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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 14:59:56
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Lincoln's relations with McClellan have already been touched upon. There would not be space in this paper to refer in detail to the action taken by Lincoln with other army commanders East and West. The problem that confronted the Commander-in-chief of selecting the right leaders for this or that undertaking, and of promoting the men who gave evidence of the greater capacity that was required for the larger armies that were being placed in the field, was one of no little difficulty. The reader of history, looking back to-day, with the advantage of the full record of the careers of the various generals, is tempted to indulge in easy criticism of the blunders made by the President. Why did the President put up so long with the vaingloriousness and ineffectiveness of McClellan? Why should he have accepted even for one brief and unfortunate campaign the service of an incompetent like Pope? Why was a slow-minded closet-student like Halleck permitted to fritter away in the long-drawn-out operations against Corinth the advantage of position and of force that had been secured by the army of the West? Why was a political trickster like Butler, with no army experience, or a well-meaning politician like Banks with still less capacity for the management of troops, permitted to retain responsibilities in the field, making blunders that involved waste of life and of resources and the loss of campaigns? Why were not the real men like Sherman, Grant, Thomas, McPherson, Sheridan, and others brought more promptly into the important positions? Why was the army of the South permitted during the first two years of the War to have so large an advantage in skilled and enterprising leadership? A little reflection will show how unjust is the criticism implied through such questions. We know of the incapacity of the generals who failed and of the effectiveness of those who succeeded, only through the results of the campaigns themselves. Lincoln could only study the men as he came to know about them and he experimented first with one and then with another, doing what seemed to be practicable to secure a natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Such watchful supervision and painstaking experimenting was carried out with infinite patience and with an increasing knowledge both of the requirements and of the men fitted to fill the requirements.

When the news of the capture of the commissioners came to Washington, Seward for once was in favour of a conservative rather than a truculent course of action. He advised that the commissioners should be surrendered at once rather than to leave to Great Britain the opportunity for making a dictatorial demand. Lincoln admitted the risk of such demand and the disadvantage of making the surrender under pressure, but he took the ground that if the United States waited for the British contention, a certain diplomatic advantage could be gained. When the demand came, Lincoln was able, with a rewording (not for the first time) of Seward's despatch, to take the ground that the government of the United States was "well pleased that Her Majesty's government should have finally accepted the old-time American contention that vessels of peace should not be searched on the high seas by vessels of war." It may be recalled that the exercise of the right of search had been one of the most important of the grievances which had brought about the War of 1812-1814. In the discussion of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, the English and American commissioners, while agreeing that this right of search must be given up, had not been able to arrive at a form of words, satisfactory to both parties, for its revocation. Both sets of commissioners were very eager to bring their proceedings to a close. The Americans could of course not realise that if they had waited a few weeks the news of the battle of New Orleans, fought in January, 1815, would have greatly strengthened their position. It was finally agreed "as between gentlemen" that the right of search should be no longer exercised by Great Britain. This right was, however, not formally abrogated until December, 1861, nearly half a century later. This little diplomatic triumph smoothed over for the public of the North the annoyance of having to accept the British demand. It helped to strengthen the administration, which in this first year of the War was by no means sure of its foundations. It strengthened also the opinion of citizens generally in their estimate of the wise management and tactfulness of the President.

"Wisconsin?" said the planter, "Wisconsin? Where is Wisconsin?"

His was the awful sacrifice,


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