostility of nearly all the sage and well-trained
statesmen of Europe. In those days the United States had not yet fully
thrown off a certain thralldom of awe before European opinion.
Nevertheless, at whatever cost in the coin of self-reliance, the
President and the secretary maintained the courage of their opinions,
and never swerved or hesitated in the face of foreign antipathy or
contempt. The treatment inflicted upon them was only so much added to
the weight under which they had to stand up.

* * * * *

Rebellion and foreign ill-will, even Copperheadism, presented
difficulties and opposition which were in a certain sense legitimate;
but that loyal Republicans should sow the path of the administration
thick with annoyances certainly did seem an unfair trial. Yet, on sundry
occasions, some of which have been mentioned, these men did this thing,
and they did it in the very uncompromising and exasperating manner which
is the natural emanation from conscientious purpose and intense
self-faith. An instance occurred in December, 1862. The blacker the
prospect became, the more bitter waxed the extremists. Such is the
fashion of fanatics, who are wont to grow more warm as their chances
seem to grow more desperate; and some of the leaders of the anti-slavery
wing of the Republican party were fanatics. These men by no means
confined their hostility to the Democratic McClellan; but extended it to
so old and tried a Republican as the secretary of state himself. It had
already come to this, that the new party was composed of, if not split
into, two sections of widely discordant views. The conservative body
found its notions expressed in the cabinet by Seward; the radical body
had a mouthpiece in Chase. The conservatives were not aggressive; but
the radicals waged a genuine political warfare, and denounced Seward,
not, indeed, with the vehemence which was considered to be appropriate
against McClellan, yet very strenuously. Finally this hostility reached
such a pass that, at a caucus of Republican senators, it was actually
voted to demand the dismission of this long-tried and distinguished
leader in the anti-slavery struggle. Later, in place of this blunt vote,
a more polite equivalent was substituted, in the shape of a request for
a reconstruction of the cabinet. Then a committee visited the President
and pressed him to have done with the secretary, whom they thought
lukewarm. Meanwhile, Seward had heard of what was going forward, and,
in order to free Mr. Lincoln from embarrassment, he had already tendered
his resignation before the committee arrived.

The crisis was serious. The recent elections indicated that even while,
as now, the government represented all the sections of Republicanism,
still the situation was none too good; but if it was to be controlled by
the extremist wing of a discordant party, the chance that it could
endure to the end the tremendous strain of civil war was reduced almost
to hopelessness. The visitors who brought this unwelcome suggestion to
the President received no immediate response or expression of opinion
from him, but were invited to come again in the evening; they did so,
and were then much surprised to meet all the members of the cabinet
except Mr. Seward. An outspoken discussion ensued, in which Mr. Chase
found his position embarrassing, if not equivocal. On the following
morning, he, with other members of the cabinet, came again for further
talk with the President; in his hand he held a written resignation of
his office. He "tendered" it, yet "did not advance to deliver it,"
whereupon the President stepped forward and took it "with alacrity."[48]

Having now in his hands the resignations of the chiefs of the two
principal factions of the party, the President had made the first step
towards relieving the situation of dangerous one-sidedness. At once he
took the next step by sending to each this note:--

December 20, 1862.


_Gentlemen_,--You have respectively tendered me your resignations as
secretary of state and secretary of the treasury of the United States. I
am apprised of the circumstances which render this course personally
desirable to each of you; but, after most anxious consideration, my
deliberate judgment is, that the public interest does not admit of it.

I therefore have to request that you will resume the duties of your
departments respectively.

Your obedient servant,


The next morning Mr. Seward wrote briefly: "I have cheerfully resumed
the functions of this department, in obedience to your command." Mr.
Chase seemed to hesitate. On December 20, in the afternoon, he had
written a letter, in which he had said that he thought it desirable that
his resignation should be accepted. He gave as his reason that recent
events had "too rudely jostled the unity" of the cabinet; and he
intimated that, with both himself and Seward out of it, an improved
condition might be reached. He had not, however, actually dispatched
this, when the President's note reached him. He then, though feeling
his convictions strengthened, decided to hold back the letter which he
had prepared and "to sleep on" the matter. Having slept, he wrote, on
the morning of December 22, a different letter, to the effect that,
though reflection had not much, if at all, changed his original opinion
as to the desirability of his resignation, yet he would conform to the
judgment and wishes of the President. If Mr. Chase was less gracious
than Mr. Seward in this business, it is to be remembered that he was
very much more dissatisfied with the President's course than was Mr.
Seward, who, indeed, for the most part was not dissatisfied at all.

Thus a dangerous crisis was escaped rather than overcome. For though
after the relief given by this plain speaking the situation did not
again become quite so strained as it had previously been, yet
disagreement between men naturally prudent and men naturally extremist
was inevitable. Nevertheless it was something that the two sections had
encountered each other, and that neither had won control of the
government. The President had restrained dissension within safe limits
and had saved himself from the real or apparent domination of a faction.
When it was all over, he said: "Now I can ride; I have got a pumpkin in
each end of my bag." Later on he repeated: "I do not see how it could
have been done better. I am sure it was right. If I had yielded to that
storm and dismissed Seward, the thing would all have slumped over one
way, and we should have been left with a scanty handful of supporters."
Undoubtedly he had managed very skillfully a very difficult affair, but
he ought never to have been compelled to arrange such quarrels in the
camp of his own party.

* * * * *

Those counties of Virginia which lay west of the Alleghanies contained a
population which was, by an overwhelming majority, strenuously loyal.
There had long been more of antagonism than of friendship between them
and the rest of the State, and now, as has been already mentioned, the
secession of Virginia from the Union stimulated them, in turn, to secede
from Virginia. In the summer of 1861 they took measures to form
themselves into a separate State; and in April, 1862, they adopted a
state Constitution by a vote of 18,862 yeas against 514 nays. A bill for
the admission of "West Virginia" was passed by the Senate in July, and
by the House in December, and was laid before the President for
signature. There were nice questions of constitutional law about this,
and some doubt also as to whether the move was altogether well advised.
Mr. Lincoln asked the opinions of the cabinet as to whether he should
sign the bill. Three said Yea, and three Nay; and it was noteworthy that
the three who thought it expedient also thought it constitutional, and
that the three who thought it inexpedient also thought it
unconstitutional. Mr. Lincoln, not much assisted, then decided in the
affirmative, and signed the bill December 31, 1862. A statement of the
reasons[49] which led him to this decision concludes thus: "It is said
that the admission of West Virginia is secession, and tolerated only
because it is _our_ secession. Well, if we call it by that name, there
is still difference enough between secession against the Constitution
and secession in favor of the Constitution." Mr. Elaine says that the
creation of this State was sustained by "legal fictions;" and Thaddeus
Stevens declared that it was a measure entirely outside of any provision
of the Constitution, yet said that he should vote for it in accordance
with his general principle: that none of the States in rebellion were
entitled to the protection of the Constitution. The Republicans
themselves were divided in their views as to the lawfulness of the
measure. However the law may have stood, it is evident to us, looking
backward, that for practical purposes the wisdom of the President's
judgment cannot be impugned. The measure was the amputation of so much
territory from that which the Confederates, if they should succeed,
could claim as their own; and it produced no inconvenience at all when,
instead of succeeding, they failed.

* * * * *

Many causes conspired to induce an obstreperous outbreak of
"Copperheadism" in the spring of 1863. The Democratic successes in the
elections of the preceding autumn were in part a premonition of this,
in part also a cause. Moreover, reaction was inevitable after the
intense outburst of patriotic enthusiasm which had occurred during the
earlier part of the war. But more than all this, Mr. Lincoln wrote, and
every one knew, that, "if the war fails, the administration fails," and
thus far the war had been a failure. So the grumblers, the malcontents,
and the Southern sympathizers argued that the administration also, at
least so far as it had gone, had been a failure; and they fondly
conceived that their day of triumph was dawning.

That which was due, punctually arrived. There now came into prominence
those secret societies which, under a shifting variety of names,
continued to scheme and to menace until the near and visible end of the
war effected their death by inanition. The Knights of the Golden Circle,
The Order of American Knights, the Order of the Star, The Sons of
Liberty, in turn enlisted recruits in an abundance which is now
remembered with surprise and humiliation,--sensations felt perhaps most
keenly by the sons of those who themselves belonged to the
organizations. Mr. Seward well said: "These persons will be trying to
forget, years hence, that they ever opposed this war." These societies
gave expression to a terrible blunder, for Copperheadism was even more
stupid than it was vicious. But the fact of their stupidity made them
harmless. Their very names labeled them. Men who like to enroll
themselves in Golden Circles and in Star galaxies seldom accomplish much
in exacting, especially in dangerous, practical affairs. Mr. Lincoln
took this sensible view of these associations. His secretaries, who
doubtless speak from personal knowledge, say that his attitude "was one
of good-humored contempt."

As a rule these "Knights" showed their valor in the way of mischief,
plotting bold things, but never doing them. They encouraged soldiers to
desert; occasionally they assassinated an enrolling officer; they
maintained communications with the Confederates, to whom they gave
information and occasionally also material aid; they were tireless in
caucus work and wire-pulling; in Indiana, in 1863, they got sufficient
control of the legislature to embarrass Governor Morton quite seriously;
they talked much about establishing a Northwestern Confederacy; a few of
them were perhaps willing to aid in those cowardly efforts at
incendiarism in the great Northern cities, also in the poisoning of
reservoirs, in the distribution of clothing infected with disease, and
in other like villainies which were arranged by Confederate emissaries
in Canada, and some of which were imperfectly carried out in New York
and elsewhere; they also made great plans for an uprising and for the
release of Confederate prisoners in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. But no
actual outbreak ever occurred; for when they had come close to the
danger line, these associates of mediaeval tastes and poetic
appellatives always stopped short.

The President was often urged to take decisive measures against these
devisers of ignoble treasons. Such men as Governor Morton and General
Rosecrans strove to alarm him. But he said that the "conspiracy merited
no special attention, being about an equal mixture of puerility and
malice." He had perfect information as to all the doings and plottings,
and as to the membership, of all the societies, and was able to measure
accurately their real power of hurtfulness; he never could be induced to
treat them with a severity which was abundantly deserved, but which
might not have been politic and would certainly have added to the labor,
the expense, and the complications of the government. "Nothing can make
me believe," he once charitably said, "that one hundred thousand Indiana
Democrats are disloyal!" His judgment was proved to be sound; for had
many of these men been in grim earnest in their disloyalty, they would
have achieved something. In fact these bodies were unquestionably
composed of a small infusion of genuine traitors, combined with a vastly
larger proportion of bombastic fellows who liked to talk, and foolish
people who were tickled in their shallow fancy by the element of secrecy
and the fineness of the titles.

The man whose name became unfortunately preeminent for disloyalty at
this time was Clement L. Vallandigham, a Democrat, of Ohio. General
Burnside was placed in command of the Department of the Ohio, March 25,
1863, and having for the moment no Confederates to deal with, he turned
his attention to the Copperheads, whom he regarded with even greater
animosity. His Order No. 38, issued on April 13, brought these hornets
about his ears in impetuous fury; for, having made a long schedule of
their favorite offenses, which he designed for the future severely to
proscribe, he closed it by saying that "the habit of declaring sympathy
for the enemy will not be allowed in this Department;" and he warned
persons with treasonable tongues that, unless they should keep that
little member in order, they might expect either to suffer death as
traitors, or to be sent southward within the lines of "their friends."
Now Mr. Vallandigham had been a member of Congress since 1856, and was
at present a prominent candidate for any office which the Democrats of
his State or of the United States might be able to fill; he was the
popular and rising leader of the Copperhead wing of the Democracy. Such
was his position that it would have been ignominious for him to allow
any Union general to put a military gag in his mouth. Nor did he. On the
contrary, he made speeches which at that time might well have made
Unionists mad with rage, and which still seem to have gone far beyond
the limit of disloyalty which any government could safely tolerate.
Therefore on May 4 he was arrested by a company of soldiers, brought to
Cincinnati, and thrown into jail. His friends gathered in anger, and a
riot was narrowly avoided. At once, by order of General Burnside, he was
tried by a military commission. He was charged with "publicly expressing
sympathy for those in arms against the government of the United States,
and declaring disloyal sentiments and opinions, with the object and
purpose of weakening the power of the government in its efforts to
suppress an unlawful rebellion." Specifications were drawn from a speech
delivered by him on or about May 1. The evidence conclusively sustained
the indictment, and the officers promptly pronounced him guilty,
whereupon he was sentenced by Burnside to confinement in Fort Warren. An
effort to obtain his release by a writ of habeas corpus was ineffectual.

The rapidity of these proceedings had taken every one by surprise. But
the Democrats throughout the North, rapidly surveying the situation,
seized the opportunity which perhaps had been too inconsiderately given
them. The country rang with plausible outcries and high-sounding oratory
concerning military usurpation, violation of the Constitution, and
stifling freedom of speech. It was painfully obvious that this
combination of rhetoric and argument troubled the minds of many
well-affected persons. If the President had been consulted in the
outset, it is thought by some that he would not have allowed matters to
proceed so far. Soon afterward, in his reply to the New York Democrats,
he said: "In my own discretion, I do not know whether I would have
ordered the arrest of Mr. Vallandigham." On the other hand, Mr. Blaine
states that Burnside "undoubtedly had confidential instructions in
regard to the mode of dealing with the rising tide of disloyalty which,
beginning in Ohio, was sweeping over the West."

In a very short time the violence of the fault-finding reached so
excessive a measure that Burnside offered his resignation; but Mr.
Lincoln declined to accept it, saying that, though all the cabinet
regretted the necessity for the arrest, "some perhaps doubting there was
a real necessity for it, yet, being done, all were for seeing you
through with it." This seems to have been his own position. In fact it
was clear that, whether what had been done was or was not a mistake, to
undo it would be a greater mistake. Accordingly Mr. Lincoln only showed
that he felt the pressure of the criticism and denunciation by commuting
the sentence, and directing that Vallandigham should be released from
confinement and sent within the Confederate lines,--which was, indeed, a
very shrewd and clever move, and much better than the imprisonment.
Accordingly the quasi rebel was tendered to and accepted by a
Confederate picket, on May 25. He protested vehemently, declared his
loyalty, and insisted that his character was that of a prisoner of war.
But the Confederates, who had no objection whatsoever to his peculiar
methods of demonstrating "loyalty" to their opponents, insisted upon
treating him as a friend, the victim of an enemy common to themselves
and him; and instead of exchanging him as a prisoner, they facilitated
his passage through the blockade on his way to Canada. There he arrived
in safety, and thence issued sundry manifestoes to the Democracy. On
June 11 the Democratic Convention of Ohio nominated him as their
candidate for governor, and it seems that for a while they really
expected to elect him.

In the condition of feeling during the months in which these events were
occurring, they undeniably subjected the government to a very severe
strain. They furnished the Democrats with ammunition far better than any
which they had yet found, and they certainly used it well. Since the
earliest days of the war there had never been quite an end of the
protestation against arbitrary military arrests and the suspension of
the sacred writ of habeas corpus, and now the querulous outcry was
revived with startling vehemence. Crowded meetings were held everywhere;
popular orators terrified or enraged their audiences with pictures of
the downfall of freedom, the jeopardy of every citizen; resolutions and
votes without number expressed the alarm and anger of the great
assemblages; learned lawyers lent their wisdom to corroborate the
rhetoricians, and even some Republican newspapers joined the croaking
procession of their Democratic rivals. Erelong the assaults appeared to
be producing effects so serious and widespread that the President was
obliged to enter into the controversy. On May 16 a monster meeting of
"the Democrats of New York" was told by Governor Seymour that the
question was: "whether this war is waged to put down rebellion at the
South, or to destroy free institutions at the North." Excited by such
instigation, the audience passed sundry damnatory resolutions and sent
them to the President.

Upon receiving these, Mr. Lincoln felt that he must come down into the
arena, without regard to official conventionality. On June 12 he replied
by a full presentation of the case, from his point of view. He had once
more to do the same thing in response to another address of like
character which was sent to him on June 11 by the Democratic State
Convention of Ohio. In both cases the documents prepared by the
remonstrants were characterized, to more than the usual degree, by that
dignified and _ore rotundo_ phraseology, that solemnity in the
presentation of imposing generalities, which are wont to be so dear to
committees charged with drafting resolutions. The replies of the
President were in striking contrast to this rhetorical method alike in
substance and in form; clear, concise, and close-knit, they were models
of good work in political controversy, and like most of his writing they
sorely tempt to liberal transcription, a temptation which must
unfortunately be resisted, save for a few sentences. The opening
paragraph in the earlier paper was cleverly put:--

"The resolutions are resolvable into two propositions,--first, the
expression of a purpose to sustain the cause of the Union, to secure
peace through victory, and to support the administration in every
constitutional and lawful measure to suppress the rebellion; and,
secondly, a declaration of censure upon the administration for supposed
unconstitutional action, such as the making of military arrests. And,
from the two propositions, a third is deduced, which is, that the
gentlemen composing the meeting are resolved on doing their part to
maintain our common government and country, despite the folly or
wickedness, as they may conceive, of any administration. This position
is eminently patriotic, and, as such, I thank the meeting, and
congratulate the nation for it. My own purpose is the same, so that the
meeting and myself have a common object, and can have no difference,
except in the choice of means or measures for effecting that object."

Later on followed some famous sentences:--

"Mr. Vallandigham avows his hostility to the war on the part of the
Union; and his arrest was made because he was laboring, with some
effect, to prevent the raising of troops, to encourage desertion from
the army, and to leave the rebellion without an adequate military force
to suppress it. He was not arrested because he was damaging the
political prospects of the administration or the personal interests of
the commanding general, but because he was damaging the army, upon the
existence and vigor of which the life of the Nation depends....

"I understand the meeting whose resolutions I am considering to be in
favor of suppressing the rebellion by military force, by armies. Long
experience has shown that armies cannot be maintained unless desertion
shall be punished by the severe penalty of death.

"The case requires, and the law and the Constitution sanction, this
punishment. Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while
I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert?
This is none the less injurious when effected by getting a father, or
brother, or friend, into a public meeting, and there working upon his
feelings until he is persuaded to write the soldier boy that he is
fighting in a bad cause, for a wicked administration of a contemptible
government, too weak to arrest and punish him if he shall desert. I
think that, in such a case, to silence the agitator, and save the boy,
is not only constitutional, but withal a great mercy."

The Ohio Democrats found themselves confronted with this:--

"Your nominee for governor ... is known to you and to the world to
declare against the use of an army to suppress the rebellion. Your own
attitude therefore encourages desertion, resistance to the draft, and
the like, because it teaches those who incline to desert and to escape
the draft to believe it is your purpose to protect them, and to hope
that you will become strong enough to do so."

The arguments of the President called out retort rather than reply, for
in fact they really could not be answered, and they were too accurately
put to be twisted by sophistry; that they reached the minds of the
people was soon made evident. The Democratic managers had made a fatal
blunder in arraying the party in a position of extreme hostility to the
war. Though there were at the North hosts of grumblers who were
maliciously pleased at all embarrassments of the administration, and who
were willing to make the prosecution of the war very difficult, there
were not hosts who were ready to push difficulty to the point of
impossibility. On the other hand the fight was made very shrewdly by the
Union men of Ohio, who nominated John Brough, a "war Democrat," as their
candidate. Then the scales fell from the eyes of the people; they saw
that in real fact votes for Brough or for Vallandigham were,
respectively, votes for or against the Union. The campaign became a
direct trial of strength on this point. Freedom of speech, habeas
corpus, and the kindred incidents of the Vallandigham case were laid
aside as not being the genuine and fundamental questions. It was one of
those instances in which the common sense of the multitude suddenly
takes control, brushes away confusing details, and gets at the great and
true issue. The result was that Vallandigham was defeated by a majority
of over 100,000 votes; and thus a perilous crisis was well passed. This
incident had put the Republican ascendency in extreme peril, but when
the administration emerged from the trial with a success so brilliant,
it was thereafter much stronger than if the test had never been made.
The strain was one of that kind to which the war was subjecting the
whole nation, a strain which strengthens rather than weakens the body
which triumphantly encounters it. The credit for the result was
generally admitted to be chiefly due to Mr. Lincoln's effective
presentation of the Republican position.

* * * * *

As the second year of the war drew towards its close, the administration
had to face a new and grave difficulty in the recruitment of the army.
Serious errors which had been made in calling and enlisting troops now
began to bear fruit. Under the influence of the first enthusiasm a large
proportion of the adult male population at the North would readily have
enlisted "for the war;" but unfortunately that opportunity had not been
seized by the government, and it soon passed, never to return. That the
President and his advisers had been blameworthy can hardly be said; but
whether they had been blameworthy or excusable became an immaterial
issue, when they found that the terms of enlistment were soon to expire,
and also that just when the war was at its hottest, the patriotism of
the people seemed at its coldest. Defeats in the field and Copperheadism
at home combined in their dispiriting and deadly work. Voluntary
enlistment almost ceased. Thereupon Congress passed an act "for
enrolling and calling out the national forces." All able-bodied
citizens between twenty and forty-five years of age were to "perform
military duty in the service of the United States, when called on by the
President for that purpose."[50] This was strenuous earnest, for it
portended a draft.

The situation certainly was not to be considered without solicitude
when, in a war which peculiarly appealed to patriotism, compulsion must
be used to bring involuntary recruits to maintain the contest. Yet the
relaxation of the patriotic temper was really not so great as this fact
might seem to indicate. Besides many partial and obvious explanations,
one which is less obvious should also be noted. During two years of war
the people, notoriously of a temperament readily to accept new facts and
to adapt themselves thereto, had become accustomed to a state of war,
and had learned to regard it as a _condition_, not normal and permanent,
yet of indefinite duration. Accordingly they were now of opinion that
the government must charge itself with the management of this condition,
that is to say, with the conduct of the war, as a strict matter of
business, to be carried on like all other public duties and functions.
In the first months of stress every man had felt called upon to
contribute, personally, his own moral, financial, and even physical
support; but that crisis had passed, and it was now conceived that the
administration might fairly be required to arrange for getting men and
money and supplies in the systematic and business-like fashion in which,
as history taught, all other governments had been accustomed to get
these necessaries in time of war.

At any rate, however it was to be explained or commented upon, the fact
confronted Mr. Lincoln that he must institute enrollment and drafting.
The machinery was arranged and the very disagreeable task was entered
upon early in the summer of 1863. If it was painful in the first
instance for the President to order this, the process was immediately
made as hateful as possible for him. Even loyal and hearty
"war-governors" seemed at once to accept as their chief object the
protection of the people of their respective States from the operation
of the odious law. The mercantile element was instantly and fully
accepted by them. The most patriotic did not hesitate to make every
effort to have the assigned quotas reduced; they drew jealous
comparisons to show inequalities; and they concocted all sorts of
schemes for obtaining credits. Not marshaling recruits in the field, but
filling quotas upon paper, seemed a legitimate purpose; for the matter
had become one of figures, of business, of competition, and all the
shrewdness of the Yankee mind was at once aroused to gain for one's
self, though at the expense of one's neighbors. Especially the
Democratic officials were viciously fertile in creating obstacles. The
fact that the Act of Congress was based on the precedent of an Act of
the Confederate Congress, passed a year before, did not seem in the
least to conciliate the Copperheads. Governor Seymour of New York
obtained a discreditable preeminence in thwarting the administration. He
gathered ingenious statistics, and upon them based charges of dishonest
apportionments and of fraudulent discrimination against Democratic
precincts. He also declared the statute unconstitutional, and asked the
President to stay all proceedings under it until it could be passed upon
by the Supreme Court of the United States,--an ingenuous proposition,
which he neglected to make practicable by arranging with General Lee to
remain conveniently quiescent while the learned judges should be
discussing the methods of reinforcing the Northern armies.

In a word, Mr. Lincoln was confronted by every difficulty that
Republican inventiveness and Democratic disaffection could devise. Yet
the draft must go on, or the war must stop. His reasonableness, his
patience, his capacity to endure unfair trials, received in this
business a demonstration more conspicuous than in any other during his
presidency. Whenever apportionments, dates, and credits were questioned,
he was liberal in making temporary, and sometimes permanent allowances,
preferring that any error in exactions should be in the way of
moderation. But in the main business he was inflexible; and at last it
came to a direct issue between himself and the malcontents, whether the
draft should go on or stop. In the middle of July the mob in New York
city tested the question. The drafting began there on Saturday morning,
July 11. On Monday morning, July 13, the famous riot broke out. It was
an appalling storm of rage on the part of the lower classes; during
three days terror and barbarism controlled the great city, and in its
streets countless bloody and hideous massacres were perpetrated. Negroes
especially were hanged and otherwise slain most cruelly. The governor
was so inefficient that he was charged, of course extravagantly, with
being secretly in league with the ringleaders. A thousand or more lives,
as it was roughly estimated, were lost in this mad and brutal fury,
before order was again restored. The government gave the populace a
short time to cool, and then sent 10,000 troops into the city and
proceeded with the business without further interruption. A smaller
outbreak took place in Boston, but was promptly suppressed. In other
places it was threatened, but did not occur. In spite of all, the
President continued to execute the law. Yet although by this means the
armies might be kept full, the new men were very inferior to those who
had responded voluntarily to the earlier calls. Every knave in the
country adopted the lucrative and tolerably safe occupation of
"bounty-jumping," and every worthless loafer was sent to the front,
whence he escaped at the first opportunity to sell himself anew and to
be counted again. The material of the army suffered great depreciation,
which was only imperfectly offset by the improvement of the military
machine, whereby a more effective discipline, resembling that of
European professionalism, was enforced.[51]


[48] N. and H. vi. 268; this account is derived from their twelfth

[49] N. and H. vi. 309, from MS.

[50] The act was signed by the President, March 3, 1863.

[51] Concerning the deterioration of the army, in certain particulars,
see an article, "The War as we see it now," by John C. Ropes,
_Scribner's Magazine_, June, 1891.



The winter of 1862-63 was for the Rebellion much what the winter of
Valley Forge was for the Revolution. It passed, however, and the nation
still clung fast to its purpose. The weak brethren who had become
dismayed were many, but the people as a whole was steadfast. This being
so, ultimate success became assured. Wise and cool-headed men, in a
frame of mind to contemplate the situation as it really was, saw that
the tide was about at its turning, and that the Union would not drift
away to destruction in this storm at any rate. They saw that the North
_could_ whip the South, if it chose; and it was now sufficiently evident
that it would choose,--that it would endure, and would finish its task.
It was only the superficial observers who were deceived by the Virginian
disasters, which rose so big in the foreground as partially to conceal
the real fact,--that the Confederacy was being at once strangled and
starved to death. The waters of the Atlantic Ocean and of the Gulf of
Mexico were being steadily made more and more inaccessible, as one
position after another along the coast gradually passed into Federal
hands. The Mississippi River, at last a Union stream from its source to
its mouth, now made a Chinese wall for the Confederacy on the west. Upon
the north the line of conflict had been pushed down to the northern
borders of Mississippi and Georgia, and the superincumbent weight of the
vast Northwest lay with a deadly pressure upon these two States.

It was, therefore, only in Virginia that the Confederates had held their
own, and here, with all their victories, they had done no more than just
hold their own. They had to recognize, also, that from such battlefields
as Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville they gathered no sustenance,
however much they might reap in the way of glory. Neither had they
gained even any ground, for the armies were still manoeuvring along the
same roads over which they had been tramping and swaying to and fro for
more than two years. By degrees the Southern resources in the way of
men, money, food, and supplies generally, were being depleted. The
Confederacy was like a lake, artificially inclosed, which was fed by no
influx from outside, while it was tapped and drained at many points.

On the other hand, within the North, affairs were coming into a more
satisfactory condition. It was true that all the military successes of
July had not discouraged the malcontents; and during the summer they had
been busily preparing for the various state elections of the autumn,
which they hoped would strongly corroborate their congressional triumphs
of 1862. But when the time came they were exceedingly disappointed. The
law now, fairly enough, permitted soldiers in the field to vote, and
this was, of course, a reinforcement for the Republican party; but even
among the voters at home the Democratic reaction of the preceding year
had spent its force. In October Pennsylvania gave Governor Curtin, the
Republican candidate for reelection, a majority of 15,000. In the same
month, under the circumstances described in the preceding chapter, Ohio
buried Vallandigham under a hostile majority of more than 100,000. The
lead thus given by the "October States" was followed by the "November
States." In New York no governor was to be elected; but the Republican
state ticket showed a majority of 30,000, whereas the year before
Seymour had polled a majority of 10,000. The Northwest fell into the
procession, though after a hard fight. A noteworthy feature of the
struggle, which was fierce and for a time doubtful in Illinois, was a
letter from Mr. Lincoln. He was invited to attend a mass meeting at
Springfield, and with reluctance felt himself obliged to decline; but in
place of a speech, which might not have been preserved, the good fortune
of posterity caused him to write this letter:--

August 26, 1863.


_My dear Sir_,--Your letter inviting me to attend a mass meeting of
unconditional Union men, to be held at the capital of Illinois, on the
third day of September, has been received. It would be very agreeable
for me thus to meet my old friends at my own home, but I cannot just now
be absent from here as long as a visit there would require.

The meeting is to be of all those who maintain unconditional devotion to
the Union, and I am sure my old political friends will thank me for
tendering, as I do, the nation's gratitude to those other noble men whom
no partisan malice or partisan hope can make false to the nation's life.

There are those who are dissatisfied with me. To such I would say: you
desire peace, and you blame me that we do not have it. But how can we
attain it? There are but three conceivable ways: First, to suppress the
rebellion by force of arms. This I am trying to do. Are you for it? If
you are, so far we are agreed. If you are not for it, a second way is to
give up the Union. I am against this. Are you for it? If you are, you
should say so plainly. If you are not for _force_, nor yet for
_dissolution_, there only remains some imaginable _compromise_.

I do not believe that any compromise embracing the maintenance of the
Union is now possible. All that I learn leads to a directly opposite
belief. The strength of the rebellion is its military, its army. That
army dominates all the country and all the people within its range. Any
offer of terms made by any man or men within that range, in opposition
to that army, is simply nothing for the present; because such man or men
have no power whatever to enforce their side of a compromise, if one
were made with them.

To illustrate: suppose refugees from the South and peace men of the
North get together in convention, and frame and proclaim a compromise
embracing a restoration of the Union. In what way can that compromise be
used to keep Lee's army out of Pennsylvania? Meade's army can keep Lee's
army out of Pennsylvania, and, I think, can ultimately drive it out of
existence. But no paper compromise, to which the controllers of Lee's
army are not agreed, can at all affect that army. In an effort at such
compromise we would [should] waste time, which the enemy would improve
to our disadvantage, and that would be all.

A compromise, to be effective, must be made either with those who
control the rebel army, or with the people, first liberated from the
domination of that army by the success of our own army. Now, allow me to
assure you that no word or intimation from that rebel army, or from any
of the men controlling it, in relation to any peace compromise, has ever
come to my knowledge or belief. All charges and insinuations to the
contrary are deceptive and groundless. And I promise you that if any
such proposition shall hereafter come, it shall not be rejected and kept
a secret from you. I freely acknowledge myself to be the servant of the
people, according to the bond of service, the United States
Constitution; and that, as such, I am responsible to them. But to be
plain, you are dissatisfied with me about the negro. Quite likely there
is a difference of opinion between you and myself upon that subject. I
certainly wish that all men could be free, while you, I suppose, do not.
Yet I have neither adopted nor proposed any measure which is not
consistent with even your views, provided that you are for the Union. I
suggested compensated emancipation, to which you replied: you wished not
to be taxed to buy negroes. But I had not asked you to be taxed to buy
negroes, except in such a way as to save you from greater taxation to
save the Union exclusively by other means.

You dislike the emancipation proclamation, and perhaps would have it
retracted. You say it is unconstitutional. I think differently. I think
the Constitution invests its commander-in-chief with all the law of war
in time of war. The most that can be said, if so much, is, that slaves
are property. Is there, has there ever been, any question that by the
law of war, property, both of enemies and friends, may be taken when
needed? And is it not needed whenever it helps us and hurts the enemy?
Armies, the world over, destroy enemies' property when they cannot use
it, and even destroy their own to keep it from the enemy.

... But the proclamation, as law, either is valid or is not valid. If it
is not valid it needs no retraction. If it is valid, it cannot be
retracted, any more than the dead can be brought to life. Some of you
profess to think its retraction would operate favorably for the Union.
Why better after the retraction than before the issue? There was more
than a year and a half of trial to suppress the rebellion before the
proclamation was issued, the last one hundred days of which passed under
an explicit notice that it was coming, unless averted by those in revolt
returning to their allegiance. The war has certainly progressed as
favorably for us since the issue of the proclamation as before. I know,
as fully as one can know the opinion of others, that some of the
commanders of our armies in the field, who have given us our most
important victories, believe the emancipation policy and the use of
colored troops constitute the heaviest blows yet dealt to the rebellion,
and that at least one of those important successes could not have been
achieved, when it was, but for the aid of black soldiers.

Among the commanders who hold these views are some who have never had an
affinity with what is called "abolitionism," or with "Republican party
politics," but who hold them purely as military opinions. I submit their
opinions as entitled to some weight against the objections often urged
that emancipation and arming the blacks are unwise as military measures,
and were not adopted as such in good faith.

You say that you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem
willing to fight for you; but no matter. Fight you, then, exclusively to
save the Union. I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in
saving the Union. Whenever you shall have conquered all resistance to
the Union, if I shall urge you to continue fighting it will be an apt
time then for you to declare you will not fight to free negroes. I
thought that, in your struggle for the Union, to whatever extent the
negroes should cease helping the enemy, to that extent it weakened the
enemy in his resistance to you. Do you think differently?

I thought that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves
just so much less for white soldiers to do in saving the Union. Does it
appear otherwise to you? But negroes, like other people, act upon
motives. Why should they do anything for us, if we will do nothing for
them? If they stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the
strongest motive, even the promise of freedom. And the promise, being
made, must be kept.

The signs look better. The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the
sea. Thanks to the great Northwest for it; nor yet wholly to them. Three
hundred miles up they met New England, Empire, Keystone, and Jersey,
hewing their way right and left. The sunny South, too, in more colors
than one, also lent a helping hand. On the spot their part of the
history was jotted down in black and white. The job was a great national
one, and let none be slighted who bore an honorable part in it. And
while those who have cleared the great river may well be proud, even
that is not all. It is hard to say that anything has been more bravely
or well done than at Antietam, Murfreesboro', Gettysburg, and on many
fields of less note. Nor must Uncle Sam's web-feet be forgotten. At all
the watery margins they have been present, not only on the deep sea, the
broad bay, and the rapid river, but also up the narrow muddy bayou, and
wherever the ground was a little damp, they have been and made their
tracks. Thanks to all. For the great Republic,--for the principle it
lives by and keeps alive,--for man's vast future,--thanks to all.

Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon,
and come to stay, and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future
time. It will then have been proved that among free men there can be no
successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet, and that they who take
such appeal are sure to lose their case and pay the cost. And there will
be some black men who can remember that with silent tongue, and clinched
teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind
on to this great consummation; while I fear there will be some white men
unable to forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech they
have striven to hinder it.

Still, let us not be over-sanguine of a speedy final triumph. Let us be
quite sober. Let us diligently apply the means, never doubting that a
just God, in his own good time, will give us the rightful result.

Yours very truly,


This was a fair statement of past facts and of the present condition;
and thus the plain tokens of the time showed that the menace of
disaffection had been met and sufficiently conquered. The President had
let the nation see the strength of his will and the immutability of his
purpose. He had faced bullying Republican politicians, a Democratic
reaction, Copperheadism, and mob violence, and by none of these had he
been in the least degree shaken or diverted from his course. On the
contrary, from so many and so various struggles he had come out the
victor, a real ruler of the country. He had shown that whenever and by
whomsoever, and in whatever part of the land he was pushed to use power,
he would use it. Temporarily the great republic was under a "strong
government," and Mr. Lincoln was the strength. Though somewhat cloaked
by forms, there was for a while in the United States a condition of
"one-man power," and the people instinctively recognized it, though they
would on no account admit it in plain words. In fact every malcontent
knew that there was no more use in attempting to resist the American
President than in attempting to resist a French emperor or a Russian
czar; there was even less use, for while the President managed on one
plausible ground or another to have and to exercise all the power that
he needed, he was sustained by the good-will and confidence of a
majority of the people, which lay as a solid substratum beneath all the
disturbance on the surface. It was well that this was so, for a war
conducted by a cabinet or a congress could have ended only in disaster.
This peculiar character of the situation may not be readily admitted; it
is often convenient to deny and ignore facts in order to assert popular
theories; and that there was a real _master_ in the United States is a
proposition which many will consider it highly improper to make and very
patriotic to contradict. None the less, however, it is true, and by the
autumn of 1863 every intelligent man in the country _felt_ that it was
true. Moreover, it was because this was true, and because that master
was immovably persistent in the purpose to conquer the South, that the
conquest of the South could now be discerned as substantially a
certainty in the future.

Some other points should also be briefly made here. The war is to be
divided into two stages. The first two years were educational;
subsequently the fruits of that education were attained. The men who had
studied war as a profession, but had had no practical experience, found
much to learn in warfare as a reality after the struggle began. But
before the summer of 1863 there were in the service many generals, than
whom none better could be desired. "Public men" were somewhat slow in
discovering that their capacity to do pretty much everything did not
include the management of campaigns. But by the summer of 1863 these
"public" persons made less noise in the land than they had made in the
days of McClellan; and though political considerations could never be
wholly suppressed, the question of retaining or displacing a general no
longer divided parties, or superseded, and threatened to wreck, the
vital question of the war. Moreover, as has been remarked in another
connection, the nation began to appreciate that while war was a science
so far as the handling of armies in the field was concerned, it was
strictly a business in its other aspects. By, and in fact before, the
summer of 1863 this business had been learned and was being efficiently

Time and experience had done no less for the President than for others.
A careful daily student of the topography of disputed regions, of every
proposed military movement, of every manoeuvre, every failure, every
success, he was making himself a skillful judge in the questions of the
campaigns. He had also been studying military literature. Yet as his
knowledge and his judgment grew, his modesty and his abstention from
interference likewise grew. He was more and more chary of endeavoring to
control his generals. The days of such contention as had thwarted the
plans of McClellan without causing other plans to be heartily and fully
adopted had fortunately passed, never to return. Of course, however,
this was in part due to the fact that the war had now been going on long
enough to enable Mr. Lincoln to know pretty well what measure of
confidence he could place in the several generals. He had tried his
experiments and was now using his conclusions. Grant, Sherman,
Sheridan, Thomas, Hancock, and Meade were no longer undiscovered
generals; while Fremont, McClellan, Halleck--and perhaps two or three
more might be named--may be described in a counter-phrase as generals
who were now quite thoroughly discovered. The President and the country
were about to get the advantage of this acquired knowledge.

A consequence of these changed conditions, of the entrance upon this new
stage of the war, becomes very visible in the life of Mr. Lincoln. The
disputation, the hurly-burly, the tumultuous competition of men,
opinions, and questions, which made the first eighteen months of his
presidency confusing and exciting as a great tempest on the sea, have
gone by. For the future his occupation is rather to keep a broad,
general supervision, to put his controlling touch for the moment now
here, now there. He ceases to appear as an individual contestant; his
personality, though not less important, is less conspicuous; his
influence is exerted less visibly, though not less powerfully. In short,
the business-like aspect affects him and his functions as it does all
else that concerns the actual conduct of the war; he too feels, though
he may not formulate, the change whereby a crisis has passed into a
condition. This will be seen from the character of the remainder of this
narrative. There are no more controversies which call for other chapters
like those which told of the campaigns of McClellan. There are no more
fierce intestine dissensions like those which preceded the Proclamation
of Emancipation,--at least not until the matter of reconstruction comes
up, and reconstruction properly had not to do with the war, but with the
later period. In a word, the country had become like the steed who has
ceased fretfully to annoy the rider, while the rider, though exercising
an ever-watchful control, makes less apparent exertion.

* * * * *

By one of the odd arrangements of our governmental machine, it was not
until December 7, 1863, that the members of the Thirty-eighth Congress
met for the first time to express those political sentiments which had
been in vogue more than a year before that time, that is to say during
the months of October and November, 1862, when these gentlemen had been
elected, at the close of the summer's campaign. It has been said and
shown that a very great change in popular feeling had taken place and
made considerable advance during this interval. The autumn of 1863 was
very different from the autumn of 1862! A Congress coming more newly
from the people would have been much more Republican in its complexion.
Still, even as it was, the Republicans had an ample working majority,
and moreover were disturbed by fewer and less serious dissensions among
themselves than had been the case occasionally in times past. McClellan
and the Emancipation Proclamation had not quite yet been succeeded by
any other questions of equal potency for alienating a large section of
the party from the President. Not that unanimity prevailed by any means;
that was impossible under the conditions of human nature. The extremists
still distrusted Mr. Lincoln, and regarded him as an obstruction to
sound policies. Senator Chandler of Michigan, a fine sample of the
radical Republican, instructed him that, by the elections, Conservatives
and traitors had been buried together, and begged him not to exhume
them, since they would "smell worse than Lazarus did after he had been
buried three days." Apparently he ranked Seward among these defunct and
decaying Conservatives; certainly he regarded the secretary as a
"millstone about the neck" of the President.[52] Still, in spite of such
denunciations, times were not in this respect so bad as they had been,
and the danger that the uncompromising Radicals would make wreck of the
war was no longer great.

* * * * *

Another event, occurring in this autumn of 1863, was noteworthy because
through it the literature of our tongue received one of its most
distinguished acquisitions. On November 19 the national military
cemetery at Gettysburg was to be consecrated; Edward Everett was to
deliver the oration, and the President was of course invited as a guest.
Mr. Arnold says that it was actually while Mr. Lincoln was "in the cars
on his way from the White House to the battlefield" that he was told
that he also would be expected to say something on the occasion; that
thereupon he jotted down in pencil the brief address which he delivered
a few hours later.[53] But that the composition was quite so
extemporaneous seems doubtful, for Messrs. Nicolay and Hay transcribe
the note of invitation, written to the President on November 2 by the
master of the ceremonies, and in it occurs this sentence: "It is the
desire that, after the oration, you, as Chief Executive of the Nation,
formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use, by a few
appropriate remarks." Probably, therefore, some forethought went to the
preparation of this beautiful and famous "Gettysburg speech." When Mr.
Everett sat down, the President arose and spoke as follows:[54]--

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the
proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a
great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived
and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of
that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final
resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might
live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in
a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot
hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here
have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The
world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can
never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be
dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have
thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to
the great task remaining before us;--that from these honored dead, we
take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full
measure of devotion;--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall
not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new
birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for
the people, shall not perish from the earth."


[52] N. and H. vii. 389.

[53] Arnold, _Lincoln_, 328. This writer gives a very vivid description
of the delivery of the speech, derived in part from Governor Dennison,
afterward the postmaster-general, who was present on the occasion.

[54] Mr. Arnold says that in an unconscious and absorbed manner, Mr.
Lincoln "adjusted his spectacles" and read his address.



In his inaugural address President Lincoln said: "The union of these
States is perpetual.... No State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully
get out of the Union; resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally
void." In these words was imbedded a principle which later on he showed
his willingness to pursue to its logical conclusions concerning the
reconstruction of the body politic. If no State, by seceding, had got
itself out of the Union, there was difficulty in maintaining that those
citizens of a seceding State, who had not disqualified themselves by
acts of treason, were not still lawfully entitled to conduct the public
business and to hold the usual elections for national and state
officials, so soon as the removal of hostile force should render it
physically possible for them to do so. Upon the basis of this principle,
the resumption by such citizens of a right which had never been lost,
but only temporarily interfered with by lawless violence, could
reasonably be delayed by the national government only until the loyal
voters should be sufficient in number to relieve the elections from the
objection of being colorable and unreal. This philosophy of
"reconstruction" seemed to Mr. Lincoln to conform with law and good
sense, and he was forward in meeting, promoting, almost even in creating
opportunities to apply it. From the beginning of the war he had been of
opinion that the framework of a state government, though it might be
scarcely more than a skeleton, was worth preservation. It held at least
the seed of life. So after West Virginia was admitted into statehood,
the organization which had been previously established by the loyal
citizens of the original State was maintained in the rest of the State,
and Governor Pierpoint was recognized as the genuine governor of
Virginia, although few Virginians acknowledged allegiance to him, and
often there were not many square miles of the Old Dominion upon which
the dispossessed ruler could safely set his foot. For the present he
certainly was no despot, but in the future he might have usefulness. He
preserved continuity; by virtue of him, so to speak, there still was a
State of Virginia.

Somewhat early in the war large portions of Tennessee, Louisiana, and
Arkansas were recovered and kept by Union forces, and beneath such
protection a considerable Union sentiment found expression. The
President, loath to hold for a long time the rescued parts of these
States under the sole domination of army officers, appointed "military
governors."[55] The anomalous office found an obscure basis among those
"war powers" which, as a legal resting-place, resembled a quicksand, and
as a practical foundation were undeniably a rock; the functions and
authority of the officials were as uncertain as anything, even in law,
possibly could be. Legal fiction never reached a droller point than when
these military governorships were defended as being the fulfillment by
the national government "of its high constitutional obligation to
guarantee to every State in this Union _a republican form of
government_!"[56] Yet the same distinguished gentleman, who dared
gravely to announce this ingenious argument, drew a picture of facts
which was in itself a full justification of almost any scheme of
rehabilitation; he said: "The state government has disappeared. The
Executive has abdicated; the Legislature has dissolved; the Judiciary is
in abeyance." In this condition of chaos Mr. Lincoln was certainly bound
to prevent anarchy, without regard to any comicalities which might creep
into his technique. So these hermaphrodite officials, with civil duties
and military rank, were very sensibly and properly given a vague
authority in the several States, as from time to time these were in part
redeemed from rebellion by the Union armies. So soon as possible they
were bidden, in collaboration with the military commanders in their
respective districts, to make an enrollment of loyal citizens, with a
view to holding elections and organizing state governments in the
customary form. The President was earnest, not to say pertinacious, in
urging forward these movements. On September 11, 1863, immediately after
the battle of Chattanooga, he wrote to Andrew Johnson that it was "the
nick of time for reinaugurating a loyal state government" in Tennessee;
and he suggested that, as touching this same question of "time when," it
was worth while to "remember that it cannot be known who is next to
occupy the position I now hold, nor what he will do." He warned the
governor that reconstruction must not be so conducted "as to give
control of the State, and its representation in Congress, to the enemies
of the Union.... It must not be so. You must have it otherwise. Let the
reconstruction be the work of such men only as can be trusted for the
Union. Exclude all others; and trust that your government, so organized,
will be recognized here as being the one of republican form to be
guaranteed to the State."[57]

At the same time these expressions by no means indicated that the
President intended to have, or would connive at, any sham or colorable
process. Accordingly, when some one suggested a plan for setting up as
candidates in Louisiana certain Federal officers, who were not citizens
of that State, he decisively forbade it, sarcastically remarking to
Governor Shepley: "We do not particularly want members of Congress from
there to enable us to get along with legislation here. What we do want
is the conclusive evidence that respectable citizens of Louisiana are
willing to be members of Congress, and to swear support to the
Constitution, and that other respectable citizens there are willing to
vote for them and send them. To send a parcel of Northern men here as
representatives, elected, as would be understood (and perhaps really
so), at the point of the bayonet, would be disgraceful and outrageous."
Again he said that he wished the movement for the election of members of
Congress "to be a movement of the people of the district, and not a
movement of our military and quasi-military authorities there. I merely
wish our authorities to give the people a chance,--to protect them
against secession interference." These instructions were designed as
genuine rules of action, and were not to be construed away. Whatever
might be said against the theory which the President was endeavoring to
establish for state restoration, no opponent of that theory was to be
given the privilege of charging that the actual conduct of the
proceedings under it was not rigidly honest. In December, 1862, two
members of Congress were elected in Louisiana, and in February, 1863,
they were admitted to take seats in the House for the brief remnant of
its existence. This was not done without hesitation, but the fact that
it was done at all certainly was in direct line with the President's
plan. Subsequently, however, other candidates for seats, coming from
rehabilitated States, were not so fortunate.

As reorganizations were attempted the promoters generally desired that
the fresh start in state life should be made with new state
Constitutions. The conventions chosen to draw these instruments were
instructed from Washington that the validity of the Emancipation
Proclamation and of all the legislation of Congress concerning slavery
must be distinctly admitted, if their work was to receive recognition.
Apart from this, so strenuous were the hints conveyed to these bodies
that they would do well to arrange for the speedy abolition of slavery,
that no politician would have been so foolish as to offer a
constitution, or other form of reorganization, without some provision of
this sort. This practical necessity sorely troubled many, who still
hoped that some happy turn of events would occur, whereby they would be
able to get back into the Union with the pleasant and valuable group of
their slaves still about them, as in the good times of yore. Moreover,
in other matters there were clashings between the real military
commanders and the quasi-military civilian officials; and it was
unfortunately the case that, in spite of Mr. Lincoln's appeal to loyal
men to "eschew cliquism" and "work together," there were abundant
rivalries and jealousies and personal schemings. All these vexations
were dragged before the President to harass him with their pettiness
amid his more conspicuous duties; they gave him infinite trouble, and
devoured his time and strength. Likewise they were obstacles to the
advancement of the business itself, and, coming in addition to the
delays inevitable upon elections and deliberations, they ultimately kept
all efforts towards reconstruction dallying along until a late period in
the war. Thus it was February 22, 1864, when the state election was held
in Louisiana; and it was September 5 in the same year when the new
Constitution, with an emancipation clause, was adopted. It was not until
January, 1865, that, in Tennessee, a convention made a constitution, for
purposes of reconstruction, and therein abolished slavery.

Pending these doings and before practical reconstruction had made
noticeable progress, Mr. Lincoln sent in, on December 8, 1863, his third
annual message to Congress. To this message was appended something which
no one had anticipated,--a proclamation of amnesty. In this the
President recited his pardoning power and a recent act of Congress
specially confirmatory thereof, stated the wish of certain repentant
rebels to resume allegiance and to restore loyal state governments, and
then offered, to all who would take a prescribed oath, full pardon
together with "restoration of all rights and property, except as to
slaves, and ... where rights of third parties shall have intervened."
The oath was simply to "support, protect, and defend" the Constitution
and the Union, and to abide by and support all legislation and all
proclamations concerning slavery made during the existing rebellion.
There were, of course, sundry exceptions of persons from this amnesty;
but the list of those excepted was a moderate and reasonable one. He
also proclaimed that whenever in any seceded State "a number of persons
not less than one tenth in number of the votes cast in such State at the
presidential election of the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred
and sixty, each having taken the oath aforesaid and not having since
violated it, and being a qualified voter by the election law of the
State existing immediately before the so-called act of secession, and
excluding all others, shall reestablish a state government which shall
be republican, and in no wise contravening said oath, such shall be
recognized as the true government of the State, and the State shall
receive thereunder the benefits of the constitutional provision which
declares that 'the United States shall guarantee to every State in this
Union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them
against invasion; and, on application of the legislature, or the
executive (when the legislature cannot be convened), against domestic

Also further: "that any provision that may be adopted by such state
government, in relation to the freed people of such State, which shall
recognize and declare their permanent freedom, provide for their
education, and which may yet be consistent, as a temporary arrangement,
with their present condition as a laboring, landless, and homeless
class, will not be objected to by the national executive. And it is
suggested as not improper that, in constructing a loyal state government
in any State, the name of the State, the boundary, the subdivisions, the
constitution, and the general code of laws, as before the rebellion, be
maintained, subject only to the modifications made necessary by the
conditions hereinbefore stated, and such others, if any, not
contravening said conditions, and which may be deemed expedient by those
framing the new state government."

Concerning this proclamation, the message which communicated it noted:
that it did not transcend the Constitution; that no man was coerced to
take the oath; and that to make pardon conditional upon taking it was
strictly lawful; that a test of loyalty was necessary, because it would
be "simply absurd" to guarantee a republican form of government in a
State "constructed in whole, or in preponderating part, from the very
element against whose hostility and violence it is to be protected;"
that the pledge to maintain the laws and proclamations as to slavery was
a proper condition, because these had aided and would further aid the
Union cause; also because "to now abandon them would be not only to
relinquish a lever of power, but would also be a cruel and astounding
breach of faith."

He continued: "But why any proclamation, now, upon the subject? This
question is beset with the conflicting views that the step might be
delayed too long or be taken too soon. In some States the elements for
resumption seem ready for action, but remain inactive, apparently for
want of a rallying point,--a plan of action. Why shall A adopt the plan
of B rather than B that of A? And if A and B should agree, how can they
know but that the general government here will reject their plan? By the
proclamation a plan is presented which may be accepted by them as a
rallying point, and which they are assured in advance will not be
rejected here. This may bring them to act sooner than they otherwise

"The objection to a premature presentation of a plan by the national
executive consists in the danger of committals on points which could be
more safely left to further developments.

"Care has been taken to so shape the document as to avoid embarrassments
from this source. Saying that, on certain terms, certain classes will be
pardoned, with rights restored, it is not said that other classes or
other terms will never be included. Saying that reconstruction will be
accepted if presented in a specified way, it is not said it will never
be accepted in any other way.

"The movements, by state action, for emancipation in several of the
States, not included in the emancipation proclamation, are matters of
profound gratulation. And while I do not repeat in detail what I have
heretofore so earnestly urged upon this subject, my general views and
feelings remain unchanged; and I trust that Congress will omit no fair
opportunity of aiding these important steps to a great consummation.

"In the midst of other cares, however important, we must not lose sight
of the fact that the war power is still our main reliance. To that power
alone we can look yet for a time, to give confidence to the people in
the contested regions, that the insurgent power will not again overrun
them. Until that confidence shall be established, little can be done
anywhere for what is called reconstruction.

"Hence our chiefest care must be directed to the army and navy, who have
thus far borne their harder part so nobly and well. And it may be
esteemed fortunate that in giving the greatest efficiency to these
indispensable arms, we do also honorably recognize the gallant men, from
commander to sentinel, who compose them, and to whom, more than to
others, the world must stand indebted for the home of freedom
disenthralled, regenerated, enlarged, and perpetuated."

This step, this offer of amnesty and pardon, and invitation to state
reconstruction, took every one by surprise. As usual the President had
been "doing his own thinking," reaching his own conclusions and acting
upon them with little counsel asked from any among the multitudes of
wise men who were so ready to furnish it. For a moment his action
received a gratifying welcome of praise and approval. The first
impulsive sentiment was that of pleasure because the offer was in so
liberal, so conciliatory, so forgiving a spirit; moreover, people were
encouraged by the very fact that the President thought it worth while to
initiate reconstruction; also many of the more weak-kneed, who desired
to see the luring process tried, were gratified by a generous measure.
Then, too, not very much thought had yet been given, at least by the
people in general, to actual processes of reconstruction; for while many
doubted whether there would ever be a chance to reconstruct at all, very
few fancied the time for it to be nearly approaching. Therefore the
President occupied vacant ground in the minds of most persons.

But in a short time a very different temper was manifested among members
of Congress, and from them spread forth and found support among the
people. Two reasons promoted this. One, which was avowed with the
frankness of indignation, was a jealousy of seeing so important a
business preempted by the executive department. The other was a natural
feeling of mingled hostility and distrust towards rebels, who had caused
so much blood to be shed, so much cost to be incurred. In this point of
view, the liberality which at first had appeared admirable now began to
be condemned as extravagant, unreasonable, and perilous.

Concerning the first of these reasons, it must be admitted that it was
entirely natural that Congress should desire to take partial or, if
possible, even entire charge of reconstruction. Which department had the
better right to the duty, or how it should be distributed between the
legislative and executive departments, was uncertain, and could be
determined only by inference from the definite functions of each as
established by the Constitution. The executive unquestionably had the
power to pardon every rebel in the land; yet it was a power which might
conceivably be so misused as to justify impeachment. The Senate and the
House had the power to give or to refuse seats to persons claiming to
have been elected to them. Yet they could not dare to exercise this
power except for a cause which was at least colorable in each case.
Furthermore, the meaning of "recognition" was vague. Exactly what was
"recognition" of a state government, and by what specific process could
it be granted or withheld? The executive might recognize statehood in
some matters; Congress might refuse to recognize it in other matters.
Every one felt that disagreement between the two departments would be
most unfortunate and even dangerous; yet it was entirely possible; and
what an absurd and alarming condition might be created, if the
President, by a general amnesty, should reinstate the ex-rebels of a
State as citizens with all their rights of citizenship, and Congress
should refuse to seat the senators and representatives elected by these
constituents on the alleged ground of peril to the country by reason of
their supposed continuing disloyalty. Even worse still might be the
case; for the Senate and the House might disagree. There was nothing in
law or logic to make this consummation impossible.

People differed much in feeling as well as opinion upon this difficult
subject, this problem which was solved by no law. Treason is a crime and
must be made odious, said Andrew Johnson, sternly uttering the
sentiments of many earnest and strenuous men in Congress and in the
country. Others were able to eliminate revengefulness, but felt that it
was not safe in the present, nor wise for the future, to restore to
rebels all the rights of citizenship upon the moment when they should
consent to abandon rebellion, more especially when all knew and admitted
that the abandonment was made not in penitence but merely in despair of
success. It was open to extremists to argue that the whole seceded area
might logically, as conquered lands, be reduced to a territorial
condition, to be recarved into States at such times and upon such
conditions as should seem proper. But others, in agreement with the
President, insisted that if no State could lawfully secede, it followed
that no State could lawfully be deprived of statehood. These persons
reinforced their legal argument with the sentimental one that lenity was
the best policy. As General Grant afterward put it: "The people who had
been in rebellion must necessarily come back into the Union, and be
incorporated as an integral part of the nation. Naturally the nearer
they were placed to an equality with the people who had not rebelled,
the more reconciled they would feel with their old antagonists, and the
better citizens they would be from the beginning. They surely would not
make good citizens if they felt that they had a yoke around their
necks." The question, in what proportions mercy and justice should be,
or safely could be, mingled, was clearly one of discretion. In the wide
distance betwixt the holders of extreme opinions an infinite variety of
schemes and theories was in time broached and held. Very soon the
gravity of the problem was greatly enhanced by its becoming complicated
with proposals for giving the suffrage to negroes. Upon this Mr. Lincoln
expressed his opinion that the privilege might be wisely conferred upon
"the very intelligent, and especially those who have fought gallantly in
our ranks," though apparently he intended thus to describe no very large
percentage. Apparently his confidence in the civic capacity of the negro
never became very much greater than it had been in the days of the joint
debates with Douglas.

Congress took up the matter very promptly, and with much display of
feeling. Early in May, 1864, Henry Winter Davis, a vehement opponent of
the President, introduced a bill, of which the anti-rebel preamble was
truculent to the point of being amusing. His first fierce _Whereas_
declared that the Confederate States were waging a war so glaringly
unjust "that they have no right to claim the mitigation of the extreme
rights of war, which are accorded by modern usage to an enemy who has a
right to consider the war a just one." But Congress, though hotly
irritated, was not quite willing to say, in terms, that it would eschew
civilization and adopt barbarism, as its system for the conduct of the
war; and accordingly it rejected Mr. Davis's fierce exordium. The words
had very probably only been used by him as a sort of safety valve to
give vent to the fury of his wrath, so that he could afterward approach
the serious work of the bill in a milder spirit; for in fact the actual
effective legislation which he proposed was by no means unreasonable.
After military resistance should be suppressed in any rebellious State,
the white male citizens were to elect a convention for the purpose of
reestablishing a state government. The new organization must
disfranchise prominent civil and military officers of the Confederacy,
establish the permanent abolition of slavery, and prohibit the payment
by the new State of any indebtedness incurred for Confederate purposes.
After Congress should have expressed its assent to the work of the
convention, the President was to recognize by proclamation the
reorganized State. This bill, of course, gave to the legislative
department the whole valuable control in the matter of recognition,
leaving to the President nothing more than the mere empty function of
issuing a proclamation, which he would have no right to hold back; but
in other respects its requirements were entirely fair and
unobjectionable, from any point of view, and it finally passed the House
by a vote of 74 to 59. The Senate amended it, but afterward receded from
the amendment, and thus the measure came before Mr. Lincoln on July 4,
1864. Congress was to adjourn at noon on that day, and he was at the
Capitol, signing bills, when this one was brought to him. He laid it
aside. Zachariah Chandler, senator from Michigan, a dictatorial
gentleman and somewhat of the busybody order, was watchfully standing
by, and upon observing this action, he asked Mr. Lincoln, with some show
of feeling, whether he was not going to sign that bill. Mr. Lincoln
replied that it was a "matter of too much importance to be swallowed in
that way." Mr. Chandler warned him that a veto would be very damaging at
the Northwest, and said: "The important point is that one prohibiting
slavery in the reconstructed States." "This is the point," said Mr.
Lincoln, "on which I doubt the authority of Congress to act." "It is no
more than you have done yourself," said the senator. "I conceive,"
replied Mr. Lincoln, "that I may in an emergency do things on military
grounds which cannot be done constitutionally by Congress." A few
moments later he remarked to the members of the cabinet: "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.... This
bill and the position of these gentlemen seem to me, in asserting that
the insurrectionary States are no longer in the Union, to make the fatal
admission that States, whenever they please, may of their own motion
dissolve their connection with the Union. Now we cannot survive that
admission, I am convinced. If that be true, I am not President; these
gentlemen are not Congress. I have laboriously endeavored to avoid that
question ever since it first began to be mooted.... It was to obviate
this question that I earnestly favored the movement for an amendment to
the Constitution abolishing slavery.... I thought it much better, if it
were possible, to restore the Union without the necessity for a violent
quarrel among its friends as to whether certain States have been in or
out of the Union during the war,--a merely metaphysical question, and
one unnecessary to be forced into discussion."[58] So the bill remained
untouched at his side.

A few days after the adjournment, having then decided not to sign the
bill, he issued a proclamation in which he said concerning it, that he
was "unprepared by a formal approval of [it] to be inflexibly committed
to any single plan of restoration;" that he was also "unprepared to
declare that the free-state constitutions and governments, already
adopted and installed in Arkansas and Louisiana, [should] be set aside
and held for naught, thereby repelling and discouraging the loyal
citizens, who have set up the same, as to further effort;" also that he
was unprepared to "declare a constitutional competency in Congress to
abolish slavery in the States." Yet he also said that he was fully
satisfied that the system proposed in the bill was "_one_ very proper
plan" for the loyal people of any State to adopt, and that he should be
ready to aid in such adoption upon any opportunity. In a word, his
objection to the bill lay chiefly in the fact that it established one
single and exclusive process for reconstruction. The rigid exclusiveness
seemed to him a serious error. Upon his part, in putting forth his own
plan, he had taken much pains distinctly to keep out this
characteristic, and to have it clearly understood that his proposition
was not designed as "a procrustean bed, to which exact conformity was to
be indispensable;" it was not _the only_ method, but only _a_ method.

So soon as it was known that the President would not sign the bill, a
vehement cry of wrath broke from all its more ardent friends. H.W. Davis
and B.F. Wade, combative men, and leaders in their party, who expected
their opinion to be respected, published in the New York "Tribune" an
address "To the Supporters of the Government." In unbridled language
they charged "encroachments of the executive on the authority of
Congress." They even impugned the honesty of the President's purpose in
words of direct personal insult; for they said: "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
[Louisiana or Arkansas], a sinister light will be cast on [his]
motives." They alleged that "a more studied outrage on the legislative
authority of the people has never been perpetrated." They stigmatized
this "rash and fatal act" as "a blow at the friends of the
administration, at the rights of humanity, and at the principles of
republican government." They warned Mr. Lincoln that, if he wished the
support of Congress, he must "confine himself 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
they really meant what they said, or any considerable part of it, they
would have been obliged to vote "Guilty" had the House of
Representatives seen fit to put these newspaper charges of theirs into
the formal shape of articles of impeachment against the President.

To whatever "friends" Mr. Lincoln might have dealt a "blow," it is
certain that these angry gentlemen, whether "friends" or otherwise, were
dealing him a very severe blow at a very critical time; and if its
hurtfulness was diminished by the very fury and extravagance of their
invective, they at least were entitled to no credit for the salvation
thus obtained. They were exerting all their powerful influence to
increase the chance, already alarmingly great, of making a Democrat the
next President of the United States. Nevertheless Mr. Lincoln, with his
wonted imperturbable fixedness when he had reached a conviction, did not
modify his position in the slightest degree.

Before long this especial explosion spent its force, and thereafter very
fortunately the question smouldered during the rest of Mr. Lincoln's
lifetime, and only burst forth into fierce flame immediately after his
death, when it became more practical and urgent as a problem of the
actually present time. The last words, however, which he spoke in
public, dealt with the matter. It was on the evening of April 11, and he
was addressing in Washington a great concourse of citizens who had
gathered to congratulate him upon the brilliant military successes, then
just achieved, which insured the immediate downfall of the Confederacy.
In language as noteworthy for moderation as that of his assailants had
been for extravagance, he then reviewed his course concerning
reconstruction and gave his reasons for still believing that he had
acted for the best. Admitting that much might justly be said against the
reorganized government of Louisiana, he explained why he thought that
nevertheless it should not be rejected. Concede, he said, that it is to
what it should be only what the egg is to the fowl, "we shall sooner
have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it." He conceived
that the purpose of the people might be fairly stated to be the
restoration of the proper practical relations between the seceded
States and the Union, and he therefore argued that the question properly
took this shape: Whether Louisiana could "be brought into proper
practical relation with the Union _sooner_ by _sustaining_ or by
_discarding_ her new state government."[59]

By occurrences befalling almost immediately after Mr. Lincoln's death
his opinions were again drawn into debate, when unfortunately he could
neither explain nor develop them further than he had done. One of the
important events of the war was the conference held on March 28, 1865,
at Hampton Roads, between the President, General Grant, General Sherman,
and Admiral Porter, and at which no other person was present. It is
sufficiently agreed that the two generals then declared that one great
final battle must yet take place; and that thereupon Mr. Lincoln, in
view of the admitted fact that the collapse of the rebellion was
inevitably close at hand, expressed great aversion and pain at the
prospect of utterly useless bloodshed, and asked whether it could not by
some means be avoided. It is also tolerably certain that Mr. Lincoln
gave very plainly to be understood by his remarks, and also as usual by
a story, his desire that Jefferson Davis and a few other of the leading
rebels should not be captured, but rather should find it possible to
escape from the country. It is in other ways well known that he had
already made up his mind not to conclude the war with a series of
hangings after the historic European fashion of dealing with traitors.
He preferred, however, to evade rather than to encounter the problem of
disposing of such embarrassing captives, and a road for them out of the
country would be also a road for him out of a difficulty. What else was
said on this occasion, though it soon became the basis of important
action, is not known with accuracy; but it may be regarded as beyond a
doubt that, in a general way, Mr. Lincoln took a very liberal tone
concerning the terms and treatment to be accorded to the rebels in the
final arrangement of the surrendering, which all saw to be close at
hand. It is beyond doubt that he spoke, throughout the conference, in
the spirit of forgetting and forgiving immediately and almost entirely.

From this interview General Sherman went back to his army, and received
no further instructions afterward, until, on April 18, he established
with General Johnston the terms on which the remaining Confederate
forces should be disbanded. This "Memorandum or basis of agreement,"[60]
then entered into by him, stipulated for "the recognition by the
executive of the United States, of the several state governments, on
their officers and legislatures taking the oaths prescribed by the
Constitution of the United States;" also that the inhabitants of the
Southern States should "be guaranteed, so far as the executive can,
their political rights and franchises, as well as their rights of person
and property;" also that the government would not "disturb any of the
people by reason of the late war," if they should dwell quiet for the
future; and, in short, that there should be "a general amnesty," so far
as it was within the power of the executive of the United States to
grant it, upon the return of the South to a condition of peace.

No sooner were these engagements reported in Washington than they were
repudiated. However they might have accorded with, or might have
transcended, the sentiments of him who had been president only a few
days before, they by no means accorded with the views of Andrew Johnson,
who was president at that time, and still less with the views of the
secretary of war, who well represented the vengeful element of the
country. Accordingly Mr. Stanton at once annulled them by an order,
which he followed up by a bulletin containing ten reasons in support of
the order. This document was immediately published in the newspapers,
and was so vituperative and insulting towards Sherman[61] that the
general, who naturally did not feel himself a fitting object for
insolence at this season of his fresh military triumphs, soon afterward
showed his resentment; at the grand parade of his army, in Washington,
he conspicuously declined, in the presence of the President and the
notabilities of the land, to shake the hand which Secretary Stanton did
not hesitate then and there to extend to him,--for Stanton had that
peculiar and unusual form of meanness which endeavors to force a
civility after an insult. But however General Sherman might feel about
it, his capitulation had been revoked, and another conference became
necessary between the two generals, which was followed a little later by
still another between Generals Schofield and Johnston. At these meetings
the terms which had been established between Generals Grant and Lee were
substantially repeated, and by this "military convention" the war came
to a formal end on April 26, 1865.

By this course of events General Sherman was, of course, placed in a
very uncomfortable position, and he defended himself by alleging that
the terms which he had made were in accurate conformity with the
opinions, wishes, and programme expressed by Mr. Lincoln on March 28. He
reiterates this assertion strongly and distinctly in his "Memoirs," and
quotes in emphatic corroboration Admiral Porter's account of that
interview.[62] The only other witness who could be heard on this point
was General Grant; he never gave his recollection of the expressions of
President Lincoln concerning the matters in dispute; but on April 21 he
did write to General Sherman that, after having carefully read the terms
accorded to Johnston he felt satisfied that they "could not possibly be
approved."[63] He did not, however, say whether or not they seemed to
him to contravene the policy of the President, as he had heard or
understood that policy to be laid down in the famous interview. In the
obscurity which wraps this matter, individual opinions find ample room
to wander; it is easy to believe that what General Sherman undertook to
arrange was in reasonable accordance with the broad purposes of the
President; but it certainly is not easy to believe that the President
ever intended that so many, so momentous, and such complex affairs
should be conclusively disposed of, with all the honorable sacredness
attendant upon military capitulations, by a few hasty strokes of General
Sherman's pen. The comprehensiveness of this brief and sudden document
of surrender was appalling! Mr. Lincoln had never before shown any
inclination to depute to others so much of his own discretionary
authority; his habit was quite the other way.

It is not worth while to discuss much the merits or demerits of
President Lincoln's schemes for reconstruction. They had been only
roughly and imperfectly blocked out at the time of his death; and in
presenting them he repeatedly stated that he did not desire to rule out
other schemes which might be suggested; on the contrary, he distinctly
stated his approval of the scheme developed in the bill introduced by
Senator Davis and passed by Congress. Reconstruction, as it was actually
conducted later on, was wretchedly bungled, and was marked chiefly by
bitterness in disputation and by clumsiness in practical arrangements,
which culminated in that miserable disgrace known as the regime of the
"carpet-baggers." How far Lincoln would have succeeded in saving the
country from these humiliating processes, no one can say; but that he
would have strenuously disapproved much that was done is not open to
reasonable doubt. On the other hand, it is by no means certain that his
theories, at least so far as they had been developed up to the time of
his death, either could have been, or ought to have been carried out.
This seems to be generally agreed. Perhaps they were too liberal;
perhaps he confided too much in a sudden change of heart, an immediate
growth of loyalty, among persons of whom nearly all were still
embittered, still believed that it was in a righteous cause that they
had suffered a cruel defeat.

But if the feasibility of Mr. Lincoln's plan is matter of fruitless
disputation, having to do only with fancied probabilities, and having
never been put to the proof of trial, at least no one will deny that it
was creditable to his nature. A strange freak of destiny arranged that
one of the most obstinate, sanguinary wars of history should be
conducted by one of the most humane men who ever lived, and that blood
should run in rivers at the order of a ruler to whom bloodshed was
repugnant, and to whom the European idol of military glory seemed a
symbol of barbarism. During the war Lincoln's chief purpose was the
restoration of national unity, and his day-dream was that it should be
achieved as a sincere and hearty reunion in feeling as well as in fact.
As he dwelt with much earnest aspiration upon this consummation, he
perhaps came to imagine a possibility of its instant accomplishment,
which did not really exist. His longing for a genuinely reunited country
was not a pious form of expression, but an intense sentiment, and an end
which he definitely expected to bring to pass. Not improbably this frame
of mind induced him to advance too fast and too far, in order to meet
with welcoming hand persons who were by no means in such a condition of
feeling that they could grasp that hand in good faith, or could fulfill
at once the obligations which such a reconciliation would have imposed
upon them, as matter of honor, in all their civil and political
relations. The reaction involved in passing from a state of hostilities
to a state of peace, the deep gratification of seeing so mortal a
struggle determined in favor of the national life, may have carried him
somewhat beyond the limitations set by the hard facts of the case, and
by the human nature alike of the excited conquerors and the impenitent
conquered. On the other hand, however, it is dangerous to say that Mr.
Lincoln made a mistake in reading the popular feeling or in determining
a broad policy. If he did, he did so for the first time. Among those
suppositions in which posterity is free to indulge, it is possible to
fancy that if he, whom all now admit to have been the best friend of the
South living in April, 1865, had continued to live longer, he might have
alleviated, if he could not altogether have prevented, the writing of
some very painful chapters in the history of the United States.

NOTE.--In writing this chapter, I have run somewhat ahead of the
narrative in point of time; but I hope that the desirability of treating
the topic connectedly, as a whole, will be obvious to the reader.


[55] These appointments were as follows: Andrew Johnson, Tennessee,
February 23, 1862; Edward Stanley, North Carolina, May 19, 1862; Col.
G.F. Shepley, Louisiana, June 10, 1862.

[56] So said Andrew Johnson, military governor of Tennessee, March 18,

[57] In a contest in which emancipation was indirectly at stake, in
Maryland, he expressed his wish that "all loyal qualified voters" should
have the privilege of voting.

[58] N. and H. ix. 120-122, quoting from the diary of Mr. John Hay.

[59] He had used similar language in a letter to General Canby, December
12, 1864; N. and H. ix. 448; also in his letter to Trumbull concerning
the Louisiana senators, January 9, 1865; _ibid._ 454. Colonel McClure,
on the strength of conversations with Lincoln, says that his single
purpose was "the speedy and cordial restoration of the dissevered
States. He cherished no resentment against the South, and every theory
of reconstruction that he ever conceived or presented was eminently
peaceful and looking solely to reattaching the estranged people to the
government." _Lincoln and Men of War-Times_, 223.

[60] Sherman, _Memoirs_, ii. 356.

[61] Grant stigmatizes this as "cruel and harsh treatment ...
unnecessarily ... inflicted," _Mem._ ii. 534, and as "infamous," Badeau,
_Milit. Hist. of Grant_, iii. 636 n.

[62] Sherman, _Memoirs_, ii. 328. The admiral says that, if Lincoln had
lived, he "would have shouldered all the responsibility" for Sherman's
action, and Secretary Stanton would have "issued no false telegraphic
dispatches." See also Senator Sherman's corroborative statement;
McClure, _Lincoln and Men of War-Times_, 219 n.

[63] Sherman, _Memoirs_, ii. 360.



In a period of fervid political feeling it was natural that those
Republicans who were dissatisfied with President Lincoln should begin,
long before the close of his term of office, to seek consolation by
arrangements for replacing him by a successor more to their taste.
Expressions of this purpose became definite in the autumn of 1863. Mr.
Arnold says that the coming presidential election was expected to bring
grave danger, if not even anarchy and revolution.[64] Amid existing
circumstances, an opposition confined to the legitimate antagonism of
the Democracy would, of course, have brought something more than the
customary strain inherent in ordinary times in government by party; and
it was unfortunate that, besides this, an undue gravity was imported
into the crisis by the intestinal dissensions of the Republicans
themselves. It seemed by no means impossible that these disagreements
might give to the friends of peace by compromise a victory which they
really ought not to have. Republican hostility to Mr. Lincoln was
unquestionably very bitter in quality, whatever it might be in quantity.
It was based in part upon the discontent of the radicals and extremists,
in part upon personal irritation. In looking back upon those times there
is now a natural tendency to measure this opposition by the weakness
which it ultimately displayed when, later on, it was swept out of sight
by the overwhelming current of the popular will. But this weakness was
by no means so visible in the winter of 1863-64. On the contrary, the
cry for a change then seemed to come from every quarter, and to come
loudly; for it was echoed back and forth by the propagandists and
politicians, and as these persons naturally did most of the talking and
writing in the country, so they made a show delusively out of proportion
to their following among the people.

The dislike toward the President flourished chiefly in two places, and
with two distinct bodies of men. One of these places was Missouri, which
will be spoken of later on. The other was Washington, where the class of
"public men" was for the most part very ill-disposed towards him.[65]
Mr. Julian, himself a prominent malcontent, bears his valuable testimony
to the extent of the disaffection, saying that, of the "more earnest and
thorough-going Republicans in both Houses of Congress, probably not one
in ten really favored"[66] the renomination of Mr. Lincoln. In fact,
there were few of them whom the President had not offended. They had
brought to him their schemes and their policies, had made their
arguments and demands, and after all had found the President keeping his
counsel to himself and acting according to his own judgment. This seemed
exasperatingly unjustifiable in a country where anybody might happen to
be president without being a whit abler than any other one who had not
happened to fall into the office. In a word, the politicians had, and
hated, a master. Mr. Chase betrayed this when he complained that there
was no "administration, in the true sense of the word;" by which he
understood, "a president conferring with his cabinet and _taking their
united judgments_." The existence of that strange moat which seems to
isolate the capital and the political coteries therein gathered, and to
shut out all knowledge of the feelings of the constituent people, is
notorious, and certainly was never made more conspicuous than in this
business of selecting the Republican candidate for the campaign of 1864.
When Congress came together the political scheming received a strong
impetus. Everybody seemed to be opposed to Mr. Lincoln. Thaddeus
Stevens, the impetuous leader of the House of Representatives, declared
that, in that body, Arnold of Illinois was the only member who was a
political friend of the President; and the story goes that the President
himself sadly admitted the fact. Visitors at Washington, who got their
impressions from the talk there, concluded that Mr. Lincoln's chance of
a second term was small.

This opposition, which had the capital for its headquarters and the
politicians for its constituents, found a candidate ready for use.
Secretary Chase was a victim to the dread disease of presidential
ambition. With the usual conventional expressions of modesty he admitted
the fact. Thereupon general talk soon developed into political
organization; and in January, 1864, a "Committee of prominent Senators,
Representatives, and Citizens," having formally obtained his approval,
set about promoting his interests in business-like fashion.

The President soon knew what was going forward; but he gave no sign of
disquietude; on the contrary, he only remarked that he hoped the country
would never have a worse president than Mr. Chase would be. Not that he
was indifferent to renomination and reelection. That would have been
against nature. His mind, his soul, all that there was of force and
feeling in him had been expended to the uttermost in the cause and the
war which were still pending. At the end of that desperate road, along
which he had dared stubbornly and against so much advice to lead the
nation, he seemed now to discern the goal. That he should be permitted
to guide to the end in that journey, and that his judgment and
leadership should receive the crown of success and approval, was a
reward, almost a right, which he must intensely desire and which he
could not lose without a disappointment that outruns expression. Yet he
was so self-contained that, if he had cared not at all about the issue,
his conduct would have been much the same that it was.

[Illustration: Isaac N. Arnold]

Besides his temperament, other causes promoted this tranquillity. What
Mr. Lincoln would have been had his career fallen in ordinary times,
amid commonplace political business, it is difficult to say. The world
never saw him as the advocate or assailant of a tariff, or other such
affair. From the beginning he had bound himself fast to a great moral
purpose, which later became united with the preservation of the national
life. Having thus deliberately exercised his judgment in a question of
this kind, he seemed ever after content to have intrusted his fortunes
to the movement, and always to be free from any misgiving as to its
happy conclusion. Besides this, it is probable that he accurately
measured the narrow limits of Mr. Chase's strength. No man ever more
shrewdly read the popular mind. A subtle line of communication seemed to
run between himself and the people. Nor did he know less well the
politicians. His less sagacious friends noted with surprise and anxiety
that he let the work of opposition go on unchecked. In due time,
however, the accuracy of his foresight was vindicated; for when the
secretary's friends achieved a sufficient impetus they tumbled over, in
manner following:--

Mr. Pomeroy, senator from Kansas, was vindictive because the President
had refused to take his side in certain quarrels between himself and his
colleague. Accordingly, early in 1864, he issued a circular, stating
that the efforts making for Mr. Lincoln's nomination required counter
action on the part of those unconditional friends of the Union who
disapproved the policy of the administration. He said that Mr. Lincoln's
reelection was "practically impossible;" that it was also undesirable,
on account of the President's "manifest tendency towards compromises and
temporary expedients of policy," and for other reasons. Therefore, he
said, Mr. Chase's friends had established "connections in all the
States," and now invited "the hearty cooeperation of all those in favor
of the speedy restoration of the Union upon the basis of universal
freedom." The document, designed to be secret, of course was quickly
printed in the newspapers.[67] This was awkward; and Mr. Chase at once
wrote to the President a letter, certainly entirely fair, in which he
expressed his willingness to resign. Mr. Lincoln replied kindly. He said
that he had heard of the Pomeroy circular, but had not read it, and did
not expect to do so. In fact, he said, "I have known just as little of
these things as my friends have allowed me to know." As to the proposed
resignation, that, he said, "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."
There was throughout a quiet undertone of indifference to the whole
business, which was significant enough to have puzzled the secretary,
had he noticed it; for it was absolutely impossible that Mr. Lincoln
should be really indifferent to dangerous competition. The truth was
that the facts of the situation lay with the President, and that the
enterprise, which was supposed by its friends to be only in its early
stage, was really on the verge of final disposition. Mr. Chase had said
decisively that he would not be a candidate unless his own State, Ohio,
should prefer him. To enlighten him on this point the Republican members
of the Ohio legislature, being in much closer touch with the people than
were the more dignified statesmen at Washington, met on February 25, and
in the name of the people and the soldiers of their State renominated
Mr. Lincoln. The nail was driven a stroke deeper into the coffin by
Rhode Island. Although Governor Sprague was Mr. Chase's son-in-law, the
legislature of that State also made haste to declare for Mr. Lincoln. So
the movement in behalf of Mr. Chase came suddenly and utterly to an end.
Early in May he wrote that he wished no further consideration to be

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