Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

was doubtless well that we had some reverses, or we should have been too confident, and less careful about purging the nation from its gross iniquity. Slowly the wheels of time rolled on; and as slowly, but as surely also, travelled the President in his ideas of what was his duty and that of the nation. Some thought him an “old fogy;" some were ready to label him as a fossil, and put him on the shelf. One sneeringly said he was “not to be blamed for incapacity ;” but, unmoved by slights or frowns or jeers, the man of the people sought to benefit the people, and do the work that God had given him to do. Mistakes he might make, for he was human; but none that were irretrievable. Mordecai asked Esther, “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?And the same might have been asked of our late President, sure that the answer would indicate a willingness to 6 spend and be spent” in the discharge of duty.

CHAPTER VI.

THE COURSE PURSUED.

“ Stand by the flag, all doubt and treason scorning:

Believe, with courage firm and faith sublime,
That it will float until the Eternal Morning

Pales with its glories all the lights of Time."

“ The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek: he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." -ISA. Ixi. 1.

The years went on. Once more our nation knew by bitter personal experience the meaning of the phrase, "Times that tried men's souls." President Lincoln marched abreast of the times, perhaps, not infrequently, cautious about being far in advance.

This volume is not intended to be a history of the war, or even a record of all the acts of the President in regard to the war; for then it must exceed the designed limits : but it may give brief hints of the course pursued; not a panorama of the whole path, but stereo scopic views, it may be, here and there.

It was no easy thing to conduct the civil war which was inaugurated in 1861 to its triumphal close in 1865. But God was alike with the nation which was in the caldron, and the man who, in one sense, bore the bur. den of that nation's woes.

As Bancroft, our great historian, has said, after refer. ring to the uprising of the loyal North, “In some respects Abraham Lincoln was peculiarly fitted for his task, in connection with the movement of his countrymen. He was of the North-west; and this time it was the Mississippi River, the needed outlet for the wealth of the North-west, that did its part in asserting the necessity of the Union. He was one of the mass of the people; he represented them because he was of them; and the mass of the people, the class that lives and thrives by self-imposed labor, felt that the work which was to be done was a work of their own, the assertion of equality against the pride of oligarchy; of free labor against the lordship over slaves; of the great industrial people against all the expiring aristocracies of which any remnants had tided down from the middle ages. He was of a religious turn of mind, without superstition; and the unbroken faith of the mass was like his own. As he went along through his difficult journey, sounding his way, he held fast by the hand of the people, and "tracked his footsteps with even feet.' His pulse's beat twined with their pulses.' "*

The war was, as we have said, a necessity, which the President accepted because he could not do otherwise. It was “ majestic, resistless, as when God flings out the banner of the storm, and bids it move. It swept on. No man guided it, no man could foretell its duration or its issues. So tumultuous and perplexed were the movements, that the avowed and wise policy of the President was to have no policy, but simply an end sought as wisdom might be given moment by moment. It came to this, that all that men knew was that there was nothing to do but to fight on. And they did fight. And oh the agony of those days! We waited for light, but, behold, obscurity; for brightness, but we walked in darkDess. We cried out, 0 thou sword of the Lord ! how long will it be ere thou be quiet ? Put thyself up into thy scabbard; rest, and be still. But the voice came, 'How can it be quiet, seeing the Lord hath given it a charge?' And what that charge was, those who watched began, after a time, to discover. It was first to lift the negro up into manhood by bringing him into line with the white man in fighting the battles of freedom. We all know how this was resisted and scoffed at. It could not be. But the pressure did not lift; it waxed heavier and heavier; and it was done. The negro fought and was welcomed. A second charge was to make the Proclamation of Emancipation, ridiculed as the Pope's bull against the comet, to make that as the breath of the Almighty to sweep away slavery. That was done. Again the charge was to bring the South, the chivalry, to recognize by public act the manhood of the negro by making him a soldier, and by confessing the dependence of their cause upon him. This was all : it was enough. When this was done, the war ceased.” *

*" Atlantic Monthly," June, 1865.

The course pursued by the President was just such as to secure the results above mentioned. He was emphatically the “right man in the right place.” Gov. Andrew has so well described the man and his course in regard to the affairs of the nation, that no other words seem needed. He says of the President, “He had the rare gift of discerning and setting aside whatever is extraneous and accidental, and of simplifying an inquiry or an argument by just discriminations. The purpose of his mind waited for the instruction of his deliberate judgment; and he was never ashamed to hesitate until he was sure it was intelligently formed. Not greatly gifted in what is called the intuition of reason, he was, nevertheless, of so honest an intellect, that, by the processes of methodical reasoning, he was often led so directly to his result, that he occasionally seemed to rise into that peculiar sphere which we assign to those who by original constitution are natural leaders among men. Not by nature a leader, neither was he by nature a follower; and by force of his rare union and balance of certain qualities, both intellectual and moral, he was enabled to rise to the dignity of master of his own position in a place exacting and difficult almost beyond the precedents of history. Educated wholly as a civilian, his fame will be forever associated with his administration of public affairs in a civil war, unexampled in its proportions, and conducted on his own side with such success as to command his own re-election by the free will of a free people.... Possessed of a will of unusual firmness and tenacity, his heart was placable, humane, and tender. He exerted powers the most extensive and various, stretching into that undefined and dangerous region of administrative jurisprudence, where the rights and duties of military commander-in-chief limit and merge into themselves the functions of the civil magis. trate, and even of the judicial tribunal. And yet, if we should concede to his enemies all that disappointed animosity and defeated disloyalty have been able to allege against him, we should still be able to challenge all human history to produce the name of a ruler more just, unselfish, or unresentful. Cheerful, patient, and without egotism, he regarded and treated himself as the servant of the people, using his powers only for their cause; using no more than the cause seemed clearly to demand, and using them alike without passion and without perturbation.

* Rev. Mark Hopkins, D.D., President of Williams College, in a sermon on “Providence and Revelation," before the graduating class of 1865.

“ It were premature for us to assert how, or how far,

« AnteriorContinuar »