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This is possibly the most remarkable newspaper editorial in American history. In the midst of an all-consuming war, a major paper urges the President to take a month's vacation to recover his strength, while leaving his cabinet and generals to run the country. (!!) The sense of alarm is palpable. It is also recent. Clearly, Lincoln was not slowly ground down by pressures of the war. Something else had started happening -- recently. Most likely, the newspaper's diagnosis was wrong. A cancer, caused by MEN2B was probably the cause. Lincoln would live only three weeks past the editorial.
The President's Health Chicago Tribune - March 22, 1865, page 2. We do not desire to create needless alarm in the minds of the people by heading this editorial with the above ominous caption. The recent illness of the President does not necessarily indicate that the public have reason to be under immediate apprehension, but we have the best reasons, founded upon the general observation of those who, like ourselves, have been familiar with his personal health and appearance for many years, for stating that Mr. Lincoln's physical powers have been tested beyond their capacity of endurance, and that if this ordeal is to continue, his naturally strong constitution must at no distant date, give way. Without entering into an invidious inquiry as to the comparative fitness of those who might be called upon in any contingency to succeed him, the unanimity with which he was nominated, and the heavy popular voice by which he was elected, are sufficient evidence of the great interest the entire country has in his life. The political and military history of the country, especially during the past two years, since he became emphatically ``master of the situation,'' are sufficient witness that the people would forego much of their accustomed freedom of access to the President rather than see him reduced to his present worn and weakened condition. Many who saw him at his inauguration [March 4], where the opportunity for noting the change in his personal appearance was better than in his office or at the White House, were painfully impressed with his gaunt, skeleton-like appearance. From eight o'clock in the morning to past midnight of each day for four years, the President, in addition to the discharge of the proper duties of his office in the most difficult and arduous administration ever devolved upon the Executive of any government, has given audience to a constant stream of committees, visitors, officers, and delegated and self-constituted representatives of the people, from all sections, parties and conditions of men. He has heard their complaints, answered their arguments and considered their wishes, with a patience none of his predecessors ever exhibited, and with a democratic spirit of equality which Washington or Jackson would have regarded as inconsistent with the dignity of their position. Whatever grievance came before him for redress, whatever appointment for his sanction, he has at all times entered into its investigation with all the energy of his body, mind and conscience, and, not content with doing what was right, he has labored until he succeeded in convincing those with whom he was brought in contact and into conflict, that he had done right. All this vast labor has not been performed without a visible effect upon the physical powers of the man who has accomplished it. Most strong executive men would have broken down under far less labor. A tough and wiry constitution, and that easy flow of humor which enabled him to relieve his daily round of harassing annoyances, perplexing questions, and weighty care with pithy but smile-compelling anecdotes, these have lightened his load, and in all human probability, preserved his life. But there is a point beyond which these will not carry him. He needs at least a month's entire rest from from [sic] his official duties, and thenceforward a systematic and enforced exemption from the vast and unprecedented pressure of calls, appeals, committees, &c., to which he has heretofore given himself up. We believe the country would be glad to see him just at this point take the needed vacation. The people know that the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy has labored more arduously than any private in the ranks or any sailor on deck; all but he have had their furloughs. The present prosperous condition of our military, naval and financial operations, and diplomatic relations, is more opportune than has heretofore existed since he took the first oath of office. Gen. Grant as Grand Marshal of the military operations at the front needs no watching. Secretary Stanton is at home in the War Department. Our navy have closed all the ports, captured all the blockade runners and out-lived all the pirates. Mr. Seward will continue his voluminous moral reflections which, even if Mr. Lincoln were present and in full health, it might be dangerous for him to attempt to review. Mr. McCulloch will run the Treasury. On behalf of the sovereign people therefore we bespeak for our really invalid President a month's furlough!Similar editorials appeared in other newspapers about the same time. Some are reprinted in The Physical Lincoln Sourcebook.