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274 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

chap. xv. of the Administration in reference to the origin of the war, he writes: this " disappoints me, because it is the first effort of the kind I have known, made by one appearing to me to be intelli­gent, right-minded, and impartial." He then reviews some of the statements of Mr. Peck, proving their incorrectness, and goes on to show that our army had marched under orders across the desert of the Nueces into a peaceful Mexican settlement, fright­ening away the inhabitants j that Fort Brown was built in a Mexican cotton-field, where a young crop was growing; that Captain Thornton and his men were captured in another cultivated field. He then asks, how under any law, human or divine, this can be considered " no aggression," and closes by ask­ing his clerical correspondent if the precept, " Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them," is obsolete, of no force, of no application I This is not the anxiety of a politician troubled about Ms record. He is not a candidate for reelection, and the discussion has passed by; but he must stop and vindicate the truth whenever assailed. He perhaps does not see, certainly does not care, that this stubborn devotion to mere justice will do him no good at an hour when the air is full of the fumes of gunpowder; when the returned volunteers are running for con­stable in every county; when so good a Whig as Mr. Winthrop gives, as a sentiment, at a public meeting in Boston, " Our country, however bounded," and the majority of his party are pre­paring— unmindful of Mr. Polk and all his works — to reap the fruits of the Mexican war by making its popular hero President.

THE THIRTIETH CONGEESS 275

It was fortunate for Mr. Lincoln and for Whigs chap. xv. like him, with consciences, that General Taylor had occupied so unequivocal an attitude in regard to the war. He had not been in favor of the march to the Eio Grande, and had resisted every suggestion to that effect until his peremptory orders came. In regard to other political questions, his position was so undefined, and his silence generally so discreet, that few of the Whigs, however exacting, could find any difficulty in supporting him. Mr. Lincoln did more than tolerate his candidacy. He sup­ported it with energy and cordiality. He was at last convinced that the election of Mr. Clay was impossible, and he thought he could see that the one opportunity of the Whigs was in the nomina­tion of Taylor. So early as April he wrote to a friend: " Mr. Clay's chance for an election is just no chance at all. He might get New York, and that would have elected in 1844, but it will not now because he must now, at the least, lose Ten­nessee, which he had then, and in addition the fifteen new votes of Florida, Texas, Iowa, and Wisconsin." Later he wrote to the same friend that the nomination took the Democrats " on the blind side. It turns the war thunder against them. The war is now to them the gallows of Haman, which they built for us, and on which they are doomed to be hanged themselves."

At the same time he bated no jot of his opposi­tion to the war, and urged the same course upon his friends. To Linder, of Illinois, he wrote: "In $ Gt law, it is good policy to never plead what you need not, lest you oblige yourself to prove what you can-not." He then counseled him to go for Taylor, but

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ABBAHAM LINCOLN

chap, xv, to avoid approving Polk and the war, as in the former case he would gain Democratic votes and in the latter he would lose with the Whigs. Linder answered him, wanting to know if it would not be as easy to elect Taylor without opposing the war, which drew from Lincoln the angry response that silence was impossible; the Whigs must speak, " and their only option is whether they will, when they speak, tell the truth or tell a foul and villain­ous falsehood."

June 7, 1848.

When the Whig Convention came together in Philadelphia, the differences of opinion on points of principle and policy were almost as numerous as the delegates. The unconditional Clay men rallied once more and gave their aged leader 97 votes to 111 which Taylor received on the first ballot. Scott and Webster had each a few votes; but on the fourth ballot the soldier of Buena Vista was nominated, and Millard Fill-more placed in the line of succession to him. It was impossible for a body so heterogeneous to put forward a distinctive platform of principles. An attempt was made to force an expression in regard to the Wilmot proviso, but it was never permitted to come to a vote. The convention was determined that " Old Rough and Ready," as he was now universally nicknamed, should run upon his battle-flags and his name of Whig — although he cautiously called himself " not an ultra Whig." The nomination was received with great and noisy demonstrations of adhesion from every quarter. Lincoln, writing a day or two after his return from the convention, said: " Many had said they would not abide the nomination of Taylor; but since the

THE THIETIETH COHGEESS 277

deed has been done they are fast falling in, and in chap, xv, my opinion we shall have a most overwhelming, glorions triumph. One unmistakable sign is that all the odds and ends are with us,— Barnburners, native Americans, Tyler men, disappointed office-seeking Loco-focos, and the Lord knows what. This is important, if in nothing else, in showing which way the wind blows."

Gfeneral Taylor's chances for election had been greatly increased by what had taken place at the Democratic Convention, a fortnight before. Gen­eral Cass had been nominated for the Presidency, but his militia title had no glamour of carnage about it, and the secession of the New York Anti-slavery " Barnburners " from the convention was a presage of disaster which was fulfilled in the fol­lowing August by the assembling of the recusant delegates at Buffalo, where they were joined by a large number of discontented Democrats and " Liberty?? men, and the Free-soil party was organ­ized for its short but effective mission. Martin Yan Buren was nominated for President, and Charles Francis Adams was associated with him on the ticket. The great superiority of caliber shown in the nominations of the mutineers over the regular Democrats was also apparent in the roll of those who made and sustained the revolt. When Salmon P. Chase, Preston King, the Yan Burens, John P. Hale, William Cullen Bryant, David Wilmot, and their like went out of their party, they left a vacancy which was never to be filled.

It was perhaps an instinct rather than any clear spirit of prophecy which drove the antislavery

278 ABEAHAM LINCOLN

chap.xv. Democrats away from their affiliations and kept the "Whigs, for the moment, substantially together. So far as the authorized utterances of their conventions were concerned, there was little to choose between them. They had both evaded any profession of faith in regard to slavery. The Democrats had rejected the resolution offered by Yancey committing them to the doctrine of "non-interference with the rights of property in the territories," and the Whigs had never allowed the Wilmot proviso to be voted upon. But nevertheless those Democrats who felt that the time had come to put a stop to the aggression of slavery, generally threw off their partisan allegiance, and the most ardent of the antislavery Whigs, — with some exceptions it is true, especially in Ohio and in Massachusetts, where the strength of the " Conscience Whigs," led by Sumner, the Adamses, and Henry Wilson, was important,—thought best to remain with their party. General Taylor was a Southerner and a slaveholder. In regard to all questions bearing upon slavery, he observed a discretion in the canvass which was almost ludicrous.1 Yet there was a well-nigh universal impression among the antislavery Whigs that his administration would be under influences favorable to the restriction of

ilt is a tradition that a planter done credit to a diplomatist, and

once wrote to him: " I have would have proved exceedingly

worked hard and been frugal all useful to Mr. Clay, responded,

my life, and the results of my "Sir: I have the honor to in-

industry have mainly taken the form you that I too have been all

form of slaves, of whom I own my life industrious and frugal,

about a hundred. Before I vote and that the fruits thereof

for President I want to be sure are mainly invested in slaves, of

that the candidate I support will whom I own three hundred,

not so act as to divest me of my Yours, etc."—Horace Greeley,

property." To which the general, " American Conflict," Volume I.,

with a dexterity that would have p, 193,

THE THIRTIETH CONGRESS 279

slavery. Clay, Webster, and Seward, all of whom chap.xv. were agreed at that time against any extension of the area of that institution, supported him with more or less cordiality. "Webster insisted upon it that the Whigs were themselves the best "Free-soilers," and for them to join the party called by that distinctive name would be merely putting Mr. Yan Buren at the head of the Whig party. Mr. Seward, speaking for Taylor at Cleveland, took iw. still stronger ground, declaring that slavery "must be abolished"; that "freedom and slavery are two antagonistic elements of society in America "; that "the party of freedom seeks complete and uni­versal emancipation." No one then seems to have foreseen that the Whig party — then on the eve of a great victory—was so near its dissolution, arid that the bolting Democrats and the faithful Whigs were alike engaged in laying the foundations of a party which was to glorify the latter half of the century with achievements of such colossal and enduring importance.

There was certainly no doubt or misgiving in the mind of Lincoln as to that future, which, if he could have foreseen it, would have presented so much of terrible fascination. He went into the campaign with exultant alacrity. He could not even wait for the adjournment of Congress to begin his stump-speaking. Following the bad example of the rest of his colleagues, he obtained the floor on the 27th of July, and made a long, brilliant, and humorous speech upon the merits of the two candidates before the people. As it is the only one of Lincoln's popular speeches of that period which has been preserved entire, it should

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chap. xv. "be read by those who desire to understand tlie manner and spirit of the politics of 1848. What­ever faults of taste or of method may be found in it, considering it as a speech delivered in the House of Representatives, with no more propriety or pertinence than hundreds of others which have been made under like circumstances, it is an extremely able speech, and it is by itself enough to show how remarkably effective he must have been as a canvasser in the remoter districts of his State where means of intellectual excitement were rare and a political meeting was the best-known form of public entertainment.

He begins by making a clear, brief, and dignified defense of the position of Taylor upon the question of the proper use of the veto; he then avows with characteristic candor that he does not know what G-eneral Taylor will do as to slavery; he is himself " a Northern man, or rather a "Western free-State man, with a constituency I believe to be, and with personal feelings I know to be, against the ex­tension of slavery" (a definition in which his caution and his honesty are equally displayed), and he hopes General Taylor would not, if elected, do anything against its restriction; but he would vote for him in any case, as offering better guarantees than Mr. Cass. He then enters upon an analysis of the position of Cass and his party which is full of keen observation and political in­telligence, and his speech goes on to its rollicking close with a constant succession of bright, witty, and striking passages in which the orator's own conviction and enjoyment of an assured success is not the least remarkable feature. A few weeks

THE THIRTIETH CONGRESS

281

later Congress adjourned, and Lincoln, without chap.xv, returning home, entered upon the canvass in New England,1 and then going to Illinois, spoke night and day until the election. When the votes were counted, the extent of the defection among the Northern Whigs and Democrats who voted for Van Buren and among the Southern Democrats who had been beguiled by the epaulets of Taylor, was plainly seen. The bolting " Barnburners " had given New York to Taylor; the Free-Soil vote in Ohio, on the other hand, had thrown that State to Cass. Van Buren carried no electors, but his popular vote was larger in New York and Mas­sachusetts than that of Cass. The entire popular

1 Thurlow Weed says in Ms Autobiography, Vol. I., p. 603 : "I had supposed, until we now met, that I had never seen Mr. Lincoln, having forgotten that in the fall of 1848, when he took the stump in New England, he called upon me at Albany, and that we went to see Mr. Fillmore, who was then the Whig candidate for Vice-President." The New York " Tribune," September 14, 1848, mentions Mr. Lincoln as addressing a great Whig meet­ing in Boston, September 12. The Boston "Atlas" refers to speeches made by him at Dor­chester, September 16 ; at Chel­sea, September 17; by Lincoln and Seward at Boston, September 22, on which occasion the report says : " Mr. Lincoln, of Illinois, next came forward, and was re­ceived with great applause. He spoke about an hour and made a powerful and convincing speech which was cheered to the echo."

Mr. Eobert C. Winthrop, Jr., in his recent memoir of the Hon.

David Sears, says, the most brilliant of Mr. Lincoln's speeches in this campaign "was delivered at Worcester, September 13, 1848, when, after taking for his text Mr. Webster's remark that the nomination of Martin Van Buren for the Presidency by a professed antislavery party could fitly be regarded only as a trick or a joke, Mr. Lincoln proceeded to declare that of the three parties then asking the confidence of the country, the new one had less of principle than any other, adding, amid shouts of laughter, that the recently constructed elastic Free-Soil platform re­minded him of nothing so much as the pair of trousers offered for sale by a Yankee peddler which were " large enough for any man and small enough for any boy.'"

It is evident that he considered Van Buren, in Massachusetts at least, a candidate more to be feared than Cass, the regular Democratic nominee.

282 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

chap. xv. vote (exclusive of South Carolina, which chose its electors by the Legislature) was for Taylor 1,360,752; for Cass 1,219,962; for Van Buren 291,342. Of the electors, Taylor had 163 and Cass 137.

CHAPTER XVI

A FORTUNATE ESCAPE

W

HEN Congress came together again in chap.xvi. December, there was such a change in the isis. temper of its members that no one would have imagined, on seeing the House divided, that it was the same body which had assembled there a year before. The election was over; the Whigs were to control the Executive Department of the Govern­ment for four years to come; the members them­selves were either reflected or defeated; and there was nothing to prevent the gratification of such private feelings as they might have been suppress­ing during the canvass in the interest of their party. It was not long before some of the North­ern Democrats began to avail themselves of this new liberty. They had returned burdened with a sense of wrong. They had seen their party put in deadly peril by reason of its fidelity to the South, and they had seen how little their Southern brethren cared for their labors and sacrifices, in the enormous gains which Taylor had made in the South, carrying eight out of fifteen slave States. They were in the humor to avenge themselves by a display of independence on their own account, at the first opportunity. The occasion was not long

283

284 ABEAHAM LINCOLN

chap. xvi. in presenting itself. A few days after Congress opened, Mr. Boot, of Ohio, introduced a resolution instructing the Committee on Territories to bring in a bill " with as little delay as practicable " to provide territorial governments for California and New Mexico, which should " exclude slavery there­from." This resolution would have thrown the same House into a panic twelve months before, but now it passed by a vote of 108 to 80 — in the former number were all the "Whigs from the North and all the Democrats but eight, and in the latter the entire South and the eight referred to.

The Senate, however, was not so susceptible to popular impressions, and the bill, prepared in obedience to the mandate of the House, never got farther than the desk of the Senate Chamber. The pro-slavery majority in that body held firmly together till near the close of the session, when they attempted to bring in the new territories with­out any restriction as to slavery, by attaching what is called "a rider" to that effect to the Civil Appropriation Bill. The House resisted, and returned the bill to the Senate with the rider un­horsed. A committee of conference failed to agree. Mr. McClernand, a Democrat from Illinois, then moved that the House recede from its disagreement, which was carried by a few Whig votes, to the dismay of those who were not in the secret, when Richard W. Thompson (who was thirty years after­wards Secretary of the Navy) instantly moved that the House do concur with the Senate, with this amendment, that the existing laws of those territories be for the present and until Congress should amend them, retained. This would secure

A FOBTUNATE ESCAPE 285

them to freedom, as slavery had long ago been chap,xvi. abolished by Mexico. This amendment passed, and the Senate had to face the many-pronged dilemma, either to defeat the Appropriation Bill, or to consent that the territories should be organized as free communities, or to swallow their protesta­tions that the territories were in sore need of government and adjourn, leaving them in the anarchy they had so feelingly depicted. They chose the last as the least dangerous course, and passed the Appropriation Bill in its original form. Mr. Lincoln took little part in the discussions incident to these proceedings; he was constantly in his seat, however, and voted generally with his party, and always with those opposed to the exten­sion of slavery. He used to say that he had voted for the Wilmpt proviso, in its various phases, forty-two times. He left to others, however, the active work on the floor. His chief preoccupation during this second session was a scheme which links itself characteristically with his first protest against the proscriptive spirit of slavery ten years before in the Illinois Legislature and his immortal act fifteen years afterwards in consequence of which American slavery ceased to exist. He had long felt in common with many others that the traffic in human beings under the very shadow of the Capitol was a national scandal and reproach. He thought that Congress had the power under the Constitution, to regulate or prohibit slavery in all regions under its exclusive jurisdiction, and he thought it proper to exercise that power with due regard to vested rights and the general welfare. He therefore resolved to test the question whether

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ABEAHAM LINCOLN


chap. XVI.

Giddings's diary, Jan­uary 8, 9, and 11,1849: published in the " Cleve­land Post," March 31, 1878.

it were possible to remove from the seat of govern­ment this stain and offense.

He proceeded carefully and cautiously about it, after his habit. When he had drawn up his plan, he took counsel with some of the leading citizens of Washington and some of the more prominent members of Congress before bringing it forward. His bill obtained the cordial approval of Colonel Seaton, the Mayor of Washington, whom Mr. Lin­coln had consulted as the representative of the intelligent slave-holding citizens of the District, and of Joshua R. Gfiddings, whom he regarded as the leading abolitionist in Congress, a fact which sufficiently proves the practical wisdom with which he had reconciled the demands of right and ex­pediency. In the meantime, however, Mr. Grott, a member from New York, had introduced a resolu­tion with a rhetorical preamble directing the proper committee to bring in a bill prohibiting the slave-trade in the District. This occasioned great excite­ment, much caucusing and threatening on the part of the Southern members, but nothing else. In the opinion of the leading antislavery men, Mr. Lin­coln's bill, being at the same time more radical and more reasonable, was far better calculated to effect its purpose. Giddings says in his diary: " This evening (January 11), our whole mess remained in the dining-room after tea, and conversed upon the subject of Mr. Lincoln's bill to abolish slavery. It was approved by all; I believe it as good a bill as we could get at this time, and am willing to pay for slaves in order to save them from the Southern market, as I suppose every man in the District would sell his slaves if he saw that slavery was

A FORTUNATE ESCAPE 287

to be abolished." Mr. Lincoln therefore moved, on chap.xvl the 16th of January, as an amendment to Gott's proposition,, that the committee report a bill for the total abolition of slavery in the District of Co­lumbia, the terms of which he gave in full. They were in substance the following:

The first two sections prohibit the bringing of slaves into the district or selling them out of it, provided, however, that officers of the G-overnment, being citizens of slave-holding States, may bring their household servants with them for a reason­able time and take them away again. The third provides a temporary system of apprenticeship and eventual emancipation for children born of slave-mothers after January 1, 1850. The fourth pro­vides for the manumission of slaves by the Government on application of the owners, the latter to receive their full cash value. The fifth provides for the return of fugitive slaves from Washington and Georgetown. The sixth submits this bill itself to a popular vote in the District as a condition of its promulgation as law.

These are the essential points of the measure and the success of Mr. Lincoln in gaining the adhesion of the abolitionists in the House is more remark­able than that he should have induced the Wash­ington Conservatives to approve it. But the usual result followed as soon as it was formally intro­duced to the notice of Congress, It was met by that violent and excited opposition which greeted any measure, however intrinsically moderate and reasonable, which was founded on the assumption that slavery was not in itself a good and desirable thing. The social influences of Washington were

288 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

chap. xvi. brought to bear against a proposition which the Southerners contended would vulgarize society, and the genial and liberal mayor was forced to withdraw his approval as gracefully or as awk­wardly as he might. The prospects of the bill were seen to be hopeless, as the session was to end on the 4th of March, and no further effort was made to carry it through. Fifteen years after­wards, in the stress and tempest of a terrible war, it was Mr. Lincoln's strange fortune to sign a bill sent him by Congress for the abolition of slavery in Washington ; and perhaps the most remarkable thing about the whole transaction, was that while we were looking politically upon a new heaven and a new .earth,— for the vast change in our moral and economic condition might justify so audacious a phrase,— when there was scarcely a man on the continent who had not greatly shifted his point of view in a dozen years, there was so little change in Mr. Lincoln. The same hatred of slavery, the same sympathy with the slave, the same considera­tion for the slaveholder as the victim of a system he had inherited, the same sense of divided respon­sibility between the South and the North, the same desire to effect great reforms with as little in­dividual damage and injury, as little disturbance of social conditions as possible, were equally evident when the raw pioneer signed the protest with Dan Stone at Vandalia, when the mature man moved the resolution of 1849 in the Capitol, and when the President gave the sanction of his bold signature to the act which swept away the slave-shambles from the city of "Washington. His term in Congress ended on the 4th of March,



JOSHUA B. GIDDINGS.

A FOKTUNATE ESCAPE 289

1849, and he was not a candidate for reelection. A chap. xvi. year before he had contemplated the possibility of entering the field again. He then wrote to his friend and partner Herndon: " It is very pleasant for me to learn from you that there are some who desire that I should be reflected. I most heartily thank them for their kind partiality; and I can say, as Mr. Clay said of the annexation of Texas, that 4personally I would not object' to a reelection, although I thought at the time [of his nomina­tion], and still think, it would be quite as well for me to return to the law at the end of a single term. I made the declaration that I would not be a can­didate again, more from a wish to deal fairly with others, to keep peace among our friends, and keep the district from going to the enemy, than for any cause personal to myself, so that, if it should so happen that nobody else wishes to be elected, I could not refuse the people the right of sending me again. But to enter myself as a competitor of others, or to authorize any one so to enter me, is what my word and honor forbid."

But before his first session ended he gave up all idea of going back, and heartily concurred in the nomination of Judge Logan to succeed him. The Sangamon district was the one which the Whigs of Illinois had apparently the best prospect of carry­ing, and it was full of able and ambitious men, who were nominated successively for the only place which gave them the opportunity of play­ing a part in the national theater at "Washington. They all served with more or less distinction, but for eight years no one was ever twice a candidate. A sort of tradition had grown up, through which vol. I—19

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