Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"We Are Elected!"

Cannons sounded and musicians struck up a tune at sunrise. This was no ordinary day in Springfield. Today was Election Day and one of their own might be elected president of the United States.

A crowd of well-wishers and reporters sat with Abraham Lincoln in his office in the statehouse. The mood was light. The presidential candidate was cracking jokes and focusing on local races.

After much prodding, William H. Herndon finally convinced Lincoln that he should cast a ballot in today’s election. At about 3 o’clock, Herndon, along with Ward Hill Lamon and Elmer Ellsworth, accompanied Lincoln to the polls. Refusing to cast a vote for president, Lincoln cut off the top of the ballot and instead voted for the state and local offices.

At about five o’clock, Lincoln took a break and headed home to tell Mary and their three boys about the day. After eating dinner with them and relaxing for a couple of hours, he returned to the state capitol.

A large crowd had already gathered outside.

The returns started to come in. The telegraph operator sent each message to Lincoln. A reporter noticed how Lincoln “seemed to understand their bearing on the general result in the State and commented upon every return by way of comparison with previous elections.”

By nine o’clock the returns were coming in with greater frequency. Lincoln decided to take the telegraph operator up on his offer from the previous day. Lincoln, along with a handful of friends, headed over to the telegraph office so they could read the returns as they arrived.

They received word that Illinois and Indiana had gone Republican, by ten o’clock Pennsylvania had joined them. Everything was going well, but they had still not heard a definite word from New York. New York meant everything.

At eleven o’clock Lincoln and his group filtered down to Watson’s Saloon, where local Republicans were serving supper. When Lincoln entered the saloon, he was greeted with the words, “How do you do, Mr. President?”

Lincoln remained in the telegraph office until about two o’clock in the morning. And then the news came across the wire. The Republican Party had carried New York.

Lincoln was the next president of the United States.

The room erupted in cheers. His friends shook him and asked him if he was happy. “Who could help being so under such circumstances?” Lincoln replied.

Word soon filtered out to the throng of well-wishers assembled in the street. The crowd cheered for “Old Abe.” Church bells began to ring.

Did Lincoln want to say a few words to his well-wishers? He declined, saying he just wanted to go home.

Lincoln later recalled that he “went home, but not to get much sleep, for I then felt as I never had before, the responsibility that was upon me.”

As he approached his house on Eighth and Jackson, Mary greeted him at the door.

“Mary, Mary,” he said, “we are elected!”

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