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Race for the White House: Lincoln Versus Douglas. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 13, 2016 - 22:00   ET




KEVIN SPACEY, "RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE" EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: You've done good for a hick woodsman from the frontier. But you know something lies rotten at the heart of your country, and you're the one to save it.

But how does a clean shaven prairie lawyer stay as Honest Abe? When you know you'll have to play dirty and devious to become president.

And what if you reach the White House and there's no nation left to save?

United States is on the brink of Civil War. The dispute is about whether the New Territory should become Free States like the North or Slave States like the South. Nowhere is the debate fiercer than in Ottawa, Illinois. Thousands have descended on this, little town. It's the campaign for the U.S. Senate, and they've come to hear Abraham Lincoln confront Senator Stephen A. Douglas on the issue that threatens to tear America apart, slavery.

MICHAEL BURLINGAME, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PROFESSOR: The debates between Lincoln and Douglas drew enormous crowds.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: People are drinking. People are cheering. People are fighting.

BURLINGAME: It was almost pugilistic, as if people were coming to a boxing match to watch these two heavyweights slug it out.

SPACEY: Lincoln is a rookie politician, a member of the brand-new Republican Party just four years old.

[22:05:04] It was formed to end slavery.

MARGARET WASHINGTON, CORNELL UNIVERSITY PROFFESOR: He's an unknown, Abraham Lincoln's career as a politician has been almost nonexistent.

TAPPER: The only thing Lincoln has is his brain, is his ability to orate. That's it.

SPACEY: His opponent in this election is the current senator of Illinois, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL, LINCOLN BIOGRAPHER, FRM. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR: Stephen A. Douglas was among the most ruthless politicians of the day.

SUSAN SCHULTEN, UNIVERSITY OF DENVER PROFFESOR: And more importantly, probably the most powerful Democratic politician in the United States.

TAPPER: I would call it David and Goliath, but it's worse than that. It's David and Goliath if David didn't even have a slingshot.

SPACEY: Douglas doesn't open on the issue of slavery. Instead, he plays to the crow.

STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Ladies and gentlemen, I do not question Mr. Lincoln's conscientious belief. Let the Negro is his equal, but I do not regard the Negro as my equal.

ALLEN GUELZO, GETTYSBURG COLLEGE PROFESSOR: Douglas was not one to talk about legalizing slavery in the territories so much as he wants to paint Lincoln as a pro-Negro politician. He is, in other words, playing the race card and playing it in the most shameless fashion imaginable.

SPACEY: But the prairie lawyer is not going to be deflected from his mission to see the end of slavery in America.

WASHINGTON: Lincoln had always said that if slavery isn't wrong, then nothing is wrong. The slavery was horrendous.

BURLINGAME: And I think it was because he hated the way his father had treated him, which was like a slave. Because his father would yank him out of school, force him to go work on neighbors' farms, performing all kinds of back-breaking labor.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, 16TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no reason why the Negro is not entitled to all the rights enumerated in the declaration of independence.

GUELZO: When Lincoln invokes the declaration of independence here, there's no quarreling, there's no quibbling with it. That is the authority.

LINCOLN: He is as much entitled to these rights as the white man.

GUELZO: Lining the declaration of independence up on his side provides a formidable obstacle Stephen Douglas to scramble over.

LINCOLN: He is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas.

SPACEY: Lincoln argues that if slavery is allowed to spread into the New Territories, it will lead to war. But he doesn't call for evolution.

GUELZO: And Lincoln's solution was brick the thing in. Make sure that it doesn't spread. Let it asphyxiate within its own casket.

LINCOLN: And place it on the course of ultimate extinction. TAPPER: The Lincoln, Douglas debate became a national sensation because people found out about them literally within hours, which had never been done before.

SPACEY: For the first time, Americans will read the exact words Lincoln has used to defeat Douglas.

TAPPER: You had people writing things down in shorthand.

SPACEY: Have a runner take to it the nearest train station, and then the notes would be sent up to Chicago.

TAPPER: To a telegraph station. The telegraph would then relay exactly what was being said, word for word at these debates to newspapers.

GUELZO: And within 24 hours, the newspapers could have those debates all cased up and ready to go into print.

WASHINGTON: So Lincoln is getting a national reputation and his words are being printed even internationally.

SPACEY: As the election for the Illinois Senate gains speed, Lincoln dukes it out with Douglas at six more debates.

TAPPER: Lincoln was the winner of the seven debates. But with a guy like Stephen Douglas, there was just no way that Abraham Lincoln was going to become the next Senator.

[22:10:02] SPACEY: Douglas' team get busy. On a cold, wet polling day, they lure supporters in with a perfect antidote.

BURLINGAME: One of the things that Douglas did was to provide the supporters of his candidacy with liquor.

TAPPER: They would ship in all of these Irish workers, they would become registered voters, vote for Stephen Douglas and then they would disappear.

BLUMENTHAL: And as it was said later, they voted early and often.

SPACEY: Douglas plays all the dirty tricks in the book. Lincoln is defeated.

SCHULTEN: This was a devastating political loss for Lincoln.

GUELZO: Lincoln is humiliated. Lincoln had wanted to win, believed he was going to win.

SPACEY: Lincoln's brief and inglorious political career looks over before it's even really begun.


SPACEY: Lincoln has lost all hope of a seat in the Senate. Dejected, he returns to his home town of Springfield. BLUMENTHAL: Out of the blue, a telegram arrives for Abraham Lincoln.

GUELZO: It's an invitation to come and speak in New York City before the elite Republican leadership on the East Coast.

[22:15:03] SPACEY: Republicans are buzzing about how this rank outsider demolished Stephen A. Douglas with nothing but oratory.

WASHINGTON: People wanted to see him. They wanted to hear him. And he realized that his star had really not diminished. As a matter of fact, it had risen.

BURLINGAME: And I think it stoked to the idea, in his mind and the minds of many others, that he was a potential president.

SPACEY: Lincoln knows New York can give him his break, but he's saying nothing about reaching for the top job.

TAPPER: He played this game and danced this coquettish dance about whether or not he could see himself as president for months and months and months pretending that he had no interest in it.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Lincoln understood that the later he emerged as a candidate and the less time his opponents had to attack him, the better off he'd be.

SPACEY: Lincoln arrives in New York. He spent months preparing for this moment, his address to the elite of the party at The Great Hall of Cooper Union.

GUELZO: Lincoln sees this as an opportunity for what amounts to a political screen test.

SPACEY: But Lincoln's attire leaves something to be desired.

BURLINGAME: He's wearing a wrinkled suit.

WASHINGTON: He has one pant leg shorter than the other.

TAPPER: His hair looks like it hasn't been brushed. He's a mess.

BURLINGAME: All the sophisticated New Yorkers look at each other, "Who is this country bumpkin?"

TAPPER: People are unsure of who this guy is.

BLUMENTHAL: He knows this is a key moment and so he's understandably nervous.

TAPPER: And then he speaks, and then he talks.

LINCOLN: Mr. President and fellow citizens of New York.

TAPPER: It starts off a little shaky.

LINCOLN: The facts with which I shall deal this evening are mainly old and familiar.

SCHULTEN: But then he begins to tell his audience why he's there, and the arguments begin to flow.

LINCOLN: Can we allow slavery to spread into the national territories and to overrun us here in these Free States?

TAPPER: And he starts delivering a beautiful, powerful oration.

BLUMENTHAL: The audience is stunned.

LINCOLN: And let us stand by our duty fearlessly and effectively.

GUELZO: They forgot about his accent.

SCHULTEN: And the speech becomes so moving and people feel incredibly inspired.

LINCOLN: On the question about which all true men do care.

WASHINGTON: And he ends by saying, right makes ...

LINCOLN: Might. And in that faith, let us through the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.

WASHINGTON: On the time he finishes with that major sentence, he has them in the palm of his hand.

TAPPER: It is one of the great American speeches.

GUELZO: One person in the audience said, "He's the greatest man since St. Paul."

SPACEY: Lincoln's moment has arrived. He throws his stovepipe hat in the ring and announces his intent to run for the Republican nomination. Nothing can stop him now, except for the hot favorite to win, William Henry Seward.

GUELZO: William Henry Seward was an upstate New Yorker, a man of fabulous gifts as a speaker, a man of principled opposition to slavery, and a man of great political experience.

BLUMENTHAL: He was urbane. He was charming.

GUELZO: Here was a man who looked like he was effortlessly ascending the steps toward the presidency.

SPACEY: And the man behind Seward is the most terrifying operator in American politics, his campaign manager Thurlow Weed, his cheery nickname, "The Dictator."

BURLINGAME: Thurlow Weed was known as the dictator in part because of his ability to get things done.

WASHINGTON: Some people would say he was a bully. Some people despised him. Other people were afraid of him. BURLINGAME: He was not a spokesman of high principle but of clever backstage maneuvering and bribes and kickbacks.

[22:20:08] WASHINGTON: Everyone knew that he held the power within the Republican Party.

SPACEY: Lincoln will have a fight on his hands at the convention. Chicago, more of a Roman orgy than a convention.

GUELZO: Something of a cross between a poorly organized of riot and the World Series.

SPACEY: Tradition dictates that neither candidate attends the convention. It will be down to the campaign managers to slug it out.

GUELZO: Thurlow Weed and his cohorts arrive and they're pretty certain that they're going to win.

TAPPER: They think this is a done deal. They're so confident and many of them are drunk.



BLUMENTHAL: He served champagne. He hands out cigars. He's brought raucous New Yorkers to pack the convention hall, led by a prize- fighter.

SPACEY: But Weed is in for a fight himself. Lincoln has assembled a prize team to take on the favorites.

BLUMENTHAL: Central among them is the maestro, David Davis, the judge who weighs 300 pounds, who is very wealthy.

WASHINGTON: Davis has a kind of, "Oh, I guess you might say ruthlessness."

SPACEY: But Weed is the consummate political street fighter.

DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He was taking names, and he was taking numbers, and you'd pay a price. So I think, part of that was to send a message to everybody else. "Hey, you might be thinking about dancing with Lincoln, and I'll remember and you'll be dead to me."


[20:25:14] SPACEY: Lincoln's team face an almost insurmountable challenge. There's just two days to go until the ballot to choose the Republican nominee for president.

To win, they need 233 delegate votes. So far, they can count on just 22.

GUELZO: So they went to work like beavers on a dam. They worked their way into every nook, cranny and smoke-filled room they could.

SPACEY: The team, led by the Judge David Davis, are a law unto themselves.

GINGRICH: Lincoln has a very good team who are quite prepared to suggest that Lincoln will remember you.

SPACEY: Davis meets with the leader of the Indiana delegation, Caleb Blood Smith.

WASHINGTON: Caleb Smith is probably one of the most incompetent and lazy people of any prominence at the convention, but they don't care.

TAPPER: They start offering him a job. I don't mean like being like the butler at the White House. They offer him a cabinet position if the Indiana delegation eventually comes around to Lincoln.

GUELZO: Word of these promises comes back to Lincoln. Lincoln is not happy at hearing this. He has cultivated an image over the years of being "Honest Abraham".

BURLINGAME: And Lincoln sends a message back saying, "Make no promises in my name. I will not be bound by any."

GUELZO: Which in a way of saying is, if you are doing this sort of thing, I don't want to know about it. I don't want to hear about it.

PLOUFFE: Make no mistake, Abraham Lincoln was chief political strategist. He relied on his aides maybe sometimes to do the dirty work, to be ruthless, to cut deals, but he was the lead dog.

PAUL BEGALA, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SENIOR STRATEGIST: And Lincoln did some very difficult and even sometimes devious things to gain the White House, and thank God he did.

SPACEY: But they'll need all their political cunning when they hear that Thurlow Weed is planning to jam the hall with his supporters.

BLUMENTHAL: He's won like sporting events. Commanding a convention hall was crucial.

TAPPER: It is going to be just a mass adoring crowd calling for Seward, so they have to do something to stop this.

GUELZO: On the morning of the balloting, Weed leads a great parade full of brass and noise through the streets of Chicago. And they come up to the doors of the convention hall, only to find that all the seats have been taken.

TAPPER: Why? The night before, Lincoln's people got their hands on a convention ticket.

BEGALA: This is so devious. They printed counterfeit passes to get into the convention and stack the hall with people who were not legitimate delegates.

TAPPER: And they printed 5,000 counterfeit tickets.

BEGALA: Sorry, but even our greatest president, our most honest president was not above a little dirty politics.

SPACEY: Their ploy works.

BLUMENTHAL: The hall is packed with Lincoln men shouting from the rafters.

TAPPER: They had a guy known as having leather lungs belt out his name.

BURLINGAME: And it made Lincoln seem like a natural winner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order, order in the House. Order. Who is in nomination?

THURLOW WEED, WILLIAM SEWARD CAMPAIGN MANAGER: On behalf of the delegation of New York, I commend to the convention William S. Seward.

DAVID DAVIS, ABRAHAM LINCOLN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: On behalf of the delegation from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln.

GUELZO: And at that point, the entire convention hall is almost lifted off its foundations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call the roll. I call on New Hampshire.

SPACEY: The convention moves to the first round of balloting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven votes for Lincoln.

SPACEY: There were 13 candidates for the Republican nomination.

[22:30:00] Whoever gets an outright majority, is the winner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three votes for Seward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The State of New York casts 70 votes, William H. Seward.

BLUMENTHAL: Lincoln himself says he knows he's not the delegates' first love.

PROF. SUSAN SCHULTEN, UNIVERSITY OF DENVER: But once their own first love has left or fallen away, I will be their second.

DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANGER, 2008: So their whole strategy had to be, how do we survive until later rounds of balloting?

SPACEY: At the end of round one, Lincoln and Seward lead the field.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seward comes in first, but he stiff vote short, and Lincoln, second place.

SPACEY: Before balloting resumes, Davis and his team have just 15 minutes to win over delegates whose nominees are now out of the running.

BLUMENTHAL: His state is Pennsylvania. Its boss Simon Cameron, he wants a big job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Simon Cameron was widely regarded as a flagrantly corrupt politician.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lincoln's team promises him a cabinet position if he in the delegation back Lincoln.

SPACEY: Lincoln's team doesn't care because now it's all about the win.


SPACEY: Seconds away, round two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Indiana cast 26 votes for Abraham Lincoln.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania gives 44 votes to Lincoln.

TAPPER: Lofty Lincoln, having let his political aides do this dirty work. The Pennsylvania delegation goes with Abraham Lincoln.

SPACEY: At the end of round two, Lincoln catches up with Seward. But he's not over the finish line yet.


SPACEY: And Lincoln's team has played all its aces.


[22:35:58] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order.

SPACEY: At the Republican convention, tension is at a fever pitch. Lincoln is just 1.5 votes away from the presidential nomination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order, please. Ohio.

PROF. ALLEN GUELZO, GETTYSBERG COLLEGE: The Ohio delegation stands up and announces that Ohio has decided to change its 4.5 votes to Abraham Lincoln.

Pandemonium breaks out in the convention hall.

TAPPER: Thurlow Weed who nobody should feel bad for, he breaks down crying. People describe him as crying like a little boy. This is one of the biggest upsets in American political history.

Abraham Lincoln is now the Republican nominee for president.

SPACEY: Lincoln wins at a price. His campaign team has bribed some of the most corrupt men in the land. PLOUFFE: Was it justified? Well, Abraham Lincoln is probably our most important president. So I would argue every means that was utilized was justified. We love to think that he was above politics, but he wasn't.

SPACEY: Lincoln now finds himself in a rematch with his arch rival, the man who beat him in the Illinois State Senate Election two years earlier, Stephen A. Douglas.

BLUMENTHAL: Stephen A. Douglas is the little giant. He's a man of physically short stature, but titanic ambition, and Douglas desperately wishes to be President of the United States.

SPACEY: But Lincoln has the advantage. After an angry convention in Charleston, South Carolina, Douglas' Democratic Party has split down the middle over slavery.

SCHULTEN: The news that the Democratic Party had split was an enormous boon to the Republican Party and to Lincoln because now they faced a divided opposition, but he still has an uphill battle.

SPACEY: The Republicans know it's futile to put Lincoln up for election in the south. No decent upstanding slave owner is going to vote for him, and slaves don't vote.

Now it's a double race between Lincoln and Douglas in the north and Democrat John C. Breckinridge and constitutional unionist John Bell in the south.

TAPPER: Abraham Lincoln has to win without his name even on the ballot in the south. And that's not going to be easy because he has to win New York. If he doesn't win New York, he will not be President.

SPACEY: New York State has the highest number of electoral votes, but it is also the stomping ground of William Seward and Thurlow Weed, who Lincoln has so publicly humiliated.

TAPPER: They hate Lincoln. They feel like they got cheated out of the nomination.

SPACEY: Lincoln has to make peace. He invites Weed to his home in Springfield.

BLUMENTHAL: Lincoln's attitude is nobody's enemy. Everybody is his friend.

PLOUFFE: Lincoln's approach here wasn't to stand over a vanquished opponent and rub it in and not just tell Weed, "Hey, you lost, I won, get on the program".

[22:40:02] SPACEY: And the two men spend five hours talking.

PLOUFFE: He courted Weed and he had to offer Weed any number of things to secure the right level of support and endorsement. TAPPER: What Lincoln and Weed talked about has been lost to history. We don't know exactly, but it did not escape anyone's notice that William Seward ultimately became Lincoln's Secretary of State.

SPACEY: Weed gives Lincoln his full public support. He proclaims there is no more thorough or bolder Republican on the continent, not one of more sturdy integrity or of more unflinching purpose.

Weed's endorsement comes just in time as the campaign ratchets up. Douglas focuses his attack on Lincoln.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you desire Negro citizenship, then support Mr. Lincoln and the black Republican Party.

SPACEY: His weapon, race hate.

PROF. MARGARET WASHINGTON, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: He accuses Lincoln of being in favor of race mixing, in favor of black equality. He calls him a black Republican. He calls him thinks far worse.

BEGALA: Lincoln did a lot of things that today seem unethical, but he never appealed to the darker angels of our nature and Douglas did. And Stephen Douglas should have been ashamed of himself.

SPACEY: The very union itself is coming apart under the pressure of the election. Down south, the homes of Republican sympathizers are attacked.

GUELZO: The prospect of a Lincoln presidency drives southerners to extremes. They prepare politically, they prepare militarily. Their state arsenals are opened up, their militia companies begin to drill.

SPACEY: One newspaper declares, let the boys arm. Abolitionism is at your doors with torch and knife in hand.


[22:45:39] SPACEY: Slavery is breaking the union apart. What is Lincoln doing? Nothing, it appears he doesn't care.

PROF. ALLEN GUELZO, GETTYSBURG COLLEGE: Lincoln's response to all this is puzzling, silence. Lincoln refused to believe that southerners would go to the ultimate extreme of attempting to destroy the union.

SPACEY: While Lincoln stays home, his rival Stephen Douglas resolves to act. He heads south.

WASHINGTON: Douglas is a plantation owner. He's a slave owner. So he understands how deeply embedded slavery is in the south.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he knew that they were making preparations. They were getting ready. They were fully prepared to do something dramatic.

BLUMENTHAL: He decides he must plead the case for the union against secession. He's now campaigning for the nation. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he does this incredibly bold and brave thing.

SPACEY: Douglas travels a thousand miles from state to state, but his case for the union makes him a traitor in the eyes of southerners.

SCHULTEN: Stephen Douglas really was putting everything on the line, particularly his own personal safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has to take the chance that some fanatic may decide that the best way to deal with Douglas is assassination.

BLUMENTHAL: And Stephen Douglas, the most ruthless, partisan, viscous, underhanded politician becomes the patriot.

SPACEY: With just three days to the election, Douglas delivers a forceful defense of the union.


GUELZO: He makes it very plain. I'm not here to solicit your votes. I am here for the sake of the union.

DOUGLAS: I regard the union as the greatest blessing upon a free people.

SPACEY: For Douglas, the take-home message is clear.

GUELZO: The south has already launched itself to create something entirely new in the new world, a slave empire.

SPACEY: The very idea of America is at risk, 81 percent of the electorate come out to vote, one of the highest turnouts in United States election history.

SCHULTEN: The stakes were so high because it might have been the last election for a United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lincoln is waiting on the telegraph to tell them just what the vote count is.

NEWT GINRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Look, you have to be nervous because you have a brand-new party. It has never won the presidency. You're only its second candidate. You are up against very powerful forces on the other side.

PLOUFFE: And it's not just superstation. You realize that something funky could happen. Elections have the capacity just to surprise us enormously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's only one result Lincoln needs to know. Has he won New York?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Message for Mr. Lincoln.

TAPPER: He is not taking anything for granted. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentlemen, we've taken New Jersey, Indiana and Illinois.

TAPPER: Until he hears about New York. He knows it all rests on New York.

[22:50:00] PLOUFFE: There's nothing more nerve-racking professionally, I think, than awaiting the results in a presidential election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By midnight there still no news.



SPACEY: The man from the prairies takes New York and, with it, the presidency.

However, he's done it with less than 40 percent of the vote. The south has backed John C. Breckinridge and John Bell.

BLUMENTHAL: Lincoln has a narrow victory for almost half the country. He's illegitimate. He's not accepted as the president.

SCHULTEN: Now, sooner has he won than several states in the south make clear that they are moving toward leaving the union. And so, immediately, he's gone from winning the White House into a crisis mode.

BEGALA: Lincoln's victory was probably the first shot in the Civil War. It looks like the dice has been cast.


[22:54:58] SPACEY: Abraham Lincoln, president-elect, sports his distinctive beard for the first time. Now, he prepares to leave his home town for Washington, D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My friends, here my children have been born and one is buried.

GUELZO: He asks for their prayers. He wants them to be with him mentally and spiritually as he takes a journey which, in truth, he never will return from alive.

U SPACEY: The 12-day journey will take him right across the Western Heartland and Mid-Atlantic States.

BLUMENTHAL: Lincoln's train trip is to rally the country to him.

PLOUFFE: People during that time were very worried, and if he tried to show, above all else, that he could lead the country.

GINGRICH: So, he's actually barnstorming in almost a modern form in order to create a personal bond with the people of the north. BLUMENTHAL: Lincoln arrives at independence hall where the declaration of independence, his revered document, was signed, and he raises himself the American flag over it.

SPACEY: Lincoln speaks about how the declaration of independence must be the guiding principle to save the union, but his speech ends with an ominous remark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it.

SPACEY: The crowd is unaware that Lincoln has been told of a plot to assassinate him.

BLUMENTHAL: There is a group that has plotted to kill him on his route to Washington.

SPACEY: That evening, Lincoln and his aids discuss their next move.

PLOUFFE: So, it would be incredibly nerve-wracking to think about the debate they had about what to do in that circumstance. Do they just leave? Does he carry on?

TAPPER: They actually suggest that he disguise himself, that he wear different kinds of clothing. He doesn't want to do that.

GUELZO: What president wants to arrive in the national capital for his inauguration as though he was afraid?

SPACEY: Reluctantly, Lincoln agrees. For additional security, he travels on an unmarked train.

Still, he's taking a huge risk. He has to go through Baltimore where known confederate sympathizers are lying in wait.

TAPPER: The threat to his life is very real at that moment.

SPACEY: Lincoln makes it to the capital. He escapes the assassin's plot, for now. Inauguration day dawns on a chilly Washington.

GUELZO: And it's a chill that comes not so much from the weather, it's from the anxiety that something desperate is going to be attempted.

SPACEY: The army is lined up along Pennsylvania Avenue in case of attack.

BLUMENTHAL: Lincoln has come from absolutely nothing. He has become a practiced, consummate politician whose skills will be put to the test in the greatest national crisis of the country.

SPACEY: Waiting for Lincoln on the podium is his old rival, Stephen A. Douglas.

BLUMENTHAL: At his inauguration, his speech is blown about a bit, and he's trying to hold his hat at the same time, his top hat.

Douglas is seated there. And Douglas takes his hat and holds it.

GUELZO: The old rivals had come to a meeting of the minds, at least on each other and what they owed to each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must not be enemies. The passion may have been strained. It must not break our bonds of affection.

SPACEY: Just five weeks after Lincoln's inauguration, civil war breaks out.

[23:00:00] 620,000 Americans would lose their lives.

But it will be Abraham Lincoln who saves the nation and abolishes slavery.

The things Lincoln worked towards are the most important things America's ever done. Nothing will ever be as important ending slavery and at least setting us on a course toward full equality.