Johnson – pre Presidency

When he was in the U.S. House, he voted against the Smithsonian, against expanding the U.S. Patent Office, against federal spending for improved roads and railroads. He felt people who used the roads and railroads should pay for them, not everyone else. He supported cutting salaries of Congressmen, including himself. He proposed a homestead bill that would give small plots of undeveloped land to new settlers in the west.  If they cleared it and farmed it for five years, they would receive full ownership. Business opposed this bill, however, so it did not pass.

As Governor of Tennessee, he proposed expansion of public education and the homestead act, but the governor of the state had little power, so he could not get anything through the state Congress.

In the U.S. Senate, he still wanted to pass his homestead bill. This time railroad companies opposed his bill because they were getting grants from the federal government for the land. Southern political leaders were also still opposed to the bill. They thought the bill would be a way to break up potential plantations that might be cultivated property with slaves. Both houses passed it, but President Buchanan vetoed it. Two years later, Congress passed it again and Lincoln signed it into law.

Johnson generally voted with the south, but he disagreed on secession.


The Assassination

The two theaters that Lincoln regularly visited were Grover’s and Ford’s. Mr. Grover estimated Lincoln visited his theater more than a hundred times during his first term. Lincoln liked to get away from the pressures of the office for a couple of hours and lose himself in the story.

The morning of April 14, 1865, Lincoln was very happy. The war was over and his son Robert was home. He and Mary were scheduled to go to the theater with the Grants that night. Lincoln did not really want to go because he didn’t feel like he had to escape from anything, but he had made a commitment and went. The Grants excused themselves, so the Lincolns went alone.

John Wilkes Booth, a fan of the confederacy, and his co-conspirators planned to kill Lincoln, as well as Secretary of State Seward and Vice President Johnson. Booth and his brother were actors, so he had access to the stage at the Ford Theater.

The man assigned to kill Seward showed up at his house on the pretense he had medicine to deliver. When Seward’s son wouldn’t let him in, he tried to shoot him, but his fun misfired. He hit him with the back of the gun and fled to the stairs. Seward’s bodyguard came to see what was going on and the man slashed him with his knife. He made his way to Seward and stabbed him in the neck and face. He ran out of the house, while stabbing someone else, and made it out into the city streets. Seward survived.

The man assigned to kill Vice President Johnson thought they were going to kidnap the President. When he was told it would be an ambush and kill of three people, he initially agreed to do it. However, fifteen minutes before he was supposed to ring the bell at Johnson’s hotel, he changed his mind and was never seen again.

Booth had carefully thought out his plan. He attended dress rehearsal the day before to get an idea of what would happen where backstage so he could rehearse his plan. At about twelve minutes after 10, Booth presented his calling card to the footman in Lincoln’s box and was let in. Once he got in, “he raised his pistol, pointed it at the back of the president’s head, and fired.” Some theater goers thought it may be part of the play, but Mary was screaming, “They have shot the President!”

Another man in the box tried to grab Booth, but Booth cut him in the chest with his knife and leapt out of the box to the stage 15 feet below and ran from the stage.

The doctors said most people would have died instantly, but Lincoln hung on for nine hours dying the morning of April 15. Stanton was there and uttered the famous quote, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Artists and Veterans

After his second election, when long lines of ‘office seekers’ lined up at the White House, Lincoln told his staff he would only talk to artists and disabled veterans. He hoped to ‘facilitate artists in their profession” by offering them consul jobs. He had a general working on getting government jobs for veterans to thank them for their service.

Thirteenth Amendment

Lincoln worried his Emancipation Proclamation would be not be considered legal and would be discarded once the Civil War was over, so he tried to make it the 13th amendment. He did not have the votes originally. In the spring, the bill did not pass the House. It lost by two votes. It did pass in the Senate, however, opening the door to try again. After the elections of 1864, Congress revoted. Lincoln had to heavily imply that he had the power to provide plum positions of power to the Congressmen and their families if they changed their votes. The bill ultimately passed and became law.


In March of 1862, Lincoln “asked the legislature to pass a join resolution providing federal aid to any state willing to adopt a plan for the gradual abolition of slavery.  The resolution called upon states to stipulate that slaves within their borders would be freed upon attaining a certain age or specify a date after which slavery would no longer be allowed.” Lincoln felt that border slave states would rather take the aid than see the union dissolve. However, the states’ legislatures would not comply.

The Republican Congress, free from southern state opposition, sent a bill to Lincoln to sign freeing slaves in the District of Columbia. Also. they passed the Homestead Act, which promised 160 acres of land in the West to settlers who would stay on it for five years. They also passed the Morrill Act, which provided public land for land grant colleges, and the Pacific Railroad Act, which made possible the construction of the transcontinental railroad.

This congress also passed laws that created paper money, established the IRS and a federal tax.

Then, Lincoln signed a bill freeing slaves in the confederacy states. He didn’t want to sign it because there were no enforcement mechanisms.

Later this year, Lincoln started thinking of another way to win the war. He came upon the idea that if he emancipated all slaves, the south would have to surrender. The slaves could join the northern army and the confederacy wouldn’t have anyone to do all the tasks the slaves were contributing to the war effort. He would free the slaves to save the union.

He waited until a big military victory by the union at Antietam and on September 23, published his pledge to issue an Emancipation Proclamation effective January 1, 1863.

On this day, he issued his proclamation, adding that freed slaves were welcome to join the union army.

Robert E. Lee

Lincoln wanted to appoint Robert E. Lee to lead the Union army. He was a West Point graduate, had served in the Mexican War and was the commander of the forces that captured John Brown at Harper’s Ferry.

Lee’s home state of Virginia had just seceded, so he could not turn his back on his home state. He resigned his more than 30 year US military commission and was made the head of the Virginia military forces.

Lincoln-Douglas debates

In a battle to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate, Lincoln and Douglas “covered over 4000 miles within Illinois, delivering hundreds of speeches.” They debated seven times. Lincoln was anti-slavery and Douglas was willing to let slavery stand. Douglas tried to portray Lincoln as a “Negro-lover” and LIncoln insisted he was not trying to make blacks equal to whites. “He had never been in favor of making voters or jurors, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry.” However, Lincoln thought they had the right to govern themselves with all the rights of the Declaration of Independence. If he campaigned on an equality platform, he would have lost. Illinois had Black Laws that were not going anywhere any time soon.

Lincoln supported the notion of sending all black people back to Liberia, their native land, and compensate slaveholders, but he understood the administrative logistics and financial mess that plan would create.

Douglas did not believe the founding fathers intended on ever ending slavery, but LIncoln thought they meant equality for all eventually. They were setting up ‘a standard maxim for a free society… for people of all colors everywhere.”

Of course, Lincoln was not voted Senator that year. At that time, the state legislature choose senators. Republicans won the popular vote, but Democrats retained control of the state legislature.

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

Lincoln’s acceptance speech in 1858 at the Convention to nominate him for U.S. Senate has become famous for his statements on slavery.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the house to fall  – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”


In the Summer of 1855, a lawyer from a prestigious law firm in Philadelphia paid a visit to Abe. A case he had been working on would be tried in Illinois, so he wanted a local lawyer working on the case. He didn’t care for Abe when he saw his small house and that he wasn’t wearing a coat or vest, but once he met him and talked with him, he was impressed. He paid Abe a retainer and promised a substantial fee when the work was complete.

Shortly after this meeting, the lawyer found out the case would be tried in Cincinatti. He could hire Stanton, who he wanted to begin with. But, Abe was never told, so he continued to work on the case and went to Cincinatti for the trial. Stanton and the other lawyers were surprised to see him and made him remove himself from the case. Stanton’s behavior is described as “surly condescension.” He stayed and sat in on the trial all week, even though he was never included in any meals or meetings with the other lawyers.

Lincoln stayed for the whole trial because he had never, “seen anything so finished and elaborated, and so thoroughly prepared.” He was very impressed with the whole thing and went home to study law like Stanton and his colleagues had.

That Abe chose Stanton for Secretary of State is all the more interesting confiding how Stanton treated him in Cincinnati 20 years before they were both Presidential candidates.

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