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PRES. LINCOLN'S WAY OF "PUTTING THINGS." 479
the unequal war required to achieve their independence. And it certainly is something more than a casual coincidence that this same element, as rare in experience as it is transcendent in importance, should have characterized the President upon whom devolves the duty of carrying the country through this second and far more important and sanguinary struggle.
No one can read Mr. LINCOLN's state papers without per ceiving in them a most remarkable faculty of "putting things" so as to command the attention and assent of the common people. His style of thought as well as of expression is thoroughly in harmony with their habitual modes of thinking and of speaking. His intellect is keen, emphatically logical in its action, and capable of the closest and most subtle analysis: and he uses language for the sole purpose of stating, in the clearest and simplest possible form, the precise idea he wishes to convey. He has no pride of intellect-not the slightest desire for display-no thought or purpose but that of making everybody understand precisely what he believes and means to utter. And while this sacrifices the graces of style, it gains immeasurably in practical force and effect. It gives to his public papers a weight and influence with the mass of the people, which no public man of this country has ever before attained. And this is heightened by the atmosphere of honor which seems to pervade his mind, and which is just as natural to it and as attractive and softening a portion of it, as the smoky hues of Indian summer are of the charming season to which they belong. His nature is eminently genial, and he seems to be incapable of cherishing an envenomed resentment. And although he is easily touched by whatever is painful, the elasticity of his temper and his ready sense of the humorous break the force of anxieties and responsibilities under which a man of harder though perhaps a higher nature would sink and fail.
One of the most perplexing questions with which Mr. LINCOLN has had to deal in carrying on the war, has been that of
slavery. There are two classes of persons who cannot, even now, see that there was any thing perplexing about it, or that he ought to have had a moment's hesitation how to treat it. One, is made up of those who regard the law of slavery as paramount to the Constitution, and the rights of slavery as the most sacred of all the rights which are guaranteed by that instrument: the other, of those who regard the abolition of slavery as the one thing to be secured, whatever else may be lost. The former denounce Mr. LINCOLN for having interfered with slavery in any way, for any purpose, or at any time: the latter denounce him, with equal bitterness, for not having swept it out of existence the moment Fort Sumter was attacked. In this matter, as in all others, Mr. LINCOLN has acted upon a fixed principle of his own, which he has applied to the practical conduct of affairs just as fast as the necessities of the case required and as the public sentiment would sustain him in doing. His policy has been from the outset a tentative one-as, indeed, all policies of government to be successful must always be. On the outbreak of the rebellion the first endeavor of the rebels was to secure the active co-operation of all the slaveholding States. Mr. LINCOLN's first action, therefore, was to withhold as many of these States from joining the rebel confederacy as possible. Every one can see now that this policy, denounced at the time by his more zealous anti-slavery supporters as temporizing and inadequate, prevented Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, Missouri, and part of Virginia from throwing their weight into the rebel scale; and although it is very easy and very common to undervalue services to a cause after its triumph seems secure, there are few who will not concede that if these States had been driven or permitted to drift into the rebel confederacy, a successful termination of the war would have been much farther off than it seems at present. Mr. LINCOLN did every thing in his power, consistent with fidelity to the Constitution, to retain the Border Slave States within the Union; and the degree of success
THE PRESIDENT'S POLICY ON SLAVERY.
which attended his efforts is the best proof of their substantial wisdom.
His treatment of the slavery question has been marked by the same experimental policy. The various letters by which from time to time he has explained the principles on which he was acting, in any particular emergency, show very clearly that he has been far more anxious to take action which should be sanctioned and sustained by the country, and thus be permanently valuable, than to put forth any theory of his own or carry into effect the dogmas and opinions of any party, The whole case is stated with great clearness and force in a letter written by him on the 4th of April to Mr. Hodges, who, with Governor Bramlette and some other gentlemen of Kentucky, had called upon him on business relating to the draft, and with whom he had some conversation in regard to the misconceptions of his policy that seemed to be current in their State. That letter is as follows:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, April 4th, 1864. A. G. HODGES, Esq., Frankfort, Ky: My dear Slr:-You ask me to put in writing the substance of what I verbally said the other day, in your presence, to Governor Bramlette and Senator Dixon. It was about as follows:
"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think and feel, and yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power. I understood, too, that in ordinary civil administration this oath even forbade me to practically indulge my primary abstract judgment on the moral question of slavery. I had publicly declared this many tim, and in many ways. And I aver that, to this day, I have done no official act in mere deference to my abstract judgment and feeling on slavery. I did understand, however, that my oath to preserve the Constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every
indispensable means, that government-that nation, of which that Constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution? By general law, life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability I had even tried to preserve the Constitution, if, to save slavery, or any minor matter, I should permit the wreck of government, country, and constitution, altogether. When, early in the war, General Fremont attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not then think it an indispensable necessity. When a little later, General Cameron, then Secretary of War, suggested the arming of the blacks, I objected, because I did not yet think it an indispensable necessity. When, still later, General Hunter attempted military emancipation, I again forbade it, because I did not yet think the indispensable necessity had come. When in March and May, and July, 1862, I made earnest and successive appeals to the border States to favor compensated emancipation, I believed the indispensable necessity for military emancipation and arming the blacks would come, unless averted by that measure. They declined the proposition, and I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the Union, and with it, the Constitution, or of laying strong hand upon the colored element. I chose the latter. In choosing it, I hoped for greater gain than loss, but of this I was not entirely confident. More than a year of trial now shows no loss by it in our foreign relations, none in our home popular sentiment, none in our white military force, no loss by it any how, or anywhere. On the contrary, it shows a gain of quite a hundred and thirty thousand soldiers, seamen and laborers. These are palpable facts, about which, as facts, there can be no cavilling. We have the men; and we could not have had them without the
"And now let any Union man who complains of the measure, test himself by writing down in one line, that he is for subduing the rebellion by force of arms; and in the next, that he is for taking three hundred and thirty thousand men from the Union side, and placing them where they would be best for the measure he condemns. If he cannot face his case so stated, it is only because he cannot face the truth."
I add a word which was not in the verbal conversation. In telling this tale, I attempt no compliment to my own sagacity. I claim not to
LETTER TO MR. HODGES.
have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now at the end of three years' struggle, the nation's condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North, as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new causes to attest and revere the ustice and goodness of God. Yours, truly, (Signed.)
An impression is quite common that great men, who make their mark upon the progress of events and the world's history, do it by impressing their own opinions upon nations and communities, in disregard of their sentiments and prejudices. History does not sustain this view of the case. No man ever moulded the destiny of a nation except by making the sentiment of that nation his ally-by working with it, by shaping his measures and his policy to its successive developments. But little more than a year before the Declaration of Independence was issued, Washington wrote to a friend in England that the idea of separation from Great Britain was not entertained by any considerable number of the inhabitants of the colonies. If independence had then been proclaimed, it would not have been supported by public sentiment; and its proclamation would have excited hostilities and promoted divisions which might have proved fatal to the cause. Time,—the development of events,—the ripening conviction of the necessity of such a measure, were indispensable as preliminary conditions of its success. And one of the greatest elements of Washington's strength was the patient sagacity with which he could watch and wait until these conditions were fulfilled. The position and duty of President LINCOLN in regard to Slavery have been very similar. If he had taken counsel only of his own abstract opinions and sympathies, and had proclaimed emancipation at the outset of the war, or had sanctioned the action of those department commanders who assumed to do it