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Mr. Lincoln went into Congress, with the reputation of an able political debater, which reputation he sustained and increased. He took a more prominent part in the debates than is usual for a new member during his first term. He spoke on the general political questions of the day; the Mexican war; and on several questions regarding the ordinary business of legislation. On the 12th of January, 1848, he made a speech on the President's message and the war, which established his reputation in Congress as an able debater. The speech is clear, direct, argumentative; without any waste of words, compact, and full of matter.
Mr. Douglas, in their joint debate at Ottawa, charged him "with taking the side of the common enemy against his own country," in the Mexican war.
Mr. Lincoln, in reply, said, "I was an old whig, and whenever the democratic party tried to get me to vote that the war had been righteously begun by the President, I would not do it. But when they asked for money or land warrants, or anything to pay the soldiers, I gave the same vote that Judge Douglas did. When he conveys the idea, that I withheld supplies from the soldiers who were fighting in the Mexican war, or did anything else to hinder the soldiers, he is, to say the least, grossly and altogether mistaken, as the records will prove."
On the 20th of June, 1848, General Cass having been nominated for President, Mr. Lincoln, in an able speech in support of appropriations for the improvement of Western harbors and rivers, opposed the election of Cass, and ridiculed his position on that subject.
He made another speech on the 27th of July, after the whigs had nominated General Taylor for President, which is full of ability, keen sarcasm, and is worthy of comparison with the great efforts which he afterwards made in his debates. upon the slavery question. It was designed as a campaign document and for that purpose was very effective. He said:
The gentleman from Georgia. (Mr. Iverson,) says, we have deserted all our principles, and taken shelter under General Taylor's military coat-tail; and he seems to think this is exceedingly degrading. Well, as his faith is, so be it unto him. But can he remember no other military coat-tail under which a certain other party have been sheltering for nearly a quarter of a century? Has he no acquaintance
LINCOLN'S SPEECH IN CONGRESS.
with the ample military coat-tail of General Jackson? Does he not know that his own party have run the last five Presidential races under that coat-taii, and that they are now running the sixth under the same cover? Yes, sir, that coat-tail was used, not only for General Jackson himself, but has been clung to with the grip of death by every Democratic candidate since. You have never ventured, and dare not now venture, from under it. Your campaign papers have constantly been "Old Hickories,' with rude likenesses of the old General upon them; hickory poles and hickory brooms your never ending emblems; Mr. Polk, himself, was "Young Hickory," "Little Hickory," or something so; and even now your campaign paper here is proclaiming that Cass and Butler are of the true "Hickory Stripe." No, sir; you dare not give it up. Like a horde of hungry ticks, you have stuck to the tail of the Hermitage lion to the end of his life, and you are still sticking to it, and drawing a loathsome sustenance from it after he is dead.
A fellow once advertised that he had made a discovery, by which he could make a new man out of an old one, and have enough 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 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.
Mr. Speaker, The gentleman says we have deserted our principles, and turned Henry Clay out, like an old horse, to rot.
Old horses and military coat-tails, or tails of any sort, are not figures of speech such as I would be the first to introduce into discussion here; but as the gentleman from Georgia has thought fit to introduce them, he and you are welcome to all you have made, or can make, by them. If you have any more old horses, trot them out; any more tails, just cock them, and come at us.
I repeat, I would not introduce this mode of discussion here; but I wish gentlemen on the other side to understand, that the use of degrading figures is a game at which they may not find themselves able to take all the winnings. "We give it up." Aye, you "give it up," and well you may, but from a very different reason from that which you would have us understand. The point-the power to hurt-of all figures, consists in the truthfulness of their application; and understanding this, you may well give it up. They are weapons which hit you, but miss us.
But, in my hurry, I was very near closing on the subject of military coat-tails, before I was done with it. There is one entire article of the sort I have not discussed yet; I mean the military tail you democrats are now engaged in dovetailing on to the great Michigander. Yes, sir, all his biographers, (and they are legion,) have him in hand, tying, tying him to a military tail, like so many mischievous boys tying a dog to a bladder of beans. True, the material they have is very limited; but they drive at it, might and main. He invaded Canada without resistance, and he outvaded it without pursuit. As he did both under orders, I suppose there was, to him, neither credit in them; but they are made to constitute a large part of the tail. He was volunteer aid to General Harrison on the day of the battle of the Thames; and, as you said in 1840, Harrison was picking whortleberries, two miles off, while the battle was fought, I suppose it is a just conclusion, with you, to say Cass was aiding Harrison to pick whortleberries. This is about all, except the mooted question of the broken sword. Some authors say he broke it; some say he threw it away; and some others, who ought to know, say nothing about it. Perhaps it would be a fair historical compromise to say, if he did not break it, he did not do anything else with it.
By the way, Mr. Speaker; did you know I am a military hero? Yes, sir, in the days of the Black Hawk war, I fought, bled, and came away. Speaking of General Cass' carcer, reminds me of my own. I was not at Stillman's defeat, but I was about as near it, as Cass was to Hull's surrender; and, like him, I saw the place very soon afterwards. It is quite certain I did not break my sword, for I had none to break; but I bent my musket pretty badly on one occasion. If Cass broke his sword, the idea is, he broke it in desperation; I bent my musket by accident. If General Cass went in advance of me in picking whortleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges upon the wild onions. If he saw any live fighting Indians, it was more than I did, but I had a good inany bloody struggles with the musquitoes; and although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say I was often very hungry.
Mr. Speaker, if I should ever conclude to doff whatever our democratic friends may suppose there is of black-cockade federalism about me, and, thereupon, they shall take me up as their candidate for the Presidency, 1 protest they shall not make fun of me, as they have of General Cass, by attempting to write me into a military hero.
Mr. Speaker, let our democratic friends be comforted with the assurance, that we are content with our position, content with our company, and content with our candidate; and that, although they, in their generous sympathy, think we ought to be miserable, we really are not, and now they may dismiss the great anxiety they have on our account.
They are kind enough to remind us that we have some dissensions in our ranks; I knew we had dissenters, but I did not know, they were trying to get our candidate away from us. Have the democrats no dissenters? Is it all union and harmony in your ranks? No bickering? No divisions? If there be doubt as to which of our divisions will get our candidate, is there no doubt as to which of your candidates will get your party? I have heard some things from New York; and if they are true, we might well say of your party there, as a drunken fellow once said when he heard the reading of an indictment for hog-stealing. The clerk read on till he got to, and through the words "did steal, take, and carry away, ten boars, ten sows, ten shoats, and ten pigs,” at which he exclaimed-"Well, by golly, that is the most equally divided gang of hogs I ever did hear of." If there is any gang of hogs more equally divided than the democrats of New York are about this time, I have not heard of it.
On the adjournment of Congress, Mr. Lincoln took a trip into New England, and spoke often and earnestly in favor of General Taylor's clection. He also stumped Illinois and other parts of the West, with great effect during this Presi dential canvass. General Taylor's election inspired hopes that the administration would be, at least, fair and just towards the North on the slavery question.
At the second session of the Thirty-first Congress, the most important and significant act of Mr. Lincoln, was the introduction into the House, of a bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia. The bill provided that no person from without the district should be held to slavery within it, and no person thereafter, born within the district, should be held to slavery. It provided that officers of the government, being citizens of slave states, coming into the district on public business, might bring their slaves temporarily into the district, and hold them while necessarily engaged in public business. It provided for the emancipation of all slaves legally held within the district, at the will of the masters, and that full compensation should be made by the government, and that the act should be subjected to the approval of the people of the district.
BILL TO ABOLISH SLAVERY.
The provisions of this bill have been quoted as evidence that Mr. Lincoln was not a thoroughly anti-slavery man. So far from proving this, it establishes the fact that he was such, and it proves also, that he was a practical statesman, and not a visionary theorist. He believed slavery was unjust to the slave, and impolitic for the nation, and he meant to do all in his power to get rid of it. He prepared his bill with reference to the condition of public sentiment, at that time, and what was possible to be accomplished. The bill represents what he hoped could, by the action of Congress, become a law, rather than his own abstract views of justice and right. The result showed that even this bill would not be tolerated by the slaveholders. Their opposition was so decided and unanimous, that the bill could not even be brought to a vote.
On the question whether slaves used and lost by the officers of the government while engaged in the Seminole war, should be paid for, as property, which was raised in the celebrated Pacheco case, Mr. Lincoln voted, "no!" He would not pay for them; thus refusing to recognize property in slaves, as against the right of the government to the services of all citizens, or persons black or white, in time of war.
Mr. Gott, of New York, introduced a resolution instructing the Committee on the District of Columbia, to report a bill abolishing the slave trade. Mr. Lincoln moved an amendment, instructing the Committee to report a bill to abolish, not the slave trade, but slavery.
Mr. Lincoln's Congressional term ended March 4th, 1849; he declined a reëlection, and was succeeded by the eloquent. E. D. Baker.
He was a candidate for the appointment of Commissioner of the General Land Office, from President Taylor; for which place, he was recommended by the whig State Central Committee of Illinois. It was given to Justin Butterfield, a distinguished lawyer of Chicago.
Mr. Lincoln was tendered the position of Secretary, and then of Governor of Oregon; but fortunately for him, and the country, providentially, I ought to say, he declined. There was work for him this side of the Rocky Mountains. In 1849-50, he was voted for by his party in the Illinois
Legislature, for the Senate; but the democrats had a large majority. The vote was a recognition of his position as the leader of his party.
From Mr. Lincoln's retirement from Congress, in 1849, until the passage of the Kansas and Nebraska bill, in 1854, he was engaged in the laborious and succesful practice of his profession. He rode the circuit, attended the terms of the Supreme Court, and United States District and Circuit Courts, and held a leading position at the bar.
Mr. Lincoln was the father of four children, Robert, Edward who died in infancy; William, the beautiful and most promising boy, who died at Washington, during his Presidency, and Thomas. The oldest and youngest, are living. Robert, a promising young man, who graduated with distinction at Harvard, Massachusetts, and who served for a short time, on the staff of General Grant. Thomas, the youngest, is receiving his education at the excellent public. schools in Chicago. The tenderness, affection, and indulgence of Mr. Lincoln for his family, were conspicuous, even while burdened with the cares of the Presidency. He was an indulgent and most affectionate father. The loss of his son Willie, seemed to make his affection for the youngest a passion. In the midst of the cares and annoyances of the Presidency, he was in the daily habit of reading to this child, a chapter in the Bible. He governed his children by affection. His severest censure was an affectionate reproach. After the death of William, he seemed to cling, if possible, still more closely to the others, and it was no unusual thing, for the visitor at the White House, on the gravest subject, to find the President, with his young boy, "Taddy," as he was called, in his arms.
Mr. Lincoln was a good, natural mechanic, and when he again entered public life, was rapidly acquiring distinction as a patent lawyer. In the great case of McCormick against Manny, involving the question of infringement of the patent of McCormick's celebrated reaper, he was engaged for Manny. It is a curious fact, that in this case, he was opposed, among others, by two members of his cabinet, Messrs. Seward and