Tuesday, August 12, 2014

the last book I ever read (Shelby Foote's The Civil War, Volume One, excerpt one)

from The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume One: Fort Sumter to Perryville by Shelby Foote:

It was true that he had nothing to say at the time. He was waiting; he was drawing on one of his greatest virtues, patience. Though the Cotton South had gone out solid, the eight northernmost slave states remained loyal. Delaware and Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas were banked between the hotheads, north and south, a double buffer, and though Lincoln had not received a single electoral vote from this whole area, he counted on the common sense of the people there. What was more—-provided he did nothing to alienate the loyalty of the border states-—he counted on Union sentiment in the departed states to bring them back into the family.

He had had much practice in just this kind of waiting. One of these days, while he was sitting in his office with a visitor, his son Willie came clattering in to demand a quarter. “I can’t let you have a quarter,” Lincoln said; “I can only spare five cents.” He took five pennies from his pocket and stacked them on a corner of the desk. Willie had not asked for a nickel; he wanted a quarter. He sulked and went away, leaving the pennies on the desk. “He will be back after that in a few minutes,” Lincoln told the visitor. “As soon as he finds I will give him no more, he will come and get it.” They went on talking. Presently the boy returned, took the pennies from the desk, and quietly left. Patience had worked, where attempts at persuasion might have resulted in a flare-up. So with the departed states; self-interest and family ties might bring them back in time. Meanwhile Lincoln walked as softly as he could.

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