Lincoln's Difficult Transition to Presidency

In late October 1860, Mr Lincoln wrote a Tennessee lawyer: "I appreciate your motive when you suggest the propriety of my writing for the public something disclaiming all intention to interfere with slaves or slavery in the States; but in my judgment, it would do no good. I have already done this many — many, times; and it is in print, and open to all who will read. Those who will not read, or heed, what I have already publicly said, would not read, or heed, a repetition of it." Candidate Lincoln closed with a biblical injunction: "'If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.'"1

 

There was considerable pressure in late 1860 for Mr. Lincoln to speak out on the impending secession and his intentions regarding slavery. Historian Richard H. Sewell wrote "Although he refrained from public statements during the interregnum between his election and his inauguration, Abraham Lincoln left little doubt of his utter hostility to any trimming on the territorial question. Characteristic was his advice ('Private & confidential') to Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne. 'Prevent, as far as possible, any of our friends from demoralizing themselves, and our cause, by entertaining propositions for compromise of any sort, on 'slavery extension,' he wrote in mid-December. 'There is no possible compromise upon it, but which puts us under again, and leaves all our work to do over again. Whether it be a Mo. Line, or Eli Thayer's Pop. Sov. It is all the same. Let either be done, & immediately filibustering and extending slavery recommences. On that point hold firm, as with a chain of steel.'"2

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