By The Jefferson Allegiance and a General named Grant. A document brokered by Jefferson and Hamilton against the future threat of a president run amok. That’s the core idea of the book. Most of it is a thriller set present day to track down the Allegiance, but there are flashbacks to when just the threat of it stopped presidents. Here is the second:
13 April 1865
Abraham Lincoln was tired to his core, and had told his secretary he would not be seeing any more visitors today. He sat in his office, eyes closed, hoping the headache that had troubled him all day would go away. He should be rejoicing, partaking in the fruits of a bitterly won victory.
Just ten days previously, Richmond had fallen. Then four days ago, Lee had surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia. The whereabouts of Jeff Davis and the remnants of the Confederate government were unknown, but there was no doubt they were in full flight.
The Civil War was over.
At a cost Lincoln could hardly bear to contemplate. Ever since the rebels had fired on Fort Sumter, four years and one day ago, the telegraph wires had brought the grim numbers. Over a quarter million Union soldiers dead. No one knew how many Southerners, but given Grant and Sherman’s ruthlessness the past year, Lincoln had no doubt the Confederate losses were about the same.
What scared him, kept him awake at nights and caused his current headache, was realizing that a larger job loomed—mending a broken country. One could win a war of arms, but it was the hearts and minds that concerned Lincoln. There was much bitterness and anger on both sides, and he knew he would have to walk a narrow and treacherous path to bring the country together.
He’d laid the groundwork years ago when he assembled his first cabinet: what some had dubbed ‘the cabinet of rivals.’ He’d tapped three men, opponents for the Republican nomination, and bitter enemies: William Seward, Salmon Chase and Edward Bates to fill positions in his administration as Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury and Attorney General, respectively. The move had shocked everyone in Washington, including the three men. They’d demurred initially, and Lincoln recognized in them the same disdain others in the Capitol had for his rustic background and lack of political experience, especially since he’d been sent packing from Washington after only one term in Congress. Lincoln knew, though, that bringing the country together after four years of war was going to take much more than bringing respect and cooperation from three such strong egos. He also knew a few of the men were Cincinnatians, a price he had been willing to pay to keep the country together.
Lincoln heard the private door to the Oval Office open. There were only five people who were allowed to come through that door. He hoped it was Mary, but the heavy clump of boots informed him the hope was in vain. More problems.
He opened his eyes and relaxed slightly. The mighty Ulysses. Still glowing from the surrender at Appomattox. As always, Grant held out a cigar as he settled into the seat across the desk from Lincoln.
“No, thank you, General,” Lincoln said, as always.
“The city is alive, President,” Grant said. “You should go out and pick up some of the energy. Bask in the glow of victory.”
Lincoln grimaced. “Basking is not my forte.” Grant had two modes: in battle and energized, or morose and drunk. The drinking had been a large issue, but Lincoln took results wherever he could find them. However, it was hard to tell which mode the General was in this evening. Lincoln could smell the alcohol, but Grant appeared strangely animated. Victory could do that, Lincoln supposed.
Grant fiddled with his cigar, seemingly uncertain, something Lincoln had never seen in the man. His decisiveness had been his greatest attribute. “Is there something amiss?” Lincoln asked.
“Sir—“ Grant began, but halted.
“Go on,” Lincoln said, feeling his heart sink, knowing this was to be another burden of some sort.
“There was a meeting earlier today,” Grant said. “I met with the Chair and the Philosophers.”
Lincoln stiffened. “And?”
“They are very concerned.” Grant had his eyes downcast. “The war is over. Of that there is no doubt.” Grant lifted his dark gaze, meeting Lincoln’s eyes. “I told them to wait. To let things settle down. But they wanted me to talk to you.”
Lincoln knew what Grant was talking about, but he still felt a surge of anger. So soon. He had not expected this so soon. “I did not seek power for glory or riches. You know that better than most. I took the steps I did for the Union. And I didn’t hide them.”
Lincoln knew he had done many things in violation of his oath of office and the Constitution. He’d unilaterally expanded the military; suspended habeus corpus; proclaimed martial law; had citizens arrested; seized property; censored newspapers; and, perhaps most galling to many, issued the Emancipation Proclamation. All without consulting Congress. He imagined old Polk would be laughing heartily if he could have seen the events of the last four years.
“I understand that, Mister President,” Grant said. “That’s why I have gotten the Chair to keep the Allegiance in hiding. I told him it would not be needed. Not now, nor in the future. Once peace has taken hold, I am sure we will be back to where we were before the war.”
It will never be the same, Lincoln thought, but did not say. He pressed a long finger against his temple, trying to calm the pounding in his head. “You are quite correct. The Allegiance will not be needed. I will relinquish all those extra powers I have assumed in the name of the emergency as soon as the country returns to normalcy.”
“And the Cincinnatians?”
“They too will be in check. I needed their support for the war, but not any longer.”
Grant heaved a sigh of relief. “Very good, sir. I will tell the Chair.” Grant stood to depart.
Grant turned. “Yes, sir?”
“Remember this meeting. I once walked into this room with the Allegiance years ago. You just walked in with the threat of the Allegiance. Some day if you sit in this room, remember what happened, and remember the dangers of the power of this office and of the Cincinnatians.”
Grant removed the cigar from his mouth and nodded. “I will, Mister President.”
“Very good.” Lincoln remembered something. “Mary wants to go to the theater tomorrow night. Would you and Missus Grant like to join us?”
“I will consult with her, but I see no reason why we would not.” Grant turned for the door.
“Very good,” Lincoln said.
Grant paused as he opened the door. “What theater, sir?”
“The Ford Theater.”