Page:The Dial vol. 15 (July 1 - December 16, 1893).djvu/47

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were the proper place) would prove our President very unlike Louis XVI. He was in possession of evidence that the effort to create the opinion that he lacked capacity for government, and that he had lost public confidence, had been persistently made by some of the intimate friends of Mr. Chase—notably Senator Pomeroy—for months, and that the Cleveland Convention was a part of the plan to promote the ambition of that statesman. The headquarters of the faction on Vine street, Cincinnati, were not closed until it became apparent that the scheme to force Mr. Lincoln to withdraw would fail.
Our author fails to see the motive behind this opposition to Lincoln, or the peril to the Union cause in the midst of the campaign through the factious course of party leaders, an opposition that was kept up to within eight weeks of the election. He has fallen into error as to the attitude of the Cincinnati "Gazette" and of the part taken by its able directing head at that time. The " Gazette " was not in sympathy with Mr. Chase's views, and did not further his ambition. It did not indulge in captious criticisms of the President, but gave him loyal support. Its representative at the New York conference was undoubtedly there in the interest of harmony. It is true that its distinguished Washington correspondent, Mr. Whitelaw Reid, was on terms of intimacy with Mr. Chase, sympathized with the view of the situation taken by that statesman, Governor Andrew and other earnest men, and participated in the movement having for its object the retirement of Mr. Lincoln. But Mr. Richard Smith, the editor, was not "active in the movement," as our author says. There is a letter of his in the possession of a friend, written to a gentleman on intimate terms with Mr. Lincoln, frankly telling him that in a tour he had made through northern Ohio and Michigan in August he found a condition of apathy which threatened the defeat of the Union ticket. He expressed the same views to the writer, who at that time was conducting the canvas for the Union party in Ohio, and who assured him that the people were sound. This was the measure of Mr. Smith's opposition. The majority for the State ticket in October was over 56,000, and for Mr. Lincoln, a month later, over 64,000.
The Union successes only served to engross Mr. Sumner's time more and more in behalf of the negro race. He would not only emancipate them, but confer upon them without preparation all of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. In this regard he sharply antagonized the President and a majority of his party. Mr. Lincoln had much at heart the reconstruction of Louisiana, with white suffrage. He held that the radicals were attempting "to change this government from its original form and make it a strong centralized power." He is quoted by Mr. Welles as having said on the last day of his life, "These humanitarians break down all State rights and Constitutional rights. Had the Louisianians inserted the negro in their Constitution, and had that instrument been in all other respects the same, Mr. Sumner would never have excepted to that Constitution." The effort to carry out Mr. Lincoln's views led to an acrimonious debate in the Senate, in which Sumner appears to less advantage than on other occasions. To him belonged the responsibility of defeating the wishes of the President in the recognition of the State government of Louisiana. " Sumner's behavior," said his friend Samuel Bowles, "in preventing a vote on the Louisiana question was perfectly unjustifiable. I shall henceforth be intolerant of him, always. It was undignified, disgraceful."[1] A breach between the President and the Senator was predicted, but the former, by marked attentions to Sumner, gave public notice that he was not going to quarrel.
Far different was his experience when Grant was President. The Motley and San Domingo episodes, and his deposition from the chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Relations, made a breach which could never be healed, and loosened the ties that bound him to his party. A satisfactory explanation of this treatment of a distinguished senator for independence of action on a public question has never been made.
Mr. Sumner's plan of reconstruction came to be, after a struggle, the policy of his party. Theoretically it armed the emancipated negro withapower that should prove invincible against his former master,—the power of the ballot,—and it charged the general government with the responsibility of the execution of the law. To the party that adopted it, it has proved a veritable Pandora's box ; to the whole country injurious, as it has perpetuated sectional divisions, intensified race prejudices, and lessened respect for law. Wherein has the negro been benefited? What is his part in government as an elector? Clearly, his future yet lies before

  1. The Life and Times of Samuel Bowles, Vol. I., p. 419.