Eleven days before his inauguration, President-elect Abraham Lincoln held part of February 21, 1861, in New Jersey, where he addressed the Senate and the General Assembly of the State of New Jersey. The president of the Senate was Edmund Perry, a Republican from Hunterdon, and the speaker of the assembly was Frederick Halstead Teese, a Democrat from Essex County.
Read Lincoln’s speeches:
Mr. President and Mr. New Jersey Senate: I am very grateful to you for the honorary reception I was the subject of.
I can’t help but remember the place New Jersey occupies in our early history. At the beginning of the revolutionary struggle few states among the old Thirteen had more battlefields in the country within their borders than old New Jersey.
Forgive me if I mention on this occasion that as a child, in the very first days of my reading skills, I received a small book, such as few young members have ever seen, The Life of Washington Wim.
I remember all the stories of the battlefields and the struggle for the country’s freedom, and none focused on my imagination as deeply as the struggle here in Trenton, New Jersey.
Crossing the river; competition with hesenses; the great difficulties experienced at that time have all been fixed in my memory more than any one revolutionary event; and you all know, since you were all boys, how these early impressions last longer than any other.
I remember how then, boy, though I was, I thought there was probably something bigger than usual that these people were fighting for; that something is even greater than national independence; that which gives great promise to all the people of the world for all future times; I am very anxious that this Union, the Constitution and the freedoms of the people be preserved in accordance with the original idea for which the struggle was waged, and I will be very happy to be a modest instrument in the hands of the Almighty and this almost elected people. ‘ect of that great struggle.
You make me this trick, as I understand it, no matter the party.
I learned that this body is made up of most gentlemen who, in choosing the chief magistrate, did not consider me such a person.
However, I understand that they came here to greet me as the constitutional president of the United States – as a citizen of the United States, to meet a man who is currently a representative of the nation, united in the goal of perpetuating the Union and the freedoms of the people.
So I accept this reception with more gratitude than I could have done if I believed it had been offered to me as a person.
Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen: I have just had the honor of being adopted by another department of this legislature, and I return to you and them my gratitude for the reception given by the people of New Jersey through their elected representatives, to me as a representative, at the moment, of Majesty the people of the United States.
I have very little appropriation of the demonstrations of respect with which I was greeted. I think that little should be given to anyone, but it should be a manifestation of commitment to the Union and the Constitution. I understand that I am received here by the people of New Jersey, most of whom are different from those with whom I spoke.
Therefore, I must consider this manifestation as an expression of their devotion to the Union, the Constitution and the freedoms of the people. You, Mr. Speaker, have well said that this is a time when the bravest and wisest look with doubt and awe at the aspect of our national affairs.
In these circumstances, you will easily understand why I do not have to go into detail about the course that I would prefer to continue. It is proper for me to use all the information and all the time under my command, so that when the time comes for me to speak officially, I can occupy the territory that I consider the best and safest, and from which I may have no reason to deviate. I will try to occupy the land that I consider most only in the north, east, west, south and the whole country.
I perceive this, I hope, in a good mood – of course, without anger towards any part. I will do everything in my power to promote a peaceful settlement of all our difficulties. There is no person who is more devoted to the world than I am. No one who would do more to save it. But you may need to put your foot down firmly. And if I do my duty and do the right thing, you will support me, right?
Adopted, as I am, by members of the legislature, most of whom disagree with me in political sentiments, I hope I can get their help in driving a state ship in this voyage surrounded by dangers; for if he is now attacked, no pilot will be needed for the next voyage.
Gentlemen, I have already spoken longer than I wanted, and must ask permission to stay here.