Page images

scene this moy gone through with the historyuntry

In presence of the Legislature, after returning thanks for his reception, he said:

Allusion has been made to the fact — the interesting fact, perhaps I should say — that I for the first time appear at the capital of the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania upon the birthday of the Father of his Country — that beloved anniversary connected with the history of this country. I have already gone through with one exceedingly interesting scene this morning in the ceremonies at Philadelphia. ... Our friends there had provided a magnificent flag of the country. They had arranged it so that I was given the honor of raising it to the head of its staff. And when it went up I was pleased that it went to its place by the strength of my own feeble arm. ... In the whole transaction I was in the hands of the people who had arranged it; and if I can have the same generous co-operation of the people of the nation, I think the flag of our country may yet be kept flaunting gloriously.

This was his last public appearance during the journey, which ended differently from the original intention, and in a manner that gave surprise to the country.

The Electoral count (on the 13th of February) was unobstructed by any material dispute or question. For months past, nevertheless, there had been threats and predictions akin to threats, that Lincoln would never be inaugurated as President. It was not generally known — as it was to a few who were in close relations with him — that he had received many malicious letters, both before and after the election, foreshadowing his assassination. It was no secret that special precaution and care were taken for the safety of his person while on his way to Washington. Save one or two dubious incidents exciting momentary suspicion, all was propitious until the evening of the arrival at Philadelphia. At this point there came warning, on the responsible authority of Mr. Seward and the Lieutenant-General, of a plot for Lincoln's assassination in Baltimore.

General Scott was thought by some to be unduly anxious about the inauguration. In the Peace Conference, on the 18th — the day on which a “Chief of the Six Nations” assumed power at Montgomery — Mr. Guthrie, of Kentucky, must have surprised many of his fellow-members by saying:

I have had full and free communication with people of all portions of the South before, during and since the election of the 6th of November, and I state here, that I have never dreamed that there was the slightest objection anywhere to the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln. To-day is the first time I have heard the question raised, and yet I do not believe that any such objection now exists.

There had been no lack of such talk, however, not only among men with whom Mr. Guthrie had no personal association, but also in newspapers which he did not read. That General Scott had sufficient reasons for the precautions taken is shown by his testimony (January 31st and February 7th) before a special committee of the House (known as the Howard Committee) appointed to inquire into “alleged hostile organizations against the Government in the District of Columbia.” Nor was he by any means alone in scenting the particular danger of which he now gave warning. The managers of the railway from Philadelphia to Baltimore had arrived at the conclusion — from evidence furnished by their own detectives — that there was a plot for the assassination of Lincoln when he reached Baltimore. Mr. Seward, through detectives acting quite independently of those just mentioned, had information that seemed to him so convincing as to require prompt action. He dispatched his son, Frederick W. Seward, to Philadelphia, to communicate the information to Lincoln and to urge him to anticipate the expected time of passing through Baltimore. Instead of going at once, as urged, he determined to keep his engagement at Harrisburg on the next day. The ceremonies there being over, he returned the same evening to Philadelphia, where, with friends accompanying him, including railway officials who were in the secret, he took the regular express train for Washington, about midnight, arriving there early in the morning (the 23d).

The sudden conclusion of the journey was known far and near before the train from Harrisburg, on which he had been expected, ran into Baltimore, where the day passed without disturbance. Mrs. Lincoln and the party with her were courteously treated in the city, receiving attentions from some of the municipal officers, though politically hostile, and the transit through the city, soon effected, was made as agreeable as possible. The President-elect, however, had been tendered no hospitalities such as were offered by every other prominent city on his route. He was under no obligation to make his entry or departure a public affair. The “ Conservative Union” newspaper, the Baltimore American, said next day that the “prevailing feeling excited by Mr. Lincoln's quiet passage through Baltimore was one of relief and of gratification, though expressions of disappointed curiosity were frequently heard;” and that his action “was a simple and practical avoidance of -vhat might have been an occasion

of disorder and mortification to all interested in the preservation of the good name of our city.”

James Buchanan had yet eight days to remain in office when Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by Mr. Seward, called at the White House. Mr. Buchanan, wearied and worn, faint if not sick at heart, dubious, as he sometimes pathetically enough expressed himself, about the ultimate verdict of history on his administration, and anxious to lay down his burden, was not merely politely complacent to his sucessor, but heartily glad to see him safely arrived. From thence Lincoln and Seward went to call upon the veteran head of the army. With stately deference, as to one who would soon be his superior in office, General Scott also welcomed the man from the prairies, and hinted of the military preparations which were to give security to the coming ceremonies and unhindered possession of the executive departments thereafter.

To the country in general, undeniably, this seemed an inauspicious advent. Inimical jeers were not entirely warded off by friendly explanations. Many of the warmest supporters of the new President were chagrined when they learned, on that chill February day, that his “progress” had terminated in an entry so private. This was aggravated by the invention, soon exposed, that he had traveled from Philadelphia to Washington in disguise. There came reassurance in the belief that the night journey had been taken on the advice of well-informed friends who had a right to be heard, and in the certainty that it had avoided a positive peril. In crossing Mason and Dixon's line, Lincoln had now come within territory which the secession leaders coveted, claimed, labored incessantly to possess as part and parcel of their confederacy. He had not only traversed the largest city of the South, but had come to be inaugurated as President in a community holding slaves and surrounded by a slave-holding country. Abhorring the man who had thus suddenly come among them, few of the dominant class willingly endured the thought that he had come to stay.

In the brief time remaining, the President-elect gave his last revision to the inaugural address which he had written before leaving Springfield. Few changes were made, and none seriously affecting the policy announced, unless it be what is said of the so-called “ Corwin amendment.” No one except Mr. Seward appears to have been consulted in the matter, and his suggestions related chiefly to forms of expression and to the sentimental appeal with which the address closes. For the last two months many politicians had looked upon the New York Senator as the real power on whom nearly everything at this crisis was to depend. There was little resistance to his appointment as Secretary of State, but opposition to Mr. Chase for Secretary of the Treasury was kept up with some vigor to the last — especially by the friends of Mr. Seward and of Mr. Cameron. In regard to these three prospective members of the Cabinet, the purpose of Lincoln was unchanged by any controversy after he reached Washington, and the same may be said as to most of their associates.

The Peace Conference adjourned on the 27th of February, and thereupon a salute was fired by Magruder's battery on Judiciary Square — presumably in honor of the propositions recommended by a small

« PreviousContinue »