Washington.     March 1861

[The entry for 3 March 1861, at the top of this page, has not been transcribed. Please refer to the page image.]

Monday 4th

At last the long expected day dawned upon us. It was mild and clear - not so warm as
it had been but comfortable. At nine o'clock I started for the capitol, so that I got to the House
in time for the opening. Not much done. Every body packing up the things left in the desks
and sending them home. A few attempts to pass private bills which came to nothing.
Presently the noise was hushed and the Speaker made his closing address. It was hearty
but not happy. He declared himself in favor of the report of the Committee of thirty three
and of compromise with the seceding states. The members listened but there was little feeling.
Exactly at noon, he declared the House dissolved. We then rushed in without order or ceremony
to the Senate, where the new Vice president, Mr Hamlin, was already in the chair. On the
one side was the Senate and the House, on the other, the corps Diplomatique in full dress
Presently, the Justices of the Supreme Court came in, and after some delay, the President
out going, and the incoming completed the spectacle. It was rather interesting to witness
here pretty much all of the official talent of the country assembled within these walls. Mr
Buchanan looked old and worn out, whilst Mr Lincoln looked awkward and out of place.
Shortly, a new procession was formed, and we all transferred ourselves to the Eastern portico
where seats had been set and a small platform for the ceremony. An immense multitude stood in
front, covering the whole area as far as the trees on the North. By a singular anomaly of western
manners Colonel Baker of California announced the President to them just as if about to

Monday 4th cont. make a speech from the stump. Mr Lincoln then rose and proceeded to read
his address in a clear, distinct voice which was heard by every body. The substance of it
was an argument to prove that he intended no war, but that his duty was by his oath to
see that the laws were faithfully executed, rather feebly he recommended a Convention and
disapproved all amendments of the Constitution excepting that which passed Congress.
In truth the Senate by an extra effort stimulated as was whispered by a hint from him
had passed the amendment by just the requisite proportion of votes. The close was hearty
and said with feeling. It was well received by the dense mass, who proceeded forthwith
to disperse. This is the first Inauguration, I think, that I ever saw. It is grand in its
simplicity. As a whole the composition was well timed, and raised my opinion of the man.
It was fortunate in pleasing both wings of the party, and bringing all to stand upon a
common ground. Of all people I had the greatest occasion to be gratified, as the amendment
which has been the main point in the policy which goes by my name has thus been fully
justified in the face of the country by the head of the nation as well as of the Republican
party. This [estopps?] all party denunciation of me, and places those who voted on the other
side, in my delegation, rather under the necessity of defending themselves. Thus ends this
most trying period of our history. To me it has been a moral trial of my courage and of
my firmness. Yet I never in my life felt more serene and clear and confident. It has seemed
as if I was inspired by a power above me, and supported without effort of my own. I should
be fortunate if I closed my political career now. I have gained all that I can for myself,
and I shall never have such another opportunity to benefit my country. Would that I
could withdraw now, instead of having to look forward to trials and tribulations in the
coming conflicts. Such were my reflections as I walked quietly home through the crowd which
lined the avenue. The struggles of political life show human nature under such painful
shapes, and rouse all the worst passions so far that I look with dread at a continuation of
this existence, brilliant as it seems to the gase of the outer world. The whole family assembled Monday 4th cont. at dinner where we celebrated the successful inauguration. From this day
the country is put upon a new course. Whilst I am not quite clear about the future,
and especially doubt the consistency of this organization of a Cabinet, I yet feel that
the crisis of the slave question is passing off with less of confusion and disorder
than might reasonably be anticipated. The people are on the whole sound and at
heart attached to each other. The leaders are most of them, on the Slave side, corrupted
in morals and desperate in politics, and the struggle will be to overthrow their
influence. In the evening, we all went to the Inauguration ball which was held in
the City Hall and a ball room behind it erected for the purpose. It was very large
and quite pretty, and every body expected it would be densely crowded. But the fact
was quite otherwise. The numbers were just sufficient to give no appearance of
nakedness, and to furnish all facilities to the young people for dancing. The
new President and his Wife came in quite late. They are evidently wanting in all
the arts to grace their position. He is simple, awkward and hearty. She is more
artificial and pretentious. I took my daughter Mary up to him as she desired it.
We came among others, and he did not at all recollect me. Indeed I had doubts whether
he was thinking whose hand he was shaking. Were it any body but a Western man
I should have construed it as an intentional slight. But we cannot measure such
a free and easy people by the standard of courtly civilisation. Not many of the
Senators and Representatives were present- few of the cabinet officers as understood
to be selected and very few of the city people. Evidently, as a social revolution this
thing is in a bad way. But time and patience will conquer all things. I have
done what I could to pave the way for it during the past two years. And something
has been effected. Hitherto the labor has been cheerfully devolved upon us. But the
case is now otherwise. And I begin to foresee complications next winter which
may prove embarrassing. I walked home after midnight.

25  cm x  19.5 cm.

From Adams Family Papers, Charles Francis Adams diaries, volume 24, 10 November 1860 - 31 December 1861