Ida M. (Ida Minerva) Tarbell.

The life of Abraham Lincoln, drawn from original sources and containing many speeches, letters, and telegrams hitherto unpublished online

. (page 33 of 34)
Online LibraryIda M. (Ida Minerva) TarbellThe life of Abraham Lincoln, drawn from original sources and containing many speeches, letters, and telegrams hitherto unpublished → online text (page 33 of 34)
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tion of a president makes no change in the firm of Lincoln &
Herndon. If I live, I am coming back some time, and then
we'll go right on practising law as if nothing had happened.'
He lingered for a moment, as if to take a last look at the old
quarters, and then passed through the door into the narrow

Herndon says that he never saw Lincoln more cheerful
than on that day, and Judge Gillespie, who visited him a few
days earlier, found him in excellent spirits. " I told him that
I believed it would do him good to get down to Washing-
ton." " I know it will," he replied. " I only wish I could
have got there to lock the door before the horse was stolen.
But when I get to the spot, I can find the tracks."


Mr. Lincoln and his party were to leave Springfield by a
special train at eight o'clock on Monday morning, February
II. And at precisely five minutes before eight o'clock, he
was summoned from the dingy waiting-room of the station.
Slowly working his way through the crowd of friends and
townspeople that had gathered to bid him good-by, he
mounted the platform of the car, and turning, stood looking
down into the multitude of sad, friendly upturned faces. For
a moment a strong emotion shook him ; then, removing his
hat and lifting his hand to command silence, he spoke :

My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my
feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the
kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived
a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an
old man. Here my children have been born and one is buried.
I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may
return, with a task before me greater than that which rested
upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine
Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that
assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with
me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us
confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care
commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will com-
mend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell. *

A sob went through the listening crowd as Mr. Lincoln's
broken voice asked their prayers, and a choked exclamation,
" We will do it ! We will do it ! " rose as he ceased to speak.
Upon all who listened to him that morning his words pro-
duced a deep impression. " I was only a lad of fourteen,"
says Mr. Lincoln Dubois, of Springfield, " but to this day I
can recall almost the exact language of that speech." " We
have known Mr. Lincoln for many years," wrote the editor
of the " State Journal." " We have heard him speak upon a

* The version of the farewell speech here used is that given by Nico-
lay and Hay in their " Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln."


hundred different occasions ; but we never saw him so pro-
foundly affected, nor did he ever utter an address which
seemed to us so full of simple and touching eloquence, so
exactly adapted to the occasion, so worthy of the man and the
hour. Although it was raining fast when he began to speak,
every hat was lifted and every head bent forward to catch
the last words of the departing chief. When he said, with
the earnestness of a sudden inspiration of feeling, that with
God's help he should not fail, there was an uncontrollable
burst of applause."

The speech was of course telegraphed over the country,
and though politicians sneered at it, the people were touched.
He had appealed to one of their deepest convictions, the belief
in a Providence whose help was given to those who sought
it in prayer. The new President, they said to one another,
was not only a man who had struggled with life like common
people ; he was a man who believed, as they did, in God, and
was not ashamed to ask the prayers of good men.

The journey eastward through Illinois, which now began,
was full of incident. No better description of it was ever
given than that of Thomas Ross, a brakeman on the presi-
dential train.

" The enthusiasm all along the line was intense. As we
whirled through the country villages, we caught a cheer from
the people and a glimpse of waving handkerchiefs and of hats
tossed high into the air. Wherever we stopped there was
a great rush to shake hands with Mr. Lincoln, though of
course only a few could reach him. The crowds looked as if
they included the whole population. There were women and
children, there were young men, and there were old men
with gray beards. It was soul-stirring to see these white-
whiskered old fellows, many of whom had known Lincoln
in his humbler days, join in the cheering, and hear them
shout after him, ' Good-by, Abe. Stick to the Constitution,
and we will stick to you.' It was my good fortune to stand


beside Lincoln at each place at which he spoke — at Decatur,
Tolono, and Danville. At the State line the train stopped
for dinner. There was such a crowd that Lincoln could
scarcely reach the dining-room. ' Gentlemen/ said he, as
he surveyed the crowd, ' if you will make me a little path, so
that I can get through and get something to eat, I will make
you a speech when I get back.'

" I never knew where all the people came from. They
were not only in the towns and villages, but many were along
the track in the country, just to get a glimpse of the Presi-
dent's train. I remember that, after passing Bement, we
crossed a trestle, and I was greatly interested to see a man
standing there with a shot-gun. As the train passed he pre-
sented arms. I have often thought he was there, a volun-
teer, to watch the trestle and to see that the President's train
got over it in safety. As I have said, the people everywhere
were wild. Everybody wanted to shake hands with Lincoln,
and he would have to say : ' My friends, I would like to
shake hands with all of you, but I can't do it.' At Danville
I well remember seeing him thrust his long arm over several
heads to shake hands with George Lawrence. Walter Whit-
ney, the conductor, who went on to Indianapolis, told me
when he got back that, after Lincoln got into a carriage, men
got hold of the hubs and carried the vehicle for a whole block.
At the State line, I left the train, and returned to Springfield,
having passed the biggest day in my whole life."

It was nearly five o'clock in the afternoon before the party
reached Indianapolis, where they were to spend the night.
An elaborate reception had been prepared, and here Mr. Lin-
coln made his first speech. It was not long, but it contained
a paragraph of vital importance. The discussion over the
right of the government to coerce the South was at its height.
Lincoln had never publicly expresssed himself on this point.
In the Indianapolis speech he said :

The words " coercion " and " invasion " are much used in
these days, and often with some temper and hot blood. Let
us make sure, if we can, that we do not misunderstand the


meaning of those who use them. Let us get exact definitions
of these words, not from dictionaries, but from the men
themselves, who certainly deprecate the things they would
represent by the use of words. What, then, is " coer-
cion " ? What is " invasion " ? Would the marching of
an army into South Carolina without the consent of her
people, and with hostile intent toward them, be " inva-
sion " ? I certainly think it would ; and it would be " coer-
cion " also if the South Carolinians were forced to submit.
But if the United States should merely hold and retake its 1
own forts and other property, and collect the duties on
foreign importations, or even withhold the mails from places
where they were habitually violated, would any or all of
these things be " invasion " or " coercion " ? Do our pro-
fessed lovers of the Union, but who spitefully resolve that
they will resist coercion and invasion, understand that such
things as these on the part of the United States would be
coercion or invasion of a State ? If so, their idea of means
to preserve the object of their great affection would seem to
be exceedingly thin and airy. If sick, the little pills of the
homeopathist would be much too large for them to swallow.
In their view, the Union as a family relation would seem to
be no regular marriage, but rather a sort of " free-love " ar-
rangement, to be maintained only on " passional attraction." i

The speech was warmly applauded by the Republican
press. It was the sign they had been seeking from Mr. Lin-
coln. But to the advocates of compromise it was a bitter
message. " The bells of St. Germain I'Auxerrois have at
length tolled forth the signal for massacre and bloodshed by
the incoming administration," said the New York "Herald."

A long public reception in the evening, a breakfast the next
morning with the Governor of the State, another reception at
the hotel, and then, at ten o'clock on the morning of the 12th,
Mr. Lincoln's party left Indianapolis for Cincinnati. Several
of the friends who had come from Springfield left Mr. Lin-
coln at Indianapolis, but others joined him, and the train was


as full of life and interest as it had been the day before.
There was, too, the same succession of decorated, cheering
towns; the same eager desire to see and hear the President at
every station. At Cincinnati, where the second night was
spent and where a magnificent reception was given him, Lin-
coln made two brief addresses. In that to the Mayor and
citizens he was particularly happy :

" I have spoken but once before this in Cincinnati," he
said. " That was a year previous to the late presidential
election. On that occasion, in a playful manner, but with
sincere words, I addressed much of what I said to the Ken-
tuckians. I gave my opinion that we as Republicans would
ultimately beat them as Democrats, but that they could post-
pone that result longer by nominating Senator Douglas for
the presidency than they could in any other way. They did
not, in any true sense of the word, nominate Mr. Douglas,
and the result has come certainly as soon as ever I expected.
I also told them how I expected they would be treated after
they should have been beaten ; and I now wish to recall their
attention to what I then said upon that subject. I then said,
' When we do as we say — ^beat you — you perhaps want to
know what we will do with you. I will tell you, so far as I
am authorized to speak for the opposition, what we mean to
do with you. We mean to treat you, as near as we possibly
can, as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison treated you.
We mean to leave you alone, and in no way interfere with
your institutions ; to abide by all and every compromise of
the Constitution ; and, in a word, coming back to the original
proposition, to treat you, so far as degenerate men — if we
have degenerated — may, according to the examples of those
noble fathers, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. We
mean to remember that you are as good as we ; that there is
no difference between us other than the difference of circum-
stances. We mean to recognize and bear in mind always
that you have as good hearts in your bosoms as other people,
or as we claim to have, and treat you accordingly.'

" Fellow-citizens of Kentucky ! — friends ! — ^brethren ! may
I call you in my new position ? I see no occasion, and feel no


inclination, to retract a word of this. If it shall not be made
good, be assured the fault shall not be mine."

These conciliatory remarks were received with great en-
thusiasm, the crowd rushing at him as soon as he had fin-
ished, patting him on the back, and almost wrenching his
arms off in their efforts at showing their approval.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Lincoln left Cincinnati for
Columbus. Although few stops were made, he was kept
busy receiving the committees and politicians who boarded
the train here and there, and who were indefatigable in their
efforts to draw from him some expression of his views. Mr.
Lincoln felt that to answer their questions would be the
gravest indiscretion, and he resorted to stories and jests in
his efforts not to commit himself or offend his visitors. The
reports of his " levity," as more than one felt this practice to
be, were telegraphed over the country and bitterly com-
mented upon by a large part of the press. So far, however,
as the stories Mr. Lincoln told on his journey have come to
us, they contain quite as much political wisdom as a sober
dissertation could have contained. Thus there was a great
deal of discussion en route about the possibility of reconciling
the Northern and Southern Democrats. Mr. Lincoln was
appealed to. " Well," he said, " I once knew a good sound
churchman called Brown, who was on a committee to erect a
bridge over a very dangerous and rapid river. Several
engineers had failed, and at last Brown said he had a friend
Jones, who, he believed, could build the bridge. Jones was
accordingly summoned. ' Can you build this bridge ? '
asked the committee. ' Yes,' replied Jones ; ' I could build a
bridge to the infernal regions if necessary.' The committee
was horrified; but after Jones had retired. Brown said
thoughtfully, ' I know Jones so well, and he is so honest a
man and so good a builder, that if he says he can build a


bridge to Hades, why, I believe it; but I have my doubts
about the abutments on the infernal side.' So," said Lin-
coln, " when politicians say they can harmonize the Northern
and Southern wings of the Democracy, why, I believe them,
but I have my doubts about the abutments on the Southern

At Columbus, the brilliant receptions of Indianapolis and
Cincinnati were repeated, and here Mr. Lincoln addressed
briefly the State Legislature. One clause of his remarks
proved to be most unfortunate :

Allusion has been made to the interest felt in relation to
the policy of the new administration. In this I have received
from some a degree of credit for having kept silence, and
from others some depreciation. I still think that I was
right. . . .

In the varying and repeatedly shifting scenes of the pres-
ent, and without a precedent which could enable me to judge
by the past, it has seemed fitting that, before speaking upon
the difficulties of the country, I should have gained a view of
the whole field, being at liberty to modify and change the
course of policy as future events may make a change neces-

I have not maintained silence from any want of real anx-
iety. It is a good thing that there is no more than anxiety,
for there is nothing going wrong. It is a consoling circum-
stance that when we look out there is nothing that really
hurts anybody. We entertain different views upon political
questions, but nobody is suffering anything. This is a most
consoling circumstance, and from it we may conclude that
all we want is time, patience, and a reliance on that God who
has never forsaken this people.

A hostile press took the phrases " there is nothing going
wrong " — " there is nothing that really hurts anybody " —
" nobody is suffering anything," and used them apart from
the context, to prove that the President-elect did not grasp


the situation. At Newark, New Jersey, a week later, just be-
fore the presidential party passed through, a poster appeared
in the town quoting these sentences and calling on the unem-
ployed to meet at the station when Mr. Lincoln's train ar-
rived and show the President that " they emphatically dif-
fered from these sentiments." Nothing came of this attempt
to create a disturbance.

On Thursday morning, February 14, the presidential
party was again en route, this time bound for Pittsburg.
Lincoln must have made this journey with a lighter heart
than that of the day before, for the danger that the count-
ing of the electoral vote would be interfered with, was now
over. The night before at Columbus, he had received a tele-
gram which read : " The votes have been peaceably counted.
You are elected." The ceremony had passed off without in-

At Pittsburg, where the night of the 14th was spent, the
President spoke to an immense crowd, and as the issue in
Pennsylvania had been so largely protection, it was to that
doctrine that he gave his chief attention. Nothing could
have pleased the Iron City better. The people were so wild
with enthusiasm that it took the combined efforts of the po-
lice and militia to get the presidential party on the train and
out of town.

From the hour that Lincoln's coercion remarks at Indian-
apolis reached the country, he had received telegraphic con-
gratulations and remonstrances at almost every stop of the
train. The remarks at Columbus produced a similar result,
and he seems to have concluded at this point to make his fu-
ture speeches niore general. At Cleveland, Buffalo, Albany,
and New York there was nothing in what he said that his
enemies could fasten on. His journey from Pittsburg east-
ward was in no way different from what it had been pre-
viously. There were the same crowds of people at every


station, the same booming of cannon, gifts of flowers, recep-
tions at hotels, breakfasts, dinners, and luncheons with local
magnates. All along the route in the East, as in the West,
' the people were out ; everywhere there were flags and ban-
ners and mottoes. The party in the train continued to
change as it had done, committees and " leading citizens "
replacing each other in rapid succession. None of these
accessions aroused more interest among the other members
of the party than Horace Greeley, who appeared unexpect-
edly at Girard, Ohio, bag and blankets in hand, and after
a ride of twenty miles with Mr. Lincoln, departed.

At Buffalo, where Mr. Lincoln spoke on Saturday, the
1 6th, a bit of variety was infused into the celebration by the
fulfilment of an election wager. The loser was to saw a cord
of wood in front of the American House and present it to
the poorest negro to be found. He accordingly appeared
with a wagon-load of cord-wood just before Mr. Lincoln
began his speech from the hotel balcony, and during the ad-
dress sawed vigorously.

The journey through New York State, with the elaborate
ceremonies at Albany and New York City, occupied three
days, and it was not until the evening of February 2i that
Lincoln reached Philadelphia. The day had been a hard one.
He had left New York early, had replied to greetings at Jer-
sey City and again at Newark, had addressed both branches
of the New Jersey Legislature at Trenton and gone through
a formal dinner there, and now, though it was dark and cold,
he was obliged to ride in state through the streets of Phila-
delphia to his hotel, where hundreds of visitors soon were
surging in to shake his hand. The hotel was still crowded
with guests when he was summoned to the room of one of
his party, Mr. Norman Judd. There he was introduced to
Mr. Allan Pinkerton, who, as Mr. Judd explained, was a
Chicago detective and had a story to lay before him.


" Pinkerton informed me," said Mr. Lincoln afterwards,
in relating the affair to Benson J. Lossing, " that a plan
had been laid for my assassination, the exact time when I
expected to go through Baltimore being publicly known.
He was well informed as to the plan, but did not know that
the conspirators would have pluck enough to execute it. He
urged me to go right through with him to Washington that
night. I did not like that. I had made engagements to visit
Harrisburg, and go from there to Baltimore, and I resolved
to do so. I could not believe that there was a plot to murder
me. I made arrangements, however, with Mr. Judd for my
return to Philadelphia the next night, if I should be con-
vinced that there was danger in going through Baltimore.
I told him that if I should meet at Harrisburg, as I had at
other places, a delegation to go with me to the next place
(then Baltimore), I should feel safe, and go on."

Mr. Lincoln left Mr. Pinkerton, and started to his room.
On the way he met Ward Lamon, also a member of his party,
who introduced Frederick Seward, the son of the Senator.
Mr. Seward, who relates this story in his life of his
father, told Mr. Lincoln that he had a letter for him
from his father. The letter informed Mr. Lincoln that Gen-
eral Scott and Colonel Stone, the latter the officer command-
ing the District of Columbia militia, had just received infor-
mation which seemed to them convincing, that a plot existed
in Baltimore to murder him on his way through that city.
Mr. Seward besought the President to change his plan and
go forward secretly.

Mr. Lincoln read the note through twice slowly and
thoughtfully; then looked up, and said to Mr. Seward, " Do
you know anything about the way this information was ob-

No, Mr. Seward knew nothing.
"■ " Did you hear any names mentioned ? Did you, for in-
stance, ever hear anything said about such a name as Pin-


No, Mr. Seward had heard no names mentioned save
those of General Scott and Colonel Stone.

" I may as well tell why I ask," said Mr. Lincoln. " There
were stories and rumors some time ago, before I left home,
about people who were intending to do me a mischief. I
never attached much importance to them — never wanted to
believe any such thing. So I never would do anything about
them in the way of taking precautions and the like. Some
of my friends, though, thought differently — ^Judd and others
— and, without my knowledge, they employed a detective to
look into the matter. It seems he has occasionally reported
what he found; and only to-day, since we arrived at this
house, he brought this story, or something similar to it, about
an attempt on my life in the confusion and hurly-burly of
the reception at Baltimore."

" Surely, Mr. Lincoln," said Mr. Seward, " that is a strong
corroboration of the news I bring you."

He smiled, and shook his head. " That is exactly why I
was asking you about names. If different persons, not know-
ing of each other's work, have been pursuing separate clews
that led to the same result, why, then, it shows there must
be something in it. But if this is only the same story, fil-
tered through two channels, and reaching me in two ways,
then that don't make it any stronger. Don't you see ? "

After a little further discussion of the subject, Mr. Lin-
coln rose and said : " Well, we haven't got to decide it to-
night, anyway, and I see it is getting late. You need not
think I will not consider it well. I shall think it over care-
fully, and try to decide it right; and I will let you know in
the morning."

The next day was Washington's birthday. The hauling
down of the Stars and Stripes in the South and the substi-
tuting of State flags had stirred the North deeply. The day
the first Palmetto Flag was raised in South Carolina, a new


reverence for the national emblem was born in the North.
The flag began to appear at every window, in every but-
tonhole. On January 29 Kansas was admitted into the
Union, without slavery, thus adding a new star to the thirty-
three then in the field; and for raising the new flag thus
made necessary, Washington's birthday became almost a
universal choice. In Philadelphia, it was arranged that the
new flag for Independence Hall be raised by Mr. Lincoln.
The ceremony took place at seven o'clock in the morning.
Mr. Lincoln's brief speech was one of the best received of all
he made on the journey :

I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing
in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the
patriotism, the devotion to principle from which sprang the
institutions under which we live. You have kindly sug-
gested to me that in my hands is the task of restoring peace to
our distracted country. I can say in return, sir, that all the
political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I
have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which
originated in and were given to the world from this hall. I
have never had a feeling, politically, that did not spring from
the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.
I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred
by the men who assembled here and framed and adopted
that Declaration. I have pondered over the toils that were
endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved
that independence. I have often inquired of myself what

Online LibraryIda M. (Ida Minerva) TarbellThe life of Abraham Lincoln, drawn from original sources and containing many speeches, letters, and telegrams hitherto unpublished → online text (page 33 of 34)