Abraham Lincoln eBook

George Haven Putnam
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 516 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln.
place; there were the usual conferences and bargainings, which probably affected the result but little; Lincoln’s managers, especially Judge David Davis, afterwards of the Supreme Court, were shrewd people; Lincoln had written to them expressly that they could make no bargain binding on him, but when Cameron was clearly out of the running they did promise Cameron’s supporters a place in Lincoln’s Cabinet, and a similar promise was made for one Caleb Smith.  The delegates from Pennsylvania went on to Lincoln; then those of Ohio; and before long his victory was assured.  A Committee of the Convention, some of them sick at heart, was sent to bear the invitation to Lincoln.  He received them in his little house with a simple dignity which one of them has recorded; and as they came away one said, “Well, we might have chosen a handsomer article, but I doubt whether a better.”

On the whole, if we can put aside the illusion which besets us, who read the preceding history if at all in the light of Lincoln’s speeches, and to whom his competitors are mere names, this was the most surprising nomination ever made in America.  Other Presidential candidates have been born in poverty, but none ever wore the scars of poverty so plainly; others have been intrinsically more obscure, but these have usually been chosen as bearing the hall-mark of eminent prosperity or gentility.  Lincoln had indeed at this time displayed brilliant ability in the debates with Douglas, and he had really shown a statesman’s grasp of the situation more than any other Republican leader.  The friends in Illinois who put him forward—­men like David Davis, who was a man of distinction himself—­did so from a true appreciation of his powers.  But this does not seem to have been the case with the bulk of the delegates from other States.  The explanation given us of their action is curious.  The choice was not the result of merit; on the other hand, it was not the work of the ordinary wicked wire-puller, for what may be called the machine was working for Seward.  The choice was made by plain representative Americans who set to themselves this question:  “With what candidate can we beat Douglas?” and who found the answer in the prevalence of a popular impression, concerning Lincoln and Seward, which was in fact wholly mistaken.  There was, it happens, earnest opposition to Seward among some Eastern Republicans on the good ground that he was a clean man but with doubtful associates.  This opposition could not by itself have defeated him.  What did defeat him was his reputation at the moment as a very advanced Republican who would scare away the support of the weaker brethren.  He was, for instance, the author of the alarming phrase about “irrepressible conflict,” and he had spoken once, in a phrase that was misinterpreted, about “a higher law than the Constitution.”  Lincoln had in action taken a far stronger line than Seward; he was also the author of the phrase about the house divided

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Abraham Lincoln from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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