A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln - Condensed from Nicolay & Hay's Abraham Lincoln: A History
by John G. Nicolay
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The platform was about to be adopted without objection when a flurry of discussion arose over an amendment, proposed by Mr. Giddings of Ohio, to incorporate in it that phrase of the Declaration of Independence which declares the right of all men to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Impatience was at once manifested lest any change should produce endless delay and dispute. "I believe in the Ten Commandments," commented a member, "but I do not want them in a political platform"; and the proposition was voted down. Upon this the old antislavery veteran felt himself agrieved, and, taking up his hat, marched out of the convention. In the course of an hour's desultory discussion however, a member, with stirring oratorical emphasis, asked whether the convention was prepared to go upon record before the country as voting down the words of the Declaration of Independence—whether the men of 1860, on the free prairies of the West, quailed before repeating the words enunciated by the men of '76 at Philadelphia. In an impulse of patriotic reaction, the amendment was incorporated into the platform, and Mr. Giddings was brought back by his friends, his face beaming with triumph; and the stormy acclaim of the audience manifested the deep feeling which the incident evoked.

On the third day it was certain that balloting would begin, and crowds hurried to the Wigwam in a fever of curiosity. Having grown restless at the indispensable routine preliminaries, when Mr. Evarts nominated William H. Seward of New York for President, they greeted his name with a perfect storm of applause. Then Mr. Judd nominated Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and in the tremendous cheering that broke from the throats of his admirers and followers the former demonstration dwindled to comparative feebleness. Again and again these contests of lungs and enthusiasm were repeated as the choice of New York was seconded by Michigan, and that of Illinois by Indiana.

When other names had been duly presented, the cheering at length subsided, and the chairman announced that balloting would begin. Many spectators had provided themselves with tally-lists, and when the first roll-call was completed were able at once to perceive the drift of popular preference. Cameron, Chase, Bates, McLean, Dayton, and Collamer were indorsed by the substantial votes of their own States; but two names stood out in marked superiority: Seward, who had received one hundred and seventy-three and one half votes, and Lincoln, one hundred and two.

The New York delegation was so thoroughly persuaded of the final success of their candidate that they did not comprehend the significance of this first ballot. Had they reflected that their delegation alone had contributed seventy votes to Seward's total, they would have understood that outside of the Empire State, upon this first showing, Lincoln held their favorite almost an even race. As the second ballot progressed, their anxiety visibly increased. They watched with eagerness as the complimentary votes first cast for State favorites were transferred now to one, now to the other of the recognized leaders in the contest, and their hopes sank when the result of the second ballot was announced: Seward, one hundred and eighty-four and one half, Lincoln, one hundred and eighty-one; and a volume of applause, which was with difficulty checked by the chairman, shook the Wigwam at this announcement.

Then followed a short interval of active caucusing in the various delegations, while excited men went about rapidly interchanging questions, solicitations, and messages between delegations from different States. Neither candidate had yet received a majority of all the votes cast, and the third ballot was begun amid a deep, almost painful suspense, delegates and spectators alike recording each announcement of votes on their tally-sheets with nervous fingers. But the doubt was of short duration. The second ballot had unmistakably pointed out the winning man. Hesitating delegations and fragments from many States steadily swelled the Lincoln column. Long before the secretaries made the official announcement, the totals had been figured up: Lincoln, two hundred and thirty one and one half, Seward, one hundred and eighty. Counting the scattering votes, four hundred and sixty-five ballots had been cast, and two hundred and thirty-three were necessary to a choice. Seward had lost four and one half, Lincoln had gained fifty and one half, and only one and one half votes more were needed to make a nomination.

The Wigwam suddenly became as still as a church, and everybody leaned forward to see whose voice would break the spell. Before the lapse of a minute, David K. Cartter sprang upon his chair and reported a change of four Ohio votes from Chase to Lincoln. Then a teller shouted a name toward the skylight, and the boom of cannon from the roof of the Wigwam announced the nomination and started the cheering of the overjoyed Illinoisans down the long Chicago streets; while in the Wigwam, delegation after delegation changed its vote to the victor amid a tumult of hurrahs. When quiet was somewhat restored, Mr. Evarts, speaking for New York and for Seward, moved to make the nomination unanimous, and Mr. Browning gracefully returned the thanks of Illinois for the honor the convention had conferred upon the State. In the afternoon the convention completed its work by nominating Hannibal Hamlin of Maine for Vice-President; and as the delegates sped homeward in the night trains, they witnessed, in the bonfires and cheering crowds at the stations, that a memorable presidential campaign was already begun.


Candidates and Platforms—The Political Chances—Decatur Lincoln Resolution—John Hanks and the Lincoln Rails—The Rail-Splitter Candidate—The Wide-Awakes—Douglas's Southern Tour—Jefferson Davis's Address—Fusion—Lincoln at the State House—The Election Result

The nomination of Lincoln at Chicago completed the preparations of the different parties of the country for the presidential contest of 1860; and presented the unusual occurrence of an appeal to the voters of the several States by four distinct political organizations. In the order of popular strength which they afterward developed, they were:

1. The Republican party, whose platform declared in substance that slavery was wrong, and that its further extension should be prohibited by Congress. Its candidates were Abraham Lincoln of Illinois for President and Hannibal Hamlin of Maine for Vice-president.

2. The Douglas wing of the Democratic party, which declared indifference whether slavery were right or wrong, extended or prohibited, and proposed to permit the people of a Territory to decide whether they would prevent or establish it. Its candidates were Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for President, and Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia for Vice-President.

3. The Buchanan wing of the Democratic party, which declared that slavery was right and beneficial, and whose policy was to extend the institution, and create new slave States. Its candidates were John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky for President, and Joseph Lane of Oregon for Vice-President.

4. The Constitutional Union party, which professed to ignore the question of slavery, and declared it would recognize no political principles other than "the Constitution of the country, the union of the States, and the enforcement of the laws." Its candidates were John Bell of Tennessee for President, and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for Vice-President.

In the array of these opposing candidates and their platforms, it could be easily calculated from the very beginning that neither Lincoln nor Douglas had any chance to carry a slave State, nor Breckinridge nor Bell to carry a free State; and that neither Douglas in the free States, nor Bell in either section could obtain electoral votes enough to succeed. Therefore, but two alternatives seemed probable. Either Lincoln would be chosen by electoral votes, or, upon his failure to obtain a sufficient number, the election would be thrown into the House of Representatives, in which case the course of combination, chance, or intrigue could not be foretold. The political situation and its possible results thus involved a degree of uncertainty sufficient to hold out a contingent hope to all the candidates and to inspire the followers of each to active exertion. This hope and inspiration, added to the hot temper which the long discussion of antagonistic principles had engendered, served to infuse into the campaign enthusiasm, earnestness, and even bitterness, according to local conditions in the different sections.

In campaign enthusiasm the Republican party easily took the lead. About a week before his nomination, Mr. Lincoln had been present at the Illinois State convention at Decatur in Coles County, not far from the old Lincoln home, when, at a given signal, there marched into the convention old John Hanks, one of his boyhood companions, and another pioneer, who bore on their shoulders two long fence rails decorated with a banner inscribed: "Two rails from a lot made by Abraham Lincoln and John Hanks in the Sangamon Bottom in the year 1830." They were greeted with a tremendous shout of applause from the whole convention succeeded by a united call for Lincoln, who sat on the platform. The tumult would not subside until he rose to speak, when he said:

"GENTLEMEN: I suppose you want to know something about those things [pointing to old John and the rails]. Well, the truth is, John Hanks and I did make rails in the Sagamon Bottom. I don't know whether we made those rails or not; fact is, I don't think they are a credit to the makers [laughing as he spoke]. But I do know this: I made rails then, and I think I could make better ones than these now."

Still louder cheering followed this short, but effective reply. But the convention was roused to its full warmth of enthusiasm when a resolution was immediately and unanimously adopted declaring that "Abraham Lincoln is the first choice of the Republican party of Illinois for the Presidency," and directing the delegates to the Chicago convention "to use all honorable means to secure his nomination, and to cast the vote of the State as a unit for him."

It was this resolution which the Illinois delegation had so successfully carried out at Chicago. And, besides they had carried with them the two fence rails, and set them up in state at the Lincoln headquarters at their hotel, where enthusiastic lady friends gaily trimmed them with flowers and ribbons and lighted them up with tapers. These slight preliminaries, duly embellished in the newspapers, gave the key to the Republican campaign, which designated Lincoln as the Rail-splitter Candidate, and, added to his common Illinois sobriquet of "Honest Old Abe," furnished both country and city campaign orators a powerfully sympathetic appeal to the rural and laboring element of the United States.

When these homely but picturesque appellations were fortified by the copious pamphlet and newspaper biographies in which people read the story of his humble beginnings, and how he had risen, by dint of simple, earnest work and native genius, through privation and difficulty, first to fame and leadership in his State, and now to fame and leadership in the nation, they grew quickly into symbols of a faith and trust destined to play no small part in a political revolution of which the people at large were not as yet even dreaming.

Another feature of the campaign also quickly developed itself. On the preceding 5th of March, one of Mr. Lincoln's New England speeches had been made at Hartford, Connecticut; and at its close he was escorted to his hotel by a procession of the local Republican club, at the head of which marched a few of its members bearing torches and wearing caps and capes of glazed oilcloth, the primary purpose of which was to shield their clothes from the dripping oil of their torches. Both the simplicity and the efficiency of the uniform caught the popular eye, as did also the name, "Wide-Awakes," applied to them by the "Hartford Courant." The example found quick imitation in Hartford and adjoining towns, and when Mr. Lincoln was made candidate for President, every city, town, and nearly every village in the North, within a brief space, had its organized Wide-Awake club, with their half-military uniform and drill; and these clubs were often, later in the campaign, gathered into imposing torch-light processions, miles in length, on occasions of important party meetings and speech-making. It was the revived spirit of the Harrison campaign of twenty years before; but now, shorn of its fun and frolic, it was strengthened by the power of organization and the tremendous impetus of earnest devotion to a high principle.

It was a noteworthy feature of the campaign that the letters of acceptance of all the candidates, either in distinct words or unmistakable implication, declared devotion to the Union, while at the same time the adherents of each were charging disunion sentiments and intentions upon the other three parties. Douglas himself made a tour of speech-making through the Southern States, in which, while denouncing the political views of both Lincoln and Breckinridge, he nevertheless openly declared, in response to direct questions, that no grievance could justify disunion, and that he was ready "to put the hemp around the neck and hang any man who would raise the arm of resistance to the constituted authorities of the country."

During the early part of the campaign the more extreme Southern fire-eaters abated somewhat of their violent menaces of disunion. Between the Charleston and the Baltimore Democratic conventions an address published by Jefferson Davis and other prominent leaders had explained that the seventeen Democratic States which had voted at Charleston for the seceders' platform could, if united with Pennsylvania alone, elect the Democratic nominees against all opposition. This hope doubtless floated before their eyes like a will-o'-the-wisp until the October elections dispelled all possibility of securing Pennsylvania for Breckinridge. From that time forward there began a renewal of disunion threats, which, by their constant increase throughout the South, prepared the public mind of that section for the coming secession.

As the chances of Republican success gradually grew stronger, an undercurrent of combination developed itself among those politicians of the three opposing parties more devoted to patronage than principle, to bring about the fusion of Lincoln's opponents on some agreed ratio of a division of the spoils. Such a combination made considerable progress in the three Northern States of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It appears to have been engineered mainly by the Douglas faction, though, it must be said to his credit, against the open and earnest protest of Douglas himself. But the thrifty plotters cared little for his disapproval.

By the secret manipulations of conventions and committees a fusion electoral ticket was formed in New York, made up of adherents of the three different factions in the following proportion: Douglas, eighteen; Bell, ten; Breckinridge, seven; and the whole opposition vote of the State of New York was cast for this fusion ticket. The same tactics were pursued in Pennsylvania, where, however, the agreement was not so openly avowed. One third of the Pennsylvania fusion electoral candidates were pledged to Douglas; the division of the remaining two thirds between Bell and Breckinridge was not made public. The bulk of the Pennsylvania opposition vote was cast for this fusion ticket, but a respectable percentage refused to be bargained away, and voted directly for Douglas or Bell. In New Jersey a definite agreement was reached by the managers, and an electoral ticket formed, composed of two adherents of Bell, two of Breckinridge, and three of Douglas; and in this State a practical result was effected by the movement. A fraction of the Douglas voters formed a straight electoral ticket, adopting the three Douglas candidates on the fusion ticket, and by this action these three Douglas electors received a majority vote in New Jersey, On the whole, however, the fusion movement proved ineffectual to defeat Lincoln and, indeed, it would not have done so even had the fusion electoral tickets deceived a majority in all three of the above-named States.

The personal habits and surroundings of Mr. Lincoln were varied somewhat, though but slightly, during the whole of this election summer. Naturally, he withdrew at once from active work, leaving his law office and his whole law business to his partner, William H. Herndon; while his friends installed him in the governor's room in the State House at Springfield, which was not otherwise needed during the absence of the legislature. Here he spent the time during the usual business hours of the day, attended only by his private secretary, Mr. Nicolay. Friends and strangers alike were thus able to visit him freely and without ceremony and they availed themselves largely of the opportunity. Few, if any, went away without being favorably impressed by his hearty Western greeting, and the frank sincerity of his manner and conversation, in which, naturally, all subjects of controversy were courteously and instinctively avoided by both the candidate and his visitors.

By none was this free, neighborly intercourse enjoyed more than by the old-time settlers of Sangamon and the adjoining counties, who came to revive the incidents and memories of pioneer days with one who could give them such thorough and appreciative interest and sympathy. He employed no literary bureau, wrote no public letters, made no set or impromptu speeches, except that once or twice during great political meetings at Springfield he uttered a few words of greeting and thanks to passing street processions. All these devices of propagandism he left to the leaders and committees of his adherents in their several States. Even the strictly confidential letters in which he indicated his advice on points in the progress of the campaign did not exceed a dozen in number; and when politicians came to interview him at Springfield, he received them in the privacy of his own home, and generally their presence created little or no public notice. Cautious politician as he was, he did not permit himself to indulge in any over-confidence, but then, as always before, showed unusual skill in estimating political chances. Thus he wrote about a week after the Chicago convention:

"So far as I can learn, the nominations start well everywhere; and, if they get no backset, it would seem as if they are going through."

Again, on July 4:

"Long before this you have learned who was nominated at Chicago. We know not what a day may bring forth, but to-day it looks as if the Chicago ticket will be elected."

And on September 22, to a friend in Oregon:

"No one on this side of the mountains pretends that any ticket can be elected by the people, unless it be ours. Hence, great efforts to combine against us are being made, which, however, as yet have not had much success Besides what we see in the newspapers, I have a good deal of private correspondence; and, without giving details, I will only say it all looks very favorable to our success."

His judgment was abundantly verified at the presidential election, which occurred upon November 6, 1860. Lincoln electors were chosen in every one of the free States except New Jersey, where, as has already been stated, three Douglas electors received majorities because their names were on both the fusion ticket and the straight Douglas ticket; while the other four Republican electors in that State succeeded. Of the slave States, eleven chose Breckinridge electors, three of them Bell electors, and one of them—Missouri—Douglas electors. As provided by law, the electors met in their several States on December 5, to officially cast their votes, and on February 13, 1861, Congress in joint session of the two Houses made the official count as follows: for Lincoln, one hundred and eighty; for Breckinridge, seventy-two; for Bell, thirty-nine; and for Douglas, twelve; giving Lincoln a clear majority of fifty-seven in the whole electoral college. Thereupon Breckinridge, who presided over the joint session, officially declared that Abraham Lincoln was duly elected President of the United States for four years, beginning March 4, 1861.


Lincoln's Cabinet Program—Members from the South—Questions and Answers—Correspondence with Stephens—Action of Congress—Peace Convention—Preparation of the Inaugural—Lincoln's Farewell Address—The Journey to Washington—Lincoln's Midnight Journey

During the long presidential campaign of 1860, between the Chicago convention in the middle of May and the election at the beginning of November, Mr. Lincoln, relieved from all other duties, had watched political developments with very close attention not merely to discern the progress of his own chances, but, doubtless, also, much more seriously to deliberate upon the future in case he should be elected. But it was only when, on the night of November 6, he sat in the telegraph office at Springfield, from which all but himself and the operators were excluded, and read the telegrams as they fell from the wires, that little by little the accumulating Republican majorities reported from all directions convinced him of the certainty of his success; and with that conviction there fell upon him the overwhelming, almost crushing weight of his coming duties and responsibilities. He afterward related that in that supreme hour, grappling resolutely with the mighty problem before him, he practically completed the first essential act of his administration, the selection of his future cabinet—the choice of the men who were to aid him.

From what afterward occurred, we may easily infer the general principle which guided his choice. One of his strongest characteristics, as his speeches abundantly show, was his belief in the power of public opinion, and his respect for the popular will. That was to be found and to be wielded by the leaders of public sentiment In the present instance there were no truer representatives of that will than the men who had been prominently supported by the delegates to the Chicago convention for the presidential nominations. Of these he would take at least three, perhaps four, to compose one half of his cabinet. In selecting Seward, Chase, Bates, and Cameron, he could also satisfy two other points of the representative principle, the claims of locality and the elements of former party divisions now joined in the newly organized Republican party. With Seward from New York, Cameron from Pennsylvania, Chase from Ohio, and himself from Illinois, the four leading free States had each a representative. With Bates from Missouri, the South could not complain of being wholly excluded from the cabinet. New England was properly represented by Vice-President Hamlin. When, after the inauguration, Smith from Indiana Welles from Connecticut, and Blair from Maryland were added to make up the seven cabinet members, the local distribution between East and West, North and South, was in no wise disturbed. It was, indeed, complained that in this arrangement there were four former Democrats, and only three former Whigs; to which Lincoln laughingly replied that he had been a Whig, and would be there to make the number even.

It is not likely that this exact list was in Lincoln's mind on the night of the November election, but only the principal names in it; and much delay and some friction occurred before its completion. The post of Secretary of State was offered to Seward on December 8.

"Rumors have got into the newspapers," wrote Lincoln, "to the effect that the department named above would be tendered you as a compliment, and with the expectation that you would decline it. I beg you to be assured that I have said nothing to justify these rumors. On the contrary, it has been my purpose, from the day of the nomination at Chicago, to assign you, by your leave, this place in the administration."

Seward asked a few days for reflection, and then cordially accepted. Bates was tendered the Attorney-Generalship on December 15, while making a personal visit to Springfield. Word had been meanwhile sent to Smith that he would probably be included. The assignment of places to Chase and Cameron worked less smoothly. Lincoln wrote Cameron a note on January 3, saying he would nominate him for either Secretary of the Treasury or Secretary of War, he had not yet decided which; and on the same day, in an interview with Chase, whom he had invited to Springfield, said to him:

"I have done with you what I would not perhaps have ventured to do with any other man in the country—sent for you to ask whether you will accept the appointment of Secretary of the Treasury, without, however, being exactly prepared to offer it to you."

They discussed the situation very fully, but without reaching a definite conclusion, agreeing to await the advice of friends. Meanwhile, the rumor that Cameron was to go into the cabinet excited such hot opposition that Lincoln felt obliged to recall his tender in a confidential letter; and asked him to write a public letter declining the place. Instead of doing this, Cameron fortified himself with recommendations from prominent Pennsylvanians, and demonstrated that in his own State he had at least three advocates to one opponent.

Pending the delay which this contest consumed, another cabinet complication found its solution. It had been warmly urged by conservatives that, in addition to Bates, another cabinet member should be taken from one of the Southern States. The difficulty of doings this had been clearly foreshadowed by Mr. Lincoln in a little editorial which he wrote for the Springfield "Journal" on December 12:

"First. Is it known that any such gentleman of character would accept a place in the cabinet?

"Second. If yea, on what terms does he surrender to Mr. Lincoln, or Mr. Lincoln to him, on the political differences between them, or do they enter upon the administration in open opposition to each other?"

It was very soon demonstrated that these differences were insurmountable. Through Mr. Seward, who was attending his senatorial duties at Washington, Mr. Lincoln tentatively offered a cabinet appointment successively to Gilmer of North Carolina, Hunt of Louisiana and Scott of Virginia, no one of whom had the courage to accept.

Toward the end of the recent canvass, and still more since the election, Mr. Lincoln had received urgent letters to make some public declaration to reassure and pacify the South, especially the cotton States, which were manifesting a constantly growing spirit of rebellion. Most of such letters remained unanswered, but in a number of strictly confidential replies he explained the reasons for his refusal.

"I appreciate your motive," he wrote October 23, "when you suggest the propriety of my writing for the public something disclaiming all intention to interfere with slaves or slavery in the States: but, in my judgment, it would do no good. I have already done this many, many times; and it is in print, and open to all who will read. Those who will not read or heed what I have already publicly said, would not read or heed a repetition of it. 'If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.'"

To the editor of the "Louisville Journal" he wrote October 29:

"For the good men of the South—and I regard the majority of them as such—I have no objection to repeat seventy and seven times. But I have bad men to deal with, both North and South; men who are eager for something new upon which to base new misrepresentations; men who would like to frighten me, or at least to fix upon me the character of timidity and cowardice."

Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, who afterward became Confederate Vice-President, made a strong speech against secession in that State on November 14; and Mr. Lincoln wrote him a few lines asking for a revised copy of it. In the brief correspondence which ensued, Mr. Lincoln again wrote him under date of December 22:

"I fully appreciate the present peril the country is in, and the weight of responsibility on me. Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly or indirectly, interfere with the slaves, or with them about the slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears. The South would be in no more danger in this respect than it was in the days of Washington. I suppose, however, this does not meet the case. You think slavery is right and ought to be extended, while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That, I suppose, is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us."

So, also, replying a few days earlier in a long letter to Hon. John A. Gilmer of North Carolina, to whom, as already stated, he offered a cabinet appointment, he said:

"On the territorial question I am inflexible, as you see my position in the book. On that there is a difference between you and us; and it is the only substantial difference. You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. For this neither has any just occasion to be angry with the other. As to the State laws, mentioned in your sixth question, I really know very little of them. I never have read one. If any of them are in conflict with the fugitive-slave clause, or any other part of the Constitution, I certainly shall be glad of their repeal; but I could hardly be justified, as a citizen of Illinois, or as President of the United States, to recommend the repeal of a statute of Vermont or South Carolina."

Through his intimate correspondence with Mr. Seward and personal friends in Congress, Mr. Lincoln was kept somewhat informed of the hostile temper of the Southern leaders, and that a tremendous pressure was being brought upon that body by timid conservatives and the commercial interests in the North to bring about some kind of compromise which would stay the progress of disunion; and on this point he sent an emphatic monition to Representative Washburne on December 13:

"Your long letter received. Prevent as far as possible any of our friends from demoralizing themselves and their cause by entertaining propositions for compromise of any sort on slavery extension. There is no possible compromise upon it but what puts us under again, and all our work to do over again. Whether it be a Missouri line or Eli Thayer's popular sovereignty, it is all the same. Let either be done, and immediately filibustering and extending slavery recommences. On that point hold firm as a chain of steel."

Between the day when a President is elected by popular vote and that on which he is officially inaugurated there exists an interim of four long months, during which he has no more direct power in the affairs of government than any private citizen. However anxiously Mr. Lincoln might watch the development of public events at Washington and in the cotton States; whatever appeals might come to him through interviews or correspondence, no positive action of any kind was within his power, beyond an occasional word of advice or suggestion. The position of the Republican leaders in Congress was not much better. Until the actual secession of States, and the departure of their representatives, they were in a minority in the Senate; while the so-called South Americans and Anti-Lecompton Democrats held the balance of power in the House. The session was mainly consumed in excited, profitless discussion. Both the Senate and House appointed compromise committees, which met and labored, but could find no common ground of agreement. A peace convention met and deliberated at Washington, with no practical result, except to waste the powder for a salute of one hundred guns over a sham report to which nobody paid the least attention.

Throughout this period Mr. Lincoln was by no means idle. Besides the many difficulties he had to overcome in completing his cabinet, he devoted himself to writing his inaugural address. Withdrawing himself some hours each day from his ordinary receptions, he went to a quiet room on the second floor of the store occupied by his brother-in-law, on the south side of the public square in Springfield, where he could think and write in undisturbed privacy. When, after abundant reflection and revision, he had finished the document, he placed it in the hands of Mr. William H. Bailhache, one of the editors of the "Illinois State Journal," who locked himself and a single compositor into the composing-room of the "Journal." Here, in Mr. Bailhache's presence, it was set up, proof taken and read, and a dozen copies printed; after which the types were again immediately distributed. The alert newspaper correspondents in Springfield, who saw Mr. Lincoln every day as usual, did not obtain the slightest hint of what was going on.

Having completed his arrangements, Mr. Lincoln started on his journey to Washington on February 11, 1861, on a special train, accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln and their three children, his two private secretaries, and a suite of about a dozen personal friends. Mr. Seward had suggested that in view of the feverish condition of public affairs, he should come a week earlier; but Mr. Lincoln allowed himself only time enough comfortably to fill the appointments he had made to visit the capitals and principal cities of the States on his route, in accordance with non-partizan invitations from their legislatures and mayors, which he had accepted. Standing on the front platform of the car, as the conductor was about to pull the bell-rope, Mr. Lincoln made the following brief and pathetic address of farewell to his friends and neighbors of Springfield—the last time his voice was ever to be heard in the city which had been his home for so many years:

"My friends: No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."

It was the beginning of a memorable journey. On the whole route from Springfield to Washington, at almost every station, even the smallest, was gathered a crowd of people in hope to catch a glimpse of the face of the President-elect, or, at least, to see the flying train. At the larger stopping-places these gatherings were swelled to thousands, and in the great cities into almost unmanageable assemblages. Everywhere there were vociferous calls for Mr. Lincoln, and, if he showed himself, for a speech. Whenever there was sufficient time, he would step to the rear platform of the car and bow his acknowledgments as the train was moving away, and sometimes utter a few words of thanks and greeting. At the capitals of Indiana, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, as also in the cities of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Buffalo, New York, and Philadelphia, a halt was made for one or two days, and a program was carried out of a formal visit and brief address to each house of the legislature, street processions, large receptions in the evening, and other similar ceremonies; and in each of them there was an unprecedented outpouring of the people to take advantage of every opportunity to see and to hear the future Chief Magistrate of the Union.

Party foes as well as party friends made up these expectant crowds. The public suspense was at a degree of tension which rendered every eye and ear eager to catch even the slightest indication of the thoughts or intentions of the man who was to be the official guide of the nation in a crisis the course and end of which even the wisest dared not predict. In the twenty or thirty brief addresses delivered by Mr. Lincoln on this journey, he observed the utmost caution of utterance and reticence of declaration; yet the shades of meaning in his carefully chosen sentences were enough to show how alive he was to the trials and dangers confronting his administration, and to inspire hope and confidence in his judgment. He repeated that he regarded the public demonstrations not as belonging to himself, but to the high office with which the people had clothed him; and that if he failed, they could four years later substitute a better man in his place; and in his very first address, at Indianapolis, he thus emphasized their reciprocal duties:

"If the union of these States and the liberties of this people shall be lost, it is but little to any one man of fifty-two years of age, but a great deal to the thirty millions of people who inhabit these United States, and to their posterity in all coming time. It is your business to rise up and preserve the Union and liberty for yourselves and not for me.... I appeal to you again to constantly bear in mind that not with politicians, not with Presidents, not with office-seekers, but with you, is the question, Shall the Union and shall the liberties of this country be preserved to the latest generations?"

Many salient and interesting quotations could be made from his other addresses, but a comparatively few sentences will be sufficient to enable the reader to infer what was likely to be his ultimate conclusion and action. In his second speech at Indianapolis he asked the question:

"On what rightful principle may a State, being not more than one-fiftieth part of the nation in soil and population, break up the nation, and then coerce a proportionally larger subdivision of itself in the most arbitrary way?"

At Steubenville:

"If the majority should not rule, who would be the judge? Where is such a judge to be found? We should all be bound by the majority of the American people—if not, then the minority must control. Would that be right?"

At Trenton:

"I shall do all that may be in my power to promote a peaceful settlement of all our difficulties. The man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am, none who would do more to preserve it, but it may be necessary to put the foot down firmly."

At Harrisburg:

"While I am exceedingly gratified to see the manifestation upon your streets of your military force here, and exceedingly gratified at your promise to use that force upon a proper emergency—while I make these acknowledgments, I desire to repeat, in order to preclude any possible misconstruction, that I do most sincerely hope that we shall have no use for them; that it will never become their duty to shed blood, and most especially never to shed fraternal blood. I promise that so far as I may have wisdom to direct, if so painful a result shall in any wise be brought about, it shall be through no fault of mine."

While Mr. Lincoln was yet at Philadelphia, he was met by Mr. Frederick W. Seward, son of Senator Seward, who brought him an important communication from his father and General Scott at Washington. About the beginning of the year serious apprehension had been felt lest a sudden uprising of the secessionists in Virginia and Maryland might endeavor to gain possession of the national capital. An investigation by a committee of Congress found no active military preparation to exist for such a purpose, but considerable traces of disaffection and local conspiracy in Baltimore; and, to guard against such an outbreak, President Buchanan had permitted his Secretary of War, Mr. Holt, to call General Scott to Washington and charge him with the safety of the city, not only at that moment, but also during the counting of the presidential returns in February, and the coming inauguration of Mr. Lincoln. For this purpose General Scott had concentrated at Washington a few companies from the regular army, and also, in addition, had organized and armed about nine hundred men of the militia of the District of Columbia.

In connection with these precautions, Colonel Stone, who commanded these forces, had kept himself informed about the disaffection in Baltimore, through the agency of the New York police department. The communication brought by young Mr. Seward contained besides notes from his father and General Scott, a short report from Colonel Stone, stating that there had arisen within the past few days imminent danger of violence to and the assassination of Mr. Lincoln in his passage through Baltimore, should the time of that passage be known.

"All risk," he suggested, "might be easily avoided by a change in the traveling arrangements which would bring Mr. Lincoln and a portion of his party through Baltimore by a night train without previous notice."

The seriousness of this information was doubled by the fact that Mr. Lincoln had, that same day, held an interview with a prominent Chicago detective who had been for some weeks employed by the president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore railway to investigate the danger to their property and trains from the Baltimore secessionists. The investigations of this detective, a Mr. Pinkerton, had been carried on without the knowledge of the New York detective, and he reported not identical, but almost similar, conditions of insurrectionary feeling and danger, and recommended the same precaution.

Mr. Lincoln very earnestly debated the situation with his intimate personal friend, Hon. N.B. Judd of Chicago, perhaps the most active and influential member of his suite, who advised him to proceed to Washington that same evening on the eleven-o'clock train. "I cannot go to-night," replied Mr. Lincoln; "I have promised to raise the flag over Independence Hall to-morrow morning, and to visit the legislature at Harrisburg. Beyond that I have no engagements."

The railroad schedule by which Mr. Lincoln had hitherto been traveling included a direct trip from Harrisburg, through Baltimore, to Washington on Saturday, February 23. When the Harrisburg ceremonies had been concluded on the afternoon of the 22d, the danger and the proposed change of program were for the first time fully laid before a confidential meeting of the prominent members of Mr. Lincoln's suite. Reasons were strongly urged both for and against the plan; but Mr. Lincoln finally decided and explained that while he himself was not afraid he would be assassinated, nevertheless, since the possibility of danger had been made known from two entirely independent sources, and officially communicated to him by his future prime minister and the general of the American armies, he was no longer at liberty to disregard it; that it was not the question of his private life, but the regular and orderly transmission of the authority of the government of the United States in the face of threatened revolution, which he had no right to put in the slightest jeopardy. He would, therefore, carry out the plan, the full details of which had been arranged with the railroad officials.

Accordingly, that same evening, he, with a single companion, Colonel W. H. Lamon, took a car from Harrisburg back to Philadelphia, at which place, about midnight, they boarded the through train from New York to Washington, and without recognition or any untoward incident passed quietly through Baltimore, and reached the capital about daylight on the morning of February 23, where they were met by Mr. Seward and Representative Washburne of Illinois, and conducted to Willard's Hotel.

When Mr. Lincoln's departure from Harrisburg became known, a reckless newspaper correspondent telegraphed to New York the ridiculous invention that he traveled disguised in a Scotch cap and long military cloak. There was not one word of truth in the absurd statement. Mr. Lincoln's family and suite proceeded to Washington by the originally arranged train and schedule, and witnessed great crowds in the streets of Baltimore, but encountered neither turbulence nor incivility of any kind. There was now, of course, no occasion for any, since the telegraph had definitely announced that the President-elect was already in Washington.


The Secession Movement—South Carolina Secession—Buchanan's Neglect—Disloyal Cabinet Members—-Washington Central Cabal—Anderson's Transfer to Sumter—Star of the West—Montgomery Rebellion—-Davis and Stephens—Corner-stone Theory—Lincoln Inaugurated—His Inaugural Address—Lincoln's Cabinet—The Question of Sumter—Seward's Memorandum—Lincoln's Answer—Bombardment of Sumter—Anderson's Capitulation

It is not the province of these chapters to relate in detail the course of the secession movement in the cotton States in the interim which elapsed between the election and inauguration of President Lincoln. Still less can space be given to analyze and set forth the lamentable failure of President Buchanan to employ the executive authority and power of the government to prevent it, or even to hinder its development, by any vigorous opposition or adequate protest. The determination of South Carolina to secede was announced by the governor of that State a month before the presidential election, and on the day before the election he sent the legislature of the State a revolutionary message to formally inaugurate it. From that time forward the whole official machinery of the State not only led, but forced the movement which culminated on December 20 in the ordinance of secession by the South Carolina convention.

This official revolution in South Carolina was quickly imitated by similar official revolutions ending in secession ordinances in the States of Mississippi, on January 9, 1861; Florida, January 10; Alabama, January 11; Georgia, January 19; Louisiana, January 26; and by a still bolder usurpation in Texas, culminating on February 1. From the day of the presidential election all these proceedings were known probably more fully to President Buchanan than to the general public, because many of the actors were his personal and party friends; while almost at their very beginning he became aware that three members of his cabinet were secretly or openly abetting and promoting them by their official influence and power.

Instead of promptly dismissing these unfaithful servants, he retained one of them a month, and the others twice that period, and permitted them so far to influence his official conduct, that in his annual message to Congress he announced the fallacious and paradoxical doctrine that though a State had no right to secede, the Federal government had no right to coerce her to remain in the Union.

Nor could he justify his non-action by the excuse that contumacious speeches and illegal resolves of parliamentary bodies might be tolerated under the American theory of free assemblage and free speech. Almost from the beginning of the secession movement, it was accompanied from time to time by overt acts both of treason and war; notably, by the occupation and seizure by military order and force of the seceding States, of twelve or fifteen harbor forts, one extensive navy-yard, half a dozen arsenals, three mints, four important custom-houses, three revenue cutters, and a variety of miscellaneous Federal property; for all of which insults to the flag, and infractions of the sovereignty of the United States, President Buchanan could recommend no more efficacious remedy or redress than to ask the voters of the country to reverse their decision given at the presidential election, and to appoint a day of fasting and prayer on which to implore the Most High "to remove from our hearts that false pride of opinion which would impel us to persevere in wrong for the sake of consistency."

Nor must mention be omitted of the astounding phenomenon that, encouraged by President Buchanan's doctrine of non-coercion and purpose of non-action, a central cabal of Southern senators and representatives issued from Washington, on December 14, their public proclamation of the duty of secession; their executive committee using one of the rooms of the Capitol building itself as the headquarters of the conspiracy and rebellion they were appointed to lead and direct.

During the month of December, while the active treason of cotton-State officials and the fatal neglect of the Federal executive were in their most damaging and demoralizing stages, an officer of the United States army had the high courage and distinguished honor to give the ever-growing revolution its first effective check. Major Robert Anderson, though a Kentuckian by birth and allied by marriage to a Georgia family, was, late in November, placed in command of the Federal forts in Charleston harbor; and having repeatedly reported that his little garrison of sixty men was insufficient for the defense of Fort Moultrie, and vainly asked for reinforcements which were not sent him, he suddenly and secretly, on the night after Christmas, transferred his command from the insecure position of Moultrie to the strong and unapproachable walls of Fort Sumter, midway in the mouth of Charleston harbor, where he could not be assailed by the raw Charleston militia companies that had for weeks been threatening him with a storming assault. In this stronghold, surrounded on all sides by water, he loyally held possession for the government and sovereignty of the United States.

The surprised and baffled rage of the South Carolina rebels created a crisis at Washington that resulted in the expulsion of the President's treacherous counselors and the reconstruction of Mr. Buchanan's cabinet to unity and loyalty. The new cabinet, though unable to obtain President Buchanan's consent to aggressive measures to reestablish the Federal authority, was, nevertheless, able to prevent further concessions to the insurrection, and to effect a number of important defensive precautions, among which was the already mentioned concentration of a small military force to protect the national capital.

Meanwhile, the governor of South Carolina had begun the erection of batteries to isolate and besiege Fort Sumter; and the first of these, on a sand-spit of Morris Island commanding the main ship-channel, by a few shots turned back, on January 9, the merchant steamer Star of the West, in which General Scott had attempted to send a reinforcement of two hundred recruits to Major Anderson. Battery building was continued with uninterrupted energy until a triangle of siege works was established on the projecting points of neighboring islands, mounting a total of thirty guns and seventeen mortars, manned and supported by a volunteer force of from four to six thousand men.

Military preparation, though not on so extensive or definite a scale, was also carried on in the other revolted States; and while Mr. Lincoln was making his memorable journey from Springfield to Washington, telegrams were printed in the newspapers, from day to day, showing that their delegates had met at Montgomery, Alabama, formed a provisional congress, and adopted a constitution and government under the title of The Confederate States of America, of which they elected Jefferson Davis of Mississippi President, and Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia Vice-President.

It needs to be constantly borne in mind that the beginning of this vast movement was not a spontaneous revolution, but a chronic conspiracy. "The secession of South Carolina," truly said one of the chief actors, "is not an event of a day. It is not anything produced by Mr. Lincoln's election, or by the non-execution of the fugitive-slave law. It is a matter which has been gathering head for thirty years." The central motive and dominating object of the revolution was frankly avowed by Vice-President Stephens in a speech he made at Savannah a few weeks after his inauguration:

"The prevailing ideas entertained by him [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically.... Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

In the week which elapsed between Mr. Lincoln's arrival in Washington and the day of inauguration, he exchanged the customary visits of ceremony with President Buchanan, his cabinet, the Supreme Court, the two Houses of Congress, and other dignitaries. In his rooms at Willard's Hotel he also held consultations with leading Republicans about the final composition of his cabinet and pressing questions of public policy. Careful preparations had been made for the inauguration, and under the personal eye of General Scott the military force in the city was ready instantly to suppress any attempt to disturb the peace or quiet of the day.

On March 4 the outgoing and incoming Presidents rode side by side in a carriage from the Executive Mansion to the Capitol and back, escorted by an imposing military and civic procession; and an immense throng of spectators heard the new Executive read his inaugural address from the east portico of the Capitol. He stated frankly that a disruption of the Federal Union was being formidably attempted, and discussed dispassionately the theory and illegality of secession. He held that the Union was perpetual; that resolves and ordinances of disunion are legally void; and announced that to the extent of his ability he would faithfully execute the laws of the Union in all the States. The power confided to him would be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts. But beyond what might be necessary for these objects there would be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality should be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there would be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among them for that object. The mails, unless repelled, would continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union; and this course would be followed until current events and experience should show a change to be necessary. To the South he made an earnest plea against the folly of disunion, and in favor of maintaining peace and fraternal good will; declaring that their property, peace, and personal security were in no danger from a Republican administration.

"One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended," he said, "while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended; that is the only substantial dispute.... Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens, than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you.... In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors.... I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

But the peaceful policy here outlined was already more difficult to follow than Mr. Lincoln was aware. On the morning after inauguration the Secretary of War brought to his notice freshly received letters from Major Anderson, commanding Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, announcing that in the course of a few weeks the provisions of the garrison would be exhausted, and therefore an evacuation or surrender would become necessary, unless the fort were relieved by supplies or reinforcements; and this information was accompanied by the written opinions of the officers that to relieve the fort would require a well-appointed army of twenty thousand men.

The new President had appointed as his cabinet William H. Seward, Secretary of State; Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury; Simon Cameron, Secretary of War; Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy; Caleb B. Smith, Secretary of the Interior; Montgomery Blair, Postmaster-General; and Edward Bates, Attorney-General. The President and his official advisers at once called into counsel the highest military and naval officers of the Union to consider the new and pressing emergency revealed by the unexpected news from Sumter. The professional experts were divided in opinion. Relief by a force of twenty thousand men was clearly out of the question. No such Union army existed, nor could one be created within the limit of time. The officers of the navy thought that men and supplies might be thrown into the fort by swift-going vessels, while on the other hand the army officers believed that such an expedition would surely be destroyed by the formidable batteries which the insurgents had erected to close the harbor. In view of all the conditions, Lieutenant-General Scott, general-in-chief of the army, recommended the evacuation of the fort as a military necessity.

President Lincoln thereupon asked the several members of his cabinet the written question: "Assuming it to be possible to now provision Fort Sumter, under all the circumstances is it wise to attempt it?" Only two members replied in the affirmative, while the other five argued against the attempt, holding that the country would recognize that the evacuation of the fort was not an indication of policy, but a necessity created by the neglect of the old administration. Under this advice, the President withheld his decision until he could gather further information.

Meanwhile, three commissioners had arrived from the provisional government at Montgomery, Alabama, under instructions to endeavor to negotiate a de facto and de jure recognition of the independence of the Confederate States. They were promptly informed by Mr. Seward that he could not receive them; that he did not see in the Confederate States a rightful and accomplished revolution and an independent nation; and that he was not at liberty to recognize the commissioners as diplomatic agents, or to hold correspondence with them. Failing in this direct application, they made further efforts through Mr. Justice Campbell of the Supreme Court, as a friendly intermediary, who came to Seward in the guise of a loyal official, though his correspondence with Jefferson Davis soon revealed a treasonable intent; and, replying to Campbell's earnest entreaties that peace should be maintained, Seward informed him confidentially that the military status at Charleston would not be changed without notice to the governor of South Carolina. On March 29 a cabinet meeting for the second time discussed the question of Sumter. Four of the seven members now voted in favor of an attempt to supply the fort with provisions, and the President signed a memorandum order to prepare certain ships for such an expedition, under the command of Captain G.V. Fox.

So far, Mr. Lincoln's new duties as President of the United States had not in any wise put him at a disadvantage with his constitutional advisers. Upon the old question of slavery he was as well informed and had clearer convictions and purposes than either Seward or Chase. And upon the newer question of secession, and the immediate decision about Fort Sumter which it involved, the members of his cabinet were, like himself, compelled to rely on the professional advice of experienced army and navy officers. Since these differed radically in their opinions, the President's own powers of perception and logic were as capable of forming a correct decision as men who had been governors and senators. He had reached at least a partial decision in the memorandum he gave Fox to prepare ships for the Sumter expedition.

It must therefore have been a great surprise to the President when, on April 1, Secretary of State Seward handed him a memorandum setting forth a number of most extraordinary propositions. For a full enumeration of the items the reader must carefully study the entire document, which is printed below in a foot-note;[4] but the principal points for which it had evidently been written and presented can be given in a few sentences.


First. We are at the end of a month's administration, and yet without a policy, either domestic or foreign.

Second. This, however, is not culpable, and it has even been unavoidable. The presence of the Senate, with the need to meet applications for patronage, have prevented attention to other and more grave matters.

Third. But further delay to adopt and prosecute our policies for both domestic and foreign affairs would not only bring scandal on the administration, but danger upon the country.

Fourth. To do this we must dismiss the applicants for office. But how? I suggest that we make the local appointments forthwith, leaving foreign or general ones for ulterior and occasional action.

Fifth. The policy at home. I am aware that my views are singular and perhaps not sufficiently explained My system is built upon this idea as a ruling one, namely, that we must


In other words, from what would be regarded as a party question, to one of Patriotism or Union.

The occupation or evacuation of Fort Sumter, although not in fact a slavery or a party question, is so regarded. Witness the temper manifested by the Republicans in the free States, and even by the Union men in the South.

I would therefore terminate it as a safe means for changing the issue. I deem it fortunate that the last administration created the necessity.

For the rest, I would simultaneously defend and reinforce all the ports in the Gulf, and have the navy recalled from foreign stations to be prepared for a blockade. Put the island of Key West under martial law.

This will raise distinctly the question of Union or Disunion. I would maintain every fort and possession in the South.


I would demand explanations from Spain and France, categorically, at once.

I would seek explanations from Great Britain and Russia, and send agents into Canada, Mexico, and Central America, to rouse a vigorous continental spirit of independence on this continent against European intervention.

And, if satisfactory explanations are not received from Spain and France,

Would convene Congress and declare war against them.

But whatever policy we adopt, there must be an energetic prosecution of it.

For this purpose it must be somebody's business to pursue and direct it incessantly.

Either the President must do it himself, and be all the while active in it, or

Devolve it on some member of his cabinet. Once adopted, debates on it must end, and all agree and abide.

It is not in my especial province.

But I neither seek to evade nor assume responsibility.]

A month has elapsed, and the administration has neither a domestic nor a foreign policy. The administration must at once adopt and carry out a novel, radical, and aggressive policy. It must cease saying a word about slavery, and raise a great outcry about Union. It must declare war against France and Spain, and combine and organize all the governments of North and South America in a crusade to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. This policy once adopted, it must be the business of some one incessantly to pursue it. "It is not in my especial province," wrote Mr. Seward; "but I neither seek to evade nor assume responsibility." This phrase, which is a key to the whole memorandum, enables the reader easily to translate its meaning into something like the following:

After a month's trial, you, Mr. Lincoln, are a failure as President. The country is in desperate straits, and must use a desperate remedy. That remedy is to submerge the South Carolina insurrection in a continental war. Some new man must take the executive helm, and wield the undivided presidential authority. I should have been nominated at Chicago, and elected in November, but am willing to take your place and perform your duties.

Why William H. Seward, who is fairly entitled to rank as a great statesman, should have written this memorandum and presented it to Mr. Lincoln, has never been explained; nor is it capable of explanation. Its suggestions were so visionary, its reasoning so fallacious, its assumptions so unwarranted, its conclusions so malapropos, that it falls below critical examination. Had Mr. Lincoln been an envious or a resentful man, he could not have wished for a better occasion to put a rival under his feet.

The President doubtless considered the incident one of phenomenal strangeness, but it did not in the least disturb his unselfish judgment or mental equipoise. There was in his answer no trace of excitement or passion. He pointed out in a few sentences of simple, quiet explanation that what the administration had done was exactly a foreign and domestic policy which the Secretary of State himself had concurred in and helped to frame. Only, that Mr. Seward proposed to go further and give up Sumter. Upon the central suggestion that some one mind must direct, Mr. Lincoln wrote with simple dignity:

"If this must be done, I must do it. When a general line of policy is adopted, I apprehend there is no danger of its being changed without good reason, or continuing to be a subject of unnecessary debate; still, upon points arising in its progress I wish, and suppose I am entitled to have, the advice of all the cabinet."

Mr. Lincoln's unselfish magnanimity is the central marvel of the whole affair. His reply ended the argument. Mr. Seward doubtless saw at once how completely he had put himself in the President's power. Apparently, neither of the men ever again alluded to the incident. No other persons except Mr. Seward's son and the President's private secretary ever saw the correspondence, or knew of the occurrence. The President put the papers away in an envelop, and no word of the affair came to the public until a quarter of a century later, when the details were published in Mr. Lincoln's biography. In one mind, at least, there was no further doubt that the cabinet had a master, for only some weeks later Mr. Seward is known to have written: "There is but one vote in the cabinet, and that is cast by the President." This mastery Mr. Lincoln retained with a firm dignity throughout his administration. When, near the close of the war, he sent Mr. Seward to meet the rebel commissioners at the Hampton Roads conference, he finished his short letter of instructions with the imperative sentence: "You will not assume to definitely consummate anything."

From this strange episode our narrative must return to the question of Fort Sumter. On April 4, official notice was sent to Major Anderson of the coming relief, with the instruction to hold out till the eleventh or twelfth if possible; but authorizing him to capitulate whenever it might become necessary to save himself and command. Two days later the President sent a special messenger with written notice to the governor of South Carolina that an attempt would be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that if such attempt were not resisted, no further effort would be made to throw in men, arms, or ammunition, without further notice, or unless in case of an attack on the fort.

The building of batteries around Fort Sumter had been begun, under the orders of Governor Pickens, about the first of January, and continued with industry and energy; and about the first of March General Beauregard, an accomplished engineer officer, was sent by the Confederate government to take charge of and complete the works. On April 1 he telegraphed to Montgomery: "Batteries ready to open Wednesday or Thursday. What instructions?"

At this point, the Confederate authorities at Montgomery found themselves face to face with the fatal alternative either to begin war or to allow their rebellion to collapse. Their claim to independence was denied, their commissioners were refused a hearing; yet not an angry word, provoking threat, nor harmful act had come from President Lincoln. He had promised them peace, protection, freedom from irritation; had offered them the benefit of the mails. Even now, all he proposed to do was—not to send guns or ammunition or men to Sumter, but only bread and provisions to Anderson and his soldiers. His prudent policy placed them in the exact attitude described a month earlier in his inaugural; they could have no conflict without being themselves the aggressors. But the rebellion was organized by ambitious men with desperate intentions. A member of the Alabama legislature, present at Montgomery, said to Jefferson Davis and three members of his cabinet: "Gentlemen, unless you sprinkle blood in the face of the people of Alabama, they will be back in the old Union in less than ten days." And the sanguinary advice was adopted. In answer to his question, "What instructions?" Beauregard on April 10 was ordered to demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter, and, in case of refusal, to reduce it.

The demand was presented to Anderson, who replied that he would evacuate the fort by noon of April 15, unless assailed, or unless he received supplies or controlling instructions from his government. This answer being unsatisfactory to Beauregard, he sent Anderson notice that he would open fire on Sumter at 4:20 on the morning of April 12.

Promptly at the hour indicated the bombardment was begun. As has been related, the rebel siege-works were built on the points of the islands forming the harbor, at distances varying from thirteen hundred to twenty-five hundred yards, and numbered nineteen batteries, with an armament of forty-seven guns, supported by a land force of from four to six thousand volunteers. The disproportion between means of attack and defense was enormous. Sumter, though a work three hundred by three hundred and fifty feet in size, with well-constructed walls and casemates of brick, was in very meager preparation for such a conflict. Of its forty-eight available guns, only twenty-one were in the casemates, twenty-seven being on the rampart en barbette. The garrison consisted of nine commissioned officers, sixty-eight non-commissioned officers and privates, eight musicians, and forty-three non-combatant workmen compelled by the besiegers to remain to hasten the consumption of provisions.

Under the fire of the seventeen mortars in the rebel batteries, Anderson could reply only with a vertical fire from the guns of small caliber in his casemates, which was of no effect against the rebel bomb-proofs of sand and roofs of sloping railroad iron; but, refraining from exposing his men to serve his barbette guns, his garrison was also safe in its protecting casemates. It happened, therefore, that although the attack was spirited and the defense resolute, the combat went on for a day and a half without a single casualty. It came to an end on the second day only when the cartridges of the garrison were exhausted, and the red-hot shot from the rebel batteries had set the buildings used as officers' quarters on fire, creating heat and smoke that rendered further defense impossible.

There was also the further discouragement that the expedition of relief which Anderson had been instructed to look for on the eleventh or twelfth, had failed to appear. Several unforeseen contingencies had prevented the assembling of the vessels at the appointed rendezvous outside Charleston harbor, though some of them reached it in time to hear the opening guns of the bombardment. But as accident had deranged and thwarted the plan agreed upon, they could do nothing except impatiently await the issue of the fight.

A little after noon of April 13, when the flagstaff of the fort had been shot away and its guns remained silent, an invitation to capitulate with the honors of war came from General Beauregard, which Anderson accepted; and on the following day, Sunday, April 14, he hauled down his flag with impressive ceremonies, and leaving the fort with his faithful garrison, proceeded in a steamer to New York.


President's Proclamation Calling for Seventy-five Regiments—Responses of the Governors—Maryland and Virginia—The Baltimore Riot—Washington Isolated—Lincoln Takes the Responsibility—Robert E. Lee—Arrival of the New York Seventh—Suspension of Habeas Corpus—The Annapolis Route—Butler in Baltimore—Taney on the Merryman Case—Kentucky—Missouri—Lyon Captures Camp Jackson—Boonville Skirmish—The Missouri Convention—Gamble made Governor—The Border States

The bombardment of Fort Sumter changed the political situation as if by magic. There was no longer room for doubt, hesitation, concession, or compromise. Without awaiting the arrival of the ships that were bringing provisions to Anderson's starving garrison, the hostile Charleston batteries had opened their fire on the fort by the formal order of the Confederate government, and peaceable secession was, without provocation, changed to active war. The rebels gained possession of Charleston harbor; but their mode of obtaining it awakened the patriotism of the American people to a stern determination that the insult to the national authority and flag should be redressed, and the unrighteous experiment of a rival government founded on slavery as its corner-stone should never succeed. Under the conflict thus begun the long-tolerated barbarous institution itself was destined ignobly to perish.

On his journey from Springfield to Washington Mr. Lincoln had said that, devoted as he was to peace, he might find it necessary "to put the foot down firmly." That time had now come. On the morning of April 15, 1861, the leading newspapers of the country printed the President's proclamation reciting that, whereas the laws of the United States were opposed and the execution thereof obstructed in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, was called forth to suppress said combinations and cause the laws to be duly executed. The orders of the War Department specified that the period of service under this call should be for three months; and to further conform to the provisions of the Act of 1795, under which the call was issued, the President's proclamation also convened the Congress in special session on the coming fourth of July.

Public opinion in the free States, which had been sadly demoralized by the long discussions over slavery, and by the existence of four factions in the late presidential campaign, was instantly crystallized and consolidated by the Sumter bombardment and the President's proclamation into a sentiment of united support to the government for the suppression of the rebellion. The several free-State governors sent loyal and enthusiastic responses to the call for militia, and tendered double the numbers asked for. The people of the slave States which had not yet joined the Montgomery Confederacy—namely, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware—remained, however, more or less divided on the issue as it now presented itself. The governors of the first six of these were already so much engaged in the secret intrigues of the secession movement that they sent the Secretary of War contumacious and insulting replies, and distinct refusals to the President's call for troops. The governor of Delaware answered that there was no organized militia in his State which he had legal authority to command, but that the officers of organized volunteer regiments might at their own option offer their services to the United States; while the governor of Maryland, in complying with the requisition, stipulated that the regiments from his State should not be required to serve outside its limits, except to defend the District of Columbia.

A swift, almost bewildering rush of events, however, quickly compelled most of them to take sides. Secession feeling was rampant in Baltimore; and when the first armed and equipped Northern regiment, the Massachusetts Sixth, passed through that city on the morning of April 19, on its way to Washington, the last four of its companies were assailed by street mobs with missiles and firearms while marching from one depot to the other; and in the running fight which ensued, four of its soldiers were killed and about thirty wounded, while the mob probably lost two or three times as many. This tragedy instantly threw the whole city into a wild frenzy of insurrection. That same afternoon an immense secession meeting in Monument Square listened to a torrent of treasonable protest and denunciation, in which Governor Hicks himself was made momentarily to join. The militia was called out, preparations were made to arm the city, and that night the railroad bridges were burned between Baltimore and the Pennsylvania line to prevent the further transit of Union regiments. The revolutionary furor spread to the country towns, and for a whole week the Union flag practically disappeared from Maryland.

While these events were taking place to the north, equally threatening incidents were occurring to the south of Washington. The State of Virginia had been for many weeks balancing uneasily between loyalty and secession. In the new revolutionary stress her weak remnant of conditional Unionism gave way; and on April 17, two days after the President's call, her State convention secretly passed a secession ordinance, while Governor Letcher ordered a military seizure of the United States navy-yard at Norfolk and the United States armory at Harper's Ferry. Under orders from Washington, both establishments were burned to prevent their falling into insurrectionary hands; but the destruction in each case was only partial, and much valuable war material thus passed to rebel uses.

All these hostile occurrences put the national capital in the greatest danger. For three days it was entirely cut off from communication with the North by either telegraph or mail. Under the orders of General Scott, the city was hastily prepared for a possible siege. The flour at the mills, and other stores of provisions were taken possession of. The Capitol and other public buildings were barricaded, and detachments of troops stationed in them. Business was suspended by a common impulse; streets were almost deserted except by squads of military patrol; shutters of stores, and even many residences, remained unopened throughout the day. The signs were none too reassuring. In addition to the public rumors whispered about by serious faces on the streets, General Scott reported in writing to President Lincoln on the evening of April 22:

"Of rumors, the following are probable, viz.: First, that from fifteen hundred to two thousand troops are at the White House (four miles below Mount Vernon, a narrow point in the Potomac), engaged in erecting a battery; Second, that an equal force is collected or in progress of assemblage on the two sides of the river to attack Fort Washington; and Third, that extra cars went up yesterday to bring down from Harper's Ferry about two thousand other troops to join in a general attack on this capital—that is, on many of its fronts at once. I feel confident that with our present forces we can defend the Capitol, the Arsenal, and all the executive buildings (seven) against ten thousand troops not better than our District volunteers."

Throughout this crisis President Lincoln not only maintained his composure, but promptly assumed the high responsibilities the occasion demanded. On Sunday, April 21, he summoned his cabinet to meet at the Navy Department, and with their unanimous concurrence issued a number of emergency orders relating to the purchase of ships, the transportation of troops and munitions of war, the advance of $2,000,000 of money to a Union Safety Committee in New York, and other military and naval measures, which were despatched in duplicate by private messengers over unusual and circuitous routes. In a message to Congress, in which he afterward explained these extraordinary transactions, he said:

"It became necessary for me to choose whether, using only the existing means, agencies, and processes which Congress had provided, I should let the government fall at once into ruin, or whether, availing myself of the broader powers conferred by the Constitution in cases of insurrection, I would make an effort to save it with all its blessings for the present age and for posterity."

Unwelcome as was the thought of a possible capture of Washington city, President Lincoln's mind was much more disturbed by many suspicious indications of disloyalty in public officials, and especially in officers of the army and navy. Hundreds of clerks of Southern birth employed in the various departments suddenly left their desks and went South. The commandant of the Washington navy-yard and the quartermaster-general of the army resigned their positions to take service under Jefferson Davis. One morning the captain of a light battery on which General Scott had placed special reliance for the defense of Washington came to the President at the White House to asseverate and protest his loyalty and fidelity; and that same night secretly left his post and went to Richmond to become a Confederate officer.

The most prominent case, however, was that of Colonel Robert E. Lee, the officer who captured John Brown at Harper's Ferry, and who afterward became the leader of the Confederate armies. As a lieutenant he had served on the staff of General Scott in the war with Mexico. Personally knowing his ability, Scott recommended him to Lincoln as the most suitable officer to command the Union army about to be assembled under the President's call for seventy-five regiments; and this command was informally tendered him through a friend. Lee, however, declined the offer, explaining that "though opposed to secession, and deprecating war, I could take no part in an invasion of the Southern States." He resigned his commission in a letter written on April 20, and, without waiting for notice of its acceptance, which alone could discharge him from his military obligation, proceeded to Richmond, where he was formally and publicly invested with the command of the Virginia military and naval forces on April 22; while, two days later, the rebel Vice-President, Alexander H. Stephens, and a committee of the Richmond convention signed a formal military league making Virginia an immediate member of the Confederate States, and placing her armies under the command of Jefferson Davis.

The sudden uprising in Maryland and the insurrectionary activity in Virginia had been largely stimulated by the dream of the leading conspirators that their new confederacy would combine all the slave States, and that by the adhesion of both Maryland and Virginia they would fall heir to a ready-made seat of government. While the bombardment of Sumter was in progress, the rebel Secretary of War, announcing the news in a jubilant speech at Montgomery, in the presence of Jefferson Davis and his colleagues, confidently predicted that the rebel flag would before the end of May "float over the dome of the Capitol at Washington." The disloyal demonstrations in Maryland and Virginia rendered such a hope so plausible that Jefferson Davis telegraphed to Governor Letcher at Richmond that he was preparing to send him thirteen regiments, and added: "Sustain Baltimore if practicable. We reinforce you"; while Senator Mason hurried to that city personally to furnish advice and military assistance.

But the flattering expectation was not realized. The requisite preparation and concert of action were both wanting. The Union troops from New York and New England, pouring into Philadelphia, flanked the obstructions of the Baltimore route by devising a new one by way of Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis; and the opportune arrival of the Seventh Regiment of New York in Washington, on April 25, rendered that city entirely safe against surprise or attack, relieved the apprehension of officials and citizens, and renewed its business and public activity. The mob frenzy of Baltimore and the Maryland towns subsided almost as quickly as it had risen. The Union leaders and newspapers asserted themselves, and soon demonstrated their superiority in numbers and activity.

Serious embarrassment had been created by the timidity of Governor Hicks, who, while Baltimore remained under mob terrorism, officially protested against the landing of Union troops at Annapolis; and, still worse, summoned the Maryland legislature to meet on April 26—a step which he had theretofore stubbornly refused to take. This event had become doubly dangerous, because a Baltimore city election held during the same terror week had reinforced the legislature with ten secession members, creating a majority eager to pass a secession ordinance at the first opportunity. The question of either arresting or dispersing the body by military force was one of the problems which the crisis forced upon President Lincoln. On full reflection he decided against either measure.

"I think it would not be justifiable," he wrote to General Scott, "nor efficient for the desired object. First, they have a clearly legal right to assemble; and we cannot know in advance that their action will not be lawful and peaceful. And if we wait until they shall have acted, their arrest or dispersion will not lessen the effect of their action. Secondly, we cannot permanently prevent their action. If we arrest them, we cannot long hold them as prisoners; and, when liberated, they will immediately reassemble and take their action. And precisely the same if we simply disperse them: they will immediately reassemble in some other place. I therefore conclude that it is only left to the commanding general to watch and await their action, which, if it shall be to arm their people against the United States, he is to adopt the most prompt and efficient means to counteract, even if necessary to the bombardment of their cities; and, in the extremest necessity, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse