Page images
PDF
EPUB

90 LIFE of ABRAHAM LINcoLN.

Arrival at Washington. Pictorial Illustration. Speech at Washington.

the Legislature, he left on a special train for Philadelphia, and thence proceeded in the sleeping-car attached to the regular midnight train to Washington, where he arrived at an early hour on the morning of the 23d. As an evidence how little the extent to which unscrupulous men were prepared to go, was understood at this time, it may be remarked that not a few made themselves very merry over this midnight ride—a leading pictorial even indulging itself in an attempt at a humorous illustration of it, an act which, viewed in the light of a startling event but little more than four years later, in which a native of the same city was directly concerned, would hardly have been repeated.

CHAPTER WI.

THE NEW ADMINISTRATION.

Speeches at washington–The Inaugural Address—Its Effect—The Cabinet—Commissioners from Montgomery—Extract from A. H. Stephens's speech-Virginia Commissioners–Fall of Fort Sumter.

A Few days after his arrival in Washington, the President elect was waited upon by the Mayor and other municipal authorities, welcoming him the city, to whom he made the following reply:

“Mr. MAYOR: I thank you, and through you the municipal authorities of this city who accompany you, for this welcome. And as it is the first time in my life since the present phase of politics has presented itself in this country, that I have said anything publicly within a region of country where the institution of slavery exists, I will take this occasion to say that I think very much of the ill feeling which has existed, and still exists, between the people in the sections from whence I came and the people here, is dependent upon a misunderstanding of one another. I therefore avail myself

Speech at Washington. Remarks at a Serenade.

of this opportunity to assure you, Mr. Mayor, and all the gentlemen present, that I have not now, and never have had, any other than as kindly feelings towards you as towards the people of my own section. I have not now, nor never have had, any disposition to treat you in any respect otherwise than as my own neighbors. I have not now any purpose to withhold from you any of the benefits of the Constitution, under any circumstances, that I would not feel myself constrained to withhold from my neighbors; and I hope, in a word, that when we shall become better acquainted, and I say it with great confidence, we shall like each other the more. I thank you for the kindness of this reception.”

On the following evening, at the close of a serenade tendered him by the Republican Association, he thus addressed the crowd:

“My FRIENDs: I suppose that I may take this as a compliment paid to me, and as such please accept my thanks for it. I have reached this city of Washington under circumstances considerably differing from those under which any other man has ever reached it. I am here for the purpose of taking an official position amongst the people, almost all of whom were politically opposed to me, and are yet opposed to me as I suppose. I propose no lengthy address to you. I only propose to say, as I did on yesterday, when your worthy Mayor and Board of Aldermen called upon me, that I thought much of the ill feeling that has existed between you and the people of your surroundings and that people from amongst whom 1 came, has depended, and now depends, upon a misunder standing.

“I hope that, if things shall go on as prosperously as I believe we all desire they may, I may have it in my power to remove something of this misunderstanding, that I may be enabled to convince you, and the people of your section of the country, that we regard you as in all things our equals, and in all things entitled to the same respect and the same treat

92 LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

Constitutional Rights. Anxiety for the Inaugural

ment that we claim for ourselves; that we are in nowise disposed, if it were in our power, to oppress you, to deprive you of any of your rights under the Constitution of the United States, or even narrowly to split hairs with you in regard to those rights, but are determined to give you, as far as lies in our hands, all your rights under the Constitution— not grudgingly, but fully and fairly. I hope that, by thus dealing with you, we will become better acquainted, and be better friends. And now, my friends, with these few remarks, and again returning my thanks for this compliment, and expressing my desire to hear a little more of your good music, I bid you good-night.”

Never, in the history of the country, has the inaugural address of any President been so anxiously awaited as was that of Mr. Lincoln. The most of his countrymen, even in States whose loyalty to the Government was beyond suspicion, were certain to be disappointed, whatever that inaugural might prove to be. An impression prevailed, for which no good grounds could be shown, that somehow, in some inexplicable way, this particular address would operate as a panacea to heal the nation's malady. One class, who knew not the man, hoped, almost against hope, that such concessions would be made to the rebels as would bridge over existing difficulties, and restore the good old times when men could vend their goods and principles—or what served them in lieu thereof—without being annoyed by war or rumor of war. Another would be satisfied with nothing short of the most positive and unqualified denunciations of the rebels, coupled with the details in advance of dealing with them. Still another were simply curious in the premises to know what could be said. Whisperings, too, that the address would be prevented by violence, and hints of assassination were heard here and there.

All necessary precautions, however, having been taken to guard against the latter contingencies, Mr. Lincoln appeared

[graphic]
[graphic]

THE NEW ADMINISTRATION. 93

luaugural Address. Protection of the South. Chicago Resolution.

at the east front of the capitol, and received, at the hour appointed, the oath of office from Chief Justice Taney. Then followed, in a clear, steady tone of voice, in the presence of more than ten thousand of his fellow-citizens, the address:

“FELLow-CITIZENs of THE UNITED STATEs :—In compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take, in your presence, the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President before he enters on the execution of his office.

“I do not consider it necessary, at present, for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement. Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States, that, by the accession of a Republican Administration, their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed, and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches, wher. I declare that “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.” I believe I have no lawful right to do so; and I have no inclination to do so. Those who nominated and elected me, did so with the full knowledge that I had made this, and made many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And, more than this, they placed in the platform, for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read :

“‘Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric

[graphic]

Inaugural Address. Return of Fugitive Slaves. Congressional Oath.

depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion, by armed force, of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.” “I now reiterate these sentiments; and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace and security of no section are to be in anywise endangered by the now incoming administration. “I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause, as cheerfully to one section as to another. “There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions: “‘No person held to service or labor in one State under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” “It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law. “All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution—to this provision as well as any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause “shall be delivered up,” their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not, with nearly equal unanimity, frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath 2 “There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by National or by State authority; but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave

« PreviousContinue »