James Ford Rhodes (1848–1927). History of the Civil War, 1861–1865. 1917.

Page 35

  in Richmond, Mrs. Chesnut had with him a talk of nearly an hour, through which there ran, on his part, “a sad refrain.” “His tone was not sanguine.” He anticipated a long war. He laughed at the common brag that “every Southerner was equal to three Yankees. Only fools,” he continued, “doubted the courage of the Yankees or their willingness to fight when they saw fit.” 1  42   The Confederates, said the President in his Fourth-of-July message, “forced upon the country the distinct issue, ‘immediate dissolution or blood.’ It was with the deepest regret that the executive found the duty of employing the war power in defense of the government forced upon him. He could but perform this duty or surrender the existence of the government.” Using an expression of which he grew fond, “the plain people,” he addressed to them an argument in support of his position.  43   Lincoln of all men in 1861 was most thoroughly convinced that the Southerners would never have carried the doctrine of State-rights to the point of secession had it not been for the purpose of repelling what was considered an aggression on slavery; yet in his message there is not a word on this subject and the reason is not far to seek. Restricting the object of the war to the restoration of the Union, he had with him Democrats and Bell and Everett men as well as Republicans; a mention of slavery would at once have given rise to partisan contentions. At this early day, however, Lincoln understood the scope of the conflict and thus unbosomed himself to the private secretary who was in sympathy with him: “For my own part, I consider the central idea pervading this struggle is the necessity that is upon us of proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle this question now, whether, in a free government,
Note 1. Chesnut; III, 299. [back]