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Title: Lincoln, the Politician
Author: Levy, T. Aaron
Language: English
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_underscores_.

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STUDIES IN AMERICAN HISTORY


BEAUMARCHAIS, AND THE WAR OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE. Two volumes.
Illustrated. _By Elizabeth S. Kite._

THE POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE PUBLIC LANDS, FROM 1840 TO 1862. FROM
PRE-EMPTION TO HOMESTEAD. _By George M. Stephenson._

GEORGIA AS A PROPRIETARY PROVINCE--THE EXECUTION OF A TRUST. _By James
Ross McCain._

LINCOLN, THE POLITICIAN. _By T. Aaron Levy._

THE AGRICULTURAL PAPERS OF GEORGE WASHINGTON. _Edited by Walter Edwin
Brooke, Ph.B._


RICHARD G. BADGER, PUBLISHER, BOSTON



LINCOLN THE POLITICIAN

BY

T. AARON LEVY

BOSTON

RICHARD G. BADGER

THE GORHAM PRESS

COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY RICHARD G. BADGER

All Rights Reserved

Made in the United States of America

The Gorham Press, Boston. U.S.A.



PREFACE


Love of kind alone transcended Lincoln's political ambition. His career
as President, Statesman, Emancipator is a mystery unless his preparation
for leadership is demonstrated. He was no product of sudden elevation,
no creature of opportunity. No American Statesman was better equipped to
meet a national emergency. Lincoln the plain politician, the Illinois
legislator, the congressman, and the prairie debater, was a child of the
grocery store, of the pioneer gathering, of caucus and convention. It
was this political training that determined the mode in which he
breathed life into the momentous proclamation of the nineteenth century.
The world that admires his charity is in equal need of his policy.

Until the coming of the industrial movement following the Civil War, the
Commonwealth commanded the best heart and intelligence of the Republic.
Captains of industry had not usurped the places of power. A degraded
conception of devotion to the general welfare is in itself a sign of
degeneration. A corrupt political system is incompatible with a healthy
national existence. When individual aggrandizement is often preferred to
the common good, when private institutions frequently allure the genius
of a people, it is an inspiration to return to a politician who in
simplicity and sincerity believed that civil service and patriotism are
better than gold. An abounding demand of the day is a practical
political philosophy.

In spite of golden vision, of saintly Grail, civilization still
questions its real progress, and the sphynx of human suffering baffles
understanding. Life has ever been a ceaseless compromise between spirit
and matter, dream and reality, shadow and substance. In the never ending
conflict between the hosts of darkness and of light, of radicalism and
of conservatism, the battle often has been won by the use of superior
strategy. Wasted energy, a lack of well directed idealism and
indifference to the laws of human progress are the main obstacles to
human advancement. There is an ever present need of a fine sense of
proportion between vision and reality. The reformer needs more method,
while the practical representative needs more vision. The solution of
vexing governmental problems will be hastened by a clearer and more
general comprehension of the gigantic difficulties that stand in the way
of the domination of ideas over matter. High political success comes
from a profound knowledge of the character of the hostility thwarting
human progress. Patience as well as faith must be the guide. Society
suffers from misdirected emotion on the one hand and from impervious
apathy on the other. Sensational onslaught on evil has been often tested
and its futility proved. Likewise the common politician has made many
despair of democratic government. Abraham Lincoln represents the sanest
example of wise political action, his political life the best platform
for eternal warfare on organized evil.

The artist is measured not alone by his sleepless imagination but also
by the technic through which his vision assumes external form. Dante
skillfully gave voice to "ten silent centuries." Even so the dreams of
prophet and humanitarian await the touch of the political artist to find
immortality in visible manifestation. Neither a politician without a
luminous idea nor a dreamer without political craft ever develops into a
statesman. Democracy can solve its destiny only by an adequate
appreciation of the importance of working out its intrinsic mission. The
national ideal must become a reality. Dreamer and reformer are needed
and likewise the politician, the man of method, the student of matter,
the wielder of the tool. A heroic past will not save a nation. "The
central idea" of a people cannot be safely relinquished, but must
restlessly follow the law of practical evolution in each generation.

Abraham Lincoln was a child of American Democracy. He was trained in the
college of republican institutions. The danger to Democracy is the
treason of her own children. Lincoln stayed with his teachers--the plain
people. He never longed for a place they could not give nor an honor
they could not bestow. The aristocracy of externality, of clothes,
fashion, wealth, station and descent ever remained shadows to him. He
valued them at their real worth, with finer judgment than any man in
modern history. The possibility of such a career is in itself a
justification of republican government.

He walked the way of the average citizen, labored in the factory of
political methods. Living in the common atmosphere, loving the strife of
debate, near to the pioneer heart and mind, a student of popularity and
party organization, he was from the beginning a champion of the better
and broader humanity. He lived his democracy and led his people to a
higher realization of the resistless purposes of the republic. Striking
the better chords of their being, he led them to make a mere declaration
of freedom the possession of a forgotten people. During his political
pilgrimage he ever sought to widen in a practical way the Declaration of
Independence. Many prate much of Democracy but Lincoln dared to make it
the bread of humanity.

Abraham Lincoln used political machinery for the welfare of the people.
He was ambitious and loved success but not for its own sake. Station
gave him wider opportunity to practice his philosophy of life, his
affection for his fellowmen, and sympathy for the downtrodden. He is a
guide to the perplexed, to those who have not bartered their idealism in
the stifling fight. His life is richly calculated to deepen faith in the
ultimate triumph of righteousness, to lead to the conviction that spirit
and method are not sundered of necessity, that the vision is not
essentially a stranger to the party worker, that policy and compromise
have their place in the domain of progress.

He looms up in American History as a politician who glorified his craft,
who kept his hands clean in all of the sordidness of material success.
Vicarious government in a republic is ruinous. Lincoln is therefore an
inspiration for political consecration and the prophet of permanency. He
dedicated his talent to the external manifestations of the destiny of
the republic. His common sense, his practical sagacity and knowledge of
human nature and of its limitations for progress, his prudent
recognition of the labored advance of ethical sentiment and of the
solidarity of vested interests, as well as his superb idealism and
exalted spirit may well become food and life to those who believe in the
better politics. As these become the property and the possession of a
broader community the republic will know no fear, dissension will little
disturb her serenity and she will be equal to every emergency that may
threaten her integrity.

Beginning with the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Abraham Lincoln became and
remained a national figure. From that time his life belongs to the
history of the United States and has been dwelt upon with ever
increasing fullness and eulogy. By contrast his early political life has
been almost forgotten. This work covers that neglected period, dealing
with Lincoln the politician, showing his development and his training
for national leadership. The story is largely told in the words of
Lincoln himself, stress being laid on crucial incidents hitherto, in the
main, indifferently considered. A unity, dramatic in its simplicity,
appears in his recital, giving glimpses of a man who was guided by a
supreme political philosophy in seeking to externalize his gospel of the
brotherhood of man in statute and decision. Considerable attention is
devoted to Lincoln in Indiana and at New Salem, showing the peculiarity
of his power, his political popularity, and the rapid maturity of his
convictions as to the wisest methods of attacking entrenched evil. An
earnest, reverent and impartial study of his political career is an
enriching education. There is no need of hiding its humble, rude phases.
The more his life is lingered over, the greater the wonder grows at the
emerging of Lincoln from the humility and the poverty of his environment
with a "message of range and sweep," to the sons of men the world
over.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                    PAGE

     I. LINCOLN IN KENTUCKY                                   15

    II. LINCOLN'S ENVIRONMENT IN INDIANA                      21

   III. THE POLITICAL HERO OF NEW SALEM                       39

    IV. PRACTICAL LEGISLATOR                                  58

     V. PROTESTOR AND PATRIOT                                 76

    VI. PARTISAN IN STATE AND NATIONAL AFFAIRS                87

   VII. RESTLESS POLITICAL AMBITION                          109

  VIII. LINCOLN OPPOSES THE INCEPTION OF THE MEXICAN
            WAR IN CONGRESS                                  121

    IX. LINCOLN'S ATTACK ON SLAVERY IN CONGRESS              135

     X. THE SCHOOL OF SOLITUDE                               152

    XI. AN EMANCIPATED POLITICIAN                            162

   XII. THE PILOT OF THE NEW FAITH IN ILLINOIS               181

  XIII. LINCOLN AND THE DRED SCOTT DECISION                  197

   XIV. LEADER OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN ILLINOIS           201

    XV. THE DAWN OF NATIONAL LEADERSHIP                      207

   XVI. THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN          213

  BIBLIOGRAPHY                                               223

  INDEX                                                      227



LINCOLN THE POLITICIAN



CHAPTER I

LINCOLN IN KENTUCKY


The forefathers of Abraham Lincoln, like thousands of Western pioneers,
were of a sturdy English lineage. His immediate ancestry, however, was
less distinguished than that of many whose names are forgotten and whose
influence on American history is imperceptible. Every effort to explain
his career through an illustrious parentage has proved altogether
futile.

Lincoln's grandfather belonged to that band of fearless adventurers in
Kentucky, whose ideal was a lonely house in the middle of a vast farm,
even though maintained in the presence of skulking redskins.[1] It was
in this land that earned the title of "the Dark and Bloody Ground," that
a common frontier tragedy made the grandmother of Lincoln a widow. For
one day while her husband was in the fields, a short distance from the
house, with their youngest son Thomas, a sudden shot from an Indian
ambush broke the stillness of the woods and the father fell dead. The
oldest son Mordecai looking out of the loop hole in the loft of the
house saw an Indian raising his little brother from the ground. Aiming
at a silver ornament on the breast of the redman, he brought him down.
The boy ran to the cabin and the mother opened the door. She hastened
to a more settled community where her son Thomas, the father of the
President, grew to a shiftless manhood.[2]

[1] Shaler, 116.

[2] Lamon, 7-8.

The inhabitants of Kentucky were bred in the school of hardship. The
battle with the forest and buffalo abated, but there remained the heroic
fight with the soil. Splendid virile qualities were born in the strife
with the Indians and the forest. Inventions were yet unknown and a
living was drawn from the earth only through grinding labor. Yet
frontier life rapidly gave way to the march of civilization, the trail
and the path to the highway.

Hunters and warriors became tillers of the field. The merchant and
manufacturer, the pioneer preacher, physician, lawyer and politician
appeared with the onward tide of events.

The places of learning were few. Now and then a struggling teacher gave
all that he had from his humble store to the young confidently entrusted
to his care. Still something in the little log cabin school-house, even
on unfrequented paths, developed character. Out of the battle with
adverse conditions, with few advantages and manifold difficulties, came
statesmen, and even scholars, men who laid the foundation of states, who
guided the nation through its crises, and were equal to every emergency
that endangered its vitality.

The law abiding character of the people was notably evinced by the
supreme patience with which they effected their separation from the
mother state, Virginia.[3] With wisdom they established courts of
justice and the law of the land was speedily enforced. A malefactor who
violated the statute against card playing, after imprisonment, turned
his back on Kentucky, swearing "that it was the meanest country a white
man ever got into."[4]

[3] Shaler, 107.

[4] Milburn, 65.

The pioneers of Kentucky had in a high degree the instinct of
government, the passion for politics. Their sense of liberty was
tempered by devotion to constitutional principles and reverence for the
written law. The restless spirit of adventure was tamed by the potency
of political responsibilities. At an early day, they displayed interest
even in national problems. Their views were kindred to those of
Virginia. Accustomed to restrain their own freedom, they did not favor
the coercive measures of a distant, unknown, strong and centralized
government.[5] The political policy of Washington was far from popular;
that of Adams was odious.[6] The presidential contest between Adams and
Jefferson agitated Kentucky. Discussions were frequent and widespread
and even women participated. A pioneer boy was so elated over the
triumph of Jefferson that, sitting in his chamber alone, he drank in
cold water thirteen toasts in celebration of the triumphant event.[7]

[5] Ranck, 181-2, 216.

[6] Collins, 1, 284.

[7] Drake, 211.

It is probable that even in his infancy Lincoln listened at the fireside
to many political controversies. In that case he heard doctrines
advocated destructive of the national sovereignty, vitally hostile to
those avowed and cherished by him in his public career. Traces of his
early political surroundings on his vital convictions are hardly
discernible. Lincoln became a national politician with little patience
for the popular doctrine of State Sovereignty. He belonged to the
Federal party by instinct. No American statesman was broader in his
outlook of the general welfare. It is worthy of note that he passed his
infancy in Kentucky; his boyhood and minority in Indiana, and a varied
career in the State of Illinois. Not being the son of a single community
or commonwealth, he did not look to any individual state with fullness
of affection. He was a citizen of the Republic.

As early as 1790, an effort was made in Kentucky to promote the gradual
abolition of slavery. The arrival of Clay strengthened this movement.
Strong passions were aroused by the angry discussions that followed this
futile endeavor. About 1810 the number of slaves increased perceptibly.
The blighting effects of the institution soon began their revelation.
Labor was deemed disgraceful and demeaning. The possession of slaves,
not "high intellectual and moral endowments," became the test of social
status. Almost everything was subordinate to the dominating institution.

Such, in general, was the state of society in Kentucky when Thomas
Lincoln, in 1816, made his weary trail through tangled woodland to the
wild forests of Spencer County, Indiana. He was one of the multitude
discouraged with prospects in the Southern states. It was frequently the
overbearing conduct of slaveholders, rather than hatred to slavery, that
led the pioneer to leave the land of his nativity. Still it is amazing
that the majority of these emigrants bore no resentment to the
institution that provoked their removal, but became or remained vigorous
advocates in maintaining its supremacy.[8]

[8] Palmer,9. Drake, 208-209.

Efforts have been made to account for Thomas Lincoln's movement by
reason of his extreme hostility to slavery. Lamon indulges in a more
prosaic explanation, stating that there were not more than fifty slaves
in Hardin County; that it was practically a free community; that his
more fortunate relatives in other parts of the State had no scruples to
their ownership; that he was wanderer by nature gaining neither riches
nor credit; and that a quarrel with a neighbor, whose nose he bit off,
made him more anxious than ever to leave Kentucky.[9] Lincoln in his
campaign biography remarks that this removal was partly on account of
slavery, but chiefly on account of the difficulty in land titles in
Kentucky.[10] Ida Tarbell even endeavors to make a sort of Abolitionist
out of Thomas Lincoln. She quotes an old man, who claims that he was
present at the wedding of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, and that Tom
Lincoln and Nancy and Sally Bush were steeped full of Jess Head's
notions about the wrong of slavery and the rights of man, as explained
by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine.[11] If this were the fact, it is
very strange that Thomas Lincoln never thereafter manifested any hatred
of slavery during a long life. If Thomas Lincoln had been a zealous
advocate of the rights of the black man, is it not stranger still that
his son never even hinted at receiving the slightest impetus to
anti-slavery opinions from his father? The long silence of Thomas,
Abraham and Sally Bush Lincoln disproves the contention that Thomas
Lincoln was a friend or champion of the enslaved, or that his views
differed from the prevailing sentiment in regard to Abolitionism.

[9] Lamon, 16-17.

[10] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 639.

[11] McClure, 234.

One incident looms up in the brief stay of Abraham in Kentucky. "I had
been fishing one day," said Lincoln, "and caught a little fish which I
was taking home. I met a soldier in the road, and having always been
told at home that we must be good to the soldiers, I gave him my
fish."[12] This story strikingly displays the influence of his mother.
Events were few in his early life, and made a correspondingly abiding
impression.

[12] Nicolay and Hay, 1, 27.

Lincoln was seven years old when he passed beyond the borders of
Kentucky. There he received the rudiments of an education from two
nomadic teachers. At the time of his departure, caste feeling was
beginning to dominate society in Kentucky, but Lincoln never showed any
of its manifestations. "He was," says Frederick Douglas, "the first
great man that I talked with in the United States freely, who in no
single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself
of the difference of color, and I thought that all the more remarkable
because he came from a state where there were black laws."[13]

[13] Rice, 193.

No human mind would have selected Hardin County for the birthplace of
the man who was to grapple with the most portentous problem in all
American history. For the slavery question baffled the wisdom of the
makers of the Constitution. It darkened the last hours of the stalwart
statesmen, Webster, Clay and Calhoun. It tried and tested the endurance
of this nation in a crisis of grave moment.



CHAPTER II

LINCOLN'S ENVIRONMENT IN INDIANA


The year that marked the advent of Indiana into national statehood,
witnessed the humble and unheralded entrance of Thomas Lincoln and his
family into Spencer County. The State was a haven for the pioneer of
peaceable disposition. The danger of the Indian no longer haunted the
land. Still life was a grim struggle, hewing the way through solid
forests to reach the new home, cutting the trees to build the log cabin,
patiently raising the first crop of corn. It took time to construct the
trail and then the road. Yet with marvelous rapidity, these early
settlers soon caused the church to appear, the schoolhouse and the
hamlet.[14]

[14] Birbeck, 90.

Party politics is largely the product of a settled community. When men
are engrossed in establishing a home matters of national significance
seem of little moment. The kitchen is more important to the log cabin
than the parlor. So the most pressing problems of a pioneer settlement
are those of local concern. Conventions and parties were unknown for
some time. Any man could proclaim his candidacy for office. Voters were
known as "Jones-men" or "Smith-men," after the candidate of their
choice. The earliest manifestations of party spirit arose over the
slavery question. Even under territorial government, delegates to
Congress were called "Slavery" or "Anti-Slavery." During the canvass in
which John Quincy Adams was selected as President, the Whig and
Democratic parties were little recognized in Indiana. On election day,
the workers shouted, "Here are Jackson tickets! Here are Clay!"[15] The
defeat of Jackson hastened the growth of partisanship. With the
introduction of party politics came resort to trickery in elections.[16]

[15] Smith, 1, 220.

[16] Smith Misc. Ind., 119.

Politics was a recreation to the early settler. When the newspaper was a
luxury, when there were few forms of amusement, it was an indulgence as
well as an educational influence to listen to the orator on the
questions of the day. Politics was the school of the nation, and in it
there were few truants.

The following incident illustrates a primitive political gathering.
School was dismissed at the time of the militia election, and so the
teacher took part in the festivities. A tin cup of whiskey was passed
around twice, then a two gallon jug and bucket of water. A warm
discussion arose about Indiana accepting the land donated by Congress
for the construction of the Wabash and Erie Canals. Dr. Stone was most
noisy against accepting. "Friends of the canal chose me," said the
teacher, "to reply." "I was 'half seas over' from free and frequent use
of the cup. I was puzzled to know what to do. Soon a fence rail was
slipped into the worn fence near by and a wash tub turned up and placed
upon it. Two or three seized hold of me and placed me on the eminence
amid shouts of the friends of the canal. I could scarcely preserve my
equilibrium. My lips refused utterance. After a long pause, I smote my
breast with my hand, and said, 'I feel too full for utterance.' (I meant
whiskey--they, full of indignation at the Dr.'s effrontery of
opposition). The ruse worked like a charm. They shouted, 'Let him have
it!' I raised my finger and pointed a moment steadily at the Doctor.
They shouted, 'Hit him again.' I made my first speech twenty-five
minutes. The Dr. talked again thirty minutes. I closed the debate and
there was a viva voce vote in favor of the canal."[17]

[17] Cox, 30.

As the early settler succeeded the hunter, agriculture became the main
means of subsistence, but it could not become a source of profit without
improved methods of transportation. The movement for internal
improvements was to have a profound influence on the course of events in
the West. The splendid enthusiasm that lately concerned itself with a
hostile environment was now employed in competing for the markets of the
East. The Westerner was not accustomed to wander in the realm of dreams,
yet he grew romantic in contemplating the resources of his fertile soil,
and believed the time would come when nations would pay tribute to his
products. The completion of the Erie Canal marked a distinct epoch in
this movement. It increased prices in some cases more than two hundred
per cent. This advance called for better shipping facilities. As times
became better, the people of the West became the missionaries of the
internal improvement system.[18]

[18] Squirrel Hunters of Ohio, 298.

Nothing so vividly revealed this enthusiasm as the reception afforded
Governor Clinton when he visited Ohio in 1825. He was hailed as a hero,
as a friend, as a benefactor. A contemporary observer thus described the
occasion:

"The grave and the gay, the man of gray hairs and the ruddy-faced youth,
matrons and maidens, and even lisping children, joined to tell his
worth, and on his virtues dwell, to hail his approach and to welcome his
arrival. Every street, where he passed, was thronged with multitudes,
and the windows were filled with the beautiful ladies of Ohio, waving
their snowy white handkerchiefs, and casting flowers on the pavement
where he was to pass on it." The Governor was deeply affected by such an
unusual demonstration, and even shed tears in the presence of his
worshippers.[19]

[19] Squirrel Hunters of Ohio, 288.

A vast system of internal improvements in Indiana was the fruition of a
campaign of more than a decade. It was an unfailing argument of those
seeking political preferment. The construction of roads and canals was
urged as one of the fundamental purposes of human society. This policy
was declared to be the highway from poverty to prosperity. It fairly
became the political religion of the day. Indiana, in 1836, started with
rejoicing on the path that was before long to involve it in disasters
that led it close to the chasm of bankruptcy and repudiation.

Spencer County was in the southern part of the State, bordering on the
Ohio River. The country was very rough and covered with forests,
sparsely inhabited and poorly adapted for prosperous farming. There
being no market for the products of the soil, the most primitive methods
in agriculture were in operation. Wild turkeys and deer were had at the
door of every man's cabin. Bears, wild-cats, even panthers, were still
in evidence.

Thomas Lincoln, though he often changed his home, did not modify his
character. He remained to the end a shiftless man of roving disposition
without effectual ambition. A carpenter by trade, while other men built
substantial homes in the wilderness, he was content to live in a
primitive log cabin without windows, floor or furniture. It was only the
influence of his second wife that secured those urgent improvements. A
man of supreme physical strength, slow to anger, yet dangerous when once
aroused, he was not without deep affection. Still he did not hesitate to
knock his inquisitive son off the fence for answering travelers'
questions. He was a master in the telling of stories. It was his chief
accomplishment, the main gift that his son owed to him. The nature of
his mind is somewhat shown by his rambling religious opinions. In
Kentucky he was a Free Will Baptist; in Indiana he espoused the cause of
Presbyterianism, and in Illinois he became a Campbellite. A relative
quaintly observes that happiness was the end of life with him.[20] John
Hanks, the uncle of Lincoln, was the most sturdy of his relatives; yet,
this same Hanks was so illiterate that when Lincoln became President, he
could not endow him with an Indian Agency.

[20] Lamon, 15.

The somberness of Lincoln's childhood was brightened by the memory of
his mother. In intellect, she was far above those with whom she enacted
the sad and short drama of her life. Even as a child in Kentucky he felt
the spell and potent influence of her words. When she died, young as he
was, he lived alone with his grief. The passing years hallowed the early
impression of his sorrow, yet during all these years the memory of his
mother was a mystic influence in his development; and so when he stood
almost at the summit of his career, he declared, "All that I am, all
that I hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."[21]

[21] Arnold, 20.

The greatness of Lincoln grows upon us when we contemplate the
conditions from which he emerged, and consider the manner of men among
whom he lived. Despite the efforts of many biographers to brighten his
early surroundings, we have the highest evidence in his conduct and
speech that he was nurtured in hopeless adversity; in poverty that was
not alone incidental to pioneer conditions, but continued long after it
was the common fate. He comprehensively described his environment in the
statement that there was absolutely nothing in his associations to
excite ambition for education.[22] There was little in his ancestry to
quicken his pride. He ever maintained a peculiar reticence about his
youthful days and his parentage. He may by constant thinking have
exaggerated the distressing state of his childhood, but in the main
there can be little addition to, or modification of, his reluctant
testimony.[23]

[22] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 596-597.

[23] Lamon, 17-18.

He made his own way in the trail of letters. He pursued plans of
educating himself infinitely better than those followed in schools and
universities. He has left us priceless testimony of the manner of his
intellectual development. "Among my earliest recollections," said
Lincoln, "I remember how when a child, I used to get irritated when
anybody talked to me in a way I could not understand. I do not think I
ever got angry at anything else in my life; but that always disturbed my
temper and has ever since. I can remember going to my little bedroom,
after hearing the neighbors talk of an evening with my father, and
spending no small part of the night walking up and down and trying to
make out what was the exact meaning of some of their, to me, dark
sayings. I could not sleep though I tried to, when I got on such a hunt
for an idea until I had caught it; and when I thought I had got it, I
was not satisfied until I had repeated it over and over again; until I
had put it in language plain enough, as I thought, for any boy I knew to
comprehend. This was a kind of passion with me, and it has stuck by me;
for I am never easy now, when I am handling a thought, till I have
bounded it north and south and bounded it east and west. But your
question reminds me of a bit of education which I am bound in honor to
mention. In the course of my law reading I constantly came upon the word
demonstrate. I thought at first that I understood its meaning, but soon
became satisfied that I did not. I said to myself, 'What do I mean when
I demonstrate more than when I reason or prove?' I consulted Webster's
Dictionary. That told of certain proof,--proof beyond the probability of
a doubt, but I could form no sort of idea what proof it was. I thought a
great many things were proved beyond the possibility of a doubt, without
recourse to any such reasoning as I understood demonstration to be. I
consulted all the dictionaries and books of reference I could find, but
with no better results. You might as well have defined blue to a blind
man. At last I said, 'Lincoln, you can never make a lawyer if you do not
understand what demonstrate means;' and I left my situation in
Springfield, went home to my father's house, and stayed there until I
could give any proposition in the six books of Euclid at sight. I then
found out what demonstrate meant, and went back to my law studies."[24]

[24] Tarbell, 1, 43.

Inadequate as his education may have been objectively, Lincoln was
supremely trained in the college of lonely thought. No American of
eminence owes less to the public school system. His entire career is a
mystery unless full value is given to the statement of Herndon that
"Lincoln read less and thought more than any other man of his time."[A]

[A] Oldroyd, 533.

His love of learning amounted to a passion. The time his companions
squandered in recreation he largely employed in mental improvement. His
literary education was a painful process and was gained without help.
His plan was slow but effective. "He read every book he could lay his
hands on; and, when he came across a passage that struck him, he would
write it down on boards if he had no paper. Then he would rewrite it,
look at it, repeat it. He had a copybook, a kind of scrap book, in
which he put down all things, and thus preserved them."[25]

[25] Lamon, 36-37.

By this method he gradually evolved a style of supreme strength and
sincerity. The Bible was the main force in its fruition. For a long time
he dabbled in "crude rhymes" and "awkward imitations of scriptural
lore." With all the gentleness of his nature, he was a master of satire,
and slowly learned to use this dangerous gift with moderation. One of
his early compositions was an impulsive effort to condemn cruelty to the
helpless toad and turtle. More ambitious products followed. The reading
of a newspaper article on temperance induced him to contribute something
on that theme. A minister found it a place in a newspaper, to the
ecstasy of the writer for the first time tasting the sweetness of
publicity. This success led him to indulge in other dissertations. His
political environment and his readings in American history germinated.
With exultant spirit he proclaimed that "the American Government was the
best form of government for an intelligent people; that it ought to be
kept sound, and preserved forever; that general education should be
fostered and carried all over the country; that the Constitution should
be saved, the Union perpetuated, and the laws revered, respected, and
enforced."[26] This effort met with instant approbation. A lawyer, to
whose criticism it was soberly entrusted, declared, "The world can't
beat it."[27]

[26] _Ibid._, 68-69.

[27] _Ibid._, 69.

Three books had a pervasive influence upon his political opinions, "The
Revised Statutes of Indiana," Weems' "Life of Washington," and a
"History of the United States."[28] Lincoln has left us indisputable
evidence of the profound power of Revolutionary History in moulding his
patriotic sentiments. For in his memorable speech in the Senate Chamber
at Trenton, New Jersey, he said:

"May I be pardoned if, upon this occasion, I mention that away back in
my childhood, the earliest days of my being able to read, I got hold of
a small book, such a one as few of the younger members have ever seen,
Weems' 'Life of Washington.' I remember all the accounts there given of
the battlefields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and
none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here
at Trenton, New Jersey. The crossing of the river, the contest with the
Hessians, the great hardships endured at that time, all fixed themselves
on my memory, more than any single Revolutionary event; and you all
know, for you have all been boys, how these early impressions last
longer than any others. I recollect thinking then, boy even though I
was, that there must have been something more than common that these men
struggled for. I am exceedingly anxious that that thing--that something
even more than national independence; that something that held out a
great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come--I am
exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties
of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea
for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I
shall be a humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this,
his almost most chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great
struggle."[29]

[28] _Ibid._, 37.

[29] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 688.

The influence of Weems' "Life" is indicated by the fact that Lincoln did
not lose his boyish enthusiasm for the character of Washington. He once
exclaimed, "Let us believe as in the days of our youth that Washington
was spotless; it makes human nature better to believe that one human
being was perfect: that human perfection is possible."[30] This
devotion is still more significant as Lincoln very rarely indulged in
hero worship.

[30] Whitney, 45-46.

We shall not at all comprehend the political life of Abraham Lincoln
unless we fairly understand the momentous subjective influence of these
few volumes. One of them, the Revised Statutes of Indiana, contained the
Declaration of Independence. He was scarcely more than eighteen years
old when he brooded over the significance of that immortal
utterance.[31]

[31] McClure, 167.

His stepsister says, he was an indefatigable preacher. "When father and
mother would go to church, Abe would take down the Bible, read a verse,
give out a hymn, and we would sing. Abe was about fifteen years of age.
He preached, and we would do the crying. Sometimes he would join in the
chorus of tears. One day my brother, John Johnston, caught a land
terrapin, brought it to the place where Abe was preaching, threw it
against the tree and crushed the shell. It suffered much,--quivered all
over. Abe then preached against cruelty to animals, contending that an
ant's life was just as sweet to it as ours to us."[32]

[32] Lamon, 40.

Often mounting a real tree stump his quaint stories and impressive
manner gathered all his fellow laborers. It is related that Lincoln's
father and sometimes his employers, angered at the loss of labor, would
drag the orator from his eminence. It was about this time that Lincoln
said that his father taught him to work but never to love it.[33]

[33] _Ibid._, 36-40.

Lincoln's wit was no small part of his forensic eloquence. He was more
ready at the beginning of his career than in after years to ridicule
censorious conduct. So James Larkin found it, who was a great hand to
brag. He stepped up before Abe, who was in the crowd, and boasted of his
horse. "I have got the best horse in the country," he shouted to his
young listener. "I ran him three miles in exactly three minutes, and he
never fetched a long breath."

"I presume," said Abe, rather dryly, "that he fetched a good many short
ones though."[34]

[34] Herndon, 1, 43.

Lincoln further found opportunity for exercising his oratorical talent
in the speaking exhibitions at Gentryville. Public debates were no minor
attraction to the community. Discussions as to whether the Indian or
negro had the greater right to find fault with his treatment were
frequent and intense. The closing day of school was duly celebrated by
declamations, debates and dialogues. Many selections for these occasions
came from the Kentucky "Preceptor," rich in such utterance as Pitt's
"Speech on the Slave Trade."[35]

[35] Tarbell, 1, 36.

Lincoln was present on one occasion at a dramatic murder trial in which
John V. Brackenridge appeared for the defendant.[36] Lincoln heard the
polished and eloquent advocate as in a dream. After the trial the humble
backwood speaker freely praised the eloquence of the mature advocate.
Brackenridge glancing at his awkward shabby admirer turned away without
a word.

[36] Spencer County, 313.

Lincoln learned that ability does not always go hand in hand with
sympathy. He crawled into his own world where pride was to have no home,
where humble appearances were not to be despised. When Lincoln as
President met this same Brackenridge, he simply said, "If I could, as I
then thought, have made as good a speech as that, my soul would have
been satisfied; for it was up to that time the best speech I had ever
heard."[37]

[37] Herndon, 1, 49-50. Lamon, 67.

The people of Gentryville were largely of a rough hardy sort. Like other
pioneers they were ready to escape the monotony of their life by
engaging in exciting games. The rude joke, the vulgar gibe was prized.
To laugh loud was somewhat of a luxury to the hard working settler.
Refining influence was fairly unknown.

However, social distinctions gradually asserted themselves with the
progress of prosperity. Parties of some pretensions came into vogue, and
distinctions were made in the guests invited. Lincoln, who had been
welcomed at the ruder gatherings, log rollings and similar
entertainments, was not in favor with those seeking social prominence.
Fond of popular applause, he resented this treatment, and in spite wrote
satires and "chronicles," chastising the offenders.[38] These
productions were coarse, vulgar and even indecent, spiced with no lack
of wit. They appealed to many, though it is said that some were shocked.

[38] Lamon, 63.

On one occasion Lincoln placed certain reflections on the Grigsby family
where they could be readily discovered. Being found, they brought on a
fight for the family honor. Lincoln had his stepbrother, Johnston, first
stand "the brunt" of the contest. A terrible fight ensued, and when
Lincoln saw that Grigsby was too much for Johnston, he burst through the
ring, caught Grigsby, and threw him off some feet away. Then swinging a
bottle of liquor over his head swore that he was "the big buck of the
lick." "If any one doubts it," he shouted, "he has only to come on and
whet his horns." A general engagement resulted, but soon the field was
cleared and the wounded retired amid the exultant shouts of the
victors.[39]

[39] _Ibid._, 64-65.

From such an origin Lincoln came. Biographers seek to illumine its
poverty in vain. He was reared amid a shiftless family. No external
inducement guided him in his wearisome journey. He was in the daily
presence of vulgarity. He alone of all his companions started in a
titanic conflict with an enslaving environment.

The store was the social center of the pioneer town, the place to hear
the latest gossip. There the neighbors met to pass judgment on events of
general and local interest. The proprietor was often the only possessor
of the weekly newspaper. It was not as in later days the abode of
loungers mainly. It played a big part in the education of the frontier
community. It was the school of many men and the home of wit and wisdom.
Politics, religion and other problems were here subjected to the
scrutiny of men blest with good sense and judgment.

The store drew the choice spirits in story telling, and its hero was the
man who could best kindle laughter. In a community where this art was
the highway to the general good will, Lincoln soon became the master
among the many contestants for that distinction.

Wherever men congregated Lincoln sought supremacy. Political discussions
were frequent. The newcomer soon tried his hand in the art of
controversy. He gradually gained headway in the esteem of the
soberminded for the clearness of his statements, for the keenness of his
vision, and the honesty of his manner. Day by day he gathered strength
and wisdom. It is improbable that any other young man so soon won the
general good will or was so widely respected by all classes of men. In
this, even as a youth, he was unique. He had the splendid tact, the
inherent humanity that appealed to the various elements that constituted
the transitional frontier when it was evolving into a higher community.

There is very little satisfactory evidence of the political opinions of
Abraham Lincoln in Indiana. Lamon states that his family were all
Jackson Democrats; that Lincoln's employer, Jones, the grocery keeper
of Gentryville, was a Jackson Democrat, and that Lincoln read papers
that championed the principles of the Democratic party of that day, and
that he was in the beginning a follower of that eminent political
sage.[40] There is no corroboration of this testimony that Lincoln was
ever avowedly an attendant in the school of Jackson. Lincoln frequently
refers to the fact with pride that he was an old time Whig, and it might
be inferred from his speeches and statements that he was a devoted
follower of Clay from the very first. However, Lincoln was somewhat an
admirer of Andrew Jackson. It may be that early in life he passed
through the several stages of political development, and was thus aided
in becoming a tolerant politician.

[40] Lamon, 57, 123.

From childhood until 1829, Lincoln lived in Gentryville. In that year he
made a trip by boat to New Orleans with Allen Gentry. It was on this
venture that Lincoln had his first vital meeting with the members of the
race in whose destiny he was to be so deeply concerned. While their boat
was moored near Baton Rouge and they were fast asleep, they were
startled by footsteps on board. They knew "that it was a gang of negroes
come to rob, and perhaps to murder them. Allen, thinking to frighten the
intruders, cried out, 'Bring the guns, Lincoln; shoot them.' Abe came
without a gun, but he fell among the negroes with a huge bludgeon, and
belabored them most cruelly," but "received a scar which he carried with
him to his grave."[41] It is strange that this incident did not jaundice
the youthful Lincoln against the unfortunate people. Though his life was
endangered by these wayward sons of Ethiopia, it did not affect his
sympathy in any degree for the burdened and oppressed race, nor change
his judgment as to the injustice of their treatment.

[41] _Ibid._, 71, 72.

The origin of Lincoln's anti-slavery sentiments is somewhat of a
mystery. That Stephen Douglas, reared in New England, should become the
foremost champion of the Southern slavery policy, and that Abraham
Lincoln, a son of Kentucky, that of the bondsman, baffles the wisdom of
the historian.

Various efforts have been made to account for his views on the slavery
issue. The claim that he derived them from his parents in Kentucky has
been noted. Ida Tarbell enumerates the various abolition movements in
the western domain that may have influenced him. In 1819, Charles Osborn
published a paper advocating emancipation. A few years after Benjamin
Lundy issued the _Genius_ at Shelbyville. Scarcely one hundred miles
from Gentryville the _Abolition Intelligencer_ was started. There were
abolition societies in Kentucky and Illinois. The same author states
that "it is not impossible that as Frederick Douglas first realized his
own condition in reading a school speaker, the 'Columbian Orator,' so
Abraham Lincoln first felt the wrong of slavery in reading his
'Kentucky' or 'American Preceptor.'"[42]

[42] Tarbell, 1, 35, 36.

Considering the slowness of communication, the casual appearances of
even well-known journals, it is doubtful if Lincoln heard of the
abolition movement to any serious extent. It is at least significant
that Lincoln alone, of his entire family and of his associates, saw the
magnitude of the slavery evil. Like his sympathy for the suffering
animal world, his anti-slavery sentiments baffle explanation. He hated
the infliction of wrong instinctively.

There is a duality to the life of Lincoln that should command more
attention. Intellectually, he lived in a world of his own, a world in
which he found little companionship. Still he was not altogether the
fruition of a subjective life. He shared the common pioneer craving for
human society. It may have been rendered even more intense in his case
by the loneliness of his mental existence. Neither the forest, prairie
nor storm, the sunset or constellation were his friends as men were. He
loved his kind more than nature.

During his last years in Indiana he lived fully the life of the people
around him. Their ideals seemed his ideals. Athletic superiority was the
road to respect and honor, and Lincoln became the foremost man in
physical games. He first won renown as a wrestler. Stories of his
superior strength were heralded far and wide and his place was
unchallenged. He was a leader in the rude crowd where might was the test
of standing. Living among men devoted to hunting, he seldom indulged in
that common recreation. In this his individuality asserted itself. He
would not sanction suffering even in the animal world, and he seldom
swerved from his convictions even in the day when the wolf howled at the
cabin door.

The maturity of Lincoln's development at the time of his departure from
Indiana has not received just consideration. Gaunt and awkward in
appearance there was little in him to attract favorable attention. He
was without trade or profession. Nothing appeared to distinguish him
from the other members of the shiftless Lincoln and Hanks family. A
stranger would hardly have chosen him as a future son of fortune, even
from that humble crowd of wanderers. Uncouth in dress and manner, he
would have found small favor in polite society, and among those who
judge by things seen on the surface.

Viewed subjectively there is another Lincoln, a man of promise and
inevitable distinction. Those who have dwelt extensively on the
objective aspect of Lincoln have squandered sympathy on his want of
education. For though poor in material things, he was rich in mental
wealth, in the qualities that make manhood, in those virtues that
survive the mutations of time, that future generations dwell on with
ever increasing fondness. At the threshold of his majority he was
already possessed of elemental ability and greatness. He was one of
those rare souls that do not lose the golden ideals of youth with
passing years. The sneers of selfish men never changed the primal
sweetness of his nature.

The fourteen years that Lincoln lived in Indiana were years of splendid
fruition. By his peculiar process of self-development his mind had
attained a maturity far beyond his age. He mingled freely in the world
of men and events. He was close to the human heart, to the sorrows of
the humble, to the mute and deep emotions of the lonely dweller on the
western farms. He loved the plain people. He had the command of style,
the ease and pith of statement that schools rarely give. Ready of
speech, he could command the attention of the rough as well as the sober
minded. He was already renowned as a dispenser of laughter through the
magic of his stories. But above all he was rarely gifted with good
sense, with a mind not easily diverted by false lights, by the glitter
of objectivity. He went irresistibly to the root of things. A man of
fine emotions, wanting in the small social amenities, he seldom went
astray in the domain of reality.

It is also essential to mark the practical character of all his
learning. His knowledge was all useful and vitalizing. His mind was not
cumbered with waste materials. His education was sound to the core, was
all genuine, well calculated for a man in the very strife of life.
Judged by the standard of schools and universities he was not an
educated man, but judged by the broader standard of thought and action
he was supremely educated, the best educated man of his time. He served
his apprenticeship in the school of experience and only needed
opportunity to be of royal service to his fellowmen. Honest, homely and
humble, he was in harmony with the average man of his time, and was well
fitted to become a representative of the people.



CHAPTER III

THE POLITICAL HERO OF NEW SALEM


The immediate occasion for the departure of Thomas Lincoln from Indiana
was the visitation of the mysterious ailment widely known as the "milk
sick." The scant progress made by the family in Spencer County
strengthened his desire to try his fortune in a new land,--a land that
in the distance held forth alluring promises of betterment.

They arrived in Illinois at the transitional period when the progressive
settler was putting on the clothing of civilization. The concentration
of population scattered the obstacles of progress. The wilderness was
subdued, and the worth of the prairie land proved. The howl of the wolf
ever growing fainter and fainter marked the hurrying advance of another
dominion.[43] Shyly but steadily style showed itself in the home, food
and dress. Through the surface it betokened the coming of a settled
community; it was the unfailing external sign of prosperity and of
fellowship with religion and education.

[43] Ford, 94-95.

The old pioneer mourned the change. He saw the loom put away, and
ribbons supplant the cotton frock. With saddened heart, he met the new
civilization. To him, it was the doom of the old hospitality, of his
freedom, the coonskin cap; the deer shoes; the log cabin built with his
own hands. "Hog and hominy" no longer waited on hunger. What his child
named progress did not compensate him for the flight of the companions
of his youth. The pioneer had in the name of civilization cleared the
land of the Indian, who could not adapt himself to its way, and now the
victor was in turn to yield to the same unrelenting monarch.

John Hanks was the path finder for the little colony. He selected a
place close to Decatur as a home for the wanderers. Lincoln took a hand
in making the cabin which soon housed his father and family. But rather
than engage in manual labor, he was alert to show his skill as a
speaker. "After Abe got to Decatur," says John Hanks, "or rather to
Macon (my county), a man by the name of Posey came into our
neighborhood, and made a speech; it was a bad one, and I said Abe could
beat it. I turned down a box or keg, and Abe made his speech. The other
man was a candidate. Abe wasn't. Abe beat him to death, his subject
being the navigation of the Sangamon River. The man, after the speech
was through, took Abe aside, and asked him where he had learned so much,
and how he did so well. Abe replied, stating his manner and method of
reading, and what he had read. The man encouraged Lincoln to
persevere."[44]

[44] Lamon, 78.

Lincoln fretted under the tutorage of his father, and longed for the
hour of his legal freedom. When that period came, he promptly joined
John Hanks in guiding a flat boat to New Orleans for one Denton
Offutt.[45]

[45] _Ibid._, 78-80.

Perhaps the most critical incident in the life of Lincoln was this
second visit to New Orleans. Hitherto, with a single exception, his life
was simple and close to nature and the human heart. Young as he was, the
solemnity of the forest, the expanse of the prairie, the nearness to the
heart of things, the problems of life and their seriousness already cut
their lines in his sensitive organism. Knowing little of the mercantile
world, in the realm of thought he was already master of those around
him. There was something of Hamlet in this gaunt youth.

The varied amusements of the southern city that fascinated his
companions did not move or detain him. One sight alone riveted his
attention. A mulatto girl was on sale. She was trotted up and down like
an animal. Others saw the scene without flinching. It was nothing to
them; no lash on their backs. According to Herndon, the whole thing was
so revolting that Lincoln moved away from the scene with a deep feeling
of hate, saying to his companions, "By God, boys, let's get away from
this. If I ever get a chance to hit that thing (meaning slavery), I'll
hit it hard."[46]

[46] Herndon, 1, 67.

From that time Lincoln hated slavery with all his soul. The slave
dynasty was an organized evil of national power. It dominated the
actions and even the opinions of men; its whisper silenced the voice of
conscience; its power dictated legislative policies, and was even known
to intrude into the sanctuary of judicial tribunals. It was not a
stranger in distinguished pulpits.

Lincoln was weak, helpless, unregarded. A blow from his hand would then
fall impotent and unnoticed. Three courses of conduct confronted him. He
might, with the majority have become an apologist of slavery, as this
was the popular highway. Thus he might have gained the fame of Stephen
A. Douglas, but he would not have saved the nation. He might have become
an aggressive assailant of slavery. Such conduct would have made him a
political outcast in New Salem. In this way, he might have won the
renown of a Wendell Phillips but he would not have become the national
helmsman. He was neither abolitionist nor apologist.

One other way was open. He knew his weakness. The day to strike a blow
had not yet come. He held his anger and bided his hour. He would not
rush, but await the time when a blow from his hand would long leave its
traces on the evil. He turned back to his work and to his associates.
Objectively, he was the same as ever, but a soul had been awakened to
the crime of the ages that would not rest until the auction block should
be shattered and the American soil rendered uneasy at the presence of
the human auctioneer. He knew that sooner or later the occasion for
action would rejoice his soul. This faith reconciled him to the sluggard
march of events.

Some time in the summer of 1831, there drifted into the thriving village
of New Salem one who was to add lustre to her name. Some days later
Minter Graham, the school master, was "short of a clerk" at election.
Asking a tall stranger if he could write, he was met with the quaint
reply that he could make a few rabbit marks. "Lincoln," says the school
man, "performed the duties with great facility, much fairness, and
honesty and impartiality. This was the first public official act of his
life."[47]

[47] Lamon, 89.

Lincoln first gained prestige in New Salem through his droll stories. It
was the fast road to the good will of an audience. In those days when
amusement was scant it was no mean gift. It was then a kind of legal
tender for a dinner or similar hospitality, and in a pioneer community
popular favor is a harbinger of high honor. Lincoln found little to do
until he became the chief clerk of the presuming store of Denton Offutt.
Here he rapidly won the regard of the listener and participated in many
discussions; here he met and talked with the people, and he made another
advance in the public esteem.

Like many pioneer communities New Salem was largely dominated by a
rough crowd of young men, known there as the "Clary Grove Boys." They
were typical of the class in Illinois that stubbornly yielded to the
reign of the law. They rapidly disappeared in settled communities, but
in the outlying towns, for a long time, they maintained their power.
Usually acting in unison, they were much sought by those seeking
political preferment. They attended church, heard the sermon, wept and
prayed, shouted, got up and fought an hour, and then went back to prayer
just as the spirit moved them.[48] Rude and even cruel to the traveler,
they made mercy the companion of the orphan. They had no sympathy for
weakness, or patience with culture. No stranger could attain standing in
their affection unless he proved his worth in the gantlet of a physical
contest with one of their leaders.

[48] History of Sangamon County, 211.

The enthusiasm of Offutt for Lincoln was boundless. He declared that,
"Abe knew more than any man in the United States," that "he would some
day be President of the United States." All this did not disturb the
boys of Clary Grove, but when he bragged "that he could, at that present
moment, outrun, whip or throw down any man in Sangamon County," then the
pride of the gang was awakened. A bet of ten dollars was made that Jack
Armstrong, their leader, "was a better man than Lincoln." The newcomer
could not well avoid a combat. In the presence of a host of sympathizers
of the Clary Grove leader, the fight began. Lincoln put forth his
strength and the crowd saw Armstrong's supremacy endangered. In the heat
of the fray, they forgot the rules of fair fighting and broke through
the ring. This angered Lincoln, and with a giant's effort, he gathered
their champion in his arms and shook him like a child. Lincoln's bearing
won the regard of Armstrong. He grasped the hand of the victor,
proclaiming in the presence of his followers that Lincoln was the best
fellow that ever broke into the settlement.[49] A wonderful friendship
resulted. "Whenever Lincoln worked Jack 'did his loafing'; and, when
Lincoln was out of work, he spent days and weeks together at Jack's
cabin, where Jack's jolly wife, 'old Hannah,' stuffed him with bread and
honey, laughed at his ugliness, and loved him for his goodness."[50]

[49] Lamon, 90-94.

[50] _Ibid._ 93-94.

This was an eventful occasion in the life of Lincoln. The humble ask
little of friendship and give much. A lover of the law, in a single hour
he became the idol of the lawless element in New Salem. From that time,
they submitted to his guidance. Respect for his strength grew into
admiration for his learning. Slowly and surely, the latest addition to
the gang tempered its harshness. As a member, he achieved what would
have been impossible as a stranger. He loved their virtues, and was
gentle with their vices. So it was that, though he did not drink or
smoke with them, they did not think the less of him. Lincoln did not
laud his freedom from failing, so they were patient as children with
him, even in his chiding. The source of his influence was sympathy, and
not ability; solidity of character, not brilliancy; the simple virtues,
not genius.

Lincoln was dowered with supreme physical strength. Rumor claimed that
he could lift a load of a thousand pounds. This renown brought him
further influence with the rougher element. He was also skilled in
manual labor. A settler relates that he was the best hand at husking
corn on the stalk that he ever saw. He grew in the estimate of the
farmers around New Salem, in a community where agriculture was almost
the sole source of wealth and prosperity.

Lincoln's boyish enthusiasm for athletic events was doubtless somewhat
calmed with passing years. As other interests dawned on him he was
persuaded to concern himself with horse races and other games of chance
more than his judgment advised. An admirer states, "I got Lincoln, who
was at the race, to be a judge of the race, much against his will, and
after hard persuasion. Lincoln decided correctly; and the other judge
said 'Lincoln is the fairest man I ever had to deal with; if Lincoln is
in this country when I die, I want him to be my administrator, for he is
the only man I ever met with that was wholly and unselfishly
honest.'"[51]

[51] Lamon, 154.

The steamer _Talisman_ in 1832 made a trip to determine the navigability
of the Sangamon. Lincoln was selected as helmsman from Beardstown to New
Salem. The _Talisman_ on the return trip "stuck" at the mill dam. Equal
to the emergency, Lincoln "rigged up" an apparatus in the presence of
the entire assembly of New Salem. All were sure that he had saved the
steamer. The trip was of vast worth to Lincoln. Making several speeches
and shaking hands with every one, in this one week, he learned to know
more people than he would have otherwise met in many months.[52]

[52] Ross, 112. Lamon, 81-83.

Lincoln was not only honest, but men trusted him. His personality
pervaded the community. So a biographer states, "I once asked Rowan
Herndon what induced him to make such liberal terms in dealing with
Lincoln, whom he had known for so short a time." "I believed that he was
thoroughly honest," was the reply, "and that impression was so strong in
me that I accepted his note in payment of the whole. He had no money,
but I would have advanced him still more if he had asked for it."[53]

[53] Herndon, 1, 98.

Lincoln was not endowed with business skill. The only failure he ever
made in life was as a merchant. He had no capacity for business. His
partner claimed that Lincoln could wrap himself up in a great moral
question; but that in dealing with the financial and commercial
interests of a community or government he was as inadequate as he was
managing the economy of his own household, and that in that respect
alone he always regarded Mr. Lincoln as a weak man.[54]

[54] Herndon, 1, 165-6.

Lincoln's fairness vied with his sympathy in giving him a peculiar
influence over his fellowmen. He made peace a daily guest of the rude
crowd. His method was novel in New Salem. A stranger, angered by the
abuse of Jack Armstrong, struck him a blow that felled the giant.
Lincoln made himself the judge of the event. "Well, Jack," said he,
"what did you say to the man?" Whereupon Jack repeated the words. "Well,
Jack," replied Abe, "if you were a stranger in a strange town, as this
man is, and you were called a d----d liar, &c., what would you do?"
"Whip him, by God!" "Then this man has done no more to you than you
would have done to him." "Well, Abe," said the honest bruiser, "it's all
right," and, taking his opponent by the hand, forgave him heartily, and
"treated." Jack always "treated" his victim when he thought he had been
too hard upon him.[55]

[55] Lamon, 94-95.

Esteemed for his strength he was loved for his kindness. None could
resist the charm of his help to the poor and the lowly, to the waifs of
misfortune. Ab, a barefooted fellow, was chopping wood on a wintry day
to earn a dollar that he might buy a pair of shoes. Lincoln, seeing his
plight, seized the axe, and soon the job was done. The story runs that
"Ab remembered this act with the liveliest gratitude. Once he, being a
cast-iron Democrat, determined to vote against his party and for Mr.
Lincoln; but the friends, as he afterwards said with tears in his eyes,
made him drunk, and he had voted against Abe."[56] Chandler, a poor
settler, desiring to enter a small tract of land that was coveted by a
rich neighbor, started for Springfield at the same time with his rival
and on the same mission. On the way Chandler met Lincoln. Noticing that
the horse of Chandler could not stand a forced march, Lincoln gave him
his horse--fresh and full of grit. Between the two, a friendship sprang
up which all the political discords of twenty-five years never shattered
nor strained.[57]

[56] _Ibid._, 152-153.

[57] Herndon, 1, 115-116.

He was active in the first debating organization of New Salem. Those who
knew him for his strength were amazed at the logic of his statements.
The president of this society said to his wife that there was more in
Abe's head than wit and fun; that he was already a fine speaker; that he
only lacked culture to enable him to reach the high destiny in store for
him. Thereafter the president displayed a deeper interest in his
progress. During one of the debates, Lincoln dashed into a controversy
on slavery, dilating on its malignancy, deploring the dark and hopeless
state of the poor white man. With discernment he placed his hand on the
mischief, the creation of an aristocracy in a republic; the resulting
conflict between the doctrine of the fathers and that of the children;
between the North and the South. His discussion ranged over the
consequences. He pictured the grapple of opposing principles; a land
drenched with fraternal blood.[58] A biographer is justified in
contending that he became as familiar for the goodness of his
understanding as for the muscular power of his body, and the unfailing
humor of his talk.[59]

[58] Maltby, 33.

[59] Lamon, 96.

With the arrival of spring in 1832, the Black Hawk War broke out. A
company was organized in Sangamon County for immediate service. The
first fruit of Lincoln's popularity with "the boys" was his decisive
election as captain. His opponent was a man of means. The manner of
election was democratic. Lincoln and his antagonist stood some distance
apart, while the men showed their preference by taking their place near
the man of their choice. The one with the most adherents was selected
for leadership. Lincoln made a very modest speech to his comrades,
expressing his gratification, and telling them how undeserved he thought
it was and promised that he would do the best he could to prove himself
worthy of their confidence.[60]

[60] Lamon, 101-102.

The captain needed the mastery of his temper to control the lawless
spirit of the volunteers. Accustomed to be cajoled in politics, they
were not ready for obedience even in the shadow of war. A story has been
told that Capt. Lincoln's first command was answered by being told to
"go to the devil."[61]

[61] Stevens, 277.

Lincoln was jealous of the welfare of his men. Thinking them maltreated,
he told an officer of the regular army that they were volunteers under
the regulations of Illinois, and that resistance would thereafter be
made to unjust orders; that his men must be equal in all particulars, in
rations, arms and camps, to the regular army. The officer saw that
Lincoln was right, and thereafter they were treated like the regular
army. This efficient service in behalf of the volunteers drew officers
and rank to him.[62]

[62] Lamon, 111.

During the march a peaceable Indian strayed into camp and was at the
mercy of the soldiers. This old man showed a letter from General Cass
testifying to his fidelity; the enraged men pronounced it a forgery, and
rushed upon him. The captain stepped between. "Men, this must not be
done. He must not be shot and killed by us." The passion of the mob was
stayed by this exhibition of courage, not allayed. One bolder than his
fellows cried out, "This is cowardly on your part, Lincoln." The
captain towered in lonely power. "If any man thinks I am a coward let
him test it." A new voice was heard, "You are larger and heavier than we
are." "This you can easily guard against. Choose your weapons." The word
coward was never again coupled with his name. "He has often declared
himself, that his life and character were both at stake, and would
probably have been lost, had he not at that supremely critical moment
forgotten the officer, and asserted the man. To have ordered the
offenders under arrest would have created a formidable mutiny; to have
tried and punished them would have been impossible. They could scarcely
be called soldiers; they were merely armed citizens, with a nominal
military organization. They were but recently enlisted, and their term
of service was just about to expire. Had he preferred charges against
them, and offered to submit their differences to a court of any sort, it
would have been regarded as an act of personal pusillanimity, and his
efficiency would have been gone forever."[63]

[63] Lamon, 109.

Lincoln and other volunteers arrived home just before the State
election. That New Salem should present Lincoln as a candidate for the
Legislature was the natural culmination of his position in the
community. His friends were heart and soul in the cause. His record as a
soldier increased the interest of his companions and his associates in
the election.

Lincoln allied himself with the Whig organization and championed its
principles. The popular party in Sangamon County prided themselves on
their devotion to Andrew Jackson. They derisively called their opponents
"Federalists," while the latter struggled "to shuffle off the odious
name."[64] Lamon argues that Lincoln was a nominal Jackson man on the
ground that he received the votes of all parties at New Salem, that he
was the next year appointed postmaster by General Jackson; that the
Democrats ran him for the Legislature two years later, and that he was
elected by a larger majority than any other candidate.[65] These reasons
are without weight. Party lines at the time were not yet closely drawn,
and the supreme personal popularity of Lincoln suffered little from the
partisanship of that period. It is a distinct mark of Lincoln's courage
and his love of principle that he devoted himself to the weaker party of
Illinois. Selfish ambition would have advised alliance with the dominant
organization. Still, the better element in Sangamon County was largely
attracted to the Whig side. Lincoln coming from the company of the Clary
Grove boys, enthusiasts for Jackson, fearlessly decided his political
relations. National history might have been changed if Abraham Lincoln
had consulted his companions, or temporary interest in the selection of
party affiliation.

[64] _Ibid._, 122.

[65] Lamon, 123-124.

After his return from the war, he threw himself into the campaign of
1832. In his first speech, just as he started, he saw that a friend was
getting worsted in a fight near by. Hurrying from the platform, he
grasped the offender and threw him some ten feet away. He then again
mounted the eminence and delivered the following address: "Gentlemen and
Fellow Citizens, I presume you all know who I am. I am humble Abraham
Lincoln. I have been solicited by many friends to become a candidate for
the Legislature. My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman's
dance. I am in favor of a national bank. I am in favor of the internal
improvement system and a high protective tariff. These are my sentiments
and political principles. If elected, I shall be thankful; if not, it
will be all the same."[66]

[66] _Ibid._, 125-126.

Making a speech under such conditions was a more thorough preparation
for the activities of life than the training of schools and even
universities afford its votaries. This talk is frank and bold. It early
avows sentiments hostile to the administration in power. It reveals the
"Whiggism" of the orator. It is a product of the times; a speech to be
expected from a young speaker sensitive to his surroundings.

The testimony of Judge Logan shows that Lincoln had in his youth a
mature mind. "He was a very tall, gawky, and rough looking fellow then;
his pantaloons didn't meet his shoes by six inches. But after he began
speaking I became very much interested in him. He made a very sensible
speech. His manner was very much the same as in after life; that is, the
same peculiar characteristics were apparent then, though of course in
after years he evinced more knowledge and experience. But he had then
the same novelty and the same peculiarity in presenting his ideas. He
had the same individuality that he kept through all his life."[67]

[67] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 108.

A companion allows us a view of Lincoln as a politician at this period.
Deferential to the rich, agreeable to the poor, he was at home
everywhere. He talked with the husband and wife about their hopes in
life, about the school and the farm. The mother would hear with joy of
her fine children; Willie was the image of father; Sarah the most
beautiful, and looked like her mother. The distribution of nuts and
candy captured the children. During the preparation for supper, he would
walk over the farm with his host, and be shown its worth. After the meal
he would tell the boys and girls stories of the trials of frontier life
in Indiana. He thus secured the esteem of all.

Early in this campaign, he issued a political circular. This first
written address of Lincoln should command attention. It contains
abundant evidence of close thinking, political sagacity and quaint
utterance. This youthful appeal of Lincoln is a sober production
expressing thoughts that go straight to the mind. The circular is
conclusive that his style and his thought were not altogether the
fruition of his maturity.

The address deals mainly with the navigability of the Sangamon River. No
theme was closer to the people in the county. The arrival of the steamer
_Talisman_ had been hailed with rapture. A newspaper thus gave utterance
to the common feeling: "We congratulate our farmers, our mechanics, our
merchants and our professional men, for the rich harvest in prospect,
and we cordially invite emigrating citizens from other states, whether
rich or poor, if so they are industrious and honest, to come thither and
partake of the good things of Sangamon."[68] The enthusiasm reached the
women, for they indulged in a grand ball to honor the occasion.[69] The
ardent championship of this vain proposal, for it was never either
effected or seriously attempted, is proof that Lincoln was a student of
popularity. At this period he proclaimed the doctrine that the
representative of the people should reflect the known views of his
constituency.[70]

[68] History of Sangamon County, 53.

[69] _Ibid._

[70] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 7.

He next paid heed to the problem of usury. Money, always seeking the
highest bidder, preyed on the industry of the people. The common
contract rate was about fifty per cent. In many instances it rose to
more than one hundred, and unfortunates even paid two or three times as
much.[71] "It seems," Lincoln said, "as though we are never to have an
end to this baneful and corroding system, acting almost as prejudicial
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 the 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 other cases
it would have its intended effect. I would favor the passage of a law on
this subject which might not be easily evaded. Let it be such that the
labor and difficulty of evading it could only be justified in cases of
greatest necessity."[72] This rather remarkable admission is interesting
in view of his subsequent utterances on the sacred enforcement of all
laws lest single relaxations prove an inducement for other
violation.[73]

[71] Lamon, 133.

[72] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 3.

[73] _Ibid._, 12.

A rather becoming modesty pervades the conclusion of his address. He
maintained that he might be wrong in regard to any or all the subjects
he discussed, declaring that it was better only sometimes to be right
than at all times to be wrong, that he was ready to renounce his
opinions as soon as he discovered them to be erroneous.[74]

[74] _Ibid._, 4.

"Every man," he observed, "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."[75] This illumines our limited knowledge
of his attitude toward an essential problem of life. Lincoln did not
fling away ambition. With patient footstep he restlessly followed the
vision of higher place along the road of helpful service to his
fellow-men. As he rose in influence, he never forsook his early ideals;
that the measure of success was worthiness and not station, that power
was only respectable as it was mercifully exercised. He believed that
altruistic responsibility expanded with growing opportunities. His good
deeds, not his personal wants, grew with his growth.

[75] _Ibid._

He did not rest with an appeal to the reason of men. He deftly put in
motion the human chord in democracy that vibrates to the poor and the
struggling. He declared that he was young and unknown; that he was born,
and would ever remain, in the most humble walks of life; that he had no
wealthy or popular relations or friends to recommend him; that his case
was thrown exclusively upon the independent voters of the county; and
that, if elected, they would have conferred a favor upon him, for which
he would be unremitting in his labors to compensate.[76]

[76] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 4.

"But, if the good people," he concluded, "in their wisdom shall see fit
to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with
disappointments to be very much chagrined."[77] Suffused with seeming
humor and the pathos of half hidden tragedy this averment brings us face
to face with a life reluctantly asserting its individuality. It is
hardly strange that one who pronounces himself a companion of many
disappointments when only twenty-three years old should soon get the
name of "Old Abe." Sorrow had already left its traces on his heart and
brain, so that the appellation was fitting. Still, he encountered
uncomplainingly the exigencies of human events.

[77] _Ibid._

"The Democrats of New Salem worked for Lincoln out of their personal
regard for him. That was the general understanding of the matter here at
the time. In this he made no concession of principle whatever. He was as
stiff as a man could be in his Whig doctrines. They did this for him
simply because he was popular--because he was Lincoln."[78] Despite the
efforts of his friends in New Salem, Lincoln was yet too little known
to be elected a representative of Sangamon County.

[78] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 102-103.

One fact stands out boldly. Out of the total 300 votes cast in the
precinct of New Salem, where he was best known, Lincoln received
277.[79] This did not pass without the scrutiny of those who studied the
details of local politics. It revealed an amazing popularity. It was a
defeat that practiced politicians knew betokened future triumphs. It
marked the trail of a triumphing career in the common course of events.
With ardent pride, he later said of this defeat, that it was the only
time he was ever beaten on a direct vote of the people.[80]

[79] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 109. Tarbell, 1, 91.

[80] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 641.

John Calhoun, a stalwart Democrat, a surveyor in Sangamon County, and
later infamous in Kansas history, needed a deputy. He selected Lincoln,
who thereupon retreated to a farm of the schoolmaster Graham, where he
studied a book on surveying. Struggling with the task for six weeks, he
came forth prepared for his new work. He so mastered the subject that he
became renowned for the accuracy of his measurements. "If I can be
perfectly free," Lincoln is reported to have said, "in my political
action, I will take the office, but if my sentiments or even expression
of them is to be abridged in any way I would not have it or any other
office."[81] This story is rather heroic. The work was of a business
character, and politics did not dictate every act of Calhoun; he was
willing to help a worthy ambitious young man. On the other hand, the
store of Lincoln had "winked out"; he had nothing to do; he was eager to
enter into an honorable vocation without an inquisition into the motives
of Calhoun. It was a friendly act without any suggestion of political
obligation; a kindly service that cemented a friendship never severed,
though they met as rivals on the field of controversy. Even in the days
when it was common to blacken the name of Calhoun, Lincoln never joined
in the general hue and cry.[82]

[81] Herndon, 1, 111.

[82] Lamon, 148.

The acceptance of the office of postmaster at New Salem, under the
administration of General Jackson, had no particular bearing upon the
political views of Abraham Lincoln. The office was of so little monetary
importance, that Lincoln carried its whole contents in his hat. He was
the only man of standing in the community that could afford to give it
abundant attention for the small pay. The office was doubtless freely
tendered, the more freely as Lincoln was not of a partisan temperament.
It was of value to him. It enabled him to be of service and thus gain
the good will of many. He readily made known the contents of letters to
the illiterate. He also read aloud to the inhabitants gathered at the
store, all the news from the recent papers.[83]

[83] _Ibid._

"The first time I ever saw Abe with a law-book in his hand," says Squire
Godbey, "he was sitting astride Jake Bale's wood pile in New Salem. Says
I, 'Abe, what are you studying?'--'Law,' says Abe. 'Great God Almighty!'
responded I."[84] Lincoln states in his campaign biography that one of
his fellow candidates, Major John T. Stuart, in his first canvass
encouraged him to study law, and that after election he borrowed books
of Stuart and went at it in good earnest. He also states that he never
studied with anybody.[85]

[84] _Ibid._, 140.

[85] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 642.

During his legal apprenticeship of three or four years, he was at the
call of every citizen. He wrote deeds, contracts and other legal papers,
and often appeared before the local Justice of the Peace. All this
service was free. He was not forgotten by those he helped. Even when he
moved to Springfield, his New Salem friends found that his counsel was
ever at their disposal. His door was as open to poverty as to riches.
His study of the law widened the exercise of his sympathy and his
usefulness. Then, too, every satisfied client was likely to become a
political supporter.

It would have been amazing if Lincoln had come short of being the hero
of New Salem. He won "golden opinions" from every class of men. His
popularity had a substantial basis. He rode into favor on the tide of
service to his fellowmen. Wholesale dispenser of laughter and sympathy,
clerk at a store of the village, athlete of renown, arbiter of fights
and games, pilot on a memorable journey, a debater of singular skill, an
orator commanding attention, a sincere student, a soldier of some
distinction, popular postmaster, a skilled surveyor, and later a lawyer
and legislator--master in all these relations, he proved his worth and
value to the community. No man was more thoroughly gifted in the
qualities of manhood and character that lodge in the human heart. He
took up the harp of pioneer life and smote all "the vital chords with
might." Attuned to the lowly sentiments, to the humble ways and the
hardships of the people of the prairie, his sympathies were as broad as
the plains of Sangamon County. The drunkard, the outcast, the children
and the women, the rowdy and the ruffian, the teacher, the store keeper,
and politicians, all were his friends. He was odd in liking so many of
his kind, in the universality of his sympathies.

While Lincoln acted from a "full warm heart," policy could not have
dictated wiser conduct for a political career. Could genius have planned
the course, it would not have added greater skill to its success. His
very faults were the highway to public esteem. Almost every man, each
woman and child in New Salem were gladdened by his honest hand shake,
the cheer of his voice and the charm of his character.



CHAPTER IV

PRACTICAL LEGISLATOR


The fame of Lincoln as a law student and lawyer, as surveyor and
postmaster, spread beyond New Salem, and the qualities that had
attracted local distinction continued to find him admirers in a broader
world. He steadily gained headway with an ever growing audience.

Naturally, the Whigs gave him concerted support as one of their
candidates for the Legislature of 1834. In addition he made large
inroads into the Democratic party. Its leaders sought to diminish the
strength his name would add to the Whig ticket by adopting him as one of
their candidates.[86] The flattering proposal was not swallowed by
Lincoln. He realized that acceptance might involve estrangement from his
own party--no small matter for one who was ambitious politically. He was
wise enough to counsel with the leading Whigs and his personal friends
as to the prudence of such an alliance. They advised an agreement. It is
claimed by Lamon that Lincoln and Dawson made a bargain with the
Democratic party that nearly demoralized the Whigs, decidedly weakening
the vote of their favorite champion, Major Stuart.[87] In fact, the
alliance was more disastrous to the enemy. The Whigs fared well, as it
was, in the campaign; and in a year or two, Sangamon County, a former
stronghold of Jackson, passed into the control of the followers of Clay.

[86] Lamon, 155-156.

[87] _Ibid._, 156.

We have no evidence as to whether Lincoln was less a partisan in the
campaign as the result of Democratic endorsement. It was largely a "hand
shaking" canvass, a man to man combat. Affable to every one, Lincoln was
master in this mode of securing support. On one occasion he came upon
thirty men in a field. They declared they would not vote for a man
unless he could make a hand. "Well, boys," said he, "if that is all, I
am sure of your votes." Taking hold of the cradle, he led the way all
the round with perfect ease, and the boys were satisfied.[88]

[88] Lamon, 156.

"The next day he was speaking at Berlin. He went from my house with Dr.
Barnett, the man that had asked me who this man Lincoln was. I told him
that he was a candidate for the Legislature. He laughed and said, 'Can't
the party raise no better material than that?' I said, 'Go to-morrow,
and hear all before you pronounce judgment.' When he came back, I said,
'Doctor, what say you now?' 'Why, sir,' said he, 'he is a perfect
take-in; he knows more than all of them put together.'"[89]

[89] _Ibid._

"Mr. J. R. Herndon, his friend and landlord, heard him make several
speeches about this time, and gives us the following extract from one,
which seems to have made a special impression upon the minds of his
auditors: 'Fellow citizens, I have been told that some of my opponents
have said that it was a disgrace to the County of Sangamon to have such
a looking man as I am stuck up for the Legislature. Now, I thought this
was a free country; that is the reason I address you to-day. Had I known
to the contrary, I should not have consented to run; but I will say one
thing, let the shoe pinch where it may; when I have been a candidate
before you five or six times, and have been beaten every time, I will
consider it a disgrace, and will be sure never to try it again; but I
am bound to beat that man if I am beat myself. Mark that!'"[90]

[90] Lamon, 127.

Voting at this period was _viva voce_ and not by ballot. One seeking the
vote of Lincoln, pompously supported him. Lincoln thereupon voted
against that candidate. Those who witnessed the action marveled much and
approved his conduct.[91] At this election, of the four successful
candidates for Sangamon County, Dawson received 1390 votes; Lincoln
followed with 1376. Stuart, the popular Whig, had nearly 200 votes
less.[92] These figures speak with eloquence of the advance made by the
surveyor in two years.

[91] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 67.

[92] Herndon, 1, 118.

"After he was elected to the Legislature," says Mr. Smoot, "he came to
my house one day in company with Hugh Armstrong. Says he, 'Smoot, did
you vote for me?' I told him I did. 'Well,' says he, 'you must loan me
money to buy suitable clothing, for I want to make a decent appearance
in the Legislature.' I then loaned him two hundred dollars, which he
returned to me according to promise."[93]

[93] Lamon, 157.

Compelled by events to be his own teacher, Lincoln learned to depend on
his own resources. Reared in a rough school, accustomed to be a leader
among his intellectual inferiors, still, in all humility, he looked to
his legislative experience with joy. Deprecating his kind of education,
open minded he anxiously awaited the privilege of associating with many
of the leading men of the State. There gathered at the Capitol its best
blood, the choice sons of Illinois, the representatives of the ambition,
the intelligence, and the popularity of the State. "The society of
Vandalia and the people attracted thither by the Legislature made it,
for that early day, a gay place indeed. Compared to Lincoln's former
environments, it had no lack of refinement and polish. That he absorbed
a good deal of this by contact with the men and women who surrounded
him, there can be no doubt. The 'drift of sentiment and the sweep of
civilization' at this time can best be measured by the character of the
legislation. There were acts to incorporate banks, turnpikes, bridges,
insurance companies, towns, railroads and female academies. The vigor
and enterprise of New England fusing with the illusory prestige of
Kentucky and Virginia was fast forming a new civilization to spread over
the prairies."[94]

[94] Herndon, 1, 155.

Lincoln with modesty remained a witness of the doings of the
Legislature. Content to wait for the fitting time to make an impression,
he did not rush into debate. It was a scouting period. Scanty of talk,
rich in thought, ever on the lookout for information, steady in
attendance, studying parliamentary procedure, he gained a name for
solidity, far better than brilliancy or oratory for real influence in a
legislative body.[95]

[95] _Ibid._

Lincoln forgot the prudence expressed in his first circular, for he
jumped into the movement that hurried along the internal improvement
policy. His practice was behind his theory in matters of finance.

Lincoln made little stir in this session, he took no glorious part in
its deliberations, and made no record for independence. He usually voted
with the members of his party. He became grounded in the finesse of law
making, an art whose acquirement and importance are seldom considered.
For method as well as merit is an element in the making of the statute.
Still, in measuring himself with his associates, he gained confidence
and found that he was not far behind in the training for political
prosperity. While he would not deceive, he learned how not to be
deceived. He discovered that men in the Senate are not of a far
different order from those in the field; that culture often hides a
mean soul; that polish is often the tinsel of education. He remained the
same Lincoln, longing for the reality of the old life without pretense.
He was content to return to his admirers in Clary Grove, with no
exaltation or pride in his new distinction as legislator.

A special session of the Legislature was held in December, 1835. One of
the evils of the time was the eagerness of representatives for public
offices of a more permanent character than the uncertain tenure of
popular election. New offices were constantly created. Lincoln took a
bold stand on the danger. He voted with the majority that the election
of a member of the Legislature to a State office was corrupting. He
voted with the minority to apply the principle also to relatives and
connections of the members. Lincoln remained a persistent supporter of
internal improvements. Some of the advocates shifted their votes from
time to time, but he remained constant in his devotion.

The influence of Lincoln extended over a widening territory and his fame
spread with new opportunities. After two scant years of public life, he
was considered among the leaders of his party. No longer waiting on the
advice of friends, he offered himself as a candidate for renomination.
He initiated his campaign with the following political fulmination:

"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
females).

"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 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."[96]

[96] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 7.

In commanding contrast to his first circular, this fairly seems to crowd
out every dispensable expression. Contact with the pioneer had taught
him to court the power of brevity, so this announcement is more like a
creed than an address. Homely and curt in character, it suited the time.
It was the best way to the heart of the average voter. Democracy found
in it its own image. Lincoln leans more than a little to the popular. He
advocates the distribution of the public lands money for the building of
canals and railroads without borrowing money, and openly declares his
subserviency in being governed by the public will on all questions.

Much attention has been dedicated to the suggestion advocating an
equality of suffrage. This expression loses considerable significance
considering its random character. There is little subsequent evidence of
his belief in female suffrage as a wise and just political measure.
Still, it may be fairly assumed that the untrammeled mind of Lincoln,
with a sure faith in universal suffrage, followed the cherished doctrine
to the end. "All such questions," he observed one day to Herndon as they
were discussing temperance in his office, "must first find lodgment with
the most enlightened souls who stamp them with their approval. In God's
own time they will be organized into law and thus woven into the fabric
of our institutions."[97]

[97] Herndon, 1, 158.

The request of candidates to "show their hands" was of special
significance at this time. It was a transitional period, the parting of
ways between the "whole hog Jacksonite" and the moderate Democrat. There
was no room for lukewarm adherents. It was a period of positive
alliance. Diplomacy was no longer a factor. The center of gravity
shifted from local to national affairs. Contests became partisan
controversies on general issues.

The campaign of 1836 is the low ebb of the old personal campaign, where
every man fought his own battle on his own worth, where the people
judged every candidate on individual merit. This is the last time
seekers of office are asked "to show their hand." From that time,
political affiliation and not personal worth began to be the marrow of a
contest. Partisan devotion submerged personal fealty. The people
involuntarily created parties, and straightway became slaves of their
own handiwork, selling independence for party loyalty. Partisanship held
them in its clutches, and they hardly dared to loosen its embrace. The
man who ventured to exercise his judgment was charged with being a
weakling, or opened himself to the impious accusation in a democratic
community that he regarded himself greater than his party. The vision of
the average worker in the ranks became near sighted, and the bias of
his judgment knew no limit. Party spirit set free an element of discord
among men that sundered friendships, wrought enmities between brothers,
and banished reason. From that time even Lincoln ceased to gather any
considerable support from his political antagonists.

Lincoln was wise enough to note the tendency of these events. Wasting no
regrets over the new conditions, he bound himself to the party of his
choice without equivocation. Fairly but energetically maintaining the
sanctity of the Whig principles, he became a fearless and feared
champion of its doctrine. He displayed keen political wisdom in this
conduct. Partisanship seldom rewards the laggard in the day of
prosperity.

That Lincoln entered with zeal into this campaign and indulged in the
fashion of the day in the issuance of handbills of a flaring character,
the following is significant evidence:

    "TO THE PEOPLE OF SANGAMON COUNTY--Fellow Citizens: I have this
    moment been shown a handbill signed 'Truth Teller' in which my name
    is done up in large capitals. No one can doubt the object of this
    attack at this late hour. An effort is now made to show that John T.
    Stuart and myself opposed the passage of the bill by which the
    Wiggins loan was paid. The handbill says--the only vote taken on the
    bill when the yeas and nays were taken was upon engrossing the bill
    for a third reading. 'That's a lie!' Let the reader refer to pages
    124, 125 and 126 of the Journal and he will see that the yeas and
    nays were taken _twice_ upon the bill _after_ the vote referred to
    by this lying Truth Teller, and he will also see that my course
    toward the bill was anything but unfriendly. It is impossible to
    make a lengthy answer at this late hour. All I have to say is that
    the author is a liar and a _scoundrel_, and that if he will avow
    the authorship to me, I promise to give his proboscis a good
    wringing. A. Lincoln."[98]

[98] Hand bill in possession of Dr. Jayne, Springfield, Ill.

One of the sure signs of the spirit of increasing partisanship was the
virulence and bitterness of political gatherings. Contests between
leaders became frequent. Debates were had on the prairie that equaled in
earnestness senatorial controversies. There was all the high tension of
the gladiatorial combat intensified by the championship of something
more than a personal issue--the stake of party principles. We are
informed that on one occasion a Whig candidate, at the top of his voice,
branded the statement of a Democratic opponent, as false. As passion ran
high, a duel seemed a likely result. Lincoln followed on the program.
With his marvelous fairness he discussed the subject gently and serenely
so as to satisfy friend and foe. Judicial, though earnest in advocacy,
he fully calmed the tumult.[99]

[99] Lamon, 188.

It was doubtless at this time that the following incident deeply
disturbed his calmness. Something had displeased the "wild boys" who had
been his supporters from the first. Perhaps a rumor that he affected
strange ways, or voted for some measure not to their liking, caused the
trouble. The leader at once gave the call and they gathered. Seldom
revealing himself, he then gave freedom to his emotion. He told them
that he never would forget those who had given him his start, the men
who stood by him, who had made him what he was and all that he hoped to
be. He bade them if they still cherished unkindness, if they still held
him guilty, to tear him to pieces limb by limb. The generous hearts of
the frontiersmen, overcome by this unwonted display of feeling, lost all
resentment, and the leader regained his prestige thus rudely
shaken.[100]

[100] Oldroyd, 557.

Early in the campaign Lincoln spoke at Springfield. Some of the Clary
Grove boys and other admirers followed him, confident that he would
distinguish himself at his first appearance. They were not slow in
claiming that he would make a better stump speech than any one at the
county seat. He splendidly defended the principles of his party, and
produced a profound impression. Among his auditors was a Mr. Forquer,
who had the finest house in Springfield, lately protected by the only
lightning rod in that locality. Formerly a Whig, his apostasy was
rewarded with a lucrative office. He felt the sting of Lincoln's strong
presentation of the principles of the Whig party. The recent recruit to
the Democratic organization replied by a speech able and apparently
fair, still skillfully mingled with sarcasm. Scorn and satire were
freely used, so that the anxiety of the friends of Lincoln was awakened.
Speed relates that his reply to Forquer was characterized by great
dignity and force; that he would never forget the conclusion of that
speech. "Mr. Forquer commenced his speech," said Lincoln, "by announcing
that the young man would have to be taken down. It is for you, fellow
citizens, not for me to say whether I am up or down. The gentleman has
seen fit to allude to my being a young man; but he forgets that I am
older in years than I am in tricks and trades of politicians. I desire
to live, and I desire place and distinction; but I would rather die now
than, like the gentleman, live to see the day that I would change my
politics for an office worth three thousand dollars a year, and then
feel compelled to erect a lightning rod to protect a guilty conscience
from an offended God."[101]

[101] Herndon, 1, 171-2.

Lincoln showed supreme skill in striking a chord in the pioneer heart.
He knew the thoughts of the plain people, knew that they hated every
pretension of manner. For many years whenever Forquer rose to speak he
was pointed at as the man who put a lightning rod on his house to ward
off the vengeance of the Supreme Power.[102] Lincoln was not averse to
appeal to other sentiments of the people. At a gathering of farmers in
joint debate with his rival, he said: "I am too poor to own a carriage,
but my friend has generously invited me to ride with him. I want you to
vote for me if you will; but if not then vote for my opponent, for he is
a fine man."[103]

[102] Herndon, 1, 172.

[103] Tarbell, 1, 130.

In this campaign, Lincoln rose to eminence as a political speaker. From
that time he was one of the stalwart Whigs selected by common consent
for leadership in the contests with their strong disciplined and
victorious opponents. Lincoln's services were given popular endorsement.
He led all the rest of his able associates.[104]

[104] Herndon, 1, 163.

In the Legislature of 1836 Lincoln played the part of a politician. The
external side of his career is described by Lamon, who declares that "he
was the smartest parliamentarian and the cunningest 'log roller.'"[105]

[105] Lamon, 195.

The State was now aglow with enthusiasm over the prospects of the policy
of internal improvements. A few days before the Legislature assembled, a
mass convention in Sangamon County instructed their members to vote for
the system of internal improvements.[106] This was one of the many
manifestations of the public sentiment.

[106] _Ibid._, 196.

Lincoln followed the common political ambition of his time. He became an
aggressive champion of the public improvement policy. He told his friend
Speed, in confidence, that he aimed at the great distinction of being
called the "De Witt Clinton of Illinois." With many other public men of
that day he ventured the hope of rivalling the fame of the builder of
the Erie Canal.[107] A leading member of the finance committee, he was
foremost in urging the popular measures by which everybody was to be
enriched by some stroke of statesmanship, some mysterious manipulation
in finance. The state loans were to construct railroads, the railroads
were to build cities; the cities in turn were to create a demand for
farms; capital rushing for investment was to follow, and lands were
steadily to rise in value. The tax on real estate was to go into a
sinking fund, and thus shuffle off local assessment. In this fine way
taxation was to be banished.[108] With untiring step many followed the
vision. Politics as well as fancy every now and then has its lamp of
Aladdin.

[107] Benton, 1, 22. Lamon, p. 195.

[108] Lamon, 197.

No one voted more persistently for local and State improvements, relief
acts and the incorporation of organizations, than Abraham Lincoln. This
was not done in darkness. The solemn protest of some sane members was
put forth against the prevailing folly that held its repeated
jubilations in the Legislature. They commented on the madness of the
immense schemes, on the multitude of officers with ample salaries. They
dimly prophesied shadow and gloom to the hopes of the enamored
majority.[109] Another resolution advising consultation with the people
before borrowing money for all the contemplated enterprises received
only nine votes. Lincoln was not among that eminent minority.[110]

[109] House Journal of 1836-37, 680.

[110] _Ibid._, 367.

Governor Ford makes the following stinging comment on those who put into
operation the internal improvement policy: They have been excused upon
the ground that they were instructed to vote as they did, and that they
had every right to believe that they were truly reflecting the will of
their constituents. But members ought to resign such small offices, to
sacrifice a petty ambition, rather than become the willing tools of a
deluded people, to bring so much calamity upon the country.[111]

[111] Ford, 196.

The chief task of Lincoln and the other members of the Sangamon
delegation in the tenth biennial session of the Legislature was to
secure the removal of the capital from Vandalia to Springfield. This
called forth his utmost ingenuity. Many rivals sought the prize. It was
no mean problem to grasp victory from a crowd of contending communities.
Lincoln set himself resolutely to the practical problem. It demanded
patience, skill and every art of the legislator. Twice its enemies laid
the Springfield bill on the table. He gathered his despairing associates
for counsel in the hour of seeming defeat. The bill was squeezed through
at the last moment.

Governor Ford and other Democrats seriously believed, and long repeated
the charge, that the "Long Nine," as the Sangamon delegation was called,
"log rolled the removal" through the Legislature. Nicolay and Hay,
however, contend that the removal was due to the adroit management of
Mr. Lincoln--first in inducing all the rival claimants to unite in a
vote to move the capital from Vandalia, and then carrying a direct vote
for Springfield through the joint convention by assistance of the
Southern counties. They cite as evidence of this personal influence of
Lincoln the statement of a legislator: "He made Webb and me vote for the
removal, though we belonged to the southern part of the state. We
defended our vote before our constituents by saying that necessity would
ultimately force the seat of government to a central position. But in
reality we gave the vote to Lincoln because we liked him, because we
wanted to oblige our friend, and because we recognized him as our
leader."[112] This statement is not sufficient to meet the contention
that the removal was cunningly attained. The personal power of Lincoln
with some legislators may have been an availing factor. Still the
majority of the lawmakers were men moved mainly by material
considerations. It is not reasonable to assume that in voting on a vital
and important proposition they would not highly consider its effect on
their own measures; that they would enable the Sangamon delegation to
return triumphantly to their constituents without some understanding of
reciprocity. That Lincoln reluctantly or otherwise made some peculiar
alliances or engaged in some questionable strategy may be reasonably
deduced from the admission: "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."[113]

[112] Nicolay & Hay, 138-139.

[113] Tarbell, 1, 137.

Still there is stirring evidence that Lincoln would not barter his
principles even for the success of his most cherished purpose in that
session. An effort was made to unite the friends of Springfield with
those of a measure Lincoln refused to sanction. Every argument was used
to influence Mr. Lincoln to yield his objections, and thus secure the
removal of the capital to his own city, but without effect. Finally
after midnight, when the candles were burning low in the room, he rose
amid the silence and solemnity which prevailed, and made an eloquent and
powerful speech, saying in conclusion: "You may burn my body to ashes,
and scatter them to the winds of heaven; you may drag my soul down to
the regions of darkness and despair to be tormented forever; but you
will never get me to support a measure which I believe to be wrong,
although by doing so I may accomplish that which I believe to be
right."[B]

[B] Tarbell, 1, 138-9.

In matters involving method and detail, he used every art of the
politician. Still when principle was at stake, he would not bow to
expediency. With rare precision, he keenly followed the hazy border land
between principle and policy. In securing results, he surpassed common
politicians; in fealty to integrity he rivalled the patriot.

The year 1837 was a crucial period in many respects for Lincoln. He had
steadily moved forward until he became the leader of New Salem. He had
shown superior skill as a local politician. But his future as lawyer and
politician in New Salem was already bounded. With his success as a
legislator and the applause of larger communities, his longing for fame
and power grew stronger. With no keen regret, he sundered the ties that
bound him to Clary Grove where his word was law, to enter upon a life of
more varied and extensive character. His entrance into Springfield was
as humble as that into New Salem. Speed relates that Lincoln came into
his store, set his saddle bags on the counter, and inquired what a
single bedstead would cost. Being told that the amount complete was
seventeen dollars, Lincoln said that it was cheap enough, but cheap as
it was, he did not have the money to pay, but if he would be trusted
until Christmas, and his experiment there as a lawyer was a success, he
would pay then, if he failed he would probably never pay at all. The
tone of his voice was so full of pathos that Speed felt for him, and he
thought that he never saw so gloomy and melancholy a face in his life,
and he then told Lincoln that he had a very large room and a very large
double bed in it, which he was welcome to share with him. Without saying
a word Lincoln took his saddle bags on his arm, went upstairs, set them
down on the floor, came down again, and with a face beaming with
pleasure and smiles, exclaimed, "Well, Speed, I'm moved."[114]

[114] Herndon, 1, 176.

In the special session of 1837, the accusation that the removal of the
capital was born of "bargain and corruption," challenged the integrity
of the Sangamon delegation. A prominent Democrat, General Ewing, thus
taunted them: "The arrogance of Springfield, its presumption in claiming
the seat of government is not to be endured; the law has been passed by
chicanery and trickery; the Springfield delegation has sold out to the
internal improvement men, and has promised its support to every measure
that would gain a vote to the law removing the seat of government."[115]
That Lincoln hurried to the defence of the onslaught of an eminent
opponent, is another indication that he was rapidly becoming chief of
his fellows. He here displayed the same kind of talent that won him
applause from audiences on the prairie.[116] General Linder states that
then, for the first time, he began to conceive a very high opinion of
the talents and personal courage of Abraham Lincoln. The intervention of
friends alone averted a duel between Lincoln and Ewing.[117]

[115] Tarbell, 1, 139.

[116] Lamon, 201.

[117] Tarbell, 1, 139.

During this session, a resolution was introduced by Mr. Linder for a
legislative inquiry into the affairs of the State Bank, generally known
to be in a hazardous condition. The introducer ventured to support his
resolution with a tone of superiority that invited chastisement. Again
Lincoln bore the brunt of the defence, railing at Mr. Linder about his
pretensions, saying that in one faculty at least, there could be no
dispute of the gentleman's superiority over him and most other men, and
that was, the faculty of so entangling a subject that neither himself,
nor any other man, could find head or tail to it.[118]

[118] Tarbell, 1, 140, 141.

In speaking of the resolution itself, Lincoln indulged in these typical
expressions: It is an old maxim and a very sound one, that he who dances
should always pay the fiddler. I am decidedly opposed to the people's
money being used to pay the fiddler. 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.[119] The people know their
rights and they are never slow to assert and maintain them when they are
invaded. 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 with the bank. No, sir, it is the politician who is
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. 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 step removed from honest men. I say this with the greater
freedom, because, being a politician myself, none can regard it as
personal.[120]

[119] _Ibid._, 141.

[120] _Ibid._, 142.

The speech was published in the _Sangamon Journal_ with the editorial
comment that Lincoln's remarks on Linder's bank resolution were quite to
the point; that he carried the true Kentucky rifle, and when he fired he
seldom failed sending the shot home.[121]

[121] _Ibid._

Lincoln's bold words about the politician, modified by his quaint
admission, allow us a glimpse of the inner man. It took no mean courage
to make so unpalatable an assertion. Still tempering his speech with his
rare kind of diplomacy, he did not suffer in the estimation of his
associates, those whose esteem he valued.



CHAPTER V

PROTESTER AND PATRIOT


The year 1837 is the culmination of the first period of abolitionism in
Illinois. Until then, abolitionism was a hated eastern conception.
Despite opposition, and somewhat feeding on it, it slowly filtered its
way through an almost impervious public sentiment. A small band
encountered with heroism, the continuous martyrdom that waits on the
protagonist. Few in numbers, zealous in their gospel, superbly confident
in the rectitude of their counsel they aroused the spirit of
retaliation. Their excessive zeal transcended all other obligations,
rendering them indifferent, if not hostile, to the constitutional
compact. They stimulated and encouraged to life a corresponding
bitterness among the multitude.

It was in those days a mortal offence to call a man an abolitionist. The
popular mind scarcely distinguished between men who stole horses and men
who freed negroes. They regarded anti-slavery men as robbers, disturbers
of the peace, the instigators of arson, and enemies to the Union which
gave us as a people liberty and strength. "In testimony of these
sentiments, Illinois enacted a 'black code' of most preposterous and
cruel severity,--a code that would have been a disgrace to a slave
state, and was simply an infamy in a free one. It borrowed the
provisions of the most revolting laws known among men, for exiling,
selling, beating, bedeviling, and torturing negroes, whether bond or
free."[122]

[122] Lamon, 206.

That the opposition of slavery was bothering the people of Sangamon
County, is evident from the following resolution adopted at Springfield
in 1837 at a public meeting, over which Judge Brown presided:

"Resolved that in the opinion of this meeting the doctrine of the
immediate emancipation of the slaves of this country (although
promulgated by those who profess to be Christians) is at variance with
Christianity, and its tendency is to breed contention, broil and mobs;
and the leaders of those calling themselves Abolitionists are designing
ambitious men and dangerous members of society and should be shunned by
all good citizens."[123]

[123] History of Sangamon County, 251.

Illinois would scarcely brook unchained utterance on the darkest
question of all the ages,--the "right of one man to eat the bread which
another earned." A kind of stifling ostracism awaited the lowly or the
towering disciple who spoke in the language of Jefferson, of the fear
awakening problem. Every generation has its remorseless method of
crucifying its heroes of speech and deed. Business and political
interests, social influences and religious affiliations concerted in the
crushing of abolitionism. Success might have crowned their effort had
prudence been their companion, but they mobbed, maltreated, and even
murdered the champions of the new movement. Had madness confounded them,
they could not have acted more unwisely. This, more than all the
agitation of abolition leaders, quickened the moral vitality of the
people. There were many white men who cared little for the slave, but
much for the gospel of free speech as old as the Anglo-Saxon race. This
fatal policy of brute force finally dictated the doom of a power that
long mocked all opposition, that dreamed of an imperial government
grander than the vision which "Stout Cortez" beheld when he first stared
at the Pacific, "silent on a peak in Darien."

The motives that prompted public sentiment in Illinois to throttle
discussion on the slave question, almost baffle understanding. The
Lovejoys attacked no vested interest in the State, menaced no
substantial rights of person or property. While the Southern States
busied themselves with the doctrine that it was the privilege of each
State to demean itself as it wished, subject only to the Constitution,
as it interpreted that instrument, there was small occasion for a
Northern commonwealth to curb its own citizens, to sacrifice ancient and
cherished rights for the pleasure of an exacting foreign institution.

The anti-slavery forces with keenness of vision saw the weak point of
the enemy's attack, so they ranged themselves round the banner,
proclaiming the doctrine of free speech and the sacredness of an
unshackled press. Nothing more inherently reveals the weakness of the
advocates of slavery, than their morbid fear of free and frank inquiry
into its policy and wisdom. In the face of an institution demanding mob
power, and the sacrifice of priceless principles, the Abolitionists
performed a wholesome public service in contending that then more than
ever liberty of discussion should be protected, maintained and hallowed.

Suddenly, in the same year up starts Lincoln the statesman, Lincoln the
politician sinks. He possessed the rare gift of concealing his most
cherished opinions until the time was ripe for expression. He was aware
of the folly of mouthing truths when no good could come therefrom. In
this, he was a politician. Still when the occasion called for an act of
fortitude, when the solemnity of the hour summoned heroic utterance, as
from "heights afar," the sound of his voice was heard and the thrill of
his words awakened. In this, he was a supreme statesman.

Strange medley of the ideal and the practical,--at times he appeared the
very woof of the visionary, and then stood forth as a petty politician.
He was a mystery and a wonder to his contemporaries. They never beheld
such a man; they had no standard by which to measure him. First, amazing
some by the minuteness of his strategy, he would then startle others by
a bold proclamation of immortal truth. There was something elusive in
the manifoldness of his nature. The world with childlike simplicity
looks for uniformity of action, for consistency. So it was that in later
years time-servers called Lincoln the apostle of radicalism, and
radicals named him the slave of conservatism.

The legislature instead of branding the black crime of the murder of
Lovejoy in 1837, hastened to pass resolutions of sympathy with slavery.
No external inducement guided Lincoln to fly in the face of the
sentiment of the Legislature, the State and Nation in regard to
Abolitionism. His conduct mystifies unless the abiding impress of the
incident at New Orleans is fully measured. It was no idle vaunt that
stirred him to the declaration that if he ever had the chance he would
strike a blow for the enslaved. The testing time was at hand. His oath
was "registered in Heaven." It was necessary to join the majority in
their defence of slavery, or strike a lonely path in behalf of the
enslaved. His soul faced that crisis. No longer helpless, he was widely
known, and was distinguished for his services as a political leader.
High in position, his act and word carrying weight, he proclaimed his
protest. The chance being at hand, he struck slavery a stinging blow.
The silence of nearly a decade was broken in words that shall echo for
evermore. Only one other representative, Dan Stone, of Sangamon County,
dared to sign the following signal dissent that will save him from an
oblivion that has already enshrouded those who voted for the successful
resolutions:

    "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 the 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.

                              "Dan Stone,
                              "A. Lincoln.
             "Representatives of the County of Sangamon."[124]

[124] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 15.

The resolutions that passed the General Assembly were still rather
conservative for the time and place. The protest of Lincoln is therefore
the more significant, as indicating its origin from some deep mental or
moral sentiment. Every letter in the protest is weighed. No product of
Lincoln is more native to his genius. It is as restrained as a judicial
decision. Avoiding unneeded antagonism, it is framed with admirable
diplomacy. Radical in thought, still so moderate in expression, it saved
his power for further good, not placing him beyond fellowship with his
associates. Yet with all its subdued character, with infinite wisdom it
made the assault at the weakest point, declaring that slavery was
founded, not only on injustice, but _bad policy_. In the last phrase
lurked the sting that was to awaken the self-interest of the North, the
same kind of selfishness that solidified the South in defending the
institution. Lincoln was among the first to grasp and lay stress on the
warp of the issue. He once declared that honest statesmanship was the
employment of individual meanness for the public good. When
self-interest became enlisted with conscience against the evil, its days
were numbered. While Abolitionism was noisily tugging at one of the
pillars that supported human bondage, Lincoln serenely forged an
argument linking its moral and industrial weakness, an argument that
finally shook its very foundation, until the peculiar institution that
dominated the destiny of the nation for more than half a century tumbled
to destruction. While other men were forced to change their opinions
through the malignancy of slavery to keep abreast of public sentiment,
Lincoln remained steadfast in his opinions and his policy. At the
outset, he foresaw that no institution could last long that rested on
injustice and bad policy. Only a change of external conditions separated
the man who entered a solemn protest against the iniquity of slavery in
a hostile community and the leader who gave life to the momentous act of
the nineteenth century.

The period preceding the murder of Lovejoy was an era of unrest. The mob
spirit ranged over the land. Thus in commenting upon the murder of the
mulatto McIntosh, Lovejoy says: "In Charlestown it burns a Convent over
the head of defenseless women; in Baltimore it desecrates the Sabbath,
and works all that day in demolishing a private citizen's house; in
Vicksburg it hangs up gamblers, three or four in a row; and in St.
Louis it forces a man--a hardened wretch certainly, and one that
deserves to die, but not _thus_ to die--it forces him from beneath the
aegis of our constitution and laws, hurries him to the stake and burns
him alive!"[C]

[C] Lovejoy, 172.

Without doubt, the murder of Lovejoy and similar incidents drew the mind
of Lincoln to the discussion of the subject of the preservation of our
institutions. For Herndon has left valuable testimony as to the
influence of like events on his own opinions. The cruel and uncalled-for
murder aroused anti-slavery sentiments, penetrating the college at
Jacksonville where he was attending, and both faculty and students were
unrestrained in their denunciation. Herndon's father, believing that the
college was too strongly permeated with the virus of Abolitionism,
forced him to withdraw from the institution. But Herndon declares that
it was too late; that the murder of Lovejoy filled him with more
desperation than the slave scene in New Orleans did Lincoln. For while
the latter believed in non-interference with slavery, as long as the
Constitution authorized its existence, Herndon, although acting
nominally with the Whig party up to 1853, struck out for Abolitionism
pure and simple.[125]

[125] Herndon, 1, 178-9.

In the fall of 1837, Lincoln addressed the Young Men's Lyceum at
Springfield, Illinois, in a formal discourse bearing traces of
considerable preparation. The style is fulsome and fanciful, and unlike
his own crisp utterance of previous or subsequent periods. For a time he
wandered from his natural self and followed the glitter of what he
doubtless deemed a more cultivated form of expression. Thus it begins:
"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."[126]

[126] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 9.

It is especially important to take note of Lincoln's attitude of the
prevailing mob spirit. His treatment of that theme, his mode and manner
and thought, is so like that of the editor of the _Alton Observer_, that
it is reasonable to assume that there was a common origin to the common
sentiment. The same scenes and events that stirred the soul of Lovejoy
aroused that of Lincoln. His direct onslaught on the mob spirit being
largely connected with the slave issue, was an indirect attack on
slavery. In this, Lincoln and the Abolitionists stood on the same
ground. He extravagantly denounced the malefaction of the mobs, saying
that they pervaded the country from New England to Louisiana; and alike
sprang up among the pleasure-hunting masters of Southern slaves, and the
order-loving citizens of the land of steady habits, that this process of
hanging went on 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. He further
insisted that by the operation of this mobocratic spirit, the strongest
bulwark of any government might effectually be broken down and
destroyed--the attachment of the people. He contended that whenever the
vicious portion of population should be permitted to burn churches,
ravage provision stores, throw printing presses into rivers, shoot
editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons with impunity, this
government could not last.[127]

[127] _Ibid._, 10-11.

Under the display of such extravagant expression there is still
patriotic apprehensiveness of danger to the national existence. He
fought out the solution of the problem unaided until the way seemed
clear and plain. To him the remedy was simple--obedience to the law of
the land.

"Let reverence for the law 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....

"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 arises, let
proper legal provision be made for them with the least possible delay,
but till then, if not too intolerable, be borne with."[128]

[128] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 12.

His remedy bespeaking reverence for the laws, would destroy the rampant
spirit in the slavery movement and in abolitionism, so that neither
would violate the law of the land, and so that the controversy might be
conducted without intruding on the sanctity of the fundamental
principles of the Constitution.

From this time, Lincoln ceased to be a mere local politician. He became
intensely concerned over national questions. Naturally, a man of broad
views, he soon threw off the coil of locality, and with zeal invaded the
arena of national issues. His mind ranged over the general domain for
materials. Local issues were only stepping stones to him. Leaving the
valley of minor matters, with exuberant spirits, he rejoicingly entered
the new land of larger import, and of broader moment to the weal of the
nation. For the first time he encountered extensive questions concerning
the very foundations of the Republic.

"Towering genius," he said, "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."[129]

[129] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 13.

We here strike a golden vein in his character. Ranging over the world's
activities for an illustration to rival the ambition of towering genius,
he finds it in the enslavement or emancipation of a race. Out of the
loneliness of his individuality, out of the solemnity of his
deliberations, he grew into a great character. It is his own
illustration dug out of his mental experience, a product of a mind
brooding over a national destiny. He saw with unerring vision, for men
did come in his own generation who did not scruple to climb to power
upon the back of an enslaved people. The true Lincoln consists not only
of the humble man, of homely face, gaunt form, shambling limbs, quaint
utterance, rude story and humble way. We may also see him in his early
manhood with Titan power, fighting and triumphing over the brute forces
of his being, over his ambition, and towering to the greatness of
righteous triumph. Conduct is only the shadow of soul struggle. Nearly
three decades before the Emancipation, its destiny was determined in no
small measure by the events that led to the murder of Lovejoy.



CHAPTER VI

PARTISAN IN STATE AND NATIONAL AFFAIRS


The campaign of 1838 did not differ materially from that of previous
years. A colleague of Lincoln says that they called at nearly every
home; that it was customary to keep some whiskey in the house, for
private use and to treat guests; that the subject was always mentioned
as a matter of etiquette, but with the remark to Lincoln that though he
never drank, his friend might like to take a little. Lincoln often told
his associates that he never drank and had no desire for drink, nor the
companionship of drinking men.

Some light is thrown on the nature of the conduct of office seekers by
the following incident: During this campaign, Douglas and Stuart,
candidates for Congress, "fought like tigers in Herndon's grocery, over
a floor that was drenched with slops, and gave up the struggle only when
both were exhausted. Then, as a further entertainment to the populace,
Mr. Stuart ordered a 'barrel of whiskey and wine.'"[130]

[130] Lamon, 230.

Joshua Speed states that some of the Whigs contributed a purse of two
hundred dollars to enable Lincoln to pay his personal expense in the
canvass. After the election, the candidate handed Speed $199.25, with
the request that he return it to the subscribers. "I did not need the
money," said he, "I made the canvass on my own horse; my entertainment
being at the houses of friends, cost me nothing; and my only outlay was
seventy-five cents for a barrel of cider, which some farm hands
insisted I should treat them to."[131]

[131] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 158.

On one occasion, Col. Taylor, a demagogue of the Democratic party, was
hypocritically appealing to his "horny handed neighbors" in language of
feigned adulation. Lincoln knew his man. He deftly removed the vest of
the orator and revealed to his astonished hearers "a ruffled shirt front
glittering with watch chain, seals and other golden jewels." The speaker
stood confused. The audience roared with laughter. When it came
Lincoln's turn to answer, he retorted. "While Colonel Taylor was making
these charges against the Whigs over the country, riding in fine
carriages, wearing ruffled shirts, kid gloves, massive gold watch chains
with large gold seals, and flourishing a heavy gold-headed cane, I was a
poor boy, hired on a flat-boat at eight dollars a month, and had only
one pair of breeches to my back, and they were buckskin. Now if you know
the nature of buckskin when wet and dried by the sun, it will shrink;
and my breeches kept shrinking until they left several inches of my legs
bare between the tops of my socks and the lower part of my breeches; and
whilst I was growing taller they were growing shorter, and so much
tighter that they left a blue streak around my legs that can be seen to
this day. If you call this aristocracy I plead guilty to the
charge."[132]

[132] Herndon, 1, 186.

When the Legislature convened in 1838, Lincoln was a candidate of his
party for speaker. His opponent was chosen by a plurality of one vote.
Lamon declares that this distinction was a barren honor, and known to be
such at the time, but cites no reason for his statement.[133] At least
the humble representative of Sangamon County continued to rise in the
esteem of his associates. His activity was crowned with the approval of
those with whom he fought side by side in the turmoil and debate of
controversy. It is a significant indication of his diplomacy. He had so
won the confidence of his companions that even differences on that
slavery issue did not cause him the loss of their esteem and favor. The
recipient of such an honor is likely to be the possessor of amiable
personal qualities that call forth devotion, even more than the sturdy
qualities of talent and ability.[134] In matters of political
expediency, Lincoln did not run athwart the sentiments of the majority.
Despite the mutterings of discontent in some quarters, despite a growing
feeling that the internal improvement policy was likely to involve the
State in disaster, the finance committee, of which Lincoln was a
prominent member, advised even further indulgence in the fatal policy.
Finally, the fearful financial condition of the State stared the people
and their representatives in the face. The supporters of the internal
improvement system stubbornly began to yield to the policy of
retrenchment. Still, in the Special Session of 1839, assembled to
deliberate over the momentous state of affairs, Lincoln with peculiar
logic urged they were so far advanced in a general system of internal
improvements that they could not retreat from it without disgrace and
great loss, and that the conclusion was that they must advance.[135]

[133] Lamon, 212.

[134] Lamon, 212.

[135] From Lincoln's Report for Finance Committee on Expediency of
Purchasing all Unsold Lands of United States in Illinois, Jan. 23, 1839,
223.

Lincoln was one of thirty-three members to vote for laying the bill
repealing improvements on the table, while sixty opposed this action;
and he was one of thirty-five who voted against the repeal of the
internal improvement policy, while thirty-seven voted for it.[136] Thus,
to the very end, Lincoln persisted in the disastrous policy that clouded
the history and prosperity of Illinois for many years.

[136] House Journal of 1839, 265.

Lincoln basked in political events. He was alive to the details in
political strategy. In November, 1839, he wrote to Stuart, his partner,
in regard to a voter: "Evan Butler is jealous that you never send your
compliments to him. You must not neglect him next time."[137]

[137] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 41.

From the very beginning, he concerned himself with the candidacy of
General Harrison. Recognizing its elemental political strength, he
watched its growth with increasing interest. Harrison had never
distinguished himself as a public citizen. Lincoln looked at the
political side of the picture alone, little dreaming that the day was to
come when his election was to depend, in some measure, on the same
emotions that promoted the triumph of Harrison. In both campaigns the
log cabin played a dominant part.

Speed's store in Springfield was the retreat of Lincoln, Douglas and
Baker, and other political leaders of the dominant parties. However,
partisanship was about to triumph, and common meeting places were soon
to become unknown. In December, 1839, just as the campaign of 1840 was
looming up, a political discussion between the leaders grew violent in
the grocery over the national issue. During the angry debate, Douglas,
with his imperial manner, flung forth the taunt: "Gentlemen, this is no
place to talk politics; we will discuss the question publicly with
you."[138]

[138] Lamon, 232.

Lincoln, who had schooled himself in logical dissertation, loved a
political contest. He had met the champions of the Legislature without
dismay, and was more feared than fearing. Shortly afterward Lincoln
presented a resolution to accept the flaunting challenge of Douglas.
Logan, Baker, Browning and Lincoln were the chosen disputants of the
Whig cause. The Democrats put forth Douglas, Calhoun, Lambourn and
Thomas as their champions. Each speaker was allowed an evening for his
address. This controversy was long known as "the great debate."[139]

[139] Lamon, 232.

That Lincoln was climbing to eminence slowly, that he was marvelously
free from egoism and the aggressiveness of the common political orator
is manifest from the first paragraph of his address: "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 these 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
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 my 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."[140]

[140] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 21.

His manner of holding an opponent to the point at issue, his directness
of speech are strikingly displayed: "I now ask the audience, when Mr.
Calhoun shall answer me, to hold him to the questions. Permit him not to
escape them. Require him either to show that the subtreasury would not
injuriously affect the currency, or that we should in some way receive
an equivalent for that injurious effect. Require him either to show that
the subtreasury would not be more expensive as a fiscal agent than a
bank, or that we would in some way be compensated for the additional
expense."[141]

[141] _Ibid._, 29-30.

Although of limited experience in public controversy, the least known of
the Whig debaters, diffident of his own capacity, yet he sought the most
brilliant and distinguished debater in the Democratic party--Douglas.
Free from sham, he was merciless in exposing it in others, as the
following attack on his elusive antagonist indicates: "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 Postoffice, 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 be unexposed,--I readily consented that, on the score both
of veracity and sagacity, the audience would judge whether he or I were
the more deserving of the world's contempt."[142]

[142] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 35.

Sober in the main as the speeches of Webster, on the currency issue
Lincoln only once let loose his rollicking and suffusing sense of humor:
"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."[143]

[143] _Ibid._, 35-36.

That he was still subject to the fashion of pioneer exuberant
expression; that he was somewhat entangled in the growing partisanship
of the time, is thoroughly evident from his stormy peroration: "Many
free countries have lost their liberty, and ours may lose hers; but if
she shall, let it be 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 helplessness 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."[144]

[144] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 36.

This fulsome conclusion more than his sustained logical argument swept
over his audience and made it a popular success, so that admiring
friends promoted its publication in the Sangamon _Journal_. Lamon,
however, curtly makes this dampening comment on his eloquent diction:
"Considering that the times were extremely peaceful, and that the
speaker saw no bloodshed except what flowed from the noses of
belligerents in the groceries about Springfield, the speech seems to
have been unnecessarily defiant."[145]

[145] Lamon, 236.

The Committee of Whigs in charge of Harrison's political campaign in
Illinois issued a circular urging the organization of the whole State
for the Presidential contest. Lincoln was a prominent member of this
body and his style shows through this appeal. It was a combination of
skillful play to party spirit, and a thorough knowledge of the mode of
conducting a successful campaign. "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 cooperation; and as we do our
duty, so we shall expect you to do yours."[146]

[146] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 38.

The circular then proposed a new method of bringing out the full Whig
vote, in essence the same that is now employed by every successful
political organization. The following was the plan of organization:--

(1) To divide every county into small districts, and to appoint in each
a subcommittee, with the duty to make a perfect list of all the voters,
and to ascertain their choice with certainty, all doubtful voters to be
designated in separate lines.

(2) To keep a constant watch on the doubtful voters, and from time to
time have them talked to by those they trusted, and to place in their
hands convincing documents.

(3) To report, at least once a month, and on election days see that
every Whig was brought to the polls.[147]

[147] _Ibid._

Lincoln was brought up in a practical school where votes are a matter of
calculation, where the things done on the stage were plotted and planned
behind the stage. Few men were more thoroughly trained in the methods of
securing results. He eagerly wrote to Stuart for copies of the "Life of
Harrison," and also requested "The Senate Journal of New York" of
September, 1814. "I have a newspaper article which says that that
document proves that Van Buren voted against raising troops in the last
war. And in general send me everything you think will be a good
'war-club.'"[148] He was learning that political battles are won and
lost, not alone on discussion of principles, but on appeals to the
emotions of men.

[148] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 39.

As a politician, his judgment prevailed over his sentiment. He was not
carried away by the enthusiasm of the hour, but looked beneath the
surface for events that suggested public sentiment. So he noted with
discernment "A great many of the grocery sort of Van Buren men, as
formerly, are out for Harrison. Our Irish blacksmith, Gregory, is for
Harrison. I believe I may say that all our friends think the chances of
carrying the State very good."[149]

[149] _Ibid._, 40.

For the first time in years, the Whigs conducted a campaign more
aggressive than that of their opponents. General Harrison represented no
definite political policy. The log cabin, the coon skin cap, the
political songs, the enthusiasm of even the children, all this was more
potent than the solid and sober discussion of such issues as the
currency, executive power, American labor, protection and internal
improvements.

The sober thinking and dignified leaders of the Whig party were somewhat
shocked by the uncouth campaign of 1840. It was not in keeping with the
dignity of its traditions. Leaders like Webster brooked with impatience
a campaign in which judgment was fairly forgotten.

The whole campaign was one of luxuriant freedom, of intense excitement,
of exaggerated discourse. A resolution adopted at Springfield during
March, indicates the language that was abroad: "Resolved, that the
election of Harrison and Tyler would emancipate the land from the
Catilines who infest it; would restore it to prosperity and peace, and
bring back the time when good measures, good principles and good men
would control the administration of our government."[150]

[150] History of Sangamon County, 252.

Lincoln was foremost in the emotional fight of 1840. With all the zeal
of eager youth, he rushed into the contest. As a presidential elector,
he traversed a large portion of the State. Thus a newspaper of the day
says: "He is going it with a perfect rush. Thus far the Locofocos have
not been able to start a man that can hold a candle to him in political
debate. All of their crack nags that have entered the list against him
have come off the field crippled or broke down. He is now wending his
way north."[151]

[151] Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society, 8, 224.

An incident little known, but of vast importance in illumining the kind
of orator Lincoln was in 1840, is found in an almost forgotten book.
Therein we find the impression that gaunt Lincoln made upon a cultured
resident and distinguished lawyer of St. Louis, who says that at a
gathering of Whigs in April, 1840, at Belleville, Mr. Lincoln was the
first speaker to an immense crowd. "He rang all the changes upon 'coon
skins,' 'hard cider,' 'log cabins,' etc., and among other things he
launched forth in true Lincoln style and manner and said he had been
'raised over _thar_ on Irish potatoes and buttermilk and mauling
rails.'... I went to Col. Edward Baker, I think it was, and told him for
goodness sake to try and get Lincoln down from the stand; that he was
doing us more harm than good ... when Lincoln goes to weaving his
buttermilk, etc., it would seem as if we were verging rather too near
onto the ridiculous. We succeeded very soon in getting Lincoln down
from the stand and got up another speaker who seemed to have more
judgment in managing the canvass."[152]

[152] Darbey, 447.

This statement should not be neglected. It is the judgment of a
civilization different from that of pioneer Illinois. Events had hardly
sobered the style and the manner of the sensitive politician of Sangamon
County. Later on he grew to a more reserved and severe exposition of
political discussion, grew to appeal to the judgment rather than the
sentiments of men, grew to lift the debate of the hour above the clash
of partisan controversy.

During this campaign, he once failed to come up to the requirements of
the occasion in a debate with Douglas. A friend describes his distress
at his failure: "He begged to be permitted to try it again, and was
reluctantly indulged; and in the next effort he transcended our highest
expectations. I never heard and never expect to hear such a triumphant
vindication as he then gave of Whig measures or policy. He never after,
to my knowledge, fell below himself."[153]

[153] Herndon, 1, 190.

The debates of this campaign were a product of the excited and heated
condition of the public mind. Thus, Gen. John Ewing, of Indiana,
challenged the whole Democratic party and threatened to annihilate it.
Douglas was pitted against him. There was no formality at the meetings.
Each was to speak an hour alternately. The debate was to begin at eight
and adjourn at twelve; meet at two and continue to sundown each day
until the contest would be ended. At the end of the fifth day, Ewing
"threw up the sponge," and a vigorous shout was given by the Democrats.
"E. D. Baker, notified of Ewing's defeat, mounted a butcher block and
began to address us. They protested that the game of 'two pluck one'
could not be tolerated. He persisted and at once the cry was raised
'pull him down.' At length he yielded, otherwise it would have ended
with a number of broken heads."[154]

[154] History of Sangamon County, 205.

Another incident still further discloses the character of the
controversy that prevailed at that period. Arnold says that Baker was
speaking in a room under Lincoln's office, and communicating with it by
a trap door. Lincoln in his office, listened. Baker, becoming excited,
abused the Democrats. A cry was raised, "Pull him off the stand!"
Lincoln, knowing a general fight was imminent, descended through the
opening of the trap door, and springing to the side of Baker, said:
"Gentlemen, let us not disgrace the age and country in which we live.
This is a land where freedom of speech is guaranteed. Baker has a right
to speak, and a right to be permitted to do so. I am here to protect
him, and no man shall take him from this stand if I can prevent it."
Baker finished without further interruption.[155]

[155] Arnold, 67-68.

Lincoln and Douglas often met in debate in this campaign. Lamon states
that Lincoln in the course of one speech imputed to Van Buren the great
sin of having voted in the New York State Convention for negro suffrage
with a property qualification. Douglas denied the fact, and Lincoln
attempted to prove his statement by reading a certain passage from
Holland's Life of Van Buren, whereupon Douglas got mad, snatched up the
book, and, tossing it into the crowd, remarked sententiously, "Damn such
a book!"[156]

[156] Lamon, 236.

The above encounter shows Lincoln's method of attack. He followed his
brilliant antagonist with facts that all his ingenuity could not evade.
From that day, Lincoln loved nothing better than a fray with the feared
champion of Democracy. No other Whig orator could fret Douglas as
Lincoln did. They were as different in mental and moral outlook as they
were in appearance. Lincoln saw through his skillful opponent. He knew
his strength and he knew his weakness. He was prepared for his
chameleon-like attacks and onslaughts. While contemporaries hardly saw
in Lincoln the future rival of the growing Douglas, still Lincoln was
gaining strength in the technic of debate that was later to be of
inestimable service to him in controversies of national import.

In the 1840-1 Legislature, Lincoln was again the candidate of his party
for speaker. As leader of the minority, he doubtless deemed it an
obligation on his part to provide some plan to pay the State debt and
save its honor. He no longer cherished the illusion of gaining fame as
the DeWitt Clinton of Illinois. There were some in the Legislature who
boldly favored repudiation of the whole State debt. Others advocated
payment of such part of it as the State actually received an equivalent
for. Only a few dared to demand adequate taxation for the payment of the
interest on the bonds. That was an unpopular expedient.

Lincoln walked the middle way. He was not a friend of repudiation and
still he did not court a loss of public esteem by proposing substantial
direct taxation. His bill provided that the Governor should issue
interest bonds as might be absolutely necessary for the payment of the
interest upon the lawful debt of the State. He declared that he
submitted the proposition with great diffidence; that he felt his share
of the responsibility in the crisis; and, that after revolving in his
mind every scheme which seemed to afford the least prospect of relief,
he submitted this as the result of his own deliberations; that it might
be objected that the bonds would not be salable; that he was no
financier, but that he believed the bonds would be equal to the best in
the market, and that as to the impropriety of borrowing money to pay
interest on borrowed money,--he would reply, that if it were a fact that
our population and wealth were increasing in a ratio greater than the
increased interest hereby incurred, then it was not a good
objection.[157]

[157] Lamon, 214.

He concluded with characteristic modesty that, "he had no pride in its
success as a measure of his own, but submitted it to the wisdom of the
House, with the hope, that, if there was anything objectionable in it,
it would be pointed out and amended."[158]

[158] _Ibid._, 215.

Lamon calls it a loose document, as the Governor was to determine the
"amount of bonds necessary," and the sums for which they should be
issued, and interest was to be paid only upon the "lawful" debt; and the
Governor was to determine what part of it was lawful and what was
unlawful.[159] Still in essence, Lincoln's plan of leaving the
determination of the lawfulness of the debt to an authority not the
legislative, was finally adopted.[160]

[159] _Ibid._, 213-214.

[160] _Ibid._, 215.

The shameless interference with the judicial system of Illinois about
1840 luridly illustrates the enslaving partisanship of that time. Under
the provision of the State Constitution permitting every white male
adult to vote, aliens had known the right of suffrage for years.
Nine-tenths of the aliens allied themselves with the Democratic
organization so that their support was essential to its success. As the
Presidential contest grew in intensity there sprang up a controversy
about these unnaturalized voters. Each party arrayed itself on the side
of its own interest. The Whigs maintained that the Federal Constitution
had provided against the participation of aliens in the affairs of
government. A test case was brought to the Illinois Supreme Court which
consisted of three Whigs and one Democrat. The latter informed Douglas,
in advance, that the majority had agreed upon a decision unfavorable to
the alien vote, but that there was a technical error in the record. This
knowledge became serviceable to the Democrats. The case, by reason of
the imperfection, was put over to the December term, and 10,000 alien
votes saved the State for another Democratic administration.

The attitude of the Whig judges was made a pretext to reorganize the
judiciary by increasing their number, thus enabling the political
complexion of that tribunal to represent the party in power. Early in
the winter, however, the Supreme Court rendered a decision that affirmed
the contention of Douglas and his party. Still, the advocates for
reorganization were not stayed in their purpose, and they moved forward
in what they termed a reformation of the judiciary.

This action of making the judiciary dependent on the Legislature was
extremely pernicious in immediate results. It also started political
impulses malignant and enduring, little appreciated by those who
wantonly inaugurated the change. The participation of Douglas in this
enterprise was effectively utilized by Lincoln in the debate of 1858. It
is not surprising that Lincoln and other Whigs in the Legislature were
unwilling witnesses of this degradation. They framed protests, declaring
that the immutable principles of justice were to make way for party
interests, and the bonds of social order were to be rent in twain, in
order that a desperate faction might be sustained at the expense of the
people; that the independence of the judiciary had been destroyed; that
hereafter the courts would be independent of the people, and entirely
dependent upon the Legislature; that rights of property and liberty of
conscience could no longer be regarded as safe from the encroachments
of unconstitutional legislation.[161]

[161] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 47.

This strong statement from the Whigs represented the conscience of the
State. The protesting element is generally alert in awakening public
sentiment or responding to it on the issues of the day, thus affording a
wholesome check upon the dominant organization in making inroads upon
righteous government. In this way, it becomes the selfish interest of at
least one political party to be on the side of honest statesmanship.

At no time was Lincoln more active in legislative affairs than during
the early part of the 1840-41 session. In the internal improvement
system, bank discussions, the attack upon the Sangamon delegation and in
almost every legislative proceeding he was ready to bear his share of
the fight.

But during the session, an event occurred that shadowed his political
career. Lincoln, the democrat, the man of humility, of common ancestry,
was attracted to Mary Todd, a Southern aristocrat, a woman of beauty and
ambition. Lamon finds the source of this in selfishness, saying: "Born
in the humblest circumstances, uneducated, poor, acquainted with
flatboats and groceries, but a stranger to the drawing-room, it was
natural that he should seek in a matrimonial alliance those social
advantages which he felt were necessary to his political
advancement."[162]

[162] Lamon, 237-8.

This biographer overlooks the fact that it is not an uncommon event for
a homely, humble man to be diverted from the common highway as Lincoln
was. It is very hard to read in this story anything of designing
selfishness. At one time severing his engagement to Miss Todd, the same
despondency that crushed him upon the death of Ann Rutledge again became
his master. His own words describe his condition: "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 the earth.
Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I
shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it
appears to me."[163]

[163] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 45.

He was absent from the Legislature for nearly three weeks. A visit to
his friend Speed in Kentucky recalled him to his better nature.[164] The
injustice he had done Miss Todd rankled until a reconciliation followed.
Out of this there arose events that culminated in a duel. Though this
event was soon hushed, yet its echoes lingered, for he said in 1858, "If
all the good things I have done are remembered as long and as well as my
scrape with Shields, it is plain I shall not soon be forgotten."[165]

[164] Herndon, 1, 202.

[165] _Ibid._, 217.

The panic of 1837 and the disintegration of the internal improvement
system were holding their requiem over the finances of the State. Money
was a furtive visitor. The currency of the State banks, fairly
worthless, was nearly the only circulating medium. During the summer of
1841, the Administration invalidated the use of State Bank notes for the
payment of taxes but the salary of lawmakers was still payable in
currency. The Whigs hastened to charge the state officers with adding to
the burdens of the people that they might be assured of their salaries.
The Auditor of the State was James Shields. Rather vain and aggressive,
he was not inclined "to beware of an entrance into a quarrel."

It was at this time that Lincoln was having stolen conferences with Miss
Todd. The restless spirit of the latter sought the political field for
adventure. A daughter of leisure, she had no rival in sarcasm in
Springfield. Hunting for material, she found a subject in the
pretentious Auditor, and enjoyed worrying the sensitive official. Under
such influences, Lincoln aided or sanctioned the composition of an
article ridiculing Shields. Like many similar productions, it professed
to come from a back-woods settlement, and affected a homely if not a
vulgar form of speech. The paragraph that follows is a sample of the
effusion:--

"I looked in at the window, and there was this same fellow Shields
floatin' about on the air, without heft or earthly substance, just like
a lock of cat-fur where cats have been fightin'.

"He was paying his money to this one, and that one, and t'other one, and
sufferin' great loss because it wasn'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.'"[166]

[166] Lamon, 255, 256.

The production appeared in the Sangamon _Journal_, and at once aroused
the wrath of Shields. A demand for the identity of the author followed.
Doubtless to save Miss Todd from entanglement, Lincoln announced himself
as the writer. Thereupon, Shields demanded a full retraction of all
offensive allusions. Strangely enough, Lincoln did not welcome this
solution of the situation. He took advantage of the rather ardent demand
for an apology and held his ground with these words: "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."[167]

[167] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 69.

With such a start, a duel for a time seemed inevitable. At the last
moment, common friends conveniently, and doubtless to the great
satisfaction of the contestants, calmed the affair without a real
encounter.

Duelling was the rage of the hour.[168] Lincoln was too sensitive to the
good opinion of the community to fly in the face of popular sentiment.
So he violated the law of the State to engage in a transaction
unsanctioned by his judgment, not ready to defy the general taste in a
matter where the standard was still that of the pioneer community. It is
not therefore surprising that in later years, Lincoln was abashed by his
part in this fight. This was his last personal quarrel, and marks a
decisive epoch in his career.[169] Thereafter, he became a champion of
principles and was prepared to play a part in debates of world-wide
moment.

[168] _Ibid._, 71.

[169] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 211.

A dramatic contest ran through this session on the part of the banks to
obtain further condonation in the suspension of specie payments. The
Whigs were friendly, calling them, "the institutions of the country,"
branding opposition unpatriotic. The Democrats, however, were on the
whole hostile to the banks. They called them "rag barons, rags, printed
lies, bank vassals, ragocracy, and the 'British-bought bank, bluelight,
Federal, Whig party.'"[170]

[170] Lamon, 217.

The contest was rendered closer by "opportune loans to Democrats." The
fight grew in intensity as if the wealth, the industry and the very
happiness of the people were at stake. The Democrats, in order to kill
the banks, were bent on a _sine die_ adjournment of the special term.
The Whigs in their zeal to save them invented what was a novel
expedient at that time in parliamentary tactics. The Whigs absented
themselves to prevent a quorum, leaving Lincoln and Gillespie to call
the ayes and noes. The Democrats discovered the game, and the
sergeant-at-arms was sent out. There was great excitement in the House,
which was then held in a church at Springfield. Soon several Whigs were
caught and brought in and the plan was spoiled. Then Lincoln and his
accomplice determined to leave the hall. Going to the door, and finding
it locked, they raised a window and jumped out, but not until the
Democrats had succeeded in adjourning. Mr. Gillespie remarked that
"Lincoln always regretted that he entered into that arrangement, as he
deprecated every thing that savored of the revolutionary."[171]

[171] Lamon, 217.

This incident discloses Lincoln the politician, Lincoln the student of
methods engaging in practices that his judgment subsequently
disapproved. He was thoroughly schooled in securing results. The student
of Lincoln should not hurry over this incident, nor minimize its
significance. He mingled in common, sordid, political events.

Though Lincoln engaged freely in the political machinations of his day,
he did not sanction corruption. He stood out as a champion of an
untainted franchise. He did not still his conscience with the soothing
medicine that corruption was the common practice. He moved at this
session that the part of the Governor's message relating to fraudulent
voting be referred to the Committee on elections, with instructions to
prepare and report a bill for such an act as might afford the greatest
possible protection of the elective franchise against all frauds.[172]

[172] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 42.

Bred in the school of partisanship, where the doctrine that spoils is
the fruit of victory, was almost a creed, Lincoln never enslaved himself
by the acceptance of that dogma, either in practice or theory. Early in
life he had reasoned out the principle that public office is a trust. He
dared to assert its integrity at a time when it met little favor. He
wrote in 1840 that he was opposed to removal of public officials to make
places for friends.[173] Still, the malevolent conduct of an office
holder stirred his resentment. In the same letter he said there was no
question as to the propriety of removing the postmaster at Carlinville,
that the latter boldly refused to deliver during the canvass all
documents franked by Whig members of Congress.[174]

[173] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 43.

[174] _Ibid._, 43-44.

By his tact and service, Lincoln stood well with the party leaders, so
that in 1841 he was widely mentioned as a worthy candidate for Governor.
A formal protest from his hand and that of his close friends against
such a movement was put in the Sangamon _Journal_: "His talents and
services endear him to the Whig party; but we do not believe he desires
the nomination. He has already made great sacrifices in maintaining his
party principles, and before his political friends ask him to make
additional sacrifices, the subject should be well considered. The office
of Governor, which would of necessity interfere with the practice of his
profession, would poorly compensate him for the loss of four of the best
years of his life." Whether he could have attained the nomination is not
known. Lincoln was not accustomed to put aside political honors. It is
significant that the young legislator readily availed himself of a mode
of self-glorifying declination popular with politicians to this
day.[175]

[175] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 217-8.

With this session, Lincoln concluded his duties as the representative of
the people. In 1832, he entered Vandalia, a son of poverty, timid of his
ability, ungifted in appearance. In eight years, he plowed his way to
the very front as the champion of his associates, a skillful leader of
his party. Still it is amazing how faint a trace Lincoln left on the
history of Illinois, hewing out no legislative enactment endearing his
memory to the people of the State. Ford only notes him as a Congressman
who in the State Legislature followed the glitter of a false finance,
and a destructive plan of public improvement. Had his career ended here,
no one would have ventured to rescue his name from oblivion. One act
only, overtops the events submerged by time, an event that sober history
passed by, little knowing that it was the one fact, richer than all
others, in the annals, under its scrutiny. For in the light of later
events, the protest of 1837 showed an enkindled soul that in the
goodness of time thrilled the land with a second edition of the
Declaration of Independence.



CHAPTER VII

RESTLESS POLITICAL AMBITION


The termination of Lincoln's legislative career, his marriage and his
increasing legal practice did not stay his hunger for political
distinction. Music, society or nature did not allure him. His range of
interest was limited. His pleasure was not in his fame as a counselor.
He was impatient of the tiresome devotion to detail demanded of the
lawyer. Longing to be a leader in the world of events, he sought a wider
field of activity for the full expression of his personality, splendidly
realizing that his greatest service to himself and his fellows was in
guiding and interpreting a righteous public opinion.

Lamon has portrayed Lincoln's political ambition with merciless
vividness, claiming that he was never agitated by any passion more
intense than his thirst for distinction; that it governed all his
conduct, from the hour when he astonished himself by his oratorical
success in the back settlements of Macon County, to the day when the
assassin marked him as the first hero of the restored Union; that he was
ever ready to be honored, and struggled incessantly for place.[176]
Politics was his world,--a world filled with enchantment. "In his
office," says Mr. Herndon, "he sat down, or spilt himself on his lounge,
read aloud, told stories, talked politics,--never science, art,
literature, railroad gatherings, colleges, asylums, hospitals, commerce,
education, progress, nothing that interested the world generally except
politics."[177]

[176] Lamon, 237.

[177] Lamon, 482.

Yet Lamon and Herndon missed the deeper unity in his life. Neither
politics nor distinction was the end with him. They were the paths
leading to his palace, not the palace itself. It is not too much to say
that love of his kind transcended his love of distinction. At the time
when he seemed lost in the maelstrom of partisanship, as Burns in the
storm thought of the "ourie" cattle, so Lincoln thought of those hapless
sons of misfortune who were biding the "bitter brattle" of slavery. Thus
in a letter to his friend Speed, he said, "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."[178]

[178] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 216.

The extent to which he mingled in political affairs is shown by his
activity at a mass meeting in March, 1843, at Springfield. He was the
master of ceremonies. In a careful statement, he uttered the cardinal
principles of his party. He was materially steeped in the party spirit
of his day. For the fifth resolution recommends that a Whig candidate
for Congress be run in every district, regardless of the chances of
success. "We are aware," it continued, "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."[179]

[179] _Ibid._, 76.

Though Lincoln, at first, fought the convention system for the
nomination of candidates, as undemocratic, his conversion to its
championship further exposes his training in the school of practical
politics. The statement declared that the Whigs should not stop to
inquire whether the system was just, but that while their opponents used
the plan it was madness in them not to defend themselves with it.[180]

[180] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 76.

The conclusion of this address is also a sure sign of prolonged
association with the hue and cry of party spirit: It stated with
assurance that the Whigs were always a majority of the nation, and that
if every Whig would act as though he knew the result to depend upon his
action, that surely a Whig would be elected President of the United
States.[181]

[181] _Ibid._, 79.

Political office being the reward of party service, Lincoln was a
zealous worker in the ranks. He was ever at the call of the party
managers for speeches or other personal work. They could not charge him
with being a laggard in the day of defeat. He did not wait for waves of
advancement. He was not in accord with the policy that the office should
seek the man. He slowly toiled his way to the eminence he reached. While
Lincoln was in Congress, Herndon wrote to him complaining of his
sluggard progress in politics, and carped at the old men for usurping
all the places of power and profit. In an intimate reply to his
associate, we find the plain paths he trod: "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 would 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 Swizler, 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."[182]

[182] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 131-132.

Lincoln no sooner completed his long term in the Legislature than he
cast his eye on a seat in Congress. "Now, if you should hear" he wrote a
friend, "any one say that Lincoln don't want to go to Congress, I wish
you, as a personal friend of mine, would tell him you have reason to
believe he is mistaken. The truth is I would like to go very much.
Still, circumstances may happen which may prevent my being a candidate.
If there are any who be my friends in such an enterprise, what I now
want is that they shall not throw me away just yet."[183]

[183] Herndon, 1, 253.

Lincoln's race for the nomination was full of excitement. When he began
his canvass, he was a member of the firm of Logan and Lincoln. Besides
Hardin, Baker and Lincoln, Logan also was a candidate. Logan deemed his
long service as entitling him to the honor, while Lincoln regarded his
legislative career as his claim to distinction. It is not amazing that
concord did not dwell in this home of political rivalry. Herndon says he
was not, therefore, surprised to have Lincoln rush into his quarters and
with more or less agitation tell him that he had determined to sever the
partnership with Logan; and Herndon states that although painfully aware
of his want of ability and experience, when Lincoln remarked in his
earnest, honest way, "Billy, I can trust you if you can trust me," he
felt relieved and accepted the generous proposal of legal
partnership.[184]

[184] Herndon, 1, 252.

The most dramatic incident in this fight was the contest between Baker
and Lincoln. It was a battle between brilliancy and solidity. No man of
his time surpassed Baker in dashing eloquence. Handsome, of winning
personality, he was the idol of the young men of Springfield. Lincoln
was no longer, as at New Salem, the leader of the gang. His alliance
with aristocratic Mary Todd, the demands of his profession and a settled
life largely sundered the partnership. It was a natural, not a sudden,
intentional separation. Strange rumors were afloat that he was no more a
friend to the lowly and that he was seeking new ways. Not free to mingle
with the people, he could not readily combat the suspicion. And they
were ever demanding a perfect embodiment of their conception of heroism.
They found it fully in one of the most dramatic heroes and charming
personalities in the panorama of American politics--Edward D. Baker.

When the friends of Baker first put forth the charge that Lincoln
belonged to a proud family, he was amused. He met it with a laughing
remark: "That sounds strange to me, for I do not remember of but one who
ever came to see me, and while he was in town he was accused of stealing
a Jew's harp."[185] But as the campaign developed in intensity, and he
realized that the shameless report was scattered to his harm, he thought
bitterly of the false charge. The injustice of the accusation and his
incapacity to meet it, quite crushed him. He could meet an open foe with
a giant's strength, but the gnat of malignant rumor defied him. Thus the
humblest politician that ever trod the soil of the Western continent was
not saved from the charge of being "puffed up," and the leader of the
lowly traveled in the domain of bitter experience. The enthusiasm of
the young men carried the day for Baker in Sangamon County.

[185] _Ibid._, 255.

After his defeat, Lincoln took his old friend Jim Matheny far into the
woods. He unburdened himself, protesting that he was anything but
aristocratic and proud. "Why, Jim," he said, "I am now and always shall
be the same Abe Lincoln I was when you first saw me."[186]

[186] Lamon, 273.

The story of the defeat as told by Lincoln to Speed, shows much of his
political training: "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 who
has cut him out and is marrying his own dear 'gal'."[187]

[187] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 79.

Yet, Lincoln did not at once reconcile himself to the selection of
Baker. A letter from his friends in Menard County led him still to
contemplate possibilities and induced him to skirmish on the frontier of
his duty to the choice of Sangamon County. He wrote to a supporter: "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."[188]

[188] _Ibid._, 80.

In this same letter, he gave an account of the factors that conspired to
his defeat, saying that it would astonish the older citizens to learn
that he (uneducated, penniless boy, working on a flatboat at $10.00 per
month) had been put down there as a candidate of pride and wealth; that
there was, too, the strangest combination of church influence against
him; that Baker was a Campbellite, and with few exceptions got all that
church; that his wife had some relations in the Presbyterian churches,
and some with the Episcopal churches, and wherever it would tell, he was
set down as either one or the other, while it was everywhere contended
that no Christian ought to go for him, because he belonged to no church,
was suspected of being a deist, and had talked about fighting a
duel.[189] In the long letter Lincoln did not even mention the personal
strength and popularity of his opponent, or suggest that Baker was the
victor by his own merit.

[189] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 80.

Though Lincoln returned to the practice of his profession with increased
devotion, he kept his interest in local and national events. He still
remained a student of the whims of individual voters as well as a keen
observer of political affairs of general moment. A letter to Hardin at
Washington illustrates this: "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 that
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. Robert W. Canfield says that
he would like to have a document or two from you.

"The Locos 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."[190]

[190] Tarbell, 2, 290.

As early as 1837, Webster publicly declared that it could not be
disguised that a desire, or an intention, was already manifested to
annex Texas to the United States.[191] Under the nursing of Tyler and
Calhoun, a treaty of annexation was concluded and the scheme almost
consummated. The Senate, in 1844, alone stood in the way. The proposal
of annexation overtopped all other issues in the campaign of that year.
It proved at the time a dominating incident and left abundant traces on
American history. Van Buren, rising to the solitary eminence of
statesmanship, uttered a firm and subdued protest against the southern
policy. But the edict of the Calhoun democracy, that Texas must be
annexed was remorseless, and their old friend, Martin Van Buren, in the
homely language of Lincoln, was "turned out to root."[192] It proved the
beginning of the cleft on the slavery question that in less than twenty
years hopelessly divided the successors of the triumphant Jackson party.

[191] Greeley, 1, 152.

[192] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 140.

In June, 1844, Clay fairly represented the views of the Whigs declaring
that the annexation of Texas, at this time, without the consent of
Mexico, as a measure compromising the National character, involving war
with Mexico, probably with other foreign powers, dangerous to the
integrity of the Union, inexpedient in the present financial condition
of the country, was not called for by any general expression of public
opinion.[193] Later coquetting with southern sympathies on this issue,
he modified his opposition to the present annexation of Texas with the
fatal statement that he had no hesitation in saying that, far from
having any _personal_ objection to the annexation of Texas, _he should
be glad to see it_--without dishonor, without war, with the common
consent of the Union and upon just and fair terms.[194] This seeming
retreat, despite all explanation, insured his defeat. The diversion
gained him no strength in the South and alienated needed support in the
North.

[193] Greeley, 1, 164.

[194] Greeley, 1, 166.

The Southern States openly put forth their reasons for annexation. To
keep pace with the northern growth they needed new States, otherwise
they saw the doom of the institution that they deemed the very palladium
of their prosperity and happiness. The unresting Calhoun finally
triumphed in awakening dormant fears and sentiments.[195]

[195] _Ibid._, 158.

The main contention in the famous letter of Jackson was better
calculated, than this southern claim, to appeal to the northern
democracy, and was more in harmony with the substantial trend of the
national destiny. "I do not hesitate to say that the welfare and
happiness of our Union require that it should be accepted. If, in a
military point of view alone, the question be examined, it will be found
to be most important to the United States to be in possession of the
territory.

"Great Britain has already made treaties with Texas; and we know that
far-seeing nation never omits a circumstance, in her extensive
intercourse with the world, which can be turned to account in increasing
her military resources. May she not enter into an alliance with
Texas?"[196]

[196] _Ibid._

While the Texan issue stirred the Garrisonian Abolitionists, it did not
allay their hostility to organized political action, they declared that
they would open no road to political preferment; that the strength of
their cause was in the humble, fervent prayer of the righteous man,
which availeth much, and the blessing of that God who had chosen the
weak things of the world to confound the mighty; that it was to be
expected that some political wolves would put on the clothing of
Abolitionism, and seek to elevate themselves and manage the anti-slavery
organization for their own purposes.[D] The political Abolitionists,
however, named James G. Birney for President.

[D] Johnson, 307.

There was then, already, a complexity of opinion on the slavery question
that shadowed forth the future alignment of parties. While many were
confounded by wavering lights, Lincoln picked his way with sure footed
precision through maze and pitfall. His unprejudiced mind wondered at
the conduct of the "Liberty men" that deprecating the annexation of
Texas, deliberately promoted its success by indirection. Their
application of the proposition "we are not to do evil that good may come
of it" he reduced to plain sophistry, saying that if by their votes they
could have prevented the extension of slavery, it would have been good,
and not evil, so to have used their votes, even though it involved the
casting of them for a slaveholder, and he earnestly asked if the fruit
of electing Clay would have been to prevent the extension of slavery,
could the act of electing him have been evil?[197] He held that it was a
paramount duty of the free States to let the slavery of the other States
alone, while it was equally clear that they should never knowingly lend
themselves, directly or indirectly, to prevent slavery from dying a
natural death--to find new places for it to live in, when it could no
longer exist in the old.[198] Here, is clearly announced the seeming
paradox that, though slavery was an evil, there still remained the duty
to let it alone in the States where it then existed. This further piles
up evidence that his views suffered little change with years.

[197] Tarbell, 2, 293.

[198] _Ibid._, 293-294.

Lincoln boldly participated in the campaign of 1844; Clay was the
political hero of his youth and manhood as Washington was of his
boyhood. Like many other Whigs, he, too, was enthralled by the magic of
the far famed eloquence of the name, that, in the words of the orator
who nominated Clay, expressed more enthusiasm, that it had in it more
eloquence than the names of Chatham, Burke, Patrick Henry, and, more
than any other and all other names together.[199]

[199] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 225.

During the campaign, Lincoln encountered his former employer, John
Calhoun, and other old antagonists. It is said that Calhoun came nearer
whipping Lincoln in debate than Douglas did.[200] Nothing survives of
those speeches. Still, his enthusiasm and skill in the controversies of
the campaign awakened a demand for his services throughout the State.
His name as an orator even invaded Indiana. In the closing hours of the
contest his voice was heard on the soil that he hastened from some
fifteen years before as an adventurer. While speaking at Gentryville,
his old friend Nat Grigsby entered the room. Lincoln stopped and crying
out "There's Nat," scrambled through the crowd to his modest associate
of former days. After greeting him warmly, he returned to the platform.
When the speech was done, he passed the rest of the evening with Nat.
Then Lincoln insisted that they should sleep together; and long into the
night, they talked over old times and were once more Abe and Nat.[201]

[200] Lamon, 274.

[201] _Ibid._, 274-5.

The appearance of Clay's August letter stirred the political
Abolitionists to fateful activity. They insisted that his antagonism to
annexation, not being founded on anti-slavery convictions, was of no
account.[202] They polled enough votes to elect pro-slavery Polk.
Mingled with the ribaldry, the din and howl of abandoned politicians
over the election of Polk, were the exultant shouts of the sober and
respectable men of the Liberty Party. They celebrated in unison the
victory they both promoted.

[202] Greeley, 1, 167.

The solemn selection of James K. Polk instead of Henry Clay as
President, was a discordant incident that the Whig patriot did not
linger over willingly. That a pigmy should sit in the seat of the
statesman, that a puppet should stand in the place of the nature-dowered
son of American policies,--this opinion made Clay's followers doubt the
wisdom of republican government. To them this defeat was more than a
partisan grief, it was a national loss. From loyal supporters hurried a
grand tribute to their uncrowned champion in his retreat: "We will
remember you, Henry Clay, while the memory of the glorious or the sense
of the good remains in us, with a grateful and admiring affection which
shall strengthen with our strength and shall not decline with our
decline. We will remember you in all our future trials and reverses as
him whose name honored defeat and gave it a glory which victory could
not have brought. We will remember you when patriotic hope rallies again
to successful contest with the agencies of corruption and ruin; for we
will never know a triumph which you do not share in life, whose glory
does not accrue to you in death."[203]

[203] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 236.



CHAPTER VIII

LINCOLN OPPOSES THE INCEPTION OF THE MEXICAN WAR IN CONGRESS


It is quite generally believed in Sangamon County that a bargain was
entered into between Baker, Lincoln, Logan and Hardin whereby the "four
should 'rotate' in Congress until each had had a term."[204] There is
evidence in the writings of Lincoln that there was some kind of an
understanding between Baker, Lincoln and Logan. There is a startling
story as to the character of the arrangement. A delegate to the Pekin
Convention of 1843 states, that he was asked by Lincoln immediately
after the nomination of Hardin, if he would favor a resolution
recommending Baker for the next term. On being answered in the
affirmative Lincoln told the delegate to prepare the resolution, and he
would support it. It created a profound sensation, especially among the
friends of Hardin. After angry discussion, the resolution passed by a
bare majority.[205] This incident illustrates the sagacious policy of
Lincoln in furthering his restless political ambition. He publicly
declined to contest the nomination of Baker in 1844. Pursuant to a
widespread expectation, Baker did not stand in the way of Lincoln two
years later.

[204] Lamon, 275.

[205] Tarbell, 195-6.

Lincoln kept close to those who moulded public opinion,--the men of the
press. Then the personality of an editor was a weighty factor in the
decision of political contests. He wrote to an editor and supporter in
1846 that as the paper at Pekin had nominated Hardin for governor and
the Alton paper indirectly nominated him for Congress, it would give
Hardin a great start, and perhaps use him up, if the Whig papers of the
district should nominate Hardin for Congress, and that he wished that
the editor would let nothing appear in his paper which might operate
against him.[206]

[206] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 82.

To this, he received a reply that this supporter had, in fact, nominated
Hardin for governor. The tactful response deserves attention: "Let me
assure you that if there is anything in my letter indicating an opinion
that the nomination for governor, which I supposed to have been made in
the Pekin paper, was operating or could operate against me, such was not
my meaning. Now that I know that nomination was made by you, I say that
it may do me good, while I do not see that it can do me harm. But, while
the subject is in agitation, should any of the papers in the district
nominate the same man for Congress, that would do me harm; and it was
that which I wished to guard against. Let me assure you that I do not
for a moment suppose that what you have done is ill-judged, or that
anything that you shall do will be."[207]

[207] _Ibid._, 83.

"I should be pleased," he wrote another friend, "if I could concur with
you in the hope that my name would be the only one presented to the
convention; but I cannot. Hardin is a man of desperate energy and
perseverance, and one that never backs out; and I fear, to think
otherwise is to be deceived in the character of our adversary. I would
rejoice to be spared the labor of a contest; but 'being in', I shall go
it thoroughly, and to the bottom." He then admonished his friend not to
relax any of his vigilance.[208]

[208] _Ibid._, 84.

He was sensitive to the shifting changes of the campaign. "Nathan
Dresser is here," he wrote a friend, "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 he
could not remember had said lately that Menard County was going to
decide the contest and that that made the contest very doubtful. Do you
know who that was?

"Don't fail to write me instantly on receiving telling me
all--particularly the names of those who are going strong against
me."[209]

[209] Tarbell, 1, 204.

The splendid generalship of Lincoln, his telling blows gradually
disposed of the gallant Hardin, who gracefully declined to be longer
considered as a candidate. Through the inspiration of Lincoln, with
equal gallantry, there promptly appeared in the leading Whig journal, a
statement superbly designed to soothe the dignity of his late
antagonist: "We have had, and now have, no doubt that he (Hardin) has
been, and now is, a great favorite with the Whigs of the district. He
states, in substance, that there was never any understanding on his part
that his name was not to be presented in the canvasses of 1844 and 1846.
This, we believe, is strictly true. Still, the doings of the Pekin
Convention did seem to point that way; and the general's voluntary
declination as to the canvass of 1844 was by many construed into an
acquiescence on his part. These things had led many of his most devoted
friends to not expect him to be a candidate at this time. Add to this
the relation that Mr. Lincoln bears, and has borne, to the party, and
it is not strange that many of those who are as strongly devoted to Gen.
Hardin as they are to Mr. Lincoln should prefer the latter at this time.
We do not entertain a doubt, that, if we could reverse the positions of
the two men, that a very large portion of those who now have supported
Mr. Lincoln most warmly would have supported Gen. Hardin quite as
warmly."[210]

[210] Lamon, 276-7.

He was a thorough politician. He attended to details himself. Like a
general on the battlefield, he kept his reserve forces well in hand. He
would rather minimize his own strength than mistake the power of
opposing forces. He never lost a victory through misplaced confidence.
Though he looked darkly at a contest, this rather increased than abated
his activity. From policy as well as inclination he did not engage in
the crimination of his adversaries. He had a marvelous capacity of
personally commanding the conduct of men.

Out of their ranks, the Democrats called the famed preacher--Peter
Cartwright, as their standard bearer in this Congressional contest.
Until he was sixteen years old, he was a slave to the common vices of
his day. His dramatic conversion during the revival of 1801 preluded the
marvelous career of a man who unflinchingly, for sixty years, "breasted
the storm and suffered the hardships" of his calling in forest and
prairie. His heroic treatment of Jackson shows the man. "Just then,"
Cartwright says, "I felt some one pull my coat in the stand, and turning
my head, my fastidious preacher, whispering a little loud, said:
'General Jackson has come in: General Jackson has come in.' I felt a
flash of indignation run all over me like an electric shock and facing
about to my congregation, and purposely speaking out audibly, I said,
'Who is General Jackson? If he don't get his soul converted, God will
damn him as quick as he would a Guinea negro!'"[211]

[211] Cartwright, 192.

The reasons that prompted Cartwright to follow the trail from Kentucky
to Illinois are of historical importance. "First, I would get entirely
clear of the evil of slavery. Second, I could raise my children to work
where work was not considered a degradation. Third, I believed I could
better my temporal circumstances, and procure lands for my children as
they grew up. And fourth, I could carry the gospel to destitute souls
that had, by their removal into some new country, been deprived of the
means of grace."[212] The South poorly reckoned the cost to her, of the
institution that drove into exile such master spirits, who enriched the
states of their adoption.

[212] _Ibid._, 245.

Hating human bondage, still he was no friend of abolitionism. He
declared that it riveted the chains of slavery tighter; blocked the way
to reasonable emancipation; threw fire brands into legislative halls;
that millions were expended every year in angry debates and that laws
for the good of the people were neglected; talents and money thrown
away; that prejudice, strife, and wrath, and every evil passion stirred
up until the integrity of the Union was in imminent danger, and that not
one poor slave was set free; not one dollar expended to colonize them
and send them home happy and free; that through unchristian, excited
prejudices mobs were fast becoming the order of the day.

He maintained that after more than twenty years' experience as a
traveling preacher in slave states, he was convinced that the most
successful way to ameliorate the condition of the slaves and
Christianize them, and finally secure their freedom was to treat their
owners kindly and not to meddle politically with slavery!

Patriot and prophet alike, he contended that abolitionism awakened a
bitter and wrathful spirit among the guardians of the black man that
made discord a partner in the Federal Union; that despite the legion
moral evils of slavery, he had never seen a rabid abolition or free soil
society that he could join, because they resorted to unjustifiable
agitation, confounding the innocent with the guilty, and that if force
was resorted to the Union would be dissolved, a civil war would follow,
death and carnage would ensue, and the only free nation on the earth
would be destroyed.[213] In early manhood, Cartwright cherished
sentiments that were brother to those Lincoln later avowed at the outset
of his career.

[213] Cartwright, 129.

In his autobiography, Cartwright states that he was twice elected as a
representative from Sangamon County, and he found that almost every
measure had to be carried by a corrupt bargain and sale.[214]

[214] _Ibid._, 262.

For nearly half a century he had traversed the western states. In nearly
every Methodist Church and mission his voice had summoned many to a
better life. His ministration to the sick, his rides at night over the
lonely prairie to the death bed had endeared him to thousands of homes.
He had a host of relations in the Congressional district. All this and
his steady advocacy of Jacksonian Democracy constituted him no paltry
antagonist.

An active campaign ensued. Lincoln was again subjected to the harsh
charge of religious infidelity. The Whigs, taking up the challenge
rallied to his support. Their activity soon turned the tide. Lincoln
carried the district by 1511, exceeding the vote of Clay in 1844 by
nearly 600. Sangamon County showed her loyalty by piling up a larger
majority than ever before given to a political favorite.[215] The
battle largely centered around the wisdom of a preacher participating in
politics. The pioneer, who twenty years before, had voted for Cartwright
had now become a citizen of a settled community. After this election,
there was no question as to the deep seated distrust of the average
voter permitting a church official to be the political representative of
the people.

[215] Herndon, 1, 259.

A Democrat who loathed the canvass of Cartwright still deemed it a hard
thing to vote against his party. So Lincoln told him that he would give
him a candid opinion as to whether the vote was needed or not. On the
day of election, Lincoln told the Democrat that he had got the
preacher,--and didn't want his vote.[216] With this power to foretell
results, Lincoln was more richly dowered than any modern leader. It was
this gift that enabled him to do and speak things that to other men
seemed ruinous.

[216] Lamon, 278.

The victory of Polk in its immediate results hardly surprised friend or
foe. His election was the signal gun of the Mexican war. Events were
rapidly hurried forward under the fostering guidance of the Tyler
administration and in its last gasp a messenger was dispatched to Texas
to mature the annexation.[217] In weighty words Greeley uttered the
protest of the aroused North, declaring that the annexation of Texas
challenged the regard of mankind and defied the consciences of our own
citizens; that for the first time our Union stood before the nations,
not merely as an upholder, but as a zealous, unscrupulous propagandist
of human slavery.[218] It required no special genius to provoke martial
hostilities and anxiety soon found ammunition to drive even a reluctant
opponent to the chance of battle. So Mexico was almost dared into the
inevitable combat.

[217] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 236.

[218] Greeley, 1, 178.

Until this time the nation was little stirred by political unrest and
strife. The battles in Congress that form so vast an asset of the
historian, hardly disturbed the daily life of the inventor, farmer,
mechanic and student. Lincoln entered the national Legislature at a
momentous period. For more than a third of a century, "grim visaged war
had smoothed her wrinkled front." The nation was lost in industrial
pursuits, the hero of the community was the business man. Patriotism
slumbered, national impulses seemed dead. Then the wild passion for war
awakened the people from apathy, they rejoiced that the spirit of the
fathers was still strong in them, that they had not forgotten Bunker
Hill and New Orleans. Commerce for the time forewent its eminence, the
soldier stepped to the front. In a moment the standard of the nation
shifted from the dollar to the deed. Men did not stop to debate the
righteousness of the war or what the end would be. They did not reason
as to its effect on the status of slavery. Emotion, not judgment, was
their guide. They knew only the pulsation of a subtle and subduing
patriotism. Many marched to the front, while others hurried on supplies
and ammunition to the seat of trouble. The present alone absorbed their
interest, busied every impulse.

Lincoln did not willingly come into conflict with this public sentiment.
He, too, was moved by the heroism of the hour, he too saw with pride the
flag unfurled and heard the throbbing drum. When Hardin and Baker and
Shields hastened from Springfield for the field of glory and danger, he
was one of the speakers at the parting public meeting. The
Congressman-elect urged a sturdy, vigorous prosecution of hostilities,
admonished all to permit no shame to the government and to stand by the
flag till peace came with honor.[219] This was not a reluctant politic
approbation, as Lamon intimates,[220] but a benediction upon the cause
of his country that came deep from the heart.

[219] Herndon, 1, 260.

[220] Lamon, 281.

The attitude of Lincoln toward the annexation of Texas is of importance,
not alone for its own intrinsic interest but as illustrating the opinion
of thousands of sober, patriotic citizens throughout the land. These had
no kinship with the radicals who regarded the conduct of the war, as
well as its inception, with bitter hostility; who feared the visitation
of Divine Power upon a conflict conceived in aggression. They were not
akin to the Democrats who looked neither to the right nor left but
marched over cherished principles of the Republic for the sake of
extending the territory and enlarging the activity of a sectional
institution.

Lincoln entered Congress with no thought of opposition to any phase of
the war. Like Grant, he doubtless knew that the man who criticized a war
in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong,
occupies no enviable place in life or history, and that he might better
advocate "war, pestilence and famine," than to act as an obstructionist
to a war already begun.[221]

[221] Grant, 45.

The President and his advisors would not allow the Whigs to vote alone
for supplies. They sought to interpolate resolutions expressing the
original justice of the war. Lincoln's interesting commentary on this
uncalled for procedure is worth quoting. "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 farther 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."[222]

[222] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 101.

The issue once made, Lincoln and other Whigs did not hesitate; he did
not even hide in silence. He took up the challenge of the President that
war existed by the act of Mexico. He followed with probing resolutions,
with a series of penetrating questions that precluded quibbling. The
first one well illustrates the series.

"RESOLVED, By the House of Representatives, that the President of the
United States be respectfully requested to inform the 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."[E]

[E] _Ibid._, 97.

The President never heeded them, nor does it appear that any friend of
the administration soberly attempted the sore task of facing their keen,
sabre-like stroke. They allowed little room for shifting, and demanded a
logical response. Three weeks later, came the speech which was
responsive to the desire of his Springfield friends to distinguish
himself.[223] It was sober and restrained in expression; curbed in
statement, concise in logic and comprehensive in treatment. He spoke
more like a distinguished jurist than a partisan pleader.

[223] _Ibid._, 96.

"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,--then
I am with him for his justification."[224] Then a sentence follows,
painful and remorseless in its treatment of the vacillating policy of
the President stating that his mind, taxed beyond its power, was running
hither and thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface,
finding no position on which it could settle down and be at ease.[225]

[224] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 105.

[225] _Ibid._, 107.

This speech should have won him a high place in the national arena of
controversy and debate, were it not that the shifting standard of public
judgment often exalts the thing of the hour for intrinsic value,
ostentation for merit, popularity for worth. This speech may in itself
command the interest of those who would know the motives that led the
Whigs to their course of conduct. They did not seek hard duties, but
still they would not shirk or retreat when they showed their front.

Lincoln soon learned that his resolutions and speech, however
unanswerable, did not save him from the damaging charge of opposition to
the war of his country. Dissatisfaction ran through the Whig ranks in
Illinois. General discontent with the course of his partner even turned
Herndon into one of the malcontents. A letter soon advised Lincoln of
the condition, who sent a sturdy reply to the complaint on his vote on
Ashmun's amendment,--"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.--You are compelled to speak, and your only alternative is to
tell the truth or a lie. I cannot doubt which you would do."[226]

[226] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 110.

Later Herndon forwarded a constitutional argument in favor of the policy
of Polk ingeniously saying that it was the duty of the President as
Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy, in the absence of Congress, if
the country was about to be invaded, to go, if necessary, into the very
heart of Mexico and prevent the invasion; that it would be a crime in
the executive to let the country be invaded in the least degree; that
the action of the President was a necessity.[227]

[227] Herndon, 1, 266.

The reply that hurried to Springfield was a supreme answer. No judge of
a high tribunal, no statesman of mature experience could have more
thoroughly disposed of a specious contention.[228] In this letter of
Lincoln there appears a might and an ability to grapple with a great
issue, a sincerity of purpose, a soberness of thought that well betokens
a student and patriot, whose heart was in unison with the inherent
purposes of the Republic. He insisted that the imperial function of the
Constitution in leaving the declaration of war with Congress was that no
one man should hold the power of bringing the oppression of war upon the
people.[229] Through this letter there looms up the man, who above all
men hated kingly power and domination, and the consequent impoverishment
of the people. Herndon, the Abolitionist, would, for the sake of
policy, sanction the inception of an unjust aggression, while the
conservative Lincoln stood resolutely when the hour summoned
uncompromising conduct; then his knees were as "unwedgeable as the
gnarled oak." When principle was at stake he sent policy to the rear. At
such times he was more aggressive than the radical.

[228] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 112.

[229] _Ibid._

A letter to the Editor of the _Tribune_ shows the deep hold that this
subject had on Lincoln, his restlessness to be rightly understood on the
theme. And the fact that he undertook to correct Horace Greeley in a
familiar tone is an indication that he was coming to the front as a
champion in the Whig ranks. He wrote the editor that he discovered a
paragraph in the _Tribune_ in which it was said that all Whigs and many
Democrats contended that the boundary of Texas stopped at the Nueces. He
contended that such a statement was a mistake which he disliked to see
go uncorrected in a leading Whig paper; that the large majority of Whigs
in the House of Representatives had not taken that position and that as
the position could not be maintained it gave the Democrats advantage of
them. In conclusion Lincoln asked the editor to examine what he said in
a printed speech that he was sending him.[230]

[230] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 133.

He earnestly wrote to a minister that he would be obliged for a
reference to any law, human or divine, in which an authority could be
found for saying that the action of the Government constituted "no
aggression." He then asked, "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?"[231]

[231] _Ibid._, 122.

He was not so elated with patriotism that he lost his standard of
righteousness. As he was an honest judge of his own conduct, so he was
of that of his country. This rare ability became a force of moment in
later years.

During the tumult of the debate on the Mexican war Lincoln wrote in his
own rare way that Stephens, of Georgia, a little slim, pale-faced,
consumptive man, with a voice like Logan's, had just concluded the very
best speech of an hour's length he ever heard; that his old withered dry
eyes were full of tears yet.[232]

[232] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 111.

His appreciation knew no sectional limits. His range of vision was not
bounded by the Mason and Dixon line. He was as much at home with the
sons of the South as of the North; he took the same interest in the
speech of Stephens of Georgia as he would in that of Webster.



CHAPTER IX

LINCOLN'S ATTACK ON SLAVERY IN CONGRESS


Lincoln's main assignment in congressional committee work was on
Post-office and Post-roads. He plodded through the detail duties with
industry. There was no more earnest worker in the ranks of Congress. On
an important occasion, Lincoln stood by the Democratic Postmaster
General, and opposed the policy of the Whig members of the Committee. He
worked out a painstaking plan for certain postmasters receiving
subscriptions for newspapers and periodicals. He declared it to be in
accordance with republican institutions, which could 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.[233]

[233] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 113.

Lincoln prepared himself thoroughly in the logic of protection to
American industries. He advanced considerably in a serious understanding
of its fundamental importance. Not satisfied with old and common
contention, he sounded the depths of discussion, by his quaint and
original method.

He had intense sympathy for the toiler. He deemed a wise and just
distribution of wealth a national duty. He pronounced that rather than
production the deeper object of government. "And inasmuch," he said, "as
most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things
of right belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has so
happened, in all ages of the world, that some have labored, and others
have without labor enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. That is
wrong, and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole
product of his labor, or as nearly as possible, is a worthy object of
any good government."[234]

[234] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 92.

He was in advance of the thought of his day in insisting that all
transportation, commerce, distribution, not essential, was a heavy
pensioner upon industry, depriving it of a large proportion of its just
fruits. He advocated the remedy of driving useless toil and idleness out
of existence. He announced that all work done directly or indirectly in
carrying articles to the place of consumption, which could have been
produced in sufficient abundance, with as little effort at the place of
consumption as at the place they were carried from, was useless
labor.[235] These fragments show the intellectual power of a growing man
of fine sympathies, the sound conviction of a benefactor of his kind.

[235] _Ibid._, 93.

That Lincoln rapidly adapted himself to the ways of Congress appears
from the variety of the subjects he discussed. Few of the new comers
were more in evidence. His speech on internal improvements reveal the
secret of his power. He sought no name to sanction his opinions, he used
his own illustrations and reached his conclusions unaided. He attacked
the opinions of those high in power and station. President Polk
maintained that the burden of improvements would be general while the
benefits would be local, thus involving a pernicious inequality. The
reply of Lincoln is a sign of his political wisdom. He argued that
inequality was never to be embraced for its own sake; but that if every
good thing was to be discarded which might be inseparably connected with
some degree of inequality, then all government would have to be
discarded. The Capitol, he continued, was built at the public expense,
but still it was of some peculiar local advantage, and to make sure of
all inequality Congress would have to hold its sessions, as the loafer
lodged, "in spots about." He added that there were few stronger cases in
this world of "burden to the many and benefit to the few," of
"inequality," than the Presidency itself; that an honest laborer dug
coal at about seventy cents a day, while the President dug abstractions
at about Seventy Dollars a day, and the coal was clearly worth more than
the abstractions. He declared that the true rule, in determining whether
to embrace or reject anything, was not whether it had any evil in it,
but whether it had more of evil than of good; that almost everything,
especially of government policy, was an inseparable compound of the two;
so that the best judgment of the preponderance between them was
continually demanded.[236]

[236] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 126.

A great national party witnessed only the malign consequences of the
internal improvement policy. To avoid its abuse, they practically
advocated its abatement. Seeing only the danger of extravagance, the
Democratic party was not free to contemplate prudent expenditures.
Lincoln with his keen sight presented a solution indicative of
statesmanship. His plan permitted the States working in a smaller sphere
of activity in local improvements to cross paths and to work together in
larger national matters under the guidance of sober and restrained
general legislation, based on statistical information.

The keen, shrewd instinct of the politician in Lincoln shows through his
strenuous advocacy of General Taylor as the Whig candidate for the
Presidency. He was in the van in fighting opposition in Illinois to the
silent soldier and untried statesman. In April he wrote his friend
Washburne to let nothing discourage or baffle him, but, in spite of
every difficulty, to send a good Taylor delegate from his circuit, and
to make Baker, who was a good hand to raise a breeze, to help about
it.[237] On the same day he admonished another associate in his
inimitable manner. "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.

[237] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 118.

"In my judgment we can elect nobody but General Taylor; but we cannot
elect him without a nomination. Therefore, don't fail to send a
delegate."[238]

[238] _Ibid._

His admiration for Clay was subdued in his zeal for political success.
He would not do honor to the statesman as an idle tribute so he would
put him aside and call to the leadership of the Whig party a man whose
strength was largely in the uncertainty of his views, in silence not in
known sincerity. He saw its cause could triumph with Taylor; that the
extension of the slave power was more likely to come from the northern
non-slave-holding Cass than from the southern slave-holding Taylor. To
still further confound the jumble, the Whig convention avoided
annunciation of distinctive principles, and even dared to vote down an
affirmance of the Wilmot Proviso.[239] After the selection of "Old
Rough," with Stephens, Toombs and Preston, he continued an aggressive
interest in his candidacy.[240] He again pleaded with his friends for
support from his State.

[239] Greeley, 1, 192.

[240] Tarbell, 1, 216.

"By many, and often, it has 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--Barburners, 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 upon which they are doomed to be hanged
themselves."[241]

[241] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 122.

According to a peculiar and prevalent method in the House, of spending
public money for personal or partisan purposes, Lincoln availed himself
of the privilege of making a campaign speech. It has met with varied
comment. Lamon freely and soberly passes this judgment. "Few like it
have ever been heard in either of those venerable chambers. It is a
common remark of those who know nothing of the subject, that Mr. Lincoln
was devoid of imagination; but the reader of this speech will entertain
a different opinion. It opens to us a mind fertile in images
sufficiently rare and striking, but of somewhat questionable taste. It
must have been heard in amazement by those gentlemen of the House who
had never known a Hanks, or seen a New Salem."[242]

[242] Lamon, 298.

Herndon, twenty years later, pronounced it a masterpiece and declared
that one who would read it would lay it down convinced that Lincoln's
ascendency for a quarter of a century among the political spirits in
Illinois was by no means an accident, and would not wonder that Douglas,
with all his forensic ability, averted, as long as he could, a contest
with a man whose plain, analytical reasoning was not less potent than
his mingled drollery and caricature were effective.[F]

[F] Herndon, 1, 273.

Lincoln entered on the _hard job_ of showing that it was sound doctrine
for the President to shun defined public opinions and allow Congress its
own way without hindrance from the chief executive. The history of the
United States has been a vigorous answer to this contention. As
President he made short shrift of that policy, though his splendid
statement of the Whig position may well attract more than passing
attention. He maintained that the Democrats were in favor of laying down
in advance a platform as a unit, and then of forcing the people to
ratify all of its provisions, however unpalatable some of them might be;
that the Whigs were in favor of making Presidential elections, and the
legislation of the country distinct matters; so that the people could
elect whom they pleased, and afterwards legislate just as they pleased.
The difference, he insisted, was as clear as noon day, and that leaving
the People's business in their hands was the true Republican
position.[243]

[243] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 139.

No more dramatic attack during the entire session, arraigning the
Democratic candidate was made than in this speech for his attitude on
the Wilmot resolution. "In 1846," says Lincoln, "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!'"[G]

[G] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 143.

That Lincoln had not fully forgotten the form of utterance that angered
Darbey and has bothered most biographers since, appears in the following
selection: "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 out 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."[244]

[244] _Ibid._, 140.

At least it may be said that he was not the aggressor or the sole
participant in such a "scathing and withering style,"[245] nor is it at
all hard to find like statements and oratory in every period of our
history. This is almost the last time that the historian need halt in
his comment on the expression of Lincoln. Years of experience brought
him to a higher conception of public utterances. When the subject matter
bade exalted expression he grew to the occasion with amazing avidity.

[245] _Ibid._, 139.

This speech revealed Lincoln to Congress. It gained prestige among the
fulminations of the session. The _Baltimore American_ named it the
"crack speech of the day." It labeled Lincoln as a very able, acute,
uncouth, honest, upright man and a tremendous, wag withal.[246]

[246] Tarbell, 1, 217.

His reputation as a Congressman and orator, begot him the honorable
privilege of addressing in September, the same audience in the east that
often listened to the triumphant Webster. Only a faint echo of these
speeches of the Illinois representative remains.

A representative Boston newspaper reports him as saying that the people
of Illinois agreed entirely with the people in Massachusetts on the
slavery question, except, that they did not think about it as
constantly; that all agreed that slavery was an evil, which could not be
affected in the slave states; but that the question of the _extension_
of slavery to new territories was under control. In opposition to this
extension Lincoln believed that the self-named "Free Soil" party was far
behind the Whigs; that the "Free Soil" men in claiming that name,
indirectly attempted a deception, by implying that Whigs were not free
soil men; that in 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 fair argument. Making this declaration, he
further argued, did not show what their duty was, that if it did there
would be no use for judgment; that men might as well be made without
intellect, and when divine or human law did not clearly point their
duty, they had no means of finding out what it was by using their most
intellectual judgment of the consequences, and that if there were divine
law or human law for voting for Martin Van Buren, then he would give up
the argument.[247]

[247] _Ibid._, 2, 297-298.

New England testified to its liking for the western advocate of Taylor.
The _Boston Advertiser_ stated that at the close of his masterly
speech, the audience gave three enthusiastic cheers for Illinois, and
three more for the eloquent Whig member from that state.[248] His Boston
speech was so effective "that several Whigs who had gone off on the
'Free Soil' fizzle returned again to the Whig ranks."[249]

[248] Tarbell, 2, 299.

[249] _Ibid._, 1, 128.

Ida Tarbell contends that at this time Lincoln first experienced the
full meaning of the "Free Soil" sentiment, as Massachusetts was then
quivering under the impassioned protests of the great Abolitionists, and
Sumner was beginning to devote his life to freedom and was speaking
often at riotous meetings. Miss Tarbell further maintains Lincoln was
sensitive to every shade of popular feeling in New England, and was
stirred as never before on the question of slavery; that he heard
Seward's speech in Tremont Temple, and that night, as the two men sat
talking, said gravely to the great anti-slavery advocate:

"Governor Seward, I have been thinking about what you said in your
speech. I reckon you are right. We have got to deal with this slavery
question, and got to give much more attention to it hereafter than we
have been doing."[250]

[250] _Ibid._, 224.

This evidence does not prove that Lincoln then began to take radical
ground on the slavery question. Ten years before in the Illinois
Legislature, he made his protest, and later at every opportunity when
circumstances favored. His hatred to slavery had long been kindled. He
needed little inspiration from the New York orator on New England soil
to start his indignation. His statement to Seward shows that he was
ready for radical conduct as soon as the event permitted the onslaught.
He rejoiced at the growth of the public opinion that betokened the doom
of the artificial institution. But he did not need to sit at the feet of
eastern teachers. The New England trip was an incident, not an epoch in
his career.

The second session of this Congress was rather free from turbulence.
Lincoln was a silent spectator. He went with his party on the main
issues and voted for the Wilmot Proviso "about 42 times."[251] The
Northern Democrats in the House returned in a resentful spirit at the
support rendered Taylor by eight slave states. They were not backward in
supporting legislation to exclude slavery from California and New
Mexico.[252] The Senate, true to its love of vested interests speedily
disposed of the proposal.

[251] Lamon, 309.

[252] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 283-284.

During the session a New York representative let loose a resolution with
the clanging preamble of a "law rooting out the slave trade in the
District of Columbia."[253] Lincoln was one of three or four northern
Whigs who voted to lay this exuberant measure on the table.[254]

[253] _Ibid._, 286.

[254] Lamon, 308.

As the sole Whig representative of his State, coming from a constituency
hardly distinguished for its anti-slavery sentiments, while most Whigs
even from the New England states were silent; no external duty beckoned
him; no powerful organization called him to ride the storm by branding
the jealous institution. Selfish ambition whispered prudence and calmed
the voice of protest.

But within the very shade of the Capitol, the slave girl was coined into
drachmas. He felt the world shame that had come upon the nation by this
blot on its professions. The desire to strike another blow grew strong
in him. As he tried a decade before in the legislative halls of
Illinois, so now in the national assembly, in a very home of slavery, he
rang forth his hate of the old injustice. Still he did not give way to
an outburst of vengeance; he husbanded his anger; thought only of the
consequence, planned with wisdom the most effective stab at the
national disgrace.

The politician walked hand in hand with the patriot. He gathered
discordant elements to the support of a common cause calling forth
admiration at the unrivalled policy. He consecrated to the high purpose
of dedicating the national Capitol to a free citizenship, a devotion and
sagacity that made him the peer of any strategist of his day. He
conceived and carried out a daring plan of securing the support to his
astounding proposal of the Mayor of Washington, a representative of the
intelligent slave-holding citizens of that community. With equal skill,
he secured the reinforcement of the radical Giddings, who says in his
diary that Lincoln's bill to abolish slavery was approved by all; that
he believed it as good a bill as we could get at this time, and was
willing to pay for slaves in order to save them from the southern
market, as he supposed every man in the District would sell his slaves
if he saw that slavery was to be abolished.[255] Lincoln held together
two such leaders in advocacy of the same measure affecting the sore
subject, thus revealing the supreme tactician, who in later years held
to the public service a Seward, a Stanton and a Chase in the same
cabinet.

[255] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 286-287.

He persuaded the slave holder that it was wiser to adopt his measure
than in later years confront the danger of more exacting legislation. He
convinced the Abolitionists that his law was the best then attainable.
His alarming proposition was as innocent in expression as patience and
wisdom could make it. It provided for the ultimate emancipation of all
slaves born after 1850 and the manumission of existing slaves on full
payment to willing owners. After soberly providing for the return of all
fugitive slaves the whole plan was made dependent upon the approval of a
popular vote.[256]

[256] _Ibid._, 287.

The slaveholders were more illiberal than the Abolitionists. They
spurned all compromise. They would admit no suggestion that laid bare
the injustice of their institution. They knew that when an inroad was
once made, its days would be numbered; that compromise was the dawn of
the end. They brought all their power into being. The social influences
of Washington were called into polite requisition and the Mayor, under
this duress, withdrew his sanction.[257] The biographers, who knew
Lincoln in the days of trial, have given expression to a splendid
tribute to his constancy. "Fifteen years afterwards, in the stress and
tempest of a terrible war, it was Mr. Lincoln's strange fortune to sign
a bill sent him by Congress for the abolition of slavery in Washington;
and perhaps the most remarkable thing about the whole transaction was
that while we were looking politically upon a new heaven and a new
earth,--for the vast change in our moral and economical condition might
justify so audacious a phrase,--when there was scarcely a man on the
continent who had not greatly shifted his point of view in a dozen
years, there was so little change in Mr. Lincoln. The same hatred of
slavery, the same sympathy with the slave, the same consideration for
the slaveholder as the victim of a system he had inherited, the same
sense of divided responsibility between the South and the North, the
same desire to effect great reforms with as little individual damage and
injury, as little disturbance of social conditions as possible, were
equally evident when the raw pioneer signed the protest with Dan Stone
of Vandalia, when the mature man moved the resolution of 1849 in the
Capitol and when the President gave the sanction of his bold signature
of the act which swept away the slave shambles from the City of
Washington."[258]

[257] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 287-288.

[258] _Ibid._, 288.

He warred against slavery not the slave holder. He took full account of
the conditions leading to the ownership of human property. He realized
that it was a legacy of a former age, that it was not a product of
present and individual responsibility, that it was a national fault not
a private one, that the slave holder was the victim of the system not
the cause. So he would not have the change come with a rush lest it
might not be abiding. He was willing to wait. Lincoln knew that progress
is a slow and labored process and that haste is often the companion of
reaction. He would awaken no just and general resentment, a resentment
that still lingers in the hearts of men from a war-won emancipation. It
would have been well for the North and South had this measure of gradual
compensated emancipation have become the settled policy of the nation.
The most cankerous conflict of the age might have been spared and the
problems resulting therefrom less perplexing. Like a wise surgeon, he
dared an early operation rather than delay the necessity of a more
drastic remedy. When passion forged to the front as the guide, when
North and South had ample occasion to dwell on mutual wrongs, when the
Constitution of the Union ceased to be the prevailing measure of the
individual and general welfare, the days of peace were being numbered.
Lincoln realized that compromise is only available when wisely adapted
to opposing forces at the fitting time.

Thus, there stood forth in Congress a man who subdued his passion for
the Declaration of Independence and yet who was not willing that the
down-trodden should eternally remain in the darkness of vicarious
government. He knew that slavery could not always dwell in the seat of
government, that the time would come when there would be no human
chattel on American soil. Still, Lincoln did not shift to others the
whole burden of bringing the day to pass, but took his stand against
the iniquity of human bondage with sublime wisdom. He tempered but did
not dull his sense of justice. He struck a second blow at the national
evil, a sign that he still was true to his vow at New Orleans and his
protest at Vandalia.

Like other legislators, Lincoln was obliged to deal with the issue of
handing out offices as party spoil. Trade and industry were still in
their infancy and had not yet begun to attract the activity of the
aspiring. The highway to general distinction and to honor was largely
that of public office. Hence, there ensued, in the words of Lincoln, a
"wriggle and struggle for office" and an effort to find "a way to live
without work."[259]

[259] Herndon, 1, 279.

The attitude of Lincoln in days when the Jackson theory was in its full
vigor is noteworthy. As the sole Whig representative, beside Colonel
Baker, Lincoln asked, in 1849, to be heard on all appointments in
Illinois. His remarkable action is seen in the following letter: "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 better.... 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 claim, and for the opinions expressed in his favor by those over
whom I can claim no superiority."[260] As Congressman he selected a
postman of a village with the same precision that he later did a war
minister.

[260] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 151-152.

The activity of Lincoln in securing the nomination and election of
Taylor commanded the regard of some leading politicians. They advised
his candidacy for the General Land Office. Lincoln was poorly equipped
to seek the favor of those dispensing patronage. He was not gifted with
assiduity or forwardness so often essential to bearing away the palm.
Seldom has a hunter for alluring official service so gently put
obstacles in the way of his success. Though it is claimed he was even
eager for the prize, he was careful to a nicety, to avoid a false
position, while others were bending every effort and using every means
at their disposal.

To several friends he wrote the following unique letter: "Some months
since I gave my word to secure the appointment to that office of Mr.
Cyrus Edwards, if in my power, in a case of a vacancy; and more recently
I stipulated with Colonel Baker that if Mr. Edwards and Colonel J. L. D.
Morrison could arrange with each other for one of them to withdraw, we
would jointly recommend the other. In relation to these pledges, I must
not only be chaste, but above suspicion. If the office shall be tendered
to me, I must be permitted to say: 'Give it to Mr. Edwards, or if so
agreed by them, to Colonel Morrison, and I decline it; if not, I
accept.' With this understanding you are at liberty to procure me the
offer of the appointment if you can; and I shall feel complimented by
your effort, and still more by its success."[261]

[261] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 153-154.

But even his patience gave way when Justin Butterfield, a late opponent
of Taylor, was considered for the place. He burst forth with the
statement that if anything should be given to the State, it should be so
given as to gratify friends, and to stimulate them to future exertions,
and that it would mortify him deeply if General Taylor's administration
should trample all his wishes in the dust merely to gratify friends of
Clay.[262]

[262] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 155.

It was not surprising that the laggard procedure of Lincoln lost him
this place. Political offices, like opportunity, do not wait long. And
so it came to pass that the former opponent of the President was
selected in the place of one who was his earnest advocate from the
beginning. Though not backward in his claim for an elective office, he
was still little inclined to play the servile part in an appointive
position. He was willing enough to submit to the democratic judgment of
his fellow men when he was given a public opportunity to present his
claim, but he timidly shrank from a personal solicitation of a
Presidential favor.

His final letter on the history of this affair is rather tinged with
another sorrow. Mr. Edwards being offended with him, he wrote that the
better part of one's life consisted of his friendships; that at a word
he could have had the office any time before the Department was
committed to Mr. Butterfield; and that word he forbore to speak chiefly
for Mr. Edwards' sake,--losing the office that he might gain it, and
that to lose his _friendship_, by the effort for him would oppress him
very much, were he not sustained by the utmost consciousness of
rectitude.[263]

[263] Tarbell, 2, 300-301.

The selection of Butterfield for the General Land Office did not shake
the efforts of the friends of Lincoln to secure recognition of his
valiant services in the Whig ranks. He was tendered the governorship of
Oregon by Fillmore. The new land held forth enticing political promises,
it was soon to become a state and a senatorship was a fair prospect.
Close associates advised acceptance. Lamon says that Lincoln saw it all,
and would have accepted "if his wife consented," but she refused to do
so; and that time has shown that she was right.[264] What part Lincoln
would have played in history if he had become a senator from Oregon may
be interesting but none the less vain speculation. If the Lincoln and
Douglas debates had been shifted from the prairies of Illinois to the
national arena at Washington, who can say that Lincoln and Douglas might
not have become rivals for the Presidency? It has been quite the fashion
to assume that the Senate would have been destructive to the future of
Lincoln, overlooking the plain fact that the National Assembly was the
home of the renown of Douglas and his ladder to the Presidential
nomination. Lincoln was not spoiled by the highest office in the land
and there is no surety that the senate would have proved the grave of
his career.

[264] Lamon, 334.

Two scant years of Congressional life worked a change in the politician
from Illinois. He had come in a subdued mood to mingle in national
affairs. Shrinkingly, he measured his humble equipment with that of
illustrious legislators in Washington. While he left a respectable, but
not an eminent record of achievement, he departed with a store of
confidence in his worth. His intimate association with northern and
southern leaders, his sure, inner knowledge of national legislative
methods, his insight into the uncompromising character of the slavery
controversy were not wasted in the part he was soon to play in events
that would shake the very foundation of the nation.

Still, he returned to Springfield unhonored. In the opinion of his
constituency, he made a series of blunders. His attitude on the war lost
the district to the Whig party. His "Spot Resolutions" had become a
by-word in the community, they were liberally satired in song and story.
The political career of Lincoln had seemingly come to an inglorious
conclusion.



CHAPTER X

THE SCHOOL OF SOLITUDE


Upon his return from Washington, Abraham Lincoln attended to a growing
legal practice. He apparently lost his interest in communal matters,
having tasted the allurements and bitterness of public service. He had
largely outgrown the passion for ordinary official distinction. He was
ready to go back to the circuit with its hardships and rudeness. To win
renown as a lawyer now seemed his sole ambition.

Still as the compromise measures of 1850 ended another national crisis,
he readily renewed his interest in the march of events. A loyal Whig,
still, he acceded to the Clay and Webster solution of the perturbed
political conditions with some misgiving. He poorly tolerated the
burdens added to the yoke of the fugitive slave--the premium placed upon
bondage rather than freedom. During this stormy period of general
controversy, in his lonely way he settled the main issue. A story told
by a close friend is significant of the seriousness of the struggle. As
they were coming down a hill, Herndon said to Lincoln that the time was
coming when they should all have to be either Abolitionists or
Democrats. Lincoln thought a moment and then answered ruefully that when
that time came his mind would be made up, for he believed the slavery
question could never be successfully compromised.[265]

[265] Herndon, 2, 31.

Though zealous for action, for a time, he was in the gloom of despair.
Most men were lost in their own affairs. The furtive Abolitionist raised
his voice as in a wilderness. The busy world took mean note of the cry
of anguished slave. About this time Herndon states that Lincoln was
speculating with him about the deadness of things, and deeply regretted
that his human strength was limited by his nature to rouse the world,
and despairingly exclaimed that it was hard to die and to leave one's
country no better than if one had never lived for it.[266] Here is again
communion with the soul whose thoughts were of the despised and the
lowly. To Lamon and other men who cannot rise to kinship with him in
such an hour, he must forever remain a mystery. It is for this reason
that some who were near him seldom comprehended the extensiveness of his
sympathy, seldom knew the divinity of his hopes, and his surpassing love
of kind.

[266] Lamon, 335.

Lincoln was a stumbling student in the domain of eulogy. His mind
scorned fanciful statement. He was no hero worshipper. Washington,
alone, remained the shrine of his homage. He mastered indiscriminate
devotion to person in his loyalty to principle. For this reason, to
many, he seemed impassive and self centered. It is strange that the man
so little prone to adulation should, himself, be the recipient of almost
universal adoration. So his address in 1852 on the death of Clay shows
little of the devotional element. Even in the shadow of the grave of the
great Compromiser, there is no chant of an admiring friend--no speech
leaping from the heart. Lincoln himself felt its limitations.[267] In
this address, he called attention to the striking fact that Clay never
spoke merely to be heard, that his eloquence was always directed to
practical action.

[267] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 171.

It is only when Lincoln approached the discussion of the slavery
question that he ceased commonplace commendation. He gave much time to
that issue. That he brooded over the solemn statement of the patriots of
the Republic is shown in his use of the far-famed utterance of
Jefferson: "I had for a long time ceased to read newspapers or to pay
any attention to public affairs, confident that 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 fire-bell 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 a 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."[268]

[268] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 173.

He likewise dwelt on the exulting protest of Clay against the enemies of
liberty and ultimate emancipation, who would go back to the era of our
liberty and independence and muzzle the cannon which thunders its annual
joyous return, who would blow out the moral light and penetrate the
human soul, and eradicate the light of reason and the love of
liberty.[269]

[269] _Ibid._, 175.

We learn something of the trend of his thoughts in his discussion of the
colonization proposal of Clay that there was a moral fitness in the idea
of returning to Africa her children, whose ancestors had been torn from
her by the ruthless hand of fraud and violence, who, transplanted in a
foreign land, would carry back to their native soil the rich fruits of
religion, civilization, law and liberty. Lincoln passes this benediction
on the plan: "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."[270]

[270] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 176.

Lincoln was seeking no temporary expedient. He saw that abolitionism was
only a step in the problem, that beyond freedom was the greater question
that still terrifies the Union. Statesmanlike, he was not willing merely
to trifle with the casual remedy. Like Clay, he would have put an end to
the baffling issue by an operation titanic in contemplation and
astounding in sweep. So this eulogy on Clay is largely a discussion of a
looming problem of his time, a safe sign that he was awake to the
gathering storm.

The campaign of 1852 was colorless. Both parties were arrayed on the
side maintaining the sacredness of the Compromise Measures. All slavery
agitation was severely deprecated. While the South feared and shunned
the triumph of the Whig party, there was still scant surface appearance
of a sectional contest. There was little in the issues involved to
awaken moral vitality. Lincoln took no glowing part in the electoral
contest. Lamon declares that his speeches during the campaign were
coarse, strained in humor, petulant, unworthy of the orator, and
pervasive with jealousy at the success of his rival--Douglas.[271]

[271] Lamon, 341.

Though Lincoln was sure from the first, of the sin of slavery, still,
even at this period, he continued in conduct with slow paced movement as
if half afraid of being ahead of the sweep of events. Herndon aided in
helping him keep abreast with advanced abolition literature, and sought
to win him to a championship of the radical school. Like Washington, he
marked out his own path. Neither friend nor foe could swerve him, hasten
or check his advance. Broad-minded, open to appeal, no man was less
influenceable in final judgment. Herndon's weighty statement confirms
this distinctiveness of Lincoln's individuality. "I was never conscious
of having made this impression on Mr. Lincoln, nor do I believe I ever
changed his views. I will go further and say, that, from the profound
nature of his conclusions and the labored method by which he arrived at
them, no man is entitled to the credit of having either changed or
greatly modified them."[272]

[272] Herndon, 2, 32.

At first, he began in his office in plain speech to comment upon the
virulent contest between freedom and slavery, contending that delay was
intensifying the ultimate clash, that like two wild beasts in sight of
each other, but chained and held apart, the deadly antagonists would
some day break their bonds, and then the question would be settled.[273]

[273] _Ibid._, 35.

He spoke bitterly of the attitude of the judiciary, the men who should
have been in the very front of the fight; who seemed more zealous of the
right of property than that of personal liberty. He said that it was
singular that the Courts would hold that a man never lost his right to
his property that has been stolen from him, but that he instantly lost
his right to himself if he was stolen.[274] Thus his mind moved faster
than public sentiment, and thus he became prepared for decisive action
before the culminating Kansas and Nebraska affair threw the North into
commotion. He seemed the barometer of the national conscience, and
though his slow progress appeared painful to the radical yet it was
genuine and far more remorseless than immature reform. When the
conservative mind of Lincoln was stirred to action, it was a definite
sign of progress. He saw that the steady march of slavery was slowly
perverting the very principles of democracy, that it was a challenge to
the integrity of the republic, that sooner or later it would subvert the
government or be subverted by the government.

[274] _Ibid._, 36.

He noted that there were about six hundred thousand men non-slaveholding
whites in Kentucky to about thirty-three thousand slave holders; that
when a convention recently assembled, there was not a single
representative of the non-slaveholding class. He told a friend that the
thing was spreading like wildfire over the country and that in a few
years Illinois would be ready to accept the institution. When asked to
what he attributed the change that was going on in public opinion, he
said that he had put that question to a Kentuckian shortly before, who
answered by saying that one might have any amount of land, money or
bank-stock, and while travelling around, nobody would be wiser; but, if
one had a darky trudging at his heels, everybody would see him, and know
that he owned a slave; that if a young man went courting, the only
inquiry was, how many negroes he or she owned. He added, that the love
for slave property was swallowing up every other mercenary possession;
that its ownership betokened, not only the possession of wealth, but
indicated the gentleman of leisure, who was above and scorned
labor.[275]

[275] Lamon, 347.

It has been a historical fashion to brand Douglas as the author of all
the ills that came in the course of the Kansas-Nebraska agitation. He
has suffered more than any other northern leader for participation
therein. He did not inaugurate; he reluctantly adopted radical action to
maintain his leadership in the Democratic party. The abolitionists were
growing more resolute and exacting in their demands, startling the
northern conscience. No compromise could still their protests; they
would not tolerate constitutional obligations that stood in the way of
immediate emancipation. At the South, the slave dynasty was daily
growing more restless under the real or assumed danger from northern
agitation. New enactments were deemed indispensable, as if legislation
could stay the rising tide of sentiment against the return of fugitive
slaves. The South was, under the educational tutelage of Calhoun,
prepared to demand the right to carry slaves throughout every inch of
the national territory without restraint from Congress.

Compromise could delay but not settle such a contest. When moral
instincts were aroused on one side and fear on the other, the inevitable
clash could not be permanently avoided. Dixon of Kentucky, through his
far-reaching statement upon the question of slavery he knew no
"Whiggery" and no Democracy,[276] decisively noted the new era in
American politics, and showed the desperate chasm that daily grew more
divisive, not to be covered over until the blood of a million men was
offered up as a sacrifice to the most momentous martyrdom in history.
Atchison of Missouri, who declared he would sacrifice everything but his
hope of heaven for slavery,[277] was anxious for the place of Douglas
that he might champion the legislation that would secure the repeal of
the Missouri Compromise. To gain this position, he would relinquish his
distinction as Acting President pro tem of the Senate.

[276] Greeley, 1, 229.

[277] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 346.

For twenty years, Douglas had fought in the party ranks until he stood
fair to become its leader. He had either to become champion of the new
policy, or as he saw it, to sacrifice the work of a lifetime. In the
party councils he contested the wisdom of the policy and eloquently
portrayed its far-reaching consequences. He loved his country but not
all of his kind. Patriot but not humanitarian, he would not peer behind
the curtain of a clashing North and South. The nature of the bitter
conflict through which Douglas passed before he submitted to the
southern policy, appears from his counsel to a young student and friend
never to go into politics; that if he did, no matter how clear it might
be to him that the present was an inheritance from the past, no matter
how conscientiously he might feel that his hands were tied, with loyalty
to ancient institutions rather than what he might prefer to do if free
to choose, still he would be vilified, traduced, and finally sacrificed
to some local interest or unreasoning passion like Adams, Webster and
Clay. He continued that he was surprised that the proposal to repeal
came from the South and dreaded the effect, and said so; still for
nearly twenty years he had fought for a place among the leaders of the
party which seemed to him most likely to promote the prosperity of his
country, and had won it.... If he retained his leadership, he argued
that he might help to guide the party aright in some graver crisis, and
if he threw it away, he not only destroyed himself, but he became
powerless for good forever after.

He then impetuously contended that an individual ought not to oppose his
judgment to that of a great party, and besides though surprised at its
source, he believed that the repeal would work to the advancement of
freedom rather than otherwise, as his vilifiers charged. He finally
pleaded that he was politically right in keeping within the pale of the
Constitution; and right as to the moral effect, and right as a party
leader anxious to help in keeping his party true to the whole
country.[278] Thus Douglas made his way to the sons of the South and
became the father of the Nebraska controversy and of the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise.

[278] Illinois State Historical Society, IV. 49.

Douglas had not trained himself in the school of political defeat and
hesitated to forego his prestige of leadership. To gain the South, he
risked his hold on the North. Had he had the courage to dare, the wisdom
to know, the moral heroism to do, he might have become the foremost
personality in American politics, honoring instead of shadowing the
history of his time. In a solemn moment he took counsel of his fears
rather than his integrity, and doubted the triumph of the one cause that
has revolutionized history. With all his political sagacity, he lacked
the supreme instinct that transcends the shrewdness of the day and links
itself to the final triumphing movement.

During the spring and summer of 1854 when the whole North quivered with
the hurrying march of events following the Nebraska agitation, and
thundered its protests into Washington, Lincoln grew to the demands of
the hour with his wonted sureness. He turned over and over the whole
issue. He did not halt at the injustice of the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise, but went beyond its consideration to the problems of the
age, of which that act was only a grave symptom.

Now and then in small meetings, he spoke out of the fullness of his
feelings. His friends scanned a strange change. Coming to listen to his
quaint stories, they returned, exalted by hearing a speaker who raised
the controversy above the shifting events of the hour to the broad
tableland where right and wrong meet on the field of battle. They beheld
a man who lifted the discussion into the pure realms of eternal
justice, above all questions of policy, into the arena of the higher
humanity. Prejudices of a lifetime trembled in the balance. Men were
baptised with a new political faith. They instinctively turned to the
master and yielded, to the power of a personality speaking in the name
of immortal righteousness. He was no longer in his former haunts, the
tavern or the grocery. He was seen "mousing" around libraries. He was
communing with the Fathers of the Republic, seeking wisdom from them.

These five years following his Congressional experience are noteworthy
in his life, though scantily known. Now and then a chance remark, the
eulogy on Clay, a letter to a friend, reveal a strong man struggling
with a giant problem. During all this time, he was thinking out the
portentous question that was agitating a tempest. The greatest contests
of the world are not fought on the battlefield, in the presence of vast
armies, when the drum beats or the bugle calls to action. The sublimest
battles in history are waged in the lonely soul. There, the destiny of
nations is determined before its formal expression in legislative
discussion, judicial decision or national controversy.

The grasping disposition of slavery convinced Lincoln that the encounter
was inevitable. Before the formation of the Republican party, he
sanctioned the statement that the time was approaching when it would be
necessary to take a determined stand either for or against slavery.
During this period, he waited and bided his time; all these years he saw
with joy, clouded with occasional despair, the day approaching when
another blow could be struck for freedom, for the principles of the
fathers and for the spreading of democratic influence. These were
splendid years of preparation.



CHAPTER XI

AN EMANCIPATED POLITICIAN


The indignation that rushed through Illinois when the first news from
the Capitol forecast the repeal of the Missouri Compromise had not yet
abated, when Douglas dauntlessly sought to explain his course of conduct
in Chicago. He was howled down and denied liberty of speech. This
naturally brought on a reaction. The contention that the distinguished
senator had been struck before being heard, added martyrdom to his bold
conduct.

As he wandered down the State closer to the home of ardent democracy, he
was met with growing enthusiasm. His ingenious sophistry turned popular
sovereignty into a seeming contest for a principle and Illinois was
being carried away by his triumphant oratory and logic. There is little
wonder that the man who breasted the storm of debate in the Senate
should make headway in the land of his friends where office holders and
supporters gloried in his fame and were elated when he chanted forth his
alluring doctrine as a solution to political conditions.

His main effort was made at the State Fair in October, 1854, an occasion
that called together the intelligence of Illinois in days when few
occasions permitted the satisfaction of social life. Enhancing its
importance, this political gathering was to mark the opening of the
campaign to determine the selection of a Senator. The speech of Douglas
was to be almost a national event. Upon him the hopes of the State
democracy centered in the conditions following the late political
tempest. Douglas was equal to the occasion and his friends rejoiced.

Lincoln had made such a profound impression at the time among the Whig
orators, that he was chosen to bear the brunt of the reply to the "State
Fair Speech" of the wily leader of the Democratic party. Lincoln
surpassed every expectation. Neither side was prepared for the terrible
onslaught. A new and dauntless advocate appeared giving power to the
gathering protesting elements against the aggressive championship of
Douglas. Herndon, himself, was thoroughly amazed, and tells us that the
speaker quivered with emotion, that he felt upon his soul the truths
burn which he uttered, that crushing with his logic the Nebraska bill he
rent it into shreds and held it up to the scorn and the mockery of the
crowds, that he took the heart captive and broke like a sun over the
understanding.[279] In his reply Douglas was excited, and his voice loud
and shrill. Lamon relates that shaking his forefinger at the democratic
malcontents, and declaiming rather than debating, he occupied to little
purpose the brief interval remaining until the adjournment for supper;
that then, promising to resume his address in the evening, he went his
way, and evening came but not the orator.[280]

[279] Herndon, 2, 37-8.

[280] Lamon, 349-350.

While Lincoln was moving in the moral realm, still, at this very time,
note must be taken of the politician in the valley. The enthusiasm that
followed his baptismal oration had not calmed when Lovejoy announced a
gathering that evening of the friends of freedom. The Nebraska movement
fed the Abolitionists with abounding faith in a speedy triumph. With a
rising sense of their strength, fairly "snuffing" the coming victory
they looked for, Lovejoy and his associates hastened to command
Lincoln's attendance at their meeting. Herndon vividly describes the
occasion, saying that their plan was to induce Lincoln to speak for
them, yet he doubted the propriety of Lincoln's taking any stand yet.
Lincoln was ambitious to climb to the United States Senate, and on
grounds of policy it would not do for him to occupy at that time such
advance ground as they were taking. On the other hand, it was equally
dangerous to refuse a speech for the Abolitionists. Herndon then hunted
up Lincoln and urged him to avoid meeting the enthusiastic champion of
Abolitionism. "Go home at once," he said. "Take Bob with you and drive
somewhere into the country and stay till this thing is over." Lincoln
under the pretense of having business in Tazewell County drove out of
town in his buggy, and did not return until the apostles of Abolitionism
had gone to their homes. Herndon believes that this arrangement saved
Lincoln, for if he had endorsed the resolutions passed at the meeting,
or spoken simply in favor of freedom that night, he would have been
identified with all the rancor and extremes of Abolitionism, and if, on
the contrary, he refused to take a position as advanced as theirs, he
would have lost their support.[281]

[281] Herndon, 2, 40-41.

Another incident told by the same writer makes it necessary ever to keep
track of Lincoln, the wary politician: "One day I read in the _Richmond
Enquirer_ an article endorsing slavery, and arguing that from principle
the enslavement of either whites or blacks was justifiable and right. I
showed it to Lincoln, who remarked that it was 'rather rank doctrine for
northern Democrats to endorse. I should like to see,' he said, with
emphasis 'some of these Illinois newspapers champion that.' I told him
if he would only wait and keep his own counsel I would have a
pro-slavery organ in Springfield publish that very article. He doubted
it, but when I told him how it was to be done, he laughed and said, 'Go
in.' I cut the slip out and succeeded in getting it in the paper named.
Of course it was a trick but it acted admirably. Its appearance in the
new organ, although without comment, almost ruined that valuable
journal, and my good natured friend the editor was nearly overcome by
the denunciation of those who were responsible for the organ's
existence. My connection and Lincoln's too,--for he endorsed the
trick,--with the publication of the condemned article was eventually
discovered, and we were thereafter effectually prevented from getting
another line in the paper. The anti-slavery people quoted the article as
having been endorsed by a democratic newspaper in Springfield and
Lincoln himself used it with telling effect. He joined in the popular
denunciation, expressing great astonishment that such a sentiment could
find lodgment in any paper in Illinois, although he knew full well how
the whole thing had been carried through."[282]

[282] Herndon, 2, 39-40.

Lincoln was alive to the best methods of persuasion. He knew that men
were the children of emotion and that while many would be calloused to
the slavery of the black man, nothing would arouse the North quicker
than this doctrine of the bondage of the white man. While slavery was
making every effort to fasten its fangs on the nation, Lincoln was not
averse to take advantage of a shrewd move to strike heavy blows at the
potent institution.

He entered deeply into the contest. Lincoln knew that it involved the
painful rending of party allegiance. His letter to Palmer sheds light on
the intensity of the struggle, the heroism of the democratic minority
whose loyalty to country and righteousness surpassed a deep-seated
partisanship: "You are," he said, "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 just to yourself that you should, in a few public speeches,
state your reasons, and thus justify yourself? I wish you could; and yet
I say, 'Don't do it if you think it will injure you.'"[283]

[283] Tarbell, 1, 275.

Lincoln recognized that political progress is not alone the result of
intellectual supremacy; that it is a painful struggle; that policy must
be mingled with principle; that the world does not welcome the
unadulterated gospel; that through the centuries, humanity has groped
its way to the far light with eyes blinded by the superstition of ages
and selfishness.

The moral prophet is seldom the political leader of his time. He stands
above his age. The politician is part of it. One sees things as they
should be, the other as they are. One is splendidly indifferent to
results, the other keenly appreciative of them. Lincoln made no false
step. Had he walked too fast for his day he might have been the Garrison
of the West, but not the party guide. With sure instinct he felt that
the time was not ripe for companionship with the Abolitionists. Illinois
was not ready. If he was to continue his hold on public sentiment, to
guide it, he could not flash the truth before the gaze of humanity.
Despite the suffering of martyrs, the heroism of statesmen, the
sacrifices of seekers of the truth, wrong was still "upon the throne,"
and "truth upon the scaffold," the world was not slow in crucifying its
heroes of speech and deed. Lincoln recognized the weaknesses of men, the
shortcomings of human nature, the superstition of centuries. He was
content with slow progress, uncowed by disappointment, and realized
that the grumbling world emancipated its heart and mind slowly.

Under the spell of the State Fair speech, Whig leaders earnestly
besought Lincoln to follow Douglas up until election.[284] So again at
Peoria, Lincoln broke forth in impassioned utterances that took captive
the judgment. His logic throbbed with passion for freedom, for liberty
and emancipation. He lifted his hearers above the jangling of everyday
life, above the mists of hate, of jealousy, of selfishness, into a
region of the brotherhood of man. Unlike his speech at Springfield, this
was written out. It demonstrates that his supremacy among the eminent
leaders of Illinois was not a matter of the choice of the hour.

[284] Lamon, 354.

With marvelous power of directness, he plotted out the line of
discussion. He made much of the fact that the Fathers of the Republic
regarded slavery as an evil worthy of restriction and looked forward to
the day of its ultimate abolition, saying that as the subject was no
other than part of the larger question of domestic slavery, he wished to
make the distinction between the existing institution and the extension
of it so clear that no honest man could misunderstand him, and no
dishonest man could successfully misrepresent him.[285]

[285] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 181.

With telling effect he quoted the words of Douglas himself as to the
sincere observance of the Missouri Compromise that put a barrier in the
way of the progress of slavery: "It had its origin," said Douglas, "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 of 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."[286] His comment on this unanswerable
statement of Douglas is significant of the nature of Lincoln's peculiar
fairness and consequent strength. Lincoln said that he did not read the
extract to involve Judge Douglas in an inconsistency, for if he
afterward thought he was wrong, it was right for him to change, but he
brought it forward merely to show the high estimate placed on the
Missouri Compromise by all parties up to so late as the year 1849.[287]

[286] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 184.

[287] _Ibid._

In the North and South passion had unloosed its tongue and crimination
and recrimination were daily becoming steady servants in debate and
discussion on the slavery question. With it all, Lincoln calmly sat in
judgment.

"Before proceeding let me say that I think I have no prejudices against
the Southern people. They are just what we would be in their situation.
If slavery did not now exist between 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.... When Southern people tell us
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 same. 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--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
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 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 hardly be distinguished on any moral principle, and
the repeal of the former could find quite as plausible excuses as that
of the latter."[288]

[288] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 186-187.

In the domain of literature on the slavery question there is no
statement that surpasses this in charity, sanity and wisdom. With his
overflowing hatred to slavery, he still kept justice as his guide and
was slow to blame the South for the long standing sin. In this he towers
above the Abolitionists who put upon the slave holders the burdens of a
past as well as a present wrong. Yet unlike the politician he did not
lose his ideal and become palsied and apologetic. He saw the need of
keeping alive the principles of the Republic. Hastening the coming of
the better humanity, with patience for human shortcoming, with zeal for
the triumph of emancipation, he continued in his peculiar, lonely and
potent way the advocacy of justice to God's dusky children.

In the Senate Douglas with triumphant eloquence charged Seward and
Sumner and the North with having repudiated the Missouri Compromise
through the Wilmot Proviso and the measures of 1850. Anti-slavery
leaders in the Senate were confounded by this sudden charge and
grandiloquent accusation. Lincoln took up the challenge and met the
arrogant claim of Douglas without flinching. His analysis exposed the
glittering sophistry of the man who enraptured the Northern statesmen in
the solemn Senate. He not only held his ground in the face of the
brilliant strategy of his opponent, but even carried the war into the
camp of the foe.

He argued that the contention of Douglas that the North repudiated the
Missouri Compromise was no less absurd than it would be to argue that
because they had so far forborne to acquire Cuba, they would have
thereby, in principle, repudiated former acquisitions and determined to
throw them out of the Union; that it was no less absurd than it would be
to say that because he may have refused to build an addition to his
house, he thereby decided to destroy the existing house.

This speech abounds in plain, hard English, travelling direct to the
intellect on a straight line. No labored argument could be half as sure
of a welcome to the human mind as his graphic exposal of the injustice
of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise: "After an angry and dangerous
controversy, the parties made friends by dividing the bone of
contention. The one party first appropriates its 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 own
loaf; the one had hastily swallowed his half, and then grabbed the
other's half just as he was putting it to his mouth."[289]

[289] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 192.

In nothing did Douglas show greater genius than in hallowing his
doctrine of popular sovereignty. The leaders in Congress feared openly
to fight his vaunted "sacred right of self government," they were not
sure of their ground. Lincoln with confidence, born of lonely struggle,
rushed on the angry battlefield to run the gantlet of debate on the
conquering doctrine of popular sovereignty: "When the white man," he
said, "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 another.

"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 negroes!' 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."[290] In a single
weighty phrase he crushed the elaborate argument of the Senator of
Illinois and left its fair form so that only a shattered frame remains.

[290] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 195.

At times he spoke like a seer lifted above the petty prejudices of the
time. He declared that the spirit of mutual concession--that first
wrought the Constitution, and thrice saved the Union--and that trust in
a national compromise, would thus be strangled; that the South flushed
with triumph would provoke and aggress, and the North, brooding on
wrong, would resent and retaliate. He alleged that already a few in the
North defied all constitutional restraint, and even menaced the
institution of slavery in the southern States; that already a few in the
South claimed the constitutional right to hold slaves in the free States
and demanded the revival of the slave trade. That it was a grave
question for lovers of the Union whether the final destruction of the
Missouri Compromise, and with it the spirit of all compromise, would not
fatally increase the number of both.[291]

[291] _Ibid._, 201.

His sanity enabled him to guide the erring and confounded in the days of
doubt. "Some men," he said, "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
Abolitionists 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 expose the
dangerous extremes. In both you stand on middle ground, and hold the
ship level and steady."[292]

[292] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 202.

Above all, this speech will live for its moral intensity, hatred of
injustice and hunger for righteousness. Throughout this long appeal and
uniting its links of logic is an overpowering and pervasive sentiment of
the highest humanity. Now and then an outburst against oppression comes
forth resistlessly, yet in the company of a sober expression, logical
intensity and a broad outlook peculiar to him. These rival the most
impassioned utterances of Phillips and Garrison. Like O'Connell, he sent
his voice "careering like the thunderstorm against the breeze, to tell
the slaveholders of the Carolinas that God's thunderbolts are hot, and
to remind the bondman that the dawn of his redemption is already
breaking."[293]

[293] Martyn's Wendell Phillips, 136.

With elation he passed from the sordidness and the turmoil of the
courtroom and daily pettiness of common political controversy to the
championship of an all-mastering principle. He fed the "parched souls of
men with celestial anodyne," with visions of a new and nobler era of
humanity. He made the humblest voter a public participant in the high
service of ridding the nation of the shame of slavery. He was educating
American democracy to practice the principles of the Declaration of
Independence, restoring to life seemingly dead doctrines of the fathers.
Better than a course in ethics was the uplift of his utterances, the
call to higher attitudes.

He declared his hate in ringing words, of the indifference to, if not
covert zeal for, the spread of slavery, of depriving the Republic of its
just influence in the world, of enabling the enemies of Democracy to
engage in the taunt of hypocrisy, of forcing so many men into open war
with the fundamental principles of civil liberty, criticising the
Declaration of Independence and insisting that there was no right
principle but self interest.[294]

[294] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 186.

In measured language befitting his solemn theme, Lincoln continued his
prophetic condemnation of slavery, charging that, steadily as man's
march to the grave, the people were giving up the old for the new faith;
that they had run down from the declaration that all men were created
equal to the declaration that the enslavement of some was a sacred right
of self government. He dwelt upon the statement of Pettit that the
Declaration of Independence was a "self evident lie" and said that
Pettit did what candor required, and that of forty-odd Nebraska senators
who listened, no one rebuked him; and asked if that had been said among
Marion's men, Southerners though they were, what would have become of
the man that said it? He added that if it had been said in old
Independence Hall seventy-eight years before, the very doorkeeper would
have throttled the man and thrust him into the street.[295]

[295] _Ibid._, 203.

The day after the Peoria speech, Douglas told Lincoln that he understood
the Territorial question better than all the opposition in the Senate,
and declared that Lincoln had given him more trouble than his combined
antagonists in Congress. Then Douglas proposed that he would speak no
more during the campaign if Lincoln would do the same, and to that
proposition Lincoln acceded.[296] So though a speech by Douglas and
Lincoln had been advertised for the following day, Mr. Douglas said that
he was too hoarse to speak, and Lincoln declared that he would not take
advantage of the judge's indisposition, by addressing the people. His
friends could not see the affair in the same light, and they "pressed
him for a speech," but Lincoln mysteriously and unaccountably
refused.[297]

[296] Lamon, 358.

[297] Lamon, 359.

Wisely did shrewd Douglas, the imperial leader in debate, appeal to the
generosity of his opponent to conclude further controversy. Douglas was
an over-match for all of the radical Abolitionists, the men who spoke of
the higher law, who made war on the charter of American liberties. His
better nature rejoiced in such conflicts. But his genius was rebuked in
the presence of the plain product of the West, the man who neither
relinquished his confidence in the Constitution nor yet in the ultimate
triumph of the freedom that first gave it its being. Douglas could wage
triumphant war on a Lovejoy and Chase, but the common logic and simple
honesty of Lincoln disconcerted him. The elaborate oratory of the Senate
never confused the Senator of Illinois. For the first time in his career
the national leader was worried and perplexed. He was neither used to
nor prepared for the combination of talent that could not be diverted
from its way, that met every movement with a baffling complacency. There
was something unanswerable in Lincoln's manner and mode of discussion.
Douglas could fight other men at a distance, but this opponent made it a
hand-to-hand grapple. At length a man had arisen in the American arena
as skillful in defense of freedom as other men were in that of slavery.
An orator had come who combined the solidity of Webster, the moral
fervor of Phillips, and the logic of Calhoun; who mingled justice,
patriotism and argument so as to astonish the foremost figure in
Washington. It was no idle sentiment that brought Douglas to tender his
rival the high tribute of a truce.

The Peoria and State Fair speeches created a supreme place for Lincoln
in the anti-slavery movement. He was looked to as likely to gather great
strength in the transitional period of party dissolution. A dominating
passion for place again took hold of him. He declared he prized a full
term in the Senate more than the Presidency. To advance local political
conditions Lincoln was unwisely made a candidate, in his absence, for
the State Legislature that would soon elect a Senator. Mrs. Lincoln,
however, had Lincoln's name taken off the list of candidates. When Mr.
Lincoln returned, "I went to see him," says Jayne, "in order to get his
consent to run. That was at his house. He was then the saddest man I
ever saw,--the gloomiest. He walked up and down the floor, almost
crying; and to all my persuasions to let his name stand in the paper, he
said, 'No, I can't. You don't know all. I say you don't begin to know
one-half, and that's enough!' I did, however, go and have his name
reinstated." After election Lincoln resigned and by a "still hunt" a
Democrat was elected in his stead. The interference of Mrs. Lincoln, the
loss of a vote in the approaching close contest, according to Jayne,
angered the people of Sangamon County so that for the time being they
hated him.[H]

[H] Lamon, 359-360.

Lincoln managed his senatorial campaign with adroitness. Herndon shows
that Lincoln did not calmly sit down and gather his robes around him,
waiting for the people to call him. The vicissitudes of a political
campaign brought into play his management, and developed to its fullest
extent his latent industry. Like other politicians he never overlooked a
newspaper man who had it in his power to say a good or bad thing of him.
Writing to the editor of an obscure little country newspaper that he had
been reading his paper for three or four years and had paid him nothing
for it, he enclosed $10.00 and admonished the editor with complacency
to put it into his pocket and say nothing further about it. Very soon
thereafter Lincoln prepared a political article and sent it to the rural
journalist, requesting its publication in the editorial columns of his
valued paper. The latter, having followed Lincoln's directions, declined
saying that he long ago made it a rule to publish nothing as editorial
matter not written by himself. Lincoln read the editor's answer to
Herndon, who remarks that although the laugh was on Lincoln the latter
enjoyed the joke heartily, and said that that editor had a lofty but
proper conception of true journalism.[298]

[298] Herndon, 2, 44-45.

His correspondence shows that he was in constant contact with the ever
shifting events of the campaign; that he was on the lookout for
dangerous symptoms; that he was careful to nicety to measure his
strength soberly, and displayed the same splendid generalship that
distinguished him in his Congressional canvass. The history of his
effort to gain a seat in the Senate may be well trailed in his own
letters. A curt and crisp note advised his friends of his intention. The
following is a sample of many: "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 to me at all events giving me the name, postoffices and 'political
position' of members around about you."[299]

[299] Tarbell, 2, 305.

Lovejoy had only some twenty-five adherents at the convention following
the "State Fair speech" of Lincoln. Nothing daunted by the paltry
attendance, they adopted a bold platform. "Ichabod raved," said the
Democratic organ in derision, "and Lovejoy swelled, and all endorsed the
sentiments of that speech." Not content with this, without consent or
consultation, they placed Lincoln's name on the list of their State
Central Committee.[300] Lincoln's reply shows that he was not unwilling
to confer with the abolition leaders and that he deemed it well to keep
the way open to an understanding. "I suppose my opposition to the
principle of slavery is as strong as that of any member of the
Republican party; but I have also supposed that the extent to which I
feel authorized to carry that opposition, practically, was not at all
satisfactory to that party. The leading men who organized that party
were present on the fourth of October at the discussion between Douglas
and myself at Springfield, and had full opportunity to not misunderstand
my position. Do I misunderstand them? Please write and inform me."[301]

[300] Nicolay & Hay, 1, 386.

[301] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 210.

Like other candidates for public office he was subjected to all manner
of hostility and opposition. He was not spared the humility of defending
his most cherished integrity. Lincoln was not a common egoist and he
sparingly bared his view. He was little trained in the easy language of
self-praise. Yet once across the bar he displayed rare skill in the
presentation of his position.

"For a senator to be the impartial representative of his whole State is
so plain a duty that I pledge myself to the observance of it without
hesitation, but not without some mortification that any one should
suspect me of an inclination to the contrary. I was eight years a
representative of Sangamon County in the legislature; and although in a
conflict of interest between that and other counties it perhaps would
have been my duty to stick to old Sangamon, yet it is not within my
recollection that the northern members ever wanted my vote for any
interests of theirs without getting it."[302]

[302] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 212.

Self interest in the campaign did not once lead him astray in partial
judgment of the course of events. Early in January he informed Washburne
that he did not know that it was of much advantage to have the largest
number of votes at the start; that if he did know it to be an advantage,
he should feel better, for he had more committals than any other
man.[303] He remained a master in the study of the attitude of the
individual voter and delegate. He not only had the enthusiasm of the
orator, but also the keen, calm sense of the politician, knowing that
battles are largely won by strategy and plan. He did not leave the
decision to chance. He studied the way to reach men, the method of
attaching and calling friends. He was methodical rather than brilliant.

[303] _Ibid._, 213.

His last letter dealing with the event opens with the statement that the
agony was over at last. He then unfolded the story of his defeat, how
his forty-seven adherents yielded to the five of Trumbull, how Governor
Matteson by a secret candidacy gathered some anti-Nebraska men to his
support; how five of the latter declared they would never vote for a
Whig and twenty Whigs resentfully contended that they would not vote for
the man of the five. He then stated that the signal was given to the
Nebraska men to turn to Matteson on the seventh ballot; that soon he
only wanted three of an election; that to detain the bolters Lincoln's
friends turned to Trumbull until he had risen to thirty-five and he,
Lincoln, had been reduced to fifteen; that they would never desert him
except by direction; that he then determined to strike at once and
accordingly advised the fifteen to go for Trumbull and thus elected him
on the tenth ballot.

"Such is the way," said Lincoln, "the thing was done. I think you would
have done the same under the circumstances; though Judge Davis, who
came down this morning, declares he never would have consented to the
forty-seven being controlled by the five. I regret my defeat moderately,
but I am not nervous about it. 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."[304]

[304] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 213-215.

Here a composite Lincoln confronts the student--a politician much
concerned over defeat and getting pleasure out of the failure of an
unfair opponent. Yet at the same time another Lincoln reveals himself.
Determined to run no risk in the cause of freedom he yielded cherished
hopes and gave way to an obstinate minority. He would not allow his own
fortune to stand in the way of striking a blow at the slave power.
Lincoln emancipated himself from selfish egoism, rising in the hour of
disappointment to the calmness of duty.



CHAPTER XII

THE PILOT OF THE NEW FAITH IN ILLINOIS


Abolitionism as a gospel showed rather paltry results for thirty years
of unceasing labor. Still its essential dogma, hatred to human bondage,
slowly but steadily held a larger place in the public thought. Mistakes
of the South and its Northern friends hurried on a crisis. The Kansas
controversy made the issue of a remorseless conflict clearer by a
concrete example of the incompatibility of freedom and slavery. The
nation was thus educated for aggressive action on the long mooted
question. The time was becoming ripe for the translation of public
sentiment into party platform, statute and decision. The Abolitionist
with relentless gospel even of war on the Constitution was altogether
too radical for the general mind. The slowly dying Whig party had not
kept pace with the advanced public thought, it was too conservative. The
democratic party kept on its path either of indifference to the slavery
issue or ardent support of the southern view and was the refuge of those
who were dead to the sweep of events. Hence the necessity of a new
party, with a platform that should sturdily proclaim resistance to the
spread of slavery in the territories; that should register a rising
spirit in the North, growing restless and sensitive as it contemplated
the increasing demands of the Southern institutions, as it grasped the
significance of the issue involving the continued existence in their
primal integrity of cherished principles of the Republic, a grappling
for political supremacy of the free labor of the North and the slave
power of the South. Mingled with the essential spirit of justice
pervading Abolitionism was the growth of the opinion that slavery was a
social and political evil. The public wrath at the repeal of a venerated
Compromise, the increasing discontent at the violent manifestations of
the friends of slavery in Kansas, prepared the public for the formation
of a radical party.

Lincoln being a man of power, was beset by three parties. He was urged
to remain a Whig by the conservatives, to become a Know-nothing by those
drifting on the political waters. Others sought to baptise him in the
spirit of Abolitionism. Lincoln had long since made his resolution to
array himself on the side of freedom. He was awaiting the right moment.
He saw the time for leadership was coming, that events were rapidly
sweeping forward to a climax. In the perturbed political condition he
was anxious not to go ahead of events and still not play the laggard.
Among all politicians in American history he was the wisest student of
the public mind.

With true vision, Lincoln foreshadowed the solemn consequences of the
Kansas struggle. He asked if there could be a more apt invention to
bring about collision and violence on the slavery question than the
"Nebraska project," and whether "the first drop of blood so shed would
not be the real knell of the Union."[305] Behind the fair form of the
Douglas doctrine of popular sovereignty, he saw the lurking serpent. He
was not deceived by fine, smooth words. In the beginning, he beheld the
gaping wounds of Kansas, the hypocrisy of the policy professing the name
of peace and bringing in its train the devildom of discord, the curse of
a broken, plighted compact. A letter to his friend Speed in 1855
illumines the whole subject, and is a contribution to the political
history of the time--unsurpassed in statement, in clearness of
understanding, in subdued calmness of judgment:

[305] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 200.

"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.... 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."[306]

[306] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 217.

He then bared with remorseless logic the common southern attitude: "You
say, if you were President, you would send an army and hang the leaders
of the Missouri outrages among 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 practicable one."[307]

[307] _Ibid._

The same letter shows he was aware of the potency of the partisan lash,
was an observer of the methods of securing results, of the cowardice and
timidity of leaders where political policy appeared on the horizon. He
confessed that in their opposition to the admission of Kansas, they
would probably be beaten; that the Democrats standing as a unit among
themselves, could, directly or indirectly, bribe enough men to carry the
day as they could on the open proposition to establish a monarchy; that
by getting hold of some man in the North whose position and ability was
such that he could make the support of the measure, whatever it might
be, a party necessity, the thing would be done.[308]

[308] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 217-218.

Then came a biting comment on the pretenses and practices of those who
were spreading the national disease, of those who had one doctrine in
public and another in private, who worshipped the God of Liberty with
speech and Mammon with their deeds. In the same letter Lincoln said that
although in a private letter or conversation the slaveholders would
express their preference that Kansas should be free, they would not vote
for a man for Congress who would say the same thing publicly and no such
man could be elected from any district in a slave State; that
slave-breeders and slave-traders were a small, detested class among
them; and yet in politics they dictated the course of the Southerners,
and were as completely their masters as they were the master of their
own negroes.[309]

[309] _Ibid._, 218.

A vivid picture of party uncertainty is seen in his answer to the
inquiry of Speed as to where he then stood. "I think I am a Whig; but
others say there are no Whigs, and say 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 unwhig 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 could 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."[310]

[310] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 218.

To him "Know-nothingism" transcended all questions of policy, denied the
very mission of Democracy, turned back the hour hand of political
progress and was traitor and recreant to its teachings. He was not sure
of his standing in the transitional period of party dissolution and
showed something in his mental attitude of the spirit of unrest abroad
in the nation and hardly knew whither the trend of events would carry
the American people. Cautious in moving forward on matters involving
method, he was unwedgeable when the principles of the Republic were at
stake. His note of scorn rings clear and loud to these who, in
selfishness and bigotry, sought exceptions to and a narrow
interpretation of the Declaration of Independence.

By nature Lincoln was a friend of peace. He would have rejoiced at any
plan that produced a peaceful solution of the vexed problem. No matter
how slow the march of freedom, he would have bridled his wrath. But the
aggressiveness of the South in the Kansas struggle opened his vision to
the fatuity of gradual emancipation. He grew bitter as Garrison in
statement as he contemplated the hypocritic limits on freedom, the
spread of an institution hostile to democracy with an ever widening
promise of future abatement: "On the question of liberty as a
principle," he wrote a friend, "we are not what we have been. When we
were the political slaves of King George, and wanted to be free, we
called the maxim that 'all men are created equal,' a self evident truth,
but now when we have grown fat, and have lost all dread of being slaves
ourselves, we have become so greedy to be masters that we call the same
maxim 'a self evident lie.' The Fourth of July has not quite dwindled
away; it is still a great day--for burning fire-crackers!!!"[311]

[311] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 215

The groping of a giant mind concerning itself with a mammoth problem,
the germ of the great speech of Springfield that was soon to startle the
nation with its boldness likewise shows itself in this same letter. "Our
political problem now is, 'Can we as a nation continue together
permanently--forever--half slave and half free?' The problem is too
mighty for me--may God, in his mercy, superintend the solution."[312]

[312] _Ibid._, 216.

Finally the nation changed. The people, once dead to the cry of the
slave, were alive to the evil of slavery. Doctrines once deemed the
outburst of the fanatic were now on the lips of conservative men, and
Lovejoy had become the consort of the political leader. All these years,
Lincoln had waited in patience for the day when white men should be
ready to fight for the freedom of others. Civilization comes from a
sure, steady and progressive enlightenment of public sentiment. Genius
alone is helpless in the presence of a palsied national opinion.
Consider Lincoln in South Carolina in 1856, and the hopelessness of the
ideal without the company of circumstances is manifest. Living history
comes from the union of the great man and the happy moment for the
crystallization of advancing public sentiment. In this sense alone the
individual makes history, and it becomes the record of the few. The
great man is the symbol of the marching life of the multitude and
through him humanity moves resistlessly to its higher attitude.

A gathering of editors opposed to the Nebraska bill on February 22,
1856, marked the first visible step in the formation of the Republican
party in Illinois. Lincoln was, of course, not entitled to participate
in the public deliberations of that convention. That he promptly heard
the tramp of coming events is seen in his readiness to play a commanding
part in the early manifestation of the protesting movement.

Declaring that the black cloud of the American party was threatening to
drive the Germans from the ranks of the party about to be formed, Hon.
George Schieder said that he entered the Decatur convention with a
resolution in opposition to that movement, and helped to form a platform
containing a paragraph against the prescriptive doctrine of the
so-called American party. That portion of the platform condemning
Know-nothingism raised a storm of opposition, and, in despair, he
proposed submitting it to Mr. Lincoln and abiding by his decision. After
carefully reading the paragraph, Lincoln made the remark that the
resolution introduced by Mr. Schieder was nothing new, that it was
already contained in the Declaration of Independence, and that they
could not form a new party on prescriptive principles. Mr. Schieder
states that this declaration of Lincoln saved the resolution and helped
to establish the new party on the most liberal basis, and that it was
adopted at the Bloomington Convention, and next at the First
National-Republican Convention at Philadelphia. He further states that
Lincoln crystallized public sentiment, gave it a focal point, so that
the great majority of the Germans entered the new party that later made
Lincoln President.

Lincoln was in the van of the leaders who rallied to the support of the
infant party that has written such luminous pages in American history.
He showed his wonted sagacity, when an editor suggested his name as a
candidate for Governor, in immediately advising the nomination of an
anti-Nebraskan Democratic candidate, on the ground that such a
nomination would be more available.[313]

[313] Transactions McLean Co., 3, 39.

To Herndon the caution of Lincoln seemed to partake of brotherhood with
inaction. He hardly realized the sureness of the unremitting character
of his progress. As Lincoln's partner felt the thrilling approach of a
political crisis, he resolved to unloose Lincoln from his conservative
connections without realizing that the latter was ready to dare the
future on the bark of the coming party. Delegates were to be elected for
the State Convention at Bloomington that was to breathe life into the
Republican party in Illinois. Herndon signed Mr. Lincoln's name to the
call for the Sangamon County Convention without authority and published
it in a local paper. A dramatic incident ensued:

"John T. Stuart was keeping his eye on Lincoln, with a view of keeping
him on his side--the totally dead conservative side. Mr. Stuart saw the
published call and grew mad; rushed into my office, seemed mad,
horrified, and said to me, 'Sir, did Mr. Lincoln sign that Abolition
call which is published this morning?' I answered, 'Mr. Lincoln did not
sign that call.'--'Did Lincoln authorize you to sign it?' said Mr.
Stuart. 'No, he never authorized me to sign it.'--'Then do you know that
you have ruined Mr. Lincoln?'--'I did not know that I had ruined Mr.
Lincoln; did not intend to do so; thought he was a made man by it; that
the time had come when conservatism was a crime and a blunder.'--'You,
then, take the responsibility of your acts; do you?'--'I do, most
emphatically.'"

Herndon then wrote Lincoln. He instantly replied that he adopted what
Herndon had done, and promised to meet Lovejoy and other radicals.[314]

[314] Lamon, 374-375.

Lincoln did not serve freedom in word only. A free young negro was in
danger of being sold into slavery. The Governor of Illinois was seen. He
responded that he had no right to interfere. Lincoln rose from his
chair, hat in hand, and exclaimed: "By God, Governor, I'll make the
ground in this country too hot for the foot of a slave, whether you have
the legal power to secure a release of this boy or not."[315]

[315] Herndon, 2, 47-48.

During all the trying time when the liberty of Kansas was in the
balance, when violence was being met with violence, when even
conservative men drifted into the movement to aid the free state men in
opposing the Government, he remained master of himself, looked beyond
the passion of the moment to the abiding realities. Herndon, who was a
participant in this movement, unfolds a view of the calm, far sighted
man, who knew that violence was the father of great evils and not a safe
foundation for a free state. He says that Lincoln was informed of their
intents, and took the first opportunity that he could to dissuade them
from their partially formed purpose. They spoke of liberty, justice, and
God's higher law. He answered that he believed "in the providence of the
most men, the largest purse, and the longest cannon"; that if they were
in the minority, they could not succeed, and that if they were in the
majority they could succeed with the ballot, throwing away the bullet.
He advised them that, "In a democracy where the majority rule by the
ballot through the forms of law, physical rebellions and bloody
resistances" were radically wrong, unconstitutional, and were treason.
He besought them to revolutionize through the ballot-box, and "restore
the Government once more to the affections and hearts of men, by making
it express, as it was intended to do, the highest spirit of justice and
liberty." Their attempt, he continued, to resist the laws of Kansas by
force, was criminal and all their feeble attempts would end in bringing
sorrow on their heads, and ruin the cause they would freely die to
preserve.[316] Well might Herndon say that this speech saved them from
the greatest follies.[317] Instead of desperate measures, money was
forwarded under legitimate conditions, Lincoln joining in the
subscription.

[316] Lamon, 372-373.

[317] Herndon, 2, 49.

The second step in the formation of the Republican party was the
Convention at Bloomington. Tragic events had taken place in the State
and Nation; signs of the sombre character of the approaching conflict.
Sumner was struck down in the Senate by the dastard attacks of Brooks,
an act which sent a shudder of anger and indignation through the North
and a wave of approbation through the South. This incident alone showed
the strain that the moorings of the Nation were undergoing. In Illinois,
too, violence asserted its hideousness, and a delegate, Paul Selby, was
treacherously assaulted by political opponents. The spread of the Civil
War in Kansas heightened the magnitude of the occasion. The seriousness
of the National and State situation had taken hold of the delegates. The
gravity of public affairs aroused mad instincts. Many were ready for
radical conduct, were ready to meet force with force, and violence with
violence.

From the four corners of the State, dauntless anti-Nebraska Democrats,
conservative Whig, distraught Know-nothing, bitter Abolitionist, and
those drifting on the tide of events, gathered under a common impulse in
opposition to the vaunting slave party. Beneath the surface there was
memory of former antagonism. The problem of the hour was the uniting of
these discordant elements into the homogeneity of common conviction;
submerging old and cherished affiliations with a flood of fealty to a
new gospel; the transmuting raw recruits; quickening the martial spirit
commonly the product only of long service.

It was a time for a momentous speech. Several leaders of distinction had
addressed the convention, when the audience, with instinctive wisdom,
called for Lincoln to make the closing address. It was one of those rare
moments in human affairs when words may turn the tide of events. He
caught the wandering thoughts of troubled men and gave them
continuity.[318] Those long without a political faith were rejoiced to
find a home. Like an inspired giant, he was aglow with the greatness of
his theme. He spoke as the spirit of the age might have spoken, if it
had broken into eloquence sublime and resistless. Men were brought face
to face with immortal justice, with eternal righteousness. The humblest
hearer lived in the thrill of such communion. Reporters dropped their
pencils and forgot their work; even Herndon, who was wont to take notes
when Lincoln spoke, threw pen and paper aside, subdued and overcome by
the majesty of his partner's speech.

[318] Transactions McLean Co., 3, 91.

It was not alone a triumph in immediate results, but also a triumph in
moulding the abiding convictions of men. Above all the enthusiasm of the
moment, there still remained his solid logic, a logic that made
Republicans of life-long Democrats. John M. Palmer declared that he
remembered only one expression of speech, "We will not dissolve the
Union, and you shall not do it." Others dwelt on his declaration to
meet the occasion with ballots and not bullets, and so the minds of men
as well as the impulses were wisely educated. The address became famous
as "the lost speech." Its renown grew with age. It became sacred to the
memory of those who heard it and time hallowed its history.[319]

[319] Tarbell, 1, 296.

In the light of later events, the platform adopted at the Bloomington
Convention seems conservative. It simply rebuked the administration for
its attitude on the Kansas issue, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise,
and the extension of slavery into Territories.[320]

[320] Lamon, 376.

When the first flood of enthusiasm, after the Bloomington Convention,
subsided, a mysterious apathy, a stifling indifference, met the new
movement, a not unusual phenomenon in politics or human affairs. Such a
time had now come. It was at this period dark and trying that Lincoln
towered in lonely grandeur. It was easy enough to be brave and vaunting
at a convention when thousands hung on every word. But now it took a
higher heroism to be true to the cause. Then Lincoln did not flinch.
With superb step, with elated soul, with increasing intrepidity, he
continued the championship of the same principles that took captive the
delegates at Bloomington. He spoke like one in the wilderness.

Lamon tells the story of a ratification meeting five days after the
Bloomington Convention:--"Mr. Herndon got out huge posters, announcing
the event, and employed a band of musicians to parade the streets and
'drum up a crowd.' As the hour of meeting drew near, he 'lit up the
Court House with many blazes,' rung the bells and blew a horn. At seven
o'clock the meeting should have been called to order, but it turned out
to be extremely slim. There was nobody present, with all those
brilliant lights, but A. Lincoln, W. H. Herndon and W. H. Pain. 'When
Lincoln came into the Court-room,' says the bill-poster and horn-blower
of this great demonstration, 'he came with a sadness and a sense of the
ludicrous on his face. He walked to the stand, mounted it in a kind of
mockery,--mirth and sadness all combined,--and said: 'Gentlemen, this
meeting is larger than I knew it would be. I knew that Herndon and
myself would come, but I did not know that any one else would be here;
and yet another has come,--you, John Pain. These are sad times, and seem
out of joint. All seems dead, dead, dead: but the age is not yet dead;
it liveth as sure as our Maker liveth. Under all this seeming want of
life and motion, the world does move nevertheless. Be hopeful. Now let
us adjourn and appeal to the people.'"[321]

[321] Lamon, 377-378.

In June the first National Republican Convention met at Philadelphia.
Young, aggressive and flushed with enthusiasm, it put forth as the
standard bearer, John C. Fremont, the daring, romantic pathfinder.
Lincoln received one hundred and ten votes for the vice-presidency. So
little was this distinction anticipated, that at first he refused to
believe that he was the recipient of the flattering compliment, saying
that it must have been the great Lincoln from Massachusetts.

Like the Bloomington gathering the National Convention instinctively
linked itself in strength to the impressing principles of the
Declaration of Independence. It took a bolder and more advanced stand
than the Illinois Convention, denying the authority of Congress to give
legal existence to slavery in any Territory and that it was its right
and duty to prohibit therein those "twin relics of barbarism, polygamy
and slavery."[322]

[322] Nicolay & Hay, 2, 36-37.

In the ensuing campaign, Lincoln, as a presidential elector and orator
towered in the State as strong in his invigorating championship of the
Republican policies. He made fifty speeches. Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa
sent for him. The impress of his personality was humbly, but pervasively
winning the hearts and minds of men. One man wrote with sure faith,
"Come to our place, because in you do our people place more confidence
than in any other man. Men who do not read want the story told as you
only can tell it. Others may make fine speeches but it would not be
'Lincoln said so in his speech.'"[323] A college president spoke of him
with reverence, as, "one providentially raised up for a time like this,
and even should defeat come in the contest, it would be some consolation
to remember we had Hector for a leader."[324]

[323] Herndon, 2, 56.

[324] _Ibid._

He was most skillful in seeing the danger of Fillmore as a candidate in
withholding strength from Fremont. He studied the problem as keenly as a
legal proposition. No man in all of the United States saw the issues
more plainly or could state it as precisely. To a Fillmore man he wrote
that every vote withheld from Fremont and given to Fillmore in Illinois
actually lessened Fillmore's chance of being President, for if Buchanan
got all the slave states and Pennsylvania, and one other State, he would
be elected, but if Fillmore got the slave states of Maryland and
Kentucky, then Buchanan would not be elected and Fillmore would go into
the House of Representatives, and might be made President by a
compromise. Likewise he argued that if Fillmore's friends threw away a
few thousand votes on him in Indiana, it would inevitably give those
states to Buchanan, which would more than compensate him for the loss of
Maryland and Kentucky; that it was as plain as adding up the weight of
three small hogs for Fillmore who had no possible chance to carry
Illinois for himself, to let Fremont take it, and thus keep it out of
the hands of Buchanan. Lamon remarks that this letter was discovered by
the Buchanan men, printed in their newspapers, and pronounced, as its
author anticipated, "a mean trick," and that it was a dangerous document
to them, and was calculated to undermine the very citadel of their
strength.[325]

[325] Lamon, 382.

Lincoln's fear of Fillmore was justified by events. While Fremont was
defeated, Bissel the Republican was elected Governor by a fair margin.
To Lincoln, the defeat of Fremont was prophetic of future triumph. With
infinitely surer vision than President Pierce, he perceived the trend of
events. Beyond seeming setback, he beheld the triumphing movement. He
likened the President to a rejected lover making merry at the wedding of
his rival, in felicitating himself hugely over the late presidential
election, in considering the result a signal triumph of good men, and a
very pointed rebuke of bad ones. To the statement of Pierce that the
people did it, Lincoln called attention to the fact that those who voted
for Buchanan, were in a minority of the whole people by about four
hundred thousand votes, and thus the "rebuke" might not be quite as
durable as he seemed to think and that the majority might not choose to
remain permanently rebuked by that minority.[326]

[326] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 225.

Strong in the belief that slavery was at war with the essential spirit
of the Republic, he declared that the government rested on public
opinion; that public opinion, on any subject, always had a "central
idea," and that "central idea" in American political public opinion was
until recently "the equality of man," and although it submitted
patiently to some inequality as a matter of actual necessity, its
constant working was a steady progress toward the practical equality of
all men and the late Presidential election was a struggle by one party
to discard that central idea and to substitute as a central idea the
perpetuity of human slavery and its extension to all countries and
colors.[327]

[327] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 225.

This conviction vivified him with new hopes. The leader called to those
in the valley of doubt and indifference to leave their low-vaulted
chamber: "Then 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.'"[328]

[328] _Ibid._, 226.



CHAPTER XIII

LINCOLN AND THE DRED SCOTT DECISION


With unfailing vision Lincoln was attracted to the larger issues under
all professed and alleged reasons, both North and South, as to the cause
of difference in attitude on the slavery question. He believed it was
largely an industrial and economical problem, a moral conflict in the
North mainly through the absence of a controlling material interest.
With plain, blunt speech, he laid bare the national cancer in October,
1856, showing that there was no difference in the mental or moral
structure of the people North and South, but that in the slavery
question the people of the South had an immediate, immense, pecuniary
interest, while with the people of the North it was merely an abstract
question of moral right.

The slaves of the South, he continued, were worth a thousand millions of
dollars, and that financial interest united the Southern people as one
man; that moral principle was a looser bond than pecuniary interest.
Hence if a Southern man aspired to be President, they choked him down,
that the glittering prize of the presidency might be held up on southern
terms to Northern ambition. And their conventions in 1848, 1852 and 1856
had been struggles exclusively among Northern men, each vying to outbid
the other, the South standing calmly by finally to cry "Going, going,
gone" to the highest bidder.[329]

[329] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 223.

The Dred Scott decision throws a shadow over the judicial history of the
United States. That in an hour of crisis the supreme judicial tribunal
should ally itself with the potent institution of injustice rather than
with humanity, should interpret the principles of the Constitution and
the Declaration of Independence in a paltry and impoverished manner,
should cringe before title and power and grovel in gloom in the dawn of
a new era of American citizenship, an era that was to hurl its
thunderbolts with ever increasing daring against the further advance of
the slave sovereignty, is baffling and astounding.

Lincoln realized that the Supreme Court to be venerated, must be in the
van, and not a laggard in the world spirit and progress; a guide and not
a pupil in the best kind of citizenship and sensitive to the rising tide
of public conscience. The Dred Scott decision did more than any malice
of foe to weaken the general regard for the august tribunal--the one
supreme discovery of American politics.

It is of interest to study Lincoln's attitude to this decision and to
the tribunal responsible for it. Above most men, he had preached the
gospel of sacred devotion to law and to the iniquity of mob rule. He was
an enemy of all violence. Yet he rebelliously abided the adjudication
that made the prospective emancipation of the black man more uncertain,
that imprisoned the enlightened principles of the Fathers of the
Republic, that manacled America in her Titan march on the highway of
humanity.

Lincoln maintained in 1857 that judicial decisions had two uses, to
absolutely determine the case decided, and to indicate to the public how
other similar cases would be decided. Lincoln then argued that if the
decision had been made by the unanimous concurrence of the judges,
without partisan bias, in accordance with legal public expectation, and
in no part based on assumed historical facts which were not really true;
or if it had been before the court more than once, and had there been
reaffirmed through a course of years, it then might be even
revolutionary not to acquiesce in it as a precedent.[330]

[330] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 228.

Still, by the side of the impassioned outbreaks of the abolitionists and
radicals this criticism seems cold and measured. But Lincoln with his
usual apprehension justified his opposition by democratic example. He
confounded Douglas by recalling the action of his ideal Jackson on a
Whig measure, the National Bank, with the statement that the same
Supreme Court once decided a national bank to be constitutional; but
President Jackson disregarded the decision, and vetoed a bill for the
recharter, partly on constitutional ground declaring that each public
functionary must support the Constitution as he understood it. And then
to the further discomfiture of Douglas he declared that again and again
he had heard Judge Douglas denounce that bank decision and applaud
General Jackson for disregarding it; that it would be interesting for
him to look over his recent speech, and see how exactly his fierce
philippics against resisting Supreme Court decisions fell upon his own
head.[331] Still Douglas might have retorted that in those days the
Whigs were violent in their denunciation of General Jackson for that
very opposition.

[331] _Ibid._, 229.

In the same speech Lincoln burst into indignant eloquence at the policy
that was a departure from the old ideas of justice and liberty and the
still more radiant hope of the future indulged in by Washington,
Jefferson and Franklin, that in time slavery would no longer darken or
endanger the national life, for Lincoln said that in those days the
Declaration was held sacred by all, and thought to include all; but
that at this time it was construed, hawked at and torn, till, if its
framers could rise from their graves, they could not at all recognize
it. He observed that all the powers of earth seemed rapidly combining
against the negro; that Mammon, ambition, philosophy and theology of the
day were fast joining the cry; that they had him in his prison-house,
bolted in with a lock of a hundred keys, which could never be unlocked
without the concurrence of every key--the keys in the hands of a hundred
different men, and they scattered to a hundred and distant places; and
they still stood musing as to what invention, in all the dominions of
mind and matter, could be produced to make the impossibility of his
escape more complete than it was.[332]

[332] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 231.

Less than a decade of history proved Lincoln wiser than those who framed
the momentous majority opinion in the Dred Scott case. Lincoln was
learned not alone in legal knowledge, but was also familiar with the
mighty national movements that laugh laws and decisions to scorn; that
ultimately and finally determine progress. These judges were students of
the past, slaves of precedent, defenders of antiquity, while Lincoln was
a student of the present and the future and the ambassador of abiding
justice. He had as deep and ultimate a knowledge of the national
character and capacity as the statesman, and was a student of political
and social progress in order to follow and wisely lead the deep public
sentiment and conscience that alone measures true civilization.



CHAPTER XIV

LEADER OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN ILLINOIS


Few pages in our history present a darker picture than the ruffianism of
the friends of slavery in Kansas, and the retaliating spirit of its
opponents. Still, the gloom is illumined by patriotic politicians,
democratic slave holders and sympathizers, who sternly put duty before
party. There are few more glorious incidents in our political annals
than the unwavering fidelity of Robert J. Walker of Mississippi. As
Governor of Kansas he lived up to his public pledges, though the offer
of the Presidency of the United States was dangled before him.[333] Like
Washington, himself, Walker towered above temptation. If the Mississippi
statesman had held the place of Buchanan, slavery, instead of being
nursed by the palsied policy of the Northern statesman, would have been
startled by another Jackson, and the nation might have owed its
salvation to a Southern leader instead of to the prairie politician.

[333] Gilmore, 9-104.

In the fine language of Seward: "The ghosts on the banks of the Styx
constitute a cloud scarcely more dense than the spirits of the departed
Governors of Kansas, wandering in exile and sorrow for having certified
the truth against falsehood in regard to the elections between Freedom
and Slavery in Kansas."[334] The strange fact above all is that the
admission of Kansas as a slave state against the wishes of its people
was not asked for by the South. It was freely tendered to the slave
dynasty by a majority of northern democrats in the executive and
legislative branches of the Government.[335] And so again the North
shared with the South in the zeal for spreading slavery.

[334] Nicolay & Hay, 2, 118.

[335] Sheahan, 326.

The final scene in the drama was the Lecompton Constitution. Douglas
then saw the fatal result that Lincoln had foretold in his June speech
of 1857, when he declared that Douglas, since the famous Nebraska Bill,
saw himself superseded in a presidential nomination by one generally
endorsing his measure, but standing clear of the odium of its untimely
agitation and its violation of the national faith; that he saw his chief
aids in his own State, politically speaking, successfully tried,
convicted and executed for an offense not their own, but his, and that
now he saw his own case standing next on the docket for trial.[336]

[336] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 231.

Northern Democrats refused to brook longer the crime in Kansas. To
refuse submission of the Constitution to that people made a mockery of
the popular sovereignty of Douglas. With desperate constancy he had
impressed that great principle, as he called it, on his constituency. It
was now so shorn of all dignity that even a child might see it. He
either had to lose Illinois or fight the policy of the administration.
Once having decided to differ he took a bold stand. No Abolitionist or
Republican used plainer or more impelling language: "But if this
Constitution is to be forced down our throats, in violation of the
fundamental principles of free government, under a mode of submission
that is a mockery and insult, I will resist it to the last. I have no
fear of any party associations being severed. I should regret any social
or political estrangement, even temporarily; but if it must be, if I
cannot act with you and preserve my faith and my honor, I will stand on
the great principle of popular sovereignty, which declares the right of
all people to be left perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic
institutions in their own way. I will follow that principle wherever its
logical consequences may take me, and I will endeavor to defend it
against assault from any and all quarters. No mortal man shall be
responsible for my action but myself."[337]

[337] Sheahan, 319.

The former distinction of Douglas as a slave advocate made his seeming
accession to the ranks of its opponents all the more marked. Stirring
stories were told of his peerless courage when Buchanan told him to
remember that no Democrat ever yet differed from an administration of
his own choice without being crushed, and to beware of the fate of
Tallmadge and Rives.

"Mr. President," retorted Douglas, "I wish you to remember that General
Jackson is dead."[338] Like an undaunted Abolitionist he flung aside all
compromise, refused to accede to the English bill that many
administration opponents welcomed as an exit from the dilemma of party
recusancy. Many began to believe that Douglas was about to turn into a
black Republican. He had stolen conferences with their leaders, inducing
them to believe that it was policy for him to conceal his present real
intention; that he would soon unmask himself and fight their battles. He
often said that he had checked all his baggage and taken a through
ticket.[339]

[338] Nicolay & Hay, 2, 120.

[339] Lamon, 390.

He convinced his foes that the Nebraska bill was a daring device in
behalf of freedom. One Republican said that the plan of Douglas for
destroying the Missouri line and thereby opening the way for the march
of freedom beyond the limits forever prohibited and conceded to belong
to the Slave States, and its march westward, from the British
possessions to Mexico, struck him "as the most magnificent scheme ever
conceived by the human mind." This kind of conversation made the deepest
impression upon his hearers, and often changed their opinion of the
man.[340]

[340] Lamon, 390-391.

In this way, Douglas triumphantly vindicated his policy of popular
sovereignty for which he protested he was willing to devote all his
talent and the remainder of his life. The very prospect of such a
convert dazzled the vision of even radicals like Greeley. So these
visionaries wandered in the dreamland of politics, and were eager to
enter into an unholy alliance. Even shrewd leaders in the party built
bridges for the entering of Douglas. It was rumored that Seward and
others were in the plot.[341]

[341] Herndon, 1, 395.

A letter from Herndon in 1858 vividly shows the political condition of
this time. Speaking of Greeley he said, "He evidently wants Douglas
sustained and sent back to the Senate. He did not say so in so many
words, yet his _feelings_ are with Douglas. I _know_ it from the spirit
and drift of his conversation. He talked bitterly--somewhat so--against
the papers in Illinois, and said they were fools. I asked him this
question, 'Greeley, do you want to see a third party organized, or do
you want Douglas to ride to power through the North, which he has so
much abused and betrayed?' and to which he replied, 'Let the future
alone; it will all come right. Douglas is a brave man. Forget the past
and sustain the righteous.' Good God, _righteous_, eh!... By-the-bye,
Greeley remarked to me this, 'The Republican standard is too high; we
want something practical.'... The Northern Men are cold to me--somewhat
repellant."[342]

[342] _Ibid._, 2, 63-64.

Douglas, after a heroic combat with the administration and after his
triumphant championship of the rights of the people of Kansas, returned
as a conqueror to Illinois. He was the ideal of the Democrats of his
state, save of a few office holders under Buchanan. With Lincoln it was
otherwise. Despite his brilliant and consecrated service to the
Republican principles, even in Illinois, in the home of his friends, all
was not yet serene; he was not yet to taste the sweetness of hero
worship. Too proud to resort to dramatic effects, slow to express his
resentment, he was almost jealous of the supremacy of his rival. A
veteran in the service of freedom, he hardly welcomed the possible
entrance of his old foe into the Republican arena. Mingled with personal
feeling, was his knowledge of the crafty career of his opponent. Lincoln
was not content that Douglas should gain the laurel of a triumphant
movement in the hour of victory.

Not alone did Lincoln fear dissension in his own state, but he was also
afraid that Douglas might be taken up by the Republican leaders of the
party. He grew restless and gloomy at the unjust attitude of Greeley, an
attitude that quite vanquished him. To Herndon he unburdened himself, "I
think Greeley is not doing me right. His conduct, I believe, savors a
little of injustice. I am a true Republican and have been tried already
in the hottest part of the anti-slavery fight, and yet I find him taking
up Douglas, a veritable dodger,--once a tool of the South, now its
enemy,--and pushing him to the front. He forgets that when he does that
he pulls me down at the same time. I fear Greeley's attitude will damage
me with Sumner, Seward, Wilson, Phillips and other friends in the
East."[343]

[343] Herndon, 2, 60.

He had slowly gained the confidence, more than he realized, of the rank
of his party. Though loyalty to him was less pretentious, it was not the
less sincere. The Republicans in Illinois did not trust Douglas; they
were not deceived by his marvelous strategy. Pursuant to a wide spread
sentiment, the Republican state convention, with unanimity adopted the
significant resolution: "That Hon. Abraham Lincoln is our first and only
choice for United States Senator to fill the vacancy about to be created
by the expiration of Mr. Douglas' term of office."[344]

[344] Herndon, 2, 65.

One incident shows the enthusiasm of the hour. Cook County brought a
banner into the convention inscribed, "Cook County for Abraham Lincoln."
A delegate from another county proposed to amend the banner by
substituting for "Cook County" the word "Illinois." "The Cook delegation
promptly accepted the amendment, and during a hurricane of hurrahs, the
banner was altered to express the sentiment of the whole Republican
party of the State."[345]

[345] Tarbell, 1, 305.



CHAPTER XV

THE DAWN OF NATIONAL LEADERSHIP


In anticipation of his nomination as Senator, Lincoln had carefully
prepared an address of acceptance. It was delivered on the 17th of June,
1858, in the presence of an immense audience at Springfield. At the
time, it was perhaps the most radical speech that had yet burst forth
from a Republican statesman. It is not strange that it astounded his
friends. It baffled their comprehension to find him at a single stride
in the front rank of the radicals. Herndon, the aggressive abolitionist,
was alike bewildered, saying of the first paragraph that it was true;
but asking if it was entirely _politic_ to read or speak it as it was
written. Lincoln said that it made no difference; that it was a truth of
all human experience; that he wanted to use some universally known
figure, expressed in simple language as universally known that might
strike home to the minds of men, in order to rouse them to the peril of
the times; that he would rather be _defeated with that expression_ in
the speech, and have it held up and discussed before the people, than to
be _victorious without it_.[346]

[346] Lamon, 397.

Lamon questioned whether Lincoln had a clear right to indulge in such a
venture, as a representative party man in a close contest, having other
interests than his own in charge, and bound to respect the opinions, and
secure the success of his party. Lamon states that at the Bloomington
Convention he uttered the same ideas in almost the same words; and
their recognition of a state of incipient civil war in a country for the
most part profoundly peaceful,--these, and the bloody work which might
come of their acceptance by a great party, had filled the minds of some
of his hearers with the most painful apprehensions; the theory was
equally shocking to them, whether as partisans or as patriots. Begged to
suppress such speech in the future, he vindicated his utterance, but
after much persuasion, promised at length not to repeat it.[347]

[347] Lamon, 397-398.

The night before its delivery, at a gathering of his close friends,
Lincoln slowly read the first paragraph. No uncertain, unsparing
criticisms followed. It was called "a fool utterance," ahead of the
time, a statement that would frighten many voters.[348] Only one
auditor, his partner, approved the far-reaching statement, saying,
"Lincoln, deliver it just as it reads. It is in advance of the times,
let us--you and I, if no one else--lift the people to the level of this
speech now, higher hereafter. The speech is true, wise and politic, and
will succeed now or in the future. Nay, it will aid you, if it will not
make you President of the United States."

[348] Herndon, 2, 68.

Then Lincoln rose from his chair, walked backwards and forwards in the
hall, stopped and said that he had thought about the matter a great
deal, had weighed the question from all corners, and was thoroughly
convinced the time had come when it should be uttered; and that if he
must go down because of that speech, he would go down linked to truth,
and would say again and again that the nation could not live on
injustice.[349]

[349] Lamon, 399.

This speech stands alone among American orations. Captivating in its
logic, marvellous in its directness, condensed in utterance, it is as
true to Lincoln as the reply to Hayne was to Webster. It is one of the
most momentous addresses in American history. It became the angry battle
ground of local and general campaigns. It directed the issues of
national parties. In a transitional period with the hand of genius it
peerlessly traced party demarcation lines. For the moment in advance of
the national progress it soon became the very gospel of multitudes, the
war cry of the friends of the Union. Plainer to the average man than the
fine phrase of Seward as to "the irrepressible conflict," it brought
home to the daily worker the issues of the hour, put him face to face
with the deep meaning of the whole struggle going on in his very
presence. Its strength was in this--that it put in clear speech the
question that was agitating the common mind and thus gave it form and
being before other men. With prophetic solemnity he indulged in the
philosophic utterance that the slavery agitation would not cease until a
crisis should be reached and passed, saying: "'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 that 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 the course of ultimate distinction, 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."[350]

[350] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 240.

Lincoln in the loneliness of his soul passed upon the solemn issue that
the hour for speech and action had come; that the time of compromise was
over; that justice would no longer be trifled with; that the law of
humanity spurned further outrage. He gave voice to the hitherto silent
sentiments of many. The period for the judicious utterance of radical
truth had come. In a few years what then seemed the outburst of a
perverted attitude became the common thought of the multitude.

And so again Lincoln showed his keen sense of the drift of events. In
this he was wiser than the pure politicians. When events justified his
foresight, some were found who cherished the notion that Lincoln was
guided by self-seeking motives in his radical advocacy. Two biographers
think that Lincoln was quietly dreaming of the Presidency, and edging
himself to a place in advance, where the tide might take him up in 1860;
that as sectional animosities, far from subsiding, were growing deeper
and stronger with time, Lincoln knew that the next nominee of the
exclusively Northern party must be a man of radical views, and so the
speech was intended to take the wind out of Seward's sails.[351]

[351] Lamon, 406.

The biographer who sees a plotting, scheming Lincoln in all this is far
from understanding the real man. For mingled with his political sagacity
was a sublime communion with the mighty spirit of world justice. Elated
at the approaching clash of freedom and slavery, believing that out of
the conflict would come a better humanity, he rejoicingly dwelt in the
pure realm of the unfettered utterance of a truth, far above the
stifling valley of commonplace diplomacy. To him it was a rare moment of
utter freedom without calculation, moving through regions of unclouded
justice and righteous outlook.

Criticism bitter and biting of political friends did not shake his
serenity or his belief in his diagnosis of the national disease. He
lived so long with the solution, that he showed the calmness of a
historian in judging passing events. Slow to value highly his own
service, he was proudly aware of the intrinsic worth of this utterance.
To a friend who said that the foolish speech would kill him, Lincoln
replied that if he had to draw a pen across, and erase his whole life
from existence, and he had one poor gift or choice left, as to what he
would save from the wreck, he would choose that speech, and leave it to
the world unerased.[352]

[352] Lamon, 407.

Withal, the speech was wisely framed. It aroused the fear of the
Northerners with the statement that they would lie down pleasantly
dreaming that the people of Missouri were on the verge of making their
State free, and they would awake to the reality instead that the Supreme
Court had made Illinois a slave state.[353] The dread that slavery might
invade the free States of the North, as it ceased to be something more
than a possibility, haunted and horrified the North. Some who bore with
complacency the servitude of the black men in the distance fumed with
anger as they contemplated even a prospect of a closer relation of the
institution. Thus the self interest of the North was played upon. This
practical danger more than all abstract arguments awakened free
communities. Douglas saw the danger of this appeal. He could no longer
hold North and South. It put him on the defensive. Lincoln forced the
fighting. It became necessary for Douglas to make the speech of Lincoln
the basis of his discussion.

[353] Lincoln's Speeches, 1, 244.

Lincoln weighed his speech at its soul value, and measured its truth and
worth in lonely struggle. No counsel could stay his purpose. He had come
upon another crisis in his career. He could no longer compromise with
himself in safety, the hour of decision could not be delayed. He faced
defeat in all its darkness but afar he saw the star of simple duty. If
he had faltered or cringed he might have become Senator, but that
distinction only would have crowned him. He had the rare perception of
knowing when to be firm as the earth beneath, of distinguishing between
policy and principle, of ever keeping his integrity unsullied by barter
or bargain. It is noteworthy that the very speech politicians deemed the
graveyard of his career in reality became his apotheosis. The politician
of Illinois became a national leader. From that time, he loomed large in
the history of the Republican party and was regarded as wise in counsel
and brave in speech. Before Seward, he put in concrete utterance the
very philosophy of Republicanism. And that party had reason to regard
him with favor as a possible guide in the gathering contest.

This speech gave Lincoln a prominence that led to the dramatic debates
with Douglas and that fastened the attention of the nation on the
combat. The Lincoln-Douglas controversy was the fruition of this
Springfield speech. This address is the most fitting line of demarcation
between Lincoln the Citizen of Illinois and Lincoln the Citizen of the
United States.



CHAPTER XVI

THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN


The political condition of a nation is a symptom of its health or
disease. Official corruption is an unfailing sign of national
degeneration. Art, science and commerce may thrive, yet if dishonesty
and selfishness rule in the administration of public affairs, there is
no substantial progress. The real civilization of a nation can advance
little beyond the state of public service. When citizens are indifferent
to the general welfare, when the rights of the many are entrusted to the
designing, when talent is dedicated to the acquisition of wealth or the
mere promotion of art, then in spite of mountain high learning and world
wide commercial prosperity, a nation is in the domain of danger.

A crisis reveals the potency of the politician and statesman. When war
or internal conflict shows its "wrinkled front," then the merchant, the
manufacturer, the artist, and the scientist forget their pride. The true
politician is the incarnation of civil patriotism and guards the nation
during the long days of peace, with an unfailing heroism like that of
the soldier in the sudden test of war. The devotion of the civil hero is
not spectacular and is often undervalued. The whole history of humanity
has been a giant effort to beget a democracy where the genius of the few
shall become the possession of many. When a nation cannot command the
best heart and brain of its citizens for its service it is bankrupt.

The problem of Democratic government is the maintenance of a just
balance between the radical and conservative elements of society,
between anarchy and apathy. American history was for a long time largely
a struggle between visionary abolitionist and slavery adherent. Northern
reformers turned all Southerners into vigorous advocates of human
bondage, while Southern radicals finally abolitionized the North.
Slaveholders were the children of a long established selfish interest.
Abolitionists were possessed of a vision. Neither understood the other.
Rock and cloud were not more unlike. Each saw only the injustice in the
opposing position, and had no charity for the environment and traditions
of the other. There could be no compromise between a Wendell Phillips
and a Preston Brooks. War was the only solution.

Statesmanship looks to the preservation of the primal principles of the
Republic, favors the general welfare whenever circumstances permit,
seeks its progressive evolution, encourages prudent reform, a reform
that is not the parent of reaction. It avoids alike the radicalism of
the demagogue and the stagnation of the materialist. While stupid
conservatism is unwittingly the main friend of anarchy, statesmanship is
its chief foe. The stability of the Republic depends on wise leadership,
courageous enough to combat violence on the one hand and greed on the
other.

Egoism and foolish fears are the chief obstacles of human progress. Self
interest being the main source of human action, it is the problem of the
politician to quicken the public conscience and convince the community
that advancement and enlightened selfishness are companions. Altruism is
a large factor in human evolution, yet not so basic that it may be made
the foundation of abiding government. It is a high mission to lead the
people to the conception of making self interest an every day servant
of the general welfare.

Expediency is as essential to the triumph of right as to that of wrong.
Cunning materialism may vanquish virtue that is a stranger to wisdom,
but prudent integrity never knows final defeat. The following of visions
without purpose is as vain as the worship of debasing worldliness.
Politics is a larger phase of life than the idealist comprehends, while
ideas are more dominant than politicians dream.

In an ideal state diplomats would be no more essential than the
physician, lawyer, jurist and minister. Compromise finds its basis in
human weakness, conservatism and selfishness. The history of humanity is
written in blood and tears largely because men have been prone to
passion and prejudice rather than true to reason and judgment. Politics
is the art of securing results in government. It is a study of success
applied to legislation and administration.

There are few problems of larger moment than the general acceptance of
the wisest policy in combating established and organized evil.
Civilization itself depends on the manner in which the unresting battle
between the constructive and destructive forces in society is conducted
and decided. Mighty empires have flourished and fallen, democracies have
sprung to life and decayed, dauntless protesters have sacrificed on the
altar of conviction, even nations under the spirit of high impulses have
for a short time followed the banner of the brotherhood of man. Yet in
spite of ages of progress, of heroic martyrdom, the battle is still of
the same character as the conflict was on the plains of Palestine, the
banks of the Nile and the seven hills of Rome. Human nature has changed
largely in outer manifestations, not in essential character. The
selfishness of man, vested interests, fear of change, still stand in the
way of righteous reforms, which are now as bitterly contested as they
were by the patricians of Latium and the barons of the middle ages. In
the conflicts of centuries good men have sunk sometimes in a fearless,
sometimes in an imprudent encounter with the host of cohesive and
malignant interests. Selfish motives unite the supporters of evil, while
the forces of righteousness are often discordant and rent with civil
feuds. Economic interest is the influence that makes evil gregarious.

Lincoln conceived his plan of warfare on the organized evil of his time
in wisdom. He attacked it at its weakest point, its injustice and its
bad policy. He made it not only an ethical issue, but an economic one as
well. He understood that reform must be founded on self interest as well
as on justice. He fought the evil and not the wrong doer. He was aware
of the influence of environment on the opinions of men whenever property
rights were involved and so would not exact nor expect too much of the
individual. He did not favor premature reform, knowing that it was not
permanent. A foe to slavery, yet for a long time he was not a friend of
abolitionism. He longed for the emancipation of the black man, yet would
not buy it by attacks on the Constitution or on the compromises of the
statesmen of the Republic.

He admitted the evil of slavery, yet recognized the institution as far
as the law sanctioned its existence. So he would fight its transfer to
new territory where it had no legal right of entrance. He would
circumscribe and starve it, would favor compensated emancipation, and
thus slowly and safely eradicate the evil from the nation. His political
philosophy is worthy of the study of every citizen, patriot and
reformer, of every man who believes in the dawn of better ages. His
greatness consists in never having relinquished his lofty ideal in all
of the materialism of daily compromise, and in never forgetting charity,
justice and policy in his communion with world-shaking ideas.

No man in history longed for the triumph of justice more earnestly than
Abraham Lincoln. He hated evil. Still his main purpose was the
preservation of the principles of the republic. Rather than endanger
them, the larger good, he would hesitate to begin a campaign against
organized selfishness. Such battles for humanity require good
generalship as well as those of cannon, fife and drum. It is not enough
to hate evil, to strike at it in the dark. To husband strength, to bide
the time, to await the solemn moment for attack, is political
generalship, a generalship that is as essential in the Senate as on the
battlefield.

He was willing to engage in the hard mission of educating men to believe
that brotherhood was a more substantial foundation for humanity than
hatred and selfishness. There was nothing of Don Quixote in his warfare.
Democracy was his religion, the source of his strength and the secret of
his influence. All that he was, he largely owed to the privileges of the
Republic, to the support of the plain people. He believed in them with a
rare faith and they trusted him with remarkable fidelity, as the
incarnation of the higher humanity. He was in harmony with the onward
movement of sanity, justice and manhood. Charity to all was his
platform, justice his program, democracy his guide. His spirit is the
spirit of the new age. He almost marks as distinguished an advance in
American history as Moses did in that of Israel.

The politician blindly follows, while the statesman wisely educates
public sentiment. In his political philosophy Lincoln gave due weight to
the potency of the general opinion of mankind. He said, "He who molds
public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces
decisions. He makes statutes or decisions possible or impossible to be
executed." He well knew the principle, so paltrily recognized, by even
modern legislators, that it is far more vital to prepare the public mind
for righteous legislation than prematurely to pass laws. It would be
well to write his supreme statement relating to public sentiment in
every legislative hall and judicial tribunal in the whole land. An
educated public sentiment will soon enough secure the passage of
appropriate legislation, and what is more essential, see to it that it
is enforced. The curse of American politics is the passage of
multitudinous enactments to please certain organized interests and the
deliberate indifference, if not hostility, of public sentiment to their
subsequent enforcement. The problem will be far from settled until fewer
laws are passed, and such enactments are religiously enforced. Lincoln
would not aid in the passage of a law not intended to be enforced or
incapable in the common course of events of being substantially
enforced, and he recognized that legislation should be a practical
science based on the actual character, the ability of a people to move
forward. Froward reform is almost as pernicious as selfish conservatism.

So complete was Lincoln's mastery over the masses that many have
misunderstood the power of his genius as merely following public
opinion. He did infinitely more. He studied the capacity of men for
progress, slowly leading them to the higher altitude. Lincoln recognized
the limitations of average human advance; that the mind and heart move
slowly in the march of centuries. He worked with the materials at hand
and builded on the solid foundation of the real national character. He
did not stand in the direct way of events, still he deemed it a duty
ever to guide them toward the goal of an advancing civilization.

The attitude of Lincoln to party organization is of commanding interest.
There was no more valiant, earnest worker in the Whig ranks. None can
question his devotion to the routine, burdensome labor of the campaign.
In making speeches, in writing platforms, in arranging meetings, in
issuing circulars, and in the tiring work at the polls, he was a
persistent toiler, a loyal partisan. In the Legislature he usually voted
with his associates. He often sought to strengthen the party in the
selection of office holders.

He believed in organized political action. He remained a trusted leader
in the party of his choice, seldom alienating himself from the party
managers, or the rank and file. Still he was no slave of party or
caucus. His party, town or state, could not buy or bribe his integrity,
or get him to be false to his duty. He believed that parties were useful
to democratic government as long as they were substantially in harmony
with its deeper objects. Still he did not deem them sacred, and when
circumstances demanded, favored their dissolution, and the organization
of new parties. He was one of the few politicians in American history
who acted on the conviction that the man who served his state best, best
served his party. Having no sympathy with anarchy in politics, he gave
full value to the importance of the organization, but did not exalt it
into an object of adoration. Above it, he placed loyalty to the
Constitution and the fathers of the country. He was neither mugwump nor
partisan.

There are two classes of men, materialists and visionaries. The
materialist is a slave to the fact. He is so intent on the earth that he
seldom enjoys a glimpse of star or constellation. Still he is a student
of methods and results, a worshipper of success, and hence he is
generally in the ascendancy. The visionary is a slave to his ideal, he
looks at the world as it should be and not as it is. While he gazes at
the sunset and the evening star he falls in the pit at his feet. He
resembles the mariner of Heine:

  "A wonderful lovely maiden,
    Sits high in her glory there,
  Her robe with gems is laden,
    And she combeth her golden hair,
  And as she combs it,
    The gold comb glistens,
  The while she is singing a song,
    That hath a mystical sound and a wonderful melody,
  The boatman when once she has bound him,
    Is lost in wild mad love,
  He sees not the black rocks around him,
    He sees but the beauty above."

The real leaders in the world's history have been idealists of high
practical wisdom. They have been the captains, not the subjects of their
ideal. The petty politician rules for the day. The men who dominate the
ages give substance to shadow, make the dream of one day the reality of
another, crystallize the yearnings of humanity into statute and
decision.

The world is used to the omnipresent politician. The visionary, the
undaunted reformer, is not an infrequent participant in the domain of
affairs. The political idealist, with the judgment of the one and the
inspiration of the other, is so rare that he confounds by his presence.
The combination astounds the generation unaccustomed to such a
phenomenon. The man of high endowments is stupidly expected to be
wanting in worldliness, and the practical representative of the people
in the vision. The solution of all political problems depends on
political sagacity illumined with altruism. The political idealist
consummates the alliance of vision with method.

Lincoln was neither idealist nor politician. With the idealist he was
faithful to the vision, with the politician he studied the way to
success. He was not lost in mere adoration of the ideal; was not content
until it became a reality. He blended the enthusiasm of the visionary
with the wisdom of the politician. He was the ideal politician.

Lincoln was the prophet politician of his time, blending the
righteousness of the Hebraic seer with political sagacity. He faced
failure imperiously. He was never finally vanquished. He looked beyond
temporary triumph to ultimate consequences. Despite setback, disaster
and every obstacle, he had abounding faith in the abiding triumph of
justice.

He knew the shortcomings of human nature, the painful, sluggard progress
of moral evolution. He weighed men as they were and not as he wished
them to be. Hence, he was patient with their failings. He made ample
allowance for the heavy hand of habit, for ancestral, religious,
political, social and industrial environment. That men were largely the
children of their time was to him an ever present truth. Coöperation not
antagonism was his method of achievement. He would not force progress
and he recognized the sway of the grim law of necessity. He measured the
labored march of public sentiment. He waited the slow processes of time;
was no believer in magical reforms or quack political remedies. He did
not squander his energies in the wonderland of dreams. He is the wisest
politician in American history, consummate in his strategy for the
general welfare, the supreme friend and champion of democracy and
humanity.



BIBLIOGRAPHY


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    of the American government for thirty years, from 1820 to 1850. II
    v. New York, 1854.

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    establishment of a colony of English, accompanied by a map
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    Brown, Samuel R., The Western Gazetteer. Auburn, N. Y., 1817.

    Cartwright, Peter, Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, the backwoods
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INDEX


  Abolitionists--Abolition Intelligencer, 35;
    brute force dooms slavery, 77-78;
    early western movements of, 35;
    favor emancipation in District of Columbia, 144-146;
    Garrisonian, 117;
    "Genius," 35;
    Illinois, hated in, 76-78;
    political, 118-119;
    public service performed, 78.

  Adams, John Q., 22.

  Alton Observer, 83.

  American Government, Lincoln's Essay on, 28.

  American party, see Know-nothing party.

  American Preceptor, 35.

  Anti-slavery, see Slavery.

  Armstrong, Jack, 43-44, 46.

  Atchison, D. R., 158.


  Baker, Col. E. D., 90, 96-98, 112-115, 121, 128, 138, 149.

  Battles, greatest, 161.

  Birney, James G., 118.

  Bissel, Gov., 195.

  Black Hawk War, 47.

  Bloomington Convention, 190-193.

  Brackenridge, John V., 31.

  Brooks, Preston S., 190.

  Browning, O. H., 90, 138.

  Buchanan, Pres. James, 194-195, 201, 203-205.

  Burke, Edmund, 119.

  Butterfield, Justin, 149-150.


  Calhoun, John (Ill.), 55-56, 90-91, 119.

  Calhoun, John C., 20, 116-117, 158.

  Campaign, 1834, in Ill., 59.

  Campaign, 1836, in Ill., 64.

  Campaign, 1838, in Ill., 87-88.

  Campaign, national 1840, exuberant speech, 95-96.

  Campaign, national 1844, 116-120.

  Campaign, national 1848, 137-142.

  Campaign, national 1852, 155.

  Capitalists, 74.

  Cartwright, Rev. Peter, 124-127.

  Cass, Gen. Lewis, 138, 140.

  Chase, S. P., 145.

  Chatham, 119.

  Civilization, test of, 213.

  Clary Grove boys, 43-44, 50, 66-67.

  Clay, Henry, 18, 22, 34, 116-120, 138, 153-155, 159;
    colonization proposal, 154-155;
    tribute to in defeat, 120.

  Clinton, De Witt, 23-24.

  Columbian orator, 35.

  Compromise, 147;
    slavery not settled by, 158.

  Compromise measures, 1850, 152.

  Convention system, 110-111.


  Darbey, J. F., 141.

  Davis, Judge David, 180.

  Dawson, 60.

  Democratic Party--Anti-Nebraska Democrats, 190;
    banks, hostility to, 105;
    New Salem Democrats work for Lincoln, 54-55;
    Northern complicity in crime of Kansas, 201-202;
    Northern repudiate Kansas crime, 202;
    Northern resent Southern support of Taylor, 144;
    patriotic minority in 1854, 165-166;
    run Lincoln as candidate in 1834, 58.

  Democracy, political religion of Lincoln, 217.

  Dixon, Archibald, 158.

  Douglas, Fred, 20, 35.

  Douglas, Stephen A., See Lincoln,--Buchanan, braves, 203;
    conqueror, returns as in 1858, 204-205;
    debate, defeats Ewing in, 97;
    debate, Whig's challenge to, 90;
    Democratic administration fights, 202-203;
    howled down in Chicago, 162;
    judiciary reorganized, 100-101;
    Kansas issue, not the author of, 157-158;
    Lincoln, debates with, 92, 97-99, 119, 170-175, 211;
    Missouri Compromise, 167-168;
    patriot, not humanitarian, 159;
    Republican leaders coquette with, 203-204;
    senate, Anti-slavery leaders in, confounded by, 170;
    State Fair speech, 162-163;
    Supreme Court, Jackson's attack on, 199.

  Dred Scott decision, See Lincoln.

  Dueling, 105.


  Economic interest, 216.

  Edwards, Cyrus, angry at Lincoln, 149-150.

  Emancipation, gradual, 147.

  Emancipation proclamation, 86.

  Emancipation, race, 85.

  Erie Canal, 22-23.

  Ewing, W. L. D., 73.

  Ewing, Gen. John, 97.


  Fillmore, Pres. Millard, 150, 194.

  Ford, Gov., 69-70.

  Forquer's lightning rod, 67-68.

  Franklin, 199.

  Free Soil men, 142-143.

  Fremont, J. C., 193-195.


  Garrison, W. L., 173, 185.

  Gentry, Allen, 34.

  Gentryville, Ind., people of, 31-32.

  Giddings, J. R., 145.

  Gillespie, Joseph, 106.

  Graham, Minter, 42, 55.

  Great Britain, 117.

  Great Debate, The, 91.

  Greeley, 127, 133, 204-205.

  Grigsby, Nat., Story of, 119.

  Grigsbys, fight with, 32-33.


  Hardin, John J., 112, 115, 121-124, 128.

  Harrison, Pres. W. H., 90, 95-96.

  Head, Jesse, 19.

  Heine's, Lorelei, 219, 220.

  Henry, Patrick, 119.

  Herndon, W. H., 82, 109-112, 131-132, 156, 163-165, 177, 188, 192-193,
        204, 207-208.

  Herndon, Rowan, 45.


  Ideals, political, 219-220.

  Illinois--Abolitionism, hated in, 76;
    Abolition societies, early in, 35;
    Black code of, 76;
    judiciary in politics, 100-102.

  Indiana--Gentryville, 31-32;
    internal improvement policy, 22-24;
    pioneer politics, 21-23;
    Spencer County, 21, 24;
    Statutes revised, 28, 30.

  Injustice, nation cannot live on, 208.

  Internal improvement policy, 22-24, 68-69, 89.


  Jackson, Andrew, 22, 34, 50, 56, 117, 124-125, 141, 199.

  Jayne, William, 176.

  Jefferson, 17, 154, 199.

  Johnston, John, step-brother of Lincoln, 30, 32.

  Judicial system of Ill. prey of partisanship, 100-102.


  Kansas, Neb. struggle, 181-183, 189, 201-204;
    crisis, national, marked by, 182;
    Lecompton Constitution, 202;
    violence begets violence, 189.

  Kentucky--Abolitionism, 18, 35;
    Anti-federalist, 17;
    frontier life, 15-17;
    law-abiding, 16-17;
    passion for politics, 17;
    pioneer hardships, 16;
    schools, 16;
    slavery, 18.

  Know-nothing party, 190;
    seek Lincoln, 182;
    opposed by Lincoln, 185, 187.


  Labor, Lincoln sympathizes with, 135-136;
    grapple with slavery, 182.

  Lambourn, Josiah, 90.

  Lamon, W. H., 93, 100, 102, 109-110, 163, 192, 207-208, 210.

  Legislature Ill. in 1834, 60-61;
    corruption in, 126.

  Liberty men, 118.

  Lincoln, Abraham,--
    Abolitionist, not, 41.
    Ambition, 53-54, 109-110.
    American Government, essay on, 28.
    Ancestry, 15.
    Aristocrat, charged with being, 113-114.
    Armstrong, Jack, fight with, 43-44.
    Athlete, 36, 44.
    Bargain with Democrats in 1834, 58.
    Black Hawk War, 47-49.
    Campaign, 1840, active for Gen. Harrison, 96.
    Campaign, 1844;
      enthusiastic for
    Clay, 119;
      speaks in Indiana, 119.
    Campaign, 1848, 137-142;
      strong for Taylor, 137-138;
      speaks in New England, 142.
    Campaign, 1852;
      colorless, 155.
    Campaign, 1856, received flattering vote for vice-presidency in
            Republican convention, 193;
      great demand for as speaker, 193-194.
    Campaign, purse returned by, 87-88.
    Capitalists, comment on, 74.
    Capitol removed from Vandalia to Springfield, 70-71.
    Captain, elected in Black Hawk War, 47-48.
    Clary Grove boys, the, 43-44.
    Clay, Henry--admirer of, 119;
      opposed to in 1848 campaign, 138;
      tribute to at death, 153-155.
    Colonization proposal of Clay--approved by, 154-155.
    Congress, candidate for, in 1843--bargain as to nomination at
            Pekin Convention, 121;
      defeated by Baker, 113-115;
      explanation of his defeat, 114-115;
      Hardin defeated by for the nomination in 1846, 121-124;
      elected in 1846, defeating Cartwright, 126-127.
    Congress, in,--anti-slavery radical resolution opposes, 144;
      anti-slavery bill skillfully introduces, 144-145;
      democratic postmaster general supports, 135;
      internal improvement policy approves, 136-137;
      Mexican War, attitude to, 127-134;
      Mexican War policy, hateful to constituents, 131, 151;
      speech, Campaign, 139;
      "Spot resolutions," 130, 151;
      training in, 151;
      war of aggression, opposes, 129-134;
      Wilmot Proviso, votes for, 144.
    Conservative radical, 79.
    Convention system, favors, 110-111.
    Court trial, attended by, 31.
    Debater,--convincing, 141-143;
      demagogue, exposes, 88;
      fairness in debate, 66;
      skill in, 175;
      youthful, 31, 47.
    Douglas--followed with facts, 98-99;
      match for, 175;
      popular sovereignty doctrine crushed, 171-172;
      sought by Lincoln in debate, 91-92;
      sophistry of exposed, 170;
      State fair speech, replied to, 163;
      truce tendered Lincoln, 174-175.
    Declaration of Independence--not a lie, 174, 199-200.
    Deist, charged with being, 115, 126.
    Demagogue, exposed by, 88.
    Democrats--bargain with, 58;
      charges with having vulnerable heels, 92;
      popular with, 54.
    Democracy, faith in, 63-64.
    Disappointments, familiar with, 54.
    Diplomacy, 74-75.
    Dred Scott Decision, 197-200;
      Lincoln's opposition to, 198-199;
      weakened respect for Supreme Court, 198.
    Drink, does not, 87.
    Duality of his life, 35-36.
    Duels--Ewing with, 73;
      Shields with, 104-105.
    Education--books that mould his political opinions, 28-30;
      early, 19-20;
      law, studies, 56;
      learning, love of, 27;
      legislature in, 60-61;
      libraries, haunts, 161;
      method of, 26-27;
      practical for leadership, 36-38;
      subjective, 27, 36;
      Weems' Life of Washington, 29.
    Environment, 20, 32, 33;
      poverty of, 25, 26;
      Kentucky, 17-18.
    Fairness, 46.
    Federalist, 17.
    Financier--69, 99;
      De Witt Clinton, aims to be of Ill., 68;
      merchant, failure as, 45-46.
    Foresight--foresees slavery struggle, 47, 127, 132, 157, 172.
    Free Soil Men attacked, 142;
      converted, 143.
    Genius, towering and race emancipation, 85.
    Greatness, 216-217.
    Greeley corrected, 133.
    Grigsbys, fight with, 32.
    Harrison, Gen. W. H., candidacy for presidency promoted, 90.
    Herndon, W. H., see Herndon above;
      letter to, 111-112.
    Hero of New Salem, 57.
    Honesty, 45.
    Horse races, judge at, 45.
    Humility--50, 54, 91, 100;
      lesson in at murder trial, 31.
    Imagination, 139.
    Indian, protects old, 48-49.
    Internal improvements--public lands proceeds for, 61-63;
      persistent supporter of, 68, 69, 89, 136-137.
    Judiciary--function of, 198-199;
      Jackson's attitude to, 199;
      opposes political interference with by legislature, 101;
      speaks bitterly of relation to slavery, 156;
      war on Dred Scott decision, 198-200.
    Justice, nation cannot exist on injustice, 208;
      negro, to, 170;
      south, to, 168-169.
    Kindness, 46-47.
    Know-nothingism, 184-185, 187, 190;
      prescriptive principles opposed, 187.
    Labor--sympathy for, 135-136;
      laborer, 44;
      farmer, 44.
    Law--reverence for, 198;
      studies, 56.
    Lawyer, dislike of details, 109.
    Lawmaking, skilled in, 61.
    Legislature, 1832, defeated for, 55;
     1834, elected to, 58;
     1836, received highest vote for, in Sangamon County, 68;
     1838, elected to, 87;
     1838, candidate for speaker, 88;
     1840, candidate for speaker, 99;
     charges of corruption of Sangamon delegation, replies to, 73;
     jumps from window during session, 105-106;
     log-roller in, 68;
     protest of 1837, 80;
     State debt, loose plan to pay, 99-100;
     summary of career, 107-108.
    Liberty men, satirizes, 118.
    Literary style--development of, 27-28, 32;
      fanciful, 83-84, 92-94;
      scathing speech, 141;
      vulgar satires, 32.
    Log-roller, 68.
    Lovejoy, Owen, writes to, 178.
    Maxims, 74.
    Mexican War--127-134; 151.
    Mob spirit--83;
      cure for, 84.
    Mother, 26.
    New England--speeches in, 142-143;
      Seward, meets in, 143.
    New Salem--42-57;
      hero of, 57.
    New Orleans, sale of slave stirs Lincoln, 41.
    Office seeker, as, 149-150.
    Office seekers, unique recommendation of, 148.
    "Old Abe," 54.
    Oregon governorship refused by, 150.
    Parliamentarian, smartest, 68.
    Partisan--65-66; 110-112.
    Patriot--72, 192-193;
      corrupt bargain, spurns, 71-72;
      fraudulent voting, opposes, 106;
      party spoils system, opposes, 148;
      politician and patriot, 72;
      political duty, 179-180;
      Trumbull's election, advises, 179-180.
    Peace, friend of, 185.
    Peoria speech, 167-170.
    Personal influence, 70-71.
    Physical strength, 44,46.
    Pilot, 45.
    Political philosophy of, 213-221;
      brotherhood basis of progress, 217;
      central idea of the republic, 195;
      compromise when available, 147;
      compensated emancipation, 216;
      faith in triumph of justice, 221;
      laws of political progress, 216-218;
      legislation, 218;
      organized political action favored, 219;
      parties not sacred, 219;
      party power, 184;
      patient with frailty, 221;
      political generalship, 217;
      public office, public trust, 107;
      public opinion, 218;
      revolution through ballot, 189-190;
      slavery, attacks at weakest point, 216;
      universal feeling, 169;
      violence opposes, 189-190;
      works with men as they are, 221.
    Political strategy--adroitness with country editor, 176-177;
      anti-slavery bill in Congress, 144-146;
      bargain with Democrats, in 1834, 58;
      bargain for Congressional nomination, 121;
      Fremont campaign sees Fillmore danger, 194;
      jumps from church window, 106;
      log-roller, cunning, 68, 70-71;
      Lovejoy avoided, 164;
      smart parliamentarian, 68;
      tactician, 144-145;
      trick of Herndon endorses, 164-165.
    Politician--74;
      act, first political, 42;
      activity, 110;
      advancement as, 111-112;
      applicant for office, 148-150;
      Capitol removes to Springfield, 70-71;
      defeat, training in, 114, 180;
      discernment, 139;
      expediency, 99;
      fairness, 148;
      generalship, 217;
      greatness, 216-217;
      ideal, 221;
      party leader, 219;
      patriot and politician, 72;
      policy, 41-42;
      politics, his world, 109-110;
      popularity, champion of, 52;
      popularity in New Salem, 54-55;
      prescience, 210;
      prophet politician, 221;
      religion, political, 217;
      schooling, 106;
      self-glorifying declination, 107;
      skill, 179;
      succeed, how to, as, 111-112;
      vote, new method of, bring out, 94-95;
      wisdom, 148, 210.
    Popular will, student of, 63.
    Postmaster, 56.
    Preacher, indefatigable, 30.
    Presidency, 140, 210.
    Press, seeks the, 121-122, 176-177.
    Protection, favors, 50, 135.
    Protest 1837, 79-81, 108.
    Public office, public trust, 107.
    Public lands proceeds for internal improvements, 63.
    Religion, political, 217.
    Republican Party--Bloomington Convention, 190-191;
      editors convention, first step in formation of in Ill., 187-188;
      joins, 188-189;
      parties, three seek Lincoln in 1855, 182;
      party uncertainty, 1855, 184-185.
    Right, exhortation to stand with whoever is, 172-173.
    Senate U. S.--candidate in 1854, 176;
      defeated, 179-180;
      duty of as representative of whole state, 178;
      nominated unanimously by Republicans, 1858, 205-206;
      passion for term in, 176.
    Shields, "scrap with," 103-105.
    Slavery,--anti-slavery bill in Congress, 145-146;
      not apologist for, or abolitionist, 41;
      attacks weakest point, 216;
      anti-slavery sentiments, origin of, 35;
      anti-slavery movement, growth of in New England, 143;
      colonization favors, 154-155;
      Declaration of Independence, relation to, 199-200;
      despair at strength of, 153;
      economic strength, 197;
      foresees conflict over, 47;
      gradual emancipation policy, 147;
      hatred of, 110, 173-174, 183;
      justice to negro, 170;
      menace of, 173-174;
      moral issue in North, 197;
      New Orleans trip, kindles hatred, 40-41;
      protest, 1837, 79-81;
      sale of mulatto girl, fires with hatred of, 41-42;
      subverts government, 157;
      shackled slaves torment, 110;
      slavetraders control Southern policies, 184;
      South's pecuniary interest in, 197;
      territories, opposition to spread in, 169.
    Social slight, resentment at, 32.
    South--constitutional rights recognized, 169;
      pecuniary interest in slavery, 197;
      slave-traders dictate politics of, 184.
    Speaker--attract, does not, in "great debate," 91-92;
      growing demand for, 194;
      eminence in 1836, 68;
      emotions, appeals to, 50, 67-68, 96;
      eulogy on Clay, 153-155;
      fails as, 97;
      Forquer, crushing reply to, 67;
      Fremont campaign, makes 50 speeches in, 193-194;
      humorous passage in speech, 92;
      "lost speech," 191-192;
      Peoria speech, 167-174;
      "scathing style," 141;
      shocks cultured lawyer in 1840, 96-97;
      Springfield, 1858 speech, 207-212;
      State Fair speech, 163;
      youthful, 30, 40, 50-51;
      wilderness, as in a, 192.
    Spot resolutions, 130, 151.
    Springfield speech--"house-divided-against-itself" address, 207-212;
      apotheosis of career, 212;
      criticized by friends, 207-208, 210;
      pride in, 210-211;
      nation cannot exist on injustice, and must become all free or
            all slaves, 208-210;
      presidency, claim that it was a bid for, 210;
      United States history, one of the momentous addresses in, 208;
      wisely framed, 211.
    Springfield, Ill.--humble entrance into, 72-73;
      secures removal of Capitol to, 70-71.
    Statesman--78;
      national leader, 212;
      national vision, 134.
    Stories,--appearance, 59-60;
      ballots, not bullets, 189-190;
      bragging horse owner, 30-31;
      John Calhoun, 55;
      campaign purse, 87-88;
      candidate, pompous, rebuked, 60;
      captain, 48;
      cruelty to animals, 30;
      cultured lawyer shocked, 96;
      demagogue exposed, 88;
      despair as to slavery, 153;
      Douglas tenders truce, 174-175;
      duel, Shields, 103-105;
      engagement, 102-103;
      fairness, 45-46;
      farm hands, 59;
      fight with Jack Armstrong, 43-44;
      free speech, 98;
      foresight, 127;
      honesty, 45;
      horse race, 45;
      Indian, old, 48-49;
      jumps from window, 106;
      law studies, 56;
      lightning rod, Forquer's, 67-68;
      Lovejoy, avoids, 163-164;
      mercy, 46-47;
      mother, 25;
      negro boy, 189;
      negro girl, sale of, New Orleans, 41;
      partnership, Herndon, 112;
      Pekin convention, 121;
      poverty, 68, 72-73;
      principle, loyalty to, 71-72;
      politics, his world, 109;
      public, first act, 42;
      Revolutionary history, 29;
      same Abe Lincoln, 114;
      slavery struggle serious, 152;
      shackled slaves, 110;
      soldier, 19;
      speaker, failure as, 97;
      speech, early, 52;
      "Speed, I'm moved," 72-73;
      "There's Nat," 119;
      trick of Herndon, 164-165;
      Washington, Weems' Life of, 29;
      world not dead, 192-193.
    Supreme Court of U. S.--attitude to, 198-199;
      Douglas, approval of Jackson's position, 199;
      Dred Scott decision of, 197-200;
      Dred Scott decision weakens respect for, 198;
      Jackson's view of its lack of constitutional power of
            interpretation, 199;
      judges of, students of the past, 200;
      judicial decisions, function of, 198-199;
      Lincoln wiser than, 200.
    Surveyor, 55.
    Taylor, Zachary, promotes presidential candidacy, 138.
    Temperate, 87.
    Texas, annexation of, 129.
    Todd, Mary (Lincoln), engagement to Lincoln, severance of
          engagement and reconciliation, 102-104.
    Universal suffrage, faith in, 64.
    Usury, 52-53.
    Voting, fraudulent, opposes, 106.
    War--captain in Black Hawk War, 47-49;
      dissatisfaction with Lincoln's action in Mexican War, 131;
      Mexican War, vigorous prosecution of favored, 128-129;
      Mexican War, inception of opposed, 129-131;
      Mexican War, speech on inception of in Congress, 130-131;
      war power under the Constitution, 132-133.
    Washington, 28-30.
    Whig, 34, 50, 58, 68, 172.
    Woman Suffrage, 62-63.
    Wit, 30-31.
    Writer, see literary style above, first efforts, 27-28;
      first important address, 51-54.

  Lincoln, Mrs. Abraham, 150, 176.

  Lincoln, Nancy Hanks, 19, 25.

  Lincoln, Sally Bush, 19.

  Lincoln, Thomas, 15-16, 19, 24-25, 39;
    reasons for removal from Kentucky, 18-19.

  Linder, W. F., 73.

  Locos, 115, 139.

  Lost speech, See Lincoln.

  Logan, Judge S. T., 51, 90, 121.

  Lovejoy, Rev. E. P.--murder of, 79, 86;
    mob spirit, 81-82.

  Lovejoy, Owen, 163, 177-178, 186.

  Lundy, Benjamin, 35.


  Matteson, Gov., 179.

  Mexican War, origin of, 127-128;
    patriotism awakened by, 128-131;
    Whigs, attitude toward, 129-130.

  Milk-sick, 39.

  Minority party, value of, 101-102.

  Missouri compromise, 167-168;
    repeal of, 158-160, 162, 170, 182.

  Mob spirit, 81-83;
    cure for, 84.

  Moral prophet, seldom politician, 166.

  Morrison, Col. J. L. D., 149.

  Moses, 217.


  National campaigns, See campaigns.


  O'Connell, Daniel, 173.

  Offutt, Denton, 40, 42, 43.

  Ohio, 23.

  Osborn, Charles, 35.


  Pain, John, 193.

  Pain, Thomas, 19.

  Palmer, John M., 165-166, 191.

  Panic, 1837, 103.

  Parties, new, need of about 1854, 181-182;
    power of partisan lash, 183-184;
    sacred, not, 219;
    utility of, 219.

  Partisanship, growth of, 64-65, 66;
    judiciary, 100-102.

  Party ties, painful rending of, 165-166.

  Patriotism, civil, 213.

  Pekin convention, 1843, startling story of, 121.

  Pettit, John, 174.

  Phillips, Wendell, 173.

  Pierce, Pres. Franklin, 195.

  Pioneer life--churchman as public officer, 127;
    Illinois, 39;
    Indiana, 21-23;
    politics, 21-22;
    recreation, 31-32;
    schools, 16;
    social life, 32-33;
    store, 33;
    story-telling, 33.

  Politics--art of securing results, 215;
    American History, struggle between abolitionism and slavery, 214;
    evil, organized wisest attack on, 215-216;
    factor vital in civilization, 215;
    pioneer, 21-23;
    politician seldom moral leader, 166;
    political generalship, 217;
    political progress, painful struggle, 166-167;
    recreation to pioneer, 22;
    school of the nation, 22;
    true politician, 213;
    voters, new method of getting out, 94-95.

  Political philosophy--economic influence gregarious, 216;
    human nature, slow-changing, 215;
    injustice, nation cannot live on, 208;
    Lincoln's, 213-221;
    politician and statesman distinguished, 217-218;
    public opinion, importance of, 195-196, 217-218;
    universal feeling, 169.

  Polk, Pres. J. K., 119-120, 127, 130-131, 136.

  Presidency, 140, 210.

  Public office, hunger for, 148.

  Public service, state of, test of progress, 213.


  Religious leader opposed as representative of people, 127.

  Republic, central idea of, 195-196.

  Republican Party--new party, need of, 181;
    national, first convention, 193;
    origin Illinois, 187-188;
    second step in formation of, 190-191.


  Sangamon River, navigability of, 52.

  Sangamon delegation charged with corruption, 70, 73.

  Schieder, G. H., 187.

  Selby, Paul, 190.

  Senate, U. S., slave power favored by, 144.

  Seward, W. H., 143, 145, 201, 204-205.

  Shields, James, 103-104, 128.

  Slavery--economic strength of, 197;
    free speech endangered by, 78;
    gradual emancipation, 147;
    Illinois friendly, 76-78;
    intolerance of, 145-146;
    Kansas struggle, 181-182;
    moral issue in the North, 197;
    north and south responsible for, 168;
    policy, bad, 80;
    portentous problem, 20;
    power of, 41;
    property, ostentatious, 157;
    slave-trade, effort to abolish, 144-145;
    subverts government, 157.

  South, Texas, annexation of, 117.

  Speed, Joshua, 67, 72-73, 87, 90, 103, 182-185.

  Spencer County, 21, 24.

  Spot resolutions, See Lincoln.

  Springfield speech, See Lincoln.

  Stanton, E. M., 145.

  Stephens, A. H., 134, 138.

  Stone, Dan, 80, 146.

  Stuart, John T., 60, 90, 188.

  Sumner, 190.


  Taylor, Richard, 88.

  Taylor, Pres. Zachary, 137-139, 149-150.

  Texas, annexation of, 116-117, 129.

  Thomas, 90.

  Todd, Mary (Lincoln), See Mrs. Abraham Lincoln.

  Toombs, Robert, 138.

  Trumbull, Lyman, 179-180.

  Tyler, Pres. John, 116, 127.


  Universal feeling, not to be disregarded, 169.

  Usury, 52-53.


  Vandalia, Capitol, Ill., 70-71.

  Van Buren, Martin, 98, 116, 142.

  Voting, 1834, viva voce, 60.


  Walker, Robert J., 201.

  War, only solution to slavery struggle, 214.

  War power under Constitution, 132-133.

  Washburn, E. B., 138, 179.

  Washington, 29, 131, 156, 199, 201.

  Webster, Daniel, 92, 95, 116, 159, 209.

  Weems' Life of Washington, 28.

  Whigs--called federalists, 49;
    aggressive campaign, 1840, 95;
    judiciary, corruption of, opposed, 100-102;
    Mexican War, 129-130;
    support banks, 103, 105;
    seek Lincoln, 182.

  White, Hugh L., 63.

  Wilmot, Proviso, 138, 144.


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's Notes:

Spelling has been made consistent throughout where the author's
preference could be ascertained.

Hyphenation is inconsistent as in Post-office and Postoffice.

Punctuation and tyographical errors corrected without comment except the
following:

Page 46 ("Jack" always treated his victim when he thought he had been
too hard upon him.) Removed quotes around "Jack" and added quotes to
"treated".

Page 74 (It is he who by these unholy means, is endeavoring to blow up a
storm that he made ride upon and direct.) Replaced "made" with "may".

Page 96 (Thus a newspaper of the day says: He is going it with a perfect
rush. "Thus far the Locofocos have not been able to start a man that can
hold a candle to him in political debate. All of their crack nags that
have entered the list against him have come off the field crippled or
broke down.) Moved open quotation marks to "He is going it...

Page 183 (I am not aware than any one is bidding you yield that right ...)
Changed "than" to "that".

Page 192 (When the first flood of enthusiasm, after the Bloomington
Convention, subsided, a mysterious apathy, a stifling indifference, met
the new movement, a no unusual phenomenon in politics or human affairs.)
Replaced "no" with "not".





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