Page images
PDF
EPUB

view between two negroes in Tennessee. One was a preacher and the other an erring brother. "Dar are," said Josh the preacher, "two roads befo' you, Joe; be careful which ob dem you take. Narrow am de way dat leads straight to destruction; but broad am de way dat leads right to damnation." Joe opened his eyes, and exclaimed, "Josh, take which road you please; I shall go troo de woods." "I am not willing," concluded the President, "to assume any new trouble or responsibilities at this time, and shall therefore avoid going to the one place with Spain or with the negro to the other, but shall take to the woods. We will maintain an honest and strict

neutrality."

The references to the war in the annual message were few, confident, and positive. He gave figures to show that the national resources, both in wealth and in men, were "unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible"; and he told why the war should be fought to the bitter end.

1

"The public purpose to reëstablish and maintain the national authority is unchanged, and, as we believe, unchangeable. The manner of continuing the effort remains to choose. On careful consideration of all the evidence accessible, it seems to me that no attempt at negotiation with the insurgent leader could result in any good. He would accept nothing short of severance of the Union - precisely what we will not and cannot give.

His declarations to this effect are explicit and oft repeated. He does not attempt to deceive us. He affords us no excuse to deceive ourselves. He cannot voluntarily reaccept the Union; we cannot voluntarily yield it. Between him and us the issue is distinct, simple, and inflexible. It is an issue which can only be tried by war, and decided by victory."

What was true of Davis, however, was not necessarily true of his followers. Some of them already desired peace and reunion, and the number might increase. They could have peace at any moment by mere submission.

"If questions should remain, we would adjust them by the peaceful means of legislation, conference, courts, and votes, operating only in constitutional and lawful channels. Some certain, and other possible, questions are, and would be, beyond the executive power to adjust; as, for instance, the admission of members into Congress, and whatever might require the appropriation of money. The executive power itself would be greatly diminished by the cessation of actual war. Pardons and remissions of forfeitures, however, would still be within executive control. In what spirit and temper this control would be exercised, can be fairly judged of by the past."

About the negroes he was more than usually strict in tone.

"In presenting the abandonment of armed resistance to the national authority on the part of the insurgents as

the only indispensable condition to ending the war on the part of the government, I retract nothing heretofore said as to slavery. I repeat the declaration made a year ago that,' while I remain in my present position I shall not attempt to retract or modify the Emancipation Proclamation, nor shall I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the acts of Congress.'

"If the people should, by whatever mode or means, make it an executive duty to reënslave such persons, another, and not I, must be their instrument to perform it."

The increasing severity of his manner on this subject may be indicated by his remark to a woman from Tennessee, who had called, a few days before this message, to request the release of her husband, partly on the ground that he was a religious man:

"You say your husband is a religious man; tell him when you meet him that I say I am not much of a judge of religion, but that, in my opinion, the religion that sets men to rebel and fight against their government, because, as they think, that government does not sufficiently help some men to eat their bread in the sweat of other men's faces, is not the sort of religion upon which people can get to heaven.”

Some months later he said, referring to the Confederate plan to enlist negroes:

[ocr errors]

“I may incidentally remark that having in my life heard many arguments — or strings of words meant to pass for arguments- intended to show that the negro ought to be a slave - if he shall now really fight to keep himself a slave, it will be a far better argument why he should remain a slave than I have ever before heard. He perhaps ought to be a slave, if he desires it ardently enough to fight for it. Or, if one out of four will, for his own freedom, fight to keep the other three in slavery, he ought to be a slave for his selfish meanness. I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves, it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others. Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

Settled as he was that freedom was now no longer an open question, his desire to have it brought about by constitutional methods was intense. Of emancipation he had once said: "We are like whalers, who have been on a long chase; we have at last got the harpoon into the monster, but we must now look how we steer, or with one flop of his tail he will send us all into eternity." He had steered with care, and the rest of the course was clear. It was an amendment to the Constitution. Motions to this end had been offered in the House in December, 1863, and in the Senate in 1864. How the President worked for the success of the effort is vividly shown in one of his conversations, recorded by Charles A. Dana:

66

‘Dana, I am very anxious about this vote. It has got to be taken next week. The time is very short. It is going to be a great deal closer than I wish it There are three that you can deal with better than anybody else, perhaps, as you know them all. I wish you would send for them."

was.

"What will they be likely to want?" asked Dana. "I don't know. It makes no difference, though, what they want. Here is the alternative: that we carry this vote, or be compelled to raise another million, and I don't know how many more men, and fight no one knows how long. It is a question of three votes or new

armies."

"Well, sir," said Dana, "what shall I say to these gentlemen?"

"I don't know, but whatever promise you make to them I will perform."

With all his efforts, however, he was beaten in the House when on June 15 it came to a vote. At his special request a demand for such an amendment was then inserted in the Republican platform on which he was to be so overwhelmingly elected. After that election, with the immense Republican gain in Congress, the measure seemed sure, but the President wished to hurry it through and he urged in his message of December 6 that the legislature should obey the unmistakable voice of the majority. The vote came in January, and when it was over Lincoln was able to congratulate the people who crowded

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »