Looking back at Lincoln: On February 28, 1861
On this day in 1861, only days before Lincoln was inaugurated the 16th president of the United States, the U.S. Marine band serenaded the President-elect and Mrs. Lincoln outside of the Willard Hotel where the Lincoln family was staying until their official move to the White House.
According to a New York Herald account on March 1, 1861, Lincoln made the following remarks to the crowd in response to the playing of "Hail to the Chief."
MY FRIENDS---I suppose that I may take this as a compliment paid to me, and as such please accept my thanks for it. I have reached this city of Washington under circumstances considerably differing from those under which any other man has ever reached it. I have reached it for the purpose of taking an official position amongst the people, almost all of whom were opposed to me, and are yet opposed to me, as I suppose. (Several voices, ``No, no.'' Other voices ``Go on, sir; you are mistaken in that, indeed you are.'') I propose no lengthy address to you now. I only propose to say, as I did say on yesterday, I believe, when your worthy Mayor and Board of Aldermen called upon me, that I thought much of the ill feeling that has existed between you and the people of your surroundings and that people from amongst whom I come, has depended, and now depends, upon a misunderstanding. (Several voices---``That's so;'' and applause.) I hope that if things shall go along as prosperously as I believe we all desire they may, I may have it in my power to remove something of this misunderstanding---(cries of ``Good,'' ``Good,'' and loud applause)---that I may be enabled to convince you, and the people of your section of the country, that we regard you as in all things being our equals---in all things entitled to the same respect and to the same treatment that we claim for ourselves---(cries of ``Good,'' and applause)---that we are in no wise disposed, if it were in our power, to oppress you or deprive you of any of your rights under the constitution of the United States or even narrowly to split hairs with you in regard to these rights. (Loud and prolonged cheering.) But are determined to give you, so far as lies in our hands, all your rights under the constitution, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly. (Cries of ``Good,'' and applause.) I hope that by thus dealing with you we will become better acquainted and be better friends. (Cries of ``Good,'' and applause.) And now my friends with these very few remarks, I again return my thanks for this compliment, and expressing my desire to hear a little more of your good music, I bid you good night.