Page images

His action while in Congress, as since his election to the Presidency, has been in strict accordance with the scrupulous regard thus early expressed for all constitutional obligations in respect to Southern slavery, while he has never failed to do his utmost to restrict within its legal bounds an institution which he does not favor. He showed his resolute opposition to its extension by voting, while in Congress, no less than fortytwo times for the Wilmot proviso. His action on other questions was in harmony with his professed Whig principles, and a protective tariff, river and harbor improvements, and the sale of the public lands at a low valuation, received his support and vote.

Lincoln, having served in Congress but a single term, returned to the practice of his profession in Springfield. In 1848, however, he was a member of the Whig National Convention, and warmly concurred in the nomination of General Zachary Taylor for the Presidency. In 1849 he was the Whig candidate for the United States Senate, but as the majority of the Legislature of Illinois was Democratic, was beaten by his competitor, General Shields.

The repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused Lincoln once more to active political effort, and he came forward as a champion of the new Republican party organized to resist the extension of slavery. In the canvass for the choice of a senator in the place of General Shields, he sustained Judge Turnbull, and to his spirited efforts was attributed the triumph of that Republi

can candidate. So prominent had he now become as a leader of the new party, that in the Republican National Convention of 1856, which nominated John C. Fremont for President, Lincoln was pressed by the delegates from the State of Illinois as a nominee for the Vice-Presidency.

Being nominated on the 2d of June, 1858, by the Republican party of his State, candidate for the United States Senate, in opposition to Douglas, Lincoln canvassed Illinois together with his eminent competitor. Having already, in the struggle between Turnbull and Shields, tested his powers with the "Little Giant," as the partisans of Douglas fondly termed him, in allusion to his combined loftiness of intellect and, smalluess of stature, Lincoln did not hesitate to challenge his doughty antagonist to another encounter. The political contest which ensued became memorable, and Lincoln exhibited, as a freesoil combatant, such pluck and bottom that he was hailed by the Republicans of Illinois as their favorite champion. They claimed that he had victoriously sustained their principles against the stoutest leader of their antagonists. He, however, with all his vigor of fight, did not succeed in his immediate purpose of gaining the prize of the senatorship. The popular vote, it is true, proclaimed him victor, but his competitor, Douglas, received the suffrage of the State Sen, ate in consequence of the unequal apportionment law of Illinois, which gave the Democrats an undue share of its members. Lincoln, however, had secured for himself, among the expanding Republican party, an importance which obtained for him the nomination for the Presidency, and finally his elevation to that high office.


How far his political views upon the question of slavery are justifications of a defiance of the authority of his government, as is pretended by those seeking pretexts for rebellion, his own words will prove. In the course of his political contest for the senatorship, Douglas proposed certain questions to him, which are here given, with Lincoln's answers, which present a candid exposition of his opinions.

"Question 1. I desire to know whether Lincoln to-day stands pledged, as he did in 1854, in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave law?

Answer. I do not now, nor ever did, stand pledged in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave law..

Q. 2. I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to-day, as he did in 1854, against the admission of any more slave States into the Union, even if the people want them?"

A. I do not now, nor ever did, stand pledged against the admission of any more slave States into the Union.

Q. 3. I want to know whether he stands pledged against the admission of a new State into the Union, with such a constitution as the people of that State may see fit to make?

A. I do not stand pledged against the admission of a new State into the Union, with such a constitution as the people

of that State may see fit to make.


Q. 4. I want to know whether he stands to-day pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia V

A. I do not stand to-day pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

Q. 5. I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to the prohibition of the slave-trade between the different States?

A. I do not stand pledged to the prohibition of the slave-trade between the different States.

Q. 6. I desire to know whether he stands pledged to prohibit slavery in all the Territories of the United States, north as well as south of the Missouri Compromise line?

A. I am impliedly, if not expressly, pledged to a belief in the right and duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United States' Territories.

Q. 7. I desire him to answer whether he is opposed to the acquisition of any new territory, unless slavery is first prohibited therein?

A. I am not generally opposed to honest acquisition of territory; and, in any given case, I would or would not oppose such acquisition, according as I might think such acquisition would or would not aggravate the slavery question among ourselves.

Now, my friends, it will be perceived, upon an examination of these questions and answers, that so far I have only answered that I was not pledged to this, that, or the other. The Judge has not framed his interrogatories to ask me anything more than this, and I have answered in strict accordance with the interrogatories, and have answered truly that I am not pledged at all upon any of the points to which I have answered. But I am not disposed to hang upon the exact form of his interrogatory. I am rather disposed to take up at least some of these questions, and state what I really think upon them.

As to the first one, in regard to the Fugitive Slave law, I have never hesitated to say, and I do not now hesitate to say, that I think, under the Constitution of the United States, the people of the Southern States are entitled to a Congressional Fugitive Slave law. Having said that, I have had nothing to say in regard to the existing Fugitive Slave law, further than that I think it should have been framed so as to be free from some of the objections that pertain to it, without lessening its efficiency. And inasmuch as we are not now in an agitation in regard to an alteration or modification of that law, I would not be the man to introduce it as a new subject of agitation upon the general question of slavery.

In regard to the other question, of whether I am pledged to the admission of any more slave States into the Union, I state to you very frankly, that I would be exceedingly sorry ever to be put in a position of having to pass upon that question. I should be exceedingly glad to know that there would never be another slave State admitted into the Union ; but I must add that, if slavery shall be kept out of the Territories during the territorial existence of any

one given Territory, and then the people shall, having a fair chance and a clear field, when they come to adopt the Constitution, do such an extraordinary thing as to adopt a slave constitution, uninfluenced by the actual presence of the institution among them, I see no alternative, if we own the country, but to admit them into the Union.

The third interrogatory is answered by the answer to the second, it being, as I conceive, the same as the second.

The fourth one is in regard to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. In relation to that, I have my mind very distinctly made up. I should be exceedingly glad to see slavery abolished in the District of Columbia. I believe that Congress possesses the constitutional power to abolish it. Yet, as a member of Congress, I should not, with my present views, be in favor of endeavoring to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, unless it would be upon these conditions: First, that the abolition should be gradual. Second, that it should be on a vote of the majority of qualified voters in the District; and third, that compensation should be made to unwilling owners. With these three conditions, I confess I would be exceedingly glad to see Congress abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and, in the language of Henry Clay, "sweep from our capital that foul blot upon our nation."

In regard to the fifth interrogatory, I must say here, that as to the question of the abolition of the slave-trade between the different States, I can truly 19


answer, as I have, that I am pledged to nothing about it. It is a subject to which I have not given that mature consideration that would make me feel authorized to state a position so as to hold myself entirely bound by it. In other words, that question has never been prominently enough before me to induce me to investigate whether we really have the constitutional power to do it. I could investigate it if I had sufficient time to bring myself to a conclusion upon that subject; but I have not done so, and I say so frankly to you here, and to Judge Douglas. I must say, however, that if I should be of opinion that Congress does possess the constitutional power to abolish the slave-trade among the different States, I should still not be in favor of the exercise of that power unless upon some conservative principle, as I conceive it, akin to what I have said in relation to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

"My answer as to whether I desire that slavery should be prohibited in all the Territories of the United States, is full and explicit within itself, and can not be made clearer by any comments of mine. So I suppose in regard to the question whether I am opposed to the acquisition of any more territory unless slavery is first prohibited therein, my answer is such that I could add nothing by way of illustration, or making myself better understood, than the answer which I have placed in writing."

On the 16th of May, the Republican National Convention met

at Chicago. After two ballots, which resulted in no choice, Lincoln was chosen on the third, receiving three hundred and fifty-four of the whole four hundred and sixty-five votes.* The election was then made unanimous. The party responded enthusiastically to the choice, and began at once to stir the country with an exciting canvass. The "Wide Awakes," unarmed but uniformed armies of voters, mustered and led by bands of music, were paraded through the streets in marching order by day, and in torchlight processions at night. Illuminated banners, gigantic flags, and posters made the names of Lincoln and Hamlin familiar to every eye and ear. Republican orators, of whom Seward, himself the leading competitor for the nomination of President with Lincoln, was the chief, posted from State to State, city to city, and throughout the rural districts, gathering great crowds and arousing them by their fervid rhetoric to resist the encroachments of slavery, and rally to the standard of the party organized to oppose it.

The divided Democrats and the socalled Unionists were not less demonstrative with their flaunting and noisy appeals through party emblems, processions, "monster" meetings, and political speech. The country was never so agitated and party spirit so envenomed. Mutterings, in the mean time,

0 The whole number of votes was 465, of which 253 were necessary to a choice. On the first ballot, Seward received 173J, Lincoln 102, Cameron 50J, and Bates 48 ; the rest were scattered. On the second ballot, Seward received 184.J, and Lincoln 181; on the third, Lincoln had 354, Seward 1101, Dayton 1, and McLean J a vote.

of disaffection came from the South anticipating defeat, but were either not listened to, or scouted as the grumbling of impotent discontent. The clamor of party drowned all but its own voice.

In consequence of the dissensions and divisions of the Democratic party, the Republicans succeeded in electing their candidate. Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States,


having received the electoral vote of seventeen States—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin—while the electoral vote of eleven States was given to Breckinridge, three for Bell, and two for Douglas. The whole popular vote, however, was only 1,857,610 for the Republican candidate, while that for the other three combined amounted to 2,804,560.

Lincoln, by his election, became at once, from a comparatively obscure person, whose name before his nomination was hardly known beyond the limits of the State of Illinois. the most prominent man in the country. Though acknowledged in his own State as an acute lawyer and skillful politician, he had never been recognized by the country at large as a leading statesman. He had, however, acquired in Illinois such a repute for political and personal integrity, that the people of the North, of all parties, disgusted with the corruption in high

places, readily accepted him as a chief magistrate, upon whom they might rely for a strict adherence to his constitutional obligations. The "honest Abe" of his partisans would prove, it was believed, the worthy President of the great Republic.

Personally, Lincoln, who in character and manner has the unreserved and popular characteristics of the Western man, has no pretensions to the stately dignity we are apt to associate with the office of President. Retaining the informal habits of his early life, he is easily accessible, and yields without reserve his ready social sympathy to the first comer. A tall, gaunt man, with bending shoulders like an overweighted Atlas, nearly six feet and a half in height, and of great physical vigor developed by the rude labor of his earlier, and strengthened by the simple habits of his later years, he looks the representative of the sturdy democracy of the country. With none of the pretentious refinements of a fastidious culture, he yet has a naturally vigorous understanding, carefully improved by legal and political study. A certain logical acumen seems the characteristic of his mind, and tracing with untiring pertinacity the windings of an argument, he is skilled in distinguishing the plausible from the true. His mental like his moral character seems to have a natural bias for truth, and the nation, in these days of political crime, confidently trusts in his honesty.

« PreviousContinue »