Abraham Lincoln, Volume I eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 286 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume I.
to the road of honorable exit in those words which Mr. Lossing heard uttered by him on the very day that the news arrived.  In 1812 the United States had fought with England because she had insisted, and they had denied, that she had the right to stop their vessels on the high seas, to search them, and to take from them British subjects found on board them.  Mr. Seward now said that the country still adhered to the ancient principle for which it had once fought, and was glad to find England renouncing her old-time error.  Captain Wilkes, not acting under instructions, had made a mistake.  If he had captured the Trent and brought her in for adjudication as prize in our admiralty courts, a case might have been maintained and the prisoners held.  He had refrained from this course out of kindly consideration for the many innocent persons to whom it would have caused serious inconvenience; and, since England elected to stand upon the strict rights which his humane conduct gave to her, the United States must be bound by their own principles at any cost to themselves.  Accordingly the “envoys” were handed over to the commander of the English gunboat Rinaldo, at Provincetown, on January 1, 1862.

The decision of the President and the secretary of state was thoroughly wise.  Much hung upon it; “no one,” says Arnold, “can calculate the results which would have followed upon a refusal to surrender these men.”  An almost certain result would have been a war with England; and a highly probable result would have been that erelong France also would find pretext for hostilities, since she was committed to friendship with England in this matter, and moreover the emperor seemed to have a restless desire to interfere against the North.  What then would have been the likelihood of ultimate success in that domestic struggle, which, by itself, though it did not exhaust, yet very severely taxed both Northern endurance and Northern resources?  It is fair also to these two men to say that, in reaching their decision, instead of receiving aid or encouragement from outside, they had the reverse.  Popular feeling may be estimated from the utterances which, even after there had been time for reflection, were made by men whose positions curbed them with the grave responsibilities of leadership.  In the House of Representatives Owen Lovejoy pledged himself to “inextinguishable hatred” of Great Britain, and promised to bequeath it as a legacy to his children; and, while he was not engaging in the war for the integrity of his own country, he vowed that if a war with England should come, he would “carry a musket” in it.  Senator Hale, in thunderous oratory, notified the members of the administration that if they would “not listen to the voice of the people, they would find themselves engulfed in a fire that would consume them like stubble; they would be helpless before a power that would hurl them from their places.”  The great majority at the North, though perhaps incapable

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Abraham Lincoln, Volume I from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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