The Life of Abraham Lincoln (Holland)/Chapter XXIII
While these operations, pursued upon a most gigantic scale, for crushing the rebellion and defending the national existence were in progress, Mr. Lincoln was taking every opportunity, personally and through his generals, to assure the people of the South that he meant them no ill. No father ever dealt more considerately and carefully with erring children than he did with those who had determined to break up the government. On the twenty-fifth of July, he issued a proclamation, in pursuance of a section in the confiscation act, passed by Congress a few days previously, warning all persons to cease participating in the rebellion, and adjuring them to return to their allegiance to the government, on pain of the forfeitures and seizures provided by the act.
There had been men--and there continued to be throughout the war--who believed, or pretended to believe, that peace and Union could be won without war--that friendly negotiation would settle everything. There never was any basis for these fancies, except in rebel desires to embarrass the government, or in party policy among those opposed to the administration, or in the hearts of simple men who believed that reason and common sense had a place in the counsels of the rebel leaders. From the beginning of the rebellion to the end, there was not a time in which peace could have been procured, short of an acknowledgment of the independence of the confederate rebel states, as events have proved. Mr. Lincoln understood this, and understood better than the country generally the desperate men with whom he had to deal; yet he never repelled those who thought they had found some way to peace besides the bloody way. Late in 1862, a period which showed decided advantages won by the Union forces, regarded as a whole, Fernando Wood, the man who, as Mayor of New York, had advocated the separate secession of that metropolis and its erection into a free city, wrote Mr. Lincoln a letter, stating that, on the twenty-fifth of November, he was reliably advised that "The southern states would send representatives to the next Congress," provided that a full and general amnesty should permit them to do so. Mr. Wood urged his point with ardent professions of loyalty, and with arguments drawn from Mr. Lincoln's inaugural; but Mr. Lincoln passed by his arguments and exhortations, and, in a reply dated December twelfth, said that the most important part of his (Wood's) letter related to the alleged fact that men from the South were ready to appear in Congress, on the terms stated. "I strongly suspect your information will prove to be groundless," said Mr. Lincoln; "nevertheless, I thank you for communicating it to me. Understanding the phrase in the paragraph above quoted, 'the southern states would send representatives to the next Congress,' to be substantially the same as that 'the people of the southern states would cease resistance, and would re-inaugurate, submit to, and maintain, the national authority, within the limits of such states, under the Constitution of the United States,' I say that in such case the war would cease on the part of the United States, and that if, within a reasonable time, a full and general amnesty were necessary to such an end, it would not be withheld."
Mr. Wood thought the President ought to make an effort to verify his (Wood's) statement, by permitting a correspondence to take place between the rebels, and gentlemen "whose former political and social relations with the leaders of the southern revolt" would make them good media for the purpose, the correspondence all to be submitted to Mr. Lincoln. The latter, however, knew Mr. Wood, and knew that he bore no good-will to him, or his administration, or the country; and he told him that he did not think it would do any good to communicate what he had said to the South, either formally or informally, for they already knew it. Neither did he think it the time to stop military operations for negotiations. If Mr. Wood had any positive information, he should be glad to get it; and such information might be more valuable before the first of January than after it. At this, Mr. Wood was filled with "profound regret;" and proceeded to read Mr. Lincoln a solemn lecture on his Constitutional obligations, which, doubtless, made a profound impression upon the mind of the President, as he was not known, in a single instance, to be unmindful of those obligations afterwards. The kernel of this nut was in the words: "Your emancipation proclamation told of punishment. Let another be issued, speaking the language of mercy, and breathing the spirit of conciliation." Mr. Wood was interposing on behalf of his southern friends, to prevent a final proclamation of emancipation; and he knew this was to come on the first of January, and that Mr. Lincoln's allusion to that date was a gentle hint to him that the executive purposes were undisturbed and that he was understood.
But we are getting ahead of great events which were destined to have a radical influence upon the war, upon the sentiments and sympathies of Christendom, upon the social institutions of the country, and the destinies of a race. Mr. Wood's allusion to the emancipation proclamation touched a document and an event of immeasurable importance; and to these we now turn our attention.
Mr. Lincoln had tried faithfully, in accordance with his oath of office and his repeated professions, to save the Union without disturbing a single institution which lived under it. He had warned the insurgent states of a measure touching slavery that their contumacy would render necessary. He had besought the border slave states to take themselves out of the way of that impending measure. He had braved the criminations and the impatience of his friends for his tenderness toward an institution which the Constitution protected. He had been accused of being under the pro-slavery influence of the border states; yet, during all this time, he had entertained the emancipation of the slaves as a measure which would be almost sure to come in time, and which he had determined should come just so soon as it could be justified to his own conscience and to history, as a military necessity. In no other event could he take this step, consistently with his oath.
Emancipation was a measure of ineffable moment, and one which dwelt in Mr. Lincoln's thoughts by day and by night. By his own subsequent revelations, it was a measure which, upon his knees, he had presented to his Maker. The events of the Peninsular campaign were connected in his mind with the tenacity with which he held to the unchristian institution. He sought not only for the people's will upon the subject, but the will of God; and there is no question that he regarded the misfortunes of the army of the Potomac as providentially connected with the relations of the government to the great curse which was the motive of the rebellion.
Fortunately, we have the record of Mr. Lincoln's reasoning upon the subject, in a letter which he wrote to Mr. A.G. Hodges of Frankfort, Kentucky, April 4th, 1864. Mr. Hodges had previously had a conversation with him, and had requested him to put into writing the substance of his remarks. The President complied; and, to show that he had acted in his emancipation policy purely upon military necessity, stated that, although he was naturally anti-slavery, and, could not remember when he did not think and feel that slavery was wrong, he never understood that the presidency conferred upon him any right to act upon that judgment and feeling. He understood that his oath of office forbade the practical indulgence of his abstract moral hatred of slavery. He had declared that, many times, in many ways. But he shall say the rest in his own language:
"I did understand, however, that very oath to preserve the Constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that government--that nation of which that Constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution? By general law, life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life, but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it. I could not feel that, to the beat of my ability, I had even tried to preserve the Constitution, if, to preserve slavery, or any minor matter, I would permit the wreck of government, country, and Constitution altogether. When, early in the war, General Fremont attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not then think it an indispensable necessity. When, a little later, General Cameron, then Secretary of War, suggested the arming of the blacks, I objected, because I did not yet think it an indispensable necessity. When, still later, General Hunter attempted military emancipation, I again forbade it, because I did not yet think the indispensable necessity had come. When, in March and May and July, 1862, I made earnest and successive appeals to the border states to favor compensated emancipation, I believed the indispensable necessity for military emancipation and arming the blacks would come, unless averted by that measure. They declined the proposition; and I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the Union, and with it the Constitution, or of laying strong hand upon the colored element. I chose the latter."
With Mr. Lincoln's statement of the results of his action, which completes the letter, we have nothing at present to do.
We have thus the political and military reasons for proclaiming emancipation in Mr. Lincoln's own language; and we are scarcely less fortunate in a record of his personal struggles and feelings, made by Mr. F.B. Carpenter, who had the privilege of frequent intimate conversations with Mr. Lincoln, while he was employed at the White House, upon his picture commemorative of a scene in the event itself.
It was mid-summer in 1862, when, things having gone on from bad to worse, he felt that he must "change his tactics or lose his game." So, without consulting his cabinet, or giving them any knowledge of what he was doing, he prepared the original draft of the Proclamation. Now it should be remembered, in order to understand Mr. Lincoln's peculiarity of arguing against his own conclusions, until his time should come for uttering them, that this was before the date of his letter to Horace Greeley, already given to the reader, in which he gives no hint of his determination, but only lays out the ground upon which he should make it. It was also previous to a visit which he received from a body of Chicago clergymen, who called to urge upon him the emancipation policy. The proclamation was all written; and it was a full month after its utterance had been determined on in Cabinet meeting, when he told these clergymen: "I do not want to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet." He wished them, however, not to misunderstand him. He had simply indicated some of the difficulties that had stood in his way; but he had not decided against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves. "Whatever shall appear to be God's will," said he, "I will do." Throughout this affair, and indeed in all the great affairs in which he took part, he followed the old practice of his legal career, of arguing his opponent's side of the question--often for the simple purpose, evidently, of winning support for his own convictions.
Sometime during the last of July, or the first part of August, he called a cabinet meeting. None of the members knew the occasion of the meeting, and for some time they were unable to ascertain, for there was a delay. What was its cause? Here was an august body of men. All the cabinet were present excepting Mr. Blair, who came in afterwards. Mr. Lincoln had before him a document which he knew was to perpetuate his name to all futurity,--a document which involved the liberty of four millions of human beings then living, and of untold millions then unborn,--which changed the policy of the government and the course and character of the war,--which revolutionized the social institutions of more than a third of the nation,--which brought all the governments of Christendom into new relations to the rebellion,--and which involved Mr. Lincoln's recognition of the will of the Divine Ruler of the universe. It was the supreme moment of his life. Did he feel it to be so? He did; and he took his own way of showing it. He took down from a shelf a copy of "Artemus Ward--His Book," and read an entire chapter of that literary harlequin's drollery, giving himself up to laughter the most hearty, until some of the dignified personages around him were far more pained than amused. Little did those men understand the pressure of the occasion upon Mr. Lincoln's mind, and the necessity of this diversion.
A member of this noble and notable group has said that, on closing the trifling volume, the whole tone and manner of the President changed instantaneously; and, rising to a grandeur of demeanor that inspired in all a profound respect, akin to awe, he announced to them the object of the meeting. He had written a proclamation of emancipation, and had determined to issue it. He had not called them together to ask their advice on the general question, because he had determined it for himself. He wished to inform them of his purpose, and to receive such suggestions upon minor points as they might be moved to make. Mr. Chase wished the language stronger with reference to arming the blacks. Mr. Blair deprecated the policy, because it would cost the administration the fall elections; but nothing was said which the President had not anticipated, until Mr. Seward said: "Mr. President, I approve of the proclamation, but I question the expediency of its issue at this juncture. The depression of the public mind consequent upon our repeated reverses is so great that I fear the effect of so important a step. It may be viewed as the last measure of an exhausted government--a cry for help--the government stretching forth its hands to Ethiopia, instead of Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the government--our last shriek on the retreat." He further advised Mr. Lincoln to postpone the measure until it could be given to the country supported by military success, rather than after the greatest disasters of the war.
Mr. Lincoln admitted the force of the suggestion, and so the matter was suspended for a brief period. This was before General Pope's retreat upon Washington, and the invasion of Maryland; and during all these disasters the proclamation waited, though it was occasionally taken out and retouched. At last came the battle of Antietam, and the news of national success met Mr. Lincoln at the Soldier's Home. There he immediately wrote the second draft of the preliminary proclamation, and came back to Washington on Saturday of that week, and held a cabinet meeting, at which he declared that the time for the enunciation of the emancipation policy could no longer be delayed. Public sentiment, he thought, would sustain it; many of his warmest friends and supporters demanded it; "and," said Mr. Lincoln, in a low and reverent tone, "I have promised my God that I will do it." These last words were hardly heard by any one but Mr. Chase, who sat nearest to him. Mr. Chase inquired: "Did I understand you correctly, Mr. President?" Mr. Lincoln replied: "I made a solemn vow before God that, if General Lee should be driven back from Pennsylvania, I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves."
This statement was made by Mr. Chase to Mr. Carpenter, and does not differ materially from one communicated to the writer by Hon. George S. Boutwell of Massachusetts. Mr. Boutwell, then in Washington, determined in October to visit Massachusetts, and take a part in the state canvass; and previous to his departure he called upon Mr. Lincoln. In the course of the interview, he told the President that an active leader of the People's Party in Massachusetts had asserted, in a public speech, that Mr. Lincoln was frightened into issuing the emancipation proclamation, by the meeting of loyal governors at Altoona, Pennsylvania, which had occurred during the summer. "Now," said the President, dropping into a chair, as if he meant to be at ease, "I can tell you just how that was. When Lee came over the river, I made a resolve that when McClellan should drive him back,--and I expected he would do it some time or other,--I would send the proclamation after him. I worked upon it, and got it pretty much prepared. The battle of Antietam was fought on Wednesday, but I could not find out till Saturday whether we had really won a victory or not. It was then too late to issue the proclamation that week, and I dressed it over a little on Sunday, and Monday I gave it to them. The fact is, I never thought of the meeting of the governors at Altoona, and I can hardly remember that I knew anything about it."
On Monday, the 22d of September, 1862, the proclamation was issued. Even from this sweeping measure he had left an opportunity to escape. It was only a preliminary proclamation. It only declared free the slaves of those states and those sections of states which should be in rebellion on the 1st of January, 1863, leaving to every rebel state an opportunity to save its pet institution by becoming loyal, and doing what it could to save the Union:
"I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy thereof, do hereby proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States and each of the states, and the people thereof, in which states that relation is or may be suspended or disturbed.
"That it is my purpose, upon the next meeting of Congress, to again recommend the adoption of a practical measure tendering pecuniary aid to the free acceptance or rejection of all slave states so-called, the people whereof may not then be in rebellion against the United States, and which states may then have voluntarily adopted, or thereafter may voluntarily adopt, immediate or gradual abolishment of slavery within their respective limits; and that the effort to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the governments existing there, will be continued.
"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three; all persons held as slaves within any state, or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the states and parts of states, if any, in which the people thereof respectively shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any state, or the people thereof, shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such state shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such state, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.
"That attention is hereby called to an act of Congress entitled 'An Act to make an additional Article of War,' approved March 13th, 1862, and which act is in the words and figures following:
"' Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That hereafter the following shall be promulgated as an additional article of war for the government of the army of the United States, and shall be obeyed and observed as such:
"'Article--All officers or persons in the military or naval service of the United States are prohibited from employing any of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor who may have escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due; and any officer who shall be found guilty by a court-martial of violating this article shall be dismissed from the service.'
"'Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That this act shall take effect from and after its passage.'
"Also, to the ninth and tenth sections of an act entitled 'An Act to suppress Insurrection, to punish Treason and Rebellion, to seize and confiscate Property of Rebels, and for other purposes,' approved July 16th, 1862, and which sections are in the words and figures following:
"'Sec. 9. And be it further enacted, That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army; and all slaves captured from such persons, or deserted by them, and coming under the control of the government of the United States; and all slaves of such persons found on [or] being within any place occupied by rebel forces and afterwards occupied by forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.
"'Sec. 10. And be it further enacted, That no slave escaping into any state, territory, or the District of Columbia, from any other state, shall be delivered up, or in any way impeded or hindered of his liberty, except for crime, or some offense against the laws, unless the person claiming said fugitive shall first make oath that the person to whom the labor or service of such fugitive is alleged to be due is his lawful owner, and has not borne arms against the United States in the present rebellion, nor in any way given aid and comfort thereto; and no person engaged in the military or naval service of the United States shall, under any pretense whatever, assume to decide on the validity of the claim of any person to the service or labor of any other person, or surrender up any such person to the claimant, on pain of being dismissed from the service.'
"And I do hereby enjoin upon and order all persons engaged in the military and naval service of the United States to observe, obey, and enforce, within their respective spheres of service, the act and sections above recited.
"And the Executive will in due time recommend that all citizens of the United States who shall have remained loyal thereto throughout the rebellion, shall (upon the restoration of the constitutional relation between the United States and their respective states and people, if that relation shall have been suspended or disturbed) be compensated for all losses by acts of the United States, including the loss of slaves.
"In witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
"Done at the city of Washington, this tenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, and of [L.S.] the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
"By the President:
"Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State."
In the cabinet meeting held previous to the issue of the proclamation, Mr. Lincoln had concluded the reading of the third paragraph, when Mr. Seward interrupted him by saying: "Mr. President, I think that you should insert after the word, 'recognize,' the words, 'and maintain.'" The President replied that he had fully considered the import of the expression, and that it was not his way to promise more than he was sure he could perform; and he was not prepared to say that he thought he was able to "maintain" this. Mr. Seward insisted that the ground should be taken, and the words finally went in.
The proclamation was received with profound interest by the whole country. The radical anti-slavery men were delighted, conservative politicians shrugged their shoulders doubtfully, and the lovers of the peculiar institution gnashed their teeth. It is very doubtful whether it affected the fall elections so much adversely to Mr. Lincoln, as the fact that he was ignorantly or maliciously held responsible for the blunders of McClellan's campaign. If it affected them at all unfavorably, its influence in that direction soon ceased; and the proclamation became his tower of strength in the sight of his own people and the peoples of the world.
Two days after the issue of the proclamation, a large body of men assembled before the White House with music, and called for the President. He appeared, and addressed to them a few words of thanks for their courtesy, and, in alluding to the proclamation, said: "What I did, I did after a very full deliberation, and under a heavy and solemn sense of responsibility. I can only trust in God I have made no mistake" After two years of experience he was enabled to say: "As affairs have turned, it is the central act of my administration, and the great event of the nineteenth century."
It will be remembered that General McClellan had warned Mr. Lincoln against the effect of a general policy of emancipation upon his army. He thought that such a policy would cause its disintegration. It certainly became a theme of angry discussion;--so much so that, on the seventh of October, the General felt called upon to issue an order reminding officers and soldiers of their relations and their duties to the civil authorities. It was an admirable order, and evidently well intended. "Discussion by officers and soldiers concerning public measures, determined upon and declared by the government," said he, "when carried beyond the ordinary temperate and respectful expression of opinion, tends greatly to impair and destroy the discipline and efficiency of the troops, by substituting the spirit of political faction, for the firm, steady, and earnest support of the authority of the government, which is the highest duty of the American soldier." If there was any fault to be found with the order, it was connected with the time of its promulgation. It was issued the day after Mr. Lincoln left the army, which, it will be remembered, he visited while it rested from the battle of Antietam. General McClellan had learned something during that visit. He had learned that, notwithstanding Mr. Lincoln's proclamation, he was held in strong and enthusiastic affection by the army. For nearly a week, he mingled with the weary officers and soldiers, meeting the heartiest reception everywhere. A general officer who was with the President on the trip, said: "I watched closely to if, in any division, or regiment, I could find symptoms of dissatisfaction, or could hear an allusion to the proclamation. I found none. I heard only words of praise."
It was undoubtedly the aim of traitors outside of the army, and of their sympathizers within, to alienate the army from the President and the government; but they failed. One Major Key came down from the army to Washington, with the story that our Generals did not push the advantages they had won, because it was not considered desirable to crush the rebellion at once, if indeed, at all; but so to manage affairs as to secure a compromise as the result of a prolonged war. It is quite probable that he had heard this talk among the leading officers, as he declared he had. One thing was evident--that he agreed with their policy; and, telling Mr. Lincoln plainly so to his face, he was at once removed from the service. The example served an excellent purpose; and, with McClellan's order, and the effect of Mr. Lincoln's personal visit, brought the disloyal and factious elements of the army into their proper relations to the government and its policy.
On the 1st of January, 1863, the final proclamation of emancipation was issued, and the great act was complete. It was as follows:
"Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
"'That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
"'That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the states and parts of states, if any, in which the people thereof respectively shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any state or the people thereof shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such state shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such state, and the people thereof; are not then in rebellion against the United States.'
"Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days from the day first above mentioned, order and designate, as the states and parts of states wherein the people thereof respectively are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
"Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard. Plaquemine, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terre Bonne, Lafourche, St. Marie, St. Martin and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkely, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Anne, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
"And, by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.
"And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free, to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense; and I recommend to them, that in all cases, when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
"And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable condition will be received into the armed service of the United States, to garrison forts, positions, stations and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
"And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.
"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my name, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
"Done at the city of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of [L.S.] the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
"By the President:
"Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State."
A single paragraph in this proclamation was written by Secretary Chase. He had himself prepared a proclamation, which embodied his views, and had submitted it to Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln selected from it this sentence: "And upon this act, believed to be an act of justice warranted by the Constitution [upon military necessity,] I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God;" and adopted it, interpolating only the words between brackets. It is an illustration of Mr. Lincoln's freedom from vanity, first that he adopted the words at all, notwithstanding their dignity and beauty; and, second, that he freely told of the circumstance, so that it found publicity through his own revelations.
On the twenty-fourth of September, two days after the issue of the preliminary proclamation, Mr. Lincoln gave utterance to a proclamation suspending the writ of habeas corpus. Proceeding from the fact that the ordinary processes of law were not sufficient to restrain disloyal persons from hindering the execution of a draft of militia which had been ordered, discouraging enlistments, and giving aid and comfort in various ways to the insurrection, he declared the writ of habeas corpus suspended, touching all persons who should be arrested, confined, or sentenced by court martial, for these offenses. The measure created great dissatisfaction, particularly among those who were not in favor of the war, and those who were anxious to make political headway against the administration. There was an outcry against "military despotism," against the "abridgment of the right of free speech," against the "suppression of the liberty of the press," etc. etc.; the freedom with which these strictures were made, without attracting the slightest notice of the government, refuting the charges as rapidly as they were uttered.
At the succeeding session of Congress, these complaints had immediate expression; and the proclamation was furiously attacked at once. Resolutions were introduced, censuring the "arbitrary arrest" of persons in the loyal states; and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was vehemently denounced. It appeared by these demonstrations that the public liberty was endangered, and that the Constitution was subverted. It is possible that some of those engaged in this outcry were honest in their fears and denunciations; but some of them were notorious sympathizers with the rebels, and were doing, and had done everything in their power to aid the rebellion. Nothing was more notorious than that the country abounded with spies and informers, and men who discouraged enlistments, and counseled resistance to a draft. Congress, however, was on the side of the government, and passed a bill sustaining the President, and indemnifying him and all who acted under him in the execution of his policy. It is quite possible that injustice was done in some of these "arbitrary arrests"--it would be strange, indeed, if it were otherwise--but the prophets of the degeneracy of the government into a military despotism have their answer now, in the peaceful and ready return to the old status.
There was one vice of the army that gave Mr. Lincoln great pain; and that was the unnecessary disregard of the Sabbath. Armies, of course, cannot always be good Sabbath-keepers; but he saw in them a disposition to do work on that day not at all necessary, and to engage in sports quite in dissonance with its spirit. So, on the sixteenth of November, he issued a circular letter upon the subject, in which he told the soldiers that "the importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest; the sacred rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine Will, demand that Sunday labor in the army and navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity." He continued: "The discipline and character of the national forces should not suffer, nor the cause they defend be imperiled, by the profanation of the day, or the name of the Most High." The letter shows how closely he had associated the will of the Most High with the national cause, and how profound was his reverence for the institutions of Christianity.
This chapter, and the record of the events of the year, cannot be better closed, perhaps, than by an incident which shows that, in Mr. Lincoln's greatest necessity for popular support, he disdained, with all the strength of his old sense of justice and fairness, any trick for gaining that support. After New Orleans was taken, and a certain portion of the state reclaimed and held by military power, movements were commenced for the representation of the state in Congress. Mr. Lincoln was charged with conniving with this movement, and with intending to secure members of Congress from Louisiana, elected under military pressure, who would assist in maintaining his policy, and make a show of the returning loyalty of the state. On the twenty-first of November, he wrote to G.F. Shepley, the military governor of Louisiana, as follows:
"Dear Sir--Dr. Kennedy, bearer of this, has some apprehension that Federal officers, not citizens of Louisiana, may be set up as candidates for Congress in that state. In my view, there could be no possible object in such an election. We do not particularly need members of Congress from those states to enable us to get along with legislation here. What we do want is the conclusive evidence that respectable citizens of Louisiana are willing to be members of Congress, and to swear support to the Constitution; and that other respectable citizens there are willing to vote for them and send them. To send a parcel of northern men here as representatives, elected as would be understood (and perhaps really so), at the point of the bayonet, would be disgraceful and outrageous; and were I a member of Congress here, I would vote against admitting any such man to a seat."
- This allusion is to a passage of Mr. Cameron's annual report, which he had sent off to the press for publication without receiving Mr. Lincoln's approval. The publication of the objectionable paragraph was suppressed by telegraph from Washington, while the fact that Mr. Cameron ventured upon such an act without consulting the President, occasioned him great annoyance and vexation.