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well-drilled army. General Meade, referring to this power of organization, once said, “Had there been no McClellan there could have been no Grant, for the army made no essential improvement under any of his successors.'
The estimation in which this new young Napoleon was held, at the time he was so ably teaching the army the primary routine, is indicated with sufficient truth in one of the general's letters to his wife, dated August 9, 1861: “I receive letter after letter, have conversation after conversation, calling on me to save the nation, alluding to the presidency, dictatorship, etc. As I hope one day to be united with you forever in heaven, I have no such aspiration. I would cheerfully take the dictatorship and agree to lay down my life when the country is saved. I am not spoiled by my unexpected new position. I feel sure that God will give me strength and wisdom to preserve this great nation.” It was about this widespread dictatorship talk that Lincoln told the story of the man in the thunder-shower who prayed for a little less noise and a little more light. He may possibly have remembered an earlier expression of his, praising some one for being able to compress more words into fewer ideas than anybody he had ever met. The President is honest and means well,” said the patronizing McClellan. My relations with Mr. Lincoln," he says in another place, “ were generally very pleasant, and I seldom had trouble with him when we could meet face to face. The difficulty always arose behind my back. I believe that he liked me personally, and certainly he was always much influenced by me when we were together.” It was part of the President's nature to seem influenced by everybody, even when his will was fixed beyond recall, but there is no doubt that at this time he and the country both believed that McClellan was incomparably the best accessible reliance.
While McClellan was drilling the army Lincoln was steadily keeping up his fight for the political solidarity of the North and the conciliation of the border states. When Congress adjourned August 6, and Congressman McClernand, who had represented lower Illinois for many years, came to say good-by to the President, Lincoln handed him a brigadier general's commission and told him to “keep Egypt right side up." About this time General Fremont was making trouble in Missouri by his arbitrary and meddlesome behavior, among his exploits being a proclamation confiscating property and liberating slaves. Nothing shows more intimately what Lincoln's policy was at this time than a letter to his old friend Browning, dated September 22, 1861, and marked " private and confidential.” Fremont was liked by the abolitionists, naturally, and a tap at them will easily be found in the President's letter. What he says about the impropriety of emancipation without legislation is also important, but the most significant of all is what bears on his persistent border policy. “He must have Kentucky.” The principal part of the letter is:
General Fremont's proclamation as to confiscation of property and the liberation of slaves is purely political and not within the range of military law or necessity. If a commanding general finds a necessity to seize the farm of a private owner for a pasture, an encampment, or a fortification, he has the right to do so, and to so hold it as long as the necessity lasts; and this is within military law, because within military necessity. But to say the farm shall no longer belong to the owner, or his heirs forever, and this as well when the farm is not needed for military purposes as when it is, is purely political, without the savor of military law about it. And the same is true of slaves. If the general needs them, he can seize them and use them; but when the need is past, it is not for him to fix their permanent future condition. That must be settled according to laws made by law-makers, and not by military proclamations. The proclamation in the point in question is simply 'dictatorship.' It assumes that the general may do anything he pleases - confiscate the lands and free the slaves of loyal people, as well as of disloyal ones. And going the
whole figure, I have no doubt, would be more popular with some thoughtless people than that which has been done. But I cannot assume this reckless position, nor allow others to assume it on my responsibility.
“You speak of it as being the only means of saving the government. On the contrary, it is itself the surrender of the government. Can it be pretended that it is any longer the government of the United States
- any government of the constitution and laws – wherein a general or a President may make permanent rules of property by proclamation? I do not say Congress might not with propriety pass a law on the point, just such as General Fremont proclaimed. I do not say I might not, as a member of Congress, vote for it. What I object to is, that I, as President, shall expressly or impliedly seize and exercise the permanent legislative functions of the government.
“So much as to principle. Now as to policy. No doubt the thing was popular in some quarters, and would have been more so if it had been a general declaration of emancipation. The Kentucky legislature would not budge till that proclamation was modified; and General Anderson telegraphed me that on the news of General Fremont having actually issued deeds of manumission, a whole company of our volunteers threw down their arms and disbanded. I was so assured as to think it probable that the very arms we had furnished Kentucky would be turned against
I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone, we cannot hold Missouri, nor, as I think, Maryland. These all against us, and the job on our hands is too large for
We would as well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of this capital. On the contrary, if you will give up your restlessness for new positions, and back me manfully on the grounds upon which
you and other kind friends gave me the election and have approved in my public documents, we shall go through triumphantly."
On the question of emancipation Secretary Cameron agreed with Fremont, and did what he could to help him, besides making other moves in the same direction; but the President was firm. The amount which he would permit in the present state of public opinion was limited by the Act of Congress, passed in August, freeing slaves employed by the Confederates in military service, which had already been done practically by General Butler's ingenious doctrine that they were “contraband of war."
The North was again growing impatient for a fight, but McClellan had more resisting power than the preceding generals, and he remained firm. A small battle with which he had nothing to do was fought, disastrously to the Federals, at Ball's Bluff on October 21, and cost the life of Colonel Baker, Senator from Oregon, and a friend of Lincoln. When the President left McClellan's office after learning this news he was seen to totter, as if about to fall, and the tears were streaming down his cheeks. Ten days later General