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Benjamin Harrison had been a Brigadier General in the Civil War, and was the last Civil War General to win the presidency. (William McKinley was the last Civil War veteran to become president, but the highest rank he achieved was that of Major). Harrison had a soft spot for his fellow vets and when he became President, he quickly pressed for and obtained the passage of the Dependent and Disability Pension Act. He signed the bill into law on June 27, 1890. The act provided pensions for all veterans who had served at least ninety days in the Union military or naval forces, who were honorably discharged from service and who were unable to perform manual labor, regardless of their financial situation or when the disability was suffered. The bill had a source of contentious debate. A previous version of the bill was vetoed by President Grover Cleveland in 1887.

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The issue of pensions for Civil War veterans had been discussed since shortly after the war began. In 1862, a basic system was established which granted pensions to soldiers who could provide proof of time spent in the military and a disability incurred while in service. Under this system, pension money could be collected from the date of discharge if claims were filed within one year of that date. Then in 1879, the Arrears of Pension Act was passed. It allowed all Union veterans to reapply for pension and receive back payments to the date of their discharge, regardless of when they may have previously applied. This legislation did not change the requirement that disabilities be service-related. But it was nevertheless a very expensive bill. Veterans became eligible to receive large sums of money for several years of retroactive pension payments. This resulted in a flood of applications and a large increase in pension expenditures for the federal government.

The Arrears Act gave new life to the Grand Army of the Republic (the "GAR"), an organization consisting mostly of Union veterans. With the political assistance from the Republican Party, the GAR became much more active in lobbying for liberal pension legislation following passage of the Arrears Act. The first comprehensive pension disability bill was put before Congress in 1887. This bill, almost identical to the bill that was later signed by Harrison, granted pensions to all Union veterans suffering from a disability, regardless of its origin. It awarded all eligible veterans a pension of $12 per month. (The Dependent and Disability Act gave pensions worth between $6 and $12 depending on the severity of the disability in question). It also required applicants to prove that they were financially dependent on another source, a requirement that was not included in the final version of the bill passed in 1890.

When the first bill was passed, Grover Cleveland vetoed the bill on February 11, 1887, infuriating the GAR and setting the stage to make pensions a central issue in the 1888 election. Cleveland objected to the bill because it was extremely costly, and because he believed that it would be too difficult to determine the extent to which applicants were dependent on others. He also felt that the system would be abused by fraud. The bill returned to the House but did not garner enough votes to override the President’s veto.

The GAR proved to be very influential in the 1888 election. The Republican Party nominated Civil War veteran Benjamin Harrison to run against the incumbent Cleveland, promising to push for more extensive pensions. Cleveland won the popular vote but Harrison won the crucial swing states of Indiana and New York, which contained 38,000 and 45,000 veterans receiving pensions respectively. The Republican Party’s position on the pension issue allowed Harrison to narrowly win these two states, just 2,300 and 13,000 votes respectively.

Following his inauguration, Harrison reorganized the Pension Bureau and appointed James Tanner as the new commissioner of pensions. Harrison pushed for a disability bill, which ultimately passed without a single vote from a Southern congressman. Under the final form of the law, any disabled Union veteran who had served at least ninety days was eligible to receive a pension, regardless of whether or not his disability was incurred in service. The final version of the act also allowed for the collection of pensions by widows of veterans and for children under the age of 16.

The Disability and Dependent Pension Act was resulted in an enormous spike in federal expenditures on pensions. In 1890, just 537,944 veterans were receiving pensions. By 1893, that number had almost doubled to 966,012. In 1889, the federal government spent $89,000,000 on these pensions, a figure that jumped to $159,000,000 by 1893. By 1894, 37% of the government budget was set aside for pension payments.

The problem was made worse by the people that Harrison put in charge of the Pension Bureau. An investigation into the Pension Bureau too place. The investigation found evidence of lavish and illegal handouts under James Tanner. Although there was no evidence of theft on the part of Tanner, it was discovered that he had a tendency to, in his words, "treat the boys liberally" and loosen rules so that veterans could more easily qualify for pensions.

As a result of the investigation, Harrison realized that appointing Tanner had been a mistake, due to his apparent loose management style and his tendency to brag about his generosity with government money. Harrison asked Tanner to resign and replaced him with Green B. Raum. Raum was also a problem, as he was accused of accepting loan payments in return for expediting pension cases. Congress split on its investigation into Raum and Harrison accepted the dissenting Congressional Republican investigation report that exonerated Raum. He kept Raum in office for the rest of his administration.


Cleveland ran against Harrison in the election of 1892 and this time Cleveland won the re-match. Harrison's administration had dissipated much of surplus that Cleveland had left in the treasury at the end of his presidency, much of it spent on the pension payouts. Cleveland won the election by 277 electoral votes to Harrison's 145, and also won the popular vote by 5,556,918 to 5,176,108. It was the most decisive presidential election in 20 years.
Bob Woodward is an iconic investigative journalist and associate editor with the Washington Post who became famous for his 1974 expose of the Nixon White House entitled All the President's Men (co-authored with his friend and colleague Carl Bernstein), which detailed their investigative reporting which broke the Watergate scandal and led to the downfall of a President. In the intervening years he had written many other best-selling books about Presidents and their administrations. In his new best-seller Fear: Trump in the White House, Woodward once again utilizes his ability to amass an impressive array of sources to give the reader a front-row seat to the most private and intimate policy discussions between the President and his senior advisers and cabinet members, discussions so frank that it is as if Woodward had the Oval Office bugged. The book is based on hundreds of hours of interviews had with senior members of the White House Staff.

As many might expect, Woodward portrays an unflattering picture of the 45th President as someone who is impulsive, narcissistic, and disorganized, having a short attention-span, and who is unwilling to share the limelight or admit mistakes. The book maintains that on many occasions, subordinates sabotage Trump's impulsive decisions, ones which lack consideration of their long-term negative implications. This is not to suggest that the book is at its core motivated by "anti-Trump" considerations. There are a number of areas in which Woodward is actually supportive of the President, for example in his criticism of former FBI Director James Comey for his clumsy effort to intimidate Trump in a J. Edgar Hoover-like manner over an incident alleging activities with Russian prostitutes that is likely a made-up story. Woodward's sources also suggest that the President and his lawyers have been extremely forthcoming in providing information to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller in his investigation of the Trump White House. He is unable to locate any credible evidence of wrongdoing on the the part of the President in connection with alleged Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.

Many of the positions taken by Trump are ones which might otherwise be supportable, if not for the President's personality. They are at least concerning issues on which reasonable people can hold opposing views. For example, according to Woodward, the President would like to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and other venues around the world and end American's role as the world's policeman. On this he is at odds with his generals and national security advisors who warn that doing so would make the nation unsafe. In the age old historic battle of protectionism vs. free trade, Trump is against the globalist perspective, while all but a few of his economic advisers strongly disagree. It is ironic that many of the people who mobilize protests against the president likely share many of his opinions on many of these issues.

Woodward takes Trump to task for some of his more indefensible positions and actions, such as his refusal to refute his criticism of both white supremacists at Charlottesville, as well as those who protested their activities (in which Trump said that both were equally at fault). He also calls out the President for his recklessness in courting nuclear war by his childish twitter war with North Korean leader Kim-Jong Un.

This book, like many other Woodward offerings, is amazing for its rich supply of source information. A number of private discussions between the president and his chiefs of staff, leading cabinet members and cabinet level officials, and top military advisers are described in conversational detail. Featuring prominently in the book are former Staff Secretary Rob Porter, former economic adviser Gary Cohn, lawyer John Dowd and Senator Lindsay Graham. It is especially astounding that somehow Woodward has access to solicitor-client discussions between Trump and his lawyers, which if accurate (and Woodward assures us that they are), raise questions about potential and serious breaches of lawyer-client confidentiality. The detail provided in the book about meetings on national security issues are also concerning in that if this level of detail is accessible to reporters, what secrets are kept from foreign governments?


Writing a book about perhaps the most polarizing president in history makes objectivity an impossible task. Trump supporters are apt to write off any criticism as "fake news" while Trump haters are out for blood and likely to magnify any transgressions or flaws, rather than see them in their proper perspective. For the reader interested in seeing current events through as future history (and therefore concerned about the absence of bias or agenda on the part of the narrator), Woodward comes as close as possible to presenting an objective picture of life in the White House. He gives the reader a good sense of what is overblown and what we should be concerned about. In this day and age of twitter wars and cyber-incivility, that's a pretty amazing accomplishment.

Ulysses Grant and the Post-Civil War World

Ulysses Grant's presidency began with a break from a usual inauguration tradition. Outgoing President Andrew Johnson refused to ride in the same carriage as Grant and also refused to attend Grant's inauguration at the Capitol. The Civil War and reconstruction of the nation was on everyone's mind and it was the main subject addressed by Grant in his Inaugural Address. In his speech, Grant promised to approach the problem of reconstruction "calmly, without prejudice, hate or sectional pride."


Grant selected a cabinet mainly composed of his friends and supporters, rather than seeking to appease the various factions in the Republican Party. He chose his friend Elihu B. Washburne as Secretary of State. (Washburne served only twelve days before resigning over claims of ill-health). Grant then appointed Hamilton Fish, a conservative New York statesman, as Secretary of State. Fish would be Grant's most successful appointment. Grant appointed his former fellow Union Officer John A. Rawlins as Secretary of War. Rawlins had been Grant's principal aide when Grant was commanding in the civil war. One of his tasks was to keep Grant sober. Grant promoted Sherman to his own former post as Commanding General. Rawlins died in office in 1869 and Grant appointed William W. Belknap as his replacement. Both Rawlins and Belknap and had limited Sherman's military authority and Grant refused to contradict them. This put a strain on Grant's relationship with Sherman.

By 1870, all of the former Confederate states were successfully restored into the United States. Grant lobbied Congress to pass the Fifteenth Amendment, a constitutional amendment intended to guarantee that no state could prevent someone from voting based on race. Grant believed that its passage would secure the rights of freed slaves. To enforce the new amendment, Grant relied on the army and the newly created Justice Department. In 1870, Grant had signed a bill establishing the Department of Justice. The department was created in part to see that federal laws were enforced in the South, where state courts and prosecutors were unwilling to do so. Previously, the Attorney-Ggeneral had only been only a legal adviser to the president. Now the A-G led a cabinet department dedicated to enforcing federal law, with a Solicitor General to assist him.

Grant was angry at this rise in terror and violence by the Ku Klux Klan and other groups. With Grant's encouragement, Congress passed the Enforcement Acts in 1870 and 1871. These Acts made it a federal offense to deprive any person of his civil rights and allowed the president to use the army to enforce the laws. In May 1871, Grant ordered federal troops to assist US Marshals in arresting Klansmen. In October of that year, Grant suspended the writ of habeas corpus in part of South Carolina and sent federal troops to enforce the law there. With Grant's aggressive enforcement, the Klan's power collapsed, and by 1872, elections in the South saw African Americans voting in record numbers.

In 1872, Grant signed the Amnesty Act, which restored political rights to former Confederates. But the spotlight was taken off of Grant's efforts to help African-Americans, due to scandals in Washington involving members of Grant's administration. This made it harder for Grant to find support for his enforcement policies. After the collapse of the Klan in 1872, southern whites formed armed groups such as the Red Shirts in South Carolina and the White League. Unlike the Ku Klux Klan, these groups were not secret. Like the Klan however they used violence and intimidation against African Americans in order to take control of state governments away from the Republicans. The economic Panic of 1873 and the ensuing depression made many in the North grew less concerned with reconstructing the South.

By 1875, Democratic politicians known as "Redeemers" retook control of all but three Southern states. Violence against African-Americans escalated again. Grant signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which expanded federal law enforcement by prohibiting discrimination on account of race in public accommodations, public transportation, and jury service. But the law was rarely enforced and so it did not stop the rise of white supremacist forces in the South.

In the election of 1876, Grant chose not to seek a third term in office, following the precedent set by George Washington. In the election the remaining three Republican governments in the South fell to the Democrat "Redeemers". The election results left the question of who would be President in doubt. The issue was decided by what became known as the Compromise of 1877, in which Republican Rutherford Hayes became President, and US troops were removed from the south. This marked the end of Reconstruction.

After leaving the Presidency, Grant embarked on a world tour where he was well received. The countries he visited included England, Ireland, India, Burma, Siam, Vietnam, China and Japan. In 1880 Grant changed his mind about a third term in the White House, but he was unable to secure the Republican nomination, and James Garfield was selected as a compromise candidate.

Grant's son Ulysses Jr. (known as "Buck") had gone into business with an unscrupulous partner named Ferdinand Ward. Ward swindled a number of investors after using Grant's name to secure their investment. Although he had no legal responsibility for the debt, Grant helped his son repay the investors by selling off most of his Civil War memorabilia. The matter left Grant financially destitute.

Grant had forfeited his military pension when he assumed the presidency, but Congress restored him to the rank of General of the Army with full retirement pay in March 1885. Around the same time, Grant learned that he was suffering from throat cancer, and he was concerned about how his family would make ends meet after he was gone. Grant wrote several articles on his Civil War campaigns for The Century Magazine at $500 each. The articles were critically acclaimed, and editor Robert Underwood Johnson suggested that Grant write a book of memoirs, as Sherman and others had successfully done. Century offered Grant a book contract with a 10% royalty, but Grant's friend, Mark Twain, made his own offer to Grant for his memoirs, proposing a 75% royalty. Grant accepted Twain's offer.

Grant worked on his memoirs at his home in New York City, and then from a cottage on the slopes of Mount McGregor. The deadline he was working on was his own lifeline. He finished the book shortly before he died on July 23, 1885. The book, entitled Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, was a huge success. Julia Grant received about $450,000.

Grant was 63 years old at the time of his death. President Grover Cleveland ordered a thirty-day nationwide period of mourning. After private services, Grant's body was placed on a funeral train and traveled via West Point to New York City, where a quarter of a million people viewed it in the two days prior to the funeral. Tens of thousands of men, many veterans from the Union Army, marched with Grant's casket to Riverside Park on the west side of New York. His pallbearers included Union generals Sherman and Sheridan, Confederate generals Simon Bolivar Buckner and Joseph E. Johnston, Union Admiral David Dixon Porter, and John A. Logan. His body was laid to rest in Riverside Park, first in a temporary tomb, and later in a sarcophagus at General Grant National Memorial, better known as "Grant's Tomb". Above the entrance to the building, etched in marble, is Grant's 1868 campaign slogan: "Let us have peace."

Remembering James Garfield

On September 19, 1881 (1387 years ago today) James Abram Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, died as the result of gunshot wounds he sustained earlier that year, when he was shot by assassin Charles Guiteau at a Washington DC train station. He was 49 years of age.

On the morning of July 2, 1881, Garfield was on his way to Williams College, his alma mater, where he was scheduled to give a speech. Garfield was accompanied by two members of his cabinet, Secretary of State James G. Blaine and Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln, as well as his two sons, James and Harry. As he was walking through the Sixth Street Station of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad in Washington at 9:30 a.m., Garfield was shot twice from behind, once across the arm and once in the back.

His assassin, Charles J. Guiteau, was the poster boy of disgruntled office-seekers. Guiteau had deluded himself to believe that he was on close terms with Garfield even though the two had never spoken to each other. Guiteau also believed he was entitled to a Federal appointment as the United States consul in Paris, a position for which he had no qualifications. Guiteau also believed that a short speech he had made to a small group of people during the presidential election campaign was the cause of Garfield's election to the presidency, which therefore justified his appointment. When the appointment did not materialize, Guiteau believed he could save the nation if Garfield was killed.

Guiteau stalked Garfield for weeks, armed with a .44 caliber Webley Bulldog revolver. As Guiteau was being arrested after the shooting, he repeatedly said, "I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts! I did it and I want to be arrested! Arthur is President now!" This very briefly led to unfounded suspicions that Vice-President Chester Alan Arthur or his supporters had put Guiteau up to the crime.

One bullet grazed Garfield's arm. The second bullet was thought later to have lodged near his liver but could not be found. When his autopsy was done, the bullet was found behind the pancreas. Alexander Graham Bell specifically devised a metal detector to find the bullet, but the device's signal was thought to be distorted by the metal bed springs.Later the detector was proved to work perfectly and would have found the bullet had Dr. Doctor Willard Bliss (yes, he was a Doctor of Medicine whose given name was also "Doctor") allowed Bell to use the device on Garfield's left side as well.

Garfield became increasingly ill over a period of several weeks due to infection, which caused his heart to weaken. He remained bedridden in the White House with fever and extreme pain. As the heat of summer became more oppressive for the stricken President, a Navy engineer installed what may have been the world's first air conditioner, in Garfield's bedroom. An air blower was installed over a chest containing 6 tons of ice, with the air then dried by conduction through a long iron box filled with cotton screens, and connected to the room's heat vent. This device was at times capable of reducing the air temperature to 20°F (11°C) below the outside temperature.

On September 6th Garfield was moved to the Jersey Shore in the hope that the fresh air and quiet there might aid his recovery. In a matter of hours, local residents put down a special rail spur for Garfield's train. Some of the ties are now part of the Garfield Tea House.

On Monday, September 19, 1881, at 10:20 p.m. President James Garfield suffered a massive heart attack and a ruptured splenic artery aneurysm, following blood poisoning and bronchial pneumonia. Garfield was pronounced dead at 10:35 p.m. by Dr. Bliss in the Elberon section of Long Branch, New Jersey. Mrs. Garfield remained with her dead husband for over an hour until prompted to leave the room. The wounded President died exactly two months before his 50th birthday. His final words were "My work is done."

Guiteau was formally indicted on October 14, 1881, for the murder of the President. Guiteau's counsel argued the insanity defense, but the jury found him guilty on January 5, 1882, and he was sentenced to death. Guiteau was executed on June 30, 1882.

An outstanding book about Garfield's assassination is Candice Millard's 2011 work Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, a review of which was posted in this community here. PBS has produced an outstanding documentary about Garfield called Murder of a President.

Andrew Johnson Goes to the People

President Andrew Johnson's time in Washington in the mid-1860s could not have been filled will happy memories. First he had to face the danger of being a Unionist in a Confederate state during the civil war, something that created both intense personal unpopularity and physical danger to him and his family. Then in 1864, when he was elected as Vice-President on a ticket with Abraham Lincoln, there was the little matter of his turning up drunk for his inauguration and giving an embarrassing, rambling speech in which he forgot the names of some of Lincoln's cabinet members. Lincoln assured his supporters, "Andy aint no drunkard". Johnson's one stroke of luck took place on the night of Lincoln's assassination, when the man tasked with killing Johnson chickened out and left Johnson alone. It was under the circumstances of Lincoln's assassination that Andrew Johnson became president, this time taking the oath of office in a sober condition.

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As President, the most pressing issue on Johnson's desk was reconstruction. Johnson had to lead on the issue of how the confederate states would be brought back into the union. He had said that he intended to follow the policies of his predecessor, Abraham Lincoln, who had promised to "bind up the nation's wounds" in a benevolent manner. The Republican-controlled Congress had other ideas. It began enacting legislation to guarantee the rights of former slaves. Johnson's focus was on pardoning former Confederate officials. He was less concerned about giving any rights to freed slaves in the southern states. Johnson's policies angered the Radical Republicans in Congress and gradually alienated the moderates. By 1866, Congress had gathered enough unified support against Johnson to enact the first override of a Presidential veto in over twenty years. They passed a bill that continued the Freedmen's Bureau. Johnson also managed to alienate his own cabinet, three members of which resigned in 1866.

The mid-term elections were approaching and many saw them as a referendum on the Johnson presidency. Johnson had a reputation as a very good stump speaker, and he developed a strategy to put that talent to use to that end he decided that he would make a political speaking tour, something that was highly unprecedented for a sitting President at the time. He brought an entourage with him that included his two supporters in the cabinet, Secretary of State William Seward and Navy Secretary Gideon Welles. In order to attract bigger crowds, he commanded some of the more prominent Civil War military heroes to accompany him on the tour. These included David Farragut, George Custer, and Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was, at that time, the most admired man in the country. He would have these heroes stand next to him while he spoke, giving the impression to the audience that he had their support. As good military men, they knew how to follow orders and would not contradict their commander-in-chief.

The tour lasted for 18 days. Johnson and his group made stops in Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York City, West Point, Albany, Auburn, Niagara Falls, and Buffalo, New York; Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Springfield, and Alton, Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri; Indianapolis, Indiana; Louisville, Kentucky; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; and Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as well as short stops in smaller towns between.

Johnson's critics looked upon his tour as something beneath the dignity of the office Johnson held, because Presidents had traditionally not undertaken political campaigning in the past. Johnson's advisors recommended that he give only carefully prepared speeches, but Johnson thought he knew better. As he had often done on the campaign trail, he would prepare a rough outline of speaking notes and speak spontaneously around the outline. This turned out not to be a wise strategy. Johnson's fiery oratory offended a larger segment of his audience than it pleased with its plea for generosity to the defeated Confederates.

At first Johnson was enthusiastically received, particularly in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. On these stops he delivered a speech that thanked his audience for its welcome, paid tribute to the army and navy, and declared that he still favored the preservation of the Union of the states. He would begin with the same line usually, "Fellow citizens, it is not for the purpose of making speeches that I now appear before you", a line that would generally garner a laugh. He would then give a brief biography of himself, recounting his rise from being a humble tailor to the presidency. He would compare himself to Jesus Christ and explained that like the Savior, he, too, liked to pardon repentant sinners. He would blame Congress, and especially Thaddeus Stevens and the radicals, whom he said still wanted to break up the Union, something he was trying to prevent.

The press nonetheless gave him positive coverage throughout the first leg of the tour. But as Johnson entered the Radical Republican strongholds of the Midwest, he began facing much more hostile crowds, many of which were organized by Republican leaders in those towns. It was Johnson's stop in Cleveland on September 3 that was especially memorable on the tour. There the crowd included mobs of hecklers, many of them plants by the Radical Republicans, who goaded Johnson into engaging them. When one of them yelled "Hang Jeff Davis!" in Cleveland, Johnson angrily replied, "Why don't you hang Thad Stevens and Wendell Phillips?" When he left the balcony from which he had spoken, reporters overheard an advisor telling Johnson to maintain his dignity. Johnson angrily replied "I don't care about my dignity". The remark was printed in newspapers across the nation, abruptly ending the tour's favorable press.

At later appearances in southern Michigan did not go well. On September 7, Johnson spoke in Chicago, but Illinois governor Richard J. Oglesby refused to attend the speech. The Chicago city council also boycotted the event. In Chicago Johnson changed his strategy and delivered only a short pre-written speech. Two days layer, in St. Louis on September 9, Johnson got into another argument with a heckler, after Johnson accused Radical Republicans of deliberately inciting the deadly New Orleans Riot that summer. Once again Johnson compared himself to Jesus, and called the Republicans in Congress his betrayers. The next day in Indianapolis, the crowd was so hostile and loud that Johnson was unable to speak at all. After he left, violence and gunfire broke out in the streets between Johnson supporters and opponents, resulting in the death of one man. At other points in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, spectators drowned out Johnson with calls for Grant, who refused to speak, and for "Three cheers for Congress!"

On September 14 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a temporary platform built beside the railroad tracks for the president's appearance gave way, sending hundreds of people standing on the platform into a drained canal 20 feet below. Johnson attempted to halt the train and use it for triage for the injured, but he was advised by engineers that the train could not wait due to conflicting train traffic. Some of the presidential party left the train to assist the victims, while Johnson and the rest of the party continued onto Harrisburg. Johnson's opponents spun the appearances to look as if Johnson had callously abandoned the scene. This was not accurate and in fact Johnson later donated $500 ($8,318 in 2016 dollars) to assist the victims.

The press was generally very critical of Johnson for his appearances and speeches. The New York Herald had once been the most supportive newspaper for Johnson, but it was also critical of the president. In an editorial, the newspaper wrote: "It is mortifying to see a man occupying the lofty position of President of the United States descend from that position and join issue with those who are dragging their garments in the muddy gutters of political vituperation." Cartoonist Thomas Nast created three large illustrations lampooning Johnson.

Johnson's Republican opponents criticized Johnson for the failure of his tour. Thaddeus Stevens gave a speech about the tour, calling it "the remarkable circus that traveled through the country that cut outside the circle and entered into street brawls with common blackguards." Radical Republicans also began spreading rumors that Johnson had been drunk at several appearances, like he had been at his inauguration as vice president the year before. Though untrue, reporters and political opponents continued to spread the rumors. Although he never publicly criticized Johnson, General Ulysses Grant said, in a letter to his wife Julia, that he found the experience embarrassing, both for Johnson and for Grant himself for having to be next to the president on much of the tour.

Some of Johnson's supporters were also critical of the tour. Former Georgia Governor Herschel V. Johnson wrote that the President had sacrificed "the moral power of his position, and done great damage to the cause of Constitutional Reorganization." Senator James Doolittle of Wisconsin saidd that the tour had "cost Johnson one million northern voters."

By the time he returned to Washington from the speaking tour, Johnson had even less support in the North than he had started with. His only remaining allies in Congress were southern Democrats. These were mostly former rebels. The Republican party won a landslide victory in the congressional elections, and the new Congress took control of Reconstruction from the White House with the Reconstruction Acts of 1867. Johnson fought bitterly with the new Congress for the control of the nation's domestic policy. But the Republicans' vastly increased congressional voting bloc gave them sufficient votes to attempt impeachment of Johnson, first unsuccessfully in 1867 and again successfully in 1868. The tenth of 11 articles charging that the President "did make and declare, with a loud voice certain intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces, as well against Congress as the laws of the United States duly enacted thereby, amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled in hearing." The impeachment managers chose not to bring this article to a vote in the Senate, but it was clearly drafted as a reference to the Swing Around the Circle Tour.

The Republicans captured the White House in 1868 and maintained control of it until 1885. The Swing Around the Circle began a long series of political defeats that crippled Johnson, the Democratic Party and the presidency for years to come.
By 1862 slavery and its emancipation were touchy subjects for President Abraham Lincoln. As a Republican, he believed in ending slavery, and he knew that he could use the issue of slavery as a military weapon against the Confederacy. But he also did not want to alienate those slave states which had not left the Union and he wanted to make it clear that the nation had gone to war to stop secession and not over slavery. As a lawyer and an anti-slavery politician, Abraham Lincoln was aware that a president could not end slavery without a change to the Constitution. At the time, such a change required the consent of individual states. Lincoln had said in his speeches that the eventual end of slavery would come about by preventing its expansion into new U.S. territory. When the war began, he tried to persuade the border states to accept compensated emancipation in return for their prohibition of slavery.


When Major General John C. Frémont tried to prohibit slavery in the border state of Missouri in August 1861, Lincoln reversed this decision, mainly out of pragmatism. He believed that such an order would upset the border states loyal to the Union.

On June 19, 1862, with Lincoln's support and encouragement, Congress passed an act banning slavery in all federal territory. In July 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation, which set up court procedures that could free the slaves of anyone convicted of aiding the rebellion. Although Lincoln had doubts about the constitutional validity of the bill, he approved it, in part so as not to lose political support.

Lincoln believed that the Commander-in-Chief could effect the emancipation of slaves by use his war powers granted by the Constitution. That summer, Lincoln discussed a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation with his cabinet. In the draft, he wrote "as a fit and necessary military measure, on January 1, 1863, all persons held as slaves in the Confederate states will thenceforward, and forever, be free". In addition to the moral reasons for taking such action, Lincoln also appreciated that there would be strategic advantages to the proclamation as well.

Northerners who were opposed to the war, known as "Copperheads", argued that emancipation would severely impede any reasonable possibility of a negotiated peace and reunification. In response, Lincoln wrote a letter to the New York Tribune on August 22, 1862, in which he explained that the primary goal of his action was preserving the Union. He wrote:

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union ... I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free."

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862, following the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam earlier that month. It was to come into effect on January 1, 1863. The proclamation declared that all slaves in the 10 states not then under Union control would be free, with exemptions specified for areas already under Union control in two states. It did not free any slaves in the border states. In response, Democrats rallied their voters in the 1862 off-year elections by warning voters about the threat that freed slaves posed to northern whites.

Once the abolition of slavery in the rebel states became a stated military objective, slaves were freed as Union armies advanced south. When he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln said: "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper."

Lincoln continued with earlier plans of his to set up colonies for the newly freed slaves. He met with abolitionists and freed men including Frederick Douglass to convince them of the wisdom of this plan, but was unsuccessful in doing so.


A few days after Emancipation was announced, thirteen Republican governors met at the War Governors' Conference. They expressed support for the Proclamation, but asked Lincoln to remove General George B. McClellan as commander of the Union Army.

After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, the Union Army adopted the practice of enlisting former slaves. By the spring of 1863, Lincoln was ready to recruit African-American troops in significant numbers. In a letter to Andrew Johnson, who was, at the time, the military governor of Tennessee, Lincoln encouraged Johnson to lead the way in raising black troops. Lincoln wrote, "The bare sight of 50,000 armed and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi would end the rebellion at once". By the end of 1863, on Lincoln's direction, General Lorenzo Thomas had recruited 20 regiments of African-American soldiers from the Mississippi Valley.


Frederick Douglass later said of Lincoln: "Can any colored man, or any white man friendly to the freedom of all men, ever forget the night which followed the first day of January 1863, when the world was to see if Abraham Lincoln would prove to be as good as his word?"

Lincoln and the Beginning of the Civil War

After the fall of Fort Sumter, Lincoln realized the importance of taking immediate executive control of the war, and devising a strategy to put down the rebellion. Whereas James Buchanan had shied away from the problem of southern secession, Lincoln made his reputation as a commander-in-chief who faced his biggest challenges head on. There was not universal support for war against the seceding states, and Lincoln faced a battle on the home front as he had to address those in the north who did not support the war. He also wanted to retain within the union the slave states that had chosen not to join the Confederacy.


Lincoln attacked the problem first by expanding his war powers. He directed that there be a blockade on all Confederate shipping ports. He disbursed funds even before they were appropriated by Congress. He suspended the writ of habeas corpus (the power of a court to effect the release of someone in the custody of the state) and he arrested and imprisoned thousands of suspected Confederate sympathizers. Lincoln had the support of Congress for all of these actions and he also used the press as a means of getting the northern public on his side.

Lincoln was a master tactician when it came to using public opinion as both a political weapon as well as a military aid. He used the press not only to get his message out in an era before electronic mass communication, but also to prevent his opponents from having similar access to the hearts and minds of the people. He did this through the use of military censorship, control of the post office and telegraphs, and through the use of patronage.

At the time, New York City was the media capital of the western world. The big three media moguls in New York City were Horace Greeley of the Tribune, James Gordon Bennett of the Herald, and Henry Raymond of the Times. Each had interesting life stories and personalities. There were also many other influential newspapers in other parts of the country, including in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and in Lincoln's home state of Illinois, where Lincoln purchased a newspaper printed in German to bolster his electoral chances in that state. Lincoln used censorship of those journalists and newspapers whose views did not accord with the administration or its prosecution of the war, justifying the practice as being one which saved lives by shortening the war (or more accurately, but not enabling Lincoln's enemies to prolong the war by raising the spirits of those who opposed the Union). Many newspapers that were critical of the Union cause were censored of shut down. Their reporters were treated differently depending on how they reported from the battlefield, and some editors were even jailed for their anti-administration views. Often it was members of the public, through mob actions, who took it upon themselves to violently censor the newspapers. Freedom of the press was a casualty of the Civil War, and with the benefit of hindsight, many debate whether or not this was justified under the circumstances of the time.

Lincoln also used the press as a means of getting his message to the people in a era before the ability to speak directly to the masses existed (i.e. at a time before radio and television.) For example, when emancipation became an issue, Lincoln wrote his famous response to Horace Greeley's "Prayer of Twenty Millions" editorial, which accused Lincoln of using his abolitionist leanings as the reason for the death of so many young men in the war. In response, Lincoln famously wrote "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that".

Lincoln realized early on in the war that he would require bipartisan support for his war strategy to succeed, but this was difficult, given the differences which existed both between and within the two parties. He tried to appoint both Republicans and Democrats to command positions in the Union Army. Strict constitutionalists criticized Lincoln for refusing to compromise on the slavery issue, while Radical Republicans criticized him for moving too slowly in abolishing slavery. On August 6, 1861, Lincoln signed the Confiscation Act that authorized judiciary proceedings to confiscate and free slaves who were used to support the Confederate war effort. The law meant little practically, but it did win political support from those in favor of abolishing slavery.

Lincoln also had to contend with reinforcing Union sympathies in the border slave states. He also wanted to prevent the war from becoming an international conflict. In late August 1861, General John C. Frémont, who had been the 1856 Republican presidential nominee, issued a proclamation of martial law in Missouri. He declared that any citizen found bearing arms could be court-martialed and shot. He also ordered that slaves of persons aiding the rebellion would be freed. Frémont took these steps on his own authority and without consulting with Lincoln. The general was already facing charges of negligence in his command of the Department of the West, as well as allegations of fraud and corruption. Lincoln overruled Frémont's order He. worried that Fremont's emancipation was too political and that it might drive the border states into the Confederate cause. The order was not neither militarily necessary and likely not legal. When Lincoln did this, Union enlistments from Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri grew by more than 40,000 troops.

On the international front, Lincoln had to address an incident known as the Trent Affair in late 1861. The U.S. Navy had illegally intercepted a British merchant ship, the Trent, and seized two Confederate envoys. Britain protested the incident and Lincoln was worried that this might cause the British to support the Confederacy. In spite of the fact that the seizure of the two Confederates was a popular move for Lincoln within his base, he resolved the issue by releasing the two men. Lincoln's Secretary of State, William Seward was seen as too hardline with the British, so Lincoln also turned to Senator Charles Sumner, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an expert in British diplomacy, to make peace with the British.

To learn technical military terms, Lincoln read extensively. He borrowed General Henry Halleck's book, Elements of Military Art and Science, from the Library of Congress. He also monitored the telegraph reports coming into the War Department in Washington, D.C. Lincoln selected generals based on their past success, but he also did not ignore what state and party they were from.

In January 1862, after many complaints of inefficiency and profiteering in the War Department, Lincoln replaced his Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, with Edwin Stanton. Stanton was a Democrat, but he was also a strong Unionist and a man whose views accorded with the Radical Republican faction. Stanton worked more closely with Lincoln than any other senior official.

In terms of war strategy, Lincoln set two priorities: (1) to ensure that Washington was well-defended, and (2) to conduct an aggressive war effort to achieve a prompt, decisive victory. Some major Northern newspaper editors expected victory within 90 days. Lincoln met with his cabinet twice a week. He learned of the importance of controlling strategic points, such as the Mississippi River.

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It is remarkable, given the division within the nation, that Lincoln was able to keep the non-confederate states united, keep the border states from joining the confederacy and eventually issue the Emancipation Proclamation. It is a testament to the strength of Lincoln's leadership abilities, which appear even greater when compared with the do-nothing approach taken by his predecessor.

Happy Birthday Big Bill Taft

Today is William Howard Taft's birthday. He was born on September 15, 1857. If he was alive today (as he was in Jason Heller's terrific novel Taft 2012, reviewed here) he would be 161 years old. William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States, was born near Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the only person to ever serve both as President and as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the job that many say he wanted all along. Taft was the hand-picked successor to Theodore Roosevelt, but when Taft refused to march in the direction that his mentor wanted, Roosevelt challenged Taft both for the Republican nomination and for the Presidency in 1912, leading to a three-way split that would turn the Presidency over to the Democratic Party.

Taft was born into a powerful Ohio political family. His father Alonzo Taft later served as Attorney-General and Secretary of War in the cabinet of Ulysses Grant. His oldest son Robert was a well-known Senator who challenged Dwight Eisenhower for the Republican nomination for President in 1952 and as recently as 2007, Taft's great-grandson Bob Taft was Governor of Ohio.

As a young man, Taft was nicknamed "Big Bill" because of his size. He graduated from Yale College Phi Beta Kappa in 1878 and from Cincinnati Law School in 1880. Taft became a judge on the Ohio Supreme Court in 1887 and in 1890, he was appointed Solicitor General of the United States. In 1891 he was appointed a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

In 1900, President William McKinley appointed Taft to be the Governor-General of the Philippines. Taft performed admirably in the task, maintaining order while showing benevolence to the locals. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Taft as Secretary of War in his cabinet, with the intention of grooming Taft, then his close political ally, into his handpicked presidential successor. Riding a wave of popular support for his fellow Republican Roosevelt, Taft won an easy victory in his 1908 bid for the presidency, defeating Democrat William Jennings Bryan in Bryan's third run for the Presidency.

In his only term as President, Taft's domestic agenda emphasized trust-busting, civil service reform, strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission, improving the performance of the postal service, and passage of the Sixteenth Amendment (which gave Congress the right to levy a uniform income tax across the country.) On the international front, Taft promoted the economic development of underdeveloped nations in Latin America and Asia through what became known as "Dollar Diplomacy". He was almost assassinated on October 16, 1909 on a visit to Mexico, but the would be assassin was detected by alert security men. The man was arrested while holding a loaded pistol within a few feet of Taft and Mexican President Porfirio Diaz.

Many of Taft's policies were at odds with the wishes of his mentor, Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was especially upset when Taft fired Roosevelt's good friend Gifford Pinchot from the position of Chief of the US Forest Service. When Roosevelt ran against Taft for the Presidency under the banner of a third party known as the Bull Moose Party, Taft was overwhelmingly defeated in in the presidential election of 1912, finishing third behind the winner Woodrow Wilson and behind Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party.

After leaving office, Taft taught law at Yale and was elected President of the American Bar Association. He founded the League to Enforce Peace, an organization dedicated to the promotion of world peace. In 1921 President Warren G. Harding appointed Taft Chief Justice of the United States. Taft served in this capacity until shortly before his death in 1930. He is the only former president to administer the oath of office to another President and the only Chief Justice to serve with associate justices whom he had appointed to the court.


Taft thus far was the largest man to hold the office of President. At just under 6 feet tall, he weighed as much as 343 pounds during his presidency. He suffered from severe obstructive sleep apnea because of his obesity. Within a year of leaving the presidency, Taft lost approximately 80 pounds causing his blood pressure to drop and his sleep problems to end. Soon after his weight loss, he had a revival of interest in the outdoors and this led him to explore Alaska.

Taft retired as Chief Justice on February 3, 1930, because of ill health. Charles Evans Hughes, whom he had appointed to the Court while president, succeeded him. Five weeks after his retirement, Taft died on March 8, 1930. On March 11, he became the first president to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Remembering William McKinley

On September 14, 1901 (117 years ago today) President William McKinley died, 8 days after being shot by Leon Czolgosz at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. McKinley was 58 years old at the time of his death. He was the last President to have fought in the Civil War. McKinley won two elections (in 1896 and in 1900), each time defeating William Jennings Bryan. He was a supporter of both the gold standard and high tariffs. In his first term he led the nation to victory in 100 days in the Spanish American War and presided over the nation's transition from emerging nation to world power.


McKinley was born in Niles, Ohio, on January 29, 1843. He was the seventh of nine children and he served with distinction in the Civil War where his commanding officer was another future President, Rutherford Hayes, who later was a political mentor of McKinley's. After the war he became a lawyer and he married Ida Saxton. The couple had two daughters who died in infancy. Following the death of the children, Mrs. McKinley's health became poor and for her husband showed great devotion in caring for her.

By the late 1870s, McKinley had become a national Republican leader. He served in Congress as Representative of Ohio, and later he was elected Governor of Ohio. The main issue on which he focused was high tariffs on imports as a formula for prosperity and his signature legislation was the McKinley Tariff of 1890.

As President, McKinley presided over a return to prosperity after the Panic of 1893. The gold standard was his economic centerpiece, which many credited the nation's economic recovery on, rightly or wrongly. When the Spanish-American War began in 1898, although McKinley was hesitant to go to war, once the war began the U.S. victory was quick and decisive. The weak Spanish fleets were sunk and both Cuba and the Philippines were captured within a few months. As a result of the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the former Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were annexed by the United States as unincorporated territories, and U.S occupation of Cuba began. McKinley also annexed the independent Republic of Hawaii in 1898, with all its citizens becoming full American citizens. McKinley was reelected in the 1900 presidential election following another intense campaign against Bryan, which focused on foreign policy and the return of prosperity.

On September 6, 1901 McKinley was shot twice by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. One bullet was easily found and extracted, but doctors were unable to locate the second bullet. His doctors were afraid that the search for the bullet might cause more harm than good and McKinley appeared to be recovering. His doctors decided to leave the bullet where it was, which wasn't uncommon in those days. McKinley's doctors believed he would recover, and he convalesced for more than a week in Buffalo at the home of the exposition's director John Milburn.

On the morning of September 12, McKinley appeared to be doing much better. He felt strong enough to receive his first food orally since the shooting – toast and a small cup of coffee. But by the afternoon he began to experience discomfort and his condition rapidly worsened. McKinley began to go into shock. At 2:15 am on September 14, 1901, eight days after he was shot, McKinley died at age 58 from gangrene surrounding his wounds. His last words were reported as "It is God's way. His will be done, not ours."

On September 12, Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt met his family at their cabin near Mount Marcy, located in the high-peaks region of the Adirondacks, approximately 375 miles from Buffalo. The next morning, a cold, foggy day, Roosevelt left for a climb to the top of the mountain, accompanied by friends and a park ranger. By noon on September 13, Roosevelt and his party stopped to rest at the 5,344 feet (1,629 m)-high summit on a large flat rock that offered a panoramic view of the mountains. They climbed back down five hundred feet to have lunch by a lake. At about 1:30, a park ranger arrived bearing a telegram. Roosevelt is quoted as saying "I instinctively knew he had bad news. I wanted to become President, but I did not want to become President that way." After returning to his cabin, Roosevelt received a second telegram, this time from Secretary of War Elihu Root, urging that he return to Buffalo immediately.

Just before midnight, Roosevelt left his family for a carriage ride down the mountain, and at 3:30 a.m. he boarded another wagon and continued the long, twisting ride at high speed in the dark. Two hours later, Roosevelt finally arrived at the train station in North Creek, New York, where, at 5:22 a.m. on September 14, he received a telegram from Secretary of State John Hay telling him of McKinley's death.

Roosevelt boarded the train. He went to the Milburn house to pay his respects. He met with Mrs. McKinley and most of the cabinet, but could not see McKinley's body as the autopsy was underway. Secretary of War Elihu Root recommended holding the inauguration ceremony there, but Roosevelt thought that "inappropriate" and decided to return to the home of his friend Ansley Wilcox for the swearing-in ceremony. Roosevelt took the oath of office as the 26th President of the United States at 3:30 p.m., just six weeks before his 43rd birthday. He remains the youngest man ever to hold the office of President.

McKinley was originally buried in the receiving vault of West Lawn Cemetery in Canton, Ohio. His remains were later reinterred in the McKinley Memorial, also in Canton.

Buchanan, Lincoln and Fort Sumpter

Perhaps the most difficult presidential transition in history took place in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln was elected to succeed James Buchanan. It was a time when sectional strife and division rose to such a high level that it split the Democratic Party and caused many to worry that the president-elect would not live to see his inauguration.

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In the mid-term of elections of 1858, the newly formed Republican Party won a majority in the House of Representatives. By 1860, the party had full control of Congress. Many in the slave-holding states became frightened by the prospects that this held for the future of the so-called "peculiar institution" of slavery, something they believed they depended on for their economic livelihood. In 1860, incumbent Democratic President James Buchanan, a northerner from Pennsylvania who was viewed as very sympathetic to the slave-holding interests, declined that he would not seek re-election.

In 1860, when the Democratic Party held its nominating convention, the party struggled unsuccessfully to try and unite the Northern and Southern factions within its party who saw the issue of slavery differently. At their National Convention held in Institute Hall in Charleston, South Carolina in April 1860, 51 Southern Democrats walked out over a platform dispute. The extreme pro-slavery Alabama delegation left the hall first, followed by the delegates of Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, three of the four delegates from Arkansas, and one of the three delegates from Delaware. The remaining delegates nominated Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, a moderate on the issue of slavery, who favored "popular sovereignty" (i.e. the right of each state to decide whether or not it would permit slavery to exist within its boundaries). But this did not occur immediately. By the 57th ballot, Douglas led the balloting, but was still 51.5 votes short of nomination. On May 3, the delegates agreed to adjourn the convention. They reconvened at the Front Street Theater in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 18. After two more ballots, the remaining Democrats nominated Douglas as their presidential candidate.

The Democrats who bolted the convention in Charleston reconvened in Richmond, Virginia on June 11. When the Democrats reconvened in Baltimore, all states returned except South Carolina and Florida. On 18 June, they bolted again, accompanied by nearly all other Southern delegates. This group met immediately in Baltimore's Institute Hall, and nominated Vice President John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky for President.

Another faction of former Whig Party members nominated former Speaker of the House John Bell, under the banner of the Constitutional Union Party. Bell took no position on slavery. His only issue was saving the Union.

When the election was held on November 6, 1860, the newly created Republican Party (founded in 1854) received a majority of the electoral votes. Abraham Lincoln became president, with no real support from the South. Buchanan had supported Breckinridge in the election.

In October, as election day neared, the US army's Commanding General, Winfield Scott, warned Buchanan that Lincoln's election would likely cause at least seven states to secede. He also recommended to Buchanan that massive amounts of federal troops and artillery be deployed to those states to protect federal property. This was not entirely feasible, as Scott also warned that few reinforcements were available. In 1857 Congress refused to heed both men's calls for a stronger militia and the Army had fallen into a poor condition. Buchanan ignored Scott's recommendations.

After Lincoln's election, Buchanan directed his Secretary of War, John B. Floyd, to reinforce southern forts with such provisions, arms and men as were available. Floyd, a southerner from Virginia, convinced Buchanan to revoke the order.

When Lincoln won the election, talk of secession and disunion reached a fever pitch. Buchanan decided to address the issue in his final message to Congress. Unfortunately, he did not address the issue in any helpful manner. In his message, Buchanan said that states had no legal right to secede from the union. But he also said that the federal government could not legally prevent them from doing so. He placed the blame for the crisis on what he described as "intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the Southern States". He said that if these segments in Congress did not repeal what he called their "unconstitutional and obnoxious enactments", the seceding states would be justified in taking offense. Buchanan's suggestion to solve the crisis was a constitutional amendment reaffirming the constitutionality of slavery in the slave states, and calling for popular sovereignty in the territories.

Buchanan's message pleased no one. It was sharply criticized both by the north, for its refusal to stop secession, and the south, for denying its right to secede. Five days after the address was delivered, Treasury Secretary Howell Cobb, from Georgia, resigned from Buchanan's cabinet.

Efforts were made by statesmen such as Sen. John J. Crittenden, Rep. Thomas Corwin, and former president John Tyler to negotiate a compromise to stop secession. Buchanan supported their efforts, but all failed. Efforts to compromise were also made by a group of governors meeting in New York. Buchanan tried to convince President-elect Lincoln to hold a national referendum to resolve the issue of slavery. Lincoln declined the suggestion.

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina declared its secession from the United States. This was followed by six other slave states, and, by February 1861, they had formed the Confederate States of America. The secessionist states declared eminent domain over federal property within their states. Buchanan and his administration took no action to stop the confiscation of government property. All arsenals and forts in the seceding states were lost (except Fort Sumter, off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, and three island outposts in Florida).

Secessionist fervor was strongest in South Carolina. Buchanan made a deal with South Carolina's legislators that he would not reinforce the Charleston garrison in exchange for no interference from the state. But Buchanan did not inform the Charleston commander, Major Robert Anderson, of the deal and on December 26 Anderson moved his command to Fort Sumter. Southerners responded with a demand that Buchanan remove Anderson, while northerners called for support for Anderson. On December 31, Buchanan ordered reinforcements sent to the fort.

On January 5, Buchanan sent civilian steamer Star of the West to carry reinforcements and supplies to Fort Sumter, which was located in Charleston harbor. On January 9, 1861, South Carolina state batteries opened fire on the ship, preventing it from reaching Fort Sumter. It returned to New York. Buchanan was criticized by both north (for lack of retaliation for the attack on the ship) and the south (for attempting to reinforce Fort Sumter). Buchanan made no further moves either to prepare for war or to avert it.

On the way to his inauguration, traveling by train from his home in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln addressed crowds and legislatures along the way. He evaded possible assassins in Baltimore, who were discovered by Lincoln's head of security, Allan Pinkerton. On February 23, 1861, he arrived in disguise in Washington, D.C.

Lincoln directed remarks in his inaugural address to the South, telling the seceding states that he no intention, or inclination, to abolish slavery in the Southern states. He said:

"Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."

The President ended his address by telling the people of the South:

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."


On Buchanan's final day as president, March 4, 1861, he remarked to the incoming Lincoln, "If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland, you are a happy man." Lincoln and the Republican leadership agreed that the dismantling of the Union could not be tolerated. He later said:

"Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the Nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came."


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