Lincoln starts Chicago meetings

Thursday, November 22, 1860

President-elect Lincoln begins a series of public appearances and private meetings in Chicago  — while potential patronage appointees hovered looking to make a pitch.  He also visits the Wigwam.

Chicago's Wigwam

Ohio politician Donn Piatt recalled: “Mr. Lincoln did not believe, could not be made to believe, that the South meant secession and war.  When I told him, subsequently to this conversation, at a dinner-table in Chicago, where the Hon. Hannibal Hamlin, General [Robert] Schenck, and others were guests, that the Southern people were in dead earnest, meant war, and I doubted whether he would be inaugurated at Washington, he laughed and said the fall of pork at Cincinnati had affected me.  I became somewhat irritated, and told him that in ninety days the land would be whitened with tents. He said in reply, ‘Well, we won’t jump that ditch until we come to it,’ and then, after a pause, he added, ‘I must run the machine as I find it.’  I take no credit to myself for this power of prophecy.  I only said what every one acquainted with the Southern people knew, and the wonder is that Mr. Lincoln should have been so blind to the coming storm.”

Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln leaves for Chicago

Wednesday, November 21, 1860

President-elect Lincoln and wife Mary Todd Lincoln leave Springfield for Chicago where he will confer with Vice President-elect Hannibal Hamlin and others concerning the composition of his Cabinet. Lincoln had been a frequent visitor to Chicago where he often tried cases and gave political speeches. At the Republican National Convention at the Wigwam there on May 16, Lincoln had defeated favored New York State William H. Seward for the nomination.  Lincoln was viewed as more electable in key states that Republicans needed to win the election.  Reluctantly, Seward would become Lincoln’s secretary of state.

The Lincolns are accompanied Senator Lyman Trumbull and his wife.  Trumbull will introduce him to Hamlin at the Tremont Hotel, where Lincoln customarily stayed when in Chicago.

Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Senator Trumbull speaks out on secession crisis

Tuesday, November 20, 1860

Senator Lyman Trumbull

Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull speaks at a Springfield rally celebrating Mr. Lincoln’s election.  Under pressure to address the threat of secession, Lincoln writes out some material for Trumbull to use.  As Mr. Lincoln feared, the press reaction is negative – reinforcing his predilection to make no public statements before he takes office.  Lincoln biographer Michael Burlingame wrote: “The press identified Lincoln as the author of these sentiments, and the public reaction confirmed his view that he should remain silent.”  He complained of his critics: “This is just as I expected, and just what would happen with any declaration I could make.  These political fiends are not half sick enough yet.  ‘Party malice’ and not ‘public good’ possesses them entirely.  ‘They seek a sign, and no sign shall be given them.'”

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Future Confederate Vice President opposes secession

Alexander H. Stephens

Wednesday, November 14, 1860

Former Georgia Congressman Alexander H. Stephens addresses the Georgia State Legislature during a series of presentations for and against secession. Stephens, who had served in Congress with Lincoln for two years, argued forcefully against secession. Reading press reports of the speech, Lincoln subsequently writes Stephens to request a copy. Their correspondence provides insight into Lincoln’s political thinking at the time and that of Stephens – who would become vice president of the Confederacy. Stephens would later deny that he had been considered for the Lincoln cabinet – although Lincoln was under pressure to find a southerner he could appoint.

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Secession process begins

Saturday, November 10, 1860

The South Carolina legislature calls for a state convention to consider secession. By the time that Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated on March 4, 1861, seven southern states will have seceded.

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Lincoln reaches out to his Vice President

Thursday, November 8, 1860

President-elect Abraham Lincoln sends a letter to his running mate for Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin

1860 Republican Ticket

whom he has never met. The Maine senator was chosen at the Republican National Convention in Chicago the previous May – without his consent or that of Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln thinks it wise that the two meet in Chicago later in the month.  Hamlin, a former Democrat, had been chosen to balance the ticket with Lincoln, a former Whig. Together, they had been labeled “black Republicans” by Democrats.  Lincoln’s letter to Hamlin was brief:  “It appears to me that you and I ought to be acquainted, and accordingly I write this as a sort of introduction of myself to you.  You first entered the Senate during the single term I was a member of the House of Representatives, but I have no recollection that we were introduced.  I shall be pleased to receive a line from you. The prospect of Republican success now appears very flattering, so far as I can perceive. Do you see anything to the contrary?”

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Lincoln Considers His Cabinet

Wednesday, November 7, 1860

On the day after his election, President-elect Lincoln began a four-month transition to the Presidency.

Much of that time was spent as he had before the election – greeting visitors at the State Capitol – using the office of the outgoing governor.

Before he went to bed, early that morning, Lincoln had sketched out a list of possible cabinet appointments. Most of the candidates he had barely met and knew primarily by reputation. Most on the original list would eventually be selected.

Election results that continued to reach Springfield’s telegraph office that day confirmed that Lincoln had swept the north – winning a majority of the electoral votes (180 out of 303) but only a plurality of the popular vote in the four-way race. His victory in vote-rich New York was particularly important since the forces of his three opponents had unsuccessfully tried to combine to defeat him that state.

Published in: on November 16, 2010 at 9:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln Wins the Presidency

Tuesday, November 6, 1860

Republican presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln voted in Springfield today. Using a printed ballot, Mr. Lincoln voted for the Republican ticket – but not for himself. He cut that portion of the ballot off. The previous day, he had indicated his intention to vote for his longtime friend, fellow attorney Richard Yates for governor. Both would be elected although only Yates had campaigned. Lincoln – as was the custom – did no personal campaigning in the presidential election of 1860.

Walking with Illinois Secretary of State Ozias M. Hatch and some other friends, Lincoln approached the county courthouse where a large crowd awaited him. “The crowded throng respectfully opened a passage for him from the street to the pools,” reported his future aide and biographer John Hay.

That night, Lincoln waited patiently as election returns poured in from around the country. Lincoln’s secretary, John G. Nicolay, reported that the Hall of the State House of Representatives

Illinois State Capitol

“was filled nearly all night by a crowd, shouting, yelling, singing, dancing and indulging in all sorts of demonstration of happiness as the news came in. Across the street, in an ice cream saloon kept by a Republican, a large number of Republican ladies had a table spread with coffee, sandwiches, cake, oysters and other refreshments for their husbands and friends. It was ‘happy times’ there also. I did not go to bed until about half after four in the morning, and then couldn’t sleep for the shouting and firing of guns.” 

Another future Lincoln aide, John Hay, wrote Lincoln “came in with a retinue of choice spirits, and was received with a strange outburst of enthusiasm which never for an instant grew disrespectful.  There was one of that insolent familiarity of which [Stephen A.] Douglas was the victim in this palce a few weeks ago, when grimy blackguards would slap him on the back and roar, ‘How goes it, my buck!’  Lincoln, who was always a gentleman, is now surrounded with womething of that ‘divinity that doth hedge a king.'”

Published in: on November 12, 2010 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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