Lincoln Sees Step-Mother for Last Time

Thursday, January 31, 1861

Lincoln visits with his step-mother, Sarah Bush Lincoln, and later visits his father grave in Coles County. Upon return to Charleston, Lincoln rejects requests for a speech. The New York Tribune reported: “He stated that the time for a public definition of the policy of his administration had not come, and that he could but express his gratification at seeing so many of his friends and give them a hearty greeting.”

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Lincoln Leaves to Visit Step-Mother

Wednesday, January 30, 1861

Elihu B. Washburne

Future Attorney General Edward Bates “had a protracted interview with Mr. Lincoln, who left the city this morning on a visit to an aged relative in Coles county. He will return in two or three days,” reported John Hay. The “aged relative” was Lincoln’s stepmother, Sarah Bush Lincoln, whom he visited for the last time. Lincoln took a train to Charleston, made one change in Matoon and then stayed over night with friends in Charleston.
Hay also reported that Norman B. “Judd, and a phalanx of his Chicago friends, are here. The indications at present in political circles seem to be that Illinois must waive, for the present, her claim to a seat in the Cabinet. The conflicting interests of distant sections will probably result in the sacrifice of a man, that whom none is more worthy.”
Lincoln received a letter from Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne:
“There is a great deal said in the newspapers and a great deal said outside the newspapers about an attempt to seize this city, and a great many people are very much alarmed. I do not suppose you will be alarmed by all the talk. I think I am in a position to know as much as anybody about this whole matter. I am in consultation with Genl. [Winfield] Scott and with Col. Stone, who is organizing the militia of the district. Our friends from N.Y. three of the best and most skilful men ever in that service are still here, and I am posted every day in regard to their information. I am satisfied there does not NOW exist any organization to amount to anything, anywhere, the object of which is either to prevent your inauguration. I say now — what may take place I will not say, but I do not believe any attempt at all will be made at any time. I have just left Scott — he is very vigilant and active and will make every preparation he can to meet any emergency. I am sorry to say, however, old Buck is hanging back, though the Secretary of War is up to ‘high water mark’ (to use Scott’s own language) at the time. Scott has this day sent a paper to the President saying unless he is permitted to bring more troops here, he will not hold himself responsible for the peace of the District. I presume the President will now permit the troops to be brought here. The N.Y. friends are entirely certain there is no nucleus of a conspiracy in this city. The Mayor, although suspected of being a secessionist, was up before the special committee to-day and swore there was nothing of the kind going on.”
He adds a note about the increasing concerns about public order in Washington: When in Scott’s room, Genl. [John] Dix the next Sec’y of the Treasury came in to consult about certain matters. He is clear up to the handle for the enforcement of the laws and the protection of the public property. The old General was hugely pleased at his firmness and the high ground he took. The only trouble now in the cabinet is Yancey, who is believed to sympathize with the traitors.”
At the end of January, Lincoln receives a letter from a “Capt Hazzard” advising that trouble should be expected going through Baltimore and suggesting that either Baltimore be avoided or he pass through Baltimore “incognito.”

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Kansas Gets Statehood

Tuesday, January 29, 1861

Kansas admitted to statehood by Congress with constitution prohibiting slavery. Lincoln’s reentry into politics in 1854 had been driven by the possible extension of slavery to Kansas under the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

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Security Concerns & the Train Trip

Monday, January 28, 1861

Future Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes President-elect Lincoln from Ohio about security and political dangers: “My letters from Washington alarm me, though not easily alarmed. The defence of the city is said by one who certainly knows if anybody knows to be inadequate and the President is represented as incredulous and apathetic. My hope is that the investigations authorized by Congress will expose the danger, and secure a remedy if really considerable.
“Another danger is greater still and more imminent — and that is the disruption of the Republican Party through Congressional attempts at Compromises. Our only safety from this danger lies in the adoption & maintenance of the simple watchword — Inauguration first — adjustment afterwards — Let the word pass from the head of the column before the Republicans move. I know the temper of the people, and I know that the Republican Party will be defeated in Ohio next fall if the pledge given at Chicago is violated by the passing of an enabling act for the admission of New Mexico as a Slave State or by the proposal by Congress of the Amendment to the Constitution recommended by the Committee of 33. The people are vigilant and jealous. They have been often deceived in their hopes, and fear being again deceived. The friends of Compromise, so prominent Representatives write me, pretend to have your sanction to these measures. I know it cannot be so, but the persistent representations to this effect are doing much damage. Let me beg you to say if you have not already said to some trusted Senator &some trusted Representative that you desire the adoption of no compromise measure [till after] before the Republican become charged with the responsibility of administration through your inauguration. Inauguration first — adjustment afterwards.
Chase added a note about Lincoln’s projected train trip across the North: “I am glad that you have relinquished your idea of proceeding to Washington in a private way. It is important to allow full scope to the enthusiasm of the people just now. But a circuitous journey may not have so useful effects as one more direct — besides being more fatiguing to yourself. :
Dr. William Jayne writes his brother-in-law, Senator Lyman Trumbull, about concerns in Springfield regarding security in Washington, D.C. He reports that Illinois Governor Richard Yates has spoken to President-elect Lincoln: “Lincoln said that he would rather be hung by the neck till he was dead on the steps of the Capitol, before he would buy or beg a peaceful inauguration. Lincoln is firm as the base of the Rocky Mountains.” He adds: “I have heard nothing new during the past week in relation to the Cabinet appointments.”
Lincoln aide John Hay, acting as a journalist writes: “Mr. Lincoln will not only make no further announcement of his intentions in regard to the selection and disposition of his ministry, but will not even decide as to his appointments until he arrives at Washington, and has the benefit and advantages of the fuller information which is accessible there, in regard to the subject.”
Hay writes: “There is another point, whose publication may set at rest the anxiety of the holy army of self-appointed Union savers, and relieve Mr. Lincoln from an immense amount of daily terebration. Mr. Lincoln will not be scared or coaxed into any expression of what everybody knows are his opinions until the will of the people and the established institution of the Government are vindicated by his inauguration. Then if anybody doubts his integrity, his liberality, his large-hearted forbearance and his conservatism, their doubts will be removed. Until then let them possess their souls in patience.”
Lincoln begins serious work on his inaugural address.

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Seward Updates Lincoln

Sunday, January 27, 1861

Leonard Swett

Future Secretary of State William H. Seward wrote President-elect Lincoln about the secession crisis: “This is the dark side of the picture. No for the brighter one. Beyond a peradventure disunion is falling and Union rising in the popular mind — Our friends say we are safe in Maryland — And Mr. Scott and others tell me that Union is gaining rapidly as an element in Virginia —
“In any case – you are to meet a hostile armed Confederacy when you commence — You must reduce it by force or conciliation. The resort to force would very soon be denounced by the North, although so many are anxious for a fray, The North will not consent to a long Civil War — A large portion, much the largest portion of the Republican party are reckless now of the crisis before us — and compromise or concession though as a means of averting dissolution is intolerable to them. They believe that either it will not come at all, or be less disastrous than I think it will be — For my own part I think that we must collect the revenues — regain the ports in the gulf, and, if need be maintain our selves here — But that every thought that we think ought to be conciliatory forbearing and patient, and so open the way for the rising of a union Party in the seceding states which will bring them back into the Union.
“It will be very important that your Inaugural Address be wise and winning,” Seward adds. “I am glad that you have suspended making Cabinet appointments. The temper of your administration whether generous and hopeful of Union, or taut and reckless will probably determine the fate of our country.
Seward writes Lincoln friend Leonard Swett the same day regarding Simon Cameron: “Lincoln is in a fix. Cameron’s appointment to an office in his Cabinet bothers him. If Lincoln do appoint Cameron he gets a fight on his hands, and if he do not he gets a quarrel deep, abiding, & lasting. What a world we live in! The game of politics is a pure game, full of honesty and true deep gratitude. Three fourths of the political world — those who lead especially — are corrupt — fish — dollar — power seekers — mud hunters — scoundrels. So this political world wags. Poor Lincoln! God help him! Pshaw what a scramble for office!”

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Louisiana & Leaving

Saturday, January 26, 1861

Louisiana secedes.
President-elect Lincoln decides to leave for Washington on February 11.

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Mary & Robert Come Home…Finally

Mary Todd Lincoln

Friday January 25, 1861

Mary Todd Lincoln, accompanied by Robert Todd Lincoln, returns from a shopping trip to New York. Lincoln had expected them to arrive earlier and had gone to the train station on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Fogg & War

Thursday, January 24, 1861

New Hampshire’s George Fogg, secretary of the Republican National Committee, visits Springfield in regard to New England candidates for the Lincoln Cabinet. Fogg also carries numerous letters from Republican leaders in New England and elsewhere objecting to the appointment Simon Cameron to the Cabinet.
Attorney Leonard Swett writes Lincoln about General Winfield Scott’s plans to protect Lincoln. General Scott “wants quietly to station such force about Baltimore, I suppose as will protect you, in any event.”

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Montgomery Blair Promoted

Wednesday, January 23, 1861

Future Union general Francis P. Blair Jr. visits Springfield to push the Cabinet aspirations of his brother, Maryland attorney Montgomery Blair, who had been one of the lawyers for Dred Scott. Montgomery would eventually be named postmaster general. Frank Blair tells the press: “The day of compromise is gone, and the day of fighting come.”

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Security & Secession in Washington

Tuesday, January 22, 1861

Lincoln friend Charles Ballance writes to Abraham Lincoln from Washington about security conditions there: “I write to you, not because (as you will naturally expect) that I have something important to write, but because, what, will seem to you under the circumstances, is much more strange, that I have nothing at all to write. While our forts and munitions of war are being every where seized by rebels, and state after state is declaring itself out of the Union, and the papers and telegraphs are teeming with preparations for war, this city is more quiet, at this time, and there are fewer people here by more than one half, than I ever saw before, when Congress was in session. I fact, nearly every body whose business does not require them to be here, has gone away. I see no secession cockades, and hear no blustering. A stranger here, who could not read our papers, would not suspect he was in the midst of a revolution. I have been here nearly two weeks, and have not seen a soldier, a musket or a cannon, until this evening. There are said to be troops in the neighborhood, and there are several thousand militia being equipped and trained, but it is all done quietly.
“That it was a part of the secession plan to seize the capitol, and prevent you from being inaugurated, I have no doubt, but the firmness of [Maryland] Gov. [Thomas] Hicks and Gen. [Winfield] Scott has backed them out from this project, at least for the present. We cannot tell what a day will bring forth, but I give it as my opinion, that such is the apathy that prevails here just now, that you might walk the streets with as much safety, as you do those of Springfield.”

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