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ment was the best the world had ever seen, notwithstanding the existence of slavery. He read the speeches of the Abolitionists, but did not accept their premises or conclusions. He believed emancipation must be gradual. He did not comprehend the aggressiveness of the
When Henry Clay was nominated for President, Abraham Lincoln became his ardent supporter. He made speeches in Illinois and Indiana.
He went to Pigeon Creek, and addressed the people of that sec
tion of the country. Those who had stood with him in the old log school-house, and remembered how he surpassed them all in “speaking pieces" and in everything else, were not surprised to find him one of the foremost speakers in the political campaign. He confidently expected that Mr. Clay would be elected, and was much disappointed by the election of the Democratic candidate, Mr. Polk, of Tennessee. A greater disappointment awaited him. He had never seen Mr. Clay, but learning that he was to give an address at Lexington, Ky., on the gradual emancipation of the slaves, he determined to make a trip to that town to hear one whom he regarded with such veneration and honor. Not many of us like to have our idols shattered. It is not pleasant to have illusions which we have fondly cherished rudely blown away. Mr. Lincoln entered the hall in Lexington a stranger to all about him. He beheld a brilliant assembly of men and women who
had gathered to listen to the man who, for nearly half a century, had electrified audiences by his eloquence. But time had turned many furrows on his brow. The fire of early years was dying out. He had held many places of honor and trust, but had not reached the goal to the attainment of which he had directed all his energies — the Presidency. Never again could there be a flaming up of the old-time enthusiasm upon any theme. The address which he had prepared was not upon a subject calculated to win the applause of his hearers. No thrilling words fell from his lips. In that evening hour the illusions of many years were fading away from the eyes of the man who had taken the journey from Illinois to Lexington.
But a keener disappointment was to come. Henry Clay had been born in poverty, had made his way against adverse circumstances to an exalted position. From his first entrance into public life he had been accustomed to receive adulation and homage. Men approached him as if he were a superior being; sycophants had fawned around him. Through many years he had maintained a dignified public life. Ile gave a courteous reception to the man from Illinois, who had been making speeches in his behalf -- courteous, nothing more. Mr. Clay was polite, affable, agreeable in conversation, but cold, distant, patronizing in manner. His was not a hearty grasp of the hand. He manifested no great pleasure in meeting the Illinois lawyer who, without hope or expectation of reward, had labored to make him President. Hundreds had also been making speeches, and it is possible that Mr. Clay may not have heard that a man by the name of Lincoln was stumping Illinois in his behalf, and so received him politely, but without marked cordiality. Beneath the oaks, elms, and ashes casting their shade over the home of the great statesman at Ashland, Abraham Lincoln became disenchanted. (*) Whether he himself was acquainted with men or not, whether they had labored for or against him, whether men were rich or poor, whether occupying humble or exalted positions, it made no difference to him; to all there was the hearty grasp of his hand. It was Abraham Lincoln's way, but not Mr. Clay's.
The Congressional districts in Illinois were Democratic, except that in which Abraham Lincoln resided. The Democratic party nominated
Rev. Peter Cartwright, a Methodist minister, who had preached
in nearly every school district, and who was known to every body. The Whig party believed Mr. Lincoln would prove to be more popular than the minister. Ile was nominated and elected. Some of his friends, knowing that he had but little money, contributed $200 tow
ards meeting his expenses while travelling through the district and making speeches, and were much surprised to receive the following letter from him, returning $199.25 :
“I have ridden my own horse. My friends have entertained me at
night. My only outing has been 75 cents for some cider, which I bought for some farm-hands."
He saw no harm in the drinking of cider. He may have thought a little given to a gang of men whom he met in the harvest-field would not harm them, and might be of some benefit to himself on election-day.
In the Capitol at Washington, as a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Lincoln met men whose names are inseparably associated
with the history of the country: Robert C. Winthrop, of Massa
chusetts, Speaker of the House ; John Quincy Adams, ex-President of the United States, member of the House; George Ashmun, from the same State ; Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana; Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee; Alexander H. Stephens, Howell Cobb, and Robert Toombs, of Georgia ; and Barnwell Rhett, of South Carolina. On the same day Stephen A. Douglas became a Senator from Illinois, meeting Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts; John P. Hale, of New Hampshire; John Adams Dix, of New York; Lewis Cass, of Ohio; Thomas R. Benton, of Missouri; Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania ; John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky; James M. Mason, and R. M. T. Hunter, of Virginia ; John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina; and Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, all of whom were to appear in the great drama in which Abraham Lincoln was to take the leading part.
Mr. Lincoln was meeting the foremost men of the nation as their equal in making laws for the country. He introduced a resolution calling upon the President to furnish the House with a statement of facts relating to the war with Mexico, and advocated its passage in a very able speech.
While member of Congress he was greatly exercised at seeing gangs of slaves in chains marched away from the slave - prison to be sold in Southern markets. He looked upon it as a national disgrace. Mr. Galt, member from New York, introduced a resolution prohibiting the slave - trade in the District of Columbia. Mr. Lincoln was in favor not only of prohibiting slavery in the district, but he would make free all children born after January 1, 1850; and if owners of slaves were willing to part with them, he would have the Government purchase their freedom. He soon discovered, however, that the members from the slave-holding States were bitterly opposed to any such beneficent measure. They would not listen to any proposition which in the remotest degree would interfere with the institution.
General Lewis Cass, of Michigan, was the candidate of the Democratic Party for President, in opposition to General Zachary Taylor,
the candidate of the Whigs. The partisans of Cass unwisely 1845. magnified his military services. Mr. Lincoln, in common with
many other members, made a speech upon the political situation, in which General Cass was held up to ridicule, especially in regard to extra charges upon the Treasury. Mr. Lincoln said:
“I have introduced General Cass's accounts here chiefly to show the wonderful plıysical capacities of the man. They show that he not only did the labor of several men at the same time, but he often did it in several places many hundred miles apart at the same time. And as to 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 $5 worth a day, besides, partly on the road between the two places. And then there is an important discovery in his example—the act 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 cannot pay in any other way, he can just board it out. We have all heard of the animal standing in doubt between two stacks of bay and starving to death ; the like of that would never happen to General Cass. Place the stacks a thousand miles apart, and 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."
Just before the close of Mr. Lincoln's term in Congress the thought came to him that he might possibly obtain an appointment from the President as Commissioner of the General Land Office, which would give him a fair salary. He applied for the situation, but his friend, Edwin D. Baker, from Illinois, also wanted the office. Fortunately for themselves and for the country neither of them received the appointment.
Mr. Lincoln visited New York and Boston. He gave an address at Worcester, Mass., which was much liked by those who heard it. IIe journeyed to Niagara. He beheld the swirling stream above the falls, the cataract, and the fury of the current below. A Yankee thought it might be a good place to wash sheep. Mr. Lincoln was not thinking about washing sheep, or of setting Niagara to turning millwheels, but wondered where all the water came from. The most comfortable route home was by steamboat down the Ohio River and up the Illinois. The water was low, and the boat grounded on a bar. The firemen stuffed wood under the boilers, and black clouds of smoke rolled out from the chimneys. Louder the puffing of the steam, but the boat was hard and fast upon the sand. “Get out those empty barrels !" the order of the captain. The crew pitched a lot of empty casks into the