tv Abraham Lincolns Life Legacy CSPAN March 17, 2018 10:26am-11:16am EDT
shortly. you can watch our coverage of the abraham lincoln life and legacy symposium visiting our website, c-span.org/history. while you are there you can view our programs in their entirety. to share your thoughts on our programming connect with this on twitter on c-span history. @cspanhistory. >> good morning everyone. i am privileged to introduce our next speaker. professor ats a north carolina state university. he is a native of alabama and earned his degree in 1954. brianembers seeing their
for his early-morning practice. bill said he was always too intimidated to approach the legendary coach. after serving in the u.s. air force he returned to tuscaloosa and earned his doctorate. his teaching career took him to millsaps college and north carolina state where he served as chair of the department of history. whether administering, or teaching, were both, he has gone through 14 books and numerous essays on the civil war and reconstruction. relate to these books lincoln. lincoln's last months, which came out in 2004 and received our book award, lincoln's rise to the henry adams prize by the
society for history in the federal government. lincoln and the border states, cowinner of the lincoln prize. and his latest book, lincoln and congress, which treats the sometimes contentious, sometimes quite particular relationship between lincoln and capitol hill, the more cooperative than we sometimes think. lincoln only had one important veto to deliver in his time as president. bill writes with intelligence, great insight, solid humor and popular appeal. he has an active web presence. he comes up on a number of editable categories for -- predictable categories for his affiliations or himself. three, as these historians of the american civil war will turn him up.
american military historians. and one called living people will turn him up. [laughter] i am so glad he is alive to pleaseheladies and gentlemen, join me in welcoming bill harris. [applause] prof. harris: good morning again. honor to be invited to deliver a paper on lincoln, from the stage of this historic theater. it is also an honor to be introduced by terry, was well insightful-- whose biography of john wilkes booth is a must-read not only in light of this infamous assassin but
for the history of american theater in the 19 century. and route toln washington in february 1861, become president, drafted the following words regarding his perspective relationship with congress. which heonstitution, may think proper, and he may andil those measures, supposed he may add to the certain indirect influences to affect the action of congress. educationy political strongly inclines me against the free use of any of these means by the executive to control the legislation of the country. as a rule i think it better that congress should originate as well as perfect its measures
without external bias. " be in whigs, who would majority in congress after the southern states union had a similar political education. following his of relations with congress would be tested during the civil war. hecommander-in-chief, believed it was his primary constitutional duty to use armed forces to suppress the southern insurrection. still, what emerged was a partnership between lincoln and congress, including congress' role in financing the war, economic policies and the right to investigate wrongdoing in the military. wantedmbers of congress a larger hand in developing war policies. but lincoln successfully insisted, that the executive branch and the military
commanders must manage the war. relevant congressional committees for example, thad deus'stevens, courtney to the nuts and bolts to run the government -- coordinated the nuts and bolts to run the government and provided the financial means for the war machine. lincoln dutifully signed these measures. he also approved economic legislation in which congress had taken the initiative. some of these measures had a long-term impact. the important pacific railway act, the homestead act, the land-grant college act, national banking acts, and the issues of treasury notes. that a mistake to believe radicals like stevens in the senatend sumner in the controlled the republican
congress. the radicals, a vocal and shifting minority increasingly pushed for emancipation and black rights. war against the rebels and a stringent reconstruction policy controlled by congress. influential republican members, like senators trumbull of illinois and that of maine, could be found supporting radical measures, for example, early emancipation. they later supported it. not other radical measures such as harsh reconstruction policies. of conservative republicans, notably senator doolittle of wisconsin and orville browning, lincoln's friend opposed the anti-slavery policy and the confiscation laws. they were joined in opposition by influential border state members, like kentucky and also
northern democrats, the minority. in july, 1861, andrew johnson in the senate and also others in the house introduced identical resolutions to define the purpose of the war, which also expressed lincoln's war aims. the johnson resolutions affirmed that, the deplorable civil war has been forced on the country by the unionists of the southern states. in any is not waged spirit of oppression, not for the purpose of conquest, subjugation, nor overthrowing or interfering with the rights of established institutions of those states, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the constitution, and preserve the union with all the dignity, equality and rights of states
unimpaired, and that as soon as these objects are a calm list, the war should cease. accomplished, are the war should cease. it passed in the house and senate. radicals like thaddeus stevens, voted for the resolutions despite their desire calling for the subjugation of the south. added toion was later the republican war aims. lincoln continued to insist even after he issued his emancipation proclamation, that his primary purpose was to save the union and restore the southern states with their rights unimpaired, except for slavery. his anti-slavery policy became part of his overarching strategy to save the union. won.ar first had to be by the fall of 1862 the military
situation under general mcclellan's command, had no apparent end in sight. political situation for the republicans reflected the war weariness of the people. also, republicans were not aided politically by lincoln's preliminary emancipation proclamation and his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in september. elections went against republicans though they retain control of congress by a small margin. opposition to the war, the militia draft and volunteering even aftery, mcclelland was replaced by general ambrose e burnside grew, the north seemed primed for the democrats to assume control. democratic leader horatio seymour, governor of new york, in a campaign denouncing
republican policies, those supporting the war, increased the republican dismay. by december, 1862, many republicans in congress had unhappily concluded that lincoln was weak as a war leader and executive. the big knowledge is good intentions. republicans refrained from publicly criticizing him. they feared, probably correctly, the damage that public attacks on theident would have war and a party. privately they felt little compunction about questioning his leadership. trumbull, who owed his election to lincoln in 1855, wrote to a friend, "you would be surprised in talking with public manning congress to find how to you when you get at their real sentiments are for mr. lincoln. there is a distrust and fear that he is too undecided and
, to put down the rebellion." during 1862, republican leaders came to the conclusion that the reorganization of the cabinet was necessary if the war was to be won. overwhelmingly they wanted the secretary of state to be replaced, and the postmaster general, montgomery april layer -- montgomery blair. and the attorney general. congressional republicans unfairly thought these cabinet members, especially seward, --trol the president controlled the president and the policy to in the war. they also wanted it lincoln to consult his cabinet on a more regular basis in a conduct of important business and to cease dependence on individual members like seward, who always seemed
to have the president's ear. this dated back to the secession crisis of 1860-1861. as a senator the offered an unrealistic compromise in a proposal to save the union which many republicans believed was a sellout to the secessionists. it failed to pass the senate. after seward had become secretary of state, congressional republican hostility to him increased. when he unsuccessfully sought to thenate the administration, presumed interference in military operations and his conduct, reportedly without approval of the president, did not sit well with republicans in congress. especially in the senate. an unsung leader in the history of the senate expressed the
opinion of many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, when he wrote a friend at this time. "seward, was a poor creature. utterly selfish, often mean, although unfair in his characterization. " they had come to believe the worst of the secretary of state. the story of the senate republican caucus in december, 1862, trying to get rid of seward and reshaping the cabinet from the radical perspective. they have dismissed congressional concerns as a plot of the radicals to control the president and the war. according to this narrative, radicals were encouraged by the underhanded complaints of the secretary of the treasury, simon chase, and also lincoln's management of affairs.
historians have been influenced by radical biased accounts in diaries. too little attention or credit has been given to the intentions of senate republicans to urge efficiency and coordination in the administration's management of the war. even without chase, republicans had enough cause to warrant changes, but without seeking to control the administration or even the president. senator wade of ohio, was an exception. congress and specifically the committee on the conduct of the war, which he chaired, to have an oversight role in war policy and the selection of military commanders. factions,s of all andcals, moderates, conservatives hoped to impress upon lincoln, changes that would
result in a vigorous prosecution of the war. 1862, three days after general burnside's humiliated feet at fredericksburg -- humiliated defeat at fredericksburg, congress met in view of how to proceed with the deteriorating war situation. radicalmortensen, and a senator, who was not so radical, he wanted indians removed from the dakotas, he was not radical in that sense, in terms of reconstruction and other members, opened the caucus of the republicans by claiming that -- that the cause was lost. all out difficulties were apparent. it was secretary of state seward he said, exercised a controlling
influence on the mind of the president. wrongly charged that seward never believed in the war and nothing but defeat and disaster could be expected when he remained in the cabinet. senator lafayette of connecticut disputed the minnesota senators claim that the war was lost. though he did agree with him that no improvements could be expected out of affairs, as long as mr. seward remain in the cabinet. -- remained in the cabinet. other spoke a similar sentiment. severe criticisms of lincoln, placing the armies under the command of officers who did not believe in the policy of the government, in no some of the with its purposes. of vermontob announced that "the difficulty was to be found in the fact that the president had no cap and it in a true sense of the word."
it was notorious that the president did not consult his cabinet counselors as a body up on important matters. the vermont senator reported that he had understood the president to express the opinion, that it was best to have no policy and let you member of the cabinet attend to the duties of their department. management -- this was poor management any recipe for failure coming he believed. bethought measures should taken to bring about a different state of things in the administration. another senator told the republican senators, a crisis had arrived, requiring the senate's active interposition into affairs. warning that the caucus should , actionsautiously could along the country,
handling the executive without affecting ultimate good. that is bad to act in a radical way in the caucus. the maine senator had no doubt measures should be taken to make the cabinet a unity and remove anyone who did not coincide with our views and relations to the war. he obviously had in mind secretary of state seward. several senators wanted the caucus to approve a resolution to the effect, without mentioning the name of any cabinet member, dismissal. senator james doolittle was a conservative republican, insisting that instead of a resolution, the caucus should appoint a committee to speak to lincoln regarding their concerns. senator preston king of new york, a friend of seward, agreed with doolittle. however, doubting that the caucus could reach an agreement
on a definite proposition to get to the president. 2 conservatives wanted time to consider the matter. as a result, the caucus adjourned to meet the next day. 17th,xt day, december the senator harris of new york offered a resolution that a committee be appointed to wait upon the president in behalf of the senate and urge upon him, changes in conduct and in the cabinet which shall give the administration unity and vigor. amending the resolution to the reconstruction of the cabinet.". senator john sherman of ohio supported the resolution, proceeding to attack the president. the difficulty was with the president himself. lincoln had neither dignity,
order or firmness to be president." he wanted to go directly to the president himself and tell him his defects, he doubted that even that would do any good. the harris resolution for a committee to meet with the president passed the republican caucus by a unanimous vote with king abstaining. nine senators were chosen for the committee to be chaired. president lincoln agreed to meet with the committee the next evening. a senator wrote a paper embodying the views of the republican members of the senate as he understood them. the committee approved the paper, which significantly expressed the most unqualified confidence in the patriotism and integrity of the president, identified as they are with the success of his administration. that is where the partnership comes in. "werepublican senators,
deeply convinced that the public confidence requires a practical forrd to the propositions executive consideration and action." senator king immediately informed seward about the caucus committee's forthcoming meeting with the president. shaken by the news, seward submitted his resignation to the president. although lincoln had agreed to the meeting, he was not happy about it. he was suspicious of the senators and their motives. he called his friend, senator brown, "what do these men mean?" "i hardlyeplied, know, mr. president but they are exceedingly violent or the administration and what we did yesterday was the gentlest ring that could be done."
lincoln declared, "they wish to get rid of me and i am sometimes half disposed to gratify them." [laughter] browning immediately realized he had overstated the senators opposition. some of them do is to get rid of you he said, but "almost all of them realize the fortunes of the country are bound up with your fortunes and you must stand firmly to your post and hold it with a steady hand. to relinquish it now would bring upon us certain inevitable ruin." without acknowledging the reassurance, lincoln sadly we are now on the brink of destruction. -- i cans to me, we hardly see a ray of hope." as far as i'm aware, this was the only time lincoln expressed
fear for the success of the union in the war. our friend, michael, will probably be able to enlighten you more on that score later. he may have expressed something on other occasions. as far as i've seen, that is the only time he expressed fear that the union might not succeed. browning assured him, seward, not the president, was the real practical men, as browning characterized them. referring to the charges against seward, the president commented, "why will men begin a lie, and absurd lie, that they could not impose upon a child and cling to it and repeat it in defiance of all evidence to the contrary?" browning did not respond and i won't either. [laughter] since i then said, "
heard last night of the proceedings of this caucus, i have been more distressed then any event of my life." when the committee of the caucus met with lincoln on december 18, a senator began by reading the paper outlining the views of the republican senators. lincoln must have been relieved to hear the paper, approved by the committee of the caucus, was not an indictment of the administration. as the resolution stated affirmed the senators confidence in the president and recommended changes for his consideration and hopefully, his action. these changes were not specified in the paper but all knew that the replacement of seward and democratic generals were at the heart. the this was finished, senator turned to other committee members for opinions.
wade opened the discussion by criticizing the president for his leading in the conduct of the war, and the democratic commanders, who had no sympathy for the cause. other republican senators agreed. unfairly claiming, it was singly unfortunate that almost every officer, known as an anti-slavery man had been disgraced and that largely proslavery men with southern feeling, had been retained. mcclelland... as well as other expressed concern that lincoln had not consulted with his cabinet on important management of the war. also maintaining that seward was not in court with the majority of the cabinet and exerted an influence upon the conduct of the war. tellingly get however, it was
not the purpose of the republican senators to dictate to him with regard to his cabinet, which was somewhat contradictory to what he said. theetheless, he said, " emergency of national affairs rendered it necessary for the president to consult frequently with all his constitutional advisers, or their friendly counsel." a senator, who chaired the senate foreign relations committee, claimed that the secretary of state had uttered statements offensive to congress repeatedly, in the presence of foreign ministers. actions,er wrongful some charged that seward had written offensive dispatches which the president could not to. seen or assented after three hours the meeting ended with no resolution. the next day lincoln asked for another session that night, which was agreed to by the
caucus. that meeting had every cabinet member but seward. the president opened the discussion, according to an account, with a speech, admitting the cabinet had not been very regular and consultation but excusing -- very regular in consultation but excusing it. most matters of importance had received the liberation and he was not aware of wanted unity in the cabinet. he acknowledged several incidents in which important actions were taken without consulting the cabinet. he cited his reinstatement of mcclellan as commander of the army in virginia and the general in chief. lincoln insisted that seward had not improperly interfered with the management of the other departments. despite claims to the contrary,
lincoln told the caucus committee, seward had generally read the official correspondence before sending it. after he concluded his remarks, lincoln asked members of his cabinet to say where they had been -- had there been any lack of unity or insufficient consultation with him? this put secretary of treasury chase in an untenable position. he did not want to admit openly he had been underhanded and disloyal to the president, given congress, critical,, about him. according to secretary of the navy wells, chase shamelessly endorsed lincoln's statement, wholly and entirely. other members of the cabinet also endorsed the president's position with the notable exception of the secretary of war, who remained silent.
the senators in the meeting, later repeated their criticism of seward and the need for more cabinet meetings and consultations, with the president on important issues. after five hours of discussion in which lincoln handled the committee members with enlivenedle tact, with the usual anecdotes, which others did not appreciate, the meeting adjourned. many members left the white house disappointed, that the president did not at least indicate he would accept seward's resignation. sen. brown: later asked another had the cabinet been harmonious when it had earlier schemed against the president? he answered, "he lied." embarrassed, chase immediately submitted his resignation to the president. lincoln as truly refused both
resignation,ase's a trampling remark to gideon welles, "my way is clear. the trouble has ended. he was now master of the administration." privately republicans in congress expressed outrage in the president's refusal to accept changes the caucus recommended. henry dalls of massachusetts wrote his wife a letter, "the president is an imbecile, and should be sent to the school for feebleminded youth." meanwhile, the country is going to perdition as fast as possible. despite the belief of browning and conservatives in the cabinet and even lincoln at first, the caucus of republican senators did not seek to dominate the
administration. the removaly sought of seward, they also wanted to make the president aware of his need to consult the cabinet on a regular basis with the aim of pursuing a more vigorous and unify prosecution of the war. -- unified prosecution of the war. this had cleared the air between the president and party leaders in congress. both realized that the corporation of the branches of government would save the union, was too important for a rupture in the relationship. lincoln recognized the flaws in his method of management, he never really corrected them. an exception was his consideration of the west virginia statehood deal, passed a few days after his meeting with the caucus committee. the president asked and secured the approval in writing, of his
cabinet members to the bill, which he then signed. he continued however the disconcerting and regular practice of depending on individual members of the hacks, asd old party secretary of the navy wells characterized. diary "onlyhis three of us at cabinet meeting today. others absent as usual without cause and the course pursued sustains in neglect." seward is there every day when there is a cabinet meeting. stanton does not go to the president, the president goes to him. because secretary frets there are no cabinet consultations and stays away. seward never forgot the president's support of him in
the cabinet crisis of 1862. nor did lincoln ever have cause to question the secretary of state's faithful service to him or the union. 9, 1865, on april lincoln rushed to the bedside of seward, who had been badly injured in a carriage accident. for half an hour, the president sat and described the situation at the front to his friend and told him, "we are nearing the end at last in this war." asleep when seward fell and they never saw each other again. thank you. [applause] i will take a few questions and
hopefully i will be able to answer them at least in part. this joe minogue rear. -- this gentleman over here. >> thank you for this wonderful talk. you referenced a group as, the radicals. could you give a full or description of who they were and how they operated and whether they themselves consider themselves radical? prof. harris: they did consider themselves radical. they were really radical. they were a minority in the republican party, as i said but they were also in the beginning of the war, they went along with the johnson resolution. some of them wanted more. it depended upon the war situation and later in the war, that resolution, the only purpose of the war was to save the union and restore the
constitution -- later in the war, they became more radical as things went bad. they wanted the south to pay. they wanted a reconstruction policy, we didn't get into here, that reflected, that preserved the fruits of union victory in the south, which included bona fide freedom for blacks and officials for union who would go there. formerhe prescription of confederate leaders and maybe some who were not former confederate leaders either. lincoln did not go along with that. lincoln viewed himself as a conservative. i have not seen used in a political sense, maybe unwanted occasion -- it is usually used someone who of, of,
is moderate in their habits, and so on but not political issues. but the radicals, it varyed people like trumbull could be considered a radical. but he supported the reconstruction policy, to some extent. some who were radical probably were not so radical, after the war for example, when they saw that union victories have been wind movedlitical in the favor of those who said let's get away from it -- reconstruction. -- they werenority a minority in the party and they could get people to go along and -- and theyted with cooperated with other people on certain things. they were not always fiery
radicals. yes, sir. >> thank you for this talk. it was great. could comparisons be made between the cabinet fight in 1862 and the current fights between president trump and the congress? [laughter] prof. harris: my view is probably like yours. [laughter] since -- [laughter] the 21st century is not my bag. [laughter] [applause] prof. harris: yes sir? >> thank you for the talk. seward had been the leader of the republicans in the senate. prof. harris: i'm sorry. that's right. >> he had been a leader of the republicans. runner for the 1860 nomination. what was behind their mistrust of him? personality? scheming, imperious nature?
what did they have against him? prof. harris: in the beginning, he was not liked in new england very much, among republicans because he was a political manipulator, they thought in new but, he was viewed by the south as radical. radical to win the presidency for the republicans in 1860. that is the reason lincoln was the choice of the republicans. he could win the lower north. as you probably know. when the secession crisis hit after that, seward backtracked. there he he became, nervous about what was happening and he did not want concede that there would be a war if we pursue this too far. he had enemies all along in the
republican party, opponents like fester and there were others as well. when he hesitated to become secretary of state, that did not help either. finally, after he became secretary of state as the war began, he set himself up. he almost announced that. michael, the premier of this administration? that did not set well. let say something else about seward, here. by june, he was writing to his wife that, point out one other thing he was willing to compromise a bit -- for the south, that would violate the republican platform in 1860, they did not like that. he was writing to his wife, june lincoln that, indeed, is the best of us.
the is the best of us. -- he is the best of us. and they collaborated during the war. a little bit too much collaboration as far as most republicans were concerned, whether radical or not. doolittle was a conservative republican and he thought it was too much. harris, wasn't the antagonism, honest, virtuous men like jacob color, had a sense of humor. wasn't it manipulations that stirred up the crisis, where chase, lincoln called or confronted chasing called his bluff on intrigues? was it really chase stirring up the senators? prof. harris: that might have been. it went back further regarding,ith others
even chase, certainly seward -- during the crisis, chase bailed out when he was confronted with that in the cabinet, with lincoln. caucus, theylican did not like that. ,hroughout the rest of the war they were antagonistic toward seward. lincoln stood by him. that. never forgot there were other issues that developed, foreign affairs for example, late in the war -- seward, apologized to the french minister that the house of
representatives was trying to take over -- a radical in the house, secretary of that committee, trying to take over of foreign relations from the president. that was beaten down ultimately. seward had said, don't worry about it. told the french, in regard to mexico, most people wanted u.s. forces after the war to move into mexico and get rid of the french. the republicans, not just the radicals, did not appreciate seward for that, for saying that to the minister. it is documented i think. but see. one more. one more question, i believe. >> mr. harris, thanks.
you mentioned the joint committee on the conduct of the war. do you think that was a good thing, bad thing, a mixture? prof. harris: lincoln did not think it was a good thing. hediffered to congress -- deferred to congress about what committees they wanted and all. he came over and they would talk to lincoln and his response would be, ok. but he did not really -- he kept them at arms length, especially in regarding appointments of commanders. wade was after lincoln from the beginning, almost from the beginning. he chaired that committee. most of them were republicans and here's where we get into, start off -- sort of middle-of-the-road republicans.
some of them did. on that committee, but then they began to see how badly things were going in the military with mcclellan and other generals, especially with the political situation becoming bad and early '63. they began to cut him down and theard on lincoln conduct of the war. they wanted changes. were, they were, they they did this privately, not publicly. that could undercut the whole war effort. that committee did investigate a lot and did -- there were some injustice involved. lincoln went along with the court-martial of general stone.
for the battlefield engagement near washington, stone spent six months -- six months, i believe in prison. lincoln did not do anything. it was an injustice. >> there was no court-martial. prof. harris: right, they just threw him in. right. of -- hean example went along too much. lincoln did. in the end, he had control of the big picture. that was the important thing. do we have time? one more question. >> thank you. thanks for your lecture. i have a question. how did president lincoln to add twongress
states in two years? prof. harris: what? >>2 more states in the union? prof. harris: they were going to be republican states. [laughter] it was congress behind this, primarily. virginia andd west that was not going to be republican initially. that was a unionist state. they were conservatives. example of conservative senators, union senator becoming pretty much radical, middle-of-the-road republicans by the end of the war. earlier in the war, it was kansas. 1860-1861,war, in and then nevada late in the war. wascrats charged this
trying to get more electoral votes. some republicans might have had that in mind in congress. south ton the establish a loyal government, as well, union governments, charged that this was the reason, but no, not for lincoln, it was not. i think we can safely say that. he wanted the states, never left the union, he wanted them back in the hands of the union people and he had them. that were not radical. that i think, is important to note. thank you. [applause] announcer: