New Jersey State Archives
225 West State Street-Level 2
P.O. Box 307
Trenton, NJ 08625-0307

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Email: Feedback@sos.state.nj.us

In 2009, two centuries after Abraham Lincoln’s birth, New Jerseyans generally recognize him as one of the nation’s greatest presidents. Lincoln’s legacy as a wartime leader, preserver of the Union, and emancipator of the slaves, his gift for inspirational oration, and his tragic assassination make him easily one of the most venerated of presidents.

To observe the Lincoln bicentennial, New Jersey State Archives is pleased to present a selection of digitized documents and published sources relating to Lincoln’s election in 1860, his inaugural visit to Trenton in 1861, and his eventual return to the city in April 1865 aboard a funeral train that retraced the inaugural route back to Springfield, Illinois.

The State Archives thanks the New Jersey State Library for allowing their original newspapers to be scanned to complement manuscripts from the Archives’ collections.


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Abraham Lincoln lithographic print.

Election of 1860

Inaugural Visit - February 21, 1861

Assassination and Funeral

 

Election of 1860

With its southern counties south of the Mason-Dixon line, New Jersey was both geographically and politically a border state as the presidential election of 1860 approached. Having many economic and social ties with the South, many New Jerseyans sympathized with the southern states on deeply divisive issues such as slavery and state’s rights. Lincoln thus lost the popular vote in the election, as the electorate favored Democrat Stephen A. Douglas and other minor party candidates. However, due to how New Jersey’s members of the Electoral College were selected, Lincoln won four of New Jersey’s seven electoral votes.

New Jersey’s College of Electors met at the State House on December 7, 1860 to cast votes for the President and Vice President, with Joseph C. Hornblower presiding. Although Stephen Douglas and other candidates collectively outpolled Lincoln in the general election 62,000 votes to 58,300, Lincoln still won four electoral votes to Douglas’s three. The anomaly came about because Lincoln’s opponents failed to forge a “fusion ticket.” Douglas’s supporters reneged on a pledge to join such an alliance, forcing the electors for the minor party candidates to run against both Douglas’s and Lincoln’s electors. The split handed four New Jersey electoral votes to Abraham Lincoln.

None of this background information appears in the formal minutes of the Electoral College—only the outcome is mentioned. Below are the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh pages of the minutes, which record the actual casting of electoral votes.

 


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The contemporary Daily True American of Trenton leaned strongly toward the Democratic Party, and its reports reflected a clear bias against Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election. In a post-election column, “All Hail New Jersey!,” the newspaper’s editors lauded New Jersey’s electorate for casting the majority of the popular vote to Lincoln’s opponents. They wrote: “It is with no small amount of pride and satisfaction that we record the facts to be found in our table of returns of the electoral vote [sic; they meant popular vote], which, although not complete, show conclusively that the Rail-Splitter has been defeated in the State by a majority of about five thousand….” Later in the same article they wrote: “Whatever disasters may result to the country from the election of LINCOLN, which seems to be conceded on all hands, it will be a great consolation for the Democracy and Union men of this State to know, they are not responsible.” 


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Daily True American
November 8, 1860

   

Inaugural Visit

Despite New Jersey’s preference in the election, the State Legislature asked Gov. Charles S. Olden to invite President-elect Lincoln to visit Trenton and the State House during his train journey from Illinois to the inauguration in Washington, D.C. Lincoln’s handwritten acceptance letter of February 6, 1861 is one of the prized documentary treasures in the New Jersey State Archives. With many stops to make along the route, Lincoln’s closed his letter with a postscript: “Please arrange no ceremonies that will waste time.”

Plans for Lincoln’s visit to Trenton and the State House were described in the official records of both houses of the State Legislature. Shown in the top row below are scanned images of pages from the handwritten original version of the Senate Journal for February 11, 1861. The Senate Secretary typically pasted original correspondence and resolutions presented as part of the business session directly on the rough journal’s pages. Governor Olden's letter to the Legislature reporting Lincoln's acceptance of the invitiation to visit the State House and a resolution on the formation of a legislative presidential preparation committee are below. The corresponding pages from the printed, published version of the Senate Journal for the same session that appear in the bottom right are more legible.

 


     
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Lincoln letter to Gov.
Charles S. Olden, 1861
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Governor Olden letter to the Legislature.
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Committee formed
to prepare for
Lincoln’s visit.
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Printed Senate Journal (3 pages) February 11, 1861, p. 180-182
             


In session the following day, the General Assembly received the Senate’s newly adopted resolution calling for a joint committee to prepare for Lincoln’s visit (above), along with their own copy of Governor Olden’s letter reporting Lincoln’s acceptance of the invitation. The top two rows of images below come from the handwritten original version of the Assembly Minutes, which include pasted-in correspondence and resolutions. Below are the printed, published version of the Minutes that correspond with the rough Minutes.

 


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Printed Assembly Minutes, February 21, 1861, pg. 336, 340 and 345

The President-elect arrived at the Trenton train station late on the morning of February 21, 1861. As Lincoln made his way by carriage to the State House, the Senate had already convened. In the handwritten original Senate Journal for the session appear two different resolutions admitting selected officials of the executive and judicial branches (Secretary of State, Treasurer, Clerks of Chancery and Supreme Court) into the Senate Chamber during Lincoln’s visit. The second of these resolutions admits, in addition, “committees in attendance from other cities” (below left). On the day that Lincoln arrived there were seventeen Senators present; four were absent that day (below middle). Lincoln arrived at the Senate shortly after noon. The account of his reception there and his brief remarks to the upper house appear in the printed, published Senate Journal (below right).

Senate President Edmund Perry welcomed Lincoln and offered him good wishes as he went “to preside over the destinies of this vast country at a time of great distraction and imminent peril….” Lincoln’s own remarks to the Senate begin at the bottom of the page and continue on the next. In Lincoln’s remarks he paid tribute to New Jersey’s prominent role in the Revolution, and he recalled reading of Washington’s struggles, of which “none fixed itself on my mind so indelibly, as the crossing of the Delaware, preceding the battle of Trenton.”



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Rough Senate Journal, February 21, 1861
 
Rough Senate Journal, February 21, 1861
 
Senate Journal,
February 21, 1861
pg. 266-267 (2 pages)

 

The General Assembly was also in session as Lincoln addressed the Senate. Minutes prior to the President-elect’s arrival in the Assembly Chamber, some members—evidently displeased with Lincoln’s election—offered a series of unflattering resolutions, the first three of which were tabled, and the final one was ruled out of order by Speaker Frederick H. Teese. When Lincoln entered the Chamber, however, he was treated politely and respectfully, and according to a contemporary news report, his remarks were received with enthusiasm. Lincoln’s address to the Assembly was longer and more poignant than his remarks to the Senate.

Unhappy at the prospect of a Lincoln presidency, some Assembly members offered resolutions “that when this meeting shall have seen Abr[ah]am Lincoln they will have seen a man six feet & 4 inches in height,” and “that when this House shall have seen Abraham Lincoln they will have seen the Ugliest man in the Country….” Both were tabled . The lampooning continued with a resolution, also tabled, “that we trust this Legislature may always have a Democratic member that shall excede (sic) the President 2½ inches in height” (below left). Seconds before Lincoln’s arrival, a final resolution urged “that we all go for Abe Lincoln.” Speaker Teese ruled the proposed physical assault on Lincoln to be out of order.

The Assembly Clerk did not record a complete handwritten account of Lincoln’s appearance or his remarks, but simply pasted in a folded newspaper account (below middle). Speaker Teese welcomed Lincoln with introductory remarks, expressing sympathy with the grave situation facing the new administration: “Already have the dark clouds of disunion obscured a portion of those states which lately shone in an undivided constellation….” The Assembly responded supportively to Lincoln’s own remarks. Asked “if I do my duty and do right, you will sustain me, will you not?” the House cheered loudly and cried “Yes! Yes! We will!”

 
 
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Rough Assembly Minutes
 
Newspaper pasted into Assembly rough minutes of Lincoln's Speech
 
Printed Assembly Minutes, February 21, 1861 (4 pages)


 

The day after Lincoln’s visit to the State House, the newspaper account of his appearance before the Senate and General Assembly were recorded without bias. Other reports on the same page reflect the anti-Republican sentiments of the editors. One article describes Republicans who would use force to restore the seceded southern states to the Union as “coercionists.”

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Assassination and Funeral

In the wake of Lincoln’s assassination on Friday, April 14, 1865, the Daily True American expressed the same shock and outrage felt throughout the northern states. The True American’s editions reported the passage of Lincoln’s funeral train through Trenton on Monday, April 24, at 6:00 a.m.

 


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April 15, 1865
On the day after the President’s assassination, the True American’s editors wrote in disbelief: “At midnight last night the telegraph brought us the shocking and horrible report of the assassination of President Lincoln, which we print elsewhere. Although we publish this report, we do so in the hope that it may not be true. The late hour at which the report comes, prevents any comment other than the expression of this hope, and of horror at such a brutal, cowardly and detestable act.”

 


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April 17, 1865
Two days later, the newspaper was filled with editorials and reports on the assassination. The editors acknowledge their political differences with Lincoln, but credited the slain President with ”private traits of character which would naturally attract him while living the warm affection of many, while they would occasion from all who knew him the sincerest sorrow at his death.”


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April 21, 1865
Mayor Franklin S. Mills’s proclamation announcing plans for the city’s tribute to Lincoln as his funeral train passed through Trenton appeared in the April 21, 1865 edition of the True American.


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April 25, 1865 
The newspaper included a detailed account of the Lincoln funeral train’s slow procession though Trenton on Monday, April 24, 1865. The report mentions that “The pressure of the crowd … was so excessive that those in the front part of the [train] depot found it difficult to keep their places, and many were deprived of the opportunity of seeing the [funeral] car.” It concluded: “Considering the very early hour, the number of citizens present and participating in the obsequies, was remarkably large. No accident occurred, and the solemn affair passed off with great credit to the city.”

 


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