Early in February the last item of preparation for the journey to Washington had been made. Mr. Lincoln had disposed of his household goods and furniture to a neighbor, had rented his house; and as these constituted all the property he owned in Illinois, there was no further occasion for concern on that score. In the afternoon of his last day in Springfield he came down to our office to examine some papers and confer with me about certain legal matters in which he still felt some interest. On several previous occasions he had told me he was coming over to the office "to have a long talk with me," as he exprest it. We ran over the books and arranged for the completion of all unsettled and unfinished matters. In some cases he had certain requests to makecertain lines of procedure he wished me to observe.
After these things were all disposed of he crossed to the opposite side of the room and threw himself down on the old office sofa, which, after many years of service, had been moved against the wall for support. He lay for some moments, his face toward the ceiling, without either of us speaking. Presently he inquired, "Billy,"he always called me by that name "how long have we been together?" "Over sixteen years," I answered. "We've never had a cross word during all that time, have we?" to which I returned a vehement, "No, indeed we have not." He then recalled some incidents of his early practise and took great pleasure in delineating the ludicrous features of many a lawsuit on the circuit.
It was at this last interview in Springfield that he told me of the efforts that had been made by other lawyers to supplant me in the partnership with him. He insisted that such men were weak creatures, who, to use his own language, "hoped to secure a law practise by hanging to his coat-tail." I never saw him in a more cheerful mood. He gathered a bundle of books and papers he wished to take with him and started to go; but before leaving he made the strange request that the sign-board which swung on its rusty hinges at the foot of the stairway, should remain. "Let it hang there undisturbed," he said, with a significant lowering of his voice. "Give our clients to understand that the election of a President makes no change in the firm of Lincoln and Herndon. If I live, I'm coming back some time, and then we'll go right on practising law as if nothing had ever happened."
He lingered for a moment as if to take a last look at the old quarters, and then passed through the door into the narrow hallway. I accompanied him downstairs. On the way he spoke of the unpleasant features surrounding the Presidential office. "I am sick of office-holding already," he complained, "and I shudder when I think of the tasks that are still ahead." He said the sorrow of parting from his old associations was deeper than most persons would imagine, but it was more marked in his case because of the feeling which had become irrepressible that he would never return alive. I argued against the thought, characterizing it as an illusory notion not in harmony or keeping with the popular ideal of a President. "But it is in keeping with my philosophy," was his quick retort. Our conversation was frequently broken in upon by the interruptions of passers-by, who, each in succession, seemed desirous of claiming his attention. At length he broke away from them all. Grasping my hand warmly and with a fervent "Good-by," he disappeared down the street, and never came back to the office again.
On the morning following this last interview, the 11th day of February, the Presidential party repaired to the railway station, where the train which was to convey them to Washington awaited the ceremony of departure. The day was a stormy one, with dense clouds hanging heavily overhead. A goodly throng of Springfield people had gathered to see the distinguished party safely off.... The train rolled slowly out, and Mr. Lincoln, still standing in the doorway of the rear car, took his last view of Springfield. The journey had been as well advertised as it had been carefully planned, and, therefore, at every town along the route, and at every stop, great crowds were gathered to catch a glimpse of the President-elect. Mr. Lincoln usually gratified the wishes of the crowds, who called him out for a speech whether it was down on the regular program of movements or not. In all cases his remarks were well-timed and sensibly uttered. . .
Having at last reached his destination in safety, Mr. Lincoln spent the few days preceding his inauguration at Willard's Hotel, receiving an uninterrupted stream of visitors and friends. In the few unoccupied moments allotted him , he was carefully revising his inaugural address. On the morning of the 4th of March he rode from his hotel with Mr. Buchanan in an open barouche to the Capitol. There, slightly pale and nervous, he was introduced to the assembled multitude by his old friend, Edward D. Baker, and in a fervid and impressive manner delivered his address.2 At its conclusion the customary oath was administered by the venerable Chief Justice Taney, and he was now clothed with all the powers and privileges of Chief Magistrate of the nation. He accompanied Mr. Buchanan to the White House, and here the historic bachelor of Lancaster bade him farewell, bespeaking for him a peaceful, prosperous, and successful administration. One who witnessed the impressive scene left the following graphic description of the inauguration and its principal incidents:
"Near noon I found myself a member of the motley crowd gathered about the side-entrance to Willard's Hotel. Soon an open barouche drove up, and the only occupant stept out. A large, heavy, awkward-moving man, far advanced in years, short and thin gray hair, full face, plentifully seamed and wrinkled, head curiously inclined to the left shoulder, a low-crowned, broadbrimmed silk hat, an immense white cravat like a poultice, thrusting the old-fashioned standing collar up to the ears, drest in black throughout, with swallowtail coat not of the newest style. It was President Buchanan, calling to take his successor to the Capitol.
"In a few minutes he reappeared, with Mr. Lincoln on his arm; the two took seats side by side, and the carriage rolled away, followed by a rather disorderly and certainly not very imposing procession. I had ample time to walk to the Capitol, and no difficulty in securing a place where everything could be seen and heard to the best advantage. The attendance at the inauguration was, they told me, unusually small, many being kept away by anticipated disturbance, as it had been rumoredtruly, toothat General Scott himself was fearful of an outbreak, and had made all possible military preparations to meet the emergency. A square platform had been built out from the steps to the eastern portico, with benches for distinguished spectators on three sides. Douglas, the only one I recognized, sat at the extreme end of the seat on the right of the narrow passage leading from the steps.
"There was no delay, and the gaunt form of the President-elect was soon visible, slowly making his way to the front. To me, at least, he was completely metamorphosedpartly by his own fault, and partly through the efforts of injudicious friends and ambitious tailors. He was raising (to gratify a very young lady, it is said), a crop of whiskers, of the blacking-brush variety, coarse, stiff, and ungraceful; and in so doing spoiled, or at least seriously impaired, a face which, tho never handsome, had in its original state a peculiar power and pathos. On the present occasion the whiskers were reinforced by brand new clothes from top to toe; black dress coat instead of the usual frock, black cloth or satin vest, black pantaloons, and a glossy hat evidently just out of the box. To cap the climax of novelty, he carried a huge ebony cane, with a gold head the size of an egg. In these, to him strange habiliments, he looked so miserably uncomfortable that I could not help pitying him.
"Reaching the platform, his discomfort was visibly increased by not knowing what to do with hat and cane; and so he stood there, the target for ten thousand eyes, holding cane in one hand and hat in the other, the very picture of helpless embarrassment. After some hesitation he pushed the cane into a corner of the railing, but could not find a place for the hat except on the floor, where I could see he did not like to risk it. Douglas, who fully took in the situation, came to the rescue of his old friend and rival, and held the precious hat until the owner needed it again; a service which, if predicted two years before, would probably have astonished him.
"The oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Taney, whose black robes, attenuated figure, and cadaverous countenance reminded me of a galvanized corpse. Then the President came forward and read his inaugural address in a clear and distinct voice. It was attentively listened to by all, but the closest listener was Douglas, who leaned forward as if to catch every word, nodding his head emphatically at those passages which most pleased him. There was some applause, not very much nor very enthusiastic. I must not forget to mention the presence of a Mephistopheles in the person of Senator Wigfall, of Texas, who stood with folded arms leaning against the doorway of the Capitol, looking down upon the crowd and the ceremony with a contemptuous air, which sufficiently indicated his opinion of the whole performance. To him, the Southern Confederacy was already an accomplished fact. He lived to see it the saddest of fictions."
1 From Herndon and Wick's "Life of Lincoln." By permission of the publishers, D. Appleton & Company. Copyright, 1892. Mr. Herndon was Lincoln's law partner at Springfield. His "Life of Lincoln" had been much esteemed for its fidelity to actual conditions in Lincoln's life, and for its exposition of certain elemental points in Lincoln's character.
2 Baker at that time was famous as a speaker, and represented Oregon in the Senate. His speech in the Senate on August 1, 1861, eleven days after the Battle of Bull Run, was one of the most dramatic of all those delivered in Congress during the war. He made this speech in reply to Breckenridge, of Kentucky, who had been defeated in 1860 as the Southern candidate for President. Breckenridge was afterward expelled from the Senate. Breckenridge was already on his feet when Baker, then a colonel in the army as well as a Senator alternating his services between his seat in the Senate and his tent in the field, entered the Senate chamber at the eastern door, wearing his blue army coat and fatigue cap, a riding-whip in his hand and his sword in its scabbard. Blaine, in his "Twenty Years of Congress," tells how Baker "laid his sword upon his desk" and sat down, listening to Breckenridge. When Breckenridge had finished, Baker, "his face aglow with excitement, sprang to the floor. No more thrilling speech was ever delivered. The striking appearance of the speaker in the uniform of a soldier, his superb voice, his graceful manner, all united to give the occasion an extraordinary interest." Eleven weeks later Baker lay dead on the field of Ball's Bluff.