to Washington, Inauguration, and Distributing Patronage (1861): “The Man Does Not Live Who Is
More Devoted to Peace Than I Am, But It May Be Necessary to Put the Foot Down
From Springfield to Washington (February 11–22,
1861): Lincoln agrees to undertake a taxing, circuitous, 1,900-mile train
ride from Springfield to Washington in order to accommodate Republican friends
in various states where they want him to speak. He alternates between giving
hard-line, conciliatory, and embarrassing speeches concerning the Southern
secession at these victory stops, as well as dealing with the varied receptions
he receives at Albany, Buffalo, and New York City, etc. The threat of
assassination and possible riots in Baltimore force Lincoln to enter Washington
under the cover of darkness. Much to his chagrin, he is ridiculed by the press.
His embarrassment at appearing weak and fearful may have disposed him in the
momentous coming weeks to avoid steps that might deepen that unfortunate
“I Am Now Going to Be Master”
Inauguration (February 23–March 4, 1861): Lincoln’s
arrival in Washington generally helps lift the spirits of the city’s
inhabitants and the North. Despite his efforts to help reach some kind of
compromise, the much touted Peace Conference ends in failure and acrimony.
Meanwhile, Lincoln works on his all-important inaugural address, fielding
suggestions from close colleagues and deflecting efforts by Seward to make it
more bellicose. At this time he also completes the struggle to fill his
cabinet; an effort that leaves him both annoyed and depressed. On inauguration
day all goes as planned without any violence or disruption, but the country is
now too divided, and while the North receives his address positively, the South
views it as incendiary and aggressive.
“A Man So Busy Letting Rooms in One End of His House, That He Can’t
Stop to Put Out the Fire That Is Burning in the Other”
Distributing Patronage (March–April 1861): Lincoln’s
first six weeks in office tax him to his limit as he must deal with two all
consuming issues: making the fateful decisions regarding war and peace while at
the same time dealing with importunate place hunters thronging the White House.
To his rescue comes John Nicolay, who will become Lincoln’s personal secretary
and confidant, along with Nicolay’s assistant, John Hay, another young man who
will do yeoman’s work for the president. While most of his patronage
appointments are well received by the Washington establishment, balancing
regional, local, ethnic, political, and personal priorities, some turn out to
be terrible mistakes that will haunt Lincoln throughout his tenure. All this happens while the Fort Sumter crisis simmers ominously.
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