The Russian diplomat to Washington during the war was Baron Edouard de Stoeckl, who wrote detailed letters of American politics to his government in St. Petersburg. A born aristocrat, Stoeckl blamed America’s plight and tragedy on its “ultra-democratic system.” He pointed out that “only a handful of demagogues were able to accomplish this work of destruction.” He never ceased deploring the rule of the mob and warned that this tragic result of democracy should be a warning to Europe. It should be noted that he never overlooked an opportunity to offer his services as a conciliator between North and South.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
A Foreigner’s Observations of America’s War
“This revolution has undermined the foundation of pure democracy as it existed in the United States. The Constitution is now an empty shell. Step by step the President has assumed more and more discretionary powers. Universal suffrage is practiced here today more or less as it exists in certain parts of Europe. The writ of habeas corpus has been suspended [and] the rights of States have been almost annulled, and military authority is absolute in every part of the country. In Europe the revolutionists, the Utopians and the other restless spirits are agitating to upset the whole order of things and to substitute for them democratic institutions. In America, these same institutions seem to have run their course. The military regime is taking root more and more, not only in governmental affairs, but even in the day to day activities of the American people.”
Regarding Lincoln’s Re-election in 1864, he noted that the election campaign continued in an atmosphere of military excitement.
“In spite of all the efforts which the administration is making to conceal the true state of affairs from the public, these last [Union] defeats have not produced an unfavorable impression about the party in power. However, Mr. Lincoln and his adherents are sure of winning the forthcoming presidential election.”
Democrats denounced the War Department for turning its power into the service of Lincoln’s re-election. They rightly claimed that thousands of Republican soldiers were furloughed to return to doubtful districts and vote, while few Democrats were granted leaves.
This caused the Russian minister to write: “If the vote were free, the chances would certainly be in favor of General [George B.] McClellan, but with the powers which the government possesses, it will find the means of controlling the election. Universal voting is as easily managed here as anywhere else.”
Of Radical Republicans Stoeckl wrote:
“The Republicans demand the subjugation of the South without realizing the obstacles which two years of fighting have demonstrated so clearly. The Democrats contend that a compromise based on the federal compact is today more possible than the conquest of the South. So, the Americans seem to be rushing blindly into a state of anarchy which will be the inevitable consequence of the war if it continues much longer.”
“Peace, no matter what the terms, is the only way of resolving this situation. But leaders in charge of affairs do not want it. Their [radical Republican] slogan is all-out war. Any compromise would endanger their political existence. They are politicians of low caliber — men without conscience, ready to do anything for money, individuals who have achieved rank in the army and others who still have hopes of obtaining high commissions.
They constitute the swarm of speculators, suppliers of material, war profiteers through whose hands pass a large portion of the millions of dollars spent daily by the federal government. Aside from these and some fanatics, practically everybody desires the cessation of hostilities. But unfortunately, few dare to protest, and those who have the courage and patriotism to express their opinions, are too few in number to make their influence felt.”
“The conservatives want peace. They say now that Northern honor is saved, the time is at hand to start negotiations with the Confederates for their re-entry into the Union on an equal footing with Northern States. On the other hand the radical Republicans are demanding that the government should continue the vigorous prosecution of the war and that it should not lay downs arms until the South is completely subjugated. Unfortunately the administration is completely dominated by the radicals.”
(Lincoln and the Russians, Albert A. Woldman, World Publishing Company, 1952, excerpts)