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It is unnecessary in a mere review article to follow President Lincoln step by step throughout his presidential career. Suffice it to notice the prominent acts of his administration. They are the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Restoration of the Union. Perhaps three greater acts never marked the administration of any national ruler. The administration of the previous fifteen presidents of the United States put together is not equal in grand results. America had had but one great president before Abraham Lincoln, the great George Washington; but of Washington and Lincoln, the latter is the greater. Washington is the Father of the Independence of the nation. Lincoln is its Regenerator and Saviour.
The civil war, as we have shown, was forced upon the Government of Mr. Lincoln. “War was not only proclaimed-insisted upon by the South, but actually commenced by the bombardment of Fort Sumpter; the sword was not only drawn menacingly, but its bright blade was crimson with fratricidal blood. What was left for the North? Simply what followed-war; war for the laws, for the constitution, for the preservation of the nation; war for honour and peace. The country had calmly borne everything up to this time, but now the cup was full to overflowing; the fratricidal hand was red with a brother's blood, and the North, springing to arms as one man, accepted the dread alternative of war which had thus been thrust upon them.” And for four long years that war continued, slaying it is estimated over one million lives, costing the North about 2,800,000,000 dollars, impoverishing the South, and occasioning untold suffering and distress to millions of the population. The period was unusually trying; but the cheerfulness, courage, and trust of President Lincoln never for onemoment deserted him. Sometimes his mental anxiety almost amounted to agony; he would pace his room in great suffering, receive accounts of reverses of the army with feverish emotion, and confessed, it is said, that whatever might be the result of the conflict, he should not long survive it. "Whichever way it ends,” he said to Harriet Beecher
“ Stowe, “ I have the impression that I shan't last long after it is over.” After the dreadful repulse of Fredericksburg, he is reported to have said, “If there is a man out of perdition that suffers more than I do, I pity him.”
During the year 1862 the Executive found it expedient, for the purpose of suppressing the rebellion, to resort to an exercise of his military powers as President, and hence issued, on the 22nd day of September, the celebrated Emancipation Proclamation.
That document proposed the freedom of the four million slaves in the American nation, on the 1st day of January then next, subject to certain compensation to loyal states. Noble act! Noble actor! The proclamation was received with satisfaction in almost all loyal
sections of the country, and a note of outside approval was blown from England- the liberal press complimenting the recommendation of the President as a fair and magnanimous policy. Doubtless the act greatly strengthened the hands of the President, and dealt a death blow to the Southern cause.
The year 1864 saw the re-election of Mr. Lincoln as President, on the broad platform of “ The Prohibition of Slavery." Southerners had expected with anxiety the close of Mr. Lincoln's term. The hope that the usual party excitements attending the presidential election would effect fatal disunion among their enemies, had helped to buoy them through the terrible hardships and preternatural exertions of the last year of the war; with this
: hope vanished, they beheld before them the long dreary perspective of another four years' desperate struggle. It is impossible not to suppose that the deep despondency flowing from this discouraging and hopeless prospect had much to do with hastening the catastrophe.” The last of the long series of battles was one of the most destructive. About 10,000 men were killed and wounded, the greater number being Southerners. In one week afterwards, on the 9th April, 1865, General Robert Lee made an unconditional surrender of his sole remaining army to the acting Commander-inchief of the forces, General U. Grant. This surrender virtually and actually ended the civil war in America.
The news deeply affected President Lincoln and his cabinet. At the earliest possible moment Mr. Lincoln called a cabinet meeting. It was an affecting meeting. At first neither president nor any member of the cabinet could speak; and it is pleasing to relate that the first act of the meeting was to fall upon their knees in silent devotion to the Great Ruler who had “sent peace.” Secretary Stainton says of the President, at that meeting, “He was more cheerful and happy than I had ever seen him; rejoiced at the near prospect of firm and durable peace at home and abroad; manifested, in a marked degree, the kindness and humanity of his disposition, and the tender and forgiving spirit that so eminently distinguished him."
It is impossible not to see, from the history of Mr. Lincoln's presidency, that the quality of his administration was its conserva
progress. He felt his way gradually to his conclusions; and those who will compare the different stages of his career, one with another, will find that his mind was growing throughout the course of it. The gradual change of his language and of his policy was most remarkable; but not less esteemed by men of intelligent progress. Men learn to respect a man who shows the best characteristics of their race in the respect for what is good in the past, acting in unison with a recognition of what is made necessary by the events of passing history. But the growth of Mr. Lincoln's
mind was subject to a singular modification. It would seem that
a he felt himself, at the latter part of his administration, a mere instrument engaged in working out a great cause, which he could partly recognise, but which he was powerless to control. And doubtless Abrabam Lincoln was an agent in the hands of God, to free the slaves of America and to preserve the Union.
The military administration of 1862, the famous period which has since been termed“the battle season,” having been the subject of much correspondence between President Lincoln and General McClellan, a correspondence constituting an entire chapter of Raymond's life of the President, it may be proper to notice it. The gist of the correspondence is “ the conduct of the war.” The General blames the Executive, and the Executive blames the General. The President is not to blame: and, unless we are greatly mistaken, posterity will not blame him, if history recognises the facts as presented in this correspondence. The only thing for which we blame President Lincoln is, the appointment of the General to a post for which he was certainly incapable. It gives us no pleasure to write thus, but fidelity to truth, and justice to character, demand the statement. General McClellan possessed neither military genius, activity, nor courage equal to the command given him. His successes in Western Virginia, as the commander of a department, had made him popular, and no doubt had raised the expectation and gained the favourable opinion of the Executive; but the Executive should have known that between the command of a department and the command of an army of 50,000, afterwards increased to 150,000, there is a wide difference, and the successful subordinate is not necessarily the successful chief. Report stated that he was a second Napoleon, but there was nothing in him resembling the great Frenchman, save his youthfulness and popularity with the army. On his assumption of command he mistook his position, and acted more like a statesman than a soldier. be credited that he spent his time in writing elaborate letters of advice to the Government and General Scott, on the general conduct of the war and the method most proper to be pur. sued for the suppression of the rebellion. He seemed to forget that his duty was to wield the sword, and not the pen. However, he soon found what was his true vocation, and that instead of letter writing he had to attend to the preparation of his army for the immediate resumption of hostilities. His popularity and promotion apparently flushed his ambition and made him saucy. That he should be excited at such elevation for a time is but natural, but that the passion or ebullition should become the principle of the whole period of his command is most ridiculous; it is really distressing to witness its petty displays and its disastrous effects. If we may be allowed the inelegant figure, General McClellan was
the naughty school-boy, who, if he could not be first in the game, would not play at all; or, to change the figure, like the saucy dog who could not eat the hay himself, and would not suffer the ox to do so. The President and Secretary of War urge the division of the army into corps d'armée, for the purpose of more effective service; McClellan discourages and thwarts their endeavours, mainly on the ground that there are not officers enough of tried ability in the army to be entrusted with such high commands as the division would create. But his ambition is seen most glaringly in his neglect to reinforce Pope's army in its defence of Washington, because he had been relieved the command of that force; in his petty complaints to the Government that General M’Dowall was not more completely under his command; and in his headship of a political party. It would not be an irrelevant question to ask, Did General McClellan aim at dictatorship? It certainly cannot be said that he supported the President in his military administration, and it is matter of surprise that he was so long entrusted with command. What were the results of his fifteen months' command ? There were the repulses of Bull's Bluff and Seven Pines, not to say anything of the crushing defeat of Pope's army through the inactivity of McClellan in sending reinforcements. There were the engagements near Yorktown with the retreating rebel army, with some success; at Hanover Court House by General Porter, called by McClellan “a complete rout," which Mr. Lincoln is “puzzled” to see as such ; at South Mountain, repelling the rebels; at Anti
l etam, defeating the enemy. We have not mentioned the pretended pursuit of the rebels who evacuated Yorktown, and of the many intimations of the General that the decisive battle would be fought at this time and that, but which was never attempted. Speaking summarily, General McClellan, during the period of his command, regained no ground but what the enemy evacuated; fought not one field battle; defended not the capital; made not a single aggressive movement on the rebels. It is impossible to contemplate another fifteen months' command so thoroughly useless to the cause it was designed to promote. Such incapacity is most deplorable. The protraction of the civil war was doubtless in part owing to this; the period of the General's command being a period of stagnation (not to say more) to the Northern cause.
Mr. Lincoln was a man of an eminently genial nature. He seemed 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 men of harder, though perhaps higher, nature would have sunk and failed. Many persons have formed their opinion of President Lincoln by the illustrious stories of wbich his memory and his tongue were so
prolific, using them to point a moral, or to soften discontent at his decisions. But this was the sparkle and ripple of the surface, or the mere badinage which relieved him for the moment from the heavy weight of public duties and responsibilities under which he often wearied. A member of Congress called upon him during the dark days of 1862; it was early one morning, just after news of a disaster; Mr. Lincoln commenced telling some trifling incident, which the congressman was in no mood to hear. He rose to his feet and said, “ Mr. President, I did not come here this morning to hear stories, it is too serious a time.” Instantly the smile disappeared from Mr. Lincoln's face, who exclaimed, “A-sit down! I respect you as an earnest, sincere man. You cannot be more anxious than I am constantly, and I say to you, that were it not for this occasional vent I should die!”
And not more genial was his nature than sympathetic. His sympathy found expression in worthy and noble deeds. Carpenter, in his reminiscences, records many of its expressions. Our space permits our giving only one or two. Here is a characteristic touch of humour as well as pathos. The incident is strictly true. "A distinguished citizen of Ohio had an appointment with the President one evening at six o'clock. As he entered the vestibule of the White House his attention was attracted by a poorly-clad young woman, who was violently sobbing. He asked her the cause of her distress. She stated she had been ordered away by the servants, after vainly waiting many hours to see the President about her only brother, who had been condemned to death for desertion from the army. The poor girl had obtained the signature of some persons who had formerly known him, to a petition for pardon, and alone had come to Washington to lay the case before the President. The gentleman's feelings were touched. He said to her that he had come to see the President, but did not know as he should succeed. He told her, however, to follow him up stairs, and he would see what could be done for her. The gentleman made the young woman accompany him into the office, and when they were seated said to her, "Now, my
Now, my good girl, I want you to muster all the courage you have in the world. When the President comes in he will sit down in that arm-chair. I shall get up to speak to him, and as I do so you must force yourself between us, and insist upon his examination of your papers, telling him it is a case of life and death and admits of no delay. These instructions were carried out to the letter. Mr. Lincoln was at first somewhat surprised at the apparent forwardness of the young woman, but observing her distressed appearance he ceased conversation with his friend, and commenced an examination of the document she had placed in his hands. Glancing from it to the face of the petitioner, whose tears had broken forth afresh, he studied its expression for a moment,