27 October 2009

ch.11: Lincoln Leaves Springfield

summary: The days between the election and his journey to Washington were trying times for Lincoln. Taking over the presidency in the midst of a possible Civil War was stressful enough. But Lincoln was also trying to hold his party together, organize a cabinet, deal with potential assassination attempts, and he was leaving the city and the people that he loved (Springfield).

Lincoln also had to be careful in his speeches. Many people were looking for policy directives, which he could not offer. So his speeches were bland and disappointing. But in his defense, he couldn’t say enough to unite the nation—and that’s what many people wanted.

Lincoln was despondent when he left Springfield. He visited his mother for an emotional farewell, and told his law partner Billy Herndon that he would be back to practice “law as if nothing had ever happened.” The farewell speech he gave at the Springfield depot was one of his most moving—especially since we know that he never returned to the town he so admired and loved. There are several versions of his speech, according to Herndon this is the most accurate:

Friends: No one who has never been placed in a like position, can understand my feelings at this hour, nor the oppressive sadness I feel at this parting. For more than a quarter of a century I have lived among you, and during all that time I have received nothing but kindness at your hands. Here I have lived from my youth until now I am an old man. Here the most sacred ties of earth were assumed; here all my children were born; and here one of them lies buried. To you, dear friends, I owe all that I have, all that I am. All the strange, chequered past seems to crowd now upon my mind. To-day I leave you; I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon General Washington. Unless the great God who assisted him, shall be with and aid me, I must fail. But if the same omniscient mind, and Almighty arm that directed and protected him, shall guide and support me, I shall not fail, I shall succeed. Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now. To him I commend you all--permit me to ask that with equal security and faith, you all will invoke His wisdom and guidance for me. With these few words I must leave you--for how long I know not. Friends, one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell.

1 comment:

  1. No traditional "Presidential honeymoon" for Lincoln. Even before arriving in D.C., the author tells us: "[Mary Lincoln] received ... a painting depicting Lincoln 'with a rope arond his neck, his feet chained and his body adorned with tar and feathers.'" What a way to begin a new job.

    Tim Utter