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to them this manifestation of your Majesty's munifi-
cence and kind consideration.

Under their direction the gifts will be placed among
the archives of the government where they will remain
perpetually as tokens of mutual esteem and pacific
disposition more honorable to both nations than any
trophies of conquest could be.

I appreciate most highly your Majesty's tender of
good offices in forwarding to this Government a stock
from which a supply of elephants might be raised on
our soil. This Government would not hesitate to avail
itself of so generous an offer if the object were one
which could be made practically useful in the present
condition of the United States. Our political juris-
diction, however, does not reach a latitude so low as
to favor the multiplication of the elephant, and steam



160 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

on land as well as on water has been our best and most
efficient agent of transportation in internal commerce.

I shall have occasion at no distant day to transmit
to your Majesty some token of indication of the high
sense which this Government entertains of your Maj-
esty's friendship.

Meantime, wishing for your Majesty a long and
happy life, and, for the generous and emulous people
of Siam, the highest possible prosperity, I commend
both to the blessing of Almighty God.
Your good friend,

Abraham Lincoln.

Another of these letters was to General Hooker.^
Lincoln was in search of a general for the Army
of the Potomac. McClellan had not shown suffi-
cient vigor of offensive. Burnside had met his dis-
aster at Fredericksburg. Lincoln chose Hooker in
the face of the desire of Stanton and Halleck for
Rosencrans. Nicolay and Hay think that the most
remarkable feature of this letter "is the evidence
it gives how completely the genius of President Lin-
coln had by this time — the middle of his presidential
term — risen to the full height of his great national
duties and responsibilities." In composition, the let-
ter is remarkable for its conformity to a single idea.

I Page 311, Appendix.



The Presidency and the Civil War 161

That idea was to get a military service out of
Hooker which the President had been sleeplessly
anxious for, against Lee. After Hooker's ill-success
at Chancellorsville, and Meade, his successor, had
failed to follow up his advantage at Gettysburg.
Lincoln longed for "a master mind" for the army.
The letter mo\'es from commendation to courteous
rebuke and admonition, in a single paragraph. It
reveals the Commander-in-Chief's self-controlled
eagerness to stimulate what he had by this time con-
ceived to be the proper military .temper of an army
leader. He felt there was something catching in
Hooker's self-confidence and energy. Possibly he
could restrain the general's faults, and make a suc-
cessful head of an army out of him. So he wrote
this letter, in all respects finely conceived and per-
fectly set out in words. It is instinct with wisdom,
and Hooker's comment upon reading it is reported
to us by Noah Brooks: "He finished reading it
almost with tears in his eyes, and as he folded it and
l)ut it back in the breast of his coat, he said : 'That
is such a letter as a father might write to his son.
It is a beautiful letter, and although he was harder
on me than I deserved, I will say that I love the
man who wrote it !' "

In the following April, when Lincoln made a rpiiet



162 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

visit to Hooker's headquarters at Falmouth, Vir-
ginia, the general asserted : "I am going straight to
Richmond, if I live." This remark filled Lincoln
with misgivings, from its over-confident tone. To
Mr. Brooks he remarked : "It's about the worst thing
I have seen since I have been down here." A month
later when the news reached the President that
Hooker had met Lee and had retreated from the
south side of the Rappahannock, with hands clasped
behind his back. "Lincoln walked up and down the
room, saying, 'My God, my God, what will the coun-
try say ! What will the country say !' "

The man of large political knowledge, able as a
constitutional lawyer, kindly in spirit and philosoph-
ical in cast of mind, a master in artistry of expres-
sion, unsurpassed in his ability to read and handle
men, felt, as none other in the land could feel, the
pangs of torment from the defeat of his armies.
There had been suddenly thrust upon him, at close
range, the novel and by no means congenial task of
studying the art of war. This necessity he had
not shirked. That he had approached this obliga-
tion with his old-time mental grasp is evident from
the letter he wrote to McClellan in February. 1862,
containing a critical comparison between his own
and that general's plan of campaign in Virginia.



The Presidency and the Civil War 163

Lincoln kept in the closest possible contact with his
commanders and with the army of the East. He
studied the geographical nature of the theater of
war. He followed the movements of the troops,
and agonized over the delays of his generals to push
forward, and the prolongation of the strife. The
military academy had long been typical of the South.
The upper class of that section had long been ac-
customed to military drill, and the use of arms had
been the habitual disposition of both classes. The
South had its "master mind" at the outset of hos-
tilities. The North, with its absence of class cleav-
age in the southern sense, with its growing cities
and abounding industry, was predisposed to occu-
pations disassociated with war or the dextrous use
of arms. The North had to develop the spirit of
war after the conflict began, and had to train and
discover its "master mind." This process involved
the campaigns against Donelson and Vicksburg.
The process was completed at Chattanooga, the most
picturesque and brilliant victory of the Civil War.
In Grant, Lincoln at last found, in the domain of
war, his long-expected "master mind." ^

Meanwhile the North was wearying of what at
the moment seemed a fruitless slaughter of men in

I Rhodes, "History of the Civil War" (1917), PP- 203, 303.



164 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

the field. The sporadic disloyal elements actively
sowed the seeds of discontent. There was criticism
of the President's policy. None knew better than
he that the failure of the Union generals to gain mil-
itary successes lay at the heart of this criticism, and
no one sympathized more than he with the feeling
of the public mind. Both this feeling and the Presi-
dent's attitude toward it are almost perfectly indi-
cated by the following poem, written at the time by
E. C. Stedman, which Lincoln read to his Cabinet.

Back from the trebly crimsoned field

Terrible words are thunder-tost,
Full of the wrath that will not yield,

Full of revenge for battles lost !

Hark to their echo, as it crost
The Capital, making faces wan :

End this murderous holocaust ;
Abraham Lincoln, give us a man!

Give us a man of God's own mould,

Born to marshal his fellow-men ;
One whose fame is not bought and sold

At the stroke of a politician's pen;

Give us the man of thousands ten,
Fit to do as well as to plan ;

Give us a rallying-cry, and then,
Abraham Lincoln, mve us a maul



The Presidency and the Civil War 165

No leader to shirk the Ijoasting foe,

And to march and countermarch our brave
Till they fall like ghosts in the marshes low,

And swamp-grass covers each nameless grave ;

Nor another, whose fatal banners wave
Aye in Disaster's shameful van ;

Nor another, to bluster, and lie. and rave —
Abraham Lincoln, give us a vian!

Hearts are mourning in the North,

While the sister rivers seek the main.
Red with our life-blood flowing forth —

Who shall gather it up again?

Though we march to the battle-plain
Firmly as when the strife began,

Shall all our offerings be in vain?
Abraham Lincoln, give us a man!

Is there never one in all the land.

One on whose might the Cause may lean?
Are all the common ones so grand.

And all the titled ones so mean?

What if your failure may have been
In trying to make good bread from bran.

From worthless metal a weapon keen ? —
Abraham Lincoln, find us a tiiaii!



166 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

O, we will follow him to the death,

Where the foeman's fiercest columns are !
O, we will use our latest breath,

Cheering for every sacred star!

His to marshal us high and far ;
Ours to battle, as patriots can

When a Hero leads the Holy War ! —
Abraham Lincoln, give us a man!

An opportunity soon came to Lincoln to address
himself to this discontent and to indicate the logic
of his own policy. He was invited by his old friends
to be present at a mass meeting of "Unconditional
Union men" to be held in Springfield, early in Sep-
tember. His duties did not admit of his attendance,
and. instead, he sent a letter to his old-time friend,
James C. Conkling, to be read to the people. To
Mr. Conkling he sent also the following personal
note:

My dear Conkling:

I cannot leave here now. Herewith is a letter in-
stead. You are one of the best public readers. I have
but one suggestion — read it very slowly. And now
God bless you and all good Union men.
Yours as ever,

A. Lincoln.



The Presidency and the Civil War 167

This letter,' which Lincohi referred to as his
"stump speech" and which was reproduced as a good
specimen of Nineteenth Century prose by an English
scholar, John Earle, then professor of Anglo-Saxon
at Oxford Universit}-, in his well-known work on
"English Prose," is one of the most complete exam-
ples he has left us of his talent for grasping a com-
plex national situation and reducing it to plain terms,
by skill and simplicity of analysis. It was influential
in checking the popular discontent and in smoothing
the somewhat dubious path to his renomination the
next year. It helped to clear up the minds of many
who were perplexed by the Emancipation Procla-
mation — of some, too, who were unfriendly to that
act. The letter possesses remarkable unity and
movement, and an evident note of deep sincerity.
It should be read as a whole — even as its great
author suggested, "very slowly." Its significance
lies in part in the feeling it expresses that Lincoln
had now reached the point of strong confidence in
the wisdom of his course thus far. The burden
of novelty and doubt was lifting; there w^as a note
of spiritual yet restrained elation in what had al-
ready been achieved — an intuition of happier for-
tune just ahead.

I Page 313, Appendix.



168 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

Although the letter to Conkling is argumentative
in purport, it must always remain a notable and his-
toric composition — the best resume we now have of
the motive and results of the administration during
the first half of the civil struggle. As a piece of
literary prose, it creates, by sure and agile strokes,
an ensemble of all the effective phases of public
thought; it rises to a summit of hope and prophecy
for the republic — rhythmic — arresting — a foreshad-
owing of the sweet and solemn music he was so
soon to create.



CHAPTER IX

FROM GETTYSBURG TO THE SECOND INAUGURAL

It is equally true of the pen as of the pencil, that what is
drawn from life and from the heart alone bears the impress
of immortality. — Tuckervtan.

I call therefore a complete and generous education that which
fits a man to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously all
the offices, both public and private, of peace and war. — Milton.

Less than three months after the letter to Con-,
khng, Lincoln wrote and delivered the Gettysburg
Address. There are those who regard this as the
most important literary performance growing out of
the Civil War — that of all that was written during
that period, it will longest endure. Certain it is
that this Address is our most perfect hymn in prose.
It has the quiet yet stately roll of cathedral har-
mony. In thought and emotion it is deeply impres-
sive and spiritual. Miltonic in conception and
rhythm, it is a rich and satisfying intellectual pos-
session to those who have stored up its sacred lines
in memory. In Lowell's phrase,

They mingle with our life's ethereal part,
Sweetening and gathering sweetness evermore,
By beauty's franchise disenthralled of time.
169



170 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

Many events united to inspire this great utter-
ance. Primary among these were the military.
After Hooker's loss of the battle of Chancellors-
ville, Lincoln was again in search of a general.
Hooker remained in command of the eastern army
until Lee, planning to transfer the devastation of
war to the North and seize the vast industrial re-
sources of Pennsylvania, moved steadily northward
through Maryland. Hooker wished to make a
countermarch against Richmond. Dissuaded by the
President, who preferred the destruction of Lee's
army, he vigilantly paralleled Lee's direction, merely
to cover the important cities of Philadelphia, Bal-
timore, and Washington. Suddenly he resigned,
and Meade, a "lean, tall, studious"" subordinate
officer, whom Lincoln trusted, was appointed in his
place. Meade, whose first impression of the sealed
communication bearing his appointment was of an
official order "to relieve or arrest" him, wrote to his
wife that "it appears to be God's will for some good
purpose — at any rate I had nothing to do but to
accept and exert my utmost abilities to command
success, ... I am moving at once against Lee. . . .
A battle will decide the fate of our country and our
cause." The two armies struggled for the victory
through three days of carnage, July 1-3, 1863. Both



Gettysburg to the Second Inaugural 171

sides lost approximately one-fourth of their num-
bers, and Lee, feeling the impracticability of his
northern venture, retreated to the south side of the
Potomac. Simultaneously with Meade's success,
Vicksburg fell to Grant. These successes for the
North were pivotal. The Union would probably
triumph and slavery would be abolished. A vision
of the past and future America rose like a new
hope in the soul of the war-worn President. Among
certain governors of States a movement was set on
foot to establish a national cemetery at Gettysburg.
The dedicatory exercises were set for November 19,
and the venerable Edward Everett, born during
Washington's presidency, and wearing many honors,
as an ex-president of Harvard, as United States
Senator, as Minister to England, as Secretary of
State, and who had been a candidate for President
against Lincoln, was asked to make the principal
address of the occasion. The President was in-
vited to attend, and later it was suggested that he
make such "dedicatory remarks" as he deemed ap-
propriate. His Address, partly written at Wash-
ington, was finished in the house of his host at
Gettysburg.^

1 The most authoritative account of the composition of
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is by his secretary, John G.
Nicolay, in the Century Magazine, Vol. 47:596 ff- Interesting



172 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

Everett's "classical" address received well-de-
served praise. It was listened to for two hours by
an audience in the neighborhood of one hundred
thousand people. It is an elaborate and intellectual
production. Its patriotic sentiment is loft}' and
admirable, and its fluent eulogy must have been
pleasing to the expectant multitude. But as a com-
position it suffers from its academic garb and over-
wrought conceptions. Nor is it supported by emo-
tion or great insight. Its brilliancy is less interpre-
tive than verbal. Its weakness in this particular
was probably apparent to Everett himself as he
listened to Lincoln's address, which followed. It is
reported that, when Lincoln congratulated him on
his success, he replied : "Ah, Mr. President, how
gladly would I exchange all my hundred pages to
have been the author of your twenty lines."

There is much unconscious poetry in the more
deeply-felt utterances of Abraham Lincoln. No
other writer of American prose has quite matched

accounts of those who heard the Address are to be found in
W. H. Lambert's "The Gettysburg Address;" "Recollections of
Lincoln," by General James Grant Wilson ; Putnam's Magasine
for February, 1909; and "Lincoln at Gettysburg," by Clark E.
Carr. A brief and interesting account by an eye-witness is by
Junius B. Remensnyder, The Outlook. February 13, 1918, p-
243. An excellent summary of useful and interesting informa-
tion has been compiled by Mr. Lsaac Markens, of New York
City, in his "Lincoln's Masterpiece," privately printed. For
additional comment on the Address, see Appendix, page 278.



Gettysburg to the Second Inaugural 173

him in this respect. His masterpieces have often
the cadence of epic hnes, and easily fall into the
movement of musical measures. i\.ny one with an
elementary knowledge of metrics may test for him-
self this quality of certain passages in Lincoln's
writings. It will be found that his best prose has
as much of the modulation of rhythm as the best
of Ruskin's, without the over-fluent character of
the latter. No one has expressed this quality of
Lincoln's prose with more appreciation than the
late Richard Watson Gilder in his eloquent little
volume on "Lincoln the Leader." Speaking of Lin-
coln's "traits of pathos and imagination," he re-
marks that "Lincoln's prose, at its height and when
his spirit was stirred by aspiration and resolve, af-
fects the soul like noble music. Indeed, there may
be found in all his great utterances a strain which
is like the leading motive — the Leit-motif — in a
musical drama; a strain of mingled pathos, heroism,
and resolution. That is the strain in the tw^o inaug-
urals, in the 'Gettysburg Address,' and in his letter
of consolation to a bereaved mother, which moves
the hearts of generation after generation."

An interesting essay on "The Poetry of Lincoln"
was contributed to the North Auicrican Review some
years since by James Raymond Perry. The author



174 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

arranged certain of Lincoln's addresses into lines
to illustrate their rhythmical character. The Get-
tysburg Address was shown to fall into the follow-
ing metrical form :

Fourscore and seven years ago

Our fathers brought forth upon this continent

A new nation conceived in liberty,

And dedicated to the proposition

That all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war,

Testing whether that nation, or any nation

So conceived and so dedicated

Gan long endure. We are met

On a great battle-field of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of

That field as a final resting-place

For those who here gave their lives

That that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper

That we should do this.

But in a larger sense
We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate,
We cannot hallow this ground. The brave men,
Living and dead, who struggled here.
Have consecrated it far above our power
To add or detract. The world will little note



Gettysburg to the Second Inaugural 175

Nor long remember what we say here,

But it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, ratlier, to be dedicated here

To the unfinished work which they who fought here

Have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is. rather for us to be here dedicated

To the great task remaining before us ;

That from these honored dead we take

Increased devotion to that cause for which

They gave the last full measure of devotion ;

That we here highly resolve that these dead

Shall not have died in vain, that this nation,

Under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ;

And that government of the people,

By the people, and for the people.

Shall not perish from the earth.

However successfully, by the laws of metrical
measures, we may artificially dispose the more no-
table of Lincoln's prose productions as evidence of
their poetic quality, the final argument for their
musical character is revealed in their thought-con-
tent. They fit De Ouincey's description of the "liter-
ature of power." They move, but not so much by
their beautiful words, like Poe's poems, as by the
thought which commands the words. Lincoln is to
be interpreted first of all as a man who brought
powerful thought to bear upon the theme in which



176 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

he was deeply interested. He wrote slowly, because
he found that words were but feeble media for the
expression of great consciousness and its atmosphere
of feeling. Therefore he seems partial to simple,
idiomatic language when it will more swiftly meet
and carry his thought. It has been customary to
mention the large proportion of Anglo-Saxon de-
rived words in the Gettysburg Address. On the
other hand, one is struck by the prevalence of Latin-
derived words in the delightfully written acknowl-
edgment to the king of Siam, reprinted in the pre-
vious chapter. As a matter of fact, Lincoln, when
he was in the writing mood, brooded over his words,
tried his verbal resources to their utmost, and then
chose the best he had in hand. His letter to Colonel
Allen, in his young manhood, more than twenty-five
years before the Gettysburg Address, shows a de-
cided leaning toward words of foreign derivation,
while his letters to his step-brother, Johnson, fifteen
years later than the Allen letter, prefer words of
English ancestry. Lincoln had little interest in the
philology of language. His main concern was with
the meaning and extent of his vocabulary, and his
leading principle of composition seems to have been
to use the expression, from whatever origin, that
would satisfy the reader's or listener's understand-



Gettysburg to the Second Inaugural 177

ing. His devotion to this principle, or method, some-
times led him into the use of words or phrases of
less dignity than the context would call for.'

There may be some question whether the actual
words of the Gettysburg Address are chosen in every
instance with as excellent discrimination as the
thought indicated was conceived. It is, however, the
special consciousness they embody that is the soul of
the poetry they suggest. Lincoln's unique person-
ality, the moral character of the great problem round
which his political experience turned, his whole-
souled sympathy for the welfare of the mass of man-
kind, together with his righteous hatred of special
privilege and oppression of any kind, gave him the

I There are many instances of this, but a single one with his
own comment will suffice. In his message to Congress, July 4,
1861, speaking of the "ingenious sophism" by which southern
leaders had drugged the pul)lic mind of their section, he re-
ferred to the rebellion as "thus sugar-coated." Defrees, the
Public Printer, ventured to remind the President that the
l)hrase was unbecoming a state-paper. Lincoln replied : "Well,
Defrees, if you think the time will ever come when the people
will not understand what 'sugar-coated' means, I'll alter it ;
otherwise, I think I'll let it go." His response to a delegation
from the National Union League, which called to notify him of
his renomination, combines language that is unexceptional with
the purely homespun. See .\ppendix, pp. 279-280.

Occasionallj' Lincoln's homebred phrases were aphoristic and
have become permanently poi)ular. An instance of this is
taken from a report of a si)eech he made at Clinton, 111., Sep-
tember 8, 1858, between the second and third debates with
Douglas. At that time he is reported to have used the famous
dictum : "You can fool all the people some of the time, and
some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the
people all the time."



178 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

power, after the victories over Lee and Pemberton.
to pen this ripened conception of democracy in
America. In the Gettysburg speech, he seems to
have taken the body of his conviction, derived from
many elements of observation and study, and fash-
ioned it, like a master artist, into a single life-like
conception. His thought is sculptured more nearly
after the lines of the classical than the Gothic. Like
Angelo, he arrived at beauty by striking out the
superfluous.

Lincoln's imagination was interfused with a vital
strain of social sympathy — sympathy for his fel-
lows. For them he aspired. He loved to contem-
plate the self-improvement of the less fortunate — of
which his own case was so wonderful an exemplifi-
cation. His age and environment accounted for this
peculiarity of sympathy as well as the strong political
turn of his native fancy. Thus, his mind spent its
force in interpretative rather than in creative activ-


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