Six Months at the White House/LI
The "Baltimore Convention," which renominated Mr. Lincoln, was convened June 7, 1864. It created comparatively little excitement in Washington or elsewhere, as the action of the various State legislatures and local mass meetings had prepared the public mind for the result.
Toward evening of the 8th,--the day the nominations were made,--Major Hay and myself were alone with the President in his office. He did not seem in any degree exhilarated by the action of the convention; on the contrary, his manner was subdued, if not sad. Upon the lighting of the gas, be told us how he had that afternoon received the news of the nomination for Vice-President before he heard of his own. It appeared that the despatch announcing his renomination had been sent to his office from the War Department while he was at lunch. Afterward, without going back to the official chamber, he proceeded to the War Department. While there, the telegram came in announcing the nomination of Johnson. "What!" said he to the operator, "do they nominate a Vice-President before they do a President?" "Why!" rejoined the astonished official, "have you not heard of your own nomination? It was sent to the White House two hours ago." "It is all right," was the reply; "I shall probably find it on my return."
Laughing pleasantly over this incident, he said, soon afterward,--"A very singular occurrence took place the day I was nominated at Chicago, four years ago, of which I am reminded to-night. In the afternoon of the day, returning home from down town, I went up-stairs to Mrs. Lincoln's sitting-room. Feeling somewhat tired, I lay down upon a couch in the room, directly opposite a bureau upon which was a looking-glass. As I reclined, my eye fell upon the glass, and I saw distinctly two images of myself, exactly alike, except that one was a little paler than the other. I arose, and lay down again, with the same result. It made me quite uncomfortable for a few moments, but some friends coming in, the matter passed out of my mind. The next day, while walking in the street, I was suddenly reminded of the circumstance, and the disagreeable sensation produced by it returned. I had never seen anything of the kind before, and did not know what to make of it. I determined to go home and place myself in the same position, and if the same effect was produced, I would make up my mind that it was the natural result of some principle of refraction or optics which I did not understand, and dismiss it. I tried the experiment, with a like result; and, as I had said to myself, accounting for it on some principle unknown to me, it ceased to trouble me. But," said he, "some time ago, I tried to produce the same effect here, by arranging a glass and couch in the same position, without success." He did not say, at this time, that either he or Mrs. Lincoln attached any omen to the phenomenon; neither did he say that the double reflection was seen while he was walking about the room. On the contrary, it was only visible in a certain position and at a certain angle; and therefore, he thought, could be accounted for upon scientific principles.
A little later in the evening, the Hon. Mr. Kelley, of Philadelphia, came in. As he sat down, he took a letter out of his pocket, saying: "Mr. President, while on a visit home, a week or two ago, I took up a number of the "Anti-Slavery Standard," in which there happened to be a communication from Mrs. Caroline H. Dall, of Boston, giving her views of the Fremont movement, and the situation generally; so admirable in its tone and spirit, that I could not resist the inclination to write to the author, expressing the interest with which I had read the article. The result was a reply, which I hold in my hand, which seems to me so just and able a statement of your position, from the standpoint of a true woman, that I have brought it up to read to you." Mr. Lincoln nodded assent, and listened pensively to the eloquent tones of the Congressman's voice, who entered into the spirit of the letter with his whole heart,--affirming, as it did, unwavering confidence in the President; the sincerity of his anti-slavery convictions and purposes; and appreciation of the difficulties which had environed him,--presenting in this respect, a marked contrast to the letters and speeches of many of the so-called radicals. Mr. Lincoln said but little, as Judge Kelley concluded; but one or two expressions, and the manner accompanying them, showed that the sentiments of the writer of the letter were gratefully appreciated.
The day following the adjournment at Baltimore, various political organizations called to pay their respects to the President. First came the Convention Committee, embracing one from each State represented,--appointed to announce to him, formally, the nomination. Next came the Ohio delegation, with Menter's Band, of Cincinnati. Following these were the representatives of the National Union League, to whom he said, in concluding his brief response:--
"I do not allow myself to suppose that either the Convention, or the League, have concluded to decide that I am either the greatest or the best man in America; but, rather, they have concluded that it is not best to swap horses while crossing the river, and have further concluded that I am not so poor a horse, but that they might make a botch of it in trying to swap!"
Another incident, which occurred in the course of the day, created considerable amusement. When the Philadelphia delegation was being presented, the chairman of that body, in introducing one of the members, said: "Mr. President, this is Mr. S----, of the Second District of our State,--a most active and earnest friend of yours and the cause. He has, among other things, been good enough to paint, and present to our League rooms, a most beautiful portrait of yourself." Mr. Lincoln took the gentleman's hand in his, and shaking it cordially, said with a merry voice, "I presume, sir, in painting your beautiful portrait, you took your idea of me from my principles, and not from my person."
Among the visitors, the same afternoon, were William Lloyd Garrison and Theodore Tilton. In the "Editorial Notes," concerning the convention and nominations, in his newspaper, the New York "Independent," the following week, Mr. Tilton wrote:--
"On his reception day, the President's face wore an expression of satisfaction rather than elation. His reception of Mr. Garrison was an equal honor to host and guest. In alluding to our failure to find the old jail, he said,--'Well, Mr. Garrison, when you first went to Baltimore you couldn't get out; but the second time you couldn't get in! ' When one of us mentioned the great enthusiasm at the convention, after Senator Morgan's proposition to amend the Constitution, abolishing slavery, Mr. Lincoln instantly said,--'It was I who suggested to Mr. Morgan that he should put that idea into his opening speech.' This was the very best word he has said since the proclamation of freedom."
- Mr. Lincoln's friend Brooks, of the Sacramento Union, has given to the public a somewhat different version of this story, placing its occurrence on the day of the election in 1860. The account, as I have given it, was written before I had seen that by Mr. Brooks, and is very nearly as Hay and myself heard it,--the incident making a powerful impression upon my mind. I am quite confident that Mr. Lincoln said it occurred the day he was first nominated; for he related it to us a few hours after having received intelligence of his renomination, saying, "I am reminded of it to-night." It is possible, however, that I am mistaken in the date. Mr. Brooks's statement that "Mrs. Lincoln" was "troubled" about it, regarding it as a "sign that Mr. Lincoln would be reelected, but would not live through his second term," is undoubtedly correct.