« AnteriorContinuar »
States the full value of his or her slave, of the class in this section mentioned, upon which such slave shall be forthwith and forever free: And pro: vided further, That the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of the Treasury, shall be a board for determining the value such slaves as their owners desire to emancipate under this section, and whose duty it shall be to hold a session for the purpose on the first Monday of each calendar month, to receive all applications, and, on satisfactory evidence in each case that the person presented for valuation is a slave, and of the class in the section mentioned, and is owned by the applicant, shall value such slave at his or her full cash value, and give to the applicant an order on the Treasury for the amount, and also to such slave a certificate of freedom.
Sec. 5. That the municipal authorities of Washington and Georgetown, within their respective jurisdictional limits, are hereby empowered and required to provide active and efficient means to arrest and deliver up to their owners all fugitive slaves escaping into said District.
SEO. 6. That the elective officers within said District of Columbia are hereby empowered and required to open polls, at all the usual places of holding elections, on the first Monday of April next, and receive the vote of every free white citizen above the age of twenty-one years, having resided within said District for the period of one year or more next preceding the time of such voting for or against this act, to proceed in taking said votes, in all respects not herein specified, as at elections under the municipal laws, and with as little delay as possible to transmit corroct statements of the votes so cast to the President of the United States; and it shall be the duty of the President to count such votes immediately, and if a majority of them be found to be for this act, to forthwith issue his proclamation giving notice of the fact; and this act shall only be in full force and effect on and after the day of such proclamation.
Sec. 7. That involuntary servitude for the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall in no wise bo prohibited by this act.
SEC. 8. That for all purposes of this act, the jurisdictional limits of Washington are extended to all parts of the District of Columbia not included within the present limits of Georgetown.
A bill was afterwards reported by the committee for- . bidding the introduction of slaves into the District for sale or hire. This bill also Mr. Lincoln supported, but in vain. The time for the success of such measures, involving to an extent attacks upon slavery, had not yet come.
The question of the Territories also came up in many ways. The Wilmot Proyiso had made its first appearance
in the previous session, in the August before, but it was repeatedly before this Congress also, when efforts were made to apply it to the territory which we procured from Mexico, and to Oregon. On all occasions when it was before the House it was supported by Mr. Lincoln, and he stated during his contest with Judge Douglas, that he had voted for it, "in one way and another, about forty times." He thus showed hinself, in 1847, to be the same friend of freedom for the Territories which he was afterwards, during the heat of the Kansas struggle.
Another instance in which the slavery question was before the House, was in the famous Pacheco case. This was a bill to reimburse the heirs of Antonio Pacheco for the value of a slave who was hired by a United States officer in Florida, but ran away and joined the Seminoles, and, being taken in arms with them, was sent out of Florida with them, when they were transported to the West. The bill was reported to the House by the Committee on Military Affairs.' This committee was composed of nine. Five of these were slaveholders, and these made the majority report. The others, not being slaveholders, reported against the bill. The ground taken by the majority was, that slaves were regarded as property by the Constitution, and when taken for public service should be paid for as property. The principle involved in the bill, therefore, was the same one which the slaveholders had struggled in so many ways to maintain. As they sought afterwards to have it established by a decision of the Supreme Court, so now they tried to have it recognized by Congress, and Mr. Lincoln opposed it there, as heartily as he afterwards withstood it when it took the more covert, but no less dangerous shape of a judicial dictum.
Mr. Lincoln's congressional career terminated at the close of this session (March 4, 1849), and, for reasons satisfactory to himself, he declined a renomination, although his re-election, had he consented to become a candidate, was morally certain. In this same year, however, he was the Whig candidate in Illinois for United
States Senator, but without success—the Democrats having the control of the State, which they retained until the conflict arising out of the Nebraska bill, in 1854.
Nothing could more forcibly illustrate the complete rest and relaxation from political cares and anxieties which Mr. Lincoln enjoyed during these few years, than the fact that he found time, while practising his profession, to indulge the exercise of his inventive faculties. A correspondent of the Boston Advertiser, writing from Washington, thus states the form in which the mechanical genius of the ex-Congressman and future President found expression :
Occupying an ordinary and commonplace position in one of the show. cases in the large hall of the Patent Oftice, is one little model which, in ages to come, will be prized as at once one of the most curious and one of the most sacred relics in that vast museum of unique and priceless things. This is a plain and simple model of a steamboat, roughly fashioned in wood, by the hand of Abraham Lincoln. It bears date in 1849, when the inventor was known simply as a successful lawyer and rising politician of Central Illinois. Neither his practice nor his politics took up so much of his time, as to prevent him from giving much attention to contrivances which he hoped might be of benefit to the world and of profit to himself.
The design of this invention is suggestive of one phase of Abraham Lincoln's early life, when he went up and down the Mississippi as a flatboatman, and became familiar with some of the dangers and inconveniences attending the navigation of the Western rivers. It is an attempt to make it an easy matter to transport vessels over shoals and snags and sawyers. The main idea is that of an apparatus resembling a noiseless bellows, placed on each side of the hull of the craft, just below the waterline, and worked by an odd but not complicated system of ropes, valves, and pulleys. When the keel of the vessel grates against tbe sand or obstruction, these bellows are to be filled with air; and, thus buoyed up, the ship is expected to float lightly and gayły over the shoal, which would otherwise have proved a serious interruption to her voyage.
The model, which is about eighteen or twenty inches long, and has the air of having been whittled with a knife out of a shingle and a cigarbox, is built without any elaboration or ornament, or any extra apparatus beyond that necessary to show the operation of buoying the steamer over the obstructions. IIerein it differs from very many of the models which share with it the shelter of the immense halls of the Patent Office, and which are fashioned with wonderful nicety and exquisite finish, as if much of the labor and thought and affection of a lifetime had been dovoted to their construction. This is a model of a different kind; carved as one might imagine a retired rail-splitter would whittle, strongly, but not smoothly, and evidently made with a view solely to convey, by the simplest possible means, to the minds of the patent authorities, an idea of the purpose and plan of the simple invention. The label on the steamer's deck informs us that the patent was obtained; but we do not learn that the navigation of the western rivers was revolutionized by this quaint conception. The modest little model has reposed here sixteen years; and since it found its resting-place here on the shelf, the shrewd inventor has found it his task to guide the ship of state over shoals more perilous, and obstructions more obstinate, than any prophet dreamed of when Abraham Lincoln wrote his bold autograph on the prow of this miniature steamer.
This curious episode, however, must not create the impression that Mr. Lincoln had allowed his mind to be entirely diverted from the observation of the important political events then transpiring. He undoubtedly noted carefully the development of those questions which subsequently absorbed so large a share of attention, and calculated accurately the influence which they would have upon the relations of the two great political organizations. He had fought slavery often enough to know what it was, and he was thoroughly conversant with the animus of its supporters. It is not, therefore, at all likely that he was taken by surprise when the Nebraska Bill was introduced, and the proposition was made by Stephen A. Douglas to repeal that very Missouri Compromise which he had declared to be “a sacred thing, which no ruthless hand would ever be reckless enough to disturb.”
The Nebraska Bill was passed May 22, 1854, and the event gave new and increased force to the popular feeling in favor of freedom, which the proposition to repeal the Missouri Compromise had excited. Everywhere the friends of freedom gathered themselves together and rallied round her banner, to meet the conflict which was plainly now closely impending, and which had been forced upon the people by the grasping ambition of the slaveholders. The political campaign of that year in Illinois was one of the severest .ever known. It was intensified by the fact that a United States Senator was to be chosen
by the legislature then to be elected, to fill the place of Shields, who had voted with Douglas in favor of the Nebraska Bill.
Mr. Lincoln took a prominent part in this campaign. He met Judge Douglas before the people on two occasions, the only ones when the Judge would consent to such a meeting. The first time was at the State Fair at Springfield, on October 4th. This was afterwards con sidered to have been the greatest event of the whole can vass. Mr. Lincoln opened the discussion, and in his clear and eloquent, yet homely way, exposed the tergiversations of which his opponent had been guilty, and the fallacy of his pretexts for his present course.
Mr. Douglas had always claimed to have voted for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise because he sustained the “great principle” of popular sovereignty, and desired that the inhabitants of Kansas and Nebraska should govern themselves, as they were well able to do. The fallacy of drawing from these premises the conclusion that they therefore should have the right to establish slavery there, was most clearly and conclusively exposed by Mr. Lincoln, so that no one could thereafter be misled by it, unless he was a willing dupe of pro-slavery sophistry.
“My distinguished friend,” said he, “says it is an insult to the emigrants of Kansas and Nebraska to suppose that they are not able to govern themselves. We must not slur over an argument of this kind because it happens to tickle the ear. It must be met and answered. I admit that the emigrant to Kansas and Nebraska is competent to govern himself, but I deny his right to govern any other person without
that person's consent.” The two opponents met again at Peoria. We believe it is universally admitted that on both of these occasions Mr. Lincoln had decidedly the advantage. The result of the election was the defeat of the Democrats, and the election of anti-Nebraska men to the legislature, to secure the election of a United States Senator who would be true to freedom, if they could be brought to unite upon a can