Illness Hits the White House

Lincoln Family, 1861

Wednesday, March 20, 1861

Willie and Thomas “Tad” Lincoln are ill. Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes: “Excepting the fact that the two little boys [Willie and Tad Lincoln] have the measles, every body about the White House is in good health, notwithstanding the fact that some of us have work and annoyance enough to make almost anybody sick. There is consolation in the fact however that this rush cannot last many weeks longer and that then we will enjoy our leisure all the better…”

Things continue to be unwell between Mary Todd Lincoln and Julia Jayne Trumbull, the wife of Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull. Their friendship dissolved in 1855 when Trumbull defeated Lincoln for a Senate seat. Elizabeth Todd Grimsley, Mary’s cousin, writes from the White House: To-morrow night Mary has another reception, the last of the season. I presume it will be pleasant as there will not be so much of a crowd. The children are very much better and I think will soon be quite well. I have not seen Mrs. Trumbull — she sent me word she expected me to call, as that is etiquette, but I concluded in the present state of affairs, that as Mrs. Crittenden, McLean, Foster & various other senators wives had called specially to see me that Mrs. Trumbull might waive ceremony also, if she wished to see me. Trumbull is exceedingly unpopular here and particularly so with the conservative portion of the Republican party.”

Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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Security Concerns & the Train Trip

Monday, January 28, 1861

Future Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes President-elect Lincoln from Ohio about security and political dangers: “My letters from Washington alarm me, though not easily alarmed. The defence of the city is said by one who certainly knows if anybody knows to be inadequate and the President is represented as incredulous and apathetic. My hope is that the investigations authorized by Congress will expose the danger, and secure a remedy if really considerable.
“Another danger is greater still and more imminent — and that is the disruption of the Republican Party through Congressional attempts at Compromises. Our only safety from this danger lies in the adoption & maintenance of the simple watchword — Inauguration first — adjustment afterwards — Let the word pass from the head of the column before the Republicans move. I know the temper of the people, and I know that the Republican Party will be defeated in Ohio next fall if the pledge given at Chicago is violated by the passing of an enabling act for the admission of New Mexico as a Slave State or by the proposal by Congress of the Amendment to the Constitution recommended by the Committee of 33. The people are vigilant and jealous. They have been often deceived in their hopes, and fear being again deceived. The friends of Compromise, so prominent Representatives write me, pretend to have your sanction to these measures. I know it cannot be so, but the persistent representations to this effect are doing much damage. Let me beg you to say if you have not already said to some trusted Senator &some trusted Representative that you desire the adoption of no compromise measure [till after] before the Republican become charged with the responsibility of administration through your inauguration. Inauguration first — adjustment afterwards.
Chase added a note about Lincoln’s projected train trip across the North: “I am glad that you have relinquished your idea of proceeding to Washington in a private way. It is important to allow full scope to the enthusiasm of the people just now. But a circuitous journey may not have so useful effects as one more direct — besides being more fatiguing to yourself. :
Dr. William Jayne writes his brother-in-law, Senator Lyman Trumbull, about concerns in Springfield regarding security in Washington, D.C. He reports that Illinois Governor Richard Yates has spoken to President-elect Lincoln: “Lincoln said that he would rather be hung by the neck till he was dead on the steps of the Capitol, before he would buy or beg a peaceful inauguration. Lincoln is firm as the base of the Rocky Mountains.” He adds: “I have heard nothing new during the past week in relation to the Cabinet appointments.”
Lincoln aide John Hay, acting as a journalist writes: “Mr. Lincoln will not only make no further announcement of his intentions in regard to the selection and disposition of his ministry, but will not even decide as to his appointments until he arrives at Washington, and has the benefit and advantages of the fuller information which is accessible there, in regard to the subject.”
Hay writes: “There is another point, whose publication may set at rest the anxiety of the holy army of self-appointed Union savers, and relieve Mr. Lincoln from an immense amount of daily terebration. Mr. Lincoln will not be scared or coaxed into any expression of what everybody knows are his opinions until the will of the people and the established institution of the Government are vindicated by his inauguration. Then if anybody doubts his integrity, his liberality, his large-hearted forbearance and his conservatism, their doubts will be removed. Until then let them possess their souls in patience.”
Lincoln begins serious work on his inaugural address.

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 5:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Secession Process Intensifies

Monday, December 10, 1860

In Charleston, Francis W. Pickens takes office as governor of South Carolina which continues to move toward secession.

In Springfield, President-elect Lincoln attempts to stiffen Republican resolve against any compromise that involves the extension of slavery. He writes Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull a letter – which over the next few days would be replicated in different forms to other Republican congressmen from Illinois: “Let there be no compromise on the question of extending slavery. If there be, all our labor is lost, and, ere long, must be done again. The dangerous ground—that into which some of our friends have a hankering to run—is Pop. Sov. Have none of it. Stand firm. The tug has to come, & better now, than any time hereafter.”

Connecticut editor Gideon Welles, who will become secretary of the Navy in the Lincoln administration, writes him: “I would not intrude uponyou, but to offer my congratulations on the result of the late election, but our friend Gen’l Welch expressed an earnest desire that I would write you on the subject of issugin a document in some form that shoudl appease the discontented and violent portion ofour countrymen who have been defeated. At no time have I entertained an apprehension thatyou would sent out a proclamation or an official paper before you were in office, and your note to Mr. Fogg settles this question, but as it had been asserted so authoritatively and the temper exhibited in certain quarters is so excited, Gen’l W. (who has known my opinions) wishes me to say how cordially I approve of your conclusions. This I do most cheerfully and unqualifiedly…What then is to be done? Must we be maligned and misrepresented for the nextg three months? Shall the present hostile and erroneous feeling go on increasing. I am sorry to believe that the Administration and its partisans wish it. He suggested that Lincoln set forth his political position in a letter to a friend that might be reprinted.

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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Senator Trumbull speaks out on secession crisis

Tuesday, November 20, 1860

Senator Lyman Trumbull

Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull speaks at a Springfield rally celebrating Mr. Lincoln’s election.  Under pressure to address the threat of secession, Lincoln writes out some material for Trumbull to use.  As Mr. Lincoln feared, the press reaction is negative – reinforcing his predilection to make no public statements before he takes office.  Lincoln biographer Michael Burlingame wrote: “The press identified Lincoln as the author of these sentiments, and the public reaction confirmed his view that he should remain silent.”  He complained of his critics: “This is just as I expected, and just what would happen with any declaration I could make.  These political fiends are not half sick enough yet.  ‘Party malice’ and not ‘public good’ possesses them entirely.  ‘They seek a sign, and no sign shall be given them.'”

Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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