From the inaugural ceremonies Lincoln drove quietly back through Pennsylvania Avenue and entered the White House, the President of the United States,—alas, united no longer. Many an anxious citizen breathed more freely when the dreaded hours had passed without disturbance. But burdens a thousand fold heavier than any which were lifted from others descended upon the new ruler. Save, however, that the thoughtful, far-away expression of sadness had of late seemed deeper and more impressive than ever before, Lincoln gave no sign of inward trouble. His singular temperament armed him with a rare and peculiar strength beneath responsibility and in the face of duty. He has been seen, with entire tranquillity, not only seeking, but seeming to assume as his natural due or destiny, positions which appeared preposterously out of accord alike with his early career and with his later opportunities for development. In trying to explain this, it is easier to say what was not the underlying quality than what it was. Certainly there was no taint whatsoever of that vulgar self-confidence which is so apt to lead the “free and equal” citizens of the great republic into grotesque positions. Perhaps it was a grand simplicity of faith; a profound instinctive confidence that by patient, honest thinking it would be possible to know the right road, and by earnest enduring courage to follow it. Perhaps it was that so-called divine inspiration which seems always a part of the highest human fitness. The fact which is distinctly visible is, that a fair, plain and honest method of thinking saved him from the perplexities which beset subtle dialecticians in politics and in constitutional law. He had lately said that his course was “as plain as a turnpike road;” it was, to execute the public laws.
His duty was simple; his understanding of it was unclouded by doubt or sophistry; his resolution to do it was firm; but whether his hands would be strengthened sufficiently to enable him to do it was a question of grave anxiety. The president of a republic can do everything if the people are at his back, and almost nothing if the people are not at his back. Where, then, were now the people of the United States? In seven States they were openly and unitedly against him; in at least seven more they were under a very strong temptation to range themselves against him in case of a conflict; and as for the Republican States of the North, on that fourth day of March, 1861, no man could say to what point they would sustain the administration. There had as yet come slight indications of any change in the conceding, compromising temper of that section. Greeley and Seward and Wendell Phillips, representative men, were little better than Secessionists. The statement sounds ridiculous, yet the proof against each comes from his own mouth. The “Tribune” had retracted none of those disunion sentiments, of which examples have been given. Even so late as April 10, 1861, Mr. Seward wrote officially to Mr. C.F.