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for exertion which that relation brought upon him.
One afternoon, while sitting in the law-office with his partner, Wm. Herndon, Esq., busily employed in his professional labors, a povertystricken old negro woman, with care and sorrow depicted on her furrowed face, came in and requested an interview. She and her children had been slaves in Kentucky, and their master had brought them into Illinois and set them free. Her son obtained employment as steward on a river steamer plying between Springfield and New Orleans, and supported her by his wages. Imprudently stepping off the boat at the latter city, he was seized by the rapacious police, under the assumed authority of the laws of Louisiana against the immigration of free negroes, and hurried off to prison, where he was liable to be sold into perpetual slavery in payment of his fine. Mr. Lincoln heard the story, and requested Mr. IIerndon to go to Gov. Bissell, whose office was near at hand, and request his interference. Bissell replied that the Constitution gave him no right whatever to call in question the laws of a Southern State. On hearing this, Lincoln sprang to his feet in great excitement, struck his
DEFENDING THE FRIENDLESS.
desk with clinched hand, and exclaimed, “I'll have that negro back, or I'll have such an agitation in Illinois that the Governor will learn his constitutional rights !” It did not become necessary for Mr. Lincoln to make his threatened appeal for justice to the people. The colored man was recovered by the New Orleans authorities and restored to his aged mother.
Not unfrequently fugitive slaves were pursued, in their eager flight for freedom, and captured in Mr. Lincoln's district, or in the vicinity. But such was the terror which the epithet “Abolitionist” or “nigger thief” inspired that most lawyers were unwilling to incur the odium of defending them before the courts. But Lincoln in Illinois, like Chase in Ohio, and Stephens in Pennsylvania, never quailed before that cruel, black, and bloody power. He stood between it and its trembling victims, defending them to the utmost, whenever called upon. Other lawyers said, “It is right and just to defend these fugitives, but we have political aspirations, and can not afford it." Lincoln and Chase had aspirations too, but they could not afford to unman and degrade themselves. The one became President and the other Chief Justice of the
United States, by regarding justice as the first object to be sought; while of all that herd of pliant politicians, scarce one is known beyond a limited circle.
In 1846 Mr. Lincoln sought and obtained a nomination for Congress in the Sangamon district, and after a spirited canvass was elected by a majority of 1,511 votes—597 greater than the same district had given the year before to that polished and popular statesman Henry Clay, as candidate for the Presidency. lights of the past generation were then in the legislative halls—Clay, Webster, Calhoun, Benton, and Adams. Those men, though probably not superior in intellect and eloquence to many now occupying their places, exerted a wider influence and control than men of equal powers could do now.
That was the era in our country's history for the leadership of men. The mighty struggle of a later day reversed this order, and gave the country the leadership of the masses. The personal fortunes of the leader were then an object of interest; they are now wholly disregarded. The people use the men who seem best adapted to serve their purposes; the moment he proves himself unfit, unwilling,
A PERIOD OF RETIREMENT.
or inadequate, he is cast aside with as little regret as the artisan casts aside a worthless instrument, which is a change greatly for the better. Mr. Lincoln made a respectable legislator, but did not succeed in rising above the shadow cast by those great names.
At the close of his Congressional term, in 1849, Mr. Lincoln returned to the quiet routine of his profession, taking little part in politics, but by no means indifferent to the questions of importance in the political world, as they arose. His next appearance in public life was in a controversy far more grand in its proportions and glorious in its results than any that had taxed the strength of true patriots since the close of the American Revolution. The better to understand the circumstances of this contest, let us briefly recur to the aggressive power by whom it was forced upon the country, and for the struggle with which God had trained Abraham Lincoln from his mother's knee.
THE IRREPRESSIBLE CONFLICT.
FRICAN slavery and the slave-trade were first introduced into Morocco,
Spain, and Portugal, by the Moors, nearly seven hundred years ago. After the banishment of that race from their possessions in Europe, the Spaniards and Portuguese seized upon the abhorrent traffic, and have practiced it continually since, even after other nations had pronounced it piracy and punished it with death. From that cruel and unprincipled people the New World received that spirit of oppression and sham-chivalry which became such a mighty power for wickedness in our hemisphere. The tortures inflicted by Pizarro in Peru, by Cortez in Mexico, and by the rebels at Andersonville, are all parts of the same cast, actuated by the same spirit, and repeating age after age, the same bombastic ideas, stilted forms of expression, and the same cruel practices.