The Charleston Mercury
Its View of Lincoln
This isn’t related to Mary Lincoln specifically, but close enough!
South Carolina’s Charleston Mercury was one of the only southern papers that had the combativeness and brilliance to take on the leading northern papers in the run-up to the Civil War and during the war itself. Strongly secessionist, its coverage of Lincoln nevertheless reflected a clear-eyed assessment of the man, accompanied of course by vitriol.
I’ll have to dig up the clips sometime, but in 1861, as Lincoln was making his way to Washington, the Mercury totally saw what he was up to at every point and called it out. It was very prescient. (Also, no one seems to have noticed that Rose Greenhow was a pseudonymous correspondent of the Mercury before the war, focusing on women’s fashion!)
Devoted to aggressive truth-telling as it was, the Mercury went after the Confederacy’s leadership pretty hard when it felt it was warranted. Much could be written on this, but I’d like to highlight an editorial that they apparently published on January 10, 1865. It was reprinted in The Liberator on March 3, under the headline “Lincoln and Davis Contrasted.”
When Abraham Lincoln took the chair of the Presidency of the United State, he promised, in his flat-boat lingo, to “run the machine as he found it.” Whether he has strictly kept his promise, those may doubt who choose to consider the subject. It is enough for us to know, that whether “running the machine” in the pathway of his predecessors, or not, he has run it with a stern, inflexible purpose, a bold, steady hand, a vigilant, active eye, a fanatic spirit, an eye single to its end—conquest—emancipation. He has called around him, in counsel, the ablest and most earnest men of his country. Where he has lacked in individual ability, learning, experience or statesmanship, he has sought it, and found it in the able men about him, whose assistance he unhesitatingly accepts, and whose powers he applies to the advancement of the cause he has undertaken. In the cabinet and in the field he has consistently and fearlessly pressed on the search for men who could advance his cause, and has unhesitatingly cut off all those who clogged it with weakness, timidity or imbecility or failure. Force, energy, brains, earnestness, he has collected around him in every department. Blackguard and buffoon as he is, he has pursued his end with an energy as untiring as an Indian, and a singleness of purpose that might almost be called patriotic. If he were not an unscrupulous knave in his end, and a fanatic in his political views, he would undoubtedly command our respect as a ruler, so far as we are concerned. Abroad, and at home, he has exercised alike the the same unceaseless energy and circumspection.
We turn our eye to Richmond, and the contrast is appalling, sickening to the heart.
Whenever I see things like this, I think of a rap lyric popular when I was in 6th grade: “Game recognize[s] game.” According to Urban Dictionary:
There, does that clear things up? Probably not. But the Mercury staff were thoroughly in earnest, and, recognizing this in others, could only give credit where it was due. I always enjoy that kind of thing when it comes from unexpected places.