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Lincoln's Inauguration Journey – February 12, 1861

Nov 29, 2017
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The second day of Abraham Lincoln’s Inauguration Journey was his 52nd birthday, February 12, 1861. The next leg of this journey continued from Indianapolis through the eastern half of Indiana then traveled southward to the Ohio River city of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Lincoln had spoken fairly frequently the first day of the trip and was already experiencing some minor hoarseness as the train pulled out of Indianapolis. Nonetheless, he still would meet the crowds and even offer brief remarks at the stops along the route to Cincinnati that day.
The train passed through small Indiana towns that day, and made a brief two-minute stop in Shelbyville, where Lincoln shook as many hands as he could before the train departed. It was his second visit to that town, the first being in 1859 during his return trip from a speech he gave in Cincinnati. On that occasion, Lincoln had spoken in Shelbyville for a short time, pointing his differences with Stephen A. Douglas and the Democrats over the issues of slavery.
At the longer stop in Lawrenceburg, Indiana this day, though, Lincoln had a longer time period in which to offer a few remarks to the crowd. He stated that “If the politicians and leaders of parties were as true as the PEOPLE (original source capitalization, not mine), there would be little fear that the peace of the country would be disturbed.”
Upon arrival in Cincinnati that afternoon, Lincoln spoke a few lines upon a rousing welcome from the crowd at the depot. He told the people gathered that he would give his main speech later that day from the Burnet House (a hotel), a print of which is shown in the image I’ve included with this post.
At the Burnet House, Lincoln thanked the multitudes of people who had come to see him, a crowd estimated at approximately 10,000. He admitted that the people had not come to see him, but the President-Elect of The United States, a statement which caused much cheering and applause. He said it was as it should be, no matter if his other opponents had been elected instead of him. He was quick to point out that well that in his opinion no other country on Earth would’ve seen so many gather to welcome its new leader, and that the country owed this to the free institutions which had guaranteed freedom of assembly. He said that he hoped that the country would continue on such a path for centuries to come.
He then turned his attention to any Kentuckians who might be in the crowd. Yet again, Lincoln assured those who might be present that he had no intention to interfere with their “institution” (i.e., slavery) where it already existed. He said that other than their differing opinions on the issue of expansion of slavery, there was no difference between them. He reminded them again, that he was a fellow Kentuckian and had no personal intentions of bad against them. He closed his directed speech to the Kentuckians by saying he would treat them as the Founding Fathers had treated them.
Then speaking to the Ohioans again, Lincoln asked them to harbor no ill will towards their “friends” and “brethren” across the Ohio River in Kentucky. He expressed his hope that the country would yet again come together as one nation.
In those days (and even today), there was a large population of Germans in Cincinnati. Later after his main speech that day, Lincoln went to another location in the city to address a crowd of people of German heritage which included numerous recent immigrants from that country. Lincoln again declined to announce what course of action he would take once he assumed the presidency in the following month. But he did state to them that he would treat the Germans (who were facing much discrimination then) no better and no worse than Americans. He stated his support for a Homestead Law (passed in 1862) which would provide free Federal land (in return for working it for at least five years) to anyone who would want it. This was wildly popular among the German and other European immigrants at the time, who were fleeing famine, cramped conditions, and oppression in their native countries.
With these remarks, Lincoln was done appearing in public for that day. He and his family overnighted in Cincinnati. He would leave the next day for the state capital of Ohio, Columbus. That brief leg of the trip will be discussed tomorrow, the 150th anniversary.
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