On the 9th and 10th of May, 1860, the Republicans of Illinois met in convention at Decatur. Lincoln was present, although he is said to have been there as a mere spectator. It was, Mr. Lamon tells us, "A very large and spirited body, comprising the most brilliant as well as the shrewdest men in the party. It was evident that something of more than usual importance was expected to transpire. A few moments after the convention organized, 'Old Abe' was seen squatting, or sitting on his heels, just within the door of the convention building. Governor Oglesby rose and said, amid increasing silence, 'I am informed that a distinguished citizen of Illinois, and one whom Illinois will ever delight to honor, is present; and I wish to move that this body invite him to a seat on the stand.' Here the Governor paused, as if to work curiosity up to the highest point; then he shouted the magic name, 'Abraham Lincoln!' A roar of applause shook every board and joist of the building. The motion was seconded and passed. A rush was made for the hero, who still sat on his heels. He was seized and jerked to his feet. An effort was made to 'jam him through the crowd' to his place of honor on the stage; but the crowd was too dense. Then he was 'boosted'—lifted up bodily—and lay for a few seconds sprawling and kicking upon the heads and shoulders of the great throng. In this manner he was gradually pushed toward the stand, and finally reached it, doubtless to his great relief, 'in the arms of some half-dozen gentlemen,' who set him down in full view of his clamorous admirers. 'The cheering was like the roar of the sea. Hats were thrown up by the Chicago delegation, as if hats were no longer useful.' Mr. Lincoln rose, bowed, smiled, blushed, and thanked the assembly as well as he could in the midst of such a tumult. A gentleman who saw it all says, 'I then thought him one of the most diffident and worst-plagued men I ever saw.' At another stage of the proceedings, Governor Oglesby rose again with another provoking and mysterious speech. 'There was,' he said, 'an old Democrat outside who had something he wished to present to the convention.' 'Receive it!' 'Receive it!' cried some. 'What is it?' 'What is it?' yelled some of the lower Egyptians, who seemed to have an idea that the 'old Democrat' might want to blow them up with an infernal machine. The door opened; and a fine, robust old fellow, with an open countenance and bronzed cheeks, marched into the midst of the assemblage, bearing on his shoulder 'two small triangular heart rails,' surmounted by a banner with this inscription: 'Two rails from a lot made by Abraham Lincoln and John Hanks, in the Sangamon Bottom, in the year 1830.' The sturdy rail-bearer was old John Hanks himself, enjoying the great field-day of his life. He was met with wild and tumultuous cheers, prolonged through several minutes; and it was observed that the Chicago and Central-Illinois men sent up the loudest and longest cheering. The scene was tempestuous and bewildering. But it ended at last; and now the whole body, those in the secret and those out of it, clamored for a speech from Mr. Lincoln, who in the meantime 'blushed,' but seemed to shake with inward laughter. In response to the repeated calls he rose and 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 Sangamon Bottom. I don't know whether we made those rails or not; the 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.' By this time the innocent Egyptians began to open their eyes; they saw plainly enough the admirable Presidential scheme unfolded to their view. The result of it all was a resolution declaring that 'Abraham Lincoln is the first choice of the Republican party of Illinois for the Presidency, and instructing 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.'"
On the 16th of May, 1860, the National Republican convention met at Chicago. An immense building called "The Wigwam," erected for the occasion, was filled with an excited throng numbering fully twelve thousand. After the usual preliminaries the convention settled down to the serious work of nominating a candidate for the Presidency. From the outset the contest was clearly between Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and William H. Seward of New York. On the first ballot, Seward's vote of 173-1/2 was followed by Lincoln with 102—the latter having more than double the vote of his next competitor, Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania (51 votes), who was followed by Salmon P. Chase of Ohio (49 votes) and Edward Bates of Missouri (48 votes). A contrast between these two remarkable men, Seward and Lincoln, now political antagonists but soon to be intimately associated at the head of the Government—one as President and the other as his prime minister—is most interesting and instructive. Seward was a trained statesman and experienced politician of ripe culture and great sagacity, the acknowledged leader of the Republican party, New York's ex-Governor and now its most distinguished Senator. His position and career were therefore far more conspicuous than those of Lincoln. His supporters in the convention were well-organized, bold, confident, and expected that he would be nominated by acclamation. Lincoln, on the other hand, was still essentially a country lawyer, who had come into prominence mainly as the competitor of Senator Douglas in Illinois in 1858. With all his native strength of mind and force of character, he was, compared with the polished Seward, a rude backwoodsman, unskilled in handling the reins of government, unfamiliar with the wiles of statecraft, and unused to the company of diplomats and social leaders. His political reputation, and his support in the convention, were chiefly Western. Yet his Cooper Institute speech, delivered three months before the convention met, had done much for him in the East; and the homely title of "Honest Old Abe" had extended throughout the free States. Unlike Seward, he had no political enemies, and was the second choice of most of the delegates whose first choice was some other candidate.
In political management and strategy the Western men at the convention soon showed that they were at best a match for those from the East. Soon after the opening of the convention, Lincoln's friends saw that there was an organized body of men in the crowd who cheered vociferously whenever Seward's name was mentioned. "At a meeting of the Illinois delegation at the Tremont House," says Mr. Arnold, "on the evening of the first day, at which Judd, Davis, Cook and others were present, it was decided that on the second day Illinois and the West should be heard. There was then living in Chicago a man whose voice could drown the roar of Lake Michigan in its wildest fury; nay, it was said that his shout could be heard on a calm day across that lake. Cook of Ottawa knew another man living on the Illinois river, a Dr. Ames, who had never found his equal in his ability to shout and hurrah. He was, however, a Democrat. Cook telegraphed to him to come to Chicago by the first train. These two men with stentorian voices met some of the Illinois delegation at the Tremont House, and were instructed to organize each a body of men to cheer and shout, which they speedily did, out of the crowds which were in attendance from the Northwest. They were placed on opposite sides of the Wigwam, and instructed that when they saw Cook take out his white handkerchief they were to cheer and not to cease until he returned it to his pocket. Cook was conspicuous on the platform, and at the first utterance of the name of Lincoln, simultaneously with the wave of Cook's handkerchief, there went up such a cheer, such a shout as had never before been heard, and which startled the friends of Seward as the cry of 'Marmion' on Flodden Field 'startled the Scottish foe.' The New Yorkers tried to follow when the name of Seward was spoken, but, beaten at their own game, their voices were drowned by the cheers for Lincoln. This was kept up until Lincoln was nominated, amidst a storm of applause probably never before equalled at a political convention."
The result on the first ballot, with Seward leading Lincoln by 71-1/2 votes, has already been given. On the second ballot Seward gained 11 votes, giving him 184-1/2; while Lincoln made the astonishing gain of 78 votes, giving him a total of 181 and reducing Seward's lead of 71-1/2 votes to 3-1/2 votes. There was no longer doubt of the result. The third ballot came, and Lincoln, passing Seward who had fallen off 3-1/2 votes from the previous ballot, ran rapidly up to 231-1/2 votes—233 being the number required to nominate. Lincoln now lacked but a vote and a half to make him the nominee. At this juncture, the chairman of the Ohio delegation rose and changed four votes from Chase to Lincoln, giving him the nomination. The Wigwam was shaken to its foundation by the roaring cheers. The multitude in the streets answered the multitude within, and in a moment more all the volunteer artillery of Chicago joined in the grand acclamation. After a time the business of the convention proceeded, amid great excitement. All the votes that had heretofore been cast against Lincoln were cast for him before this ballot concluded. The convention completed its work by the nomination of Hannibal Hamlin of Maine for Vice-President.
Mr. F.B. Carpenter, who was present at Lincoln's nomination, furnishes a graphic sketch of this dramatic episode. "The scene surpassed description. Men had been stationed upon the roof of the Wigwam to communicate the result of the different ballots to the thousands outside, far outnumbering the packed crowd inside. To these men one of the secretaries shouted: 'Fire the salute! Lincoln is nominated!' Then, as the cheering inside died away, the roar began on the outside, and swelled up from the excited masses like the noise of many waters. This the insiders heard, and to it they replied. Thus deep called to deep with such a frenzy of sympathetic enthusiasm that even the thundering salute of cannon was unheard by many on the platform. When the excitement had partly subsided, Mr. Evarts of New York arose, and in appropriate words expressed his grief that Seward had not been nominated. He then moved that the nomination of Abraham Lincoln be made unanimous. Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts and Hon. Carl Schurz of Wisconsin seconded the motion, and it was carried. Then the enthusiasm of the multitude burst out anew. A large banner, prepared by the Pennsylvania delegation, was conspicuously displayed, bearing the inscription, 'Pennsylvania good for twenty thousand majority for the people's candidate, Abe Lincoln.' Delegates tore up the sticks and boards bearing the names of their several States, and waved them aloft over their heads. A brawny man jumped upon the platform, and pulling his coat-sleeves up to his elbows, shouted: 'I can't stop! Three times three more cheers for our next President, Abe Lincoln!' A full-length portrait of the candidate was produced upon the platform. Mr. Greeley telegraphed to the N.Y. Tribune: 'There was never another such scene in America.' Chicago went wild. One hundred guns were fired from the top of the Tremont House. At night the city was in a blaze of glory. Bonfires, processions, torchlights, fire-works, illuminations and salutes, 'filled the air with noise and the eye with beauty.' 'Honest Old Abe' was the utterance of every man in the streets. The Illinois delegation before it separated 'resolved' that the millennium had come."
Governor Andrew, who was destined to have highly important and intimate relations with Lincoln during the Civil War, records his first impressions of him in a few vivid sentences. "Beyond the experiences of the journey from Boston to Chicago," says Andrew's biographer, "beyond even the strain and excitement of those hours in caucus and convention, was the impression made on him by Lincoln as he saw him for the first time." Andrew was one of the committee of delegates who went to Springfield to notify Lincoln of his nomination at Chicago. He and the other delegates, he says, "saw in a flash that here was a man who was master of himself. For the first time they understood that he whom they had supposed to be little more than a loquacious and clever State politician, had force, insight, conscience; that their misgivings were vain.... My eyes were never visited with the vision of a human face in which more transparent honesty and more benignant kindness were combined with more of the intellect and firmness which belong to masculine humanity. I would trust my case with the honesty and intellect and heart and brain of Abraham Lincoln as a lawyer; and I would trust my country's cause in the care of Abraham Lincoln as its chief magistrate, while the wind blows and the water runs."
Dr. J.G. Holland gives a vivid picture of Lincoln's reception of the exciting news. "In the little city of Springfield," says Dr. Holland, "in the heart of Illinois, two hundred miles from where these exciting events were in progress, sat Abraham Lincoln, in constant telegraphic communication with his friends in Chicago. He was apprised of the results of every ballot, and with some of his friends sat in the 'Journal' office receiving and commenting upon the dispatches. It was one of the decisive moments of his life—a moment on which hung his fate as a public man, his place in history. He fully appreciated the momentous results of the convention to himself and the nation, and foresaw the nature of the great struggle which his nomination and election would inaugurate. At last, in the midst of intense excitement, a messenger from the telegraph office entered with the decisive dispatch in his hand. Without handing it to anyone, he took his way solemnly to the side of Mr. Lincoln, and said: 'The convention has made a nomination, and Mr. Seward is—the second man on the list.' Then he jumped upon the editorial table and shouted, 'Gentlemen, I propose three cheers for Abraham Lincoln, the next President of the United States!' and the call was boisterously responded to. He then handed the dispatch to Mr. Lincoln, who read it in silence, and then aloud. After exchanging greetings and receiving congratulations from those around him, he strove to get out of the crowd, and as he moved off he remarked to those near him: 'Well, there is a little woman who will be interested in this news, and I will go home and tell her,' and he hurried on, with the crowd following and cheering."
As soon as the news spread about Springfield a salute of a hundred guns was fired, and during the afternoon Lincoln's friends and neighbors thronged his house to tender their congratulations and express their joy. "In the evening," says one narrator, "the State House was thrown open and a most enthusiastic meeting held by the Republicans. At the close they marched in a body to the Lincoln mansion and called for the nominee. Mr. Lincoln appeared, and after a brief, modest, and hearty speech, invited as many as could get into the house to enter; the crowd responding that after the fourth of March they would give him a larger house. The people did not retire until a late hour, and then moved off reluctantly, leaving the excited household to their rest."
Among the more significant and intimate of the personal reminiscences of Lincoln are those by Mr. Leonard W. Volk, the distinguished sculptor already mentioned in these pages. Mr. Volk arrived in Springfield on the day of Lincoln's nomination, and had some unusually interesting conversation with him. He had already, only a month before, made the life-mask of Lincoln that became so well and favorably known. It is one of the last representations showing him without a beard. The circumstances and incidents attending the taking of this life-mask, as narrated by Mr. Volk, are well worth reproducing here. "One morning in April, 1860," says Mr. Volk, "I noticed in the paper that Abraham Lincoln was in Chicago,—retained as one of the counsel in a 'Sand-bar' trial in which the Michigan Central Railroad was either plaintiff or defendant. I at once decided to remind him of his promise to sit to me, made two years before. I found him in the United States District Court room, his feet on the edge of the table, and his long dark hair standing out at every imaginable angle. He was surrounded by a group of lawyers, such as James F. Joy, Isaac N. Arnold, Thomas Hoyne, and others. Mr. Arnold obtained his attention in my behalf, when he instantly arose and met me outside the rail, recognizing me at once with his usual grip of both hands. He remembered his promise, and said, in answer to my question, that he expected to be detained by the case for a week. He added: 'I shall be glad to give you the sittings. When shall I come, and how long will you need me each time?' Just after breakfast every morning would, he said, suit him the best, and he could remain till court opened at ten o'clock. I answered that I would be ready for him the next morning (Thursday). 'Very well, Mr. Volk, I will be there, and I'll go to a barber and have my hair cut before I come.' I requested him not to let the barber cut it too short, and said I would rather he would leave it as it was; but to this he would not consent.... He was on hand promptly at the time appointed; indeed, he never failed to be on time. My studio was in the fifth story. There were no elevators in those days, and I soon learned to distinguish his step on the stairs, and am sure he frequently came up two, if not three, steps at a stride. When he sat down the first time in that hard, wooden, low-armed chair which I still possess, and which has been occupied by Douglas, Seward, and Generals Grant and Dix, he said, 'Mr. Volk, I have never sat before to sculptor or painter—only for daguerreotypes and photographs. What shall I do?' I told him I would only take the measurements of his head and shoulders that time, and that the next morning I would make a cast of his face, which would save him a number of sittings. He stood up against the wall, and I made a mark above his head, and then measured up to it from the floor and said: 'You are just twelve inches taller than Judge Douglas; that is, just six feet four inches.'
"Before commencing the cast next morning, and knowing Mr. Lincoln's fondness for a story, I told him one in order to remove what I thought an apprehensive expression—as though he feared the operation might be dangerous. He sat naturally in the chair when I made the cast, and saw every move I made in a mirror opposite, as I put the plaster on without interference with his eyesight or his free breathing through the nostrils. It was about an hour before the mould was ready to be removed, and being all in one piece, with both ears perfectly taken, it clung pretty hard, as the cheek-bones were higher than the jaws at the lobe of the ear. He bent his head low, and worked the cast off without breaking or injury; it hurt a little, as a few hairs of the tender temples pulled out with the plaster and made his eyes water.
"He entered my studio on Sunday morning, remarking that a friend at the hotel (Tremont House) had invited him to go to church, 'but,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'I thought I'd rather come and sit for the bust. The fact is,' he continued, 'I don't like to hear cut-and-dried sermons. No—when I hear a man preach, I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees!' And he extended his long arms, at the same time suiting the action to the words. He gave me on this day a long sitting of more than four hours, and when it was concluded we went to our family apartment to look at a collection of photographs which I had made in 1855-6-7 in Rome and Florence. While sitting in the rocking-chair, he took my little son on his lap and spoke kindly to him, asking his name, age, etc. I held the photographs up and explained them to him; but I noticed a growing weariness, and his eyelids closed occasionally as if he were sleepy, or were thinking of something besides Grecian and Roman statuary and architecture. Finally he said, 'These things must be very interesting to you, Mr. Volk; but the truth is, I don't know much of history, and all I do know of it I have learned from law books.'
"The sittings were continued daily till the Thursday following; and during their continuance he would talk almost unceasingly, telling some of the funniest and most laughable of stories, but he talked little of politics or religion during these sittings. He said, 'I am bored nearly every time I sit down to a public dining-table by some one pitching into me on politics.' Many people, presumably political aspirants with an eye to future prospects, besieged my door for interviews, but I made it a rule to keep it locked, and I think Mr. Lincoln appreciated the precaution. On our last sitting I noticed that Mr. Lincoln was in something of a hurry. I had finished the head, but desired to represent his breast and brawny shoulders as nature presented them; so he stripped off his coat, waistcoat, shirt, cravat, and collar, threw them on a chair, pulled his undershirt down a short distance, tying the sleeves behind him, and stood up without a murmur for an hour or so. I then said I had done, and was a thousand times obliged to him for his promptness and patience, and offered to assist him to re-dress, but he said, 'No, I can do it better alone.' I kept at my work without looking toward him, wishing to catch the form as accurately as possible while it was fresh in my memory. He left hurriedly, saying he had an engagement, and with a cordial 'Good-bye! I will see you again soon,' passed out. A few minutes after, I recognized his steps rapidly returning. The door opened and in he came, exclaiming, 'Hello, Mr. Volk! I got down on the sidewalk, and found I had forgotten to put on my undershirt, and thought it wouldn't do to go through the streets this way.' Sure enough, there were the sleeves of that garment dangling below the skirts of his broadcloth frock-coat! I went at once to his assistance, and helped to undress and re-dress him all right, and out he went with a hearty laugh at the absurdity of the thing."
Returning to the visit with Lincoln at Springfield on the day of his nomination, Mr. Volk says. "The afternoon was lovely—bright and sunny, neither too warm nor too cool; the grass, trees, and the hosts of blooming roses, so profuse in Springfield, appeared to be vying with the ringing bells and waving flags. I went straight to Mr. Lincoln's unpretentious little two-story house. He saw me from his door or window coming down the street, and as I entered the gate he was on the platform in front of the door, and quite alone. His face looked radiant. I exclaimed: 'I am the first man from Chicago, I believe, who has the honor of congratulating you on your nomination for President.' Then those two great hands took both of mine with a grasp never to be forgotten. And while shaking them, I said: 'Now that you will doubtless be the next President of the United States, I want to make a statue of you, and shall do my best to do you justice.' Said he, 'I don't doubt it, for I have come to the conclusion that you are an honest man,' and with that greeting I thought my hands were in a fair way of being crushed. I was invited into the parlor, and soon Mrs. Lincoln entered, holding a rose-bouquet in her hand, which she presented to me after the introduction; and in return I gave her a cabinet-size bust of her husband, which I had modelled from the large one, and happened to have with me. Before leaving the house it was arranged that Mr. Lincoln would give Saturday forenoon to obtaining full-length photographs to serve me for the proposed statue. On Saturday evening, the committee appointed by the convention to notify Mr. Lincoln formally of his nomination, headed by Mr. Ashmun of Massachusetts, reached Springfield by special train, bearing a large number of people, two or three hundred of whom carried rails on their shoulders, marching in military style from the train to the old State House Hall of Representatives, where they stacked them like muskets. The evening was beautiful and clear, and the entire population was astir. The bells pealed, flags waved, and cannon thundered forth the triumphant nomination of Springfield's distinguished citizen. The bonfires blazed brightly, and especially in front of that prim-looking white house on Eighth street. The committee and the vast crowd following it passed in at the front door, and made their exit through the kitchen door in the rear, Mr. Lincoln giving them all a hearty shake of the hand as they passed him in the parlor. By appointment, I was to cast Mr. Lincoln's hands on the Sunday following this memorable Saturday, at nine A.M. I found him ready, but he looked more grave and serious than he had appeared on the previous days. I wished him to hold something in his right hand, and he looked for a piece of pasteboard, but could find none. I told him a round stick would do as well as anything. Thereupon he went to the wood-shed, and I heard the saw go, and he soon returned to the dining-room (where I did the work), whittling off the end of a piece of broom-handle. I remarked to him that he need not whittle off the edges. 'Oh, well,' said he, 'I thought I would like to have it nice.' When I had successfully cast the mould of the right hand, I began the left, pausing a few moments to hear Mr. Lincoln tell me about a scar on the thumb. 'You have heard that they call me a rail-splitter, and you saw them carrying rails in the procession Saturday evening; well, it is true that I did split rails, and one day, while I was sharpening a wedge on a log, the axe glanced and nearly took my thumb off, and there is the scar, you see.' The right hand appeared swollen as compared with the left, on account of excessive hand-shaking the evening before; this difference is distinctly shown in the cast. That Sunday evening I returned to Chicago with the moulds of his hands, three photographic negatives of him, the identical black alpaca campaign suit of 1858, and a pair of Lynn newly-made pegged boots. The clothes were all burned up in the great Chicago fire. The casts of the face and hands I saved by taking them with me to Rome, and they have crossed the sea four times. The last time I saw Mr. Lincoln was in January, 1861, at his house in Springfield. His little parlor was full of friends and politicians. He introduced me to them all, and remarked to me aside that since he had sat to me for his bust, eight or nine months before, he had lost forty pounds in weight. This was easily perceptible, for the lines of his jaws were very sharply defined through the short beard which he was allowing to grow. Then he turned to the company and explained in a general way that I had made a bust of him before his nomination, and that he was then giving daily sittings to another sculptor; that he had sat to him for a week or more, but could not see the likeness, though he might yet bring it out. 'But,' continued Mr. Lincoln, 'in two or three days after Mr. Volk began my bust, there was the animal himself!' And this was about the last, if not the last, remark I ever heard him utter, except the good-bye and his good wishes for my success."
Saturday, May 19, the committee of the Chicago convention arrived at Springfield to notify Mr. Lincoln of his nomination. The Hon. George Ashmun, as chairman of the committee, delivered the formal address, to which Lincoln listened with dignity, but with an air of profound sadness, as though the trials in store for him had already "cast their shadows before." In response to the address, Lincoln said:
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMITTEE:—I tender to you and through you to the Republican National convention, and all the people represented in it, my profoundest thanks for the high honor done me, which you now formally announce. Deeply and even painfully sensible of the great responsibility which is inseparable from this high honor—a responsibility which I could almost wish had fallen upon some one of the far more eminent men and experienced statesmen whose distinguished names were before the convention—I shall, by your leave, consider more fully the resolutions of the convention, denominated the platform, and, without unnecessary and unreasonable delay, respond to you, Mr. Chairman, in writing, not doubting that the platform will be found satisfactory, and the nomination gratefully accepted. And now I will not longer defer the pleasure of taking you, and each of you, by the hand.
A letter was then handed Lincoln containing the official notice, accompanied by the resolutions of the convention. To this letter he replied, a few days later, as follows:
SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, MAY 23, 1860.
SIR—I accept the nomination tendered to me by the convention over which you presided, of which I am formally apprised in a letter of yourself and others acting as a Committee of the Convention for that purpose. The declaration of principles and sentiments which accompanies your letter meets my approval, and it shall be my care not to violate it, or disregard it in any part. Imploring the assistance of Divine Providence, and with due regard to the views and feelings of all who were represented in the convention, to the rights of all the States and Territories and people of the nation, to the inviolability of the Constitution, and the perpetual union, harmony and prosperity of all, I am most happy to co-operate for the practical success of the principles declared by the convention.
In June Mr. Douglas was nominated for the Presidency by the Democratic convention, which met at Baltimore on the 18th. Mr. Douglas made a personal canvass, speaking in most of the states, North and South, and exerting all the powers of which he was master to win success. The campaign, as Mr. Arnold states, "has had no parallel. The enthusiasm of the people was like a great conflagration, like a prairie fire before a wild tornado. A little more than twenty years had passed since Owen Lovejoy, brother of Elijah Lovejoy, on the bank of the Mississippi, kneeling on the turf not then green over the grave of the brother who had been killed for his fidelity to freedom, had sworn eternal war against slavery. From that time on, he and his associate Abolitionists had gone forth preaching their crusade against oppression, with hearts of fire and tongues of lightning; and now the consummation was to be realized of a President elected on the distinct ground of opposition to the extension of slavery. For years the hatred of that institution had been growing and gathering force. Whittier, Bryant, Lowell, Longfellow, and others, had written the lyrics of liberty; the graphic pen of Mrs. Stowe, in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' had painted the cruelties of the overseer and the slaveholder; but the acts of slaveholders themselves did more to promote the growth of anti-slavery than all other causes. The persecutions of Abolitionists in the South; the harshness and cruelty attending the execution of the fugitive laws; the brutality of Brooks in knocking down, on the floor of the Senate, Charles Sumner, for words spoken in debate: these and many other outrages had fired the hearts of the people of the free States against this barbarous institution. Beecher, Phillips, Channing, Sumner, and Seward, with their eloquence; Chase with his logic; Lincoln, with his appeals to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and to the opinions of the founders of the republic, his clear statements, his apt illustrations, and, above all, his wise moderation,—all had swelled the voice of the people, which found expression through the ballot-box, and which declared that slavery should go no further."
Among the various reminiscences of the memorable Presidential campaign of 1860, some of peculiar interest are furnished by Dr. Newton Bateman, President of Knox College, Illinois. Dr. Bateman had known Lincoln since 1842; and from the year 1858, when Dr. Bateman was elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Illinois, to the close of Lincoln's residence in Springfield in 1861, they saw each other daily. The testimony of so intimate an acquaintance, and one so well qualified to judge the character and abilities of men, is of unusual value; and it is worth noting that Dr. Bateman remarks that, while he was always an admirer of Lincoln, yet the greatness of the man grew upon him as the years pass by. In his professional and public work, says Dr. Bateman, Lincoln not only proved himself equal to every emergency and to every successive task, but made, from the outset, the impression upon the mind of those who knew him of being in possession of great reserve force. Perhaps the secret of this lies in part in the fact that he was accustomed to ponder deeply upon the ultimate principles of government and society, and strove to base his discussions upon the firm ground of ethical truth. Says Dr. Bateman, "He was the saddest man I ever knew." It was a necessity of his nature to be much alone; and he said that all his serious work—by which he meant the process of getting down to the bed-rock of first principles—must be done in solitude. Upon one occasion he called Dr. Bateman to him, and spent more than two hours in earnest conversation upon the most serious themes. At the close, Dr. Bateman said: "I did not know, Mr. Lincoln, that it was your habit to think so deeply upon this class of subjects." "Didn't you?" said Mr. Lincoln. "I can almost say that I think of nothing else."
One day there entered Lincoln's room a tall Southerner, a Colonel Somebody from Mississippi, whose eye's hard glitter spoke supercilious distrust and whose stiff bearing betokened suppressed hostility. It was beautiful, says Dr. Bateman, to see the cold flash of the Southerner's dark eye yield to a warmer glow, and the haughty constraint melt into frank good-nature, under the influence of Lincoln's words of simple earnestness and unaffected cordiality. They got so far in half an hour that Lincoln could say, in his hearty way: "Colonel, how tall are you?" "Well, taller than you, Mr. Lincoln," replied the Mississippian. "You are mistaken there," retorted Lincoln. "Dr. Bateman, will you measure us?" "You will have to permit me to stand on a chair for that," responded the Doctor. So a big book was adjusted above the head of each, and pencil marks made at the respective points of contact with the white wall. Lincoln's altitude, as thus indicated, was a quarter inch above that of the Colonel. "I knew it," said Lincoln. "They raise tall men down in Mississippi, but you go home and tell your folks that Old Abe tops you a little." The Colonel went away much mollified and impressed. "My God!" said he to Dr. Bateman, as he went out. "There's going to be war; but could my people know what I have learned within the last hour, there need be no war."
During the Presidential campaign, the vote of the city of Springfield was canvassed house by house. There were at that time twenty-three clergymen residing in the city (not all pastors). All but three of these signified their intention to vote against Lincoln. This fact seemed to grieve him somewhat. Soon after, in conversing upon the subject with Dr. Bateman, he said, as if thinking aloud: "These gentlemen know that Judge Douglas does not care a cent whether slavery in the territories is voted up or voted down, for he has repeatedly told them so. They know that I do care." Then, drawing from a breast pocket a well-thumbed copy of the New Testament, he added, after a pause, tapping upon the book with his bony finger: "I do not so understand this book."
The poet Bryant was conspicuous among the prominent Eastern men who favored Lincoln's nomination for the Presidency in 1860. He had introduced Lincoln to the people of New York at the Cooper Institute meeting of the previous winter, and was a firm believer in the Western politician. After the convention Mr. Bryant wrote Lincoln a most friendly and timely letter, full of good feeling and of wise advice. Especially did he warn Lincoln to be cautious in committing himself to any specific policy, or making pledges or engagements of any kind. Mr. Bryant's letter contained much political wisdom, and was written in that scholarly style for which he was distinguished. But it could not surpass the simple dignity and grace of Lincoln's reply:
SPRINGFIELD, ILL., JUNE 28, 1860.
Please accept my thanks for the honor done me by your kind letter of the 16th. I appreciate the danger against which you would guard me; nor am I wanting in the purpose to avoid it. I thank you for the additional strength your words give me to maintain that purpose.
Your friend and servant, A. LINCOLN.
Mr. A.J. Grover relates that about this time he met Lincoln, and had a memorable conversation with him on the Fugitive Slave Law. Lincoln detested this law, but argued that until it was declared unconstitutional it must be obeyed. This was a short time after the rescue of a fugitive slave at Ottawa, Illinois, by John Hossack, James Stout, Major Campbell, and others, after Judge John D. Caton, acting as United States Commissioner, had given his decision remanding him to the custody of his alleged owner; and the rescuers were either in prison or out on bail, awaiting their trials. Says Mr. Grover: "When Mr. Lincoln had finished his argument I said, 'Constitutional or not, I will never obey the Fugitive Slave Law. I would have done as Hossack and Stout and Campbell did at Ottawa. I will never catch and return slaves in obedience to any law or constitution. I do not believe a man's liberty can be taken from him constitutionally without a trial by jury. I believe the law to be not only unconstitutional, but most inhuman.' 'Oh,' said Mr. Lincoln, and I shall never forget his earnestness as he emphasized it by striking his hand on his knee, 'it is ungodly! it is ungodly! no doubt it is ungodly! but it is the law of the land, and we must obey it as we find it.' I said: 'Mr. Lincoln, how often have you sworn to support the Constitution? We propose to elect you President. How would you look taking an oath to support what you declare is an ungodly Constitution, and asking God to help you?' He felt the force of the question, and, inclining his head forward and running his fingers through his hair several times, seemed lost in reflection; then he placed his hand upon my knee and said, very earnestly: 'Grover, it's no use to be always looking up these hard spots!'" In the terrible years then almost upon him, Lincoln found many such "hard spots" without taking the trouble to look them up.
Lincoln Chosen President—The Election of 1860—The Waiting-time at Springfield—A Deluge of Visitors—Various Impressions of the President-elect—Some Queer Callers—Looking over the Situation with Friends—Talks about the Cabinet—Thurlow Weed's Visit to Springfield—The Serious Aspect of National Affairs—The South in Rebellion—Treason at the National Capital—Lincoln's Farewell Visit to his Mother—The Old Sign, "Lincoln & Herndon"—The Last Day at Springfield—Farewell Speech to Friends and Neighbors—Off for the Capital—The Journey to Washington—Receptions and Speeches along the Route—At Cincinnati: A Hitherto Unpublished Speech by Lincoln—At Cleveland: Personal Descriptions of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln—At New York City: Impressions of the New President—Perils of the Journey—The Baltimore Plot—Change of Route—Arrival at the Capital.
The Presidential campaign of 1860, with its excitements and struggles, its "Wide-awake" clubs and boisterous enthusiasm throughout the North, and its bitter and threatening character throughout the South, was at last ended; and on the 6th of November Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States.[A] His cause had been aided not a little by an unexpected division in the Democratic party. Douglas had been nominated for the Presidency by this party in its convention at Baltimore on the 18th of June; but he was bitterly opposed by the extreme slavery element of the Democracy, and this faction held a convention of its own at Baltimore ten days later and nominated for President John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky. There was still another party, though a very minor one, in the field—the "Constitutional Union Party," based chiefly on a desire to avoid the issue of slavery in national politics—which on the 9th of May had nominated John Bell of Tennessee as its candidate for the Presidency, with Edward Everett of Massachusetts for the Vice-Presidency. There were thus four tickets in the field—the Republican, including if not representing the anti-slavery element in the North; the Democratic, which was pro-slavery in its tendencies but had so far failed to satisfy the Southern wing—now grown alarmed and restless at the growth and tendencies of the Republican party—that this element nominated as a third ticket an out-and-out pro-slavery candidate; and (fourth) a "Constitutional Union" ticket, representing a well-meant but fatuous desire to keep slavery out of national politics altogether.
This eventful contest was therefore determined largely on sectional lines, with slavery as the great underlying issue. Lincoln's gratification at his election was not untempered with disappointments. While he had a substantial majority of the electoral vote (180 to 123), the popular vote was toward a million (930,170), more against him than for him. Fifteen States gave him no electoral vote, and in nine States' he received not a single popular vote. The slave States—"the Solid South"—were squarely against him. Lincoln saw the significance of this, and it filled him with regret and apprehension. But he faced the future without dismay, and with a calm resolve to do his duty. With all his hatred of slavery, loyalty to the Constitution had always been paramount in his mind; and those who knew him best never doubted that it would continue so.
Lincoln took no active part in the campaign, preferring to remain quietly at his home in Springfield. Scarcely was the election decided than he was beset with visitors from all parts of the country, who came to gratify curiosity or solicit personal favors of the incoming President. The throng became at last so great, and interfered so much with the comfort of Lincoln's home, that the Executive Chamber in the State House was set apart as his reception room. Here he met all who chose to come—"the millionaire and the menial, the priest and the politician, men, women, and children, old friends and new friends, those who called for love and those who sought for office. From morning until night this was his occupation; and he performed it with conscientious care and the most unwearying patience." The situation at the Lincoln home at this time, and the spirit prevailing there, is well depicted by one of these callers, Mr. R.C. McCormick, whose interesting account of his meeting with Lincoln in New York City has already been quoted in these pages. "In January, 1861," says Mr. McCormick, "at the instance of various friends in New York who wished a position in the Cabinet for a prominent Kentuckian, I went to Springfield armed with documents for his consideration. I remained there a week or more, and was at the Lincoln cottage daily. Of the numerous formal and informal interviews that I witnessed, I remember all with the sincerest pleasure. I never found the man upon whom rested the great responsibilities of the nation impatient or ill-humored. The plainest and most tedious visitors were made welcome and happy in his presence; the poor commanded as much of his time as the rich. His recognition of old friends and companions in frontier life, whom many elevated as he had been would have found it convenient to forget, was especially hearty. His correspondence was already immense, and the town was alive with cabinet-makers and office-seekers; but he met all with a calm temper." Mr. Don Piatt relates that he had met Lincoln during the Presidential campaign, and had been invited to visit Springfield. He did so, and was asked to supper at the Lincoln house. "It was a plain, comfortable structure," says Mr. Piatt, "and the supper was mainly of cake, pies, and chickens, the last evidently killed in the morning, to be eaten that evening. After the supper we sat far into the night, talking over the situation. Mr. Lincoln was the homeliest man I ever saw. His body seemed to me a huge skeleton in clothes. Tall as he was, his hands and feet looked out of proportion, so long and clumsy were they. Every movement was awkward in the extreme. He sat with one leg thrown over the other, and the pendent foot swung almost to the floor. And all the while two little boys, his sons, clambered over those legs, patted his cheeks, pulled his nose, and poked their fingers in his eyes, without reprimand. He had a face that defied artistic skill to soften or idealize. It was capable of few expressions, but those were extremely striking. When in repose, his face was dull, heavy, and repellent. It brightened like a lit lantern when animated. His dull eyes would fairly sparkle with fun, or express as kindly a look as I ever saw, when moved by some matter of human interest."
Hon. George W. Julian, of Indiana, was another visitor to the Lincoln home in January. He says: "I had a curiosity to see the famous 'rail-splitter,' as he was then familiarly called, and as a member-elect of the Thirty-seventh Congress I desired to form some acquaintance with the man who was to play so conspicuous a part in the impending national crisis. On meeting him I found him far better looking than the campaign pictures had represented him. His face, when lighted up in conversation, was not unhandsome, and the kindly and winning tones of his voice pleaded for him like the smile that played about his rugged features. He was full of anecdote and humor, and readily found his way to the hearts of those who enjoyed a welcome to his fireside. His face, however, was sometimes marked by that touching expression of sadness which became so noticeable in the years following. On the subject of slavery I was gratified to find him less reserved and more emphatic than I had expected. I was much pleased with our first Republican Executive, and I returned home more fully inspired than ever with the purpose to sustain him to the utmost in facing the duties of his great office."
The wide range of these callers and their diverse errands are illustrated by examples furnished by Mr. Lamon. Two tall, ungainly fellows,—"Suckers," as they were called,—entered Lincoln's room one day while he was engaged in conversation with a friend. They lingered bashfully near the door, and Lincoln, noticing their embarrassment, rose and said good-naturedly, "How do you do, my good fellows? What can I do for you? Will you sit down?" The spokesman of the pair, the shorter of the two, declined to sit, and explained the object of the call. He had had a talk about the relative height of Lincoln and his companion, and had asserted his belief that they were of exactly the same height. He had come in to verify his judgment. Lincoln smiled, then got his cane, and placing the end of it upon the wall said, "Here, young man, come under here!" The young man came under the cane, as Lincoln held it, and when it was perfectly adjusted to his height Lincoln said, "Now come out and hold up the cane." This he did, while Lincoln stepped under. Rubbing his head back and forth to see that it worked easily under the measurement, he stepped out, and declared that the young man had guessed with remarkable accuracy—that he and the tall fellow were exactly of the same height. Then he shook hands with them and sent them on their way. The next caller was a very different person—an old and modestly dressed woman who tried to explain that she knew Lincoln. As he did not at first recognize her, she tried to recall to his memory certain incidents connected with his rides upon the circuit—especially his dining at her house upon the road at different times. Then he remembered her and her home. Having fixed her own place in his recollection, she tried to recall to him a certain scanty dinner of bread and milk that he once ate at her house. He could not remember it—on the contrary, he only remembered that he had always fared well at her house. "Well," said she, "one day you came along after we had got through dinner, and we had eaten up everything, and I could give you nothing but a bowl of bread and milk; you ate it, and when you got up you said it was good enough for the President of the United States." The good woman, remembering the remark, had come in from the country, making a journey of eight or ten miles, to relate to Lincoln this incident, which in her mind had doubtless taken the form of prophecy. Lincoln placed her at her ease, chatted with her of old times, and dismissed her in the most happy and complacent frame of mind.
Among the judicious friends of Lincoln who gave him timely counsel at this important epoch of his life was Judge John D. Caton, who, though a Democrat, was a far-sighted man who saw plainly the tendency of political affairs and was anxious for the preservation of the Union. "I met Lincoln in Springfield," writes Judge Caton, "and we had a conference in the law-library. I told him it was plain that he had a war on his hands; that there was a determination on the part of the South to secede from the Union, and that there would be throughout the North an equal determination to maintain the Union. I advised him to avoid bringing on the war by precipitate action, but let the Southerners begin it; to forbear as long as forbearance could be tolerated, in order to unite the North the more effectually to support his hands in the struggle that was certain to come; that by such a course the great body of the people of the North, of all parties, would come to his support. Mr. Lincoln listened intently, and replied that he foresaw that the struggle was inevitable, but that it would be his desire and effort to unite the people in support of the Government and for the maintenance of the Union; that he was aware that no single party could sustain him successfully, and that he must rely upon the great masses of the people of all parties, and he would try to pursue such a course as would secure their support. The interview continued perhaps an hour."
Judge David Davis, a most intimate and confidential friend of Lincoln, states that the latter was firmly determined to appoint "Democrats and Republicans alike to office." Mr. Lamon corroborates the statement, pointedly remarking: "He felt that his strength lay in conciliation at the outset; that was his ruling conviction during all those months of preparation for the great task before him. It showed itself not only in the appointments which he sought to make but in those which he did make. Harboring no jealousies, entertaining no fears concerning his personal interests in the future, he called around him the most powerful of his late rivals—Seward, Chase, Bates—and unhesitatingly gave into their hands powers which most Presidents would have shrunk from committing to their equals, and much more to their superiors, in the conduct of public affairs." In a noted instance where the most powerful influence was brought to bear upon Lincoln to induce him to make what he regarded as an unworthy appointment, he exclaimed: "All that I am in the world—the Presidency and all else—I owe to the opinion of me which the people express when they call me 'Honest Old Abe.' Now, what would they think of their honest Abe if he should make such an appointment as the one proposed?"
Hon. Leonard Swett, who knew Lincoln from 1848 to the time of his death, and had "traveled the circuit" with him in Illinois, relates that soon after the election he and Judge Davis advised Lincoln to consult Thurlow Weed regarding the formation of the Cabinet and on political affairs generally. "Mr. Lincoln asked me," says Mr. Swett, "to write Mr. Weed and invite him to a conference at Lincoln's house in Springfield. I did so, and the result was that Judge Davis, Thurlow Weed, and myself spent a whole day with him in discussing the men and measures of his administration. At that meeting, which took place in less than a month after Lincoln's election, or early in December, 1860, Lincoln became convinced that war was imminent between the North and the South. Mr. Weed was a very astute man, and had a wonderful knowledge of what was going on. He told Lincoln of preparations being made in the Southern States that could mean nothing less than war. It was a serious time with all of us, of course, but Lincoln took it with the imperturbability that always distinguished him."
The account given by Thurlow Weed, the veteran New York editor and journalist, of his visit to Lincoln on this occasion is of peculiar interest. Mr. Weed remained in Springfield two or three days in close consultation with the President-elect, the formation of the new Cabinet being the subject principally discussed. After expressing gratification at his election, and an apprehension of the dangers which threatened the incoming administration, says Mr. Weed, in his autobiography, "Mr. Lincoln remarked, smiling, that he supposed I had had some experience in cabinet-making; that he had job on hand, and as he had never learned that trade he was disposed to avail himself of the suggestions of friends. The question thus opened became the subject of conversation, at intervals, during that and the following day. I say at intervals, because many hours were consumed in talking of the public men connected with former administrations, interspersed, illustrated, and seasoned pleasantly with Mr. Lincoln's stories, anecdotes, etc. And here I feel called upon to vindicate Mr. Lincoln, as far as my opportunities and observation go, from the frequent imputation of telling indelicate and ribald stories. I saw much of him during his whole Presidential term, with familiar friends and alone, when he talked without restraint; but I never heard him use a profane or indecent word, or tell a story that might not be repeated in the presence of ladies."
"Mr. Lincoln observed," continues Mr. Weed, "that the making of a Cabinet, now that he had it to do, was by no means as easy as he had supposed; that he had, even before the result of the election was known, assuming the probability of success, fixed upon the two leading members of his Cabinet, but that in looking about for suitable men to fill the other departments he had been much embarrassed, partly from his want of acquaintance with the prominent men of the day, and partly because he believed that while the population of the country had immensely increased really great men were scarcer than they used to be.... As the conversation progressed, Lincoln remarked that he intended to invite Governor Seward to take the State Department and Governor Chase the Treasury Department, remarking that aside from their long experience in public affairs and their eminent fitness they were prominently before the people and the convention as competitors for the Presidency, each having higher claims than his own for the place which he was to occupy. On naming Hon. Gideon Welles as the man he thought of as the representative of New England in the Cabinet, I remarked that I thought he could find several New England gentlemen whose selection for a place in his Cabinet would be more acceptable to the people of New England. 'But,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'we must remember that the Republican party is constituted of two elements, and that we must have men of Democratic as well as of Whig antecedents in the Cabinet.' ... In the course of our conversations Mr. Lincoln remarked that it was particularly pleasant to him to reflect that he was coming into office unembarrassed by promises. He owed, he supposed, his exemption from importunities to the circumstance that his name as a candidate was but a short time before the people, and that only a few sanguine friends anticipated the possibility of his nomination. 'I have not,' said he, 'promised an office to any man, nor have I, but in a single instance, mentally committed myself to an appointment.'"
"In this way two days passed very pleasantly," says Mr. Weed, "the conversation being alternately earnest and playful. I wish it were possible to give, in Mr. Lincoln's amusing but quaint manner, the many stories, anecdotes, and witticisms with which he interlarded and enlivened what with almost any of his predecessors in the high office of President would have been a grave, dry consultation. The great merit of Mr. Lincoln's stories, like Captain Bunsby's opinion, 'lays in the application on it.' They always and exactly suited the occasion and the object, and none to which I ever listened seemed far-fetched or pointless. I will attempt to repeat one of them. If I have an especial fondness for any particular luxury, it manifests itself in a remarkable way when properly made December sausages are placed before me. While at breakfast, Judge Davis, noticing that, after having been bountifully served with sausage, like Oliver Twist I wanted some more, said, 'You seem fond of our Illinois sausages.' To which I responded affirmatively, adding that I thought the article might be relied on where pork was cheaper than dogs. 'That,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'reminds me of what occurred down at Joliet, where a popular grocer supplied all the villagers with sausages. One Saturday evening, when his grocery was filled with customers for whom he and his boys were busily engaged in weighing sausages, a neighbor with whom he had had a violent quarrel that day, came into the grocery and made his way up to the counter holding by the tail two enormous dead cats which he deliberately threw on to the counter, saying, 'This makes seven to-day. I'll call around Monday and get my money for them.'"
* * * * *
During the months intervening between his election and his departure for Washington, Lincoln maintained a keen though quiet watchfulness of the threatening aspect of affairs at the national capital and throughout the South. He was careful not to commit himself by needless utterances as to his future policy; but in all his demeanor, as a friend said, he displayed the firmness and determination, without the temper, of Jackson. In December following his election he wrote the following letters to his intimate friend, Hon. E.B. Washburne, then a member of Congress from Illinois:
SPRINGFIELD, ILL., Dec. 13, 1860.
HON. E.B. WASHBURNE—My Dear Sir: Your long letter received. Prevent, as far as possible, any of our friends from demoralizing themselves and our cause by entertaining propositions for compromise of any sort on the slavery extension. There is no possible compromise upon it but which puts us under again, and leaves us 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 with a chain of steel.
Yours as ever, A. LINCOLN.
SPRINGFIELD, ILL., Dec. 21, 1860.
HON. E.B. WASHBURNE—My Dear Sir: Last night I received your letter giving an account of your interview with General Scott, and for which I thank you. Please present my respects to the General, and tell him confidentially that I shall be obliged to him to be as well prepared as he can to either hold or retake the forts, as the case may require, at and after the inauguration.
Yours as ever, A. LINCOLN.
The Southern States, led on by South Carolina, which formally severed its connection with the Union November 17, 1860 (only eleven days after Lincoln's election), were preparing to dissolve their alliance with the Free States. Mississippi passed the ordinance of secession January 9, 1861; Florida followed on the 10th; Alabama on the 11th; Georgia on the 19th; Louisiana on the 25th; and Texas on the 1st day of February. The plans of the seceders went on, unmolested by the Buchanan administration. Southerners in the Cabinet and in Congress conspired to deplete the resources of the Government, leaving it helpless to contest the assumptions of the revolted States. The treasury was deliberately bankrupted; the ships of the navy were banished to distant ports; the Northern arsenals were rifled to furnish arms for the seceded States; the United States forts and armaments on the Southern coast were delivered into the hands of the enemy, with the exception of Fort Sumter, which was gallantly held by Major Robert Anderson. While this system of bold and unscrupulous treachery was carried on by men in the highest places of trust, the chief executive of the nation remained a passive spectator. The South was in open rebellion, and the North was powerless to interfere. The weeks prior to the inauguration of the new administration dragged slowly along, each day adding fresh cause for anxiety and alarm.
Amidst these portentous scenes Lincoln, watching them from a distance, maintained his calm and vigilant attitude. No one knew better than he the significance of these ominous events that were taking place at the nation's capital and in the disaffected States; but there was nothing he could do about them. His time for action had not yet come. He said little, but enough to show unmistakably what he thought of the situation and what course he had resolved upon to meet it. As early as December 17, 1860—a little more than a month after his election—in writing to Thurlow Weed, he said: "My opinion is that no State can in any way get out of the Union without the consent of the other States; and that it is the duty of the President to run the machine as it is." He had been made the pilot of the ship of State, and his duty and purpose were to save the vessel.[B] Upon this mighty task were concentrated all the powers of his intellect and will; and through all the desperate voyage that followed he never wavered or faltered in his course, from the time of his supreme resolve, made in the quiet of his country home, to the hour when
"From fearful trip the victor ship came in with object won"—
but with her more than heroic but now victorious Captain "fallen cold and dead" upon her deck.
As the winter wore away, and the time for Lincoln's inauguration as President drew near, he began making preparation for leaving the familiar scenes where his life had thus far been spent. Early in February he made a parting visit to his relatives in Coles County, to whom in this hour of grave trial and anxiety his heart turned with fresh yearning. He spent a night at Charleston, where his cousin Dennis Hanks, and Mrs. Colonel Chapman, a daughter of Dennis, resided. We are told that "the people crowded by hundreds to see him; and he was serenaded by 'both the string and brass bands of the town, but declined making a speech." The following morning he passed on to Farmington, to the home of his beloved step-mother, who was living with her daughter, Mrs. Moore. Mr. Lamon relates that "the meeting between him and the old lady was of a most affectionate and tender character. She fondled him as her own 'Abe,' and he her as his own mother. Then Lincoln and Colonel Chapman drove to the house of John Hall, who lived on the old 'Lincoln farm' where Abe split the celebrated rails and fenced in the little clearing in 1830. Thence they went to the spot where Lincoln's father was buried. The grave was unmarked and utterly neglected. Lincoln said he wanted to 'have it enclosed, and a suitable tombstone erected,'" and gave the necessary instructions for this purpose. "We then returned," says Colonel Chapman, "to Farmington, where we found a large crowd of citizens—nearly all old acquaintances—waiting to see him. His reception was very enthusiastic, and seemed to gratify him very much. After taking dinner at his stepsister's (Mrs. Moore's), he returned to Charleston. Our conversation during the trip was mostly concerning family affairs. On the way down to Farmington Mr. Lincoln spoke to me of his step-mother in the most affectionate manner; said she had been his best friend, and that no son could love a mother more than he loved her. He also told me of the condition of his father's family at the time he married his step-mother, and of the change she made in the family, and of the encouragement he had received from her.... He spoke of his father, and related some amusing incidents of the bull-dog's biting the old man on his return from New Orleans; of the old man's escape, when a boy, from an Indian who was shot by his uncle Mordecai, etc. He spoke of his uncle Mordecai as being a man of very great natural gifts. At Charleston we found the house crowded by people wishing to see him. The crowd finally became so great that it was decided to hold a public reception at the Town Hall that evening at seven o'clock; until then Lincoln wished to be left with relatives and friends. At the Town Hall large numbers of people from the town and surrounding country, irrespective of party, called to see him. His reception by his old acquaintances was very gratifying to him."
A characteristic anecdote showing Lincoln's friendship and love of old associations is told among those relating to his last days at Springfield. When he was about to leave for Washington he went to the dingy little law office, sat down on the couch, and said to his law-partner, Herndon, "Billy, you and I have been together nearly twenty years, and have never 'passed a word.' Will you let my name stay on the old sign till I come back from Washington?" The tears started to Mr. Herndon's eyes. He put out his hand. "Mr. Lincoln," said he, "I will never have any other partner while you live"; and to the day of the assassination all the doings of the firm were in the name of "Lincoln & Herndon."
Governor Bross, of Illinois, relates that he was with Lincoln at Springfield on the day before he left for Washington. "We were walking slowly to his home from some place where we had met, and the condition and prospects of the country, and his vast responsibility in assuming the position of President, were the subjects of his thoughts. These were discussed with a breadth and anxiety full of that pathos peculiar to Mr. Lincoln in his thoughtful moods. He seemed to have a thorough prescience of the dangers through which his administration was to pass. No President, he said, had ever had before him such vast and far-reaching responsibilities. He regarded war—long, bitter, and dreadful—as almost sure to come. He distinctly and reverently placed his hopes for the result in the strength and guidance of Him on whom Washington relied in the darkest hours of the Revolution. He would take the place to which Providence and his countrymen had called him, and do the best he could for the integrity and the welfare of the Republic. For himself, he scarcely expected ever to see Illinois again."
On the morning of the 11th of February, 1861, Lincoln left his home in Springfield for the scene where he was to spend the most anxious, toilsome, and painful years of his life. An elaborate programme had been prepared for his journey to Washington, which was to conduct him through the principal cities of Indiana, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, and consume much of the time intervening before the 4th of March. Special trains, preceded by pilot-engines, were prepared for his accommodation. He was accompanied at his departure by his wife and three sons, and a party of friends, including Governor Yates, ex-Governor Moore, Dr. W.M. Wallace (his brother-in-law), N.B. Judd, O.H. Browning, Ward H. Lamon, David Davis, Col. E.E. Ellsworth, and John M. Hay and J.G. Nicolay, the two latter to be his private secretaries. Mr. Lamon thus graphically describes the incidents of his leave-taking: "It was a gloomy day; heavy clouds floated overhead, and a cold rain was falling. Long before eight o'clock a great mass of people had collected at the railway station. At precisely five minutes before eight, Mr. Lincoln, preceded by Mr. Wood, emerged from a private room in the depot building, and passed slowly to the car, the people falling back respectfully on either side, and as many as possible shaking his hands. Having reached the train, he ascended the rear platform, and, facing about to the throng which had closed around him, drew himself up to his full height, removed his hat, and stood for several seconds in profound silence. His eye roved sadly over that sea of upturned faces, as if seeking to read in them the sympathy and friendship which he never needed more than then. There was an unusual quiver in his lip, and a still more unusual tear on his shriveled cheek. His solemn manner, his long silence, were as full of melancholy eloquence as any words he could have uttered. What did he think of? Of the mighty changes which had lifted him from the lowest to the highest estate on earth? Of the weary road which had brought him to this lofty summit? Of his poor mother lying beneath the tangled underbrush in a distant forest? Of that other grave in the quiet Concord cemetery? Whatever the character of his thoughts, it is evident that they were retrospective and sad. To those who were anxiously waiting to catch his words it seemed long until he had mastered his feelings sufficiently to speak. At length he began, in a husky voice, and slowly and impressively delivered his farewell to his neighbors. Imitating his example, many in the crowd stood with heads uncovered in the fast-falling rain." Abraham Lincoln spoke none but true and sincere words, and none more true and heartfelt ever fell from his lips than these, so laden with pathos, with humility, with a craving for the sympathy of his friends and the people, and for help above and beyond all earthly power and love.
My Friends:—No one not in my position can realize the sadness I feel at this parting. To this people I owe all that I am. Here I have lived more than a quarter of a century. Here my children were born, and here one of them lies buried. I know not how soon I shall see you again. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. He never would have succeeded except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same Divine blessing which sustained him; and on the same Almighty Being I place my reliance for support. And I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that Divine assistance, without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is certain. Again I bid you an affectionate farewell.
The route chosen for the journey to Washington, as has been stated, was a circuitous one. It seems to have been Lincoln's desire to meet personally the people of the great Northern States upon whose devotion and loyalty he prophetically felt he must depend for the salvation of the Republic. Everywhere he met the warmest and most generous greetings from the throngs assembled at the railway stations in the various cities through which he passed. At Indianapolis, where the first important halt was made, cannon announced the arrival of the party, and a royal welcome was accorded the distinguished traveler. In this, as in the other cities at which he stopped, Lincoln made a brief address to the people. His remarks were well considered and temperate; his manner was serious, his expressions thoughtful and full of feeling. He entreated the people to be calm and patient; to stand by the principles of liberty inwrought into the fabric of the Constitution; to have faith in the strength and reality of the Government, and faith in his purpose to discharge his duties honestly and impartially. He referred continually to his trust in the Almighty Ruler of the Universe to guide the nation safely out of its present peril and perplexity. "I judge," he said at Columbus, "that all we want is time and patience, and a reliance in that God who has never forsaken His people." Again, he said: "Let the people on both sides keep their self-possession, and just as other clouds have cleared away in due time, so will this; and this great nation shall continue to prosper as heretofore." Alluding more definitely to his purposes for the future, he declared: "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 the conclusion of Lincoln's speech at Columbus, a tremendous crowd surged forward to shake his hand. Says Dr. Holland: "Every man in the crowd was anxious to wrench the hand of Abraham Lincoln. He finally gave both hands to the work, with great good nature. To quote one of the reports of the occasion: 'People plunged at his arms with frantic enthusiasm, and all the infinite variety of shakes, from the wild and irrepressible pump-handle movement to the dead grip, was executed upon the devoted dexter and sinister of the President. Some glanced at his face as they grasped his hand; others invoked the blessings of heaven upon him; others affectionately gave him their last gasping assurance of devotion; others, bewildered and furious, with hats crushed over their eyes, seized his hands in a convulsive grasp, and passed on as if they had not the remotest idea who, what, or where they were.' The President at last escaped, and took refuge in the Governor's residence, although he held a levee at the State House in the evening, where in a more quiet way he met many prominent citizens."
At Cincinnati, where Lincoln had had so distasteful an experience a few years before, a magnificent ovation greeted him. The scene is described by one who witnessed it—Hon. William Henry Smith, at that time a resident of Cincinnati. "It was on the 13th of February that Mr. Lincoln reached the Queen City. The day was mild for mid-winter, but the sky was overcast with clouds, emblematic of the gloom that filled the hearts of the unnumbered thousands who thronged the streets and covered the house-tops. Lincoln rode in an open carriage, standing erect with uncovered head, and steadying himself by holding on to a board fastened to the front part of the vehicle. A more uncomfortable ride than this, over the bouldered streets of Cincinnati, cannot well be imagined. Perhaps a journey over the broken roads of Eastern Russia, in a tarantass, would secure to the traveler as great a degree of discomfort. Mr. Lincoln bore it with characteristic patience. His face was very sad, but he seemed to take a deep interest in everything. It was not without due consideration that the President-elect touched on the border of a slave State on his way to the capital. In his speech in reply to the Mayor of Cincinnati, recognizing the fact that among his auditors were thousands of Kentuckians, he addressed them directly, calling them 'Friends,' 'Brethren.' He reminded them that when speaking in Fifth Street Market square in 1859 he had promised that when the Republicans came into power they would treat the Southern or slave-holding people as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison treated them; that they would interfere with their institutions in no way, but abide by all and every compromise of the Constitution, and 'recognize and bear in mind always that you have as good hearts in your bosoms as other people, or as we claim to have, and treat you accordingly.' Then, to emphasize this, he said—in a passage omitted by Mr. Raymond and all other biographers of Lincoln—
And now, fellow-citizens of Ohio, have you who agree in political sentiment with him who now addresses you ever entertained other sentiments towards our brethren of Kentucky than those I have expressed to you? [Loud and repeated cries of 'No!' 'No!'] If not, then why shall we not, as heretofore, be recognized and acknowledged as brethren again, living in peace and harmony, one with another? [Cries of 'We will!'] I take your response as the most reliable evidence that it may be so, along with other evidence, trusting to the good sense of the American people, on all sides of all rivers in America, under the Providence of God, who has never deserted us, that we shall again be brethren, forgetting all parties—ignoring all parties.
"This statesmanlike expression of conservative opinion," continues Mr. Smith, "alarmed some of the Republicans, who feared that the new President might sell out his party; and steps were taken, later in the day, to remind him of certain principles deemed fundamental by those who had been attracted to the party of Freedom. The sequel will show how this was done, and how successfully Mr. Lincoln met the unexpected attack. In the evening I called, with other citizens, at Mr. Lincoln's rooms at the Burnet House to pay my respects. Mr. Lincoln had put off the melancholy mood that appeared to control him during the day, and was entertaining those present with genial, even lively, conversation. The pleasant entertainment was interrupted by the announcement that a delegation of German workingmen were about to serenade Mr. Lincoln. Proceeding to the balcony, there were seen the faces of nearly two thousand of the substantial German citizens who had voted for Mr. Lincoln because they believed him to be a stout champion of free labor and free homesteads. The remarks of their spokesman, Frederick Oberkleine, set forth in clear terms what they expected. He said:
We, the German free workingmen of Cincinnati, avail ourselves of this opportunity to assure you, our chosen Chief Magistrate, of our sincere and heartfelt regard. You earned our votes as the champion of Free Labor and Free Homesteads. Our vanquished opponents have, in recent times, made frequent use of the terms "Workingmen" and "Workingmen's Meetings," in order to create an impression that the mass of workingmen were in favor of compromises between the interests of free labor and slave labor, by which the victory just won would be turned into a defeat. This is a despicable device of dishonest men. We spurn such compromises. We firmly adhere to the principles which directed our votes in your favor. We trust that you, the self-reliant because self-made man, will uphold the Constitution and the laws against secret treachery and avowed treason. If to this end you should be in need of men, the German free workingmen, with others, will rise as one man at your call, ready to risk their lives in the effort to maintain the victory already won by freedom over slavery.
"This was bringing the rugged issue boldly to the front, and challenging the President-elect to meet the issue or risk the loss of the support of an important section of his own party. Oberkleine spoke with great effect, but the remarks were hardly his own. Some abler man had put into his mouth these significant words. Mr. Lincoln replied, very deliberately, but without hesitation, as follows:
MR. CHAIRMAN:—I thank you, and those you represent, for the compliment paid me by the tender of this address. In so far as there is an allusion to our present national difficulty, and the suggestion of the views of the gentlemen who present this address, I beg you will excuse me from entering particularly upon it. I deem it due to myself and the whole country, in the present extraordinary condition of the country and of public opinion, that I should wait and see the last development of public opinion before I give my views or express myself at the time of the inauguration. I hope at that time to be false to nothing you have been taught to expect of me. [Cheers.]
I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, and with the address of your constituents, in the declaration that workingmen are the basis of all governments. That remark is due to them more than to any other class, for the reason that there are more of them than of any other class. And as your address is presented to me not only on behalf of workingmen, but especially of Germans, I may say a word as to classes. I hold that the value of life is to improve one's condition. Whatever is calculated to advance the condition of the honest, struggling laboring man, so far as my judgment will enable me to judge of a correct thing, I am for that thing.
An allusion has been made to the Homestead Law. I think it worthy of consideration, and that the wild lands of the country should be distributed so that every man should have the means and opportunity of benefiting his condition. [Cheers.] I have said that I do not desire to enter into details, nor will I.
In regard to Germans and foreigners, I esteem foreigners no better than other people—nor any worse. [Laughter and cheers.] They are all of the great family of men, and if there is one shackle upon any of them it would be far better to lift the load from them than to pile additional loads upon them. [Cheers.] And inasmuch as the continent of America is comparatively a new country, and the other countries of the world are old countries, there is more room here, comparatively speaking, than there is elsewhere; and if they can better their condition by leaving their old homes, there is nothing in my heart to forbid them coming, and I bid them all God speed. [Cheers.] Again, gentlemen, thanking you for your address, I bid you good night.
"If anyone," says Mr. Smith, "had expected to trap Mr. Lincoln into imprudent utterances, or the indulgence of the rhetoric of a demagogue, this admirable reply showed how completely they were disappointed. The preservation of this speech is due to my accidental presence. The visitation of the Germans was not on the programme, and none of the representatives of the press charged with the duty of reporting the events of the day were present. Observing this, I took short-hand notes on the envelope of an old letter loaned me for the occasion, and afterwards wrote them out. The words of Mr. Lincoln, exactly as spoken, are given above."
At Cleveland the party remained over for a day, and Lincoln was greeted with the usual friendly enthusiasm. An immense crowd met him at the depot, and he was escorted to the Weddell House, where a reception was given him in the evening. Hon. A.G. Riddle, then a resident of Cleveland, and a newly elected member of the Congress which was to share with Lincoln the burdens and responsibilities of the Civil War, was present on that occasion, and furnishes the following interesting personal recollections of it: "I saw Abraham Lincoln for the first time, at the Weddell House that evening. He stood on the landing-place at the top of a broad stairway, and the crowd approached him from below. This gave him an exaggerated advantage of his six feet four inches of length. The shapelessness of the lathy form, the shock of coarse black hair surmounting the large head, the retreating forehead—these were not apparent where we stood. My heart sprang up to him—the coming man. Of the thousand times I afterward saw him, the first view remains the most distinct impression; and never again to me was he more imposing. As we approached, someone whispered of me to him; he took my hand in both his for an instant, and we wheeled into the already crowded rooms. His manner was strongly Western; his speech and pronunciation Southwestern. Wholly without self-consciousness with men, he was constrained and ill at ease when surrounded, as he several times was, by fashionably dressed ladies. One incident of the evening I particularly recall. Ab McElrath was in the crowd—a handsome giant, an Apollo in youth, of about Mr. Lincoln's height. What brought it about, I do not know; but I saw them standing back to back, in a contest of altitude—Mr. Lincoln and Ab McElrath—the President-elect, the chosen, the nation's leader in the thick-coming darkness, and the tavern-keeper and fox-hunter. The crowd applauded.
"Mr. Lincoln presented me to the gentlemen of his party—Mr. Browning, Mr. Judd, and Mr. Lamon, I remember, as I later became very well acquainted with them; also the rough-looking Colonel Sumner of the army. Mr. Lincoln invited me to accompany him for at least a day on his eastward journey. I joined him the next morning at the station. The vivacity of the night before had utterly vanished, and the rudely sculptured cliffy face struck me as one of the saddest I had ever seen. The eyes especially had a depth of melancholy which I had never seen in human eyes before. Some things he wished to know from me, especially regarding Mr. Chase, whom, among others, he had called to Springfield. He asked me no direct questions, but I very soon found myself speaking freely to him, and was able to explain some not well-known features of Ohio politics—and much to his satisfaction, as he let me see. There was then some talk of Mr. Seward, and more of Senator Cameron. All three had been his rivals at Chicago, and were, as I then thought, in his mind as possible Cabinet ministers; although no word was said by him of such an idea in reference to either. Presently he conducted me to Mrs. Lincoln, whom I had not before seen. Presenting me, he returned to the gentlemen of the party, and I saw little more of him except once when he returned to us, before I left the train. Mrs. Lincoln impressed me very favorably, as a woman of spirit, intelligence, and decided opinions, which she put very clearly. Our conversation was mainly of her husband. I remarked that all the likenesses I had ever seen of him did him injustice. This evidently pleased her. I suggested that a full beard from the under lip down (his face was shaven) would relieve and help him very much. This interested her, and we discussed it and the character of his face quite fully. The impression I then formed of this most unfortunate lady was only deepened by the pleasant acquaintance she permitted, down to the time of the national calamity, which unsettled her mind as I always thought."
Of the New York City visit, an excellent account is given by the distinguished preacher and writer, Dr. S. Irenaeus Prime. "The country was at that moment," says Dr. Prime, "in the first throes of the great rebellion. Millions of hearts were beating anxiously in view of the advent to power of this untried man. Had he been called of God to the throne of power at such a time as this, to be the leader and deliverer of the people? As the carriage in which he sat passed slowly by me on the Fifth avenue, he was looking weary, sad, feeble, and faint. My disappointment was excessive; so great, indeed, as to be almost overwhelming. He did not look to me to be the man for the hour. The next day I was with him and others in the Governor's room in the City Hall, when the Mayor of the city made an official address. Mr. Lincoln's reply was so modest, firm, patriotic, and pertinent, that my fears of the day before began to subside, and I saw in this new man a promise of great things to come. It was not boldness or dash, or high-sounding pledges; nor did he while in office, with the mighty armies of a roused nation at his command, ever assume to be more than he promised in that little upper chamber in New York, on his journey to the seat of Government, to take the helm of the ship of state then tossing in the storm."
Before the end of the journey, strong fears prevailed in the minds of Lincoln's friends that an attempt would be made to assassinate him before he should reach Washington. Every precaution was taken to thwart such endeavor; although Lincoln himself was disturbed by no thought of danger. He had done, he contemplated doing, no wrong, no injustice to any citizen of the United States; why then should there be a desire to strike him down? Thus he reasoned; and he was free from any dread of personal peril. But the officials of the railroads over which he was to pass, and his friends in Washington, felt that there was cause for apprehension. It was believed by them that a plot existed for making away with Lincoln while passing through Baltimore, a city in the heart of a slave State, and rife with the spirit of rebellion. Detectives had been employed to discover the facts in the matter, and their reports served to confirm the most alarming conjectures. A messenger was despatched from Washington to intercept the Presidential party and warn Lincoln of the impending danger. Dr. Holland states that "the detective and Mr. Lincoln reached Philadelphia nearly at the same time, and there the former submitted to a few of the President's friends the information he had secured. An interview between Mr. Lincoln and the detective was immediately arranged, and took place in the apartments of the former at the Continental Hotel. Mr. Lincoln, having heard the officer's statement in detail, then informed him that he had promised to raise the American flag on Independence Hall the following morning—the anniversary of Washington's birthday—and that he had accepted an invitation to a reception by the Pennsylvania Legislature in the afternoon of the same day. 'Both of these engagements I will keep,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'if it costs me my life.' For the rest, he authorized the detective to make such arrangements as he thought proper for his safe conduct to Washington."
In the meantime, according to Dr. Holland, General Scott and Senator Seward, both of whom were in Washington, learned from independent sources that Lincoln's life was in danger, and concurred in sending Mr. Frederick W. Seward to Philadelphia to urge upon him the necessity of proceeding immediately to Washington in a quiet way. The messenger arrived late on Thursday night, after Lincoln had retired, and requested an audience. Lincoln's fears had already been aroused, and he was cautious, of course, in the matter of receiving a stranger. But satisfied that the messenger was indeed the son of Mr. Seward, he received him. Nothing needed to be done except to inform him of the plan entered into with the detective, by which the President was to arrive in Washington early on Saturday morning, in advance of his family and party.
On the morning of the 22d, Lincoln, as he had promised, attended the flag-raising at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the historic building in which had been adopted the Declaration of Independence. The occasion was a memorable one, and Lincoln's address eloquent and impressive. "All the political sentiments I entertain," said he, "have been drawn from the sentiments which were given to the world from this hall." He spoke calmly but firmly of his resolve to stand by the principles of the immortal Declaration and of the Constitution of his country; and, as though conscious of the dangers of his position, he added solemnly: "I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by, and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, to die by."
From Philadelphia Lincoln went immediately to Harrisburg, and attended the reception given him by the Pennsylvania Legislature, in the afternoon of the same day. Then, leaving his hotel in the evening, attended only by Mr. Lamon and the detective (Mr. Allan Pinkerton), he was driven to the depot, where he took the regular train for Washington. The train passed through Baltimore in the night, and early the next morning (February 23) reached the capital. Mr. Washburne, who had been notified to be at the depot on the arrival of the train, says: "I planted myself behind one of the great pillars in the old Washington and Baltimore depot, where I could see and not be observed. Presently, the train came rumbling in on time. When it came to a stop I watched with fear and trembling to see the passengers descend. I saw every car emptied, and there was no Mr. Lincoln. I was well-nigh in despair, and when about to leave I saw three persons slowly emerge from the last sleeping-car. I could not mistake the long, lank form of Mr. Lincoln, and my heart bounded with joy and gratitude. He had on a soft low-crowned hat, a muffler around his neck, and a short overcoat. Anyone who knew him at that time could not have failed to recognize him at once; but I must confess he looked more like a well-to-do farmer from one of the back towns of Jo Daviess County, coming to Washington to see the city, take out his land warrant and get the patent for his farm, than the President of the United States. The only persons that accompanied Mr. Lincoln were Pinkerton, the well-known detective, and Ward H. Lamon. When they were fairly on the platform, and a short distance from the car, I stepped forward and accosted the President: 'How are you, Lincoln?' At this unexpected and rather familiar salutation the gentlemen were apparently somewhat startled; but Mr. Lincoln, who had recognized me, relieved them at once by remarking in his peculiar voice: 'This is only Washburne!' Then we all exchanged congratulations, and walked out to the front of the depot, where I had a carriage in waiting. Entering the carriage (all four of us), we drove rapidly to Willard's Hotel, entering on Fourteenth Street, before it was fairly daylight."
General Stone, who was in command at Washington at that time, states that both General Scott and himself "considered it almost a certainty that Mr. Lincoln could not pass through Baltimore alive on the day fixed," and adds: "I recommended that Mr. Lincoln should be officially warned; and suggested that it would be best that he should take the train that evening from Philadelphia, and so reach Washington early the next day. General Scott directed me to see Mr. Seward, to whom he wrote a few lines, which he handed me. I did not succeed in finding Mr. Seward until past noon. I handed him the General's note. He listened attentively to what I said, and asked me to write down my information and suggestions. Then, taking the paper I had written, he hastily left. The note I wrote was what Mr. Frederick Seward carried to Mr. Lincoln in Philadelphia. Mr. Lincoln has stated that it was this note which induced him to change his journey as he did. The stories of disguises are all nonsense. Mr. Lincoln merely took the sleeping-car in the night train."
There is little doubt that the fears of Lincoln's friends regarding his passage through Baltimore were well grounded; and that but for the timely warnings and precautions the assassination of April, 1865, might have taken place in February of 1861.
Lincoln at the Helm—First Days in Washington—Meeting Public Men and Discussing Public Affairs—The Inauguration—The Inaugural Address—A New Era Begun—Lincoln in the White House—The First Cabinet—The President and the Office-seekers—Southern Prejudice against Lincoln—Ominous Portents, but Lincoln not Dismayed—The President's Reception Room—Varied Impressions of the New President—Guarding the White House.
The week following Lincoln's arrival in Washington, and preceding his inauguration, was for him one of incessant activity. From almost the first moment he was engrossed either in preparations for his inauguration and the official responsibilities which would immediately follow that event, or in receiving the distinguished callers who hastened to meet him and in discussing with them the grave aspects of political affairs. Without rest or opportunity to survey the field that lay before him, or any preparations save such as the resources of his own strong character might afford him, he was plunged instantly into the great political maelstrom in which he was to remain for four long years, and whose wild vortex might well have bewildered an eye less sure, a will less resolute, and a brain less cool than his. As Emerson put it, "The new pilot was hurried to the helm in a tornado."
"Mr. Lincoln's headquarters," says Congressman Riddle of Ohio, "were at Willard's Hotel; and the few days before the inauguration were given up to a continuous reception in the broad corridor of the second floor, near the stairway. I remember a notable morning when the majestic General Scott, in full dress, sword, plumes, and bullion, came to pay his respects to the incoming President. The scene was impressive. By the unknown law that ruled his spirits, Mr. Lincoln was at his best, complete master of himself and of all who came within the magic of his presence. Never was he happier, speaking most of the time, flashing with anecdote and story. That time now seems as remote as things of a hundred years ago. The war antiquated all that went before it. The Washington, the men, the spirit of that now ancient time, have faded past all power to recall and reproduce them. The real Washington was as essentially Southern as Richmond or Baltimore. 'Lincoln and his vandals,' fresh from the North and West, were thronging the wide, squat, unattractive city, from which the bolder and braver rebel element had not yet departed."
Dr. George B. Loring, of Massachusetts, who was one of the first to meet Lincoln after his arrival in Washington, says: "I saw him on his arrival, and when he made his first appearance in a public place. I was standing in the upper hall of Willard's Hotel, conversing with a friend and listening to the confused talk of the crowded drawing-room adjoining. As we stood there, a tall and awkward form appeared above the stairs, especially conspicuous, as it came into view, for a new and stylish hat. It was evidently President Lincoln, whom neither of us had seen before. As soon as his presence was known, the hall was thronged from the drawing-rooms. He seemed somewhat startled by the crowd, did not remove his hat, wended his way somewhat rapidly and with mere passing recognition, and took shelter in his room. When the crowd had dispersed, my friend and myself—although we had opposed his election—called upon him to pay our respects. He received us with great cordiality, spoke freely of the difficulties by which he was surrounded, and referred with evident satisfaction to the support he had received in Massachusetts. 'I like your man Banks,' said he, 'and have tried to find a place for him in my Cabinet; but I am afraid I shall not quite fetch it.' He bore the marks of anxiety in his countenance, which, in its expression of patience, determination, resolve, and deep innate modesty, was extremely touching."