Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"These Political Fiends are Not Half Sick Yet"

The president-elect did not want to issue a public statement. What was left to say? He won a free and fair election. His speeches, as well as the Republican Party platform were already in circulation. If the secessionists were not willing to abide by the results of the election, they would hardly be willing to listen as Lincoln simply reiterated his position.

Nonetheless, Senator Lyman Trumbull was scheduled to speak in Springfield on this day in 1860. Though Lincoln doubted it would do any good, he agreed to insert a few lines into the senator’s speech:

I have labored in, and for, the Republican organization with entire confidence that whenever it shall be in power, each and all of the States will be left in as complete control of their own affairs respectively, and at as perfect liberty to choose, and employ, their own means of protecting property, and preserving peace and order within their respective limits, as they have ever been under any administration. Those who have voted for Mr. Lincoln, have expected, and still expect this; and they would not have voted for him had they expected otherwise. I regard it as extremely fortunate for the peace of the whole country, that this point, upon which the Republicans have been so long, and so persistently misrepresented, is now to be brought to a practical test, and placed beyond the possibility of doubt. Disunionists per se, are now in hot haste to get out of the Union, precisely because they perceive they can not, much longer, maintain apprehension among the Southern people that their homes, and firesides, and lives, are to be endangered by the action of the Federal Government. With such ``Now, or never'' is the maxim.

Eight days later, the editor of the New York Times wrote the president-elect and encouraged him to issue a statement to the secessionists. Clearly frustrated, Lincoln replied to the editor:

On the 20th. Inst. Senator Trumbull made a short speech which I suppose you have both seen and approved. Has a single newspaper, heretofore against us, urged that speech [upon its readers] with a purpose to quiet public anxiety? Not one, so far as I know. On the contrary the Boston Courier, and its' class, hold me responsible for the speech, and endeavor to inflame the North with the belief that it foreshadows an abandonment of Republican ground by the incoming administration; while the Washington Constitution, and its' class hold the same speech up to the South as an open declaration of war against them.

This is just as I expected, and just what would happen with any declaration I could make. These political fiends are not half sick enough yet. ``Party malice'' and not ``public good'' possesses them entirely. ``They seek a sign, and no sign shall be given them.'' At least such is my present feeling and purpose.

The president-elect was determined to remain quiet until the inaugural.

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