The Every-day Life of Abraham Lincoln
by Francis Fisher Browne
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Besides his invincible will and courage, Lincoln had one important resource in his dark hours, an ever-ready relief for his overcharged emotions. Byron said that he sometimes laughed in order that he might not weep. Lincoln's life-long solace was his love of story-telling. Hon. Hugh McCulloch, afterward Secretary of the Treasury, relates that about a week after the battle of Bull Run he called at the White House, in company with a few friends, and was amazed when, referring to something which had been said by one of the company about the battle that was so disastrous to the Union forces, the President remarked, in his usual quiet manner, "That reminds me of a story," which he told in a manner so humorous as almost to lead his listeners to believe that he was free from care and apprehension. Mr. McCulloch could not then understand how the President could feel like telling a story, when Washington was in danger of being captured and the whole North was dismayed. He learned his mistake afterwards, however, and perceived that his estimate of Lincoln before his election was well grounded, and that he possessed even higher qualities than he had been given credit for; that he was "a man of sound judgment, great singleness and tenacity of purpose, and extraordinary sagacity; that story-telling was to him a safety-valve, and that he indulged in it, not only for the pleasure it afforded him, but for a temporary relief from oppressing cares." It is related that on the morning after the battle at Fredericksburg, Hon. I.N. Arnold, then a member of Congress from Illinois, called on the President, and to his amazement found him engaged in reading "Artemus Ward." Making no reference to that which occupied the universal thought, he asked Mr. Arnold to sit down while he read to him Artemus' description of his visit to the Shakers. Shocked at this proposition, Mr. Arnold said: "Mr. President, is it possible that with the whole land bowed in sorrow and covered with a pall in the presence of yesterday's fearful reverse, you can indulge in such levity?" Throwing down the book, with the tears streaming down his cheeks and his huge frame quivering with emotion, Lincoln answered: "Mr. Arnold, if I could not get momentary respite from the crushing burden I am constantly carrying, my heart would break!"

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "His broad good humor, running easily into jocular talk, in which he delighted, and in which he excelled, was a rich gift to this wise man. It enabled him to keep his secret, to meet every kind of man, and every rank in society; to take off the edge of the severest decisions, to mask his own purpose and sound his companion, and to catch, with true instinct, the temper of every company he addressed. And, more than all, it is to a man of severe labor, in anxious and exhausting crises, the natural restorative, good as sleep, and is the protection of the overdriven brain against rancor and insanity."

Even amidst the stern realities of war, Lincoln was keenly appreciative of anything that disclosed the comic or grotesque side of men or happenings,—largely, doubtless, for the relief afforded him. At the beginning of Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania, in June, 1863, when the Union forces under Colonel Milroy were driven out of Harper's Ferry by the Confederates, great consternation and alarm were caused by reports that the Army of the Potomac had been routed and was retreating before Lee, who was pressing forward toward Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania. Mr. Welles records in his Diary (June 17, 1863) that he was at the War Department with the President and Secretary Stanton, when "a messenger came in from General Schenck, declaring that the stragglers and baggage-trains of Milroy had run away in affright, and squads of them on different parallel roads had alarmed each other, and each fled in terror with all speed to Harrisburg. This alone was asserted to be the basis of the great panic which had alarmed Pennsylvania and the country. The President," continues Mr. Welles, "was in excellent humor. He said this flight would be a capital joke for Orpheus C. Kerr[D] to get hold of. He could give scope to his imagination over the terror of broken squads of panic-stricken teamsters, frightened at each other and alarming all Pennsylvania. General Meigs, who was present, inquired with great simplicity who this person (Orpheus C. Kerr) was. 'Why,' said the President, 'have you not read those papers? They are in two volumes; anyone who has not read them is a heathen.' He said he had enjoyed them greatly—except when they attempted to play their wit on him, which did not strike him as very successful, but rather disgusted him. 'Now, the hits that are given to you, Mr. Welles, or to Chase,' he said, 'I can enjoy; but I daresay they may have disgusted you while I was laughing at them. So vice versa as regards myself.'"

Hon. Lawrence Weldon relates that on one occasion he called upon the President to inquire as to the probable outcome of a conflict between the civil and military authorities for the possession of a quantity of cotton in a certain insurrectionary district. As soon as the inquiry had been made, Lincoln's face began lighting up, and he said: "What has become of our old friend Bob Lewis, of DeWitt County? Do you remember a story that Bob used to tell us about his going to Missouri to look up some Mormon lands that belonged to his father? You know that when Robert became of age he found among the papers of his father a number of warrants and patents for lands in Northeast Missouri, and he concluded the best thing he could do was to go to Missouri and investigate the condition of things. It being before the days of railroads, he started on horseback, with a pair of old-fashioned saddlebags. When he arrived where he supposed his land was situated, he stopped, hitched his horse, and went into a cabin standing close by the roadside. He found the proprietor, a lean, lank, leathery looking man, engaged in the pioneer business of making bullets preparatory to a hunt. On entering, Mr. Lewis observed a rifle suspended in a couple of buck-horns above the fire. He said to the man, 'I am looking up some lands that I think belong to my father,' and inquired of the man in what section he lived. Without having ascertained the section, Mr. Lewis proceeded to exhibit his title papers in evidence, and, having established a good title, as he thought, said to the man, 'Now, that is my title. What is yours?' The pioneer, who had by this time become somewhat interested in the proceedings, pointed his long finger toward the rifle. Said he, 'Young man, do you see that gun?' Mr. Lewis frankly admitted that he did. 'Well,' said he, 'that is my title, and if you don't get out of here pretty d——d quick you will feel the force of it.' Mr. Lewis very hurriedly put his title papers in his saddlebags, mounted his pony and galloped down the road, and, as Bob says, the old pioneer snapped his gun twice at him before he could turn the corner. Lewis said that he had never been back to disturb that man's title since. 'Now,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'the military authorities have the same title against the civil authorities that closed out Bob's Mormon title in Missouri.'" Judge Weldon says that after this anecdote he understood what would be the policy of the Government in the matter referred to as well as though a proclamation had been issued.

The tedium of meetings of the Cabinet was often relieved, and troublesome matters before it were illuminated, by some apt and pithy story. Secretary Welles tells of such an occasion when "Seward was embarrassed about the Dominican [sic] question. To move either way threatened difficulty. On one side was Spain, on the other side the negro. The President remarked that the dilemma reminded him of the interview between two negroes, one of whom was a preacher endeavoring to admonish and enlighten the other. 'There are,' said Josh the preacher, 'two roads for you, Joe. Be careful which you take. One ob dem leads straight to hell, de odder go right to damnation.' Joe opened his eyes under the impressive eloquence and visions of an awful future, and exclaimed, 'Josh, take which road you please; I go troo de wood.' 'I am not disposed to take any new trouble,' said the President, 'just at this time, and shall neither go for Spain nor the negro in this matter, but shall take to the woods.'"

It is related that Charles Sumner, who was a very tall man, and proud of his height, once worried the President about some perplexing matter, when Lincoln sought to change the subject by abruptly challenging his visitor to measure backs. "Sumner," said Mr. Lincoln, "declined to stand up with me, back to back, to see which was the tallest man, and made a fine speech about this being the time for uniting our fronts against the enemy, and not our backs. But I guess he was afraid to measure, though he is a good piece of a man. I have never had much to do with Bishops where I live, but, do you know, Sumner is my idea of a Bishop."

A good story of President Lincoln and General Scott is reported by Major-General Keyes, who at the beginning of the war was on the staff of General Scott, then commander-in-chief of the armies of the United States. "I was sent," says General Keyes, "by my chief to the President with a message that referred to a military subject, and that led to a discussion. Finding that Mr. Lincoln's observations were beginning to tangle my arguments, I said, 'That is the opinion of General Scott, and you know, Mr. President, he is a very able military man.' 'Well,' said the President, 'if he is as able a military man as he is unable as a politician, I give up.' This was said with an expression of the eye, which he turned on me, that was peculiar to him, and which signified a great deal. The astounding force of Mr. Lincoln's observation was not at all diminished by the fact that I had long suspected that my chief lacked something which is necessary to make a successful politician."

Among the numerous delegations which thronged Washington in the early part of the war was one from New York, which urged very strenuously the sending of a fleet to the southern cities—Charleston, Mobile, and Savannah—with the object of drawing off the rebel army from Washington. Lincoln said the object reminded him of the case of a girl in New Salem, who was greatly troubled with a "singing" in her head. Various remedies were suggested by the neighbors, but nothing seemed to afford any relief. At last a man came along—"a common-sense sort of man," said he, inclining his head towards his callers pleasantly,—"who was asked to prescribe for the difficulty. After due inquiry and examination, he said the cure was very simple. 'What is it?' was the question. 'Make a plaster of psalm-tunes, and apply to her feet, and draw the singing down,' was the rejoinder." Still better was his reply to another delegation of New York millionaires who waited upon him in 1862, after the appearance of the rebel ram "Merrimac," and represented to him that they were very uneasy about the unprotected situation of their city, which was exposed to attack and bombardment by rebel rams; and they requested him to detail a gun-boat to defend the city. The gentlemen were fifty in number, very dignified and respectable in appearance, and stated that they represented in their own right $100,000,000. Lincoln did not wish to offend these gentlemen, and yet he intended to give them a little lesson. He listened with great attention, and seemed to be much impressed by their presence and their statements. Then he replied, very deliberately: "Gentlemen, I am by the Constitution commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States; and, as a matter of law, can order anything done that is practicable to be done. But, as a matter of fact, I am not in command of the gun-boats or ships of war; as a matter of fact, I do not know exactly where they are, but presume they are actively engaged. It is impossible for me, in the present condition of things, to furnish you a gun-boat. The credit of the Government is at a very low ebb; greenbacks are not worth more than forty or fifty cents on the dollar; and in this condition of things, if I was worth half as much as you, gentlemen, are represented to be, and as badly scared as you seem to be, I would build a gun-boat and give it to the Government." A gentleman who accompanied the delegation says he never saw one hundred millions sink to such insignificant proportions, as the committee recrossed the threshold of the White House, sadder but wiser men.

"Mr. Lincoln had his joke and his 'little story' over the disruption of the Democracy. He once knew, he said, a sound churchman, of the name of Brown, who was the member of a very sober and pious committee, having in charge the erection of a bridge over a dangerous and rapid river. Several architects had failed, and at last Brown said he had a friend named Jones who had built several bridges, and could undoubtedly build that one. So Mr. Jones was called in. 'Can you build this bridge?' inquired the committee. 'Yes,' replied Jones, 'or any other. I could build a bridge to h—l, if necessary.' The committee were shocked, and Brown felt called upon to defend his friend. 'I know Jones so well,' said he, 'and he is so honest a man, and so good an architect, that if he states soberly and positively that he can build a bridge to ... to ... the infernal regions, why, I believe it; but I feel bound to say that I have my doubts about the abutment on the other side.' 'So,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'when politicians told me that the Northern and Southern wings of the Democracy could be harmonized, why, I believed them, of course; but I always had my doubts about the abutment on the other side.'"

A delegation once called on Lincoln to ask the appointment of a gentleman as commissioner to the Sandwich Islands. They presented their case as earnestly as possible, and, besides his fitness for the place, they urged that he was in bad health and a residence in that balmy climate would be of great benefit to him. The President closed the interview with the good-humored remark: "Gentlemen, I am sorry to say that there are eight other applicants for that place, and they are all sicker than your man."


Lincoln's Wise Statesmanship—The Mason and Slidell Affair—Complications with England—Lincoln's "Little Story" on the Trent Affair—Building of the "Monitor"—Lincoln's Part in the Enterprise—The President's First Annual Message—Discussion of the Labor Question—A President's Reception in War Time—A Great Affliction—Death in the White House—Chapters from the Secret Service—A Morning Call on the President—Goldwin Smith's Impressions of Lincoln—Other Notable Tributes.

In November of 1861 occurred one of the most important and perilous episodes of the war; one whose full significance was not understood, except by a few cool heads, until long afterwards. Two influential Southern politicians, Mason and Slidell, had been sent by the Confederate Government as Commissioners to Great Britain and France, to try to secure the recognition of the Confederacy; and while on board the British steamer "Trent" they were taken prisoners by the U.S. steamer "San Jacinto," and were brought to Washington. Great Britain loudly protested against what she regarded as an unwarrantable seizure of passengers under the British flag, and for a time excitement ran high and war with England seemed almost inevitable. Fortunately for our country, the controversy was amicably settled by the surrender of the prisoners, without any sacrifice of the dignity of the Government of the United States. As stated by "Hosea Biglow,"—

We gave the critters back, John, Cos Abraham thought 't was right; It wa'nt your bullyin' clack, John, Provokin' us to fight.

The statesmanship displayed by our Government throughout this difficult affair was of the highest order. Credit for it has been given to Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, by whom the correspondence and negotiations were conducted. Few men could have managed these details better; yet the course that was so happily determined on was undoubtedly due to the good sense and shrewd wisdom of the President. He not only dictated the policy to be followed by Mr. Seward in his despatches to the American Minister in London, but the more important documents were revised and materially altered by Lincoln's own hand. His management of the Trent affair alone, it has been said, would suffice to establish his reputation as the ablest diplomatist of the war. Coming, as it did, at a time when Lincoln was overwhelmed with the burden of home affairs, it showed the surprising resources of his character. The readiness and ability with which he met this perilous emergency, in a field in which he had had absolutely no experience or preparation, was equaled only by his cool courage and self-reliance in following a course radically opposed to the prevailing public sentiment, to the views of Congress, and to the advice of his own Cabinet. The Secretary of the Navy had hastened to approve officially the act of Captain Wilkes, commander of the "San Jacinto," and Secretary Stanton "cheered and applauded" it. Even Mr. Seward, cautious and conservative diplomat as he was, at-first "opposed any concession or surrender of the prisoners." But Lincoln said significantly, "One war at a time." Events have long since afforded the most ample vindication of his course in this important matter. He avoided a foreign war, while at the same time, by committing Great Britain to the doctrine of "peace between neutrals," gained a substantial diplomatic victory over that government.

An excellent account of the circumstances of the Trent affair is given by Benson J. Lossing, the author and historian, who was in Washington when the events occurred. "The act of Captain Wilkes," says Mr. Lossing, "was universally applauded by all loyal Americans, and the land was filled with rejoicings because two of the most mischievous men among the enemies of the Government were in custody. For the moment, men did not stop to consider the law or the expediency involved in the act. Public honors were tendered to Captain Wilkes, and resolutions of thanks were passed by public bodies. The Secretary of the Navy wrote him a congratulatory letter on the 'great public services' he had rendered in 'capturing the rebel emissaries, Mason and Slidell,' and assured him that his conduct had 'the emphatic approval of the department.' The House of Representatives tendered him their thanks for the service he had done. But there was one thoughtful man in the nation, in whom was vested the tremendous executive power of the Republic at that time, and whose vision was constantly endeavoring to explore the mysteries of the near future, who held calmer and wiser thoughts than most men at that critical moment, because his feelings were kept in subjection to his judgment by a sense of heavy responsibility. That man was Abraham Lincoln. The writer was in the office of the Secretary of War when the telegraphic despatch announcing the capture of Mason and Slidell was brought in and read. He can never forget the scene that ensued. Led by Secretary Stanton, who was followed by Governor Andrew of Massachusetts and others who were present, cheer after cheer was heartily given by the company. A little later, the writer was favored with a brief interview with the President, when the clear judgment of that far-seeing and sagacious statesman uttered through his lips the words which formed the suggestion of, and the keynote to, the judicious action of the Secretary of State afterwards. 'I fear the traitors will prove to be white elephants,' said Mr. Lincoln. 'We must stick to American principles concerning the rights of neutrals,' he continued. 'We fought Great Britain for insisting, by theory and practise, on the right to do just what Captain Wilkes has just done. If Great Britain shall now protest against the act, and demand their release, we must give them up, apologize for the act as a violation of our own doctrines, and thus forever bind her over to keep the peace in relation to neutrals, and so acknowledge that she has been wrong for sixty years.' Great Britain did protest and make the demand, and at the same time made preparations for war against the United States. On the same day that Lord John Russell sent the protest and demand to Lord Lyons, the British Minister at Washington, Secretary Seward forwarded a despatch to Minister Adams in London, informing him that this Government disclaimed the act of Captain Wilkes, and giving assurance that it was ready to make a satisfactory arrangement of all difficulties arising out of the unauthorized act. These despatches passed each other in mid-ocean. The Government, in opposition to popular sentiment, decided at once to restore Mason and Slidell to the protection of the British flag. It was soon afterwards done, war between the two nations was averted, and, in the language of President Lincoln, the British Government was 'forever bound to keep the peace in relation to neutrals.' The wise statesmanship exhibited at that critical time was originated by Abraham Lincoln."

Lincoln once confessed that the Trent affair, occurring as it did at a very critical period of the war, had given him great uneasiness. When asked whether it was not a great trial to surrender the two captured Commissioners, he said: "Yes, that was a pretty bitter pill to swallow, but I contented myself with believing that England's triumph in the matter would be short-lived, and that after ending our war successfully we could if we wished call England to account for the embarrassments she had inflicted upon us. I felt a good deal like the sick man in Illinois who was told he probably hadn't many days longer to live, and that he ought to make peace with any enemies he might have. He said the man he hated worst of all was a fellow named Brown, in the next village, and he guessed he had better begin on him. So Brown was sent for, and when he came the sick man began to say, in a voice as meek as Moses', that he wanted to die at peace with all his fellow-creatures, and hoped he and Brown could now shake hands and bury all their enmity. The scene was becoming altogether too pathetic for Brown, who had to get out his handkerchief and wipe the gathering tears from his eyes. It wasn't long before he melted and gave his hand to his neighbor, and they had a regular love-feast. After a parting that would have softened the heart of a grindstone, Brown had about reached the room door, when the sick man rose up on his elbow and said, 'But, see here, Brown, if I should happen to get well, mind that old grudge stands!' So I thought if this nation should happen to get well, we might want that old grudge against England to stand."

Other controversies with England arose during the progress of the war—over the fitting out of Confederate cruisers at English ports to prey upon the commerce of the United States, over captured mails, etc.—in which all of Lincoln's sagacity and patience were needed to avert an open rupture with the British government. That the strain was severe and the danger great is made clear by an entry in Mr. Welles's Diary, in which he says: "We are in no condition for a foreign war. Torn by dissensions, an exhausting civil war on our hands, we have a gloomy prospect, but a righteous cause that will ultimately succeed. God alone knows through what trials, darkness, and suffering we are to pass." Again, in dealing with the French invasion of Mexico, Lincoln—as Mr. John Bigelow (then minister to France) puts it—"wisely limited himself to a firm repetition of the views and principles held by the United States in relation to foreign invasion," and thereby gained a diplomatic victory. How well "the old grudge against England" stood is shown by the substantial damages obtained from her, some years after the war, on the claims against the Alabama and other privateers, the foundations of which had been wisely laid by President Lincoln.

In the autumn of 1861 was originated the plan of a new naval vessel, which became the "Monitor"—the forerunner of the modern iron-clad, and the formidable little craft that beat back the "Merrimac" ram at Hampton Roads, March 9, 1862, saved the Federal Navy, and revolutionized naval architecture. The interesting story of the project, and of Lincoln's relation to it, is thus told: "The invention belongs to Captain John Ericsson, a man of marvelous ability and most fertile brain; but the creation of the 'Monitor' belongs to two distinguished iron-masters of the State of New York, viz.: the Hon. John F. Winslow and his partner in business, the Hon. John A. Griswold. These two gentlemen were in Washington in the autumn of 1861, for the adjustment of some claims against the Government for iron plating furnished by them for the war-ship 'Galena.' There, through Mr. C.S. Bushnell, the agent of Captain Ericsson, they learned that the plans and specifications for a naval machine, or a floating iron battery, presented by Captain Ericsson, found no favor with the special board appointed by Congress in 1861 to examine and report upon the subject of iron-clad ships of war. Ericsson and his agent, Mr. Bushnell, were thoroughly disheartened and demoralized at this failure to interest the Government in their plans. The papers were placed in the hands of Messrs. Winslow and Griswold, with the earnest request that they would examine them, and, if they thought well of them, use their influence with the Government for their favorable consideration. Mr. Winslow carefully read the papers and became satisfied that Ericsson's plan was both feasible and desirable. After conference with his friend and partner, Mr. Griswold, it was determined to take the whole matter to President Lincoln. Accordingly, an interview was arranged with Mr. Lincoln, to whom the plans of Captain Ericsson were presented, with all the unction and enthusiasm of an honest and mastering conviction, by Mr. Winslow and Mr. Griswold, who had now become thoroughly interested in the undertaking. The President listened with attention and growing interest. When they were done, Mr. Lincoln said, 'Gentlemen, why do you bring this matter to me? Why not take it to the Department having these things in charge?' 'It has been taken already to the Department, and there met with a repulse, and we come now to you with it, Mr. President, to secure your influence. We are here not simply as business men, but as lovers of our country, and we believe most thoroughly that here is something upon which we can enter that will be of vast benefit to the Republic,' was the answer. Mr. Lincoln was roused by the terrible earnestness of Mr. Winslow and his friend Griswold, and said, in his inimitable manner, 'Well, I don't know much about ships, though I once contrived a canal-boat—the model of which is down in the Patent Office—the great merit of which was that it could run where there was no water. But I think there is something in this plan of Ericsson's. I'll tell you what I will do. I will meet you to-morrow at ten o'clock, at the office of Commodore Smith, and we will talk it all over.' The next morning the meeting took place according to the appointment. Mr. Lincoln was present. The Secretary of the Navy, with many of the influential men of the Navy Department, also were there. The office where they met was rude in its belongings. Mr. Lincoln sat upon a rough box. Mr. Winslow, without any knowledge of naval affairs other than that which general reading would give, entered upon his task with considerable trepidation, but his whole heart was in it, and his showing was so earnest, practical, and patriotic, that a profound impression was made. 'Well,' said Mr. Lincoln, after Mr. Winslow had finished, 'well, Commodore Smith, what do you think of it?' The Commodore made some general and non-committal reply, whereupon the President, rising from the box, added, 'Well, I think there is something in it. Good morning, gentlemen,' and went out. From this interview grew a Government contract with Messrs. Winslow and Griswold for the construction of the 'Monitor,' the vessel to be placed in the hands of the Government within a hundred days at a cost of $275,000. The work was pushed with all diligence till the 30th of January, 1862, when the ship was launched at Greenpoint, one hundred and one days from the execution of the contract, thus making the work probably the most expeditious of any recorded in the annals of mechanical engineering."

At the assembling of Congress in December, 1861, Lincoln presented his first Annual Message. Among its most noteworthy passages was that which touched upon the relations between labor and capital—a subject so prominent in our later day. It was alluded to in its connection with the evident tendency of the Southern Confederacy to discriminate in its legislation in favor of the moneyed class and against the laboring people. On this point the President said:

In my present position, I could scarcely be justified were I to omit raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism. It is not needed nor fitting here, that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions; but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor, in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow, by the use of it, induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life. Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed; nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless. Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital, producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and those few avoid labor themselves, and, with their capital, hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class—neither work for others, nor have others working for them. In most of the Southern States, a majority of the whole people of all colors are neither slaves nor masters; while in the North, a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men, with their families—wives, sons, and daughters—work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand, nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital—that is, they labor with their own hands, and also buy or hire others to labor for them; but this is only a mixed, not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class. Again, as has already been said, there is not, of necessity, any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these States, a few years back in their lives, were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system, which opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress and improvement of condition to all. No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty—none less inclined to take, or touch, aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them till all of liberty shall be lost.

The struggle of to-day is not altogether for to-day—it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence, all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.

The reception given at the White House on New Year's day, 1862, was a brilliant and memorable affair. It was attended by distinguished army officers, prominent men from civil life, and the leading ladies of Washington society. "Army uniforms preponderated over black dress coats, and the young Germans of Blenker's division were gorgeously arrayed in tunics embroidered with gold on the collars and cuffs, sword-belts of gold lace, high boots, and jingling spurs." It was such a scene as that before the battle of Waterloo, when the

... capital had gathered then Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men; A thousand hearts beat happily; and when Music arose, with its voluptuous swell, Soft eyes looked love to eyes that spake again, And all went merry as a marriage bell.

How many of these brave men were destined never to see another New Year's day; and how many of those soft eyes would soon be dimmed with tears! Something of this feeling must have come over the sad soul of Lincoln. An eye-witness says that he "looked careworn and thoughtful, if not anxious; yet he had a pleasant word for all."

Early in 1862 an event occurred which added to the sorrow that seemed to enshroud the life of Lincoln, and afforded a glimpse into the depths of his tender and sorrowful nature. It was the death of his son Willie, a bright and promising boy, to whom his father was devotedly attached. "This," says Dr. J.G. Holland, "was a new burden; and the visitation which, in his firm faith in Providence, he regarded as providential, was also inexplicable. Why should he, with so many burdens upon him, and with such necessity for solace in his home and his affections, be brought into so tender a trial? It was to him a trial of faith, indeed. A Christian lady of Massachusetts, who was officiating as nurse in one of the hospitals, came in to attend the sick children. She reports that Mr. Lincoln watched with her about the bedside of the sick ones, and that he often walked the room, saying sadly: 'This is the hardest trial of my life. Why is it? Why is it?' In the course of conversations with her, he questioned her concerning her situation. She told him she was a widow, and that her husband and two children were in heaven; and added that she saw the hand of God in it all, and that she had never loved Him so much before as she had since her affliction. 'How is that brought about?' inquired Mr. Lincoln. 'Simply by trusting in God, and feeling that He does all things well,' she replied. 'Did you submit fully under the first loss?' he asked. 'No,' she answered, 'not wholly; but as blow came upon blow, and all were taken, I could and did submit, and was very happy.' He responded, 'I am glad to hear you say that. Your experience will help me to bear my afflictions.' On being assured that many Christians were praying for him on the morning of the funeral, he wiped away the tears that sprang in his eyes, and said, 'I am glad to hear that. I want them to pray for me. I need their prayers.' As he was going out to the burial, the good lady expressed her sympathy with him. He thanked her gently, and said, 'I will try to go to God with my sorrows.' A few days afterward she asked him if he could trust God. He replied, 'I think I can. I will try. I wish I had that childlike faith you speak of, and I trust He will give it to me.' And then he spoke of his mother, whom so many years before he had committed to the dust among the wilds of Indiana. In this hour of his great trial, the memory of her who had held him upon her bosom and soothed his childish griefs came back to him with tenderest recollections. 'I remember her prayers,' said he, 'and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.'"

An interesting passage in the secret history of the war at this period is narrated by one of the chief actors, Mr. A.M. Ross, a distinguished ornithologist of Canada, whose contribution embodies also so many interesting details of Lincoln's daily life that it seems worth giving rather fully. A few months after the inauguration of President Lincoln, Mr. Ross received a letter from the Hon. Charles Sumner, requesting him to come to Washington at his earliest convenience. "The day after my arrival in Washington," says Mr. Ross, "I was introduced to the President. Mr. Lincoln received me very cordially, and invited me to dine with him. After dinner he led me to a window, distant from the rest of the party, and said: 'Mr. Sumner sent for you at my request; we need a confidential person in Canada to look after our interests, and keep us posted as to the schemes of the Confederates in Canada. You have been strongly recommended to me for the position. Your mission shall be as confidential as you please; no one here but your friend Mr. Sumner and myself shall have any knowledge of your position. Think it over tonight, and if you can accept the mission come up and see me at nine o'clock tomorrow morning.' When I took my leave of him, he said, 'I hope you will decide to serve us.' The position thus offered was one not suited to my tastes, but, as Mr. Lincoln appeared very desirous that I should accept it, I concluded to lay aside my prejudices and accept the responsibilities of the mission. I was also persuaded to this conclusion by the wishes of my friend, Mr. Sumner.

"At nine o'clock next morning, I waited upon the President, and announced my decision. He grasped my hand in a hearty manner, and said: 'Thank you, thank you; I am glad of it. You must help us to circumvent the machinations of the rebel agents in Canada. There is no doubt they will use your country as a communicating link with Europe, and also with their friends in New York. It is quite possible, also, that they may make Canada a base from which to harass and annoy our people along the frontier.'

"After a lengthy conversation relative to private matters connected with my mission, I rose to leave, when he said, 'I will walk down to Willard's with you; the hotel is on my way to the Capitol, where I have an engagement at noon.' Before we reached the hotel a man came up to the President and thrust a letter into his hand, at the same time applying for some office in Wisconsin. I saw that the President was offended at the rudeness, for he passed the letter back without looking at it, saying, 'No, sir! I am not going to open shop here.' This was said in a most emphatic manner, but accompanied by a comical gesture which caused the rejected applicant to smile. As we continued our walk, the President spoke of the annoyances incident to his position, saying: 'These office-seekers are a curse to the country; no sooner was my election certain, than I became the prey of hundreds of hungry, persistent applicants for office, whose highest ambition is to feed at the Government crib.' When he bade me good-bye, he said, 'Let me hear from you once a week at least.' As he turned to leave me, a young army officer stopped him and made some request, to which the President replied with a good deal of humor, 'No, I can't do that; I must not interfere; they would scratch my eyes out if I did. You must go to the proper department.'

"Some time later," says Mr. Ross, "I again visited Washington. On my arrival there (about midnight) I went direct to the Executive Mansion, and sent my card to the President, who had retired. In a few minutes the porter returned and requested me to accompany him to the President's office, where Mr. Lincoln would shortly join me. The room into which I was ushered was the same in which I had spent several hours with the President on the occasion of my first interview with him. Scattered about the floor and lying open on the table were several military maps and documents, indicating recent use. In a few minutes the President came in and welcomed me in a most friendly manner; I expressed my regret at disturbing him at such an hour. He replied in a good-humored manner, saying, 'No, no! You did right; you may waken me up whenever you please. I have slept with one eye open ever since I came to Washington; I never close both, except when an office-seeker is looking for me.' I then laid before the President the 'rebel mail.' He carefully examined the address of each letter, making occasional remarks. At length he found one addressed to Franklin Pierce, ex-President of the United States, then residing in New Hampshire; and another to ex-Attorney-General Cushing, a resident of Massachusetts. He appeared much surprised, and remarked with a sigh, but without the slightest tone of asperity, 'I will have these letters enclosed in official envelopes, and sent to these parties.' When he had finished examining the addresses, he tied up all those addressed to private individuals, saying, 'I won't bother with them; but these look like official letters; I guess I'll go through them now.' He then opened them, and read their contents, slowly and carefully. While he was thus occupied, I had an excellent opportunity of studying this extraordinary man. A marked change had taken place in his countenance since my first interview with him. He looked much older, and bore traces of having passed through months of painful anxiety and trouble. There was a sad and serious look in his eyes that spoke louder than words of the disappointments, trials, and discouragements he had encountered since the war began. The wrinkles about the eyes and forehead were deeper; the lips were firmer, but indicative of kindness and forbearance. The great struggle had brought out the hidden riches of his noble nature, and developed virtues and capacities which surprised his oldest and most intimate friends. He was simple, but astute; he possessed the rare faculty of seeing things just as they are. He was a just, charitable, and honest man.

"When Mr. Lincoln finished reading the letters, I rose to go, saying that I would go to Willard's, and have a rest. 'No, no,' said the President, 'it is now three o'clock; you shall stay with me while you are in town; I'll find you a bed'; and leading the way, he took me into a bedroom, saying, 'Take a good sleep; you shall not be disturbed.' Bidding me 'good night,' he left the room to go back and pore over the rebel letters until daylight, as he afterwards told me. I did not awaken from my sleep until eleven o'clock in the forenoon, soon after which Mr. Lincoln came into my room, and laughingly said, 'When you are ready, I'll pilot you down to breakfast,' which he did. Seating himself at the table near me, he expressed his fears that trouble was brewing on the New Brunswick border; he said he had gathered further information on that point from the correspondence, which convinced him that such was the case. He was here interrupted by a servant, who handed him a card, upon reading which he arose, saying, 'The Secretary of War has received important tidings; I must leave you for the present; come to my room after breakfast and we'll talk over this New Brunswick affair."

"On entering his room again, I found him busily engaged in writing, at the same time repeating in a low voice the words of a poem which I remembered reading many years before. When he stopped writing I asked him who was the author of that poem. He replied, 'I do not know. I have written the verses down from memory, at the request of a lady who is much pleased with them.' He passed the sheet, on which he had written the verses, to me, saying, 'Have you ever read them?' I replied that I had, many years previously, and that I should be pleased to have a copy of them in his handwriting, when he had time and an inclination for such work. He said, 'Well, you may keep that copy, if you wish.'"

Hon. William D. Kelly, a Member of Congress from Pennsylvania, relates that during the time of McClellan's Peninsular campaign he called at the White House one morning, and while waiting to see the President, Senator Wilson of Massachusetts entered the chamber, having with him four distinguished-looking Englishmen. The President, says Mr. Kelly, "had evidently had an early appointment, and had not completed his toilet. He was in slippers, and his pantaloons, when he crossed one knee over the other, disclosed the fact that he wore heavy blue woollen stockings. It was an agreeable surprise to learn that the chief of the visiting party was Professor Goldwin Smith of Canada, one of the firmest of our British friends. As the President rose to greet them, he was the very impersonation of easy dignity, notwithstanding the negligence of his costume. With a tact that never deserted him, he opened the conversation with an inquiry as to the health of his friend John Bright, whom he said he regarded as a friend of our country and of freedom everywhere. The visitors having been seated, the magnitude of recent battles was referred to by Professor Smith as preliminary to the question whether the enormous losses which were so frequently occurring would not so reduce the industrial resources of the North as to affect seriously the prosperity of individual citizens and consequently the revenue of the country. He justified the question by proceeding to recite the number of killed, wounded, and missing, reported after some of the great battles recently fought. There were two of Mr. Lincoln's official friends who lived in dread of his little stories. Neither of them was gifted with humor, and both could understand his propositions, which were always distinct and clean cut, without such familiar illustrations as those in which he so often indulged; and they were chagrined whenever they were compelled to hear him resort to his stories in the presence of distinguished strangers. They were Senator Wilson of Massachusetts and Mr. Stanton, Secretary of War; and, as Professor Smith closed his arithmetical statement, the time came for the Massachusetts Senator to bite his lips, for the President, crossing his legs in such a manner as to show that his blue stockings were long as well as thick, said that, in settling such matters as that, we must resort to 'darkey arithmetic.' 'To darkey arithmetic!' exclaimed the dignified representative of the learning and higher thought of Great Britain and her American Dominion. 'I did not know, Mr. President, that you have two systems of arithmetic' 'Oh, yes,' said the President; 'I will illustrate that point by a little story. Two young contrabands, as we have learned to call them, were seated together, when one said to the other, "Jim, do you know 'rithmetic?" Jim answered, "No; what is 'rithmetic?" "Well," said the other, "it's when you add up things. When you have one and one, and you put dem togedder, dey makes two. And when you subtracts things, when if you have two things and you takes one away, only one remains." "Is dat 'rithmetic?" "Yah." "Well, 'tain't true, den. It's no good!" Here a dispute arose, when Jim said, "Now, you 'spose three pigeons sit on that fence, and somebody shoot one of dem; do t'other two stay dar? I guess not! dey flies away quickern odder feller falls." And, Professor, trifling as the story seems, it illustrates the arithmetic you must use in estimating the actual losses resulting from our great battles. The statements you have referred to give the killed, wounded, and missing at the first roll-call after the battle, which always exhibits a greatly exaggerated total, especially in the column of missing.'"

Mr. Goldwin Smith, the gentleman referred to in the foregoing anecdote, has summarized his impressions of Lincoln in the following paragraph: "Such a person as Abraham Lincoln is quite unknown to our official circles or to those of Continental nations. Indeed, I think his place in history will be unique. He has not been trained to diplomacy or administrative affairs, and is in all respects one of the people. But how wonderfully he is endowed and equipped for the performance of the duties of the chief executive officer of the United States at this time! The precision and minuteness of his information on all questions to which we referred was a succession of surprises to me."

Still terser, but hardly less expressive, is Emerson's characterization of Lincoln as one who had been "permitted to do more for America than any other American man."

A striking passage by Mr. Norman Hapgood should have place among these tributes. "Lincoln had no artificial aids. He merely proved the weapon of finest temper in the fire in which he was tested. In the struggle for survival in a national upheaval, he not only proved the living power of integrity and elasticity, but he easily combined with his feats of strength and shrewdness some of the highest flights of taste. As we look back across the changes of his life,—see him passing over the high places and the low, and across the long stretches of the prairie; spending years in the Socratic arguments of the tavern, and anon holding the rudder of state in grim silence; choosing jests which have the freshness of earth, and principles of eternal right; judging potentates and laborers in the clear light of nature, and at ease with both; alone by virtue of a large and melancholy soul, at home with every man by virtue of love and faith,—this figure takes its place high in our minds and hearts, not solely through the natural right of strength and success, but also because his strength is ours, and the success won by him rested on the fundamental purity and health of the popular will of which he was the leader and the servant. Abraham Lincoln was in a deep and lasting sense the first American."

Mr. John Bigelow, already quoted in these pages, summarized Lincoln's character and achievements in a passage of singular eloquence and force. "Lincoln's greatness must be sought for in the constituents of his moral nature. He was so modest by nature that he was perfectly content to walk behind any man who wished to walk before him. I do not know that history has made a record of the attainment of any corresponding eminence by any other man who so habitually, so constitutionally, did to others as he would have them do to him. Without any pretensions to religious excellence, from the time he first was brought under the observation of the nation he seemed, like Milton, to have walked 'as ever in his great Taskmaster's eye.' St. Paul hardly endured more indignities and buffetings without complaint. He was not a learned man. He was not even one who would deserve to be called in our day an educated man—knew little rather than much of what the world is proud of. He had never been out of the United States, or seen much of the portion of them lying east of the Alleghany Mountains. But the spiritual side of his nature was so highly organized that it rendered superfluous much of the experience which to most men is indispensable—the choicest prerogative of genius. It lifted him unconsciously above the world, above most of the men who surrounded him, and gave him a wisdom in emergencies which is bestowed only on those who love their fellow-man as themselves.... In the ordinary sense of the word, Mr. Lincoln was not a statesman. Had he come to power when Van Buren did, or when Cleveland did, he would probably have left Washington at the close of his term as obscure as either of them. The issues presented to the people of the United States at the Presidential election of 1860 were to a larger extent moral questions, humanly speaking, than were those presented at any other Presidential election. They were: first, the right of the majority to rule; second, the right of eight millions, more or less, of our fellow-beings to their freedom; and, third, the institutions and traditions which Washington planted and Jefferson watered, with the sacrifices necessary for their preservation. These questions subordinated all other political issues, and appealed more directly and forcibly to the moral sentiments of this nation than any issues they had ever before been called to settle either at the ballot-box or by force of arms. A President was needed at Washington to represent these moral forces. Such a President was providentially found in Lincoln ... a President who walked by faith and not by sight; who did not rely upon his own compass, but followed a cloud by day and a fire by night, which he had learned to trust implicitly."

A very graphic summing-up of Lincoln in person and character is that of Mr. John G. Nicolay, one of his private secretaries, who knew him intimately and understood him well. "President Lincoln was of unusual stature, six feet four inches, and of spare but muscular build," says Mr. Nicolay. "He had been in youth remarkably strong and skilful in the athletic games of the frontier, where, however, his popularity and recognized impartiality oftener made him an umpire than a champion. He had regular and prepossessing features, dark complexion, broad, high forehead, prominent cheek bones, gray, deep-set eyes, and bushy, black hair, turning to gray at the time of his death. Abstemious in his habits, he possessed great physical endurance. He was almost as tender-hearted as a woman. 'I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man's bosom,' he was able to say. His patience was inexhaustible. He had naturally a most cheerful and sunny temper, was highly social and sympathetic, loved pleasant conversation, wit, anecdote, and laughter. Beneath this, however, ran an undercurrent of sadness; he was occasionally subject to hours of deep silence and introspection that approached a condition of trance. In manner he was simple, direct, void of the least affectation, and entirely free from awkwardness, oddity, or eccentricity. His mental qualities were a quick analytic perception, strong logical powers, a tenacious memory, a liberal estimate and tolerance of the opinions of others, ready intuition of human nature; and perhaps his most valuable faculty was rare ability to divest himself of all feeling or passion in weighing motives of persons or problems of state. His speech and diction were plain, terse, forcible. Relating anecdotes with appreciating humor and fascinating dramatic skill, he used them freely and effectively in conversation and argument. He loved manliness, truth, and justice. He despised all trickery and selfish greed. In arguments at the bar he was so fair to his opponent that he frequently appeared to concede away his client's case. He was ever ready to take blame on himself and bestow praise on others. 'I claim not to have controlled events,' he said, 'but confess plainly that events have controlled me.' The Declaration of Independence was his political chart and inspiration. He acknowledged a universal equality of human rights. 'Certainly the negro is not our equal in color,' he said, 'perhaps not in many other respects; still, in the right to put into his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned, he is the equal of every other man, white or black.' He had unchanging faith in self-government. 'The people,' he said, 'are the rightful masters of both congresses and courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.' Yielding and accommodating in non-essentials, he was inflexibly firm in a principle or position deliberately taken. 'Let us have faith that right makes might,' he said, 'and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.' ..."


Lincoln and his Cabinet—An Odd Assortment of Officials—Misconceptions of Rights and Duties—Frictions and Misunderstandings—The Early Cabinet Meetings—Informal Conversational Affairs—Queer Attitude toward the War—Regarded as a Political Affair—Proximity to Washington a Hindrance to Military Success—Disturbances in the Cabinet—A Senate Committee Demands Seward's Removal from the Cabinet—Lincoln's Mastery of the Situation—Harmony Restored—Stanton becomes War Secretary—Sketch of a Remarkable Man—Next to Lincoln, the Master-mind of the Cabinet—Lincoln the Dominant Power.

President Lincoln's Cabinet, while containing men of marked ability and fitness for their positions, was in some respects about as ill-assorted and heterogeneous a body of men as were ever called to serve together as ministers and advisers of a great government. Its selection was a surprise to the country. Mr. John Bigelow said it "had the appearance of being selected from a grab-bag." "Not one of the members," continues Mr. Bigelow, "was a personal or much of a political friend of Mr. Lincoln; not one of them had ever had any experience or training in any executive office, except Welles of Connecticut, if he could be claimed as an exception because of having served three years in a bureau of the Navy in Washington. Of military administration, still less of actual war, no member knew anything by experience. The heads of the two most important departments, the Secretaries of State and the Treasury, were both disappointed candidates for the chair occupied by Mr. Lincoln. It was nothing less than Providential that the President was so happily constituted as neither to share nor to provoke any of the jealousies or envies of either of them, and by his absolute freedom from every selfish impulse gradually compelled them all to look up to him as the one person in whose singleness of eye they could all and always confide. Not immediately, but in the course of two or three years, they got into the habit of turning to him like quarrelling children to their mother to settle all the questions that temporarily divided them."

These Cabinet ministers were a devoted and patriotic body of men, but their misconceptions of their respective rights and duties were at first grotesque. Mr. Seward, a man of far greater administrative experience than Lincoln, assumed that he, rather than the President, was to be the master mind of the new administration. "Premier" he at first called himself. Mr. Stanton, the Secretary of War, thought the Navy should be a sort of adjunct to the War Department—an error of which Secretary Welles of the Navy Department speedily relieved him. These two men were altogether too unlike to get on well together. The cold and somewhat stately Welles was repelled by Stanton's impulsiveness and violence, while Stanton was exasperated by Welles's calmness and lack of excitability. "Lincoln's ministers had no idea that he towered above them," says Mr. John T. Morse, Jr., "and no one of them was at all overawed by him in those days. Presiding over them at the Cabinet, casually meeting them, chatting with them or lounging as was his habit in Stanton's room, Lincoln seemed only officially superior to them. One of them had expected to be President, and another meant to be; a third dared to be insolent and unruly; it seemed to be only by a chance of politics that these men stood to him as junior partners to a senior, or like a board of directors to the president of a corporation."

The unfriendly feeling existing between members of the Cabinet comes out in many entries in Welles's Diary. "Pressing, assuming, violent, impatient, intriguing, harsh, and arbitrary," are examples of the terms in which Stanton is spoken of by Welles His contempt for the Committee on the Conduct of the War is expressed in no less stinging words. The members of this committee "are most of them narrow and prejudiced partisans, mischievous busybodies, and a discredit to Congress. Mean and contemptible partisanship colors all their acts." It is amusing to note that while Secretary Welles was thus outspoken in his criticisms of others, he himself did not escape calumny. One critic (Thurlow Weed, who, it may be remembered, had objected to Welles's appointment to a Cabinet position when Lincoln suggested it to him in their consultation at Springfield before the inauguration) declared that "It is worse than a fault, it is a crime, to keep that old imbecile at the head of the Navy Department." And another critic expressed the uncomplimentary opinion that "If Lincoln would send old Welles back to Hartford, it would be better for the Navy and for the country."

The accounts of the earliest Cabinet meetings, as given by Secretary Welles, who was nearly always present, are full of interest. "Cabinet meetings, which at that exciting period should have been daily, were infrequent, irregular, and without system," says Mr. Welles. "The Secretary of State notified his associates when the President desired a meeting of the heads of Departments. It seemed unadvisable to the Premier—as he liked to be called and considered—that the members should meet often, and they did not. Consequently there was very little concerted action. At the earlier meetings there was little or no formality; the Cabinet meetings were a sort of privy council or gathering of equals, much like a Senatorial caucus, where there was no recognized leader and the Secretary of State put himself in advance of the President. No seats were assigned or regularly taken. The Secretary of State was invariably present some little time before the Cabinet assembled, and from his former position as the chief executive of the largest State in the Union as well as from his recent place as a Senator, and from his admitted experience and familiarity with affairs, assumed, and was allowed, as was proper, to take the lead in consultations and also to give tone and direction to the manner and mode of proceedings. The President, if he did not actually wish, readily acquiesced in, this. Mr. Lincoln, having never had experience in administering the Government, State or National, deferred to the suggestions and course of those who had. Mr. Seward was not slow in taking upon himself to prescribe action and to do most of the talking, without much regard to the modest chief, but often to the disgust of his associates, particularly Mr. Bates, who was himself always courteous and respectful, and to the annoyance of Mr. Chase, who had had, like Mr. Seward, experience as a chief magistrate. Discussions were desultory and without order or system; but in the summing-up and conclusions the President, who was a patient listener and learner, concentrated results, and often determined questions adverse to the Secretary of State, regarding him and his opinions, as he did those of his other advisers, for what they were worth and generally no more."

It was perhaps natural, in a country so long free from wars as ours had been, that the Civil War should be regarded as a sort of political affair to be directed from Washington rather than by commanders in the field. For the first year or so the feeling was quite general that military affairs should be directed by Congress, acting through its Committee on the Conduct of the War, and by the Secretary of War, who complained bitterly that he was not allowed to assume control of military movements and that his plans were thwarted by McClellan (whom he especially hated). The President himself did not escape this condemnation. The feeling at this time is expressed in a sentence in Stanton's complaint, reflected through Chase, that "the President takes counsel of none but army officers in army matters." Chase declared to Welles, according to the latter, that the Treasury as well as other departments "ought to be informed of the particulars of every movement." The generals engaged in planning the campaigns and fighting the battles of the war, and their commander-in-chief the President, could hardly fail to find their task an uphill one when ideas so naive and fatuous as these prevailed. It is no wonder that General Grant recorded in his Memoirs the opinion that the great difficulty with the Army of the Potomac during the first year of the war was its proximity to Washington; that the conditions made success practically impossible; and that neither he, nor General Sherman, nor any officer known to him, could have succeeded in General McClellan's place, under the conditions that then existed. Gradually, and by slow and often painful experience, a clearer conception of the meaning and methods of war prevailed. In this, as in so many things, Lincoln's insight was first and surest. By patience, tact, shrewdness, firmness, and diplomatic skill, he held the Cabinet together and stimulated its members to their best efforts for the common cause.

But the personal frictions and dissensions in the Cabinet, and the more or less meddlesome attitude of leaders in the Senate and the House, at times sorely tried the strength and patience of the harassed President, compelling him to act the part of peacemaker, and sometimes of judge and arbiter as well. At one time Secretary Stanton threatened to resign; and Chase declared that in that case he should go with him. Stanton and Welles were in frequent antagonism, Welles stating in his Diary that Stanton assumed, or tried to assume, that the Navy should be subject to the direction of the War Department. Seward was "meddlesome" toward other departments; "runs to the President two or three times a day; wants to be Premier," etc., says Welles. "Between Seward and Chase there was perpetual rivalry and mutual but courtly distrust; they entered the Cabinet as rivals, and in cold courtesy so continued." The most serious of these Cabinet embroglios occurred late in December of 1862, while Lincoln was well-nigh overwhelmed by Burnside's dreadful repulse at Fredericksburg. The gist of the affair, as given by Mr. Welles, is that the opposition to Seward in the Senate grew to such a point that a committee was appointed to wait on the President and request Seward's removal from the office of Secretary of State. The President, Mr. Welles tells us, was "shocked and grieved" at this demonstration. He asked all the members of his Cabinet to meet the Senate committee with him. All the members of the Cabinet were present except Seward, who had already sent the President his resignation. The meeting was attended also by Senators Collamer, Fessenden, Harris, Trumbull, Grimes, Howard, Sumner, and Pomeroy. The President, says Mr. Welles, opened the subject for which the meeting was called, taking a conciliatory tone toward the Senators, and requesting from each in turn an expression of opinion as to the wisdom of dropping Seward from the Cabinet. Most of them were strongly of the opinion that Seward ought to go. The President presented his own views, which were, in effect, that it would be a mistake to let Seward leave the Cabinet at that particular time. "He managed his own case," says Mr. Welles, "speaking freely, and showing great tact, shrewdness, and ability." The meeting continued until nearly midnight, and the matter was left still in the President's hands. The next morning Mr. Welles called early at the White House and found Lincoln practically decided not to accept Seward's resignation, saying that it would never do to take the course prescribed by the Senators; that "the Government would cave in; it could not stand—would not hold water; the bottom would be out," etc. He requested Welles to go at once to Seward and ask him not to press his resignation. Lincoln's intuitional mind seemed at once to connect Secretary Chase with the attack on Seward. Before Welles left the room, the President rang a bell and directed that a message be sent to Chase requesting him to come at once to the White House. When Welles returned from his interview with Seward, who readily promised to withdraw his resignation at the President's request, he found both Chase and Seward waiting for the President. The latter soon came in, and his first words were to ask Welles if he "had seen the man," to which Welles answered that he had, and that he assented to what had been asked of him. The dramatic scene that followed is thus described by Mr. Welles in his Diary: "The President turned to Chase and said, 'I sent for you, for this matter is giving me great trouble.' Chase said he had been painfully affected by the meeting last evening, which was a total surprise to him; and, after some not very explicit remarks as to how he was affected, informed the President he had prepared his resignation of the office of Secretary of the Treasury. 'Where is it?' said the President quickly, his eye lighting up in a moment. 'I brought it with me,' said Chase, taking the paper from his pocket; 'I wrote it this morning.' 'Let me have it,' said the President, reaching his long arm and fingers toward Chase, who held on, seemingly reluctant to part with the letter, which was sealed, and which he apparently hesitated to surrender. Something further he wished to say; but the President was eager and did not perceive it, and took and hastily opened the letter. 'This,' said he, looking toward me with a triumphant air, 'cuts the Gordian Knot. I can now dispose of this subject without difficulty, I see my way clear.' Chase sat by Stanton, fronting the fire; the President beside the fire, his face toward them, Stanton nearest him. I was on the sofa, near the east window. 'Mr. President,' said Stanton, with solemnity, 'I informed you day before yesterday that I was ready to tender you my resignation. I wish you, sir, to consider my resignation at this time in your possession.' 'You may go to your department,' said the President; 'I don't want yours. This,' holding out Chase's letter, 'is all I want; this relieves me; my way is clear; the trouble is ended. I will detain neither of you longer.' We all rose to leave," concludes Mr. Welles. "Chase and myself came downstairs together. He was moody and taciturn. Someone stopped him on the lower stairs, and I passed on."

A few days later, the President requested both Seward and Chase to withdraw their resignations and resume their duties. This was done, and the trouble was ended for the time. Both Secretaries had got their lessons, and profited by them. By the exercise of tact and patience, with firmness and decision when required, the President had let it be known that he was the head and chief of the Administration.

Next to the President, it was not Secretary Seward, the "Premier" as he wished to be regarded, but the War Secretary, Stanton, who was the master-mind of the Cabinet. He was the incarnation of energy, the embodiment of patriotic zeal. With all his faults of temper and disposition, he was a man of singular fitness for the responsible position he occupied, and his services to the Government can hardly be overestimated. He had been a Democrat, a member of Buchanan's Cabinet, and was, says Dr. Holland, "the first one in that Cabinet to protest against the downright treason into which it was drifting. He was a man of indomitable energy, devoted loyalty, and thorough honesty. Contractors could not manipulate him, traitors could not deceive him. Impulsive, perhaps, but true; wilful, it is possible, but placable; impatient, but persistent and efficient,—he became at once one of the most marked and important of the members of the Cabinet." Lincoln and Stanton together were emphatically "a strong team."

Stanton was not a member of Lincoln's first Cabinet, but came into it at the beginning of 1862, in place of Simon Cameron, who had just been appointed Minister to Russia. A very interesting account of Cameron's personal relations with Lincoln, the causes that led to his retirement from the Cabinet, and the appointment of Stanton in his place, is given by Cameron himself. He had been the choice of the Pennsylvania delegation for President, at the Chicago Convention in 1860, and it was largely due to him that Lincoln received the nomination. "After the election," said Mr. Cameron, "I made a trip to the West at Mr. Lincoln's request. He had, by letter, tendered me the position of either Secretary of War or Secretary of the Treasury; but when I went to see him he said that he had concluded to make Mr. Seward Secretary of State, and he wanted to give a place to Mr. Chase. 'Salmon P. Chase,' said he, 'is a very ambitious man.' 'Very well,' said I, 'then the War Department is the place for him. We are going to have an armed conflict over your election, and the place for an ambitious man is in the War Department. There he will have lots of room to make a reputation.' These thoughts of mine, that we were to have war, disturbed Mr. Lincoln very much, and he seemed to think I was entirely too certain about it. Finally, when he came to make up his Cabinet, doubtless remembering what I had said about the War Department, he appointed me Secretary of War."

"There has been," continues Mr. Cameron, "a great deal of misstatement as to Mr. Stanton's appointment as my successor. Stanton had been my attorney from the time I went into the War Department until he took my place as Secretary. I had hardly made a move in which the legality of any question could arise. I had taken his advice. I believed in the vigorous prosecution of the war from the start, while Mr. Seward believed in dallying and compromising, and Mr. Chase was constantly agitated about the expenditure of money; therefore it was that I was careful to have the advice of an able lawyer. When the question of changing me from the War Department to the Russian mission came up, Mr. Lincoln said to me, 'Whom shall I appoint in your place?' My prompt response was, 'Edwin M. Stanton.' 'But,' said he, 'I had thought of giving it to Holt.' 'Mr. Lincoln,' said I, 'if I am to retire in the present situation of affairs, it seems but proper that a friend of mine, or at least a man not unfriendly to me, should be appointed in my place. If you give Mr. Stanton the position, you will not only accomplish this object but will please the State of Pennsylvania and also get an excellent officer.' 'Very well,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'you go and see him, and if he will accept the place he shall have it.' I left the White House and started to find Stanton, passing through the Treasury Department on my way. As I passed Mr. Chase's office, I stepped in and told him what had occurred between the President and myself. He said, 'Let's send for Stanton; bring him here and talk it over.' 'Very well,' said I, and a messenger was at once sent. Stanton came immediately, and I told him of the conference between the President and myself. He agreed to accept. We walked to the White House, and the matter was settled.

"One of the troubles in the Cabinet which brought about this change was that I had recommended in my annual report, in the fall of 1861, that the negroes should be enlisted as soldiers after they left their masters. This advanced step was regarded by most of the Cabinet with alarm. Mr. Lincoln thought it would frighten the border States out of the Union, and Mr. Seward and Mr. Chase thought it would never do at all."

Just before the retirement of Mr. Cameron, a number of influential Senators waited upon the President and represented to him that inasmuch as the Cabinet had not been chosen with reference to the war and had more or less lost the confidence of the country, and since the President had decided to select a new war minister, they thought the occasion was opportune to change the whole seven Cabinet ministers. They therefore earnestly advised him to make a clean sweep, select seven new men, and so restore the waning confidence of the country. The President listened with patient courtesy, and when the Senators had concluded, he said, with a characteristic gleam of humor in his eye: "Gentlemen, your request for a change of the whole Cabinet because I have made one change, reminds me of a story I once heard in Illinois of a farmer who was much troubled by skunks. They annoyed his household at night, and his wife insisted that he should take measures to get rid of them. One moonlight night he loaded his old shot-gun and stationed himself in the yard to watch for the intruders, his wife remaining in the house anxiously awaiting the result. After some time she heard the shotgun go off, and in a few minutes the farmer entered the house. 'What luck had you?' said she. 'I hid myself behind the woodpile,' said the old man, 'with the shot-gun pointed toward the hen-roost, and before long there appeared, not one skunk, but seven. I took aim, blazed away, and killed one—and he raised such a fearful smell I concluded it was best to let the other six alone.'" The Senators retired, and nothing more was heard from them about Cabinet reconstruction.

Of the character and abilities of Secretary Stanton, and the relations between him and the President, General Grant has admirably said: "I had the fullest support of the President and Secretary of War. No General could want better backing; for the President was a man of great wisdom and moderation, the Secretary a man of enormous character and will. Very often where Lincoln would want to say Yes, his Secretary would make him say No; and more frequently, when the Secretary was driving on in a violent course, the President would check him. United, Lincoln and Stanton made about as perfect a combination as I believe could, by any possibility, govern a great nation in time of war.... The two men were the very opposite of each other in almost every particular, except that each possessed great ability. Mr. Lincoln gained influence over men by making them feel that it was a pleasure to serve them. He preferred yielding his own wish to gratify others, rather than to insist upon having his own way. It distressed him to disappoint others. In matters of public duty, however, he had what he wished, but in the least offensive way. Mr. Stanton never questioned his own authority to command, unless resisted. He cared nothing for the feeling of others." In a further comparison of the two men, General Grant said: "Lincoln was not timid, and he was willing to trust his generals in making and executing plans. The Secretary [Stanton] was very timid, and it was impossible for him to avoid interfering with the armies covering the capital when it was sought to defend it by an offensive movement against the army guarding the Confederate capital. He could see our weakness, but he could not see that the enemy was in danger. The enemy would not have been in danger if Mr. Stanton had been in the field."

With all his force of character, and his overbearing disposition, Stanton did not undertake to rule the President—though this has sometimes been asserted. He would frequently overawe and browbeat others, but he was never imperious in dealing with Lincoln. Mr. Watson, for some time Assistant Secretary of War, and Mr. Whiting, Solicitor of the War Department, with many others in a position to know, have borne positive testimony to this fact. Hon. George W. Julian, a member of the House Committee on the Conduct of the War, says: "On the 24th of March, 1862, Secretary Stanton sent for the Committee for the purpose of having a confidential conference as to military affairs. Stanton was thoroughly discouraged. He told us the President had gone back to his first love, General McClellan, and that it was needless for him or for us to labor with him." This language clearly shows that Lincoln, not Stanton, was the dominant mind.

Wherever it was possible, Lincoln gave Stanton his own way, and did not oppose him. But there were occasions when, in a phrase used by Lincoln long before, it was "necessary to put the foot down firmly." Such an occasion is described by General J.B. Fry, Provost Marshal of the United States during the war. An enlistment agent had applied to the President to have certain credits of troops made to his county, and the President promised him it should be done. The agent then went to Secretary Stanton, who flatly refused to allow the credits as described. The agent returned to the President, who reiterated the order, but again without effect. Lincoln then went in person to Stanton's office. General Fry was called in by Stanton to state the facts in the case. After he concluded, Stanton remarked that Lincoln must see, in view of such facts, that his order could not be executed. What followed is thus related by General Fry: "Lincoln sat upon a sofa, with his legs crossed, and did not say a word until the Secretary's last remark. Then he said, in a somewhat positive tone, 'Mr. Secretary, I reckon you'll have to execute the order.' Stanton replied, with asperity, 'Mr. President, I cannot do it. The order is an improper one, and I cannot execute it.' Lincoln fixed his eye upon Stanton, and in a firm voice and with an accent that clearly showed his determination, he said, 'Mr. Secretary, it will have to be done.' Stanton then realized that he was overmatched. He had made a square issue with the President, and had been defeated. Upon an intimation from him, I withdrew, and did not witness his surrender. A few minutes after I reached my office I received instructions from the Secretary to carry out the President's order."

Vice-President Wheeler relates a characteristic incident illustrating the relations between Lincoln and Stanton. The President had promised Mr. Wheeler an appointment for an old friend as army paymaster, stating that the Secretary of War would instruct the gentleman to report for duty. Hearing nothing further from the matter, Mr. Wheeler at length called upon the Secretary and reminded him of the appointment. Mr. Stanton denied all knowledge of the matter, but stated, in his brusque manner, that the name would be sent in, with hundreds of others, to the Senate for its consideration. Mr. Wheeler argued that his friend had been appointed by the Commander-in-chief of the Army, and that it was unjust to ask him to wait for the tardy action of the Senate upon the nomination, and that he was entitled to be mustered in at once. But all in vain; the only reply that could be got from the iron Secretary was, "You have my answer; no argument." Mr. Wheeler went to the chief clerk of the department, and asked for the President's letter directing the appointment. Receiving it, he proceeded to the White House, although it was after executive hours. "I can see Mr. Lincoln now," says Mr. Wheeler, "as he looked when I entered the room. He wore a long calico dressing-gown, reaching to his heels; his feet were encased in a pair of old-fashioned leathern slippers, such as we used to find in the old-time country hotels, and which had evidently seen much service in Springfield. Above these appeared the home-made blue woollen stockings which he wore at all seasons of the year. He was sitting in a splint rocking-chair, with his legs elevated and stretched across his office table. He greeted me warmly. Apologizing for my intrusion at that unofficial hour, I told him I had called simply to ascertain which was the paramount power in the Government, he or the Secretary of War. Letting down his legs and straightening himself up in his chair, he answered, 'Well, it is generally supposed I am. What's the matter?' I then briefly recalled the facts attending Sabin's appointment, when, without comment, he said, 'Give me my letter.' Then, taking his pen, he indorsed upon it:

Let the within named J.A. Sabin be mustered AT ONCE. It is due to him and to Mr. W., under the circumstances.


Armed with this peremptory order, Mr. Wheeler called on Stanton the next morning. The Secretary was furious. He charged Mr. Wheeler with interfering with his prerogatives. Mr. Wheeler remarked that he would call the next morning for the order to muster in. He called accordingly, and, handing him the order, in a rage, Stanton said, "I hope I shall never hear of this matter again."

It is related by Hon. George W. Julian, already quoted, that on a certain occasion a committee of Western men, headed by Mr. Lovejoy, procured from the President an important order looking to the exchange and transfer of Eastern and Western soldiers, with a view to more effective work. "Repairing to the office of the Secretary, Mr. Lovejoy explained the scheme, as he had before done to the President, but was met with a flat refusal. 'But we have the President's order, sir,' said Lovejoy. 'Did Lincoln give you an order of that kind?' said Stanton. 'He did, sir.' 'Then he is a d——d fool,' said the irate Secretary. 'Do you mean to say the President is a d——d fool?' asked Lovejoy, in amazement. 'Yes, sir, if he gave you such an order as that.' The bewildered Illinoisan betook himself at once to the President, and related the result of his conference. 'Did Stanton say I was a d——d fool?' asked Lincoln, at the close of the recital. 'He did, sir, and repeated it.' After a moment's pause, and looking up, the President said, 'If Stanton said I was a d——d fool, then I must be one, for he is nearly always right, and generally says what he means. I will step over and see him.'" The two men met, and the matter was easily adjusted. It was this rare combination of good-humor and firmness with an understanding of the other's trials and appreciation of his good qualities, that reduced the friction of official life and enabled Lincoln and Stanton to work together, in the main harmoniously and efficiently, in their great task of prosecuting the war and maintaining the integrity of the Union.


Lincoln's Personal Attention to the Military Problems of the War—Efforts to Push forward the War—Disheartening Delays—Lincoln's Worry and Perplexity—Brightening Prospects—Union Victories in North Carolina and Tennessee—Proclamation by the President—Lincoln Wants to See for Himself—Visits Fortress Monroe—Witnesses an Attack on the Rebel Ram "Merrimac"—The Capture of Norfolk—Lincoln's Account of the Affair—Letter to McClellan—Lincoln and the Union Soldiers—His Tender Solicitude for the Boys in Blue—Soldiers Always Welcome at the White House—Pardoning Condemned Soldiers—Letter to a Bereaved Mother—The Case of Cyrus Pringle—Lincoln's Love of Soldiers' Humor—Visiting the Soldiers in Trenches and Hospitals—Lincoln at "The Soldiers' Rest."

Early in 1862 Lincoln began giving more of his personal attention to military affairs. He was dissatisfied with the slow movements and small achievements of our armies, and sought to infuse new zeal and energy into the Union commanders. He also began a careful study of the great military problems pressing for solution; and he seemed resolved to assume the full responsibilities of his position, not only as the civil head of the Government but as the commander-in-chief of the armies and navies of the United States. In this he was influenced by no desire for personal control of the commanders in the field or interference with their plans; he always preferred to leave them the fullest liberty of action. But he felt that the situation demanded a single head, ready and able to take full responsibility for the most important steps; and, true to himself and his habits of a lifetime, he neither sought responsibility nor flinched from it.

The leading officers of the Union army were mostly young and inexperienced men, and none of them had as yet demonstrated the capacity of a great commander. At best it was a process of experiment, to see what generals and what strategic movements were most likely to succeed. In order to be able to judge correctly of measures and men, Lincoln undertook to familiarize himself with the practical details of military affairs and operations. Here was developed a new and unsuspected phase of his character. The plain country lawyer, unversed in the art of war, was suddenly transformed into the great civil ruler and military chieftain. "He was already," says Mr. A.G. Riddle, "one of the wariest, coolest, and most skilful managers of men. A born strategist, he was now rapidly mastering the great outline ideas of the art of war." "The elements of selfishness and ferocity which are not unusual with first-class military chiefs," said General Keyes, a prominent officer of the Union army, "were wholly foreign to Lincoln's nature. Nevertheless, there was not one of his most trusted warlike counselors in the beginning of the war who equaled him in military sagacity." His reliance, in the new duties and perils that confronted him, was upon his simple common-sense, his native power of judgment and discernment. "Military science," says a distinguished officer, "is common-sense applied to the affairs of war." While Lincoln made no claim to technical knowledge in this sphere, and preferred to leave details to his subordinates, he yet developed an insight into military problems and an understanding of practical operations in the field which enabled him not only to approve or disapprove judiciously, but to direct and plan. A striking confirmation of this is given by Mr. J.M. Winchell, who thus relates what happened in a personal interview with the President:

"I was accompanied by one of Mr. Lincoln's personal friends; and when we entered the well-known reception-room, a very tall, lanky man came quickly forward to meet us. His manner seemed to me the perfection of courtesy. I was struck with the simplicity, kindness, and dignity of his deportment, so different from the clownish manners with which it was then customary to invest him. His face was a pleasant surprise, formed as my expectations had been from the poor photographs then in vogue, and the general belief in his ugliness. I remember thinking how much better-looking he was than I had anticipated, and wondering that anyone should consider him ugly. His expression was grave and care-worn, but still enlivened with a cheerfulness that gave me instant hope. After a brief interchange of commonplaces, he entered on a description of the situation, giving the numbers of the contending armies, their movements, and the general strategical purposes which should govern them both. Taking from the wall a large map of the United States, and laying it on the table, he pointed out with his long finger the geographical features of the vicinity, clearly describing the various movements so far as known, reasoning rigidly from step to step, and creating a chain of probabilities too strong for serious dispute. His apparent knowledge of military science, and his familiarity with the special features of the present campaign, were surprising in a man who had been all his life a civilian, engrossed with politics and the practise of the law, and whose attention must necessarily be so much occupied with the perplexing detail of duties incident to his position. It was clear that he made the various campaigns of the war a subject of profound and intelligent study, forming opinions thereon as positive and clear as those he held in regard to civil affairs."

Toward the end of January, 1862, Lincoln sought to overcome the inertia that seemed settling upon the Union forces by issuing the "President's General Order, No. I," directing that, on the 22d day of February following, "a general movement of the land and naval forces of the United States" be made against the insurgent forces, and giving warning that "the heads of departments, and especially the Secretaries of War and of the Navy, with all their subordinates, and the General-in-Chief, with all other commanders and subordinates of land and naval forces, will severally be held to their strict and full responsibilities for prompt execution of this order." This order, while it doubtless served to infuse activity into commanders and officials, did not result in any substantial successes to our arms. The President, worn by his ceaseless activities and anxieties, seems to have been momentarily disheartened at the situation. Admiral Dahlgren, who was in command of the Washington navy-yard in 1862, narrates that one day, at this period, "the President drove down to see the hundred-and-fifty-pounder cannon fired. For the first time I heard the President speak of the bare possibility of our being two nations—as if alluding to a previous suggestion. He could not see how the two could exist so near each other. He was evidently much worried at our lack of military success, and remarked that 'no one seemed ready.'"

It is difficult to portray the worry and perplexity that beset Lincoln's life, and the incessant demands upon his attention, in his efforts to familiarize himself, as he felt compelled to do, with the practical operations of the war. Admiral Dahlgren, who saw him almost daily, relates that one morning the President sent for him, and said, "Well, Captain, here's a letter about some new powder." He read the letter and showed the sample of powder,—adding that he had burned some of it and it did not seem a good article; there was too much residuum. "Now I'll show you," said he. So he got a small sheet of paper and placed some of the powder on it, then went to the fire, and with the tongs picked up a coal, which he blew, with his spectacles still on his nose; then he clapped the coal to the powder, and after the explosion, remarked: "There is too much left there." There is something almost grotesque, but touching and pathetic as well, in this picture of the President of the United States, with all his enormous cares and responsibilities, engaged in so petty a matter as testing a sample of powder. And yet so great was his anxiety for the success of the armies and navies under his control that he wished to become personally satisfied as to every detail. He did not wish our armies or our war-vessels to lose battles on account of bad powder. "At another time," Admiral Dahlgren has related, "the President sent for me regarding some new invention. After the agent of the inventor left, the President began on army matters. 'Now,' said he, 'I am to have a sweat of five or six days'" (alluding to an impending battle, for the result of which he was very anxious). Again: "The President sent for me. Some man in trouble about arms; President holding a breech-loader in his hand. He asked me about the iron-clads, and Charleston." And again: "Went to the Department and found the President there. He looks thin, and is very nervous. Said they were doing nothing at Charleston, only asking for one iron-clad after another. The canal at Vicksburg was of no account, and he wondered how any sensible man could favor it. He feared the favorable state of public expectation would pass away before anything was done. Then he leveled a couple of jokes at the doings at Vicksburg and Charleston." No wonder the sympathetic Dahlgren, witnessing the sufferings of the tortured President, should exclaim: "Poor gentleman! How thin and wasted he is!"

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse