The Presidents of the United States, 1789-1914/Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, born in Hardin County, Ky., February 12, 1809; died in Washington, D. C., April 15, 1865. His earliest ancestor in America seems to have been Samuel Lincoln, of Norwich, England, who settled in Hingham, Mass., where he died, leaving a son, Mordecai, whose son of the same name removed to Monmouth, N. J., and thence to Berks County, Pa., dying there in 1735. He was a man of some property, which at his death was divided among his sons and daughters, one of whom, John Lincoln, having disposed of his land in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, established himself in Rockingham County, Va. The records of that county show that he was possessed of a valuable estate, which was divided among five sons, one of whom, named Abraham, emigrated to Kentucky about 1780. At this time Daniel Boone was engaged in those labors and exploits in the new country of Kentucky that have rendered his name illustrious; and there is no doubt that Abraham Lincoln was induced by his friendship for Boone to give up what seems to have been an assured social position in Virginia and take his family to share with him the risks and hardships of life in the new territory. The families of Boone and Lincoln had been closely allied for many years. Several marriages had taken place between them, and their names occur in each other's wills as friends and executors.
The pioneer Lincoln, who took with him what for the time and place was a sufficient provision in money, the result of the sale of his property in Virginia, acquired by means of cash and land-warrants a large estate in Kentucky, as is shown by the records of Jefferson and Campbell Counties. About 1784 he was killed by Indians while working with his three sons — Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas — in clearing the forest. His widow removed after his death to Washington County, and there brought up her family. The two elder sons became reputable citizens, and the two daughters married in a decent condition of life. Thomas, the youngest son, seems to have been below the average of the family in enterprise and other qualities that command success. He learned the trade of a carpenter, and married, June 12, 1806, Nancy Hanks, a niece of the man with whom he learned his trade. She is represented, by those who knew her at the time of her marriage, as a handsome young woman of twenty-three, of appearance and intellect superior to her lowly fortunes. The young couple began housekeeping with little means. Three children were born to them; the first, a girl, who grew to maturity, married, and died, leaving no children; the third, a boy, who died in infancy; the second was Abraham Lincoln.
Thomas Lincoln remained in Kentucky until 1816, when he resolved to remove to the still newer country of Indiana, and settled in a rich and fertile forest country near Little Pigeon creek, not far distant from the Ohio river. The family suffered from diseases incident to pioneer life, and Mrs. Lincoln died in 1818 at the age of thirty-five. Thomas Lincoln, while on a visit to Kentucky, married a worthy, industrious, and intelligent widow named Sarah Bush Johnston. She was a woman of admirable order and system in her habits, and brought to the home of the pioneer in the Indiana timber many of the comforts of civilized life. The neighborhood was one of the roughest. The president once said of it: “It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods, and there were some schools, so-called; but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond readin', writin', and cipherin' to the rule of three. If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard. There was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education.” But in spite of this the boy Abraham made the best use of the limited opportunities afforded him, and learned all that the half-educated backwoods teachers could impart; and besides this he read over and over all the books he could find. He practised constantly the rules of arithmetic, which he had acquired at school, and began, even in his early childhood, to put in writing his recollections of what he had read and his impressions of what he saw about him. By the time he was nineteen years of age he had acquired a remarkably clear and serviceable handwriting, and showed sufficient business capacity to be intrusted with a cargo of farm products, which he took to New Orleans and sold. In 1830 his father emigrated once more, to Macon County, Ill. Lincoln had by this time attained his extraordinary stature of six feet four inches, and with it enormous muscular strength, which was at once put at the disposal of his father in building his cabin, clearing the field, and splitting from the walnut forests, which were plentiful in that county, the rails with which the farm was fenced. Thomas Lincoln, however, soon deserted this new home, his last migration being to Goose Nest Prairie, in Coles County, where he died in 1851, seventy-three years of age. In his last days he was tenderly cared for by his son.
Abraham Lincoln left his father's house as soon as the farm was fenced and cleared, hired himself to a man named Denton Offutt, in Sangamon County, assisted him to build a flat-boat, accompanied him to New Orleans on a trading voyage, and returned with him to New Salem, in Menard County, where Offutt opened a store for the sale of general merchandise. Little was accomplished in this way, and Lincoln employed his too abundant leisure in constant reading and study. He learned during this time the elements of English grammar, and made a beginning in the study of surveying and the principles of law. But the next year an Indian war began, occasioned by the return of Black Hawk with his bands of Sacs and Foxes from Iowa to Illinois. Lincoln volunteered in a company raised in Sangamon County, and was immediately elected captain. His company was organized at Richland on April 21, 1832; but his service in command of it was brief, for it was mustered out on May 27. Lincoln immediately re-enlisted as a private, and served for several weeks in that capacity, being finally mustered out on June 16, 1832, by Lieut. Robert Anderson, who afterward commanded Fort Sumter at the beginning of the civil war. He returned home and began a hasty canvass for election to the legislature. His name had been announced in the spring before his enlistment; but now only ten days were left before the election, which took place in August. In spite of these disadvantages, he made a good race and was far from the foot of the poll. Although he was defeated, he gained the almost unanimous vote of his own neighborhood, New Salem giving him 277 votes against 3. He now began to look about him for employment, and for a time thought seriously of learning the trade of a blacksmith; but an opportunity presented itself to buy the only store in the settlement, which he did, giving his notes for the whole amount involved. He was associated with an idle and dissolute partner, and the business soon went to wreck, leaving Lincoln burdened with a debt which it required several years of frugality and industry for him to meet; but it was finally paid in full.
After this failure he devoted himself with greatest earnestness and industry to the study of law. He was appointed postmaster of New Salem in 1833, an office which he held for three years. The emoluments of the place were very slight, but it gave him opportunities for reading. At the same time he was appointed deputy to John Calhoun, the county surveyor, and, his modest wants being supplied by these two functions, he gave his remaining leisure unreservedly to the study of law and politics. He was a candidate for the legislature in August, 1834, and was elected this time at the head of the list. He was re-elected in 1836, 1838, and 1840, after which he declined further election. After entering the legislature he did not return to New Salem, but, having by this time attained some proficiency in the law, he removed to Springfield, where he went into partnership with John T. Stuart, whose acquaintance he had begun in the Black Hawk war and continued at Vandalia. He took rank from the first among the leading members of the legislature. He was instrumental in having the state capital removed from Vandalia to Springfield, and during his eight years of service his ability, industry, and weight of character gained him such standing among his associates that in his last two terms he was the candidate of his party for the speakership of the house of representatives. In 1846 he was elected to congress, his opponent being the Rev. Peter Cartwright. The most important congressional measure with which his name was associated during his single term of service was a scheme for the emancipation of the slaves in the District of Columbia, which in the prevailing temper of the time was refused consideration by congress. He was not a candidate for re-election, but for the first and only time in his life he applied for an executive appointment, the commissionership of the general land-office. The place was given to another man, but President Taylor's administration offered Mr. Lincoln the governorship of the territory of Oregon, which he declined.
Mr. Lincoln had by this time become the most influential exponent of the principles of the Whig party in Illinois, and his services were in request in every campaign. After his return from congress he devoted himself with great assiduity and success to the practice of law, and speedily gained a commanding position at the bar. As he says himself, he was losing his interest in politics when the repeal of the Missouri compromise aroused him again. The profound agitation of the question of slavery, which in 1854 followed the repeal of the Missouri compromise, awakened all the energies of Lincoln's nature. He regarded this act, in which Senator Douglas was the most prominent agent of the reactionary party, as a gross breach of faith, and began at once a series of earnest political discussions which immediately placed him at the head of the party that, not only in Illinois but throughout the west, was speedily formed to protest against and oppose the throwing open of the territories to the encroachments of slavery. The legislature elected in Illinois in the heat of this discussion contained a majority of members opposed to the policy of Douglas. The duty of selecting a senator in place of Gen. Shields, whose term was closing, devolved upon this legislature, and Mr. Lincoln was the unanimous choice of the Whig members. But they did not command a clear majority of the legislature. There were four members of Democratic antecedents who, while they were ardently opposed to the extension of slavery, were not willing to cast their votes for a Whig candidate, and adhered tenaciously through several ballots to Lyman Trumbull, a Democrat of their own way of thinking. Lincoln, fearing that this dissension among the anti-slavery men might result in the election of a supporter of Douglas, urged his friends to go over in a body to the support of Trumbull, and his influence was sufficient to accomplish this result. Trumbull was elected, and for many years served the Republican cause in the senate with ability and zeal.
As soon as the Republican party became fully organized in the nation, embracing in its ranks the anti-slavery members of the old Whig and Democratic parties, Mr. Lincoln, by general consent, took his place at the head of the party in Illinois; and when, in 1858, Senator Douglas sought a re-election to the senate, the Republicans with one voice selected Mr. Lincoln as his antagonist. He had already made several speeches of remarkable eloquence and power against the pro-slavery reaction of which the Nebraska bill was the significant beginning, and when Mr. Douglas returned to Illinois to begin his canvass for the senate he was challenged by Mr. Lincoln to a series of joint discussions. The challenge was accepted, and the most remarkable oratorical combat the state had ever witnessed took place between them during the summer. Mr. Douglas defended his thesis of non-intervention with slavery in the territories (the doctrine known as “popular sovereignty,” and derided as “squatter sovereignty”) with remarkable adroitness and energy. The ground that Mr. Lincoln took was higher and bolder than had yet been assumed by any American statesman of his time. In the brief and sententious speech in which he accepted the championship of his party, before the Republican convention of June 16, 1858, he uttered the following pregnant and prophetic words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect that it will cease to be divided. It will become all the one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, north as well as south.”
This bold utterance excited the fears of his timid friends, and laid him open to the hackneyed and conventional attacks of the supporters of slavery; but throughout the contest, while he did not for an instant lower this lofty tone of opposition to slavery and hope of its extinction, he refused to be crowded by the fears of his friends or the denunciations of his enemies away from the strictly constitutional ground upon which his opposition was made. The debates between him and Senator Douglas aroused extraordinary interest throughout the state and the country. The men were perhaps equally matched in oratorical ability and adroitness in debate, but Lincoln's superiority in moral insight, and especially in far-seeing political sagacity, soon became apparent. The most important and significant of the debates was that which took place at Freeport. Mr. Douglas had previously asked Mr. Lincoln a series of questions intended to embarrass him, which Lincoln without the slightest reserve answered by a categorical yes or no. At Freeport, Lincoln, taking his turn, inquired of Douglas whether the people of a territory could in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a state constitution. By his reply, intimating that slavery might be excluded by unfriendly territorial legislation, Douglas gained a momentary advantage in the anti-slavery region in which he spoke, but dealt a fatal blow to his popularity in the south, the result of which was seen two years afterward at the Charleston convention. The ground assumed by Senator Douglas was, in fact, utterly untenable, and Lincoln showed this in one of his terse sentences. “Judge Douglas holds,” he said, “that a thing may lawfully be driven away from a place where it has a lawful right to go.”
This debate established the reputation of Mr. Lincoln as one of the leading orators of the Republican party of the Union, and a speech that he delivered at Cooper Institute, in New York, on February 27, 1860, in which he showed that the unbroken record of the founders of the republic was in favor of the restriction of slavery and against its extension, widened and confirmed his reputation; so that when the Republican convention came together in Chicago in May, 1860, he was nominated for the presidency on the third ballot, over William H. Seward, who was his principal competitor. The Democratic convention, which met in Charleston, S. C., broke up after numerous fruitless ballotings, and divided into two sections. The southern half, unable to trust Mr. Douglas with the interests of slavery after his Freeport speech, first adjourned to Richmond, but again joined the other half at Baltimore, where a second disruption took place, after which the southern half nominated John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, and the northern portion nominated Mr. Douglas. John Bell, of Tennessee, was nominated by the so-called Constitutional Union party. Lincoln, therefore, supported by the entire anti-slavery sentiment of the north, gained an easy victory over the three other parties. The election took place on November 6, and when the electoral college cast their votes Lincoln was found to have 180, Breckinridge 72, Bell 39, and Douglas 12. The popular vote stood: for Lincoln, 1,866,462; for Douglas, 1,375,157; for Breckinridge, 847,953; for Bell, 590,631.
The extreme partisans of slavery had not even waited for the election of Lincoln to begin their preparations for an insurrection, and as soon as the result was declared a movement for separation was begun in South Carolina, and it carried along with her the states of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. A provisional government, styled the “Confederate States of America,” of which Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, was made president, was promptly organized, and seized, with few exceptions, all the posts, arsenals, and public property of the United States within their limits. Confronted by this extraordinary crisis, Mr. Lincoln kept his own counsel, and made no public expression of his intentions or his policy until he was inaugurated on March 4, 1861.
He called about him a cabinet of the most prominent members of the anti-slavery parties of the nation, giving no preference to any special faction. His secretary of state was William H. Seward, of New York, who had been his principal rival for the nomination, and whose eminence and abilities designated him as the leading member of the administration; the secretary of the treasury was Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, whose pre-eminence in the west was as unquestioned as Seward's in the east; of war, Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, the most influential politician of that state; of the navy, Gideon Welles, of Connecticut; of the interior, Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana; the border slave-states were represented in the government by Edward Bates, of Missouri, attorney-general, and Montgomery Blair, of Maryland, postmaster-general — both of them men of great distinction of character and high standing as lawyers. Seward, Smith, and Bates were of Whig antecedents; all the rest of Democratic. The cabinet underwent, in the course of Mr. Lincoln's term, the following modifications: Sec. Chase, after a brilliant administration of the finances, resigned in 1864 from personal reasons, and was succeeded by William P. Fessenden, of Maine; Sec. Cameron left the war department at the close of the year 1861, and was appointed minister to Russia, and his place was taken by Edwin M. Stanton, a war Democrat of singular energy and vigor, and equal ability and devotion; Sec. Smith, accepting a judgeship, gave way to John P. Usher, of Indiana; Attorney-General Bates resigned in the last year of the administration, and was succeeded by James Speed, of Kentucky; and Postmaster-General Blair about the same time gave way to William Dennison, of Ohio.
In his inaugural address President Lincoln treated the acts of secession as a nullity. He declared the Union perpetual and inviolate, and announced with perfect firmness, though with the greatest moderation of speech and feeling, the intention of the government to maintain its authority and to hold the places under its jurisdiction. He made an elaborate and unanswerable argument against the legality as well as the justice of secession, and further showed, with convincing clearness, that peaceful secession was impossible. “Can aliens make treaties,” he said, “easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war; you cannot fight always, and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you.” He pleaded for peace in a strain of equal tenderness and dignity, and in closing he said: “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have a most solemn one to preserve, protect, and defend it.” This speech profoundly affected the public opinion of the north; but in the excited state of sentiment that then controlled the south it naturally met only contempt and defiance in that section. A few weeks later the inevitable war began, in an attack upon Fort Sumter by the secessionists of South Carolina under Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard, and after a long bombardment the fort surrendered on April 13, 1861. The president instantly called for a force of 75,000 three-months militiamen, and three weeks later ordered the enlistment of 64,000 soldiers and 18,000 seamen for three years. He set on foot a blockade of the southern ports, and called congress together in special session, choosing for their day of meeting July 4. The remaining states of the south rapidly arrayed themselves on one side or the other; all except Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri were drawn into the secession movement, and the western part of Virginia, adhering to the Union, under the name of West Virginia, separated itself from that ancient commonwealth.
The first important battle of the war took place at Bull Run, near Manassas station, Va., July 21, 1861, and resulted in the defeat of the National troops under Gen. Irwin McDowell by a somewhat larger force of the Confederates under Gens. Joseph E. Johnston and Beauregard. Though the loss in killed and wounded was not great, and was about the same on both sides, the victory was still one of the utmost importance for the Confederates, and gave them a great increase of prestige on both sides of the Atlantic. They were not, however, able to pursue their advantage. The summer was passed in enlisting, drilling, and equipping a formidable National army on the banks of the Potomac, which was given in charge of Gen. George B. McClellan, a young officer who had distinguished himself by a successful campaign in western Virginia. In spite of the urgency of the government, which was increased by the earnestness of the people and their representatives in congress, Gen. McClellan made no advance until the spring of 1862, when Gen. Johnston, in command of the Confederate army, evacuated the position which, with about 45,000 men, he had held during the autumn and winter against the Army of the Potomac, amounting to about 177,000 effectives. Gen. McClellan then transferred his army to the peninsula between the James and York rivers. Although there was but a force of 16,000 opposed to him when he landed, he spent a month before the works at Yorktown, and when he was prepared to open fire upon them they were evacuated, and Gen. Johnston retreated to the neighborhood of Richmond. The battle of Seven Pines, in which the Confederates, successful in their first attack, were afterward repelled, was fought on May 31, 1862. Johnston was wounded, and the command devolved upon Gen. Robert E. Lee, who in the latter part of June moved out from his position before Richmond and attacked McClellan's right flank, under Gen. Fitz-John Porter, at Gaines's Mills, north of the Chickahominy. Porter, with one corps, resisted the Confederate army all day with great gallantry, unassisted by the main army under McClellan, but withdrew in the evening, and McClellan at once began his retreat to the James river. Several battles were fought on the way, in which the Confederates were checked; but the retreat continued until the National army reached the James.
Taking position at Malvern Hill, they inflicted a severe defeat upon Gen. Lee, but were immediately after withdrawn by Gen. McClellan to Harrison's Landing. Here, as at other times during his career, McClellan labored under a strange hallucination as to the numbers of his enemy. He generally estimated them at not less than twice their actual force, and continually reproached the president for not giving him impossible re-enforcements to equal the imaginary numbers he thought opposed to him. In point of fact, his army was always in excess of that of Johnston or Lee. The continual disasters in the east were somewhat compensated by a series of brilliant successes in the west. In February, 1862, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had captured the Confederate forts Henry and Donelson, thus laying open the great strategic lines of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, and, moving southward, had fought (April 6 and 7) the battle of Shiloh, with unfavorable results on the first day, which were turned to a victory on the second with the aid of Gen. D. C. Buell and his army, a battle in which Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston was killed and the Confederate invasion of Kentucky baffled. Farragut, on April 24, had won a brilliant naval victory, over the twin forts above the mouths of the Mississippi, which resulted in the capture of New Orleans and the control of the lower Mississippi. After Gen. McClellan's retreat to the James, the president visited the army at Harrison's Landing (July 8), and, after careful consultations with the corps commanders, became convinced that in the actual disposition of the officers and the troops there was no reasonable expectation of a successful movement upon Richmond by McClellan. An order was therefore issued for the withdrawal of the army from the James, and, Gen. Halleck having been appointed general-in-chief, Gen. Pope was sent forward from Washington with a small force to delay the Confederate army under Gen. Lee until the Army of the Potomac could arrive and be concentrated to support him. McClellan's movements, however, were so deliberate, and there was such a want of confidence and co-operation on the part of his officers toward Gen. Pope, that the National army met with decisive defeat on the same battle-field of Bull Run that saw their first disaster. Gen. Pope, disheartened by the lack of sympathy and support that he discerned among the most eminent officers of the Army of the Potomac, retreated upon Washington, and Gen. McClellan, who seemed to be the only officer under whom the army was at the moment willing to serve, was placed in command of it. Gen. Lee, elated with his success, crossed the Potomac, but was met by the army under McClellan at South Mountain and Antietam, and after two days of great slaughter Lee retreated into Virginia.
President Lincoln availed himself of this occasion to give effect to a resolve that had long been maturing in his mind in an act the most momentous in its significance and results that the century has witnessed. For a year and a half he had been subjected to urgent solicitations from the two great political parties of the country, the one side appealing to him to take decided measures against slavery, and the other imploring him to pursue a conservative course in regard to that institution. His deep-rooted detestation of the system of domestic servitude was no secret to any one; but his reverence for the law, his regard for vested interests, and his anxiety to do nothing that should alienate any considerable body of the supporters of the government had thus far induced him to pursue a middle course between the two extremes. Meanwhile the power of events had compelled a steady progress in the direction of emancipation. So early as August, 1861, congress had passed an act to confiscate the rights of slave-owners in slaves employed in a manner hostile to the Union, and Gen. Frémont had seized the occasion of the passage of this act to issue an order to confiscate and emancipate the slaves of rebels in the state of Missouri. President Lincoln, unwilling, in a matter of such transcendent importance, to leave the initiative to any subordinate, revoked this order, and directed Gen. Frémont to modify it so that it should conform to the confiscation act of congress. This excited violent opposition to the president among the radical anti-slavery men in Missouri and elsewhere, while it drew upon him the scarcely less embarrassing importunities of the conservatives, who wished him to take still more decided ground against the radicals. On March 6, 1862, he sent a special message to congress inclosing a resolution, the passage of which he recommended, to offer pecuniary aid from the general government to states that should adopt the gradual abolishment of slavery. This resolution was promptly passed by congress; but in none of the slave-states was public sentiment sufficiently advanced to permit them to avail themselves of it.
The next month, however, congress passed a law emancipating slaves in the District of Columbia, with compensation to owners, and President Lincoln had the happiness of affixing his signature to a measure that he had many years before, while a representative from Illinois, fruitlessly urged upon the notice of congress. As the war went on, wherever the National armies penetrated there was a constant stream of fugitive slaves from the adjoining regions, and the commanders of each department treated the complicated questions arising from this body of “contrabands,” as they came to be called, in their camps, according to their own judgment of the necessities or the expediencies of each case, a discretion which the president thought best to tolerate. But on May 9, 1862, Gen. David Hunter, an intimate and esteemed friend of Mr. Lincoln's, saw proper, without consultation with him, to issue a military order declaring all persons theretofore held as slaves in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina forever free. The president, as soon as he received this order, issued a proclamation declaring it void, and reserving to himself the decision of the question whether it was competent for him, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, to declare the slaves of any state or states free, and whether at any time or in any case it should have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the government to exercise such supposed power, and prohibiting to commanders in the field the decision of such questions. But he added in his proclamation a significant warning and appeal to the slave-holding states, urging once more upon them the policy of emancipation by state action. “I do not argue,” he said; “I beseech you to make the argument for yourselves. You cannot, if you would, be blind to the signs of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partisan politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproaches upon any. . . . Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done, by one effort, in all past time, as in the providence of God it is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have cause to lament that you have neglected it.”
He had several times endeavored to bring this proposition before the members of congress from the loyal slave-holding states, and on July 12 he invited them to meet him at the executive mansion, and submitted to them a powerful and urgent appeal to induce their states to adopt the policy of compensated emancipation. He told them, without reproach or complaint, that he believed that if they had all voted for the resolution in the gradual emancipation message of the preceding March the war would now have been substantially ended, and that the plan therein proposed was still one of the most potent and swift means of ending it. “Let the states,” he said, “which are in rebellion see definitely and certainly that in no event will the states you represent ever join their proposed confederacy, and they cannot much longer maintain the contest.” While urging this policy upon the conservatives, and while resolved in his own mind upon emancipation by decree as a last resource, he was the subject of vehement attacks from the more radical anti-slavery supporters of the government, to which he replied with unfailing moderation and good temper. Although in July he had resolved upon his course, and had read to his cabinet a draft of a proclamation of emancipation which he had then laid aside for a more fitting occasion (on the suggestion from Mr. Seward that its issue in the disastrous condition of our military affairs would be interpreted as a sign of desperation), he met the reproaches of the radical Republicans, the entreaties of visiting delegations, and the persuasions of his eager friends with arguments showing both sides of the question of which they persisted in seeing only one. To Horace Greeley, on August 22, Mr. Lincoln said: “My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.” And even so late as September 13 he said to a delegation of a religious society, who were urging immediate action: “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. . . . I view this matter as a practical war measure, to be decided on according to the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the rebellion.” Still, he assured them that he had not decided against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but that the matter occupied his deepest thoughts.
The retreat of Lee from Maryland after his defeat at Antietam seemed to the president to afford a proper occasion for the execution of his long-matured resolve, and on September 22 he issued his preliminary proclamation, giving notice to the states in rebellion that, on January 1, 1863, all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof should then be in rebellion against the United States, should be then, thenceforward, and forever free. When congress came together on December 1 he urged them to supplement what had already been done by constitutional action, concluding his message with this impassioned appeal: “Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or in dishonor to the latest generation. We — even we here — hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last, best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.” It was hardly to be expected, however, that any action would be taken by congress before the lapse of the hundred days that the president had left between his warning and its execution. On January 1, 1863, the final proclamation of emancipation was issued. It recited the preliminary document, and then designated the states in rebellion against the United States. They were Arkansas, Texas, a part of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, excepting certain counties. The proclamation then continued: “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.” The criticisms and forebodings of the opponents of emancipation had well-nigh been exhausted during the previous three months, and the definitive proclamation was received with general enthusiasm throughout the loyal states.
The dissatisfaction with which this important measure was regarded in the border states gradually died away, as did also the opposition in conservative quarters to the enlistment of negro soldiers. Their good conduct, their quick submission to discipline, and their excellent behavior in several battles rapidly made an end of the prejudice against them; and when, in the winter session of congress of 1863-'4, Mr. Lincoln again urged upon the attention of that body the passage of a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, his proposition met with the concurrence of a majority of congress, though it failed of the necessary two-thirds vote in the house of representatives. During the following year, however, public opinion made rapid progress, and the influence of the president with congress was largely increased after his triumphant re-election. In his annual message of December 6, 1864, he once more pleaded, this time with irresistible force, in favor of constitutional emancipation in all the states. As there had been much controversy during the year in regard to the president's anti-slavery convictions, and the suggestion had been made in many quarters that, for the sake of peace, he might be induced to withdraw the proclamation, he repeated the declaration made the year before: “While I remain in my present position I shall not attempt to retreat or modify the emancipation proclamation; nor shall I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation or by any of the acts of congress. If the people should, by whatever mode or means, make it an executive duty to re-enslave such persons, another, and not I, must be their instrument to perform it.” This time congress acted with alacrity, and on January 31, 1865, proposed to the states the 13th amendment to the constitution, providing that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, where the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. The states rapidly adopted the amendment by the action of their legislatures, and the president was especially pleased that his own state of Illinois led the van, having passed the necessary resolution within twenty-four hours. Before the year ended twenty-seven of the thirty-six states (being the necessary three fourths) had ratified the amendment, and President Johnson, on December 18, 1865, officially proclaimed its adoption.
While the energies of the government and of the people were most strenuously occupied with the war and the questions immediately concerning it, the four years of Mr. Lincoln's administration had their full share of complicated and difficult questions of domestic and foreign concern. The interior and post-office departments made great progress in developing the means of communication throughout the country. Mr. Chase, as secretary of the treasury, performed, with prodigious ability and remarkable success, the enormous duties devolving upon him of providing funds to supply the army at an expense amounting at certain periods to $3,000,000 a day; and Mr. Seward, in charge of the state department, held at bay the suppressed hostility of European nations. Of all his cabinet, the president sustained with Mr. Seward relations of the closest intimacy, and for that reason, perhaps, shared more directly in the labors of his department. He revised the first draft of most of Seward's important despatches, and changed and amended their language with remarkable wisdom and skill. He was careful to avoid all sources of controversy or ill-feeling with foreign nations, and when they occurred he did his best to settle them in the interests of peace, without a sacrifice of national dignity.
At the end of the year 1861 the friendly relations between England and the United States were seriously threatened by the capture of the confederate envoys, James Murray Mason and John Slidell, on board a British merchant-ship. Public sentiment approved the capture, and, as far as could be judged by every manifestation in the press and in congress, was in favor of retaining the prisoners and defiantly refusing the demand of England for their return. But when the president, after mature deliberation, decided that the capture was against American precedents, and directed their return to British custody, the second thought of the country was with him. His prudence and moderation were also conspicuously displayed in his treatment of the question of the invasion of Mexico by France, and the establishment by military power of the emperor Maxmilian in that country. Accepting as genuine the protestations of the emperor of the French, that he intended no interference with the will of the people of Mexico, he took no measures unfriendly to France or the empire, except those involved in the maintenance of unbroken friendship with the republican government under President Juarez, a proceeding that, although severely criticised by the more ardent spirits in congress, ended, after the president's death, in the triumph of the National party in Mexico and the downfall of the invaders. He left no doubt, however, at any time, in regard to his own conviction that “the safety of the people of the United States and the cheerful destiny to which they aspire are intimately dependent upon the maintenance of free republican institutions throughout Mexico.” He dealt in a sterner spirit with the proposition for foreign mediation that the emperor of the French, after seeking in vain the concurrence of other European powers, at last presented singly at the beginning of 1863. This proposition, under the orders of the president, was declined by Mr. Seward on February 6, in a despatch of remarkable ability and dignity, which put an end to all discussion of overtures of intervention from European powers. The diplomatic relations with England were exceptionally strained at several periods during the war. The building and fitting out of Confederate cruisers in English ports, and their escape, after their construction and its purpose had been made known by the American minister, more than once brought the two nations to the verge of war; but the moderation with which the claims of the United States were made by Mr. Lincoln, the energy and ability displayed by Sec. Seward and by Mr. Charles Francis Adams in presenting these claims, and, it must now be recognized, the candor and honesty with which the matter was treated by Earl Russell, the British minister for foreign affairs, saved the two countries from that irreparable disaster; and the British government at last took such measures as were necessary to put an end to this indirect war from the shores of England upon American commerce. In the course of two years the war attained such proportions that volunteering was no longer a sufficient resource to keep the army, consisting at that time of nearly a million men, at its full fighting strength.
Congress therefore authorized, and the department executed, a scheme of enrolment and draft of the arms-bearing population of the loyal states. Violent opposition arose to this measure in many parts of the country, which was stimulated by the speeches of orators of the opposition, and led, in many instances, to serious breaches of the public peace. A frightful riot, beginning among the foreign population of New York, kept that city in disorder and terror for three days in July, 1863. But the riots were suppressed, the disturbances quieted at last, and the draft was executed through out the country. Clement L. Vallandigham, of Ohio, one of the most eloquent and influential orators of the Democratic party, was arrested in Ohio by Gen. Burnside for his violent public utterances in opposition to the war, tried by a military court, and sentenced to imprisonment during the continuance of the war. The president changed his sentence to that of transportation within the lines of the rebellion. These proceedings caused a great ferment among his party in Ohio, who, by way of challenge to the government, nominated him for governor of that state. A committee of its prominent politicians demanded from the president his restoration to his political rights, and a correspondence took place between them and the president, in which the rights and powers of the government in case of rebellion were set forth by him with great lucidity and force. His letters exercised an important influence in the political discussions of the year, and Mr. Vallandigham was defeated in his candidacy by John Brough by a majority of 100,000 votes.
The war still continued at a rate that appears rapid enough in retrospect, but seemed slow to the eager spirits watching its course. The disasters of the Army of the Potomac did not end with the removal of Gen. McClellan, which took place in November, 1862, as a consequence of his persistent delay in pursuing Lee's retreating army after the battle of Antietam. Gen. Burnside, who succeeded him, suffered a humiliating defeat in his attack upon the intrenched position of the Confederates at Fredericksburg. Gen. Hooker, who next took command, after opening his campaign by crossing the Rapidan in a march of extraordinary brilliancy, was defeated at Chancellorsville, in a battle where both sides lost severely, and then retired again north of the river. Gen. Lee, leaving the National army on his right flank, crossed the Potomac, and Hooker having, at his own request, been relieved and succeeded by Gen. Meade, the two armies met in a three days battle at Gettysburg, Pa., where Gen. Lee sustained a decisive defeat, and was driven back into Virginia. His flight from Gettysburg began on the evening of July 4, a day that in this year doubled its lustre as a historic anniversary. For on this day Vicksburg, the most important Confederate stronghold in the west, surrendered to Gen. Grant. He had spent the early months of 1863 in successive attempts to take that fortress, all of which had failed; but on the last day of April he crossed the river at Grand Bluff, and within a few days fought the successful battles of Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hills, and the Big Black river, and shut up the army of Pemberton in close siege in the city of Vicksburg, which he finally captured with about 30,000 men on July 4.
[ Fac-simile of the Address delivered by Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg ]
The speech that Mr. Lincoln delivered at the dedication of the National cemetery on the battlefield of Gettysburg, November 19, 1863, was at once recognized as the philosophy in brief of the whole great struggle, and has already become classic. There are three slightly differing versions; the one that is here given is a literal transcript of the speech as he afterward wrote it out for a fair in Baltimore:
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Gen. Grant was transferred to Chattanooga, where, in November, with the troops of Thomas, Hooker, and Sherman, he won the important victory of Missionary Ridge; and then, being appointed lieutenant-general and general-in-chief of the armies of the United States, he went to Washington and entered upon the memorable campaign of 1864. This campaign began with revived hopes on the part of the government, the people, and the army. The president, glad that the army had now at its head a general in whose ability and enterprise he could thoroughly confide, ceased from that moment to exercise any active influence on its movements. He wrote, on April 30, to Gen. Grant: “The particulars of your plans I neither know nor seek to know. You are vigilant and self-reliant, and, pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any constraints or restraints upon you. . . . If there is anything wanting which is in my power to give, do not fail to let me know it. And now, with a brave army and a just cause, may God sustain you.” Grant crossed the Rapidan on May 4, intending to move by the right flank of Gen. Lee; but the two armies came together in a gloomy forest called the Wilderness, where, from the 5th to the 7th of May, one of the most sanguinary battles known to modern warfare was fought. Neither side having gained any decisive advantage in this deadly struggle, Grant moved to the left, and Lee met him again at Spottsylvania Court-House, where for ten days a series of destructive contests took place, in which both sides were alternately successful. Still moving to the left, Grant again encountered the enemy at the crossing of North Anna river, and still later at Cold Harbor, a few miles northeast of Richmond, where, assaulting Gen. Lee's army in a fortified position, he met with a bloody repulse. He then crossed the James river, intending by a rapid movement to seize Petersburg and the Confederate lines of communication south of Richmond, but was baffled in this purpose, and forced to enter upon a regular siege of Petersburg, which occupied the summer and autumn. While these operations were in progress, Gen. Philip H. Sheridan had made one of the most brilliant cavalry raids in the war, threatening Richmond and defeating the Confederate cavalry under Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, and killing that famous leader. While Grant lay before Richmond, Gen. Lee, hoping to induce him to attack his works, despatched a force under Gen. Early to threaten Washington; but Grant sent two corps of his army northward, and Early — after a sharp skirmish under the fortifications of Washington, where Mr. Lincoln was personally present — was driven back through the Shenandoah valley, and on two occasions, in September and October, was signally defeated by Gen. Sheridan.
Gen. William T. Sherman, who had been left in command of the western district formerly commanded by Grant, moved southward at the same time that Grant crossed the Rapidan. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, one of the ablest of the Confederate generals, retired gradually before him, defending himself at every halt with the greatest skill and address; but, his movements not proving satisfactory to the Richmond government, he was removed, and Gen. John B. Hood appointed in his place. After a summer of hard fighting, Sherman, on September 1, captured Atlanta, one of the chief manufacturing and railroad centres of the south, and later in the autumn organized and executed a magnificent march to the seaboard, which proved that the military power of the Confederacy had been concentrated at a few points on the frontier, and that the interior was little more than an empty shell. He reached the sea-coast early in December, investing Savannah on the 10th, and capturing the city on the 21st. He then marched northward with the intention of assisting Gen. Grant in the closing scenes of the war. The army under Gen. George H. Thomas, who had been left in Tennessee to hold Hood in check while this movement was going on, after severely handling the Confederates in the preliminary battle of Franklin, November 30, inflicted upon General Hood a crushing and final defeat in the battle of Nashville, December 16, routing and driving him from the state.
During the summer, while Grant was engaged in the desperate and indecisive series of battles that marked his southward progress in Virginia, and Sherman had not yet set out upon his march to the sea, one of the most ardent political canvasses the country had ever seen was in progress at the north. Mr. Lincoln, on June 8, had been unanimously renominated for the presidency by the Republican convention at Baltimore. The Democratic leaders had postponed their convention to a date unusually late, in the hope that some advantage might be reaped from the events of the summer. The convention came together on August 29 in Chicago. Mr. Vallandigham, who had returned from his banishment, and whom the government had sagaciously declined to rearrest, led the extreme peace party in the convention. Prominent politicians of New York were present in the interest of Gen. McClellan. Both sections of the convention gained their point. Gen. McClellan was nominated for the presidency, and Mr. Vallandigham succeeded in imposing upon his party a platform declaring that the war had been a failure, and demanding a cessation of hostilities. The capture of Atlanta on the day the convention adjourned seemed to the Unionists a providential answer to the opposition. Republicans, who had been somewhat disheartened by the slow progress of military events and by the open and energetic agitation that the peace party had continued through the summer at the north, now took heart again, and the canvass proceeded with the greatest spirit to the close. Sheridan's victory over Early in the Shenandoah valley gave an added impulse to the general enthusiasm, and in the October elections it was shown that the name of Mr. Lincoln was more popular, and his influence more powerful, than any one had anticipated. In the election that took place on November 8, 1864, he received 2,216,000 votes, and Gen. McClellan, 1,800,000. The difference in the electoral vote was still greater, Mr. Lincoln being supported by 212 of the presidential electors, while only 21 voted for McClellan.
President Lincoln's second inaugural address, delivered on March 4, 1865, will forever remain not only one of the most remarkable of all his public utterances, but will also hold a high rank among the greatest state papers that history has preserved. As he neared the end of his career, and saw plainly outlined before him the dimensions of the vast moral and material success that the nation was about to achieve, his thoughts, always predisposed to an earnest and serious view of life, assumed a fervor and exaltation like that of the ancient seers and prophets. The speech that he delivered to the vast concourse at the eastern front of the capitol is the briefest of all the presidential addresses in our annals; but it has not its equal in lofty eloquence and austere morality. The usual historical view of the situation, the ordinary presentment of the intentions of the government, seemed matters too trivial to engage the concern of a mind standing, as Lincoln's apparently did at this moment, face to face with the most tremendous problems of fate and moral responsibility. In the briefest words he announced what had been the cause of the war, and how the government had hoped to bring it to an earlier close. With passionless candor he admitted that neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration it had attained.
“Each looked for an easier triumph and a result less fundamental and astounding”; and, passing into a strain of rhapsody, which no lesser mind and character could ever dare to imitate, he said: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces. But let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both north and south this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’ With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”
The triumphant election of Mr. Lincoln, no less than the steady progress of the National armies, convinced some of the more intelligent of the southern leaders that their cause was hopeless, and that it would be prudent to ascertain what terms of peace could be made before the utter destruction of their military power. There had been already several futile attempts at opening negotiations; but they had all failed of necessity, because neither side was willing even to consider the only terms that the other side would offer. There had never been a moment when Mr. Lincoln would have been willing to receive propositions of peace on any other basis than the recognition of the national integrity, and Mr. Davis steadfastly refused to the end to admit the possibility of the restoration of the national authority. In July, certain authorized persons in Canada, having persuaded Horace Greeley that negotiations might be opened through them with the Confederate authorities, Mr. Lincoln despatched the great editor to Niagara Falls, and sent an open letter addressed, “To whom it may concern.” It is in the possession of Mr. William H. Appleton, of New York. This document put an end to the negotiation. The Confederate emissaries in Canada and their principals in Richmond made no use of this incident except to employ the president's letter as a text for denunciation of the National government. But, later in the year, the hopelessness of the struggle having become apparent to some of the Confederate leaders, Mr. Davis was at last induced to send an embassy to Fortress Monroe, to inquire what terms of adjustment were possible. They were met by President Lincoln and the secretary of state in person. The plan proposed was one that had been suggested, on his own responsibility, by Mr. Francis Preston Blair, of Washington, in an interview he had been permitted to hold with Mr. Davis in Richmond, that the two armies should unite in a campaign against the French in Mexico for the enforcement of the Monroe doctrine, and that the issues of the war should be postponed for future settlement. The president declined peremptorily to entertain this scheme, and repeated again the only conditions to which he could listen: The restoration of the national authority throughout all the states, the maintenance and execution of all the acts of the general government in regard to slavery, the cessation of hostilities, and the disbanding of the insurgent forces as a necessary prerequisite to the ending of the war.
The Confederate agents reported at Richmond the failure of their embassy, and Mr. Davis denounced the conduct of President Lincoln in a public address full of desperate defiance. Nevertheless, it was evident even to the most prejudiced observers that the war could not continue much longer. Sherman's march had demonstrated the essential weakness of the Confederate cause; the soldiers of the Confederacy who for four years, with the most stubborn gallantry, had maintained a losing fight began to show signs of dangerous discouragement and insubordination; recruiting had ceased some time before, and desertion was going on rapidly. The army of Gen. Lee, which was the last bulwark of the Confederacy, still held its lines stoutly against the gradually enveloping lines of Grant; but their valiant commander knew it was only a question of how many days he could hold his works, and repeatedly counselled the government at Richmond to evacuate that city, and allow the army to take up a more tenable position in the mountains. Gen. Grant's only anxiety each morning was lest he should find the army of Gen. Lee moving away from him, and late in March he determined to strike the final blow at the rebellion. Moving for the last time by the left flank, his forces under Sheridan fought and gained a brilliant victory over the Confederate left at Five Forks, and at the same time Gens. Humphreys, Wright, and Parke moved against the Confederate works, breaking their lines and capturing many prisoners and guns. Petersburg was evacuated on April 2. The Confederate government fled from Richmond the same afternoon and evening, and Grant, pursuing the broken and shattered remnant of Lee's army, received their surrender at Appomattox Court-House on April 9. About 28,000 Confederates signed the parole, and an equal number had been killed, captured, and dispersed in the operations immediately preceding the surrender. Gen. Sherman, a few days afterward, received the surrender of Johnston, and the last Confederate army, under Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, west of the Mississippi, laid down its arms. President Lincoln had himself accompanied the army in its last triumphant campaign, and had entered Richmond immediately after its surrender, receiving the cheers and benedictions not only of the negroes whom he had set free, but of a great number of white people, who were weary of the war and welcomed the advent of peace. Returning to Washington with his mind filled with plans for the restoration of peace and orderly government throughout the south, he seized the occasion of a serenade, on April 11, to deliver to the people who gathered in front of the executive mansion his last speech on public affairs, in which he discussed with unusual dignity and force the problems of reconstruction, then crowding upon public consideration. As his second inaugural was the greatest of all his rhetorical compositions, so this brief political address, which closed his public career, is unsurpassed among his speeches for clearness and wisdom, and for a certain tone of gentle but unmistakable authority, which shows to what a mastery of statecraft he had attained. He congratulated the country upon the decisive victories of the last week; he expressly asserted that, although he had been present in the final operations, “no part of the honor, for plan or execution, was his”; and then, with equal boldness and discretion, announced the principles in accordance with which he should deal with the restoration of the states. He refused to be provoked into controversy, which he held would be purely academic, over the question whether the insurrectionary states were in or out of the Union. “As appears to me,” he said, “that question has not been, nor yet is, a practically material one, and any discussion of it, while it thus remains practically immaterial, could have no effect other than the mischievous one of dividing our friends. As yet, whatever it may hereafter become, that question is bad, as the basis of a controversy, and good for nothing at all — merely pernicious abstraction. We all agree that the seceded states, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union, and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those states, is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact easier, to do this without deciding, or even considering, whether these states have ever been out of the Union than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these states and the Union, and each forever after innocently indulge his own opinion whether in doing the acts he brought the states from without into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.”
In this temper he discussed the recent action of the Unionists of Louisiana, where 12,000 voters had sworn allegiance, giving his full approval to their course, but not committing himself to any similar method in other cases; “any exclusive and inflexible plan would surely become a new entanglement. . . . If we reject and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. We, in effect, say to the white men, ‘You are worthless or worse, we will neither help you, nor be helped by you.’ To the blacks we say, ‘This cup of liberty which these, your old masters, hold to your lips we will dash from you and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and undefined when, where, and how. . . . If, on the contrary, we sustain the new government of Louisiana, the converse is made true. Concede that it is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it.” These words were the last he uttered in public; on April 14, at a cabinet meeting, he developed these views in detail, and found no difference of opinion among his advisers. The same evening he attended a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford's theatre, in Tenth street. He was accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln and two friends — Miss Harris, a daughter of Senator Ira Harris, of New York, and Maj. Henry R. Rathbone. In the midst of the play a shot was heard, and a man was seen to leap from the president's box to the stage. Brandishing a dripping knife, with which, after shooting the president, he had stabbed Maj. Rathbone, and shouting, “Sic semper tyrannis! — the south is avenged!” he rushed to the rear of the building, leaped upon a horse, which was held there in readiness for him, and made his escape. The president was carried to a small house on the opposite side of the street, where, surrounded by his family and the principal officers of the government, he breathed his last at 7 o'clock on the morning of April 15. The assassin was found by a squadron of troops twelve days afterward, and shot in a barn in which he had taken refuge.
The body of the president lay in state at the Capitol on April 20 and was viewed by a great concourse of people; the next day the funeral train set out for Springfield, Ill. The cortège halted at all the principal cities on the way, and the remains of the president lay in state in Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Chicago, being received everywhere with extraordinary demonstrations of respect and sorrow. The joy over the return of peace was for a fortnight eclipsed by the universal grief for the dead leader. He was buried, amid the mourning of the whole nation, at Oak Ridge, near Springfield, on May 4, and there on October 15, 1874, an imposing monument — the work of the sculptor Larkin G. Mead — was dedicated to his memory. The monument is of white marble, with a portrait-statue of Lincoln in bronze, and four bronze groups at the corners, representing the infantry, cavalry, and artillery arms of the service and the navy.
The death of President Lincoln, in the moment of the great national victory that he had done more than any other to gain, caused a movement of sympathy throughout the world. The expressions of grief and condolence that were sent to the government at Washington, from national, provincial, and municipal bodies all over the globe, were afterward published by the state department in a quarto volume of nearly a thousand pages, called “The Tribute of the Nations to Abraham Lincoln.” After the lapse of thirty years, the high estimate of him that the world appears instinctively to have formed at the moment of his death seems to have been increased rather than diminished, as his participation in the great events of his time has been more thoroughly studied and understood. His goodness of heart, his abounding charity, his quick wit and overflowing humor, which made him the hero of many true stories and a thousand legends, are not less valued in themselves; but they are cast in the shade by the evidences that continually appear of his extraordinary qualities of mind and of character. His powerful grasp of details, his analytic capacity, his unerring logic, his perception of human nature would have made him unusual in any age of the world, while the quality that, in the opinion of many, made him the specially fitted agent of Providence in the salvation of the country, his absolute freedom from prejudice or passion in weighing the motives of his contemporaries and the deepest problems of state, gives him pre-eminence even among the illustrious men that have preceded and followed him in his great office. Simple and modest as he was in his demeanor, he was one of the most self-respecting of rulers. Although his kindness of heart was proverbial, although he was always glad to please and unwilling to offend, few presidents have been more sensible of the dignity of their office, and more prompt to maintain it against encroachments. He was at all times unquestionably the head of the government and, though not inclined to interfere with the routine business of the departments, he tolerated no insubordination in important matters. At one time, being conscious that there was an effort inside of his government to force the resignation of one of its members, he read in open cabinet a severe reprimand of what was going on, mentioning no names, and ordering peremptorily that no question should be asked, and no allusions be made to the incident then or thereafter.
He did not except his most trusted friends or his most powerful generals from this strict subordination. When Mr. Seward went before him to meet the Confederate envoys at Hampton Roads, Mr. Lincoln gave him this written injunction: “You will not assume to definitely consummate anything”; and on March 3, 1865, when Gen. Grant was about to set out on his campaign of final victory, the secretary of war gave him, by the president's order, this imperative instruction: “The president directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have no conference with Gen. Lee, unless it be for the capitulation of Gen. Lee's army, or on some other minor and purely military matter. He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or to confer upon any political question. Such questions the president holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions. Meanwhile, you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.” When he refused to comply with the desire of the more radical Republicans in congress to take Draconian measures of retaliation against the Confederates for their treatment of black soldiers, he was accused by them of weakness and languor. They never seemed to perceive that to withstand an angry congress in Washington required more vigor of character than to launch a threatening decree against the Confederate government in Richmond. Mr. Lincoln was as unusual in personal appearance as in character. His stature was almost gigantic, six feet and four inches; he was muscular but spare of frame, weighing about 180 pounds. His hair was strong and luxuriant in growth, and stood out straight from his head; it began to be touched with gray in his last years. His eyes, a grayish brown, were deeply set, and were filled, in repose, with an expression of profound melancholy, which easily changed to one of uproarious mirth at the provocation of a humorous anecdote, told by himself or an other. His nose was long and slightly curved, his mouth large and singularly mobile. Up to the time of his election he was clean-shaven, but during his presidency the fine outline of his face was marred by a thin and straggling beard. His demeanor was, in general, extremely simple and careless, but he was not without a native dignity that always protected him from anything like presumption or impertinence.
Mr. Lincoln married, on November 4, 1842, Miss Mary Todd, daughter of Robert S. Todd, of Kentucky. There were born of this marriage four sons. One, Edward Baker, died in infancy; another, William Wallace, died at the age of twelve, during the presidency of Mr. Lincoln; and still another, Thomas, at the age of eighteen, several years after his father's death. The only one that grew to maturity was his eldest son, Robert, who married and has children. The house in which Mr. Lincoln lived when he was elected president, in Springfield, Ill., was conveyed to the state of Illinois in 1887 by his son, and a collection of memorials of him is to be preserved there perpetually.
|Henry Bacon, architect|
THE PROPOSED LINCOLN MEMORIAL, WASHINGTON, D. C. EASTERN FAÇADE FACING WASHINGTON MONUMENT
There were few portraits of Mr. Lincoln painted in his lifetime; the vast number of engravings that have made his face one of the most familiar of all time have been mostly copied from photographs. There are portraits from life by Frank B. Carpenter, by Matthew Wilson, by Thomas Hicks, and an excellent crayon drawing by Barry. Since his death G. P. A. Healy, William Page, and others have painted portraits of him. There are two authentic life-masks: one made in 1858 by Leonard W. Volk, who also executed a bust of Mr. Lincoln before his election in 1860, and another by Clark Mills shortly before the assassination. There are already a number of statues: one by Henry Kirke Brown in Union square, New York; another by the same artist in Brooklyn; one in the group called “Emancipation,” by Thomas Ball, in Lincoln Park, Washington, D. C., a work which has especial interest as having been paid for by the contributions of the freed people; one by Mrs. Vinnie Ream Hoxie in the Capital; one by Augustus St. Gaudens in Chicago, set up in Chicago, October 22, 1887; and one by Randolph Rogers in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. There is a bust by Thomas D. Jones, modelled from life in 1860.
The Lincoln bibliography is enormous, comprising thousands of volumes. See John Russell Bartlett's “Catalogue of Books and Pamphlets relating to the Civil War in the United States” (Boston, 1866). The most noteworthy of the lives of Lincoln already published are those of Joseph H. Barrett (Cincinnati, 1865); Linus P. Brockett (Philadelphia, 1865); Henry J. Raymond (New York, 1865); Josiah G. Holland (Springfield, Mass., 1866); Ward H. Lamon (Boston, 1872); William O. Stoddard (New York, 1884); Isaac N. Arnold (Chicago, 1885); William H. Herndon (New York, 1889); and John T. Morse, Jr. (Boston, 1893). Briefer lives have also been written by William D. Howells, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles G. Leland, John Carroll Power, Carl Schurz, and others. The most extensive work upon his life and times yet attempted is by his private secretaries, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, in ten volumes (New York, 1890). Four years later the same writers prepared a complete edition in two volumes of Lincoln's Works, comprising his Speeches, Letters, State Papers, and Miscellaneous Writings (New York, 1894). See also “Abraham Lincoln. The tribute of a century, 1809-1909. Commemorative of the Lincoln centenary and containing the principal addresses made in connection therewith.” Edited by Nathan W. MacChesney (Chicago, 1910).
His wife, Mary Todd, born in Lexington, Ky., December 12, 1818; died in Springfield, Ill., July 16, 1882, was the daughter of Robert S. Todd, whose family were among the most influential of the pioneers of Kentucky and Illinois. Her great-uncle, John Todd, was one of the associates of Gen. George Rogers Clark, in his campaign of 1778, and took part in the capture of Kaskaskia and Vincennes. Being appointed county lieutenant by Patrick Henry, at that time governor of Virginia, he organized the civil government of what became afterward the state of Illinois. He was killed in the battle of Blue Licks, August 18, 1782, of which his brother Levi, Mrs. Lincoln's grandfather, who also accompanied Clark's expedition as a lieutenant, was one of the few survivors. Mary Todd was carefully educated in Lexington. When twenty-one years of age she went to Springfield to visit her sister, who had married Ninian W. Edwards, a son of Ninian Edwards, governor of the state. While there she became engaged to Mr. Lincoln, whom she married, November 4, 1842. Her family was divided by the civil war; several of them were killed in battle; and, devoted as Mrs. Lincoln was to her husband and the National cause, this division among her nearest kindred caused her much suffering. The death of her son, William Wallace, in 1862, was an enduring sorrow to her. One of her principal occupations was visiting the hospitals and camps of the soldiers about Washington. She never recovered from the shock of seeing her husband shot down before her eyes; her youngest son, Thomas, died a few years later, and her reason suffered from these repeated blows. She lived in strict retirement during her later years, spending part of her time with her son in Chicago, a portion in Europe, and the rest with her sister, Mrs. Edwards, in Springfield, Illinois, where she died of paralysis.
Their son, Robert Todd, lawyer, born in Springfield, Ill., August 1, 1843, was prepared for college at Phillips Exeter academy, and graduated at Harvard in 1864. He entered Harvard law-school, but after a short stay applied for admission to the military service, and his father suggested his appointment on the staff of Gen. Grant, as a volunteer aide-de-camp without pay or allowances. This exceptional position did not meet with Gen. Grant's approval, and at his suggestion young Lincoln was regularly commissioned as a captain, and entered the service on the same footing with others of his grade. He served with zeal and efficiency through out the final campaign, which ended at Appomattox. At the close of the war he resumed the study of law, was admitted to the bar in Illinois, and practised his profession with success in Chicago until 1881, with an interval of a visit to Europe in 1872; he steadily refused the offers that were repeatedly made him to enter public life, though taking part, from time to time, in political work and discussion. In 1881, at the invitation of President Garfield, he entered his cabinet as secretary of war. Mr. Lincoln, who, sixteen years before, had returned from the field just in time to stand by the death-bed of his father, assassinated while president, now had his strange experience repeated upon the assassination of President Garfield, a few months after his inauguration. On the accession of Vice-President Arthur to the Presidency, Mr. Lincoln was the only member of the former cabinet who was requested to retain his portfolio, and he did so to the end of the administration. He performed the duties of the place with such ability and fairness, and with such knowledge of the law and appreciation of the needs of the army, as to gain the warmest approbation of its officers and its friends. Noteworthy incidents of his administration of the civil duties of the department were his report to the house of representatives upon its challenge to him to justify President Arthur's veto of the river and harbor bill of 1882, and the thoroughness and promptness of the relief given, from Wheeling to New Orleans, to those suffering from the great floods of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in February, 1884. In the latter year Mr. Lincoln was prominently spoken of for the presidency; but, as President Arthur was a candidate before the Republican convention, Lincoln refused to allow his name to be presented for either place on the ticket. He returned to Chicago, and in the spring of 1889 he was appointed minister to Great Britain. He was succeeded in June, 1893, by Thomas F. Bayard, of Delaware, as ambassador, and resumed his law practice in Chicago. For several years Mr. Lincoln's winter residence has been in Washington, D. C., and his summer home in Manchester, Vermont.