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Selections from Lincoln's .*
Speeches and Letters
July 27, 1848 An extract from a speech delivered in the House of Representatives while Lincoln was a Congressman from Illinois. The speech was in support of General Taylor, the Whig candidate for the Presidency. Lincoln had opposed Presi. dent Polk's declaration of war against Mexico, had introduced resolutions of inquiry on that subject, and made a strong speech on Jan. uary 12, 1848, explaining his own attitude. The speech of July 27 was full of wit, at times more caustic than refined. The extract here presented sums up clearly Lincoln's views.as to the Mexican War, and is a good example of his best parliamentary style at this stage of his career.]
But, as General Taylor is, par excellence, the hero of the Mexican War, and as you Demo'crats say we Whigs have always opposed the war, you think it must be very awkward and embarrassing for us to go for General Taylor. The declaration that we have always opposed the war is true or false, according as one may understand the term “oppose the war." If to say," the war was unnecessarily and unconsts
tutionally commenced by the President" be op posing the war, then the Whigs have very generally opposed it. Whenever they have spoken at all, they have said this ; and they have said it on what has appeared good reason to them. The marching an arıny into the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement, frightening the inhabitants away, leaving their growing crops and other property to destruction, to you may appear a perfectly amiable, peaceful, unprovok. ing procedure ; but it does not appear so to us. So to call such an act, to us appears no other than a naked, impudent absurdity, and we speak of it accordingly. But if, when the war bad begun, and had become the cause of the country, the giving of our money and our blood, in common with yours, was support of the war, then it is not true that we have always opposed the war. With few individual exceptions, you have constantly had our votes here for all the necessary supplies. And, more than this, you have had the services, the blood, and the lives of our political brethren in every trial and on every field. The beardless boy and the mature man, the humble and the distinguished-you have had them. Through suffering and death, by disease and in battle, they have endured and fought and fell with you. Clay and Webster each gave a son, never to be returned. From the State of my own residence, besides other worthy but less known Whig names, we sent Marshall, Morrison, Baker, and Hardin ; they all fought, and one fell, and in the fall of that one we lost our best Whig man. Nor were the Whigs few in number, or laggard in the day of danger. In that fearful, bloody, breathless struggle at Buena Vista, where each man's hard task was to beat back five foes or die himself, of the five high officers who perished, four were Whigs.
In speaking of this, I mean no odious com. parison between the lion-hearted Whigs and the Democrats who fought there. On other occasions, and among the lower officers and privates on that occasion, I doubt not the proportion was different. I wish to do justice to all. I think of all those brave men as Ameri. cans, in whose proud fame, as an American, I too have a share. Many of them, Whigs and Democrats, are my constituents and personal friends; and I thank them,-more than thank them, one and all, for the high imperishable honor they have conferred on our common State.
But the distinction between the cause of the President in beginning the war, and the cause of the country after it was begun, is a distinction which you cannot perceive. To you the President and the country seem to be all one. You are interested to see no distinction between them; and I venture to suggest that probably your interest blinds you a little. We see the distinction, as we think, clearly enough ; and our friends who have fought in tho war have no difficulty in seeing it also. What those who have fallen would say, were they alive and here, of course we can never know but with those who have returned there is no difficulty. Colonel Haskell and Major Gaines, members here, both fought in the war, and one of them underwent extraordinary perils and hardships : still they, like all other Whigs here, vote, on the record, that the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the Presi. dent. And even General Taylor himself, the noblest Roman of them all, has declared that as a citizen, and particularly as a soldier, it is sufficient for him to know that his country is at war with a foreign nation, to do all in his power to bring it to a speedy and honorable termina, tion by the most vigorous and energetic.operations, without inquiry about its justice, or any. thing else connected with it. . · Mr. Speaker, let our Democratic friends be comforted with the assurance that we are con. tent with our position, content with our com. pany, and content with our candidate ; and that although they, in their generous sympathy, think we ought to be miserable, we really are nót, and that they may dismiss the great and iety they have on our account.