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- The Life of Abraham Lincoln - 20/46 -
particularly loved plain people, for he had made so many of them.
Shortly after his nomination he was present at a party in Chicago. A little girl approached timidly. He asked, encouragingly, if he could do anything for her. She replied that she wanted his name. He looked about and said, "But here are other little girls--they will feel badly if I give my name only to you." She said there were eight of them in all. "Then," said he, "get me eight sheets of paper, and a pen and ink, and I will see what I can do for you." The materials were brought, and in the crowded drawing-room he sat down, wrote a sentence and his name on each sheet of paper. Thus he made eight little girls happy.
The campaign was one of great excitement. His letter of acceptance was of the briefest description and simply announced his adherence to the platform. For the rest, his previous utterances in the debates with Douglas, the Cooper Institute speech, and other addresses, were in print, and he was content to stand by the record. He showed his wisdom in his refusing to be diverted, or to allow his party to be diverted, from the one important question of preventing the further extension of slavery. The public were not permitted to lose sight of the fact that this was the real issue. The Chicago wigwam was copied in many cities: temporary wooden structures were erected for republican meetings. These did good service as rallying centers.
Then the campaign biographers began to appear. It was said that by June he had had no less than fifty-two applications to write his biography. One such book was written by W. D. Howells, not so famous in literature then as now. Lincoln furnished a sketch of his life, an "autobiography" so called. This contains only about five hundred words. Its brevity is an indication of its modesty.
Nor was there any lack of eulogistic music. Among the writers of campaign songs were J. G. Whittier and E. C. Stedman.
The parading contingent of the party was represented by the "Wide- Awakes." The uniform was as effective as simple. It consisted of a cadet cap and a cape, both made of oil-cloth, and a torch. The first company was organized in Hartford. It had escorted Lincoln from the hotel to the hall and back again when he spoke in that city in February after his Cooper Institute speech. The idea of this uniformed company of cadets captivated the public fancy. Bands of Wide-Awakes were organized in every community in the North. At the frequent political rallies they poured in by thousands and tens of thousands, a very picturesque sight. The original band in Hartford obtained the identical maul with which Lincoln had split those rails in 1830. It is now in the collection of the Connecticut Historical Society, in Hartford.
Though Lincoln had much to cheer him, he had also his share of annoyances. One of his discouragements was so serious, and at this day it appears so amazing, that it is given nearly in full. A careful canvas had been made of the voters of Springfield, and the intention of each voter had been recorded. Lincoln had the book containing this record. He asked his friend Mr. Bateman, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, to look through the book with him. They noted particularly those who might be considered leaders of public morals: clergymen, officers, or prominent members of the churches.
When the memorandum was tabulated, after some minutes of silence, he turned a sad face to Mr. Bateman, and said: "Here are twenty-three ministers, of different denominations, and all of them are against me but three; and here are a great many prominent members of the churches, a very large majority of whom are against 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." He drew from his pocket a New Testament. "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."
After a long pause, he added with tears: "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 doesn't care whether slavery is voted up or voted 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."
After another pause: "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 [the Testament which he was holding] on which I stand,--especially with the knowledge of how these ministers are going to vote. It seems as if God had borne with this thing [slavery] until the very teachers of religion had 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."
Lincoln did not wear his heart upon his sleeve. On the subject of religion, he was reticent to a degree. Peter Cartwright had called him an atheist. There was a wide, if not general, impression, that he was not a religious man. This did him great injustice. It is for this reason that his remarks to Mr. Bateman are here quoted at length. From his early boyhood, from before the time when he was at great pains to have a memorial sermon for his mother, he was profoundly, intensely religious. He did no injustice to any other man, he did not do justice to himself.
The election occurred on the sixth day of November. The vote was as follows: Lincoln received 1,866,452 popular votes, and one hundred and eighty electoral votes. Douglas received 1,375,157 popular votes, and twelve electoral votes. Breckinridge received 847,953 popular votes, and seventy-two electoral votes. Bell received 590,631 popular votes, and thirty-nine electoral votes.
Lincoln carried all the free states, excepting that in New Jersey the electoral vote was divided, he receiving four out of seven. In the fifteen slave states he received no electoral vote. In ten states not one person had voted for him.
Of the 303 electoral votes he had received 180, while the aggregate of all against him numbered 123, giving him an absolute majority of 57. The electoral vote was duly counted in the joint session of the two houses of congress February 13, 1861, and it was officially announced that Abraham Lincoln, having received a majority of the votes of the presidential electors, was duly elected President of the United States for four years, beginning March 4, 1861.
One circumstance is added which may be of interest to the reader. This was published, after his death, by his personal friend, Noah Brooks. It is given in Lincoln's own words: "It was just after my election, in 1860, when the news had been coming in thick and fast all day, and there had been a great 'Hurrah boys!' so that I was well tired out and went home to rest, throwing myself upon a lounge in my chamber. Opposite to where I lay was a bureau with a swinging glass upon it; and looking in that glass, I saw myself reflected nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed, had two separate and distinct images, the tip of the nose of the one being about three inches from the tip of the other. I was a little bothered, perhaps startled, and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished. On lying down again, I saw it a second time, plainer, if possible, than before; and then I noticed that one of the faces was a little paler--say five shades--than the other. I got up, and the thing melted away, and I went off, and, in the excitement of the hour, forgot all about it,--nearly, but not quite, for the thing would once in a while come up, and give me a little pang as though something uncomfortable had happened. When I went home, I told my wife about it, and a few days after I tried the experiment again, when, sure enough, the thing came back again; but I never succeeded in bringing the ghost back after that, though I once tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was worried about it somewhat. She thought it was 'a sign' that I was to be elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of the faces was an omen that I should not see life through the last term."
The incident is of no interest excepting in so far as everything about Lincoln is of interest. The phenomenon is an optical illusion not uncommon. One image--the "paler," or more indistinct, one--is reflected from the surface of the glass, while the other is reflected from the silvered back of the glass. Though Lincoln understood that it was an optical illusion, yet the thought of it evidently weighed on him. Otherwise he would not have repeated the experiment several times, nor would he have told of it to different persons.
FOUR LONG MONTHS.
Four months would not ordinarily be considered a long period of time. But when one is compelled to see the working of a vast amount of mischief, powerless to prevent it, and knowing one's self to be the chief victim of it all, the time is long. Such was the fate of Lincoln. The election was not the end of a life of toil and struggle, it was the beginning of a new career of sorrow. The period of four months between the election and inauguration could not be devoted to rest or to the pleasant plans for a prosperous term of service. There developed a plan for the disruption of the government. The excuse was Lincoln's election. But he was for four months only a private citizen. He had no power. He could only watch the growing mischief and realize that he was the ultimate victim. Buchanan, who was then President, had a genius for doing the most unwise thing. He was a northern man with southern principles, and this may have unfitted him to see things in their true relations. He certainly was putty in the hands of those who wished to destroy the Union, and his vacillation precisely accomplished what they wished. Had he possessed the firmness and spirit of John A. Dix, who ordered,--"If any man attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot;" had he had a modicum of the patriotism of Andrew Jackson; had he had a tithe of the wisdom and manliness of Lincoln; secession would have been nipped in the bud and vast treasures of money and irreparable waste of human blood would have been spared. Whatever the reason may have been,--incapacity, obliquity of moral and political vision, or absolute championship of the cause of disruption,--certain it is that the southern fire-eaters could not have found a tool more perfectly suited to their purpose than James Buchanan. He was the center of one of the most astonishing political cabals of all history.
Lincoln did not pass indiscriminate condemnation upon all men of southern sympathies. At the time of which we are now writing, and consistently up to the end of his life, he made a marked distinction between the rank and file of the Confederates on the one hand, and
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