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A few months before the Democratic National Convention met, a new issue had come into prominence. The annexation of Texas was thrust forward by the Tyler-Calhoun Administration in a manner to disturb political calculations as to the next Presidential canvass.
No such device ever had more complete success. Deeper purposes and larger consequences were also involved. “One of the foremost," says Benton, "to give away Texas, Mr. Calhoun was the very foremost to get her back; and at an immense cost to our foreign relations and domestic peace. The immediate admission of Texas into the Union was his plan. She was at war with Mexico -- we at peace; to incorporate her into the Union was to adopt her war.” Formal application for the admission of Texas was made in 1838, but her war with Mexico still continued, and this war was more than even the South in general then cared to adopt. Subsequent attempts fared likewise, but the case was not suffered to drop. Some months before the Presidential nominations were to be made, in 1844, a letter adverse to annexation had been drawn from Van Buren; and Clay had been catechised with like result. Both seemed so certain to be the opposing candidates, was it not safe for both to speak out in this way and be rid of a troublesome issue? If there was an agreement between them to such effect, never were two great men worse deceived. Van Buren's pledged majority consented to the rule requiring two-thirds to nominate; James K. Polk, of Tennessee, chosen in his stead, was elected over Clay; and annexation was an accomplished fact before Polk's inauguration.
Lincoln, as he had done four years before, can
vassed the State as one of the electoral candidates. He entered into the work with an earnest and hopeful spirit. After closing his work in Illinois, he made a brief stumping tour in Indiana. For the first time since he left the State in 1830, he visited Gentryville, and had an enthusiastic welcome from people of both parties. Still more to the purpose — if it be true, as told a good number of those who came to hear him as Democrats went away to vote for Clay, and to remain Lincoln's political as well as personal friends ever after.
Illinois remained so decidedly Democratic that any material change in a lifetime might well seem hopeless. Douglas was elected to Congress for a second term, and had not long to wait for a seat in the Senate. A skillful politician as well as a popular orator, he took control of the Democratic organization in the State with a strong hand, and exercised the leadership with shrewdness and energy, like Van Buren in New York — managing always to make party success subservient to his own advancement.
President Polk found the situation regarding Texas and Mexico all he could have wished when he took the reins. General Zachary Taylor had been ordered to Texas with a small force of regulars; and in November (1845) he occupied Corpus Christi, beyond the river Nueces, and near its mouth. Maintaining communications by the Gulf, he was to proceed to the Rio Grande, occupying positions near the coast, and opposite Matamoras, where a Mexican force largely superior to his own was soon gathered. After vainly warning off Taylor, the Mexicans crossed the river and attacked him, suffering a serious repulse at Palo Alto and again
at Resaca de le Palma, on the 8th and gth of May (1846). President Polk issued a proclamation declaring that war had been begun by Mexico, and calling for fifty thousand volunteers.
Elections for the next Congress were to occur this summer and autumn. General Taylor, fast becoming a popular idol, was meanwhile advancing on the farther side of the Rio Grande to Camargo, and thence up the valley of the San Juan to Monterey, which place he took by storm, against great odds, in October.
Lincoln had no great difficulty, this time, in securing the Congressional nomination in his district. As the election took place early in August, the victorious army in Mexico was only in the first stages of its career when the canvass closed. Few people in Illinois were making any great outcry against the war, or showed much concern over the possible acquisition of more territory into which the cotton-belt empire could expand.
As Lincoln's competitor, the Democrats nominated the Rev. Peter Cartwright, a popular Methodist preacher and presiding elder, who had removed from Kentucky to Illinois some years after his marriage, for the reason (as we have seen) that he did not wish to raise his children in a slave State. The canvass was made on the old political lines. As to slavery, Cartwright could hardly claim greater conservatism than Lincoln, unless by virtue of his connection with the Democratic party. The preacher had many warm friends, and would naturally find some favor in his own denomination among its Whig members. There were even attempts to gain votes for the Gospel minister by contrasting his orthodoxy with the undefined faith of
his opponent. Nevertheless, comparing the votes for member of Congress with the votes for Governor, Lincoln received four hundred more, and Cartwright over seven hundred less, than the head of their respective party tickets. Lincoln's plurality over Cartwright was 1,511, more than one thousand greater than the plurality in the district for the Whig candidate for Governor.
In Congress — Mexican War Ending – Lincoln's Maiden
Speech - His Second Speech - Senator Lewis Cass, the Democratic Nominee for President — Lincoln Favors the Nomination of General Taylor — The Illinois Delegates to the Whig National Convention Unanimous for Clay Taylor's Nomination — "Free Soil” Party Nominate Van Buren and Adams.
The Mexican War was nearly over when Lincoln (in December, 1847) took his seat in Congress. In the preceding February General Taylor had won a brilliant victory at Buena Vista. General Scott had taken the field with a separate force, moving from Vera Cruz; defeating the enemy at Cerro Gordo in April, and advancing with repeated engagements until, after storming Molino del Rey on the 8th of September, he entered the city of Mexico, where as a conqueror he remained many months, awaiting the settlement of terms of peace.
The Thirtieth Congress was an especially memorable one. The administration of President Polk, even under the pressure of a foreign war, had failed to retain its partisan strength in the House of Representatives, which chose the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, of Massachusetts, the Whig nominee, for Speaker. In both houses there