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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1861

Tuesday 12th

12 February 1861

Thursday 14th

14 February 1861
13 February 1861
Wednesday 13th

Fine day. Mr Forbes came to me yesterday to know whether I though there was any danger in the process of counting the votes, which was to take place today. He said there had been fear of an attempt to seize them on the way from the Senate to the House, whilst Mr Breckenridge the bearer would be subjected to a not unwelcome violence. I told him that I anticipated no difficulty; that whatever might have been the state of things some weeks ago, the result of the Virginia election held so far changed them as to render a scheme of the kind utterly useless. Hence I had great reliance upon General Scott and his precautionary measures, which would dissipate all further hazard. My calculations all proved correct today. I went up to the Capitol in good reason to hear a fervent prayer from Mr Stockton. The galleries were crowded with spectators, and even the floor of the House was full with members of the convention. The Vice President and Senate came in and took their places. The Votes were handed in order to the letters, who lurked at the official certificate read the substance and named the number of the votes, The Secretary of the Senate returned them in a table, and at the end the teller reported the result of the count to the Vice president who in his turn declared Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and Hannibal Hamlin elected to the two Chief Offices for four years to come. The proceeding occupied two hours, but it was conducted in profound tranquility, which relieved us all of a great weight. At any rate the probability of personal danger will not be superinduced upon all the responsibilities of the administration. For the rest, we must now patiently await the progress of events. The Senate then retired, and after a brief attempt to resume business we adjourned. I had never seen the ceremony before. It is an imposing one, and yet it is the weak part of the constitution. In a case of untested election, when votes would be disputed that might turn the scale from one party to another, I see no power in the congregated body to determine any rule of decision upon the merits. Even the rules of discussion are not defined. The presence of two district bodies would of course occasion divisions, as to the mode of exercising their powers which could scarcely end otherwise than in confusion. In truth the Constitution is in many parts a very weak71 instrument, and it owes its success more to the absence of trials than to its innate vigour. Returned home to dinner. In the evening I attended a meeting of the delegation at Mr Eliot’s house. Nine of the House attended. The discussion was had upon the mode and distribution of patronage. It was carried on for two hours and ended in a species of agreement to consider the joint delegation as competent to assume the decision of cases which the individual member desired to describe upon them. This business of patronage is the poorest and most unprofitable labor that I knew. Home soon after ten.

Cite web page as:

Charles Francis Adams, Sr., [date of entry], diary, in Charles Francis Adams, Sr.: The Civil War Diaries (Unverified Transcriptions). Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2015. http://www.masshist.org/publications/cfa-civil-war/view?id=DCA61d044