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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

Fremont was withdrawn and McClellan easily defeated


would have acted wisely in

proposing terms of peace. Their armies were still in being, and could even boast conspicuous and recent successes. If the war went on it would probably be many months before the end came, while the North was bitterly weary of the slaughter and would not tolerate the refusal of reasonable settlement. Yet, if the war went on, the end could no longer be in doubt. Had that golden moment been seized, the seceding States might have re-entered the Union almost on their own terms. Certainly they could have avoided the abasement and humiliation which was to come upon them as the consequence of continuing their resistance till surrender had to be unconditional. It might seem at first that Emancipation Proclamation had introduced an additional obstacle to accommodation. But this was largely neutralized by the fact that every one, including Jefferson Davis himself, recognized that Slavery had been effectively destroyed by the war and could never be revived, even were the South victorious. The acceptance by the Confederacy of a policy suggested by Lee, whereby Negroes were to be enlisted as soldiers and freed on enlistment, clinched this finally. On the other hand, Lincoln let it be clearly understood that if the Union could be restored by consent he was prepared to advocate the compensation of Southern owners for the loss of their slaves. The blame for the failure to take advantage of this moment must rest mainly on Davis. It was he who refused to listen to any terms save the recognition
of Southern independence; and this attitude doomed the tentative negotiations entered into at Hampton Roads to failure.

Meanwhile, in the North, Lincoln was chosen President for a second term. At one time his chances had looked gloomy enough. The Democratic Party had astutely chosen General McClellan as its candidate. His personal popularity with the troops, and the suggestion that he was an honest soldier ill-used by civilian politicians, might well gain him much support in the armies, for whose voting special provision had been made, while among the civil population he might expect the support of all who, for one reason or another, were discontented with the Government. At the same time the extreme Anti-Slavery wing of the Republican Party, alienated by the diplomacy of the President in dealing with the Border States, and by the moderation of his views concerning the Negro and his future, put forward another displaced general, Fremont. But in the end circumstances and the confidence which his statesmanship had created combined to give Lincoln something like a walk-over. The Democratic Party got into the hands of the "Copperheads" at the very moment when facts were giving the lie to the "Copperhead" thesis. Its platform described the course of the war as "four years of failure," and its issue as hopeless, while before the voting began even a layman could see that the Confederacy was, from the military point of view, on its last legs. The War Democrats joined hands with the Republicans, and the alliance was sealed by the selection of Andrew Johnson, a Jacksonian Democrat from Tennessee, as candidate for the Vice-Presidency. The Radical Republicans began to discover how strong a hold Lincoln had gained on the public mind in the North, and to see that by pressing their candidate they would only expose the weakness of their faction. Fremont was withdrawn and McClellan easily defeated. A curious error has been constantly repeated in print in this country to the effect that Lincoln was saved only by the votes of the army. There is no shadow of foundation for this statement. The proportion of his supporters among the soldiers was not much greater than among the civil population. But in both it was overwhelming.


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