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The figures which gave the result of the presidential election showed that the country was stronger in men than it was 'at the beginning of the war; and, as the call for five hundred thousand men, made in July, had failed to produce all the soldiers which the war, much longer protracted, would require, the President issued a call, on the nineteenth of December, for three hundred thousand more.
A peace conference, procured by the voluntary and irresponsible agency of Mr. Francis P. Blair, was held on the steamer River Queen, in Hampton Roads, on the 3d of Feb ruary, 1865, between President Lincoln and Mr. Seward, representing the government, and Messrs. Alexander H. Stephens, J. A. Campbell and R. M. T. Hunter, representing the rebel confederacy. It was an informal affair, entirely verbal in its conduct, and unproductive of results. The President consented to become a party to the interview, on representations made by General Grant, who regarded at least two of the commissioners as very sincere in their desire for peace. In the conference, these commissioners favored a postponement of the question of separation, and mutual efforts of the two governments toward some extrinsic policy for a season, so as to give time for the passions of the people to cool. The armies, meantime, were to be reduced, and the intercourse between the people of the two sections to be resumed. This the President considered as equivalent to an armistice or truce; and he informed them that he could agree to no cessation of hostilities, except on the basis of a disbandment of the insurgent forces, and the recognition of the national authority throughout all the states of the Union. He also declared it impossible to recede from his Emancipation Proclamation; and informed the Richmond gentlemen that Congress had passed the constitutional amendment, prohibiting slavery; stating, in addition, that the amendment would doubtless be perfected by the action of three-fourths of the states. There was an earnest desire for peace on both sides, without a doubt; but Mr. Lincoln could, with truth to himself and honor to his country, make peace only on certain essential conditions; while the
hands of the commissioners were, tied by the obstinacy which reigned in Richmond.
The reports of the conversation at this conference are very meager, necessarily; but enough has been made public to show that some of the incidents were very interesting and somewhat amusing. The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle has published an account of the conference, which is said to have been prepared under the eye of Mr. Stephens. This account states that Mr. Lincoln declared that, in his negotiations for peace, he could not recognize another government inside of the one of which he alone was President. “That,” said he, "would be doing what you so long asked Europe to do in vain, and be resigning the only thing the Union armies are fighting for.” To this, Mr. Hunter replied that the recognition of Davis' power to make a treaty was the first and indispensable step to peace; and, to illustrate his point, he referred to the correspondence between King Charles the First and his Parliament, as a reliable precedent of a constitutional ruler treating with rebels. The Chronicle's account says that at this point “Mr. Lincoln's face wore that indescribable expression which generally preceded his hardest hits; and he remarked: Upon questions of history, I must refer you to Mr. Seward, for he is posted in such things, and I do n't profess to be; but my only distinct recollection of the matter is that Charles lost his head.”
The President told his "little story," too, on this occasion, the best version of which is given in Mr. Carpenter's Reminiscences. They were discussing the slavery question, when Mr. Hunter remarked that the slaves, always accustomed to work upon compulsion, under an overseer, would, if suddenly freed, precipitate not only themselves, but the entire society of the South, into irremediable ruin. No work would be done, but blacks and whites would starve together. The President waited for Mr. Seward to answer the argument; but, as that gentleman hesitated, he said: “Mr. Hunter, you ought to know a great deal better about this matter than I, for you have always lived under the slave system. I
can only say, in reply to your statement of the case, that it reminds me of a man out in Illinois, by the name of Case, who undertook, a few years ago, to raise a very large herd of hogs. It was a great trouble to feed them; and how to get around this was a puzzle to him. At length, he hit upon the plan of planting an immense field of potatoes; and, when they were sufficiently grown, he turned the whole herd into the field, and let them have full swing, thus saving not only the labor of feeding the hogs, but that also of digging the potatoes! Charmed with his sagacity, he stood one day leaning against the fence, counting his hogs, when a neighbor came along. Well, well,' said he, Mr. Case, this is all very fine. Your hogs are doing very well just now; but you know out here in Illinois the frost comes early, and the ground freezes a foot deep. Then what are they going to do?' This was a view of the matter which Mr. Case had not taken into account. Butchering time for hogs was away on in December or January. He scratched his head, and at length stammered: Well, it may come pretty hard on their enouts, but I don't see but it will be root hog or die!'”
It is not supposed that Mr. Lincoln hoped for more from this conference than he did from the Niagara Falls negotiations; but he was determined to show that he was ready for peace, on the only grounds that would satisfy the loyal people of the country. The result strengthened the faith of the people in him; and the rebel President seized upon it to stir the ashes in the southern heart, in the vain hope to find fuel there which the long fire had left unconsumed.
Congress adjourned by constitutional limitation on the third of March, although the Senate was at once convened in extra session, in accordance with a proclamation of the President.
On the day of the adjournment of Congress, Mr. Lincoln's first term of office expired. Four years of bloody war had passed away-four years marked by the most marvelous changes in the spirit, position, feelings, principles and institutions of the American people. The great system of wrong, out of which the rebellion had sprung, was in rapid process of dissolution, and already beyond the reach of resuscitation. The government had passed through the severest tests, and had emerged triumphant. There was no longer doubt in the hearts of the people, and no longer contempt among the nations of the earth. Abraham Lincoln, the humble and unobtrusive citizen, the self-educated and Christian man, had been tried, and had not been found wanting. His foes no longer denied, and his friends no longer doubted, his great ability. He was, in every sense, the first citizen of the republic; and he had taken his place among the leading rulers of the world.
Mr. Lincoln was re-inaugurated into the presidential office on the fourth of March. An immense crowd was in attendance—a crowd of affectionate friends, not doubtful of the President, and not doubtful of one another and the future, as at the first inauguration. Chief Justice Chase administered the oath of office; and then Mr. Lincoln read his inaugural address-a paper whose Christian sentiments and whose reverent and pious spirit has no parallel among the state papers of the American Presidents. It showed the President still untouched by resentment, still brotherly in his feelings toward the enemies of the government, and still profoundly conscious of the overruling power of Providence in national affairs. The address was as follows:
“ Fellow-Countrymen-At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed very fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented.
* The progress of our arms, upon which all elsé chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
“On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it; all sought to avoid it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogetier to saving the Union without war,
insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without warseeking to dissolve the Union and divide the effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish; and the war came.
“One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate and extend this interest, was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
* Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should
Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.
“Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. • Woe unto the world because of offences, for it must needs be that offences come: but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.' If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of these offences, which in the providence of God must needs come, but which having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always as cribe to him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may soon pass away. Yet, if God wills that it "continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid with another drawn with the sword; as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphans, to do all' which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among our - Belves and with all nations."