Long before the train was due, the residents of Poughkeepsie had lined the railroad tracks. They came, this windy February day of 1861, expecting to see their new President, who, if his voice held up and there was time, might say a few words. Across Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and into New York, Lincoln had greeted similar groups with those unrevealing short speeches of which he was a master. In one Indiana town he joked that the train had started up before his story got to the place "where the laugh came in." Reporters who wanted to know his reaction to the secession of seven southern states were already complaining about his banter, but with the Union in danger Lincoln used anecdotes to divert attention from the controversies that awaited him in Washington. It was enough to present himself for observation, to praise the Union, to declare himself "an accidental instrument of the People," and to leave his listeners contemplating the question that would become the critical issue of his administration: "Shall the Union and the liberties of this country be preserved to the latest generation?" 1
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Publication information: Book title: Mary Todd Lincoln:A Biography. Contributors: Jean H. Baker - Author. Publisher: Norton. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1987. Page number: 163.
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