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LIFE OF LINCOLN

CHAPTER XXII

THE FIRST INAUGURATION OF LINCOLN-THE RELIEF OF FORT SUMTER-SEWARD'S AMBITION TO CONTROL

ADMINISTRATION

THE

DAYBREAK of March 4, 1861, found the city of Washington astir. The Senate, which had met at seven o'clock the night before, was still in session; scores of persons who had come to see the inauguration of the first Republican President, and who had been unable to find other bed than the floor, were walking the streets; the morning trains were bringing new crowds. Added to the stir of those who had not slept through the night were sounds unusual in Washington-the clatter of cavalry, the tramp of soldiers.

All this morning bustle of the city must have reached the ears of the President-elect, at his rooms in Willard's Hotel, where from an early hour he had been at work. An amendment to the Constitution of the United States had passed the Senate in the all-night session, and as it concerned the subject of his inaugural, he must incorporate a reference to it in the address. Then he had not replied to the note he had received two days before from Mr. Seward, asking to be released from his promise to accept the portfolio of State. He could wait no longer. "I can't afford," he said to Mr. Nicolay, his secretary, "to let Seward take the first trick." And he despatched the following letter:

My dear Sir: Your note of the 2d instant, asking to withdraw your acceptance of my invitation to take charge of the State Department, was duly received. It is the subject of the most painful solicitude with me, and I feel constrained to beg that you will countermand the withdrawal. The public interest, I think, demands that you should; and my personal feelings are deeply enlisted in the same direction. Please consider and answer by 9 A. M. to-morrow. Your obedient servant, A. LINCOLN.

At noon, Mr. Lincoln's work was interrupted. The President of the United States was announced. Mr. Buchanan had come to escort his successor to the Capitol. The route of the procession was the historic one over which almost every President since Jefferson had travelled to take his oath of office; but the scene Mr. Lincoln looked upon as his carriage rolled up the avenue was very different from that upon which one looks to-day. No great blocks lined the streets; instead, the buildings were low, and there were numerous vacant spaces. Instead of asphalt, the carriage passed over cobblestones. Nor did the present stately and beautiful approach to the Capitol exist. The west front rose abrupt and stiff from an unkept lawn. The great building itself was still uncompleted, and high above his head Mr. Lincoln could see the swinging arm of an enormous crane rising from the unfinished dome.

But, as he drove that morning from Willard's to the Capitol, the President-elect saw far more significant sights than these. Closed about his carriage, "so thickly," complained the newspapers, "as to hide it from view," was a protecting guard. Stationed at intervals along the avenue were platoons of soldiers. At every corner were mounted orderlies. On the very roof-tops were groups of riflemen. When Lincoln reached the north side of the Capitol, where he descended to enter the building, he found a board tunnel,

strongly guarded at its mouth, through which he passed into the building. If he had taken pains to inquire what means had been provided for protecting his life while in the building, he would have been told that squads of riflemen were in each wing; that under the platform from which he was to speak were fifty or sixty armed soldiers; that General Scott and two batteries of flying artillery were in adjacent streets; and that a ring of volunteers encircled the waiting crowd. The thoroughness with which these guards did their work may be judged by the experience which Colonel Clark E. Carr, of Illinois, tells:

"I was only a young man then," says Colonel Carr, " and this was the first inauguration I had ever attended. I came because it was Lincoln's. For three years Lincoln had been my political idol, as he had been that of many young men in the West. The first debate I heard between him and Douglas had converted me from popular sovereignty, and after that I had followed him all over the State, so fascinated was I by his logic, his manner, and his character.

"Well, I went to Washington, but somehow, in the interest of the procession, I failed to get to the Capitol in time to find a place within hearing distance; thousands of people were packed between me and the stand. I did get, however, close to the high double fence which had been built from the driveway to the north door. It suddenly occurred to me that, if I could scale that wall, I might walk right in after the President, perhaps on to the very platform. It wasn't a minute before I shinned' up and jumped into the tunnel; but before I lit on my feet, a half dozen soldiers had me by the leg and arms. I suppose they thought I was the agent of the long-talked-of plot to capture Washington and kill Mr. Lincoln. They searched me, and then started me to the mouth of the tunnel, to take me to the guard-house, but the crowd was so thick we couldn't get out. This gave me time, and I finally convinced them that it was really my eagerness to hear Mr. Lincoln, and no evil intent, that had brought me in. When they finally came to that conclusion, they took me

around to one of the basement doors on the east side and let me out. I got a place in front of Mr. Lincoln, and heard every word."

The precautions taken against the long-threatened attack on Lincoln's life produced various impressions on the throng. Opponents scornfully insisted that the new Administration was "scared." Radical Republicans rejoiced. "I was thoroughly convinced at the time," says the Hon. James Harlan, at that time a Senator from Iowa, "that Mr. Lincoln's enemies meant what they said, and that General Scott's determination that the inauguration should go off peaceably prevented any hostile demonstration." Other supporters of Mr. Lincoln felt differently.

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"Nothing could have been more ill-advised or more ostentatious," wrote the " Public Man" that night in his " Diary," "than the way in which the troops were thrust everywhere upon the public attention, even to the roofs of the houses on Pennsylvania avenue, on which little squads of sharpshooters were absurdly stationed. I never expected to experience such a sense of mortification and shame in my own country as I felt to-day, in entering the Capitol through hedges of marines armed to the teeth. Fortunately, all passed off well, but it is appalling to think of the mischief which might have been done by a single evil-disposed person to-day. A blank cartridge fired from a window on Pennsylvania avenue might have disconcerted all our hopes, and thrown the whole country into inextricable conusion. That nothing of the sort was done, or even so much as attempted, is the most conclusive evidence that could be asked of the groundlessness of the rumors and old women's tales on the strength of which General Scott has been led into this great mistake."

Arm in arm with Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Lincoln passed

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