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nominating conventions, and do something to direct the campaign; and when the nominations were made it did according to its custom, and immediately commenced the campaign in a series of speeches. About two months after General Taylor was nominated, (July twenty-seventh,) Mr. Lincoln secured the floor, and made a speech concerning the points at issue between the two parties, and the merits of the respective candidates, General Cass having received the nomination of the democratic party. It was a telling, trenchant talk, rather than a speech-more like one of his stump orations in Illinois than like his previous efforts in the House. As a campaign harangue, touching the salient features of the principal questions in debate, and revealing the weak points of one candidate and the strong points of the other, it could not have been improved. Considered as a part of the business which he was sent to Washington to perform, it was execrable. He did what others did, and what his partisan supporters expected him to do; but his own sense of propriety must have suggested to him, or ought to have suggested to him if it did not, the indecency of the practice of president-making in Congress.
In the light of subsequent events, the speech contains some passages that are very curious and suggestive. In revealing the position and policy of General Taylor in 1848, he was unconsciously marking out his own in 1860 and 1864. General Taylor, in a letter to Mr. Allison, had said, “upon the subject of the tariff, the currency, the improvement of our great highways, rivers, lakes and harbors, the will of the people, as expressed through their representatives in Congress, ought to be respected and carried out by the executive.' Mr. Lincoln, in remarking upon this, said: "The people say to General Taylor, ‘if you are elected, shall we have a national bank?' He answers, 'Your will, gentlemen, not mine.' "What about the tariff?' 'Say yourselves.' 'Shall our rivers and harbors be improved?' 'Just as you please. If you desire a bank, an alteration of the tariff, internal improvements, any or all, I will not hinder you; if you do not desire them, I will not attempt to force them on you. Send up your
members of Congress from the various districts, with opinions according to your own, and if they are for these measures, or any of them, I shall have nothing to oppose; if they are not for them, I shall not, by any appliances whatever, attempt to dragoon them into their adoption."" From this point Mr. Lincoln went on to show in what respect a president is a representative of the people. He said: "In a certain ṣense, and to a certain extent, he is a representative of the people. He is elected by them as Congress is. But can he, in the nature of things, know the wants of the people as well as three hundred other men coming from all the various localities of the nation? If so, where is the propriety of having a Congress?"
There is much in this exposition of General Taylor's position to remind us of that upon which the speaker himself subsequently stood, when invested with the powers of the chief magistracy.
Mr. Lincoln's dissection of General Cass' position upon the questions of the canvass, was effected with characteristic neatness and thoroughness. Alluding to the subject of internal improvements Mr. Lincoln said, "My internal improvement colleague (Mr. Wentworth) stated on this floor the other day that he was satisfied Cass was for improvements because that he had voted for all the bills that he (Wentworth) had. So far, so good. But Mr. Polk vetoed some of these very bills; the Baltimore Convention passed a set of resolutions among other things approving these vetoes, and Cass declares in his letter accepting the nomination that he has carefully read these resolutions, and that he adheres to them as firmly as he approves them cordially. In other words, General Cass voted for the bills, and thinks the President did right to veto them; and his friends here are amiable enough to consider him as being one side or the other, just as one or the other may correspond with their own respective inclinations. My colleague admits that the platform declares against the constitutionality of a general system of improvements, and that General Cass indorses the platform, but he still thinks General Cass is in favor of some sort of improvements. Well, what
are they? As he is against general objects, those he is for must be particular and local. Now this is taking the subject precisely by the wrong end. Particularity-expending the money of the whole people for an object which will benefit only a portion of them-is the greatest real objection to improvements, and has been so held by General Jackson, Mr. Polk, and all others, I believe, till now." Certainly this was a very logical exposition of General Cass on internal improvements; and the charge of double dealing or gross inconsistency which it involved was unanswerable.
Mr. Lincoln tried his powers of ridicule on General Cass on this occasion. One of his palpable hits has already been quoted in connection with the history of Mr. Lincoln's participation in the Black Hawk war, in which he draws a parallel between his own bloodless experiences and those of the democratic candidate. Quoting extracts to show how General Cass had vacillated in his action on the Wilmot Proviso, he added, "These extracts show that in 1846 General Cass was for the Proviso at once, that in March, 1847, he was still for it, but not just then; and that in December he was against it altogether. This is a true index to the whole man. When the question was raised in 1846, he was in a blustering hurry to take ground for it, *** but soon he began to see glimpses of the great democratic ox-gad waving in his face, and to hear indistinctly, a voice saying, 'back! back, sir! back a little!' He shakes his head, and bats his eyes, and blunders back to his position of March, 1847; but still the gad waves, and the voice grows more distinct and sharper still-‘back, sir! back, I say! further back!' and back he goes to the position of December, 1847; at which the gad is still, and the voice soothingly says-so! stand still at that!"" The homely illustration, culled from his early experiences, was certainly forcible, if not elegant.
In this political canvass, the whigs found themselves nearly as much perplexed in the treatment of the Mexican war as they had been in Congress. They had selected as their candidate a man whose reputation had been made by the success
ful prosecution of a war which they had opposed. They were charged, of course, with inconsistency by their opponents, and were placed in the awkward position of being obliged to draw nice distinctions. It is possible that they deserved the embarrassment from which they suffered. General Taylor had, beyond dispute, been nominated because he was a military hero, and not because he had any natural or acquired fitness for the presidency. The war had made him; and the whigs had seized upon this product of the war as an instrument by which they might acquire power. Mr. Lincoln alluded to this in his speech, but showed that while the whigs had believed the war to be unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun, they had voted supplies, and sent their men. "Through suffering and death," said he, "by disease and in battle, they have endured, and fought, and fallen with you. Clay and Webster each gave a son, never to be returned. From the state of my own residence, besides other worthy but less known whig names, we sent Marshall, Morrison, Baker and Hardin; they all fought, and one fell, and in the fall of that one we lost our best whig man. Nor were the whigs few in numbers, or laggard in the day of danger. In that fearful, bloody, breathless struggle at Buena Vista, where each man's hard task was to beat back five foes, or die himself, of the five high officers who perished, four were whigs." With an allusion to the distinction between the cause of the President in beginning the war, and the cause of the country after it was begun, Mr. Lincoln closed his speech.
During the time these presidential discussions were going on in Congress, Mr. Lincoln was in close communication with the whig leaders in Illinois, laying out the work of the canvass, and trying to convert the active men of the party to his own ideas of sound policy in the conduct of the campaign. Indeed, he began this work before General Taylor was nominated, under the evident conviction that he would be the candidate, and the strong desire that he should be. As early in the year as February twentieth, he wrote a letter to U. F. Linder, a prominent whig orator of Illinois, on this subject.
It betrays the perplexity to which more than one allusion has been made, of the whigs at the time. Mr. Lincoln says, in this letter, "In law, it is good policy to never plead what you need not, lest you oblige yourself to prove what you cannot. Reflect on this well before you proceed. The application I mean to make of this rule is that you should simply go for General Taylor, because you can take some democrats and lose no whigs; but if you go also for Mr. Polk, on the origin and mode of prosecuting the war, you will still take some democrats, but you will lose more whigs, so that, in the sum of the operation, you will be loser. This is, at least, my opinion; and if you will look around, I doubt if you do not discover such to be the fact among your own neighbors. Further than this: by justifying Mr. Polk's mode of prosecuting the war, you put yourself in opposition to General Taylor himself, for we all know he has declared for, and, in fact, originated, the defensive line policy."
In this letter, Mr. Lincoln talks like a politician (and he was one of the most acute that the country ever produced,) to a politician. It looks as if he were handling grave questions of state with reference only to party ends; but the letter does not represent him wholly. In a subsequent note to the same friend, in answer to the question whether "it would not be just as easy to elect General Taylor without opposing the war, as by opposing it," he replies: "the locofocos here will not let the whigs be silent, *** so that they are compelled to speak, and their only option is whether they will, when they speak, tell the truth, or tell a foul, villainous and bloody falsehood." In this declaration, the politician sinks, and the man rises, and seems to be what he really is-honest and conscientious.
On the fourteenth day of August, the first session of the Thirtieth Congress came to a close, and the members went home to continue and complete the campaign which they had inaugurated at Washington. The session had been one of strong excitements, particular interest attaching to every important debate in consequence of its bearing upon the question