In Baltimore, people are bragging they will assassinate the president-elect if he passes through the city.
In Washington, the word on the streets is the secessionists are going to burn all the public buildings, destroy the government archives, and prevent the inauguration of the new president.
Newspapers, politicians, and every day people are sure civil war waits around the corner. Meanwhile, the man who can prevent everything “by the utterance of a single sentence” is slowly making his way towards the Capitol. Along the way, he makes frequent whistle stops.
In Cincinnati, Abraham Lincoln asks his audience, “Would it be coercion and invasion to protect and defend the property and forts of the U States? Would it be coercion to enforce the laws?”
In Pittsburgh, Lincoln tells his audience, “notwithstanding the crisis across the river; there is really no crisis, except an artificial one.”
Every time Lincoln opens his mouth Southerners feel threatened. His fellow Republicans are just as uncomfortable. Many of them think Mr. Lincoln’s speeches are undoing the country. If he keeps talking he could cause a civil war before he reaches the Capitol.
Such misunderstandings are the stuff wars are made of. Abraham Lincoln and the South will eventually learn this lesson, but the time is not right for it – not yet.
1861 will change everything.