By john g. Nioolay and john hay

Download 4.94 Mb.
Size4.94 Mb.
1   ...   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   ...   45


chap. xiv. In the Senate it encountered more opposition, as might have been expected in a chamber which had overwhelmingly rejected the same scheme only a few months before. It was at last amended by in­serting a section called the Walker amendment, providing that the President, if it were in his judgment advisable, should proceed by way of negotiation, instead of submitting the resolutions as an overture on the part of the United States to Texas. This amendment eased the conscience of a few shy supporters of the Administration who had committed themselves very strongly against the scheme, and saved them from the shame of open tergiversation. The President, however, treated this subterfuge with the contempt which it deserved, by utterly disregarding the Walker amendment, and by dispatching a messenger to Texas to bring about annexation on the basis of the resolutions, the moment he had signed them, when only a few hours of his official existence remained. The measures initiated by Tyler were, of course, carried out by Polk. The work was pushed forward with equal zeal at Washington and at Austin. A convention of Texans was called for the 4th of July to consider the American proposi­tions; they were promptly accepted and ratified, and in the last days of 1845 Texas was formally admitted into the Union as a State.

Besides the general objections which the anti-slavery men of the North had to the project itself, there was something especially offensive to them in the pretense of fairness and compromise held out by the resolutions committing the Government to annexation. The third section provided that


four new States might hereafter be formed out of chap. xiv. the Territory of Texas; that such States as were formed out of the portion lying south of 36° 30', the Missouri Compromise line, might be admitted with or without slavery, as the people might desire; and that slavery should be prohibited in such States as might be formed out of the portion lying north of that line. The opponents of slavery regarded this provision, with good reason, as deri­sive. Slavery already existed in the entire terri­tory by the act of the early settlers from the South who had brought their slaves with them, and the State of Texas had no valid claim to an inch of ground north of the line of 36° 30' nor anywhere near it; so that this clause, if it had any force whatever, would have authorized the establish­ment of slavery in a portion of New Mexico, where it did not exist, and where it haxl been expressly prohibited by the Mexican law. Another serious objection was that the resolutions were taken as committing the United States to the adoption and maintenance of the Bio Grande del Norte as the western boundary of Texas. All mention of this was avoided in the instrument, and it was ex­pressly stated that the State was to be formed " subject to the adjustment by this Government of all questions of boundary that may arise with other governments," but the moment the resolutions were passed the Government assumed, as a matter beyond dispute, that all of the territory east of the Bio Grande was the rightful property of Texas, to be defended by the military power of the United States. Even if Mexico had been inclined to submit to


chap. xiv. the annexation of Texas, it was nevertheless certain that the occupation of the left bank of the Eio Grande, without an attempt at an understanding, would bring about a collision. The country lying between the Nueces and the Eio Grande was then entirely uninhabited, and was thought uninhabit­able, though subsequent years have shown the fal­lacy of that belief. The occupation of the country extended no farther than the Nueces, and the Mex­ican farmers cultivated their corn and cotton in peace in the fertile fields opposite Matamoras.

It is true that Texas claimed the eastern bank of the Eio Grande from its source to its mouth; and while the Texans held Santa Anna prisoner, under duress of arms and the stronger pressure of his own conscience, which assured him that he deserved death as a murderer, " he solemnly sanc­tioned, acknowledged, and ratified " their independ­ence with whatever boundaries they chose to claim; but the Bustamente administration lost no time in repudiating this treaty, and at once renewed the war, which had been carried on in a fitful way ever since.

But leaving out of view this special subject of admitted dispute, the Mexican Government had warned our own in sufficiently formal terms that annexation could not be peacefully effected. When A. P. Upshur first began his negotiations with Texas, the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, at isil. ' his earliest rumors of what was afoot, addressed a note to Waddy Thompson, our Minister in Mexico, referring to the reported intention of Texas to seek admission, to the Union, and formally protesting against it as " an aggression unprecedented in the



annals of the world," and adding "'if it be indispen- chap.xiv. sable for the Mexican nation to seek security for its rights at the expense of the disasters of war, it will call upon God, and rely .on its own efforts for the defense of its just cause." A little while later General Almonte renewed this notification at Washington, saying in so many words that the annexation of Texas would terminate his mission, and that Mexico would declare war as soon as it received intimation of such an act. In June, 1845, Mr. Donelson, in charge of the American Legation in Mexico, assured the Secretary of State that war was inevitable, though he adopted the fiction of Mr. Calhoun, that it was the result of the aboli­tionist intrigues of Great Britain, which he credited with the intention "of depriving both Texas and the United States of all claim to the country between the Nueces and the Rio Grande."

No one, therefore, doubted that war would fol­low, and it soon came. General Zachary Taylor had been sent during the summer to Corpus Christi, where a considerable portion of the small army of the United States was placed under his command. . It was generally understood to be the desire of the Administration that hostilities should begin with­out orders, by a species of spontaneous combustion; but the coolness and prudence of General Taylor made futile any such hopes, if they wrere enter­tained, and it required a positive order to induce him, in March, 1846, to advance towards the Eio Grande and to cross the disputed territory. He arrived at a point opposite Matamoras on the 28th of March, and immediately fortified himself, dis­regarding the summons of the Mexican com-vol. I—16


chap. xiv. mander, who warned him that such action would be considered as a declaration of war. In May, General Arista crossed the river and attacked ' General Taylor on the field of Palo Alto, where Taylor won the first of that remarkable series of victories, embracing Eesaca de la Palma, Mon­terey, and Buena Vista, all gained over superior forces of the enemy, which made the American commander for the brief day that was left him the idol alike of soldiers and voters.

After Baker's election in 1844, it was generally taken as a matter of course in the district that Lincoln was to be the next candidate of the "Whig party for Congress. It was charged at the time, and some recent writers have repeated the charge, that there was a bargain made in 1840 between Hardin, Baker, Lincoln, and Logan to succeed each other in the order named. This sort of fiction is the commonest known to American politics. Something like it is told, and more or less believed, in half the districts in the country at every election. It arises naturally from the fact that . there are always more candidates than places, that any one who is a candidate twice is felt to be defrauding his neighbors, and that all candidates are too ready to assure their constituents that they only want one term, and too ready to forget these assurances when their terms are ending. There is not only no evidence of any such bargain among the men we have mentioned, but there is the clearest proof of the contrary. Two or more of them were candidates for the nomination at every election from the time when Stuart retired until the Whigs lost the district.


At the same time it is not to be denied that chap. xiv. there was a tacit understanding among the Whigs of the district that whoever should, at each election, gain the honor of representing the one Whig constituency of the State, should hold himself satisfied with the privilege, and not be a candidate for reelection. The retiring member was not always convinced of the propriety of this arrange­ment. In the early part of January, 1846, Hardin was the only one whose name was mentioned in opposition to Lincoln. He was reasonably sure of his own county, and he tried to induce Lincoln to consent to an arrangement that all candidates should confine themselves to their own counties in the canvass; but Lincoln, who was very strong in the outlying counties of the district, declined the proposition, alleging, as a reason for refusing, that Hardin was so much better known than he, by rea­son of his service in Congress, that such a stipulation would give him a great advantage. There was fully as much courtesy as candor in this plea, and Lin­coln's entire letter was extremely politic and civil. " I have always been in the habit," he says, " of acceding to almost any proposal that a friend would make, and I am truly sorry that I cannot to this." A month later Hardin saw that his candidacy was useless, and he published a card withdrawing from the contest, which was printed and commended in the kindest terms by papers friendly to Lincoln, and the two men remained on terms of cordial friendship.

It is not to be said that Lincoln relied entirely upon his own merits and the sentiment of the constituents to procure him this nomination. Like



chap. xiv.

Lincoln to J antes, Nov. 24, 1845. Un­published MS.

Lincoln to

Jan. 14, 1846. Un­published


other politicians of the time, he used all proper means to attain his object. A package of letters, written during the preliminary canvass, which have recently come into our hands, show how intelligent and how straightforward he was in the ways of politics. He had no fear of Baker ; all his efforts were directed to making so strong a show of force as to warn Hardin off the field. He countenanced no attack upon his competitor; he approved a movement — not entirely disinterested — looking to his nomination for Governor. He kept up an extensive correspondence with the captains of tens throughout the district ; he suggested and "revised the utterances of country editors; he kept his friends aware of his wishes as to conventions and delegates. He was never overconfident ; so late as the middle of January, he did not share the belief of his supporters that he was to be nominated without a contest. " Hardin," he wrote, " is a man of desperate energy and perseverance, and one that never backs out ; and, I fear, to think -other­wise is to be deceived. . . I would rejoice to be spared the labor of a contest, ' but being in ' I shall go it thoroughly. . ." His knowledge of the district was curiously minute, though he under-estimated his own popularity. He wrote : " As to my being able to make a break in the lower counties, ... I can possibly get Cass, but I do not think I will. Morgan and Scott are beyond my reach, Menard is safe to me ; Mason, neck and neck; Logan is mine. To make the matter sure your entire senatorial district must be secured. Of this I suppose Tazewell is safe, and I have much done in both the other counties. In "Woodford I


have Davenport, Simms, Willard, Braken, Perry, chap.xiv. Travis, Dr. Hazzard, and the Clarks, and some others, all specially committed. At Lacon, in Mar­shall, the very most active friend I have in the dis­trict (if I except yourself) is at work. Through him I have procured the names and written to three or four of the most active Whigs in each precinct of the county. Still, I wish you all in Tazewell to keep your eyes continually on Woodford and Marshall. Let no opportunity of making a mark escape. When they shall be safe, all will be safe — I think." His constitutional caution suggests those final words. He did not relax his vigilance for a moment until after Hardin withdrew. He warned his correspondents day by day of every move on the board; advised his supporters at every point, and kept every wire in perfect working order.

The convention was held at Petersburg on the 1st of May. Judge Logan placed the name of Lin­coln before it, and he was nominated unanimously. The Springfield "Journal," giving the news the week after, said : " This nomination was of course anticipated, there being no other candidate in the field. Mr. Lincoln, we all know, is a good Whig, a good man, an able speaker, and richly deserves, as he enjoys, the confidence of the Whigs of this district and of the State."

The Democrats gave Mr. Lincoln a singular competitor — the famous Methodist preacher, Peter Cartwright. It was not the first time they had met in the field of politics. When Lincoln ran for the Legislature on his return from the Black Hawk war, in 1832, one of the successful candidates of that year was this indefatigable circuit-rider. He


chap. xiv. was now over sixty years of age, in the height of his popularity, and in all respects an adversary not to be despised. His career as a preacher began at the beginning of the century and continued for seventy years. He was the son of one of the pioneers of the West, and grew up in the rudest regions of the border land between Tennessee and Kentucky. He represents himself, with the usual inverted pride of a class-leader, as having been a wild, vicious youth; but the catalogue of his crimes embraces nothing less venial than card-playing, horse-racing, and dancing, and it is hard to see what different amusements could have been found in southern Kentucky in 1801.

This course of dissipation did not continue long, as he was " converted and united with the Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church " in June of that year, when only sixteen years old, and immediately developed such zeal and power in exhortation that less'than a year later he was licensed to "exercise his gifts as an exhorter so long as his practice is agreeable to the gospel." He became a deacon at twenty-one, an elder at twenty-three, a pre­siding elder at twenty-seven, and from that time his life is the history of his church in the West for sixty years. He died in 1872, eighty-seven years of age, having baptized twelve thousand persons and preached fifteen thousand sermons. He was, and will always remain, the type of the backwoods preacher. Even in his lifetime the simple story of his life became so overgrown with a net-work of fable that there is little resemblance between the simple, courageous, prejudiced itinerant of his "Autobiography" and the fighting, brawling, half-


civilized, Protestant Friar Tuck of bar-room and chap. xiv. newspaper legend.

It is true that he did not always discard the weapons of the flesh in his combats with the ungodly, and he felt more than once compelled to leave the pulpit to do carnal execution upon the disturbers of the peace of the sanctuary; but two or three incidents of this sort in three-quarters of a century do not turn a parson into a pugilist. He was a fluent, self-confident speaker, who, after the habit of his time, addressed his discourses more to the emotions than to the reason of his hearers. His system of future rewards and punishments was of the most simple and concrete character, and formed the staple of his sermons. He had no patience with the refinements and reticences of modern theology, and in his later years observed with scorn and sorrow the progress of education and scholarly training in his own communion. After listening one day to a prayer from a young minister which shone more by its correctness than its unction, he could not refrain from saying,

u Brother -, three prayers like that would freeze

hell over !?? — a consummation which did not com mend itself to him as desirable. He often visited the cities of the Atlantic coast, but saw little in them to admire. His chief pleasure on his return was to sit in a circle of his friends and pour out the phials of Ms sarcasm upon all the refinements of life that he had witnessed in New York or Philadelphia, which he believed, or affected to believe, were tenanted by a species of beings al­together inferior to the manhood that filled the cabins of Kentucky and Illinois. An apocryphal


chap, xiv. story of one of these visits was often told of him, which pleased him so that he never contradicted it: that becoming bewildered in the vastness of a New York hotel, he procured a hatchet, and in pioneer fashion " blazed" his way along the ma­hogany staircases and painted corridors from the office to his room. With all his eccentricities, he was a devont man, conscientious and brave. He lived in domestic peace and honor all his days, and dying, he and his wife, whom he had married al­most in childhood, left a posterity of 129 direct descendants to mourn them.1

With all his devotion to the cause of his church, Peter Cartwright was an ardent Jackson politician, with probably a larger acquaintance throughout the district than any other man in it, and with a personal following which, beginning with his own children and grandchildren and extending through every precinct, made it no holiday task to defeat him in a popular contest. But Lincoln and his friends went energetically into the canvass, and before it closed he was able to foresee a certain victory.

An incident is related to show how accurately Lin­coln could calculate political results in advancea faculty which remained with him all his life. A friend, who was a Democrat, had come to him

i The impressive manner of with the words, "the past three

Mrs. Cartwright's death, who sur- weeks have been the happiest of

vived her husband a few years, all my life; I am waiting for the

is remembered in the churches chariot."

of Sangamon County. She was When the meeting broke up,

attending a religious meeting at she did not rise with the rest.

Bethel Chapel, a mile from her The minister solemnly said, " The

house. She was called upon " to chariot has arrived."—"Early

give her testimony," which she Settlers of Sangamon County,"

did with much feeling, concluding by John Carroll Power.



early in the canvass and had told him he wanted to see him elected, but did not like to vote against his party; still he would vote for him, if the con­test was to be so close that every vote was needed. A short time before the election Lincoln said to him: "I have got the preacher, and I don't want your vote."

The election was held in August, and the Whig candidate's majority was very large—1511 in the district, where Clay's majority had been only 914, and where Taylor's, two years later, with all the glamour of victory about him, was ten less. Lin­coln's majority in Sangamon County was 690, which, in view of the standing of his competitor, was the most remarkable proof which could be given of his personal popularity;1 it was the highest majority ever given to any candidate in the county during the entire period of Whig as­cendancy until Yates's triumphant campaign of


This large vote was all the more noteworthy because the Whigs were this year upon the un­popular side. The annexation of Texas was gen­erally approved throughout the West, and those who opposed it were regarded as rather lacking in patriotism, even before actual hostilities began. But when General Taylor and General Ampudia confronted each other with hostile guns across the

i Stuart's maj, over May

295 575 504 373 690 263 336
in 1836 in Sangamon Co. was 543


Douglas Ealston

' 1838 " 1840 "



HcDougall Calhoun

1843 " 1844 "


Logan's Yates's

Cartwright Harris Harris

1846 "

1848 " 1850 "


chap. xiv. Eio Grande, and still more after the brilliant feat of arms by which the Americans opened the war on the plain of Palo Alto, it required a good deal of moral courage on the part of the candidates and voters alike to continue their attitude of disap­proval of the policy of the Government, at the same time that they were shouting paeans over the exploits of our soldiers. They were assisted, it is true, by the fact that the leading Whigs of the State volunteered with the utmost alacrity and promptitude in the military service. On the llth of May, Congress authorized the raising of fifty thousand volunteers, and as soon as the intel­ligence reached Illinois the daring and restless spirit of Hardin leaped forward to the fate which was awaiting him, and he instantly issued a' call to his brigade of militia, in which he said: " The general has already enrolled himself as the first volunteer from Illinois under the requisition. He is going whenever ordered. Who will go with him? He confidently expects to be accompanied by many of his brigade." The quota assigned to Illinois was three regiments; these were quickly raised,1 and an additional regiment offered by Baker was then accepted. The sons of the promi­nent Whigs enlisted as private soldiers; David Logan was a sergeant in Baker's regiment. A public meeting was held in Springfield on the 29th of May, at which Mr. Lincoln delivered what was considered a thrilling and effective speech on the condition of affairs, and the duty of citizens to stand by the flag of the nation until an honorable peace was secured.

i The colonels were Hardin, Bissell, and Forman.


It was thought probable, and would have been chap.xiv. altogether fitting, that either Colonel Hardin, Colonel Baker, or Colonel Bissell, all of them men of intelligence and distinction, should be appointed general of the Illinois Brigade, but the Polk Administration was not inclined to waste so im­portant a place upon men who might thereafter have views of their own in public affairs. The coveted appointment was given to a man already loaded to a grotesque degree with political employ­ment—-Mr. Lincoln's old adversary, James Shields. He had left the position of Auditor of State to assume a seat on the Bench; retiring from this, he had just been appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office. He had no military experi­ence, and so far as then known'no capacity for the service; but his fervid partisanship commended him to Mr. Polk as a safe servant, and he received the commission, to the surprise and derision of the State. His bravery in action and his honorable wounds at Cerro G-ordo and Chapultepec saved him from contempt and made his political fortune.

He had received the recommendation of the Illi­nois Democrats in Congress, and it is altogether probable that he owed his appointment in great measure to the influence of Douglas, who desired to have as few Democratic statesmen as possible in Springfield that winter. A Senator was to be elected, and Shields had acquired such a habit of taking all the offices that fell vacant that it was only prudent to remove him as far as convenient from such a temptation. The election was held in December, and Douglas was promoted from the House of Representatives to that seat in the Senate


chap. xiv. which he held with snch ability and distinction the rest of his life.

The session of 1846-7 opened with the ^San-gamon district of Illinois unrepresented in Con­gress. Baker had gone with his regiment to Mexico. It did not have the good fortune to participate in any of the earlier actions of the campaign, and his fiery spirit chafed in the enforced idleness of camp and garrison. He seized an occasion which was offered him to go to "Washington as bearer of dispatches, and while there he made one of those sudden and dramatic appearances in the Capitol which were so much in. harmony with his tastes and his character. He went to his place on the floor, and there delivered a bright, interesting speech in his most attractive vein, calling atten­tion to the needs of the army, disavowing on the part of the Whigs any responsibility for the war or its conduct, and adroitly claiming for them a full share of the credit for its prosecution.

He began by thanking the House for its kind­ness in allowing him the floor, protesting at the same time that he had done nothing to deserve such courtesy. " I could wish," he said, " that it had been the fortune of the gallant Davis1 to now stand where I dp and to receive from gentlemen on all sides the congratulations so justly due to him, and to listen to the praises of his brave compeers. For myself, I have, unfortunately, been left far in the rear of the war, and if now I venture to say a word in behalf of those who have endured the severest hardships of the struggle, whether in the blood-stained streets of Monterey, or in a yet

i Jefferson Davis, who was with, the army in Mexico.


sterner form on the banks I chap.xiv.

beg yon to believe that while I feel this a most pleasant duty, it is in other respects a dnty full of pain ; for I stand here, after six months' service as a volunteer, having seen no actual warfare in the field;"

Yet even this disadvantage he turned with great dexterity to his service. He reproached Congress for its apathy and inaction in not providing for the wants of the army by reinforcements and sup­plies ; he flattered the troops in the field, and paid a touching tribute to those who had died of disease and exposure, without ever enjoying the sight of a battle-field, and, rising to lyric enthusiasm, he repeated a poem of his own, which he had written in camp to the memory of the dead of the Fourth Illinois.1 He could not refrain from giving his own party all the credit which could be claimed for it, and it is not difficult to imagine how exasperating it must have been to the majority to hear so calm

i We give a copy of these lines, not on account of their intrinsic merit, but as illustrating the versatility of-the lawyer, orator, and soldier who wrote them.

Where rolls the rushing Eio Grande,

How peacefully they sleep! Far from their native Northern land,

Far from the friends who weep. No rolling drums disturb their rest

Beneath the sandy sod; The mold lies heavy on each breast,

The spirit is with God.

They heard their country's call, and came

To battle for the right;
Each bosom filled with martial flame, ?

And kindling for the fight. Light was their measured footsteps when

They moved to seek the foe ; Alas that hearts so fiery then

Should soon be cold and low!


chap. xiv. an £s§trt3Sption of superior patriotism on the part of the opposition as the following: "As a Whig I still occupy a place on this floor; nor do I think it worth while to reply to such a charge as that the "Whigs are not friends of their country "because many of them doulbt the justice or expediency of the present war. Surely there was all the more evidence of the patriotism of the man who, doubt­ing the expediency and even the entire justice of the war, nevertheless supported it, because it was the war of his country. In the one it might be mere enthusiasm and an impetuous temperament; in the other it was true patriotism, a sense of duty. Homer represents Hector as strongly doubting the expediency of the war against Greece. He gave his advice against it; he had no sympathy with Paris, whom he bitterly reproached, much less with Helen; yet, when the war came, and the Grecian forces were marshaled on the plain, and their crooked keels were seen cutting the sands of the Trojan coast, Hector was a flaming fire, his beam­ing helmet was seen in the thickest of the fight.

They did not die in eager strife

Upon a well-fought field ; Nor from the red wound poured their life

Where cowering foemen yield. Death's ghastly shade was slowly east

Upon each manly brow, But calm and fearless to the last,

They sleep securely now.

Yet shall a grateful country give

Her honors to their name ; In kindred hearts their .memory live,

And history guard their fame. Not unremembered do they sleep

Upon a foreign strand, Though near their graves thy wild waves sweep,

0 rushing Rio Grande !


There are in the American army many who have chap. xiv. the spirit of Hector; who strongly doubt the pro­priety of the war, and especially the manner of its commencement; who yet are ready to pour out their hearts' best blood like water, and their lives with it, on a foreign shore, in defense of the American flag and American glory."

Immediately after making this speech, Baker increased the favorable impression created by it by resigning his seat in Congress and hurrying as fast as steam could carry him to New Orleans, to embark there for Mexico. He had heard of the advance of Santa Anna upon Saltillo, and did not wish to lose any opportunity of fighting which might fall in the way of his regiment. He arrived to find his troops transferred to the department of General Scott; and although he missed Buena Vista, he took part in the capture of Vera Cruz, and greatly dis­tinguished himself at Cerro G-ordo. When Shields was wounded, Baker took command of his brigade, and by a gallant charge on the Mexican guns gained possession of the Jalapa road, an act by which a great portion of the fruits of that victory were harvested.

His resignation left a vacancy in Congress, and a contest, characteristic of the politics of the time, at once sprang up over it. The rational course would have been to elect Lincoln, but, with his usual overstrained delicacy, he declined to run, thinking it fair to give other aspirants a chance for the term of two months. The Whigs nominated a respectable man named Brown, but a short while before the election John Henry, a member of the State Senate, announced himself as a candidate,

Share with your friends:
1   ...   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   ...   45

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page