Inauguration – 1861 vs. 1865
(heavily condensed and kind of Seward oriented)
In 1861, for his first inauguration, Abraham Lincoln arrived under a cloudy sky in Washington D.C..
After cutting the city of Baltimore from his whistle stop tour from Springfield to the capital because of an assassination plot, public perception of the president-elect was anything but positive.
“Had we any respect for Mr. Lincoln, official or personal, as a man, or as President-elect of the United States […] the final escapade by which he reached the capital would have utterly demolished it. […]We do not believe the Presidency can ever be more degraded by any of his successors than it has by him, even before his inauguration.”, wrote the Baltimore Sun.
Cut off from friends and family with very few companions in Washington, Lincoln was greeted by Senator William H. Seward on February 23, who would become not only his future Secretary of State, but also a close advisor and a friend.
Lincoln spend his first night as president elect in Washington at the Seward home for a private dinner – and it was Seward who was the first person to lay eyes on Lincoln’s inaugural address.
The very next day, the two of them attended St. John’s Episcopal Church together and afterwards spend two hours at the Seward home going over the speech once more. In the evening, the senator returned the paper with his now famous remarks.
Only two days before the inauguration, the newly formed coalition was put to a first test.
A deputation headed by Simeon Draper, a New York merchant and friend of Seward visits Lincoln and protests the appointment of Salmon P. Chase to the cabinet. Lincoln, in return proposes an alternate slate without Seward’s name.
Seward, at this point not yet familiar with the way his president was used to doing business, offered to withdraw his own appointment.
With only hours to go, on March 2nd, Lincoln answered:
“I feel constrained to beg that you will countermand the withdrawal. The public interest, I think, demands that you should; and my personal feelings are deeply inlisted in the same direction.”
In the afternoon they have a long talk, make up and Seward attends the dinner in honor of the new cabinet on the following evening.
Under a “bright and clear” sky, the inauguration takes place in front of 30.000 spectators and Seward is only a little jealous that his stilted remarks are turned into pure poetry.
Here is Seward’s version:
“The mystic chords which proceeding from so many battle fields and so many patriot graves pass through all the hearts and all the hearths in this broad continent of ours will yet again harmonize in their ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angel of the nation.”
And this is what Lincoln made of it:
“The mystic chords 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”
(yeah, it totally becomes more evident if you read it out loud)
Four years later, the public mood – and the weather – had changed.
On November 8, 1864, Abraham Lincoln was the first president to be re-elected since Andrew Jackson in 1832.
Electoral College votes were counted from 25 states and Lincoln won by more than 400,000 popular votes against George B. McClellan.
On February 1st, the president approves the resolution to submitting the Thirteenth Amendment to the states.
Roughly a month later, Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward met with southern commissioners for the Hampton Roads Peace Conference.
The conference took place on a steamboat near Union-controlled Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.
While there are no official records of the conference itself, the southern commissioners must have felt that the Confederacy wasn’t to last much longer and while they would not agree to the terms offered (unconditional surrender), they were willing to further negotiate.
Based on these talks, Abraham Lincoln wrote an amnesty resolution requesting amnesty and $400,000,000 for the Southern states if they ended armed resistance and ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.
The resolution stipulated that the Confederacy would receive $200,000,000 if it ceased “resistance to national authority” before April 1, 1865, and $200,000,000 more for successful ratification of the Thirteenth amendment before July 1, 1865.
It was a last ditch effort to end the war and offer compensated emancipation.
It was also the last time that Seward would openly disagree with Lincoln (as did the rest of the cabinet).
On February 5, 1865, President Lincoln submitted to the Cabinet a draft resolution to be presented to Congress and later endorsed it as follows. “Feb. 5. 1865
To-day these papers, which explain themselves, were drawn up and submitted to the Cabinet & unanamously disapproved by them.
The measure was never sent to Congress.
On Saturday, March 4, 1865, Abraham Lincoln takes the oath of office for the second time, administered by Chief Justice Chase, shortly after noon and delivers his Second Inaugural Address – for the first time ever, in front of a racially mixed crowd.
There is little he can offer at this point to the southern states – so he admits that both sides are to blame.
“Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.”
And he promises to work on fixing it:
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”