« PreviousContinue »
things the nation wants and they ask the nation's recognition and its assistance to make good that committal. Now, if we reject and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. .. If, on the contrary, we recognize and sustain the new government of Louisiana, the converse of all this is made true. We encourage the hearts and nerve the arms of the twelve thousand to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it to a complete success. The colored man, too, seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance, and energy, and daring to the same end. Grant that he desires the elective franchise, will he not attain it sooner by saving the already advanced steps towards it than by running backward over them? Concede that the new government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it.
What has been said of Louisiana will apply generally to other States. And yet so great peculiarities pertain to each State, and such important and sudden changes occur in the same State, and, withal, so new and unprecedented is the whole case, that no exclusive and inflexible plan can safely be prescribed as to details and collaterals. Such exclusive and inflexible plan would surely become a new entanglement. Important principles may and must be inflexible.
In the present situation, as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act, when satisfied that action will be proper.
Ex-Judge John A. Campbell, one of the Hampton Roads conferees, had met President Lincoln while at Richmond, seeking to gain concessions which would serve to break the fall of the Confederacy, and received all the kind consideration possible. After returning to Washington, the President was informed of incipient proceedings in Richmond based on Campbell's misinterpretation of the language used in their interview,
and sent the following dispatch to General Weitzel (April 12th):
I have just seen Judge Campbell's letter to you of the 7th. He assumes, as appears to me, that I have called the insurgent Legislature of Virginia together, as the rightful Legislature of the State, to settle differences with the United States. I have done no such thing. I spoke of them not as the Legislature, but as “gentlemen who have acted as the Legislature of Virginia in support of the rebellion.” I did this on purpose to exclude the assumption that I was recognizing them as a rightful body. I dealt with them as men having power de facto to do a specific thing, to wit: "To withdraw the Virginia troops and other support from resistance to the General Government," for which, in the paper handed to you by Judge Campbell, I promised a specific equivalent, to wit: A remission to the people of the State, except in certain cases, of the confiscation of their property. I meant this and no more. Inasmuch, however, as Judge Campbell misconstrues this, and is still pressing for an armistice contrary to the explicit statement of the paper I gave him, and particularly as General Grant has since captured the Virginia troops, so that giving a consideration for their withdrawal is no longer applicable, let my letter to you and the paper to Judge Campbell both be withdrawn or countermanded, and let him be notified of it. Do not allow them to assemble, but if any have come, allow them safe return to their homes.
Two days after Lee's surrender Lynchburg was occupied by a Union force; Sherman reached Raleigh on the 13th; and the surrender of Johnston's army speedily followed. Canby took possession of Mobile on the 14th; Wilson's cavalry was ranging at will over Alabama and Western Georgia; and Anderson's flag again waved loyally over Fort Sumter.
His Last Cabinet Council — Assassination — Borne to His
The fame of Abraham Lincoln was now secure. The carnage of battle had finally ceased. The integrity of the Republic was preserved, and the dark anomaly which had been a reproach and a danger from the first was destroyed. He had succeeded in spite of obstacles which his antagonists at home and sagacious statesmen abroad had deemed insuperable. How much was due to Generals and Admirals, to soldiers and seamen, to Governors and civil subordinates, and to all the loyal people, no one better understood than he. They had done their part. The masterly statecraft was his.
“ To one is granted warlike might,
By him are States preserved." Whether in the power of moral strength or of physical force under his sway as he entered upon his second term, few rulers of nations have been as truly great. Working patiently and persistently, seeking no personal ends, counting his own life as nothing, he had finished the task appointed to him, and lasting rest was near.
On the 14th of April — Good Friday in the Church calendar for that year — General Grant and Robert T. Lincoln, then on his staff, breakfasted at the White House. They had just come from camp in Virginia, and the President found much satisfaction in free converse with the General on the military events of the last few days. A meeting with the Cabinet followed at II o'clock. Secretary Seward was absent, not having recovered from severe injuries received in an accident while out for a drive some days before. His son Fred
a erick, acting Secretary, came in his stead. All the other members arrived before Mr. Stanton, who brought with him certain official papers which were to be the chief subject of the council. General Grant was also present by request of the President.
During the few minutes of waiting an incident occurred which has been lightly regarded by some persons, and to which some may have given undue promi
Charles Dickens, writing from Washington to John Forster, in 1868, mentioned having dined with Senator Sumner, the only other guest being Secretary Stanton, from whom he had this "curious little story' about the last Cabinet meeting of President Lincoln:
Mr. Stanton, on leaving the council with the AttorneyGeneral, said to him: “That is the most satisfactory Cabinet meeting I have attended for many a long day. What an extraordinary change in Mr. Lincoln!” The Attorney-General replied: “We all saw it before you came in. While we were waiting for you, he said with his chin down on his breast: 'Gentlemen, something very extraordinary is going to happen, and that very soon.
To which the AttorneyGeneral had observed: “Something good, sir, I hope?" when the President answered very gravely: “I don't know -I don't know. But it will happen, and shortly, too.” As they were all impressed by his manner, the Attorney-General took him up again. “Have you received any information, sir, not yet disclosed to us?” “No," answered the President,
“but I have had a dream. And I have had the same dream three times: once on the night preceding the battle of Bull Run, once on the night preceding such another” (naming a battle also not favorable to the North). His chin sank on his breast again, and he sat reflecting. “Might one ask the nature of this dream, sir?" said the Attorney-General. “Well," replied the President, without lifting his head or changing his attitude, “I was on a great, broad, rolling river — and I am in a boat — and I drift — and I drift but this is not business," suddenly raising his voice and looking around the table as Mr. Stanton entered; “let us proceed to business, gentlemen.” Mr. Stanton and the Attorney-General said, as they walked on together, it would be curious to notice whether anything ensued on this, and they agreed to notice. He was shot that night.
Of those who met at this council, one of the latest survivors was the Hon. James Speed, of Louisville, then Attorney-General. His attention having been called to this account from Dickens, its verity was confirmed in a letter to the writer (September 16, 1885), in which Mr. Speed said:
I cannot attempt to give in better words than Mr. Dickens an account of that Cabinet meeting, although it made an indelible impression upon my memory. Even after the lapse of so many years the picture can be recalled to my mind's eye as clearly as though the circumstances occurred but yesterday; and I fondly cling to the memory of Mr. Lincoln's personal appearance as I saw him that day, with cleanly shaved face, well brushed clothing, and neatly combed hair and whiskers. In fact, the contrast was so great as to cause each member of the Cabinet to remark it. I well remember that Mr. Stanton said to me as we went down the stairs together: "Didn't our chief look grand to-day?"
The Cabinet was in session for two or three hours. The papers submitted by Mr. Stanton, and approved, seem to have gone no farther than to require the sev