Lincoln's Personal Life HTML version
The Dictator, The Marplot And The Little Men
While the Jacobins were endeavoring to reorganize the Republican antagonism to the
President, Lincoln was taking thought how he could offset still more effectually their
influence. in taking up the emancipation policy he had not abandoned his other policy of
an all-parties Administration, or of something similar to that. By this time it was plain
that a complete union of parties was impossible. In the autumn of 1862, a movement of
liberal Democrats in Michigan for the purpose of a working agreement with the
Republicans was frustrated by the flinty opposition of Chandler. However, it still
seemed possible to combine portions of parties in an Administration group that should
forswear the savagery of the extreme factions and maintain the war in a merciful temper.
The creation of such a group was Lincoln's aim at the close of the year.
The Republicans were not in doubt what he was driving at. Smarting over their losses in
the election, there was angry talk that Lincoln and Seward had "slaughtered the
Republican party." Even as sane a man as John Sherman, writing to his brother on the
causes of the apparent turn of the tide could say "the first is that the Republican
organization was voluntarily abandoned by the President and his leading followers, and a
no-party union was formed to run against an old, well-drilled party organization."
When Julian returned to Washington in December, he found that the menace to the
Republican machine was "generally admitted and (his) earnest opposition to it fully
justified in the opinion of the Republican members of Congress." How fully they
perceived their danger had been shown in their attempt to drive Lincoln into a corner on
the issue of a new Cabinet.
Even before that, Lincoln had decided on his next move. As in the emancipation policy
he had driven a wedge between the factions of the Republicans, so now he would drive a
wedge into the organization of the Democrats. It had two parts which had little to hold
them together except their rooted partisan habit. One branch, soon to receive the label
"Copperhead," accepted the secession principle and sympathized with the Confederacy.
The other, while rejecting secession and supporting the war, denounced the emancipation
policy as usurped authority, and felt personal hostility to Lincoln. It was the latter faction
that Lincoln still hoped to win over. Its most important member was Horatio Seymour,
who in the autumn of 1862 was elected governor of New York. Lincoln decided to
operate on him by one of those astounding moves which to the selfless man seemed
natural enough, by which the ordinary politician was always hopelessly mystified. He
called in Thurlow Weed and authorized him to make this proposal: if Seymour would
bring his following into a composite Union party with no platform but the vigorous
prosecution of the war, Lincoln would pledge all his influence to securing for Seymour
the presidential nomination in 1864. Weed delivered his message. Seymour was
noncommittal and Lincoln had to wait for his answer until the new Governor should
show his hand by his official acts. Meanwhile a new crisis had developed in the army.
Burnside's character appears to have been shattered by his defeat. Previous to
Fredericksburg, he had seemed to be a generous, high-minded man. From Fredericksburg
onward, he became more and more an impossible. A reflection of McClellan in his earlier
stage, he was somehow transformed eventually into a reflection of vindictivism. His later
character began to appear in his first conference with the Committee subsequent to his
disaster. They visited him on the field and "his conversation disarmed all criticism." This