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natural to it, and as attractive and softening a portion of it, as the smoky hues of Indian summer are of the charmiing season to which they belong. His nature was eminently genial, and he seemed to be incapable of cherishing an envenomed resentment. And although he was easily touched by whatever was painful, the elasticity of his temper and his ready sense of the humorous broke the force of anxieties and responsibilities under which a man of harder, though perhaps a higher, nature, would have sunk and failed.
One of the most perplexing questions with which Mr. Lincoln had to deal, in carrying on the war, was that of slavery. There were two classes of persons who could not see that there was any thing perplexing about it, or that he ought to have had a moment's hesitation how to treat it. One was made up of those who regarded the law of slavery as paramount to the Constitution, and the rights of slavery as the most sacred of all the rights which are guaranteed by that instrument; the other, of those who regarded the abolition of slavery as the one thing to be secured, whatever else might be lost. The former denounced Mr. Lincoln for having interfered with slavery in any way, for any purpose, or at any time; the latter denounced him, with equal bitterness, for not haying swept it out of existence the moment Fort Sumter was attacked. In this matter, as in all others, Mr. Lincoln acted upon a fixed principle of his own, which he applied to the practical conduct of affairs just as fast as the necessities of the case required, and as the public sentiment would sustain his action. His policy from the outset was a tentative one-as, indeed, all policies of government, to be successful, must always be. On the outbreak of the rebellion, the first endeavor of the rebels was to secure the active co-operation of all the slaveholding States. Mr. Lincoln's first action, therefore, was to withhold as many of those States from joining the rebel Con. federacy as possible. Every one can see now that this policy, denounced at the time by his more zealous antislavery supporters as temporizing and inadequate, pre
vented Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, Missouri, and part of Virginia from throwing their weight into the rebel scale; and, although it is very easy and very common to undervalue services to a cause after its triumph seems secure, there are few who will not concede that if these States had been driven or permitted to drift into the rebel Confederacy, a successful termination of the war would have been much more remote and much more doubtful than it proved to be. Mr. Lincoln did every thing in his power, consistent with fidelity to the Constitution, to retain the Border Slave States within the Union ; and the degree of success which attended his efforts is the best proof of their substantial wisdom.
His treatment of the slavery question itself was marked by the same characteristic features. There was not a man living in whose heart the conyiction that slavery was wrong was more deeply rooted than in his.
“If slavery is not wrong," said he, “then nothing is wrong." Nor was there one more anxious to use every just and lawful means, consistent with the national welfare, to secure its extirpation from the soil of the Republic. But in every thing he did upon this subject, as upon every other, he aimed at practical results, not the indulgence of any theory. He used no power over slavery until the emergency had arisen by which alone its exercise under the Constitution could be vindicated ; and he went no further and no faster in the steps which he took for its destruction, than public sentiment would warrant and sustain him in going. He wished to take no step backward, and therefore was doubly cautious in his advance. His policy secured the final abolition of slavery. It not only decreed that result, but it secured it in such a way, and by such successive steps, each demanded by the special exigency of its own occasion, as commanded the acqniescence of the great body of the slaveholders themselves. The views by which his action was governed are stated with characteristic clearness and force in his letter of April 4, 1864, to Mr. Hodges, of Kentucky, * and they
* Seo Appendit.
must commend themselves to the approval of all candid minds.
Much has been said of Mr. Lincoln's habit of telling stories, and it could scarcely be exaggerated. He had a keen sense of the humorous and the ludicrous, and relished jokes and anecdotes for the amusement they afforded him. But story-telling was with him rather a mode of stating and illustrating facts and opinions, than any thing else. There is a great difference among men in the manner of expressing their thoughts. Some are rigidly exact, and give every thing they say a logical form. Others express themselves in figures, and by illustrations drawn from nature or history. Mr. Lincoln often gave clearness and force to his ideas by pertinent anecdotes and illustrations drawn from daily life. Within a month after his first accession to office, when the South was threatening civil war, and armies of office-seekers were besieging him in the Executive Mansion, he said to the writer of these pages that he wished he could get time to attend to the Southern question ; he thought he knew what was wanted, and believed he could do something towards quieting the rising discontent; but the officeseekers demanded all his time. “I am," said he, “like a man so busy in letting rooms in one end of his house, that he can't stop to put out the fire that is burning the other.” Two or three years later, when the people had made him a candidate for re-election, the same friend spoke to him of a member of his cabinet who was a candidate also. Mr. Lincoln said he did not much concern himself about that. It was very important to him and the country that the department over which his rival presided should be administered with vigor and energy, and whatever would stimulate the Secretary to such action would do good. “R—," said he, “you were brought up on a farm, were you not? Then you know what a chin-fly is. My brother and I," he added, “were once ploughing corn on a Kentucky farm, I driving the horse and he holding plough. The horse was lazy, but on one occasion rushed across the field so that I, with my
long legs, could scarcely keep pace with him. On reaching the end of the furrow, I found an enormous chin-fly fastened upon him, and knocked him off. My brother asked me what I did that for. I told him I didn't want the old horse bitten in that way. Why,' said my brother, 'that's all that made him go.' Now," said Mr. Lincoln, “if Mr. - has a presidential chin-fly biting him, I'm not going to knock him off, if it will only make his department go.” These, which are given as illustrations of very much of his conversation, were certainly pertinent and frank. Oftentimes he would resort to anecdotes to turn the current of conversation from some topic which he did not wish discussed, greatly to the disgust, not unfrequently, of the person who had come to extract information which Mr. Lincoln did not choose to impart. He had a habit, moreover, in canvassing public topics, of eliciting, by questions or remarks of his own, the views and objections of opponents; and, in debate, he never failed to state the positions of his antagonist as fairly, and at least as strongly, as his opponent could state them himself.
An impression is quite common that great men, who make their mark upon the progress of events and the world's history, do it by impressing their own opinions upon nations and communities, in disregard and contempt of their sentiments and prejudices. History does not sustain this view of the case. No man ever moulded the destiny of a nation except by making the sentiment of that nation his ally-by working with it, by shaping his measures and his policy to its successive developments. But little more than a year before the Declaration of Independence was issued, Washington wrote to a friend in England that the idea of separation from Great Britain was not entertained by any considerable number of the inhabitants of the colonies.* If independence had then been proclaimed, it would not have been supported by public sentiment; and its proclamation would have excited hostilities and promoted divisions which might have
* Letter to Captain Mackensie, October 9, 1774.
proved fatal to the cause. Time, the development of events,—the ripening conviction of the necessity of such a measure, were indispensable as preliminary conditions of its success. And one of the greatest elements of Washington's strength was the patient sagacity with which he could watch and wait until these conditions were fulfilled. The position and duty of President Lincoln in regard to slavery were very similar. If he had taken counsel only of his own abstract opinions and sympathies, and had proclaimed emancipation at the outset of the war, or had sanctioned the action of those department commanders who assumed to do it themselves, the first effect would have been to throw all the Border Slave States into the bosom of the slaveholding Confederacy, and add their formidable force to the armies of the rebellion; the next result would have been to arouse the political opposition in the loyal States to fresh activity by giving it a rally. ing-cry; and the third would have been to divide the great body of those who agreed in defending the Union, but who did not then agree in regard to the abolition of slavery. Candid men, who pay more regard to facts than to theory, and who can estimate with fairness the results of public action, will have no difficulty in seeing that the probable result of these combined influences would have been such a strengthening of the forces of the Confederacy, and such a weakening of our own, as might have overwhelmed the Administration, and given the rebellion a final and a fatal victory. By awaiting the development of public sentiment, President Lincoln secured a support absolutely essential to success; and there are few persons now, whatever may be their private opinions on slavery, who will not concede that his measures in regard to that subject were adopted with sagacity, and prosecuted with a patient wisdom which crowned them with final triumph.
In his personal appearance and manners, in the tone and tendency of his mind and in the fibre of his general character, President Lincoln presented more elements of originality than any other man ever connected with the