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THE political biographers of Mr. Lincoln have stated that in 1846 he was "induced to accept" the nomination for Congress from the Sangamon district. It has already been seen that he had aspirations for this place; and it is quite as well to adopt · Mr. Lincoln's own frankness and directness, and say that the representatives of his wishes secured the nomination for him. As a party man, he had well earned any honor in the power of his party to bestow. As a man and a politician, his character was so sound and so truly noble that his nomination and election to Congress would be quite as honorable to his district as to him.
Having received the nomination, Mr. Lincoln did after the manner of Western nominees and "stumped" his district. He had abundant material for discussion. During the winter of 1845, Texas was admitted to the Union, and the war with Mexico was commenced. The tariff of 1842, constructed in accordance with the policy of the whig party, had been repealed. The country had a foreign war on its hands—a war which the whigs believed to have been unnecessarily begun, and unjustifiably carried on. It had received into the Union a new member in the interest of slavery. It had been greatly disturbed in its industrial interests by the subversion of the protective policy. The issues between the two parties then in the political field were positive and well defined. Mr. Lincoln's position on all the principal points at issue was that of
the whig party, and the party had no reason to be ashamed of its western champion.
The eminent popularity of Mr. Lincoln in his own district was shown by the majority he received over that which it had given to Mr. Clay. Although he had made Mr. Clay's cause his own, and had advocated his election with an enthusiasm which no personal object could have excited in him, he received in his district a majority of one thousand five hundred and eleven votes to the nine hundred and fourteen majority which the district had given Mr. Clay in 1844. He undoubtedly was supported by more than the strength of his party, for his majority was unprecedented in the district, and has since had no parallel. It was not reached, on a much larger vote, by General Taylor in 1848. There is no question that this remarkable majority was the result of the popular faith in Mr. Lincoln's earnestness, conscientiousness and integrity. He took his seat in the thirtieth Congress, December 6th, 1847, and was from the first entirely at home. He was no novice in politics or legislation. To the latter he had served a thorough apprenticeship in the Illinois legislature. To the study and discussion of the former, he had devoted perhaps the severest efforts of his life. He understood every phase of the great questions which agitated Congress and divided the people. Unlike many politicians who engage in the harangues of a political canvass, he had made himself the master of the subjects he discussed. He had been a debater, and not a declaimer. He had entertained a deeper interest in questions of public concern than he had felt in his own election; and he was at once recognized as the peer of his associates in the House. He derived considerable prominence from the fact that he was the only whig member from Illinois, a fact almost entirely due to his own presence and influence in the district which elected him.
It is noticeable here that Stephen A. Douglas took his seat in the Senate of the United States during this same session. They met first as representatives in the Illinois legislature. Mr. Douglas was the younger, the more adroit, the swifter in
a political race. He had had with him the large democratic majority of the state, and had moulded it to his purposes. He had taken a step-perhaps many steps-in advance of Mr. Lincoln; but it seemed destined that the tallest man in the House and the shortest man in the Senate should keep in sight of each other, until the time should come when they should stand out before their own state and the country as the champions respectively of the antagonistic principles and policies which divided the American people.
It is interesting, at the close of a great rebellion, undertaken on behalf of slavery, to look back to this Congress, and see how, in the interests and associations of the old whig party, those men worked in harmony who have since been, or who, if they had lived would have been, so widely separated in feeling and action. John Quincy Adams voted on most questions with Robert Toombs; George Ashmun, afterwards president of the convention that nominated Mr. Lincoln for the presidency, with Alexander H. Stephens, afterwards vicepresident of the Southern Confederacy; Jacob Collamer with Thomas Butler King, and Samuel F. Vinton with Henry W. Hilliard. History must record that the Mexican war was undertaken in the interest of human slavery; yet, touching the questions arising out of this war, and questions directly associated with or bearing upon it, these men of the old whig party acted together. The slaveholder then yielded to party what he has since denied to patriotism, and the patriot abandoned a party which held out to him a constant temptation to complicity with slavery.
Mr. Polk, at that time the President of the United States, was evidently anxious to justify the war which he had commenced against Mexico, and to vindicate his own action before the American people, if not before his own judgment and conscience. His messages to Congress were burdened with this effort; and Mr. Lincoln had hardly become wonted to his seat when he made an unsuccessful effort to bring the President to a statement of facts, upon which Congress and the country might either verify or falsify his broad and general asseverations. On
the twenty-second of December, he introduced a series of resolutions* which, had they been adopted, would have given the President an opportunity to furnish the grounds of his allegations, and set himself right before the nation. These resolutions are remarkable for their definite statement of the points actually at issue between the administration and the whig party; but they found no advocates among Mr. Polk's friends. Laid over under the rule, they were not called up again by Mr. Lincoln himself, but they formed the thesis of a speech delivered by him on the following twelfth of January, in which he fully expressed his views on the whole subject.
The opposition in this Congress were placed in a very difficult and perplexing position. They hated the war; they be
*WHEREAS, The President of the United States, in his message of May 11, 1846, has declared that "the Mexican Government not only refused to receive him [the envoy of the United States,] or listen to his propositions, but, after a long continued series of menaces, has at last invaded our territory, and shed the blood of our fellow citizens on our own soil:"
And again, in his message of December 8, 1846, that “We had ample cause of war against Mexico long before the breaking out of hostilities; but even then we forbore to take redress into our own hands until Mexico herself became the aggressor, by invading our soil in hostile array, and shedding the blood of our citizens:"
And yet again, in his message of December 7, 1847, that "The Mexican Government refused even to hear the terms of adjustment which he [our minister of peace] was authorized to propose, and finally, under wholly unjustifiable pretexts, involved the two countries in war, by invading the territory of the State of Texas, striking the first blow, and shedding the blood of our citizens on our own soil:" and,
WHEREAS, This House is desirous to obtain a full knowledge of all the facts which go to establish whether the particular spot on which the blood of our citizens was so shed was or was not at that time “our own soil:" therefore,
Resolved by the House of Representatives, That the President of the United States be respectfully requested to inform this house—
1st. Whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens was shed, as in his messages declared, was or was not within the territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819, until the Mexican revolution.
2d. Whether that spot is or is not within the territory which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary Government of Mexico.
lieved it to have been unnecessarily begun by the act of the United States, and not by the act of Mexico; they were accused of being treacherous to the cause and honor of the country because they opposed the war in which the country was engaged; they felt obliged to vote supplies to the army because it would have been inhuman to do otherwise, yet this act was seized upon by the President to show that his position touching the war was sustained by them; they felt compelled to condemn the commander-in-chief of the armies, sitting in the White House, and to vote thanks to the generals who had successfully executed his orders in the field. Men picked their way through these difficulties according to the wisdom given to them. The opposition usually voted together, though there was more or less of division on minor points and matters of policy.
3d. Whether that spot is or is not within a settlement of people, which settlement has existed ever since long before the Texas revolution, and until its inhabitants fled before the approach of the United States army.
4th. Whether that settlement is or is not isolated from any and all other settlements by the Gulf and the Rio Grande on the south and west, and by wide uninhabited regions on the north and east.
5th. Whether the people of that settlement, or a majority of them, or any of them, have ever submitted themselves to the government or laws of Texas or of the United States, by consent or by compulsion, either by accepting office, or voting at elections, or paying tax, or serving on juries, or having process served upon them, or in any other way.
6th. Whether the people of that settlement did or did not flee from the approach of the United States army, leaving unprotected their homes and their growing crops, before the blood was shed, as in the messages stated; and whether the first blood, so shed, was or was not shed within the inclosure of one of the people who had thus fled from it.
7th. Whether our citizens, whose blood was shed, as in his messages declared, were or were not, at that time, armed officers and soldiers, sent into that settlement by the military order of the President, through the Secretary of War.
8th. Whether the military force of the United States was or was not so sent into that settlement after General Taylor had more than once intimated to the War Department that, in his opinion, no such movement was necessary to the defense or protection of Texas.