A True Estimate of Abraham Lincoln
and Vindication of the South
by Mildred Lewis Rutherford
Now this man, Abraham Lincoln, was responsible for a war that cost the South more than 1,000,000 lives, and more than $8,000,000,000 worth of property. The result of the war caused the South to pass through the "Valley of Humiliation" that was far worse than suffering from bullets and shell. Can any loyal Southerner be expected to admire and glorify such a man? Can any loyal Southern man and woman be willing to have their children taught from textbooks that glorify him? No, I think the time has fully come when there should be drawn a line between the loyal and the disloyal in the South — a time when all disloyal to the South, whether Northern born or Southern born, shall be ruled from Boards of Education, and members of textbooks committees. A time has come when every teacher, whether Northern born or Southern born, disloyal to the South shall be ruled out of Southern colleges and schools.
This Lincoln cult is entering and has already entered into books on our library tables — on our library shelves, and even in books recommended by our United Daughters of the Confederacy. It is in encyclopedias and reference books of all kind — yes, even on the moving picture screen, for Drinkwater’s Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest historical falsehoods of today and all so subtle that we are unconscious of its pernicious effect. Something must be done and done quickly.
Lincoln’s biographers pose him as a highly educated literary personage, and the Gettysburg speech, which Seward wrote afterwards, is put into every collection of great speeches and attributed to Lincoln, not Seward. Lincoln deserved credit for the education he received in the way he received it — but do not be deceived by attributing to him things he never wrote. Mr. Judd and other friends revised all of his speeches before they appeared in print.(1)
What did the press say of Abraham Lincoln before his death? Did they glorify him then?
The candidate for President, Abraham Lincoln, is an uneducated man — a vulgar village politician without any experience worth mentioning in the practical duties of statesmanship, and only noted for some very unpopular votes which he gave while a member of Congress.(2)
The tone of levity and frivolity which characterizes the speeches of Mr. Lincoln causes the hearts of our citizens to sink within them. They perceive already that he is not the man for the crisis, and begin to despond of any extrication from impending difficulties.(3)
The humiliating spectacle is thus presented of the President-elect indulging in the merest clap-trap of the politician thanking the people for voting for him, flattering their political pride and appealing to their sectional animosities.(4)
The Administration is an insult to the flag, and a traitor to their God (cheers). Russia never dared exercise the privileges which Mr. Lincoln did, without reading a newspaper to see what people thought. A hound might hunt Mr. Lincoln, and never find him by an honest scent.(5)
The Union belongs to me as much as to Abraham Lincoln. What right has he or any official — our servants — to claim that I shall cease criticising his mistakes, when they are dragging the Union to ruin? I find grave faults with Abraham Lincoln.(6)
This is what the press said of Lincoln as the time drew near for re-election:
This halting imbecility of Mr. Lincoln heightens the contrast between the unhesitating boldness of the Democratic party. If we had a positive, intrepid Douglas, instead of a feeble, vacillating Lincoln at the head of the government, how different would have been the fortunes of the country. The people are turning their eyes to the Democratic party for relief.(7)
Mr. Lincoln is wholly unqualified for his position, the personal presence, the dignity nor the knowledge demanded in the magistrate of a great people. No branch of the Administration has been well and efficiently administered under him. His soul seems to be made of leather and incapable of any grand or noble emotion. You leave his presence with your enthusiasm dampened, your better feelings crushed, and your hopes cast to the winds. Even wisdom from him seems but folly.(8)
That there is in the Republican party a widely diffused impression of the feebleness, faithlessness and incapacity of Mr. Lincoln’s administration is notorious.(9)
Anything for a change in this imbecile and torpid administration. Let us have a shaking up of its dry bones — anything for a change.(10)
The result of the Baltimore Convention is like a game of cards when the devil is one of the players. Mr. Lincoln will certainly be nominated and probably by acclamation without the formality of a ballot. It is like a trial before a jury that has been skillfully packed by the counsel of one party. Mr. Lincoln tried to reinstate himself in the good graces of his party by the Emancipation Proclamation but he is now painfully conscious that the radicals distrust and despise him.(11)
The age of rail splitters and tailors, of buffoons, boors and fanatics has succeeded. Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Johnson are both men of mediocre talent, neglected education, narrow views, deficient information and of course, vulgar manners. A statesman is supposed to be a man of some depth of thought and extent of knowledge. Has this country with so proud a record been reduced to such intellectual poverty as to be forced to present two such names as Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson for the highest stations in this most trying crisis of its history? It is a cruel mockery and bitter humiliation. Such nominations at this juncture are an insult to the common sense of the people.(12)
The mortification of the Republican party is great. They begin when it is too late to realize the truth of the allegations made by the Union men of Illinois as to the incompetency of Lincoln for the presidency. His supporters appealed to his published speeches as a proof of his ability. It now appears, as it was suspected then, that those speeches were carefully prepared by Mr. Judd, and other friends of Lincoln, and revised, polished and rewritten to such a degree that those who heard him on the stump could not recognize them when they appeared in print.
This was part of the game of deception played by his party to force such a man upon the country for its chief magistrate.
His chief characteristics were an immense "gift of gab," and an ability to joke, and with a wonderful command of language, unaccompanied with corresponding ideas. Let the American people prepare for a hurricane.(13)
It was my privilege to be present at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, at Gettysburg, the afternoon of November 19, 1863, and to hear the now famous speech of Abraham Lincoln on that occasion. I can bear witness to the fact that this address pronounced by Edward Everett to be "unequaled in the annals of oratory," fell upon unappreciative ears, was entirely unnoticed and wholly disappointing to a majority of the hearers. It was my good fortune as a newspaper correspondent to sit directly beside Mr. Lincoln.
When he finished reading the manuscript he thrust it back into his overcoat pocket and sat down — not a word, not a cheer, not a shout. The people looked at each other as if to say, "Is that all?" I am well aware accounts have differed but an eye witness and hearer in my position beside the speaker — hence the foregoing account may be relied upon.(14)
After the speech, Lincoln turned to me and said, "Lamon, that speech was like a wet blanket on the audience. I am distressed about it."
Seward asked Everett what he thought of the speech. Mr. Everett replied, "It was not what I expected. I am disappointed. What do you think, Mr. Seward?" Mr. Seward replied, "It is a failure."
I state it as an absolute fact that the Gettysburg speech was not regarded as a speech of any extraordinary merit until after Lincoln’s death.(15)
The special phrase that has been most deeply ingrained and assimilated into the heart and speech of the world, and now generally attributed to Lincoln in the Gettysburg speech — "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" — does not belong to Lincoln, but to Daniel Webster. In 1830 he uttered it in his memorable reply to Hayne.(16)
Though Mr. Lincoln is President of the United States he has been a bad one — a totally incapable one — a president who has directed the operation of every department of the government, and prolonged the war to the infinite loss of the country in men and money.(17)
Mr. Lincoln’s attempt to buy General McClellan is one of the most scandalous and damaging disclosures ever made against a public man. This disclosure was made by Ex-Postmaster Blair in his speech at the Cooper Institute. It commanded universal credence as coming from a source so well informed as a late member of the Cabinet, who must have been cognizant of the transaction and whose personal honor and reputation was above question.(18)
A great revolution.
Private confessions of a high Republican official.
Dismal future for the nation.
How the war is to be prosecuted if Lincoln is re-elected. Southerners to be exterminated. The North to become bankrupt, and half the men to be killed off.
The Union must be restored.
A startling exposure to show Mr. Lincoln a despicable tyrant.(19)
At the breaking out of our late civil war there was in the Western part of Connecticut, and extending into adjoining counties of New York an ugly feeling of discontent against what seemed to be the policy of Mr. Lincoln to towards the rebelling states.(20)
In the winter of 1862-’63 many and many a man deserted the army. They refused to fight. Mr. Lincoln knew that hundreds of soldiers were being urged by parents and friends to desert. New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois reserved their vote. The people were weary of war, weary of so much waste of life and money. Open dissatisfaction was shown in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin which broke out in violence over the draft for more men.(21)
1. New York Express, 20 February 1861, page 33.
2. New York Herald, 22 May 1860, Editorial.
3. New York Express, February 1861.
4. Philadelphia Argus.
5. Alfred R. Wooten, Attorney-General, Delaware, New York Tribune, 4 June 1863.
6. Wendell Phillips, ibid., 22 August 1862.
7. Editorial: "A Yearning for the Democratic Party." New York World, 15 April 1864.
8. Dr. Bronson, editorial: "Extracts From Republican Sources," New York World, 13 April 1864.
9. Editorial, ibid., 2 June 1864.
10. Editorial, New York Herald, 2 June 1864.
11. Editorial: "The Baltimore Convention," New York World, 4 June 1864.
12. Editorial: "Lincoln and Johnson," ibid., 9 June 1864.
13. New York Express, copied by Baltimore Sun, 20 February 1861.
14. W.H. Cunningham, editorial "Reporter for Gettysburg Speech," Montgomery (Missouri) Star.
15. Lamon, Recollections of Abraham Lincoln 1847-1865 (Chicago, Illinois: A.E. McClurg and Company, 1895).
16. Bradley, page 227.
17. Editorial, New York Herald, 13 June 1864.
18. Editorial, New York World, 21 October 1864.
19. Ibid., 26 October 1864.
20. New York Churchman, 5 August 1899.
21. Ida Tarbell, Life of Lincoln (New York: Doubleday and McClure Company, 1900)