had shown them that victory could not be organ- chap. xin.
ized without it. Lincoln was also chairman of the
committee which was charged with the address to
the people, and a paragraph from this document is
worth quoting, as showing the use which he made
at that early day of a pregnant text which was
hereafter to figure in a far more momentous con
nection, and exercise a powerful influence upon his *
career. Exhorting the Whigs to harmony, he says:
" That union is strength is a truth that has been
known, illustrated, and declared in various ways
and forms in all ages of the world. That great
fabulist and philosopher, JEsop, illustrated it by
his fable of the bundle of sticks; and He whose
wisdom surpasses that of all philosophers has
declared that *.a house divided against itself can
not stand.'" He calls to mind the victory of 1840,
the overwhelming majority gained by the Whigs
that year, their ill success since, and the necessity
of unity and concord that the party may make its
entire strength felt.
Lincoln was at this time a candidate for the Whig nomination to Congress; but he was confronted by formidable competition. The adjoining county of Morgan was warmly devoted to one of its own citizens, John J, Hardin, a man of an unusually gallant and chivalrous strain of character; and several other counties, for reasons not worth considering, were pledged to support any one whom Morgan County presented. If Lincoln had carried Sangamon County, his strength was so great in Menard and Mason, where he was personally known, that he could have been easily nominated. But Edward D. Baker had long coveted a
chap.xni. seat in Congress, and went into the contest against Lincoln with many points in his favor. He was of about the same age, but had resided longer in the district, had a larger personal acquaintance, and was a much readier and more pleasing speaker. In fact, there are few men who have ever lived in this country with more of the peculiar tempera-
* ment of the orator than Edward Dickinson Baker,
It is related of him that on one occasion when the circumstances called for a policy of reserve, he was urged by his friends to go out upon a balcony and address an impromptu audience, which was calling for him. " No," he replied, mistrusting his own fluency; " if I go out there, I will make a better speech than I want to." He was hardly capable of the severe study and care by which great parliamentary speakers are trained ; but before a popular audience, and on all occasions wher.e brilliant and effective improvisation was called for, he was almost unequaled. His funeral oration over the dead body of Senator Broderick in California, his thrilling and inspiriting appeal in Union Square, New York, at the great meeting of April, 1861, and his reply to Breckinridge in the Senate delivered upon the impulse of the moment, conceived as he listened to the Kentuckian's peroration, leaning against the doorway of the Chamber in full uniform, booted and spurred, as he had ridden into Washington from the camp, are among the most remarkable specimens of absolutely unstudied and thrilling eloquence which our annals contain. He was also a man of extremely prepossessing appearance. Born in England of poor yet educated parents, and brought as a child to this country, his
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1844 221
good looks arid brightness had early attracted the attention of prominent gentlemen in Illinois, especially of Governor Edwards, who had made much of him and assisted him to a good education. He had met with considerable success as a lawyer, though he always relied rather upon his eloquence than his law, and there were few juries which could resist the force and fury of his speech, and not many lawyers could keep their equanimity in the face of his witty persiflage and savage sarcasm. When to all this is added a genuine love of every species of combat, physical and moral, we may understand the name Charles Sumner—paraphrasing a well-known epigram—applied to him in the Senate, after his heroic death at Ball's Bluff, " the Prince Eupert of battle and debate."
If Baker had relied upon his own unquestionable merits he would have been reasonably sure of succeeding in a community so well acquainted with him as Sangamon County. But to make assurance doubly sure his friends resorted to tactics which Lincoln, the most magnanimous and placable of men, thought rather unfair. Baker and his wife belonged to that numerous and powerful sect which has several times played an important part in Western politics — the Disciples. They all supported him energetically, and used as arguments against Lincoln that his wife was a Presbyterian, that most of her family were Episcopalians, that Lincoln himself belonged to no church, and that he had been suspected of deism, and, finally, that he was the candidate of the aristocracy. This last charge so amazed Lincoln that he was unable to frame any satisfactory answer to it. The memory
chap. xiii. of his flat-boating days, of his illiterate youth, even of his deer-skin breeches shrunken by rain and exposure, appeared to have no power against this unexpected and baleful charge. When the county convention met, the delegates to the district convention were instructed to cast the vote of San-gam on for Baker. It showed the confidence of the convention in the imperturbable good-nature of the defeated candidate that they elected him a delegate to the Congressional convention charged with the cause of his successful rival. In a letter to Speed, he humorously refers to his situation as that of a rejected suitor who is asked to act as groomsman at the wedding of his sweetheart.
It soon became evident that Baker could not get strength enough outside of the county to nominate him. Lincoln in a letter to Speed, written in May, said: "In relation to our Congress matter here, you were right in supposing I would support the nominee. Neither Baker nor I, however, is the man, but Hardin, so far as I can judge from present appearances0 We shall have no split or trouble about the matter; all will be harmony." A few days later this prediction was realized. The convention met at Pekin, and nominated Hardin with all the customary symptoms of spontaneous enthusiasm. He was elected in August,1 after a short but active canvass, in which Lincoln bore his part as usual. Hardin took his seat in December. The next year the time of holding elections was changed, and always afterwards the candidates were elected the year before vacancies were to
1 The opposing candidate was forma, one of the most remark-James A. McDougall, who was able and eccentric figures in afterwards, as Senator from Cali- Washington life.
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1844 223
occur. In May, 1844, therefore, Baker attained chap. xiil the desire of his heart by being nominated, and in August he was elected, defeating John Calhoun, while Lincoln had the laborious and honorable post of Presidential Elector.
It was not the first nor the last time that he acted in this capacity. The place had become his by a sort of prescription. His persuasive and convincing oratory was thought so useful to his party that every four years he was sent, in the character of electoral canvasser, to the remotest regions of the State to talk to the people in their own dialect, with their own habits of thought and feeling, in favor of the Whig candidate. The office had its especial charm for him; if beaten, as generally happened, the defeat had no personal significance; if elected, the functions of the place were discharged in one day, and the office passed from existence. But there was something more than the orator and the partisan concerned in this campaign of 1844. The whole heart of the man was enlisted in it — for the candidate was the beloved and idolized leader of the Whigs, Henry Clay. It is probable that we shall never see again in this country another such instance of the personal devotion of a party to its chieftain as that which was shown by the long and wonderful career of Mr. Clay. He became prominent in the politics of * Kentucky near the close of the last century at twenty-three years of age. He was elected first to the Senate at twenty-nine. He died a Senator at seventy-five, and for the greater part of that long interval he was the most considerable personal influence in American politics. As Senator, Eepre-
chap. xin. sentative, Speaker of the House, and diplomatist, he filled the public eye for half a century, and although he twice peremptorily retired from office, and although he was the mark of the most furious partisan hatred all his days, neither tis own weariness nor the malice of his enemies could ever keep him for any length of time from that commanding position for which his temperament and his nature designed him. He was beloved, respected, and served by his adherents with a single-hearted allegiance which seems impossible to the more complex life of a later generation. In 1844, it is true, he was no longer young, and his power may be said to have been on the decline. But there were circumstances connected with this his last candidacy which excited his faithful followers to a peculiar intensity of devotion. He had been, as many thought, unjustly passed over in 1840, and General Harrison, a man of greatly inferior capacity, had been preferred to him on the grounds of prudence and expediency, after three days of balloting had shown that the eloquent Kentuckian had more friends and more enemies than any other man in the republic. He had seemed to regain all his popularity by the prompt and frank support which he gave to the candidacy of Harrison; and after the President's death and the treachery of Tyler had <-• turned the victory of the Whigs into dust and ashes, the entire party came back to Clay with passionate affection and confidence, to lead them in the desperate battle which perhaps no man could have won. The Whigs, however, were far from appreciating this. There is evident in all their utterances of the spring and early summer of 1844, an ardent and
BRIG.-GEN. JAMES SHIELDS.
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1844 , 225
almost furious conviction, not only of the necessity chap. xm. but the certainty of success. Mr. Clay was nominated long before the convention met in Baltimore. The convention of the 1st of May only ratified the popular will; no other name was mentioned. Mr. Watkins Leigh had the honor of presenting his name, " a word," he said " that expressed more enthusiasm, that had in it more eloquence, than the names of Chatham, Burke, Patrick Henry, and," he continued, rising to the requirements of the occasion, "to us more than any other and all other names together." Nothing was left to be said, and Clay was nominated without a ballot; Mr. Lumpkin, of Georgia, then nominated Theodore Frelinghuysen for Vice-President, not hesitating to avow, in the warmth and expansion of the hour, that he believed that the baptismal name of the New Jersey gentleman had a mystical appropriateness to the occasion.
In the Democratic convention Mr. Van Buren had a majority of delegates pledged to support him; but it had already been resolved in the inner councils of the party that he should be defeated. The Southern leaders had determined upon the immediate and unconditional annexation of Texas, and Mr. Van Buren's views upon this vital question were too moderate and conservative to suit the adventurous spirits who most closely surrounded President Tyler. During the whole of the preceding year a steady and earnest propaganda of annexation had been on foot, starting from the immediate entourage of the President and embracing a large number of Southern Congressmen. A letter had been elicited from GS-eneral Jack- • vol. I.—15
chap. xin. son, declaring with his usual vehemence in favor of the project, and urging it upon the ground that Texas was absolutely necessary to us, as the most easily defensible frontier against Great Britain. Using the favorite argument of the Southerners of his school, he said: " Great Britain has already made treaties with Texas; and we know that far-seeing nation never omits a circumstance in her extensive intercourse with the world which can be turned to account in increasing her military resources. May she not enter into an alliance with Texas ? And, reserving, as she doubtless will, the North-western boundary question as the cause of war with us whenever she chooses to declare it — let us suppose that, as an ally with Texas, we are to fight her. Preparatory to such a movement she sends her 20,000 or 30,000 men to Texas; organizes them on the Sabine, where supplies and arms can be concentrated before we have even notice of her intentions; makes a lodgment on the Mississippi; excites the negroes to insurrection; the lower country falls, with it New Orleans; and a servile war rages through the whole South and "West."l
Benton, " Thirty Years' View."
These fanciful prophecies of evil were privately circulated for a year among those whom they would be most likely to influence, and the entire letter was printed in 1844, with a result never intended by the writer. It contributed greatly, in the opinion of many, to defeat Van Buren, whom Jackson held in great esteem and regard, and served the purposes of the Tyler faction, whom he detested. The argument based on imaginary
i This letter was dated at the printed a year later in the "Na-Hermitage, near Nashville, Ten- tional Intelligencer/' with the nessee, Feb. 13, 1843, and was date altered to 1844.
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1844 227
British intrigues was the one most relied upon by chap.xiii. Mr. Tyler's successive secretaries of state* John 0. Calhoun, in his dispatch of the 12th of August, 1844, instructed our minister in Paris to impress upon the Government of France the nefarious character of the English diplomacy, which was seeking, by defeating the annexation of Texas, to accomplish the abolition of slavery first in that region, and afterwards throughout the United States, "a blow calamitous to this continent beyond description." No denials on the part of the British Government had any effect; it was a fixed idea of Calhoun and his followers that the designs of Great Britain against American slavery could only be baffled by the annexation of Texas. Yan Buren was not in principle opposed to the admission of Texas into the Union at the proper time •and with the proper conditions, but the more ardent Democrats of the South were unwilling to listen to any conditions or any suggestion of delay. They succeeded in inducing the convention to adopt the two-thirds rule, after a whole day of stormy debate, and the defeat of Yan Buren was secured. The nomination of Mr. Polk was received without enthusiasm, and the exultant hopes of the Whigs were correspondingly increased.
Contemporary observers differ as to the causes which gradually, as the summer advanced, changed the course of public ^opinion to such an extent as to bring defeat in November upon a party which was so sure of victory in June. It has been the habit of the antislavery Whigs who have written upon the subject to as.cribe the disaster to an indiscretion of the candidate himself. At the outset of