Never was a political leadership more fairly, more nobly, and more reasonably won. When the ballot boxes were opened on the first Tuesday in November, Lincoln was found to have secured the electoral vote of every Northern State except New Jersey, and in New Jersey four electors out of seven. Breckinridge, the leader of the extreme Southern Democrats, had back of him only the votes of the Southern States outside of the Border States, these latter being divided between Bell and Douglas. Douglas and his shallow theories of “squatter sovereignty” had been buried beneath the good sense of the voters of the North.
LINCOLN AS PRESIDENT ORGANISES THE PEOPLE FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF NATIONAL EXISTENCE
After the election of November, 1860, events moved swiftly. On the 20th of December, comes the first act of the Civil War, the secession of South Carolina. The secession of Georgia had for a time been delayed by the influence of Alexander H. Stephens who, on the 14th of November, had made a great argument for the maintenance of the Union. His chief local opponent at the time was Robert Toombs, the Southern leader who proposed in the near future to “call the roll-call of his slaves on Bunker Hill.” Lincoln was still hopeful of saving to the cause of the Union the Border States and the more conservative divisions of States, like North Carolina, which had supported the Whig party.
In December, we find correspondence between Lincoln and Gilmer of North Carolina, whom he had known in Washington. “The essential difference,” says Lincoln, “between your group and mine is that you hold slavery to be in itself desirable and as something to be extended. I hold it to be an essential evil which, with due regard to existing rights, must be restricted and in the near future exterminated.”
On the 23d of February, 1861, Lincoln reaches Washington where he is to spend a weary and anxious two weeks of waiting for the burden of his new responsibilities. He is at this time fifty-two years of age. In one of his brief addresses on the way to Washington he says: