With Malice Toward None By Stephen Boates

.. Lincoln had become the sixteenth President of the United States with 1,866,452 popular votes. However he, did not receive a single vote in ten Southern states, and largely because of his victory, frustrated, humiliated, and defeated Southerners began the process of secession, beginning with South Carolina in 1860. Abraham Lincoln was chosen by destiny as the man to lead the Nation through its most trying hour, and it is quite probable that he understood just how trying it would be. Upon recalling how he felt immediately after learning of his victory, Lincoln replied, “I went home, but not to get much sleep, for I then felt as I never had before, the responsibility that was upon me.” (p 231) By Lincoln’s inauguration day in March of 1861, seven states had already seceded from the Union, electing Jefferson Davis as President of their Confederacy. In his inaugural address Lincoln attempted to avoid aggravating the slave states that had not yet seceded.

He asked the South to reconsider its actions, but also reinforced his belief that the Union was perpetual, and that states could not secede, saying, “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.” (p 288) Lincoln also announced that because secession was unlawful he would hold the federal forts and installations in the South. All sided with the Union basically because they were assured by Lincoln that the war was being fought to preserve the Union, and not to destroy slavery. In a letter to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, on August 22, 1862, Lincoln confirmed this position saying: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.” (p 290) Just as he had previously said that he would, on January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared that all slaves residing in states and districts still in rebellion against the United States were to be free. Although this was a bold move meant to upset the Southern war effort, the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation had no immediate affect because it applied only to the Confederate states over which the federal government had no control.

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The proclamation did not apply to the slave states under Union control because there was no legal justification for Lincoln to apply it in those places. It had to be classified as a “military measure,” such as depriving the South of the services of her slaves. Lincoln realized that in order to peacefully integrate the former slaves into American society he decided to train them as regular soldiers, and they fought gallantly. Some 186,000 colored troops had been enrolled in the Union army by the end of the war. The famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow remarked, “At last the North consents to let the Negro fight for freedom.” (p 340) Jefferson Davis, and his war-torn South, had one final hope — the defeat of Lincoln in the election of 1864. Davis knew that as long as Lincoln was in the Office, the industrial superior North would continue to fight, and the South could not withstand the war much longer.

If a new “peace” candidate were to be elected, then the Confederacy might survive. “Luckily for Lincoln the tide of the war turned dramatically in September of 1864 when General Sherman took Atlanta, an extremely important Southern rail and manufacturing center. Morale was boosted greatly in the North, and the victories continued to mount under Lincoln’s new-found leaders in Ulysses S. Grant and General Sherman. By the time of the election in November, Lincoln won overwhelmingly with 212 of the 233 possible electoral.” (p 402) The very weary President addressed the Nation the next day with less than victorious words. He stressed that the South should be dealt with mildly in order to bring the entire Nation back together as soon as possible.

“Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these states and the Union.” (p 409) What should have been Lincoln’s finest hour was probably one of his most stressing, because it was now up to him as to where the Nation was to go next. It was Good Friday, April 14, 1865, only five days after the end of the war. Despite numerous warnings from some of his closest advisors, President Lincoln insisted on attending an evening performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater. Since General Grant was expected to attend the play with President Lincoln, the President’s attendance was highly publicized. John Wilkes Booth, a staunch Southern supporter, was a well known and popular actor who felt it necessary to redeem the lost cause of the Confederacy.

He had previously planned to kidnap President Lincoln, but when that plan did not work he decided to assassinate him instead. He had the help of three others in his plot, with the intention of also assassinating Vice President Johnson, Secretary Seward, and General Grant. The wounded Lincoln was rushed across the street to the Petersen house where he was attended to for nine hours. After fighting for life like only he could, President Abraham Lincoln passed away at 7:22 a.m. on the morning of April 15, 1865.

“Even he who now sleeps, has, by this event, been clothed with a new influence..Now his simple and weighty words will be gathered like those of Washington, and your children, and your children’s children, shall be taught to ponder the simplicity and deep wisdom of utterances which, in their time, passed, in party heat, as idle words.” –Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, 1865 “A greater work is seldom performed by a single man. Generations yet unborn will rise up and call him blessed.” –Reverend James Reed, 1865 “..In all America, there was, perhaps, not one man who less deserved to be the victim of this revolution, than he who has just fallen.” –The London Times, 1865 “Abraham Lincoln..was at home and welcome with the humblest, and had a spirit and a practical vein in the times of terror that commanded the admiration of the wisest. His heart was as great as the world, but there was no room in it to hold the memory of a wrong.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1876 “If one would know the greatness of Lincoln one should listen to the stories which are told about him in other parts of the world. I have been in wild places where one hears the name of America uttered with such mystery as if it were some heaven or hell..but I heard this only in connection with the name Lincoln.” –Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) “In the days before antiseptic surgery, Lincoln had foreshadowed his own demise; his efforts to preserve the life of the nation had been successful at the cost of its strongest limb.” (p 446) My View on the Book I found this book interesting and was surprised it was not another documentary style written biography. It was actually interesting to read due to Oates creative writing style. And being a factual historical story I learned a little about the life style of the post-colonial period and of course, the life of Lincoln himself whom I know like a close relative now due to the deep personal as well as external imagery expressed in this biography.