Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 20, 1861

President-elect Abraham Lincoln meets his Vice President-elect, Hannibal Hamlin, for the first time.  Lincoln is in New York City as part of an 11-day rail journey from his home town of Springfield to Washington, D.C.  Lincoln has made prior stops in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo and Albany.  He had arrived in New York City the day before, and the New York Times reports on the speech he gave to the various committees of the Republican Party of New York City:
"...I do suppose that, while the political drama being enacted in this country, at this time, is rapidly shirting its scenes -- forbidding an anticipation, with any degree of certainty, to-day, what we shall see to-morrow -- it was peculiarly fitting that I should see it all, up to the last minute, before I should take ground that I might be disposed (by the shifting of the scenes afterwards) also to shift. [Applause.] I have said, several times, upon this journey, and I now repeat it to you, that when the time does come, I shall then take the ground that I think is right -- [applause] -- the ground that I think is right -- [applause, and cries of "Good, good"] -- right for the North, for the South, for the East, for the West, for the whole country, [Cries of "Good," "Hurrah for LINCOLN," and applause.] And in doing so, I hope to feel no necessity pressing upon me to say anything in conflict with the Constitution; in conflict with the continued Union of these States -- [applause] -- in conflict with he perpetuation of the Liberties of this people -- [applause] -- or anything in conflict with anything whatever that I have ever given you reason to expect from me."

The  Peace Conference continues its work in Washington, D.C., but as the New York Times  reports, "The Peace Conference had another five-hour session to-day. An animated discussion occurred, as on yesterday, with no result. A vote is expected to-morrow, and the adoption of the report by one majority."  Horatio Nelson Taft, an attorney with the US Patent Office, whose children played often with the Lincoln children at the White House, writes in his diary that he had dinner with J.C. Smith, an old friend and a member of the Peace Conference. 

The Detroit Free Press ran a column discussing the possibility that John B. Floyd, the Secretary of War under James Buchanan, had possibly stocked muskets and rifles in Southern arsenals.

The New York Times ran a column entitled, "President Lincoln and the Crisis", in which they conclude,
“We have full faith in the disposition and ability of Mr. LINCOLN to meet the tremendous responsibility which rests upon him. We have no fear that he will either be seduced into fatal concessions of principle, or coerced into a reckless trifling with dangers which are none the less real because they are unreasonable, and which it is his duty to avert, although he is in no degree responsible for their existence. It can never be a matter of indifference, or of secondary moment, to him, whether the Union is destroyed or not, -- nor is it possible for him, or for any one in his position, to attach more weight to the mere clamor of selfish and malignant partisans, than to the voice of the country which relies on him for deliverance from the dangers which threaten its existence. But, in common with all who look with concern upon the disturbed state of the country, we are looking forward with eager impatience to the time when he can indicate the policy which, in his judgment, the emergencies of the country require.”

Unlike yesterday, the newspapers were fairly silent today on the inauguration of Jefferson Davis which had happened two days prior.  Davis himself penned a letter on this day to his wife, in which he writes,
I was inaugurated on Monday, having reached here on Saturday night. The audience was large and brilliant. Upon my weary heart was showered smiles, plaudits, and flowers; but, beyond them, I saw troubles and thorns innumerable.
We are without machinery, without means, and threatened by a powerful opposition; but I do not despond, and will not shrink from the task imposed upon me.
All along the route, except when in Tennessee, the people at every station manifested good-will and approbation by bonfires at night, firing by day; shouts and salutations in both.
I thought it would have gratified you to have witnessed it, and have been a memory to our children.
Thus I constantly wish to have you all with me. -- Here I was interrupted by the Secretary of the Congress, who brought me two bills to be approved. This is a gay and handsome town of some eight thousand inhabitants, and will not be an unpleasant residence. As soon as an hour is my own, I will look for a house and write to you more fully.

The Valley Spirit newspaper in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, ran a few articles, including a summary of the Democratic County Convention, which concluded that Franklin County Democrats are against war, but seek to uphold the equality and rights of all states.   They also reprinted two articles:  First, from the Hagerstown Herald, which said that all Americans would do good to read the history of the French Revolution before rushing into a war of their own; and second, a reprint from the Philadelphia Ledger, in which during a fancy party a woman dressed as South Carolina had her flag of South Carolina broken by the American flag of another guest, dressed as Lady Liberty.

Lastly, as the rising tide of war is breaking, Joseph Emery Fiske, a student at the Andover Theological Seminary, writes home to his parents.  Here is his letter in full:
My dear Parents, -- If I felt quite jolly and excited about the war news a week ago, how do you think I feel now? But good news is getting to be an old story. My faith, which has been derided by many, is now no stronger than it was six months ago because it can be no stronger. I believe that we are destined to become the greatest nation in the World. This topic is uppermost in the minds of almost all others here and elsewhere as well as myself. I cannot see why we should not expect a series of glorious victories from the Mississippi to the Potomac and down the seaboard to the Mexican line.

February 21, 1861

The headlines from the New York Times on this day:
HIGHLY IMPORTANT FROM WASHINGTON.; The Peace Conference and its Deliberations. Passage of the Tariff Bill Through the Senate. Exciting Debate on the Navy Bill in the House. The Seven Steam Sloops of War Apppropriation Agreed to.Federal Affairs Before the Virginia Convention.ARKANSAS GONE FOR THE UNION!Reported Outrages of the Secessionists in Texas.Abortive Attempt to Hoist a SecessionFlag in Nebraska. THE DEMOCRATS CHANGE FRONT. THE NAVY BILL. MR. DOUGALAS AND THE TARIFF. THE DUTY ON COFFEE. SECESSION AND THE EUROPEAN POWERS. PREPARATIONS FOR THE INAUGURATION. MR. ASHMUN AND THE CABINET. MR. LINCOLN'S HOUSE. THE REPORT ON THE KANSAS CLAIMS. NAVAL MATTIERS. CAPT. MAFFIT AND THE CRUSADER. CAPT. MEIGS RECALLED. THE CONVENTIONS WITH COSTA RICA
The New York Times also reported on President-elect Lincoln's day in New York City, where he had stopped for two days on his way to his inauguration in Washington, D.C. Lincoln breakfasted at the with several New York dignitaries, and then met with a 94-year old veteran of the Revolution who had voted in every election the United States had ever held. As he voted for Lincoln, the "interview was pleasing to both parties." Lincoln then went to City Hall for a speech, where he was introduced by Mayor Fernando Wood, who said in part,
The present political divisions have sorely afflicted her people. All her material interests are paralyzed. Her commercial greatness is endangered. She is the child of the American Union. She has grown up under its maternal care, and been fostered by its paternal bounty, and we fear that if the Union dies, the present supremacy of New-York may perish with it. To you, therefore, chosen under the forms of the Constitution as the head of the Confederacy, we look for a restoration of fraternal relations between the States -- only to be accomplished by peaceful and conciliatory means -- aided by the wisdom of Almighty God.

Lincoln responded,
In regard to the difficulties that confront us at this time, and of which you have seen fit to speak so becomingly, and so justly, as I suppose, I can only say that I agree with the sentiments expressed by the Mayor. In my devotion to the Union, I hope I am behind no man in the nation. As to my wisdom in conducting affairs so as to tend to the preservation of the Union, I fear too great confidence may have been placed in me. I am sure I bring a heart devoted to the work. There is nothing that could ever bring me to consent -- willingly to consent -- to the destruction of this Union, (in which not only the great City of New-York, but the whole country has acquired its greatness,) unless it would be that thing for which the Union itself was made. I understand that the ship is made for the carrying and preservation of the cargo, and so long as the ship is safe with the cargo it shall not be abandoned. This Union shall never be abandoned unless the possibility of its existence shall cease to exist, without the necessity of throwing passengers and cargo overboard. So long, then, as it is possible that the prosperity and liberties of this people can be preserved within this Union, it shall be my purpose at all times to preserve it.

The doors were then opened, and the crowd awaiting outside was given permission to enter. At a rate of about three thousand an hour, they came in to shake Lincoln's hand, and the Times reports the following exchanges,
Nearly every man had a word for Mr. LINCOLN'S ear. "God bless you," "Stand firm," "Glad to see you," &c. were the favorite greetings, but there was an occasional greeting, "How d'ye do. Uncle Abraham," said a frisky youth; "I am glad to see a President who has some reverence for the laws of God," said a gentleman in a white cravat; "It's a hard day's work you have, Mr. LINCOLN," said another. One stout old lady, who had braved the thickest of the crowd and lost her husband in the melee, but found him again, took an especial long look, and informed Mr. LINCOLN that her husband was a member of the Legislature.

The Chicago Tribune wrote of the preparations for Lincoln's Inaugural Ball.

The news from the Peace Conference was not promising on this day,
The Peace Convention is no nearer an agreement than on the day of its first meeting; and the probability is that the deliberations of two weeks have only served to develop irreconcilable differences. I predicted in a letter to the TIMES, that the Convention would do nothing, or worse than nothing -- that they would very probably agree to something like the Crittenden proposition, which can never be assented to by a Republican Congress, or that they would come to no agreement. If the Virginia Convention, instead of the Legislature, had had the appointment of the delegates to this Peace Convention, a better result might have been looked for. The State Convention represents the people on the question of the Union, but the Legislature only represents the Secession rump of the disorganized Democracy. That body has sent here three Secessionists at heart, however they may wish to disguise the fact, with the arch traitor JOHN TYLER at its head, who, in 1841-'2, cheated the old Whigs out of their splendid victory, and matched over with drums beating and flags flying, under the escort of a corporal's guard, headed by WISE, to the enemy's camp. It is announced this morning that the Convention will agree upon terms which will be satisfactory "even to the Virginia Commissioners." Nothing could be more fatal to the proposed objects of the Convention than such a result, if it were possible. But no intelligent man will, for a moment, believe that the Republicans in the Convention will ever assent to the slave-code theories of JOHN TYLER; and if any such agreement shall ever be made, it will be after half the Republicans shall have retired.

James C. Smith had made a strong speech against compromise (one can only imagine that this had been the hot topic of discussion during his dinner with Horatio Taft). And the Virginia delegation "gave notice to-day that the next movement would be a Convention of Southern States, the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, with guarantees, and an invitation to all States desiring so to do to enter into the Confederacy." As the Times reported noted, "This is simply a roundabout way of declaring for secession, and nothing more."

T.R.R. Cobb wrote to his wife, to give her his "'daily food' of pouring out [his] love and [his] sorrows to one who stands so far above all human beings to [him] that in [his] thoughts [he] rank her with angels." He notes that three Cabinet positions have been confirmed -- Toombs as Secretary of State, Memminger as Secretary of the Treasury, and Pope Walker as Secretary of War. He says it is also understood that Judah Benjamin is Attorney General and Mr. Ellett of Mississippi is the Postmaster General.

And finally, in a letter from Charles Reemelin to Roswell Marsh , Reemelin (an Ohio Democrat) gives his position on the status of slaves,
Allow me now to explain a point brought clearly out by your remarks about 'our ancestors believing slaves property by the law of nature, as horses or cattle.' I hope you never understood me as saying that our ancestors so believed! If you did, it was indeed a misunderstanding. I hold the reverse of this to be true. They respected slavery only as they did other property rights, such as bank charters, etc., so far as State law gave them sanction -- naturally they regarded all men as free. A negro slave could be a slave only through State law, and their importation was sanctioned until 1808. After the prohibition of the slave trade the States could not add to the number of slaves from abroad; but for those in the States and their children State law continued slavery. The question between you and me is, therefore, not as to the law of nature -- on that we agree -- it is when the State law ceases. And as to this we also agree, that that State law cannot override other State law; that is to say, Kentucky cannot force Ohio to recoginize the slave tenure, but Ohio may do so, and if it does, or has done so, as in the return of fugitive slaves, it should keep its plighted faith. Where we disagree is, whether a State law dies at the State line if beyond that line there be United States territory? You contend that the law of nature retakes effect; I contend the State law continues until abrogated by valid law. Such a law, I say farther, the United States Government cannot pass, because it has not general legislative authority, and because it cannot discriminate against the property of citizens of the several States. Nor can the territories pass such law, as they are not sovereign; and moreover, that States growing out of territories must, as was ever done, especially in the lands falling to Iowa out of Missouri, deal fairly with any property found therein. To make this point clear beyond possibility of misunderstanding, let us suppose a territory on the Pacific ocean. One emigrant from Missouri takes slaves there, another does so from Cuba. The State law of Missouri continues upon the slave, because law to the United States; the law of Cuba dies, because in no wise law here. Hence I say, a being a slave legally in any of our States, remains a slave until freed by some valid legal procedure.