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He was equally loyal to the Constitution and loving to his kind; and when the time came which gave him the privilege of striking off the fetters of the slave, in order to preserve his country and its Constitution, he did it, and counted the act the crowning one of his life.
Mr. Lincoln did not bring his bill forward without consultation. Mr. Seaton, of the National Intelligencer, is understood to have been most in his confidence; and Mr. Lincoln said, on presenting his bill to the House, that he was authorized to say that, of about fifteen of the leading citizens of the District to whom the proposition had been submitted, there was not one who did not give it his approval. A substitute for the bill was moved, and finally the whole subject was given up, and left to take its place among the unfinished business of the Congress. The reason for this is reported to have been Mr. Seaton's withdrawal from the support of the plan; and Mr. Seaton’s withdrawal from the support of the plan is said to have been owing to the visits and expostulations of members of Congress from the slave states. Mr. Lincoln could hope to do nothing without the approval of the voters of the District, and to secure this approval he must secure the support of the National Intelligencer. That taken from his scheme, he took no further interest in pursuing it.
Mr. Lincoln had other occasions, during the session, to record his votes against slavery, in his own moderate way—always moved by his humanity and his love of that which was morally right, and withheld and controlled by his obligations to the Constitution and the law, as he apprehended those obligations.
The fourth of March brought his Congressional career to a close. While he had maintained a most respectable position in the House, there is no reason to believe that he made any great impression upon legislation, or upon the mind of the country. His highest honors were to be won in another field, for which his two years in the House were in part a preparation. After his return to Springfield, he found his practice dissipated. He saw that he should be obliged to begin again. Business, for the time, had taken new channels, as it never fails to do in like cases. The charms of the old life in Washington came back to him, and he was ready to take an office. He had a fancy that he would like to be Commissioner of the General Land Office, and Mr. Defrees, now the superintendent of public printing at Washington, and then the editor of the Indiana State Journal, wrote an extended article, urging his appointment, and published it in that newspaper. The effort miscarried, very much to Mr. Lincoln's and the country's advantage; and Mr. Butterfield of Illinois secured the coveted place. The unsuccessful application for this appointment was subsequently a theme of much merriment between Mr. Lincoln and his friends.
On returning to his home, Mr. Lincoln entered upon the duties of his profession, and devoted himself to them through a series of years, less disturbed by diversions into state and national politics than he had been during any previous period of his business life. It was to him a time of rest, of reading, of social happiness and of professional prosperity. He was already a father, and took an almost unbounded pleasure in his children.* Their sweet young natures were to him a perpetual source of delight. He was never impatient with their petulance and restlessness, loved always to be with them, and took them into his heart with a fondness which was unspeakable. It was a fondness so tender and profound as to blind him to their imperfections, and to expel from him every particle of sternness in his management of them. It must be said that he had very little of what is called parental government. The most that he could say to any little rebel in his household was, "you break my heart, when you act like this;" and the loving eyes and affectionate voice and sincere expres
*Mr. Lincoln had four children, all sons, viz: Robert Todd, Edwards, who died in infancy, William, who died in Washington during Mr. Lincoln's presidency, and Thomas. The oldest and youngest survive. The latter became the pet of the White House, and is known to the country as “ Tad.” This nickname was conferred by his father who, while Thomas was an infant in arms, and without a name, playfully called him “ Tadpole.” This was abbreviated to the pet name which he will probably never outlive.