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“I am for peace; but, when I speak, they are for war."
Ps, cxx. 7.
THE “Quaker drop" showed itself in the inaugural address of the new President. The blood of a pious and peaceful ancestry coursed along the veins of him whom God had called to be the head of a great nation in its most troublous times: with a prescience belonging to that inheritance, he saw the gathering cloud, and heard the thunders of war. Yet he would fain stay the glittering bolt of destiny, and, if possible, forbid the clashing of contending steel. Hence the deprecatory tone of his first inaugural; the evident desire for peace, that shone, like the golden symbol of the descending Spirit, in the illuminated missals of other days. But it was unavailing. The soft utterances of peace were drowned in the noisy clamors of war; and the closing paragraph of that inaug. ural address was, even more than its author knew, the very voice of prophecy. Only a few short months, and "the mystic cords of memory" did stretch from many a " battle-field and patriot grave" to living hearts and hearth-stones all over our broad land; and at the close of the mighty conflict, from his own grave — the grave of a martyr — was to come a voice pleading with humanity for liberty and righteousness. But we will not anticipate.
Mr. Lincoln's first act was to choose a Cabinet. This he did with his usual discrimination; and though the lapse of time and changing course of events led to changes in the Cabinet, yet none are willing to impeach the wisdom which selected the first set of Cabinet-officers. For the important position of Secretary of State, William H. Seward of New York was selected; Salmon P. Chase of Ohio was placed in charge of the Treasury Department; Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania became Secretary of War; Gideon Welles of Connecticut, Secretary of the Na. vy; Caleb B. Smith of Indiana, Secretary of the Interior; Montgomery Blair of Maryland was appointed Postmaster-General; and Edward Bates of Missouri, Attorney-General.
As every reader of to-day knows, the Southern States manifested a rebellious spirit long before Lincoln filled the chair of Washington. Had the imbecile Buchanan but possessed the old Roman spirit of one of his predecessors, he would have shown that he had a “backbone,” and taken a Jacksonian share of the “responsibility " in using measures that would have crushed the viper in
egg. But the pusillanimous policy adopted just suited the "let-me-alone" theory of the Southern secessionists; and so the infamous Floyd could steal our arms, and the double-dyed traitor, Robert E. Lee, could linger in our ranks till he had possessed himself of Gen. Scott's plans, and then desert to the enemy, thenceforth to use his knowledge in an effort to overthrow the best Government the world ever saw, and place a man, who dis
graced the name of a former President of our Republic, on a throne, the corner-stone of whose tottering pedestal was human slavery. And thus Buchanan made the way rough and hard for Lincoln. But the hour and the man were ready for each other. The President went calmly forward. “Coming to the presidency pre-occupied by the traditional theories and opinions of the political school in which he was educated, he devoted himself with a purpose single and exclusive to the practical interpretation of events, to the study of those lessons taught by the experience through which the country was called to pass; and learning, in common with a majority of his countrymen, in the strifes and agonies of the Rebellion, by the lurid glare of the fires of treason and of civil war, how to accommodate opinion to the altered relations of States, interests, and sections of the people, he marched, side by side with the advancing hosts of the best and most discerning, in the direction where Divine Providence pointed the way." *
Yet he could not conscientiously counsel war at first. His inaugural was an olive-branch vainly held out to hands that would not receive it. Then came a pause after its utterance. It was the lull before the storm; the portentous calm that precedes the burst of the tornado. “ Since the close of the Revolutionary struggle, no man had seen in the free States any other banner floating over a regiment of our people than the stars and stripes: though the waves of party-spirit had often run mountain-high, and we had seemed just on the brink of disruption and civil war, yet the dreaded collision had always been somehow averted, and the moment of fiercest excitement, of wildest alienation, had often been the im
* Gov. Andrew's Address.
mediate precursor of a halcyon era of reconciliation, peace, and fraternal harmony. It was not easy for Northern men, especially those who never visited and sojourned at the South, to comprehend and realize the wide prevalence and intensity of anti-national sentiment and feeling in those localities whose social order, industry and business, were entirely based on slavery. Neither envy. ing nor hating the Southerners while lamenting their delusions and restricting their exactions, it was hard indeed for many, if not most, of the citizens of the free States to realize that we stood on the brink of a volcano whose rumbling precluded an eruption of blood as well as ashes." * But the country seemed unprepared for war in every
Jefferson Davis and Jolin B. Floyd had directed the War Department for eight years with an eye to Southern supremacy. Most of our little army had been ordered to Texas, where it was placed under command of the rebel general Twiggs, who soon betrayed it into the hands of his fellow-traitors. Floyd had acted the part of a thief in transferring arms and ammunition from Northern to Southern arsenals; and the larger and better portion of our little navy had been scattered over distant seas. Now, the South desired to gain entire possession of the forts along her shores, and thus obtain means to defy the North when it would collect the revenue that it should receive from vessels entering South. ern ports. This, President Lincoln could not allow.
Yet he was slow to declare war. He could not, until it seemed unavoidable, imbrue his hands in a brother's blood. Hear his own words in reference to the Mexican War, spoken while a member of Congress : “Now, sir,
Greeley's " History of the American Conflict,” p. 429.
for the purpose of obtaining the very best evidence as to whether Texas had actually carried her revolution to the place where the hostilities of the present war com menced, let the President answer the interrogations I proposed. Let him answer fully, fairly, and candidly. Let him answer with facts, not with arguments. Let him remember he sits where Washington sat; and, so remember. ing, let him answer as Washington would answer. nation should not, and the Almighty will not, be evaded, so let him attempt no evasion, no equivocation. ... But if he cannot or will not do this; if, on any pretence or no pretence, he shall refuse or omit it, then I shall be fully convinced of what I more than suspect already, that he is deeply conscious of being in the wrong; that he feels the blood of this war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to heaven against him; that he ordered Gen. Taylor into the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement purposely to bring on a war; ... and, trusting to escape scrutiny by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory,-- that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood, that serpent's eye that charms to destroy, — he plunged into it, and has swept on and on, till, disappointed in his calculation of the ease with which Mexico might be subdued, he now finds himself he knows not where." *
Now Lincoln himself sat where the great man he venerated once sat; and he felt that it became him to think calmly and soberly, and to act only after the severest scrutiny and profoundest deliberation, and, above all, not till the leadings of Divine Providence had shown him the path of duty. He had no wish to emulate Napoleon or Alexander; r.o desire to be a second Cain. Not a gleam
* " President's Words," p. 20.