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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.
The morning of the fourth of March broke beautifully clear, and it found General Scott and the Washington police in readiness for the day. The friends of Mr. Lincoln had gathered in from far and near, determined that he should be inaugurated. In the hearts of the surging crowds there was anxiety; but outside, all looked as usual on such occasions, with the single exception of an extraordinary display of soldiers. The public buildings, the schools and most of the places of business were closed during the day, and the stars and stripes were floating from every flag-staff. There was a great desire to hear Mr. Lincoln's inaugural; and, at an early hour, Pennsylvania Avenue was full of people, wending their way to the east front of the capitol, from which it was to be delivered.
At five minutes before twelve o'clock, Vice-President Breckinridge and Senator Foote escorted Mr. Hamlin, the VicePresident elect, into the Senate Chamber, and gave him a seat at the left of the chair. At twelve, Mr. Breckinridge announced the Senate adjourned without day, and then conducted Mr. Hamlin to the seat he had vacated. At this moment, the foreign diplomats, of whom there was a very large and brilliant representation, entered the chamber, and took the seats assigned to them. At a quarter before one o'clock, the Judges of the Supreme Court entered, with the venerable Chief Justice Taney at their head, each exchanging salutes with the new Vice-President, as they took their seats. At a quarter past one o'clock, an unusual stir and excitement announced the coming of the most important personage of the occasion. It was a relief to many to know that he was safely within the building; and those who were assembled in the hall regarded with the profoundest interest the entrance of President Buchanan and the President elect-the outgoing and the incoming man. A procession was then formed which passed to the platform erected for the ceremonies of the occasion, in the following order: Marshal of the District of Columbia, Judges of the Supreme Court and Sergeant-atArms, Senate Committee of Arrangements, President of the United States and President elect, Vice-President, Clerk of the Senate, Senators, Diplomatic Corps, heads of departments, Governors of states, and such others as were in the chamber. On arriving at the platform, Senator Baker of Oregon, whose name as one of Mr. Lincoln's old friends and political rivals in Illinois has been frequently mentioned in this volume, introduced Mr. Lincoln to the assembly. There was not a very hearty welcome given to the President, as he stepped forward to read his inaugural. His enemies were too many, and his friends too much in fear of exasperating them. The representative of American loyalty carried his burden alone. The inaugural was listened to with profound attention, every passage being vociferously cheered which contained any allusion to the Union, and none listening more carefully than Mr. Buchanan and Judge Taney, the latter of whom, with much agitation, administered the oath of office to Mr. Lincoln when his address was concluded.
Mr. Lincoln himself must have wondered at the strange conjunction of personages and events. The “Stephen" of his first speech in the old senatorial campaign was a defeated candidate for the presidency who then stood patriotically at his side, holding the hat of the republican President, which he had politely taken at the beginning of the inaugural address; “James” had just walked out of office to make room for him; “Franklin” had passed into comparative obscurity or something worse, and “Roger” had just administered to him the oath of office.
No thorough understanding of the moderate and conciliatory tone of the inaugural can be acquired without a perusal of the document itself. Its arguments were unanswerable, and its tone of respectful friendliness toward the South so marked that great pains were subsequently taken by the southern press to misrepresent it, and to counteract its effects. Mr. Lincoln said:
“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 Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President before he enters on the execution of his office.
“I do not consider it necessary, at present, for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement. 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 reasonable 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 speeches 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 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 the full knowledge that I had made this, and made many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And, more than this, they placed in the platform, for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:
** Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the states, and especially the right of each state to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of tlie soil of any state or territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.'
" I now reiterate these 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 add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the