Abraham Lincoln, Volume I eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 286 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume I.

For a while now the people of the Northern States were compelled passively to behold a spectacle which they could not easily reconcile with the theory of the supreme excellence and wisdom of their system of government.  Abraham Lincoln was chosen President of the United States November 6, 1860; he was to be inaugurated March 4, 1861.  During the intervening four months the government must be conducted by a chief whose political creed was condemned by an overwhelming majority of the nation.[114] The situation was as unfair for Mr. Buchanan as it was hurtful for the people.  As head of a republic, or, in the more popular phrase, as the chief “servant of the people,” he must respect the popular will, yet he could not now administer the public business according to that will without being untrue to all his own convictions, and repudiating all his trusted counselors.  In a situation so intrinsically false efficient government was impossible, no matter what was the strength or weakness of the hand at the helm.  Therefore there was every reason for displacing Buchanan from control of the national affairs in the autumn, and every reason against continuing him in that control through the winter; yet the law of the land ordained the latter course.  It seemed neither sensible nor even safe.  During this doleful period all descriptions of him agree:  he seemed, says Chittenden, “shaken in body and uncertain in mind,... an old man worn out by worry;” while the Southerners also declared him as “incapable of purpose as a child.”  To the like purport spoke nearly all who saw him.

During the same time Lincoln’s position was equally absurd and more trying.  After the lapse of four months he was, by the brief ceremony of an hour, to become the leader of a great nation under an exceptionally awful responsibility; but during those four months he could play no other part than simply to watch, in utter powerlessness, the swift succession of crowding events, which all were tending to make his administration of the government difficult, or even impossible.  Throughout all this long time, the third part of a year, which statutes scarcely less venerable than the Constitution itself freely presented to the disunion leaders, they safely completed their civil and military organization, while the Northerners, under a ruler whom they had discredited, but of whom they could not get rid, were paralyzed for all purposes of counter preparation.

As a trifling compensation for its existence this costly interregnum presents to later generations a curious spectacle.  A volume might be made of the public utterances put forth in that time by men of familiar names and more or less high repute, and it would show many of them in most strange and unexpected characters, so entirely out of keeping with the years which they had lived before, and the years which they were to live afterward, that the reader would gaze in hopeless bewilderment.  In the “solid” South, so soon to be a great rebelling unit, he would

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