countries in a war, and trusting to escape scrutiny by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory,--that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood, that serpent's eye that charms to destroy,--he plunged into it, and has swept on and on, till disappointed in his calculation of the ease with which Mexico
might be subdued, he now finds himself he knows not where.
He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant that he may be able to show that there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity.”
This speech, however clear may have been its reasoning, however rich in illustration, in restrained and burning earnestness, yet was unsuccessful in “smoking out” the President
He remained within the official seclusion his position gave him, and declined to answer.
In fact it is doubtless true that Lincoln
anticipated no response, but simply took that means of defining clearly his own position.
On the 19th inst., having occasion to write me with reference to a note with which one of our clients, one Louis Candler
, had been “annoying” him, “not the least of which annoyance,” he complains, “is his cursed unreadable and ungodly handwriting,” he adds a line, in which with noticeable modesty he informs me: “I have made a speech, a copy of which I send you by mail.”
He doubtless felt he was taking rather advanced and perhaps questionable ground.
And so he was, for very soon after, murmurs of dissatisfaction began to run through the Whig
I did not, as some of Lincoln
's biographers would have their readers believe, inaugurate this feeling of dissatisfaction.
On the contrary, as the law partner of the Congressman
, and as his ardent admirer, I discouraged the defection all I could.
Still, when I listened to the comments of his friends everywhere after the delivery of his speech, I felt that he had made a mistake.
I therefore wrote him to that effect, at the same time giving him my own views, which I knew were in full accord with the views of his Whig constituents.
My argument in substance was: That the President
of the United States
of the Army and Navy; that as such commander it was his duty, in the absence of Congress, if the country was about to be invaded and armies were organized in Mexico
for that purpose, to go -if necessary — into the very heart of Mexico
and prevent the invasion.
I argued further that it would be a crime in the Executive
to let the country be invaded in the least degree.
The action of the President
was a necessity, and under a similar necessity years afterward Mr. Lincoln
himself emancipated the slaves, although he had no special power under the Constitution
to do so. In later days, in what is called the Hodges letter, concerning the freedom of the slaves, he used this language:
I felt that measures otherwise unconstitutional might become lawful by becoming indispensable.
Briefly stated, that was the strain of my argument.
My judgment was formed on the law of nations and of war. If the facts were as I believed them, and my premises correct, then I assumed that the President
's acts became lawful by becoming indispensable.