Serenade Visits the White House

November 10, 1864

General Grant telegraphs President Lincoln: ’The election having passed off quietly, no bloodshed or rioit [sic] throughout the land, is a victory worth more to the country than a battle won.’”

Journalist Noah Brooks writes that “an impromptu procession, gay with banners and respondent with lanterns and transparencies, marched up to the White House, the vast crowd surging around the great entrance, block up all of the semicircular avenue thereto as far as the eye could reach. Bands brayed martial music on the air, enthusiastic sovereigns cheered to the echo, and the roar of cannon shook the sky, even to the breaking of the President’s windows, greatly to the delight of the crowd and Master ‘Tad’ Lincoln, who was flying about window to window, arranging a small illumination on his own private account. The President had written out his speech, being well aware that the importance of the occasion would give it significance, and he was not willing to run the risk of being betrayed by the excitement of the occasion into saying anything which would make him sorry when he saw it in print. His appearance at the window was the signal for a tremendous yell, and it was some time before the deafening cheers would permit him to proceed….”

Presidential aide John Hay writes that President Lincoln “wrote late in the evening and read it from the window. ‘Not very graceful’ he said ‘but I am growing old enough not to care much for the manner of doing things.”   In response to a the crowd that gathered at the White House entrance, President Lincoln appeared at a second floor window. President Lincoln said:

It has been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies.

On this point the present rebellion brought our republic to a severe test; and a presidential election occurring in regular course during the rebellion added not a little to the strain. If the loyal people, united, were put to the utmost of their strength by the rebellion, must they not fail when divided, and partially paralized, by a political war among themselves?

But the election was a necessity.

We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined u. The strife of the election is but human-nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case, must ever recur in similar cases. Human-nature will not the change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as a strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.

But the election, along with its incidental, and undesirable strife, has done good too. It has demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was possibility. It shows also how sound, and how strong we still are. It shows that, even among candidate of the same party, he who is most devoted to the Union, and most opposed to treason, can receive most of the people’s votes. It shows also, to the extent yet known, that we have more men now, than we had when the war began. Gold is good in its place; but living, brave, patriotic men, are better than gold.

But the rebellion continues; and now that the election is over, may not all, having a common interest, re-unite in a common effort, to save our common country? For my own part I have striven, and shall strive to avoid placing any obstacle in the way. So long as I have been here I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom.

While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election; and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result.

May I ask those who have not differed with me, to join with me, in this same spirit towards those who have?

And now, let me close by asking three hearty cheers for our brave soldiers and seamen and their gallant and skilful commanders.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “This lady would be appointed Chaplain of the First Wisconsin Heavy Artillery, only that she is a woman. The President has not legally anything to do with such a question, but has no objection to her appointment.”

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Published in: on November 10, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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