« ZurückWeiter »
possible junctures with consummate skill and tact, and, the result will probably show, with as few mistakes as any man would have been likely to make under similar circumstances. His ignorance or rejection of mere technicalities may, in some instances, have blinded superficial observers to the statesmanlike qualities of his mind. He was one of those to whom it was given to show the courts of Europe that the difference between the administrators of the old and new world is in the polish rather than in the temper of the blade. He laid no claim to the rhetorician's laurels, yet his public documents were strongly, clearly and vigorously written. His state papers were eminently popular documents. The discussions of political issues introduced into them were set forth ofttimes with familiar illustrations, which, while they might provoke a smile from the sticklers for official stateliness, imparted to them a wonderful freshness, and tended to root their principles deep in the popular mind. No President has ever surpassed him, if any
has equaled him, in clearly defining his policy to the masses His strong, practical common sense was the basis of his intellectual character In his political discussions he had a rare faculty of detecting and
exposing sophistry. He seized intuitively upon the vital point of every question, clearly stated the real issue, ranged all subordinate facts round this, and summarily discarded everything which had no relation to it. This faculty proved especially valuable in the class of questions with which his administration so largely dealt. His strong sense saved the Constitution from its greatest danger, the danger of tying its own hands; and this was what enabled him to cut the Gordian knot where some men would have found themselves embarrassed by a mere technicality or formula.
A recent article from the London Spectator so forcibly illustrates these views that I may be pardoned for quoting an extract :
“But without the advantages of Washington's education or training, Mr Lincoln was called from a humble station at the opening of a mighty civil war to form a government out of a party in which the habits and traditions of official life did not exist. Finding himself the object of Southern abuse so fierce and so foul that in any man less passionless it would long ago have stirred up an implacable animosity; mocked at for his official awkwardness and denounced for his stead.
fast policy by all the Democratic section of the loyal States; tried by years of failure before that policy achieved a single great success; further tried by a series of successes so rapid and brilliant that they would have puffed up a smaller mind and overset its balance; embarrassed by the boastfulness of his people and of his subordinates no less than by his own inexperience in his relations with foreign States; beset by fanatics of principle on one side, who would pay no attention to his obligations as a constitutional ruler, and by fanatics of caste on the other, who were not only deaf to the claims of justice but would hear of no policy large enough for a revolutionary emergency, Mr. Lincoln has persevered through all without ever giving way to anger, or despondency, or exultation, or popular arrogance, or sectarian fanaticism, or caste prejudice, visibly growing in force of character, in self-possession, and in magnanimity, till, in his last short Message to Congress on the 4th of March, we can detect no longer the rude and illiterate mould of a village lawyer's thought, but find it replaced by a grasp of principle, a dignity of manner, and a solemnity of purpose which would have been unworthy neither of Hampden nor of Cromwell, while his
gentleness and generosity of feeling towards his foes are almost greater than we should expect from either of them.”
At once the representative fact of his administration, and that which distinguished it above any other in our history, is its relations to the great question of human bondage. In this respect his administration forms an era in the history of the race. The status of the question at the time of his inauguration, and for a long time after, was peculiar and difficult. The moral and political aspects of the contest were brought into apparent antagonism; and the foreign emissaries of secession had no dearer object than to prove
this antagonism real, and thus alienate from us the sympathy of Europe. Europe, knowing slavery to lie at the root of our trouble, expected us to strike at once at slavery. We, knowing the fact equally well, could, at the time, strike only at treason. We could deal only with the immediate developinent, not with the ultimate cause. The provisions of the Constitution, the divided sentiment of the North, the hesitating attitude of the border States, the general ignorance of the extent and maturity of the conspiracy, made it a matter of the utmost difficulty and delicacy. The Pre
sident clearly appreciated the source of the difficulty, and, as the result showed, had its removal as deeply at heart as any man. Hence, at Philadelphia, prior to his inauguration, he remarked: “I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this confederacy so long together. It was something in the Declaration of Independence, giving liberty not only to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all coming time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. If this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated upon the spot than surrender it.” I need not follow the great question through the history of its solution. The world will bear testimony to the cautious, far-seeing wisdom with which he dealt with it. History will do justice to the man who could make impulse, however high and generous, stand back for duty. It will bear witness to the faith which could wait as well as labor; which was content to let the result come out in the slow grinding of the mills of God, without putting forth