Sunday, July 19, 2009

'The Trojan Horse Of Tyranny'

26th of 45 excerpts from Lincoln by David Herbert Donald:
Support for the President, which appeared so overwhelming immediately after Bull Run [in July 1861], rapidly eroded. For many Democrats the defeat brought realization that the nation faced a long and costly war. Those who were styled "War Democrats" rallied behind the President. A larger group of Democrats reluctantly accepted the war as long as it was fought to preserve "the constitution as it is and the Union as it was," but they were nervous lest a prolonged conflict prove "the Trojan horse of tyranny."

. . . These divisions deeply troubled Lincoln. He recognized what he called "the plain facts" of his situation. The Republicans, as he said, "came into power, very largely in a minority of the popular vote." His administration could not possibly put down the rebellion without assistance from the Democrats. It was, he observed, "mere nonsense to suppose a minority could put down a majority in rebellion." Consequently, he carefully cultivated War Democrats in Congress like Andrew Johnson of Tennessee (photo, above right), the only Southern senator who refused to follow his state when it seceded, and Reverdy Johnson of Maryland (photo, right), who sustained the President's use of war powers and refuted the arguments of Chief Justice Taney.

In attempting to build a consensus, the President ran the risk of dividing his own party . . . Among disgruntled Republicans the feeling spread that Lincoln, though well meaning, was slow and incompetent. In his diary, Count Adam Gurowski, the eccentric Polish nobleman who worked as a translator for the State Department, accurately captured the mood of Republicans in Congress: "Mr. Lincoln in some way has a slender historical resemblance to Louis XVI -- similar goodness, honesty, good intentions, but the size of events seems to be too much for him."

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