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E have seen already, from one of his letters to Mr.
Herndon, that Mr. Lincoln was personally quite willing to be a candidate for Congress the second time. But his 6 honor" forbade: he had given pledges, and made private arrangements with other gentlemen, to prevent “the district from going to the enemy." Judge Logan was nominated in his place; and, although personally one of the most popular men in Illinois, he was sadly beaten, in consequence of the record which the Whig party had made “ against the war.” It was well as it was; for, if Mr. Lincoln had been the candidate, he would have been still more disastrously defeated, since it was mainly the votes he had given in Congress which Judge Logan found it so difficult to explain and impossible to defend.
Mr. Lincoln was an applicant, and a very urgent one, for the office of Commissioner of the General Land-Office in the new Whig administration. He moved his friends to urge him in the newspapers, and wrote to some of his late associates in Congress (among them Mr. Schenck of Ohio), soliciting their support. But it was all of no avail ; Mr. Justin Butterfield (also an Illinoisian) beat him, “ in the race to Washington,” and got the appointment. It'is said by one of Mr. Lincoln's numerous biographers, that he often laughed over his failure to secure this great office, pretending to think it beneath his merits; but we can find no evidence of the fact alleged, and have no reason to believe it.
Mr. Fillmore subsequently offered him the governorship of Oregon. The news reached him whilst away at court at Tremont or Bloomington. Mr. Stuart and others “coaxed him to take it;" the former insisting that Oregon would soon become a State, and he one of its senators. Mr. Lincoln saw it all, and said he would accept “if his wife would consent.” But his wife " refused to do so;" and time has shown that she was right, as she usually was when it came to a question of practical politics.
From the time of his retirement from Congress to 1854, when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the KansasNebraska Bill broke the hollow truce of 1856, which Mr. Clay and his compeers fondly regarded as a peace, Mr. Lincoln's life was one of comparative political inactivity. He did not believe that the sectional agitations could be permanently stilled by the devices which then seemed effectual to the foremost statesmen of either party and of both sections. But he was not disposed to be forward in the renewal of them. He probably hoped against conviction that time would allay the animosities which endangered at once the Union and the principles of free government, which had thus far preserved a precarious existence among the North American States.
Coming home to Springfield from the Tremont court in 1850 in company with Mr. Stuart, he said, “ The time will come when we must all be Democrats or Abolitionists. When that time comes, my mind is made up. The slavery question’ can't be compromised.” — “So is my mind made up," replied his equally firm companion; and at that moment neither doubted on which side he would find the other when the great struggle took place.
The Whig party everywhere, in Congress and in their conventions, local and national, accepted the compromise of 1850 under the leadership of Mr. Clay and Mr. Webster. Mr. Lincoln did the same ; for, from the hour that party lines were distinctly and closely drawn in his State, he was an unswerying party man. But although he said nothing against those measures, and much in favor of them, it is clear that he accepted the result with reluctance. He spoke out his disapproval of the Fugitive Slave Law as it was passed, believing and declaring wherever he went, that a negro man apprehended as a slave should have the privilege of a trial by jury, instead of the summary processes provided by the law.
“ Mr. Lincoln and I were going to Petersburg in 1850, I think,” says Mr. Herndon. “ The political world was dead : the compromises of 1850 seemed to settle the negro's fate. Things were stagnant; and all hope for progress in the line of freedom seemed to be crushed out. Lincoln was speculating with me about the deadness of things, and the despair which arose out of it, and deeply regretting that his human strength and power were limited by his nature to rouse and stir up the world. He said gloomily, despairingly, sadly, • How hard, oh! how hard it is to die and leave one's country no better than if one had never lived for it! The world is dead to hope, deaf to its own death-struggle, made known by a universal cry, What is to be done? Is any thing to be done? Who can do any thing ? and how is it to be done? Did you ever think of these things ?'"
In 1850 Mr. Lincoln again declined to be a candidate for Congress ; and a newspaper called “ The Tazewell Mirror " persisting in naming him for the place, he published a letter, refusing most emphatically to be considered a candidate. The concluding sentence alleged that there were many men among the Whigs of the district who would be as likely as he to bring “ the district right side up."
Until the death of his excellent step-mother, Sarah Bush Lincoln, Mr. Lincoln never considered himself free for a moment from the obligation to look after and care for her family. She had made herself his mother; and he regarded her and her children as near relatives, much nearer than any of the Hankses.
The limit of Thomas Lincoln's life was rapidly approaching. Mrs. Chapman, his step-daughter, wrote Mr. Lincoln to that effect; and so did John Johnston. He began to fear that the straitened circumstances of the household might make them think twice before they sent for a doctor, or procured other comforts for the poor old man, which he needed, perhaps, more than drugs. He was too busy to visit the dying man, but sent him a kind message, and directed the family to get whatever was wanted upon his credit.
She also says
SPRINGFIELD, Jan. 12, 1851. DEAR BROTHER, On the day before yesterday I received a letter from Harriet, written at Greenup. She says she has just returned from your house, and that father is very low, and will hardly recover. that you have written me two letters, and that, although you do not expect me to come now, you wonder that I do not write. I received both your letters; and, although I have not answered them, it is not because I have forgotten them, or not been interested about them, but because it appeared to me I could write nothing which could do any good. You already know I desire that neither father nor mother shall be in want of any comfort, either in health or sickness, while they live; and I feel sure you have not failed to use my name, if necessary, to procure a doctor or any thing else for father in his present sickness. My business is such that I could hardly leave home now, if it were not, as it is, that my own wife is sick a-bed. (It is a case of baby sickness, and, I suppose, is not dangerous.) I sincerely hope father may yet recover his health ; but, at all events, tell him to remember to call upon and confide in our great and good and merciful Maker, who will not turn away from him in any extremity. He notes the fall of a sparrow, and numbers the hairs of our heads; and he will not forget the dying man who puts his trust in him. Say to him, that, if we could meet now, it is doubtful whether it would not be more painful than pleasant; but that, if it be his lot to go now, he will soon have a joyous meeting with loved ones gone before, and where the rest of us, through the help of God, hope ere long to join them. Write me again when you receive this.
Before and after the death of Thomas Lincoln, John Johnston and Mr. Lincoln had a somewhat spirited correspondence regarding John's present necessities and future plans. John was idle, thriftless, penniless, and as much disposed to rove as poor old Tom had been in his earliest and worst days. This lack of character and enterprise on John's part added seriously to Mr. Lincoln's anxieties concerning his step-mother, and greatly embarrassed his attempts to provide for her. At length he wrote John the following energetic exhortation,