Journey to Washington
Abraham Lincoln was indisputably a minority president, having received less than forty percent of the popular vote. Hence, his nearly 2,000-mile train trip from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, D.C., was designed in part to promote national unity. However, during dozens of stops where Lincoln made nearly as many speeches, the journey quickly assumed the aura of a prolonged victory celebration. The route wound through seven states, stopping in major cities such as Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Albany, New York, and Philadelphia where the celebratory noise was deafening. Choirs sang, cannons roared, and thousands cheered. Lincoln rose to the occasion, joking with the crowd one minute and promising to maintain the Union the next. Lincoln’s message encouraged hope, but it was a false hope because he continued to treat secession as an artificial crisis manufactured by designing Southern politicians. The seriousness of the situation must have dawned upon Lincoln after he was presented with evidence of a plot against his life. At that point, the president-elect agreed to complete the last two-hundred miles of his journey to the White House incognito.
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