Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/398

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commanding position in his party in 1860, but his way of saying things. In every revolution, there is a moment when the man who can phrase it can lead it. Witness Robespierre. If the phraser is only a man of letters unable to convert literature into authority, heaven help him. Again witness Robespierre. Although if we conclude that the average American in the spring of 1860 was able to read through Lincoln's way of handling words deep enough into his character to perceive his power to handle men, we impute to the average American an insight not justified by history, yet that average man was quite right in hearing such an accent in those speeches of the second manner as indicated behind the literary person a character that was void of fear—at least, of what we mean by fear when thinking of men of action. That Lincoln wanted the nomination, welcomed it, fought hard for his election, only the sentimental devotees of the saint-hero object to admitting. Nor did his boldness stop at that. Between the election and New Year's Day, the secession of South Carolina and the debates in Congress forced the Republicans to define their policy. The President-elect, of course, was the determining factor. Peace or war was the issue. There is no greater boldness in American history than Lincoln's calm but inflexible insistence on conditions that pointed toward war. No amiable pacifism, no ordinary dread of an issue, animated the man of the hour at the close of 1860.

Then, in the later winter, between his determination of the new policy and his inauguration, came the eclipse. All the questions roused in the past by his seasons of shadow, recur. Was it superstition? Was it mystical premonition? Was there something here akin to those periods of intense gloom that overtook the Puritans of the seventeenth century? In a few respects there are points of likeness between Lincoln and Cromwell. In most respects, the two men are widely dissimilar. But in their susceptibility to periodic and inexplicable overshadowing they are alike. With Cromwell, besides his mysticism, there was a definite, an appalling dogma. Though Lincoln did not carry the weight of Cromwell's dogma, perhaps the essential thing was the same in both—the overwhelming, encompassing sense that, God being just and our Father, human suffering must somehow be the consequence of our human sins. Endow Cromwell with Lincoln s power of expression, and we