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Following Lincoln's victory, all the slave states began to consider secession. Lincoln was not scheduled to take office until March , leaving incumbent Democratic President James Buchanan , a " doughface " from Pennsylvania who had been favorable to the South, to preside over the country until that time. Lincoln had no official power to act while the secession crisis escalated. Many wanted him to provide reassurances to the South that their interests were not being threatened.
He believed that, given enough time without any overt acts or threats to the South, Southern unionists would carry the day and bring their states back into the Union. Republicans praised Trumbull's address, Democrats assailed it, and the South largely ignored it. In December , both the House and Senate formed special committees to address the unfolding crisis.
Lincoln communicated with various Congressmen that there was room for negotiation on issues such as fugitive slaves, slavery in the District of Columbia , and the domestic slave trade. However he made it clear that he was unalterably opposed to anything which would allow the expansion of slavery into any new states or territories. The instant you do, they have us under again; all our labor is lost, and sooner or later must be done over.
Douglas is sure to be again trying to bring in his [popular sovereignty]. Have none of it. In mid-December, Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, the chairman of the special Senate committee, proposed a package of six constitutional amendments, known as the Crittenden Compromise. Congress would be forbidden from abolishing slavery in any state or the District of Columbia or interfering with the domestic slave trade.
Despite pressure from Seward, Lincoln refused to support the compromise. Lincoln believed that Southern threats of secession were mostly bluster and that the sectional crisis would be defused, as it had in and In February , two final political efforts were made to preserve the Union. The first was made by a group of delegates sent by 21 states to a Peace Conference , held at the Willard's Hotel in the nation's capital. The proposal was rejected by the Senate and never considered by the House.
Commonly known as the Corwin Amendment , the measure was approved by Congress and sent to the state legislatures for ratification.
On February 11, , Lincoln boarded a special train that over the course of the next two weeks would take him to the nation's capital. While his speeches were mostly extemporaneous, his message was consistent: he had no hostile intentions towards the South, disunion was not acceptable, and he intended to enforce the laws and protect property. Rumors abounded during the course of the trip of various plots to kill Lincoln. In conducting his investigation Pinkerton obtained information that indicated to him that an attempt on Lincoln's life would be made in Baltimore.
Lincoln and his entourage passed through Baltimore's waterfront at around 3 o'clock in the early morning of February 23, and arrived safely in the nation's capital a few hours later. The unannounced departure from the published schedule, along with the unconventional attire Lincoln wore to keep a low profile, led to critics and cartoonists accusing him of sneaking into Washington in disguise. He also worked to complete his cabinet, meeting with Republican Senators to obtain their feedback. Lincoln, aware that his inaugural address would be delivered in an atmosphere filled with fear and anxiety, and amid an unstable political landscape, sought guidance from colleagues and friends as he prepared it.
Among those whose counsel Lincoln sought was Orville Browning , who advised Lincoln to omit the phrase "to reclaim the public property and places which have fallen". He also asked his former rival and Secretary of State-designate William Seward to review it. Seward exercised his due diligence by presenting Lincoln with a six-page analysis of the speech in which he offered some 49 suggested changes, of which the president-elect incorporated 27 into the final draft. He opened by attempting to reassure the South that he had no intention or constitutional authority to interfere with slavery in states where it already existed.
He promised to enforce the fugitive slave law and spoke favorably about a pending constitutional amendment that would preserve slavery in the states where it currently existed. He also assured the states that had already seceded that the federal government would not "assail" violently attack them. We are not enemies, but friends.
We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, 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.
Lincoln began the process of constructing his cabinet on election night. He did not shy away from surrounding himself with strong-minded men, even those whose credentials for office appeared to be much more impressive than his own. The first cabinet position filled was that of Secretary of State. It was tradition for the president-elect to offer this, the most senior cabinet post, to the leading best-known and most popular person of his political party.
How Lincoln, Civil War helped shape Oregon
William Seward was that man and in mid-December , Vice President-elect Hamlin, acting on Lincoln's behalf, offered the position to him. Despite pressure from some congressional leaders to fire Seward, Lincoln retained his Secretary of State for the duration of his presidency. Chase , Seward's chief political rival. Lincoln replaced Chase with William P. The most problematic cabinet selection made by Lincoln was that of Simon Cameron as the Secretary of War. Cameron was one of the most influential public leaders in the crucial political state of Pennsylvania, but he was also alleged to be one of the most corrupt.
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Curtin and party chairman A. Nonetheless, by Inauguration Day the competing factions realized that it was important to business interests that at least some Pennsylvanian be in Lincoln's cabinet, and Cameron was made Secretary of War. Stanton worked more often and more closely with Lincoln than any other senior official. Lincoln appointed two individuals from the border states to his cabinet.
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Montgomery Blair of Maryland, who was popular among anti-slavery and border state Democrats, became Lincoln's first Postmaster-General. Blair came from a prominent political family, as his father, Francis Preston Blair , had served as an adviser to President Andrew Jackson , while his younger brother, Francis Preston Blair Jr. Seeing Blair as a political liability, Lincoln dismissed Blair from the cabinet in September , replacing him with William Dennison. Lincoln tasked Vice President-elect Hamlin with finding a someone from a New England state for the cabinet.
Other influential Republicans concurred, and Welles became Secretary of the Navy. His critics faulted him for some of his railroad ventures, accused him of being a Doughface, and questioned his intellectual capacity for a high government position. In the end, Smith's selection for Secretary of the Interior had much to do with his campaign efforts on behalf of Lincoln and their friendship.
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Southern Democrats had dominated the Supreme Court of the United States in the period before Lincoln took office, and their unpopular ruling in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford had done much to invigorate the Republican cause in the North. Two more vacancies arose in early due to the death of John McLean and the resignation of John Archibald Campbell.
Despite the vacancies, Lincoln did not nominate a replacement for any of the justices until January Lincoln's appointments gave Northern Unionists a majority on the Court. By the time Lincoln assumed office seven states had declared their secession and had seized federal property within their bounds, but the United States retained control of major military installations at Fort Sumter near Charleston and Fort Pickens near Pensacola. Totten , the army's chief engineer, said that simply reinforcing the fort was not possible, although Secretary of the Navy Welles disagreed.
Scott advised Lincoln that it would take a large fleet, 25, troops, and several months of training in order to defend the fort. Fox presented a plan for a naval resupply and reinforcement of the fort.
The plan had been approved by Scott during the last month of the previous administration, but Buchanan had rejected it. No decision was reached, but Lincoln personally dispatched Fox, Stephen A. Hurlbut , and Ward Lamon to South Carolina to assess the situation. The recommendations that came back were that reinforcement was both necessary, since secessionist feeling ran high and threatened the fort, and feasible, despite Anderson's misgivings.
On March 28, Scott recommended that both Pickens and Sumter be abandoned, basing his decision more on political than military grounds. The next day a deeply agitated Lincoln presented Scott's proposal to the cabinet. Blair was now joined by Welles and Chase in supporting reinforcement. Bates was non-committal, Cameron was not in attendance, and Seward and Smith opposed resupply.
Later that day Lincoln gave Fox the order to begin assembling a squadron to reinforce Fort Sumter. Pickens of the impending re-supply of the fort. The Confederate cabinet was already meeting to discuss the Sumter crisis, and on April 10 Davis decided to demand the surrender of the fort and bombard it if the demand was refused.
The relief expedition sent by the Union arrived too late to intervene.
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