A Window of Vulnerability:

The Counting of Electoral Votes in 1861

There was the central issue: the Lincoln presidency. A window of vulnerability, Lincoln knew, was the certification of the election in mid-February. “It seems to me the inauguration is not the most dangerous point for us,” the president-elect told Seward. “Our adversaries have us more clearly at disadvantage” if the could disrupt or delay Electoral College count. “It is, or is said to be, more than probable,” Henry Adams wrote, “that some attempt or other will be made to prevent the counting of the votes and the declaration of Lincoln’s election” – and thus to prevent his presidency.

General Winfield Scott

Winfield Scott, the aged commanding general of the U.S. Army stepped into the breach. “I have seen General Scot, who bid me say he will be glad to act under your orders, in all ways to preserve the Union,” Simon Cameron told Lincoln. “That, for this purpose, he has ordered here 2 companies of flying artillery; and that he will organize the militia – and have himself sworn in as constable.” Deploying federal troops throughout the capital, Scott left no doubt about his intensions. Anyone “who attempted by force or unparliamentary disorder to obstruct or interfere with the lawful count, “ the general declared, would be “lashed to the muzzle of a twelve-pounder and fired out a window of the Capitol.”*

* Page 214, from "And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle" by John Meacham,  © 2022 by Merewether LLC

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