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Speech in Congress.
nominating Mr. Clay, we deserted our principles, you say. Ah! in what? Tell us, ye men of principles what principle we violated? We say you did violate principle in discarding Van Buren, and we can tell you how. You violated the primary, the cardinal, the one great living principle of all Democratic representative government-the principle that the representative is bound to carry out the known will of his constituents. A large majority of the Baltimore Convention of 1844 were, by their constituents, instructed to procure Van Buren's nomination if they could. In violation, in utter, glaring contempt of this, you rejected him—rejected him, as the gentlemen from New York (Mr. Birdsall), the other day expressly admitted, for availability-that same 'general availability' which you charge upon us, and daily chew over here, as something exceedingly odious and unprincipled. But the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Iverson), gave us a second speech yesterday, all well considered and put down in writing, in which Van Buren was scathed and withered a 'few' for his present position and movements. I can not remember the gentlemen's precise language, but I do remember he put Van Buren down, down, till he got him where he was finally to 'stink' and 'rot.'
"Mr. Speaker, it is no business or inclination of mine to defend Martin Van Buren. In the war of extermination now waging between him and his old admirers, I say, devil take the hindmost—and the foremost. But there is no mistaking the origin of the breach; and if the curse of 'stinking' and 'rotting' is to fall on the first and greatest violaters of principle in the matter, I disinterestedly suggest, that the gentleman from Georgia and his present co-workers are bound to take it upon themselves."
Mr. Lincoln then proceeded to speak of the objections against Gen. Taylor as a mere military hero; retorting with effect, by citing the attempt to make out a military record for Gen. Cass; and referring, in a bantering way, to his own ser
Speech in Congress.
vices in the Black Hawk war, as already quoted. He then said:
"While I have Gen. Cass in hand, I wish to say a word about his political principles. As a specimen, I take the record of his progress on the Wilmot Proviso. In the Washington Union, of March 2, 1847, there is a report of the speech of Gen. Cass, made the day before in the Senate, on the Wilmot Proviso, during the delivery of which, Mr. Miller, of New Jersey, is reported to have interrupted him as follows, to wit:
"Mr. Miller expressed his great surprise at the change in the sentiments of the Senator from Michigan, who had been regarded as the great champion of freedom in the North-west of which he was a distinguished ornament. Last year the Senator from Michigan was understood to be decidedly in favor of the Wilmot Proviso; and, as no reason had been stated for the change, he (Mr. Miller) could not refrain from the expression of his extreme surprise.'
"To this Gen. Cass is reported to have replied as follows,
"Mr. Cass said, that the course of the Senator from New Jersey was most extraordinary. Last year he (Mr. Cass) should have voted for the proposition had it come up. But circumstances had altogether changed. The honorable Senator then read several passages from the remarks as given above, which he had committed to writing, in order to refute such a charge as that of the Senator from New Jersey.'
"In the remarks above committed to writing,' is one numbered 4, as follows, to wit:
"4th. Legislation would now be wholly imperative, because no territory hereafter to be acquired can be governed without an act of Congress providing for its government. And such an act, on its passage, would open the whole subject, and leave the Congress, called on to pass it, free to
Speech in Congress.
exercise its own discretion, entirely uncontrolled by any declaration found in the statute book.'
"In Niles' Register, vol. 73, page 293, there is a letter of General Cass to A. O. P. Nicholson, of Nashville, Tennessee dated December 24, 1847, from which the following are cor rect extracts:
"The Wilmot Proviso has been before the country some time. It has been repeatedly discussed in Congress, and by the public press. I am strongly impressed with the opinion that a great change has been going on in the public mind upon this subject-in my own as well as others; and that doubts are resolving themselves into convictions, that the principle it involves should be kept out of the National Legislature, and left to the people of the Confederacy in their respective local Governments.
"Briefly, then, I am opposed to the exercise of any jurisdiction by Congress over this matter; and I am in favor of leaving the people of any territory which may be hereafter acquired, the right to regulate it themselves, under the general principles of the Constitution. Because,
"1. I do not see in the Constitution any grant of the requisite power to Congress; and I am not disposed to extend a doubtful precedent beyond its necessity-the establishment of territorial governments when needed-leaving to the inhabitants all the rights compatible with the relations they bear to the Confederation.'
"These extracts show that, in 1846, General Cass was for the Proviso at once; that, in March, 1847, he was still for it, but not just then; and that in December, 1847, he was against it altogether. This is a true index to the whole man. When the question was raised in 1846, he was in a blustering hurry to take ground for it. He sought to be in advance, and to avoid the uninteresting position of a mere follower; but soon he began to see glimpses of the great Democratic ox-gad waving in his face, and to hear indistinctly, a voice saying, 'back,'
Speech in Congress.
'back, sir,' 'back a little.' He shakes his head and bats his eyes, and blunders back to his position of March, 1847; but still the gad waves, and the voice grows more distinct, and sharper still-back, sir!' 'back, I say!' 'further back !' and back he goes to the position of December, 1847; at which the gad is still, and the voice soothingly says-So!' 'Stand still at that.'
"Have no fears, gentlemen, of your candidate; he exactly suits you, and we congratulate you upon it. However much you may be distressed about our candidate, you have all cause to be contented and happy with your own. If elected, he may not maintain all, or even any of his positions previously taken; but he will be sure to do whatever the party exigency, for the time being, may require; and that is precisely what you want. He and Van Buren are the same 'manner of men ;' and like Van Buren, he will never desert you till you first desert him."
After referring at some length to extra "charges" of General Cass upon the Treasury, Mr. Lincoln continued :—
"But I have introduced General Cass's accounts here, chiefly to show the wonderful physical capacities of the man. They show that he not only did the labor of several men at the same time, but that he often did it, at several places many hundred miles apart, at the same time. And at eating, too, his capacities are shown to be quite as wonderful. From October, 1821, to May, 1822, he ate ten rations a day in Michigan, ten rations a day here, in Washington, and nearly five dollar's worth a day besides, partly on the road between the two places. And then there is an important discovery in his example-the art of being paid for what one eats, instead of having to pay for it. Hereafter, if any nice young man shall owe a bill which he can not pay in any other way, he can just board it out. Mr. Speaker, we have all heard of the
Speech in Congress.
animal standing in doubt between two stacks of hay, and starving to death; the like of that would never happen to General Cass. Place the stacks a thousand miles apart, he would stand stock-still, midway between them, and eat them both at once; and the green grass along the line would be apt to suffer some too, at the same time. By all means, make him President, gentlemen. He will feed you bounteously-if if there is any left after he shall have helped himself.
"But as General Taylor, is, par excellence, the hero of the Mexican war; and, as you Democrats say we Whigs have always opposed the war, you think it must be very awkward and embarrassing for us to go for General Taylor. The declaration that we have always opposed the war, is true or false accordingly as one may understand the term 'opposing the war.' If to say 'the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President,' be opposing the war, then the Whigs have very generally opposed it. Whenever they have spoken at all, they have said this; and they have said it on what has appeared good reason to them The marching an army into the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement, frightening the inhabitants away, leaving their growing crops and other property to destruction, to you may appear a perfectly amiable, peaceful, unprovoking procedure; but it does not appear so to us. So to call such an act, to us appears no other than a naked, impudent absurdity, and we speak of it accordingly. But if, when the war had begun, and had become the cause of the country, the giving of our money and our blood, in common with yours, was support of the war, then it is not true that we have always opposed the war. With few individual exceptions, you have constantly had our votes here for all the necessary supplies. And, more than this, you have had the services, the blood, and the lives of our political brethren in every trial, and on every field The beardless boy and the mature man-the humble and the