Page images

existing hostilities, by an invasion of American soil, and an effusion of American blood, after rejecting the friendly overtures made by this country.

Mr. Lincoln's resolutions demanded to know whether the spot on which American blood had been shed, was not Mexican, or at least, disputed territory; whether the Mexicans who shed this blood had not been driven from their homes by the approach of our arms; whether the Americans killed were not armed soldiers sent into Mexican territory, by order of the President of the United States.

Parliamentary strategy defeated the proposed inquiry, the resolutions going over under the rules.

On the 12th of January, Mr. Lincoln made a speech* on the reference of different parts of the President's message. In this speech he justified a previous vote of sentiment, declaring that the war had been "unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President of the United States." That vote had been pressed upon the opposition of the House, by the President's

proaching of the United States army, leaving unprotected their homes and their growing crops before the blood was shed, as in the message stated; and whether the first blood so shed was, or was not shed within the inclosure of one of the people who had thus fled from it.

"7th. Whether our citizens whose blood was shed, as in his message declared, were, or were not, at that time, armed officers and soldiers sent into that settlement by the military order of the President, through the Secretary of War.

"8th. Whether the military force of the United States was, or was not so sent into that settlement after General Taylor had more than once intimated to the War Department that, in his opinion, no such movement was necessary to the defense or protection of Texas."-Congressional Globe, vol. xviii, 1st session, 30th Congress, page 64.

*Globe Appendix, vol, xix, page 93.

friends, in order to force an expression of opinion which should seem unjust to that functionary. Discussing this point, Mr. Lincoln coolly argued to conclusions the most injurious to the administration; showing that even though the President had attempted to construe a vote of supplies for the army into a vote applauding his official course, the opposition had remained silent, until Mr. Polk's friends forced this matter upon them. Mr. Lincoln then took up the arguments of the President's message, one by one, and exposed their fallacy; and following the line of inquiry marked out by his resolutions of December, proved that the first American blood shed by Mexicans, was in retaliation for injuries received from us, and that hostilities had commenced on Mexican soil. The speech was characterized by all the excellences of Lincoln's later style-boldness, trenchant logic, and dry humor.

He next appears in the debates,* as briefly advocating a measure to give bounty lands to the surviving volunteer soldiers of the war of 1812, and arguing the propriety of permitting all soldiers holding land warrants, to locate their lands in different parcels, instead of requiring the location to be made in one body.

As Lincoln is a man who never talks unless he has something particular to say, (rare and inestimable virtue!) a period of some three months elapsed before he made another speech in Congress. On the 20th of June,

Globe, vol. xviii, page 550.

1848, the Civil and Diplomatic Appropriation bill being under consideration, he addressed to the House and the country, a clear and solid argument in favor of the improvement of rivers and harbors.* As a Western man, and as a man whom his own boating experiences had furnished with actual knowledge of the perils of snags and sawyers, he had always been in favor of a measure which commended itself at once to the heart and the pocket of the West. As the representative of a State with many hundred miles of Mississippi river, and vast river interests, he argued to show that an enlightened system of internal improvements, must be of national as well as local benefit. The prevailing Democratic errors on this subject, as Mr. Lincoln succinctly stated them, were as follows:

"That internal improvements ought not to be made by the General Government:

"1. Because they would overwhelm the Treasury.

"2. Because, while their burdens would be general, their benefits would be local and partial, involving an obnoxious inequality; and,

"3. Because they would be unconstitutional.

"4. Because the States may do enough by the levy

and collection of tonnage duties; or, if not,

"5. That the Constitution may be amended.

Globe Appendix, vol. xix, page 709.

†This speech will be found printed at length in the appendix to the present biography.

'The sum," said Lincoln, "of these positions is, Do nothing at all, lest you do something wrong."

He then proceeded to assail each of the positions, demolishing them one after another. That admirable. simplicity of diction which dashes straight at the heart of a subject, and that singular good sense which teaches a man to stop when he is done, are no less the characteristics of this effort than of all the other speeches of Mr. Lincoln.


Of a different manner, but illustrating a phase of his mind equally marked, is the speech he made in the House on the 27th of July, when he discussed the political questions of the day with reference to the Presidential contest between General Taylor and Mr. Cass. It abounds in broad ridicule and broad drollery-the most effective and the most good-natured. Severe and sarcastic enough, when treating a false principle, it seems never to have been one of Lincoln's traits to indulge in bitter personalities. His only enemies, therefore, are those who hate his principles.

On the 21st of December, 1848, Mr. Gott, of New York, offered a resolution in the House, instructing the Committee on the District of Columbia to report a bill for the abolition of the slave-trade in that District. There were men in Congress then who had not forgotten the traditions of the Republican fathers, and who were indignant that slaves should be bought and sold

* Globe Appendix, vol. xix, page 1011.

in the shadow of the capital-that the slave-trader should make the political metropolis of the Republic a depot on the line of his abominable traffic.

As soon as the resolution of Mr. Gott was read, a motion was made to lay it on the table, which was lost by a vote of eighty-one to eighty-five. A hot struggle ensued; but the resolution was adopted. An immediate attempt to reconsider proved ineffectual. The action upon reconsideration was postponed from day to day, until the 10th of January following, when Mr. Lincoln proposed that the committee should be instructed to report a bill forbidding the sale, beyond the District of Columbia, of any slave born within its limits, or the removal of slaves from the District, except such servants as were in attendance upon their masters temporarily residing at Washington; establishing an apprenticeship of twenty-one years for all slaves born within the District subsequent to the year 1850; providing for their emancipation at the expiration of the apprenticeship; authorizing the United States to buy and emancipate all slaves within the District, whose owners should desire to set them free in that manner; finally submitting the bill to a vote of the citizens of the District for approval.

It is well known that the efforts to abolish the slavetrade in the District of Columbia have resulted in nothing. The wise, humane, and temperate measure of Mr. Lincoln shared the fate of all the rest.

Mr. Lincoln's proposition had received the approval of Mayor Seaton, of Washington, who informed him that it would meet the approbation of the

« PreviousContinue »