It is difficult for younger generations of Americans to believe that three months before Mr. Lincoln was nominated for the Presidency he was neither appreciated nor known in New York. That fact can be better established by a single incident than by the opinions and assurances of a dozen men.
After the address had been delivered, Mr. Lincoln was taken by two members of the Young Men’s Central Republican Union—Mr. Hiram Barney, afterward Collector of the Port of New York, and Mr. Nott, one of the subsequent editors of the address—to their club, The Athenaeum, where a very simple supper was ordered, and five or six Republican members of the club who chanced to be in the building were invited in. The supper was informal—as informal as anything could be; the conversation was easy and familiar; the prospects of the Republican party in the coming struggle were talked over, and so little was it supposed by the gentlemen who had not heard the address that Mr. Lincoln could possibly be the candidate that one of them, Mr. Charles W. Elliott, asked, artlessly: “Mr. Lincoln, what candidate do you really think would be most likely to carry Illinois?” Mr. Lincoln answered by illustration: “Illinois is a peculiar State, in three parts. In northern Illinois, Mr. Seward would have a larger majority than I could get. In middle Illinois, I think I could call out a larger vote than Mr. Seward. In southern Illinois, it would make no difference who was the candidate.” This answer was taken to be merely illustrative by everybody except, perhaps, Mr. Barney and Mr. Nott, each of whom, it subsequently appeared, had particularly noted Mr. Lincoln’s reply.
The little party broke up. Mr. Lincoln had been cordially received, but certainly had not been flattered. The others shook him by the hand and, as they put on their overcoats, said: “Mr. Nott is going down town and he will show you the way to the Astor House.” Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Nott started on foot, but the latter observing that Mr. Lincoln was apparently Walking with some difficulty said, “Are you lame, Mr. Lincoln?” He replied that he had on new boots and they hurt him. The two gentlemen then boarded a street car. When they reached the place where Mr. Nott would leave the car on his way home, he shook Mr. Lincoln by the hand and, bidding him good-bye, told him that this car would carry him to the side door of the Astor House. Mr. Lincoln went on alone, the only occupant of the car. The next time he came to New York, he rode down Broadway to the Astor House standing erect in an open barouche drawn by four white horses. He bowed to the patriotic thousands in the street, on the sidewalks, in the windows, on the house-tops, and they cheered him as the lawfully elected President of the United States and bade him go on and, with God’s help, save the Union.