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George Haven Putnam
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 516 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln.
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.

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