The President Elect and His Political Exhibitions
Harrisburg Daily Patriot and Union, February 21, 1861
The lack of good taste and proper dignity of deportment that has marked Mr. Lincoln's course since he left Springfield, Illinois, with the ostensible purpose of journeying to Washington to assume the office to which he has been elected, is the subject of universal remark, as well as universal regret.
After keeping as silent as the grave, so far as any public expression of his views and opinions are known, ever since the election up to the 14th inst., the day on which the returns were opened and counted in the presence of the two Houses of Congress in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, it was but reasonable to presume that he would pursue a similar line of policy up to the 4th of March, when he would have a fitting opportunity of spreading before the country and the world his matured opinions upon all questions touching his future course of administrative conduct. Had he been the dignified statesman he ought to be, in order to be qualified to discharge the duties of the high trust confided to him in a proper manner, it seems to us he would have proceeded from his home in Illinois to the Federal Capital by the most direct route, in a quiet way, avoiding all parade and ostentation, and thus save his friends and the nation at large the mortification of seeing the elected President of the country making the most puerile and disgusting displays of mountebankism that were ever given by any harlequin who ever strutted upon a stage or gambolled in a circus ring, to delight a gaping crowd, at twenty-five cents a head.
The honor, if honor he considers it, has been reserved for Abraham Lincoln of departing from the rule usually adopted by all his predecessors, of traveling from post to pillar—of boxing the compass in order to show the people, by ocular demonstration, how great a fool a man can make of himself when he tries.—The truth is, that Mr. Lincoln forcibly reminds us of a little boy who has been presented with a new hobbyhorse. His delight knows no bounds as he contemplates the object of his adoration; and of course he needs must show his hobby-horse to every one he meets, descanting the while, with infantile volubility, upon the beauties and excellencies of his prize. So it seems with the President elect. He too appears so much delighted with the fact that he is President elect that he traverses the country in a zigzag course—first in one direction, then in another—accepting all the invitations tendered him from any and every quarter, in order to gratify the inordinate desire to exhibit himself in all his vast proportions to the gaping multitude—to tell them what a great man he has got to be—upon whose shoulders rests a load of responsibility more ponderous than ever was borne by the Father of his Country—in other words, to convince the people of the United States that he, Abraham Lincoln, is a man of much more importance than Washington ever was. We repeat, that never before has any President given such painful proof of his weakness at the outset of his Presidential career, as this man Lincoln; and the American people may well feel humiliated when they contemplate the spectacle he presents at his public exhibitions of his ignorance and incapacity, as at Indianapolis, Columbus and Pittsburg. At the latter place, whilst addressing the people, such was his ignorance of the geography of the locality, that he pointed across the Monongahela river, and addressed himself to the people of Virginia, not knowing any better than that on the other side of that river was Virginia soil, instead of that of Pennsylvania. Such things are almost incredible, but they are lamentably too true.
We allude to these things, not because we differ with Mr. Lincoln politically, but because we feel, in common with all our citizens, the humiliation which such ignorance and folly as he has displayed since he left home naturally and inevitably inspires. Painful as these things are to which we have alluded, they are but a drop in the bucket, compared to the positions he occupies in his Indianapolis and Pittsburg speeches on the condition of our national affairs, and his miserable attempt to talk double-headed tariff, when he speaks of protecting the "manufactures of Pennsylvania and the corn of Illinois, together with the reapers of Chicago."
His congratulations of the people on the fact, as he assumes, that "there is nothing wrong, and nobody hurt;" that such a thing as dissolving the Union "can't be did;" that all the present ills of the body politic can be healed by the application of a few homeopathic pills; and in the next breath asking the people to stand by him whilst he shall stand by the Constitution; his silly allusions to the cause of the present crisis as being but conjectural and the work of a few politicians—these, and a score of other equally shocking absurdities, are enough to make the blush of shame mantle the cheek of the veriest tyro in politics; but to the intelligent mind they are absolutely horrible to contemplate. Is such a man a fit person to conduct the country through the trying scenes which it must pass before the political and social problem involved in the present condition of the nation shall be solved? That we have fallen upon strange times is, alas! too true; and unless this man should fall into the keeping of men whose lofty and enlightened patriotism, sound wisdom and discretion shall mark out for him a path of duty commensurate with the occasion, the worst of consequences to this nation must follow. We confess we shudder as we contemplate the future in the person of this weak and ignorant man.