Abbildungen der Seite



For giving voice to these beautiful and heroic lines, General McClellan ordered the Hutchinsons to be expelled at once from the army, and it was done. The liberty-loving people were indignant and clamorous. General Butler eluded the pro-slavery influence by declaring the slaves contraband of war, and, therefore, liable to confiscation-confiscation, of course, meaning emancipation. Generals Hunter and Fremont broke over the restraint and issued emancipating proclamations of their own, and were both removed from command for so doing. But as defeat followed defeat, and disaster trod upon the bloody heels of disaster, the cry came forth, “ LET MY PEOPLE GO!” To every just mind the alternative was not only obvious but the result near at hand—justice or total national destruction. A year and a half was spent in this useless strife against God and the rebels, when the Proclamation of Emancipation sounded clear and strong over the nation. Then the Sun of Righteousness broke upon the land in victory and justice.

How shall the sincerity and integrity of Mr. Lincoln's character be reconciled with his tolerance of such a course on the part of his subalterns ? He was one of the first American statesmen to announce that there was an irrepressible mortal conflict between slavery and freedom-one or the other must perish. As we have seen, before his election he had declared, with tearful earnestness, “God cares, and humanity cares, and I care, and with God's help I shall not fail.” On his journey to Washington to assume the Presidency, in his speech delivered at Philadelphia, alluding to the principle of the Declaration of Independence, he said: “If this country can not be saved without giving up that principle, I would rather be assassinated on the spot than to surrender it." “I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by, and, in the pleasure of Almighty God, to die by.He had from childhood hated and fought against oppression; and now that slavery had lifted its knife against the heart of the nation, this double crime must have intensified his hatred of it, as it did the abhorrence of every just man in the civilized world. The facts will show that Mr. Lincoln did not design that slavery should live; that he did not renounce for an hour his conviction, long before expressed, that slavery or liberty must perish, utterly and forever, from the country.



He found, in looking about for the means to resist and destroy the rebellion, that the utmost prudence and caution would be requisite to unite the remaining strength of the nation against it. The great Democratic party was, as such, proslavery-a large part of it so much so as to side with and strive, by any means in their power, to secure the triumph of the rebellion. The Republican party, which had elected him, were but half-hearted in their opposition to it. Had he issued his Proclamation of Emancipation any time during the year 1861, the Democrats would have almost unanimously refused further part in the struggle, unless to go in a body to the other side. The border States, then fully half for the Government, would have become as intensely rebellious as South Carolina. So powerful was the pro-slavery influence, even in the party organized to oppose it, that the Republican journals and leaders, during the first eighteen months of the war, indignantly denied that the abolition of slavery formed any part of their motives for prosecuting hostilities; and had the rebels, at any moment during that time, signified their willingness to return to the Union with slavery unimpaired, public opinion, in all parties, would


have compelled the Government to receive them. To have adopted radical measures against slavery in rebellion before the public mind was educated to the necessity of so doing, would have proved destructive of the cause of emancipation and of the Republic itself. Just and wise men, who clearly saw the end of the struggle from the beginning and confidently predicted the destruction of slavery, were alarmed at the possibility that Mr. Lincoln, after all, might yield to temporizing expediency and betray the cause of justice, and by betraying, indefinitely delay it; but their fears were groundless. It was acknowledged by those very men that Mr. Lincoln's course was the best course by which the result, so long and so earnestly desired and prayed for, could have been accomplished. God's hand directed the cause of emancipation, and when the hour of destiny came, Abraham Lincoln, with a willing hand, struck the fatal blow; and the death struggles of that mightiest system of wickedness that the world ever saw was visible to all beholders. Mr. Lincoln's policy was not dilatory, not temporizing, but wisely patient in abiding the propitious moment. When the proclamation was directed against the



institution it did not fall short, as feebly hurled by the arm of one man, but went crashing to the heart of the mail-clad monster, driven by the mighty power of a united and an indignant nation.*

In a conversation with George Thompson, the distinguished English abolitionist, Mr. Lincoln thus expressed himself: “It is my conviction that had the Proclamation [of Emancipation] been issued even six months earlier than it was, public sentiment would not have sustained it. Just so as to the subsequent enlistment of the blacks in the border States. The step, taken sooner, could not, in my judgment, have been carried out. A man watches his pear-tree, day after day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process, and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him pa

* In a conversation with a committee of clergymen from Chicago, after he had his proclamation written, they not knowing his intentions, urged the necessity of liberating the slaves, Mr. Lincoln said: “I do not want to issue a document that all the world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet,” adding, “Whatever shall appear to be God's will, that I will do."

« ZurückWeiter »