« PreviousContinue »
his friends vouched for, that a secret conspiracy was organized, at a neighboring city, to take his life on his way to the Capital.
le went to Harrisburg, according to arrangement; met the Legislature, and retired to his room. Meanwhile, General Scott and Mr. Seward had learned, through other sources, the existence of the plot to assassinate him, and had despatched Mr. F. W. Seward, a son of Senator Seward, to apprise him of the danger.
Information coming to him from both these sources, each independent of the other, induced him to yield to the wishes of his friends, and anticipate his journey to Washington. Besides, from Baltimore there had reached him no committee, either of the municipal authorities or of citizens, to tender him the hospitalities, and to extend to him the courtesies of that city, as had been done by every city through which he had passed. He was persuaded to permit the detective to arrange for his going to Washington that night. The telegraph wires to Baltimore were cut; and, with one friend, wearing, not a Scotch cap, (as alleged by the daily press), but a felt hat, which some friend had presented to him, he arrived at Philadelphia, drove to the Baltimore depot, and the next morning the Capital was startled by the announcement of his arrival.
Mr. Lincoln, long afterwards, declared: “I did not then, nor do I now, believe I should have been assassinated, had I gone through Baltimore, as first contemplated; but I thought it wise to run no risk, where no risk was necessary.
Those who review the facts, in regard to the conspiracy, in the light of his subsequent assassination, can entertain no doubt, either of the existence of the plot, the fiendish determination of the conspirators, nor that many prominent rebels were knowing and consenting to it. A letter is in existence, from the Governor of a border slave State, written before that date, and in reply to an application for arms, asking whether they would be used “to kill Lincoln and his men ?” †
Stated to the author by Mr. Lincoln, from whom the foregoing facts, in regard to the assassination plot, were obtained.
+ It is due to this Governor, to say, that he was subsequently a devoted Unionist, and explained this letter, by stating it to have been a joke.
General Scott, Joseph Holt, Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton Attorney General, and others, had made such arrangements as secured his immediate safety. General Sumner, then colonel; General Hunter, then major in the regular army, and other devoted and watchful friends, were around him.
So many of his supporters, from the free States, followed him, that a large body of citizens could have been immediately organized as soldiers, if necessary.
LINCOLN IN THE WHITE HOUSE,
LINCOLN'S INAUGURATION AND INAUGURAL - DOUGLAS AND
PP.OPHECY - LINCOLN'S CABINET-CONDITION OF AFFAIRS ON THE 4TH OF MARCH, 1861 — BENJAMIN F. BUTLER'S POSITION — THE “PRODIGAL Son."
R. Lincoln availed himself of the earliest opportunity,
after his arrival at the Capital, to express his kindly feelings to the people of Washington and the Southern States. On the 27th of February, when waited upon by the Mayor and Common Council of Washington, he assured them, and through them the South, that he had no disposition to treat them in any other way than as neighbors, and that he had no disposition to withhold from them any constitutional right. He assured the people that they should have all their rights under the Constitution. “Not grudgingly, but fully and fairly.”
On the 4th of March, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated President of the United States. An inauguration, so impressive and solemn as this, had not occurred since that of Washington. The ceremonies took place, as usual, at and on the eastern colonnade of the Capitol. General Scott had gathered a few soldiers of the regular army, and had caused to be organized some militia, to preserve peace, order and security.
Thousands of Northern voters thronged the streets of Washington, only a very few of them conscious of the volcano of treason and murder, thinly concealed, around them. The public offices and the departments were full of plotting traitors. Many of the rebel generals, including Lee, the Johnstons, Ewell, Hill, Stewart, Magruder, Pemberton, and others,
held commissions under the government they were about to abandon and betray. Spies were everywhere. The people of Washington were, a large portion of them, in sympathy with the conspirators.
None who witnessed it will ever forget the scene of that inauguration. On the magnificent eastern front of the Capitol, surrounded by the Senate and House of Representatives, the Judges of the Supreme Court, the Diplomatic Corps, the high officers of the Army and the Navy, a vast crowd outside of the guards; a crowd of mingled patriots and traitors; men looking searchingly into the eyes of every stranger, to discover whether he gazed on a traitor or a friend. Standing in the most conspicuous position, amidst scowling traitors, with murder and treason in their hearts, Lincoln was perfectly cool and determined. Near him was President Buchanan, with his white neck-tie, seemingly bowed down with the consciousness of duties unperformed; there were Chief Justice Taney and his associates, who had disgraced American jurisprudence by the Dred Scott decision; there was Chase with his fine and imposing presence; and the venerable Scott, his towering form still unbroken by years; the ever hopeful and philosophical statesman Seward; the scholarly, uncompromising Sumner; blunt Ben. Wade. There were distinguished governors of states, and throngs of eminent men from every section of the Union. But there was no man more observed than the great rival of Mr. Lincoln, Douglas. He had been most marked and thoughtful in his attentions to the President elect, and now his small but sturdy figure in striking contrast to the towering form of Lincoln, was conspicuous; gracefully extending every courtesy to his successful competitor.* His bold eye, from which flashed energy and determination, was eagerly scanning the crowd, not unconscious it is believed, of the personal danger which encircled the President, and perfectly ready to share it with him. Lincoln's calmness arose from an entire absence of self-consciousness;. he was too fully absorbed with the gravity of the occasion, and the importance of the events around and before him, to think of himself.
* The author is here reminded of the following incident: As Mr. Lincoln removed his hat, before commencing the reading of his “Inaugural”--- from the proximity of the crowd, he saw nowhere to place it; and Mr. Douglas, by his side, seeing this, instantly extended his hand and held the President's hat while he was occupied in reading the address.
With a voice so clear and distinct that he could be heard by thrice ten thousand men, he read his inaugural address.
This address is so important, and shows so clearly the causelessness of the rebellion, that no apology is offered for the following quotations from it:
"Fellow CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES : In compliance with a custom as old as the government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the the Constitution of the United States, to be taken by the President “ before he enters upon the execution of his office.”
" Apprehension seems to exist, among the people of the Southern States, that by the accession of a Republican administration, their property and their peace and personal security, are to be endangered. There has never been any real cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published specches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery, in the states where it now exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." Those who nominated and elected me, did so with a full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations, and have never recanted them.
" I now reiterate those sentiments, and, in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace, and security, of no section, are to be in anywise endangered by the now incoming administration. * *
"I hold, that in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of the States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed in the fundamental law of all National Governments. * *
“I therefore consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States.
As Mr. Lincoln pronounced the foregoing sentence, with clear, firm and impressive emphasis, a visible sensation ran through the vast audience, and earnest, sober, but hearty cheers from men, who hear boldly expressed a clear duty--but