« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
1848: “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
I badly scared, and no worse, as I am when I speak in court. I expect to make one within a a week or two in which I hope to succeed well enough to wish you to see it.” Four days later he called up his “spot resolutions,” and made a long speech upon them. His attitude on the Mexican War for some time cost him much, but he never wavered. To Herndon, a very practical man, who remonstrated, he wrote, “ Would you have voted what you felt and knew to be a lie?” He, like most of the Whigs, voted for the supplies, but honestly proclaimed his belief that the war itself was unjust. Shrewd and calculating
1, as he was, he was a man of emotional, deep conviction. How he could feel is indicated in a brief note to his partner, written hastily on impulse, February 2, 1848, to mention a speech by Mr. Stephens of Georgia. My old withered dry eyes are full of tears yet.” He was in his fortieth year, but his sorrowful nature looked upon itself as already old. Soon after he wrote to Herndon: “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 are doing battle in the contest, and endearing themselves to the people, and taking a stand far above any I have been able to take in their admiration."
In the spring he worked for General Taylor's nomination by the Whigs and later for his election, making in the House an oration which has become famous for its closing attack on the Democratic candidate, General Cass, a rough bit of sarcasm, full of stump vigor, but in no way distinguished. Here is one passage:
“Mr. Polk himself was Young Hickory,' 'Little Hickory,' or something so; and even now your campaign paper here is proclaiming that Cass and Butler are of the 'Hickory stripe.' No, 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 Presidents of him out of it, but you have 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."
The most important question on which he put himself on record was slavery. The principle of
the Wilmot Proviso — that slavery was to be prohibited in thereafter acquired territory then being fought over in various forms in Congress, and Lincoln has more than once said that he voted in favor of it “about forty-two times," although he took little part in the discussion. As Daniel Webster and the branch of the Whigs of which he was the head were going to pieces over this question, Lincoln's clearness is worthy of emphasis. On this fundamental issue his convictions seem to have been firm from the beginning. What he thought at once just and practicable under the actual conditions is shown by a bill which he himself introduced to prohibit the slave-trade in the District of Columbia. It forbade bringing slaves into the District, except as household servants by government officials who were citizens of slave states, or selling them to be taken out of the District. It provided for the gradual freeing of children thereafter born in slavery, and for compensation; it recognized the Fugitive Slave Law, and it was to be submitted to popular vote in the District. Altogether it was much like his attitude in 1862. In spite of its moderation it received some abolitionist support, but was soon pushed aside.
A number of small matters connected with the term in Washington are of decided interest. To the compiler of the “ Dictionary of Congress," Lincoln gave the following notes, which show what he deemed the main points in his career up to this time: “ Born February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky, education defective, profession, a lawyer. Have been a captain of volunteers in the Black Hawk War. Postmaster at a very small office. Four times a member of the Illinois legislature, and was a member of the Lower House of Congress."
· A fragment written by him in the summer of 1848 states what he thought ought to be said by General Taylor.
It doubtless expresses partly policy and partly principle, but as it touches several of the most important questions of the day it is a valuable witness to the state of Lincoln's political beliefs:
"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.
“ It appears to me that the national debt created by the war renders a modification of the existing tariff indispensable; and when it shall be modified I should be pleased to see it adjusted with a due reference to the protection of our home industry. The particulars, it appears to me, must and should be left to the untrammelled discretion of Congress.
“ As to the Mexican War, I still think the defensive line policy the best to terminate it. In a final treaty of peace, we shall probably be under a sort of necessity of taking some territory; but it is my desire that we shall not acquire any extending so far south as to enlarge and aggravate the distracting question of slavery. Should I come into the presidency before these questions shall be settled, I should act in relation to them in accordance with the views here expressed.
“Finally, were I President, I should desire the legislation of the country to rest with Congress, uninfluenced by the executive in its origin or progress, and undisturbed by the veto unless in very special and clear cases.”
During his term in Congress he was not only sending part of his salary to Herndon to pay the old debts of Lincoln and Berry, but he had occasional other calls for money.
December 12, 1848, he wrote to his father a letter which, though kind, indicates what the son thought of his parent's business ability
“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. Be