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orders, and come back here at 9 o'clock to-morrow, and I'll tell you who are our friends and what makes a change in that command necessary."
When I returned in the morning, I saw several persons going in and out of his room, and became slightly impatient; but when the colored doorkeeper came and inquired for me, I entered the room and found him seated in an office chair engaged in being shaved. He said: “You are home folks, and I must shave. I cannot do so before Senators and Representatives who call upon me; but I thought I could do so before you." We then commenced to talk of the affairs of Kentucky. I repeated what I had said the evening before about my reluctance to go to Kentucky and quarrel with the politicians, and he said: “Go to Kentucky, keep your temper, do as you please, and I will sustain you."
Then occurred an incident which affords a key to Mr. Lincoln's policy, and accounts for his successful conduct of the Civil War.
I was silent while the barber was shaving him about the neck, but after he was through with that particular part of his duties, I said: “Mr. Lincoln, if I had known at Chicago that this great rebellion was to occur, I would not have consented to go to a one-horse town like Springfield, and take a one-horse lawyer and make him President.” He pushed the barber from him, turned the chair, and said in an excited manner: “Neither would I, Palmer. If we had had a great man for the Presidency, one who had an inflexible policy and stuck to it, this rebellion would have succeeded, and the Southern Confederacy would have been established. All that I have done is, that I have striven to do my duty to-day, with the hope that when to-morrow comes I will be ready for it.” This was the last time I saw Mr. Lincoln.*
Of Lincoln on his literary side, the London Spectator said (in 1891):
No criticism of Mr. Lincoln can be in any sense adequate which does not deal with his astonishing power over words.
* From “ Personal Recollections of John M. Palmer" (Cincinnati : The Robert Clarke Company), pp. 224-5.
It is not too much to say of him that he is among
the greatest masters of prose ever produced by the English race.. His letters, dispatches, memoranda, and written addresses are even better than his speeches.
What is best among the productions thus mentioned is largely represented in the foregoing pages. If, strictly speaking, “conversations” and “table-talk” in the usual sense of those terms are wanting in this case, something of kindred character is found in detached sayings, “words of wisdom,” and occasional expressions suggestive of an embryonic genius lacking only the proper conditions for a normal development. A few illustrations follow:
I hope to “stand firm ” enough not to go backward, and yet not go forward fast enough to wreck the nation.
With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions; he makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.
You can fool some of the people all the time; you can fool all of the people some of the time; but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
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.
I am a patient man — always willing to forgive on the Christian terms of repentance, and also to give ample time for repentance. Still I must save this Government if possible. I shall not surrender this game leaving any available card unplayed.
Free labor has the inspirations of hope ; pure slavery has no hope.
Is it not strange that, while the courts declare a man's right to his stolen property to continue unchanged, they hold a man's right to himself, when stolen, to be lost?
Why men should be so eager in the chase for wealth is hard to explain, seeing that wealth is simply superfluity – what we don't need.
Every speech you heard Judge Douglas make on that Nebraska bill was full of felicitations that we were just at the end of the slavery agitation. The last tip of the last joint of the old serpent's tail was just drawing out of view.
It was before the days of competitive examination that he asked Secretary Stanton to commission the man he sent to him as Colonel of a colored regiment, believing him to be a good man for the place, “though he might not be able to tell the exact shade of Julius Caesar's hair.”
To an appeal of certain Union men in Missouri for his intervention to put an end to one of their afflicting controversies he answered: “Instead of settling one dispute by deciding the question, I should merely furnish a nestful of eggs for hatching new disputes.”
One who knew him in the early New Salem days said Lincoln habitually carried a book with him when at work, and remembered hearing him say: “A fool can learn about as well as a wise man, but the learning does him no good.'
At the time of the Senatorial outbreak against Seward, in December, 1862, the Secretary told the President that it would be a relief to be freed from the cares of office. “Oh, yes, Governor,” replied Lincoln,
"that will do very well for you, but I am like the starling in Sterne's story — 'I can't get out.”'
He said of race prejudice — addressing a colored delegation on colonization: “A universal feeling, whether well or ill founded, cannot be safely disregarded.”
And again to men of the same race: “ It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels he is worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him."
How hopeless he deemed any peaceful abolition of slavery, and how readily he fell into the language of the theology in which he had been brought up, may be seen in this extract from a letter (written in 1855) to Judge Robertson, of Kentucky:
So far as peaceful, voluntary emancipation is concerned, the condition of the negro slave in America, scarcely less terrible to the contemplation of a free mind, is now as fixed and hopeless of change for the better as that of the lost souls of the finally impenitent. The Autocrat of all the Russias will sooner resign his crown and proclaim his subjects free republicans than will the American masters voluntarily give up their slaves.
Of a condition of civil strife like that which was distracting the people of Missouri he said, in a letter to Mr. Drake (October 5, 1863):
Actual war comes on; blood grows hot; and blood is spilled. Thought is forced from old channels into confusion. Deception breeds and thrives. Confidence dies and universal suspicion reigns. . . . Every foul bird comes abroad and every dirty reptile rises up. These add crime to confusion.
He had a real aversion to calls for a speech that must be merely offhand; yet, unwilling to disappoint the crowds that perhaps too often made such demands upon him, he seldom excused himself altogether. On one occasion, during his journey to Washington as President-elect, at a station where his train made but a brief halt, there was an eager and vociferous throng, whom he gratified by stepping to the door and saying: “I appear just to see you and to give you a chance to look at me — in which, you will admit, I have much the best of the bargain.” The writer happened to be alone with him one evening at the White House when his humorous talk was interrupted by the sound of band music, and his countenance suddenly changed, as he inquired its meaning. This was presently announced by an usher. As he arose to go to the front, Lincoln lingered a moment in the room, saying: “These speeches bother me; it is hard work to reply to a serenade. I feel very much like the sieam doctor, who said he could get along well enough in his way of practice with almost any case, but was puzzled when it came to mending a broken leg.” And with this he began his speech, introduced by “ I was just saying,” etc.
Considering the part played by newspaper organs and personal champions in advancing party leaders, from time immemorial, and especially in notable instances among his contemporaries, he may be said to have been exceptionally one who paddled his own canoe. During some talk about a Republican organ at Washington, soon after his election, he remarked:
Long John Wentworth once said to me: ‘Lincoln, why don't you have a man to run you, as Seward