Introduction by Theodore Roosevelt
Essay on Lincoln by Carl Schurz
Address on Lincoln by Joseph Choate
The Papers and Writings of Abraham Lincoln
Review of Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’





By Abraham Lincoln

Edited by Arthur Brooks Lapsley


Immediately after Lincoln’s re-election to the Presidency, in an
off-hand speech, delivered in response to a serenade by some of his
admirers on the evening of November 10, 1864, he spoke as follows:

“It has long been a grave question whether any government not too strong
for the liberties of its people can be strong enough to maintain its
existence in great emergencies. On this point, the present rebellion
brought our republic to a severe test, and the Presidential election,
occurring in regular course during the rebellion, added not a little
to the strain…. The strife of the election is but human nature
practically applied to the facts in the case. What has occurred in this
case must ever occur in similar cases. Human nature will not change. In
any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall
have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good.
Let us therefore study the incidents in this as philosophy to learn
wisdom from and none of them as wrongs to be avenged…. Now that the
election is over, may not all having a common interest reunite in a
common fort to save our common country? For my own part, I have striven
and shall strive to avoid placing any obstacle in the way. So long as I
have been here, I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom.
While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election
and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my
countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think for their own good, it adds
nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or
pained by the result.”

This speech has not attracted much general attention, yet it is in a
peculiar degree both illustrative and typical of the great statesman who
made it, alike in its strong common-sense and in its lofty standard of
morality. Lincoln’s life, Lincoln’s deeds and words, are not only of
consuming interest to the historian, but should be intimately known to
every man engaged in the hard practical work of American political life.
It is difficult to overstate how much it means to a nation to have as
the two foremost figures in its history men like Washington and Lincoln.
It is good for every man in any way concerned in public life to feel
that the highest ambition any American can possibly have will be
gratified just in proportion as he raises himself toward the standards
set by these two men.

It is a very poor thing, whether for nations or individuals, to advance
the history of great deeds done in the past as an excuse for doing
poorly in the present; but it is an excellent thing to study the history
of the great deeds of the past, and of the great men who did them, with
an earnest desire to profit thereby so as to render better service in
the present. In their essentials, the men of the present day are much
like the men of the past, and the live issues of the present can be
faced to better advantage by men who have in good faith studied how the
leaders of the nation faced the dead issues of the past. Such a study of
Lincoln’s life will enable us to avoid the twin gulfs of immorality and
inefficiency–the gulfs which always lie one on each side of the careers
alike of man and of nation. It helps nothing to have avoided one if
shipwreck is encountered in the other. The fanatic, the well-meaning
moralist of unbalanced mind, the parlor critic who condemns others but
has no power himself to do good and but little power to do ill–all
these were as alien to Lincoln as the vicious and unpatriotic
themselves. His life teaches our people that they must act with wisdom,
because otherwise adherence to right will be mere sound and fury without
substance; and that they must also act high-mindedly, or else what seems
to be wisdom will in the end turn out to be the most destructive kind of

Throughout his entire life, and especially after he rose to leadership
in his party, Lincoln was stirred to his depths by the sense of fealty
to a lofty ideal; but throughout his entire life, he also accepted human
nature as it is, and worked with keen, practical good sense to achieve
results with the instruments at hand. It is impossible to conceive of a
man farther removed from baseness, farther removed from corruption, from
mere self-seeking; but it is also impossible to conceive of a man of
more sane and healthy mind–a man less under the influence of that
fantastic and diseased morality (so fantastic and diseased as to be in
reality profoundly immoral) which makes a man in this work-a-day
world refuse to do what is possible because he cannot accomplish the

In the fifth volume of Lecky’s History of England, the historian draws
an interesting distinction between the qualities needed for a successful
political career in modern society and those which lead to eminence in
the spheres of pure intellect or pure moral effort. He says:

“….the moral qualities that are required in the higher spheres
of statesmanship [are not] those of a hero or a saint. Passionate
earnestness and self-devotion, complete concentration of every faculty
on an unselfish aim, uncalculating daring, a delicacy of conscience and
a loftiness of aim far exceeding those of the average of men, are here
likely to prove rather a hindrance than an assistance. The politician
deals very largely with the superficial and the commonplace; his art is
in a great measure that of skilful compromise, and in the conditions
of modern life, the statesman is likely to succeed best who possesses
secondary qualities to an unusual degree, who is in the closest
intellectual and moral sympathy with the average of the intelligent
men of his time, and who pursues common ideals with more than common
ability…. Tact, business talent, knowledge of men, resolution,
promptitude and sagacity in dealing with immediate emergencies, a
character which lends itself easily to conciliation, diminishes friction
and inspires confidence, are especially needed, and they are more likely
to be found among shrewd and enlightened men of the world than among men
of great original genius or of an heroic type of character.”

The American people should feel profoundly grateful that the greatest
American statesman since Washington, the statesman who in this
absolutely democratic republic succeeded best, was the very man who
actually combined the two sets of qualities which the historian thus
puts in antithesis. Abraham Lincoln, the rail-splitter, the Western
country lawyer, was one of the shrewdest and most enlightened men of the
world, and he had all the practical qualities which enable such a man to
guide his countrymen; and yet he was also a genius of the heroic type,
a leader who rose level to the greatest crisis through which this nation
or any other nation had to pass in the nineteenth century.


SAGAMORE HILL, OYSTER BAY, N. Y., September 22, 1905.


“I have endured,” wrote Lincoln not long before his death, “a great
deal of ridicule without much malice, and have received a great deal of
kindness not quite free from ridicule.” On Easter Day, 1865, the world
knew how little this ridicule, how much this kindness, had really
signified. Thereafter, Lincoln the man became Lincoln the hero, year by
year more heroic, until to-day, with the swift passing of those who knew
him, his figure grows ever dimmer, less real. This should not be. For
Lincoln the man, patient, wise, set in a high resolve, is worth far more
than Lincoln the hero, vaguely glorious. Invaluable is the example of
the man, intangible that of the hero.

And, though it is not for us, as for those who in awed stillness
listened at Gettysburg with inspired perception, to know Abraham
Lincoln, yet there is for us another way whereby we may attain such
knowledge–through his words–uttered in all sincerity to those who
loved or hated him. Cold, unsatisfying they may seem, these printed
words, while we can yet speak with those who knew him, and look into
eyes that once looked into his. But in truth it is here that we find his
simple greatness, his great simplicity, and though no man tried less so
to show his power, no man has so shown it more clearly.

Thus these writings of Abraham Lincoln are associated with those of
Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, and of the other “Founders of the
Republic,” not that Lincoln should become still more of the past, but,
rather, that he with them should become still more of the present.
However faint and mythical may grow the story of that Great Struggle,
the leader, Lincoln, at least should remain a real, living American.
No matter how clearly, how directly, Lincoln has shown himself in his
writings, we yet should not forget those men whose minds, from their
various view-points, have illumined for us his character. As this nation
owes a great debt to Lincoln, so, also, Lincoln’s memory owes a great
debt to a nation which, as no other nation could have done, has been
able to appreciate his full worth. Among the many who have brought about
this appreciation, those only whose estimates have been placed in these
volumes may be mentioned here. To President Roosevelt, to Mr. Schurz
and to Mr. Choate, the editor, for himself, for the publishers, and on
behalf of the readers, wishes to offer his sincere acknowledgments.

Thanks are also due, for valuable and sympathetic assistance rendered in
the preparation of this work, to Mr. Gilbert A. Tracy, of Putnam, Conn.,
Major William H. Lambert, of Philadelphia, and Mr. C. F. Gunther, of
Chicago, to the Chicago Historical Association and personally to
its capable Secretary, Miss McIlvaine, to Major Henry S. Burrage, of
Portland, Me., and to General Thomas J. Henderson, of Illinois.

For various courtesies received, the editor is furthermore indebted to
the Librarian of the Library of Congress; to Messrs. McClure, Phillips
& Co., D. Appleton & Co., Macmillan & Co., Dodd, Mead & Co., and Harper
Brothers, of New York; to Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Dana, Estes & Co.,
and L. C. Page & Co., of Boston; to A. C. McClure & Co., of Chicago; to
The Robert Clarke Co., of Cincinnati, and to the J. B. Lippincott Co.,
of Philadelphia.

It is hardly necessary to add that every effort has been made by the
editor to bring into these volumes whatever material may there properly
belong, material much of which is widely scattered in public libraries
and in private collections. He has been fortunate in securing certain
interesting correspondence and papers which had not before come into
print in book form. Information concerning some of these papers had
reached him too late to enable the papers to find place in their proper
chronological order in the set. Rather, however, than not to present
these papers to the readers they have been included in the seventh
volume of the set, which concludes the “Writings.”

[These later papers are, in this etext, re-arranged into chronologic
order. D.W.]

October, 1905, A. B. L.


No American can study the character and career of Abraham Lincoln
without being carried away by sentimental emotions. We are always
inclined to idealize that which we love,–a state of mind very
unfavorable to the exercise of sober critical judgment. It is therefore
not surprising that most of those who have written or spoken on that
extraordinary man, even while conscientiously endeavoring to draw a
lifelike portraiture of his being, and to form a just estimate of his
public conduct, should have drifted into more or less indiscriminating
eulogy, painting his great features in the most glowing colors, and
covering with tender shadings whatever might look like a blemish.

But his standing before posterity will not be exalted by mere praise of
his virtues and abilities, nor by any concealment of his limitations
and faults. The stature of the great man, one of whose peculiar charms
consisted in his being so unlike all other great men, will rather lose
than gain by the idealization which so easily runs into the commonplace.
For it was distinctly the weird mixture of qualities and forces in him,
of the lofty with the common, the ideal with the uncouth, of that which
he had become with that which he had not ceased to be, that made him
so fascinating a character among his fellow-men, gave him his singular
power over their minds and hearts, and fitted him to be the greatest
leader in the greatest crisis of our national life.

His was indeed a marvellous growth. The statesman or the military hero
born and reared in a log cabin is a familiar figure in American history;
but we may search in vain among our celebrities for one whose origin and
early life equalled Abraham Lincoln’s in wretchedness. He first saw the
light in a miserable hovel in Kentucky, on a farm consisting of a
few barren acres in a dreary neighborhood; his father a typical “poor
Southern white,” shiftless and without ambition for himself or his
children, constantly looking for a new piece of land on which he might
make a living without much work; his mother, in her youth handsome and
bright, grown prematurely coarse in feature and soured in mind by daily
toil and care; the whole household squalid, cheerless, and utterly void
of elevating inspirations… Only when the family had “moved” into the
malarious backwoods of Indiana, the mother had died, and a stepmother,
a woman of thrift and energy, had taken charge of the children, the
shaggy-headed, ragged, barefooted, forlorn boy, then seven years old,
“began to feel like a human being.” Hard work was his early lot. When a
mere boy he had to help in supporting the family, either on his father’s
clearing, or hired out to other farmers to plough, or dig ditches, or
chop wood, or drive ox teams; occasionally also to “tend the baby,”
when the farmer’s wife was otherwise engaged. He could regard it as an
advancement to a higher sphere of activity when he obtained work in a
“crossroads store,” where he amused the customers by his talk over the
counter; for he soon distinguished himself among the backwoods folk
as one who had something to say worth listening to. To win that
distinction, he had to draw mainly upon his wits; for, while his thirst
for knowledge was great, his opportunities for satisfying that thirst
were wofully slender.

In the log schoolhouse, which he could visit but little, he was taught
only reading, writing, and elementary arithmetic. Among the people
of the settlement, bush farmers and small tradesmen, he found none of
uncommon intelligence or education; but some of them had a few books,
which he borrowed eagerly. Thus he read and reread, AEsop’s Fables,
learning to tell stories with a point and to argue by parables; he read
Robinson Crusoe, The Pilgrim’s Progress, a short history of the United
States, and Weems’s Life of Washington. To the town constable’s he went
to read the Revised Statutes of Indiana. Every printed page that fell
into his hands he would greedily devour, and his family and friends
watched him with wonder, as the uncouth boy, after his daily work,
crouched in a corner of the log cabin or outside under a tree, absorbed
in a book while munching his supper of corn bread. In this manner he
began to gather some knowledge, and sometimes he would astonish the
girls with such startling remarks as that the earth was moving around
the sun, and not the sun around the earth, and they marvelled where
“Abe” could have got such queer notions. Soon he also felt the impulse
to write; not only making extracts from books he wished to remember, but
also composing little essays of his own. First he sketched these with
charcoal on a wooden shovel scraped white with a drawing-knife, or on
basswood shingles. Then he transferred them to paper, which was a scarce
commodity in the Lincoln household; taking care to cut his expressions
close, so that they might not cover too much space,–a style-forming
method greatly to be commended. Seeing boys put a burning coal on the
back of a wood turtle, he was moved to write on cruelty to animals.
Seeing men intoxicated with whiskey, he wrote on temperance. In
verse-making, too, he tried himself, and in satire on persons offensive
to him or others,–satire the rustic wit of which was not always fit for
ears polite. Also political thoughts he put upon paper, and some of
his pieces were even deemed good enough for publication in the county

Thus he won a neighborhood reputation as a clever young man, which he
increased by his performances as a speaker, not seldom drawing upon
himself the dissatisfaction of his employers by mounting a stump in the
field, and keeping the farm hands from their work by little speeches in
a jocose and sometimes also a serious vein. At the rude social frolics
of the settlement he became an important person, telling funny, stories,
mimicking the itinerant preachers who had happened to pass by, and
making his mark at wrestling matches, too; for at the age of seventeen
he had attained his full height, six feet four inches in his stockings,
if he had any, and a terribly muscular clodhopper he was. But he
was known never to use his extraordinary strength to the injury or
humiliation of others; rather to do them a kindly turn, or to enforce
justice and fair dealing between them. All this made him a favorite in
backwoods society, although in some things he appeared a little odd,
to his friends. Far more than any of them, he was given not only to
reading, but to fits of abstraction, to quiet musing with himself, and
also to strange spells of melancholy, from which he often would pass in
a moment to rollicking outbursts of droll humor. But on the whole he
was one of the people among whom he lived; in appearance perhaps even
a little more uncouth than most of them,–a very tall, rawboned youth,
with large features, dark, shrivelled skin, and rebellious hair; his
arms and legs long, out of proportion; clad in deerskin trousers, which
from frequent exposure to the rain had shrunk so as to sit tightly on
his limbs, leaving several inches of bluish shin exposed between their
lower end and the heavy tan-colored shoes; the nether garment held
usually by only one suspender, that was strung over a coarse homemade
shirt; the head covered in winter with a coonskin cap, in summer with a
rough straw hat of uncertain shape, without a band.

It is doubtful whether he felt himself much superior to his
surroundings, although he confessed to a yearning for some knowledge
of the world outside of the circle in which he lived. This wish was
gratified; but how? At the age of nineteen he went down the Mississippi
to New Orleans as a flatboat hand, temporarily joining a trade many
members of which at that time still took pride in being called “half
horse and half alligator.” After his return he worked and lived in the
old way until the spring of 1830, when his father “moved again,” this
time to Illinois; and on the journey of fifteen days “Abe” had to drive
the ox wagon which carried the household goods. Another log cabin was
built, and then, fencing a field, Abraham Lincoln split those historic
rails which were destined to play so picturesque a part in the
Presidential campaign twenty-eight years later.

Having come of age, Lincoln left the family, and “struck out for
himself.” He had to “take jobs whenever he could get them.” The first
of these carried him again as a flatboat hand to New Orleans. There
something happened that made a lasting impression upon his soul:
he witnessed a slave auction. “His heart bled,” wrote one of his
companions; “said nothing much; was silent; looked bad. I can say,
knowing it, that it was on this trip that he formed his opinion on
slavery. It run its iron in him then and there, May, 1831. I have
heard him say so often.” Then he lived several years at New Salem,
in Illinois, a small mushroom village, with a mill, some “stores” and
whiskey shops, that rose quickly, and soon disappeared again. It was a
desolate, disjointed, half-working and half-loitering life, without any
other aim than to gain food and shelter from day to day. He served as
pilot on a steamboat trip, then as clerk in a store and a mill; business
failing, he was adrift for some time. Being compelled to measure his
strength with the chief bully of the neighborhood, and overcoming him,
he became a noted person in that muscular community, and won the esteem
and friendship of the ruling gang of ruffians to such a degree that,
when the Black Hawk war broke out, they elected him, a young man of
twenty-three, captain of a volunteer company, composed mainly of roughs
of their kind. He took the field, and his most noteworthy deed of valor
consisted, not in killing an Indian, but in protecting against his own
men, at the peril of his own life, the life of an old savage who had
strayed into his camp.

The Black Hawk war over, he turned to politics. The step from the
captaincy of a volunteer company to a candidacy for a seat in the
Legislature seemed a natural one. But his popularity, although great
in New Salem, had not spread far enough over the district, and he was
defeated. Then the wretched hand-to-mouth struggle began again. He “set
up in store-business” with a dissolute partner, who drank whiskey while
Lincoln was reading books. The result was a disastrous failure and a
load of debt. Thereupon he became a deputy surveyor, and was appointed
postmaster of New Salem, the business of the post-office being so small
that he could carry the incoming and outgoing mail in his hat. All this
could not lift him from poverty, and his surveying instruments and horse
and saddle were sold by the sheriff for debt.

But while all this misery was upon him his ambition rose to higher aims.
He walked many miles to borrow from a schoolmaster a grammar with which
to improve his language. A lawyer lent him a copy of Blackstone, and he
began to study law.

People would look wonderingly at the grotesque figure lying in the
grass, “with his feet up a tree,” or sitting on a fence, as, absorbed
in a book, he learned to construct correct sentences and made himself
a jurist. At once he gained a little practice, pettifogging before a
justice of the peace for friends, without expecting a fee. Judicial
functions, too, were thrust upon him, but only at horse-races or
wrestling matches, where his acknowledged honesty and fairness gave his
verdicts undisputed authority. His popularity grew apace, and soon
he could be a candidate for the Legislature again. Although he called
himself a Whig, an ardent admirer of Henry Clay, his clever stump
speeches won him the election in the strongly Democratic district.
Then for the first time, perhaps, he thought seriously of his outward
appearance. So far he had been content with a garb of “Kentucky jeans,”
not seldom ragged, usually patched, and always shabby. Now, he borrowed
some money from a friend to buy a new suit of clothes–“store clothes”
fit for a Sangamon County statesman; and thus adorned he set out for the
state capital, Vandalia, to take his seat among the lawmakers.

His legislative career, which stretched over several sessions–for
he was thrice re-elected, in 1836, 1838, and 1840–was not remarkably
brilliant. He did, indeed, not lack ambition. He dreamed even of making
himself “the De Witt Clinton of Illinois,” and he actually distinguished
himself by zealous and effective work in those “log-rolling” operations
by which the young State received “a general system of internal
improvements” in the shape of railroads, canals, and banks,–a reckless
policy, burdening the State with debt, and producing the usual crop of
political demoralization, but a policy characteristic of the time and
the impatiently enterprising spirit of the Western people. Lincoln,
no doubt with the best intentions, but with little knowledge of the
subject, simply followed the popular current. The achievement in which,
perhaps, he gloried most was the removal of the State government from
Vandalia to Springfield; one of those triumphs of political management
which are apt to be the pride of the small politician’s statesmanship.
One thing, however, he did in which his true nature asserted itself, and
which gave distinct promise of the future pursuit of high aims. Against
an overwhelming preponderance of sentiment in the Legislature, followed
by only one other member, he recorded his protest against a proslavery
resolution,–that protest declaring “the institution of slavery to
be founded on both injustice and bad policy.” This was not only the
irrepressible voice of his conscience; it was true moral valor, too; for
at that time, in many parts of the West, an abolitionist was regarded
as little better than a horse-thief, and even “Abe Lincoln” would hardly
have been forgiven his antislavery principles, had he not been known
as such an “uncommon good fellow.” But here, in obedience to the great
conviction of his life, he manifested his courage to stand alone, that
courage which is the first requisite of leadership in a great cause.

Together with his reputation and influence as a politician grew his law
practice, especially after he had removed from New Salem to Springfield,
and associated himself with a practitioner of good standing. He had now
at last won a fixed position in society. He became a successful lawyer,
less, indeed, by his learning as a jurist than by his effectiveness as
an advocate and by the striking uprightness of his character; and it may
truly be said that his vivid sense of truth and justice had much to do
with his effectiveness as an advocate. He would refuse to act as the
attorney even of personal friends when he saw the right on the other
side. He would abandon cases, even during trial, when the testimony
convinced him that his client was in the wrong. He would dissuade those
who sought his service from pursuing an obtainable advantage when their
claims seemed to him unfair. Presenting his very first case in the
United States Circuit Court, the only question being one of authority,
he declared that, upon careful examination, he found all the authorities
on the other side, and none on his. Persons accused of crime, when he
thought them guilty, he would not defend at all, or, attempting their
defence, he was unable to put forth his powers. One notable exception is
on record, when his personal sympathies had been strongly aroused. But
when he felt himself to be the protector of innocence, the defender
of justice, or the prosecutor of wrong, he frequently disclosed such
unexpected resources of reasoning, such depth of feeling, and rose to
such fervor of appeal as to astonish and overwhelm his hearers, and make
him fairly irresistible. Even an ordinary law argument, coming from him,
seldom failed to produce the impression that he was profoundly convinced
of the soundness of his position. It is not surprising that the mere
appearance of so conscientious an attorney in any case should have
carried, not only to juries, but even to judges, almost a presumption
of right on his side, and that the people began to call him, sincerely
meaning it, “honest Abe Lincoln.”

In the meantime he had private sorrows and trials of a painfully
afflicting nature. He had loved and been loved by a fair and estimable
girl, Ann Rutledge, who died in the flower of her youth and beauty, and
he mourned her loss with such intensity of grief that his friends feared
for his reason. Recovering from his morbid depression, he bestowed
what he thought a new affection upon another lady, who refused him.
And finally, moderately prosperous in his worldly affairs, and having
prospects of political distinction before him, he paid his addresses to
Mary Todd, of Kentucky, and was accepted. But then tormenting doubts of
the genuineness of his own affection for her, of the compatibility
of their characters, and of their future happiness came upon him. His
distress was so great that he felt himself in danger of suicide, and
feared to carry a pocket-knife with him; and he gave mortal offence
to his bride by not appearing on the appointed wedding day. Now the
torturing consciousness of the wrong he had done her grew unendurable.
He won back her affection, ended the agony by marrying her, and became a
faithful and patient husband and a good father. But it was no secret
to those who knew the family well that his domestic life was full of
trials. The erratic temper of his wife not seldom put the gentleness
of his nature to the severest tests; and these troubles and struggles,
which accompanied him through all the vicissitudes of his life from
the modest home in Springfield to the White House at Washington,
adding untold private heart-burnings to his public cares, and sometimes
precipitating upon him incredible embarrassments in the discharge of his
public duties, form one of the most pathetic features of his career.

He continued to “ride the circuit,” read books while travelling in his
buggy, told funny stories to his fellow-lawyers in the tavern, chatted
familiarly with his neighbors around the stove in the store and at the
post-office, had his hours of melancholy brooding as of old, and became
more and more widely known and trusted and beloved among the people
of his State for his ability as a lawyer and politician, for the
uprightness of his character and the overflowing spring of sympathetic
kindness in his heart. His main ambition was confessedly that of
political distinction; but hardly any one would at that time have seen
in him the man destined to lead the nation through the greatest crisis
of the century.

His time had not yet come when, in 1846, he was elected to Congress. In
a clever speech in the House of Representatives he denounced President
Polk for having unjustly forced war upon Mexico, and he amused the
Committee of the Whole by a witty attack upon General Cass. More
important was the expression he gave to his antislavery impulses
by offering a bill looking to the emancipation of the slaves in the
District of Columbia, and by his repeated votes for the famous Wilmot
Proviso, intended to exclude slavery from the Territories acquired from
Mexico. But when, at the expiration of his term, in March, 1849, he left
his seat, he gloomily despaired of ever seeing the day when the cause
nearest to his heart would be rightly grasped by the people, and when he
would be able to render any service to his country in solving the great
problem. Nor had his career as a member of Congress in any sense been
such as to gratify his ambition. Indeed, if he ever had any belief in a
great destiny for himself, it must have been weak at that period; for he
actually sought to obtain from the new Whig President, General Taylor,
the place of Commissioner of the General Land Office; willing to
bury himself in one of the administrative bureaus of the government.
Fortunately for the country, he failed; and no less fortunately, when,
later, the territorial governorship of Oregon was offered to him, Mrs.
Lincoln’s protest induced him to decline it. Returning to Springfield,
he gave himself with renewed zest to his law practice, acquiesced in the
Compromise of 1850 with reluctance and a mental reservation, supported
in the Presidential campaign of 1852 the Whig candidate in some
spiritless speeches, and took but a languid interest in the politics of
the day. But just then his time was drawing near.

The peace promised, and apparently inaugurated, by the Compromise of
1850 was rudely broken by the introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill
in 1854. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise, opening the Territories
of the United States, the heritage of coming generations, to the
invasion of slavery, suddenly revealed the whole significance of the
slavery question to the people of the free States, and thrust itself
into the politics of the country as the paramount issue. Something like
an electric shock flashed through the North. Men who but a short time
before had been absorbed by their business pursuits, and deprecated all
political agitation, were startled out of their security by a sudden
alarm, and excitedly took sides. That restless trouble of conscience
about slavery, which even in times of apparent repose had secretly
disturbed the souls of Northern people, broke forth in an utterance
louder than ever. The bonds of accustomed party allegiance gave way.
Antislavery Democrats and antislavery Whigs felt themselves drawn
together by a common overpowering sentiment, and soon they began to
rally in a new organization. The Republican party sprang into being to
meet the overruling call of the hour. Then Abraham Lincoln’s time was
come. He rapidly advanced to a position of conspicuous championship in
the struggle. This, however, was not owing to his virtues and abilities
alone. Indeed, the slavery question stirred his soul in its profoundest
depths; it was, as one of his intimate friends said, “the only one on
which he would become excited”; it called forth all his faculties and
energies. Yet there were many others who, having long and arduously
fought the antislavery battle in the popular assembly, or in the press,
or in the halls of Congress, far surpassed him in prestige, and compared
with whom he was still an obscure and untried man. His reputation,
although highly honorable and well earned, had so far been essentially
local. As a stump-speaker in Whig canvasses outside of his State he had
attracted comparatively little attention; but in Illinois he had been
recognized as one of the foremost men of the Whig party. Among the
opponents of the Nebraska Bill he occupied in his State so important
a position, that in 1856 he was the choice of a large majority of the
“Anti-Nebraska men” in the Legislature for a seat in the Senate of the
United States which then became vacant; and when he, an old Whig, could
not obtain the votes of the Anti-Nebraska Democrats necessary to make
a majority, he generously urged his friends to transfer their votes
to Lyman Trumbull, who was then elected. Two years later, in the
first national convention of the Republican party, the delegation from
Illinois brought him forward as a candidate for the vice-presidency, and
he received respectable support. Still, the name of Abraham Lincoln was
not widely known beyond the boundaries of his own State. But now it was
this local prominence in Illinois that put him in a position of peculiar
advantage on the battlefield of national politics. In the assault on the
Missouri Compromise which broke down all legal barriers to the spread
of slavery Stephen Arnold Douglas was the ostensible leader and central
figure; and Douglas was a Senator from Illinois, Lincoln’s State.
Douglas’s national theatre of action was the Senate, but in his
constituency in Illinois were the roots of his official position and
power. What he did in the Senate he had to justify before the people
of Illinois, in order to maintain himself in place; and in Illinois all
eyes turned to Lincoln as Douglas’s natural antagonist.

As very young men they had come to Illinois, Lincoln from Indiana,
Douglas from Vermont, and had grown up together in public life, Douglas
as a Democrat, Lincoln as a Whig. They had met first in Vandalia, in
1834, when Lincoln was in the Legislature and Douglas in the lobby; and
again in 1836, both as members of the Legislature. Douglas, a very able
politician, of the agile, combative, audacious, “pushing” sort, rose in
political distinction with remarkable rapidity. In quick succession he
became a member of the Legislature, a State’s attorney, secretary
of state, a judge on the supreme bench of Illinois, three times a
Representative in Congress, and a Senator of the United States when only
thirty-nine years old. In the National Democratic convention of 1852 he
appeared even as an aspirant to the nomination for the Presidency, as
the favorite of “young America,” and received a respectable vote. He had
far outstripped Lincoln in what is commonly called political success
and in reputation. But it had frequently happened that in political
campaigns Lincoln felt himself impelled, or was selected by his Whig
friends, to answer Douglas’s speeches; and thus the two were looked
upon, in a large part of the State at least, as the representative
combatants of their respective parties in the debates before
popular meetings. As soon, therefore, as, after the passage of his
Kansas-Nebraska Bill, Douglas returned to Illinois to defend his cause
before his constituents, Lincoln, obeying not only his own impulse, but
also general expectation, stepped forward as his principal opponent.
Thus the struggle about the principles involved in the Kansas-Nebraska
Bill, or, in a broader sense, the struggle between freedom and slavery,
assumed in Illinois the outward form of a personal contest between
Lincoln and Douglas; and, as it continued and became more animated,
that personal contest in Illinois was watched with constantly increasing
interest by the whole country. When, in 1858, Douglas’s senatorial term
being about to expire, Lincoln was formally designated by the Republican
convention of Illinois as their candidate for the Senate, to take
Douglas’s place, and the two contestants agreed to debate the questions
at issue face to face in a series of public meetings, the eyes of the
whole American people were turned eagerly to that one point: and the
spectacle reminded one of those lays of ancient times telling of two
armies, in battle array, standing still to see their two principal
champions fight out the contested cause between the lines in single

Lincoln had then reached the full maturity of his powers. His equipment
as a statesman did not embrace a comprehensive knowledge of public
affairs. What he had studied he had indeed made his own, with the eager
craving and that zealous tenacity characteristic of superior minds
learning under difficulties. But his narrow opportunities and the
unsteady life he had led during his younger years had not permitted
the accumulation of large stores in his mind. It is true, in political
campaigns he had occasionally spoken on the ostensible issues between
the Whigs and the Democrats, the tariff, internal improvements, banks,
and so on, but only in a perfunctory manner. Had he ever given much
serious thought and study to these subjects, it is safe to assume that
a mind so prolific of original conceits as his would certainly have
produced some utterance upon them worth remembering. His soul had
evidently never been deeply stirred by such topics. But when his moral
nature was aroused, his brain developed an untiring activity until it
had mastered all the knowledge within reach. As soon as the repeal of
the Missouri Compromise had thrust the slavery question into politics
as the paramount issue, Lincoln plunged into an arduous study of all
its legal, historical, and moral aspects, and then his mind became a
complete arsenal of argument. His rich natural gifts, trained by long
and varied practice, had made him an orator of rare persuasiveness. In
his immature days, he had pleased himself for a short period with that
inflated, high-flown style which, among the uncultivated, passes for
“beautiful speaking.” His inborn truthfulness and his artistic instinct
soon overcame that aberration and revealed to him the noble beauty and
strength of simplicity. He possessed an uncommon power of clear and
compact statement, which might have reminded those who knew the story
of his early youth of the efforts of the poor boy, when he copied his
compositions from the scraped wooden shovel, carefully to trim his
expressions in order to save paper. His language had the energy of
honest directness and he was a master of logical lucidity. He loved
to point and enliven his reasoning by humorous illustrations, usually
anecdotes of Western life, of which he had an inexhaustible store at his
command. These anecdotes had not seldom a flavor of rustic robustness
about them, but he used them with great effect, while amusing the
audience, to give life to an abstraction, to explode an absurdity, to
clinch an argument, to drive home an admonition. The natural kindliness
of his tone, softening prejudice and disarming partisan rancor, would
often open to his reasoning a way into minds most unwilling to receive

Yet his greatest power consisted in the charm of his individuality. That
charm did not, in the ordinary way, appeal to the ear or to the eye. His
voice was not melodious; rather shrill and piercing, especially when it
rose to its high treble in moments of great animation. His figure was
unhandsome, and the action of his unwieldy limbs awkward. He commanded
none of the outward graces of oratory as they are commonly understood.
His charm was of a different kind. It flowed from the rare depth and
genuineness of his convictions and his sympathetic feelings. Sympathy
was the strongest element in his nature. One of his biographers, who
knew him before he became President, says: “Lincoln’s compassion might
be stirred deeply by an object present, but never by an object absent
and unseen. In the former case he would most likely extend relief, with
little inquiry into the merits of the case, because, as he expressed it
himself, it `took a pain out of his own heart.'” Only half of this is
correct. It is certainly true that he could not witness any individual
distress or oppression, or any kind of suffering, without feeling a pang
of pain himself, and that by relieving as much as he could the suffering
of others he put an end to his own. This compassionate impulse to help
he felt not only for human beings, but for every living creature. As in
his boyhood he angrily reproved the boys who tormented a wood turtle by
putting a burning coal on its back, so, we are told, he would, when a
mature man, on a journey, dismount from his buggy and wade waist-deep
in mire to rescue a pig struggling in a swamp. Indeed, appeals to his
compassion were so irresistible to him, and he felt it so difficult
to refuse anything when his refusal could give pain, that he himself
sometimes spoke of his inability to say “no” as a positive weakness.
But that certainly does not prove that his compassionate feeling was
confined to individual cases of suffering witnessed with his own eyes.
As the boy was moved by the aspect of the tortured wood turtle to
compose an essay against cruelty to animals in general, so the aspect of
other cases of suffering and wrong wrought up his moral nature, and set
his mind to work against cruelty, injustice, and oppression in general.

As his sympathy went forth to others, it attracted others to him.
Especially those whom he called the “plain people” felt themselves drawn
to him by the instinctive feeling that he understood, esteemed, and
appreciated them. He had grown up among the poor, the lowly, the
ignorant. He never ceased to remember the good souls he had met among
them, and the many kindnesses they had done him. Although in his mental
development he had risen far above them, he never looked down upon them.
How they felt and how they reasoned he knew, for so he had once felt and
reasoned himself. How they could be moved he knew, for so he had once
been moved himself and practised moving others. His mind was much larger
than theirs, but it thoroughly comprehended theirs; and while he thought
much farther than they, their thoughts were ever present to him. Nor had
the visible distance between them grown as wide as his rise in the world
would seem to have warranted. Much of his backwoods speech and manners
still clung to him. Although he had become “Mr. Lincoln” to his later
acquaintances, he was still “Abe” to the “Nats” and “Billys” and “Daves”
of his youth; and their familiarity neither appeared unnatural to
them, nor was it in the least awkward to him. He still told and
enjoyed stories similar to those he had told and enjoyed in the Indiana
settlement and at New Salem. His wants remained as modest as they had
ever been; his domestic habits had by no means completely accommodated
themselves to those of his more highborn wife; and though the “Kentucky
jeans” apparel had long been dropped, his clothes of better material
and better make would sit ill sorted on his gigantic limbs. His cotton
umbrella, without a handle, and tied together with a coarse string to
keep it from flapping, which he carried on his circuit rides, is said to
be remembered still by some of his surviving neighbors. This rusticity
of habit was utterly free from that affected contempt of refinement and
comfort which self-made men sometimes carry into their more affluent
circumstances. To Abraham Lincoln it was entirely natural, and all those
who came into contact with him knew it to be so. In his ways of thinking
and feeling he had become a gentleman in the highest sense, but the
refining process had polished but little the outward form. The plain
people, therefore, still considered “honest Abe Lincoln” one of
themselves; and when they felt, which they no doubt frequently did, that
his thoughts and aspirations moved in a sphere above their own,
they were all the more proud of him, without any diminution
of fellow-feeling. It was this relation of mutual sympathy and
understanding between Lincoln and the plain people that gave him his
peculiar power as a public man, and singularly fitted him, as we shall
see, for that leadership which was preeminently required in the great
crisis then coming on,–the leadership which indeed thinks and moves
ahead of the masses, but always remains within sight and sympathetic
touch of them.

He entered upon the campaign of 1858 better equipped than he had ever
been before. He not only instinctively felt, but he had convinced
himself by arduous study, that in this struggle against the spread of
slavery he had right, justice, philosophy, the enlightened opinion of
mankind, history, the Constitution, and good policy on his side. It
was observed that after he began to discuss the slavery question his
speeches were pitched in a much loftier key than his former oratorical
efforts. While he remained fond of telling funny stories in private
conversation, they disappeared more and more from his public discourse.
He would still now and then point his argument with expressions of
inimitable quaintness, and flash out rays of kindly humor and witty
irony; but his general tone was serious, and rose sometimes to genuine
solemnity. His masterly skill in dialectical thrust and parry, his
wealth of knowledge, his power of reasoning and elevation of sentiment,
disclosed in language of rare precision, strength, and beauty, not
seldom astonished his old friends.

Neither of the two champions could have found a more formidable
antagonist than each now met in the other. Douglas was by far the most
conspicuous member of his party. His admirers had dubbed him “the Little
Giant,” contrasting in that nickname the greatness of his mind with the
smallness of his body. But though of low stature, his broad-shouldered
figure appeared uncommonly sturdy, and there was something lion-like in
the squareness of his brow and jaw, and in the defiant shake of his long
hair. His loud and persistent advocacy of territorial expansion, in the
name of patriotism and “manifest destiny,” had given him an enthusiastic
following among the young and ardent. Great natural parts, a highly
combative temperament, and long training had made him a debater
unsurpassed in a Senate filled with able men. He could be as forceful in
his appeals to patriotic feelings as he was fierce in denunciation and
thoroughly skilled in all the baser tricks of parliamentary pugilism.
While genial and rollicking in his social intercourse–the idol of the
“boys” he felt himself one of the most renowned statesmen of his time,
and would frequently meet his opponents with an overbearing haughtiness,
as persons more to be pitied than to be feared. In his speech opening
the campaign of 1858, he spoke of Lincoln, whom the Republicans had
dared to advance as their candidate for “his” place in the Senate, with
an air of patronizing if not contemptuous condescension, as “a kind,
amiable, and intelligent gentleman and a good citizen.” The Little Giant
would have been pleased to pass off his antagonist as a tall dwarf. He
knew Lincoln too well, however, to indulge himself seriously in such a
delusion. But the political situation was at that moment in a curious
tangle, and Douglas could expect to derive from the confusion great
advantage over his opponent.

By the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, opening the Territories to the
ingress of slavery, Douglas had pleased the South, but greatly alarmed
the North. He had sought to conciliate Northern sentiment by appending
to his Kansas-Nebraska Bill the declaration that its intent was “not
to legislate slavery into any State or Territory, nor to exclude it
therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form
and regulate their institutions in their own way, subject only to the
Constitution of the United States.” This he called “the great principle
of popular sovereignty.” When asked whether, under this act, the people
of a Territory, before its admission as a State, would have the right
to exclude slavery, he answered, “That is a question for the courts
to decide.” Then came the famous “Dred Scott decision,” in which the
Supreme Court held substantially that the right to hold slaves
as property existed in the Territories by virtue of the Federal
Constitution, and that this right could not be denied by any act of a
territorial government. This, of course, denied the right of the people
of any Territory to exclude slavery while they were in a territorial
condition, and it alarmed the Northern people still more. Douglas
recognized the binding force of the decision of the Supreme Court, at
the same time maintaining, most illogically, that his great principle
of popular sovereignty remained in force nevertheless. Meanwhile, the
proslavery people of western Missouri, the so-called “border ruffians,”
had invaded Kansas, set up a constitutional convention, made
a constitution of an extreme pro-slavery type, the “Lecompton
Constitution,” refused to submit it fairly to a vote of the people of
Kansas, and then referred it to Congress for acceptance,–seeking thus
to accomplish the admission of Kansas as a slave State. Had Douglas
supported such a scheme, he would have lost all foothold in the North.
In the name of popular sovereignty he loudly declared his opposition to
the acceptance of any constitution not sanctioned by a formal popular
vote. He “did not care,” he said, “whether slavery be voted up or down,”
but there must be a fair vote of the people. Thus he drew upon himself
the hostility of the Buchanan administration, which was controlled by
the proslavery interest, but he saved his Northern following. More
than this, not only did his Democratic admirers now call him “the true
champion of freedom,” but even some Republicans of large influence,
prominent among them Horace Greeley, sympathizing with Douglas in his
fight against the Lecompton Constitution, and hoping to detach him
permanently from the proslavery interest and to force a lasting breach
in the Democratic party, seriously advised the Republicans of Illinois
to give up their opposition to Douglas, and to help re-elect him to the
Senate. Lincoln was not of that opinion. He believed that great popular
movements can succeed only when guided by their faithful friends, and
that the antislavery cause could not safely be entrusted to the keeping
of one who “did not care whether slavery be voted up or down.” This
opinion prevailed in Illinois; but the influences within the Republican
party over which it prevailed yielded only a reluctant acquiescence, if
they acquiesced at all, after having materially strengthened Douglas’s
position. Such was the situation of things when the campaign of 1858
between Lincoln and Douglas began.

Lincoln opened the campaign on his side at the convention which
nominated him as the Republican candidate for the senatorship, with
a memorable saying which sounded like a shout from the watchtower of
history: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this
government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not
expect the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall, but
I expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or
all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further
spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the
belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates
will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the
States,–old as well as new, North as well as South.” Then he proceeded
to point out that the Nebraska doctrine combined with the Dred Scott
decision worked in the direction of making the nation “all slave.” Here
was the “irrepressible conflict” spoken of by Seward a short time later,
in a speech made famous mainly by that phrase. If there was any new
discovery in it, the right of priority was Lincoln’s. This utterance
proved not only his statesmanlike conception of the issue, but also,
in his situation as a candidate, the firmness of his moral courage.
The friends to whom he had read the draught of this speech before he
delivered it warned him anxiously that its delivery might be fatal to
his success in the election. This was shrewd advice, in the ordinary
sense. While a slaveholder could threaten disunion with impunity, the
mere suggestion that the existence of slavery was incompatible with
freedom in the Union would hazard the political chances of any public
man in the North. But Lincoln was inflexible. “It is true,” said he,
“and I will deliver it as written…. I would rather be defeated with
these expressions in my speech held up and discussed before the people
than be victorious without them.” The statesman was right in his
far-seeing judgment and his conscientious statement of the truth, but
the practical politicians were also right in their prediction of the
immediate effect. Douglas instantly seized upon the declaration that a
house divided against itself cannot stand as the main objective point of
his attack, interpreting it as an incitement to a “relentless sectional
war,” and there is no doubt that the persistent reiteration of this
charge served to frighten not a few timid souls.

Lincoln constantly endeavored to bring the moral and philosophical side
of the subject to the foreground. “Slavery is wrong” was the keynote of
all his speeches. To Douglas’s glittering sophism that the right of the
people of a Territory to have slavery or not, as they might desire, was
in accordance with the principle of true popular sovereignty, he made
the pointed answer: “Then true popular sovereignty, according to Senator
Douglas, means that, when one man makes another man his slave, no
third man shall be allowed to object.” To Douglas’s argument that
the principle which demanded that the people of a Territory should be
permitted to choose whether they would have slavery or not “originated
when God made man, and placed good and evil before him, allowing him
to choose upon his own responsibility,” Lincoln solemnly replied: “No;
God–did not place good and evil before man, telling him to make his
choice. On the contrary, God did tell him there was one tree of the
fruit of which he should not eat, upon pain of death.” He did not,
however, place himself on the most advanced ground taken by the radical
anti-slavery men. He admitted that, under the Constitution, “the
Southern people were entitled to a Congressional fugitive slave law,”
although he did not approve the fugitive slave law then existing. He
declared also that, if slavery were kept out of the Territories during
their territorial existence, as it should be, and if then the people of
any Territory, having a fair chance and a clear field, should do such
an extraordinary thing as to adopt a slave constitution, uninfluenced by
the actual presence of the institution among them, he saw no alternative
but to admit such a Territory into the Union. He declared further that,
while he should be exceedingly glad to see slavery abolished in the
District of Columbia, he would, as a member of Congress, with his
present views, not endeavor to bring on that abolition except on
condition that emancipation be gradual, that it be approved by the
decision of a majority of voters in the District, and that compensation
be made to unwilling owners. On every available occasion, he pronounced
himself in favor of the deportation and colonization of the blacks, of
course with their consent. He repeatedly disavowed any wish on his part
to have social and political equality established between whites and
blacks. On this point he summed up his views in a reply to Douglas’s
assertion that the Declaration of Independence, in speaking of all men
as being created equal, did not include the negroes, saying: “I do not
understand the Declaration of Independence to mean that all men were
created equal in all respects. They are not equal in color. But I
believe that it does mean to declare that all men are equal in some
respects; they are equal in their right to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness.”

With regard to some of these subjects Lincoln modified his position at
a later period, and it has been suggested that he would have professed
more advanced principles in his debates with Douglas, had he not feared
thereby to lose votes. This view can hardly be sustained. Lincoln had
the courage of his opinions, but he was not a radical. The man who
risked his election by delivering, against the urgent protest of his
friends, the speech about “the house divided against itself” would not
have shrunk from the expression of more extreme views, had he really
entertained them. It is only fair to assume that he said what at the
time he really thought, and that if, subsequently, his opinions changed,
it was owing to new conceptions of good policy and of duty brought
forth by an entirely new set of circumstances and exigencies. It
is characteristic that he continued to adhere to the impracticable
colonization plan even after the Emancipation Proclamation had already
been issued.

But in this contest Lincoln proved himself not only a debater, but
also a political strategist of the first order. The “kind, amiable, and
intelligent gentleman,” as Douglas had been pleased to call him, was by
no means as harmless as a dove. He possessed an uncommon share of that
worldly shrewdness which not seldom goes with genuine simplicity of
character; and the political experience gathered in the Legislature
and in Congress, and in many election campaigns, added to his keen
intuitions, had made him as far-sighted a judge of the probable effects
of a public man’s sayings or doings upon the popular mind, and as
accurate a calculator in estimating political chances and forecasting
results, as could be found among the party managers in Illinois. And
now he perceived keenly the ugly dilemma in which Douglas found himself,
between the Dred Scott decision, which declared the right to hold slaves
to exist in the Territories by virtue of the Federal Constitution, and
his “great principle of popular sovereignty,” according to which the
people of a Territory, if they saw fit, were to have the right to
exclude slavery therefrom. Douglas was twisting and squirming to
the best of his ability to avoid the admission that the two were
incompatible. The question then presented itself if it would be good
policy for Lincoln to force Douglas to a clear expression of his opinion
as to whether, the Dred Scott decision notwithstanding, “the people of a
Territory could in any lawful way exclude slavery from its limits prior
to the formation of a State constitution.” Lincoln foresaw and predicted
what Douglas would answer: that slavery could not exist in a Territory
unless the people desired it and gave it protection by territorial
legislation. In an improvised caucus the policy of pressing the
interrogatory on Douglas was discussed. Lincoln’s friends unanimously
advised against it, because the answer foreseen would sufficiently
commend Douglas to the people of Illinois to insure his re-election to
the Senate. But Lincoln persisted. “I am after larger game,” said he.
“If Douglas so answers, he can never be President, and the battle of
1860 is worth a hundred of this.” The interrogatory was pressed upon
Douglas, and Douglas did answer that, no matter what the decision of
the Supreme Court might be on the abstract question, the people of
a Territory had the lawful means to introduce or exclude slavery by
territorial legislation friendly or unfriendly to the institution.
Lincoln found it easy to show the absurdity of the proposition that, if
slavery were admitted to exist of right in the Territories by virtue
of the supreme law, the Federal Constitution, it could be kept out or
expelled by an inferior law, one made by a territorial Legislature.
Again the judgment of the politicians, having only the nearest object in
view, proved correct: Douglas was reelected to the Senate. But Lincoln’s
judgment proved correct also: Douglas, by resorting to the expedient
of his “unfriendly legislation doctrine,” forfeited his last chance of
becoming President of the United States. He might have hoped to win, by
sufficient atonement, his pardon from the South for his opposition
to the Lecompton Constitution; but that he taught the people of the
Territories a trick by which they could defeat what the proslavery men
considered a constitutional right, and that he called that trick
lawful, this the slave power would never forgive. The breach between
the Southern and the Northern Democracy was thenceforth irremediable and

The Presidential election of 1860 approached. The struggle in Kansas,
and the debates in Congress which accompanied it, and which not
unfrequently provoked violent outbursts, continually stirred the popular
excitement. Within the Democratic party raged the war of factions. The
national Democratic convention met at Charleston on the 23d of April,
1860. After a struggle of ten days between the adherents and the
opponents of Douglas, during which the delegates from the cotton States
had withdrawn, the convention adjourned without having nominated any
candidates, to meet again in Baltimore on the 18th of June. There was no
prospect, however, of reconciling the hostile elements. It appeared very
probable that the Baltimore convention would nominate Douglas, while
the seceding Southern Democrats would set up a candidate of their own,
representing extreme proslavery principles.

Meanwhile, the national Republican convention assembled at Chicago on
the 16th of May, full of enthusiasm and hope. The situation was easily
understood. The Democrats would have the South. In order to succeed
in the election, the Republicans had to win, in addition to the States
carried by Fremont in 1856, those that were classed as “doubtful,”–New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, or Illinois in the place of either
New Jersey or Indiana. The most eminent Republican statesmen and leaders
of the time thought of for the Presidency were Seward and Chase, both
regarded as belonging to the more advanced order of antislavery men.
Of the two, Seward had the largest following, mainly from New York,
New England, and the Northwest. Cautious politicians doubted seriously
whether Seward, to whom some phrases in his speeches had undeservedly
given the reputation of a reckless radical, would be able to command the
whole Republican vote in the doubtful States. Besides, during his long
public career he had made enemies. It was evident that those who thought
Seward’s nomination too hazardous an experiment would consider Chase
unavailable for the same reason. They would then look round for an
“available” man; and among the “available” men Abraham Lincoln was
easily discovered to stand foremost. His great debate with Douglas had
given him a national reputation. The people of the East being eager
to see the hero of so dramatic a contest, he had been induced to visit
several Eastern cities, and had astonished and delighted large and
distinguished audiences with speeches of singular power and originality.
An address delivered by him in the Cooper Institute in New York, before
an audience containing a large number of important persons, was then,
and has ever since been, especially praised as one of the most logical
and convincing political speeches ever made in this country. The people
of the West had grown proud of him as a distinctively Western great man,
and his popularity at home had some peculiar features which could be
expected to exercise a potent charm. Nor was Lincoln’s name as that of
an available candidate left to the chance of accidental discovery. It
is indeed not probable that he thought of himself as a Presidential
possibility, during his contest with Douglas for the senatorship. As
late as April, 1859, he had written to a friend who had approached him
on the subject that he did not think himself fit for the Presidency.
The Vice-Presidency was then the limit of his ambition. But some of
his friends in Illinois took the matter seriously in hand, and Lincoln,
after some hesitation, then formally authorized “the use of his name.”
The matter was managed with such energy and excellent judgment that,
in the convention, he had not only the whole vote of Illinois to start
with, but won votes on all sides without offending any rival. A large
majority of the opponents of Seward went over to Abraham Lincoln, and
gave him the nomination on the third ballot. As had been foreseen,
Douglas was nominated by one wing of the Democratic party at Baltimore,
while the extreme proslavery wing put Breckinridge into the field as
its candidate. After a campaign conducted with the energy of genuine
enthusiasm on the antislavery side the united Republicans defeated the
divided Democrats, and Lincoln was elected President by a majority of
fifty-seven votes in the electoral colleges.

The result of the election had hardly been declared when the disunion
movement in the South, long threatened and carefully planned and
prepared, broke out in the shape of open revolt, and nearly a month
before Lincoln could be inaugurated as President of the United States
seven Southern States had adopted ordinances of secession, formed an
independent confederacy, framed a constitution for it, and elected
Jefferson Davis its president, expecting the other slaveholding
States soon to join them. On the 11th of February, 1861, Lincoln left
Springfield for Washington; having, with characteristic simplicity,
asked his law partner not to change the sign of the firm “Lincoln
and Herndon” during the four years unavoidable absence of the senior
partner, and having taken an affectionate and touching leave of his

The situation which confronted the new President was appalling: the
larger part of the South in open rebellion, the rest of the slaveholding
States wavering preparing to follow; the revolt guided by determined,
daring, and skillful leaders; the Southern people, apparently full of
enthusiasm and military spirit, rushing to arms, some of the forts
and arsenals already in their possession; the government of the Union,
before the accession of the new President, in the hands of men some of
whom actively sympathized with the revolt, while others were hampered by
their traditional doctrines in dealing with it, and really gave it aid
and comfort by their irresolute attitude; all the departments full of
“Southern sympathizers” and honeycombed with disloyalty; the treasury
empty, and the public credit at the lowest ebb; the arsenals ill
supplied with arms, if not emptied by treacherous practices; the regular
army of insignificant strength, dispersed over an immense surface, and
deprived of some of its best officers by defection; the navy small and
antiquated. But that was not all. The threat of disunion had so often
been resorted to by the slave power in years gone by that most Northern
people had ceased to believe in its seriousness. But, when disunion
actually appeared as a stern reality, something like a chill swept
through the whole Northern country. A cry for union and peace at any
price rose on all sides. Democratic partisanship reiterated this cry
with vociferous vehemence, and even many Republicans grew afraid of
the victory they had just achieved at the ballot-box, and spoke of
compromise. The country fairly resounded with the noise of “anticoercion
meetings.” Expressions of firm resolution from determined antislavery
men were indeed not wanting, but they were for a while almost drowned
by a bewildering confusion of discordant voices. Even this was not
all. Potent influences in Europe, with an ill-concealed desire for the
permanent disruption of the American Union, eagerly espoused the cause
of the Southern seceders, and the two principal maritime powers of the
Old World seemed only to be waiting for a favorable opportunity to lend
them a helping hand.

This was the state of things to be mastered by “honest Abe Lincoln” when
he took his seat in the Presidential chair,–“honest Abe Lincoln,” who
was so good-natured that he could not say “no”; the greatest achievement
in whose life had been a debate on the slavery question; who had never
been in any position of power; who was without the slightest experience
of high executive duties, and who had only a speaking acquaintance with
the men upon whose counsel and cooperation he was to depend. Nor was
his accession to power under such circumstances greeted with general
confidence even by the members of his party. While he had indeed won
much popularity, many Republicans, especially among those who had
advocated Seward’s nomination for the Presidency, saw the simple
“Illinois lawyer” take the reins of government with a feeling little
short of dismay. The orators and journals of the opposition were
ridiculing and lampooning him without measure. Many people actually
wondered how such a man could dare to undertake a task which, as he
himself had said to his neighbors in his parting speech, was “more
difficult than that of Washington himself had been.”

But Lincoln brought to that task, aside from other uncommon qualities,
the first requisite,–an intuitive comprehension of its nature. While
he did not indulge in the delusion that the Union could be maintained or
restored without a conflict of arms, he could indeed not foresee all the
problems he would have to solve. He instinctively understood, however,
by what means that conflict would have to be conducted by the government
of a democracy. He knew that the impending war, whether great or small,
would not be like a foreign war, exciting a united national enthusiasm,
but a civil war, likely to fan to uncommon heat the animosities of party
even in the localities controlled by the government; that this war would
have to be carried on not by means of a ready-made machinery, ruled
by an undisputed, absolute will, but by means to be furnished by the
voluntary action of the people:–armies to be formed by voluntary
enlistments; large sums of money to be raised by the people, through
representatives, voluntarily taxing themselves; trust of extraordinary
power to be voluntarily granted; and war measures, not seldom
restricting the rights and liberties to which the citizen was
accustomed, to be voluntarily accepted and submitted to by the people,
or at least a large majority of them; and that this would have to be
kept up not merely during a short period of enthusiastic excitement; but
possibly through weary years of alternating success and disaster, hope
and despondency. He knew that in order to steer this government by
public opinion successfully through all the confusion created by the
prejudices and doubts and differences of sentiment distracting the
popular mind, and so to propitiate, inspire, mould, organize, unite, and
guide the popular will that it might give forth all the means required
for the performance of his great task, he would have to take into
account all the influences strongly affecting the current of popular
thought and feeling, and to direct while appearing to obey.

This was the kind of leadership he intuitively conceived to be needed
when a free people were to be led forward en masse to overcome a
great common danger under circumstances of appalling difficulty, the
leadership which does not dash ahead with brilliant daring, no matter
who follows, but which is intent upon rallying all the available forces,
gathering in the stragglers, closing up the column, so that the front
may advance well supported. For this leadership Abraham Lincoln was
admirably fitted, better than any other American statesman of his day;
for he understood the plain people, with all their loves and hates,
their prejudices and their noble impulses, their weaknesses and their
strength, as he understood himself, and his sympathetic nature was apt
to draw their sympathy to him.

His inaugural address foreshadowed his official course in characteristic
manner. Although yielding nothing in point of principle, it was by no
means a flaming antislavery manifesto, such as would have pleased the
more ardent Republicans. It was rather the entreaty of a sorrowing
father speaking to his wayward children. In the kindliest language
he pointed out to the secessionists how ill advised their attempt at
disunion was, and why, for their own sakes, they should desist. Almost
plaintively, he told them that, while it was not their duty to destroy
the Union, it was his sworn duty to preserve it; that the least he
could do, under the obligations of his oath, was to possess and hold the
property of the United States; that he hoped to do this peaceably; that
he abhorred war for any purpose, and that they would have none
unless they themselves were the aggressors. It was a masterpiece of
persuasiveness, and while Lincoln had accepted many valuable amendments
suggested by Seward, it was essentially his own. Probably Lincoln
himself did not expect his inaugural address to have any effect upon the
secessionists, for he must have known them to be resolved upon disunion
at any cost. But it was an appeal to the wavering minds in the North,
and upon them it made a profound impression. Every candid man, however
timid and halting, had to admit that the President was bound by his oath
to do his duty; that under that oath he could do no less than he said
he would do; that if the secessionists resisted such an appeal as
the President had made, they were bent upon mischief, and that the
government must be supported against them. The partisan sympathy with
the Southern insurrection which still existed in the North did indeed
not disappear, but it diminished perceptibly under the influence of such
reasoning. Those who still resisted it did so at the risk of appearing

It must not be supposed, however, that Lincoln at once succeeded in
pleasing everybody, even among his friends,–even among those nearest to
him. In selecting his cabinet, which he did substantially before he left
Springfield for Washington, he thought it wise to call to his assistance
the strong men of his party, especially those who had given evidence of
the support they commanded as his competitors in the Chicago convention.
In them he found at the same time representatives of the
different shades of opinion within the party, and of the different
elements–former Whigs and former Democrats–from which the party had
recruited itself. This was sound policy under the circumstances. It
might indeed have been foreseen that among the members of a cabinet so
composed, troublesome disagreements and rivalries would break out. But
it was better for the President to have these strong and ambitious
men near him as his co-operators than to have them as his critics in
Congress, where their differences might have been composed in a common
opposition to him. As members of his cabinet he could hope to control
them, and to keep them busily employed in the service of a common
purpose, if he had the strength to do so. Whether he did possess this
strength was soon tested by a singularly rude trial.

There can be no doubt that the foremost members of his cabinet, Seward
and Chase, the most eminent Republican statesmen, had felt themselves
wronged by their party when in its national convention it preferred
to them for the Presidency a man whom, not unnaturally, they thought
greatly their inferior in ability and experience as well as in service.
The soreness of that disappointment was intensified when they saw this
Western man in the White House, with so much of rustic manner and speech
as still clung to him, meeting his fellow-citizens, high and low, on a
footing of equality, with the simplicity of his good nature unburdened
by any conventional dignity of deportment, and dealing with the great
business of state in an easy-going, unmethodical, and apparently
somewhat irreverent way. They did not understand such a man. Especially
Seward, who, as Secretary of State, considered himself next to the
Chief Executive, and who quickly accustomed himself to giving orders and
making arrangements upon his own motion, thought it necessary that he
should rescue the direction of public affairs from hands so unskilled,
and take full charge of them himself. At the end of the first month of
the administration he submitted a “memorandum” to President Lincoln,
which has been first brought to light by Nicolay and Hay, and is one of
their most valuable contributions to the history of those days. In that
paper Seward actually told the President that at the end of a month’s
administration the government was still without a policy, either
domestic or foreign; that the slavery question should be eliminated from
the struggle about the Union; that the matter of the maintenance of the
forts and other possessions in the South should be decided with that
view; that explanations should be demanded categorically from the
governments of Spain and France, which were then preparing, one for the
annexation of San Domingo, and both for the invasion of Mexico; that
if no satisfactory explanations were received war should be declared
against Spain and France by the United States; that explanations should
also be sought from Russia and Great Britain, and a vigorous continental
spirit of independence against European intervention be aroused all over
the American continent; that this policy should be incessantly pursued
and directed by somebody; that either the President should devote
himself entirely to it, or devolve the direction on some member of his
cabinet, whereupon all debate on this policy must end.

This could be understood only as a formal demand that the President
should acknowledge his own incompetency to perform his duties, content
himself with the amusement of distributing post-offices, and resign his
power as to all important affairs into the hands of his Secretary of
State. It seems to-day incomprehensible how a statesman of Seward’s
calibre could at that period conceive a plan of policy in which the
slavery question had no place; a policy which rested upon the utterly
delusive assumption that the secessionists, who had already formed their
Southern Confederacy and were with stern resolution preparing to fight
for its independence, could be hoodwinked back into the Union by some
sentimental demonstration against European interference; a policy which,
at that critical moment, would have involved the Union in a foreign war,
thus inviting foreign intervention in favor of the Southern Confederacy,
and increasing tenfold its chances in the struggle for independence. But
it is equally incomprehensible how Seward could fail to see that this
demand of an unconditional surrender was a mortal insult to the head
of the government, and that by putting his proposition on paper he
delivered himself into the hands of the very man he had insulted; for,
had Lincoln, as most Presidents would have done, instantly dismissed
Seward, and published the true reason for that dismissal, it would
inevitably have been the end of Seward’s career. But Lincoln did what
not many of the noblest and greatest men in history would have been
noble and great enough to do. He considered that Seward was still
capable of rendering great service to his country in the place in
which he was, if rightly controlled. He ignored the insult, but
firmly established his superiority. In his reply, which he forthwith
despatched, he told Seward that the administration had a domestic policy
as laid down in the inaugural address with Seward’s approval; that
it had a foreign policy as traced in Seward’s despatches with the
President’s approval; that if any policy was to be maintained or
changed, he, the President, was to direct that on his responsibility;
and that in performing that duty the President had a right to the
advice of his secretaries. Seward’s fantastic schemes of foreign war
and continental policies Lincoln brushed aside by passing them over in
silence. Nothing more was said. Seward must have felt that he was at
the mercy of a superior man; that his offensive proposition had been
generously pardoned as a temporary aberration of a great mind, and that
he could atone for it only by devoted personal loyalty. This he did.
He was thoroughly subdued, and thenceforth submitted to Lincoln his
despatches for revision and amendment without a murmur. The war with
European nations was no longer thought of; the slavery question found in
due time its proper place in the struggle for the Union; and when, at
a later period, the dismissal of Seward was demanded by dissatisfied
senators, who attributed to him the shortcomings of the administration,
Lincoln stood stoutly by his faithful Secretary of State.

Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, a man of superb presence, of
eminent ability and ardent patriotism, of great natural dignity and a
certain outward coldness of manner, which made him appear more difficult
of approach than he really was, did not permit his disappointment to
burst out in such extravagant demonstrations. But Lincoln’s ways were
so essentially different from his that they never became quite
intelligible, and certainly not congenial to him. It might, perhaps,
have been better had there been, at the beginning of the administration,
some decided clash between Lincoln and Chase, as there was between
Lincoln and Seward, to bring on a full mutual explanation, and to make
Chase appreciate the real seriousness of Lincoln’s nature. But, as it
was, their relations always remained somewhat formal, and Chase never
felt quite at ease under a chief whom he could not understand, and whose
character and powers he never learned to esteem at their true value.
At the same time, he devoted himself zealously to the duties of his
department, and did the country arduous service under circumstances of
extreme difficulty. Nobody recognized this more heartily than Lincoln
himself, and they managed to work together until near the end of
Lincoln’s first Presidential term, when Chase, after some disagreements
concerning appointments to office, resigned from the treasury; and,
after Taney’s death, the President made him Chief Justice.

The rest of the cabinet consisted of men of less eminence, who
subordinated themselves more easily. In January, 1862, Lincoln found it
necessary to bow Cameron out of the war office, and to put in his place
Edwin M. Stanton, a man of intensely practical mind, vehement impulses,
fierce positiveness, ruthless energy, immense working power, lofty
patriotism, and severest devotion to duty. He accepted the war office
not as a partisan, for he had never been a Republican, but only to
do all he could in “helping to save the country.” The manner in
which Lincoln succeeded in taming this lion to his will, by frankly
recognizing his great qualities, by giving him the most generous
confidence, by aiding him in his work to the full of his power, by
kindly concession or affectionate persuasiveness in cases of differing
opinions, or, when it was necessary, by firm assertions of superior
authority, bears the highest testimony to his skill in the management of
men. Stanton, who had entered the service with rather a mean opinion
of Lincoln’s character and capacity, became one of his warmest, most
devoted, and most admiring friends, and with none of his secretaries
was Lincoln’s intercourse more intimate. To take advice with candid
readiness, and to weigh it without any pride of his own opinion, was one
of Lincoln’s preeminent virtues; but he had not long presided over his
cabinet council when his was felt by all its members to be the ruling

The cautious policy foreshadowed in his inaugural address, and pursued
during the first period of the civil war, was far from satisfying all
his party friends. The ardent spirits among the Union men thought that
the whole North should at once be called to arms, to crush the rebellion
by one powerful blow. The ardent spirits among the antislavery men
insisted that, slavery having brought forth the rebellion, this powerful
blow should at once be aimed at slavery. Both complained that the
administration was spiritless, undecided, and lamentably slow in its
proceedings. Lincoln reasoned otherwise. The ways of thinking and
feeling of the masses, of the plain people, were constantly present to
his mind. The masses, the plain people, had to furnish the men for the
fighting, if fighting was to be done. He believed that the plain people
would be ready to fight when it clearly appeared necessary, and that
they would feel that necessity when they felt themselves attacked. He
therefore waited until the enemies of the Union struck the first blow.
As soon as, on the 12th of April, 1861, the first gun was fired in
Charleston harbor on the Union flag upon Fort Sumter, the call was
sounded, and the Northern people rushed to arms.

Lincoln knew that the plain people were now indeed ready to fight in
defence of the Union, but not yet ready to fight for the destruction of
slavery. He declared openly that he had a right to summon the people to
fight for the Union, but not to summon them to fight for the abolition
of slavery as a primary object; and this declaration gave him numberless
soldiers for the Union who at that period would have hesitated to do
battle against the institution of slavery. For a time he succeeded
in rendering harmless the cry of the partisan opposition that the
Republican administration were perverting the war for the Union into an
“abolition war.” But when he went so far as to countermand the acts of
some generals in the field, looking to the emancipation of the slaves
in the districts covered by their commands, loud complaints arose from
earnest antislavery men, who accused the President of turning his back
upon the antislavery cause. Many of these antislavery men will now,
after a calm retrospect, be willing to admit that it would have been
a hazardous policy to endanger, by precipitating a demonstrative fight
against slavery, the success of the struggle for the Union.

Lincoln’s views and feelings concerning slavery had not changed. Those
who conversed with him intimately upon the subject at that period know
that he did not expect slavery long to survive the triumph of the Union,
even if it were not immediately destroyed by the war. In this he was
right. Had the Union armies achieved a decisive victory in an early
period of the conflict, and had the seceded States been received back
with slavery, the “slave power” would then have been a defeated power,
defeated in an attempt to carry out its most effective threat. It would
have lost its prestige. Its menaces would have been hollow sound, and
ceased to make any one afraid. It could no longer have hoped to expand,
to maintain an equilibrium in any branch of Congress, and to control the
government. The victorious free States would have largely overbalanced
it. It would no longer have been able to withstand the onset of a
hostile age. It could no longer have ruled,–and slavery had to rule in
order to live. It would have lingered for a while, but it would surely
have been “in the course of ultimate extinction.” A prolonged war
precipitated the destruction of slavery; a short war might only have
prolonged its death struggle. Lincoln saw this clearly; but he saw also
that, in a protracted death struggle, it might still have kept disloyal
sentiments alive, bred distracting commotions, and caused great mischief
to the country. He therefore hoped that slavery would not survive the

But the question how he could rightfully employ his power to bring on
its speedy destruction was to him not a question of mere sentiment. He
himself set forth his reasoning upon it, at a later period, in one
of his inimitable letters. “I am naturally antislavery,” said he. “If
slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember the time when
I did not so think and feel. And yet I have never understood that the
Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act upon that
judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would, to the
best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of
the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath.
Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break
the oath in using that power. I understood, too, that, in ordinary civil
administration, this oath even forbade me practically to indulge my
private abstract judgment on the moral question of slavery. I did
understand, however, also, that my oath imposed upon me the duty of
preserving, to the best of my ability, by every indispensable means,
that government, that nation, of which the Constitution was the organic
law. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability, I had even tied
to preserve the Constitution–if, to save slavery, or any minor matter,
I should permit the wreck of government, country, and Constitution
all together.” In other words, if the salvation of the government, the
Constitution, and the Union demanded the destruction of slavery, he
felt it to be not only his right, but his sworn duty to destroy it. Its
destruction became a necessity of the war for the Union.

As the war dragged on and disaster followed disaster, the sense of that
necessity steadily grew upon him. Early in 1862, as some of his friends
well remember, he saw, what Seward seemed not to see, that to give
the war for the Union an antislavery character was the surest means to
prevent the recognition of the Southern Confederacy as an independent
nation by European powers; that, slavery being abhorred by the moral
sense of civilized mankind, no European government would dare to offer
so gross an insult to the public opinion of its people as openly to
favor the creation of a state founded upon slavery to the prejudice of
an existing nation fighting against slavery. He saw also that slavery
untouched was to the rebellion an element of power, and that in order
to overcome that power it was necessary to turn it into an element
of weakness. Still, he felt no assurance that the plain people were
prepared for so radical a measure as the emancipation of the slaves by
act of the government, and he anxiously considered that, if they were
not, this great step might, by exciting dissension at the North, injure
the cause of the Union in one quarter more than it would help it in
another. He heartily welcomed an effort made in New York to mould and
stimulate public sentiment on the slavery question by public meetings
boldly pronouncing for emancipation. At the same time he himself
cautiously advanced with a recommendation, expressed in a special
message to Congress, that the United States should co-operate with any
State which might adopt the gradual abolishment of slavery, giving
such State pecuniary aid to compensate the former owners of emancipated
slaves. The discussion was started, and spread rapidly. Congress adopted
the resolution recommended, and soon went a step farther in passing a
bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia. The plain people
began to look at emancipation on a larger scale as a thing to be
considered seriously by patriotic citizens; and soon Lincoln thought
that the time was ripe, and that the edict of freedom could be ventured
upon without danger of serious confusion in the Union ranks.

The failure of McClellan’s movement upon Richmond increased immensely
the prestige of the enemy. The need of some great act to stimulate the
vitality of the Union cause seemed to grow daily more pressing. On
July 21, 1862, Lincoln surprised his cabinet with the draught of a
proclamation declaring free the slaves in all the States that should be
still in rebellion against the United States on the 1st of January,1863.
As to the matter itself he announced that he had fully made up his mind;
he invited advice only concerning the form and the time of publication.
Seward suggested that the proclamation, if then brought out, amidst
disaster and distress, would sound like the last shriek of a perishing
cause. Lincoln accepted the suggestion, and the proclamation was
postponed. Another defeat followed, the second at Bull Run. But when,
after that battle, the Confederate army, under Lee, crossed the Potomac
and invaded Maryland, Lincoln vowed in his heart that, if the Union army
were now blessed with success, the decree of freedom should surely
be issued. The victory of Antietam was won on September 17, and the
preliminary Emancipation Proclamation came forth on the a 22d. It was
Lincoln’s own resolution and act; but practically it bound the nation,
and permitted no step backward. In spite of its limitations, it was the
actual abolition of slavery. Thus he wrote his name upon the books of
history with the title dearest to his heart, the liberator of the slave.

It is true, the great proclamation, which stamped the war as one for
“union and freedom,” did not at once mark the turning of the tide on the
field of military operations. There were more disasters, Fredericksburg
and Chancellorsville. But with Gettysburg and Vicksburg the whole aspect
of the war changed. Step by step, now more slowly, then more rapidly,
but with increasing steadiness, the flag of the Union advanced from
field to field toward the final consummation. The decree of emancipation
was naturally followed by the enlistment of emancipated negroes in the
Union armies. This measure had a anther reaching effect than merely
giving the Union armies an increased supply of men. The laboring force
of the rebellion was hopelessly disorganized. The war became like a
problem of arithmetic. As the Union armies pushed forward, the area
from which the Southern Confederacy could draw recruits and supplies
constantly grew smaller, while the area from which the Union recruited
its strength constantly grew larger; and everywhere, even within the
Southern lines, the Union had its allies. The fate of the rebellion
was then virtually decided; but it still required much bloody work to
convince the brave warriors who fought for it that they were really

Neither did the Emancipation Proclamation forthwith command universal
assent among the people who were loyal to the Union. There were even
signs of a reaction against the administration in the fall elections of
1862, seemingly justifying the opinion, entertained by many, that the
President had really anticipated the development of popular feeling. The
cry that the war for the Union had been turned into an “abolition war”
was raised again by the opposition, and more loudly than ever. But
the good sense and patriotic instincts of the plain people gradually
marshalled themselves on Lincoln’s side, and he lost no opportunity to
help on this process by personal argument and admonition. There never
has been a President in such constant and active contact with the public
opinion of the country, as there never has been a President who, while
at the head of the government, remained so near to the people. Beyond
the circle of those who had long known him the feeling steadily grew
that the man in the White House was “honest Abe Lincoln” still, and
that every citizen might approach him with complaint, expostulation, or
advice, without danger of meeting a rebuff from power-proud authority,
or humiliating condescension; and this privilege was used by so many
and with such unsparing freedom that only superhuman patience could
have endured it all. There are men now living who would to-day read with
amazement, if not regret, what they ventured to say or write to him. But
Lincoln repelled no one whom he believed to speak to him in good faith
and with patriotic purpose. No good advice would go unheeded. No candid
criticism would offend him. No honest opposition, while it might pain
him, would produce a lasting alienation of feeling between him and the
opponent. It may truly be said that few men in power have ever been
exposed to more daring attempts to direct their course, to severer
censure of their acts, and to more cruel misrepresentation of their
motives: And all this he met with that good-natured humor peculiarly his
own, and with untiring effort to see the right and to impress it
upon those who differed from him. The conversations he had and the
correspondence he carried on upon matters of public interest, not only
with men in official position, but with private citizens, were almost
unceasing, and in a large number of public letters, written ostensibly
to meetings, or committees, or persons of importance, he addressed
himself directly to the popular mind. Most of these letters stand among
the finest monuments of our political literature. Thus he presented the
singular spectacle of a President who, in the midst of a great civil
war, with unprecedented duties weighing upon him, was constantly in
person debating the great features of his policy with the people.

While in this manner he exercised an ever-increasing influence upon the
popular understanding, his sympathetic nature endeared him more and
more to the popular heart. In vain did journals and speakers of the
opposition represent him as a lightminded trifler, who amused himself
with frivolous story-telling and coarse jokes, while the blood of the
people was flowing in streams. The people knew that the man at the head
of affairs, on whose haggard face the twinkle of humor so frequently
changed into an expression of profoundest sadness, was more than any
other deeply distressed by the suffering he witnessed; that he felt
the pain of every wound that was inflicted on the battlefield, and the
anguish of every woman or child who had lost husband or father; that
whenever he could he was eager to alleviate sorrow, and that his mercy
was never implored in vain. They looked to him as one who was with them
and of them in all their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows, who
laughed with them and wept with them; and as his heart was theirs; so
their hearts turned to him. His popularity was far different from
that of Washington, who was revered with awe, or that of Jackson,
the unconquerable hero, for whom party enthusiasm never grew weary
of shouting. To Abraham Lincoln the people became bound by a genuine
sentimental attachment. It was not a matter of respect, or confidence,
or party pride, for this feeling spread far beyond the boundary lines of
his party; it was an affair of the heart, independent of mere reasoning.
When the soldiers in the field or their folks at home spoke of “Father
Abraham,” there was no cant in it. They felt that their President was
really caring for them as a father would, and that they could go to him,
every one of them, as they would go to a father, and talk to him of what
troubled them, sure to find a willing ear and tender sympathy. Thus,
their President, and his cause, and his endeavors, and his success
gradually became to them almost matters of family concern. And this
popularity carried him triumphantly through the Presidential election
of 1864, in spite of an opposition within his own party which at first
seemed very formidable.

Many of the radical antislavery men were never quite satisfied with
Lincoln’s ways of meeting the problems of the time. They were very
earnest and mostly very able men, who had positive ideas as to “how this
rebellion should be put down.” They would not recognize the necessity
of measuring the steps of the government according to the progress
of opinion among the plain people. They criticised Lincoln’s cautious
management as irresolute, halting, lacking in definite purpose and in
energy; he should not have delayed emancipation so long; he should not
have confided important commands to men of doubtful views as to slavery;
he should have authorized military commanders to set the slaves free
as they went on; he dealt too leniently with unsuccessful generals; he
should have put down all factious opposition with a strong hand instead
of trying to pacify it; he should have given the people accomplished
facts instead of arguing with them, and so on. It is true, these
criticisms were not always entirely unfounded. Lincoln’s policy had,
with the virtues of democratic government, some of its weaknesses, which
in the presence of pressing exigencies were apt to deprive governmental
action of the necessary vigor; and his kindness of heart, his
disposition always to respect the feelings of others, frequently made
him recoil from anything like severity, even when severity was urgently
called for. But many of his radical critics have since then revised
their judgment sufficiently to admit that Lincoln’s policy was, on the
whole, the wisest and safest; that a policy of heroic methods, while it
has sometimes accomplished great results, could in a democracy like
ours be maintained only by constant success; that it would have quickly
broken down under the weight of disaster; that it might have been
successful from the start, had the Union, at the beginning of the
conflict, had its Grants and Shermans and Sheridans, its Farraguts and
Porters, fully matured at the head of its forces; but that, as the great
commanders had to be evolved slowly from the developments of the war,
constant success could not be counted upon, and it was best to follow
a policy which was in friendly contact with the popular force, and
therefore more fit to stand trial of misfortune on the battlefield. But
at that period they thought differently, and their dissatisfaction with
Lincoln’s doings was greatly increased by the steps he took toward the
reconstruction of rebel States then partially in possession of the Union

In December, 1863, Lincoln issued an amnesty proclamation, offering
pardon to all implicated in the rebellion, with certain specified
exceptions, on condition of their taking and maintaining an oath to
support the Constitution and obey the laws of the United States and the
proclamations of the President with regard to slaves; and also promising
that when, in any of the rebel States, a number of citizens equal to one
tenth of the voters in 1860 should re-establish a state government in
conformity with the oath above mentioned, such should be recognized
by the Executive as the true government of the State. The proclamation
seemed at first to be received with general favor. But soon another
scheme of reconstruction, much more stringent in its provisions, was put
forward in the House of Representatives by Henry Winter Davis. Benjamin
Wade championed it in the Senate. It passed in the closing moments of
the session in July, 1864, and Lincoln, instead of making it a law by
his signature, embodied the text of it in a proclamation as a plan of
reconstruction worthy of being earnestly considered. The differences of
opinion concerning this subject had only intensified the feeling against
Lincoln which had long been nursed among the radicals, and some of
them openly declared their purpose of resisting his re-election to
the Presidency. Similar sentiments were manifested by the advanced
antislavery men of Missouri, who, in their hot faction-fight with the
“conservatives” of that State, had not received from Lincoln the active
support they demanded. Still another class of Union men, mainly in the
East, gravely shook their heads when considering the question whether
Lincoln should be re-elected. They were those who cherished in their
minds an ideal of statesmanship and of personal bearing in high office
with which, in their opinion, Lincoln’s individuality was much out of
accord. They were shocked when they heard him cap an argument upon grave
affairs of state with a story about “a man out in Sangamon County,”–a
story, to be sure, strikingly clinching his point, but sadly lacking in
dignity. They could not understand the man who was capable, in opening
a cabinet meeting, of reading to his secretaries a funny chapter from a
recent book of Artemus Ward, with which in an unoccupied moment he had
relieved his care-burdened mind, and who then solemnly informed the
executive council that he had vowed in his heart to issue a proclamation
emancipating the slaves as soon as God blessed the Union arms with
another victory. They were alarmed at the weakness of a President who
would indeed resist the urgent remonstrances of statesmen against his
policy, but could not resist the prayer of an old woman for the pardon
of a soldier who was sentenced to be shot for desertion. Such men,
mostly sincere and ardent patriots, not only wished, but earnestly set
to work, to prevent Lincoln’s renomination. Not a few of them actually
believed, in 1863, that, if the national convention of the Union party
were held then, Lincoln would not be supported by the delegation of a
single State. But when the convention met at Baltimore, in June, 1864,
the voice of the people was heard. On the first ballot Lincoln received
the votes of the delegations from all the States except Missouri; and
even the Missourians turned over their votes to him before the result of
the ballot was declared.

But even after his renomination the opposition to Lincoln within the
ranks of the Union party did not subside. A convention, called by the
dissatisfied radicals in Missouri, and favored by men of a similar
way of thinking in other States, had been held already in May, and
had nominated as its candidate for the Presidency General Fremont. He,
indeed, did not attract a strong following, but opposition movements
from different quarters appeared more formidable. Henry Winter Davis and
Benjamin Wade assailed Lincoln in a flaming manifesto. Other Union men,
of undoubted patriotism and high standing, persuaded themselves, and
sought to persuade the people, that Lincoln’s renomination was ill
advised and dangerous to the Union cause. As the Democrats had put off
their convention until the 29th of August, the Union party had, during
the larger part of the summer, no opposing candidate and platform to
attack, and the political campaign languished. Neither were the tidings
from the theatre of war of a cheering character. The terrible losses
suffered by Grant’s army in the battles of the Wilderness spread general
gloom. Sherman seemed for a while to be in a precarious position before
Atlanta. The opposition to Lincoln within the Union party grew louder in
its complaints and discouraging predictions. Earnest demands were heard
that his candidacy should be withdrawn. Lincoln himself, not knowing
how strongly the masses were attached to him, was haunted by dark
forebodings of defeat. Then the scene suddenly changed as if by magic.

The Democrats, in their national convention, declared the war a failure,
demanded, substantially, peace at any price, and nominated on such a
platform General McClellan as their candidate. Their convention had
hardly adjourned when the capture of Atlanta gave a new aspect to the
military situation. It was like a sun-ray bursting through a dark
cloud. The rank and file of the Union party rose with rapidly growing
enthusiasm. The song “We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred
thousand strong,” resounded all over the land. Long before the decisive
day arrived, the result was beyond doubt, and Lincoln was re-elected
President by overwhelming majorities. The election over even his
severest critics found themselves forced to admit that Lincoln was the
only possible candidate for the Union party in 1864, and that neither
political combinations nor campaign speeches, nor even victories in the
field, were needed to insure his success. The plain people had all the
while been satisfied with Abraham Lincoln: they confided in him; they
loved him; they felt themselves near to him; they saw personified in him
the cause of Union and freedom; and they went to the ballot-box for him
in their strength.

The hour of triumph called out the characteristic impulses of his
nature. The opposition within the Union party had stung him to the
quick. Now he had his opponents before him, baffled and humiliated. Not
a moment did he lose to stretch out the hand of friendship to all. “Now
that the election is over,” he said, in response to a serenade, “may not
all, having a common interest, reunite in a common effort to save our
common country? For my own part, I have striven, and will strive, to
place no obstacle in the way. So long as I have been here I have not
willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom. While I am deeply
sensible to the high compliment of a re-election, it adds nothing to
my satisfaction that any other man may be pained or disappointed by the
result. May I ask those who were with me to join with me in the same
spirit toward those who were against me?” This was Abraham Lincoln’s
character as tested in the furnace of prosperity.

The war was virtually decided, but not yet ended. Sherman was
irresistibly carrying the Union flag through the South. Grant had his
iron hand upon the ramparts of Richmond. The days of the Confederacy
were evidently numbered. Only the last blow remained to be struck. Then
Lincoln’s second inauguration came, and with it his second inaugural
address. Lincoln’s famous “Gettysburg speech” has been much and justly
admired. But far greater, as well as far more characteristic, was that
inaugural in which he poured out the whole devotion and tenderness of
his great soul. It had all the solemnity of a father’s last admonition
and blessing to his children before he lay down to die. These were
its closing words: “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this
mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it
continue until all the wealth piled up by the bondman’s two hundred and
fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of
blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword,
as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, `The
judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’ With malice
toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God
gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in;
to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the
battle, and for his widow and his orphan; to do all which may achieve
and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all

This was like a sacred poem. No American President had ever spoken words
like these to the American people. America never had a President who
found such words in the depth of his heart.

Now followed the closing scenes of the war. The Southern armies fought
bravely to the last, but all in vain. Richmond fell. Lincoln himself
entered the city on foot, accompanied only by a few officers and a
squad of sailors who had rowed him ashore from the flotilla in the James
River, a negro picked up on the way serving as a guide. Never had the
world seen a more modest conqueror and a more characteristic triumphal
procession, no army with banners and drums, only a throng of those who
had been slaves, hastily run together, escorting the victorious chief
into the capital of the vanquished foe. We are told that they pressed
around him, kissed his hands and his garments, and shouted and danced
for joy, while tears ran down the President’s care-furrowed cheeks.

A few days more brought the surrender of Lee’s army, and peace was
assured. The people of the North were wild with joy. Everywhere
festive guns were booming, bells pealing, the churches ringing with
thanksgivings, and jubilant multitudes thronging the thoroughfares, when
suddenly the news flashed over the land that Abraham Lincoln had been
murdered. The people were stunned by the blow. Then a wail of sorrow
went up such as America had never heard before. Thousands of Northern
households grieved as if they had lost their dearest member. Many a
Southern man cried out in his heart that his people had been robbed
of their best friend in their humiliation and distress, when Abraham
Lincoln was struck down. It was as if the tender affection which his
countrymen bore him had inspired all nations with a common sentiment.
All civilized mankind stood mourning around the coffin of the dead
President. Many of those, here and abroad, who not long before had
ridiculed and reviled him were among the first to hasten on with their
flowers of eulogy, and in that universal chorus of lamentation and
praise there was not a voice that did not tremble with genuine emotion.
Never since Washington’s death had there been such unanimity of judgment
as to a man’s virtues and greatness; and even Washington’s death,
although his name was held in greater reverence, did not touch so
sympathetic a chord in the people’s hearts.

Nor can it be said that this was owing to the tragic character of
Lincoln’s end. It is true, the death of this gentlest and most merciful
of rulers by the hand of a mad fanatic was well apt to exalt him beyond
his merits in the estimation of those who loved him, and to make his
renown the object of peculiarly tender solicitude. But it is also true
that the verdict pronounced upon him in those days has been affected
little by time, and that historical inquiry has served rather to
increase than to lessen the appreciation of his virtues, his abilities,
his services. Giving the fullest measure of credit to his great
ministers,–to Seward for his conduct of foreign affairs, to Chase for
the management of the finances under terrible difficulties, to Stanton
for the performance of his tremendous task as war secretary,–and
readily acknowledging that without the skill and fortitude of the great
commanders, and the heroism of the soldiers and sailors under them,
success could not have been achieved, the historian still finds that
Lincoln’s judgment and will were by no means governed by those around
him; that the most important steps were owing to his initiative; that
his was the deciding and directing mind; and that it was pre-eminently
he whose sagacity and whose character enlisted for the administration
in its struggles the countenance, the sympathy, and the support of the
people. It is found, even, that his judgment on military matters was
astonishingly acute, and that the advice and instructions he gave to the
generals commanding in the field would not seldom have done honor to the
ablest of them. History, therefore, without overlooking, or palliating,
or excusing any of his shortcomings or mistakes, continues to place
him foremost among the saviours of the Union and the liberators of the
slave. More than that, it awards to him the merit of having accomplished
what but few political philosophers would have recognized as
possible,–of leading the republic through four years of furious civil
conflict without any serious detriment to its free institutions.

He was, indeed, while President, violently denounced by the opposition
as a tyrant and a usurper, for having gone beyond his constitutional
powers in authorizing or permitting the temporary suppression of
newspapers, and in wantonly suspending the writ of habeas corpus and
resorting to arbitrary arrests. Nobody should be blamed who, when such
things are done, in good faith and from patriotic motives protests
against them. In a republic, arbitrary stretches of power, even when
demanded by necessity, should never be permitted to pass without a
protest on the one hand, and without an apology on the other. It is well
they did not so pass during our civil war. That arbitrary measures were
resorted to is true. That they were resorted to most sparingly, and only
when the government thought them absolutely required by the safety of
the republic, will now hardly be denied. But certain it is that the
history of the world does not furnish a single example of a government
passing through so tremendous a crisis as our civil war was with so
small a record of arbitrary acts, and so little interference with the
ordinary course of law outside the field of military operations. No
American President ever wielded such power as that which was thrust into
Lincoln’s hands. It is to be hoped that no American President ever
will have to be entrusted with such power again. But no man was ever
entrusted with it to whom its seductions were less dangerous than they
proved to be to Abraham Lincoln. With scrupulous care he endeavored,
even under the most trying circumstances, to remain strictly within the
constitutional limitations of his authority; and whenever the boundary
became indistinct, or when the dangers of the situation forced him
to cross it, he was equally careful to mark his acts as exceptional
measures, justifiable only by the imperative necessities of the civil
war, so that they might not pass into history as precedents for similar
acts in time of peace. It is an unquestionable fact that during the
reconstruction period which followed the war, more things were done
capable of serving as dangerous precedents than during the war itself.
Thus it may truly be said of him not only that under his guidance the
republic was saved from disruption and the country was purified of the
blot of slavery, but that, during the stormiest and most perilous crisis
in our history, he so conducted the government and so wielded his almost
dictatorial power as to leave essentially intact our free institutions
in all things that concern the rights and liberties of the citizens.
He understood well the nature of the problem. In his first message to
Congress he defined it in admirably pointed language: “Must a government
be of necessity too strong for the liberties of its own people, or
too weak to maintain its own existence? Is there in all republics this
inherent weakness?” This question he answered in the name of the great
American republic, as no man could have answered it better, with a
triumphant “No….”

It has been said that Abraham Lincoln died at the right moment for his
fame. However that may be, he had, at the time of his death, certainly
not exhausted his usefulness to his country. He was probably the only
man who could have guided the nation through the perplexities of the
reconstruction period in such a manner as to prevent in the work of
peace the revival of the passions of the war. He would indeed not have
escaped serious controversy as to details of policy; but he could have
weathered it far better than any other statesman of his time, for his
prestige with the active politicians had been immensely strengthened by
his triumphant re-election; and, what is more important, he would have
been supported by the confidence of the victorious Northern people that
he would do all to secure the safety of the Union and the rights of
the emancipated negro, and at the same time by the confidence of the
defeated Southern people that nothing would be done by him from motives
of vindictiveness, or of unreasoning fanaticism, or of a selfish party
spirit. “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” the foremost
of the victors would have personified in himself the genius of

He might have rendered the country a great service in another direction.
A few days after the fall of Richmond, he pointed out to a friend the
crowd of office-seekers besieging his door. “Look at that,” said he.
“Now we have conquered the rebellion, but here you see something that
may become more dangerous to this republic than the rebellion itself.”
It is true, Lincoln as President did not profess what we now call civil
service reform principles. He used the patronage of the government
in many cases avowedly to reward party work, in many others to form
combinations and to produce political effects advantageous to the Union
cause, and in still others simply to put the right man into the right
place. But in his endeavors to strengthen the Union cause, and in his
search for able and useful men for public duties, he frequently went
beyond the limits of his party, and gradually accustomed himself to the
thought that, while party service had its value, considerations of
the public interest were, as to appointments to office, of far greater
consequence. Moreover, there had been such a mingling of different
political elements in support of the Union during the civil war that
Lincoln, standing at the head of that temporarily united motley mass,
hardly felt himself, in the narrow sense of the term, a party man.
And as he became strongly impressed with the dangers brought upon the
republic by the use of public offices as party spoils, it is by no means
improbable that, had he survived the all-absorbing crisis and found time
to turn to other objects, one of the most important reforms of later
days would have been pioneered by his powerful authority. This was
not to be. But the measure of his achievements was full enough for

To the younger generation Abraham Lincoln has already become a
half-mythical figure, which, in the haze of historic distance, grows
to more and more heroic proportions, but also loses in distinctness of
outline and feature. This is indeed the common lot of popular heroes;
but the Lincoln legend will be more than ordinarily apt to become
fanciful, as his individuality, assembling seemingly incongruous
qualities and forces in a character at the same time grand and most
lovable, was so unique, and his career so abounding in startling
contrasts. As the state of society in which Abraham Lincoln grew up
passes away, the world will read with increasing wonder of the man who,
not only of the humblest origin, but remaining the simplest and
most unpretending of citizens, was raised to a position of power
unprecedented in our history; who was the gentlest and most peace-loving
of mortals, unable to see any creature suffer without a pang in his own
breast, and suddenly found himself called to conduct the greatest and
bloodiest of our wars; who wielded the power of government when stern
resolution and relentless force were the order of the day and then won
and ruled the popular mind and heart by the tender sympathies of his
nature; who was a cautious conservative by temperament and mental habit,
and led the most sudden and sweeping social revolution of our time;
who, preserving his homely speech and rustic manner even in the most
conspicuous position of that period, drew upon himself the scoffs of
polite society, and then thrilled the soul of mankind with utterances of
wonderful beauty and grandeur; who, in his heart the best friend of the
defeated South, was murdered because a crazy fanatic took him for its
most cruel enemy; who, while in power, was beyond measure lampooned and
maligned by sectional passion and an excited party spirit, and around
whose bier friend and foe gathered to praise him which they have since
never ceased to do–as one of the greatest of Americans and the best of


[This Address was delivered before the Edinburgh Philosophical
Institution, November 13, 1900. It is included in this set with the
courteous permission of the author and of Messrs. Thomas Y. Crowell &


When you asked me to deliver the Inaugural Address on this occasion,
I recognized that I owed this compliment to the fact that I was the
official representative of America, and in selecting a subject I
ventured to think that I might interest you for an hour in a brief study
in popular government, as illustrated by the life of the most American
of all Americans. I therefore offer no apology for asking your attention
to Abraham Lincoln–to his unique character and the part he bore in
two important achievements of modern history: the preservation of the
integrity of the American Union and the emancipation of the colored

During his brief term of power he was probably the object of more abuse,
vilification, and ridicule than any other man in the world; but when he
fell by the hand of an assassin, at the very moment of his stupendous
victory, all the nations of the earth vied with one another in paying
homage to his character, and the thirty-five years that have since
elapsed have established his place in history as one of the great
benefactors not of his own country alone, but of the human race.

One of many noble utterances upon the occasion of his death was that in
which ‘Punch’ made its magnanimous recantation of the spirit with which
it had pursued him:

“Beside this corpse that bears for winding sheet
The stars and stripes he lived to rear anew,
Between the mourners at his head and feet,
Say, scurrile jester, is there room for you?


“Yes, he had lived to shame me from my sneer,
To lame my pencil, and confute my pen
To make me own this hind–of princes peer,
This rail-splitter–a true born king of men.”

Fiction can furnish no match for the romance of his life, and biography
will be searched in vain for such startling vicissitudes of fortune,
so great power and glory won out of such humble beginnings and adverse

Doubtless you are all familiar with the salient points of his
extraordinary career. In the zenith of his fame he was the wise,
patient, courageous, successful ruler of men; exercising more power than
any monarch of his time, not for himself, but for the good of the people
who had placed it in his hands; commander-in-chief of a vast military
power, which waged with ultimate success the greatest war of the
century; the triumphant champion of popular government, the deliverer
of four millions of his fellowmen from bondage; honored by mankind as
Statesman, President, and Liberator.

Let us glance now at the first half of the brief life of which this was
the glorious and happy consummation. Nothing could be more squalid and
miserable than the home in which Abraham Lincoln was born–a one-roomed
cabin without floor or window in what was then the wilderness of
Kentucky, in the heart of that frontier life which swiftly moved
westward from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi, always in advance of
schools and churches, of books and money, of railroads and newspapers,
of all things which are generally regarded as the comforts and even
necessaries of life. His father, ignorant, needy, and thriftless,
content if he could keep soul and body together for himself and his
family, was ever seeking, without success, to better his unhappy
condition by moving on from one such scene of dreary desolation to
another. The rude society which surrounded them was not much better. The
struggle for existence was hard, and absorbed all their energies. They
were fighting the forest, the wild beast, and the retreating savage.
From the time when he could barely handle tools until he attained his
majority, Lincoln’s life was that of a simple farm laborer, poorly clad,
housed, and fed, at work either on his father’s wretched farm or hired
out to neighboring farmers. But in spite, or perhaps by means, of this
rude environment, he grew to be a stalwart giant, reaching six feet four
at nineteen, and fabulous stories are told of his feats of strength.
With the growth of this mighty frame began that strange education which
in his ripening years was to qualify him for the great destiny that
awaited him, and the development of those mental faculties and moral
endowments which, by the time he reached middle life, were to make him
the sagacious, patient, and triumphant leader of a great nation in the
crisis of its fate. His whole schooling, obtained during such odd times
as could be spared from grinding labor, did not amount in all to as much
as one year, and the quality of the teaching was of the lowest possible
grade, including only the elements of reading, writing, and ciphering.
But out of these simple elements, when rightly used by the right man,
education is achieved, and Lincoln knew how to use them. As so often
happens, he seemed to take warning from his father’s unfortunate
example. Untiring industry, an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and
an ever-growing desire to rise above his surroundings, were early
manifestations of his character.

Books were almost unknown in that community, but the Bible was in
every house, and somehow or other Pilgrim’s Progress, AEsop’s Fables,
a History of the United States, and a Life of Washington fell into his
hands. He trudged on foot many miles through the wilderness to borrow an
English Grammar, and is said to have devoured greedily the contents of
the Statutes of Indiana that fell in his way. These few volumes he read
and reread–and his power of assimilation was great. To be shut in with
a few books and to master them thoroughly sometimes does more for the
development of character than freedom to range at large, in a cursory
and indiscriminate way, through wide domains of literature. This youth’s
mind, at any rate, was thoroughly saturated with Biblical knowledge and
Biblical language, which, in after life, he used with great readiness
and effect. But it was the constant use of the little knowledge which he
had that developed and exercised his mental powers. After the hard
day’s work was done, while others slept, he toiled on, always reading or
writing. From an early age he did his own thinking and made up his own
mind–invaluable traits in the future President. Paper was such a scarce
commodity that, by the evening firelight, he would write and cipher
on the back of a wooden shovel, and then shave it off to make room for
more. By and by, as he approached manhood, he began speaking in the rude
gatherings of the neighborhood, and so laid the foundation of that art
of persuading his fellow-men which was one rich result of his education,
and one great secret of his subsequent success.

Accustomed as we are in these days of steam and telegraphs to have every
intelligent boy survey the whole world each morning before breakfast,
and inform himself as to what is going on in every nation, it is hardly
possible to conceive how benighted and isolated was the condition of the
community at Pigeon Creek in Indiana, of which the family of Lincoln’s
father formed a part, or how eagerly an ambitious and high-spirited boy,
such as he, must have yearned to escape. The first glimpse that he ever
got of any world beyond the narrow confines of his home was in 1828, at
the age of nineteen, when a neighbor employed him to accompany his son
down the river to New Orleans to dispose of a flatboat of produce–a
commission which he discharged with great success.

Shortly after his return from this his first excursion into the outer
world, his father, tired of failure in Indiana, packed his family and
all his worldly goods into a single wagon drawn by two yoke of oxen, and
after a fourteen days’ tramp through the wilderness, pitched his camp
once more, in Illinois. Here Abraham, having come of age and being now
his own master, rendered the last service of his minority by ploughing
the fifteen-acre lot and splitting from the tall walnut trees of the
primeval forest enough rails to surround the little clearing with a
fence. Such was the meagre outfit of this coming leader of men, at the
age when the future British Prime Minister or statesman emerges from the
university as a double first or senior wrangler, with every advantage
that high training and broad culture and association with the wisest and
the best of men and women can give, and enters upon some form of public
service on the road to usefulness and honor, the University course being
only the first stage of the public training. So Lincoln, at twenty-one,
had just begun his preparation for the public life to which he soon
began to aspire. For some years yet he must continue to earn his daily
bread by the sweat of his brow, having absolutely no means, no home,
no friend to consult. More farm work as a hired hand, a clerkship in a
village store, the running of a mill, another trip to New Orleans on a
flatboat of his own contriving, a pilot’s berth on the river–these were
the means by which he subsisted until, in the summer of 1832, when he
was twenty-three years of age, an event occurred which gave him public

The Black Hawk war broke out, and, the Governor of Illinois calling for
volunteers to repel the band of savages whose leader bore that name,
Lincoln enlisted and was elected captain by his comrades, among whom he
had already established his supremacy by signal feats of strength and
more than one successful single combat. During the brief hostilities
he was engaged in no battle and won no military glory, but his local
leadership was established. The same year he offered himself as a
candidate for the Legislature of Illinois, but failed at the polls. Yet
his vast popularity with those who knew him was manifest. The district
consisted of several counties, but the unanimous vote of the people
of his own county was for Lincoln. Another unsuccessful attempt at
store-keeping was followed by better luck at surveying, until his horse
and instruments were levied upon under execution for the debts of his
business adventure.

I have been thus detailed in sketching his early years because upon
these strange foundations the structure of his great fame and service
was built. In the place of a school and university training fortune
substituted these trials, hardships, and struggles as a preparation for
the great work which he had to do. It turned out to be exactly what
the emergency required. Ten years instead at the public school and the
university certainly never could have fitted this man for the unique
work which was to be thrown upon him. Some other Moses would have had to
lead us to our Jordan, to the sight of our promised land of liberty.

At the age of twenty-five he became a member of the Legislature of
Illinois, and so continued for eight years, and, in the meantime,
qualified himself by reading such law books as he could borrow at
random–for he was too poor to buy any to be called to the Bar. For
his second quarter of a century–during which a single term in Congress
introduced him into the arena of national questions–he gave himself up
to law and politics. In spite of his soaring ambition, his two years
in Congress gave him no premonition of the great destiny that awaited
him,–and at its close, in 1849, we find him an unsuccessful applicant
to the President for appointment as Commissioner of the General Land
Office–a purely administrative bureau; a fortunate escape for
himself and for his country. Year by year his knowledge and power, his
experience and reputation extended, and his mental faculties seemed to
grow by what they fed on. His power of persuasion, which had always been
marked, was developed to an extraordinary degree, now that he became
engaged in congenial questions and subjects. Little by little he rose to
prominence at the Bar, and became the most effective public speaker in
the West. Not that he possessed any of the graces of the orator; but his
logic was invincible, and his clearness and force of statement impressed
upon his hearers the convictions of his honest mind, while his broad
sympathies and sparkling and genial humor made him a universal favorite
as far and as fast as his acquaintance extended.

These twenty years that elapsed from the time of his establishment as
a lawyer and legislator in Springfield, the new capital of Illinois,
furnished a fitting theatre for the development and display of his great
faculties, and, with his new and enlarged opportunities, he obviously
grew in mental stature in this second period of his career, as if
to compensate for the absolute lack of advantages under which he had
suffered in youth. As his powers enlarged, his reputation extended,
for he was always before the people, felt a warm sympathy with all that
concerned them, took a zealous part in the discussion of every public
question, and made his personal influence ever more widely and deeply

My brethren of the legal profession will naturally ask me, how could
this rough backwoodsman, whose youth had been spent in the forest or
on the farm and the flatboat, without culture or training, education or
study, by the random reading, on the wing, of a few miscellaneous law
books, become a learned and accomplished lawyer? Well, he never did.
He never would have earned his salt as a ‘Writer’ for the ‘Signet’,
nor have won a place as advocate in the Court of Session, where the
technique of the profession has reached its highest perfection, and
centuries of learning and precedent are involved in the equipment of a
lawyer. Dr. Holmes, when asked by an anxious young mother, “When should
the education of a child begin?” replied, “Madam, at least two centuries
before it is born!” and so I am sure it is with the Scots lawyer.

But not so in Illinois in 1840. Between 1830 and 1880 its population
increased twenty-fold, and when Lincoln began practising law in
Springfield in 1837, life in Illinois was very crude and simple, and so
were the courts and the administration of justice. Books and libraries
were scarce. But the people loved justice, upheld the law, and followed
the courts, and soon found their favorites among the advocates. The
fundamental principles of the common law, as set forth by Blackstone
and Chitty, were not so difficult to acquire; and brains, common sense,
force of character, tenacity of purpose, ready wit and power of speech
did the rest, and supplied all the deficiencies of learning.

The lawsuits of those days were extremely simple, and the principles of
natural justice were mainly relied on to dispose of them at the Bar
and on the Bench, without resort to technical learning. Railroads,
corporations absorbing the chief business of the community, combined
and inherited wealth, with all the subtle and intricate questions they
breed, had not yet come in–and so the professional agents and the
equipment which they require were not needed. But there were many highly
educated and powerful men at the Bar of Illinois, even in those early
days, whom the spirit of enterprise had carried there in search of fame
and fortune. It was by constant contact and conflict with these that
Lincoln acquired professional strength and skill. Every community and
every age creates its own Bar, entirely adequate for its present uses
and necessities. So in Illinois, as the population and wealth of the
State kept on doubling and quadrupling, its Bar presented a growing
abundance of learning and science and technical skill. The early
practitioners grew with its growth and mastered the requisite knowledge.
Chicago soon grew to be one of the largest and richest and certainly
the most intensely active city on the continent, and if any of my
professional friends here had gone there in Lincoln’s later years, to
try or argue a cause, or transact other business, with any idea that
Edinburgh or London had a monopoly of legal learning, science, or
subtlety, they would certainly have found their mistake.

In those early days in the West, every lawyer, especially every court
lawyer, was necessarily a politician, constantly engaged in the public
discussion of the many questions evolved from the rapid development
of town, county, State, and Federal affairs. Then and there, in this
regard, public discussion supplied the place which the universal
activity of the press has since monopolized, and the public speaker who,
by clearness, force, earnestness, and wit; could make himself felt on
the questions of the day would rapidly come to the front. In the absence
of that immense variety of popular entertainments which now feed the
public taste and appetite, the people found their chief amusement in
frequenting the courts and public and political assemblies. In either
place, he who impressed, entertained, and amused them most was the
hero of the hour. They did not discriminate very carefully between the
eloquence of the forum and the eloquence of the hustings. Human nature
ruled in both alike, and he who was the most effective speaker in a
political harangue was often retained as most likely to win in a cause
to be tried or argued. And I have no doubt in this way many retainers
came to Lincoln. Fees, money in any form, had no charms for him–in
his eager pursuit of fame he could not afford to make money. He was
ambitious to distinguish himself by some great service to mankind, and
this ambition for fame and real public service left no room for avarice
in his composition. However much he earned, he seems to have ended every
year hardly richer than he began it, and yet, as the years passed,
fees came to him freely. One of L 1,000 is recorded–a very large
professional fee at that time, even in any part of America, the paradise
of lawyers. I lay great stress on Lincoln’s career as a lawyer–much
more than his biographers do because in America a state of things
exists wholly different from that which prevails in Great Britain. The
profession of the law always has been and is to this day the principal
avenue to public life; and I am sure that his training and experience
in the courts had much to do with the development of those forces of
intellect and character which he soon displayed on a broader arena.

It was in political controversy, of course, that he acquired his wide
reputation, and made his deep and lasting impression upon the people of
what had now become the powerful State of Illinois, and upon the people
of the Great West, to whom the political power and control of the United
States were already surely and swiftly passing from the older Eastern
States. It was this reputation and this impression, and the familiar
knowledge of his character which had come to them from his local
leadership, that happily inspired the people of the West to present him
as their candidate, and to press him upon the Republican convention of
1860 as the fit and necessary leader in the struggle for life which was
before the nation.

That struggle, as you all know, arose out of the terrible question of
slavery–and I must trust to your general knowledge of the history
of that question to make intelligible the attitude and leadership of
Lincoln as the champion of the hosts of freedom in the final contest.
Negro slavery had been firmly established in the Southern States from
an early period of their history. In 1619, the year before the Mayflower
landed our Pilgrim Fathers upon Plymouth Rock, a Dutch ship had
discharged a cargo of African slaves at Jamestown in Virginia: All
through the colonial period their importation had continued. A few had
found their way into the Northern States, but none of them in sufficient
numbers to constitute danger or to afford a basis for political power.
At the time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution, there is no
doubt that the principal members of the convention not only condemned
slavery as a moral, social, and political evil, but believed that by
the suppression of the slave trade it was in the course of gradual
extinction in the South, as it certainly was in the North. Washington,
in his will, provided for the emancipation of his own slaves, and
said to Jefferson that it “was among his first wishes to see some plan
adopted by which slavery in his country might be abolished.” Jefferson
said, referring to the institution: “I tremble for my country when I
think that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever,”–and
Franklin, Adams, Hamilton, and Patrick Henry were all utterly opposed
to it. But it was made the subject of a fatal compromise in the Federal
Constitution, whereby its existence was recognized in the States as a
basis of representation, the prohibition of the importation of slaves
was postponed for twenty years, and the return of fugitive slaves
provided for. But no imminent danger was apprehended from it till, by
the invention of the cotton gin in 1792, cotton culture by negro labor
became at once and forever the leading industry of the South, and gave
a new impetus to the importation of slaves, so that in 1808, when
the constitutional prohibition took effect, their numbers had vastly
increased. From that time forward slavery became the basis of a great
political power, and the Southern States, under all circumstances and at
every opportunity, carried on a brave and unrelenting struggle for its
maintenance and extension.

The conscience of the North was slow to rise against it, though bitter
controversies from time to time took place. The Southern leaders
threatened disunion if their demands were not complied with. To save the
Union, compromise after compromise was made, but each one in the end was
broken. The Missouri Compromise, made in 1820 upon the occasion of
the admission of Missouri into the Union as a slave State, whereby, in
consideration of such admission, slavery was forever excluded from the
Northwest Territory, was ruthlessly repealed in 1854, by a Congress
elected in the interests of the slave power, the intent being to force
slavery into that vast territory which had so long been dedicated to
freedom. This challenge at last aroused the slumbering conscience and
passion of the North, and led to the formation of the Republican party
for the avowed purpose of preventing, by constitutional methods, the
further extension of slavery.

In its first campaign, in 1856, though it failed to elect its
candidates; it received a surprising vote and carried many of the
States. No one could any longer doubt that the North had made up its
mind that no threats of disunion should deter it from pressing its
cherished purpose and performing its long neglected duty. From the
outset, Lincoln was one of the most active and effective leaders and
speakers of the new party, and the great debates between Lincoln and
Douglas in 1858, as the respective champions of the restriction and
extension of slavery, attracted the attention of the whole country.
Lincoln’s powerful arguments carried conviction everywhere. His moral
nature was thoroughly aroused his conscience was stirred to the quick.
Unless slavery was wrong, nothing was wrong. Was each man, of whatever
color, entitled to the fruits of his own labor, or could one man live
in idle luxury by the sweat of another’s brow, whose skin was darker?
He was an implicit believer in that principle of the Declaration of
Independence that all men are vested with certain inalienable rights
the equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. On this
doctrine he staked his case and carried it. We have time only for one or
two sentences in which he struck the keynote of the contest.

“The real issue in this country is the eternal struggle between these
two principles–right and wrong–throughout the world. They are the two
principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and
will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity,
and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in
whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, ‘You
work and toil and earn bread and I’ll eat it.'”

He foresaw with unerring vision that the conflict was inevitable and
irrepressible–that one or the other, the right or the wrong, freedom
or slavery, must ultimately prevail and wholly prevail, throughout the
country; and this was the principle that carried the war, once begun, to
a finish.

One sentence of his is immortal:

“Under the operation of the policy of compromise, the slavery agitation
has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion
it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. ‘A
house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government
cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect
the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall, but I do
expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or
all the other; either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further
spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the
belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates
will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the
States, old as well as new, North as well as South.”

During the entire decade from 1850 to 1860 the agitation of the
slavery question was at the boiling point, and events which have become
historical continually indicated the near approach of the overwhelming
storm. No sooner had the Compromise Acts of 1850 resulted in a temporary
peace, which everybody said must be final and perpetual, than new
outbreaks came. The forcible carrying away of fugitive slaves by Federal
troops from Boston agitated that ancient stronghold of freedom to its
foundations. The publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which truly exposed
the frightful possibilities of the slave system; the reckless attempts
by force and fraud to establish it in Kansas against the will of the
vast majority of the settlers; the beating of Summer in the Senate
Chamber for words spoken in debate; the Dred Scott decision in the
Supreme Court, which made the nation realize that the slave power had at
last reached the fountain of Federal justice; and finally the execution
of John Brown, for his wild raid into Virginia, to invite the slaves to
rally to the standard of freedom which he unfurled:–all these events
tend to illustrate and confirm Lincoln’s contention that the nation
could not permanently continue half slave and half free, but must become
all one thing or all the other. When John Brown lay under sentence of
death he declared that now he was sure that slavery must be wiped out in
blood; but neither he nor his executioners dreamt that within four years
a million soldiers would be marching across the country for its final
extirpation, to the music of the war-song of the great conflict:

“John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
But his soul is marching on.”

And now, at the age of fifty-one, this child of the wilderness, this
farm laborer, rail-sputter, flatboatman, this surveyor, lawyer, orator,
statesman, and patriot, found himself elected by the great party which
was pledged to prevent at all hazards the further extension of slavery,
as the chief magistrate of the Republic, bound to carry out that
purpose, to be the leader and ruler of the nation in its most trying

Those who believe that there is a living Providence that overrules and
conducts the affairs of nations, find in the elevation of this plain man
to this extraordinary fortune and to this great duty, which he so
fitly discharged, a signal vindication of their faith. Perhaps to this
philosophical institution the judgment of our philosopher Emerson will
commend itself as a just estimate of Lincoln’s historical place.

“His occupying the chair of state was a triumph of the good sense of
mankind and of the public conscience. He grew according to the need; his
mind mastered the problem of the day: and as the problem grew, so did
his comprehension of it. In the war there was no place for holiday
magistrate, nor fair-weather sailor. The new pilot was hurried to
the helm in a tornado. In four years–four years of battle days–his
endurance, his fertility of resource, his magnanimity, were sorely
tried, and never found wanting. There, by his courage, his justice, his
even temper, his fertile counsel, his humanity, he stood a heroic figure
in the centre of a heroic epoch. He is the true history of the American
people in his time, the true representative of this continent–father
of his country, the pulse of twenty millions throbbing in his heart, the
thought of their mind–articulated in his tongue.”

He was born great, as distinguished from those who achieve greatness or
have it thrust upon them, and his inherent capacity, mental, moral, and
physical, having been recognized by the educated intelligence of a free
people, they happily chose him for their ruler in a day of deadly peril.

It is now forty years since I first saw and heard Abraham Lincoln, but
the impression which he left on my mind is ineffaceable. After his great
successes in the West he came to New York to make a political address.
He appeared in every sense of the word like one of the plain people
among whom he loved to be counted. At first sight there was nothing
impressive or imposing about him–except that his great stature singled
him out from the crowd: his clothes hung awkwardly on his giant frame;
his face was of a dark pallor, without the slightest tinge of color; his
seamed and rugged features bore the furrows of hardship and struggle;
his deep-set eyes looked sad and anxious; his countenance in repose gave
little evidence of that brain power which had raised him from the lowest
to the highest station among his countrymen; as he talked to me before
the meeting, he seemed ill at ease, with that sort of apprehension which
a young man might feel before presenting himself to a new and strange
audience, whose critical disposition he dreaded. It was a great
audience, including all the noted men–all the learned and cultured of
his party in New York editors, clergymen, statesmen, lawyers, merchants,
critics. They were all very curious to hear him. His fame as a powerful
speaker had preceded him, and exaggerated rumor of his wit–the worst
forerunner of an orator–had reached the East. When Mr. Bryant presented
him, on the high platform of the Cooper Institute, a vast sea of eager
upturned faces greeted him, full of intense curiosity to see what this
rude child of the people was like. He was equal to the occasion. When
he spoke he was transformed; his eye kindled, his voice rang, his face
shone and seemed to light up the whole assembly. For an hour and a half
he held his audience in the hollow of his hand. His style of speech and
manner of delivery were severely simple. What Lowell called “the
grand simplicities of the Bible,” with which he was so familiar, were
reflected in his discourse. With no attempt at ornament or rhetoric,
without parade or pretence, he spoke straight to the point. If any came
expecting the turgid eloquence or the ribaldry of the frontier, they
must have been startled at the earnest and sincere purity of his
utterances. It was marvellous to see how this untutored man, by mere
self-discipline and the chastening of his own spirit, had outgrown all
meretricious arts, and found his own way to the grandeur and strength of
absolute simplicity.

He spoke upon the theme which he had mastered so thoroughly. He
demonstrated by copious historical proofs and masterly logic that the
fathers who created the Constitution in order to form a more perfect
union, to establish justice, and to secure the blessings of liberty
to themselves and their posterity, intended to empower the Federal
Government to exclude slavery from the Territories. In the kindliest
spirit he protested against the avowed threat of the Southern States to
destroy the Union if, in order to secure freedom in those vast regions
out of which future States were to be carved, a Republican President
were elected. He closed with an appeal to his audience, spoken with all
the fire of his aroused and kindling conscience, with a full outpouring
of his love of justice and liberty, to maintain their political purpose
on that lofty and unassailable issue of right and wrong which alone
could justify it, and not to be intimidated from their high resolve and
sacred duty by any threats of destruction to the government or of ruin
to themselves. He concluded with this telling sentence, which drove the
whole argument home to all our hearts: “Let us have faith that right
makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as
we understand it.” That night the great hall, and the next day the whole
city, rang with delighted applause and congratulations, and he who had
come as a stranger departed with the laurels of great triumph.

Alas! in five years from that exulting night I saw him again, for the
last time, in the same city, borne in his coffin through its draped
streets. With tears and lamentations a heart-broken people accompanied
him from Washington, the scene of his martyrdom, to his last
resting-place in the young city of the West where he had worked his way
to fame.

Never was a new ruler in a more desperate plight than Lincoln when
he entered office on the fourth of March, 1861, four months after his
election, and took his oath to support the Constitution and the Union.
The intervening time had been busily employed by the Southern States in
carrying out their threat of disunion in the event of his election.
As soon as the fact was ascertained, seven of them had seceded and had
seized upon the forts, arsenals, navy yards, and other public property
of the United States within their boundaries, and were making every
preparation for war. In the meantime the retiring President, who had
been elected by the slave power, and who thought the seceding States
could not lawfully be coerced, had done absolutely nothing. Lincoln
found himself, by the Constitution, Commander-in-Chief of the Army and
Navy of the United States, but with only a remnant of either at hand.
Each was to be created on a great scale out of the unknown resources of
a nation untried in war.

In his mild and conciliatory inaugural address, while appealing to the
seceding States to return to their allegiance, he avowed his purpose to
keep the solemn oath he had taken that day, to see that the laws of the
Union were faithfully executed, and to use the troops to recover the
forts, navy yards, and other property belonging to the government. It
is probable, however, that neither side actually realized that war
was inevitable, and that the other was determined to fight, until the
assault on Fort Sumter presented the South as the first aggressor
and roused the North to use every possible resource to maintain the
government and the imperilled Union, and to vindicate the supremacy of
the flag over every inch of the territory of the United States. The
fact that Lincoln’s first proclamation called for only 75,000 troops, to
serve for three months, shows how inadequate was even his idea of what
the future had in store. But from that moment Lincoln and his loyal
supporters never faltered in their purpose. They knew they could win,
that it was their duty to win, and that for America the whole hope
of the future depended upon their winning; for now by the acts of the
seceding States the issue of the election to secure or prevent the
extension of slavery–stood transformed into a struggle to preserve or
to destroy the Union.

We cannot follow this contest. You know its gigantic proportions; that
it lasted four years instead of three months; that in its progress,
instead of 75,000 men, more than 2,000,000 were enrolled on the side
of the government alone; that the aggregate cost and loss to the nation
approximated to 1,000,000,000 pounds sterling, and that not less than
300,000 brave and precious lives were sacrificed on each side. History
has recorded how Lincoln bore himself during these four frightful years;
that he was the real President, the responsible and actual head of the
government, through it all; that he listened to all advice, heard all
parties, and then, always realizing his responsibility to God and the
nation, decided every great executive question for himself. His absolute
honesty had become proverbial long before he was President. “Honest Abe
Lincoln” was the name by which he had been known for years. His every
act attested it.

In all the grandeur of the vast power that he wielded, he never ceased
to be one of the plain people, as he always called them, never lost or
impaired his perfect sympathy with them, was always in perfect touch
with them and open to their appeals; and here lay the very secret of
his personality and of his power, for the people in turn gave him their
absolute confidence. His courage, his fortitude, his patience, his
hopefulness, were sorely tried but never exhausted.

He was true as steel to his generals, but had frequent occasion to
change them, as he found them inadequate. This serious and painful duty
rested wholly upon him, and was perhaps his most important function as
Commander-in-Chief; but when, at last, he recognized in General Grant
the master of the situation, the man who could and would bring the war
to a triumphant end, he gave it all over to him and upheld him with all
his might. Amid all the pressure and distress that the burdens of office
brought upon him, his unfailing sense of humor saved him; probably it
made it possible for him to live under the burden. He had always been
the great story-teller of the West, and he used and cultivated this
faculty to relieve the weight of the load he bore.

It enabled him to keep the wonderful record of never having lost his
temper, no matter what agony he had to bear. A whole night might be
spent in recounting the stories of his wit, humor, and harmless sarcasm.
But I will recall only two of his sayings, both about General Grant, who
always found plenty of enemies and critics to urge the President to oust
him from his command. One, I am sure, will interest all Scotchmen. They
repeated with malicious intent the gossip that Grant drank. “What
does he drink?” asked Lincoln. “Whiskey,” was, of course, the answer;
doubtless you can guess the brand. “Well,” said the President, “just
find out what particular kind he uses and I’ll send a barrel to each of
my other generals.” The other must be as pleasing to the British as
to the American ear. When pressed again on other grounds to get rid of
Grant, he declared, “I can’t spare that man, he fights!”

He was tender-hearted to a fault, and never could resist the appeals of
wives and mothers of soldiers who had got into trouble and were under
sentence of death for their offences. His Secretary of War and other
officials complained that they never could get deserters shot. As surely
as the women of the culprit’s family could get at him he always gave
way. Certainly you will all appreciate his exquisite sympathy with the
suffering relatives of those who had fallen in battle. His heart bled
with theirs. Never was there a more gentle and tender utterance than his
letter to a mother who had given all her sons to her country, written at
a time when the angel of death had visited almost every household in the
land, and was already hovering over him.

“I have been shown,” he says, “in the files of the War Department a
statement that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously
on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words
of mine which should attempt to beguile you from your grief for a
loss so overwhelming but I cannot refrain from tendering to you the
consolation which may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died
to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your
bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and the
lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a
sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

Hardly could your illustrious sovereign, from the depths of her queenly
and womanly heart, have spoken words more touching and tender to soothe
the stricken mothers of her own soldiers.

The Emancipation Proclamation, with which Mr. Lincoln delighted the
country and the world on the first of January, 1863, will doubtless
secure for him a foremost place in history among the philanthropists
and benefactors of the race, as it rescued, from hopeless and degrading
slavery, so many millions of his fellow-beings described in the law and
existing in fact as “chattels-personal, in the hands of their owners
and possessors, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever.”
Rarely does the happy fortune come to one man to render such a service
to his kind–to proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the
inhabitants thereof.

Ideas rule the world, and never was there a more signal instance of this
triumph of an idea than here. William Lloyd Garrison, who thirty years
before had begun his crusade for the abolition of slavery, and had lived
to see this glorious and unexpected consummation of the hopeless cause
to which he had devoted his life, well described the proclamation as
a “great historic event, sublime in its magnitude, momentous and
beneficent in its far-reaching consequences, and eminently just and
right alike to the oppressor and the oppressed.”

Lincoln had always been heart and soul opposed to slavery. Tradition
says that on the trip on the flatboat to New Orleans he formed his
first and last opinion of slavery at the sight of negroes chained and
scourged, and that then and there the iron entered into his soul. No
boy could grow to manhood in those days as a poor white in Kentucky and
Indiana, in close contact with slavery or in its neighborhood, without a
growing consciousness of its blighting effects on free labor, as well as
of its frightful injustice and cruelty. In the Legislature of Illinois,
where the public sentiment was all for upholding the institution and
violently against every movement for its abolition or restriction, upon
the passage of resolutions to that effect he had the courage with one
companion to put on record his protest, “believing that the institution
of slavery is founded both in injustice and bad policy.” No great
demonstration of courage, you will say; but that was at a time when
Garrison, for his abolition utterances, had been dragged by an angry mob
through the streets of Boston with a rope around his body, and in
the very year that Lovejoy in the same State of Illinois was slain by
rioters while defending his press, from which he had printed antislavery

In Congress he brought in a bill for gradual abolition in the District
of Columbia, with compensation to the owners, for until they raised
treasonable hands against the life of the nation he always maintained
that the property of the slaveholders, into which they had come by two
centuries of descent, without fault on their part, ought not to be taken
away from them without just compensation. He used to say that, one way
or another, he had voted forty-two times for the Wilmot Proviso, which
Mr. Wilmot of Pennsylvania moved as an addition to every bill which
affected United States territory, “that neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude shall ever exist in any part of the said territory,” and it is
evident that his condemnation of the system, on moral grounds as a crime
against the human race, and on political grounds as a cancer that was
sapping the vitals of the nation, and must master its whole being or
be itself extirpated, grew steadily upon him until it culminated in his
great speeches in the Illinois debate.

By the mere election of Lincoln to the Presidency, the further extension
of slavery into the Territories was rendered forever impossible–Vox
populi, vox Dei. Revolutions never go backward, and when founded on a
great moral sentiment stirring the heart of an indignant people their
edicts are irresistible and final. Had the slave power acquiesced in
that election, had the Southern States remained under the Constitution
and within the Union, and relied upon their constitutional and legal
rights, their favorite institution, immoral as it was, blighting and
fatal as it was, might have endured for another century. The great party
that had elected him, unalterably determined against its extension, was
nevertheless pledged not to interfere with its continuance in the States
where it already existed. Of course, when new regions were forever
closed against it, from its very nature it must have begun to shrink
and to dwindle; and probably gradual and compensated emancipation,
which appealed very strongly to the new President’s sense of justice and
expediency, would, in the progress of time, by a reversion to the ideas
of the founders of the Republic, have found a safe outlet for both
masters and slaves. But whom the gods wish to destroy they first make
mad, and when seven States, afterwards increased to eleven, openly
seceded from the Union, when they declared and began the war upon the
nation, and challenged its mighty power to the desperate and protracted
struggle for its life, and for the maintenance of its authority as
a nation over its territory, they gave to Lincoln and to freedom the
sublime opportunity of history.

In his first inaugural address, when as yet not a drop of precious blood
had been shed, while he held out to them the olive branch in one hand,
in the other he presented the guarantees of the Constitution, and after
reciting the emphatic resolution of the convention that nominated
him, that the maintenance inviolate of the “rights of the States, and
especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic
institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential
to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our
political fabric depend,” he reiterated this sentiment, and declared,
with no mental reservation, “that all the protection which, consistently
with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully
given to all the States when lawfully demanded for whatever cause as
cheerfully to one section as to another.”

When, however, these magnanimous overtures for peace and reunion were
rejected; when the seceding States defied the Constitution and every
clause and principle of it; when they persisted in staying out of the
Union from which they had seceded, and proceeded to carve out of its
territory a new and hostile empire based on slavery; when they flew at
the throat of the nation and plunged it into the bloodiest war of the
nineteenth century the tables were turned, and the belief gradually came
to the mind of the President that if the Rebellion was not soon subdued
by force of arms, if the war must be fought out to the bitter end, then
to reach that end the salvation of the nation itself might require
the destruction of slavery wherever it existed; that if the war was to
continue on one side for Disunion, for no other purpose than to preserve
slavery, it must continue on the other side for the Union, to destroy

As he said, “Events control me; I cannot control events,” and as the
dreadful war progressed and became more deadly and dangerous, the
unalterable conviction was forced upon him that, in order that the
frightful sacrifice of life and treasure on both sides might not be all
in vain, it had become his duty as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, as
a necessary war measure, to strike a blow at the Rebellion which,
all others failing, would inevitably lead to its annihilation, by
annihilating the very thing for which it was contending. His own words
are the best:

“I understood that my oath to preserve the Constitution to the best of
my ability imposed upon me the duty of preserving by every indispensable
means that government–that nation–of which that Constitution was the
organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation and yet preserve the
Constitution? By general law, life and limb must be protected, yet often
a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely
given to save a limb. I felt that measures otherwise unconstitutional
might become lawful by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the
Constitution through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I
assumed this ground and now avow it. I could not feel that to the best
of my ability I had ever tried to preserve the Constitution if to save
slavery or any minor matter I should permit the wreck of government,
country, and Constitution all together.”

And so, at last, when in his judgment the indispensable necessity had
come, he struck the fatal blow, and signed the proclamation which has
made his name immortal. By it, the President, as Commander-in-Chief in
time of actual armed rebellion, and as a fit and necessary war measure
for suppressing the rebellion, proclaimed all persons held as slaves
in the States and parts of States then in rebellion to be thenceforward
free, and declared that the executive, with the army and navy, would
recognize and maintain their freedom.

In the other great steps of the government, which led to the triumphant
prosecution of the war, he necessarily shared the responsibility and the
credit with the great statesmen who stayed up his hands in his cabinet,
with Seward, Chase and Stanton, and the rest,–and with his generals and
admirals, his soldiers and sailors, but this great act was absolutely
his own. The conception and execution were exclusively his. He laid it
before his cabinet as a measure on which his mind was made up and could
not be changed, asking them only for suggestions as to details. He chose
the time and the circumstances under which the Emancipation should be
proclaimed and when it should take effect.

It came not an hour too soon; but public opinion in the North would not
have sustained it earlier. In the first eighteen months of the war its
ravages had extended from the Atlantic to beyond the Mississippi. Many
victories in the West had been balanced and paralyzed by inaction
and disasters in Virginia, only partially redeemed by the bloody and
indecisive battle of Antietam; a reaction had set in from the general
enthusiasm which had swept the Northern States after the assault upon
Sumter. It could not truly be said that they had lost heart, but faction
was raising its head. Heard through the land like the blast of a
bugle, the proclamation rallied the patriotism of the country to fresh
sacrifices and renewed ardor. It was a step that could not be revoked.
It relieved the conscience of the nation from an incubus that had
oppressed it from its birth. The United States were rescued from the
false predicament in which they had been from the beginning, and the
great popular heart leaped with new enthusiasm for “Liberty and Union,
henceforth and forever, one and inseparable.” It brought not only moral
but material support to the cause of the government, for within two
years 120,000 colored troops were enlisted in the military service and
following the national flag, supported by all the loyalty of the North,
and led by its choicest spirits. One mother said, when her son was
offered the command of the first colored regiment, “If he accepts it
I shall be as proud as if I had heard that he was shot.” He was shot
heading a gallant charge of his regiment…. The Confederates replied to
a request of his friends for his body that they had “buried him under a
layer of his niggers…;” but that mother has lived to enjoy thirty-six
years of his glory, and Boston has erected its noblest monument to his

The effect of the proclamation upon the actual progress of the war was
not immediate, but wherever the Federal armies advanced they carried
freedom with them, and when the summer came round the new spirit and
force which had animated the heart of the government and people were
manifest. In the first week of July the decisive battle of Gettysburg
turned the tide of war, and the fall of Vicksburg made the great river
free from its source to the Gulf.

On foreign nations the influence of the proclamation and of these new
victories was of great importance. In those days, when there was no
cable, it was not easy for foreign observers to appreciate what was
really going on; they could not see clearly the true state of affairs,
as in the last year of the nineteenth century we have been able, by our
new electric vision, to watch every event at the antipodes and observe
its effect. The Rebel emissaries, sent over to solicit intervention,
spared no pains to impress upon the minds of public and private men
and upon the press their own views of the character of the contest. The
prospects of the Confederacy were always better abroad than at home. The
stock markets of the world gambled upon its chances, and its bonds at
one time were high in favor.

Such ideas as these were seriously held: that the North was fighting for
empire and the South for independence; that the Southern States, instead
of being the grossest oligarchies, essentially despotisms, founded on
the right of one man to appropriate the fruit of other men’s toil and to
exclude them from equal rights, were real republics, feebler to be sure
than their Northern rivals, but representing the same idea of freedom,
and that the mighty strength of the nation was being put forth to
crush them; that Jefferson Davis and the Southern leaders had created
a nation; that the republican experiment had failed and the Union had
ceased to exist. But the crowning argument to foreign minds was that
it was an utter impossibility for the government to win in the contest;
that the success of the Southern States, so far as separation was
concerned, was as certain as any event yet future and contingent could
be; that the subjugation of the South by the North, even if it could be
accomplished, would prove a calamity to the United States and the world,
and especially calamitous to the negro race; and that such a victory
would necessarily leave the people of the South for many generations
cherishing deadly hostility against the government and the North, and
plotting always to recover their independence.

When Lincoln issued his proclamation he knew that all these ideas were
founded in error; that the national resources were inexhaustible;
that the government could and would win, and that if slavery were once
finally disposed of, the only cause of difference being out of the way,
the North and South would come together again, and by and by be as good
friends as ever. In many quarters abroad the proclamation was
welcomed with enthusiasm by the friends of America; but I think the
demonstrations in its favor that brought more gladness to Lincoln’s
heart than any other were the meetings held in the manufacturing
centres, by the very operatives upon whom the war bore the hardest,
expressing the most enthusiastic sympathy with the proclamation, while
they bore with heroic fortitude the grievous privations which the war
entailed upon them. Mr. Lincoln’s expectation when he announced to the
world that all slaves in all States then in rebellion were set free
must have been that the avowed position of his government, that the
continuance of the war now meant the annihilation of slavery, would make
intervention impossible for any foreign nation whose people were lovers
of liberty–and so the result proved.

The growth and development of Lincoln’s mental power and moral force, of
his intense and magnetic personality, after the vast responsibilities of
government were thrown upon him at the age of fifty-two, furnish a rare
and striking illustration of the marvellous capacity and adaptability of
the human intellect–of the sound mind in the sound body. He came to
the discharge of the great duties of the Presidency with absolutely no
experience in the administration of government, or of the vastly
varied and complicated questions of foreign and domestic policy which
immediately arose, and continued to press upon him during the rest of
his life; but he mastered each as it came, apparently with the facility
of a trained and experienced ruler. As Clarendon said of Cromwell, “His
parts seemed to be raised by the demands of great station.” His life
through it all was one of intense labor, anxiety, and distress, without
one hour of peaceful repose from first to last. But he rose to every
occasion. He led public opinion, but did not march so far in advance of
it as to fail of its effective support in every great emergency. He
knew the heart and thought of the people, as no man not in constant and
absolute sympathy with them could have known it, and so holding their
confidence, he triumphed through and with them. Not only was there this
steady growth of intellect, but the infinite delicacy of his nature and
its capacity for refinement developed also, as exhibited in the
purity and perfection of his language and style of speech. The rough
backwoodsman, who had never seen the inside of a university, became in
the end, by self-training and the exercise of his own powers of mind,
heart, and soul, a master of style, and some of his utterances will rank
with the best, the most perfectly adapted to the occasion which produced

Have you time to listen to his two-minutes speech at Gettysburg, at the
dedication of the Soldiers’ Cemetery? His whole soul was in it:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the
proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a
great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived
and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of
that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final
resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might
live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But
in a larger sense we cannot dedicate–we cannot consecrate–we cannot
hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here
have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The
world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here but it can
never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to
be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have
thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to
the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we
take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full
measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall
not have died in vain–that this nation under God shall have a new birth
of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, and for
the people shall not perish from the earth.”

He lived to see his work indorsed by an overwhelming majority of his
countrymen. In his second inaugural address, pronounced just forty days
before his death, there is a single passage which well displays his
indomitable will and at the same time his deep religious feeling,
his sublime charity to the enemies of his country, and his broad and
catholic humanity:

“If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offences
which in the Providence of God must needs come, but which, having
continued through the appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that
He gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to
those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure
from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always
ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this
mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it
continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsmen’s two hundred and
fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of
blood drawn with the lash shall be paid with another drawn by the sword,
as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘the
judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the
right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the
work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall
have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan to do all which
may achieve, and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and
with all nations.”

His prayer was answered. The forty days of life that remained to
him were crowned with great historic events. He lived to see
his Proclamation of Emancipation embodied in an amendment of the
Constitution, adopted by Congress, and submitted to the States for
ratification. The mighty scourge of war did speedily pass away, for it
was given him to witness the surrender of the Rebel army and the fall of
their capital, and the starry flag that he loved waving in triumph over
the national soil. When he died by the madman’s hand in the supreme hour
of victory, the vanquished lost their best friend, and the human race
one of its noblest examples; and all the friends of freedom and justice,
in whose cause he lived and died, joined hands as mourners at his grave.




March 9, 1832.

FELLOW CITIZENS:–Having become a candidate for the honorable office of
one of your Representatives in the next General Assembly of this State,
in according with an established custom and the principles of true
Republicanism it becomes my duty to make known to you, the people whom I
propose to represent, my sentiments with regard to local affairs.

Time and experience have verified to a demonstration the public utility
of internal improvements. That the poorest and most thinly populated
countries would be greatly benefited by the opening of good roads, and
in the clearing of navigable streams within their limits, is what no
person will deny. Yet it is folly to undertake works of this or
any other without first knowing that we are able to finish them–as
half-finished work generally proves to be labor lost. There cannot
justly be any objection to having railroads and canals, any more than to
other good things, provided they cost nothing. The only objection is to
paying for them; and the objection arises from the want of ability to

With respect to the County of Sangamon, some….

Yet, however desirable an object the construction of a railroad through
our country may be, however high our imaginations may be heated at
thoughts of it,–there is always a heart-appalling shock accompanying
the amount of its cost, which forces us to shrink from our pleasing
anticipations. The probable cost of this contemplated railroad is
estimated at $290,000; the bare statement of which, in my opinion, is
sufficient to justify the belief that the improvement of the Sangamon
River is an object much better suited to our infant resources…….

What the cost of this work would be, I am unable to say. It is probable,
however, that it would not be greater than is common to streams of the
same length. Finally, I believe the improvement of the Sangamon River
to be vastly important and highly desirable to the people of the county;
and, if elected, any measure in the Legislature having this for its
object, which may appear judicious, will meet my approbation and receive
my support.

It appears that the practice of loaning money at exorbitant rates of
interest has already been opened as a field for discussion; so I suppose
I may enter upon it without claiming the honor or risking the danger
which may await its first explorer. It seems as though we are never
to have an end to this baneful and corroding system, acting almost as
prejudicially to the general interests of the community as a direct tax
of several thousand dollars annually laid on each county for the benefit
of a few individuals only, unless there be a law made fixing the limits
of usury. A law for this purpose, I am of opinion, may be made without
materially injuring any class of people. In cases of extreme necessity,
there could always be means found to cheat the law; while in all other
cases it would have its intended effect. I would favor the passage of
a law on this subject which might not be very easily evaded. Let it be
such that the labor and difficulty of evading it could only be justified
in cases of greatest necessity.

Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan
or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most
important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every
man may receive at least a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to
read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly
appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object
of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the
advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read
the Scriptures, and other works both of a religious and moral nature,
for themselves.

For my part, I desire to see the time when education–and by its means,
morality, sobriety, enterprise, and industry–shall become much more
general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power
to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might
have a tendency to accelerate that happy period.

With regard to existing laws, some alterations are thought to be
necessary. Many respectable men have suggested that our estray laws, the
law respecting the issuing of executions, the road law, and some others,
are deficient in their present form, and require alterations. But,
considering the great probability that the framers of those laws were
wiser than myself, I should prefer not meddling with them, unless they
were first attacked by others; in which case I should feel it both a
privilege and a duty to take that stand which, in my view, might tend
most to the advancement of justice.

But, fellow-citizens, I shall conclude. Considering the great degree of
modesty which should always attend youth, it is probable I have already
been more presuming than becomes me. However, upon the subjects of
which I have treated, I have spoken as I have thought. I may be wrong in
regard to any or all of them; but, holding it a sound maxim that it is
better only sometimes to be right than at all times to be wrong, so soon
as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce

Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or
not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so great as that of being
truly esteemed of my fellow-men, by rendering myself worthy of their
esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition is yet to be
developed. I am young, and unknown to many of you. I was born, and have
ever remained, in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy
or popular relations or friends to recommend me. My case is thrown
exclusively upon the independent voters of the county; and, if
elected, they will have conferred a favor upon me for which I shall be
unremitting in my labors to compensate. But, if the good people in
their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too
familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.

Your friend and fellow-citizen, A. LINCOLN.

New Salem, March 9, 1832.



NEW SALEM, Aug. 10, 1833


Dear Sir:–In regard to the time David Rankin served the enclosed
discharge shows correctly–as well as I can recollect–having no writing
to refer. The transfer of Rankin from my company occurred as follows:
Rankin having lost his horse at Dixon’s ferry and having acquaintance in
one of the foot companies who were going down the river was desirous
to go with them, and one Galishen being an acquaintance of mine and
belonging to the company in which Rankin wished to go wished to leave
it and join mine, this being the case it was agreed that they should
exchange places and answer to each other’s names–as it was expected
we all would be discharged in very few days. As to a blanket–I have no
knowledge of Rankin ever getting any. The above embraces all the facts
now in my recollection which are pertinent to the case.

I shall take pleasure in giving any further information in my power
should you call on me.

Your friend, A. LINCOLN.




At your request I send you a receipt for the postage on your paper. I am
somewhat surprised at your request. I will, however, comply with it.
The law requires newspaper postage to be paid in advance, and now that
I have waited a full year you choose to wound my feelings by insinuating
that unless you get a receipt I will probably make you pay it again.

Respectfully, A. LINCOLN.



New Salem, June 13, 1836.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE “JOURNAL”–In your paper of last Saturday I see
a communication, over the signature of “Many Voters,” in which the
candidates who are announced in the Journal are called upon to “show
their hands.” Agreed. Here’s mine.

I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in
bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for admitting all whites to
the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no means excluding

If elected, I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon my
constituents, as well those that oppose as those that support me.

While acting as their representative, I shall be governed by their will
on all subjects upon which I have the means of knowing what their will
is; and upon all others I shall do what my own judgment teaches me
will best advance their interests. Whether elected or not, I go for
distributing the proceeds of the sales of the public lands to the
several States, to enable our State, in common with others, to dig
canals and construct railroads without borrowing money and paying the
interest on it. If alive on the first Monday in November, I shall vote
for Hugh L. White for President.

Very respectfully, A. LINCOLN.



New Salem, June 21, 1836

DEAR COLONEL:–I am told that during my absence last week you passed
through this place, and stated publicly that you were in possession of a
fact or facts which, if known to the public, would entirely destroy the
prospects of N. W. Edwards and myself at the ensuing election; but that,
through favor to us, you should forbear to divulge them. No one has
needed favors more than I, and, generally, few have been less unwilling
to accept them; but in this case favor to me would be injustice to the
public, and therefore I must beg your pardon for declining it. That
I once had the confidence of the people of Sangamon, is sufficiently
evident; and if I have since done anything, either by design or
misadventure, which if known would subject me to a forfeiture of that
confidence, he that knows of that thing, and conceals it, is a traitor
to his country’s interest.

I find myself wholly unable to form any conjecture of what fact or
facts, real or supposed, you spoke; but my opinion of your veracity will
not permit me for a moment to doubt that you at least believed what you
said. I am flattered with the personal regard you manifested for me;
but I do hope that, on more mature reflection, you will view the public
interest as a paramount consideration, and therefore determine to let
the worst come. I here assure you that the candid statement of facts
on your part, however low it may sink me, shall never break the tie of
personal friendship between us. I wish an answer to this, and you are at
liberty to publish both, if you choose.

Very respectfully, A. LINCOLN.


VANDALIA, December 13, 1836.

MARY:–I have been sick ever since my arrival, or I should have written
sooner. It is but little difference, however, as I have very little
even yet to write. And more, the longer I can avoid the mortification
of looking in the post-office for your letter and not finding it, the
better. You see I am mad about that old letter yet. I don’t like very
well to risk you again. I’ll try you once more, anyhow.

The new State House is not yet finished, and consequently the
Legislature is doing little or nothing. The governor delivered an
inflammatory political message, and it is expected there will be some
sparring between the parties about it as soon as the two Houses get to
business. Taylor delivered up his petition for the new county to one
of our members this morning. I am told he despairs of its success, on
account of all the members from Morgan County opposing it. There are
names enough on the petition, I think, to justify the members from our
county in going for it; but if the members from Morgan oppose it, which
they say they will, the chance will be bad.

Our chance to take the seat of government to Springfield is better than
I expected. An internal-improvement convention was held there since we
met, which recommended a loan of several millions of dollars, on the
faith of the State, to construct railroads. Some of the Legislature are
for it, and some against it; which has the majority I cannot tell.
There is great strife and struggling for the office of the United States
Senator here at this time. It is probable we shall ease their pains in
a few days. The opposition men have no candidate of their own, and
consequently they will smile as complacently at the angry snarl of the
contending Van Buren candidates and their respective friends as the
Christian does at Satan’s rage. You recollect that I mentioned at the
outset of this letter that I had been unwell. That is the fact, though
I believe I am about well now; but that, with other things I cannot
account for, have conspired, and have gotten my spirits so low that I
feel that I would rather be any place in the world than here. I really
cannot endure the thought of staying here ten weeks. Write back as soon
as you get this, and, if possible, say something that will please me,
for really I have not been pleased since I left you. This letter is
so dry and stupid that I am ashamed to send it, but with my present
feelings I cannot do any better.

Give my best respects to Mr. and Mrs. Able and family.

Your friend, LINCOLN



January [?], 1837

Mr. CHAIRMAN:–Lest I should fall into the too common error of being
mistaken in regard to which side I design to be upon, I shall make it
my first care to remove all doubt on that point, by declaring that I am
opposed to the resolution under consideration, in toto. Before I proceed
to the body of the subject, I will further remark, that it is not
without a considerable degree of apprehension that I venture to cross
the track of the gentleman from Coles [Mr. Linder]. Indeed, I do not
believe I could muster a sufficiency of courage to come in contact with
that gentleman, were it not for the fact that he, some days since,
most graciously condescended to assure us that he would never be found
wasting ammunition on small game. On the same fortunate occasion,
he further gave us to understand, that he regarded himself as being
decidedly the superior of our common friend from Randolph [Mr. Shields];
and feeling, as I really do, that I, to say the most of myself, am
nothing more than the peer of our friend from Randolph, I shall
regard the gentleman from Coles as decidedly my superior also, and
consequently, in the course of what I shall have to say, whenever I
shall have occasion to allude to that gentleman, I shall endeavor
to adopt that kind of court language which I understand to be due to
decided superiority. In one faculty, at least, there can be no dispute
of the gentleman’s superiority over me and most other men, and that is,
the faculty of entangling a subject, so that neither himself, or
any other man, can find head or tail to it. Here he has introduced a
resolution embracing ninety-nine printed lines across common writing
paper, and yet more than one half of his opening speech has been made
upon subjects about which there is not one word said in his resolution.

Though his resolution embraces nothing in regard to the
constitutionality of the Bank, much of what he has said has been with
a view to make the impression that it was unconstitutional in its
inception. Now, although I am satisfied that an ample field may be found
within the pale of the resolution, at least for small game, yet, as
the gentleman has traveled out of it, I feel that I may, with all due
humility, venture to follow him. The gentleman has discovered that some
gentleman at Washington city has been upon the very eve of deciding our
Bank unconstitutional, and that he would probably have completed his
very authentic decision, had not some one of the Bank officers placed
his hand upon his mouth, and begged him to withhold it. The fact
that the individuals composing our Supreme Court have, in an official
capacity, decided in favor of the constitutionality of the Bank, would,
in my mind, seem a sufficient answer to this. It is a fact known to all,
that the members of the Supreme Court, together with the Governor, form
a Council of Revision, and that this Council approved this Bank charter.
I ask, then, if the extra-judicial decision not quite but almost made
by the gentleman at Washington, before whom, by the way, the question of
the constitutionality of our Bank never has, nor never can come–is to
be taken as paramount to a decision officially made by that tribunal,
by which, and which alone, the constitutionality of the Bank can ever be
settled? But, aside from this view of the subject, I would ask, if the
committee which this resolution proposes to appoint are to examine into
the Constitutionality of the Bank? Are they to be clothed with power to
send for persons and papers, for this object? And after they have found
the bank to be unconstitutional, and decided it so, how are they to
enforce their decision? What will their decision amount to? They cannot
compel the Bank to cease operations, or to change the course of its
operations. What good, then, can their labors result in? Certainly none.

The gentleman asks, if we, without an examination, shall, by giving the
State deposits to the Bank, and by taking the stock reserved for the
State, legalize its former misconduct. Now I do not pretend to possess
sufficient legal knowledge to decide whether a legislative enactment
proposing to, and accepting from, the Bank, certain terms, would have
the effect to legalize or wipe out its former errors, or not; but I can
assure the gentleman, if such should be the effect, he has already got
behind the settlement of accounts; for it is well known to all, that the
Legislature, at its last session, passed a supplemental Bank charter,
which the Bank has since accepted, and which, according to his doctrine,
has legalized all the alleged violations of its original charter in the
distribution of its stock.

I now proceed to the resolution. By examination it will be found that
the first thirty-three lines, being precisely one third of the whole,
relate exclusively to the distribution of the stock by the commissioners
appointed by the State. Now, Sir, it is clear that no question can arise
on this portion of the resolution, except a question between capitalists
in regard to the ownership of stock. Some gentlemen have their stock in
their hands, while others, who have more money than they know what to
do with, want it; and this, and this alone, is the question, to settle
which we are called on to squander thousands of the people’s money.
What interest, let me ask, have the people in the settlement of this
question? What difference is it to them whether the stock is owned by
Judge Smith or Sam Wiggins? If any gentleman be entitled to stock in the
Bank, which he is kept out of possession of by others, let him assert
his right in the Supreme Court, and let him or his antagonist, whichever
may be found in the wrong, pay the costs of suit. It is an old maxim,
and a very sound one, that he that dances should always pay the fiddler.
Now, Sir, in the present case, if any gentlemen, whose money is a burden
to them, choose to lead off a dance, I am decidedly opposed to the
people’s money being used to pay the fiddler. No one can doubt that the
examination proposed by this resolution must cost the State some ten or
twelve thousand dollars; and all this to settle a question in which
the people have no interest, and about which they care nothing. These
capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the
people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves we are
called upon to appropriate the people’s money to settle the quarrel.

I leave this part of the resolution and proceed to the remainder. It
will be found that no charge in the remaining part of the resolution, if
true, amounts to the violation of the Bank charter, except one, which I
will notice in due time. It might seem quite sufficient to say no more
upon any of these charges or insinuations than enough to show they are
not violations of the charter; yet, as they are ingeniously framed and
handled, with a view to deceive and mislead, I will notice in their
order all the most prominent of them. The first of these is in relation
to a connection between our Bank and several banking institutions in
other States. Admitting this connection to exist, I should like to see
the gentleman from Coles, or any other gentleman, undertake to show that
there is any harm in it. What can there be in such a connection, that
the people of Illinois are willing to pay their money to get a peep
into? By a reference to the tenth section of the Bank charter, any
gentleman can see that the framers of the act contemplated the holding
of stock in the institutions of other corporations. Why, then, is it,
when neither law nor justice forbids it, that we are asked to spend our
time and money in inquiring into its truth?

The next charge, in the order of time, is, that some officer, director,
clerk or servant of the Bank, has been required to take an oath of
secrecy in relation to the affairs of said Bank. Now, I do not know
whether this be true or false–neither do I believe any honest man
cares. I know that the seventh section of the charter expressly
guarantees to the Bank the right of making, under certain restrictions,
such by-laws as it may think fit; and I further know that the requiring
an oath of secrecy would not transcend those restrictions. What, then,
if the Bank has chosen to exercise this right? Whom can it injure? Does
not every merchant have his secret mark? and who is ever silly enough
to complain of it? I presume if the Bank does require any such oath of
secrecy, it is done through a motive of delicacy to those individuals
who deal with it. Why, Sir, not many days since, one gentleman upon this
floor, who, by the way, I have no doubt is now ready to join this hue
and cry against the Bank, indulged in a philippic against one of the
Bank officials, because, as he said, he had divulged a secret.

Immediately following this last charge, there are several insinuations
in the resolution, which are too silly to require any sort of notice,
were it not for the fact that they conclude by saying, “to the great
injury of the people at large.” In answer to this I would say that it
is strange enough, that the people are suffering these “great injuries,”
and yet are not sensible of it! Singular indeed that the people should
be writhing under oppression and injury, and yet not one among them
to be found to raise the voice of complaint. If the Bank be inflicting
injury upon the people, why is it that not a single petition is
presented to this body on the subject? If the Bank really be a
grievance, why is it that no one of the real people is found to ask
redress of it? The truth is, no such oppression exists. If it did, our
people would groan with memorials and petitions, and we would not be
permitted to rest day or night, till we had put it down. The people know
their rights, and they are never slow to assert and maintain them, when
they are invaded. Let them call for an investigation, and I shall ever
stand ready to respond to the call. But they have made no such call. I
make the assertion boldly, and without fear of contradiction, that no
man, who does not hold an office, or does not aspire to one, has ever
found any fault of the Bank. It has doubled the prices of the products
of their farms, and filled their pockets with a sound circulating
medium, and they are all well pleased with its operations. No, Sir, it
is the politician who is the first to sound the alarm (which, by
the way, is a false one.) It is he, who, by these unholy means, is
endeavoring to blow up a storm that he may ride upon and direct. It is
he, and he alone, that here proposes to spend thousands of the people’s
public treasure, for no other advantage to them than to make valueless
in their pockets the reward of their industry. Mr. Chairman, this work
is exclusively the work of politicians; a set of men who have interests
aside from the interests of the people, and who, to say the most of
them, are, taken as a mass, at least one long step removed from honest
men. I say this with the greater freedom, because, being a politician
myself, none can regard it as personal.

Again, it is charged, or rather insinuated, that officers of the Bank
have loaned money at usurious rates of interest. Suppose this to be
true, are we to send a committee of this House to inquire into it?
Suppose the committee should find it true, can they redress the injured
individuals? Assuredly not. If any individual had been injured in this
way, is there not an ample remedy to be found in the laws of the land?
Does the gentleman from Coles know that there is a statute standing in
full force making it highly penal for an individual to loan money at a
higher rate of interest than twelve per cent? If he does not he is too
ignorant to be placed at the head of the committee which his resolution
purposes and if he does, his neglect to mention it shows him to be too
uncandid to merit the respect or confidence of any one.

But besides all this, if the Bank were struck from existence, could
not the owners of the capital still loan it usuriously, as well as now?
whatever the Bank, or its officers, may have done, I know that
usurious transactions were much more frequent and enormous before the
commencement of its operations than they have ever been since.

The next insinuation is, that the Bank has refused specie payments.
This, if true is a violation of the charter. But there is not the
least probability of its truth; because, if such had been the fact, the
individual to whom payment was refused would have had an interest in
making it public, by suing for the damages to which the charter entitles
him. Yet no such thing has been done; and the strong presumption is,
that the insinuation is false and groundless.

From this to the end of the resolution, there is nothing that merits
attention–I therefore drop the particular examination of it.

By a general view of the resolution, it will be seen that a principal
object of the committee is to examine into, and ferret out, a mass of
corruption supposed to have been committed by the commissioners
who apportioned the stock of the Bank. I believe it is universally
understood and acknowledged that all men will ever act correctly unless
they have a motive to do otherwise. If this be true, we can only suppose
that the commissioners acted corruptly by also supposing that they were
bribed to do so. Taking this view of the subject, I would ask if the
Bank is likely to find it more difficult to bribe the committee of
seven, which, we are about to appoint, than it may have found it to
bribe the commissioners?

(Here Mr. Linder called to order. The Chair decided that Mr. Lincoln
was not out of order. Mr. Linder appealed to the House, but, before the
question was put, withdrew his appeal, saying he preferred to let the
gentleman go on; he thought he would break his own neck. Mr. Lincoln

Another gracious condescension! I acknowledge it with gratitude. I know
I was not out of order; and I know every sensible man in the House knows
it. I was not saying that the gentleman from Coles could be bribed, nor,
on the other hand, will I say he could not. In that particular I leave
him where I found him. I was only endeavoring to show that there was at
least as great a probability of any seven members that could be selected
from this House being bribed to act corruptly, as there was that the
twenty-four commissioners had been so bribed. By a reference to
the ninth section of the Bank charter, it will be seen that those
commissioners were John Tilson, Robert K. McLaughlin, Daniel Warm, A.G.
S. Wight, John C. Riley, W. H. Davidson, Edward M. Wilson, Edward L.
Pierson, Robert R. Green, Ezra Baker, Aquilla Wren, John Taylor, Samuel
C. Christy, Edmund Roberts, Benjamin Godfrey, Thomas Mather, A. M.
Jenkins, W. Linn, W. S. Gilman, Charles Prentice, Richard I. Hamilton,
A.H. Buckner, W. F. Thornton, and Edmund D. Taylor.

These are twenty-four of the most respectable men in the State. Probably
no twenty-four men could be selected in the State with whom the people
are better acquainted, or in whose honor and integrity they would
more readily place confidence. And I now repeat, that there is less
probability that those men have been bribed and corrupted, than that
any seven men, or rather any six men, that could be selected from the
members of this House, might be so bribed and corrupted, even though
they were headed and led on by “decided superiority” himself.

In all seriousness, I ask every reasonable man, if an issue be joined
by these twenty-four commissioners, on the one part, and any other
seven men, on the other part, and the whole depend upon the honor and
integrity of the contending parties, to which party would the greatest
degree of credit be due? Again: Another consideration is, that we have
no right to make the examination. What I shall say upon this head I
design exclusively for the law-loving and law-abiding part of the House.
To those who claim omnipotence for the Legislature, and who in the
plenitude of their assumed powers are disposed to disregard the
Constitution, law, good faith, moral right, and everything else, I have
not a word to say. But to the law-abiding part I say, examine the Bank
charter, go examine the Constitution, go examine the acts that the
General Assembly of this State has passed, and you will find just as
much authority given in each and every of them to compel the Bank to
bring its coffers to this hall and to pour their contents upon this
floor, as to compel it to submit to this examination which this
resolution proposes. Why, Sir, the gentleman from Coles, the mover of
this resolution, very lately denied on this floor that the Legislature
had any right to repeal or otherwise meddle with its own acts, when
those acts were made in the nature of contracts, and had been accepted
and acted on by other parties. Now I ask if this resolution does not
propose, for this House alone, to do what he, but the other day, denied
the right of the whole Legislature to do? He must either abandon the
position he then took, or he must now vote against his own resolution.
It is no difference to me, and I presume but little to any one else,
which he does.

I am by no means the special advocate of the Bank. I have long thought
that it would be well for it to report its condition to the General
Assembly, and that cases might occur, when it might be proper to make an
examination of its affairs by a committee. Accordingly, during the
last session, while a bill supplemental to the Bank charter was pending
before the House, I offered an amendment to the same, in these words:
“The said corporation shall, at the next session of the General
Assembly, and at each subsequent General Session, during the existence
of its charter, report to the same the amount of debts due from said
corporation; the amount of debts due to the same; the amount of specie
in its vaults, and an account of all lands then owned by the same, and
the amount for which such lands have been taken; and moreover, if said
corporation shall at any time neglect or refuse to submit its books,
papers, and all and everything necessary for a full and fair examination
of its affairs, to any person or persons appointed by the General
Assembly, for the purpose of making such examination, the said
corporation shall forfeit its charter.”

This amendment was negatived by a vote of 34 to 15. Eleven of the 34 who
voted against it are now members of this House; and though it would
be out of order to call their names, I hope they will all recollect
themselves, and not vote for this examination to be made without
authority, inasmuch as they refused to receive the authority when it was
in their power to do so.

I have said that cases might occur, when an examination might be proper;
but I do not believe any such case has now occurred; and if it has,
I should still be opposed to making an examination without legal
authority. I am opposed to encouraging that lawless and mobocratic
spirit, whether in relation to the Bank or anything else, which is
already abroad in the land and is spreading with rapid and fearful
impetuosity, to the ultimate overthrow of every institution, of every
moral principle, in which persons and property have hitherto found

But supposing we had the authority, I would ask what good can result
from the examination? Can we declare the Bank unconstitutional, and
compel it to desist from the abuses of its power, provided we find such
abuses to exist? Can we repair the injuries which it may have done to
individuals? Most certainly we can do none of these things. Why
then shall we spend the public money in such employment? Oh, say the
examiners, we can injure the credit of the Bank, if nothing else, Please
tell me, gentlemen, who will suffer most by that? You cannot injure, to
any extent, the stockholders. They are men of wealth–of large capital;
and consequently, beyond the power of malice. But by injuring the credit
of the Bank, you will depreciate the value of its paper in the hands of
the honest and unsuspecting farmer and mechanic, and that is all you can
do. But suppose you could effect your whole purpose; suppose you could
wipe the Bank from existence, which is the grand ultimatum of the
project, what would be the consequence? why, Sir, we should spend
several thousand dollars of the public treasure in the operation,
annihilate the currency of the State, render valueless in the hands of
our people that reward of their former labors, and finally be once more
under the comfortable obligation of paying the Wiggins loan, principal
and interest.



January 27, 1837.

As a subject for the remarks of the evening, “The Perpetuation of our
Political Institutions” is selected.

In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American
people, find our account running under date of the nineteenth century of
the Christian era. We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the
fairest portion of the earth as regards extent of territory, fertility
of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the
government of a system of political institutions conducing more
essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty than any of which
the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of
existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental
blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them;
they are a legacy bequeathed us by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic,
but now lamented and departed, race of ancestors. Theirs was the
task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through
themselves us, of this goodly land, and to uprear upon its hills and its
valleys a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; it is ours only
to transmit these–the former unprofaned by the foot of an invader, the
latter undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation–to the
latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task
gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and
love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully
to perform.

How then shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the approach
of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect
some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a
blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with
all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military
chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink
from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer:
If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from
abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and
finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die
by suicide.

I hope I am over-wary; but if I am not, there is even now something
of ill omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which
pervades the country–the growing disposition to substitute the wild and
furious passions in lieu of the sober judgment of courts, and the
worse than savage mobs for the executive ministers of justice. This
disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now
exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a
violation of truth and an insult to our intelligence to deny. Accounts
of outrages committed by mobs form the everyday news of the times.
They have pervaded the country from New England to Louisiana; they are
neither peculiar to the eternal snows of the former nor the burning suns
of the latter; they are not the creature of climate, neither are they
confined to the slave holding or the non-slave holding States. Alike
they spring up among the pleasure-hunting masters of Southern slaves,
and the order-loving citizens of the land of steady habits. Whatever
then their cause may be, it is common to the whole country.

It would be tedious as well as useless to recount the horrors of all of
them. Those happening in the State of Mississippi and at St. Louis are
perhaps the most dangerous in example and revolting to humanity. In the
Mississippi case they first commenced by hanging the regular gamblers–a
set of men certainly not following for a livelihood a very useful or
very honest occupation, but one which, so far from being forbidden by
the laws, was actually licensed by an act of the Legislature passed but
a single year before. Next, negroes suspected of conspiring to raise an
insurrection were caught up and hanged in all parts of the State;
then, white men supposed to be leagued with the negroes; and finally,
strangers from neighboring States, going thither on business, were in
many instances subjected to the same fate. Thus went on this process of
hanging, from gamblers to negroes, from negroes to white citizens, and
from these to strangers, till dead men were seen literally dangling
from the boughs of trees upon every roadside, and in numbers almost
sufficient to rival the native Spanish moss of the country as a drapery
of the forest.

Turn then to that horror-striking scene at St. Louis. A single victim
only was sacrificed there. This story is very short, and is perhaps
the most highly tragic of anything of its length that has ever been
witnessed in real life. A mulatto man by the name of McIntosh was seized
in the street, dragged to the suburbs of the city, chained to a tree,
and actually burned to death; and all within a single hour from the time
he had been a freeman attending to his own business and at peace with
the world.

Such are the effects of mob law, and such are the scenes becoming more
and more frequent in this land so lately famed for love of law and
order, and the stories of which have even now grown too familiar to
attract anything more than an idle remark.

But you are perhaps ready to ask, “What has this to do with the
perpetuation of our political institutions?” I answer, It has much to
do with it. Its direct consequences are, comparatively speaking, but
a small evil, and much of its danger consists in the proneness of
our minds to regard its direct as its only consequences. Abstractly
considered, the hanging of the gamblers at Vicksburg was of but little
consequence. They constitute a portion of population that is worse than
useless in any community; and their death, if no pernicious example be
set by it, is never matter of reasonable regret with any one. If
they were annually swept from the stage of existence by the plague or
smallpox, honest men would perhaps be much profited by the operation.
Similar too is the correct reasoning in regard to the burning of the
negro at St. Louis. He had forfeited his life by the perpetration of an
outrageous murder upon one of the most worthy and respectable citizens
of the city, and had he not died as he did, he must have died by the
sentence of the law in a very short time afterwards. As to him alone,
it was as well the way it was as it could otherwise have been. But the
example in either case was fearful. When men take it in their heads
to-day to hang gamblers or burn murderers, they should recollect that in
the confusion usually attending such transactions they will be as likely
to hang or burn some one who is neither a gambler nor a murderer as one
who is, and that, acting upon the example they set, the mob of to-morrow
may, and probably will, hang or burn some of them by the very same
mistake. And not only so: the innocent, those who have ever set their
faces against violations of law in every shape, alike with the guilty
fall victims to the ravages of mob law; and thus it goes on, step by
step, till all the walls erected for the defense of the persons and
property of individuals are trodden down and disregarded. But all this,
even, is not the full extent of the evil. By such examples, by instances
of the perpetrators of such acts going unpunished, the lawless in spirit
are encouraged to become lawless in practice; and having been used to
no restraint but dread of punishment, they thus become absolutely
unrestrained. Having ever regarded government as their deadliest bane,
they make a jubilee of the suspension of its operations, and pray for
nothing so much as its total annihilation. While, on the other hand,
good men, men who love tranquillity, who desire to abide by the laws and
enjoy their benefits, who would gladly spill their blood in the defense
of their country, seeing their property destroyed, their families
insulted, and their lives endangered, their persons injured, and seeing
nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better, become tired
of and disgusted with a government that offers them no protection, and
are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing
to lose. Thus, then, by the operation of this mobocratic spirit which
all must admit is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of
any government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may
effectually be broken down and destroyed–I mean the attachment of the
people. Whenever this effect shall be produced among us; whenever the
vicious portion of population shall be permitted to gather in bands
of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob
provision-stores, throw printing presses into rivers, shoot editors, and
hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure and with impunity, depend on
it, this government cannot last. By such things the feelings of the best
citizens will become more or less alienated from it, and thus it will
be left without friends, or with too few, and those few too weak to
make their friendship effectual. At such a time, and under such
circumstances, men of sufficient talent and ambition will not be wanting
to seize the opportunity, strike the blow, and overturn that fair fabric
which for the last half century has been the fondest hope of the lovers
of freedom throughout the world.

I know the American people are much attached to their government; I know
they would suffer much for its sake; I know they would endure evils
long and patiently before they would ever think of exchanging it for
another,–yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually
despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons
and property are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob,
the alienation of their affections from the government is the natural
consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come.

Here, then, is one point at which danger may be expected.

The question recurs, How shall we fortify against it? The answer is
simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well-wisher to
his posterity swear by the blood of the Revolution never to violate
in the least particular the laws of the country, and never to tolerate
their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the
support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the
Constitution and laws let every American pledge his life, his property,
and his sacred honor. Let every man remember that to violate the law is
to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his
own and his children’s liberty. Let reverence for the laws be breathed
by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap;
let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be
written in primers, spelling books, and in almanacs; let it be preached
from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts
of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the
nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the
grave and the gay of all sexes and tongues and colors and conditions,
sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling such as this shall universally or even
very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort,
and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

When, I so pressingly urge a strict observance of all the laws, let me
not be understood as saying there are no bad laws, or that grievances
may not arise for the redress of which no legal provisions have been
made. I mean to say no such thing. But I do mean to say that although
bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible, still,
while they continue in force, for the sake of example they should be
religiously observed. So also in unprovided cases. If such arise, let
proper legal provisions be made for them with the least possible delay,
but till then let them, if not too intolerable, be borne with.

There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law. In any
case that may arise, as, for instance, the promulgation of abolitionism,
one of two positions is necessarily true–that is, the thing is right
within itself, and therefore deserves the protection of all law and all
good citizens, or it is wrong, and therefore proper to be prohibited by
legal enactments; and in neither case is the interposition of mob law
either necessary, justifiable, or excusable.

But it may be asked, Why suppose danger to our political institutions?
Have we not preserved them for more than fifty years? And why may we not
for fifty times as long?

We hope there is no sufficient reason. We hope all danger may be
overcome; but to conclude that no danger may ever arise would itself be
extremely dangerous. There are now, and will hereafter be, many causes,
dangerous in their tendency, which have not existed heretofore, and
which are not too insignificant to merit attention. That our government
should have been maintained in its original form, from its establishment
until now, is not much to be wondered at. It had many props to support
it through that period, which now are decayed and crumbled away. Through
that period it was felt by all to be an undecided experiment; now it is
understood to be a successful one. Then, all that sought celebrity
and fame and distinction expected to find them in the success of that
experiment. Their all was staked upon it; their destiny was inseparably
linked with it. Their ambition aspired to display before an admiring
world a practical demonstration of the truth of a proposition which had
hitherto been considered at best no better than problematical–namely,
the capability of a people to govern themselves. If they succeeded they
were to be immortalized; their names were to be transferred to counties,
and cities, and rivers, and mountains; and to be revered and sung,
toasted through all time. If they failed, they were to be called
knaves and fools, and fanatics for a fleeting hour; then to sink and be
forgotten. They succeeded. The experiment is successful, and thousands
have won their deathless names in making it so. But the game is caught;
and I believe it is true that with the catching end the pleasures of
the chase. This field of glory is harvested, and the crop is already
appropriated. But new reapers will arise, and they too will seek a
field. It is to deny what the history of the world tells us is true, to
suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring
up amongst us. And when they do, they will as naturally seek the
gratification of their ruling passion as others have done before them.
The question then is, Can that gratification be found in supporting
and in maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most
certainly it cannot. Many great and good men, sufficiently qualified for
any task they should undertake, may ever be found whose ambition would
aspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a Gubernatorial or a
Presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion, or
the tribe of the eagle. What! think you these places would satisfy an
Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon? Never! Towering genius disdains
a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored. It sees no
distinction in adding story to story upon the monuments of fame erected
to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve
under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor,
however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and if
possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves
or enslaving freemen. Is it unreasonable, then, to expect that some man
possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to
push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time spring up among us? And
when such an one does it will require the people to be united with each
other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent,
to successfully frustrate his designs.

Distinction will be his paramount object, and although he would as
willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm, yet,
that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of
building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.

Here then is a probable case, highly dangerous, and such an one as could
not have well existed heretofore.

Another reason which once was, but which, to the same extent, is now no
more, has done much in maintaining our institutions thus far. I mean the
powerful influence which the interesting scenes of the Revolution had
upon the passions of the people as distinguished from their judgment. By
this influence, the jealousy, envy, and avarice incident to our nature,
and so common to a state of peace, prosperity, and conscious strength,
were for the time in a great measure smothered and rendered inactive,
while the deep-rooted principles of hate, and the powerful motive of
revenge, instead of being turned against each other, were directed
exclusively against the British nation. And thus, from the force of
circumstances, the basest principles of our nature were either made to
lie dormant, or to become the active agents in the advancement of
the noblest of causes–that of establishing and maintaining civil and
religious liberty.

But this state of feeling must fade, is fading, has faded, with the
circumstances that produced it.

I do not mean to say that the scenes of the Revolution are now or ever
will be entirely forgotten, but that, like everything else, they must
fade upon the memory of the world, and grow more and more dim by the
lapse of time. In history, we hope, they will be read of, and recounted,
so long as the Bible shall be read; but even granting that they will,
their influence cannot be what it heretofore has been. Even then they
cannot be so universally known nor so vividly felt as they were by the
generation just gone to rest. At the close of that struggle, nearly
every adult male had been a participator in some of its scenes. The
consequence was that of those scenes, in the form of a husband, a
father, a son, or a brother, a living history was to be found in
every family–a history bearing the indubitable testimonies of its own
authenticity, in the limbs mangled, in the scars of wounds received, in
the midst of the very scenes related–a history, too, that could be read
and understood alike by all, the wise and the ignorant, the learned and
the unlearned. But those histories are gone. They can be read no more
forever. They were a fortress of strength; but what invading foeman
could never do the silent artillery of time has done–the leveling of
its walls. They are gone. They were a forest of giant oaks; but the
all-restless hurricane has swept over them, and left only here and
there a lonely trunk, despoiled of its verdure, shorn of its foliage,
unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a few more gentle breezes, and to
combat with its mutilated limbs a few more ruder storms, then to sink
and be no more.

They were pillars of the temple of liberty; and now that they have
crumbled away that temple must fall unless we, their descendants, supply
their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober
reason. Passion has helped us, but can do so no more. It will in future
be our enemy. Reason cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason–must
furnish all the materials for our future support and defense. Let those
materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and
in particular, a reverence for the Constitution and laws; and that we
improved to the last, that we remained free to the last, that we revered
his name to the last, that during his long sleep we permitted no hostile
foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place, shall be that which to
learn the last trump shall awaken our Washington.

Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its
basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution,
“the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”


March 3, 1837.

The following protest was presented to the House, which was read and
ordered to be spread in the journals, to wit:

“Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both
branches of the General Assembly at its present session, the undersigned
hereby protest against the passage of the same.

“They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both
injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition
doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils.

“They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power under
the Constitution to interfere with the institution of slavery in the
different States.

“They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power,
under the Constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia,
but that the power ought not to be exercised, unless at the request of
the people of the District.

“The difference between these opinions and those contained in the said
resolutions is their reason for entering this protest.



“Representatives from the County of Sangamon.”


SPRINGFIELD, May 7, 1837.


FRIEND MARY:–I have commenced two letters to send you before this, both
of which displeased me before I got half done, and so I tore them up.
The first I thought was not serious enough, and the second was on the
other extreme. I shall send this, turn out as it may.

This thing of living in Springfield is rather a dull business, after
all; at least it is so to me. I am quite as lonesome here as I ever was
anywhere in my life. I have been spoken to by but one woman since I have
been here, and should not have been by her if she could have avoided it.
I ‘ve never been to church yet, and probably shall not be soon. I stay
away because I am conscious I should not know how to behave myself.

I am often thinking of what we said about your coming to live at
Springfield. I am afraid you would not be satisfied. There is a great
deal of flourishing about in carriages here, which it would be your doom
to see without sharing it. You would have to be poor, without the means
of hiding your poverty. Do you believe you could bear that patiently?
Whatever woman may cast her lot with mine, should any ever do so, it is
my intention to do all in my power to make her happy and contented; and
there is nothing I can imagine that would make me more unhappy than to
fail in the effort. I know I should be much happier with you than the
way I am, provided I saw no signs of discontent in you. What you have
said to me may have been in the way of jest, or I may have misunderstood
you. If so, then let it be forgotten; if otherwise, I much wish you
would think seriously before you decide. What I have said I will most
positively abide by, provided you wish it. My opinion is that you had
better not do it. You have not been accustomed to hardship, and it may
be more severe than you now imagine. I know you are capable of thinking
correctly on any subject, and if you deliberate maturely upon this
subject before you decide, then I am willing to abide your decision.

You must write me a good long letter after you get this. You have
nothing else to do, and though it might not seem interesting to you
after you had written it, it would be a good deal of company to me in
this “busy wilderness.” Tell your sister I don’t want to hear any more
about selling out and moving. That gives me the “hypo” whenever I think
of it.

Yours, etc., LINCOLN.



DEAR SIR:-Mr. Edwards tells me you wish to know whether the act to which
your own incorporation provision was attached passed into a law. It
did. You can organize under the general incorporation law as soon as you

I also tacked a provision onto a fellow’s bill to authorize the
relocation of the road from Salem down to your town, but I am not
certain whether or not the bill passed, neither do I suppose I can
ascertain before the law will be published, if it is a law. Bowling
Greene, Bennette Abe? and yourself are appointed to make the change. No
news. No excitement except a little about the election of Monday next.

I suppose, of course, our friend Dr. Heney stands no chance in your

Your friend and humble servant, A. LINCOLN.


SPRINGFIELD, Aug. 16, 1837

FRIEND MARY: You will no doubt think it rather strange that I should
write you a letter on the same day on which we parted, and I can only
account for it by supposing that seeing you lately makes me think of you
more than usual; while at our late meeting we had but few expressions
of thoughts. You must know that I cannot see you, or think of you, with
entire indifference; and yet it may be that you are mistaken in regard
to what my real feelings toward you are.

If I knew you were not, I should not have troubled you with this letter.
Perhaps any other man would know enough without information; but I
consider it my peculiar right to plead ignorance, and your bounden duty
to allow the plea.

I want in all cases to do right; and most particularly so in all cases
with women.

I want, at this particular time, more than any thing else to do right
with you; and if I knew it would be doing right, as I rather suspect it
would, to let you alone I would do it. And, for the purpose of making
the matter as plain as possible, I now say that you can drop the
subject, dismiss your thoughts (if you ever had any) from me for ever
and leave this letter unanswered without calling forth one accusing
murmur from me. And I will even go further and say that, if it will add
anything to your comfort or peace of mind to do so, it is my sincere
wish that you should. Do not understand by this that I wish to cut your
acquaintance. I mean no such thing. What I do wish is that our further
acquaintance shall depend upon yourself. If such further acquaintance
would contribute nothing to your happiness, I am sure it would not to
mine. If you feel yourself in any degree bound to me, I am now willing
to release you, provided you wish it; while on the other hand I am
willing and even anxious to bind you faster if I can be convinced
that it will, in any considerable degree, add to your happiness. This,
indeed, is the whole question with me. Nothing would make me more
miserable than to believe you miserable, nothing more happy than to know
you were so.

In what I have now said, I think I cannot be misunderstood; and to make
myself understood is the only object of this letter.

If it suits you best not to answer this, farewell. A long life and
a merry one attend you. But, if you conclude to write back, speak as
plainly as I do. There can neither be harm nor danger in saying to me
anything you think, just in the manner you think it. My respects to your

Your friend, LINCOLN.




In accordance with our determination, as expressed last week, we present
to the reader the articles which were published in hand-bill form, in
reference to the case of the heirs of Joseph Anderson vs. James Adams.
These articles can now be read uninfluenced by personal or party
feeling, and with the sole motive of learning the truth. When that is
done, the reader can pass his own judgment on the matters at issue.

We only regret in this case, that the publications were not made some
weeks before the election. Such a course might have prevented the
expressions of regret, which have often been heard since, from different
individuals, on account of the disposition they made of their votes.

To the Public:

It is well known to most of you, that there is existing at this time
considerable excitement in regard to Gen. Adams’s titles to certain
tracts of land, and the manner in which he acquired them. As I
understand, the Gen. charges that the whole has been gotten up by a knot
of lawyers to injure his election; and as I am one of the knot to which
he refers, and as I happen to be in possession of facts connected with
the matter, I will, in as brief a manner as possible, make a statement
of them, together with the means by which I arrived at the knowledge of

Sometime in May or June last, a widow woman, by the name of Anderson,
and her son, who resides in Fulton county, came to Springfield, for
the purpose as they said of selling a ten acre lot of ground lying near
town, which they claimed as the property of the deceased husband and

When they reached town they found the land was claimed by Gen. Adams.
John T. Stuart and myself were employed to look into the matter, and if
it was thought we could do so with any prospect of success, to commence
a suit for the land. I went immediately to the recorder’s office to
examine Adams’s title, and found that the land had been entered by one
Dixon, deeded by Dixon to Thomas, by Thomas to one Miller, and by Miller
to Gen. Adams. The oldest of these three deeds was about ten or eleven
years old, and the latest more than five, all recorded at the same
time, and that within less than one year. This I thought a suspicious
circumstance, and I was thereby induced to examine the deeds very
closely, with a view to the discovery of some defect by which to
overturn the title, being almost convinced then it was founded in fraud.
I discovered that in the deed from Thomas to Miller, although Miller’s
name stood in a sort of marginal note on the record book, it was nowhere
in the deed itself. I told the fact to Talbott, the recorder, and
proposed to him that he should go to Gen. Adams’s and get the original
deed, and compare it with the record, and thereby ascertain whether
the defect was in the original or there was merely an error in the
recording. As Talbott afterwards told me, he went to the General’s, but
not finding him at home, got the deed from his son, which, when compared
with the record, proved what we had discovered was merely an error of
the recorder. After Mr. Talbott corrected the record, he brought the
original to our office, as I then thought and think yet, to show us
that it was right. When he came into the room he handed the deed to me,
remarking that the fault was all his own. On opening it, another paper
fell out of it, which on examination proved to be an assignment of a
judgment in the Circuit Court of Sangamon County from Joseph Anderson,
the late husband of the widow above named, to James Adams, the judgment
being in favor of said Anderson against one Joseph Miller. Knowing that
this judgment had some connection with the land affair, I immediately
took a copy of it, which is word for word, letter for letter and cross
for cross as follows:

Joseph Anderson, vs. Joseph Miller.

Judgment in Sangamon Circuit Court against Joseph Miller obtained on a
note originally 25 dolls and interest thereon accrued. I assign all my
right, title and interest to James Adams which is in consideration of a
debt I owe said Adams.

his JOSEPH x ANDERSON. mark.

As the copy shows, it bore date May 10, 1827; although the judgment
assigned by it was not obtained until the October afterwards, as may be
seen by any one on the records of the Circuit Court. Two other strange
circumstances attended it which cannot be represented by a copy. One of
them was, that the date “1827” had first been made “1837” and, without
the figure “3,” being fully obliterated, the figure “2” had afterwards
been made on top of it; the other was that, although the date was ten
years old, the writing on it, from the freshness of its appearance, was
thought by many, and I believe by all who saw it, not to be more than a
week old. The paper on which it was written had a very old appearance;
and there were some old figures on the back of it which made the
freshness of the writing on the face of it much more striking than I
suppose it otherwise might have been. The reader’s curiosity is no doubt
excited to know what connection this assignment had with the land in
question. The story is this: Dixon sold and deeded the land to Thomas;
Thomas sold it to Anderson; but before he gave a deed, Anderson sold it
to Miller, and took Miller’s note for the purchase money. When this
note became due, Anderson sued Miller on it, and Miller procured an
injunction from the Court of Chancery to stay the collection of the
money until he should get a deed for the land. Gen. Adams was employed
as an attorney by Anderson in this chancery suit, and at the October
term, 1827, the injunction was dissolved, and a judgment given in favor
of Anderson against Miller; and it was provided that Thomas was to
execute a deed for the land in favor of Miller and deliver it to Gen.
Adams, to be held up by him till Miller paid the judgment, and then to
deliver it to him. Miller left the county without paying the judgment.
Anderson moved to Fulton county, where he has since died When the widow
came to Springfield last May or June, as before mentioned, and found the
land deeded to Gen. Adams by Miller, she was naturally led to inquire
why the money due upon the judgment had not been sent to them, inasmuch
as he, Gen. Adams, had no authority to deliver Thomas’s deed to Miller
until the money was paid. Then it was the General told her, or perhaps
her son, who came with her, that Anderson, in his lifetime, had assigned
the judgment to him, Gen. Adams. I am now told that the General is
exhibiting an assignment of the same judgment bearing date “1828” and
in other respects differing from the one described; and that he is
asserting that no such assignment as the one copied by me ever existed;
or if there did, it was forged between Talbott and the lawyers, and
slipped into his papers for the purpose of injuring him. Now, I can only
say that I know precisely such a one did exist, and that Ben. Talbott,
Wm. Butler, C.R. Matheny, John T. Stuart, Judge Logan, Robert Irwin, P.
C. Canedy and S. M. Tinsley, all saw and examined it, and that at least
one half of them will swear that IT WAS IN GENERAL ADAMS’S HANDWRITING!!
And further, I know that Talbott will swear that he got it out of the
General’s possession, and returned it into his possession again. The
assignment which the General is now exhibiting purports to have been by
Anderson in writing. The one I copied was signed with a cross.

I am told that Gen. Neale says that he will swear that he heard Gen.
Adams tell young Anderson that the assignment made by his father was
signed with a cross.

The above are ‘facts,’ as stated. I leave them without comment. I have
given the names of persons who have knowledge of these facts, in order
that any one who chooses may call on them and ascertain how far they
will corroborate my statements. I have only made these statements
because I am known by many to be one of the individuals against whom
the charge of forging the assignment and slipping it into the General’s
papers has been made, and because our silence might be construed into
a confession of its truth. I shall not subscribe my name; but I hereby
authorize the editor of the Journal to give it up to any one that may
call for it.



In the Republican of this morning a publication of Gen. Adams’s appears,
in which my name is used quite unreservedly. For this I thank the
General. I thank him because it gives me an opportunity, without
appearing obtrusive, of explaining a part of a former publication of
mine, which appears to me to have been misunderstood by many.

In the former publication alluded to, I stated, in substance, that
Mr. Talbott got a deed from a son of Gen. Adams’s for the purpose of
correcting a mistake that had occurred on the record of the said deed
in the recorder’s office; that he corrected the record, and brought the
deed and handed it to me, and that on opening the deed, another paper,
being the assignment of a judgment, fell out of it. This statement
Gen. Adams and the editor of the Republican have seized upon as a most
palpable evidence of fabrication and falsehood. They set themselves
gravely about proving that the assignment could not have been in the
deed when Talbott got it from young Adams, as he, Talbott, would have
seen it when he opened the deed to correct the record. Now, the truth
is, Talbott did see the assignment when he opened the deed, or at least
he told me he did on the same day; and I only omitted to say so, in
my former publication, because it was a matter of such palpable and
necessary inference. I had stated that Talbott had corrected the record
by the deed; and of course he must have opened it; and, just as the
General and his friends argue, must have seen the assignment. I omitted
to state the fact of Talbott’s seeing the assignment, because its
existence was so necessarily connected with other facts which I did
state, that I thought the greatest dunce could not but understand
it. Did I say Talbott had not seen it? Did I say anything that was
inconsistent with his having seen it before? Most certainly I did
neither; and if I did not, what becomes of the argument? These logical
gentlemen can sustain their argument only by assuming that I did say
negatively everything that I did not say affirmatively; and upon the
same assumption, we may expect to find the General, if a little harder
pressed for argument, saying that I said Talbott came to our office with
his head downward, not that I actually said so, but because I omitted to
say he came feet downward.

In his publication to-day, the General produces the affidavit of Reuben
Radford, in which it is said that Talbott told Radford that he did not
find the assignment in the deed, in the recording of which the error
was committed, but that he found it wrapped in another paper in the
recorder’s office, upon which statement the Genl. comments as follows,
to wit: “If it be true as stated by Talbott to Radford, that he
found the assignment wrapped up in another paper at his office, that
contradicts the statement of Lincoln that it fell out of the deed.”

Is common sense to be abused with such sophistry? Did I say what Talbott
found it in? If Talbott did find it in another paper at his office, is
that any reason why he could not have folded it in a deed and brought
it to my office? Can any one be so far duped as to be made believe that
what may have happened at Talbot’s office at one time is inconsistent
with what happened at my office at another time?

Now Talbott’s statement of the case as he makes it to me is this, that
he got a bunch of deeds from young Adams, and that he knows he found the
assignment in the bunch, but he is not certain which particular deed it
was in, nor is he certain whether it was folded in the same deed out of
which it was taken, or another one, when it was brought to my office. Is
this a mysterious story? Is there anything suspicious about it?

“But it is useless to dwell longer on this point. Any man who is not
wilfully blind can see at a flash, that there is no discrepancy, and
Lincoln has shown that they are not only inconsistent with truth, but
each other”–I can only say, that I have shown that he has done no such
thing; and if the reader is disposed to require any other evidence than
the General’s assertion, he will be of my opinion.

Excepting the General’s most flimsy attempt at mystification, in regard
to a discrepance between Talbott and myself, he has not denied a single
statement that I made in my hand-bill. Every material statement that
I made has been sworn to by men who, in former times, were thought as
respectable as General Adams. I stated that an assignment of a judgment,
a copy of which I gave, had existed–Benj. Talbott, C. R. Matheny, Wm.
Butler, and Judge Logan swore to its existence. I stated that it was
said to be in Gen. Adams’s handwriting–the same men swore it was in
his handwriting. I stated that Talbott would swear that he got it out of
Gen. Adams’s possession–Talbott came forward and did swear it.

Bidding adieu to the former publication, I now propose to examine the
General’s last gigantic production. I now propose to point out some
discrepancies in the General’s address; and such, too, as he shall not
be able to escape from. Speaking of the famous assignment, the General
says: “This last charge, which was their last resort, their dying
effort to render my character infamous among my fellow citizens, was
manufactured at a certain lawyer’s office in the town, printed at the
office of the Sangamon Journal, and found its way into the world some
time between two days just before the last election.” Now turn to Mr.
Keys’ affidavit, in which you will find the following, viz.: “I
certify that some time in May or the early part of June, 1837, I saw
at Williams’s corner a paper purporting to be an assignment from Joseph
Anderson to James Adams, which assignment was signed by a mark to
Anderson’s name,” etc. Now mark, if Keys saw the assignment on the last
of May or first of June, Gen. Adams tells a falsehood when he says
it was manufactured just before the election, which was on the 7th of
August; and if it was manufactured just before the election, Keys tells
a falsehood when he says he saw it on the last of May or first of
June. Either Keys or the General is irretrievably in for it; and in the
General’s very condescending language, I say “Let them settle it between

Now again, let the reader, bearing in mind that General Adams has
unequivocally said, in one part of his address, that the charge in
relation to the assignment was manufactured just before the election,
turn to the affidavit of Peter S. Weber, where the following will be
found viz.: “I, Peter S. Weber, do certify that from the best of
my recollection, on the day or day after Gen. Adams started for the
Illinois Rapids, in May last, that I was at the house of Gen. Adams,
sitting in the kitchen, situated on the back part of the house, it being
in the afternoon, and that Benjamin Talbott came around the house, back
into the kitchen, and appeared wild and confused, and that he laid a
package of papers on the kitchen table and requested that they should be
handed to Lucian. He made no apology for coming to the kitchen, nor
for not handing them to Lucian himself, but showed the token of being
frightened and confused both in demeanor and speech and for what cause I
could not apprehend.”

Commenting on Weber’s affidavit, Gen. Adams asks, “Why this fright and
confusion?” I reply that this is a question for the General himself.
Weber says that it was in May, and if so, it is most clear that Talbott
was not frightened on account of the assignment, unless the General
lies when he says the assignment charge was manufactured just before the
election. Is it not a strong evidence, that the General is not traveling
with the pole-star of truth in his front, to see him in one part of
his address roundly asserting that the assignment was manufactured
just before the election, and then, forgetting that position, procuring
Weber’s most foolish affidavit, to prove that Talbott had been engaged
in manufacturing it two months before?

In another part of his address, Gen. Adams says: “That I hold an
assignment of said judgment, dated the 20th of May, 1828, and signed
by said Anderson, I have never pretended to deny or conceal, but stated
that fact in one of my circulars previous to the election, and also
in answer to a bill in chancery.” Now I pronounce this statement
unqualifiedly false, and shall not rely on the word or oath of any
man to sustain me in what I say; but will let the whole be decided by
reference to the circular and answer in chancery of which the General
speaks. In his circular he did speak of an assignment; but he did not
say it bore date 20th of May, 1828; nor did he say it bore any date. In
his answer in chancery, he did say that he had an assignment; but he
did not say that it bore date the 20th May, 1828; but so far from it, he
said on oath (for he swore to the answer) that as well as recollected,
he obtained it in 1827. If any one doubts, let him examine the circular
and answer for himself. They are both accessible.

It will readily be observed that the principal part of Adams’s defense
rests upon the argument that if he had been base enough to forge an
assignment he would not have been fool enough to forge one that would
not cover the case. This argument he used in his circular before the
election. The Republican has used it at least once, since then; and
Adams uses it again in his publication of to-day. Now I pledge myself to
show that he is just such a fool that he and his friends have contended
it was impossible for him to be. Recollect–he says he has a genuine
assignment; and that he got Joseph Klein’s affidavit, stating that he
had seen it, and that he believed the signature to have been executed
by the same hand that signed Anderson’s name to the answer in chancery.
Luckily Klein took a copy of this genuine assignment, which I have been
permitted to see; and hence I know it does not cover the case. In the
first place it is headed “Joseph Anderson vs. Joseph Miller,” and heads
off “Judgment in Sangamon Circuit Court.” Now, mark, there never was
a case in Sangamon Circuit Court entitled Joseph Anderson vs. Joseph
Miller. The case mentioned in my former publication, and the only
one between these parties that ever existed in the Circuit Court, was
entitled Joseph Miller vs. Joseph Anderson, Miller being the plaintiff.
What then becomes of all their sophistry about Adams not being fool
enough to forge an assignment that would not cover the case? It is
certain that the present one does not cover the case; and if he got
it honestly, it is still clear that he was fool enough to pay for an
assignment that does not cover the case.

The General asks for the proof of disinterested witnesses. Whom does he
consider disinterested? None can be more so than those who have already
testified against him. No one of them had the least interest on earth,
so far as I can learn, to injure him. True, he says they had conspired
against him; but if the testimony of an angel from Heaven were
introduced against him, he would make the same charge of conspiracy.
And now I put the question to every reflecting man, Do you believe that
Benjamin Talbott, Chas. R. Matheny, William Butler and Stephen T. Logan,
all sustaining high and spotless characters, and justly proud of them,
would deliberately perjure themselves, without any motive whatever,
except to injure a man’s election; and that, too, a man who had been a
candidate, time out of mind, and yet who had never been elected to any

Adams’s assurance, in demanding disinterested testimony, is surpassing.
He brings in the affidavit of his own son, and even of Peter S. Weber,
with whom I am not acquainted, but who, I suppose, is some black or
mulatto boy, from his being kept in the kitchen, to prove his points;
but when such a man as Talbott, a man who, but two years ago, ran
against Gen. Adams for the office of Recorder and beat him more than
four votes to one, is introduced against him, he asks the community,
with all the consequence of a lord, to reject his testimony.

I might easily write a volume, pointing out inconsistencies between
the statements in Adams’s last address with one another, and with other
known facts; but I am aware the reader must already be tired with
the length of this article. His opening statements, that he was first
accused of being a Tory, and that he refuted that; that then the
Sampson’s ghost story was got up, and he refuted that; that as a last
resort, a dying effort, the assignment charge was got up is all as false
as hell, as all this community must know. Sampson’s ghost first made
its appearance in print, and that, too, after Keys swears he saw the
assignment, as any one may see by reference to the files of papers; and
Gen. Adams himself, in reply to the Sampson’s ghost story, was the first
man that raised the cry of toryism, and it was only by way of set-off,
and never in seriousness, that it was bandied back at him. His effort is
to make the impression that his enemies first made the charge of toryism
and he drove them from that, then Sampson’s ghost, he drove them from
that, then finally the assignment charge was manufactured just before
election. Now, the only general reply he ever made to the Sampson’s
ghost and tory charges he made at one and the same time, and not in
succession as he states; and the date of that reply will show, that it
was made at least a month after the date on which Keys swears he saw the
Anderson assignment. But enough. In conclusion I will only say that I
have a character to defend as well as Gen. Adams, but I disdain to whine
about it as he does. It is true I have no children nor kitchen boys; and
if I had, I should scorn to lug them in to make affidavits for me.

A. LINCOLN, September 6, 1837.



“SANGAMON JOURNAL,” Springfield, Ill, Oct.28, 1837.

Such is the turn which things have taken lately, that when Gen. Adams
writes a book, I am expected to write a commentary on it. In the
Republican of this morning he has presented the world with a new work
of six columns in length; in consequence of which I must beg the room of
one column in the Journal. It is obvious that a minute reply cannot
be made in one column to everything that can be said in six; and,
consequently, I hope that expectation will be answered if I reply to
such parts of the General’s publication as are worth replying to.

It may not be improper to remind the reader that in his publication of
Sept. 6th General Adams said that the assignment charge was manufactured
just before the election; and that in reply I proved that statement to
be false by Keys, his own witness. Now, without attempting to explain,
he furnishes me with another witness (Tinsley) by which the same thing
is proved, to wit, that the assignment was not manufactured just before
the election; but that it was some weeks before. Let it be borne in mind
that Adams made this statement–has himself furnished two witnesses to
prove its falsehood, and does not attempt to deny or explain it. Before
going farther, let a pin be stuck here, labeled “One lie proved and
confessed.” On the 6th of September he said he had before stated in
the hand-bill that he held an assignment dated May 20th, 1828, which in
reply I pronounced to be false, and referred to the hand-bill for the
truth of what I said. This week he forgets to make any explanation of
this. Let another pin be stuck here, labelled as before. I mention these
things because, if, when I convict him in one falsehood, he is permitted
to shift his ground and pass it by in silence, there can be no end to
this controversy.

The first thing that attracts my attention in the General’s present
production is the information he is pleased to give to “those who are
made to suffer at his (my) hands.”

Under present circumstances, this cannot apply to me, for I am not
a widow nor an orphan: nor have I a wife or children who might by
possibility become such. Such, however, I have no doubt, have been,
and will again be made to suffer at his hands! Hands! Yes, they are
the mischievous agents. The next thing I shall notice is his favorite
expression, “not of lawyers, doctors and others,” which he is so fond of
applying to all who dare expose his rascality. Now, let it be remembered
that when he first came to this country he attempted to impose himself
upon the community as a lawyer, and actually carried the attempt so
far as to induce a man who was under a charge of murder to entrust the
defence of his life in his hands, and finally took his money and got
him hanged. Is this the man that is to raise a breeze in his favor by
abusing lawyers? If he is not himself a lawyer, it is for the lack of
sense, and not of inclination. If he is not a lawyer, he is a liar, for
he proclaimed himself a lawyer, and got a man hanged by depending on

Passing over such parts of the article as have neither fact nor argument
in them, I come to the question asked by Adams whether any person ever
saw the assignment in his possession. This is an insult to common sense.
Talbott has sworn once and repeated time and again, that he got it out
of Adams’s possession and returned it into the same possession. Still,
as though he was addressing fools, he has assurance to ask if any person
ever saw it in his possession.

Next I quote a sentence, “Now my son Lucian swears that when Talbott
called for the deed, that he, Talbott, opened it and pointed out the
error.” True. His son Lucian did swear as he says; and in doing so, he
swore what I will prove by his own affidavit to be a falsehood. Turn to
Lucian’s affidavit, and you will there see that Talbott called for the
deed by which to correct an error on the record. Thus it appears that
the error in question was on the record, and not in the deed. How then
could Talbott open the deed and point out the error? Where a thing is
not, it cannot be pointed out. The error was not in the deed, and of
course could not be pointed out there. This does not merely prove that
the error could not be pointed out, as Lucian swore it was; but it
proves, too, that the deed was not opened in his presence with a special
view to the error, for if it had been, he could not have failed to see
that there was no error in it. It is easy enough to see why Lucian swore
this. His object was to prove that the assignment was not in the deed
when Talbott got it: but it was discovered he could not swear this
safely, without first swearing the deed was opened–and if he swore it
was opened, he must show a motive for opening it, and the conclusion
with him and his father was that the pointing out the error would appear
the most plausible.

For the purpose of showing that the assignment was not in the bundle
when Talbott got it, is the story introduced into Lucian’s affidavit
that the deeds were counted. It is a remarkable fact, and one that
should stand as a warning to all liars and fabricators, that in this
short affidavit of Lucian’s he only attempted to depart from the truth,
so far as I have the means of knowing, in two points, to wit, in the
opening the deed and pointing out the error and the counting of the
deeds,–and in both of these he caught himself. About the counting, he
caught himself thus–after saying the bundle contained five deeds and
a lease, he proceeds, “and I saw no other papers than the said deed and
lease.” First he has six papers, and then he saw none but two; for “my
son Lucian’s” benefit, let a pin be stuck here.

Adams again adduces the argument, that he could not have forged the
assignment, for the reason that he could have had no motive for it. With
those that know the facts there is no absence of motive. Admitting the
paper which he has filed in the suit to be genuine, it is clear that it
cannot answer the purpose for which he designs it. Hence his motive for
making one that he supposed would answer is obvious. His making the date
too old is also easily enough accounted for. The records were not in his
hands, and then, there being some considerable talk upon this particular
subject, he knew he could not examine the records to ascertain the
precise dates without subjecting himself to suspicion; and hence he
concluded to try it by guess, and, as it turned out, missed it a little.
About Miller’s deposition I have a word to say. In the first place,
Miller’s answer to the first question shows upon its face that he had
been tampered with, and the answer dictated to him. He was asked if he
knew Joel Wright and James Adams; and above three-fourths of his answer
consists of what he knew about Joseph Anderson, a man about whom nothing
had been asked, nor a word said in the question–a fact that can only be
accounted for upon the supposition that Adams had secretly told him what
he wished him to swear to.

Another of Miller’s answers I will prove both by common sense and the
Court of Record is untrue. To one question he answers, “Anderson brought
a suit against me before James Adams, then an acting justice of the
peace in Sangamon County, before whom he obtained a judgment.

“Q.–Did you remove the same by injunction to the Sangamon Circuit
Court? Ans.–I did remove it.”

Now mark–it is said he removed it by injunction. The word “injunction”
in common language imports a command that some person or thing shall
not move or be removed; in law it has the same meaning. An injunction
issuing out of chancery to a justice of the peace is a command to him to
stop all proceedings in a named case until further orders. It is not an
order to remove but to stop or stay something that is already moving.
Besides this, the records of the Sangamon Circuit Court show that the
judgment of which Miller swore was never removed into said Court by
injunction or otherwise.

I have now to take notice of a part of Adams’s address which in the
order of time should have been noticed before. It is in these words:
“I have now shown, in the opinion of two competent judges, that the
handwriting of the forged assignment differed from mine, and by one of
them that it could not be mistaken for mine.” That is false. Tinsley no
doubt is the judge referred to; and by reference to his certificate it
will be seen that he did not say the handwriting of the assignment
could not be mistaken for Adams’s–nor did he use any other expression
substantially, or anything near substantially, the same. But if Tinsley
had said the handwriting could not be mistaken for Adams’s, it would
have been equally unfortunate for Adams: for it then would have
contradicted Keys, who says, “I looked at the writing and judged it the
said Adams’s or a good imitation.”

Adams speaks with much apparent confidence of his success on attending
lawsuits, and the ultimate maintenance of his title to the land in
question. Without wishing to disturb the pleasure of his dream, I would
say to him that it is not impossible that he may yet be taught to sing a
different song in relation to the matter.

At the end of Miller’s deposition, Adams asks, “Will Mr. Lincoln now say
that he is almost convinced my title to this ten acre tract of land
is founded in fraud?” I answer, I will not. I will now change the
phraseology so as to make it run–I am quite convinced, &c. I cannot
pass in silence Adams’s assertion that he has proved that the forged
assignment was not in the deed when it came from his house by Talbott,
the recorder. In this, although Talbott has sworn that the assignment
was in the bundle of deeds when it came from his house, Adams has
the unaccountable assurance to say that he has proved the contrary by
Talbott. Let him or his friends attempt to show wherein he proved any
such thing by Talbott.

In his publication of the 6th of September he hinted to Talbott, that
he might be mistaken. In his present, speaking of Talbott and me he says
“They may have been imposed upon.” Can any man of the least penetration
fail to see the object of this? After he has stormed and raged till he
hopes and imagines he has got us a little scared he wishes to softly
whisper in our ears, “If you’ll quit I will.” If he could get us to say
that some unknown, undefined being had slipped the assignment into
our hands without our knowledge, not a doubt remains but that he would
immediately discover that we were the purest men on earth. This is the
ground he evidently wishes us to understand he is willing to compromise
upon. But we ask no such charity at his hands. We are neither mistaken
nor imposed upon. We have made the statements we have because we know
them to be true and we choose to live or die by them.

Esq. Carter, who is Adams’s friend, personal and political, will
recollect, that, on the 5th of this month, he (Adams), with a great
affectation of modesty, declared that he would never introduce his own
child as a witness. Notwithstanding this affectation of modesty, he has
in his present publication introduced his child as witness; and as if to
show with how much contempt he could treat his own declaration, he
has had this same Esq. Carter to administer the oath to him. And so
important a witness does he consider him, and so entirely does the whole
of his entire present production depend upon the testimony of his child,
that in it he has mentioned “my son,” “my son Lucian,” “Lucian, my son,”
and the like expressions no less than fifteen different times. Let it
be remembered here, that I have shown the affidavit of “my darling son
Lucian” to be false by the evidence apparent on its own face; and I now
ask if that affidavit be taken away what foundation will the fabric have
left to stand upon?

General Adams’s publications and out-door maneuvering, taken in
connection with the editorial articles of the Republican, are not more
foolish and contradictory than they are ludicrous and amusing. One
week the Republican notifies the public that Gen. Adams is preparing
an instrument that will tear, rend, split, rive, blow up, confound,
overwhelm, annihilate, extinguish, exterminate, burst asunder, and grind
to powder all its slanderers, and particularly Talbott and Lincoln–all
of which is to be done in due time.

Then for two or three weeks all is calm–not a word said. Again the
Republican comes forth with a mere passing remark that “public” opinion
has decided in favor of Gen. Adams, and intimates that he will give
himself no more trouble about the matter. In the meantime Adams himself
is prowling about and, as Burns says of the devil, “For prey, and holes
and corners tryin’,” and in one instance goes so far as to take an old
acquaintance of mine several steps from a crowd and, apparently weighed
down with the importance of his business, gravely and solemnly asks him
if “he ever heard Lincoln say he was a deist.”

Anon the Republican comes again. “We invite the attention of the public
to General Adams’s communication,” &c. “The victory is a great one, the
triumph is overwhelming.” I really believe the editor of the Illinois
Republican is fool enough to think General Adams leads off–“Authors
most egregiously mistaken &c. Most woefully shall their presumption be
punished,” &c. (Lord have mercy on us.) “The hour is yet to come, yea,
nigh at hand–(how long first do you reckon?)–when the Journal and its
junto shall say, I have appeared too early.” “Their infamy shall be laid
bare to the public gaze.” Suddenly the General appears to relent at the
severity with which he is treating us and he exclaims: “The condemnation
of my enemies is the inevitable result of my own defense.” For your
health’s sake, dear Gen., do not permit your tenderness of heart to
afflict you so much on our account. For some reason (perhaps because we
are killed so quickly) we shall never be sensible of our suffering.

Farewell, General. I will see you again at court if not before–when and
where we will settle the question whether you or the widow shall have
the land.

A. LINCOLN. October 18, 1837.



SPRINGFIELD, April 1, 1838.

DEAR MADAM:–Without apologizing for being egotistical, I shall make the
history of so much of my life as has elapsed since I saw you the subject
of this letter. And, by the way, I now discover that, in order to give
a full and intelligible account of the things I have done and suffered
since I saw you, I shall necessarily have to relate some that happened

It was, then, in the autumn of 1836 that a married lady of my
acquaintance, and who was a great friend of mine, being about to pay a
visit to her father and other relatives residing in Kentucky, proposed
to me that on her return she would bring a sister of hers with her on
condition that I would engage to become her brother-in-law with all
convenient despatch. I, of course, accepted the proposal, for you know
I could not have done otherwise had I really been averse to it; but
privately, between you and me, I was most confoundedly well pleased with
the project. I had seen the said sister some three years before, thought
her intelligent and agreeable, and saw no good objection to plodding
life through hand in hand with her. Time passed on; the lady took her
journey and in due time returned, sister in company, sure enough. This
astonished me a little, for it appeared to me that her coming so readily
showed that she was a trifle too willing, but on reflection it occurred
to me that she might have been prevailed on by her married sister to
come without anything concerning me ever having been mentioned to her,
and so I concluded that if no other objection presented itself, I would
consent to waive this. All this occurred to me on hearing of her arrival
in the neighborhood–for, be it remembered, I had not yet seen her,
except about three years previous, as above mentioned. In a few days we
had an interview, and, although I had seen her before, she did not look
as my imagination had pictured her. I knew she was over-size, but she
now appeared a fair match for Falstaff. I knew she was called an
“old maid,” and I felt no doubt of the truth of at least half of the
appellation, but now, when I beheld her, I could not for my life avoid
thinking of my mother; and this, not from withered features,–for
her skin was too full of fat to permit of its contracting into
wrinkles,–but from her want of teeth, weather-beaten appearance in
general, and from a kind of notion that ran in my head that nothing
could have commenced at the size of infancy and reached her present bulk
in less than thirty-five or forty years; and in short, I was not at
all pleased with her. But what could I do? I had told her sister that I
would take her for better or for worse, and I made a point of honor and
conscience in all things to stick to my word especially if others had
been induced to act on it which in this case I had no doubt they had,
for I was now fairly convinced that no other man on earth would have
her, and hence the conclusion that they were bent on holding me to my

“Well,” thought I, “I have said it, and, be the consequences what they
may, it shall not be my fault if I fail to do it.” At once I determined
to consider her my wife; and, this done, all my powers of discovery were
put to work in search of perfections in her which might be fairly set
off against her defects. I tried to imagine her handsome, which, but
for her unfortunate corpulency, was actually true. Exclusive of this no
woman that I have ever seen has a finer face. I also tried to convince
myself that the mind was much more to be valued than the person; and in
this she was not inferior, as I could discover, to any with whom I had
been acquainted.

Shortly after this, without coming to any positive understanding with
her, I set out for Vandalia, when and where you first saw me. During
my stay there I had letters from her which did not change my opinion of
either her intellect or intention, but on the contrary confirmed it in

All this while, although I was fixed, “firm as the surge-repelling
rock,” in my resolution, I found I was continually repenting the
rashness which had led me to make it. Through life, I have been in no
bondage, either real or imaginary, from the thraldom of which I so much
desired to be free. After my return home, I saw nothing to change my
opinions of her in any particular. She was the same, and so was I. I now
spent my time in planning how I might get along through life after my
contemplated change of circumstances should have taken place, and how I
might procrastinate the evil day for a time, which I really dreaded as
much, perhaps more, than an Irishman does the halter.

After all my suffering upon this deeply interesting subject, here I am,
wholly, unexpectedly, completely, out of the “scrape”; and now I want to
know if you can guess how I got out of it—-out, clear, in every sense
of the term; no violation of word, honor, or conscience. I don’t believe
you can guess, and so I might as well tell you at once. As the lawyer
says, it was done in the manner following, to wit: After I had delayed
the matter as long as I thought I could in honor do (which, by the way,
had brought me round into the last fall), I concluded I might as well
bring it to a consummation without further delay; and so I mustered
my resolution, and made the proposal to her direct; but, shocking to
relate, she answered, No. At first I supposed she did it through an
affectation of modesty, which I thought but ill became her under the
peculiar circumstances of her case; but on my renewal of the charge,
I found she repelled it with greater firmness than before. I tried it
again and again but with the same success, or rather with the same want
of success.

I finally was forced to give it up; at which I very unexpectedly found
myself mortified almost beyond endurance. I was mortified, it seemed
to me, in a hundred different ways. My vanity was deeply wounded by the
reflection that I had been too stupid to discover her intentions, and at
the same time never doubting that I understood them perfectly, and also
that she, whom I had taught myself to believe nobody else would have,
had actually rejected me with all my fancied greatness. And, to cap the
whole, I then for the first time began to suspect that I was really a
little in love with her. But let it all go. I’ll try and outlive it.
Others have been made fools of by the girls, but this can never with
truth be said of me. I most emphatically in this instance, made a fool
of myself. I have now come to the conclusion never again to think of
marrying, and for this reason: I can never be satisfied with any one who
would be blockhead enough to have me.

When you receive this, write me a long yarn about something to amuse me.
Give my respects to Mr. Browning.

Your sincere friend, A. LINCOLN.




Mr. Lincoln, from Committee on Finance, to which the subject was
referred, made a report on the subject of purchasing of the United
States all the unsold lands lying within the limits of the State of
Illinois, accompanied by resolutions that this State propose to purchase
all unsold lands at twenty-five cents per acre, and pledging the faith
of the State to carry the proposal into effect if the government accept
the same within two years.

Mr. Lincoln thought the resolutions ought to be seriously considered. In
reply to the gentleman from Adams, he said that it was not to enrich the
State. The price of the lands may be raised, it was thought by some; by
others, that it would be reduced. The conclusion in his mind was that
the representatives in this Legislature from the country in which
the lands lie would be opposed to raising the price, because it would
operate against the settlement of the lands. He referred to the lands in
the military tract. They had fallen into the hands of large speculators
in consequence of the low price. He was opposed to a low price of land.
He thought it was adverse to the interests of the poor settler, because
speculators buy them up. He was opposed to a reduction of the price of
public lands.

Mr. Lincoln referred to some official documents emanating from Indiana,
and compared the progressive population of the two States. Illinois
had gained upon that State under the public land system as it is. His
conclusion was that ten years from this time Illinois would have no more
public land unsold than Indiana now has. He referred also to Ohio. That
State had sold nearly all her public lands. She was but twenty years
ahead of us, and as our lands were equally salable–more so, as he
maintained–we should have no more twenty years from now than she has at

Mr. Lincoln referred to the canal lands, and supposed that the policy of
the State would be different in regard to them, if the representatives
from that section of country could themselves choose the policy; but the
representatives from other parts of the State had a veto upon it, and
regulated the policy. He thought that if the State had all the lands,
the policy of the Legislature would be more liberal to all sections.

He referred to the policy of the General Government. He thought that
if the national debt had not been paid, the expenses of the government
would not have doubled, as they had done since that debt was paid.

TO —— ROW.


Mr. Redman informs me that you wish me to write you the particulars of
a conversation between Dr. Felix and myself relative to you. The Dr.
overtook me between Rushville and Beardstown.

He, after learning that I had lived at Springfield, asked if I was
acquainted with you. I told him I was. He said you had lately been
elected constable in Adams, but that you never would be again. I asked
him why. He said the people there had found out that you had been
sheriff or deputy sheriff in Sangamon County, and that you came off and
left your securities to suffer. He then asked me if I did not know such
to be the fact. I told him I did not think you had ever been sheriff or
deputy sheriff in Sangamon, but that I thought you had been constable. I
further told him that if you had left your securities to suffer in that
or any other case, I had never heard of it, and that if it had been so,
I thought I would have heard of it.

If the Dr. is telling that I told him anything against you whatever, I
authorize you to contradict it flatly. We have no news here.

Your friend, as ever, A. LINCOLN.



SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, December 20, 1839.

FELLOW-CITIZENS:–It is peculiarly embarrassing to me to attempt a
continuance of the discussion, on this evening, which has been conducted
in this hall on several preceding ones. It is so because on each of
those evenings there was a much fuller attendance than now, without any
reason for its being so, except the greater interest the community feel
in the speakers who addressed them then than they do in him who is to do
so now. I am, indeed, apprehensive that the few who have attended
have done so more to spare me mortification than in the hope of being
interested in anything I may be able to say. This circumstance casts
a damp upon my spirits, which I am sure I shall be unable to overcome
during the evening. But enough of preface.

The subject heretofore and now to be discussed is the subtreasury scheme
of the present administration, as a means of collecting, safe-keeping,
transferring, and disbursing, the revenues of the nation, as contrasted
with a national bank for the same purposes. Mr. Douglas has said that we
(the Whigs) have not dared to meet them (the Locos) in argument on this
question. I protest against this assertion. I assert that we have again
and again, during this discussion, urged facts and arguments against
the subtreasury which they have neither dared to deny nor attempted to
answer. But lest some may be led to believe that we really wish to avoid
the question, I now propose, in my humble way, to urge those arguments
again; at the same time begging the audience to mark well the positions
I shall take and the proof I shall offer to sustain them, and that they
will not again permit Mr. Douglas or his friends to escape the force of
them by a round and groundless assertion that we “dare not meet them in

Of the subtreasury, then, as contrasted with a national bank for the
before-enumerated purposes, I lay down the following propositions, to
wit: (1) It will injuriously affect the community by its operation on
the circulating medium. (2) It will be a more expensive fiscal agent.
(3) It will be a less secure depository of the public money. To show
the truth of the first proposition, let us take a short review of our
condition under the operation of a national bank. It was the depository
of the public revenues. Between the collection of those revenues and the
disbursement of them by the government, the bank was permitted to and
did actually loan them out to individuals, and hence the large amount of
money actually collected for revenue purposes, which by any other
plan would have been idle a great portion of the time, was kept almost
constantly in circulation. Any person who will reflect that money is
only valuable while in circulation will readily perceive that any device
which will keep the government revenues in constant circulation, instead
of being locked up in idleness, is no inconsiderable advantage. By the
subtreasury the revenue is to be collected and kept in iron boxes until
the government wants it for disbursement; thus robbing the people of the
use of it, while the government does not itself need it, and while the
money is performing no nobler office than that of rusting in iron boxes.
The natural effect of this change of policy, every one will see, is
to reduce the quantity of money in circulation. But, again, by
the subtreasury scheme the revenue is to be collected in specie. I
anticipate that this will be disputed. I expect to hear it said that
it is not the policy of the administration to collect the revenue
in specie. If it shall, I reply that Mr. Van Buren, in his message
recommending the subtreasury, expended nearly a column of that document
in an attempt to persuade Congress to provide for the collection of the
revenue in specie exclusively; and he concludes with these words:

“It may be safely assumed that no motive of convenience to the citizens
requires the reception of bank paper.” In addition to this, Mr.
Silas Wright, Senator from New York, and the political, personal and
confidential friend of Mr. Van Buren, drafted and introduced into the
Senate the first subtreasury bill, and that bill provided for ultimately
collecting the revenue in specie. It is true, I know, that that clause
was stricken from the bill, but it was done by the votes of the Whigs,
aided by a portion only of the Van Buren senators. No subtreasury
bill has yet become a law, though two or three have been considered by
Congress, some with and some without the specie clause; so that I
admit there is room for quibbling upon the question of whether the
administration favor the exclusive specie doctrine or not; but I take it
that the fact that the President at first urged the specie doctrine,
and that under his recommendation the first bill introduced embraced it,
warrants us in charging it as the policy of the party until their head
as publicly recants it as he at first espoused it. I repeat, then, that
by the subtreasury the revenue is to be collected in specie. Now mark
what the effect of this must be. By all estimates ever made there are
but between sixty and eighty millions of specie in the United States.
The expenditures of the Government for the year 1838–the last for which
we have had the report–were forty millions. Thus it is seen that if the
whole revenue be collected in specie, it will take more than half of all
the specie in the nation to do it. By this means more than half of all
the specie belonging to the fifteen millions of souls who compose the
whole population of the country is thrown into the hands of the public
office-holders, and other public creditors comprising in number perhaps
not more than one quarter of a million, leaving the other fourteen
millions and three quarters to get along as they best can, with less
than one half of the specie of the country, and whatever rags and
shinplasters they may be able to put, and keep, in circulation. By
this means, every office-holder and other public creditor may, and
most likely will, set up shaver; and a most glorious harvest will the
specie-men have of it,–each specie-man, upon a fair division, having to
his share the fleecing of about fifty-nine rag-men. In all candor let me
ask, was such a system for benefiting the few at the expense of the many
ever before devised? And was the sacred name of Democracy ever before
made to indorse such an enormity against the rights of the people?

I have already said that the subtreasury will reduce the quantity of
money in circulation. This position is strengthened by the recollection
that the revenue is to be collected in Specie, so that the mere amount
of revenue is not all that is withdrawn, but the amount of paper
circulation that the forty millions would serve as a basis to is
withdrawn, which would be in a sound state at least one hundred
millions. When one hundred millions, or more, of the circulation we
now have shall be withdrawn, who can contemplate without terror the
distress, ruin, bankruptcy, and beggary that must follow? The man
who has purchased any article–say a horse–on credit, at one hundred
dollars, when there are two hundred millions circulating in the country,
if the quantity be reduced to one hundred millions by the arrival of
pay-day, will find the horse but sufficient to pay half the debt; and
the other half must either be paid out of his other means, and thereby
become a clear loss to him, or go unpaid, and thereby become a clear
loss to his creditor. What I have here said of a single case of the
purchase of a horse will hold good in every case of a debt existing at
the time a reduction in the quantity of money occurs, by whomsoever, and
for whatsoever, it may have been contracted. It may be said that
what the debtor loses the creditor gains by this operation; but on
examination this will be found true only to a very limited extent. It is
more generally true that all lose by it–the creditor by losing more of
his debts than he gains by the increased value of those he collects; the
debtor by either parting with more of his property to pay his debts
than he received in contracting them, or by entirely breaking up his
business, and thereby being thrown upon the world in idleness.

The general distress thus created will, to be sure, be temporary,
because, whatever change may occur in the quantity of money in any
community, time will adjust the derangement produced; but while that
adjustment is progressing, all suffer more or less, and very many lose
everything that renders life desirable. Why, then, shall we suffer a
severe difficulty, even though it be but temporary, unless we receive
some equivalent for it?

What I have been saying as to the effect produced by a reduction of the
quantity of money relates to the whole country. I now propose to
show that it would produce a peculiar and permanent hardship upon the
citizens of those States and Territories in which the public lands lie.
The land-offices in those States and Territories, as all know, form the
great gulf by which all, or nearly all, the money in them is swallowed
up. When the quantity of money shall be reduced, and consequently
everything under individual control brought down in proportion, the
price of those lands, being fixed by law, will remain as now. Of
necessity it will follow that the produce or labor that now raises money
sufficient to purchase eighty acres will then raise but sufficient
to purchase forty, or perhaps not that much; and this difficulty and
hardship will last as long, in some degree, as any portion of these
lands shall remain undisposed of. Knowing, as I well do, the difficulty
that poor people now encounter in procuring homes, I hesitate not to say
that when the price of the public lands shall be doubled or trebled, or,
which is the same thing, produce and labor cut down to one half or one
third of their present prices, it will be little less than impossible
for them to procure those homes at all….

Well, then, what did become of him? (Postmaster General Barry) Why, the
President immediately expressed his high disapprobation of his almost
unequaled incapacity and corruption by appointing him to a foreign
mission, with a salary and outfit of $18,000 a year! The party now
attempt to throw Barry off, and to avoid the responsibility of his sins.
Did not the President indorse those sins when, on the very heel of
their commission, he appointed their author to the very highest and most
honorable office in his gift, and which is but a single step behind the
very goal of American political ambition?

I return to another of Mr. Douglas’s excuses for the expenditures of
1838, at the same time announcing the pleasing intelligence that this is
the last one. He says that ten millions of that year’s expenditure was
a contingent appropriation, to prosecute an anticipated war with Great
Britain on the Maine boundary question. Few words will settle this.
First, that the ten millions appropriated was not made till 1839, and
consequently could not have been expended in 1838; second, although it
was appropriated, it has never been expended at all. Those who heard Mr.
Douglas recollect that he indulged himself in a contemptuous expression
of pity for me. “Now he’s got me,” thought I. But when he went on to
say that five millions of the expenditure of 1838 were payments of the
French indemnities, which I knew to be untrue; that five millions had
been for the post-office, which I knew to be untrue; that ten millions
had been for the Maine boundary war, which I not only knew to be untrue,
but supremely ridiculous also; and when I saw that he was stupid enough
to hope that I would permit such groundless and audacious assertions to
go unexposed,–I readily consented that, on the score both of veracity
and sagacity, the audience should judge whether he or I were the more
deserving of the world’s contempt.

Mr. Lamborn insists that the difference between the Van Buren party and
the Whigs is that, although the former sometimes err in practice,
they are always correct in principle, whereas the latter are wrong in
principle; and, better to impress this proposition, he uses a figurative
expression in these words: “The Democrats are vulnerable in the heel,
but they are sound in the head and the heart.” The first branch of the
figure–that is, that the Democrats are vulnerable in the heel–I admit
is not merely figuratively, but literally true. Who that looks but for
a moment at their Swartwouts, their Prices, their Harringtons, and their
hundreds of others, scampering away with the public money to Texas, to
Europe, and to every spot of the earth where a villain may hope to find
refuge from justice, can at all doubt that they are most distressingly
affected in their heels with a species of “running itch”? It seems
that this malady of their heels operates on these sound-headed and
honest-hearted creatures very much like the cork leg in the comic song
did on its owner: which, when he had once got started on it, the more he
tried to stop it, the more it would run away. At the hazard of wearing
this point threadbare, I will relate an anecdote which seems too
strikingly in point to be omitted. A witty Irish soldier, who was always
boasting of his bravery when no danger was near, but who invariably
retreated without orders at the first charge of an engagement, being
asked by his captain why he did so, replied: “Captain, I have as brave a
heart as Julius Caesar ever had; but, somehow or other, whenever
danger approaches, my cowardly legs will run away with it.” So with Mr.
Lamborn’s party. They take the public money into their hand for the
most laudable purpose that wise heads and honest hearts can dictate; but
before they can possibly get it out again, their rascally “vulnerable
heels” will run away with them.

Seriously this proposition of Mr. Lamborn is nothing more or less than
a request that his party may be tried by their professions instead of
their practices. Perhaps no position that the party assumes is more
liable to or more deserving of exposure than this very modest request;
and nothing but the unwarrantable length to which I have already
extended these remarks forbids me now attempting to expose it. For the
reason given, I pass it by.

I shall advert to but one more point. Mr. Lamborn refers to the late
elections in the States, and from their results confidently predicts
that every State in the Union will vote for Mr. Van Buren at the next
Presidential election. Address that argument to cowards and to knaves;
with the free and the brave it will effect nothing. It may be true; if
it must, let it. Many free countries have lost their liberty, and ours
may lose hers; but if she shall, be it my proudest plume, not that I was
the last to desert, but that I never deserted her. I know that the great
volcano at Washington, aroused and directed by the evil spirit that
reigns there, is belching forth the lava of political corruption in a
current broad and deep, which is sweeping with frightful velocity
over the whole length and breadth of the land, bidding fair to leave
unscathed no green spot or living thing; while on its bosom are riding,
like demons on the waves of hell, the imps of that evil spirit, and
fiendishly taunting all those who dare resist its destroying course with
the hopelessness of their effort; and, knowing this, I cannot deny that
all may be swept away. Broken by it I, too, may be; bow to it I never
will. The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to
deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not
deter me. If ever I feel the soul within me elevate and expand to those
dimensions not wholly unworthy of its almighty Architect, it is when I
contemplate the cause of my country deserted by all the world beside,
and I standing up boldly and alone, and hurling defiance at her
victorious oppressors. Here, without contemplating consequences, before
high heaven and in the face of the world, I swear eternal fidelity to
the just cause, as I deem it, of the land of my life, my liberty, and
my love. And who that thinks with me will not fearlessly adopt the oath
that I take? Let none falter who thinks he is right, and we may succeed.
But if, after all, we shall fail, be it so. We still shall have the
proud consolation of saying to our consciences, and to the departed
shade of our country’s freedom, that the cause approved of our judgment,
and adored of our hearts, in disaster, in chains, in torture, in death,
we never faltered in defending.


SPRINGFIELD, December 23, 1839.


Dr. Henry will write you all the political news. I write this about some
little matters of business. You recollect you told me you had drawn the
Chicago Masark money, and sent it to the claimants. A hawk-billed Yankee
is here besetting me at every turn I take, saying that Robert Kinzie
never received the eighty dollars to which he was entitled. Can you tell
me anything about the matter? Again, old Mr. Wright, who lives up South
Fork somewhere, is teasing me continually about some deeds which he says
he left with you, but which I can find nothing of. Can you tell me where
they are? The Legislature is in session and has suffered the bank to
forfeit its charter without benefit of clergy. There seems to be little
disposition to resuscitate it.

Whenever a letter comes from you to Mrs.____________ I carry it to her,
and then I see Betty; she is a tolerable nice “fellow” now. Maybe I will
write again when I get more time.

Your friend as ever, A. LINCOLN

P. S.–The Democratic giant is here, but he is not much worth talking
about. A.L.




January [1?], 1840.


GENTLEMEN:–In obedience to a resolution of the Whig State convention,
we have appointed you the Central Whig Committee of your county. The
trust confided to you will be one of watchfulness and labor; but we hope
the glory of having contributed to the overthrow of the corrupt powers
that now control our beloved country will be a sufficient reward for the
time and labor you will devote to it. Our Whig brethren throughout the
Union have met in convention, and after due deliberation and
mutual concessions have elected candidates for the Presidency and
Vice-Presidency not only worthy of our cause, but worthy of the support
of every true patriot who would have our country redeemed, and her
institutions honestly and faithfully administered. To overthrow the
trained bands that are opposed to us whose salaried officers are ever
on the watch, and whose misguided followers are ever ready to obey their
smallest commands, every Whig must not only know his duty, but must
firmly resolve, whatever of time and labor it may cost, boldly and
faithfully to do it. Our intention is to organize the whole State, so
that every Whig can be brought to the polls in the coming Presidential
contest. We cannot do this, however, without your co-operation; and
as we do our duty, so we shall expect you to do yours. After due
deliberation, the following is the plan of organization, and the duties
required of each county committee:

(1) To divide their county into small districts, and to appoint in each
a subcommittee, whose duty it shall be to make a perfect list of all the
voters in their respective districts, and to ascertain with certainty
for whom they will vote. If they meet with men who are doubtful as to
the man they will support, such voters should be designated in separate
lines, with the name of the man they will probably support.

(2) It will be the duty of said subcommittee to keep a constant watch on
the doubtful voters, and from time to time have them talked to by those
in whom they have the most confidence, and also to place in their hands
such documents as will enlighten and influence them.

(3) It will also be their duty to report to you, at least once a month,
the progress they are making, and on election days see that every Whig
is brought to the polls.

(4) The subcommittees should be appointed immediately; and by the last
of April, at least, they should make their first report.

(5) On the first of each month hereafter we shall expect to hear from
you. After the first report of your subcommittees, unless there should
be found a great many doubtful voters, you can tell pretty accurately
the manner in which your county will vote. In each of your letters to
us, you will state the number of certain votes both for and against us,
as well as the number of doubtful votes, with your opinion of the manner
in which they will be cast.

(6) When we have heard from all the counties, we shall be able to
tell with similar accuracy the political complexion of the State. This
information will be forwarded to you as soon as received.

(7) Inclosed is a prospectus for a newspaper to be continued until after
the Presidential election. It will be superintended by ourselves, and
every Whig in the State must take it. It will be published so low that
every one can afford it. You must raise a fund and forward us for extra
copies,–every county ought to send–fifty or one hundred dollars,–and
the copies will be forwarded to you for distribution among our political
opponents. The paper will be devoted exclusively to the great cause
in which we are engaged. Procure subscriptions, and forward them to us

(8) Immediately after any election in your county, you must inform us of
its results; and as early as possible after any general election we will
give you the like information.

(9) A senator in Congress is to be elected by our next Legislature. Let
no local interests divide you, but select candidates that can succeed.

(10) Our plan of operations will of course be concealed from every one
except our good friends who of right ought to know them.

Trusting much in our good cause, the strength of our candidates, and
the determination of the Whigs everywhere to do their duty, we go to
the work of organization in this State confident of success. We have
the numbers, and if properly organized and exerted, with the gallant
Harrison at our head, we shall meet our foes and conquer them in all
parts of the Union.

Address your letters to Dr. A. G. Henry, R. F, Barrett; A. Lincoln, E.
D. Baker, J. F. Speed.


SPRINGFIELD, March 1, 1840


I have never seen the prospects of our party so bright in these parts
as they are now. We shall carry this county by a larger majority than
we did in 1836, when you ran against May. I do not think my prospects,
individually, are very flattering, for I think it probable I shall
not be permitted to be a candidate; but the party ticket will succeed
triumphantly. Subscriptions to the “Old Soldier” pour in without
abatement. This morning I took from the post office a letter from Dubois
enclosing the names of sixty subscribers, and on carrying it to Francis
I found he had received one hundred and forty more from other quarters
by the same day’s mail. That is but an average specimen of every day’s
receipts. Yesterday Douglas, having chosen to consider himself insulted
by something in the Journal, undertook to cane Francis in the street.
Francis caught him by the hair and jammed him back against a market cart
where the matter ended by Francis being pulled away from him. The
whole affair was so ludicrous that Francis and everybody else (Douglass
excepted) have been laughing about it ever since.

I send you the names of some of the V.B. men who have come out for
Harrison about town, and suggest that you send them some documents.

Moses Coffman (he let us appoint him a delegate yesterday), Aaron
Coffman, George Gregory, H. M. Briggs, Johnson (at Birchall’s
Bookstore), Michael Glyn, Armstrong (not Hosea nor Hugh, but a
carpenter), Thomas Hunter, Moses Pileher (he was always a Whig and
deserves attention), Matthew Crowder Jr., Greenberry Smith; John Fagan,
George Fagan, William Fagan (these three fell out with us about Early,
and are doubtful now), John M. Cartmel, Noah Rickard, John Rickard,
Walter Marsh.

The foregoing should be addressed at Springfield.

Also send some to Solomon Miller and John Auth at Salisbury. Also to
Charles Harper, Samuel Harper, and B. C. Harper, and T. J. Scroggins,
John Scroggins at Pulaski, Logan County.

Speed says he wrote you what Jo Smith said about you as he passed here.
We will procure the names of some of his people here, and send them to
you before long. Speed also says you must not fail to send us the New
York Journal he wrote for some time since.

Evan Butler is jealous that you never send your compliments to him. You
must not neglect him next time.

Your friend, as ever, A. LINCOLN


November 28, 1840.

In the Illinois House of Representatives, November 28, 1840, Mr. Lincoln
offered the following:

Resolved, That so much of the governor’s message as relates to
fraudulent voting, and other fraudulent practices at elections, be
referred to the Committee on Elections, with instructions to said
committee to prepare and report to the House a bill for such an act as
may in their judgment afford the greatest possible protection of the
elective franchise against all frauds of all sorts whatever.


December 2, 1840.

Resolved, That the Committee on Education be instructed to inquire
into the expediency of providing by law for the examination as to the
qualification of persons offering themselves as school teachers, that no
teacher shall receive any part of the public school fund who shall not
have successfully passed such examination, and that they report by bill
or otherwise.


December 4, 1840

In the House of Representatives, Illinois, December 4, 1840, on
presentation of a report respecting petition of H. N. Purple, claiming
the seat of Mr. Phelps from Peoria, Mr. Lincoln moved that the House
resolve itself into Committee of the Whole on the question, and take
it up immediately. Mr. Lincoln considered the question of the highest
importance whether an individual had a right to sit in this House or
not. The course he should propose would be to take up the evidence and
decide upon the facts seriatim.

Mr. Drummond wanted time; they could not decide in the heat of debate,

Mr. Lincoln thought that the question had better be gone into now.
In courts of law jurors were required to decide on evidence, without
previous study or examination. They were required to know nothing of
the subject until the evidence was laid before them for their immediate
decision. He thought that the heat of party would be augmented by delay.

The Speaker called Mr. Lincoln to order as being irrelevant; no mention
had been made of party heat.

Mr. Drummond said he had only spoken of debate. Mr. Lincoln asked what
caused the heat, if it was not party? Mr. Lincoln concluded by urging
that the question would be decided now better than hereafter, and he
thought with less heat and excitement.

(Further debate, in which Lincoln participated.)


December 4, 1840.

In the Illinois House of Representatives, December 4, 1840, House in
Committee of the Whole on the bill providing for payment of interest on
the State debt,–Mr. Lincoln moved to strike out the body and amendments
of the bill, and insert in lieu thereof an amendment which in substance
was that the governor be authorized to issue bonds for the payment of
the interest; that these be called “interest bonds”; that the taxes
accruing on Congress lands as they become taxable be irrevocably set
aside and devoted as a fund to the payment of the interest bonds. Mr.
Lincoln went into the reasons which appeared to him to render this plan
preferable to that of hypothecating the State bonds. By this course we
could get along till the next meeting of the Legislature, which was
of great importance. To the objection which might be urged that these
interest bonds could not be cashed, he replied that if our other bonds
could, much more could these, which offered a perfect security, a fund
being irrevocably set aside to provide for their redemption. To another
objection, that we should be paying compound interest, he would reply
that the rapid growth and increase of our resources was in so great a
ratio as to outstrip the difficulty; that his object was to do the best
that could be done in the present emergency. All agreed that the faith
of the State must be preserved; this plan appeared to him preferable
to a hypothecation of bonds, which would have to be redeemed and the
interest paid. How this was to be done, he could not see; therefore he
had, after turning the matter over in every way, devised this measure,
which would carry us on till the next Legislature.

(Mr. Lincoln spoke at some length, advocating his measure.)

Lincoln advocated his measure, December 11, 1840.

December 12, 1840, he had thought some permanent provision ought to be
made for the bonds to be hypothecated, but was satisfied taxation and
revenue could not be connected with it now.



SPRINGFIELD, Jan 23, 1841

DEAR STUART: I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were
equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one
cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell; I
awfully forbode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die
or be better, as it appears to me…. I fear I shall be unable to attend
any business here, and a change of scene might help me. If I could be
myself, I would rather remain at home with Judge Logan. I can write no


January 23, 1841

In the House of Representatives January 23, 1841, while discussing the
continuation of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, Mr. Moore was afraid
the holders of the “scrip” would lose.

Mr. Napier thought there was no danger of that; and Mr. Lincoln said he
had not examined to see what amount of scrip would probably be needed.
The principal point in his mind was this, that nobody was obliged to
take these certificates. It is altogether voluntary on their part, and
if they apprehend it will fall in their hands they will not take it.
Further the loss, if any there be, will fall on the citizens of that
section of the country.

This scrip is not going to circulate over an extensive range of country,
but will be confined chiefly to the vicinity of the canal. Now, we find
the representatives of that section of the country are all in favor of
the bill.

When we propose to protect their interests, they say to us: Leave us
to take care of ourselves; we are willing to run the risk. And this
is reasonable; we must suppose they are competent to protect their own
interests, and it is only fair to let them do it.


February 9, 1841.

Appeal to the People of the State of Illinois.

FELLOW-CITIZENS:–When the General Assembly, now about adjourning,
assembled in November last, from the bankrupt state of the public
treasury, the pecuniary embarrassments prevailing in every department
of society, the dilapidated state of the public works, and the impending
danger of the degradation of the State, you had a right to expect
that your representatives would lose no time in devising and adopting
measures to avert threatened calamities, alleviate the distresses of
the people, and allay the fearful apprehensions in regard to the future
prosperity of the State. It was not expected by you that the spirit of
party would take the lead in the councils of the State, and make every
interest bend to its demands. Nor was it expected that any party would
assume to itself the entire control of legislation, and convert the
means and offices of the State, and the substance of the people, into
aliment for party subsistence. Neither could it have been expected by
you that party spirit, however strong its desires and unreasonable
its demands, would have passed the sanctuary of the Constitution, and
entered with its unhallowed and hideous form into the formation of the
judiciary system.

At the early period of the session, measures were adopted by the
dominant party to take possession of the State, to fill all public
offices with party men, and make every measure affecting the interests
of the people and the credit of the State operate in furtherance of
their party views. The merits of men and measures therefore became the
subject of discussion in caucus, instead of the halls of legislation,
and decisions there made by a minority of the Legislature have been
executed and carried into effect by the force of party discipline,
without any regard whatever to the rights of the people or the interests
of the State. The Supreme Court of the State was organized, and judges
appointed, according to the provisions of the Constitution, in 1824.
The people have never complained of the organization of that court; no
attempt has ever before been made to change that department. Respect for
public opinion, and regard for the rights and liberties of the people,
have hitherto restrained the spirit of party from attacks upon the
independence and integrity of the judiciary. The same judges have
continued in office since 1824; their decisions have not been the
subject of complaint among the people; the integrity and honesty of the
court have not been questioned, and it has never been supposed that
the court has ever permitted party prejudice or party considerations
to operate upon their decisions. The court was made to consist of four
judges, and by the Constitution two form a quorum for the transaction
of business. With this tribunal, thus constituted, the people have
been satisfied for near sixteen years. The same law which organized the
Supreme Court in 1824 also established and organized circuit courts
to be held in each county in the State, and five circuit judges were
appointed to hold those courts. In 1826 the Legislature abolished these
circuit courts, repealed the judges out of office, and required the
judges of the Supreme Court to hold the circuit courts. The reasons
assigned for this change were, first, that the business of the country
could be better attended to by the four judges of the Supreme Court than
by the two sets of judges; and, second, the state of the public treasury
forbade the employment of unnecessary officers. In 1828 a circuit was
established north of the Illinois River, in order to meet the wants of
the people, and a circuit judge was appointed to hold the courts in that

In 1834 the circuit-court system was again established throughout the
State, circuit judges appointed to hold the courts, and the judges of
the Supreme Court were relieved from the performance of circuit court
duties. The change was recommended by the then acting governor of the
State, General W. L. D. Ewing, in the following terms:

“The augmented population of the State, the multiplied number of
organized counties, as well as the increase of business in all, has
long since convinced every one conversant with this department of
our government of the indispensable necessity of an alteration in
our judiciary system, and the subject is therefore recommended to the
earnest patriotic consideration of the Legislature. The present system
has never been exempt from serious and weighty objections. The idea of
appealing from the circuit court to the same judges in the Supreme Court
is recommended by little hopes of redress to the injured party below.
The duties of the circuit, too, it may be added, consume one half of the
year, leaving a small and inadequate portion of time (when that required
for domestic purposes is deducted) to erect, in the decisions of the
Supreme Court, a judicial monument of legal learning and research,
which the talent and ability of the court might otherwise be entirely
competent to.”

With this organization of circuit courts the people have never
complained. The only complaints which we have heard have come from
circuits which were so large that the judges could not dispose of the
business, and the circuits in which Judges Pearson and Ralston lately

Whilst the honor and credit of the State demanded legislation upon the
subject of the public debt, the canal, the unfinished public works, and
the embarrassments of the people, the judiciary stood upon a basis
which required no change–no legislative action. Yet the party in power,
neglecting every interest requiring legislative action, and wholly
disregarding the rights, wishes, and interests of the people, has, for
the unholy purpose of providing places for its partisans and supplying
them with large salaries, disorganized that department of the
government. Provision is made for the election of five party judges
of the Supreme Court, the proscription of four circuit judges, and the
appointment of party clerks in more than half the counties of the
State. Men professing respect for public opinion, and acknowledged to be
leaders of the party, have avowed in the halls of legislation that
the change in the judiciary was intended to produce political results
favorable to their party and party friends. The immutable principles
of justice are to make way for party interests, and the bonds of social
order are to be rent in twain, in order that a desperate faction may
be sustained at the expense of the people. The change proposed in the
judiciary was supported upon grounds so destructive to the institutions
of the country, and so entirely at war with the rights and liberties
of the people, that the party could not secure entire unanimity in its
support, three Democrats of the Senate and five of the House voting
against the measure. They were unwilling to see the temples of justice
and the seats of independent judges occupied by the tools of faction.
The declarations of the party leaders, the selection of party men for
judges, and the total disregard for the public will in the adoption of
the measure, prove conclusively that the object has been not reform, but
destruction; not the advancement of the highest interests of the State,
but the predominance of party.

We cannot in this manner undertake to point out all the objections to
this party measure; we present you with those stated by the Council
of Revision upon returning the bill, and we ask for them a candid

Believing that the independence of the judiciary has been destroyed,
that hereafter our courts will be independent of the people, and
entirely dependent upon the Legislature; that our rights of property
and liberty of conscience can no longer be regarded as safe from the
encroachments of unconstitutional legislation; and knowing of no other
remedy which can be adopted consistently with the peace and good order
of society, we call upon you to avail yourselves of the opportunity
afforded, and, at the next general election, vote for a convention of
the people.


Committee on behalf of the Whig members of the Legislature.



February 26, 1841

For the reasons thus presented, and for others no less apparent, the
undersigned cannot assent to the passage of the bill, or permit it to
become a law, without this evidence of their disapprobation; and they
now protest against the reorganization of the judiciary, because–(1)
It violates the great principles of free government by subjecting the
judiciary to the Legislature. (2) It is a fatal blow at the independence
of the judges and the constitutional term of their office. (3) It is a
measure not asked for, or wished for, by the people. (4) It will greatly
increase the expense of our courts, or else greatly diminish their
utility. (5) It will give our courts a political and partisan character,
thereby impairing public confidence in their decisions. (6) It will
impair our standing with other States and the world. (7)It is a party
measure for party purposes, from which no practical good to the people
can possibly arise, but which may be the source of immeasurable evils.

The undersigned are well aware that this protest will be altogether
unavailing with the majority of this body. The blow has already fallen,
and we are compelled to stand by, the mournful spectators of the ruin it
will cause.

[Signed by 35 members, among whom was Abraham Lincoln.]


SPRINGFIELD June 19, 1841.

DEAR SPEED:–We have had the highest state of excitement here for a week
past that our community has ever witnessed; and, although the public
feeling is somewhat allayed, the curious affair which aroused it is very
far from being even yet cleared of mystery. It would take a quire of
paper to give you anything like a full account of it, and I therefore
only propose a brief outline. The chief personages in the drama are
Archibald Fisher, supposed to be murdered, and Archibald Trailor, Henry
Trailor, and William Trailor, supposed to have murdered him. The three
Trailors are brothers: the first, Arch., as you know, lives in town;
the second, Henry, in Clary’s Grove; and the third, William, in Warren
County; and Fisher, the supposed murdered, being without a family, had
made his home with William. On Saturday evening, being the 29th of May,
Fisher and William came to Henry’s in a one-horse dearborn, and there
stayed over Sunday; and on Monday all three came to Springfield (Henry
on horseback) and joined Archibald at Myers’s, the Dutch carpenter.
That evening at supper Fisher was missing, and so next morning some
ineffectual search was made for him; and on Tuesday, at one o’clock
P.M., William and Henry started home without him. In a day or two Henry
and one or two of his Clary-Grove neighbors came back for him again, and
advertised his disappearance in the papers. The knowledge of the matter
thus far had not been general, and here it dropped entirely, till about
the 10th instant, when Keys received a letter from the postmaster in
Warren County, that William had arrived at home, and was telling a very
mysterious and improbable story about the disappearance of Fisher, which
induced the community there to suppose he had been disposed of unfairly.
Keys made this letter public, which immediately set the whole town and
adjoining county agog. And so it has continued until yesterday. The mass
of the people commenced a systematic search for the dead body, while
Wickersham was despatched to arrest Henry Trailor at the Grove, and Jim
Maxcy to Warren to arrest William. On Monday last, Henry was brought in,
and showed an evident inclination to insinuate that he knew Fisher to be
dead, and that Arch. and William had killed him. He said he guessed the
body could be found in Spring Creek, between the Beardstown road and
Hickox’s mill. Away the people swept like a herd of buffalo, and cut
down Hickox’s mill-dam nolens volens, to draw the water out of the pond,
and then went up and down and down and up the creek, fishing and raking,
and raking and ducking and diving for two days, and, after all, no dead
body found.

In the meantime a sort of scuffling-ground had been found in the brush
in the angle, or point, where the road leading into the woods past
the brewery and the one leading in past the brick-yard meet. From the
scuffle-ground was the sign of something about the size of a man having
been dragged to the edge of the thicket, where it joined the track
of some small-wheeled carriage drawn by one horse, as shown by the
road-tracks. The carriage-track led off toward Spring Creek. Near this
drag-trail Dr. Merryman found two hairs, which, after a long scientific
examination, he pronounced to be triangular human hairs, which term, he
says, includes within it the whiskers, the hair growing under the arms
and on other parts of the body; and he judged that these two were of the
whiskers, because the ends were cut, showing that they had flourished in
the neighborhood of the razor’s operations. On Thursday last Jim Maxcy
brought in William Trailor from Warren. On the same day Arch. was
arrested and put in jail. Yesterday (Friday) William was put upon his
examining trial before May and Lovely. Archibald and Henry were both
present. Lamborn prosecuted, and Logan, Baker, and your humble servant
defended. A great many witnesses were introduced and examined, but I
shall only mention those whose testimony seemed most important. The
first of these was Captain Ransdell. He swore that when William and
Henry left Springfield for home on Tuesday before mentioned they did not
take the direct route,–which, you know, leads by the butcher shop,–but
that they followed the street north until they got opposite, or nearly
opposite, May’s new house, after which he could not see them from where
he stood; and it was afterwards proved that in about an hour after they
started, they came into the street by the butcher shop from toward the
brickyard. Dr. Merryman and others swore to what is stated about the
scuffle-ground, drag-trail, whiskers, and carriage tracks. Henry was
then introduced by the prosecution. He swore that when they started for
home they went out north, as Ransdell stated, and turned down west
by the brick-yard into the woods, and there met Archibald; that they
proceeded a small distance farther, when he was placed as a sentinel to
watch for and announce the approach of any one that might happen that
way; that William and Arch. took the dearborn out of the road a small
distance to the edge of the thicket, where they stopped, and he saw
them lift the body of a man into it; that they then moved off with the
carriage in the direction of Hickox’s mill, and he loitered about for
something like an hour, when William returned with the carriage, but
without Arch., and said they had put him in a safe place; that they went
somehow he did not know exactly how–into the road close to the brewery,
and proceeded on to Clary’s Grove. He also stated that some time during
the day William told him that he and Arch. had killed Fisher the evening
before; that the way they did it was by him William knocking him down
with a club, and Arch. then choking him to death.

An old man from Warren, called Dr. Gilmore, was then introduced on
the part of the defense. He swore that he had known Fisher for several
years; that Fisher had resided at his house a long time at each of two
different spells–once while he built a barn for him, and once while
he was doctored for some chronic disease; that two or three years ago
Fisher had a serious hurt in his head by the bursting of a gun, since
which he had been subject to continued bad health and occasional
aberration of mind. He also stated that on last Tuesday, being the same
day that Maxcy arrested William Trailor, he (the doctor) was from home
in the early part of the day, and on his return, about eleven o’clock,
found Fisher at his house in bed, and apparently very unwell; that he
asked him how he came from Springfield; that Fisher said he had come by
Peoria, and also told of several other places he had been at more in the
direction of Peoria, which showed that he at the time of speaking did
not know where he had been wandering about in a state of derangement.
He further stated that in about two hours he received a note from one of
Trailor’s friends, advising him of his arrest, and requesting him to go
on to Springfield as a witness, to testify as to the state of Fisher’s
health in former times; that he immediately set off, calling up two
of his neighbors as company, and, riding all evening and all night,
overtook Maxcy and William at Lewiston in Fulton County; that Maxcy
refusing to discharge Trailor upon his statement, his two neighbors
returned and he came on to Springfield. Some question being made as to
whether the doctor’s story was not a fabrication, several acquaintances
of his (among whom was the same postmaster who wrote Keys, as before
mentioned) were introduced as sort of compurgators, who swore that they
knew the doctor to be of good character for truth and veracity, and
generally of good character in every way.

Here the testimony ended, and the Trailors were discharged, Arch. and
William expressing both in word and manner their entire confidence that
Fisher would be found alive at the doctor’s by Galloway, Mallory, and
Myers, who a day before had been despatched for that purpose; which
Henry still protested that no power on earth could ever show Fisher
alive. Thus stands this curious affair. When the doctor’s story
was first made public, it was amusing to scan and contemplate the
countenances and hear the remarks of those who had been actively in
search for the dead body: some looked quizzical, some melancholy, and
some furiously angry. Porter, who had been very active, swore he always
knew the man was not dead, and that he had not stirred an inch to hunt
for him; Langford, who had taken the lead in cutting down Hickox’s
mill-dam, and wanted to hang Hickox for objecting, looked most
awfully woebegone: he seemed the “victim of unrequited affection,” as
represented in the comic almanacs we used to laugh over; and Hart, the
little drayman that hauled Molly home once, said it was too damned bad
to have so much trouble, and no hanging after all.

I commenced this letter on yesterday, since which I received yours of
the 13th. I stick to my promise to come to Louisville. Nothing new here
except what I have written. I have not seen ______ since my last trip,
and I am going out there as soon as I mail this letter.

Yours forever, LINCOLN.


June 25, 1841

It having been charged in some of the public prints that Harry Wilton,
late United States marshal for the district of Illinois, had used his
office for political effect, in the appointment of deputies for the
taking of the census for the year 1840, we, the undersigned, were called
upon by Mr. Wilton to examine the papers in his possession relative
to these appointments, and to ascertain therefrom the correctness or
incorrectness of such charge. We accompanied Mr. Wilton to a room, and
examined the matter as fully as we could with the means afforded us. The
only sources of information bearing on the subject which were submitted
to us were the letters, etc., recommending and opposing the various
appointments made, and Mr. Wilton’s verbal statements concerning the
same. From these letters, etc., it appears that in some instances
appointments were made in accordance with the recommendations of leading
Whigs, and in opposition to those of leading Democrats; among which
instances the appointments at Scott, Wayne, Madison, and Lawrence are
the strongest. According to Mr. Wilton’s statement of the seventy-six
appointments we examined, fifty-four were of Democrats, eleven of Whigs,
and eleven of unknown politics.

The chief ground of complaint against Mr. Wilton, as we had understood
it, was because of his appointment of so many Democratic candidates for
the Legislature, thus giving them a decided advantage over their
Whig opponents; and consequently our attention was directed rather
particularly to that point. We found that there were many such
appointments, among which were those in Tazewell, McLean, Iroquois,
Coles, Menard, Wayne, Washington, Fayette, etc.; and we did not
learn that there was one instance in which a Whig candidate for the
Legislature had been appointed. There was no written evidence before
us showing us at what time those appointments were made; but Mr. Wilton
stated that they all with one exception were made before those
appointed became candidates for the Legislature, and the letters, etc.,
recommending them all bear date before, and most of them long before,
those appointed were publicly announced candidates.

We give the foregoing naked facts and draw no conclusions from them.



BLOOMINGTON, ILL., September 27, 1841.

Miss Mary Speed, Louisville, Ky.

MY FRIEND: By the way, a fine example was presented on board the boat
for contemplating the effect of condition upon human happiness. A
gentleman had purchased twelve negroes in different parts of Kentucky,
and was taking them to a farm in the South. They were chained six and
six together. A small iron clevis was around the left wrist of each,
and this fastened to the main chain by a shorter one, at a convenient
distance from the others, so that the negroes were strung together
precisely like so many fish upon a trotline. In this condition they
were being separated forever from the scenes of their childhood, their
friends, their fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, and many
of them from their wives and children, and going into perpetual
slavery where the lash of the master is proverbially more ruthless
and unrelenting than any other; and yet amid all these distressing
circumstances, as we would think them, they were the most cheerful and
apparently happy creatures on board. One, whose offence for which he
had been sold was an overfondness for his wife, played the fiddle almost
continually, and the others danced, sang, cracked jokes, and played
various games with cards from day to day. How true it is that ‘God
tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,’ or in other words, that he renders
the worst of human conditions tolerable, while he permits the best to
be nothing better than tolerable. To return to the narrative: When we
reached Springfield I stayed but one day, when I started on this tedious
circuit where I now am. Do you remember my going to the city, while I
was in Kentucky, to have a tooth extracted, and making a failure of it?
Well, that same old tooth got to paining me so much that about a week
since I had it torn out, bringing with it a bit of the jawbone, the
consequence of which is that my mouth is now so sore that I can neither
talk nor eat.

Your sincere friend, A. LINCOLN.



January 30, 1842.

MY DEAR SPEED:–Feeling, as you know I do, the deepest solicitude for
the success of the enterprise you are engaged in, I adopt this as the
last method I can adopt to aid you, in case (which God forbid!) you
shall need any aid. I do not place what I am going to say on paper
because I can say it better that way than I could by word of mouth, but,
were I to say it orally before we part, most likely you would forget
it at the very time when it might do you some good. As I think it
reasonable that you will feel very badly some time between this and the
final consummation of your purpose, it is intended that you shall read
this just at such a time. Why I say it is reasonable that you will feel
very badly yet, is because of three special causes added to the general
one which I shall mention.

The general cause is, that you are naturally of a nervous temperament;
and this I say from what I have seen of you personally, and what you
have told me concerning your mother at various times, and concerning
your brother William at the time his wife died. The first special cause
is your exposure to bad weather on your journey, which my experience
clearly proves to be very severe on defective nerves. The second is the
absence of all business and conversation of friends, which might divert
your mind, give it occasional rest from the intensity of thought which
will sometimes wear the sweetest idea threadbare and turn it to the
bitterness of death. The third is the rapid and near approach of that
crisis on which all your thoughts and feelings concentrate.

If from all these causes you shall escape and go through triumphantly,
without another “twinge of the soul,” I shall be most happily but most
egregiously deceived. If, on the contrary, you shall, as I expect you
will at sometime, be agonized and distressed, let me, who have some
reason to speak with judgment on such a subject, beseech you to ascribe
it to the causes I have mentioned, and not to some false and ruinous
suggestion of the Devil.

“But,” you will say, “do not your causes apply to every one engaged in
a like undertaking?” By no means. The particular causes, to a greater
or less extent, perhaps do apply in all cases; but the general
one,–nervous debility, which is the key and conductor of all
the particular ones, and without which they would be utterly
harmless,–though it does pertain to you, does not pertain to one in a
thousand. It is out of this that the painful difference between you and
the mass of the world springs.

I know what the painful point with you is at all times when you are
unhappy; it is an apprehension that you do not love her as you should.
What nonsense! How came you to court her? Was it because you thought she
deserved it, and that you had given her reason to expect it? If it was
for that why did not the same reason make you court Ann Todd, and at
least twenty others of whom you can think, and to whom it would apply
with greater force than to her? Did you court her for her wealth? Why,
you know she had none. But you say you reasoned yourself into it. What
do you mean by that? Was it not that you found yourself unable to reason
yourself out of it? Did you not think, and partly form the purpose, of
courting her the first time you ever saw her or heard of her? What had
reason to do with it at that early stage? There was nothing at that time
for reason to work upon. Whether she was moral, amiable, sensible,
or even of good character, you did not, nor could then know, except,
perhaps, you might infer the last from the company you found her in.

All you then did or could know of her was her personal appearance and
deportment; and these, if they impress at all, impress the heart, and
not the head.

Say candidly, were not those heavenly black eyes the whole basis of all
your early reasoning on the subject? After you and I had once been at
the residence, did you not go and take me all the way to Lexington and
back, for no other purpose but to get to see her again, on our return
on that evening to take a trip for that express object? What earthly
consideration would you take to find her scouting and despising you, and
giving herself up to another? But of this you have no apprehension; and
therefore you cannot bring it home to your feelings.

I shall be so anxious about you that I shall want you to write by every

Your friend, LINCOLN.


SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, February 3, 1842.

DEAR SPEED:–Your letter of the 25th January came to hand to-day. You
well know that I do not feel my own sorrows much more keenly than I do
yours, when I know of them; and yet I assure you I was not much hurt by
what you wrote me of your excessively bad feeling at the time you wrote.
Not that I am less capable of sympathizing with you now than ever, not
that I am less your friend than ever, but because I hope and believe
that your present anxiety and distress about her health and her life
must and will forever banish those horrid doubts which I know you
sometimes felt as to the truth of your affection for her. If they can
once and forever be removed (and I almost feel a presentiment that the
Almighty has sent your present affliction expressly for that object),
surely nothing can come in their stead to fill their immeasurable
measure of misery. The death-scenes of those we love are surely painful
enough; but these we are prepared for and expect to see: they happen to
all, and all know they must happen. Painful as they are, they are not
an unlooked for sorrow. Should she, as you fear, be destined to an early
grave, it is indeed a great consolation to know that she is so well
prepared to meet it. Her religion, which you once disliked so much,
I will venture you now prize most highly. But I hope your melancholy
bodings as to her early death are not well founded. I even hope that
ere this reaches you she will have returned with improved and still
improving health, and that you will have met her, and forgotten the
sorrows of the past in the enjoyments of the present. I would say more
if I could, but it seems that I have said enough. It really appears
to me that you yourself ought to rejoice, and not sorrow, at this
indubitable evidence of your undying affection for her. Why, Speed, if
you did not love her although you might not wish her death, you would
most certainly be resigned to it. Perhaps this point is no longer
a question with you, and my pertinacious dwelling upon it is a rude
intrusion upon your feelings. If so, you must pardon me. You know the
hell I have suffered on that point, and how tender I am upon it. You
know I do not mean wrong. I have been quite clear of “hypo” since you
left, even better than I was along in the fall. I have seen ______ but
once. She seemed very cheerful, and so I said nothing to her about what
we spoke of.

Old Uncle Billy Herndon is dead, and it is said this evening that Uncle
Ben Ferguson will not live. This, I believe, is all the news, and enough
at that unless it were better. Write me immediately on the receipt of

Your friend, as ever, LINCOLN.


SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, February 13, 1842.

DEAR SPEED:–Yours of the 1st instant came to hand three or four days
ago. When this shall reach you, you will have been Fanny’s husband
several days. You know my desire to befriend you is everlasting; that
I will never cease while I know how to do anything. But you will always
hereafter be on ground that I have never occupied, and consequently,
if advice were needed, I might advise wrong. I do fondly hope, however,
that you will never again need any comfort from abroad. But should I be
mistaken in this, should excessive pleasure still be accompanied with
a painful counterpart at times, still let me urge you, as I have ever
done, to remember, in the depth and even agony of despondency, that very
shortly you are to feel well again. I am now fully convinced that you
love her as ardently as you are capable of loving. Your ever being happy
in her presence, and your intense anxiety about her health, if there
were nothing else, would place this beyond all dispute in my mind. I
incline to think it probable that your nerves will fail you occasionally
for a while; but once you get them firmly guarded now that trouble is
over forever. I think, if I were you, in case my mind were not exactly
right, I would avoid being idle. I would immediately engage in some
business, or go to making preparations for it, which would be the same
thing. If you went through the ceremony calmly, or even with sufficient
composure not to excite alarm in any present, you are safe beyond
question, and in two or three months, to say the most, will be the
happiest of men.

I would desire you to give my particular respects to Fanny; but perhaps
you will not wish her to know you have received this, lest she should
desire to see it. Make her write me an answer to my last letter to her;
at any rate I would set great value upon a note or letter from her.
Write me whenever you have leisure. Yours forever, A. LINCOLN. P. S.–I
have been quite a man since you left.


SPRINGFIELD, ILL., Feb. 16, 1842.


Yours of the 10th is duly received. Judge Logan and myself are doing
business together now, and we are willing to attend to your cases as you
propose. As to the terms, we are willing to attend each case you prepare
and send us for $10 (when there shall be no opposition) to be sent in
advance, or you to know that it is safe. It takes $5.75 of cost to
start upon, that is, $1.75 to clerk, and $2 to each of two publishers
of papers. Judge Logan thinks it will take the balance of $20 to carry
a case through. This must be advanced from time to time as the services
are performed, as the officers will not act without. I do not know
whether you can be admitted an attorney of the Federal court in your
absence or not; nor is it material, as the business can be done in our

Thinking it may aid you a little, I send you one of our blank forms of
Petitions. It, you will see, is framed to be sworn to before the Federal
court clerk, and, in your cases, will have [to] be so far changed as to
be sworn to before the clerk of your circuit court; and his certificate
must be accompanied with his official seal. The schedules, too, must
be attended to. Be sure that they contain the creditors’ names, their
residences, the amounts due each, the debtors’ names, their residences,
and the amounts they owe, also all property and where located.

Also be sure that the schedules are all signed by the applicants as well
as the Petition. Publication will have to be made here in one paper,
and in one nearest the residence of the applicant. Write us in each case
where the last advertisement is to be sent, whether to you or to what

I believe I have now said everything that can be of any advantage. Your
friend as ever, A. LINCOLN.


February 22, 1842.

I never encourage deceit, and falsehood, especially if you have got a
bad memory, is the worst enemy a fellow can have. The fact is truth
is your truest friend, no matter what the circumstances are.
Notwithstanding this copy-book preamble, my boy, I am inclined to
suggest a little prudence on your part. You see I have a congenital
aversion to failure, and the sudden announcement to your Uncle Andrew of
the success of your “lamp rubbing” might possibly prevent your passing
the severe physical examination to which you will be subjected in order
to enter the Military Academy. You see I should like to have a perfect
soldier credited to dear old Illinois–no broken bones, scalp wounds,
etc. So I think it might be wise to hand this letter from me in to
your good uncle through his room-window after he has had a comfortable
dinner, and watch its effect from the top of the pigeon-house.

I have just told the folks here in Springfield on this 111th anniversary
of the birth of him whose name, mightiest in the cause of civil liberty,
still mightiest in the cause of moral reformation, we mention in solemn
awe, in naked, deathless splendor, that the one victory we can ever call
complete will be that one which proclaims that there is not one slave or
one drunkard on the face of God’s green earth. Recruit for this victory.

Now, boy, on your march, don’t you go and forget the old maxim that “one
drop of honey catches more flies than a half-gallon of gall.” Load your
musket with this maxim, and smoke it in your pipe.


FEBRUARY 22, 1842.

Although the temperance cause has been in progress for near twenty
years, it is apparent to all that it is just now being crowned with a
degree of success hitherto unparalleled.

The list of its friends is daily swelled by the additions of fifties, of
hundreds, and of thousands. The cause itself seems suddenly transformed
from a cold abstract theory to a living, breathing, active, and powerful
chieftain, going forth “conquering and to conquer.” The citadels of his
great adversary are daily being stormed and dismantled; his temple and
his altars, where the rites of his idolatrous worship have long been
performed, and where human sacrifices have long been wont to be made,
are daily desecrated and deserted. The triumph of the conqueror’s fame
is sounding from hill to hill, from sea to sea, and from land to land,
and calling millions to his standard at a blast.

For this new and splendid success we heartily rejoice. That that success
is so much greater now than heretofore is doubtless owing to rational
causes; and if we would have it continue, we shall do well to inquire
what those causes are.

The warfare heretofore waged against the demon intemperance has somehow
or other been erroneous. Either the champions engaged or the tactics
they adopted have not been the most proper. These champions for the most
part have been preachers, lawyers, and hired agents. Between these and
the mass of mankind there is a want of approachability, if the term
be admissible, partially, at least, fatal to their success. They are
supposed to have no sympathy of feeling or interest with those very
persons whom it is their object to convince and persuade.

And again, it is so common and so easy to ascribe motives to men of
these classes other than those they profess to act upon. The preacher,
it is said, advocates temperance because he is a fanatic, and desires a
union of the Church and State; the lawyer from his pride and vanity of
hearing himself speak; and the hired agent for his salary. But when one
who has long been known as a victim of intemperance bursts the fetters
that have bound him, and appears before his neighbors “clothed and in
his right mind,” a redeemed specimen of long-lost humanity, and stands
up, with tears of joy trembling in his eyes, to tell of the miseries
once endured, now to be endured no more forever; of his once naked and
starving children, now clad and fed comfortably; of a wife long weighed
down with woe, weeping, and a broken heart, now restored to health,
happiness, and a renewed affection; and how easily it is all done, once
it is resolved to be done; how simple his language! there is a logic and
an eloquence in it that few with human feelings can resist. They cannot
say that he desires a union of Church and State, for he is not a church
member; they cannot say he is vain of hearing himself speak, for his
whole demeanor shows he would gladly avoid speaking at all; they cannot
say he speaks for pay, for he receives none, and asks for none. Nor can
his sincerity in any way be doubted, or his sympathy for those he would
persuade to imitate his example be denied.

In my judgment, it is to the battles of this new class of champions
that our late success is greatly, perhaps chiefly, owing. But, had the
old-school champions themselves been of the most wise selecting, was
their system of tactics the most judicious? It seems to me it was
not. Too much denunciation against dram-sellers and dram-drinkers
was indulged in. This I think was both impolitic and unjust. It was
impolitic, because it is not much in the nature of man to be driven to
anything; still less to be driven about that which is exclusively his
own business; and least of all where such driving is to be submitted
to at the expense of pecuniary interest or burning appetite. When the
dram-seller and drinker were incessantly told not in accents of entreaty
and persuasion, diffidently addressed by erring man to an erring
brother, but in the thundering tones of anathema and denunciation with
which the lordly judge often groups together all the crimes of the
felon’s life, and thrusts them in his face just ere he passes sentence
of death upon him that they were the authors of all the vice and misery
and crime in the land; that they were the manufacturers and material of
all the thieves and robbers and murderers that infest the earth; that
their houses were the workshops of the devil; and that their persons
should be shunned by all the good and virtuous, as moral pestilences–I
say, when they were told all this, and in this way, it is not wonderful
that they were slow to acknowledge the truth of such denunciations,
and to join the ranks of their denouncers in a hue and cry against

To have expected them to do otherwise than they did to have expected
them not to meet denunciation with denunciation, crimination with
crimination, and anathema with anathema–was to expect a reversal of
human nature, which is God’s decree and can never be reversed.

When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind,
unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true
maxim that “a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.”
So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him
that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches
his heart, which, say what he will, is the great highroad to his
reason; and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble
in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that
cause really be a just one. On the contrary, assume to dictate to his
judgment, or to command his action, or to mark him as one to be shunned
and despised, and he will retreat within himself, close all the avenues
to his head and his heart; and though your cause be naked truth itself,
transformed to the heaviest lance, harder than steel, and sharper than
steel can be made, and though you throw it with more than herculean
force and precision, you shall be no more able to pierce him than to
penetrate the hard shell of a tortoise with a rye straw. Such is man,
and so must he be understood by those who would lead him, even to his
own best interests.

On this point the Washingtonians greatly excel the temperance advocates
of former times. Those whom they desire to convince and persuade are
their old friends and companions. They know they are not demons, nor
even the worst of men; they know that generally they are kind, generous,
and charitable even beyond the example of their more staid and sober
neighbors. They are practical philanthropists; and they glow with
a generous and brotherly zeal that mere theorizers are incapable of
feeling. Benevolence and charity possess their hearts entirely; and out
of the abundance of their hearts their tongues give utterance; “love
through all their actions runs, and all their words are mild.” In this
spirit they speak and act, and in the same they are heard and regarded.
And when such is the temper of the advocate, and such of the audience,
no good cause can be unsuccessful. But I have said that denunciations
against dramsellers and dram-drinkers are unjust, as well as impolitic.
Let us see. I have not inquired at what period of time the use of
intoxicating liquors commenced; nor is it important to know. It is
sufficient that, to all of us who now inhabit the world, the practice of
drinking them is just as old as the world itself that is, we have seen
the one just as long as we have seen the other. When all such of us as
have now reached the years of maturity first opened our eyes upon
the stage of existence, we found intoxicating liquor recognized by
everybody, used by everybody, repudiated by nobody. It commonly entered
into the first draught of the infant and the last draught of the dying
man. From the sideboard of the parson down to the ragged pocket of the
houseless loafer, it was constantly found. Physicians proscribed it in
this, that, and the other disease; government provided it for soldiers
and sailors; and to have a rolling or raising, a husking or “hoedown,”
anywhere about without it was positively insufferable. So, too, it was
everywhere a respectable article of manufacture and merchandise. The
making of it was regarded as an honorable livelihood, and he who could
make most was the most enterprising and respectable. Large and small
manufactories of it were everywhere erected, in which all the earthly
goods of their owners were invested. Wagons drew it from town to town;
boats bore it from clime to clime, and the winds wafted it from nation
to nation; and merchants bought and sold it, by wholesale and retail,
with precisely the same feelings on the part of the seller, buyer, and
bystander as are felt at the selling and buying of ploughs, beef, bacon,
or any other of the real necessaries of life. Universal public opinion
not only tolerated but recognized and adopted its use.

It is true that even then it was known and acknowledged that many were
greatly injured by it; but none seemed to think the injury arose from
the use of a bad thing, but from the abuse of a very good thing. The
victims of it were to be pitied and compassionated, just as are the
heirs of consumption and other hereditary diseases. Their failing was
treated as a misfortune, and not as a crime, or even as a disgrace. If,
then, what I have been saying is true, is it wonderful that some should
think and act now as all thought and acted twenty years ago? and is it
just to assail, condemn, or despise them for doing so? The universal
sense of mankind on any subject is an argument, or at least an
influence, not easily overcome. The success of the argument in favor
of the existence of an overruling Providence mainly depends upon that
sense; and men ought not in justice to be denounced for yielding to it
in any case, or giving it up slowly, especially when they are backed by
interest, fixed habits, or burning appetites.

Another error, as it seems to me, into which the old reformers fell, was
the position that all habitual drunkards were utterly incorrigible, and
therefore must be turned adrift and damned without remedy in order that
the grace of temperance might abound, to the temperate then, and to all
mankind some hundreds of years thereafter. There is in this some
thing so repugnant to humanity, so uncharitable, so cold-blooded and
feelingless, that it, never did nor ever can enlist the enthusiasm of a
popular cause. We could not love the man who taught it we could not hear
him with patience. The heart could not throw open its portals to it,
the generous man could not adopt it–it could not mix with his blood.
It looked so fiendishly selfish, so like throwing fathers and brothers
overboard to lighten the boat for our security, that the noble-minded
shrank from the manifest meanness of the thing. And besides this, the
benefits of a reformation to be effected by such a system were too
remote in point of time to warmly engage many in its behalf. Few can
be induced to labor exclusively for posterity, and none will do it
enthusiastically. –Posterity has done nothing for us; and, theorize on
it as we may, practically we shall do very little for it, unless we are
made to think we are at the same time doing something for ourselves.

What an ignorance of human nature does it exhibit to ask or to expect
a whole community to rise up and labor for the temporal happiness of
others, after themselves shall be consigned to the dust, a majority
of which community take no pains whatever to secure their own eternal
welfare at no more distant day! Great distance in either time or
space has wonderful power to lull and render quiescent the human mind.
Pleasures to be enjoyed, or pains to be endured, after we shall be dead
and gone are but little regarded even in our own cases, and much less
in the cases of others. Still, in addition to this there is something so
ludicrous in promises of good or threats of evil a great way off as to
render the whole subject with which they are connected easily turned
into ridicule. “Better lay down that spade you are stealing, Paddy; if
you don’t you’ll pay for it at the day of judgment.” “Be the powers, if
ye’ll credit me so long I’ll take another jist.”

By the Washingtonians this system of consigning the habitual drunkard
to hopeless ruin is repudiated. They adopt a more enlarged philanthropy;
they go for present as well as future good. They labor for all now
living, as well as hereafter to live. They teach hope to all-despair to
none. As applying to their cause, they deny the doctrine of
unpardonable sin; as in Christianity it is taught, so in this they
teach–“While–While the lamp holds out to burn, The vilest sinner may
return.” And, what is a matter of more profound congratulation, they, by
experiment upon experiment and example upon example, prove the maxim
to be no less true in the one case than in the other. On every hand we
behold those who but yesterday were the chief of sinners, now the chief
apostles of the cause. Drunken devils are cast out by ones, by sevens,
by legions; and their unfortunate victims, like the poor possessed who
were redeemed from their long and lonely wanderings in the tombs, are
publishing to the ends of the earth how great things have been done for

To these new champions and this new system of tactics our late
success is mainly owing, and to them we must mainly look for the final
consummation. The ball is now rolling gloriously on, and none are so
able as they to increase its speed and its bulk, to add to its momentum
and its magnitude–even though unlearned in letters, for this task none
are so well educated. To fit them for this work they have been taught in
the true school. They have been in that gulf from which they would teach
others the means of escape. They have passed that prison wall which
others have long declared impassable; and who that has not shall dare to
weigh opinions with them as to the mode of passing?

But if it be true, as I have insisted, that those who have suffered by
intemperance personally, and have reformed, are the most powerful and
efficient instruments to push the reformation to ultimate success, it
does not follow that those who have not suffered have no part left them
to perform. Whether or not the world would be vastly benefited by a
total and final banishment from it of all intoxicating drinks seems
to me not now an open question. Three fourths of mankind confess the
affirmative with their tongues, and, I believe, all the rest acknowledge
it in their hearts.

Ought any, then, to refuse their aid in doing what good the good of the
whole demands? Shall he who cannot do much be for that reason excused
if he do nothing? “But,” says one, “what good can I do by signing the
pledge? I never drank, even without signing.” This question has already
been asked and answered more than a million of times. Let it be answered
once more. For the man suddenly or in any other way to break off from
the use of drams, who has indulged in them for a long course of years
and until his appetite for them has grown ten or a hundredfold stronger
and more craving than any natural appetite can be, requires a most
powerful moral effort. In such an undertaking he needs every moral
support and influence that can possibly be brought to his aid and thrown
around him. And not only so, but every moral prop should be taken from
whatever argument might rise in his mind to lure him to his backsliding.
When he casts his eyes around him, he should be able to see all that he
respects, all that he admires, all that he loves, kindly and anxiously
pointing him onward, and none beckoning him back to his former miserable
“wallowing in the mire.”

But it is said by some that men will think and act for themselves; that
none will disuse spirits or anything else because his neighbors do; and
that moral influence is not that powerful engine contended for. Let us
examine this. Let me ask the man who could maintain this position most
stiffly, what compensation he will accept to go to church some Sunday
and sit during the sermon with his wife’s bonnet upon his head? Not a
trifle, I’ll venture. And why not? There would be nothing irreligious
in it, nothing immoral, nothing uncomfortable–then why not? Is it not
because there would be something egregiously unfashionable in it? Then
it is the influence of fashion; and what is the influence of fashion
but the influence that other people’s actions have on our actions–the
strong inclination each of us feels to do as we see all our neighbors
do? Nor is the influence of fashion confined to any particular thing or
class of things; it is just as strong on one subject as another. Let us
make it as unfashionable to withhold our names from the temperance cause
as for husbands to wear their wives’ bonnets to church, and instances
will be just as rare in the one case as the other.

“But,” say some, “we are no drunkards, and we shall not acknowledge
ourselves such by joining a reformed drunkard’s society, whatever our
influence might be.” Surely no Christian will adhere to this objection.
If they believe as they profess, that Omnipotence condescended to take
on himself the form of sinful man, and as such to die an ignominious
death for their sakes, surely they will not refuse submission to the
infinitely lesser condescension, for the temporal, and perhaps
eternal, salvation of a large, erring, and unfortunate class of their
fellow-creatures. Nor is the condescension very great. In my judgment
such of us as have never fallen victims have been spared more by the
absence of appetite than from any mental or moral superiority over those
who have. Indeed, I believe if we take habitual drunkards as a class,
their heads and their hearts will bear an advantageous comparison with
those of any other class. There seems ever to have been a proneness
in the brilliant and warm-blooded to fall into this vice–the demon of
intemperance ever seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius
and of generosity. What one of us but can call to mind some relative,
more promising in youth than all his fellows, who has fallen a sacrifice
to his rapacity? He ever seems to have gone forth like the Egyptian
angel of death, commissioned to slay, if not the first, the fairest born
of every family. Shall he now be arrested in his desolating career? In
that arrest all can give aid that will; and who shall be excused that
can and will not? Far around as human breath has ever blown he keeps our
fathers, our brothers, our sons, and our friends prostrate in the chains
of moral death. To all the living everywhere we cry, “Come sound the
moral trump, that these may rise and stand up an exceeding great army.”
“Come from the four winds, O breath! and breathe upon these slain
that they may live.” If the relative grandeur of revolutions shall be
estimated by the great amount of human misery they alleviate, and the
small amount they inflict, then indeed will this be the grandest the
world shall ever have seen.

Of our political revolution of ’76 we are all justly proud. It has given
us a degree of political freedom far exceeding that of any other nation
of the earth. In it the world has found a solution of the long-mooted
problem as to the capability of man to govern himself. In it was the
germ which has vegetated, and still is to grow and expand into the
universal liberty of mankind. But, with all these glorious results,
past, present, and to come, it had its evils too. It breathed forth
famine, swam in blood, and rode in fire; and long, long after, the
orphan’s cry and the widow’s wail continued to break the sad silence
that ensued. These were the price, the inevitable price, paid for the
blessings it bought.

Turn now to the temperance revolution. In it we shall find a stronger
bondage broken, a viler slavery manumitted, a greater tyrant deposed; in
it, more of want supplied, more disease healed, more sorrow assuaged.
By it no Orphans starving, no widows weeping. By it none wounded in
feeling, none injured in interest; even the drammaker and dram-seller
will have glided into other occupations so gradually as never to
have felt the change, and will stand ready to join all others in the
universal song of gladness. And what a noble ally this to the cause of
political freedom, with such an aid its march cannot fail to be on
and on, till every son of earth shall drink in rich fruition the
sorrow-quenching draughts of perfect liberty. Happy day when-all
appetites controlled, all poisons subdued, all matter subjected-mind,
all-conquering mind, shall live and move, the monarch of the world.
Glorious consummation! Hail, fall of fury! Reign of reason, all hail!

And when the victory shall be complete, when there shall be neither
a slave nor a drunkard on the earth, how proud the title of that land
which may truly claim to be the birthplace and the cradle of both
those revolutions that shall have ended in that victory. How nobly
distinguished that people who shall have planted and nurtured to
maturity both the political and moral freedom of their species.

This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birthday of
Washington; we are met to celebrate this day. Washington is the
mightiest name of earth long since mightiest in the cause of civil
liberty, still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name no eulogy
is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun or glory to the
name of Washington is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn
awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor leave it
shining on.


SPRINGFIELD, February 25, 1842.

DEAR SPEED:–Yours of the 16th instant, announcing that Miss Fanny and
you are “no more twain, but one flesh,” reached me this morning. I
have no way of telling you how much happiness I wish you both, though I
believe you both can conceive it. I feel somewhat jealous of both of you
now: you will be so exclusively concerned for one another, that I shall
be forgotten entirely. My acquaintance with Miss Fanny (I call her this,
lest you should think I am speaking of your mother) was too short for me
to reasonably hope to long be remembered by her; and still I am sure I
shall not forget her soon. Try if you cannot remind her of that debt she
owes me–and be sure you do not interfere to prevent her paying it.

I regret to learn that you have resolved to not return to Illinois.
I shall be very lonesome without you. How miserably things seem to be
arranged in this world! If we have no friends, we have no pleasure; and
if we have them, we are sure to lose them, and be doubly pained by the
loss. I did hope she and you would make your home here; but I own I have
no right to insist. You owe obligations to her ten thousand times
more sacred than you can owe to others, and in that light let them be
respected and observed. It is natural that she should desire to remain
with her relatives and friends. As to friends, however, she could not
need them anywhere: she would have them in abundance here.

Give my kind remembrance to Mr. Williamson and his family, particularly
Miss Elizabeth; also to your mother, brother, and sisters. Ask little
Eliza Davis if she will ride to town with me if I come there again. And
finally, give Fanny a double reciprocation of all the love she sent me.
Write me often, and believe me

Yours forever, LINCOLN.

P. S. Poor Easthouse is gone at last. He died awhile before day this
morning. They say he was very loath to die….



SPRINGFIELD, February 25,1842.

DEAR SPEED:–I received yours of the 12th written the day you went down
to William’s place, some days since, but delayed answering it till I
should receive the promised one of the 16th, which came last night.
I opened the letter with intense anxiety and trepidation; so much so,
that, although it turned out better than I expected, I have hardly yet,
at a distance of ten hours, become calm.

I tell you, Speed, our forebodings (for which you and I are peculiar)
are all the worst sort of nonsense. I fancied, from the time I received
your letter of Saturday, that the one of Wednesday was never to come,
and yet it did come, and what is more, it is perfectly clear, both from
its tone and handwriting, that you were much happier, or, if you think
the term preferable, less miserable, when you wrote it than when you
wrote the last one before. You had so obviously improved at the
very time I so much fancied you would have grown worse. You say that
something indescribably horrible and alarming still haunts you. You will
not say that three months from now, I will venture. When your nerves
once get steady now, the whole trouble will be over forever. Nor should
you become impatient at their being even very slow in becoming steady.
Again you say, you much fear that that Elysium of which you have dreamed
so much is never to be realized. Well, if it shall not, I dare swear it
will not be the fault of her who is now your wife. I now have no doubt
that it is the peculiar misfortune of both you and me to dream dreams of
Elysium far exceeding all that anything earthly can realize. Far short
of your dreams as you may be, no woman could do more to realize them
than that same black-eyed Fanny. If you could but contemplate her
through my imagination, it would appear ridiculous to you that any one
should for a moment think of being unhappy with her. My old father
used to have a saying that “If you make a bad bargain, hug it all the
tighter”; and it occurs to me that if the bargain you have just closed
can possibly be called a bad one, it is certainly the most pleasant one
for applying that maxim to which my fancy can by any effort picture.

I write another letter, enclosing this, which you can show her, if she
desires it. I do this because she would think strangely, perhaps, should
you tell her that you received no letters from me, or, telling her you
do, refuse to let her see them. I close this, entertaining the confident
hope that every successive letter I shall have from you (which I here
pray may not be few, nor far between) may show you possessing a more
steady hand and cheerful heart than the last preceding it. As ever, your
friend, LINCOLN.


SPRINGFIELD, March 27, 1842

DEAR SPEED:–Yours of the 10th instant was received three or four days
since. You know I am sincere when I tell you the pleasure its contents
gave me was, and is, inexpressible. As to your farm matter, I have
no sympathy with you. I have no farm, nor ever expect to have, and
consequently have not studied the subject enough to be much interested
with it. I can only say that I am glad you are satisfied and pleased
with it. But on that other subject, to me of the most intense interest
whether in joy or sorrow, I never had the power to withhold my sympathy
from you. It cannot be told how it now thrills me with joy to hear you
say you are “far happier than you ever expected to be.” That much I know
is enough. I know you too well to suppose your expectations were not,
at least, sometimes extravagant, and if the reality exceeds them all, I
say, Enough, dear Lord. I am not going beyond the truth when I tell you
that the short space it took me to read your last letter gave me more
pleasure than the total sum of all I have enjoyed since the fatal 1st
of January, 1841. Since then it seems to me I should have been entirely
happy, but for the never-absent idea that there is one still unhappy
whom I have contributed to make so. That still kills my soul. I cannot
but reproach myself for even wishing to be happy while she is otherwise.
She accompanied a large party on the railroad cars to Jacksonville
last Monday, and on her return spoke, so that I heard of it, of having
enjoyed the trip exceedingly. God be praised for that.

You know with what sleepless vigilance I have watched you ever since the
commencement of your affair; and although I am almost confident it is
useless, I cannot forbear once more to say that I think it is even yet
possible for your spirits to flag down and leave you miserable. If they
should, don’t fail to remember that they cannot long remain so. One
thing I can tell you which I know you will be glad to hear, and that is
that I have seen–and scrutinized her feelings as well as I could, and
am fully convinced she is far happier now than she has been for the last
fifteen months past.

You will see by the last Sangamon Journal, that I made a temperance
speech on the 22d of February, which I claim that Fanny and you shall
read as an act of charity to me; for I cannot learn that anybody else
has read it, or is likely to. Fortunately it is not very long, and I
shall deem it a sufficient compliance with my request if one of you
listens while the other reads it.

As to your Lockridge matter, it is only necessary to say that there
has been no court since you left, and that the next commences to-morrow
morning, during which I suppose we cannot fail to get a judgment.

I wish you would learn of Everett what he would take, over and above a
discharge for all the trouble we have been at, to take his business out
of our hands and give it to somebody else. It is impossible to collect
money on that or any other claim here now; and although you know I am
not a very petulant man, I declare I am almost out of patience with Mr.
Everett’s importunity. It seems like he not only writes all the letters
he can himself, but gets everybody else in Louisville and vicinity to
be constantly writing to us about his claim. I have always said that
Mr. Everett is a very clever fellow, and I am very sorry he cannot be
obliged; but it does seem to me he ought to know we are interested to
collect his claim, and therefore would do it if we could.

I am neither joking nor in a pet when I say we would thank him to
transfer his business to some other, without any compensation for what
we have done, provided he will see the court cost paid, for which we are

The sweet violet you inclosed came safely to hand, but it was so dry,
and mashed so flat, that it crumbled to dust at the first attempt
to handle it. The juice that mashed out of it stained a place in the
letter, which I mean to preserve and cherish for the sake of her who
procured it to be sent. My renewed good wishes to her in particular, and
generally to all such of your relations who know me.

As ever,




DEAR SPEED:–Yours of the 16th June was received only a day or two
since. It was not mailed at Louisville till the 25th. You speak of the
great time that has elapsed since I wrote you. Let me explain that. Your
letter reached here a day or two after I started on the circuit. I
was gone five or six weeks, so that I got the letters only a few weeks
before Butler started to your country. I thought it scarcely worth while
to write you the news which he could and would tell you more in detail.
On his return he told me you would write me soon, and so I waited for
your letter. As to my having been displeased with your advice, surely
you know better than that. I know you do, and therefore will not labor
to convince you. True, that subject is painful to me; but it is not your
silence, or the silence of all the world, that can make me forget it. I
acknowledge the correctness of your advice too; but before I resolve
to do the one thing or the other, I must gain my confidence in my own
ability to keep my resolves when they are made. In that ability you know
I once prided myself as the only or chief gem of my character; that gem
I lost–how and where you know too well. I have not yet regained it; and
until I do, I cannot trust myself in any matter of much importance. I
believe now that had you understood my case at the time as well as I
understand yours afterward, by the aid you would have given me I should
have sailed through clear, but that does not now afford me sufficient
confidence to begin that or the like of that again.

You make a kind acknowledgment of your obligations to me for your
present happiness. I am pleased with that acknowledgment. But a thousand
times more am I pleased to know that you enjoy a degree of happiness
worthy of an acknowledgment. The truth is, I am not sure that there was
any merit with me in the part I took in your difficulty; I was drawn to
it by a fate. If I would I could not have done less than I did. I always
was superstitious; I believe God made me one of the instruments of
bringing your Fanny and you together, which union I have no doubt He had
fore-ordained. Whatever He designs He will do for me yet. “Stand still,
and see the salvation of the Lord” is my text just now. If, as you say,
you have told Fanny all, I should have no objection to her seeing this
letter, but for its reference to our friend here: let her seeing it
depend upon whether she has ever known anything of my affairs; and if
she has not, do not let her.

I do not think I can come to Kentucky this season. I am so poor and make
so little headway in the world, that I drop back in a month of idleness
as much as I gain in a year’s sowing. I should like to visit you again.
I should like to see that “sis” of yours that was absent when I was
there, though I suppose she would run away again if she were to hear I
was coming.

My respects and esteem to all your friends there, and, by your
permission, my love to your Fanny.

Ever yours,



Article written by Lincoln for the Sangamon Journal in ridicule of James
Shields, who, as State Auditor, had declined to receive State Bank notes
in payment of taxes. The above letter purported to come from a poor
widow who, though supplied with State Bank paper, could not obtain a
receipt for her tax bill. This, and another subsequent letter by Mary
Todd, brought about the “Lincoln-Shields Duel.”


August 27, 1842.


I see you printed that long letter I sent you a spell ago. I ‘m quite
encouraged by it, and can’t keep from writing again. I think the
printing of my letters will be a good thing all round–it will give
me the benefit of being known by the world, and give the world the
advantage of knowing what’s going on in the Lost Townships, and give
your paper respectability besides. So here comes another. Yesterday
afternoon I hurried through cleaning up the dinner dishes and stepped
over to neighbor S—— to see if his wife Peggy was as well as mout be
expected, and hear what they called the baby. Well, when I got there and
just turned round the corner of his log cabin, there he was, setting on
the doorstep reading a newspaper. “How are you, Jeff?” says I. He sorter
started when he heard me, for he hadn’t seen me before. “Why,” says he,
“I ‘m mad as the devil, Aunt ‘Becca!” “What about?” says I; “ain’t
its hair the right color? None of that nonsense, Jeff; there ain’t an
honester woman in the Lost Townships than…”–“Than who?” says he;
“what the mischief are you about?” I began to see I was running the
wrong trail, and so says I, “Oh! nothing: I guess I was mistaken a
little, that’s all. But what is it you ‘re mad about?”

“Why,” says he, “I’ve been tugging ever since harvest, getting out wheat
and hauling it to the river to raise State Bank paper enough to pay my
tax this year and a little school debt I owe; and now, just as I ‘ve got
it, here I open this infernal Extra Register, expecting to find it full
of ‘Glorious Democratic Victories’ and ‘High Comb’d Cocks,’ when, lo
and behold! I find a set of fellows, calling themselves officers of the
State, have forbidden the tax collectors, and school commissioners to
receive State paper at all; and so here it is dead on my hands. I don’t
now believe all the plunder I’ve got will fetch ready cash enough to pay
my taxes and that school debt.”

I was a good deal thunderstruck myself; for that was the first I had
heard of the proclamation, and my old man was pretty much in the same
fix with Jeff. We both stood a moment staring at one another without
knowing what to say. At last says I, “Mr. S—— let me look at that
paper.” He handed it to me, when I read the proclamation over.

“There now,” says he, “did you ever see such a piece of impudence and
imposition as that?” I saw Jeff was in a good tune for saying some
ill-natured things, and so I tho’t I would just argue a little on the
contrary side, and make him rant a spell if I could. “Why,” says I,
looking as dignified and thoughtful as I could, “it seems pretty tough,
to be sure, to have to raise silver where there’s none to be raised; but
then, you see, ‘there will be danger of loss’ if it ain’t done.”

“Loss! damnation!” says he. “I defy Daniel Webster, I defy King Solomon,
I defy the world–I defy–I defy–yes, I defy even you, Aunt ‘Becca,
to show how the people can lose anything by paying their taxes in State

“Well,” says I, “you see what the officers of State say about it, and
they are a desarnin’ set of men. But,” says I, “I guess you ‘re mistaken
about what the proclamation says. It don’t say the people will lose
anything by the paper money being taken for taxes. It only says ‘there
will be danger of loss’; and though it is tolerable plain that the
people can’t lose by paying their taxes in something they can get easier
than silver, instead of having to pay silver; and though it’s just as
plain that the State can’t lose by taking State Bank paper, however low
it may be, while she owes the bank more than the whole revenue, and
can pay that paper over on her debt, dollar for dollar;–still there is
danger of loss to the ‘officers of State’; and you know, Jeff, we can’t
get along without officers of State.”

“Damn officers of State!” says he; “that’s what Whigs are always
hurrahing for.”

“Now, don’t swear so, Jeff,” says I, “you know I belong to the meetin’,
and swearin’ hurts my feelings.”

“Beg pardon, Aunt ‘Becca,” says he; “but I do say it’s enough to make
Dr. Goddard swear, to have tax to pay in silver, for nothing only
that Ford may get his two thousand a year, and Shields his twenty-four
hundred a year, and Carpenter his sixteen hundred a year, and all
without ‘danger of loss’ by taking it in State paper. Yes, yes: it’s
plain enough now what these officers of State mean by ‘danger of loss.’
Wash, I s’pose, actually lost fifteen hundred dollars out of the three
thousand that two of these ‘officers of State’ let him steal from the
treasury, by being compelled to take it in State paper. Wonder if we
don’t have a proclamation before long, commanding us to make up this
loss to Wash in silver.”

And so he went on till his breath run out, and he had to stop. I
couldn’t think of anything to say just then, and so I begun to look over
the paper again. “Ay! here’s another proclamation, or something like

“Another?” says Jeff; “and whose egg is it, pray?”

I looked to the bottom of it, and read aloud, “Your obedient servant,
James Shields, Auditor.”

“Aha!” says Jeff, “one of them same three fellows again. Well read it,
and let’s hear what of it.”

I read on till I came to where it says, “The object of this measure is
to suspend the collection of the revenue for the current year.”

“Now stop, now stop!” says he; “that’s a lie a’ready, and I don’t want
to hear of it.”

“Oh, maybe not,” says I.

“I say it-is-a-lie. Suspend the collection, indeed! Will the collectors,
that have taken their oaths to make the collection, dare to end it?
Is there anything in law requiring them to perjure themselves at the
bidding of James Shields?

“Will the greedy gullet of the penitentiary be satisfied with swallowing
him instead of all of them, if they should venture to obey him? And
would he not discover some ‘danger of loss,’ and be off about the time
it came to taking their places?

“And suppose the people attempt to suspend, by refusing to pay; what
then? The collectors would just jerk up their horses and cows, and the
like, and sell them to the highest bidder for silver in hand, without
valuation or redemption. Why, Shields didn’t believe that story himself;
it was never meant for the truth. If it was true, why was it not writ
till five days after the proclamation? Why did n’t Carlin and Carpenter
sign it as well as Shields? Answer me that, Aunt ‘Becca. I say it’s a
lie, and not a well told one at that. It grins out like a copper dollar.
Shields is a fool as well as a liar. With him truth is out of the
question; and as for getting a good, bright, passable lie out of him,
you might as well try to strike fire from a cake of tallow. I stick to
it, it’s all an infernal Whig lie!”

“A Whig lie! Highty tighty!”

“Yes, a Whig lie; and it’s just like everything the cursed British Whigs
do. First they’ll do some divilment, and then they’ll tell a lie to hide
it. And they don’t care how plain a lie it is; they think they can cram
any sort of a one down the throats of the ignorant Locofocos, as they
call the Democrats.”

“Why, Jeff, you ‘re crazy: you don’t mean to say Shields is a Whig!”

“Yes, I do.”

“Why, look here! the proclamation is in your own Democratic paper, as
you call it.”

“I know it; and what of that? They only printed it to let us Democrats
see the deviltry the Whigs are at.”

“Well, but Shields is the auditor of this Loco–I mean this Democratic

“So he is, and Tyler appointed him to office.”

“Tyler appointed him?”

“Yes (if you must chaw it over), Tyler appointed him; or, if it was n’t
him, it was old Granny Harrison, and that’s all one. I tell you, Aunt
‘Becca, there’s no mistake about his being a Whig. Why, his very looks
shows it; everything about him shows it: if I was deaf and blind, I
could tell him by the smell. I seed him when I was down in Springfield
last winter. They had a sort of a gatherin’ there one night among the
grandees, they called a fair. All the gals about town was there, and all
the handsome widows and married women, finickin’ about trying to look
like gals, tied as tight in the middle, and puffed out at both ends,
like bundles of fodder that had n’t been stacked yet, but wanted
stackin’ pretty bad. And then they had tables all around the house
kivered over with [——] caps and pincushions and ten thousand such
little knick-knacks, tryin’ to sell ’em to the fellows that were bowin’,
and scrapin’ and kungeerin’ about ’em. They would n’t let no Democrats
in, for fear they’d disgust the ladies, or scare the little gals, or
dirty the floor. I looked in at the window, and there was this same
fellow Shields floatin’ about on the air, without heft or earthly
substances, just like a lock of cat fur where cats had been fighting.

“He was paying his money to this one, and that one, and t’ other one,
and sufferin’ great loss because it was n’t silver instead of State
paper; and the sweet distress he seemed to be in,–his very features,
in the ecstatic agony of his soul, spoke audibly and distinctly, ‘Dear
girls, it is distressing, but I cannot marry you all. Too well I know
how much you suffer; but do, do remember, it is not my fault that I am
so handsome and so interesting.’

“As this last was expressed by a most exquisite contortion of his face,
he seized hold of one of their hands, and squeezed, and held on to it
about a quarter of an hour. ‘Oh, my good fellow!’ says I to myself, ‘if
that was one of our Democratic gals in the Lost Townships, the way you
‘d get a brass pin let into you would be about up to the head.’ He a
Democrat! Fiddlesticks! I tell you, Aunt ‘Becca, he’s a Whig, and no
mistake; nobody but a Whig could make such a conceity dunce of himself.”

“Well,” says I, “maybe he is; but, if he is, I ‘m mistaken the worst
sort. Maybe so, maybe so; but, if I am, I’ll suffer by it; I’ll be a
Democrat if it turns out that Shields is a Whig, considerin’ you shall
be a Whig if he turns out a Democrat.”

“A bargain, by jingoes!” says he; “but how will we find out?”

“Why,” says I, “we’ll just write and ax the printer.”

“Agreed again!” says he; “and by thunder! if it does turn out that
Shields is a Democrat, I never will—-”

“Jefferson! Jefferson!”

“What do you want, Peggy?”

“Do get through your everlasting clatter some time, and bring me a gourd
of water; the child’s been crying for a drink this livelong hour.”

“Let it die, then; it may as well die for water as to be taxed to death
to fatten officers of State.”

Jeff run off to get the water, though, just like he hadn’t been saying
anything spiteful, for he’s a raal good-hearted fellow, after all, once
you get at the foundation of him.

I walked into the house, and, “Why, Peggy,” says I, “I declare we like
to forgot you altogether.”

“Oh, yes,” says she, “when a body can’t help themselves, everybody soon
forgets ’em; but, thank God! by day after to-morrow I shall be well
enough to milk the cows, and pen the calves, and wring the contrary
ones’ tails for ’em, and no thanks to nobody.”

“Good evening, Peggy,” says I, and so I sloped, for I seed she was mad
at me for making Jeff neglect her so long.

And now, Mr. Printer, will you be sure to let us know in your next paper
whether this Shields is a Whig or a Democrat? I don’t care about it for
myself, for I know well enough how it is already; but I want to convince
Jeff. It may do some good to let him, and others like him, know who
and what these officers of State are. It may help to send the present
hypocritical set to where they belong, and to fill the places they now
disgrace with men who will do more work for less pay, and take fewer
airs while they are doing it. It ain’t sensible to think that the same
men who get us in trouble will change their course; and yet it’s pretty
plain if some change for the better is not made, it’s not long that
either Peggy or I or any of us will have a cow left to milk, or a calf’s
tail to wring.

Yours truly,



SPRINGFIELD, ILL., Aug 29, 1842.

HON. HENRY CLAY, Lexington, Ky.

DEAR SIR:–We hear you are to visit Indianapolis, Indiana, on the 5th Of
October next. If our information in this is correct we hope you will
not deny us the pleasure of seeing you in our State. We are aware of the
toil necessarily incident to a journey by one circumstanced as you are;
but once you have embarked, as you have already determined to do, the
toil would not be greatly augmented by extending the journey to our
capital. The season of the year will be most favorable for good roads,
and pleasant weather; and although we cannot but believe you would be
highly gratified with such a visit to the prairie-land, the pleasure it
would give us and thousands such as we is beyond all question. You have
never visited Illinois, or at least this portion of it; and should you
now yield to our request, we promise you such a reception as shall be
worthy of the man on whom are now turned the fondest hopes of a great
and suffering nation.

Please inform us at the earliest convenience whether we may expect you.

Very respectfully your obedient servants,

Executive Committee “Clay Club.”

(Clay’s answer, September 6, 1842, declines with thanks.)


TREMONT, September 17, 1842.

ABRA. LINCOLN, ESQ.:–I regret that my absence on public business
compelled me to postpone a matter of private consideration a little
longer than I could have desired. It will only be necessary, however, to
account for it by informing you that I have been to Quincy on business
that would not admit of delay. I will now state briefly the reasons of
my troubling you with this communication, the disagreeable nature of
which I regret, as I had hoped to avoid any difficulty with any one in
Springfield while residing there, by endeavoring to conduct myself in
such a way amongst both my political friends and opponents as to escape
the necessity of any. Whilst thus abstaining from giving provocation,
I have become the object of slander, vituperation, and personal abuse,
which were I capable of submitting to, I would prove myself worthy of
the whole of it.

In two or three of the last numbers of the Sangamon Journal, articles
of the most personal nature and calculated to degrade me have made their
appearance. On inquiring, I was informed by the editor of that paper,
through the medium of my friend General Whitesides, that you are the
author of those articles. This information satisfies me that I have
become by some means or other the object of your secret hostility. I
will not take the trouble of inquiring into the reason of all this;
but I will take the liberty of requiring a full, positive, and
absolute retraction of all offensive allusions used by you in these
communications, in relation to my private character and standing as a
man, as an apology for the insults conveyed in them.

This may prevent consequences which no one will regret more than myself.

Your obedient servant, JAS. SHIELDS.


TREMONT, September 17, 1842

JAS. SHIELDS, ESQ.:–Your note of to-day was handed me by General
Whitesides. In that note you say you have been informed, through the
medium of the editor of the Journal, that I am the author of certain
articles in that paper which you deem personally abusive of you; and
without stopping to inquire whether I really am the author, or to point
out what is offensive in them, you demand an unqualified retraction of
all that is offensive, and then proceed to hint at consequences.

Now, sir, there is in this so much assumption of facts and so much of
menace as to consequences, that I cannot submit to answer that note any
further than I have, and to add that the consequences to which I suppose
you allude would be matter of as great regret to me as it possibly could
to you.




TREMONT, September 17, 1842.

ABRA. LINCOLN, ESQ.:–In reply to my note of this date, you intimate
that I assume facts and menace consequences, and that you cannot submit
to answer it further. As now, sir, you desire it, I will be a little
more particular. The editor of the Sangamon Journal gave me to
understand that you are the author of an article which appeared, I
think, in that paper of the 2d September instant, headed “The Lost
Townships,” and signed Rebecca or ‘Becca. I would therefore take the
liberty of asking whether you are the author of said article, or any
other over the same signature which has appeared in any of the late
numbers of that paper. If so, I repeat my request of an absolute
retraction of all offensive allusions contained therein in relation to
my private character and standing. If you are not the author of any of
these articles, your denial will be sufficient. I will say further, it
is not my intention to menace, but to do myself justice.

Your obedient servant, JAS. SHIELDS.


Lincoln’s Second,

September 19, 1842.

In case Whitesides shall signify a wish to adjust this affair without
further difficulty, let him know that if the present papers be
withdrawn, and a note from Mr. Shields asking to know if I am the author
of the articles of which he complains, and asking that I shall make him
gentlemanly satisfaction if I am the author, and this without menace, or
dictation as to what that satisfaction shall be, a pledge is made that
the following answer shall be given:

“I did write the ‘Lost Townships’ letter which appeared in the Journal
of the 2d instant, but had no participation in any form in any other
article alluding to you. I wrote that wholly for political effect–I had
no intention of injuring your personal or private character or standing
as a man or a gentleman; and I did not then think, and do not now think,
that that article could produce or has produced that effect against you;
and had I anticipated such an effect I would have forborne to write it.
And I will add that your conduct toward me, so far as I know, had always
been gentlemanly; and that I had no personal pique against you, and no
cause for any.”

If this should be done, I leave it with you to arrange what shall
and what shall not be published. If nothing like this is done, the
preliminaries of the fight are to be–

First. Weapons: Cavalry broadswords of the largest size, precisely
equal in all respects, and such as now used by the cavalry company at

Second. Position: A plank ten feet long, and from nine to twelve inches
broad, to be firmly fixed on edge, on the ground, as the line between
us, which neither is to pass his foot over upon forfeit of his life.
Next a line drawn on the ground on either side of said plank and
parallel with it, each at the distance of the whole length of the sword
and three feet additional from the plank; and the passing of his own
such line by either party during the fight shall be deemed a surrender
of the contest.

Third. Time: On Thursday evening at five o’clock, if you can get it so;
but in no case to be at a greater distance of time than Friday evening
at five o’clock.

Fourth. Place: Within three miles of Alton, on the opposite side of the
river, the particular spot to be agreed on by you.

Any preliminary details coming within the above rules you are at liberty
to make at your discretion; but you are in no case to swerve from these
rules, or to pass beyond their limits.


SPRINGFIELD, October 4, 1842.

DEAR SPEED:–You have heard of my duel with Shields, and I have now
to inform you that the dueling business still rages in this city. Day
before yesterday Shields challenged Butler, who accepted, and proposed
fighting next morning at sunrise in Bob Allen’s meadow, one hundred
yards’ distance, with rifles. To this Whitesides, Shields’s second, said
“No,” because of the law. Thus ended duel No. 2. Yesterday Whitesides
chose to consider himself insulted by Dr. Merryman, so sent him a kind
of quasi-challenge, inviting him to meet him at the Planter’s House in
St. Louis on the next Friday, to settle their difficulty. Merryman made
me his friend, and sent Whitesides a note, inquiring to know if he meant
his note as a challenge, and if so, that he would, according to the
law in such case made and provided, prescribe the terms of the meeting.
Whitesides returned for answer that if Merryman would meet him at the
Planter’s House as desired, he would challenge him. Merryman replied in
a note that he denied Whitesides’s right to dictate time and place, but
that he (Merryman) would waive the question of time, and meet him at
Louisiana, Missouri. Upon my presenting this note to Whitesides and
stating verbally its contents, he declined receiving it, saying he had
business in St. Louis, and it was as near as Louisiana. Merryman
then directed me to notify Whitesides that he should publish the
correspondence between them, with such comments as he thought fit. This
I did. Thus it stood at bedtime last night. This morning Whitesides, by
his friend Shields, is praying for a new trial, on the ground that
he was mistaken in Merryman’s proposition to meet him at Louisiana,
Missouri, thinking it was the State of Louisiana. This Merryman hoots
at, and is preparing his publication; while the town is in a ferment,
and a street fight somewhat anticipated.

But I began this letter not for what I have been writing, but to
say something on that subject which you know to be of such infinite
solicitude to me. The immense sufferings you endured from the first days
of September till the middle of February you never tried to conceal from
me, and I well understood. You have now been the husband of a lovely
woman nearly eight months. That you are happier now than the day you
married her I well know, for without you could not be living. But I have
your word for it, too, and the returning elasticity of spirits which is
manifested in your letters. But I want to ask a close question, “Are
you now in feeling as well as judgment glad that you are married as you
are?” From anybody but me this would be an impudent question, not to
be tolerated; but I know you will pardon it in me. Please answer it
quickly, as I am impatient to know. I have sent my love to your Fanny so
often, I fear she is getting tired of it. However, I venture to tender
it again.

Yours forever,



SPRINGFIELD, November 2, 1842.


Owing to my absence, yours of the 22nd ult. was not received till this
moment. Judge Logan and myself are willing to attend to any business
in the Supreme Court you may send us. As to fees, it is impossible to
establish a rule that will apply in all, or even a great many cases.
We believe we are never accused of being very unreasonable in this
particular; and we would always be easily satisfied, provided we could
see the money–but whatever fees we earn at a distance, if not paid
before, we have noticed, we never hear of after the work is done. We,
therefore, are growing a little sensitive on that point.

Yours etc.,




The object of the meeting was stated by Mr. Lincoln of Springfield, who
offered the following resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:

Resolved, That a tariff of duties on imported goods, producing
sufficient revenue for the payment of the necessary expenditures of the
National Government, and so adjusted as to protect American industry, is
indispensably necessary to the prosperity of the American people.

Resolved, That we are opposed to direct taxation for the support of the
National Government.

Resolved, That a national bank, properly restricted, is highly necessary
and proper to the establishment and maintenance of a sound currency, and
for the cheap and safe collection, keeping, and disbursing of the public

Resolved, That the distribution of the proceeds of the sales of the
public lands, upon the principles of Mr. Clay’s bill, accords with the
best interests of the nation, and particularly with those of the State
of Illinois.

Resolved, That we recommend to the Whigs of each Congressional district
of the State to nominate and support at the approaching election a
candidate of their own principles, regardless of the chances of success.

Resolved, That we recommend to the Whigs of all portions of the State
to adopt and rigidly adhere to the convention system of nominating

Resolved, That we recommend to the Whigs of each Congressional district
to hold a district convention on or before the first Monday of May next,
to be composed of a number of delegates from each county equal to double
the number of its representatives in the General Assembly, provided,
each county shall have at least one delegate. Said delegates to be
chosen by primary meetings of the Whigs, at such times and places as
they in their respective counties may see fit. Said district conventions
each to nominate one candidate for Congress, and one delegate to
a national convention for the purpose of nominating candidates for
President and Vice-President of the United States. The seven delegates
so nominated to a national convention to have power to add two delegates
to their own number, and to fill all vacancies.

Resolved, That A. T. Bledsoe, S. T. Logan, and A. Lincoln be appointed a
committee to prepare an address to the people of the State.

Resolved, That N. W. Edwards, A. G. Henry, James H. Matheny, John
C. Doremus, and James C. Conkling be appointed a Whig Central State
Committee, with authority to fill any vacancy that may occur in the


Address to the People of Illinois.

FELLOW-CITIZENS:-By a resolution of a meeting of such of the Whigs of
the State as are now at Springfield, we, the undersigned, were appointed
to prepare an address to you. The performance of that task we now

Several resolutions were adopted by the meeting; and the chief object of
this address is to show briefly the reasons for their adoption.

The first of those resolutions declares a tariff of duties upon foreign
importations, producing sufficient revenue for the support of the
General Government, and so adjusted as to protect American industry, to
be indispensably necessary to the prosperity of the American people;
and the second declares direct taxation for a national revenue to
be improper. Those two resolutions are kindred in their nature, and
therefore proper and convenient to be considered together. The question
of protection is a subject entirely too broad to be crowded into a
few pages only, together with several other subjects. On that point we
therefore content ourselves with giving the following extracts from
the writings of Mr. Jefferson, General Jackson, and the speech of Mr.

“To be independent for the comforts of life, we must fabricate them
ourselves. We must now place the manufacturer by the side of the
agriculturalist. The grand inquiry now is, Shall we make our own
comforts, or go without them at the will of a foreign nation? He,
therefore, who is now against domestic manufactures must be for reducing
us either to dependence on that foreign nation, or to be clothed in
skins and to live like wild beasts in dens and caverns. I am not one of
those; experience has taught me that manufactures are now as necessary
to our independence as to our comfort.” Letter of Mr. Jefferson to
Benjamin Austin.

“I ask, What is the real situation of the agriculturalist? Where has the
American farmer a market for his surplus produce? Except for cotton, he
has neither a foreign nor a home market. Does not this clearly prove,
when there is no market at home or abroad, that there [is] too much
labor employed in agriculture? Common sense at once points out the
remedy. Take from agriculture six hundred thousand men, women, and
children, and you will at once give a market for more breadstuffs than
all Europe now furnishes. In short, we have been too long subject to the
policy of British merchants. It is time we should become a little
more Americanized, and instead of feeding the paupers and laborers
of England, feed our own; or else in a short time, by continuing our
present policy, we shall all be rendered paupers ourselves.”–General
Jackson’s Letter to Dr. Coleman.

“When our manufactures are grown to a certain perfection, as they soon
will be, under the fostering care of government, the farmer will find
a ready market for his surplus produce, and–what is of equal
consequence–a certain and cheap supply of all he wants; his prosperity
will diffuse itself to every class of the community.” Speech of Hon. J.
C. Calhoun on the Tariff.

The question of revenue we will now briefly consider. For several
years past the revenues of the government have been unequal to its
expenditures, and consequently loan after loan, sometimes direct and
sometimes indirect in form, has been resorted to. By this means a
new national debt has been created, and is still growing on us with
a rapidity fearful to contemplate–a rapidity only reasonably to be
expected in time of war. This state of things has been produced by a
prevailing unwillingness either to increase the tariff or resort to
direct taxation. But the one or the other must come. Coming expenditures
must be met, and the present debt must be paid; and money cannot always
be borrowed for these objects. The system of loans is but temporary in
its nature, and must soon explode. It is a system not only ruinous while
it lasts, but one that must soon fail and leave us destitute. As an
individual who undertakes to live by borrowing soon finds his original
means devoured by interest, and, next, no one left to borrow from, so
must it be with a government.

We repeat, then, that a tariff sufficient for revenue, or a direct tax,
must soon be resorted to; and, indeed, we believe this alternative is
now denied by no one. But which system shall be adopted? Some of our
opponents, in theory, admit the propriety of a tariff sufficient for
a revenue, but even they will not in practice vote for such a tariff;
while others boldly advocate direct taxation. Inasmuch, therefore, as
some of them boldly advocate direct taxation, and all the rest–or so
nearly all as to make exceptions needless–refuse to adopt the tariff,
we think it is doing them no injustice to class them all as advocates
of direct taxation. Indeed, we believe they are only delaying an open
avowal of the system till they can assure themselves that the people
will tolerate it. Let us, then, briefly compare the two systems. The
tariff is the cheaper system, because the duties, being collected in
large parcels at a few commercial points, will require comparatively few
officers in their collection; while by the direct-tax system the land
must be literally covered with assessors and collectors, going forth
like swarms of Egyptian locusts, devouring every blade of grass and
other green thing. And, again, by the tariff system the whole revenue is
paid by the consumers of foreign goods, and those chiefly the luxuries,
and not the necessaries, of life. By this system the man who contents
himself to live upon the products of his own country pays nothing at
all. And surely that country is extensive enough, and its products
abundant and varied enough, to answer all the real wants of its people.
In short, by this system the burthen of revenue falls almost entirely on
the wealthy and luxurious few, while the substantial and laboring many
who live at home, and upon home products, go entirely free. By the
direct-tax system none can escape. However strictly the citizen may
exclude from his premises all foreign luxuries,–fine cloths, fine
silks, rich wines, golden chains, and diamond rings,–still, for
the possession of his house, his barn, and his homespun, he is to be
perpetually haunted and harassed by the tax-gatherer. With these views
we leave it to be determined whether we or our opponents are the more
truly democratic on the subject.

The third resolution declares the necessity and propriety of a national
bank. During the last fifty years so much has been said and written both
as to the constitutionality and expediency of such an institution, that
we could not hope to improve in the least on former discussions of the
subject, were we to undertake it. We, therefore, upon the question of
constitutionality content ourselves with remarking the facts that the
first national bank was established chiefly by the same men who formed
the Constitution, at a time when that instrument was but two years old,
and receiving the sanction, as President, of the immortal Washington;
that the second received the sanction, as President, of Mr. Madison,
to whom common consent has awarded the proud title of “Father of the
Constitution”; and subsequently the sanction of the Supreme Court, the
most enlightened judicial tribunal in the world. Upon the question of
expediency, we only ask you to examine the history of the times during
the existence of the two banks, and compare those times with the
miserable present.

The fourth resolution declares the expediency of Mr. Clay’s land bill.
Much incomprehensible jargon is often used against the constitutionality
of this measure. We forbear, in this place, attempting an answer to it,
simply because, in our opinion, those who urge it are through party
zeal resolved not to see or acknowledge the truth. The question of
expediency, at least so far as Illinois is concerned, seems to us the
clearest imaginable. By the bill we are to receive annually a large sum
of money, no part of which we otherwise receive. The precise annual sum
cannot be known in advance; it doubtless will vary in different years.
Still it is something to know that in the last year–a year of almost
unparalleled pecuniary pressure–it amounted to more than forty thousand
dollars. This annual income, in the midst of our almost insupportable
difficulties, in the days of our severest necessity, our political
opponents are furiously resolving to take and keep from us. And for
what? Many silly reasons are given, as is usual in cases where a single
good one is not to be found. One is that by giving us the proceeds
of the lands we impoverish the national treasury, and thereby render
necessary an increase of the tariff. This may be true; but if so, the
amount of it only is that those whose pride, whose abundance of means,
prompt them to spurn the manufactures of our country, and to strut in
British cloaks and coats and pantaloons, may have to pay a few cents
more on the yard for the cloth that makes them. A terrible evil, truly,
to the Illinois farmer, who never wore, nor ever expects to wear, a
single yard of British goods in his whole life. Another of their reasons
is that by the passage and continuance of Mr. Clay’s bill, we prevent
the passage of a bill which would give us more. This, if it were sound
in itself, is waging destructive war with the former position; for if
Mr. Clay’s bill impoverishes the treasury too much, what shall be said
of one that impoverishes it still more? But it is not sound in itself.
It is not true that Mr. Clay’s bill prevents the passage of one more
favorable to us of the new States. Considering the strength and opposite
interest of the old States, the wonder is that they ever permitted one
to pass so favorable as Mr. Clay’s. The last twenty-odd years’ efforts
to reduce the price of the lands, and to pass graduation bills and
cession bills, prove the assertion to be true; and if there were no
experience in support of it, the reason itself is plain. The States
in which none, or few, of the public lands lie, and those consequently
interested against parting with them except for the best price, are
the majority; and a moment’s reflection will show that they must ever
continue the majority, because by the time one of the original new
States (Ohio, for example) becomes populous and gets weight in Congress,
the public lands in her limits are so nearly sold out that in every
point material to this question she becomes an old State. She does not
wish the price reduced, because there is none left for her citizens
to buy; she does not wish them ceded to the States in which they lie,
because they no longer lie in her limits, and she will get nothing
by the cession. In the nature of things, the States interested in
the reduction of price, in graduation, in cession, and in all similar
projects, never can be the majority. Nor is there reason to hope that
any of them can ever succeed as a Democratic party measure, because we
have heretofore seen that party in full power, year after year,
with many of their leaders making loud professions in favor of these
projects, and yet doing nothing. What reason, then, is there to believe
they will hereafter do better? In every light in which we can view this
question, it amounts simply to this: Shall we accept our share of the
proceeds under Mr. Clay’s bill, or shall we rather reject that and get

The fifth resolution recommends that a Whig candidate for Congress be
run in every district, regardless of the chances of success. We are
aware that it is sometimes a temporary gratification, when a friend
cannot succeed, to be able to choose between opponents; but we believe
that that gratification is the seed-time which never fails to be
followed by a most abundant harvest of bitterness. By this policy we
entangle ourselves. By voting for our opponents, such of us as do it
in some measure estop ourselves to complain of their acts, however
glaringly wrong we may believe them to be. By this policy no one portion
of our friends can ever be certain as to what course another portion
may adopt; and by this want of mutual and perfect understanding our
political identity is partially frittered away and lost. And, again,
those who are thus elected by our aid ever become our bitterest
persecutors. Take a few prominent examples. In 1830 Reynolds was elected
Governor; in 1835 we exerted our whole strength to elect Judge Young
to the United States Senate, which effort, though failing, gave him the
prominence that subsequently elected him; in 1836 General Ewing, was so
elected to the United States Senate; and yet let us ask what three men
have been more perseveringly vindictive in their assaults upon all our
men and measures than they? During the last summer the whole State
was covered with pamphlet editions of misrepresentations against us,
methodized into chapters and verses, written by two of these same
men,–Reynolds and Young, in which they did not stop at charging us with
error merely, but roundly denounced us as the designing enemies of
human liberty, itself. If it be the will of Heaven that such men shall
politically live, be it so; but never, never again permit them to draw a
particle of their sustenance from us.

The sixth resolution recommends the adoption of the convention system
for the nomination of candidates. This we believe to be of the very
first importance. Whether the system is right in itself we do not stop
to inquire; contenting ourselves with trying to show that, while our
opponents use it, it is madness in us not to defend ourselves with
it. Experience has shown that we cannot successfully defend ourselves
without it. For examples, look at the elections of last year. Our
candidate for governor, with the approbation of a large portion of the
party, took the field without a nomination, and in open opposition to
the system. Wherever in the counties the Whigs had held conventions and
nominated candidates for the Legislature, the aspirants who were not
nominated were induced to rebel against the nominations, and to become
candidates, as is said, “on their own hook.” And, go where you would
into a large Whig county, you were sure to find the Whigs not contending
shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy, but divided into
factions, and fighting furiously with one another. The election came,
and what was the result? The governor beaten, the Whig vote being
decreased many thousands since 1840, although the Democratic vote
had not increased any. Beaten almost everywhere for members of the
Legislature,–Tazewell, with her four hundred Whig majority, sending a
delegation half Democratic; Vermillion, with her five hundred, doing
the same; Coles, with her four hundred, sending two out of three; and
Morgan, with her two hundred and fifty, sending three out of four,–and
this to say nothing of the numerous other less glaring examples; the
whole winding up with the aggregate number of twenty-seven Democratic
representatives sent from Whig counties. As to the senators, too, the
result was of the same character. And it is most worthy to be remembered
that of all the Whigs in the State who ran against the regular nominees,
a single one only was elected. Although they succeeded in defeating
the nominees almost by scores, they too were defeated, and the spoils
chucklingly borne off by the common enemy.

We do not mention the fact of many of the Whigs opposing the convention
system heretofore for the purpose of censuring them. Far from it.
We expressly protest against such a conclusion. We know they were
generally, perhaps universally, as good and true Whigs as we ourselves
claim to be.

We mention it merely to draw attention to the disastrous result it
produced, as an example forever hereafter to be avoided. 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 Aesop 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 cannot stand.” It is to induce our
friends to act upon this important and universally acknowledged truth
that we urge the adoption of the convention system. Reflection will
prove that there is no other way of practically applying it. In its
application we know there will be incidents temporarily painful; but,
after all, those incidents will be fewer and less intense with than
without the system. If two friends aspire to the same office it is
certain that both cannot succeed. Would it not, then, be much less
painful to have the question decided by mutual friends some time before,
than to snarl and quarrel until the day of election, and then both be
beaten by the common enemy?

Before leaving this subject, we think proper to remark that we do not
understand the resolution as intended to recommend the application of
the convention system to the nomination of candidates for the small
offices no way connected with politics; though we must say we do not
perceive that such an application of it would be wrong.

The seventh resolution recommends the holding of district conventions
in May next, for the purpose of nominating candidates for Congress. The
propriety of this rests upon the same reasons with that of the sixth,
and therefore needs no further discussion.

The eighth and ninth also relate merely to the practical application of
the foregoing, and therefore need no discussion.

Before closing, permit us to add a few reflections on the present
condition and future prospects of the Whig party. In almost all the
States we have fallen into the minority, and despondency seems to
prevail universally among us. Is there just cause for this? In 1840 we
carried the nation by more than a hundred and forty thousand majority.
Our opponents charged that we did it by fraudulent voting; but whatever
they may have believed, we know the charge to be untrue. Where, now, is
that mighty host? Have they gone over to the enemy? Let the results of
the late elections answer. Every State which has fallen off from the
Whig cause since 1840 has done so not by giving more Democratic votes
than they did then, but by giving fewer Whig. Bouck, who was elected
Democratic Governor of New York last fall by more than 15,000 majority,
had not then as many votes as he had in 1840, when he was beaten by
seven or eight thousand. And so has it been in all the other States
which have fallen away from our cause. From this it is evident that tens
of thousands in the late elections have not voted at all. Who and what
are they? is an important question, as respects the future. They can
come forward and give us the victory again. That all, or nearly all, of
them are Whigs is most apparent. Our opponents, stung to madness by
the defeat of 1840, have ever since rallied with more than their usual
unanimity. It has not been they that have been kept from the polls.
These facts show what the result must be, once the people again rally
in their entire strength. Proclaim these facts, and predict this result;
and although unthinking opponents may smile at us, the sagacious ones
will “believe and tremble.” And why shall the Whigs not all rally again?
Are their principles less dear now than in 1840? Have any of their
doctrines since then been discovered to be untrue? It is true, the
victory of 1840 did not produce the happy results anticipated; but it
is equally true, as we believe, that the unfortunate death of General
Harrison was the cause of the failure. It was not the election of
General Harrison that was expected to produce happy effects, but the
measures to be adopted by his administration. By means of his death,
and the unexpected course of his successor, those measures were never
adopted. How could the fruits follow? The consequences we always
predicted would follow the failure of those measures have followed, and
are now upon us in all their horrors. By the course of Mr. Tyler the
policy of our opponents has continued in operation, still leaving them
with the advantage of charging all its evils upon us as the results of
a Whig administration. Let none be deceived by this somewhat plausible,
though entirely false charge. If they ask us for the sufficient and
sound currency we promised, let them be answered that we only promised
it through the medium of a national bank, which they, aided by Mr.
Tyler, prevented our establishing. And let them be reminded, too, that
their own policy in relation to the currency has all the time been, and
still is, in full operation. Let us then again come forth in our might,
and by a second victory accomplish that which death prevented in the
first. We can do it. When did the Whigs ever fail if they were fully
aroused and united? Even in single States, under such circumstances,
defeat seldom overtakes them. Call to mind the contested elections
within the last few years, and particularly those of Moore and Letcher
from Kentucky, Newland and Graham from North Carolina, and the famous
New Jersey case. In all these districts Locofocoism had stalked
omnipotent before; but when the whole people were aroused by its
enormities on those occasions, they put it down, never to rise again.

We declare it to be our solemn conviction, that the Whigs are always a
majority of this nation; and that to make them always successful needs
but to get them all to the polls and to vote unitedly. This is the great
desideratum. Let us make every effort to attain it. At every election,
let every Whig act as though he knew the result to depend upon his
action. In the great contest of 1840 some more than twenty one hundred
thousand votes were cast, and so surely as there shall be that many,
with the ordinary increase added, cast in 1844 that surely will a Whig
be elected President of the United States.


March 4, 1843.


SPRINGFIELD, March 7, 1843.


Your letter of this day was handed me by Mr. Miles. It is too late now
to effect the object you desire. On yesterday morning the most of the
Whig members from this district got together and agreed to hold the
convention at Tremont in Tazewell County. I am sorry to hear that any
of the Whigs of your county, or indeed of any county, should longer
be against conventions. On last Wednesday evening a meeting of all the
Whigs then here from all parts of the State was held, and the question
of the propriety of conventions was brought up and fully discussed, and
at the end of the discussion a resolution recommending the system of
conventions to all the Whigs of the State was unanimously adopted.
Other resolutions were also passed, all of which will appear in the next
Journal. The meeting also appointed a committee to draft an address
to the people of the State, which address will also appear in the next

In it you will find a brief argument in favor of conventions–and
although I wrote it myself I will say to you that it is conclusive upon
the point and can not be reasonably answered. The right way for you to
do is hold your meeting and appoint delegates any how, and if there be
any who will not take part, let it be so. The matter will work so well
this time that even they who now oppose will come in next time.

The convention is to be held at Tremont on the 5th of April and
according to the rule we have adopted your county is to have
delegates–being double your representation.

If there be any good Whig who is disposed to stick out against
conventions get him at least to read the arguement in their favor in the

Yours as ever,



SPRINGFIELD, March 24, 1843.

DEAR SPEED:–We had a meeting of the Whigs of the county here on last
Monday to appoint delegates to a district convention; and Baker beat me,
and got the delegation instructed to go for him. The meeting, in spite
of my attempt to decline it, appointed me one of the delegates; so that
in getting Baker the nomination I shall be fixed a good deal like a
fellow who is made a groomsman to a man that has cut him out and is
marrying his own dear “gal.” About the prospects of your having a
namesake at our town, can’t say exactly yet.



SPRINGFIELD, ILL., March 26, 1843.


Your letter of the a 3 d, was received on yesterday morning, and for
which (instead of an excuse, which you thought proper to ask) I tender
you my sincere thanks. It is truly gratifying to me to learn that, while
the people of Sangamon have cast me off, my old friends of Menard, who
have known me longest and best, stick to me. It would astonish, if
not amuse, the older citizens to learn that I (a stranger, friendless,
uneducated, penniless boy, working on a flatboat at ten dollars per
month) have been put down here as the candidate of pride, wealth, and
aristocratic family distinction. Yet so, chiefly, it was. There was,
too, the strangest combination of church influence against me. Baker is
a Campbellite; and therefore, as I suppose, with few exceptions got all
that church. My wife has some relations in the Presbyterian churches,
and some with the Episcopal churches; and therefore, wherever it would
tell, I was set down as either the one or the other, while it was
everywhere contended that no Christian ought to go for me, because I
belonged to no church, was suspected of being a deist, and had talked
about fighting a duel. With all these things, Baker, of course, had
nothing to do. Nor do I complain of them. As to his own church going
for him, I think that was right enough, and as to the influences I
have spoken of in the other, though they were very strong, it would be
grossly untrue and unjust to charge that they acted upon them in a body
or were very near so. I only mean that those influences levied a tax
of a considerable per cent. upon my strength throughout the religious
controversy. But enough of this.

You say that in choosing a candidate for Congress you have an equal
right with Sangamon, and in this you are undoubtedly correct. In
agreeing to withdraw if the Whigs of Sangamon should go against me, I
did not mean that they alone were worth consulting, but that if she,
with her heavy delegation, should be against me, it would be impossible
for me to succeed, and therefore I had as well decline. And in relation
to Menard having rights, permit me fully to recognize them, and to
express the opinion that, if she and Mason act circumspectly, they will
in the convention be able so far to enforce their rights as to decide
absolutely which one of the candidates shall be successful. Let me show
the reason of this. Hardin, or some other Morgan candidate, will get
Putnam, Marshall, Woodford, Tazewell, and Logan–making sixteen. Then
you and Mason, having three, can give the victory to either side.

You say you shall instruct your delegates for me, unless I object. I
certainly shall not object. That would be too pleasant a compliment for
me to tread in the dust. And besides, if anything should happen (which,
however, is not probable) by which Baker should be thrown out of the
fight, I would be at liberty to accept the nomination if I could get
it. I do, however, feel myself bound not to hinder him in any way from
getting the nomination. I should despise myself were I to attempt it.
I think, then, it would be proper for your meeting to appoint three
delegates and to instruct them to go for some one as the first choice,
some one else as a second, and perhaps some one as a third; and if in
those instructions I were named as the first choice, it would gratify me
very much. If you wish to hold the balance of power, it is important for
you to attend to and secure the vote of Mason also: You should be sure
to have men appointed delegates that you know you can safely confide in.
If yourself and James Short were appointed from your county, all would
be safe; but whether Jim’s woman affair a year ago might not be in the
way of his appointment is a question. I don’t know whether you know it,
but I know him to be as honorable a man as there is in the world. You
have my permission, and even request, to show this letter to Short; but
to no one else, unless it be a very particular friend who you know will
not speak of it.

Yours as ever, A. LINCOLN.

P. S Will you write me again?


April 14, 1843.


I have heard it intimated that Baker has been attempting to get you or
Miles, or both of you, to violate the instructions of the meeting that
appointed you, and to go for him. I have insisted, and still insist,
that this cannot be true. Surely Baker would not do the like. As well
might Hardin ask me to vote for him in the convention. Again, it is said
there will be an attempt to get up instructions in your county requiring
you to go for Baker. This is all wrong. Upon the same rule, Why
might not I fly from the decision against me in Sangamon, and get up
instructions to their delegates to go for me? There are at least twelve
hundred Whigs in the county that took no part, and yet I would as soon
put my head in the fire as to attempt it. Besides, if any one should get
the nomination by such extraordinary means, all harmony in the district
would inevitably be lost. Honest Whigs (and very nearly all of them
are honest) would not quietly abide such enormities. I repeat, such an
attempt on Baker’s part cannot be true. Write me at Springfield how the
matter is. Don’t show or speak of this letter.



SPRINGFIELD, May 11, 1843.


Butler informs me that he received a letter from you, in which you
expressed some doubt whether the Whigs of Sangamon will support you
cordially. You may, at once, dismiss all fears on that subject. We
have already resolved to make a particular effort to give you the very
largest majority possible in our county. From this, no Whig of the
county dissents. We have many objects for doing it. We make it a matter
of honor and pride to do it; we do it because we love the Whig cause; we
do it because we like you personally; and last, we wish to convince you
that we do not bear that hatred to Morgan County that you people have so
long seemed to imagine. You will see by the journals of this week that
we propose, upon pain of losing a barbecue, to give you twice as great
a majority in this county as you shall receive in your own. I got up the

Who of the five appointed is to write the district address? I did the
labor of writing one address this year, and got thunder for my reward.
Nothing new here.

Yours as ever, A. LINCOLN.

P. S.–I wish you would measure one of the largest of those swords we
took to Alton and write me the length of it, from tip of the point to
tip of the hilt, in feet and inches. I have a dispute about the length.

A. L. A. L.




By Abraham Lincoln

Edited by Arthur Brooks Lapsley

VOLUME II., 1843-1858




DEAR SPEED:–Yours of the 9th instant is duly received, which I do
not meet as a “bore,” but as a most welcome visitor. I will answer the
business part of it first.

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 appearances. We shall have no
split or trouble about the matter; all will be harmony. In relation to
the “coming events” about which Butler wrote you, I had not heard one word
before I got your letter; but I have so much confidence in the judgment of
Butler on such a subject that I incline to think there may be some reality
in it. What day does Butler appoint? By the way, how do “events” of the
same sort come on in your family? Are you possessing houses and lands, and
oxen and asses, and men-servants and maid-servants, and begetting sons
and daughters? We are not keeping house, but boarding at the Globe Tavern,
which is very well kept now by a widow lady of the name of Beck. Our room
(the same that Dr. Wallace occupied there) and boarding only costs us four
dollars a week. Ann Todd was married something more than a year since to
a fellow by the name of Campbell, and who, Mary says, is pretty much of
a “dunce,” though he has a little money and property. They live in
Boonville, Missouri, and have not been heard from lately enough for me to
say anything about her health. I reckon it will scarcely be in our
power to visit Kentucky this year. Besides poverty and the necessity of
attending to business, those “coming events,” I suspect, would be somewhat
in the way. I most heartily wish you and your Fanny would not fail to
come. Just let us know the time, and we will have a room provided for you
at our house, and all be merry together for a while. Be sure to give my
respects to your mother and family; assure her that if ever I come near
her, I will not fail to call and see her. Mary joins in sending love to
your Fanny and you.

Yours as ever,




SPRINGFIELD, May 21, 1844.

DEAR HARDIN: Knowing that you have correspondents enough, I have forborne
to trouble you heretofore; and I now only do so to get you to set a matter
right which has got wrong with one of our best friends. It is old Uncle
Thomas Campbell of Spring Creek–(Berlin P.O.). He has received several
documents from you, and he says they are old newspapers and documents,
having no sort of interest in them. He is, therefore, getting a strong
impression that you treat him with disrespect. This, I know, is a mistaken
impression; and you must correct it. The way, I leave to yourself. Rob’t
W. Canfield says he would like to have a document or two from you.

The Locos (Democrats) here are in considerable trouble about Van Buren’s
letter on Texas, and the Virginia electors. They are growing sick of the
Tariff question; and consequently are much confounded at V.B.’s cutting
them off from the new Texas question. Nearly half the leaders swear they
won’t stand it. Of those are Ford, T. Campbell, Ewing, Calhoun and others.
They don’t exactly say they won’t vote for V.B., but they say he will not
be the candidate, and that they are for Texas anyhow.

As ever yours,




TO Gen. J. J. HARDIN, SPRINGFIELD, Jany. 19, 1845.


I do not wish to join in your proposal of a new plan for the selection of
a Whig candidate for Congress because:

1st. I am entirely satisfied with the old system under which you and Baker
were successively nominated and elected to Congress; and because the Whigs
of the district are well acquainted with the system, and, so far as I know
or believe, are well satisfied with it. If the old system be thought to be
vague, as to all the delegates of the county voting the same way, or as
to instructions to them as to whom they are to vote for, or as to filling
vacancies, I am willing to join in a provision to make these matters

2d. As to your proposals that a poll shall be opened in every precinct,
and that the whole shall take place on the same day, I do not personally
object. They seem to me to be not unfair; and I forbear to join in
proposing them only because I choose to leave the decision in each
county to the Whigs of the county, to be made as their own judgment and
convenience may dictate.

3d. As to your proposed stipulation that all the candidates shall remain
in their own counties, and restrain their friends in the same it seems
to me that on reflection you will see the fact of your having been in
Congress has, in various ways, so spread your name in the district as
to give you a decided advantage in such a stipulation. I appreciate your
desire to keep down excitement; and I promise you to “keep cool” under all

4th. I have already said I am satisfied with the old system under which
such good men have triumphed and that I desire no departure from its
principles. But if there must be a departure from it, I shall insist upon
a more accurate and just apportionment of delegates, or representative
votes, to the constituent body, than exists by the old, and which you
propose to retain in your new plan. If we take the entire population of
the counties as shown by the late census, we shall see by the old plan,
and by your proposed new plan,

Morgan County, with a population 16,541, has but ……. 8 votes
While Sangamon with 18,697–2156 greater has but ……. 8  ”
So Scott with 6553 has …………………………… 4  ”
While Tazewell with 7615 1062 greater has but ………. 4  ”
So Mason with 3135 has …………………………… 1 vote
While Logan with 3907, 772 greater, has but ………… 1  ”

And so on in a less degree the matter runs through all the counties, being
not only wrong in principle, but the advantage of it being all manifestly
in your favor with one slight exception, in the comparison of two counties
not here mentioned.

Again, if we take the Whig votes of the counties as shown by the late
Presidential election as a basis, the thing is still worse.

It seems to me most obvious that the old system needs adjustment in
nothing so much as in this; and still, by your proposal, no notice is
taken of it. I have always been in the habit of acceding to almost any
proposal that a friend would make and I am truly sorry that I cannot in
this. I perhaps ought to mention that some friends at different places are
endeavoring to secure the honor of the sitting of the convention at their
towns respectively, and I fear that they would not feel much complimented
if we shall make a bargain that it should sit nowhere.

Yours as ever,



SPRINGFIELD, March 1, 1845.


The Supreme Court adjourned this morning for the term. Your cases of
Reinhardt vs. Schuyler, Bunce vs. Schuyler, Dickhut vs. Dunell, and
Sullivan vs. Andrews are continued. Hinman vs. Pope I wrote you concerning
some time ago. McNutt et al. vs. Bean and Thompson is reversed and

Fitzpatrick vs. Brady et al. is reversed and remanded with leave to
complainant to amend his bill so as to show the real consideration given
for the land.

Bunce against Graves the court confirmed, wherefore, in accordance with
your directions, I moved to have the case remanded to enable you to take a
new trial in the court below. The court allowed the motion; of which I am
glad, and I guess you are.

This, I believe, is all as to court business. The canal men have got their
measure through the Legislature pretty much or quite in the shape they
desired. Nothing else now.

Yours as ever,




SPRINGFIELD, October 3, 1845

When I saw you at home, it was agreed that I should write to you and your
brother Madison. Until I then saw you I was not aware of your being what
is generally called an abolitionist, or, as you call yourself, a Liberty
man, though I well knew there were many such in your country.

I was glad to hear that you intended to attempt to bring about, at the
next election in Putnam, a Union of the Whigs proper and such of the
Liberty men as are Whigs in principle on all questions save only that of
slavery. So far as I can perceive, by such union neither party need
yield anything on the point in difference between them. If the Whig
abolitionists of New York had voted with us last fall, Mr. Clay would now
be President, Whig principles in the ascendant, and Texas not annexed;
whereas, by the division, all that either had at stake in the contest was
lost. And, indeed, it was extremely probable, beforehand, that such would
be the result. As I always understood, the Liberty men deprecated the
annexation of Texas extremely; and this being so, why they should refuse
to cast their votes [so] as to prevent it, even to me seemed wonderful.
What was their process of reasoning, I can only judge from what a single
one of them told me. It was this: “We are not to do evil that good may
come.” This general proposition is doubtless correct; but did it apply?
If by your votes you could have prevented the extension, etc., of slavery
would it not have been good, and not evil, so to have used your votes,
even though it involved the casting of them for a slaveholder? By the
fruit the tree is to be known. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.
If the fruit of electing Mr. Clay would have been to prevent the extension
of slavery, could the act of electing have been evil?

But I will not argue further. I perhaps ought to say that individually I
never was much interested in the Texas question. I never could see
much good to come of annexation, inasmuch as they were already a free
republican people on our own model. On the other hand, I never could
very clearly see how the annexation would augment the evil of slavery.
It always seemed to me that slaves would be taken there in about equal
numbers, with or without annexation. And if more were taken because of
annexation, still there would be just so many the fewer left where
they were taken from. It is possibly true, to some extent, that, with
annexation, some slaves may be sent to Texas and continued in slavery that
otherwise might have been liberated. To whatever extent this may be true,
I think annexation an evil. I hold it to be a paramount duty of us in the
free States, due to the Union of the States, and perhaps to liberty itself
(paradox though it may seem), to let the slavery of the other States
alone; while, on the other hand, I hold it to be equally clear that we
should never knowingly lend ourselves, directly or indirectly, to prevent
that slavery from dying a natural death–to find new places for it to
live in when it can no longer exist in the old. Of course I am not now
considering what would be our duty in cases of insurrection among the
slaves. To recur to the Texas question, I understand the Liberty men to
have viewed annexation as a much greater evil than ever I did; and I would
like to convince you, if I could, that they could have prevented it, if
they had chosen. I intend this letter for you and Madison together; and
if you and he or either shall think fit to drop me a line, I shall be

Yours with respect,





Dr. ROBERT BOAL, Lacon, Ill.

DEAR DOCTOR:–Since I saw you last fall, I have often thought of writing
to you, as it was then understood I would, but, on reflection, I have
always found that I had nothing new to tell you. All has happened as I
then told you I expected it would–Baker’s declining, Hardin’s taking the
track, and so on.

If Hardin and I stood precisely equal, if neither of us had been to
Congress, or if we both had, it would only accord with what I have always
done, for the sake of peace, to give way to him; and I expect I should do
it. That I can voluntarily postpone my pretensions, when they are no more
than equal to those to which they are postponed, you have yourself seen.
But to yield to Hardin under present circumstances seems to me as nothing
else than yielding to one who would gladly sacrifice me altogether. This
I would rather not submit to. That Hardin is talented, energetic, usually
generous and magnanimous, I have before this affirmed to you and do not
deny. You know that my only argument is that “turn about is fair play.”
This he, practically at least, denies.

If it would not be taxing you too much, I wish you would write me, telling
the aspect of things in your country, or rather your district; and also,
send the names of some of your Whig neighbors, to whom I might, with
propriety, write. Unless I can get some one to do this, Hardin, with his
old franking list, will have the advantage of me. My reliance for a fair
shake (and I want nothing more) in your country is chiefly on you, because
of your position and standing, and because I am acquainted with so few
others. Let me hear from you soon.

Yours truly,



SPRINGFIELD, Jan. 15, 1846.



Nathan Dresser is here, and speaks as though the contest between Hardin
and me is to be doubtful in Menard County. I know he is candid and this
alarms me some. I asked him to tell me the names of the men that were
going strong for Hardin, he said Morris was about as strong as any-now
tell me, is Morris going it openly? You remember you wrote me that he
would be neutral. Nathan also said that some man, whom he could not
remember, had said lately that Menard County was going to decide the
contest and that made the contest very doubtful. Do you know who that
was? Don’t fail to write me instantly on receiving this, telling me
all–particularly the names of those who are going strong against me.

Yours as ever,



SPRINGFIELD, January 21, 1846.

DEAR SIR:–You perhaps know that General Hardin and I have a contest for
the Whig nomination for Congress for this district.

He has had a turn and my argument is “turn about is fair play.”

I shall be pleased if this strikes you as a sufficient argument.

Yours truly,



SPRINGFIELD, April 26, 1846.

DEAR SIR:–I thank you for the promptness with which you answered my
letter from Bloomington. I also thank you for the frankness with which you
comment upon a certain part of my letter; because that comment affords
me an opportunity of trying to express myself better than I did before,
seeing, as I do, that in that part of my letter, you have not understood
me as I intended to be understood.

In speaking of the “dissatisfaction” of men who yet mean to do no wrong,
etc., I mean no special application of what I said to the Whigs of Morgan,
or of Morgan & Scott. I only had in my mind the fact that previous to
General Hardin’s withdrawal some of his friends and some of mine had
become a little warm; and I felt, and meant to say, that for them now to
meet face to face and converse together was the best way to efface any
remnant of unpleasant feeling, if any such existed.

I did not suppose that General Hardin’s friends were in any greater need
of having their feelings corrected than mine were. Since I saw you at
Jacksonville, I have had no more suspicion of the Whigs of Morgan than
of those of any other part of the district. I write this only to try to
remove any impression that I distrust you and the other Whigs of your

Yours truly,



SPRINGFIELD, May 7, 1866.

DEAR SIR:–It is a matter of high moral obligation, if not of necessity,
for me to attend the Coles and Edwards courts. I have some cases in both
of them, in which the parties have my promise, and are depending upon me.
The court commences in Coles on the second Monday, and in Edgar on the
third. Your court in Morgan commences on the fourth Monday; and it is my
purpose to be with you then, and make a speech. I mention the Coles and
Edgar courts in order that if I should not reach Jacksonville at the time
named you may understand the reason why. I do not, however, think there is
much danger of my being detained; as I shall go with a purpose not to be,
and consequently shall engage in no new cases that might delay me.

Yours truly,




[In December, 1847, when Lincoln was stumping for Clay, he crossed into
Indiana and revisited his old home. He writes: “That part of the country
is within itself as unpoetical as any spot on earth; but still seeing
it and its objects and inhabitants aroused feelings in me which were
certainly poetry; though whether my expression of these feelings is
poetry, is quite another question.”]

Near twenty years have passed away
Since here I bid farewell
To woods and fields, and scenes of play,
And playmates loved so well.

Where many were, but few remain
Of old familiar things;
But seeing them to mind again
The lost and absent brings.

The friends I left that parting day,
How changed, as time has sped!
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,
And half of all are dead.

I hear the loved survivors tell
How naught from death could save,
Till every sound appears a knell,
And every spot a grave.

I range the fields with pensive tread,
And pace the hollow rooms,
And feel (companion of the dead)
I ‘m living in the tombs.


And when at length the drear and long
Time soothed thy fiercer woes,
How plaintively thy mournful song
Upon the still night rose

I’ve heard it oft as if I dreamed,
Far distant, sweet and lone;
The funeral dirge it ever seemed
Of reason dead and gone.

Air held her breath; trees with the spell
Seemed sorrowing angels round,
Whose swelling tears in dewdrops fell
Upon the listening ground.

But this is past, and naught remains
That raised thee o’er the brute;
Thy piercing shrieks and soothing strains
Are like, forever mute.

Now fare thee well! More thou the cause
Than subject now of woe.
All mental pangs by time’s kind laws
Hast lost the power to know.

O Death! thou awe-inspiring prince
That keepst the world in fear,
Why dost thou tear more blest ones hence,
And leave him lingering here?



SPRINGFIELD, October 22, 1846.

DEAR SPEED:–You, no doubt, assign the suspension of our correspondence to
the true philosophic cause; though it must be confessed by both of us that
this is rather a cold reason for allowing a friendship such as ours to
die out by degrees. I propose now that, upon receipt of this, you shall be
considered in my debt, and under obligations to pay soon, and that neither
shall remain long in arrears hereafter. Are you agreed?

Being elected to Congress, though I am very grateful to our friends for
having done it, has not pleased me as much as I expected.

We have another boy, born the 10th of March. He is very much such a child
as Bob was at his age, rather of a longer order. Bob is “short and low,”
and I expect always will be. He talks very plainly,–almost as plainly as
anybody. He is quite smart enough. I sometimes fear that he is one of the
little rare-ripe sort that are smarter at about five than ever after. He
has a great deal of that sort of mischief that is the offspring of such
animal spirits. Since I began this letter, a messenger came to tell me Bob
was lost; but by the time I reached the house his mother had found him and
had him whipped, and by now, very likely, he is run away again. Mary has
read your letter, and wishes to be remembered to Mrs. Speed and you, in
which I most sincerely join her.

As ever yours,



SPRINGFIELD, October 21, 1847.


GENTLEMEN:–Your second letter on the matter of Thornton and others, came
to hand this morning. I went at once to see Logan, and found that he
is not engaged against you, and that he has so sent you word by Mr.
Butterfield, as he says. He says that some time ago, a young man (who he
knows not) came to him, with a copy of the affidavit, to engage him to aid
in getting the Governor to grant the warrant; and that he, Logan, told
the man, that in his opinion, the affidavit was clearly insufficient, upon
which the young man left, without making any engagement with him. If the
Governor shall arrive before I leave, Logan and I will both attend to the
matter, and he will attend to it, if he does not come till after I leave;
all upon the condition that the Governor shall not have acted upon the
matter, before his arrival here. I mention this condition because, I
learned this morning from the Secretary of State, that he is forwarding to
the Governor, at Palestine, all papers he receives in the case, as fast
as he receives them. Among the papers forwarded will be your letter to
the Governor or Secretary of, I believe, the same date and about the same
contents of your last letter to me; so that the Governor will, at all
events have your points and authorities. The case is a clear one on our
side; but whether the Governor will view it so is another thing.

Yours as ever,



WASHINGTON, December 5, 1847.

DEAR WILLIAM:–You may remember that about a year ago a man by the name of
Wilson (James Wilson, I think) paid us twenty dollars as an advance fee to
attend to a case in the Supreme Court for him, against a Mr. Campbell, the
record of which case was in the hands of Mr. Dixon of St. Louis, who never
furnished it to us. When I was at Bloomington last fall I met a friend
of Wilson, who mentioned the subject to me, and induced me to write to
Wilson, telling him I would leave the ten dollars with you which had been
left with me to pay for making abstracts in the case, so that the case may
go on this winter; but I came away, and forgot to do it. What I want now
is to send you the money, to be used accordingly, if any one comes on to
start the case, or to be retained by you if no one does.

There is nothing of consequence new here. Congress is to organize
to-morrow. Last night we held a Whig caucus for the House, and nominated
Winthrop of Massachusetts for speaker, Sargent of Pennsylvania for
sergeant-at-arms, Homer of New Jersey door-keeper, and McCormick of
District of Columbia postmaster. The Whig majority in the House is so
small that, together with some little dissatisfaction, [it] leaves it
doubtful whether we will elect them all.

This paper is too thick to fold, which is the reason I send only a

Yours as ever, A. LINCOLN.


WASHINGTON, December 13, 1847

DEAR WILLIAM:–Your letter, advising me of the receipt of our fee in the
bank case, is just received, and I don’t expect to hear another as good a
piece of news from Springfield while I am away. I am under no obligations
to the bank; and I therefore wish you to buy bank certificates, and pay my
debt there, so as to pay it with the least money possible. I would as soon
you should buy them of Mr. Ridgely, or any other person at the bank, as of
any one else, provided you can get them as cheaply. I suppose, after the
bank debt shall be paid, there will be some money left, out of which I
would like to have you pay Lavely and Stout twenty dollars, and Priest and
somebody (oil-makers) ten dollars, for materials got for house-painting.
If there shall still be any left, keep it till you see or hear from me.

I shall begin sending documents so soon as I can get them. I wrote you
yesterday about a “Congressional Globe.” As you are all so anxious for me
to distinguish myself, I have concluded to do so before long.

Yours truly,



DECEMBER 22, 1847

Whereas, The President of the United States, in his message of May 11,
1846, has declared that “the Mexican Government not only refused to
receive him [the envoy of the United States], or to listen to his
propositions, but, after a long-continued series of menaces, has at last
invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own

And again, in his message of December 8, 1846, that “we had ample cause of
war against Mexico long before the breaking out of hostilities; but even
then we forbore to take redress into our own hands until Mexico herself
became the aggressor, by invading our soil in hostile array, and shedding
the blood of our citizens”;

And yet again, in his message of December 7, 1847, that “the Mexican
Government refused even to hear the terms of adjustment which he [our
minister of peace] was authorized to propose, and finally, under wholly
unjustifiable pretexts, involved the two countries in war, by invading the
territory of the State of Texas, striking the first blow, and shedding the
blood of our citizens on our own soil”;

And whereas, This House is desirous to obtain a full knowledge of all the
facts which go to establish whether the particular spot on which the blood
of our citizens was so shed was or was not at that time our own soil:

Resolved, By the House of Representatives, that the President of the
United States be respectfully requested to inform this House:

First. Whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens was shed, as
in his message declared, was or was not within the territory of Spain, at
least after the treaty of 1819, until the Mexican revolution.

Second. Whether that spot is or is not within the territory which was
wrested from Spain by the revolutionary government of Mexico.

Third. Whether that spot is or is not within a settlement of people, which
settlement has existed ever since long before the Texas revolution, and
until its inhabitants fled before the approach of the United States army.

Fourth. Whether that settlement is or is not isolated from any and all
other settlements by the Gulf and the Rio Grande on the south and west,
and by wide uninhabited regions on the north and east.

Fifth. Whether the people of that settlement, or a majority of them, or
any of them, have ever submitted themselves to the government or laws
of Texas or of the United States, by consent or by compulsion, either by
accepting office, or voting at elections, or paying tax, or serving on
juries, or having process served upon them, or in any other way.

Sixth. Whether the people of that settlement did or did not flee from the
approach of the United States army, leaving unprotected their homes and
their growing crops, before the blood was shed, as in the message stated;
and whether the first blood, so shed, was or was not shed within the
inclosure of one of the people who had thus fled from it.

Seventh. Whether our citizens, whose blood was shed, as in his message
declared, were or were not, at that time, armed officers and soldiers,
sent into that settlement by the military order of the President, through
the Secretary of War.

Eighth. Whether the military force of the United States was or was not
so sent into that settlement after General Taylor had more than once
intimated to the War Department that, in his opinion, no such movement was
necessary to the defence or protection of Texas.


JANUARY 5, 1848.

Mr. Lincoln said he had made an effort, some few days since, to obtain the
floor in relation to this measure [resolution to direct Postmaster-General
to make arrangements with railroad for carrying the mails–in Committee of
the Whole], but had failed. One of the objects he had then had in view was
now in a great measure superseded by what had fallen from the gentleman
from Virginia who had just taken his seat. He begged to assure his friends
on the other side of the House that no assault whatever was meant upon the
Postmaster-General, and he was glad that what the gentleman had now said
modified to a great extent the impression which might have been created
by the language he had used on a previous occasion. He wanted to state to
gentlemen who might have entertained such impressions, that the Committee
on the Post-office was composed of five Whigs and four Democrats, and
their report was understood as sustaining, not impugning, the position
taken by the Postmaster-General. That report had met with the approbation
of all the Whigs, and of all the Democrats also, with the exception
of one, and he wanted to go even further than this. [Intimation was
informally given Mr. Lincoln that it was not in order to mention on the
floor what had taken place in committee.] He then observed that if he had
been out of order in what he had said he took it all back so far as he
could. He had no desire, he could assure gentlemen, ever to be out of
order–though he never could keep long in order.

Mr. Lincoln went on to observe that he differed in opinion, in the present
case, from his honorable friend from Richmond [Mr. Botts]. That gentleman,
had begun his remarks by saying that if all prepossessions in this
matter could be removed out of the way, but little difficulty would be
experienced in coming to an agreement. Now, he could assure that
gentleman that he had himself begun the examination of the subject with
prepossessions all in his favor. He had long and often heard of him,
and, from what he had heard, was prepossessed in his favor. Of the
Postmaster-General he had also heard, but had no prepossessions in his
favor, though certainly none of an opposite kind. He differed, however,
with that gentleman in politics, while in this respect he agreed with the
gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Botts], whom he wished to oblige whenever it
was in his power. That gentleman had referred to the report made to the
House by the Postmaster-General, and had intimated an apprehension that
gentlemen would be disposed to rely, on that report alone, and derive
their views of the case from that document alone. Now it so happened that
a pamphlet had been slipped into his [Mr. Lincoln’s] hand before he read
the report of the Postmaster-General; so that, even in this, he had begun
with prepossessions in favor of the gentleman from Virginia.

As to the report, he had but one remark to make: he had carefully examined
it, and he did not understand that there was any dispute as to the facts
therein stated the dispute, if he understood it, was confined altogether
to the inferences to be drawn from those facts. It was a difference not
about facts, but about conclusions. The facts were not disputed. If he was
right in this, he supposed the House might assume the facts to be as they
were stated, and thence proceed to draw their own conclusions.

The gentleman had said that the Postmaster-General had got into a personal
squabble with the railroad company. Of this Mr. Lincoln knew nothing, nor
did he need or desire to know anything, because it had nothing whatever to
do with a just conclusion from the premises. But the gentleman had gone
on to ask whether so great a grievance as the present detention of the
Southern mail ought not to be remedied. Mr. Lincoln would assure the
gentleman that if there was a proper way of doing it, no man was more
anxious than he that it should be done. The report made by the committee
had been intended to yield much for the sake of removing that grievance.
That the grievance was very great there was no dispute in any quarter. He
supposed that the statements made by the gentleman from Virginia to show
this were all entirely correct in point of fact. He did suppose that the
interruptions of regular intercourse, and all the other inconveniences
growing out of it, were all as that gentleman had stated them to be;
and certainly, if redress could be rendered, it was proper it should be
rendered as soon as possible. The gentleman said that in order to effect
this no new legislative action was needed; all that was necessary was that
the Postmaster-General should be required to do what the law, as it stood,
authorized and required him to do.

We come then, said Mr. Lincoln, to the law. Now the Postmaster-General
says he cannot give to this company more than two hundred and thirty-seven
dollars and fifty cents per railroad mile of transportation, and twelve
and a half per cent. less for transportation by steamboats. He considers
himself as restricted by law to this amount; and he says, further, that he
would not give more if he could, because in his apprehension it would not
be fair and just.




WASHINGTON, January 8, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAM:–Your letter of December 27 was received a day or two ago. I
am much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken, and promise to take
in my little business there. As to speech making, by way of getting
the hang of the House I made a little speech two or three days ago on
a post-office question of no general interest. I find speaking here and
elsewhere about the same thing. I was about as badly scared, and no worse
as I am when I speak in court. I expect to make one within a week or two,
in which I hope to succeed well enough to wish you to see it.

It is very pleasant to learn from you that there are some who desire
that I should be reelected. I most heartily thank them for their kind
partiality; and I can say, as Mr. Clay said of the annexation of Texas,
that “personally I would not object” to a reelection, although I thought
at the time, 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 to 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.

I got some letters intimating a probability of so much difficulty amongst
our friends as to lose us the district; but I remember such letters were
written to Baker when my own case was under consideration, and I trust
there is no more ground for such apprehension now than there was then.
Remember I am always glad to receive a letter from you.

Most truly your friend,




JANUARY 12, 1848.

MR CHAIRMAN:–Some if not all the gentlemen on the other side of the House
who have addressed the committee within the last two days have spoken
rather complainingly, if I have rightly understood them, of the vote
given a week or ten days ago declaring that the war with Mexico was
unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President. I admit
that such a vote should not be given in mere party wantonness, and
that the one given is justly censurable if it have no other or better
foundation. I am one of those who joined in that vote; and I did so under
my best impression of the truth of the case. How I got this impression,
and how it may possibly be remedied, I will now try to show. When the war
began, it was my opinion that all those who because of knowing too little,
or because of knowing too much, could not conscientiously approve the
conduct of the President in the beginning of it should nevertheless, as
good citizens and patriots, remain silent on that point, at least till the
war should be ended. Some leading Democrats, including ex-President Van
Buren, have taken this same view, as I understand them; and I adhered
to it and acted upon it, until since I took my seat here; and I think I
should still adhere to it were it not that the President and his friends
will not allow it to be so. Besides the continual effort of the President
to argue every silent vote given for supplies into an indorsement of
the justice and wisdom of his conduct; besides that singularly candid
paragraph in his late message in which he tells us that Congress with
great unanimity had declared that “by the act of the Republic of Mexico,
a state of war exists between that government and the United States,” when
the same journals that informed him of this also informed him that
when that declaration stood disconnected from the question of supplies
sixty-seven in the House, and not fourteen merely, voted against it;
besides this open attempt to prove by telling the truth what he could not
prove by telling the whole truth-demanding of all who will not submit to
be misrepresented, in justice to themselves, to speak out, besides all
this, one of my colleagues [Mr. Richardson] at a very early day in the
session brought in a set of resolutions expressly indorsing the original
justice of the war on the part of the President. Upon these resolutions
when they shall be put on their passage I shall be compelled to vote; so
that I cannot be silent if I would. Seeing this, I went about preparing
myself to give the vote understandingly when it should come. I carefully
examined the President’s message, to ascertain what he himself had said
and proved upon the point. The result of this examination was to make the
impression that, taking for true all the President states as facts, he
falls far short of proving his justification; and that the President would
have gone further with his proof if it had not been for the small matter
that the truth would not permit him. Under the impression thus made I gave
the vote before mentioned. I propose now to give concisely the process
of the examination I made, and how I reached the conclusion I did. The
President, in his first war message of May, 1846, declares that the soil
was ours on which hostilities were commenced by Mexico, and he repeats
that declaration almost in the same language in each successive annual
message, thus showing that he deems that point a highly essential one. In
the importance of that point I entirely agree with the President. To
my judgment it is the very point upon which he should be justified, or
condemned. In his message of December, 1846, it seems to have occurred to
him, as is certainly true, that title-ownership-to soil or anything else
is not a simple fact, but is a conclusion following on one or more simple
facts; and that it was incumbent upon him to present the facts from which
he concluded the soil was ours on which the first blood of the war was

Accordingly, a little below the middle of page twelve in the message last
referred to, he enters upon that task; forming an issue and introducing
testimony, extending the whole to a little below the middle of page
fourteen. Now, I propose to try to show that the whole of this–issue and
evidence–is from beginning to end the sheerest deception. The issue, as
he presents it, is in these words: “But there are those who, conceding all
this to be true, assume the ground that the true western boundary of Texas
is the Nueces, instead of the Rio Grande; and that, therefore, in marching
our army to the east bank of the latter river, we passed the Texas line
and invaded the territory of Mexico.” Now this issue is made up of two
affirmatives and no negative. The main deception of it is that it assumes
as true that one river or the other is necessarily the boundary; and
cheats the superficial thinker entirely out of the idea that possibly
the boundary is somewhere between the two, and not actually at either. A
further deception is that it will let in evidence which a true issue would
exclude. A true issue made by the President would be about as follows: “I
say the soil was ours, on which the first blood was shed; there are those
who say it was not.”

I now proceed to examine the President’s evidence as applicable to such an
issue. When that evidence is analyzed, it is all included in the following

(1) That the Rio Grande was the western boundary of Louisiana as we
purchased it of France in 1803.

(2) That the Republic of Texas always claimed the Rio Grande as her
eastern boundary.

(3) That by various acts she had claimed it on paper.

(4) That Santa Anna in his treaty with Texas recognized the Rio Grande as
her boundary.

(5) That Texas before, and the United States after, annexation had
exercised jurisdiction beyond the Nueces–between the two rivers.

(6) That our Congress understood the boundary of Texas to extend beyond
the Nueces.

Now for each of these in its turn. His first item is that the Rio Grande
was the western boundary of Louisiana, as we purchased it of France in
1803; and seeming to expect this to be disputed, he argues over the amount
of nearly a page to prove it true, at the end of which he lets us know
that by the treaty of 1803 we sold to Spain the whole country from the Rio
Grande eastward to the Sabine. Now, admitting for the present that the
Rio Grande was the boundary of Louisiana, what under heaven had that to
do with the present boundary between us and Mexico? How, Mr. Chairman,
the line that once divided your land from mine can still be the
boundary between us after I have sold my land to you is to me beyond all
comprehension. And how any man, with an honest purpose only of proving the
truth, could ever have thought of introducing such a fact to prove such an
issue is equally incomprehensible. His next piece of evidence is that “the
Republic of Texas always claimed this river [Rio Grande] as her western
boundary.” That is not true, in fact. Texas has claimed it, but she has
not always claimed it. There is at least one distinguished exception. Her
State constitution the republic’s most solemn and well-considered
act, that which may, without impropriety, be called her last will and
testament, revoking all others-makes no such claim. But suppose she had
always claimed it. Has not Mexico always claimed the contrary? So that
there is but claim against claim, leaving nothing proved until we get back
of the claims and find which has the better foundation. Though not in the
order in which the President presents his evidence, I now consider that
class of his statements which are in substance nothing more than that
Texas has, by various acts of her Convention and Congress, claimed the
Rio Grande as her boundary, on paper. I mean here what he says about the
fixing of the Rio Grande as her boundary in her old constitution (not her
State constitution), about forming Congressional districts, counties, etc.
Now all of this is but naked claim; and what I have already said about
claims is strictly applicable to this. If I should claim your land by word
of mouth, that certainly would not make it mine; and if I were to claim it
by a deed which I had made myself, and with which you had had nothing to
do, the claim would be quite the same in substance–or rather, in utter
nothingness. I next consider the President’s statement that Santa Anna in
his treaty with Texas recognized the Rio Grande as the western boundary
of Texas. Besides the position so often taken, that Santa Anna while a
prisoner of war, a captive, could not bind Mexico by a treaty, which I
deem conclusive–besides this, I wish to say something in relation to this
treaty, so called by the President, with Santa Anna. If any man would like
to be amused by a sight of that little thing which the President calls by
that big name, he can have it by turning to Niles’s Register, vol. 1,
p. 336. And if any one should suppose that Niles’s Register is a curious
repository of so mighty a document as a solemn treaty between nations, I
can only say that I learned to a tolerable degree of certainty, by inquiry
at the State Department, that the President himself never saw it anywhere
else. By the way, I believe I should not err if I were to declare that
during the first ten years of the existence of that document it was
never by anybody called a treaty–that it was never so called till the
President, in his extremity, attempted by so calling it to wring something
from it in justification of himself in connection with the Mexican War.
It has none of the distinguishing features of a treaty. It does not call
itself a treaty. Santa Anna does not therein assume to bind Mexico; he
assumes only to act as the President–Commander-in-Chief of the Mexican
army and navy; stipulates that the then present hostilities should cease,
and that he would not himself take up arms, nor influence the Mexican
people to take up arms, against Texas during the existence of the war of
independence. He did not recognize the independence of Texas; he did not
assume to put an end to the war, but clearly indicated his expectation
of its continuance; he did not say one word about boundary, and, most
probably, never thought of it. It is stipulated therein that the Mexican
forces should evacuate the territory of Texas, passing to the other
side of the Rio Grande; and in another article it is stipulated that, to
prevent collisions between the armies, the Texas army should not approach
nearer than within five leagues–of what is not said, but clearly, from
the object stated, it is of the Rio Grande. Now, if this is a treaty
recognizing the Rio Grande as the boundary of Texas, it contains the
singular feature of stipulating that Texas shall not go within five
leagues of her own boundary.

Next comes the evidence of Texas before annexation, and the United States
afterwards, exercising jurisdiction beyond the Nueces and between the two
rivers. This actual exercise of jurisdiction is the very class or quality
of evidence we want. It is excellent so far as it goes; but does it go far
enough? He tells us it went beyond the Nueces, but he does not tell us it
went to the Rio Grande. He tells us jurisdiction was exercised between
the two rivers, but he does not tell us it was exercised over all the
territory between them. Some simple-minded people think it is possible to
cross one river and go beyond it without going all the way to the next,
that jurisdiction may be exercised between two rivers without covering
all the country between them. I know a man, not very unlike myself, who
exercises jurisdiction over a piece of land between the Wabash and the
Mississippi; and yet so far is this from being all there is between those
rivers that it is just one hundred and fifty-two feet long by fifty feet
wide, and no part of it much within a hundred miles of either. He has a
neighbor between him and the Mississippi–that is, just across the street,
in that direction–whom I am sure he could neither persuade nor force to
give up his habitation; but which nevertheless he could certainly annex,
if it were to be done by merely standing on his own side of the street and
claiming it, or even sitting down and writing a deed for it.

But next the President tells us the Congress of the United States
understood the State of Texas they admitted into the Union to extend
beyond the Nueces. Well, I suppose they did. I certainly so understood it.
But how far beyond? That Congress did not understand it to extend clear
to the Rio Grande is quite certain, by the fact of their joint resolutions
for admission expressly leaving all questions of boundary to future
adjustment. And it may be added that Texas herself is proven to have had
the same understanding of it that our Congress had, by the fact of the
exact conformity of her new constitution to those resolutions.

I am now through the whole of the President’s evidence; and it is a
singular fact that if any one should declare the President sent the army
into the midst of a settlement of Mexican people who had never submitted,
by consent or by force, to the authority of Texas or of the United States,
and that there and thereby the first blood of the war was shed, there is
not one word in all the which would either admit or deny the declaration.
This strange omission it does seem to me could not have occurred but by
design. My way of living leads me to be about the courts of justice; and
there I have sometimes seen a good lawyer, struggling for his client’s
neck in a desperate case, employing every artifice to work round, befog,
and cover up with many words some point arising in the case which he dared
not admit and yet could not deny. Party bias may help to make it appear
so, but with all the allowance I can make for such bias, it still
does appear to me that just such, and from just such necessity, is the
President’s struggle in this case.

Sometime after my colleague [Mr. Richardson] introduced the resolutions I
have mentioned, I introduced a preamble, resolution, and interrogations,
intended to draw the President out, if possible, on this hitherto
untrodden ground. To show their relevancy, I propose to state my
understanding of the true rule for ascertaining the boundary between Texas
and Mexico. It is that wherever Texas was exercising jurisdiction was
hers; and wherever Mexico was exercising jurisdiction was hers; and that
whatever separated the actual exercise of jurisdiction of the one from
that of the other was the true boundary between them. If, as is probably
true, Texas was exercising jurisdiction along the western bank of the
Nueces, and Mexico was exercising it along the eastern bank of the Rio
Grande, then neither river was the boundary: but the uninhabited country
between the two was. The extent of our territory in that region depended
not on any treaty-fixed boundary (for no treaty had attempted it), but on
revolution. Any people anywhere being inclined and having the power have
the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a
new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred
right–a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor
is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing
government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can
may revolutionize and make their own of so much of the territory as they
inhabit. More than this, a majority of any portion of such people may
revolutionize, putting down a minority, intermingled with or near about
them, who may oppose this movement. Such minority was precisely the case
of the Tories of our own revolution. It is a quality of revolutions not to
go by old lines or old laws, but to break up both, and make new ones.

As to the country now in question, we bought it of France in 1803, and
sold it to Spain in 1819, according to the President’s statements. After
this, all Mexico, including Texas, revolutionized against Spain; and still
later Texas revolutionized against Mexico. In my view, just so far as
she carried her resolution by obtaining the actual, willing or unwilling,
submission of the people, so far the country was hers, and no farther.
Now, sir, for the purpose of obtaining the very best evidence as to
whether Texas had actually carried her revolution to the place where the
hostilities of the present war commenced, let the President answer the
interrogatories I proposed, as before mentioned, or some other similar
ones. Let him answer fully, fairly, and candidly. Let him answer with
facts and not with arguments. Let him remember he sits where Washington
sat, and so remembering, let him answer as Washington would answer. As
a nation should not, and the Almighty will not, be evaded, so let him
attempt no evasion–no equivocation. And if, so answering, he can show
that the soil was ours where the first blood of the war was shed,–that
it was not within an inhabited country, or, if within such, that the
inhabitants had submitted themselves to the civil authority of Texas or
of the United States, and that the same is true of the site of Fort Brown,
then I am with him for his justification. In that case I shall be most
happy to reverse the vote I gave the other day. I have a selfish motive
for desiring that the President may do this–I expect to gain some votes,
in connection with the war, which, without his so doing, will be of
doubtful propriety in my own judgment, but which will be free from the
doubt if he does so. But if he can not or will not do this,–if on any
pretence or no pretence he shall refuse or omit it then I shall be fully
convinced of what I more than suspect already that he is deeply conscious
of being in the wrong; that he feels the blood of this war, like the blood
of Abel, is crying to heaven against him; that originally having some
strong motive–what, I will not stop now to give my opinion concerning
to involve the two countries in a war, and trusting to escape scrutiny
by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military
glory,–that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood, that
serpent’s eye that charms to destroy,–he plunged into it, and was swept
on and on till, disappointed in his calculation of the ease with which
Mexico might be subdued, he now finds himself he knows not where. How like
the half insane mumbling of a fever dream is the whole war part of his
late message! At one time telling us that Mexico has nothing whatever that
we can get–but territory; at another showing us how we can support the
war by levying contributions on Mexico. At one time urging the national
honor, the security of the future, the prevention of foreign interference,
and even the good of Mexico herself as among the objects of the war; at
another telling us that “to reject indemnity, by refusing to accept a
cession of territory, would be to abandon all our just demands, and to
wage the war, bearing all its expenses, without a purpose or definite
object.” So then this national honor, security of the future, and
everything but territorial indemnity may be considered the no-purposes and
indefinite objects of the war! But, having it now settled that territorial
indemnity is the only object, we are urged to seize, by legislation here,
all that he was content to take a few months ago, and the whole province
of Lower California to boot, and to still carry on the war to take all
we are fighting for, and still fight on. Again, the President is resolved
under all circumstances to have full territorial indemnity for the
expenses of the war; but he forgets to tell us how we are to get the
excess after those expenses shall have surpassed the value of the whole
of the Mexican territory. So again, he insists that the separate national
existence of Mexico shall be maintained; but he does not tell us how
this can be done, after we shall have taken all her territory. Lest the
questions I have suggested be considered speculative merely, let me be
indulged a moment in trying to show they are not. The war has gone on some
twenty months; for the expenses of which, together with an inconsiderable
old score, the President now claims about one half of the Mexican
territory, and that by far the better half, so far as concerns our ability
to make anything out of it. It is comparatively uninhabited; so that we
could establish land-offices in it, and raise some money in that way. But
the other half is already inhabited, as I understand it, tolerably
densely for the nature of the country, and all its lands, or all that are
valuable, already appropriated as private property. How then are we to
make anything out of these lands with this encumbrance on them? or how
remove the encumbrance? I suppose no one would say we should kill the
people, or drive them out, or make slaves of them, or confiscate their
property. How, then, can we make much out of this part of the territory?
If the prosecution of the war has in expenses already equalled the better
half of the country, how long its future prosecution will be in equalling
the less valuable half is not a speculative, but a practical, question,
pressing closely upon us. And yet it is a question which the President
seems never to have thought of. As to the mode of terminating the war and
securing peace, the President is equally wandering and indefinite. First,
it is to be done by a more vigorous prosecution of the war in the vital
parts of the enemy’s country; and after apparently talking himself tired
on this point, the President drops down into a half-despairing tone,
and tells us that “with a people distracted and divided by contending
factions, and a government subject to constant changes by successive
revolutions, the continued success of our arms may fail to secure a
satisfactory peace.” Then he suggests the propriety of wheedling the
Mexican people to desert the counsels of their own leaders, and, trusting
in our protestations, to set up a government from which we can secure
a satisfactory peace; telling us that “this may become the only mode of
obtaining such a peace.” But soon he falls into doubt of this too; and
then drops back on to the already half-abandoned ground of “more vigorous
prosecution.” All this shows that the President is in nowise satisfied
with his own positions. First he takes up one, and in attempting to argue
us into it he argues himself out of it, then seizes another and goes
through the same process, and then, confused at being able to think of
nothing new, he snatches up the old one again, which he has some time
before cast off. His mind, taxed beyond its power, is running hither and
thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no
position on which it can settle down and be at ease.

Again, it is a singular omission in this message that it nowhere intimates
when the President expects the war to terminate. At its beginning, General
Scott was by this same President driven into disfavor if not disgrace, for
intimating that peace could not be conquered in less than three or four
months. But now, at the end of about twenty months, during which time our
arms have given us the most splendid successes, every department and every
part, land and water, officers and privates, regulars and volunteers,
doing all that men could do, and hundreds of things which it had ever
before been thought men could not do–after all this, this same President
gives a long message, without showing us that as to the end he himself has
even an imaginary conception. As I have before said, he knows not where he
is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant
he may be able to show there is not something about his conscience more
painful than his mental perplexity.

The following is a copy of the so-called “treaty” referred to in the

“Articles of Agreement entered into between his Excellency
David G. Burnet, President of the Republic of Texas, of the one part,
and his Excellency General Santa Anna, President-General-in-Chief of the
Mexican army, of the other part:

“Article I. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna agrees that
he will not take up arms, nor will he exercise his influence to cause
them to be taken up, against the people of Texas during the present war of

“Article II. All hostilities between the Mexican and Texan
troops will cease immediately, both by land and water.

“Article III. The Mexican troops will evacuate the territory
of Texas, passing to the other side of the Rio Grande Del Norte.

“Article IV. The Mexican army, in its retreat, shall not
take the property of any person without his consent and just
indemnification, using only such articles as may be necessary for its
subsistence, in cases when the owner may not be present, and remitting
to the commander of the army of Texas, or to the commissioners to be
appointed for the adjustment of such matters, an account of the value of
the property consumed, the place where taken, and the name of the owner,
if it can be ascertained.

“Article V. That all private property, including cattle,
horses, negro slaves, or indentured persons, of whatever denomination,
that may have been captured by any portion of the Mexican army, or may
have taken refuge in the said army, since the commencement of the late
invasion, shall be restored to the commander of the Texan army, or to such
other persons as may be appointed by the Government of Texas to receive

“Article VI. The troops of both armies will refrain from
coming in contact with each other; and to this end the commander of the
army of Texas will be careful not to approach within a shorter distance
than five leagues.

“Article VII. The Mexican army shall not make any other
delay on its march than that which is necessary to take up their
hospitals, baggage, etc., and to cross the rivers; any delay not necessary
to these purposes to be considered an infraction of this agreement.

“Article VIII. By an express, to be immediately despatched,
this agreement shall be sent to General Vincente Filisola and to General
T. J. Rusk, commander of the Texan army, in order that they may be
apprised of its stipulations; and to this end they will exchange
engagements to comply with the same.

“Article IX. That all Texan prisoners now in the possession
of the Mexican army, or its authorities, be forthwith released, and
furnished with free passports to return to their homes; in consideration
of which a corresponding number of Mexican prisoners, rank and file, now
in possession of the Government of Texas shall be immediately released;
the remainder of the Mexican prisoners that continue in the possession
of the Government of Texas to be treated with due humanity,–any
extraordinary comforts that may be furnished them to be at the charge of
the Government of Mexico.

“Article X. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna will be sent
to Vera Cruz as soon as it shall be deemed proper.

“The contracting parties sign this instrument for the abovementioned
purposes, in duplicate, at the port of Velasco, this fourteenth day of
May, 1836.

“DAVID G. BURNET, President,
“JAS. COLLINGSWORTH, Secretary of State,
“B. HARDIMAN, Secretary of the Treasury,
“P. W. GRAYSON, Attorney-General.”


Mr. Lincoln, from the Committee on the Post-office and Post Roads, made
the following report:

The Committee on the Post-office and Post Roads, to whom was referred the
petition of Messrs. Saltmarsh and Fuller, report: That, as proved to
their satisfaction, the mail routes from Milledgeville to Athens, and from
Warrenton to Decatur, in the State of Georgia (numbered 2366 and 2380),
were let to Reeside and Avery at $1300 per annum for the former and $1500
for the latter, for the term of four years, to commence on the first day
of January, 1835; that, previous to the time for commencing the service,
Reeside sold his interest therein to Avery; that on the 5th of May, 1835,
Avery sold the whole to these petitioners, Saltmarsh and Fuller, to
take effect from the beginning, January a 1835; that at this time, the
Assistant Postmaster-General, being called on for that purpose, consented
to the transfer of the contracts from Reeside and Avery to these
petitioners, and promised to have proper entries of the transfer made on
the books of the department, which, however, was neglected to be done;
that the petitioners, supposing all was right, in good faith commenced the
transportation of the mail on these routes, and after difficulty arose,
still trusting that all would be made right, continued the service
till December a 1837; that they performed the service to the entire
satisfaction of the department, and have never been paid anything for it
except $—-; that the difficulty occurred as follows:

Mr. Barry was Postmaster-General at the times of making the contracts
and the attempted transfer of them; Mr. Kendall succeeded Mr. Barry, and
finding Reeside apparently in debt to the department, and these contracts
still standing in the names of Reeside and Avery, refused to pay for the
services under them, otherwise than by credits to Reeside; afterward,
however, he divided the compensation, still crediting one half to Reeside,
and directing the other to be paid to the order of Avery, who disclaimed
all right to it. After discontinuing the service, these petitioners,
supposing they might have legal redress against Avery, brought suit
against him in New Orleans; in which suit they failed, on the ground
that Avery had complied with his contract, having done so much toward the
transfer as they had accepted and been satisfied with. Still later the
department sued Reeside on his supposed indebtedness, and by a verdict of
the jury it was determined that the department was indebted to him in a
sum much beyond all the credits given him on the account above stated.
Under these circumstances, the committee consider the petitioners clearly
entitled to relief, and they report a bill accordingly; lest, however,
there should be some mistake as to the amount which they have already
received, we so frame it as that, by adjustment at the department, they
may be paid so much as remains unpaid for services actually performed by
them not charging them with the credits given to Reeside. The committee
think it not improbable that the petitioners purchased the right of Avery
to be paid for the service from the 1st of January, till their purchase
on May 11, 1835; but, the evidence on this point being very vague, they
forbear to report in favor of allowing it.


WASHINGTON, January 19, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAM:–Inclosed you find a letter of Louis W. Chandler. What
is wanted is that you shall ascertain whether the claim upon the note
described has received any dividend in the Probate Court of Christian
County, where the estate of Mr. Overbon Williams has been administered
on. If nothing is paid on it, withdraw the note and send it to me, so that
Chandler can see the indorser of it. At all events write me all about it,
till I can somehow get it off my hands. I have already been bored more
than enough about it; not the least of which annoyance is his cursed,
unreadable, and ungodly handwriting.

I have made a speech, a copy of which I will send you by next mail.

Yours as ever,




WASHINGTON, February 1, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAM:–Your letter of the 19th ultimo was received last night, and
for which I am much obliged. The only thing in it that I wish to talk to
you at once about is that because of my vote for Ashmun’s amendment you
fear that you and I disagree about the war. I regret this, not because of
any fear we shall remain disagreed after you have read this letter, but
because if you misunderstand I fear other good friends may also. That vote
affirms that the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by
the President; and I will stake my life that if you had been in my place
you would have voted just as I did. Would you have voted what you felt
and knew to be a lie? I know you would not. Would you have gone out of the
House–skulked the vote? I expect not. If you had skulked one vote,
you would have had to skulk many more before the end of the session.
Richardson’s resolutions, introduced before I made any move or gave any
vote upon the subject, make the direct question of the justice of the war;
so that no man can be silent if he would. You are compelled to speak; and
your only alternative is to tell the truth or a lie. I cannot doubt which
you would do.

This vote has nothing to do in determining my votes on the questions of
supplies. I have always intended, and still intend, to vote supplies;
perhaps not in the precise form recommended by the President, but in a
better form for all purposes, except Locofoco party purposes. It is in
this particular you seem mistaken. The Locos are untiring in their efforts
to make the impression that all who vote supplies or take part in the war
do of necessity approve the President’s conduct in the beginning of
it; but the Whigs have from the beginning made and kept the distinction
between the two. In the very first act nearly all the Whigs voted against
the preamble declaring that war existed by the act of Mexico; and yet
nearly all of them voted for the supplies. As to the Whig men who have
participated in the war, so far as they have spoken in my hearing they
do not hesitate to denounce as unjust the President’s conduct in the
beginning of the war. They do not suppose that such denunciation is
directed by undying hatred to him, as The Register would have it believed.
There are two such Whigs on this floor (Colonel Haskell and Major James)
The former fought as a colonel by the side of Colonel Baker at Cerro
Gordo, and stands side by side with me in the vote that you seem
dissatisfied with. The latter, the history of whose capture with Cassius
Clay you well know, had not arrived here when that vote was given; but,
as I understand, he stands ready to give just such a vote whenever an
occasion shall present. Baker, too, who is now here, says the truth is
undoubtedly that way; and whenever he shall speak out, he will say so.
Colonel Doniphan, too, the favorite Whig of Missouri, and who overran
all Northern Mexico, on his return home in a public speech at St. Louis
condemned the administration in relation to the war. If I remember, G. T.
M. Davis, who has been through almost the whole war, declares in favor of
Mr. Clay; from which I infer that he adopts the sentiments of Mr. Clay,
generally at least. On the other hand, I have heard of but one Whig who
has been to the war attempting to justify the President’s conduct. That
one was Captain Bishop, editor of the Charleston Courier, and a very
clever fellow. I do not mean this letter for the public, but for you.
Before it reaches you, you will have seen and read my pamphlet speech,
and perhaps been scared anew by it. After you get over your scare, read it
over again, sentence by sentence, and tell me honestly what you think of
it. I condensed all I could for fear of being cut off by the hour rule,
and when I got through I had spoken but forty-five minutes.

Yours forever,



WASHINGTON, February 2, 1848

DEAR WILLIAM:–I just take my pen to say that Mr. Stephens, of Georgia, a
little, slim, pale-faced, consumptive man, with a voice like Logan’s, has
just concluded the very best speech of an hour’s length I ever heard. My
old withered dry eyes are full of tears yet.

If he writes it out anything like he delivered it, our people shall see a
good many copies of it.

Yours truly,




WASHINGTON, February 15, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAM:–Your letter of the 29th January was received last night.
Being exclusively a constitutional argument, I wish to submit some
reflections upon it in the same spirit of kindness that I know actuates
you. Let me first state what I understand to be your position. It is that
if it shall become necessary to repel invasion, the President may, without
violation of the Constitution, cross the line and invade the territory of
another country, and that whether such necessity exists in any given case
the President is the sole judge.

Before going further consider well whether this is or is not your
position. If it is, it is a position that neither the President himself,
nor any friend of his, so far as I know, has ever taken. Their only
positions are–first, that the soil was ours when the hostilities
commenced; and second, that whether it was rightfully ours or not,
Congress had annexed it, and the President for that reason was bound to
defend it; both of which are as clearly proved to be false in fact as you
can prove that your house is mine. The soil was not ours, and Congress did
not annex or attempt to annex it. But to return to your position. Allow
the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it
necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may
choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to
make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power
in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day
he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent
the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to
him,–“I see no probability of the British invading us”; but he will say
to you, “Be silent: I see it, if you don’t.”

The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress
was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had
always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending
generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object.
This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly
oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one
man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your
view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have
always stood. Write soon again.

Yours truly,



MARCH 9, 1848.

Mr. Lincoln, from the Committee on the Postoffice and Post Roads, made the
following report:

The Committee on the Post-office and Post Roads, to whom was referred the
resolution of the House of Representatives entitled “An Act authorizing
postmasters at county seats of justice to receive subscriptions for
newspapers and periodicals, to be paid through the agency of the
Post-office Department, and for other purposes,” beg leave to submit the
following report:

The committee have reason to believe that a general wish pervades the
community at large that some such facility as the proposed measure should
be granted by express law, for subscribing, through the agency of the
Post-office Department, to newspapers and periodicals which diffuse daily,
weekly, or monthly intelligence of passing events. Compliance with
this general wish is deemed to be in accordance with our republican
institutions, which can be best sustained by the diffusion of knowledge
and the due encouragement of a universal, national spirit of inquiry and
discussion of public events through the medium of the public press. The
committee, however, has not been insensible to its duty of guarding the
Post-office Department against injurious sacrifices for the accomplishment
of this object, whereby its ordinary efficacy might be impaired or
embarrassed. It has therefore been a subject of much consideration; but
it is now confidently hoped that the bill herewith submitted effectually
obviates all objections which might exist with regard to a less matured

The committee learned, upon inquiry, that the Post-office Department,
in view of meeting the general wish on this subject, made the experiment
through one if its own internal regulations, when the new postage system
went into operation on the first of July, 1845, and that it was continued
until the thirtieth of September, 1847. But this experiment, for reasons
hereafter stated, proved unsatisfactory, and it was discontinued by
order of the Postmaster-General. As far as the committee can at present
ascertain, the following seem to have been the principal grounds of
dissatisfaction in this experiment:

(1) The legal responsibility of postmasters receiving newspaper
subscriptions, or of their sureties, was not defined.

(2) The authority was open to all postmasters instead of being limited to
those of specific offices.

(3) The consequence of this extension of authority was that, in
innumerable instances, the money, without the previous knowledge or
control of the officers of the department who are responsible for the good
management of its finances, was deposited in offices where it was improper
such funds should be placed; and the repayment was ordered, not by
the financial officers, but by the postmasters, at points where it was
inconvenient to the department so to disburse its funds.

(4) The inconvenience of accumulating uncertain and fluctuating sums at
small offices was felt seriously in consequent overpayments to contractors
on their quarterly collecting orders; and, in case of private mail routes,
in litigation concerning the misapplication of such funds to the special
service of supplying mails.

(5) The accumulation of such funds on draft offices could not be known
to the financial clerks of the department in time to control it, and too
often this rendered uncertain all their calculations of funds in hand.

(6) The orders of payment were for the most part issued upon the principal
offices, such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, etc., where
the large offices of publishers are located, causing an illimitable and
uncontrollable drain of the department funds from those points where
it was essential to husband them for its own regular disbursements. In
Philadelphia alone this drain averaged $5000 per quarter; and in other
cities of the seaboard it was proportionate.

(7) The embarrassment of the department was increased by the illimitable,
uncontrollable, and irresponsible scattering of its funds from
concentrated points suitable for its distributions, to remote, unsafe, and
inconvenient offices, where they could not be again made available till
collected by special agents, or were transferred at considerable expense
into the principal disbursing offices again.

(8) There was a vast increase of duties thrown upon the limited force
before necessary to conduct the business of the department; and from the
delay of obtaining vouchers impediments arose to the speedy settlement of
accounts with present or retired post-masters, causing postponements which
endangered the liability of sureties under the act of limitations, and
causing much danger of an increase of such cases.

(9) The most responsible postmasters (at the large offices) were ordered
by the least responsible (at small offices) to make payments upon their
vouchers, without having the means of ascertaining whether these vouchers
were genuine or forged, or if genuine, whether the signers were in or out
of office, or solvent or defaulters.

(10) The transaction of this business for subscribers and publishers at
the public expense, an the embarrassment, inconvenience, and delay of
the department’s own business occasioned by it, were not justified by any
sufficient remuneration of revenue to sustain the department, as required
in every other respect with regard to its agency.

The committee, in view of these objections, has been solicitous to frame
a bill which would not be obnoxious to them in principle or in practical

It is confidently believed that by limiting the offices for receiving
subscriptions to less than one tenth of the number authorized by the
experiment already tried, and designating the county seat in each
county for the purpose, the control of the department will be rendered
satisfactory; particularly as it will be in the power of the Auditor,
who is the officer required by law to check the accounts, to approve or
disapprove of the deposits, and to sanction not only the payments, but to
point out the place of payment. If these payments should cause a drain
on the principal offices of the seaboard, it will be compensated by the
accumulation of funds at county seats, where the contractors on those
routes can be paid to that extent by the department’s drafts, with more
local convenience to themselves than by drafts on the seaboard offices.

The legal responsibility for these deposits is defined, and the
accumulation of funds at the point of deposit, and the repayment at
points drawn upon, being known to and controlled by the Auditor, will not
occasion any such embarrassments as were before felt; the record kept
by the Auditor on the passing of the certificates through his hands will
enable him to settle accounts without the delay occasioned by vouchers
being withheld; all doubt or uncertainty as to the genuineness of
certificates, or the propriety of their issue, will be removed by the
Auditor’s examination and approval; and there can be no risk of loss
of funds by transmission, as the certificate will not be payable till
sanctioned by the Auditor, and after his sanction the payor need not pay
it unless it is presented by the publisher or his known clerk or agent.

The main principle of equivalent for the agency of the department is
secured by the postage required to be paid upon the transmission of the
certificates, augmenting adequately the post-office revenue.

The committee, conceiving that in this report all the difficulties of the
subject have been fully and fairly stated, and that these difficulties
have been obviated by the plan proposed in the accompanying bill, and
believing that the measure will satisfactorily meet the wants and wishes
of a very large portion of the community, beg leave to recommend its


MARCH 9, 1848.

Mr. Lincoln, from the Committee on the Postoffice and Post Roads, made the
following report:

The Committee on the Post-office and Post Roads, to whom was referred
the petition of H. M. Barney, postmaster at Brimfield, Peoria County,
Illinois, report: That they have been satisfied by evidence, that on the
15th of December, 1847, said petitioner had his store, with some fifteen
hundred dollars’ worth of goods, together with all the papers of the
post-office, entirely destroyed by fire; and that the specie funds of the
office were melted down, partially lost and partially destroyed; that this
large individual loss entirely precludes the idea of embezzlement; that
the balances due the department of former quarters had been only about
twenty-five dollars; and that owing to the destruction of papers, the
exact amount due for the quarter ending December 31, 1847, cannot be
ascertained. They therefore report a joint resolution, releasing said
petitioner from paying anything for the quarter last mentioned.


The bill for raising additional military force for limited time, etc., was
reported from Committee on judiciary; similar bills had been reported from
Committee on, Public Lands and Military Committee.

Mr. Lincoln said if there was a general desire on the part of the House to
pass the bill now he should be glad to have it done–concurring, as he
did generally, with the gentleman from Arkansas [Mr. Johnson] that the
postponement might jeopard the safety of the proposition. If, however, a
reference was to be made, he wished to make a very few remarks in relation
to the several subjects desired by the gentlemen to be embraced in
amendments to the ninth section of the act of the last session of
Congress. The first amendment desired by members of this House had for its
only object to give bounty lands to such persons as had served for a time
as privates, but had never been discharged as such, because promoted to
office. That subject, and no other, was embraced in this bill. There were
some others who desired, while they were legislating on this subject, that
they should also give bounty lands to the volunteers of the War of 1812.
His friend from Maryland said there were no such men. He [Mr. L.] did not
say there were many, but he was very confident there were some. His friend
from Kentucky near him, [Mr. Gaines] told him he himself was one.

There was still another proposition touching this matter; that was, that
persons entitled to bounty lands should by law be entitled to locate these
lands in parcels, and not be required to locate them in one body, as was
provided by the existing law.

Now he had carefully drawn up a bill embracing these three separate
propositions, which he intended to propose as a substitute for all these
bills in the House, or in Committee of the Whole on the State of the
Union, at some suitable time. If there was a disposition on the part of
the House to act at once on this separate proposition, he repeated that,
with the gentlemen from Arkansas, he should prefer it lest they should
lose all. But if there was to be a reference, he desired to introduce his
bill embracing the three propositions, thus enabling the committee and the
House to act at the same time, whether favorably or unfavorably, upon all.
He inquired whether an amendment was now in order.

The Speaker replied in the negative.


WASHINGTON, April 30, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAMS:–I have not seen in the papers any evidence of a movement
to send a delegate from your circuit to the June convention. I wish to say
that I think it all-important that a delegate should be sent. 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. I know our good
friend Browning is a great admirer of Mr. Clay, and I therefore fear he is
favoring his nomination. If he is, ask him to discard feeling, and try
if he can possibly, as a matter of judgment, count the votes necessary to
elect him.

In my judgment we can elect nobody but General Taylor; and we cannot elect
him without a nomination. Therefore don’t fail to send a delegate.

Your friend as ever,



MAY 11, 1848.

A bill for the admission of Wisconsin into the Union had been passed.

Mr. Lincoln moved to reconsider the vote by which the bill was passed.
He stated to the House that he had made this motion for the purpose of
obtaining an opportunity to say a few words in relation to a point raised
in the course of the debate on this bill, which he would now proceed to
make if in order. The point in the case to which he referred arose on the
amendment that was submitted by the gentleman from Vermont [Mr. Collamer]
in Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union, and which was
afterward renewed in the House, in relation to the question whether the
reserved sections, which, by some bills heretofore passed, by which an
appropriation of land had been made to Wisconsin, had been enhanced in
value, should be reduced to the minimum price of the public lands. The
question of the reduction in value of those sections was to him at this
time a matter very nearly of indifference. He was inclined to desire that
Wisconsin should be obliged by having it reduced. But the gentleman from
Indiana [Mr. C. B. Smith], the chairman of the Committee on Territories,
yesterday associated that question with the general question, which is now
to some extent agitated in Congress, of making appropriations of alternate
sections of land to aid the States in making internal improvements, and
enhancing the price of the sections reserved, and the gentleman from
Indiana took ground against that policy. He did not make any special
argument in favor of Wisconsin, but he took ground generally against the
policy of giving alternate sections of land, and enhancing the price of
the reserved sections. Now he [Mr. Lincoln] did not at this time take the
floor for the purpose of attempting to make an argument on the general
subject. He rose simply to protest against the doctrine which the
gentleman from Indiana had avowed in the course of what he [Mr. Lincoln]
could not but consider an unsound argument.

It might, however, be true, for anything he knew, that the gentleman
from Indiana might convince him that his argument was sound; but he [Mr.
Lincoln] feared that gentleman would not be able to convince a majority
in Congress that it was sound. It was true the question appeared in a
different aspect to persons in consequence of a difference in the point
from which they looked at it. It did not look to persons residing east of
the mountains as it did to those who lived among the public lands. But,
for his part, he would state that if Congress would make a donation of
alternate sections of public land for the purpose of internal improvements
in his State, and forbid the reserved sections being sold at $1.25, he
should be glad to see the appropriation made; though he should prefer
it if the reserved sections were not enhanced in price. He repeated, he
should be glad to have such appropriations made, even though the reserved
sections should be enhanced in price. He did not wish to be understood
as concurring in any intimation that they would refuse to receive such an
appropriation of alternate sections of land because a condition enhancing
the price of the reserved sections should be attached thereto. He believed
his position would now be understood: if not, he feared he should not be
able to make himself understood.

But, before he took his seat, he would remark that the Senate during the
present session had passed a bill making appropriations of land on that
principle for the benefit of the State in which he resided the State
of Illinois. The alternate sections were to be given for the purpose of
constructing roads, and the reserved sections were to be enhanced in value
in consequence. When that bill came here for the action of this House–it
had been received, and was now before the Committee on Public Lands–he
desired much to see it passed as it was, if it could be put in no more
favorable form for the State of Illinois. When it should be before this
House, if any member from a section of the Union in which these lands
did not lie, whose interest might be less than that which he felt, should
propose a reduction of the price of the reserved sections to $1.25, he
should be much obliged; but he did not think it would be well for those
who came from the section of the Union in which the lands lay to do
so.–He wished it, then, to be understood that he did not join in the
warfare against the principle which had engaged the minds of some members
of Congress who were favorable to the improvements in the western country.
There was a good deal of force, he admitted, in what fell from the
chairman of the Committee on Territories. It might be that there was no
precise justice in raising the price of the reserved sections to $2.50 per
acre. It might be proper that the price should be enhanced to some extent,
though not to double the usual price; but he should be glad to have such
an appropriation with the reserved sections at $2.50; he should be better
pleased to have the price of those sections at something less; and he
should be still better pleased to have them without any enhancement at

There was one portion of the argument of the gentleman from Indiana, the
chairman of the Committee on Territories [Mr. Smith], which he wished to
take occasion to say that he did not view as unsound. He alluded to the
statement that the General Government was interested in these internal
improvements being made, inasmuch as they increased the value of the lands
that were unsold, and they enabled the government to sell the lands which
could not be sold without them. Thus, then, the government gained by
internal improvements as well as by the general good which the people
derived from them, and it might be, therefore, that the lands should
not be sold for more than $1.50 instead of the price being doubled. He,
however, merely mentioned this in passing, for he only rose to state,
as the principle of giving these lands for the purposes which he had
mentioned had been laid hold of and considered favorably, and as there
were some gentlemen who had constitutional scruples about giving money
for these purchases who would not hesitate to give land, that he was
not willing to have it understood that he was one of those who made
war against that principle. This was all he desired to say, and having
accomplished the object with which he rose, he withdrew his motion to



WASHINGTON, April 30,1848.


I have this moment received your very short note asking me if old Taylor
is to be used up, and who will be the nominee. My hope of Taylor’s
nomination is as high–a little higher than it was when you left. Still,
the case is by no means out of doubt. Mr. Clay’s letter has not advanced
his interests any here. Several who were against Taylor, but not for
anybody particularly, before, are since taking ground, some for Scott
and some for McLean. Who will be nominated neither I nor any one else can
tell. Now, let me pray to you in turn. My prayer is that you let nothing
discourage or baffle you, but that, in spite of every difficulty, you send
us a good Taylor delegate from your circuit. Make Baker, who is now with
you, I suppose, help about it. He is a good hand to raise a breeze.

General Ashley, in the Senate from Arkansas, died yesterday. Nothing else
new beyond what you see in the papers.

Yours truly,





….Not in view of all the facts. There are facts which you have kept out
of view. It is a fact that the United States army in marching to the Rio
Grande marched into a peaceful Mexican settlement, and frightened the
inhabitants away from their homes and their growing crops. It is a fact
that Fort Brown, opposite Matamoras, was built by that army within a
Mexican cotton-field, on which at the time the army reached it a young
cotton crop was growing, and which crop was wholly destroyed and the field
itself greatly and permanently injured by ditches, embankments, and the
like. It is a fact that when the Mexicans captured Captain Thornton and
his command, they found and captured them within another Mexican field.

Now I wish to bring these facts to your notice, and to ascertain what is
the result of your reflections upon them. If you deny that they are
facts, I think I can furnish proofs which shall convince you that you are
mistaken. If you admit that they are facts, then I shall be obliged for
a reference to any law of language, law of States, law of nations, law of
morals, law of religions, any law, human or divine, in which an authority
can be found for saying those facts constitute “no aggression.”

Possibly you consider those acts too small for notice. Would you venture
to so consider them had they been committed by any nation on earth against
the humblest of our people? I know you would not. Then I ask, is the
precept “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to
them” obsolete? of no force? of no application?

Yours truly,




WASHINGTON, June 12, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAMS:–On my return from Philadelphia, where I had been attending
the nomination of “Old Rough,” (Zachary Taylor) I found your letter in a
mass of others which had accumulated in my absence. By many, and often, it
had been said they would not abide the nomination of Taylor; but since the
deed has been done, they are fast falling in, and in my opinion we shall
have a most overwhelming, glorious triumph. One unmistakable sign is that
all the odds and ends are with us–Barnburners, Native Americans, Tyler
men, disappointed office-seeking Locofocos, and the Lord knows what. This
is important, if in nothing else, in showing which way the wind blows.
Some of the sanguine men have set down all the States as certain for
Taylor but Illinois, and it as doubtful. Cannot something be done even in
Illinois? Taylor’s nomination takes the Locos 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

Excuse this short letter. I have so many to write that I cannot devote
much time to any one.

Yours as ever,



JUNE 20, 1848.

In Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union, on the Civil and
Diplomatic Appropriation Bill:

Mr. CHAIRMAN:–I wish at all times in no way to practise any fraud upon
the House or the committee, and I also desire to do nothing which may be
very disagreeable to any of the members. I therefore state in advance that
my object in taking the floor is to make a speech on the general subject
of internal improvements; and if I am out of order in doing so, I give the
chair an opportunity of so deciding, and I will take my seat.

The Chair: I will not undertake to anticipate what the gentleman may say
on the subject of internal improvements. He will, therefore, proceed in
his remarks, and if any question of order shall be made, the chair will
then decide it.

Mr. Lincoln: At an early day of this session the President sent us what
may properly be called an internal improvement veto message. The late
Democratic convention, which sat at Baltimore, and which nominated General
Cass for the Presidency, adopted a set of resolutions, now called the
Democratic platform, among which is one in these words:

“That the Constitution does not confer upon the General Government the
power to commence and carry on a general system of internal improvements.”

General Cass, in his letter accepting the nomination, holds this language:

“I have carefully read the resolutions of the Democratic national
convention, laying down the platform of our political faith, and I adhere
to them as firmly as I approve them cordially.”

These things, taken together, show that the question of internal
improvements is now more distinctly made–has become more intense–than
at any former period. The veto message and the Baltimore resolution I
understand to be, in substance, the same thing; the latter being the more
general statement, of which the former is the amplification the bill of
particulars. While I know there are many Democrats, on this floor and
elsewhere, who disapprove that message, I understand that all who voted
for General Cass will thereafter be counted as having approved it, as
having indorsed all its doctrines.

I suppose all, or nearly all, the Democrats will vote for him. Many of
them will do so not because they like his position on this question,
but because they prefer him, being wrong on this, to another whom they
consider farther wrong on other questions. In this way the internal
improvement Democrats are to be, by a sort of forced consent, carried over
and arrayed against themselves on this measure of policy. General Cass,
once elected, will not trouble himself to make a constitutional argument,
or perhaps any argument at all, when he shall veto a river or harbor bill;
he will consider it a sufficient answer to all Democratic murmurs to point
to Mr. Polk’s message, and to the Democratic platform. This being the
case, the question of improvements is verging to a final crisis; and the
friends of this policy must now battle, and battle manfully, or surrender
all. In this view, humble as I am, I wish to review, and contest as well
as I may, the general positions of this veto message. When I say general
positions, I mean to exclude from consideration so much as relates to the
present embarrassed state of the treasury in consequence of the Mexican

Those general positions are: that internal improvements ought not to be
made by the General Government–First. Because they would overwhelm the
treasury Second. Because, while their burdens would be general, their
benefits would be local and partial, involving an obnoxious inequality;
and Third. Because they would be unconstitutional. Fourth. Because the
States may do enough by the levy and collection of tonnage duties; or if
not–Fifth. That the Constitution may be amended. “Do nothing at all, lest
you do something wrong,” is the sum of these positions is the sum of
this message. And this, with the exception of what is said about
constitutionality, applying as forcibly to what is said about making
improvements by State authority as by the national authority; so that we
must abandon the improvements of the country altogether, by any and every
authority, or we must resist and repudiate the doctrines of this message.
Let us attempt the latter.

The first position is, that a system of internal improvements would
overwhelm the treasury. That in such a system there is a tendency to undue
expansion, is not to be denied. Such tendency is founded in the nature
of the subject. A member of Congress will prefer voting for a bill which
contains an appropriation for his district, to voting for one which
does not; and when a bill shall be expanded till every district shall be
provided for, that it will be too greatly expanded is obvious. But is
this any more true in Congress than in a State Legislature? If a member
of Congress must have an appropriation for his district, so a member of
a Legislature must have one for his county. And if one will overwhelm
the national treasury, so the other will overwhelm the State treasury. Go
where we will, the difficulty is the same. Allow it to drive us from the
halls of Congress, and it will, just as easily, drive us from the State
Legislatures. Let us, then, grapple with it, and test its strength. Let
us, judging of the future by the past, ascertain whether there may not be,
in the discretion of Congress, a sufficient power to limit and restrain
this expansive tendency within reasonable and proper bounds. The President
himself values the evidence of the past. He tells us that at a certain
point of our history more than two hundred millions of dollars had been
applied for to make improvements; and this he does to prove that the
treasury would be overwhelmed by such a system. Why did he not tell us how
much was granted? Would not that have been better evidence? Let us turn
to it, and see what it proves. In the message the President tells us
that “during the four succeeding years embraced by the administration of
President Adams, the power not only to appropriate money, but to apply it,
under the direction and authority of the General Government, as well to
the construction of roads as to the improvement of harbors and rivers,
was fully asserted and exercised.” This, then, was the period of greatest
enormity. These, if any, must have been the days of the two hundred
millions. And how much do you suppose was really expended for improvements
during that four years? Two hundred millions? One hundred? Fifty? Ten?
Five? No, sir; less than two millions. As shown by authentic documents,
the expenditures on improvements during 1825, 1826, 1827, and 1828
amounted to one million eight hundred and seventy-nine thousand six
hundred and twenty-seven dollars and one cent. These four years were the
period of Mr. Adams’s administration, nearly and substantially. This fact
shows that when the power to make improvements “was fully asserted and
exercised,” the Congress did keep within reasonable limits; and what has
been done, it seems to me, can be done again.

Now for the second portion of the message–namely, that the burdens of
improvements would be general, while their benefits would be local and
partial, involving an obnoxious inequality. That there is some degree
of truth in this position, I shall not deny. No commercial object of
government patronage can be so exclusively general as to not be of some
peculiar local advantage. The navy, as I understand it, was established,
and is maintained at a great annual expense, partly to be ready for
war when war shall come, and partly also, and perhaps chiefly, for the
protection of our commerce on the high seas. This latter object is, for
all I can see, in principle the same as internal improvements. The driving
a pirate from the track of commerce on the broad ocean, and the removing
of a snag from its more narrow path in the Mississippi River, cannot,
I think, be distinguished in principle. Each is done to save life and
property, and for nothing else.

The navy, then, is the most general in its benefits of all this class
of objects; and yet even the navy is of some peculiar advantage to
Charleston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, beyond what it
is to the interior towns of Illinois. The next most general object I
can think of would be improvements on the Mississippi River and its
tributaries. They touch thirteen of our States-Pennsylvania, Virginia,
Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois,
Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Now I suppose it will not be denied
that these thirteen States are a little more interested in improvements on
that great river than are the remaining seventeen. These instances of the
navy and the Mississippi River show clearly that there is something of
local advantage in the most general objects. But the converse is also
true. Nothing is so local as to not be of some general benefit. Take,
for instance, the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Considered apart from its
effects, it is perfectly local. Every inch of it is within the State of
Illinois. That canal was first opened for business last April. In a very
few days we were all gratified to learn, among other things, that sugar
had been carried from New Orleans through this canal to Buffalo in New
York. This sugar took this route, doubtless, because it was cheaper than
the old route. Supposing benefit of the reduction in the cost of carriage
to be shared between seller and the buyer, result is that the New Orleans
merchant sold his sugar a little dearer, and the people of Buffalo
sweetened their coffee a little cheaper, than before,–a benefit resulting
from the canal, not to Illinois, where the canal is, but to Louisiana and
New York, where it is not. In other transactions Illinois will, of course,
have her share, and perhaps the larger share too, of the benefits of the
canal; but this instance of the sugar clearly shows that the benefits of
an improvement are by no means confined to the particular locality of
the improvement itself. The just conclusion from all this is that if the
nation refuse to make improvements of the more general kind because their
benefits may be somewhat local, a State may for the same reason refuse to
make an improvement of a local kind because its benefits may be somewhat
general. A State may well say to the nation, “If you will do nothing for
me, I will do nothing for you.” Thus it is seen that if this argument of
“inequality” is sufficient anywhere, it is sufficient everywhere, and puts
an end to improvements altogether. I hope and believe that if both the
nation and the States would, in good faith, in their respective spheres
do what they could in the way of improvements, what of inequality might be
produced in one place might be compensated in another, and the sum of the
whole might not be very unequal.

But suppose, after all, there should be some degree of inequality.
Inequality is certainly never to be embraced for its own sake; but is
every good thing to be discarded which may be inseparably connected with
some degree of it? If so, we must discard all government. This Capitol
is built at the public expense, for the public benefit; but does any one
doubt that it is of some peculiar local advantage to the property-holders
and business people of Washington? Shall we remove it for this reason?
And if so, where shall we set it down, and be free from the difficulty?
To make sure of our object, shall we locate it nowhere, and have Congress
hereafter to hold its sessions, as the loafer lodged, “in spots about”?
I make no allusion to the present President when I say there are few
stronger cases in this world of “burden to the many and benefit to the
few,” of “inequality,” than the Presidency itself is by some thought to
be. An honest laborer digs coal at about seventy cents a day, while the
President digs abstractions at about seventy dollars a day. The coal
is clearly worth more than the abstractions, and yet what a monstrous
inequality in the prices! Does the President, for this reason, propose to
abolish the Presidency? He does not, and he ought not. The true rule, in
determining to embrace or reject anything, is not whether it have any evil
in it, but whether it have more of evil than of good. There are few things
wholly evil or wholly good. Almost everything, especially of government
policy, is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment
of the preponderance between them is continually demanded. On this
principle the President, his friends, and the world generally act on
most subjects. Why not apply it, then, upon this question? Why, as to
improvements, magnify the evil, and stoutly refuse to see any good in

Mr. Chairman, on the third position of the message the constitutional
question–I have not much to say. Being the man I am, and speaking, where
I do, I feel that in any attempt at an original constitutional argument
I should not be and ought not to be listened to patiently. The ablest and
the best of men have gone over the whole ground long ago. I shall attempt
but little more than a brief notice of what some of them have said. In
relation to Mr. Jefferson’s views, I read from Mr. Polk’s veto message:

“President Jefferson, in his message to Congress in 1806, recommended an
amendment of the Constitution, with a view to apply an anticipated surplus
in the treasury ‘to the great purposes of the public education, roads,
rivers, canals, and such other objects of public improvement as it may
be thought proper to add to the constitutional enumeration of the federal
powers’; and he adds: ‘I suppose an amendment to the Constitution, by
consent of the States, necessary, because the objects now recommended are
not among those enumerated in the Constitution, and to which it permits
the public moneys to be applied.’ In 1825, he repeated in his published
letters the opinion that no such power has been conferred upon Congress.”

I introduce this not to controvert just now the constitutional opinion,
but to show that, on the question of expediency, Mr. Jefferson’s opinion
was against the present President; that this opinion of Mr. Jefferson,
in one branch at least, is in the hands of Mr. Polk like McFingal’s
gun–“bears wide and kicks the owner over.”

But to the constitutional question. In 1826 Chancellor Kent first
published his Commentaries on American law. He devoted a portion of one of
the lectures to the question of the authority of Congress to appropriate
public moneys for internal improvements. He mentions that the subject had
never been brought under judicial consideration, and proceeds to give a
brief summary of the discussion it had undergone between the legislative
and executive branches of the government. He shows that the legislative
branch had usually been for, and the executive against, the power, till
the period of Mr. J.Q. Adams’s administration, at which point he considers
the executive influence as withdrawn from opposition, and added to the
support of the power. In 1844 the chancellor published a new edition of
his Commentaries, in which he adds some notes of what had transpired on
the question since 1826. I have not time to read the original text on
the notes; but the whole may be found on page 267, and the two or three
following pages, of the first volume of the edition of 1844. As to what
Chancellor Kent seems to consider the sum of the whole, I read from one of
the notes:

“Mr. Justice Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United
States, Vol. II., pp. 429-440, and again pp. 519-538, has stated at
large the arguments for and against the proposition that Congress have a
constitutional authority to lay taxes and to apply the power to
regulate commerce as a means directly to encourage and protect domestic
manufactures; and without giving any opinion of his own on the contested
doctrine, he has left the reader to draw his own conclusions. I should
think, however, from the arguments as stated, that every mind which has
taken no part in the discussion, and felt no prejudice or territorial bias
on either side of the question, would deem the arguments in favor of the
Congressional power vastly superior.”

It will be seen that in this extract the power to make improvements is not
directly mentioned; but by examining the context, both of Kent and Story,
it will be seen that the power mentioned in the extract and the power to
make improvements are regarded as identical. It is not to be denied that
many great and good men have been against the power; but it is insisted
that quite as many, as great and as good, have been for it; and it is
shown that, on a full survey of the whole, Chancellor Kent was of opinion
that the arguments of the latter were vastly superior. This is but the
opinion of a man; but who was that man? He was one of the ablest and most
learned lawyers of his age, or of any age. It is no disparagement to
Mr. Polk, nor indeed to any one who devotes much time to politics, to
be placed far behind Chancellor Kent as a lawyer. His attitude was most
favorable to correct conclusions. He wrote coolly, and in retirement. He
was struggling to rear a durable monument of fame; and he well knew that
truth and thoroughly sound reasoning were the only sure foundations. Can
the party opinion of a party President on a law question, as this purely
is, be at all compared or set in opposition to that of such a man, in
such an attitude, as Chancellor Kent? This constitutional question will
probably never be better settled than it is, until it shall pass under
judicial consideration; but I do think no man who is clear on the
questions of expediency need feel his conscience much pricked upon this.

Mr. Chairman, the President seems to think that enough may be done, in
the way of improvements, by means of tonnage duties under State authority,
with the consent of the General Government. Now I suppose this matter
of tonnage duties is well enough in its own sphere. I suppose it may be
efficient, and perhaps sufficient, to make slight improvements and repairs
in harbors already in use and not much out of repair. But if I have any
correct general idea of it, it must be wholly inefficient for any general
beneficent purposes of improvement. I know very little, or rather nothing
at all, of the practical matter of levying and collecting tonnage
duties; but I suppose one of its principles must be to lay a duty for the
improvement of any particular harbor upon the tonnage coming into that
harbor; to do otherwise–to collect money in one harbor, to be expended
on improvements in another–would be an extremely aggravated form of that
inequality which the President so much deprecates. If I be right in this,
how could we make any entirely new improvement by means of tonnage duties?
How make a road, a canal, or clear a greatly obstructed river? The idea
that we could involves the same absurdity as the Irish bull about the new
boots. “I shall niver git ’em on,” says Patrick, “till I wear ’em a day
or two, and stretch ’em a little.” We shall never make a canal by tonnage
duties until it shall already have been made awhile, so the tonnage can
get into it.

After all, the President concludes that possibly there may be some great
objects of improvement which cannot be effected by tonnage duties, and
which it therefore may be expedient for the General Government to take
in hand. Accordingly he suggests, in case any such be discovered, the
propriety of amending the Constitution. Amend it for what? If, like
Mr. Jefferson, the President thought improvements expedient, but not
constitutional, it would be natural enough for him to recommend such an
amendment. But hear what he says in this very message:

“In view of these portentous consequences, I cannot but think that this
course of legislation should be arrested, even were there nothing to
forbid it in the fundamental laws of our Union.”

For what, then, would he have the Constitution amended? With him it is a
proposition to remove one impediment merely to be met by others which,
in his opinion, cannot be removed, to enable Congress to do what, in his
opinion, they ought not to do if they could.

Here Mr. Meade of Virginia inquired if Mr. Lincoln understood the
President to be opposed, on grounds of expediency, to any and every

Mr. Lincoln answered: In the very part of his message of which I am
speaking, I understand him as giving some vague expression in favor of
some possible objects of improvement; but in doing so I understand him
to be directly on the teeth of his own arguments in other parts of it.
Neither the President nor any one can possibly specify an improvement
which shall not be clearly liable to one or another of the objections he
has urged on the score of expediency. I have shown, and might show again,
that no work–no object–can be so general as to dispense its benefits
with precise equality; and this inequality is chief among the “portentous
consequences” for which he declares that improvements should be arrested.
No, sir. When the President intimates that something in the way of
improvements may properly be done by the General Government, he is
shrinking from the conclusions to which his own arguments would force him.
He feels that the improvements of this broad and goodly land are a mighty
interest; and he is unwilling to confess to the people, or perhaps
to himself, that he has built an argument which, when pressed to its
conclusions, entirely annihilates this interest.

I have already said that no one who is satisfied of the expediency of
making improvements needs be much uneasy in his conscience about its
constitutionality. I wish now to submit a few remarks on the general
proposition of amending the Constitution. As a general rule, I think we
would much better let it alone. No slight occasion should tempt us to
touch it. Better not take the first step, which may lead to a habit
of altering it. Better, rather, habituate ourselves to think of it as
unalterable. It can scarcely be made better than it is. New provisions
would introduce new difficulties, and thus create and increase appetite
for further change. No, sir; let it stand as it is. New hands have never
touched it. The men who made it have done their work, and have passed
away. Who shall improve on what they did?

Mr. Chairman, for the purpose of reviewing this message in the least
possible time, as well as for the sake of distinctness, I have analyzed
its arguments as well as I could, and reduced them to the propositions
I have stated. I have now examined them in detail. I wish to detain the
committee only a little while longer with some general remarks upon the
subject of improvements. That the subject is a difficult one, cannot
be denied. Still it is no more difficult in Congress than in the State
Legislatures, in the counties, or in the smallest municipal districts
which anywhere exist. All can recur to instances of this difficulty in the
case of county roads, bridges, and the like. One man is offended because
a road passes over his land, and another is offended because it does not
pass over his; one is dissatisfied because the bridge for which he is
taxed crosses the river on a different road from that which leads from his
house to town; another cannot bear that the county should be got in debt
for these same roads and bridges; while not a few struggle hard to have
roads located over their lands, and then stoutly refuse to let them be
opened until they are first paid the damages. Even between the different
wards and streets of towns and cities we find this same wrangling and
difficulty. Now these are no other than the very difficulties against
which, and out of which, the President constructs his objections of
“inequality,” “speculation,” and “crushing the treasury.” There is but a
single alternative about them: they are sufficient, or they are not. If
sufficient, they are sufficient out of Congress as well as in it, and
there is the end. We must reject them as insufficient, or lie down and do
nothing by any authority. Then, difficulty though there be, let us meet
and encounter it. “Attempt the end, and never stand to doubt; nothing so
hard, but search will find it out.” Determine that the thing can and shall
be done, and then we shall find the way. The tendency to undue expansion
is unquestionably the chief difficulty.

How to do something, and still not do too much, is the desideratum. Let
each contribute his mite in the way of suggestion. The late Silas Wright,
in a letter to the Chicago convention, contributed his, which was worth
something; and I now contribute mine, which may be worth nothing. At all
events, it will mislead nobody, and therefore will do no harm. I would not
borrow money. I am against an overwhelming, crushing system. Suppose that,
at each session, Congress shall first determine how much money can, for
that year, be spared for improvements; then apportion that sum to the most
important objects. So far all is easy; but how shall we determine which
are the most important? On this question comes the collision of interests.
I shall be slow to acknowledge that your harbor or your river is more
important than mine, and vice versa. To clear this difficulty, let us
have that same statistical information which the gentleman from Ohio [Mr.
Vinton] suggested at the beginning of this session. In that information we
shall have a stern, unbending basis of facts–a basis in no wise subject
to whim, caprice, or local interest. The prelimited amount of means will
save us from doing too much, and the statistics will save us from doing
what we do in wrong places. Adopt and adhere to this course, and, it seems
to me, the difficulty is cleared.

One of the gentlemen from South Carolina [Mr. Rhett] very much deprecates
these statistics. He particularly objects, as I understand him, to
counting all the pigs and chickens in the land. I do not perceive much
force in the objection. It is true that if everything be enumerated, a
portion of such statistics may not be very useful to this object. Such
products of the country as are to be consumed where they are produced need
no roads or rivers, no means of transportation, and have no very proper
connection with this subject. The surplus–that which is produced in
one place to be consumed in another; the capacity of each locality for
producing a greater surplus; the natural means of transportation, and
their susceptibility of improvement; the hindrances, delays, and losses of
life and property during transportation, and the causes of each, would be
among the most valuable statistics in this connection. From these it would
readily appear where a given amount of expenditure would do the most good.
These statistics might be equally accessible, as they would be equally
useful, to both the nation and the States. In this way, and by these
means, let the nation take hold of the larger works, and the States the
smaller ones; and thus, working in a meeting direction, discreetly, but
steadily and firmly, what is made unequal in one place may be equalized in
another, extravagance avoided, and the whole country put on that career
of prosperity which shall correspond with its extent of territory, its
natural resources, and the intelligence and enterprise of its people.



WASHINGTON, June 22, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAM:–Last night I was attending a sort of caucus of the Whig
members, held in relation to the coming Presidential election. The whole
field of the nation was scanned, and all is high hope and confidence.
Illinois is expected to better her condition in this race. Under these
circumstances, judge how heartrending it was to come to my room and find
and read your discouraging letter of the 15th. We have made no gains, but
have lost “H. R. Robinson, Turner, Campbell, and four or five more.”
Tell Arney to reconsider, if he would be saved. Baker and I used to do
something, but I think you attach more importance to our absence than is
just. There is another cause. In 1840, for instance, we had two senators
and five representatives in Sangamon; now we have part of one senator and
two representatives. With quite one third more people than we had then, we
have only half the sort of offices which are sought by men of the speaking
sort of talent. This, I think, is the chief cause. Now, as to the young
men. You must not wait to be brought forward by the older men. For
instance, do you suppose that I should ever have got into notice if I had
waited to be hunted up and pushed forward by older men? You young men get
together and form a “Rough and Ready Club,” and have regular meetings and
speeches. Take in everybody you can get. Harrison Grimsley, L. A. Enos,
Lee Kimball, and C. W. Matheny will do to begin the thing; but as you go
along gather up all the shrewd, wild boys about town, whether just of age,
or a little under age, Chris. Logan, Reddick Ridgely, Lewis Zwizler, and
hundreds such. Let every one play the part he can play best,–some speak,
some sing, and all “holler.” Your meetings will be of evenings; the
older men, and the women, will go to hear you; so that it will not only
contribute to the election of “Old Zach,” but will be an interesting
pastime, and improving to the intellectual faculties of all engaged. Don’t
fail to do this.

You ask me to send you all the speeches made about “Old Zach,” the war,
etc. Now this makes me a little impatient. I have regularly sent you the
Congressional Globe and Appendix, and you cannot have examined them, or
you would have discovered that they contain every speech made by every man
in both houses of Congress, on every subject, during the session. Can I
send any more? Can I send speeches that nobody has made? Thinking it would
be most natural that the newspapers would feel interested to give at least
some of the speeches to their readers, I at the beginning of the session
made arrangements to have one copy of the Globe and Appendix regularly
sent to each Whig paper of the district. And yet, with the exception of my
own little speech, which was published in two only of the then five, now
four, Whig papers, I do not remember having seen a single speech, or even
extract from one, in any single one of those papers. With equal and full
means on both sides, I will venture that the State Register has thrown
before its readers more of Locofoco speeches in a month than all the Whig
papers of the district have done of Whig speeches during the session.

If you wish a full understanding of the war, I repeat what I believe I
said to you in a letter once before, that the whole, or nearly so, is
to be found in the speech of Dixon of Connecticut. This I sent you in
pamphlet as well as in the Globe. Examine and study every sentence of that
speech thoroughly, and you will understand the whole subject. You ask how
Congress came to declare that war had existed by the act of Mexico. Is it
possible you don’t understand that yet? You have at least twenty speeches
in your possession that fully explain it. I will, however, try it once
more. The news reached Washington of the commencement of hostilities
on the Rio Grande, and of the great peril of General Taylor’s army.
Everybody, Whigs and Democrats, was for sending them aid, in men and
money. It was necessary to pass a bill for this. The Locos had a majority
in both houses, and they brought in a bill with a preamble saying:
Whereas, War exists by the act of Mexico, therefore we send General Taylor
money. The Whigs moved to strike out the preamble, so that they could
vote to send the men and money, without saying anything about how the
war commenced; but being in the minority, they were voted down, and the
preamble was retained. Then, on the passage of the bill, the question came
upon them, Shall we vote for preamble and bill together, or against
both together? They did not want to vote against sending help to
General Taylor, and therefore they voted for both together. Is there any
difficulty in understanding this? Even my little speech shows how this
was; and if you will go to the library, you may get the Journal of
1845-46, in which you will find the whole for yourself.

We have nothing published yet with special reference to the Taylor race;
but we soon will have, and then I will send them to everybody. I made an
internal-improvement speech day before yesterday, which I shall send home
as soon as I can get it written out and printed,–and which I suppose
nobody will read.

Your friend as ever,




Discussion as to salary of judge of western Virginia:–Wishing to increase
it from $1800 to $2500.

Mr. Lincoln said he felt unwilling to be either unjust or ungenerous,
and he wanted to understand the real case of this judicial officer. The
gentleman from Virginia had stated that he had to hold eleven courts. Now
everybody knew that it was not the habit of the district judges of the
United States in other States to hold anything like that number of
courts; and he therefore took it for granted that this must happen under a
peculiar law which required that large number of courts to be holden every
year; and these laws, he further supposed, were passed at the request of
the people of that judicial district. It came, then, to this: that the
people in the western district of Virginia had got eleven courts to be
held among them in one year, for their own accommodation; and being thus
better accommodated than neighbors elsewhere, they wanted their judge
to be a little better paid. In Illinois there had been until the present
season but one district court held in the year. There were now to be two.
Could it be that the western district of Virginia furnished more business
for a judge than the whole State of Illinois?


JULY, 1848,


The question of a national bank is at rest. Were I President, I should not
urge its reagitation upon Congress; but should Congress see fit to pass an
act to establish such an institution, I should not arrest it by the veto,
unless I should consider it subject to some constitutional objection from
which I believe the two former banks to have been free.



WASHINGTON, July 10, 1848.


Your letter covering the newspaper slips was received last night. The
subject of that letter is exceedingly painful to me, and I cannot but
think there is some mistake in your impression of the motives of the old
men. I suppose I am now one of the old men; and I declare on my veracity,
which I think is good with you, that nothing could afford me more
satisfaction than to learn that you and others of my young friends at home
were doing battle in the contest and endearing themselves to the people
and taking a stand far above any I have ever been able to reach in their
admiration. I cannot conceive that other men feel differently. Of course
I cannot demonstrate what I say; but I was young once, and I am sure I was
never ungenerously thrust back. I hardly know what to say. The way for a
young man to rise is to improve himself every way he can, never suspecting
that anybody wishes to hinder him. Allow me to assure you that suspicion
and jealousy never did help any man in any situation. There may sometimes
be ungenerous attempts to keep a young man down; and they will succeed,
too, if he allows his mind to be diverted from its true channel to brood
over the attempted injury. Cast about and see if this feeling has not
injured every person you have ever known to fall into it.

Now, in what I have said I am sure you will suspect nothing but sincere
friendship. I would save you from a fatal error. You have been a studious
young man. You are far better informed on almost all subjects than I ever
have been. You cannot fail in any laudable object unless you allow your
mind to be improperly directed. I have some the advantage of you in the
world’s experience, merely by being older; and it is this that induces me
to advise. You still seem to be a little mistaken about the Congressional
Globe and Appendix. They contain all of the speeches that are published in
any way. My speech and Dayton’s speech which you say you got in pamphlet
form are both word for word in the Appendix. I repeat again, all are

Your friend, as ever,




Mr. SPEAKER, our Democratic friends seem to be in a great distress because
they think our candidate for the Presidency don’t suit us. Most of them
cannot find out that General Taylor has any principles at all; some,
however, have discovered that he has one, but that one is entirely wrong.
This one principle is his position on the veto power. The gentleman from
Tennessee [Mr. Stanton] who has just taken his seat, indeed, has said
there is very little, if any, difference on this question between General
Taylor and all the Presidents; and he seems to think it sufficient
detraction from General Taylor’s position on it that it has nothing new
in it. But all others whom I have heard speak assail it furiously. A new
member from Kentucky [Mr. Clark], of very considerable ability, was
in particular concerned about it. He thought it altogether novel and
unprecedented for a President or a Presidential candidate to think of
approving bills whose constitutionality may not be entirely clear to his
own mind. He thinks the ark of our safety is gone unless Presidents
shall always veto such bills as in their judgment may be of doubtful
constitutionality. However clear Congress may be on their authority to
pass any particular act, the gentleman from Kentucky thinks the President
must veto it if he has doubts about it. Now I have neither time nor
inclination to argue with the gentleman on the veto power as an original
question; but I wish to show that General Taylor, and not he, agrees with
the earlier statesmen on this question. When the bill chartering the
first Bank of the United States passed Congress, its constitutionality was
questioned. Mr. Madison, then in the House of Representatives, as well as
others, had opposed it on that ground. General Washington, as President,
was called on to approve or reject it. He sought and obtained on the
constitutionality question the separate written opinions of Jefferson,
Hamilton, and Edmund Randolph,–they then being respectively Secretary of
State, Secretary of the Treasury, and Attorney general. Hamilton’s opinion
was for the power; while Randolph’s and Jefferson’s were both against
it. Mr. Jefferson, after giving his opinion deciding only against the
constitutionality of the bill, closes his letter with the paragraph which
I now read:

“It must be admitted, however, that unless the President’s mind, on a view
of everything which is urged for and against this bill, is tolerably clear
that it is unauthorized by the Constitution,–if the pro and con hang
so even as to balance his judgment, a just respect for the wisdom of the
legislature would naturally decide the balance in favor of their opinion.
It is chiefly for cases where they are clearly misled by error, ambition,
or interest, that the Constitution has placed a check in the negative of
the President.


“February 15, 1791.”

General Taylor’s opinion, as expressed in his Allison letter, is as I now

“The power given by the veto is a high conservative power; but, in my
opinion, should never be exercised except in cases of clear violation
of the Constitution, or manifest haste and want of consideration by

It is here seen that, in Mr. Jefferson’s opinion, if on the
constitutionality of any given bill the President doubts, he is not to
veto it, as the gentleman from Kentucky would have him do, but is to defer
to Congress and approve it. And if we compare the opinion of Jefferson and
Taylor, as expressed in these paragraphs, we shall find them more exactly
alike than we can often find any two expressions having any literal
difference. None but interested faultfinders, I think, can discover any
substantial variation.

But gentlemen on the other side are unanimously agreed that General Taylor
has no other principles. They are in utter darkness as to his opinions on
any of the questions of policy which occupy the public attention. But
is there any doubt as to what he will do on the prominent questions if
elected? Not the least. It is not possible to know what he will or would
do in every imaginable case, because many questions have passed away, and
others doubtless will arise which none of us have yet thought of; but on
the prominent questions of currency, tariff, internal improvements, and
Wilmot Proviso, General Taylor’s course is at least as well defined as is
General Cass’s. Why, in their eagerness to get at General Taylor, several
Democratic members here have desired to know whether, in case of his
election, a bankrupt law is to be established. Can they tell us General
Cass’s opinion on this question?

[Some member answered, “He is against it.”]

Aye, how do you know he is? There is nothing about it in the platform, nor
elsewhere, that I have seen. If the gentleman knows of anything which I
do not know he can show it. But to return. General Taylor, in his Allison
letter, says:

“Upon the subject of the tariff, the currency, the improvement of our
great highways, rivers, lakes, and harbors, the will of the people, as
expressed through their representatives in Congress, ought to be respected
and carried out by the executive.”

Now this is the whole matter. In substance, it is this: The people say to
General Taylor, “If you are elected, shall we have a national bank?” He
answers, “Your will, gentlemen, not mine.” “What about the tariff?” “Say
yourselves.” “Shall our rivers and harbors be improved?” “Just as you
please. If you desire a bank, an alteration of the tariff, internal
improvements, any or all, I will not hinder you. If you do not desire
them, I will not attempt to force them on you. Send up your members of
Congress from the various districts, with opinions according to your own,
and if they are for these measures, or any of them, I shall have nothing
to oppose; if they are not for them, I shall not, by any appliances
whatever, attempt to dragoon them into their adoption.”

Now can there be any difficulty in understanding this? To you Democrats
it may not seem like principle; but surely you cannot fail to perceive the
position plainly enough. The distinction between it and the position of
your candidate is broad and obvious, and I admit you have a clear right to
show it is wrong if you can; but you have no right to pretend you cannot
see it at all. We see it, and to us it appears like principle, and the
best sort of principle at that–the principle of allowing the people to
do as they please with their own business. My friend from Indiana (C. B.
Smith) has aptly asked, “Are you willing to trust the people?” Some of
you answered substantially, “We are willing to trust the people; but the
President is as much the representative of the people as Congress.” In a
certain sense, and to a certain extent, he is the representative of the
people. He is elected by them, as well as Congress is; but can he, in the
nature of things know the wants of the people as well as three hundred
other men, coming from all the various localities of the nation? If so,
where is the propriety of having a Congress? That the Constitution gives
the President a negative on legislation, all know; but that this negative
should be so combined with platforms and other appliances as to enable
him, and in fact almost compel him, to take the whole of legislation into
his own hands, is what we object to, is what General Taylor objects to,
and is what constitutes the broad distinction between you and us. To thus
transfer legislation is clearly to take it from those who understand with
minuteness the interests of the people, and give it to one who does
not and cannot so well understand it. I understand your idea that if a
Presidential candidate avow his opinion upon a given question, or rather
upon all questions, and the people, with full knowledge of this, elect
him, they thereby distinctly approve all those opinions. By means of it,
measures are adopted or rejected contrary to the wishes of the whole of
one party, and often nearly half of the other. Three, four, or half a
dozen questions are prominent at a given time; the party selects its
candidate, and he takes his position on each of these questions. On all
but one his positions have already been indorsed at former elections,
and his party fully committed to them; but that one is new, and a large
portion of them are against it. But what are they to do? The whole was
strung together; and they must take all, or reject all. They cannot take
what they like, and leave the rest. What they are already committed
to being the majority, they shut their eyes, and gulp the whole. Next
election, still another is introduced in the same way. If we run our eyes
along the line of the past, we shall see that almost if not quite all the
articles of the present Democratic creed have been at first forced upon
the party in this very way. And just now, and just so, opposition to
internal improvements is to be established if General Cass shall be
elected. Almost half the Democrats here are for improvements; but they
will vote for Cass, and if he succeeds, their vote will have aided in
closing the doors against improvements. Now this is a process which we
think is wrong. We prefer a candidate who, like General Taylor, will allow
the people to have their own way, regardless of his private opinions;
and I should think the internal-improvement Democrats, at least, ought to
prefer such a candidate. He would force nothing on them which they
don’t want, and he would allow them to have improvements which their own
candidate, if elected, will not.

Mr. Speaker, I have said General Taylor’s position is as well defined as
is that of General Cass. In saying this, I admit I do not certainly know
what he would do on the Wilmot Proviso. I am 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. As such,
and with what information I have, I hope and believe General Taylor, if
elected, would not veto the proviso. But I do not know it. Yet if I
knew he would, I still would vote for him. I should do so because, in my
judgment, his election alone can defeat General Cass; and because,
should slavery thereby go to the territory we now have, just so much will
certainly happen by the election of Cass, and in addition a course of
policy leading to new wars, new acquisitions of territory and still
further extensions of slavery. One of the two is to be President. Which is

But there is as much doubt of Cass on improvements as there is of Taylor
on the proviso. I have no doubt myself of General Cass on this question;
but I know the Democrats differ among themselves as to his position. My
internal-improvement colleague [Mr. Wentworth] stated on this floor the
other day that he was satisfied Cass was for improvements, because he had
voted for all the bills that he [Mr. Wentworth] had. So far so good. But
Mr. Polk vetoed some of these very bills. The Baltimore convention passed
a set of resolutions, among other things, approving these vetoes, and
General Cass declares, in his letter accepting the nomination, that he has
carefully read these resolutions, and that he adheres to them as firmly
as he approves them cordially. In other words, General Cass voted for the
bills, and thinks the President did right to veto them; and his friends
here are amiable enough to consider him as being on one side or the
other, just as one or the other may correspond with their own respective
inclinations. My colleague admits that the platform declares against the
constitutionality of a general system of improvements, and that General
Cass indorses the platform; but he still thinks General Cass is in favor
of some sort of improvements. Well, what are they? As he is against
general objects, those he is for must be particular and local. Now this is
taking the subject precisely by the wrong end. Particularity expending the
money of the whole people for an object which will benefit only a portion
of them–is the greatest real objection to improvements, and has been so
held by General Jackson, Mr. Polk, and all others, I believe, till
now. But now, behold, the objects most general–nearest free from this
objection–are to be rejected, while those most liable to it are to be
embraced. To return: I cannot help believing that General Cass, when he
wrote his letter of acceptance, well understood he was to be claimed by
the advocates of both sides of this question, and that he then closed the
door against all further expressions of opinion purposely to retain
the benefits of that double position. His subsequent equivocation at
Cleveland, to my mind, proves such to have been the case.

One word more, and I shall have done with this branch of the subject. You
Democrats, and your candidate, in the main are in favor of laying down
in advance a platform–a set of party positions–as a unit, and then of
forcing the people, by every sort of appliance, to ratify them, however
unpalatable some of them may be. We and our candidate are in favor of
making Presidential elections and the legislation of the country distinct
matters; so that the people can elect whom they please, and afterward
legislate just as they please, without any hindrance, save only so much as
may guard against infractions of the Constitution, undue haste, and want
of consideration. The difference between us is clear as noonday. That
we are right we cannot doubt. We hold the true Republican position. In
leaving the people’s business in their hands, we cannot be wrong. We are
willing, and even anxious, to go to the people on this issue.

But I suppose I cannot reasonably hope to convince you that we have any
principles. The most I can expect is to assure you that we think we have
and are quite contented with them. The other day one of the gentlemen from
Georgia [Mr. Iverson], an eloquent man, and a man of learning, so far as
I can judge, not being learned myself, came down upon us astonishingly. He
spoke in what the ‘Baltimore American’ calls the “scathing and withering
style.” At the end of his second severe flash I was struck blind, and
found myself feeling with my fingers for an assurance of my continued
existence. A little of the bone was left, and I gradually revived. He
eulogized Mr. Clay in high and beautiful terms, and then declared that we
had deserted all our principles, and had turned Henry Clay out, like an
old horse, to root. This is terribly severe. It cannot be answered
by argument–at least I cannot so answer it. I merely wish to ask the
gentleman if the Whigs are the only party he can think of who sometimes
turn old horses out to root. Is not a certain Martin Van Buren an old
horse which your own party have turned out to root? and is he not rooting
a little to your discomfort about now? But in not nominating Mr. Clay
we deserted our principles, you say. Ah! In what? Tell us, ye men of
principle, what principle we violated. We say you did violate principle in
discarding Van Buren, and we can tell you how. You violated the
primary, the cardinal, the one great living principle of all democratic
representative government–the principle that the representative is bound
to carry out the known will of his constituents. A large majority of the
Baltimore convention of 1844 were, by their constituents, instructed to
procure Van Buren ‘s nomination if they could. In violation–in utter
glaring contempt of this, you rejected him; rejected him, as the gentleman
from New York [Mr. Birdsall] the other day expressly admitted, for
availability–that same “general availability” which you charge upon
us, and daily chew over here, as something exceedingly odious and
unprincipled. But the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Iverson] gave us a
second speech yesterday, all well considered and put down in writing, in
which Van Buren was scathed and withered a “few” for his present position
and movements. I cannot remember the gentleman’s precise language; but
I do remember he put Van Buren down, down, till he got him where he was
finally to “stink” and “rot.”

Mr. Speaker, it is no business or inclination of mine to defend Martin
Van Buren in the war of extermination now waging between him and his old
admirers. I say, “Devil take the hindmost”–and the foremost. But there is
no mistaking the origin of the breach; and if the curse of “stinking” and
“rotting” is to fall on the first and greatest violators of principle in
the matter, I disinterestedly suggest that the gentleman from Georgia
and his present co-workers are bound to take it upon themselves. But the
gentleman from Georgia further says we have deserted all our principles,
and taken shelter under General Taylor’s military coat-tail, and he seems
to think this is exceedingly degrading. Well, as his faith is, so be it
unto him. But can he remember no other military coat-tail under which a
certain other party have been sheltering for near a quarter of a century?
Has he no acquaintance with the ample military coat tail of General
Jackson? Does he not know that his own party have run the five last
Presidential races under that coat-tail, and that they are now running the
sixth under the same cover? Yes, sir, that coat-tail was used not only for
General Jackson himself, but has been clung to, with the grip of death,
by every Democratic candidate since. You have never ventured, and dare not
now venture, from under it. Your campaign papers have constantly been “Old
Hickories,” with rude likenesses of the old general upon them; hickory
poles and hickory brooms your never-ending emblems; Mr. Polk himself was
“Young Hickory,” or something so; and even now your campaign paper here
is proclaiming that Cass and Butler are of the true “Hickory stripe.” Now,
sir, you dare not give it up. Like a horde of hungry ticks you have stuck
to the tail of the Hermitage Lion to the end of his life; and you are
still sticking to it, and drawing a loathsome sustenance from it, after he
is dead. A fellow once advertised that he had made a discovery by which he
could make a new man out of an old one, and have enough of the stuff left
to make a little yellow dog. Just such a discovery has General Jackson’s
popularity been to you. You not only twice made President of him out
of it, but you have had enough of the stuff left to make Presidents of
several comparatively small men since; and it is your chief reliance now
to make still another.

Mr. Speaker, old horses and military coat-tails, or tails of any sort,
are not figures of speech such as I would be the first to introduce into
discussions here; but as the gentleman from Georgia has thought fit to
introduce them, he and you are welcome to all you have made, or can make
by them. If you have any more old horses, trot them out; any more tails,
just cock them and come at us. I repeat, I would not introduce this mode
of discussion here; but I wish gentlemen on the other side to understand
that the use of degrading figures is a game at which they may not find
themselves able to take all the winnings.

[“We give it up!”]

Aye, you give it up, and well you may; but for a very different reason
from that which you would have us understand. The point–the power to
hurt–of all figures consists in the truthfulness of their application;
and, understanding this, you may well give it up. They are weapons which
hit you, but miss us.

But in my hurry I was very near closing this subject of military tails
before I was done with it. There is one entire article of the sort I have
not discussed yet,–I mean the military tail you Democrats are now engaged
in dovetailing into the great Michigander [Cass]. Yes, sir; all his
biographies (and they are legion) have him in hand, tying him to a
military tail, like so many mischievous boys tying a dog to a bladder of
beans. True, the material they have is very limited, but they drive at it
might and main. He invaded Canada without resistance, and he outvaded it
without pursuit. As he did both under orders, I suppose there was to him
neither credit nor discredit in them; but they constitute a large part
of the tail. He was not at Hull’s surrender, but he was close by; he was
volunteer aid to General Harrison on the day of the battle of the Thames;
and as you said in 1840 Harrison was picking huckleberries two miles off
while the battle was fought, I suppose it is a just conclusion with you
to say Cass was aiding Harrison to pick huckleberries. This is about all,
except the mooted question of the broken sword. Some authors say he broke
it, some say he threw it away, and some others, who ought to know, say
nothing about it. Perhaps it would be a fair historical compromise to say,
if he did not break it, he did not do anything else with it.

By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I am a military hero? Yes, sir; in
the days of the Black Hawk war I fought, bled, and came away. Speaking
of General Cass’s career reminds me of my own. I was not at Stiliman’s
defeat, but I was about as near it as Cass was to Hull’s surrender; and,
like him, I saw the place very soon afterward. It is quite certain I did
not break my sword, for I had none to break; but I bent a musket pretty
badly on one occasion. If Cass broke his sword, the idea is he broke it
in desperation; I bent the musket by accident. If General Cass went in
advance of me in picking huckleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges
upon the wild onions. If he saw any live, fighting Indians, it was more
than I did; but I had a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes,
and although I never fainted from the loss of blood, I can truly say I was
often very hungry. Mr. Speaker, if I should ever conclude to doff whatever
our Democratic friends may suppose there is of black-cockade federalism
about me, and therefore they shall take me up as their candidate for
the Presidency, I protest they shall not make fun of me, as they have of
General Cass, by attempting to write me into a military hero.

While I have General Cass in hand, I wish to say a word about his
political principles. As a specimen, I take the record of his progress in
the Wilmot Proviso. In the Washington Union of March 2, 1847, there is a
report of a speech of General Cass, made the day before in the Senate, on
the Wilmot Proviso, during the delivery of which Mr. Miller of New Jersey
is reported to have interrupted him as follows, to wit:

“Mr. Miller expressed his great surprise at the change in the sentiments
of the Senator from Michigan, who had been regarded as the great champion
of freedom in the Northwest, of which he was a distinguished ornament.
Last year the Senator from Michigan was understood to be decidedly in
favor of the Wilmot Proviso; and as no reason had been stated for the
change, he [Mr. Miller] could not refrain from the expression of his
extreme surprise.”

To this General Cass is reported to have replied as follows, to wit:

“Mr. Cass said that the course of the Senator from New Jersey was
most extraordinary. Last year he [Mr. Cass] should have voted for the
proposition, had it come up. But circumstances had altogether changed. The
honorable Senator then read several passages from the remarks, as given
above, which he had committed to writing, in order to refute such a charge
as that of the Senator from New Jersey.”

In the “remarks above reduced to writing” is one numbered four, as
follows, to wit:

“Fourth. Legislation now would be wholly inoperative, because no territory
hereafter to be acquired can be governed without an act of Congress
providing for its government; and such an act, on its passage, would open
the whole subject, and leave the Congress called on to pass it free to
exercise its own discretion, entirely uncontrolled by any declaration
found on the statute-book.”

In Niles’s Register, vol. lxxiii., p. 293, there is a letter of General
Cass to —— Nicholson, of Nashville, Tennessee, dated December 24, 1847,
from which the following are correct extracts:

“The Wilmot Proviso has been before the country some time. It has been
repeatedly discussed in Congress and by the public press. I am strongly
impressed with the opinion that a great change has been going on in the
public mind upon this subject,–in my own as well as others’,–and that
doubts are resolving themselves into convictions that the principle it
involves should be kept out of the national legislature, and left to
the people of the confederacy in their respective local governments….
Briefly, then, I am opposed to the exercise of any jurisdiction by
Congress over this matter; and I am in favor of leaving the people of
any territory which may be hereafter acquired the right to regulate
it themselves, under the general principles of the Constitution.
Because–‘First. I do not see in the Constitution any grant of the
requisite power to Congress; and I am not disposed to extend a doubtful
precedent beyond its necessity,–the establishment of territorial
governments when needed,–leaving to the inhabitants all the right
compatible with the relations they bear to the confederation.”

These extracts show that in 1846 General Cass was for the proviso at once;
that in March, 1847, he was still for it, but not just then; and that in
December, 1847, he was against it altogether. This is a true index to the
whole man. When the question was raised in 1846, he was in a blustering
hurry to take ground for it. He sought to be in advance, and to avoid
the uninteresting position of a mere follower; but soon he began to see
glimpses of the great Democratic ox-goad waving in his face, and to hear
indistinctly a voice saying, “Back! Back, sir! Back a little!” He shakes
his head, and bats his eyes, and blunders back to his position of March,
1847; but still the goad waves, and the voice grows more distinct and
sharper still, “Back, sir! Back, I say! Further back!”–and back he goes
to the position of December, 1847, at which the goad is still, and the
voice soothingly says, “So! Stand at that!”

Have no fears, gentlemen, of your candidate. He exactly suits you, and
we congratulate you upon it. However much you may be distressed about our
candidate, you have all cause to be contented and happy with your own. If
elected, he may not maintain all or even any of his positions previously
taken; but he will be sure to do whatever the party exigency for the time
being may require; and that is precisely what you want. He and Van Buren
are the same “manner of men”; and, like Van Buren, he will never desert
you till you first desert him.

Mr. Speaker, I adopt the suggestion of a friend, that General Cass is a
general of splendidly successful charges–charges, to be sure, not
upon the public enemy, but upon the public treasury. He was Governor of
Michigan territory, and ex-officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs,
from the 9th of October, 1813, till the 31st of July, 1831–a period of
seventeen years, nine months, and twenty-two days. During this period
he received from the United States treasury, for personal services and
personal expenses, the aggregate sum of ninety-six thousand and twenty
eight dollars, being an average of fourteen dollars and seventy-nine cents
per day for every day of the time. This large sum was reached by assuming
that he was doing service at several different places, and in several
different capacities in the same place, all at the same time. By a correct
analysis of his accounts during that period, the following propositions
may be deduced:

First. He was paid in three different capacities during the whole of the
time: that is to say–(1) As governor a salary at the rate per year
of $2000. (2) As estimated for office rent, clerk hire, fuel, etc., in
superintendence of Indian affairs in Michigan, at the rate per year of
$1500. (3) As compensation and expenses for various miscellaneous items of
Indian service out of Michigan, an average per year of $625.

Second. During part of the time–that is, from the 9th of October, 1813,
to the 29th of May, 1822 he was paid in four different capacities; that is
to say, the three as above, and, in addition thereto, the commutation of
ten rations per day, amounting per year to $730.

Third. During another part of the time–that is, from the beginning
of 1822 to the 31st of July, ’83 he was also paid in four different
capacities; that is to say, the first three, as above (the rations being
dropped after the 29th of May, 1822), and, in addition thereto, for
superintending Indian Agencies at Piqua, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and
Chicago, Illinois, at the rate per year of $1500. It should be observed
here that the last item, commencing at the beginning of 1822, and the item
of rations, ending on the 29th of May, 1822, lap on each other during so
much of the time as lies between those two dates.

Fourth. Still another part of the time–that is, from the 31st of October,
1821, to the 29th of May, 1822–he was paid in six different capacities;
that is to say, the three first, as above; the item of rations, as above;
and, in addition thereto, another item of ten rations per day while at
Washington settling his accounts, being at the rate per year of $730; and
also an allowance for expenses traveling to and from Washington, and while
there, of $1022, being at the rate per year of $1793.

Fifth. And yet during the little portion of the time which lies between
the 1st of January, 1822, and the 29th of May, 1822, he was paid in seven
different capacities; that is to say, the six last mentioned, and also,
at the rate of $1500 per year, for the Piqua, Fort Wayne, and Chicago
service, as mentioned above.

These accounts have already been discussed some here; but when we are
amongst them, as when we are in the Patent Office, we must peep about a
good deal before we can see all the curiosities. I shall not be tedious
with them. As to the large item of $1500 per year–amounting in the
aggregate to $26,715 for office rent, clerk hire, fuel, etc., I barely
wish to remark that, so far as I can discover in the public documents,
there is no evidence, by word or inference, either from any disinterested
witness or of General Cass himself, that he ever rented or kept a separate
office, ever hired or kept a clerk, or even used any extra amount of fuel,
etc., in consequence of his Indian services. Indeed, General Cass’s entire
silence in regard to these items, in his two long letters urging his
claims upon the government, is, to my mind, almost conclusive that no such
claims had any real existence.

But I have introduced General Cass’s accounts here chiefly to show the
wonderful physical capacities of the man. They show that he not only did
the labor of several men at the same time, but that he often did it at
several places, many hundreds of miles apart, at the same time. And at
eating, too, his capacities are shown to be quite as wonderful. From
October, 1821, to May, 1822, he eat ten rations a day in Michigan, ten
rations a day here in Washington, and near five dollars’ worth a day on
the road between the two places! And then there is an important discovery
in his example–the art of being paid for what one eats, instead of having
to pay for it. Hereafter if any nice young man should owe a bill which
he cannot pay in any other way, he can just board it out. Mr. Speaker, we
have all heard of the animal standing in doubt between two stacks of hay
and starving to death. The like of that would never happen to General
Cass. Place the stacks a thousand miles apart, he would stand stock-still
midway between them, and eat them both at once, and the green grass along
the line would be apt to suffer some, too, at the same time. By all means
make him President, gentlemen. He will feed you bounteously–if–if there
is any left after he shall have helped himself.

But, as General Taylor is, par excellence, the hero of the Mexican War,
and as you Democrats say we Whigs have always opposed the war, you think
it must be very awkward and embarrassing for us to go for General Taylor.
The declaration that we have always opposed the war is true or false,
according as one may understand the term “oppose the war.” If to say “the
war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President”
by opposing the war, then the Whigs have very generally opposed it.
Whenever they have spoken at all, they have said this; and they have said
it on what has appeared good reason to them. The marching an army into the
midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement, frightening the inhabitants away,
leaving their growing crops and other property to destruction, to you may
appear a perfectly amiable, peaceful, unprovoking procedure; but it does
not appear so to us. So to call such an act, to us appears no other than
a naked, impudent absurdity, and we speak of it accordingly. But if, when
the war had begun, and had become the cause of the country, the giving
of our money and our blood, in common with yours, was support of the
war, then it is not true that we have always opposed the war. With few
individual exceptions, you have constantly had our votes here for all the
necessary supplies. And, more than this, you have had the services, the
blood, and the lives of our political brethren in every trial and on
every field. The beardless boy and the mature man, the humble and the
distinguished–you have had them. Through suffering and death, by disease
and in battle they have endured and fought and fell with you. Clay and
Webster each gave a son, never to be returned. From the State of my
own residence, besides other worthy but less known Whig names, we sent
Marshall, Morrison, Baker, and Hardin; they all fought, and one fell, and
in the fall of that one we lost our best Whig man. Nor were the Whigs
few in number, or laggard in the day of danger. In that fearful, bloody,
breathless struggle at Buena Vista, where each man’s hard task was to beat
back five foes or die himself, of the five high officers who perished,
four were Whigs.

In speaking of this, I mean no odious comparison between the lion-hearted
Whigs and the Democrats who fought there. On other occasions, and
among the lower officers and privates on that occasion, I doubt not the
proportion was different. I wish to do justice to all. I think of all
those brave men as Americans, in whose proud fame, as an American, I too
have a share. Many of them, Whigs and Democrats are my constituents and
personal friends; and I thank them,–more than thank them,–one and all,
for the high imperishable honor they have conferred on our common State.

But the distinction between the cause of the President in beginning the
war, and the cause of the country after it was begun, is a distinction
which you cannot perceive. To you the President and the country seem to
be all one. You are interested to see no distinction between them; and I
venture to suggest that probably your interest blinds you a little. We
see the distinction, as we think, clearly enough; and our friends who have
fought in the war have no difficulty in seeing it also. What those who
have fallen would say, were they alive and here, of course we can never
know; but with those who have returned there is no difficulty. Colonel
Haskell and Major Gaines, members here, both fought in the war, and both
of them underwent extraordinary perils and hardships; still they, like all
other Whigs here, vote, on the record, that the war was unnecessarily and
unconstitutionally commenced by the President. And even General Taylor
himself, the noblest Roman of them all, has declared that as a citizen,
and particularly as a soldier, it is sufficient for him to know that his
country is at war with a foreign nation, to do all in his power to
bring it to a speedy and honorable termination by the most vigorous and
energetic operations, without inquiry about its justice, or anything else
connected with it.

Mr. Speaker, let our Democratic friends be comforted with the assurance
that we are content with our position, content with our company, and
content with our candidate; and that although they, in their generous
sympathy, think we ought to be miserable, we really are not, and that they
may dismiss the great anxiety they have on our account.

Mr. Speaker, I see I have but three minutes left, and this forces me to
throw out one whole branch of my subject. A single word on still another.
The Democrats are keen enough to frequently remind us that we have some
dissensions in our ranks. Our good friend from Baltimore immediately
before me [Mr. McLane] expressed some doubt the other day as to which
branch of our party General Taylor would ultimately fall into the hands
of. That was a new idea to me. I knew we had dissenters, but I did not
know they were trying to get our candidate away from us. I would like
to say a word to our dissenters, but I have not the time. Some such we
certainly have; have you none, gentlemen Democrats? Is it all union and
harmony in your ranks? no bickerings? no divisions? If there be doubt as
to which of our divisions will get our candidate, is there no doubt as
to which of your candidates will get your party? I have heard some things
from New York; and if they are true, one might well say of your party
there, as a drunken fellow once said when he heard the reading of an
indictment for hog-stealing. The clerk read on till he got to and through
the words, “did steal, take, and carry away ten boars, ten sows, ten
shoats, and ten pigs,” at which he exclaimed, “Well, by golly, that is
the most equally divided gang of hogs I ever did hear of!” If there is any
other gang of hogs more equally divided than the Democrats of New York are
about this time, I have not heard of it.


(From the Boston Advertiser.)

Mr. Kellogg then introduced to the meeting the Hon. Abram Lincoln, Whig
member of Congress from Illinois, a representative of free soil.

Mr. Lincoln has a very tall and thin figure, with an intellectual face,
showing a searching mind, and a cool judgment. He spoke in a clear and
cool and very eloquent manner, for an hour and a half, carrying the
audience with him in his able arguments and brilliant illustrations–only
interrupted by warm and frequent applause. He began by expressing a real
feeling of modesty in addressing an audience “this side of the mountains,”
a part of the country where, in the opinion of the people of his section,
everybody was supposed to be instructed and wise. But he had devoted his
attention to the question of the coming Presidential election, and was
not unwilling to exchange with all whom he might the ideas to which he
had arrived. He then began to show the fallacy of some of the arguments
against Gen. Taylor, making his chief theme the fashionable statement of
all those who oppose him (“the old Locofocos as well as the new”) that he
has no principles, and that the Whig party have abandoned their principles
by adopting him as their candidate. He maintained that Gen. Taylor
occupied a high and unexceptionable Whig ground, and took for his first
instance and proof of this the statement in the Allison letter–with
regard to the bank, tariff, rivers and harbors, etc.–that the will of the
people should produce its own results, without executive influence. The
principle that the people should do what–under the Constitution–as they
please, is a Whig principle. All that Gen. Taylor is not only to consent
to, but appeal to the people to judge and act for themselves. And this was
no new doctrine for Whigs. It was the “platform” on which they had
fought all their battles, the resistance of executive influence, and the
principle of enabling the people to frame the government according to
their will. Gen. Taylor consents to be the candidate, and to assist the
people to do what they think to be their duty, and think to be best in
their national affairs, but because he don’t want to tell what we ought to
do, he is accused of having no principles. The Whigs here maintained for
years that neither the influence, the duress, or the prohibition of the
executive should control the legitimately expressed will of the people;
and now that, on that very ground, Gen. Taylor says that he should use the
power given him by the people to do, to the best of his judgment, the will
of the people, he is accused of want of principle, and of inconsistency in

Mr. Lincoln proceeded to examine the absurdity of an attempt to make a
platform or creed for a national party, to all parts of which all
must consent and agree, when it was clearly the intention and the true
philosophy of our government, that in Congress all opinions and principles
should be represented, and that when the wisdom of all had been compared
and united, the will of the majority should be carried out. On this ground
he conceived (and the audience seemed to go with him) that Gen. Taylor
held correct, sound republican principles.

Mr. Lincoln then passed to the subject of slavery in the States,
saying that the people of Illinois agreed entirely with the people of
Massachusetts on this subject, except perhaps that they did not keep so
constantly thinking about it. All agreed that slavery was an evil, but
that we were not responsible for it and cannot affect it in States of this
Union where we do not live. But the question of the extension of slavery
to new territories of this country is a part of our responsibility and
care, and is under our control. In opposition to this Mr. L. believed that
the self-named “Free Soil” party was far behind the Whigs. Both parties
opposed the extension. As he understood it the new party had no principle
except this opposition. If their platform held any other, it was in such
a general way that it was like the pair of pantaloons the Yankee pedlar
offered for sale, “large enough for any man, small enough for any boy.”
They therefore had taken a position calculated to break down their single
important declared object. They were working for the election of either
Gen. Cass or Gen. Taylor. The speaker then went on to show, clearly and
eloquently, the danger of extension of slavery, likely to result from the
election of Gen. Cass. To unite with those who annexed the new territory
to prevent the extension of slavery in that territory seemed to him to
be in the highest degree absurd and ridiculous. Suppose these gentlemen
succeed in electing Mr. Van Buren, they had no specific means to prevent
the extension of slavery to New Mexico and California, and Gen. Taylor, he
confidently believed, would not encourage it, and would not prohibit its
restriction. But if Gen. Cass was elected, he felt certain that the plans
of farther extension of territory would be encouraged, and those of the
extension of slavery would meet no check. The “Free Soil” mart in claiming
that name indirectly attempts a deception, by implying that Whigs were
not Free Soil men. Declaring that they would “do their duty and leave the
consequences to God” merely gave an excuse for taking a course they were
not able to maintain by a fair and full argument. To make this declaration
did not show what their duty was. If it did we should have no use for
judgment, we might as well be made without intellect; and when divine or
human law does not clearly point out what is our duty, we have no means of
finding out what it is but by using our most intelligent judgment of the
consequences. If there were divine law or human law for voting for Martin
Van Buren, or if a fair examination of the consequences and just reasoning
would show that voting for him would bring about the ends they pretended
to wish–then he would give up the argument. But since there was no fixed
law on the subject, and since the whole probable result of their action
would be an assistance in electing Gen. Cass, he must say that they were
behind the Whigs in their advocacy of the freedom of the soil.

Mr. Lincoln proceeded to rally the Buffalo convention for forbearing to
say anything–after all the previous declarations of those members who
were formerly Whigs–on the subject of the Mexican War, because the Van
Burens had been known to have supported it. He declared that of all the
parties asking the confidence of the country, this new one had less of
principle than any other.

He wondered whether it was still the opinion of these Free Soil gentlemen,
as declared in the “whereas” at Buffalo, that the Whig and Democratic
parties were both entirely dissolved and absorbed into their own body. Had
the Vermont election given them any light? They had calculated on making
as great an impression in that State as in any part of the Union, and
there their attempts had been wholly ineffectual. Their failure was a
greater success than they would find in any other part of the Union.

Mr. Lincoln went on to say that he honestly believed that all those who
wished to keep up the character of the Union; who did not believe
in enlarging our field, but in keeping our fences where they are and
cultivating our present possessions, making it a garden, improving the
morals and education of the people, devoting the administrations to this
purpose; all real Whigs, friends of good honest government–the race was
ours. He had opportunities of hearing from almost every part of the Union
from reliable sources and had not heard of a county in which we had not
received accessions from other parties. If the true Whigs come forward
and join these new friends, they need not have a doubt. We had a candidate
whose personal character and principles he had already described, whom
he could not eulogize if he would. Gen. Taylor had been constantly,
perseveringly, quietly standing up, doing his duty and asking no praise
or reward for it. He was and must be just the man to whom the interests,
principles, and prosperity of the country might be safely intrusted.
He had never failed in anything he had undertaken, although many of his
duties had been considered almost impossible.

Mr. Lincoln then went into a terse though rapid review of the origin
of the Mexican War and the connection of the administration and General
Taylor with it, from which he deduced a strong appeal to the Whigs present
to do their duty in the support of General Taylor, and closed with the
warmest aspirations for and confidence in a deserved success.

At the close of his truly masterly and convincing speech, the audience
gave three enthusiastic cheers for Illinois, and three more for the
eloquent Whig member from the State.



WASHINGTON, Dec. 24, 1848.

MY DEAR FATHER:–Your letter of the 7th was received night before last.
I very cheerfully send you the twenty dollars, which sum you say is
necessary to save your land from sale. It is singular that you should
have forgotten a judgment against you; and it is more singular that the
plaintiff should have let you forget it so long; particularly as I suppose
you always had property enough to satisfy a judgment of that amount.
Before you pay it, it would be well to be sure you have not paid, or at
least, that you cannot prove you have paid it.

Give my love to mother and all the connections. Affectionately your son,




Resolved, That the Committee on the District of Columbia be instructed to
report a bill in substance as follows:

Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States, in Congress assembled, That no person not now within the
District of Columbia, nor now owned by any person or persons now resident
within it, nor hereafter born within it, shall ever be held in slavery
within said District.

Sec. 2. That no person now within said District, or now owned by any
person or persons now resident within the same, or hereafter born within
it, shall ever be held in slavery without the limits of said District:
Provided, That officers of the Government of the United States, being
citizens of the slaveholding States, coming into said District on public
business, and remaining only so long as may be reasonably necessary for
that object, may be attended into and out of said District, and while
there, by the necessary servants of themselves and their families, without
their right to hold such servants in service being thereby impaired.

Sec. 3. That all children born of slave mothers within said District,
on or after the first day of January, in the year of our Lord eighteen
hundred and fifty, shall be free; but shall be reasonably supported and
educated by the respective owners of their mothers, or by their heirs or
representatives, and shall owe reasonable service as apprentices to such
owners, heirs, or representatives, until they respectively arrive at
the age of __ years, when they shall be entirely free; and the municipal
authorities of Washington and Georgetown, within their respective
jurisdictional limits, are hereby empowered and required to make all
suitable and necessary provision for enforcing obedience to this section,
on the part of both masters and apprentices.

Sec. 4. That all persons now within this District, lawfully held as
slaves, or now owned by any person or persons now resident within said
District, shall remain such at the will of their respective owners, their
heirs, and legal representatives: Provided, That such owner, or his legal
representative, may at any time receive from the Treasury of the United
States the full value of his or her slave, of the class in this section
mentioned, upon which such slave shall be forthwith and forever free: And
provided further, That the President of the United States, the Secretary
of State, and the Secretary of the Treasury shall be a board for
determining the value of such slaves as their owners may desire to
emancipate under this section, and whose duty it shall be to hold a
session for the purpose on the first Monday of each calendar month, to
receive all applications, and, on satisfactory evidence in each case that
the person presented for valuation is a slave, and of the class in this
section mentioned, and is owned by the applicant, shall value such slave
at his or her full cash value, and give to the applicant an order on the
Treasury for the amount, and also to such slave a certificate of freedom.

Sec. 5. That the municipal authorities of Washington and Georgetown,
within their respective jurisdictional limits, are hereby empowered and
required to provide active and efficient means to arrest and deliver up to
their owners all fugitive slaves escaping into said District.

Sec. 6. That the election officers within said District of Columbia are
hereby empowered and required to open polls, at all the usual places of
holding elections, on the first Monday of April next, and receive the vote
of every free white male citizen above the age of twenty-one years, having
resided within said District for the period of one year or more next
preceding the time of such voting for or against this act, to proceed in
taking said votes, in all respects not herein specified, as at elections
under the municipal laws, and with as little delay as possible to transmit
correct statements of the votes so cast to the President of the United
States; and it shall be the duty of the President to canvass said votes
immediately, and if a majority of them be found to be for this act, to
forthwith issue his proclamation giving notice of the fact; and this
act shall only be in full force and effect on and after the day of such

Sec. 7. That involuntary servitude for the punishment of crime, whereof
the party shall have been duly convicted, shall in no wise be prohibited
by this act.

Sec. 8. That for all the purposes of this act, the jurisdictional limits
of Washington are extended to all parts of the District of Columbia not
now included within the present limits of Georgetown.



Mr. Lincoln said he had not risen for the purpose of making a speech, but
only for the purpose of meeting some of the objections to the bill. If he
understood those objections, the first was that if the bill were to become
a law, it would be used to lock large portions of the public lands from
sale, without at last effecting the ostensible object of the bill–the
construction of railroads in the new States; and secondly, that Congress
would be forced to the abandonment of large portions of the public lands
to the States for which they might be reserved, without their paying for
them. This he understood to be the substance of the objections of the
gentleman from Ohio to the passage of the bill.

If he could get the attention of the House for a few minutes, he would ask
gentlemen to tell us what motive could induce any State Legislature, or
individual, or company of individuals, of the new States, to expend money
in surveying roads which they might know they could not make.

(A voice: They are not required to make the road.)

Mr. Lincoln continued: That was not the case he was making. What motive
would tempt any set of men to go into an extensive survey of a railroad
which they did not intend to make? What good would it do? Did men act
without motive? Did business men commonly go into an expenditure of money
which could be of no account to them? He generally found that men who have
money were disposed to hold on to it, unless they could see something to
be made by its investment. He could not see what motive of advantage to
the new States could be subserved by merely keeping the public lands out
of market, and preventing their settlement. As far as he could see, the
new States were wholly without any motive to do such a thing. This, then,
he took to be a good answer to the first objection.

In relation to the fact assumed, that after a while, the new States having
got hold of the public lands to a certain extent, they would turn round
and compel Congress to relinquish all claim to them, he had a word to say,
by way of recurring to the history of the past. When was the time to come
(he asked) when the States in which the public lands were situated would
compose a majority of the representation in Congress, or anything like
it? A majority of Representatives would very soon reside west of the
mountains, he admitted; but would they all come from States in which
the public lands were situated? They certainly would not; for, as these
Western States grew strong in Congress, the public lands passed away from
them, and they got on the other side of the question; and the gentleman
from Ohio [Mr. Vinton] was an example attesting that fact.

Mr. Vinton interrupted here to say that he had stood on this question just
where he was now, for five and twenty years.

Mr. Lincoln was not making an argument for the purpose of convicting the
gentleman of any impropriety at all. He was speaking of a fact in history,
of which his State was an example. He was referring to a plain principle
in the nature of things. The State of Ohio had now grown to be a giant.
She had a large delegation on that floor; but was she now in favor of
granting lands to the new States, as she used to be? The New England
States, New York, and the Old Thirteen were all rather quiet upon the
subject; and it was seen just now that a member from one of the new States
was the first man to rise up in opposition. And such would be with the
history of this question for the future. There never would come a time
when the people residing in the States embracing the public lands would
have the entire control of this subject; and so it was a matter of
certainty that Congress would never do more in this respect than what
would be dictated by a just liberality. The apprehension, therefore,
that the public lands were in danger of being wrested from the General
Government by the strength of the delegation in Congress from the new
States, was utterly futile. There never could be such a thing. If we take
these lands (said he) it will not be without your consent. We can never
outnumber you. The result is that all fear of the new States turning
against the right of Congress to the public domain must be effectually
quelled, as those who are opposed to that interest must always hold a vast
majority here, and they will never surrender the whole or any part of
the public lands unless they themselves choose to do so. That was all he
desired to say.



WASHINGTON, March 9, 1849.


DEAR SIR: Colonel R. D. Baker and myself are the only Whig members of
Congress from Illinois of the Thirtieth, and he of the Thirty-first. We
have reason to think the Whigs of that State hold us responsible, to some
extent, for the appointments which may be made of our citizens. We do not
know you personally, and our efforts to you have so far been unavailing.
I therefore hope I am not obtrusive in saying in this way, for him
and myself, that when a citizen of Illinois is to be appointed in
your department, to an office either in or out of the State, we most
respectfully ask to be heard.

Your obedient servant,




WASHINGTON, March 10, 1849.


SIR:–There are several applicants for the office of United States
Marshal for the District of Illinois. Among the most prominent of them are
Benjamin Bond, Esq., of Carlyle, and Thomas, Esq., of Galena. Mr. Bond
I know to be personally every way worthy of the office; and he is very
numerously and most respectably recommended. His papers I send to you; and
I solicit for his claims a full and fair consideration.

Having said this much, I add that in my individual judgment the
appointment of Mr. Thomas would be the better.

Your obedient servant,


(Indorsed on Mr. Bond’s papers.)

In this and the accompanying envelope are the recommendations of about
two hundred good citizens of all parts of Illinois, that Benjamin Bond be
appointed marshal for that district. They include the names of nearly
all our Whigs who now are, or have ever been, members of the State
Legislature, besides forty-six of the Democratic members of the present
Legislature, and many other good citizens. I add that from personal
knowledge I consider Mr. Bond every way worthy of the office, and
qualified to fill it. Holding the individual opinion that the appointment
of a different gentleman would be better, I ask especial attention and
consideration for his claims, and for the opinions expressed in his favor
by those over whom I can claim no superiority.





DEAR SIR:–I recommend that Walter Davis be appointed receiver of the
land-office at this place, whenever there shall be a vacancy. I cannot
say that Mr. Herndon, the present incumbent, has failed in the proper
discharge of any of the duties of the office. He is a very warm partisan,
and openly and actively opposed to the election of General Taylor. I
also understand that since General Taylor’s election he has received
a reappointment from Mr. Polk, his old commission not having expired.
Whether this is true the records of the department will show. I may add
that the Whigs here almost universally desire his removal.

I give no opinion of my own, but state the facts, and express the hope
that the department will act in this as in all other cases on some proper
general rule.

Your obedient servant,


P. S.–The land district to which this office belongs is very nearly if
not entirely within my district; so that Colonel Baker, the other Whig
representative, claims no voice in the appointment. A. L.




DEAR SIR:–I recommend that Turner R. King, now of Pekin, Illinois, be
appointed register of the land-office at this place whenever there shall
be a vacancy.

I do not know that Mr. Barret, the present incumbent, has failed in the
proper discharge of any of his duties in the office. He is a decided
partisan, and openly and actively opposed the election of General Taylor.
I understand, too, that since the election of General Taylor, Mr. Barret
has received a reappointment from Mr. Polk, his old commission not having
expired. Whether this be true, the records of the department will show.

Whether he should be removed I give no opinion, but merely express the
wish that the department may act upon some proper general rule, and that
Mr. Barret’s case may not be made an exception to it.

Your obedient servant,


P. S.-The land district to which this office belongs is very nearly if
not entirely within my district; so that Colonel Baker, the other Whig
representative, claims no voice in the appointment. A. L.




DEAR Sir:–I recommend that Abner Y. Ellis be appointed postmaster at
this place, whenever there shall be a vacancy. J. R. Diller, the present
incumbent, I cannot say has failed in the proper discharge of any of
the duties of the office. He, however, has been an active partisan in
opposition to us.

Located at the seat of government of the State, he has been, for part
if not the whole of the time he has held the office, a member of the
Democratic State Central Committee, signing his name to their addresses
and manifestoes; and has been, as I understand, reappointed by Mr. Polk
since General Taylor’s election. These are the facts of the case as I
understand them, and I give no opinion of mine as to whether he should
or should not be removed. My wish is that the department may adopt some
proper general rule for such cases, and that Mr. Diller may not be made an
exception to it, one way or the other.

Your obedient servant,


P. S.–This office, with its delivery, is entirely within my district; so
that Colonel Baker, the other Whig representative, claims no voice in the




DEAR SIR:–I recommend that William Butler be appointed pension agent
for the Illinois agency, when the place shall be vacant. Mr. Hurst, the
present incumbent, I believe has performed the duties very well. He is a
decided partisan, and I believe expects to be removed. Whether he shall, I
submit to the department. This office is not confined to my district, but
pertains to the whole State; so that Colonel Baker has an equal right with
myself to be heard concerning it. However, the office is located here;
and I think it is not probable that any one would desire to remove from a
distance to take it.

Your obedient servant,



SPRINGFIELD, April 25, 1849.

DEAR THOMPSON: A tirade is still kept up against me here for recommending
T. R. King. This morning it is openly avowed that my supposed influence at
Washington shall be broken down generally, and King’s prospects defeated
in particular. Now, what I have done in this matter I have done at the
request of you and some other friends in Tazewell; and I therefore ask you
to either admit it is wrong or come forward and sustain me. If the truth
will permit, I propose that you sustain me in the following manner: copy
the inclosed scrap in your own handwriting and get everybody (not three or
four, but three or four hundred) to sign it, and then send it to me. Also,
have six, eight or ten of our best known Whig friends there write to me
individual letters, stating the truth in this matter as they understand
it. Don’t neglect or delay in the matter. I understand information of an
indictment having been found against him about three years ago, for gaming
or keeping a gaming house, has been sent to the department. I shall try
to take care of it at the department till your action can be had and
forwarded on.

Yours as ever,





DEAR SIR:–I regret troubling you so often in relation to the land-offices
here, but I hope you will perceive the necessity of it, and excuse me. On
the 7th of April I wrote you recommending Turner R. King for register, and
Walter Davis for receiver. Subsequently I wrote you that, for a private
reason, I had concluded to transpose them. That private reason was the
request of an old personal friend who himself desired to be receiver,
but whom I felt it my duty to refuse a recommendation. He said if I would
transpose King and Davis he would be satisfied. I thought it a whim, but,
anxious to oblige him, I consented. Immediately he commenced an assault
upon King’s character, intending, as I suppose, to defeat his appointment,
and thereby secure another chance for himself. This double offence of bad
faith to me and slander upon a good man is so totally outrageous that I
now ask to have King and Davis placed as I originally recommended,–that
is, King for register and Davis for receiver.

An effort is being made now to have Mr. Barret, the present register,
retained. I have already said he has done the duties of the office well,
and I now add he is a gentleman in the true sense. Still, he submits to be
the instrument of his party to injure us. His high character enables him
to do it more effectually. Last year he presided at the convention which
nominated the Democratic candidate for Congress in this district, and
afterward ran for the State Senate himself, not desiring the seat, but
avowedly to aid and strengthen his party. He made speech after speech with
a degree of fierceness and coarseness against General Taylor not quite
consistent with his habitually gentlemanly deportment. At least one (and
I think more) of those who are now trying to have him retained was himself
an applicant for this very office, and, failing to get my recommendation,
now takes this turn.

In writing you a third time in relation to these offices, I stated that I
supposed charges had been forwarded to you against King, and that I would
inquire into the truth of them. I now send you herewith what I suppose
will be an ample defense against any such charges. I ask attention to all
the papers, but particularly to the letters of Mr. David Mack, and the
paper with the long list of names. There is no mistake about King’s being
a good man. After the unjust assault upon him, and considering the just
claims of Tazewell County, as indicated in the letters I inclose you, it
would in my opinion be injustice, and withal a blunder, not to appoint
him, at least as soon as any one is appointed to either of the offices

Your obedient servant,



SPRINGFIELD, ILL., May 19, 1849.


Butterfield will be commissioner of the Gen’l Land Office, unless
prevented by strong and speedy efforts. Ewing is for him, and he is only
not appointed yet because Old Zach. hangs fire.

I have reliable information of this. Now, if you agree with me that this
appointment would dissatisfy rather than gratify the Whigs of this
State, that it would slacken their energies in future contests, that his
appointment in ’41 is an old sore with them which they will not patiently
have reopened,–in a word that his appointment now would be a fatal
blunder to the administration and our political men here in Illinois,
write Crittenden to that effect. He can control the matter. Were you to
write Ewing I fear the President would never hear of your letter. This may
be mere suspicion. You might write directly to Old Zach. You will be the
best judge of the propriety of that. Not a moment’s time is to be lost.

Let this be confidential except with Mr. Edwards and a few others whom you
know I would trust just as I do you.

Yours as ever,







DEAR SIR:–I am about to ask a favor of you, one which I hope will not
cost you much. I understand the General Land-Office is about to be given
to Illinois, and that Mr. Ewing desires Justin Butterfield, of Chicago, to
be the man. I give you my word, the appointment of Mr. Butterfield will
be an egregious political blunder. It will give offence to the whole Whig
party here, and be worse than a dead loss to the administration of so much
of its patronage. Now, if you can conscientiously do so, I wish you to
write General Taylor at once, saying that either I or the man I recommend
should in your opinion be appointed to that office, if any one from
Illinois shall be. I restrict my request to Illinois because you may have
a man from your own State, and I do not ask to interfere with that.

Your friend as ever,




Application for Patent:

What I claim as my invention, and desire to secure by letters patent, is
the combination of expansible buoyant chambers placed at the sides of a
vessel with the main shaft or shafts by means of the sliding spars, which
pass down through the buoyant chambers and are made fast to their bottoms
and the series of ropes and pulleys or their equivalents in such a manner
that by turning the main shaft or shafts in one direction the buoyant
chambers will be forced downward into the water, and at the same time
expanded and filled with air for buoying up the vessel by the displacement
of water, and by turning the shafts in an opposite direction the buoyant
chambers will be contracted into a small space and secured against injury.



SPRINGFIELD, ILL., June 3, 1849


DEAR SIR:–Vandalia, the receiver’s office at which place is the subject
of the within, is not in my district; and I have been much perplexed to
express any preference between Dr. Stapp and Mr. Remann. If any one man
is better qualified for such an office than all others, Dr. Stapp is that
man; still, I believe a large majority of the Whigs of the district prefer
Mr. Remann, who also is a good man. Perhaps the papers on file will enable
you to judge better than I can. The writers of the within are good men,
residing within the land district.

Your obt. servant,



SPRINGFIELD, June 5, 1849.

DEAR WILLIAM:–Your two letters were received last night. I have a great
many letters to write, and so cannot write very long ones. There must be
some mistake about Walter Davis saying I promised him the post-office.
I did not so promise him. I did tell him that if the distribution of the
offices should fall into my hands, he should have something; and if
I shall be convinced he has said any more than this, I shall be
disappointed. I said this much to him because, as I understand, he is of
good character, is one of the young men, is of the mechanics, and always
faithful and never troublesome; a Whig, and is poor, with the support of a
widow mother thrown almost exclusively on him by the death of his brother.
If these are wrong reasons, then I have been wrong; but I have certainly
not been selfish in it, because in my greatest need of friends he was
against me, and for Baker.

Yours as ever,


P. S. Let the above be confidential.



Mr. Edwards is unquestionably offended with me in connection with the
matter of the General Land-Office. He wrote a letter against me which was
filed at the department.

The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships; and, of them,
mine with Mr. Edwards was one of the most cherished. I have not been
false to it. At a word I could have had the office any time before the
department was committed to Mr. Butterfield, at least Mr. Ewing and the
President say as much. That word I forbore to speak, partly for other
reasons, but chiefly for Mr. Edwards’ sake, losing the office (that he
might gain it) I was always for; but to lose his friendship, by the effort
for him, would oppress me very much, were I not sustained by the utmost
consciousness of rectitude. I first determined to be an applicant,
unconditionally, on the 2nd of June; and I did so then upon being informed
by a telegraphic despatch that the question was narrowed down to Mr. B and
myself, and that the Cabinet had postponed the appointment three weeks,
for my benefit. Not doubting that Mr. Edwards was wholly out of the
question I, nevertheless, would not then have become an applicant had I
supposed he would thereby be brought to suspect me of treachery to him.
Two or three days afterwards a conversation with Levi Davis convinced me
Mr. Edwards was dissatisfied; but I was then too far in to get out. His
own letter, written on the 25th of April, after I had fully informed
him of all that had passed, up to within a few days of that time, gave
assurance I had that entire confidence from him which I felt my uniform
and strong friendship for him entitled me to. Among other things it says,
“Whatever course your judgment may dictate as proper to be pursued, shall
never be excepted to by me.” I also had had a letter from Washington,
saying Chambers, of the Republic, had brought a rumor then, that Mr. E had
declined in my favor, which rumor I judged came from Mr. E himself, as I
had not then breathed of his letter to any living creature. In saying
I had never, before the 2nd of June, determined to be an applicant,
unconditionally, I mean to admit that, before then, I had said
substantially I would take the office rather than it should be lost to
the State, or given to one in the State whom the Whigs did not want; but
I aver that in every instance in which I spoke of myself, I intended to
keep, and now believe I did keep, Mr. E above myself. Mr. Edwards’ first
suspicion was that I had allowed Baker to overreach me, as his friend,
in behalf of Don Morrison. I knew this was a mistake; and the result has
proved it. I understand his view now is, that if I had gone to open war
with Baker I could have ridden him down, and had the thing all my own way.
I believe no such thing. With Baker and some strong man from the Military
tract & elsewhere for Morrison, and we and some strong man from the
Wabash & elsewhere for Mr. E, it was not possible for either to succeed.
I believed this in March, and I know it now. The only thing which gave
either any chance was the very thing Baker & I proposed,–an adjustment
with themselves.

You may wish to know how Butterfield finally beat me. I can not tell
you particulars now, but will when I see you. In the meantime let it be
understood I am not greatly dissatisfied,–I wish the offer had been so
bestowed as to encourage our friends in future contests, and I regret
exceedingly Mr. Edwards’ feelings towards me. These two things away, I
should have no regrets,–at least I think I would not.

Write me soon.

Your friend, as ever,



SEPTEMBER [1??], 1849.

At a meeting to express sympathy with the cause of Hungarian freedom, Dr.
Todd, Thos. Lewis, Hon. A. Lincoln, and Wm. Carpenter were appointed a
committee to present appropriate resolutions, which reported through Hon.
A. Lincoln the following:

Resolved, That, in their present glorious struggle for liberty, the
Hungarians command our highest admiration and have our warmest sympathy.

Resolved, That they have our most ardent prayers for their speedy triumph
and final success.

Resolved, That the Government of the United States should acknowledge the
independence of Hungary as a nation of freemen at the very earliest moment
consistent with our amicable relations with the government against which
they are contending.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this meeting, the immediate
acknowledgment of the independence of Hungary by our government is due
from American freemen to their struggling brethren, to the general cause
of republican liberty, and not violative of the just rights of any nation
or people.


SPRINGFIELD, Sept. 14, 1849.

Dr. WILLIAM FITHIAN, Danville, Ill.

DEAR DOCTOR:–Your letter of the 9th was received a day or two ago. The
notes and mortgages you enclosed me were duly received. I also got the
original Blanchard mortgage from Antrim Campbell, with whom Blanchard had
left it for you. I got a decree of foreclosure on the whole; but, owing to
there being no redemption on the sale to be under the Blanchard mortgage,
the court allowed Mobley till the first of March to pay the money, before
advertising for sale. Stuart was empowered by Mobley to appear for him,
and I had to take such decree as he would consent to, or none at all. I
cast the matter about in my mind and concluded that as I could not get
a decree we would put the accrued interest at interest, and thereby more
than match the fact of throwing the Blanchard debt back from twelve to six
per cent., it was better to do it. This is the present state of the case.

I can well enough understand and appreciate your suggestions about the
Land-Office at Danville; but in my present condition, I can do nothing.

Yours, as ever,


SPRINGFIELD, Dec. 15, 1849.

—— ESQ.

DEAR SIR:–On my return from Kentucky I found your letter of the 7th of
November, and have delayed answering it till now for the reason I now
briefly state. From the beginning of our acquaintance I had felt the
greatest kindness for you and had supposed it was reciprocated on your
part. Last summer, under circumstances which I mentioned to you, I was
painfully constrained to withhold a recommendation which you desired, and
shortly afterwards I learned, in such a way as to believe it, that you
were indulging in open abuse of me. Of course my feelings were wounded.
On receiving your last letter the question occurred whether you were
attempting to use me at the same time you would injure me, or whether you
might not have been misrepresented to me. If the former, I ought not to
answer you; if the latter, I ought, and so I have remained in suspense. I
now enclose you the letter, which you may use if you see fit.

Yours, etc.,




Circuit and District Court of the U. S. in and for the State and District
of Illinois. Monday, June 3, 1850.

On the opening of the Court this morning, the Hon. A. Lincoln, a member
of the Bar of this Court, suggested the death of the Hon. Nathaniel
Pope, late a judge of this Court, since the adjournment of the last term;
whereupon, in token of respect for the memory of the deceased, it is
ordered that the Court do now adjourn until to-morrow morning at ten

The Hon. Stephen T. Logan, the Hon. Norman H. Purple, the Hon. David L.
Gregg, the Hon. A. Lincoln, and George W. Meeker, Esq., were appointed a
Committee to prepare resolutions.

Whereupon, the Hon. Stephen T. Logan, in behalf of the Committee,
presented the following preamble and resolutions:

Whereas The Hon. Nathaniel Pope, District Judge of the United States Court
for the District of Illinois, having departed this life during the
last vacation of said Court, and the members of the Bar of said Court,
entertaining the highest veneration for his memory, a profound respect for
his ability, great experience, and learning as a judge, and cherishing for
his many virtues, public and private, his earnest simplicity of character
and unostentatious deportment, both in his public and private relations,
the most lively and affectionate recollections, have

Resolved, That, as a manifestation of their deep sense of the loss
which has been sustained in his death, they will wear the usual badge of
mourning during the residue of the term.

Resolved, That the Chairman communicate to the family of the deceased a
copy of these proceedings, with an assurance of our sincere condolence on
account of their heavy bereavement.

Resolved, That the Hon. A. Williams, District Attorney of this Court, be
requested in behalf of the meeting to present these proceedings to the
Circuit Court, and respectfully to ask that they may be entered on the




JULY 1, 1850

DISCOURAGE LITIGATION. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you
can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser–in
fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peace-maker the lawyer has a
superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business

Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one
who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who habitually
over-hauls the register of deeds in search of defects in titles, whereon
to stir up strife, and put money in his pocket? A moral tone ought to be
infused into the profession which should drive such men out of it.

The matter of fees is important, far beyond the mere question of bread
and butter involved. Properly attended to, fuller justice is done to both
lawyer and client. An exorbitant fee should never be claimed. As a general
rule never take your whole fee in advance, nor any more than a small
retainer. When fully paid beforehand, you are more than a common mortal
if you can feel the same interest in the case as if something was still in
prospect for you, as well as for your client. And when you lack interest
in the case the job will very likely lack skill and diligence in the
performance. Settle the amount of fee and take a note in advance. Then you
will feel that you are working for something, and you are sure to do your
work faithfully and well. Never sell a fee note–at least not before
the consideration service is performed. It leads to negligence and
dishonesty–negligence by losing interest in the case, and dishonesty in
refusing to refund when you have allowed the consideration to fail.

This idea of a refund or reduction of charges from the lawyer in a failed
case is a new one to me–but not a bad one.




January 2, 1851

DEAR JOHNSTON:–Your request for eighty dollars I do not think it best to
comply with now. At the various times when I have helped you a little you
have said to me, “We can get along very well now”; but in a very short
time I find you in the same difficulty again. Now, this can only happen by
some defect in your conduct. What that defect is, I think I know. You are
not lazy, and still you are an idler. I doubt whether, since I saw you,
you have done a good whole day’s work in any one day. You do not very much
dislike to work, and still you do not work much merely because it does
not seem to you that you could get much for it. This habit of uselessly
wasting time is the whole difficulty; it is vastly important to you, and
still more so to your children, that you should break the habit. It is
more important to them, because they have longer to live, and can keep out
of an idle habit before they are in it, easier than they can get out after
they are in.

You are now in need of some money; and what I propose is, that you shall
go to work, “tooth and nail,” for somebody who will give you money for it.
Let father and your boys take charge of your things at home, prepare for
a crop, and make the crop, and you go to work for the best money wages, or
in discharge of any debt you owe, that you can get; and, to secure you a
fair reward for your labor, I now promise you, that for every dollar you
will, between this and the first of May, get for your own labor, either in
money or as your own indebtedness, I will then give you one other dollar.
By this, if you hire yourself at ten dollars a month, from me you will get
ten more, making twenty dollars a month for your work. In this I do not
mean you shall go off to St. Louis, or the lead mines, or the gold mines
in California, but I mean for you to go at it for the best wages you can
get close to home in Coles County. Now, if you will do this, you will be
soon out of debt, and, what is better, you will have a habit that will
keep you from getting in debt again. But, if I should now clear you out
of debt, next year you would be just as deep in as ever. You say you would
almost give your place in heaven for seventy or eighty dollars. Then you
value your place in heaven very cheap, for I am sure you can, with the
offer I make, get the seventy or eighty dollars for four or five months’
work. You say if I will furnish you the money you will deed me the
land, and, if you don’t pay the money back, you will deliver possession.
Nonsense! If you can’t now live with the land, how will you then live
without it? You have always been kind to me, and I do not mean to be
unkind to you. On the contrary, if you will but follow my advice, you will
find it worth more than eighty times eighty dollars to you.

Affectionately your brother,



SPRINGFIELD, Jan. 11, 1851.


MY DEAR SIR:–Our case is decided against us. The decision was announced
this morning. Very sorry, but there is no help. The history of the case
since it came here is this. On Friday morning last, Mr. Joy filed his
papers, and entered his motion for a mandamus, and urged me to take up the
motion as soon as possible. I already had the points and authority sent me
by you and by Mr. Goodrich, but had not studied them. I began preparing as
fast as possible.

The evening of the same day I was again urged to take up the case. I
refused on the ground that I was not ready, and on which plea I also
got off over Saturday. But on Monday (the 14th) I had to go into it. We
occupied the whole day, I using the large part. I made every point and
used every authority sent me by yourself and by Mr. Goodrich; and in
addition all the points I could think of and all the authorities I could
find myself. When I closed the argument on my part, a large package was
handed me, which proved to be the plat you sent me.

The court received it of me, but it was not different from the plat
already on the record. I do not think I could ever have argued the case
better than I did. I did nothing else, but prepare to argue and argue this
case, from Friday morning till Monday evening. Very sorry for the result;
but I do not think it could have been prevented.

Your friend, as ever,



SPRINGFIELD, January 12, 1851

DEAR BROTHER:–On the day before yesterday I received a letter from
Harriet, written at Greenup. She says she has just returned from your
house, and that father is very low and will hardly recover. She also says
you have written me two letters, and that, although you do not expect me
to come now, you wonder that I do not write.

I received both your letters, and although I have not answered them it is
not because I have forgotten them, or been uninterested about them, but
because it appeared to me that I could write nothing which would do any
good. You already know I desire that neither father nor mother shall be in
want of any comfort, either in health or sickness, while they live; and I
feel sure you have not failed to use my name, if necessary, to procure a
doctor, or anything else for father in his present sickness. My business
is such that I could hardly leave home now, if it was not as it is, that
my own wife is sick abed. (It is a case of baby-sickness, and I suppose is
not dangerous.) I sincerely hope father may recover his health, but at
all events, tell him to remember to call upon and confide in our great and
good and merciful Maker, who will not turn away from him in any extremity.
He notes the fall of a sparrow, and numbers the hairs of our heads, and He
will not forget the dying man who puts his trust in Him. Say to him that
if we could meet now it is doubtful whether it would not be more painful
than pleasant, but that if it be his lot to go now, he will soon have a
joyous meeting with many loved ones gone before, and where the rest of us,
through the help of God, hope ere long to join them.

Write to me again when you receive this.





MAY 13, 1851.



Your Petitioner, Joshua Gipson, respectfully represents that on or about
the 21st day of December, 1850, a judgment was rendered against your
Petitioner for costs, by J. C. Spugg, one of the Justices of the Peace
in and for said County of Sangamon, in a suit wherein your Petitioner
was plaintiff and James L. and C. B. Gerard were defendants; that said
judgment was not the result of negligence on the part of your Petitioner;
that said judgment, in his opinion, is unjust and erroneous in this, that
the defendants were at that time and are indebted to this Petitioner in
the full amount of the principal and interest of the note sued on, the
principal being, as affiant remembers and believes, thirty-one dollars
and eighty two cents; and that, as affiant is informed and believes, the
defendants succeeded in the trial of said cause by proving old claims
against your petitioner, in set-off against said note, which claims
had been settled, adjusted and paid before said note was executed. Your
Petitioner further states that the reasons of his not being present at
said trial, as he was not, and of its not being in his power to take an
appeal in the ordinary way, as it was not, were that your Petitioner then
resided in Edgar County about one hundred and twenty miles from where
defendants resided; that a very short time before the suit was commenced
your Petitioner was in Sangamon County for the purpose of collecting debts
due him, and with the rest, the note in question, which note had then been
given more than a year, that your Petitioner then saw the defendant J.
L. Gerard who is the principal in said note, and solicited payment of the
same; that said defendant then made no pretense that he did not owe the
same, but on the contrary expressly promised that he would come into
Springfield, in a very few days and either pay the money, or give a new
note, payable by the then next Christmas; that your Petitioner accordingly
left said note with said J. C. Spugg, with directions to give defendant
full time to pay the money or give the new note as above, and if he did
neither to sue; and then affiant came home to Edgar County, not having the
slightest suspicion that if suit should be brought, the defendants would
make any defense whatever; and your Petitioner never did in any way learn
that said suit had been commenced until more than twenty days after it had
been decided against him. He therefore prays for a writ of Certiorari.



SPRINGFIELD, Aug. 31, 1851

DEAR BROTHER: Inclosed is the deed for the land. We are all well, and
have nothing in the way of news. We have had no Cholera here for about two

Give my love to all, and especially to Mother.

Yours as ever,



SHELBYVILLE, Nov. 4, 1851


When I came into Charleston day before yesterday I learned that you are
anxious to sell the land where you live, and move to Missouri. I have been
thinking of this ever since, and cannot but think such a notion is utterly
foolish. What can you do in Missouri better than here? Is the land richer?
Can you there, any more than here, raise corn and wheat and oats without
work? Will anybody there, any more than here, do your work for you? If you
intend to go to work, there is no better place than right where you
are; if you do not intend to go to work you cannot get along anywhere.
Squirming and crawling about from place to place can do no good. You have
raised no crop this year, and what you really want is to sell the land,
get the money and spend it. Part with the land you have, and, my life upon
it, you will never after own a spot big enough to bury you in. Half you
will get for the land you spend in moving to Missouri, and the other half
you will eat and drink and wear out, and no foot of land will be bought.
Now I feel it is my duty to have no hand in such a piece of foolery. I
feel that it is so even on your own account, and particularly on Mother’s
account. The eastern forty acres I intend to keep for Mother while she
lives; if you will not cultivate it, it will rent for enough to support
her; at least it will rent for something. Her dower in the other two
forties she can let you have, and no thanks to me.

Now do not misunderstand this letter. I do not write it in any unkindness.
I write it in order, if possible, to get you to face the truth, which
truth is, you are destitute because you have idled away all your time.
Your thousand pretenses for not getting along better are all nonsense;
they deceive nobody but yourself. Go to work is the only cure for your

A word for Mother: Chapman tells me he wants you to go and live with him.
If I were you I would try it awhile. If you get tired of it (as I think
you will not) you can return to your own home. Chapman feels very kindly
to you; and I have no doubt he will make your situation very pleasant.

Sincerely yours,


Nov. 4, 1851


Chapman tells me he wants you to go and live with him. If I were you I
would try it awhile. If you get tired of it (as I think you will not) you
can return to your own home. Chapman feels very kindly to you; and I have
no doubt he will make your situation very pleasant.

Sincerely your son,



SHELBYVILLE, November 9, 1851

DEAR BROTHER:–When I wrote you before, I had not received your letter.
I still think as I did, but if the land can be sold so that I get three
hundred dollars to put to interest for Mother, I will not object, if she
does not. But before I will make a deed, the money must be had, or secured
beyond all doubt, at ten per cent.

As to Abram, I do not want him, on my own account; but I understand he
wants to live with me, so that he can go to school and get a fair start in
the world, which I very much wish him to have. When I reach home, if I can
make it convenient to take, I will take him, provided there is no mistake
between us as to the object and terms of my taking him. In haste, as ever,



SPRINGFIELD, November 25, 1851.

DEAR BROTHER:–Your letter of the 22d is just received. Your proposal
about selling the east forty acres of land is all that I want or could
claim for myself; but I am not satisfied with it on Mother’s account–I
want her to have her living, and I feel that it is my duty, to some
extent, to see that she is not wronged. She had a right of dower (that is,
the use of one-third for life) in the other two forties; but, it seems,
she has already let you take that, hook and line. She now has the use of
the whole of the east forty, as long as she lives; and if it be sold, of
course she is entitled to the interest on all the money it brings, as long
as she lives; but you propose to sell it for three hundred dollars, take
one hundred away with you, and leave her two hundred at 8 per cent.,
making her the enormous sum of 16 dollars a year. Now, if you are
satisfied with treating her in that way, I am not. It is true that you are
to have that forty for two hundred dollars, at Mother’s death, but you are
not to have it before. I am confident that land can be made to produce for
Mother at least $30 a year, and I can not, to oblige any living person,
consent that she shall be put on an allowance of sixteen dollars a year.

Yours, etc.,





On the fourth day of July, 1776, the people of a few feeble and oppressed
colonies of Great Britain, inhabiting a portion of the Atlantic coast of
North America, publicly declared their national independence, and made
their appeal to the justice of their cause and to the God of battles for
the maintenance of that declaration. That people were few in number and
without resources, save only their wise heads and stout hearts. Within the
first year of that declared independence, and while its maintenance was
yet problematical, while the bloody struggle between those resolute rebels
and their haughty would-be masters was still waging,–of undistinguished
parents and in an obscure district of one of those colonies Henry Clay
was born. The infant nation and the infant child began the race of life
together. For three quarters of a century they have travelled hand in
hand. They have been companions ever. The nation has passed its perils,
and it is free, prosperous, and powerful. The child has reached his
manhood, his middle age, his old age, and is dead. In all that has
concerned the nation the man ever sympathized; and now the nation mourns
the man.

The day after his death one of the public journals, opposed to him
politically, held the following pathetic and beautiful language, which I
adopt partly because such high and exclusive eulogy, originating with a
political friend, might offend good taste, but chiefly because I could not
in any language of my own so well express my thoughts:

“Alas, who can realize that Henry Clay is dead! Who can realize that never
again that majestic form shall rise in the council-chambers of his country
to beat back the storms of anarchy which may threaten, or pour the oil of
peace upon the troubled billows as they rage and menace around! Who
can realize that the workings of that mighty mind have ceased, that the
throbbings of that gallant heart are stilled, that the mighty sweep of
that graceful arm will be felt no more, and the magic of that eloquent
tongue, which spake as spake no other tongue besides, is hushed hushed for
ever! Who can realize that freedom’s champion, the champion of a civilized
world and of all tongues and kindreds of people, has indeed fallen! Alas,
in those dark hours of peril and dread which our land has experienced, and
which she may be called to experience again, to whom now may her people
look up for that counsel and advice which only wisdom and experience and
patriotism can give, and which only the undoubting confidence of a nation
will receive? Perchance in the whole circle of the great and gifted of
our land there remains but one on whose shoulders the mighty mantle of
the departed statesman may fall; one who while we now write is doubtless
pouring his tears over the bier of his brother and friend brother, friend,
ever, yet in political sentiment as far apart as party could make them.
Ah, it is at times like these that the petty distinctions of mere party
disappear. We see only the great, the grand, the noble features of the
departed statesman; and we do not even beg permission to bow at his
feet and mingle our tears with those who have ever been his political
adherents–we do [not] beg this permission, we claim it as a right, though
we feel it as a privilege. Henry Clay belonged to his country–to the
world; mere party cannot claim men like him. His career has been national,
his fame has filled the earth, his memory will endure to the last syllable
of recorded time.

“Henry Clay is dead! He breathed his last on yesterday, at twenty minutes
after eleven, in his chamber at Washington. To those who followed his lead
in public affairs, it more appropriately belongs to pronounce his eulogy
and pay specific honors to the memory of the illustrious dead. But all
Americans may show the grief which his death inspires, for his character
and fame are national property. As on a question of liberty he knew no
North, no South, no East, no West, but only the Union which held them all
in its sacred circle, so now his countrymen will know no grief that is not
as wide-spread as the bounds of the confederacy. The career of Henry Clay
was a public career. From his youth he has been devoted to the public
service, at a period, too, in the world’s history justly regarded as a
remarkable era in human affairs. He witnessed in the beginning the throes
of the French Revolution. He saw the rise and fall of Napoleon. He was
called upon to legislate for America and direct her policy when all Europe
was the battlefield of contending dynasties, and when the struggle for
supremacy imperilled the rights of all neutral nations. His voice spoke
war and peace in the contest with Great Britain.

“When Greece rose against the Turks and struck for liberty, his name was
mingled with the battle-cry of freedom. When South America threw off the
thraldom of Spain, his speeches were read at the head of her armies by
Bolivar. His name has been, and will continue to be, hallowed in two
hemispheres, for it is

“‘One of the few, the immortal names
That were not born to die!’

“To the ardent patriot and profound statesman he added a quality possessed
by few of the gifted on earth. His eloquence has not been surpassed. In
the effective power to move the heart of man, Clay was without an equal,
and the heaven-born endowment, in the spirit of its origin, has been
most conspicuously exhibited against intestine feud. On at least three
important occasions he has quelled our civil commotions by a power and
influence which belonged to no other statesman of his age and times. And
in our last internal discord, when this Union trembled to its centre, in
old age he left the shades of private life, and gave the death-blow to
fraternal strife, with the vigor of his earlier years, in a series
of senatorial efforts which in themselves would bring immortality by
challenging comparison with the efforts of any statesman in any age. He
exorcised the demon which possessed the body politic, and gave peace to a
distracted land. Alas! the achievement cost him his life. He sank day by
day to the tomb his pale but noble brow bound with a triple wreath, put
there by a grateful country. May his ashes rest in peace, while his spirit
goes to take its station among the great and good men who preceded him.”

While it is customary and proper upon occasions like the present to give
a brief sketch of the life of the deceased, in the case of Mr. Clay it is
less necessary than most others; for his biography has been written and
rewritten and read and reread for the last twenty-five years; so that,
with the exception of a few of the latest incidents of his life, all is
as well known as it can be. The short sketch which I give is, therefore,
merely to maintain the connection of this discourse.

Henry Clay was born on the twelfth day of April, 1777, in Hanover County,
Virginia. Of his father, who died in the fourth or fifth year of Henry’s
age, little seems to be known, except that he was a respectable man and
a preacher of the Baptist persuasion. Mr. Clay’s education to the end of
life was comparatively limited. I say “to the end of life,” because I
have understood that from time to time he added something to his education
during the greater part of his whole life. Mr. Clay’s lack of a more
perfect early education, however it may be regretted generally, teaches
at least one profitable lesson: it teaches that in this country one
can scarcely be so poor but that, if he will, he can acquire sufficient
education to get through the world respectably. In his twenty-third
year Mr. Clay was licensed to practise law, and emigrated to Lexington,
Kentucky. Here he commenced and continued the practice till the year
1803, when he was first elected to the Kentucky Legislature. By successive
elections he was continued in the Legislature till the latter part of
1806, when he was elected to fill a vacancy of a single session in the
United States Senate. In 1807 he was again elected to the Kentucky House
of Representatives, and by that body chosen Speaker. In 1808 he was
re-elected to the same body. In 1809 he was again chosen to fill a vacancy
of two years in the United States Senate. In 1811 he was elected to the
United States House of Representatives, and on the first day of taking his
seat in that body he was chosen its Speaker. In 1813 he was again elected
Speaker. Early in 1814, being the period of our last British war, Mr. Clay
was sent as commissioner, with others, to negotiate a treaty of peace,
which treaty was concluded in the latter part of the same year. On his
return from Europe he was again elected to the lower branch of Congress,
and on taking his seat in December, 1815, was called to his old post-the
Speaker’s chair, a position in which he was retained by successive
elections, with one brief intermission, till the inauguration of John
Quincy Adams, in March, 1825. He was then appointed Secretary of State,
and occupied that important station till the inauguration of General
Jackson, in March, 1829. After this he returned to Kentucky, resumed the
practice of law, and continued it till the autumn of 1831, when he was by
the Legislature of Kentucky again placed in the United States Senate. By
a reelection he was continued in the Senate till he resigned his seat and
retired, in March, 1848. In December, 1849, he again took his seat in the
Senate, which he again resigned only a few months before his death.

By the foregoing it is perceived that the period from the beginning of Mr.
Clay’s official life in 1803 to the end of 1852 is but one year short
of half a century, and that the sum of all the intervals in it will not
amount to ten years. But mere duration of time in office constitutes the
smallest part of Mr. Clay’s history. Throughout that long period he has
constantly been the most loved and most implicitly followed by friends,
and the most dreaded by opponents, of all living American politicians. In
all the great questions which have agitated the country, and particularly
in those fearful crises, the Missouri question, the nullification
question, and the late slavery question, as connected with the newly
acquired territory, involving and endangering the stability of the Union,
his has been the leading and most conspicuous part. In 1824 he was first
a candidate for the Presidency, and was defeated; and, although he was
successively defeated for the same office in 1832 and in 1844, there has
never been a moment since 1824 till after 1848 when a very large portion
of the American people did not cling to him with an enthusiastic hope and
purpose of still elevating him to the Presidency. With other men, to
be defeated was to be forgotten; but with him defeat was but a trifling
incident, neither changing him nor the world’s estimate of him. Even those
of both political parties who have been preferred to him for the highest
office have run far briefer courses than he, and left him still shining
high in the heavens of the political world. Jackson, Van Buren, Harnson,
Polk, and Taylor all rose after, and set long before him. The spell–the
long-enduring spell–with which the souls of men were bound to him is a
miracle. Who can compass it? It is probably true he owed his pre-eminence
to no one quality, but to a fortunate combination of several. He was
surpassingly eloquent; but many eloquent men fail utterly, and they are
not, as a class, generally successful. His judgment was excellent;
but many men of good judgment live and die unnoticed. His will was
indomitable; but this quality often secures to its owner nothing better
than a character for useless obstinacy. These, then, were Mr. Clay’s
leading qualities. No one of them is very uncommon; but all together are
rarely combined in a single individual, and this is probably the reason
why such men as Henry Clay are so rare in the world.

Mr. Clay’s eloquence did not consist, as many fine specimens of eloquence
do, of types and figures, of antithesis and elegant arrangement of words
and sentences, but rather of that deeply earnest and impassioned tone
and manner which can proceed only from great sincerity, and a thorough
conviction in the speaker of the justice and importance of his cause. This
it is that truly touches the chords of sympathy; and those who heard
Mr. Clay never failed to be moved by it, or ever afterward forgot the
impression. All his efforts were made for practical effect. He never spoke
merely to be heard. He never delivered a Fourth of July oration, or a
eulogy on an occasion like this. As a politician or statesman, no one was
so habitually careful to avoid all sectional ground. Whatever he did he
did for the whole country. In the construction of his measures, he
ever carefully surveyed every part of the field, and duly weighed every
conflicting interest. Feeling as he did, and as the truth surely is, that
the world’s best hope depended on the continued union of these States,
he was ever jealous of and watchful for whatever might have the slightest
tendency to separate them.

Mr. Clay’s predominant sentiment, from first to last, was a deep devotion
to the cause of human liberty–a strong sympathy with the oppressed
everywhere, and an ardent wish for their elevation. With him this was a
primary and all-controlling passion. Subsidiary to this was the conduct
of his whole life. He loved his country partly because it was his own
country, and mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a
zeal for its advancement, prosperity, and glory, because he saw in such
the advancement, prosperity, and glory of human liberty, human right, and
human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen, partly because
they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that free men
could be prosperous.

That his views and measures were always the wisest needs not to be
affirmed; nor should it be on this occasion, where so many thinking
differently join in doing honor to his memory. A free people in times of
peace and quiet when pressed by no common danger-naturally divide into
parties. At such times the man who is of neither party is not, cannot be,
of any consequence. Mr. Clay therefore was of a party. Taking a prominent
part, as he did, in all the great political questions of his country for
the last half century, the wisdom of his course on many is doubted and
denied by a large portion of his countrymen; and of such it is not now
proper to speak particularly. But there are many others, about his course
upon which there is little or no disagreement amongst intelligent and
patriotic Americans. Of these last are the War of 1812, the Missouri
question, nullification, and the now recent compromise measures. In 1812
Mr. Clay, though not unknown, was still a young man. Whether we should
go to war with Great Britain being the question of the day, a minority
opposed the declaration of war by Congress, while the majority, though
apparently inclined to war, had for years wavered, and hesitated to act
decisively. Meanwhile British aggressions multiplied, and grew more daring
and aggravated. By Mr. Clay more than any other man the struggle was
brought to a decision in Congress. The question, being now fully before
Congress, came up in a variety of ways in rapid succession, on most of
which occasions Mr. Clay spoke. Adding to all the logic of which the
subject was susceptible that noble inspiration which came to him as it
came to no other, he aroused and nerved and inspired his friends, and
confounded and bore down all opposition. Several of his speeches on these
occasions were reported and are still extant, but the best of them all
never was. During its delivery the reporters forgot their vocation,
dropped their pens, and sat enchanted from near the beginning to quite the
close. The speech now lives only in the memory of a few old men, and the
enthusiasm with which they cherish their recollection of it is absolutely
astonishing. The precise language of this speech we shall never know; but
we do know we cannot help knowing–that with deep pathos it pleaded the
cause of the injured sailor, that it invoked the genius of the Revolution,
that it apostrophized the names of Otis, of Henry, and of Washington, that
it appealed to the interests, the pride, the honor, and the glory of
the nation, that it shamed and taunted the timidity of friends, that it
scorned and scouted and withered the temerity of domestic foes, that
it bearded and defied the British lion, and, rising and swelling and
maddening in its course, it sounded the onset, till the charge, the shock,
the steady struggle, and the glorious victory all passed in vivid review
before the entranced hearers.

Important and exciting as was the war question of 1812, it never so
alarmed the sagacious statesmen of the country for the safety of the
Republic as afterward did the Missouri question. This sprang from
that unfortunate source of discord–negro slavery. When our Federal
Constitution was adopted, we owned no territory beyond the limits or
ownership of the States, except the territory northwest of the River Ohio
and east of the Mississippi. What has since been formed into the States
of Maine, Kentucky and Tennessee, was, I believe, within the limits of
or owned by Massachusetts, Virginia, and North Carolina. As to the
Northwestern Territory, provision had been made even before the adoption
of the Constitution that slavery should never go there. On the admission
of States into the Union, carved from the territory we owned before the
Constitution, no question, or at most no considerable question, arose
about slavery–those which were within the limits of or owned by the old
States following respectively the condition of the parent State, and those
within the Northwest Territory following the previously made provision.
But in 1803 we purchased Louisiana of the French, and it included with
much more what has since been formed into the State of Missouri. With
regard to it, nothing had been done to forestall the question of slavery.
When, therefore, in 1819, Missouri, having formed a State constitution
without excluding slavery, and with slavery already actually existing
within its limits, knocked at the door of the Union for admission, almost
the entire representation of the non-slaveholding States objected. A
fearful and angry struggle instantly followed. This alarmed thinking
men more than any previous question, because, unlike all the former,
it divided the country by geographical lines. Other questions had their
opposing partisans in all localities of the country and in almost every
family, so that no division of the Union could follow such without a
separation of friends to quite as great an extent as that of opponents.
Not so with the Missouri question. On this a geographical line could be
traced, which in the main would separate opponents only. This was the
danger. Mr. Jefferson, then in retirement, wrote:

“I had for a long time ceased to read newspapers or to pay any attention
to public affairs, confident they were in good hands and content to be a
passenger in our bark to the shore from which I am not distant. But this
momentous question, like a firebell in the night, awakened and filled
me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. It is
hushed, indeed, for the moment. But this is a reprieve only, not a final
sentence. A geographical line coinciding with a marked principle, moral
and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men,
will never be obliterated, and every irritation will mark it deeper and
deeper. I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth
who would sacrifice more than I would to relieve us from this heavy
reproach in any practicable way.

“The cession of that kind of property–for it is so misnamed–is a
bagatelle which would not cost me a second thought if in that way a
general emancipation and expatriation could be effected, and gradually and
with due sacrifices I think it might be. But as it is, we have the wolf by
the ears, and we can neither hold him nor safely let him go. Justice is in
one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”

Mr. Clay was in Congress, and, perceiving the danger, at once engaged his
whole energies to avert it. It began, as I have said, in 1819; and it did
not terminate till 1821. Missouri would not yield the point; and Congress
that is, a majority in Congress–by repeated votes showed a determination
not to admit the State unless it should yield. After several failures,
and great labor on the part of Mr. Clay to so present the question that a
majority could consent to the admission, it was by a vote rejected, and,
as all seemed to think, finally. A sullen gloom hung over the nation. All
felt that the rejection of Missouri was equivalent to a dissolution of the
Union, because those States which already had what Missouri was rejected
for refusing to relinquish would go with Missouri. All deprecated and
deplored this, but none saw how to avert it. For the judgment of members
to be convinced of the necessity of yielding was not the whole difficulty;
each had a constituency to meet and to answer to. Mr. Clay, though worn
down and exhausted, was appealed to by members to renew his efforts at
compromise. He did so, and by some judicious modifications of his plan,
coupled with laborious efforts with individual members and his own
overmastering eloquence upon that floor, he finally secured the admission
of the State. Brightly and captivating as it had previously shown, it was
now perceived that his great eloquence was a mere embellishment, or at
most but a helping hand to his inventive genius and his devotion to his
country in the day of her extreme peril.

After the settlement of the Missouri question, although a portion of the
American people have differed with Mr. Clay, and a majority even
appear generally to have been opposed to him on questions of ordinary
administration, he seems constantly to have been regarded by all as the
man for the crisis. Accordingly, in the days of nullification, and more
recently in the reappearance of the slavery question connected with
our territory newly acquired of Mexico, the task of devising a mode of
adjustment seems to have been cast upon Mr. Clay by common consent–and
his performance of the task in each case was little else than a literal
fulfilment of the public expectation.

Mr. Clay’s efforts in behalf of the South Americans, and afterward in
behalf of the Greeks, in the times of their respective struggles for civil
liberty, are among the finest on record, upon the noblest of all themes,
and bear ample corroboration of what I have said was his ruling passion–a
love of liberty and right, unselfishly, and for their own sakes.

Having been led to allude to domestic slavery so frequently already, I am
unwilling to close without referring more particularly to Mr. Clay’s
views and conduct in regard to it. He ever was on principle and in feeling
opposed to slavery. The very earliest, and one of the latest, public
efforts of his life, separated by a period of more than fifty years, were
both made in favor of gradual emancipation. He did not perceive that on
a question of human right the negroes were to be excepted from the human
race. And yet Mr. Clay was the owner of slaves. Cast into life when
slavery was already widely spread and deeply seated, he did not perceive,
as I think no wise man has perceived, how it could be at once eradicated
without producing a greater evil even to the cause of human liberty
itself. His feeling and his judgment, therefore, ever led him to oppose
both extremes of opinion on the subject. Those who would shiver into
fragments the Union of these States, tear to tatters its now venerated
Constitution, and even burn the last copy of the Bible, rather than
slavery should continue a single hour, together with all their more
halting sympathizers, have received, and are receiving, their just
execration; and the name and opinions and influence of Mr. Clay are fully
and, as I trust, effectually and enduringly arrayed against them. But I
would also, if I could, array his name, opinions, and influence against
the opposite extreme–against a few but an increasing number of men who,
for the sake of perpetuating slavery, are beginning to assail and to
ridicule the white man’s charter of freedom, the declaration that “all men
are created free and equal.” So far as I have learned, the first American
of any note to do or attempt this was the late John C. Calhoun; and if I
mistake not, it soon after found its way into some of the messages of the
Governor of South Carolina. We, however, look for and are not much shocked
by political eccentricities and heresies in South Carolina. But only
last year I saw with astonishment what purported to be a letter of a very
distinguished and influential clergyman of Virginia, copied, with apparent
approbation, into a St. Louis newspaper, containing the following to me
very unsatisfactory language:

“I am fully aware that there is a text in some Bibles that is not in mine.
Professional abolitionists have made more use of it than of any passage in
the Bible. It came, however, as I trace it, from Saint Voltaire, and was
baptized by Thomas Jefferson, and since almost universally regarded as
canonical authority`All men are born free and equal.’

“This is a genuine coin in the political currency of our generation. I am
sorry to say that I have never seen two men of whom it is true. But I must
admit I never saw the Siamese Twins, and therefore will not dogmatically
say that no man ever saw a proof of this sage aphorism.”

This sounds strangely in republican America. The like was not heard in the
fresher days of the republic. Let us contrast with it the language of that
truly national man whose life and death we now commemorate and lament: I
quote from a speech of Mr. Clay delivered before the American Colonization
Society in 1827:

“We are reproached with doing mischief by the agitation of this question.
The society goes into no household to disturb its domestic tranquillity.
It addresses itself to no slaves to weaken their obligations of obedience.
It seeks to affect no man’s property. It neither has the power nor the
will to affect the property of any one contrary to his consent. The
execution of its scheme would augment instead of diminishing the value of
property left behind. The society, composed of free men, conceals itself
only with the free. Collateral consequences we are not responsible for.
It is not this society which has produced the great moral revolution which
the age exhibits. What would they who thus reproach us have done? If they
would repress all tendencies toward liberty and ultimate emancipation,
they must do more than put down the benevolent efforts of this society.
They must go back to the era of our liberty and independence, and muzzle
the cannon which thunders its annual joyous return. They must renew the
slave trade, with all its train of atrocities. They must suppress the
workings of British philanthropy, seeking to meliorate the condition of
the unfortunate West Indian slave. They must arrest the career of South
American deliverance from thraldom. They must blow out the moral lights
around us and extinguish that greatest torch of all which America presents
to a benighted world–pointing the way to their rights, their liberties,
and their happiness. And when they have achieved all those purposes their
work will be yet incomplete. They must penetrate the human soul, and
eradicate the light of reason and the love of liberty. Then, and not till
then, when universal darkness and despair prevail, can you perpetuate
slavery and repress all sympathy and all humane and benevolent efforts
among free men in behalf of the unhappy portion of our race doomed to

The American Colonization Society was organized in 1816. Mr. Clay, though
not its projector, was one of its earliest members; and he died, as for
many preceding years he had been, its president. It was one of the
most cherished objects of his direct care and consideration, and the
association of his name with it has probably been its very greatest
collateral support. He considered it no demerit in the society that it
tended to relieve the slave-holders from the troublesome presence of
the free negroes; but this was far from being its whole merit in his
estimation. In the same speech from which we have quoted he says:

“There is a moral fitness in the idea of returning to Africa her children,
whose ancestors have been torn from her by the ruthless hand of fraud and
violence. Transplanted in a foreign land, they will carry back to their
native soil the rich fruits of religion, civilization, law, and liberty.
May it not be one of the great designs of the Ruler of the universe, whose
ways are often inscrutable by short-sighted mortals, thus to transform an
original crime into a signal blessing to that most unfortunate portion of
the globe?”

This suggestion of the possible ultimate redemption of the African race
and African continent was made twenty-five years ago. Every succeeding
year has added strength to the hope of its realization. May it indeed be
realized. Pharaoh’s country was cursed with plagues, and his hosts were
lost in the Red Sea, for striving to retain a captive people who had
already served them more than four hundred years. May like disasters never
befall us! If, as the friends of colonization hope, the present and coming
generations of our countrymen shall by any means succeed in freeing our
land from the dangerous presence of slavery, and at the same time in
restoring a captive people to their long-lost fatherland with bright
prospects for the future, and this too so gradually that neither races
nor individuals shall have suffered by the change, it will indeed be a
glorious consummation. And if to such a consummation the efforts of Mr.
Clay shall have contributed, it will be what he most ardently wished, and
none of his labors will have been more valuable to his country and his

But Henry Clay is dead. His long and eventful life is closed. Our country
is prosperous and powerful; but could it have been quite all it has
been, and is, and is to be, without Henry Clay? Such a man the times have
demanded, and such in the providence of God was given us. But he is gone.
Let us strive to deserve, as far as mortals may, the continued care of
Divine Providence, trusting that in future national emergencies He will
not fail to provide us the instruments of safety and security.

NOTE. We are indebted for a copy of this speech to the courtesy of Major
Wm. H. Bailhache, formerly one of the proprietors of the Illinois State



SPRINGFIELD, November 1, 1852

A leading article in the Daily Register of this morning has induced some
of our friends to request our opinion on the election laws as applicable
to challenged voters. We have examined the present constitution of the
State, the election law of 1849, and the unrepealed parts of the election
law in the revised code of 1845; and we are of the opinion that any person
taking the oath prescribed in the act of 1849 is entitled to vote unless
counter-proof be made satisfactory to a majority of the judges that such
oath is untrue; and that for the purpose of obtaining such counter-proof,
the proposed voter may be asked questions in the way of cross-examination,
and other independent testimony may be received. We base our opinion as
to receiving counter-proof upon the unrepealed Section nineteen of the
election law in the revised code.





PEKIN, MAY 12, 1853


SIR:–I hope the subject-matter of this letter will appear a sufficient
apology to you for the liberty I, a total stranger, take in addressing
you. The persons here holding two lots under a conveyance made by you, as
the attorney of Daniel M. Baily, now nearly twenty-two years ago, are in
great danger of losing the lots, and very much, perhaps all, is to depend
on the testimony you give as to whether you did or did not account to
Baily for the proceeds received by you on this sale of the lots. I,
therefore, as one of the counsel, beg of you to fully refresh your
recollection by any means in your power before the time you may be called
on to testify. If persons should come about you, and show a disposition to
pump you on the subject, it may be no more than prudent to remember that
it may be possible they design to misrepresent you and embarrass the real
testimony you may ultimately give. It may be six months or a year before
you are called on to testify.





SPRINGFIELD, June 22, 1854.


DEAR SIR:–You, no doubt, remember the enclosed memorandum being handed me
in your office. I have just made the desired search, and find that no such
deed has ever been here. Campbell, the auditor, says that if it were here,
it would be in his office, and that he has hunted for it a dozen times,
and could never find it. He says that one time and another, he has heard
much about the matter, that it was not a deed for Right of Way, but a
deed, outright, for Depot-ground–at least, a sale for Depot-ground, and
there may never have been a deed. He says, if there is a deed, it is most
probable General Alexander, of Paris, has it.

Yours truly,





SPRINGFIELD, Sept. 7, 1854.


DEAR SIR:–You know how anxious I am that this Nebraska measure shall be
rebuked and condemned everywhere. Of course I hope something from your
position; yet I do not expect you to do anything which may be wrong in
your own judgment; nor would I have you do anything personally injurious
to yourself. You are, and always have been, honestly and sincerely a
Democrat; and I know how painful it must be to an honest, sincere man to
be urged by his party to the support of a measure which in his conscience
he believes to be wrong. You have had a severe struggle with yourself, and
you have determined not to swallow the wrong. Is it not just to yourself
that you should, in a few public speeches, state your reasons, and thus
justify yourself? I wish you would; and yet I say, don’t do it, if you
think it will injure you. You may have given your word to vote for Major
Harris; and if so, of course you will stick to it. But allow me to suggest
that you should avoid speaking of this; for it probably would induce some
of your friends in like manner to cast their votes. You understand. And
now let me beg your pardon for obtruding this letter upon you, to whom
I have ever been opposed in politics. Had your party omitted to make
Nebraska a test of party fidelity, you probably would have been the
Democratic candidate for Congress in the district. You deserved it, and
I believe it would have been given you. In that case I should have been
quite happy that Nebraska was to be rebuked at all events. I still should
have voted for the Whig candidate; but I should have made no speeches,
written no letters; and you would have been elected by at least a thousand

Yours truly,



SPRINGFIELD, September 7, 1854


SIR:–Stranger though I am, personally, being a brother in the faith, I
venture to write you. Yates can not come to your court next week. He
is obliged to be at Pike court where he has a case, with a fee of five
hundred dollars, two hundred dollars already paid. To neglect it would be
unjust to himself, and dishonest to his client. Harris will be with you,
head up and tail up, for Nebraska. You must have some one to make an
anti-Nebraska speech. Palmer is the best, if you can get him, I think. Jo.
Gillespie, if you can not get Palmer, and somebody anyhow, if you can
get neither. But press Palmer hard. It is in his Senatorial district, I

Yours etc.,




OCTOBER 16, 1854.

I do not rise to speak now, if I can stipulate with the audience to meet
me here at half-past six or at seven o’clock. It is now several minutes
past five, and Judge Douglas has spoken over three hours. If you hear me
at all, I wish you to hear me through. It will take me as long as it has
taken him. That will carry us beyond eight o’clock at night. Now, every
one of you who can remain that long can just as well get his supper,
meet me at seven, and remain an hour or two later. The Judge has already
informed you that he is to have an hour to reply to me. I doubt not but
you have been a little surprised to learn that I have consented to give
one of his high reputation and known ability this advantage of me. Indeed,
my consenting to it, though reluctant, was not wholly unselfish, for I
suspected, if it were understood that the Judge was entirely done, you
Democrats would leave and not hear me; but by giving him the close, I felt
confident you would stay for the fun of hearing him skin me.

The audience signified their assent to the arrangement, and adjourned to
seven o’clock P.M., at which time they reassembled, and Mr. Lincoln spoke
substantially as follows:

The repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and the propriety of its
restoration, constitute the subject of what I am about to say. As I desire
to present my own connected view of this subject, my remarks will not
be specifically an answer to Judge Douglas; yet, as I proceed, the main
points he has presented will arise, and will receive such respectful
attention as I may be able to give them. I wish further to say that I do
not propose to question the patriotism or to assail the motives of any man
or class of men, but rather to confine myself strictly to the naked
merits of the question. I also wish to be no less than national in all
the positions I may take, and whenever I take ground which others have
thought, or may think, narrow, sectional, and dangerous to the Union, I
hope to give a reason which will appear sufficient, at least to some, why
I think differently.

And as this subject is no other than part and parcel of the larger general
question of domestic slavery, I wish to make and to keep the distinction
between the existing institution and the extension of it so broad and
so clear that no honest man can misunderstand me, and no dishonest one
successfully misrepresent me.

In order to a clear understanding of what the Missouri Compromise is, a
short history of the preceding kindred subjects will perhaps be proper.

When we established our independence, we did not own or claim the
country to which this compromise applies. Indeed, strictly speaking, the
Confederacy then owned no country at all; the States respectively owned
the country within their limits, and some of them owned territory
beyond their strict State limits. Virginia thus owned the Northwestern
Territory–the country out of which the principal part of Ohio, all
Indiana, all Illinois, all Michigan, and all Wisconsin have since been
formed. She also owned (perhaps within her then limits) what has since
been formed into the State of Kentucky. North Carolina thus owned what
is now the State of Tennessee; and South Carolina and Georgia owned,
in separate parts, what are now Mississippi and Alabama. Connecticut, I
think, owned the little remaining part of Ohio, being the same where they
now send Giddings to Congress and beat all creation in making cheese.

These territories, together with the States themselves, constitute all the
country over which the Confederacy then claimed any sort of jurisdiction.
We were then living under the Articles of Confederation, which were
superseded by the Constitution several years afterward. The question of
ceding the territories to the General Government was set on foot. Mr.
Jefferson,–the author of the Declaration of Independence, and otherwise
a chief actor in the Revolution; then a delegate in Congress; afterward,
twice President; who was, is, and perhaps will continue to be, the
most distinguished politician of our history; a Virginian by birth and
continued residence, and withal a slaveholder,–conceived the idea of
taking that occasion to prevent slavery ever going into the Northwestern
Territory. He prevailed on the Virginia Legislature to adopt his views,
and to cede the Territory, making the prohibition of slavery therein
a condition of the deed. (Jefferson got only an understanding, not a
condition of the deed to this wish.) Congress accepted the cession with
the condition; and the first ordinance (which the acts of Congress were
then called) for the government of the Territory provided that slavery
should never be permitted therein. This is the famed “Ordinance of ’87,”
so often spoken of.

Thenceforward for sixty-one years, and until, in 1848, the last scrap of
this Territory came into the Union as the State of Wisconsin, all parties
acted in quiet obedience to this ordinance. It is now what Jefferson
foresaw and intended–the happy home of teeming millions of free, white,
prosperous people, and no slave among them.

Thus, with the author of the Declaration of Independence, the policy of
prohibiting slavery in new territory originated. Thus, away back to the
Constitution, in the pure, fresh, free breath of the Revolution, the State
of Virginia and the national Congress put that policy into practice. Thus,
through more than sixty of the best years of the republic, did that policy
steadily work to its great and beneficent end. And thus, in those five
States, and in five millions of free, enterprising people, we have before
us the rich fruits of this policy.

But now new light breaks upon us. Now Congress declares this ought never
to have been, and the like of it must never be again. The sacred right of
self-government is grossly violated by it. We even find some men who drew
their first breath–and every other breath of their lives–under this very
restriction, now live in dread of absolute suffocation if they should
be restricted in the “sacred right” of taking slaves to Nebraska. That
perfect liberty they sigh for–the liberty of making slaves of other
people, Jefferson never thought of, their own fathers never thought of,
they never thought of themselves, a year ago. How fortunate for them they
did not sooner become sensible of their great misery! Oh, how difficult it
is to treat with respect such assaults upon all we have ever really held

But to return to history. In 1803 we purchased what was then called
Louisiana, of France. It included the present States of Louisiana,
Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa; also the Territory of Minnesota, and the
present bone of contention, Kansas and Nebraska. Slavery already existed
among the French at New Orleans, and to some extent at St. Louis. In 1812
Louisiana came into the Union as a slave State, without controversy. In
1818 or ’19, Missouri showed signs of a wish to come in with slavery. This
was resisted by Northern members of Congress; and thus began the first
great slavery agitation in the nation. This controversy lasted several
months, and became very angry and exciting–the House of Representatives
voting steadily for the prohibition of slavery in Missouri, and the Senate
voting as steadily against it. Threats of the breaking up of the Union
were freely made, and the ablest public men of the day became seriously
alarmed. At length a compromise was made, in which, as in all compromises,
both sides yielded something. It was a law, passed on the 6th of March,
1820, providing that Missouri might come into the Union with slavery, but
that in all the remaining part of the territory purchased of France
which lies north of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude,
slavery should never be permitted. This provision of law is the “Missouri
Compromise.” In excluding slavery north of the line, the same language
is employed as in the Ordinance of 1787. It directly applied to Iowa,
Minnesota, and to the present bone of contention, Kansas and Nebraska.
Whether there should or should not be slavery south of that line, nothing
was said in the law. But Arkansas constituted the principal remaining
part south of the line; and it has since been admitted as a slave State,
without serious controversy. More recently, Iowa, north of the line, came
in as a free State without controversy. Still later, Minnesota, north
of the line, had a territorial organization without controversy. Texas,
principally south of the line, and west of Arkansas, though originally
within the purchase from France, had, in 1819, been traded off to Spain
in our treaty for the acquisition of Florida. It had thus become a part
of Mexico. Mexico revolutionized and became independent of Spain. American
citizens began settling rapidly with their slaves in the southern part
of Texas. Soon they revolutionized against Mexico, and established an
independent government of their own, adopting a constitution with slavery,
strongly resembling the constitutions of our slave States. By still
another rapid move, Texas, claiming a boundary much farther west than when
we parted with her in 1819, was brought back to the United States, and
admitted into the Union as a slave State. Then there was little or no
settlement in the northern part of Texas, a considerable portion of which
lay north of the Missouri line; and in the resolutions admitting her into
the Union, the Missouri restriction was expressly extended westward across
her territory. This was in 1845, only nine years ago.

Thus originated the Missouri Compromise; and thus has it been respected
down to 1845. And even four years later, in 1849, our distinguished
Senator, in a public address, held the following language in relation to

“The Missouri Compromise has been in practical operation for about a
quarter of a century, and has received the sanction and approbation of men
of all parties in every section of the Union. It has allayed all sectional
jealousies and irritations growing out of this vexed question, and
harmonized and tranquillized the whole country. It has given to Henry
Clay, as its prominent champion, the proud sobriquet of the ‘Great
Pacificator,’ and by that title, and for that service, his political
friends had repeatedly appealed to the people to rally under his standard
as a Presidential candidate, as the man who had exhibited the patriotism
and power to suppress an unholy and treasonable agitation, and preserve
the Union. He was not aware that any man or any party, from any section
of the Union, had ever urged as an objection to Mr. Clay that he was the
great champion of the Missouri Compromise. On the contrary, the effort was
made by the opponents of Mr. Clay to prove that he was not entitled to the
exclusive merit of that great patriotic measure, and that the honor was
equally due to others, as well as to him, for securing its adoption;
that it had its origin in the hearts of all patriotic men, who desired
to preserve and perpetuate the blessings of our glorious Union–an origin
akin to that of the Constitution of the United States, conceived in the
same spirit of fraternal affection, and calculated to remove forever the
only danger which seemed to threaten, at some distant day, to sever the
social bond of union. All the evidences of public opinion at that day
seemed to indicate that this compromise had been canonized in the hearts
of the American people, as a sacred thing which no ruthless hand would
ever be reckless enough to disturb.”

I do not read this extract to involve Judge Douglas in an inconsistency.
If he afterward thought he had been wrong, it was right for him to change.
I bring this forward merely to show the high estimate placed on the
Missouri Compromise by all parties up to so late as the year 1849.

But going back a little in point of time. Our war with Mexico broke out
in 1846. When Congress was about adjourning that session, President Polk
asked them to place two millions of dollars under his control, to be used
by him in the recess, if found practicable and expedient, in negotiating
a treaty of peace with Mexico, and acquiring some part of her territory. A
bill was duly gotten up for the purpose, and was progressing swimmingly in
the House of Representatives, when a member by the name of David Wilmot, a
Democrat from Pennsylvania, moved as an amendment, “Provided, that in any
territory thus acquired there never shall be slavery.”

This is the origin of the far-famed Wilmot Proviso. It created a great
flutter; but it stuck like wax, was voted into the bill, and the bill
passed with it through the House. The Senate, however, adjourned without
final action on it, and so both appropriation and proviso were lost for
the time. The war continued, and at the next session the President renewed
his request for the appropriation, enlarging the amount, I think, to
three millions. Again came the proviso, and defeated the measure. Congress
adjourned again, and the war went on. In December, 1847, the new Congress
assembled. I was in the lower House that term. The Wilmot Proviso, or the
principle of it, was constantly coming up in some shape or other, and I
think I may venture to say I voted for it at least forty times during
the short time I was there. The Senate, however, held it in check, and it
never became a law. In the spring of 1848 a treaty of peace was made
with Mexico, by which we obtained that portion of her country which now
constitutes the Territories of New Mexico and Utah and the present State
of California. By this treaty the Wilmot Proviso was defeated, in so far
as it was intended to be a condition of the acquisition of territory.
Its friends, however, were still determined to find some way to restrain
slavery from getting into the new country. This new acquisition lay
directly west of our old purchase from France, and extended west to the
Pacific Ocean, and was so situated that if the Missouri line should be
extended straight west, the new country would be divided by such extended
line, leaving some north and some south of it. On Judge Douglas’s motion,
a bill, or provision of a bill, passed the Senate to so extend the
Missouri line. The proviso men in the House, including myself, voted it
down, because, by implication, it gave up the southern part to slavery,
while we were bent on having it all free.

In the fall of 1848 the gold-mines were discovered in California. This
attracted people to it with unprecedented rapidity, so that on, or soon
after, the meeting of the new Congress in December, 1849, she already had
a population of nearly a hundred thousand, had called a convention, formed
a State constitution excluding slavery, and was knocking for admission
into the Union. The proviso men, of course, were for letting her in,
but the Senate, always true to the other side, would not consent to her
admission, and there California stood, kept out of the Union because
she would not let slavery into her borders. Under all the circumstances,
perhaps, this was not wrong. There were other points of dispute connected
with the general question of Slavery, which equally needed adjustment. The
South clamored for a more efficient fugitive slave law. The North clamored
for the abolition of a peculiar species of slave trade in the District
of Columbia, in connection with which, in view from the windows of the
Capitol, a sort of negro livery-stable, where droves of negroes were
collected, temporarily kept, and finally taken to Southern markets,
precisely like droves of horses, had been openly maintained for fifty
years. Utah and New Mexico needed territorial governments; and whether
slavery should or should not be prohibited within them was another
question. The indefinite western boundary of Texas was to be settled. She
was a slave State, and consequently the farther west the slavery men could
push her boundary, the more slave country they secured; and the farther
east the slavery opponents could thrust the boundary back, the less slave
ground was secured. Thus this was just as clearly a slavery question as
any of the others.

These points all needed adjustment, and they were held up, perhaps wisely,
to make them help adjust one another. The Union now, as in 1820, was
thought to be in danger, and devotion to the Union rightfully inclined
men to yield somewhat in points where nothing else could have so inclined
them. A compromise was finally effected. The South got their new fugitive
slave law, and the North got California, (by far the best part of our
acquisition from Mexico) as a free State. The South got a provision that
New Mexico and Utah, when admitted as States, may come in with or without
slavery as they may then choose; and the North got the slave trade
abolished in the District of Columbia.. The North got the western boundary
of Texas thrown farther back eastward than the South desired; but, in
turn, they gave Texas ten millions of dollars with which to pay her old
debts. This is the Compromise of 1850.

Preceding the Presidential election of 1852, each of the great political
parties, Democrats and Whigs, met in convention and adopted resolutions
indorsing the Compromise of ’50, as a “finality,” a final settlement, so
far as these parties could make it so, of all slavery agitation. Previous
to this, in 1851, the Illinois Legislature had indorsed it.

During this long period of time, Nebraska (the Nebraska Territory, not
the State of as we know it now) had remained substantially an uninhabited
country, but now emigration to and settlement within it began to take
place. It is about one third as large as the present United States,
and its importance, so long overlooked, begins to come into view. The
restriction of slavery by the Missouri Compromise directly applies to
it–in fact was first made, and has since been maintained expressly for
it. In 1853, a bill to give it a territorial government passed the House
of Representatives, and, in the hands of Judge Douglas, failed of passing
only for want of time. This bill contained no repeal of the Missouri
Compromise. Indeed, when it was assailed because it did not contain such
repeal, Judge Douglas defended it in its existing form. On January 4,
1854, Judge Douglas introduces a new bill to give Nebraska territorial
government. He accompanies this bill with a report, in which last he
expressly recommends that the Missouri Compromise shall neither be
affirmed nor repealed. Before long the bill is so modified as to make two
territories instead of one, calling the southern one Kansas.

Also, about a month after the introduction of the bill, on the Judge’s own
motion it is so amended as to declare the Missouri Compromise inoperative
and void; and, substantially, that the people who go and settle there may
establish slavery, or exclude it, as they may see fit. In this shape the
bill passed both branches of Congress and became a law.

This is the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The foregoing history
may not be precisely accurate in every particular, but I am sure it is
sufficiently so for all the use I shall attempt to make of it, and in
it we have before us the chief material enabling us to judge correctly
whether the repeal of the Missouri Compromise is right or wrong. I think,
and shall try to show, that it is wrong–wrong in its direct effect,
letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska, and wrong in its prospective
principle, allowing it to spread to every other part of the wide world
where men can be found inclined to take it.

This declared indifference, but, as I must think, covert real zeal,
for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it because of the
monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our
republican example of its just influence in the world; enables the enemies
of free institutions with plausibility to taunt us as hypocrites; causes
the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity; and especially because
it forces so many good men among ourselves into an open war with the very
fundamental principles of civil liberty, criticizing the Declaration of
Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but

Before proceeding let me say that I think I have no prejudice against the
Southern people. They are just what we would be in their situation. If
slavery did not now exist among them, they would not introduce it. If it
did now exist among us, we should not instantly give it up. This I believe
of the masses North and South. Doubtless there are individuals on both
sides who would not hold slaves under any circumstances, and others who
would gladly introduce slavery anew if it were out of existence. We know
that some Southern men do free their slaves, go North and become tip-top
abolitionists, while some Northern ones go South and become most cruel
slave masters.

When Southern people tell us that they are no more responsible for the
origin of slavery than we are, I acknowledge the fact. When it is said
that the institution exists, and that it is very difficult to get rid of
it in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I
surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know how to do
myself. If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do
as to the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all the
slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land. But a moment’s
reflection would convince me that whatever of high hope (as I think
there is) there may be in this in the long run, its sudden execution is
impossible. If they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish
in the next ten days; and there are not surplus shipping and surplus money
enough to carry them there in many times ten days. What then? Free them
all, and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this
betters their condition? I think I would not hold one in slavery at any
rate, yet the point is not clear enough for me to denounce people upon.
What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially our equals?
My own feelings will not admit of this, and if mine would, we well know
that those of the great mass of whites will not. Whether this feeling
accords with justice and sound judgment is not the sole question, if
indeed it is any part of it. A universal feeling, whether well or ill
founded, cannot be safely disregarded. We cannot then make them equals. It
does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted, but
for their tardiness in this I will not undertake to judge our brethren of
the South.

When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge
them–not grudgingly, but fully and fairly; and I would give them any
legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives which should not in
its stringency be more likely to carry a free man into slavery than our
ordinary criminal laws are to hang an innocent one.

But all this, to my judgment, furnishes no more excuse for permitting
slavery to go into our own free territory than it would for reviving the
African slave trade by law. The law which forbids the bringing of slaves
from Africa, and that which has so long forbidden the taking of them
into Nebraska, can hardy be distinguished on any moral principle, and the
repeal of the former could find quite as plausible excuses as that of the

The arguments by which the repeal of the Missouri Compromise is sought to
be justified are these:

First. That the Nebraska country needed a territorial government.

Second. That in various ways the public had repudiated that compromise and
demanded the repeal, and therefore should not now complain of it.

And, lastly, That the repeal establishes a principle which is
intrinsically right.

I will attempt an answer to each of them in its turn.

First, then: If that country was in need of a territorial organization,
could it not have had it as well without as with a repeal? Iowa and
Minnesota, to both of which the Missouri restriction applied, had, without
its repeal, each in succession, territorial organizations. And even the
year before, a bill for Nebraska itself was within an ace of passing
without the repealing clause, and this in the hands of the same men who
are now the champions of repeal. Why no necessity then for repeal? But
still later, when this very bill was first brought in, it contained
no repeal. But, say they, because the people had demanded, or rather
commanded, the repeal, the repeal was to accompany the organization
whenever that should occur.

Now, I deny that the public ever demanded any such thing–ever repudiated
the Missouri Compromise, ever commanded its repeal. I deny it, and call
for the proof. It is not contended, I believe, that any such command has
ever been given in express terms. It is only said that it was done in
principle. The support of the Wilmot Proviso is the first fact mentioned
to prove that the Missouri restriction was repudiated in principle, and
the second is the refusal to extend the Missouri line over the country
acquired from Mexico. These are near enough alike to be treated together.
The one was to exclude the chances of slavery from the whole new
acquisition by the lump, and the other was to reject a division of it, by
which one half was to be given up to those chances. Now, whether this was
a repudiation of the Missouri line in principle depends upon whether the
Missouri law contained any principle requiring the line to be extended
over the country acquired from Mexico. I contend it did not. I insist
that it contained no general principle, but that it was, in every sense,
specific. That its terms limit it to the country purchased from France is
undenied and undeniable. It could have no principle beyond the intention
of those who made it. They did not intend to extend the line to country
which they did not own. If they intended to extend it in the event of
acquiring additional territory, why did they not say so? It was just as
easy to say that “in all the country west of the Mississippi which we now
own, or may hereafter acquire, there shall never be slavery,” as to say
what they did say; and they would have said it if they had meant it. An
intention to extend the law is not only not mentioned in the law, but is
not mentioned in any contemporaneous history. Both the law itself, and the
history of the times, are a blank as to any principle of extension; and
by neither the known rules of construing statutes and contracts, nor by
common sense, can any such principle be inferred.

Another fact showing the specific character of the Missouri law–showing
that it intended no more than it expressed, showing that the line was not
intended as a universal dividing line between Free and Slave territory,
present and prospective, north of which slavery could never go–is the
fact that by that very law Missouri came in as a slave State, north of the
line. If that law contained any prospective principle, the whole law must
be looked to in order to ascertain what the principle was. And by this
rule the South could fairly contend that, inasmuch as they got one slave
State north of the line at the inception of the law, they have the right
to have another given them north of it occasionally, now and then, in the
indefinite westward extension of the line. This demonstrates the absurdity
of attempting to deduce a prospective principle from the Missouri
Compromise line.

When we voted for the Wilmot Proviso we were voting to keep slavery out
of the whole Mexican acquisition, and little did we think we were thereby
voting to let it into Nebraska lying several hundred miles distant. When
we voted against extending the Missouri line, little did we think we were
voting to destroy the old line, then of near thirty years’ standing.

To argue that we thus repudiated the Missouri Compromise is no less absurd
than it would be to argue that because we have so far forborne to acquire
Cuba, we have thereby, in principle, repudiated our former acquisitions
and determined to throw them out of the Union. No less absurd than it
would be to say that because I may have refused to build an addition to
my house, I thereby have decided to destroy the existing house! And if
I catch you setting fire to my house, you will turn upon me and say I
instructed you to do it!

The most conclusive argument, however, that while for the Wilmot Proviso,
and while voting against the extension of the Missouri line, we never
thought of disturbing the original Missouri Compromise, is found in the
fact that there was then, and still is, an unorganized tract of fine
country, nearly as large as the State of Missouri, lying immediately west
of Arkansas and south of the Missouri Compromise line, and that we never
attempted to prohibit slavery as to it. I wish particular attention to
this. It adjoins the original Missouri Compromise line by its northern
boundary, and consequently is part of the country into which by
implication slavery was permitted to go by that compromise. There it has
lain open ever s, and there it still lies, and yet no effort has been made
at any time to wrest it from the South. In all our struggles to prohibit
slavery within our Mexican acquisitions, we never so much as lifted a
finger to prohibit it as to this tract. Is not this entirely conclusive
that at all times we have held the Missouri Compromise as a sacred thing,
even when against ourselves as well as when for us?

Senator Douglas sometimes says the Missouri line itself was in principle
only an extension of the line of the Ordinance of ’87–that is to say, an
extension of the Ohio River. I think this is weak enough on its face. I
will remark, however, that, as a glance at the map will show, the Missouri
line is a long way farther south than the Ohio, and that if our Senator in
proposing his extension had stuck to the principle of jogging southward,
perhaps it might not have been voted down so readily.

But next it is said that the compromises of ’50, and the ratification of
them by both political parties in ’52, established a new principle which
required the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. This again I deny. I deny
it, and demand the proof. I have already stated fully what the compromises
of ’50 are. That particular part of those measures from which the virtual
repeal of the Missouri Compromise is sought to be inferred (for it is
admitted they contain nothing about it in express terms) is the provision
in the Utah and New Mexico laws which permits them when they seek
admission into the Union as States to come in with or without slavery, as
they shall then see fit. Now I insist this provision was made for Utah
and New Mexico, and for no other place whatever. It had no more direct
reference to Nebraska than it had to the territories of the moon. But,
say they, it had reference to Nebraska in principle. Let us see. The
North consented to this provision, not because they considered it right in
itself, but because they were compensated–paid for it.

They at the same time got California into the Union as a free State. This
was far the best part of all they had struggled for by the Wilmot Proviso.
They also got the area of slavery somewhat narrowed in the settlement
of the boundary of Texas. Also they got the slave trade abolished in the
District of Columbia.

For all these desirable objects the North could afford to yield something;
and they did yield to the South the Utah and New Mexico provision. I do
not mean that the whole North, or even a majority, yielded, when the law
passed; but enough yielded–when added to the vote of the South, to
carry the measure. Nor can it be pretended that the principle of this
arrangement requires us to permit the same provision to be applied to
Nebraska, without any equivalent at all. Give us another free State; press
the boundary of Texas still farther back; give us another step toward the
destruction of slavery in the District, and you present us a similar case.
But ask us not to repeat, for nothing, what you paid for in the first
instance. If you wish the thing again, pay again. That is the principle of
the compromises of ’50, if, indeed, they had any principles beyond their
specific terms–it was the system of equivalents.

Again, if Congress, at that time, intended that all future Territories
should, when admitted as States, come in with or without slavery at their
own option, why did it not say so? With such a universal provision, all
know the bills could not have passed. Did they, then–could they-establish
a principle contrary to their own intention? Still further, if they
intended to establish the principle that, whenever Congress had control,
it should be left to the people to do as they thought fit with slavery,
why did they not authorize the people of the District of Columbia, at
their option, to abolish slavery within their limits?

I personally know that this has not been left undone because it was
unthought of. It was frequently spoken of by members of Congress, and by
citizens of Washington, six years ago; and I heard no one express a doubt
that a system of gradual emancipation, with compensation to owners,
would meet the approbation of a large majority of the white people of the
District. But without the action of Congress they could say nothing; and
Congress said “No.” In the measures of 1850, Congress had the subject of
slavery in the District expressly on hand. If they were then establishing
the principle of allowing the people to do as they please with slavery,
why did they not apply the principle to that people?

Again it is claimed that by the resolutions of the Illinois Legislature,
passed in 1851, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was demanded. This
I deny also. Whatever may be worked out by a criticism of the language of
those resolutions, the people have never understood them as being any
more than an indorsement of the compromises of 1850, and a release of our
senators from voting for the Wilmot Proviso. The whole people are living
witnesses that this only was their view. Finally, it is asked, “If we
did not mean to apply the Utah and New Mexico provision to all future
territories, what did we mean when we, in 1852, indorsed the compromises
of 1850?”

For myself I can answer this question most easily. I meant not to ask a
repeal or modification of the Fugitive Slave law. I meant not to ask
for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. I meant not to
resist the admission of Utah and New Mexico, even should they ask to come
in as slave States. I meant nothing about additional Territories, because,
as I understood, we then had no Territory whose character as to slavery
was not already settled. As to Nebraska, I regarded its character as being
fixed by the Missouri Compromise for thirty years–as unalterably fixed
as that of my own home in Illinois. As to new acquisitions, I said,
“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” When we make new
acquisitions, we will, as heretofore, try to manage them somehow. That is
my answer; that is what I meant and said; and I appeal to the people to
say each for himself whether that is not also the universal meaning of the
free States.

And now, in turn, let me ask a few questions. If, by any or all these
matters, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was commanded, why was not
the command sooner obeyed? Why was the repeal omitted in the Nebraska
Bill of 1853? Why was it omitted in the original bill of 1854? Why in the
accompanying report was such a repeal characterized as a departure from
the course pursued in 1850 and its continued omission recommended?

I am aware Judge Douglas now argues that the subsequent express repeal is
no substantial alteration of the bill. This argument seems wonderful to
me. It is as if one should argue that white and black are not different.
He admits, however, that there is a literal change in the bill, and that
he made the change in deference to other senators who would not support
the bill without. This proves that those other senators thought the
change a substantial one, and that the Judge thought their opinions worth
deferring to. His own opinions, therefore, seem not to rest on a very firm
basis, even in his own mind; and I suppose the world believes, and will
continue to believe, that precisely on the substance of that change this
whole agitation has arisen.

I conclude, then, that the public never demanded the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise.

I now come to consider whether the appeal with its avowed principles, is
intrinsically right. I insist that it is not. Take the particular case. A
controversy had arisen between the advocates and opponents of slavery,
in relation to its establishment within the country we had purchased of
France. The southern, and then best, part of the purchase was already in
as a slave State. The controversy was settled by also letting Missouri
in as a slave State; but with the agreement that within all the remaining
part of the purchase, north of a certain line, there should never be
slavery. As to what was to be done with the remaining part, south of the
line, nothing was said; but perhaps the fair implication was, it should
come in with slavery if it should so choose. The southern part, except a
portion heretofore mentioned, afterward did come in with slavery, as the
State of Arkansas. All these many years, since 1820, the northern part
had remained a wilderness. At length settlements began in it also. In due
course Iowa came in as a free State, and Minnesota was given a territorial
government, without removing the slavery restriction. Finally, the
sole remaining part north of the line–Kansas and Nebraska–was to be
organized; and it is proposed, and carried, to blot out the old dividing
line of thirty-four years’ standing, and to open the whole of that country
to the introduction of slavery. Now this, to my mind, is manifestly
unjust. After an angry and dangerous controversy, the parties made friends
by dividing the bone of contention. The one party first appropriates her
own share, beyond all power to be disturbed in the possession of it, and
then seizes the share of the other party. It is as if two starving men had
divided their only loaf, the one had hastily swallowed his half, and then
grabbed the other’s half just as he was putting it to his mouth.

Let me here drop the main argument, to notice what I consider rather
an inferior matter. It is argued that slavery will not go to Kansas and
Nebraska, in any event. This is a palliation, a lullaby. I have some hope
that it will not; but let us not be too confident. As to climate, a glance
at the map shows that there are five slave States–Delaware, Maryland,
Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri, and also the District of Columbia, all
north of the Missouri Compromise line. The census returns of 1850 show
that within these there are eight hundred and sixty-seven thousand two
hundred and seventy-six slaves, being more than one fourth of all the
slaves in the nation.

It is not climate, then, that will keep slavery out of these Territories.
Is there anything in the peculiar nature of the country? Missouri adjoins
these Territories by her entire western boundary, and slavery is already
within every one of her western counties. I have even heard it said that
there are more slaves in proportion to whites in the northwestern county
of Missouri than within any other county in the State. Slavery pressed
entirely up to the old western boundary of the State, and when rather
recently a part of that boundary at the northwest was moved out a little
farther west, slavery followed on quite up to the new line. Now, when the
restriction is removed, what is to prevent it from going still farther?
Climate will not, no peculiarity of the country will, nothing in nature
will. Will the disposition of the people prevent it? Those nearest the
scene are all in favor of the extension. The Yankees who are opposed to it
may be most flumerous; but, in military phrase, the battlefield is too far
from their base of operations.

But it is said there now is no law in Nebraska on the subject of slavery,
and that, in such case, taking a slave there operates his freedom. That is
good book-law, but it is not the rule of actual practice. Wherever slavery
is it has been first introduced without law. The oldest laws we find
concerning it are not laws introducing it, but regulating it as an already
existing thing. A white man takes his slave to Nebraska now. Who will
inform the negro that he is free? Who will take him before court to test
the question of his freedom? In ignorance of his legal emancipation he is
kept chopping, splitting, and plowing. Others are brought, and move on in
the same track. At last, if ever the time for voting comes on the question
of slavery the institution already, in fact, exists in the country, and
cannot well be removed. The fact of its presence, and the difficulty of
its removal, will carry the vote in its favor. Keep it out until a vote is
taken, and a vote in favor of it cannot be got in any population of forty
thousand on earth, who have been drawn together by the ordinary motives of
emigration and settlement. To get slaves into the Territory simultaneously
with the whites in the incipient stages of settlement is the precise stake
played for and won in this Nebraska measure.

The question is asked us: “If slaves will go in notwithstanding the
general principle of law liberates them, why would they not equally go in
against positive statute law–go in, even if the Missouri restriction were
maintained!” I answer, because it takes a much bolder man to venture
in with his property in the latter case than in the former; because the
positive Congressional enactment is known to and respected by all, or
nearly all, whereas the negative principle that no law is free law is not
much known except among lawyers. We have some experience of this practical
difference. In spite of the Ordinance of ’87, a few negroes were brought
into Illinois, and held in a state of quasi-slavery, not enough, however,
to carry a vote of the people in favor of the institution when they came
to form a constitution. But into the adjoining Missouri country, where
there was no Ordinance of ’87,–was no restriction,–they were carried
ten times, nay, a hundred times, as fast, and actually made a slave State.
This is fact-naked fact.

Another lullaby argument is that taking slaves to new countries does not
increase their number, does not make any one slave who would otherwise
be free. There is some truth in this, and I am glad of it; but it is not
wholly true. The African slave trade is not yet effectually suppressed;
and, if we make a reasonable deduction for the white people among us who
are foreigners and the descendants of foreigners arriving here since 1808,
we shall find the increase of the black population outrunning that of the
white to an extent unaccountable, except by supposing that some of them,
too, have been coming from Africa. If this be so, the opening of new
countries to the institution increases the demand for and augments the
price of slaves, and so does, in fact, make slaves of freemen, by causing
them to be brought from Africa and sold into bondage.

But however this may be, we know the opening of new countries to slavery
tends to the perpetuation of the institution, and so does keep men in
slavery who would otherwise be free. This result we do not feel like
favoring, and we are under no legal obligation to suppress our feelings in
this respect.

Equal justice to the South, it is said, requires us to consent to the
extension of slavery to new countries. That is to say, inasmuch as you do
not object to my taking my hog to Nebraska, therefore I must not object
to your taking your slave. Now, I admit that this is perfectly logical
if there is no difference between hogs and negroes. But while you thus
require me to deny the humanity of the negro, I wish to ask whether you of
the South, yourselves, have ever been willing to do as much? It is kindly
provided that of all those who come into the world only a small percentage
are natural tyrants. That percentage is no larger in the slave States
than in the free. The great majority South, as well as North, have human
sympathies, of which they can no more divest themselves than they can of
their sensibility to physical pain. These sympathies in the bosoms of
the Southern people manifest, in many ways, their sense of the wrong of
slavery, and their consciousness that, after all, there is humanity in the
negro. If they deny this, let me address them a few plain questions. In
1820 you (the South) joined the North, almost unanimously, in declaring
the African slave trade piracy, and in annexing to it the punishment of
death. Why did you do this? If you did not feel that it was wrong, why did
you join in providing that men should be hung for it? The practice was no
more than bringing wild negroes from Africa to such as would buy them.
But you never thought of hanging men for catching and selling wild horses,
wild buffaloes, or wild bears.

Again, you have among you a sneaking individual of the class of native
tyrants known as the “slavedealer.” He watches your necessities, and
crawls up to buy your slave, at a speculating price. If you cannot help
it, you sell to him; but if you can help it, you drive him from your door.
You despise him utterly. You do not recognize him as a friend, or even
as an honest man. Your children must not play with his; they may rollick
freely with the little negroes, but not with the slave-dealer’s children.
If you are obliged to deal with him, you try to get through the job
without so much as touching him. It is common with you to join hands
with the men you meet, but with the slave-dealer you avoid the
ceremony–instinctively shrinking from the snaky contact. If he grows rich
and retires from business, you still remember him, and still keep up the
ban of non-intercourse upon him and his family. Now, why is this? You do
not so treat the man who deals in corn, cotton, or tobacco.

And yet again: There are in the United States and Territories, including
the District of Columbia, 433,643 free blacks. At five hundred dollars per
head they are worth over two hundred millions of dollars. How comes this
vast amount of property to be running about without owners? We do not see
free horses or free cattle running at large. How is this? All these free
blacks are the descendants of slaves, or have been slaves themselves; and
they would be slaves now but for something which has operated on their
white owners, inducing them at vast pecuniary sacrifice to liberate them.
What is that something? Is there any mistaking it? In all these cases it
is your sense of justice and human sympathy continually telling you that
the poor negro has some natural right to himself–that those who deny it
and make mere merchandise of him deserve kickings, contempt, and death.

And now why will you ask us to deny the humanity of the slave, and
estimate him as only the equal of the hog? Why ask us to do what you will
not do yourselves? Why ask us to do for nothing what two hundred millions
of dollars could not induce you to do?

But one great argument in support of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise
is still to come. That argument is “the sacred right of self-government.”
It seems our distinguished Senator has found great difficulty in getting
his antagonists, even in the Senate, to meet him fairly on this argument.
Some poet has said:

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

At the hazard of being thought one of the fools of this quotation, I
meet that argument–I rush in–I take that bull by the horns. I trust I
understand and truly estimate the right of self-government. My faith in
the proposition that each man should do precisely as he pleases with
all which is exclusively his own lies at the foundation of the sense of
justice there is in me. I extend the principle to communities of men as
well as to individuals. I so extend it because it is politically wise, as
well as naturally just; politically wise in saving us from broils about
matters which do not concern us. Here, or at Washington, I would not
trouble myself with the oyster laws of Virginia, or the cranberry laws
of Indiana. The doctrine of self-government is right,–absolutely and
eternally right,–but it has no just application as here attempted. Or
perhaps I should rather say that whether it has such application depends
upon whether a negro is or is not a man. If he is not a man, in that case
he who is a man may as a matter of self-government do just what he pleases
with him. But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent a total
destruction of self-government to say that he too shall not govern
himself? When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but
when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than
self-government–that is despotism. If the negro is a man, why, then, my
ancient faith teaches me that “all men are created equal,” and that there
can be no moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of

Judge Douglas frequently, with bitter irony and sarcasm, paraphrases
our argument by saying: “The white people of Nebraska are good enough to
govern themselves, but they are not good enough to govern a few miserable

Well, I doubt not that the people of Nebraska are and will continue to
be as good as the average of people elsewhere. I do not say the contrary.
What I do say is that no man is good enough to govern another man
without that other’s consent. I say this is the leading principle, the
sheet-anchor of American republicanism. Our Declaration of Independence

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights;
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to
secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, DERIVING THEIR

I have quoted so much at this time merely to show that, according to our
ancient faith, the just powers of government are derived from the consent
of the governed. Now the relation of master and slave is pro tanto a total
violation of this principle. The master not only governs the slave without
his consent, but he governs him by a set of rules altogether different
from those which he prescribes for himself. Allow all the governed
an equal voice in the government, and that, and that only, is

Let it not be said that I am contending for the establishment of political
and social equality between the whites and blacks. I have already said the
contrary. I am not combating the argument of necessity, arising from the
fact that the blacks are already among us; but I am combating what is set
up as moral argument for allowing them to be taken where they have never
yet been–arguing against the extension of a bad thing, which, where it
already exists, we must of necessity manage as we best can.

In support of his application of the doctrine of self-government, Senator
Douglas has sought to bring to his aid the opinions and examples of our
Revolutionary fathers. I am glad he has done this. I love the sentiments
of those old-time men, and shall be most happy to abide by their opinions.
He shows us that when it was in contemplation for the colonies to break
off from Great Britain, and set up a new government for themselves,
several of the States instructed their delegates to go for the measure,
provided each State should be allowed to regulate its domestic concerns in
its own way. I do not quote; but this in substance. This was right; I see
nothing objectionable in it. I also think it probable that it had some
reference to the existence of slavery among them. I will not deny that
it had. But had it any reference to the carrying of slavery into new
countries? That is the question, and we will let the fathers themselves
answer it.

This same generation of men, and mostly the same individuals of the
generation who declared this principle, who declared independence,
who fought the war of the Revolution through, who afterward made the
Constitution under which we still live–these same men passed the
Ordinance of ’87, declaring that slavery should never go to the Northwest

I have no doubt Judge Douglas thinks they were very inconsistent in this.
It is a question of discrimination between them and him. But there is
not an inch of ground left for his claiming that their opinions, their
example, their authority, are on his side in the controversy.

Again, is not Nebraska, while a Territory, a part of us? Do we not own the
country? And if we surrender the control of it, do we not surrender the
right of self-government? It is part of ourselves. If you say we shall not
control it, because it is only part, the same is true of every other part;
and when all the parts are gone, what has become of the whole? What
is then left of us? What use for the General Government, when there is
nothing left for it to govern?

But you say this question should be left to the people of Nebraska,
because they are more particularly interested. If this be the rule, you
must leave it to each individual to say for himself whether he will have
slaves. What better moral right have thirty-one citizens of Nebraska to
say that the thirty-second shall not hold slaves than the people of
the thirty-one States have to say that slavery shall not go into the
thirty-second State at all?

But if it is a sacred right for the people of Nebraska to take and hold
slaves there, it is equally their sacred right to buy them where they can
buy them cheapest; and that, undoubtedly, will be on the coast of Africa,
provided you will consent not to hang them for going there to buy
them. You must remove this restriction, too, from the sacred right of
self-government. I am aware you say that taking slaves from the States to
Nebraska does not make slaves of freemen; but the African slave-trader can
say just as much. He does not catch free negroes and bring them here.
He finds them already slaves in the hands of their black captors, and he
honestly buys them at the rate of a red cotton handkerchief a head.
This is very cheap, and it is a great abridgment of the sacred right of
self-government to hang men for engaging in this profitable trade.

Another important objection to this application of the right of
self-government is that it enables the first few to deprive the succeeding
many of a free exercise of the right of self-government. The first few
may get slavery in, and the subsequent many cannot easily get it out. How
common is the remark now in the slave States, “If we were only clear
of our slaves, how much better it would be for us.” They are actually
deprived of the privilege of governing themselves as they would, by the
action of a very few in the beginning. The same thing was true of the
whole nation at the time our Constitution was formed.

Whether slavery shall go into Nebraska, or other new Territories, is not
a matter of exclusive concern to the people who may go there. The whole
nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these Territories.
We want them for homes of free white people. This they cannot be, to any
considerable extent, if slavery shall be planted within them. Slave States
are places for poor white people to remove from, not to remove to. New
free States are the places for poor people to go to, and better their
condition. For this use the nation needs these Territories.

Still further: there are constitutional relations between the slave
and free States which are degrading to the latter. We are under legal
obligations to catch and return their runaway slaves to them: a sort
of dirty, disagreeable job, which, I believe, as a general rule, the
slaveholders will not perform for one another. Then again, in the control
of the government–the management of the partnership affairs–they have
greatly the advantage of us. By the Constitution each State has two
senators, each has a number of representatives in proportion to the number
of its people, and each has a number of Presidential electors equal to
the whole number of its senators and representatives together. But in
ascertaining the number of the people for this purpose, five slaves are
counted as being equal to three whites. The slaves do not vote; they are
only counted and so used as to swell the influence of the white people’s
votes. The practical effect of this is more aptly shown by a comparison
of the States of South Carolina and Maine. South Carolina has six
representatives, and so has Maine; South Carolina has eight Presidential
electors, and so has Maine. This is precise equality so far; and of course
they are equal in senators, each having two. Thus in the control of the
government the two States are equals precisely. But how are they in the
number of their white people? Maine has 581,813, while South Carolina has
274,567; Maine has twice as many as South Carolina, and 32,679 over. Thus,
each white man in South Carolina is more than the double of any man in
Maine. This is all because South Carolina, besides her free people, has
384,984 slaves. The South Carolinian has precisely the same advantage over
the white man in every other free State as well as in Maine. He is more
than the double of any one of us in this crowd. The same advantage, but
not to the same extent, is held by all the citizens of the slave States
over those of the free; and it is an absolute truth, without an exception,
that there is no voter in any slave State but who has more legal power in
the government than any voter in any free State. There is no instance
of exact equality; and the disadvantage is against us the whole chapter
through. This principle, in the aggregate, gives the slave States in the
present Congress twenty additional representatives, being seven more than
the whole majority by which they passed the Nebraska Bill.

Now all this is manifestly unfair; yet I do not mention it to complain of
it, in so far as it is already settled. It is in the Constitution, and I
do not for that cause, or any other cause, propose to destroy, or alter,
or disregard the Constitution. I stand to it, fairly, fully, and firmly.

But when I am told I must leave it altogether to other people to say
whether new partners are to be bred up and brought into the firm, on
the same degrading terms against me, I respectfully demur. I insist that
whether I shall be a whole man or only the half of one, in comparison with
others is a question in which I am somewhat concerned, and one which no
other man can have a sacred right of deciding for me. If I am wrong in
this, if it really be a sacred right of self-government in the man who
shall go to Nebraska to decide whether he will be the equal of me or the
double of me, then, after he shall have exercised that right, and thereby
shall have reduced me to a still smaller fraction of a man than I already
am, I should like for some gentleman, deeply skilled in the mysteries of
sacred rights, to provide himself with a microscope, and peep about, and
find out, if he can, what has become of my sacred rights. They will surely
be too small for detection with the naked eye.

Finally, I insist that if there is anything which it is the duty of the
whole people to never intrust to any hands but their own, that thing is
the preservation and perpetuity of their own liberties and institutions.
And if they shall think as I do, that the extension of slavery endangers
them more than any or all other causes, how recreant to themselves if
they submit The question, and with it the fate of their country, to a mere
handful of men bent only on seif-interest. If this question of slavery
extension were an insignificant one, one having no power to do harm–it
might be shuffled aside in this way; and being, as it is, the great
Behemoth of danger, shall the strong grip of the nation be loosened upon
him, to intrust him to the hands of such feeble keepers?

I have done with this mighty argument of self-government. Go, sacred
thing! Go in peace.

But Nebraska is urged as a great Union-saving measure. Well, I too go for
saving the Union. Much as I hate slavery, I would consent to the extension
of it rather than see the Union dissolved, just as I would consent to any
great evil to avoid a greater one. But when I go to Union-saving, I must
believe, at least, that the means I employ have some adaptation to the
end. To my mind, Nebraska has no such adaptation.

“It hath no relish of salvation in it.”

It is an aggravation, rather, of the only one thing which ever endangers
the Union. When it came upon us, all was peace and quiet. The nation was
looking to the forming of new bends of union, and a long course of peace
and prosperity seemed to lie before us. In the whole range of possibility,
there scarcely appears to me to have been anything out of which the
slavery agitation could have been revived, except the very project of
repealing the Missouri Compromise. Every inch of territory we owned
already had a definite settlement of the slavery question, by which all
parties were pledged to abide. Indeed, there was no uninhabited country on
the continent which we could acquire, if we except some extreme northern
regions which are wholly out of the question.

In this state of affairs the Genius of Discord himself could scarcely have
invented a way of again setting us by the ears but by turning back and
destroying the peace measures of the past. The counsels of that Genius
seem to have prevailed. The Missouri Compromise was repealed; and here
we are in the midst of a new slavery agitation, such, I think, as we have
never seen before. Who is responsible for this? Is it those who resist
the measure, or those who causelessly brought it forward, and pressed it
through, having reason to know, and in fact knowing, it must and would be
so resisted? It could not but be expected by its author that it would be
looked upon as a measure for the extension of slavery, aggravated by a
gross breach of faith.

Argue as you will and long as you will, this is the naked front and aspect
of the measure. And in this aspect it could not but produce agitation.
Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature–opposition to it in
his love of justice. These principles are at eternal antagonism, and
when brought into collision so fiercely as slavery extension brings them,
shocks and throes and convulsions must ceaselessly follow. Repeal the
Missouri Compromise, repeal all compromises, repeal the Declaration of
Independence, repeal all past history, you still cannot repeal human
nature. It still will be the abundance of man’s heart that slavery
extension is wrong, and out of the abundance of his heart his mouth will
continue to speak.

The structure, too, of the Nebraska Bill is very peculiar. The people are
to decide the question of slavery for themselves; but when they are to
decide, or how they are to decide, or whether, when the question is
once decided, it is to remain so or is to be subject to an indefinite
succession of new trials, the law does not say. Is it to be decided by the
first dozen settlers who arrive there, or is it to await the arrival of
a hundred? Is it to be decided by a vote of the people or a vote of the
Legislature, or, indeed, by a vote of any sort? To these questions the law
gives no answer. There is a mystery about this; for when a member proposed
to give the Legislature express authority to exclude slavery, it was
hooted down by the friends of the bill. This fact is worth remembering.
Some Yankees in the East are sending emigrants to Nebraska to exclude
slavery from it; and, so far as I can judge, they expect the question to
be decided by voting in some way or other. But the Missourians are awake,
too. They are within a stone’s-throw of the contested ground. They hold
meetings and pass resolutions, in which not the slightest allusion to
voting is made. They resolve that slavery already exists in the Territory;
that more shall go there; that they, remaining in Missouri, will protect
it, and that abolitionists shall be hung or driven away. Through all this
bowie knives and six-shooters are seen plainly enough, but never a glimpse
of the ballot-box.

And, really, what is the result of all this? Each party within having
numerous and determined backers without, is it not probable that the
contest will come to blows and bloodshed? Could there be a more apt
invention to bring about collision and violence on the slavery question
than this Nebraska project is? I do not charge or believe that such was
intended by Congress; but if they had literally formed a ring and placed
champions within it to fight out the controversy, the fight could be no
more likely to come off than it is. And if this fight should begin, is it
likely to take a very peaceful, Union-saving turn? Will not the first drop
of blood so shed be the real knell of the Union?

The Missouri Compromise ought to be restored. For the sake of the Union,
it ought to be restored. We ought to elect a House of Representatives
which will vote its restoration. If by any means we omit to do this, what
follows? Slavery may or may not be established in Nebraska. But whether
it be or not, we shall have repudiated–discarded from the councils of the
nation–the spirit of compromise; for who, after this, will ever trust in
a national compromise? The spirit of mutual concession–that spirit which
first gave us the Constitution, and which has thrice saved the Union–we
shall have strangled and cast from us forever. And what shall we have
in lieu of it? The South flushed with triumph and tempted to excess;
the North, betrayed as they believe, brooding on wrong and burning for
revenge. One side will provoke, the other resent. The one will taunt,
the other defy; one aggresses, the other retaliates. Already a few in
the North defy all constitutional restraints, resist the execution of
the Fugitive Slave law, and even menace the institution of slavery in
the States where it exists. Already a few in the South claim the
constitutional right to take and to hold slaves in the free States, demand
the revival of the slave trade, and demand a treaty with Great Britain by
which fugitive slaves may be reclaimed from Canada. As yet they are but
few on either side. It is a grave question for lovers of the union whether
the final destruction of the Missouri Compromise, and with it the spirit
of all compromise, will or will not embolden and embitter each of these,
and fatally increase the number of both.

But restore the compromise, and what then? We thereby restore the national
faith, the national confidence, the national feeling of brotherhood. We
thereby reinstate the spirit of concession and compromise, that spirit
which has never failed us in past perils, and which may be safely trusted
for all the future. The South ought to join in doing this. The peace of
the nation is as dear to them as to us. In memories of the past and hopes
of the future, they share as largely as we. It would be on their part a
great act–great in its spirit, and great in its effect. It would be worth
to the nation a hundred years purchase of peace and prosperity. And what
of sacrifice would they make? They only surrender to us what they gave
us for a consideration long, long ago; what they have not now asked for,
struggled or cared for; what has been thrust upon them, not less to their
astonishment than to ours.

But it is said we cannot restore it; that though we elect every member of
the lower House, the Senate is still against us. It is quite true that of
the senators who passed the Nebraska Bill a majority of the whole Senate
will retain their seats in spite of the elections of this and the next
year. But if at these elections their several constituencies shall clearly
express their will against Nebraska, will these senators disregard their
will? Will they neither obey nor make room for those who will?

But even if we fail to technically restore the compromise, it is still a
great point to carry a popular vote in favor of the restoration. The
moral weight of such a vote cannot be estimated too highly. The authors
of Nebraska are not at all satisfied with the destruction of the
compromise–an indorsement of this principle they proclaim to be the
great object. With them, Nebraska alone is a small matter–to establish a
principle for future use is what they particularly desire.

The future use is to be the planting of slavery wherever in the wide world
local and unorganized opposition cannot prevent it. Now, if you wish to
give them this indorsement, if you wish to establish this principle, do
so. I shall regret it, but it is your right. On the contrary, if you are
opposed to the principle,–intend to give it no such indorsement, let no
wheedling, no sophistry, divert you from throwing a direct vote against

Some men, mostly Whigs, who condemn the repeal of the Missouri Compromise,
nevertheless hesitate to go for its restoration, lest they be thrown in
company with the abolitionists. Will they allow me, as an old Whig, to
tell them, good-humoredly, that I think this is very silly? Stand with
anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right, and part
with him when he goes wrong. Stand with the abolitionist in restoring the
Missouri Compromise, and stand against him when he attempts to repeal
the Fugitive Slave law. In the latter case you stand with the Southern
disunionist. What of that? You are still right. In both cases you are
right. In both cases you oppose the dangerous extremes. In both you stand
on middle ground, and hold the ship level and steady. In both you are
national, and nothing less than national. This is the good old Whig
ground. To desert such ground because of any company is to be less than a
Whig–less than a man–less than an American.

I particularly object to the new position which the avowed principle of
this Nebraska law gives to slavery in the body politic. I object to it
because it assumes that there can be moral right in the enslaving of
one man by another. I object to it as a dangerous dalliance for a free
people–a sad evidence that, feeling prosperity, we forget right; that
liberty, as a principle, we have ceased to revere. I object to it because
the fathers of the republic eschewed and rejected it. The argument of
“necessity” was the only argument they ever admitted in favor of slavery;
and so far, and so far only, as it carried them did they ever go. They
found the institution existing among us, which they could not help,
and they cast blame upon the British king for having permitted its

The royally appointed Governor of Georgia in the early 1700’s was
threatened by the King with removal if he continued to oppose slavery in
his colony–at that time the King of England made a small profit on every
slave imported to the colonies. The later British criticism of the United
States for not eradicating slavery in the early 1800’s, combined with
their tacit support of the ‘Confederacy’ during the Civil War is a prime
example of the irony and hypocrisy of politics: that self-interest will
ever overpower right.

Before the Constitution they prohibited its introduction into the
Northwestern Territory, the only country we owned then free from it. At
the framing and adoption of the Constitution, they forbore to so much
as mention the word “slave” or “slavery” in the whole instrument. In
the provision for the recovery of fugitives, the slave is spoken of as a
“person held to service or labor.” In that prohibiting the abolition of
the African slave trade for twenty years, that trade is spoken of as “the
migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing
shall think proper to admit,” etc. These are the only provisions alluding
to slavery. Thus the thing is hid away in the Constitution, just as an
afflicted man hides away a wen or cancer which he dares not cut out at
once, lest he bleed to death,–with the promise, nevertheless, that the
cutting may begin at a certain time. Less than this our fathers could not
do, and more they would not do. Necessity drove them so far, and farther
they would not go. But this is not all. The earliest Congress under the
Constitution took the same view of slavery. They hedged and hemmed it in
to the narrowest limits of necessity.

In 1794 they prohibited an outgoing slave trade–that is, the taking
of slaves from the United States to sell. In 1798 they prohibited the
bringing of slaves from Africa into the Mississippi Territory, this
Territory then comprising what are now the States of Mississippi and
Alabama. This was ten years before they had the authority to do the same
thing as to the States existing at the adoption of the Constitution. In
1800 they prohibited American citizens from trading in slaves between
foreign countries, as, for instance, from Africa to Brazil. In 1803 they
passed a law in aid of one or two slave-State laws in restraint of the
internal slave trade. In 1807, in apparent hot haste, they passed the law,
nearly a year in advance,–to take effect the first day of 1808, the very
first day the Constitution would permit, prohibiting the African slave
trade by heavy pecuniary and corporal penalties. In 1820, finding these
provisions ineffectual, they declared the slave trade piracy, and annexed
to it the extreme penalty of death. While all this was passing in the
General Government, five or six of the original slave States had adopted
systems of gradual emancipation, by which the institution was rapidly
becoming extinct within their limits. Thus we see that the plain,
unmistakable spirit of that age toward slavery was hostility to the
principle and toleration only by necessity.

But now it is to be transformed into a “sacred right.” Nebraska brings it
forth, places it on the highroad to extension and perpetuity, and with a
pat on its back says to it, “Go, and God speed you.” Henceforth it is
to be the chief jewel of the nation the very figure-head of the ship of
state. Little by little, but steadily as man’s march to the grave, we have
been giving up the old for the new faith. Near eighty years ago we began
by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning
we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave
others is a “sacred right of self-government.” These principles cannot
stand together. They are as opposite as God and Mammon; and who ever holds
to the one must despise the other. When Pettit, in connection with his
support of the Nebraska Bill, called the Declaration of Independence “a
self-evident lie,” he only did what consistency and candor require all
other Nebraska men to do. Of the forty-odd Nebraska senators who sat
present and heard him, no one rebuked him. Nor am I apprised that any
Nebraska newspaper, or any Nebraska orator, in the whole nation has ever
yet rebuked him. If this had been said among Marion’s men, Southerners
though they were, what would have become of the man who said it? If this
had been said to the men who captured Andre, the man who said it would
probably have been hung sooner than Andre was. If it had been said in old
Independence Hall seventy-eight years ago, the very doorkeeper would have
throttled the man and thrust him into the street. Let no one be
deceived. The spirit of seventy-six and the spirit of Nebraska are utter
antagonisms; and the former is being rapidly displaced by the latter.

Fellow-countrymen, Americans, South as well as North, shall we make no
effort to arrest this? Already the liberal party throughout the world
express the apprehension that “the one retrograde institution in America
is undermining the principles of progress, and fatally violating the
noblest political system the world ever saw.” This is not the taunt of
enemies, but the warning of friends. Is it quite safe to disregard
it–to despise it? Is there no danger to liberty itself in discarding the
earliest practice and first precept of our ancient faith? In our greedy
chase to make profit of the negro, let us beware lest we “cancel and tear
in pieces” even the white man’s charter of freedom.

Our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify
it. Let us turn and wash it white in the spirit, if not the blood, of the
Revolution. Let us turn slavery from its claims of “moral right,” back
upon its existing legal rights and its arguments of “necessity.” Let us
return it to the position our fathers gave it, and there let it rest in
peace. Let us readopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it the
practices and policy which harmonize with it. Let North and South, let all
Americans–let all lovers of liberty everywhere join in the great and good
work. If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union, but we shall
have so saved it as to make and to keep it forever worthy of the saving.
We shall have so saved it that the succeeding millions of free happy
people the world over shall rise up and call us blessed to the latest

At Springfield, twelve days ago, where I had spoken substantially as I
have here, Judge Douglas replied to me; and as he is to reply to me here,
I shall attempt to anticipate him by noticing some of the points he made
there. He commenced by stating I had assumed all the way through that the
principle of the Nebraska Bill would have the effect of extending slavery.
He denied that this was intended or that this effect would follow.

I will not reopen the argument upon this point. That such was the
intention the world believed at the start, and will continue to believe.
This was the countenance of the thing, and both friends and enemies
instantly recognized it as such. That countenance cannot now be changed by
argument. You can as easily argue the color out of the negro’s skin. Like
the “bloody hand,” you may wash it and wash it, the red witness of guilt
still sticks and stares horribly at you.

Next he says that Congressional intervention never prevented slavery
anywhere; that it did not prevent it in the Northwestern Territory, nor
in Illinois; that, in fact, Illinois came into the Union as a slave State;
that the principle of the Nebraska Bill expelled it from Illinois, from
several old States, from everywhere.

Now this is mere quibbling all the way through. If the Ordinance of ’87
did not keep slavery out of the Northwest Territory, how happens it that
the northwest shore of the Ohio River is entirely free from it, while the
southeast shore, less than a mile distant, along nearly the whole length
of the river, is entirely covered with it?

If that ordinance did not keep it out of Illinois, what was it that made
the difference between Illinois and Missouri? They lie side by side, the
Mississippi River only dividing them, while their early settlements were
within the same latitude. Between 1810 and 1820 the number of slaves in
Missouri increased 7211, while in Illinois in the same ten years they
decreased 51. This appears by the census returns. During nearly all of
that ten years both were Territories, not States. During this time the
ordinance forbade slavery to go into Illinois, and nothing forbade it to
go into Missouri. It did go into Missouri, and did not go into Illinois.
That is the fact. Can any one doubt as to the reason of it? But he says
Illinois came into the Union as a slave State. Silence, perhaps, would
be the best answer to this flat contradiction of the known history of the
country. What are the facts upon which this bold assertion is based? When
we first acquired the country, as far back as 1787, there were some slaves
within it held by the French inhabitants of Kaskaskia. The territorial
legislation admitted a few negroes from the slave States as indentured
servants. One year after the adoption of the first State constitution,
the whole number of them was–what do you think? Just one hundred and
seventeen, while the aggregate free population was 55,094,–about four
hundred and seventy to one. Upon this state of facts the people framed
their constitution prohibiting the further introduction of slavery, with
a sort of guaranty to the owners of the few indentured servants, giving
freedom to their children to be born thereafter, and making no mention
whatever of any supposed slave for life. Out of this small matter the
Judge manufactures his argument that Illinois came into the Union as a
slave State. Let the facts be the answer to the argument.

The principles of the Nebraska Bill, he says, expelled slavery from
Illinois. The principle of that bill first planted it here–that is, it
first came because there was no law to prevent it, first came before we
owned the country; and finding it here, and having the Ordinance of ’87 to
prevent its increasing, our people struggled along, and finally got rid of
it as best they could.

But the principle of the Nebraska Bill abolished slavery in several of the
old States. Well, it is true that several of the old States, in the last
quarter of the last century, did adopt systems of gradual emancipation by
which the institution has finally become extinct within their limits; but
it may or may not be true that the principle of the Nebraska Bill was
the cause that led to the adoption of these measures. It is now more
than fifty years since the last of these States adopted its system of

If the Nebraska Bill is the real author of the benevolent works, it
is rather deplorable that it has for so long a time ceased working
altogether. Is there not some reason to suspect that it was the principle
of the Revolution, and not the principle of the Nebraska Bill, that led
to emancipation in these old States? Leave it to the people of these old
emancipating States, and I am quite certain they will decide that neither
that nor any other good thing ever did or ever will come of the Nebraska

In the course of my main argument, Judge Douglas interrupted me to say
that the principle of the Nebraska Bill was very old; that it originated
when God made man, and placed good and evil before him, allowing him to
choose for himself, being responsible for the choice he should make. At
the time I thought this was merely playful, and I answered it accordingly.
But in his reply to me he renewed it as a serious argument. In
seriousness, then, the facts of this proposition are not true as stated.
God did not place good and evil before man, telling him to make his
choice. On the contrary, he did tell him there was one tree of the fruit
of which he should not eat, upon pain of certain death. I should scarcely
wish so strong a prohibition against slavery in Nebraska.

But this argument strikes me as not a little remarkable in another
particular–in its strong resemblance to the old argument for the “divine
right of kings.” By the latter, the king is to do just as he pleases with
his white subjects, being responsible to God alone. By the former,
the white man is to do just as he pleases with his black slaves, being
responsible to God alone. The two things are precisely alike, and it is
but natural that they should find similar arguments to sustain them.

I had argued that the application of the principle of self-government, as
contended for, would require the revival of the African slave trade; that
no argument could be made in favor of a man’s right to take slaves to
Nebraska which could not be equally well made in favor of his right
to bring them from the coast of Africa. The Judge replied that the
Constitution requires the suppression of the foreign slave trade, but
does not require the prohibition of slavery in the Territories. That is a
mistake in point of fact. The Constitution does not require the action of
Congress in either case, and it does authorize it in both. And so there is
still no difference between the cases.

In regard to what I have said of the advantage the slave States have over
the free in the matter of representation, the Judge replied that we in
the free States count five free negroes as five white people, while in
the slave States they count five slaves as three whites only; and that the
advantage, at last, was on the side of the free States.

Now, in the slave States they count free negroes just as we do; and it so
happens that, besides their slaves, they have as many free negroes as we
have, and thirty thousand over. Thus, their free negroes more than balance
ours; and their advantage over us, in consequence of their slaves, still
remains as I stated it.

In reply to my argument that the compromise measures of 1850 were a system
of equivalents, and that the provisions of no one of them could fairly
be carried to other subjects without its corresponding equivalent being
carried with it, the Judge denied outright that these measures had any
connection with or dependence upon each other. This is mere desperation.
If they had no connection, why are they always spoken of in connection?
Why has he so spoken of them a thousand times? Why has he constantly
called them a series of measures? Why does everybody call them a
compromise? Why was California kept out of the Union six or seven months,
if it was not because of its connection with the other measures? Webster’s
leading definition of the verb “to compromise” is “to adjust and settle
a difference, by mutual agreement, with concessions of claims by the
parties.” This conveys precisely the popular understanding of the word

We knew, before the Judge told us, that these measures passed separately,
and in distinct bills, and that no two of them were passed by the votes of
precisely the same members. But we also know, and so does he know, that
no one of them could have passed both branches of Congress but for the
understanding that the others were to pass also. Upon this understanding,
each got votes which it could have got in no other way. It is this fact
which gives to the measures their true character; and it is the universal
knowledge of this fact that has given them the name of “compromises,” so
expressive of that true character.

I had asked: “If, in carrying the Utah and New Mexico laws to Nebraska,
you could clear away other objection, how could you leave Nebraska
‘perfectly free’ to introduce slavery before she forms a constitution,
during her territorial government, while the Utah and New Mexico laws
only authorize it when they form constitutions and are admitted into the
Union?” To this Judge Douglas answered that the Utah and New Mexico laws
also authorized it before; and to prove this he read from one of their
laws, as follows: “That the legislative power of said Territory shall
extend to all rightful subjects of legislation, consistent with the
Constitution of the United States and the provisions of this act.”

Now it is perceived from the reading of this that there is nothing express
upon the subject, but that the authority is sought to be implied merely
for the general provision of “all rightful subjects of legislation.” In
reply to this I insist, as a legal rule of construction, as well as the
plain, popular view of the matter, that the express provision for Utah and
New Mexico coming in with slavery, if they choose, when they shall form
constitutions, is an exclusion of all implied authority on the same
subject; that Congress having the subject distinctly in their minds
when they made the express provision, they therein expressed their whole
meaning on that subject.

The Judge rather insinuated that I had found it convenient to forget the
Washington territorial law passed in 1853. This was a division of Oregon,
organizing the northern part as the Territory of Washington. He asserted
that by this act the Ordinance of ’87, theretofore existing in Oregon, was
repealed; that nearly all the members of Congress voted for it, beginning
in the House of Representatives with Charles Allen of Massachusetts, and
ending with Richard Yates of Illinois; and that he could not understand
how those who now opposed the Nebraska Bill so voted there, unless it was
because it was then too soon after both the great political parties had
ratified the compromises of 1850, and the ratification therefore was too
fresh to be then repudiated.

Now I had seen the Washington act before, and I have carefully examined it
since; and I aver that there is no repeal of the Ordinance of ’87, or of
any prohibition of slavery, in it. In express terms, there is absolutely
nothing in the whole law upon the subject–in fact, nothing to lead a
reader to think of the subject. To my judgment it is equally free from
everything from which repeal can be legally implied; but, however this
may be, are men now to be entrapped by a legal implication, extracted from
covert language, introduced perhaps for the very purpose of entrapping
them? I sincerely wish every man could read this law quite through,
carefully watching every sentence and every line for a repeal of the
Ordinance of ’87, or anything equivalent to it.

Another point on the Washington act: If it was intended to be modeled
after the Utah and New Mexico acts, as Judge Douglas insists, why was it
not inserted in it, as in them, that Washington was to come in with or
without slavery as she may choose at the adoption of her constitution?
It has no such provision in it; and I defy the ingenuity of man to give a
reason for the omission, other than that it was not intended to follow the
Utah and New Mexico laws in regard to the question of slavery.

The Washington act not only differs vitally from the Utah and New Mexico
acts, but the Nebraska act differs vitally from both. By the latter
act the people are left “perfectly free” to regulate their own domestic
concerns, etc.; but in all the former, all their laws are to be submitted
to Congress, and if disapproved are to be null. The Washington act goes
even further; it absolutely prohibits the territorial Legislature, by very
strong and guarded language, from establishing banks or borrowing money on
the faith of the Territory. Is this the sacred right of self-government
we hear vaunted so much? No, sir; the Nebraska Bill finds no model in the
acts of ’50 or the Washington act. It finds no model in any law from Adam
till to-day. As Phillips says of Napoleon, the Nebraska act is grand,
gloomy and peculiar, wrapped in the solitude of its own originality,
without a model and without a shadow upon the earth.

In the course of his reply Senator Douglas remarked in substance that he
had always considered this government was made for the white people and
not for the negroes. Why, in point of mere fact, I think so too. But in
this remark of the Judge there is a significance which I think is the key
to the great mistake (if there is any such mistake) which he has made
in this Nebraska measure. It shows that the Judge has no very vivid
impression that the negro is human, and consequently has no idea that
there can be any moral question in legislating about him. In his view the
question of whether a new country shall be slave or free is a matter of as
utter indifference as it is whether his neighbor shall plant his farm with
tobacco or stock it with horned cattle. Now, whether this view is right
or wrong, it is very certain that the great mass of mankind take a totally
different view. They consider slavery a great moral wrong, and their
feeling against it is not evanescent, but eternal. It lies at the very
foundation of their sense of justice, and it cannot be trifled with. It
is a great and durable element of popular action, and I think no statesman
can safely disregard it.

Our Senator also objects that those who oppose him in this matter do not
entirely agree with one another. He reminds me that in my firm adherence
to the constitutional rights of the slave States I differ widely from
others who are cooperating with me in opposing the Nebraska Bill, and he
says it is not quite fair to oppose him in this variety of ways. He should
remember that he took us by surprise–astounded us by this measure. We
were thunderstruck and stunned, and we reeled and fell in utter confusion.
But we rose, each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach–a
scythe, a pitchfork, a chopping-ax, or a butcher’s cleaver. We struck in
the direction of the sound, and we were rapidly closing in upon him. He
must not think to divert us from our purpose by showing us that our drill,
our dress, and our weapons are not entirely perfect and uniform. When the
storm shall be past he shall find us still Americans, no less devoted to
the continued union and prosperity of the country than heretofore.

Finally, the Judge invokes against me the memory of Clay and Webster, They
were great men, and men of great deeds. But where have I assailed them?
For what is it that their lifelong enemy shall now make profit by assuming
to defend them against me, their lifelong friend? I go against the repeal
of the Missouri Compromise; did they ever go for it? They went for the
Compromise of 1850; did I ever go against them? They were greatly devoted
to the Union; to the small measure of my ability was I ever less so? Clay
and Webster were dead before this question arose; by what authority shall
our Senator say they would espouse his side of it if alive? Mr. Clay was
the leading spirit in making the Missouri Compromise; is it very credible
that if now alive he would take the lead in the breaking of it? The truth
is that some support from Whigs is now a necessity with the Judge, and for
this it is that the names of Clay and Webster are invoked. His old friends
have deserted him in such numbers as to leave too few to live by. He
came to his own, and his own received him not; and lo! he turns unto the

A word now as to the Judge’s desperate assumption that the compromises of
1850 had no connection with one another; that Illinois came into the Union
as a slave State, and some other similar ones. This is no other than a
bold denial of the history of the country. If we do not know that the
compromises of 1850 were dependent on each other; if we do not know that
Illinois came into the Union as a free State,–we do not know anything.
If we do not know these things, we do not know that we ever had a
Revolutionary War or such a chief as Washington. To deny these things is
to deny our national axioms,–or dogmas, at least,–and it puts an end to
all argument. If a man will stand up and assert, and repeat and reassert,
that two and two do not make four, I know nothing in the power of argument
that can stop him. I think I can answer the Judge so long as he sticks to
the premises; but when he flies from them, I cannot work any argument into
the consistency of a mental gag and actually close his mouth with it. In
such a case I can only commend him to the seventy thousand answers just in
from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.



CLINTON, De WITT Co., Nov. 10, 1854

DEAR SIR:–You used to express a good deal of partiality for me, and if
you are still so, now is the time. Some friends here are really for me for
the U.S. Senate, and I should be very grateful if you could make a mark
for me among your members. Please write me at all events, giving me the
names, post-offices, and “political position” of members round about you.
Direct to Springfield.

Let this be confidential.

Yours truly,




November 27, 1854 T. J. HENDERSON, ESQ.

MY DEAR SIR:–It has come round that a whig may, by possibility, be
elected to the United States Senate, and I want the chance of being the
man. You are a member of the Legislature, and have a vote to give. Think
it over, and see whether you can do better than to go for me.

Write me, at all events; and let this be confidential.

Yours truly,



SPRINGFIELD, Dec. 1, 1854.

DEAR SIR:–I have really got it into my head to try to be United States
Senator, and, if I could have your support, my chances would be reasonably
good. But I know, and acknowledge, that you have as just claims to the
place as I have; and therefore I cannot ask you to yield to me, if you are
thinking of becoming a candidate, yourself. If, however, you are not, then
I should like to be remembered affectionately by you; and also to have you
make a mark for me with the Anti-Nebraska members down your way.

If you know, and have no objection to tell, let me know whether Trumbull
intends to make a push. If he does, I suppose the two men in St. Clair,
and one, or both, in Madison, will be for him. We have the Legislature,
clearly enough, on joint ballot, but the Senate is very close, and Cullom
told me to-day that the Nebraska men will stave off the election, if they
can. Even if we get into joint vote, we shall have difficulty to unite our
forces. Please write me, and let this be confidential.

Your friend, as ever,




SPRINGFIELD, ILL., December 6, 1854.

SIR:–I understand it is in contemplation to displace the present clerk
and appoint a new one for the Circuit and District Courts of Illinois. I
am very friendly to the present incumbent, and, both for his own sake and
that of his family, I wish him to be retained so long as it is possible
for the court to do so.

In the contingency of his removal, however, I have recommended William
Butler as his successor, and I do not wish what I write now to be taken as
any abatement of that recommendation.

William J. Black is also an applicant for the appointment, and I write
this at the solicitation of his friends to say that he is every way worthy
of the office, and that I doubt not the conferring it upon him will give
great satisfaction.

Your ob’t servant,



SPRINGFIELD, December 15. 1854


DEAR SIR:–Yours of the 11th was received last night, and for which I
thank you. Of course I prefer myself to all others; yet it is neither in
my heart nor my conscience to say I am any better man than Mr. Williams.
We shall have a terrible struggle with our adversaries. They are desperate
and bent on desperate deeds. I accidentally learned of one of the leaders
here writing to a member south of here, in about the following language:

We are beaten. They have a clean majority of at least nine, on joint
ballot. They outnumber us, but we must outmanage them. Douglas must be
sustained. We must elect the Speaker; and we must elect a Nebraska United
States Senator, or “elect none at all.” Similar letters, no doubt, are
written to every Nebraska member. Be considering how we can best meet, and
foil, and beat them. I send you, by mail, a copy of my Peoria speech. You
may have seen it before, or you may not think it worth seeing now.

Do not speak of the Nebraska letter mentioned above; I do not wish it to
become public, that I received such information.

Yours truly,





SPRINGFIELD, February 9, 1855 MY DEAR SIR:

I began with 44 votes, Shields 41, and Trumbull 5,–yet Trumbull was
elected. In fact 47 different members voted for me,–getting three new
ones on the second ballot, and losing four old ones. How came my 47
to yield to Trumbull’s 5? It was Governor Matteson’s work. He has been
secretly a candidate ever since (before, even) the fall election.

All the members round about the canal were Anti-Nebraska, but were
nevertheless nearly all Democrats and old personal friends of his. His
plan was to privately impress them with the belief that he was as good
Anti-Nebraska as any one else–at least could be secured to be so by
instructions, which could be easily passed.

The Nebraska men, of course, were not for Matteson; but when they found
they could elect no avowed Nebraska man, they tardily determined to let
him get whomever of our men he could, by whatever means he could, and ask
him no questions.

The Nebraska men were very confident of the election of Matteson, though
denying that he was a candidate, and we very much believing also that they
would elect him. But they wanted first to make a show of good faith to
Shields by voting for him a few times, and our secret Matteson men also
wanted to make a show of good faith by voting with us a few times. So
we led off. On the seventh ballot, I think, the signal was given to the
Nebraska men to turn to Matteson, which they acted on to a man, with one
exception. . . Next ballot the remaining Nebraska man and one pretended
Anti went over to him, giving him 46. The next still another, giving him
47, wanting only three of an election. In the meantime our friends, with
a view of detaining our expected bolters, had been turning from me to
Trumbull till he had risen to 35 and I had been reduced to 15. These would
never desert me except by my direction; but I became satisfied that if we
could prevent Matteson’s election one or two ballots more, we could not
possibly do so a single ballot after my friends should begin to return
to me from Trumbull. So I determined to strike at once, and accordingly
advised my remaining friends to go for him, which they did and elected him
on the tenth ballot.

Such is the way the thing was done. I think you would have done the same
under the circumstances.

I could have headed off every combination and been elected, had it not
been for Matteson’s double game–and his defeat now gives me more pleasure
than my own gives me pain. On the whole, it is perhaps as well for our
general cause that Trumbull is elected. The Nebraska men confess that
they hate it worse than anything that could have happened. It is a great
consolation to see them worse whipped than I am.

Yours forever,





GENTLEMEN:–Yours of the 5th is received, as also was that of 15th Dec,
last, inclosing bond of Clift to Pray. When I received the bond I was
dabbling in politics, and of course neglecting business. Having since been
beaten out I have gone to work again.

As I do not practice in Rushville, I to-day open a correspondence with
Henry E. Dummer, Esq., of Beardstown, Ill., with the view of getting the
job into his hands. He is a good man if he will undertake it.

Write me whether I shall do this or return the bond to you.

Yours respectfully,



SPRINGFIELD, March 23, 1855.


MY DEAR SIR:–Your letter to Judge Logan has been shown to us by him; and,
with his consent, we answer it. When it became probable that there would
be a vacancy on the Supreme Bench, public opinion, on this side of the
river, seemed to be universally directed to Logan as the proper man to
fill it. I mean public opinion on our side in politics, with very small
manifestation in any different direction by the other side. The result is,
that he has been a good deal pressed to allow his name to be used, and he
has consented to it, provided it can be done with perfect cordiality and
good feeling on the part of all our own friends. We, the undersigned, are
very anxious for it; and the more so now that he has been urged, until
his mind is turned upon the matter. We, therefore are very glad of your
letter, with the information it brings us, mixed only with a regret that
we can not elect Logan and Walker both. We shall be glad, if you will
hoist Logan’s name, in your Quincy papers.

Very truly your friends,



SPRINGFIELD, June 7, 1855.


MY DEAR SIR:–Your note containing election news is received; and for
which I thank you. It is all of no use, however. Logan is worse beaten
than any other man ever was since elections were invented–beaten more
than twelve hundred in this county. It is conceded on all hands that the
Prohibitory law is also beaten.

Yours truly,




SPRINGFIELD, August 24, 1855

DEAR SPEED:–You know what a poor correspondent I am. Ever since I
received your very agreeable letter of the 22d of May, I have been
intending to write you an answer to it. You suggest that in political
action, now, you and I would differ. I suppose we would; not quite as
much, however, as you may think. You know I dislike slavery, and you fully
admit the abstract wrong of it. So far there is no cause of difference.
But you say that sooner than yield your legal right to the slave,
especially at the bidding of those who are not themselves interested, you
would see the Union dissolved. I am not aware that any one is bidding you
yield that right; very certainly I am not. I leave that matter entirely
to yourself. I also acknowledge your rights and my obligations under the
Constitution in regard to your slaves. I confess I hate to see the poor
creatures hunted down and caught and carried back to their stripes and
unrequited toil; but I bite my lips and keep quiet. In 1841 you and I had
together a tedious low-water trip on a steamboat from Louisville to St.
Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth
of the Ohio there were on board ten or a dozen slaves shackled together
with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me, and I see something
like it every time I touch the Ohio or any other slave border. It is not
fair for you to assume that I have no interest in a thing which has, and
continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather
to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify
their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and
the Union. I do oppose the extension of slavery because my judgment and
feeling so prompt me, and I am under no obligations to the contrary.
If for this you and I must differ, differ we must. You say, if you were
President, you would send an army and hang the leaders of the Missouri
outrages upon the Kansas elections; still, if Kansas fairly votes herself
a slave State she must be admitted or the Union must be dissolved. But how
if she votes herself a slave State unfairly, that is, by the very means
for which you say you would hang men? Must she still be admitted, or the
Union dissolved? That will be the phase of the question when it first
becomes a practical one. In your assumption that there may be a fair
decision of the slavery question in Kansas, I plainly see you and I would
differ about the Nebraska law. I look upon that enactment not as a law,
but as a violence from the beginning. It was conceived in violence, is
maintained in violence, and is being executed in violence. I say it was
conceived in violence, because the destruction of the Missouri Compromise,
under the circumstances, was nothing less than violence. It was passed in
violence because it could not have passed at all but for the votes of
many members in violence of the known will of their constituents. It is
maintained in violence, because the elections since clearly demand its
repeal; and the demand is openly disregarded.

You say men ought to be hung for the way they are executing the law; I say
the way it is being executed is quite as good as any of its antecedents.
It is being executed in the precise way which was intended from the first,
else why does no Nebraska man express astonishment or condemnation? Poor
Reeder is the only public man who has been silly enough to believe
that anything like fairness was ever intended, and he has been bravely

That Kansas will form a slave constitution, and with it will ask to be
admitted into the Union, I take to be already a settled question, and so
settled by the very means you so pointedly condemn. By every principle of
law ever held by any court North or South, every negro taken to Kansas
is free; yet, in utter disregard of this,–in the spirit of violence
merely,–that beautiful Legislature gravely passes a law to hang any
man who shall venture to inform a negro of his legal rights. This is the
subject and real object of the law. If, like Haman, they should hang upon
the gallows of their own building, I shall not be among the mourners for
their fate. In my humble sphere, I shall advocate the restoration of the
Missouri Compromise so long as Kansas remains a Territory, and when, by
all these foul means, it seeks to come into the Union as a slave State, I
shall oppose it. I am very loath in any case to withhold my assent to
the enjoyment of property acquired or located in good faith; but I do not
admit that good faith in taking a negro to Kansas to be held in slavery
is a probability with any man. Any man who has sense enough to be the
controller of his own property has too much sense to misunderstand the
outrageous character of the whole Nebraska business. But I digress. In my
opposition to the admission of Kansas I shall have some company, but we
may be beaten. If we are, I shall not on that account attempt to dissolve
the Union. I think it probable, however, we shall be beaten. Standing as
a unit among yourselves, You can, directly and indirectly, bribe enough
of our men to carry the day, as you could on the open proposition to
establish a monarchy. Get hold of some man in the North whose position and
ability is such that he can make the support of your measure, whatever it
may be, a Democratic party necessity, and the thing is done. Apropos of
this, let me tell you an anecdote. Douglas introduced the Nebraska Bill in
January. In February afterward there was a called session of the Illinois
Legislature. Of the one hundred members composing the two branches of that
body, about seventy were Democrats. These latter held a caucus in which
the Nebraska Bill was talked of, if not formally discussed. It was thereby
discovered that just three, and no more, were in favor of the measure. In
a day or two Douglas’s orders came on to have resolutions passed approving
the bill; and they were passed by large majorities!!!! The truth of this
is vouched for by a bolting Democratic member. The masses, too, Democratic
as well as Whig, were even nearer unanimous against it; but, as soon
as the party necessity of supporting it became apparent, the way the
Democrats began to see the wisdom and justice of it was perfectly

You say that if Kansas fairly votes herself a free State, as a Christian
you will rejoice at it. All decent slaveholders talk that way, and I
do not doubt their candor. But they never vote that way. Although in
a private letter or conversation you will express your preference that
Kansas shall be free, you would vote for no man for Congress who would say
the same thing publicly. No such man could be elected from any district
in a slave State. You think Stringfellow and company ought to be hung; and
yet at the next Presidential election you will vote for the exact type and
representative of Stringfellow. The slave-breeders and slave-traders are
a small, odious, and detested class among you; and yet in politics they
dictate the course of all of you, and are as completely your masters as
you are the master of your own negroes. You inquire where I now stand.
That is a disputed point. I think I am a Whig; but others say there are
no Whigs, and that I am an Abolitionist. When I was at Washington, I voted
for the Wilmot Proviso as good as forty times; and I never heard of any
one attempting to un-Whig me for that. I now do no more than oppose the
extension of slavery. I am not a Know-Nothing; that is certain. How could
I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes be in favor of
degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to
me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that “all men
are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal,
except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men
are created equal, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.” When it
comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make
no pretense of loving liberty,–to Russia, for instance, where despotism
can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

Mary will probably pass a day or two in Louisville in October. My kindest
regards to Mrs. Speed. On the leading subject of this letter I have more
of her sympathy than I have of yours; and yet let me say I am,

Your friend forever,





SPRINGFIELD, February 13, 1856.


Says Tom to John, “Here’s your old rotten wheelbarrow. I’ve broke it usin’
on it. I wish you would mend it, ‘case I shall want to borrow it this
arternoon.” Acting on this as a precedent, I say, “Here’s your old
‘chalked hat,–I wish you would take it and send me a new one, ‘case I
shall want to use it the first of March.”

Yours truly,


(A ‘chalked hat’ was the common term, at that time, for a railroad pass.)



[From the Report by William C. Whitney.]

(Mr. Whitney’s notes were made at the time, but not written out until
1896. He does not claim that the speech, as here reported, is literally
correct only that he has followed the argument, and that in many cases the
sentences are as Mr. Lincoln spoke them.)

Mr. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN: I was over at [Cries of “Platform!” “Take
the platform!”]–I say, that while I was at Danville Court, some of our
friends of Anti-Nebraska got together in Springfield and elected me as one
delegate to represent old Sangamon with them in this convention, and I
am here certainly as a sympathizer in this movement and by virtue of that
meeting and selection. But we can hardly be called delegates strictly,
inasmuch as, properly speaking, we represent nobody but ourselves. I think
it altogether fair to say that we have no Anti-Nebraska party in Sangamon,
although there is a good deal of Anti-Nebraska feeling there; but I say
for myself, and I think I may speak also for my colleagues, that we who
are here fully approve of the platform and of all that has been done [A
voice, “Yes!”], and even if we are not regularly delegates, it will be
right for me to answer your call to speak. I suppose we truly stand for
the public sentiment of Sangamon on the great question of the repeal,
although we do not yet represent many numbers who have taken a distinct
position on the question.

We are in a trying time–it ranges above mere party–and this movement
to call a halt and turn our steps backward needs all the help and good
counsels it can get; for unless popular opinion makes itself very strongly
felt, and a change is made in our present course, blood will flow on
account of Nebraska, and brother’s hands will be raised against brother!

[The last sentence was uttered in such an earnest, impressive, if not,
indeed, tragic, manner, as to make a cold chill creep over me. Others gave
a similar experience.]

I have listened with great interest to the earnest appeal made to Illinois
men by the gentleman from Lawrence [James S. Emery] who has just addressed
us so eloquently and forcibly. I was deeply moved by his statement of the
wrongs done to free-State men out there. I think it just to say that all
true men North should sympathize with them, and ought to be willing to
do any possible and needful thing to right their wrongs. But we must not
promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot;
we must be calm and moderate, and consider the whole difficulty, and
determine what is possible and just. We must not be led by excitement
and passion to do that which our sober judgments would not approve in our
cooler moments. We have higher aims; we will have more serious business
than to dally with temporary measures.

We are here to stand firmly for a principle–to stand firmly for a right.
We know that great political and moral wrongs are done, and outrages
committed, and we denounce those wrongs and outrages, although we cannot,
at present, do much more. But we desire to reach out beyond those personal
outrages and establish a rule that will apply to all, and so prevent any
future outrages.

We have seen to-day that every shade of popular opinion is represented
here, with Freedom, or rather Free Soil, as the basis. We have come
together as in some sort representatives of popular opinion against the
extension of slavery into territory now free in fact as well as by law,
and the pledged word of the statesmen of the nation who are now no more.
We come–we are here assembled together–to protest as well as we can
against a great wrong, and to take measures, as well as we now can, to
make that wrong right; to place the nation, as far as it may be possible
now, as it was before the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; and the plain
way to do this is to restore the Compromise, and to demand and determine
that Kansas shall be free! [Immense applause.] While we affirm, and
reaffirm, if necessary, our devotion to the principles of the Declaration
of Independence, let our practical work here be limited to the above. We
know that there is not a perfect agreement of sentiment here on the public
questions which might be rightfully considered in this convention, and
that the indignation which we all must feel cannot be helped; but all of
us must give up something for the good of the cause. There is one desire
which is uppermost in the mind, one wish common to us all, to which no
dissent will be made; and I counsel you earnestly to bury all resentment,
to sink all personal feeling, make all things work to a common purpose in
which we are united and agreed about, and which all present will agree is
absolutely necessary–which must be done by any rightful mode if there
be such: Slavery must be kept out of Kansas! [Applause.] The test–the
pinch–is right there. If we lose Kansas to freedom, an example will be
set which will prove fatal to freedom in the end. We, therefore, in
the language of the Bible, must “lay the axe to the root of the tree.”
Temporizing will not do longer; now is the time for decision–for firm,
persistent, resolute action. [Applause.]

The Nebraska Bill, or rather Nebraska law, is not one of wholesome
legislation, but was and is an act of legislative usurpation, whose
result, if not indeed intention, is to make slavery national; and unless
headed off in some effective way, we are in a fair way to see this land
of boasted freedom converted into a land of slavery in fact. [Sensation.]
Just open your two eyes, and see if this be not so. I need do no more than
state, to command universal approval, that almost the entire North, as
well as a large following in the border States, is radically opposed to
the planting of slavery in free territory. Probably in a popular vote
throughout the nation nine tenths of the voters in the free States, and
at least one-half in the border States, if they could express their
sentiments freely, would vote NO on such an issue; and it is safe to say
that two thirds of the votes of the entire nation would be opposed to it.
And yet, in spite of this overbalancing of sentiment in this free country,
we are in a fair way to see Kansas present itself for admission as a slave
State. Indeed, it is a felony, by the local law of Kansas, to deny that
slavery exists there even now. By every principle of law, a negro in
Kansas is free; yet the bogus Legislature makes it an infamous crime to
tell him that he is free!

Statutes of Kansas, 1555, chapter 151, Sec. 12: If any free person, by
speaking or by writing, assert or maintain that persons have not the right
to hold slaves in this Territory, or shall introduce into this Territory,
print, publish, write, circulate . . . any book, paper, magazine,
pamphlet, or circular containing any denial of the right of persons
to hold slaves in this Territory such person shall be deemed guilty of
felony, and punished by imprisonment at hard labor for a term of not
less than two years. Sec. 13. No person who is conscientiously opposed
to holding slaves, or who does not admit the right to hold slaves in this
Territory, shall sit as a juror on the trial of any prosecution for any
violation of any Sections of this Act.

The party lash and the fear of ridicule will overawe justice and liberty;
for it is a singular fact, but none the less a fact, and well known by the
most common experience, that men will do things under the terror of the
party lash that they would not on any account or for any consideration
do otherwise; while men who will march up to the mouth of a loaded cannon
without shrinking will run from the terrible name of “Abolitionist,”
even when pronounced by a worthless creature whom they, with good reason,
despise. For instance–to press this point a little–Judge Douglas
introduced his Nebraska Bill in January; and we had an extra session of
our Legislature in the succeeding February, in which were seventy-five
Democrats; and at a party caucus, fully attended, there were just three
votes, out of the whole seventy-five, for the measure. But in a few days
orders came on from Washington, commanding them to approve the measure;
the party lash was applied, and it was brought up again in caucus,
and passed by a large majority. The masses were against it, but party
necessity carried it; and it was passed through the lower house of
Congress against the will of the people, for the same reason. Here is
where the greatest danger lies that, while we profess to be a government
of law and reason, law will give way to violence on demand of this
awful and crushing power. Like the great Juggernaut–I think that is the
name–the great idol, it crushes everything that comes in its way, and
makes a [?]–or, as I read once, in a blackletter law book, “a slave is
a human being who is legally not a person but a thing.” And if the
safeguards to liberty are broken down, as is now attempted, when they have
made things of all the free negroes, how long, think you, before they
will begin to make things of poor white men? [Applause.] Be not deceived.
Revolutions do not go backward. The founder of the Democratic party
declared that all men were created equal. His successor in the leadership
has written the word “white” before men, making it read “all white men are
created equal.” Pray, will or may not the Know-Nothings, if they should
get in power, add the word “Protestant,” making it read “all Protestant
white men…?”

Meanwhile the hapless negro is the fruitful subject of reprisals in other
quarters. John Pettit, whom Tom Benton paid his respects to, you will
recollect, calls the immortal Declaration “a self-evident lie”; while at
the birthplace of freedom–in the shadow of Bunker Hill and of the “cradle
of liberty,” at the home of the Adamses and Warren and Otis–Choate,
from our side of the house, dares to fritter away the birthday promise
of liberty by proclaiming the Declaration to be “a string of glittering
generalities”; and the Southern Whigs, working hand in hand with
proslavery Democrats, are making Choate’s theories practical. Thomas
Jefferson, a slaveholder, mindful of the moral element in slavery,
solemnly declared that he trembled for his country when he remembered that
God is just; while Judge Douglas, with an insignificant wave of the hand,
“don’t care whether slavery is voted up or voted down.” Now, if slavery
is right, or even negative, he has a right to treat it in this trifling
manner. But if it is a moral and political wrong, as all Christendom
considers it to be, how can he answer to God for this attempt to spread
and fortify it? [Applause.]

But no man, and Judge Douglas no more than any other, can maintain a
negative, or merely neutral, position on this question; and, accordingly,
he avows that the Union was made by white men and for white men and their
descendants. As matter of fact, the first branch of the proposition is
historically true; the government was made by white men, and they were
and are the superior race. This I admit. But the corner-stone of the
government, so to speak, was the declaration that “all men are created
equal,” and all entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

And not only so, but the framers of the Constitution were particular
to keep out of that instrument the word “slave,” the reason being that
slavery would ultimately come to an end, and they did not wish to have any
reminder that in this free country human beings were ever prostituted to
slavery. [Applause.] Nor is it any argument that we are superior and the
negro inferior–that he has but one talent while we have ten. Let the
negro possess the little he has in independence; if he has but one talent,
he should be permitted to keep the little he has. [Applause:] But slavery
will endure no test of reason or logic; and yet its advocates, like
Douglas, use a sort of bastard logic, or noisy assumption it might better
be termed, like the above, in order to prepare the mind for the gradual,
but none the less certain, encroachments of the Moloch of slavery upon the
fair domain of freedom. But however much you may argue upon it, or smother
it in soft phrase, slavery can only be maintained by force–by violence.
The repeal of the Missouri Compromise was by violence. It was a violation
of both law and the sacred obligations of honor, to overthrow and trample
under foot a solemn compromise, obtained by the fearful loss to freedom of
one of the fairest of our Western domains. Congress violated the will and
confidence of its constituents in voting for the bill; and while public
sentiment, as shown by the elections of 1854, demanded the restoration of
this compromise, Congress violated its trust by refusing simply because it
had the force of numbers to hold on to it. And murderous violence is being
used now, in order to force slavery on to Kansas; for it cannot be done in
any other way. [Sensation.]

The necessary result was to establish the rule of violence–force, instead
of the rule of law and reason; to perpetuate and spread slavery, and
in time to make it general. We see it at both ends of the line. In
Washington, on the very spot where the outrage was started, the fearless
Sumner is beaten to insensibility, and is now slowly dying; while senators
who claim to be gentlemen and Christians stood by, countenancing the
act, and even applauding it afterward in their places in the Senate. Even
Douglas, our man, saw it all and was within helping distance, yet let the
murderous blows fall unopposed. Then, at the other end of the line, at the
very time Sumner was being murdered, Lawrence was being destroyed for
the crime of freedom. It was the most prominent stronghold of liberty in
Kansas, and must give way to the all-dominating power of slavery. Only
two days ago, Judge Trumbull found it necessary to propose a bill in the
Senate to prevent a general civil war and to restore peace in Kansas.

We live in the midst of alarms; anxiety beclouds the future; we expect
some new disaster with each newspaper we read. Are we in a healthful
political state? Are not the tendencies plain? Do not the signs of the
times point plainly the way in which we are going? [Sensation.]

In the early days of the Constitution slavery was recognized, by South and
North alike, as an evil, and the division of sentiment about it was not
controlled by geographical lines or considerations of climate, but by
moral and philanthropic views. Petitions for the abolition of slavery were
presented to the very first Congress by Virginia and Massachusetts alike.
To show the harmony which prevailed, I will state that a fugitive slave
law was passed in 1793, with no dissenting voice in the Senate, and
but seven dissenting votes in the House. It was, however, a wise law,
moderate, and, under the Constitution, a just one. Twenty-five years
later, a more stringent law was proposed and defeated; and thirty-five
years after that, the present law, drafted by Mason of Virginia, was
passed by Northern votes. I am not, just now, complaining of this law, but
I am trying to show how the current sets; for the proposed law of 1817 was
far less offensive than the present one. In 1774 the Continental Congress
pledged itself, without a dissenting vote, to wholly discontinue the slave
trade, and to neither purchase nor import any slave; and less than three
months before the passage of the Declaration of Independence, the same
Congress which adopted that declaration unanimously resolved “that no
slave be imported into any of the thirteen United Colonies.” [Great

On the second day of July, 1776, the draft of a Declaration of
Independence was reported to Congress by the committee, and in it the
slave trade was characterized as “an execrable commerce,” as “a piratical
warfare,” as the “opprobrium of infidel powers,” and as “a cruel war
against human nature.” [Applause.] All agreed on this except South
Carolina and Georgia, and in order to preserve harmony, and from the
necessity of the case, these expressions were omitted. Indeed, abolition
societies existed as far south as Virginia; and it is a well-known fact
that Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lee, Henry, Mason, and Pendleton were
qualified abolitionists, and much more radical on that subject than we
of the Whig and Democratic parties claim to be to-day. On March 1, 1784,
Virginia ceded to the confederation all its lands lying northwest of the
Ohio River. Jefferson, Chase of Maryland, and Howell of Rhode Island, as
a committee on that and territory thereafter to be ceded, reported that
no slavery should exist after the year 1800. Had this report been adopted,
not only the Northwest, but Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi
also would have been free; but it required the assent of nine States to
ratify it. North Carolina was divided, and thus its vote was lost; and
Delaware, Georgia, and New Jersey refused to vote. In point of fact, as it
was, it was assented to by six States. Three years later on a square vote
to exclude slavery from the Northwest, only one vote, and that from New
York, was against it. And yet, thirty-seven years later, five thousand
citizens of Illinois, out of a voting mass of less than twelve thousand,
deliberately, after a long and heated contest, voted to introduce slavery
in Illinois; and, to-day, a large party in the free State of Illinois are
willing to vote to fasten the shackles of slavery on the fair domain of
Kansas, notwithstanding it received the dowry of freedom long before its
birth as a political community. I repeat, therefore, the question: Is it
not plain in what direction we are tending? [Sensation.] In the colonial
time, Mason, Pendleton, and Jefferson were as hostile to slavery in
Virginia as Otis, Ames, and the Adamses were in Massachusetts; and
Virginia made as earnest an effort to get rid of it as old Massachusetts
did. But circumstances were against them and they failed; but not that the
good will of its leading men was lacking. Yet within less than fifty years
Virginia changed its tune, and made negro-breeding for the cotton and
sugar States one of its leading industries. [Laughter and applause.]

In the Constitutional Convention, George Mason of Virginia made a more
violent abolition speech than my friends Lovejoy or Codding would desire
to make here to-day–a speech which could not be safely repeated anywhere
on Southern soil in this enlightened year. But, while there were some
differences of opinion on this subject even then, discussion was allowed;
but as you see by the Kansas slave code, which, as you know, is the
Missouri slave code, merely ferried across the river, it is a felony
to even express an opinion hostile to that foul blot in the land of
Washington and the Declaration of Independence. [Sensation.]

In Kentucky–my State–in 1849, on a test vote, the mighty influence
of Henry Clay and many other good then there could not get a symptom of
expression in favor of gradual emancipation on a plain issue of marching
toward the light of civilization with Ohio and Illinois; but the State of
Boone and Hardin and Henry Clay, with a nigger under each arm, took the
black trail toward the deadly swamps of barbarism. Is there–can there
be–any doubt about this thing? And is there any doubt that we must all
lay aside our prejudices and march, shoulder to shoulder, in the great
army of Freedom? [Applause.]

Every Fourth of July our young orators all proclaim this to be “the land
of the free and the home of the brave!” Well, now, when you orators get
that off next year, and, may be, this very year, how would you like some
old grizzled farmer to get up in the grove and deny it? [Laughter.] How
would you like that? But suppose Kansas comes in as a slave State, and
all the “border ruffians” have barbecues about it, and free-State men come
trailing back to the dishonored North, like whipped dogs with their tails
between their legs, it is–ain’t it?–evident that this is no more the
“land of the free”; and if we let it go so, we won’t dare to say “home of
the brave” out loud. [Sensation and confusion.]

Can any man doubt that, even in spite of the people’s will, slavery will
triumph through violence, unless that will be made manifest and enforced?
Even Governor Reeder claimed at the outset that the contest in Kansas was
to be fair, but he got his eyes open at last; and I believe that, as a
result of this moral and physical violence, Kansas will soon apply for
admission as a slave State. And yet we can’t mistake that the people
don’t want it so, and that it is a land which is free both by natural
and political law. No law, is free law! Such is the understanding of all
Christendom. In the Somerset case, decided nearly a century ago, the great
Lord Mansfield held that slavery was of such a nature that it must take
its rise in positive (as distinguished from natural) law; and that in no
country or age could it be traced back to any other source. Will some
one please tell me where is the positive law that establishes slavery in
Kansas? [A voice: “The bogus laws.”] Aye, the bogus laws! And, on the same
principle, a gang of Missouri horse-thieves could come into Illinois and
declare horse-stealing to be legal [Laughter], and it would be just as
legal as slavery is in Kansas. But by express statute, in the land of
Washington and Jefferson, we may soon be brought face to face with the
discreditable fact of showing to the world by our acts that we prefer
slavery to freedom–darkness to light! [Sensation.]

It is, I believe, a principle in law that when one party to a contract
violates it so grossly as to chiefly destroy the object for which it is
made, the other party may rescind it. I will ask Browning if that ain’t
good law. [Voices: “Yes!”] Well, now if that be right, I go for rescinding
the whole, entire Missouri Compromise and thus turning Missouri into a
free State; and I should like to know the difference–should like for
any one to point out the difference–between our making a free State of
Missouri and their making a slave State of Kansas. [Great applause.] There
ain’t one bit of difference, except that our way would be a great mercy
to humanity. But I have never said, and the Whig party has never said, and
those who oppose the Nebraska Bill do not as a body say, that they
have any intention of interfering with slavery in the slave States. Our
platform says just the contrary. We allow slavery to exist in the slave
States, not because slavery is right or good, but from the necessities of
our Union. We grant a fugitive slave law because it is so “nominated in
the bond”; because our fathers so stipulated–had to–and we are bound to
carry out this agreement. But they did not agree to introduce slavery in
regions where it did not previously exist. On the contrary, they said by
their example and teachings that they did not deem it expedient–did n’t
consider it right–to do so; and it is wise and right to do just as
they did about it. [Voices: “Good!”] And that it what we propose–not to
interfere with slavery where it exists (we have never tried to do it),
and to give them a reasonable and efficient fugitive slave law. [A voice:
“No!”] I say YES! [Applause.] It was part of the bargain, and I ‘m for
living up to it; but I go no further; I’m not bound to do more, and I
won’t agree any further. [Great applause.]

We, here in Illinois, should feel especially proud of the provision of
the Missouri Compromise excluding slavery from what is now Kansas; for an
Illinois man, Jesse B. Thomas, was its father. Henry Clay, who is credited
with the authorship of the Compromise in general terms, did not even vote
for that provision, but only advocated the ultimate admission by a second
compromise; and Thomas was, beyond all controversy, the real author of the
“slavery restriction” branch of the Compromise. To show the generosity of
the Northern members toward the Southern side: on a test vote to exclude
slavery from Missouri, ninety voted not to exclude, and eighty-seven to
exclude, every vote from the slave States being ranged with the former and
fourteen votes from the free States, of whom seven were from New England
alone; while on a vote to exclude slavery from what is now Kansas, the
vote was one hundred and thirty-four for, to forty-two against. The
scheme, as a whole, was, of course, a Southern triumph. It is idle to
contend otherwise, as is now being done by the Nebraskites; it was
so shown by the votes and quite as emphatically by the expressions of
representative men. Mr. Lowndes of South Carolina was never known to
commit a political mistake; his was the great judgment of that section;
and he declared that this measure “would restore tranquillity to the
country–a result demanded by every consideration of discretion, of
moderation, of wisdom, and of virtue.” When the measure came before
President Monroe for his approval, he put to each member of his cabinet
this question: “Has Congress the constitutional power to prohibit slavery
in a Territory?” And John C. Calhoun and William H. Crawford from the
South, equally with John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Rush, and Smith
Thompson from the North, alike answered, “Yes!” without qualification or
equivocation; and this measure, of so great consequence to the South, was
passed; and Missouri was, by means of it, finally enabled to knock at the
door of the Republic for an open passage to its brood of slaves. And, in
spite of this, Freedom’s share is about to be taken by violence–by the
force of misrepresentative votes, not called for by the popular will.
What name can I, in common decency, give to this wicked transaction?

But even then the contest was not over; for when the Missouri constitution
came before Congress for its approval, it forbade any free negro or
mulatto from entering the State. In short, our Illinois “black laws” were
hidden away in their constitution [Laughter], and the controversy was thus
revived. Then it was that Mr. Clay’s talents shone out conspicuously, and
the controversy that shook the union to its foundation was finally settled
to the satisfaction of the conservative parties on both sides of the line,
though not to the extremists on either, and Missouri was admitted by the
small majority of six in the lower House. How great a majority, do you
think, would have been given had Kansas also been secured for slavery?
[A voice: “A majority the other way.”] “A majority the other way,” is
answered. Do you think it would have been safe for a Northern man to have
confronted his constituents after having voted to consign both
Missouri and Kansas to hopeless slavery? And yet this man Douglas, who
misrepresents his constituents and who has exerted his highest talents in
that direction, will be carried in triumph through the State and hailed
with honor while applauding that act. [Three groans for “Dug!”] And this
shows whither we are tending. This thing of slavery is more powerful than
its supporters–even than the high priests that minister at its altar.
It debauches even our greatest men. It gathers strength, like a rolling
snowball, by its own infamy. Monstrous crimes are committed in its name by
persons collectively which they would not dare to commit as individuals.
Its aggressions and encroachments almost surpass belief. In a despotism,
one might not wonder to see slavery advance steadily and remorselessly
into new dominions; but is it not wonderful, is it not even alarming, to
see its steady advance in a land dedicated to the proposition that “all
men are created equal”? [Sensation.]

It yields nothing itself; it keeps all it has, and gets all it can
besides. It really came dangerously near securing Illinois in 1824; it
did get Missouri in 1821. The first proposition was to admit what is now
Arkansas and Missouri as one slave State. But the territory was divided
and Arkansas came in, without serious question, as a slave State; and
afterwards Missouri, not, as a sort of equality, free, but also as a slave
State. Then we had Florida and Texas; and now Kansas is about to be forced
into the dismal procession. [Sensation.] And so it is wherever you look.
We have not forgotten–it is but six years since–how dangerously near
California came to being a slave State. Texas is a slave State, and four
other slave States may be carved from its vast domain. And yet, in the
year 1829, slavery was abolished throughout that vast region by a royal
decree of the then sovereign of Mexico. Will you please tell me by what
right slavery exists in Texas to-day? By the same right as, and no higher
or greater than, slavery is seeking dominion in Kansas: by political
force–peaceful, if that will suffice; by the torch (as in Kansas) and the
bludgeon (as in the Senate chamber), if required. And so history repeats
itself; and even as slavery has kept its course by craft, intimidation,
and violence in the past, so it will persist, in my judgment, until met
and dominated by the will of a people bent on its restriction.

We have, this very afternoon, heard bitter denunciations of Brooks in
Washington, and Titus, Stringfellow, Atchison, Jones, and Shannon in
Kansas–the battle-ground of slavery. I certainly am not going to advocate
or shield them; but they and their acts are but the necessary outcome of
the Nebraska law. We should reserve our highest censure for the authors
of the mischief, and not for the catspaws which they use. I believe it was
Shakespeare who said, “Where the offence lies, there let the axe fall”;
and, in my opinion, this man Douglas and the Northern men in Congress
who advocate “Nebraska” are more guilty than a thousand Joneses and
Stringfellows, with all their murderous practices, can be. [Applause.]

We have made a good beginning here to-day. As our Methodist friends would
say, “I feel it is good to be here.” While extremists may find some fault
with the moderation of our platform, they should recollect that “the
battle is not always to the strong, nor the race to the swift.” In grave
emergencies, moderation is generally safer than radicalism; and as this
struggle is likely to be long and earnest, we must not, by our action,
repel any who are in sympathy with us in the main, but rather win all that
we can to our standard. We must not belittle nor overlook the facts of our
condition–that we are new and comparatively weak, while our enemies are
entrenched and relatively strong. They have the administration and the
political power; and, right or wrong, at present they have the numbers.
Our friends who urge an appeal to arms with so much force and eloquence
should recollect that the government is arrayed against us, and that the
numbers are now arrayed against us as well; or, to state it nearer to the
truth, they are not yet expressly and affirmatively for us; and we should
repel friends rather than gain them by anything savoring of revolutionary
methods. As it now stands, we must appeal to the sober sense and
patriotism of the people. We will make converts day by day; we will grow
strong by calmness and moderation; we will grow strong by the violence and
injustice of our adversaries. And, unless truth be a mockery and justice
a hollow lie, we will be in the majority after a while, and then the
revolution which we will accomplish will be none the less radical from
being the result of pacific measures. The battle of freedom is to be
fought out on principle. Slavery is a violation of the eternal right. We
have temporized with it from the necessities of our condition; but as sure
as God reigns and school children read, THAT BLACK FOUL LIE CAN NEVER
BE CONSECRATED INTO GOD’S HALLOWED TRUTH! [Immense applause lasting some

One of our greatest difficulties is, that men who know that slavery is a
detestable crime and ruinous to the nation are compelled, by our peculiar
condition and other circumstances, to advocate it concretely, though
damning it in the raw. Henry Clay was a brilliant example of this
tendency; others of our purest statesmen are compelled to do so; and thus
slavery secures actual support from those who detest it at heart. Yet
Henry Clay perfected and forced through the compromise which secured to
slavery a great State as well as a political advantage. Not that he hated
slavery less, but that he loved the whole Union more. As long as slavery
profited by his great compromise, the hosts of proslavery could not
sufficiently cover him with praise; but now that this compromise stands in
their way–

“….they never mention him,
His name is never heard:
Their lips are now forbid to speak
That once familiar word.”

They have slaughtered one of his most cherished measures, and his ghost
would arise to rebuke them. [Great applause.]

Now, let us harmonize, my friends, and appeal to the moderation and
patriotism of the people: to the sober second thought; to the awakened
public conscience. The repeal of the sacred Missouri Compromise has
installed the weapons of violence: the bludgeon, the incendiary torch, the
death-dealing rifle, the bristling cannon–the weapons of kingcraft, of
the inquisition, of ignorance, of barbarism, of oppression. We see its
fruits in the dying bed of the heroic Sumner; in the ruins of the “Free
State” hotel; in the smoking embers of the Herald of Freedom; in the
free-State Governor of Kansas chained to a stake on freedom’s soil like a
horse-thief, for the crime of freedom. [Applause.] We see it in Christian
statesmen, and Christian newspapers, and Christian pulpits applauding the
cowardly act of a low bully, WHO CRAWLED UPON HIS VICTIM BEHIND HIS BACK
AND DEALT THE DEADLY BLOW. [Sensation and applause.] We note our political
demoralization in the catch-words that are coming into such common use;
on the one hand, “freedom-shriekers,” and sometimes “freedom-screechers”
[Laughter], and, on the other hand, “border-ruffians,” and that fully
deserved. And the significance of catch-words cannot pass unheeded, for
they constitute a sign of the times. Everything in this world “jibes” in
with everything else, and all the fruits of this Nebraska Bill are like
the poisoned source from which they come. I will not say that we may not
sooner or later be compelled to meet force by force; but the time has not
yet come, and, if we are true to ourselves, may never come. Do not mistake
that the ballot is stronger than the bullet. Therefore let the legions
of slavery use bullets; but let us wait patiently till November and fire
ballots at them in return; and by that peaceful policy I believe we shall
ultimately win. [Applause.]

It was by that policy that here in Illinois the early fathers fought the
good fight and gained the victory. In 1824 the free men of our State, led
by Governor Coles (who was a native of Maryland and President Madison’s
private secretary), determined that those beautiful groves should never
re-echo the dirge of one who has no title to himself. By their resolute
determination, the winds that sweep across our broad prairies shall never
cool the parched brow, nor shall the unfettered streams that bring joy and
gladness to our free soil water the tired feet, of a slave; but so long as
those heavenly breezes and sparkling streams bless the land, or the groves
and their fragrance or memory remain, the humanity to which they minister
SHALL BE FOREVER FREE! [Great applause] Palmer, Yates, Williams, Browning,
and some more in this convention came from Kentucky to Illinois (instead
of going to Missouri), not only to better their conditions, but also to
get away from slavery. They have said so to me, and it is understood among
us Kentuckians that we don’t like it one bit. Now, can we, mindful of the
blessings of liberty which the early men of Illinois left to us, refuse a
like privilege to the free men who seek to plant Freedom’s banner on our
Western outposts? [“No!” “No!”] Should we not stand by our neighbors who
seek to better their conditions in Kansas and Nebraska? [“Yes!” “Yes!”]
Can we as Christian men, and strong and free ourselves, wield the sledge
or hold the iron which is to manacle anew an already oppressed race?
[“No!” “No!”] “Woe unto them,” it is written, “that decree unrighteous
decrees and that write grievousness which they have prescribed.” Can we
afford to sin any more deeply against human liberty? [“No!” “No!”]

One great trouble in the matter is, that slavery is an insidious and
crafty power, and gains equally by open violence of the brutal as well as
by sly management of the peaceful. Even after the Ordinance of 1787, the
settlers in Indiana and Illinois (it was all one government then) tried to
get Congress to allow slavery temporarily, and petitions to that end were
sent from Kaskaskia, and General Harrison, the Governor, urged it from
Vincennes, the capital. If that had succeeded, good-bye to liberty here.
But John Randolph of Virginia made a vigorous report against it; and
although they persevered so well as to get three favorable reports for it,
yet the United States Senate, with the aid of some slave States, finally
squelched if for good. [Applause.] And that is why this hall is to-day a
temple for free men instead of a negro livery-stable. [Great applause and
laughter.] Once let slavery get planted in a locality, by ever so weak or
doubtful a title, and in ever so small numbers, and it is like the Canada
thistle or Bermuda grass–you can’t root it out. You yourself may detest
slavery; but your neighbor has five or six slaves, and he is an excellent
neighbor, or your son has married his daughter, and they beg you to help
save their property, and you vote against your interests and principle to
accommodate a neighbor, hoping that your vote will be on the losing side.
And others do the same; and in those ways slavery gets a sure foothold.
And when that is done the whole mighty Union–the force of the nation–is
committed to its support. And that very process is working in Kansas
to-day. And you must recollect that the slave property is worth a billion
of dollars; while free-State men must work for sentiment alone. Then there
are “blue lodges”–as they call them–everywhere doing their secret and
deadly work.

It is a very strange thing, and not solvable by any moral law that I know
of, that if a man loses his horse, the whole country will turn out to
help hang the thief; but if a man but a shade or two darker than I am is
himself stolen, the same crowd will hang one who aids in restoring him to
liberty. Such are the inconsistencies of slavery, where a horse is more
sacred than a man; and the essence of squatter or popular sovereignty–I
don’t care how you call it–is that if one man chooses to make a slave of
another, no third man shall be allowed to object. And if you can do this
in free Kansas, and it is allowed to stand, the next thing you will see is
shiploads of negroes from Africa at the wharf at Charleston, for one thing
is as truly lawful as the other; and these are the bastard notions we have
got to stamp out, else they will stamp us out. [Sensation and applause.]

Two years ago, at Springfield, Judge Douglas avowed that Illinois came
into the Union as a slave State, and that slavery was weeded out by
the operation of his great, patent, everlasting principle of “popular
sovereignty.” [Laughter.] Well, now, that argument must be answered, for
it has a little grain of truth at the bottom. I do not mean that it is
true in essence, as he would have us believe. It could not be essentially
true if the Ordinance of ’87 was valid. But, in point of fact, there
were some degraded beings called slaves in Kaskaskia and the other French
settlements when our first State constitution was adopted; that is a fact,
and I don’t deny it. Slaves were brought here as early as 1720, and were
kept here in spite of the Ordinance of 1787 against it. But slavery did
not thrive here. On the contrary, under the influence of the ordinance the
number decreased fifty-one from 1810 to 1820; while under the influence of
squatter sovereignty, right across the river in Missouri, they increased
seven thousand two hundred and eleven in the same time; and slavery
finally faded out in Illinois, under the influence of the law of freedom,
while it grew stronger and stronger in Missouri, under the law or practice
of “popular sovereignty.” In point of fact there were but one hundred and
seventeen slaves in Illinois one year after its admission, or one to every
four hundred and seventy of its population; or, to state it in another
way, if Illinois was a slave State in 1820, so were New York and New
Jersey much greater slave States from having had greater numbers, slavery
having been established there in very early times. But there is this vital
difference between all these States and the Judge’s Kansas experiment:
that they sought to disestablish slavery which had been already
established, while the Judge seeks, so far as he can, to disestablish
freedom, which had been established there by the Missouri Compromise.
[Voices: “Good!”]

The Union is under-going a fearful strain; but it is a stout old ship, and
has weathered many a hard blow, and “the stars in their courses,” aye, an
invisible Power, greater than the puny efforts of men, will fight for us.
But we ourselves must not decline the burden of responsibility, nor take
counsel of unworthy passions. Whatever duty urges us to do or to omit must
be done or omitted; and the recklessness with which our adversaries break
the laws, or counsel their violation, should afford no example for us.
Therefore, let us revere the Declaration of Independence; let us continue
to obey the Constitution and the laws; let us keep step to the music of
the Union. Let us draw a cordon, so to speak, around the slave States, and
the hateful institution, like a reptile poisoning itself, will perish by
its own infamy. [Applause.]

But we cannot be free men if this is, by our national choice, to be a
land of slavery. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for
themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.[Loud

Did you ever, my friends, seriously reflect upon the speed with which we
are tending downwards? Within the memory of men now present the leading
statesman of Virginia could make genuine, red-hot abolitionist speeches in
old Virginia! and, as I have said, now even in “free Kansas” it is a crime
to declare that it is “free Kansas.” The very sentiments that I and others
have just uttered would entitle us, and each of us, to the ignominy and
seclusion of a dungeon; and yet I suppose that, like Paul, we were “free
born.” But if this thing is allowed to continue, it will be but one step
further to impress the same rule in Illinois. [Sensation.]

The conclusion of all is, that we must restore the Missouri Compromise.
We must highly resolve that Kansas must be free! [Great applause.] We
must reinstate the birthday promise of the Republic; we must reaffirm the
Declaration of Independence; we must make good in essence as well as in
form Madison’s avowal that “the word slave ought not to appear in the
Constitution”; and we must even go further, and decree that only local
law, and not that time-honored instrument, shall shelter a slaveholder. We
must make this a land of liberty in fact, as it is in name. But in seeking
to attain these results–so indispensable if the liberty which is our
pride and boast shall endure–we will be loyal to the Constitution and
to the “flag of our Union,” and no matter what our grievance–even though
Kansas shall come in as a slave State; and no matter what theirs–even if
we shall restore the compromise–WE WILL SAY TO THE SOUTHERN DISUNIONISTS,

[This was the climax; the audience rose to its feet en masse, applauded,
stamped, waved handkerchiefs, threw hats in the air, and ran riot for
several minutes. The arch-enchanter who wrought this transformation
looked, meanwhile, like the personification of political justice.]

But let us, meanwhile, appeal to the sense and patriotism of the people,
and not to their prejudices; let us spread the floods of enthusiasm here
aroused all over these vast prairies, so suggestive of freedom. Let us
commence by electing the gallant soldier Governor (Colonel) Bissell
who stood for the honor of our State alike on the plains and amidst the
chaparral of Mexico and on the floor of Congress, while he defied the
Southern Hotspur; and that will have a greater moral effect than all the
border ruffians can accomplish in all their raids on Kansas. There is both
a power and a magic in popular opinion. To that let us now appeal;
and while, in all probability, no resort to force will be needed, our
moderation and forbearance will stand US in good stead when, if ever, WE
and a rush for the orator.]

One can realize with this ability to move people’s minds that the Southern
Conspiracy were right to hate this man. He, better than any at the time
was able to uncover their stratagems and tear down their sophisms and



SPRINGFIELD, July 9, 1856.

DEAR WHITNEY:–I now expect to go to Chicago on the 15th, and I probably
shall remain there or thereabouts for about two weeks.

It turned me blind when I first heard Swett was beaten and Lovejoy
nominated; but, after much reflection, I really believe it is best to let
it stand. This, of course, I wish to be confidential.

Lamon did get your deeds. I went with him to the office, got them, and put
them in his hands myself.

Yours very truly,





Your’s of the 29th of June was duly received. I did not answer it because
it plagued me. This morning I received another from Judd and Peck, written
by consultation with you. Now let me tell you why I am plagued:

1. I can hardly spare the time.

2. I am superstitious. I have scarcely known a party preceding an election
to call in help from the neighboring States but they lost the State. Last
fall, our friends had Wade, of Ohio, and others, in Maine; and they lost
the State. Last spring our adversaries had New Hampshire full of South
Carolinians, and they lost the State. And so, generally, it seems to stir
up more enemies than friends.

Have the enemy called in any foreign help? If they have a foreign champion
there I should have no objection to drive a nail in his track. I shall
reach Chicago on the night of the 15th, to attend to a little business
in court. Consider the things I have suggested, and write me at Chicago.
Especially write me whether Browning consents to visit you.

Your obedient servant,




AUGUST 1, 1856.

You further charge us with being disunionists. If you mean that it is
our aim to dissolve the Union, I for myself answer that it is untrue; for
those who act with me I answer that it is untrue. Have you heard us assert
that as our aim? Do you really believe that such is our aim? Do you find
it in our platform, our speeches, our conventions, or anywhere? If not,
withdraw the charge.

But you may say that, though it is not our aim, it will be the result
if we succeed, and that we are therefore disunionists in fact. This is a
grave charge you make against us, and we certainly have a right to demand
that you specify in what way we are to dissolve the Union. How are we to
effect this?

The only specification offered is volunteered by Mr. Fillmore in
his Albany speech. His charge is that if we elect a President and
Vice-President both from the free States, it will dissolve the Union.
This is open folly. The Constitution provides that the President and
Vice-President of the United States shall be of different States, but says
nothing as to the latitude and longitude of those States. In 1828 Andrew
Jackson, of Tennessee, and John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, were
elected President and Vice-President, both from slave States; but no one
thought of dissolving the Union then on that account. In 1840 Harrison, of
Ohio, and Tyler, of Virginia, were elected. In 1841 Harrison died and John
Tyler succeeded to the Presidency, and William R. King, of Alabama, was
elected acting Vice-President by the Senate; but no one supposed that the
Union was in danger. In fact, at the very time Mr. Fillmore uttered this
idle charge, the state of things in the United States disproved it. Mr.
Pierce, of New Hampshire, and Mr. Bright, of Indiana, both from free
States, are President and Vice-President, and the Union stands and will
stand. You do not pretend that it ought to dissolve the Union, and the
facts show that it won’t; therefore the charge may be dismissed without
further consideration.

No other specification is made, and the only one that could be made is
that the restoration of the restriction of 1820, making the United States
territory free territory, would dissolve the Union. Gentlemen, it will
require a decided majority to pass such an act. We, the majority, being
able constitutionally to do all that we purpose, would have no desire to
dissolve the Union. Do you say that such restriction of slavery would
be unconstitutional, and that some of the States would not submit to its
enforcement? I grant you that an unconstitutional act is not a law; but
I do not ask and will not take your construction of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court of the United States is the tribunal to decide such a
question, and we will submit to its decisions; and if you do also,
there will be an end of the matter. Will you? If not, who are the
disunionists–you or we? We, the majority, would not strive to dissolve
the Union; and if any attempt is made, it must be by you, who so loudly
stigmatize us as disunionists. But the Union, in any event, will not be
dissolved. We don’t want to dissolve it, and if you attempt it we won’t
let you. With the purse and sword, the army and navy and treasury, in our
hands and at our command, you could not do it. This government would be
very weak indeed if a majority with a disciplined army and navy and
a well-filled treasury could not preserve itself when attacked by an
unarmed, undisciplined, unorganized minority. All this talk about the
dissolution of the Union is humbug, nothing but folly. We do not want to
dissolve the Union; you shall not.




DEAR SIR:–I understand you are a Fillmore man. If, as between Fremont
and Buchanan, you really prefer the election of Buchanan, then burn this
without reading a line further. But if you would like to defeat Buchanan
and his gang, allow me a word with you: Does any one pretend that Fillmore
can carry the vote of this State? I have not heard a single man pretend
so. Every vote taken from Fremont and given to Fillmore is just so much
in favor of Buchanan. The Buchanan men see this; and hence their great
anxiety in favor of the Fillmore movement. They know where the shoe
pinches. They now greatly prefer having a man of your character go for
Fillmore than for Buchanan because they expect several to go with you, who
would go for Fremont if you were to go directly for Buchanan.

I think I now understand the relative strength of the three parties in
this State as well as any one man does, and my opinion is that to-day
Buchanan has alone 85,000, Fremont 78,000, and Fillmore 21,000.

This gives B. the State by 7000 and leaves him in the minority of the
whole 14,000.

Fremont and Fillmore men being united on Bissell, as they already are,
he cannot be beaten. This is not a long letter, but it contains the whole

Yours as ever,



SPRINGFIELD, Aug. 19, 1856.

DEAR DUBOIS: Your letter on the same sheet with Mr. Miller’s is just
received. I have been absent four days. I do not know when your court

Trumbull has written the committee here to have a set of appointments
made for him commencing here in Springfield, on the 11th of Sept., and
to extend throughout the south half of the State. When he goes to
Lawrenceville, as he will, I will strain every nerve to be with you and
him. More than that I cannot promise now.

Yours as truly as ever,




SPRINGFIELD, September 8, 1856.

DEAR SIR:–I understand you are a Fillmore man. Let me prove to you that
every vote withheld from Fremont and given to Fillmore in this State
actually lessens Fillmore’s chance of being President. Suppose Buchanan
gets all the slave States and Pennsylvania, and any other one State
besides; then he is elected, no matter who gets all the rest. But suppose
Fillmore gets the two slave States of Maryland and Kentucky; then Buchanan
is not elected; Fillmore goes into the House of Representatives, and may
be made President by a compromise. But suppose, again, Fillmore’s friends
throw away a few thousand votes on him in Indiana and Illinois; it will
inevitably give these States to Buchanan, which will more than compensate
him for the loss of Maryland and Kentucky, will elect him, and leave
Fillmore no chance in the House of Representatives or out of it.

This is as plain as adding up the weight of three small hogs. As Mr.
Fillmore has no possible chance to carry Illinois for himself, it is
plainly to his interest to let Fremont take it, and thus keep it out of
the hands of Buchanan. Be not deceived. Buchanan is the hard horse to beat
in this race. Let him have Illinois, and nothing can beat him; and he will
get Illinois if men persist in throwing away votes upon Mr. Fillmore.
Does some one persuade you that Mr. Fillmore can carry Illinois? Nonsense!
There are over seventy newspapers in Illinois opposing Buchanan, only
three or four of which support Mr. Fillmore, all the rest going for
Fremont. Are not these newspapers a fair index of the proportion of the
votes? If not, tell me why.

Again, of these three or four Fillmore newspapers, two, at least, are
supported in part by the Buchanan men, as I understand. Do not they know
where the shoe pinches? They know the Fillmore movement helps them, and
therefore they help it. Do think these things over, and then act according
to your judgment.

Yours very truly,



Sept. 14, 1856.

Dr. R. BOAL, Lacon, Ill.

MY DEAR SIR:–Yours of the 8th inviting me to be with [you] at Lacon on
the 30th is received. I feel that I owe you and our friends of Marshall a
good deal, and I will come if I can; and if I do not get there, it will be
because I shall think my efforts are now needed farther south.

Present my regards to Mrs. Boal, and believe [me], as ever,

Your friend,



SPRINGFIELD, Sept. 14, 1856.

DEAR SIR:–Yours, inviting me to attend a mass-meeting on the 23d inst.,
is received. It would be very pleasant to strike hands with the Fremonters
of Iowa, who have led the van so splendidly, in this grand charge which
we hope and believe will end in a most glorious victory. All thanks, all
honor to Iowa! But Iowa is out of all danger, and it is no time for us,
when the battle still rages, to pay holiday visits to Iowa. I am sure you
will excuse me for remaining in Illinois, where much hard work is still to
be done.

Yours very truly,




We have another annual Presidential message. Like a rejected lover making
merry at the wedding of his rival, the President felicitates himself
hugely over the late Presidential election. He considers the result a
signal triumph of good principles and good men, and a very pointed rebuke
of bad ones. He says the people did it. He forgets that the “people,” as
he complacently calls only those who voted for Buchanan, are in a minority
of the whole people by about four hundred thousand votes–one full tenth
of all the votes. Remembering this, he might perceive that the “rebuke”
may not be quite as durable as he seems to think–that the majority may
not choose to remain permanently rebuked by that minority.

The President thinks the great body of us Fremonters, being ardently
attached to liberty, in the abstract, were duped by a few wicked and
designing men. There is a slight difference of opinion on this. We think
he, being ardently attached to the hope of a second term, in the concrete,
was duped by men who had liberty every way. He is the cat’s-paw. By much
dragging of chestnuts from the fire for others to eat, his claws are burnt
off to the gristle, and he is thrown aside as unfit for further use.
As the fool said of King Lear, when his daughters had turned him out of
doors, “He ‘s a shelled peascod” (“That ‘s a sheal’d peascod”).

So far as the President charges us “with a desire to change the domestic
institutions of existing States,” and of “doing everything in our power to
deprive the Constitution and the laws of moral authority,” for the whole
party on belief, and for myself on knowledge, I pronounce the charge an
unmixed and unmitigated falsehood.

Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion
can change the government practically just so much. Public opinion, on any
subject, always has a “central idea,” from which all its minor thoughts
radiate. That “central idea” in our political public opinion at the
beginning was, and until recently has continued to be, “the equality
of men.” And although it has always submitted patiently to whatever of
inequality there seemed to be as matter of actual necessity, its constant
working has been a steady progress toward the practical equality of all
men. The late Presidential election was a struggle by one party to discard
that central idea and to substitute for it the opposite idea that slavery
is right in the abstract, the workings of which as a central idea may be
the perpetuity of human slavery and its extension to all countries and
colors. Less than a year ago the Richmond Enquirer, an avowed advocate of
slavery, regardless of color, in order to favor his views, invented the
phrase “State equality,” and now the President, in his message, adopts
the Enquirer’s catch-phrase, telling us the people “have asserted the
constitutional equality of each and all of the States of the Union as
States.” The President flatters himself that the new central idea is
completely inaugurated; and so indeed it is, so far as the mere fact of a
Presidential election can inaugurate it. To us it is left to know that the
majority of the people have not yet declared for it, and to hope that they
never will.

All of us who did not vote for Mr. Buchanan, taken together, are a
majority of four hundred thousand. But in the late contest we were divided
between Fremont and Fillmore. Can we not come together for the future? Let
every one who really believes and is resolved that free society is not and
shall not be a failure, and who can conscientiously declare that in the
last contest he has done only what he thought best–let every such one
have charity to believe that every other one can say as much. Thus let
bygones be bygones; let past differences as nothing be; and with steady
eye on the real issue let us reinaugurate the good old “central idea” of
the republic. We can do it. The human heart is with us; God is with us. We
shall again be able, not to declare that “all States as States are equal,”
nor yet that “all citizens as citizens are equal,” but to renew the
broader, better declaration, including both these and much more, that “all
men are created equal.”


SPRINGFIELD, Dec. 25, 1856.

DEAR SIR:-When I was at Chicago two weeks ago I saw Mr. Arnold, and from
a remark of his I inferred he was thinking of the speakership, though
I think he was not anxious about it. He seemed most anxious for harmony
generally, and particularly that the contested seats from Peoria and
McDonough might be rightly determined. Since I came home I had a talk with
Cullom, one of our American representatives here, and he says he is for
you for Speaker and also that he thinks all the Americans will be for you,
unless it be Gorin, of Macon, of whom he cannot speak. If you would like
to be Speaker go right up and see Arnold. He is talented, a practised
debater, and, I think, would do himself more credit on the floor than in
the Speaker’s seat. Go and see him; and if you think fit, show him this

Your friend as ever,




SPRINGFIELD, ILL., February 10, 1857.

DEAR SIR:–Your note about the little paragraph in the Republican was
received yesterday, since which time I have been too unwell to notice
it. I had not supposed you wrote or approved it. The whole originated
in mistake. You know by the conversation with me that I thought the
establishment of the paper unfortunate, but I always expected to throw
no obstacle in its way, and to patronize it to the extent of taking and
paying for one copy. When the paper was brought to my house, my wife said
to me, “Now are you going to take another worthless little paper?” I said
to her evasively, “I have not directed the paper to be left.” From this,
in my absence, she sent the message to the carrier. This is the whole

Yours truly,




FELLOW-CITIZENS:–I am here to-night partly by the invitation of some of
you, and partly by my own inclination. Two weeks ago Judge Douglas spoke
here on the several subjects of Kansas, the Dred Scott decision, and Utah.
I listened to the speech at the time, and have the report of it since.
It was intended to controvert opinions which I think just, and to assail
(politically, not personally) those men who, in common with me, entertain
those opinions. For this reason I wished then, and still wish, to make
some answer to it, which I now take the opportunity of doing.

I begin with Utah. If it prove to be true, as is probable, that the people
of Utah are in open rebellion to the United States, then Judge Douglas is
in favor of repealing their territorial organization, and attaching them
to the adjoining States for judicial purposes. I say, too, if they are in
rebellion, they ought to be somehow coerced to obedience; and I am not now
prepared to admit or deny that the Judge’s mode of coercing them is not
as good as any. The Republicans can fall in with it without taking back
anything they have ever said. To be sure, it would be a considerable
backing down by Judge Douglas from his much-vaunted doctrine of
self-government for the Territories; but this is only additional proof
of what was very plain from the beginning, that that doctrine was a mere
deceitful pretense for the benefit of slavery. Those who could not
see that much in the Nebraska act itself, which forced governors, and
secretaries, and judges on the people of the Territories without their
choice or consent, could not be made to see, though one should rise from
the dead.

But in all this it is very plain the Judge evades the only question the
Republicans have ever pressed upon the Democracy in regard to Utah. That
question the Judge well knew to be this: “If the people of Utah peacefully
form a State constitution tolerating polygamy, will the Democracy admit
them into the Union?” There is nothing in the United States Constitution
or law against polygamy; and why is it not a part of the Judge’s “sacred
right of self-government” for the people to have it, or rather to keep
it, if they choose? These questions, so far as I know, the Judge never
answers. It might involve the Democracy to answer them either way, and
they go unanswered.

As to Kansas. The substance of the Judge’s speech on Kansas is an effort
to put the free-State men in the wrong for not voting at the election of
delegates to the constitutional convention. He says:

“There is every reason to hope and believe that the law will be fairly
interpreted and impartially executed, so as to insure to every bona fide
inhabitant the free and quiet exercise of the elective franchise.”

It appears extraordinary that Judge Douglas should make such a statement.
He knows that, by the law, no one can vote who has not been registered;
and he knows that the free-State men place their refusal to vote on the
ground that but few of them have been registered. It is possible that this
is not true, but Judge Douglas knows it is asserted to be true in letters,
newspapers, and public speeches, and borne by every mail and blown by
every breeze to the eyes and ears of the world. He knows it is boldly
declared that the people of many whole counties, and many whole
neighborhoods in others, are left unregistered; yet he does not venture
to contradict the declaration, or to point out how they can vote without
being registered; but he just slips along, not seeming to know there is
any such question of fact, and complacently declares:

“There is every reason to hope and believe that the law will be
fairly and impartially executed, so as to insure to every bona fide
inhabitant the free and quiet exercise of the elective franchise.”

I readily agree that if all had a chance to vote they ought to have voted.
If, on the contrary, as they allege, and Judge Douglas ventures not to
particularly contradict, few only of the free-State men had a chance to
vote, they were perfectly right in staying from the polls in a body.

By the way, since the Judge spoke, the Kansas election has come off. The
Judge expressed his confidence that all the Democrats in Kansas would
do their duty-including “free-State Democrats,” of course. The returns
received here as yet are very incomplete; but so far as they go, they
indicate that only about one sixth of the registered voters have really
voted; and this, too, when not more, perhaps, than one half of the
rightful voters have been registered, thus showing the thing to have
been altogether the most exquisite farce ever enacted. I am watching with
considerable interest to ascertain what figure “the free-State Democrats”
cut in the concern. Of course they voted,–all Democrats do their
duty,–and of course they did not vote for slave-State candidates. We soon
shall know how many delegates they elected, how many candidates they had
pledged to a free State, and how many votes were cast for them.

Allow me to barely whisper my suspicion that there were no such things in
Kansas as “free-State Democrats”–that they were altogether mythical, good
only to figure in newspapers and speeches in the free States. If there
should prove to be one real living free-State Democrat in Kansas, I
suggest that it might be well to catch him, and stuff and preserve his
skin as an interesting specimen of that soon-to-be extinct variety of the
genus Democrat.

And now as to the Dred Scott decision. That decision declares two
propositions–first, that a negro cannot sue in the United States courts;
and secondly, that Congress cannot prohibit slavery in the Territories. It
was made by a divided court dividing differently on the different points.
Judge Douglas does not discuss the merits of the decision, and in that
respect I shall follow his example, believing I could no more improve on
McLean and Curtis than he could on Taney.

He denounces all who question the correctness of that decision, as
offering violent resistance to it. But who resists it? Who has, in spite
of the decision, declared Dred Scott free, and resisted the authority of
his master over him?

Judicial decisions have two uses–first, to absolutely determine the case
decided, and secondly, to indicate to the public how other similar cases
will be decided when they arise. For the latter use, they are called
“precedents” and “authorities.”

We believe as much as Judge Douglas (perhaps more) in obedience to, and
respect for, the judicial department of government. We think its decisions
on constitutional questions, when fully settled, should control not only
the particular cases decided, but the general policy of the country,
subject to be disturbed only by amendments of the Constitution as provided
in that instrument itself. More than this would be revolution. But we
think the Dred Scott decision is erroneous. We know the court that made it
has often overruled its own decisions, and we shall do what we can to have
it to overrule this. We offer no resistance to it.

Judicial decisions are of greater or less authority as precedents
according to circumstances. That this should be so accords both with
common sense and the customary understanding of the legal profession.

If this important decision had been made by the unanimous concurrence of
the judges, and without any apparent partisan bias, and in accordance with
legal public expectation and with the steady practice of the departments
throughout our history, and had been in no part based on assumed
historical facts which are not really true; or, if wanting in some of
these, it had been before the court more than once, and had there been
affirmed and reaffirmed through a course of years, it then might be,
perhaps would be, factious, nay, even revolutionary, not to acquiesce in
it as a precedent.

But when, as is true, we find it wanting in all these claims to the public
confidence, it is not resistance, it is not factious, it is not even
disrespectful, to treat it as not having yet quite established a settled
doctrine for the country. But Judge Douglas considers this view awful.
Hear him:

“The courts are the tribunals prescribed by the Constitution and created
by the authority of the people to determine, expound, and enforce the law.
Hence, whoever resists the final decision of the highest judicial tribunal
aims a deadly blow at our whole republican system of government–a blow
which, if successful, would place all our rights and liberties at the
mercy of passion, anarchy, and violence. I repeat, therefore, that if
resistance to the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, in
a matter like the points decided in the Dred Scott case, clearly within
their jurisdiction as defined by the Constitution, shall be forced upon
the country as a political issue, it will become a distinct and naked
issue between the friends and enemies of the Constitution–the friends and
the enemies of the supremacy of the laws.”

Why, this same Supreme Court once decided a national bank to be
constitutional; but General Jackson, as President of the United States,
disregarded the decision, and vetoed a bill for a recharter, partly on
constitutional ground, declaring that each public functionary must support
the Constitution “as he understands it.” But hear the General’s own words.
Here they are, taken from his veto message:

“It is maintained by the advocates of the bank that its constitutionality,
in all its features, ought to be considered as settled by precedent, and
by the decision of the Supreme Court. To this conclusion I cannot assent.
Mere precedent is a dangerous source of authority, and should not be
regarded as deciding questions of constitutional power, except where
the acquiescence of the people and the States can be considered as well
settled. So far from this being the case on this subject, an argument
against the bank might be based on precedent. One Congress, in 1791,
decided in favor of a bank; another, in 1811, decided against it. One
Congress, in 1815, decided against a bank; another, in 1816, decided in
its favor. Prior to the present Congress, therefore, the precedents drawn
from that course were equal. If we resort to the States, the expressions
of legislative, judicial, and executive opinions against the bank have
been probably to those in its favor as four to one. There is nothing in
precedent, therefore, which, if its authority were admitted, ought to
weigh in favor of the act before me.”

I drop the quotations merely to remark that all there ever was in the way
of precedent up to the Dred Scott decision, on the points therein decided,
had been against that decision. But hear General Jackson further:

“If the opinion of the Supreme Court covered the whole ground of this act,
it ought not to control the coordinate authorities of this government. The
Congress, the executive, and the courts must, each for itself, be guided
by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer who takes
an oath to support the Constitution swears that he will support it as he
understands it, and not as it is understood by others.”

Again and again have I heard Judge Douglas denounce that bank decision and
applaud General Jackson for disregarding it. It would be interesting
for him to look over his recent speech, and see how exactly his fierce
philippics against us for resisting Supreme Court decisions fall upon his
own head. It will call to mind a long and fierce political war in this
country, upon an issue which, in his own language, and, of course, in his
own changeless estimation, “was a distinct issue between the friends and
the enemies of the Constitution,” and in which war he fought in the ranks
of the enemies of the Constitution.

I have said, in substance, that the Dred Scott decision was in part based
on assumed historical facts which were not really true, and I ought not to
leave the subject without giving some reasons for saying this; I therefore
give an instance or two, which I think fully sustain me. Chief Justice
Taney, in delivering the opinion of the majority of the court, insists at
great length that negroes were no part of the people who made, or for
whom was made, the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution of the
United States.

On the contrary, Judge Curtis, in his dissenting opinion, shows that in
five of the then thirteen States–to wit, New Hampshire, Massachusetts,
New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina–free negroes were voters, and in
proportion to their numbers had the same part in making the Constitution
that the white people had. He shows this with so much particularity as to
leave no doubt of its truth; and as a sort of conclusion on that point,
holds the following language:

“The Constitution was ordained and established by the people of the United
States, through the action, in each State, of those persons who were
qualified by its laws to act thereon in behalf of themselves and all other
citizens of the State. In some of the States, as we have seen, colored
persons were among those qualified by law to act on the subject. These
colored persons were not only included in the body of ‘the people of the
United States’ by whom the Constitution was ordained and established; but
in at least five of the States they had the power to act, and doubtless
did act, by their suffrages, upon the question of its adoption.”

Again, Chief Justice Taney says:

“It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion, in
relation to that unfortunate race, which prevailed in the civilized
and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of
Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed
and adopted.”

And again, after quoting from the Declaration, he says:

“The general words above quoted would seem to include the whole human
family, and if they were used in a similar instrument at this day, would
be so understood.”

In these the Chief Justice does not directly assert, but plainly assumes
as a fact, that the public estimate of the black man is more favorable now
than it was in the days of the Revolution. This assumption is a mistake.
In some trifling particulars the condition of that race has been
ameliorated; but as a whole, in this country, the change between then
and now is decidedly the other way, and their ultimate destiny has never
appeared so hopeless as in the last three or four years. In two of the
five States–New Jersey and North Carolina–that then gave the free
negro the right of voting, the right has since been taken away, and in
a third–New York–it has been greatly abridged; while it has not been
extended, so far as I know, to a single additional State, though
the number of the States has more than doubled. In those days, as I
understand, masters could, at their own pleasure, emancipate their slaves;
but since then such legal restraints have been made upon emancipation
as to amount almost to prohibition. In those days Legislatures held the
unquestioned power to abolish slavery in their respective States, but now
it is becoming quite fashionable for State constitutions to withhold that
power from the Legislatures. In those days, by common consent, the spread
of the black man’s bondage to the new countries was prohibited, but
now Congress decides that it will not continue the prohibition, and the
Supreme Court decides that it could not if it would. In those days our
Declaration of Independence was held sacred by all, and thought to include
all; but now, to aid in making the bondage of the negro universal and
eternal, it is assailed and sneered at and construed and hawked at and
torn, till, if its framers could rise from their graves, they could not at
all recognize it. All the powers of earth seem rapidly combining against
him. Mammon is after him, ambition follows, philosophy follows, and the
theology of the day fast joining the cry. They have him in his prison
house; they have searched his person, and left no prying instrument with
him. One after another they have closed the heavy iron doors upon him;
and now they have him, as it were, bolted in with a lock of hundred keys,
which can never be unlocked without the concurrence of every key–the keys
in the hands of a hundred different men, and they scattered to hundred
different and distant places; and they stand musing as to what invention,
in all the dominions of mind and matter, can be produced to make the
impossibility of his escape more complete than it is.

It is grossly incorrect to say or assume that the public estimate of the
negro is more favorable now than it was at the origin of the government.

Three years and a half ago, Judge Douglas brought forward his famous
Nebraska Bill. The country was at once in a blaze. He scorned all
opposition, and carried it through Congress. Since then he has seen
himself superseded in a Presidential nomination by one indorsing the
general doctrine of his measure, but at the same time standing clear
of the odium of its untimely agitation and its gross breach of national
faith; and he has seen that successful rival constitutionally elected, not
by the strength of friends, but by the division of adversaries, being in
a popular minority of nearly four hundred thousand votes. He has seen his
chief aids in his own State, Shields and Richardson, politically speaking,
successively tried, convicted, and executed for an offence not their own
but his. And now he sees his own case standing next on the docket for

There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people at the
idea of an indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races; and
Judge Douglas evidently is basing his chief hope upon the chances of his
being able to appropriate the benefit of this disgust to himself. If he
can, by much drumming and repeating, fasten the odium of that idea upon
his adversaries, he thinks he can struggle through the storm. He therefore
clings to this hope, as a drowning man to the last plank. He makes an
occasion for lugging it in from the opposition to the Dred Scott decision.
He finds the Republicans insisting that the Declaration of Independence
includes all men, black as well as white, and forthwith he boldly denies
that it includes negroes at all, and proceeds to argue gravely that all
who contend it does, do so only because they want to vote, and eat,
and sleep, and marry with negroes. He will have it that they cannot
be consistent else. Now I protest against the counterfeit logic which
concludes that, because I do not want a black woman for a slave I must
necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either. I can
just leave her alone. In some respects she certainly is not my equal;
but in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands,
without asking leave of any one else, she is my equal and the equal of all

Chief Justice Taney, in his opinion in the Dred Scott case, admits that
the language of the Declaration is broad enough to include the whole human
family, but he and Judge Douglas argue that the authors of that instrument
did not intend to include negroes, by the fact that they did not at
once actually place them on an equality with the whites. Now this grave
argument comes to just nothing at all, by the other fact that they did not
at once, or ever afterward, actually place all white people on an equality
with one another. And this is the staple argument of both the Chief
Justice and the Senator for doing this obvious violence to the plain,
unmistakable language of the Declaration.

I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all
men, but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects.
They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral
developments, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness
in what respects they did consider all men created equal–equal with
“certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness.” This they said, and this they meant. They did not
mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying
that equality, nor yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon
them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply
to declare the right, so that enforcement of it might follow as fast as
circumstances should permit.

They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be
familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly
labored for, and, even though never perfectly attained, constantly
approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence
and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors
everywhere. The assertion that “all men are created equal” was of no
practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was
placed in the Declaration not for that, but for future use. Its authors
meant it to be–as thank God, it is now proving itself–stumbling-block
to all those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into
the hateful paths of despotism. They knew the proneness of prosperity to
breed tyrants, and they meant when such should reappear in this fair land
and commence their vocation, they should find left for them at least one
hard nut to crack.

I have now briefly expressed my view of the meaning and object of that
part of the Declaration of Independence which declares that “all men are
created equal.”

Now let us hear Judge Douglas’s view of the same subject, as I find it in
the printed report of his late speech. Here it is:

“No man can vindicate the character, motives, and conduct of the signers
of the Declaration of Independence, except upon the hypothesis that
they referred to the white race alone, and not to the African, when they
declared all men to have been created equal; that they were speaking of
British subjects on this continent being equal to British subjects
born and residing in Great Britain; that they were entitled to the same
inalienable rights, and among them were enumerated life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration was adopted for the purpose of
justifying the colonists in the eyes of the civilized world in withdrawing
their allegiance from the British crown, and dissolving their connection
with the mother country.”

My good friends, read that carefully over some leisure hour, and ponder
well upon it; see what a mere wreck–mangled ruin–it makes of our once
glorious Declaration.

“They were speaking of British subjects on this continent being equal to
British subjects born and residing in Great Britain”! Why, according
to this, not only negroes but white people outside of Great Britain and
America were not spoken of in that instrument. The English, Irish, and
Scotch, along with white Americans, were included, to be sure, but the
French, Germans, and other white people of the world are all gone to pot
along with the Judge’s inferior races!

I had thought the Declaration promised something better than the condition
of British subjects; but no, it only meant that we should be equal to them
in their own oppressed and unequal condition. According to that, it gave
no promise that, having kicked off the king and lords of Great Britain, we
should not at once be saddled with a king and lords of our own.

I had thought the Declaration contemplated the progressive improvement in
the condition of all men everywhere; but no, it merely “was adopted for
the purpose of justifying the colonists in the eyes of the civilized world
in withdrawing their allegiance from the British crown, and dissolving
their connection with the mother country.” Why, that object having been
effected some eighty years ago, the Declaration is of no practical use
now–mere rubbish–old wadding left to rot on the battlefield after the
victory is won.

I understand you are preparing to celebrate the “Fourth,” to-morrow week.
What for? The doings of that day had no reference to the present; and
quite half of you are not even descendants of those who were referred to
at that day. But I suppose you will celebrate, and will even go so far
as to read the Declaration. Suppose, after you read it once in the
old-fashioned way, you read it once more with Judge Douglas’s version. It
will then run thus:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all British subjects who
were on this continent eighty-one years ago were created equal to all
British subjects born and then residing in Great Britain.”

And now I appeal to all–to Democrats as well as others–are you really
willing that the Declaration shall thus be frittered away?–thus left no
more, at most, than an interesting memorial of the dead past?–thus shorn
of its vitality and practical value, and left without the germ or even the
suggestion of the individual rights of man in it?

But Judge Douglas is especially horrified at the thought of the mixing
of blood by the white and black races. Agreed for once–a thousand times
agreed. There are white men enough to marry all the white women and black
men enough to many all the black women; and so let them be married. On
this point we fully agree with the Judge, and when he shall show that his
policy is better adapted to prevent amalgamation than ours, we shall drop
ours and adopt his. Let us see. In 1850 there were in the United States
405,751 mulattoes. Very few of these are the offspring of whites and free
blacks; nearly all have sprung from black slaves and white masters. A
separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation;
but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to
keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black
people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas.
That is at least one self-evident truth. A few free colored persons
may get into the free States, in any event; but their number is too
insignificant to amount to much in the way of mixing blood. In 1850 there
were in the free States 56,649 mulattoes; but for the most part they were
not born there–they came from the slave States, ready made up. In the
same year the slave States had 348,874 mulattoes, all of home production.
The proportion of free mulattoes to free blacks–the only colored classes
in the free States is much greater in the slave than in the free States.
It is worthy of note, too, that among the free States those which make the
colored man the nearest equal to the white have proportionably the fewest
mulattoes, the least of amalgamation. In New Hampshire, the State which
goes farthest toward equality between the races, there are just 184
mulattoes, while there are in Virginia–how many do you think?–79,775,
being 23,126 more than in all the free States together.

These statistics show that slavery is the greatest source of amalgamation,
and next to it, not the elevation, but the degradation of the free
blacks. Yet Judge Douglas dreads the slightest restraints on the spread
of slavery, and the slightest human recognition of the negro, as tending
horribly to amalgamation!

The very Dred Scott case affords a strong test as to which party most
favors amalgamation, the Republicans or the dear Union-saving Democracy.
Dred Scott, his wife, and two daughters were all involved in the suit. We
desired the court to have held that they were citizens so far at least
as to entitle them to a hearing as to whether they were free or not; and
then, also, that they were in fact and in law really free. Could we have
had our way, the chances of these black girls ever mixing their blood with
that of white people would have been diminished at least to the extent
that it could not have been without their consent. But Judge Douglas is
delighted to have them decided to be slaves, and not human enough to have
a hearing, even if they were free, and thus left subject to the forced
concubinage of their masters, and liable to become the mothers of
mulattoes in spite of themselves: the very state of case that produces
nine tenths of all the mulattoes all the mixing of blood in the nation.

Of course, I state this case as an illustration only, not meaning to say
or intimate that the master of Dred Scott and his family, or any more
than a percentage of masters generally, are inclined to exercise this
particular power which they hold over their female slaves.

I have said that the separation of the races is the only perfect
preventive of amalgamation. I have no right to say all the members of the
Republican party are in favor of this, nor to say that as a party they
are in favor of it. There is nothing in their platform directly on the
subject. But I can say a very large proportion of its members are for it,
and that the chief plank in their platform–opposition to the spread of
slavery–is most favorable to that separation.

Such separation, if ever effected at all, must be effected by
colonization; and no political party, as such, is now doing anything
directly for colonization. Party operations at present only favor or
retard colonization incidentally. The enterprise is a difficult one; but
“where there is a will there is a way,” and what colonization needs most
is a hearty will. Will springs from the two elements of moral sense and
self-interest. Let us be brought to believe it is morally right, and
at the same time favorable to, or at least not against, our interest to
transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do
it, however great the task may be. The children of Israel, to such numbers
as to include four hundred thousand fighting men, went out of Egyptian
bondage in a body.

How differently the respective courses of the Democratic and Republican
parties incidentally, bear on the question of forming a will–a public
sentiment–for colonization, is easy to see. The Republicans inculcate,
with whatever of ability they can, that the negro is a man, that his
bondage is cruelly wrong, and that the field of his oppression ought
not to be enlarged. The Democrats deny his manhood; deny, or dwarf to
insignificance, the wrong of his bondage; so far as possible crush all
sympathy for him, and cultivate and excite hatred and disgust against
him; compliment themselves as Union-savers for doing so; and call
the indefinite outspreading of his bondage “a sacred right of

The plainest print cannot be read through a gold eagle; and it will be
ever hard to find many men who will send a slave to Liberia, and pay
his passage, while they can send him to a new country–Kansas, for
instance–and sell him for fifteen hundred dollars, and the rise.



DEAR SIR:–Yours of the 14th is received, and I am much obliged for the
legal information you give.

You can scarcely be more anxious than I that the next election in Iowa
should result in favor of the Republicans. I lost nearly all the working
part of last year, giving my time to the canvass; and I am altogether
too poor to lose two years together. I am engaged in a suit in the United
States Court at Chicago, in which the Rock Island Bridge Company is a
party. The trial is to commence on the 8th of September, and probably will
last two or three weeks. During the trial it is not improbable that
all hands may come over and take a look at the bridge, and, if it were
possible to make it hit right, I could then speak at Davenport. My courts
go right on without cessation till late in November. Write me again,
pointing out the more striking points of difference between your old and
new constitutions, and also whether Democratic and Republican party
lines were drawn in the adoption of it, and which were for and which were
against it. If, by possibility, I could get over among you it might be of
some advantage to know these things in advance.

Yours very truly,



(From the Daily Press of Chicago, Sept. 24, 1857.)

Hurd et al. vs Railroad Bridge Co.

United States Circuit Court, Hon. John McLean, Presiding Judge.

13th day, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 1857.

Mr. A. Lincoln addressed the jury. He said he did not purpose to assail
anybody, that he expected to grow earnest as he proceeded but not
ill-natured. “There is some conflict of testimony in the case,” he said,
“but one quarter of such a number of witnesses seldom agree, and even if
all were on one side some discrepancy might be expected. We are to try and
reconcile them, and to believe that they are not intentionally erroneous
as long as we can.” He had no prejudice, he said, against steamboats or
steamboat men nor any against St. Louis, for he supposed they went about
this matter as other people would do in their situation. “St. Louis,” he
continued, “as a commercial place may desire that this bridge should not
stand, as it is adverse to her commerce, diverting a portion of it from
the river; and it may be that she supposes that the additional cost of
railroad transportation upon the productions of Iowa will force them to
go to St. Louis if this bridge is removed. The meetings in St. Louis are
connected with this case only as some witnesses are in it, and thus has
some prejudice added color to their testimony.” The last thing that would
be pleasing to him, Mr. Lincoln said, would be to have one of these great
channels, extending almost from where it never freezes to where it never
thaws, blocked up, but there is a travel from east to west whose demands
are not less important than those of the river. It is growing larger and
larger, building up new countries with a rapidity never before seen in the
history of the world. He alluded to the astonishing growth of Illinois,
having grown within his memory to a population of a million and a half; to
Iowa and the other young rising communities of the Northwest.

“This current of travel,” said he, “has its rights as well as that of
north and south. If the river had not the advantage in priority and
legislation we could enter into free competition with it and we could
surpass it. This particular railroad line has a great importance and the
statement of its business during a little less than a year shows this
importance. It is in evidence that from September 8, 1856, to August 8,
1857, 12,586 freight cars and 74,179 passengers passed over this bridge.
Navigation was closed four days short of four months last year, and
during this time while the river was of no use this road and bridge were
valuable. There is, too, a considerable portion of time when floating or
thin ice makes the river useless while the bridge is as useful as ever.
This shows that this bridge must be treated with respect in this court and
is not to be kicked about with contempt. The other day Judge Wead alluded
to the strike of the contending interest and even a dissolution of the
Union. The proper mode for all parties in this affair is to ‘live and let
live,’ and then we will find a cessation of this trouble about the bridge.
What mood were the steamboat men in when this bridge was burned? Why,
there was a shouting and ringing of bells and whistling on all the boats
as it fell. It was a jubilee, a greater celebration than follows an
excited election. The first thing I will proceed to is the record of Mr.
Gurney and the complaint of Judge Wead that the record did not extend back
over all the time from the completion of the bridge. The principal part of
the navigation after the bridge was burned passed through the span. When
the bridge was repaired and the boats were a second time confined to the
draw it was provided that this record should be kept. That is the simple
history of that book.

“From April 19th, 1856, to May 6th–seventeen days–there were twenty
accidents and all the time since then there have been but twenty hits,
including seven accidents, so that the dangers of this place are tapering
off and as the boatmen get cool the accidents get less. We may soon expect
if this ratio is kept up that there will be no accidents at all.

“Judge Wead said, while admitting that the floats went straight through,
there was a difference between a float and a boat, but I do not remember
that he indulged us with an argument in support of this statement. Is it
because there is a difference in size? Will not a small body and a large
one float the same way under the same influence? True a flatboat will
float faster than an egg shell and the egg shell might be blown away by
the wind, but if under the same influence they would go the same way.
Logs, floats, boards, various things the witnesses say all show the same
current. Then is not this test reliable? At all depths too the direction
of the current is the same. A series of these floats would make a line as
long as a boat and would show any influence upon any part and all parts of
the boat.

“I will now speak of the angular position of the piers. What is the amount
of the angle? The course of the river is a curve and the pier is straight.
If a line is produced from the upper end of the long pier straight with
the pier to a distance of 350 feet, and a line is drawn from a point in
the channel opposite this point to the head of the pier, Colonel Nason
says they will form an angle of twenty degrees. But the angle if measured
at the pier is seven degrees; that is, we would have to move the pier
seven degrees to make it exactly straight with the current. Would that
make the navigation better or worse? The witnesses of the plaintiff seem
to think it was only necessary to say that the pier formed an angle with
the current and that settled the matter. Our more careful and accurate
witnesses say that, though they had been accustomed to seeing the piers
placed straight with the current, yet they could see that here the current
had been made straight by us in having made this slight angle; that the
water now runs just right, that it is straight and cannot be improved.
They think that if the pier was changed the eddy would be divided and the
navigation improved.

“I am not now going to discuss the question what is a material
obstruction. We do not greatly differ about the law. The cases produced
here are, I suppose, proper to be taken into consideration by the court in
instructing a jury. Some of them I think are not exactly in point, but
I am still willing to trust his honor, Judge McLean, and take his
instructions as law. What is reasonable skill and care? This is a thing
of which the jury are to judge. I differ from the other side when it says
that they are bound to exercise no more care than was taken before the
building of the bridge. If we are allowed by the Legislature to build the
bridge which will require them to do more than before, when a pilot comes
along, it is unreasonable for him to dash on heedless of this structure
which has been legally put there. The Afton came there on the 5th and lay
at Rock Island until next morning. When a boat lies up the pilot has a