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well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God."
Yet he found this no easy position to maintain. It is never a soft task to explain to the public that learning by experience and changing with the facts is not inconsistency. He spoke as little as he conveniently could of the direct fact that negro freedom must now be included in any arrangement for peace, but he did argue often in
, favor of his wisdom in arming the blacks and of the justice of emancipating them.
“The world," he said in April, "has never had a good definition of the word “liberty,' and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty ; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word 'liberty' may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word
may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor."
In the same address he went so far as to promise revenge if the rumors of Fort Pillow massacres turned out to be true. An unfinished draft of a letter, dated August 6, says:
“The President has received yours of yesterday and is kindly paying attention to it. As it is my business to assist him whenever I can, I will thank you to inform me, for his use, whether you are either a white man or black man, because in either case you cannot be regarded as an entirely impartial judge. It may be that you belong to a third or fourth class of yellow or red men, in which case the impartiality of your judgment would be more apparent.'
His sharpest repartees were usually left unsaid. The next month he made this vigorous statement of the military impossibility of escaping emancipation:
An armistice- a cessation of hostilities is the end of the struggle, and the insurgents would be in peaceable possession of all that has been struggled for. Any different policy in regard to the colored man deprives us of his help, and this is more than we can bear. We cannot spare the hundred and forty or fifty thousand now serving us as soldiers, seamen, and laborers. This is not a question of sentiment or taste, but one of physical force, which may be measured and estimated as horse-power and steam-power are measured and estimated. Keep it and you can save the Union. Throw it away, and the Union goes with it. Nor is it possible for
any administration to retain the service of these people with the express or implied understanding that, upon the first convenient occasion, they are to be reënslaved. It cannot be, and it ought not to be.”
More than once he said he was willing to stake his election on these principles.
First, however, among all political dangers lay, as usual, military reverses. Sherman fought hard through the spring without notable victories. Grant had Lee in a position which meant death, but the cost was awful, and the North could not even see how inevitable it was that her armies should now win. In this situation Lincoln behaved perfectly. He knew that Grant's military ideas might prevent his reëlection, but he knew also that the only right step was to let the bloody fight go on under the conduct of the commander. After the fearful struggle in the Wilderness, Schuyler Colfax heard Lincoln exclaim: “ " Why do we suffer reverses after reverses? Could we have avoided this terrible, bloody war? Was it not forced upon us? Is it ever to end?” A little after, however, he referred with hope to Grant's famous words, “I shall fight it out on this line if it takes all summer," and in June he even went so far as to say in a speech at a fair:
We accepted this war for an object, a worthy object, and the war will end when that object is attained. Under God, I hope it never will end until that time. Speaking of the present campaign, General Grant is reported to have said, 'I am going through on this line if it takes all summer. This war has taken three years; it was begun or accepted upon the line of restoring the national authority over the whole national domain, and for the American people, as far as my knowledge enables me to speak, I say we are going through on this line if it takes three years more."
It will be seen that these two firm and clear minds understood each other. When Grant failed in his assaults on the desperate Confederate army in those jungles of the South, instead of marching toward Washington he marched by flank movements still nearer Richmond and the Northern soldiers cheered. Asked by Justin McCarthy in after years what he deemed the first requisite of a general, Grant replied “patience.” With that he mixed freely the other virtue of energetic aggressiveness. Even the frightful defeat at Cold Harbor did not dazzle him. From beginning to end of the series of unexampled battles he sent Lincoln telegrams of encouragement, assuring him that final victory became more certain every day; that his army had the feeling of conquerors and the Southerners the feeling of defeat; and that much of the credit was due to the prompt reënforcements and supplies from Washington. After McClellan and the rest, it is, perhaps, safe to infer that Lincoln enjoyed this tone. June 15 he telegraphed :
“I have just received your despatch of 1 P.M. yesterday. I begin to see it; you will succeed. God bless
The next month he again became anxious about the capital. It was not personal fear, but a knowledge of the political effect the capture of. Washington would have. At first Grant thought Early's designs on the Northern capital were not serious, but he soon changed his mind, and Lincoln was relieved, although he left everything to the general. He was also glad to hear Grant say that he should try to get along without such heavy losses, although in that matter, too, he made no interference. Grant finally sent Sheridan to take care of the situation in the Shenandoah. Lincoln was a little disappointed, as he hoped for the commander himself, but he soon learned more about Grant's young favorite. His cipher despatch of August 3 to Grant was not needed, but it shows his state of mind:
"I have seen your despatch in which you say: 'I want Sheridan put in command of all the troops in the field, with instructions to put himself south of the enemy, and follow him to the death. Wherever the enemy goes, let our troops go also.' This, I think, is exactly right as to how our forces should move; but please look over the despatches you may have received from here, ever since you made that order, and discover, if you can, that there is any idea in the head of any one here of 'putting our army south of the enemy,' or of following him to the death,' in any direction. I repeat to you, it will never be done nor attempted, unless you watch it every day and hour, and force it.”