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PROFESSIONAL LIFE.-THE ANTI-NEBRASKA CANVASS.
Mr. Lincoln in Retirement for Five Years.-Gen. Taylor's Administra
tion.—The Slavery Agitation of 1850.—The Compromise of Clay and Fillmore.—The "Final Settlement" of 1852.--How, and by Whom it was Disturbed.— Violation of the Most Positive Pledges.—The KansasNebraska Bill.-Douglas, the Agitator.—Popular Indignation and Excitement.--Mr. Lincoln Takes Part in the Canvass of 1854.-Great Political Changes.—The Anti-Nebraska Organization.-Springfield Resolutions of 1854.–Results of the Election.—A Majority of Congressmen and of the Legislature Anti-Nebraska.—Election of United States Senator to Succeed Gen. Shields.—Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Trumbull.-A Magnanimous Sacrifice.-Mr. Trumbull Elected.
DURING the five years immediately following the close of his Congressional life, Mr. Lincoln attentively pursued his profession of the law. He took no active part in politics through the period of Gen. Taylor's administration, or in any of the exciting scenes of 1850. His great political leader, Henry Clay, had resumed his place in the Senate, and was earnestly striving-one of the last great labors of his life—to avert the dangers to the country, which he believed to be threatened by the fierce contests over the question of Slavery. It was, with the slave States, a desperate struggle to retain the balance of power in the Senate, by rejecting the application of another free State for admission, the granting of which would destroy the exact equilibrium then existing. The policy of admitting a slave State along with every new free one, had substantially prevailed for years; but, at this time, despite the extensive additions of Mexican territory, there was no counterbalancing slave State ready for admission. The exclusion of slavery from California had, in fact, been rather a surprise, and this application was evidently still more an irritating circumstance for that reason. And yet this movement was in strict accordance with the policy of a Southern President. As a final result, the admission of California was only carried by means of great counterbalancing concessions on the part of the free States. For months after, there was much discontent in both sections, in regard to the compromise measures of 1850, which were defeated in Congress, when first acted upon as a whole, but were ultimately carried in detail. It was not until 1852, when both the great parties of the country agreed to accept those measures as a “ final settlement” of the slavery controversy, that public sentiment, North and South, appeared to have become fully reconciled to this adjustment. The Administration, brought into power by the election of that year, was most thoroughly and sacredly committed to the maintenance of this settlement, and against the revival of the Slavery agitation in any form. To introduce that subject, under any pretense, into the halls of Congress, was an act of wanton incendiarism, in utter disregard of most solemn pledges, by the aid of which the Democratie party had secured whatever real hold it had upon popular confidence. Such was the state of affairs in 1852, and at the time of Mr. Pierce's inauguration in 1853.
Mr. Lincoln, as a private citizen, engrossed with his professional duties, had borne no part in the original controversy, and had taken no share in its settlement. Whether preferring the non-intervention policy of President Taylor, or the compromise course of Clay and Fillmore, he had undoubtedly regarded the peace established, by means of the latter, as one that ought by all means to be preserved, and the pledges of both sections of the country, through the action of both the national parties, as religiously binding upon every public man who had openly or tacitly assented thereto. That he approved all the details of this compromise is not probable. But that, if faithfully adhered to, the practical results would have been satisfactory, he was undoubtedly convinced.
The introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, in 1854, in the midst of this profound peace on the slavery question, was ·
the alarm of the fire-bell at night" which startled Mr. Lincolm in the repose of his private life, and showed that the incendiary had but too successfully been at his work. The solemn pledge of peace had been violated by the very men who were most forward in making it, and most noisy in their professions of a desire that the slavery conflict should cease. This new agitating movement, not only unsettling all the more recent stipulations made for the sake of peace, but even going back to destroy the only condition yet assailable, of the Compromise of 1820, and that the very portion which was agreed on as a consideration to the free States, was led by the ambitious politician of Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas. Not only had this unscrupulous agitator committed himself as fully as man could do to the maintenance of peace on this question, after the compromise of 1850, but he had, a year previous, called down vengeance upon the hand that would dare disturb the time-honored Missouri compact--that settlement which secured freedom “forever" to the soil embraced within the limits of Kansas and Nebraska. Yet the first hand raised for the commission of this incalculable wrong was his own! Douglas himself reported the act which violated that compact, and which opened the new territories to slavery (professedly, not really, at the option of the people), contrary to the spirit of all the early legislation, and to the hitherto uniform course of the Government. Even he himself had recently voted for the Wilmot Proviso as applied to the territory acquired from Mexico, and Mr. Polk had approved the Oregon bill, containing the same restriction. Never was there more universal indignation among the people of the North, and many of the more sagacious statesmen of the South clearly foresaw the mischiefs that were to follow from this sacrilege. Yet strange to say, this measure sundered and broke up the Whig party forever, through the action of a large portion of the Southern Whig Congressmen, in joining the Democracy in this act of bad faith, for the sake of supposed sectional advant
The most intense excitement prevailed throughout the country, and the destruction of the old party lines was effectually accomplished.
These events called forth Mr. Lincoln once more to do battle for the right. He entered into the canvass of 1854, as one of the most active leaders of the "Anti-Nebraska" movement. He addressed the people repeatedly from the stump, with all his characteristic earnestness and energy. He met and cowed the author of the “ Nebraska iniquity," in the presence of the masses, and powerfully aided in effecting the remarkable political changes of that year in Illinois.
The incendiary act had come to the final vote, in the Senate, on the 26th day of May. About the first of August, Congress adjourned. Douglas lingered by the way on his return to his constituents, and reached Chicago near the close of that month. Here he met a storm of indignation from the people, whom for manifesting their disapprobation of his conduct, he complacently termed a “mob.” He had proposed to speak in selfvindication, on the evening of the first day of September. He was received with the most decisive demonstrations of popular indignation, which he attempted to face down with an insufferable insolence of manner, that only tended to increase the excitement against him. After long perseverance in an attempt to compel a hearing, he was forced to succumb. All over the State he early discovered the same state of feeling existed among a large portion of his constituents, although there was no refusal to hear him, except in this first unlucky effort to defy and silence a crowd by bullying deportment. The popular rage gradually subsided, but the deliberate senti. ment of the people of Illinois on this subject has only been confirmed and strengthened against him with time. From commanding a large majority of the popular vote, as he had done previously, his strength dwindled away, until, for years past, he and the party that sustained him, have been in a pos. itive minority in the State. The reader can judge how much this, to him, painful truth, had to do with the change of policy adopted by him, in opposing the Lecompton Constitution, the legitimate fruit of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and substantially approved by him in advance, in a speech made in Springfield, in 1857.
Mr. Douglas visited several parts of the State, vainly attempting, by ingenious but sophistical addresses to the people to avert the impending revolution. Mr. Lincoln met him in debate at Springfield, during the time of the State Fair, early in October, 1854, and the encounter was a memorable one in the great campaign then in progress. They met a few days later at Peoria, where Mr. Douglas had no better fortune. Subsequently to that encounter, he showed a decided preference for speaking at other times and places than Mr. Lincoln.
The Anti-Nebraska organization, formed at Springfield in October of that year, and embracing men of all parties opposed to the reckless measures which had introduced the most violent agitation in regard to slavery ever known in the country, was the beginning from which the Republican party in Illinois was to be matured. Among the resolutions at that time adopted, after setting forth in a preamble that a majority
Congress had deliberately and wantonly re-opened the controversy respecting the extension of slavery under our national jurisdiction, which a majority of the people had understood to be closed forever by the successive compromises of 1820 and 1850, were the following:
Resolved, that the doctrine affirmed by the Nebraska Bill, and gilded over by its advocates with the specious phrases of non-intervention and popular sovereignty, is really and clearly a complete surrender of all the ground hitherto asserted and maintained by the Federal Government, with respect to the limitation of slavery, is a plain confession of the right of the slaveholder to transfer his human chattels to any part of the public domain, and there hold them as slaves as long as inclination or interest may dictate; and that this is an attempt totally to reverse the doctrine hitherto uniformly held by statesmen and jurists, that slavery is the creature of local and State law, and to make it a national institution.
Resolved, That as freedom is national and slavery sectional and local, the absence of all law upon the subject of slavery presumes the existence of a state of freedom alone, while slavery exists only by virtue of positive law.
Resolved, That we heartily approve the course of the freemen of Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, New York, Michigan and Maine, postponing or disregarding their minor difference of opinion or preferences, and acting together cordially and trustingly in the same cause of freedom,