Page:Abraham Lincoln address (1909).djvu/36

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


took command. Long strain had greatly weakened and exhausted the resources of the South." (Lamon's Recollections, p. 199.)

(10) And Lamon says of him at the time of his election:

"Few men believed that Mr. Lincoln possessed a single qualification for his great office." *** "They said he was good and honest and well meaning, but they took care not to pretend that he was great. He was thoroughly convinced that there was too much truth in this view of his character. He felt deeply and keenly his lack of experience in the conduct of public affairs. He spoke then and afterwards about the duties of the presidency with much diffidence, and said with a story about a justice of the peace in Illinois, that they constituted his 'great first case misunderstood."' (Lamon, p. 468.)

That he had no just appreciation of the gravity of the situation, or of the duties of the office he was about to assume, is best evinced by the character of the speeches made by him en route to Washington to be inaugurated. Of these speeches, the Northern historian, Rhodes. (3 Rhodes, 303), thus writes:

"In his speeches the commonplace abounds, and though he had a keen sense of humor, his sallies of wit grated on earnest men, who read in quiet his daily utterances. The ridiculous, which lies so near the sublime, was reached when this man, proceeding to grave duties, and the great fame that falls to few in the whole world, asked at the town of Westfield, for a little girl correspondent of his, at whose suggestion he had made a change in his personal appearance, and when she came, he kissed her and said, 'You see I have let these whiskers grow for you, Grace."'

But let us ask, can statesmanship be predicated of any American, who expressed the opinion, as Mr. Lincoln did, that the relations of the States to the Union were the same as those of the counties to the States of which they severally formed a part? Surely comment is unnecessary.

Mr. Lincoln had in his cabinet five of the ablest men then in the country, and we think it fair to assume that these men are entitled to much, if not most, of the credit (if it can be so called) now so recklessly and unsparingly ascribed to him. But did it require genius or ability in any man, or set of men, to wear out, as by "attrition," six hundred thousand half -starved and