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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham LincolnJohn Hay entered quietly. “I saw the light, sir. Is there anything I can do?”
Lincoln shook his head but honestly was glad to see his young secretary. He couldn’t talk to Mary any more. Not since Willie had died. The war was only a nuisance to her now. John was his only confidant. No one in the government. No one in the cabinet. Only this young man was left who had Lincoln’s best interest at heart.
“Not unless you can kick the Rebels out of Maryland for me.”
“If only I could, sir.”
Silence as Lincoln looked back down at the Emancipation Proclamation. What a wonderfully ugly man, Hay thought. He resembles no one else in the world. Sometimes he stands like a giant or a god looking down on all the lesser men, the mortal men of the world. And other times, like now, he can make himself almost small. Stooped. Tired. Withered. Crushed by the weight.
“Well, sir. If there’s nothing…”
“Seward was agitated today.”
“Yes, sir. I noticed.”
“He has got his hands on some horrifying rumors, John. From England.” Hay stopped breathing. Short prayer. The only good news from England is no news.
“Lord Palmerston’s carriage driver is a friend of ours,” Lincoln said with only a slight smile. “He tells us that if we lose tomorrow, and the Rebels are allowed to remain in Maryland to threaten Baltimore and Washington, that John HayEngland, France and maybe even Russia will enter into conversations with the South aimed at resuming commerce.”
“It is something that could be overcome, Mr. President.”
“No, John. I’m not sure that it could.”
More silence. Only the rain. Lincoln’s attention had been drawn to a map.
“It’s a beautiful place, sir. I’ve been there, believe it or not,” Hay said.
“I beg your pardon.”
“Sharpsburg. Nice farming land, down in a pretty little valley. Mostly Germans. It’s got a nice, wide, beautiful little stream running through it.”
“So I’ve heard. It’s got an Indian name. I can’t remember.”
“Antietam, sir. Antietam Creek.”
Lincoln glanced at the words one more time. These words will stop them. Not the army. Not the navy. No military force on earth could stop the British if they choose to challenge the blockade. But these words - these two words - they will stop them. Tomorrow, with a victory, the war will no longer be about politics, or state’s rights, or cotton or even wholly about the Union any more. When the world hears these two words, nothing will be the same – ever again.
“…forever free.”
Tomorrow.

The preceding passage is an excerpt from To Make Men Free, and may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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