February 21, 1861: The Richmond Daily Dispatch doesn’t care for Old Abe.


The Richmond Daily Dispatch finds Lincoln frightfully uncultured. The editorial below refers to Lincoln’s remarks in Indianapolis, where he compared the Southern concept of the union to a “free love” marriage, and of course the famous incident of the young New York girl, Grace Bedell, who wrote to him and urged him to let his whiskers grow. The Richmond editor feels that such talk and behavior are beneath the dignity of the leader of a great nation. Soon Richmond would have an indisputably more dignified leader in residence. Most of the Northern press was quite charmed by Lincoln’s folksiness, despite the example cited here of the New York Express. It seems to me that this difference in expectation of leaders’ personal behavior is symptomatic of the cultural divide between the aristocratic South and egalitarian North.

Lincoln’s Harangues.

All impartial observers express but one sentiment about Lincoln’s speeches, and that is profound contempt and disgust. The Republicans have been imposed upon by a counterfeit article. His intentions are honest enough; he means to do the worst they can desire, but still, they have aspirations after dignity, and he is evidently a very vulgar and indecent old man.

Seward, Sumner and others, though themselves of obscure origin have enough of the imitative qualities of that African race whose cause they especially espouse, to catch something of polish by attrition with good society, though none of them are equal in this respect to a well-bred Virginia family servant. In the presence of the old aristocracy of the North, these political adventurers were never able to bear themselves with a perfect air of dignity and self-respect, though to do them justice, they know what is right, and come as near it in externals as possible.–Hence, they are horribly mortified by Lincoln’s behavior, by his “passional attraction” and “free love, ” which, however unobjectionable to the Tribune school of politicians, they all agree ought not to be mentioned to ears polite.

There being no crisis in the country, nothing going wrong and nobody hurt, the old gentleman seems to be devoting his attention altogether to social reforms, and to the philosophy of the marriage relation, which, together with the Tariff, will form his principal branch of study after he arrives in Washington. It is desirable that he should have the most competent instructors in all those departments, and, for that purpose, Gen. Cameron will probably put him through on the Tariff, and Brigham Young on the marriage question.

Among the various “attractions” with which he seems to be more familiar than any other branch of Executive science, he has lately given at one of the Western cities of New York an illustration of combined capillary and passional attraction, which produced a fine effect on the audience, and increased the unequalled reputation for dignity and decorum which he had already achieved. However, there is no satisfying everybody.

The N. Y. Express says the idea of the future head of a great nation, the President elect of the United States, one of the great potentates of the earth, the representative man of Republican and Democratic institutions — making speeches in which he alludes to his own whiskers, and amid the terrible calamities which are suspended over the country, on his way to take possession of the chair of Washington, telling the people stories about stupid letters he had received from stupid girls he had never seen; nay, more, calling the girls upon the stand to him, and kissing them before a gaping crowd, is anything but imposing — is, in fact, disgusting.

People of ordinary dignity and refinement are accustomed to keep their endearments for those who have a right to them, and even to these they are offered only in private. But our new President calls the women he likes up to him, and salutes them in public. One cannot very readily imagine the grave and decorous predecessors of the Hoosier making themselves spectacles in this style for the vulgar jests of the multitude.

It is to be hoped Mr. Lincoln will not expect to carry the same style of behavior into the White House; when he is President will he still throw the handkerchief, and summon whomever he prefers to offer a caress; what is prohibited even on the Paris stage as too gross to be offered to public women, the successor of Washington commits as he progresses to the capital, of which he is so soon to be the ruler? It is also to be hoped there will be no allusions to the important subject of Mr. Lincoln’s whiskers in the inaugural address. Such things may do for the Hustings of Illinois, but hardly for a man with the weight of a dissolving empire on his shoulders.

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One Response to February 21, 1861: The Richmond Daily Dispatch doesn’t care for Old Abe.

  1. Pingback: February 23, 1861: Richmond Dispatch just doesn’t “get” Lincoln | Seven Score and Ten

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