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the times. Only nine of the twenty-nine who responded gave words of friendliness and approval. If, since then, they have found themselves and their friends in distress through the destruction of their property, they can have no reproaches to cast upon the patient man who so faithfully besought them to save themselves while there was an opportunity.
Two acts were passed by this session which respectively called out a message from the President. The confiscation act, to which allusion has already been made, touched a subject on which he had peculiar views. It would be difficult to express in the English lenguage the basis of the right of Congress to free the slaves of rebels, in clearer and more unanswerable tones than Mr. Lincoln used when he wrote: “It is startling to say that Congress can free a slave within a state, and yet, were it said that the ownership of the slave had first been transferred to the nation, and that Congress had then liberated him, the difficulty would vanish; and this is the real case. The traitor against the general government forfeits his slave, at least as justly as he does any other property; and he forfeits both to the government against which he offends. The government, so far as there can be ownership, owns the forfeited slaves; and the question for Congress, in regard to them, is,-Shall they be made free, or sold to new masters? I see no objection to Congress deciding in advance that they should be free.” The argument of a whole volume would not make the subject clearer.
The other act abolished slavery in the District of Columbia, and he merely pointed out an oversight in the bill, expressing at the same time his gratification that it recognized the two principles of colonization and compensation. It must have been with peculiar satisfaction that he thus completed a work which he began while he was a member of Congress himself, many years before.
Late in the session, Mr. Lincoln sent to Congress the draft of a bill for the compensation of any state that might abolish slavery within its limits; which, although it was referred to a committee, was not acted upon, as there appeared no disposi
tion on the part of the border states to respond to the action which Congress had already taken.
Meantime, and especially after the enactment of the confiscation bill, presses and people maintained their clamor for a sweeping proclamation of emancipation. The clamor took a direct and definite form in a letter addressed by Horace Greeley, through the New York Tribune. The letter was severe in its terms, and intemperate in spirit. Any President who had occupied the office previous to Mr. Lincoln, would have passed over such a letter in silence, however much it might have annoyed or pained him. Mr. Lincoln, however, never thought of his dignity, and saw no reason why the President of the United States should not appear in a newspaper, as well as other men.
Ile accordingly replied to Mr. Greeley, under date of August twenty-second, in a letter which, for conciseness and lucidity, may well be regarded as a model, whether the position assumed in it was sound or otherwise. Mr. Lincoln wrote as follows:
"Ilon. IIorace Greeley, Dear Sir: I have just read yours of the nineteenth instant, 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 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 in 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 is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery.
“If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; 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 believe doing more will help the
"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 views of official duty, and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.
A. LINCOLN." Mr. Lincoln was anxious to take no steps which he should be obliged to retrace through the lack of popular support, and at this time he was carefully measuring the public opinion on the subject of emancipation. A part of the preliminary work he had accomplished. He had performed with the tenderest and most assiduous fidelity all his duty toward the border slave states. He had warned them, besought them, advised them, to get out of the way of an event which he felt certain would come. He knew that the institution of slavery would not be worth a straw, in any state, after it should be destroyed in the rebel states. But they turned a deaf ear to his warnings and entreaties; and in this manner, if not in the manner desired, took themselves out of his way.
His letter to Horace Greeley was, without doubt, intended to prepare the mind of the country for emancipation, and to exhibit the principles and exigencies by which he should be controlled in proclaiming it. He was clearing away obstacles, and preparing his ground; and, in connection with events which wait for record, the time for action came at last.
Mr. Cameron was not very successful in the administration of the affairs of his bureau. It is no derogation to his ability as a statesman to say that, for the discharge of the duties of the war office, at the time he occupied it, he had no eminent fit
It was not the office he would have chosen for himself. Ile had immense and almost countless contracts at his disposal, and could give to them but little personal care.
he was overreached, under the circumstances, was almost a matter of course, and many of his contracts were very bad
Congress, after his resignation, censured him for his loose way of doing business, in intrusting Alexander Cummings of New York with the expenditure of large sums of money without restriction; but Mr. Lincoln, by a special message, assumed all the responsibility of Mr. Cummings' appointment to this duty and responsibility. Mr. Cameron resigned his position on the 11th of January, 1862; and Mr. Lincoln showed what he thought of the charges of fraud against him, by appointing him minister to Russia. Nevertheless, it was to be said of him that Mr. Chase found it difficult to raise money while he remained to make contracts. He resigned while the Ilouse was busy with overhauling his affairs; and it occurred that he sent in his resignation on the same day on which Mr. Dawes of Massachusetts was making a powerful speech against him, and on which the special committee on government contracts made a report severely condemning his operations.
Mr. Lincoln appointed Edwin M. Stanton of Ohio to the office thus vacated. Mr. Stanton was a democrat, and had been a member of Mr. Buchanan's cabinet-was, indeed, the first one in that cabinet to protest against the downright treason into which it was drifting. He was a man of indomitable energy, devoted loyalty and thorough honesty. Contractors could not manipulate him, and traitors could not deceive him. Impulsive, perhaps, but true; willful, it is possible, but placable; impatient, but persistent and efficient,-he became, at once, one of the most marked and important of the members of the cabinet. Mr. Lincoln loved him and believed in him from first to last. When inquired of concerning the reasons for his appointment, Mr. Lincoln said he rather wished, at first, to appoint a man from one of the border states, but he knew the New England people would object; and then, again, it would have given him great satisfaction to appoint a man from New England, but that would displease the border states. On the whole, he thought he had better take a man from some intervening territory; "and, to tell you the truth, gentlemen, "
said he, “I do n't believe Stanton knows where he belongs himself.” The gentlemen proceeding to discuss Mr. Stanton's impulsiveness, Mr. Lincoln said: “Well, we may have to treat him as they are sometimes obliged to treat a Methodist minister I know of out west. He gets wrought up to so high a pitch of excitement in his prayers and exhortations, that they are obliged to put bricks into his pockets to keep him down. We may be obliged to serve Stanton the same way, but I guess we 'll let him jump awhile first.”
The country has sometimes thought the time for bricks had come; but, on the whole, the leaders of the rebellion have had greatest cause of complaint. Mr. Stanton's place in history will be a proud one.
Malcontents, who felt that everything went wrong because there was something wrong in the cabinet, were much encouraged by the change that had been made, and personally and by letter urged Mr. Lincoln to make further changes. A number of them called upon him to insist on changes that they considered absolutely necessary. Mr. Lincoln heard them through, and then, with his peculiar smile, said, “Gentlemen, the case reminds me of a story of an old friend of mine out in Illinois. His homestead was very much infested with those little black and white animals that we needn't call by name; and, after losing his patience with them, he determined to sally out and inflict upon them a general slaughter. He took gun, clubs and dogs, and at it he went, but stopped after killing one, and returned home. When his neighbors asked him why he had not fulfilled his threat of killing all there were on his place, he replied that his experience with the one he had killed was such that he thought he had better stop where he was.”
This story was told with no disrespect to Mr. Cameron, or to the other members of his cabinet, for he honored them all; but it was told to get rid of his troublesome advisers. They went away forgetting that they had failed to make any impression on the President-forgetting that they had failed in their errand utterly—and laughing over the story by which the President had dismissed them.