Today in History

Today in History: March 4

Abraham Lincoln's First Inauguration

I am loth (sic) to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.

Abraham Lincoln, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left
Abraham Lincoln
Alexander Gardner, photographer, November 8, 1863.
By Popular Demand: Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present

On Monday, March 4, 1861, President James Buchanan and President-elect Abraham Lincoln left the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., in a horse-drawn carriage bound for the Capitol and Lincoln's first inauguration. There, before hundreds of citizens, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney administered the presidential oath of office, swearing in Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth president of the United States.

In a stirring inaugural address, delivered under the watchful guard of riflemen, Lincoln appealed for the preservation of the Union, threatened by the recent secession of seven Southern states opposed to the new leader's policy against the expansion of slavery.

Attempting to retain his support in the North without further alienating the South, Lincoln called for compromise, promising he would not initiate force to maintain the Union or interfere with slavery in the states in which it existed. He did, however, vow to retain federal property. One month later, his refusal to surrender or evacuate Fort Sumter in South Carolina, prompted the Confederates to launch the first attack of the Civil War.

Songs of the Campaign and Presidency

wigwam march
"The 'Wigwam' Grand March: Dedicated to the Republican Presidential Candidate."
Oliver Ditson & Co., 1860.

Union March
"Our National Union March: Most Respectfully Dedicated to Abraham Lincoln" by Charles Rehm, 1862.

Abraham's Tea Party
"Abraham's Tea Party." by J.H. McNaughton, copyright 1864.

The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana

While composing his inaugural address, Lincoln turned to four historic documents for guidance and inspiration on the issue of states rights: Daniel Webster's 1830 reply to Robert Y. Hayne; President Andrew Jackson's Nullification Proclamation of 1832; Henry Clay's compromise speech of 1850; and the United States Constitution. Lincoln's initial effort was typeset and printed in Illinois, edited, and reprinted. The president-elect sent copies of the second strike to his closest political advisors for commentary. Several of the final passages, including the famous concluding paragraph, were based on suggestions made by William H. Seward, Secretary of State designee.

  • Read Lincoln's fan mail. A congratulatory letter from Abes Boys—a group of admiring college students who wrote Lincoln the after the election of 1860—is available through The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. This online presentation of the Abraham Lincoln Papers contains approximately 61,000 images and 10,000 transcriptions.
  • The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana includes more than two hundred sheet-music compositions that represent Lincoln and the war in popular music. The collection spans the years from Lincoln's 1859 presidential campaign through the 1909 centennial of Lincoln's birth. The compiler, Alfred Whital Stern (1881-1960), is considered the greatest private collector of materials relating to the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. Search the collection on presidency to locate songs written throughout Lincoln's administration and after his death.
  • Read the Today in History features on the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, and Lincoln's assassination.


"Idaho," Frank French, 1864
Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920

They say, there is a land,
Where crystal waters flow,
O'er beds of quarts and purest gold,
Way out in Idaho

O! wait, Idaho!
W'ere coming Idaho.
Our four 'hos' team will soon be seen,
Way out in Idaho

On March 4, 1863, President Lincoln signed an act creating Idaho Territory. (While the bill was passed on March 3, the enrolled bill was not signed by the speaker of the House and the presiding officer of the Senate until the early hours of March 4—after which Lincoln received the measure for his signature.) Part of the Louisiana Purchase, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark crossed into Idaho at Lemhi Pass in 1805. At that time, approximately 8,000 Native Americans lived in the region. Originally part of the Oregon and Washington territories, fur trading and missionary work attracted the first settlers to the region. More than twenty thousand emigrants passed through southeastern Idaho during the California Gold Rush of 1849.

Great Falls of Snake River
Great Falls of Snake River, Idaho Territory
L. Prang & Co., copyright 1876.
The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920

The political stability of the territorial period encouraged settlement. Almost immediately, a public school system was created, stage coach lines were established, and two newspapers, the Boise News (1863) and the Idaho Statesman (1864), began publication. In 1865, Boise replaced Lewiston as capital. The 1866 discovery of gold in Leesburg, Idaho, and the completion of the transcontinental railway in 1869 brought many new people to the territory, including Chinese laborers who came to work the mines. When President Benjamin Harrison signed the 1890 law admitting Idaho to the Union, the population was 88,548. The state still operates under its original (1889) state constitution.

As Idaho approached statehood, mining and other extractive industries became increasingly important to her economy. While Idaho's dependence on mining has decreased, the state, which produces seventy-two types of precious and semi-precious stones, is still known as "The Gem State." Today Idaho is a top national producer of potatoes, trout, Austrian winter peas, and lentils. Its major industries are manufacturing, agriculture, food processing, timber, and mining.

Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls, Idaho, Copyright November 11, 1909.
Taking the Long View, 1851-1991

Tourism is another way that Idaho capitalizes on its natural resources. The same vast tracts of unspoiled wilderness that attracted Ernest Hemingway to the region in the early 1960s continue to provide outdoor enthusiasts with excellent camping, hunting, fishing, as well as whitewater kayaking and rafting, and skiing.

Use American Memory to explore Idaho's past:

Inauguration Day

President's Levee by Robert Cruikshank.
President's Levee, or All Creation Going to the White House,
Robert Cruikshank, artist, published 1841.
By Popular Demand: Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present

Until the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933, March 4 was the official day for presidential inaugurations. When the fourth fell on a Sunday, as it did in 1821, 1849, 1877, and 1917, the ceremonies were held on March 5.

Yet, the first president, George Washington, was not inaugurated until April 30. Although Congress scheduled the first inauguration for March 4, 1789, they were unable to count the electoral ballots as early as anticipated. Consequently, the first inauguration was postponed to allow the president-elect time to make the long trip from his home in Virginia to the nation's capital in New York City.

In celebration of his March 4, 1829 inauguration, President Andrew Jackson invited the American public to the White House. Overwhelming crowds ruined many White House furnishings and forced the new president to make a getaway through a window. Undeterred by the raucous reception, Jackson continued to host public parties at the residence.

Harding inauguration
Harding Inauguration, March 4th, 1921.
Taking the Long View, 1851-1991

In 1921, President-elect Warren G. Harding set another inaugural first by traveling to the Capitol for his inauguration in an automobile. It was just one sign of the changing times. With modern advances in communication and transportation, election officials and newly-elected candidates no longer needed four months to gather election returns and travel to Washington. To minimize the transition period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, and curtail "Lame Duck" Congresses in which members defeated in November served until March, legislators introduced the Twentieth Amendment. It was ratified in 1933, and on January 20, 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. president sworn into office in January.