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Posted at 9:53 AM ET, 01/10/2011

Frank Williams: Why was Abraham Lincoln so silent following his election?

By Frank Williams

Chairman of The Lincoln Forum


One must ask what silence means. If it means not making any public statements or attempting to perform acts then this describes Lincoln's reticence -- all due in no small measure to the fact that he was not yet President and would not be until March 4, 1861. The country still had a sitting, albeit, ineffectual chief magistrate.

Some of the President-elect's supporters urged him to become more public but he demurred for the reason just stated and because his positions were well known and publicized before the presidential canvass. If one means Lincoln's actions, letters and meetings during this interregnum then he was very active - choosing a cabinet, keeping political allies calm and supportive of the Republican Party Platform, filling hundreds of patronage jobs and, as Harold Holzer stated in his wonderful "Lincoln President-Elect," "assess the constitutional threats to the Union, open communications with Southerners, keep an eye on America's role in the world - and, most important of all, draw a line in the sand to prevent the spread of human slavery."

By Frank Williams  | January 10, 2011; 9:53 AM ET
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