Today I head up to Gettysburg for the annual Lincoln Forum conference featuring such eminent historians as Frank Williams, Harold Holzer, Sidney Blumenthal, Richard Brookhiser, Edna Greene Medford, and many others.
At the same time I am finishing up the text for my next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Save America, due out in 2017. The following is a snippet from the prologue.
Abraham Lincoln stood beneath the unfinished dome of the United States Capitol, gazing over the crowd gathered below him with melancholy and trepidation. Begun six years earlier to replace the old copper-clad wooden dome, the new cast iron dome augured the duties ahead of him, that of rebuilding the nation. Lincoln was apprehensive, unsure he could accomplish all that awaited him.
The wooden platform constructed on the East side of the building for his inauguration was wet from the morning’s rain, and some people had umbrellas to protect them from the continuing drizzle. The gloomy mood was appropriate, as already between the November elections and March 4, 1861 seven states in the deep South had seceded from the Union. They would be joined by four more shortly after.
Lincoln would give his inaugural address, then be given the oath of the office of the president by Chief Justice Roger Taney, whose Dred Scott decision a few years earlier had further divided the nation and enlarged the growing rift between free states and slave states. Lincoln wondered if he would be able to keep the Union together.
“We must not be enemies. We must be friends.”
Speaking to the South, Lincoln tried to reassure them that “the government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without yourself being the aggressors.” He pleaded with them not to destroy the goals of the founders, which by establishing the Constitution, was “to form a more perfect union.”
But he was also firm:
“You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ it.”
After being sworn into office, Lincoln road alone in his carriage up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. It would be up to Lincoln over the next four years to find a way to save America.
I’ll have more on the book, and plenty of photos, after my return from the Lincoln Forum.
David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book is on Abraham Lincoln, due out in 2017.