« AnkstesnisTęsti »
in 1861, but none the wiser, still editor of the greatest newspaper in the country, the "New York Tribune," declared: "Lincoln's renomination means the revival of the fear that the disasters, the burdens, the debts and the hopes deferred will be revived." Theodore Tilton, editor of the "Independent," known far and near as the organ of Henry Ward Beecher, urged:
"The ship of state tosses upon a rough sea; who shall take the helm? A nation tired of war will submit to be duped for the sake of peace. Great statesmen are few in any country, but few as they are we must make diligent search to find one for the next presidency.”
There was no mistaking the language of the prophets of Brooklyn. The "New York Evening Post," one of its managers a son-in-law of William Cullen Bryant, prosecuted under the direction of the honest, if indiscreet, secretary of the navy for gross frauds upon the government, made earnest protest against the hasty and ill advised renomination of so weak a leader as Lincoln. The young and enthusiastic Whitelaw Reid of the "Cincinnati Gazette" prepared the ways for Chase in Ohio and the Middle West and sought to undo the vacillating president, about to "surrender the cause of human freedom to the masters of slave plantations." As one turns to-day the fragile pages of the leading newspapers of that time, the conclusion becomes irresistible that the wise, the rich, and the good were sick and tired of Abraham Lincoln, just then calling for five hundred thousand more young men, young men to be drawn from the homes of farmers and
workers, if not from those of greater folk who furnished substitutes at three or four hundred dollars each.
And this disgust with the president gave easy access to the scores and hundreds of agents of the Treasury Department to talk the cause of Chase and suggest the strange alliance of prosperous Eastern business men, making forty per cent a year, and the political abolitionists of the West. Benjamin F. Wade was as enthusiastic as his own ambition would allow; Winter Davis of Baltimore shouted aloud for the secretary of the treasury; Secretary Stanton gave secret assurance, I think, of his potent aid; Chase clubs sprang up overnight in the cities and towns of the countrythe secretary himself absent more and more from cabinet meetings. On February 20 the hopeful Pomeroy published the secret circular which had been in newspaper offices for some time. The main points of this document were: Lincoln cannot be reëlected; and if he were reëlected, he would ruin the country with his flagrant corruptions and his weak compromises with the slaveholders. This was not the language of a narrow-minded party boss. It came from the head of the Treasury, a man who had long been known as one of the great leaders of the country. Lincoln must bestir himself, the sluggish Lincoln.
He was not unready, nor without clever supporters. William H. Seward, older and wiser, abandoning forever the ambition of a tortuous career, was already laying wires all over New York; and Thurlow Weed, partner in many a midnight contrivance, was ready for a new assignment, that same Thurlow Weed who
had denied Henry Clay the presidency twenty-four years before, his hands now as ever upon the Whig business men of New York. The wiry Seward and the easy-spoken Weed made a pair it were well to have on one's side. Nor was the young pushing Henry J. Raymond, editor of the "New York Times," without influence. But outside the realm of party organization, there was Samuel Bowles, a man of clear vision and honest purposes, editor and maker of the "Springfield Republican," supporting Lincoln against Sumner, and boldly declaring that the Louisiana plan meant gradual and reasonable abolition of slavery. Interesting protagonists, these. A more interesting group was the race of Blairs, now almost unknown to history: "Old Frank Blair," who had laid many an intrigue for Andrew Jackson, living now in a great mansion there at Silver Spring, Maryland, a tall Kentuckian, oracular, unscrupulous, accomplished, slipping in and out of the White House at all hours of the day or night, ardent champion of the backwoods lawyer from Illinois, and not without reason: his son, Montgomery Blair, the postmaster-general in Lincoln's cabinet, a tall angular man of broad forehead and narrow shoulders, tight-drawn mouth and solemn visage, a fire-eater of 1861, chiding Lincoln for dickering at all with the rebels at Charleston, a deadly enemy of Winter Davis, the other boss of Maryland, ready to make hasty work of Chase, his colleague, and all other opponents of the president. Two interesting Blairs. There was another, Frank Blair, the younger, who had "saved Missouri" to the Union in 1861, a West-Pointer, a general in
the Army of Tennessee and a member of Congress from St. Louis at the same time, choosing to sit in the House that stormy winter, his commission wisely deposited in a secret drawer in the White House. All the Blairs, owners of slaves, organizers of Lincoln support in Maryland, in Kentucky and Missouri, gradual emancipationists, heirs of the Jackson tradition, were enlisted in the war for Lincoln-Chase and Davis, Stanton and Stevens, making grimaces the while. But there was yet another member of the family, Gustavus Vasa Fox, son-in-law of the great house at Silver Spring, assistant secretary of the navy, a Massachusetts man, trained at Annapolis, tied up, as became men of that great State, with mills and industry, and not without money in his purse, giving orders to the bearded, wise-looking secretary of the navy, his diary slipped into a drawer as you entered the big room; he was not less a Lincoln man than the strenuous general in the House of Representatives. And Lincoln himself held leaders such as Joseph Medill of the "Chicago Tribune" firmly to his interest and drew into the camp the marvelous preacher-orator, Robert J. Breckenridge, one son in the Confederate army, another in the Union army, and a nephew in command of rebel regiments in the Valley of Virginia, as much a master of the shorter and longer catechisms as Wade himself. It was not a weak combination, barring the absence of the abolitionists-the masses of inarticulate people coming more and more to have faith in the harassed president.
The opening gun of the adminis
tration was an article from James Russell Lowell, author of "The Biglow Papers," "the apostle of culture," says James Ford Rhodes of the ponderous history, "speaking from the groves of the academy":
"The backwoods lawyer has employed the material of the rebellion for its own destruction. The chances of war are now greatly in our favor. The nation is united against any shameful peace. Mr. Lincoln has Mr. Lincoln has been wise to leave the shaping of policy to events. The drift of public sentiment is too strong to be mistaken."
It was encouraging to have so wise a man of the East say in the "North American Review" more than you would say yourself. Lincoln read the pronouncement twice, wondering whether he could be as great a statesman as was there portrayed, though history has confirmed the poet in what was then a mere guess. It was time for more active moves. Senator Edwin D. Morgan of New York, a great merchant who was able a little later to give away a million dollars, called the Republican National Committee to meet on Washington's birthday in Washington, Gideon Welles of the cabinet sitting with them. They read the Pomeroy circular, just then under discussion in the press, but said nothing fit to print; they resolved themselves into the National Union Republican Committee and called the next Republican National Convention to meet in Baltimore as the National Union Republican Convention on June 7, a month later in the year than the convention which first nominated Lincoln had assembled. But the Chase_men cried out "premature,"
and Winter Davis hurried over to Baltimore and engaged the only available hall for the week of June 7 and put the keys in his pocket. Nearly all the Republicans in Congress were still for Chase, and all the papers in New York but two were opposed to Lincoln, if not in favor of Chase; but on the fifth of March the Union Republican caucus of the Ohio legislature met and declined to indorse Chase, the "favorite son." Lincoln had won on two counts: the National Committee favored his renomination, and the Union Republican party of the greatest Western State seconded the National Committee, though Lincoln's own State was long in serious doubt. Chase withdrew from the canvass, though he by no means ceased to fight what he called the "sly Illinoisian."
Lincoln was hardly content with the outlook, the great States of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts hostile to him. The spring was opening and military successes in order, successes which few expected. There must be a majority in Baltimore, even if Davis did not let them have the convention hall; and he unfolded his plan. Michael Hahn of Louisiana must hasten the organization of the new Louisiana, not forgetting the delegates to Baltimore; John Hay slipped off to Florida to make a State out of two counties, held by the army, and lead its delegation to the Union Republican Convention; John Steele of Arkansas was to superintend similar work in Arkansas; and Parson Brownlow of eastern Tennessee, who needed no prodding, would bring up the delegates from that bewildered commu
nity. In western Virginia the president's agents were teaching former slaveholders the rubrics of new and unaccustomed rôles. If New Englanders and Horace Greeley, Salmon P. Chase and the irreconcilables in the Senate and House would insist upon a bitter fight, Lincoln would present them with delegations from the border States and enthusiastic supporters from the "ten per cent" communities of the South, not to mention Robert J. Breckenridge and Parson Brownlow.
Although Chase withdrew early in April, the course of events in Congress ran steadily against the president, and Lincoln's friends endeavored to reply. Frank Blair was set up or set himself up to speak for the administration. On February 27 he gave distinct warning what he might say; but on April 23 he rose again, his general's commission still in Lincoln's possession, epaulets upon his manly shoulders, the proud father safe, I think, in the galleries, and began the most sensational speech that had been made in Congress since Charles Sumner indicted a whole people in "The Barbarism of Slavery." The secretary of the treasury was the butt of the driving if not ferocious attack: Chase had squandered the hard-earned money of the people to advance his precious candidacy; he had sent out hundreds of clever cotton traders with Treasury permits to finance the Pomeroy business; then Blair read a letter from a great New York banker which declared that Chase had given his son-in-law, Senator Sprague, a permit to buy cotton enough to make him two million dollars; and that the secretary even maintained
corrupt gangs of radicals in Missouri and Maryland to break down the power of the chief who had made him. Any gentleman would resign his place in the cabinet when he thus set out to attack his chief. The House was in an uproar; senators, learning of the attack, were indignant; and the newspapers outside at once made a sensation-it was Abraham Lincoln reduced to the necessity of fighting, fighting through a Blair-Seward, Welles, and Bates rejoicing.
Had Lincoln read the speech? Did he direct such an onslaught by members of the House against a member of his cabinet? All the world asked these questions. The president was embarrassed, his general having overshot the mark; but some of the charges of corruption leveled by Chase's agents against the administration were answered. The leaders of the House called for an immediate investigation. ate investigation. Lincoln returned Blair his commission, raised him to the command of the Seventeenth Army Corps, hastened him off to Sherman, and seemed not a little pleased at the anger and demoralization of all his enemies in both houses, Chase and Stanton keeping discreetly away from cabinet sessions. There were no satisfactory answers to Blair's attack, James A. Garfield, prospective successor to the wrathful Joshua Giddings, writing sorrowfully again: "Lincoln will be nominated and a copperhead will be elected. Not a dozen men in Congress think otherwise." Nor was the prophecy wide the mark as things then stood.
The call of the battle-field pressed by day and by night. Lee and his
praying ironsides waited there on the half-barren ridges south of the Wilderness; Joseph E. Johnson of the bald head and snuff-brown face, fifty-four thousand veterans about him, there on the hills of northern Georgia, waiting for the onset of Sherman and his hardened farmers. The gentle Lincoln, dreading the inevitable slaughter, permitted the elder Blair to slip off to Richmond and say to Jefferson Davis, "If you will let me write a reunited country into any agreement, you may write the rest.' Davis, hardening his heart after the manner of the Pharaohs, declared there could never be a return to the Union. And Lincoln had to continue his vast preparations for the struggle, looking the while for a general to take the place of doubting Meade. The Blairs, always clever, suggested McClellan and opened correspondence with "copperheads" to that end. The young Napoleon, more popular every day than the preceding, could hardly promise what Blair asked; that is, not to think of running for the presidency against Lincoln. That was all McClellan thought of day or night that winter. Had not Stanton delayed and delayed the official report of military operations in 1861 and 1862 in the hope of weakening the general's candidacy, a report which declared to the world:
"This war should not look to subjugate states; it should not be a war upon the southern population; there should be no confiscations of property, no political executions, no forcible abolition of slavery.'
Had not Lincoln done all these things? The report came out early in the winter, ten thousand copies
printed for the special benefit of members of Congress. The "New York Herald," the cleverest of all the papers at that time, thought it contained weighty matter and wise policy. Horace Greeley, opponent of Lincoln that he was, said, "General McClellan is the Pro-slavery candidate and he will prove more formidable in the canvass than in the field." McClellan was indeed the candidate, and none had done more to give him a following than Lincoln himself, when at the behest of Stanton he had dismissed him from the command of the Army of the Potomac, the day after the last national election. On March 18 there was a "monster" mass-meeting in Cooper Institute, New York; the aged Amos Kendall, of the Jackson kitchen cabinet, presided and talked of the great general of the day and of the greater general of old time who was of the same mind. It was clear that the young Napoleon could not be made the commander to try fortunes once more with Lee. But who was to be chosen to the unenviable task?
General W. S. Rosecrans of Ohio, who had been approached by Horace Greeley to become a candidate against Lincoln, had ruined himself at Chattanooga; General George H. Thomas, the hero of Chickamauga, was a Virginian; and William Tecumseh Sherman, brother of the suave cautious senator from Ohio, of sharp and profane speech, was "crazy.” There was no other than the little Ulysses S. Grant, disliked of Halleck and feared by Stanton, a WestPointer too, and a commander with a record for slaughtering his men. was a strange fate that made the son of a hard-boiled Democrat, tanner