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Remarks at a War Meeting

August 06, 1862


I believe there is no precedent for my appearing before you on this occasion, but it is also true that there is no precedent for your being here yourselves, and I offer in justification of myself and of you that, upon examination, I have found nothing in the Constitution against it. I, however, have an impression that; there are younger gentlemen who will entertain you better and better address your understanding than I will or could, and therefore I propose but to detain you a moment longer. I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it. The only thing I think of just now not likely to be better said by some one else is a matter in which we have heard some other persons blamed for what I did myself. There has been a very widespread attempt to have a quarrel between General McClellan and the Secretary of War Now, I occupy a position that enables me to believe that these two gentlemen are not nearly so deep in the quarrel as some presuming to be their friends. General McClellan's attitude is such that in the very selfishness of his nature he cannot but wish to be successful--and I hope he will--and the Secretary of War is precisely in the same situation. If the military commanders in the field cannot be successful, not only the Secretary of War, but myself, for the time being the master of both, cannot but be failures. I know General McClellan wishes to be successful, and I know he does not wish it any more than the Secretary of War for him, and both of them together no more than I wish it. Sometimes we have a dispute about how many men General McClellan has had, and those who would disparage him say he has had a very large number, and those who would disparage the Secretary of War insist that General McClellan has had a very small number. The basis for this is, there is always a wide difference, and on this occasion perhaps a wider one, between the grand total on McClellan's rolls and the men actually fit for duty; and those who would disparage him talk of the grand total on paper, and those who would disparage the Secretary of War talk of those at present fit for duty. General McClellan has sometimes asked for things that the Secretary of War did not give him. General McClellan is not to blame for asking for what he wanted and needed, and the Secretary of War is not to blame for not giving when he had none to give. And I say here, so far as I know, the Secretary of War has withheld no one thing at any time in my power to give him. I have no accusation against him. I believe he is a brave and able man, and I stand here, as justice requires me to do, to take upon myself what has been charged on the Secretary of War as withholding from him. I have talked longer than I expected to do, and now I avail myself of my privilege of saying no more.

Abraham Lincoln, Remarks at a War Meeting Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/268155

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