establishing martial law throughout Missouri.
This contained other dangerous provisions, but above
all it liberated the slaves and confiscated the whole
property of all persons proved (before Court Martial)
to have taken active part with the enemy in the field.
It is obvious that such a measure was liable to shocking
abuse, that it was certain to infuriate many friends
of the Union, and that it was in conflict with the
law which Congress had just passed on the subject.
To Lincoln’s mind it presented the alarming
prospect that it might turn the scale against the
Union cause in the still pending deliberations in Kentucky.
Lincoln’s overpowering solicitude on such a point
is among the proofs that his understanding of the
military situation, however elementary, was sound.
He wished, characteristically, that Fremont himself
should withdraw his Proclamation. He invited
him to withdraw it in private letters from which one
sentence may be taken: “You speak of it
as being the only means of saving the Government.
On the contrary, it is itself the surrender of the
Government. Can it be pretended that it is any
longer the Government of the United States—any
government of constitution and laws—wherein
a general or a president may make permanent rules
of property by proclamation?” Fremont preferred
to make Lincoln publicly overrule him, which he did;
and the inevitable consequence followed. When
some months later, the utter military disorganisation,
which Fremont let arise while he busied himself with
politics, and the scandalous waste, out of which his
flatterers enriched themselves, compelled the President
to remove him from his command, Fremont became, for
a time at least, to patriotic crowds and to many intelligent,
upright and earnest men from St. Louis to Boston,
the chivalrous and pure-hearted soldier of freedom,
and Lincoln, the soulless politician, dead to the
cause of liberty, who, to gratify a few wire-pulling
friends, had struck this hero down on the eve of victory
to his army—an army which, by the way, he
had reduced almost to nonentity.
This salient instance explains well enough the nature
of one half of the trial which Lincoln throughout
the war had to undergo. Pursuing the restoration
of the Union with a thoroughness which must estrange
from him the Democrats of the North, he was fated from
the first to estrange also Radicals who were generally
as devoted to the Union as himself and with whose
over-mastering hatred of slavery he really sympathised.
In the following chapter we are more concerned with
the other half of his trial, the war itself.
Of his minor political difficulties few instances
need be given—only it must be remembered
that they were many and involved, besides delicate
questions of principle, the careful sifting of much
confident hearsay; and, though the critics of public
men are wont to forget it, that there are only twenty-four
hours in the day.