March 4, 1861

by John J. Miller on March 4, 2011

in Blog Posts

  • Sumo

Today marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration, which is also a scene in The First Assassin. The events of chapter three take place on March 4, 1861–and Lincoln makes his first on-stage appearance in the novel. He’s riding to the Capitol in a carriage with James Buchanan, the outgoing president:

[Buchanan’s] companion kept a somber look, occasionally broken by a quick smirk or a slight wave. His crumpled face was not handsome, but it was distinctive. One glimpse and it was hard to forget, with deep-set eyes, a high forehead, and a big nose. The beard was new. He had only recently grown it. People accustomed to his face from pictures were not used to the new look. It made him appear older and more serious. Perhaps that was the point. All of this was set atop a tall and spindly frame. Many of his features seemed out of proportion, and a black stovepipe hat exaggerated his considerable height even further. It might be said that a good caricature resembles its subject. Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, was a subject who resembled a caricature.

Below is an illustration from the day. Note the incomplete dome of the Capitol, their destination. Lincoln was sworn in on the east side, away from the Mall. Nowadays, presidential inaugurations take place on the west side, which is the side we see from this picture.


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