The Every-day Life of Abraham Lincoln
by Francis Fisher Browne
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Before leaving Springfield Lincoln had prepared his inaugural message with great care, and placed it in a "gripsack" for transportation to Washington. An odd incident, by which the message came near being lost on the journey, was afterwards related by Lincoln to a friend. When the party reached Harrisburg Lincoln asked his son Robert where the message was, and was taken aback by his son's confession that in the excitement caused by the enthusiastic reception he believed he had let a waiter have the gripsack. Lincoln, in narrating the incident, said: "My heart went up into my mouth, and I started downstairs, where I was told that if a waiter had taken the gripsack I should probably find it in the baggage-room. Going there, I saw a large pile of gripsacks and other baggage, and thought that I discovered mine. My key fitted it, but on opening there was nothing inside but a few paper collars and a flask of whisky. A few moments afterward I came across my own gripsack, with the document in it all right."

The fourth of March soon came, and with it the impressive ceremonies of Lincoln's inauguration as President. A good description of the scene is given by Dr. J.G. Holland. "The morning broke beautifully clear, and it found General Scott and the Washington police in readiness. In the hearts of the surging crowds there was anxiety; but outside all looked as usual on such occasions, with the exception of an extraordinary display of soldiers. The public buildings, the schools, and most of the places of business, were closed during the day, and the stars and stripes were floating from every flag-staff. There was a great desire to hear Lincoln's inaugural; and at an early hour Pennsylvania Avenue was full of people wending their way to the east front of the Capitol where it was to be delivered. As the Presidential party reached the platform erected for the ceremonies, Senator Baker of Oregon, one of Lincoln's old friends and political rivals in Illinois, introduced him to the assembly. There was not a very hearty welcome given to the President as he stepped forward to read his inaugural. The reading was listened to with profound attention, those passages which contained any allusion to the Union being vociferously cheered. None listened more carefully than Mr. Buchanan and Judge Taney, the latter of whom, with noticeable agitation, administered the oath of office to Mr. Lincoln when his address was ended."

Another eye-witness has described the dramatic scene, and the principal actors in it, in the following graphic paragraphs: "Near noon I found myself a member of the motley crowd gathered around the side entrance to Willard's Hotel. Soon an open barouche drove up, and the only occupant stepped out. A large, heavy, awkward-moving man, far advanced in years, short and thin gray hair, full face plentifully seamed and wrinkled, head curiously inclined to the left shoulder, a low-crowned, broad-brimmed silk hat, an immense white cravat like a poultice thrusting the old-fashioned standing collar up to the ears, dressed in black throughout, with swallow-tail coat not of the newest style. It was President Buchanan, calling to take his successor to the Capitol. In a few minutes he reappeared, with Mr. Lincoln on his arm; the two took seats side by side, and the carriage rolled away, followed by a rather disorderly and certainly not very imposing procession. I had ample time to walk to the Capitol, and no difficulty in securing a place where everything could be seen and heard to the best advantage. The attendance at the inauguration was, they told me, unusually small; many being kept away by anticipated disturbance, as it had been rumored—not without good grounds—that General Scott himself was fearful of an outbreak, and had made all possible military preparations to meet the emergency. A square platform had been built out from the steps to the eastern portico, with benches for distinguished spectators on three sides. Senator Douglas, the only one I recognized, sat at the extreme end of the seat on the right of the narrow passage leading from the steps. There was no delay, and the gaunt form of the President-elect was soon visible, slowly making his way to the front. To me, at least, he was completely metamorphosed—partly by his own fault, and partly through the efforts of injudicious friends and ambitious tailors. He was raising (to gratify a very young lady, it is said) a crop of whiskers, of the blacking-brush variety, coarse, stiff, and ungraceful; and in so doing spoiled, or at least seriously impaired, a face which, though never handsome, had in its original state a peculiar power and pathos. On the present occasion the whiskers were reinforced by brand-new clothes from top to toe; black dress coat instead of the usual frock; black cloth or satin vest, black pantaloons, and a glossy hat evidently just out of the box. To cap the climax of novelty, he carried a huge ebony cane, with a gold head the size of an egg. In these, to him, strange habiliments, he looked so miserably uncomfortable that I could not help pitying him. Reaching the platform, his discomfort was visibly increased by not knowing what to do with hat and cane; and so he stood there, the target for ten thousand eyes, holding his cane in one hand and his hat in the other, the picture of helpless embarrassment. After some hesitation, he pushed the cane into a corner of the railing, but could not find a place for the hat, except on the floor, where I could see he did not like to risk it. Douglas, who fully took in the situation, came to the rescue of his old friend and rival, and held the precious hat until the owner needed it again; a service which, if predicted two years before, would probably have astonished him. The oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Taney, whose black robes, attenuated figure, and cadaverous countenance reminded me of a galvanized corpse. Then the President came forward and read his inaugural address in a clear and distinct voice. It was attentively listened to by all; but the closest listener was Douglas, who leaned forward as if to catch every word, nodding his head emphatically at those passages which most pleased him. I must not forget to mention the presence of a Mephistopheles in the person of Senator Wigfall of Texas, who stood with folded arms leaning against the doorway of the Capitol, looking down upon the crowd and the ceremony with a contemptuous air which sufficiently indicated his opinion of the whole performance. To him, the Southern Confederacy was already an accomplished fact."

"Under the shadow of the great Eastern portico of the Capitol," says General John A. Logan, "with the retiring President and Cabinet, the Supreme Court Justices, the Foreign Diplomatic Corps, and hundreds of Senators, Representatives, and other distinguished persons filling the great platform on either side and behind them, Abraham Lincoln stood bareheaded before full thirty thousand people, upon whose uplifted faces the unveiled glory of the mild Spring sun now shone—stood reverently before that far greater and mightier Presence termed by himself, 'My rightful masters, the American people'—and pleaded in a manly, earnest, and affectionate strain with 'such as were dissatisfied' to listen to the 'better angels' of their nature. 'Temperate, reasonable, kindly persuasive'—it seems strange that Lincoln's inaugural address did not disarm at least the personal resentment of the South toward him, and sufficiently strengthen Union-loving people there against the red-hot Secessionists, to put the 'brakes' down on rebellion."

The address was devoted almost exclusively to the great absorbing topic of the hour—the attempt of the Southern States to withdraw from the Union and erect an independent republic. The calm, firm, moderate, judicious spirit which pervaded Lincoln's address is apparent in the following quotations, which contain its most significant and memorable passages:

Fellow-Citizens of the United States:—In compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President "before he enters on the execution of his office." ... Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States, that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations, and have never recanted them.... I now reiterate these sentiments; and, in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in anywise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States, when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause—as cheerfully to one section as to another.... I hold that, in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all National Governments. It is safe to assert that no Government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever.... I therefore consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part; and I shall perform it, so far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or, in some authoritative manner, direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself. In doing this, there need be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be but necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.... Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face; and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. It is impossible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before. Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make law? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.... This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I cannot be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it.... The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have conferred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves can do this also, if they choose; but the Executive, as such, has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present Government as it came to his hands, and to transmit it, unimpaired by him, to his successor.... By the frame of the Government under which we live, the same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief; and have, with equal wisdom, provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.

My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government; while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend" it.

I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break, our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

At the close of the address, which was delivered with the utmost earnestness and solemnity, Lincoln, "with reverent look and impressive emphasis, repeated the oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of his country. Douglas, who knew the conspirators and their plots, with patriotic magnanimity then grasped the hand of the President, gracefully extended his congratulations, and the assurance that in the dark future he would stand by him, and give to him his utmost aid in upholding the Constitution and enforcing the laws of his country."

"At the inauguration," says Congressman Riddle, "I stood within a yard of Mr. Lincoln when he pronounced his famous address. How full of life and power it then was, with the unction of his utterance! Surely, we thought, the South, which rejected the concessions of Congress, would accept him. How dry and quaint, yet ingenious, much of that inaugural appears to me now, when the life and soul seem to have gone out of it! A sad thing—a spectre of the day—will forever haunt my memory: Poor old President Buchanan, short, stout, pale, white-haired, yet bearing himself resolutely throughout, linked by the arm to the new President, into whom from himself was passing the qualifying unction of the Constitution, jostled hither and thither, as already out of men's sight, yet bravely maintaining the shadow of dignity and place. How glad he must have been to take leave of his successor at the White House when all was ended!"

The formalities of the inauguration concluded, Lincoln passed back through the Senate Chamber, and, again escorted by Mr. Buchanan, was conducted to the White House, where the cares and anxieties of his position immediately descended upon him. "Strange indeed," says General Logan, "must have been the thoughts that crowded through the brain and oppressed the heart of Abraham Lincoln that night—his first at the White House. The City of Washington swarmed with rebels and rebel sympathizers, and all the departments of Government were honeycombed with treason and shadowed with treachery and espionage. Every step proposed or contemplated by the Government would be known to the so-called Government of the Confederate States almost as soon as thought of. All means to thwart and delay the carrying out of the Government's purposes that the excuses of routine and red tape admitted of would be used by the traitors within the camp to aid the traitors without. No one knew all this better than Mr. Lincoln. With no army, no navy, not even a revenue cutter left—with forts and arsenals, ammunition and arms, in possession of the South, with no money in the National Treasury, and the National credit blasted—the position must, even to his hopeful nature, have seemed desperate. Yet even in this awful hour, he was sustained by confidence in the good effects of his conciliatory message to the South, and by his trust in the patriotism of the people and the Providence of God."

Mr. Welles, the incoming Secretary of the Navy, in writing of the period immediately following the inauguration, says: "A strange state of things existed at that time in Washington. The atmosphere was thick with treason. Party spirit and old party differences prevailed amidst the accumulating dangers. Secession was considered by most persons as a political party question, not as rebellion. Democrats to a large extent sympathized with the Rebels more than with the Administration. The Republicans, on the other hand, were scarcely less partisan and unreasonable ... clamorous for the removal of all Democrats, indiscriminately, from office."

The President's first official act was the announcement of his Cabinet, which was composed of the following persons: William H. Seward, Secretary of State; Simon Cameron, Secretary of War; Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury; Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy; Caleb B. Smith, Secretary of the Interior; Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General; and Edward Bates, Attorney General. Lincoln had selected these counselors with grave deliberation. In reply to the remonstrances urged, on political grounds, against the appointment of one or two of them, he had said: "The times are too grave and perilous for ambitious schemes and personal rivalries. I need the aid of all of these men. They enjoy the confidence of their several States and sections, and they will strengthen the administration." On another occasion he remarked: "It will require the utmost skill, influence, and sagacity of all of us, to save the country; let us forget ourselves, and join hands like brothers to save the Republic. If we succeed, there will be glory enough for all."

Speculations have been almost endless as to how the Cabinet came to be made up as it was. But the truth is, according to Secretary Welles, that it was practically made up in Springfield almost as soon as Lincoln found himself elected. In Lincoln's own words, as given by Mr. Welles: "On the day of the Presidential election the operator of the telegraph in Springfield placed his instrument at my disposal. I was there without leaving, after the returns began to come in, until we had enough to satisfy us how the election had gone. This was about two in the morning of Wednesday. I went home, but not to get much sleep; for I then felt, as I never had before, the responsibility that was upon me. I began at once to feel that I needed support,—others to share with me the burden. This was on Wednesday morning, and before the sun went down I had made up my Cabinet. It was almost the same that I finally appointed."

The only two members of the Cabinet who served from the beginning to the end of Lincoln's administration were Welles and Seward. Stanton was not appointed until January 13, 1862, succeeding Simon Cameron. Chase left the Treasury Department to become Chief Justice, and was succeeded in the Treasury Department by ex-Governor Fessenden of Vermont, who in his turn was succeeded by Hugh McCulloch. The Attorney General's chair was filled successively by Bates and Speed. Caleb B. Smith was the first Secretary of the Interior, succeeded (January 1, 1863) by John P. Usher. The first Postmaster General was Montgomery Blair, who was followed (September 4, 1864) by ex-Governor Dennison of Ohio. The appointment that gave the greatest surprise of any in the Cabinet was that of Stanton as Secretary of War. Stanton had been in Buchanan's cabinet as Attorney General. He had been outspoken, almost brutal, in his scornful hostility to Lincoln, and the appointment by him was as great a surprise to Stanton as his acceptance of it was to everyone. When asked, somewhat incredulously, what he would do as War Secretary Stanton replied, "I will make Abe Lincoln President of the United States." Of the character of this remarkable man, Mr. Alonzo Rothschild, in his interesting study of the relations between Lincoln and Stanton ("Lincoln, Master of Men," p. 229), says: "Intense earnestness marked Stanton's every act. So sharply were all his faculties focused upon the purpose of the hour that he is to be classed among the one-idea men of history. Whatever came between him and his goal encountered an iron will.... Quick to penetrate through the husks of fraud into the very nubbin of things, he was even more swiftly moved by relentless wrath to insist upon exposure and punishment. The brief career [as Attorney General] in Buchanan's cabinet had been long enough to demonstrate his almost savage hostility toward official dishonesty, as well as his moral courage to grapple with treason in high places. Above all, he evinced a loyalty to the Union that rose above the party creed of a lifetime—that might demand of him any sacrifice however great."

The first weeks of President Lincoln's residence in the Executive Mansion were occupied with the arduous work of selecting loyal and capable men for responsible positions in the Government service. The departments at Washington were filled with disloyal men, who used the means and influence pertaining to their places to aid the rebellious States. It was of vital importance that these faithless officials should be removed at the earliest moment, and their positions filled with men of tried integrity. Lincoln desired to appoint for this purpose stanch, competent, and trustworthy citizens, regardless of party distinctions. But the labor involved in this duty was enormous and exhausting. There was a multitude of vacant places, there were difficult questions to be considered in a majority of cases, and there was a host of applicants and their friends to be satisfied. Mr. Charles A. Dana relates a circumstance which hints at the troubles encountered by Lincoln in this province of his Presidential duties. "The first time I saw Mr. Lincoln," says Mr. Dana, "was shortly after his inauguration. He had appointed Mr. Seward to be his Secretary of State; and some of the Republican leaders of New York, who had been instrumental in preventing Mr. Seward's nomination to the Presidency and in securing that of Mr. Lincoln, had begun to fear that they would be left out in the cold in the distribution of the offices. Accordingly several of them determined to go to Washington, and I was asked to go with them. We all went up to the White House together, except Mr. Stanton, who stayed away because he was himself an applicant for office. Mr. Lincoln received us in the large room upstairs in the east wing of the White House, where the President had his working office, and stood up while General Wadsworth, who was our principal spokesman, stated what was desired. After the interview was begun, a big Indianian, who was a messenger in attendance in the White House, came into the room and said to the President, 'She wants you.' 'Yes, yes,' said Mr. Lincoln, without stirring. Soon afterward the messenger returned again, exclaiming, 'I say she wants you.' The President was evidently annoyed, but instead of going out after the messenger he remarked to us: 'One side shall not gobble up everything. Make out a list of the places and men you want, and I will endeavor to apply the rule of give and take.' General Wadsworth answered: 'Our party will not be able to remain in Washington, but we will leave such a list with Mr. Carroll, and whatever he agrees to will be agreeable to us.' Mr. Lincoln continued, 'Let Mr. Carroll come in to-morrow, and we will see what can be done.'"

Lincoln was regarded with violent animosity by all who were in sympathy with the peculiar prejudices of the slave States. The inhabitants of the District of Columbia looked upon him with especial dislike. He was to them an odious embodiment of the abhorred principles of Abolitionism. As an illustration of this bitter feeling, Mr. Arnold narrates the following anecdote: "A distinguished South Carolina lady—one of the Howards—the widow of a Northern scholar, called upon him out of curiosity. She was very proud and aristocratic, and was curious to see a man who had been represented to her as a monster, a mixture of the ape and the tiger. She was shown into the room where were Mr. Lincoln and Senators Seward, Hale, Chase, and other prominent members of Congress. As Mr. Seward, whom she knew, presented her to the President, she hissed in his ear: 'I am a South Carolinian.' Instantly reading her character, he turned and addressed her with the greatest courtesy, and dignified and gentlemanly politeness. After listening a few moments, astonished to find him so different from what he had been described to her, she said: 'Why, Mr. Lincoln, you look, act, and speak like a kind, good-hearted, generous man.' 'And did you expect to meet a savage?' said he. 'Certainly I did, or even something worse,' replied she. 'I am glad I have met you,' she continued, 'and now the best way to preserve peace is for you to go to Charleston and show the people what you are, and tell them you have no intention of injuring them.' Returning home, she found a party of Secessionists, and on entering the room she exclaimed, 'I have seen him! I have seen him!' 'Who?' they inquired. 'That terrible monster, Lincoln, and I found him a gentleman, and I am going to his first levee after his inauguration.' At his first reception, this tall daughter of South Carolina, dressing herself in black velvet, with two long white plumes in her hair, repaired to the White House. She was nearly six feet high, with black eyes and black hair, and in her velvet and white feathers she was a striking and majestic figure. As she approached the President he recognized her immediately. 'Here I am again,' said she, 'that South Carolinian.' 'I am glad to see you,' replied he, 'and to assure you that the first object of my heart is to preserve peace, and I wish that not only you but every son and daughter of South Carolina were here, that I might tell them so.' Mr. Cameron, Secretary of War, came up, and after some remarks he said, 'South Carolina [which had already seceded] is the prodigal son.' 'Ah, Mr. Secretary,' said she, 'if South Carolina is the prodigal son, Uncle Sam, our father, ought to divide the inheritance, and let her go; but they say you are going to make war upon us; is it so?' 'Oh, come back,' said Lincoln, 'tell South Carolina to come back now, and we will kill the fatted calf.'"

The impression which Lincoln made on those who met him at the outset of his career as President, and their varied comments and descriptions, are matters of peculiar interest. At first, many people did not understand him—hardly knew what to make of a personality so unlike any they had ever seen in high places before. But he soon began to show those qualities of calm self-reliance, quickness to grasp the essential factors of a situation and readiness to meet it, courage, patience, firmness, breadth of view and kindliness, practical tact and wisdom, which were a surprise to all who knew him, and are now seen to be but a rapid and logical unfolding, under the stimulus of his enormous responsibilities, of his great natural powers. The test had come, the crisis was upon him; and he met them marvelously well.

General W.T. Sherman contributes an interesting reminiscence at this point. "One day," says General Sherman, "my brother, Senator Sherman, took me with him to see Mr. Lincoln. We found the room full of people. Mr. Lincoln sat at the end of a table, talking with three or four gentlemen, who soon left. John walked up, shook hands, and took a chair near him, holding in his hand some papers referring to minor appointments in the State of Ohio, which formed the subject of conversation. Mr. Lincoln took the papers, said he would refer them to the proper heads of departments, and would be glad to make the appointments asked for, if not already promised. John then turned to me, and said, 'Mr. President, this is my brother, Colonel Sherman, who is just up from Louisiana; he may give you some information you want.' 'Ah!' said Mr. Lincoln, 'how are they getting along down there?' I said, 'They think they are getting along swimmingly—they are preparing for war.' 'Oh, well!' said he, 'I guess we'll manage to keep house.' I was silenced, said no more to him, and we soon left. I was sadly disappointed, and remember that I broke out on John, cursing the politicians generally, saying, 'You have got things in a —— of a fix, and you may get them out as best you can,' adding that the country was sleeping on a volcano that might burst forth at any minute, but that I was going to St. Louis to take care of my family, and would have no more to do with it. John begged me to be more patient, but I said I would not; that I had no time to wait, that I was off for St. Louis; and off I went."

The apartment which Lincoln used as an office in which to transact daily business and to receive informal visits was on the second floor of the White House. Its simple equipments are thus described by Mr. Arnold: "It was about twenty-five by forty feet in size. In the centre, on the west, was a large white marble fireplace, with big old-fashioned brass andirons, and a large and high brass fender. A wood fire was burning in cool weather. The large windows opened on the beautiful lawn to the south, with a view of the unfinished Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Institution, the Potomac, Alexandria, and on down the river toward Mt. Vernon. Across the Potomac were Arlington Heights and Arlington House, late the residence of Robert E. Lee. On the hills around, during nearly all Lincoln's administration, were the white tents of soldiers, field fortifications and camps, and in every direction could be seen the brilliant colors of the national flag. The furniture of this room consisted of a large oak table covered with cloth, extending north and south; and it was around this table that the Cabinet sat when it held its meetings. Near the end of the table, and between the windows, was another table, on the west side of which the President sat in a large armchair, and at this table he wrote. A tall desk with pigeon-holes for papers stood against the south wall. The only books usually found in this room were the Bible, the United States Statutes, and a copy of Shakespeare. There were a few chairs and two plain hair-covered sofas. There were two or three map frames, from which hung military maps on which the position and movements of the armies were traced. On the mantel was an old and discolored engraving of General Jackson and a later photograph of John Bright. Doors opened into this room from the room of the Secretary, and from the outside hall running east and west across the House. A bell cord within reach of his hand extended to the Secretary's office. A messenger who stood at the door opening from the hall took in the cards and names of visitors. Here, in this plain room, Lincoln spent most of his time while President. Here he received everyone, from the Chief Justice and Lieutenant-General to the private soldier and humblest citizen. Custom had fixed certain rules of precedence, and the order in which officials should be received. Members of the Cabinet and the high officers of the army and navy were generally promptly admitted. Senators and members of Congress were received in the order of their arrival. Sometimes there would be a crowd of them waiting their turn. While thus waiting, the loud ringing laugh of Mr. Lincoln would be heard by the waiting and impatient crowd. Here, day after day, often from early morning to late at night, Lincoln sat, listened, talked, and decided. He was patient, just, considerate, and hopeful. The people came to him as to a father. He saw everyone, and many wasted his precious time. Governors, Senators, Congressmen, officers, clergymen, bankers, merchants—all classes approached him with familiarity. This incessant labor, the study of the great problems he had to decide, the worry of constant importunity, the quarrels of officers of the army, the care, anxiety, and responsibility of his position, wore upon his vigorous frame."

Mr. Ben. Perley Poore states that "the White House, while Mr. Lincoln occupied it, was a fertile field for news, which he was always ready to give those correspondents in whom he had confidence; but the surveillance of the press—first by Secretary Seward, and then by Secretary Stanton—was as annoying as it was inefficient.... Often when Mr. Lincoln was engaged, correspondents would send in their cards, bearing requests for some desired item of news or for the verification of some rumor. He would either come out and give the coveted information, or he would write it on the back of the card and send it to the owner. He wrote a legible hand, slowly and laboriously perfecting his sentences before he placed them on paper. The long epistles that he wrote to his generals he copied himself, not wishing anyone else to see them, and these copies were kept in pigeon-holes for reference.... Mr. Lincoln used to wear at the White House in the morning, and after dinner, a long-skirted faded dressing-gown, belted around his waist, and slippers. His favorite attitude when listening—and he was a good listener—was to lean forward, and clasp his left knee with both hands, as if fondling it, and his face would then wear a sad and wearied look. But when the time came for him to give an opinion on what he had heard, or to tell a story which something 'reminded him of,' his face would lighten up with its homely, rugged smile, and he would run his fingers through his bristly black hair, which would stand out in every direction like that of an electric experiment doll."

John G. Nicolay, afterward Lincoln's private secretary, says: "The people beheld in the new President a man six feet four inches in height, a stature which of itself would be hailed in any assemblage as one of the outward signs of leadership; joined to this was a spare but muscular frame, and large strongly-marked features corresponding to his unusual stature. Quiet in demeanor but erect in bearing, his face even in repose was not unattractive; and when lit up by his open, genial smile, or illuminated in the utterance of a strong or stirring thought, his countenance was positively handsome. His voice, pitched in rather a high key, but of great clearness and penetration, made his public remarks audible to a wide circle of listeners."

Henry Champion Deming says of Lincoln's appearance at this time: "Conceive a tall and giant figure, more than six feet in height, not only unencumbered with superfluous flesh, but reduced to the minimum working standard of cord and sinew and muscle, strong and indurated by exposure and toil, with legs and arms long and attenuated, but not disproportionately to the long and attenuated trunk; in posture and carriage not ungraceful, but with the grace of unstudied and careless ease rather than of cultivated airs and high-bred pretensions. His dress is uniformly of black throughout, and would attract but little attention in a well-dressed circle, if it hung less loosely upon him, and if the ample white shirt collar were not turned over his cravat in Western style. The face that surmounts this figure is half Roman and half Indian, bronzed by climate, furrowed by life struggles, seamed with humor; the head is massive and covered with dark, thick, and unmanageable hair; the brow is wide and well developed, the nose large and fleshy, the lips full, cheeks thin and drawn down in strong, corded lines, which, but for the wiry whiskers, would disclose the machinery which moves the broad jaw. The eyes are dark gray, sunk in deep sockets, but bright, soft and beautiful in expression, sometimes lost and half abstracted, as if their glance was reversed and turned inward, or as if the soul which lighted them was far away. The teeth are white and regular, and it is only when a smile, radiant, captivating, and winning as was ever given to mortal, transfigures the plain countenance, that you begin to realize that it is not impossible for artists to admire and women to love it."

Mr. John Bigelow, who was appointed consul to Paris in 1861, and was afterwards minister to France, describes in his "Retrospections of an Active Life" his first visit to Lincoln and the impressions gained by him at that early period in Lincoln's official career. "The day following my arrival in Washington Preston King, Senator from New York, invited me to go with him to be presented to President Lincoln, an invitation which of course I embraced with alacrity; for as yet I had not met him, and knew him only by his famous senatorial campaign against Douglas in Illinois and the masterly address which he delivered at the Cooper Institute shortly before his nomination in New York.... The new President received us in his private room at an early hour of the morning; another gentleman was with him at the time, a member of the Senate, I believe. We were with him from a half to three-quarters of an hour. The conversation, in which I took little or no part, turned upon the operations in the field. I observed no sign of weakness in anything the President said; neither did I hear anything that particularly impressed me, which, under the circumstances, was not surprising. What did impress me, however, was what I can only describe as a certain lack of sovereignty. He seemed to me, nor was it in the least strange that he did, like a man utterly unconscious of the space which the President of the United States occupied that day in the history of the human race, and of the vast power for the exercise of which he had become personally responsible. This impression was strengthened by Mr. Lincoln's modest habit of disclaiming knowledge of affairs and familiarity with duties, and frequent avowals of ignorance, which, even where it exists, it is as well for a captain as far as possible to conceal from the public. The authority of an executive officer largely consists in what his constituents think it is. Up to that time Mr. Lincoln had had few opportunities of showing the nation the qualities which won all hearts and made him one of the most conspicuous and enduring historic characters of the century."

Some uncommonly vivid "first impressions" of Lincoln are given in the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who early in February of 1862 made a visit to Washington for the purpose of delivering a lecture before the Smithsonian Institution—a lecture which Lincoln is said to have attended. A day or two afterwards Emerson was taken by Senator Sumner of Massachusetts to call at the White House. "The President impressed me," says Emerson, "more favorably than I had hoped. A frank, sincere, well-meaning man, with a lawyer's habit of mind, good clear statement of his facts; correct enough, not vulgar, as described, but with a sort of boyish cheerfulness, or that kind of sincerity and jolly good meaning that our class-meetings on Commencement Days show, in telling our old stories over. When he has made his remark he looks up at you with great satisfaction, and shows all his white teeth, and laughs.... When I was introduced to him he said, 'Oh, Mr. Emerson, I once heard you say in a lecture that a Kentuckian seems to say by his air and manners, "Here am I; if you don't like me, the worse for you."'" (The point of this of course is that Lincoln was himself a Kentuckian.) A day or two later Emerson again called on the President, this time in the company of Secretary Seward. It being Sunday evening, Seward asked the President if he had been to church, to which the latter answered that he had not—that he had been reading, for the first time, Senator Sumner's speech in the Senate on the Trent affair. This was followed by some general conversation on the Trent affair, in which the President expressed his gratification at the friendly attitude taken in the matter by France and Spain.

Private Secretary Hay thus writes of Lincoln's character and disposition: "All agree that the most marked characteristic of Mr. Lincoln's manners was his simplicity and artlessness; this immediately impressed itself upon the observation of those who met him for the first time, and each successive interview deepened the impression. People seemed delighted to find in the ruler of the nation freedom from pomposity and affectation, mingled with a certain simple dignity which never forsook him. Though oppressed with the weight of responsibility resting upon him as President of the United States, he shrank from assuming any of the honors, or even the titles, of the position. After years of intimate acquaintance with Mr. Lincoln, the writer cannot now recall a single instance in which he spoke of himself as President, or used that title for himself except when acting in an official capacity. He always spoke of his position and office vaguely, as, 'this place,' 'here,' or other modest phrase. Once, speaking of the room in the Capitol used by the Presidents of the United States during the close of a session of Congress, he said, 'That room, you know, that they call'—dropping his voice and hesitating—'the President's room.' To an intimate friend who addressed him always by his own proper title, he said, 'Now call me Lincoln, and I'll promise not to tell of the breach of etiquette—if you, won't—and I shall have a resting-spell from "Mister President."' With all his simplicity and unacquaintance with courtly manners, his native dignity never forsook him in the presence of critical polished strangers; but mixed with his angularities and bonhomie was something which spoke the fine fiber of the man; and while his sovereign disregard of courtly conventionalities was somewhat ludicrous, his native sweetness and straightforwardness of manner served to disarm criticism and impress the visitor that he was before a man pure, self-poised, collected, and strong in unconscious strength. Of him, an accomplished foreigner, whose knowledge of the courts was more perfect than that of the English language, said, 'He seems to me one grand gentilhomme in disguise.'" Mr. Hay adds that Lincoln's simplicity of manner "was marked in his total lack of consideration of what was due his exalted station. He had an almost morbid dread of what he called 'a scene'—that is, a demonstration of applause, such as always greeted his appearance in public. The first sign of a cheer sobered him; he appeared sad and oppressed, suspended conversation, and looked out into vacancy; and when it was over, resumed the conversation just where it was interrupted, with an obvious feeling of relief.... Speaking of an early acquaintance who was an applicant for an office which he thought him hardly qualified to fill, the President said, 'Well, now, I never thought M—— had any more than average ability, when we were young men together; really I did not.' [A pause.] 'But, then, I suppose he thought just the same about me; he had reason to, and—here I am!'"

General Carl Schurz says: "In the White House, as in his simple home in Springfield, Mr. Lincoln was the same plain, unaffected, unpretentious citizen. He won the admiration and affection of even the most punctilious of the foreign diplomats by the tenderness of his nature and the touching simplicity of his demeanor.... He was, in mind and heart, the very highest type of development of a plain man. He was a born leader of men, and the qualities that made him a leader were of the plain, common-sense type.... Lincoln had one great advantage over all the chief statesmen of his day. He had a thorough knowledge of the plain people. He knew their habits, their modes of thought, their unfailing sense of justice and right. He relied upon the popular feeling, in great measure, for his guidance."

Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe said of the qualities which Lincoln exhibited in the White House: "Lincoln is a strong man, but his strength is of a peculiar kind; it is not aggressive so much as passive; and among passive things, it is like the strength not so much of a stone buttress as of a wire cable. It is strength swaying to every influence, yielding on this side and on that, to popular needs, yet tenaciously and inflexibly bound to carry its great end.... Slow and careful in coming to resolutions, willing to talk with every person who has anything to show on any side of a disputed subject, long in weighing and pondering, attached to constitutional limits and time-honored landmarks, Lincoln certainly was the safest leader a nation could have at a time when the habeas corpus must be suspended and all the constitutional and minor rights of citizens be thrown into the hands of their military leader. A reckless, bold, theorizing, dashing man of genius might have wrecked our Constitution and ended us in a splendid military despotism."

The fear lest the virulent enemies of the administration should attempt to assassinate Lincoln was so wide-spread that military measures were enforced to protect him from secret assault. General Charles P. Stone, to whom the duty was entrusted of establishing the necessary precautions, has furnished a brief report on the subject. "From the first," says General Stone, "I took, under the orders of the General-in-chief, especial care in guarding the Executive Mansion—without, however, doing it so ostentatiously as to attract public attention. It was not considered advisable that it should appear that the President of the United States was, for his personal safety, obliged to surround himself by armed guards. Mr. Lincoln was not consulted in the matter. But Captain Todd, formerly an officer of the regular army, who was, I believe, the brother-in-law of Mr. Lincoln, was then residing in the Presidential Mansion, and with him I was daily and nightly in communication, in order that in case of danger one person in the President's household should know where to find the main body of the guard, to the officer commanding which Captain Todd was each night introduced. Double sentries were placed in the shrubbery all around the mansion, and the main body of the guard was posted in a vacant basement-room, from which a staircase led to the upper floors. A person entering by the main gate and walking up to the front door of the Executive Mansion during the night could see no sign of a guard; but from the moment anyone entered the grounds by any entrance, he was under the view of at least two riflemen standing silent in the shrubbery, and any suspicious movement on his part would have caused his immediate arrest; while inside, the call of Captain Todd would have been promptly answered by armed men. The precautions were taken before Fort Sumter was fired on, as well as afterward. One night near midnight," continues General Stone, "I entered the grounds for the purpose of inspecting the guard, and was surprised to see a bright light in the East room. As I entered the basement I heard a loud noise, as of many voices talking loudly, mingled with the ringing of arms, coming from the great reception room. On questioning the commander of the guard, I learned that many gentlemen had entered the house at a late hour, but they had come in boldly; no objection had been made from within, but on the contrary Captain Todd had told him all was right. I ascended the interior staircase and entered the East room, where I found more than fifty men, among whom were Hon. Cassius M. Clay and General Lane. All were armed with muskets, which they were generally examining, and it was the ringing of many rammers in the musket barrels which had caused the noise I had heard. Mr. Clay informed me that he and a large number of political friends, deeming it very improper that the President's person should in such times be unguarded, had formed a voluntary guard which would remain there every night and see to it that Mr. Lincoln was well protected. I applauded the good spirit exhibited, but did not, however, cease the posting of the outside guards, nor the nightly inspections myself as before, until the time came when others than myself became responsible for the safety of the President."

It is stated that Lincoln "had an almost morbid dislike to an escort, or guard, and daily exposed himself to the deadly aim of an assassin." To the remonstrances of friends, who feared his constant exposure to danger, he had but one answer: "If they kill me, the next man will be just as bad for them; and in a country like this, where our habits are simple, and must be, assassination is always possible, and will come if they are determined upon it." A cavalry guard was once placed at the gates of the White House for a while, and Lincoln said that he "worried until he got rid of it." He once remarked to Colonel Halpine: "It would never do for a President to have guards with drawn sabers at his door, as if he fancied he were, or were trying to be, or were assuming to be, an emperor." While the President's family were at their summer-house, near Washington, he rode into town of a morning, or out at night, attended by a mounted escort; but if he returned to town for a while after dark, he rode in unguarded, and often alone, in his open carriage. On more than one occasion, the same writer tells us, he "has gone through the streets of Washington at a late hour of the night with the President, without escort, or even the company of a servant, walking all the way, going and returning. Considering the many open and secret threats to take his life, it is not surprising that Lincoln had many thoughts about his coming to a sudden and violent end. He once said that he felt the force of the expression, 'To take one's life in his hand'; but that he would not like to face death suddenly. He said that he thought himself a great coward physically, and was sure that he would make a poor soldier, for unless there was something inspiriting in the excitement of a battle he was sure that he would drop his gun and run at the first symptom of danger. That was said sportively, and he added, 'Moral cowardice is something which I think I never had.'"


Civil War—Uprising of the Nation—The President's First Call for Troops—Response of the Loyal North—The Riots in Baltimore—Loyalty of Stephen A. Douglas—Douglas's Death—Blockade of Southern Ports—Additional War Measures—Lincoln Defines the Policy of the Government—His Conciliatory Course—His Desire to Save Kentucky—The President's First Message to Congress—Gathering of Troops in Washington—Reviews and Parades—Disaster at Bull Run—The President Visits the Army—Good Advice to an Angry Officer—A Peculiar Cabinet Meeting—Dark Days for Lincoln—A "Black Mood" in the White House—Lincoln's Unfaltering Courage—Relief in Story-telling—A Pretty Good Land Title—"Measuring up" with Charles Sumner—General Scott "Unable as a Politician"—A Good Drawing-plaster—The New York Millionaires who Wanted a Gunboat—A Good Bridge-builder—A Sick Lot of Office-seekers.

The Confederate attack upon Fort Sumter—a United States fort situated at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, South Carolina—April 12, 1861, was the signal that civil war had actually begun. Lincoln had thus far maintained a conciliatory policy toward the States in rebellion, hoping to the last that good sense and reason prevailing over rash and violent impulses would induce them to resume their allegiance to the Government. Their resort to arms and capture of forts and property of the United States decided the course of the administration; and on the 15th of April—forty-two days after his accession to the Presidency—Lincoln issued a proclamation asking for the immediate enlistment of 75,000 volunteers,[C] and summoning Congress to convene in an extra session on the 4th of July. The call was sent forth in the following form:


By the President of the United States.

WHEREAS, the laws of the United States have been for some time past and now are opposed and the execution thereof obstructed in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by law; now, therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, in order to suppress said combinations and to cause the laws to be duly executed.

The details of this object will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department. I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity and existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government, and to redress wrongs already long enough endured. I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned to the forces hereby called forth will probably be to repossess the forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union; and in every event the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of, or interference with, property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens of any part of the country; and I hereby command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes, within twenty days from this date.

Deeming that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, I do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution, convene both Houses of Congress. The Senators and Representatives are, therefore, summoned to assemble at their respective chambers, at twelve o'clock, noon, on Thursday, the fourth day of July next, then and there to consider and determine such measures as, in their wisdom, the public safety and interest may seem to demand.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this fifteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.

By the President, ABRAHAM LINCOLN. WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

The issue of this proclamation created the wildest enthusiasm throughout the North. Scarcely a voice was raised against it, as it was seen to be a measure of absolute necessity and of self-defense on the part of the Government. "Every Northern State," says Mr. Henry I. Raymond, "responded promptly to the President's demand, and from private persons, as well as by the Legislatures, men, arms, and money were offered in unstinted profusion, and with the most zealous alacrity, in support of the Government. Massachusetts was first in the field, and on the first day after the issue of the proclamation her Sixth regiment, completely equipped, started from Boston for the national capital. Two more regiments were also made ready, and took their departure within forty-eight hours."

The Sixth Massachusetts regiment was attacked on its way to Washington, on the 19th of April, by a mob in Baltimore, carrying a Confederate flag, and several of its members were killed or severely wounded. "This," continues Mr. Raymond, "inflamed to a still higher point the excitement which already pervaded the country. The whole Northern section of the Union felt outraged that troops should be assailed and murdered on their way to protect the capital of the nation. In Maryland, where the secession party was strong, there was also great excitement, and the Governor of the State and the Mayor of Baltimore united in urging, for prudential reasons, that no more troops should be brought through that city." In answer to the remonstrances of Governor Hicks and a committee from Maryland, who presented their petition in person, Lincoln, intent on avoiding every cause of offense, and with a forbearance that now seems incredible, replied: "Troops must be brought here; but I make no point of bringing them through Baltimore. Without any military knowledge myself, of course I must leave details to General Scott. He hastily said this morning, in the presence of these gentlemen, 'March them around Baltimore, and not through it.' I sincerely hope the General, on fuller reflection, will consider this practical and proper, and that you will not object to it. By this, a collision of the people of Baltimore with the troops will be avoided, unless they go out of their way to seek it. I hope you will exert your influence to prevent this. Now and ever, I shall do all in my power for peace, consistently with the maintenance of the Government."

One of the most encouraging incidents of this opening chapter of the war was the announcement that Stephen A. Douglas, the great leader of the Democracy and the life-long political opponent of Lincoln, had declared his purpose to stand by the Government. The effect of this action, at this crisis, was most salutary; it ranged the Northern Democrats with the defenders of the Union, and gave Lincoln a united North as the act of no other individual could have done. From that time until his death Douglas never faltered in his loyalty, and stood by the Government with a zeal and patriotism which were above all lower considerations of person or of party. On Sunday, the 14th of April, when Washington was thrilling with excitement over the fall of Fort Sumter, Douglas called on the President and after a brief conversation authorized a statement to be telegraphed throughout the country that he was "fully prepared to sustain the President in the exercise of all his Constitutional functions, to preserve the Union, maintain the Government, and defend the Federal capital. A firm policy and prompt action were necessary. The capital was in danger, and must be defended at all hazards, and at any expense of men and money." Faithful to his pledge, Douglas immediately set out upon a tour through the Northwest, to strengthen, by his words and presence, the spirit of loyalty among the people. He made a series of eloquent speeches on his journey to Chicago, where he arrived worn and spent with the fatigue and excitement of his undertaking. It was the last and noblest service of his life. Illness ensued, and after a few weeks of suffering he passed away, June 3, at the age of forty-eight. His death was an irreparable loss, mourned by the President and the nation.

The President's call for troops was succeeded on the 19th of April by a proclamation declaring a blockade of Southern ports. The text of this document is historically important, as definitely formulating the attitude and policy of the Government.

Whereas, An insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and the laws of the United States for the collection of the revenue cannot be efficiently executed therein, conformably to that provision of the Constitution which requires duties to be uniform throughout the United States:

And whereas, A combination of persons, engaged in such insurrection, have threatened to grant pretended letters of marque to authorize the bearers thereof to commit assaults on the lives, vessels, and property of good citizens of the country lawfully engaged in commerce on the high seas, and in waters of the United States:

And whereas, An Executive Proclamation has already been issued, requiring the persons engaged in these disorderly proceedings to desist therefrom, calling out a militia force for the purpose of repressing the same, and convening Congress in extraordinary session to deliberate and determine thereon:

Now, therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, with a view to the same purposes before mentioned, and to the protection of the public peace, and the lives and property of quiet and orderly citizens pursuing their lawful occupations, until Congress shall have assembled and deliberated on the said unlawful proceedings, or until the same shall have ceased, have further deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, in pursuance of the laws of the United States, and of the laws of nations in such cases provided. For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid. If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, a vessel shall approach or shall attempt to leave any of the said ports, she shall be duly warned by the commander of one of the blockading vessels, who shall indorse on her register the fact and date of such warning; and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port, she will be captured and sent to the nearest convenient port, for such proceedings against her and her cargo, as prize, as may be deemed advisable.

And I hereby proclaim and declare, that if any person, under the pretended authority of said States, or under any other pretense, shall molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons or cargo on board of her, such person will be held amenable to the laws of the United States for the prevention and punishment of piracy.

By the President, ABRAHAM LINCOLN. WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State. WASHINGTON, April 19, 1861.

On the 27th of April the President issued a proclamation by which the blockade of Southern ports was extended to the ports of North Carolina and Virginia. And on the 16th of May, by another proclamation, the President directed the commander of the United States forces in Florida to "permit no person to exercise any office or authority upon the islands of Key West, Tortugas, and Santa Rosa, which may be inconsistent with the laws and Constitution of the United States; authorizing him, at the same time, if he shall find it necessary, to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and to remove from the vicinity of the United States fortresses all dangerous and suspected persons."

The Virginia Convention which passed the ordinance of secession (April 17) having appointed a committee to wait upon the President and "respectfully ask him to communicate to this Convention the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue in regard to the Confederate States," Lincoln in reply thus clearly outlined the policy and purposes of the Government:

In answer I have to say, that having at the beginning of my official term expressed my intended policy as plainly as I was able, it is with deep regret and mortification I now learn there is great and injurious uncertainty in the public mind as to what that policy is and what course I intend to pursue. Not having as yet seen occasion to change, it is now my purpose to pursue the course marked out in the Inaugural Address. I commend a careful consideration of the whole document as the best expression I can give to my purposes. As I then and therein said, I now repeat: "The power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what is necessary for these objects there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere." By the words "property and places belonging to the Government," I chiefly allude to the military posts and property which were in possession of the Government when it came into my hands. But if, as now appears to be true, in pursuit of a purpose to drive the United States authority from these places, an unprovoked assault has been made upon Fort Sumter, I shall hold myself at liberty to repossess, if I can, like places which had been seized before the Government was devolved upon me; and in any event I shall, to the best of my ability, repel force by force. In case it proves true that Fort Sumter has been assaulted, as is reported, I shall, perhaps, cause the United States mails to be withdrawn from all the States which claim to have seceded, believing that the commencement of actual war against the Government justifies and possibly demands it. I scarcely need to say that I consider the military posts and property situated within the States which claim to have seceded, as yet belonging to the Government of the United States as much as they did before the supposed secession. Whatever else I may do for the purpose, I shall not attempt to collect the duties and imposts by any armed invasion of any part of the country; not meaning by this, however, that I may not land a force deemed necessary to relieve a fort upon the border of the country. From the fact that I have quoted a part of the Inaugural Address, it must not be inferred that I repudiate any other part, the whole of which I reaffirm, except so far as what I now say of the mails may be regarded as a modification.


In the early period of Lincoln's administration he was hopeful that many serious phases of the threatened trouble might be averted, and that the better judgment of the citizens of the South might prevail. "For more than a month after his inauguration," says Secretary Welles, "President Lincoln indulged the hope, I may say felt a strong confidence, that Virginia would not secede but would adhere to the Union.... That there should be no cause of offense, no step that would precipitate or justify secession, he enjoined forbearance from all unnecessary exercise of political party authority." But he was very decided and determined as to what his duty was and what his action would be if the secessionists and disunionists pressed their case. He said: "The disunionists did not want me to take the oath of office. I have taken it, and I intend to administer the office for the benefit of the people, in accordance with the Constitution and the law." He was especially anxious that Kentucky should not be plunged into a rebellious war, as he saw that this State would be of the utmost importance to the Union cause. Soon after the bombardment of Fort Sumter a conference was held between the President and a number of prominent Kentuckians then in Washington, at which Lincoln expressed himself in the most earnest words. Kentucky, he declared, "must not be precipitated into secession. She is the key to the situation. With her faithful to the Union, the discord in the other States will come to an end. She is now in the hands of those who do not represent the people. The sentiment of her State officials must be counteracted. We must arouse the young men of the State to action for the Union. We must know what men in Kentucky have the confidence of the people, and who can be relied on for good judgment, that they may be brought to the support of the Government at once." He paid a high tribute to the patriotism of the Southern men who had stood up against secession. "But," said he, "they are, as a rule, beyond the meridian of life, and their counsel and example do not operate quickly, if at all, on the excitable nature of young men who become inflamed by the preparations for war, and who in such a war as this will be, if it goes on, are apt to go in on the side that gives the first opportunity. The young men must not be permitted to drift away from us. I know that the men who voted against me in Kentucky will not permit this Government to be swept away by any such issue as that framed by the disunionists."

As Mr. Markland, a prominent Kentuckian, relates, in his reminiscences of the period: "Immediately a campaign for the Union was begun in Kentucky. The State could not be dragooned into open secession, therefore the neutrality policy was adopted. That policy was more rigidly observed by Mr. Lincoln than it was by his opponents, but he was not misled by it. Judge Joseph Holt made eloquent appeals for the Union through the columns of the press and from the forum, as did the Speeds, the Goodloes, and many others of prominence. Rousseau, Jacobs, Poundbaker, and others, stood guard in the Legislature, and by their eloquence stayed the tide of disunion there. The labors of Judge Holt, the Speeds, the Goodloes, Cassius M. Clay, and their followers, had brought forth fruit for the Union. The patriotic men in the Legislature had done their work well. The men in the camps on the north side of the Ohio river moved over into Kentucky, and the invasion of Confederates which was to sweep Kentucky into secession was at an end. Kentucky was saved to the Union by the wise counsel and pacific policy of Abraham Lincoln."

A special session of Congress convened on the 4th of July, in obedience to the summons of the President in his proclamation of April 15. The following day the message of the Executive rehearsed to the joint Houses the circumstances which had rendered their assembling necessary. It portrayed in clear and succinct words the situation of affairs, the aggressive acts of the States aiming to disrupt the Federal Union, and the measures adopted by the administration to frustrate their attempts. The assailants of the Government, said the President, "have forced upon the country the distinct issue, 'immediate dissolution or blood.' And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional Republic or Democracy—a Government of the people by the same people—can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration according to organic law in any case, can always, upon the pretenses made in this case, or on any other pretenses, or arbitrarily, without any pretense, break up their Government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask, 'Is there, in all Republics, this inherent and fatal weakness? Must a Government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?'" The message requested of Congress "the legal means for making this contest a short and decisive one; that you place at the control of the Government, for the work, at least four hundred thousand men and $400,000,000. That number of men is about one-tenth of those of proper ages within the regions where, apparently, all are willing to engage; and the sum is less than a twenty-third part of the money value owned by the men who seem ready to devote the whole. A debt of $600,000,000 now is a less sum per head than was the debt of our Revolution when we came out of that struggle; and the money value in the country now bears even a greater proportion to what it was then than does the population. Surely each man has as strong a motive now to preserve our liberties as each had then to establish them." The message dwelt upon the encouraging facts "that the free institutions we enjoy have developed the powers and improved the condition of our whole people beyond any example in the world. Of this we now have a striking and an impressive illustration. So large an army as the Government has now on foot was never before known without a soldier in it but had taken his place there of his own free choice. But more than this; there are many single regiments whose members, one and another, possess full practical knowledge of all the arts, sciences, professions, and whatever else, whether useful or elegant, is known in the world; and there is scarcely one from which there could not be selected a President, a Cabinet, a Congress, and perhaps a Court, abundantly competent to administer the Government itself." Finally, and eloquently, the message demonstrated the significance of the war in its effect upon the liberties and prayers of all mankind. This message again illustrates Lincoln's singular power of stating clearly and convincingly the nature and exigencies of the struggle for the Preservation of the Union. Said he:

This is essentially a people's contest. On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men; to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuits for all; to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the Government for whose existence we contend. I am most happy to believe that the plain people understand and appreciate this. It is worthy of note that while, in this the Government's hour of trial, large numbers of those in the army and navy who have been favored with the offices have resigned and proved false to the hand which had pampered them, not one common soldier or common sailor is known to have deserted his flag. Great honor is due to those officers who remained true, despite the example of their treacherous associates; but the greatest honor, and most important fact of all, is the unanimous firmness of the common soldiers and common sailors. To the last man, so far as known, they have successfully resisted the traitorous efforts of those whose commands but an hour before they obeyed as absolute law. This is the patriotic instinct of plain people. They understand, without an argument, that destroying the Government which was made by Washington means no good to them. Our popular Government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it our people have already settled—the successful establishing and the successful administering of it. One still remains—its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided, there can be no successful appeal back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal, except to ballots themselves, at succeeding elections. Such will be a great lesson of peace: teaching men that what they cannot take by an election, neither can they take by a war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war.

Through the early summer of 1861 Washington was alive with preparations for a military movement against the enemy in Virginia. Troops from the North were constantly arriving, and as rapidly as possible were assigned to different organizations and drilled in the art of war. "Few comparatively know or can appreciate the actual condition of things and the state of feeling of the members of the Administration in those days," says Secretary Welles. "Nearly sixty years of peace had unfitted us for any war; but the most terrible of all wars, a civil war, was upon us, and it had to be met. Congress had adjourned without making any provision for the storm, though aware it was at hand and soon to burst upon the country. A new Administration, its members scarcely acquainted with each other, and differing essentially in the past, was compelled to act, promptly and decisively." The burden upon the President began to grow tremendous; but he did not shrink or falter.

Upon his back a more than Atlas-load, The burden of the Commonwealth, was laid; He stooped, and rose up to it, though the road Shot suddenly downwards, not a whit dismayed.

He labored incessantly in urging forward the preparations for the great struggle which, however he might regret it, he now saw was inevitable. He was in daily conference with the officers of the army and of the War Department, and was present at innumerable reviews and parades of the soldiers. The 4th of July was memorable for a grand review of all the New York troops in and about the city. It was a brilliant and impressive scene. Says a spectator, Hon. A.G. Riddle: "As they swept past—twenty-five thousand boys in blue—their muskets flashing, bands playing, and banners waving, I stood near a distinguished group surrounding the President, and noted his countenance as he turned to the massive moving column. All about him were excited, confident, exultant. He stood silent, pale, profoundly sad, as though his prophetic soul saw what was to follow. He seemed to be gazing beyond the splendid pageant before him, upon things hidden from other eyes. Was there presaged to him a vision of that grander review of our victorious armies at the close of the war, which he was not to see?"

A few days later, all the troops in Washington crossed the Long Bridge and marched, gallant and exultant, straight toward the enemy in Virginia. The advance of our army resulted, on the 21st of July, in the shameful disaster at Bull Run. The North was filled with surprise and dismay, and even the stoutest hearts were burdened with anxiety for the future. Lincoln at first shared somewhat in the general depression, but his elastic spirits quickly rallied from the shock. Three or four days after the battle, some gentlemen who had been on the field called upon him. He inquired very minutely regarding all the circumstances of the affair, and after listening with the utmost attention, said, with a touch of humor: "So it's your notion that we whipped the rebels, and then ran away from them!" Not long after this, the President made a personal visit to the army in Virginia. General Sherman, at that time connected with the Army of the Potomac, says: "I was near the river-bank, looking at a block-house which had been built for the defense of the aqueduct, when I saw a carriage coming by the road that crossed the Potomac river at Georgetown by a ferry. I thought I recognized in the carriage the person of President Lincoln. I hurried across a bend, so as to stand by the roadside as the carriage passed. I was in uniform, with a sword on, and was recognized by Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, who rode side by side in an open hack. I inquired if they were going to my camp, and Mr. Lincoln said: 'Yes; we heard that you had got over the big scare, and we thought we would come over and see the boys.' The roads had been much changed and were rough. I asked if I might give directions to his coachman; he promptly invited me to jump in, and to tell the coachman which way to drive. Intending to begin on the right and follow round to the left, I turned the driver into a side-road which led up a very steep hill, and, seeing a soldier, called to him and sent him up hurriedly to announce to the Colonel whose camp we were approaching that the President was coming. As we slowly ascended the hill, I discovered that Mr. Lincoln was full of feeling, and wanted to encourage our men. I asked if he intended to speak to them, and he said he would like to. I asked him then to please discourage all cheering, noise, or any sort of confusion; that we had had enough of it before Bull Run to ruin any set of men, and that what we needed were cool, thoughtful, hard-fighting soldiers—no more hurrahing, no more humbug. He took my remarks in the most perfect good-nature. Before we had reached the first camp, I heard the drum beating the 'assembly,' saw the men running for their tents, and in a few minutes the regiment was in line, arms presented, and then brought to an 'order' and 'parade rest.' Mr. Lincoln stood up in the carriage, and made one of the neatest, best, and most feeling addresses I ever listened to, referring to our late disaster at Bull Run, the high duties that still devolved on us, and the brighter days yet to come. At one or two points the soldiers began to cheer, but he promptly checked them, saying: 'Don't cheer, boys. I confess I rather like it myself, but Colonel Sherman here says that it is not military; and I guess we had better defer to his opinion.' In winding up, he explained that, as President, he was commander-in-chief; that he was resolved that the soldiers should have everything that the law allowed; and he called on one and all to appeal to him personally in case they were wronged. The effect of this speech was excellent. We passed along in the same manner to all the camps of my brigade; and Mr. Lincoln complimented me highly for the order, cleanliness, and discipline that he observed. Indeed, he and Mr. Seward both assured me that it was the first bright moment that they had experienced since the battle."

"In the crowd at Fort Corcoran," continues General Sherman, "I saw an officer with whom I had had a little difficulty that morning. His face was pale and his lips were compressed. I foresaw a scene, but sat on the front seat of the carriage as quiet as a lamb. This officer forced his way through the crowd to the carriage, and said: 'Mr. President, I have a cause of grievance. This morning I went to speak to Colonel Sherman, and he threatened to shoot me.' Mr. Lincoln, who was still standing, said, 'Threatened to shoot you?' 'Yes, sir, he threatened to shoot me.' Mr. Lincoln looked at him, then at me; and stooping his tall, spare form toward the officer, said to him in a loud stage-whisper, easily heard for some yards around: 'Well, if I were you, and he threatened to shoot, I would not trust him, for I believe he would do it.' The officer turned about and disappeared, and the men laughed at him. Soon the carriage drove on, and as we descended the hill I explained the facts to the President, who answered, 'Of course I didn't know anything about it, but I thought you knew your own business best.' I thanked him for his confidence, and assured him that what he had done would go far to enable me to maintain good discipline; and it did."

The days following the Bull Run disaster were full of depression and discouragement, but Lincoln bore up bravely. He began to feel the terrible realities of his position, and saw himself brought face to face with the most awful responsibilities that ever rested upon human shoulders. A disrupted Union, the downfall of the great American Republic, so long predicted by envious critics of our institutions, seemed about to be accomplished. At the best, the Union could be saved only by the shedding of seas of priceless blood and the expenditure of untold treasures. And he must act, control, choose, and direct the measures of the Government and the movements of its vast armies. And what if all should fail? What if the resources of the Government should prove inadequate, and its enemies too powerful to be subdued by force? No wonder he was appalled and well-nigh overwhelmed by the dark prospect before him.

Rev. Robert Collyer tells of seeing Lincoln in the summer of 1861, on the steps of the White House, "answering very simply and kindly to the marks of respect some soldiers had come to pay him, who stood in deep ranks on the grass, that had been top-dressed with compost enough to cover the whole District of Columbia, as the chairman of the committee that had to pass the account told me. And once, curiously, I saw only his feet. It was soon after the battle of Bull Run, when some say that we ran, and some say that they ran. And all was quiet on the Potomac; but the nation was stamping and champing the bit. And passing the White House one day, I saw three pairs of feet on the sill of an open window; and pausing for a moment, a good-natured fellow said, 'That's the Cabinet a sittin', and them big feet's old Abe's.' So, lecturing in Boston not long after, I said, like a fool as I was, 'That's about all they are good for in Washington, to point their feet out o' window and talk, but go nowhere and do nothing.' When, indeed, the good President's heart was even then breaking with anxiety and trouble."

"One day," says Mr. A.G. Riddle, "I called at the White House to present a distinguished stranger, who had important matters to bring to Mr. Lincoln's notice. It was evening—cold, rainy, and cheerless. The Executive Mansion was gloomy and silent. At Mr. Lincoln's door we were told by the attendant to enter. We found the room quite dark, and seemingly vacant. I advanced a step or two, to determine if anyone were present, and was arrested by a strange apparition, at first not distinguishable: the long, seemingly lifeless, limbs of a man, as if thrown upon a chair and left to sprawl in unseemly disorder. A step further, and the fallen head disclosed the features of the President. I turned back; a word from my companion reached the drooping figure, and a sepulchral voice bade us advance. We came upon a man, in some respects the most remarkable of any time, in the hour of his prostration and weakness—in the depths of that depression to which his inherited melancholy at times reduced him, now perhaps coming to overwhelm him as he thought of the calamities of his country."

An old and intimate friend from Springfield, who visited Lincoln at this period, found the door of his office in the White House locked; but going through a private room and a side entrance, he found the President lying on a sofa, evidently greatly disturbed and much excited, manifestly displeased with the outlook. Jumping up from his reclining position, he advanced, saying: "You know better than any man living that from my boyhood up my ambition was to be President. I am President of one part of this divided country at least; but look at me! I wish I had never been born! I've a white elephant on my hands, one hard to manage. With a fire in my front and rear, having to contend with the jealousies of the military commanders, and not receiving that cordial co-operation and support from Congress that could reasonably be expected, with an active and formidable enemy in the field threatening the very life-blood of the Government, my position is anything but a bed of roses."

But in the darkest hours of the nation's peril, Lincoln never wavered in his purpose. Anxious and careworn, his heart bleeding with grief for the losses of our brave soldiers, and harassed by the grave duties constantly demanding his attention, he had but one purpose,—to go on unfalteringly and unhesitatingly in his course until the supremacy of the Government was restored in every portion of its territory. He wrote in a private letter: "I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsake me."

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