Lincoln's Position

New Orleans Bee, February 20, 1861

The oracular utterances of the gentleman who is on his way to Washington to be inaugurated President of the United States, have proved so deficient in perspicuity as to puzzle and perplex people not much given to the labor of elucidating the obscurities of language. Mr. ABRAHAM LINCOLN has undertaken, during the circuitous route chosen for his journey to the Federal City, to make brief popular harangues at prominent places along his itinerary. He started at Indianapolis, and will probably close at Washington. His speeches vary considerably in character. When he was addressing the Black Republicans of Indiana, Mr. LINCOLN let fall significant hints respecting the probability of coercion. At Cincinnati he overlooked the Ohio River, and embraced within the scope of his vision the opposite shore of Kentucky. This reminded him of the expediency of moderation, and his words were politic and his tone subdued. After a while he reached Pittsburg, and then he thought it perfectly safe to tickle the rapacity of the Pennsylvanians by unstinted panegyrics on a protective tariff. Thus his remarks have assumed somewhat of the hue and local coloring of the people amongst whom he was sojourning when he uttered them. He seems disposed to play the part of a wily politician, and to adapt himself willingly to the predominant tastes of his audiences.

There are circumstances, however, which tend to show that Mr. LINCOLN spoke his real sentiments when he addressed the people at Indianapolis. This was the first of his speeches, and was delivered in presence of a multitude which was known to sympathize most warmly with his anti-slavery views. Besides, it is stated upon the strong authority of the New York Tribune, that the speech was carefully prepared in Springfield, and brought to Indianapolis in manuscript. Our readers will bear in mind the peculiar character of that discourse. It dealt with the great question of the day in a singularly hypothetical and interrogative style. Without venturing clearly and boldly to announce his purposes and policy, Mr. LINCOLN propounded queries to his audience touching the nice distinctions between coercion by invasion, the enforcement of the revenue laws, and the recovery or retention of United States property. In this speech the doctrine of the radical wing of the Black Republicans was dimly shadowed forth. Either it is vague, weak, meaningless and stupid, or its author sought to create the impression that when he should assume the reins of the Government, he would pursue the course recommended and urged by his ultra partisans. His language receives this construction from the public journals of the North which are most familiar with his principles and intentions. It matters little that the speech is loose, inelegant and' destitute of the slightest grace of oratory. Its meaning is what we seek, and we think his organs interpret it correctly.

If, then, we are to accept ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S Indianapolis address as foreshadowing the employment of force against the States of the Southern Confederacy, it may be asked whether civil war must henceforth be considered inevitable? We should hesitate before giving an affirmative reply. There are many serious obstacles to the fulfillment of Mr. LINCOLN'S belligerent aspirations. He and his faction are extremely anxious to limit the secession movement to those States which have already withdrawn. They know that the border States—even the most submissive—have plainly intimated their determination to resist all coercive measures. They have no desire whatever to drive Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Maryland and Kentucky out of the Union, for they hope by the agency of these States to re-establish the Union, or to strengthen a Northern Confederacy. Considerations of expediency will therefore be apt to render Mr. LINCOLN and his myrmidons chary of overt attempts to subdue the South.

Again, there is manifestly and undeniably a growing schism in the Black Republican party. One half are in favor of violent measures; the other half are opposed to them. We have seen the evidences of these dissensions in the diametrically different remedies for the crisis proposed by various organs of the party. Concession, compromise and even peaceful separation have their advocates, while the Chicago platform and war against the South are the Shibboleth of the extremities. Mr. SEWARD leads the moderate wing; Senator CHASE, it is said, represents the ultraists. Mr. LINCOLN can hardly proceed to extremities without shattering his party tofragments. Indeed the process of dismemberment has already begun, and the organs on either side are lavish of mutual recrimination and abuse.

Finally, war is the most costly of all amusements, and we fancy Mr. LINCOLN can hardly hope to prosecute it vigorously with a collapsed treasury and an exhausted credit. It so happens, too, that the mass of those who are in a position to lend the Government money, are either friendly to the South, or invincibly hostile to coercion. Capitalists cling instinctively to peace, and draw together their purse strings the moment the horizon becomes darkened with a war cloud. It is easy to talk of marshaling armies and equipping fleets, but these pleasant pastimes require the disbursement of millions. How will the future President obtain the wherewithal? This consideration may and probably will throw cold water on his fit of heroism.