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houn, Thomas H. Benton, Daniel S. Dickinson, Simon Camoron, Hannibal Hamlin, Sam Houston, R. M. T. Hunter, and William R. King.
Mr. Lincoln was comparatively quite a young man when he entered the House, yet he was early recognized as one of the foremost of the Western men on the floor. His Congressional record, throughout, is that of a Whig of those days, his votes on all leading national subjects, being invariably what those of Clay, Webster or Corwin would have been, had they occupied · his place. One of the most prominent subjects of consideration before the Thirtieth Congress, very naturally, was the then existing war with Mexico. Mr. Lincoln was one of those who believed the Administration had not properly managed its affairs with Mexico at the outsét, and who, while voting supplies and for suitably rewarding our gallant soldiers in that war, were unwilling to be forced, by any trick of the supporters of the Administration, into an unqualified indorsement of its course in this affair, from beginning to end. In this attitude, Mr. Lincoln did not stand alone. Such was the position of Whig members in both Houses, without exception. Yet his course was unscrupulously misrepresented, during the campaign of 1858, as it has been more or less, on other occasions since. That many men who supported Mr. Lincoln, approved President Polk's course in regard to the Mexican War, as well in its inception as in its management from first to last, is not improbable. But all those who, at that time, were induced by their party relations, to sustain the Administration, at heart approved the method in which hostilities were precipitated, or felt satisfied that the most commendable motives actuated the Government in its course toward Mexico, is certainly not true. This is not an issue that any existing party need be anxious to resuscitate. Still less would the friends of Mr. Lincoln be reluctant to have his record on this question scrutinized to the fullest extent.
Early in the session, after listening to a long homily on the subject from the President, in his annual message, in which the gauntlet was defiantly thrown down before the Opposition members, and after his colleague, Mr. Richardson, had pro
posed an unqualified indorsement of the President's views, Mr. Lincoln (December 22, 1847) introduced a series of resolutions of inquiry in regard to the origin of the war. They affirmed nothing, but called for definite official information, such as, if conclusively furnished in detail, and found to accord with the general asservations of Mr. Polk's messages, would have set him and his administration entirely right before the country. Either such information was accessible, or the repeated statements of the President on this subject were groundless, and his allegations. mere pretenses. If the Democratic party was in the right, it had not the least occasion to complain of this procedure, if pressed to a vote. Mr. Lincoln's preamble and resolutions (copied from the Congressional Glabe, first session, thirtieth Owngress, page 64) were in the following words :
WHEREAS, The President of the United States, in his message of May 11, 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 longcontinued series of menaces, has at last invaded our territory, and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil :"
And again, in his message of December 8, 1846, that “We had ample cause of war against Mexico long before the breaking out of hostilities; but even then we forbore to take redress into our own hands until Mexico herself became tho aggressor, by invading our soil in hostilė array, and shedding the blood of our citizens :"
And yet again, in his message of December 7, 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 message declared, was or was not within the territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819, until the Mexican revolution.
2d. Whether that spot is or is not within the territory which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary Government of Mexico.
3d. 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 approach 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 flee from the approach of the United States army, leaving unprotected their homes and their growing crops, before the blood was shed, as in the messages 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 messages declared, were or were not, at that time, armed offi. cers 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.
These resolutions were laid over, under the rule. Many other propositions, embracing the substance of this question were also brought before the House; besides Mr. Richardson's, which ultimately failed. Mr. Lincoln did not call up his resolutions, nor were they acted upon; but he commented on them in a speech subsequently made.
On the third day of January, 1849, Mr. Hudson, of Massachusetts, offered a resolution, directing the Committee on Military Affairs “to inquire into the expediency of requesting the President of the United States to withdraw to the east bank of the Rio Grande our armies now in Mexico, and to propose to the Mexican Government forthwith a treaty of peace on the following basis, namely: That we relinquish all claim to indemnity for the expenses of the war, and that the boundary between the United States and Mexico shall be established at or near the desert between the Nueces and the Rio Grande ; that Mexico shall be held to pay all just claims due to our citizens at the commencement of the war, and that a convention shall be entered into by the two nations to provide for the liquidation of those claims and the mode of payment."
This was a test question on abandoning the war, without any material result accomplished. Mr. Lincoln voted with the minority, in favor of laying this resolution on the table. On the question of adopting the resolution, which was defeated, yet voted for by John Quincy Adams, Ashmun, Vinton, and many others on the Whig side, Mr. Lincola voted in the negative. (See Congressional Globe, first session, 30th Congress, page 94.)
On the same day, almost immediately following the above action, joint resolutions of thanks to General Zachary Taylor and our troops in Mexico, having been offered, an amendment was proposed by Mr. Henley, a Democratic member from Indiana, as an adroit political maneuver, by which it was designed to secure an indorsement of the war from the Whigs, or a refusal of the vote of thanks. He moved the addition of this clause to the resolutions : “engaged, as they were, in defending the rights and honor of the nation.” As an amendment to the amendment, in order to defeat its underband purpose, Mr. Ashmun promptly moved to add the words : “In a war unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the President of the United States,” Mr. Lincoln voted for Ashmun’s amendment to Henley's amendment. So also did Messrs. Clingman and Barringer, of North Carolina ; A. H. Stephens, Robert Toombs and Thomas Butler King, of Georgia; Goggin, of Virginia ; Gentry, of Tennessee ; and a majority of all those voting. [See page 95, as above.] The object intended, of defeating the brilliant movement of Mr. Henley, was accomplished. The amendment, as amended, was not carried. The resolutions in their original shape, were subsequently re-introduced by Mr. Stephens, and adopted without opposition. (Congressional Globe, page 304.)
On the 12th day of January, 1848, Mr. Lincoln expressed his views, frankly and fully, in regard to the war with Mexico. It was the first speech made by Mr. Lincoln in Congress, and is subjoined entire, as reported in the Appendix to the Con. gressional Globe [1st session, 30th Congress, page 93]:
MR. LINCOLN'S SPEECH ON THE MEXICAN WAR. (In Committee of the Whole House, January 12, 1848.) Mr. Lincoln addressed the Committee as follows:
MR. CHAIRMAN : Some, if not all, of the gentlemen on the other side of the House, who have addressed the Committee within the last two days, have spoken rather complainingly, if I have rightly understood them, of the vote given a week or ten days ago, declaring that the war with Mexico was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President. I admit that such a vote should not be given in mere party waptonness, and that the one given is justly censurable, if it bave no other or better foundation. I am one of those who joined in that vote; and did so under my best impression of the truth of the case. How I got this impression, and how it may possibly be removed I will now try to show. When the war begun, it was my opinion that all those who, because of knowing too little, or because of knowing too much, could not conscientiously approve the conduct of the President in the beginning of it), should, nevertheless, as good citizens and patriots, remain silent on that point, at least till the war should be ended. Some leading Democrats, including ex-President Van Buren, have taken this same view, as I understand them; and I'adhered to it, and acted upon it, until since I took my seat here; and I think I should still adhere to it, were it not that the President and his friends will not allow it to be so. Besides, the continual effort of the President to argue every silent vote given for supplies into an indorsement of the justice and wisdom of his conduct; besides that singularly candid paragraph in his late message, in which he tells us that Congress with great unanimity (only two in the Senate and fourteen in the House dissenting) had declared that “ by tbc