Biography of Abraham Lincoln HTML version

in,--must be able to rely on the deliberate reason and
consequent firmness of the people, without which that
presence of mind, no less essential in times of moral than of
material peril, will be wanting at the critical moment.
Would this fervor of the Free States hold out? Was it
kindled by a just feeling of the value of constitutional
liberty? Had it body enough to withstand the inevitable
dampening of checks, reverses, delays? Had our population
intelligence enough to comprehend that the choice was between
order and anarchy, between the equilibrium of a government by
law and the tussle of misrule by *pronunciamiento?* Could a
war be maintained without the ordinary stimulus of hatred and
plunder, and with the impersonal loyalty of principle? These
were serious questions, and with no precedent to aid in
answering them. At the beginning of the war there was,
indeed, occasion for the most anxious apprehension. A
President known to be infected with the political heresies,
and suspected of sympathy with the treason, of the Southern
conspirators, had just surrendered the reins, we will not say
of power, but of chaos, to a successor known only as the
representative of a party whose leaders, with long training
in opposition, had none in the conduct of affairs; an empty
treasury was called on to supply resources beyond precedent
in the history of finance; the trees were yet growing and the
iron unmined with which a navy was to be built and armored;
officers without discipline were to make a mob into an army;
and, above all, the public opinion of Europe, echoed and
reinforced with every vague hint and every specious argument
of despondency by a powerful faction at home, was either
contemptuously sceptical or actively hostile. It would be
hard to over-estimate the force of this latter element of
disintegration and discouragement among a people where every
citizen at home, and every soldier in the field, is a reader
of newspapers. The peddlers of rumor in the North were the
most effective allies of the rebellion. A nation can be
liable to no more insidious treachery than that of the
telegraph, sending hourly its electric thrill of panic along
the remotest nerves of the community, till the excited
imagination makes every real danger loom heightened with its
unreal double. And even if we look only at more palpable
difficulties, the problem to be solved by our civil war was
so vast, both in its immediate relations and its future
consequences; the conditions of its solution were so
intricate and so greatly dependent on incalculable and