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Title: Abraham Lincoln, Volume I
Author: Morse, John T. (John Torrey), 1840-1937
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Abraham Lincoln, Volume I" ***

[Illustration: Abraham Lincoln]

American Statesmen


[Illustration: _The Early House of Abraham Lincoln_.]







The fifth and final group of biographies in the American Statesmen
series deals with the Period of the Civil War. The statesmen whose lives
are included in this group are Abraham Lincoln, William H. Seward,
Salmon P. Chase, Charles Francis Adams, Charles Sumner, and Thaddeus

The years of the civil war constitute an episode rather than an
independent period in our national history. They were interposed between
two eras; and if they are to be integrally connected with either of
these, it is with the era which preceded them rather than with that
which followed them. They were the result, the closing act, of the
quarter-century of the anti-slavery crusade. When the war came to an end
the country made a new start under new conditions. Yet it is proper to
treat the years of the war by themselves, not only because they were
filled by the clearly defined and abnormal condition of warfare, but
because a distinct group of statesmen is peculiarly associated with
them. The men whose lives are found in this group had been struggling
for recognition during the years which preceded the war, but they only
arrived at the control of affairs after that event became assured. Soon
after its close their work was substantially done.

For a long while before hostilities actually broke out, it was evident
that a civil war would be a natural result of the antagonism between the
South and the North; it is now obvious enough that it was more than a
natural, that it was an absolutely inevitable result. Looking backward,
we can only be surprised that wise men ever fancied that a conflict
could be avoided; but, as usual, the strenuous hope became father to an
anxious belief. Abraham Lincoln, in the first year when he gave
indication of his political clear-sightedness, said truly that the
country could not continue half slave and half free. That truth involved
war. There was no other possible way to settle the question between the
two halves; talk of freeing the slaves by purchase, or by gradual
emancipation and colonization, was simple nonsense, the forlorn schemes
of men who would fain have escaped out of the track of inexorable
destiny. Yet the vast majority of the nation, appalled at the vision of
the great fact which lay right athwart their road, was obstinate in the
delusive expectation of flanking it, as though there were side paths
whereby mankind can circumvent fate and walk around that which _must
be_, just as if it were not. Thus it came to pass that when the South
seceded, as every intelligent man ought to have been perfectly sure
would be the case, a confusion fell for a time upon the North. In that
section of the country there was for a few months a spectacle which has
no parallel in history. There was paralysis, there was disintegration;
worse than either, there was an utter lack of straight sense and clear
thought. There were politicians, editors, writers, agitators, reformers
in multitudes whose reiteration of their moral convictions, whose
intense addresses and uncompromising articles, had for years been
bringing about precisely this event; yet when it came, it appeared that
no one of them had contemplated it with any realizing appreciation, no
one of them was ready for it, no one of them had any sensible, practical
course of action to recommend. There was no union among them, no
cohesion of opinion or of purpose, no agreement of forecast; each had
his own individual notion as to what could be done, what should be done,
what would be the train of events. Politically speaking, society was a
mere parcel of units, with topical proximity, but with no other element
of aggregation. The immensity of the crisis seemed to shake men's minds;
the enigma of duty involved such possibilities, in case of a wrong
solution, that the wisest leaders, becoming dazed and overawed, uttered
the grossest follies. Men who had been energetic and vigorous before,
when they were pursuing a purpose, who became so again afterward, when
the distinct issue had taken shape, now lost for a time their
intellectual self-possession. The picture of the country during three or
four months, or rather an observant study of the prominent men of the
country, is sufficiently interesting historically, but is vastly more so
psychologically. I know of no other period in history in which this
peculiar element of interest exists to anywhere near an equal degree. It
is the study of human nature which for a brief time absorbs us, much
more than the study of events.

But this condition was, by its nature, transitory. Events moved, and
soon created defined and clean-cut issues, in relation to which
individuals were compelled to find their positions,--positions where
they could establish a belief, whether that belief should prove at last
to be right or wrong; positions wherein they were willing to abide to
the end, be that end victory or ruin. Primarily everything depended upon
Abraham Lincoln. If he should prove to be a weak man, like his
predecessor, or if he should prove to be a man of merely ordinary
capacity and character like the presidents who had followed Van Buren,
then all was over for the North. With what anxiety, with how much
doubt, the people of the Northern States scanned their singular and
untried choice can never be fully appreciated by persons who cannot
remember those wearisome, overladen days. He was an unknown quantity in
the awful problem. In his debates with Douglas he had given some
indication of what was in him, but outside of Illinois not one man in a
hundred was familiar with those debates. Nor did even they furnish
conclusive proof of his administrative capacity, especially in these
days of novel and mortal stress. For a time he seemed to wait, to drift;
until the day of his inauguration he gave no sign; then in his speech
the people, whose hearts were standing still in their eagerness to hear,
found reassuring sentences. Yet nothing seemed to follow during many
anxious weeks; the suns rose and the suns set, and still the leader
raised no standard around which the people could rally, uttered no
inspiring word of command which could unite the dissevered political
cliques. What was in his mind all this while can never be known, though
no knowledge could be more interesting. Was he in a simple attitude of
expectancy, awaiting the march of events, watchful for some one of them
to give him the cue as well as the opportunity for action? Many believe
that this was the case; and if it was, no other course could have been
more intelligent. In due time events came which brought decision with
them, the crisis shaped itself, and he was ready with clear and prompt
action. When it was known what he would do, matters were settled. The
people, once assured that the fight would be made, entered upon it with
such a temper and in possession of such resources that, in spite of
those trying fluctuations which any wise man could have foreseen, they
were sure in the end to win.

It would be out of place in these prefatory paragraphs, to attempt any
skeleton picture of the momentous struggle. I believe that the story is
told very completely in the lives which compose this group. The
statesmen who controlled events during the war were a new group; they
were not young men, neither were they unknown or untried in public
affairs; but they were for the first time in control. In their younger
days they had been under the shadow and predominance of the old school
of statesmen, whose object had been to prevent, or at least to defer
indefinitely, precisely that crisis which was now present. They
themselves, on the other hand, had been strenuously advocating the
policies which had at last brought that crisis into existence. But the
election of Abraham Lincoln was their first, and as yet their only
triumph. In all previous trials of strength they had been defeated.
Their present success was like the bursting of a torrent through a dam.
At the instant when they attained it they found themselves involved in a
political swirl and clash of momentous difficulties. It was a tremendous
test to which they were being subjected. The part which Lincoln played,
at their head, I have endeavored to depict in his life. The manner in
which he controlled without commanding, his rare combination of
confidence in his own judgment with entire absence of self-assertion,
his instinctive appreciation of the meaning and bearing of facts, his
capacity to recognize the precise time until which action should be
postponed and then to know that action must be taken, suggesting the
idea of prescience, his long-suffering and tolerance towards impolitic,
obstructive, or over-rash individuals, his marvelous gift of keeping in
touch with the people, form a group of qualities which, united in the
President of the United States at that mortal juncture, are as strong
evidence as anything which this generation has seen to corroborate a
faith in an overruling Providence. Conceive what might have happened if
it had been some other of our presidents who had happened to have his
term begin in 1861! Yet, after all the study that can be made of him,
there are unexplainable elements in Lincoln's character which will leave
him forever an enigma. If the world ever settles down to the acceptance
of any definite, accurate picture of him, it will surely be a false
picture. There must always be vague, indefinable uncertainties in any
presentation of him which shall be truly made.

Of the men who labored with him, I have left myself room to say little,
nor need much be said here. Their lives tell their stories. Taken
together, these biographies contain the history, upon the civil side, of
the war period. Seward represents the policy of the administration as a
whole, for all civil business centred in the office of the secretary of
state. He was a man of extraordinary ability. It is true that he made a
strange blunder or two, at the outset, odd episodes in his intelligent,
clear-sighted, cool-headed career,--psychologically interesting, as has
been suggested; but he immediately recovered himself and settled down to
that course of wise statesmanship which was justly to be expected of

Chase handled the finances of the country with brilliant success. People
have criticised him, especially have said that his legal-tender scheme
was a needless and mischievous measure. But his task was immeasurably
difficult, and he had to act with great promptitude, having little time
for consideration, obliged to provide instantly for immediate
exigencies, forced to respect the present state of feeling among the
moneyed classes, though it might be transitory, and to be controlled by
the possibilities of the passing moment. He met the gigantic daily
outlay without even a temporary interruption, and the country grew rich,
not only nominally in an inflated currency, but actually in a great
development of material resources, beneath his management of the
treasury. To find fault with him, and to talk of the "_might have been_"
seems unworthy; also unsatisfactory, since the consequences of a
different policy are wholly matter of supposition.

Charles Sumner, the preacher of the crusade, stands for the moral
element. Possibly his most important work came before the war. But the
prestige which he had gained made him a man to be reckoned with, and he
had a following of fervent and resolute men in the country so numerous
that his support was essential and his opinions had to be treated with

The career of Charles Francis Adams in England will be read for the
first time in the life which forms a part of this series. It has been
written by his son, of course with every possible advantage, and it is
one of the most interesting chapters in the history of the civil war. Of
him, too, it may be said that he seems to have been specially raised up
for precisely the duty which he had to fulfill. A blunder on the part
of our envoy to Great Britain would have possibly led to consequences
which one trembles to contemplate even in imagination. The services of
Franklin in France and the positive good of the French alliance in the
Revolution, may be compared with the services of Mr. Adams in England
and the negative advantage of non-interference by England on behalf of
the South in the civil war. Mr. Adams's coolness, his unerring judgment,
and the prestige of his name, in combination, made him the one man in
the United States who ought by fitness to have held his post. That he
did hold it was, perhaps, one of the two or three essential facts which
together made Northern success possible, by the elimination of unfair
and extrinsic causes of defeat.

One part only of the picture remains to be drawn, the House of
Representatives. It is by no means conducive to a cheerful patriotic
pride to contemplate the general throng of the politicians of the
country during the war. In plain truth, they did themselves little
credit. Amid the excitement of the times they utterly failed to
appreciate their true position, their personal and official limitations.
They could not let military matters alone; they did not often recognize
the boundaries of their own knowledge, and the proper scope of their
usefulness. They intermeddled ceaselessly, embroiled everything, and as
a consequence they obstructed success in the field almost as much as if
they had been another Confederate army. It has been with some difficulty
that any one from among them has been found whose life it was desirable
to write. But Thaddeus Stevens was really a man of great power and note.
Intense and earnest, he exerted a magnificent influence in the way of
encouragement and inspiration. He adhered, if not altogether so closely
as he ought, yet at least more closely than did many others, to the
proper sphere of his duties as a civilian. Influential in oratory,
skillful in political management, masterful in temperament, and of
unflinching loyalty, he was long the genuine leader of the House. In
recalling the several members of that body he stands forth as the one
striking and dominant figure. Nor did his activity cease with the war;
he continued preëminent in the questions which immediately succeeded it,
so that the reconstruction of the country, without which our story would
be incomplete, finds its proper place in his biography. Therewith, I
think, the series reaches completion.


September, 1898.





From an original, unretouched negative, made in 1864, at the time he
commissioned Ulysses S. Grant Lieutenant-General and Commander of all
the armies of the Republic. It is said that this negative, with one of
General Grant, was made in commemoration of that event.

Autograph from the copy of the Gettysburg Address made by Lincoln for
the Soldiers' and Sailors' Fair at Baltimore, in 1864, and now in the
possession of Wm. J.A. Bliss, Esq., of that city.

The vignette of Lincoln's early home on Goose-Nest Prairie, near
Farmington, Ill., is from a drawing after a photograph. This log cabin
was built by Lincoln and his father in 1831.


From a photograph by Brady in the Library of the State Department at

Autograph from the Brady Register, owned by his nephew, Mr. Levin C.
Handy, Washington, D.C.


From a photograph by Brady in the Library of the State Department at

Autograph from the Chamberlain collection, Boston Public Library.


From a photograph by Brady in the Library of the State Department at

Autograph from the Chamberlain collection, Boston Public Library.


From the painting by W.F. Halsall in the Capitol at Washington.




Abraham Lincoln knew little concerning his progenitors, and rested well
content with the scantiness of his knowledge. The character and
condition of his father, of whom alone upon that side of the house he
had personal cognizance, did not encourage him to pry into the obscurity
behind that luckless rover. He was sensitive on the subject; and when he
was applied to for information, a brief paragraph conveyed all that he
knew or desired to know. Without doubt he would have been best pleased
to have the world take him solely for himself, with no inquiry as to
whence he came,--as if he had dropped upon the planet like a meteorite;
as, indeed, many did piously hold that he came a direct gift from
heaven. The fullest statement which he ever made was given in December,
1859, to Mr. Fell, who had interrogated him with an eye "to the
possibilities of his being an available candidate for the presidency in
1860:" "My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished
families,--second families, perhaps I should say. My mother ... was of a
family of the name of Hanks, some of whom now remain in Adams, some
others in Macon, counties, Illinois. My paternal grandfather, Abraham
Lincoln, emigrated from Rockingham County, Virginia, to Kentucky, about
1781 or 1782.... His ancestors, who were Quakers, went to Virginia from
Berks County, Pennsylvania. An effort to identify them with the New
England family of the same name ended in nothing more definite than a
similarity of Christian names in both families, such as Enoch, Levi,
Mordecai, Solomon, Abraham, and the like." This effort to connect the
President with the Lincolns of Massachusetts was afterward carried
forward by others, who felt an interest greater than his own in
establishing the fact. Yet if he had expected the quest to result
satisfactorily, he would probably have been less indifferent about it;
for it is obvious that, in common with all Americans of the old native
stock, he had a strenuous desire to come of "respectable people;" and
his very reluctance to have his apparently low extraction investigated
is evidence that he would have been glad to learn that he belonged to an
ancient and historical family of the old Puritan Commonwealth, settlers
not far from Plymouth Rock, and immigrants not long after the arrival of
the Mayflower. This descent has at last been traced by the patient

So early as 1848 the first useful step was taken by Hon. Solomon
Lincoln of Hingham, Massachusetts, who was struck by a speech delivered
by Abraham Lincoln in the national House of Representatives, and wrote
to ask facts as to his parentage. The response[1] stated substantially
what was afterward sent to Mr. Fell, above quoted. Mr. Solomon Lincoln,
however, pursued the search farther, and printed the results[2]. Later,
Mr. Samuel Shackford of Chicago, Illinois, himself a descendant from the
same original stock, pushed the investigation more persistently[3]. The
chain, as put together by these two gentlemen, is as follows: Hingham,
Massachusetts, was settled in 1635. In 1636 house lots were set off to
Thomas Lincoln, the miller, Thomas Lincoln, the weaver, and Thomas
Lincoln, the cooper. In 1638 other lots were set off to Thomas Lincoln,
the husbandman, and to Stephen, his brother. In 1637 Samuel Lincoln,
aged eighteen, came from England to Salem, Massachusetts, and three
years later went to Hingham; he also was a weaver, and a brother of
Thomas, the weaver. In 1644 there was a Daniel Lincoln in the place. All
these Lincolns are believed to have come from the County of Norfolk in
England[4], though what kinship existed between them is not known. It
is from Samuel that the President appears to have been descended.
Samuel's fourth son, Mordecai, a blacksmith, married a daughter of
Abraham Jones of Hull;[5] about 1704 he moved to the neighboring town of
Scituate, and there set up a furnace for smelting iron ore. This couple
had six children, of whom two were named respectively Mordecai and
Abraham; and these two are believed to have gone to Monmouth County, New
Jersey. There Mordecai seems to have continued in the iron business, and
later to have made another move to Chester County, Pennsylvania, still
continuing in the same business, until, in 1725, he sold out all his
"Mynes & Minerals, Forges, etc."[6] Then, migrating again, he settled in
Amity, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, where, at last, death caught
up with him. By his will, February 22, 1735-36, he bequeathed his land
in New Jersey to John, his eldest son; and gave other property to his
sons Mordecai and Thomas. He belied the old motto, for in spite of more
than three removes he left a fair estate, and in the probate proceedings
he is described as "gentleman."[7] In 1748 John sold all he had in New
Jersey, and in 1758 moved into Virginia, settling in that part of
Augusta County which was afterward set off as Rockingham County. Though
his will has not been found, there is "ample proof," says Mr. Shackford,
that he had five sons, named Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Thomas, and John. Of
these, Abraham went to North Carolina, there married Mary Shipley, and
by her had sons Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas, who was born in 1778. In
1780 or 1782, as it is variously stated, this family moved to Kentucky.
There, one day in 1784, the father, at his labor in the field, was shot
by lurking Indians. His oldest son, working hard by, ran to the house
for a gun; returning toward the spot where lay his father's body, he saw
an Indian in the act of seizing his brother, the little boy named
Thomas. He fired, with happy aim; the Indian fell dead, and Thomas
escaped to the house. This Thomas it was who afterward became the father
of Abraham Lincoln.[8] Of the other sons of Mordecai (great-uncles of
the President), Thomas also went to Kentucky, Isaac went to Tennessee,
while Jacob and John stayed in Virginia, and begat progeny who became in
later times ferocious rebels, and of whom one wrote a very comical
blustering letter to his relative the President;[9] and probably
another, bearing oddly enough the name of Abraham, was a noted
fighter.[10] It is curious to observe of what migratory stock we have
here the sketch. Mr. Shackford calls attention to the fact that through
six successive generations all save one were "pioneers in the settlement
of new countries," thus: 1. Samuel came from England to Hingham,
Massachusetts. 2. Mordecai lived and died at Scituate, close by the
place of his birth. 3. Mordecai moved, and settled in Pennsylvania, in
the neighborhood which afterward became Berks County, while it was still
wilderness. 4. John moved into the wilds of Virginia. 5. Abraham went to
the backwoods of Kentucky shortly after Boone's settlement. 6. Thomas
moved first into the sparsely settled parts of Indiana, and thence went
onward to a similar region in Illinois.

Thus in time was corroborated what Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1848 in one
of the above-mentioned letters to Hon. Solomon Lincoln: "We have a vague
tradition that my great-grandfather went from Pennsylvania to Virginia,
and that he was a Quaker." It is of little consequence that this "vague
tradition" was stoutly contradicted by the President's father, the
ignorant Thomas, who indignantly denied that either a Puritan or a
Quaker could be found in the line of his forbears, and who certainly
seemed to set heredity at defiance if such were the case. But while thus
repudiating others, Thomas himself was in some danger of being
repudiated; for so pained have some persons been by the necessity of
recognizing Thomas Lincoln as the father of the President, that they
have welcomed, as a happy escape from this so miserable paternity, a bit
of gratuitous and unsupported gossip, published, though perhaps with
more of malice than of faith, by Mr. Herndon, to the effect that Abraham
Lincoln was the illegitimate son of some person unknown, presumably some
tolerably well-to-do Kentuckian, who induced Thomas to assume the rôle
of parent.

Upon the mother's side the ancestral showing is meagre, and fortunately
so, since the case seems to be a bad one beyond reasonable hope. Her
name was Nancy Hanks. She was born in Virginia, and was the illegitimate
child of one Lucy Hanks.[11] Nor was she the only instance of
illegitimacy[12] in a family which, by all accounts, seems to have been
very low in the social scale. Mr. Herndon calls them by the dread name
of "poor whites," and gives an unappetizing sketch of them.[13]
Throughout his pages and those of Lamon there is abundant and
disagreeable evidence to show the correctness of his estimate. Nancy
Hanks herself, who certainly was not to blame for her parentage, and
perhaps may have improved matters by an infusion of better blood from
her unknown father, is described by some as a very rare flower to have
bloomed amid the bed of ugly weeds which surrounded her. These friendly
writers make her a gentle, lovely, Christian creature, too delicate long
to survive the roughness of frontier life and the fellowship of the
shiftless rover to whom she was unfittingly wedded.[14] Whatever she may
have been, her picture is exceeding dim, and has been made upon scant
and not unquestionable evidence. Mr. Lincoln seems not often to have
referred to her; but when he did so it was with expressions of affection
for her character and respect for her mental qualities, provided at
least that it was really of her, and not of his stepmother, that he was
speaking,--a matter not clear from doubt.[15]

On June 10, 1806, Thomas Lincoln gave bond in the "just and full sum of
fifty pounds" to marry Nancy Hanks, and two days later, June 12, he did
so, in Washington County, Kentucky.[16] She was then twenty-three years
old. February 12, 1807, their daughter Sarah was born, who was married
and died leaving no issue. February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born;
no other children came save a boy who lived only a few days.

The domestic surroundings amid which the babe came into life were
wretched in the extreme. All the trustworthy evidence depicts a
condition of what civilized people call misery. It is just as well to
acknowledge a fact which cannot now be obscured by any amount of
euphemism. Yet very many of Lincoln's biographers have been greatly
concerned to color this truth, which he himself, with his honest nature,
was never willing to misrepresent, however much he resisted efforts to
give it a general publicity. He met curious inquiry with reticence, but
with no attempt to mislead. Some of his biographers, however, while
shunning direct false statements, have used alleviating adjectives with
literary skill, and have drawn fanciful pictures of a pious frugal
household, of a gallant frontiersman endowed with a long catalogue of
noble qualities, and of a mother like a Madonna in the wilderness.[17]
Yet all the evidence that there is goes to show that this romantic
coloring is purely illusive. Rough, coarse, low, ignorant, and
poverty-stricken surroundings were about the child; and though we may
gladly avail ourselves of the possibility of believing his mother to
have been superior to all the rest of it, yet she could by no means
leaven the mass. The father[18] was by calling a carpenter, but not good
at his trade, a shiftless migratory squatter by invincible tendency,
and a very ignorant man, for a long while able only to form the letters
which made his signature, though later he extended his accomplishments a
little. He rested not much above the very bottom of existence in the
pioneer settlements, apparently without capacity or desire to do better.
The family was imbued with the peculiar, intense, but unenlightened form
of Christianity, mingled with curious superstition, prevalent in the
backwoods, and begotten by the influence of the vast wilderness upon
illiterate men of a rude native force. It interests scholars to trace
the evolutions of religious faiths, but it might be not less suggestive
to study the retrogression of religion into superstition. Thomas was as
restless in matters of creed as of residence, and made various changes
in both during his life. These were, however, changes without
improvement, and, so far as he was concerned, his son Abraham might have
grown up to be what he himself was contented to remain.

It was in the second year after his marriage that Thomas Lincoln made
his first removal. Four years later he made another. Two or three years
afterwards, in the autumn of 1816, he abandoned Kentucky and went into
Indiana. Some writers have given to this migration the interesting
character of a flight from a slave-cursed society to a land of freedom,
but whatever poetic fitness there might be in such a motive, the
suggestion is entirely gratuitous and without the slightest
foundation.[19] In making this move, Thomas's outfit consisted of a
trifling parcel of tools and cooking utensils, with ever so little
bedding, and four hundred gallons of whiskey. At his new quarters he
built a "half-faced camp" fourteen feet square, that is to say, a
covered shed of three sides, the fourth side being left open to the
weather. In this, less snug than the winter's cave of a bear, the family
dwelt for a year, and then were translated to the luxury of a "cabin,"
four-walled indeed, but which for a long while had neither floor, door,
nor window. Amid this hardship and wretchedness Nancy Lincoln passed
away, October 5, 1818, of that dread and mysterious disease, the scourge
of those pioneer communities, known as the "milk-sickness."[20] In a
rough coffin, fashioned by her husband "out of green lumber cut with a
whip-saw," she was laid away in the forest clearing, and a few months
afterward an itinerant preacher performed some funeral rites over the
poor woman's humble grave.

For a year Thomas Lincoln was a widower. Then he went back to Kentucky,
and found there Mrs. Sally Johnston, a widow, whom, when she was the
maiden Sarah Bush, he had loved and courted, and by whom he had been
refused. He now asked again, and with better success. The marriage was a
little inroad of good luck into his career; for the new wife was thrifty
and industrious, with the ambition and the capacity to improve the
squalid condition of her husband's household. She had, too, worldly
possessions of bedding and furniture, enough to fill a four-horse wagon.
She made her husband put a floor, a door, and windows to his cabin. From
the day of her advent a new spirit made itself felt amid the belongings
of the inefficient Thomas. Her immediate effort was to make her new
husband's children "look a little more human," and the youthful Abraham
began to get crude notions of the simpler comforts and decencies of
life. All agree that she was a stepmother to whose credit it is to be
said that she manifested an intelligent kindness towards Abraham.

The opportunities for education were scant enough in that day and place.
In his childhood in Kentucky Abraham got a few weeks with one teacher,
and then a few weeks with another. Later, in Indiana, he studied a few
months, in a scattered way. Probably he had instruction at home, for the
sum of all the schooling which he had in his whole life was hardly one
year;[21] a singular start upon the road to the presidency of the United
States! The books which he saw were few, but a little later he laid
hands upon them all and read and re-read them till he must have absorbed
all their strong juice into his own nature. Nicolay and Hay give the
list: The Bible; "Aesop's Fables;" "Robinson Crusoe;" "The Pilgrim's
Progress;" a history of the United States; Weems's "Washington." He was
doubtless much older when he devoured the Revised Statutes of Indiana in
the office of the town constable. Dr. Holland adds Lives of Henry Clay
and of Franklin (probably the famous autobiography), and Ramsay's
"Washington;" and Arnold names Shakespeare and Burns. It was a small
library, but nourishing. He used to write and to do sums in arithmetic
on the wooden shovel by the fireside, and to shave off the surface in
order to renew the labor.

As he passed from boyhood to youth his mental development took its
characteristics from the popular demand of the neighborhood. He
scribbled verses and satirical prose, wherein the coarse wit was adapted
to the taste of the comrades whom it was designed to please; and it must
be admitted that, after giving due weight to all ameliorating
considerations, it is impossible to avoid disappointment at the
grossness of the jesting. No thought, no word raised it above the low
level of the audience made up of the laborers on the farms and the
loungers in the groceries. The biographer who has made public "The First
Chronicles of Reuben" deserves to be held in detestation.[22]

A more satisfactory form of intellectual effervescence consisted in
writing articles on the American Government, Temperance, etc., and in
speech-making to any who were near at the moment of inspiration. There
is abundant evidence, also, that already Lincoln was regarded as a witty
fellow, a rare mimic, and teller of jokes and stories; and therefore was
the champion of the fields and the favorite of all the primitive social
gatherings. This sort of life and popularity had its perils, for in that
day and region men seldom met without drinking together; but all
authorities are agreed that Lincoln, while the greatest talker, was the
smallest drinker.

The stories told of his physical strength rival those which decorate the
memory of Hercules. Others, which show his kindly and humane nature, are
more valuable. Any or all of these may or may not be true, and, though
they are not so poetical or marvelous as the myths which lend an antique
charm to the heroes of classic and romantic lore, yet they compare
fairly well with those which Weems has twined about the figure of the
youthful Washington. There is a tale of the rescue of a pig from a
quagmire, and another of the saving of a drunken man from freezing.
There are many stories of fights; others of the lifting of enormous
weights; and even some of the doing of great feats of labor in a day,
though for such tasks Lincoln had no love. These are not worth
recounting; there is store of such in every village about the popular
local hero; and though historians by such folk-lore may throw a glamour
about Lincoln's daily life, he himself, at the time, could hardly have
seen much that was romantic or poetical in the routine of ill-paid labor
and hard living. Until he came of age his "time" belonged to his father,
who let him out to the neighbors for any job that offered, making him a
man-of-all-work, without-doors and within. In 1825 he was thus earning
six dollars a month, presumably besides board and lodging. Sometimes he
slaughtered hogs, at thirty-one cents a day; and in this "rough work" he
was esteemed especially efficient. Such was the making of a President in
the United States in this nineteenth century!

Thomas Lincoln, like most men of his stamp, had the cheerful habit of
laying the results of his own worthlessness to the charge of the
conditions about him, which, naturally, he constantly sought to change,
since it seemed that no change could bring him to a lower level than he
had already found. As Abraham approached his "freedom-day," his luckless
parent conceived the notion that he might do better in Illinois than he
had done in Indiana. So he shuffled off the farm, for which he had never
paid, and about the middle of February the family caravan, with their
scanty household wares packed in an ox team, began a march which lasted
fourteen days and entailed no small measure of hardship. They finally
stopped at a bluff on the north bank of the north fork of the Sangamon,
a stream which empties into the Ohio. Here Thomas Lincoln renewed the
familiar process of "starting in life," and with an axe, a saw, and a
knife built a rough cabin of hewed logs, with a smoke-house and
"stable." Abraham, aided by John Hanks, cleared ten or fifteen acres of
land, split the rails and fenced it, planted it with corn, and made it
over to Thomas as a sort of bequest at the close of his term of legal
infancy. His subsequent relationship with his parents, especially with
his father, seems to have been slight, involving an occasional gift of
money, a very rare visit, and finally a commonplace letter of Christian
comfort when the old man was on his deathbed.[23]

At first Abraham's coming of age made no especial change in his
condition; he continued to find such jobs as he could, as an example of
which Is mentioned his bargain with Mrs. Nancy Miller "to split four
hundred rails for every yard of brown jeans dyed with white walnut bark
that would be necessary to make him a pair of trousers." After many
months there arrived in the neighborhood one Denton Offut, one of those
scheming, talkative, evanescent busybodies who skim vaguely over new
territories. This adventurer had a cargo of hogs, pork, and corn, which
he wanted to send to New Orleans, and the engagement fell to Lincoln and
two comrades at the wage of fifty cents per day and a bonus of $60 for
the three. It has been said that this and a preceding trip down the
Mississippi first gave Lincoln a glimpse of slavery in concrete form,
and that the spectacle of negroes "in chains, whipped and scourged,"
and of a slave auction, implanted in his mind an "unconquerable hate"
towards the institution, so that he exclaimed: "If ever I get a chance
to hit that thing, I'll hit it hard." So the loquacious myth-maker John
Hanks asserts;[24] but Lincoln himself refers his first vivid impression
to a later trip, made in 1841, when there were "on board ten or a dozen
slaves shackled together with irons." Of this subsequent incident he
wrote, fourteen years later, to his friend, Joshua Speed: "That sight
was a continual torment to me; and I see something like it every time I
touch the Ohio or any other slave border. It is not fair for you to
assume that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually
exercises, the power of making me miserable."[25]

Of more immediate consequence was the notion which the rattle-brained
Offut conceived of Lincoln's general ability. This lively patron now
proposed to build a river steamboat, with "runners for ice and rollers
for shoals and dams," of which his redoubtable young employee was to be
captain. But this strange scheme gave way to another for opening in New
Salem a "general store" of all goods. This small town had been born only
a few months before this summer of 1831, and was destined to a brief but
riotous life of some seven years' duration. Now it had a dozen or
fifteen "houses," of which some had cost only ten dollars for the
building; yet to the sanguine Offut it presented a fair field for retail
commerce. He accordingly equipped his "store," and being himself engaged
in other enterprises, he installed Lincoln as manager. Soon he also gave
Lincoln a mill to run.

Besides all this patronage, Offut went about the region bragging in his
extravagant way that his clerk "knew more than any man in the United
States," would some day be President, and could now throw or thrash any
man in those parts. Now it so happened that some three miles out from
New Salem lay Clary's Grove, the haunt of a gang of frontier ruffians of
the familiar type, among whom one Jack Armstrong was champion bully.
Offut's boasting soon rendered an encounter between Lincoln and
Armstrong inevitable, though Lincoln did his best to avoid it, and
declared his aversion to "this woolling and pulling." The wrestling
match was arranged, and the settlers flocked to it like Spaniards to a
bull-fight. Battle was joined and Lincoln was getting the better of
Armstrong, whereupon the "Clary's Grove boys," with fine chivalry, were
about to rush in upon Lincoln and maim him, or worse, when the timely
intervention of a prominent citizen possibly saved even the life of the
future President.[26] Some of the biographers, borrowing the license of
poets, have chosen to tell about the "boys" and the wrestling match
with such picturesque epithets that the combat bids fair to appear to
posterity as romantic as that of Friar Tuck and Robin Hood. Its
consequence was that Armstrong and Lincoln were fast friends ever after.
Wherever Lincoln was at work, Armstrong used to "do his loafing," and
Lincoln made visits to Clary's Grove, and long afterward did a friendly
service to "old Hannah," Armstrong's wife, by saving one of her vicious
race from the gallows, which upon that especial occasion he did not
happen to deserve. Also Armstrong and his gang gave Lincoln hearty
political support, and an assistance at the polls which was very
effective, for success generally smiled on that candidate who had as his
constituency[27] the "butcher-knife boys," the "barefooted boys," the
"half-horse, half-alligator men," and the "huge-pawed boys."

An item less susceptible of a poetic coloring is that about this time
Lincoln ransacked the neighborhood in search of an English grammar, and
getting trace of one six miles out from the settlement, he walked over
to borrow or to buy it. He brought it back in triumph, and studied it

There are also some tales of his honesty which may stand without
disgrace beside that of Washington and the cherry-tree, and may be
better entitled to credit. It is said that, while he was "keeping shop"
for Offut, a woman one day accidentally overpaid him by the sum of
fourpence, and that he walked several miles that night to restore the
sum to her before he slept. On another occasion, discovering that in
selling half a pound of tea he had used too small a weight, he started
instantly forth to make good the deficiency. Perhaps this integrity does
not so much differentiate Lincoln from his fellows as it may seem to do,
for it is said that honesty was the one distinguishing virtue of that
queer society. None the less these legends are exponents, which the
numerous fighting stories are not, of the genuine nature of the man. His
chief trait all his life long was honesty of all kinds and in all
things; not only commonplace, material honesty in dealings, but honesty
in language, in purpose, in thought; _honesty of mind_, so that he could
never even practice the most tempting of all deceits, a deceit against
himself. This pervasive honesty was the trait of his identity, which
stayed with him from beginning to end, when other traits seemed to be
changing, appearing or disappearing, and bewildering the observer of his
career. All the while the universal honesty was there.

It took less than a year for Offut's shop to come to ruin, for the
proprietor to wander off into the unknown void from which he had come,
and for Lincoln to find himself again without occupation. He won some
local reputation by navigating the steamboat Talisman up the Sangamon
River to Springfield; but nothing came of it.

The foregoing narrative ought to have given some idea of the moral and
physical surroundings of Lincoln's early days. Americans need to carry
their memories hardly fifty years back, in order to have a lively
conception of that peculiar body of men which for many years was pushed
out in front of civilization in the West. Waifs and strays from highly
civilized communities, these wanderers had not civilization to learn,
but rather they had shuffled off much that belonged to civilization, and
afterwards they had to acquire it afresh. Among them crudity in thought
and uncouthness in habits were intertwined in odd, incongruous crossings
with the remnants of the more respectable customs with which they had
once been familiar. Much they forgot and much they put away as being no
longer useful; many of them--not all--became very ignorant without being
stupid, very brutal without being barbarous. Finding life hard, they
helped each other with a general kindliness which is impracticable among
the complexities of elaborate social organizations. Those who were born
on the land, among whom Lincoln belonged, were peculiar in having no
reminiscences, no antecedent ideas derived from their own past, whereby
to modify the influences of the immediate present. What they should
think about men and things they gathered from what they saw and heard
around them. Even the modification to be got from reading was of the
slightest, for very little reading was possible, even if desired. An
important trait of these Western communities was the closeness of
personal intercourse in them, and the utter lack of any kind of barriers
establishing strata of society. Individuals might differ ever so widely;
but the wisest and the dullest, the most worthless and the most
enterprising, had to rub shoulder to shoulder in daily life. Yet the
variety was considerable: hardy and danger-loving pioneers fulfilling
the requirements of romance; shiftless vagrants curiously combining
utter inefficiency with a sort of bastard contempt for hardship;
ruffians who could only offset against every brutal vice an ignoble
physical courage; intelligent men whose observant eyes ranged over the
whole region in a shrewd search after enterprise and profit; a few
educated men, decent in apparel and bearing, useful in legislation and
in preventing the ideal from becoming altogether vulgarized and debased;
and others whose energy was chiefly of the tongue, the class imbued with
a taste for small politics and the public business. All these and many
other varieties were like ingredients cast together into a caldron; they
could not keep apart, each with his own kind, to the degree which is
customary in old established communities; but they all ceaselessly
crossed and mingled and met, and talked, and dealt, and helped and
hustled each other, and exerted upon each other that subtle inevitable
influence resulting from such constant intercourse; and so they
inoculated each other with certain characteristics which became common
to all and formed the type of the early settler. Thus was made "the new
West," "the great West," which was pushed ever onward, and endured along
each successive frontier for about a generation. An eternal movement, a
tireless coming and going, pervaded these men; they passed hither and
thither without pause, phantasmagorically; they seemed to be forever
"moving on," some because they were real pioneers and natural rovers,
others because they were mere vagrants generally drifting away from
creditors, others because the better chance seemed ever in the newer
place, and all because they had struck no roots, gathered no
associations, no home ties, no local belongings. The shopkeeper "moved
on" when his notes became too pressing; the schoolmaster, after a short
stay, left his school to some successor whose accomplishments could
hardly be less than his own; clergymen ranged vaguely through the
country, to preach, to pray, to bury, to marry, as the case might be;
farmers heard of a more fruitful soil, and went to seek it. Men
certainly had at times to work hard in order to live at all, yet it was
perfectly possible for the natural idler to rove, to loaf, and to be
shiftless at intervals, and to become as demoralized as the tramp for
whom a shirt and trousers are the sum of worldly possessions. Books were
scarce; many teachers hardly had as much book-learning as lads of
thirteen years now have among ourselves. Men who could neither read nor
write abounded, and a deficiency so common could hardly imply much
disgrace or a marked inferiority; many learned these difficult arts only
in mature years. Fighting was a common pastime, and when these rough
fellows fought, they fought like savages; Lincoln's father bit off his
adversary's nose in a fight, and a cousin lost the same feature in the
same way; the "gouging" of eyes was a legitimate resource. The necessity
of fighting might at any moment come to any one; even the combination of
a peaceable disposition with formidable strength did not save Lincoln
from numerous personal affrays, of which many are remembered, and not
improbably many more have been forgotten. In spite of the picturesque
adjectives which have been so decoratively used in describing the
ruffian of the frontier, he seems to have been about what his class
always is; and when these fellows had forced a fight, or "set up" a
match, their chivalry never prevented any unfairness or brutality. A
tale illustrative of the times is told of a closely contested election
in the legislature for the office of state treasurer. The worsted
candidate strode into the hall of the Assembly, and gallantly selecting
four of the largest and strongest of those who had voted against him,
thrashed them soundly. The other legislators ran away. But before the
close of the session this pugilist, who so well understood practical
politics, was appointed clerk of the Circuit Court and county

Corn bread was the chief article of diet; potatoes were a luxury, and
were often eaten raw like apples. To the people at large whiskey
"straight" seemed the natural drink of man, and whiskey toddy was not
distasteful to woman. To refuse to drink was to subject one's self to
abuse and suspicion;[29] Lincoln's notorious lack of liking for it
passed for an eccentricity, or a physical peculiarity. The customary
social gatherings were at horse-racings, at corn-shuckings, at political
speech-makings, at weddings, whereat the coarse proceedings would not
nowadays bear recital; at log-rollings, where the neighbors gathered to
collect the logs of a newly cleared lot for burning; and at
house-raisings, where they kindly aided to set up the frame of a cabin
for a new-comer; at camp-meetings, where the hysterical excitement of a
community whose religion was more than half superstition found clamorous
and painful vent;[30] or perchance at a hanging, which, if it met public
approbation, would be sanctioned by the gathering of the neighbors
within a day's journey of the scene. At dancing-parties men and women
danced barefoot; indeed, they could hardly do better, since their
foot-wear was apt to be either moccasins, or such boots as they
themselves could make from the hides which they themselves had cured. In
Lincoln's boyhood the hunting-shirt and leggings made of skins were a
sufficiently respectable garb; and buckskin breeches dyed green were
enough to captivate the heart of any girl who wished a fashionable
lover; but by the time that he had become a young man, most
self-respecting men had suits of jeans. The ugly butcher's knife and
tomahawk, which had been essential as was the rapier to the costume of
gentlemen two centuries earlier, began now to be more rarely seen at the
belt about the waist. The women wore linsey-woolsey gowns, of home
manufacture, and dyed according to the taste or skill of the wearer in
stripes and bars with the brown juice of the butternut. In the towns it
was not long before calico was seen, and calfskin shoes; and in such
populous centres bonnets decorated the heads of the fair sex. Amid these
advances in the art of dress Lincoln was a laggard, being usually one of
the worst attired men of the neighborhood; not from affectation, but
from a natural indifference to such matters. The sketch is likely to
become classical in American history of the appearance which he
presented with his scant pair of trousers, "hitched" by a single
suspender over his shirt, and so short as to expose, at the lower end,
half a dozen inches of "shinbone, sharp, blue, and narrow."

In the clearings the dwellings of these men were the "half-faced camp"
open upon one side to the weather, or the doorless, floorless, and
windowless cabin which, with prosperity, might be made luxurious by
greased paper in the windows, and "puncheon" floors. The furniture was
in keeping with this exterior. At a corner the bed was constructed by
driving into the ground crotched sticks, whence poles extended to the
crevices of the walls; upon these poles were laid boards, and upon these
boards were tossed leaves and skins and such other alleviating material
as could be found. Three-legged stools and a table were hewed from the
felled trees with an axe, which was often the settler's only and
invaluable tool, and which he would travel long miles to sharpen. If a
woman wanted a looking-glass, she scoured a tin pan, but the temptation
to inspect one's self must have been feeble. A very few kitchen utensils
completed the outfit. Troughs served for washtubs, when wash tubs were
used; and wooden ploughs broke up the virgin soil. The whole was little,
if at all, more comfortable than the red man's wigwam. In "towns," so
called, there was of course somewhat more of civilization than in the
clearings. But one must not be misled by a name; a "town" might signify
only a score of houses, and the length of its life was wholly
problematical; a few days sufficed to build the wooden huts, which in a
few years might be abandoned. In the early days there was almost no
money among the people; sometimes barter was resorted to; one lover paid
for his marriage license with maple sugar, another with wolf-scalps.
More often a promise sufficed; credit was a system well understood, and
promissory notes constituted an unquestioned and popular method of
payment that would have made a millennium for Mr. Micawber. But however
scant might be cash and houses, each town had its grocery, and these
famous "stores" were by far the chief influence in shaping the ideas of
the Westerner. There all congregated, the idlers all day long, the busy
men in the evening; and there, stimulated by the whiskey of the
proprietor, they gossiped about everybody's affairs, talked about
business and the prospects of the neighborhood, and argued about the
politics of the county, the State, and even of the nation. Jokes and
stories, often most uncouth and gross, whiled away the time. It was in
these groceries, and in the rough crucible of such talk, wherein
grotesque imagery and extravagant phrases were used to ridicule
pretension and to bring every man to his place, sometimes also to escape
taking a hard fact too hardly, that what we now call "American humor,"
with its peculiar native flavor, was born. To this it is matter of
tradition that Lincoln contributed liberally. He liked neighborly chat
and discussion; and his fondness for political debate, and his gifts in
tale and jest, made him the most popular man in every "store" that he
entered. It is commonly believed that the effect of this familiarity
with coarse talk did not afterward disappear, so that he never became
fastidious in language or in story. But apologists of this habit are
doubtless correct in saying that vulgarity in itself had no attraction
for him; it simply did not repel him, when with it there was a flavor of
humor or a useful point. Apparently it simply meant nothing to him; a
mental attitude which is not difficult of comprehension in view of its

Some of the most picturesque and amusing pages of Ford's "History of
Illinois" describe the condition of the bench and bar of these
times.[32] "Boys, come in, our John is going to hold court," proclaimed
the sheriff; and the "boys" loitered into the barroom of the tavern, or
into a log cabin where the judge sat on the bed and thus, really from
the woolsack, administered "law" mixed with equity as best he knew it.
Usually these magistrates were prudent in guiding the course of
practical justice, and rarely summed up the facts lest they should make
dangerous enemies, especially in criminal cases; they often refused to
state the law, and generally for a very good reason. They liked best to
turn the whole matter over to the jurors, who doubtless "understood the
case, and would do justice between the parties." The books of the
science were scarce, and lawyers who studied them were perhaps scarcer.
But probably substantial fairness in decision did not suffer by reason
of lack of sheepskin learning.

Politics for a long while were strictly personal; the elections did not
turn upon principles or measures, but upon the popular estimate of the
candidates individually. Political discussion meant unstinted praise
and unbounded vilification. A man might, if he chose, resent a vote
against himself as a personal insult, and hence arose much secrecy and
the "keep dark" system. Stump-speaking, whiskey, and fighting were the
chief elements of a campaign, and the worst class in society furnished
the most efficient backing.[33]

Such was the condition of men and things in the neighborhood where
Abraham Lincoln was shaping in the days of his youth. Yet it was a
condition which did not last long; Illinois herself changed and grew as
rapidly as any youngster within her borders. The rate of advance in all
that goes to make up what we now regard as a civilized society was
astonishing. Between the time when Lincoln was fifteen and when he was
twenty-five, the alteration was so great as to be confusing. One hardly
became familiar with a condition before it had vanished. Some towns
began to acquire an aspect of permanence; clothes and manners became
like those prevalent in older communities; many men were settling down
in established residence, identifying themselves with the fortunes of
their neighborhood. Young persons were growing up and staying where they
had been "raised," as the phrase of a farming community had it.
Comfortable and presentable two-story houses lent an air of prosperity
and stimulated ambition; law-books began to be collected in small
numbers; and debts were occasionally paid in money, and could often be
collected by legal process. These improvements were largely due to the
swelling tide of immigration which brought men of a better type to push
their enterprises in a country presumably emerging from its disagreeable
stage. But the chief educational influence was to be found in the
Anglo-American passion for an argument and a speech. Hand in hand, as
has so long been the custom in our country, law and politics moved among
the people, who had an inborn, inherited taste for both; these
stimulated and educated the settlers in a way that only Americans can
appreciate. When Lincoln, as is soon to be seen, turned to them, he
turned to what then and there appeared the highest callings which could
tempt intellect and ambition.

The preëminently striking feature in Lincoln's nature--not a trait of
character, but a characteristic of the man--which is noteworthy in these
early days, and grew more so to the very latest, was the extraordinary
degree to which he always appeared to be in close and sympathetic touch
with the people, that is to say, the people in the mass wherein he was
imbedded, the social body amid which he dwelt, which pressed upon him on
all sides, which for him formed "the public." First this group or body
was only the population of the frontier settlement; then it widened to
include the State of Illinois; then it expanded to the population of the
entire North; and such had come to be the popular appreciation of this
remarkably developed quality that, at the time of his death, his
admirers even dared to believe that it would be able to make itself one
with all the heterogeneous, discordant, antagonistic elements which then
composed the very disunited United States. It is by reason of this
quality that it has seemed necessary to depict so far as possible that
peculiar, transitory phase of society which surrounded his early days.
This quality in him caused him to be exceptionally susceptible to the
peculiar influences of the people among whom his lot was cast. This
quality for a while prevented his differentiating himself from them,
prevented his accepting standards and purposes unlike theirs either in
speech or action, prevented his rising rapidly to a higher moral plane
than theirs. This quality kept him essentially one of them, until his
"people" and his "public" expanded beyond them. It has been the fashion
of his admirers to manifest an extreme distaste for a truthful
presentation of his earlier days. Some writers have passed very lightly
over them; others, stating plain facts with a formal accuracy, have used
their skill to give to the picture an untruthful miscoloring; two or
three, instinct with the spirit of Zola, have made their sketch with
plain unsparing realism in color as well as in lines, and so have
brought upon themselves abuse, and perhaps have deserved much of it, by
reason of a lack of skill in doing an unwelcome thing, or rather by
reason of overdoing it. The feeling which has led to suppression or to
a falsely romantic description seems to me unreasonable and wrong. The
very quality which made Lincoln, as a young man, not much superior to
his coarse surroundings was precisely the same quality which, ripening
and expanding rapidly and grandly with maturing years and a greater
circle of humanity, made him what he was in later life. It is through
this quality that we get continuity in him; without it, we cannot evade
the insoluble problem of two men,--two lives,--one following the other
with no visible link of connection between them; without it we have
physically one creature, morally and mentally two beings. If we reject
this trait, we throw away the only key which unlocks the problem of the
most singular life, taken from end to end, which has ever been witnessed
among men, a life which many have been content to regard as an unsolved
enigma. But if we admit and really perceive and feel the full force of
this trait, developed in him in a degree probably unequaled in the
annals of men, then, besides the enlightenment which it brings, we have
the great satisfaction of eliminating much of the disagreeableness
attendant upon his youthful days. Even the commonness and painful
coarseness of his foolish written expressions become actually an
exponent of his chief and crowning quality, his receptiveness and his
expression of humanity,--that is to say, of all the humanity he then
knew. At first he expressed what he could discern with the limited,
inexperienced vision of the ignorant son of a wretched vagrant pioneer;
later he gave expression to the humanity of a people engaged in a
purpose physically and morally as vast and as grand as any enterprise
which the world has seen. Thus, with perfect fairness, without wrenching
or misrepresentation or sophistry, the ugliness of his youth ceases to
be his own and becomes only the presentation of a curious social
condition. In his youth he expressed a low condition, in later life a
noble one; at each period he expressed correctly what he found. His day
and generation uttered itself through him. With such thoughts, and from
this point of view, it is possible to contemplate Lincoln's early days,
amid all their degraded surroundings and influences and unmarked by
apparent antagonism or obvious superiority on his part, without serious


[1] Two letters, now in the possession of Mr. Francis H. Lincoln of
Boston, Mass.

[2] _New England Hist. and Gen. Register_, October, 1865.

[3] _Ibid._ April, 1887, vol. xli. p. 153.

[4] See articles in _N.E.H. and G. Reg._ above cited. Mr. Lincoln's
article states that in Norwich, Norfolk County, Eng., there is a
"curious chased copper box with the inscription 'Abraham Lincoln,
Norwich, 1731;'" also in St. Andrew's Church in the same place a mural
tablet: "In memory of Abraham Lincoln, of this parish, who died July 13,
1798, aged 79 years." Similarities of name are also noted.

[5] A town adjoining Hingham, Mass.

[6] His brother Abraham also resided in Chester County, and died there,
April, 1745.

[7] N. and H. i. 3.

[8] A different pedigree, published in the _Lancaster Intelligencer_,
September 24, 1879, by David J. Lincoln of Birdsboro, Berks County,
Penn., is refuted by George Lincoln of Hingham, Mass., in the _Hingham
Journal_, October 10, 1879.

[9] N. and H. i. 4 note.

[10] N. and H. i. 4 note.

[11] Herndon, 3.

[12] The unpleasant Dennis Hanks was an illegitimate son of an "aunt of
the President's mother." Herndon, 13; and see Lamon, 12.

[13] Herndon, 14.

[14] Holland, 23; Lamon, 11; N. and H. i. 24; Herndon, 13, 28; Raymond,
20; but Raymond is no authority as to Lincoln's youth, and Holland is
little more valuable for the same period.

[15] Lamon, 32. But see Herndon, 13.

[16] N. and H. 23; Herndon, 5; but see Lamon, 10.

[17] For instance, see the pages of the first chapter of the Life by
Arnold, a book which becomes excellent after the author has got free
from the fancied necessities of creating an appropriate background for
the origin and childhood of the hero. So, more briefly, Raymond, who
gives no authority to support the faith which is in him.

[18] For description of him, see Lamon, 8, 9; Herndon, 11.

[19] Herndon, 19; Lamon, 16; Holland, 25.

[20] Herndon, 25-28; Lamon, 26-28.

[21] Herndon, 34-37, 41; Lamon, 34-36; Holland, 28.

[22] Mr. Herndon did this ill deed; 50-54. Lamon prefers to say that
most of this literature is "too indecent for publication," 63.

[23] Thomas Lincoln died January 17, 1851.

[24] Herndon, 75, 76; Lamon, 82; Arnold, 30; N. and H. i. 72.

[25] N. and H. i. 74.

[26] Lamon, 92, 93, has the best account of this famous encounter.

[27] Ford, _Hist. of Illinois_, 88.

[28] Ford, _Hist. of Illinois_, 81.

[29] See anecdote in _The Good Old Times in McLean County_, 48.

[30] "The jerks" was the graphic name of an attack not uncommon at these
religious meetings.

[31] See Herndon, 104, 118; Holland has some singular remarks on this
subject, p. 83; N. and H., i. 121, say that Lincoln was "clean of
speech,"--an agreeable statement, for which one would like to have some

[32] Ford, _Hist. of Illinois_, 82-86.

[33] Ford, _Hist. of Illinois_, 55, 86, 88,104; Herndon, 103; N. and H.
i. 107; Lamon, 124, 230.



In Illinois during the years of Lincoln's boyhood the red man was
retiring sullenly before the fatal advance of the white man's frontier.
Shooting, scalping, and plundering forays still occurred, and in the
self-complaisant reminiscences of the old settlers of that day the
merciless and mysterious savage is apt to lend to the narrative the
lively coloring of mortal danger.[34] In the spring of 1832 a noted
chief of the Sacs led a campaign of such importance that it lives in
history under the dignified title of "the Black Hawk war." The Indians
gathered in numbers so formidable that Governor Reynolds issued a call
for volunteers to aid the national forces. Lincoln, left unemployed by
the failure of Offut, at once enlisted. The custom then was, so soon as
there were enough recruits for a company, to elect a captain by vote.
The method was simple: each candidate stood at some point in the field
and the men went over to one or another according to their several
preferences. Three fourths of the company to which Lincoln belonged
ranged themselves with him, and long afterward he used to say that no
other success in life had given him such pleasure as did this one.

The company was attached to the Fourth Illinois Regiment, commanded by
Colonel Samuel Thompson, in the brigade of General Samuel Whiteside. On
April 27 they started for the scene of conflict, and for many days
endured much hardship of hunger and rough marching. But thereby they
escaped serious danger, for they were too fatigued to go forward on May
12, when the cavalry battalions rode out gallantly, recklessly, perhaps
a little stupidly, into ambush and death. It so happened that Lincoln
never came nearer to any engagement than he did to this one of
"Stillman's Run;" so that in place of military glory he had to be
content with the reputation of being the best comrade and story-teller
at the camp fire. He had, however, an opportunity to do one honorable
act: the brief term of service of the volunteers expired on May 27, and
most of them eagerly hastened away from an irksome task, without regard
to the fact that their services were still much needed, whereas Lincoln
and some other officers reënlisted as privates. They were made the
"Independent Spy Battalion" of mounted volunteers, were given many
special privileges, but were concerned in no engagement, and erelong
were mustered out of service. Lincoln's certificate of discharge was
signed by Robert Anderson, who afterward was in command at Fort Sumter
at the outbreak of the rebellion. Thus, late in June, Lincoln was again
a civilian in New Salem, and was passing from war to politics.

Nomination by caucus had not yet been introduced into Illinois,[35] and
any person who wished to be a candidate for an elective office simply
made public announcement of the fact and then conducted his campaign as
best he could.[36] On March 9, 1832, shortly before his enlistment,
Lincoln issued a manifesto "To the People of Sangamon County," in which
he informed them that he should run as a candidate for the state
legislature at the autumn elections, and told them his political
principles.[37] He was in favor of internal improvements, such as
opening roads, clearing streams, building a railroad across Sangamon
County, and making the Sangamon River straight and navigable. He
advocated a usury law, and hazarded the extraordinary argument that "in
cases of extreme necessity there could always be means found to cheat
the law; while in all other cases it would have its intended effect." A
law ameliorated by infractions is no uncommon thing, but this is perhaps
the only instance in which a law has been befriended on the ground that
it can be circumvented. He believed that every man should "receive at
least a moderate education." He deprecated changes in existing laws;
for, he said, "considering the great probability that the framers of
those laws were wiser than myself, I should prefer not meddling with
them." The clumsy phraseology of his closing paragraph coupled not badly
a frank avowal of ambition with an ingenuous expression of personal
modesty. The principles thus set forth were those of Clay and the Whigs,
and at this time the "best people" in Sangamon County belonged to this
party. The Democrats, on the other hand, did not much concern themselves
with principles, but accepted General Jackson in place thereof, as
constituting in himself a party platform. In the rough-and-tumble
pioneer community they could not do better, and for many years they had
controlled the State; indeed, Lincoln himself had felt no small loyalty
towards a President who admirably expressed Western civilization. Now,
however, he considered himself "an avowed Clay man,"[38] and besides the
internal improvement system he spoke also for a national bank and a high
protective tariff; probably he knew very little about either, but his
partisanship was perfect, for if there was any distinguishing badge of
an anti-Jackson Whig, it certainly was advocacy of a national bank.

After his return from the "war," Lincoln set about electioneering with
a good show of energy. He hardly anticipated success, but at least upon
this trial trip he expected to make himself known to the people and to
gain useful experience. He "stumped" his own county thoroughly, and is
said to have made speeches which were blunt, crude, and inartificial,
but not displeasing to his audiences. A story goes that once "a general
fight" broke out among his hearers, and one of his friends was getting
roughly handled, whereupon Lincoln, descending from the rostrum, took a
hand in the affray, tossed one of the assailants "ten or twelve feet
easily," and then continued his harangue. Yet not even thus could he
win, and another was chosen over his head. He had, however, more reason
to be gratified than disappointed with the result; for, though in plain
fact he was a raw and unknown youngster, he stood third upon a list of
eight candidates, receiving 657 votes; and out of 208 votes cast in his
own county he scored 205.[39] In this there was ample encouragement for
the future.

The political campaign being over, and legislative functions postponed,
Lincoln was brought face to face with the pecuniary problem. He
contemplated, not without approbation, the calling of the blacksmith;
but the chance to obtain a part interest in a grocery "store" tempted
him into an occupation for which he was little fitted. He became junior
partner in the firm of Berry & Lincoln, which, by executing and
delivering sundry notes of hand, absorbed the whole grocery business of
the town. But Lincoln was hopelessly inefficient behind the counter, and
Berry was a tippler. So in a year's time the store "winked out," leaving
as its only important trace those ill-starred scraps of paper by which
it had been founded. Berry "moved on" from the inconvenient
neighborhood, and soon afterward died, contributing nothing to reduce
the indebtedness. Lincoln patiently continued to make payments during
several years to come, until he had discharged the whole amount. It was
only a few hundred dollars, but to him it seemed so enormous that
betwixt jest and earnest he called it "the national debt." So late as in
1848, when he was a member of the House of Representatives at
Washington, he applied part of his salary to this old indebtedness.

During this "store"-keeping episode he had begun to study law, and while
"keeping shop" he was with greater diligence reading Blackstone and such
other elementary classics of the profession as he could borrow. He
studied with zeal and became absorbed in his books. Perched upon a
woodpile, or lying under a tree with his feet thrust upwards against the
trunk and "grinding around with the shade," he caused some neighbors to
laugh uproariously, and others to say that he was daft. In fact, he was
in grim earnest, and held on his way with much persistence.

May 7, 1833, Lincoln was commissioned as postmaster at New Salem. His
method of distributing the scanty mail was to put all the letters in his
hat, and to hand them out as he happened to meet the persons to whom
they were addressed. The emoluments could hardly have gone far towards
the discharge of "the national debt." His incumbency in this office led
to a story worth telling. When New Salem, and by necessity also the
post-office, like the grocery shop, "winked out," in 1836, there was a
trifling balance of sixteen or eighteen dollars due from Lincoln to the
government. Several years afterward, when he was practicing law in
Springfield, the government agent at last appeared to demand a
settlement. Lincoln went to his trunk and drew forth "an old blue sock
with a quantity of silver and copper coin tied up in it," the identical
bits of money which he had gathered from the people at New Salem, and
which, through many days of need in the long intervening period, he had
not once touched.

Fortunately an occupation now offered itself which was more lucrative,
and possessed also the valuable quality of leaving niches of leisure for
the study of the law. The mania for speculation in land had begun in
Illinois; great tracts were being cut up into "town lots," and there was
as lively a market for real estate as the world has ever seen. The
official surveyor of the county, John Calhoun, had more work than he
could do, and offered to appoint Lincoln as a deputy. A little study
made him competent for the work, which he performed for some time with
admirable accuracy, if the stories are to be believed. But he had not
long enjoyed the mild prosperity of this new career ere an untoward
interruption came from a creditor of the extinct grocery firm. This man
held one of the notes representing "the national debt," and now levied
execution upon Lincoln's horse and surveying instruments. Two friends,
however, were at hand in this hour of need, and Bolin Greene and James
Short are gratefully remembered as the men who generously furnished, in
that actual cash which was so scarce in Illinois, the sums of one
hundred and twenty-five dollars and one hundred and twenty dollars
respectively, to redeem these essential implements of Lincoln's

The summer of 1834 found Lincoln again a candidate for the legislature.
He ran as a Whig, but he received and accepted offers of aid from the
Democrats, and their votes swelled the flattering measure of his
success. It has usually been stated that he led the four successful
candidates, the poll standing: Lincoln, 1,376; Dawson, 1,370; Carpenter,
1,170; Stuart, 1,164. But Mr. Herndon adduces evidence that Dawson's
number was 1,390, whereby Lincoln is relegated to the second place.
Holland tells us that he "shouldered his pack and on foot trudged to
Vandalia, then the capital of the State, about a hundred miles, to make
his entrance into public life." But the correcting pen of the later
biographer interferes with this dramatic incident also. For it seems
that, after the result of the election was known, Lincoln visited a
friend, Coleman Smoot, and said: "Did you vote for me?" "I did," replied
Smoot. "Then," said Lincoln, "you must lend me two hundred dollars!"
This seemed a peculiar _sequitur_, for ordinary political logic would
have made any money that was to pass between voter and candidate move
the other way. Yet Smoot accepted the consequence entailed in part by
his own act, and furnished the money, whereby Lincoln was able to
purchase a new suit of clothes and to ride in the stage to Vandalia.

The records of this legislature show nothing noteworthy. Lincoln was
very inappropriately placed on the Committee on Public Accounts and
Expenditures; also it is recorded that he introduced a resolution to
obtain for the State a part of the proceeds of the public lands sold
within it. What has chiefly interested the chroniclers is, that at this
session he first saw Stephen A. Douglas, then a lobbyist, and said of
him: "He is the least man I ever saw." Lincoln's part seems to have been
rather that of an observer than of an actor. The account given is that
he was watching, learning, making acquaintances, prudently preparing for
future success, rather than endeavoring to seize it too greedily. In
fact, there is reason to believe that his thoughts were intent on far
other matter than the shaping of laws and statutes. For to this period
belongs the episode of Ann Rutledge. The two biographers whose personal
knowledge is the best regard this as the one real romance of Lincoln's
life. Heretofore he had held himself shyly aloof from women's society,
but this maiden won his heart. She comes before posterity amid a glamour
of rhetorical description, which attributes to her every grace of form
and feature, every charm of character and intellect. She was but a
schoolgirl of seventeen years when two men became her lovers; a year or
more afterward she became engaged to one of them, but before they could
be married he made a somewhat singular excuse for going to New York on
family affairs. His absence was prolonged and his letters became few.
People said that the girl had been deceived, and Lincoln began to hope
that the way was clearing for him. But under the prolonged strain Miss
Rutledge's health broke down, and on August 25, 1835, she died of brain
fever. Lincoln was allowed to see her as she lay near her end. The
effect upon him was grievous. Many declared him crazy, and his friends
feared that he might go so far as to take his own life; they watched him
closely, and one of them at last kindly took him away from the scene of
his sufferings for a while, and bore him constant and cheering company.
In time the cloud passed, but it seems certain that on only one or two
other occasions in his life did that deep melancholy, which formed a
permanent background to his temperament, take such overmastering, such
alarming and merciless possession of him. He was afflicted sorely with
a constitutional tendency to gloom, and the evil haunted him all his
life long. Like a dark fog-bank it hung, always dull and threatening, on
the verge of his horizon, sometimes rolling heavily down upon him,
sometimes drawing off into a more or less remote distance, but never
wholly disappearing. Every one saw it in his face and often felt it in
his manner, and few pictures of him have been made so bad as not in some
degree to present it. The access of it which was brought on by this
unhappy love affair was somewhat odd and uncouth in its manifestations,
but was so genuine and sincere that one feels that he was truly
undergoing the baptism of a great sorrow.

At no other point is there more occasion to note this trait of
character, which presents a curious and interesting subject for study.
Probably no exhaustive solution is possible. One wanders off into the
mystery of human nature, loses his way in the dimness of that which can
be felt but cannot be expressed, and becomes aware of even dimmer
regions beyond in which it is vain to grope. It is well known that the
coarse and rough side of life among the pioneers had its reaction in a
reserved and at times morose habit, nearly akin to sadness, at least in
those who frequented the wilderness; it was the expression of the
influence of the vast, desolate, and lonely nature amid which they
passed their lives. It is true that Lincoln was never a backwoodsman,
and never roved alone for long periods among the shadowy forests and the
limit-less prairies, so that their powerful and weird influences,
though not altogether remote, never bore upon him in full force; yet
their effect was everywhere around him, and through others he imbibed
it, for his disposition was sensitive and sympathetic for such purposes.
That there was also a simple prosaic physical inducement cannot be
denied. Hardship and daily discomfort in all the arrangements of life
counted for something, and especially so the bad food, greasy,
unwholesome, horribly cooked, enough to afflict an ostrich with the blue
devils of dyspepsia. The denizen of the town devoured messes vastly
worse than the simple meal of the hunter and trapper, and did not
counteract the ill effect by hard exercise in the free, inspiring air.
Such facts must be considered, though they diminish the poetry which
rhetoricians and sentimentalists have cast over the melancholy of
Lincoln's temperament. Yet they fall far short of wholly accounting for
a gloom which many have loved to attribute to the mysticism of a great
destiny, as though the awful weight of his immense task was making
itself felt in his strange, brooding nature long years before any human
prophet could have forecast any part of that which was to come. In this
apparent vague consciousness of the oppression of a great burden of
toil, duty, and responsibility, casting its shadow so far before, there
is something so fascinating to the imagination of man that we cannot
quite forego it, or accept any explanation which would compel us
altogether to part with it. The shuddering awe and terrible sense of
fate, which the grandeur of the Greek tragedies so powerfully expresses,
come to us when we contemplate this strange cloud which never left
Lincoln in any year after his earliest youth, although some traits in
his character seemed often incomprehensibly to violate it, and like
rebellious spirits to do outrage to it, while, in fact, they only made
it the more striking, picturesque, and mysterious. But, after all
explanations have been made, the conclusion must be that there is no one
and only thread to guide us through the labyrinth to the heart of this
singular trait, and each of us must follow that which his own nature
renders intelligible or congenial for him. To us, who know the awful
closing acts of his life-drama, it seems so appropriate that there
should be an impressive unity, and so an inevitable backward influence
working from the end towards the beginning, that we cannot avoid, nor
would avoid, an instinctive belief that an occult moral and mental
condition already existed in the years of Lincoln's life which we are
now observing, although the profound cause of that condition lay wholly
in the future, in the years which were still far away. There is a charm
in the very unreason and mysticism of such a faith, and mankind will
never quite fail to fancy, if not actually to believe, that the life
which Lincoln had to live in the future wrought in some inexplicable way
upon the life which he was living in the present. The explanation is not
more strange than the enigma.

Returning now to the narrative, an unpleasant necessity is encountered.
It must be confessed that the atmosphere of romance which lingers around
this love-tale of the fair and sweet Ann Rutledge, so untimely taken
away, is somewhat attenuated by the fact that only some fifteen months
rolled by after she was laid in the ground before Lincoln was again
intent upon matrimony. In the autumn of 1836 Miss Mary Owens, of
Kentucky, appeared in New Salem,--a comely lass, with "large blue eyes,"
"fine trimmings," and a long and varied list of attractions. Lincoln
immediately began to pay court to her, but in an ungainly and morbid
fashion. It is impossible to avoid feeling that his mind was not yet in
a natural and healthy condition. While offering to marry her, he advised
her not to have him. Upon her part she found him "deficient in those
little links which make up the chain of woman's happiness." So she would
none of him, but wedded another and became the mother of some
Confederate soldiers. Lincoln did not suffer on this second occasion as
he had done on the first; and in the spring of 1838 he wrote upon the
subject one of the most unfortunate epistles ever penned, in which he
turned the whole affair into coarse and almost ribald ridicule. In fact
he seems as much out of place in dealing with women and with love as he
was in place in dealing with politicians and with politics, and it is
pleasant to return from the former to the latter topics.[40]

The spring of 1836 found Lincoln again nominating himself before the
citizens of Sangamon County, but for the last time. His party denounced
the caucus system as a "Yankee contrivance, intended to abridge the
liberties of the people;" but they soon found that it would be as
sensible to do battle with pikes and bows, after the invention of
muskets and cannon, as to continue to oppose free self-nomination to the
Jacksonian method of nomination by convention. In enjoying this last
opportunity, not only of presenting himself, but also of constructing
his own "platform," Lincoln published the following card:--

NEW SALEM, June 13, 1836.


In your paper of last Saturday I see a communication over the signature
of "Many Voters" in which the candidates who are announced in the
"Journal" are called upon to "show their hands." Agreed. Here's mine.

I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in
bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for admitting all whites to the
right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no means excluding

If elected, I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon my
constituents, as well those that oppose as those that support me.

While acting as their representative, I shall be governed by their will
on all subjects upon which I have the means of knowing what their will
is; and upon all others I shall do what my own judgment teaches me will
best advance their interests. Whether elected or not, I go for
distributing the proceeds of the sales of public lands to the several
States to enable our State, in common with others, to dig canals and
construct railroads without borrowing money and paying the interest on

If alive on the first Monday in November, I shall vote for Hugh L. White
for President.

Very respectfully,


The canvass was conducted after the usual fashion, with stump-speaking,
fighting, and drinking. Western voters especially fancied the joint
debate between rivals, and on such exciting occasions were apt to come
to the arbitrament of fists and knives. But it is pleasant to hear that
Lincoln calmed rather than excited such affrays, and that once, when
Ninian W. Edwards climbed upon a table and screamed at his opponent the
lie direct, Lincoln replied by "so fair a speech" that it quelled the
discord. Henceforward he practiced a calm, carefully-weighed,
dispassionate style in presenting facts and arguments. Even if he
cultivated it from appreciation of its efficiency, at least his skill in
it was due to the fact that it was congenial to his nature, and that his
mind worked instinctively along these lines. His mental constitution,
his way of thinking, were so honest that he always seemed to be a man
sincerely engaged in seeking the truth, and who, when he believed that
he had found it, would tell it precisely as he saw it, and tell it all.
This was the distinguishing trait or habit which differentiates Lincoln
from too many other political speakers and writers in the country. Yet
with it he combined the character of a practical politician and a stanch
party man. No party has a monopoly of truth and is always in the right;
but Lincoln, with the advantage of being naturally fair-minded to a rare
degree, understood that the best ingenuity is fairness, and that the
second best ingenuity is the appearance of fairness.

A pleasant touch of his humor illumined this campaign. George Forquer,
once a Whig but now a Democrat and an office-holder, had lately built
for himself the finest house in Springfield, and had decorated it with
the first lightning-rod ever seen in the neighborhood. One day, after
Forquer had been berating Lincoln as a young man who must "be taken
down," Lincoln turned to the audience with a few words: "It is for you,
not for me, to say whether I am up or down. The gentleman has alluded to
my being a young man;[41] I am older in years than I am in the tricks
and trades of politicians. I desire to live, and I desire place and
distinction as a politician; but I would rather die now than, like the
gentleman, live to see the day when I should have to erect a
lightning-rod to protect a guilty conscience from an offended God."

There are other stories of this campaign, amusing and characteristic of
the region and the times, but which there is not room to repeat. The
result of it was that Sangamon County, hitherto Democratic, was now won
by the Whigs, and that Lincoln had the personal satisfaction of leading
the poll. The county had in the legislature nine representatives, tall
fellows all, not one of them standing less than six feet, so that they
were nicknamed "the Long Nine." Such was their authority that one of
them afterward said: "All the bad or objectionable laws passed at that
session of the legislature, and for many years afterward, were
chargeable to the management and influence of 'the Long Nine.'" This
was a damning confession, for the "bad and objectionable" laws of that
session were numerous. A mania possessed the people. The whole State was
being cut up into towns and cities and house-lots, so that town-lots
were said to be the only article of export.[42] A system of internal
improvements at the public expense was pushed forward with incredible
recklessness. The State was to be "gridironed" with thirteen hundred
miles of railroad; the courses of the rivers were to be straightened;
and where nature had neglected to supply rivers, canals were to be dug.
A loan of twelve millions of dollars was authorized, and the counties
not benefited thereby received gifts of cash. The bonds were issued and
sent to the bankers of New York and of Europe, and work was vigorously
begun. The terrible financial panic of 1837 ought to have administered
an early check to this madness. But it did not. Resolutions of popular
conventions instructed legislators to institute "a general system of
internal improvements," which should be "commensurate with the wants of
the people;" and the lawgivers obeyed as implicitly as if each delegate
was lighting his steps by an Aladdin's lamp.

With this mad current Lincoln swam as wildly and as ignorantly as did
any of his comrades. He was absurdly misplaced as a member of the
Committee on Finance. Never in his life did he show the slightest
measure of "money sense." He had, however, declared his purpose to be
governed by the will of his constituents in all matters in which he knew
that will, and at this time he apparently held the American theory that
the multitude probably possesses the highest wisdom, and that at any
rate the majority is entitled to have its way. Therefore, in this
ambitious enterprise of putting Illinois at the very forefront of the
civilized world by an outburst of fine American energy, his ardor was as
warm as that of the warmest, and his intelligence was as utterly misled
as that of the most ignorant. He declared his ambition to be "the DeWitt
Clinton of Illinois." After the inevitable crash had come, amid the
perplexity of general ruin and distress, he honestly acknowledged that
he had blundered very badly. Nevertheless, no vengeance was exacted of
him by the people; which led Governor Ford to say that it is safer for a
politician to be wrong with his constituents than to be right against
them, and to illustrate this profound truth by naming Lincoln among the
"spared monuments of popular wrath."

"The Long Nine" had in this legislature a task peculiarly their own: to
divide Sangamon County, and to make Springfield instead of Vandalia the
state capital. Amid all the whirl of the legislation concerning
improvements Lincoln kept this especial purpose always in view. It is
said that his skill was infinite, and that he never lost heart. He
gained the reputation of being the best "log-roller" in the
legislature, and no measure got the support of the "Long Nine" without a
contract for votes to be given in return for the removal of the state
capital. It is unfortunate that such methods should enjoy the prestige
of having been conspicuously practiced by Abraham Lincoln, but the
evidence seems to establish the fact. That there was anything
objectionable in the skillful performance of such common transactions as
the trading of votes probably never occurred to him, being a
professional politician, any more than it did to his constituents, who
triumphed noisily in this success, and welcomed their candidates home
with great popular demonstrations of approval.[43]

A more agreeable occurrence at this session is the position taken by
Lincoln concerning slavery, a position which was looked upon with
extreme disfavor in those days in that State, and which he voluntarily
assumed when he was not called upon to act or commit himself in any way
concerning the matter. During the session sundry resolutions were
passed, disapproving abolition societies and doctrines, asserting the
sacredness of the right of property in slaves in the slave States, and
alleging that it would be against good faith to abolish slavery in the
District of Columbia without the consent of the citizens of the
District. Two days before the end of the session, March 3, 1837,
Lincoln introduced a strenuous protest. It bore only one signature
besides his own, and doubtless this fact was fortunate for Lincoln,
since it probably prevented the document from attracting the attention
and resentment of a community which, at the time, by no means held the
opinion that there was either "injustice" or "bad policy" in the great
"institution" of the South. It was within a few months after this very
time that the atrocious persecution and murder of Lovejoy took place in
the neighboring town of Alton.

In such hours as he could snatch from politics and bread-winning Lincoln
had continued to study law, and in March, 1837, he was admitted to the
bar. He decided to establish himself in Springfield, where certainly he
deserved a kindly welcome in return for what he had done towards making
it the capital. It was a little town of only between one and two
thousand inhabitants; but to Lincoln it seemed a metropolis. "There is a
great deal of flourishing about in carriages here," he wrote; there were
also social distinctions, and real aristocrats, who wore ruffled shirts,
and even adventured "fair top-boots" in the "unfathomable" mud of
streets which knew neither sidewalks nor pavements.

Lincoln came into the place bringing all his worldly belongings in a
pair of saddle-bags. He found there John T. Stuart, his comrade in the
Black Hawk campaign, engaged in the practice of the law. The two
promptly arranged a partnership. But Stuart was immersed in that too
common mixture of law and politics in which the former jealous mistress
is apt to take the traditional revenge upon her half-hearted suitor.
Such happened in this case; and these two partners, both making the same
blunder of yielding imperfect allegiance to their profession, paid the
inevitable penalty; they got perhaps work enough in mere point of
quantity, but it was neither interesting nor lucrative. Such business,
during the four years which he passed with Stuart, did not wean Lincoln
from his natural fondness for matters political. At the same time he was
a member of sundry literary gatherings and debating societies. Such of
his work as has been preserved does not transcend the ordinary
productions of a young man trying his wings in clumsy flights of
oratory; but he had the excuse that the thunderous declamatory style was
then regarded in the West as the only true eloquence. He learned better,
in course of time, and so did the West; and it was really good fortune
that he passed through the hobbledehoy period in the presence of
audiences whose taste was no better than his own.

Occasionally amid the tedium of these high-flown commonplaces there
opens a fissure through which the inner spirit of the man looks out for
an instant. It is well known that Lincoln was politically ambitious; his
friends knew it, his biographers have said it, he himself avowed it.
Now and again, in these early days, when his horizon could hardly have
ranged beyond the state legislature and the lower house of Congress, he
uttered some sentences which betrayed longings of a high moral grade,
and indicated that office and power were already regarded by him as the
opportunities for great actions. Strenuous as ought to be the objection
to that tone in speaking of Lincoln which seems to proceed from beneath
the sounding-board of the pulpit, and which uses him as a Sunday-school
figure to edify a piously admiring world, yet it certainly seems a plain
fact that his day-dreams at this period foreshadowed the acts of his
later years, and that what he pleased himself with imagining was not the
acquirement of official position but the achievement of some great
benefit for mankind. He did not, of course, expect to do this as a
philanthropist; for he understood himself sufficiently to know that his
road lay in the public service. Accordingly he talks not as Clarkson or
Wilberforce, but as a public man, of "emancipating slaves," of
eliminating slavery and drunkenness from the land; at the same time he
speaks thus not as a politician shrewdly anticipating the coming popular
impulse, but as one desiring to stir that impulse. When he said, in his
manifesto in 1832, that he had "no other ambition so great as that of
being truly esteemed by his fellow-men," he uttered words which in the
mouths of most politicians have the irritating effect of the dreariest
and cheapest of platitudes; but he obviously uttered them with the
sincerity of a deep inward ambition, that kind of an ambition which is
often kept sacred from one's nearest intimates. Many side glimpses show
him in this light, and it seems to be the genuine and uncolored one.

In 1838 Lincoln was again elected a member of the lower house of the
legislature, and many are the amusing stories told of the canvass. It
was in this year that he made sudden onslaught on the demagogue Dick
Taylor, and opening with a sudden jerk the artful colonel's waistcoat,
displayed a glittering wealth of jewelry hidden temporarily beneath it.
There is also the tale of his friend Baker haranguing a crowd in the
store beneath Lincoln's office. The audience differed with Baker, and
was about to punish him severely for the difference, when Lincoln
dangled down through a trap-door in the ceiling, intimated his intention
to share in the fight if there was to be one, and brought the audience
to a more pacific frame of mind. Such amenities of political debate at
least tested some of the qualities of the individual. The Whig party
made him their candidate for the speakership and he came within one vote
of being elected.[44] He was again a member of the Finance Committee;
but financiering by those wise lawgivers was no longer so lightsome and
exuberant a task as it had been. The hour of reckoning had come; and the
business proved to be chiefly a series of humiliating and futile
efforts to undo the follies of the preceding two and a half years.
Lincoln shared in this disagreeable labor, as he had shared in the mania
which had made it necessary. He admitted that he was "no financier," and
gave evidence of the fact by submitting a bill which did not deserve to
be passed, and was not. It can, however, be said for him that he never
favored repudiation, as some of his comrades did.

In 1840[45] Lincoln was again elected, again was the nominee of the Whig
party for the speakership, and again was beaten by Ewing, the Democratic
candidate, who mustered 46 votes against 36 for Lincoln. This
legislature held only one session, and apparently Holland's statement,
that "no important business of general interest was transacted," is a
fair summary. Lincoln did only one memorable thing, and that
unfortunately was discreditable. In a close and exciting contest, he,
with two other Whigs, jumped out of the window in order to break a
quorum. It is gratifying to hear from the chronicler of the event, who
was one of the parties concerned, that "Mr. Lincoln always regretted
that he entered into that arrangement, as he deprecated everything that
savored of the revolutionary."[46]

The year 1840 was made lively throughout the country by the spirited
and rollicking campaign which the Whigs made on behalf of General
Harrison. In that famous struggle for "Tippecanoe and Tyler too," the
log cabin, hard cider, and the 'coon skin were the popular emblems which
seemed to lend picturesqueness and enthusiasm and a kind of Western
spirit to the electioneering everywhere in the land. In Illinois Lincoln
was a candidate on the Whig electoral ticket, and threw himself with
great zeal into the congenial task of "stumping" the State. Douglas was
doing the same duty on the other side, and the two had many encounters.
Of Lincoln's speeches only one has been preserved,[47] and it leads to
the conclusion that nothing of value was lost when the others perished.
The effusion was in the worst style of the effervescent and exuberant
school of that region and generation. Nevertheless, it may have had the
greatest merit which oratory can possess, in being perfectly adapted to
the audience to which it was addressed. But rhetoric could not carry
Illinois for the Whigs; the Democrats cast the vote of the State.


[34] _The Good Old Times in McLean County_, passim.

[35] It was first advocated in 1835-36, and was adopted by slow degrees
thereafter. Ford, _Hist. of Illinois_, 204.

[36] _Ibid._ 201.

[37] Lamon, 129, where is given the text of the manifesto; Herndon, 101;
N. and H. i. 101, 105; Holland, 53, says that _after_ his return from
the Black Hawk campaign, Lincoln "was applied to" to become a candidate,
and that the "application was a great surprise to him." This seems an
obvious error, in view of the manifesto; yet see Lamon, 122.

[38] N. and H. i. 102. Lamon regards him as "a nominal Jackson man" in
contradistinction to a "whole-hog Jackson man;" as "Whiggish" rather
than actually a Whig. Lamon, 123, 126.

[39] Herndon, 105. But see N. and H. i. 109.

[40] The whole story of these two love affairs is given at great length
by Herndon and by Lamon. Other biographers deal lightly with these
episodes. Nicolay and Hay scantly refer to them, and, in their
admiration for Mr. Lincoln, even permit themselves to speak of that most
abominable letter to Mrs. Browning as "grotesquely comic." (Vol. i. p.
192.) It is certainly true that the revelations of Messrs. Herndon and
Lamon are painful, and in part even humiliating; and it would be most
satisfactory to give these things the go-by. But this seems impossible;
if one wishes to study and comprehend the character of Mr. Lincoln, the
strange and morbid condition in which he was for some years at this time
cannot possibly be passed over. It may even be said that it would be
unfair to him to do so; and a truthful idea of him, on the whole,
redounds more to his credit than a maimed and mutilated one, even though
the mutilation seems to consist in lopping off and casting out of sight
a deformity. Psychologically, perhaps physiologically, these episodes
are interesting, and as aiding a comprehension of Mr. Lincoln's nature
they are indispensable; but historically they are of no consequence, and
I am glad that the historical character of this work gives me the right
to dwell upon them lightly.

[41] It is amusing-to compare this Western oratory with the famous
outburst of the younger Pitt which he opened with those familiar words:
"The atrocious crime of being a young man which the honorable gentleman
has with such spirit and decency charged upon me," etc., etc.

[42] For the whole history of the rise, progress, and downfall of this
mania, see Ford, _Hist. of Illinois_, ch. vi.

[43] Ford, _Hist. of Illinois_, 186; Lamon, 198-201; Herndon, 176, 180.
N. and H., i. 137-139, endeavor to give a different color to this
transaction, but they make out no case as against the statements of
writers who had such opportunities to know the truth as had Governor
Ford, Lamon, and Herndon.

[44] N. and H. i. 160; Holland, 74; Lamon, 212; but see Herndon, 193.

[45] For the story of _The Skinning of Thomas_, belonging to this
campaign, see Herndon, 197; Lamon, 231; and for the Radford story, see
N. and H. i. 172; Lamon, 230.

[46] Lamon, 216, 217. Nicolay and Hay, i. 162, speak of "a number" of
the members, among whom Lincoln was "prominent," making this exit; but
there seem to have been only two besides him.

[47] N. and H. i. 173-177.



Collaterally with law and politics, Lincoln was at this time engaged
with that almost grotesque courtship which led to his marriage. The
story is a long and strange one; in its best gloss it is not agreeable,
and in its worst version it is exceedingly disagreeable. In any form it
is inexplicable, save so far as the apparent fact that his mind was
somewhat disordered can be taken as an explanation. In 1839 Miss Mary
Todd, who had been born in Lexington, Kentucky, December 13, 1818, came
to Springfield to stay with her sister, Mrs. Ninian W. Edwards. The
Western biographers describe her as "gifted with rare talents," as
"high-bred, proud, brilliant, witty," as "aristocratic" and
"accomplished," and as coming from a "long and distinguished ancestral
line." Later in her career critics with more exacting standards gave
other descriptions. There is, however, no doubt that in point of social
position and acquirements she stood at this time much above Lincoln.

Upon Lincoln's part it was a peculiar wooing, a series of morbid
misgivings as to the force of his affection, of alternate ardor and
coldness, advances and withdrawals, and every variety of strange
language and freakish behavior. In the course of it, oddly enough, his
omnipresent competitor, Douglas, crossed his path, his rival in love as
well as in politics, and ultimately outstripped by him in each alike.
After many months of this queer, uncertain zigzag progress, it was
arranged that the marriage should take place on January 1, 1841. At the
appointed hour the company gathered, the supper was set out, and the
bride, "bedecked in veil and silken gown, and nervously toying with the
flowers in her hair," according to the graphic description of Mr.
Herndon, sat in her sister's house awaiting the coming of her lover. She
waited, but he came not, and soon his friends were searching the town
for him. Towards morning they found him. Some said that he was insane;
if he was not, he was at least suffering from such a terrible access of
his constitutional gloom that for some time to come it was considered
necessary to watch him closely. His friend Speed took him away upon a
long visit to Kentucky, from which he returned in a much improved mental
condition, but soon again came under the influence of Miss Todd's

The memory of the absurd result of the recent effort at marriage
naturally led to the avoidance of publicity concerning the second
undertaking. So nothing was said till the last moment; then the license
was procured, a few friends were hastily notified, and the ceremony was
performed, all within a few hours, on November 4, 1842. A courtship
marked by so many singularities was inevitably prolific of gossip; and
by all this tittle-tattle, in which it is absolutely impossible to
separate probably a little truth from much fiction, the bride suffered
more than the groom. Among other things it was asserted that Lincoln at
last came to the altar most reluctantly. One says that he was "pale and
trembling, as if being driven to slaughter;" another relates that the
little son of a friend, noticing that his toilet had been more carefully
made than usual, asked him where he was going, and that he gloomily
responded: "To hell, I suppose." Probably enough, however, these
anecdotes are apocryphal; for why the proud and high-tempered Miss Todd
should have held so fast to an unwilling lover, who had behaved so
strangely and seemed to offer her so little, is a conundrum which has
been answered by no better explanation than the very lame one, that she
foresaw his future distinction. It was her misfortune that she failed to
make herself popular, so that no one has cared in how disagreeable or
foolish a position any story places her. She was charged with having a
sharp tongue, a sarcastic wit, and a shrewish temper, over which
perilous traits she had no control. It is related that her sister, Mrs.
Edwards, opposed the match, from a belief that the two were utterly
uncongenial, and later on this came to be the accepted belief of the
people at large. That Mrs. Lincoln often severely harassed her husband
always has been and always will be believed. One would gladly leave the
whole topic veiled in that privacy which ought always to be accorded to
domestic relations which are supposed to be only imperfectly happy; but
his countrymen have not shown any such respect to Mr. Lincoln, and it no
longer is possible wholly to omit mention of a matter about which so
much has been said and written. Moreover, it has usually been supposed
that the influence of Mrs. Lincoln upon her husband was unceasing and
powerful, and that her moods and her words constituted a very important
element in his life.[48]

Another disagreeable incident of this period was the quarrel with James
A. Shields. In the summer of 1842 sundry coarse assaults upon Shields,
attributed in great part, or wholly, to the so-called trenchant and
witty pen of Miss Todd, appeared in the Springfield "Journal." Lincoln
accepted the responsibility for them, received and reluctantly accepted
a challenge, and selected broadswords as the weapons! "Friends,"
however, brought about an "explanation," and the conflict was avoided.
But ink flowed in place of blood, and the newspapers were filled with a
mass of silly, grandiloquent, blustering, insolent, and altogether
pitiable stuff. All the parties concerned were placed in a most
humiliating light, and it is gratifying to hear that Lincoln had at
least the good feeling to be heartily ashamed of the affair, so that he
"always seemed willing to forget" it. But every veil which he ever
sought to throw over anything concerning himself has had the effect of
an irresistible provocation to drag the subject into the strongest glare
of publicity.[49]

All the while, amid so many distractions, Lincoln was seeking a
livelihood at the bar. On April 14, 1841, a good step was taken by
dissolving the partnership with Stuart and the establishment of a new
partnership with Stephen T. Logan, lately judge of the Circuit Court of
the United States, and whom Arnold calls "the head of the bar at the
capital." This gentleman, though not averse to politics, was a close
student, assiduous in his attention to business, and very accurate and
methodical in his ways. Thus he furnished a shining example of precisely
the qualities which Lincoln had most need to cultivate, and his
influence upon Lincoln was marked and beneficial. They continued
together until September 20, 1843, when they separated, and on the same
day Lincoln, heretofore a junior, became the senior in a new partnership
with William H. Herndon. This firm was never formally dissolved up to
the day of Lincoln's death.

When Lincoln was admitted to the bar the practice of the law was in a
very crude condition in Illinois. General principles gathered from a few
text-books formed the simple basis upon which lawyers tried cases and
framed arguments in improvised court-rooms. But the advance was rapid
and carried Lincoln forward with it. The raw material, if the phrase may
be pardoned, was excellent; there were many men in the State who united
a natural aptitude for the profession with high ability, ambition, and a
progressive spirit. Lincoln was brought in contact with them all,
whether they rode his circuit or not, because the federal courts were
held only in Springfield. Among them were Stephen A. Douglas, Lyman
Trumbull, afterward for a long while chairman of the Judiciary Committee
of the national Senate, David Davis, afterward a senator, and an
associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; O.H.
Browning, Ninian W. Edwards, Edward D. Baker, Justin Butterfield, Judge
Logan, and more. Precisely what position Lincoln occupied among these
men it is difficult to say with accuracy, because it is impossible to
know just how much of the praise which has been bestowed upon him is the
language of eulogy or of the brotherly courtesy of the bar, and how much
is a discriminating valuation of his qualities. That in the foregoing
list there were better and greater lawyers than he is unquestionable;
that he was primarily a politician and only secondarily a lawyer is
equally beyond denial. He has been described also as "a case lawyer,"
that is to say, a lawyer who studies each case as it comes to him simply
by and for itself, a method which makes the practitioner rather than the
jurist. That Lincoln was ever learned in the science is hardly
pretended. In fact it was not possible that the divided allegiance which
he gave to his profession for a score of years could have achieved such
a result.[50] But it is said, and the well-known manner of his mental
operations makes it easy to believe, that his arguments had a marvelous
simplicity and clearness, alike in thought and in expression. To these
traits they owed their great force; and a legal argument can have no
higher traits; fine-drawn subtlety is undeniably an inferior quality.
Noteworthy above all else was his extraordinary capacity for statement;
all agree that his statement of his case and his presentation of the
facts and the evidence were so plain and fair as to be far more
convincing than the argument which was built upon them. Again it may be
said that the power to state in this manner is as high in the order of
intellectual achievement as anything within forensic possibilities.

As an advocate Lincoln seems to have ranked better than he did in the
discussion of pure points of law. When he warmed to his work his power
over the emotions of a jury was very great. A less dignified but not
less valuable capacity lay in his humor and his store of illustrative
anecdotes. But the one trait, which all agree in attributing to him and
which above all others will redound to his honor, at least in the mind
of the layman, is that he was only efficient when his client was in the
right, and that he made but indifferent work in a wrong cause. He was
preëminently the honest lawyer, the counsel fitted to serve the litigant
who was justly entitled to win. His power of lucid statement was of
little service when the real facts were against him; and his eloquence
seemed paralyzed when he did not believe thoroughly that his client had
a just cause. He generally refused to take cases unless he could see
that as matter of genuine right he ought to win them. People who
consulted him were at times bluntly advised to withdraw from an unjust
or a hard-hearted contention, or were bidden to seek other counsel. He
could even go the length of leaving a case, while actually conducting
it, if he became satisfied of unfairness on the part of his client; and
when a coadjutor won a case from which he had withdrawn _in transitu_,
so to speak, he refused to accept any portion of the fee. Such habits
may not meet with the same measure of commendation from professional
men[51] which they will command on the part of others; but those who are
not members of this ingenious profession, contemning the fine logic
which they fail to overcome, stubbornly insist upon admiring the lawyer
who refuses to subordinate right to law. In this respect Lincoln
accepted the ideals of laymen rather than the doctrines of his

In the presidential campaign of 1844, in which Henry Clay was the
candidate of the Whig party, Lincoln was nominated upon the Whig
electoral ticket. He was an ardent admirer of Clay and he threw himself
into this contest with great zeal. Oblivious of courts and clients, he
devoted himself to "stumping" Illinois and a part of Indiana. When
Illinois sent nine Democratic electors to vote for James K. Polk, his
disappointment was bitter. All the members of the defeated party had a
peculiar sense of personal chagrin upon this occasion, and Lincoln felt
it even more than others. It is said that two years later a visit to
Ashland resulted in a disillusionment, and that his idol then came down
from its pedestal, or at least the pedestal was made much lower.[53]

In March, 1843, Lincoln had hopes that the Whigs would nominate him as
their candidate for the national House of Representatives. In the
canvass he developed some strength, but not quite enough, and the result
was somewhat ludicrous, for Sangamon County made him a delegate to the
nominating convention with instructions to vote for one of his own
competitors, Colonel Edward D. Baker, the gallant gentleman and
brilliant orator who fell at Ball's Bluff. The prize was finally carried
off by Colonel John J. Hardin, who afterward died at Buena Vista. By a
change of election periods the next convention was held in 1844, and
this time Lincoln publicly declined to make a contest for the
nomination against Colonel Baker, who accordingly received it and was
elected. It has been said that an agreement was made between Hardin,
Baker, Lincoln, and Judge Logan, whereby each should be allowed one term
in Congress, without competition on the part of any of the others; but
the story does not seem altogether trustworthy, nor wholly corroborated
by the facts. Possibly there may have been a courteous understanding
between them. It has, however, been spoken of as a very reprehensible
bargain, and Lincoln has been zealously defended against the reproach of
having entered into it. Why, if indeed it ever was made, it had this
objectionable complexion is a point in the inscrutable moralities of
politics which is not plain to those uninitiated in these ethical

In the year 1846 Lincoln again renewed his pursuit of the coveted honor,
as Holland very properly puts it. Nothing is more absurd than statements
to the purport that he was "induced to accept" the nomination,
statements which he himself would have heard with honest laughter. Only
three years ago[54] he had frankly written to a friend: "Now, if you
should hear any one say that Lincoln don't want to go to Congress, I
wish you, as a personal friend of mine, would tell him you have reason
to believe he is mistaken. The truth is I would [should] like to go very
much." Now, the opportunity being at hand, he spared no pains to
compass it. In spite of the alleged agreement Hardin made
reconnoissances in the district, which Lincoln met with
counter-manifestations so vigorous that on February 26 Hardin withdrew,
and on May 1 Lincoln was nominated. Against him the Democrats set Peter
Cartwright, the famous itinerant preacher of the Methodists, whose
strenuous and popular eloquence had rung in the ears of every Western
settler. Stalwart, aggressive, possessing all the qualities adapted to
win the good-will of such a constituency, the Apostle of the West was a
dangerous antagonist. But Lincoln had political capacity in a rare
degree. Foresight and insight, activity and the power to organize and to
direct, were his. In this campaign his eye was upon every one;
individuals, newspaper editors, political clubs, got their inspiration
and their guidance from him.[55] Such thoroughness deserved and achieved
an extraordinary success; and at the polls, in August, the district gave
him a majority of 1,511. In the latest presidential campaign it had
given Clay a majority of 914; and two years later it gave Taylor a
majority of 1,501. Sangamon County gave Lincoln a majority of 690, the
largest given to any candidate from 1836 to 1850, inclusive. Moreover,
Lincoln was the only Whig who secured a place in the Illinois

Though elected in the summer of 1846, it was not until December 6, 1847,
that the Thirtieth Congress began its first session. Robert C. Winthrop
was chosen speaker of the House, by 110 votes out of 218. The change in
the political condition was marked; in the previous House the Democrats
had numbered 142 and the Whigs only 75; in this House the Whigs were
116, the Democrats 108. Among the members were John Quincy Adams, Andrew
Johnson, Alexander H. Stephens, Howell Cobb, David Wilmot, Jacob
Collamer, Robert Toombs, with many more scarcely less familiar names.
The Mexican war was drawing towards its close,[56] and most of the
talking in Congress had relation to it. The whole Whig party denounced
it at the time, and the nation has been more than half ashamed of it
ever since. By adroit manoeuvres Polk had forced the fight upon a weak
and reluctant nation, and had made to his own people false statements as
to both the facts and the merits of the quarrel. The rebuke which they
had now administered, by changing the large Democratic majority into a
minority, "deserves," says von Holst, "to be counted among the most
meritorious proofs of the sound and honorable feeling of the American
nation."[57] But while the administration had thus smirched the
inception and the whole character of the war with meanness and dishonor,
the generals and the army were winning abundant glory for the national
arms. Good strategy achieved a series of brilliant victories, and
fortunately for the Whigs General Taylor and General Scott, together
with a large proportion of the most distinguished regimental officers,
were of their party. This aided them essentially in their policy, which
was, to denounce the entering into the war but to vote all necessary
supplies for its vigorous prosecution.

Into this scheme of his party Lincoln entered with hearty concurrence. A
week after the House met he closed a letter to his partner with the
remark: "As you are all so anxious for me to distinguish myself, I have
concluded to do so before long," and what he said humorously he probably
meant seriously. Accordingly he soon afterward[58] introduced a series
of resolutions, which, under the nickname of "The Spot Resolutions,"
attracted some attention. Quoting in his preamble sundry paragraphs of
the President's message of May 11, 1846, to the purport that Mexico had
"invaded _our territory_" and had "shed the blood of our citizens on
_our own soil_" he then requested the President to state "_the spot_"
where these and other alleged occurrences had taken place. His first
"little speech" was on "a post-office question of no general interest;"
and he found himself "about as badly scared and no worse" than when he
spoke in court. So a little later, January 12, 1848, he ventured to call
up his resolutions and to make an elaborate speech upon them.[59] It was
not a very great or remarkable speech, but it was a good one, and not
conceived in the fervid and florid style which defaced his youthful
efforts; he spoke sensibly, clearly, and with precision of thought; he
sought his strength in the facts, and went in straight pursuit of the
truth; his best intellectual qualities were plainly visible. The
resolutions were not acted upon, and doubtless their actual passage had
never been expected; but they were a good shot well placed; and they
were sufficiently noteworthy to save Lincoln from being left among the
herd of the nobodies of the House.

In view of his future career, but for no other reason, a brief paragraph
is worth quoting. He says:--

"Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the
_right_ to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new
one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred
right,--a right which, we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.
Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an
existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such
people, that _can_, may revolutionize, and make their _own_ of so much
of the territory as they inhabit." This doctrine, so comfortably
applied to Texas in 1848, seemed unsuitable for the Confederate States
in 1861. But possibly the point lay in the words, "having the power,"
and "can," for the Texans "had the power" and "could," and the South had
it not and could not; and so Lincoln's practical proviso saved his
theoretical consistency; though he must still have explained how either
Texas or the South could know whether they "had the power," and "could,"
except by trial.

Lincoln's course concerning the war and the administration did not
please his constituents. With most of the Whigs he voted for Ashmun's
amendment, which declared that the war had been "unnecessarily and
unconstitutionally commenced by the President." But soon he heard that
the people in Springfield were offended at a step which might weaken the
administration in time of stress; and even if the President had
transcended the Constitution, they preferred to deny rather than to
admit the fact. When Douglas afterward charged Lincoln with lack of
patriotism, Lincoln replied that he had not chosen to "skulk," and,
feeling obliged to vote, he had voted for "the truth" rather than for "a
lie."[60] He remarked also that he, with the Whigs generally, always
voted for the supply bills. He took and maintained his position with
entire manliness and honesty, and stated his principles with perfect
clearness, neither shading nor abating nor coloring by any conciliatory
or politic phrase. It was a question of conscience, and he met it
point-blank. Many of his critics remained dissatisfied, and it is
believed that his course cost the next Whig candidate in the district
votes which he could not afford to lose. It is true that another paid
this penalty, yet Lincoln himself would have liked well to take his
chance as the candidate. To those "who desire that I should be
reflected," he wrote to Herndon, "I can say, as Mr. Clay said of the
annexation of Texas, that '_personally_ I would not object.' ... If it
should so happen _that nobody else wishes to be elected_, I could not
refuse the people the right of sending me again. But to enter myself as
a competitor of others, or to authorize any one so to enter me, is what
my word and honor forbid." It did so happen that Judge Logan, whose turn
it seemed to be, wished the nomination and received it. He was, however,
defeated, and probably paid the price of Lincoln's scrupulous honesty.

In the canvassing of the spring of 1848 Lincoln was an ardent advocate
for the nomination of General Taylor as the Whig candidate for the
presidency; for he appreciated how much greater was the strength of the
military hero, with all that could be said against him, than was that of
Mr. Clay, whose destiny was so disappointingly non-presidential. When
the nomination went according to his wishes, he entered into the
campaign with as much zeal as his congressional duties would
permit,--indeed, with somewhat an excess of zeal, for he delivered on
the floor of the House an harangue in favor of the general which was
little else than a stump speech, admirably adapted for a backwoods
audience, but grossly out of place where it was spoken. He closed it
with an assault on General Cass, as a military man, which was designed
to be humorous, and has, therefore, been quoted with unfortunate
frequency. So soon as Congress adjourned he was able to seek a more
legitimate arena in New England, whither he went at once and delivered
many speeches, none of which have been preserved.

Lincoln's position upon the slavery question in this Congress was that
of moderate hostility. In the preceding Congress, the Twenty-ninth, the
famous Wilmot Proviso, designed to exclude slavery from any territory
which the United States should acquire from Mexico, had passed the House
and had been killed in the Senate. In the Thirtieth Congress efforts to
the same end were renewed in various forms, always with Lincoln's favor.
He once said that he had voted for the principle of the Wilmot Proviso
"about forty-two times," which, if not an accurate mathematical
computation, was a vivid expression of his stanch adherence to the
doctrine. At the second session Mr. Lincoln voted against a bill to
prohibit the slave trade in the District of Columbia, because he did not
approve its form; and then introduced another bill, which he himself
had drawn. This prohibited the bringing slaves into the District, except
as household servants by government officials who were citizens of slave
States; it also prohibited selling them to be taken away from the
District; children born of slave mothers after January 1, 1850, were to
be subject to temporary apprenticeship and finally to be made free;
owners of slaves might collect from the government their full cash value
as the price of their freedom; fugitive slaves escaping into Washington
and Georgetown were to be returned; finally the measure was to be
submitted to popular vote in the District. This was by no means a
measure of abolitionist coloring, although Lincoln obtained for it the
support of Joshua R. Giddings, who believed it "as good a bill as we
could get at this time," and was "willing to pay for slaves in order to
save them from the Southern market." It recognized the right of property
in slaves, which the Abolitionists denied; also it might conceivably be
practicable, a characteristic which rarely marked the measures of the
Abolitionists, who professed to be pure moralists rather than practical
politicians. From this first move to the latest which he made in this
great business, Lincoln never once broke connection with practicability.
On this occasion he had actually succeeded in obtaining from Mr. Seaton,
editor of the "National Intelligencer" and mayor of Washington, a
promise of support, which gave him a little prospect of success. Later,
however, the Southern Congressmen drew this influential gentleman to
their side, and thereby rendered the passage of the bill impossible; at
the close of the session it lay with the other corpses in that grave
called "the table."

When his term of service in Congress was over Lincoln sought, but failed
to obtain, the position of Commissioner of the General Lands Office. He
was offered the governorship of the newly organized Territory of Oregon;
but this, controlled by the sensible advice of his wife, he fortunately


[48] Lamon, pp. 238-252, tells the story of Lincoln's marriage at great
length, sparing nothing; he liberally sets forth the gossip and the
stories; he quotes the statements of witnesses who knew both parties at
the time, and he gives in full much correspondence. The spirit and the
letter of his account find substantial corroboration in the narrative of
Herndon, pp. 206-231. So much original material and evidence of
acquaintances have been gathered by these two writers, and their own
opportunities of knowing the truth were so good, that one seems not at
liberty to reject the _substantial_ correctness of their version.
Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, vol. i. ch. 11, give a narrative for the most
part in their own language. Their attempt throughout to mitigate all
that is disagreeable is so obvious, not only in substance but in the
turn of every phrase, that it is impossible to accept their chapter as a
picture either free from obscurity or true in color, glad as one might
be to do so. Arnold, pp. 68, 72, and Holland, p. 90, simply mention the
marriage, and other biographers would have done well to imitate this
forbearance; but too much has been said to leave this course now open.

[49] It is fair to say that my view of this "duel" is not that of other
writers. Lamon, p. 260, says that "the scene is one of transcendent
interest." Herndon, p. 260, calls it a "serio-comic affair." Holland,
pp. 87-89, gives a brief, deprecatory account of what he calls
"certainly a boyish affair." Arnold, pp. 69-72, treats it simply enough,
but puts the whole load of the ridicule upon Shields. Nicolay and Hay,
vol. i. ch. 12, deal with it gravely, and in the same way in which, in
the preceding chapter, they deal with the marriage; that is to say, they
eschew the production of original documents, and, by their own gloss,
make a good story for Lincoln and a very bad one for Shields; they speak
lightly of the "ludicrousness" of the affair. To my mind the opinion
which Lincoln himself held is far more correct than that expressed by
any of his biographers.

[50] Serious practice only began with him when he formed his partnership
with Judge Logan in 1841; in 1860 his practice came to an end; in the
interval he was for two years a member of Congress.

[51] A story is told by Lamon, p. 321, which puts Lincoln in a position
absolutely indefensible by any sound reasoning.

[52] For accounts of Lincoln at the bar, as also for many illustrative
and entertaining anecdotes to which the plan of this volume does not
permit space to be given, see Arnold, 55-59, 66, 73, 84-91; Holland, 72,
73, 76-83, 89; Lamon, 223-225, ch. xiii. 311-332; N. and H. i. 167-171,
213-216, ch. xvii. 298-309; Herndon, 182-184, 186, 264-266, 306 n.,
307-309, 312-319, 323-331, ch. xi. 332-360.

[53] Holland, 95; but _per contra_ see Herndon, 271.

[54] March, 1843.

[55] By way of example of his methods, see letter to Herndon, June 22,
1848, Lamon, 299.

[56] The treaty of peace, subject to some amendments, was ratified by
the Senate March 10, 1848, and officially promulgated on July 4.

[57] Von Holst, _Const. Hist. of U.S._ iii. 336. All historians are
pretty well agreed upon the relation of the Polk administration to the
Mexican war. But the story has never been so clearly and admirably
traced by any other as by von Holst in the third volume of his history.

[58] December 22, 1847.

[59] Printed by Lamon, 282. See, also, Herndon, 277.

[60] Herndon, 281; see letters given in full by Lamon, 291, 293, 295 (at
296); N. and H. i. 274



The Ordinance of 1787 established that slavery should never exist in any
part of that vast northwestern territory which had then lately been
ceded by sundry States to the Confederation. This Ordinance could not be
construed otherwise than as an integral part of the transaction of
cession, and was forever unalterable, because it represented in a
certain way a part of the consideration in a contract, and was also in
the nature of a declaration of trust undertaken by the Congress of the
Confederation with the granting States. The article "was agreed to
without opposition;" but almost contemporaneously, in the sessions of
that convention which framed the Constitution, debate waxed hot upon the
topic which was then seen to present grave obstacles to union. It was
true that many of the wisest Southerners of that generation regarded the
institution as a menacing misfortune; they however could not ignore the
fact that it was a "misfortune" of that peculiar kind which was endured
with much complacency by those afflicted by it; and it was equally
certain that the great body of slave-owners would resent any effort to
relieve them of their burden. Hence there were placed in the
Constitution provisions in behalf of slavery which involved an admission
that the institution needed protection, and should receive it. The idea
of protection implied the existence of hostility either of men or of
circumstances, or of both. Thus by the Ordinance and the Constitution,
taken together, there was already indirectly recognized an antagonism
between the institutions, interests, and opinions of the South and those
of the North.

Slowly this feeling of opposition grew. The first definite mark of the
growth was the struggle over the admission of Missouri, in 1820. This
was settled by the famous "Compromise," embodied in the Act of March 6,
1820, whereby the people of the Territory of Missouri were allowed to
frame a state government with no restriction against slavery; but a
clause also enacted that slavery should never be permitted in any part
of the remainder of the public territory lying north of the parallel of
36° 30'. By its efficiency during thirty-four years of constantly
increasing strain this legislation was proved to be a remarkable
political achievement; and as the people saw it perform so long and so
well a service so vital they came to regard it as only less sacred than
the Constitution itself. Even Douglas, who afterward led in repealing
it, declared that it had an "origin akin to the Constitution," and that
it was "canonized in the hearts of the American people as a sacred
thing." Yet during the long quietude which it brought, each section
kept a jealous eye upon the other; and especially was the scrutiny of
the South uneasy, for she saw ever more and more plainly the disturbing
truth that her institution needed protection. Being in derogation of
natural right, it was peculiarly dependent upon artificial sustention;
the South would not express the condition in this language, but acted
upon the idea none the less. It was true that the North was not
aggressive towards slavery, but was observing it with much laxity and
indifference; that the crusading spirit was sleeping soundly, and even
the proselyting temper was feeble. But this state of Northern feeling
could not relieve the South from the harassing consciousness that
slavery needed not only toleration, but positive _protection_ at the
hands of a population whose institutions were naturally antagonistic to
the slave idea. This being the case, she must be alarmed at seeing that
population steadily outstripping her own in numbers and wealth.[61]
Since she could not possibly even hold this disproportion stationary,
her best resource seemed to be to endeavor to keep it practically
harmless by maintaining a balance of power in the government. Thus it
became unwritten law that slave States and free States must be equal in
number, so that the South could not be outvoted in the Senate. This
system was practicable for a while, yet not a very long while; for the
North was filling up that great northwestern region, which was eternally
dedicated to freedom, and full-grown communities could not forever be
kept outside the pale of statehood. On the other hand, apart from any
question of numbers, the South could make no counter-expansion, because
she lay against a foreign country. After a time, however, Texas
opportunely rebelled against Mexico, and then the opportunity for
removing this obstruction was too obvious and too tempting to be lost. A
brief period of so-called independence on the part of Texas was followed
by the annexation of her territory to the United States,[62] with the
proviso that from her great area might in the future be cut off still
four other States. Slavery had been abolished in all Mexican territory,
and Texas had been properly a "free" country; but in becoming a part of
the United States she became also a slave State.

Mexico had declared that annexation of Texas would constitute a _casus
belli_, yet she was wisely laggard in beginning vindictive hostilities
against a power which could so easily whip her, and she probably never
would have done so had the United States rested content with an honest
boundary line. But this President Polk would not do, and by theft and
falsehood he at last fairly drove the Mexicans into a war, in which they
were so excessively beaten that the administration found itself able to
gather more plunder than it had expected. By the treaty of peace the
United States not only extended unjustly the southwestern boundary of
Texas, but also got New Mexico and California. To forward this result,
Polk had asked the House to place $2,000,000 at his disposal. Thereupon,
as an amendment to the bill granting this sum, Wilmot introduced his
famous proviso, prohibiting slavery in any part of the territory to be
acquired. Repeatedly and in various shapes was the substance of this
proviso voted upon, but always it was voted down. Though New Mexico had
come out from under the rule of despised Mexico as "free" country, a
contrary destiny was marked out for it in its American character. A
plausible suggestion was made to extend the sacred line of the Missouri
Compromise westward to the Pacific Ocean; and very little of the new
country lay north of that line. By all these transactions the South
seemed to be scoring many telling points in its game. They were definite
points, which all could see and estimate; yet a price, which was
considerable, though less definite, less easy to see and to estimate,
had in fact been paid for them; for the antagonism of the rich and
teeming North to the Southern institution and to the Southern policy for
protecting it had been spread and intensified to a degree which involved
a menace fully offsetting the Southern territorial gain. One of the
indications of this state of feeling was the organization of the "Free
Soil" party.

Almost simultaneously with this important advancement of the Southern
policy there occurred an event, operative upon the other side, which
certainly no statesman could have foreseen. Gold was discovered in
California, and in a few months a torrent of immigrants poured over the
land. The establishment of an efficient government became a pressing
need. In Congress they debated the matter hotly; the friends of the
Wilmot proviso met in bitter conflict the advocates of the westward
extension of the line of 36° 30'. Neither side could prevail, and amid
intense excitement the Thirtieth Congress expired. For the politicians
this was well enough, but for the Californians organization was such an
instant necessity that they now had to help themselves to it. So they
promptly elected a Constitutional Convention, which assembled on
September 1, 1849, and adjourned on October 13. Though this body held
fifteen delegates who were immigrants from slave States, yet it was
unanimous in presenting a Constitution which prohibited slavery, and
which was at once accepted by a popular vote of 12,066 yeas against 811

Great then was the consternation of the Southern leaders when
Californian delegates appeared immediately upon the assembling of the
Thirty-first Congress, and asked for admission beneath this unlooked-for
"free" charter of statehood. The shock was aggravated by the fact that
New Mexico, actually instigated thereto by the slaveholding President
Taylor himself, was likely to follow close in the Californian
foot-tracks. The admission of Texas had for a moment disturbed the
senatorial equilibrium between North and South, which, however, had
quickly been restored by the admission of Wisconsin. But the South had
nothing to offer to counterbalance California and New Mexico, which were
being suddenly filched from her confident expectation. In this emergency
those extremists in the South who offset the Abolitionists at the North
fell back upon the appalling threat of disunion, which could hardly be
regarded as an idle extravagance of the "hotspurs," since it was
substantially certain that the Senate would never admit California with
her anti-slavery Constitution; and thus a real crisis seemed at hand.
Other questions also were cast into the seething caldron. Texas, whose
boundaries were as uncertain as the ethics of politicians, set up a
claim which included nearly all New Mexico, and so would have settled
the question of slavery for that region at least. Further, the South
called for a Fugitive Slave Law sufficiently stringent to be
serviceable. Also, in encountering the Wilmot proviso, Southern
statesmen had asserted the doctrine, far-reaching and subversive of
established ideas and of enacted laws, that Congress could not
constitutionally interfere with the property-rights of citizens of the
United States in the Territories, and that slaves were property. Amid
such a confused and violent hurly-burly the perplexed body of
order-loving citizens were, with reason, seriously alarmed.

To the great relief of these people and to the equal disgust of the
extremist politicians, Henry Clay, the "great compromiser," was now
announced to appear once more in the rôle which all felt that he alone
could play. He came with much dramatic effect; an aged and broken man,
he emerged from the retirement in which he seemed to have sought a brief
rest before death should lay him low, and it was with an impressive air
of sadness and of earnestness that he devoted the last remnants of his
failing strength to save a country which he had served so long. His
friends feared that he might not survive even a few months to reach the
end of his patriotic task. On January 29, 1850, he laid before the
Senate his "comprehensive scheme of adjustment." But it came not as oil
upon the angry waters; every one was offended by one or another part of
it, and at once there opened a war of debate which is among the most
noteworthy and momentous in American history. Great men who belonged to
the past and great men who were to belong to the future shared in the
exciting controversies, which were prolonged over a period of more than
half a year. Clay was constantly on his feet, doing battle with a voice
which gained rather than lost force from its pathetic feebleness. "I am
here," he solemnly said, "expecting soon to go hence, and owing no
responsibility but to my own conscience and to God." Jefferson Davis
spoke for the extension westward of the Missouri Compromise line to the
Pacific Ocean, with a proviso positively establishing slavery south of
that line. Calhoun, from the edge of the grave, into which only a few
weeks later he was to fall, once more faced his old adversaries. On
March 4 he sat beside Mason of Virginia, while that gentleman read for
him to a hushed audience the speech which he himself was too weak to
deliver. Three days later Webster uttered that speech which made the
seventh day of March almost as famous in the history of the United
States as the Ides of the same month had been in that of Rome. In the
eyes of the anti-slavery men of New England the fall of Webster was
hardly less momentous than the fall of Caesar had appeared in the
Eternal City. Seward also spoke a noteworthy speech, bringing upon
himself infinite abuse by his bold phrase, _a higher law than the
Constitution_. Salmon P. Chase followed upon the same side, in an
exalted and prophetic strain. In that momentous session every man gave
out what he felt to be his best, while anxious and excited millions
devoured every word which the newspapers reported to them.

Clay had imprudently gathered the several matters of his Compromise into
one bill, which was soon sneeringly nicknamed "the Omnibus Bill." It was
sorely harassed by amendments, and when at last, on July 31, the Omnibus
reached the end of its journey, it contained only one passenger, viz., a
territorial government for Utah. Its trip had apparently ended in utter
failure. But a careful study of individual proclivities showed that not
improbably those measures might be passed one by one which could not be
passed in combination. In this hope, five several bills, being all the
ejected contents of the Omnibus, were brought forward, and each in turn
had the success which had been denied to them together. First: Texas
received $10,000,000, and for this price magnanimously relinquished her
unfounded claim upon New Mexico. Second: California was admitted as a
free State. Third: New Mexico was organized as a Territory, with the
proviso that when she should form a state constitution the slavery
question should be determined by the people, and that during her
territorial existence the question of property in a slave should be left
undisturbed by congressional action, to be determined by the Supreme
Court of the United States. Fourth: A more efficient Fugitive Slave Law
was passed. Fifth: Slave trading in the District of Columbia was
abolished. Such were the terms of an arrangement in which every man saw
so much which he himself disliked that he felt sure that others must be
satisfied. Each plumed himself on his liberality in his concessions
nobly made in behalf of public harmony. "The broad basis," says von
Holst, "on which the compromise of 1850 rested, was the conviction of
the great majority of the people, both North and South, that it was
fair, reasonable, and patriotic to come to a friendly understanding."

Thus in the midsummer of 1850 did the nation, with intense relief, see
the imminent disaster of civil discord averted,--or was it only
postponed? It was ominous that no men who were deeply in earnest in
public affairs were sincerely satisfied. The South saw no gain which
offset the destruction of the balance of power by the admission of
California. Thinking men at the North were alarmed at the recognition of
the principle of non-intervention by Congress concerning slavery in the
Territories, a principle which soon, under the seductive title of
"popular sovereignty" in the Territories, threatened even that partial
restriction heretofore given by the Missouri Compromise. Neither party
felt sufficiently secure of the strength of its legal position to be
altogether pleased at seeing the doctrine of treating the slave in the
Territories as "property" cast into the lottery of the Supreme Court.
Lincoln recognized the futility of this whole arrangement, and said
truly that the slavery question could "never be successfully
compromised." Yet he accepted the situation, with the purpose of making
of it the best that was possible. The mass of the people, less
far-sighted, were highly gratified at the passing of the great danger;
refused to recognize that a more temporary compromise was never patched
up to serve a turn; and applauded it so zealously that in preparing for
the presidential campaign of 1852 each party felt compelled to declare
emphatically--what all wise politicians knew to be false--the "finality"
of the great Compromise of 1850. Never, never more was there to be a
revival of the slavery agitation! Yet, at the same time, it was
instinctively felt that the concord would cease at once if the nation
should not give to the South a Democratic President! In this campaign
Lincoln made a few speeches in Illinois in favor of Scott; but Herndon
says that they were not very satisfactory efforts. Franklin Pierce was
chosen, and slavery could have had no better man.

This doctrine of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the
Territories lay as the seed of mortal disease imbedded in the vitals of
the great Compromise even at the hour of its birth. All the howlings of
the political medicine-men in the halls of Congress, and in the wigwams
where the party platforms were manufactured, could not defer the
inevitable dissolution. The rapid peopling of the Pacific coast already
made it imperative to provide some sort of governmental organization for
the sparsely inhabited regions lying between these new lands and the
fringe of population near the Mississippi. Accordingly bills were
introduced to establish as a Territory the region which was afterward
divided between Kansas and Nebraska; but at two successive sessions they
failed to pass, more, as it seemed, from lack of interest than from any
open hostility. In the course of debate it was explained, and not
contradicted, that slavery was not mentioned in the bills because the
Missouri Compromise controlled that matter. Yet it was well known that
the Missouri Compromise was no longer a sure barrier; for one wing of
the pro-slavery party asserted that it was unconstitutional on the
ground that slaves, being property, could not be touched in the
Territories by congressional enactments; while another wing of the party
preferred the plausible cry of "popular sovereignty," than which no
words could ring truer in American ears; and no one doubted that, in
order to give that sovereignty full sway, they would at any convenient
moment vote to repeal even the "sacred" Compromise. It could not be
denied that this was the better course, if it were practicable; and
accordingly, January 16, 1854, Senator Dixon of Kentucky offered an
amendment to the pending Nebraska bill, which substantially embodied the
repeal. In the Senate Douglas was chairman of the Committee on
Territories, and was induced to coöperate.[63] January 23, 1854, he
introduced his famous "Kansas-Nebraska bill," establishing the two
Territories and declaring the Missouri Compromise "inoperative" therein.
A later amendment declared the Compromise to be "inconsistent with the
principle of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States and
Territories, as recognized by the legislation of 1850," and therefore
"inoperative and void; it being the true intent and meaning of this Act
not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it
therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and
regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to
the Constitution." After a long and hard fight the bill was passed with
this clause in it, which Benton well stigmatized as a "stump speech
injected into the belly of the bill." The insertion of the word State
was of momentous significance.

This repeal set the anti-slavery party all ablaze. Among the rest
Lincoln was fired with strenuous indignation, and roused from the
condition of apparent indifference to public affairs in which he had
rested since the close of his term in Congress. Douglas, coming home in
the autumn, was so disagreeably received by an angry audience in Chicago
that he felt it imperative to rehabilitate his stricken popularity. This
difficult task he essayed at the great gathering of the State Fair in
October. But Lincoln was put forward to answer him, and was brilliantly
successful in doing so, if the highly colored account of Mr. Herndon may
be trusted. Immediately after Lincoln's close, Owen Lovejoy, the
Abolitionist leader, announced "a meeting in the same place that evening
of all the friends of freedom." The scheme was to induce Lincoln to
address them, and thus publicly to commit him as of their faith. But the
astute Herndon, though himself an Abolitionist, felt that for Lincoln
personally this was by no means desirable. So he hastened to Lincoln and
strenuously said: "Go home at once! Take Bob with you, and drive
somewhere into the country, and stay till this thing is over;" and
Lincoln did take Bob and drove away to Tazewell Court House "on
business." Herndon congratulates himself upon having "saved Lincoln,"
since either joining, or refusing to join, the Abolitionists at that
time would have been attended with "great danger." Lincoln had upon his
own part a wise instinct and a strong purpose to keep hard by Douglas
and to close with him as often as opportunity offered. Soon afterward
the two encountered again, and on this occasion it is narrated that
Lincoln gave Douglas so much trouble that Douglas cried for a truce,
proposing that neither of them should make any more speeches that
autumn, to which Lincoln good-naturedly assented.

During this winter Lincoln was elected to the state legislature, but
contrary to his own wish. For he designed to be a candidate for the
United States Senate, and there might be a question as to his
eligibility if he remained a member of the electing body. Accordingly he
resigned his seat, which, to his surprise and chagrin, was immediately
filled by a Democrat; for there was a reaction in Sangamon County. On
February 8, 1855, the legislature began voting to elect a senator. The
"Douglas Democrats" wished to reelect Shields, the present incumbent.
The first ballot stood, Lincoln, 45, Shields, 41, Lyman Trumbull, 5,
scattering, 5 (or, according to other authority, 8). After several
ballots Shields was thrown over in favor of a more "practicable"
candidate, Governor Matteson, a "quasi-independent," who, upon the ninth
ballot, showed a strength of 47, while Trumbull had 35, Lincoln had run
down to 15, and "scattering" caught 1. Lincoln's weakness lay in the
fact that the Abolitionists had too loudly praised him and publicly
counted him as one of themselves. For this reason five Democrats,
disgusted with Douglas for his attack on the Missouri Compromise, but
equally bitter against Abolitionism, stubbornly refused ever to vote for
a Whig, above all a Whig smirched by Abolitionist applause. So it seemed
that Owen Lovejoy and his friends had incumbered Lincoln with a fatal
handicap. The situation was this: Lincoln could count upon his fifteen
adherents to the extremity; but the five anti-Douglas Democrats were
equally stanch against him, so that his chance was evidently gone.
Trumbull was a Democrat, but he was opposed to the policy of Douglas's
Kansas-Nebraska bill; his following was not altogether trustworthy, and
a trifling defection from it seemed likely to occur and to make out
Matteson's majority. Lincoln pondered briefly; then, subjecting all else
to the great principle of "anti-Nebraska," he urged his friends to
transfer their votes to Trumbull. With grumbling and reluctance they did
so, and by this aid, on the tenth ballot, Trumbull was elected. In a
letter to Washburne, Lincoln wrote: "I think you would have done the
same under the circumstances, though Judge Davis, who came down this
morning, declares he never would have consented to the 47 men being
controlled by the 5. I regret my defeat moderately, but am not nervous
about it." If that was true which was afterwards so frequently
reiterated by Douglas during the campaign of 1858, that a bargain had
been struck between Lincoln and Trumbull, whereby the former was to
succeed Shields and the latter was to succeed Douglas at the election
two years later, then Lincoln certainly displayed on this occasion a
"generosity" which deserves more than the very moderate praise which has
been given it, of being "above the range of the mere politician's

An immediate effect of this repealing legislation of 1854 was to cast
Kansas into the arena as booty to be won in fight between anti-slavery
and pro-slavery. For this competition the North had the advantage that
its population outnumbered that of the South in the ratio of three to
two, and emigration was in accord with the habits of the people. Against
this the South offset proximity, of which the peculiar usefulness soon
became apparent. Then was quickly under way a fair fight, in a certain
sense, but most unfairly fought. Each side contended after its fashion;
Northern anti-slavery merchants subscribed money to pay the expenses of
free-state immigrants. "Border ruffians" and members of "Blue Lodges"
and of kindred fraternities came across the border from Missouri to
take a hand in every politico-belligerent crisis. The parties were
not unequally matched; by temperament the free-state men were inclined
to orderly and legitimate ways, yet they were willing and able to fight
fire with fire. On the other hand, the slave-state men had a native
preference for the bowie-knife and the shot-gun, yet showed a kind of
respect for the ballot-box by insisting that it should be stuffed with
votes on their side. Thus for a long while was waged a dubious, savage,
and peculiar warfare. Imprisonments and rescues, beatings, shootings,
plunderings, burnings, sieges, and lootings of towns were interspersed
with elections of civil officers, with legislative enactments in
ordinary form, with trials, suits at law, legal arguments, and decisions
of judges. It is impossible here to sketch in detail this strange
phantasmagory of arson, bloodshed, politics, and law.

[Illustration: Lyman Trumbull]

Meantime other occurrences demand mention. In May, 1854, the seizure in
Boston of Anthony Burns, as an escaped slave, caused a riot in which the
court-house was attacked by a mob, one of the assailants was killed, and
the militia were called out. Other like seizures elsewhere aroused the
indignation of people who, whatever were their abstract theories as to
the law, revolted at the actual spectacle of a man dragged back from
freedom into slavery. May 22, 1856, Preston S. Brooks strode suddenly
upon Charles Sumner, seated and unarmed at his desk in the
senate-chamber, and beat him savagely over the head with a cane,
inflicting very serious injuries. Had it been a fair fight, or had the
South repudiated the act, the North might have made little of it, for
Sumner was too advanced in his views to be politically popular. But,
although the onslaught was even more offensive for its cowardice than
for its brutality, nevertheless the South overwhelmed Brooks with
laudation, and by so doing made thousands upon thousands of Republican
votes at the North. The deed, the enthusiastic greeting, and the angry
resentment marked the alarming height to which the excitement had risen.

The presidential campaign of the following summer, 1856, showed a
striking disintegration and re-formation of political groups. Nominally
there were four parties in the field: Democrats, Whigs, Native Americans
or Know-Nothings, and Republicans. The Know-Nothings had lately won some
state elections, but were of little account as a national organization,
for they stood upon an issue hopelessly insignificant in comparison with
slavery. Already many had gone over to the Republican camp; those who
remained nominated as their candidates Millard Fillmore and Andrew J.
Donelson. The Whigs were the feeble remnant of a really dead party, held
together by affection for the old name; too few to do anything by
themselves, they took by adoption the Know-Nothing candidates. The
Republican party had been born only in 1854. Its members, differing on
other matters, united upon the one doctrine, which they accepted as a
test: opposition to the extension of slavery. They nominated John C.
Fremont and William L. Dayton, and made a platform whereby they declared
it to be "both the right and the duty of Congress to prohibit in the
Territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery;" by
which vehement and abusive language they excited the bitter resentment
of the Southern Democracy. In this convention 110 votes were cast for
Lincoln for the second place on the ticket. Lamon tells the little story
that when this was told to Lincoln he replied that he could not have
been the person designated, who was, doubtless, "the great Lincoln from
Massachusetts."[65] In the Democratic party there were two factions. The
favorite candidate of the South was Franklin Pierce, for reëlection,
with Stephen A. Douglas as a substitute or second choice; the North more
generally preferred James Buchanan, who was understood to be displeased
with the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The struggle was sharp, but
was won by the friends of Buchanan, with whom John C. Breckenridge was
coupled. The campaign was eager, for the Republicans soon developed a
strength beyond what had been expected and which put the Democrats to
their best exertions. The result was

                           | Popular vote | Electoral vote
  Democrats.               | 1,838,169    | 174
  Republicans.             | 1,341,264    | 114
  Know-Nothings and Whigs. |   874,534    |   8

Thus James Buchanan became President of the United States, March 4,
1857,--stigmatized somewhat too severely as "a Northern man with
Southern principles;" in fact an honest man and of good abilities, who,
in ordinary times, would have left a fair reputation as a statesman of
the second rank; but a man hopelessly unfit alike in character and in
mind either to comprehend the present emergency or to rise to its
demands.[66] Yet, while the Democrats triumphed, the Republicans enjoyed
the presage of the future; they had polled a total number of votes which
surprised every one; on the other hand, the Democrats had lost ten
States[67] which they had carried in 1852 and had gained only two
others,[68] showing a net loss of eight States; and their electoral
votes had dwindled from 254 to 174.

On the day following Buchanan's inauguration that occurred which had
been foreshadowed with ill-advised plainness in his inaugural address.
In the famous case of Dred Scott,[69] the Supreme Court of the United
States established as law the doctrine lately advanced by the Southern
Democrats, that a slave was "property," and that his owner was entitled
to be protected in the possession of him, as such, in the Territories.
This necessarily demolished the rival theory of "popular sovereignty,"
which the Douglas Democrats had adopted, not without shrewdness, as
being far better suited to the Northern mind. For clearly the people
enjoyed no sovereignty where they had no option. Consequently in the
Territories there was no longer a slavery question. The indignation of
anti-slavery men of all shades of opinion was intense, and was
unfortunately justifiable. For wholly apart from the controversy as to
whether the law was better expounded by the chief justice or by Judge
Curtis in his dissenting opinion, there remained a main fact, undeniable
and inexcusable, to wit: that the court, having decided that the lower
court had no jurisdiction, and being therefore itself unable to remand
the cause for a new trial, had then outstepped its own proper function
and outraged legal propriety by determining the questions raised by the
rest of the record,--questions which no longer had any real standing
before this tribunal. This course was well known to have been pursued
with the purpose on the part of the majority of the judges to settle by
judicial authority, and by a _dictum_ conspicuously _obiter_, that great
slavery question with which Congress had grappled in vain. It was a
terrible blunder, for the people were only incensed by a volunteered and
unauthorized interference. Moreover, the reasoning of Chief Justice
Taney was such that the Republicans began anxiously to inquire why it
was not as applicable to States as to Territories, and why it must not
be extended to States when occasion should arrive; and in this
connection it seemed now apparent why "States" had been named in the
bill which repealed the Missouri Compromise.[70] In spite of this menace
the struggle in Kansas was not slackened. Time had been counting heavily
in favor of the North. Her multitudinous population ceaselessly fed the
stream of immigrants, and they were stubborn fellows who came to stay,
and therefore were sure to wear out the persistence of the
boot-and-saddle men from over the Missouri border. Accordingly, in 1857,
the free-state men so vastly outnumbered the slavery contingent, that
even pro-slavery men had to acknowledge it. Then the slavery party made
its last desperate effort. Toward the close of that year the Lecompton
Constitution was framed by a convention chosen at an election in which
the free-state men, perhaps unwisely, had refused to take part. When
this pro-slavery instrument was offered to the people, they were not
allowed to vote simply Yea or Nay, but only "for the Constitution with
slavery," or "for the Constitution with no slavery." Again the
free-state men refrained from voting, and on December 21, 6,143 ballots
were declared to have been cast "for the Constitution with slavery," and
589 "for the Constitution with no slavery." Much more than one third of
the 6,143 were proved to be fraudulent, but the residue far exceeded the
requisite majority. January 4, 1858, state officers were to be chosen,
and now the free-state men decided to make an irregular opportunity to
vote, in their turn, simply for or against the Lecompton Constitution.
This time the pro-slavery men, considering the matter already lawfully
settled, refused to vote, and the result was that this polling showed
10,226 against the Constitution, 138 for the Constitution with slavery,
24 for the Constitution without slavery. It is an instance of Lincoln's
political foresight that nearly two years and a half before this
condition of affairs came about he had written: "If Kansas fairly votes
herself a slave State, she must be admitted, or the Union must be
dissolved. But how if she votes herself a slave State unfairly?... Must
she still be admitted, or the Union be dissolved? That will be the phase
of the question when it first becomes a practical one."[71]

The struggle was now transferred to Washington. President Buchanan had
solemnly pledged himself to accept the result of the popular vote. Now
he was confronted by two popular votes, of which the one made somewhat
the better technical and formal showing, and the other undeniably
expressed the true will of a large majority of lawful voters. He
selected the former, and advised Congress to admit Kansas under the
Lecompton Constitution with slavery. But Douglas took the other side.
The position of Douglas in the nation and in the Democratic party
deserves brief consideration, for in a way it was the cause of Lincoln's
nomination as the Republican candidate for the presidency in 1860. From
1852 to 1860 Douglas was the most noteworthy man in public life in the
country. Webster, Clay, and Calhoun had passed away. Seward, Chase, and
Sumner, still in the earlier stages of their brilliant careers, were
organizing the great party of the future. This interval of eight years
belonged to Douglas more than to any other one man. He had been a
candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1852 and
again in 1856; and had failed to secure it in part by reason of that
unwritten rule whereby the leading statesmen are so often passed over,
in order to confer the great prize upon insignificant and therefore
presumably submissive men. Douglas was not of this type; he had high
spirit, was ambitious, masterful, and self-confident; he was also an
aggressive, brilliant, and tireless fighter in a political campaign, an
orator combining something of the impressiveness of Webster with the
readiness and roughness of the stump speaker. He had a thorough
familiarity with all the politics, both the greater and the smaller, of
the time; he was shrewd and adroit as a politician, and he had as good a
right as any man then prominent in public life to the more dignified
title of statesman. He had the art of popularity, and upon sufficient
occasion could be supple and accommodating even in the gravest matters
of principle. He had always been a Democrat. He now regarded himself as
properly the leader of the Democratic party; and of course he still
aimed at the high office which he had twice missed.[72] With this object
in view, he had gone very far to retain his hold upon the South. He told
Southerners that by his happy theory of "popular sovereignty" he had
educated the public mind, and accomplished the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise. When the Dred Scott decision took the life out of his
"popular sovereignty," he showed his wonted readiness in adapting
himself to the situation. To the triumphant South he graciously admitted
the finality of a decision which sustained the most extreme Southern
doctrine. To the perturbed and indignant North he said cheeringly that
the decision was of no practical consequence whatsoever! For every one
knew that slavery could not exist in any community without the aid of
friendly legislation; and if any anti-slavery community should by its
anti-slavery legislature withhold this essential friendly legislation,
then slavery in that State might be lawful but would be impossible. So,
he said, there is still in fact "popular sovereignty."[73] When the
pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution came up for consideration Douglas
decided not to rest content with the form of popular approval, but to
stand out for the substance. He quarreled with Buchanan, and in an angry
interview they exchanged threats and defiance. Douglas felt himself the
greater man of the two in the party, and audaciously indicated something
like contempt for the rival who was not leader but only President.
Conscience, if one may be allowed gravely to speak of the conscience of
a professional politician, and policy were in comfortable unison in
commending this choice to Douglas. For his term as senator was to expire
in 1858, and reëlection was not only in itself desirable, but seemed
essential to securing the presidency in 1860. Heretofore Illinois had
been a Democratic State; the southern part, peopled by immigrants from
neighboring slave States, was largely pro-slavery; but the northern
part, containing the rapidly growing city of Chicago, had been filled
from the East, and was inclined to sympathize with the rest of the
North. Such being the situation, an avowal of Democratic principles,
coupled with the repudiation of the Lecompton fraud, seemed the shrewd
and safe course in view of Douglas's political surroundings, also the
consistent, or may we say honest, course in view of his antecedent
position. If, in thus retaining his hold on Illinois, he gave to the
Southern Democracy an offense which could never be forgotten or
forgiven, this misfortune was due to the impracticable situation and not
to any lack of skillful strategy on his part. In spite of him the bill
passed the Senate, but in the House twenty-two Northern Democrats went
over to the opposition, and carried a substitute measure, which
established that the Lecompton Constitution must again be submitted to
popular vote. Though this was done by the body of which Douglas was not
a member, yet every one felt that it was in fact his triumph over the
administration. A Committee of Conference then brought in the "English
bill." Under this the Kansans were to vote, August 3, 1858, either to
accept the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution, with the _douceur_ of a
land grant, or to reject it. If they accepted it, the State was to be
admitted at once; if they rejected it, they were not to be admitted
until the population should reach the number which was required for
electing a member to the House of Representatives. At present the
population was far short of this number, and therefore rejection
involved a long delay in acquiring statehood. Douglas very justly
assailed the unfairness of a proposal by which an anti-slavery vote was
thus doubly and very severely handicapped; but the bill was passed by
both Houses of Congress and was signed by the President. The Kansans,
however, by an enormous majority,[74] rejected the bribes of land and
statehood in connection with slavery. For his action concerning the
Lecompton Constitution and the "English bill" Douglas afterward took
much credit to himself.

Such was the stage of advancement of the slavery conflict in the
country, and such the position of Douglas in national and in state
politics, when there took place that great campaign in Illinois which
made him again senator in 1858, and made Lincoln President in 1860.


[61] For a striking comparison of the condition of the South with that
of the North in 1850, see von Holst's _Const. Hist. of U.S._ v. 567-586.

[62] December, 1845.

[63] For a description of Douglas's state of mind, see N. and H. i.
345-351, quoting original authorities.

[64] N. and H. i. 388.

[65] Thus when John Adams first landed in Europe, and was asked whether
he was "the great Mr. Adams," he said: No, the great Mr. Adams was his
cousin, Samuel Adams of Boston.

[66] For a fair and discriminating estimate of Buchanan, see Blaine,
_Twenty Years in Congress_, vol. i. ch. x., especially pp. 239-241.

[67] Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Ohio,
Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, all for Fremont; Maryland for Fillmore.

[68] Tennessee and Kentucky.

[69] Dred Scott, plff. in error, _vs._ Sandford, Sup. Ct. of U.S. Dec.
Term, 1856, 19 Howard, 393. After the conclusion of this case Scott was
given his freedom by his master.

[70] _Ante_, pp. 94, 95.

[71] August 24, 1855; Holland, 145.

[72] For a good sketch of Douglas, see Elaine, _Twenty Years of
Congress_, i. 144.

[73] This doctrine was set forth by Douglas in a speech at Springfield,
Ill., June 12, 1857. A fortnight later, June 26, at the same place,
Lincoln answered this speech. N. and H. ii. 85-89.

[74] By 11,300 against 1,788, August 2, 1858. Kansas was admitted as a
State at the close of January, 1861, after many of the Southern States
had already seceded.



About this time Lincoln again became active in the politics of his
State, aiding in the formation of the Republican party there. On May 29,
1856, a state convention of "all opponents of anti-Nebraska legislation"
was held at Bloomington. After "a platform ringing with strong
anti-Nebraska sentiments" had been adopted, Lincoln, "in response to
repeated calls, came forward and delivered a speech of such earnestness
and power that no one who heard it will ever forget the effect it
produced." It was "never written out or printed," which is to be
regretted; but it lives in one of those vivid descriptions by Herndon
which leave nothing to the imagination. For the moment this triumph was
gratifying; but when Lincoln, leaving the hot enthusiasts of
Bloomington, came home to his fellow townsmen at Springfield, he passed
into a chill atmosphere of indifference and disapproval. An effort was
made to gather a mass meeting in order to ratify the action of the state
convention. But the "mass" consisted of three persons, viz., Abraham
Lincoln, Herndon, and one John Pain. It was trying, but Lincoln was
finely equal to the occasion; in a few words, passing from jest to
earnest, he said that the meeting was larger than he _knew_ it would be;
for while he knew that he and his partner would attend, he was not sure
of any one else; and yet another man had been found brave enough to come
out. But, "while all seems dead, the age itself is not. It liveth as
sure as our Maker liveth. Under all this seeming want of life and motion
the world does move, nevertheless. Be hopeful, and now let us adjourn
and appeal to the people!"

In the presidential campaign of 1856 the Republicans of Illinois put
Lincoln on their electoral ticket, and he entered into the campaign
promptly and very zealously. Traveling untiringly to and fro, he made
about fifty speeches. By the quality of these, even more than by their
number, he became the champion of the party, so that pressing demands
for him came from the neighboring States. He was even heard of in the
East. But there he encountered a lack of appreciation and in some
quarters an hostility which he felt to be hurtful to his prospects as
well as unjust towards a leading Republican of the Northwest. Horace
Greeley, enthusiastic, well meaning, ever blundering, the editor of the
New York "Tribune," cast the powerful influence of that sheet against
him; and as the senatorial contest of 1858 was approaching, in which
Lincoln hoped to be a principal, this ill feeling was very
unfortunate.[75] "I fear," he said, "that Greeley's attitude will
damage me with Sumner, Seward, Wilson, Phillips, and other friends in
the East,"--and by the way, it is interesting to note this significant
list of political "friends." Thereupon Herndon, as guardian of Lincoln's
political prospects, went to pass the opening months of the important
year upon a crusade among the great men of the East, designing to
extinguish the false lights erroneously hung out by persons ignorant of
the truth. Erelong he cheered Lincoln by encouraging accounts of
success, and of kind words spoken by many Eastern magnates.

In 1858, ability, courage, activity, ambition, the prestige of success,
and a plausible moderation in party politics combined to make Douglas
the most conspicuous individual in the public view. There was no other
way whereby any other man could so surely attract the close and
interested attention of the whole people as by meeting Douglas in direct
personal competition. If Douglas had not held the position which he did,
or if, holding it, he had lived in another State than Illinois, Lincoln
might never have been President of the United States. But the essential
facts lay favorably for effecting that presentation before the people
which was indispensable for his fortunes. In April, 1858, the
Democratic State Convention of Illinois indorsed the position which
Douglas had taken in the Kansas business. This involved that the party
should present him as its candidate for reëlection to the national
Senate by the legislature whose members were to be chosen in the
following autumn. "In the very nature of things," says the enthusiastic
Herndon, Lincoln was at once selected by the Republicans, and on June 16
their convention resolved that "Hon. Abraham Lincoln is our first and
only choice for United States senator to fill the vacancy about to be
created by the expiration of Mr. Douglas's term of office." Immediately
the popular excitement gave measure of the estimate placed upon the two
men by those who most accurately knew their qualities. All Illinoisians
looked forward eagerly to the fine spectacle of a battle royal between
real leaders.

The general political condition was extremely confused. The great number
of worthy citizens, who had been wont to save themselves from the worry
of critical thought in political matters by the simple process of
uniform allegiance to a party, now found the old familiar organizations
rapidly disintegrating. They were dismayed and bewildered at the scene;
everywhere there were new cries, new standards, new leaders, while small
bodies of recruits, displaying in strange union old comrades beside old
foes, were crossing to and fro and changing relationships, to the
inextricable confusion of the situation. In such a chaos each man was
driven to do his own thinking, to discover his genuine beliefs, and to
determine in what company he could stand enduringly in the troublous
times ahead. It was one of those periods in which small men are laid
aside and great leaders are recognized by popular instinct; when the
little band that is in deepest earnest becomes endowed with a force
which compels the mass of careless, temporizing human-kind to gravitate
towards it. Such bands were now the Abolitionists at the North and the
Secessionists at the South. Between them lay the nation, disquieted,
contentious, and more than a little angry at the prevalent discomfort
and alarm. At the North nine men out of ten cared far less for any
principle, moral or political, than they did for the discovery of some
course whereby this unwelcome conflict between slavery and freedom could
be prevented from disorganizing the course of daily life and business;
and since the Abolitionists were generally charged with being in great
measure responsible for the present menacing condition, they were
regarded with bitter animosity by a large number of their fellow
citizens. The Secessionists were not in equal disfavor at the South, yet
they were still very much in the minority, even in the Gulf States.

Illinois had been pretty stanchly Democratic in times past, but no one
could forecast the complexion which she would put on in the coming
campaign. The Whigs were gone. The Republican party, though so lately
born, yet had already traversed the period of infancy and perhaps also
that of youth; men guessed wildly how many voters would now cast its
ballot. On the other hand, the Democrats were suffering from internal
quarrels. The friends of Douglas, and all moderate Democrats, declared
him to be the leader of the Democracy; but Southern conventions and
newspapers were angrily "reading him out" of the party, and the singular
spectacle was witnessed of the Democratic administration sending out its
orders to all Federal office-holders in Illinois to oppose the
Democratic nominee, even to the point of giving the election to the
Republicans; for if discipline was to exist, a defection like that of
which Douglas had been guilty must be punished with utter and
everlasting destruction at any cost. This schism of course made the
numerical uncertainties even more uncertain than they rightfully should
have been. Yet, in an odd way, the same fact worked also against
Lincoln; for Douglas's recent votes against the pro-slavery measures of
the administration for the admission of Kansas, together with his own
direct statements on recent occasions, had put him in a light which
misled many Northern anti-slavery men, whose perception did not
penetrate to the core-truth. For example, not only Greeley, but Henry
Wilson, Burlingame, Washburne, Colfax, and more, really believed that
Douglas was turning his back upon his whole past career, and that this
brilliant political strategist was actually bringing into the
anti-slavery camp[76] all his accumulations of prestige, popularity, and
experience, all his seductive eloquence, his skill, and his grand
mastery over men. Blinded by the dazzling prospect, they gave all their
influence in favor of this priceless recruit, forgetting that, if he
were in fact such an apostate as they believed him to be, he would come
to them terribly shrunken in value and trustworthiness. Some even were
so infatuated as to insist that the Republicans of Illinois ought to
present no candidate against him. Fortunately the Illinoisians knew
their fellow citizen better; yet in so strange a jumble no one could
deny that it was a doubtful conflict in which these two rivals were

Lincoln had expected to be nominated, and during several weeks he had
been thinking over his speech of acceptance. However otherwise he might
seem at any time to be engaged, he was ceaselessly turning over this
matter in his mind; and frequently he stopped short to jot down an idea
or expression upon some scrap of paper, which then he thrust into his
hat. Thus, piece by piece, the accumulation grew alike inside and
outside of his head, and at last he took all his fragments and with
infinite consideration moulded them into unity. So studiously had he
wrought that by the time of delivery he had unconsciously committed the
whole speech accurately to memory. If so much painstaking seemed to
indicate an exaggerated notion of the importance of his words, he was
soon vindicated by events; for what he said was subjected to a
dissection and a criticism such as have not often pursued the winged
words of the orator. When at last the composition was completed, he
gathered a small coterie of his friends and admirers, and read it to
them. The opening paragraph was as follows:--

"If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we
could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far into the
fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and
confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the
operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but
has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a
crisis shall have been reached and passed. 'A house divided against
itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure
permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be
dissolved,--I do not expect the house to fall,--but I do expect it will
cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.
Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it,
and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is
in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it
forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as
well as new,--North as well as South."

As the reader watched for the effect of this exordium he only saw
disapproval and consternation. His assembled advisers and critics, each
and all save only the fiery Herndon, protested that language so daring
and advanced would work a ruin that might not be mended in years.
Lincoln heard their condemnation with gravity rather than surprise. But
he had worked his way to a conviction, and he was immovable; all he said
was, that the statement was true, right, and just, that it was time it
should be made, and that he would make it, even though he might have "to
go down with it;" that he would "rather be defeated with this expression
in the speech ... than to be victorious without it." Accordingly, on the
next day he spoke the paragraph without the change of a word.

It is not without effort that we can now appreciate fully why this
utterance was so momentous in the spring of 1858.[77] By it Lincoln came
before the people with a plain statement of precisely that which more
than nine hundred and ninety-nine persons in every thousand, especially
at the North, were striving with all their might to stamp down as an
untruth; he said to them what they all were denying with desperation,
and with rage against the asserters. Their bitterness was the greater
because very many, in the bottom of their hearts, distrusted their own
painful and strenuous denial. No words could be more unpopular than that
the divided house could not permanently stand, when the whole nation was
insisting, with the intensity of despair, that it could stand, would
stand, must stand. Consequently occurrences soon showed his friends to
be right so far as concerned the near, practical point: that the
paragraph would cost more voters in Illinois than Lincoln could lose
without losing his election. But beyond that point, a little farther
away in time, much deeper down amid enduring results, Lincoln's judgment
was ultimately seen to rest upon fundamental wisdom, politically as well
as morally. For Lincoln was no idealist, sacrificing realities to
abstractions; on the contrary, the right which he saw was always a
practical right, a right which could be compassed. In this instance, the
story goes that he retorted upon some of those who grumbled about his
"mistake," that in time they "would consider it the wisest thing he ever
said." In this he foretold truly; that daring and strong utterance was
the first link in the chain of which a more distant link lay across the
threshold of the White House.

A battle opened by so resounding a shot was sure to be furious. Writers
and speakers fell upon the fateful paragraph and tore it savagely. They
found in it a stimulus which, in fact, was not needed; for already were
present all the elements of the fiercest struggle,--the best man and the
best fighter in each party at the front, and not unevenly matched; a
canvass most close and doubtful; and a question which stirred the souls
of men with the passions of crusading days. Douglas added experience and
distinction to gallantry in attack, adroitness in defense, readiness in
personalities, and natural aptitude for popular oratory. Lincoln frankly
admitted his formidable qualifications. But the Republican managers had
a shrewd appreciation of both opponents; they saw that Lincoln's forte
lay in hitting out straight, direct, and hard; and they felt that blows
of the kind he delivered should not go out into the air, but should
alight upon a concrete object,--upon Douglas. They conceived a wise
plan. On July 24, 1858, Lincoln challenged Douglas to a series of joint
debates. Douglas accepted, and named seven meetings, which he so
arranged that he opened and closed four times and Lincoln opened and
closed three times; but Lincoln made no point of the inequality; the
arrangement was completed, and this famous duel constituted another link
in that White House chain.

The setting of the spectacle had the picturesqueness of the times and
the region. The people gathered in vast multitudes, to the number of
ten thousand, even of twenty thousand, at the places named for the
speech-making; they came in their wagons from all the country round,
bringing provisions, and making camps in the groves and fields. There
were bonfires and music, parading and drinking. He was a singular man in
Illinois who was not present at some one of these encounters.

Into a competition so momentous Lincoln entered with a full appreciation
of the burden and responsibility which it put upon him. He had at once
to meet a false gloss of his famous sentence; and though he had been
very precise and accurate in his phraseology for the express purpose of
escaping misinterpretation, yet it would have been a marvel in applied
political morals if the paraphrases devised by Douglas had been strictly
ingenuous. The favorite distortion was to alter what was strictly a
forecast into a declaration of a policy, to make a prediction pass for
an avowal of a purpose to wage war against slavery until either the
"institution" or "Abolitionism" should be utterly defeated and forever
exterminated. It was said to be a "doctrine" which was "revolutionary
and destructive of this government," and which "invited a warfare
between the North and the South, to be carried on with ruthless
vengeance, until the one section or the other shall be driven to the
wall and become the victim of the rapacity of the other." Such
misrepresentation annoyed Lincoln all the more because it was
undeserved. The history of the utterance thus maltreated illustrates the
deliberate, cautious, thorough way in which his mind worked. So long ago
as August 15, 1855, he had closed a letter with the paragraph: "Our
political problem now is: Can we, as a nation, continue together
_permanently_--_forever_, half slave and half free? The problem is too
mighty for me. May God in his mercy superintend the solution."[78] This
is one among many instances which show how studiously Lincoln pondered
until he had got his conclusion into that simple shape in which it was
immutable. When he had found a form which satisfied him for the
expression of a conviction, he was apt to use it repeatedly rather than
to seek new and varied shapes, so that substantially identical sentences
often recur at distant intervals of time and place.

When one has been long studying with much earnest intensity of thought a
perplexing and moving question, and at last frames a conclusion with
painstaking precision in perfectly clear language, it is not pleasant to
have that accurate utterance misstated with tireless reiteration, and
with infinite art and plausibility. But for this vexation Lincoln could
find no remedy, and it was in vain that he again and again called
attention to the fact that he had expressed neither a "doctrine," nor an
"invitation," nor any "purpose" or policy whatsoever. But as it seemed
not altogether courageous to leave his position in doubt, he said: "Now,
it is singular enough, if you will carefully read that passage over,
that I did not say in it that I was in favor of anything. I only said
what I expected would take place.... I did not even say that I desired
that slavery should be put in course of ultimate extinction. I do say so
now, however, so there need be no longer any difficulty about that." He
felt that nothing short of such extinction would surely prevent the
revival of a dispute which had so often been settled "_forever_." "We
can no more foretell," he said, "where the end of this slavery agitation
will be than we can see the end of the world itself.... There is no way
of putting an end to the slavery agitation amongst us but to put it back
upon the basis where our fathers placed it.... Then the public mind will
rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction."

There was much of this eloquence about "the fathers," much evocation of
the shades of the great departed, who, having reached the eternal
silence, could be claimed by both sides. The contention was none the
less strenuous because it was entirely irrelevant; since the opinion of
"the fathers" could not make slavery right or wrong. Many times
therefore did Douglas charge Lincoln with having said "that the Union
could not endure divided as our fathers made it, with free and slave
States;" as though this were a sort of blasphemy against the national
demigods. Lincoln aptly retorted that, as matter of fact, these same
distinguished "fathers"--"Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison,
Hamilton, Jay, and the great men of that day"--did not _make_, but
_found_, the nation half slave and half free; that they set "many clear
marks of disapprobation" upon slavery, and left it so situated that the
popular mind rested in the belief that it was in the course of ultimate
extinction. Unfortunately it had not been allowed to remain as they had
left it; but on the contrary, "all the trouble and convulsion has
proceeded from the efforts to spread it over more territory."

Pursuing this line, Lincoln alleged the purpose of the pro-slavery men
to make slavery "perpetual and universal" and "national." In his great
speech of acceptance at Springfield he put this point so well that he
never improved upon this first presentation of it. The repeal of the
Missouri Compromise in 1854 "opened all the national territory to
slavery, and was the first point gained. But so far Congress only had
acted, and an indorsement by the people, real or imaginary," was
obtained by "the notable argument of 'squatter sovereignty,' otherwise
called 'sacred right of self-government,' which latter phrase, though
expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so
perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: that if
any _one_ man choose to enslave _another_, no _third_ man shall be
permitted to object. That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska
bill." In May, 1854, this bill was passed. Then the presidential
election came. "Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the indorsement was
secured. That was the second point gained." Meantime the celebrated case
of the negro, Dred Scott, was pending in the Supreme Court, and the
"President in his inaugural address fervently exhorted the people to
abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then in a few
days came the decision," which was at once emphatically indorsed by
Douglas, "the reputed author of the Nebraska bill," and by the new

"At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of
the Nebraska bill on the mere question of _fact_, whether the Lecompton
Constitution was or was not, in any just sense, made by the people of
Kansas; and in that quarrel the latter declares that all he wants is a
fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted
_down_ or voted _up_.

... "The several points of the Dred Scott decision in connection with
Senator Douglas's 'care not' policy constitute the piece of machinery in
its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained.

... "We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the
result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different
portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and
places and by different workmen,--Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James,
for instance,--and when we see these timbers joined together, and see
they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and
mortices exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the
different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a
piece too many or too few,--not omitting even scaffolding; or, if a
single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted
and prepared yet to bring such piece in,--in such a case, we find it
impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James
all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a
common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.

"It should not be overlooked that by the Nebraska bill the people of a
_State_ as well as a Territory were to be left 'perfectly free,'
'subject only to the Constitution.' Why mention a _State_?... Why is
mention of this lugged into this merely territorial law?

... "Put this and that together, and we have another nice little niche,
which we may erelong see filled with another Supreme Court decision,
declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a
_State_ to exclude slavery from its limits. And this may especially be
expected if the doctrine of 'care not whether slavery be voted down or
voted up' shall gain upon the public mind sufficiently to give promise
that such a decision can be maintained when made. Such a decision is all
that slavery now lacks of being alike lawful in all the States."
Following out this idea, Lincoln repeatedly put to Douglas a question to
which he could never get a direct answer from his nimble antagonist: "If
a decision is made, holding that the people of the _States_ cannot
exclude slavery, will he support it, or not?"

Even so skillful a dialectician as Douglas found this compact structure
of history and argument a serious matter. Its simple solidity was not so
susceptible to treatment by the perverting process as had been the
figurative and prophetic utterance about the "house divided against
itself." Neither could he find a chink between the facts and the
inferences. One aspect of the speech, however, could not be passed over.
Lincoln said that he had not charged "Stephen and Franklin and Roger and
James" with collusion and conspiracy; but he admitted that he had
"arrayed the evidence tending to prove," and which he "thought did
prove," these things.[79] It was impossible for the four distinguished
gentlemen[80] who owned the rest of these names to refuse to plead.
Accordingly Douglas sneered vehemently at the idea that two presidents,
the chief justice, and he himself had been concerned in that grave crime
against the State which was imputed to them; and when, by his lofty
indignation, he had brought his auditors into sympathy, he made the only
possible reply: that the real meaning, the ultimate logical outcome, of
what Lincoln had said was, that a decision of the Supreme Court was to
be set aside by the political action of the people at the polls. The
Supreme Court had interpreted the Constitution, and Lincoln was inciting
the people to annul that interpretation by some political process not
known to the law. For himself, he proclaimed with effective emphasis his
allegiance to that great tribunal in the performance of its
constitutional duties. Lincoln replied that he also bowed to the Dred
Scott decision in the specific case; but he repudiated it as a binding
rule in political action.[81] His point seemed more obscure than was
usual with him, and not satisfactory as an answer to Douglas. But as
matter of fact no one was deceived by the amusing adage of the
profession: that the courts do not _make_ the law, but only _declare
what it is_. Every one knew that the law was just what the judges chose
from time to time to say that it was, and that if judicial
_declarations_ of the law were not reversed quite so often as
legislative _makings_ of the law were repealed, it was only because the
identity of a bench is usually of longer duration than the identity of a
legislative body. If the people, politically, willed the reversal of the
Dred Scott decision, it was sure in time to be judicially reversed.[82]

Douglas boasted that the Democrats were a national party, whereas the
"Black Republicans" were a sectional body whose creed could not be
uttered south of Mason and Dixon's line. He was assiduous in fastening
upon Lincoln the name of "Abolitionist," and "Black Republican,"
epithets so unpopular that those who held the faith often denied the
title, and he only modified them by the offensive admission that
Lincoln's doctrines were sometimes disingenuously weakened to suit
certain audiences: "His principles in the north [of Illinois] are jet
black; in the centre they are in color a decent mulatto; and in lower
Egypt[83] they are almost white."

Concerning sectionalism, Lincoln countered fairly enough on his
opponent by asking: Was it, then, the case that it was slavery which was
national, and freedom which was sectional? Or, "Is it the true test of
the soundness of a doctrine that in some places people won't let you
proclaim it?" But the remainder of Douglas's assault was by no means to
be disposed of by quick retort. When Lincoln was pushed to formulate
accurately his views concerning the proper status of the negro in the
community, he had need of all his extraordinary care in statement.
Herein lay problems that were vexing many honest citizens and clever men
besides himself, and were breeding much disagreement among persons who
all were anti-slavery in a general way, but could by no means reach a
comfortable unison concerning troublesome particulars. The "all men free
and equal" of the Constitution, and the talk about human brotherhood,
gave the Democrats wide scope for harassing anti-slavery men with
vexatious taunts and embarrassing cross-interrogatories on practical
points. "I do not question," said Douglas, "Mr. Lincoln's conscientious
belief that the negro was made his equal, and hence is his brother. But
for my own part, I do not regard the negro as my equal, and positively
deny that he is my brother, or any kin to me whatever." He said that
"the signers of the Declaration had no reference to the negro,... or any
other inferior and degraded race, when they spoke of the equality of
men," but meant only "white men, of European birth and descent." This
topic opens the whole subject of Lincoln's political affiliations and of
his opinions concerning slavery and the negro, opinions which seem to
have undergone no substantial change during the interval betwixt this
campaign and his election to the presidency. Some selections from what
he said may sufficiently explain his position.

At Freeport, August 27, replying to a series of questions from Douglas,
he declared that he had supposed himself, "since the organization of the
Republican party at Bloomington, in May, 1856, bound as a party man by
the platforms of the party, then and since." He said: "I do not now, nor
ever did, stand in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive
Slave Law." He believed that under the Constitution the Southerners were
entitled to such a law; but thought that the existing law "should have
been framed so as to be free from some of the objections that pertain to
it, without lessening its efficiency." He would not "introduce it as a
new subject of agitation upon the general question of slavery."

He should be "exceedingly sorry" ever to have to pass upon the question
of admitting more slave States into the Union, and exceedingly glad to
know that another never would be admitted. But "if slavery shall be kept
out of the Territories during the territorial existence of any one given
Territory, and then the people shall, having a fair chance and a clear
field, when they come to adopt their constitution, do such an
extraordinary thing as to adopt a slave constitution, uninfluenced by
the actual presence of the institution among them, I see no alternative,
if we own the country, but to admit them into the Union." He should
also, he said, be "exceedingly glad to see slavery abolished in the
District of Columbia," and he believed that Congress had "constitutional
power to abolish it" there; but he would favor the measure only upon
condition: "First, that the abolition should be gradual; second, that it
should be on a vote of the majority of qualified voters in the District;
and, third, that compensation should be made to unwilling owners." As to
the abolition of the slave trade between the different States, he
acknowledged that he had not considered the matter sufficiently to have
reached a conclusion concerning it. But if he should think that Congress
had power to effect such abolition, he should "not be in favor of the
exercise of that power unless upon some conservative principle, akin to
what I have said in relation to the abolition of slavery in the District
of Columbia." As to the territorial controversy, he said: "I am
impliedly, if not expressly, pledged to a belief in the _right_ and
_duty_ of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United States
Territories." Concerning the acquisition of new territory he said: "I am
not generally opposed to honest acquisition of territory; and in any
given case I would or would not oppose such acquisition, according as I
might think such acquisition would or would not aggravate the slavery
question among ourselves." The statement derived its immediate
importance from the well-known purpose of the administration and a
considerable party in the South very soon to acquire Cuba. All these
utterances were certainly clear enough, and were far from constituting
Abolitionist doctrine, though they were addressed to an audience "as
strongly tending to Abolitionism as any audience in the State of
Illinois," and Mr. Lincoln believed that he was saying "that which, if
it would be offensive to any person and render them enemies to himself,
would be offensive to persons in this audience."

At Quincy Lincoln gave his views concerning Republicanism with his usual
unmistakable accuracy, and certainly he again differentiated it widely
from Abolitionism. The Republican party, he said, think slavery "a
moral, a social, and a political wrong." Any man who does not hold this
opinion "is misplaced and ought to leave us. While, on the other hand,
if there be any man in the Republican party who is impatient over the
necessity springing from its actual presence, and is impatient of the
constitutional guarantees thrown around it, and would act in disregard
of these, he, too, is misplaced, standing with us. He will find his
place somewhere else; for we have a due regard ... for all these
things." ... "I have always hated slavery as much as any
Abolitionist,... but I have always been quiet about it until this new
era of the introduction of the Nebraska bill again." He repeated often
that he had "no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the
institution of slavery in the States where it exists;" that he had "no
lawful right to do so," and "no inclination to do so." He said that his
declarations as to the right of the negro to "life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness" were designed only to refer to legislation "about
any new country which is not already cursed with the actual presence of
the evil,--slavery." He denied having ever "manifested any impatience
with the necessities that spring from the ... actual existence of
slavery among us, where it does already exist."

He dwelt much upon the equality clause of the Declaration. If we begin
"making exceptions to it, where will it stop? If one man says it does
not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man?"
Only within three years past had any one doubted that negroes were
included by this language. But he said that, while the authors "intended
to include _all_ men, they did not mean to declare all men equal _in all
respects_,... in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social
capacity," but only "equal in certain inalienable rights." "Anything
that argues me into his [Douglas's] idea of perfect social and political
equality with the negro is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of
words, by which a man can prove a horse chestnut to be a chestnut
horse.... I have no purpose to produce political and social equality
between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference
between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid
their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch
as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as
Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the
superior position.... But I hold that ... there is no reason in the
world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated
in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the
white man. I agree with Judge Douglas that he is not my equal in many
respects,--certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual
endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of
anybody else, which his own hand earns, _he is my equal, and the equal
of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man_." Later at
Charleston he reiterated much of this in almost identical language, and
then in his turn took his fling at Douglas: "I am not in favor of making
voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor
to intermarry with white people.... I do not understand that because I
do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a
wife. My understanding is that I can just let her alone.... I have never
had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes, if
there was no law to keep them from it; but as Judge Douglas and his
friends seem to be in great apprehension that _they_ might, if there
were no law to keep them from it, I give him the most solemn pledge that
I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids
the marrying of white people with negroes."

By all this it is made entirely evident that Lincoln held a faith widely
different from that of the great crusading leaders of Abolitionism at
the East.[84] Equally marked was the difference between him and them in
the matters of temper and of the attitude taken towards opponents. The
absence of any sense of personal hostility towards those who assailed
him with unsparing vindictiveness was a trait often illustrated in his
after life, and which was now noted with surprise, for it was rare in
the excited politics of those days. In this especial campaign both
contestants honestly intended to refrain from personalities, but the
difference between their ways of doing so was marked. Douglas, under the
temptation of high ability in that line, held himself in check by an
effort which was often obvious and not always entirely successful. But
Lincoln never seemed moved by the desire. "All I have to ask," he said,
"is that we talk reasonably and rationally;" and again: "I hope to deal
in all things fairly with Judge Douglas." No innuendo, no artifice, in
any speech, gave the lie to these protestations. Besides this, his
denunciations were always against _slavery_, and never against
_slaveholders_. The emphasis of condemnation, the intensity of feeling,
were never expended against persons. By this course, unusual among the
Abolitionists, he not only lost nothing in force and impressiveness,
but, on the contrary, his attack seemed to gain in effectiveness by
being directed against no personal object, but exclusively against a
practice. His war was against slavery, not against the men and women of
the South who owned slaves. At Ottawa he read from the Peoria speech of
1854: "I have no prejudice against the Southern people. They are just
what we would [should] be in their situation. If slavery did not now
exist among them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist among
us, we should not instantly give it up.... It does seem to me that
systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their
tardiness in this, I will not undertake to judge our brethren of the
South." Repeatedly he admitted the difficulty of the problem, and
fastened no blame upon those Southerners who excused themselves for not
expelling the evil on the ground that they did not know how to do so. At
Peoria he said: "If all earthly power were given me, I should not know
what to do as to the existing institution." He contributed some
suggestions which certainly were nothing better than chimerical.
Deportation to Africa was his favorite scheme; he also proposed that it
would be "best for all concerned to have the colored population in a
State by themselves." But he did not abuse men who declined to adopt his
methods. Though he was dealing with a question which was arousing
personal antagonisms as bitter as any that history records, yet he never
condemned any one, nor ever passed judgment against his fellow men.

Diagnosis would perhaps show that the trait thus illustrated was mental
rather than moral. This absence of animosity and reproach as towards
individuals found its root not so much in human charity as in fairness
of thinking. Lincoln's ways of mental working are not difficult to
discover. He thought slowly, cautiously, profoundly, and with a most
close accuracy; but above all else he _thought fairly_. This capacity
far transcended, or, more correctly, differed from, what is ordinarily
called the judicial habit of mind. Many men can weigh arguments without
letting prejudice get into either scale; but Lincoln carried on the
whole process of thinking, not only with an equal clearness of
perception, but also with an entire impartiality of liking or disliking
for both sides. His aim, while he was engaged in thinking, was to
discover what was really true; and later when he spoke to others his
purpose was to show them the truth which he had discovered, and to
state to them on what grounds he believed it to be the truth; it did not
involve a judgment against the individuals who failed to recognize that
truth. His singular trait of impersonality was not made more apparent in
any other way. His effort never was to defeat the person who happened to
be his adversary, but always was to overcome the arguments of that
adversary. Primarily he was discussing a topic and establishing a truth;
it was only incidental that in doing these things he had to oppose a
man. It is noteworthy that his opponents never charged him with
misstating their case in order to make an apparently effective answer to
it. On the contrary, his hope of success seemed always to lie in having
both sides presented with the highest degree of clearness and honesty.
He had perfect confidence in the ultimate triumph of the truth; he was
always willing to tie fast to it, according as he could see it, and then
to bide time with it. This being a genuine faith and not mere
lip-service, he used the same arguments to others which he used to
himself, and staked his final success upon the probability that what had
persuaded his mind would in time persuade also the minds of other
intelligent men. It has been well said of him by an excellent judge: "He
loved the truth for the truth's sake. He would not argue from a false
premise, or be deceived himself, or deceive others, by a false
conclusion.... He did not seek to say merely the thing which was best
for that day's debate, but the thing which would stand the test of
time, and square itself with eternal justice.... His logic was severe
and faultless. He did not resort to fallacy."[85]

To return to the points made in the debate: Douglas laid down the "great
principle of non-interference and non-intervention by Congress with
slavery in the States and Territories alike;" which he assured his
audience would enable us to "continue at peace with one another." In the
same connection he endeavored to silver-coat for Northern palates the
bitter pill of the Dred Scott decision, by declaring that the people of
any State or Territory might withhold that protecting legislation, those
"friendly police regulations," without which slavery could not exist.
But this was, indeed, a "lame, illogical, evasive answer," which enabled
Lincoln to "secure an advantage in the national relations of the contest
which he held to the end."

Lincoln, in replying, agreed that "all the States have the right to do
exactly as they please about all their domestic relations, including
that of slavery." But he said that the proposition that slavery could
not enter a new country without police regulations was historically
false; and that the facts of the Dred Scott case itself showed that
there was "vigor enough in slavery to plant itself in a new country even
against unfriendly legislation." Beyond this issue of historical fact,
Douglas had already taken and still dared to maintain a position which
proved to be singularly ill chosen. The right to hold slaves as property
in the Territories had lately, to the infinite joy of the South, been
declared by the Supreme Court to be guaranteed by the Constitution; and
now Douglas had the audacity to repeat that notion of his, so abhorrent
to all friends of slavery,--that this invaluable right could be made
practically worthless by unfriendly local legislation, or even by the
negative hostility of withholding friendly legislation! From the moment
when this deadly suggestion fell from his ingenious lips, the Southern
Democracy turned upon him with vindictive hate and marked him for
destruction. He had also given himself into the hands of his avowed and
natural enemies. The doctrine, said Mr. Lincoln, is "no less than that a
thing may lawfully be driven away from a place where it has a lawful
right to be." "If you were elected members of the legislature, what
would be the first thing you would have to do, before entering upon your
duties? _Swear to support the Constitution of the United States_.
Suppose you believe, as Judge Douglas does, that the Constitution of the
United States guarantees to your neighbor the right to hold slaves in
that Territory,--that they are his property,--how can you clear your
oaths, unless you give him such legislation as is necessary to enable
him to enjoy that property? What do you understand by supporting the
Constitution of a State, or of the United States? Is it not to give such
constitutional helps to the rights established by that Constitution as
may be practically needed?... And what I say here will hold with still
more force against the judge's doctrine of 'unfriendly legislation.' How
could you, having sworn to support the Constitution, and believing it
guaranteed the right to hold slaves in the Territories, assist in
legislation _intended to defeat that right_?" "Is not Congress itself
under obligation to give legislative support to any right that is
established under the United States Constitution?" Upon what other
principle do "many of us, who are opposed to slavery upon principle,
give our acquiescence to a Fugitive Slave Law?" Does Douglas mean to say
that a territorial legislature, "by passing unfriendly laws," can
"_nullify a constitutional right_?" He put to Douglas the direct and
embarrassing query: "If the slaveholding citizens of a United States
Territory should need and demand congressional legislation for the
protection of their slave property in such Territory, would you, as a
member of Congress, vote for or against such legislation?" "Repeat
that," cried Douglas, ostentatiously; "I want to answer that question."
But he never composed his reply.

Another kindred question had already been put by Lincoln: "Can the
people of a United States Territory, in any lawful way, against the wish
of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits,
prior to the formation of a State Constitution?" Friends advised him not
to force this, as it seemed against the immediate policy of the present
campaign. But it was never his way to subordinate his own deliberate
opinion to the opinions of advisers; and on this occasion he was
merciless in pressing this question. A story has been very generally
repeated that he told the protesters that, whatever might be the bearing
on the senatorship, Douglas could not answer that question and be
elected President of the United States in 1860. "I am killing larger
game," he said; "the battle of 1860 is worth a hundred of this."[86] A
few legends of this kind are extant, which tend to indicate that Lincoln
already had in mind the presidential nomination, and was fighting the
present fight with an eye to that greater one in the near future. It is
not easy to say how much credit should be given to such tales; they may
not be wholly inventions, but a remark which is uttered with little
thought may later easily take on a strong color in the light of
subsequent developments.

In presenting the Republican side of the question Lincoln seemed to feel
a duty beyond that of merely outarguing his opponent. He bore the
weighty burden of a responsibility graver than personal success. He
might prevail in the opinions of his fellow citizens; without this
instant triumph he might so present his cause that the jury of posterity
would declare that the truth lay with him; he might even convince both
the present and the coming generations; and though achieving all these
triumphs, he might still fall far short of the peculiar and exacting
requirement of the occasion. For the winning of the senatorship was the
insignificant part of what he had undertaken; his momentous charge was
to maintain a grand moral crusade, to stimulate and to vindicate a great
uprising in the cause of humanity and of justice. His full appreciation
of this is entirely manifest in the tone of his speeches. They have an
earnestness, a gravity, at times even a solemnity, unusual in such
encounters in any era or before any audiences, but unprecedented "on the
stump" before the uproarious gatherings of the West at that day.
Repeatedly he stigmatized slavery as "a moral, a social, a political
evil." Very impressively he denounced the positions of an opponent who
"cared not whether slavery was voted down or voted up," who said that
slavery was not to be differentiated from the many domestic institutions
and daily affairs which civilized societies control by police
regulations. He said that slavery could not be treated as "only equal to
the cranberry laws of Indiana;" that slaves could not be put "upon a par
with onions and potatoes;" that to Douglas he supposed that the
institution really "looked small," but that a great proportion of the
American people regarded slavery as "a vast moral evil." "The real issue
in this controversy--the one pressing upon every mind--is the sentiment
on the part of one class that looks upon the institution of slavery _as
a wrong_, and of another class that does _not_ look upon it as a
wrong.... No man can logically say he does not care whether a wrong is
voted up or voted down. He [Douglas] contends that whatever community
wants slaves has a right to have them. So they have, if it is not a
wrong. But if it is a wrong, he cannot say people have a right to do
wrong. He says that, upon the score of equality, slaves should be
allowed to go into a new Territory, like other property. This is
strictly logical if there is no difference between it and other
property.... But if you insist that one is wrong and the other right,
there is no use to institute a comparison between right and wrong....
That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this
country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be
silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles, right
and wrong, throughout the world. They are the two principles that have
stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to
struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other the
divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it
develops itself. It is the same spirit that says: 'You work and toil and
earn bread, and I'll eat it.'" "I ask you if it is not a false
philosophy? Is it not a false statesmanship that undertakes to build up
a system of policy upon the basis of caring nothing about _the very
thing that everybody does care the most about_?"

We cannot leave these speeches without a word concerning their literary
quality. In them we might have looked for vigor that would be a little
uncouth, wit that would be often coarse, a logic generally sound but
always clumsy,--in a word, tolerably good substance and very poor form.
We are surprised, then, to find many and high excellences in art. As it
is with Bacon's essays, so it is with these speeches: the more
attentively they are read the more striking appears the closeness of
their texture both in logic and in language. Clear thought is accurately
expressed. Each sentence has its special errand, and each word its
individual importance. There is never either too much or too little. The
work is done with clean precision and no waste. Nowhere does one pause
to seek a meaning or to recover a connection; and an effort to make out
a syllabus shows that the most condensed statement has already been
used. There are scintillations of wit and humor, but they are not very
numerous. When Lincoln was urged to adopt a more popular style, he
replied: "The occasion is too serious; the issues are too grave. I do
not seek applause, or to amuse the people, but to convince them." This
spirit was upon him from the beginning to the end. Had he been
addressing a bench of judges, subject to a close limitation of minutes,
he would have won credit by the combined economy and force which were
displayed in these harangues to general assemblages. To speak of the
lofty tone of these speeches comes dangerously near to the distasteful
phraseology of extravagant laudation, than which nothing else can
produce upon honest men a worse impression. Yet it is a truth visible to
every reader that at the outset Lincoln raised the discussion to a very
high plane, and held it there throughout. The truth which he had to
sustain was so great that it was perfectly simple, and he had the good
sense to utter it with appropriate simplicity. In no speech was there
fervor or enthusiasm or rhetoric; he talked to the reason and the
conscience of his auditors, not to their passions. Yet the depth of his
feeling may be measured by the story that once in the canvass he said to
a friend: "Sometimes, in the excitement of speaking, I seem to see the
end of slavery. I feel that the time is soon coming when the sun shall
shine, the rain fall, on no man who shall go forth to unrequited toil.
How this will come, when it will come, by whom it will come, I cannot
tell,--but that time will surely come."[87] It is just appreciation, and
not extravagance, to say that the cheap and miserable little volume, now
out of print, containing in bad newspaper type, "The Lincoln and Douglas
Debates,"[88] holds some of the masterpieces of oratory of all ages and

The immediate result of the campaign was the triumph of Douglas, who had
certainly made not only a very able and brilliant but a splendidly
gallant fight, with Republicans assailing him in front and
Administrationists in rear.[89] Lincoln was disappointed. His feelings
had been so deeply engaged, he had worked so strenuously, and the result
had been so much in doubt, that defeat was trying. But he bore it with
his wonted resolute equanimity. He said that he felt "like the boy that
stumped his toe,--'it hurt too bad to laugh, and he was too big to
cry.'" In fact, there were encouraging elements.[90] The popular vote
stood,[91] Republicans, 126,084; Douglas Democrats, 121,940; Lecompton
Democrats, 5,091. But the apportionment of districts was such that the
legislature contained a majority for Douglas.[92] So the prestige of
victory seemed separated from its fruits; for the nation, attentively
watching this duel, saw that the new man had convinced upwards of four
thousand voters more than had the great leader of the Democracy.
Douglas is reported to have said that, during his sixteen years in
Congress, he had found no man in the Senate whom he would not rather
encounter in debate than Lincoln. If it was true that Lincoln was
already dreaming of the presidency, he was a sufficiently shrewd
politician to see that his prospects were greatly improved by this
campaign. He had worked hard for what he had gained; he had been
traveling incessantly to and fro and delivering speeches in unbroken
succession during about one hundred of the hot days of the Western
summer, and speeches not of a commonplace kind, but which severely taxed
the speaker. After all was over, he was asked by the state committee to
contribute to the campaign purse! He replied: "I am willing to pay
according to my ability, but I am the poorest hand living to get others
to pay. _I have been on expense_ so long, without earning anything, that
I am absolutely without money now for even household expenses. Still, if
you can put in $250 for me,... I will allow it when you and I settle the
private matter between us. This, with what I have already paid,... will
exceed my subscription of $500. This, too, is exclusive of my ordinary
expenses during the campaign, all of which being added to my loss of
time and business bears pretty heavily upon one no better off than I
am.... You are feeling badly; 'and this, too, shall pass away;' never

The platform which, with such precision and painstaking, Lincoln had
constructed for himself was made by him even more ample and more strong
by a few speeches delivered in the interval between the close of this
great campaign and his nomination by the Republicans for the presidency.
In Ohio an important canvass for the governorship took place, and
Douglas went there, and made speeches filled with allusions to Lincoln
and the recent Illinois campaign. Even without this provocation Lincoln
knew, by keen instinct, that where Douglas was, there he should be also.
In no other way had he yet appeared to such advantage as in encountering
"the Little Giant." To Ohio, accordingly, he hastened, and spoke at
Columbus and at Cincinnati.[93] To the citizens of the latter place he
said: "This is the first time in my life that I have appeared before an
audience in so great a city as this. I therefore make this appearance
under some degree of embarrassment." There was little novelty in
substance, but much in treatment. Thus, at Cincinnati, he imagined
himself addressing Kentuckians, and showed them that their next nominee
for the presidency ought to be his "distinguished friend, Judge
Douglas;" for "in all that there is a difference between you and him, I
understand he is sincerely for you, and more wisely for you than you are
for yourselves." Through him alone pro-slavery men retained any hold
upon the free States of the North; and in those States, "in every
possible way he can, he constantly moulds the public opinion to your
ends." Ingeniously but fairly he sketched Douglas as the most efficient
among the pro-slavery leaders. Perhaps the clever and truthful picture
may have led Mr. Greeley and some other gentlemen at the East to suspect
that they had been inconsiderate in their choice between the Western
rivals; and perhaps, also, Lincoln, while addressing imaginary
Kentuckians, had before his inner eye some Eastern auditors. For at the
time he did not know that his voice would ever be heard at any point
nearer to their ears than the hall in which he then stood. Within a few
weeks, however, this unlooked-for good fortune befell. In October, 1859,
he was invited to speak in the following winter in New York. That the
anti-slavery men of that city wished to test him by personal observation
signified that his reputation was national, and that the highest
aspirations were, therefore, not altogether presumptuous. He accepted
gladly, and immediately began to prepare an address which probably cost
him more labor than any other speech which he ever made. He found time,
however, in December to make a journey through Kansas, where he
delivered several speeches, which have not been preserved but are
described as "repetitions of those previously made in Illinois." Lamon
tells us that the journey was an "ovation," and that "wherever Lincoln
went, he was met by vast assemblages of people." The population of this
agricultural State was hardly in a condition to furnish "vast
assemblages" at numerous points, but doubtless the visitor received
gratifying assurance that upon this battle-ground of slavery and
anti-slavery the winning party warmly appreciated his advocacy of their

On Saturday, February 25, 1860, Lincoln arrived in New York. On Monday
his hosts "found him dressed in a sleek and shining suit of new black,
covered with very apparent creases and wrinkles, acquired by being
packed too closely and too long in his little valise. He felt uneasy in
his new clothes and a strange place." Certainly nothing in his previous
experience had prepared him to meet with entire indifference an audience
of metropolitan critics; indeed, had the surroundings been more
familiar, he had enough at stake to tax his equanimity when William
Cullen Bryant introduced him simply as "an eminent citizen of the West,
hitherto known to you only by reputation." Probably the first impression
made upon those auditors by the ungainly Westerner in his outlandish
garb were not the same which they carried home with them a little later.
The speech was so condensed that a sketch of it is not possible.
Fortunately it had the excellent quality of steadily expanding in
interest and improving to the end.

Of the Dred Scott case he cleverly said that the courts had decided it
"_in a sort of way_;" but, after all, the decision was "mainly based
upon a mistaken statement of fact,--the statement in the opinion that
'the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed
in the Constitution.'"

In closing, he begged the Republicans, in behalf of peace and harmony,
to "do nothing through passion and ill-temper;" but he immediately went
on to show the antagonism between Republican opinion and Democratic
opinion with a distinctness which left no hope of harmony, and very
little hope of peace. To satisfy the Southerners, he said, we must
"cease to call slavery _wrong_, and join them in calling it _right_. And
this must be done thoroughly,--done in _acts_ as well as in _words_....
We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We
must pull down our free-state Constitutions.... If slavery is right, all
words, acts, laws, and constitutions against it are themselves wrong,
and should be silenced and swept away. If it is right, we cannot object
to its nationality, its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly
insist upon its extension, its enlargement. All they ask we could
readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask they could as
readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right and our
thinking it wrong is the precise fact upon which depends the whole
controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for
desiring its full recognition, as being right; but thinking it wrong, as
we do, can we yield to them?... Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet
afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the
necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we,
while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the national
Territories, and to overrun us here in these free States? If our sense
of duty forbids this ... let us be diverted by no sophistical
contrivances, such as groping for some middle ground between the right
and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a
living man nor a dead man; such as a policy of 'don't care' on a
question about which all true men do care; such as Union appeals
beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine
rule and calling not the sinners but the righteous to repentance."

The next morning the best newspapers gave full reports of the speech,
with compliments. The columns of the "Evening Post" were generously
declared to be "indefinitely elastic" for such utterances; and the
"Tribune" expressed commendation wholly out of accord with the recent
notions of its editor. The rough fellow from the crude West had made a
powerful impression upon the cultivated gentlemen of the East.

From New York Lincoln went to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New
Hampshire, and Connecticut. In this last-named State he delivered
speeches which are said to have contributed largely to the Republican
success in the closely contested election then at hand. In Manchester it
was noticed that "he did not abuse the South, the administration, or
the Democrats, or indulge in any personalities, with the exception of a
few hits at Douglas's notions."[94]

These speeches of 1858, 1859, and 1860 have a very great value as
contributions to history. During that period every dweller in the United
States was hotly concerned about this absorbing question of slavery,
advancing his own views, weighing or encountering the arguments of
others, quarreling, perhaps, with his oldest friends and his nearest
kindred,--for about this matter men easily quarreled and rarely
compromised. Every man who fancied that he could speak in public got
upon some platform in city, town, or village, and secured an audience by
his topic if not by his ability; every one who thought that he could
write found some way to print what he had to say upon a subject of which
readers never tired; and for whatever purpose two or three men were
gathered together, they were not likely to separate without a few words
about North and South, pro-slavery and anti-slavery. Never was any
matter more harried and ransacked by disputation. Now to all the
speaking and writing of the Republicans Lincoln's condensed speeches
were what a syllabus is to an elaborate discourse, what a lawyer's brief
is to his verbal argument. Perhaps they may better be likened to an
anti-slavery gospel; as the New Testament is supposed to cover the whole
ground of Christian doctrines and Christian ethics, so that theologians
and preachers innumerable have only been able to make elaborations or
glosses upon the original text, so Lincoln's speeches contain the whole
basis of the anti-slavery cause as maintained by the Republican party.
They also set forth a considerable part of the Southern position,
doubtless as fairly as the machinations of the Devil are set forth in
Holy Writ. They only rather gingerly refrain from speaking of the small
body of ultra-Abolitionists,--for while Lincoln was far from agreeing
with these zealots, he felt that it was undesirable to widen by any
excavation upon his side the chasm between them and the Republicans. So
the fact is that the whole doctrine of Republicanism, as it existed
during the political campaign which resulted in the election of Lincoln,
also all the historical facts supporting that doctrine, were clearly and
accurately stated in these speeches. Specific points were more
elaborated by other persons; but every seed was to be found in this

This being the case, it is worth noticing that both Lincoln and Douglas
confined their disputation closely to the slavery question. Disunion and
secession were words familiar in every ear, yet Lincoln referred to
these things only twice or thrice, and incidentally, while Douglas
ignored them. This fact is fraught with meaning. American writers and
American readers have always met upon the tacit understanding that the
Union was the chief cause of, and the best justification for, the war.
An age may come when historians, treating our history as we treat that
of Greece, stirred by no emotion at the sight of the "Stars and
Stripes," moved by no patriotism at the name of the United States of
America, will seek a deeper philosophy to explain this obstinate,
bloody, costly struggle. Such writers may say that a rich, civilized
multitude of human beings, possessors of the quarter of a continent,
believing it best for their interests to set up an independent
government for themselves, fell back upon the right of revolution,
though they chose not to call it by that name. Now, even if it be
possible to go so far as to say that every nation has always a right to
preserve by force, if it can, its own integrity, certainly it cannot be
stated as a further truth that no portion of a nation can ever be
justified in endeavoring to obtain an independent national existence; no
citizen of this country can admit this, but must say that such an
endeavor is justifiable or not justifiable according as its cause and
basis are right or wrong. Far down, then, at the very bottom lay the
question whether the Southerners had a sufficient cause upon which to
base a revolution. Now this question was hardly conclusively answered by
the perfectly true statement that the North had not interfered with
Southern rights. Southerners might admit this, and still believe that
their welfare could be best subserved by a government wholly their own.
So the very bottom question of all still remained: Was the South
endeavoring to establish a government of its own for a justifiable
reason and a right purpose? Now the avowed purpose was to establish on
an enduring foundation a permanent slave empire; and the declared reason
was, that slavery was not safe within the Union. Underneath the question
of the Union therefore lay, logically, the question of slavery.

Lincoln and the other Republican leaders said that, if slavery extension
was prevented, then slavery was in the way of extinction. If the
assertion was true, it pretty clearly followed that the South could
retain slavery only by independence and a complete imperial control
within the limits of its own homogeneous nationality; for undeniably the
preponderant Northern mass was becoming firmly resolved that slavery
should not be extended, however it might be tolerated within its present
limits. So still, by anti-slavery statement itself, the ultimate
question was: whether or not the preservation of slavery was a right and
sufficient cause or purpose for establishing an independent nationality.
Lincoln, therefore, went direct to the logical heart of the contention,
when he said that the real dispute was whether slavery was a right thing
or a wrong thing. If slavery was a right thing, a Union conducted upon a
policy which was believed to doom it to "ultimate extinction" was not a
right thing. But if slavery was a wrong thing, a revolution undertaken
with the purpose of making it perpetual was also a wrong thing.
Therefore, from beginning to end, Lincoln talked about slavery. By so
doing he did what he could to give to the war a character far higher
even than a war of patriotism, for he extended its meaning far beyond
the age and the country of its occurrence, and made of it, not a war for
the United States alone, but a war for humanity, a war for ages and
peoples yet to come. In like manner, he himself also gained the right to
be regarded as much more than a great party leader, even more than a
great patriot; for he became a champion of mankind and the defender of
the chief right of man. I do not mean to say that he saw these things in
this light at the moment, or that he accurately formulated the precise
relationship and fundamental significance of all that was then in
process of saying and doing. Time must elapse, and distance must enable
one to get a comprehensive view, before the philosophy of an era like
that of the civil war becomes intelligible. But the philosophy is not
the less correct because those who were framing it piece by piece did
not at any one moment project before their mental vision the whole in
its finished proportions and relationship.


[75] As an example of Greeley's position, see letter quoted by N. and H.
ii. 140, note. The fact that he was strenuously pro-Douglas and
anti-Lincoln is well known. Yet afterward he said that it "was hardly in
human nature" for Republicans to treat Douglas as a friend. Greeley's
_American Conflict_, i. 301.

[76] Wilson, _Rise and Fall of the Slave Power_, ii. 567; for sketches
of Douglas's position, see Blaine, _Twenty Years of Congress_, i.
141-144; von Holst, _Const. Hist. of U.S._ vi. 280-286; Herndon,
391-395; N. and H. ii. 138-143; Lamon, 390-395; Holland, 158. Crittenden
was one of the old Whigs, who now sorely disappointed Lincoln by
preferring Douglas. N. and H. ii. 142.

[77] Several months afterward, October 25, 1858, Mr. Seward made the
speech at Rochester which contained the famous sentence: "It is an
irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it
means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become
either entirely a slaveholding nation or entirely a free-labor nation."
Seward's _Works_, new edition, 1884, iv. 292. But Seward ranked among
the extremists and the agitators. See _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 244.
After all, the idea had already found expression in the Richmond
_Enquirer_, May 6, 1856, quoted by von Hoist, vi. 299, also referred to
by Lincoln; see _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 262.

[78] Letter to Hon. Geo. Robertson, N. and H. i. 392; and see Lamon,
398; also see remarks of von Holst, vi. 277.

[79] _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 93. W.P. Fessenden, "who," says Mr.
Blaine, "always spoke with precision and never with passion," expressed
his opinion that if Fremont had been elected instead of Buchanan, that
decision would never have been given. _Twenty Years of Congress_, i.

[80] Stephen A. Douglas, Franklin Pierce, Roger B. Taney, James

[81] _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 198. At Chicago he said that he would
vote for the prohibition of slavery in a new Territory "in spite of the
Dred Scott decision." _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 20; and see the rest of
his speech on the same page. The Illinois Republican Convention, June
16. 1858, expressed "condemnation of the principles and tendencies of
the extra-judicial opinions of a majority of the judges," as putting
forth a "political heresy." Holland, 159.

Years ago Salmon P. Chase had dared to say that, if the courts would not
overthrow the pro-slavery construction of the Constitution, the people
would do so, even if it should be "necessary to overthrow the courts
also." Warden's _Life of Chase_, 313.

[82] For Lincoln's explanation of his position concerning the Dred Scott
decision, see _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 20.

[83] A nickname for the southern part of Illinois.

[84] Henry Wilson has made his criticism in the words that "some of his
[Lincoln's] assertions and admissions were both unsatisfactory and
offensive to anti-slavery men; betrayed too much of the spirit of caste
and prejudice against color, and sound harshly dissonant by the side of
the Proclamation of Emancipation and the grand utterances of his later
state papers." _Rise and Fall of the Slave Power_, ii. 576.

[85] Blaine, _Twenty Years of Congress_, i. 145

[86] N. and H. ii. 159, 160, 163; Arnold, 151; Lamon, 415, 416, and see
406; Holland, 189; Wilson, _Rise and Fall of the Slave Power_, ii. 576;
Blaine, _Twenty Years of Congress_, i. 148.

[87] Arnold, 144. This writer speaks with discriminating praise
concerning Lincoln's oratory, p. 139. It is an illustration of Lincoln's
habit of adopting for permanent use any expression that pleased him,
that this same phrase had been used by him in a speech made two years
before this time. Holland, 151.

[88] Published in Columbus, in 1860, for campaign purposes, from copies
furnished by Lincoln; see his letter to Central Exec. Comm., December
19, 1859, on fly-leaf.

[89] Many tributes have been paid to Douglas by writers who oppose his
opinions; _e.g._, Arnold says: "There is, on the whole, hardly any
greater personal triumph in the history of American politics than his
reëlection," pp. 149, 150; Blaine, _Twenty Years of Congress_, i. 149.

[90] See Lincoln's letter to Judd, quoted N. and H. ii. 167; also
_Ibid._ 169.

[91] Raymond, 76.

[92] The Senate showed 14 Democrats, 11 Republicans; the House, 40
Democrats, 35 Republicans.

[93] In September, 1859. These are included in the volume of _The
Lincoln and Douglas Debates_, printed at Columbus, 1860.

[94] _The Mirror_, quoted by Lamon, 442.



Mr. J.W. Fell, a leading citizen of Illinois, says that after the
debates of 1858 he urged Lincoln to seek the Republican nomination for
the presidency in 1860. Lincoln, however, replied curtly that men like
Seward and Chase were entitled to take precedence, and that no such
"good luck" was in store for him. In March, 1859, he wrote to another
person: "In regard to the other matter that you speak of, I beg that you
will not give it further mention. I do not think I am fit for the
presidency." He said the same to the editor of the "Central Illinois
Gazette;" but this gentleman "brought him out in the issue of May 4,"
and "thence the movement spread rapidly and strongly."[95] In the winter
of 1859-60 sundry "intimate friends," active politicians of Illinois,
pressed him to consent to be mentioned as a candidate. He considered the
matter over night and then gave them the desired permission, at the same
time saying that he would not accept the vice-presidency.

Being now fairly started in the race, he used all his well-known skill
as a politician to forward his campaign, though nothing derogatory is
to be inferred from these words as to his conduct or methods. February
9, 1860, he wrote to Mr. Judd: "I am not in a position where it would
hurt much for me not to be nominated on the national ticket; but I am
where it would hurt some for me not to get the Illinois delegates....
Can you help me a little in this matter at your end of the vineyard?"
This point of the allegiance of his own State was soon made right. The
Republican State Convention met in the "Wigwam" at Decatur, May 9 and
10, 1860. Governor Oglesby, who presided, suggested that a distinguished
citizen, whom Illinois delighted to honor, was present, and that he
should be invited to a place on the stand; and at once, amid a tumult of
applause, Lincoln was lifted over the heads of the crowd to the
platform. John Hanks then theatrically entered, bearing a couple of
fence rails, and a flag with the legend that they were from a "lot made
by Abraham Lincoln and John Hanks in the Sangamon Bottom, in the year
1830." The sympathetic roar rose again. Then Lincoln made a "speech,"
appropriate to the occasion. At last, attention was given to business,
and the convention resolved that Abraham Lincoln was the first choice of
the Republican party of Illinois for the presidency, and instructed
their delegates to the nominating convention "to use all honorable means
to secure his nomination, and to cast the vote of the State as a unit
for him."

With the opening of the spring of 1860 the several parties began the
campaign in earnest. The Democratic Convention met first, at Charleston,
April 23; and immediately the line of disruption opened. Upon the one
side stood Douglas, with the moderate men and nearly all the Northern
delegates, while against him were the advocates of extreme Southern
doctrines, supported by the administration and by most of the delegates
from the "Cotton States." The majority of the committee appointed to
draft the platform were anti-Douglas men; but their report was rejected,
and that offered by the pro-Douglas minority was substituted, 165 yeas
to 138 nays.[96] Thereupon the delegations of Alabama, Mississippi,
Florida, and Texas, and sundry delegates from other States, withdrew
from the convention,[97] taking away 45 votes out of a total of 303.
Those who remained declared the vote of two thirds of a full convention,
_i.e._, 202 votes, to be necessary for a choice. Then during three days
fifty-seven ballots were cast, Douglas being always far in the lead, but
never polling more than 152-1/2 votes. At last, on May 3, an adjournment
was had until June 18, at Baltimore. At this second meeting contesting
delegations appeared, and the decisions were uniformly in favor of the
Douglas men, which provoked another secession of the extremist Southern
men. A ballot showed 173-1/2 votes for Douglas out of a total of
191-1/2; the total was less than two thirds of the full number of the
original convention, and therefore it was decided that any person
receiving two thirds of the votes cast by the delegates present should
be deemed the nominee. The next ballot gave Douglass 181-1/2. Herschel
V. Johnson of Georgia was nominated for vice-president.

On June 28, also at Baltimore, there came together a collection composed
of original seceders at Charleston, and of some who had been rejected
and others who had seceded at Baltimore. Very few Northern men were
present, and the body in fact represented the Southern wing of the
Democracy. Having, like its competitor, the merit of knowing its own
mind, it promptly nominated John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky and Joseph
Lane of Oregon, and adopted the radical platform which had been reported
at Charleston.

These doings opened, so that it could never be closed, that seam of
which the thread had long been visible athwart the surface of the old
Democratic party. The great record of discipline and of triumph, which
the party had made when united beneath the dominion of imperious
leaders, was over, and forever. Those questions which Lincoln
obstinately and against advice had insisted upon pushing in 1858 had
forced this disastrous development of irreconcilable differences. The
answers, which Douglas could not shirk, had alienated the most
implacable of men, the dictators of the Southern Democracy. His
"looking-both-ways" theory would not fit with their policy, and their
policy was and must be immutable; modification was in itself defeat. On
the other hand, what he said constituted the doctrine to which the mass
of the Northern Democracy firmly held. So now, although Republicans
admitted that it was "morally certain" that the Democratic party,
holding together, could carry the election,[98] yet these men from the
Cotton States could not take victory and Douglas together.[99] It had
actually come to this, that, in spite of all that Douglas had done for
the slaveholders, they now marked him for destruction at any cost. Many
also believe that they had another motive; that they had matured their
plans for secession; and that they did not mean to have the scheme
disturbed or postponed by an ostensibly Democratic triumph in the shape
of the election of Douglas.

In May the convention of the Constitutional Union party met, also at
Baltimore. This organization was a sudden outgrowth designed only to
meet the present emergency. Its whole political doctrine lay in the
opening words of the one resolution which constituted its platform:
"That it is both the part of patriotism and of duty to recognize no
political principle other than the Constitution of the country, the
union of the States, and the enforcement of the laws." This party
gathered nearly all the peaceable elements of the community; it assumed
a deprecatory attitude between angry contestants, and of course received
the abuse and contempt of both; it was devoid of combative force, yet
had some numerical strength. The Republicans especially mocked at these
"trimmers," as if their only platform was moral cowardice, which,
however, was an unfair statement of their position. The party died, of
necessity, upon the day when Lincoln was elected, and its members were
then distributed between the Republicans, the Secessionists, and the
Copperheads. John Bell of Tennessee, the candidate for the presidency,
joined the Confederacy; Edward Everett of Massachusetts, the candidate
for the vice-presidency, became a Republican. The party never had a hope
of electing its men; but its existence increased the chance of throwing
the election into Congress; and this hope inspired exertions far beyond
what its own prospects warranted.

On May 16 the Republican Convention came together at Chicago, where the
great "Wigwam" had been built to hold 10,000 persons. The intense
interest with which its action was watched indicated the popular belief
that probably it would name the next President of the United States.
Many candidates were named, chiefly Seward, Lincoln, Chase, Cameron,
Edward Bates of Missouri, and William L. Dayton of New Jersey. Thurlow
Weed was Seward's lieutenant. Horace Greeley, chiefly bent upon the
defeat of Seward, would have liked to achieve it by the success of
Bates. David Davis, aided by Judge Logan and a band of personal friends
from Illinois, was manager for Lincoln. Primarily the contest lay
between Seward and Lincoln, and only a dead-lock between these two could
give a chance to some one of the others. But Seward's friends hoped, and
Lincoln's friends dreaded, that the New Yorker might win by a rush on
the first ballot. George Ashmun of Massachusetts presided. With little
discussion a platform was adopted, long and ill-written, overloaded with
adjectives and rhetoric, sacrificing dignity to the supreme pleasure of
abusing the Democracy, but honest in stating Republican doctrines, and
clearly displaying the temper of an earnest, aggressive party, hot for
the fight and confident of victory. The vote of acceptance was greeted
with such a cheering that "a herd of buffaloes or lions could not have
made a more tremendous roaring."

The details of the brief but sharp contest for the nomination are not
altogether gratifying. The partisans of Seward set about winning votes
by much parading in the streets with banners and music, and by
out-yelling all competitors within the walls of the convention. For this
intelligent purpose they had engaged Tom Hyer, the prize fighter, with
a gang of roughs, to hold possession of the Wigwam, and to howl
illimitably at appropriate moments. But they had undertaken a difficult
task in trying to outdo the great West, in one of its own cities, at a
game of this kind. The Lincoln leaders in their turn secured a couple of
stentorian yellers (one of them a Democrat), instructed them carefully,
and then filled the Wigwam full actually at daybreak, while the Seward
men were marching; so in the next yelling match the West won
magnificently. How great was the real efficiency of these tactics in
affecting the choice of the ruler of a great nation commonly accounted
intelligent, it is difficult to say with accuracy; but it is certain
that the expert managers spared no pains about this scenic business of

Meanwhile other work, entirely quiet, was being done elsewhere. The
objection to Seward was that he was too radical, too far in advance of
the party. The Bates following were pushing their candidate as a
moderate man, who would be acceptable to "Union men." But Bates's chance
was small, and any tendency towards a moderate candidate was likely to
carry his friends to Lincoln rather than to Seward; for Lincoln was
generally supposed, however erroneously,[100] to be more remote from
Abolitionism than Seward was. To counteract this, a Seward delegate
telegraphed to the Bates men at St. Louis that Lincoln was as radical
as Seward. Lincoln, at Springfield, saw this dispatch, and at once wrote
a message to David Davis: "Lincoln agrees with Seward in his
irrepressible-conflict idea, and in Negro Equality; but he is opposed to
Seward's Higher Law. _Make no contracts that will bind me_." He
underscored the last sentence; but when his managers saw it, they
recognized that such independence did not accord with the situation, and
so they set it aside.

The first vote was:--

  Whole number                      465
  Necessary for choice              233

  William H. Seward of New York     173-1/2
  Abraham Lincoln of Illinois       102
  Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania      50-1/2
  Salmon P. Chase of Ohio            49
  Edward Bates of Missouri           48
  William L. Dayton of New Jersey    14
  John McLean of Ohio                12
  Jacob Collamer of Vermont          10

  Scattering                          6

The fact was, and Lincoln's friends perfectly understood it, that
Cameron held that peculiar kind of power which gave him no real prospect
of success, yet had a considerable salable value. Could they refrain
from trying the market? They asked the owners of the 50-1/2 Cameron
votes what was their price. The owners said: The Treasury Department.
Lincoln's friends declared this extravagant. Then they all chaffered.
Finally Cameron's men took a place in the cabinet, without further
specification. Lamon says that another smaller contract was made with
the friends of Caleb B. Smith. Then the Lincoln managers rested in a
pleasing sense of security.

The second ballot showed slight changes:--

  Seward      184-1/2
  Lincoln     181
  Cameron       2
  Chase        42-1/2
  Bates         5
  Dayton       10
  McLean        8

  Scattering    2

Upon the third ballot delivery was made of what Mr. Davis had bought.
That epidemic foreknowledge, which sometimes so unaccountably foreruns
an event, told the convention that the decision was at hand. A dead
silence reigned save for the click of the telegraphic instruments and
the low scratching of hundreds of pencils checking off the votes as the
roll was called. Those who were keeping the tally saw that it stood:--

  Seward      180
  Lincoln     231-1/2
  Chase        24-1/2
  Bates        22
  Dayton        1
  McLean        5

  Scattering    1

Cameron was out of the race; Lincoln was within 1-1/2 votes of the goal.
Before the count could be announced, a delegate from Ohio transferred
four votes to Lincoln. This settled the matter; and then other
delegations followed, till Lincoln's score rose to 354. At once the
"enthusiasm" of 10,000 men again reduced to insignificance a "herd of
buffaloes or lions." When at last quiet was restored, William M. Evarts,
who had led for Seward, offered the usual motion to make the nomination
of Abraham Lincoln unanimous. It was done. Again the "tremendous
roaring" arose. Later in the day the convention nominated Hannibal
Hamlin[101] of Maine, on the second ballot, by 367 votes, for the
vice-presidency. Then for many hours, till exhaustion brought rest,
Chicago was given over to the wonted follies; cannon boomed, music
resounded, and streets and barrooms were filled with the howling and
drinking crowds of the intelligent promoters of one of the great moral
crusades of the human race.

Lamon says that the committee deputed to wait upon Lincoln at
Springfield found him "sad and dejected. The reaction from excessive joy
to deep despondency--a process peculiar to his constitution--had already
set in."[102] His remarks to these gentlemen were brief and colorless.
His letter afterward was little more than a simple acceptance of the

       *       *       *       *       *

Since white men first landed on this continent, the selection of
Washington to lead the army of the Revolution is the only event to be
compared in good fortune with this nomination of Abraham Lincoln. Yet
the convention deserved no credit for its action. It did not know the
true ratio between Seward and Lincoln, which only the future was to make
plain. By all that it did know, it ought to have given the honor to
Seward, who merited it by the high offices which he had held with
distinction and without blemish, by the leadership which he had acquired
in the party through long-continued constancy and courage, by the force
and clearness with which he had maintained its principles, by his
experience and supposed natural aptitude in the higher walks of
statesmanship. Yet actually by reason of these very qualifications[103]
it was now admitted that the all-important "October States" of Indiana
and Pennsylvania could not be carried by the Republicans if Seward were
nominated; while Greeley, sitting in the convention as a substitute for
a delegate from Oregon, cast as much of the weight of New York as he
could lift into the anti-Seward scale. In plain fact, the convention, by
its choice, paid no compliment either to Lincoln or to the voters of the
party. They took him because he was "available," and the reason that he
was "available" lay not in any popular appreciation of his merits, but
in the contrary truth,--that the mass of people could place no
intelligent estimate upon him at all, either for good or for ill.
Outside of Illinois a few men, who had studied his speeches, esteemed
him an able man in debate; more had a vague notion of him as an
effective stump speaker of the West; far the greatest number had to find
out about him.[104] In a word, Mr. Lincoln gained the nomination because
Mr. Seward had been "too conspicuous," whereas he himself was so little
known that it was possible for Wendell Phillips to inquire indignantly:
"Who is this huckster in politics? Who is this county court
advocate?"[105] For these singular reasons he was the most "available"
candidate who could be offered before the citizens of the United States!

It cannot be said that the nomination was received with much
satisfaction. "Honest old Abe the rail-splitter!" might sound well in
the ear of the masses; but the Republican party was laden with the
burden of an immense responsibility, and the men who did its thinking
could not reasonably feel certain that rail-splitting was an altogether
satisfactory training for the leader in such an era as was now at hand.
Nevertheless, nearly[106] all came to the work of the campaign with as
much zeal as if they had surely known the full value of their candidate.
Shutting their minds against doubts, they made the most spirited and
energetic canvass which has ever taken place in the country. The
organization of the "Wide-Awake" clubs was an effective success.[107]
None who saw will ever forget the spectacle presented by these
processions wherein many thousands of men, singing the campaign songs,
clad in uniform capes of red or white oil-cloth, each with a flaming
torch or a colored lantern, marched nightly in every city and town of
the North, in apparently endless numbers and with military precision,
making the streets a brilliant river of variously tinted flame.
Torchlight parades have become mere conventional affairs since those
days, when there was a spirit in them which nothing has ever stirred
more lately. They were a good preparation for the more serious marching
and severer drill which were soon to come, though the Republicans
scoffed at all anticipations of such a future, and sneered at the timid
ones who croaked of war and bloodshed.

Almost from the beginning it was highly probable that the Republicans
would win, and it was substantially certain that none of their
competitors could do so. The only contrary chance was that no election
might be made by the people, and that it might be thrown into Congress.
Douglas with his wonted spirit made a vigorous fight, traveling to and
fro, speaking constantly in the North and a few times in the South, but
defiant rather than conciliatory in tone. He did not show one whit the
less energy because it was obvious that he waged a contest without hope.
If there were any road to Democratic success, which it now seems that
there was not, it lay in uniting the sundered party. An attempt was made
to arrange that whichever Democratic candidate should ultimately display
the greater strength should receive the full support of the party.
Projects for a fusion ticket met with some success in New York. In
Pennsylvania like schemes were imperfectly successful. In other Northern
States they were received with scant favor. Except some followers of
Bell and Everett, men were in no temper for compromise. At the South
fusion was not even attempted; the Breckenridge men would not hear of
it; the voters in that section were controlled by leaders, and these
leaders probably had a very distinct policy, which would be seriously
interfered with by the triumph of the Douglas ticket.

The chief anxiety of Lincoln and the Republican leaders was lest some
voters, who disagreed with them only on less important issues, might
stay away from the polls. All the platforms, except that of the
Constitutional Union party, touched upon other topics besides the
question of slavery in the Territories; the tariff, native Americanism,
acquisition of Cuba, a transcontinental railway, public lands, internal
improvements, all found mention. The Know-Nothing party still by
occasional twitchings showed that life had not quite taken flight, and
endeavors were made to induce Lincoln to express his views. But he
evaded it.[108] For above all else he wished to avoid the stirring of
any dissension upon side issues or minor points; his hope was to see all
opponents of the extension of slavery put aside for a while all other
matters, refrain from discussing troublesome details, and unite for the
one broad end of putting slavery where "the fathers" had left it, so
that the "public mind should rest in the belief that it was in the way
of ultimate extinction." He felt it to be fair and right that he should
receive the votes of all anti-slavery men; and ultimately he did, with
the exception only of the thorough-going Abolitionists.

It was not so very long since he had spoken of the Abolitionist leaders
as "friends;" but they did not reciprocate the feeling, nor indeed could
reasonably be expected to do so, or to vote the Republican ticket. They
were even less willing to vote it with Lincoln at the head of it than if
Seward had been there.[109] But Republicanism itself under any leader
was distinctly at odds with their views; for when they said
"_abolition_" they meant accurately what they said, and abolition
certainly was impossible under the Constitution. The Republicans, and
Lincoln personally, with equal directness acknowledged the supremacy of
the Constitution. Lincoln, therefore, plainly asserted a policy which
the Abolitionists equally plainly condemned. In their eyes, to be a
party to a contract maintaining slavery throughout a third of a
continent was only a trifle less criminal than aiding to extend it over
another third. Yet it should be said that the Abolitionists were not all
of one mind, and some voted the Republican ticket as being at least a
step in the right direction. Joshua R. Giddings was a member of the
Republican Convention which nominated Lincoln. But Wendell Phillips,
always an extremist among extremists, published an article entitled
"Abraham Lincoln, the Slave-hound of Illinois," whereof the keynote was
struck in this introductory sentence: "We gibbet a Northern hound
to-day, side by side with the infamous Mason of Virginia." Mr. Garrison,
a man of far larger and sounder intellectual powers than belonged to
Phillips, did not fancy this sort of diatribe, though five months
earlier he had accused the Republican party of "slavish subserviency to
the Union," and declared it to be "still insanely engaged in glorifying
the Union and pledging itself to frown upon all attempts to dissolve
it." Undeniably men who held these views could not honestly vote for Mr.

The popular vote and the electoral vote were as follows:[110]--

  Li: Abraham Lincoln, Illinois.
  Do: Stephen A. Douglas, Illinois.
  Br: John C. Breckenridge, Kentucky.
  Be: John Bell, Tennessee.

                                           Popular Vote   | Electoral Vote
  State               Li        Do        Br        Be   |  Li Do Br Be
  Maine           62,811    26,693     6,368     2,046   |   8 -- -- --
  New Hampshire   37,519    25,881     2,112       441   |   5 -- -- --
  Vermont         33,808     6,849       218     1,969   |   5 -- -- --
  Massachusetts  106,533    34,372     5,939    22,231   |  13 -- -- --
  Rhode Island    12,244     7,707[B]    --       --     |   4 -- -- --
  Connecticut     43,792    15,522    14,641     3,291   |   6 -- -- --
  New York       362,646   312,510[B]    --       --     |  35 -- -- --
  New Jersey      58,324    62,801[B]    --       --     |   4  3 -- --
  Pennsylvania   268,030    16,765   178,871[B] 12,776   |  27 -- -- --
  Delaware         3,815     1,023     7,337     3,864   |  -- --  3 --
  Maryland         2,294     5,966    42,482    41,760   |  -- --  8 --
  Virginia         1,929    16,290    74,323    74,681   |  -- -- -- 15
  North Carolina      --     2,701    48,539    44,990   |  -- -- 10 --
  South Carolina[A]   --        --        --        --   |  -- --  8 --
  Georgia             --    11,590    51,889    42,886   |  -- -- 10 --
  Florida             --       367     8,543     5,437   |  -- --  3 --
  Alabama             --    13,651    48,831    27,875   |  -- --  9 --
  Mississippi         --     3,283    40,797    25,040   |  -- --  7 --
  Louisiana           --     7,625    22,861    20,204   |  -- --  6 --
  Texas               --       --     47,548    15,438[B]|  -- --  4 --
  Arkansas            --     5,227    28,732    20,094   |  -- --  4 --
  Missouri        17,028    58,801    31,317    58,372   |  --  9 -- --
  Tennessee          --     11,350    64,709    69,274   |  -- -- -- 12
  Kentucky         1,364    25,651    53,143    66,058   |  -- -- -- 12
  Ohio           231,610   187,232    11,405    12,194   |  23 -- -- --
  Michigan        88,480    65,057       805       405   |   6 -- -- --
  Indiana        139,033   115,509    12,295     5,306   |  13 -- -- --
  Illinois       172,161   160,215     2,404     4,913   |  11 -- -- --
  Wisconsin       86,110    65,021       888       161   |   5 -- -- --
  Minnesota       22,069    11,920       748        62   |   4 -- -- --
  Iowa            70,409    55,111     1,048     1,763   |   4 -- -- --
  California      39,173    38,516    34,334     6,817   |   4 -- -- --
  Oregon           5,270     3,951     5,006       183   |   3 -- -- --
  Totals       1,866,452 1,375,157   847,953   590,631   | 180 12 72 39

  [A] By legislature.
  [B] Fusion electoral tickets.

Messrs. Nicolay and Hay say that Lincoln was the "indisputable choice of
the American people," and by way of sustaining the statement say that,
if the "whole voting strength of the three opposing parties had been
united upon a single candidate, Lincoln would nevertheless have been
chosen with only a trifling diminution of his electoral majority."[111]
It might be better to say that Lincoln was the "indisputable choice" of
the electoral college. The "American people" fell enormously short of
showing a majority in his favor. His career as president was made
infinitely more difficult as well as greatly more creditable to him by
reason of the very fact that he was _not_ the choice of the American
people, but of less than half of them,--and this, too, even if the
Confederate States be excluded from the computation.[112]

The election of Lincoln was "hailed with delight" by the extremists in
South Carolina; for it signified secession, and the underlying and real
desire of these people was secession, and not either compromise or


[95] Lamon, 422.

[96] The majority report was supported by 15 slave States and 2 free
States, casting 127 electoral votes; the minority report was supported
by 15 free States, casting 176 electoral votes. N. and H. ii. 234.

[97] This action was soon afterward approved in a manifesto signed by
Jefferson Davis, Toombs, Iverson, Slidell, Benjamin, Mason, and others.
_Ibid._ 245.

[98] Greeley's _Amer. Conflict_, i. 326.

[99] _Ibid._ i. 306, 307.

[100] Mr. Blaine says that Lincoln "was chosen in spite of expressions
far more radical than those of Mr. Seward." _Twenty Years of Congress_,
i. 169.

[101] "In strong common sense, in sagacity and sound judgment, in rugged
integrity of character, Mr. Hamlin has had no superior among public
men." Blaine, _Twenty Years of Congress_, i. 170.

[102] Lamon, 453.

[103] McClure adds, or rather mentions as the chief cause, Seward's
position on the public-school question in New York. _Lincoln and Men of
War-Times_, 28, 29.

[104] "To the country at large he was an obscure, not to say an unknown
man." _Life of W.L. Garrison_, by his children, iii. 503.

[105] _Life of W.L. Garrison_, by his children, iii. 503.

[106] See remarks of McClure, _Lincoln and Men of War-Times_, 28, 29.

[107] See N. and H. ii. 284 n.

[108] See letter of May 17, 1859, to Dr. Canisius, Holland, 196; N. and
H. ii. 181.

[109] _Life of W.L. Garrison_, by his children, iii. 502.

[110] This table is taken from Stanwood's _History of Presidential

[111] N. and H. iii. 146.

[112] The total popular vote was 4,680,193. Lincoln had 1,866,452. In
North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana,
Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee, no vote was cast for the Lincoln ticket;
in Virginia only 1929 voted it. Adding the total popular vote of all
these States (except the 1929), we get 854,775; deducting this from the
total popular vote leaves a balance of 3,825,418, of which one half is
1,912,709; so that even outside of the States of the Confederacy Lincoln
did not get one half of the popular vote. South Carolina is not included
in any calculation concerning the popular vote, because she chose
electors by her legislature.

[113] Letter of Henry A. Wise of Virginia, May 28, 1858, quoted N. and
H. ii. 302 n.



For a while now the people of the Northern States were compelled
passively to behold a spectacle which they could not easily reconcile
with the theory of the supreme excellence and wisdom of their system of
government. Abraham Lincoln was chosen President of the United States
November 6, 1860; he was to be inaugurated March 4, 1861. During the
intervening four months the government must be conducted by a chief
whose political creed was condemned by an overwhelming majority of the
nation.[114] The situation was as unfair for Mr. Buchanan as it was
hurtful for the people. As head of a republic, or, in the more popular
phrase, as the chief "servant of the people," he must respect the
popular will, yet he could not now administer the public business
according to that will without being untrue to all his own convictions,
and repudiating all his trusted counselors. In a situation so
intrinsically false efficient government was impossible, no matter what
was the strength or weakness of the hand at the helm. Therefore there
was every reason for displacing Buchanan from control of the national
affairs in the autumn, and every reason against continuing him in that
control through the winter; yet the law of the land ordained the latter
course. It seemed neither sensible nor even safe. During this doleful
period all descriptions of him agree: he seemed, says Chittenden,
"shaken in body and uncertain in mind,... an old man worn out by worry;"
while the Southerners also declared him as "incapable of purpose as a
child." To the like purport spoke nearly all who saw him.

During the same time Lincoln's position was equally absurd and more
trying. After the lapse of four months he was, by the brief ceremony of
an hour, to become the leader of a great nation under an exceptionally
awful responsibility; but during those four months he could play no
other part than simply to watch, in utter powerlessness, the swift
succession of crowding events, which all were tending to make his
administration of the government difficult, or even impossible.
Throughout all this long time, the third part of a year, which statutes
scarcely less venerable than the Constitution itself freely presented to
the disunion leaders, they safely completed their civil and military
organization, while the Northerners, under a ruler whom they had
discredited, but of whom they could not get rid, were paralyzed for all
purposes of counter preparation.

As a trifling compensation for its existence this costly interregnum
presents to later generations a curious spectacle. A volume might be
made of the public utterances put forth in that time by men of familiar
names and more or less high repute, and it would show many of them in
most strange and unexpected characters, so entirely out of keeping with
the years which they had lived before, and the years which they were to
live afterward, that the reader would gaze in hopeless bewilderment. In
the "solid" South, so soon to be a great rebelling unit, he would find
perhaps half of the people opposed to disunion; in the North he would
hear everywhere words of compromise and concession, while coercion would
be mentioned only to be denounced. If these four months were useful in
bringing the men of the North to the fighting point, on the other hand
they gave an indispensable opportunity for proselyting, by whirl and
excitement, great numbers at the South. Even in the autumn of 1860 and
in the Gulf States secession was still so much the scheme of leaders
that there was no popular preponderance in favor of disunion doctrines.
In evidence of this are the responses of governors to a circular letter
of Governor Gist of South Carolina, addressed to them October 5, 1860,
and seeking information as to the feeling among the people. From North
Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama came replies that secession
was not likely to be favorably received. Mississippi was non-committal.
Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama desired a convention of the
discontented States, and might be influenced by its action. North
Carolina, Louisiana, and Alabama would oppose forcible coercion of a
seceding State. Florida alone was rhetorically belligerent. These
reports were discouraging in the ears of the extremist governor; but
against them he could set the fact that the disunionists had the
advantage of being the aggressive, propagandist body, homogeneous, and
pursuing an accurate policy in entire concert. They were willing to take
any amount of pains to manipulate and control the election of delegates
and the formal action of conventions, and in all cases except that of
Texas the question was conclusively passed upon by conventions. By every
means they "fired the Southern heart," which was notoriously
combustible; they stirred up a great tumult of sentiment; they made
thunderous speeches; they kept distinguished emissaries moving to and
fro; they celebrated each success with an uproar of cannonading, with
bonfires, illuminations, and processions; they appealed to those
chivalrous virtues supposed to be peculiar to Southerners; they preached
devotion to the State, love of the state flag, generous loyalty to
sister slave-communities; sometimes they used insult, abuse, and
intimidation; occasionally they argued seductively. Thus Mr. Cobb's
assertion, that "we can make better terms out of the Union than in it,"
was, in the opinion of Alexander H. Stephens, the chief influence which
carried Georgia out of the Union. In the main, however, it was the
principle of state sovereignty and state patriotism which proved the one
entirely trustworthy influence to bring over the reluctant. "I abhor
disunion, but I go with my State," was the common saying; and the States
were under skillful and resolute leadership. So, though the popular
discontent was far short of the revolutionary point, yet individuals,
one after another, yielded to that sympathetic, emotional instinct which
tempts each man to fall in with the big procession. In this way it was
that during the Buchanan interregnum the people of the Gulf States
became genuinely fused in rebellion.

It is not correct to say that the election of Lincoln was the cause of
the Rebellion; it was rather the signal. To the Southern leaders, it was
the striking of the appointed hour. His defeat would have meant only
postponement. South Carolina led the way. On December 17, 1860, her
convention came together, the Palmetto flag waving over its chamber of
conference, and on December 20 it issued its "Ordinance."[115] This
declared that the Ordinance of May 23, 1788, ratifying the Constitution,
is "hereby repealed," and the "Union now subsisting between South
Carolina and other States, under the name of the United States of
America, is hereby dissolved." A Declaration of Causes said that South
Carolina had "resumed her position among the nations of the world as a
separate and independent State." The language used was appropriate for
the revocation of a power of attorney. The people hailed this action
with noisy joy, unaccompanied by any regret or solemnity at the
severance of the old relationship. The newspapers at once began to
publish "Foreign News" from the other States. The new governor, Pickens,
a fiery Secessionist, and described as one "born insensible to
fear,"--presumably the condition of most persons at that early period of
existence,--had already suggested to Mr. Buchanan the impropriety of
reinforcing the national garrisons in the forts in Charleston harbor. He
now accredited to the President three commissioners to treat with him
for the delivery of the "forts, magazines, lighthouses, and other real
estate, with their appurtenances, in the limits of South Carolina; and
also for an apportionment of the public debt, and for a division of all
other property held by the government of the United States as agent of
the Confederate States of which South Carolina was recently a member."
This position, as of the dissolution of a copartnership, or the
revocation of an agency, and an accounting of debts and assets, was at
least simple; and by way of expediting it an appraisal of the "real
estate" and "appurtenances" within the state limits had been made by the
state government. Meanwhile there was in the harbor of Charleston a sort
of armed truce, which might at any moment break into war. Major Anderson
in Fort Moultrie, and the state commander in the city, watched each
other like two suspicious animals, neither sure when the other will
spring. In short, in all the overt acts, the demeanor and the language
of this excitable State, there was such insolence, besides hostility,
that her emissaries must have been surprised at the urbane courtesy with
which they were received, even by a President of Mr. Buchanan's views.

After the secession of South Carolina the other Gulf States hesitated
briefly. Mississippi followed first; her convention assembled January 7,
1861, and on January 9 passed the ordinance, 84 yeas to 15 nays,
subsequently making the vote unanimous. The Florida convention met
January 3, and on January 10 decreed the State to be "a sovereign and
independent nation," 62 yeas to 7 nays. The Alabama convention passed
its ordinance on January 11 by 61 yeas to 39 nays; the President
announced that the idea of reconstruction must be forever "dismissed."
Yet the northern part of the State appeared to be substantially
anti-secession. In Georgia the Secessionists doubted whether they could
control a convention, yet felt obliged to call one. Toombs, Cobb, and
Iverson labored with tireless zeal throughout the State; but in spite of
all their proselyting, Unionist feeling ran high and debate was hot. The
members from the southern part of the State ventured to menace and
dragoon those from the northern part, who were largely Unionists. The
latter retorted angrily; a schism and personal collisions were narrowly
avoided. Alexander H. Stephens spoke for the Union with a warmth and
logic not surpassed by anything that was said at the North. He and
Herschel V. Johnson both voted against secession; yet, on January 18,
when the vote was taken, it showed 208 yeas against 89 nays. On January
26 Louisiana followed, the vote of the convention being 113 yeas to 17
nays; but it refused to submit the ordinance to the people for
ratification. The action of Texas, the only other State which seceded
prior to the inauguration of Lincoln, was delayed until February 1.
There Governor Houston was opposing secession with such vigor as
remained to a broken old man, whereby he provoked Senator Iverson to
utter the threat of assassination: "Some Texan Brutus may arise to rid
his country of this old hoary-headed traitor." But in the convention,
when it came to voting, the yeas were 166, the nays only 7.

By the light that was in him Mr. Buchanan was a Unionist, but it was a
sadly false and flickering light, and beneath its feeble illumination
his steps staggered woefully. For two months he diverged little from the
path which the Secessionist leaders would have marked out for him, had
they controlled his movements. At the time of the election his cabinet

  Lewis Cass of Michigan, secretary of state.
  Howell Cobb of Georgia, secretary of the treasury.
  John B. Floyd of Virginia, secretary of war.
  Isaac Toucey of Connecticut, secretary of the navy.
  Jacob Thompson of Mississippi, secretary of the interior.
  Aaron V. Brown of Tennessee, postmaster-general.
  Jeremiah S. Black of Pennsylvania, attorney-general.

Of these men Cobb, Floyd, and Thompson were extreme Secessionists. Many
felt that Cobb should have been made President of the Southern
Confederacy instead of Davis. In December Thompson went as commissioner
from Mississippi to North Carolina to persuade that State to secede, and
did not resign his place in the cabinet because, as he said, Mr.
Buchanan approved his mission.

Betwixt his own predilections and the influence of these advisers Mr.
Buchanan composed for the Thirty-sixth Congress a message which carried
consternation among all Unionists. It was of little consequence that he
declared the present situation to be the "natural effect" of the
"long-continued and intemperate interference" of the Northern people
with slavery. But it was of the most serious consequence that, while he
condemned secession as unconstitutional, he also declared himself
powerless to prevent it. His duty "to take care that the laws be
faithfully executed" he knew no other way to perform except by aiding
federal officers in the performance of their duties. But where, as in
South Carolina, the federal officers had all resigned, so that none
remained to be aided, what was he to do? This was practically to take
the position that half a dozen men, by resigning their offices, could
make the preservation of the Union by its chief executive
impossible![116] Besides this, Mr. Buchanan said that he had "no
authority to decide what should be the relations between the Federal
government and South Carolina." He afterward said that he desired to
avoid a collision of arms "between this and any other government." He
did not seem to reflect that he had no right to recognize a State of the
Union as being an "other government," in the sense in which he used the
phrase, and that, by his very abstention from the measures necessary for
maintaining unchanged that relationship which had hitherto existed, he
became a party to the establishment of a new relationship, and that,
too, of a character which he himself alleged-to be unconstitutional. In
truth, his chief purpose was to rid himself of any responsibility and to
lay it all upon Congress. Yet he was willing to advise Congress as to
its powers and duties in the business which he shirked in favor of that
body, saying that the power to coerce a seceding State had not been
delegated to it, and adding the warning that "the Union can never be
cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war." So the nation
learned that its ruler was of opinion that to resist the destruction of
its nationality was both unlawful and inexpedient.

If the conclusions of the message aroused alarm and indignation, its
logic excited ridicule. Senator Hale gave a not unfair synopsis: The
President, he said, declares: 1. That South Carolina has just cause for
seceding. 2. That she has no right to secede. 3. That we have no right
to prevent her from seceding; and that the power of the government is "a
power to do nothing at all." Another wit said that Buchanan was willing
to give up a _part_ of the Constitution, and, if necessary, the _whole_,
in order to preserve the _remainder_! But while this message of Mr.
Buchanan has been bitterly denounced, and with entire justice, from the
hour of its transmission to the present day, yet a palliating
consideration ought to be noted: he had little reason to believe that,
if he asserted the right and duty of forcible coercion, he would find at
his back the indispensable force, moral and physical, of the people.
Demoralization at the North was widespread. After the lapse of a few
months this condition passed, and then those who had been beneath its
influence desired to forget the humiliating fact, and hoped that others
might either forget or never know the measure of their weakness. In
order that they might save their good names, it was natural that they
should seek to suppress all evidence which had not already found its way
upon the public record; but enough remains to show how grievously for a
while the knees were weakened under many who enjoy--and rightfully, by
reason of the rest of their lives--the reputation of stalwart patriots.
For example, late in October, General Scott suggested to the President
a division of the country into four separate confederacies, roughly
outlining their boundaries. Scott was a dull man, but he was the head of
the army and enjoyed a certain prestige, so that it was impossible to
say that his notions, however foolish in themselves, were of no
consequence. But if the blunders of General Scott could not fatally
wound the Union cause, the blunders of Horace Greeley might conceivably
do so. If there had been in the Northern States any newspaper--apart
from Mr. Garrison's "Liberator"--which was thoroughly committed to the
anti-slavery cause, it was the New York "Tribune," under the guidance of
that distinguished editor. Republicans everywhere throughout the land
had been educated by his teachings, and had become accustomed to take a
large part of their knowledge and their opinions in matters political
from his writings. It was a misfortune for Abraham Lincoln, which cannot
be overrated, that from the moment of his nomination to the day of his
death the "Tribune" was largely engaged in criticising his measures and
in condemning his policy.

No sooner did all that, which Mr. Greeley had been striving during many
years to bring about, seem to be on the point of consummation, than the
demoralized and panic-stricken reformer became desirous to undo his own
achievements, and to use for the purpose of effecting a sudden
retrogression all the influence which he had gained by bold leadership.
November 9, 1860, it was appalling to read in the editorial columns of
his sheet, that "if the Cotton States shall decide that they can do
better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go in
peace;" that, while the "Tribune" denied the right of nullification, yet
it would admit that "to withdraw from the Union is quite another
matter;" that "whenever a considerable section of our Union shall
deliberately resolve to go out, we shall resist all coercive measures
designed to keep it in."[117] At the end of another month the
"Tribune's" famous editor was still in the same frame of mind, declaring
himself "averse to the employment of military force to fasten one
section of our confederacy to the other," and saying that, "if eight
States, having five millions of people, choose to separate from us, they
cannot be permanently withheld from so doing by federal cannon." On
December 17 he even said that the South had as good a right to secede
from the Union as the colonies had to secede from Great Britain, and
that he "would not stand up for coercion, for subjugation," because he
did not "think it would be just." On February 23, 1861, he said that if
the Cotton States, or the Gulf States, "choose to form an independent
nation, they have a clear moral right to do so," and if the "great body
of the Southern people" become alienated from the Union and wish to
"escape from it, we will do our best to forward their views." A volume
could be filled with the like writing of his prolific pen at this time,
and every sentence of such purport was the casting of a new stone to
create an almost impassable obstruction in the path along which the new
President must soon endeavor to move. Thurlow Weed, editor of the Albany
"Evening Journal," and the confidential adviser of Seward, wrote in
favor of concessions; he declared that "a victorious party can afford to
be tolerant;" and he advocated a convention to revise the Constitution,
on the ground that, "after more than seventy years of wear and tear, of
collision and abrasion, it should be no cause of wonder that the
machinery of government is found weakened, or out of repair, or even
defective." Frequently he uttered the wish, vague and of fine sound, but
enervating, that the Republicans might "meet secession as patriots and
not as partisans." On November 9 the Democratic New York "Herald,"
discussing the election of Lincoln, said: "For far less than this our
fathers seceded from Great Britain;" it also declared coercion to be
"out of the question," and laid down the principle that each State
possesses "the right to break the tie of the confederacy, as a nation
might break a treaty, and to repel coercion as a nation might repel

Local elections in New York and Massachusetts "showed a striking and
general reduction of Republican strength." In December the mayor of
Philadelphia, though that city had polled a heavy Republican majority,
told a mass meeting in Independence Square that denunciations of slavery
were inconsistent with national brotherhood, and "must be frowned down
by a just and law-abiding people." The Bell and Everett men, generally,
desired peace at any price. The business men of the North, alarmed at
the prospect of disorder, became loudly solicitous for concession,
compromise, even surrender.[118] In Democratic meetings a threatening
tone was adopted. One proposal was to reconstruct the Union, leaving out
the New England States. So late even as January 21, 1861, before an
immense and noteworthy gathering in New York, an orator ventured to say:
"If a revolution of force is to begin, it shall be inaugurated at home;"
and the words were cheered. The distinguished Chancellor Walworth said
that it would be "as brutal to send men to butcher our own brothers of
the Southern States as it would be to massacre them in the Northern
States." When DeWitt Clinton's son, George, spoke of secession as
"rebellion," the multitude hailed the word with cries of dissent. Even
at Faneuil Hall, in Boston, "a very large and respectable meeting" was
emphatically in favor of compromise. It was impossible to measure
accurately the extent and force of all this demoralization; but the
symptoms were that vast numbers were infected with such sentiments, and
that they would have been worse than useless as backers of a vigorous
policy on the part of the government.

With the North wavering and ready to retreat, and the South aggressive
and confident, it was exacting to expect Mr. Buchanan to stand up for a
fight. Why should he, with his old-time Democratic principles, now by a
firm, defiant attitude precipitate a crisis, possibly a civil war, when
Horace Greeley and Wendell Phillips were conspicuously running away from
the consequences of their own teachings, and were loudly crying "Peace!
peace!" after they themselves had long been doing all in their power to
bring the North up to the fighting point? When these leaders faced to
the rear, it was hard to say who could be counted upon to fill the front
rank. In truth, it was a situation which might have discouraged a more
combative patriot than Buchanan. Meanwhile, while the Northerners talked
chiefly of yielding, the hot and florid rhetoric of the Southern
orators, often laden with contemptuous insult, smote with disturbing
menace upon the ears even of the most courageous Unionists. It was said
at the South and feared at the North that secession had a "Spartan band
in every Northern State," and that blood would flow in Northern cities
at least as soon and as freely as on the Southern plantations, if
forcible coercion should be attempted. Was it possible to be sure that
this was all rodomontade? To many good citizens there seemed some reason
to think that the best hope for avoiding the fulfillment at the North of
these sanguinary threats might lie in the probability that the
anti-slavery agitators would not stand up to encounter a genuinely
mortal peril.

When the Star of the West retired, a little ignominiously, from her task
of reinforcing Fort Sumter, Senator Wigfall jeered insolently. "Your
flag has been insulted," he said; "redress it if you dare! You have
submitted to it for two months, and you will submit forever.... We have
dissolved the Union; mend it if you can; cement it with blood; try the
experiment!" Mr. Chestnut of South Carolina wished to "unfurl the
Palmetto flag, fling it to the breeze ... and ring the clarion notes of
defiance in the ears of an insolent foe." Such bombastic but confident
language, of which a great quantity was uttered in this winter of
1860-61, may exasperate or intimidate according to the present temper of
the opponent whose ear it assaults; for a while the North was more in
condition to be awestruck than to be angered. Her spokesmen failed to
answer back, and left her to listen not without anxiety to fierce
predictions that Southern flags would soon be floating over the dome of
the Capitol and even over Faneuil Hall, if she should be so imprudent as
to test Southern valor and Southern resources.

Matters looked even worse for the Union cause in Congress than in the
country. Occasionally some irritated Northern Republican shot out words
of spirit; but the prevalent desire was for conciliation, compromise,
and concession, while some actually adopted secession doctrines. For
example, Daniel E. Sickles, in the House, threatened that the secession
of the Southern States should be followed by that of New York city; and
in fact the scheme had been recommended by the Democratic mayor,
Fernando Wood, in a message to the Common Council of the city on January
6; and General Dix conceived it to be a possibility. In the Senate Simon
Cameron declared himself desirous to preserve the Union "by any
sacrifice of feeling, and I may say of principle." A sacrifice of
political principle by Cameron was not, perhaps, a serious matter; but
he intended the phrase to be emphatic, and he was a leading Republican
politician, had been a candidate for the presidential nomination, and
was dictator in Pennsylvania. Even Seward, in the better days of the
middle of January, felt that he could "afford to meet prejudice with
conciliation, exaction with concession which surrenders no principle,
and violence with the right hand of peace;" and he was "willing, after
the excitement of rebellion and secession should have passed away, to
call a convention for amending the Constitution."

This message of Buchanan marked the lowest point to which the
temperature of his patriotism fell. Soon afterward, stimulated by heat
applied from outside, it began to rise. The first intimation which
impressed upon his anxious mind that he was being too acquiescent
towards the South came from General Cass. That steadfast Democrat, of
the old Jacksonian school, like many of his party at the North, was
fully as good a patriot and Union man as most of the Republicans were
approving themselves to be during these winter months of vacillation,
alarm, and compromise. In November he was strenuously in favor of
forcibly coercing a seceding State, but later assented to the tenor of
Mr. Buchanan's message. The frame of mind which induced this assent,
however, was transitory; for immediately he began to insist upon the
reinforcement of the garrisons of the Southern forts, and on December 13
he resigned because the President refused to accede to his views. A few
days earlier Howell Cobb had had the grace to resign from the Treasury,
which he left entirely empty. In the reorganization Philip F. Thomas of
Maryland, a Secessionist also, succeeded Cobb; Judge Black was moved
into the State Department; and Edwin M. Stanton of Pennsylvania followed
Black as attorney-general. Mr. Floyd, than whom no Secessionist has left
a name in worse odor at the North, had at first advised against any
"rash movement" in the way of secession, on the ground that Mr.
Lincoln's administration would "fail, and be regarded as impotent for
good or evil, within four months after his inauguration." None the less
he had long been using his official position in the War Department to
send arms into the Southern States, and to make all possible
arrangements for putting them in an advantageous position for
hostilities. Fortunately about this time the famous defalcation in the
Indian Department, in which he was guiltily involved, destroyed his
credit with the President, and at the same time he quarreled with his
associates concerning Anderson's removal to Fort Sumter. On December 29
he resigned, and the duties of his place were laid for a while upon
Judge Holt, the postmaster-general.

On Sunday morning, December 30, there was what has been properly called
a cabinet crisis. The South Carolina commissioners, just arrived in
Washington, were demanding recognition, and to treat with the government
as if they were representatives of a foreign power. The President
declined to receive them in a diplomatic character, but offered to act
as go-between betwixt them and Congress. The President's advisers,
however, were in a far less amiable frame of mind, for their blood had
been stirred wholesomely by the secession of South Carolina and the
presence of these emissaries with their insolent demands. Mr. Black, now
at the head of the State Department, had gone through much the same
phases of feeling as General Cass. In November he had been "emphatic in
his advocacy of coercion," but afterward had approved the President's
message and even declared forcible coercion to be "_ipso facto_ an
expulsion" of the State from the Union; since then he had drifted back
and made fast at his earlier moorings. On this important Sunday morning
Mr. Buchanan learned with dismay that either his reply to the South
Carolinians must be substantially modified, or Mr. Black and Mr. Stanton
would retire from the cabinet. Under this pressure he yielded. Mr. Black
drafted a new reply to the commissioners, Mr. Stanton copied it, Holt
concurred in it, and, in substance, Mr. Buchanan accepted it. This
affair constituted, as Messrs. Nicolay and Hay well say, "the
President's virtual abdication," and thereafterward began the "cabinet
régime." Upon the commissioners this chill gust from the North struck so
disagreeably that, on January 2, they hastened home to their
"independent nation." From this time forth the South covered Mr.
Buchanan with contumely and abuse; Mr. Benjamin called him "a senile
executive, under the sinister influence of insane counsels;" and the
poor old man, really wishing to do right, but stripped of friends and of
his familiar advisers, and confounded by the views of new counselors,
presented a spectacle for pity.

On January 8 Mr. Thompson, secretary of the interior, resigned, and the
vacancy was left unfilled. A more important change took place on the
following day, when Mr. Thomas left the Treasury Department, and the New
York bankers, whose aid was essential, forced the President, sorely
against his will, to give the place to General John A. Dix. This proved
an excellent appointment. General Dix was an old Democrat, but of the
high-spirited type; he could have tolerated secession by peaceable
agreement, but rose in anger at menaces against the flag and the Union.
He conducted his department with entire success, and also rendered to
the country perhaps the greatest service that was done by any man during
that winter. On January 29 he sent the telegram which closed with the
famous words: "If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot
him on the spot."[119] This rung out as the first cheering, stimulating
indication of a fighting temper at the North. It was a tonic which came
at a time of sore need, and for too long a while it remained the
solitary dose!

So much of the President's message as concerned the condition of the
country was referred in the House to a Committee of Thirty-three,
composed by appointing one member from each State. Other resolutions and
motions upon the same subject, to the number of twenty-five, were also
sent to this committee. It had many sessions from December 11 to January
14, but never made an approach to evolving anything distantly
approaching agreement. When, on January 14, the report came, it was an
absurd fiasco: it contained six propositions, of which each had the
assent of a majority of a quorum; but seven minority reports, bearing
together the signatures of fourteen members, were also submitted; and
the members of the seceding States refused to act. The only actual fruit
was a proposed amendment to the Constitution: "That no amendment shall
be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the
power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic
institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service
by the laws of said State." In the expiring hours of the Thirty-sixth
Congress this was passed by the House, and then by the Senate, and was
signed by the President. Lincoln, in his inaugural address, said of it:
"Holding such a provision to be now constitutional law, I have no
objection to its being made express and irrevocable." This view of it
was correct; it had no real significance, and the ill-written sentence
never disfigured the Constitution; it simply sank out of sight,
forgotten by every one.

Collaterally with the sitting of this House committee, a Committee of
Thirteen was appointed in the Senate. To these gentlemen also "a string
of Union-saving devices" was presented, but on the last day of the year
they reported that they had "not been able to agree upon any general
plan of adjustment."

The earnest effort of the venerable Crittenden to Affect a compromise
aroused a faint hope. But he offered little else than an extension
westward of the Missouri Compromise line; and he never really had the
slightest chance of effecting that consummation, which in fact _could
not be_ effected. His plan was finally defeated on the last evening of
the session.

Collaterally with these congressional debates there were also proceeding
in Washington the sessions of the Peace Congress, another futile effort
to concoct a cure for an incurable condition. It met on February 4,
1861, but only twenty-one States out of thirty-four were represented.
The seven States which had seceded said that they could not come, being
"Foreign Nations." Six other States[120] held aloof. Those Northern
States which sent delegates selected "their most conservative and
compromising men," and so great a tendency towards concession was shown
that Unionists soon condemned the scheme as merely a deceitful cover
devised by the Southerners behind which they could the more securely
carry on their processes of secession. These gentlemen talked a great
deal and finally presented a report or plan to Congress five days before
the end of the session; the House refused to receive it, the Senate
rejected it by 7 ayes to 28 nays. The only usefulness of the gathering
was as evidence of the unwillingness of the South to compromise. In fact
the Southern leaders were entirely frank and outspoken in acknowledging
their position; they had said, from the beginning, that they did not
wish the Committee of Thirty-three to accomplish anything; and they had
endeavored to dissuade Southerners from accepting positions upon it.
Hawkins of Florida said that "the time of compromise had passed
forever." South Carolina refused to share in the Peace Congress, because
she did "not deem it advisable to initiate negotiations when she had no
desire or intention to promote the object in view." Governor Peters of
Mississippi, in poetic language, suggested another difficulty: "When
sparks cease to fly upwards," he said, "Comanches respect treaties, and
wolves kill sheep no more, the oath of a Black Republican might be of
some value as a protection to slave property." Jefferson Davis
contemptuously stigmatized all the schemes of compromise as "quack
nostrums," and he sneered justly enough at those who spun fine arguments
of legal texture, and consumed time "discussing abstract questions,
reading patchwork from the opinions of men now mingled with the dust."

It is not known by what logic gentlemen who held these views defended
their conduct in retaining their positions in the government of the
nation for the purpose of destroying it. Senator Yulee of Florida
shamelessly gave his motive for staying in the Senate: "It is thought we
can keep the hands of Mr. Buchanan tied and disable the Republicans from
effecting any legislation which will strengthen the hands of the
incoming administration." Mr. Toombs of Georgia, speaking and voting at
his desk in the Senate, declared himself "as good a rebel and as good a
traitor as ever descended from Revolutionary loins," and said that the
Union was already dissolved,--by which assertion he made his position in
the Senate absolutely indefensible. The South Carolina senators resigned
before their State ordained itself a "foreign nation," and incurred
censure for being so "precipitate." In a word, the general desire was to
remain in office, hampering and obstructing the government, until March
4, 1861, and at a caucus of disunionists it was agreed to do so. But the
pace became too rapid, and resignations followed pretty close upon the
formal acts of secession.

On the same day on which the Peace Congress opened its sessions in
Washington, there came together at Montgomery, in Alabama, delegates
from six States for the purpose of forming a Southern Confederacy. On
the third day thereafter a plan for a provisional government,
substantially identical with the Constitution of the United States, was
adopted. On February 9 the oath of allegiance was taken, and Jefferson
Davis and Alexander H. Stephens were elected respectively President and
Vice-President. On February 13 the military and naval committees were
directed to report plans for organizing an army and navy. Mr. Davis
promptly journeyed to Montgomery, making on the way many speeches, in
which he told his hearers that no plan for a reconstruction of the old
Union would be entertained; and promised that those who should interfere
with the new nation would have to "smell Southern powder and to feel
Southern steel." On February 18 he was inaugurated, and in his address
again referred to the "arbitrament of the sword." Immediately afterward
he announced his cabinet as follows:--

  Robert Toombs of Georgia, secretary of state.
  C.G. Memminger of South Carolina, secretary of the treasury.
  L.P. Walker of Alabama, secretary of war.
  S.R. Mallory of Florida, secretary of the navy.
  J.H. Reagan of Texas, postmaster-general.
  Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana, attorney-general.

On March 11 the permanent Constitution was adopted.[121] Thus the
machine of the new government was set in working order. Mr. Greeley
gives some interesting figures showing the comparative numerical
strength of the sections of the country at this time:[122]--

  The free population of the seven States which
  had seceded, was                                  2,656,948
  The free population of the eight slave States[123]
  which had not seceded, was                        5,633,005
  Total                                             8,289,953
  The slaves in the States of the first list were   2,312,046
  The slaves in the States of the second list were  1,638,297
  Total of slaves                                   3,950,343
  The population of the whole Union by the
  census of 1860, was                              31,443,321

[Illustration: Alexander H. Stephens]

The disproportion would have discouraged the fathers of the new
nation, if they had anticipated that the North would be resolute in
using its overwhelming resources. But how could they believe that this
would be the case when they read the New York "Tribune" and the reports
of Mr. Phillips's harangues?

       *       *       *       *       *

On February 13 the electoral vote was to be counted in Congress. Rumors
were abroad that the Secessionists intended to interfere with this by
tumults and violence; but the evidence is insufficient to prove that any
such scheme was definitely matured; it was talked of, but ultimately it
seems to have been laid aside with a view to action at a later date.
Naturally enough, however, the country was disquieted. In the emergency
the action of General Scott was watched with deep anxiety. A Southerner
by birth and by social sympathies, he had been expected by the
Secessionists to join their movement. But the old soldier--though broken
by age and infirmities, and though he had proposed the folly of
voluntarily quartering the country, like the corpse of a traitor--had
his patriotism and his temper at once aroused when violence was
threatened. On and after October 29 he had repeatedly advised
reinforcement of the Southern garrisons; though it must be admitted, in
Buchanan's behalf, that the general made no suggestion as to how or
where the troops could be obtained for this purpose. In the same spirit
he now said, with stern resolution, that there should be ample military
preparations to insure both the count and the inauguration; and he told
some of the Southerners that he would blow traitors to pieces at the
cannon's mouth without hesitation. Disturbed at his vehemence, they
denounced him bitterly, and sent him frequent notices of assassination.
Floyd distributed orders concerning troops and munitions directly from
the War Department, and carefully concealed them from the general who
was the head of the army. But secrecy and intimidation were in vain. The
aged warrior was fiercely in earnest; if there was going to be any
outbreak in Washington he was going to put it down with bullets and
bayonets, and he gathered his soldiers and instructed his officers
accordingly. But happily the preparation of these things was sufficient
to render the use of them unnecessary. When the day came Vice-President
Breckenridge performed his duty, however unwelcome, without flinching.
He presided over the joint session and conducted the count with the air
of a man determined to enforce law and order, and at the close declared
the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin.

Still only the smaller crisis had been passed. Much more alarming
stories now flew from mouth to mouth,--of plots to seize the capital and
to prevent the inauguration, even to assassinate Lincoln on his journey
to Washington. How much foundation there was for these is not accurately
known. That the idea of capturing Washington had fascinated the
Southern fancy is certain. "I see no reason," said Senator Iverson, "why
Washington city should not be continued the capital of the Southern
Confederacy." The Richmond "Examiner" railed grossly: "That filthy cage
of unclean birds must and will assuredly be purified by fire.... Our
people can take it,--they will take it.... Scott, the arch-traitor, and
Lincoln, the beast, combined, cannot prevent it. The 'Illinois Ape' must
retrace his journey more rapidly than he came." The abundant talk of
this sort created uneasiness; and Judge Holt said that there was cause
for alarm. But a committee of Congress reported that, though it was
difficult to speak positively, yet they found no evidence sufficient to
prove "the existence of a secret organization." Alexander H. Stephens
has denied that there was any intention to attack the city, and probably
the notion of seizure did not pass beyond the stage of talk.

But the alleged plot to assassinate Mr. Lincoln was more definite. He
had been spending the winter quietly in Springfield, where he had been
overrun by visitors, who wished to look at him, to advise him, and to
secure promises of office; fortunately the tedious procession had lost
part of its offensiveness by touching his sense of humor. Anxious people
made well-meaning but useless efforts to induce him to say something for
effect upon the popular mind; but he resolutely and wisely maintained
silence. His position and opinions, he said, had already been declared
in his speeches with all the clearness he could give to them, and the
people had appeared to understand and approve them. He could not improve
and did not desire to change these utterances. Occasionally he privately
expressed his dislike to the conceding and compromising temper which
threatened to undo, for an indefinite future, all which the long and
weary struggle of anti-slavery men had accomplished. In this line he
wrote a letter of protest to Greeley, which inspired that gentleman to a
singular expression of sympathy; let the Union go to pieces, exclaimed
the emotional editor, let presidents be assassinated, let the Republican
party suffer crushing defeat, but let there not be "another nasty
compromise." To Mr. Kellogg, the Illinoisian on the House Committee of
Thirty-three, Lincoln wrote: "Entertain no proposition for a compromise
in regard to the extension of slavery. The instant you do, they have us
under again; all our labor is lost, and sooner or later must be done
over again." He repeated almost the same words to E.B. Washburne, a
member of the House. Duff Green tried hard to get something out of him
for the comfort of Mr. Buchanan, but failed to extort more than
commonplace generalities. To Seward he wrote that he did not wish to
interfere with the present status, or to meddle with slavery as it now
lawfully existed. To like purport he wrote to Alexander H. Stephens,
induced thereto by the famous Union speech of that gentleman. He
eschewed hostile feeling, saying: "I never have been, am not now, and
probably never shall be, in a mood of harassing the people, either North
or South." Nevertheless, while he said that all were "brothers of a
common country," he was perfectly resolved that the country should
remain "common," even if the bond of brotherhood had to be riveted by
force. He admitted that this necessity would be "an ugly point;" but he
was perfectly clear that "the right of a State to secede is not an open
or debatable question." He desired that General Scott should be prepared
either to "hold or retake" the Southern forts, if need should be, at or
after the inauguration; but on his journey to Washington he said to many
audiences that he wished no war and no bloodshed, and that these evils
could be avoided if people would only "keep cool" and "keep their
temper, on both sides of the line."

On Monday, February 11, 1861, Mr. Lincoln spoke to his fellow citizens
of Springfield a very brief farewell, so solemn as to sound ominous in
the ears of those who know what afterward occurred. It was arranged that
he should stop at various points upon the somewhat circuitous route
which had been laid out, and that he should arrive in Washington on
Saturday, February 23. The programme, was pursued accurately till near
the close; he made, of course, many speeches, but none added anything to
what was already known as to his views.

Meantime the thick rumors of violence were bringing much uneasiness to
persons who were under responsibilities. Baltimore was the place where,
and its villainous "Plug Uglies" were the persons by whom, the plot, if
there was one, was to be executed. Mr. Felton, president of the
Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company, engaged Allan
Pinkerton to explore the matter, and the report of this skillful
detective indicated a probability of an attack with the purpose of
assassination. At that time the cars were drawn by horses across town
from the northern to the southern station, and during the passage an
assault could be made with ease and with great chance of success. As yet
there was no indication that the authorities intended to make, even if
they could make,[124] any adequate arrangements for the protection of
the traveler. At Philadelphia Mr. Lincoln was told of the fears of his
friends, and talked with Mr. Pinkerton, but he refused to change his
plan. On February 22 he was to assist at a flag-raising in Philadelphia,
and was then to go on to Harrisburg, and on the following day he was to
go from there to Baltimore. He declined to alter either route or hours.

But other persons besides Mr. Felton had been busy with independent
detective investigations, the result of which was in full accord with
the report of Mr. Pinkerton. On February 22 Mr. Frederick W. Seward,
sent by his father and General Scott, both then at Washington, delivered
to Mr. Lincoln, at Philadelphia, the message that there was "serious
danger" to his life if the time of his passage through Baltimore should
be known. Yet Lincoln still remained obdurate. He declared that if an
escorting delegation from Baltimore should meet him at Harrisburg, he
would go on with it. But at Harrisburg no such escort presented itself.
Then the few who knew the situation discussed further as to what should
be done, Norman B. Judd being chief spokesman for evading the danger by
a change of programme. Naturally the objection of seeming timid and of
exciting ridicule was present in the minds of all, and it was put
somewhat emphatically by Colonel Sumner. Mr. Lincoln at last settled the
dispute; he said: "I have thought over this matter considerably since I
went over the ground with Pinkerton last night. The appearance of Mr.
Frederick Seward, with warning from another source, confirms Mr.
Pinkerton's belief. Unless there are some other reasons besides fear of
ridicule, I am disposed to carry out Judd's plan."

This plan was accordingly carried out with the success which its
simplicity insured. Mr. Lincoln and his stalwart friend, Colonel Lamon,
slipped out of a side door to a hackney carriage, were driven to the
railway station, and returned by the train to Philadelphia. Their
departure was not noticed, but had it been, news of it could not have
been sent away, for Mr. Felton had had the telegraph wires secretly cut
outside the town. He also ordered, upon a plausible pretext, that the
southward-bound night train on his road should be held back until the
arrival of this train from Harrisburg. Mr. Lincoln and Colonel Lamon
passed from the one train to the other without recognition, and rolled
into Washington early on the following morning. Mr. Seward and Mr.
Washburne met Lincoln at the station and went with him to Willard's
Hotel. Soon afterward the country was astonished, and perhaps some
persons were discomfited, as the telegraph carried abroad the news of
his arrival.

Those who were disappointed at this safe conclusion of his journey, if
in fact there were any such, together with many who would have contemned
assassination, at once showered upon him sneers and ridicule. They said
that Lincoln had put on a disguise and had shown the white feather, when
there had been no real danger. But this was not just. Whether or not
there was the completed machinery of a definite, organized plot for
assault and assassination is uncertain; that is to say, this is not
_proved_; yet the evidence is so strong that the majority of
investigators seem to agree in the opinion that _probably_ there was a
plan thoroughly concerted and ready for execution. Even if there was
not, it was very likely that a riot might be suddenly started, which
would be as fatal in its consequences as a premeditated scheme. But,
after all, the question of the plot is one of mere curiosity and quite
aside from the true issue. That issue, so far as it presented itself for
determination by Mr. Lincoln, was simply whether a case of such
probability of danger was made out that as a prudent man he should
overrule the only real objection,--that of exciting ridicule,--and avoid
a peril which the best judges believed to exist, and which, if it did
exist, involved consequences of immeasurable seriousness not only to
himself but to the nation. For a wise man only one conclusion was
possible. The story of the disguise was a silly slander, based upon the
trifling fact that for this night journey Lincoln wore a traveling cap
instead of his hat.

Lincoln's own opinion as to the danger is not quite clear.[125] He said
to Mr. Lossing that, after hearing Mr. Seward, he believed "such a plot
to be in existence." But he also said: "I did not then, nor do I now,
believe I should have been assassinated, had I gone through Baltimore as
first contemplated; but I thought it wise to run no risk, where no risk
was necessary."

The reflection can hardly fail to occur, how grossly unfair it was that
Mr. Lincoln should be put into the position in which he was put at this
time, and then that fault should be found with him even if his prudence
was overstrained. Many millions of people in the country hated him with
a hatred unutterable; among them might well be many fanatics, to whom
assassination would seem a noble act, many desperadoes who would regard
it as a pleasing excitement; and he was to go through a city which men
of this stamp could at any time dominate. The custom of the country
compelled this man, whom it had long since selected as its ruler, to
make a journey of extreme danger without any species of protection
whatsoever. So far as peril went, no other individual in the United
States had ever, presumably, been in a peril like that which beset him;
so far as safeguards went, he had no more than any other traveler. A few
friends volunteered to make the journey with him, but they were useless
as guardians; and he and they were so hustled and jammed in the railway
stations that one of them actually had his arm broken. This
extraordinary spectacle may have indicated folly on the part of the
nation which permitted it, but certainly it did not involve the disgrace
of the individual who had no choice about it. The people put Mr. Lincoln
in a position in which he was subjected to the most appalling, as it is
the most vague, of all dangers, and then left him to take care of
himself as best he could. It was ungenerous afterward to criticise him
for exercising prudence in the performance of that duty which he ought
never to have been called upon to perform at all.[126]

Immediately after his arrival in Washington Mr. Lincoln received a
visit from the members of the Peace Congress. Grotesque and ridiculous
descriptions of him, as if he had been a Caliban in education, manners,
and aspect, had been rife among Southerners, and the story goes that the
Southern delegates expected to be at once amused and shocked by the
sight of a clodhopper whose conversation would be redolent of the
barnyard, not to say of the pigsty. Those of them who had any skill in
reading character were surprised,--as the tradition is,--discomfited,
even a little alarmed, at what in fact they beheld; for Mr. Lincoln
appeared before them a self-possessed man, expressing to them such clear
convictions and such a distinct and firm purpose as compelled them into
new notions of his capacity and told them of much trouble ahead. His
remark to Mr. Rives, coming from one who spoke accurately, had an
ominous sound in rebellious ears: "My course is as plain as a turnpike
road. It is marked out by the Constitution. I am in no doubt which way
to go." The wiser Southerners withdrew from this reception quite sober
and thoughtful, with some new ideas about the man with whom their
relationship seemed on the verge of becoming hostile. After abundant
allowance is made for the enthusiasm of Northern admirers, it remains
certain that Lincoln bore well this severe ordeal of criticism on the
part of those who would have been glad to despise him. Ungainly they saw
him, but not undignified, and the strange impressive sadness seldom
dwelt so strikingly upon his face as at this time, as though all the
weight of misery, which the millions of his fellow citizens were to
endure throughout the coming years, already burdened the soul of the
ruler who had been chosen to play the most responsible part in the
crisis and the anguish.

March 4, 1861, inauguration day, was fine and sunny. If there had ever
been any real danger of trouble, the fear of it had almost entirely
subsided. Northerners and Southerners had found out in good season that
General Scott was not in a temporizing mood; he had in the city two
batteries, a few companies of regulars,--653 men, exclusive of some
marines,--and the corps of picked Washington Volunteers. He said that
this force was all he wanted. President Buchanan left the White House
in an open carriage, escorted by a company of sappers and miners under
Captain Duane. At Willard's Hotel Mr. Lincoln entered the carriage, and
the two gentlemen passed along the avenue, through crowds which cheered
but made no disturbance, to the Capitol. General Scott with his regulars
marched, "flanking the movement, in parallel streets." His two
batteries, while not made unpleasantly conspicuous, yet controlled the
plateau which extends before the east front of the Capitol. Mr. Lincoln
was simply introduced by Senator Baker of Oregon, and delivered his
inaugural address. His voice had great carrying capacity, and the vast
crowd heard with ease a speech of which every sentence was fraught with
an importance and scrutinized with an anxiety far beyond that of any
other speech ever delivered in the United States. At its close the
venerable Chief Justice Taney administered the oath of office, thereby
informally but effectually reversing the most famous opinion delivered
by him during his long incumbency in his high office.

The inaugural address was simple, earnest, and direct, unincumbered by
that rhetorical ornamentation which the American people have always
admired as the highest form of eloquence. Those Northerners who had
expected magniloquent periods and exaggerated outbursts of patriotism
were disappointed; and as they listened in vain for the scream of the
eagle, many grumbled at the absence of what they conceived to be
_force_. Yet the general feeling was of satisfaction, which grew as the
address was more thoroughly studied. The Southerners, upon their part,
looking anxiously to see whether or not they must fight for their
purpose, construed the words of the new President correctly. They heard
him say: "The union of these States is perpetual." "No State upon its
own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union." "I shall take care,
as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of
the Union be faithfully executed in all the States." He also declared
his purpose "to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places
belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts."
These sentences made up the issue directly with secession, and the
South, reading them, knew that, if the North was ready to back the
President, war was inevitable; none the less so because Mr. Lincoln
closed with patriotic and generous words: "We are not enemies, but
friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it
must not break our bonds of affection."

Until after the election of Mr. Lincoln in November, 1860, the sole
issue between the North and the South, between Republicans on the one
hand and Democrats and Compromisers on the other, had related to
slavery. Logically, the position of the Republicans was impregnable.
Their platforms and their leaders agreed that the party intended
strictly to respect the Constitution, and not to interfere at all with
slavery in the States within which it now lawfully existed. They said
with truth that they had in no case deprived the slaveholding
communities of their rights, and they denied the truth of the charge
that they cherished an inchoate design to interfere with those rights;
adding very truly that, at worst, a mere design, which did not find
expression in an overt act, could give no right of action to the South.
Mr. Lincoln had been most explicit in declaring that the opposition to
slavery was not to go beyond efforts to prevent its _extension_, which
efforts would be wholly within the Constitution and the law. He repeated
these things in his inaugural.

But while these incontrovertible allegations gave the Republicans a
logical advantage of which they properly made the most, the South
claimed a right to make other collateral and equally undeniable facts
the ground of action. The only public matter in connection with which
Mr. Lincoln had won any reputation was that of slavery. No one could
deny that he had been elected because the Republican party had been
pleased with his expression of opinion on this subject. Now his most
pointed and frequently reiterated expression of that opinion was that
slavery was a "moral, social, and political evil;" and this language was
a fair equivalent of the statement of the Republican platform of 1856,
classing Slavery and Mormonism together, as "twin relics of barbarism."
That the North was willing, or would long be willing, to remain in
amicable social and political bonds with a moral, social, and political
evil, and a relic of barbarism, was intrinsically improbable, and was
made more improbable by the symptoms of the times.[127] Indeed, Mr.
Seward had said, in famous words, that his section would not play this
unworthy part; he had proclaimed already the existence of an
"irrepressible conflict;" and therefore the South had the word of the
Republican leader that, in spite of the Republican respect for the law,
an anti-slavery crusade was already in existence. The Southern chiefs
distinctly recognized and accepted this situation.[128] There was an
avowed Northern condemnation of their institution; there was an
acknowledged "conflict." Such being the case, it was the opinion of the
chief men at the South that the position taken by the North, of strict
performance of clear constitutional duties concerning an odious
institution, would not suffice for the safe perpetuation of that
institution.[129] This, their judgment, appeared to be in a certain way
also the judgment of Mr. Lincoln; for he also conceived that to put
slavery where the "fathers" had left it was to put it "in the way of
ultimate extinction;" and he had, in the most famous utterance of his
life, given his forecast of the future to the effect that the country
would in time be "all free." The only logical deduction was that he, and
the Republican party which had agreed with him sufficiently to make him
president, believed that the South had no lawful recourse by which this
result, however unwelcome or ruinous, could in the long run and the
fullness of time be escaped. Under such circumstances Southern political
leaders now decided that the time for separation had come. In speaking
of their scheme they called it "secession," and said that secession was
a lawful act because the Constitution was a compact revocable by any of
the parties. They might have called it "revolution,"[130] and have
defended it upon the general right of any large body of people,
dissatisfied with the government under which they find themselves, to
cast it off. But, if the step was _revolution_, then the burden of proof
was upon them; whereas they said that _secession_ was their lawful
right, without any regard whatsoever to the motive which induced them to
exercise it.[131] Such was the character of the issue between the North
and the South prior to the first ordinance of secession. The action of
South Carolina, followed by the other Gulf States, at once changed that
issue, shifting it from pro-slavery versus anti-slavery to union versus
disunion. This alteration quickly compelled great numbers of men, both
at the North and at the South, to reconsider and, upon a new issue, to
place themselves also anew.

It has been said by all writers that in the seven seceding States there
was, in the four months following the election, a very large proportion
of "Union men." The name only signified that these men did not think
that the present inducements to disunion were sufficient to render it a
wise measure. It did not signify that they thought disunion unlawful,
unconstitutional, and treasonable. When, however, state conventions
decided the question of advisability against their opinions, and they
had to choose between allegiance to the State and allegiance to the
Union, they immediately adhered to the State, and this none the less
because they feared that she had taken an ill-advised step. That is to
say, at the South a "Union man" _wished_ to preserve the Union, whereas
at the North a "Union man" recognized a supreme _obligation_ to do so.

While the South, by political alchemy, was becoming solidified and
homogeneous, a corresponding change was going on at the North. In that
section the great numbers--of whom some would have re-made the
Constitution, others would have agreed to peaceable separation, and
still others would have made any concession to retain the integrity of
the Union--now saw that these were indeed, as Jefferson Davis had said,
"quack nostrums," and that the choice lay between permitting a secession
accompanied with insulting menaces and some degree of actual violence,
and maintaining the Union by coercion. In this dilemma great multitudes
of Northern Democrats, whose consciences had never been in the least
disturbed by the existence of slavery in the country or even by efforts
to extend it, became "Union men" in the Northern sense of the word,
which made it about equivalent to coercionists. Their simple creed was
the integrity and perpetuity of the nation.

Mr. Lincoln showed in his inaugural his accurate appreciation of the new
situation. Owing all that he had become in the world to a few
anti-slavery speeches, elevated to the presidency by votes which really
meant little else than hostility to slavery, what was more natural than
that he should at this moment revert to this great topic and make the
old dispute the main part and real substance of his address? But this
fatal error he avoided. With unerring judgment he dwelt little on that
momentous issue which had only just been displaced, and took his stand
fairly upon that still more momentous one which had so newly come up. He
spoke for the Union; upon that basis a united North _ought_ to support
him; upon that basis the more northern of the slave States might remain
loyal. As matter of fact, Union had suddenly become the real issue, but
it needed at the hands of the President to be publicly and explicitly
announced as such; this recognition was essential; he gave it on this
earliest opportunity, and the announcement was the first great service
of the new Republican ruler. It seems now as though he could hardly have
done otherwise, or have fallen into the error of allying himself with
bygone or false issues. It may be admitted that he could not have passed
this new one by; but the important matter was that of proportion and
relation, and in this it was easy to blunder. In truth it was a crisis
when blundering was so easy that nearly all the really able men of the
North had been doing it badly for three or four months past, and not a
few of them were going to continue it for two or three months to come.
Therefore the sound conception of the inaugural deserves to be
considered as an indication, one among many, of Lincoln's capacity for
seeing with entire distinctness the great main fact, and for recognizing
it as such. Other matters, which lay over and around such a fact, side
issues, questions of detail, affairs of disguise or deception, never
confused or misled him. He knew with unerring accuracy where the biggest
fact lay, and he always anchored fast to it and stayed with it. For many
years he had been anchored to anti-slavery; now, in the face of the
nation, he shifted his anchorage to the Union; and each time he held


[114] Breckenridge was the legitimate representative of the
administrationists, and his ticket received only 847,953 votes out of
4,680,193. Douglas and Buchanan were at open war.

[115] See remarks of Mr. Elaine upon use of this word. _Twenty Years of
Congress_, i. 219.

[116] But it should be said that Attorney-General Black supported these
views in a very elaborate opinion, which he had furnished to the
President, and which was transmitted to Congress at the same time with
the message.

[117] Greeley afterwards truly said that his journal had plenty of
company in these sentiments, even among the Republican sheets. _Amer.
Conflict_, i. 359. Reference is made in the text to the utterances of
the _Tribune_ more because it was so prominent and influential than
because it was very peculiar in its position.

[118] Wilson, _Rise and Fall of Slave Power_, iii. 63-69; N. and H. in.
255. See account of "the Pine Street meeting," New York, in Dix's
_Memoirs of Dix_, i. 347.

[119] For an account of this by General Dix himself, see _Memoirs of
John A. Dix_, by Morgan Dix, i. 370-373.

[120] Arkansas, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, and Wisconsin

[121] It differed from that of the United States very little, save in
containing a distinct recognition of slavery, and in being made by the
States instead of by the people.

[122] _American Conflict_, i. 351.

[123] This includes Delaware, 110,420, and Maryland, 599,846.

[124] Marshal Kane and most of the police were reported to be
Secessionists. Pinkerton, _Spy of the Rebellion_, 50, 61.

[125] Lamon says that Mr. Lincoln afterwards regretted this journey, and
became convinced "that he had committed a grave mistake." Lamon, 527. So
also McClure, 45, 48.

[126] For accounts of this journey and statements of the evidence of a
plot, see Schouler, _Hist. of Mass. in Civil War_, i. 59-65 (account by
Samuel M. Felton, Prest. P.W. & B.R.R. Co.); N. and H. iii. ch. 19 and
20; Chittenden, _Recoll. of Lincoln_, x.; Holland, 275; Arnold, 183-187;
Lamon, ch. xx. (this account ought to be, and doubtless is, the most
trustworthy); Herndon, 492 (a bit of gossip which sounds improbable);
Pinkerton, _Spy of the Rebellion_, 45-103. On the anti-plot side of the
question the most important evidence is the little volume, _Baltimore
and the Nineteenth of April_, 1861, by George William Brown. This
witness, whose strict veracity is beyond question, was mayor of the
city. One of his statements, especially, is of the greatest importance.
It is obvious that, if the plot existed, one of two things ought to
occur on the morning of February 23, viz.: either the plotters and the
mobsmen should know that Mr. Lincoln had escaped them, or else they
should be at the station at the hour set for his arrival. In fact they
were not at the station; there was no sudden assault on the cars, nor
other indication of assassins and a mob. Had they, then, received
knowledge of what had occurred? Those who sustain the plot-theory say
that the news had spread through the city, so that all the assassins and
the gangs of the "Plug Uglies" knew that their game was up. This was
_possible_, for Mr. Lincoln had arrived in the Washington station a few
minutes after six o'clock in the morning, and the train which was
expected to bring him to Baltimore did not arrive in Baltimore until
half after eleven o'clock. But, on the other hand, the news was not
dispatched from Washington immediately upon his arrival; somewhat later,
though still early in the morning, the detectives telegraphed to the
friends of Mr. Lincoln, but in cipher. Just at what time intelligible
telegrams, which would inform the public, were sent out cannot be
learned; but upon any arrangement of hours it is obvious that the time
was exceedingly short for distributing the news throughout the lower
quarters of Baltimore by word of mouth, and there is no pretense of any
publication. But while the believers in the plot say, nevertheless, that
this had been done and that the story of the journey had spread through
the city so that all the assassins and "Plug Uglies" knew it in time to
avoid assembling at the railway station about eleven o'clock, yet it
appears that Mr. Brown, the mayor, knew nothing about it. On the
contrary, he tells us that in anticipation of Mr. Lincoln's arrival he,
"as mayor of the city, accompanied by the police commissioners and
supported by a strong force of police, was at the Calvert Street station
on Saturday morning, February 23, at 11.30 o'clock ... ready to receive
with due respect the incoming President. An open carriage was in
waiting, in which I was to have the honor of escorting Mr. Lincoln
through the city to the Washington station, and of sharing in any danger
which he might encounter. It is hardly necessary to say that I
apprehended none." To the "great astonishment" of Mr. Brown, however,
the train brought only "Mrs. Lincoln and her three sons," and "it was
then announced that he had passed through the city _incognito_ in the
night train." This is a small bit of evidence to set against the
elaborate stories of the believers in the plot, yet to some it will seem
like the little obstruction which suffices to throw a whole railway
train from the track. I would rather let any reader, who is sufficiently
interested to examine the matter, reach his own conclusion, than
endeavor to furnish one for him; for I think that a dispute more
difficult of really conclusive settlement will not easily be found.

[127] Some of the Southern members of Congress collected and recited
sundry noteworthy utterances of Republicans concerning slavery, and
certainly there was little in them to induce a sense of security on the
part of slaveholders. Wilson, _Rise and Fall of Slave Power_, iii. 97,

[128] Toombs declared, as Lincoln had said, that what was wanted was
that the North should _call slavery right_. Wilson, _Rise and Fall of
Slave Power_, iii. 76. Stephens declared the "corner-stone" of the new
government to be "the great truth that the negro is not equal to the
white man; that slavery ... is his natural and normal condition;" and
said that it was the first government "in the history of the world based
upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth." N. and H.
iii. 203; and see his letter to Lincoln, _ibid._ 272, 273. Mississippi,
in declaring the causes of her secession, said: "Our position is
thoroughly identical with the institution of slavery,--the greatest
material interest in the world." N. and H. iii. 201. Senator Mason of
Virginia said: "It is a war of sentiment, of opinion; a war of one form
of society against another form of society." Wilson, _Rise and Fall of
Slave Power_, iii. 26. Green of Missouri ascribed the trouble to the
"vitiated and corrupted state of public sentiment." _Ibid._ 23. Iverson
of Georgia said it was the "public sentiment" at the North, not the
"overt acts" of the Republican administration, that was feared; and said
that there was ineradicable enmity between the two sections, which had
not lived together in peace, were not so living now, and could not be
expected to do so in the future. _Ibid._ 17.

[129] Historians generally seem to admit that the South had to choose
between making the fight now, and seeing its favorite institution
gradually become extinct.

[130] Sometimes, though very rarely, the word was used.

[131] See Lincoln's message to Congress, July 4, 1861.



From the inaugural ceremonies Lincoln drove quietly back through
Pennsylvania Avenue and entered the White House, the President of the
United States,--alas, united no longer. Many an anxious citizen breathed
more freely when the dreaded hours had passed without disturbance. But
burdens a thousand fold heavier than any which were lifted from others
descended upon the new ruler. Save, however, that the thoughtful,
far-away expression of sadness had of late seemed deeper and more
impressive than ever before, Lincoln gave no sign of inward trouble. His
singular temperament armed him with a rare and peculiar strength beneath
responsibility and in the face of duty. He has been seen, with entire
tranquillity, not only seeking, but seeming to assume as his natural due
or destiny, positions which appeared preposterously out of accord alike
with his early career and with his later opportunities for development.
In trying to explain this, it is easier to say what was _not_ the
underlying quality than what it was. Certainly there was no taint
whatsoever of that vulgar self-confidence which is so apt to lead the
"free and equal" citizens of the great republic into grotesque
positions. Perhaps it was a grand simplicity of faith; a profound
instinctive confidence that by patient, honest thinking it would be
possible to know the right road, and by earnest enduring courage to
follow it. Perhaps it was that so-called divine inspiration which seems
always a part of the highest human fitness. The fact which is distinctly
visible is, that a fair, plain and honest method of thinking saved him
from the perplexities which beset subtle dialecticians in politics and
in constitutional law. He had lately said that his course was "as plain
as a turnpike road;" it was, to execute the public laws.

His duty was simple; his understanding of it was unclouded by doubt or
sophistry; his resolution to do it was firm; but whether his hands would
be strengthened sufficiently to enable him to do it was a question of
grave anxiety. The president of a republic can do everything if the
people are at his back, and almost nothing if the people are not at his
back. Where, then, were now the people of the United States? In seven
States they were openly and unitedly against him; in at least seven more
they were under a very strong temptation to range themselves against him
in case of a conflict; and as for the Republican States of the North, on
that fourth day of March, 1861, no man could say to what point they
would sustain the administration. There had as yet come slight
indications of any change in the conceding, compromising temper of that
section. Greeley and Seward and Wendell Phillips, representative men,
were little better than Secessionists. The statement sounds ridiculous,
yet the proof against each comes from his own mouth. The "Tribune" had
retracted none of those disunion sentiments, of which examples have been
given. Even so late as April 10, 1861, Mr. Seward wrote officially to
Mr. C.F. Adams, minister to England: "Only an imperial and despotic
government could subjugate thoroughly disaffected and insurrectionary
members of the state. This federal, republican country of ours is, of
all forms of government, the very one which is the most unfitted for
such a labor." He had been and still was favoring delay and
conciliation, in the visionary hope that the seceders would follow the
scriptural precedent of the prodigal son. On April 9 the rumor of a
fight at Sumter being spread abroad, Mr. Phillips said:[132] "Here are a
series of States, girding the Gulf, who think that their peculiar
institutions require that they should have a separate government. They
have a right to decide that question without appealing to you or me....
Standing with the principles of '76 behind us, who can deny them the
right?... Abraham Lincoln has no right to a soldier in Fort Sumter....
There is no longer a Union.... Mr. Jefferson Davis is angry, and Mr.
Abraham Lincoln is mad, and they agree to fight.... You cannot go
through Massachusetts and recruit men to bombard Charleston or New
Orleans.... We are in no condition to fight.... Nothing but madness can
provoke war with the Gulf States;"--with much more to the same effect.

If the veterans of the old anti-slavery contest were in this frame of
mind in April, Lincoln could hardly place much dependence upon the
people at large in March. If he could not "recruit men" in
Massachusetts, in what State could he reasonably expect to do so?
Against such discouragement it can only be said that he had a singular
instinct for the underlying popular feeling, that he could scent it in
the distance and in hiding; moreover, that he was always willing to run
the chance of any consequences which might follow the performance of a
clear duty. Still, as he looked over the dreary Northern field in those
chill days of early March, he must have had a marvelous sensitiveness in
order to perceive the generative heat and force in the depths beneath
the cheerless surface and awaiting only the fullness of the near spring
season to burst forth in sudden universal vigor. Yet such was his
knowledge and such his faith concerning the people that we may fancy, if
we will, that he foresaw the great transformation. But there were still
other matters which disturbed him. Before his inauguration, he had heard
much of his coming official isolation. One of the arguments reiterated
alike by Southern Unionists and by Northerners had been that the
Republican President would be powerless, because the Senate, the House,
and the Supreme Court were all opposed to him. But the supposed lack of
political sympathy on the part of these bodies, however it might beget
anxiety for the future, was for the present of much less moment than
another fact, viz., that none of the distinguished men, leaders in his
own party, whom Lincoln found about him at Washington, were in a frame
of mind to assist him efficiently. If all did not actually distrust his
capacity and character,--which, doubtless, many honestly did,--at least
they were profoundly ignorant concerning both. Therefore they could not
yet, and did not, place genuine, implicit confidence in him; they could
not yet, and did not, advise and aid him at all in the same spirit and
with the same usefulness as later they were able to do. They were not to
blame for this; on the contrary, the condition had been brought about
distinctly against their will, since certainly few of them had looked
with favor upon the selection of an unknown, inexperienced, ill-educated
man as the Republican candidate for the presidency. How much Lincoln
felt his loneliness will never be known; for, reticent and
self-contained at all times, he gave no outward sign. That he felt it
less than other men would have done may be regarded as certain; for, as
has already appeared to some extent, and as will appear much more in
this narrative, he was singularly self-reliant, and, at least in
appearance, was strangely indifferent to any counsel or support which
could be brought to him by others. Yet, marked as was this trait in him,
he could hardly have been human had he not felt oppressed by the
personal solitude and political isolation of his position when the
responsibility of his great office rested newly upon him. Under all
these circumstances, if this lonely man moved slowly and cautiously
during the early weeks of his administration, it was not at his door
that the people had the right to lay the reproach of weakness or

Mr. Buchanan, for the convenience of his successor, had called an extra
session of the Senate, and on March 5 President Lincoln sent in the
nominations for his cabinet. All were immediately confirmed, as

  William H. Seward, New York, secretary of state.
  Salmon P. Chase, Ohio, secretary of the treasury.
  Simon Cameron, Pennsylvania, secretary of war.
  Gideon Welles, Connecticut, secretary of the navy.
  Caleb B. Smith, Indiana, secretary of the interior.
  Edward Bates, Missouri, attorney-general.
  Montgomery Blair, Maryland, postmaster-general.

It is matter of course that a cabinet slate should fail to give general
satisfaction; and this one encountered fully the average measure of
criticism. The body certainly was somewhat heterogeneous in its
composition, yet the same was true of the Republican party which it
represented. Nor was it by any means so heterogeneous as Mr. Lincoln
had designed to have it, for he had made efforts to place in it a
Southern spokesman for Southern views; and he had not desisted from the
purpose until its futility was made apparent by the direct refusal of
Mr. Gilmer of North Carolina, and by indications of a like unwillingness
on the part of one or two other Southerners who were distantly sounded
on the subject. Seward, Chase, Bates, and Cameron were the four men who
had manifested the greatest popularity, after Lincoln, in the national
convention, and the selection of them, therefore, showed that Mr.
Lincoln was seeking strength rather than amity in his cabinet; for it
was certainly true that each one of them had a following which was far
from being wholly in sympathy with the following of any one of the
others. The President evidently believed that it was of more importance
that each great body of Northern men should feel that its opinions were
fairly presented, than that his cabinet officers should always
comfortably unite in looking at questions from one and the same point of
view. Judge Davis says that Lincoln's original design was to appoint
Democrats and Republicans alike to office. He carried this theory so far
that the radical Republicans regarded the make-up of the cabinet as a
"disgraceful surrender to the South;" while men of less extreme views
saw with some alarm that he had called to his advisory council four
ex-Democrats and only three ex-Whigs, a criticism which he met by saying
that he himself was an "old-line Whig" and should be there to make the
parties even. On the other hand, the Republicans of the middle line of
States grumbled much at the selection of Bates and Blair as
representatives of their section.

The cabinet had not been brought together without some jarring and
friction, especially in the case of Cameron. On December 31 Mr. Lincoln
intimated to him that he should have either the Treasury or the War
Department, but on January 3 requested him to "decline the appointment."
Cameron, however, had already mentioned the matter to many friends,
without any suggestion that he should not be glad to accept either
position, and therefore, even if he were willing to accede to the
sudden, strange, and unexplained request of Mr. Lincoln, he would have
found it difficult to do so without giving rise to much embarrassing
gossip. Accordingly he did not decline, and thereupon ensued much
wire-pulling. Pennsylvania protectionists wanted Cameron in the
Treasury, and strenuously objected to Chase as an ex-Democrat of
free-trade proclivities. On the other hand, Lincoln gradually hardened
into the resolution that Chase should have the Treasury. He made the
tender, and it was accepted. He then offered consolation to Pennsylvania
by giving the War portfolio to Cameron, which was accepted with
something of chagrin. How far this Cameron episode was affected by the
bargain declared by Lamon to have been made at Chicago cannot be told.
Other biographers ignore this story, but I do not see how the direct
testimony furnished by Lamon and corroborated by Colonel McClure can
justly be treated in this way; neither is the temptation so to treat it
apparent, since the evidence entirely absolves Lincoln from any
complicity at the time of making the alleged "trade," while he could
hardly be blamed if he felt somewhat hampered by it afterward.

Seward also gave trouble which he ought not to have given. On December 8
Lincoln wrote to him that he would nominate him as secretary of state.
Mr. Seward assented and the matter remained thus comfortably settled
until so late as March 2, 1861, when Seward wrote a brief note asking
"leave to withdraw his consent." Apparently the Democratic complexion of
the cabinet, and the suggestions of suspicious friends, made him fear
that his influence in the ministry would be inferior to that of Chase.
Coming at this eleventh hour, which already had its weighty burden of
many anxieties, this brief destructive note was both embarrassing and
exasperating. It meant the entire reconstruction of the cabinet. Never
did Lincoln's tranquil indifference to personal provocation stand him in
better stead than in this crisis,--for a crisis it was when Seward, in
discontent and distrust, desired to draw aloof from the administration.
He held the note of the recalcitrant politician for two days unanswered,
then he wrote a few lines: "Your note," he said, "is the subject of the
most painful solicitude with me; and I feel constrained to beg that you
will countermand the withdrawal. The public interest, I think, demands
that you should; and my personal feelings are deeply enlisted in the
same direction." These words set Mr. Seward right again; on March 5 he
withdrew his letter of March 2, and in a few hours was appointed.

Immediately after the installation of the new government three
commissioners from the Confederacy came to Washington, and requested an
official audience. They said that seven States of the American Union had
withdrawn therefrom, had reassumed sovereign power, and were now an
independent nation in fact and in right; that, in order to adjust upon
terms of amity and good-will all questions growing out of this political
separation, they were instructed to make overtures for opening
negotiations, with the assurance that the Confederate government
earnestly desired a peaceful solution and would make no demand not
founded in strictest justice, neither do any act to injure their late
confederates. From the Confederate point of view these approaches were
dignified and conciliatory; from the Northern point of view they were
treasonable and insolent. Probably the best fruit which Mr. Davis hoped
from them was that Mr. Seward, who was well known to be desirous of
finding some peace-assuring middle course, might be led into a
discussion of the situation, inevitably provoking divisions in the
cabinet, in the Republican party, and in the country. But though
Seward's frame of mind about this time was such as to put him in great
jeopardy of committing hurtful blunders, he was fortunate enough to
escape quite doing so. To the agent of the commissioners he replied that
he must "consult the President," and the next day he wrote, in terms of
personal civility, that he could not receive them. Nevertheless they
remained in Washington a few weeks longer, gathering and forwarding to
the Confederate government such information as they could. In this they
were aided by Judge Campbell of Alabama, a Secessionist, who still
retained his seat upon the bench of the Supreme Court. This gentleman
now became a messenger between the commissioners and Mr. Seward, with
the purpose of eliciting news and even pledges from the latter for the
use of the former. His errands especially related to Fort Sumter, and he
gradually drew from Mr. Seward strong expressions of opinion that Sumter
would in time be evacuated, even declarations substantially to the
effect that this was the arranged policy of the government. Words which
fell in so agreeably with the wishes of the judge and the commissioners
were received with that warm welcome which often outruns correct
construction, and later were construed by them as actual assurances, at
least in substance, whereby they conceived themselves to have been
"abused and overreached," and they charged the government with
"equivocating conduct." In the second week in April, contemporaneously
with the Sumter crisis, they addressed to Mr. Seward a high-flown
missive of reproach, in which they ostentatiously washed the hands of
the South, as it were, and shook from their own departing feet the dust
of the obdurate North, where they had not been met "in the conciliatory
and peaceful spirit" in which they had come. They invoked "impartial
history" to place the responsibility of blood and mourning upon those
who had denied the great fundamental doctrine of American liberty; and
they declared it "clear that Mr. Lincoln had determined to appeal to the
sword to reduce the people of the Confederate States to the will of the
section or party whose President he is." In this dust-cloud of glowing
rhetoric vanished the last deceit of peaceful settlement.

About the same time, April 13, sundry commissioners from the Virginia
convention waited upon Lincoln with the request that he would
communicate the policy which he intended to pursue towards the
Confederate States. Lincoln replied with a patient civility that cloaked
satire: "Having at the beginning of my official term expressed my
intended policy as plainly as I was able, it is with deep regret and
some mortification I now learn that there is great and injurious
uncertainty in the public mind as to what that policy is, and what
course I intend to pursue." To this ratification of the plain position
taken in his inaugural, he added that he might see fit to repossess
himself of the public property, and that possibly he might withdraw the
mail service from the seceding States.

The inauguration of Mr. Lincoln was followed by a lull which endured for
several weeks. A like repose reigned contemporaneously in the
Confederate States. For a while the people in both sections received
with content this reaction of quiescence. But as the same laws of human
nature were operative equally at the North and at the South, it soon
came about that both at the North and at the South there broke forth
almost simultaneously strong manifestations of impatience. The genuine
President at Washington and the sham President at Montgomery were
assailed by the like pressing demand: Why did they not do something to
settle this matter? Southern irascibility found the situation
exceedingly trying. The imposing and dramatic attitude of the
Confederate States had not achieved an appropriate result. They had
organized a government and posed as an independent nation, but no power
in the civilized world had yet recognized them in this character; on the
contrary, Abraham Lincoln, living hard by in the White House, was
explicitly denying it, contumaciously alleging himself to be their
lawful ruler, and waiting with an exasperating patience to see what they
were really going to do in the business which they had undertaken. They
must make some move or they would become ridiculous, and their
revolution would die and their confederacy would dissolve from sheer
inanition. The newspapers told their leaders this plainly; and a
prominent gentleman of Alabama said to Mr. Davis: "Sir, unless you
sprinkle blood in the face of the people of Alabama, they will be back
in the Union in ten days." On the other hand, the people of the North
were as energetic as the sons of the South were excitable, and with
equal urgency they also demanded a conclusion. If the Union was to be
enforced, why did not Mr. Lincoln enforce it? How long did he mean
placidly to suffer treason and a rival government to rest undisturbed
within the country?

With this state of feeling growing rapidly more intense in both
sections, action was inevitable. Yet neither leader wished to act first,
even for the important purpose of gratifying the popular will. As where
two men are resolved to fight, yet have an uneasy vision of a judge and
jury in waiting for them, each seeks to make the other the assailant and
himself to be upon his defense, so these two rulers took prudent thought
of the tribunal of public sentiment not in America alone but in Europe
also, with perhaps a slight forward glance towards posterity. If Mr.
Lincoln did not like to "invade" the Southern territory, Mr. Davis was
equally reluctant to make the Southern "withdrawal" actively belligerent
through operations of military offense. Both men were capable of
statesmanlike waiting to score a point that was worth waiting for; Davis
had been for years biding the ripeness of time, but Lincoln had the
capacity of patience beyond any precedent on record.

The spot where the strain came, where this question of the first blow
must be settled, was at Fort Sumter, in the mid-throat of Charleston
harbor. On December 27, 1860, by a skillful movement at night, Major
Anderson, the commander at Fort Moultrie, had transferred his scanty
force from that dilapidated and untenable post on the shore to the more
defensible and more important position of Fort Sumter. Thereafter a
precarious relationship betwixt peace and war had subsisted between him
and the South Carolinians. It was distinctly understood that, sooner or
later, by negotiation or by force, South Carolina intended to possess
herself of this fortress. From her point of view it certainly was
preposterous and unendurable that the key to her chief harbor and city
should be permanently held by a "foreign" power. Gradually she erected
batteries on the neighboring mainland, and kept a close surveillance
upon the troops now more than half besieged in the fort.

Under the Buchanan régime the purpose of the United States government
had been less plain than it became after Mr. Lincoln's accession; for
Buchanan had not the courage either to order a surrender, or to provoke
real warfare by reinforcing the place. In vain did the unfortunate Major
Anderson seek distinct instructions; the replies which he received were
contradictory and more obscure than Delphic oracles. This unfair,
vacillating, and contemptible conduct indicated the desire to lay upon
him alone the whole responsibility of the situation, with a politic and
selfish reservation to the government of the advantage of disavowing and
discrediting him, whatever he might do. On January 9 a futile effort at
communication was made by the steamer Star of the West; it failed, and
left matters worse rather than better. On March 3, 1861, the Confederate
government put General Beauregard in command at Charleston, thereby
emphasizing the resolution to have Sumter ere long. Such was the
situation on March 4, when Mr. Lincoln came into control and declared a
policy which bound him to "hold, occupy, and possess" Sumter. On the
same day there came a letter from Major Anderson, describing his
position. There were shut up in the fort together a certain number of
men and a certain quantity of biscuit and of pork; when the men should
have eaten the biscuit and the pork, which they would probably do in
about four weeks, they would have to go away. The problem thus became
direct, simple, and urgent.

Lincoln sought an opinion from Scott, and was told that "evacuation
seems almost inevitable." He requested a more thorough investigation,
and a reply to specific questions: "To what point of time can Anderson
maintain his position in Sumter? Can you, with present means, relieve
him in that time? What additional means would enable you to do so?" The
general answered that four months would be necessary to prepare the
naval force, and an even longer time to get together the 5000 regular
troops and 20,000 volunteers that would be needed, to say nothing of
obtaining proper legislation from Congress. Equally discouraging were
the opinions of the cabinet officers. On March 15 Lincoln put to them
the question: "Assuming it to be possible to now provision Fort Sumter,
under all the circumstances is it wise to attempt it?" Only Chase and
Blair replied that it would be wise; Seward, Cameron, Wells, Smith, and
Bates were against it.

The form of this question indicated that Lincoln contemplated a
possibility of being compelled to recede from the policy expressed in
his inaugural. Yet it was not his temperament to abandon a purpose
deliberately matured and definitely announced, except under absolute
necessity. To determine now this question of necessity he sent an
emissary to Sumter and another to Charleston, and meantime stayed
offensive action on the part of the Confederates by authorizing Seward
to give assurance through Judge Campbell that no provisioning or
reinforcement should be attempted without warning. Thus he secured, or
continued, a sort of truce, irregular and informal, but practical.
Meantime he was encouraged by the earnest propositions of Mr. G.V. Fox,
until lately an officer of the navy, who was ready to undertake the
relief of the fort. Eager discussions ensued, wherein naval men backed
the project of Mr. Fox, and army men condemned it. Such difference of
expert opinion was trying, for the problem was of a kind which Mr.
Lincoln's previous experience in life did not make it easy for him to
solve with any confidence in the correctness of his own judgment.

Amid this puzzlement day after day glided by, and the question remained
unsettled. Yet during this lapse of time sentiment was ripening, and
perhaps this was the real purpose of Lincoln's patient waiting. On March
29 his ministers again put their opinions in writing, and now Chase,
Welles, and Blair favored an effort at reinforcement; Bates modified his
previous opposition so far as to say that the time had come either to
evacuate or relieve the fort; Smith favored evacuation, but only on the
ground of military necessity; and Seward alone advocated evacuation in
part on the ground of policy; he deemed it unwise to "provoke a civil
war," especially "in rescue of an untenable position."

Was it courtesy or curiosity that induced the President to sit and
listen to this warm debate between his chosen advisers? They would have
been angry had they known that they were bringing their counsel to a
chief who had already made his decision. They did not yet know that upon
every occasion of great importance Lincoln would make up his mind for
and by himself, yet would not announce his decision, or save his
counselors the trouble of counseling, until such time as he should see
fit to act. So in this instance he had already, the day before the
meeting of the cabinet, directed Fox to draw up an order for such ships,
men, and supplies as he would require, and when the meeting broke up he
at once issued formal orders to the secretaries of the navy and of war
to enter upon the necessary preparation.

Contemporaneously with this there was also undertaken another enterprise
for the relief of Fort Pickens at Pensacola. It was, however, kept so
strictly secret that the President did not even communicate it to Mr.
Welles. Apparently his only reason for such extreme reticence lay in the
proverb: "If you wish your secret kept, keep it." But proverbial wisdom
had an unfortunate result upon this occasion. Both the President and Mr.
Welles set the eye of desire upon the warship Powhatan, lying in New
York harbor. The secretary designed her for the Sumter fleet; the
President meant to send her to Pensacola. Of the Sumter expedition she
was an absolutely essential part; for the Pensacola plan she was not
altogether indispensable.

On April 6 Captain Mercer, on board the Powhatan as his flagship, and on
the very point of weighing anchor to sail in command of the Sumter
reinforcement, under orders from Secretary Welles, was astounded to find
himself dispossessed and superseded by Lieutenant Porter, who suddenly
came upon the deck bringing an order signed by the President himself. A
few hours later, at Washington, a telegram startled Mr. Welles with the
news. Utterly confounded, he hastened, in the early night-time, to the
White House, and obtained an audience of the President. Then Mr. Lincoln
learned what a disastrous blunder he had made; greatly mortified, he
requested Mr. Seward to telegraph with all haste to New York that the
Powhatan must be immediately restored to Mercer for Sumter. Lieutenant
Porter was already far down the bay, when he was overtaken by a swift
tug bringing this message. But unfortunately Mr. Seward had so phrased
the dispatch that it did not purport to convey an order either from the
President or the secretary of the navy, and he had signed his own name:
"Give up the Powhatan to Mercer. SEWARD." To Porter, hurriedly
considering this unintelligible occurrence, it seemed better to go
forward under the President's order than to obey the order of an
official who had no apparent authority to command him. So he steamed on
for Pensacola.

On April 8, discharging the obligation of warning, Mr. Lincoln notified
General Beauregard that an attempt would be made to put provisions into
Sumter, but not at present to put in men, arms, or ammunition, unless
the fort should be attacked. Thereupon Beauregard, at two o'clock P.M.
on April 11, sent to Anderson a request for a surrender. Anderson
refused, remarking incidentally that he should be starved out in a few
days. At 3.20 A.M., on April 12, Beauregard notified Anderson that he
should open fire in one hour. That morning the occupants of Sumter, 9
commissioned officers, 68 non-commissioned officers and privates, 8
musicians, and 43 laborers, breakfasted on pork and water, the last
rations in the fort. Before daybreak the Confederate batteries were
pouring shot and shell against the walls. Response was made from as many
guns as the small body of defenders could handle. But the fort was more
easily damaged than were the works on the mainland, and on the morning
of the 13th, the officers' quarters having caught fire, and the magazine
being so imperiled that it had to be closed and covered with earth, the
fort became untenable. Early in the evening terms of capitulation were
agreed upon.

Meantime three transports of the relief expedition were lying outside
the bar. The first arrived shortly before the bombardment began, the
other two came only a trifle later. All day long these vessels lay to,
wondering why the Powhatan did not appear. Had she been there upon the
critical night of the 12th, the needed supplies could have been thrown
into the fort, for the weather was so dark that the rebel patrol was
useless, and it was actually believed in Charleston that the relief had
been accomplished. But the Powhatan was far away steaming at full speed
for Pensacola. For this sad blunder Lincoln generously, but fairly
enough, took the blame to himself. The only excuse which has ever been
advanced in behalf of Mr. Lincoln is that he allowed himself to be led
blindfold through this important business by Mr. Seward, and that he
signed such papers as the secretary of state presented to him without
learning their purport and bearing. But such an excuse, even if it can
be believed, seems fully as bad as the blunder which it is designed to

Other blame also has been laid upon Lincoln on the ground that he was
dilatory in reaching the determination to relieve the fort. That the
decision should have been reached and the expedition dispatched more
promptly is entirely evident; but whether or not Lincoln was in fault is
quite another question. Three facts are to be considered: 1. The highest
military authority in the country advised him, a civilian, that
evacuation was a necessity. 2. Most of his ministers were at first
against reinforcement, and they never unanimously recommended it;
especially his secretary of state condemned it as bad policy. 3. The
almost universal feeling of the people of the North, so far as it could
then be divined, was compromising, conciliatory, and thoroughly opposed
to any act of war. Under such circumstances it was rather an exhibition
of independence and courage that Lincoln reached the conclusion of
relieving the fort at all, than it was a cause of fault-finding that he
did not come to the conclusion sooner. He could not know in March how
the people were going to feel after the 13th of April; in fact, if they
had fancied that he was provoking hostilities, their feeling might not
even then have developed as it did. Finally, he gained his point in
forcing the Confederacy into the position of assailant, and there is
every reason to believe that he bought that point cheaply at the price
of the fortress.

The news of the capture of Sumter had an instant and tremendous effect.
The States which had seceded were thrown into a pleasurable ferment of
triumph; the Northern States arose in fierce wrath; the Middle States,
still balancing dubiously between the two parties, were rent with
passionate discussion. For the moment the North seemed a unit; there had
been Southern sympathizers before, and Southern sympathizers appeared in
considerable numbers later, but for a little while just now they were
very scarce. Douglas at once called upon the President, and the
telegraph carried to his numerous followers throughout the land the news
that he had pledged himself "to sustain the President in the exercise of
all his constitutional functions to preserve the Union, and maintain the
government, and defend the Federal capital." By this prompt and generous
action he warded off the peril of a divided North. Douglas is not in
quite such good repute with posterity as he deserves to be; his attitude
towards slavery was bad, but his attitude towards the country was that
of a zealous patriot. His veins were full of fighting blood, and he was
really much more ready to go to war for the Union than were great
numbers of Republicans whose names survive in the strong odor of
patriotism. During the presidential campaign he had been speaking out
with defiant courage regardless of personal considerations, and in this
present juncture he did not hesitate an instant to bring to his
successful rival an aid which at the time and under the circumstances
was invaluable.

In every town and village there were now mass meetings, ardent speeches,
patriotic resolutions, a confusing stir and tumult of words that would
become deeds as fast as definite plans could furnish opportunity. The
difficulty lay in utilizing this abundant, this exuberant zeal.
Historians say rhetorically that the North sprang to arms; and it really
would have done so if there had been any arms to spring to; but muskets
were scarce, and that there were any at all was chiefly due to the fact
that antiquated and unserviceable weapons had been allowed to accumulate
undestroyed. Moreover, no one knew even the manual of arms; and there
were no uniforms, or accoutrements, or camp equipment of any sort. There
was, however, the will which makes the way. Simultaneously with the
story of Sumter came also the President's proclamation of April 15. He
called for seventy-five thousand volunteers to serve for three
months,--an insignificant body of men, as it now seems, and a period of
time not sufficient to change them from civilians into soldiers. Yet for
the work immediately visible the demand seemed adequate. Moreover, as
the law stood, a much longer term could not have been named,[133] and
an apparently disproportionate requisition in point of numbers might
have been of injurious effect; for nearly every one was cheerfully
saying that the war would be no such very great affair after all. In his
own mind the President may or may not have forecast the future more
accurately than most others were doing; but his idea plainly was to ask
no more than was necessary for the visible occasion. He stated that the
troops would be used to "repossess the forts, places, and property which
had been seized from the Union," and that great care would be taken not
to disturb peaceful citizens. Amid all the prophesying and theorizing,
and the fanciful comparisons of the respective fighting qualities of the
Northern and Southern populations, a sensible remark is attributed to
Lincoln: "We must not forget that the people of the seceded States, like
those of the loyal States, are American citizens with essentially the
same characteristics and powers. Exceptional advantages on one side are
counterbalanced by exceptional advantages on the other. We must make up
our minds that man for man the soldier from the South will be a match
for the soldier from the North, and _vice versa_." This was good common
sense, seasonably offsetting the prevalent but foolish notion that the
Southerners were naturally a better fighting race than the Northerners.
Facts ultimately sustained Lincoln's just estimate of equality; for
though the North employed far greater numbers than did the South, it was
because the North had the burdens of attack and conquest upon exterior
lines of great extent, because it had to detail large bodies of troops
for mere garrison and quasi-police duty, and because during the latter
part of the war it took miserable throngs of bounty-bought foreigners
into its ranks. Man for man, as Lincoln said at the outset, the war
proved that Northern Americans and Southern Americans were closely

By the same instrument the President summoned Congress to assemble in
extra session on July 4. It seemed a distant date; and many thought that
the Executive Department ought not to endeavor to handle alone all the
possible novel developments of so long a period. But Mr. Lincoln had his
purposes. By July 4 he and circumstances, together, would have wrought
out definite conditions, which certainly did not exist at present;
perhaps also, like most men who find themselves face to face with
difficult practical affairs, he dreaded the conclaves of the
law-makers; but especially he wished to give Kentucky a chance to hold a
special election for choosing members of this Congress, because the
moral and political value of Kentucky could hardly be overestimated, and
the most tactful manoeuvring was necessary to control her.

The Confederate cabinet was said to have greeted Mr. Lincoln's
proclamation with "bursts of laughter." The governors of Kentucky, North
Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri telegraphed that no troops
would be furnished by their respective States, using language clearly
designed to be offensive and menacing. The Northern States, however,
responded promptly and enthusiastically. Men thronged to enlist.
Hundreds of thousands offered themselves where only 75,000 could be
accepted. Of the human raw material there was excess; but discipline and
equipment could not be created by any measure of mere willingness. Yet
there was great need of dispatch. Both geographically and politically
Washington lay as an advanced outpost in immediate peril. General Scott
had been collecting the few companies within reach; but all, he said on
April 8, "may be too late for this place." By April 15, however, he
believed himself able to hold the city till reinforcements should
arrive. The total nominal strength of the United States army, officers
and men, was only 17,113, of whom not two thirds could be counted upon
the Union side, and even these were scattered over a vast expanse of
country, playing police for Indians, and garrisoning distant posts.
Rumors of Southern schemes to attack Washington caused widespread alarm;
the government had no more definite information than the people, and all
alike feared that there was to be a race for the capital, and that the
South, being near and prepared, would get there first. As matter of
fact, the Southern leaders had laid no military plan for this
enterprise, and the danger was exaggerated. The Northerners, however,
did not know this, and made desperate haste.

The first men to arrive came from Philadelphia, 460 troops, as they were
called, though they came "almost entirely without arms." In
Massachusetts, Governor Andrew, an anti-slavery leader, enthusiastic,
energetic, and of great executive ability, had been for many months
preparing the militia for precisely this crisis, weeding out the holiday
soldiers and thoroughly equipping his regiments for service in the
field. For this he had been merrily ridiculed by the aristocracy of
Boston during the winter; but inexorable facts now declared for him and
against the local aristocrats. On April 15 he received the call from
Washington, and immediately sent forth his own summons through the
State. All day on the 16th, amid a fierce northeasterly storm, the
troops poured into Boston, and by six o'clock on that day three full
regiments were ready to start.[135] Three days before this the governor
had asked Secretary Cameron for 2000 rifled muskets from the national
armory at Springfield, in the State. The secretary refused, and the
governor managed to supply his regiment with the most improved arms[136]
without aid from the national government. On the forenoon of the 17th,
the Sixth Regiment started for Washington. Steamers were ready to take
it to Annapolis; but the secretary of war, with astonishing ignorance of
facts easily to be known, ordered it to come through Baltimore.
Accordingly the regiment reached Baltimore on the 19th, the anniversary
of the battle of Lexington. Seven companies were transported in
horse-cars from the northern to the southern station without serious
hindrance; but then the tracks of the street railway were torn up, and
the remaining four companies had to leave the cars and march. A furious
mob of "Plug Uglies" and Secessionists assailed them with paving-stones,
brickbats, and pistol-shots. The mayor and the marshal of the police
force performed fairly their official duty, but were far from quelling
the riot. The troops, therefore, thrown on their own resources,
justifiably fired upon their assailants. The result of the conflict was
that 4 soldiers were killed and 36 were wounded, and of the rioters 12
were killed, and the number of wounded could not be ascertained. The
troops reached Washington at five o'clock in the afternoon, the first
armed rescuers of the capital; their presence brought a comforting
sense of relief, and they were quartered in the senate chamber itself.

       *       *       *       *       *

What would be the effect of the proclamation, of the mustering of troops
in the capital, and of the bloodshed at Baltimore upon the slave States
which still remained in the Union, was a problem of immeasurable
importance. The President, who had been obliged to take the
responsibility of precipitating the crisis in these States, appreciated
more accurately than any one else the magnitude of the stake involved in
their allegiance. He watched them with the deepest anxiety, and brought
the utmost care and tact of his nature to the task of influencing them.
The geographical position of Maryland, separating the District of
Columbia from the loyal North, made it of the first consequence. The
situation there, precarious at best, seemed to be rendered actually
hopeless by what had occurred. A tempest of uncontrollable rage whirled
away the people and prostrated all Union feeling. Mayor Brown admits
that "for some days it looked very much as if Baltimore had taken her
stand decisively with the South;" and this was putting it mildly, when
the Secessionist Marshal Kane was telegraphing: "Streets red with
Maryland blood. Send express over the mountains of Maryland and Virginia
for the riflemen to come without delay." Governor Hicks was opposed to
secession, but he was shaken like a reed by this violent blast. Later
on this same April 19, Mayor Brown sent three gentlemen to President
Lincoln, bearing a letter from himself, in which he said that it was
"not possible for more soldiers to pass through Baltimore unless they
fight their way at every step." That night he caused the northward
railroad bridges to be burned and disabled; and soon afterward the
telegraph wires were cut.

The President met the emergency with coolness and straightforward
simplicity, abiding firmly by his main purpose, but conciliatory as to
means. He wrote to the governor and the mayor: "For the future troops
_must_ be brought here, but I make no point of bringing them _through_
Baltimore;" he would "march them _around_ Baltimore," if, as he hoped,
General Scott should find it feasible to do so. In fulfillment of this
promise he ordered a detachment, which had arrived at a station near
Baltimore, to go all the way back to Philadelphia and come around by
water. He only demurred when the protests were extended to include the
whole "sacred" soil of Maryland,--for it appeared that the presence of
slavery accomplished the consecration of soil! His troops, he said,
could neither fly over the State, nor burrow under it; therefore they
must cross it, and the Marylanders must learn that "there was no piece
of American soil too good to be pressed by the foot of a loyal soldier
on his march to the defense of the capital of his country." For a while,
however, until conditions in Baltimore changed, Eastern regiments came
by way of Annapolis, though with difficulty and delay. Yet, even upon
this route, conflict was narrowly avoided.

Soon, however, these embarrassments came to an end, and the President's
policy was vindicated by its fruits. It had been strictly his own; he
alone ruled the occasion, and he did so in the face of severe pressure
to do otherwise, some of which came even from members of his cabinet.
Firmness, reasonableness, and patience brought things right; Lincoln
spoke sensibly to the Marylanders, and gave them time to consider the
situation. Such treatment started a reaction; Unionism revived and
Unionists regained courage. Moreover, the sure pressure of material
considerations was doing its work. Baltimore, as an isolated secession
outpost, found, even in the short space of a week, that business was
destroyed and that she was suffering every day financial loss. In a
word, by the end of the month, "the tide had turned." Baltimore, if not
quite a Union city, at least ceased to be secessionist. On May 9
Northern troops passed unmolested through it. On May 13 General Butler
with a body of troops took possession of Federal Hill, which commands
the harbor and city, and fortified it. If the Baltimore question was
still open at that time, this settled it. Early in the same month the
state legislature came together, Mr. Lincoln refusing to accept the
suggestion of interfering with it. This body was by no means Unionist,
for it "protested against the war as unjust and unconstitutional,
announced a determination to take no part in its prosecution, and
expressed a desire for the immediate recognition of the Confederate
States." Yet practically it put a veto on secession by voting that it
was inexpedient to summon a convention; it called on all good citizens
"to abstain from violent and unlawful interference with the troops."
Thus early in May this brand, though badly scorched, was saved from the
conflagration; and its saving was a piece of good fortune of which the
importance cannot be exaggerated; for without Maryland Washington could
hardly have been held, and with the national capital in the hands of the
rebels European recognition probably could not have been prevented.
These momentous perils were in the mind of the administration during
those anxious days, and great indeed was the relief when the ultimate
turn of affairs became assured. For a week officials in Washington were
painfully taught what it would mean to have Baltimore a rebel city and
Maryland a debatable territory and battle-ground. For a week Mr. Lincoln
and his advisers lived almost in a state of siege; they were utterly cut
off from communication with the North; they could get no news; they
could not learn what was doing for their rescue, nor how serious were
the obstructions in the way of such efforts; in place of correct
information they heard only the most alarming rumors. In a word, they
were governing a country to which they really had no access. The
tension of those days was awful; and it was with infinite comfort that
they became certain that, whatever other strain might come, this one at
least could not be repeated. Henceforth the loyalty of Maryland, so
carefully nurtured, gradually grew in strength to the end. Many
individuals long remained in their hearts disloyal, and thousands[137]
joined the Confederate ranks; but they had to leave their State in order
to get beneath a secessionist standard, for Maryland was distinctly and
conclusively in the Union.

The situation, resources, and prestige of Virginia made her next to
Maryland in importance among the doubtful States. Her Unionists were
numerically preponderant; and accordingly the convention, which
assembled early in January, was opposed to secession by the overwhelming
majority of 89 to 45. But the Secessionists here as elsewhere in the
South were propagandists, fiery with enthusiasm and energy, and they
controlled the community although they were outnumbered by those who
held, in a more quiet way, contrary opinions. When the decisive conflict
came it was short and sharp and carried with a rush. By intrigue, by
menace, by passionate appeals seasonably applied with sudden intensity
of effort at the time of the assault upon Sumter, the convention was
induced to pass an ordinance of secession. Those who could not bring
themselves to vote in the affirmative were told that they might "absent
themselves or be hanged." On the other hand, there were almost no lines
along which the President could project any influence into the State to
encourage the Union sentiment. He sought an interview with a political
leader, but the gentleman only sent a substitute, and the colloquy
amounted to nothing. He fell in with the scheme of General Scott
concerning Robert E. Lee, which might have saved Virginia; but this also
miscarried. General Lee has always been kindly spoken of at the North,
whether deservedly or not is a matter not to be discussed here. Only a
few bare facts and dates can be given: April 17, by a vote of 88 to 55,
the dragooned convention passed an "ordinance to repeal the ratification
of the Constitution of the United States," but provided that this action
should for the present be kept secret, and that it might be annulled by
the people at a popular voting, which should be had upon it on the
fourth Thursday in May. The injunction of secrecy was immediately
broken, and before the polls were to be opened for the balloting
Virginia was held by the military forces of the Confederacy, so that the
vote was a farce. April 18 Mr. F.P. Blair, Jr., had an interview in
Washington with Lee, in which he intimated to Lee that the President and
General Scott designed to place him in command of the army which had
just been summoned.[138] Accounts of this conversation, otherwise
inconsistent, all agree that Lee expressed himself as opposed to
secession,[139] but as unwilling to occupy the position designed for
him, because he "could take no part in an invasion of the Southern
States." April 20 he tendered his resignation of his commission in the
army, closing with the words, "Save in defense of my native State, I
never desire again to draw my sword."[140] On April 22-23 he was
appointed to, and accepted, the command of the state forces. In so
accepting he said: "I devote myself to the service of my native State,
in whose behalf alone will I ever again draw my sword."[141] April 24 a
military league was formed between Virginia and the Confederate States,
and her forces were placed under the command of Jefferson Davis; also an
invitation was given, and promptly accepted, to make Richmond the
Confederate capital. May 16 Virginia formally entered the Confederacy,
and Lee became a general--the third in rank--in the service of the
Confederate States, though the secession of his State was still only
inchoate and might never become complete, since the day set for the
popular vote had not arrived, and it was still a possibility that the
Unionists might find courage to go to the polls. Thus a rapid succession
of events settled it that the President could save neither Virginia nor
Robert E. Lee for the Union. Yet the failure was not entire. The
northwestern counties were strongly Union in their proclivities, and
soon followed to a good end an evil example; for they in turn seceded
from Virginia, established a state government, sought admission into the
Union, and became the State of West Virginia.

Next in order of importance came Kentucky. The Secessionists, using here
the tactics so successful in other States, endeavored to drive through
by rush and whirl a formal act of secession. But the Unionists of
Kentucky were of more resolute and belligerent temper than those of
Georgia and Virginia, and would not submit to be swept away by a torrent
really of less volume than their own.[142] Yet in spite of the spirited
head thus made by the loyalists the condition in the State long remained
such as to require the most skillful treatment by the President; during
several critical weeks one error of judgment, a single imprudence, upon
his part might have proved fatal. For the condition was anomalous and
perplexing, and the conflict of opinion in the State had finally led to
the evolution of a theory or scheme of so-called "neutrality." A
similar notion had been imperfectly developed in Maryland, when her
legislature declared that she would take no part in a war. The idea was
illogical to the point of absurdity, for by it the "neutral" State would
at once stay in the Union and stand aloof from it. Neutrality really
signified a refusal to perform those obligations which nevertheless were
admitted to be binding, and it made of the State a defensive barrier for
the South, not to be traversed by Northern troops on an errand of
hostility against Confederate Secessionists. It was practical
"non-coercion" under a name of fairer sound, and it involved the
inconsequence of declaring that the dissolution of an indissoluble Union
should not be prevented; it was the proverbial folly of being "for the
law but ag'in the enforcement of it." In the words of a resolution
passed by a public meeting in Louisville: it was the "duty" of Kentucky
to maintain her "independent position," taking sides neither with the
administration nor with the seceding States, "_but with the Union
against them both_."

Nevertheless, though both logic and geography made neutrality
impracticable, yet at least the desire to be neutral indicated a
wavering condition, and therefore it was Mr. Lincoln's task so to
arrange matters that, when the State should at last see that it could by
no possibility avoid casting its lot with one side or the other, it
should cast it with the North. For many weeks the two Presidents played
the game for this invaluable stake with all the tact and skill of which
each was master. It proved to be a repetition of the fable of the sun
and the wind striving to see which could the better make the traveler
take off his cloak, and fortunately the patience of Mr. Lincoln
represented the warmth of the sun. He gave the Kentuckians time to learn
by observation and the march of events that neutrality was an
impossibility, also to determine with which side lay the probable
advantages for themselves; also he respected the borders of the State
during its sensitive days, though in doing so he had to forego some
military advantages of time and position. Deliberation brought a sound
conclusion. Kentucky never passed an ordinance of secession, but
maintained her representation in Congress and contributed her quota to
the armies; and these invaluable results were largely due to this wise
policy of the President. Many of her citizens, of course, fought upon
the Southern side, as was the case in all these debatable Border States,
where friends and even families divided against each other, and each man
placed himself according to his own convictions. It may seem, therefore,
in view of this individual independence of action, that the ordinance of
secession was a formality which would not have greatly affected
practical conditions; and many critics of Mr. Lincoln at the time could
not appreciate the value of his "border-state policy," and thought that
he was making sacrifices and paying prices wholly against wisdom, and
out of proportion to anything that could be gained thereby. But he
understood the situation and comparative values correctly. Loyalty to
the State governed multitudes; preference of the State over the United
States cost the nation vast numbers of would-be Unionists in the
seceding States, and in fact made secession possible; and the same
feeling, erroneous though it was from the Unionist point of view, yet
saved for the Unionist party very great numbers in these doubtful States
which never in fact seceded. Mr. Davis appreciated this just as much as
Mr. Lincoln did; both were shrewd men, and were wasting no foolish
efforts when they strove so hard to carry or to prevent formal state
action. They appreciated very well that success in passing an ordinance
would gain for the South throngs of adherents whose allegiance was, by
their peculiar political creed, due to the winner in this local contest.

In Tennessee the Unionist majority, as indicated early in February, was
overwhelming. Out of a total vote of less than 92,000, more than 67,000
opposed a state convention. The mountaineers of the eastern region
especially were stalwart loyalists, and later held to their faith
through the severe ordeal of a peculiarly cruel invasion. But the
political value of these scattered settlements was small; and in the
more populous parts the Secessionists pursued their usual aggressive and
enterprising tactics with success. Ultimately the governor and the
legislature despotically compelled secession. It was not decreed by a
popular vote, not even by a convention, but by votes of the legislature
cast in secret session, a proceeding clearly _ultra vires_ of that body.
Finally, on June 8, when a popular vote was taken, the State was in the
military control of the Confederacy.

Very similar was the case of North Carolina. The people of the uplands,
like their neighbors of Tennessee, were Unionists, and in the rest of
the State there was a prevalent Union sentiment; but the influence of
the political leaders, their direct usurpations of power, and the
customary energetic propagandism, ultimately won. After a convention had
been once voted down by popular vote, a second effort to bring one
together was successfully made, and an ordinance of secession was passed
on May 20. Arkansas was swept along with the stream, seceding on May 6,
although prior to that time the votes both for holding a state
convention and afterward in the convention itself had shown a decided
Unionist preponderance. These three States, Tennessee, North Carolina,
and Arkansas, were entirely beyond the reach of the President. He had
absolutely no lines of influence along which he could work to restrain
or to guide them.

Missouri had a career peculiar to herself. In St. Louis there was a
strong Unionist majority, and especially the numerous German population
was thoroughly anti-slavery, and was vigorously led by F.P. Blair, Jr.
But away from her riverfront the State had a sparse population
preserving the rough propensities of frontiersmen; these men were not
unevenly divided between loyalty and secession and they were an
independent, fighting set of fellows, each one of whom intended to
follow his own fancy. The result was that Missouri for a long while
carried on a little war of her own within her own borders, on too large
a scale to be called "bushwhacking," and yet with a strong flavor of
that irregular style of conflict. The President interested himself a
good deal in the early efforts of the loyalists, and amid a puzzling
snarl of angry "personal politics" he tried to extend to them aid and
countenance, though with imperfect success. It was fortunate that
Missouri was away on the outskirts, for she was the most vexatious and
perplexing part of the country. Her population had little feeling of
state allegiance, or, indeed, of any allegiance at all, but what small
amount there was fell upon the side of the Union; for though the
governor and a majority of the legislature declared for secession, yet
the state convention voted for the Union by a large majority. It is true
that a sham convention passed a sham ordinance, but this had no weight
with any except those who were already Secessionists.

Thus by the close of May, 1861, President Lincoln looked forth upon a
spectacle tolerably definite at last, and certainly as depressing as
ever met the eyes of a great ruler. Eleven States, with area,
population, and resources abundant for constituting a powerful nation
and sustaining an awful war, were organized in rebellion; their people
were welded into entire unity of feeling, were enthusiastically
resolute, and were believed to be exceptionally good fighters. The
population of three Border States was divided between loyalty and
disloyalty. The Northern States, teeming with men and money, had
absolutely no experience whatsoever to enable them to utilize their vast
resources with the promptitude needful in the instant emergency. There
was a notion, prevalent even among themselves, that they were by
temperament not very well fitted for war; but this fancy Mr. Lincoln
quietly set aside, knowing better. He also had confidence in the
efficiency of Northern men in practical affairs of any kind whatsoever,
and he had not to tax his patience to see this confidence vindicated.
His appeal for military support seemed the marvelous word of a magician,
and wrought instant transformation throughout the vast loyal territory.
One half of the male population began to practice the manual, to drill,
and to study the text-books of military science; the remainder put at
least equal energy into the preparations for equipment; every
manufacturer in the land set the proverbial Yankee enterprise and
ingenuity at work in the adaptation of his machinery to the production
of munitions of war and all the various outfit for troops. Every
foundry, every mill, and every shipyard was at once diverted from its
accustomed industries in order to supply military demands; patriotism
and profit combined to stimulate sleepless toil and invention. In a
hard-working community no one had ever before worked nearly so hard as
now. The whole North was in a ferment, and every human being strained
his abilities of mind and of body to the utmost in one serviceable
direction or another; the wise and the foolish, the men of words and the
men of deeds, the projectors of valuable schemes and the venders of
ridiculous inventions, the applicants for military commissions and the
seekers after the government's contracts, all hustled and crowded each
other in feverish eagerness to get at work in the new condition of
things. It was going to take time for all this energy to produce
results,--yet not a very long time; the President had more patience than
would be needed, and the spirit of his people reassured him. If the
lukewarm, compromising temper of the past winter had caused him to feel
any lurking anxious doubts as to how the crisis would be met, such
illusive mists were now cleared away in a moment before the sweeping
gale of patriotism.


[132] At New Bedford, in a lecture "which was interrupted by frequent
hisses." Schouler, _Hist. of Mass. in the Civil War_, i. 44-47.

[133] The Act of 1795 only permitted the use of the militia until thirty
days after the next session of Congress; this session being now summoned
for July 4, the period of service extended only until August 3.

[134] When General Grant took command of the Eastern armies he said that
the country should be cautioned against expecting too great success,
because the loyal and rebel armies were made up of men of the same race,
having about the same experience in war, and neither able justly to
claim any great superiority over the other in endurance, courage, or
discipline. Chittenden, _Recoll._ 320.

[135] The third, fourth, and sixth. Schouler, _Mass. in the Civil War_,
i. 52.

[136] Schouler, _Mass. in the Civil War_, i. 72.

[137] Mayor Brown thinks that the estimate of these at 20,000 is too
great. Brown, _Baltimore and Nineteenth April_, 1861, p. 85.

[138] N. and H. iv. 98; Chittenden, 102; Lee's biographer, Childe, says
that "President Lincoln offered him the effective command of the Union
Army," and that Scott "conjured him ... not to quit the army." Childe,
_Lee_, 30.

[139] Shortly before this time he had written to his son that it was
"idle to talk of secession," that it was "nothing but revolution" and
"anarchy." N. and H. iv. 99.

[140] Childe, _Lee_, 32; Mr. Childe, p. 33, says that Lee's resignation
was accepted on the 20th (the very day on which his letter was dated!),
so that he "ceased to be a member of the United States Army" before he
took command of the state forces. _Per contra_, N. and H. iv. 101.

[141] Childe, _Lee_, 34.

[142] Greeley in his _Amer. Conflict_, i. 349, says that the "open
Secessionists were but a handful." This, however, is clearly an
exaggerated statement.



The capture of Fort Sumter and the call for troops established one fact.
There was to be a war. The period of speculation was over and the period
of action had begun. The transition meant much. The talking men of the
country had not appeared to advantage during the few months in which
they had been busy chiefly in giving weak advice and in concocting
prophecies. They now retired before the men of affairs, who were to do
better. To the Anglo-Saxon temperament it was a relief to have done with
waiting and to begin to do something. Activity cleared the minds of men,
and gave to each his appropriate duty.

The gravity of the crisis being undeniable, the people of the North
queried, with more anxiety than ever before, as to what kind of a chief
they had taken to carry them through it. But the question which all
asked none could answer. Mr. Lincoln had achieved a good reputation as a
politician and a stump speaker. Whatever a few might _think_, this was
all that any one _knew_. The narrow limitations of his actual experience
certainly did not encourage a belief in his probable fitness to
encounter duties more varied, pressing, numerous, novel, and difficult
than had ever come so suddenly to confound any ruler within recorded
time. Later on, when it was seen with what rare capacity he met demands
so exacting, many astonished and excitable observers began to cry out
that he was inspired. This, however, was sheer nonsense. That the very
peculiar requirements of these four years found a president so well
responding to them may be fairly regarded, by those who so please, as a
specific Providential interference,--a striking one among many less
striking. But, in fact, nothing in Mr. Lincoln's life requires, for its
explanation, the notion of divine inspiration. His doings, one and all,
were perfectly intelligible as the outcome of honesty of purpose, strong
common sense, clear reasoning powers, and a singular sagacity in reading
the popular mind. Intellectually speaking, a clear and vigorous thinking
capacity was his chief trait. This sounds commonplace and uninteresting,
but a more serviceable qualification could not have been given him. The
truth is, that it was part of the good fortune of the country that the
President was not a brilliant man. Moreover, he was cool, shrewd,
dispassionate, and self-possessed, and was endowed really in an
extraordinary degree with an intermingling of patience and courage,
whereby he was enabled both to await and to endure results. Above all he
was a masterful man; not all the time and in small matters, and not
often in an opinionated way; but, from beginning to end, whenever he
saw fit to be master, master he was.[143]

This last fact, when it became known, answered another question which
people were asking: In whose hands were the destinies of the North to
be? In those of Mr. Lincoln? or in those of the cabinet? or in those of
influential advisers, something like what have been called "favorites"
in Europe, and "kitchen cabinet" in the more homely phrase of the United
States? The early impression was that Mr. Lincoln did not know a great
deal. How could he? Where and how could he have learned much? It must be
admitted that it was entirely natural that his advisers, and other
influential men concerned in public affairs, should adopt and act upon
the theory that Mr. Lincoln, emerging so sharply from such a past as his
had been, into such a crisis as was now present, must need a vast amount
of instruction, guidance, suggestion. Accordingly there were many
gentlemen who stood ready, not to say eager, to supply these fancied
wants, and who could have supplied them very well had they existed.
Therefore one of the first things which Mr. Lincoln had to do was,
without antagonizing Mr. Seward and Mr. Chase, to indicate to them that
they were to be not only in name but also in rigid fact his secretaries,
and that he was in fact as well as by title President. This delicate
business was done so soon as opportunity offered, not in any disguised
way but with plain simplicity. Mr. Chase never took the disposition
quite pleasantly. He managed his department with splendid ability, but
in the personal relation of a cabinet adviser upon the various matters
of governmental policy he was always somewhat uncomfortable to get along
with, inclined to fault-finding, ever ready with discordant suggestions,
and in time also disturbed by ambition.

Mr. Seward behaved far better. After the question of supremacy had been
settled, though in a way quite contrary to his anticipation, he frankly
accepted the subordinate position, and discharged his duties with hearty
good-will. Indeed, this settlement had already come, before the time
which this narrative has reached; but the people did not know it; it was
a private matter betwixt the two men who had been parties to it. Only
Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward knew that the secretary had suggested his
willingness to run the government for the President, and that the
President had replied that he intended to run it himself. It came about
in this way: on April 1 Mr. Seward presented, in writing, "Some thoughts
for the President's consideration." He opened with the statement, not
conciliatory, that "We are at the end of a month's administration, and
yet without a policy, either domestic or foreign." He then proceeded to
offer suggestions for each. For the "policy at home" he proposed, as the
"ruling idea:" "Change the question before the public from one upon
slavery, or about slavery, for a question upon Union or Disunion." It
was odd and not complimentary that he should seem to forget or ignore
that precisely this thing had already been attempted by Mr. Lincoln in
his inaugural address. Also within a few days, as we all know now,
events were to show that the attempt had been successful. Further
comment upon the domestic policy of Mr. Seward is, therefore, needless.
But his scheme "For Foreign Nations" is more startling:--

"I would demand explanations from Spain and France categorically at

"I would seek explanations from Great Britain and Russia, and send
agents into Canada, Mexico, and Central America, to rouse a vigorous
spirit of independence on this continent against European intervention.

"And, if satisfactory explanations are not received from Spain and

"Would convene Congress and declare war against them.

"But whatever policy we adopt, there must be an energetic prosecution of

"For this purpose it must be somebody's business to pursue and direct it

"Either the President must do it himself, and be all the while active in
it, or

"Devolve it on some member of his cabinet.

"Once adopted, debates on it must end, and all agree and abide.

"It is not in my especial province.

"But I neither seek to evade nor assume responsibility."

Suggestions so wild could not properly constitute material for
"consideration" by the President; but much consideration on the part of
students of those times and men is provoked by the fact that such
counsel emanated from such a source. The secretary of state, heretofore
the most distinguished leader in the great Republican movement, who
should by merit of actual achievement have been the Republican candidate
for the presidency, and who was expected by a large part of the country
to save an ignorant president from bad blunders, was advancing a
proposition to create pretexts whereby to force into existence a foreign
war upon a basis which was likely to set one half of the civilized world
against the other half. The purpose for which he was willing to do this
awful thing was: to paralyze for a while domestic discussions, and to
undo and leave to be done anew by the next generation all that vast work
which he himself, and the President whom he advised, and the leaders of
the great multitude whom they both represented, had for years been
engaged in prosecuting with all the might that was in them. But the
explanation is simple: like many another at that trying moment, the
secretary was smitten with sudden panic at the condition which had been
brought about so largely by his own efforts. It was strictly a panic,
for it passed away rapidly as panics do.

The biographer of Mr. Seward may fairly enough glide lightly over this
episode, since it was nothing more than an episode; but one who writes
of Mr. Lincoln must, in justice, call attention to this spectacle of the
sage statesman from whom, if from any one, this "green hand," this
inexperienced President, must seek guidance, thus in deliberate writing
pointing out a course which was ridiculous and impossible, and which, if
it had been possible, would have been an intolerably humiliating
retreat. The anxious people, who thought that their untried President
might, upon the worst estimate of his own abilities, get on fairly well
by the aid of wise and skilled advisers, would have been aghast had they
known that, inside of the government, the pending question was: not
whether Mr. Lincoln would accept sound instruction, but whether he would
have sense to recognize bad advice, and independence to reject it.
Before Mr. Seward went to bed on that night of April 1, he was perhaps
the only man in the country who knew the solution of this problem. But
he knew it, for Mr. Lincoln had already answered his letter. It had not
taken the President long! The secretary's extraordinary offer to assume
the responsibility of pursuing and directing the policy of the
government was rejected within a few hours after it was made; rejected
not offensively, but briefly, clearly, decisively, and without thanks.
Concerning the proposed policies, domestic and foreign, the President
said as little as was called for; he actually did not even refer to the
scheme for inaugurating gratuitously a war with a large part of Europe,
in order for a while to distract attention from slavery.

To us, to-day, it seems that the President could not have missed a
course so obvious; yet Mr. Seward, who suggested the absurdity, was a
great statesman. In truth, the President had shown not only sense but
nerve. For the difference between Seward's past opportunities and
experience and his own was appreciated by him as fully as by any one. He
knew perfectly well that what seemed the less was controlling what
seemed the greater when he overruled his secretary. It took courage on
the part of a thoughtful man to put himself in such a position. Other
solemn reflections also could not be avoided. Not less interested than
any other citizen in the fate of the nation, he had also a personal
relation to the ultimate event which was exclusively his own. For he
himself might be called, in a certain sense, the very cause of
rebellion; of course the people who had elected him carried the real
responsibility; but he stood as the token of the difference, the
concrete provocation to the fight. The South had said: _Abraham Lincoln_
brings secession. It was frightful to think that, as he was in fact the
signal, so posterity might mistake him for the very cause of the rending
of a great nation, the failure of a grand experiment. It might be that
this destiny was before him, for the outcome of this struggle no one
could foretell; it might be his sad lot to mark the end of the line of
Presidents of the United States. Lincoln was not a man who could escape
the full weight of these reflections, and it is to be remembered that
all actions were taken beneath that weight. It was a strong man, then,
who stood up and said, This is my load and I will carry it; and who did
carry it, when others offered to shift much of it upon their own
shoulders; also who would not give an hour's thought to a scheme which
promised to lift it away entirely, and to leave it for some other who by
and by should come after him.

It is worth while to remember that Mr. Lincoln was the most advised man,
often the worst advised man, in the annals of mankind. The torrent must
have been terribly confusing! Another instance deserves mention: shortly
before Mr. Seward's strange proposal, Governor Hicks, distracted at the
tumult in Maryland, had suggested that the quarrel between North and
South should be referred to Lord Lyons as arbitrator! It was difficult
to know whether to be amused or resentful before a proposition at once
so silly and so ignominious. Yet it came from an important official, and
it was only one instance among thousands. With war as an actuality, such
vagaries as those of Hicks and Seward came sharply to an end. People
wondered and talked somewhat as to how long hostilities would last, how
much they would cost, how they would end; and were not more correct in
these speculations than they had been in others. But though the day of
gross absurdities was over, the era of advice endured permanently. That
peculiar national trait whereby every American knows at least as much on
every subject whatsoever as is known by any other living man, produced
its full results during the war. Every clergyman and humanitarian, every
village politician and every city wire-puller, every one who conned the
maps of Virginia and imbibed the military wisdom of the newspapers,
every merchant who put his name to a subscription paper, considered it
his privilege and his duty to set the President right upon every
question of moral principle, of politics, of strategy, and of finance.
In one point of view it was not flattering that he should seem to stand
in need of so much instruction; and this was equally true whether it
came bitterly, as criticism from enemies, or sugar-coated, as advice
from friends. That friends felt obliged to advise so much was in itself
a criticism. Probably, however, Mr. Lincoln was not troubled by this
view, for he keenly appreciated the idiosyncrasies as well as the better
qualities of the people. They, however, were a long while in
understanding him sufficiently to recognize that there was never a man
whom it was less worth while to advise.

       *       *       *       *       *

Business crowded upon Mr. Lincoln, and the variety and novelty of it was
without limit. On April 17 Jefferson Davis issued a proclamation
offering "letters of marque and reprisal" to owners of private armed
vessels. Two days later the President retorted by proclaiming a blockade
of Confederate ports.[144] Of course this could not be made effective
upon the moment. On March 4 the nominal total of vessels in the navy was
90. Of these, 69 were classed as "available;" but only 42 were actually
in commission; and even of these many were in Southern harbors, and fell
into the hands of the Confederates; many more were upon foreign and
distant stations. Indeed, the dispersion was so great that it was
commonly charged as having been intentionally arranged by secessionist
officials under Mr. Buchanan. Also, at the very moment when this
proclamation was being read throughout the country, the great navy yard
of Gosport, at Norfolk, Virginia, "always the favored depot" of the
government, with all its workshops and a great store of cannon and other
munitions, was passing into the hands of the enemy. Most of the vessels
and some other property were destroyed by Federals before the seizure
was consummated; nevertheless, the loss was severe. Moreover, even had
all the vessels of the regular navy been present, they would have had
other duties besides lying off Southern ports. Blockading squadrons,
therefore, had to be improvised, and orders at once issued for the
purchase and equipment of steam vessels from the merchant marine and
the coasting service. Fortunately the summer season was at hand, so that
these makeshifts were serviceable for many months, during which better
craft were rapidly got together by alteration and building. Three
thousand miles of coast and many harbors were included within the
blockade limits, and were distributed into departments under different
commanders. Each commander was instructed to declare his blockade in
force as soon as he felt able to make it tolerably effective, with the
expectation of rapidly improving its efficiency. The beginning was,
therefore, ragged, and was naturally criticised in a very jealous and
hostile spirit by those foreign nations who suffered by it. Dangerous
disputes threatened to arise, but were fortunately escaped, and in a
surprisingly short time "Yankee" enterprise made the blockade too
thorough for question.

Amid the first haste and pressure it was ingeniously suggested that,
since the government claimed jurisdiction over the whole country and
recognized only a rebellion strictly so called, therefore the President
could by proclamation simply _close_ ports at will. Secretary Welles
favored this course, and in the extra session of the summer of 1861
Congress passed a bill giving authority to Mr. Lincoln to pursue it, in
his discretion. Mr. Seward, with better judgment, said that it might be
legal, but would certainly be unwise. The position probably could have
been successfully maintained by lawyers before a bench of judges; but
to have relied upon it in the teeth of the commercial interests and
unfriendly sentiment of England and France would have been a fatal
blunder. Happily it was avoided; and the President had the shrewdness to
keep within a line which shut out technical discussion. Already he saw
that, so far as relations with foreigners were concerned, the domestic
theory of a rebellion, pure and simple, must be very greatly modified.
In a word, that which began as rebellion soon developed into civil war;
the two were closely akin, but with some important differences.

Nice points of domestic constitutional law also arose with the first
necessity for action, opening the broad question as to what course
should be pursued in doubtful cases, and worse still in those cases
where the government could not fairly claim the benefit of a real doubt.
The plain truth was that, in a condition faintly contemplated in the
Constitution, many things not permitted by the Constitution must be done
to preserve the Constitution. The present crisis had been very scantily
and vaguely provided for by "the fathers." The instant that action
became necessary to save the Union under the Constitution, it was
perfectly obvious that the Constitution must be stretched, transcended,
and most liberally interlined, in a fashion which would furnish annoying
arguments to the disaffected. The President looked over the situation,
and decided, in the proverbial phrase, to take the bull by the horns;
that which clearly ought to be done he would do, law or no law, doubt
or no doubt. He would have faith that the people would sustain him; and
that the courts and the lawyers, among whose functions it is to see to
it that laws and statutes do not interfere too seriously with the
convenience of the community, would arrive, in what subtle and
roundabout way they might choose, at the conclusion that whatever must
be done might be done. These learned gentlemen did their duty, and
developed the "war powers" under the Constitution in a manner equally
ingenious, comical, and sensible. But the fundamental basis was, that
necessity knows no law; every man in the country knew this, but the
well-intentioned denied it, as matter of policy, while the
ill-intentioned made such use of the opportunities thus afforded to them
as might have been expected. Among the "war Democrats," however, there
was at least ostensible liberality.

An early question related to the writ of habeas corpus. The Maryland
legislature was to meet on April 26, 1861, and was expected to guide the
State in the direction of secession. Many influential men urged the
President to arrest the members before they could do this. He, however,
conceived such an interference with a state government, in the present
condition of popular feeling, to be impolitic. "We cannot know in
advance," he said, "that the action will not be lawful and peaceful;"
and he instructed General Scott to watch them, and, in case they should
make a movement towards arraying the people against the United States,
to counteract it by "the bombardment of their cities, and, in the
extremest necessity, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus." This
intimation that the suspension of the venerated writ was a measure
graver than even bombarding a city, surely indicated sufficient respect
for laws and statutes. The legislators restrained their rebellious ardor
and proved the wisdom of Mr. Lincoln's moderation. In the autumn,
however, the crisis recurred, and then the arrests seemed the only means
of preventing the passage of an ordinance of secession. Accordingly the
order was issued and executed. Public opinion upheld it, and Governor
Hicks afterward declared his belief that only by this action had
Maryland been saved from destruction.

The privilege of habeas corpus could obviously, however, be made
dangerously serviceable to disaffected citizens. Therefore, April 27,
the President instructed General Scott: "If at any point on or in the
vicinity of any military line which is now, or which shall be, used
between the city of Philadelphia and the city of Washington, you find it
necessary to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for the public safety,
you ... are authorized to suspend that writ." Several weeks elapsed
before action was taken under this authority. Then, on May 25, John
Merryman, recruiting in Maryland for the Confederate service, was seized
and imprisoned in Fort McHenry. Chief Justice Taney granted a writ of
habeas corpus. General Cadwalader replied that he held Merryman upon a
charge of treason, and that he had authority under the President's
letter to suspend the writ. The chief justice thereupon issued against
the general an attachment for contempt, but the marshal was refused
admittance to the fort. The chief justice then filed with the clerk, and
also sent to the President, his written opinion, in which he said: "I
understand that the President not only claims the right to suspend the
writ of habeas corpus at his discretion, but to delegate that
discretionary power to a military officer;" whereas, according to the
view of his honor, the power did not lie even with the President
himself, but only with Congress. Warming to the discussion, he used
pretty strong language, to the effect that, if authority intrusted to
other departments could thus "be usurped by the military power at its
discretion, the people ... are no longer living under a government of
laws; but every citizen holds life, liberty, and property at the will
and pleasure of the army officer in whose military district he may
happen to be found." It was unfortunate that the country should hear
such phrases launched by the chief justice against the President, or at
least against acts done under orders of the President. Direct retort was
of course impossible, and the dispute was in abeyance for a short
time.[145] But the predilections of the judicial hero of the Dred Scott
decision were such as to give rise to grave doubts as to whether or not
the Union could be saved by any process which would not often run
counter to his ideas of the law; therefore in this matter the President
continued to exercise the useful and probably essential power, though
taking care, for the future, to have somewhat more regard for form.
Thus, on May 10, instead of simply writing a letter, he issued through
the State Department a proclamation authorizing the Federal commander on
the Florida coast, "if he shall find it necessary, to suspend there the
writ of habeas corpus."

In due time the assembling of Congress gave Mr. Lincoln the opportunity
to present his side of the case. In his message he said that arrests,
and suspension of the writ, had been made "very sparingly;" and that, if
authority had been stretched, at least the question was pertinent: "Are
all the laws but one to go unexecuted, and the government itself to go
to pieces, lest that one be violated?" He, however, believed that in
fact this question was not presented, and that the law had not been
violated. "The provision of the Constitution, that the privilege of the
writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when, in cases of
rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it, is equivalent
to a provision that such privilege may be suspended when, in cases of
rebellion or invasion, the public safety does require it." As between
Congress and the executive, "the Constitution itself is silent as to
which or who is to exercise the power; and as the provision was plainly
made for a dangerous emergency it cannot be believed that the framers of
the instrument intended that in every case the danger should run its
course until Congress could be called together, the very assembling of
which might be prevented, as was intended in this case by the

If it was difficult, it was also undesirable to confute the President's
logic. The necessity for military arrests and for indefinite detention
of the arrested persons was undeniable. Congress therefore recognized
the legality of what had been done, and the power was frequently
exercised thereafter, and to great advantage. Of course mistakes
occurred, and subordinates made some arrests which had better have been
left unmade; but these bore only upon discretion in individual cases,
not upon inherent right. The topic, however, was in itself a tempting
one, not only for the seriously disaffected, but for the far larger body
of the quarrelsome, who really wanted the government to do its work, yet
maliciously liked to make the process of doing it just as difficult and
as disagreeable as possible. Later on, when the malcontent class
acquired the organization of a distinct political body, no other charge
against the administration proved so plausible and so continuously
serviceable as this. It invited to florid declamation profusely
illustrated with impressive historical allusions, and to the free use of
vague but grand and sonorous phrases concerning "usurpation," "the
subjection of the life, liberty, and property of every citizen to the
mere will of a military commander," and other like terrors.
Unfortunately men much more deserving of respect than the Copperheads,
men of sound loyalty and high ability, but of anxious and conservative
temperament, were led by their fears to criticise severely arrests of
men who were as dangerous to the government as if they had been soldiers
of the Confederacy.

May 3, 1861, by which time military exigencies had become better
understood, Mr. Lincoln called "into the service of the United States
42,034 volunteers," and directed that the regular army should be
increased by an aggregate of 22,714 officers and enlisted men. More
suggestive than the mere increase was the fact that the volunteers were
now required "to serve for a period of three years, unless sooner
discharged." The opinion of the government as to the magnitude of the
task in hand was thus for the first time conveyed to the people. They
received it seriously and without faltering.

July 4, 1861, the Thirty-seventh Congress met in extra session, and the
soundness of the President's judgment in setting a day which had at
first been condemned as too distant was proved. In the interval, nothing
had been lost which could have been saved by the sitting of Congress;
while, on the other hand, the members had had the great advantage of
having time to think soberly concerning the business before them, and to
learn the temper and wishes of their constituents.

Mr. Lincoln took great pains with his message, which he felt to be a
very important document. It was his purpose to say simply what events
had occurred, what questions had been opened, and what necessities had
arisen; to display the situation and to state facts fairly and fully,
but not apparently to argue the case of the North. Yet it was essential
for him so to do this that no doubt could be left as to where the right
lay. This peculiar process of argument by statement had constituted his
special strength at the bar, and he now gave an excellent instance of
it. He briefly sketched the condition of public affairs at the time when
he assumed the government; he told the story of Sumter, and of the
peculiar process whereby Virginia had been linked to the Confederacy.
With a tinge of irony he remarked that, whether the sudden change of
feeling among the members of the Virginian Convention was "wrought by
their great approval of the assault upon Sumter, or their great
resentment at the government's resistance to that assault, is not
definitely known."

He explained the effect of the neutrality theory of the Border States.
"This," he said, "would be disunion completed. Figuratively speaking, it
would be the building of an impassable wall along the line of
separation,--and yet not quite an impassable one, for under the guise of
neutrality it would tie the hands of the Union men, and freely pass
supplies to the insurrectionists.... At a stroke it would take all the
trouble off the hands of secession, except what proceeds from the
external blockade." It would give to the disunionists "disunion, without
a struggle of their own."

Of the blockade and the calls for troops, he said: "These measures,
whether strictly legal or not, were ventured upon under what appeared to
be a popular demand and a public necessity, trusting then, as now, that
Congress would ratify them." At the same time he stated the matter of
the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which has been already
referred to.

Speaking of the doctrine that secession was lawful under the
Constitution, and that it was not rebellion, he made plain the genuine
significance of the issue thus raised: "It presents ... the question
whether a Constitutional Republic or Democracy, a government of the
people by the same people, can or cannot maintain its territorial
integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents the question
whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control the
administration according to the organic law in any case, can always,
upon the pretenses made in this case, or any other pretenses, or
arbitrarily without any pretense, break up their government, and thus
practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us
to ask: Is there in all Republics this inherent fatal weakness? Must a
government of necessity be too strong for the liberties of its own
people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?" The Constitution of
the Confederacy was a paraphrase with convenient adaptations of the
Constitution of the United States. A significant one of these
adaptations was the striking out of the first three words, "We, the
people," and the substitution of the words, "We, the deputies of the
sovereign and independent States." "Why," said Mr. Lincoln, "why this
deliberate pressing out of view the rights of men and the authority of
the people? This is essentially a people's contest. On the side of the
Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and
substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition
of men ... to afford to all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the
race of life.... This is the leading object of the government for whose
existence we contend. I am most happy to believe that the plain people
understand and appreciate this."

Many persons, not gifted with the power of thinking clearly, were
disturbed at what seemed to them a purpose to "invade" and to
"subjugate" sovereign States,--as though a government could invade its
own country or subjugate its own subjects! These phrases, he said, were
producing "uneasiness in the minds of candid men" as to what would be
the course of the government toward the Southern States after the
suppression of the rebellion. The President assured them that he had no
expectation of changing the views set forth in his inaugural address;
that he desired "to preserve the government, that it may be administered
for all as it was administered by the men who made it. Loyal citizens
everywhere have a right to expect this,... and the government has no
right to withhold or neglect it. It is not perceived that in giving it
there is any coercion, any conquest, or any subjugation."

In closing he said that it was with the deepest regret that he had used
the war power; but "in defense of the government, forced upon him, he
could but perform this duty or surrender the existence of the
government." Compromise would have been useless, for "no popular
government can long survive a marked precedent that those who carry an
election can only save the government from immediate destruction by
giving up the main point upon which the people gave the election." To
those who would have had him compromise he explained that only the
people themselves, not their servants, can safely reverse their own
deliberate decisions. He had no power to agree to divide the country
which he had the duty to govern. "As a private citizen the executive
could not have consented that these institutions shall perish; much less
could he, in betrayal of so vast and so sacred a trust as these free
people have confided to him. He felt that he had no moral right to
shrink, nor even to count the chances of his own life in what might

The only direct request made in the message was that, to make "this
contest a short and decisive one," Congress would "place at the control
of the government for the work at least 400,000 men, and $400,000,000.
That number of men is about one tenth of those of proper ages within the
regions where apparently all are willing to engage, and the sum is less
than a twenty-third part of the money value owned by the men who seem
ready to devote the whole."

The message was well received by the people, as it deserved to be.

The proceedings of Congress can only be referred to with brevity. Yet a
mere recital of the names of the more noteworthy members of the Senate
and the House must be intruded, if merely for the flavor of reminiscence
which it will bring to readers who recall those times. In the Senate,
upon the Republican side, there were: Lyman Trumbull from Illinois,
James Harlan and James W. Grimes from Iowa, William P. Fessenden from
Maine, Charles Sumner and Henry Wilson from Massachusetts, Zachariah
Chandler from Michigan, John P. Hale from New Hampshire, Benjamin F.
Wade from Ohio, and John Sherman, who was elected to fill the vacancy
created by the appointment of Salmon P. Chase to the Treasury
Department, David Wilmot from Pennsylvania, filling the place of Simon
Cameron, Henry B. Anthony from Rhode Island, Andrew Johnson from
Tennessee, Jacob Collamer from Vermont, and James R. Doolittle from
Wisconsin. On the Democratic side, there were: James A. McDougall of
California, James A. Bayard and William Saulsbury of Delaware, Jesse D.
Bright of Indiana, who was expelled February 5, 1862, John C.
Breckenridge of Kentucky, who a little later openly joined the
Secessionists, and was formally expelled December 4, 1861; he was
succeeded by Garrett Davis, an "American or Old Line Whig," by which
name he and two senators from Maryland preferred to be described; James
W. Nesmith of Oregon. Lane and Pomeroy, the first senators from the free
State of Kansas, were seated. In the House Galusha A. Grow of
Pennsylvania, who had lately knocked down Mr. Keitt of South Carolina in
a fisticuff encounter on the floor of the chamber, was chosen speaker,
over Francis P. Blair, Jr., of Missouri. Thaddeus Stevens of
Pennsylvania was the most prominent man in the body. Among many familiar
names in running down the list the eye lights upon James E. English of
Connecticut; E.B. Washburne, Isaac N. Arnold, and Owen Lovejoy of
Illinois; Julian, Voorhees, and Schuyler Colfax of Indiana; Crittenden
of Kentucky; Roscoe Conkling, Reuben E. Fenton, and Erastus Corning of
New York; George H. Pendleton, Vallandigham, Ashley, Shellabarger, and
S.S. Cox of Ohio; Covode of Pennsylvania; Maynard of Tennessee. The
members came together in very good temper; and the great preponderance
of Republicans secured dispatch in the conduct of business; for the
cliques which soon produced intestine discomfort in that dominant party
were not yet developed. No ordinary legislation was entered upon; but in
twenty-nine working days seventy-six public Acts were passed, of which
all but four bore directly upon the extraordinary emergency. The demands
of the President were met, with additions: 500,000 men and $500,000,000
were voted; $207,000,000 were appropriated to the army, and $56,000,000
to the navy. August 6 Congress adjourned.

       *       *       *       *       *

The law-makers were treated, during their session, to what was regarded,
in the inexperience of those days, as a spectacle of real war. During a
couple of months past large bodies of men had been gathering together,
living in tents, shouldering guns, and taking the name of armies.
General Butler was in command at Fortress Monroe, and was faced by
Colonel Magruder, who held the peninsula between the York and the James
rivers. Early in June the lieutenants of these two commanders performed
the comical fiasco of the "battle" of Big Bethel. In this skirmish the
Federal regiments fired into each other, and then retreated, while the
Confederates withdrew; but in language of absurd extravagance the
Confederate colonel reported that he had won a great victory, and
Northern men flushed beneath the ridicule incurred by the blunder of
their troops.

A smaller affair at Vienna was more ridiculous; several hundred
soldiers, aboard a train of cars, started upon a reconnoissance, as if
it had been a picnic. The Confederates fired upon them with a couple of
small cannon, and they hastily took to the woods. When they got home
they talked wisely about "masked batteries." But the shrewdness and
humor of the people were not thus turned aside, and the "masked battery"
long made the point of many a bitter jest.

Up the river, Harper's Ferry was held by "Stonewall" Jackson, who was
soon succeeded by J.E. Johnston. Confronting and watching this force was
General Patterson, at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, with a body of men
rapidly growing to considerable numbers by the daily coming of recruits.
Not very far away, southeastward, the main body of the Confederate army,
under Beauregard, lay at Manassas, and the main body of the Federal
army, under McDowell, was encamped along the Potomac. On May 23 the
Northern advance crossed that river, took possession of Arlington
Heights and of Alexandria, and began work upon permanent defensive
intrenchments in front of the capital.

The people of the North knew nothing about war or armies. Wild with
enthusiasm and excitement, they cheered the departing regiments, which,
as they vaguely and eagerly fancied, were to begin fighting at once.
Yet it was true that no one would stake his money on a "football team"
which should go into a game trained in a time so short as that which had
been allowed for bringing into condition for the manoeuvres and
battlefields of a campaign an army of thirty or forty thousand men, with
staff and commissariat, and arms of infantry, cavalry, and artillery,
altogether constituting an organization vast, difficult, and complex in
the highest degree of human coöperation. Nevertheless "On to Richmond!"
rolled up the imperious cry from every part of the North. The
government, either sharing in this madness, or feeling that it must be
yielded to, passed the word to the commander, and McDowell very
reluctantly obeyed orders and started with his army in that
direction,--not, however, with any real hope of reaching this nominal
objective; for he was an intelligent man and a good soldier, and was
perfectly aware of the unfitness of his army. But when, protesting, he
suggested that his troops were "green," he was told to remember that the
Southern troops were of the same tint; for, in a word, the North was
bound to have a fight, and would by no means endure that the three
months' men should come home without doing something more positive than
merely preventing the capture of Washington.

On July 16, therefore, McDowell began his advance, having with him about
35,000 men, and by the 19th he was at the stream of Bull Run, behind
which the Confederates lay. He planned his battle skillfully, and began
his attack on the morning of the 21st. On the other hand, Beauregard was
at the double disadvantage of misapprehending his opponent's purpose,
and of failing to get his orders conveyed to his lieutenants until the
fight was far advanced. The result was, that at the beginning of the
afternoon the Federals had almost won a victory which they fully
deserved. That they did not finally secure it was due to the
inefficiency of General Patterson. This general had crossed the Potomac
a few days before and had been instructed to watch Johnston, who had
drawn back near Winchester, and either to prevent him from moving his
force from the Shenandoah Valley to Manassas, or, failing this, to keep
close to him and unite with McDowell. But Patterson neither detained nor
followed his opponent. On July 18 Beauregard telegraphed to Johnston:
"If you wish to help me, now is the time." If Patterson wished to help
McDowell, then, also, was the time. The Southern general seized his
opportunity, and the Northern general let his opportunity go. Johnston,
uninterrupted and unfollowed by Patterson, brought his troops in from
Manassas Junction upon the right wing of the Federals at the very moment
and crisis when the battle was actually in the process of going in their
favor. Directly all was changed. Older troops would not have stood, and
these untried ones were defeated as soon as they were attacked. Speedily
retreat became rout, and rout became panic. At a great speed the
frightened soldiers, resolved into a mere disorganized mob of
individuals, made their way back to the camps on the Potomac; many
thought Washington safer, and some did not stop short of their distant
Northern homes.

The Southerners, who had been on the point of running away when the
Northerners anticipated them in so doing, now triumphed immoderately,
and uttered boastings magniloquent enough for Homeric heroes. Yet they
were, as General Johnston said, "almost as much disorganized by victory
as were the Federals by defeat." Many of them also hastened to their
homes, spreading everywhere the cheering tidings that the war was over
and the South had won.

In point of fact, it was a stage of the war when defeat was more
wholesome than victory. Fortunately, too, the North was not even
momentarily discouraged. The people had sense enough to see that what
had happened was precisely what should have been expected. A little
humiliated at their own folly, about as much vexed with themselves as
angry with their enemies, they turned to their work in a new spirit.
Persistence displaced excitement, as three years' men replaced three
months' men. The people settled down to a long, hard task. Besides this,
they had now some idea of what was necessary to be done in order to
succeed in that task. Invaluable lessons had been learned, and no lives
which were lost in the war bore fruit of greater usefulness than did
those which seemed to have been foolishly thrown away at Bull Run.


[143] So said Hon. George W. Julian, somewhat ruefully acknowledging
that Lincoln "was always himself the President." _Polit. Recoll._ 190.

[144] South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana,
and Texas were covered by this proclamation; on April 27, North Carolina
and Virginia were added.

[145] For the documents in this case, and also for some of the more
famous professional opinions thereon, see McPherson, _Hist. of
Rebellion, 154 et seq._; also (of course from the side of the chief
justice), Tyler's _Taney_, 420-431; and see original draft of the
President's message on this subject; N. and H. iv. 176.



On the day after the battle of Bull Run General George B. McClellan was
summoned to Washington, where he arrived on July 26. On the 25th he had
been assigned to the command of the army of the Potomac. By all the
light which President Lincoln had at the time of making this
appointment, it seemed the best that was possible; and in fact it was
so, in view of the immediate sphere of usefulness of a commanding
general in Virginia. McClellan was thirty-four years old, of vigorous
physique and fine address. After his graduation at West Point, in 1846,
he was attached to the Engineer Corps; he served through the Mexican
war, and for merit received a captaincy. In 1855 he was sent by
Jefferson Davis, then secretary of war, to Europe to study the
organizing and handling of armies in active service; and he was for a
while at the British headquarters during the siege of Sebastopol,
observing their system in operation. In January, 1857, he resigned from
the army; but with the first threatenings of the civil war he made ready
to play an active part. April 23, 1861, he was appointed by the governor
of Ohio a major-general, with command of all the state forces. May 13,
by an order from the national government, he took command of the
Department of the Ohio, in which shortly afterward Western Virginia was
included. He found the sturdy mountaineers of this inaccessible region
for the most part loyalists, but overawed by rebel troops, and toward
the close of May, upon his own sole responsibility, he inaugurated a
campaign for their relief. In this he had the good fortune to be
entirely successful. By some small engagements he cleared the country of
armed Secessionists and returned it to the Union; and in so doing he
showed energy and good tactical ability. These achievements, which later
in the war would have seemed inconsiderable, now led to confidence and

In his new and exalted position McClellan became commander of a great
number of men, but not of a great army. The agglomeration of civilians,
who had run away from Manassas under the impression that they had fought
and lost a real battle, was utterly disorganized and demoralized. Some
had already reached the sweet safety of the villages of the North;
others were lounging in the streets of Washington and swelling the
receipts of its numerous barrooms. The majority, it is true, were in
camp across the Potomac, but in no condition to render service. All,
having been enlisted for three months, now had only a trifling remnant
of so-called military life before them, in which it seemed to many
hardly worth while to run risks. The new call for volunteers for three
years had just gone forth, and though troops began to arrive under it
with surprising promptitude and many three months' men reënlisted, yet a
long time had to elapse before the new levies were all on hand. Thus
betwixt departing and coming hosts McClellan's duty was not to use an
army, but to create one.

The task looked immeasurable, but there was a fortunate fitness for it
upon both sides. The men who in this awful crisis were answering the
summons of President Lincoln constituted a raw material of a kind such
as never poured into any camp save possibly into that of Cromwell. For
the most part they were courageous, intelligent, self-respecting
citizens, who were under the noble compulsion of conscience and
patriotism in leaving reputable and prosperous callings for a military
career. The moral, mental, and physical average of such a body of men
was a long way above that of professional armies, and insured readiness
in acquiring their new calling. But admirable as were the latent
possibilities, and apt as each individual might be, these multitudes
arrived wholly uninstructed; few had even so much as seen a real
soldier; none had any notion at all of what military discipline was, or
how to handle arms, or to manoeuvre, or to take care of their health.
Nor could they easily get instruction in these things, for officers knew
no more than privates; indeed, for that matter, one of the great
difficulties at first encountered lay in the large proportion of utterly
unfit men who had succeeded in getting commissions, and who had to be
toilfully eliminated.

That which was to be done, McClellan was well able to do. He had a
passion for organization, and fine capacity for work; he showed tact and
skill in dealing with subordinates; he had a thorough knowledge and a
high ideal of what an army should be. He seemed the Genius of Order as
he educated and arranged the chaotic gathering of human beings, who came
before him to be transmuted from farmers, merchants, clerks,
shopkeepers, and what not into soldiers of all arms and into leaders of
soldiers. To that host in chrysalis he was what each skillful
drill-master is to his awkward squad. Under his influence privates
learned how to obey and officers how to command; each individual merged
the sense of individuality in that of homogeneousness and cohesion,
until the original loose association of units became one grand unit
endowed with the solidarity and machine-like quality of an efficient
army. Patient labor produced a result so excellent that General Meade
said long afterward: "Had there been no McClellan there could have been
no Grant, for the army made no essential improvement under any of his

That the formation of this great complex machine was indispensable, and
that it would take much time, were facts which the disaster at Bull Run
had compelled both the administration and the people to appreciate
moderately well. Accordingly they resolutely set themselves to be
patient. The cry of "On to Richmond!" no longer sounded through the
land, and the restraint imposed by the excited masses upon their own
ardor was the strongest evidence of their profound earnestness. In a
steady stream they poured men and material into the camps in Virginia,
and they heard with satisfaction of the advance of the levies in
discipline and soldierly efficiency. For a while the scene was pleasant
and without danger. "It was," says Arnold, describing that of which he
had been an eye-witness, "the era of brilliant reviews and magnificent
military displays, of parades, festive parties, and junketings." Members
of Congress found excursions to the camps attractive for themselves and
their visitors. Glancing arms, new uniforms, drill, and music
constituted a fine show. Thus the rest of the summer passed away, and
autumn came and was passing, too. Then here and there signs of
impatience began again to be manifested. It was observed with discontent
that the glorious days of the Indian Summer, the perfect season for
military operations, were gliding by as tranquilly as if there were not
a great war on hand, and still the citizen at home read each morning in
his newspaper the stereotyped bulletin, "All quiet on the Potomac;" the
phrase passed into a byword and a sneer. By this time, too, to a nation
which had not European standards of excellence, the army seemed to have
reached a high state of efficiency, and to be abundantly able to take
the field. Why did not its commander move? Amid all the drilling and
band-playing the troops had been doing hard work: a chain of strong
fortifications scientifically constructed had been completed around the
capital, and rendered it easy of defense. It could be left in safety.
Why, then, was it not left? Why did the troops still linger?

For a moment this monotony was interrupted by the ill-conducted
engagement at Ball's Bluff. On October 21 nearly 2000 troops were sent
across the Potomac by the local commander, with the foolish expectation
of achieving something brilliant.[146] The actual result was that they
were corralled in an open field; in their rear the precipitous bank
dropped sharply to the river, upon which floated only the two or three
little boats which had ferried them across in small parties; in front
and flank from the shelter of thick woods an outnumbering force of
rebels poured a steady fire upon them. They were in a cruel snare, and
suffered terribly in killed and drowned, wounded and captured. The
affair was, and the country at once saw that it was, a gross blunder.
The responsibility lay upon General Stone and Colonel Baker. Stone, a
military man by education, deserved censure, but he was treated in a
manner so cruel, so unjust, and so disproportionate to his deserts, that
his error has been condoned in sympathy for his wrongs. The injustice
was chargeable chiefly to Stanton, in part to the Committee on the
Conduct of the War. Apparently Mr. Lincoln desired to know as little as
possible about a wrong which he could not set right without injury to
the public interests. He said to Stanton concerning the arrest: "I
suppose you have good reasons for it, and having good reasons I am glad
I knew nothing of it until it was done." To General Stone himself he
said that, if he should tell all he knew about it, he should not tell
much. Colonel Baker, senator from Oregon, a personal friend of the
President, a brilliant orator, and a man beloved and admired by all who
knew him, was a favorable specimen of the great body of new civilian
officers. While brimming over with gallantry and enthusiasm, he was
entirely ignorant of the military art. In the conduct of this enterprise
a considerable discretion had been reposed in him, and he had, as was
altogether natural, failed in everything except courage. But as he paid
with his life on the battlefield the penalty of his daring and his
inexperience, he was thought of only with tenderness and regret.

This skirmish illustrated the scant trust which could yet be reposed in
the skill and judgment of subordinate officers. The men behaved with
encouraging spirit and constancy under severe trial. But could a
commander venture upon a campaign with brigadier-generals and colonels
so unfit to assume responsibility?

Nevertheless impatience hardly received a momentary check from this
lesson. With some inconsistency, people placed unlimited confidence in
McClellan's capacity to beat the enemy, but no confidence at all in his
judgment as to the feasibility of a forward movement. The grumbling did
not, however, indicate that faith in him was shaken, for just now he was
given promotion by Mr. Lincoln, and it met with general approval. For
some time past it had been a cause of discomfort that he did not get on
altogether smoothly with General Scott; the elder was irascible and
jealous, the younger certainly not submissive. At last, on October 31,
the old veteran regretfully but quite wisely availed himself of his
right to be placed upon the retired list, and immediately, November 1,
General McClellan succeeded him in the distinguished position of
commander-in-chief (under the President) of all the armies of the United
States. On the same day Mr. Lincoln courteously hastened out to
headquarters to make in person congratulations which were unquestionably
as sincere as they were generous. Every one felt that a magnificent
opportunity was given to a favorite general. But unfortunately among all
his admirers there was not one who believed in him quite so fully as he
believed in himself; he lost all sense of perspective and proportion,
and felt upon a pinnacle from which he could look down even on a
president.[147] Being in this masterful temper, he haughtily disregarded
the growing demand for an advance. On the other hand the politicians,
always eager to minister to the gratification of the people, began to be
importunate; they harried the President, and went out to camp to prick
their civilian spurs into the general himself. But McClellan had a
soldierly contempt for such intermeddling in matters military, and was
wholly unimpressible. When Senator Wade said that an unsuccessful battle
was preferable to delay, for that a defeat would easily be repaired by
swarming recruits, the general tartly replied that he preferred a few
recruits before a victory to a great many after a defeat. But, however
cleverly and fairly the military man might counter upon the politician,
there was no doubt that discontent was developing dangerously. The
people had conscientiously intended to do their part fully, and a large
proportion of them now sincerely believed that they had done it. They
knew that they had been lavish of men, money, and supplies; and they
thought that they had been not less liberal of time; wherefore they
rebelled against the contrary opinion of the general, whose ideal of a
trustworthy army had by no means been reached, and who, being of a
stubborn temperament, would not stir till it had been.

It is difficult to satisfy one's self of the real fitness of the army
to move at or about this time,--that is to say, in or near the month of
November, 1861,--for the evidence is mixed and conflicting. The
Committee on the Conduct of the War asserted that "the army of the
Potomac was well armed and equipped and had reached a high state of
discipline by the last of September or first of October;" but the
committee was not composed of experts. Less florid commendation is given
by the Comte de Paris, of date October 15. McClellan himself said: "It
certainly was not till late in November that the army was in any
condition to move, nor even then were they capable of assaulting
intrenched positions." At that time winter was at hand, and advance was
said to be impracticable. That these statements were as favorable as
possible seems probable; for it is familiar knowledge that the call for
these troops did not issue until July, that at the close of November the
recruits were still continuing "to pour in, to be assigned and equipped
and instructed;"[148] that many came unarmed or with useless weapons;
and that these "civilians, suddenly called to arms as soldiers and
officers, did not take kindly to the subordination and restraints of the
camp."[149] Now McClellan's temperament did not lead him to run risks in
the effort to force achievements with means of dubious adequacy. His
purpose was to create a machine perfect in every part, sure and
irresistible in operation, and then to set it in motion with a
certainty of success. He wrote to Lincoln: "I have ever regarded our
true policy as being that of fully preparing ourselves, and then seeking
for the most decisive results."[150] Under favoring circumstances this
plan might have been the best. But circumstances were not favoring.
Neither he nor the government itself, nor indeed both together, could
afford long or far to disregard popular feeling. Before the close of
November that popular feeling was such that the people would have
endured without flinching the discouragement of a defeat, but would not
endure the severe tax of inaction, and from this time forth their
impatience gathered volume until it became a controlling element in the
situation. Themselves intending to be reasonable, they grew more and
more convinced that McClellan was unreasonable. General and people
confronted each other: the North would fight, at the risk of defeat;
McClellan would not fight, because he was not sure to win. Any one who
comprehended the conditions, the institutions of the country, the
character of the nation, especially its temper concerning the present
conflict, also the necessities beneath which that conflict must be
waged, if it was to be waged at all, would have seen that the people
must be deferred to. The question was not whether they were right or
wrong. Assuming them to be wrong, it would still be a mistake to
withstand them beyond a certain point. If yielding to them should
result in disastrous consequences, they must be called upon to rally,
and could be trusted to do so, instructed but undismayed by their
experience. All this McClellan utterly failed to appreciate, thereby
leading Mr. Swinton very justly to remark that he was lacking in "the
statesmanlike qualities that enter into the composition of a great

On the other hand, no man ever lived more capable than Mr. Lincoln of
precisely appreciating the present facts, or more sure to avoid those
peculiar blunders which entrapped the military commander. He was very
loyal in living up to his pledge to give the general full support, and
by his conduct during many months to come he proved his readiness to
abide to the last possible point. He knew, however, with unerring
accuracy just where that last point lay, and he saw with disquietude
that it was being approached too rapidly. He was getting sufficient
knowledge of McClellan's character to see that the day was not distant
when he must interfere. Meantime he kept his sensitive finger upon the
popular pulse, as an expert physician watches a patient in a fever. With
the growth of the impatience his anxiety grew, for the people's war
would not be successfully fought by a dissatisfied people. Repeatedly he
tested the situation in the hope that a movement could be forced
without undue imprudence; but he was always met by objections from
McClellan. In weighing the Northern and the Southern armies against each
other, the general perhaps undervalued his own resources and certainly
overvalued those of his opponent. He believed that the Confederate
"discipline and drill were far better than our own;" wherein he was
probably in error, for General Lee admitted that, while the Southerners
would always fight well, they were refractory under discipline.
Moreover, they were at this time very ill provided with equipment and
transportation. Also McClellan said that the Southern army had thrown up
intrenchments at Manassas and Centreville, and therefore the "problem
was to attack victorious and finely drilled troops in intrenchment." But
the most discouraging and inexplicable assertion, which he emphatically
reiterated, concerned the relative numerical strength. He not only
declared that he himself could not put into the field the numbers shown
by the official returns to be with him, but also he exaggerated the
Southern numbers till he became extravagant to the point of absurdity.
So it had been from the outset, and so it continued to be to the time
when he was at last relieved of his command. Thus, on August 15, he
conceived himself to be "in a terrible place; the enemy have three or
four times my force." September 9 he imagined Johnston to have 130,000
men, against his own 85,000; and he argued that Johnston could move
upon Baltimore a column 100,000 strong, which he could meet with only
60,000 or 70,000. Later in October he marked the Confederates up to
150,000. He estimated his own requirement at a "total effective force"
of 208,000 men, which implied "an aggregate, present and absent, of
about 240,000 men." Of these he designed 150,000 as a "column of active
operations;" the rest were for garrisons and guards. He said that in
fact he had a gross aggregate of 168,318, and the "force present for
duty was 147,695." Since the garrisons and the guards were a fixed
number, the reduction fell wholly upon the movable column, and reduced
"the number disposable for an advance to 76,285." Thus he made himself
out to be fatally overmatched. But he was excessively in error. In the
autumn Johnston's effective force was only 41,000 men, and on December
1, 1861, it was 47,000.[152]

Such comparisons, advanced with positiveness by the highest authority,
puzzled Mr. Lincoln. They seemed very strange, yet he could not disprove
them, and was therefore obliged to face the perplexing choice which was
mercilessly set before him: "either to go into winter quarters, or to
assume the offensive with forces greatly inferior in number" to what
was "desirable and necessary." "If political considerations render the
first course unadvisable, the second alone remains." The general's most
cheering admission was that, by stripping all other armies down to the
lowest numbers absolutely necessary for a strict defensive, and by
concentrating all the forces of the nation and all the attention of the
government upon "the vital point" in Virginia, it might yet be possible
for this "main army, whose destiny it [was] to decide the
controversy,... to move with a reasonable prospect of success before the
winter is fairly upon us." A direct assertion of impossibility,
provocative of denial or discussion, would have been less disheartening.

In passing, it may be remarked that McClellan's prevision that the
ultimate arbitrament of the struggle must occur in Virginia was correct.
But in another point he was wrong, and unfortunately this was of more
immediate consequence, because it corroborated him in his purpose to
delay till he could make success a certainty. He hoped that when he
moved, he should be able to win one or two overwhelming victories, to
capture Richmond, and to crush the rebellion in a few weeks. It was a
brilliant and captivating programme,[153] but impracticable and
undesirable. Even had the Southerners been quelled by so great a
disaster,--which was not likely,--they would not have been thoroughly
conquered, nor would slavery have been disposed of, and both these
events were indispensable to a definitive peace between the two
sections. Whether the President shared this notion of his general is not
evident. Apparently he was not putting his mind upon theories reaching
into the future so much as he was devoting his whole thought to dealing
with the urgent problems of the present. If this was the case, he was
pursuing the wise and sound course. In the situation, it was more
desirable to fight a great battle at the earliest possible moment than
to await a great victory many months hence.

It is commonplace wisdom that it is foolish for a civilian to undertake
the direction of a war. Yet our Constitution ordains that "the President
shall be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States,
and of the militia of the several States, when called into the actual
service of the United States." It is not supposable that the delegates
who suggested this function, or the people who ordained it, anticipated
that presidents generally would be men skilled in military science.
Therefore Mr. Lincoln could not escape the obligation on the ground of
unfitness for the duty which was imperatively placed upon him. It might
be true that to set him in charge of military operations was like
ordering a merchant to paint a picture or a jockey to sail a ship, but
it was also true that he was so set in charge. He could not shirk it,
nor did he try to shirk it. In consequence hostile critics have dealt
mercilessly with his actions, and the history of this winter and spring
of 1861-62 is a painful and confusing story of bitter controversy and
crimination. Further it is to be remembered that, apart from the
obligation imposed on the President by the Constitution, it was true
that if civilians could not make rapid progress in the military art, the
war might as well be abandoned. They were already supposed to be doing
so; General Banks, a politician, and General Butler, a lawyer, were
already conducting important movements. Still it remains undeniable that
finally it was only the professional soldiers who, undergoing
successfully the severe test of time, composed the illustrious front
rank of strategists when the close of the war left every man in his
established place. In discussing this perplexing period, extremists upon
one side attribute the miscarriages and failure of McClellan's campaign
to ceaseless, thwarting interference by the President, the secretary of
war, and other civil officials. Extremists upon the other side allege
the marvel that a sudden development of unerring judgment upon every
question involving the practical application of military science took
place on Mr. Lincoln's part.[154] Perhaps the truth lies between the
disputants, but it is not likely ever to be definitely agreed upon so
long as the controversy excites interest; for the discussion bristles
with _ifs_, and where this is the case no advocate can be irremediably

It seems right, at this place, to note one fact concerning Mr. Lincoln
which ought not to be overlooked and which cannot be denied. This is his
entire _political unselfishness_, the rarest moral quality among men in
public life. In those days of trouble and distrust slanders were rife in
a degree which can hardly be appreciated by men whose experience has
been only with quieter times. Sometimes purposes and sometimes methods
were assailed; and those prominent in civil life, and a few also in
military life, were believed to be artfully and darkly seeking to
interlace their personal political fortunes in the web of public
affairs, naturally subordinating the latter fabric. Alliances, enmities,
intrigues, schemes, and every form of putting the interest of self
before that of the nation, were insinuated with a bitter malevolence
unknown except amid such abnormal conditions. The few who escaped
charges of this kind were believed to cherish their own peculiar
fanaticisms, desires, and purposes concerning the object and results of
the struggle, which they were resolved to satisfy at almost any cost and
by almost any means. While posterity is endeavoring very wisely to
discredit and to forget a great part of these painful criminations, it
is cheering to find that no effort has to be made to forget anything
about the President. In his case injurious gossip has long since died
away and been buried. Whatever may be said of him in other respects, at
least the purity and the singleness of his patriotism shine brilliant
and luminous through all this cloud-dust of derogation. By his position
he had more at stake, both in his lifetime and before the tribunal of
the future, than any other person in the country. But there was only one
idea in his mind, and that was,--not that _he should save the country_,
but _that the country should be saved_. Not the faintest shadow of self
ever fell for an instant across this simple purpose. He was intent to
play his part out faithfully, with all the ability he could bring to it;
but any one else, who could, might win and wear the title of savior. He
chiefly cared that the saving should be done. Never once did he
manipulate any covert magnet to draw toward himself the credit or the
glory of a measure or a move. To his own future he seemed to give no
thought. It would be unjust to allow the dread of appearing to utter
eulogy rather than historic truth to betray a biographer into
overlooking this genuine magnanimity.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in December, 1861, that Congress created the famous Committee on
the Conduct of the War, to some of whose doings it has already been
necessary to allude. The gentlemen who were placed upon it were selected
partly of course for political reasons, and were all men who had made
themselves conspicuous for their enthusiasm and vehemence; not one of
them had any military knowledge. The committee magnified its office
almost beyond limit,--investigated everything; haled whom it chose to
testify before it; made reports, expressed opinions, insisted upon
policies and measures in matters military; and all with a dictatorial
assumption and self-confidence which could not be devoid of effect,
although every one knew that each individual member was absolutely
without fitness for this business. So the committee made itself a great
power, and therefore also a great complication, in the war machinery;
and though it was sometimes useful, yet, upon a final balancing of its
long account, it failed to justify its existence, as, indeed, was to
have been expected from the outset.[155] In the present discussions
concerning an advance of the army, its members strenuously insisted upon
immediate action, and their official influence brought much strength to
that side.

The first act indicating an intention on the part of the President to
interfere occurred almost simultaneously with the beginning of the
general's illness. About December 21, 1861, he handed to McClellan a
brief memorandum: "If it were determined to make a forward movement of
the army of the Potomac, without awaiting further increase of numbers
or better drill and discipline, how long would it require to actually
get in motion? After leaving all that would be necessary, how many
troops could join the movement from southwest of the river? How many
from northeast of it?" Then he proceeded briefly to hint rather than
distinctly to suggest that plan of a direct advance by way of
Centreville and Manassas, which later on he persistently advocated. Ten
days elapsed before McClellan returned answers, which then came in a
shape too curt to be respectful. Almost immediately afterward the
general fell ill, an occurrence which seemed to his detractors a most
aggravating and unjustifiable intervention of Nature herself in behalf
of his policy of delay.

On January 10 a dispatch from General Halleck represented in his
department also a condition of check and helplessness. Lincoln noted
upon it: "Exceedingly discouraging. As everywhere else, nothing can be
done." Yet something must be done, for the game was not to be abandoned.
Under this pressure, on this same day, he visited McClellan, but could
not see him; nor could he get any definite idea how long might be the
duration of the typhoid fever, the lingering and uncertain disease which
had laid the general low. Accordingly he summoned General McDowell and
General Franklin to discuss with him that evening the military
situation. The secretaries of state and of the treasury, and the
assistant secretary of war, also came. The President, says McDowell,
"was greatly disturbed at the state of affairs," "was in great
distress," and said that, "if something was not soon done, the bottom
would be out of the whole affair; and if General McClellan did not want
to use the army, he would like to '_borrow it_,' provided he could see
how it could be made to do something." The two generals were directed to
inform themselves concerning the "actual condition of the army," and to
come again the next day. Conferences followed on January 11 and 12,
Postmaster-General Blair and General Meigs being added to the council.
The postmaster-general condemned a direct advance as "strategically
defective," while Chase descanted on the "moral power" of a victory. The
picture of the two civilians injecting their military suggestions is not
reassuring. Meigs is somewhat vaguely reported to have favored a "battle
in front."

McDowell and Franklin had not felt justified in communicating these
occurrences to McClellan, because the President had marked his order to
them "private and confidential." But the commander heard rumors of what
was going forward,[156] and on January 12 he came from his sick-room to
see the President; he was "looking quite well," and apparently was "able
to assume the charge of the army." The apparition put a different
complexion upon the pending discussions. On the 13th the same gentlemen
met, but now with the addition of General McClellan. The situation was
embarrassing. McClellan took scant pains to conceal his resentment.
McDowell, at the request of the President, explained what he thought
could be done, closing "by saying something apologetic;" to which
McClellan replied, "somewhat coldly if not curtly: 'You are entitled to
have any opinion you please.'" Secretary Chase, a leader among the
anti-McClellanites, bluntly asked the general to explain his military
plans in detail; but McClellan declined to be interrogated except by the
President, or by the secretary of war, who was not present. Finally,
according to McClellan's account, which differs a little but not
essentially from that of McDowell, Mr. Lincoln suggested[157] that he
should tell what his plans were. McClellan replied, in substance, that
this would be imprudent and seemed unnecessary, and that he would only
give information if the President would order him in writing to do so,
and would assume the responsibility for the results.[158] McDowell adds
(but McClellan does not), that the President then asked McClellan "if he
had counted upon any particular time; he did not ask what that time was,
but had he in his own mind any particular time fixed, when a movement
could be commenced. He replied, he had. 'Then,' rejoined the President,
'I will adjourn this meeting.'" This unfortunate episode aggravated the
discord, and removed confidence and coöperation farther away than ever

The absence of the secretary of war from these meetings was due to the
fact that a change in the War Department was in process
contemporaneously with them. The President had been allowed to
understand that Mr. Cameron did not find his duties agreeable, and might
prefer a diplomatic post. Accordingly, with no show of reluctance, Mr.
Lincoln, on January 11, 1862, offered to Mr. Cameron the post of
minister to Russia. It was promptly accepted, and on January 13 Edwin M.
Stanton was nominated and confirmed to fill the vacancy.[159] The
selection was a striking instance of the utter absence of vindictiveness
which so distinguished Mr. Lincoln, who, in fact, was simply insensible
to personal feeling as an influence. In choosing incumbents for public
trusts, he knew no foe, perhaps no friend; but as dispassionately as if
he were manoeuvring pieces on a chessboard, he considered only which
available piece would serve best in the square which he had to fill. In
1859 he and Stanton had met as associate counsel in perhaps the most
important lawsuit in which Mr. Lincoln had ever been concerned, and
Stanton had treated Lincoln with his habitual insolence.[160] Later,
in the trying months which closed the year 1861, Stanton had abused the
administration with violence, and had carried his revilings of the
President even to the point of coarse personal insults.[161] No man, not
being a rebel, had less right to expect an invitation to become an
adviser of the President; and most men, who had felt or expressed the
opinions held by Mr. Stanton, would have had scruples or delicacy about
coming into the close relationship of confidential adviser with the
object of their contempt; but neither scruples nor delicacy delayed him;
his acceptance was prompt.[162]

[Illustration: Edwin M. Stanton]

So Mr. Lincoln had chosen his secretary solely upon the belief of the
peculiar fitness of the individual for the special duties of the war
office. Upon the whole the choice was wisely made, and was evidence of
Mr. Lincoln's insight into the aptitudes and the uses of men. Stanton's
abilities commanded some respect, though his character never excited
either respect or liking; just now, however, all his good qualities and
many of his faults seemed precisely adapted to the present requirements
of his department. He had been a Democrat, but was now zealous to
extremity in patriotism; in his dealings with men he was capable of much
duplicity, yet in matters of business he was rigidly honest, and it was
his pleasure to protect the treasury against the contractors; he loved
work, and never wearied amid the driest and most exacting toil; he was
prompt and decisive rather than judicial or correct in his judgments
concerning men and things; he was arbitrary, harsh, bad-tempered, and
impulsive; he often committed acts of injustice or cruelty, for which he
rarely made amends, and still more rarely seemed disturbed by remorse or
regret. These traits bore hard upon individuals; but ready and
unscrupulous severity was supposed to have its usefulness in a civil
war. Many a time he taxed the forbearance of the President to a degree
that would have seemed to transcend the uttermost limit of human
patience, if Mr. Lincoln had not taken these occasions to show to the
world how forbearing and patient it is possible for man to be. But those
who knew the relations of the two men are agreed that Stanton, however
browbeating he was to others, recognized a master in the President, and,
though often grumbling and insolent, always submitted if a crisis came.
Undoubtedly Mr. Lincoln was the only ruler known to history who could
have coöperated for years with such a minister. He succeeded in doing so
because he believed it to be for the good of the cause, to which he
could easily subordinate all personal considerations; and posterity,
agreeing with him, concedes to Stanton credit for efficiency in the
conduct of his department.

It is worth while here to pause long enough to read part of a letter
which, on this same crowded thirteenth day of January, 1862, the
President sent to General Halleck, in the West: "For my own views: I
have not offered, and do not now offer, them as orders; and while I am
glad to have them respectfully considered, I would blame you to follow
them contrary to your own clear judgment, unless I should put them in
the form of orders.... With this preliminary, I state my general idea of
this war to be that we have the greater numbers and the enemy has the
greater facility of concentrating forces upon points of collision; that
we must fail unless we can find some way of making our advantage an
overmatch for his; and that this can only be done by menacing him with
superior forces at different points at the same time, so that we can
safely attack one or both if he makes no change; and if he weakens one
to strengthen the other, forbear to attack the strengthened one, but
seize and hold the weakened one, gaining so much."

In a personal point of view this short letter is pregnant with interest
and suggestion. The writer's sad face, eloquent of the charge and burden
of one of the most awful destinies of human-kind, rises before us as we
read the expression of his modest self-distrust amid the strange duties
of military affairs. But closely following this comes the intimation
that in due time "_orders_" will come. Such was the quiet, unflinching
way in which Lincoln always faced every test, apparently with a tranquil
and assured faith that, whatever might seem his lack of fitting
preparation, his best would be adequate to the occasion. The habit has
led many to fancy that he believed himself divinely chosen, and
therefore sure of infallible guidance; but it is observable far back,
almost from the beginning of his life; it was a trait of mind and
character, nothing else. The letter closes with a broad general theory
concerning the war, wrought out by that careful process of thinking
whereby he was wont to make his way to the big, simple, and fundamental
truth. The whole is worth holding in memory through the narrative of the
coming weeks.

The conference of January 13 developed a serious difference of opinion
as to the plan of campaign, whenever a campaign should be entered upon.
The President's notion, already shadowed forth in his memorandum of
December, was to move directly upon the rebel army at Centreville and
Manassas and to press it back upon Richmond, with the purpose of
capturing that city. But McClellan presented as his project a movement
by Urbana and West Point, using the York River as a base of supplies.
General McDowell and Secretary Chase favored the President's plan;
General Franklin and Postmaster Blair thought better of McClellan's. The
President had a strong fancy for his own scheme, because by it the Union
army was kept between the enemy and Washington; and therefore the
supreme point of importance, the safety of the national capital, was
insured. The discussion, which was thus opened and which remained long
unsettled, had, among other ill effects, that of sustaining the
vexatious delay. While the anti-McClellan faction--for the matter was
becoming one of factions[163]--grew louder in denunciation of his
inaction, and fastened upon him the contemptuous nickname of "the
Virginia creeper," the friends of the general retorted that the
President, meddling in what he did not understand, would not let the
military commander manage the war.

Nevertheless Mr. Lincoln, dispassionate and fair-minded as usual,
allowed neither their personal difference of opinion nor this abusive
outcry to inveigle into his mind any prejudice against McClellan. The
Southerner who, in February, 1861, predicted that Lincoln "would do his
own thinking," read character well. Lincoln was now doing precisely this
thing, in his silent, thorough, independent way, neither provoked by
McClellan's cavalier assumption of superior knowledge, nor alarmed by
the danger of offending the politicians. In fact, he decided to go
counter to both the disputants; for he resolved, on the one hand, to
compel McClellan to act; on the other, to maintain him in his command.
He did not, however, abandon his own plan of campaign. On January 27, as
commander-in-chief of the army, he issued his "General War Order No. 1."
In this he directed "that the 22d day of February, 1862, be the day for
a general movement of the land and naval forces of the United States
against the insurgent forces;" and said that heads of departments and
military and naval commanders would "be held to their strict and full
responsibilities for prompt execution of this order." By this he
practically repudiated McClellan's scheme, because transportation and
other preparations for pursuing the route by Urbana could not be made
ready by the date named.

Critics of the President have pointed to this document as a fine
instance of the follies to be expected from a civil ruler who conducts a
war. To order an advance all along a line from the Mississippi to the
Atlantic, upon a day certain, without regard to differing local
conditions and exigencies, and to notify the enemy of the purpose nearly
a month beforehand, were acts preposterous according to military
science. But the criticism was not so fair as it was obvious. The order
really bore in part the character of a manifesto; to the people of the
North, whose confidence must be kept and their spirit sustained, it
said that the administration meant action at once; to commanding
officers it was a fillip, warning them to bestir themselves, obstacles
to the contrary notwithstanding. It was a reveille. Further, in a
general way it undoubtedly laid out a sound plan of campaign,
substantially in accordance with that which McClellan also was evolving,
viz.: to press the enemy all along the western and middle line, and thus
to prevent his making too formidable a concentration in Virginia. In the
end, however, practicable or impracticable, wise or foolish, the order
was never fulfilled. The armies in Virginia did nothing till many weeks
after the anniversary of Washington's birthday; whereas, in the West,
Admiral Foote and General Grant did not conceive that they were enforced
to rest in idleness until that historic date. Before it arrived they had
performed the brilliant exploits of capturing Fort Henry and Fort

On January 31 the President issued "Special War Order No. 1," directing
the army of the Potomac to seize and occupy "a point upon the railroad
southwestward of what is known as Manassas Junction;... the expedition
to move before or on the 22d day of February next." This was the
distinct, as the general order had been the indirect, adoption of his
own plan of campaign, and the overruling of that of the general.
McClellan at once remonstrated, and the two rival plans thus came face
to face for immediate and definitive settlement. It must be assumed
that the President's order had been really designed only to force
exactly this issue; for on February 3, so soon as he received the
remonstrance, he invited argument from the general by writing to him a
letter which foreshadowed an open-minded reception for views opposed to
his own:--

"If you will give satisfactory answers to the following questions, I
shall gladly yield my plan to yours:--

"1st. Does not your plan involve a greatly larger expenditure of _time_
and _money_ than mine?

"2d. Wherein is a victory _more certain_ by your plan than mine?

"3d. Wherein is a victory _more valuable_ by your plan than mine?

"4th. In fact, would it not be _less_ valuable in this: that it would
break no great line of the enemy's communications, while mine would?

"5th. In case of disaster would not a retreat be more difficult by your
plan than mine?"

To these queries McClellan replied by a long and elaborate exposition of
his views. He said that, if the President's plan should be pursued
successfully, the "results would be confined to the possession of the
field of battle, the evacuation of the line of the upper Potomac by the
enemy, and the moral effect of the victory." On the other hand, a
movement in force by the route which he advocated "obliges the enemy to
abandon his intrenched position at Manassas, in order to hasten to
cover Richmond and Norfolk." That is to say, he expected to achieve by a
manoeuvre what the President designed to effect by a battle, to be
fought by inexperienced troops against an intrenched enemy. He
continued: "This movement, if successful, gives us the capital, the
communications, the supplies, of the rebels; Norfolk would fall; all the
waters of the Chesapeake would be ours; all Virginia would be in our
power, and the enemy forced to abandon Tennessee and North Carolina. The
alternative presented to the enemy would be, to beat us in a position
selected by ourselves, disperse, or pass beneath the Caudine forks." In
case of defeat the Union army would have a "perfectly secure retreat
down the Peninsula upon Fort Monroe." "This letter," he afterward wrote,
"must have produced some effect upon the mind of the President!" The
slur was unjust. The President now and always considered the views of
the general with a liberality of mind rarely to be met with in any man,
and certainly never in McClellan himself. In this instance the letter
did in fact produce so much "effect upon the mind of the President" that
he prepared to yield views which he held very strongly to views which he
was charged with not being able to understand, and which he certainly
could not bring himself actually to believe in.

Yet before quite taking this step he demanded that a council of the
generals of division should be summoned to express their opinions. This
was done, with the result that McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman, and
Barnard voted against McClellan's plan; Keyes voted for it, with the
proviso "that no change should be made until the rebels were driven from
their batteries on the Potomac." Fitz-John Porter, Franklin, W.F. Smith,
McCall, Blenker, Andrew Porter, and Naglee (of Hooker's division) voted
for it. Stanton afterward said of this: "We saw ten generals afraid to
fight." The insult, delivered in the snug personal safety which was
suspected to be very dear to Stanton, was ridiculous as aimed at men who
soon handled some of the most desperate battles of the war; but it is
interesting as an expression of the unreasoning bitterness of the
controversy then waging over the situation in Virginia, a controversy
causing animosities vastly more fierce than any between Union soldiers
and Confederates, animosities which have unfortunately lasted longer,
and which can never be brought to the like final and conclusive
arbitrament. The purely military question quickly became snarled up with
politics and was reduced to very inferior proportions in the noxious
competition. "Politics entered and strategy retired," says General Webb,
too truly. McClellan himself conceived that the politicians were leagued
to destroy him, and would rather see him discredited than the rebels
whipped. In later days the strong partisan loves and hatreds of our
historical writers have perpetuated and increased all this bad blood,
confusion, and obscurity.

The action of the council of generals was conclusive. The President
accepted McClellan's plan. Therein he did right; for undeniably it was
his duty to allow his own inexperience to be controlled by the
deliberate opinion of the best military experts in the country; and this
fact is wholly independent of any opinion concerning the intrinsic or
the comparative merits of the plans themselves. Indeed, Mr. Lincoln had
never expressed positive disapproval of McClellan's plan _per se_, but
only had been alarmed at what seemed to him its indirect result in
exposing the capital. To cover this point, he now made an imperative
preliminary condition that this safety should be placed beyond a
question. He was emphatic and distinct in reiterating this proviso as
fundamental. The preponderance of professional testimony, from that day
to this, has been to the effect that McClellan's strategy was sound and
able, and that Mr. Lincoln's anxiety for the capital was groundless. But
in spite of all argument, and though military men may shed ink as if it
were mere blood, in spite even of the contempt and almost ridicule which
the President incurred at the pen of McClellan,[164] the civilian will
retain a lurking sympathy with the President's preference. It is
impossible not to reflect that precisely in proportion as the safety of
the capital, for many weighty reasons, immeasurably outweighed any other
possible consideration in the minds of the Northerners, so the desire to
capture it would be equally overmastering in the estimation of the
Southerners. Why might not the rebels permit McClellan to march into
Richmond, provided that at the same time they were marching into
Washington? Why might they not, in the language afterward used by
General Lee, "swap Queens?" They would have a thousand fold the better
of the exchange. The Northern Queen was an incalculably more valuable
piece on the board than was her Southern rival. With the Northern
government in flight, Maryland would go to the Confederacy, and European
recognition would be sure and immediate; and these two facts might,
almost surely would, be conclusive against the Northern cause. Moreover,
memory will obstinately bring up the fact that long afterward, when
General Grant was pursuing a route to Richmond strategically not
dissimilar to that proposed by McClellan, and when all the circumstances
made the danger of a successful attack upon Washington much less than it
was in the spring of 1862, the rebels actually all but captured the
city; and it was saved not alone by a rapidity of movement which would
have been impossible in the early stages of the war, but also by what
must be called the aid of good luck. It is difficult to see why General
Jackson in 1862 might not have played in fatal earnest a game which in
1864 General Early played merely for the chances. Pondering upon these
things, it is probable that no array of military scientists will ever
persuade the non-military world that Mr. Lincoln was so timid, or so
dull-witted, or so unreasonable, as General McClellan declared him to

Another consideration is suggested by some remarks of Mr. Swinton. It is
tolerably obvious that, whether McClellan's plan was or was not the
better, the President's plan was entirely possible; all that could be
said against it was that it promised somewhat poorer results at somewhat
higher cost. This being the case, and in view of the fact that the
President's disquietude concerning Washington was so profound and his
distrust of McClellan's plan so ineradicable, it would have been much
better to have had the yielding come from the general than from the
President. A man of less stubborn temper and of broader intellect than
belonged to McClellan would have appreciated this. In fact, it was in a
certain sense even poor generalship to enter upon a campaign of such
magnitude, when a thorough and hearty coöperation was really not to be
expected. For after all might be ostensibly settled and agreed upon, and
however honest might be Mr. Lincoln's intentions to support the
commanding general, one thing still remained certain: that the safety of
the capital was Mr. Lincoln's weightiest responsibility, that it was a
matter concerning which he was sensitively anxious, and that he was
perfectly sure in any moment of alarm concerning that safety to insure
it by any means in his power and at any sacrifice whatsoever. In a word,
that which soon did happen was precisely that which ought to have been
foreseen as likely to happen. For it was entirely obvious that Mr.
Lincoln did not abandon his own scheme because his own reason was
convinced of the excellence of McClellan's; in fact, he never was and
never pretended to be thus convinced. To his mind, McClellan's reasoning
never overcame his own reasoning; he only gave way before professional
authority; and, while he sincerely meant to give McClellan the most
efficient aid and backing in his power, the anxiety about Washington
rested immovable in his thought. If the two interests should ever, in
his opinion, come into competition, no one could doubt which would be
sacrificed. To push forward the Peninsula campaign under these
conditions was a terrible mistake of judgment on McClellan's part. Far
better would it have been to have taken the Manassas route; for even if
its inherent demerits were really so great as McClellan had depicted,
they would have been more than offset by preserving the undiminished
coöperation of the administration. The personal elements in the problem
ought to have been conclusive.

An indication of the error of forcing the President into a course not
commended by his judgment, in a matter where his responsibility was so
grave, was seen immediately. On March 8 he issued General War Order No.
3: That no change of base should be made "without leaving in and about
Washington such a force as, in the opinion of the general-in-chief and
the commanders of army corps, shall leave said city entirely secure;"
that not more than two corps (about 50,000 men) should be moved en route
for a new base until the Potomac, below Washington, should be freed from
the Confederate batteries; that any movement of the army via Chesapeake
Bay should begin as early as March 18, and that the general-in-chief
should be "responsible that it moves as early as that day." This greatly
aggravated McClellan's dissatisfaction; for it expressed the survival of
the President's anxiety, it hampered the general, and by its last clause
it placed upon him a responsibility not properly his own.

Yet at this very moment weighty evidence came to impeach the soundness
of McClellan's opinion concerning the military situation. On February 27
Secretary Chase wrote that the time had come for dealing decisively with
the "army in front of us," which he conceived to be already so weakened
that "a victory over it is deprived of half its honor." Not many days
after this writing, the civilian strategists, the President and his
friends, seemed entitled to triumph. For on March 7, 8, and 9 the North
was astonished by news of the evacuation of Manassas by Johnston. At
once the cry of McClellan's assailants went up: If McClellan had only
moved upon the place! What a cheap victory he would have won, and
attended with what invaluable "moral effects"! Yet, forsooth, he had
been afraid to move upon these very intrenched positions which it now
appeared that the Confederates dared not hold even when unthreatened!
But McClellan retorted that the rebels had taken this backward step
precisely because they had got some hint of his designs for advancing by
Urbana, and that it was the exact fulfillment, though inconveniently
premature, of his predictions. This explanation, however, wholly failed
to prevent the civilian mind from believing that a great point had been
scored on behalf of the President's plan. Further than this, there were
many persons, including even a majority of the members of the Committee
on the Conduct of the War, who did not content themselves with mere
abuse of McClellan's military intelligence, but who actually charged him
with being disaffected and nearly, if not quite, a traitor. None the
less Mr. Lincoln generously and patiently adhered to his agreement to
let McClellan have his own way.

Precisely at the same time that this evacuation of Manassas gave to
McClellan's enemies an argument against him which they deemed fair and
forcible and he deemed unfair and ignorant, two other occurrences added
to the strain of the situation. McClellan immediately put his entire
force in motion towards the lines abandoned by the Confederates, not
with the design of pressing the retreating foe, which the "almost
impassable roads" prevented, but to strip off redundancies and to train
the troops in marching. On March 11, immediately after he had started,
the President issued his Special War Order No. 3: "Major-General
McClellan having personally taken the field at the head of the army of
the Potomac,... he is relieved from the command of the other military
departments, he retaining command of the Department of the Potomac."
McClellan at once wrote that he should continue to "work just as
cheerfully as before;" but he felt that the removal was very
unhandsomely made just as he was entering upon active operations.
Lincoln, on the other hand, undoubtedly looked upon it in precisely the
opposite light, and conceived that the opportunity of the moment
deprived of any apparent sting a change which he had determined to make.
The duties which were thus taken from McClellan were assumed during
several months by Mr. Stanton. He was utterly incompetent for them, and,
whether or not it was wise to displace the general, it was certainly
very unwise to let the secretary practically succeed him.[165] The way
in which, both at the East and West, our forces were distributed into
many independent commands, with no competent chief who could compel all
to coöperate and to become subsidiary to one comprehensive scheme, was a
serious mistake in general policy, which cost very dear before it was
recognized.[166] McClellan had made some efforts to effect this
combination or unity in purpose, but Stanton gave no indication even of
understanding that it was desirable.

The other matter was the division of the army of the Potomac into four
army corps, to be commanded respectively by the four senior generals of
division, viz., McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes. The propriety
of this action had been for some time under consideration, and the step
was now forced upon Mr. Lincoln by the strenuous insistence of the
Committee on the Conduct of the War. That so large an army required
organization by corps was admitted; but McClellan had desired to defer
the arrangement until his generals of division should have had some
actual experience in the field, whereby their comparative fitness for
higher responsibilities could be measured. An incapable corps commander
was a much more dangerous man than an incapable commander of a division
or brigade. The commander naturally felt the action now taken by the
President to be a slight, and he attributed it to pressure by the band
of civilian advisers whose untiring hostility he returned with
unutterable contempt. Not only was the taking of the step at this time
contrary to his advice, but he was not even consulted in the selection
of his own subordinates, who were set in these important positions by
the blind rule of seniority, and not in accordance with his opinion of
comparative merit. His irritation was perhaps not entirely


[146] A reconnoissance or "slight demonstration" ordered for the day
before by McClellan had been completed, and is not to be confounded with
this movement, for which he was not responsible.

[147] For example, see his _Own Story_, 82; but, unfortunately, one may
refer to that book _passim_ for evidence of the statement.

[148] N. and H. iv. 469.

[149] _Ibid._ v. 140.

[150] Letter to Lincoln, February 3, 1862.

[151] _Army of Potomac_, 97. Swinton says: "He should have made the
lightest possible draft on the indulgence of the people." _Ibid._ 69.
General Webb says: "He drew too heavily upon the faith of the public."
_The Peninsula_, 12.

[152] The Southern generals had a similar propensity to overestimate the
opposing force; _e.g._, Johnston's _Narrative_, 108, where he puts the
Northern force at 140,000, when in fact it was 58,000; and on p. 112 his
statement is even worse.

[153] The Southerners also had the same notion, hoping by one great
victory to discourage and convince the North and make peace on the basis
of independence; _e.g._, see Johnston's _Narrative_ 113, 115. Grant
likewise had the notion of a decisive battle. _Memoirs_, i. 368.

[154] The position taken by Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, I think, fully
warrants this language.

[155] General Palfrey says of this committee that "the worst spirit of
the Inquisition characterized their doings." _The Antietam and
Fredericksburg_ (Campaigns of Civil War Series), 182.

[156] Through Stanton; McClellan, _Own Story_, 156.

[157] Only a few days before this time Lincoln had said that he had no
"right" to insist upon knowing the general's plans. Julian, _Polit.
Recoll._ 201.

[158] It appears that he feared that what he said would leak out, and
ultimately reach the enemy.

[159] For an interesting account of these incidents, from Secretary
Chase's Diary, see Warden, 401.

[160] Lamon, 332; Herndon, 353-356; N. and H. try to mitigate this
story, v. 133.

[161] He did not always feel his tongue tied afterward by the
obligations of office; _e.g._, see Julian, _Polit. Recoll._ 210.

[162] For a singular tale, see McClellan, _Own Story_, 153.

[163] In fact, the feeling against McClellan was getting so strong that
some of his enemies were wild enough about this time to accuse him of
disloyalty. He himself narrates a dramatic tale, which would seem
incredible if his veracity were not beyond question, of an interview,
occurring March 8, 1862, in which the President told him, apparently
with the air of expecting an explanation, that he was charged with
laying his plans with the traitorous intent of leaving Washington
defenseless. McClellan's _Own Story_, 195. On the other hand, McClellan
retaliated by believing that his detractors wished, for political and
personal motives, to prevent the war from being brought to an early and
successful close, and that they intentionally withheld from him the
means of success; also that Stanton especially sought by underhand means
to sow misunderstanding between him and the President. _Ibid._ 195.

[164] McClellan afterward wrote that the administration "had neither
courage nor military insight to understand the effect of the plan I
desired to carry out." _Own Story_, 194. This is perhaps a mild example
of many remarks to the same purport which fell from the general at one
time and another.

[165] See remarks of Mr. Blaine, _Twenty Years of Congress_, i. 368.

[166] _E.g._, McClellan, _Rep._ (per Keyes), 82; Grant, _Mem._ i. 322;
and indeed all writers agree upon this.



The man who first raised the cry "On to Richmond!" uttered the formula
of the war. Richmond was the gage of victory. Thus it happened, as has
been seen, that every one at the North, from the President down, had his
attention fast bound to the melancholy procession of delays and
miscarriages in Virginia. At the West there were important things to be
done; the States of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, trembling in the
balance, were to be lost or won for the Union; the passage down the
Mississippi to the Gulf was at stake, and with it the prosperity and
development of the boundless regions of the Northwest. Surely these were
interests of some moment, and worthy of liberal expenditure of thought
and energy, men and money; yet the swarm of politicians gave them only
side glances, being unable for many minutes in any day to withdraw their
eyes from the Old Dominion. The consequence was that at the East matters
military and matters political, generals and "public men" of all
varieties were mixed in a snarl of backbiting and quarreling, which
presented a spectacle most melancholy and discouraging. On the other
hand, the West throve surprisingly well in the absence of political
nourishment, and certain local commanders achieved cheering successes
without any aid from the military civilians of Washington. The contrast
seems suggestive, yet perhaps it is incorrect to attach to these facts
any sinister significance, or any connection of cause and effect. Other
reasons than civilian assistance may account for the Virginia failures,
while Western successes may have been won in spite of neglect rather
than by reason of it. Still, simply as naked facts, these things were

Upon occurrences outside of Virginia Mr. Lincoln bestowed more thought
than was fashionable in Washington, and maintained an oversight strongly
in contrast to the indifference of those who seemed to recognize no
other duty than to discuss the demerits of General McClellan. The
President had at least the good sense to see the value of unity of plan
and coöperation along the whole line, from the Atlantic seaboard to the
extreme West. Also at the West as at the East he was bent upon
advancing, pressing the enemy, and doing something positive. He had not
occasion to use the spur at the West either so often or so severely as
at the East; yet Halleck and Buell needed it and got it more than once.
The Western commanders, like those at the East, and with better reason,
were importunate for more men and more equipment. The President could
not, by any effort, meet their requirements. He wrote to McClernand
after the battle of Belmont: "Much, very much, goes undone; but it is
because we have not the power to do it faster than we do." Some troops
were without arms; but, he said, "the plain matter of fact is, our good
people have rushed to the rescue of the government faster than the
government can find arms to put in their hands." Yet, withal, it is true
that Mr. Lincoln's actual interferences at the South and West were so
occasional and incidental, that, since this writing is a biography of
him and not a history of the war, there is need only for a list of the
events which were befalling outside of that absorbing domain which lay
around the rival capitals.

Along the southern Atlantic coast some rather easy successes were
rapidly won. August 29, 1861, Hatteras Inlet was taken, with little
fighting. November 7, Port Royal followed. Lying nearly midway between
Charleston and Savannah, and being a very fine harbor, this was a prize
of value. January 7, 1862, General Burnside was directed to take command
of the Department of North Carolina. February 8, Roanoke Island was
seized by the Federal forces. March 14, Newbern fell. April 11, Fort
Pulaski, at the mouth of the Savannah River, was taken. April 26,
Beaufort was occupied. The blockade of the other Atlantic ports having
long since been made effective, the Eastern seaboard thus early became a
prison wall for the Confederacy.

At the extreme West Missouri gave the President some trouble. The
bushwhacking citizens of that frontier State, divided not unequally
between the Union and Disunion sides, entered upon an irregular but
energetic warfare with ready zeal if not actually with pleasure.
Northerners in general hardly paused to read the newspaper accounts of
these rough encounters, but the President was much concerned to save the
State. As it lay over against Illinois along the banks of the
Mississippi River, and for the most part above the important strategic
point where Cairo controls the junction of that river with the Ohio,
possession of it appeared to him exceedingly desirable. In the hope of
helping matters forward, on July 3, 1861, he created the Department of
the West, and placed it under command of General Fremont. But the choice
proved unfortunate. Fremont soon showed himself inefficient and
troublesome. At first the President endeavored to allay the local
bickerings; on September 9, 1861, he wrote to General Hunter: "General
Fremont needs assistance which it is difficult to give him. He is losing
the confidence of men near him.... His cardinal mistake is that he
isolates himself;... he does not know what is going on.... He needs to
have by his side a man of large experience. Will you not, for me, take
that place? Your rank is one grade too high;... but will you not serve
the country, and oblige me, by taking it voluntarily?" Kindly
consideration, however, was thrown away upon Fremont, whose self-esteem
was so great that he could not see that he ought to be grateful, or that
he must be subordinate. He owed his appointment largely to the friendly
urgency of the Blair family; and now Postmaster-General Blair, puzzled
at the disagreeable stories about him, went to St. Louis on an errand of
investigation. Fremont promptly placed him under arrest. At the same
time Mrs. Fremont was journeying to Washington, where she had an
extraordinary interview with the President. "She sought an audience with
me at midnight," wrote Lincoln, "and taxed me so violently with many
things that I had to exercise all the awkward tact I have to avoid
quarreling with her.... She more than once intimated that if General
Fremont should decide to try conclusions with me, he could set up for
himself." Naturally the angry lady's threats of treason, instead of
seeming a palliation of her husband's shortcomings, tended to make his
displacement more inevitable. Yet the necessity of being rid of him was
unfortunate, because he was the pet hero of the Abolitionists, who stood
by him without the slightest regard to reason. Lincoln was loath to
offend them, but he felt that he had no choice, and therefore ordered
the removal. He preserved, however, that habitual strange freedom from
personal resentment which made his feelings, like his action, seem to be
strictly official. After the matter was all over he uttered a fair
judgment: "I thought well of Fremont. Even now I think well of his
impulses. I only think he is the prey of wicked and designing men; and I
think he has absolutely no military capacity." For a short while General
Hunter filled Fremont's place, until, in November, General Henry W.
Halleck was assigned to command the Department of Missouri. In February,
1862, General Curtis drove the only regular and considerable rebel force
across the border into Arkansas; and soon afterward, March 7 and 8,
within this latter State, he won the victory of Pea Ridge.

In Tennessee the vote upon secession had indicated that more than two
thirds of the dwellers in the mountainous eastern region were Unionists.
Mr. Lincoln had it much at heart to sustain these men, and aside from
the personal feeling of loyalty to them it was also a point of great
military consequence to hold this district. Near the boundary separating
the northeastern corner of the State from Kentucky, the famous
Cumberland Gap gave passage through the Cumberland Mountains for the
East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, "the artery that supplied the
rebellion." The President saw, as many others did, and appreciated much
more than others seemed to do, the desirability of gaining this place.
To hold it would be to cut in halves, between east and west, the
northern line of the Confederacy. In the early days a movement towards
the Gap seemed imprudent in face of Kentucky's theory of "neutrality."
But this foolish notion was in time effectually disposed of by the
Confederates. Unable to resist the temptation offered by the important
position of Columbus at the western end of the State on the Mississippi
River, they seized that place in September, 1861. The state legislature,
incensed at the intrusion, immediately embraced the Union cause and
welcomed the Union forces within the state lines.

This action opened the way for the President to make strenuous efforts
for the protection of the East Tennesseeans and the possession of the
Gap. In his annual message he urged upon Congress the construction of a
military railroad to the Gap, and afterward appeared in person to
advocate this measure before a committee of the Senate. If the place had
been in Virginia, he might have gained for his project an attention
which, as matters stood, the politicians never accorded to it. He also
endeavored to stir to action General Buell, who commanded in Kentucky.
Buell, an appointee and personal friend of General McClellan, resembled
his chief somewhat too closely both in character and history. Just as
Mr. Lincoln had to prick McClellan in Virginia, he now had to prick
Buell in Kentucky; and just as McClellan, failed to respond in Virginia,
Buell also failed in Kentucky. Further, Buell, like McClellan, had with
him a force very much greater than that before him; but Buell, like
McClellan, would not admit that his troops were in condition to move.
The result was that Jefferson Davis, more active to protect a crucial
point than the North was to assail it, in December, 1861, sent into East
Tennessee a force which imprisoned, deported, and hanged the loyal
residents there, harried the country without mercy, and held it with the
iron hand. The poor mountaineers, with good reason, concluded that the
hostility of the South was a terribly serious evil, whereas the
friendship of the North was a sadly useless good. The President was
bitterly chagrined, although certainly the blame did not rest with him.
Then the parallel between Buell and McClellan was continued even one
step farther; for Buell at last intimated that he did not approve of the
plan of campaign suggested for him, but thought it would be better
tactics to move upon Nashville. It so happened, however, that when he
expressed these views McClellan was commander-in-chief of all the
armies, and that general, being little tolerant of criticism from
subordinates when he himself was the superior, responded very tartly and
imperiously. Lincoln, on the other hand, according to his wont, wrote
modestly: "Your dispatch ... disappoints and distresses me.... I am not
competent to criticise your views." Then, in the rest of the letter, he
maintained with convincing clearness both the military and the political
soundness of his own opinions.

In offset of this disappointment caused by Buell's inaction, the western
end of Kentucky became the theatre of gratifying operations. So soon as
policy ceased to compel recognition of the "neutrality" of the State,
General Grant, on September 6, 1861, entered Paducah at the confluence
of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. By this move he checked the water
communication hitherto freely used by the rebels, and neutralized the
advantage which they had expected to gain by their possession of
Columbus. But this was only a first and easy step. Farther to the
southward, just within the boundaries of Tennessee, lay Fort Henry on
the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, presenting a
kind of temptation which Grant was less able to resist than were most of
the Union generals at this time. Accordingly he arranged with Admiral
Foote, who commanded the new gunboats on the Mississippi, for a joint
excursion against these places. On February 6, Fort Henry fell, chiefly
through the work of the river navy. Ten days later, February 16, Fort
Donelson was taken, the laurels on this occasion falling to the land
forces. Floyd and Pillow were in the place when the Federals came to it,
but when they saw that capture was inevitable they furtively slipped
away, and thus shifted upon General Buckner the humiliation of the
surrender. This mean behavior excited the bitter resentment of that
general, which was not alleviated by what followed. For when he proposed
to discuss terms of capitulation, General Grant made that famous reply
which gave rise to his popular nickname: "No terms except unconditional
and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately
upon your works."

Halleck telegraphed the pleasant news that the capture of Fort Donelson
carried with it "12,000 to 15,000 prisoners, including Generals Buckner
and Bushrod R. Johnson, also about 20,000 stands of arms, 48 pieces of
artillery, 17 heavy guns, from 2000 to 4000 horses, and large quantities
of commissary stores." He also advised: "Make Buell, Grant, and Pope
major-generals of volunteers, and give me command in the West. I ask
this in return for Forts Henry and Donelson." Halleck was one of those
who expect to reap where others sow. The achievements of Grant and Foote
also led him, by some strange process of reasoning, to conclude that
General C.W. Smith was the most able general in his department.

Congress, highly gratified at these cheering events, ordered a grand
illumination at Washington for February 22; but the death of the
President's little son, at the White House, a day or two before that
date, checked a rejoicing which in other respects also would not have
been altogether timely.

The Federal possession of these two forts rendered Columbus untenable
for the Confederates, and on March 2 they evacuated it. This was
followed by the fall of New Madrid on March 13, and of Island No. 10 on
April 7. At the latter place between 6000 and 7000 Confederates
surrendered. Thus was the Federal wedge being driven steadily deeper
down the channel of the Mississippi.

Soon after this good service of the gunboats on the Western rivers, the
salt-water navy came in for its share of glory. On March 8 the ram
Virginia, late Merrimac, which had been taking on her mysterious iron
raiment at the Norfolk navy yard, issued from her concealment, an ugly
and clumsy, but also a novel and terrible monster. Straight she steamed
against the frigate Cumberland, and with one fell rush cut the poor
wooden vessel in halves and sent her, with all on board, to the bottom
of the sea. Turning then, she mercilessly battered the frigate Congress,
drove her ashore, and burned her. All this while the shot which had
rained upon her iron sides had rolled off harmless, and she returned to
her anchorage, having her prow broken by impact with the Cumberland, but
otherwise unhurt. Her armor had stood the test, and now the Federal
government contemplated with grave anxiety the further possible
achievements of this strange and potent destroyer.

But the death of the Merrimac was to follow close upon her birth; she
was the portent of a few weeks only. For, during a short time past,
there had been also rapidly building in a Connecticut yard the Northern
marvel, the famous Monitor. When the ingenious Swede, John Ericsson,
proposed his scheme for an impregnable floating battery, his hearers
were divided between distrust and hope; but fortunately the President's
favorable opinion secured the trial of the experiment. The work was
zealously pushed, and the artisans actually went to sea with the craft
in order to finish her as she made her voyage southward. It was well
that such haste was made, for she came into Hampton Roads actually by
the light of the burning Congress. On the next day, being Sunday, March
9, the Southern monster again steamed forth, intending this time to make
the Minnesota her prey; but a little boat, that looked like a
"cheese-box" afloat, pushed forward to interfere with this plan. Then
occurred a duel which, in the annals of naval science, ranks as the most
important engagement which ever took place. It did not actually result
in the destruction of the Merrimac then and there, for, though much
battered, she was able to make her way back to the friendly shelter of
the Norfolk yard. But she was more than neutralized; it was evident that
the Monitor was the better craft of the two, and that in a combat _à
outrance_ she would win. The significance of this day's work on the
waters of Virginia cannot be exaggerated. By the armor-clad Merrimac and
the Monitor there was accomplished in the course of an hour a revolution
which differentiated the naval warfare of the past from that of the
future by a chasm as great as that which separated the ancient Greek
trireme from the flagship of Lord Nelson.

As early as the middle of November, 1861, Mr. Lincoln was discussing
the feasibility of capturing New Orleans. Already Ship Island, off the
Mississippi coast, with its uncompleted equipment, had been seized as a
Gulf station, and could be used as a base. The naval force was prepared
as rapidly as possible, but it was not until February 3 that Captain
Farragut, the commander of the expedition, steamed out of Hampton Roads
in his flagship, the screw steam sloop Hartford. On April 18 he began to
bombard forts St. Philip and Jackson, which lie on the river banks
seventy-five miles below New Orleans, guarding the approach. Soon,
becoming impatient of this tardy process, he resolved upon the bold and
original enterprise of running by the forts. This he achieved in the
night of April 24; and on April 27 the stars and stripes floated over
the Mint in New Orleans. Still two days of shilly-shallying on the part
of the mayor ensued, delaying a formal surrender, until Farragut, who
had no fancy for nonsense, sharply put a stop to it, and New Orleans, in
form and substance, passed under Northern control. On April 28 the two
forts, isolated by what had taken place, surrendered. On May 1 General
Butler began in the city that efficient régime which so exasperated the
men of the South. On May 7 Baton Rouge, the state capital, was occupied,
without resistance; and Natchez followed in the procession on May 12.

[Illustration: The Fight Between The Monitor And The Merrimac]

With one Union fleet at the mouth of the Mississippi and another at
Island No. 10, and the Union army not far from the riverside in
Kentucky and Tennessee, the opening and repossession of the whole stream
by the Federals became a thing which ought soon to be achieved. On June
5 the gunboat fleet from up the river came down to within two miles of
Memphis, engaged in a hard fight and won a complete victory, and on the
next day Memphis was held by the Union troops. Farragut also, working in
his usual style, forced his way up to Vicksburg, and exchanged shots
with the Confederate batteries on the bluffs. He found, however, that
without the coöperation of a land force he could do nothing, and had to
drop back again to New Orleans, arriving there on June 1. In a few weeks
he returned in stronger force, and on June 27 he was bombarding the
rebel works. On June 28, repeating the operation which had been so
successful below New Orleans, he ran some of his vessels by the
batteries and got above the city. But there was still no army on the
land, and so the vessels which had run by, up stream, had to make the
dangerous gauntlet again, down stream, and a second time the fleet
descended to New Orleans.

General Halleck had arrived at St. Louis on November 18, 1861, to take
command of the Western Department. Perhaps a more energetic commander
would have been found ready to coöperate with Farragut at Vicksburg by
the end of June, 1862; for matters had been going excellently with the
Unionists northeast of that place, and it would seem that a powerful
and victorious army might have been moving thither during that month.
Early in March, however, General Halleck reported that Grant's army was
as much demoralized by victory as the army at Bull Run had been by
defeat. He said that Grant "richly deserved" censure, and that he
himself was worn out by Grant's neglect and inefficiency. By such
charges he obtained from McClellan orders relieving General Grant from
duty, ordering an investigation, and even authorizing his arrest. But a
few days later, March 13, more correct information caused the reversal
of these orders, and March 17 found Grant again in command. He at once
began to busy himself with arrangements for moving upon Corinth. General
Buell meanwhile, after sustaining McClellan's rebuke and being taught
his place, had afterward been successful in obtaining for his own plan
preference over that of the administration, had easily possessed himself
of Nashville toward the end of February, and was now ready to march
westward and coöperate with General Grant in this enterprise. Corinth,
lying just across the Mississippi border, was "the great strategic
position" at this part of the West. The Mobile and Ohio Railroad ran
through it north and south; the Memphis and Charleston Railroad passed
through east and west. If it could be taken and held, it would leave, as
the only connection open through the Confederacy from the Mississippi
River to the Atlantic coast, the railroad line which started from
Vicksburg. The Confederates also had shown their estimation of Corinth
by fortifying it strongly, and manifesting plainly their determination
to fight a great battle to hold it. Grant, aiming towards it, had his
army at Pittsburg Landing, on the west bank of the Tennessee, and there
awaited Buell, who was moving thither from Nashville with 40,000 men.
Such being the status, Grant expected General A.S. Johnston to await in
his intrenchments the assault of the Union army. But Johnston, in an
aggressive mood, laid well and boldly his plan to whip Grant before
Buell could join him, then to whip Buell, and, having thus disposed of
the Northern forces in detail, to carry the war up to, or even across,
the Ohio. So he came suddenly out from Corinth and marched straight upon
Pittsburg Landing, and precipitated that famous battle which has been
named after the church of Shiloh, because about that church the most
desperate and bloody fighting was done.

The conflict began on Sunday, April 6, and lasted all day. There was not
much plan about it; the troops went at each other somewhat
indiscriminately and did simple stubborn fighting. The Federals lost
much ground all along their line, and were crowded back towards the
river. Some say that the Confederates closed that day on the way to
victory; but General Grant says that he felt assured of winning on
Monday, and that he instructed all his division commanders to open with
an assault in the morning. The doubt, if doubt there was, was settled
by the arrival of General Buell, whose fresh forces, coming in as good
an hour as the Prussians came at Waterloo, were put in during the
evening upon the Federal left. On Sunday the Confederates had greatly
outnumbered the Federals, but this reinforcement reversed the
proportions, so that on Monday the Federals were in the greater force.
Again the conflict was fierce and obstinate, but again the greater
numbers whipped the smaller, and by afternoon the Confederates were in
full retreat. Shiloh, says General Grant, "was the severest battle
fought at the West during the war, and but few in the East equaled it
for hard, determined fighting." It ended in a complete Union victory.
General A.S. Johnston was killed and Beauregard retreated to Corinth,
while the North first exulted because he was compelled to do so, and
then grumbled because he was allowed to do so. It was soon said that
Grant had been surprised, that he was entitled to no credit for winning
clumsily a battle which he had not expected to fight, and that he was
blameworthy for not following up the retreating foe more sharply. The
discussion survives among those quarrels of the war in which the
disputants have fought over again the contested field, with harmless
fierceness, and without any especial result. Congress took up the
dispute, and did a vast deal of talking, in the course of which there
occurred one sensible remark. This was made by Mr. Richardson of
Illinois, who said that the armies would get along much better if the
Riot Act could be read, and the members of Congress dispersed and sent

General Grant found that General Halleck was even more obstinately in
the way of his winning any success than were the Confederates
themselves. As commander of the department, Halleck now conceived that
it was his fair privilege to do the visible taking of that conspicuous
prize which his lieutenant had brought within sure reach. Accordingly,
on April 11, he arrived and assumed command for the purpose of moving on
Corinth. Still he was sedulous in his endeavors to neglect, suppress,
and even insult General Grant, whom he put nominally second in command,
but practically reduced to insignificance, until Grant, finding his
position "unendurable," asked to be relieved. This conduct on the part
of Halleck has of course been attributed to jealousy; but more probably
it was due chiefly to the personal prejudice of a dull man, perhaps a
little stimulated by a natural desire for reputation. Having taken
charge of the advance, he conducted it slowly and cautiously,
intrenching as he went, and moving with pick and shovel, in the phrase
of General Sherman, who commanded a division in the army. "The
movement," says General Grant, "was a siege from the start to the
close." Such tactics had not hitherto been tried at the West, and
apparently did not meet approval. There were only about twenty-two miles
to be traversed, yet four weeks elapsed in the process. The army
started on April 30; twice Pope got near the enemy, first on May 4, and
again on May 8, and each time he was ordered back. It was actually May
28, according to General Grant, when "the investment of Corinth was
complete, or as complete as it was ever made." But already, on May 26,
Beauregard had issued orders for evacuating the place, which was
accomplished with much skill. On May 30 Halleck drew up his army in
battle array and "announced in orders that there was every indication
that our left was to be attacked that morning." A few hours later his
troops marched unopposed into empty works.

Halleck now commanded in Corinth a powerful army,--the forces of Grant,
Buell, and Pope, combined,--not far from 100,000 strong, and he was
threatened by no Southern force at all able to face him. According to
the views of General Grant, he had great opportunities; and among these
certainly was the advance of a strong column upon Vicksburg. If he could
be induced to do this, it seemed reasonable to expect that he and
Farragut together would be able to open the whole Mississippi River, and
to cut the last remaining east-and-west line of railroad communication.
But he did nothing, and ultimately the disposition made of this splendid
collection of troops was to distribute and dissipate it in such a manner
that the loss of the points already gained became much more probable
than the acquisition of others.

Early in July, as has been elsewhere said, Halleck was called to
Washington to take the place of general-in-chief of all the armies of
the North; and at this point perhaps it is worth while to devote a
paragraph to comparing the retirement of McClellan with the promotion of
Halleck. Some similarities and dissimilarities in their careers are
striking. The dissimilarities were: that McClellan had organized the
finest army which the country had yet seen, or was to see; also that he
had at least made a plan for a great campaign; and he had not suppressed
any one abler than himself; that Halleck on the other hand had done
little to organize an army or to plan a campaign, had failed to find out
the qualities of General W.T. Sherman, who was in his department, and
had done all in his power to drive General Grant into retirement. The
similarities are more worthy of observation. Each general had wearied
the administration with demands for reinforcements when each already
outnumbered his opponent so much that it was almost disgraceful to
desire to increase the odds. If McClellan had been reprehensibly slow in
moving upon Yorktown, and had blundered by besieging instead of trying
an assault, certainly the snail-like approach upon Corinth had been
equally deliberate and wasteful of time and opportunity; and if
McClellan had marched into deserted intrenchments, so also had Halleck.
If McClellan had captured "Quaker guns" at Manassas, Halleck had found
the like peaceful weapons frowning from the ramparts of Corinth. If
McClellan had held inactive a powerful force when it ought to have been
marching to Manassas, Halleck had also held inactive another powerful
force, a part of which might have helped to take Vicksburg. If the
records of these two men were stated in parallel columns, it would be
difficult to see why one should have been taken and the other left. But
the explanation exists and is instructive, and it is wholly for the sake
of the explanation that the comparison has been made. McClellan was "in
politics," and Halleck was not; McClellan, therefore, had a host of
active, unsparing enemies in Washington, which Halleck had not; the
Virginia field of operations was ceaselessly and microscopically
inspected; the Western field attracted occasional glances not conducive
to a full knowledge. Halleck, as commander in a department where
victories were won, seemed to have won the victories, and no politicians
cared to deny his right to the glory; whereas the politicians, whose
hatred of McClellan had, by the admission of one of themselves, become a
mania,[167] were entirely happy to have any one set over his head, and
would not imperil their pleasure by too close an inspection of the new
aspirant's merits. These remarks are not designed to have any
significance upon the merits or demerits of McClellan, which have been
elsewhere discussed, nor upon the merits or demerits of Halleck, which
are not worth discussing; but they are made simply because they afford
so forcible an illustration of certain important conditions at
Washington at this time. The truth is that the ensnarlment of the
Eastern military affairs with politics made success in that field
impossible for the North. The condition made it practically inevitable
that a Union commander in Virginia should have his thoughts at least as
much occupied with the members of Congress in the capital behind him as
with the Confederate soldiers in camp before him. Such division of his
attention was ruinous. At and before the outbreak of the rebellion the
South had expected to be aided efficiently by a great body of
sympathizers at the North. As yet they had been disappointed in this;
but almost simultaneously with this disappointment they were surprised
by a valuable and unexpected assistance, growing out of the open feuds,
the covert malice, the bad blood, the partisanship, and the wire-pulling
introduced by the loyal political fraternity into campaigning business.
The quarreling politicians were doing, very efficiently, the work which
Southern sympathizers had been expected to do.


[167] George W. Julian, _Polit. Recoll._ 204.



To the people who had been engaged in changing Illinois from a
wilderness into a civilized State, Europe had been an abstraction, a
mere colored spot upon a map, which in their lives meant nothing. Though
England had been the home of their ancestors, it was really less
interesting than the west coast of Africa, which was the home of the
negroes; for the negroes were just now of vastly more consequence than
the ancestors. So even Dahomey had some claim to be regarded as a more
important place than Great Britain, and the early settlers wasted little
thought on the affairs of Queen Victoria. Amid these conditions,
absorbed even more than his neighbors in the exciting questions of
domestic politics, and having no tastes or pursuits which guided his
thoughts abroad, Mr. Lincoln had never had occasion to consider the
foreign relations of the United States, up to the time when he was
suddenly obliged to take an active part in managing them.

At an early stage of the civil dissensions each side hoped for the
good-will of England. For obvious reasons, that island counted to the
United States for more than the whole continent of Europe; indeed, the
continental nations were likely to await and to follow her lead.
Southern orators, advocating secession, assured their hearers that "King
Cotton" would be the supreme power, and would compel that realm of
spinners and weavers to friendship if not to alliance with the
Confederacy. Northern men, on the other hand, expressed confidence that
a people with the record of Englishmen against slavery would not
countenance a war conducted in behalf of that institution; nor did they
allow their hopes to be at all impaired by the consideration that, in
order to found them upon this support, they had to overlook the fact
that they were at the same time distinctly declaring that slavery really
had nothing to do with the war, in which only and strictly the question
of the Union, the integrity of the nation, was at stake. When the issue
was pressing for actual decision, each side was disappointed; and each
found that it had counted upon a motive which fell far short of exerting
the anticipated influence. It was, of course, the case that England
suffered much from the short supply of cotton; but she made shift to
procure it elsewhere, while the working people, sympathizing with the
North, were surprisingly patient. Thus the political pressure arising
from commercial distress was much less than had been expected, and the
South learned that cotton was only a spurious monarch. Not less did the
North find itself deceived; for the upper and middle classes of Great
Britain appeared absolutely indifferent to the humanitarian element
which, as they were assured, underlay the struggle. Perhaps they were
not to be blamed for setting aside these assurances, and accepting in
place thereof the belief that the American leaders spoke the truth when
they solemnly told the North that the question at issue was purely and
simply of "the Union." The unfortunate fact was that it was necessary to
say one thing to Englishmen and a different thing to Americans.

That which really did inspire the feelings and the wishes, and which did
influence, though it could not be permitted fully to control, the action
of England, had not been counted upon by either section of the country;
perhaps its existence had not been appreciated. This was the intense
dislike felt for the American republic by nearly all Englishmen who were
above the social grade of mechanics and mill operatives. The extent and
force of this antipathy and even contempt were for the first time given
free expression under the irresistible provocation which arose out of
the delightful likelihood of the destruction of the United States. The
situation at least gave to the people of that imperiled country a chance
to find out in what estimation they were held across the water. The
behavior of the English government and the attitude of the English press
during the early part of the civil war have been ascribed by different
historians to one or another dignified political or commercial motive.
But while these influences were certainly not absent, yet the English
newspapers poured an inundating flood of evidence to show that genuine
and deep-seated dislike, not to say downright hatred, was by very much
the principal motive. This truth is so painful and unfortunate that many
have thought best to suppress or deny it; but no historian is entitled
to use such discretion. From an early period, therefore, in the
administration of Mr. Lincoln, he and Mr. Seward had to endeavor to
preserve friendly relations with a power which, if she could only make
entirely sure of the worldly wisdom of yielding to her wishes, would
instantly recognize the independence of the South. This being the case,
it was matter for regret that the rules of international law concerning
blockades, contraband of war, and rights of neutrals were perilously
vague and unsettled.

Earl[168] Russell was at this time in charge of her majesty's foreign
affairs. Because in matters domestic he was liberal-minded, Americans
had been inclined to expect his good-will; but he now disappointed them
by appearing to share the prejudices of his class against the republic.
A series of events soon revealed his temper. So soon as there purported
to be a Confederacy, an understanding had been reached betwixt him and
the French emperor that both powers should take the same course as to
recognizing it. About May 1 he admitted three Southern commissioners to
an audience with him, though not "officially." May 13 there was
published a proclamation, whereby Queen Victoria charged and commanded
all her "loving subjects to observe a strict neutrality" in and during
the hostilities which had "unhappily commenced between the government of
the United States and certain States styling themselves 'the Confederate
States of America.'" This action--this assumption of a position of
"neutrality," as between enemies--taken while the "hostilities" had
extended only to the single incident of Fort Sumter, gave surprise and
some offense to the North. It was a recognition of belligerency; that is
to say, while not in any other respect recognizing the revolting States
as an independent power, it accorded to them the rights of a
belligerent. The magnitude very quickly reached by the struggle would
have made this step necessary and proper, so that, if England had only
gone a trifle more slowly, she would soon have reached the same point
without exciting any anger; but now the North felt that the queen's
government had been altogether too forward in assuming this position at
a time when the question of a real war was still in embryo. Moreover,
the unfriendliness was aggravated by the fact that the proclamation was
issued almost at the very hour of the arrival in London of Mr. Charles
Francis Adams, the new minister sent by Mr. Lincoln to the court of St.
James. It seemed, therefore, not open to reasonable doubt that Earl
Russell had purposely hastened to take his position before he could hear
from the Lincoln administration.

When Mr. Seward got news of this, his temper gave way; so that, being
still new to diplomacy, he wrote a dispatch to Mr. Adams wherein
occurred words and phrases not so carefully selected as they should have
been. He carried it to Mr. Lincoln, and soon received it back revised
and corrected, instructively. _A priori_, one would have anticipated the
converse of this.

The essential points of the paper were:--

That Mr. Adams would "desist from all intercourse whatever, unofficial
as well as official, with the British government, so long as it shall
continue intercourse of either kind with the domestic enemies of this

That the United States had a "right to expect a more independent if not
a more friendly course" than was indicated by the understanding between
England and France; but that Mr. Adams would "take no notice of that or
any other alliance."

He was to pass by the question as to whether the blockade must be
respected in case it should not be maintained by a competent force, and
was to state that the "blockade is now, and will continue to be, so
maintained, and therefore we expect it to be respected."

As to recognition of the Confederacy, either by publishing an
acknowledgment of its sovereignty, or officially receiving its
representatives, he was to inform the earl that "no one of these
proceedings will pass unquestioned." Also, he might suggest that "a
concession of belligerent rights is liable to be construed as a
recognition" of the Confederate States. Recognition, he was to say,
could be based only on the assumption that these States were a
self-sustaining power. But now, after long forbearance, the United
States having set their forces in motion to suppress the insurrection,
"the true character of the pretended new state is at once revealed. It
is seen to be a power existing in pronunciamento only. It has never won
a field. It has obtained no forts that were not virtually betrayed into
its hands or seized in breach of trust. It commands not a single port on
the coast, nor any highway out from its pretended capital by land. Under
these circumstances, Great Britain is called upon to intervene, and give
it body and independence by resisting our measures of suppression.
British recognition would be British intervention to create within our
own territory a hostile state by overthrowing this republic itself." In
Mr. Seward's draft a menacing sentence followed these words, but Mr.
Lincoln drew his pen through it.

Mr. Adams was to say that the treatment of insurgent privateers was "a
question exclusively our own," and that we intended to treat them as
pirates.[169] If Great Britain should recognize them as lawful
belligerents and give them shelter, "the laws of nations afford an
adequate and proper remedy;"--"_and we shall avail ourselves of it_,"
added Mr. Seward; but again Mr. Lincoln's prudent pen went through these
words of provocation.

Finally Mr. Adams was instructed to offer the adhesion of the United
States to the famous Declaration of the Congress of Paris, of 1856,
which concerned sundry matters of neutrality.

The letter ended with two paragraphs of that patriotic rodomontade which
seems eminently adapted to domestic consumption in the United States,
but which, if it ever came beneath the eye of the British minister,
probably produced an effect very different from that which was aimed at.
Mr. Lincoln had the good taste to write on the margin: "Drop all from
this line to the end;" but later he was induced to permit the nonsense
to stand, since it was really harmless.

The amendments made by the President in point of quantity were trifling,
but in respect of importance were very great. All that he did was here
and there to change or to omit a phrase, which established no position,
but which in the strained state of feeling might have had serious
results. The condition calls to mind the description of the summit of
the Alleghany Ridge, where the impulses given by almost imperceptible
inequalities in the surface of the rock have for their ultimate result
the dispatching of mighty rivers either through the Atlantic slope to
the ocean, or down the Mississippi valley to the Gulf of Mexico. A few
adjectives, two or three ever so little sentences, in this dispatch,
might have led to peace or to war; and peace or war with England almost
surely meant, respectively, Union or Disunion in the United States. In
fact, no more important state paper was issued by Mr. Seward. It
established our relations with Great Britain, and by consequence also
with France and with the rest of Europe, during the whole period of the
civil war. Its positions, moderate in themselves, and resolutely laid
down, were never materially departed from. The English minister did not
afterward give either official or unofficial audiences to accredited
rebel emissaries; the blockade was maintained by a force so competent
that the British government acquiesced in it; no recognition of the
Confederacy was ever made, either in the ways prohibited or in any way
whatsoever; it is true that bitter controversies arose concerning
Confederate privateers, and to some extent England failed to meet our
position in this matter; but it was rather the application of our rule
than the rule itself which was in dispute; and she afterward, under the
Geneva award, made full payment for her derelictions. The behavior and
the proposal of terms, which constituted a practical exclusion of the
United States from the benefits of the Treaty of Paris, certainly
involved something of indignity; but in this the country had no actual
_rights_; and to speak frankly, since she had refused to come in when
invited, she could hardly complain of an inhospitable reception when,
under the influence of immediate and stringent self-interest, her
diplomatists saw fit to change their course. So, on the whole, it is not
to be denied that delicate and novel business in the untried department
of foreign diplomacy was managed with great skill, under trying
circumstances. A few months later, in his message to Congress, at the
beginning of December, 1861, the President referred to our foreign
relations in the following paragraphs:--

"The disloyal citizens of the United States, who have offered the ruin
of our country in return for the aid and comfort which they have invoked
abroad, have received less patronage and encouragement than they
probably expected. If it were just to suppose, as the insurgents have
seemed to assume, that foreign nations, in this case, discarding all
moral, social, and treaty obligations, would act solely and selfishly
for the speedy restoration of commerce, including especially the
acquisition of cotton, those nations appear as yet not to have seen
their way to their object more directly or clearly through the
destruction than through the preservation of the Union. If we could dare
to believe that foreign nations are actuated by no higher principle than
this, I am quite sure a sound argument could be made to show them that
they can reach their aim more readily and easily by aiding to crush this
rebellion than by giving encouragement to it.

"The principal lever relied on by these insurgents for exciting foreign
nations to hostility against us, as already intimated, is the
embarrassment of commerce. Those nations, however, not improbably saw
from the first that it was the Union which made as well our foreign as
our domestic commerce. They can scarcely have failed to perceive that
the effort for disunion produces the existing difficulty; and that one
strong nation promises more durable peace and a more extensive,
valuable, and reliable commerce than can the same nation broken into
hostile fragments.

"It is not my purpose to review our discussions with foreign states;
because, whatever might be their wishes or dispositions, the integrity
of our country and the stability of our government mainly depend not
upon them but on the loyalty, virtue, patriotism, and intelligence of
the American people. The correspondence itself with the usual
reservations is herewith submitted. I venture to hope it will appear
that we have practiced prudence and liberality toward foreign powers,
averting causes of irritation, and with firmness maintaining our own
rights and honor."

While this carefully measured language certainly fell far short of
expressing indifference concerning European action, it was equally far
from betraying any sense of awe or dependence as towards the great
nations across the Atlantic. Yet in fact beneath its self-contained
moderation there unquestionably was politic concealment of very profound
anxiety. Since the war did in fact maintain to the end an entirely
domestic character, it is now difficult fully to appreciate the
apprehensions which were felt, especially in its earlier stages, lest
England or France or both might interfere with conclusive effect in
favor of the Confederacy. It was very well for Mr. Lincoln to state the
matter in such a way that it would seem an unworthy act upon their part
to encourage a rebellion, especially a pro-slavery rebellion; and very
well for him also to suggest that their commerce could be better
conducted with one nation than with two. In plain fact, they were
considering nothing more lofty than their own material interests, and
upon this point their distinguished statesmen did not feel the need of
seeking information or advice from the Western lawyer who had just been
so freakishly picked out of a frontier town to take charge of the
destinies of the United States. The only matter which they contemplated
with some interest, and upon which they could gather enlightenment from
his words, related to the greater or less degree of firmness and
confidence with which he was likely to meet them; for even in their eyes
this must be admitted to constitute one of the elements in the
situation. It was, therefore, fortunate that Mr. Lincoln successfully
avoided an appearance either of alarm or of defiance.

But, difficult as it may have been skillfully to compose the sentences
of the message so far as it concerned foreign relationships, some
occurrences were taking place, at this very time of the composition,
which reduced verbal manoeuvring to insignificance. A sudden and
unexpected menace was happily turned into a substantial aid and
advantage; and the administration, not long after it had firmly declared
its resolution to maintain its clear and lawful rights, was given the
opportunity greatly to strengthen its position by an event which, at
first, seemed untoward enough. In the face of very severe temptation to
do otherwise, it had the good sense to seize this opportunity, and to
show that it had upon its own part the will not only to respect, but to
construe liberally as against itself, the rights of neutrals; also that
it had the power to enforce its will, upon the instant, even at the cost
of bitterly disappointing the whole body of loyal citizens in the very
hour of their rejoicing.

The story of Mason and Slidell is familiar: accredited as envoys of the
Confederacy to England and France, in the autumn of 1861, they ran the
blockade at Charleston and came to Havana. There they did not conceal
their purpose to sail for England, by the British royal mail steamship
Trent, on November 7. Captain Wilkes of the United States steam sloop of
war San Jacinto, hearing all this, lay in wait in the Bahama Channel,
sighted the Trent on November 8, fired a shot across her bows, and
brought her to. He then sent on board a force of marines to search her
and fetch off the rebels. This was done against the angry protests of
the Englishman, and with such slight force as constituted technical
compulsion, but without violence. The Trent was then left to proceed on
her voyage. The envoys, or "missionaries," as they were called by way of
avoiding the recognition of an official character, were soon in
confinement in Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor. Everywhere at the North
the news produced an outburst of joy and triumph. Captain Wilkes was the
hero of the hour, and received every kind of honor and compliment. The
secretary of the navy wrote to him a letter of congratulation, declaring
that his conduct was "marked by intelligence, ability, decision, and
firmness, and has the emphatic approval of this department." Secretary
Stanton was outspoken in his praise. When Congress convened, on December
1, almost the first thing done by the House of Representatives was to
hurry through a vote of thanks to the captain for his "brave, adroit,
and patriotic conduct." The newspaper press, public meetings, private
conversation throughout the country, all reechoed these joyous
sentiments. The people were in a fever of pleasurable excitement. It
called for some nerve on the part of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward suddenly
to plunge them into a chilling bath of disappointment.

Statements differ as to what was Mr. Seward's earliest opinion in the
matter.[170] But all writers agree that Mr. Lincoln did not move with
the current of triumph. He was scarcely even non-committal. On the
contrary, he is said at once to have remarked that it did not look right
to stop the vessel of a friendly power on the high seas and take
passengers out of her; that he did not understand whence Captain Wilkes
derived authority to turn his quarter-deck into a court of admiralty;
that he was afraid the captives might prove to be white elephants on our
hands; that we had fought Great Britain on the ground of like doings
upon her part, and that now we must stick to American principles; that,
if England insisted upon our surrendering the prisoners, we must do so,
and must apologize, and so bind her over to keep the peace in relation
to neutrals, and to admit that she had been wrong for sixty years.

The English demand came quickly, forcibly, and almost offensively. The
news brought to England by the Trent set the whole nation in a blaze of
fury,--and naturally enough, it must be admitted. The government sent
out to the navy yards orders to make immediate preparations for war; the
newspapers were filled with abuse and menace against the United States;
the extravagance of their language will not be imagined without actual
reference to their pages. Lord Palmerston hastily sketched a dispatch to
Lord Lyons, the British minister at Washington, demanding instant
reparation, but couched in language so threatening and insolent as to
make compliance scarcely possible. Fortunately, in like manner as Mr.
Seward had taken to Mr. Lincoln his letter of instructions to Mr. Adams,
so Lord Palmerston also felt obliged to lay his missive before the
queen, and the results in both cases were alike; for once at least
royalty did a good turn to the American republic. Prince Albert, ill
with the disease which only a few days later carried him to his grave,
labored hard over that important document, with the result that the
royal desire to eliminate passion sufficiently to make a peaceable
settlement possible was made unmistakably plain, and therefore the
letter, as ultimately revised by Earl Russell, though still disagreeably
peremptory in tone, left room for the United States to set itself right
without loss of self-respect. The most annoying feature was that Great
Britain insisted upon instant action; if Lord Lyons did not receive a
favorable reply within seven days after formally preferring his demand
for reparation, he was to call for his passports. In other words, delay
by diplomatic correspondence and such ordinary shilly-shallying meant
war. As the London "Times" expressed it, America was not to be allowed
"to retain what she had taken from us, at the cheap price of an
interminable correspondence."

December 19 this dispatch reached Lord Lyons; he talked its contents
over with Mr. Seward informally, and deferred the formal communication
until the 23d. Mr. Lincoln drew up a proposal for submission to
arbitration. But it could not be considered; the instructions to Lord
Lyons gave no time and no discretion. It was aggravating to concede what
was demanded under such pressure; but the President, as has been said,
had already expressed his opinion upon the cardinal point,--that England
had the strength of the case. Moreover he remarked, with good common
sense, "One war at a time." So it was settled that the emissaries must
be surrendered. The "prime minister of the _Northern States of
America_," as the London "Times" insultingly called Mr. Seward, was wise
enough to agree; for, under the circumstances, to allow discourtesy to
induce war was unjustifiable. On December 25 a long cabinet council was
held, and the draft of Seward's reply was accepted, though with sore
reluctance. The necessity was cruel, but fortunately it was not
humiliating; for the President had pointed to the road of honorable exit
in those words which Mr. Lossing heard uttered by him on the very day
that the news arrived. In 1812 the United States had fought with England
because she had insisted, and they had denied, that she had the right to
stop their vessels on the high seas, to search them, and to take from
them British subjects found on board them. Mr. Seward now said that the
country still adhered to the ancient principle for which it had once
fought, and was glad to find England renouncing her old-time error.
Captain Wilkes, not acting under instructions, had made a mistake. If he
had captured the Trent and brought her in for adjudication as prize in
our admiralty courts, a case might have been maintained and the
prisoners held. He had refrained from this course out of kindly
consideration for the many innocent persons to whom it would have caused
serious inconvenience; and, since England elected to stand upon the
strict rights which his humane conduct gave to her, the United States
must be bound by their own principles at any cost to themselves.
Accordingly the "envoys" were handed over to the commander of the
English gunboat Rinaldo, at Provincetown, on January 1, 1862.

The decision of the President and the secretary of state was thoroughly
wise. Much hung upon it; "no one," says Arnold, "can calculate the
results which would have followed upon a refusal to surrender these
men." An almost certain result would have been a war with England; and a
highly probable result would have been that erelong France also would
find pretext for hostilities, since she was committed to friendship with
England in this matter, and moreover the emperor seemed to have a
restless desire to interfere against the North. What then would have
been the likelihood of ultimate success in that domestic struggle,
which, by itself, though it did not exhaust, yet very severely taxed
both Northern endurance and Northern resources? It is fair also to these
two men to say that, in reaching their decision, instead of receiving
aid or encouragement from outside, they had the reverse. Popular feeling
may be estimated from the utterances which, even after there had been
time for reflection, were made by men whose positions curbed them with
the grave responsibilities of leadership. In the House of
Representatives Owen Lovejoy pledged himself to "inextinguishable
hatred" of Great Britain, and promised to bequeath it as a legacy to his
children; and, while he was not engaging in the war for the integrity of
his own country, he vowed that if a war with England should come, he
would "carry a musket" in it. Senator Hale, in thunderous oratory,
notified the members of the administration that if they would "not
listen to the voice of the people, they would find themselves engulfed
in a fire that would consume them like stubble; they would be helpless
before a power that would hurl them from their places." The great
majority at the North, though perhaps incapable of such felicity of
expression, was undoubtedly not very much misrepresented by the
vindictive representative and the exuberant senator. Yet a brief period,
in which to consider the logic of the position, sufficed to bring nearly
all to intelligent conclusions; and then it was seen that what had been
done had been rightly and wisely done. There was even a sense of pride
in doing fairly and honestly, without the shuffling evasions of
diplomacy, an act of strict right; and the harder the act the greater
was the honor. The behavior of the people was generous and intelligent,
and greatly strengthened the government in the eyes of foreigners. By
the fullness and readiness of this reparation England was put under a
moral obligation to treat the United States as honorably as the United
States treated her. She did not do so, it is true; but in more ways than
one she ultimately paid for not doing so. At any rate, for the time
being, after this action it would have been nothing less than indecent
for her to recognise the Confederacy at once; and a little later
prudence had the like restraining effect. Yet though recognition and war
were avoided they never entirely ceased to threaten, and Mr. Chittenden
is perfectly correct in saying that "every act of our government was
performed under the impending danger of a recognition of the
Confederacy, a disregard of the blockade, and the actual intervention of
Great Britain in our attempt to suppress an insurrection upon our own


[168] Lord John Russell was raised to the peerage, as Earl Russell, just
after this time, _i.e._, in July, 1861.

[169] An effort was made to carry out this theory in the case of the
crew of the privateer Savannah; but the jury failed to agree, and the
attempt was not afterward renewed, privateersmen being exchanged like
other prisoners of war.

[170] Mr. Welles declares that Seward at first opposed the surrender;
but Mr. Chittenden asserts that he knows that Mr. Seward's first opinion
coincided with his later action; see Mr. Welles's _Lincoln and Seward_,
and Chittenden's _Recollections_, 148.

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