Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ble manifestation on the surface, he was the most reticent of men as to grave questions, and no confidant often heard his inmost thoughts. Especially it would be difficult to name an instance in which he told one man what he thought of another; a trifling criticism concerning some single trait was the utmost that he ever allowed to escape him; a full and careful estimate, never.

Such reflections come with peculiar force at this period in his career.

What would not one give for his estimate of McClellan; it would be worth the whole great collection of characters sketched by innumerable friends and enemies for that muchdiscussed general. While others think that the know accurately the measure of McClellan's real value and usefulness, Lincoln really knew these things; but he never told his knowledge. We only see that he sustained McClellan for a long while in the face of vehement aspersions; yet that he never fully subjected his own convictions to the educational lectures of the general, and that he seemed at last willing to see him laid aside; then immediately in a crisis restored him to authority in spite of all opposition; and shortly afterward, as if utterly weary of him, definitively displaced him. Still, all these facts do not show what Lincoln thought of McClellan. Many motives besides his opinion of the man may have influenced him. The pressure of political opinion and of public feeling was very great, and might have turned him far aside from the course he would have pursued if it

could have been neglected. Also other considerations have been suggested as likely to have weighed with him, - that McClellan could do with the army what no other man could do, because of the intense devotion of both officers and men to him; and that an indignity offered to McClellan might swell the dissatisfaction of the Northern Democracy to a point at which it would seriously embarrass the administration. These things may have counteracted, or may have corroborated, Mr. Lincoln's views concerning the man himself.

He was an extraordinary judge of men in their relationship to affairs; moreover, of all the men of note of that time he alone was wholly dispassionate and nonpartisan. Opinions tinctured with prejudices are countless; it is disappointing that the one opinion that was free from prejudice is unknown.1

1 McClure says: “I saw Lincoln many times during the campaign of 1864, when McClellan was his competitor for the presidency. I never heard him speak of McClellan in any other than terms of the highest personal respect and kindness.” Lincoln and Men of War-Times, 207.

CHAPTER IV.

THE AUTUMN ELECTIONS OF 1862, AND THE

PROCLAMATION OF EMANCIPATION.

The chapter which has been written on “Emancipation and Politics” shows that while loyalty to the Union operated as a bond to hold together the people of the North, slavery entered as a wedge to force them asunder. It was not long before the wedge proved a more powerful force than the bond, for the wedge was driven home by human nature; and it was inevitable that the men of conservative temperament and the men of progressive temperament should erelong be easily restored to their instinctive antagonism. Of those who had been stigmatized as “Northern men with Southern principles," many soon found their Southern proclivities reviving. These men, christened “

“Copperheads,” became more odious to loyal Northerners than were the avowed Secessionists. In return for their venomous nickname and the contempt and hatred with which they were treated, they themselves

grew steadily more rancorous, more extreme in their feelings. They denounced and opposed every measure of the government, harangued vehemently against the war and against all that was done to prosecute it, reviled with scurrilous and passionate abuse every prominent Republican, filled the air with disheartening forecasts of defeat, ruin, and woe, and triumphed whenever the miserable prophecies seemed in the way of fulfilment. General Grant truly described them as auxiliaries to the Confederate army, and said that the North would have been much better off with a hundred thousand of these men in the Southern ranks, and the rest of their kind at home thoroughly subdued, as the Unionists were at the South, than was the case as the struggle was actually conducted. In time the administration found itself forced, though reluctantly, to arrest and imprison many of the ringleaders in this Northern disaffection. Yet all the while the Copperheads resolutely maintained their affiliations with the Democratic party, and though they brought upon it much discredit which it did not deserve, yet they could not easily be ejected from it. Differences of opinion shaded into each other so gradually that to establish a line of division was difficult.

Impinging upon Copperheadism stood the much more numerous body of those who persistently asserted their patriotism, but with equal persistence criticised severely all the measures of the government. These men belonged to that well-known class which is happily described as being “for the law, but ag'in the enforcement of it.” They were for the Union, but against saving it. They kept up a disapproving headshaking over pretty much everything that the President did. With much grandiloquent argument, in the stately, old-school style, they bemoaned the breaches which they charged him with making in the Constitution. They also hotly assumed the rôle of champions of General McClellan, and bewailed the imbecility of an administration which thwarted and deposed him. Protesting the purest and highest patriotism, they were more evasive than the outspoken Copperheads, and as their disaffection was less conspicuous and offensive, so also it was more insidious and almost equally hurtful. They constituted the true and proper body of Democracy.

In a fellowship, which really ought not to have existed, with these obstructionists, was the powerful and respectable body of war Democrats. These men maintained a stubborn loyalty to the old party, but prided themselves upon being as hearty and thorough-going war-men as any among the Republicans. A large proportion of the most distinguished generals, of the best regimental officers, of the most faithful soldiers in the field, were of this political faith. The only criticism that Republicans could reasonably pass upon them was, that they did not, in a political way, strengthen the hands of the government, that they would not uphold its authority by swelling its majorities, nor aid its prestige by giving it their good words.

Over against this Democracy, with its two very discordant wings, was arrayed the Republican party, which also was disturbed by the ill-will of

« AnteriorContinuar »