Lincoln's Personal Life HTML version

A War Behind The Scenes
By the autumn of 1862, Lincoln had acquired the same political method that Seward had
displayed in the spring of 1861. What a chasm separates the two Lincolns! The cautious,
contradictory, almost timid statesman of the Sumter episode; the confident, unified,
quietly masterful statesman of the Emancipation Proclamation. Now, in action, he was
capable of staking his whole future on the soundness of his own thinking, on his own
ability to forecast the inevitable. Without waiting for the results of the Proclamation to
appear, but in full confidence that he had driven a wedge between the Jacobins proper
and the mere Abolitionists, he threw down the gage of battle on the issue of a
constitutional dictatorship. Two days after issuing the Proclamation he virtually
proclaimed himself dictator. He did so by means of a proclamation which divested the
whole American people of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus. The occasion was
the effort of State governments to establish conscription of their militia. The
Proclamation delivered any one impeding that attempt into the hands of the military
authorities without trial.
Here was Lincoln's final answer to Stevens; here, his audacious challenge to the Jacobins.
And now appeared the wisdom of his political strategy, holding back emancipation until
Congress was out of the way. Had Congress been in session what a hubbub would have
ensued! Chandler, Wade, Trumbull, Sumner, Stevens, all hurrying to join issue on the
dictatorship; to get it before the country ahead of emancipation. Rather, one can not
imagine Lincoln daring to play this second card, so soon after the first, except with
abundant time for the two issues to disentangle themselves in the public mind ere
Congress met. And that was what happened. When the Houses met in December, the
Jacobins found their position revolutionized. The men who, in July at the head of the
Vindictive coalition, dominated Congress, were now a minority faction biting their nails
at the President amid the ruins of their coalition.
There were three reasons for this collapse. First of all, the Abolitionists, for the moment,
were a faction by themselves. Six weeks had sufficed to intoxicate them with their
opportunity. The significance of the Proclamation had had time to arise towering on their
spiritual vision, one of the gates of the New Jerusalem.
Limited as it was in application who could doubt that, with one condition, it doomed
slavery everywhere. The condition was a successful prosecution of the war, the
restoration of the Union. Consequently, at that moment, nothing that made issue with the
President, that threatened any limitation of his efficiency, had the slightest chance of
Abolitionist support. The one dread that alarmed the whole Abolitionist group was a
possible change in the President's mood, a possible recantation on January first. In order
to hold him to his word, they were ready to humor him as one might cajole, or try to
cajole, a monster that one was afraid of. No time, this, to talk to Abolitionists about
strictly constitutional issues, or about questions of party leadership. Away with all your
"gabble" about such small things! The Jacobins saw the moving hand--at least for this
moment--in the crumbling wall of the palace of their delusion.
Many men who were not Abolitionists perceived, before Congress met, that Lincoln had
made a great stroke internationally. The "Liberal party throughout the world" gave a cry