April 15, 1865: Death of Lincoln

Death of Lincoln

Due to an assassin’s bullet, the story of Abraham Lincoln came to an end one hundred and fifty-four years ago.  Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, noted in his diary the last few hours of our sixteenth president:

 

 

“The President had been carried across the street from the theater to the house of a Mr. Peterson. We entered by ascending a flight of steps above the basement and passing through a long hall to the rear, where the President lay extended on a bed, breathing heavily. Several surgeons were present, at least six, I should think more. Among them I was glad to observe Doctor Hall, who, however, soon left. I inquired of Doctor Hall, as I entered, the true condition of the President. He replied the President was dead to all intents, although he might live three hours or perhaps longer.

The giant sufferer lay extended diagonally across the bed, which was not long enough for him. He had been stripped of his clothes. His large arms, which were occasionally exposed, were of a size which one would scarce have expected from his spare appearance. His slow, full respiration lifted the clothes with each breath that he took. His features were calm and striking. I had never seen them appear to better advantage than for the first hour, perhaps, that I was there. After that his right eye began to swell and that part of his face became discolored.

Senator Sumner was there, I think, when I entered. If not he came in soon after, as did Speaker Colfax, Mr. Secretary McCulloch, and the other members of the cabinet, with the exception of Mr. Seward. A double guard was stationed at the door and on the sidewalk to repress the crowd, which was of course highly excited and anxious. The room was small and overcrowded. The surgeons and members of the cabinet were as many as should have been in the room, but there were many more, and the hall and other rooms in the front or main house were full. One of these rooms was occupied by Mrs. Lincoln and her attendants, with Miss Harris. Mrs. Dixon and Mrs. Kinney came to her about twelve o’clock. About once an hour Mrs. Lincoln would repair to the bedside of her dying husband and with lamentation and tears remain until overcome by emotion. (more…)

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March 21, 1864: Lincoln’s Reply to New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association

Rail splitter

Some political charges have a very long pedigree indeed.  An example is the Democrat charge that Republicans are the party of the rich.  Precisely the same charge was made by the Democrats against the Whigs.  Lincoln, an old line Whig who had scrambled up from profound poverty, was ever sensitive to the charge and ever careful to underline that he and the policies he embraced were favorable to any working man who wished to better his condition through honest toil.  We see this in his reply to an honorary membership he received from the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association: (more…)

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Brightness to the Sun

 

This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birth-day of Washington. We are met to celebrate this day. Washington is the mightiest name of earth — long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name, an eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor, leave it shining on.

Abraham Lincoln, February 22, 1842

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Two-Hundred and Ten Years

Today is the 210th birthday of Abraham Lincoln.  It is a state holiday in Illinois and the courts are closed.  However, I would have my law firm closed today even if were not a state holiday.  Abraham Lincoln deeply resonates with me and is one of my personal heroes.  That which was best in Lincoln is amply demonstrated in his Second Inaugural Address.

It is short, to the point and powerful.  It is also the most important theological document written by any American President.  Here is the text:

 

“Fellow Countrymen:

At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’.

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

The address is brief, only 703 words.  This was unusual in Lincoln’s time when one hour speeches were not uncommon, and the style of oratory was very ornate.  However, throughout his life Lincoln had a talent for packing a great deal of thought in very few words, and that talent is on full display here.

“Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish.”

Like the good lawyer that he was, Lincoln got to the nub of the question, the war.  For Lincoln the immediate cause of the war was due to the success of the secession movement in the South and the unwillingness of the Unionists in the North to let the secessionists leave the Union.

“All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. “

However, while secession was the spark that led to the conflagration, slavery was the issue that led to the war.

“Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.”

Indeed.  Both sides were convinced at the onset that the other side really didn’t have their hearts in the war, and that the war would be brief if there was any fighting at all.  A. W. Venable of North Carolina expressed a common sentiment when he offered to “wipe up every drop of blood shed in the war with this handkerchief of mine”.  Shelby Foote, one of the finest historians of the war, wondered how many railroad boxcars full of handkerchiefs it would have taken to wipe up all the blood spilled in the war.

” Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. “

Theology enters in.  Each side has attempted to enlist God in support of their cause.  Battle Hymn of the Republic meet God Save the South.

“The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.”

That the prayers of the Confederates had not been answered by this stage of the war, with the Confederacy on the verge of overwhelming defeat, would have been obvious to all who heard Lincoln’s speech.  However, what did Lincoln mean by stating that the Union’s prayers had not been fully answered?  Perhaps he was thinking of the dreadful cost in blood and treasure to obtain the victory that was dawning.

“The Almighty has His own purposes.”

Something that many of our great saints have  told us, but which we have a hard time accepting or understanding.  Lincoln pondered this in September of 1862 in a writing which has come down to us as Lincoln’s Meditation on Divine Will.  This was a private note written by Lincoln for his own reflection.

“The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and againstthe same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party — and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true — that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”

‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’

Matthew 18:7.  Most of the much more biblically literate population of Lincoln’s time would have recognized the quotation immediately.

“If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? “

The Civil War as God’s punishment to both North and South for slavery.  Imagine the reaction of the public today if, after leading the country through a terrible war, a president stated that the war was God’s punishment and that Americans were just as guilty in the eyes of God as their adversaries.

This sounds strange to most modern ears, and not just to those who are atheists or agnostics.  Even many believers in God are more apt than in Lincoln’s day to see such calamities as slavery or war caused by merely human action.  Traditionally Catholics and other Christians have been much more likely than we to see the hand of God guiding the course of history.

“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’.”

This is a truly remarkable passage.  The citizens of the Union were sick of war, and desperately yearning for victory and peace.  Yet here is Lincoln telling them that if it is God’s will that the war continue until an additional terrible penance has been paid for the evil of slavery, that the judgment of God was true and righteous.  By definition for Lincoln, whatever God willed was right, as demonstrated in this famous quotation of Lincoln:

“‘I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.'”

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

With malice towards none, and with charity for all is a good summation of how Lincoln intended to treat the defeated Southern states.  He wanted them to assume their pre-war place in the Union as soon as possible.  No doubt there would have been a battle royal if Lincoln had lived between him and radical Republicans in Congress who wished to punish the South.

Note the phrase “as God gives us to see the right”.  Once again Lincoln is aware that what might seem right to humans may not be right to God, and hence the tentative nature of this phrase.

It is interesting that when Lincoln states: ” to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” Lincoln does not limit this solicitude to Union veterans.  If the federal government had extended such care to crippled Confederate veterans, and the widows and orphans of dead Confederate soldiers and sailors, the binding up of the nation’s wounds would have been much easier.

“to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

Amen.

 

Published in: on February 12, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Two-Hundred and Ten Years  
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February 10, 1865: Lincoln Reports to the House

Thaddeus Stevens

On February 10, 1865, pursuant to a House of Representatives Resolution drafted by Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, Lincoln sent a report to the House which basically consisted of a timeline of the events that led up to the Hampton Roads Conference.  Radical Republicans were furious when they first learned of the Hampton Roads Conference, afraid that Lincoln was trying an end run around them by ending the War on terms generous to the Confederates.  After the report was read in the House, tension ebbed when it was clear that the Hampton Roads Conference had ended without any agreement being reached, or any further meetings planned.  Here is the text of Lincoln’s report:

EXECUTIVE MANSION,
February 10, 1865.

To the Honorable the House of Representatives:

        In response to your resolution of the 8th instant, requesting information in relation to a conference recently held in Hampton Roads, I have the honor to state that on the day of the date I gave Francis P. Blair, sr., a card, written on as follows, to wit:

DECEMBER 28, 1864.

Allow the bearer; F. P. Blair, sr., to pass our lines, go South, and return.

A. LINCOLN.

        That at the time I was informed that Mr. Blair sought the card as a means of getting to Richmond, Va.; but he was given no authority to speak or act for the Government, nor was I informed of anything he would say or do on his own account or otherwise. Afterward Mr. Blair told me that he had been to Richmond, and had seen Mr. Jefferson Davis; and he (Mr. B.) at the same time left with me a manuscript letter as follows, to wit:

RICHMOND, VA., January 12, 1865.

F. P. BLAIR, Esq.:

        SIR: I have deemed it proper, and probably desirable to you, to give you in this form the substance of remarks made by me, to be repeated by you to President Lincoln, &c.
I have no disposition to find obstacles in forms, and am willing, now as heretofore, to enter into negotiations for the restoration of peace; and am ready to send a commission, whenever I have reason to suppose it will be received, or to receive a commission, if the United States Government shall choose to send one. That notwithstanding the rejection of our former offers, I would, if you could promise that a commissioner, minister, or other agent would be received, appoint one immediately, and renew the effort to enter into conference, with a view to secure peace to the two countries.

Yours, &c.,
JEFFERSON DAVIS
.

Afterward, and with the view that it should be shown to Mr. Davis, I wrote and delivered to Mr. Blair a letter, as follows, to wit:

WASHINGTON, January 18, 1865.

F. P. BLAIR, Esq.:

        SIR: Your having shown me Mr. Davis’ letter to you of the 12th instant, you may say to him that I have constantly been, am now, and shall continue ready to receive any agent whom he, or any other influential person now resisting the national authority, may informally send to me with the view of securing peace to the people of our one common country.

Yours, &c.
A. LINCOLN.

Afterward Mr. Blair dictated for and authorized me to make an entry on the back of my retained copy of the letter last above recited, which entry is as follows:

JANUARY 28, 1865.

        To-day Mr. Blair tells me that on the 21st instant he delivered to Mr. Davis the original, of which the within is a copy, and left it with him; that at the time of delivering it Mr. Davis read it over twice in Mr. Blair’s presence, at the close of which he (Mr. Blair) remarked that the part about “our one common country” related to the part of Mr. Davis’ letter about “the two countries,” to which Mr. Davis replied that he so understood it.

A. LINCOLN.

Afterward the Secretary of War placed in my hands the following telegram, indorsed by him as appears:

OFFICE U.S. MILITARY TELEGRAPH,
WAR DEPARTMENT.

The following telegram received at Washington, January 29, 1865, from headquarters Army of the James, 6.30 p.m. January 29, 1865:

“Hon. EDWIN M. STANTON,
“Secretary of War:”

The following dispatch just received from Major-General Parke, who refers it to me for my action. I refer it to you in Lieutenant-General Grant’s absence.

“E. O. C. ORD,
“Major-General, Commanding.”

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
January 29, 1865–4 p.m.

Maj. Gen. E. O. C. ORD,
Headquarters Army of the James:

        ‘The following dispatch is forwarded to you for your action. Since I have no knowledge of General Grant’s having had any understanding of this kind, I refer the matter to you as the ranking officer present in the two armies.

‘JNO. G PARKE,
‘ Major-General, Commanding.’

‘HEADQUARTERS NINTH ARMY CORPS, ‘ 29th.

‘ Maj. Gen. JOHN O. PARKE,
‘ Headquarters Army of the Potomac:

‘Alex. H. Stephens, R. M. T. Hunter, and J. A. Campbell desire to cross my lines, in accordance with an understanding claimed to exist with Lieutenant-General Grant, on their way to Washington as peace commissioners. Shall they be admitted? They desire an early answer, to come through immediately. Would like to reach City Point to-night, if they can. If they cannot do this, they would like to come through at 10 a.m. to-morrow morning.

‘O. B. WILLCOX,
‘ Major-General, Commanding Ninth Corps.’

“JANUARY 29—.8.30 p.m.

“Respectfully referred to the President for such instructions as he may be pleased to give.

“EDWIN M. STANTON,
“Secretary of War.”

        It appears that about the time of placing the foregoing telegram in my hands, the Secretary of War dispatched General Ord as follows, to wit:

WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington City,
January 29, 1865–10 p.m.
(Sent 2 a.m. 30th.)

Major-General ORD:

SIR: This Department has no knowledge of any understanding by General Grant to allow any person to come within his lines as commissioner of any sort. You will therefore allow no one to come into your lines under such character or profession until you receive the President’s instructions, to whom your telegram will be submitted for his directions.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

        Afterward, by my direction, the Secretary of War telegraphed General Ord as follows, to wit:

WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington, D.C., January 30, 1865—10.30 a.m.

Maj. Gen. E. O. C. ORD,
Headquarters Army of the James:

SIR: By direction of the President, you are instructed to inform the three gentle-men-Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell–that a messenger will be dispatched to them at or near where they now are, without unnecessary delay.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

Afterward I prepared and put into the hands of Maj. Thomas T. Eckert the following instructions and message:

EXECUTIVE MANSION,
Washington, January 30, 1865.

Maj. T. T. ECKERT:

SIR: You will proceed with the documents placed in your hands, and on reaching General Ord will deliver him the letter addressed to him by the Secretary of War; then, by General Ord’s assistance, procure an interview with Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell, or any of them. Deliver to him or them the paper on which your own letter is written. Note on the copy which you retain the time of delivery, and to whom delivered. Receive their answer in writing, waiting a reasonable time for it, and which, if it contain their decision to come through, without further condition, will be your warrant to ask General Ord to pass them through, as directed in the letter of the Secretary of War to him. If, by their answer, they decline to come, or propose other terms, do not have them passed through. And this being your whole duty, return and report to me.

Yours, truly,
A. LINCOLN.

CITY POINT, VA.,
February 1, 1865.

Messrs. ALEX. H. STEPHENS, J. A. CAMPBELL, and R. M. T. HUNTER:

        GENTLEMEN: I am instructed by the President of the United States to place this paper in your hands, with the information that, if you pass through the United States military lines, it will be understood that you do so for the purpose of an informal conference, on the basis of the letter, a copy of which is on the reverse side of this sheet, and that, if you choose to pass on such understanding, and so notify me in writing, I will procure the commanding general to pass you through the lines and to Fortress Monroe, under such military precautions as he may deem prudent, and at which place you will be met in due time by some person, or persons, for the purpose of such informal conference; and, further, that you shall have protection, safe conduct, and safe return in all events.

THOMAS T. ECKERT,
Major and Aide-de-Camp.

WASHINGTON,
January 18, 1865.

F. P. BLAIR, Esq.:

        SIR: Your having shown me Mr. Davis’ letter to you of the 12th instant, you may say to him that I have constantly been, am now, and shall continue ready to receive any agent whom he, or any other influential person now resisting the national authority, may informally send to me with the view of securing peace to the people of our one common country.

Yours, &c.,
A. LINCOLN.

Afterward, but before Major Eckert had departed, the following dispatch was received from General Grant:

OFFICE OF U.S. MILITARY TELEGRAPH,
WAR DEPARTMENT.

The following telegram received at Washington, January 31, 1865, from City Point, Va., 10.30 a.m. January 30, 1865:

“His Excellency ABRAHAM LINCOLN,
“President of the United States:

“The following communication was received here last evening:

PETERSBURG, VA.,
January 30, 1865.

‘Lieut. Gen. U.S. GRANT,
‘Commanding Armies of the United States:

        ‘SIR: We desire to pass your lines under safe conduct, and to proceed to Washington to hold a conference with President Lincoln upon the subject of the existing war, and with a view of ascertaining upon what terms it may be terminated, in pursuance of the course indicated by him in his letter to Mr. Blair of January 18, 1865, of which we presume you have a copy; and if not, we wish to see you in person, if convenient, and to confer with you upon the subject.

‘Very respectfully, yours,
‘ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS.
‘J. A. CAMPBELL.
‘R. M. T. HUNTER.

“I have sent directions to receive these gentlemen, and expect to have them at my quarters this evening awaiting your instructions.

“U. S. GRANT,
“Lieutenant-General,
Commanding Armies of the United States.”

        This, it will be perceived, transferred General Ord’s agency in the matter to General Grant. I resolved, however, to send Major Eckert forward with his message, and accordingly telegraphed General Grant as follows, to wit:

EXECUTIVE MANSION,
Washington, January 31, 1865.
(Sent 1.30 p.m.)

Lieutenant-General GRANT,
City Point, Va.:

        A messenger is coming to you on the business contained in your dispatch. Detain the gentlemen in comfortable quarters until he arrives, and then act upon the message he brings as far as applicable, it having been made up to pass through General Ord’s hands, and when the gentlemen were supposed to be beyond our lines.

A. LINCOLN.

        When Major Eckert departed he bore with him a letter of the Secretary of War to General Grant as follows, to wit:

WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington, D.C., January 30, 1865.

Lieutenant-General GRANT,
Commanding, &c. :

        GENERAL: The President desires that you will please procure for the bearer, Maj. Thomas T. Eckert, an interview with Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell, and if, on his return to you, he request it, pass them through our lines to Fortress Monroe, by such route and under such military precautions as you may deem prudent, giving them protection and comfortable quarters while there, and that you let none of this have any effect upon your movements or plans.

By order of the President:
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

        Supposing the proper point to be then reached, I dispatched the Secretary of State with the following instructions, Major Eckert, however, going ahead of him:

EXECUTIVE MANSION,
Washington, January 31, 1865.

Hon. WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State:

        You will proceed to Fortress Monroe, Va., there to meet and informally confer with Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell on the basis of my letter to F. P. Blair, esq., of January 18, l865, a copy of which you have.
You will make known to them that three things are indispensable, to wit:

1st. The restoration of the national authority throughout all the States.
2d. No receding, by the Executive of the United States, on the slavery question, from the position assumed thereon in the late annual message to Congress and in preceding documents.
3d. No cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war and the disbanding of all forces hostile to the Government.

        You will inform them that all propositions of theirs, not inconsistent with the above, will be considered and passed upon in a spirit of sincere liberality. You will hear all they may choose to say, and report it to me.
You will not assume to definitely consummate anything.

Yours, &c.,
ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

        On the day of its date the following telegram was sent to General Grant:

WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington, D.C., February 1, 1865.
(Sent 9.30 a.m.)

Lieutenant-General GRANT,
City Point, Va.:

        Let nothing which is transpiring change, hinder, or delay your military movements or plans.

A. LINCOLN.

Afterward the following dispatch was received from General Grant:

OFFICE U.S. MILITARY TELEGRAPH,
WAR DEPARTMENT.

The following telegram received at Washington, 2.30 p.m. February 1, 1865, from City Point, Va., February 1, 12.30 p.m., 1865:

“His Excellency A. LINCOLN,
President of the United States:

        Your dispatch received. There will be no armistice in consequence of the presence of Mr Stephens and others within our lines The troops are kept in readiness to move at the shortest notice, if occasion should justify it.

“U. S. GRANT,
“Lieutenant-General.

        To notify Major Eckert that the Secretary of State would be at Fortress Monroe, and to put them in communication, the following dispatch was sent:

WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington, D.C., February 1, 1865.

Maj. T. T. ECKERT:
(Care of General Grant, City Point, va.)

        Call at Fortress Monroe, and put yourself under direction of Mr. S[eward], whom you will find there.

A. LINCOLN.

On the morning of the 2d instant the following telegrams were received by me, respectively, from the Secretary of State and Major Eckert:

FORT MONROE, VA.,
February 1, 1865–11.30 p.m.

The PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:

        Arrived at 10 this evening. Richmond party not here. I remain here.

WILLIAM H. SEWARD.

CITY POINT, VA.,
February 1, 1865–10 p.m.

His Excellency A. LINCOLN,
President of the United States:

     I have the honor to report the delivery of your communication and my letter at 4.15 this afternoon, to which I received a reply at 6 p.m., but not satisfactory.
At 8 p.m. the following note addressed to General Grant was received:

“CITY POINT, VA.,
February 1, 1865.

“Lieutenant-General GRANT:

        SIR: We desire to go to Washington City to confer informally with the President personally, in reference to the matters mentioned in his letter to Mr. Blair of the 18th of January ultimo, without any personal compromise on any question in the letter. We have the permission to do so from the authorities in Richmond.

“Very respectfully, yours,
“ALEX. H. STEPHENS.
“R. M. T. HUNTER.
“J. A. CAMPBELL.”

        At 9.30 p.m. I notified them that they could not proceed further unless they complied with the terms expressed in my letter. The point of meeting designated in the above note would not, in my opinion, be insisted upon. Think Fort Monroe would be acceptable. Having complied with my instructions I will return to Washington to-morrow unless otherwise ordered.

THOS. T. ECKERT,
Major, &c.

        On reading this dispatch of Major Eckert, I was about to recall him and the Secretary of State, when the following telegram of General Grant to the Secretary of War was shown me:

OFFICE U.S. MILITARY TELEGRAPH,
WAR DEPARTMENT,

        The following telegram received at Washington, 4.35 a.m. February 2, 1865, from City Point, Va., February 1, 10.30 p.m., 1865:

“Hon. EDWIN M. STANTON,
“Secretary of War:

“Now that the interview between Major Eckert, under his written instructions, and Mr. Stephens and party has ended, I will state confidentially, but not officially to become a matter of record, that I am convinced, upon conversation with Messrs. Stephens and Hunter, that their intentions are good and their desire sincere to restore peace and union. I have not felt myself at liberty to express even views of my own or to account for my reticency. This has placed me in an awkward position, which I could have avoided by not seeing them in the first instance. I fear now their going back without any expression from any one in authority will have a bad influence. At the same time I recognize the difficulties in the way of receiving these informal commissioners at this time, and do not know what to recommend. I am sorry, however, that Mr. Lincoln cannot have an interview with the two named in this dispatch, if not all three now within our lines. Their letter to me was all that the President’s instructions contemplated, to secure their safe conduct, if they had used the same language to Major Eckert.

“U.S. GRANT,
“Lieutenant-General.”

        This dispatch of General Grant changed my purpose; and accordingly I telegraphed him and the Secretary of State, respectively, as follows:

WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington, D.C., February 2, 1865. (Sent 9 a.m.)

Lieutenant-General GRANT,
City Point, Va.:

Say to the gentlemen I will meet them personally at Fortress Monroe as soon as I can get there.

A. LINCOLN.

WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington, D.C., February 2, 1865,
(Sent 9 a.m.)

Hon. WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
Fortress Monroe, Va.:

        Induced by a dispatch from General Grant, I join you at Fort Monroe as soon as I can come.

A. LINCOLN.

        Before starting the following dispatch was shown me; I proceeded, nevertheless:

OFFICE U.S. MILITARY TELEGRAPH,
WAR DEPARTMENT.

        The following telegram received at Washington, February 2, 1865, from City Point, Va., 9 a.m. February 2, 1865:

“Hon. WILLIAM n. SEWARD,
“Secretary of State, Fort Monroe:

        “The gentlemen here have accepted the proposed terms, and will leave for Fort Monroe at 9.30 a.m.

“U. S. GRANT,
“Lieutenant-General.”

(Copy to Itoh. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Washington )

        On the night of the 2d I reached Hampton Roads, found the Secretary of State and Major Eckert on a steamer, anchored offshore, and learned of them that the Richmond gentlemen were on another steamer, also anchored offshore, in the Roads, and that the Secretary of State had not yet seen or communicated with them. I ascertained that Major Eckert had literally complied with his instructions, and I saw, for the first time, the answer of the Richmond gentlemen to him, which, in his dispatch to me of the 1st, he characterizes as “not satisfactory.”

That answer is as follows, to wit:

CITY POINT,
Va., February 1, 1865.

Maj. THOMAS T. ECKERT,
Aide-de-Camp:

        MAJOR: Your note, delivered by yourself this day, has been considered. In reply, we have to say that we were furnished with a copy of the letter of President Lincoln to Francis P. Blair, esq., of the 18th of January ultimo, another copy of which is appended to your note.
Our instructions are contained in a letter, of which the following is a copy:

” RICHMOND, January 28, 1865.

“In conformity with the letter of Mr. Lincoln, of which the foregoing is a copy, you are to proceed to Washington City for informal conference with him upon the issues involved in the existing war, and for the purpose of securing peace to the two countries.

“With great respect, your obedient servant,
“JEFFERSON DAVIS.”

        The substantial object to be obtained by the informal conference is to ascertain upon what terms the existing war can be terminated honorably.
Our instructions contemplate a personal interview between President Lincoln and ourselves at Washington City, but with this explanation we are ready to meet any person or persons that President Lincoln may appoint, at such place as he may designate.
Our earnest desire is that a just and honorable peace may be agreed upon, and we are prepared to receive or to submit propositions which may possibly lead to the attainment of that end.

Very respectfully, yours,
ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS.
R. M. T. HUNTER.
JOHN A. CAMPBELL.

        A note of these gentlemen, subsequently addressed to General Grant, has already been given in Major Eckert’s dispatch of the 1st instant.
I also here saw, for the first time, the following note, addressed by the Richmond gentlemen to Major Eckert:

CITY POINT,
VA., February 2, 1865.

Maj. THOMAS T. ECKERT,
Aide-de-Camp:

        MAJOR: In reply to your verbal statement that your instructions did not allow you to alter the conditions upon which a passport could be given to us, we say that we are willing to proceed to Fortress Monroe, and there to have an informed conference, with any person or persons that President Lincoln may appoint, on the basis of his letter to Francis P. Blair of the 18th of January ultimo, or upon any other terms or conditions that he may hereafter propose, not inconsistent with the essential principles of self-government and popular rights, upon which our institutions are founded.
It is our earnest wish to ascertain, after a free interchange of ideas and information, upon what principles and terms, if any, a just and honorable peace can be established without the further effusion of blood, and to contribute our utmost efforts to accomplish such a result.
We think it better to add, that in accepting your passport we are not to be understood as committing ourselves to anything, but to carry to this informal conference the views and feelings above expressed.

Very respectfully, yours, &c.,
ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS.
J. A. CAMPBELL.
R. M. T. HUNTER.

NOTE.–The above communication was delivered to me at Fort Monroe, at 4.30 p.m. February 2, by Lieutenant-Colonel Babcock, of General Grant’s staff.

THOS. T. ECKERT,
Major and Aide-de-Camp.

        On the morning of the 3d the three gentlemen–Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell–came aboard of our steamer and had an interview with the Secretary of State and myself of several hours’ duration. No question of preliminaries to the meeting was then and there made or mentioned; no other person was present; no papers were exchanged or produced; and it was, in advance, agreed that the conversation was to be informal and verbal merely. On our part, the whole substance of the instructions to the Secretary of State, hereinbefore recited, was stated and insisted upon, and nothing was said inconsistent therewith; while, by the other party, it was not said that in any event or on any condition they ever would consent to reunion, and yet they equally omitted to declare that they never would so consent. They seemed to desire a postponement of that question, and the adoption of some other course first, which, as some of them seemed to argue, might or might not lead to reunion, but which course, we thought, would amount to an indefinite postponement. The conference ended without result.
The foregoing, containing, as is believed, all the information sought, is respectfully submitted.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Published in: on February 10, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 10, 1865: Lincoln Reports to the House  
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February 5, 1865: Lincoln Proposes Compensated Emancipation

Lincoln, February 5, 1865

 

Throughout the War Lincoln had made several attempts to propose compensated emancipation to end the War.  All such initiatives were still-born, killed by the twin facts that Congress was uninterested in providing the funding and that the slaveholders were uninterested in ending slavery, even with compensation.  On February 5, 1865, Lincoln proposed this plan to his cabinet:

Fellow citizens of the Senate, and [February 5, 1865]

House of Representatives.

I respectfully recommend that a Joint Resolution, substantially as follows, be adopted so soon as practicable, by your honorable bodies.

“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives, of the United States of America in congress assembled: That the President of the United States is hereby empowered, in his discretion, to pay four hundred millions of dollars to the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West-Virginia, in the manner, and on the conditions following, towit: The payment to be made in six per cent government bonds, and to be distributed among said States pro rata on their respective slave populations, as shown by the census of 1860; and no part of said sum to be paid unless all resistance to the national authority shall be abandoned and cease, on or before the first day of April next; and upon such abandonment and ceasing of resistance, one half of said sum to be paid in manner aforesaid, and the remaining half to be paid only upon the amendment of the national constitution recently proposed byPage  261congress, becoming valid law, on or before the first day of July next, by the action thereon of the requisite number of States”

The adoption of such resolution is sought with a view to embody it, with other propositions, in a proclamation looking to peace and re-union.

Whereas a Joint Resolution has been adopted by congress in the words following, towit

Now therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known, that on the conditions therein stated, the power conferred on the Executive in and by said Joint Resolution, will be fully exercised; that war will cease, and armies be reduced to a basis of peace; that all political offences will be pardoned; that all property, except slaves, liable to confiscation or forfeiture, will be released therefrom, except in cases of intervening interests of third parties; and that liberality will be recommended to congress upon all points not lying within executive control. (more…)

Published in: on February 5, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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January 18, 1865: Lincoln Note to Blair

Lincoln v. Davis

 

After Francis P. Blair returned to Washington from Richmond with a note from Jefferson Davis indicating a willingness to enter into negotiations, go here and here for background on Blair’s mission and his meeting with Davis, Lincoln had a decision to make.  Refuse to enter into negotiations and that would anger both moderate Republicans and Democrats.  Enter into negotiations, and both mainstream and radical Republicans would be dismayed.  Lincoln hit upon a shrewd response.  He would enter into negotiations, but he would couch his agreement in such terms as clearly to indicate no weakening in his resolve to preserve the Union: (more…)

Published in: on January 18, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Hal Holbrook on Playing Lincoln

 

Hal Holbrook starred in a miniseries back in 1974 where he played Lincoln.  The series was based on Carl Sandburg’s romantic, if dubious historically, take on Lincoln in his Pulitzer winning biography.  The episodes in the miniseries do not tell the entire life of Lincoln, but rather focus on vignettes from Lincoln as a young lawyer up to his years as President.  The series had its moments, Holbrook being an actor of considerable ability, but I chiefly remember it for the makeup job of Holbrook as Lincoln:

 

It simply didn’t work for me.  It struck me as fake looking, although I admit that your mileage may vary.  A decade later Holbrook would portray Lincoln in the soap operish look at the War in North and South, and I thought the makeup was much better done:

 

 

 

Playing an historical figure who has become a national icon is rough, and especially so with Lincoln who had a strikingly unique appearance and mannerisms, and who lived before the time of audio or film recording.  It is no wonder that efforts to capture the man on stage or on film so often meet with negative or mixed results.

Published in: on January 16, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Hal Holbrook on Playing Lincoln  
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Lincoln and the Creation of Thanksgiving

 

 

In the midst of this, however, He, from Whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated.

Abraham Lincoln, from his last public address, April 11, 1865

Abraham Lincoln frequently throughout the Civil War called for thanks giving for Union victories and for prayers and repentance for national sins.  The idea however of an annual Thanksgiving did not spring from him but from Sarah Josepha Hale, a noted literary figure who, among other accomplishments wrote the child’s poem Mary Had a Little Lamb.  Born in 1788, for years she had led a movement for a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed annually. (more…)

Published in: on November 22, 2018 at 6:02 am  Comments Off on Lincoln and the Creation of Thanksgiving  
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Gettysburg Addresses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presidents during their presidencies make hundreds of speeches.  Most are utterly forgotten soon after they are delivered.  Even most of the speeches by a president who is also a skilled orator, as Lincoln was, are recalled only by historians and trivia buffs.  Yet the Gettysburg address has achieved immortality.

 

Lincoln was invited to say a few words at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.  The featured speaker was Edward Everett, one of the most accomplished men in American public life, who gave a two hour oration.  It is a fine example of nineteenth century oratory, full of learning, argument and passion.  It may seem very odd to contemplate in our sound bite age, but audiences in America in Lincoln’s time expected these type of lengthy excursions into eloquence and felt cheated when a speaker skimped on either length or ornateness in his efforts.

Lincoln then got up and spoke for two minutes.

We are not really sure what Lincoln said.  There are two drafts of the speech in Lincoln’s hand, and they differ from each other.  It is quite likely that neither reflects precisely the words that Lincoln used in the Gettysburg Address.  For the sake of simplicity, and because it is the version people usually think of when reference is made to the Gettysburg address, the text used here is the version carved on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle- field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate…we cannot consecrate…we cannot hallow…this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Here was the masterpiece of Lincoln’s passion for concise, almost terse, argument.  No doubt many in the audience were amazed when Lincoln sat down, probably assuming that this was a preamble to his main speech.

“Fourscore and seven years ago”

Lincoln starts out with an attention grabber.  Rather than the prosaic eighty-seven years, he treats his listeners to a poetic line that causes them to think and follow Lincoln back in time to the founding. (more…)

Published in: on November 19, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Gettysburg Addresses  
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