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

Abraham Lincoln by George Haven Putnam

Part 1 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download Abraham Lincoln pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.


The People's Leader in the Struggle for National Existence



Author of
"Books and Their Makers in the Middle Ages,"
"The Censorship of the Church," etc.

With the above is included the speech delivered by Lincoln in New York,
February 27, 1860; with an introduction by Charles C. Nott, late Chief
Justice of the Court of Claims, and annotations by Judge Nott and by
Cephas Brainerd of New York Bar.



The twelfth of February, 1909, was the hundredth anniversary of the
birth of Abraham Lincoln. In New York, as in other cities and towns
throughout the Union, the day was devoted to commemoration exercises,
and even in the South, in centres like Atlanta (the capture of which in
1864 had indicated the collapse of the cause of the Confederacy),
representative Southerners gave their testimony to the life and
character of the great American.

The Committee in charge of the commemoration in New York arranged for a
series of addresses to be given to the people of the city and it was my
privilege to be selected as one of the speakers. It was an indication of
the rapid passing away of the generation which had had to do with the
events of the War, that the list of orators, forty-six in all, included
only four men who had ever seen the hero whose life and character they
were describing.

In writing out later, primarily for the information of children and
grandchildren, my own address (which had been delivered without notes),
I found myself so far absorbed in the interest of the subject and in the
recollections of the War period, that I was impelled to expand the paper
so that it should present a more comprehensive study of the career and
character of Lincoln than it had been possible to attempt within the
compass of an hour's talk, and should include also references, in
outline, to the constitutional struggle that had preceded the contest
and to the chief events of the War itself with which the great War
President had been most directly concerned. The monograph, therefore,
while in the form of an essay or historical sketch, retains in certain
portions the character of the spoken address with which it originated.

It is now brought into print in the hope that it may be found of
interest for certain readers of the younger generation and may serve as
an incentive to the reading of the fuller histories of the War period,
and particularly of the best of the biographies of the great American
whom we honour as the People's leader.

I have been fortunate enough to secure (only, however, after this
monograph had been put into type) a copy of the pamphlet printed in
September, 1860, by the Young Men's Republican Union of New York, in
which is presented the text, as revised by the speaker, of the address
given by Lincoln at the Cooper Institute in February,--the address which
made him President.

This edition of the speech, prepared for use in the Presidential
campaign, contains a series of historical annotations by Cephas Brainerd
of the New York Bar and Charles C. Nott, who later rendered further
distinguished service to his country as Colonel of the 176th Regiment,
N.Y.S. Volunteers, and (after the close of the War) as chief justice of
the Court of Claims.

These young lawyers (not yet leaders of the Bar) appear to have realised
at once that the speech was to constitute the platform upon which the
issues of the Presidential election were to be contested. Not being
prophets, they were, of course, not in a position to know that the same
statements were to represent the contentions of the North upon which the
Civil War was fought out.

I am able to include, with the scholarly notes of the two lawyers, a
valuable introduction to the speech, written (as late as February, 1908)
by Judge Nott; together with certain letters which in February, 1860,
passed between him (as the representative of the Committee) and Mr.

The introduction and the letters have never before been published, and
(as is the case also with the material of the notes) are now in print
only in the present volume.

I judge, therefore, that I may be doing a service to the survivors of
the generation of 1860 and also to the generations that have grown up
since the War, by utilising the occasion of the publication of my own
little monograph for the reprinting of these notes in a form for
permanent preservation and for reference on the part of students of the
history of the Republic.


NEW YORK, April 2, 1909.
























On the twelfth of February, 1909, the hundredth anniversary of the birth
of Abraham Lincoln, Americans gathered together, throughout the entire
country, to honour the memory of a great American, one who may come to
be accepted as the greatest of Americans. It was in every way fitting
that this honour should be rendered to Abraham Lincoln and that, on such
commemoration day, his fellow-citizens should not fail to bear also in
honoured memory the thousands of other good Americans who like Lincoln
gave their lives for their country and without whose loyal devotion
Lincoln's leadership would have been in vain.

The chief purpose, however, as I understand, of a memorial service is
not so much to glorify the dead as to enlighten and inspire the living.
We borrow the thought of his own Gettysburg address (so eloquent in its
exquisite simplicity) when we say that no words of ours can add any
glory to the name of Abraham Lincoln. His work is accomplished. His fame
is secure. It is for us, his fellow-citizens, for the older men who had
personal touch with the great struggle in which Lincoln was the nation's
leader, for the younger men who have grown up in the generation since
the War, and for the children by whom are to be handed down through the
new century the great traditions of the Republic, to secure from the
life and character of our great leader incentive, illumination, and
inspiration to good citizenship, in order that Lincoln and his
fellow-martyrs shall not have died in vain.

It is possible within the limits of this paper simply to touch upon the
chief events and experiences in Lincoln's life. It has been my endeavour
to select those that were the most important in the forming or in the
expression of his character. The term "forming" is, however, not
adequate to indicate the development of a personality like Lincoln's. We
rather think of his sturdy character as having been _forged_ into its
final form through the fiery furnace of fierce struggle, as hammered
out under the blows of difficulties and disasters, and as pressed
beneath the weight of the nation's burdens, until was at last produced
the finely tempered nature of the man we know, the Lincoln of history,
that exquisite combination of sweetness of nature and strength of
character. The type is described in Schiller's Song of the Founding of
the Bell:

Denn, wo das strenge mit dem zarten,
Wo mildes sich und starkes paarten,
Da giebt es einen guten Klang.

There is a tendency to apply the term "miraculous" to the career of
every hero, and in a sense such description is, of course, true. The
life of every man, however restricted its range, is something of a
miracle; but the course of a single life, like that of humanity, is
assuredly based on a development that proceeds from a series of
causations. Holmes says that the education of a man begins two centuries
before his birth. We may recall in this connection that Lincoln came of
good stock. It is true that his parents belonged to the class of poor
whites; but the Lincoln family can be traced from an eastern county of
England (we might hope for the purpose of genealogical harmony that the
county was Lincolnshire) to Hingham in Massachusetts, and by way of
Pennsylvania and Virginia to Kentucky. The grandfather of our Abraham
was killed, while working in his field on the Kentucky farm, by
predatory Indians shooting from the cover of the dense forest. Abraham's
father, Thomas, at that time a boy, was working in the field where his
father was murdered. Such an incident in Kentucky simply repeated what
had been going on just a century before in Massachusetts, at Deerfield
and at dozens of other settlements on the edge of the great forest which
was the home of the Indians. During the hundred years, the frontier of
the white man's domain had been moved a thousand miles to the south-west
and, as ever, there was still friction at the point of contact.

The record of the boyhood of our Lincoln has been told in dozens of
forms and in hundreds of monographs. We know of the simplicity, of the
penury, of the family life in the little one-roomed log hut that formed
the home for the first ten years of Abraham's life. We know of his
little group of books collected with toil and self-sacrifice. The
series, after some years of strenuous labour, comprised the Bible,
_Aesop's Fables_, a tattered copy of Euclid's _Geometry_, and Weems's
_Life of Washington_. The _Euclid_ he had secured as a great prize from
the son of a neighbouring farmer. Abraham had asked the boy the meaning
of the word "demonstrate." His friend said that he did not himself know,
but that he knew the word was in a book which he had at school, and he
hunted up the _Euclid_. After some bargaining, the _Euclid_ came into
Abraham's possession. In accordance with his practice, the whole
contents were learned by heart. Abraham's later opponents at the Bar or
in political discussion came to realise that he understood the meaning
of the word "demonstrate." In fact, references to specific problems of
Euclid occurred in some of his earlier speeches at the Bar.

A year or more later, when the Lincoln family had crossed the river to
Indiana, there was added to the "library" a copy of the revised Statutes
of the State. The Weems's _Washington_ had been borrowed by Lincoln from
a neighbouring farmer. The boy kept it at night under his pillow, and on
the occasion of a storm, the water blew in through the chinks of the
logs that formed the wall of the cabin, drenching the pillow and the
head of the boy (a small matter in itself) and wetting and almost
spoiling the book. This was a grave misfortune. Lincoln took his
damaged volume to the owner and asked how he could make payment for the
loss. It was arranged that the boy should put in three days' work
shucking corn on the farm. "Will that work pay for the book or only for
the damage?" asked the boy. It was agreed that the labour of three days
should be considered sufficient for the purchase of the book.

The text of this biography and the words of each valued volume in the
little "library" were absorbed into the memory of the reader. It was his
practice when going into the field for work, to take with him
written-out paragraphs from the book that he had at the moment in mind
and to repeat these paragraphs between the various chores or between the
wood-chopping until every page was committed by heart. Paper was scarce
and dear and for the boy unattainable. He used for his copying bits of
board shaved smooth with his jack-knife. This material had the advantage
that when the task of one day had been mastered, a little labour with
the jack-knife prepared the surface of the board for the work of the
next day. As I read this incident in Lincoln's boyhood, I was reminded
of an experience of my own in Louisiana. It happened frequently during
the campaign of 1863 that our supplies were cut off through the capture
of our waggon trains by that active Confederate commander, General
Taylor. More than once, we were short of provisions, and, in one
instance, a supply of stationery for which the adjutants of the brigade
had been waiting, was carried off to serve the needs of our opponents.
We tore down a convenient and unnecessary shed and utilised from the
roof the shingles, the clean portions of which made an admirable
substitute for paper. For some days, the morning reports of the brigade
were filed on shingles.

Lincoln's work as a farm-hand was varied by two trips down the river to
New Orleans. The opportunity had been offered to the young man by the
neighbouring store-keeper, Gentry, to take part in the trip of a
flat-boat which carried the produce of the county to New Orleans, to be
there sold in exchange for sugar or rum. Lincoln was, at the time of
these trips, already familiar with certain of the aspects and conditions
of slavery, but the inspection of the slave-market in New Orleans
stamped upon his sensitive imagination a fresh and more sombre picture,
and made a lasting impression of the iniquity and horror of the
institution. From the time of his early manhood, Lincoln hated slavery.
What was exceptional, however, in his state of mind was that, while
abominating the institution, he was able to give a sympathetic
understanding to the opinions and to the prejudices of the slave-owners.
In all his long fight against slavery as the curse both of the white and
of the black, and as the great obstacle to the natural and wholesome
development of the nation, we do not at any time find a trace of
bitterness against the men of the South who were endeavouring to
maintain and to extend the system.

It was of essential importance for the development of Lincoln as a
political leader, first for his State, and later in the contest that
became national, that he should have possessed an understanding, which
was denied to many of the anti-slavery leaders, of the actual nature,
character, and purpose of the men against whom he was contending. It
became of larger importance when Lincoln was directing from Washington
the policy of the national administration that he should have a
sympathetic knowledge of the problems of the men of the Border States
who with the outbreak of the War had been placed in a position of
exceptional difficulty, and that he should have secured and retained the
confidence of these men. It seems probable that if the War President
had been a man of Northern birth and Northern prejudices, if he had been
one to whom the wider, the more patient and sympathetic view of these
problems had been impossible or difficult, the Border States could not
have been saved to the Union. It is probable that the support given to
the cause of the North by the sixty thousand or seventy thousand loyal
recruits from Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, and Virginia, may
even have proved the deciding factor in turning the tide of events. The
nation's leader for the struggle seems to have been secured through a
process of natural selection as had been the case a century earlier with
Washington. We may recall that Washington died but ten years before
Lincoln was born; and from the fact that each leader was at hand when
the demand came for his service, and when without such service the
nation might have been pressed to destruction, we may grasp the hope
that in time of need the nation will always be provided with the leader
who can meet the requirement.

After Lincoln returned from New Orleans, he secured employment for a
time in the grocery or general store of Gentry, and when he was
twenty-two years of age, he went into business with a partner, some
twenty years older than himself, in carrying on such a store. He had so
impressed himself upon the confidence of his neighbours that, while he
was absolutely without resources, there was no difficulty in his
borrowing the money required for his share of the capital. The
undertaking did not prove a success. Lincoln had no business experience
and no particular business capacity, while his partner proved to be
untrustworthy. The partner decamped, leaving Lincoln to close up the
business and to take the responsibility for the joint indebtedness. It
was seventeen years before Lincoln was able, from his modest earnings as
a lawyer, to clear off this indebtedness. The debt became outlawed in
six years' time but this could not affect Lincoln's sense of the
obligation. After the failure of the business, Lincoln secured work as
county surveyor. In this, he was following the example of his
predecessor Washington, with whose career as a surveyor the youngster
who knew Weems's biography by heart, was of course familiar. His new
occupation took him through the county and brought him into personal
relations with a much wider circle than he had known in the village of
New Salem, and in his case, the personal relation counted for much; the
history shows that no one who knew Lincoln failed to be attracted by
him or to be impressed with the fullest confidence in the man's
integrity of purpose and of action.



In 1834, when he was twenty-five years old, Lincoln made his first
entrance into politics, presenting himself as candidate for the
Assembly. His defeat was not without compensations; he secured in his
own village or township, New Salem, no less than 208 out of the 211
votes cast. This prophet had honour with those who knew him. Two years
later, he tried again and this time with success. His journeys as a
surveyor had brought him into touch with, and into the confidence of,
enough voters throughout the county to secure the needed majority.

Lincoln's active work as a lawyer lasted from 1834 to 1860, or for about
twenty-six years. He secured in the cases undertaken by him a very large
proportion of successful decisions. Such a result is not entirely to be
credited to his effectiveness as an advocate. The first reason was that
in his individual work, that is to say, in the matters that were taken
up by himself rather than by his partner, he accepted no case in the
justice of which he did not himself have full confidence. As his fame as
an advocate increased, he was approached by an increasing number of
clients who wanted the advantage of the effective service of the young
lawyer and also of his assured reputation for honesty of statement and
of management. Unless, however, he believed in the case, he put such
suggestions to one side even at the time when the income was meagre and
when every dollar was of importance.

Lincoln's record at the Bar has been somewhat obscured by the value of
his public service, but as it comes to be studied, it is shown to have
been both distinctive and important. His law-books were, like those of
his original library, few, but whatever volumes he had of his own and
whatever he was able to place his hands upon from the shelves of his
friends, he mastered thoroughly. His work at the Bar gave evidence of
his exceptional powers of reasoning while it was itself also a large
influence in the development of such powers. The counsel who practised
with and against him, the judges before whom his arguments were
presented, and the members of the juries, the hard-headed working
citizens of the State, seem to have all been equally impressed with the
exceptional fairness with which the young lawyer presented not only his
own case but that of his opponent. He had great tact in holding his
friends, in convincing those who did not agree with him, and in winning
over opponents; but he gave no futile effort to tasks which his judgment
convinced him would prove impossible. He never, says Horace Porter,
citing Lincoln's words, "wasted any time in trying to massage the back
of a political porcupine." "A man might as well," says Lincoln,
"undertake to throw fleas across the barnyard with a shovel."

He had as a youngster won repute as a teller of dramatic stories, and
those who listened to his arguments in court were expecting to have his
words to the jury brightened and rendered for the moment more effective
by such stories. The hearers were often disappointed in such
expectation. Neither at the Bar, nor, it may be said here, in his later
work as a political leader, did Lincoln indulge himself in the telling a
story for the sake of the story, nor for the sake of the laugh to be
raised by the story, nor for the momentary pleasure or possible
temporary advantage of the discomfiture of the opponent. The story was
used, whether in law or in politics, only when it happened to be the
shortest and most effective method of making clear an issue or of
illustrating a statement. In later years, when he had upon him the
terrible burdens of the great struggle, Lincoln used stories from time
to time as a vent to his feelings. The impression given was that by an
effort of will and in order to keep his mind from dwelling too
continuously upon the tremendous problems upon which he was engaged, he
would, by the use of some humorous reminiscence, set his thoughts in a
direction as different as possible from that of his cares. A third and
very valuable use of the story which grew up in his Washington days was
to turn aside some persistent but impossible application; and to give to
the applicant, with the least risk of unnecessary annoyance to his
feelings, the "no" that was necessary. It is doubtless also the case
that, as has happened to other men gifted with humour, Lincoln's
reputation as a story-teller caused to be ascribed to him a great series
of anecdotes and incidents of one kind or another, some of which would
have been entirely outside of, and inconsistent with, his own standard
and his own method. There is the further and final word to be said about
Lincoln's stories, that they were entitled to the geometrical
commendation of "being neither too long nor too broad."

In 1846, Lincoln was elected to Congress as a Whig. The circle of
acquaintances whom he had made in the county as surveyor had widened out
with his work as a lawyer; he secured a unanimous nomination and was
elected without difficulty in a constituency comprising six counties. I
find in the record of the campaign the detail that Lincoln returned to
certain of his friends who had undertaken to find the funds for election
expenses, $199.90 out of the $200 subscribed.

In 1847, Lincoln was one of the group of Whigs in Congress who opposed
the Mexican War. These men took the ground that the war was one of
aggression and spoliation. Their views, which were quite prevalent
throughout New England, are effectively presented in Lowell's _Biglow
Papers._ When the army was once in the field, Lincoln was, however,
ready to give his Congressional vote for the fullest and most energetic
support. A year or more later, he worked actively for the election of
General Taylor. He took the ground that the responsibility for the war
rested not with the soldiers who had fought it to a successful
conclusion, but with the politicians who had devised the original
land-grabbing scheme.

In 1849, we find Lincoln's name connected with an invention for lifting
vessels over shoals. His sojourn on the Sangamon River and his memory of
the attempt, successful for the moment but ending in failure, to make
the river available for steamboats, had attracted his attention to the
problem of steering river vessels over shoals.

In 1864, when I was campaigning on the Red River in Louisiana, I noticed
with interest a device that had been put into shape for the purpose of
lifting river steamers over shoals. This device took the form of stilts
which for the smaller vessels (and only the smaller steamers could as a
rule be managed in this way) were fastened on pivots from the upper deck
on the outside of the hull and were worked from the deck with a force of
two or three men at each stilt. The difficulty on the Red River was that
the Rebel sharp-shooters from the banks made the management of the
stilts irregular.

In 1854, Douglas carried through Congress the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. This
bill repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and cancelled also the
provisions of the series of compromises of 1850. Its purpose was to
throw open for settlement and for later organisation as Slave States the
whole territory of the North-west from which, under the Missouri
Compromise, slavery had been excluded. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill not only
threw open a great territory to slavery but re-opened the whole slavery
discussion. The issues that were brought to the front in the discussions
about this bill, and in the still more bitter contests after the passage
of the bill in regard to the admission of Kansas as a Slave State, were
the immediate precursors of the Civil War. The larger causes lay further
back, but the War would have been postponed for an indefinite period if
it had not been for the pressing on the part of the South for the right
to make Slave States throughout the entire territory of the country, and
for the readiness on the part of certain Democratic leaders of the
North, of whom Douglas was the chief, to accept this contention, and
through such expedients to gain, or to retain, political control for the
Democratic party.

In one of the long series of debates in Congress on the question of the
right to take slaves into free territory, a planter from South Carolina
drew an affecting picture of his relations with his old coloured
foster-mother, the "mammy" of the plantation. "Do you tell me," he said,
addressing himself to a Free-soil opponent, "that I, a free American
citizen, am not to be permitted, if I want to go across the Missouri
River, to take with me my whole home circle? Do you say that I must
leave my old 'Mammy' behind in South Carolina?" "Oh!" replied the
Westerner, "the trouble with you is not that you cannot take your
'Mammy' into this free territory, but that you are not to be at liberty
to sell her when you get her there."

Lincoln threw himself with full earnestness of conviction and ardour
into the fight to preserve for freedom the territory belonging to the
nation. In common with the majority of the Whig party, he held the
opinion that if slavery could be restricted to the States in which it
was already in existence, if no further States should be admitted into
the Union with the burden of slavery, the institution must, in the
course of a generation or two, die out. He was clear in his mind that
slavery was an enormous evil for the whites as well as for the blacks,
for the individual as for the nation. He had himself, as a young man,
been brought up to do toilsome manual labour. He would not admit that
there was anything in manual labour that ought to impair the respect of
the community for the labourer or the worker's respect for himself. Not
the least of the evils of slavery was, in his judgment, its inevitable
influence in bringing degradation upon labour and the labourer.

The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act made clear to the North that the
South would accept no limitations for slavery. The position of the
Southern leaders, in which they had the substantial backing of their
constituents, was that slaves were property and that the Constitution,
having guaranteed the protection of property to all the citizens of the
commonwealth, a slaveholder was deprived of his constitutional rights as
a citizen if his control of this portion of his property was in any way
interfered with or restricted. The argument in behalf of this extreme
Southern claim had been shaped most eloquently and most forcibly by John
C. Calhoun during the years between 1830 and 1850. The Calhoun opinion
was represented a few years later in the Presidential candidacy of John
C. Breckinridge. The contention of the more extreme of the Northern
opponents of slavery voters, whose spokesmen were William Lloyd
Garrison, Wendell Phillips, James G. Birney, Owen Lovejoy, and others,
was that the Constitution in so far as it recognised slavery (which it
did only by implication) was a compact with evil. They held that the
Fathers had been led into this compact unwittingly and without full
realisation of the responsibilities that they were assuming for the
perpetuation of a great wrong. They refused to accept the view that
later generations of American citizens were to be bound for an
indefinite period by this error of judgment on the part of the Fathers.
They proposed to get rid of slavery, as an institution incompatible with
the principles on which the Republic was founded. They pointed out that
under the Declaration of Independence all men had an equal right to
"life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and that there was no
limitation of this claim to men of white race. If it was not going to be
possible to argue slavery out of existence, these men preferred to have
the Union dissolved rather than to bring upon States like Massachusetts
a share of the responsibility for the wrong done to mankind and to
justice under the laws of South Carolina.

The Whig party, whose great leader, Henry Clay, had closed his life in
1852, just at the time when Lincoln was becoming prominent in politics,
held that all citizens were bound by the compact entered into by their
ancestors, first under the Articles of Confederation of 1783, and later
under the Constitution of 1789. Our ancestors had, for the purpose of
bringing about the organisation of the Union, agreed to respect the
institution of slavery in the States in which it existed. The Whigs of
1850, held, therefore, that in such of the Slave States as had been part
of the original thirteen, slavery was an institution to be recognised
and protected under the law of the land. They admitted, further, that
what their grandfathers had done in 1789, had been in a measure
confirmed by the action of their fathers in 1820. The Missouri
Compromise of 1820, in making clear that all States thereafter organised
north of the line thirty-six thirty were to be Free States, made clear
also that States south of that line had the privilege of coming into the
Union with the institution of slavery and that the citizens in these
newer Slave States should be assured of the same recognition and rights
as had been accorded to those of the original thirteen.

The Missouri Compromise permitted also the introduction of Missouri
itself into the Union as a Slave State (as a counterpoise to the State
of Maine admitted the same year), although almost the entire territory
of the State of Missouri was north of the latitude 36 deg. 30'.

We may recall that, under the Constitution, the States of the South,
while denying the suffrage to the negro, had secured the right to
include the negro population as a basis for their representation in the
lower House. In apportioning the representatives to the population, five
negroes were to be counted as the equivalent of three white men. The
passage, in 1854, of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the purpose of which was
to confirm the existence of slavery and to extend the institution
throughout the country, was carried in the House by thirteen votes. The
House contained at that time no less than twenty members representing
the negro population. The negroes were, therefore, in this instance
involuntarily made the instruments for strengthening the chains of their
own serfdom.

It was in 1854 that Lincoln first propounded the famous question, "Can
the nation endure half slave and half free?" This question, slightly
modified, became the keynote four years later of Lincoln's contention
against the Douglas theory of "squatter sovereignty." The organisation
of the Republican party dates from 1856. Various claims have been made
concerning the precise date and place at which were first presented the
statement of principles that constituted the final platform of the
party, and in regard to the men who were responsible for such statement.
At a meeting held as far back as July, 1854, at Jackson, Michigan, a
platform was adopted by a convention which had been brought together to
formulate opposition to any extension of slavery, and this Jackson
platform did contain the substance of the conclusions and certain of the
phrases which later were included in the Republican platform. In
January, 1856, Parke Godwin published in _Putnam's Monthly_, of which he
was political editor, an article outlining the necessary constitution of
the new party. This article gave a fuller expression than had thus far
been made of the views of the men who were later accepted as the leaders
of the Republican party. In May, 1856, Lincoln made a speech at
Bloomington, Illinois, setting forth the principles for the anti-slavery
campaign as they were understood by his group of Whigs. In this speech,
Lincoln speaks of "that perfect liberty for which our Southern
fellow-citizens are sighing, the liberty of making slaves of other
people"; and again, "It is the contention of Mr. Douglas, in his claim
for the rights of American citizens, that if _A_ sees fit to enslave
_B_, no other man shall have the right to object." Of this Bloomington
speech, Herndon says: "It was logic; it was pathos; it was enthusiasm;
it was justice, integrity, truth, and right. The words seemed to be set
ablaze by the divine fires of a soul maddened by a great wrong. The
utterance was hard, knotty, gnarly, backed with wrath."

From this time on, Lincoln was becoming known throughout the country as
one of the leaders in the new issues, able and ready to give time and
service to the anti-slavery fight and to the campaign work of the
Republican organisation. This political service interfered to some
extent with his work at the Bar, but he did not permit political
interests to stand in the way of any obligations that had been assumed
to his clients. He simply accepted fewer cases, and to this extent
reduced his very moderate earnings. In his work as a lawyer, he never
showed any particular capacity for increasing income or for looking
after his own business interests. It was his principle and his practice
to discourage litigation. He appears, during the twenty-five years in
which he was in active practice, to have made absolutely no enemies
among his professional opponents. He enjoyed an exceptional reputation
for the frankness with which he would accept the legitimate contentions
of his opponents or would even himself state their case. Judge David
Davis, before whom Lincoln had occasion during these years to practise,
says that the Court was always prepared to accept as absolutely fair and
substantially complete Lincoln's statement of the matters at issue.
Davis says it occasionally happened that Lincoln would supply some
consideration of importance on his opponent's side of the case that the
other counsel had overlooked. It was Lincoln's principle to impress upon
himself at the outset the full strength of the other man's position. It
was also his principle to accept no case in the justice of which he had
not been able himself to believe. He possessed also by nature an
exceptional capacity for the detection of faulty reasoning; and his
exercise of the power of analysis in his work at the Bar proved of great
service later in widening his influence as a political leader. The power
that he possessed, when he was assured of the justice of his cause, of
convincing court and jury became the power of impressing his convictions
upon great bodies of voters. Later, when he had upon his shoulders the
leadership of the nation, he took the people into his confidence; he
reasoned with them as if they were sitting as a great jury for the
determination of the national policy, and he was able to impress upon
them his perfect integrity of purpose and the soundness of his
conclusions,--conclusions which thus became the policy of the nation.

He calls himself a "mast-fed lawyer" and it is true that his
opportunities for reading continued to be most restricted. Davis said in
regard to Lincoln's work as a lawyer: "He had a magnificent equipoise of
head, conscience, and heart. In non-essentials he was pliable; but on
the underlying principles of truth and justice, his will was as firm as
steel." We find from the record of Lincoln's work in the Assembly and
later in Congress that he would never do as a Representative what he was
unwilling to do as an individual. His capacity for seeing the humorous
side of things was of course but a phase of a general clearness of
perception. The man who sees things clearly, who is able to recognise
both sides of a matter, the man who can see all round a position, the
opposite of the man in blinders, that man necessarily has a sense of
humour. He is able, if occasion presents, to laugh at himself. Lincoln's
capacity for absorbing and for retaining information and for having this
in readiness for use at the proper time was, as we have seen, something
that went back to his boyhood. He says of himself: "My mind is something
like a piece of steel; it is very hard to scratch anything on it and
almost impossible after you have got it there to rub it out."

Lincoln's correspondence has been preserved with what is probably
substantial completeness. The letters written by him to friends,
acquaintances, political correspondents, individual men of one kind or
another, have been gathered together and have been brought into print
not, as is most frequently the case, under the discretion or judgment of
a friendly biographer, but by a great variety of more or less
sympathetic people. It would seem as if but very few of Lincoln's
letters could have been mislaid or destroyed. One can but be impressed,
in reading these letters, with the absolute honesty of purpose and of
statement that characterises them. There are very few men, particularly
those whose active lives have been passed in a period of political
struggle and civil war, whose correspondence could stand such a test.
There never came to Lincoln requirement to say to his correspondent,
"Burn this letter."



In 1856, the Supreme Court, under the headship of Judge Taney, gave out
the decision of the Dred Scott case. The purport of this decision was
that a negro was not to be considered as a person but as a chattel; and
that the taking of such negro chattel into free territory did not cancel
or impair the property rights of the master. It appeared to the men of
the North as if under this decision the entire country, including in
addition to the national territories the independent States which had
excluded slavery, was to be thrown open to the invasion of the
institution. The Dred Scott decision, taken in connection with the
repeal of the Missouri Compromise (and the two acts were doubtless a
part of one thoroughly considered policy), foreshadowed as their logical
and almost inevitable consequence the bringing of the entire nation
under the control of slavery. The men of the future State of Kansas made
during 1856-57 a plucky fight to keep slavery out of their borders. The
so-called Lecompton Constitution undertook to force slavery upon Kansas.
This constitution was declared by the administration (that of President
Buchanan) to have been adopted, but the fraudulent character of the
voting was so evident that Walker, the Democratic Governor, although a
sympathiser with slavery, felt compelled to repudiate it. This
constitution was repudiated also by Douglas, although Douglas had
declared that the State ought to be thrown open to slavery. Jefferson
Davis, at that time Secretary of War, declared that "Kansas was in a
state of rebellion and that the rebellion must be crushed." Armed bands
from Missouri crossed the river to Kansas for the purpose of casting
fraudulent votes and for the further purpose of keeping the Free-soil
settlers away from the polls.

This fight for freedom in Kansas gave a further basis for Lincoln's
statement "that a house divided against itself cannot stand; this
government cannot endure half slave and half free." It was with this
statement as his starting-point that Lincoln entered into his famous
Senatorial campaign with Douglas. Douglas had already represented
Illinois in the Senate for two terms and had, therefore, the advantage
of possession and of a substantial control of the machinery of the
State. He had the repute at the time of being the leading political
debater in the country. He was shrewd, forcible, courageous, and, in the
matter of convictions, unprincipled. He knew admirably how to cater to
the prejudices of the masses. His career thus far had been one of
unbroken success. His Senatorial fight was, in his hope and expectation,
to be but a step towards the Presidency. The Democratic party, with an
absolute control south of Mason and Dixon's Line and with a very
substantial support in the Northern States, was in a position, if
unbroken, to control with practical certainty the Presidential election
of 1860. Douglas seemed to be the natural leader of the party. It was
necessary for him, however, while retaining the support of the Democrats
of the North, to make clear to those of the South that his influence
would work for the maintenance and for the extension of slavery.

The South was well pleased with the purpose and with the result of the
Dred Scott decision and with the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. It
is probable, however, that if the Dred Scott decision had not given to
the South so full a measure of satisfaction, the South would have been
more ready to accept the leadership of a Northern Democrat like Douglas.
Up to a certain point in the conflict, they had felt the need of Douglas
and had realised the importance of the support that he was in a position
to bring from the North. When, however, the Missouri Compromise had been
repealed and the Supreme Court had declared that slaves must be
recognised as property throughout the entire country, the Southern
claims were increased to a point to which certain of the followers of
Douglas were not willing to go. It was a large compliment to the young
lawyer of Illinois to have placed upon him the responsibility of
leading, against such a competitor as Douglas, the contest of the Whigs,
and of the Free-soilers back of the Whigs, against any further extension
of slavery, a contest which was really a fight for the continued
existence of the nation.

Lincoln seems to have gone into the fight with full courage, the courage
of his convictions. He felt that Douglas was a trimmer, and he believed
that the issue had now been brought to a point at which the trimmer
could not hold support on both sides of Mason and Dixon's Line. He
formulated at the outset of the debate a question which was pressed
persistently upon Douglas during the succeeding three weeks. This
question was worded as follows: "Can the people of a United States
territory, prior to the formation of a State constitution or against the
protest of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery?" Lincoln's
campaign advisers were of opinion that this question was inadvisable.
They took the ground that Douglas would answer the question in such way
as to secure the approval of the voters of Illinois and that in so doing
he would win the Senatorship. Lincoln's response was in substance: "That
may be. I hold, however, that if Douglas answers this question in a way
to satisfy the Democrats of the North, he will inevitably lose the
support of the more extreme, at least, of the Democrats of the South. We
may lose the Senatorship as far as my personal candidacy is concerned.
If, however, Douglas fails to retain the support of the South, he cannot
become President in 1860. The line will be drawn directly between those
who are willing to accept the extreme claims of the South and those who
resist these claims. A right decision is the essential thing for the
safety of the nation." The question gave no little perplexity to
Douglas. He finally, however, replied that in his judgment the people of
a United States territory had the right to exclude slavery. When asked
again by Lincoln how he brought this decision into accord with the Dred
Scott decision, he replied in substance: "Well, they have not the right
to take constitutional measures to exclude slavery but they can by local
legislation render slavery practically impossible." The Dred Scott
decision had in fact itself overturned the Douglas theory of popular
sovereignty or "squatter sovereignty." Douglas was only able to say that
his sovereignty contention made provision for such control of domestic
or local regulations as would make slavery impossible.

The South, rendered autocratic by the authority of the Supreme Court,
was not willing to accept the possibility of slavery being thus
restricted out of existence in any part of the country. The Southerners
repudiated Douglas as Lincoln had prophesied they would do. Douglas had
been trying the impossible task of carrying water on both shoulders. He
gained the Senatorship by a narrow margin; he secured in the vote in the
Legislature a majority of eight, but Lincoln had even in this fight won
the support of the people. His majority on the popular vote was four

The series of debates between these two leaders came to be of national
importance. It was not merely a question of the representation in the
Senate from the State of Illinois, but of the presentation of arguments,
not only to the voters of Illinois but to citizens throughout the entire
country, in behalf of the restriction of slavery on the one hand or of
its indefinite expansion and protection on the other. The debate was
educational not merely for the voters who listened, but for the
thousands of other voters who read the reports. It would be an enormous
advantage for the political education of candidates and for the
education of voters if such debates could become the routine in
Congressional and Presidential campaigns. Under the present routine, we
have, in place of an assembly of voters representing the conflicting
views of the two parties or of the several political groups, a
homogeneous audience of one way of thinking, and speakers who have no
opponent present to check the temptation to launch forth into wild
statements, personal abuse, and irresponsible conclusions. An
interruption of the speaker is considered to be a disturbance of order,
and the man who is not fully in sympathy with the views of the audience
is likely to be put out as an interloper. With a system of joint
debates, the speakers would be under an educational repression. False
or exaggerated statements would not be made, or would not be made
consciously, because they would be promptly corrected by the other
fellow. There would of necessity come to be a better understanding and a
larger respect for the positions of the opponent. The men who would be
selected as leaders or speakers to enforce the contentions of the party,
would have to possess some reasoning faculty as well as oratorical
fluency. The voters, instead of being shut in with one group of
arguments more or less reasonable, would be brought into touch with the
arguments of other groups of citizens. I can conceive of no better
method for bringing representative government on to a higher plane and
for making an election what it ought to be, a reasonable decision by
reasoning voters, than the institution of joint debates.

I cite certain of the incisive statements that came into Lincoln's seven
debates. "A slave, says Judge Douglas (on the authority of Judge Taney),
is a human being who is legally not a person but a thing." "I contend
[says Lincoln] that slavery is founded on the selfishness of man's
nature. Slavery is a violation of the eternal right, and as long as God
reigns and as school-children read, that black evil can never be
consecrated into God's truth." "A man does not lose his right to a piece
of property which has been stolen. Can a man lose a right to himself if
he himself has been stolen?" The following words present a summary of
Lincoln's statements:

Judge Douglas contends that if any one man chooses to enslave another,
no third man has a right to object. Our Fathers, in accepting slavery
under the Constitution as a legal institution, were of opinion, as is
clearly indicated by the recorded utterances, that slavery would in the
course of a few years die out. They were quite clear in their minds that
the slave-trade must be abolished and for ever forbidden and this
decision was arrived at under the leadership of men like Jefferson and
without a protest from the South. Jefferson was himself the author of
the Ordinance of 1787, which in prohibiting the introduction of slavery,
consecrated to freedom the great territory of the North-west, and this
measure was fully approved by Washington and by the other great leaders
from the South. Where slavery exists, full liberty refuses to enter. It
was only through this wise action of the Fathers that it was possible to
bring into existence, through colonisation, the great territories and
great States of the North-west. It is this settlement, and the later
adjustment of 1820, that Douglas and his friends in the South are
undertaking to overthrow. Slavery is not, as Judge Douglas contends, a
local issue; it is a national responsibility. The repeal of the Missouri
Compromise throws open not only a great new territory to the curse of
slavery; it throws open the whole slavery question for the embroiling of
the present generation of Americans. Taking slaves into free territory
is the same thing as reviving the slave-trade. It perpetuates and
develops interstate slave-trade. Government derives its just powers from
the consent of the governed. The Fathers did not claim that "the right
of the people to govern negroes was the right of the people to govern

The policy of Judge Douglas was based on the theory that the people did
not care, but the people did care, as was evinced two years later by the
popular vote for President throughout the North. One of those who heard
these debates says: "Lincoln loved truth for its own sake. He had a
deep, true, living conscience; honesty was his polar star. He never
acted for stage effect. He was cool, spirited, reflective,
self-possessed, and self-reliant. His style was clear, terse, compact
... He became tremendous in the directness of his utterance when, as his
soul was inspired with the thought of human right and Divine justice,
he rose to impassioned eloquence, and at such times he was, in my
judgment, unsurpassed by Clay or by Mirabeau."

As the debates progressed, it was increasingly evident that Douglas
found himself hard pushed. Lincoln would not allow himself to be swerved
from the main issue by any tergiversation or personal attacks. He
insisted from day to day in bringing Douglas back to this issue: "What
do you, Douglas, propose to do about slavery in the territories? Is it
your final judgment that there is to be no further reservation of free
territory in this country? Do you believe that it is for the advantage
of this country to put no restriction to the extension of slavery?"
Douglas wriggled and squirmed under this direct questioning and his
final replies gave satisfaction neither to the Northern Democrats nor to
those of the South. The issue upon which the Presidential contest of
1860 was to be fought out had been fairly stated. It was the same issue
under which, in 1861, the fighting took the form of civil war. It was
the issue that took four years to fight out and that was finally decided
in favour of the continued existence of the nation as a free state. In
this fight, Lincoln was not only, as the contest was finally shaped, the
original leader; he was the final leader; and at the time of his death
the great question had been decided for ever.

Horace White, in summing up the issues that were fought out in debate
between Lincoln and Douglas, says:

"Forty-four years have passed away since the Civil War came to an end
and we are now able to take a dispassionate view of the question in
dispute. The people of the South are now generally agreed that the
institution of slavery was a direful curse to both races. We of the
North must confess that there was considerable foundation for the
asserted right of States to secede. Although the Constitution did in
distinct terms make the Federal Government supreme, it was not so
understood at first by the people either North or South. Particularism
prevailed everywhere at the beginning. Nationalism was an aftergrowth
and a slow growth proceeding mainly from the habit into which people
fell of finding their common centre of gravity at Washington City and of
viewing it as the place whence the American name and fame were blazoned
to the world. During the first half century of the Republic, the North
and South were changing coats from time to time, on the subject of State
Rights and the right to secede, but meanwhile the Constitution itself
was working silently in the North to undermine the particularism of
Jefferson and to strengthen the nationalism of Hamilton. It had
accomplished its work in the early thirties, when it found its perfect
expression in Webster's reply to Hayne. But the Southern people were
just as firmly convinced that Hayne was the victor in that contest as
the Northern people were that Webster was. The vast material interests
bottomed on slavery offset and neutralised the unifying process in the
South, while it continued its wholesome work in the North, and thus the
clashing of ideas paved the way for the clash of arms. That the
behaviour of the slaveholders resulted from the circumstances in which
they were placed and not from any innate deviltry is a fact now conceded
by all impartial men. It was conceded by Lincoln both before the War and
during the War, and this fact accounts for the affection bestowed upon
him by Southern hearts to-day."

Lincoln carried into politics the same standard of consistency of action
that had characterised his work at the Bar. He writes, in 1859, to a
correspondent whom he was directing to further the organisation of the
new party: "Do not, in order to secure recruits, lower the standard of
the Republican party. The true problem for 1860, is to fight to prevent
slavery from becoming national. We must, however, recognise its
constitutional right to exist in the States in which its existence was
recognised under the original Constitution." This position was
unsatisfactory to the Whigs of the Border States who favoured a
continuing division between Slave States and Free States of the
territory yet to be organised into States. It was also unsatisfactory to
the extreme anti-slavery Whigs of the new organisation who insisted upon
throttling slavery where-ever it existed. It is probable that the raid
made by John Brown, in 1859, into Virginia for the purpose of rousing
the slaves to fight for their own liberty, had some immediate influence
in checking the activity of the more extreme anti-slavery group and in
strengthening the conservative side of the new organisation. Lincoln
disapproved entirely of the purpose of Brown and his associates, while
ready to give due respect to the idealistic courage of the man.

In February, 1860, Lincoln was invited by certain of the Republican
leaders in New York to deliver one of a series of addresses which had
been planned to make clear to the voters the purposes and the
foundations of the new party. His name had become known to the
Republicans of the East through the debates with Douglas. It was
recognised that Lincoln had taken the highest ground in regard to the
principles of the new party, and that his counsels should prove of
practical service in the shaping of the policy of the Presidential
campaign. It was believed also that his influence would be of value in
securing voters in the Middle West. The Committee of Invitation
included, in addition to a group of the old Whigs (of whom my father was
one), representative Free-soil Democrats like William C. Bryant and John
King. Lincoln's methods as a political leader and orator were known to
one or two men on the committee, but his name was still unfamiliar to an
Eastern audience. It was understood that the new leader from the West
was going to talk to New York about the fight against slavery. It is
probable that at least the larger part of the audience expected
something "wild and woolly." The West at that time seemed very far off
from New York and was still but little understood by the Eastern
communities. New Yorkers found it difficult to believe that a man who
could influence Western audiences could have anything to say that would
count with the cultivated citizens of the East. The more optimistic of
the hearers were hoping, however, that perhaps a new Henry Clay had
arisen and were looking for utterances of the ornate and grandiloquent
kind such as they had heard frequently from Clay and from other
statesmen of the South.

The first impression of the man from the West did nothing to contradict
the expectation of something weird, rough, and uncultivated. The long,
ungainly figure upon which hung clothes that, while new for this trip,
were evidently the work of an unskilful tailor; the large feet, the
clumsy hands of which, at the outset, at least, the orator seemed to be
unduly conscious; the long, gaunt head capped by a shock of hair that
seemed not to have been thoroughly brushed out, made a picture which did
not fit in with New York's conception of a finished statesman. The first
utterance of the voice was not pleasant to the ear, the tone being harsh
and the key too high. As the speech progressed, however, the speaker
seemed to get into control of himself; the voice gained a natural and
impressive modulation, the gestures were dignified and appropriate, and
the hearers came under the influence of the earnest look from the
deeply-set eyes and of the absolute integrity of purpose and of devotion
to principle which were behind the thought and the words of the speaker.
In place of a "wild and woolly" talk, illumined by more or less
incongruous anecdotes; in place of a high-strung exhortation of general
principles or of a fierce protest against Southern arrogance, the New
Yorkers had presented to them a calm but forcible series of
well-reasoned considerations upon which their action as citizens was to
be based. It was evident that the man from the West understood
thoroughly the constitutional history of the country; he had mastered
the issues that had grown up about the slavery question; he knew
thoroughly, and was prepared to respect, the rights of his political
opponents; he knew with equal thoroughness the rights of the men whose
views he was helping to shape and he insisted that there should be no
wavering or weakening in regard to the enforcement of those rights; he
made it clear that the continued existence of the nation depended upon
having these issues equitably adjusted and he held that the equitable
adjustment meant the restriction of slavery within its present
boundaries. He maintained that such restrictions were just and necessary
as well for the sake of fairness to the blacks as for the final welfare
of the whites. He insisted that the voters in the present States in the
Union had upon them the largest possible measure of responsibility in so
controlling the great domain of the Republic that the States of the
future, the States in which their children and their grandchildren were
to grow up as citizens, must be preserved in full liberty, must be
protected against any invasion of an institution which represented
barbarity. He maintained that such a contention could interfere in no
way with the due recognition of the legitimate property rights of the
present owners of slaves. He pointed out to the New Englander of the
anti-slavery group that the restriction of slavery meant its early
extermination. He insisted that war for the purpose of exterminating
slavery from existing slave territory could not be justified. He was
prepared, for the purpose of defending against slavery the national
territory that was still free, to take the risk of the war which the
South threatened because he believed that only through such defence
could the existence of the nation be maintained; and he believed,
further, that the maintenance of the great Republic was essential, not
only for the interests of its own citizens, but for the interests of
free government throughout the world. He spoke with full sympathy of the
difficulties and problems resting upon the South, and he insisted that
the matters at issue could be adjusted only with a fair recognition of
these difficulties. Aggression from either side of Mason and Dixon's
Line must be withstood.

I was but a boy when I first looked upon the gaunt figure of the man who
was to become the people's leader, and listened to his calm but forcible
arguments in behalf of the principles of the Republican party. It is not
likely that at the time I took in, with any adequate appreciation, the
weight of the speaker's reasoning. I have read the address more than
once since and it is, of course, impossible to separate my first
impressions from my later direct knowledge. I do remember that I was at
once impressed with the feeling that here was a political leader whose
methods differed from those of any politician to whom I had listened.
His contentions were based not upon invective or abuse of "the other
fellow," but purely on considerations of justice, on that everlasting
principle that what is just, and only what is just, represents the
largest and highest interests of the nation as a whole. I doubt whether
there occurred in the whole speech a single example of the stories which
had been associated with Lincoln's name. The speaker was evidently
himself impressed with the greatness of the opportunity and with the
dignity and importance of his responsibility. The speech in fact gave
the keynote to the coming campaign.

It is hardly necessary to add that it also decided the selection of the
national leader not only for the political campaign, but through the
coming struggle. If it had not been for the impression made upon New
York and the East generally by Lincoln's speech and by the man himself,
the vote of New York could not have been secured in the May convention
for the nomination of the man from Illinois.

Robert Lincoln (writing to me in July, 1908) says:

"After my father's address in New York in February, 1860, he made a
trip to New England in order to visit me at Exeter, N.H., where I
was then a student in the Phillips Academy. It had not been his plan
to do any speaking in New England, but, as a result of the address
in New York, he received several requests from New England friends
for speeches, and I find that before returning to the West, he spoke
at the following places: Providence, R.I., Manchester, N.H., Exeter,
N.H., Dover, N.H., Concord, N.H., Hartford, Conn., Meriden, Conn.,
New Haven, Conn., Woonsocket, R.I., Norwalk, Conn., and Bridgeport,
Conn. I am quite sure that coming and going he passed through
Boston merely as an unknown traveller."

Mr. Lincoln writes to his wife from Exeter, N.H., March 4, 1860, as

"I have been unable to escape this toil. If I had foreseen it, I
think I would not have come East at all. The speech at New York,
being within my calculation before I started, went off passably well
and gave me no trouble whatever. The difficulty was to make nine
others, before reading audiences who had already seen all my ideas
in print."[1]

An edition of Mr. Lincoln's address was brought into print in September,
1860, by the Young Men's Republican Union of New York, with notes by
Charles C. Nott (later Colonel, and after the war Judge of the Court of
Claims in Washington) and Cephas Brainerd. The publication of this
pamphlet shows that as early as September, 1860, the historic importance
and permanent value of this speech were fairly realised by the national
leaders of the day. In the preface to the reprint, the editors say:

"The address is characterised by wisdom, truthfulness and learning
...From the first line to the last--from his premises to his
conclusion, the speaker travels with a swift, unerring directness
that no logician has ever excelled. His argument is complete and is
presented without the affectation of learning, and without the
stiffness which usually accompanies dates and details ...A single
simple sentence contains a chapter of history that has taken days of
labour to verify, and that must have cost the author months of
investigation to acquire. The reader may take up this address as a
political pamphlet, but he will leave it as an historical
treatise--brief, complete, perfect, sound, impartial truth--which
will serve the time and the occasion that called it forth, and which
will be esteemed hereafter no less for its unpretending modesty than
for its intrinsic worth."[2]

Horace White, who was himself present at the Chicago Convention, writes
(in 1909) as follows:

"To anybody looking back at the Republican National Convention of
1860, it must be plain that there were only two men who had any
chance of being nominated for President.

"These were Lincoln and Seward. I was present at the Convention as a
spectator and I knew this fact at the time, but it seemed to me at
the beginning that Seward's chances were the better. One third of
the delegates of Illinois preferred Seward and expected to vote for
him after a few complimentary ballots for Lincoln. If there had been
no Lincoln in the field, Seward would certainly have been nominated
and then the course of history would have been very different from
what it was, for if Seward had been nominated and elected there
would have been no forcible opposition to the withdrawal of such
States as then desired to secede. And as a consequence the
Republican party would have been rent in twain and disabled from
making effectual resistance to other demands of the South.

"It was Seward's conviction that the policy of non-coercion would
have quieted the secession movement in the Border States and that
the Gulf States would, after a while, have returned to the Union
like repentant prodigal sons. His proposal to Lincoln to seek a
quarrel with four European nations, who had done us no harm, in
order to arouse a feeling of Americanism in the Confederate States,
was an outgrowth of this conviction. It was an indefensible
proposition, akin to that which prompted Bismarck to make use of
France as an anvil on which to hammer and weld Germany together, but
it was not an unpatriotic one, since it was bottomed on a desire to
preserve the Union without civil war."

Never was a political leadership more fairly, more nobly, and more
reasonably won. When the ballot boxes were opened on the first Tuesday
in November, Lincoln was found to have secured the electoral vote of
every Northern State except New Jersey, and in New Jersey four electors
out of seven. Breckinridge, the leader of the extreme Southern
Democrats, had back of him only the votes of the Southern States outside
of the Border States, these latter being divided between Bell and
Douglas. Douglas and his shallow theories of "squatter sovereignty" had
been buried beneath the good sense of the voters of the North.



After the election of November, 1860, events moved swiftly. On the 20th
of December, comes the first act of the Civil War, the secession of
South Carolina. The secession of Georgia had for a time been delayed by
the influence of Alexander H. Stephens who, on the 14th of November, had
made a great argument for the maintenance of the Union. His chief local
opponent at the time was Robert Toombs, the Southern leader who proposed
in the near future to "call the roll-call of his slaves on Bunker Hill."
Lincoln was still hopeful of saving to the cause of the Union the Border
States and the more conservative divisions of States, like North
Carolina, which had supported the Whig party.

In December, we find correspondence between Lincoln and Gilmer of North
Carolina, whom he had known in Washington. "The essential difference,"
says Lincoln, "between your group and mine is that you hold slavery to
be in itself desirable and as something to be extended. I hold it to be
an essential evil which, with due regard to existing rights, must be
restricted and in the near future exterminated."

On the 23d of February, 1861, Lincoln reaches Washington where he is to
spend a weary and anxious two weeks of waiting for the burden of his new
responsibilities. He is at this time fifty-two years of age. In one of
his brief addresses on the way to Washington he says:

"It is but little to a man of my age, but a great deal to thirty
millions of the citizens of the United States, and to posterity in
all coming time, if the Union of the States and the liberties of the
people are to be lost. If the majority is not to rule, who would be
the judge of the issue or where is such judge to be found?"

It is difficult to imagine a more exasperating condition of affairs than
obtained in Washington while Lincoln was awaiting the day of
inauguration. The government appeared to be crumbling away under the
nerveless direction, or lack of direction, of President Buchanan and his
associates. In his last message to Congress, Buchanan had taken the
ground that the Constitution made no provision for the secession of
States or for the breaking up of the Union; but that it also failed to
contain any provision for measures that could prevent such secession and
the consequent destruction of the nation. The old gentleman appeared to
be entirely unnerved by the pressure of events. He could not see any
duty before him. He certainly failed to realise that the more immediate
cause of the storm was the breaking down, through the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise, of the barriers that had in 1820, and in 1850, been
placed against the extension of slavery. He evidently failed to
understand that it was his own action in backing up the infamous
Lecompton Constitution, and the invasion of Kansas by the slave-owners,
which had finally aroused the spirit of the North, and further that it
was the influence of his administration which had given to the South the
belief that it was now in a position to control for slavery the whole
territory of the Republic.

It has before now been pointed out that, under certain contingencies,
the long interval between the national election and the inaugural of the
new President from the first Tuesday in November until the fourth day of
March must, in not a few instances, bring inconvenience, disadvantage,
and difficulty not only to the new administration but to the nation.
These months in which the members of an administration which had
practically committed itself to the cause of disintegration, were left
in charge of the resources of the nation gave a most serious example and
evidence of such disadvantage. This historic instance ought to have been
utilised immediately after the War as an influence for bringing about a
change in the date for bringing into power the administration that has
been chosen in November.

By the time when Lincoln and the members of his Cabinet had placed in
their hands the responsibilities of administration, the resources at the
disposal of the government had, as far as practicable, been scattered or
rendered unavailable. The Secretary of the Navy, a Southerner, had taken
pains to send to the farthest waters of the Pacific as many as possible
of the vessels of the American fleet; the Secretary of War, also a
Southerner, had for months been busy in transferring to the arsenals of
the South the guns and ammunition that had been stored in the Federal
arsenals of the North; the Secretary of the Treasury had had no
difficulty in disposing of government funds in one direction or another
so that there was practically no balance to hand over to his successor
available for the most immediate necessities of the new administration.

One of the sayings quoted from Washington during these weeks was the
answer given by Count Gurowski to the inquiry, "Is there anything in
addition this morning?" "No," said Gurowski, "it is all in subtraction."

By the day of the inaugural, the secession of seven States was an
accomplished fact and the government of the Confederacy had already been
organised in Montgomery. Alexander H. Stephens had so far modified his
original position that he had accepted the post of Vice-President and in
his own inaugural address had used the phrase, "Slavery is the
corner-stone of our new nation," a phrase that was to make much mischief
in Europe for the hopes of the new Confederacy.

In the first inaugural, one of the great addresses in a noteworthy
series, Lincoln presented to the attention of the leaders of the South
certain very trenchant arguments against the wisdom of their course. He
says of secession for the purpose of preserving the institution of

"You complain that under the government of the United States your
slaves have from time to time escaped across your borders and have
not been returned to you. Their value as property has been lessened
by the fact that adjoining your Slave States were certain States
inhabited by people who did not believe in your institution. How is
this condition going to be changed by war even under the assumption
that the war may be successful in securing your independence? Your
slave territory will still adjoin territory inhabited by free men
who are inimical to your institution; but these men will no longer
be bound by any of the restrictions which have obtained under the
Constitution. They will not have to give consideration to the rights
of slave-owners who are fellow-citizens. Your slaves will escape as
before and you will have no measure of redress. Your indignation may
produce further wars, but the wars can but have the same result
until finally, after indefinite loss of life and of resources, the
institution will have been hammered out of existence by the
inevitable conditions of existing civilisation."

Lincoln points out further in this same address the difference between
his responsibilities and those of the Southern leaders who are
organising for war. "You," he says, "have no oath registered in Heaven
to destroy this government, while I have the most solemn oath to
preserve, direct, and defend it."

"It was not necessary," says Lincoln, "for the Constitution to
contain any provision expressly forbidding the disintegration of the
state; perpetuity and the right to maintain self-existence will be
considered as a fundamental law of all national government. If the
theory be accepted that the United States was an association or
federation of communities, the creation or continued existence of
such federation must rest upon contract; and before such contract
can be rescinded, the consent is required of both or of all of the
parties assenting to it."

He closes with the famous invocation to the fellow Americans of the
South against whom throughout the whole message there had not been one
word of bitterness or rancour: "We are not enemies but friends. We must
not be enemies. Though passion may have strained our relations, it must
not break our bonds of affection."

It was, however, too late for argument, and too late for invocations of
friendship. The issue had been forced by the South and the war for which
the leaders of the South had for months, if not for years, been making
preparation was now to be begun by Southern action. It remained to make
clear to the North, where the people up to the last moment had been
unwilling to believe in the possibility of civil war, that the nation
could be preserved only by fighting for its existence. It remained to
organise the men of the North into armies which should be competent to
carry out this tremendous task of maintaining the nation's existence.

It was just after the great inaugural and when his head must have been
full of cares and his hands of work, that Lincoln took time to write a
touching little note that I find in his correspondence. It was addressed
to a boy who had evidently spoken with natural pride of having met the
President and whose word had been questioned:

"The White House, March 18, 1861.

"I did see and talk in May last at Springfield, Illinois, with
Master George Edward Patten."

With the beginning of the work of the administration, came trouble with
the members of the Cabinet. The several secretaries were, in form at
least, the choice of the President, but as must always be the case in
the shaping of a Cabinet, and as was particularly necessary at a time
when it was of first importance to bring into harmonious relations all
of the political groups of the North which were prepared to be loyal to
the government, the men who took office in the first Cabinet of Lincoln
represented not any personal preference of the President, but political
or national requirements. The Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, had, as we
know, been Lincoln's leading opponent for the Presidential nomination
and had expressed with some freedom of criticism his disappointment that
he, the natural leader of the party, should be put to one side for an
uncultivated, inexperienced Westerner. Mr. Seward possessed both
experience and culture; more than this, he was a scholar, and came of a
long line of gentlefolk. He had public spirit, courage, legitimate
political ambition, and some of the qualities of leadership. His nature
was, however, not quite large enough to stand the pressure of political
disappointment nor quite elastic enough to develop rapidly under the
tremendous urgency of absolutely new requirements. It is in evidence
that more than once in the management of the complex and serious
difficulties of the State Department during the years of war, Seward
lost his head. It is also on record that the wise-minded and fair-minded
President was able to supply certain serious gaps and deficiencies in
the direction of the work of the Department, and further that his
service was so rendered as to save the dignity and the repute of the
Secretary. Seward's subjectivity, not to say vanity, was great, and it
took some little time before he was able to realise that his was not the
first mind or the strongest will-power in the new administration. On the
first of April, 1861, less than thirty days after the organisation of
the Cabinet, Seward writes to Lincoln complaining that the "government
had as yet no policy; that its action seemed to be simply drifting";
that there was a lack of any clear-minded control in the direction of
affairs within the Cabinet, in the presentation to the people of the
purposes of the government, and in the shaping of the all-important
relations with foreign states. "Who," said Seward, "is to control the
national policy?" The letter goes on to suggest that Mr. Seward is
willing to take the responsibility, leaving, if needs be, the credit to
the nominal chief. The letter was a curious example of the weakness and
of the bumptiousness of the man, while it gave evidence also, it is fair
to say, of a real public-spirited desire that things should go right and
that the nation should be saved. It was evident that he had as yet no
adequate faith in the capacity of the President.

Lincoln's answer was characteristic of the man. There was no irritation
with the bumptiousness, no annoyance at the lack of confidence on the
part of his associate. He states simply: "There must, of course, be
control and the responsibility for this control must rest with me." He
points out further that the general policy of the administration had
been outlined in the inaugural, that no action since taken had been
inconsistent with this. The necessary preparations for the defence of
the government were in train and, as the President trusted, were being
energetically pushed forward by the several department heads. "I have a
right," said Lincoln, "to expect loyal co-operation from my associates
in the Cabinet. I need their counsel and the nation needs the best
service that can be secured from our united wisdom." The letter of
Seward was put away and appears never to have been referred to between
the two men. It saw the light only after the President's death. If he
had lived it might possibly have been suppressed altogether. A month
later, Seward said to a friend, "There is in the Cabinet but one vote
and that is cast by the President."

The post next in importance under the existing war conditions was that
of Secretary of War. The first man to hold this post was Simon Cameron
of Pennsylvania. Cameron was very far from being a friend of Lincoln's.
The two men had had no personal relations and what Lincoln knew of him
he liked not at all. The appointment had been made under the pressure of
the Republicans of Pennsylvania, a State whose support was, of course,
all important for the administration. It was not the first nor the last
time that the Republicans of this great State, whose Republicanism seems
to be much safer than its judgment, have committed themselves to
unworthy and undesirable representatives, men who were not fitted to
stand for Pennsylvania and who were neither willing nor able to be of
any service to the country. The appointment of Cameron had, as appears
from the later history, been promised to Pennsylvania by Judge Davis in
return for the support of the Pennsylvania delegation for the nomination
of Lincoln. Lincoln knew nothing of the promise and was able to say with
truth, and to prove, that he had authorised no promises and no
engagements whatsoever. He had, in fact, absolutely prohibited Davis and
the one or two other men who were supposed to have some right to speak
for him in the convention, from the acceptance of any engagements or
obligations whatsoever. Davis made the promise to Pennsylvania on his
own responsibility and at his own risk; Lincoln felt under too much
obligation to Davis for personal service and for friendly loyalty to be
willing, when the claim was finally pressed, to put it to one side as
unwarranted. The appointment of Cameron was made and proved to be
expensive for the efficiency of the War Department and for the repute of
the administration. It became necessary within a comparatively short
period to secure his resignation. It was in evidence that he was
trafficking in appointments and in contracts. He was replaced by Edwin
M. Stanton, who was known later as "the Carnot of the War." Stanton's
career as a lawyer had given him no direct experience of army affairs.
He showed, however, exceptional ability, great will power, and an
enormous capacity for work. He was ambitious, self-willed, and most
arbitrary in deed and in speech. The difficulty with Stanton was that he
was as likely to insult and to browbeat some loyal supporter of the
government as to bring to book, and, when necessary, to crush, greedy
speculators and disloyal tricksters. His judgment in regard to men was
in fact very often at fault. He came into early and unnecessary conflict
with his chief and he found there a will stronger than his own. The
respect of the two men for each other grew into a cordial regard. Each
recognised the loyalty of purpose and the patriotism by which the
actions of both were influenced. Lincoln was able to some extent to
soften and to modify the needless truculency of the great War Secretary,
and notwithstanding a good deal of troublesome friction, armies were
organised and the troops were sent to the front.

The management of the Treasury, a responsibility hardly less in
importance under the war conditions than that of the organisation of the
armies, was placed in the hands of Senator Chase. He received from his
precursor an empty treasury while from the administration came demands
for immediate and rapidly increasing weekly supplies of funds. The task
came upon him first of establishing a national credit and secondly of
utilising this credit for loans such as the civilised world had not
before known. The expenditures extended by leaps and bounds until by the
middle of 1864 they had reached the sum of $2,000,000 a day. Blunders
were made in large matters and in small, but, under the circumstances,
blunders were not to be avoided and the chief purpose was carried out. A
sufficient credit was established, first with the citizens at home and
later with investors abroad, to make a market for the millions of bonds
in the two great issues, the so-called seven-thirties and
five-twenties. The sales of these bonds, together with a wide-reaching
and, in fact, unduly complex system of taxation, secured the funds
necessary for the support of the army and the navy. At the close of the
War, the government, after meeting this expenditure, had a national war
debt of something over four thousand millions of dollars. The gross
indebtedness resulting from the War was of course, however, much larger
because each State had incurred war expenditures and counties as well as
States had issued bonds for the payment of bounties, etc. The criticism
was made at the time by the opponents of the financial system which was
shaped by the Committee of Ways and Means in co-operation with the
Secretary, a criticism that has often been repeated since, that the War
expenditure would have been much less if the amounts needed beyond what
could be secured by present taxation had been supplied entirely by the
proceeds of bonds. In addition, however, to the issues of bonds, the
government issued currency to a large amount, which was made legal
tender and which on the face of it was not made subject to redemption.

In addition to the bills ranging in denomination from one dollar to one
thousand, the government brought into distribution what was called
"postal currency." I landed in New York in August, 1862, having returned
from a University in Germany for the purpose of enlisting in the army. I
was amused to see my father make payment in the restaurant for my first
lunch in postage stamps. He picked the requisite number, or the number
that he believed would be requisite, from a ball of stamps which had,
under the influence of the summer heat, stuck together so closely as to
be very difficult to handle. Many of the stamps were in fact practically
destroyed and were unavailable. Some question arose between the
restaurant keeper and my father as to the availability of one or two of
the stamps that had been handed over. My father explained to me that
immediately after the outbreak of the War, specie, including even the
nickels and copper pennies, had disappeared from circulation, and the
people had been utilising for the small change necessary for current
operations the postage stamps, a use which, in connection with the large
percentage of destruction, was profitable to the government, but
extravagant for the community. A little later, the postal department was
considerate enough to bring into print a series of postage stamps
without any gum on the back. These could, of course, be handled more
easily, but were still seriously perishable. Towards the close of the
year, the Treasury department printed from artistically engraved plates
a baby currency in notes of about two and a half inches long by one and
a half inches wide. The denominations comprised ten cents, fifteen
cents, twenty-five cents, fifty cents, and seventy-five cents. The
fifteen cents and the seventy-five cents were not much called for, and
were probably not printed more than once. They would now be scarce as
curiosities. The postal currency was well printed on substantial paper,
but in connection with the large requirement for handling that is always
placed upon small currency, these little paper notes became very dirty
and were easily used up. The government must have made a large profit
from the percentage that was destroyed. The necessary effect of this
distribution of government "I.O.U.'s," based not upon any redemption
fund of gold but merely upon the general credit of the government, was
to appreciate the value of gold. In June, 1863, just before the battle
of Gettysburg, the depreciation of this paper currency, which
represented of course the appreciation of gold, was in the ratio of 100
to 290. It happened that the number 290, which marked the highest price
reached by gold during the War, was the number that had been given in
Laird's ship-yard (on the Mersey) to the Confederate cruiser _Alabama_.

Chase was not only a hard-working Secretary of the Treasury but an
ambitious, active-minded, and intriguing politician. He represented in
the administration the more extreme anti-slavery group. He was one of
those who favoured from the beginning immediate action on the part of
the government in regard to the slaves in the territory that was still
controlled by the government. It is doubtless the case that he held
these anti-slavery views as a matter of honest conviction. It is in
evidence also from his correspondence that he connected with these views
the hope and the expectation of becoming President. His scheming for the
nomination for 1864 was carried on with the machinery that he had at his
disposal as Secretary of the Treasury. The issues between Chase and
Seward and between Chase and Stanton were many and bitter. The pressure
on the part of the conservative Republicans to get Chase out of the
Cabinet was considerable. Lincoln, believing that his service was
valuable, refused to be influenced by any feeling of personal antagonism
or personal rivalry. He held on to the Secretary until the last year of
the War, when deciding that the Cabinet could then work more smoothly
without him, he accepted his resignation. Even then, however, although
he had had placed in his hands a note indicating a measure of what might
be called personal disloyalty on the part of Chase, Lincoln was
unwilling to lose his service for the country and appointed him as Chief

Montgomery Blair was put into the Cabinet as Postmaster-General more
particularly as the representative of the loyalists of the Border
States. His father was a leader in politics in Missouri, in which the
family had long been of importance. His brother, Frank P. Blair, served
with credit in the army, reaching the rank of Major-General. The Blair
family was quite ready to fight for the Union, but was very unwilling to
do any fighting for the black man. They wanted the Union restored as it
had been, Missouri Compromise and all. It was Blair who had occasion
from time to time to point out, and with perfect truth, that if, through
the influence of Chase and of the men back of Chase in Massachusetts and
northern Ohio, immediate action should be taken to abolish slavery in
the Border States, fifty thousand men who had marched out of those
States to the support of the Union might be and probably would be
recalled. "By a stroke of the pen," said Blair, "Missouri, eastern
Tennessee, western Maryland, loyal Kentucky, now loyally supporting the
cause of the nation, will be thrown into the arms of the Confederacy."
During the first two years of the War, and in fact up to September,
1863, the views of Blair and his associates prevailed, and with the
fuller history before us, we may conclude that it was best that they
should have prevailed. This was, at least, the conclusion of Lincoln,
the one man who knew no sectional prejudices, who had before him all the
information and all the arguments, and who had upon him the pressure
from all quarters. It was not easy under the circumstances to keep peace
between Blair and Chase. Probably no man but Lincoln could have met the

The Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, of Connecticut, while not a
man of brilliancy or of great initiative, appears to have done his part
quietly and effectively in the great work of the building and organising
of a new fleet. He contributed nothing to the friction of the Cabinet
and he was from the beginning a loyal supporter of the President. What
we know now about the issues that arose between the different members
of the Cabinet family comes to us chiefly through the Diary of Welles,
who has described with apparent impartiality the idiosyncrasies of each
of the secretaries and whose references to the tact, patience, and
gracefully exercised will-power of the President are fully in line with
the best estimates of Lincoln's character.

One of the first and most difficult tasks confronting the President and
his secretaries in the organisation of the army and of the navy was in
the matter of the higher appointments. The army had always been a
favourite provision for the men from the South. The representatives of
Southern families were, as a rule, averse to trade and there were, in
fact, under the more restricted conditions of business in the Southern
States, comparatively few openings for trading on the larger or
mercantile scale. As a result of this preference, the cadetships in West
Point and the commissions in the army had been held in much larger
proportion (according to the population) by men of Southern birth. This
was less the case in the navy because the marine interests of New
England and of the Middle States had educated a larger number of
Northern men for naval interests. When the war began, a very
considerable number of the best trained and most valuable officers in
the army resigned to take part with their States. The army lost the
service of men like Lee, Johnston, Beauregard, and many others. A few
good Southerners, such as Thomas of Virginia and Anderson of Kentucky,
took the ground that their duty to the Union and to the flag was greater
than their obligation to their State. In the navy, Maury, Semmes,
Buchanan, and other men of ability resigned their commissions and
devoted themselves to the (by no means easy) task of building up a navy
for the South; but Farragut of Tennessee remained with the navy to carry
the flag of his country to New Orleans and to Mobile.

It was easy and natural during the heat of 1861 to characterise as
traitors the men who went with their States to fight against the flag of
their country. Looking at the matter now, forty-seven years later, we
are better able to estimate the character and the integrity of the
motives by which they were actuated. We do not need to-day to use the
term traitors for men like Lee and Johnston. It was not at all unnatural
that with their understanding of the government of the States in which
they had been born, and with their belief that these States had a right
to take action for themselves, they should have decided that their
obligation lay to the State rather than to what they had persisted in
thinking of not as a nation but as a mere confederation. We may rather
believe that Lee was as honest in his way as Thomas and Farragut in
theirs, but the view that the United States is a nation has been
maintained through the loyal services of the men who held with Thomas
and with Farragut.



On April 12, 1861, came with the bombardment of Fort Sumter the actual
beginning of the War. The foreseeing shrewdness of Lincoln had resisted
all suggestions for any such immediate action on the part of the
government as would place upon the North the responsibility for the
opening of hostilities. Shortly after the fall of Sumter, a despatch was
drafted by Seward for the guidance of American ministers abroad. The
first reports in regard to the probable action of European governments
gave the impression that the sympathy of these governments was largely
with the South. In France and England, expressions had been used by
leading officials which appeared to foreshadow an early recognition of
the Confederacy. Seward's despatch as first drafted was unwisely angry
and truculent in tone. If brought into publication, it would probably
have increased the antagonism of the men who were ruling England. It
appeared in fact to foreshadow war with England. Seward had assumed that
England was going to take active part with the South and was at once
throwing down the gauntlet of defiance. It was Lincoln who insisted that
this was no time, whatever might be the provocation, for the United
States to be shaking its fist at Europe. The despatch was reworded and
the harsh and angry expressions were eliminated. The right claimed by
the United States, in common with all nations, to maintain its own
existence was set forth with full force, while it was also made clear
that the nation was strong enough to maintain its rights against all
foes whether within or without its boundaries. It is rather strange to
recall that throughout the relations of the two men, it was the trained
and scholarly statesman of the East who had to be repressed for unwise
truculency and that the repression was done under the direction of the
comparatively inexperienced representative of the West, the man who had
been dreaded by the conservative Republicans of New York as likely to
introduce into the national policy "wild and woolly" notions.

In Lincoln's first message to Congress, he asks the following question:
"Must a government be of necessity too strong for the liberties of its
own people or too weak to maintain its own existence? Is there in all
republics this inherent weakness?" The people of the United States were
able under the wise leadership of Lincoln to answer this question "no."
Lincoln begins at once with the public utterances of the first year of
the War to take the people of the United States into his confidence. He
is their representative, their servant. He reasons out before the
people, as if it constituted a great jury, the analysis of their
position, of their responsibilities, and the grounds on which as their
representative this or that decision is arrived at. Says Schurz:
"Lincoln wielded the powers of government when stern resolution and
relentless force were the order of the day, and, won and ruled the
popular mind and heart by the tender sympathies of his nature."

The attack on Sumter placed upon the administration the duty of
organising at once for the contest now inevitable the forces of the
country. This work of organisation came at best but late because those
who were fighting to break up the nation had their preparations well
advanced. The first call for troops directed the governors of the loyal
States to supply seventy-five thousand men for the restoration of the
authority of the government. Massachusetts was the first State to
respond by despatching to the front, within twenty-four hours of the
publication of the call, its Sixth Regiment of Militia; the Seventh of
New York started twenty-four hours later. The history of the passage of
the Sixth through Baltimore, of the attack upon the columns, and of the
deaths, in the resulting affray, of soldiers and of citizens has often
been told. When word came to Washington that Baltimore was obstructing
the passage of troops bound southward, troops called for the defence of
the capital, the isolation of the government became sadly apparent. For
a weary and anxious ten days, Lincoln and his associates were dreading
from morning to morning the approach over the long bridge of the troops
from Virginia whose camp-fires could be seen from the southern windows
of the White House, and were looking anxiously northward for the arrival
of the men on whose prompt service the safety of the capital was to
depend. I have myself stood in Lincoln's old study, the windows of which
overlook the Potomac, and have recalled to mind the fearful pressure of
anxiety that must have weighed upon the President during those long
days; as looking across the river, he could trace by the smoke the
picket lines of the Virginia troops. He must have thought of the
possibility that he was to be the last President of the United States,
that the torch handed over to him by the faltering hands of his
predecessor was to expire while he was responsible for the flame. The
immediate tension was finally broken by the appearance of the weary and
battered companies of the Massachusetts troops and the arrival two days
later, by the way of Annapolis, of the New York Seventh with an
additional battalion from Boston.

It was, however, not only in April, 1861, that the capital was in peril.
The anxiety of the President (never for himself but only for his
responsibilities) was to be repeated in July, 1863, when Lee was in
Maryland, and in July, 1864, at the time of Early's raid.

We may remember the peculiar burdens that come upon the
commander-in-chief through his position at the rear of the armies he is
directing. The rear of a battle is, even in the time of victory, a place
of demoralising influence. It takes a man of strong nerve not to lose
heart when the only people with whom he is in immediate contact are
those who through disability or discouragement are making their way to
the rear. The sutlers, the teamsters, the wounded men, the panic-struck
(and with the best of soldiers certain groups do lose heart from time to
time, men who in another action when started right are ready to take
their full share of the fighting)--these are the groups that in any
action are streaming to the rear. It is impossible not to be affected by
the undermining of their spirits and of their hopefulness. If the battle
is going wrongly, if in addition to those who are properly making their
way to the rear, there come also bodies of troops pushed out of their
position who have lost heart and who have lost faith in their
commanders, the pressure towards demoralisation is almost irresistible.

We may recall that during the entire four years of War, Lincoln, the
commander-in-chief, was always in the rear. Difficult as was the task of
the men who led columns into action, of the generals in the field who
had the immediate responsibility for the direction of those columns and
of the fighting line, it was in no way to be compared with the pressure
and sadness of the burden of the man who stood back of all the lines,
and to whom came all the discouragements, the complaints, the growls,
the criticisms, the requisitions or demands for resources that were not
available, the reports of disasters, sometimes exaggerated and
sometimes unduly smoothed over, the futile suggestions, the conflicting
counsels, the indignant protests, the absurd schemes, the self-seeking
applications, that poured into the White House from all points of the
field of action and from all parts of the Border States and of the
North. The man who during four years could stand that kind of battering
and pressure and who, instead of having his hopefulness crushed out of
him, instead of losing heart or power of direction or the full control
of his responsibilities, steadily developed in patience, in strength, in
width of nature, and in the wisdom of experience, so that he was able
not only to keep heart firm and mind clear but to give to the soldiers
in the front and to the nation behind the soldiers the influence of his
great heart and clear mind and of his firm purpose, that man had within
him the nature of the hero. Selected in time of need to bear the burdens
of the nation, he was able so to fulfil his responsibilities that he
takes place in the world's history as a leader of men.

In July, 1861, one of the special problems to be adjusted was the
attitude of the Border States. Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West
Virginia had not been willing at the outset to cast in their lot with
the South, but they were not prepared to give any assured or active
support to the authority of the national government. The Governor and
the Legislature of Kentucky issued a proclamation of neutrality; they
demanded that the soil of the State should be respected and that it
should not be traversed by armed forces from either side. The Governor
of Missouri, while not able to commit the State to secession, did have
behind him what was possibly a majority of the citizens in the policy of
attempting to prevent the Federal troops from entering the State.
Maryland, or at least eastern Maryland, was sullen and antagonistic.
Thousands of the Marylanders had in fact already made their way into
Virginia for service with the Confederacy. On the other hand, there were
also thousands of loyal citizens in these States who were prepared,
under proper guidance and conservative management, to give their own
direct aid to the cause of nationality. In the course of the succeeding
two years, the Border States sent into the field in the Union ranks some
fifty thousand men. At certain points of the conflict, the presence of
these Union men of Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, and Missouri was the
deciding factor. While these men were willing to fight for the Union,
they were strongly opposed to being used for the destruction of slavery
and for the freeing of the blacks. The acceptance, therefore, of the
policy that was pressed by the extreme anti-slavery group, for immediate
action in regard to the freeing of the slaves, would have meant at once
the dissatisfaction of this great body of loyalists important in number
and particularly important on account of their geographical position.
Lincoln was able, although with no little difficulty, to hold back the
pressure of Northern sentiment in regard to anti-slavery action until
the course of the War had finally committed the loyalists of the Border
States to the support of the Union. For the support of this policy, it
became necessary to restrain certain of the leaders in the field who
were mixing up civil and constitutional matters with their military
responsibilities. Proclamations issued by Fremont in Missouri and later
by Hunter in South Carolina, giving freedom to the slaves within the
territory of their departments, were promptly and properly disavowed.
Said Lincoln: "A general cannot be permitted to make laws for the
district in which he happens to have an army."

The difficulties in regard to the matter of slavery during the war
brought Lincoln into active correspondence with men like Beecher and
Greeley, anti-slavery leaders who enjoyed a large share of popular
confidence and support. In November, 1861, Lincoln says of Greeley: "His
backing is as good as that of an army of one hundred thousand men."
There could be no question of the earnest loyalty of Horace Greeley.
Under his management, the New York _Tribune_ had become a great force in
the community. The paper represented perhaps more nearly than any paper
in the country the purpose and the policy of the new Republican party.
Unfortunately, Mr. Greeley's judgment and width of view did not develop
with his years and with the increasing influence of his journal. He
became unduly self-sufficient; he undertook not only to lay down a
policy for the guidance of the constitutional responsibilities of the
government, but to dictate methods for the campaigns. The _Tribune_
articles headed "On to Richmond!" while causing irritation to commanders
in the field and confusion in the minds of quiet citizens at home, were
finally classed with the things to be laughed at. In the later years of
the War, the influence of the _Tribune_ declined very considerably.
Henry J. Raymond with his newly founded _Times_ succeeded to some of the
power as a journalist that had been wielded by Greeley.

In November, 1861, occurred an incident which for a time threatened a
very grave international complication, a complication that would, if
unwisely handled, have determined the fate of the Republic. Early in the
year, the Confederate government had sent certain representatives across
the Atlantic to do what might be practicable to enlist the sympathies of
European governments, or of individuals in these governments, to make a
market for the Confederate cotton bonds, to arrange for the purchase of
supplies for the army and navy, and to secure the circulation of
documents presenting the case of the South. Mr. Yancey of Mississippi
was the best-known of this first group of emissaries. With him was
associated Judge Mann of Virginia and it was Mann who in November, 1861,
was in charge of the London office of the Confederacy. In this month,
Mr. Davis appointed as successor to Mann, Mr. Mason of Virginia, to whom
was given a more formal authorisation of action. At the same time, Judge
Slidell of Louisiana was appointed as the representative to France.
Mason and Slidell made their way to Jamaica and sailed from Jamaica to
Liverpool in the British mail steamer _Trent_. Captain Charles Wilkes,
in the United States frigate _San Jacinto_, had been watching the West
Indies waters with reference to blockade runners and to Wilkes came
knowledge of the voyage of the two emissaries. Wilkes took the
responsibility of stopping the _Trent_ when she was a hundred miles or
more out of Kingston and of taking from her as prisoners the two
commissioners. The commissioners were brought to Boston and were there
kept under arrest awaiting the decision from Washington as to their
status. This stopping on the high seas of a British steamer brought out
a great flood of indignation in Great Britain. It gave to Palmerston and
Russell, who were at that time in charge of the government, the
opportunity for which they had been looking to place on the side of the
Confederacy the weight of the influence of Great Britain. It
strengthened the hopes of Louis Napoleon for carrying out, in
conjunction with Great Britain, a scheme that he had formulated under
which France was to secure a western empire in Mexico, leaving England
to do what she might find convenient in the adjustment of the affairs of
the so-called United States.

The first report secured from the law officers of the Crown took the
ground that the capture was legal under international law and under the
practice of Great Britain itself. This report was, however, pushed to
one side, and Palmerston drafted a demand for the immediate surrender of
the commissioners. This demand was so worded that a self-respecting
government would have had great difficulty in assenting to it without
risk of forfeiting support with its own citizens. It was in fact
intended to bring about a state of war. Under the wise influence of
Prince Albert, Queen Victoria refused to give her approval to the
document. It was reworded by Albert in such fashion as to give to the
government of the United States an opportunity for adjustment without
loss of dignity. Albert was clear in his mind that Great Britain ought
not to be committed to war for the destruction of the great Republic of
the West and for the establishment of a state of which the corner-stone
was slavery. Fortunately, Victoria was quite prepared to accept in this
matter Albert's judgment. Palmerston protested and threatened
resignation, but finally submitted.

When the news of the capture of the commissioners came to Washington,
Seward for once was in favour of a conservative rather than a truculent
course of action. He advised that the commissioners should be
surrendered at once rather than to leave to Great Britain the
opportunity for making a dictatorial demand. Lincoln admitted the risk
of such demand and the disadvantage of making the surrender under
pressure, but he took the ground that if the United States waited for
the British contention, a certain diplomatic advantage could be gained.
When the demand came, Lincoln was able, with a rewording (not for the
first time) of Seward's despatch, to take the ground that the government
of the United States was "well pleased that Her Majesty's government
should have finally accepted the old-time American contention that
vessels of peace should not be searched on the high seas by vessels of
war." It may be recalled that the exercise of the right of search had
been one of the most important of the grievances which had brought about
the War of 1812-1814. In the discussion of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814,
the English and American commissioners, while agreeing that this right
of search must be given up, had not been able to arrive at a form of
words, satisfactory to both parties, for its revocation. Both sets of
commissioners were very eager to bring their proceedings to a close. The
Americans could of course not realise that if they had waited a few
weeks the news of the battle of New Orleans, fought in January, 1815,
would have greatly strengthened their position. It was finally agreed
"as between gentlemen" that the right of search should be no longer
exercised by Great Britain. This right was, however, not formally
abrogated until December, 1861, nearly half a century later. This little
diplomatic triumph smoothed over for the public of the North the
annoyance of having to accept the British demand. It helped to
strengthen the administration, which in this first year of the War was
by no means sure of its foundations. It strengthened also the opinion of
citizens generally in their estimate of the wise management and
tactfulness of the President.

Some of the most serious of the perplexities that came upon Lincoln
during the first two years of the War were the result of the peculiar
combination of abilities and disabilities that characterised General
McClellan. McClellan's work prior to the War had been that of an
engineer. He had taken high rank at West Point and later, resigning from
the army, had rendered distinguished service in civil engineering. At
the time of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, McClellan was president of the
Illinois Central Railroad. He was a close friend and backer of Douglas
and he had done what was practicable with the all-important machinery
of the railroad company to render comfortable the travelling of his
candidate and to insure his success. Returning to the army with the
opening of the War, he had won success in a brief campaign in Virginia
in which he was opposed by a comparatively inexperienced officer and by
a smaller force than his own. Placed in command of the army of the
Potomac shortly after the Bull Run campaign, he had shown exceptional
ability in bringing the troops into a state of organisation. He was
probably the best man in the United States to fit an army for action.
There were few engineer officers in the army who could have rendered
better service in the shaping of fortifications or in the construction
of an entrenched position. He showed later that he was not a bad leader
for a defeated army in the supervision of the retreat. He had, however,
no real capacity for leadership in an aggressive campaign. His
disposition led him to be full of apprehension of what the other fellow
was doing. He suffered literally from nightmares in which he exaggerated
enormously the perils in his paths, making obstacles where none existed,
multiplying by two or by three the troops against him, insisting upon
the necessity of providing not only for probable contingencies but for
very impossible contingencies. He was never ready for an advance and he
always felt proudly triumphant, after having come into touch with the
enemy, that he had accomplished the task of saving his army.

The only thing about which he was neither apprehensive nor doubtful was
his ability as a leader, whether military or political. While he found
it difficult to impress his will upon an opponent in the field,
he was very sturdy with his pen in laying down the law to the
Commander-in-chief (the President) and in emphasising the importance of
his own views not only in things military but in regard to the whole
policy of the government. The peculiarity about the nightmares and
miscalculations of McClellan was that they persisted long after the data
for their correction were available. In a book brought into print years
after the War, when the Confederate rosters were easily accessible in
Washington, McClellan did not hesitate to make the same statements in
regard to the numbers of the Confederate forces opposed to him that he
had brought into the long series of complaining letters to Lincoln in
which he demanded reinforcements that did not exist.

The records now show that at the time of the slow advance of
McClellan's army by the Williamsburg Peninsula, General Magruder had
been able, with a few thousand men and with dummy guns made of logs, to
give the impression that a substantial army was blocking the way to
Richmond. McClellan's advance was, therefore, made with the utmost
"conservatism," enabling General Johnston to collect back of Magruder
the army that was finally to drive McClellan back to his base. It is
further in evidence from the later records that when some weeks later
General Johnston concentrated his army at Gaines's Mill upon Porter, who
was separated from McClellan by the Chickahominy, there was but an
inconsiderable force between McClellan and Richmond.

At the close of the seven days' retreat, McClellan, who had with a
magnificent army thrown away a series of positions, writes to Lincoln
that he (Lincoln) "had sacrificed the army." In another letter,
McClellan lays down the laws of a national policy with a completeness
and a dictatorial utterance such as would hardly have been justified if
he had succeeded through his own military genius in bringing the War to
a close, but which, coming from a defeated general, was ridiculous
enough. Lincoln's correspondence with McClellan brings out the infinite
patience of the President, and his desire to make sure that before
putting the General to one side as a vainglorious incompetent, he had
been allowed the fullest possible test. Lincoln passes over without
reference and apparently without thought the long series of impertinent
impersonalities of McClellan. In this correspondence, as in all his
correspondence, the great captain showed himself absolutely devoted to
the cause he had in mind. Early in the year, months before the
Peninsular campaign, when McClellan had had the army in camp for a
series of months without expressing the least intention of action,
Lincoln had in talking with the Secretary of War used the expression:
"If General McClellan does not want to use the army just now, I
would like to borrow it for a while." That was as far as the
Commander-in-chief ever went in criticism of the General in the field.
While operations in Virginia, conducted by a vacillating and
vainglorious engineer officer, gave little encouragement, something was
being done to advance the cause of the Union in the West. In 1862, a
young man named Grant, who had returned to the army and who had been
trusted with the command of a few brigades, captured Fort Donelson and
thus opened the Tennessee River to the advance of the army southward.
The capture of Fort Donelson was rendered possible by the use of mortars
and was the first occasion in the war in which mortars had been brought
to bear. I chanced to come into touch with the record of the preparation
of the mortars that were supplied to Grant's army at Cairo. Sometime in
the nineties I was sojourning with the late Abram S. Hewitt at his home
in Ringwood, New Jersey. I noticed, in looking out from the piazza, a
mortar, properly mounted on a mortar-bed and encompassed by some yards
of a great chain, placed on the slope overlooking the little valley
below, as if to protect the house. I asked my host what was the history
of this piece of ordnance. "Well," he said, "the chain you might have
some personal interest in. It is a part of the chain your great-uncle
Israel placed across the river at West Point for the purpose of blocking
or at least of checking the passage of the British vessels. The chain
was forged here in the Ringwood foundry and I have secured a part of it
as a memento. The mortar was given to me by President Lincoln, as also
was the mortar-bed." This report naturally brought out the further
question as to the grounds for the gift. "I made this mortar-bed," said
Hewitt, "together with some others, and Lincoln was good enough to say
that I had in this work rendered a service to the State. It was in
December, 1861, when the expedition against Fort Donelson and Fort Henry
was being organised at Fort Cairo under the leadership of General Grant.
Grant reported that the field-pieces at his command would not be
effective against the earthworks that were to be shelled and made
requisition for mortars." The mortar I may explain to my unmilitary
readers is a short carronade of large bore and with a comparatively
short range. The mortar with a heavy charge throws its missile at a
sharp angle upwards, so that, instead of attempting to go through an
earthwork, it is thrown into the enclosure. The recoil from a mortar is
very heavy, necessitating the construction of a foundation called a
mortar-bed which is not only solid but which possesses a certain amount
of elasticity through which the shock of the recoil is absorbed. It is
only through the use of such a bed that a mortar can be fired from the
deck of a vessel. Without such, protection, the shock would smash
through the deck and might send the craft to the bottom.

The Ordnance Department reported to the Secretary of War and the
Secretary to Lincoln that mortars were on hand but that no mortar-beds
were available. It was one of the many cases in which the unpreparedness
of the government had left a serious gap in the equipment. The further

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest