Lincoln's Personal Life HTML version

The Master Of The Moment
In Lincoln's life there are two great achievements.
One he brought to pass in time for him to behold his own victory. The other he saw only
with the eyes of faith. The first was the drawing together of all the elements of
nationalism in the American people and consolidating them into a driving force. The
second was laying the foundation of a political temper that made impossible a permanent
victory for the Vindictives. It was the sad fate of this nation, because Lincoln's hand was
struck from the tiller at the very instant of the crisis, to suffer the temporary success of
that faction he strove so hard to destroy The transitoriness of their evil triumph, the
eventual rally of the nation against them, was the final victory of the spirit of Lincoln.
The immediate victory he appreciated more fully and measured more exactly, than did
any one else. He put it into words in the fifth message. While others were crowing with
exaltation over a party triumph, he looked deeper to the psychological triumph. Scarcely
another saw that the most significant detail of the hour was in the Democratic attitude.
Even the bitterest enemies of nationalism, even those who were believed by all others to
desire the breaking of the Union, had not thought it safe to say so. They had veiled their
intent in specious words. McClellan in accepting the Democratic nomination had
repudiated the idea of disunion. Whether the Democratic politicians had agreed with him
or not, they had not dared to contradict him. This was what Lincoln put the emphasis on
in his message: "The purpose of the people within the loyal States to maintain the Union
was never more firm nor more nearly unanimous than now. . . . No candidate for any
office, high or low, has ventured to seek votes on the avowal that he was for giving up the
Union. There have been much impugning of motive and much heated controversy as to
the proper means and best mode of advancing the Union cause; but on the distinct issue
of Union or No Union the politicians have shown their instinctive knowledge that there is
no diversity among the people. In affording the people the fair opportunity of showing
one to another and to the world, this firmness and unanimity of purpose, the election has
been of vast value to the national cause."[1]
This temper of the final Lincoln, his supreme detachment, the kind impersonality of his
intellectual approach, has no better illustration in his state papers. He further revealed it
in a more intimate way. The day he sent the message to Congress, he also submitted to
the Senate a nomination to the great office of Chief Justice. When Taney died in the
previous September, there was an eager stir among the friends of Chase. They had hopes
but they felt embarrassed. Could they ask this great honor, the highest it is in the power
of the American President to be-stow, for a man who had been so lacking in candor as
Chase had been? Chase's course during the summer had made things worse. He had
played the time-server. No one was more severe upon Lincoln in July; in August, he
hesitated, would not quite commit himself to the conspiracy but would not discourage it;
almost gave it his blessing; in September, but not until it was quite plain that the
conspiracy was failing, he came out for Lincoln. However, his friends in the Senate
overcame their embarrassment--how else could it be with Senators?--and pressed his
case. And when Senator Wilson, alarmed at the President's silence, tried to apologize for
Chase's harsh remarks about the President, Lincoln cut him short. "Oh, as to that, I care
nothing," said he. The embarrassment of the Chase propaganda amused him. When Chase