« PreviousContinue »
soldiers, he is, to say the least, grossly and altogether mistaken, as a consultation of the records will prove to him."
We should need no better proof of the falsity of this charge than this explicit denial. And it is a noticeable fact, that during all the remaining joint debates between Lincoln and Douglas, the latter never repeated the slander until the last half hour of the last debate, to which Mr. Lincoln had no opportunity of replying. Douglas's supporters, however, made vigorous use of the charge everywhere. The whole foundation of it, doubtless, was the fact which Mr. Lincoln states, that, whenever the Democrats tried to get him "to vote that the war had been righteously begun," he would not do it. He might have said more than this. He might have said, as was the fact, that he had been a thorn in their sides on this very point; that he had not only refused to vote that the war was "righteously begun," but had made their efforts to falsify and conceal the facts, and deceive the people into the belief that it was "righteously begun," far more difficult. He showed, in fact, on this point the same clearness and directness, the same keen eye for the important point in a controversy, and the same tenacity in holding it fast and thwarting his opponent's utmost efforts to obscure it and cover it up, to draw attention to other points and raise false issues, which were the marked characteristics of his great controversy with Judge Douglas at a subsequent period of their political history.
He saw that the strength of the position of the administration before the people in reference to the beginning of the war, was in the point, which they lost
no opportunity of reiterating, viz., that Mexico had shed the blood of our citizens on our own soil. This position he believed to be false, and he accordingly attacked it in a resolution requesting the President to give the House information on that point; which President Polk would have found as difficult to dodge as Douglas found it to dodge the questions which Mr. Lincoln proposed to him.
On the right of petition Mr. Lincoln, of course, held the right side, voting repeatedly against laying on the table without consideration petitions in favor of the abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia, and against the slave-trade.
On the question of abolishing Slavery in the District, he took rather a prominent part. A Mr. Gott had introduced a resolution directing the committee for the District to introduce a bill abolishing the slave-trade in the District. To this Mr. Lincoln moved an amendment instructing them to introduce a bill for the abolition, not of the slave-trade, but of Slavery within the District. The bill which he proposed prevented any slave from ever being brought into the District, except in the case of officers of the Government of the United States, who might bring the necessary servants for themselves and their families while in the District on public business. It prevented any one then resident within the District, or thereafter born within it, from being held in Slavery without the District. It declared that all children of slave mothers born in the District after January 1, 1850, should be free, but should be reasonably supported and educated by the owners of their mothers, and that any owner of slaves in the Dis
trict might be paid their value from the Treasury, and the slaves should thereupon be free; and it provided also for the submission of the act to the people of the District for their acceptance or rejection.
A bill was afterwards reported by the committee forbidding the introduction of slaves into the District for sale or hire. This bill also Mr. Lincoln supported, but in vain. The time for the success of such measures, involving to an extent attacks upon Slavery, had not yet come.
The question of the Territories came up in many ways. The Wilmot Proviso had made its first appearance in the previous session, in the August before, but it was repeatedly before this Congress also, when efforts were made to apply it to the territory which we procured from Mexico, and to Oregon. On all occasions when it was before the House it was supported by Mr. Lincoln, and he stated during his contest with Judge Douglas that he had voted for it, "in one way and another, about forty times." He thus showed himself in 1847 the same friend of Freedom for the Territories which he was afterwards during the heats of the Kansas struggle.
Another instance in which the Slavery Question was before the House was in the famous Pacheco case. This was a bill to reimburse the heirs of Antonio Pacheco for the value of a slave who was hired by a United States officer in Florida, but ran away and joined the Seminoles, and being taken in arms with them, was sent out of Florida with them when they were transported to the West.
The bill was reported
to the House by the Committee on Military Affairs.
This committee was composed of nine. Five of these were slaveholders, and these made the majority report. The others, not being slaveholders, reported against the bill. The ground taken by the majority was that slaves were regarded as property by the Constitution, and when taken for public service should be paid for as property. The principle involved in the bill, therefore, was the same one which the slaveholders have sought in so many ways to maintain. As they sought afterwards to have it established by a decision of the Supreme Court, so now they sought to have it recognized by Congress, and Mr. Lincoln opposed it in Congress as heartily as he afterwards opposed it when it took the more covert, but no less dangerous shape of a judicial dictum. .
On other great questions which came before Congress Mr. Lincoln, being a Whig, took the ground which was held by the great body of his party. He believed in the right of Congress to make appropriations for the improvement of rivers and harbors. He was in favor of giving the public lands, not to speculators, but to actual occupants and cultivators, at as low rates as possible; and he was in favor of a protective tariff, and of abolishing the franking privilege.
In 1848 General Taylor was nominated for the Presi-. dency; Mr. Lincoln was a member of the convention, at Philadelphia, by which he was nominated, and canvassed his own State in his favor. He was also in New England during the campaign, attended the State Convention of Massachusetts, and made a speech at New Bedford, which is still remembered. Illinois, however, cast her vote for General Cass. In 1849 Mr. Lincoln
was the Whig candidate in Illinois for United States Senator, but without success-the Democrats having the control of the State, which they retained until the conflict arising out of the Nebraska Bill, in 1854.
During the intervening period Mr. Lincoln took no prominent part in politics, but remained at home in the practice of his profession. We may be sure, however, that he watched closely the course of public events. He had fought Slavery often enough to know what it was, and what the animus of its supporters was. It is not, therefore, likely that he was taken very much by surprise when the Nebraska Bill was introduced, and the proposition was made by Stephen A. Douglas to repeal that very Missouri Compromise which he had declared to be "a sacred thing, which no ruthless hand would ever be reckless enough to disturb."
The Nebraska Bill was passed May 22, 1854, and its passage gave new and increased force to the popular feeling in favor of freedom which the proposition to repeal the Missouri Compromise had excited, and everywhere the friends of freedom gathered themselves together and rallied round her banner, to meet the conflict which was plainly now closely impending, forced upon the people by the grasping ambition of the slaveholders. The political campaign of that year in Illinois was one of the severest ever known. It was intensified by the fact that a United States Senator was to be chosen by the Legislature then to be elected, to fill the place of Shields, who had voted with Douglas in favor of the Nebraska Bill.
Mr. Lincoln took a prominent part in this campaign.