Nonfiction > James Ford Rhodes > History of the Civil War, 1861–1865 > Page 355
James Ford Rhodes (1848–1927).  History of the Civil War, 1861–1865  1917.
Page 355
according to law or, if their offences were not indictable, permitted to go free. “Abraham Lincoln,” wrote James Bryce, “wielded more authority than any single Englishman has done since Oliver Cromwell.” My reading of English history and comparative study of our own have led me to the same conclusion, although it should be added that Cromwell’s exercise of arbitrary power greatly exceeded Lincoln’s and involved more important infractions of the Constitution of his country. Moreover, there was in Lincoln’s nature so much of kindness and mercy as to mitigate the harshness of Seward’s and Stanton’s procedure. The pervasive and lingering influence of his personality, the respect for the Constitution and the law which history and tradition have ascribed to him, the greatness of his character and work, have prevented the generation that has grown up since the civil conflict from realizing the enormity of the acts done under his authority by direction of his Secretaries of State and War. I have not lighted on a single instance in which the President himself directed an arrest, yet he permitted them all; he stands responsible for the casting into prison of citizens of the United States on orders as arbitrary as the lettres-de-cachet of Louis XIV. 1  19
  The technical experts of the War Department and of the Army may be justly criticised for not arming our infantry with breech-loading rifles. They were behindhand and not up to their opportunities. The Secretary of War in his report of December 1, 1859, had stated the result of the experiments in breech-loading arms: these arms were “nearly if not entirely perfected,” and he added: “With the best breech-loading arm, one skilful man would be equal to two, probably three, armed with the ordinary muzzle-loading
Note 1. For the most celebrated case of arbitrary arrests during the war, that of Vallandigham, see IV, 245. [back]

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