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These were followed by a great number of delegations from the various States and by citizens and visitors, in carriages and on foot.
The eagerness to see the man who had dethroned the Democratic party after a reign of nearly forty years, joined to the exciting state of public affairs, combined to render this one of the most memorable occasions the city had ever seen.
President Buchanan, it was observed, seemed sad and preoccupied, and spoke but little during the ride ; Mr. Lincoln appeared calm and self-possessed, but little affected by his unfamiliar surroundings or the suppressed excitement about him. The people were in an April mood, the joy of victory tempered by the hostile attitude of the South, bright visions of the future clouded by the shadow of war-a fratricidal war—that overhung the city.
On reaching the Capitol Mr. Lincoln was escorted to the Senate, and took the seat assigned him. The chamber was crowded with the usual imposing array -prominent officers of government, the army and navy, Senators and Representatives, the Diplomatic Corps brilliant with gold lace and insignia. The oath was administered to Hannibal Hamlin, VicePresident-elect, by John C. Breckenridge the retiring Vice-President, and the former assumed the chair as President of the Senate. After he had delivered a brief address, the procession was re-formed, and, with Mr. Lincoln in the van, advanced to the platform on the east portico, and Senator Baker, turning to the multitude that filled Capitol Square, said: “Fellowcitizens, I introduce to you Abraham Lincoln, President-elect of the United States.” Cheers again and again repeated greeted the new Chief Magistrate. Mr. Lincoln stood a moment surveying the people, then placed his spectacles before his eyes, and proceeded to read in a clear, penetrating voice that inaugural address which has become an American classic, surpassed by but few state papers.
He concluded with the pathetic words:
“I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends, We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break, our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” And then, says an eye-witness, a tremendous
, cheer arose, and ran like a wave along the avenue, carrying testimony which was likewise flying over the wires in every direction, that the inauguration had been successfully accomplished, and that in spite of all perils, visionary and real, Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States, and a new historic era had been ushered in. The oath was administered by Chief Justice
Taney, the President placing his hand on the Bible, and repeating after the venerable jurist: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” At its conclusion he bowed and reverently kissed the Book, while thunder of cannon and jubilant music of bands announced the completion of the inaugural ceremonies. The procession then returned to the White House in the same order as that in which it had come, and a grand reception concluded the ceremonies.
Days of doubt, turmoil, and alarm followed. What would the President do to "protect and defend, the Constitution," as he had sworn? What would the South do in defence of her position ? were the questions of the day. For the first six weeks Mr. Lincoln adopted a Fabian policy. For the moral effect he preferred that the South should be the aggressor. He appointed as his Cabinet, Senator William H. Seward of New York, Secretary of State; Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury; Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, Secretary of War (soon superseded by Edwin M. Stanton); Gideon Welles of Connecticut, Secretary of the Navy; Montgomery Blair of Missouri, Postmaster-General ; Caleb B. Smith, Secretary of the Interior; and Edward Bates, Attorney-General. He also called an executive session of Congress, but he was chiefly employed in learning the details of government, and what resources it possessed for maintaining its authority.
The city during this period was in a state of constant excitement and alarm. Many of its people were in sympathy with the seceding States. Momentarily the citizens expected to see the Potomac hills bristle with the bayonets of an invading army.
“The city has been the scene of the wildest excitement throughout the day," wrote a correspondent on April 1oth. “Troops marching, drums beating, flags flying, the whole length of Pennsylvania Avenue. Ten companies, or one fourth of the volunteer militia of the District are mustering to-day for inspection. Fear of an attack from an invading army under command of that celebrated Texas Ranger, Ben. McCullough, is the cause of these movements.”
Other letters speak of the warlike appearance of the city; of troops continually marching through the streets, and of drums and fifes heard in every direction. Meantime the South maintained her defiant attitude. Her leaders labored under a misapprehension as to the spirit and resources of the North-as, in fact, they had done for years. They did not believe the Northerners would fight; they convinced themselves that a show of force was all that was necessary to effect a peaceable separation of the States. They even sent peace commissioners to Washington with proposals to this effect. But they were soon and bitterly undeceived.
On Thursday, April 11th, South Carolina troops opened fire on Fort Sumter. The brave Anderson returned the fire. Blood was shed. On Saturday morning, April 13th, the North was electrified by the news that Fort Sumter had fallen—that the Stars and Stripes had bowed to the Palmetto. The scenes in the capital on receipt of this news were repeated in every city of the North. Business was largely suspended. People gathered on the street corners and at the hotels to discuss the startling
The telegraph and newspaper offices, the White House, War and Navy Departments were besieged by eager inquirers. At the White House the President and his Cabinet were in consultation throughout the morning; it was seen that the moment so long awaited had arrived. Accordingly on Monday morning, April 15th, President Lincoln issued his call for seventy-five thousand volunteers in de fence of the Union, and proclaimed a special session of Congress for July 4th.
Never was there a grander uprising of a people than that in response to the President's call. The same day General Scott, hoisting his commanderin-chief's flag over the War Department, enrolled four hundred volunteers. The same day Governor Andrew of Massachusetts telegraphed, “One regiment of Massachusetts' quota is ready. How will you have them proceed?” “By rail,” laconically responded the Secretary of War. And in answer, as every schoolboy knows, they marched—the glorious Sixth. The same day Governor Sprague of Rhode Island tendered a regiment; Governor Ramsay of Minnesota offered another in person. The Legislature of New York voted thirty thousand men and three millions of money to carry on the
Governor Dennison of Ohio tendered ten thousand, “ with more if needed.” Banks all over the free States offered their treasures to government. That same day martial law was proclaimed in the District of Columbia, and at nightfall alert gentlemen of the press telegraphed that Washington was assuming the appearance of a vast military camp.
The next day more dispatches were received. Governor Buckingham of Connecticut telegraphed :