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THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.
and often with brilliant success, had swayed the destinies of the republic. The political movements of the civil war can not be understood without a clear appreciation of the position and action of this influence.
The retention of power by the Democratic party had heretofore depended on an alliance between the slave interest of the South and the democracy of the North. That democracy had, however, in the course of time, become affected by the spirit of the age. The contagion was not limited to its lower ranks, for among the great statesmen who guided it there were some whose actions plainly indicated that they could no longer accept the rigid traditions of the past. The South took alarm when she saw what their intentions were in relation to the national territories. Imperious and impetuous, she broke with them. After the meeting of the Convention for the nomination of a President in Charleston (1860), the quarrel could no longer be concealed.
At this moment, therefore, the Democratic party was di vided in itself, and hence was intrinsically weak. There were very many persons belonging to it animated by the purest patriotism, who had accepted its maxims as not unsuitable in times of peace, but who repudiated them instantly and utterly when it became apparent that the life of the nation was about to be assailed. Among them the republic found some of its noblest and ablest defenders. Democracies never betray their country. That is done only by privileged classes.
But there was, as has been said, a portion of the party who sought only for a perpetuation of place and power. These were ignobly insensible to the scorn with which the angry South was treating them. They had a secession scheme of their own. If New England, with her troublesome ideas and dangerous influence, could be cut off, a predominance would once more be given to the
Southern scale of the balance, and they, with their old ally, might enjoy another period of power. They took encouragement from the belief that in revolutions it is factions which always rule.
Surprise has been sometimes expressed at the extraor dinary deception which the South apparently practiced on herself in looking for a divided North, and aid in her warlike proceedings from the Democratic party, which party must have become a nonentity with the success of secession. That expectation, however, rested on a knowl edge of this state of things.
This fragment of the Democratic party was therefore selfish and ignominious in its aim. With protestations of devotion to human liberty, it did not shrink from being the accomplice of slavery. It reflected none of the republican grandeur issuing from the first idea, none of the imperial splendor of the second. Ignobly hunting for place, it offered as a price the life of the nation, and was spurned with unutterable contempt by that very South whose favor it sought to conciliate.
With infinite labor and anxiety, Lincoln had at length organized his administration, and settled its domestic and foreign policy.
One of his Illinois neighbors, who had long known him, says, "This tall, gaunt, melancholy man floatsupport of the peo- ed into our county in 1831 in a frail canoe down the North Fork of the Sangamon River, friendless, penniless, powerless, alone-begging for work in this city-ragged, and struggling for the common necessaries of life. This man, this peculiar man, left us in 1861 the President of the United States, backed by friends, and power, and fame." Notwithstanding his rustic manners and want of social polish, there was something in his demeanor which made even those who were
LINCOLN AND DAVIS.
greatly his superiors in these respects, but who looked only to the good of the country, feel that its administra tion was safe in his hands. Such as were hoping for the overthrow of the government regarded him with hatred and disgust. When Mr. Seward desired to present to him Mr. Mason, who subsequently became one of the agents of the Confederacy in Europe, that senator, with a scowl of horror and scorn, shook his head and declined.
But Lincoln soon found that there was a sustaining power behind him on which he could securely rely-the people the plain people, as he affectionately called them. They cared nothing about his fashionable short-comings; they looked only to the greatness of his purposes. If he chose to speak in parables, they knew that it was not the first time in the world that that had been done, and that parables have been delivered which will instruct the hu man race to the end of time. When it was said in foreign countries Davis is creating a nation and making history in Richmond, and Lincoln is telling stories in Washington, they were content to await the event. They knew that for nations splendid talents are not always the safest guide. While Davis was driving his rivals from his presence, and throwing into obscurity or exile the ablest men of the Souththose who could have made the rebellion successful, had that been possible-Lincoln was selecting his advisers from his political opponents. Davis was exasperating the passions of his people, and teaching them revenge; the weakness of Lincoln was benevolence. And the issue
His course compared with that of Davis.
was such as might have been expected. declines in influ- The enthusiastic devotion which had welcomed Davis to power was succeeded by distrust, dissatisfaction, hatred. The wreck of the Confederacy, the ruin of the people, were at last imputed to
him. On the other hand, the misgivings which attended Lincoln's accession were replaced by confidence; he ended by becoming politically omnipotent.
Clad in black, the ungainly-looking President might be seen, after the hour had come for visitors to be excluded, pacing to and fro past the windows of his apartment, his hands behind him, his head bent forward upon his breast, lost in profound meditation, a picture of sorrow, care, and Lincoln in his hours, anxiety. The artist Carpenter, who enjoyed frequent opportunities of thus observing him in his moments of retirement, says, "His was the saddest face in repose that I ever knew. His eyes, of a bluish gray tint, always in deep shadow from the upper lids, which were unusually heavy, gave him an expression remarkably pensive and tender, often inexpressibly sad. A pe culiar dreaminess sometimes stole over his face."
As is not unfrequently observed of Western men, there were mysterious traits of superstition in his traits of his char- character. A friend once inquiring the cause of a deep depression under which he seemed to be suffering, "I have seen this evening again," hẻ replied, "what I once saw before, on the evening of my nomination at Chicago. As I stood before a mirror, there were two images of myself-a bright one in front, and one that was very pallid standing behind. It completely unnerved me. The bright one, I know, is my past, the pale one my coming life." And feeling that there is no armor against Destiny, he added, "I do not think I shall live to see the end of my term. I try to shake off the vision, but it still keeps haunting me."
He began to receive threatening letters soon after his nomination. He kept them by themselves, labeled, "Letters on Assassination." After his death, one was found among them connected with the plot which had succeeded.
"I can not help being in this way," he said; "my father was so before me. He dreamed that he rode through an unfrequented path to a strange house, the surroundings and furnishing of which were vividly impressed on his mind. At the fireside there was sitting a woman whose features he distinctly saw. She was engaged in paring an apple. That woman was to be his wife. Though a very strong-minded man, he could not shake off the vision. It haunted him incessantly, until it compelled him to go down the unfrequented way. He quietly opened the door of what he recognized to be the house, and saw at a glance that it was where he had been in his dream. There was a woman at the fireside engaged in paring an apple. And the rest of his dream came to pass."
"There will be bad news to-night," he said on another occasion. "Why, how do you know that, Mr. President?" "I dropped asleep, and saw in a dream what has often before been the precursor to me of disaster. I saw a ship sailing very fast." And that night bad news came!
But other great men have experienced similar delusions.
Perhaps, in the opinion of the supercilious critic, these idle stories are unworthy of the page of history. The materialist philosopher may say, "Had Lincoln taken the trouble to hold up a candle before his mirror, he might have seen a dozen pale images of it! That true. But does not history record
is very true.
that some of the greatest soldiers, statesmen, lawgivers-men who have left ineffaceable marks on the annals of the human race-have been influenced by like delusions? There was connected with the most import ant of all proclamations ever issued by an American President-the proclamation of slave emancipation-an incident of the kind: a vow that in a certain contingency it should be put forth. Lincoln implicitly believed that it is the Supreme Ruler who determines our fate. Trifles though these may be, it is not for the historian to hide