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CHAPTER IX.

BEGINNING OF THE CONFLICT BETWEEN FREEDOM AND SLAVERY.

1849.

ABRA
BRAHAM LINCOLN was forty years old. It cannot be said

that he had accomplished very much for his fellow-men. Somehow we cannot help thinking of Moses, who was in the desert forty

years, doing nothing beyond tending the sheep of his father-in

law-not knowing that he was biding God's time. Great events must take place before the man who had declined the Governorship of Oregon could do the work which divine Providence had planned for the welfare of our country and the whole human race. In his Springfield home he bade good-bye to politics and resumed the practice of law.

The war with Mexico was over, and California had become a part of the United States. While Abraham Lincoln was a legislator in the Representatives' Hall in Washington, January, 1848, James W. Marshall was digging a mill-race for John A. Sutter in California.

“I wonder what that yellow stuff is!" said Marshall, as he threw up a shovelful of earth.

"I guess it is brass," said one of the workmen.

“ I'll see what vinegar will do to it,” said Marshall. He put the yellow particles into vinegar, but they did not change.

“I am going to San Francisco, and will see what they say about it there," said Mr. Bennett, who went to that town and showed it to Isaac Humphrey, who had worked in a gold-mine in Georgia.

“It is gold," said Humphrey.

The news spread. There was a rush of people to the American River, where the gold had been found. In June and July, 1849, gold-dust valued at $250,000 was received at San Francisco, then only a little collection of houses. Lieutenant Beale, of the United States Navy, was in California, and was sent to Washington with despatches. He made his way down the coast to Monterey, crossed Mexico, and in September reached Washington. “Rich Gold-mines Discovered in California!" was

the announcement in the Baltimore "Sun," September 20th. The news spread far and wide; it was flying all over the country. Miners were making fortunes—hundreds of dollars a day. From Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and all the Atlantic ports vessels were sailing for California. By February, 1850, ninety had sailed, carrying 8,000 men. Seventy other ships were getting ready. The men of the Western States flocked to St. Louis, went up the Missouri to the mouth of the Platte River, and started from there in caravans across the plains, with oxen and horses, drawing white canvas-topped wagons. Over the plains, across the wide reaches of sage lands where there was little water, over the Sierra Nevada Mountains streamed a long line of weary, poverty-stricken men,

, hungry for gold, more hungry for food. Into the Golden Gate sailed the white-winged ships. Before the year closed more than 400 vessels were riding at anchor in the Bay of San Francisco; and that place, which was only a village when the first yellow gold-dust was thrown to the surface, was a city with 20,000 people—a jostling, hurrying crowd, having only one object in view : to get gold.

We are not to forget that the slave-holders of the South had brought about the annexation of Texas for the purpose of extending the area of slavery and perpetuating their power in political affairs, that they might control the Government. The annexation resulted in a war with Mexico. That republic had been forced to surrender California and a vast extent of country between the Rio Grande and the Pacific coast, which the slave-holders confidently expected would become Slave States. Henry A. Wise, of Virginia, of whom we shall speak further on, said in a speech : “Slavery should spread itself, and have no limit except the Southern Ocean." Very unexpectedly to him and all the slave-holders, the people of the gold region declared there should be no slavery in California.

Twenty years had gone by since the imprisonment of the young printer in Baltimore for saying the slave-trade was piracy; twenty years since a flat-boatman in New Orleans had sworn a solemn oath that if he ever got a chance to hit the institution he would hit it hard. During the years a great change had taken place in public sentiment throughout the Northern States regarding slavery. Men were beginning to see that it was an aggressive political force; that it was wicked and cruel, and threatened to subvert the liberties of the people. Several men who mainly had acted with the Democratic Party, but who were opposed to the further extension of slavery, met at Buffalo, N.Y., and organized the Free-soil Party. “No more Slave States! No more Slave Territory !" their motto.

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When the slave-holders heard that the miners of California intended to make it a Free State they sent Senator Gwyn, of Mississippi, to the Pacific coast to do what he could towards making it a Slave State; but his efforts were vain. The slave-holders, chagrined at the upsetting of their plans, determined to oppose its admission to the Union. To understand what followed we must remember that in 1820, when Missouri was admitted to the Union, it was agreed that all the territory north of 36° 30', which formed the southern boundary of that State, should be free. Mexico, before the ceding of California to the United States, had abolished servitude; so when California, New Mexico, and Utah were joined to the United States, those sections were free from slavery. Henry Clay had been instrumental in accomplishing the Compromise of 1820, and in his declining years, seeing the trouble brewing between the Free and Slave States, bent all his waning energies to bring about another Compromise, which he hoped would forever settle the question. Daniel Webster, in Massachusetts, having a great love for the Constitution and the Union, was ready to do what he could to secure peace and harmony. The agreement made was one-sided. The slaveholders were to consent that California should be admitted as a Free State. To pay them for the concession Utah and New Mexico were to be organized as territories, without any stipulation whether they should or should not permit the holding of slaves. Texas was to receive $10,000,000 for 70,000 square miles belonging to that State north of the Missouri Compromise line, and slavery was to be extended over it. No more slaves were to be sold in the District of Columbia, but fugitives escaping from a Slave to a Free State were to be returned to their masters. Insulting and degrading to the people of the Free States were the provisions of the law regarding fugitive slaves.

Such was the Compromise which, it was declared, would forever put an end to the agitation of the slavery question.

“ There shall be no more agitation. These measures are a finality, and we will have peace,” said Daniel Webster. (')

“In taking leave of this subject,” said Stephen A. Douglas, “I wish to state that I have determined never to make another speech upon the slavery question. So long as our opponents do not agitate for repeal or modification, why should we agitate for any purpose. This Compromise is a final settlement.” (*

They did not comprehend the aggressive character of slavery. The Compromise became a law, and California was admitted to the Union.

During these days Abraham Lincoln was reading Shakespeare and

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the poetry of Robert Burns. When work for the day was done he was accustomed to tip himself back in his office chair, put his feet on the table, and read aloud. “I can understand it better," he said.

A poem, entitled "The Last Leaf," written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, gave him great pleasure. He often recited it to his friends. were tremulous at times as he repeated the lines :

His lips

The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that he has prest

In their bloom ;
And the name he loved to hear
Has been carved for many a year

On the tomb."(3)

“For pure pathos,” he said, in after-years,“ there is, in my judgment, nothing finer in the English language.”

Without doubt the lines awakened tender and holy memories of Ann Rutledge.

Mr. Lincoln was giving little attention to political affairs. His one term in Congress seems to have satisfied for the time all desire for political distinction. He had made the acquaintance of men prominent in public affairs, and taken the measure of their abilities. He had discovered that with most of them politics was not devotion to principles, but the advancement of selfish interests.

We have seen Mr. Lincoln assuming the joint indebtedness of Berry & Lincoln, store - keepers of New Salem. During the years that had passed since the death of Berry and the failure of the firm he had struggled under the burden, but the time came when the last cent of principal and interest was paid. It was a happy day when he left the Globe Tavern and began house-keeping in his own home, where he could dispense liberal hospitality to his friends. It was a pleasure to them to sit at a table bountifully supplied by Mrs. Lincoln. There was little formality in his intercourse with his guests. The repast was ever made enjoyable by flashes of wit, humor, and story-telling on the part of the host. When the meal was finished, and the company assembled in the room set apart for the library, the grave topics of the day were discussed. Although Mr. Lincoln was personally out of politics, he was not indifferent to the great political questions of the hour; on the contrary, he was keenly alive to them. He was a Whig from principle, but

he took little interest in the campaign between General Scott,

the Whig candidate for President, and Franklin Pierce, the Democratic candidate. It seems probable that he saw from the outset

1852.

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that the Democratic Party would triumph. General Scott had been selected as candidate by the Whigs solely on account of his military services. Franklin Pierce, without national reputation, had been selected by the slave power because he would be subservient to their

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