« PreviousContinue »
to preserve the Union, and maintain the government and defend the federal capital. A firm policy and prompt action were necessary. The capital of our country was in danger and must be defended at all hazards, and at any expense of men or money. He spoke of the present and future without reference to the past."
The writer of the life of Mr. Lincoln and the chronicler of the rebellion will find few more delightful tasks than that of recording the unwearied devotion of Mr. Douglas to the cause of his country during the brief remainder of his life. He was done with his dreams of power, done with the thought that compromise would save the country, and done, for the time at least, with schemes for party aggrandizement. Six days after his interview with Mr. Lincoln he was on his way home, and at Bellair, Ohio, he was called out to make a speech. All parties received him with the greatest enthusiasm, and every word he uttered had the genuine ring of patriotism. Subsequently he addressed the legislature of Illinois, at Springfield, and his own fellow-citizens at Chicago. The old party talk and the old party policy were all forgotten, and only the sturdy, enthusiastic patriot spoke. In one of the last letters he ever wrote he said: "We should never forget that a man cannot be a true democrat unless he is a loyal patriot." In May he became sick, and on the third of June he died. In the low delirium that attended his disease he talked of nothing but his country, and almost his last coherent words were shaped to a wish for its honor and prosperity, through the defeat and dispersion of its enemies.
Mr. Lincoln felt his death as a calamity. He had been of great service to him in unveiling the designs of the rebels, and in bringing to the support of the government an element which a word from him at a favorable moment would have alienated. He freely said that he regarded Mr. Douglas as one of his best and most valuable friends.
To those who are curious in marking strange coincidences, it will be interesting to remember that just four years to an hour after Mr. Douglas parted with Mr. Lincoln, at the close of the interview that has been described, Mr. Lincoln was
slain by an assassin. Both died with a common purpose uppermost in their minds, one in the threatening morning of the rebellion, and the other when its sun had just set in blood; and both sleep in the dust of that magnificent state almost every rod of which, within a quarter of a century, had echoed to their contending voices as they expounded their principles to the people.
THE emergency which the rebellion forced upon the government found that government no less prepared to meet it than it found the loyal people of the country wanting in military knowledge and experience. The people were so eager to furnish men and supplies that they at once became impatient for results. No one among them seemed to doubt that the rebellion might be crushed in a few months, at most. They did not comprehend the almost infinite detail of a war. Patience was a virtue which it took four years to teach them; and when every man connected with the government was making all the efforts possible to forward the preparations for the struggle, the popular press-meaning well, but much misapprehending the difficulties of the situation-were already finding fault with the tardiness of operations. They had apparently forgotten how long it took to bring the Mexican war to a successful termination;-indeed, they stood in a very different relation to this war from that which they had held toward the Mexican war. That was a war of the government against another power; this was a war of their own, against domestic traitors who sought to overthrow the government. Every loyal man had a direct interest in the war; and he judged every movement and every delay as if it were his own private enterprise. There were inconveniences in this; but, in this universal personal interest, lay the secret of those four years of popular devotion to the war which so astonished the observers of other lands, and made ultimate victory, under Providence, a certainty from the first.
This popular impatience was, during the first two or three years of the war, one of the serious difficulties with which the administration had to deal. It had its advantages in holding to vigilance and industry all who were in responsible positions, but it had disadvantages in sometimes compelling precipitancy of action, and in breeding in the administration the idea that the people were to be managed like children whose food should be carefully prepared in the departments whenever it was administered, or carefully withheld when their stomachs were not able to receive it. This idea of the people was not born in the White House. Mr. Lincoln had a profound respect for the people, and never had any sympathy with efforts which aimed to make them instruments in the hands of the government, or which ignored the fact that they were the source of all his power.
During the latter part of April, certain important military operations were effected. Washington, the safety of which was the first consideration, was relieved from immediate danger; Fortress Monroe, commanding the water gateway of Virginia, was reinforced and held; the government works at Harper's Ferry were blown up and burned by Lieutenant Jones, in command of a company of regulars, moved by the intelligence of an advance of a large confederate force; Cairo, Illinois, an important strategic point at the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, had been occupied by government forces, and the blockade was extended so as to embrace the states of Virginia and North Carolina. Then began organization. On the twenty-seventh of April, Adjutant General Thomas made the following announcement of new military departments: First, The military department of Washington, including the District of Columbia, according to its original boundary, Fort Washington and the adjacent country, and the state of Maryland as far as Bladensburgh, to be under the charge of Colonel Mansfield, with head-quarters at Washington. Second, The department of Annapolis, headquarters at that city, and including the country for twenty miles on either side of the railroad between Annapolis and
Washington, under command of General B. F. Butler, of the Massachusetts volunteers. Third, The department of Pennsylvania, including that state, Delaware and all of Maryland not included in the other departments already mentioned, and with Major General Patterson in command. The extension of the department of Washington to the old limits of the district was for the purpose of including territory absolutely necessary for the defense of the capital.
On the following tenth of May, another department was added to this list, including the states of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, under the charge of General George B. McClellan. The object of this department was to maintain a defensive line on the Ohio River from Wheeling to Cairo.
On the twenty-ninth of April, Jefferson Davis convened his Congress at Montgomery, and sent them a message which was intended to be a justification of himself and his cause, before the country and the world. It was a document of rare ability, in its plausible presentation of the favorite southern doctrine of state rights, and its rehearsal of the pretended wrongs which the South had suffered at the hands of the North. It must have made a profound impression upon the great multitude of minds ready to receive it among his own. people, and upon statesmen abroad who, from the first opening of the American difficulties, manifested a strange ignorance. of the genius and structure of American institutions.
It is interesting to notice here the attempt on the part, both of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Davis, to argue the rightfulness of their respective positions, in a great number of their state papers. Mr. Lincoln's old intellectual struggle with Mr. Douglas had ceased, and Jefferson Davis was now his antagonista man of higher culture and deeper character.
Mr. Davis, in his message, assumed the role of the wronged party. Notwithstanding the fact that he had seized all the property of the United States upon which he could lay his hands, and had, by bombardment, compelled the surrender of Fort Sumter, he tried to shift the burden of opening the war upon Mr. Lincoln, whose call for troops, weeks after a con