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The fact is, that he tried to discharge the obliga-
tions of his great office, knowing from the first that
slavery must perish. The course pursued by Lin-
coln was so gentle, so kind and persistent, so wise
and logical, that millions of Northern Democrats
sprang to the defence, not only of the Union, but of
his administration. Lincoln refused to be led or
hurried by Fremont or Hunter, by Greeley or Sum-
ner. From first to last he was the real leader, and
he kept step with events.


/^"\N the 2 2d of July, 1862, Lincoln sent word to
^^ the members of his cabinet that he wished to
see them. It so happened that Secretary Chase was
the first to arrive. He found Lincoln reading a
book. Looking up from the page, the President
said : " Chase, did you ever read this book ?" "What
book is it ?" asked Chase. "Artemus Ward," re-
plied Lincoln. " Let me read you this chapter,
entitled ' Wax Wurx in Albany! " And so he began
reading while the other members of the cabinet one
by one came in. At last Stanton told Mr. Lincoln
that he was in a great hurry, and if any business was
to be done he would like to do it at once. Where-
upon Mr. Lincoln laid down the open book, opened
a drawer, took out a paper and said : " Gentlemen, I
have called you together to notify you what I have
determined to do, I want no advice. Nothing can
change my mind."

He then read the Proclamation of Emancipation.
Chase thought there ought to be something about
God at the close, to which Lincoln replied : " Put it

in, it won't hurt it." It was also agreed that the



President would wait for a victory in the field before
giving the Proclamation to the world.

The meeting was over, the members went their
way. Mr. Chase was the last to go, and as he went
through the door looked back and saw that Mr. Lin-
coln had taken up the book and was again engrossed
in the Wax Wurx at Albany.

This was on the 22d of July, 1862. On the 22d
of August of the same year — after Lincoln wrote
his celebrated letter to Horace Greeley, in which he
stated that his object was to save the Union ; that he
would save it with slavery if he could ; that if it was
necessary to destroy slavery in order to save the
Union, he would ; in other words, he would do what
was necessary to save the Union.

This letter disheartened, to a great degree, thou-
sands and millions of the friends of freedom. They
felt that Mr. Lincoln had not attained the moral
height upon which they supposed he stood. And
yet, when this letter was written, the Emancipation
Proclamation was in his hands, and had been for
thirty days, waiting only an opportunity to give it to
the world.

Some two weeks after the letter to Greeley, Lin-
coln was waited on by a committee of clergymen,


and was by them informed that it was God's will that
he should issue a Proclamation of Emancipation.
He replied to them, in substance, that the day of
miracles had passed. He also mildly and kindly
suggested that if it were God's will this Proclamation
should be issued, certainly God would have made
known that will to him — to the person whose duty
it was to issue it.

On the 2 2d day of September, 1862, the most
glorious date in the history of the Republic, the
Proclamation of Emancipation was issued.

Lincoln had reached the generalization of all argu-
ment upon the question of slavery and freedom — a
generalization that never has been, and probably
never will be, excelled :

" In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the

This is absolutely true. Liberty can be retained,
can be enjoyed, only by giving it to others. The
spendthrift saves, the miser is prodigal. In the realm
of Freedom, waste is husbandry. He who puts
chains upon the body of another shackles his own
soul. The moment the Proclamation was issued
the cause of the Republic became sacred. From
that moment the North fought for the human race.


From that moment the North stood under the blue
and stars, the flag of Nature, sublime and free.

In 1 83 1, Lincoln went down the Mississippi on a
flat-boat. He received the extravagant salary of
ten dollars a month. When he reached New Or-
leans, he and some of his companions went about
the city.

Among other places, they visited a slave market,
where men and women were being sold at auction.
A young colored girl was on the block. Lincoln
heard the brutal words of the auctioneer — the savage
remarks of bidders. The scene filled his soul with
indignation and horror.

Turning to his companions, he said, " Boys, if I
ever get a chance to hit slavery, by God I'll hit it
hard ! "

The helpless girl, unconsciously, had planted in a
great heart the seeds of the Proclamation.

Thirty-one years afterward the chance came, the
oath was kept, and to four millions of slaves, of men,
women and children, was restored liberty, the jewel
of the soul.

In the history, in the fiction of the world, there is
nothing more intensely dramatic than this.

Lincoln held within his brain the grandest truths,


and he held them as unconsciously, as easily, as
naturally, as a waveless pool holds within its stainless
breast a thousand stars.

In these two years we had traveled from the Or-
dinance of Secession to the Proclamation of Eman-


"\ A 7"E were surrounded by enemies. Many of the
* so-called great in Europe and England were

against us. They hated the Republic, despised our
institutions, and sought in many ways to aid the

Mr. Gladstone announced that Jefferson Davis had
made a nation, and that he did not believe the restor-
ation of the American Union by force attainable.

From the Vatican came words of encouragement
for the South.

It was declared that the North was fighting for
empire and the South for independence.

The Marquis of Salisbury said : " The people of
the South are the natural allies of England. The
North keeps an opposition shop in the same depart-
ment of trade as ourselves."

Not a very elevated sentiment — but English.



Some of their statesmen declared that the subju-
gation of the South by the North would be a calamity
to the world.

Louis Napoleon was another enemy, and he en-
deavored to establish a monarchy in Mexico, to the
end that the great North might be destroyed. But
the patience, the uncommon common sense, the
statesmanship of Lincoln — in spite of foreign hate
and Northern division — triumphed over all. And
now we forgive all foes. Victory makes forgiveness

Lincoln was by nature a diplomat. He knew
the art of sailing against the wind. He had as
much shrewdness as is consistent with honesty.
He understood, not only the rights of individ-
uals, but of nations. In all his correspondence
with other governments he neither wrote nor
sanctioned a line which afterward was used to
tie his hands. In the use of perfect English he
easily rose above all his advisers and all his

No one claims that Lincoln did all. He could
have done nothing without the generals in the field,
and the generals could have done nothing without
their armies. The praise is due to all — to the


private as much as to the officer ; to the lowest who
did his duty, as much as to the highest.

My heart goes out to the brave private as much
as to the leader of the host.

But Lincoln stood at the centre and with infinite
patience, with consummate skill, with the genius of
goodness, directed, cheered, consoled and conquered.


QL AVERY was the cause of the war, and slavery
^ was the perpetual stumbling-block. As the war
went on, question after question arose — questions
that could not be answered by theories. Should we
hand back the slave to his master, when the master
was using his slave to destroy the Union ? If the
South was right, slaves were property, and by the
laws of war anything that might be used to the ad-
vantage of the enemy might be confiscated by us.
Events did not wait for discussion. General Butler
denominated the negro as " a contraband." Con-
gress provided that the property of the rebels might
be confiscated.

The extreme Democrats of the North regarded
the slave as more sacred than life. It was no harm


to kill the master — to burn his house, to ravage his
fields — but you must not free his slave.

If in war a nation has the right to take the prop-
erty of its citizens — of its friends — certainly it has
the right to take the property of those it has the
right to kill.

Lincoln was wise enough to know that war
is governed by the laws of war, and that dur-
ing the conflict constitutions are silent. All
that he could do he did in the interests of
peace. He offered to execute every law — in-
cluding the most infamous of all — to buy the
slaves in the border States — to establish grad-
ual, compensated emancipation ; but the South
would not hear. Then he confiscated the prop-
erty of rebels — treated the slaves as contraband
of war, used them to put down the Rebellion,
armed them and clothed them in the uniform
of the Republic — was in favor of making
them citizens and allowing them to stand on
an equality with their white brethren under the
flag of the Nation. During these years Lincoln
moved with events, and every step he took has
been justified by the considerate judgment of man-


I INCOLN not only watched the war, but kept his
*-^ hand on the political pulse. In 1863 a tide set
in against the administration. A Republican meet-
ing was to be held in Springfield, Illinois, and Lin-
coln wrote a letter to be read at this convention.
It was in his happiest vein. It was a perfect defence
of his administration, including the Proclamation of
Emancipation. Among other things he said :

1 ' But the proclamation, as law, either is valid or it is not
valid. If it is not valid it needs no retraction, but if it is valid
it cannot be retracted, any more than the dead can be brought
to life."

To the Northern Democrats who said they would
not fight for negroes, Lincoln replied :

"Some of them seem willing to fight for you — but no

Of negro soldiers :

" But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why

should they do anything for us if we will do nothing for them ?

If they stake their lives for us they must be prompted by the

strongest motive — even the promise of freedom. And the

promise, being made, must be kept."



There is one line in this letter that will give it
immortality :

"The Father of waters again goes unvexed to the sea."

This line is worthy of Shakespeare.
Another :

"Among free men there can be no successful appeal from the
ballot to the bullet."

He draws a comparison between the white men
against us and the black men for us :

"And then there will be some black men who can remember
that with silent tongue and clenched teeth and steady eye and
well-poised bayonet they have helped mankind on to this great
consummation ; while I fear there will be some white ones un-
able to forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech
they strove to hinder it. ' '

Under the influence of this letter, the love of coun-
try, of the Union, and above all, the love of liberty,
took possession of the heroic North.

There was the greatest moral exaltation ever

The spirit of liberty took possession of the people.
The masses became sublime.

To fight for yourself is natural — to fight for others
is grand ; to fight for your country is noble — to


fight for the human race — for the liberty of hand
and brain — is nobler still.

As a matter of fact, the defenders of slavery had
sown the seeds of their own defeat. They dug the
pit in which they fell. Clay and Webster and thou-
sands of others had by their eloquence made the
Union almost sacred. The Union was the very tree
of life, the source and stream and sea of liberty and
law. •+

For the sake of slavery millions stood by the
Union, for the sake of liberty millions knelt at the
altar of the Union ; and this love of the Union
is what, at last, overwhelmed the Confederate

It does not seem possible that only a few
years ago our Constitution, our laws, our Courts,
the Pulpit and the Press defended and upheld
the institution of slavery — that it was a crime to
feed the hungry — to give water to the lips of
thirst — shelter to a woman flying from the whip
and chain !

The old flag still flies — the stars are there — the
stains have gone.


T INCOLN always saw the end. He was unmoved
*-^ by the storms and currents of the times. He
advanced too rapidly for the conservative politicians,
too slowly for the radical enthusiasts. He occupied
the line of safety, and held by his personality — by
the force of his great character, by his charming
candor — the masses on his side.

The soldiers thought of him as a father.

All who had lost their sons in battle felt that they
had his sympathy — felt that his face was as sad as
theirs. They knew that Lincoln was actuated by
one motive, and that his energies were bent to the
attainment of one end — the salvation of the Re-

They knew that he was kind, sincere and merci-
ful. They knew that in his veins there was no drop
of tyrants' blood. They knew that he used his
power to protect the innocent, to save reputation
and life — that he had the brain of a philosopher —
the heart of a mother.

During all the years of war, Lincoln stood the

embodiment of mercy, between discipline and death.

He pitied the imprisoned and condemned. He took



the unfortunate in his arms, and was the friend even
of the convict. He knew temptation's strength —
the weakness of the will — and how in fury's sudden
flame the judgment drops the scales, and passion —
blind and deaf — usurps the throne.

One day a woman, accompanied by a Senator,
called on the President. The woman was the wife
of one of Mosby's men. Her husband had been
captured, tried and condemned to be shot. She
came to ask for the pardon of her husband. The
President heard her story and then asked what kind
of man her husband was. " Is he intemperate, does
he abuse the children and beat you ? " " No, no,"
said the wife, " he is a good man, a good husband,
he loves me and he loves the children, and we can-
not live without him. The only trouble is that he
is a fool about politics — I live in the North, born
there, and if I get him home, he will do no more
fighting for the South." " Well," said Mr. Lincoln,
after examining the papers, " I will pardon your
husband and turn him over to you for safe keeping."
The poor woman, overcome with joy, sobbed as
though her heart would break.

" My dear woman," said Lincoln, " if I had known
how badly it was going to make you feel, I never


would have pardoned him." " You do not under-
stand me," she cried between her sobs. " You do
not understand me." " Yes, yes, I do," answered
the President, " and if you do not go away at once I
shall be crying with you.'*

On another occasion, a member of Congress, on
his way to see Lincoln, found in one of the ante-
rooms of the White House an old white-haired man,
sobbing — his wrinkled face wet with tears. The
old man told him that for several days he had tried
to see the President — that he wanted a pardon for
his son. The Congressman told the old man to
come with him and he would introduce him to Mr.
Lincoln. On being introduced, the old man said :
" Mr. Lincoln, my wife sent me to you. We had
three boys. They all joined your army. One of
'em has been killed, one's a fighting now, and one
of 'em, the youngest, has been tried for deserting
and he's going to be shot day after to-morrow. He
never deserted. He's wild, and he may have drunk
too much and wandered off, but he never deserted.
'Taint in the blood. He's his mother's favorite, and
if he's shot, I know she'll die." The President,
turning to his secretary, said : " Telegraph General
Butler to suspend the execution in the case of ■


[giving the name] until further orders from me, and
ask him to answer ."

The Congressman congratulated the old man on
his success — but the old man did not respond. He
was not satisfied. " Mr. President," he began, " I
can't take that news home. It won't satisfy his
mother. How do I know but what you'll give further
orders to-morrow ? " " My good man," said Mr.
Lincoln, " I have to do the best I can. The generals
are complaining because I pardon so many. They
say that my mercy destroys discipline. Now, when
you get home you tell his mother what you said to
me about my giving further orders, and then you tell
her that I said this : ' If your son lives until they get
further orders from me, that when he does die peo-
ple will say that old Methusaleh was a baby com-
pared to him.' "

The pardoning power is the only remnant of ab-
solute sovereignty that a President has. Through
all the years, Lincoln will be known as Lincoln the
loving, Lincoln the merciful.


T INCOLN had the keenest sense of humor, and
^ always saw the laughable side even of disaster.
In his humor there was logic and the best of sense.
No matter how complicated the question, or how
embarrassing the situation, his humor furnished an
answer and a door of escape.

Vallandigham was a friend of the South, and did
what he could to sow the seeds of failure. In his
opinion everything, except rebellion, was unconsti-

He was arrested, convicted by a court martial, and
sentenced to imprisonment.

There was doubt about the legality of the trial,
and thousands in the North denounced the whole
proceeding as tyrannical and infamous. At the same
time millions demanded that Vallandigham should
be punished.

Lincoln's humor came to the rescue. He disap-
proved of the findings of the court, changed the
punishment, and ordered that Mr. Vallandigham
should be sent to his friends in the South.

Those who regarded the act as unconstitutional

almost forgave it for the sake of its humor.




Horace Greeley always had the idea that he was
greatly superior to Lincoln, because he lived in a
larger town, and for a long time insisted that the
people of the North and the people of the South
desired peace. He took it upon himself to lecture
Lincoln. Lincoln, with that wonderful sense of
humor, united with shrewdness and profound wisdom,
told Greeley that, if the South really wanted peace,
he (Lincoln) desired the same thing, and was doing
all he could to bring it about. Greeley insisted that
a commissioner should be appointed, with authority
to negotiate with the representatives of the Con-
federacy. This was Lincoln's opportunity. He
authorized Greeley to act as such commissioner.
The great editor felt that he was caught. For a
time he hesitated, but finally went, and found that
the Southern commissioners were willing to take
into consideration any offers of peace that Lincoln
might make, consistent with the independence of the

The failure of Greeley was humiliating, and the
position in which he was left, absurd.

Again the humor of Lincoln had triumphed.

Lincoln, to satisfy a few fault-finders in the North,
went to Grant's headquarters and met some Con-


federate commissioners. He urged that it was hardly-
proper for him to negotiate with the representatives
of rebels in arms — that if the South wanted peace,
all they had to do was to stop fighting. One of the
commissioners cited as a precedent the fact that
Charles the First negotiated with rebels in arms.
To which Lincoln replied that Charles the First lost
his head.

The conference came to nothing, as Mr. Lincoln

The commissioners, one of them being Alexander
H. Stephens, who, when in good health, weighed
about ninety pounds, dined with the President and
Gen. Grant. After dinner, as they were leaving,
Stephens put on an English ulster, the tails of which
reached the ground, while the collar was somewhat
above the wearer's head.

As Stephens went out, Lincoln touched Grant and
said : " Grant, look at Stephens. Did you ever see
as little a nubbin with as much shuck ? "

Lincoln always tried to do things in the easiest
way. He did not waste his strength. He was not
particular about moving along straight lines. He
did not tunnel the mountains. He was willing to go
around, and reach the end desired as a river reaches
the sea.


/^\NE of the most wonderful things ever done by
^-^ Lincoln was the promotion of General Hooker.
After the battle of Fredericksburg, General Burnside
found great fault with Hooker, and wished to have
him removed from the Army of the Potomac. Lin-
coln disapproved of Burnside's order, and gave
Hooker the command. He then wrote Hooker this
memorable letter :

' ' I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Poto-
mac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to
be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know
that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite
satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skillful
soldier — which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not
mix politics with your profession — in which you are right.
You have confidence — which is a valuable, if not an indispen-
sable, quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable
bounds, does good rather than harm ; but I think that during
General Burnside's command of the army you have taken
counsel of your ambition to thwart him as much as you could —
in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most
meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in
such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both
the army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course it

was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you com-



mand. Only those generals who gain successes can set up
dictators. What I now ask of you is military successes, and I
will risk the dictatorship. The Government will support you
to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than
it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that
the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of
criticising their commander and withholding confidence in him,
will now turn upon you. I shall assist you, so far as I can, to
put it down. Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive, can
get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it.
And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with
energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories."

This letter has, in my judgment, no parallel. The
mistaken magnanimity is almost equal to the
prophecy :

" I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse
into the army, of criticising their command and withholding
confidence in him, will now turn upon you."

Chancellorsville was the fulfillment.


IV /\R. LINCOLN was a statesman. The great
stumbling-block — the great obstruction — in
Lincoln's way, and in the way of thousands, was the
old doctrine of States Rio-hts.

This doctrine was first established to protect
slavery. It was clung to to protect the inter-State


slave trade. It became sacred in connection with
the Fugitive Slave Law, and it was finally used as
the corner-stone of Secession.

This doctrine was never appealed to in defence of
the right — always in support of the wrong. For
many years politicians upon both sides of this ques-
tion endeavored to express the exact relations ex-
isting between the- Federal Government and the
States, and I know of no one who succeeded, except
Lincoln. In his message of 1861, delivered on July
the 4th, the definition is given, and it is perfect :

"Whatever concerns the whole should be confided to the
whole — to the General Government. Whatever concerns only
the State should be left exclusively to the State."

When that definition is realized in practice, this
country becomes a Nation. Then we shall know
that the first allegiance of the citizen is not to his
State, but to the Republic, and that the first duty of
the Republic is to protect the citizen, not only when
in other lands, but at home, and that this duty can-
not be discharged by delegating it to the States.

Lincoln believed in the sovereignty of the people

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Online LibraryRobert Green IngersollAbraham Lincoln → online text (page 2 of 5)