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CHASE'S AMBITION

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posed it, the only wonder is that there was so little friction among them. They disagreed constantly and heartily on minor questions, both with Mr. Lincoln and with each other, but their great devotion to the Union, coupled with his kindly forbearance, and the clear vision which assured him mastery over himself and others, kept peace and even personal affection in his strangely assorted official family.

The man who developed the most serious presidential aspirations was Salmon P. Chase, his Secretary of the Treasury, who listened to and actively encouraged the overtures of a small faction of the Republican party which rallied about him at the end of the year 1863. Pure and disinterested, and devoted with all his energies and powers to the cause of the Union, he was yet singularly ignorant of current public thought, and absolutely incapable of judging men in their true relations. He regarded himself as the friend of Mr. Lincoln, and made strong protestations to him and to others of this friendship, but he held so poor an opinion of the President's intellect and character, compared with his own, that he could not believe the people blind enough to prefer the President to himself. He imagined that he did not covet advancement, and was anxious only for the public good; yet, in the midst of his enormous labors found time to write letters to every part of the country, protesting his indifference to the presidency, but indicating his willingness to accept it, and painting pictures so dark of the chaotic state of affairs in the government, that the irresistible inference was that only he could save the country. From the beginning Mr. Lincoln had been aware of this quasi-candidacy, which continued all through the winter. Indeed, it was impossible to remain unconscious of it, although he discouraged all conversation on the

subject, and refused to read letters relating to it. He had his own opinion of the taste and judgment displayed by Mr. Chase in his criticisms of the President and his colleagues in the cabinet, but he took no note of them.

"I have determined," he said, "to shut my eyes, so far as possible, to everything of the sort. Mr. Chase makes a good secretary, and I shall keep him where he is. If he becomes President, all right. I hope we may never have a worse man."

And he went on appointing Mr. Chase's partizans and adherents to places in the government. Although his own renomination was a matter in regard to which he refused to talk much, even with intimate friends, he was perfectly aware of the true drift of things. In capacity of appreciating popular currents Chase was as a child beside him; and he allowed the opposition to himself in his own cabinet to continue, without question or remark, all the more patiently, because he knew how feeble it really was.

The movement in favor of Mr. Chase culminated in the month of February, 1864, in a secret circular signed by Senator Pomeroy of Kansas, and widely circulated through the Union; which criticised Mr. Lincoln's "tendency toward compromises and temporary expedients"; explained that even if his reëlection were desirable, it was practically impossible in the face of the opposition that had developed; and lauded Chase as the statesman best fitted to rescue the country from present perils and guard it against future ills. Of course copies of this circular soon reached the White House, but Mr. Lincoln refused to look at them, and they accumulated unread in the desk of his secretary. Finally, it got into print, whereupon Mr. Chase wrote to the President to assure him he had no knowledge of

CLEVELAND CONVENTION

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the letter before seeing it in the papers. To this Mr. Lincoln replied:

"I was not shocked or surprised by the appearance of the letter, because I had had knowledge of Mr. Pomeroy's committee, and of secret issues which I supposed came from it, . for several weeks. I have known just as little of these things as my friends have allowed me to know. . . I fully concur with you that neither of us can be justly held responsible for what our respective friends may do without our instigation or countenance. Whether

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you shall remain at the head of the Treasury Department is a question which I will not allow myself to consider from any standpoint other than my judgment of the public service, and, in that view, I do not perceive occasion for a change."

Even before the President wrote this letter, Mr. Chase's candidacy had passed out of sight. In fact, it never really existed save in the imagination of the Secretary of the Treasury and a narrow circle of his adherents. He was by no means the choice of the body of radicals who were discontented with Mr. Lincoln because of his deliberation in dealing with the slavery question, or of those others who thought he was going entirely too fast and too far.

Both these factions, alarmed at the multiplying signs which foretold his triumphant renomination, issued calls for a mass convention of the people, to meet at Cleveland, Ohio, on May 31, a week before the assembling of the Republican national convention at Baltimore, to unite in a last attempt to stem the tide in his favor. Democratic newspapers naturally made much of this, heralding it as a hopeless split in the Republican ranks, and printing fictitious despatches from Cleveland reporting that city thronged with in

fluential and earnest delegates. Far from this being the case, there was no crowd and still less enthusiasm. Up to the very day of its meeting no place was provided for the sessions of the convention, which finally came together in a small hall whose limited capacity proved more than ample for both delegates and spectators. Though organization was delayed nearly two hours in the vain hope that more delegates would arrive, the men who had been counted upon to give character to the gathering remained notably absent. The delegates prudently refrained from counting their meager number, and after preliminaries of a more or less farcical nature, voted for a platform differing little from that afterward adopted at Baltimore, listened to the reading of a vehement letter from Wendell Phillips denouncing Mr. Lincoln's administration and counseling the choice of Frémont for President, nominated that general by acclamation, with General John Cochrane of New York for his running-mate, christened themselves the "Radical Democracy," and adjourned.

The press generally greeted the convention and its work with a chorus of ridicule, though certain Democratic newspapers, from motives harmlessly transparent, gave it solemn and unmeasured praise. General ! Frémont, taking his candidacy seriously, accepted the nomination, but three months later, finding no response from the public, withdrew from the contest.

At this fore-doomed Cleveland meeting a feeble attempt had been made by the men who considered Mr. Lincoln too radical, to nominate General Grant for President, instead of Frémont; but he had been denounced as a Lincoln hireling, and his name unceremoniously swept aside. During the same week another effort in the same direction was made in New York, though the committee having the matter in charge

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made no public avowal of its intention beforehand, merely calling a meeting to express the gratitude of the country to the general for his signal services; and even inviting Mr. Lincoln to take part in the proceedings. This he declined to do, but wrote:

"I approve, nevertheless, whatever may tend to strengthen and sustain General Grant and the noble armies now under his direction. My previous high estimate of General Grant has been maintained and heightened by what has occurred in the remarkable campaign he is now conducting, while the magnitude and difficulty of the task before him do not prove less than I expected. He and his brave soldiers. are now in the midst of their great trial, and I trust that at your meeting you will so shape your good words that they may turn to men and guns, moving to his and their support."

With such gracious approval of the movement the meeting naturally fell into the hands of the Lincoln men. General Grant neither at this time nor at any other, gave the least countenance to the efforts which were made to array him in political opposition to the President.

These various attempts to discredit the name of Mr. Lincoln and nominate some one else in his place caused hardly a ripple on the great current of public opinion. Death alone could have prevented his choice by the Union convention. So absolute and universal was the tendency that most of the politicians made no effort to direct or guide it; they simply exerted themselves to keep in the van and not be overwhelmed. The convention met on June 7, but irregular nominations of Mr. Lincoln for President had begun as early as January 6, when the first State convention of the year was held in New Hampshire.

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