The Republicans Elect a President
IN the office of the Illinois State Journal sat a small group of men. Their conversation came in scraps, their faces were drawn, and an unmistakable tension pervaded the room. Suddenly a boy banged through the door and handed a scrap of paper to one of them. For what seemed hours to the observers the recipient stared at the writing, his face expressionless. Then he lifted his long, gaunt figure from the chair and quietly remarked that there was "a little woman down at our house" who would be interested. On the slip was written: "Mr. Lincoln, you are nominated on the third ballot."
As Abraham Lincoln made his way to the square frame house at the corner of Eighth and Jackson streets, bedlam broke loose. By the time he reached his destination the first guns of an hundred-gun salute were rattling the windows. Around the square men were shouting for joy, shaking each others' hands, slapping backs. Flags soon fluttered from the State House, the Republican headquarters, the Journal office. Before long all the bells in town were clanging, while in the Lincoln parlors, as friend after friend called to offer con|gratulations, the pistol shots and cheers of the more exuber|ant could be plainly heard.
That evening, by common understanding, a crowd gath|ered at the State House. One or two speeches were made, but for once the excitement was too intense for political ora|tory. Page 237 The meeting adjourned, the audience lined up behind the Young America band, and, growing like a rolling snow|ball, started for the Lincoln residence. There, in response to a shout for "Mr. Lincoln," the tall form of the candidate was soon silhouetted in the doorway. At his appearance cheer after cheer broke from the crowd. When the noise had sub|sided, Lincoln spoke a few words to the effect that he took the demonstration as a tribute to a cause rather than as a personal compliment, and concluded by inviting in as many as his house would hold. Above the noise a voice rang out: "We'll give you a larger house on the fourth of next March!" Laughing and cheering, the crowd pushed through the door, and as many as could clasped the large, rough hand of the man whom they hoped to make the next President.
That night, after the last of his noisy guests had departed, Lincoln must have marvelled at his fortune. With a few close friends he had hoped for this result, but he was too much of a realist in politics to have expected it. In truth, not only Lincoln, but almost every political forecaster in the land as well, was taken by surprise.
And yet, in retrospect, it is hard to imagine a different outcome. By his debates with Douglas, Lincoln had acquired a national reputation. In the following year, through speeches in Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Kansas, his name had been kept before the public, and thousands had had a chance to measure him for themselves. Early in 1860, in his Cooper Union address, he had made a mark on the East which he had quickly impressed the more deeply by a speak|ing tour through New England. At the same time, because he had held no office and because his fame was young, he had stirred up none of the animosities which men long in public life arouse. The tenor of his speeches had been consistently conservative, which was reassuring to the timid; but radicals were cheered by the remembrance of his "house divided" statement. His humble birth and early struggles with ad|versity Page 238 could be counted on to arouse no less enthusiasm than Harrison's log cabin and cider gourd. And he came from the doubtful state of Illinois which, with Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, had to be carried if the party were to be victorious.
On the other hand, each of his prominent competitors was under some serious disadvantage. Seward, the idol of the rank and file, was too "radical," and would surely go down to defeat in the doubtful states. Chase, even more radical, could not even get the undivided support of his own state. Bates of Missouri suited the conservatives, but he had been a Know Nothing, and the Germans would revolt if he were chosen. John McLean, a justice of the Supreme Court, could carry the doubtful states, but he was a colorless old man, and about as capable of arousing enthusiasm as a marble statue.
Even so, the result of the convention might have been different if it had not been held in Chicago, vibrant with Lincoln sentiment; and if Lincoln's interests had not been entrusted to as shrewd a group of manipulators as existed anywhere in the United States. Norman B. Judd, David Davis, Leonard Swett, O. H. Browning, Stephen T. Logan, William H. Herndon—these were the men who, with skill seldom equalled, struck just the right balance of forces to make inevitable the selection of the Springfield lawyer.
On the evening of the day following the convention the official notification committee reached Springfield. A huge crowd greeted the special train at the station. Behind a band from Philadelphia, reputed to be the best in the country, and escorted by two hundred members of the visiting delegation with rails over their shoulders, the committee marched to the Chenery House. There the crowd veered off to the State House where, in the Hall of Representatives, the marchers stacked their rails like muskets, and settled down to listen to speaker after speaker hot from the convention.
Page 239Shortly after eight o'clock the committee reached the Lin|coln home. Two boys seated on the steps hailed them as they passed through the gate.
"Are you Mr. Lincoln's son?" asked William M. Evarts of the elder.
"Yes, sir," said the boy.
"Then let's shake hands," Evarts proposed. Seeing the attention accorded his older brother, young Tad spoke up:
"I'm a Lincoln too!"
Whereupon, with much laughter, the delegates saluted him and knocked on the door.
Collecting in the north parlor, George Ashmun, the chair|man of the Chicago convention, stepped forward and read the formal notification address. Lincoln responded with a few words of appreciation, and a promise to reply to the address in writing very soon. Ashmun then introduced the delegates. When Kelly of Pennsylvania was presented, Lincoln asked,
"What is your height?"
"Six feet three; what is yours, Mr. Lincoln?"
"Six feet four."
"Then," said Kelly, "Pennsylvania bows to Illinois. My dear man, for years my heart has been aching for a President that I could look up to, and I've found him at last in the land where we thought there were none but little giants!"
Various other men were presented, but Ashmun soon tired of introductions, and asked the visitors to present them|selves. "Come up, gentlemen," Judd called out, "it's nobody but Old Abe Lincoln!" Soon the delegates were gathered in small groups, talking in undertones. Apparently they had expected a sort of human monstrosity, for one of them was heard to remark: "I was afraid I should meet a gigantic rail|splitter, with the manners of a flatboatman, and the ugliest face in creation; and he's a complete gentleman!"
The delegates were presented to Mrs. Lincoln in the south parlor, and then they started back to the hotel. As they Page 240 walked along the sky was bright with rockets, cannon boomed at intervals, bonfires blazed on corners, and homes and stores were illuminated from basement to attic. In the State House orators were holding forth before an overflowing audience. The Republican celebration, begun the day before, was still in progress.
That same evening an anxious group of Democrats gath|ered in the court house to hear John A. McClernand, fresh from the national convention, speak on the condition and prospects of the party. It was not a happy meeting. For four years they had taken for granted the nomination of Douglas in 1860. He had been a factor in 1852; in 1856 he was the outstanding contender; in 1860, they felt, his selection was inevitable. But in the national convention, which assembled in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 23rd, discord soon ran rampant. Southerners insisted that the platform contain an affirmation of the federal government's duty to protect slave property in the territories by legislation, and when the Northerners refused the demand, delegations from several of the slave states withdrew. With the seceders gone, the convention attempted to nominate a candidate. For fifty-seven ballots Douglas received more votes than any other, but he was never able to muster the necessary two-thirds majority. Finally, on May 3rd, the convention adjourned, to reconvene at Baltimore six weeks later.
News of the adjournment fell on angry ears in Springfield. Said the Register: "Mr. Douglas may again be defeated in the nomination by the devices, machinations, and intrigues of a corrupt set of political traders, but he will enjoy the consciousness, from unmistakable evidences, that he was the choice of the masses of his party, and that their confidence in him is stronger and more abiding than falls to the lot of a statesman oftener than once in a generation." As the weeks passed, the conviction that Douglas must be nominated grew ever deeper. On the night of May 19th, after McClernand's Page 241 address, the Springfield Democrats asserted, by resolution, "that in the repeated triumphs of Stephen A. Douglas over Abraham Lincoln, the nominee of the republican party for president, we have the assurance of a renewed and decisive democratic triumph in the event of the nomination of the former for the same office by the democratic convention at Baltimore." Relieved somewhat by this declaration, the par|ticipants in the meeting procured the Union Band, marched around the square, and then proceeded to serenade McCler|nand and Charles H. Lanphier at their residences.
On the appointed day the national convention reconvened, this time at Baltimore. For days the members wrangled over the seating of delegates, and tension reached the breaking point. Finally this convention, like its predecessor at Charles|ton, split in two. Relieved of the irreconcilables, the regular Democracy proceeded to nominate Douglas by acclamation.
At three-thirty on the afternoon of June 23rd the tele|graph wire in the Register office brought the long-expected news. A shout that shook the building gave notice to the town that the Little Giant had won the prize he had been seeking for eight long years. A few minutes later Hopkins' Artillery was banging out a national salute. That night the German Band summoned the Democrats to the court house yard. Again the artillery thundered, and then Benjamin S. Ed|wards stepped forth to eulogize Douglas as "the represen|tative man of the age—the bold, able, and honest statesman, the friend and upholder of the constitution, the vindicator of the laws of the land, and the defender of the rights of the people." After Edwards' speech, the crowd paraded through the streets. Throughout the evening bonfires blazed and rockets flared, while the homes of prominent Democrats were illuminated from top to bottom.
But for all the high spirits of the rank and file, the leaders of the party must have been sick at heart. The proud De|mocracy was hopelessly split, and they knew it. The seceders Page 242 from the Baltimore convention whose withdrawal had made Douglas's nomination possible had chosen John C. Brecken|ridge of Kentucky as their own candidate. Moreover, in John Bell of Tennessee the remnant of the Old Whig Party had presented a fourth aspirant. To any clear-headed observer it was apparent that in a four-cornered contest of this kind the odds were all with the Republicans, and that only a miracle could prevent the election of Lincoln.
In 1860, however, politicians were not accustomed to yield passively to the inevitable. On the contrary, with one candidate a resident and the other a former citizen, leaders of both parties prepared to give Springfield a campaign the like of which she had never seen.
Organization proceeded quickly. Political clubs sprang up like mushrooms, and grew no less rapidly—German Republi|can and German Democratic clubs, the British Republican Club, the Hickory Buds (for young zealots between the ages of twelve and eighteen), and the Lincoln Young Americas for boys of Republican proclivities. But most popular of all were the Wide-Awakes. Beginning by accident in Hartford, Connecticut, the idea of groups of young men in uniform, parading in military formation by torchlight, took the North by storm. In Springfield the Wide-Awakes, garbed in glazed fatigue caps and rubber capes, made their first appearance in early June. The Register commented acidly that they looked "as terrible as a squad of smooth-faced juveniles in a Sabbath-school procession," but within a month the Hickory Club, also in uniform, turned out for its first torchlight parade. Thereafter long rows of marching men, each with a flaming torch over his shoulder, could be seen every few nights on the downtown streets.
Marching clubs were only one distinctive feature of the campaign. Another was the construction of elaborate head|quarters. By early summer "Wigwams" in imitation of the structure in which Lincoln had been nominated were spring|ing Page 243 up in hundreds of towns and cities. Early in July Spring|field Republicans secured the vacant lot on the southeast corner of Sixth and Monroe streets1 and started to build a circular frame building ninety feet in diameter. Inside, at the east end, was a speaker's stand, on each side of which were small galleries for the accommodation of glee clubs and bands. Around two-thirds of the circumference ran a wide gallery. On this, and the main floor, more than 3,000 people could be seated.
While the Wigwam was going up at one end of the business district, carpenters were working on the Democratic head|quarters at the corner of Fifth and Jefferson streets. Lack|ing the famous prototype of the rival party, the building was nameless until the day of its dedication, when McCler|nand christened it "Douglas Hall." The name, however, turned out to be too staid for the turbulent summer of 1860, and was soon dropped for the less pretentious designation of "The Barn."
Both parties made a great pother over flags and flagpoles. For the Democratic headquarters James W. Barrett contrib|uted a tall hickory shaft, and David McGinnis, an Old Whig who lived on Lick Creek, donated an ash pole to sur|mount it. From the ladies came a silk flag. The Republican devices were more elaborate. At the top of a pole 120 feet high a broom was lashed, to signify Lincoln's determina|tion to sweep out the Augean stables in Washington. (In more prosaic words, to make jobs for the faithful.) A few feet below the broom was a weathervane shaped like an axe—symbolic of the candidate's early days as a laborer. Underneath that was a large silk flag.
The poles at the headquarters were the tallest in the town, but they were by no means the only ones. By mid-summer there were poles everywhere—on the public buildings, in Page 244 front of bars and stores, even on some of the residences. From all of them flew banners inscribed with mottoes or decorated with pictures of the candidates. Occasionally the temptation presented by their very existence grew too strong, and then it would be reported that "some miserable, infamous, low-flung, narrow-minded, ungodly, dirt-eating, cut-throat, hemp-deserving, deeply-dyed, double-distilled, concentrated mis|creant of miscreants" had "sinned against all honor and de|cency" by cutting down two or three poles during the preced|ing night. (In this case Republican poles were the victims, but the language was no less forceful when Democratic timber was felled.)
Rails were another symbol. When John Hanks had stam|peded the Republican state convention by appearing on the floor with two fence rails said to have been split by Lincoln thirty years earlier, the candidate instantly became the "Rail-Splitter." After the nomination the Republican county com|mittee was deluged with requests for rails. The demand presented possibilities too obvious to be ignored, and various citizens of Springfield began importing fence rails in whole|sale quantities and selling them, authenticated with impos|ing affidavits, to all comers. Others made souvenirs—canes, cigar-holders, pen holders and gavels—from "authentic" Lincoln rails. The sale of rails and rail products became a regular profession.
As soon as the Wigwam and Barn were finished, zealous partisans crowded into them for almost nightly meetings. For the most part the Democratic orators were old favorites, well known in Springfield—William A. Richardson of Quincy, John A. Logan of Murphysboro, Anthony Thorn|ton of Shelbyville, Orlando B. Ficklin of Charleston and B. S. Edwards of Springfield. Usually they harped on the radical proclivities of Republicanism. Now and then a speaker took a shot at Lincoln's Mexican War record, whereupon the audience would chant:
Even more often the "Lincoln cannon," especially cast in the foundry of A. S. Booth for use in the campaign, sum|moned the Republicans to the Wigwam. There they soon became accustomed not only to familiar figures like Cullom, Yates and Trumbull, but also to prominent outsiders drawn to the Illinois capital by the magnet of Lincoln's presence— Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania, Corwin, Piatt and Hass|aurek of Ohio, Carl Schurz of Wisconsin, Caleb B. Smith of Indiana and Zachariah Chandler of Michigan. Occasion|ally, if the visitor was a man of especial prominence, Lincoln himself would attend the meeting and take a seat on the plat|form.
Republican speakers had plenty of ammunition, for Douglas's long record presented many vulnerable points. But in the mass hysteria which quickly developed, the appeal to reason counted for little. Always there were glee clubs and bands, and audiences took delight in roaring out jingles from the paper-backed songsters with which the country was soon flooded. What mattered the merits of platforms or candidates with three thousand voices shouting the refrain:
Even though meetings were held every few days, several grand rallies were thought to be necessary. Three weeks after Page 246 Lincoln's nomination the Republicans scheduled the first one of the campaign. With thousands of visitors joining in the parades and listening to speakers from several different states, it was a decided success. But in comparison with the gigantic rally of August 8th, it was nothing.
For weeks the Republicans of Springfield had worked night and day for a grand "ratification" meeting. Invitations were sent out all over the state, bands and Wide-Awake clubs were summoned, calls were sent for prominent speakers, and prep|arations were made for a huge crowd. It was hoped that the great rally of the Harrison campaign would be definitely eclipsed.
On the appointed day the sun rose in a dense fog, but a light breeze soon cleared the air. As day broke the guns barked out a national salute. Even then the roads leading into town were filled, and many people were on the streets. By nine o'clock the downtown section was jammed. But all morning special trains brought in their hordes—180 carloads in all—until the capital was a milling mass of humanity.
At ten the procession began to form. At its head, indicating the irresistible march of Republican principles, was an im|mense ball, inscribed on one side,
The procession wound through the downtown streets of Springfield to the Lincoln home, where the cheers of the marchers made an incessant roar. Not until two o'clock did it reach the fair grounds west of the city. There five speakers' stands had been erected. After the meeting had organized by electing Governor John Moore as president, the orators set to work. In a short time word spread through the grounds that Lincoln had arrived. Immediately the crowd rushed his carriage, lifted him out and carried him to an improvised stand. There he thanked the excited partisans for the demon|stration, and assured them that he accepted it as an evidence of their enthusiasm for Republican principles rather than as a personal tribute. Demanding a real stump speech, hundreds eager for campaign oratory surrounded his carriage, but he escaped them by mounting a saddle horse and leaving the grounds before they realized what had happened.
That evening, after a torch-light procession, the Wigwam was filled to suffocation while thousands stood in line in a futile effort to obtain admission. "Never, we will venture to say," the Journal trumpeted, "have the highways and by|ways of any town, large or small, been so completely sur|charged with the electric current which flows from the con|sciousness of being embraced in the meaning of that prayer which says, 'May God speed the right.' Hearts beating to Page 248 the sublime cadence of 'freedom for the oppressed,' backed by tongues and lungs that made the very heavens echo with the glad acclaims of victory, rendered the scene one sub|lime, magnificent spectacle of triumph and joy."
The supreme effort of the Democrats came more than two months later. On the morning of October 17th Douglas left Chicago. At Bloomington, where he was scheduled to speak that afternoon, a delegation of eighty was on hand to escort him to the capital. Meanwhile, there was high excitement in Springfield. The fife and drum were heard throughout the afternoon, and at frequent intervals there were rounds of cheers as delegations from the county and nearby towns arrived at the Barn. At 6:30 the Hickory Club and the Hickory Buds, a thousand torches in all, drew up in line on Jefferson Street at the Alton station, but not until eight o'clock did the distant booming of cannon announce the ap|proach of the train. As Douglas alighted, cheers rocketed from the crowd. He was escorted immediately to the Ameri|can House where, from a stand in front of the hotel, he responded to the welcoming address of B. S. Edwards.
On the following morning Springfield presented a colorful appearance. Many of the visiting delegations had come in costume—the Quincy Continentals were dressed in the uni|form of the Continental Line, the delegation from Lincoln was garbed in red and white, the clubs from Chatham and Cotton Hill were all on horseback. While these and others, many of them with bands, marched through the streets, Douglas spent the morning greeting callers at the American House.
At noon a procession formed, and headed for an open area at Ninth and Jefferson streets, where a platform had been erected. When Douglas mounted the stand, a wild hur|rah went up from the thousands of faithful Democrats who made up his audience. For an hour he pleaded for an endorse|ment of his policy of leaving the slavery question to the in|habitants Page [unnumbered]
In the evening there was a torch-light procession two miles long, and speaking at the Barn. Altogether, it was a big day, but the attendance was so far below that of the great Republican rally that the Democrats were secretly down|cast and their opponents openly jubilant.
To the meetings and rallies and Wide Awake processions, Lincoln paid little attention. His days were full enough with other occupations. With the nomination, the interest of the country centered on Springfield. Artists came to paint the portrait of the candidate, newspaper correspondents to write of him, and the idly curious to see for themselves what man|ner of man he was. Realizing that his dusty law office was no fit place for the reception of visitors, Lincoln took over the Governor's room on the second floor2 of the State House, installed John G. Nicolay as his secretary, and welcomed without formality all who chose to call.
Old friends found Lincoln unaffected by his changed position. "After breakfast called to see Hon. Abm. Lincoln, at his room in the State House," Orville H. Browning re|corded in his diary on June 12th. "He was very glad to see me, and received me with great cordiality. I found Mr. Hicks, an artist of New York, painting a portrait to be lithographed in Boston, and at the request of himself and Mr. Lincoln, I remained and talked to Lincoln whilst Mr. Hicks worked on the picture." That afternoon Browning called again. "Lincoln bears his honors meekly," he wrote. "As soon as other company had retired after I went in he fell into his old habit of telling amusing stories, and we had a free and easy talk of an hour or two."
Newspaper correspondents often wrote disparagingly of Page 250 Springfield's heat, its mud, or its lack of hacks and elegant hotels, but they liked the Republican candidate. A corre|spondent of the Utica Morning Herald who called on Lin|coln one June evening intended to stay ten minutes, but his host was so cordial that he remained two hours. In summing up his impressions he wrote: "He has all the marks of a mind that scans closely, canvasses thoroughly, concludes deliber|ately, and holds to such conclusions unflinchingly." A repre|sentative of the New York Herald, which was hostile to Lincoln, was charmed with him. "'Old Abe' and your cor|respondent took a chair together," he wrote to his paper, "and talked upon almost every topic now attracting the at|tention of the public. . . . The conversation was lively, and occasionally interspersed with some brilliant flashes of wit and good nature from the Kentucky lady, his wife."
As the summer wore on strangers in Springfield—even important strangers—became commonplace. Nevertheless, there were two whose advent caused a real sensation. One was the Prince of Wales; the other was William H. Seward.
Traveling through the United States as Baron Renfrew, the future Edward VII of England passed through Spring|field on September 26th, on his way to St. Louis. A large crowd had gathered at the station, and when the train made a ten-minute stop, the Prince obligingly exhibited himself on the rear platform. Romantic ladies who had imagined that royalty and physical perfection were synonomous were dis|appointed—the Prince had neither beard nor moustache, and his hands and feet were uncommonly large—but most of the crowd were pleased with him. Later in the day Lincoln con|fessed that he would have been glad to see the royal visitor, but that his position forbade him to take the initiative. "Not being able to take any lead in the matter," he said, "I re|mained here at the State House, where I met so many sovereigns during the day that really the Prince had come and gone before I knew it."
Page 251Seward's appearance five days later was unexpected. Not until ten o'clock on the morning of October 1—an hour be|fore his arrival—was it known that his train would stop. But the Republican cannon was hastily pressed into service, and two or three thousand people were on hand to greet him. As the train stopped, all eyes were on the tall form of Lincoln as he pressed forward to greet his defeated rival. A few minutes later both men appeared on the platform of the car, where Seward, with his customary grace, promised that New York would support the Republican candidate more cordially, and ask less of him, than any other state in the Union. The audience responded with three cheers for Seward and three for Lincoln, and then the train moved on. That night a special train of eleven cars left Springfield for Chicago, where Seward was scheduled to speak on the following day.
Throughout the campaign, the Republicans counted con|fidently on victory. "We know not what a day may bring forth, but to-day it looks as if the Chicago ticket will be elected," Lincoln had written to his old friend A. G. Henry as early as July 4th. When the states which voted for state officers in October—Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania— turned in Republican majorities, all doubt was banished. Even so, November 6th, when all America went to the polls, was a day tense with expectation.
Lincoln himself took it calmly enough. For most of the day he remained in the Governor's office, making conversation with numerous visitors. About three o'clock he casually walked across the street to the court house with a few friends, cut his own name from the top of a ballot, and dropped it into the box. Five minutes later he was back in his office.
Early that evening as many Republicans as the room could contain jammed into the Hall of the House of Representa|tives, the Democrats gathered at the Barn, and the overflow assembled in front of the Court House. Lincoln's office at Page 252 the State House was crowded almost to suffocation. Soon after seven o'clock the first dispatch came in—a bulletin from Decatur showing a large Republican gain over 1856. For an hour or more, while the nominee sat with stolid face, only a trickle of returns, and those from nearby localities, were reported.
Finally, unable to stand the tension longer, Lincoln, Du|bois, Hatch and two or three others walked over to the telegraph office. Here the bulletins were coming in more rapidly—fast enough, in fact, to indicate that Illinois had gone Republican. In a short time a report from Indianapolis indicated success in Indiana as well. By ten o'clock scattered returns from other Western states were pointing to victory. Still, as time passed anxiety grew—so far there was nothing from Pennsylvania and New York, and both states had to be carried. Finally, after another hour, there came a bulletin from Pittsburgh—Lincoln had carried Allegheny County by a majority of 10,000. Shortly afterward word came that the Republicans had a clear majority of 5,000 in Philadel|phia. Pennsylvania was safe.
While they were waiting for the news from New York which should clinch the victory, the little group in the tele|graph office was invited to Watson's saloon, which the Re|publican women of the town had taken over for the night. As Lincoln walked through the door a hundred feminine voices sang out, "How do you do, Mr. President!" and as he sat down at a long table piled with food the old refrain was started:
At the New York returns the crowd at the State House went mad. Old men and young men, bankers and clerks slapped each other on the back, danced, sang, and yelled until their voices sank to hoarse whispers. Outside one long shout announced the news. From stores, from houses, even from housetops, men called out that New York was safe, while groups ran through the streets shouting their joy at having joined the Republicans. Never had Springfield seen anything like it.
Meanwhile, all was gloom at the Democratic headquar|ters. The first returns dashed last-minute hopes, and in a short time the crowd began to dwindle. When the news from New York was read, the faithful few who had remained throughout the evening knew that they had heard the final verdict. Quietly they put out the lights, barred the doors, and slipped home to bed.
For Lincoln there was only one regret. By the narrow margin of sixty-nine votes he had carried the city of Spring|field, but once again his rival swept to victory in Sangamon County.3
The election made no difference in Lincoln's daily routine, except to increase the number of those who called upon him. That routine is best described in the words of Henry Villard, who came to Springfield in mid-November to supply the readers of the New York Herald with a daily account of the activities of the President-Elect.
Mr. Lincoln makes his appearance in the State House regularly before eight o'clock, A. M. He is often found there earlier than the State officers, and sometimes is even sooner ready for work than his private secretary, who sleeps in the building.
Page 254The first thing done in the morning is the opening and reading of his daily increasing mail matter. When visitors of distinction are in town who are entitled to more attention than the ordinary crowd of callers, they usually seek his presence at an early hour, and their hearings then take place under lock. At ten A. M. the door of the reception room is opened, and the general levees commence, and continue until noon. At one P. M. Mr. Lincoln repairs to dinner, after which he allows himself to rest until three P. M., when he again receives calls until half-past five, at which time he retires from the public gaze.
After supper he engages either in conversations with intimate political friends, or works with his secretary, sifting his correspondence, inditing replies, &c., &c. Light is seen in his room very late every evening, and he hardly ever allows anything to lay over unattended until the next day.
Altogether, he cannot be said to rest on a "bed of roses," although the real duties of his position do not yet weigh upon him. The most laborious part of his present daily task is the entertainment of his numerous callers. As everybody is more anxious to hear than to be heard (place seekers excepted), he is obliged to do nearly all the talking himself. His extreme fondness of and great practice in the light tone of social chat enables him to carry this heavy burthen with comparative ease.
In one of his letters Villard gave a lively description of the daily receptions.
On entering the State House the visitor will see groups of quietly conversing individuals, occupying various portions of the spacious hall of the first story. Their conversation, of course, turns about "Old Abe." Some he will find "wondering how he looks;" others, "whether he puts on airs," and how he treats callers. Excessively bashful personages, who are altogether afraid to venture into the Presidential presence, are also never wanting. . . .
The appointed hour having arrived, the crowd moves up stairs into the second story, in the southeast corner of which the reception room is located. Passing through a rather dark sort of a doorway, the clear voice and often ringing laughter of the President usually guide them to the right door. The boldest of the party having knocked, a ready "Come in" invites to enter. On opening the door the tall, lean form of "Old Abe" directly confronts the leader of the Page 255 party. Seizing the latter's hand with a hearty shake, he leads him in, and bids the rest to follow suit by an encouraging "Get in, all of you." The whole party being in, he will ask for their names, and then immediately start a running conversation. In this respect he displays more than ordinary talent and practice. Although he is naturally more listened than talked to, he does not allow a pause to become protracted. He is never at a loss as to the subjects that please the different classes of visitors, and there is a certain quaintness and originality about all he has to say, so that one cannot help being interested. His "talk" is not brilliant. His phrases are not cere|moniously set, but pervaded with a humorousness, and, at times, a grotesque joviality, that will always please. I think it would be hard to find one who tells better jokes, enjoys them better and laughs oftener, than Abraham Lincoln. . . .
No restrictions whatever being exercised as to visitors, the crowd that daily waits on the President is always of a motley description. Everybody that lives in this vicinity or passes through this place goes to take a look at "Old Abe." Muddy boots and hickory shirts are just as frequent as broadcloth, fine linen, &c. The ladies, however, are usually dressed up in their very best. . . .
Offensively democratic exhibitions of free manners occur every once in a while. Churlish fellows will obtrude themselves with their hats on, lighted segars and their pantaloons tucked into their boots. Dropping into chairs, they will sit puffing away and trying to gorgonize the President with their silent stares, until their boorish curiosity is fully satisfied.
Formal presentations are dispensed with in most cases. Nearly everybody finds his own way in and introduces himself. Sometimes half a dozen rustics rush in, break their way through other visitors up to the object of their search, and, after calling their names and touching the Presidential fingers, back out again without delay.
The run of visitors, usually numbering 100 or 150 a day, assumed flood proportions on November 20th—the day appointed for the celebration of the Republican victory. Hardly had Lincoln arrived at the State House than he was beset by an eager horde which had been on the lookout for him since daybreak. Reception hours went by the board as the 'people' crowded into the Governor's room—timid farm|ers and their more timid wives, country youths with their Page 256 sweethearts, boors who made a point of keeping on their hats and puffing steadily on cigars. All day long the flood continued. When the President-Elect finally made his escape late in the afternoon, it was with the knowledge that the hardest day's work of many a month lay behind him.
The celebration itself was a failure. Surfeited with the demonstrations of the campaign, only a small number of enthusiasts came in from other cities, although a capacity audience filled the Wigwam to hear Lyman Trumbull deliver the address of the occasion. The illumination was general, but the fireworks flashed before jaded eyes. Anna Ridgely expressed the feeling of the entire town when she wrote in her diary: "Some of the fireworks were beautiful, but most of them were rockets and Roman candles that we have seen all summer long, while the torch light procession was the smallest I ever saw."
Nevertheless, there were people enough in town to make the evening only less difficult for Lincoln than the day had been. The procession halted at his residence and cheered until he had to show himself and speak a few words in ac|knowledgment. Even after the Wigwam meeting the people gave him no rest. They crowded into his parlor, stared at Mrs. Lincoln and the invited guests, and stood about in tongue-tied embarrassment until a late hour. The next day Lincoln, with Mrs. Lincoln, was glad to escape to Chicago, leaving the place seekers to fret for his return for nearly a week, while the correspondents complained that the Illinois capital was as dull as a New England village on Sunday.
With the common people, intent upon seeing for them|selves the man whom they had made President, came others on more important missions. Simon Cameron appeared, and took back to Pennsylvania the promise of a cabinet position —a promise, incidentally, which Lincoln tried unsuccessfully to recall. Thurlow Weed came on from Albany, and the President-Elect notified William H. Seward that at the Page 257 proper time he intended to nominate him as Secretary of State. Edwin Bates of Missouri was summoned, and a few days later the Missouri Democrat announced that he would be appointed Attorney General. At Lincoln's call came Sal|mon P. Chase of Ohio, and he too went home with the knowl|edge that a place in the cabinet would be his. In the intervals between visits such as these other men only less prominent appeared on the scene—Joshua Giddings, George G. Fogg, Amos Tuck, Carl Schurz, Horace Greeley. Sometimes they were closeted for hours with Lincoln at his home or in his office; on other occasions formality was disregarded, and he called on them at their hotels. In either case, their presence was soon known, and a new crop of rumors spread among the politicians of the hotel lobbies and barrooms.
But on many occasions subjects more momentous than office holding were under discussion. Ever since Lincoln's nomination threats of secession in the event of his election had been coming from the South. Like most Northerners, he was not greatly impressed. Even when the legislature of South Carolina, on the day after the presidential election, called a convention to meet on December 17 and consider the question of withdrawing from the Union, the Republicans were not seriously alarmed. Lincoln, believing that only a small number of extremists were concerned, and that actual secession would not be attempted, took the news calmly, although it caused something of a commotion in the Illinois capital.
As the weeks passed, however, and few signs of strong conservative reaction appeared in the South, Lincoln's esti|mate of the seriousness of the national crisis slowly changed. A week before the Charleston convention met he admitted that secession was a certainty, and after it had been in session a few days he stated his belief that several other states would follow South Carolina's lead. But he refused to exhibit any concern. The Palmetto State passed her ordinance, and one Page 258 by one her followers took similar action, but in Springfield Lincoln remained impassive.
Nor would he give any definite indication of the course he intended to pursue when he should be given the responsi|bility of the government. To inquirers he freely admitted that the Union ought to be, and in his opinion would be, preserved, but beyond this general statement he would not go. He let it be known, however, that he had no intention of receding from the platform on which he had been nominated. With Thurlow Weed, William Kellogg, Duff Green, and others he spent many hours discussing the com|promises which they felt would avert the crisis, but none of them carried with him any hope that one iota of what the party had won in the election would be surrendered by the President-Elect.
But though Lincoln himself was inflexible in his refusal to announce a definite policy, there were other indications of his attitude which observers lost no time in utilizing. One such was the editorial column of the Illinois State Journal, whose editor, E. L. Baker, was a cousin by marriage of Mrs. Lin|coln and Lincoln's own friend and supporter. Disclaiming any intention of speaking for the President-Elect, Baker left no doubt of his own attitude. Neither South Carolina nor any other state could dissolve the Union by passing resolutions to that effect. "Disunion, by armed force, is TREASON," he wrote in an editorial so forceful that it was reprinted all over the country, "and treason must and will be put down at all hazards. This Union is not, will not, and cannot be dissolved until this Government is overthrown by the traitors who have raised the disunion flag. Can they overthrow it? We think not. 'They may disturb its peace—they may interrupt the course of its prosperity—they may cloud its reputation for stability—but its tranquility will be restored, its prosperity will return, and the stain upon its national character will be transfered and remain an eternal blot on the memory of Page 259 those who caused the disorder.' Let the secessionists under|stand it—let the press proclaim it—let it fly on the wings of the lightning, and fall like a thunderbolt on those now plotting treason in convention, that the Republican party, that the great North, aided by hundreds of thousands of patriotic men in the slave States, have determined to pre|serve the Union—peaceably if they can, forcibly if they must!"
The correspondents expected, also, that the inaugural ad|dress of Governor Yates would point to the policy which Lincoln intended to pursue. But the message was so radical in tone, so sharply anti-slavery and anti-compromise, that they regretfully concluded that it was delivered without his sanction. Moreover, the circumstances of its delivery de|tracted from the message itself. With both houses in joint session, and the galleries crowded with spectators, Yates appeared in such condition that the clerk of the House was forced, after the first few sentences, to read the message for him. The episode set tongues wagging near and far, and constituted one of the state's major scandals.
In the months which followed the election little besides the impact of national events interrupted Lincoln's orderly rou|tine. His brief visit to Chicago over, he settled down to await the time for his departure to Washington. The meet|ing of the State Electoral College on December 5th provided a pleasant interlude, and the visit of his old friend E. D. Baker, now a Senator-Elect from Oregon, was another wel|come break, but for the most part the days were devoted ex|clusively to the problems of politics and to the callers who came in unfailing numbers.
Late in December, in anticipation of the meeting of the legislature, when the Governor would need his office for his own use, Lincoln and Nicolay moved from the State House to Johnson's Building across the street from the Chenery House. There, and in a vacant room over the store Page 260 of C. M. Smith, his brother-in-law, where he could work on his inaugural address in privacy, Lincoln spent most of his time.
Late in January, 1861, the public sale of the furnishings of A. Lincoln was announced in the Springfield newspapers. On the same day Lincoln himself started for Charleston for a final visit with his stepmother. Upon his return invita|tions for a farewell reception were issued. On the night of February 6th the Lincoln residence was crowded with "the political elite" of the state and "the beauty and fashion" of Springfield. Seven hundred were present, and the jam was so great that in twenty minutes one could barely make his way from the door to the parlor. The next day the family moved to the Chenery House.
On the morning of February 11, 1861, Lincoln, his wife and a small number of friends rode from the hotel to the Great Western station. There, in spite of the drizzling rain, more than a thousand of his fellow citizens had gathered. For twenty minutes, his pale face quivering with emotion so deep that he could scarcely speak, he stood in the wait|ing room and shook the hands of those who pressed for|ward to say good-bye and wish him well. Shortly before eight o'clock he was conducted to the train. On reaching the platform of the last car he turned to the crowd, removed his hat, and attempted for long seconds to control his feel|ings. Then, slowly, impressively, he spoke the following words:
"My Friends: No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Page 261 Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."