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have made his fortune. His precinct (he had now settled in Sangamon county) was strongly for Jackson, while Lincoln had, from the start, warmly espoused the cause of Henry Clay. The State election occurred in August, and the Presidential election two or three months later, the same season. Political feeling ran high, at this the second election (as it proved) of Jackson. Notwithstanding this, such was the popularity which young Lincoln had brought home with him from the war, that out of the two hundred and eighty-four votes cast in his precinct, two hundred and seventy-seven--the entire vote wanting seven-were cast for him. Yet, a little later in the same canvass, Gen. Jackson received a majority of one hundred and fifty-five for the Presidency, from the very same men, over Mr. Clay, whose cause Lincoln was known to favor. So marked an indication as this of his personal power to draw votes, made him a political celebrity at once. In future elections it became a point with aspirants to seek to combine his strength in their favor, by placing Lincoln's name on their ticket, to secure his battalion of voters. When he was elected to the Legislature for the first time, two years later, his majority ranged about two hundred votes higher than the rest of the ticket on which he ran.
Such was the beginning of Mr. Lincoln's political life, almost in his boyhood. This is the proper place to pause and review, in a brief way, the state of political affairs in Illinois, at the time of his first appearance upon this public arena. Wė shall find the revolution which has been wrought-Mr. Lincoln, though for long years in an apparently hopeless minority in the State, having been always a foremost leader on the side opposed to the Democracy--to be scarcely less remarkable than his youthful successes at the polls.
At the date of Mr. Lincoln's arrival-when just of age-in the State of Illinois, Gen. Jackson was in the midst of his first Presidential term. Since 1826 every general election in that State had resulted decisively in favor of his friends. In August, 1830, the first election after Lincoln became a resident of the State, and before he was a qualified voter, the only rival candidates for Governor, were both of the same strongly predominant party. The Legislature then elected had a large majority on that side. In 1832, Gen. Jackson received the electoral vote of Illinois, for the second time, by a decisive majority. The Legislature of 1834 was so strongly Democratic, that the Whig members did not have any candidates of their own, in organizing the House, but chose rather to exercise the little power they had in favor of such Democratic candidate as they preferred. Against such odds, as we shall see, the opponents of that party struggled long and in vain. Even the great political tornado which swept over so large a portion of the Union in 1810, made no decisive impression upon Illinois. In spite of all these difficulties and discouragements, Mr. Lincoln adhered steadily to his faith, never once dreaming of seeking profit in compliance, or in a compromise of his honest principles. Henry Clay was his model as a statesman, and always continued such, while any issues were left to contend for, of the celebrated American system of the great Kentuckian.
During the time Mr. Lincoln was pursuing his law studies, and making his first practical appearance with political life, he turned his attention to the business of a surveyor as a means of support. The mania for speculation in Western lands and lots was beginning to spread over the country at this time; and while our young student of law had neither means nor inclination to embark in any such enterprise for himself, it was the means of bringing him some profitable employment with the chain and compass. From the earliest grand center of these operations in lands and town lots, Chicago, which had also itself furnished, even then, most remarkable examples of fortunes easily made, the contagion spread everywhere through the State. Towns and cities without number were laid out in all directions, and innumerable fortunes were made, in anticipation, by the purchase of lots in all sorts of imaginary cities, during the four or five years preceding the memorable crisis and crash of 1837. It was during the year previous to that consummation, that this business had reached its hight in Illinois. With the revulsion, came also a brief period of adversity to the successful surveyor, whose occupation was now gone. It is said that even his surveying instruments were sold under the hammer. But this change only served to establish him more exclusively and permanently in his profession of the law.
Mr. Lincoln's first election to the Illinois Legislature, as has been stated, was in 1834. His associates on the ticket were Major John T. Stuart (two or three years later elected to Congress), John Dawson and William Carpenter. All were decided Clay men, or, as the party in that State was first styled, Democratic Republicans. About this time, the name of Whigs had begun to be their current designation. Lincoln was the youngest member of this Legislature, with the single exception of Hon. Jesse K. Dubois, of Lawrence county, afterward State Auditor of Illinois, who served with him during his entire legislative career. He had not yet acquired position as a lawyer, or even been admitted to the bar, and had his reputation to make, no less, as a politician and orator. At this time he was very plain in his costume, as well as rather uncourtly in his address and general appearance. His clothing was of homely Kentucky jean, and the first impression made by his tall, lank figure, upon those who saw him, was not specially prepossessing. He had not outgrown his hard backwoods experience, and showed no inclination to disguise or to cast behind him the honest and manly, though unpolished characteristics of his earlier days. Never was a man further removed from all snobbish affectation. As little was there, also, of the demagogue art of assuming an uncouthness or rusticity of manner and outward habit, with the mistaken notion of thus securing particular favor as the masses." He chose to appear then, as in all his later life, precisely what he was. His deportment was unassuming, though without any awkwardness of reserve.
During this, his first session in the Legislature, he was taking lessons, as became his youth and inexperience, and preparing himself for the future, by close observation and attention to business, rather than by a prominent participation in debate. He seldom or never took the floor to speak, although before the close of this and the succeeding special session of the same Legislature, he had shown, as previously
in every other capacity in which he was engaged, qualities that clearly pointed to him as fitted to act a leading part. One of his associates from Sangamon county, Major Stuart, was now the most prominent member on the Whig side of the House.
The organization of this Legislature, was, of course, in the hands of the Democrats. The Speaker was Hon. James Semple, afterward United States Senator. In the selection of his committees, he assigned Lincoln the second place on the Committee on Public Accounts and Expenditures, as if with an intuition, in advance of acquaintance, of the propriety of setting "Honest Abe" to look after the public treasury. .
Hon. Joseph Duncan, then a member of Congress, had been elected Governor at the same time this Legislature was chosen, over Mr. Kinney, also a Democrat, and of what was then termed the “whole hog” Jackson school. Notwithstanding the strong preponderance of the Democrats in both branches of the Legislature, and in the State, it is noticeable that in the distinguishing measures of Whig policy, in this as in subsequent years, the minority found their principles repeatedly in the ascendant, though unable to control the details of their practical application. This was true more particularly in regard to banks and internal improvements. Though inferior in numbers, the Whigs had superiority in ability, and in the real popularity and genuine democracy of their doctrines.
General attention had now come to be strongly fixed upon the remarkable natural advantages and resources of the new State of Illinois. Land speculation, as we have seen, had already begun to bring in Eastern money, and the population was rapidly increasing. According to the Whig policy, it now became desirable that every proper and reasonable legislative aid should be afforded to further the development of the latent power of this young commonwealth, and its progress toward the high rank among the States of the Mississippi valley, which had been indicated and provided for by nature. Despite the strong Democratic predominancy in this Legislature, therefore, a new State bank, with a capital of one million and five huudred thousand dollars, was incorporated, and the Illinois bank at Shawneetown, which had suspended for twelve years, was