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LIFE OF LINCOLN
MR. LINCOLN AS PRESIDENT-ELECT
ALTHOUGH the election of November 6 made Lincoln the President-elect of the United States, for four months he could exercise no direct influence on the affairs of the country. If the South tried to make good her threat to secede in case he was elected, he could do nothing to restrain her. The South did try, and at once. With the very election returns the telegraph brought Lincoln news of disruption. Day by day this news continued, and always more alarming. On November 10, the United States senators from South Carolina resigned. Six weeks later that state passed an ordinance of secession and began to organize an independent government. By the end of December the only remnant of United States authority in South Carolina was the small garrison commanded by Major Anderson which occupied Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor. The remaining forts and batteries of that harbor, the lighthouse tender, the arsenal, the post-office, the custom-house, in short, everything in the state over which the Stars and Stripes had floated, was under the Palmetto Flag. In his quiet office in Springfield, Mr. Lincoln read,
in January, reports of the proceedings of conventions in Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, by all of which states, in that month, ordinances of secession were adopted. In February he saw representatives of these same states unite in a general convention at Montgomery, Alabama, and the newspapers told him how promptly and intelligently they went to work to found a new nation, the Southern Confederacy, to provide it with a constitution and to give it officers.
Mr. Lincoln observed that each state, as she went out of the Union, prepared to defend her course if necessary. On November 18, Georgia appropriated $1,000,000 to arm the state, and in January she seized Forts Pulaski and Jackson and the United States arsenal. Louisiana appropriated all the federal property in her borders, even to the mint and custom-house and the money they contained. Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi were not behind in their seizures, and when the new government was formed at Montgomery, it promptly took up the question of defending its life.
Mr. Lincoln was not only obliged to sit inactive and watch this steady dissolution of the Union, but he was obliged to see what was still harder that the administration which he was to succeed was doing nothing to check the destructionists. Indeed, all through this period proof accumulated that members of Mr. Buchanan's cabinet had been systematically working for many months to disarm the North and equip the South. The quantity of arms sent quietly from Northern arsenals was so great that the citizens
of the towns from which they went became alarmed. Thus the Springfield "Republican" of January 2, 1861, noted that the citizens of that town were growing excited over "the procession of government licenses which, during the last spring and summer, and also quite recently, have been engaged in transporting from the United States Armory to the United States freight station, an immense quantity of boxes of muskets marked for Southern distribution." "We find," the paper continues, "that in 1860 there were removed for safe-keeping in other arsenals 135,430 government arms. This has nothing to do with the distribution occasionally made for state militia." And when, in December, the citizens of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, found that 123 cannon had been ordered South from the arsenal there, they made such energetic protests that President Buchanan was obliged to countermand the order of his Secretary of War.
The rapid disintegration which followed the election of Mr. Lincoln filled the North with dismay. There was a general demand for some compromise which would reassure the South and stop secession. It was the place of the Republicans, the conservatives argued, to make this compromise. A furious clamor broke over Mr. Lincoln's head. His election had caused the trouble; now what would he do to quell it? How much of the Republican platform would he give up? Among the newspapers which pleaded with the President-elect to do something to reassure the South the most able was the New York "Herald." Lincoln was a "sectional President," declared the "Herald," who, out of 4,700,000 votes cast, had re