Sunday, April 19, 2009

'The Responsibility That Was Upon Me'

15th of 45 excerpts from Lincoln by David Herbert Donald:
On [presidential] election day [in 1860], William Herndon went to Lincoln's office in the state capitol and urged his law partner to vote. Initially reluctant, Lincoln was persuaded that his ballot might be important in the state elections, and he cut off the top of the sheet, listing the presidential electors, so that he would not be voting for himself. The, accompanied by Herndon and escorted on one side by [Ward Hill] Lamon and [Elmer] Ellsworth, he went to the polls. Republicans yelled and shouted as he approached and again after he cast his ballot. even Democrats, who were proud of their local celebrity, respectfully raised their hats.

That evening Lincoln joined fellow Republicans who crowded the capitol to hear the returns, relayed from the telegraph office. Illinois went Republican, then Indiana, and the ticket did well in the other Western states. But there was still no news from the critical Eastern states, and Lincoln . . . and one or two others walked over to the telegraph office. Not until after ten o'clock did reports come in of Republican victories in Pennsylvania. While they were awaiting the news from New York, the party was invited to Watson's Saloon, where the Republican ladies who had taken it over for the night were serving supper. When Lincoln entered the room, the women greeted him: "How do you do, Mr. President!" After eating, Lincoln stayed on at the telegraph office until about two o'clock, when the news that his party had carried New York made his election certain. "I went home, but did not get much sleep," he remembered, "for I then felt as I never had before, the responsibility that was upon me."

. . . In the days before the election, as Republican victory seemed increasingly likely, Lincoln's basis pessimism reemerged as he began fully to realize that a campaign initially undertaken primarily for local political reasons was going to place him in the White House.

No comments: