THERE is some reason to believe that Lincoln himself doubted the reliability of the new guard who was to accompany him to the performance of Our American Cousin. Lincoln was a shrewd judge of human nature and well acquainted with the personnel of the White House. At any rate, when the President paid one of his usual visits to the War Department on April 14, he asked Stanton to let him have his chief aide, Major Thomas T. Eckert, as escort for himself and his guests.
"I have seen Eckert break five pokers, one after the other, over his arm," Lincoln declared, "and I am thinking he would be the kind of man to go with me this evening. May I take him?"1
This request Stanton refused pointblank; he had some important work for Eckert that night, he said, and could not spare him. But Lincoln was not so easily rebuffed. He went into the cipher room, over which Eckert presided, and told the latter of his plans for the evening. He also repeated his request that this strong- armed assistant of Stanton's become one of the theater party, coaxing him good-naturedly to come along, as both he and Mrs. Lincoln wanted him. So far as the work was concerned, the President suggested that it could be done the next day as well. Eckert also very decidedly refused to go, however, pleading work that could not be put off; and so Lincoln reluctantly left. "I shall take Major Rathbone along," he said in parting,____________________