On the other hand, within the North, affairs were coming into a more satisfactory condition. It was true that all the military successes of July had not discouraged the malcontents; and during the summer they had been busily preparing for the various state elections of the autumn, which they hoped would strongly corroborate their congressional triumphs of 1862. But when the time came they were exceedingly disappointed. The law now, fairly enough, permitted soldiers in the field to vote, and this was, of course, a reinforcement for the Republican party; but even among the voters at home the Democratic reaction of the preceding year had spent its force. In October Pennsylvania gave Governor Curtin, the Republican candidate for reelection, a majority of 15,000. In the same month, under the circumstances described in the preceding chapter, Ohio buried Vallandigham under a hostile majority of more than 100,000. The lead thus given by the “October States” was followed by the “November States.” In New York no governor was to be elected; but the Republican state ticket showed a majority of 30,000, whereas the year before Seymour had polled a majority of 10,000. The Northwest fell into the procession, though after a hard fight. A noteworthy feature of the struggle, which was fierce and for a time doubtful in Illinois, was a letter from Mr. Lincoln. He was invited to attend a mass meeting at Springfield, and with reluctance felt himself obliged to decline; but in place of a speech, which might not have been preserved, the good fortune of posterity caused him to write this letter:—
August 26, 1863.
HON. JAMES C. CONKLING:
My dear Sir,—Your letter inviting me to attend a mass meeting of unconditional Union men, to be held at the capital of Illinois, on the third day of September, has been received. It would be very agreeable for me thus to meet my old friends at my own home, but I cannot just now be absent from here as long as a visit there would require.
The meeting is to be of all those who maintain unconditional devotion to the Union, and I am sure my old political friends will thank me for tendering, as I do, the nation’s gratitude to those other noble men whom no partisan malice or partisan hope can make false to the nation’s life.
There are those who are dissatisfied with me. To such I would say: you desire peace, and you blame me that we do not have it. But how can we attain it? There are but three conceivable ways: First, to suppress the rebellion by force of arms. This I am trying to do. Are you for it? If you are, so far we are agreed. If you are not for it, a second way is to give up the Union. I am against this. Are you for it? If you are, you should say so plainly. If you are not for force, nor yet for dissolution, there only remains some imaginable compromise.