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[540] through the fierce storms of civil war, he alone must guide the ship, or else all must perish. After the storm has burst upon them it is too late to select another pilot. Then partizan opposition, impairing the popular strength and confidence of the leader and embarrassing his military operations or public policy, becomes treason, and a far more dangerous treason than any which the open sympathizers with the public enemy could possibly commit. Those powerful leaders of public opinion who hounded Lincoln on to measures which his far greater wisdom and his supreme sense of responsibility told him were unwise, deserved to be hanged, or at least to be imprisoned until the war was over. That some of them died in shame and disgrace upon the failure of their own selfish schemes for personal or political aggrandizement, was only a mild measure of righteous retribution.

In the calm atmosphere of these later years I still think that the course of the young soldier who had not learned any of the arts or of the ambitions of partizan leaders, but whose only motto was ‘the President's policy is my policy; his orders my rule of action,’ was much more in accord with the plain duty of every citizen of the republic. I can find in my mind or heart only contempt for that theory of patriotic duty which sends one citizen to the front, freely to give his life, without question, to enforce the orders of the chosen leader of the nation, and permits another to stay at home and bend all his efforts toward forcing the substitution of his own egotistical views upon the country, in lieu of those which the great leader has decided to be most wise.

Let the names of the great war governors, and of the statesmen in Congress and cabinet who gave all of their strength to the support of the measures of Lincoln, stand by the side of the foremost commanders of armies on the roll of national honor. Let the others be covered by the mantle of charity, and quietly pass into oblivion.

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Abraham Lincoln (2)
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