The Inaugural of the New President

San Francisco Daily Alta California, March 19, 1861

The Inaugural Message of President Lincoln, delivered in Washington fifteen days ago, was published in an extra of the Alta yesterday at noon, and appears in our columns to-day. It has been more anxiously awaited by our people than was ever any similar document. The result of the present grave difficulties of the Federal Government must depend, to a considerable extent, upon the personal character of the head of the nation. If he be cool, wise, kind, brave and determined, the Union may yet be preserved; if he be hasty, unwise, harsh, weak, or unsteady, the troubles may go on increasing until our people become a byword and a reproach among the nations of the earth.

The Message will find favor in California. It has no doubt suffered somewhat in being telegraphed twice, or perhaps thrice, and there must be many verbal errors in it, and possibly even sentences disjointed, but the general tenor and substance are there. It is short, clear, and dignified. There is no confusion, and no weakness about it. The President speaks plainly of the conduct of the cotton States, and of his own policy, yet uses no inconsiderate language, and makes no threats. He does not commit himself to extremists of any faction. He declares that, so far as possible, he will execute the laws and protect the federal property, doing his utmost to avoid bloodshed. He does not recognize secession. He has no authority to treat the rebellious States as out of the Union; they are legally under his jurisdiction, and he will treat them as part of the United States.

He does not explain fully his desires in regard to the fortifications and other Federal property in the Cotton States, but we presume that he will, at every cost, hold the forts now in possession; and strengthen and reinforce such as might be in danger of being taken. He is no doubt right, as a matter of law; if the forts are to be surrendered or secession recognized and made legal, it should be done by the legislative and not the executive branch of the government. He does not threaten to retake any fort, nor do we understand his message to hint any favor to such a policy. It seems to us a message of peace. He remonstrates with the seceders in a kindly tone. He approves the Corwin compromise. He protests that his administration will be opposed to any interference with slavery in the States, and that he will enforce the Fugitive Slave law. He hints that the Federal armies are as ready to put down slave insurrection in Mississippi, as Indian outbreaks in Washington. Could a more kindly message have been expected? Even those Northern men opposed politically to Mr. Lincoln, are incensed by the outrageous and indecent conduct of South Carolina and her rebellious confederates. The President betrays no feeling of this kind. His language is as free from any mark of irritation as from undignified complaint or hint of despair.

If we had a copy of the message free from telegraphic and typographic errors, we might criticize its literary composition, but as it is, we cannot. It would, perhaps, have been in better taste for him to have omitted the mention of his stump speeches and the Chicago platform; but yet these were really a part of the bargain between him and the people when he was elected: and on such an occasion as his inauguration, when his policy was the subject uppermost in the minds of every one, his speeches and that platform could not well be forgotten.