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from fear of the consequences, though these were appalling enough; not from the weight of responsibility, though that might have staggered the most unyielding determination; but it was sad and solemn, because Abraham Lincoln above and beyond all other men loved peace, and hated war; because sieges, battles, strife, swords, bayoets, rifles, cannon, all the paraphernalia and instruments of brute force, were abhorrent to his enlightened and benevolent nature. Shall we raise the latch, and enter into the secret chamber of that capacious and genial soul when this fell resolve was first reached; when the frightful vision of war, in all its terrors clad, supplants there the hope of conciliation and the dream of peace? I speak what I heard from his own lips, when I say, that it was reached after sleepless nights, after a severe conflict with himself, and with extreme reluctance. By a strange and cruel freak of fate, the duty of waging the bloodiest war in history was imposed upon the most peace-loving and amiable ruler in all time; upon a man whose maxim was, in the language of one of his favorite texts, ' Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth;' and into whose mind had been thoroughly ingrained that traditional notion of our politics, - that the first drop of blood shed in a sectional strife was the death-knell of the American Union.
“Let us enter in where that now disembodied spirit was, in the recesses of its clay tenement, in stormy debate with itself. What throes, what agony, do we witness !-- what lieart-rending sobs, what heaven-piercing prayers, that the cup may pass from his lips! Here was that conservative mind, trained to habits of professional caution, with the strongest bias towards legality and moderation, which had uniformly steered itself by the certain lights of jurisprudence; which had invoked no remedies but the peaceful ones of the courts, the Constitution, and the law; which had never combated error but with reason and persuasion alone, and had abjured the ordeal of battle, and the arbitrament of force, as absolute and heathenish enormities, — here are all these mature, earnest opinions, and prepossessions, all dominant from fifty years of independent sway, wrestling impotently with the war ideas, and the overmastering: war revelation, of yesterday. What an unwelcome intruder the conviction is to the serene virtues, which bad hitherto exclusively occupied this holy sanctuary! Domesticated here are Justice and Mercy (and earthly power is likest God's when Mercy seasons Justice'),-- Justice and Mercy, which hold the balances quite evenly, but the hair's weight which oscillates them uniformly found in Mercy's scale; and how repulsive it is to these righteous and discriminating attributes to let loose upon the people a wild and furious avenger that devours alike innocence and
“Here, too, dwell sensibilities and affections so acute, that they fling wide open the doors of the soul to every one who approaches in misfortuno's name, grant the prayer of sorrow before it is half uttered, and which the inarticulate wail of infancy instantly melts into tears of most compassionate tenderness. How are these sensitive fibres wrung and tortured when it suddenly flashes upon them that the loving hand, which has learned only to soothe and relieve the miserable, is commissioned by inexorable fate to break the fourth seal of the Apocalypse, and, 'behold, a pale horse ! and his name who sat on liim was Death, and Hell followed him; and power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth to kill with the sword and with hunger and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.'
Movelessly, movelessly rooted also in this great heart is a superfine sense of humor, craving hilarity and harmless mirth, and joy-inspiring wit and anecdote, as the only effectual relief to an over-anxious spirit and an overtaxed brain; and how reluctantly does this part of his nature admit to close companionship the gloomy forebodings, the little memories, the dreadful uncertainties, the everlasting shrieks, dirges, vengeful tragedies, and heart-rending atrocities, of war !”
This vivid portrayal of Lincoln's character and feel. ings shows us one of his peculiar trials. He suffered during the struggle which preceded his decision that the war must be prosecuted; and he suffered during its continuance by the constant jarring of the machinery he was seeking to keep in motion. His motives were misunderstood, his character maligned, and his plans often frustrated, by those whose best good he was continually studying
In common with his loyal countrymen, he felt the gloom of those hours of the war when defeat lowered our beauti, ful banner; but he felt it with peculiar force because he was the leader. “How nobly the President bore himself during this interval of darkness that could be felt, when bold men trembled at every click of the telegraph, let two tributes, offered by unfriendly voices to his stoicism, attest: the first is from no less a master of it than Napoleon the Third, who epigrammatically says, Mr. Lincoln's highest claim upon my admiration is a Roman equanimity, which has been tried by both extremes of fortune, and disturbed by neither.' The second is from a hostile Englishman, who says, that,'tried by years of failure, without achieving one great success, he not only never yielded to despondency or anger, but, what is most marvellous, continually grew in self-possession and magnaminity.'
“I once myself ventured to ask the President if he had ever despaired of the country; and he told me, that, when the Peninsular campaign terminated suddenly at Harrison's Landing, he was as nearly inconsolable as he could be, and live. In the same connection, I inquired if there had ever been a period in which he thought that better management upon the part of his commanding-general might have terminated the war: and he answered that there were three; that the first was at Malvern Hill, when McClellan failed to command an immediate advance upon Richmond; that the second was at Chancellorville, where Hooker failed to re-enforce Sedgwick after hearing his cannon upon the extreme right; and that the third was after Lee's retreat from Gettysburg, when Meade failed to attack him in the bend of the Potomac. After this commentary, I waited for an outburst of denunciation, for a criticism, at least, upon the delinquent officers; but I waited in vain: so far from a word of censure escaping his lips, he soon added, that his first remark might not appear uncharitable, 'I do not know that I could have given different orders had I been with them myself: I have not fully made up my mind how I should behave when Minie-balls were whistling, and those great oblong shells shrieking, in my ear. I might run away.'" *
He spoke and acted with the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove whenever practicable. In August, 1862, he said, when, as one of the peculiar trials incident to his position, he stood, as it were, between contending parties, “Gen. McClellan's attitude is such, that, in the very selfishness of his nature, he cannot but wish to be successful, and I hope he will; and the Secretary of War is in precisely the same situation. ... Gen. McClellan has sometimes asked for things which the Secretary of War did not give him. Gen. McClellan is not to blame for asking what he wanted and needed; and the Secretary of War is not to blame for not giving when he had none to give.” Thus he sought to conciliate opposers and fault-finders; but still he must have suffered from the unrest such cavilling induces. He had a similar trial when he removed Gen. Curtis ; and so in March, 1863, he wrote,“ Your despatch is received. It is very painful to me that you, in Missouri, cannot or will not settle your factional quarrel among yourselves. I have been tormented with it beyond endurance, for months, by both sides. Neither side pays the least respect to my appeals to your reason: I am now com pelled to take hold of the case.”
* Col. Deming's Address.
When he issued his immortal proclamation, there were fault-finders to whom he was compelled to reply : “If, now, the pressure of war should call off our forces from New Orleans to defend some other point, what is to prevent the masters from reducing the blacks to slavery again? for I am told, that whenever the rebels take any black prisoners, free or slave, they immediately auction them off (they did so with those they took from a boat in the Tennessee River a few days ago); and then I am very ungenerously attacked for it. For instance: When, after the late battles at and near Bull Run, an expedition went out from Washington, under a flag of truce, to bury the dead and bring in the wounded, and the rebels seized the blacks who went along to help, and sent them into slavery, Horace Greeley said in his paper that the Government would probably do nothing about it.' What could I do?"
It is plain that the President felt keenly the censures of those who misunderstood his motives, and did not agree with his plans.