« PreviousContinue »
of the truest friends of the Great Republic throughout the Civil War - Count de Gasparin, a French Protestant and an author of note,* who was troubled by the news of McClellan's repulse before Richmond, as reported abroad from Confederate sources. Widely difsering in tone from the preceding letter, as befitted the occasion, Lincoln's reply is equally characteristic:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON,
August 4, 1862.
-Your very acceptable letter, dated Orbe, Canton de Vaud, Switzerland, 18th of July, 1862, is received. The moral effect was the worst of the affair before Richmond, and that has run its course downward. We are now at a stand, and shall soon be rising again, as we hope. I believe it is true that, in men and material, the enemy suffered more than we in that series of conflicts, while it is certain that he is less able to bear it.
With us every soldier is a man of character, and must be treated with more consideration than is customary in Europe. Hence our great army, for slighter causes than could have prevailed there, has dwindled rapidly, bringing the necessity for a new call earlier than was anticipated. We shall easily obtain the new levy, however. Be not alarmed if you shall learn that we shall have resorted to a draft for part of this. It seems strange even to me, but it is true, that the Government is now pressed to this course by a popular demand. Thousands who wish not to personally enter the service, are nevertheless anxious to pay and send substitutes, provided they can have assurance that unwilling persons, similarly situated, will be compelled to do likewise. Besides this, volunteers mostly choose to enter
* Two books of his relating to the Anti-Slavery regeneration of American institutions and the war for the Union were reprinted in this country, in translation : “ The Uprising of a Great People” (1861), and “ America Before Europe" (1862).
newly forming regiments, while drafted men can be sent to fill up the old ones, wherein man for man they are quite doubly as valuable.
You ask, “Why is it that the North with her great armies so often is found with inferiority of numbers face to face with the armies of the South?” While I painfully know the fact, a military man, which I am not, would better answer the question. The fact I know has not been overlooked, and I suppose the cause of its continuance lies mainly in the other fact that the enemy holds the interior and we have the exterior lines; and that we operate where the people convey information to the enemy, while he operates where they convey none to us.
I have received the volume and letter which you did me the honor of addressing to me, and for which please accept my sincere thanks. You are much admired in America for the ability of your writings, and much loved for your generosity to us and your devotion to liberal principles generally
You are quite right as to the importance to us for its bearing upon Europe, that we should achieve military successes, and the same is true for us at home as well as abroad. Yet it seems unreasonable that a series of successes, extending through half a year, and clearing more than a hundred thousand square miles of country, should help us so little, while a single half defeat should hurt us so much. But let us be patient.
I am very happy to know that my course has not conflicted with your judgment of propriety and policy. I can only say that I have acted upon my best convictions, without selfishness or malice, and that by the help of God I shall continue to do so. Please be assured of my highest respect and esteem.
A. LINCOLN. The leadership in Republican journalism of the more radical type in those days might fairly be conceded to Horace Greeley. Ardent in working, he was impatient in waiting for things to grow. Perhaps he never thoroughly understood Abraham Lincoln; certainly he was
ignorant of Lincoln's purposes in regard to slavery at this particular juncture. The report of the President's address to colored men in favor of colonization had but just gone through the country when Mr. Greeley — in a temper more wrathful than devotional indited and
published in the Tribune) what he quite gratuitously termed “The Prayer of Twenty Millions,” addressed to the President. Its character will be rightly understood from the following samples:
On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one disinterested, determined, intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel that all attempts to put down the rebellion, and at the same time uphold its inciting cause, are preposterous and futile — that the rebellion, if crushed to-morrow, would be renewed within a year if slavery were kept in full vigor — that army officers, who remain to this day devoted to slavery, can at best be but half-way loyal to the Union - and that every hour of deference to slavery is an hour of added and deepened peril to the Union. I appeal to the testimony of your ambassadors in Europe. It is freely at your service, not mine. Ask them to tell you candidly whether the seeming subserviency of your policy to the slave-holding, slavery-upholding interest, is not the perplexity, the despair of all parties; and be admonished by the general answer!
I close as I began, with the statement that what an immense majority of the loyal millions of your countrymen require of you is a frank, declared, unqualified, ungrudging execution of the laws of the land, more especially of the Confiscation Act. That act gives freedom to the slaves of rebels coming within our lines, or to whom those lines may at any time inclose. We ask you to render it due obedience by publicly requiring all your subordinates to recognize and obey it... We cannot conquer ten millions of people united in solid phalanx against us, powerfully aided by Northern sympathizers and European allies. We must have scouts, guides, spies, cooks, teamsters, diggers and
choppers from the blacks of the South — whether we allow them to fight for us or not or we shall be baffled and repelled.
The President thought it best to meet this appeal in the same arena. By telegraph he sent the following reply for publication in the Tribune :
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON,
August 22, 1862. Hon. Horace Greeley:
DEAR SIR:- I have just read yours of the 19th, addressed to myself through the New York Tribune. If there be in it any statements or assumptions of fact which I may know to be erroneous, I do not now and here controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may
believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here argue against them. If there be perceptible in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.
As to the policy I “seem to be pursuing," as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored, the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing
hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views. I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty, and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men, everywhere, could be free Yours,
A response in this way happened "very unexpectedly" to Mr. Greeley, as he afterward said. That it was a very effective answer was not doubtful to any one.