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hither and thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no position on which it can settle down and be at ease.
Again, it is a singular omission in this message that it nowhere intimates when the President expects the war to terminate. At its beginning, General Scott was, by this same President, driven into disfavor, if not disgrace, for intimating that peace could not be conquered in less than three or four months. But now at the end of about twenty months, during which time our arms have given us the most splendid successes-every department, and every part, land and water, officers and privates, regulars and volunteers, doing all that men could do, and hundreds of things which it had ever before been thought that men could not do; after all this, this same President gives us a long message without showing us that, as to the end, he has himself even an imaginary conception. As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably-perplexed man. God grant he may be able to show that there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity.
Mr. Lincoln was an industrious member of the Committee on Post-offices, and Post-roads, and thoroughly acquainted himself with the details of that prominent branch of the public service. On the 5th of January, 1848, he made a clear and pertinent speech in regard to a question of temporary interest which then excited considerable attention, the "Great Southern Mail" contract. Some of the Virginia Whig members had taken issue with the Postmaster-General, in regard to his action on this question, and there were indications of an attempt to give a partisan turn to the affair. Mr. Lincoln sustained the action of that Democratic official, insisting that his construction of the law in this instance, which was the more economical, was also the more correct one. It is unnecessary to enter into the details of the case here. We subjoin two or three paragraphs from the speech, which was purely a practical one, for the purpose of showing the general spirit and tenor of Mr. Lincoln's mode of dealing with business matters :
I think that abundant reasons have been given to show that the construction put upon the law by the PostmasterGeneral is the right construction, and that subsequent acts of Congress have confirmed it. I have already said that the
grievance complained of ought to be remedied. But it is said that the sum of money about which all this difficulty has arisen is exceedingly small-not more than $2,700. I admit it is very small; and if nothing else were involved, it would not be worth the dispute. But there is a principle involved; and if we once yield to a wrong principle, that concession will be the prolific source of endless mischief. It is for this reason, and not for the sake of saving $2,700, that I am unwilling to yield what is demanded. If I had no apprehensions that the ghost of this yielding would rise and appear in various distant places, I would say, pay the money, and let us have no more fuss about it. But I have such apprehensions. I do believe, that if we yield this, our act will be the source of other claims equally unjust, and therefore I can not vote to make the allowance.
Mr. L. insisted that the true and great point to which the attention of this House or the committee should be directed was, what is a just compensation? Inasmuch as this railroad and steamboat company could afford greater facilities than any other line, the service ought to be done upon this route; but it ought to be done on just and fair principles. If it could not be done at what had been offered, let it be shown that a greater amount was just. But, until it was shown, he was opposed to increasing it. He had seen many things in the report of the Postmaster-General and elsewhere that stood out against the river route. Now, the daily steamboat transportation between Troy and New York was performed for less than one hundred dollars per mile. This company was dissatisfied with two hundred and twelve or two hundred and thirteen dollars per mile. It had not been shown, and he thought it could not be shown to them why this company was entitled to more, or so much more, than the other received. It was true, they had to encounter the ice, but was there not more ice further north? There might possibly be shown some reason why the Virginia line should have more; but was there any reason why they should have so much more? Again, the price paid between Cincinnati and Louisville for daily transportation was not two hundred and thirteen dollars per mile, or one hundred dollars, or fifty; it was less than twenty-eight dollars per mile. Now, he did not insist that there might not be some peculiar reasons connected with this route between this city and Richmond that entitled it to more than was paid on the routes between Cincinnati and Louisville, and Troy and New York. But, if there were reasons, they ought to be shown. And was it supposed that there could be any, or so peculiar reasons as to justify so great a difference in compen
sation as was claimed by this company? It did seem that there could be none.
These reasons actuated him in taking the position he had taken, painfully refusing to oblige his friend from Virginia, which he assured the gentleman he had the greatest inclination to do.
In relation to the report of the committee, let him state one thing: It proposed that the Postmaster-General should again offer this company what he had already offered and they had refused. It was for the reason that the Postmaster-General, as he understood, had informed them that he was not himself going to renew the proposition. The committee supposed, at any rate he (Mr. L.) supposed-that as soon as the company should know that they could get what he he had offered them, and no more-as soon as all hope of greater compensation was cut off that instant they would not take ten thousand dollars a year for the privilege of doing it. Whether this was actually the case he did not profess positively to know; it was a matter of opinion, but he firmly believed it. In proposing to offer them the contract again, as he had already said, the committee yielded something, viz.: the damage that the Government would have to pay for the breaking up of the present arrangement. He was willing to incur that damage; some other gentlemen were not; they were further away from the position which his friend from Virginia took. He was willing to yield something, but could not consent to go the whole length with the gentleman.
The subject of internal improvements, as before indicated, had long been one in which Mr. Lincoln had taken a special interest. In the Illinois Legislature, he had favored the policy of developing the resources of the State by the fostering aid of the local government, in so far as he might, under the constant restraints of a Democratic majority. The great River and Harbor Improvement Convention, held at Chicago, not long before the commencement of his Congressional life-and to which he refers in his subjoined speech on this policy-he had participated in, as one of its most active and earnest members. A brief, fifteen-minute speech of his on that occasion, of which there appears to be no report extant, is still remembered by many of those who heard it, as one of the most eloquent and impressive efforts of that memorable convention, which was presided over by the Hon. Edward Bates,