Diplomats Visit White House

John G. Nicolay, John Hay, and Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, March 7, 1861

The diplomatic corps, many of whom were sympathetic to the Confederacy, visited the White House.

Lincoln aide John G. Nicolay wrote: “The first official act of Mr. Lincoln – after the inauguration [–] was to sign my appointment as Private Sec’y….As the work is now ,it will be a very severe tax on both my physical and mental energies, although so far I have borne it r remarkably well. By and by, in two or three months, when the appointments have all been made, I think the labor will be more sufferable. John Hay and I are both staying here in the White House. We have very pleasant offices and a nice large bedroom, though all of them sadly need new furniture and carpets. That too we expect to have remedied after a while.
“We all stayed at Willard’s Hotel the week before the inauguration. There was of course a great crowd there, and so many ladies in the parlors as to make it seem like having a party every night. Since my arrival. I have been to one party – one wedding – and the inauguration ball which by the way was really a very successful and brilliant affair. Today the Corps Diplomatique made their formal call upon the President, and tomorrow night the first public reception takes place.”

Another Lincoln aide, William O. Stoddard recalled that “the first reception by this Administration of the diplomatists who represent Europe at the court of this republic, took place on the [7]th of March, 1861, and it was, in some respects, an odd affair. Every man and woman among them was imbued with the idea that one of the frequent revolutions to be expected in republicans had arrived and was at work, and there was no such thing as telling what it might do. They were deeply interested, and they all came to pay their respects to the revolution. That reception, was, in fact, a lot of fine old governments, in professedly robust health and expecting long lives, dropping in to see a young government, which they believed to be mortally sick and soon to pass away. So they all offered what they called their congratulations.”

Springfield resident Elizabeth Todd Grimsley wrote that “there was a diplomatic reception, but the legations were not out in full force, nor did they come together, in a body, as was their custom. The French Minister, Mercier, was absent. Lord Lyons was coldly dignified — already the nations were looking at us askance.”

Published in: on March 18, 2011 at 11:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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