« PreviousContinue »
1838, and 1840, was re-elected. While attending the proceedings of the first session, be determined to become a lawyer, and being placed in possession of the necessary books through the kindness of the Hon. John T. Stuart, applied himself to study, and in 1836 was admitted to practice at the bar. In April, 1837, he removed to Springfield, and became a partner of Mr. Stuart.
A THRILLING INCIDENT IN HIS LEGAL
CAREER. One instance which occurred during his early legal practice is worthy of extended publication. At a camp meeting held in Menard county, a fight took place which ended in the murder of one of the participants in the quarrel. A young man named Armstrong, a son of the aged couple for whom many years before Abraham Lincoln had worked, was charged with the deed, and being arrested and examined, a true bill was found against him, and he was lodged in jail to await his trial. As soon as Mr. Lincoln received intelligence of the affair, he addressed a kind letter to Mrs. Armstrong, stating bis anxiety that her son should have a fair trial, and offering in return for her kindness to him while in adverse circumstances some years before, his services gratuitously. Investigation convinced the volunteer attorney that the young man was the victim of a conspiracy, and he determined to postpone the case until the excitement had subsided. The day of trial however finally arrived, and the accuser testified positively that he saw the accused plunge the knife into the heart of the murdered man. He remembered all the circumstances perfectly; the murder was committed about half-past nine o'clock at night, and the moon was shining brightly. Mr. Lincoln reviewed all the testimony carefully, and then proved.conclusively that the moon which the accuser had sworn was shining brightly, did not rise until an hour
or more after the murder was committed. Other discrepancies were exposed, and in thirty minutes after the jury retired they returned with a verdict of “Not Guilty ”
A PROTEST AGAINST SLAVERY. On the third of March, 1837, a protest was presented to the House of Representatives of Illinois and signed by “Daniel Stone and Abraham Lincoln, Representatives from Sangamon county,” which is the first record that we have of the sentiments of the subject of our sketch on the slavery question. It was in opposition to a series of resolutions which had been adopted, taking an extreme Southeri view of slavery, for which Mr. Lincoln refused to vote, and subsequently handed in the protest. IS A CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTOR. In every campaign from 1836 to 1852, he was a Whig candidate for Presidential Elector, and in 1844, be stumped the entire State of Illinois for Henry Clay; and then crossing the line into Indiana, spoke daily to immense gatherings, until the day of election. His style of speaking was pleasing to the masses of the people, and his earnest appeals were not only well received, but were productive of much benefit to his favorite candidate. Accustomed from early childhood to the habits and peculiarities of all kinds and conditions of men—the refined and the vulgar, the intelligent and the illiterate, the rich and the poor-he knew exactly what particular style of language best suited his hearers, and the result was that he was always listened to with a degree of attention and interest which few political speakers receive.
MR. LINCOLN ELECTED TO CONGRESS-HIS
VOTES AND SPEECHES DURING HIS CON.
Central District of Illinois, by a majority of over fifteen hundred votes, the largest ever given in that District to any candidate opposed to the Democratic party. Illinois elected seven Representatives that year; and all were Democrats but Mr. Lincoln. He took his seat on the first Monday of December, 1847, and during the exciting session that followed, cast his vote pro or con on every important question, and on more than one occasion displayed his eloquence and superior argumentative ability. One of his first votes was given on the twentieth of December in favor of the following resolution :
“Resolved, That if, in the judgment of Congress, it be necessary to improve the navigation of a river to expedite and render secure the movements of our army, and save from delay and loss our arms and munitions of war, that Congress bas the power to improve such river.
"Resolved, That if it be necessary for the preservation of the lives of our seamen, repairs, safety, or maintenance of our vessels-of-war, to improve a harbor or inlet, either on our Atlantic or Lake coast, Congress has the power to make such improvement.”
On the twenty-second of the same month, he voted in favor of a similar resolution, and on the same day offered the following series of resolutions, which he introduced with one of his characteristic speeches, humorous at one moment and logical at the next. Although, like the large majority of the Whig party opposed to the declaration of war with Mexico by the President, he never failed to vote for any resolution or bill which had for its object the sending of supplies to our troops who had been ordered to the seat of war. The resolutions read as follows:
“Whereas, The President of the United States, in his mes. sage of May 11th, 1846, has declared that the Mexican Government not only refused to receive him (the envoy of the United States) or listen to his propositions, but, after a long-continued series of menaces, bave at last invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow.citizens on our own soil.'
“And again, in his message of December 8th, 1846, that we had ample canse of war against Mexico long before the breaking out of hostilities, but even then we forbore to take redress into our own hands until Mexica herself became the aggressor by invading our soil in hostile array, and shedding the blood of our citizens.
“And yet again, in the message of December 7tb, 1847, that 'the Mexican Government refused even to hear the terms of adjustment which he (our minister of peace) was authorized to propose; and, finally, under wholly unjustifiable pretexts, involved the two countries in war by invading the territory of the State of Texas, striking the first blow, and shedding the blood of our citizens on our own soil.'
" And whereas, This House is desirous to obtain a full knowledge of all the facts which go to establish whether the particular spot on which the blood of our citizens was so shed, was or was not at that time our own soil. Therefore,
“Resolved, by the House of Representatives, That the President of the United States be respectfully requested to inform this House,
“1st. Whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens was shed, as in his messages declared, was or was not within the Territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819, until the Mexican revolution.
“2nd. Whether that spot is or is not within the territory which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary Government of Mexico.
" 3rd. Whether that spot is or is not within a settlement of people, which settlement has existed ever since long before the Texas revolution, and until its inhabitants fled before the ap. proach of the United States Army.
“4th. Whether that settlement is or is not isolated from any and all other settlements by the Gulf and the Rio Grande on the south and west, and by wide uninhabited regions on the north and east.
“5th. Whether the people of that settlement, or a majority of them, or any of them, have ever submitted themselves to the Government or laws of Texas or of the United States, by consent or by compulsion, either by accepting office, or voting at elections, or paying tax or serving on juries, or having process served upon them, or in any other way.
“6th. Whether the people of that settlement did or did not fice from the approach 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, 80 shed, was or was not shed within the enclosure of one of the people who had thus fled from it.
"7th. Whether our citizens, whose blood was shed, as in his messages 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 defence or protection of Texas.”
On several occasions during the session, he voted for the reception of petitions and memorials in favor of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, against the slave-trade, and advocating the prohibition of slavery in the territory that might be acquired from Mexico.
On the seventeenth of February, 1848, Mr. Lincoln voted for a Loan bill reported by the Committee of Ways and Means, authorizing the raising of sixteen millions of dollars to enable the Government to provide for its debts, principally incurred in Mexico.
On the eleventh of May, in moving to reconsider a vote by which a bill having reference to the public lands had. passed, he made the following remarks :
“He stated to the House that he had made this motion for the purpose of obtaining an opportunity to say a few words in relation to a point raised in the course of the debate on this bill, which he would now proceed to make, if in order. The point in the case to which he referred, arose on the amendment that was submitted by the gentleman from Vermont (Mr. Collamer), in Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union, and which was afterwards renewed in the House, in relation to the question whether the reserved sections, which, by some bills heretofore passed, by which an appropriation of land bad been made to Wisconsin, had been enhanced in value, sbould be reduced to the minimum price of the public lands. The question of the reduction in value of those sections was, to him, at this time, a matter very nearly of indifference. He was inclined to desire that Wisconsin should be obliged by having it reduced. But the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. O. B. Smith), the Chairman of the Committee on the Territories, associated that ques. tion with the general question, which is now, to some extent, agitated in Congress, of making appropriations of alternate sections of land to aid the States in making internal improvements, and enhancing the prices of the section reserved, and the gen.