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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Lincoln Tackles Tariff before Returning to Ohio

Friday, February 15, 1861

Before he leaves for the train depot in Pittsburgh, President-elect Lincoln delivers a long and detailed speech on economics and the tariff from balcony of Mongahela House: “. “So long as direct taxation for the support of government is not resorted to, a tariff is necessary. The tariff is to the government what a meal is to the family; but, while this is admitted, it still becomes necessary to modify and change its operations according to new interests and new circumstances. So far there is little difference of opinion, but the question as to how far imposts may be adjusted for the protection of home industry, gives rise to various views and objections. I must confess that I do not understand this subject in all its multiform bearings, but I promise you that I will give it my closest attention, and endeavor to comprehend it more fully. and here I may remark that the Chicago platform contains a plank upon this subject, which I think should be regarded as law for the incoming administration.”

The Lincoln entourage then doubled back from Pennsylvania to Ohio. Lincoln John Hay reported that in Cleveland that night :“The dining room was crowded. There were elderly women, with umbrellas and spectacles, mounted upon chairs; aged gentlemen, with crutches and benedictions; local politicians, with fluffy white cravats and tremendous appetites; colored persons of both sexes, one or two infants at the breast, together with all the other varieties which make up western life. The dinner was excellent and profuse. At its conclusion Mr. Lincoln was conducted to the balcony and spoke a few words to the assembly, after which the suite formed in line and again enter the cars.” Aide John G. Nicolay wrote: “Today, here at Cleveland, the arrangements have been good (better than we have found anywhere else [)] and almost perfect order has been kept. I am longing anxiously for our arrival at Buffalo to-morrow evening, after which we shall have a whole day of rest and quiet.”

Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln Boards Train for Washington

Monday February 11, 1861

President-elect Lincoln bade farewell to Springfield as he prepared to board a special train for Washington. As the Illinois Journal reported the departure, “It was a most impressive scene. We have known Mr. Lincoln for many years; we have heard him speak upon a hundred different occasions; but we never saw him so profoundly affected, nor did he ever utter an address, which seemed to us as full of simple and touching eloquence, so exactly adopted to the occasion, so worthy of the man and the hour. Although it was raining fast when he began to speak, every hat was lifted, and every head bent forward to catch the last words of the departing chief. When he said, with the earnestness of a sudden inspiration of feeling, that with God’s help he should not fail, there was an uncontrollable burst of applause.”

Lincoln wrote out his words later: “My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

An editorial in the New York Times stated: “The country looks eagerly to President Lincoln for the dispersion of the dark mystery that hangs over our public affairs. The people want something to be decided on — some standard raised — some policy put forward, which shall serve as a rallying point for the abundant but discouraged loyalty of the American heart. In a great crisis like this, there is no policy so fatal as that of having no policy at all.” Horace Greeley editorialized in the New York Tribune that Lincoln has “one of those minds that work, not quickly nor brilliantly, but exhaustively. Through this matter he has looked to the final conclusion. He sees that, however often rebellion may be suppressed at the South, it will never be ended so long as Slavery has an assured existence.”

“The scene at the depot before starting was impressive and touching in the last degree. Upward of a thousand people were assembled, and Mr. Lincoln, taking his place in one of the rooms at the station, bade farewell to his friends and neighbors, to the number of several hundreds, with an affectionate grasp of his hand. As the time approached for the departure of the train, he mounted the platform, and, in a brief and touching speech, which left hardly a dry eye in the assemblage, bade them farewell, invoking the assistance of Divine Providence in the difficult mission upon which he was embarking, and with visible emotion requested their prayers to the power which alone could bring day out of the night which had fallen upon us. As he entered the car, after a final adieu to Mrs. Lincoln and a few near friends, three cheers were given, every hat in the assemblage was lifted, and the crowd stood silent as the train moved slowly from the depot,” wrote Lincoln aide John Hay. “At the half dozen stations between Springfield and Decatur, there was no stoppage. There were assemblages, however, at each place, and the flying train was greeted with cheers and the waving of flags and handkerchiefs. At Decatur the train bowled into the depot, where apparently several thousand people, gathered from the surrounding country, had assembled, and the air rung with cheer on cheer. Mr. Lincoln left the car, moving rapidly through the crowd, shaking hands vigorously, and incurring embraces and blessings to an extent that must have given him a slight premonition of what was in store for him. No one could witness this frank, hearty display of enthusiasm without recognizing in the tall, stalwart Illinoisan the genuine Son of the West, as perfectly en rapport with its people now, with his purple honors and his imperial cares upon him, as when he was the simple advocate, the kindly neighbor, the beloved and respected citizen.

Lincoln friend Orville H. Browning wrote that he talked to Lincoln about secession as the train traveled east across the Illinois prairie. Browning wrote of “crowds of people at all the stations along the road, and an immense concourse here. I should think not less than 20,00 All stopped at Bates House — All the streets in front, and the halls and stairways of the house were so packed with an eager crowd that we could scarcely make our way through them.”

Aide John G. Nicolay wrote his fiance: “It is now 8 oclock at night, and we have been one day on the journey to Washington. We had a rather pleasant ride over the Railroad from Springfield here; saw crowds of people at every station, found the streets of this city full on our arrival (if it were during a campaign it would be called fifty thousand at least) through which with difficulty we made our way to the ‘Bates House’ (don’t I feel at home?) where I am writing this. The House is perfectly jammed full of people. Three or four ladies and as many gentlemen, have even invaded the room assigned to Mr. Lincoln, while outside the door I hear the crowd pushing and grumbling and shouting in almost frantic endeavors to get to another parlor in the door of which Mr. Lincoln stands shaking hands with the multitude. It is a severe ordeal for us, and increased about tenfold for him….”

State Senator.James D. Conner recalled that an Indiana delegation of which he was a part met the President-elect at the state line: “In the car he occupied there were only two or three people besides the committee. This afford us quite an opportunity to get acquainted with the president elect. Large numbers of people assembled at every station, and at every station the train made a stop. Mr. Lincoln never failed, when the car stopped, to go out on the platform and make a brief speech. The promptness, the high order, the adaptability of these short speeches — and there were many of them — astonished me. Mr. Lincoln seemed to be cheerful and composed. He talked very freely and entertainingly to the committee, interspersing his remarks with anecdotes. Several times when we were approaching a station Mr. Lincoln would be in the midst of conversation, perhaps engaged in telling a story. He would stop without finishing, go to the platform and make a short talk. As soon as the train was under way Mr. Lincoln would resume the seat and go on with the conversation or story just as if there had been no interruption. At one very small station the address was so brief that I can recollect every word of it. As he came out on the platform and greeted the crowd he said simply this: ‘Many people are asking what shall we do? Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.’”

The traveling entourage would overnight in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Published in: on February 11, 2011 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bates Meets Lincoln about Becoming Attorney General

Edward Bates

Saturday, December 15, 1860

Future Attorney General Edward Bates of Missouri visits President-elect Lincoln in Springfield. Lincoln’s secretary noted that Bates ” came to Mr. Lincoln’s room at about 9 A.M. entering with very profuse civilities and apologies for having come before Mr. Lincoln’s hour. (He had not yet come from home.) He said that when Mr. Blair informed him that Mr. Lincoln designed visiting him, he had at once replied that he would not think of permitting that to be done, but that it was his duty to wait upon the President-elect, etc. etc. (His flow of words in conversation is very genial and easy, seeming at first to verge upon extreme politeness, but soon becoming very attractive.” Secretary John G. Nicolay recorded: “Their meeting (they had an acquaintance of eight years’ standing) was very cordial; and the ordinary conversation being over, Mr. Lincoln entered at once upon the important subject matter of the interview.”

“Without further prelude Mr. Lincoln went on to tell him that he had desired this interview to say to him that since the day of the Chicago nomination it had been his purpose, in case of success, unless something should meantime occur which would make it necessary to change his decision, to tender him (Bates) one of the places in the Cabinet. Nothing having occurred to make a change of purpose necessary (he had waited thus long to be enabled to act with caution, and in view of all the circumstances of the case) he now offered him the appointment.

“He said in doing this, he did not desire to burden him with one of the drudgery offices. Some of Mr. Bates

“He had not yet communicated with Mr. Seward, and did not know whether he would accept the appointment, as there had been some doubts expressed about his doing so. He would probably know in a few days. He therefore could not now offer him (Bates) the State Department, but would offer him what he supposed would be most congenial, and for which he was certainly in every way qualified – the Attorney Generalship.

“Mr. Bates replied by saying that until a very few days ago he had received no word or hint even, that any of his friends had made any such application in his behalf. He expressed himself highly gratified at the confidence which Mr. Lincoln manifested in him by the offer just made. He alluded to the fact that ten years ago he had declined a similar offer made by Mr. Fillmore. Were the country in the same condition in which it was then – were things going along in quiet and smoothness – no inducement would tempt him to assume the duties of such a position. But the case was different. The country was in trouble and danger, and he felt it his duty to sacrifice his personal inclinations, and, if he could, to contribute his labor and influence to the restoration of peace in, and the preservation of, his country.

“Mr. Lincoln expressed himself highly gratified at his determination.

“Much further conversation was had both during the morning and in the afternoon when Mr. Lincoln called on him again at the hotel. Their views were very frankly and fully exchanged.

“Mr. Bates’s conversation shows him to be inflexibly opposed to secession and strongly in favor of maintaining the Government by force if necessary. He forcibly illustrated his temper by saying that he is a man of peace and will defer fighting as long as possible; but that if forced to do so against his will, he has made it a rule never to fire blank cartridges.’

Published in: on December 31, 2010 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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