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army so completely that it never counted in the history of the war again, was the kind of an apparition the President needed. Sheridan's despatch to Grant, "We have just sent them whirling through Winchester, and we after them to-morrow put one of the finishing strokes on the political campaign. It went to every home in the North and brought the flush of pride to every cheek. When Lincoln had read the telegrams relating the last fight with Early, he told his companions about the man who filled a piece of punk with powder, set it on fire, clapped it under a biscuit, and gave it to a dog. "As for the dog, as a dog, I was never able to find him," said the man.
Farragut had already taken Mobile Bay and Sherman had just captured Atlanta. "We are coming, father Abraham, 300,000 strong" went through the land after Atlanta. "Sherman and Farragut," said Seward in a speech at Chicago, "have knocked the planks out of the Chicago platform," that platform which declared the war a failure. Sheridan demolished whatever was left of it. When Lincoln, on November 8, went to read the telegrams, it was without a reasonable doubt of the result.
He stayed in Stanton's office, following the returns. When there was a lull in the news he read aloud the writings of Petroleum V. Nasby.
The result of the election was the most complete victory ever won in a presidential contest in America.
Two days after he told some serenaders what his election meant:
"It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its existence in great emergencies. On this point the present rebellion brought our republic to a severe test, and a presidential election occurring in regular course during the rebellion, added not a little to the strain.
"If the loyal people united were put to the utmost of their strength by the rebellion, must they not fail when divided and partially paralyzed by a political war among themselves? But the election was a necessity. We cannot have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us. The strife of the election is but human nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case must ever recur in similar cases. Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged. But the election, along with its incidental and undesirable strife, has done good too. It has demonstrated that a people's government can sustain a
national election in the midst of a great civil war. Until now, it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility. It shows also, how sound and how strong we still are. It shows that, even among the candidates of the same party, he who is most devoted to the Union and most opposed to treason can receive most of the people's votes."
Of this address he said to the secretary who stood beside him lighting the page with a candle: "Not very graceful, but I am growing old enough not to care much for the manner of doing things."
VICTORY AND DEATH
WHEN the President sent his annual message to Congress, December 6, 1864, he included among other things this short paragraph, " Civil war continues in the Spanish port of San Domingo, apparently without prospect of an early close." On this conflict hang an act of prudence by the President and one of his most characteristic stories. Seward one day came to a cabinet meeting with clouded brow. Spain, he said, was already sick of the European alliance, and was beginning to view the United States with a more friendly eye. Her government had never gone as far as Palmerston and Louis Napoleon in the effort for intervention, yet she had been led a certain distance by her hope of recovering her possessions in San Domingo. The negroes, however, had put up a good fight, and they had the sympathy of American abolitionists. It was important to separate Spain from the alliance, and yet not to offend those who sympathized with San Domingo. To the President, however, there seemed to be no difficulty. He was merely reminded of an inter
view between two negroes in Tennessee. One was a preacher and the other an erring brother. "Dar are," said Josh the preacher, "two roads befo' you, Joe; be careful which ob dem you take. Narrow am de way dat leads straight to destruction; but broad am de way dat leads right to damnation." Joe opened his eyes, and exclaimed, "Josh, take which road you please; I shall go troo de woods." "I am not willing," concluded the President, "to assume any new trouble or responsibilities at this time, and shall therefore avoid going to the one place with Spain or with the negro to the other, but shall take to the woods. We will maintain an honest and strict neutrality."
The references to the war in the annual message were few, confident, and positive. He gave figures to show that the national resources, both in wealth and in men, were "unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible"; and he told why the war should be fought to the bitter end.
"The public purpose to reëstablish and maintain the national authority is unchanged, and, as we believe, unchangeable. The manner of continuing the effort remains to choose. On careful consideration of all the evidence accessible, it seems to me that no attempt at negotiation with the insurgent leader could result in any good. He would accept nothing short of severance of the Union-precisely what we will not and cannot give.