armies of the United States
Even this, if intended as conveying authority to the President
, was superfluous, and if intended as more than that would have been unconstitutional.
In fact, it was only a suggestion, intended to be entirely within the limits of constitutional propriety, of what was the general opinion of the people and of Congress, that after three years of failure the President
ought to select a soldier and put him in actual command of all the armies.
The President then went far beyond the suggestion of Congress, and even to the extreme limit of military abdication.
He not only gave General Grant
absolute, independent command, placing at his disposal all the military resources of the country, but he even denied to himself any knowledge whatever of the general's plans.
In this patriotic act of extreme self-abnegation President Lincoln
undoubtedly acted in exact accord with what he believed to be the expressed popular opinion, and probably in accord with his own judgment and inclination; for no one could have been more painfully aware than he had by that time become of the absolute necessity of having a military man actually in control of all the armies, or more desirous than he of relief from a responsibility to which he and his advisers had proved so unequal.
But it must be admitted that in this President Lincoln
went beyond the limit fixed by his constitutional obligation as commander-in-chief.
He would have more exactly fulfilled that obligation if he had endeavored faithfully to comprehend and adopt as his own all the plans proposed by his chosen and trusted general-in-chief, guarding the latter against all possible interference, theretofore so pernicious, from the War Department or any other source.
By such means the President
could have actually exercised the chief command imposed upon him by the Constitution
, sharing in due measure with his chief military officer the responsibilities imposed by their high offices.