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FROM his election to his inauguration Lincoln was compelled to watch the end of Buchanan's government proceed on a course the opposite of the one he deemed wise. His election was the signal for a secession movement throughout the South. Never before had the territory of the country been so open to slavery; but the leaders knew that an election which meant no further yielding struck also the final doom of their institution, and they were determined to found a slave empire while they could, peaceably if possible, forcibly if necessary. It was the only time in the history of the Republic that a President had been chosen by one of the two hostile sections alone. Lincoln and Douglas had divided almost the entire vote of the North, Breckenridge and Bell almost the whole of the South, and for the first time since the nation was founded the President had received no electoral vote from a slave state. In this situation the secession leaders saw that the hour had come. The mass of the slave-owners

were not ready for war, probably not even for secession, as shown later by the manner in which the Southern states withdrew; but a few influential men were able to make the conflict inevitable. As Blaine explains, slavery as an economic institution and slavery as a political force were distinct, and the war was brought on by those who wished to use the question as a political engine for the consolidation of power.

Lincoln characteristically remained quiet on all subordinate issues, and, having as yet no power to act on the main question, did nothing to inflame it, but none the less told his spokesmen where he stood. Not for a moment did he encourage the talk about peaceable secession which was so widespread throughout the North. Buchanan's cabinet was partly composed of Southern conspirators, Washington was full of them, they were in every Northern city, and the President, although loyal, was so weak that he took in a confused and frightened way the position that if the South wished to go he saw no way to prevent it. That was bad enough, but when Lincoln beheld the abolitionists themselves arguing for the right of secession, he required all of his own convictions to maintain the stand which he never lost. Not only did Greeley argue in his influential paper that the Southern right to

secede was as good as that of the Colonists in 1776, a statement put in more exaggerated form by the New York Herald and many other papers, both Democratic and Republican, but the mass of the Northern people seemed as weak-kneed as their leaders. This was true not only in the Middle States, but even in New England, for in Boston itself, Wendell Phillips needed the protection of the police, and so sudden was the change in sentiment that George William Curtis had to abandon a lecture in Philadelphia, for fear of a riot, five weeks after that city had given Lincoln an immense majority. To vote for a conviction was one thing; to fight for it was another.

Lincoln, living quietly in his Springfield home, watched the sentiment at the North, knowing that when the lapse of a few months called him to action, he should stand for the straight course, however raging the storm. A fortnight after the election, when Springfield was holding a jubilee, he spoke a few simple words, among them these: "I rejoice with you in the success which has thus far attended that cause. Yet in all our rejoicings, let us neither express nor cherish any hard feelings toward any citizen, who by his vote has differed with us. Let us at all times remember that all American citizens are brothers of a


common country, and should dwell together in the bonds of fraternal feeling." But kindness was no clearer in his attitude than determination. While he was for conciliation he was opposed to the only possible compromise, which was concession either of more territory for slavery or of the right to secede. He granted the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law and nothing more. My opinion," he wrote to Thurlow Weed, December 17, 1860, "is, that no state can in any way lawfully get out of the Union without the consent of the others; and that it is the duty of the President and other government functionaries to run the machine as it is." To W. Kellogg, representative from Illinois on December 11, he wrote: "Entertain no proposition for a compromise in regard to the extension of slavery. The tug has got to come, and better now than later." Two days later he wrote to Mr. Washburne: "Your long letter received: Prevent as far as possible any of our friends from demoralizing themselves and their cause by entertaining propositions for compromise of any sort on slavery extension. There is no possible compromise upon it but what puts us under again, and all our work to do over again. Whether it be a Missouri line or Eli Thayer's popular sovereignty, it is all the same. Let either be

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done, and immediately filibustering and extending slavery recommences. On that point hold firm as a chain of steel."


This stand he held with calmness in the face of those who clamored for aggressive talk and of those who were for conciliation. Some even went so far as to propose that, now that the principle of freedom had been vindicated at the polls, the way to peace should be prepared by Lincoln's retirement and the choice of some one more acceptable to the South. To the wild suggestions with which he was so plentifully supplied he said nothing. In this country," says Lowell, "where the rough-and-ready understanding of the people is sure at last to be the controlling power, a profound common sense is the best genius for statesmanship." It was part of Lincoln's common sense, when, as Emerson puts it, "the new pilot was hurried to the helm in a tornado," to say as little as was necessary, and to speak only on the points which were at once crucial and certain. Salmon P. Chase, so soon to be a member of the cabinet, wrote on January 9, 1861, to Thaddeus Stevens, "He is a man to be depended on. He may, as all men may, make mistakes; but the cause will be want of sufficient information, not of soundness of judgment or of devotedness to principle." This confidence was not, however, so widespread but that the President-elect needed.


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