Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

dent gives us a long Message without showing us that, as to the end, he has himself even an imaginary conception. As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed God grant he may be able to show that there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity.

man.

This speech he hastened to send home as soon as it was printed; for, while throughout he trod on unquestionable Whig ground, he had excellent reasons to fear the result. The following is the first letter to Mr. Herndon after the delivery of the speech, and notifying him of the fact:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAM, Enclosed you find a letter of Louis W. Candler. What is wanted is, that you shall ascertain whether the claim upon the note described has received any dividend in the Probate Court of Christian County, where the estate of Mr. Overton Williams has been administered on. If nothing is paid on it, withdraw the note and send it to me, so that Candler can see the indorser of it. At all events, write me all about it, till I can somehow get it off hands. I have already been bored more than enough about it; not the least of which annoyance is his cursed, unreadable, and ungodly handwriting.

I have made a speech, a copy of which I will send you by next mail.
Yours as ever,

A. LINCOLN.

About the last of January, or the first of February, he began to hear the first murmurs of alarm and dissatisfaction from his district. He was now on the defensive, and compelled to write long and tedious letters to pacify some of the Whigs. Of this character are two extremely interesting epistles to Mr. Herndon :

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAM, Your letter of the 19th ult. was received last night, and for which I am much obliged. The only thing in it that I wish to talk to you about at once is, that, because of my vote for Ashmun's amendment, you fear that you and I disagree about the war. I regret this, not because of any fear we shall remain disagreed after you have read this letter, but because if you misunderstand, I fear other good friends may also. That vote affirms, that the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President; and I will stake my life, that, if you had been in my place, you would have voted just as I did. Would you have voted what you felt

Would you have gone out
If you had skulked one

and knew to be a lie? I know you would not. of the House, skulked the vote? I expect not. vote, you would have had to skulk many more before the end of the session. Richardson's resolutions, introduced before I made any move, or gave any vote upon the subject, make the direct question of the justice of the war; so that no man can be silent if he would. You are compelled to speak; and your only alternative is to tell the truth or tell a lie. I cannot doubt which you would do.

This vote has nothing to do in determining my votes on the questions of supplies. I have always intended, and still intend, to vote supplies; perhaps not in the precise form recommended by the President, but in a better form for all purposes, except Locofoco party purposes. It is in this particular you seem mistaken. The Locos are untiring in their efforts to make the impression that all who vote supplies, or take part in the war, do, of necessity, approve the President's conduct in the beginning of it; but the Whigs have, from the beginning, made and kept the distinction between the two. In the very first act nearly all the Whigs voted against the preamble declaring that war existed by the act of Mexico; and yet nearly all of them voted for the supplies. As to the Whig men who have participated in the war, so far as they have spoken to my hearing, they do not hesitate to denounce as unjust the President's conduct in the beginning of the war. They do not suppose that such denunciation is directed by undying hatred to them, as “The Register" would have it believed. There are two such Whigs on this floor (Col. Haskell and Major James). The former fought as a colonel by the side of Col. Baker, at Cerro Gordo, and stands side by side with me in the vote that you seem dissatisfied with. The latter, the history of whose capture with Cassius Clay you well know, had not arrived here when that vote was given; but, as I understand, he stands ready to give just such a vote whenever an occasion shall present. Baker, too, who Baker, too, who is now here, says the truth is undoubtedly that way; and, whenever he shall speak out, he will say so. Donaphin, too, the favorite Whig of Missouri, and who overrun all Northern Mexico, on his return home, in a public speech at St. Louis, condemned the administration in relation to the war, if I remember. G. T. M. Davis, who has been through almost the whole war, declares in favor of Mr. Clay; from which I infer that he adopts the sentiments of Mr. Clay, generally at least. On the other hand, I have heard of but one Whig who has been to the war attempting to justify the President's conduct. That one was Capt. Bishop; editor of "The Charleston Courier," and a very clever fellow. I do not mean this letter for the public, but for you. Before it reaches you, you will have seen and read my pamphlet speech, and, perhaps, scared anew by it. After you get over your scare, read it over again, sentence by sentence, and tell me honestly what you think of it. I condensed all I could for fear of being cut off by the hour rule; and, when I got through, I had spoken but forty-five minutes. Yours forever,

Col.

A. LINCOLN.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAM, Your letter of the 29th January was received last · night. Being exclusively a constitutional argument, I wish to submit some reflections upon it in the same spirit of kindness that I know actuates you. Let me first state what I understand to be your position. It is, that, if it shall become necessary to repel invasion, the President may, without violation of the Constitution, cross the line, and invade the territory of another country; and that whether such necessity exists in any given case, the President is the sole judge.

Before going farther, consider well whether this is, or is not, your position. If it is, it is a position that neither the President himself, nor any friend of his, so far as I know, has ever taken. Their only positions are, first, that the soil was ours where the hostilities commenced; and second, that, whether it was rightfully ours or not, Congress had annexed it, and the President, for that reason, was bound to defend it, both of which are as clearly proved to be false in fact as you can prove that your house is mine. That soil was not ours; and Congress did not annex, or attempt to annex it. But to return to your position. Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, "I see no probability of the British invading us;" but he will say to you, "Be silent: I see it, if you don't.”

The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood. Write soon again.

[ocr errors]

Yours truly,

A. LINCOLN.

But the Whig National Convention to nominate a candidate for the Presidency was to meet at Philadelphia on the 1st of June, and Mr. Lincoln was to be a member. He was not a Clay man he wanted a candidate that could be elected; and

:

he was for "Old Rough," as the only available material at hand. But let him explain himself:

WASHINGTON, April 30, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAMS, I have not seen in the papers any evidence of a movement to send a delegate from your circuit to the June Convention. I wish to say that I think it all important that a delegate should be sent. Mr. Clay's chance for an election is just no chance at all. He might get New York; and that would have elected in 1844, but it will not now, because he must now, at the least, lose Tennessee, which he had then, and in addition the fifteen new votes of Florida, Texas, Iowa, and Wisconsin. I know our good friend Browning is a great admirer of Mr. Clay, and I therefore fear he is favoring his nomination. If he is, ask him to discard feeling, and try if he can possibly, as a matter of judgment, count the votes necessary to elect him.

In my judgment we can elect nobody but Gen. Taylor; and we cannot elect him without a nomination. Therefore don't fail to send a delegate. Your friend as ever,

A. LINCOLN.

TO ARCHIBALD WILLIAMS, Esq.

WASHINGTON, June 12, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAMS, On my return from Philadelphia, where I had been attending the nomination of "Old Rough,” I found your letter in a mass of others which had accumulated in my absence. By many, and often, it had been said they would not abide the nomination of Taylor; but, since the deed has been done, they are fast falling in, and in my opinion we shall have a most overwhelming, glorious triumph. One unmistakable sign is, that all the odds and ends are with us, Barnburners, Native Americans, Tyler men, disappointed, office-seeking Locofocos, and the Lord knows what. This is important, if in nothing else, in showing which way the wind blows. Some of the sanguine men here set down all the States as certain for Taylor but Illinois, and it is doubtful. Cannot something be done even in Illinois ? Taylor's nomination takes the Locos on the blind side. It turns the war thunder against them. The war is now to them the gallows of Haman, which they built for us, and on which they are doomed to be hanged themselves. Excuse this short letter. I have so many to write that I cannot devote much time to any one.

Yours as ever,

A. LINCOLN.

But his young partner in the law gave him a great deal of annoyance. Mr. Herndon seems to have been troubled by patriotic scruples. He could not understand how the war had

been begun unconstitutionally and unnecessarily by President Polk, nor how the Whigs could vote supplies to carry on the war without indorsing the war itself. Besides all this, he sent news of startling defections; and the weary Representative took up his pen again and again to explain, defend, and advise:

WASHINGTON, June 22, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAM,- Last night I was attending a sort of caucus of the Whig members, held in relation to the coming Presidential election. The whole field of the nation was scanned; and all is high hope and confidence. Illinois is expected to better her condition in this race. Under these circumstances, judge how heart-rending it was to come to my room and find and read your discouraging letter of the 15th. We have made no gains, but have lost “H. R. Robinson, Turner, Campbell, and four or five more.” Tell Arney to reconsider, if he would be saved. Baker and I used to do something, but I think you attach more importance to our absence than is just. There is another cause in 1840, for instance, we had two Senators and five Representatives in Sangamon; now, we have part of one Senator and two Representatives. With quite one-third more people than we had then, we have only half the sort of offices which are sought by men of the speaking sort of talent. This, I think, is the chief cause. Now, as to the young men. You must not wait to be brought forward by the older men. For instance, do you suppose that I should ever have got into notice if I had waited to be hunted up and pushed forward by older men. You young men get together and form a Rough and Ready Club, and have regular meetings and speeches. Take in everybody that you can get. Harrison, Grimsley, Z. A. Enos, Lee Kimball, and C. W. Matheny will do to begin the thing; but, as you go along, gather up all the shrewd, wild boys about town, whether just of age or a little under age, Chris. Logan, Reddick Ridgely, Lewis Zwizler, and hundreds such. Let every one play the part he can play best,- some speak, some sing, and all hollow. Your meetings will be of evenings; the older men, and the women, will go to hear you; so that it will not only contribute to the election of "Old Zack," but will be an interesting pastime, and improving to the intellectual faculties of all engaged. Don't fail to do this.

You ask me to send you all the speeches made about "Old Zack,” the war, &c., &c. Now, this makes me a little impatient. I have regularly sent you "The Congressional Globe” and “Appendix,” and you cannot have examined them, or you would have discovered that they contain every speech made by every man in both Houses of Congress, on every subject, during the session. Can I send any more? Can I send speeches that nobody has made? Thinking it would be most natural that the newspapers would feel interested to give at least some of the speeches to their readers, I, at the beginning of the session, made arrangements to have one copy of "The Globe" and "Appendix

« AnteriorContinuar »