Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ At some time during the autumn of 1861, Secretary Cameron made quite an abolition speech to some newly arrived regiment.

Next day Stanton urged me to arrest him for inciting to insubordination. He often advocated the propriety of my seizing the government and taking affairs into my own hands."

Such was the character whom the President recognized as the best possible man to undertake the enormous duties of the War Department.

Lincoln was a supreme politician,” says Charles A. Dana. “ He understood politics because he understood human nature.” Such a move as this shows that he understood its large and strange aspects as well as he did its details and weaknesses. He trusted nobody absolutely, and he saw what was useful in anybody. It is reported plausibly that he once said there was but one man in Congress of whose personal and political friendship he was entirely sure; and yet it would be impossible to call him distrustful. He merely had the trait of seeing some very important matters with an almost inhuman lack of prejudice.

As the war progressed, Lincoln spent much of his time in the War Department, reading his file of copies of the department telegrams. When he got to the end of the new ones and began on those he had seen before, he frequently remarked, Well, I guess I have got down to the raisins,"

[ocr errors]

S

which observation he explained by the story of a little girl who began by eating a lot of raisins, followed them with sweets, became sick, and at a certain point in her proceedings made the above remark. Apparently one change was made in regard to this file of telegrams in the President's room at the War Department. Albert E. H. Johnson, Stanton's confidential clerk, says in the Washington Post, July 14, 1891: “Mr. Stanton's theory was that everything concerned his own department. It was he who was carrying on the war. It was he who would be held responsible for the secret machinations of the enemy in the rear as well as the unwarranted success of the enemy in front. Hence he established a system of military censorship which has never, for vastness of scope or completeness of detail, been equalled in any war before or since, or in any other country under the sun. The whole telegraphic system of the United States, with its infinite ramifications, centred in his office. There, adjoining his own personal rooms sat General Eckert, Hymer D. Bates, Albert B. Chandler, and Charles A. Tinker, - all of them young men of brilliant promise and now shining lights in the electrical world. Every hour in the day and night, under all circumstances, in all seasons, there sat at their instruments sundry members of this little group. The passage between their room and the Secretary's was unobstructed. It was an interior communication — they did not have even to go through the corridor to reach him — and every despatch relating to the war or party politics that passed over the Western Union wires, north or south, they read. Cipher telegrams were considered especially suspicious, so every one of those was reported. The young men I have mentioned were masters of cipher-translation. Every message to or from the President or any member of his household passed under the eye of the Secretary. If one cabinet minister communicated with another over the wire by a secret code, Mr. Stanton had the message deciphered and read to him. If General McClellan telegraphed to his wife from the front, Mr. Stanton knew the contents of every despatch. Hence, as far as the conduct of the war was concerned, Mr. Stanton knew a thousand secrets where Lincoln knew one; for the Secretary's instructions were that telegrams indiscriminately should not be shown to the President."

At the time this change was made certain Republicans wished a general reconstruction of the cabinet. Welles was objected to and characterized in a cartoon as the Old Man of the Sea on the neck of Sinbad Lincoln. Seward had one set of enemies, and nearly every member of the cabinet another. The President, in answer to one of their demands for a general upheaval, told

a

excuses.

of the man who lay behind his woodpile to watch for a skunk. In place of the expected one, seven appeared. He fired, and killed one, but it “raised such a stink he decided to let the other six go.

As the winter wore on the dissatisfaction with McClellan increased. The President tried in vain to get him to move.

He had all sorts of He saw always the Confederate advantages and his own disadvantages, never the re

R. E. Fenton tells how he and Schuyler Colfax called on the President, December 18, and Lincoln said that sky and earth seemed to beckon the army on, but that he supposed General McClellan knew his business and had his reasons for disregarding these hints of Providence. He advised Congress to take a recess for a few weeks, and then if McClellan had not moved, Providence would have stepped in and said it was impossible. That was true. Bad weather came and offered another excuse, for, as Lincoln said, McClellan believed the rain fell only on the just. The general also, like nearly everybody else, had a notion of finishing the war in one battle, for which he wished to get elaborately ready. That the real nature of the task was in no way understood so early is hinted by General Burnside's answer to a question by Colonel

verse.

a McClure, who asked why McClellan didn't move on Richmond. General Burnside said that it

[graphic]

FROM A PHOTOGRAPH OF LINCOLN TAKEN IN 1860 BY BRADY IN NEW

YORK, AT THE TIME OF THE SPEECH AT THE COOPER INSTITUTE.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »