12 February 2008

Lincoln's Jersey

Abraham Lincoln never slept in New Jersey. He passed through our state only a few times, most notably on the trip to Washington for his inauguration in February 1861. After leaving New York by ferry on February 21, he boarded the train at Jersey City, making brief stops at Newark, Elizabeth, New Brunswick and Princeton before arriving in Trenton.

New Jersey State House, 1861
John Warner Barber & Henry Howe,Our Whole Country or the Past and Present of the United States....Volume I
 (New York: Tuttle & McCauley, 1861), 465.

He made two speeches in our capital that day - one before the state senate, and one before the assembly. This is what he told the senate:

I am very grateful to you for the honorable reception of which I have been the object. I can not but remember the place that New-Jersey holds in our early history. In the early Revolutionary struggle, few of the States among the old Thirteen had more of the battle-fields of the country within their limits than old New-Jersey. May I be pardoned if, upon this occasion, I mention that away back in my childhood, the earliest days of my being able to read, I got hold of a small book, such a one as few of the younger members have ever seen, ‘Weem’s Life of Washington.’ I remember all the accounts there given of the battle fields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here at Trenton, New-Jersey. The crossing of the river; the contest with the Hessians; the great hardships endured at that time, all fixed themselves on my memory more than any single revolutionary event; and you all know, for you have all been boys, how these early impressions last longer than any others. I recollect thinking then, boy even though I was, that there must been something more than common that those men struggled for; that something even more than National Independence; that something that held out a great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come; I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in according with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle. You give me this reception, as I understand, without distinction of party. I learn that this body is composed of a majority of gentlemen who, in the exercise of their best judgment in the choice of a Chief Magistrate, did not think I was the man. I understand, nevertheless, that they came forward here to greet me as the constitutional President of the United States – as citizens of the United States, to meet the man who, for the time being, is the representative man of the nation, united by a purpose to perpetuate the Union and liberties of the people. As such, I accept this reception more gratefully than I could do did I believe it was tendered to me as an individual.


  1. Years ago I heard a story that Abraham Lincoln spoke from the porch/veranda of the big old mansion near the Neshanic Station train depot.

    Did you come up with anything that might verify that?

  2. The South Branch Railroad (the Somerville - Flemington branch of the Central Railroad of New Jersey) did not open until July 1, 1864.

    I believe the only time Lincoln passed through New Jersey after that date was on his funeral train, sadly.