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When the 37th Congress assembled in special session on July 4, 1861, it was thus confronted with a fait accompli. The President, acting in his capacity as commander in chief, had put himself at the head of the whole Union war effort, arrogating to himself greater powers than those claimed by any previous American president. His enemies termed him a dictator and a tyrant. In fact, his power was limited, partly by his own instincts, partly by the knowledge that his actions would be judged in four years at the polls, and chiefly by the inadequacy of the federal bureaucracy.

Nevertheless, the role of Congress was sharply defined: it could appropriate money to support the war, it could initiate legislation on issues not related to the war, it could debate questions relating to the conflict. But direction of the Union war effort was to remain firmly in Lincoln's hands.

Military Policy

The first responsibility of the President was the successful prosecution of the war against the Confederate States. In this duty he was hampered by the lack of a strong military tradition in America and by the shortage of trained officers. During the early months of the conflict the War Department was headed by Simon Cameron, and corruption and inefficiency were rife. Not until January, 1862, when Lincoln replaced Cameron with the imperious but efficient Edwin M. Stanton, was some semblance of order brought to the procurement of supplies for the federal armies. Navy secretary Gideon Welles was above suspicion, but he was inexperienced in nautical affairs and cautious in accepting innovations, such as the ironclad monitors.

Even more difficult was the task of finding capable general officers. At first the President gave supreme command of the Union forces to the elderly Gen. Winfield Scott. After the Confederate victory at the first battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861), Lincoln increasingly entrusted power to George B. McClellan, a brilliant organizer and administrator. But McClellan's caution, his secretiveness, and his willingness to strip the defenses of Washington the better to attack Richmond led Lincoln to look elsewhere for military advice. Borrowing "a large number of strategical works" from the Library of Congress, he attempted to direct the overall conduct of the war himself by issuing a series of presidential general war orders. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, whom Lincoln brought to Washington as a strategic planner, served more as a glorified clerk, and the President repeatedly exercised personal supervision over the commanders in the field.

Not until the emergence of Ulysses S. GRANT, hero of Vicksburg and Chattanooga, did Lincoln find a general to whom he could entrust overall direction of the war. Even then, the President kept a close eye on military operations, advising and even occasionally overruling the general, but mostly supporting and encouraging him.


Strongly opposed to slavery, Lincoln made a sharp distinction between his personal views and his public responsibilities. He had been elected on a platform that pledged not to interfere with the "peculiar institution" in states where it already existed and had sworn to uphold a Constitution that protected Southern rights. From the first day of the war, however, he was under pressure from the more extreme antislavery men in his own party to strike at slavery as the mainspring of the rebellion. Counterbalancing this pressure was the need to conciliate opinion in the border states, which still recognized slavery but were loyal to the Union. Any move against slavery, Lincoln feared, would cause their secession.

Wartime pressure inescapably forced the president toward emancipation. Foreign powers could not be expected to sympathize with the North, when both the Union and the Confederate governments were pledged to uphold slavery. As the war dragged on, more and more northerners saw the absurdity of continuing to protect the "peculiar institution," which, by keeping a subservient labor force on the farms, permitted the Confederates to put proportionately more of their able-bodied white men into their armies. When Union casualties mounted, even racist northerners began to favor enlisting blacks in the Union armies.

Реферат опубликован: 9/09/2007