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“On the morning of the first day of the seventy-sixth year of the Independence of the United States of America, in the City of Washington, being the 4th day of July, 1851, this stone, designated as the corner-stone of the Extension of the Capitol, according to a plan approved by the President, in pursuance of an act of Congress, was laid by Millard Fillmore, President of the United States, assisted by the Grand Master of the Masonic Lodges, in the presence of many members of Congress; of officers of the Executive and Judiciary Departments, National, State, and District; of officers of the Army and Navy ; the corporate authorities of this and neighboring cities; many associations, civil, military, and Masonic ; officers of the Smithsonian Institution and National Institute ; professors of colleges and teachers of schools of the District of Columbia, with their students and pupils ; and a vast concourse of people from places near and remote, including a few surviving gentlemen who witnessed the laying of the corner-stone of the Capitol by President Washington, on the 18th day of September, 1793. If, therefore, it shall be hereafter the will of God that this structure shall fall from its base, that its foundations be upturned, and this deposit brought to the eyes of men, be it known that on this day the Union of the United States of America stands firm ; that their Constitution still exists unimpaired, and with all its original usefulness and glory, growing every day stronger and stronger in the affections of the great body of the American people, and attracting more and more the admiration of the world. And all here assembled, whether belonging to public life or to private life, with hearts devoutly thankful to Almighty God for the preservation of the liberty and happiness of the country, unite in sincere and fervent prayers that this deposit, and the walls and arches, the domes and towers, the columns and entablatures, now to be erected over it, may endure forever! God save the United States of America !
And yet the civil war was but ten years distant.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President-elect, reached Washington at half-past six o'clock on the morning of the 23d of February, 1861. Never had ruler come to his capital in more troublous times. The South was in secession, and repeated acts of overt rebellion had been committed. Beginning in December, 1860, one month after Lincoln's election, startling events had followed each other in rapid succession. South Carolina passed her Ordinance of Secession, seized Fort Moultrie and other national property in Charleston harbor, and forced Major Anderson into Fort Sumter, where he was closely invested by her batteries. Forts Pulaski and Jackson, defending Savannah, were seized by order of Governor Brown of Georgia. Fort Morgan at Mobile was occupied by the authorities of Alabama. The steamer Star of the West, conveying provisions to Fort Sumter, was fired upon by the South Carolinians. Mississippi passed the Ordinance of Secession and seized all government property within her borders. Alabama passed the Ordinance of Secession, Florida passed the Ordinance of Secession and seized all the forts in Pensacola harbor except Fort Pick
ens. Georgia passed the Ordinance of Secession. Senators of Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama resigned their seats in Congress. Louisiana passed the Ordinance of Secession, seized revenue cutters and other government property, and her delegation in Congress, excepting Mr. Bouligny, withdrew. The Congress of the Confederate States of America was organized, and chose Jefferson Davis President. A Peace Conference was held without accomplishing any result. Meantime the government under President Buchanan seemed paralyzed, and took no efficient step for its protection and preservation.
President Lincoln himself came secretly, in a special train by way of Harrisburg, his friends having been alarmed by rumors of a plot to assassinate him on the road. He was met at the station in Washington by the Hon. E. B. Washburne of Illinois, and conveyed in a close carriage to Willard's hotel, where Senator Seward, his future Secretary of State, was waiting to receive him. The same morning he held a long interview with President Buchanan at the White House. Four days after his arrival, the Mayor and Council of Washington, after first taking leave of President Buchanan, called to pay their respects to the incoming President. His reply shows the sentiments with which in this hour of bitterness he assumed the reins of government.
"I assure you, Mr. Mayor, and all the gentlemen present, that I have not now and never have had any other than as kindly feelings toward you as to the people of my own section. I have not now and never have 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 constitutional rights under any circumstances, that I would not feel myself constrained to withhold from my own neighbors ; and I hope, in a word, when we shall become better acquainted-and
it with great confidence-we shall like each other the more.”
The fourth of March, 1861, the day of the inauguration, arrived. Lieutenant-General Scott, who had been placed in command at Washington, took the greatest precautions to guard against either attack, or an attempt to assassinate the President, both of which were feared.
A high fence was crected around the platform on the central portico of the Capitol, where Mr. Lincoln was to stand in delivering his inaugural, and an enclosed avenue of boards was built from the spot where he would alight to the portico, so that none might approach near with evil intent. The procession was one of the most imposing that had ever escorted a President to the Capitol, for the day ushered in a new political
In the leading carriage rode President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln, with Senators Baker and Pearce, the carriage being escorted by marshals and mounted dragoons, selected from the most efficient companies of the regular army, and in ranks so deep that a hostile shot could with difficulty have penetrated the column. Behind the military came other carriages of dignitaries, and then a large car in which sat thirty-four beautiful little girls, dressed in white, and waving miniature banners,— each designed to represent a State or Territory.