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The End of Peril

“I would rather be assassinated on this spot…”: Daniel Stashower on Lincoln, Presidents Day, and secret plots

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by Daniel Stashower On the eve of the Civil War in 1861, Abraham Lincoln ignored a looming threat against his life and gave an emotionally charged speech in honor of George Washington’s birthday. “All imagination,” Abraham Lincoln was reported to say when confronted with threats against his life. “What does anyone want to harm me for?” But on the morning of February 22, 1861, as the newly-elected President raised a flag over Independence Hall in Philadelphia to honor George Washington’s birthday, he could not afford to be so cavalier. For thirteen days, as Lincoln traveled by train from Springfield to Washington for his inauguration, the air bristled with talk of an assassination plot. In Maryland, where his train would dip…

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