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Baltimore sleeper had been arranged for, and the telegraph officials had agreed to make the transmission of information about his movements impossible, Lincoln left Harrisburg, escorted only by Ward H. Lamon, was taken in a carriage across Philadelphia from one station to another, supervised by Pinkerton, passed through Baltimore unrecognized, and reached Washington on the morning of February 23.
During the few days before the inauguration, he was largely occupied with the official routine of paying and receiving visits, and the most important things he did were taking the final steps about his cabinet and putting the finishing touches on his inaugural. When he began the preparation of this document in Springfield he told Herndon to bring him Henry Clay's famous speech of 1850, Jackson's proclamation against nullification, and Webster's reply to Hayne, which last he deemed the grandest piece of oratory in American literature. In a room over the store he composed most of his inaugural. From time to time he showed it to friends and made various changes, mainly in the direction of softness.
The firm tone was originally his, the gentleness and occasional vagueness he introduced partly on advice.
The day after his arrival in Washington a long letter from Seward, with many slight changes, suggested the excision of a declaration that the property of the government would be reclaimed and the insertion instead of something more ambiguous and forbearing. A similar change was suggested and made, substituting an intention to hold the forts in possession of the government for the determination to recapture those already seized by the Confederates. He labored to the end over this paper, with regard both to substance and to style, making all the changes in the direction of mildness, one which he suggested himself being a declaration of readiness to submit to the people the question of revising the Constitution. Before he reached Washington he gave in a comical spirit a description of this address, which he feared had been hopelessly mislaid: “ Lamon, I guess I have lost my certificate of moral character, written by myself. Bob has lost my gripsack, containing my inaugural address. I want you to help me find it
. I feel a good deal as the old member of the Methodist Church did when he lost his wife at the camp-meeting, and went up to an old elder of the church and asked him if he could tell him whereabouts in hell his wife was. In fact I am in a worse fix than my Methodist friend, for if it were nothing but a wife that was missing mine would be sure to pop up serenely.” The inaugural also popped up, and it may be mentioned incidentally that practically all the clergy in Springfield voted against Lincoln.
The cabinet measures also taken in these few days in Washington were of course only the finishing touches to a series of negotiations which had begun before the nomination and had never ceased. Lincoln's idea from the beginning was to make his cabinet include the most prominent leaders in his own party, Republicans who had been Democrats as well as those who had been Whigs, and also leading citizens of the South. William H. Seward he had chosen as Secretary of State, although after deliberation yet almost as a matter of course, as his strongest rival for the presidency and a recognized leader of the Republicans. A conflict among the Illinois factions served Lincoln with an excuse for giving no cabinet position to his own state. Judge Davis says that Alexander H. Stephens would have been offered a cabinet office but for the fear that Georgia might secede. Guthrie of Kentucky, one of the leaders at the Charleston convention, was offered the Treasury Department, which he declined. Lincoln considered the names of several other men from the border states with pro-slavery antecedents, and he commissioned Thurlow Weed to offer a place to Gilmore of North Carolina, who declined because his state seemed likely to secede. His rivals for the presidency, Chase and Bates, the latter from the slave state of Missouri, were chosen Secretary of the Treasury and AttorneyGeneral, as part of the general policy of consolidating the strength of the party. Caleb B. Smith of Indiana was named Secretary of the Interior in pursuance of the Chicago bargain, which Lincoln decided to carry out after many misgivings, leading to such changes of attitude as he seldom indulged in. Cameron was the worst nightmare that confronted the President-elect during the whole interregnum. He and his friends went to Springfield to exact the pound of flesh. Pennsylvania politicians opposed to Cameron, as well as men of position all over the country, pleaded his total unfitness. Lincoln was so troubled that he first promised Cameron the position, then withdrew it, and finally granted it. Montgomery Blair, of Maryland, who with his brother Frank had led the Bates forces in Chicago, was made Postmaster-General, and Gideon Welles of Connecticut Secretary of the Navy. The slate finally stood:
For Secretary of State, William H. Seward, of New York.
For Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio.
For Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania.
For Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, of Connecticut.
For Secretary of the Interior, Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana.
For Attorney-General, Edward Bates, of Missouri.
For Postmaster-General, Montgomery Blair, of Maryland.
There was considerable trouble up to the very day of inauguration, especially through Seward and his partisans, who objected to the eclectic nature of the cabinet. Lincoln did something to quiet their outcries when, commenting on rumors that Blair was to be dropped, he said: “No, if that slate is to be broken again it will be at the top.” Seward withdrew his name March 2. Lincoln wrote to him inauguration day, saying to a friend that he "could not afford to let Seward take the first trick," and the Secretary of State withdrew his declination March 6 after a long talk with the President. A Republican described Lincoln's cabinet as “an assortment of rivals whom he had appointed out of courtesy (Seward, Chase, and Cameron), one stump speaker from Indiana (Caleb Smith), and two representatives of the Blair family,” this last meaning that Frank Blair had procured the appointment of Bates.
When his presidential term began, Lincoln weighed about 180 pounds. He had few, if any gray hairs; marked rings under his hollow eyes; a sallow face, with deep lines, worn and full of care; ears which stood at right angles to his head ; a thick and hanging lower lip. He