Page images
PDF
EPUB

LINCOLN

A BRAHAM LINCOLN was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, on February 12, 1809.

His father, Thomas Lincoln, and his mother, Nancy Hanks, were both natives of Virginia. When Lincoln was eight years of age, his father moved into Indiana, buying a farm in what is now Spencer County. Schools were rare and the teachers were only qualified to impart the rudiments of instruction. When I came of age,” wrote the future President, "I didn't know much; still I could read, write and cipher to the rule of three, but that was all. I have not been to school since. The little advance I now have upon this store of education I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity.” At the age of 19, Lincoln made a journey as a hired hand on a flat boat to New Orleans, and two years later with his father emigrated to Macon, Illinois. Lincoln helped to build a cabin, clear a field and split rails to fence it. At the age of 21, be assisted in building a flat boat and in floating it down the Sangamon, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. Afterward he was a clerk in a country store, but, when the Black Hawk Indian War broke out, he volunteered, was elected the captain of a company and took part in the campaign. Having failed in store-keeping, he was glad to accept the office of County Surveyor of Sangamon. In 1834 he was chosen a member of the Illinois Legislature, and was re-elected successively in 1836, 1838 and 1840, after which he declined a nomination. Having been admitted to the bar in 1836 he removed to Springfield, which soon afterward became tho capital of the State. In 1846, he was elected a member of the National House of Representatives. In 1854, Lincoln, who hitherto had been a member of the Whig party, took an energetic part in the slavery agitation, and joined the Republican party when it was organized in 1856. In 1858 he contested in public debate with Stephen A. Douglas the nomination to a seat in the Federal Senate, but was defeated. The remarkable campaign, however, attracted close attention in every part of the Union, and Lincoln's speeches gave him a national fame which caused him to be nominated for the Presidency at the Republican Convention held in Chicago on May 16, 1860. In the inaugural address pronounced by him on March 4, 1861, he declared the Union perpetual and all acts of secession void, and announced the determination of the Federal Govern. ment to defend its authority. After having vigorously conducted the war for

the restoration of the Union for nearly two years, he issued on January 1, 1863, a proclamation emancipating all persons held to servitude in certain specified States and parts of States. The action which he then took was finally em. bodied in a Constitutional amendment, which was not passed, however, until after his death. He was re-elected to the Presidency on November 8, 1864, by an enormous majority of the electoral vote, and he lived to witness the surrender of Lee's army on April 9, 1865. On the evening of April 14 of the same year he was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington, by John Wilkes Booth, and he breathed his last upon the following morning.

ON HIS NOMINATION TO THE UNITED STATES SENATE

AT THE REPUBLICAN STATE CONVENTION, SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS,

JUNE 16, 1858

[ocr errors]

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention :
F WE could first know where we are, and whither we

are tending, we could better judge what to do, and

how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation, Under the operation of that policy, that agitation not only has not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect that it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South. Have we no tendency to the latter condition? Let any one who doubts carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination piece of machinery, so to speak-compounded of the Ne. braska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider not only what work the machinery is adapted to do and how well adapted, but also let him study the his. tory of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design and concert of action among its chief architects from the beginning.

The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the States by State Constitutions, and from most of the national territory by Congressional prohibition. Four days later commenced the struggle which ended in repeal. ing that Congressional prohibition. This opened all the national territory to slavery, and was the first point gained. But, so far, Congress only had acted, and an indorsement, by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable, to save the point already gained and give chance for more. This necessity had not been overlooked, but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of “squatter sovereignty," otherwise called "sacred right of selfgovernment”—which latter phrase though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That, if any one man choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object. That argument was incorporated with the Nebraska Bill itself, in the language which follows: "It being the true intent and meaning of this act, not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom; but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution

of the United States." Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of "squatter sovereignty," and "sacred right of self-government." "But," said opposition mem. bers, “let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the Territory may exclude slavery." “Not we," said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.

While the Nebraska Bill was passing through Congress, a law case, involving the question of a negro's freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free State, and then into a Territory covered by the Con. gressional prohibition, and held him as a slave for a long time in each, was passing through the United States Circuit Court for the District of Missouri; and both Nebraska Bill and lawsuit were brought to a decision in the same month of May, 1854. The negro's name was Dred Scott, which name now designates the decision finally made in the case. Before the then next Presidential election, the law case came to, and was argued in, the Supreme Court of the United States; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election. Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requested the leading advocate of the Nebraska Bill to state his opinion whether the people of a Territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answers: "That is a question for the Supreme Court."

The election came, Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the indorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The indorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly four hundred thousand votes, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory. The outgoing President, in his last an.

nual message, as impressively as possible, echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the indorsement. The Supreme Court met again, did not announce their decision, but ordered a re-argument. The Presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then, in a few days, came the decision. The reputed author of the Nebraska Bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital, indorsing the Dred Scott decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it. The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to indorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been enter. tained.

At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of the Nebraska Bill, on the mere question of fact, whether the Lecompton Constitution was, or was not, in any just sense, made by the people of Kansas; and in that quarrel the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up. I do not understand his declaration, that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, to be intended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind—the principle for which he declares he has suffered so much, and is ready to suffer to the end. And well may he cling to that principle. If he has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine. Under the Dred Scott decision, squat. ter sovereignty squatted out of existence--tumbled down

« PreviousContinue »