Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Delanceyplace.com 1/20/09--Washington and Lincoln's Inaugurations

In today's excerpt-George Washington arrived for his New York inauguration in 1789 in triumph, Abraham Lincoln arrived for his Washington inauguration in 1861 in fear of assassins and civil war:

George Washington

"The public reverence accorded to royalty was put on display during [George] Washington's weeklong trip from Mount Vernon to New York [for the inauguration], which became one prolonged coronation ceremony. It began with crowds of more than ten thousand celebrants cheering him amidst cannon salutes and poetic tributes at Baltimore and Wilmington. Outside Philadelphia he was obliged to mount a white horse so that the twenty thousand spectators could see him as he crossed the Schuylkill. Charles Willson Peale had designed an arch of triumph over the bridge, and his daughter Angelica lowered a laurel crown upon Washington's head as he passed under the arch. At Trenton a chorus of white-robed girls tossed flowers from their baskets in his path while singing a tribute to 'The Defender of the Mothers, The Protector of the Daughters.' A congressional committee greeted him at Elizabethtown, where a fifty-foot barge manned by thirteen white-smocked sailors rowed him across the Hudson. A flotilla of decorated ships and sloops pulled alongside the barge as he approached New York Harbor and a chorus aboard one of the sloops sang an ode composed for the occasion to the tune of 'God Save the King.'

"The appointed day, April 30, was clear and bright. A crowd had been gathering outside the president's house since dawn. At nine, all the churches in the city were opened 'and prayers offered up to the Great Ruler of the universe for the preservation of the President,' wrote Tobias Lear, Washington's secretary, whose room was under the eaves. ... Washington ... was wearing a dark brown homespun suit made at Hartford Manufacturing with eagles embossed on the buttons, white silk stockings, and a close-cropped brown tricorn beaver hat made in Philadelphia. He wore no wig; his hair was pulled back and powdered. ... [Then] Washington stepped out onto a balcony, where the crowd of ten thousand was cheering wildly. ... The crowd roared, 'God bless our Washington! Long live our beloved President!' ...


"In an effort to remain undetected in route to his inauguration, [Lincoln] quietly slipped out of the hotel in Harrisburg. He was unrecognized because, instead of the usual stovepipe hat that had become his trademark, he wore for the first time in his life a soft felt 'Kossuth' hat someone in New York had given him, To help conceal his tall figure his long overcoat was thrown loosely over his shoulders without his arms being in the sleeves. He boarded a special train in Harrisburg, where all telegraphic communication had been interrupted to prevent possible leaks to the conspirators. ... Inevitably Lincoln's secret night ride attracted unfavorable comment.

"At noon on March 4, 1861 [outgoing president] James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln entered an open barouche (horse-drawn carriage) at Willard's Hotel to begin the drive down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. Determined to prevent any attempt on Lincoln's life, General [Winfield] Scott had stationed sharpshooters on the roofs of buildings along the avenue, and companies of soldiers blocked off the cross streets. He stationed himself with one battery of light artillery on Capitol Hill; General John E. Wool, commander of the army's Department of the East, was with another. The presidential procession was short and businesslike, more like a military operation than a political parade.

"Entering the Capitol from the north through a passageway boarded so as to prevent any possible assassination attempt, Buchanan and Lincoln attended the swearing in of Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and then emerged to a smattering of applause on the platform erected at the east portico. Introduced by his old friend, the silver-tongued E. D. Baker, Lincoln rose but was obviously troubled by what to do with his tall stovepipe hat. Noting his perplexity, [Illinois Senator Stephen] Douglas said, 'Permit me, sir,' took the hat, and held it during the ceremony."

Joseph J. Ellis, His Excellency, Vintage, Copyright 2004 by Joseph J. Ellis, pp. 184-185; Willard Sterne Randall, George Washington, Owl Books, Copyright 1997 by Willard Sterne Randall, pp. 447-448; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, Simon & Schuster, Copyright 1995 by David Herbert Donald, pp. 282-284


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