Lincoln Spends Hectic Day in New York City

Wednesday, February 20, 1861

President-elect Lincoln spends his entire day in a relentless schedule of activities in New York City. He begins the day in a breakfast with New York merchants and ends the day attending one act of a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” at the Academy of Music. Bronson Murray reported: “There is a story that — a purse proud chap was presented to L. and said ‘Mr. L — ahem — I am a director of the bank of commerce Sir.’ ‘Are you sir & where is that.’ ‘Why here in New York Sir. We take all the Govt. Loans.’ ‘Oh well’ said L ‘then we will become better acquainted.’ This is thought a capital thing here & people want to know who the director is. Some of these fellows fancy there is no place in the Union but N. York and their clique or sett.”

In response to a welcome from Mayor Fernando Wood, who had floated the idea that New York City could secede from the Union as well, Lincoln said: “There is nothing that can ever bring me willingly to consent to the destruction of this Union, under which not only the commercial city of New York, but the whole country has acquired its greatness, unless it were to be that thing for which the Union itself was made. I understand a ship to be made for the carrying and preservation of the cargo, and so long as the ship can be saved, with the cargo, it should never be abandoned. This Union should likewise never be abandoned unless it fails and the probability of its preservation shall cease to exist without throwing the passengers and cargo overboard. So long, then, as it is possible that the prosperity and the liberties of the people can be preserved in the Union, it shall be my purpose at all times to preserve it. Thanking you for the reception given me, allow me to come to a close.”

Prior to the opera, the Lincolns and Hamlins shared dinner – and Lincoln’s first encounter with oysters on the half-shell tickled Vice President-elect Hannibal Hamlin. Lincoln told Hamlin: “Well, I don’t know that I can manage these things, but I guess I can learn.”

After dinner, both couples went to the opera, where some New Yorkers criticized Lincoln for wearing black rather than the regulation white gloves. Nevertheless, at the conclusion of the first act, a “demonstration of respect and reverence to the chosen President became so general and enthusiastic that no person present could be said to be a non-participant in it.” After leaving the opera, Mrs. Lincoln holds a reception at their hotel.

Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln Greeted by Big Crowds in New York City

President-elect Lincoln's Arrival in New York

Tuesday, February 19, 1861

The special train carrying President-elect Lincoln leaves Albany and arrives in New York City. It proceeds through the streets of New York among 250,000 people. Poet Walt Whitman recalled: “I shall not easily forget the first time I ever saw Abraham Lincoln. It must have been about the 18th or 19th of February, 1861. It was a rather pleasant afternoon in New York City, as he arrived there from the West, to remain a few hours and then pass on to Washington to prepare for his inauguration. I saw him in Broadway, near the site of the present post office. He came down, I think from Canal Street, to stop at the Astor House.
“The broad spaces, sidewalks, and street in that neighborhood and for some distance were crowded with solid masses of people — many thousands. The omnibuses and other vehicles had all been turned off, leaving an unusual hush in that busy part of the city. Presently two or three shabby hack barouches made their way with difficulty through the crowd and drew up at the Astor House entrance.
“A tall figure stepped out of the center of these barouches, paused leisurely on the sidewalk, looked up at the granite walls and looming architecture of the grand old hotel — then, after a relieving stretch of arms and legs, turned around for over a minute to slowly and good-humoredly scan the appearance of the vast and silent crowds.
“There were no speeches, no compliments, no welcome — as far as I could hear, not a word said. Still, much anxiety was concealed in that quiet. Cautious persons had feared some marked insult or indignity to the president-elect — for he possessed no personal popularity at all in New York City and very little political. But it was evidently tacitly agreed that if the few political supporters of Mr. Lincoln present would entirely abstain from any demonstration on their side, the immense majority — who were anything but supporters — would abstain on their side also. The result was a sulky, unbroken silence, such as certainly never before characterized a New York crowd.
“From the top of an omnibus (driven up on side, close by, and blocked by the curbstone and the crowds) I had, I say, a capital view of it all and especially of Mr. Lincoln: his looks and gait; his perfect composure and coolness; his unusual and uncouth height; his dress of complete black, stovepipe hat pushed back on his head; dark-brown complexion; seamed and wrinkled yet canny-looking face; black, bush head of hair; disproportionately long neck; and his hands held behind, as he stood observing the people.
“He looked with curiosity upon that immense sea of faces, and the sea of faces returned the look with similar curiosity. In both there was a dash of comedy, almost farce, such as Shakespeare puts in his blackest tragedies. The crowd that hemmed around consisted, I should think, of thirty to forty thousand men, not a single one his personal friend, while, I have no doubt (so frenzied were the ferments of the time) many an assassin’s knife and pistol lurked in hip- or breast-pocket there — ready, soon as break and riot came.
“But no break or riot came. The tall figure gave another relieving stretch or two of arms and legs; then, with moderate pace, and accompanied by a few unknown-looking persons, ascended the portico steps of the Astor House, disappeared through its broad entrance — and the dumb-show ended.”

Vice President-elect Hannibal Hamlin persuaded the Lincolns to stay at the Astor House, owned by a Republican support. He had written Lincoln: ‘If you go [to Washington] by way of N.Y. will you not stop with Stetson at the Astor,’ Hamlin had written. ‘He is a gentleman in every sense of the word, and is the only man of all the Hotel keepers of the first class, who was openly and squarely with us. It has injured him some. I do therefore hope you will stop with him.’

Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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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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?”

Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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