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A split in the Democratic party, which resulted in the nomination of Douglas by one faction and of John C. Breckinridge by the other, made Lincoln's ELECTION a certainty. Lincoln polled 1,865,593 votes to Douglas' 1,382,713, and Breckinridge's 848,356. John Bell, candidate of the Constitutional Union party, polled 592,906. The ELECTORAL vote was Lincoln, 180; Breckinridge, 72; Bell, 39; and Douglas, 12.


On Feb. 11, 1861, Lincoln left Springfield to take up his duties as president. Before him lay, as he recognized, "a task . greater than that which rested upon [George] Washington." The seven states of the lower South had seceded from the Union, and Southern delegates meeting in Montgomery, Ala., had formed a new, separate government. Before Lincoln reached the national capital, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederate States of America. The four states of the upper South teetered on the brink of secession, and disunion sentiment was rampant in the border states of Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri.

When Lincoln reached Washington on February 23, he found the national government incapable of meeting the crisis. President James Buchanan deplored secession but could not check it, and Congress fruitlessly debated compromise. The national treasury was near bankruptcy; the civil service was riddled with secessionists; and the miniscule armed forces were being weakened by defection of officers to the South.

It was not immediately evident that Lincoln could avert the dissolution of the United States. Few American presidents have assumed office under greater handicaps. Warned of an attempt on his life being planned in Baltimore, Lincoln had to enter the national capital surreptitiously, arriving after a secret midnight journey from Harrisburg, Pa. Widely publicized, the episode did little to inspire public confidence in the government or to create an image of Lincoln as a dynamic leader. That so many citizens could believe their new president a coward was evidence of a more serious handicap under which Lincoln labored: he was virtually unknown to the American people. Lincoln's record as an Illinois state legislator, as a one-term member of the House of Representatives in the 1840's, and as an unsuccessful senatorial candidate against Douglas was not one to inspire confidence in his abilities. Even the leaders of the Republican party had little acquaintance with the new President.

Almost at the outset, Lincoln demonstrated that he was a poor administrator. Accustomed, as his law partner William H. Herndon said, to filing legal papers in his top hat, Lincoln conducted the administration of the national govern ment in the same fashion. Selecting for his cabinet spokesmen of the diverse elements that constituted the Republican party, he surrounded himself with men of such conflicting views that he could not rely on them to work together. Cabinet sessions rarely dealt with serious issues. Usually, Lincoln permitted cabinet officers free rein in running their departments.

Nor was Lincoln an effective leader of his party in the Congress, where after secession the Republicans had overwhelming majorities. Long a Whig, vigilant against executive "usurpation," he earnestly felt that as president he ought not to exert even "indirect influence to affect the action of congress." In consequence there was poor rapport between Capitol Hill and the WHITE HOUSE. Even those measures that the President earnestly advocated were weakened or defeated by members of his own party. But on important issues relating to the conduct of the war and the restoration of the Union, Lincoln followed his own counsel, ignoring the opinions of Congress.

More than counterbalancing these deficiencies, however, were Lincoln's strengths. Foremost was his unflinching dedication to the preservation of the Union. Convinced that the United States was more than an ordinary nation, that it was a proving ground for the idea of democratic government, Lincoln felt that he was leading a struggle to preserve "the last, best hope of earth." Despite war-weariness and repeated defeats, he never wavered in his "paramount object." To restore national unity he would do what was necessary, without regard to legalistic construction of the CONSTITUTION, political objections in Congress, or personal popularity.

Реферат опубликован: 9/09/2007