BECK index


Becoming President

by Sanderson Beck



December 1858


Mr. Lincoln, I am glad I saw you
coming out of Judge Davis’s court
because I want to talk with you.

I know your brother, Mr. Fell,
and he tells me that
you are an ardent Republican.

I recently traveled in New England,
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana,
and everywhere I hear you talked about.
When they asked me about you,
I told them that Illinois has two giants.
Douglas is the little giant, as they all know,
but I told them you are the big one.

They laugh.

FELL (Cont’d.)
But seriously, Lincoln,
Judge Douglas is so widely known
that you are getting a national reputation
because of the recent debates.
Your speeches have been reported
extensively in the east,
and discriminating minds regard you
as quite a match for him in debate.
I believe that if your popular history
and efforts on the slavery question
can be sufficiently brought before the people,
you can be a formidable if not successful
candidate for the presidency.

Oh, Fell, what’s the use
of talking of me for the presidency
while we have such men as Seward and Chase,
who are so much better known to the people
and whose names are so intimately associated
with the principles of the Republican party.
Everybody knows them,
but scarcely nobody outside of Illinois knows me.
Besides as a matter of justice
is it not due to such men
who have carried this movement forward
to its present status in spite of fearful opposition,
personal abuse, and hard names?

Those men do have more prominent positions
and have rendered larger service
in the Republican cause than you have;
but I think they have rendered too much service
to be available candidates.
Personal services and merits, however,
when incompatible with the public good,
must be laid aside.
Seward and Chase have both made long records
on the slavery question and have said
some very radical things which,
however just and true
and however much these men may merit
our admiration for their courage
and devotion to unpopular truths,
these would seriously damage them
in the contest if they were nominated.

But what have I done?

Your discussion with Judge Douglas
has demonstrated your ability
and devotion to freedom;
you have no embarrassing record;
you have sprung from the humble walks of life,
sharing in its toils and trials.
If we can only get these facts
sufficiently before the people,
there is some chance for you.
And now, Mr. Lincoln,
I come to the business part of the interview.
My native state, Pennsylvania, will have
a large number of votes.
Pennsylvanians don’t like New York
and her politicians.
Our candidate Cameron will not be acceptable
to our own people, much less abroad,
and he will be dropped.
I want to get up a well written newspaper article
telling the people who you are
and what you have done
that may be circulated
not only in my state but elsewhere,
and thus help in manufacturing sentiment
in your favor.

Fell, I admit that I am ambitious
and would like to be President,
and I am not insensible to your interest in this
and the compliment you pay me;
but there is no such good luck in store for me.
Besides there is nothing in my early history
that would interest you or anybody else;
and as Judge Davis says, “It won’t pay.”
Good night.

Lincoln gets up, wraps his shawl around himself, and leaves. Fell calls to him as goes.

You have not heard the last of this, Lincoln.
The facts must come out.



September 17, 1859

Lincoln is speaking to a large audience that includes many people from Kentucky.

My fellow citizens of the state of Ohio:
This is the first time in my life
that I have appeared before an audience
in so great a city as this.
I understand that you recently heard
my very distinguished friend,
Judge Douglas of Illinois.
He informed you that I have declared that
this government cannot endure permanently,
half slave and half free,
that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
I presume he insisted that this was
a declaration of war
between the free and slave States.
I assure you that I have never had any purpose
of interfering with the institution of slavery
where it now exists.
I believe we have no power to do so
under the Constitution of the United States.
Judge Douglas said that Lincoln won’t enter
into the slave states to disturb slavery;
but he will go to the line
between the free and slave States
and shoot over at them in such a way
as to keep his own hide in perfect safety.

This may be the best chance I shall ever have,
and so I propose to speak to the Kentuckians.
I am what they call a “Black Republican.”
I think slavery is morally and politically wrong
and that it should be spread no further
in these United States.
You want to spread slavery,
and Douglas is the only man
who affords you any hold on the free states.
He constantly molds the public opinion
of the North to your ends.
The Judge never says slavery is wrong,
and he never says it is right.
He says what is right on your side
of the Ohio River is not wrong over here.
He will tell you that they have slaves there
because they are profitable,
and you don’t have them here
because they are not profitable.

Five years ago no man expressed the opinion
that the Negro had no share
in the Declaration of Independence,
but in five years Senator Douglas has got
his entire party to join in saying that.
That is a vast change in the northern
public sentiment upon that question,
degrading the black man
to the condition of a brute.

Speak to Ohio men and not to Kentuckians!

I beg permission to speak as I please.
Douglas declared in Memphis that in all contests
between the Negro and the white man
he was for the white man,
but that in all questions
between the Negro and the crocodile
he was for the Negro.
His inference seems to be
that if you do not enslave the Negro,
you are wronging the white man.
Is not that a falsehood?
I say there is no such necessary conflict.
I say there is room enough for us all to be free.
It not only does not wrong the white man
that the Negro should be free,
but it positively wrongs the mass of white men
that the Negro should be enslaved,
that the mass of white men are really injured
by the effects of slave labor
in the vicinity of their own labor.
His logic is a proposition in proportion.
As the Negro is to the white man,
so is the crocodile to the Negro;
and as the Negro may rightfully treat
the crocodile as a beast or reptile,
so the white man may rightfully treat
the Negro as a beast or a reptile.
Douglas’ great principle “popular sovereignty,”
as he calls it, has natural consequences.
If it is “popular sovereignty” for the people
to have slaves because they want them,
it is popular sovereignty
for them to buy slaves in Africa.

The framers of our Constitution
expected the African slave trade
to be abolished at the end of twenty years,
and it was prohibited then.
The framers also prohibited slavery from
being extended into the Northwest Territory.
Douglas said at Freeport that the people
of the territories can exclude slavery,
but he has never said it since.
You southern people ought to nominate
Douglas at your convention at Charleston.
We Republicans intend to “stand by our guns”
and in the long run beat you,
whether you take him or not.
We mean to treat you as Washington,
Jefferson, and Madison treated you.
We mean to leave you alone
and in no way interfere with your institution.
We recognize that you have as good hearts
as other people and treat you accordingly.
I often hear that you mean to divide the Union
whenever a Republican is elected President.

That is so!

Will you make war upon us and kill us all?
There are not so many of you as there are of us,
and you will never whip us.
What was it that made you free
and kept you free?
Kentucky is entirely covered with slavery,
but Ohio is entirely free from it.
What made that difference?
Was it climate? No.
No law kept slavery out of Kentucky
while the Ordinance of ’87 kept it out of Ohio.
Illinois and Missouri came into the Union
about the same time.
No law kept Missouri from filling up with slaves
while in Illinois there was the Ordinance of ’87.
Capital and labor are connected in two ways.
One way is to hire men,
alluring them to labor by their consent;
the other way is to buy the men
and drive them to it, and that is slavery.
I think we must have a national policy
in regard to slavery that acknowledges
and deals with that institution as being wrong.
We believe that spreading and perpetuating
slavery impairs the general welfare,
and repressing it provides for the general welfare.
My friends, I have detained you a long time,
and you have heard me with great patience
for which I thank you.

The crowd applauds as Lincoln steps down and mingles among them, shaking hands.


Lincoln and Herndon are both reading newspapers.

John Brown with twenty-one men tried to raid
an arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia.
They took many hostages from the town
and were surrounded by United States Marines
led by Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee.

It says here that Brown’s men
killed four people and wounded nine.
Ten of Brown’s men were killed,
and five escaped.
Brown and the other six were captured.

The trial should be interesting.

I have received a request from my friend
and relative Mark Delahay to speak in Kansas,
and I shall be leaving on November thirtieth.
They have an election coming up,
and I want to encourage them to express
their anti-slavery sentiment by the ballot box,
not by violence and crime.
Delahay may run for the Senate.

What about the invitation from
Henry Ward Beecher’s Plymouth Church
in Brooklyn?

That has been postponed until February.



Leavenworth, Kansas
December 3

Lincoln is addressing a frontier audience.

You, the people of Kansas,
furnish the example of the first application
of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
At the end of about five years
after having almost continual struggles,
fire and bloodshed over this very question,
and after having framed several state constitutions
you have at last secured a free-state constitution
under which you will probably
be admitted into the Union.
You have at the end of all this difficulty attained
what we in the old Northwest Territory
attained without any difficulty at all.
Contrast the actual working of this new policy
with that of the old,
and say whether after all the old way—
the way adopted by Washington
and his compeers—
was not the better way.

If your first settlers had so far decided
in favor of slavery
as to have got five thousand slaves
planted on your soil,
you could by no moral possibility
have adopted a free-state constitution.
Their owners would be influential voters
among you as good men as the rest of you,
and by their greater wealth
and consequent greater capacity
to assist the more needy,
perhaps the most influential among you.
You could not wish to destroy
or injuriously interfere with their property.
You would not know what to do with the slaves
after you had made them free.
You would not wish to keep them as underlings
nor yet to elevate them
to social and political equality.
You could not send them away.
The slave states would not let you
send them there;
and the free states would not let you
send them there.
All the rest of your property would not pay
for sending them to Liberia.
In a word, you could not have made a free state
if the first half of your own numbers had got
five thousand slaves fixed upon the soil.

All those who believe slavery is wrong
should unite on a policy,
dealing with it as a wrong.
They should not be deluded
into deceitful contrivances,
pretending indifference,
but really working for that
to which they are opposed.

Some of you are for the Union
but greatly fear that the success
of the Republicans would destroy the Union.
Why? Do the Republicans
declare against the Union?
Nothing like it.
Your own statement of it is that
if the Black Republicans elect a President,
you won’t stand it.
You will break up the Union.
That will be your act, not ours.
To justify it you must show that
our policy gives you just cause
for such desperate action.
Can you do that?
When you attempt it, you will find that
our policy is exactly the policy
of the men who made the Union—
nothing more and nothing less.
Do you really think you are justified
to break up the government
rather than have it administered
by Washington and other good and great men
who made it and first administered it?
If you do, you are very unreasonable;
and more reasonable men cannot
and will not submit to you.
While you elect the President, we submit,
neither breaking nor attempting
to break up the Union.
If we shall constitutionally elect a President,
it will be our duty to see that you submit.
Old John Brown has just been executed
for treason against a state.
We cannot object
even though he agreed with us
in thinking slavery is wrong.
That cannot excuse violence,
bloodshed, and treason.
It could avail him nothing
that he might think himself right.
So if constitutionally we elect a President,
and you undertake to destroy the Union,
it will be our duty to deal with you
as old John Brown has been dealt with.
We shall try to do our duty.
We hope and believe that in no section
will a majority so act as to render
such extreme measures necessary.


Lincoln and Mary are talking.

Today I met with state Republican chairman Judd
and other members of the Central Committee
in the office of Secretary of State Hatch.

What do they want you to do now?

They want to use my name in connection
with the coming nomination and election
of the President of the United States.

And what did you say?

I said I doubted that I could get the nomination
even if I wished it.
But I told them I would talk it over with you.

Well, you know I am for it.
I have been saying for nearly twenty years
that you would be President someday.
With the Democrats divided
between Douglas and the southerners,
the Republicans could win easily.

Everyone says Seward will be nominated.

I think Seward is too radical.
Republicans need someone more conservative
to carry the lower northern states such as
Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
I believe you are that man.

In addition to speaking in New York,
I am going to tour New England
so that I can present my views to them.

That is a good plan.
Mr. Lincoln, your chance has finally come.
This could be the year.



Cooper Union, New York City
February 27, 1860

About 1,500 people are in attendance. Lincoln is wearing a new suit, and in the first part of his speech he still feels uncomfortable in it.

Fellow citizens of New York:
Senator Douglas has said,
“Our fathers, when they framed
the Government under which we live,
understood this question just as well,
and even better, than we do now.”
I fully endorse this,
and I adopt it as a text for this discourse.
What is the frame of government
under which we live?
The answer must be the Constitution,
which consists of the original, framed in 1787,
and the first ten amendments
which were framed in 1789.
The thirty-nine who signed
the original instrument
may be fairly called our fathers
who framed that part
of the present Government.
In 1789, by the first Congress
which sat under the Constitution,
an act was passed
to enforce the Ordinance of '87,
including the prohibition of slavery
in the Northwestern Territory.
George Washington, one of the thirty-nine,
as President of the United States
approved and signed the bill,
thus completing its validity as a law
and thus showing that in his understanding
no line dividing local from federal authority
nor anything in the Constitution
forbade the Federal Government
from controlling slavery in federal territory.

In 1798 Congress organized
the territory of Mississippi
and prohibited the bringing of slaves
into the territory from any place
without the United States, by fine,
and giving freedom to slaves so brought.
In 1803 the Federal Government purchased
the Louisiana country from a foreign nation.
In the Territorial Act of 1804
Congress did not prohibit slavery;
but they did interfere with it—
take control of it—
in a more marked and extensive way
than they did in the case of Mississippi.


LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
The sum of the whole is,
that of our thirty-nine fathers
who framed the original Constitution,
twenty-one—a clear majority of the whole—
certainly understood that no proper division
of local from federal authority
nor any part of the Constitution
forbade the Federal Government from
controlling slavery in the federal territories
while all the rest probably had
the same understanding.
Such was the understanding of our fathers
who framed the original Constitution;
and the text affirms that
they understood the question “better than we.”
The first ten amendments were framed
by the first Congress
which sat under the Constitution—
the identical Congress which passed
the act already mentioned,
enforcing the prohibition of slavery
in the Northwestern Territory.
I defy anyone to show that any man ever did,
prior to the beginning of the present century
or even prior to the beginning
of the last half of the present century,
declare that any proper division
of local from federal authority
or any part of the Constitution
forbade the Federal Government from
controlling slavery in the federal territories.
If any man today sincerely believes that,
he is right to say so,
and to enforce his position
by all truthful evidence
and fair argument which he can.
But he has no right to mislead others,
who have less access to history,
and less leisure to study it,
into the false belief that “our fathers who
framed the Government under which we live”
were of the same opinion—
thus substituting falsehood and deception
for truthful evidence and fair argument.

Let all who believe that “our fathers,
who framed the Government
under which we live,
understood this question just as well,
and even better, than we do now,”
speak as they spoke,
and act as they acted upon it.
This is all Republicans ask—
all Republicans desire—in relation to slavery.
As those fathers marked it,
so let it be again marked,
as an evil not to be extended,
but to be tolerated and protected
only because of and so far as
its actual presence among us makes
that toleration and protection a necessity.
Let all the guarantees those fathers gave it,
be, not grudgingly,
but fully and fairly, maintained.
For this Republicans contend, and with this,
so far as I know or believe,
they will be content.

After President Washington approved
and signed the act of Congress
enforcing the prohibition of slavery
in the Northwestern Territory,
he wrote Lafayette that he considered
that prohibition a wise measure,
expressing in the same connection
his hope that we should at some time
have a confederacy of free states.
Could Washington himself speak,
would he cast the blame
of that sectionalism upon us,
who sustain his policy,
or upon you who repudiate it?

You say you are eminently conservative
while we are revolutionary and destructive.
What is conservatism?
Is it not adherence to the old and tried,
against the new and untried?
We stick to and contend for
the identical old policy
which was adopted by “our fathers who
framed the Government under which we live;”
while you reject and spit upon that old policy
and insist upon substituting something new.
True, you disagree among yourselves
as to what that substitute shall be.
Some of you are for reviving
the foreign slave trade,
some for a Congressional Slave-Code
for the territories,
some for Congress forbidding the territories
to prohibit slavery within their limits,
some for maintaining slavery
in the territories through the judiciary,
and some for the “gur-reat pur-rinciple” that
“if one man would enslave another,
no third man should object,”
fantastically called “popular sovereignty;”
but never a man among you is in favor of
federal prohibition of slavery
in federal territories,
according to the practice of “our fathers who
framed the Government under which we live.”

Some of you admit that no Republican aided
or encouraged the Harper’s Ferry affair,
but still insist that our doctrines and declarations
necessarily lead to insurrections.
Slave insurrections are no more common now
than they were
before the Republican party was organized.
A plot for an uprising could scarcely be devised
and communicated to twenty individuals
before some one of them,
to save the life of a favorite master or mistress,
would divulge it.
Occasional poisonings from the kitchen
and open or stealthy assassinations in the field
and local revolts extending to a score or so
will continue to occur
as the natural results of slavery;
but no general insurrection of slaves,
as I think,
can happen in this country for a long time.
Whoever much fears or much hopes
for such an event will be alike disappointed.
The Federal Government,
however, as we insist,
has the power of restraining the extension
of the institution—the power to insure that
a slave insurrection shall never occur
on any American soil
which is now free from slavery.
John Brown's effort was peculiar.
It was not a slave insurrection.
It was an attempt by white men
to get up a revolt among slaves
in which the slaves refused to participate.
In fact, it was so absurd that the slaves
with all their ignorance
saw plainly enough it could not succeed.

But you will break up the Union
rather than submit to a denial of
your Constitutional rights.
That has a somewhat reckless sound;
but it would be palliated,
if not fully justified, were we proposing
by the mere force of numbers
to deprive you of some right
plainly written down in the Constitution.
But we are proposing no such thing.
When you make these declarations,
you have a specific
and well-understood allusion
to an assumed constitutional right of yours
to take slaves into the federal territories
and to hold them there as property.
But no such right is
specifically written in the Constitution.
Perhaps you will say
the Supreme Court has decided
the disputed constitutional question
in your favor.
An inspection of the Constitution will show
that the right of property in a slave is not
“distinctly and expressly affirmed” in it.
Neither the word “slave” nor “slavery”
is to be found in the Constitution
nor the word “property” even
in any connection with language
alluding to the things slave or slavery;
and that wherever in that instrument
the slave is alluded to,
he is called a “person;”—
and wherever his master’s legal right
in relation to him is alluded to,
it is spoken of as
“service or labor which may be due,”—
as a debt payable in service or labor.
When this obvious mistake of the judges
shall be brought to their notice,
is it not reasonable to expect that
they will withdraw the mistaken statement
and reconsider the conclusion based upon it?
Under all these circumstances
do you really feel yourselves
justified to break up this Government
unless such a court decision as yours is,
shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive
and final rule of political action?
But you will not abide
the election of a Republican president!
In that supposed event, you say,
you will destroy the Union;
and then, you say, the great crime
of having destroyed it will be upon us!
That is cool.
A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear
and mutters through his teeth,
“Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you,
and then you will be a murderer!”

A few words now to Republicans.
It is exceedingly desirable that
all parts of this great Confederacy shall be
at peace and in harmony, one with another.
Let us Republicans do our part to have it so.
Even though much provoked,
let us do nothing
through passion and ill temper.
Even though the southern people will not
so much as listen to us,
let us calmly consider their demands
and yield to them if,
in our deliberate view of our duty,
we possibly can.
We must not only let them alone,
but we must somehow convince them
that we do let them alone.
Holding, as they do, that slavery is
morally right and socially elevating,
they cannot cease to demand
a full national recognition of it
as a legal right and a social blessing.
Nor can we justifiably withhold this
on any ground save our conviction
that slavery is wrong.
If slavery is right,
all words, acts, laws, and constitutions
against it are themselves wrong
and should be silenced and swept away.
If it is right, we cannot justly object to
its nationality, its universality;
if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon
its extension, its enlargement.
All they ask, we could readily grant,
if we thought slavery right;
all we ask, they could as readily grant,
if they thought it wrong.
Their thinking it right,
and our thinking it wrong,
is the precise fact upon which
depends the whole controversy.
Thinking it right, as they do,
they are not to blame for
desiring its full recognition, as being right;
but, thinking it wrong, as we do,
can we yield to them?

Wrong as we think slavery is,
we can yet afford to let it alone where it is,
because that much is due to the necessity
arising from its actual presence in the nation;
but can we, while our votes will prevent it,
allow it to spread into the national territories,
and to overrun us here in these free states?
If our sense of duty forbids this,
then let us stand by our duty,
fearlessly and effectively.
Let us be diverted by none of
those sophistical contrivances wherewith
we are so industriously plied and belabored—
contrivances such as groping for
some middle ground between
the right and the wrong,
vain as the search for a man who should be
neither a living man nor a dead man—
such as a policy of “don't care” on a question
about which all true men do care—
such as Union appeals beseeching
true Union men to yield to Disunionists,
reversing the divine rule,
and calling, not the sinners,
but the righteous to repentance—
such as invocations to Washington,
imploring men to unsay what Washington said
and undo what Washington did.
Neither let us be slandered from our duty
by false accusations against us,
nor frightened from it by menaces
of destruction to the Government
nor of dungeons to ourselves.
Let us have faith that right makes might,
and in that faith let us to the end
dare to do our duty as we understand it.

Lincoln sits down, and the audience gives him a standing ovation.



Hartford, Connecticut
March 5

Lincoln is addressing an enthusiastic audience.

Slavery is the great political
question of the nation.
I think our wisest men
have underrated its importance,
and a settlement can never be effected
until its magnitude is properly estimated.
One-sixth of the population
of the United States is slave,
and the entire value of the slave population
is not less than two thousand million dollars.
This amount of property has a vast influence
upon the minds of those who own it.
The same amount of property
owned by northern men
has the same influence upon their minds.
In this we do not assume that
we are better than the people of the South—
neither do we admit that
they are better than we.
Public opinion is formed
relative to a property basis.
Therefore, the slaveholders battle any policy
which depreciates their slaves as property.
What increases the value
of this property, they favor.
When you tell them that
slavery is immoral, they rebel,
because they do not like to be told
they are interested in an institution
which is not a moral one.

Now this comes in conflict with this proposition
that we in the North view slavery as a wrong.
We understand that the “equality of man”
principle which actuated our forefathers
in the establishment of the government is right;
and that slavery, being directly opposed to this,
is morally wrong.
I think that if anything can be proved
by natural theology,
it is that slavery is morally wrong.
God gave man a mouth to receive bread,
hands to feed it,
and his hand has a right to carry bread
to his mouth without controversy.
We suppose slavery is wrong
and that it endangers
the perpetuity of the Union.
Nothing else menaces it.
Its effect on free labor makes it,
what Seward has been so roundly abused
for calling, “an irrepressible conflict.”

If slavery is considered upon a property basis,
public opinion must be forced to its support.
The alternative is its settlement
upon the basis of its being wrong.
Some men would make it
a question of indifference—
neither right nor wrong—
merely a question of dollars and cents.
The “don’t care” policy leads just as surely
to nationalizing slavery as Jeff Davis himself,
but the doctrine is more dangerous
because more insidious.

If then, we of the Republican party,
who think slavery is a wrong,
should get control of the general government,
I do not say we would or should
meddle with it where it exists;
but we could inaugurate a policy
which would treat it as a wrong
and prevent its extension.
If I find a venomous snake
in a street or a field,
I take a stick and kill him.
But if that snake is in bed with my children,
I must be more cautious.
I may in striking the snake
also strike the children
or arouse the reptile to bite the children.
Thus by meddling with him here
I would do more hurt than good.
Slavery is the venomous snake
in bed with the children.
We dare not strike at it where it is.
The manner in which our Constitution
is framed constrains us from making war
upon it where it already exists.
The question that we now have to deal with is,
“Shall we be acting right to take this snake
and carry it to a bed
where there are children?”
The Republican party insists upon
keeping it out of the bed.
The only way to get rid of it is
for those who think it wrong to work together
and to vote no longer with the Democrats
who love it so well.

Now some say the shoe strike here
is caused by a withdrawal of southern trade.
Now whether this is so or not,
I know there is a strike!
I am glad that there is a system of labor
where the laborer can strike if he wants to.
I would to God that such a system
prevailed all over the world.
They withdraw their trade on a false accusation
because you never warred upon them
and consequently cannot stop the war
they charge you with.
You can, however, conform to their idea
that slavery is right.
This will satisfy them,
but what is the effect on you?
Why, slavery comes upon you!
Public opinion against it gives way.
The barriers that protected you
from it are down;
slavery comes in,
and white free labor that can strike
will give way to slave labor that cannot!
Let us not be slandered from our duties,
or intimidated from preserving
our dignity and our rights by any menace;
but let us have faith that right,
eternal right makes might,
and as we understand our duty, so do it!



Republican State Convention
Decatur, Illinois
May 8

A large tent called a Wigwam has been connected to an adjoining building, and it is packed with enthusiastic Republicans. On the platform RICHARD OGLESBY is making an announcement.

I have been informed that
an old Democrat of this county has something
that he wants to give to the delegates.

Receive it! Receive it!

JOHN HANKS and ISAAC JENNINGS carry two fence rails from the back of the Wigwam to the front with a banner that reads “ABRAHAM LINCOLN THE RAIL CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT IN 1860, Two Rails From a Lot of 3,000 Made in 1830 by John Hanks and Abe Lincoln.” The crowd cheers and calls upon Lincoln to speak. Lincoln has been sitting in the back and comes forward amid the enthusiastic cheering. After they calm down, Lincoln begins to speak from the platform.

I do not know whether I split
those two particular rails or not,
but I mauled many and made many better ones
since I grew to manhood.

Lincoln sits down, and the crowd cheers again.


Lincoln is meeting with Judge DAVID DAVIS while Herndon listens.

All the Illinois delegates are pledged to vote
for you on the first ballot and on every ballot
unless they are certain that you no longer
have a chance for the nomination.

That is a good start.
Judge Davis, I would like you
to manage my candidacy next week
at the national convention in Chicago.

I shall be honored to do so.
Are you not coming to Chicago?

No, I think I am too much of a candidate to go,
and so I have decided to stay home.
I chose Gustave Koerner as a delegate at large
so that he can gather votes from the Germans.
I also chose Judd but rejected John Wentworth
because he is a troublemaker
and would likely clash with Judd.

I understand.

We need to avoid divisive issues
such as the Fugitive Slave Law
in drawing up the platform
so that the Republicans will be united.

Seward has been promising offices
and patronage in order to gain delegates.
Are we to do the same to fight back?

No, they call me “Honest Abe,”
and I do not want to disappoint them.
Try not to alienate anyone,
but see if you can get those
who are committed on the first ballot
to consider me as their second choice.
If Seward is not able to win on the first ballot,
I think I’ll have a good chance.

I hope that we can get the Indiana delegation
to vote for you on the first ballot.

That would be good.
Delahay of Kansas is going to lobby
the Iowa and Minnesota delegations,
but I have warned him,
and I want you to tell all the managers,
to be careful to give no offense
and to keep cool under all circumstances.
Do not agitate on the tariff issue
or any other subject during the convention.


Davis in his hotel room is meeting with Oglesby, STEPHEN LOGAN, LEONARD SWETT, JESSE DUBOIS, WILLIAM BUTLER, NORMAN JUDD, and others.

The Chicago Press and Tribune has given Lincoln
a great endorsement. Listen to this.
They write he has an exceptional record.
“His position between the extremes in the party,
his spotless character as a citizen,
and his acknowledged ability as a statesman,
will, in the approaching canvass,
give him an advantage before the people
which no other candidate can claim.”

What else does it say?

They write that he supports
all the fundamentals of Republicanism,
and they commend “his wise conservatism
that has made his action
and his expressed opinions so conform
to the most mature sentiment of the country
on the question of slavery.”
They also write that his “avoidance of extremes
has not been the result of ambition
which measures words or regulates acts,
but the natural consequence
of an equable nature and mental constitution
that is never off its balance.”
This says, “He occupies the happy mean
between that alleged radicalism which binds
the older anti-slavery men to Mr. Seward
and that conservativism which dictates
the support of Judge Bates.”
They indicate that his favoring
federal aid for internal improvements
and a favorable tariff are
“all that Pennsylvania and the West
have a right to demand.”
Also, “without a stain
of Know-Nothingism on his skirts,
he is acceptable to the mass
of the American party.”

They like him, but what about his chances?

They admit that most delegations
favor Seward or other contenders,
but they claim that all would approve of
Lincoln as their second choice
and so would support him
as a compromise candidate.

Seward’s manager Thurlow Weed
sent someone to ask me
if Lincoln would agree to be
the vice presidential candidate
on the Seward ticket.
After telegraphing Lincoln, I told them that
under no circumstances could Lincoln’s name
be used in a second place on the ticket.

That is the right approach.
We must discourage anyone from saying that
Lincoln would accept the vice presidency
because that would hurt his presidential bid.

What about seating the controversial
southern delegations?

To deny them seats would hurt us
among the Whig conservatives.
Besides, I think several delegates from Virginia
are going to vote for Lincoln.

What about Indiana?

We gained the entire delegation by promising
to make Caleb Smith Secretary of the Interior
and William Dole
Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

I sent Lincoln a telegram
that Pennsylvania’s block of fifty-six delegates
voting for their favorite son, Simon Cameron,
would come over on the second ballot
if we promised him the Treasury Department,
but Lincoln wired back,
“I authorize no bargains
and will be bound by none.”

Lincoln ain’t here
and don’t know what we have to meet.
So we will go ahead
as if we hadn’t heard from him,
and he must ratify it.

I think the concern of the Pennsylvanians
and Seward delegates in the West
is that they be assured that
if they support Lincoln on the second ballot
that he will not be proscriptive against those
who had earlier opposed him.
I gave them the most solemn assurances
that by-gones should be by-gones
and that they should be placed
on the same footing
as if originally they had been his friends.

That is good.
Lincoln has told me that he believes in
a short statute of limitations in politics.



Republican National Convention
May 16

This Wigwam building can hold 10,000 people and is packed with delegates and many supporters of Lincoln from Illinois. GEORGE ASHMUN is presiding on the platform while DAVID CARTTER is offering a motion from the Ohio delegation.

I move the previous question
so that we can vote to approve the platform
presented by the Committee of Resolutions.

JOSHUA GIDDINGS is also from the Ohio delegation and shouts.

Wait a moment!
I demand the right to offer an amendment
that we support the primal truths
of the Declaration of Independence
that all men are created equal
and have the right to life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness.

I believe in the ten commandments,
but I do not want them in a political platform.

All in favor of the amendment say “Aye.”

Many shout “Aye.”

ASHMUN (Cont’d.)
Those opposed say “No.”

Even more people shout “No.”

ASHMUN (Cont’d.)
The amendment is defeated.

Giddings stands up and walks out.


GEORGE CURTIS of New York is making a plea.

I have to ask this convention
whether they are prepared
to go upon the record
before the country as voting down
the words of the Declaration of Independence?
I rise simply to ask gentlemen to think well
before, upon the free prairies of the West
in the summer of 1860,
they dare to wince and quail
before the assertions of the men
in Philadelphia in 1776—
before they dare to shrink from repeating
the words that these great men enunciated.

The crowd cheers this speech so much that Ashmun calls for another vote.

Given the response, let us vote again.
All in favor of the amendment say “Aye.”

Most shout “Aye.”

ASHMUN (Cont’d.)
Those opposed say “No.”

Very few shout “No.”

ASHMUN (Cont’d.)
The Ayes have it,
and the platform is amended.


Davis has the results of the first ballot and is announcing them to his staff.

On the first ballot the totals are
Seward 173, Lincoln 102—

He is interrupted by brief cheering.

DAVIS (Cont’d.)
Cameron got 50, Chase 49, Bates 48, Dayton 14,
McLean 12, Collamer 10, Wade 3
with one each for Reed, Sumner, and Fremont.
A telegram is being sent to Lincoln.
Since 233 votes are needed for the nomination,
I think Lincoln can win.
So go out there and persuade delegates.


Lincoln is playing handball with his law clerk, ELMER ELLSWORTH. A TELEGRAPH MESSENGER comes running up with a telegram.

Mr. Lincoln, another telegram has come!

Please read it to us.

“On the second ballot Seward 184, Lincoln 181.”

The first ballot told us that Seward
would probably not win the nomination.
I believe these results indicate that I shall win.


Ashmun reads the results of the third ballot.

The tally on the third ballot is as follows:
Lincoln 231, Seward 180, Chase 24, Bates 22,
McLean 5, Dayton 1, and Clay 1.
Mr. Cartter of Ohio is recognized.

The state of Ohio announces that
four votes cast for Mr. Chase
have been changed to Mr. Lincoln.

The crowd erupts in tremendous cheering as people stand up, and women wave their handkerchiefs amid the deafening roar.


Lincoln and a few close friends are waiting for news from Chicago. The telegraph messenger comes running in with a telegram.

Mr. Lincoln, the final vote on the third ballot
gave you 354 votes and made you
the nominee of the Republican party
for President of the United States.

Gentlemen, if you will excuse me,
I will take this dispatch
to a little woman at our house on 8th Street
who is probably more interested in it than I am.


The sound of a band and cheering can be heard from outside. Mary and others have been preparing a reception.

They have been out there a long time.
Are you ready to receive them now?

Yes, Mr. Lincoln, they may come in now.

I think I should go out and say something.

Lincoln goes to the door.


As he comes out the front door, the crowd greets Lincoln with great cheering. He tries to calm them down. Then he begins to speak.

I suppose that you are not here to honor me
particularly as a private citizen
but rather as the representative of a great party
and the principles on which it is based.
As to my positions on political issues,
I refer you to my previous speeches.
Fellow citizens and friends,
the time comes upon every public man
when it is best for him to keep his lips closed.
That time has now come to me.
I wish I could invite all of you into our house,
but I do not think you all would fit.
Yet as many as can find room are welcome
to join us in this celebration.

Lincoln goes in the door and is followed by eager but respectful citizens.


WILLIE and TAD are sitting on the steps as Ashmun leads the Republican committee that includes WILLIAM EVARTS, SAMUEL BOWLES, JUDGE KELLEY, Cartter, FRANCIS BLAIR, GIDEON WELLES, and CARL SCHURZ. Willie stands up and speaks to them.

Good day, gentlemen.

Are you Mr. Lincoln’s son?

Yes, sir.

The men shake hands with him. Feeling ignored, Tad stands up.

I’m a Lincoln, too!

They shake hands with Tad, and Ashmun rings the doorbell.


Lincoln and Mary welcome the committee in the parlor, and they sit down on chairs that have been moved into the room. It is a hot day, and Mary serves them ice water.

We have cold water if any of you are thirsty.

I have, sir, the honor on behalf of this committee
appointed by the Republican convention
recently assembled in Chicago
to notify you that you have been selected
by the Republicans as our candidate
for President of the United States.
The committee deems it respectful to yourself
and appropriate to this important matter
that they should come in person
and present to you the authentic evidence
of the action of the convention.
I desire to present to you the letter
which has been prepared
and which informs you of your nomination
and with it the platform, resolutions,
and sentiments which the convention adopted.
Sir, at your convenience
we shall be glad to receive from you
such a response as it may be
your pleasure to give us.

Ashmun hands the papers to Lincoln.

Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee:
I tender to you and through you
to the Republican national convention
and all the people represented in it
my profoundest thanks
for the high honor done me,
which you now formally announce.
Deeply and even painfully sensible
of the great responsibility
which is inseparable from this honor—
a responsibility I could almost wish had fallen
upon some one of the far more eminent
and experienced statesmen
whose distinguished names
were before the convention—
I shall by your leave consider more fully
the resolutions of the convention,
denominated the platform,
and without unseasonable delay
respond to you, Mr. Chairman, in writing,
not doubting now that the platform
will be found satisfactory,
and the nomination gratefully accepted.
And now I will no longer defer the pleasure
of taking each of you by the hand.

In his characteristic way of warmly shaking hands with his right hand augmented by his left hand, Lincoln first shakes with Ashmun and then the others. The last is Kelley, who has been taking in Lincoln’s height.

What is your height?

Six feet three.
What is yours, Mr. Lincoln?

Six feet four.

Then, sir, Pennsylvania bows to Illinois.
For years my heart has been aching
for a president that I could look up to,
and I’ve found him at last
in the land where we thought
there were none but little giants.

This time you are going to beat Douglas.

I certainly hope so.


Young JOHN NICOLAY has begun working as Lincoln’s secretary. His desk has a large pile of mail on it that he is beginning to tackle.

Mr. Nicolay, as a clerk
in the office of the secretary of state
I found that you were very helpful
in aiding my election research.
I am confident you will make a good secretary.
You will be paid seventy-five dollars
at the beginning of each month.

I shall do my best, sir.

Governor Wood is graciously allowing me
to use this office
while the legislature is not in session.
I will not be traveling or making speeches.
I intend to run on the platform
and the record of my previous speeches.
I would like you to compose a letter explaining
that I shall not be commenting on my policies;
it may be used in responding to such inquiries.
Also I expect there will be many people
coming to see me here,
and I would like to receive them cordially.

Yes, sir. It looks like there is going to be
much mail to answer.

I had a long meeting at home
with the New York boss Thurlow Weed,
who ran Seward’s campaign.
I think we understand each other,
and he showed no sign of being an intriguer.
He asked only for fair play,
and he said that New York is safe.
I am glad that he asked for no conditions.
With Democrats divided into two conventions
I think we are off to a propitious start.


Lincoln instructs Nicolay.

Mr. Nicolay, I want you to go to Terre Haute
and meet with Richard Thompson,
the leader of Indiana’s Know Nothings.

Do you have a message for me to carry?

I want nothing to be in writing.
Ascertain what he wants,
on what subjects he would converse with me,
and the particulars if he will give them.
Is an interview indispensable?
Tell him my motto is “Fairness to all,”
but commit me to nothing.
We must prevent the fusion of our opponents
in Indiana and other key states.



August 8

A large crowd has gathered to hear speakers. As Lincoln’s carriage arrives, some men lift him on their shoulders and carry him to the platform among much jubilation. Then Lincoln addresses them.

My fellow citizens:
I appear among you upon this occasion
with no intention of making a speech.
It has been my purpose
since I have been placed in my present position
to make no speeches.
This assemblage has been drawn
together to see me,
and it is certainly my wish to see all of you.
I did not suppose my appearance among you
would create the tumult which I now witness.
I am profoundly gratified
for this manifestation of your feelings,
because it is a tribute such as can be paid
to no man as a man.
It is the evidence that four years from this time
you will give a like manifestation
to the next man who is the representative
of the truth on the questions
that now agitate the public.
And it is because you will then fight
for this cause as you do now,
or with even greater ardor than now,
though I be dead and gone.
I most profoundly and sincerely thank you.
Having said this much,
allow me now to say that it is my wish
that you will hear this public discussion
by others of our friends who are present
for the purpose of addressing you,
and that you will kindly let me be silent.

Lincoln sits down on the platform amid wild cheering.



October 1

Lincoln and LYMAN TRUMBULL are in a railroad car and enter the compartment of WILLIAM HENRY SEWARD.

Mr. Seward?

Oh, Mr. Lincoln and Senator Trumbull,
please come in and sit down.

Thank you for coming to Springfield
on your western speaking tour.
I have read that your speeches are having
a very favorable influence on the campaign,
and I am very grateful to you.

I am glad to be helping
in this historic campaign.
I am delighted to see you again;
it has been a long time.

Twelve years ago you told me that
the anti-slavery cause would be successful,
and ever since I have believed that it would be.

Our Republican party has become popular
by opposing the extension of slavery.

I am hoping that in your Chicago speech
you will address a problem that has arisen.
The current mayor John Wentworth
has been making references continually
to an argument I think our party must avoid—
that a Republican victory will bring
an eventual end to slavery altogether.
I understand that Wentworth
will be introducing you,
and I would like you to reassure the audience
that Republicans will not interfere with slavery
where it already exists.

I shall make it clear that Republicans
are not attacking slavery in the South.

We need to preserve the Union.

Yes, I agree.


Nicolay is working on correspondence, and Lincoln is meeting with a modestly dressed OLD WOMAN.

I guess you don’t remember me.
When you rode the circuit,
you dined at my house a few times.

Yes, I remember now.

One day you came along
after we had got through dinner,
and we had eaten up everything.
I could give you nothing
but a bowl of bread and milk, and you ate it.
When you got up,
you said it was good enough
for the President of the United States.

I only remember that I always fared well
when I stopped at your house.

I just wanted you to hear that prophecy
which is now about to come true.

You are very kind to have made the journey
just to tell me this.
Thank you for coming.

He escorts her to the open door. Then as she leaves, he goes next door to the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, NEWTON BATEMAN.

Mr. Bateman, I have gone over the results
of the canvass to see how the ministers
have declared their intentions to vote.
Would you come into my office?
I would like to talk to you about this.

Certainly, Mr. Lincoln.

They walk into Lincoln’s office. Lincoln closes the door, and they sit down.

Here are twenty-three ministers
of different denominations,
and all of them are against me but three.
And most of the prominent members
of the churches oppose me.
Mr. Bateman, I am not a Christian.
God knows I would be one;
but I have carefully read the Bible,
and I do not so understand this book.

Lincoln shows him a New Testament.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
These men well know that
I am for freedom in the territories,
freedom everywhere as far as
the Constitution and laws will permit,
and that my opponents are for slavery.
They know this,
and yet with this book in their hands
in the light of which human bondage
cannot live a moment,
they are going to vote against me.
I do not understand it at all.

It is a mystery.

Lincoln stands up and paces back and forth, trying to control his emotions which have brought tears to his eyes.

I know there is a God
and that he hates injustice and slavery.
I see the storm coming,
and I know that his hand is in it.
If he has a place and work for me—
and I think he has—I believe I am ready.
I am nothing, but truth is everything.
I know I am right
because I know that liberty is right,
for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God.
I have told them that
a house divided against itself cannot stand,
and Christ and reason say the same;
and they will find it so.
Douglas don’t care whether
slavery is voted up or down,
but God cares, and humanity cares, and I care;
and with God’s help I shall not fail.
I may not see the end;
but it will come, and I shall be vindicated;
and these men will find that
they have not read their Bibles aright.

I don’t know what to say.

Doesn’t it appear strange that men can ignore
the moral aspects of this contest?
A revelation could not make it
plainer to me that slavery
or the government must be destroyed.
The future would be something awful,
as I look at it,
but for this rock on which I stand—

Lincoln is referring to the New Testament in his hand.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
—especially with the knowledge
of how these ministers are going to vote.
It seems as if God had borne with this thing
until the very teachers of religion
have come to defend it from the Bible,
and to claim for it
a divine character and sanction;
and now the cup of iniquity is full,
and the vials of wrath will be poured out.

I have not supposed that you were accustomed
to think as much upon this class of subjects.
Certainly your friends generally are ignorant
of the sentiments you have expressed to me.

I know they are.
I am obliged to appear different to them;
but I think more on these subjects
than upon all others
and have done so for years,
and I am willing that you should know it.

I feel honored and privileged
to have heard this.

Bateman stands up and goes back to his office.



November 6, 1860

Herndon comes into the office where Lincoln and Nicolay are working. Lincoln is growing a beard.

Well, Mr. Lincoln, shall we walk over
to the courthouse and vote?

I don’t want to vote for myself.

Then you can cut off the presidential electors
at the top and still vote
for the rest of the Republican ticket.

I suppose I could do that.


Cheering greets Lincoln and Herndon as they enter the courtroom where the voting takes place. Lincoln walks up to the table and hands his ballot to an ELECTION OFFICIAL.

My name is Abraham Lincoln,
and here is my ballot.

Sign your name and drop it in the box.

Lincoln does so, and then Herndon votes also.

William Herndon.


Lincoln is reclining on a sofa while Davis and other friends sit in chairs waiting for election returns. The clock shows about ten o’clock.

There are still no final results from New York.
We need New York to gain a clear majority
in the electoral college.
Otherwise the election will probably go
into the House of Representatives.

The news will come quick enough if it is good;
and if it is bad, I am in no hurry to hear it.


At about 11:40 Trumbull comes running in with news.

Uncle Abe, you’re the next President,
and I know it.

Democrats have large majorities
in New York City.
Not too fast, my friends,
it may not be over yet.


The time is past midnight. A TELEGRAPH OPERATOR comes dashing in with a report.

This is it! Lincoln has won New York!

May I be the first to congratulate you,
Mr. President.

Thank you, Judge Davis,
for all your help on the campaign.


Sounds of cheering and fireworks can be heard from outside as Lincoln comes into the parlor to tell Mary and give her a hug and a kiss.

Mary, Mary, we are elected!



December 8

Lincoln and Nicolay are talking.

It looks like South Carolina is planning
to take the lead on secession.
They have scheduled a convention.
So far you seem to be torn between
keeping the Government together by force
or having a government of fraternity.
Do you agree with Greeley
that if eight states choose to secede,
they cannot be permanently withheld
from doing so by Federal cannon?

I have been giving this much thought.
The very existence of a general
and national government implies
the legal power, right, and duty
of maintaining its own integrity.
This, if not expressed,
is at least implied in the Constitution.
The right of a state to secede
is not an open and debatable question.
It was fully discussed
in Jackson’s time and denied,
not only by him but by the vote of Congress.
The President’s duty is to execute the laws
and maintain the existing Government.
He cannot entertain any proposition
of dissolution or dismemberment.
He was not elected for any such purpose.

Have states no right to become independent?

As a matter of theoretical speculation
it is probably true that if the people,
with whom the whole question rests,
should become tired of the present Government,
they might change it
in the manner prescribed by the Constitution.

You seem to be making up your mind.

I want you to take a letter to Seward,
offering him the position of Secretary of State,
and I am going to ask Chase
to be Secretary of the Treasury.



December 15

Lincoln is visiting EDWARD BATES in his hotel room.

Mr. Bates, you are the first person
I have met about a cabinet position.
I am offering Secretary of State to Seward,
but I could extend to you
the Attorney Generalship.

If peace and order prevailed in the country,
I would decline as I did the Secretary of War
position under President Fillmore in 1850.
My pecuniary circumstances
and my settled domestic habits
make it very undesirable for me
to be in high office with low pay.
But with the country in trouble and danger,
I feel it is my duty to sacrifice
my personal inclinations in order to
contribute my labor and influence
to the restoration of peace
and the preservation of the country.

What is your view of the conflict over secession?

I am a man of peace
and will defer fighting as long as possible;
but if forced to do so against my will,
I have made it a rule
never to fire blank cartridges.



December 20

Lincoln, Davis, and Swett are meeting with THURLOW WEED.

Mr. Seward and I do not object
to Mr. Bates of Missouri being attorney general,
and we understand that Mr. Cameron deserves
an appointment to represent Pennsylvania
even though he is a former Democrat;
but we are concerned that with Salmon Chase,
Gideon Welles, and Montgomery Blair
your cabinet will have four former Democrats
and only three former Whigs.

But Mr. Weed, you seem to forget
that I expect to be there,
and counting me as a Whig,
you see how nicely the cabinet
would be balanced and ballasted.

Yes, but Chase is an abolitionist,
and the colleagues of Welles in Connecticut
have been a thorn in the side of Mr. Seward.
We think New England would be
better represented by a former Whig such as
Charles Francis Adams or George Ashmun.

Vice President-elect Hannibal Hamlin and I
have chosen Welles.

What about Blair?
Has anyone suggested him except his father?
If you want a southerner,
why not choose John Gilmer of North Carolina?

I know and like Gilmer, and he is a Unionist.
If there is no doubt about his fidelity,
I shall appoint him.



December 21

Lincoln is dictating a letter to Nicolay.

This is my reply to Elihu Washburne:
Last night I received your letter
giving an account of your interview
with General Scott,
and for which I thank you.
Please present my respects to the General
and tell him confidentially
I shall be obliged to him to be as well prepared
as he can to either hold or retake the forts,
as the case may require,
at and after the inauguration.
Your as ever, A. Lincoln


Lincoln is talking with Nicolay.

This is a good letter from Seward.

Has he accepted the State Department?

Yes, and his policies agree with mine.
He thinks Mr. Crittenden’s compromise
will not be adopted by Congress.

That is good news because that would extend
the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific.

Yes, I am fixed in opposing
the extension of slavery.
Seward has been able to find out
what is going on in the White House.
Listen to what he wrote.
“The President is debating day and night
on the question whether
he shall not recall Major Anderson
and surrender Fort Sumter
and go on arming the South.
A plot is forming to seize the capital
on or before the 4th of March,
and this too has its accomplices
in the public councils.
I could tell you more particularly
than I dare write,
but you must not imagine that
I am giving you suspicions and rumors.
Believe me that I know what I write.
In point of fact, the responsibilities
of your administration must begin
before the time arrives.”
He suggests that I come to Washington
a week sooner than usual
and he urges me to appoint
the secretaries of War, Navy, and Treasury.

That sounds very serious.
Many have urged you to write public letters.

I have decided what to write to them.
I oppose amending the Constitution now,
though I acknowledge the right
of the American people to do that.
I recognize the rights of the states
to control their own domestic institutions,
and I denounce the lawless invasion
by armed force of any state or territory,
no matter under what pretext,
as the gravest of crimes.
I shall consent to the publication of my letter
only upon the condition that
six of the twelve United States Senators
from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi,
Louisiana, Florida, and Texas
shall sign their names below mine
and the following statement:
“We recommend to the people of the states
we represent respectively,
to suspend all action
for dismemberment of the Union,
at least until some act deemed to be
violative of our rights shall be done
by the incoming administration.”

They are not likely to sign that.


Lincoln is reading a letter to Nicolay.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
Greeley has changed his mind.
Listen to what he wrote.
“If the seceding state or states go to
fighting and defying the laws,
the Union being yet undissolved
save by their own say-so,
I guess they will have to be
made to behave themselves.”
He also wrote,
“I fear nothing, care for nothing,
but another disgraceful back-down
of the free states.
That is the only real danger.”



December 30

Lincoln is meeting with SIMON CAMERON.

I have heard many concerns
about you, Mr. Cameron;
but I am grateful for the support
that I received from Pennsylvania,
and I have discovered that you have
many friends urging your appointment.

Pennsylvanians want protective tariffs,
and I understand that you favor them.

I am prepared to offer you either Treasury
or the War Department,
but I have not decided yet.

Would you put that in writing?

Only if you promise to keep it confidential.

That’s a deal.



January 5, 1861

Lincoln is talking with SALMON CHASE.

Mr. Chase, I have sent for you to ask you
whether you will accept the appointment
of Secretary of the Treasury
even though I am not yet prepared
to offer it to you.

I do not desire any position
and could not easily reconcile myself
to accepting a subordinate one,
but I shall gladly support your administration
as the senior senator from Ohio.

I remember your support for me in fifty-eight.
If Seward declines the State Department,
I would offer that to you without hesitation.

In that light I shall consider your Treasury offer.



Lincoln is talking with JOSEPH GILLESPIE by the fireside.

Gillespie, I would willingly take out
of my life a period in years
equal to the two months which intervene
between now and my inauguration.


Because every hour adds to the difficulties
I am called upon to meet,
and the present administration does nothing
to check the tendency toward dissolution.
I, who have been called
to meet this awful responsibility,
am compelled to remain here,
doing nothing to avert it or lessen its force
when it comes to me.

This situation has never arisen before,
and it could lead to amending the Constitution.

Every day adds to the difficulty of the situation
and makes the outlook more gloomy.
Secession is being fostered
rather than repressed,
and if the doctrine meets with
a general acceptance in the border states,
it will be a great blow to the Government.

Do you think a war can be avoided?

It is only possible upon the consent
of this government to the erection
of a foreign slave government
out of the present slave states.
I see the duty devolving upon me.

We have been talking for a long time,
and I should go now.

Gillespie gets up, and Lincoln walks him to the door.

Joe, I suppose you will never forget
that trial down in Montgomery County,
where the lawyer associated with you
gave away the whole case
in his opening speech.
I saw you signaling to him,
but you couldn’t stop him.

GILLESPIE (Laughing)
Yes, I remember that.

Now, that’s just the way
with me and Buchanan.
He is giving away the case,
and I have nothing to say
and can’t stop him.


Friends have gathered to say goodbye to the Lincolns.

I am concerned about the reports that
assassins are planning to kill Mr. Lincoln
while we are on our way to Washington.
I intend to travel with him,
and I hope that may make his journey safer.

Abe, I am afraid that
I shall never see you alive again.

Hannah, if they do kill me,
I shall never die again.


Lincoln is laying on the sofa and looking at the ceiling while Herndon sits at his desk.

Billy, how long have we been together?

Over sixteen years.

We’ve never had a cross word
in all that time, have we?

No, indeed we have not.

Billy, there’s one thing I have
for some time wanted you to tell me,
but I reckon I ought to apologize
for my nerve and curiosity
in asking it even now.

What is it?

I want you to tell me
how many times you have been drunk.

I think it must be about fifty times.

You know, other young lawyers have wanted
me to replace you as my partner,
but they were weak creatures,
hoping to secure a law practice
by hanging on to my coat-tail.
I believe in you, Billy,
and so I shall not desert you.

Lincoln gets up and gathers a few books and papers.

Shall I take down the sign-board downstairs?

No, let it hang there.
Give our clients to understand that
the election of a President makes no change
in the firm of Lincoln and Herndon.
If I live, I’m coming back some time,
and then we’ll go right on practicing law
as if nothing happened.
Maybe you would like an office
in my administration.
I am being hounded by office-seekers.

No, sir, I do not want any federal office.
Governor Bissell made me Bank Commissioner,
and I shall be glad to have that renewed.

I’ll ask Governor Yates to do so.

Thank you, sir.



February 11

Lincoln is standing on the back of the train, and during a light rain he gives a spontaneous speech to his friends in Springfield.

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 commend me,
I bid you an affectionate farewell.



February 12

Lincoln is speaking to a crowd in the street below.

You do me great honor to meet me,
but on my journey to the national capital
I can only speak briefly.
I appear before you now to thank you
for this very magnificent welcome
and still more for the very generous support
which your state recently gave
to the political cause of the whole country
and the whole world.

The words “coercion” and “invasion”
are in great use about these days.
Let us ascertain the meaning of these words
if we can—not from dictionaries,
but from the men
who constantly repeat them.
What, then, is “coercion”?
What is “invasion”?
Would the marching of an army
into South Carolina, for instance,
without the consent of her people
and in hostility against them
be coercion or invasion?
I very frankly say,
I think it would be invasion,
and it would be coercion too
if the people of that country
were forced to submit.
But if the Government, for instance,
simply insists upon holding its own forts
or retaking those forts which belong to it,—
or enforcing the laws of the United States
in the collection of duties
upon foreign importations,—
(Renewed cheers)
or even the withdrawal of the mails
from those portions of the country
where the mails themselves
are habitually violated,
would any or all of these things be coercion?
Do the lovers of the Union contend that
they will resist coercion
or invasion of any state,
understanding that any or all of these
would be coercing or invading a state?
If they do, then it occurs to me that
the means for the preservation of the Union
they so greatly love, in their own estimation,
is of a very thin and airy character.
If sick, they would consider
the little pills of the homeopathist
as already too large for them to swallow.
In their view the Union as a family relation
would not be anything like
a regular marriage at all,
but only as a sort of free-love arrangement,—
to be maintained on what
that sect calls passionate attraction.
(Continued laughter)
But, my friends, enough of this.

What is the particular sacredness of a state?
Can a state carry with it out of the Union
that which it holds in sacredness
by virtue of its connection with the Union?
I am speaking of that assumed right
of a state as a primary principle
that the Constitution should rule
all that is less than itself
and ruin all that is bigger than itself.
By what principle of original right is that
one-fiftieth or one-ninetieth of a great nation,
by calling themselves a state have the right
to break up and ruin that nation
as a matter of original principle?
Now I ask the question.
I am not deciding anything—
and with the request that you will think
somewhat upon that subject
and decide for yourselves, if you choose,
when you get ready,
where is the mysterious,
original right from principle
for a certain district of a country
with inhabitants
by merely being called a state
to play the tyrant over all its own citizens
and deny the authority
of everything greater than itself.
I say I am deciding nothing,
but simply giving something
for you to reflect upon;
and having said this much
and having declared that
I will make no long speeches,
I thank you again
for this magnificent welcome
and bid you an affectionate farewell.


Lincoln and his friends are talking.

Do you think it is possible to reconcile
the northern and southern Democrats?

I once knew a good churchman named 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 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.”

They laugh.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
So when the 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 side.



February 15

MAYOR GEORGE WILSON has introduced Lincoln to the crowd in the street.

I most cordially thank
his Honor Mayor Wilson
and the citizens of Pittsburgh generally
for this flattering reception.

While smiling, Lincoln points southward to the river.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
Notwithstanding the troubles across the river,
there is really no crisis, springing from
anything in the government itself.
In plain words, there is really no crisis
except an artificial one!
What is there now to warrant
the condition of affairs presented
by our friends “over the river?”
Take even their own view
of the questions involved,
and there is nothing to justify
the course which they are pursuing.
There is no crisis, excepting such a one
as may be gotten up at any time
by designing politicians.
My advice, then, under such circumstances,
is to keep cool.
If the great American people will only
keep their temper on both sides of the line,
the troubles will come to an end,
and the question which
now distracts the country
will be settled just as surely
as all other difficulties of like character,
which have originated in this government,
have been adjusted.
Let the people on both sides
keep their self-possession,
and just as other clouds have cleared away
in due time, so will this,
and this great nation shall continue
to prosper as heretofore.
But, fellow citizens,
I have spoken longer on this subject
than I had intended and shall say no more.


Judd, detective ALLAN PINKERTON, and SAMUEL FELTON are conferring with Lincoln in his hotel room.

Mr. Lincoln, this is detective Allan Pinkerton
and Samuel Felton, president of the
Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad.
I did not want to darken your journey previously,
but now they have something urgent to tell you.

We have come to know, Mr. Lincoln,
beyond the shadow of a doubt
that there exists a plot to assassinate you.
The attempt will be made
on your way through Baltimore,
day after tomorrow.
I am here to help in outwitting the assassins.

I am listening, Mr. Pinkerton.

This is what we have found out—


Pinkerton continues his story.

So I went personally to Baltimore,
purporting to be a secessionist from Georgia,
and I met the leading conspirator, Fernandina.
While drinking in a saloon,
he told me that he had fixed it
with the Chief Marshal of the Police.
Another conspirator named Hill said that
he would immortalize himself
by plunging a knife into Lincoln’s heart.

Let me ask you some questions about all this.



With all due allowance
for the menacing plans of the fanatics,
how do you happen to be so sure
of the carrying through
of the preparations against me?

Because, sir, at least one of my men
has penetrated to the very core of the plot
and learned how thoroughly
the whole thing has been prepared.

What do you propose to do about it?

We propose to take you on to Washington
this very night, Mr. President,
and steal a march on your enemies.

Special train arrangements can be made,
and telegraph lines can be cut
so that no one will know
what train you are on.

Tomorrow morning I have promised
to raise the flag over Independence Hall,
and after that to visit
the legislature at Harrisburg.
Whatever the cost,
these two promises I must fulfill.
Thereafter I shall be ready to consider
any plan you may adopt.


COL. WARD HILL LAMON and FREDERICK SEWARD have been waiting for Lincoln, who is now coming down the hall.

Mr. Lincoln, this is Frederick Seward.
His father sent him
with an important message.

They go into Lincoln’s room.


Frederick Seward has given a written report to Lincoln, who has been reading it.

A New York detective officer in Baltimore
has warned that there is a serious danger
of violence toward you, Mr. Lincoln.

Your father and General Scott do not say
who they think are concerned in it.

My father only knows
what he learned from Col. Stone.

Did you hear any names mentioned,
such as Pinkerton?

No, no one but General Scott and Col. Stone.

Judd and others hired detectives
who brought me a similar story today.

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

I shall think it over carefully,
and I will let you know in the morning.



Independence Hall
February 22

Lincoln has been introduced by THEODORE CUYLER and speaks to the Select Council of Philadelphia.

Thank you, Mr. Cuyler.
I am filled with deep emotion
at finding myself standing here in the 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 suggested 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 from the sentiments
which originated and were given to the world
from this hall in which we stand.
I have never had a feeling politically
that did not spring from the sentiments
embodied in the Declaration of Independence.
(Great cheering.)
I have often pondered over the dangers
which were incurred by the men
who assembled here and adopted
that Declaration of Independence.
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 great principle or idea it was
that kept this Confederacy so long together.
It was not the mere matter of the separation
of the colonies from the mother land,
but something in that Declaration giving liberty,
not alone to the people of this country,
but hope to the world for all future time.
(Great applause.)
It was that which gave promise
that in due time the weights should be lifted
from the shoulders of all men,
and that all should have an equal chance.
This is the sentiment embodied
in that Declaration of Independence.
Now, my friends, can this country
be saved upon that basis?
If it can, I will consider myself
one of the happiest men in the world
if I can help to save it.
If it can't be saved upon that principle,
it will be truly awful.
But, if this country cannot be saved
without giving up that principle,
I would rather be assassinated on this spot
than to surrender it.
Now, in my view of the present aspect of affairs,
there is no need of bloodshed and war.
There is no necessity for it.
I am not in favor of such a course,
and I may say in advance,
there will be no blood shed
unless it be forced upon the Government.
The Government will not use force
unless force is used against it.
(Prolonged applause)
My friends, this is a wholly unprepared speech.
I may, therefore, have said something indiscreet,
but I have said nothing but what
I am willing to live by,
and, in the pleasure of almighty God, die by.


In a ceremony Lincoln raises the American flag.


Lincoln is dining with Judd, Davis, Lamon, and COL. EDWIN SUMNER.

Unless there are some other reasons
besides fear of ridicule,
I am disposed to carry out Judd’s plan
to go secretly to Washington tonight
with only Lamon for protection.
No one else is to be told of this plan,
except I shall inform Mrs. Lincoln myself.

That settles the matter, gentlemen.

It is a damned piece of cowardice
and against my judgment,
but I have undertaken to go to Washington
with Mr. Lincoln, and I shall do it.


Lincoln wears a traveling suit with a soft felt hat and carries a shawl under his arm. He is being escorted by the strong Lamon. As Lincoln and Lamon get into a carriage, Judd distracts Col. Sumner by putting his hand on his shoulder. As the carriage drives off, Sumner complains to Judd.

You tricked me, sir!

When we get to Washington,
Mr. Lincoln will determine
what apology is due you.



February 23

As Pinkerton, Lincoln, and Lamon get off the train, ELIHU WASHBURNE steps forward to greet them, barely recognizing Lincoln in his unusual clothes.

You can’t play that on me.

Lamon cocks his fist to hit the stranger, but Lincoln restrains him by holding his arm.

Don’t strike him.
It is Congressman Washburne.

I’ll take you directly to Seward
at Willard’s Hotel.
He must have overslept.

He leads them to a carriage.


Lincoln is talking with Representative ALEXANDER BOTELER.

I apologize
if I am trespassing on your courtesy.

Not a bit.
I wish that more of you
southern gentlemen would call and see me,
as these are times
when there should be a full, fair, and frank
interchange of sentiment among all
who have the good of the country at heart.
So tell me what’s going on in the House today.

A Force Bill is about to pass that would fix
on the President complete authority
over all regular and militia troops of the nation.
This is exciting painful anxiety in Virginia
and is frustrating patriotic efforts
to prevent Virginia from seceding.
I have come to you to ask your opinion of it
and invoke your influence in having it defeated.

You must allow me the Yankee privilege
of answering your questions
by first asking a few myself.
During the Presidential canvass,
were you not national chairman
of the Constitutional Union party
that supported Bell and Everett?


And was not the campaign motto and platform
“The Union, the Constitution,
and the enforcement of the laws”?

It was.


I have already told a Virginia delegation
that I would withdraw forces from Fort Sumter
if Virginia would agree not to secede;
but they did not agree.

I say to you in all sincerity
that the passage of the Force Bill
will paralyze the Unionists in Virginia,
precipitate her into secession,
and unquestionably involve
the whole country in a civil war.

I’ll see what can be done about this bill.
I think it can be stopped,
and I may promise you it will be.



March 2

Lincoln and Seward are conferring.

Thank you, Mr. Seward,
for showing me around Washington
to meet President Buchanan
and the justices of the Supreme Court
as well as Senators and Representatives.
Do you have suggested revisions
of my inaugural address?

Mr. President-Elect, as you know,
seven southern states have already seceded
and formed an independent government
called the Confederate States of America.
This is a critical time in our history,
and civil war hangs in the balance.
I feel that your speech could be softer
with a less confrontational tone.
So I have offered many changes.
I also believe that Chase is too radical
to be in the cabinet,
and so I must give you this.

Seward hands Lincoln a letter.

What is it?

I am withdrawing my acceptance
of the position of Secretary of State.
Good day, sir.

Seward turns and leaves. A deeply concerned Lincoln looks at the speech revisions and the letter.

The end of Part 4

Copyright © 2008 by Sanderson Beck

Learning Politics and Law
In Congress and Out
Debating Douglas
Becoming President
Civil War Begins
Proclaiming Emancipation
War by Conscription
Getting Re-elected
Victory and Death

How Lincoln Could Have Prevented Civil War
Lincoln Bibliography
Lincoln Chronology

BECK index