It often looked like Abraham Lincoln wouldn’t survive his first year as president.
The mere fact of his election so infuriated seven southern states that they seceded from the Union before he was sworn into office. Rumors of an assassination plot caused him to sneak ignominiously into Washington for his inauguration, disguised in a cap and cloak that for weeks became objects of derision by cartoonists.
Lincoln’s inaugural address did little to please the populace. Though we still quote his poetic “mystic chords of memory” the parts of the speech that the politicians of the day focused on were his refusal to call for emancipation, which upset the Radical Republicans, and his adamant attack on secession, which roused the ire of the remaining southern lawmakers and their border state brethren.
The speech made it clear that Lincoln was determined to preserve the Union, vowing to “to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government.” A little more than a month later a place belonging to the government, Ft. Sumter, fell to the confederacy and four more states signed on to the Southern cause.
Then it was all out war — a war that went badly for the Union starting with the unexpected rout at Bull Run. Lincoln couldn’t get his generals to fight; he couldn’t get the politicians to stop fighting and he couldn’t get Washington society to stop snubbing his wife.
A horrible first year for one of the nation’s greatest presidents might serve as a source of inspiration for Donald Trump who’s had his own rocky start —except.