Abraham Lincoln, Vol. I.
John T. Morse

Part 3 out of 5

when he said that the real dispute was whether slavery was a right thing
or a wrong thing. If slavery was a right thing, a Union conducted upon a
policy which was believed to doom it to "ultimate extinction" was not a
right thing. But if slavery was a wrong thing, a revolution undertaken
with the purpose of making it perpetual was also a wrong thing.
Therefore, from beginning to end, Lincoln talked about slavery. By so
doing he did what he could to give to the war a character far higher
even than a war of patriotism, for he extended its meaning far beyond
the age and the country of its occurrence, and made of it, not a war for
the United States alone, but a war for humanity, a war for ages and
peoples yet to come. In like manner, he himself also gained the right to
be regarded as much more than a great party leader, even more than a
great patriot; for he became a champion of mankind and the defender of
the chief right of man. I do not mean to say that he saw these things in
this light at the moment, or that he accurately formulated the precise
relationship and fundamental significance of all that was then in
process of saying and doing. Time must elapse, and distance must enable
one to get a comprehensive view, before the philosophy of an era like
that of the civil war becomes intelligible. But the philosophy is not
the less correct because those who were framing it piece by piece did
not at any one moment project before their mental vision the whole in
its finished proportions and relationship.


[75] As an example of Greeley's position, see letter quoted by N. and H.
ii. 140, note. The fact that he was strenuously pro-Douglas and
anti-Lincoln is well known. Yet afterward he said that it "was hardly in
human nature" for Republicans to treat Douglas as a friend. Greeley's
_American Conflict_, i. 301.

[76] Wilson, _Rise and Fall of the Slave Power_, ii. 567; for sketches
of Douglas's position, see Blaine, _Twenty Years of Congress_, i.
141-144; von Holst, _Const. Hist. of U.S._ vi. 280-286; Herndon,
391-395; N. and H. ii. 138-143; Lamon, 390-395; Holland, 158. Crittenden
was one of the old Whigs, who now sorely disappointed Lincoln by
preferring Douglas. N. and H. ii. 142.

[77] Several months afterward, October 25, 1858, Mr. Seward made the
speech at Rochester which contained the famous sentence: "It is an
irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it
means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become
either entirely a slaveholding nation or entirely a free-labor nation."
Seward's _Works_, new edition, 1884, iv. 292. But Seward ranked among
the extremists and the agitators. See _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 244.
After all, the idea had already found expression in the Richmond
_Enquirer_, May 6, 1856, quoted by von Hoist, vi. 299, also referred to
by Lincoln; see _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 262.

[78] Letter to Hon. Geo. Robertson, N. and H. i. 392; and see Lamon,
398; also see remarks of von Holst, vi. 277.

[79] _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 93. W.P. Fessenden, "who," says Mr.
Blaine, "always spoke with precision and never with passion," expressed
his opinion that if Fremont had been elected instead of Buchanan, that
decision would never have been given. _Twenty Years of Congress_, i.

[80] Stephen A. Douglas, Franklin Pierce, Roger B. Taney, James

[81] _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 198. At Chicago he said that he would
vote for the prohibition of slavery in a new Territory "in spite of the
Dred Scott decision." _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 20; and see the rest of
his speech on the same page. The Illinois Republican Convention, June
16. 1858, expressed "condemnation of the principles and tendencies of
the extra-judicial opinions of a majority of the judges," as putting
forth a "political heresy." Holland, 159.

Years ago Salmon P. Chase had dared to say that, if the courts would not
overthrow the pro-slavery construction of the Constitution, the people
would do so, even if it should be "necessary to overthrow the courts
also." Warden's _Life of Chase_, 313.

[82] For Lincoln's explanation of his position concerning the Dred Scott
decision, see _Lincoln and Douglas Deb._ 20.

[83] A nickname for the southern part of Illinois.

[84] Henry Wilson has made his criticism in the words that "some of his
[Lincoln's] assertions and admissions were both unsatisfactory and
offensive to anti-slavery men; betrayed too much of the spirit of caste
and prejudice against color, and sound harshly dissonant by the side of
the Proclamation of Emancipation and the grand utterances of his later
state papers." _Rise and Fall of the Slave Power_, ii. 576.

[85] Blaine, _Twenty Years of Congress_, i. 145

[86] N. and H. ii. 159, 160, 163; Arnold, 151; Lamon, 415, 416, and see
406; Holland, 189; Wilson, _Rise and Fall of the Slave Power_, ii. 576;
Blaine, _Twenty Years of Congress_, i. 148.

[87] Arnold, 144. This writer speaks with discriminating praise
concerning Lincoln's oratory, p. 139. It is an illustration of Lincoln's
habit of adopting for permanent use any expression that pleased him,
that this same phrase had been used by him in a speech made two years
before this time. Holland, 151.

[88] Published in Columbus, in 1860, for campaign purposes, from copies
furnished by Lincoln; see his letter to Central Exec. Comm., December
19, 1859, on fly-leaf.

[89] Many tributes have been paid to Douglas by writers who oppose his
opinions; _e.g._, Arnold says: "There is, on the whole, hardly any
greater personal triumph in the history of American politics than his
reelection," pp. 149, 150; Blaine, _Twenty Years of Congress_, i. 149.

[90] See Lincoln's letter to Judd, quoted N. and H. ii. 167; also
_Ibid._ 169.

[91] Raymond, 76.

[92] The Senate showed 14 Democrats, 11 Republicans; the House, 40
Democrats, 35 Republicans.

[93] In September, 1859. These are included in the volume of _The
Lincoln and Douglas Debates_, printed at Columbus, 1860.

[94] _The Mirror_, quoted by Lamon, 442.



Mr. J.W. Fell, a leading citizen of Illinois, says that after the
debates of 1858 he urged Lincoln to seek the Republican nomination for
the presidency in 1860. Lincoln, however, replied curtly that men like
Seward and Chase were entitled to take precedence, and that no such
"good luck" was in store for him. In March, 1859, he wrote to another
person: "In regard to the other matter that you speak of, I beg that you
will not give it further mention. I do not think I am fit for the
presidency." He said the same to the editor of the "Central Illinois
Gazette;" but this gentleman "brought him out in the issue of May 4,"
and "thence the movement spread rapidly and strongly."[95] In the winter
of 1859-60 sundry "intimate friends," active politicians of Illinois,
pressed him to consent to be mentioned as a candidate. He considered the
matter over night and then gave them the desired permission, at the same
time saying that he would not accept the vice-presidency.

Being now fairly started in the race, he used all his well-known skill
as a politician to forward his campaign, though nothing derogatory is
to be inferred from these words as to his conduct or methods. February
9, 1860, he wrote to Mr. Judd: "I am not in a position where it would
hurt much for me not to be nominated on the national ticket; but I am
where it would hurt some for me not to get the Illinois delegates....
Can you help me a little in this matter at your end of the vineyard?"
This point of the allegiance of his own State was soon made right. The
Republican State Convention met in the "Wigwam" at Decatur, May 9 and
10, 1860. Governor Oglesby, who presided, suggested that a distinguished
citizen, whom Illinois delighted to honor, was present, and that he
should be invited to a place on the stand; and at once, amid a tumult of
applause, Lincoln was lifted over the heads of the crowd to the
platform. John Hanks then theatrically entered, bearing a couple of
fence rails, and a flag with the legend that they were from a "lot made
by Abraham Lincoln and John Hanks in the Sangamon Bottom, in the year
1830." The sympathetic roar rose again. Then Lincoln made a "speech,"
appropriate to the occasion. At last, attention was given to business,
and the convention resolved that Abraham Lincoln was the first choice of
the Republican party of Illinois for the presidency, and instructed
their delegates to the nominating convention "to use all honorable means
to secure his nomination, and to cast the vote of the State as a unit
for him."

With the opening of the spring of 1860 the several parties began the
campaign in earnest. The Democratic Convention met first, at Charleston,
April 23; and immediately the line of disruption opened. Upon the one
side stood Douglas, with the moderate men and nearly all the Northern
delegates, while against him were the advocates of extreme Southern
doctrines, supported by the administration and by most of the delegates
from the "Cotton States." The majority of the committee appointed to
draft the platform were anti-Douglas men; but their report was rejected,
and that offered by the pro-Douglas minority was substituted, 165 yeas
to 138 nays.[96] Thereupon the delegations of Alabama, Mississippi,
Florida, and Texas, and sundry delegates from other States, withdrew
from the convention,[97] taking away 45 votes out of a total of 303.
Those who remained declared the vote of two thirds of a full convention,
_i.e._, 202 votes, to be necessary for a choice. Then during three days
fifty-seven ballots were cast, Douglas being always far in the lead, but
never polling more than 152-1/2 votes. At last, on May 3, an adjournment
was had until June 18, at Baltimore. At this second meeting contesting
delegations appeared, and the decisions were uniformly in favor of the
Douglas men, which provoked another secession of the extremist Southern
men. A ballot showed 173-1/2 votes for Douglas out of a total of
191-1/2; the total was less than two thirds of the full number of the
original convention, and therefore it was decided that any person
receiving two thirds of the votes cast by the delegates present should
be deemed the nominee. The next ballot gave Douglass 181-1/2. Herschel
V. Johnson of Georgia was nominated for vice-president.

On June 28, also at Baltimore, there came together a collection composed
of original seceders at Charleston, and of some who had been rejected
and others who had seceded at Baltimore. Very few Northern men were
present, and the body in fact represented the Southern wing of the
Democracy. Having, like its competitor, the merit of knowing its own
mind, it promptly nominated John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky and Joseph
Lane of Oregon, and adopted the radical platform which had been reported
at Charleston.

These doings opened, so that it could never be closed, that seam of
which the thread had long been visible athwart the surface of the old
Democratic party. The great record of discipline and of triumph, which
the party had made when united beneath the dominion of imperious
leaders, was over, and forever. Those questions which Lincoln
obstinately and against advice had insisted upon pushing in 1858 had
forced this disastrous development of irreconcilable differences. The
answers, which Douglas could not shirk, had alienated the most
implacable of men, the dictators of the Southern Democracy. His
"looking-both-ways" theory would not fit with their policy, and their
policy was and must be immutable; modification was in itself defeat. On
the other hand, what he said constituted the doctrine to which the mass
of the Northern Democracy firmly held. So now, although Republicans
admitted that it was "morally certain" that the Democratic party,
holding together, could carry the election,[98] yet these men from the
Cotton States could not take victory and Douglas together.[99] It had
actually come to this, that, in spite of all that Douglas had done for
the slaveholders, they now marked him for destruction at any cost. Many
also believe that they had another motive; that they had matured their
plans for secession; and that they did not mean to have the scheme
disturbed or postponed by an ostensibly Democratic triumph in the shape
of the election of Douglas.

In May the convention of the Constitutional Union party met, also at
Baltimore. This organization was a sudden outgrowth designed only to
meet the present emergency. Its whole political doctrine lay in the
opening words of the one resolution which constituted its platform:
"That it is both the part of patriotism and of duty to recognize no
political principle other than the Constitution of the country, the
union of the States, and the enforcement of the laws." This party
gathered nearly all the peaceable elements of the community; it assumed
a deprecatory attitude between angry contestants, and of course received
the abuse and contempt of both; it was devoid of combative force, yet
had some numerical strength. The Republicans especially mocked at these
"trimmers," as if their only platform was moral cowardice, which,
however, was an unfair statement of their position. The party died, of
necessity, upon the day when Lincoln was elected, and its members were
then distributed between the Republicans, the Secessionists, and the
Copperheads. John Bell of Tennessee, the candidate for the presidency,
joined the Confederacy; Edward Everett of Massachusetts, the candidate
for the vice-presidency, became a Republican. The party never had a hope
of electing its men; but its existence increased the chance of throwing
the election into Congress; and this hope inspired exertions far beyond
what its own prospects warranted.

On May 16 the Republican Convention came together at Chicago, where the
great "Wigwam" had been built to hold 10,000 persons. The intense
interest with which its action was watched indicated the popular belief
that probably it would name the next President of the United States.
Many candidates were named, chiefly Seward, Lincoln, Chase, Cameron,
Edward Bates of Missouri, and William L. Dayton of New Jersey. Thurlow
Weed was Seward's lieutenant. Horace Greeley, chiefly bent upon the
defeat of Seward, would have liked to achieve it by the success of
Bates. David Davis, aided by Judge Logan and a band of personal friends
from Illinois, was manager for Lincoln. Primarily the contest lay
between Seward and Lincoln, and only a dead-lock between these two could
give a chance to some one of the others. But Seward's friends hoped, and
Lincoln's friends dreaded, that the New Yorker might win by a rush on
the first ballot. George Ashmun of Massachusetts presided. With little
discussion a platform was adopted, long and ill-written, overloaded with
adjectives and rhetoric, sacrificing dignity to the supreme pleasure of
abusing the Democracy, but honest in stating Republican doctrines, and
clearly displaying the temper of an earnest, aggressive party, hot for
the fight and confident of victory. The vote of acceptance was greeted
with such a cheering that "a herd of buffaloes or lions could not have
made a more tremendous roaring."

The details of the brief but sharp contest for the nomination are not
altogether gratifying. The partisans of Seward set about winning votes
by much parading in the streets with banners and music, and by
out-yelling all competitors within the walls of the convention. For this
intelligent purpose they had engaged Tom Hyer, the prize fighter, with
a gang of roughs, to hold possession of the Wigwam, and to howl
illimitably at appropriate moments. But they had undertaken a difficult
task in trying to outdo the great West, in one of its own cities, at a
game of this kind. The Lincoln leaders in their turn secured a couple of
stentorian yellers (one of them a Democrat), instructed them carefully,
and then filled the Wigwam full actually at daybreak, while the Seward
men were marching; so in the next yelling match the West won
magnificently. How great was the real efficiency of these tactics in
affecting the choice of the ruler of a great nation commonly accounted
intelligent, it is difficult to say with accuracy; but it is certain
that the expert managers spared no pains about this scenic business of

Meanwhile other work, entirely quiet, was being done elsewhere. The
objection to Seward was that he was too radical, too far in advance of
the party. The Bates following were pushing their candidate as a
moderate man, who would be acceptable to "Union men." But Bates's chance
was small, and any tendency towards a moderate candidate was likely to
carry his friends to Lincoln rather than to Seward; for Lincoln was
generally supposed, however erroneously,[100] to be more remote from
Abolitionism than Seward was. To counteract this, a Seward delegate
telegraphed to the Bates men at St. Louis that Lincoln was as radical
as Seward. Lincoln, at Springfield, saw this dispatch, and at once wrote
a message to David Davis: "Lincoln agrees with Seward in his
irrepressible-conflict idea, and in Negro Equality; but he is opposed to
Seward's Higher Law. _Make no contracts that will bind me_." He
underscored the last sentence; but when his managers saw it, they
recognized that such independence did not accord with the situation, and
so they set it aside.

The first vote was:--

Whole number 465
Necessary for choice 233

William H. Seward of New York 173-1/2
Abraham Lincoln of Illinois 102
Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania 50-1/2
Salmon P. Chase of Ohio 49
Edward Bates of Missouri 48
William L. Dayton of New Jersey 14
John McLean of Ohio 12
Jacob Collamer of Vermont 10

Scattering 6

The fact was, and Lincoln's friends perfectly understood it, that
Cameron held that peculiar kind of power which gave him no real prospect
of success, yet had a considerable salable value. Could they refrain
from trying the market? They asked the owners of the 50-1/2 Cameron
votes what was their price. The owners said: The Treasury Department.
Lincoln's friends declared this extravagant. Then they all chaffered.
Finally Cameron's men took a place in the cabinet, without further
specification. Lamon says that another smaller contract was made with
the friends of Caleb B. Smith. Then the Lincoln managers rested in a
pleasing sense of security.

The second ballot showed slight changes:--

Seward 184-1/2
Lincoln 181
Cameron 2
Chase 42-1/2
Bates 5
Dayton 10
McLean 8

Scattering 2

Upon the third ballot delivery was made of what Mr. Davis had bought.
That epidemic foreknowledge, which sometimes so unaccountably foreruns
an event, told the convention that the decision was at hand. A dead
silence reigned save for the click of the telegraphic instruments and
the low scratching of hundreds of pencils checking off the votes as the
roll was called. Those who were keeping the tally saw that it stood:--

Seward 180
Lincoln 231-1/2
Chase 24-1/2
Bates 22
Dayton 1
McLean 5

Scattering 1

Cameron was out of the race; Lincoln was within 1-1/2 votes of the goal.
Before the count could be announced, a delegate from Ohio transferred
four votes to Lincoln. This settled the matter; and then other
delegations followed, till Lincoln's score rose to 354. At once the
"enthusiasm" of 10,000 men again reduced to insignificance a "herd of
buffaloes or lions." When at last quiet was restored, William M. Evarts,
who had led for Seward, offered the usual motion to make the nomination
of Abraham Lincoln unanimous. It was done. Again the "tremendous
roaring" arose. Later in the day the convention nominated Hannibal
Hamlin[101] of Maine, on the second ballot, by 367 votes, for the
vice-presidency. Then for many hours, till exhaustion brought rest,
Chicago was given over to the wonted follies; cannon boomed, music
resounded, and streets and barrooms were filled with the howling and
drinking crowds of the intelligent promoters of one of the great moral
crusades of the human race.

Lamon says that the committee deputed to wait upon Lincoln at
Springfield found him "sad and dejected. The reaction from excessive joy
to deep despondency--a process peculiar to his constitution--had already
set in."[102] His remarks to these gentlemen were brief and colorless.
His letter afterward was little more than a simple acceptance of the

* * * * *

Since white men first landed on this continent, the selection of
Washington to lead the army of the Revolution is the only event to be
compared in good fortune with this nomination of Abraham Lincoln. Yet
the convention deserved no credit for its action. It did not know the
true ratio between Seward and Lincoln, which only the future was to make
plain. By all that it did know, it ought to have given the honor to
Seward, who merited it by the high offices which he had held with
distinction and without blemish, by the leadership which he had acquired
in the party through long-continued constancy and courage, by the force
and clearness with which he had maintained its principles, by his
experience and supposed natural aptitude in the higher walks of
statesmanship. Yet actually by reason of these very qualifications[103]
it was now admitted that the all-important "October States" of Indiana
and Pennsylvania could not be carried by the Republicans if Seward were
nominated; while Greeley, sitting in the convention as a substitute for
a delegate from Oregon, cast as much of the weight of New York as he
could lift into the anti-Seward scale. In plain fact, the convention, by
its choice, paid no compliment either to Lincoln or to the voters of the
party. They took him because he was "available," and the reason that he
was "available" lay not in any popular appreciation of his merits, but
in the contrary truth,--that the mass of people could place no
intelligent estimate upon him at all, either for good or for ill.
Outside of Illinois a few men, who had studied his speeches, esteemed
him an able man in debate; more had a vague notion of him as an
effective stump speaker of the West; far the greatest number had to find
out about him.[104] In a word, Mr. Lincoln gained the nomination because
Mr. Seward had been "too conspicuous," whereas he himself was so little
known that it was possible for Wendell Phillips to inquire indignantly:
"Who is this huckster in politics? Who is this county court
advocate?"[105] For these singular reasons he was the most "available"
candidate who could be offered before the citizens of the United States!

It cannot be said that the nomination was received with much
satisfaction. "Honest old Abe the rail-splitter!" might sound well in
the ear of the masses; but the Republican party was laden with the
burden of an immense responsibility, and the men who did its thinking
could not reasonably feel certain that rail-splitting was an altogether
satisfactory training for the leader in such an era as was now at hand.
Nevertheless, nearly[106] all came to the work of the campaign with as
much zeal as if they had surely known the full value of their candidate.
Shutting their minds against doubts, they made the most spirited and
energetic canvass which has ever taken place in the country. The
organization of the "Wide-Awake" clubs was an effective success.[107]
None who saw will ever forget the spectacle presented by these
processions wherein many thousands of men, singing the campaign songs,
clad in uniform capes of red or white oil-cloth, each with a flaming
torch or a colored lantern, marched nightly in every city and town of
the North, in apparently endless numbers and with military precision,
making the streets a brilliant river of variously tinted flame.
Torchlight parades have become mere conventional affairs since those
days, when there was a spirit in them which nothing has ever stirred
more lately. They were a good preparation for the more serious marching
and severer drill which were soon to come, though the Republicans
scoffed at all anticipations of such a future, and sneered at the timid
ones who croaked of war and bloodshed.

Almost from the beginning it was highly probable that the Republicans
would win, and it was substantially certain that none of their
competitors could do so. The only contrary chance was that no election
might be made by the people, and that it might be thrown into Congress.
Douglas with his wonted spirit made a vigorous fight, traveling to and
fro, speaking constantly in the North and a few times in the South, but
defiant rather than conciliatory in tone. He did not show one whit the
less energy because it was obvious that he waged a contest without hope.
If there were any road to Democratic success, which it now seems that
there was not, it lay in uniting the sundered party. An attempt was made
to arrange that whichever Democratic candidate should ultimately display
the greater strength should receive the full support of the party.
Projects for a fusion ticket met with some success in New York. In
Pennsylvania like schemes were imperfectly successful. In other Northern
States they were received with scant favor. Except some followers of
Bell and Everett, men were in no temper for compromise. At the South
fusion was not even attempted; the Breckenridge men would not hear of
it; the voters in that section were controlled by leaders, and these
leaders probably had a very distinct policy, which would be seriously
interfered with by the triumph of the Douglas ticket.

The chief anxiety of Lincoln and the Republican leaders was lest some
voters, who disagreed with them only on less important issues, might
stay away from the polls. All the platforms, except that of the
Constitutional Union party, touched upon other topics besides the
question of slavery in the Territories; the tariff, native Americanism,
acquisition of Cuba, a transcontinental railway, public lands, internal
improvements, all found mention. The Know-Nothing party still by
occasional twitchings showed that life had not quite taken flight, and
endeavors were made to induce Lincoln to express his views. But he
evaded it.[108] For above all else he wished to avoid the stirring of
any dissension upon side issues or minor points; his hope was to see all
opponents of the extension of slavery put aside for a while all other
matters, refrain from discussing troublesome details, and unite for the
one broad end of putting slavery where "the fathers" had left it, so
that the "public mind should rest in the belief that it was in the way
of ultimate extinction." He felt it to be fair and right that he should
receive the votes of all anti-slavery men; and ultimately he did, with
the exception only of the thorough-going Abolitionists.

It was not so very long since he had spoken of the Abolitionist leaders
as "friends;" but they did not reciprocate the feeling, nor indeed could
reasonably be expected to do so, or to vote the Republican ticket. They
were even less willing to vote it with Lincoln at the head of it than if
Seward had been there.[109] But Republicanism itself under any leader
was distinctly at odds with their views; for when they said
"_abolition_" they meant accurately what they said, and abolition
certainly was impossible under the Constitution. The Republicans, and
Lincoln personally, with equal directness acknowledged the supremacy of
the Constitution. Lincoln, therefore, plainly asserted a policy which
the Abolitionists equally plainly condemned. In their eyes, to be a
party to a contract maintaining slavery throughout a third of a
continent was only a trifle less criminal than aiding to extend it over
another third. Yet it should be said that the Abolitionists were not all
of one mind, and some voted the Republican ticket as being at least a
step in the right direction. Joshua R. Giddings was a member of the
Republican Convention which nominated Lincoln. But Wendell Phillips,
always an extremist among extremists, published an article entitled
"Abraham Lincoln, the Slave-hound of Illinois," whereof the keynote was
struck in this introductory sentence: "We gibbet a Northern hound
to-day, side by side with the infamous Mason of Virginia." Mr. Garrison,
a man of far larger and sounder intellectual powers than belonged to
Phillips, did not fancy this sort of diatribe, though five months
earlier he had accused the Republican party of "slavish subserviency to
the Union," and declared it to be "still insanely engaged in glorifying
the Union and pledging itself to frown upon all attempts to dissolve
it." Undeniably men who held these views could not honestly vote for Mr.

The popular vote and the electoral vote were as follows:[110]--

Li: Abraham Lincoln, Illinois.
Do: Stephen A. Douglas, Illinois.
Br: John C. Breckenridge, Kentucky.
Be: John Bell, Tennessee.

Popular Vote | Electoral Vote
State Li Do Br Be | Li Do Br Be
Maine 62,811 26,693 6,368 2,046 | 8 -- -- --
New Hampshire 37,519 25,881 2,112 441 | 5 -- -- --
Vermont 33,808 6,849 218 1,969 | 5 -- -- --
Massachusetts 106,533 34,372 5,939 22,231 | 13 -- -- --
Rhode Island 12,244 7,707[B] -- -- | 4 -- -- --
Connecticut 43,792 15,522 14,641 3,291 | 6 -- -- --
New York 362,646 312,510[B] -- -- | 35 -- -- --
New Jersey 58,324 62,801[B] -- -- | 4 3 -- --
Pennsylvania 268,030 16,765 178,871[B] 12,776 | 27 -- -- --
Delaware 3,815 1,023 7,337 3,864 | -- -- 3 --
Maryland 2,294 5,966 42,482 41,760 | -- -- 8 --
Virginia 1,929 16,290 74,323 74,681 | -- -- -- 15
North Carolina -- 2,701 48,539 44,990 | -- -- 10 --
South Carolina[A] -- -- -- -- | -- -- 8 --
Georgia -- 11,590 51,889 42,886 | -- -- 10 --
Florida -- 367 8,543 5,437 | -- -- 3 --
Alabama -- 13,651 48,831 27,875 | -- -- 9 --
Mississippi -- 3,283 40,797 25,040 | -- -- 7 --
Louisiana -- 7,625 22,861 20,204 | -- -- 6 --
Texas -- -- 47,548 15,438[B]| -- -- 4 --
Arkansas -- 5,227 28,732 20,094 | -- -- 4 --
Missouri 17,028 58,801 31,317 58,372 | -- 9 -- --
Tennessee -- 11,350 64,709 69,274 | -- -- -- 12
Kentucky 1,364 25,651 53,143 66,058 | -- -- -- 12
Ohio 231,610 187,232 11,405 12,194 | 23 -- -- --
Michigan 88,480 65,057 805 405 | 6 -- -- --
Indiana 139,033 115,509 12,295 5,306 | 13 -- -- --
Illinois 172,161 160,215 2,404 4,913 | 11 -- -- --
Wisconsin 86,110 65,021 888 161 | 5 -- -- --
Minnesota 22,069 11,920 748 62 | 4 -- -- --
Iowa 70,409 55,111 1,048 1,763 | 4 -- -- --
California 39,173 38,516 34,334 6,817 | 4 -- -- --
Oregon 5,270 3,951 5,006 183 | 3 -- -- --
Totals 1,866,452 1,375,157 847,953 590,631 | 180 12 72 39

[A] By legislature.
[B] Fusion electoral tickets.

Messrs. Nicolay and Hay say that Lincoln was the "indisputable choice of
the American people," and by way of sustaining the statement say that,
if the "whole voting strength of the three opposing parties had been
united upon a single candidate, Lincoln would nevertheless have been
chosen with only a trifling diminution of his electoral majority."[111]
It might be better to say that Lincoln was the "indisputable choice" of
the electoral college. The "American people" fell enormously short of
showing a majority in his favor. His career as president was made
infinitely more difficult as well as greatly more creditable to him by
reason of the very fact that he was _not_ the choice of the American
people, but of less than half of them,--and this, too, even if the
Confederate States be excluded from the computation.[112]

The election of Lincoln was "hailed with delight" by the extremists in
South Carolina; for it signified secession, and the underlying and real
desire of these people was secession, and not either compromise or


[95] Lamon, 422.

[96] The majority report was supported by 15 slave States and 2 free
States, casting 127 electoral votes; the minority report was supported
by 15 free States, casting 176 electoral votes. N. and H. ii. 234.

[97] This action was soon afterward approved in a manifesto signed by
Jefferson Davis, Toombs, Iverson, Slidell, Benjamin, Mason, and others.
_Ibid._ 245.

[98] Greeley's _Amer. Conflict_, i. 326.

[99] _Ibid._ i. 306, 307.

[100] Mr. Blaine says that Lincoln "was chosen in spite of expressions
far more radical than those of Mr. Seward." _Twenty Years of Congress_,
i. 169.

[101] "In strong common sense, in sagacity and sound judgment, in rugged
integrity of character, Mr. Hamlin has had no superior among public
men." Blaine, _Twenty Years of Congress_, i. 170.

[102] Lamon, 453.

[103] McClure adds, or rather mentions as the chief cause, Seward's
position on the public-school question in New York. _Lincoln and Men of
War-Times_, 28, 29.

[104] "To the country at large he was an obscure, not to say an unknown
man." _Life of W.L. Garrison_, by his children, iii. 503.

[105] _Life of W.L. Garrison_, by his children, iii. 503.

[106] See remarks of McClure, _Lincoln and Men of War-Times_, 28, 29.

[107] See N. and H. ii. 284 n.

[108] See letter of May 17, 1859, to Dr. Canisius, Holland, 196; N. and
H. ii. 181.

[109] _Life of W.L. Garrison_, by his children, iii. 502.

[110] This table is taken from Stanwood's _History of Presidential

[111] N. and H. iii. 146.

[112] The total popular vote was 4,680,193. Lincoln had 1,866,452. In
North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana,
Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee, no vote was cast for the Lincoln ticket;
in Virginia only 1929 voted it. Adding the total popular vote of all
these States (except the 1929), we get 854,775; deducting this from the
total popular vote leaves a balance of 3,825,418, of which one half is
1,912,709; so that even outside of the States of the Confederacy Lincoln
did not get one half of the popular vote. South Carolina is not included
in any calculation concerning the popular vote, because she chose
electors by her legislature.

[113] Letter of Henry A. Wise of Virginia, May 28, 1858, quoted N. and
H. ii. 302 n.



For a while now the people of the Northern States were compelled
passively to behold a spectacle which they could not easily reconcile
with the theory of the supreme excellence and wisdom of their system of
government. Abraham Lincoln was chosen President of the United States
November 6, 1860; he was to be inaugurated March 4, 1861. During the
intervening four months the government must be conducted by a chief
whose political creed was condemned by an overwhelming majority of the
nation.[114] The situation was as unfair for Mr. Buchanan as it was
hurtful for the people. As head of a republic, or, in the more popular
phrase, as the chief "servant of the people," he must respect the
popular will, yet he could not now administer the public business
according to that will without being untrue to all his own convictions,
and repudiating all his trusted counselors. In a situation so
intrinsically false efficient government was impossible, no matter what
was the strength or weakness of the hand at the helm. Therefore there
was every reason for displacing Buchanan from control of the national
affairs in the autumn, and every reason against continuing him in that
control through the winter; yet the law of the land ordained the latter
course. It seemed neither sensible nor even safe. During this doleful
period all descriptions of him agree: he seemed, says Chittenden,
"shaken in body and uncertain in mind,... an old man worn out by worry;"
while the Southerners also declared him as "incapable of purpose as a
child." To the like purport spoke nearly all who saw him.

During the same time Lincoln's position was equally absurd and more
trying. After the lapse of four months he was, by the brief ceremony of
an hour, to become the leader of a great nation under an exceptionally
awful responsibility; but during those four months he could play no
other part than simply to watch, in utter powerlessness, the swift
succession of crowding events, which all were tending to make his
administration of the government difficult, or even impossible.
Throughout all this long time, the third part of a year, which statutes
scarcely less venerable than the Constitution itself freely presented to
the disunion leaders, they safely completed their civil and military
organization, while the Northerners, under a ruler whom they had
discredited, but of whom they could not get rid, were paralyzed for all
purposes of counter preparation.

As a trifling compensation for its existence this costly interregnum
presents to later generations a curious spectacle. A volume might be
made of the public utterances put forth in that time by men of familiar
names and more or less high repute, and it would show many of them in
most strange and unexpected characters, so entirely out of keeping with
the years which they had lived before, and the years which they were to
live afterward, that the reader would gaze in hopeless bewilderment. In
the "solid" South, so soon to be a great rebelling unit, he would find
perhaps half of the people opposed to disunion; in the North he would
hear everywhere words of compromise and concession, while coercion would
be mentioned only to be denounced. If these four months were useful in
bringing the men of the North to the fighting point, on the other hand
they gave an indispensable opportunity for proselyting, by whirl and
excitement, great numbers at the South. Even in the autumn of 1860 and
in the Gulf States secession was still so much the scheme of leaders
that there was no popular preponderance in favor of disunion doctrines.
In evidence of this are the responses of governors to a circular letter
of Governor Gist of South Carolina, addressed to them October 5, 1860,
and seeking information as to the feeling among the people. From North
Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama came replies that secession
was not likely to be favorably received. Mississippi was non-committal.
Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama desired a convention of the
discontented States, and might be influenced by its action. North
Carolina, Louisiana, and Alabama would oppose forcible coercion of a
seceding State. Florida alone was rhetorically belligerent. These
reports were discouraging in the ears of the extremist governor; but
against them he could set the fact that the disunionists had the
advantage of being the aggressive, propagandist body, homogeneous, and
pursuing an accurate policy in entire concert. They were willing to take
any amount of pains to manipulate and control the election of delegates
and the formal action of conventions, and in all cases except that of
Texas the question was conclusively passed upon by conventions. By every
means they "fired the Southern heart," which was notoriously
combustible; they stirred up a great tumult of sentiment; they made
thunderous speeches; they kept distinguished emissaries moving to and
fro; they celebrated each success with an uproar of cannonading, with
bonfires, illuminations, and processions; they appealed to those
chivalrous virtues supposed to be peculiar to Southerners; they preached
devotion to the State, love of the state flag, generous loyalty to
sister slave-communities; sometimes they used insult, abuse, and
intimidation; occasionally they argued seductively. Thus Mr. Cobb's
assertion, that "we can make better terms out of the Union than in it,"
was, in the opinion of Alexander H. Stephens, the chief influence which
carried Georgia out of the Union. In the main, however, it was the
principle of state sovereignty and state patriotism which proved the one
entirely trustworthy influence to bring over the reluctant. "I abhor
disunion, but I go with my State," was the common saying; and the States
were under skillful and resolute leadership. So, though the popular
discontent was far short of the revolutionary point, yet individuals,
one after another, yielded to that sympathetic, emotional instinct which
tempts each man to fall in with the big procession. In this way it was
that during the Buchanan interregnum the people of the Gulf States
became genuinely fused in rebellion.

It is not correct to say that the election of Lincoln was the cause of
the Rebellion; it was rather the signal. To the Southern leaders, it was
the striking of the appointed hour. His defeat would have meant only
postponement. South Carolina led the way. On December 17, 1860, her
convention came together, the Palmetto flag waving over its chamber of
conference, and on December 20 it issued its "Ordinance."[115] This
declared that the Ordinance of May 23, 1788, ratifying the Constitution,
is "hereby repealed," and the "Union now subsisting between South
Carolina and other States, under the name of the United States of
America, is hereby dissolved." A Declaration of Causes said that South
Carolina had "resumed her position among the nations of the world as a
separate and independent State." The language used was appropriate for
the revocation of a power of attorney. The people hailed this action
with noisy joy, unaccompanied by any regret or solemnity at the
severance of the old relationship. The newspapers at once began to
publish "Foreign News" from the other States. The new governor, Pickens,
a fiery Secessionist, and described as one "born insensible to
fear,"--presumably the condition of most persons at that early period of
existence,--had already suggested to Mr. Buchanan the impropriety of
reinforcing the national garrisons in the forts in Charleston harbor. He
now accredited to the President three commissioners to treat with him
for the delivery of the "forts, magazines, lighthouses, and other real
estate, with their appurtenances, in the limits of South Carolina; and
also for an apportionment of the public debt, and for a division of all
other property held by the government of the United States as agent of
the Confederate States of which South Carolina was recently a member."
This position, as of the dissolution of a copartnership, or the
revocation of an agency, and an accounting of debts and assets, was at
least simple; and by way of expediting it an appraisal of the "real
estate" and "appurtenances" within the state limits had been made by the
state government. Meanwhile there was in the harbor of Charleston a sort
of armed truce, which might at any moment break into war. Major Anderson
in Fort Moultrie, and the state commander in the city, watched each
other like two suspicious animals, neither sure when the other will
spring. In short, in all the overt acts, the demeanor and the language
of this excitable State, there was such insolence, besides hostility,
that her emissaries must have been surprised at the urbane courtesy with
which they were received, even by a President of Mr. Buchanan's views.

After the secession of South Carolina the other Gulf States hesitated
briefly. Mississippi followed first; her convention assembled January 7,
1861, and on January 9 passed the ordinance, 84 yeas to 15 nays,
subsequently making the vote unanimous. The Florida convention met
January 3, and on January 10 decreed the State to be "a sovereign and
independent nation," 62 yeas to 7 nays. The Alabama convention passed
its ordinance on January 11 by 61 yeas to 39 nays; the President
announced that the idea of reconstruction must be forever "dismissed."
Yet the northern part of the State appeared to be substantially
anti-secession. In Georgia the Secessionists doubted whether they could
control a convention, yet felt obliged to call one. Toombs, Cobb, and
Iverson labored with tireless zeal throughout the State; but in spite of
all their proselyting, Unionist feeling ran high and debate was hot. The
members from the southern part of the State ventured to menace and
dragoon those from the northern part, who were largely Unionists. The
latter retorted angrily; a schism and personal collisions were narrowly
avoided. Alexander H. Stephens spoke for the Union with a warmth and
logic not surpassed by anything that was said at the North. He and
Herschel V. Johnson both voted against secession; yet, on January 18,
when the vote was taken, it showed 208 yeas against 89 nays. On January
26 Louisiana followed, the vote of the convention being 113 yeas to 17
nays; but it refused to submit the ordinance to the people for
ratification. The action of Texas, the only other State which seceded
prior to the inauguration of Lincoln, was delayed until February 1.
There Governor Houston was opposing secession with such vigor as
remained to a broken old man, whereby he provoked Senator Iverson to
utter the threat of assassination: "Some Texan Brutus may arise to rid
his country of this old hoary-headed traitor." But in the convention,
when it came to voting, the yeas were 166, the nays only 7.

By the light that was in him Mr. Buchanan was a Unionist, but it was a
sadly false and flickering light, and beneath its feeble illumination
his steps staggered woefully. For two months he diverged little from the
path which the Secessionist leaders would have marked out for him, had
they controlled his movements. At the time of the election his cabinet

Lewis Cass of Michigan, secretary of state.
Howell Cobb of Georgia, secretary of the treasury.
John B. Floyd of Virginia, secretary of war.
Isaac Toucey of Connecticut, secretary of the navy.
Jacob Thompson of Mississippi, secretary of the interior.
Aaron V. Brown of Tennessee, postmaster-general.
Jeremiah S. Black of Pennsylvania, attorney-general.

Of these men Cobb, Floyd, and Thompson were extreme Secessionists. Many
felt that Cobb should have been made President of the Southern
Confederacy instead of Davis. In December Thompson went as commissioner
from Mississippi to North Carolina to persuade that State to secede, and
did not resign his place in the cabinet because, as he said, Mr.
Buchanan approved his mission.

Betwixt his own predilections and the influence of these advisers Mr.
Buchanan composed for the Thirty-sixth Congress a message which carried
consternation among all Unionists. It was of little consequence that he
declared the present situation to be the "natural effect" of the
"long-continued and intemperate interference" of the Northern people
with slavery. But it was of the most serious consequence that, while he
condemned secession as unconstitutional, he also declared himself
powerless to prevent it. His duty "to take care that the laws be
faithfully executed" he knew no other way to perform except by aiding
federal officers in the performance of their duties. But where, as in
South Carolina, the federal officers had all resigned, so that none
remained to be aided, what was he to do? This was practically to take
the position that half a dozen men, by resigning their offices, could
make the preservation of the Union by its chief executive
impossible![116] Besides this, Mr. Buchanan said that he had "no
authority to decide what should be the relations between the Federal
government and South Carolina." He afterward said that he desired to
avoid a collision of arms "between this and any other government." He
did not seem to reflect that he had no right to recognize a State of the
Union as being an "other government," in the sense in which he used the
phrase, and that, by his very abstention from the measures necessary for
maintaining unchanged that relationship which had hitherto existed, he
became a party to the establishment of a new relationship, and that,
too, of a character which he himself alleged-to be unconstitutional. In
truth, his chief purpose was to rid himself of any responsibility and to
lay it all upon Congress. Yet he was willing to advise Congress as to
its powers and duties in the business which he shirked in favor of that
body, saying that the power to coerce a seceding State had not been
delegated to it, and adding the warning that "the Union can never be
cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war." So the nation
learned that its ruler was of opinion that to resist the destruction of
its nationality was both unlawful and inexpedient.

If the conclusions of the message aroused alarm and indignation, its
logic excited ridicule. Senator Hale gave a not unfair synopsis: The
President, he said, declares: 1. That South Carolina has just cause for
seceding. 2. That she has no right to secede. 3. That we have no right
to prevent her from seceding; and that the power of the government is "a
power to do nothing at all." Another wit said that Buchanan was willing
to give up a _part_ of the Constitution, and, if necessary, the _whole_,
in order to preserve the _remainder_! But while this message of Mr.
Buchanan has been bitterly denounced, and with entire justice, from the
hour of its transmission to the present day, yet a palliating
consideration ought to be noted: he had little reason to believe that,
if he asserted the right and duty of forcible coercion, he would find at
his back the indispensable force, moral and physical, of the people.
Demoralization at the North was widespread. After the lapse of a few
months this condition passed, and then those who had been beneath its
influence desired to forget the humiliating fact, and hoped that others
might either forget or never know the measure of their weakness. In
order that they might save their good names, it was natural that they
should seek to suppress all evidence which had not already found its way
upon the public record; but enough remains to show how grievously for a
while the knees were weakened under many who enjoy--and rightfully, by
reason of the rest of their lives--the reputation of stalwart patriots.
For example, late in October, General Scott suggested to the President
a division of the country into four separate confederacies, roughly
outlining their boundaries. Scott was a dull man, but he was the head of
the army and enjoyed a certain prestige, so that it was impossible to
say that his notions, however foolish in themselves, were of no
consequence. But if the blunders of General Scott could not fatally
wound the Union cause, the blunders of Horace Greeley might conceivably
do so. If there had been in the Northern States any newspaper--apart
from Mr. Garrison's "Liberator"--which was thoroughly committed to the
anti-slavery cause, it was the New York "Tribune," under the guidance of
that distinguished editor. Republicans everywhere throughout the land
had been educated by his teachings, and had become accustomed to take a
large part of their knowledge and their opinions in matters political
from his writings. It was a misfortune for Abraham Lincoln, which cannot
be overrated, that from the moment of his nomination to the day of his
death the "Tribune" was largely engaged in criticising his measures and
in condemning his policy.

No sooner did all that, which Mr. Greeley had been striving during many
years to bring about, seem to be on the point of consummation, than the
demoralized and panic-stricken reformer became desirous to undo his own
achievements, and to use for the purpose of effecting a sudden
retrogression all the influence which he had gained by bold leadership.
November 9, 1860, it was appalling to read in the editorial columns of
his sheet, that "if the Cotton States shall decide that they can do
better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go in
peace;" that, while the "Tribune" denied the right of nullification, yet
it would admit that "to withdraw from the Union is quite another
matter;" that "whenever a considerable section of our Union shall
deliberately resolve to go out, we shall resist all coercive measures
designed to keep it in."[117] At the end of another month the
"Tribune's" famous editor was still in the same frame of mind, declaring
himself "averse to the employment of military force to fasten one
section of our confederacy to the other," and saying that, "if eight
States, having five millions of people, choose to separate from us, they
cannot be permanently withheld from so doing by federal cannon." On
December 17 he even said that the South had as good a right to secede
from the Union as the colonies had to secede from Great Britain, and
that he "would not stand up for coercion, for subjugation," because he
did not "think it would be just." On February 23, 1861, he said that if
the Cotton States, or the Gulf States, "choose to form an independent
nation, they have a clear moral right to do so," and if the "great body
of the Southern people" become alienated from the Union and wish to
"escape from it, we will do our best to forward their views." A volume
could be filled with the like writing of his prolific pen at this time,
and every sentence of such purport was the casting of a new stone to
create an almost impassable obstruction in the path along which the new
President must soon endeavor to move. Thurlow Weed, editor of the Albany
"Evening Journal," and the confidential adviser of Seward, wrote in
favor of concessions; he declared that "a victorious party can afford to
be tolerant;" and he advocated a convention to revise the Constitution,
on the ground that, "after more than seventy years of wear and tear, of
collision and abrasion, it should be no cause of wonder that the
machinery of government is found weakened, or out of repair, or even
defective." Frequently he uttered the wish, vague and of fine sound, but
enervating, that the Republicans might "meet secession as patriots and
not as partisans." On November 9 the Democratic New York "Herald,"
discussing the election of Lincoln, said: "For far less than this our
fathers seceded from Great Britain;" it also declared coercion to be
"out of the question," and laid down the principle that each State
possesses "the right to break the tie of the confederacy, as a nation
might break a treaty, and to repel coercion as a nation might repel

Local elections in New York and Massachusetts "showed a striking and
general reduction of Republican strength." In December the mayor of
Philadelphia, though that city had polled a heavy Republican majority,
told a mass meeting in Independence Square that denunciations of slavery
were inconsistent with national brotherhood, and "must be frowned down
by a just and law-abiding people." The Bell and Everett men, generally,
desired peace at any price. The business men of the North, alarmed at
the prospect of disorder, became loudly solicitous for concession,
compromise, even surrender.[118] In Democratic meetings a threatening
tone was adopted. One proposal was to reconstruct the Union, leaving out
the New England States. So late even as January 21, 1861, before an
immense and noteworthy gathering in New York, an orator ventured to say:
"If a revolution of force is to begin, it shall be inaugurated at home;"
and the words were cheered. The distinguished Chancellor Walworth said
that it would be "as brutal to send men to butcher our own brothers of
the Southern States as it would be to massacre them in the Northern
States." When DeWitt Clinton's son, George, spoke of secession as
"rebellion," the multitude hailed the word with cries of dissent. Even
at Faneuil Hall, in Boston, "a very large and respectable meeting" was
emphatically in favor of compromise. It was impossible to measure
accurately the extent and force of all this demoralization; but the
symptoms were that vast numbers were infected with such sentiments, and
that they would have been worse than useless as backers of a vigorous
policy on the part of the government.

With the North wavering and ready to retreat, and the South aggressive
and confident, it was exacting to expect Mr. Buchanan to stand up for a
fight. Why should he, with his old-time Democratic principles, now by a
firm, defiant attitude precipitate a crisis, possibly a civil war, when
Horace Greeley and Wendell Phillips were conspicuously running away from
the consequences of their own teachings, and were loudly crying "Peace!
peace!" after they themselves had long been doing all in their power to
bring the North up to the fighting point? When these leaders faced to
the rear, it was hard to say who could be counted upon to fill the front
rank. In truth, it was a situation which might have discouraged a more
combative patriot than Buchanan. Meanwhile, while the Northerners talked
chiefly of yielding, the hot and florid rhetoric of the Southern
orators, often laden with contemptuous insult, smote with disturbing
menace upon the ears even of the most courageous Unionists. It was said
at the South and feared at the North that secession had a "Spartan band
in every Northern State," and that blood would flow in Northern cities
at least as soon and as freely as on the Southern plantations, if
forcible coercion should be attempted. Was it possible to be sure that
this was all rodomontade? To many good citizens there seemed some reason
to think that the best hope for avoiding the fulfillment at the North of
these sanguinary threats might lie in the probability that the
anti-slavery agitators would not stand up to encounter a genuinely
mortal peril.

When the Star of the West retired, a little ignominiously, from her task
of reinforcing Fort Sumter, Senator Wigfall jeered insolently. "Your
flag has been insulted," he said; "redress it if you dare! You have
submitted to it for two months, and you will submit forever.... We have
dissolved the Union; mend it if you can; cement it with blood; try the
experiment!" Mr. Chestnut of South Carolina wished to "unfurl the
Palmetto flag, fling it to the breeze ... and ring the clarion notes of
defiance in the ears of an insolent foe." Such bombastic but confident
language, of which a great quantity was uttered in this winter of
1860-61, may exasperate or intimidate according to the present temper of
the opponent whose ear it assaults; for a while the North was more in
condition to be awestruck than to be angered. Her spokesmen failed to
answer back, and left her to listen not without anxiety to fierce
predictions that Southern flags would soon be floating over the dome of
the Capitol and even over Faneuil Hall, if she should be so imprudent as
to test Southern valor and Southern resources.

Matters looked even worse for the Union cause in Congress than in the
country. Occasionally some irritated Northern Republican shot out words
of spirit; but the prevalent desire was for conciliation, compromise,
and concession, while some actually adopted secession doctrines. For
example, Daniel E. Sickles, in the House, threatened that the secession
of the Southern States should be followed by that of New York city; and
in fact the scheme had been recommended by the Democratic mayor,
Fernando Wood, in a message to the Common Council of the city on January
6; and General Dix conceived it to be a possibility. In the Senate Simon
Cameron declared himself desirous to preserve the Union "by any
sacrifice of feeling, and I may say of principle." A sacrifice of
political principle by Cameron was not, perhaps, a serious matter; but
he intended the phrase to be emphatic, and he was a leading Republican
politician, had been a candidate for the presidential nomination, and
was dictator in Pennsylvania. Even Seward, in the better days of the
middle of January, felt that he could "afford to meet prejudice with
conciliation, exaction with concession which surrenders no principle,
and violence with the right hand of peace;" and he was "willing, after
the excitement of rebellion and secession should have passed away, to
call a convention for amending the Constitution."

This message of Buchanan marked the lowest point to which the
temperature of his patriotism fell. Soon afterward, stimulated by heat
applied from outside, it began to rise. The first intimation which
impressed upon his anxious mind that he was being too acquiescent
towards the South came from General Cass. That steadfast Democrat, of
the old Jacksonian school, like many of his party at the North, was
fully as good a patriot and Union man as most of the Republicans were
approving themselves to be during these winter months of vacillation,
alarm, and compromise. In November he was strenuously in favor of
forcibly coercing a seceding State, but later assented to the tenor of
Mr. Buchanan's message. The frame of mind which induced this assent,
however, was transitory; for immediately he began to insist upon the
reinforcement of the garrisons of the Southern forts, and on December 13
he resigned because the President refused to accede to his views. A few
days earlier Howell Cobb had had the grace to resign from the Treasury,
which he left entirely empty. In the reorganization Philip F. Thomas of
Maryland, a Secessionist also, succeeded Cobb; Judge Black was moved
into the State Department; and Edwin M. Stanton of Pennsylvania followed
Black as attorney-general. Mr. Floyd, than whom no Secessionist has left
a name in worse odor at the North, had at first advised against any
"rash movement" in the way of secession, on the ground that Mr.
Lincoln's administration would "fail, and be regarded as impotent for
good or evil, within four months after his inauguration." None the less
he had long been using his official position in the War Department to
send arms into the Southern States, and to make all possible
arrangements for putting them in an advantageous position for
hostilities. Fortunately about this time the famous defalcation in the
Indian Department, in which he was guiltily involved, destroyed his
credit with the President, and at the same time he quarreled with his
associates concerning Anderson's removal to Fort Sumter. On December 29
he resigned, and the duties of his place were laid for a while upon
Judge Holt, the postmaster-general.

On Sunday morning, December 30, there was what has been properly called
a cabinet crisis. The South Carolina commissioners, just arrived in
Washington, were demanding recognition, and to treat with the government
as if they were representatives of a foreign power. The President
declined to receive them in a diplomatic character, but offered to act
as go-between betwixt them and Congress. The President's advisers,
however, were in a far less amiable frame of mind, for their blood had
been stirred wholesomely by the secession of South Carolina and the
presence of these emissaries with their insolent demands. Mr. Black, now
at the head of the State Department, had gone through much the same
phases of feeling as General Cass. In November he had been "emphatic in
his advocacy of coercion," but afterward had approved the President's
message and even declared forcible coercion to be "_ipso facto_ an
expulsion" of the State from the Union; since then he had drifted back
and made fast at his earlier moorings. On this important Sunday morning
Mr. Buchanan learned with dismay that either his reply to the South
Carolinians must be substantially modified, or Mr. Black and Mr. Stanton
would retire from the cabinet. Under this pressure he yielded. Mr. Black
drafted a new reply to the commissioners, Mr. Stanton copied it, Holt
concurred in it, and, in substance, Mr. Buchanan accepted it. This
affair constituted, as Messrs. Nicolay and Hay well say, "the
President's virtual abdication," and thereafterward began the "cabinet
regime." Upon the commissioners this chill gust from the North struck so
disagreeably that, on January 2, they hastened home to their
"independent nation." From this time forth the South covered Mr.
Buchanan with contumely and abuse; Mr. Benjamin called him "a senile
executive, under the sinister influence of insane counsels;" and the
poor old man, really wishing to do right, but stripped of friends and of
his familiar advisers, and confounded by the views of new counselors,
presented a spectacle for pity.

On January 8 Mr. Thompson, secretary of the interior, resigned, and the
vacancy was left unfilled. A more important change took place on the
following day, when Mr. Thomas left the Treasury Department, and the New
York bankers, whose aid was essential, forced the President, sorely
against his will, to give the place to General John A. Dix. This proved
an excellent appointment. General Dix was an old Democrat, but of the
high-spirited type; he could have tolerated secession by peaceable
agreement, but rose in anger at menaces against the flag and the Union.
He conducted his department with entire success, and also rendered to
the country perhaps the greatest service that was done by any man during
that winter. On January 29 he sent the telegram which closed with the
famous words: "If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot
him on the spot."[119] This rung out as the first cheering, stimulating
indication of a fighting temper at the North. It was a tonic which came
at a time of sore need, and for too long a while it remained the
solitary dose!

So much of the President's message as concerned the condition of the
country was referred in the House to a Committee of Thirty-three,
composed by appointing one member from each State. Other resolutions and
motions upon the same subject, to the number of twenty-five, were also
sent to this committee. It had many sessions from December 11 to January
14, but never made an approach to evolving anything distantly
approaching agreement. When, on January 14, the report came, it was an
absurd fiasco: it contained six propositions, of which each had the
assent of a majority of a quorum; but seven minority reports, bearing
together the signatures of fourteen members, were also submitted; and
the members of the seceding States refused to act. The only actual fruit
was a proposed amendment to the Constitution: "That no amendment shall
be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the
power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic
institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service
by the laws of said State." In the expiring hours of the Thirty-sixth
Congress this was passed by the House, and then by the Senate, and was
signed by the President. Lincoln, in his inaugural address, said of it:
"Holding such a provision to be now constitutional law, I have no
objection to its being made express and irrevocable." This view of it
was correct; it had no real significance, and the ill-written sentence
never disfigured the Constitution; it simply sank out of sight,
forgotten by every one.

Collaterally with the sitting of this House committee, a Committee of
Thirteen was appointed in the Senate. To these gentlemen also "a string
of Union-saving devices" was presented, but on the last day of the year
they reported that they had "not been able to agree upon any general
plan of adjustment."

The earnest effort of the venerable Crittenden to Affect a compromise
aroused a faint hope. But he offered little else than an extension
westward of the Missouri Compromise line; and he never really had the
slightest chance of effecting that consummation, which in fact _could
not be_ effected. His plan was finally defeated on the last evening of
the session.

Collaterally with these congressional debates there were also proceeding
in Washington the sessions of the Peace Congress, another futile effort
to concoct a cure for an incurable condition. It met on February 4,
1861, but only twenty-one States out of thirty-four were represented.
The seven States which had seceded said that they could not come, being
"Foreign Nations." Six other States[120] held aloof. Those Northern
States which sent delegates selected "their most conservative and
compromising men," and so great a tendency towards concession was shown
that Unionists soon condemned the scheme as merely a deceitful cover
devised by the Southerners behind which they could the more securely
carry on their processes of secession. These gentlemen talked a great
deal and finally presented a report or plan to Congress five days before
the end of the session; the House refused to receive it, the Senate
rejected it by 7 ayes to 28 nays. The only usefulness of the gathering
was as evidence of the unwillingness of the South to compromise. In fact
the Southern leaders were entirely frank and outspoken in acknowledging
their position; they had said, from the beginning, that they did not
wish the Committee of Thirty-three to accomplish anything; and they had
endeavored to dissuade Southerners from accepting positions upon it.
Hawkins of Florida said that "the time of compromise had passed
forever." South Carolina refused to share in the Peace Congress, because
she did "not deem it advisable to initiate negotiations when she had no
desire or intention to promote the object in view." Governor Peters of
Mississippi, in poetic language, suggested another difficulty: "When
sparks cease to fly upwards," he said, "Comanches respect treaties, and
wolves kill sheep no more, the oath of a Black Republican might be of
some value as a protection to slave property." Jefferson Davis
contemptuously stigmatized all the schemes of compromise as "quack
nostrums," and he sneered justly enough at those who spun fine arguments
of legal texture, and consumed time "discussing abstract questions,
reading patchwork from the opinions of men now mingled with the dust."

It is not known by what logic gentlemen who held these views defended
their conduct in retaining their positions in the government of the
nation for the purpose of destroying it. Senator Yulee of Florida
shamelessly gave his motive for staying in the Senate: "It is thought we
can keep the hands of Mr. Buchanan tied and disable the Republicans from
effecting any legislation which will strengthen the hands of the
incoming administration." Mr. Toombs of Georgia, speaking and voting at
his desk in the Senate, declared himself "as good a rebel and as good a
traitor as ever descended from Revolutionary loins," and said that the
Union was already dissolved,--by which assertion he made his position in
the Senate absolutely indefensible. The South Carolina senators resigned
before their State ordained itself a "foreign nation," and incurred
censure for being so "precipitate." In a word, the general desire was to
remain in office, hampering and obstructing the government, until March
4, 1861, and at a caucus of disunionists it was agreed to do so. But the
pace became too rapid, and resignations followed pretty close upon the
formal acts of secession.

On the same day on which the Peace Congress opened its sessions in
Washington, there came together at Montgomery, in Alabama, delegates
from six States for the purpose of forming a Southern Confederacy. On
the third day thereafter a plan for a provisional government,
substantially identical with the Constitution of the United States, was
adopted. On February 9 the oath of allegiance was taken, and Jefferson
Davis and Alexander H. Stephens were elected respectively President and
Vice-President. On February 13 the military and naval committees were
directed to report plans for organizing an army and navy. Mr. Davis
promptly journeyed to Montgomery, making on the way many speeches, in
which he told his hearers that no plan for a reconstruction of the old
Union would be entertained; and promised that those who should interfere
with the new nation would have to "smell Southern powder and to feel
Southern steel." On February 18 he was inaugurated, and in his address
again referred to the "arbitrament of the sword." Immediately afterward
he announced his cabinet as follows:--

Robert Toombs of Georgia, secretary of state.
C.G. Memminger of South Carolina, secretary of the treasury.
L.P. Walker of Alabama, secretary of war.
S.R. Mallory of Florida, secretary of the navy.
J.H. Reagan of Texas, postmaster-general.
Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana, attorney-general.

On March 11 the permanent Constitution was adopted.[121] Thus the
machine of the new government was set in working order. Mr. Greeley
gives some interesting figures showing the comparative numerical
strength of the sections of the country at this time:[122]--

The free population of the seven States which
had seceded, was 2,656,948
The free population of the eight slave States[123]
which had not seceded, was 5,633,005
Total 8,289,953
The slaves in the States of the first list were 2,312,046
The slaves in the States of the second list were 1,638,297
Total of slaves 3,950,343
The population of the whole Union by the
census of 1860, was 31,443,321

[Illustration: Alexander H. Stephens]

The disproportion would have discouraged the fathers of the new
nation, if they had anticipated that the North would be resolute in
using its overwhelming resources. But how could they believe that this
would be the case when they read the New York "Tribune" and the reports
of Mr. Phillips's harangues?

* * * * *

On February 13 the electoral vote was to be counted in Congress. Rumors
were abroad that the Secessionists intended to interfere with this by
tumults and violence; but the evidence is insufficient to prove that any
such scheme was definitely matured; it was talked of, but ultimately it
seems to have been laid aside with a view to action at a later date.
Naturally enough, however, the country was disquieted. In the emergency
the action of General Scott was watched with deep anxiety. A Southerner
by birth and by social sympathies, he had been expected by the
Secessionists to join their movement. But the old soldier--though broken
by age and infirmities, and though he had proposed the folly of
voluntarily quartering the country, like the corpse of a traitor--had
his patriotism and his temper at once aroused when violence was
threatened. On and after October 29 he had repeatedly advised
reinforcement of the Southern garrisons; though it must be admitted, in
Buchanan's behalf, that the general made no suggestion as to how or
where the troops could be obtained for this purpose. In the same spirit
he now said, with stern resolution, that there should be ample military
preparations to insure both the count and the inauguration; and he told
some of the Southerners that he would blow traitors to pieces at the
cannon's mouth without hesitation. Disturbed at his vehemence, they
denounced him bitterly, and sent him frequent notices of assassination.
Floyd distributed orders concerning troops and munitions directly from
the War Department, and carefully concealed them from the general who
was the head of the army. But secrecy and intimidation were in vain. The
aged warrior was fiercely in earnest; if there was going to be any
outbreak in Washington he was going to put it down with bullets and
bayonets, and he gathered his soldiers and instructed his officers
accordingly. But happily the preparation of these things was sufficient
to render the use of them unnecessary. When the day came Vice-President
Breckenridge performed his duty, however unwelcome, without flinching.
He presided over the joint session and conducted the count with the air
of a man determined to enforce law and order, and at the close declared
the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin.

Still only the smaller crisis had been passed. Much more alarming
stories now flew from mouth to mouth,--of plots to seize the capital and
to prevent the inauguration, even to assassinate Lincoln on his journey
to Washington. How much foundation there was for these is not accurately
known. That the idea of capturing Washington had fascinated the
Southern fancy is certain. "I see no reason," said Senator Iverson, "why
Washington city should not be continued the capital of the Southern
Confederacy." The Richmond "Examiner" railed grossly: "That filthy cage
of unclean birds must and will assuredly be purified by fire.... Our
people can take it,--they will take it.... Scott, the arch-traitor, and
Lincoln, the beast, combined, cannot prevent it. The 'Illinois Ape' must
retrace his journey more rapidly than he came." The abundant talk of
this sort created uneasiness; and Judge Holt said that there was cause
for alarm. But a committee of Congress reported that, though it was
difficult to speak positively, yet they found no evidence sufficient to
prove "the existence of a secret organization." Alexander H. Stephens
has denied that there was any intention to attack the city, and probably
the notion of seizure did not pass beyond the stage of talk.

But the alleged plot to assassinate Mr. Lincoln was more definite. He
had been spending the winter quietly in Springfield, where he had been
overrun by visitors, who wished to look at him, to advise him, and to
secure promises of office; fortunately the tedious procession had lost
part of its offensiveness by touching his sense of humor. Anxious people
made well-meaning but useless efforts to induce him to say something for
effect upon the popular mind; but he resolutely and wisely maintained
silence. His position and opinions, he said, had already been declared
in his speeches with all the clearness he could give to them, and the
people had appeared to understand and approve them. He could not improve
and did not desire to change these utterances. Occasionally he privately
expressed his dislike to the conceding and compromising temper which
threatened to undo, for an indefinite future, all which the long and
weary struggle of anti-slavery men had accomplished. In this line he
wrote a letter of protest to Greeley, which inspired that gentleman to a
singular expression of sympathy; let the Union go to pieces, exclaimed
the emotional editor, let presidents be assassinated, let the Republican
party suffer crushing defeat, but let there not be "another nasty
compromise." To Mr. Kellogg, the Illinoisian on the House Committee of
Thirty-three, Lincoln wrote: "Entertain no proposition for a compromise
in regard to the extension of slavery. The instant you do, they have us
under again; all our labor is lost, and sooner or later must be done
over again." He repeated almost the same words to E.B. Washburne, a
member of the House. Duff Green tried hard to get something out of him
for the comfort of Mr. Buchanan, but failed to extort more than
commonplace generalities. To Seward he wrote that he did not wish to
interfere with the present status, or to meddle with slavery as it now
lawfully existed. To like purport he wrote to Alexander H. Stephens,
induced thereto by the famous Union speech of that gentleman. He
eschewed hostile feeling, saying: "I never have been, am not now, and
probably never shall be, in a mood of harassing the people, either North
or South." Nevertheless, while he said that all were "brothers of a
common country," he was perfectly resolved that the country should
remain "common," even if the bond of brotherhood had to be riveted by
force. He admitted that this necessity would be "an ugly point;" but he
was perfectly clear that "the right of a State to secede is not an open
or debatable question." He desired that General Scott should be prepared
either to "hold or retake" the Southern forts, if need should be, at or
after the inauguration; but on his journey to Washington he said to many
audiences that he wished no war and no bloodshed, and that these evils
could be avoided if people would only "keep cool" and "keep their
temper, on both sides of the line."

On Monday, February 11, 1861, Mr. Lincoln spoke to his fellow citizens
of Springfield a very brief farewell, so solemn as to sound ominous in
the ears of those who know what afterward occurred. It was arranged that
he should stop at various points upon the somewhat circuitous route
which had been laid out, and that he should arrive in Washington on
Saturday, February 23. The programme, was pursued accurately till near
the close; he made, of course, many speeches, but none added anything to
what was already known as to his views.

Meantime the thick rumors of violence were bringing much uneasiness to
persons who were under responsibilities. Baltimore was the place where,
and its villainous "Plug Uglies" were the persons by whom, the plot, if
there was one, was to be executed. Mr. Felton, president of the
Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company, engaged Allan
Pinkerton to explore the matter, and the report of this skillful
detective indicated a probability of an attack with the purpose of
assassination. At that time the cars were drawn by horses across town
from the northern to the southern station, and during the passage an
assault could be made with ease and with great chance of success. As yet
there was no indication that the authorities intended to make, even if
they could make,[124] any adequate arrangements for the protection of
the traveler. At Philadelphia Mr. Lincoln was told of the fears of his
friends, and talked with Mr. Pinkerton, but he refused to change his
plan. On February 22 he was to assist at a flag-raising in Philadelphia,
and was then to go on to Harrisburg, and on the following day he was to
go from there to Baltimore. He declined to alter either route or hours.

But other persons besides Mr. Felton had been busy with independent
detective investigations, the result of which was in full accord with
the report of Mr. Pinkerton. On February 22 Mr. Frederick W. Seward,
sent by his father and General Scott, both then at Washington, delivered
to Mr. Lincoln, at Philadelphia, the message that there was "serious
danger" to his life if the time of his passage through Baltimore should
be known. Yet Lincoln still remained obdurate. He declared that if an
escorting delegation from Baltimore should meet him at Harrisburg, he
would go on with it. But at Harrisburg no such escort presented itself.
Then the few who knew the situation discussed further as to what should
be done, Norman B. Judd being chief spokesman for evading the danger by
a change of programme. Naturally the objection of seeming timid and of
exciting ridicule was present in the minds of all, and it was put
somewhat emphatically by Colonel Sumner. Mr. Lincoln at last settled the
dispute; he said: "I have thought over this matter considerably since I
went over the ground with Pinkerton last night. The appearance of Mr.
Frederick Seward, with warning from another source, confirms Mr.
Pinkerton's belief. Unless there are some other reasons besides fear of
ridicule, I am disposed to carry out Judd's plan."

This plan was accordingly carried out with the success which its
simplicity insured. Mr. Lincoln and his stalwart friend, Colonel Lamon,
slipped out of a side door to a hackney carriage, were driven to the
railway station, and returned by the train to Philadelphia. Their
departure was not noticed, but had it been, news of it could not have
been sent away, for Mr. Felton had had the telegraph wires secretly cut
outside the town. He also ordered, upon a plausible pretext, that the
southward-bound night train on his road should be held back until the
arrival of this train from Harrisburg. Mr. Lincoln and Colonel Lamon
passed from the one train to the other without recognition, and rolled
into Washington early on the following morning. Mr. Seward and Mr.
Washburne met Lincoln at the station and went with him to Willard's
Hotel. Soon afterward the country was astonished, and perhaps some
persons were discomfited, as the telegraph carried abroad the news of
his arrival.

Those who were disappointed at this safe conclusion of his journey, if
in fact there were any such, together with many who would have contemned
assassination, at once showered upon him sneers and ridicule. They said
that Lincoln had put on a disguise and had shown the white feather, when
there had been no real danger. But this was not just. Whether or not
there was the completed machinery of a definite, organized plot for
assault and assassination is uncertain; that is to say, this is not
_proved_; yet the evidence is so strong that the majority of
investigators seem to agree in the opinion that _probably_ there was a
plan thoroughly concerted and ready for execution. Even if there was
not, it was very likely that a riot might be suddenly started, which
would be as fatal in its consequences as a premeditated scheme. But,
after all, the question of the plot is one of mere curiosity and quite
aside from the true issue. That issue, so far as it presented itself for
determination by Mr. Lincoln, was simply whether a case of such
probability of danger was made out that as a prudent man he should
overrule the only real objection,--that of exciting ridicule,--and avoid
a peril which the best judges believed to exist, and which, if it did
exist, involved consequences of immeasurable seriousness not only to
himself but to the nation. For a wise man only one conclusion was
possible. The story of the disguise was a silly slander, based upon the
trifling fact that for this night journey Lincoln wore a traveling cap
instead of his hat.

Lincoln's own opinion as to the danger is not quite clear.[125] He said
to Mr. Lossing that, after hearing Mr. Seward, he believed "such a plot
to be in existence." But he also said: "I did not then, nor do I now,
believe I should have been assassinated, had I gone through Baltimore as
first contemplated; but I thought it wise to run no risk, where no risk
was necessary."

The reflection can hardly fail to occur, how grossly unfair it was that
Mr. Lincoln should be put into the position in which he was put at this
time, and then that fault should be found with him even if his prudence
was overstrained. Many millions of people in the country hated him with
a hatred unutterable; among them might well be many fanatics, to whom
assassination would seem a noble act, many desperadoes who would regard
it as a pleasing excitement; and he was to go through a city which men
of this stamp could at any time dominate. The custom of the country
compelled this man, whom it had long since selected as its ruler, to
make a journey of extreme danger without any species of protection
whatsoever. So far as peril went, no other individual in the United
States had ever, presumably, been in a peril like that which beset him;
so far as safeguards went, he had no more than any other traveler. A few
friends volunteered to make the journey with him, but they were useless
as guardians; and he and they were so hustled and jammed in the railway
stations that one of them actually had his arm broken. This
extraordinary spectacle may have indicated folly on the part of the
nation which permitted it, but certainly it did not involve the disgrace
of the individual who had no choice about it. The people put Mr. Lincoln
in a position in which he was subjected to the most appalling, as it is
the most vague, of all dangers, and then left him to take care of
himself as best he could. It was ungenerous afterward to criticise him
for exercising prudence in the performance of that duty which he ought
never to have been called upon to perform at all.[126]

Immediately after his arrival in Washington Mr. Lincoln received a
visit from the members of the Peace Congress. Grotesque and ridiculous
descriptions of him, as if he had been a Caliban in education, manners,
and aspect, had been rife among Southerners, and the story goes that the
Southern delegates expected to be at once amused and shocked by the
sight of a clodhopper whose conversation would be redolent of the
barnyard, not to say of the pigsty. Those of them who had any skill in
reading character were surprised,--as the tradition is,--discomfited,
even a little alarmed, at what in fact they beheld; for Mr. Lincoln
appeared before them a self-possessed man, expressing to them such clear
convictions and such a distinct and firm purpose as compelled them into
new notions of his capacity and told them of much trouble ahead. His
remark to Mr. Rives, coming from one who spoke accurately, had an
ominous sound in rebellious ears: "My course is as plain as a turnpike
road. It is marked out by the Constitution. I am in no doubt which way
to go." The wiser Southerners withdrew from this reception quite sober
and thoughtful, with some new ideas about the man with whom their
relationship seemed on the verge of becoming hostile. After abundant
allowance is made for the enthusiasm of Northern admirers, it remains
certain that Lincoln bore well this severe ordeal of criticism on the
part of those who would have been glad to despise him. Ungainly they saw
him, but not undignified, and the strange impressive sadness seldom
dwelt so strikingly upon his face as at this time, as though all the
weight of misery, which the millions of his fellow citizens were to
endure throughout the coming years, already burdened the soul of the
ruler who had been chosen to play the most responsible part in the
crisis and the anguish.

March 4, 1861, inauguration day, was fine and sunny. If there had ever
been any real danger of trouble, the fear of it had almost entirely
subsided. Northerners and Southerners had found out in good season that
General Scott was not in a temporizing mood; he had in the city two
batteries, a few companies of regulars,--653 men, exclusive of some
marines,--and the corps of picked Washington Volunteers. He said that
this force was all he wanted. President Buchanan left the White House
in an open carriage, escorted by a company of sappers and miners under
Captain Duane. At Willard's Hotel Mr. Lincoln entered the carriage, and
the two gentlemen passed along the avenue, through crowds which cheered
but made no disturbance, to the Capitol. General Scott with his regulars
marched, "flanking the movement, in parallel streets." His two
batteries, while not made unpleasantly conspicuous, yet controlled the
plateau which extends before the east front of the Capitol. Mr. Lincoln
was simply introduced by Senator Baker of Oregon, and delivered his
inaugural address. His voice had great carrying capacity, and the vast
crowd heard with ease a speech of which every sentence was fraught with
an importance and scrutinized with an anxiety far beyond that of any
other speech ever delivered in the United States. At its close the
venerable Chief Justice Taney administered the oath of office, thereby
informally but effectually reversing the most famous opinion delivered
by him during his long incumbency in his high office.

The inaugural address was simple, earnest, and direct, unincumbered by
that rhetorical ornamentation which the American people have always
admired as the highest form of eloquence. Those Northerners who had
expected magniloquent periods and exaggerated outbursts of patriotism
were disappointed; and as they listened in vain for the scream of the
eagle, many grumbled at the absence of what they conceived to be
_force_. Yet the general feeling was of satisfaction, which grew as the
address was more thoroughly studied. The Southerners, upon their part,
looking anxiously to see whether or not they must fight for their
purpose, construed the words of the new President correctly. They heard
him say: "The union of these States is perpetual." "No State upon its
own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union." "I shall take care,
as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of
the Union be faithfully executed in all the States." He also declared
his purpose "to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places
belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts."
These sentences made up the issue directly with secession, and the
South, reading them, knew that, if the North was ready to back the
President, war was inevitable; none the less so because Mr. Lincoln
closed with patriotic and generous words: "We are not enemies, but
friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it
must not break our bonds of affection."

Until after the election of Mr. Lincoln in November, 1860, the sole
issue between the North and the South, between Republicans on the one
hand and Democrats and Compromisers on the other, had related to
slavery. Logically, the position of the Republicans was impregnable.
Their platforms and their leaders agreed that the party intended
strictly to respect the Constitution, and not to interfere at all with
slavery in the States within which it now lawfully existed. They said
with truth that they had in no case deprived the slaveholding
communities of their rights, and they denied the truth of the charge
that they cherished an inchoate design to interfere with those rights;
adding very truly that, at worst, a mere design, which did not find
expression in an overt act, could give no right of action to the South.
Mr. Lincoln had been most explicit in declaring that the opposition to
slavery was not to go beyond efforts to prevent its _extension_, which
efforts would be wholly within the Constitution and the law. He repeated
these things in his inaugural.

But while these incontrovertible allegations gave the Republicans a
logical advantage of which they properly made the most, the South
claimed a right to make other collateral and equally undeniable facts
the ground of action. The only public matter in connection with which
Mr. Lincoln had won any reputation was that of slavery. No one could
deny that he had been elected because the Republican party had been
pleased with his expression of opinion on this subject. Now his most
pointed and frequently reiterated expression of that opinion was that
slavery was a "moral, social, and political evil;" and this language was
a fair equivalent of the statement of the Republican platform of 1856,
classing Slavery and Mormonism together, as "twin relics of barbarism."
That the North was willing, or would long be willing, to remain in
amicable social and political bonds with a moral, social, and political
evil, and a relic of barbarism, was intrinsically improbable, and was
made more improbable by the symptoms of the times.[127] Indeed, Mr.
Seward had said, in famous words, that his section would not play this
unworthy part; he had proclaimed already the existence of an
"irrepressible conflict;" and therefore the South had the word of the
Republican leader that, in spite of the Republican respect for the law,
an anti-slavery crusade was already in existence. The Southern chiefs
distinctly recognized and accepted this situation.[128] There was an
avowed Northern condemnation of their institution; there was an
acknowledged "conflict." Such being the case, it was the opinion of the
chief men at the South that the position taken by the North, of strict
performance of clear constitutional duties concerning an odious
institution, would not suffice for the safe perpetuation of that
institution.[129] This, their judgment, appeared to be in a certain way
also the judgment of Mr. Lincoln; for he also conceived that to put
slavery where the "fathers" had left it was to put it "in the way of
ultimate extinction;" and he had, in the most famous utterance of his
life, given his forecast of the future to the effect that the country
would in time be "all free." The only logical deduction was that he, and
the Republican party which had agreed with him sufficiently to make him
president, believed that the South had no lawful recourse by which this
result, however unwelcome or ruinous, could in the long run and the
fullness of time be escaped. Under such circumstances Southern political
leaders now decided that the time for separation had come. In speaking
of their scheme they called it "secession," and said that secession was
a lawful act because the Constitution was a compact revocable by any of
the parties. They might have called it "revolution,"[130] and have
defended it upon the general right of any large body of people,
dissatisfied with the government under which they find themselves, to
cast it off. But, if the step was _revolution_, then the burden of proof
was upon them; whereas they said that _secession_ was their lawful
right, without any regard whatsoever to the motive which induced them to
exercise it.[131] Such was the character of the issue between the North
and the South prior to the first ordinance of secession. The action of
South Carolina, followed by the other Gulf States, at once changed that
issue, shifting it from pro-slavery versus anti-slavery to union versus
disunion. This alteration quickly compelled great numbers of men, both
at the North and at the South, to reconsider and, upon a new issue, to
place themselves also anew.

It has been said by all writers that in the seven seceding States there
was, in the four months following the election, a very large proportion
of "Union men." The name only signified that these men did not think
that the present inducements to disunion were sufficient to render it a
wise measure. It did not signify that they thought disunion unlawful,
unconstitutional, and treasonable. When, however, state conventions
decided the question of advisability against their opinions, and they
had to choose between allegiance to the State and allegiance to the
Union, they immediately adhered to the State, and this none the less
because they feared that she had taken an ill-advised step. That is to
say, at the South a "Union man" _wished_ to preserve the Union, whereas
at the North a "Union man" recognized a supreme _obligation_ to do so.

While the South, by political alchemy, was becoming solidified and
homogeneous, a corresponding change was going on at the North. In that
section the great numbers--of whom some would have re-made the
Constitution, others would have agreed to peaceable separation, and
still others would have made any concession to retain the integrity of
the Union--now saw that these were indeed, as Jefferson Davis had said,
"quack nostrums," and that the choice lay between permitting a secession
accompanied with insulting menaces and some degree of actual violence,
and maintaining the Union by coercion. In this dilemma great multitudes
of Northern Democrats, whose consciences had never been in the least
disturbed by the existence of slavery in the country or even by efforts
to extend it, became "Union men" in the Northern sense of the word,
which made it about equivalent to coercionists. Their simple creed was
the integrity and perpetuity of the nation.

Mr. Lincoln showed in his inaugural his accurate appreciation of the new
situation. Owing all that he had become in the world to a few
anti-slavery speeches, elevated to the presidency by votes which really
meant little else than hostility to slavery, what was more natural than
that he should at this moment revert to this great topic and make the
old dispute the main part and real substance of his address? But this
fatal error he avoided. With unerring judgment he dwelt little on that
momentous issue which had only just been displaced, and took his stand
fairly upon that still more momentous one which had so newly come up. He
spoke for the Union; upon that basis a united North _ought_ to support
him; upon that basis the more northern of the slave States might remain
loyal. As matter of fact, Union had suddenly become the real issue, but
it needed at the hands of the President to be publicly and explicitly
announced as such; this recognition was essential; he gave it on this
earliest opportunity, and the announcement was the first great service
of the new Republican ruler. It seems now as though he could hardly have
done otherwise, or have fallen into the error of allying himself with
bygone or false issues. It may be admitted that he could not have passed
this new one by; but the important matter was that of proportion and
relation, and in this it was easy to blunder. In truth it was a crisis
when blundering was so easy that nearly all the really able men of the
North had been doing it badly for three or four months past, and not a
few of them were going to continue it for two or three months to come.
Therefore the sound conception of the inaugural deserves to be
considered as an indication, one among many, of Lincoln's capacity for
seeing with entire distinctness the great main fact, and for recognizing
it as such. Other matters, which lay over and around such a fact, side
issues, questions of detail, affairs of disguise or deception, never
confused or misled him. He knew with unerring accuracy where the biggest
fact lay, and he always anchored fast to it and stayed with it. For many
years he had been anchored to anti-slavery; now, in the face of the
nation, he shifted his anchorage to the Union; and each time he held


[114] Breckenridge was the legitimate representative of the
administrationists, and his ticket received only 847,953 votes out of
4,680,193. Douglas and Buchanan were at open war.

[115] See remarks of Mr. Elaine upon use of this word. _Twenty Years of
Congress_, i. 219.

[116] But it should be said that Attorney-General Black supported these
views in a very elaborate opinion, which he had furnished to the
President, and which was transmitted to Congress at the same time with
the message.

[117] Greeley afterwards truly said that his journal had plenty of
company in these sentiments, even among the Republican sheets. _Amer.
Conflict_, i. 359. Reference is made in the text to the utterances of
the _Tribune_ more because it was so prominent and influential than
because it was very peculiar in its position.

[118] Wilson, _Rise and Fall of Slave Power_, iii. 63-69; N. and H. in.
255. See account of "the Pine Street meeting," New York, in Dix's
_Memoirs of Dix_, i. 347.

[119] For an account of this by General Dix himself, see _Memoirs of
John A. Dix_, by Morgan Dix, i. 370-373.

[120] Arkansas, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, and Wisconsin

[121] It differed from that of the United States very little, save in
containing a distinct recognition of slavery, and in being made by the
States instead of by the people.

[122] _American Conflict_, i. 351.

[123] This includes Delaware, 110,420, and Maryland, 599,846.

[124] Marshal Kane and most of the police were reported to be
Secessionists. Pinkerton, _Spy of the Rebellion_, 50, 61.

[125] Lamon says that Mr. Lincoln afterwards regretted this journey, and
became convinced "that he had committed a grave mistake." Lamon, 527. So
also McClure, 45, 48.

[126] For accounts of this journey and statements of the evidence of a
plot, see Schouler, _Hist. of Mass. in Civil War_, i. 59-65 (account by
Samuel M. Felton, Prest. P.W. & B.R.R. Co.); N. and H. iii. ch. 19 and
20; Chittenden, _Recoll. of Lincoln_, x.; Holland, 275; Arnold, 183-187;
Lamon, ch. xx. (this account ought to be, and doubtless is, the most
trustworthy); Herndon, 492 (a bit of gossip which sounds improbable);
Pinkerton, _Spy of the Rebellion_, 45-103. On the anti-plot side of the
question the most important evidence is the little volume, _Baltimore
and the Nineteenth of April_, 1861, by George William Brown. This
witness, whose strict veracity is beyond question, was mayor of the
city. One of his statements, especially, is of the greatest importance.
It is obvious that, if the plot existed, one of two things ought to
occur on the morning of February 23, viz.: either the plotters and the
mobsmen should know that Mr. Lincoln had escaped them, or else they
should be at the station at the hour set for his arrival. In fact they
were not at the station; there was no sudden assault on the cars, nor
other indication of assassins and a mob. Had they, then, received
knowledge of what had occurred? Those who sustain the plot-theory say
that the news had spread through the city, so that all the assassins and
the gangs of the "Plug Uglies" knew that their game was up. This was
_possible_, for Mr. Lincoln had arrived in the Washington station a few
minutes after six o'clock in the morning, and the train which was
expected to bring him to Baltimore did not arrive in Baltimore until
half after eleven o'clock. But, on the other hand, the news was not
dispatched from Washington immediately upon his arrival; somewhat later,
though still early in the morning, the detectives telegraphed to the
friends of Mr. Lincoln, but in cipher. Just at what time intelligible
telegrams, which would inform the public, were sent out cannot be
learned; but upon any arrangement of hours it is obvious that the time
was exceedingly short for distributing the news throughout the lower
quarters of Baltimore by word of mouth, and there is no pretense of any
publication. But while the believers in the plot say, nevertheless, that
this had been done and that the story of the journey had spread through
the city so that all the assassins and "Plug Uglies" knew it in time to
avoid assembling at the railway station about eleven o'clock, yet it
appears that Mr. Brown, the mayor, knew nothing about it. On the
contrary, he tells us that in anticipation of Mr. Lincoln's arrival he,
"as mayor of the city, accompanied by the police commissioners and
supported by a strong force of police, was at the Calvert Street station
on Saturday morning, February 23, at 11.30 o'clock ... ready to receive
with due respect the incoming President. An open carriage was in
waiting, in which I was to have the honor of escorting Mr. Lincoln
through the city to the Washington station, and of sharing in any danger
which he might encounter. It is hardly necessary to say that I
apprehended none." To the "great astonishment" of Mr. Brown, however,
the train brought only "Mrs. Lincoln and her three sons," and "it was
then announced that he had passed through the city _incognito_ in the
night train." This is a small bit of evidence to set against the
elaborate stories of the believers in the plot, yet to some it will seem
like the little obstruction which suffices to throw a whole railway
train from the track. I would rather let any reader, who is sufficiently
interested to examine the matter, reach his own conclusion, than
endeavor to furnish one for him; for I think that a dispute more
difficult of really conclusive settlement will not easily be found.

[127] Some of the Southern members of Congress collected and recited
sundry noteworthy utterances of Republicans concerning slavery, and
certainly there was little in them to induce a sense of security on the
part of slaveholders. Wilson, _Rise and Fall of Slave Power_, iii. 97,

[128] Toombs declared, as Lincoln had said, that what was wanted was
that the North should _call slavery right_. Wilson, _Rise and Fall of
Slave Power_, iii. 76. Stephens declared the "corner-stone" of the new
government to be "the great truth that the negro is not equal to the
white man; that slavery ... is his natural and normal condition;" and
said that it was the first government "in the history of the world based
upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth." N. and H.
iii. 203; and see his letter to Lincoln, _ibid._ 272, 273. Mississippi,
in declaring the causes of her secession, said: "Our position is
thoroughly identical with the institution of slavery,--the greatest
material interest in the world." N. and H. iii. 201. Senator Mason of
Virginia said: "It is a war of sentiment, of opinion; a war of one form
of society against another form of society." Wilson, _Rise and Fall of
Slave Power_, iii. 26. Green of Missouri ascribed the trouble to the
"vitiated and corrupted state of public sentiment." _Ibid._ 23. Iverson
of Georgia said it was the "public sentiment" at the North, not the
"overt acts" of the Republican administration, that was feared; and said
that there was ineradicable enmity between the two sections, which had
not lived together in peace, were not so living now, and could not be
expected to do so in the future. _Ibid._ 17.

[129] Historians generally seem to admit that the South had to choose
between making the fight now, and seeing its favorite institution
gradually become extinct.

[130] Sometimes, though very rarely, the word was used.

[131] See Lincoln's message to Congress, July 4, 1861.



From the inaugural ceremonies Lincoln drove quietly back through
Pennsylvania Avenue and entered the White House, the President of the
United States,--alas, united no longer. Many an anxious citizen breathed
more freely when the dreaded hours had passed without disturbance. But
burdens a thousand fold heavier than any which were lifted from others
descended upon the new ruler. Save, however, that the thoughtful,
far-away expression of sadness had of late seemed deeper and more
impressive than ever before, Lincoln gave no sign of inward trouble. His
singular temperament armed him with a rare and peculiar strength beneath
responsibility and in the face of duty. He has been seen, with entire
tranquillity, not only seeking, but seeming to assume as his natural due
or destiny, positions which appeared preposterously out of accord alike
with his early career and with his later opportunities for development.
In trying to explain this, it is easier to say what was _not_ the
underlying quality than what it was. Certainly there was no taint
whatsoever of that vulgar self-confidence which is so apt to lead the
"free and equal" citizens of the great republic into grotesque
positions. Perhaps it was a grand simplicity of faith; a profound
instinctive confidence that by patient, honest thinking it would be
possible to know the right road, and by earnest enduring courage to
follow it. Perhaps it was that so-called divine inspiration which seems
always a part of the highest human fitness. The fact which is distinctly
visible is, that a fair, plain and honest method of thinking saved him
from the perplexities which beset subtle dialecticians in politics and
in constitutional law. He had lately said that his course was "as plain
as a turnpike road;" it was, to execute the public laws.

His duty was simple; his understanding of it was unclouded by doubt or
sophistry; his resolution to do it was firm; but whether his hands would
be strengthened sufficiently to enable him to do it was a question of
grave anxiety. The president of a republic can do everything if the
people are at his back, and almost nothing if the people are not at his
back. Where, then, were now the people of the United States? In seven
States they were openly and unitedly against him; in at least seven more
they were under a very strong temptation to range themselves against him
in case of a conflict; and as for the Republican States of the North, on
that fourth day of March, 1861, no man could say to what point they
would sustain the administration. There had as yet come slight
indications of any change in the conceding, compromising temper of that
section. Greeley and Seward and Wendell Phillips, representative men,
were little better than Secessionists. The statement sounds ridiculous,
yet the proof against each comes from his own mouth. The "Tribune" had
retracted none of those disunion sentiments, of which examples have been
given. Even so late as April 10, 1861, Mr. Seward wrote officially to
Mr. C.F. Adams, minister to England: "Only an imperial and despotic
government could subjugate thoroughly disaffected and insurrectionary
members of the state. This federal, republican country of ours is, of
all forms of government, the very one which is the most unfitted for
such a labor." He had been and still was favoring delay and
conciliation, in the visionary hope that the seceders would follow the
scriptural precedent of the prodigal son. On April 9 the rumor of a
fight at Sumter being spread abroad, Mr. Phillips said:[132] "Here are a
series of States, girding the Gulf, who think that their peculiar
institutions require that they should have a separate government. They
have a right to decide that question without appealing to you or me....
Standing with the principles of '76 behind us, who can deny them the
right?... Abraham Lincoln has no right to a soldier in Fort Sumter....
There is no longer a Union.... Mr. Jefferson Davis is angry, and Mr.
Abraham Lincoln is mad, and they agree to fight.... You cannot go
through Massachusetts and recruit men to bombard Charleston or New
Orleans.... We are in no condition to fight.... Nothing but madness can
provoke war with the Gulf States;"--with much more to the same effect.

If the veterans of the old anti-slavery contest were in this frame of
mind in April, Lincoln could hardly place much dependence upon the
people at large in March. If he could not "recruit men" in
Massachusetts, in what State could he reasonably expect to do so?
Against such discouragement it can only be said that he had a singular
instinct for the underlying popular feeling, that he could scent it in
the distance and in hiding; moreover, that he was always willing to run
the chance of any consequences which might follow the performance of a
clear duty. Still, as he looked over the dreary Northern field in those
chill days of early March, he must have had a marvelous sensitiveness in
order to perceive the generative heat and force in the depths beneath
the cheerless surface and awaiting only the fullness of the near spring
season to burst forth in sudden universal vigor. Yet such was his
knowledge and such his faith concerning the people that we may fancy, if
we will, that he foresaw the great transformation. But there were still
other matters which disturbed him. Before his inauguration, he had heard
much of his coming official isolation. One of the arguments reiterated
alike by Southern Unionists and by Northerners had been that the
Republican President would be powerless, because the Senate, the House,
and the Supreme Court were all opposed to him. But the supposed lack of
political sympathy on the part of these bodies, however it might beget
anxiety for the future, was for the present of much less moment than
another fact, viz., that none of the distinguished men, leaders in his
own party, whom Lincoln found about him at Washington, were in a frame
of mind to assist him efficiently. If all did not actually distrust his
capacity and character,--which, doubtless, many honestly did,--at least
they were profoundly ignorant concerning both. Therefore they could not
yet, and did not, place genuine, implicit confidence in him; they could
not yet, and did not, advise and aid him at all in the same spirit and
with the same usefulness as later they were able to do. They were not to
blame for this; on the contrary, the condition had been brought about
distinctly against their will, since certainly few of them had looked
with favor upon the selection of an unknown, inexperienced, ill-educated
man as the Republican candidate for the presidency. How much Lincoln
felt his loneliness will never be known; for, reticent and
self-contained at all times, he gave no outward sign. That he felt it
less than other men would have done may be regarded as certain; for, as
has already appeared to some extent, and as will appear much more in
this narrative, he was singularly self-reliant, and, at least in
appearance, was strangely indifferent to any counsel or support which
could be brought to him by others. Yet, marked as was this trait in him,
he could hardly have been human had he not felt oppressed by the
personal solitude and political isolation of his position when the
responsibility of his great office rested newly upon him. Under all
these circumstances, if this lonely man moved slowly and cautiously
during the early weeks of his administration, it was not at his door
that the people had the right to lay the reproach of weakness or

Mr. Buchanan, for the convenience of his successor, had called an extra
session of the Senate, and on March 5 President Lincoln sent in the
nominations for his cabinet. All were immediately confirmed, as

William H. Seward, New York, secretary of state.
Salmon P. Chase, Ohio, secretary of the treasury.
Simon Cameron, Pennsylvania, secretary of war.
Gideon Welles, Connecticut, secretary of the navy.
Caleb B. Smith, Indiana, secretary of the interior.
Edward Bates, Missouri, attorney-general.
Montgomery Blair, Maryland, postmaster-general.

It is matter of course that a cabinet slate should fail to give general
satisfaction; and this one encountered fully the average measure of
criticism. The body certainly was somewhat heterogeneous in its
composition, yet the same was true of the Republican party which it
represented. Nor was it by any means so heterogeneous as Mr. Lincoln
had designed to have it, for he had made efforts to place in it a
Southern spokesman for Southern views; and he had not desisted from the
purpose until its futility was made apparent by the direct refusal of
Mr. Gilmer of North Carolina, and by indications of a like unwillingness
on the part of one or two other Southerners who were distantly sounded
on the subject. Seward, Chase, Bates, and Cameron were the four men who
had manifested the greatest popularity, after Lincoln, in the national
convention, and the selection of them, therefore, showed that Mr.
Lincoln was seeking strength rather than amity in his cabinet; for it
was certainly true that each one of them had a following which was far
from being wholly in sympathy with the following of any one of the
others. The President evidently believed that it was of more importance
that each great body of Northern men should feel that its opinions were
fairly presented, than that his cabinet officers should always
comfortably unite in looking at questions from one and the same point of
view. Judge Davis says that Lincoln's original design was to appoint
Democrats and Republicans alike to office. He carried this theory so far
that the radical Republicans regarded the make-up of the cabinet as a
"disgraceful surrender to the South;" while men of less extreme views
saw with some alarm that he had called to his advisory council four
ex-Democrats and only three ex-Whigs, a criticism which he met by saying
that he himself was an "old-line Whig" and should be there to make the
parties even. On the other hand, the Republicans of the middle line of
States grumbled much at the selection of Bates and Blair as
representatives of their section.

The cabinet had not been brought together without some jarring and
friction, especially in the case of Cameron. On December 31 Mr. Lincoln
intimated to him that he should have either the Treasury or the War
Department, but on January 3 requested him to "decline the appointment."
Cameron, however, had already mentioned the matter to many friends,
without any suggestion that he should not be glad to accept either
position, and therefore, even if he were willing to accede to the
sudden, strange, and unexplained request of Mr. Lincoln, he would have
found it difficult to do so without giving rise to much embarrassing
gossip. Accordingly he did not decline, and thereupon ensued much
wire-pulling. Pennsylvania protectionists wanted Cameron in the
Treasury, and strenuously objected to Chase as an ex-Democrat of
free-trade proclivities. On the other hand, Lincoln gradually hardened
into the resolution that Chase should have the Treasury. He made the
tender, and it was accepted. He then offered consolation to Pennsylvania
by giving the War portfolio to Cameron, which was accepted with
something of chagrin. How far this Cameron episode was affected by the
bargain declared by Lamon to have been made at Chicago cannot be told.
Other biographers ignore this story, but I do not see how the direct
testimony furnished by Lamon and corroborated by Colonel McClure can
justly be treated in this way; neither is the temptation so to treat it
apparent, since the evidence entirely absolves Lincoln from any
complicity at the time of making the alleged "trade," while he could
hardly be blamed if he felt somewhat hampered by it afterward.

Seward also gave trouble which he ought not to have given. On December 8
Lincoln wrote to him that he would nominate him as secretary of state.


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