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Mr. Lincoln says nothing here about slavery in the Territories. The Missouri Compromise being in full force, and regarded as sacred by all parties, it was one of its chief effects that both sections were deprived of any pretext for the agitation of that question, from which every statesman, Federalist or Republican, Whig or Democratic, apprehended certain disaster to the Union. Neither would Mr. Lincoln suffer himself to be classed with the few despised Quakers, Covenanters, and Puritans, who were so frequently disturbing the peace of the country by abolition-memorials to Congress and other public bodies. Slavery, says the protest, is wrong in principle, besides being bad in economy; but “the promulgation of abolition doctrines" is still worse. In the States which choose to have it, it enjoys a constitutional immunity beyond the reach of any“ higher law;” and Congress must not touch it, otherwise than to shield and protect it. Even in the District of Columbia, Mr. Lincoln and Dan Stone would leave it entirely to the will of the people. In fact, the whole paper, plain and simple as it is, seems to have been drawn with no object but to avoid the imputation of extreme views on either side. And from that day to the day of his inauguration, Mr. Lincoln never saw the time when he would have altered a word of it. He never sided with the Lovejoys. In his eyes their work tended “ rather to increase than to abate” the evils of slavery, and was therefore unjust, as well as futile. Years afterwards he was the steady though quiet opponent of Owen Lovejoy, and declared that Lovejoy's nomination for Congress over Leonard Swett "almost turned him blind." When, in 1860, the Democrats called Mr. Lincoln an Abolitionist, and cited the protest of 1837 to support the charge, friends pointed to the exact language of the document as his complete and overwhelming refutation.
On the 10th of May, the New York banks suspended specie payments, and two days afterwards the Bank of the United States and the Philadelphia banks did likewise. From these the stoppage and the general ruin, among business men and speculators alike, spread throughout the country. Nevertheless, the Fund Commissioners of Illinois succeeded in placing a loan during the summer, and before the end of the year work had begun on many railroads. Money was as plenty as dirt. Industry, in place of being stimulated, actually languished. We exported nothing, and every thing was paid for by the borrowed money expended among us.” And this money was bank-paper, such as a pensioner upon the Government of the United States scorned to take in payment of his gratuity, after the deposit banks had suspended or broken, with thirty-two millions of Government money in their possession.
The banks which had received such generous legislation from the Legislature that devised the internal-improvement system were not disposed to see that batch of remarkable enterprises languish for want of their support. One of them took at par and sold nine hundred thousand dollars of bonds; while the other took one million seven hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars, which it used as capital, and expanded its business accordingly. But the banks were themselves in greater danger than the internal-improvement system. If the State Bank refused specie payments for sixty days, its charter was forfeited under the Act of Assembly. But they were the main-stay of all the current speculations, public and private; and having besides large sums of public money in their hands, the governor was induced to call a special session of the Legislature in July, 1837, to save them from impending dissolution. This was done by an act authorizing or condoning the suspension of specie payments. The governor had not directly recommended this, but he had most earnestly recommended the repeal or modification of the internal-improvement system; and that the Legislature positively refused. This wise body might be eaten by its own dogs, but it was determined not to eat them; and in this direction there was no prospect of relief for two years more. According to Gov. Ford, the cool, reflecting men of the State anxiously hoped that their rulers might be able to borrow no more money, but in this they were immediately and bitterly disappointed. The United
States Bank took some of their bonds. Some were sold at par in this country, and others at nine per cent discount in Europe.
In 1838, a governor (Carlin) was elected who was thought by many to be secretly hostile to the "system ;” and a new Legislature was chosen, from which it was thought something might be hoped. Mr. Lincoln was again elected, with a reputation so much enhanced by his activity and address in the last Legislature, that this time he was the candidate of his party for speaker. The nomination, however, was a barren honor, and known to be such when given. Col. Ewing was chosen by a plurality of one, - two Whigs and two Democrats scattering their votes. Mr. Lincoln kept his old place on the Finance Committee. At the first session the governor held his peace regarding the “system ;” and, far from repealing it, the Legislature added a new feature to it, and voted another $800,000.
But the Fund Commissioners were in deep water and muddy water: they had reached the end of their string. The credit of the State was gone, and already were heard murmurs of repudiation. Bond County had in the beginning pronounced the system a swindle upon the people; and Bond County began to have admirers. Some of the bonds had been lent to New York State banks to start upon; and the banks had presently failed. Some had been sold on credit. Some were scattered about in various places on special deposit. Others had been sent to London for sale, where the firm that was selling them broke with the proceeds of a part of them in their hands. No expedients sufficed any longer. There was no more money to be got, and nothing left to do, but to “wind up the system,” and begin the work of common sense by providing for the interest on the sums already expended. A special session of the Legislature in 1838–9 did the “ winding up," and thenceforth, for some years, there was no other question so important in Illinois State politics as how to pay the interest on the vast debt outstanding for this account. Many gentlemen discovered that De Witt Clintons were rare,
and in certain contingencies very precious. Among these must have been Mr. Lincoln. But being again.elected to the Legislature in 1810, again the acknowledged leader and candidate of his party for speaker, he ventured in December of that year to offer an expedient for paying the interest on the debt; but it was only an expedient, and a very poor one, to avoid the obvious but unpopular resort of direct taxation.
“ Mr. Lincoln moved to strike out the bill and amendment, and insert the following:
An Act providing for the payment of interest on the State debt.
“ SECTION 1. -- Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois represented in the General Assembly, that the governor be authorized and required to issue, from time to time, such an amount of State bonds, to be called the . Illinois Interest Bonds,' as may be absolutely necessary for the payment of the interest upon the lawful debt of the State, contracted before the passage of this Act.
“ SECTION 2. —Said bonds shall bear interest at the rate of
per cent per annum, payable half-yearly at and be re-imbursable in years from their respective issuings.
“SECTION 3. -- That the State's portion of the tax hereafter arising from all lands which were not taxable in the year one thousand eight hundred and forty is hereby set apart as an exclusive fund for the payment of interest on the said · Illinois Interest Bonds ;' and the faith of the State is hereby pledged that said fund shall be applied to that object, and no other, except at any time there should be a surplus; in which case such surplus shall became a part of the general funds of the treasury.
66 SECTION 4. That hereafter the sum of thirty cents for each hundred dollars' worth of all taxable property shall be paid into the State treasury; and no more than forty cents for each hundred dollars' worth of such taxable property shall be levied and collected for county purposes."
It was a loose document. The governor was to determine the "amount" of bonds “ necessary," and the sums for which they should be issued. Interest was to be paid only upon the “lawful ” debt; and the governor was left to determine what part of it was lawful, and what unlawful. The last section lays a specific tax; but the proceeds are in no way connected with the interest bonds."
“ Mr. Lincoln said he submitted this proposition with great diffidence. He had felt his share of the responsibility devolving upon us in the present crisis ; and, 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.
“ The details of the bill might be imperfect; but he relied upon the correctness of its general features.
“By the plan proposed in the original bill of hypothecating our bonds, he was satisfied we could not get along more than two or three months before some other step would be necessary: another session would have to be called, and new provisions made.
“It might be objected that these bonds would not be salable, and the money could not be raised in time. He was no financier ; but he believed these bonds thus secured would be equal to the best in market. A perfect security was provided for the interest; and it was this characteristic that inspired confidence, and made bonds salable. If there was any distrust, it could not be because our means of fulfilling promises were distrusted. He believed it would have the effect to raise our other bonds in market.
“ There was another objection to this plan, which applied to the original bill; and that was as to the impropriety of borrowing money to pay interest on borrowed money, - that we are hereby paying compound interest. To this 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 this was not a good objection. If our increasing means would justify us in deferring to a future time the resort to taxation, then we had better pay compound interest than resort to taxation now. He was satisfied, that,