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X.

But, of all the misfortunes which attended that party, and impaired its administration of affairs, the greatest was in following out the same policy, for the third time. Of the men who nominated Andrew Johnson for the Vice-Presidency, few ever thought of the contingency of Mr. Lincoln's death. But there must have been members enough in the Convention fully aware of the entire unfitness of Mr. Johnson for the execution of any high trust whatever. Born and brought up in a community where few of the amenities of civilized life were known; with poor chances for a knowledge of public affairs, and fewer still for intellectual culture; coarse-grained by nature, but gigantic in build and well calculated to ‘rough it,’ in rude communities, Andrew Johnson fought his way by sheer force into public observation. And although not destitute of a certain degree of native sturdiness of character, and a careless openness of manner which was easily mistaken by the vulgar for magnanimity and greatness; and having, neither by inheritance nor acquisition, any interest in common with the better classes of the South, his restless nature urged him into the first collisions of political parties. Happening to take the right side, at the right moment, he was swept on by the current of fortune, till its last crowning freak landed him [496] in the Presidential chair. But no native endowment, or habit of mind, had fitted him for the new and exalted sphere. Incapable either of comprehending the difficulties of his position, of choosing discreet private advisers, or even of listening to their counsels when once chosen, the bull-headed obstinacy of his character found a most welcome field for rioting in the slough of his ignorance and passion.

Familiar only with the stereotype formulas of traditional democracy, and the free slang of the Western stump, he was entirely incompetent to grapple with any problem of statesmanship, or hold his passions in subjection long enough for wise deliberation. He soon found himself plunged into a sea of difficulties. Incapable of retaining his old friends, or of making new ones; possessing no qualities which bound men to him by any stronger ties than office; conscious of a total lack of the dignity which so high an office confers; and knowing that his inferiority became the more conspicuous in contrast with the loftiness of his position; rash and hasty in judgment; too ignorant to know how, and too obstinate to find out when to yield or retreat; he went through his Presidential term with just about as much sagacity and dignity as the proverbial bull goes through a china-shop. What little there was of reputation for him to lose when he went into office, he managed to get rid of pretty quick; and the poor man must at last have felt about as much relieved in getting rid of his party and his office, as they felt in getting rid of him.

But neither his obstinacy nor his ignorance worked any great mischief. The national sentiment was well represented in both Houses of Congress, and gradually the dashing stream of events was washing away the slime of [497] Slavery from the nation. For that slime had been gathering as gangrene gathers over old sores, and foul matter concretes in dark, dank places, away from the sunshine and pure air. The long-obstructed floodgates had broken way, and the rushing waters had cleansed the Augean stable.

Mr. Johnson's Cabinet was made up chiefly of good and able men; and as he did not know enough about Foreign Affairs, even to interfere with the Department of State, besides being altogether too weak a man to cope with the gigantic force of Stanton, wisdom and vigor characterized those departments; while Congress was powerful enough to carry through a whole series of beneficent measures against his unavailing opposition. One by one the cardinal Amendments to the Constitution had passed both Houses, and been reenacted over his vetoes. Every necessary restraint was imposed on his tendency to do mischief; he was, by special enactments, stripped of much of his executive power; so that he went hamstrung through his term. His writhings and bellowings, as these withes were bound around him, were characteristic of such demonstrations on the part of the lower animals, under similar circumstances. It was a public relief when he made way for the great soldier who became his successor, and in whom the nation was justified in feeling absolutely safe; for they could repose on his supreme knowledge of the military condition of the country, and how the integrity and power of the Union had been vindicated; while from no quarter, at the time, nor do we believe, since, was breathed a doubt that the patriotism of the citizen was not as much above suspicion, as his valor had been above praise.

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