Page images
PDF
EPUB

said: “Gentlemen, I have put two hundred thousand muskets into the hands of loyal citizens of Tennessee, Kentucky, and western North Carolina. They have said they could defend themselves, if they had guns. I have given them the guns. Now, these men do not believe in mustering in the negro. If I do it, these two hun

, dred thousand muskets will be turned against us. We should lose more than we should gain.”

At a meeting July 22, however, he told his cabinet that he had called them merely for advice about a step on which he was already determined, which was emancipation by proclamation. The principal suggestion came from Seward, who said that if the step was taken after such reverses and in so depressed a time, the public would look upon it as the last measure of an exhausted government. “His idea,” Lincoln is quoted as saying, “was that it would be considered our last

, ' shriek, on the retreat.” Lincoln, who had already had the same idea, at least at times, therefore put his draft aside, touching it up now and then, adding or changing a line, and waiting.

His tone in these dismal weeks is firm and gloomy. To a preacher who objected to the presence of the Union army in Louisiana, Lincoln wrote:

“I distrust the wisdom if not the sincerity of friends who would hold my hands while my.enemies stab me.

This appeal of professed friends has paralyzed me more in this struggle than any other one thing. You remember telling me, the day after the Baltimore mob in April, 1861, that it would crush all Union feeling in Maryland for me to attempt bringing troops over Maryland soil to Washington. I brought the troops notwithstanding, and yet there was Union feeling enough left to elect a legislature the next autumn, which in turn elected a very excellent Union United States senator ! I am a patient man — always willing to forgive on the

Christian terms of repentance, and also to give ample time for repentance. Still, I must save this government, if possible. What I cannot do, of course, I will not do; but it may as well be understood, once for all, that I shall not surrender this game leaving any available card unplayed.”

In another letter to Louisiana he says:

“He even thinks it injurious to the Union cause that they should be restrained in trade and passage without taking sides. They are to touch neither a sail nor a pump, but to be merely passengers — deadheads at that to be carried snug and dry throughout the storm, and safely landed right side up. Nay, more : even a mutineer is to go untouched, lest these sacred passengers receive an accidental wound. Of course the rebellion will never be suppressed in Louisiana if the professed Union men there will neither help to do it nor permit the government to do it without their help.”

He then suggests that the Union men in Louisiana restore the national authority, and adds:

“ If they will not do this — if they prefer to hazard all for the sake of destroying the government, it is for them to consider whether it is probable I will surrender the government to save them from losing all. If they decline what I suggest, you scarcely need to ask what I will do. What would you do in my position ? Would you drop the war where it is? Or would you prosecute it in future with elder-stalk squirts charged with rosewater? Would you deal lighter blows rather than heavier ones? Would you give up the contest, leaving any available means unapplied ? I am in no boastful mood. I shall not do more than I can, and I shall do all I can, to save the government, which is my sworn duty as well as my personal inclination. I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing.”

To Augustus Belmont he wrote:

.

“Broken eggs cannot be mended; but Louisiana has nothing to do now but to take her place in the Union as it was, barring the already broken eggs. The sooner she does so, the smaller will be the amount of that which will be past mending. This government cannot much longer play a game in which it stakes all, and its enemies stake nothing. Those enemies must understand that they cannot experiment for ten years trying to destroy the government, and if they fail still come back into the Union unhurt."

The next dramatic incident came August 20, when military reverses left the President

seemingly further away than ever from issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. Horace Greeley printed a signed editorial in his paper, with

, the modest title of “The Prayer of 20,000,000,' giving harsh expressions to the abolitionist point of view. Lincoln was probably glad of the opportunity to state his views, which he did in an answer that undoubtedly strengthened him with the country. He did not confide to Mr. Greeley that the document was already drawn. He simply gave the strongest possible expression to his policy. The central passage is :

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored the nearer the Union will be the Union as it was. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less when

T

ever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors, and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.”

Horace Greeley is reported by a friend to have said, after reading his reply, that Lincoln had prepared it in advance and merely took that opportunity to get his views before the public. “Sub rosa, I can't trust your ‘honest old Abe,” said the unsatisfied Greeley, “he is too smart for me. He thinks me a d-d fool; but I am never fooled twice by the same individual.” So the Tribune continued to growl, while Lincoln kept on waiting for a victory.

Just after his trip of inspection to Harrison's Landing, the President, on July 11, had appointed General Halleck General-in-Chief, and General Pope, who had won some success in the West, had already been put at the head of the new “Army of Virginia,” made by uniting the corps of Fremont, McDowell, and Banks, although a little while before the President had refused him promotion on the ground that “majorgeneralships in the regular army are not as plenty as blackberries.” On the advice of these two generals, Lincoln recalled McClellan from the Peninsula, where he was talking about another advance on Richmond. Pope and Banks

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »