Page images
[ocr errors]

His views of Slavery in 1836.

Acquaintance with Douglas.

being the youngest member, with a single exception. During this session he rarely took the floor to speak, content to play the part of an observer rather than of an actor. It was at this period that he became acquainted with Stephen A. Douglas, then a recent immigrant from Vermont, in connection with whom he was destined to figure so prominently before the country.

In 1836, he was elected for a second term. During this session, he put upon record, together with one of his col.. leagues, his views relative to slavery, in the following protest, bearing date March 3d, 1837:

"Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both branches of the General Assembly, at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.

"They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy; but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils.

"They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power, under the Constitution, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.

"They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power, under the Constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; but that the power ought not to be exercised, unless at the request of the people of said district."

In 1838 and 1840, he was again elected and received the vote of his party for the speakership. First elected at twenty-five, he had been continued so long as his inclination allowed, and until by his kind manners, his ability, and unquestioned integrity, he had won a position, when but a little past thirty, as the virtual leader of his party in Illinois. His reputation as a close and logical debater had been established; his native talent as an orator had been developed; his earnest zeal for his party had brought around him troops of friends;

A lawyer.

Settles at Springfield.


while his acknowledged goodness of heart had knit many to him, who, upon purely political grounds, would have held themselves aloof.

While a member of the Legislature, he had devoted himself, as best he could-considering the necessity he was under of eking out a support for himself, and the demands made upon his time by his political associates-to mastering his chosen profession, and in 1836 was admitted to practice. Securing at once a good amount of business, he began to rise as a most effective jury advocate, who could readily perceive, and promptly avail himself of, the turning points of a case. A certain quaint humor, withal, which he was wont to employ in illustration-combined with his sterling, practical sense, going straight to the core of things-stamped him as an original. Disdaining the tricks of the mere rhetorician, he spoke from the heart to the heart, and was universally regarded by those with whom he came in contact as every inch a man, in the best and broadest sense of that term. His thoughts, his manner, his address were eminently his own. Affecting none of the cant of the demagogue, the people trusted him, revered him as one of the best, if not the best, among them. Their sympathies were his-their weal his desire, their interests a common stock with his own.

Having permanently located himself at Springfield, the seat of Sangamon county-which ever after he called his home-he devoted himself to the practice of his profession, and on the 4th of November, 1842, married Mary Todd, daughter of the Hon. Robert S. Todd, of Lexington, Kentucky, a lady of accomplished manners and refined social


Although he had determined to retire from the political arena and taste the sweets which a life with one's own family can alone secure, his earnest wishes were at length overruled by the as earnest demands of that party with the success of which he firmly believed his country's best interests iden

A Whig throughout.

Elected to Congress.

tified, and in 1844 he thoroughly canvassed his State in behalf of Clay-afterward passing into Indiana, and daily addressing immense gatherings until the day of election. Over the defeat of the great Kentuckian he sorrowed as one almost without hope; feeling it, indeed, far more keenly than his generous nature would have done, had it been a merely personal discomfiture.

Two years later, in 1846, Mr. Lincoln was persuaded to accept the Whig nomination for Congress in the Sangamon district, and was elected by an unprecedently large majority. Texas had meanwhile been annexed; the Mexican war was in progress; the Tariff of 1842 had been repealed.

With the opening of the Thirtieth Congress-December 6th, 1847-Mr. Lincoln took his seat in the lower house of Congress, Stephen A. Douglas also appearing for the first time as a member of the Senate.


Mexican War.


The Mexican War-Internal Improvements-Slavery in the District of Columbia-Public Lands-Retires to Private Life-Kansas-Nebraska Bill-Withdraws in favor of Senator Trumbull-Formation of Republican Party-Nominated for U. S. SenatorOpening Speech of Mr. Lincoln-Douglas Campaign-The Canvass-Tribute to the Declaration of Independence-Result of the Contest.

MR. LINCOLN was early recognized as one of the foremost of the Western men upon the floor of the House. His Congressional record is that of a Whig of those days. Believing that Mr. Polk's administration had mismanaged affairs with Mexico at the outset, he, in common with others of his party, was unwilling, while voting supplies and favoring suitable rewards for our gallant soldiers, to be forced into an unqualified indorsement of the war with that country from its beginning to its close.

[ocr errors]

Resolutions of Inquiry.

Slavery in the District of Columbia,

Accordingly, December 22d, 1847, he introduced a series of resolutions of inquiry concerning the origin of the war, calling for definite official information, which were laid over under the rule, and never acted upon. Upon a test question on abandoning the war, without any material result accomplished, he voted with the minority in favor of laying that resolution upon the table.

In all questions bearing upon the matter of internal improvements, he took an active interest. He took manly ground in favor of the unrestricted right of petition, and favored a liberal policy toward the people in disposing of the public lands. He exerted himself during the canvass of 1848, to secure the election of General Taylor, delivering several effective campaign speeches in New England and the West.

At the second session of the Thirtieth Congress, he voted in favor of laying upon the table a resolution instructing the Committee on the District of Columbia to report a bill prohibiting the slave-trade in the District, and subsequently read a substitute which he favored. This substitute contained the form of a bill enacting that no person not already within the District, should be held in slavery therein, and providing_for the gradual emancipation of the slaves already within the District, with compensation to the owners, if a majority of the legal voters of the District should assent to the act, at an election to be holden for the purpose. It made an exception of the right of citizens of the slave-holding States coming to the District on public business, to "be attended into and out of said District, and while there, by the neces sary servants of themselves and their families."

In regard to the grant of public lands to the new States, to aid in the construction of railways and canals, he favored the interests of his own constituents, under such restrictions as the proper scope of these grants required.

Having declined to be a candidate for re-election, he retired

Formation of the Republican Party.

Kansas-Nebraska Bill. Election of U. S. Senator.

once more to private life, resuming the professional practice which had been temporarily interrupted by his public duties, and taking no active part in politics through the period of General Taylor's administration, or in any of the exciting scenes of 1850.

The introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska bill by Stephen A. Douglas, in 1854, aroused him from his repose, and summoned him once more to battle for the right. In the canvass of that year, he was one of the most active leaders' of the anti-Nebraska movement, addressing the people repeatedly from the stump, with all his characteristic earnestness and energy, and powerfully aided in effecting the remarkable political changes of that year in Illinois.

The Legislature that year having to choose a United States Senator, and for the first time in the history of the State, the election of one opposed to the Democratic party being within the reach of possibility, Mr. Lincoln, although the first choice of the great body of the opposition, with characteristic self-sacrificing disposition, appealed to his old Whig friends to go over in a solid body to Mr. Trumbull, a man of Democratic antecedents, who could command the full vote of the anti-Nebraska Democrats; and the latter was consequently elected. Mr. Lincoln was subsequently offered the nomination for Governor of Illinois, but declined the honor in favor of Col. William H. Bissell, who was elected by a decisive majority.


In the formation of the Republican party as such, Mr Lincoln Bore an active and influential part, his name being presented, but ineffectually, at the first National Convention. of that party, for Vice-President; laboring earnestly during the canvass of 1856, for the election of General Fremont, whose electoral ticket he headed.

After Mr. Douglas had taken ground against Mr. Bu chanan's administration relative to the so-called Lecompton Constitution of Kansas, and had received the indorsement of

« PreviousContinue »