Page images

of the staff, amid the cheers of a vast concourse of people. The ceremony was alike impressive to the principal actor and the multitude of observers. The great battles of Mr. Lincoln's life had been done for the principles of the Declaration of Independence. It was because he represented those principles, distinctively, that he had been elected to the presidency, that the slave-power was in active revolt, and that the friends of slavery were seeking for his life. It was certainly a remarkable occasion when he stood within the room where the Declaration was framed and signed, and pledged himself anew to its truths and principles, and then walked out into the presence of the people and ran up to its home the beautiful national ensign prepared for his hands.

At the conclusion of these ceremonies, Mr. Lincoln and his party left the city for Harrisburg, the capital of the state, where, in accordance with his promise, he visited both branches of the Pennsylvania legislature. The following were the more important passages in his response to the address of welcome:

"I thank you most sincerely for this reception, and the generous words in which support has been promised me upon this occasion. I thank your great Commonwealth for the overwhelming support it recently gave, not to me personally, but the cause, which I think a just one, in the late election. Allusion has been made to the fact—the interesting fact, perhaps we 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, in connection with that beloved anniversary connected with the history of this country. I have already gone through one exceedingly interesting scene this morning in the ceremoaies at Philadelphia. Under the high conduct of gentlemen there, I was, for the first time, allowed the privilege of standing in Old Independence Hall, to have a few words addressed to me there, and opening up an opportunity of saying, with much regret, that I had not more time to express something of my own feelings, excited by the occasion— somewhat to harmonize and give shape to the feelings that had been really the feelings of my whole life.

"Besides this, 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; when, according to the arrangement, the cord was pulled, and it flaunted

gloriously to the wind without an accident, in the bright glowing sunshine of the morning, I could not help hoping that there was in the entire success of that beautiful ceremony at least something of an omen of what is to come. Nor could I help feeling then, as I often have felt, that in the whole of that proceeding I was a very humble instrument. I had not provided the flag; I had not made the arrangements for elevating it to its place. I had applied but a very small portion of my feeble strength in raising it. 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.


"I recur for a moment to some words uttered at the hotel in regard to what has been said about the military support which the general government may expect from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in a proper emergency. To guard against any possible mistake do I recur to this. It is not with any pleasure that I contemplate the possibility that a necessity may arise in this country for the use of the military While I am exceedingly gratified to see the manifestation upon your streets of your military force here, and exceedingly gratified at your promise here to use that force upon a proper emergency-while I make these acknowledgments, I desire to repeat, in order to preclude any possible misconstruction, that I do most sincerely hope that we shall have no use for them; that it will never become their duty to shed blood, and most especially never to shed fraternal blood. I promise that, so far as I may have wisdom to direct, if so painful a result shall in any wise be brought about, it shall be through no fault of mine."

It is proper to call renewed attention here to Mr. Lincoln's strong and ever present conviction that he was only a humble instrument in the hands of a higher power. He recognized the people as one of the higher powers which held him in service, and his illustration of his position, drawn from his office in raising the flag over Independence Hall, was extremely beautiful. We shall find this conviction deepening throughout the remainder of his life-the conviction that he was nothing that he was of no consequence-save as an instrument, and that he had no rights and no mission except those which were deputed to him.

At the conclusion of the exercises of the day, Mr. Lincoln, who was known to be very weary, was permitted to pass undisturbed to his apartments in the Jones House.

It was

popularly understood that he was to start for Washington the next morning; and the people of Harrisburg supposed they had taken only a temporary leave of him. He remained in his rooms until nearly six o'clock, when he passed into the street, entered a carriage unobserved, in company with Colonel Lamon, and was driven to a special train on the Pennsylvania Railroad, in waiting for him. As a measure of precaution, the telegraph wires were cut the moment he left Harrisburgh, so that, if his departure should be discovered, intelligence of it could not be communicated at a distance. At half past ten, the train arrived at Philadelphia, and here Mr. Lincoln was met by the detective, who had a carriage in readiness, in which the party were driven to the depot of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad. At a quarter past eleven they arrived, and, very fortunately, found the regular train, which should have left at eleven, delayed. The party took berths in the sleeping car, and, without change of cars, passed directly through Baltimore to Washington, where Mr. Lincoln arrived at half past six o'clock in the morning, and found Mr. Washburne anxiously awaiting him. He was taken into a carriage, and in a few minutes he was talking over his adventures, with Senator Seward at Willard's Hotel.

Mr. Lincoln's family left Harrisburgh on the special train that had been intended for him, and as news of his safe arrival in Washington was already telegraphed over the country, no disturbance was made by the passage of the party through Baltimore. It was found that the number of original conspirators was about twenty, all of whose names were in possession of responsible parties. It was a bold plot, ingeniously foiled; but the detective through whose means the President's life had been saved, was not considered safe in Washington, and after a day or two was sent away. It should be added that the current story that Mr. Lincoln passed through Baltimore disguised in a "long military cloak and Scotch cap," is a pure fabrication, written by a man who hated Mr. Lincoln, and knew absolutely nothing of the event of which he wrote. Mr. Lincoln did not find it necessary to adopt any disguise.

It is a'curious coincidence that Mr. Seward and his son who both were very active in the discovery of this plot, and in the measures for avoiding its consequences, were the only sharers in that violence which, at a later period, destroyed Mr. Lincoln's life. It is also a very suggestive fact, touching the responsibility of the southern leaders for Mr. Lincoln's assassination, that when a man of the name of Byrne was arrested in Richmond a year afterwards, for keeping a gambling house and for disloyalty to the confederate government, he was released on the testimony of Mr. Wigfall, who, to prove the man's truth to treason, swore that he was captain of the band that plotted to assassinate President Lincoln in Baltimore.


The city of Washington was thrown into a flutter of excitement by this unexpected arrival. Mr. Lincoln's foesand there were multitudes of them in Washington-ridiculed his fears, and his friends were equally angry and ashamed that the chosen chief of the nation should consent to sneak into his capital; but the latter, sooner or later, learned that he had taken the wiser course. It was, indeed, a very shameful thing that the President elect should have been obliged to do what he did, but so long as he was not responsible for it, the shame in no way attaches to him.

Mr. Lincoln went immediately into free conferences with his friends, visited both houses of Congress, and after a day he was waited upon by the Mayor and the municipal authorities, who gave him formal welcome to the city. In his brief reply, he took occasion to say that he thought much of the ill feeling existing between those living in free and slave states was owing to their failure to understand one another, and then assured the Mayor and his party that he did not then entertain, and had never entertained, any other than kindly feelings toward the South, that he had no disposition to treat the people of the South otherwise than as his own neighbors, and that he had no wish to withhold from them any of the benefits of the Constitution. On the second evening after his arrival, the Republican Association tendered him the courtesy of a serenade, which attracted a large crowd of friends and curious

spectators. On being called out, he made much such an address as he had already made to the Mayor, closing with an expression of the conviction that when they should come to know each other better they would be better friends.

The days that preceded the inauguration were rapidly passing away. In the meantime, although General Scott had been busy and efficient in his military preparations for the occasion, many were fearful that scenes of violence would be enacted on that day, even should Mr. Lincoln be permitted to escape assassination in the meantime. It was a time of fearful uncertainty. The leading society of Washington hated Mr. Lincoln and the principles he represented. If it would be uncharitable to say that they would have rejoiced in his death, it is certainly true that they were in perfect sympathy with those who were plotting his destruction. His coming and remaining would be death to the social dominance of slavery in the national capital. This they felt; and nothing would have pleased them better than a revolution which would send Mr. Lincoln back to Illinois, and install Jefferson Davis in the White House. There was probably not one man in five in Washington at the time Mr. Lincoln entered the city who, in his heart, gave him welcome. It is not to be wondered at that his friends all over the country looked nervously forward to the fourth of March.


« PreviousContinue »