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Lincoln believed, as is shown by his correspondence, that his expected defeat by Edward H. Baker, who finally missed the prize that fell to Colonel J. J. Hardin, was due largely to his being suspected of deism. Some years earlier, full of Volney's "Ruins" and Paine's Age of Reason," he had prepared an extended argument against the inspiration of the Bible, which one of his cautious friends deposited in the stove. What his belief was can never be indubitably known, partly because in varying moods it probably wavered, partly because prudence compelled him to make reasonable concessions to circumstance. He once asked Herndon to erase the word "God" from the draft of a speech, because it suggested the existence of a more personal power than Lincoln believed in. He did not believe in eternal punishment and never joined a church. During his presidency a convention of preachers asked him to recommend to Congress an amendment to the Constitution recognizing the existence of God, and the first draft of his message called attention to the subject, but he struck out the clause in correcting the proof. His creed, as far as it can be gathered, seems to have been very much like Hamlet's, and he was fond of quoting," there's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will." From
the days when he imbibed a belief in luck and omens from his environment to the time when he took his son Robert to Terre Haute to be cured by a mad-stone of the bite of a dog, down to the war when he forbade a movement on Sunday because Bull Run had been fought on the Sabbath, he was still foreseeing good and evil fortune, private and public. Superstition, faith, and doubt were inextricably mixed up in him. Infidelity was again urged the next time he was a candidate. In 1844 he refused to contest the nomination with Baker, but in 1846, by the convention which met on May 1, he was nominated. That an agreement had been made between Hardin, Baker, Lincoln, and Logan, that each should have a term in Congress, is almost proved by Lincoln's correspondence, and such was the outcome, Logan being nominated and defeated in 1838. After being a presidential elector for Clay and stumping the state in 1844, Lincoln received the nomination for Congress in 1846, and ran against a famous Methodist preacher named Peter Cartwright. Although the Democrats attacked the Whig candidate on religious grounds, Lincoln was elected, the only Whig in the Illinois delegation. The district gave him 1511 as against 914 for Clay in the preceding presidential campaign, and Sangamon County gave him the largest majority received by any candidate from 1836 to 1850
inclusive. His correspondence is sufficient evidence of the care and shrewdness with which he worked to bring about this victory. One story illustrates the faculty for which he was famous, of foreseeing political results. During the campaign a Democratic friend promised him his vote if it seemed absolutely necessary. A short time before the election Lincoln answered, "I have got the preacher and don't want your vote." To Speed, soon after the victory, he wrote, "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."
Before following Lincoln to Washington, where he took his seat in December, 1847, we may pause to notice his spiritual estate as exhibited by two modest effusions of his muse. When he was stumping for Clay he crossed into Indiana and revisited his old home. "That part of the country is, within itself, as unpoetical as any spot on earth;" he wrote, "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." Here is a sample:
"Near twenty years have passed away
Since here I bid farewell
To woods and fields, and scenes of play,
"Where many were, but few remain
Of old familiar things;
But seeing them, to mind again
"The friends I left that parting day,
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,
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 feel (companion of the dead)
In Gentryville he found his old schoolfellow, Matthew Gentry, in a state of hopeless insanity, and was inspired to put his feelings into verse, of which this a fragment:
"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,
"Now fare thee well!
More thou the cause
Than subject now of woe.
All mental pangs by time's kind laws
"O death! thou awe-inspiring prince
That keep'st the world in fear,
Why dost thou tear more blest ones hence,
In sending this to a friend, Lincoln lightens it a trifle with the remark, “If I should ever send another, the subject will be a Bear Hunt.'"
Mrs. Lincoln accompanied her husband to Washington, with their two children. A few days after the opening, Lincoln did the most conspicuous thing done by him during the session. President Polk, who had tricked the nation into the war with Mexico by various misrepresentations, had said in his message of May 11, 1846, that Mexico had invaded our territory and shed the blood of our citizens on our soil, and Lincoln, representing Whig hostility to the war, introduced resolutions calling upon the President to name the exact “spot spot" where these outrages occurred. Of course Polk paid no attention to the request, but the "spot resolutions," expressing a general disbelief in the President's honesty, attracted considerable attention.
About three weeks after the introduction of these resolutions, Lincoln wrote to Herndon, January 8,