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       When Abraham Lincoln took office in March of 1861, the nation was divided.  Lincoln took a train from his home in Springfield Illinois to Washington to be sworn in as president.  Along the way he received word that there were plans to assassinate him before he reached the capital.  Lincoln entered Washington hidden in an unmarked train car and wrapped in a blanket to disguise him.

(Click here to hear Lincoln's speech)

     After Lincoln was sworn in he gave the customary inaugural address to a divided people.  During his address he stated that succession was illegal and that no state had the right to leave the union.  He promised to uphold the laws of the United States and the Constitution.  Lincoln spoke directly to the south by promising not to interfere with slavery.  He told the south "that in your hands my dissatisfied countrymen and not in mine, is the monumental decision of Civil War."  Lincoln also told the south that "we are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."

     Lincoln had to make the difficult decision about what to do with the southern states that had seceded.  He could let them go peacefully, or force them to stay.  Forcing them to stay would mean armed conflict and war.  One last attempted was made to solve the issue peacefully by a congressman named Crittenden.  The Crittenden Compromise would have appeased the south.  Lincoln refused such a compromise and soon the south would choose war.