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Home National National June 3, 1861 - The Man Who Made Lincoln President Dies

June 3, 1861 - The Man Who Made Lincoln President Dies

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stephen_arnold_douglasStephen A. Douglas, the “Little Giant,” died in Chicago today. Were it not for the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, during which Abraham Lincoln contested Douglas for an Illinois Senate seat, Mr. Lincoln would not have captured the Republican nomination in 1860.

Although Mr. Lincoln lost the election to the Senate, his speeches made an indelible impression on his audiences. In spite of his physical shortcomings—his homeliness, as well as his high, reedy speaking voice, and a tendency to make ungainly gestures such as lifting both long arms to the heavens—Mr. Lincoln was an effective elocutionist in Illinois. It is known that at times, reporters were so entranced by his speeches that they failed to record them. At an early state convention of the Republican Party, Mr. Lincoln gave what may have been his greatest speech, yet no one knows what he said. All the reporters put down their pens to listen to him. One of the few people who wrote anything down about this speech had only this to say: when it was finished, “the audience rose from their chairs and with pale faces and quivering lips pressed unconsciously toward him.”

Mr. Lincoln is not a Sophist; not someone merely skilled in the art of rhetoric. The editor of an influential paper in Peoria said: “Beyond and above all skill was the overwhelming conviction imposed upon the audience that the speaker himself was charged with an irresistible and inspiring duty to his fellow men.”

During the seven debates between them, Douglas distinguished himself from Lincoln on racial grounds. Douglas stated that he believed this government was “made by the white man, for the benefit of the white man, to be administered by white men.” Douglas did not believe that the Declaration of Independence applied to black men.

Not so, Mr. Lincoln countered. Lincoln said that not only the Declaration but his “ancient faith” taught him that all men were created equal. The Declaration, Lincoln said, was a universal document, a “standard maxim for a free society.” It should be looked to, labored for, and approximated, even if people cannot attain to it perfectly. It should be “constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.”

The ideals of America are significant for all of humanity, Mr. Lincoln believes. The ideals put forth in the Declaration are what he calls “the central idea” of America herself.

Another result of the Lincoln-Douglas debates was Lincoln’s succinct and honest formulation of the issues facing the country. When he was chosen by the Republicans as their candidate to run against Douglas for the Senate seat, Lincoln became one of the first men to dare to say it: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this Government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall. But I do expect that it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

His words were not particularly welcomed at the time. Although one friend declared the speech “will make you president” another said it was a “damned fool utterance.” Lincoln purportedly said, “If it is decreed that I should go down because of this speech, then let me go down linked to the truth—let me die in the advocacy of what is just and right.”

Although President Lincoln bristled against Mr. Douglas for his indifference to the spread of slavery, an institution Mr. Lincoln considers a “monstrous injustice,” he did employ him in these last few months since Fort Sumter in touring the border states. Mr. Lincoln asked Mr. Douglas to use his fame to enjoin them to stay loyal to the Union. Secessionists pelted Mr. Douglas with eggs and taunted him, and he returned home exhausted, exhorting his sons with his dying words to obey the laws of the land and to stay loyal to the Constitution.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

February 5, 1864 - End of the War

Mr. Seward predicts that the war will be over in less than three months, and all the radical papers tell us that the rebellion is about suppressed–that the Southern Confederacy is tumbling to pieces. They daily represent, as they have done for two years past, that the people are starving, sick of war, disgusted with their rulers and ripe for revolt against them; that the army is suffering for all the necessaries of life, deficient in arms and munitions of war, and so “demoralized” and disaffected that it requires about one-half of the men to guard the rest and keep them from deserting; and that the spring campaign is sure to result in “cleaning out” the rebels and putting an end to the war. This has been the tenor of Republican representations for two years, and never have they talked more confidently in this strain than they do now. We wish it was true; we wish we could see the least ground for hope of peace at an early day. But we cannot, and the reason we cannot is because our rulers will not make peace upon any terms upon which it can be made. If the present dynasty is continued in power, the war will go on. The only chance for peace–the only means by which the people can relieve themselves from further sufferings and burthens consequent upon war, is by a change of rulers. To vote for the Republican party is to vote for perpetual war–for their policy can result in nothing else. The Troy Whig, a radical Republican paper, is more honest than its contemporaries in this State, for it tells the truth, while they suppress it. In a recent issue that paper says: “We are not lacking in faith that this rebellion is to perish, thoroughly, certainly; but we see no evidence, as yet, that it is to go by the board soon. In the Southwest daylight has been knocked through it, but only there. After all our efforts ad expenditures, the blockade is far from being perfect, rebel vessels notoriously entering with supplies from Europe, and going out again with cotton. The army of the Potomac is yet to win a great, decisive victory on rebel soil, and Lee’s forces are a great deal nearer Washington than ours are to Richmond. Though it has been frequently announced that ‘the backbone of the rebellion is broken,’ the public ‘don’t see it.’ “Looking at facts as they are–and it is only folly to blind ourselves to them–it is easy to foresee that the present call for men is not the least urgent one, by three or four, which may be made. The number of able bodied Northern men between the ages of 18 and 45, who can certainly promise themselves that they will not be actively engaged in the war before it is over, is not large. And the causes of exemption, reduced to a very few now, are likely to grow less. If we are wise, we shall endeavor to comprehend and act upon these facts, and put ourselves, in mind as well as substance, on a ‘war footing.’ ”  

 

January 1, 1864 - General Scott's View of the War

It is stated that Gen. Scott, in a recent conversation on the developments of the war, remarked that the fighting had only commenced, and that the real hard fighting was yet to take place. He also added that the Administration had fooled away nearly every golden opportunity, and thus, instead of ending the rebellion, as they could have done long since, have extended it to the distant future. Though both his parents died when he was young, Scott's inheritance was m odest. He studied for a short time at William and Mary College before undertaking the study of law in Petersburg. He practiced law and served in the army in the period prior to the War of 1812. With the outbreak of the War of 1812, Scott recruited a regiment and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served on the northern front, and his bravery and energy brought him honors and promotion, as he was brevetted a major general. Owing to his prominence as a military leader as well as a potential Whig presidential candidate, Scott was made general-in-chief of the army in 1841. It was the Mexican War that brought Scott lasting renown. He was ordered to Mexico in November 1846. Obstructed by poorly equipped troops, limited reinforcements and supplies, desertions, and disease, Scott nevertheless undertook a successful five-mo nth campaign from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. But feuds generated by ambitious subordinate officers and, especially, the hostility of the Polk administration to further honoring a Whig general, led to Scott's recall and replacement. In addition, a court of inquiry was established to investigate Scott's actions in disciplining those disloyal officers. The charges against Scott were eventually dropped, and Congress voted him its thanks and a gold medal. In 1852, Congress passed a measure offering Scott the pay, rank, and emoluments of a lieutenant general, the first person to hold that office since G eorge Washington. That same year, he was the Whig party's unsuccessful candidate for President. As the secession crisis developed during the latter part of 1860, Scott pleaded unsuccessfully to President James Buchanan to reinforce the southern forts and armories against possible seizure. He brought his headquarters from New York to Washington, D.C., so that he could oversee the recruiting and training of the capital's defence. He personally commanded Abraham Lincoln's bodyguard at the inauguration. Scott was tasked with assembling an army to defeat the new Confederacy. He initially offered command of this force to Lee. His former comrade declined on April 18 when it became clear that Virginia was going to leave the Union. Though a Virginian himself, Scott never wavered in his loyalties. With Lee's refusal, Scott gave command of the Union Army to Brigadier General Irvin McDowell who was defeated at Bull Run on July 21. While many believed the war would be brief, it had been clear to Scott that it would be a protracted affair. As a result, he devised a long-term plan calling for a blockade of the Confederate coast coupled with the capture of the Mississippi River and key cities such as Atlanta.  Dubbed the "Anaconda Plan," it was widely derided by the Northern press. At seventy-five years old, Scott requested retirement, and in November 1861, he was retired.

 

December 18, 1863 - What Shall We Do with the Women?

I do not mean contrabands, but white women, aye, ladies, whom the circumstances of war have caused to drift up upon the sea of events and be stranded upon the bleak and barren shores of poverty. “What shall we do with them?” is no doubt the question put with anxiety to one another by our superiors. More especially must this query be raised at this time, just upon the edge of winter; and at this place, with us, when our force holds the picket gates and our offices grant “passes,” and now that our General, tired out by the ceaseless din of daily applicants for market privileges of coming to the camps, has shut them all down, and refused any one to bring articles for sale, this momentous query returns with greater force than ever. “Shall we keep them all on Government rations, and let the ‘commissary of subsistence’ feed some six or eight hundred in the two cities, that number no doubt to be greatly augmented?” This is one side of the question, and it gives me the chance of telling you of a number of cases where women have tried not to be reckoned among the weekly pensioners at the office of the commissary of subsistence in Portsmouth. I have in mind Mrs. H., of whose culinary skill I have told you before, a married woman aged 45, husband a prisoner somewhere, formerly in the Confederate army, grown up son on board one of the Union gunboats at Hampton, a girl and two little boys at home to be fed and clothed. She got a permit to come to the camps with a borrowed horse and cart, the cart laden with various market produce and a variety of nicely cooked dishes: chicken pie, beef pie, oysters, gingerbread, fried fish, &c., at various prices from five to twenty-five cents; her wares would be sold by the piece-measure or plateful, and long before sundown the entire cartful would be disposed of. The net profit to Mrs. H. of such a day’s traffic would not be less than eight to twelve dollars, and she came twice a week. She cannot come to camp now, yet she and her children must be fed by somebody. Also the old lady, Mrs. E., who came from our upper picket line with a sturdy Negro wench for a driver. It was she who brought those red apples which I told you of; and while she could also bring poultry and eggs, and sell three ordinary sized apples for ten cents (!) she would readily make from one to four dollars per day. She cannot do it now, yet herself and a blind sister, and the sable wench above-mentioned, are to be fed. Biddy O’G., too, the cheerful fishwoman; fresh spot-fish and sheep’s heads, every morning in season for breakfast; she could buy them at the wharves at fifty cents per hundred and readily sell them at more than double profit. Biddy is a “widder” with “four wee childer,” and with the characteristic independence of her race she does not want to ask bread and meat of the Government, yet now, when she can no longer bring her fish to camp, she must do it, for her children must not starve. Multiply the instances above noted by about one hundred, and you have the aggregate of what comes under our own notice in our own department; and when we consider that this district merely represents a tithe of the same perplexity, is not the question “what shall be done with them?” of solemn and momentous import? The question, here and now, and by our officers, is easily met. It is of the highest military importance that no possible chance of treachery should be left open; hence the wisdom of keeping all classes from passing the lines; therefore let all be kept at home, and such as are in need, be fed from the public stores. Thus much for the present solution of the question. Yet a thought of the future, with these impoverished communities, whole families living on public alms, children growing up in such wholesale beggary, is it not enough to make the lover of his country tremble and turn pale? Aye! Ten years hence, what shall we do with them then? This is one of the inside horrors of war, and like every other evil of the kind, must be calmly and prayerfully met.

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