Lincoln's Personal Life HTML version

Lincoln Emerges
While Lincoln was slowly struggling out of his last eclipse, giving most of his attention
to the army, the Congressional Cabal was laboring assiduously to force the issue upon
slavery. The keen politicians who composed it saw with unerring vision where, for the
moment, lay their opportunity. They could not beat the President on any one issue then
before the country. No one faction was strong enough to be their stand-by. Only by a
combination of issues and a coalition of factions could they build up an anti-Lincoln
party, check-mate the Administration, and get control of the government. They were
greatly assisted by the fatuousness of the Democrats. That party was in a peculiar
situation. Its most positive characters, naturally, had taken sides for or against the
government. The powerful Southerners who had been its chief leaders were mainly in the
Confederacy. Such Northerners as Douglas and Stanton, and many more, had gone over
to the Republicans. Suddenly the control of the party organization had fallen into the
hands of second-rate men. As by the stroke of an enchanter's wand, men of small caliber
who, had the old conditions remained, would have lived and died of little consequence
saw opening before them the role of leadership. It was too much for their mental poise.
Again the subjective element in politics! The Democratic party for the duration of the war
became the organization of Little Men. Had they possessed any great leaders, could they
have refused to play politics and responded to Lincoln's all-parties policy, history might
have been different. But they were not that sort. Neither did they have the courage to go
to the other extreme and become a resolute opposition party, wholeheartedly and
intelligently against the war. They equivocated, they obstructed, they professed loyalty
and they practised-it would be hard to say what! So short-sighted was their political game
that its effect continually was to play into the hands of their most relentless enemies, the
grim Jacobins.
Though, for a brief time while the enthusiasm after Sumter was still at its height they
appeared to go along with the all-parties program, they soon revealed their true course. In
the autumn of 1861, Lincoln still had sufficient hold upon all factions to make it seem
likely that his all-parties. program would be given a chance. The Republicans generally
made overtures to the Democratic managers, offering to combine in a coalition party with
no platform but the support of the war and the restoration of the Union. Here was the test
of the organization of the Little Men. The insignificant new managers, intoxicated by the
suddenness of their opportunity, rang false. They rejected the all-parties program and
insisted on maintaining their separate party formation.[1] This was a turning point in
Lincoln's career. Though nearly two years were to pass before he admitted his defeat, the
all-parties program was doomed from that hour. Throughout the winter, the Democrats in
Congress, though steadily ambiguous in their statements of principle, were as steadily
hostile to Lincoln. If they had any settled policy, it was no more than an attempt to hold
the balance of power among the warring factions of the Republicans. By springtime the
game they were playing was obvious; also its results. They had prevented the President
from building up a strong Administration group wherewith he might have
counterbalanced the Jacobins. Thus they had released the Jacobins from the one possible
restraint that might have kept them from pursuing their own devices.
The spring of 1862 saw a general realignment of factions. It was then that the
Congressional Cabal won its first significant triumph. Hitherto, all the Republican