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were venerable statesmen who had personally known some of “the Fathers” who organized the Government, and whose names have scarcely less luster than theirs. These honored seniors had given character to the political era which, though perhaps unconsciously to them all, was now about to close. Of the new epoch, foreshadowed in other and more striking ways, we may find one suggestion in the nature of the journey across the Alleghanies now made by Lincoln for the first time, as compared with the slow coaching of Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Thomas H. Benton, and their Western colleagues, for almost a lifetime, in their progress to the national capital. The eminently respectable Whigs and Democrats of the older States still looked a little downward or askance, however complacently, upon the people's representatives who came thus tediously from afar, save upon a few, of the slaveholding class more especially, who were distinguished not only by rare abilities, but also by long experience.
Among members of the House on the Whig side was the venerable ex-President John Quincy Adams, who died in the very capitol during the first session. There were also Messrs. J. R. Ingersoll, of Pennsylvania; J. M. Botts, of Virginia; Robert Toombs, A. H. Stephens, and Thomas Butler King, of Georgia; Washington Hunt, of New York; Jacob Collamer and George P. Marsh, of Vermont; Truman Smith, of Connecticut; Henry W. Hilliard, of Alabama; Samuel F. Vinton and Robert C. Schenck, of Ohio; Caleb B. Smith and Richard W. Thompson, of Indiana, and Meredith P. Gentry, of Tennessee. On the Democratic side were R. M.
McLane, of Maryland; James McDowell and R. K. Meade, of Virginia; R. B. Rhett, of South Carolina; Howell Cobb, of Georgia; Jacob Thompson, of Mississippi; Linn Boyd, of Kentucky; Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, and James S. Greene and John S. Phelps, of Missouri. Douglas had been re-elected to the House in 1846; but at the succeeding session of the Legislature he had been transferred to the Senate, and William A. Richardson had been elected as Representative in his stead. Thus it happened that the first appearance of Douglas as Senator was simultaneous with that of Lincoln as member of the House. Among the Senators were Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, John M. Clayton, Thomas Corwin, Thomas H. Benton, John Bell, Daniel S. Dickinson, Samuel S. Phelps, Simon Cameron, Hannibal Hamlin, Reverdy Johnson, Sam Houston, William R. King, R. M. T. Hunter, and Jefferson Davis.
Lincoln's maiden speech related to the President's responsibility for the beginning of the Mexican War. On the IIth of the preceding February, weeks before news came of Taylor's victory at Buena Vista, Thomas Corwin delivered his famous speech in the Senate, not only against the action of President Polk in the inception of the war, but against any appropriation in its support. In this extreme position Corwin was not generally sustained by his Whig colleagues, and the appropriations passed without much opposition. President Polk's annual message had elaborately defended his action in ordering Taylor to the Rio Grande. Mr. Richardson, of Illinois, gathering about him the mantle consigned by Douglas on ascending higher, was prompt
in moving an indorsement of the President. The gauntlet was thrown down before all who could not applaud the whole proceedings from the annexation of Texas onward. Such, in brief, was the condition of this matter when, on the 12th of January, 1848, Lincoln obtained the floor. His prepared speech was intended to fill an hour, but he spoke so rapidly that he had several minutes left at the close.
He said that some time after his colleague (Mr. Richardson) introduced the resolutions above mentioned, he (Mr. Lincoln) introduced a preamble, resolution, and interrogatories, intended to draw the President out, if possible, on this hitherto untrodden ground.
To show their relevancy, she continued,] I propose to state my understanding of the rule for ascertaining the boundary between Texas and Mexico. It is that wherever
Texas was exercising jurisdiction was hers; and wherever Mexico was exercising jurisdiction was hers; and that whatever separated the actual exercise of jurisdiction of the one from that of the other, was the true boundary between them. ... The extent of our territory in that region depended not on any treaty-fixed boundary (for no treaty had attempted it), but on revolution. Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right — a right which, we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit. More than this, a majority of any portion of such people may revolutionize, putting down a minority, inintermingled with or near about them, who may oppose their movements. Such minority was precisely the case of the Tories of our own Revolution. It is a quality of revolutions not to go by old lines, or old laws; but to break up both, and make new ones. As to the country now in question, we bought it of France in 1803, and sold it to Spain in 1819, according to the President's statement. After this, all Mexico, including Texas, revolutionized against Spain; and still later, Texas revolutionized against Mexico. tationized cominst exico Pin mu wiew
In my view, just so far as she carried her revolution by obtaining the actual, willing or unwilling submission of the people, so far the country was hers, and no further.* ..
The war has gone on for some twenty months; for the expenses of which, together with an inconsiderable old score, the President now claims about one-half of the Mexican territory, and that by far the better half, so far as concerns our ability to make anything out of it. It is comparatively uninhabited, so that we could establish land offices in it, and raise some money in that way. But the other half is already inhabited, as I understand it, tolerably densely for the nature of the country, and all its lands, or all that are valuable, already appropriated as private property. ...
As to the mode of terminating the war and securing peace, the President is equally wandering and indefinite. First, it is to be done by a more vigorous prosecution of the war in the vital part of the enemy's country; and, after apparently talking himself tired on this point, the President drops down into a half despairing tone, and tells us, that “with a people distracted and divided by contending factions, and a government subject to constant changes, by suceessive revolutions, the continued success of our arms may fail to obtain a satisfactory peace.” Then he suggests the propriety of wheedling the Mexican people to desert the counsels of their own leaders, and, trusting in our protection, to set up a government from which we can secure a satisfactory peace, telling us that “this may become the only mode of obtaining such a peace!" But soon he falls into doubt of this too, and then drops back to the already half-abandoned ground of “ more vigorous prosecution.” All this shows that the President is in no wise satisfied with his own positions. ...
*The part of this passage relating to the natural right of revolution was quoted against him fifteen years later, on the floor of the House. Hon. A. H. Stephens also claimed that this was an indorsement of Secession.
teen years later hon this for an
His mind, tasked beyond its power, is running hither and thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no position on which it can settle down and be at ease.... He is a bewildered, confounded and miserably perplexed man. God grant he may be able to show there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity.
In comparison with other speeches of anti-Administration members during this and the following session, on questions immediately growing out of the Mexican War, his position may well be pronounced moderate. Of slavery as a motive for the war, not a word is spoken. At one point, indeed, a hint of this kind seems almost to have been on his tongue, only to vanish inarticulate.
There was no lack of listeners to the new orator from the West; no one could fail to discern something above the common in his treatment of the matter in hand; yet the speech was not electrifying; it was not of the kind by which a reputation is “made at once." In Illinois there were even some mutterings among his Whig constituents, as if such a redoubtable fact as the Mexican War should have been simply glorified or quietly let alone.
In the Illinois Legislature Lincoln had favored internal improvements on a liberal scale at the expense of the State. As intimated to a friend, he thought the glory of a DeWitt Clinton worthy of his ambition. But the financial crash of 1837 put an end to such hopes. In regard to public works of a national character, he was still an ardent follower of Henry Clay. Lincoln made this the subject of a speech in Congress on the 20th of June.
In the preceding year a convention had been held