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Abraham Lincoln, Volume II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 309 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume II.
and who were willing to make the prosecution of the war very difficult, there were not hosts who were ready to push difficulty to the point of impossibility.  On the other hand the fight was made very shrewdly by the Union men of Ohio, who nominated John Brough, a “war Democrat,” as their candidate.  Then the scales fell from the eyes of the people; they saw that in real fact votes for Brough or for Vallandigham were, respectively, votes for or against the Union.  The campaign became a direct trial of strength on this point.  Freedom of speech, habeas corpus, and the kindred incidents of the Vallandigham case were laid aside as not being the genuine and fundamental questions.  It was one of those instances in which the common sense of the multitude suddenly takes control, brushes away confusing details, and gets at the great and true issue.  The result was that Vallandigham was defeated by a majority of over 100,000 votes; and thus a perilous crisis was well passed.  This incident had put the Republican ascendency in extreme peril, but when the administration emerged from the trial with a success so brilliant, it was thereafter much stronger than if the test had never been made.  The strain was one of that kind to which the war was subjecting the whole nation, a strain which strengthens rather than weakens the body which triumphantly encounters it.  The credit for the result was generally admitted to be chiefly due to Mr. Lincoln’s effective presentation of the Republican position.

* * * * *

As the second year of the war drew towards its close, the administration had to face a new and grave difficulty in the recruitment of the army.  Serious errors which had been made in calling and enlisting troops now began to bear fruit.  Under the influence of the first enthusiasm a large proportion of the adult male population at the North would readily have enlisted “for the war;” but unfortunately that opportunity had not been seized by the government, and it soon passed, never to return.  That the President and his advisers had been blameworthy can hardly be said; but whether they had been blameworthy or excusable became an immaterial issue, when they found that the terms of enlistment were soon to expire, and also that just when the war was at its hottest, the patriotism of the people seemed at its coldest.  Defeats in the field and Copperheadism at home combined in their dispiriting and deadly work.  Voluntary enlistment almost ceased.  Thereupon Congress passed an act “for enrolling and calling out the national forces.”  All able-bodied citizens between twenty and forty-five years of age were to “perform military duty in the service of the United States, when called on by the President for that purpose."[50] This was strenuous earnest, for it portended a draft.

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