President Lincoln Faces Twin Challenges: Secession & Patronage

Wednesday, March 6, 1861

President Lincoln was besieged on two fronts.

Lincoln aide John Hay wrote a newspaper article: “The ‘irrepressible conflict’ of office seekers has fairly set in, and the members of Congress are waylaid, dogged, importuned, buttonholed, coaxed and threatened persistently, systematical, and without mercy, by day and by night, There seems to be no way to abate the nuisance, and they must bear the infliction with the best grace they can assume. It is astonishing how many gentlemen are now in Washington, from all parts of the country, who have served the nation or served states, elected Lincoln, or elected congressmen, or performed some signal political service, for which they claim, modestly of course, to be rewarded by the party. It is singular, too, while their merits loom up in their own estimation into magnificent proportions the offices which they claim dwindle into relative insignificance. The members of the cabinet have the charming prospect of being in a state of regular siege for months to come. Secretary [Caleb] Smith entered upon the duties of the Interior today. In five minutes the ante-room was filled with a motley crowd of applicants, each anxious to gain immediate audience and have his little matter attended to; but they were, most of them, doomed to disappointment, and could not even effect an entrance.”

Hay wrote: “If any fears existed that the President would be in any respect an instrument in other hands they are, I apprehend, pretty well dispersed. He does his own thinking and acting, and, while he will take counsel from his constitutional advisers, he will never shrink from the responsibility of decision upon all measures of government.”

Both the Union and Confederacy struggled to win the loyalty of Virginia. Frederick Seward, son of Secretary of State William H. Seward, wrote: “All the energies of the disunionists were put forth therefore to acquire Virginia. It was confidently believed, however, at the North, that the disunion leaders were in a minority, though a very active and persevering one. The disunionists themselves insisted that their policy meant peace, not war, for all the free States, even if united, could not hope to conquer all the slaveholding ones. While the debates in the Virginian convention thus dragged along, the leaders cast about for means to ‘fire the Southern heart,’ and so secure a ‘united South.’
“On his way home from St. John’s Church, the first Sunday after his arrival in Washington, Mr. Lincoln had said to my father: ‘Governor Seward, there is one part of my work that I shall have to leave largely to you. I shall have to depend upon you for taking care of these matters of foreign affairs, of which I know so little, and with which I reckon you are familiar.”
“President Lincoln now had set about his laborious duties in good faith, and the first shape in which they presented themselves to him was in the swarm of office-seekers that beleaguered the White House, filling all the halls, corridors, and offices from morning till night. The patient good humour and the democratic habits of the new President led him to give audience to everybody, at all hours. Even the members of his Cabinet, sometimes, had to force their way through the crowd, and get the private ear of the President in the corner of a roomful of visitors, before they could impart to him grave matters of state.”

Published in: on March 18, 2011 at 12:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln Meets with Virginia Congressman

Friday, March 1, 1861

Simon Cameron agrees to become secretary of war. Mary Todd Lincoln tours the White House.

John Hay, about to become of the top two assistants to Prsesident Lincoln wrote an unflattering portrait of Washington in a newspaper article: “You see here, it may be, a reverend senator blind with a bad article of whisky; an eloquent representative, purpureal of nose and moist with the perspiration of yesterday. You shall see crowding the bars, shuffling along the aisles, populating the corridors of the blear caravanserai of hotels, at once represented every stage of official eminence and every grade of inebriety. There are generals, and colonels, and majors, and captains, governors, senators, honorables; all chew tobacco; all spit; a good many swear, and not a few make a merit of being able to keep two cocktails in the air at once. The hotel halls are littered with a mixture of dirt, scraps of paper, cigar stumps and discarded envelopes, and the whole is embroidered with an irregular arabesque of expectoration. Exceedingly small and very dirty boys take a good deal of trouble and make an unnecessary amount of noise in the endeavor to induce you to purchase the Star and States for five cents. Heavy persons, whom you have never seen before, with moist hands, eyes luminous with intoxicating beverages, break through the crowd and wildly shake your hand. They convict you of having met them before somewhere. You say you have been there, whereupon you are instantly saddled with an acquaintance who grasps your hand fifty times a day, and whom you heartily wish at the — antipodes.”

Virginia Congressman A. R. Boetler visited President-elect Lincoln at his lodgings in Willard’s Hotel. He later recalled: “It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when I left the Capitol, and driving rapidly to Willard’s, where the President-elect had a suite of rooms fronting the avenue, the first person I met on reaching the hotel was an old acquaintance from the county of Berkeley, Virginia, Colonel Ward H. Lamon, Mr. Lincoln’s law partner and compagnon de voyage from Springfield to Washington, who, on learning my wishes, kindly undertook to ascertain if Mr. Lincoln, whom he had just left alone, would see me. He soon came down with an invitation to walk up stairs, and as I did so, accompanied by the Colonel, I noticed that the corridors were strictly guarded by policemen – an unnecessary but natural precaution under the circumstances of apprehension and excitement that then prevailed in Washington.
“On being introduced, Mr. Lincoln greeted me with great kindness and cordiality. ‘I’m glad to see you,’ said he; ‘always glad to see an Old Line Whig. Sit down.
Apologizing for disturbing him, I said: ‘I’ve no doubt that the unusual demands now made on your time and energies require you to have more rest than is likely to be allowed you here by the public; but my visit is not one of conventional formality or idle curiosity, as I come upon an important matter now pending in the House, and, therefore, trust that I am not trespassing too far on your courtesy in calling this evening.’
“‘Not a bit of it,’ he replied; ‘not a bit. I’m really glad you have come, and wish that more of you Southern gentlemen would call and see me, as these are times when there should be a full, fair and frank interchange of sentiment and suggestions among all who have the good of the country at heart. So draw up your chair, and tell me what’s going on in the House to-day.’
“Thus encouraged, showing him a copy of Stanton’s Force bill, I called his attention to some of its extraordinary features, and to the fact that it was ‘bristling all over with war.’ I spoke of the angry feeling it had excited in Congress, and of the painful anxieties it had caused throughout Virginia; how it had demoralized the members of her State convention, and was frustrating the patriotic efforts of her conservative citizens to keep her from seceding. I told him , also, how determined the friends of the measure were to force it through the House that evening, and how much reason there was to fear tht is passage would do irrreparable injury to the cause of the Union. ‘Consequently, Mr. Lincoln,’ said I, ‘I have ventured to come to you to tell you frankly what I think of the policy of this bill – to ask your opinion of it, and to invoke your influence in having it defeated.’
“While I was making these remarks, Mr. Lincoln listened to me with patient politeness, and when I pause for a reply, he said: ‘You must allow me the Yankee privilege of answering your questions by first asking a few myself. During the late Presidential canvass, were you not chairman of the National executive Committee of the party that supported Bell and Everett?’
“Yes,’ said I, ‘of the Constitutional party.’
“The campaign motto or platform of which,’ he continued, ‘was ‘The Union, the Constitution, and enforcement of the laws?”
“It was,” I replied; “and I think that it was not only the briefest, but about the best and most comprehensive platform that could have been adopted for that canvass.”
“And you still stand by it, of course?” said he.
“I certainly do,’ was my reply.
“Then,’ he remarked, ‘there is no reason why we should not be of the same mind in this emergency, if I understand the meaning of your platform. How do you, yourself, interpret?’
‘It’s meaning,’ I answered, ‘is obvious. It has nothing hidden in it – nothing more than meets the eye. We go for ‘the Union’ as our fathers made it – to be a shield of protection over our heads, and not a sword of sujugation at our hears; for ‘the Constitution’ as they designed it, to be equally binding on both sections, North as well as South, in all its compromises, and in all its requirements; and for ‘the enforcement of the laws’ by peaceable and constitutional means, not by bayonets – Federal bayonets, especially, Mr. Lincoln.’
“‘Then your idea is,’ said he, ‘that Federal bayonets should not be used for the enforcement of laws within the limits of a State?’
‘As a general rule, unquestionably not,’ I answered; ‘but, of course, there are exceptional cases, such as have already occurred – case of invasion, insurrection, etc. – when the civil authorities of a state, finding themselves inadequate to the duty of protecting their people, or unable to enforce the laws within the limits of their jurisdiction, may rightfully require the Federal forces to assist them; in which event, it becomes the duty of the General Government, on application of the Legislature of the State, or of its Executive, when the Legislature cannot be convened, to furnish the required aid.’
“‘And, now,’ said he, ‘to apply your platform to the present condition of affairs in those Southern States of the Union which are assuming to be no longer part of it. How about enforcing the laws in them, just now – the laws of the United States?’
“‘Inasmuch,’ I replied, ‘as the difficulties of doing so peaceably, under existing circumstances, are exceeded only by the dangers of attempting it forcibly, the practical question to be determined beforehand is whether the experiment is worth a civil war. Which consideration,’ I added, ‘brings us back to the object of my visit, and I therefore again take the liberty of asking if you approve of Congress passing such a Force bill now as this of Stanton’s, and whether you will not aid as in defeating it?’
“‘Of course,’ said he, ‘I am extremely anxious to see these sectional troubles settled peaceably and satisfactorily to all concerned. To accomplish that, I am willing to make almost any sacrifice, and to do anything in reason consistent with my sense of duty. There is one point, however, I can never surrender – that which was the main issue of the the Presidential canvass and decided at the late election, concerning the extension of slvery in the Territories.’
“‘As to that matter,’ I replied, ‘however important it may have hertofore seemed to some persons, we can well afford to remit it to the remote future, when there may be a practical necesity for its consideration, inasmuch as it has dwindled into utter insignificance before that portentous issue now so unexpectedly before us.’
“‘Unexpectedly, indeed, and portentous enough in all conscience!’ said he; ‘but I trust that matters are not as bas as they appear.’
“‘Bad as they certainly are,’ I replied, ‘they will be infinitely worse before long if the utmost care be not taken to allay the present excitement, and to preserve the existing status between the sections until some such plan as that of Mr. Crittenden’s,, for a general convention, can be carried into effect, which, as the Peace Conference here has failed to secure a compromise, is the ultimate reliance left us for that object.’ I then went on to say: ‘Mr. Lincoln, it may seem presumptuous in me to express my opinion to you on these subjects so decidedly. But I speak frankly, because I feel deeply their vital importance tot he whole country, and especially to the people of the district which I represent, which is a border district, stretching along the Potomac from the Alleghenies to tidewater, and which, in the event of a sectional civil war, will not only be the first to suffer from its effects, but will feel them first, last, and all the time, and in all their intensity. I speak to you as a Union man, from a Union county, of a Union district, of a Union State – a State which has done more to make and to maintain the Union than any of her sister States have had it in their power to do, and which now, from her known conservatism, her acknowledged prestige in national politics, and her geographical position, midway between the angry sections, can do more than any other States to preserve the peace and to bring about, by her mediatorial influence, a satisfactory adjustment of these fearful complications in spite of the opposition of those twin forces of the Union – the fanatical faction of Abolitionists in the North, and that of the no less fanatical secessionists per se in the South – provided only that a little more time to be allowed her to continue her patriotic efforts to these. You will, therefore, I trust, not impute my earnestness to prescription when I say to you, in all sincerity, that the passage of this Force bill will paralyze the Unions of Virginia, and be the means of precipitating her into secession – a calamity which, at this juncture, will unquestionably involve the whole country in a civil war.’
“After a silence of some seconds, during which Mr. Lincoln seemed to be absorbed in thought, he presently looked up with a smile, and said: ‘Well, I’ll see what can be done about the bill you speak of. I think it can be stopped, and that I may promise you it will be.’
“Thanking him most cordially and sincerely for his kindness in acceding to y request, I then inquired if I might announce from my place in the House that he did not approve of the measure.
“‘By no means,’ said he, ‘for that would make trouble. The question would at once be asked, what right I had to interfere with the legislation of this congress. Whatever is to be done in the matter, must be done quietly.’
“But, as I have promised two of my colleagues,’ said I, ‘to let them know the result of this interview, I hope you will at least allow me to acquaint them, confidentially, with the substance of your conversation?’ To this he assented, and warmly thanking him again, I got up to take leave; but, on his insisting that I should resume my seat, I remained in conversation with him some fifteen minutes longer. As what subsequently passed between us had no special bearing on the object of my visit, it is needless now to make any further referene to it, except to say, that it served to deepen the impression already made up me by the interview, that Mr. Lincoln was a kind-hearted man; that he was, at that time, willing to allow the moderate men of the South a fair opportunity to make further efforts for a settlement of our intestine and internecine difficulties, and that he was by no means disposed to interfere, directly or indirectly, with the institutions of slavery in any of the States, or to yield to the clamorous demand of those bloody-minded extremists, who were then so very keen to cry ‘havoc!’ and ‘let slip the dogs of war;’ and afterward so exceedingly careful, with the characteristic caution of their kind, to keep out of harm’s way during the continuance of hostilities. Having concluded my visit, I was about to return to the Capitol, when, perceiving that the House flag was down (a recess having been ordered from give until seven o’clock the same evening ), I went at once to my room (at Willard’s, where I boarded that winter, and employed myself until dinner in making full notes of the foregoing conversation, while it was fresh in my memory.”

Published in: on March 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln Receives Guests & Delegations

Ladies Parlor, Willard's Hotel

Tuesday: February 26, 1861

As he would the following day, President-elect Lincoln takes a long early-morning walk before a day of meetings.

Lincoln aide John Hay writes for a newspaper: “If the President was in any respect an object of sympathy while on his travels, he is certainly doubly so now. He has exchanged the minor tribulations of hand-shaking and speech-making for the graver woes which attach to the martyr toasted between two fires. The conservatives have chiefly had the presidential ear since the unexpected arrival last Saturday morning. Last night a deputation of the straight-outs had an interview with him, their rumored object being to defeat the appointment of Gen. [Simon] Cameron to the cabinet. A protest, signed by a number of senators, to a similar effect was yesterday sent him, and every effort possible in his disfavor is being made.”

Mrs. Lincoln holds both an afternoon and evening reception. Hay added: “Mrs. Lincoln receives nightly at her parlor at Willard’s. She has won all hearts by her frank, unaffected cordiality of manner, and the unconventional simplicity with which she greets those who call to pay the respect due the wife of the President. Young Bob has been extensively lionized, and a good deal of regret is expressed by the ladies at his approaching departure for Harvard. The private secretaries of the President, Nicolay and Hay, are toiling early and late with a mass of correspondence, of the extent of which I can convey no adequate idea. Some of the communications are pious, some blasphemous, many long a few threatening, and all contain applications for some little office. Judging from the number of these missives, it would seem that the number of people in the United States who find it impossible to earn an honest living must be appalling.”

Published in: on February 28, 2011 at 8:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln Leaves Harrisburg, Enters Washington Incognito

Friday, February 22, 1861

President-elect Lincoln got up early for a flag-raising ceremony outside Independence Hall – before leaving on a trip to Pennsylvania’s capital. In a speech to a welcome from the president of the Philadelphia Common Council, Lincoln said: I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. (Great cheering.) I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here and adopted that Declaration of Independence–I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army, who achieved that independence. (Applause.) I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the colonies from the mother land; but something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time. (Great applause.) It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. (Cheers.) This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration of Independence.”

Lincoln aide John Hay reported on the trip to Harrisburg that took much of the morning: “All along the route from Philadelphia, and especially at Lancaster, receptions seemed more the result of curiosity than enthusiasm. Even at Harrisburg, not one man in a hundred cheered.
“The crowds everywhere were uniformly rough unruly, and ill bred. Mr. Lincoln was so unwell he could hardly be persuaded to show himself.
“Harrisburg is swarming with soldiery, some of whom came from Philadelphia, and there are hardly enough persons out of uniform to balance the display. The corps of Zouaves elicited special attention. Colonel [Ephraim] Ellsworth was in his glory to-day.
“The Jones house, where the party stopped, was fairly mobbed. The arrangements there were unprecedentedly bad; some of the suite and party were unaccommodated with rooms; several in one bed, and others had no rooms at all. The crowd, and the fatiguing ceremonies of the day, and the annoyances and vexation at the badly conducted hotel, proved too much for the patience of the party, who vented their disgust loudly. The committeemen did nothing, and were in every one’s way. Completely exhausted, Mr. Lincoln retired at 8 o’clock, and Mrs. Lincoln, on account of the crowd, disorder, confusion, want of accommodation, and her own fatigue, declined to hold any reception.
“A drunken, fighting, noisy crowd infested the city all the evening, cheering, calling for ‘Old Abe,’ and giving him all sorts of unmelodious serenades. No terms are too severe to characterize the conduct of the crowd about the hotel and the arrangements there.”

Early that evening, Lincoln and Ward Hill Lamon sneek out of the Harrisburg activities for a special train to Philadelphia where he was secreted into a train for Baltimore. Ward Hill Lamon later recalled: “At the moment for the departure of the Baltimore train drew near, the carriage paused in the dark shadows of the depot building. It was not considered prudent to approach the entrance.
“We were directed to the sleeping-car. Mr. Kenny ran forward and delivered the ‘important package,’ and in three minutes the train was in motion. The tickets for the whole party had been procured by George R. Dunn, an express agent, who had selected berths in the rear of the car, and had insisted that the rear door of the car should be opened on the plea that one of the party was an invalid, who would arrive late, and did not desire to be carried through the narrow passage-way of the crowded car. Mr. Lincoln got into his berth immediately, the curtains were carefully closed, and the rest of the party waited until the conductor came round when the detective handed him the sick man’s ticket. During the night Mr. Lincoln indulged in a joke or two, in an undertone; but with that exception the two sections occupied by us were perfectly silent. The detective said he had men stationed at various places along the road to let him know if all was right; and he rose and went to the platform occasionally to observe their signals, returning each time with a favorable report.
“A thirty minutes past three the train reached Baltimore. One of the spy’s assistance came on board and informed him in a whisper that ‘all was right.’ Mr. Lincoln lay still in his berth; and in a few moments the care was being slowly drawn through the quiet streets of the city toward what was called the Washington depot. There again was another pause, but no sound more alarming than the noise of shifting cars and engineers. The passengers, tucked away on their narrow shelves, dozed on as peacefully as if Mr. Lincoln had never been born, until they were awakened by the loud strokes of a huge club against a night-watchman’s box, which stood within the depot and close to the track. It was an Irishman, trying to arouse a sleepy ticket-agent comfortably ensconced within. For twenty minutes the Irishman pounded the box with ever-increasing vigor, and at each blow shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Captain! it’s four o’clock! it’s four o’clock!’ The Irishman seemed to think that time had ceased to run at four o’clock, and making no allowance for the period consumed by his futile exercises, repeated to the last his original statement that it was four o’clock. The passengers were intensely amused; and their jokes and laughter at the Irishman’s expense were not lost upon the occupants of the sections in the rear.
“In due time the train sped out of the suburbs of Baltimore, and the apprehensions of the President and his friends diminished with each welcome revolution of the wheels. At six o’clock the dome of the Capitol came in sight, and a moment later we rolled into that long, unsightly building, the Washington depot. We passed out of the car unobserved, and pushed along with the living stream often and women toward the outer door. One man alone in the great crowd seemed to watch Mr. Lincoln with special attention. Standing a little to one side, he looked very sharply at him, and as he passed, seized hold of his hand, and said in a loud tone of voice, ‘Abe, you can’t play that one me!’ We were instantly alarmed, and would have struck the stranger had not Mr. Lincoln hastily said, ‘Don’t strike him! It is Washburne. Don’t you know him?’ Mr. Seward had given to Mr Washburne a hint of the information received through his son; and Mr. Washburne knew its value as well as another.
“The detective admonished Washburne to keep quiet for the present, and we passed on together. Taking a hack, we drove toward Willard’s Hotel. Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Washburne, and the detective got out in the street, and approached the ladies’ entrance, while I drove on to the main entrance, and sent the proprietor to meet his distinguished guest at the side door. A few minutes later Mr. Seward arrived, and was introduced to the company by Mr. Washburne. He spoke in very strong terms of the great danger which Mr. Lincoln had so narrowly escaped, and most heartily applauded the wisdom of the secret passage.’
“It now soon became apparent that Mr. Lincoln wished to be left alone. He said he was ‘rather tired;’ and, upon this intimation, the party separated. The detective went to the telegraph-office and loaded the wires with despatches in cipher, containing the pleasing intelligence that ‘Plums’ had brought ‘Nuts’ through in safety.”

Illinois Congressman Elihu Washburne later recalled the arrival of President Lincoln’s controversial arrival in the nation’s capital: “There has been a great deal printed in the newspapers about Mr. Lincoln’s arrival in Washington and about the ‘Scotch cap’ and ‘big shawl’ he were through Baltimore, etc., etc., most of which is mere stuff. I propose now to tell about his arrival at Washington, from my own personal knowledge — what I saw with my own eyes and what I heard with my own ears, not the eyes and ears of some one else.
“As I have stated, I stood behind the pillar awaiting the arrival of the train. When it came to a stop I watched with fear and trembling to see the passengers descend. I saw every car emptied, and there was no Mr. Lincoln. I was well-nigh in despair, and when about to leave I saw slowly emerge from the last sleeping car three persons. I could not mistake the long, lank form of Mr. Lincoln, and my heart bounded with joy and gratitude. He had on a soft low-crowned hat, a muffler around his neck, and a short-bob-tailed overcoat. Any one who knew him at that time could not have failed to recognize him at once, but I must confess, he looked more like a well-to-do farmer from one of the back towns of Joe Davies County coming to Washington to see the city, take out his land warrant and get the patent for his farm, than the President of the United States,
“The only persons that accompanied Mr. Lincoln were Pinkerton, the well-known detective, recently deceased, and Ward H. Lamon. When they were fairly on the platform and a short distance from the car, I stepped forward and accosted the President: ‘How are you, Lincoln?’
“At this unexpected and rather familiar salutation the gentlemen were apparently somewhat startled, but Mr. Lincoln, who had recognized me, relieved them at once by remarking in his peculiar voice:
‘This is only Washburne!’
“Then we all exchanged congratulations and walked out to the front of the depot, where I had a carriage in waiting.”

Bearded Lincoln Arrives in Cheering Buffalo

Lincoln Arrives in Buffalo

Saturday, February 16, 1861

President-elect Lincoln leaves Cleveland, Ohio, by train en route to Buffalo, New York. During Westfield stop, President Lincoln looks for Grace Bedell, who had advised him to grow a beard after seeing a poster of him during the 1860 campaign. Lincoln aide John Hay wrote: “Her advice has not been thrown away upon the rugged chieftain. A beard of several months’ growth covers (perhaps adorns) the lower part of his face. The young girl’s peachy cheek must have been tickled with a stiff whisker, for the growth of which she was herself responsible.”

The eccentric editor of the New York Tribune arrived aboard unexpectedly during the journey. Hay wrote: “At Girard, a station near Erie, a profound sensation was created by the sudden appearance of Mr. Horace Greeley. He wore that mysteriously durable garment, the white coat, and carried his hand a yellow bag, labeled with his name and address, in characters which might be read across Lake Erie. He had, it was said, mistaken the special for the general train, and was a good deal embarrassed on finding himself so suddenly cheek by jowl with the chief of the great and triumphant party which he had so large a hand in establishing, and of which he is one of the most powerful and least judicious supporters. He at first made an incursion into the reporters’ car, where he was captured, and marched off in triumph, by Mr. Secretary where he was captured, and marched off in triumph, by Mr. Secretary Nicolay, to the President’s car. Here he was introduced for the first time to Mrs. Lincoln. At the next stopping place Greeley suddenly disappeared. His arrival and departure were altogether so unexpected, so mysterious, so comical, that they supplied an amusing topic of conversation during the rest of the journey.”

The Lincoln train arrives in Buffalo late in the afternoon and is mobbed by about 10,000 New Yorkers. One onlooker, Adoniram J. Bakely, writes: “I have just come in from the throng of the thousands who have been greeting the arrival of Pres. Lincoln. I should judge that the crowd was quite as large as that which was present on the visit of the Prince. The streets & all the steps and windows of the buildings for a distance of more than a mile were densely crowded. And as for getting inside or within twenty rods of the Capitol building it was impossible after the throng had once stationed themselves.
“Mr. Lincoln looks much wearied & care worn. But his pictures do not do him justice. He is both a smarter & pleasanter looking man than his pictures represent. It was a thrilling scene to see him bowing in his carriage with head uncovered, while the ladies handkerchiefs waived from every window of the long lines of high buildings on each side of the street.”

Mr. Lincoln speaks briefly that night from his hotel and attends a reception. Hay wrote a newspaper report on the tumultuous greeting Lincoln was given: “The train arrived at Buffalo at 5 o’clock P.M. The crowd at the depot was something unprecedented in the history of popular gatherings in this part of the country. It is estimated that at least seventy-five thousand persons must have participated in the turbulent ceremonials which greeted the arrival of the President elect. The military arrangements, organized with reference to previous gatherings of the sort, were found to be utterly inadequate. As the train rumbled into the great depot — a structure capable of containing at least ten thousand people, the single company on duty, together with a few struggling policeman, were swept away like weeds before an angry current. The crush was terrific. Thousands and thousands of men without, urging, pushing, and struggling, endeavored to force an entrance to the depot, which was already packed to its utmost capacity. The President himself narrowly escaped unpleasant personal contact with the crowd. An intrepid body-guard, composed partly of soldiers and partly of members of his suite, succeeded, however, in protecting him from maceration, but only at the expense of incurring themselves a pressure to which the hug of Barnum’s grizzly bear would have been a tender and fraternal embrace….
“The President was received by his predecessor, Mr. [Millard] Fillmore, who uttered the briefest possible words of welcome to the distinguished guest, after which they entered carriages and proceeded in the direction of the American Hotel. The streets were densely thronged, the cheers unremitting, the stars and stripes waved everywhere, from roofs, from windows, from balconies, festoons of drapery, banners with inscriptions of welcome, in fact all the traditionary accessory accessories of popular demonstration were copiously distributed throughout the entire route.
“On arriving at the hotel, in front of which the throng was so dense that the cortege found it extremely difficult to approach, the President was received by Mayor Bemis in a speech, to which he responded. Immediately upon his entrance the doors of the house were shut in the faces of the house were shut in the faces of the crowd. It was only in this manner that the hotel was protected from an incursion, which would have entirely subverted the order of the establishment.
“Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln immediately retired to their private apartments, where they remained till after supper.
“A deputation, consisting of officers of Governor Morgan’s staff, arrived to-day from Albany, and were received by Mr. Lincoln this evening before the levee. The reception of the public did not differ in any essential particular from those at other cities: the crowd came up one staircase, crossed the corridor bowing to Mr. Lincoln, and descended by another staircase to the street. Occasionally one of the sovereigns would address the President in an informal manner, eliciting always a prompt, sometimes a felicitous, repartee. Several little girls, who were introduced, Mr. Lincoln lifted in his arms and kissed, sending them and their parents away entirely enchanted by his unaffected cordiality. Mrs. Lincoln’s levee, in an adjoining room, was well attended.
“A committee, representing the German citizens of Buffalo, waiting upon the President during the evening, an attention which he recognized pleasantly in a little speech.”

Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 3:43 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 “Celebrates” 52nd Birthday.

John Hay

Tuesday, February 12, 1861

Lincoln aide John Hay wrote a newspaper report about the President’s travels from Indiana into Ohio. In Indianapolis, he “breakfasted this morning with Gov. Dennison. Several members of his suite were also invited; and the occasion, though necessarily brief, was brilliant, convivial and elegant. Mr. Lincoln charmed all whom he met with his graceful bonhomie, his quaint which was noticed during the first day’s journey, and now, as his friends say, looks and talks like himself. Good humor, wit and geniality are so prominently associated with him in the minds of those who know him familiarly, that to see him in a melancholy frame of mind, is much as seeing Reeve or Liston in high tragedy would have been. The party returned to the hotel at 9 o’clock. A crowd, the nucleus of which had gathered at daylight, blocked up the streets in the vicinity of the Bates house to an extent which was quite embarrassing, and which called for the exercise of a good deal of energy to penetrate. There was such vociferous and prolonged cheering that the President, on behalf of his ears, proceeded to the balcony and made a little speech a minute long, whereat the noise was redoubled. The call this time was for Bob [Lincoln], of whom rumors had percolated the assemblage, rendering it wild. Bob, with a fine display of pluck, came forward, and with a still firmer display of pluck declined to make a speech. He waved his hat, however, bowed, and retired, his debut being pronounced a success. Bob seems to inherit the paternal energy, is visible everywhere simultaneously, and wears the plume of his new title, ‘the prince of rails,’ with jaunty self possession and grace.
“The brief internal which elapsed between the speech and the departure was rendered riotous by the proceedings of two gentlemen, early friends of the President, who threw themselves upon Abraham’s bosom, and sought to macadamize him with hydraulic embraces. They then feloniously abstracted a lock of his hair, gravely divided the trophy between them, and disappeared.
“The party, attended by apparently the entire population of Indianapolis and the surrounding territory, started for the depot at half past 10. The crowd there was excessive, and its enthusiasm at fever heat. Shortly after the arrival at the depot, the special train bearing Mrs. Lincoln appeared, and she was conducted to the car reserved for her in the President’s train. At 11 o’clock the start took place, shortly after which a committee from Cincinnati and adjoining towns in Kentucky were introduced to the President, who received them with the utmost affability. All the towns along the route were gayly decorated with flags and streamers; in some places guns were fired, and the train seemed to ride upon the crest of one continued wave of cheers. Only four stoppages were made at the principal places where crowds were gathered, to whom Mr. Lincoln addressed a few words of thanks and recognition The train arrived at Cincinnati at 3 P.M. The gathering along the track was so dense that the train was forced to stop for a time. The depot was so fully packed that the municipal and military authorities were forced to intervene before the train could enter. Mr. Lincoln was received by the mayor, conducted to a carriage drawn by six horses, and escorted by militia and a deputation of citizens, started for the Burnet house.
“The streets along the line were populous as the cities of the Orient. Every window was thronged, every balcony glittered with bright colors and fluttered with handkerchiefs; the sidewalks were packed; even the ledges and cornices of the houses swarmed with intrepid lookers-on. The steps of the Burnet house rise in a succession of terraces, and those swarming with men and women, as the cavalcade appeared in sight, presented a most impressive spectacle. The display of flags from the roof was almost laughably profuse. The stars and stripes flouted the sky from corner, and in the interspaces, in a manner which would have fanned the most fiery secessionist cold, had there been one there to see. The post office in the immediate vicinity was radiant with half a score of silken constellations; there were flags everywhere where there were not patriots; and patriots everywhere were not flags; and in the midst of all, to the excellent not yet wholly discredited tunes of ‘Hail Columbia’ and ‘Yankee Doodle,’ done upon brass, the President descends, and enters the house. Tremendous cheering — a phrase which is apt to become slightly repetitive in chronicles like this — is an actual essential here A speech from the balcony followed. It was apparently unpremeditated, and had the happiest effect. He quoted from a speech he had made at a time when he could not have dreamed of the crescent honors which were in store for him, and the patriotic, kindly and conciliatory tone of Abraham Lincoln, citizen, came gracefully and nobly from the lips of the citizen-made President. When, as a simple citizen of the West, the told his audience, composed partly of Kentuckians a year ago, that ‘we mean to remember that you are as good as we, that there is no difference between us other than the difference of circumstances, we mean to recognize always that you have as good hearts in your bosoms as other people, or as we claim to have, and treat you according,’ it probably did not occur to him that he was so soon to repeat the same sentiments to the same audience as President of the states which he is to reunite.
“There is a plethora of politicians here. Some from the neighboring state of Kentucky, a few from New-York, and a legion from the West and Northwest. Some of them are much given to embracing the President, as if he required a little of that sort of affectionate fortification. He puts up with it gravely, although I think he wishes they wouldn’t. After the speech he retired til after supper, which was served in private apartments to the President, his lady and sons, and a few guests. A repetition of the Indiana levee on a more extended scale, took place in the great dining-room from seven till ten, at which hour, although the crowd still hungered and thirsted fro an opportunity of shaking his hand, he succumbed, leaving the disappointed to shake their own hands, or find some friend upon which to vent that painful ceremonial.”

Published in: on February 11, 2011 at 5:53 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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