The Boys' Life of Abraham Lincoln HTML version

The Conqueror Of A Great Rebellion
The presidential election of 1864 took place on November 8. The diary of one of the
President's secretaries contains a curious record of the way the day passed at the
Executive Mansion. "The house has been still and almost deserted. Everybody in
Washington and not at home voting seems ashamed of it, and stays away from the
President. While I was talking with him to-day he said: "It is a little singular that I, who
am not a vindictive man, should always have been before the people for election in
canvasses marked for their bitterness. Always but once. When I came to Congress it was
a quiet time; but always besides that the contests in which I have been prominent have
been marked with great rancor."
Early in the evening the President made his way through rain and darkness to the War
Department to receive the returns. The telegrams came, thick and fast, all pointing
joyously to his reelection. He sent the important ones over to Mrs. Lincoln at the White
House, remarking, "She is more anxious that I am." The satisfaction of one member of
the little group about him was coupled with the wish that the critics of the administration
might feel properly rebuked by this strong expression of the popular will. Mr. Lincoln
looked at him in kindly surprise. "You have more of that feeling of personal resentment
than I," he said. "Perhaps I have too little of it, but I never thought it paid. A man has not
time to spend half his life in quarrels. If any man ceases to attack me, I never remember
the past against him." This state of mind might well have been called by a higher name
than "lack of personal resentment."
Lincoln and Johnson received a popular majority of 411,281, and 212 out of 233 electoral
votes--only those of New Jersey, Delaware and Kentucky, twenty-one in all, being cast
for McClellan.
For Mr. Lincoln this was one of the most solemn days of his life. Assured of his personal
success, and made devoutly confident by the military victories of the last few weeks that
the end of the war was at hand, he felt no sense of triumph over his opponents. The
thoughts that filled his mind found expression in the closing sentences of the little speech
that he made to some serenaders who greeted him in the early morning hours of
November 9, as he left the War Department to return to the White House:
"I am thankful to God for this approval of the people; but while deeply grateful for this
mark of their confidence in me, if I know my heart, my gratitude is free from any taint of
personal triumph. . . . It is no pleasure to me to triumph over anyone, but I give thanks to
the Almighty for this evidence of the people's resolution to stand by free government and
the rights of humanity."
Mr. Lincoln's inauguration for his second term as President took place at the time
appointed, on March 4, 1865. There is little variation in the simple but impressive
pageantry with which the ceremony is celebrated. The principal novelty commented on
by the newspapers was the share which the people who had up to that time been slaves,