Lincolns Hold Farewell Party

Lincoln Home

Tuesday, February 6, 1861

The Lincolns hold reception at their home to bid good-bye to Springfield friends.. The New York Tribune reported: “The soiree at the private residence of the President-elect this evening, is a brilliant affair. Several hundred ladies and gentlemen composing the elite of this State, and the beauty and fashion of this vicinity, are present.” The Missouri Democrat reported: “Mr. Lincoln threw open his house for a general reception of all the people who felt disposed to give him and his lady a parting call. The levee lasted from seven to twelve o’clock in the evening, and the house thronged by thousands up to a late hour. Mr. Lincoln received the guests as they entered and were made known. They then passed on, and were introduced to Mrs. Lincoln, who stood near the center of the parlors, and who, I must say, acquitted herself most gracefully and admirably – She was dressed plainly, but richly. She wore a beautiful, full trail, white moire antique silk, with a small French lace collar. Her neck was ornamented with a string of pearls, Her head dress was a simple and delicate vine, arranged with much taste. She displayed but little jewelry, and this was well and appropriately adjusted. She is a lady of fine figure and accomplished address, and is well calculated to grace and to do honors at the White House.”

Opposition to Simon Cameron’s Cabinet appointment continued. New York Evening Post editor William Cullen Bryant wrote Lincoln: “I wrote to you yesterday in regard to the rumored intention of giving Mr. Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, a place in the Cabinet. I had not then spoken much with others of our party, but I have since heard the matter discussed, and the general feeling is one of consternation. Mr. Cameron has the reputation of being concerned in some of the worst intrigues of the Democratic party. His name suggests to every honest Republican in the State no other associations than these. At present, those who favor his appointment in this State are the men who last winter so shamefully corrupted our Legislature. If he is to have a place in the Cabinet at all, the Treasury department is the last of our public interests that ought to be committed to his hands.

Bryant then alluded to Cameron’s ethical problems: “In the last election, the Republican party did not strive simply for the control, but one of the great objects was to secure a pure and virtuous administration of the Government. In the first respect we have succeeded; but, if such men as Cameron are to form the Cabinet, we shall not have succeeded in the second.”

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No More Cabinet Appointments

Sunday, February 4, 1861

Secession Convention opens in Montgomery, Alabama.

The appointment of Simon Cameron continues to preoccupy President-elect Lincoln. He meets with another Pennsylvania delegation pressing Cameron’s appointment, but decides to postpone any further Cabinet decisions until he reaches Washington.

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Congressmen Protest Cameron

Monday January 21, 1861

George Sumner, brother of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, reports on his visit with President-elect Lincoln: “I have just had a long interview with L. He is firm as a rock. ‘Give them Personal Liberty bills & they will pull in the slack, hold on & insist on the border state compromises — give them that, they’ll again pull in the slack & demand Crit’s Comp. — that pulled in they will want all that So Carolina asks.”
Maine Congressman Israel Washburn, brother of Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne (who spelled his name with an “e”) forwards a protest signed by 20 congressman opposing the appointment of Simon Cameron to the Cabinet.

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Compromise Stalled

Thomas Corwin

Wednesday January 16, 1861

Ohio Congressman Thomas Corwin writes Lincoln about compromise efforts in the House of Representatives: “I have been for thirty days in a Committee of Thirty-Three. If the States are no more harmonious in their feelings and opinions than these thirty-three representative men, then, appalling as the idea is, we must dissolve, and a long and bloody civil war must follow. I cannot comprehend the madness of the times. Southern men are theoretically crazy. Extreme Northern men are practical fools. The latter are really quite as mad as the former. Treason is in the air around us everywhere. It goes by the name of patriotism. Men in Congress boldly avow it, and the public offices are full of acknowledged secessionists. God alone, I fear, can help us. Four or five States are gone, others are driving before the gale. I have looked on this horrid picture till I have been able to gaze on it with perfect calmness. I think, if you live, you may take the oath.”
New York delegation visits Lincoln in opposition to a Cabinet post for Pennsylvania’s Simon Cameron. As a result of this visit, Hiram Barney writes back to New York about Lincoln’s Cabinet appointments: “He wants to take [Norman] Judd; but this selection will offend some of his friends and he does not decide upon it. Wells [sic] of Connecticut is his preference for New England – Blair of Maryland is favorably considered….Caleb B. Smith of Indiana is urged upon him and he may have to take him instead of Judd. Caleb is almost as objectionable as Cameron, & for similar reasons……What he [Lincoln] will ultimately do after reaching Washington no one not even himself can tell. He wants to please & satisfy all his friends.”
Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull writes Lincoln about Cameron’s annoyance with President-elect Lincoln. He concluded with a warning about potential security dangers for Lincoln: “A very prudent Friend, who is better posted in regard to matters here in the District than any other man, & knows more of the designs of the conspirators than anybody else, has suggested that you ought not to have it given out here, on when you were coming here but to let some of us here know the time & the route.”
Secretary of War Joseph Holt writes Fort Sumter commander Robert Anderson: “You rightly designate the firing into the Star of the West as an `act of war,’ and one which was actually committed without the slightest provocation. Your forbearance to return the fire is fully approved by the President. Unfortunately, the Government had not been able to make known to you that the Star of the West had sailed from New York for your relief.”

Fort Sumter, Cameron Stalemate

Monday, January 14, 1861

The South Carolina Legislature passes a resolution that “any attempt by the federal govt to reinforce Fort Sumter will be regarded as an act of open hostility and a declaration of war.”
Two representatives of Simon Cameron, including Pennsylvania Senator-elect Edgar Cowan, visit Springfield to press his case – as part of Cameron’s continuing efforts to insure that Lincoln did not withdraw his nomination. John Hay files a newspaper dispatch “It is thought, by those most entitled to speak, that Mr. Cameron will be appointed. The claim of so powerful a State, when concentrated upon one man, cannot be disregarded.
The New York Times reprints an item from the Missouri Democrat: “We found Mr. Lincoln in his parlor surrounded by some six or eight gentlemen, who all proved to be temporary visitors like ourselves. Mr. LINCOLN met us with a frank welcome, shaking hands with us, and at once by his words and his manner, making us feel that our call was no intrusion; and on his invitation, we were soon seated with the circle of gentlemen who occupied his parlor. “

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Lincoln Retreats on Cameron

Sunday, January 13, 1861

President-elect Lincoln’s dilemma regarding Simon Cameron continues. He writes Cameron: “I now think I will not definitely fix upon any appointment for Pennsylvania until I reach Washington.”

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Chase favored over Cameron

Thursday, January 10, 1861

Florida secedes.
Wisconsin Senator James Doolittle writes President-elect Lincoln to oppose the nomination of Simon Cameron as secretary of the Treasury: “While some object to Mr [William H.] Seward, the great majority will acquiesce and look with favor upon his being Secretary of State But the rumor that Mr Cameron was to go into the Cabinet also, from Mr [Thurlow] Weed’s relations to Gov Seward and his financial relations with Mr Cameron gave great and painful apprehensions lest a certain class of jobbers & speculators might come too near the Treasury, lest Albany & Harrisburg corruptions would be transferred to Washington We have overcome our political adversaries by showing up their corruptions. We must not be suspected. The name of Mr [Salmon P.] Chase in connexion with the Treasury gives much better satisfaction.”

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Cameron Conundrum Continues

Monday, January 7, 1861

President-elect Lincoln continues to be concerned about Republican opposition to Pennsylvania’s Simon Cameron as a member of his cabinet.

Simon Cameron

He seeks the opinion of Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull, writing: “I may mention before closing that besides the very fierce opposition to Gen. C. he is more amply recommended for a place in the cabinet, than any other man.” Lincoln also asks for the opinion of Philadelphia’s Henry C. Carey. In his response, Carey reflects questions about Cameron’s ethics: Carey writes Lincoln: “There exists throughout the State an almost universal belief that his fortune has been acquired by means that are forbidden to the man of honor….There stands on the records of the courts, and but a very few years old, charges that would, if proved, involve the commission of serious crime….Most of our well-disposed fellow citizens….look upon him at the very incarnation of corruption….His appointment would be a signal to all the vultures of the Union to flock around the Treasury….He is, therefore, the first choice of all the political gamblers of the State.”
Lincoln even faces splits among Illinois Republicans — as this letter from Congressman Elihu B. Washburne suggests in his criticism of attorney Leonard Swett’s collusion with New York’s Thurlow Weed and William H. Seward: ““Great commotion and excitement exist to-day in our ranks in regard to a compromise that is supposed to be hatching by the Weed-Seward dynasty. Weed is here and one great object now is to obtain your acquiescence in the scheme to sell out and degrade the republicans. Leonard Swett is the agent to be employed to get you into it. He is acting under the direction of Weed, and it is said writes a letter to you dictated by Weed. No word of caution from me to you can be necessary. If you waver, our party has gone.”
Future White House aide John Hay files a newspaper report “Mr. Lincoln has given up his room at the State House, and his public receptions are at an end. His private Secretary, Mr. [John G.] Nicolay, has an office in Johnson’s Building, where he receives all who wish to see Mr. Lincoln upon important business.”
Hay adds a note about Lincoln’s growing beard: “The President’s whiskers continue to flourish vigorously. Some assume to say that he is putting on airs.”

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Lincoln Discusses Cabinet Appointments

Monday, December 31, 1860

Lincoln again meets with Edward Bates – but alone. Bates writes in his diary: “Had two long conversations with L[incoln] in the forenoon and afternoon, in the course of which he showed me a number of letters from eminent Republicans at the East, and I was surprised to find that some of those [came from men] whom I had thought the most ultra – Among the letters were several from Mr. Seward. He goes as far as any one I have yet seen, in liberality in the filling of the Cabinet. He recommends that two or three Bell men be taken, and gives the names of some that would be acceptable to him viz Scott of Va., [William A.] Graham, [John A.]Gilmer (and another, whose name I have forgotten) and one in Tenn: perhaps [Thomas A.R.] Nelson –

“I knew that Mr. L. felt himself under a sort of necessity to offer Mr. Seward the State Department, and suppose that he did it in the hope that Mr. S[eward] wd. decline. But Mr. S. in a brief note says that after consultation with and advice of friends, he accepts. I [think] this is unfortunate, and [that it] will complicate Mr. L[incoln]’s difficulties. Not that Mr. Seward personally, is not, eminently qualified for the place, in talents, Knowledge, experience and urbanity of manners; but, at the South, whether justly or unjustly, there is a bitter prejudice against him; they consider him the embodiment of all they deem odious in the Republican party. And at the North and in the N.[orth] W.[est] there is a powerful fraction of the Repu[ublica]n. party that fears and almost hates him – especially in N.Y.

Bates wrote: “Seeing Mr. L[incoln]’s difficulties in filling his cabinet, I told him, most candidly, that I was ready to relieve him, as far as possible – that I had not agreed to take office, except as a painful duty, and that if he could fill the places without me, it would be a relief rather than a disappointment. He answered promptly – ‘No I cant [sic] do better than that – that State cant [sic] be pulled up.’:

Lincoln writes a letter to Simon Cameron which he will soon come to regret and attempt to retract: “I think fit to notify you now, that by your permission, I shall, at the proper time, nominate you to the U.S. Senate, for confirmation as Secretary of the Treasury, or as Secretary of War — which of the two, I have not yet definitely decided.”

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Lincoln Meets Bates & Cameron

Sunday, December 30, 1860

President Lincoln had invited both Simon Cameron and Edward Bates to meet with him. After dinner, Bates ran into Lincoln and Cameron at Cameron’s hotel room “ and had a sort of general conversation for some two hours,” wrote Bates in his diary. “I did not find out what brought Senator Cameron to Springfield. It is generally surmised however, that he is a strong candidate of [for] Sec.y. of the Treasury. I found him pleasant enough in conversation, but rather reticent about politics and parties. There was nothing private or confidential between us, and I suppose he did not wish me to know the object of his visit – our meeting there was accidental.”

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