It was the misfortune of the time, and of the occasion, which determined Mr. Lincoln to institute a plan of restoration during the interim of Congress, that the Republican party, then in absolute control of Congress, was in no sense equipped for such a work. Its first and great mission had been the destruction of slavery. Though not phrased in formal fashion, that was the logic of its creation and existence. It was brought into being purely as an anti-slavery party, illustrated in the fact that its membership included every pronounced anti-slavery man, known as abolitionists, in the United States. All its energies, during all its life up to the close of the war had been bent to that end. It had been born and bred to the work of destruction. It came to destroy slavery, and its forces had been nurtured, to the last day of the war, in pulling down--in fact, did not then wholly cease.
The work of restoration--the rebuilding of fallen States--had now come. The Republican party approached that work in the hot blood of war and the elation of victory--a condition illy fitting the demands of exalted statesmanship so essential to perfect political effort.
Never had nation or party thrust upon it a more delicate duty or graver responsibility. It was that of leading a conquered people to build a new civilization wholly different from the one in ruins. It was first to reconcile two races totally different from each other, so far as possible to move in harmony in supplanting servile by free labor, and the slave by a free American citizen. The transition was sudden, and the elements antagonistic in race, culture, self-governing power--indeed, in all the qualities which characterize a free people.
There was a wide margin for honest differences between statesmen of experience. A universal sentiment could not obtain. The accepted political leaders of the time were illy equipped to meet the issue--much less those who had been brought to prominence, and too often to control, in the hot blood of war and the frictions of the time, when intemperate denunciation and a free use of the epithets of "rebel," and "traitor," had become a ready passport to public honors. It was a time when the admonition to make haste slowly was of profound significance. A peril greater than any other the civil war had developed, overhung the nation. Greater than ever the demand for courage in conciliation--for divesting the issues of all mere partyism, and the yielding of something by the extremes, both of conservatism and radicalism.
CHAPTER II. THE BALTIMORE CONVENTION.
LINCOLN AND JOHNSON NOT NOMINATED AS REPUBLICANS.
Mr. Lincoln had been elected President in 1860, distinctively as a Republican. In 1864, however, the conditions had changed. The war had been in progress some three years, during which the insurgents had illustrated a measure of courage, endurance, and a command of the engineries of successful warfare that had not been anticipated by the people of the North. It was seen that to insure the success of the Union cause it was imperative that there should be thorough unity and cooperation of the loyal people of all parties--that it was no time for partisan division among those who hoped ever to see a restored Republic--that it was necessary to lay aside, as far as possible, mere partisan issues, and to unite, in the then approaching campaign, upon a non-partisan, distinctively Union ticket and platform.
Mr. Lincoln had given so satisfactory an administration so wisely, efficiently, and patriotically had he conducted his great office, that he was on all sides conceded to be the proper person for nomination and election. The Convention of 1861 was not called as a Republican Convention, but distinctively as a Union Convention.