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probable effect upon the public, he was induced to leave the party and travel the short remainder of the journey incognito. The step was justified by warnings which, whether well or ill based, were so authoritative as to leave no other proper course.1 No untoward incident occurred, and at six o'clock on the morning of February 23 Lincoln reached Willard's Hotel in Washington.
Calls were exchanged with President Buchanan. The Peace Conference, headed by their chairman, Ex-President Tyler, called in a body, in pursuance of a unanimous resolution. He received visits from Douglas and Breckinridge, from the mayor, the municipal council, and many high functionaries. To the mayor's address he made a felicitous reply, assuring all that he had not now, and never had, "any disposition to treat you in any respect otherwise than as my own neighbors. I have not now any purpose to withhold from you any of the benefits of the Constitution, under any circumstances, that I would not feel myself constrained to withhold from my own neighbors.
The inaugural address should have assured the country that no mistake had been made in the selection of its new president; it stands among the glories of Anglo-Saxon literature and thought, a witness to the possibilities of democracy. The defeated Douglas held Lincoln's hat during the speech,
1Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, III., chap. xx.; Lamon, Lincoln, 512. 2 Lincoln, Works (ed. of 1894), I., 694.
and the author of the Dred Scott decision administered the oath. The coming wreck of the theories with which their lives were bound up must have been visible to both. The most momentous declaration of the speech was as follows: "The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere." Touching upon the proposed amendment to the Constitution which had passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal government should never interfere with the domestic institutions of the states, including that of persons held to service, he said: "Holding such a provision to be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable." He ended with words which should have brought calm to any southern mind not distempered by passion. "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to 'preserve, protect, and defend it.'"'1
Few souls in this world can have undergone a
The speech, and Seward's proposed or accepted emendations, in Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, III., 327-344.
more dramatic and solemn hour than did Lincoln when he found himself a few hours later at the end of these four volcanic months, in the falling shades of a gloomy March day, in the White House, the guide and master, as he was soon to show himself, of his country's future.
Next day, March 5, the names of the members of the cabinet, which were as forecasted during the visit of Davis, Swett, and Weed to Lincoln in December, were confirmed by the Senate in extra session.
A consultation of secessionist leaders was held March 4, immediately after the delivery of the inaugural address, at which were present Crawford, Garnett, Pryor, De Jarnette, Wigfall, and L. Q. Washington, who wrote to Walker: "We all put the same construction on the inaugural. We agreed that it was Lincoln's purpose at once to attempt the collection of the revenue, to re-enforce and hold Fort Sumter and Pickens, and to retake the other places. He is a man of will and firmness. His Cabinet will yield to him with alacrity, I think. Seward has, of course, agreed to the inaugural, and the pretenses of his conservatism are idle. We believe that these plans will be put into execution immediately. I learn five or six United States ships are in New York Harbor, all ready to start." He concludes: "There is a general concurrence in the opinion that if any attack is made on Sumter it should be by order of the Government of the Con
CAUSES OF THE CIVIL WAR
[1861 federate States and not by South Carolina alone.” A postscript adds: "I fear the present Virginia Convention will not pass an ordinance of secession unless a collision or war ensues; then public feeling will force them to it." 1
' War Records, Serial No. 1, pp. 263 264.
INCOLN found himself with a cabinet the great majority of whom were inclined to give way before the storm and withdraw from Sumter. But their chief was of different mould from his predecessor. He clearly saw, what apparently few, if any, of his cabinet were able to see, that to yield Sumter voluntarily would be to sacrifice the vantageground of his constitutional position, and throw upon the Federal government the onus of beginning a war or else admitting the independence of the Confederacy. Lincoln saw, as every one now must see, that eventually war was in any case inevitable; and, with the wisdom and firmness which made him one of the greatest of men, he determined that the South should not have the advantage of beginning it after its independence should have been recognized. Should the secessionists begin it now, the question of the constitutional right of secession would still be indeterminate, and the Union would be in the undeniably constitutional position of defending its own. To hold Sumter at every hazard