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The session closed on the sixth day of August, having lasted! but little more than a month. The President found himself abundantly supported, and the means in his hands for carrying on the great contest.
The message of Mr. Lincoln to this extra session of Congress, taken with his inaugural, did much to overcome the unpleasant impressions produced by the speeches he made on his way to Washington. There is no question that those speeches seriously damaged him, and shook the confidence of the country in his ability. The inaugural and the message had the old ring in them, and betrayed something of those qualities which had originally attracted the country to him.
It is true, however, that he did not spend much time in writing his messages.
His later efforts in this line did not bear always so many marks of painstaking as the first. He had a great aversion to what he called “machine writing, and always used the fewest words possible to express his meaning. Mr. Defrees, the public printer, an intimate personal friend of Mr. Lincoln, testifies that he made the fewest corrections in his proof of any man he ever knew. He knew nothing of the rules of punctuation, yet the manuscripts of very few of our public men are as well punctuated as his uniformly were, though his use of commas was excessive.
Mr. Defrees, being on easy terms with Mr. Lincoln, took it upon him to suggest with relation to his first message that he was not preparing a campaign document, or delivering a stump speech in Illinois, but constructing an important state paper, that would go down historically to all coming time; and that, therefore, he did not consider the phrase, “sugarcoated," which he had introduced, as entirely a becoming and dignified one. “Well, Defrees,” said Mr. Lincoln, good naturedly, “if
think the time will ever come when the people will not understand what “sugar-coated” means, I'll alter it; otherwise, I think I 'll let it go." To make people understand exactly what he meant, was his grand aim. Beyond that, he had not the slightest ambition to go.
To close this chapter, it only remains to record the relief of Major General McDowell, a worthy but unfortunate officer, and the appointment of General McClellan to the command of the army of the Potomac. The country had been attracted to McClellan by his dispatches from Western Virginia. General Scott favored him, and to him was accordingly assigned the work of re-organizing the shattered army. The public hope was ready to cling somewhere, and the public heart gave itself to McClellan with an enthusiastic devotion rarely accorded to any man. His pictures were in all the windows of the shops, and on all the center tables of all the drawing-rooms in the land. If he had done but little before to merit this confidence—if he did but little afterwards to justify it—he, at least, served at that time to give faith to the people, and furnish a rallying point for their patriotic service. For three months, under his faithful and assiduous supervision, the organization of troops went on, until he had at his command a magnificent army which needed only to be operly led to be victorious.
The victory of the rebels at Bull Run was singularly barren of material results to them. It did not encourage the disloyal masses of the country more than it filled with new determination the loyal people who opposed them. They were as badly punished as the troops they had defeated, and could take no advantage of their victory; and they failed to bring nearer the day of foreign recognition for which they were laboring and longing.
This matter of foreign recognition was a very important one to Mr. Davis and his confederates. That he expected it, and had reason to expect it, there is no question. Hostilities had hardly opened when the British and French governments, acting in concert, recognized the government established at Montgomery as a belligerent power.
If this was not a pledge of friendliness, and a promise of recognition, nothing could have been, for the proceeding was unprecedented. The United States was a power in friendly intercourse with these two great powers of Europe, through complete diplomatic relations. Without a word of warning, without a victory on the part of the insurgents, without a confederate fleet afloat, with only a half of the slave states in insurrection, these two governments, with the most indecent haste, gave their moral support to the enemies of the United States by recognizing a portion of its people engaged in an insurrection which the government had not yet undertaken to suppress--as a belligerent power, with just the same rights on land and sea as if they were an established government.
But for the decided position assumed by Mr. Lincoln, through his accomplished Secretary, Mr. Seward, the rebel government would certainly have had an early and full recognition. England and France were, without doubt, very friendly to the United States; but they would have been friendlier to two governments than to one.
In his instructions to Mr. Charles Francis Adams, on his departure to represent the government at the court of St. James, Mr. Seward said:
“If, as the President does not at all apprehend, you shall unhappily find Her Majesty's government tolerating the application of the so-called seceding states, or wavering about it, you will not leave them to suppose, for a moment, that they can grant that application, and remain the friends of the United States. You may even assure them promptly, in that case, that, if they determine to recognize, they may, at the same time, prepare to enter into an alliance with the enemies of this republic. You alone will represent your country at London, and you will represent the whole of it there. When you are asked to divide that duty with others, diplomatic relations between the government of Great Britain and this government will be suspended, and will remain so until it shall be seen which of the two is most strongly intrenched in the confidence of their respective nations and of mankind.”
Against the recognition of the rebels as a belligerent power, Mr. Adams was directed to make a decided and energetic protest; and when, on the fifteenth of June, the representatives of England and France at Washington applied to Mr. Seward for the privilege of reading to him certain instructions they had received from their governments, he declined to hear them officially until he had had the privilege of reading them privately. This privilege was accorded to him; and then he declined to receive any official notice of the documents. Four days afterwards, he wrote a letter to Mr. Adams, informing him of the nature of the instructions, which were prefaced by a statement of the decision of the British government that this country was divided into two belligerent parties, of which the government represented one; and that the government of Great Britain proposed to assume the attitude of a neutral between them.
Touching this decision, Mr. Seward said that the government of the United States could not debate it with the
government of Her Majesty--much less consent to receive the announcement of a decision thus derogating from the sovereignty of the United Statesma decision at which it had arrived without conferring with us upon the question. “The United States" said Mr. Seward, “are still solely and exclu„sively sovereign, within the territories they have lawfully acquired and long possessed, as they have always been. They are living under the obligations of the law of nations and of treaties with Great Britain, just the same now as heretofore; they are, of course, the friend of Great Britain; and they insist that Great Britain shall remain their friend now, just as she has hitherto been. Great Britain, by virtue of these relations, is a stranger to parties and sections in this country, whether they are loyal to the United States or not; and Great Britain can neither rightfully qualify the sovereignty of the United States, nor concede nor recognize any rights or interests or power, of any party, state or section, in contravention to the unbroken sovereignty of the federal Union. What is now seen in this country is the occurrence, by no means peculiar, but frequent in all countries, more frequent in Great Britain than here, of an armed insurrection, engaged in attempting to overthrow the regularly constituted and established government. But these incidents by no means constitute a state of war, impairing the sovereignty of the government, creating belligerent sections, and entitling foreign states to intervene or to act as neutrals between them, or in any other way to cast off their lawful obligations to the nation thus, for the moment, disturbed. Any other principle than this would be to resolve government everywhere into a thing of accident and caprice, and ultimately all human society into a state of perpetual war."
Instructions corresponding with these were sent to our representatives at the French and other European courts. These governments were plainly given to understand that our government considered the difficulty with the slaveholding states