Page images
PDF
EPUB

He did this apparently witnout a thought of danger, although the whole loyal North trembled with apprehension. He went up in a pan-of-war, on the afternoon of Monday, landed at the Rocketts below the city, and with his boy "Tad” rode up the remaining mile in a boat. He entered the city in no triumphal car. No brilliant cavalcade accompanied him; but on foot, with no guard except the sailors who had rowed him up the James, he entered and passed through the streets of the fallen capital. But his presence soon became known to the grateful blacks, who pressed upon him with their thankful ejaculations and tearful blessings on every side. Better and more expressive were the hats and handkerchiefs, tossed in the air by these happy and humble people, than flags and streamers, floating from masts and house-tops. "Glory to God! Glory! Glory!” shouted the black multitude of liberated slaves. “I thank you dear Jesus, that I behold President Linkum,” exclaimed a woman standing in her humble doorway, weeping in the fullness of her joy. Another, wild with delight, could do nothing but jump, and strike her hande, and shout with wild reiteration: “Bless de Lord! Bless de Lord! Bless de Lord!” At last, the streets became choked with the multitude, and soldiers were called to clear the way. A writer in the Atlantic Monthly, to whom the author is indebted for the most of these particulars, says that one old negro exclaimed: “May de good Lord bless you,

President Linkum!” while he removed his hat, and the tears of joy rolled down his cheeks. “The President,” the account proceeds, “ removed his own hat, and bowed in silence; but it was a bow which upset the forms, laws, customs, and ceremonies of centuries. It was a death-shock to chivalry, and a mortal wound to caste."

After a visit to General Weitzel's headquarters, and a drive around the city, he returned to City Point. On Thursday, he visited the city again, accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln and the Vice-president, with others. While he was in Richmond on this occasion, he held important interviews with leading citizens, prominent among whom was Judge Campbell, one of the parties in the Hampton Roads conference. The Judge urged him to issue a proclamation, permitting the Virginia Legislature to assemble, under the representation that that body would recognize the situation, and withdraw the Virginia troops from the support of Lee. After his return to City Point, he addressed a note to General Weitzel, directing him to permit the legislature to assemble, and to protect them until they should attempt some action hostile to the United States. He was also directed to show the note to Judge Campbell, but not to make it public. The Judge sent an account of his interview and its results to the Richmond Whig; and, this having been copied into the Washington Chronicle, after Mr. Lincoln's return to the federal capital, the President was very indignant. The breach of confidence on the part of Judge Campbell, and the misrepresentations which accompanied it, quite exhausted his patience. As Lee's army had surrendered, and there was no further apology for the desire to have the legislature assemble, he revoked his permission for its convocation. It was evident, in a cabinet meeting that was held a few days afterward, that Judge Campbell's course had much embittered him. He had been inclined to trust in the personal honor of rebels with whom he had been brought in contact; but he evidently felt that his confidence had been practiced upon by Campbell; and the fact stung him to indignation,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

if not anger.

The order produced an unpleasant effect upon the public mind, and its revocation was received with gratification all over the North. The revocation did not come early enough, however, to save serious difficulty in other quarters; for Sherman, negotiating with Johnston, patterned his policy upon that of the President, and brought down upon himself the reprobation of the loyal press of the country-reprobation which, in extreme instances, assumed the form of direct charges of disloyalty against this gallant and most loyal soldier. But Johnston surrendered; and soon there was not an army of the rebellion that had not given itself up to our forces, or been disbanded and scattered.

The great rebellion was ended. General Grant reached Washington on the thirteenth of April, and held an interview with the President and Mr. Stanton, the result of which was the issue of an order from the War Department on the same day, or, rather, of a statement that orders would immediately be issued, to stop drafting and recruiting, to curtail purchases for arms, ammunition and supplies, to reduce the number of general and staff officers to the necessities of the service, and to remove military restrictions on trade and commerce.

The American people were floating on the high tide of joy. All were glad and happy; and, as they returned their thanks to the Giver of all good for victory and peace, they did not forget the instrument he had used in the execution of his plans. Mr. Lincoln's name was on every tongue. The patient man who had suffered the pain of a thousand deaths during the war—who had been misconstrued, maligned, and condemned by personal and party enemies, and questioned and criticised by captious friends,—was the man above all others who stood in the full sunshine of the popular affection. His motives were vindicated, his policy had been sanctioned by success, and his power had been proved. He was the acknowledged savior of his country, and the liberator of a race, He had solved the great problem of popular government; he had settled the great question of African slavery on the continent. He had won a glorious place in history; and his name had been committed to the affectionate safe-keeping of mankind.

On the evening of the eleventh of April, the White House was brilliantly illuminated; and to the immense crowd gathered around it, to express their joyous congratulations, Mr. Lincoln delivered his last public address. He said little about victory, further than briefly to express his acknowledgments to the soldiers who had fought, and the God who had prospered their arms; but, turning his eyes from the past, he regarded the future, and the new duties and perplexities which it was certain to bring. “Reconstruction" was the burden of his speech; and he explained, at length, his connection with

ana,

the efforts at reconstruction which had taken place in Lcuisi

The question as to whether the rebel states were out of the Union, or in it, he regarded as a “pernicious abstraction.” “We all agree,” said he, " that the seceded states, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union: and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those states, is to again get them into their proper practical relation.”

He believed the state government of Louisiana offered for that state a practicable plan of return, but he was not committed to that plan alone. The quickest way back to the old relations with the government was the best way, without any regard to any finely spun theories.

The Louisiana Legislature had ratified the Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, and Mr. Lincoln said: “These twelve thousand persons (the loyal element of the state) are thus fully committed to the Union, and the perpetuation of freedom in the state-committed to the very things, and nearly all the things, the nation wants; and they ask the nation's recognition, and its assistance to make good this committal. Now, if we reject and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. We, in fact, say to the white man: “You are worthless, or worse: we will neither help you nor be helped by you.' To the blacks we say: "This cup of liberty which these, your old masters, held to your lips, we will dash from you, and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and undefined when, where, and how.'”

All the President's plans considered the welfare of the black man as well as the white; and there will be no better opportunity to give his views of negro suffrage than this page will furnish. This great question, which promises io be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to the party which placed Mr. Lincoln in power-a stone which is certain, in the administration of God's providence, to become the head of the corner_was one which he had carefully considered, and upon which, with his respect for human rights, he could have but one opinion. In a letter to the late General Wads

[ocr errors]

worth, he once said: “You desire to know, in the event of our complete success in the field, the same being followed by loyal and cheerful submission on the part of the South, if universal amnesty should not be accompanied with universal suffrage. Since you know my private inclinations as to what terms should be granted to the South, in the contingency mentioned, I will here add that, if our success should thus be realized, followed by such desired results, I cannot see, if universal amnesty is granted, how, under the circumstances, I can avoid exacting in return universal suffrage, or at least suffrage on the basis of intelligence and military service."

Thus stands Mr. Lincoln's record on this question, and thus must stand the record of every man whose love of men and whose regard for human rights are as genuine as those which moved the heart of the good President. The party which loved and supported Mr. Lincoln cannot deny the principle of universal suffrage, without denying both Mr. Lincoln and the everlasting principles of right upon which he based his action-upon which they have won all their successes. And if, for immediate advantage, in the strife for power, they so far turn their backs upon their record as to deny manhood to the African, and refuse to recognize his service in the salvation of the republic, they are sure to be defeated, as they will be certain to deserve defeat.

« PreviousContinue »