Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Washington, where he died in 1865. His Life and Speeches was published in 1859.

Corwin had an unusually striking face, strong, determined features, and a swarthy complexion, which he often made the subject of his wit. Thus he told of an English dowager, seated next him at a dinner, who asked him in a tone of trepidation: “Is your t-tribe at P-peace with the whites?”—and of his exclusion from a quadroon ball in New Orleans by the doorkeeper, who waved him away saying, “No niggahs allowed.'

He was reckoned in his day as the most effective of platform orators, and had no rival in power of influencing a jury. His genial humor made him a favorite even with his political opponents. When he returned to Congress after his service as Senator, he was looked up to as a Nestor by all the House, and, being regarded as a moderate man on the slavery issue (the odium resulting from his Mexican war speech having caused him to temper his opinions), had the leading place given him in the attempt to conciliate the Southerners threatening secession.

It was this danger of dissolution that he warned the country against in his peroration on the Mexican War.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"Oh, Mr. President, it does seem to me, if hell itself could yawn and vomit up the fiends commissioned to disturb the harmony of this world . the first step in the consummation of this diabolical purpose would be to light up the fires of internal war, and plunge the sister States of this Union into the bottomless gulf of civil strife. We stand to-day on the crumbling brink of that gulf—we see its bloody eddies wheeling and boiling before us—shall we not pause before it be too late? How plain ... is here the path,

the only way of duty, of prudence, of true patriotism. Let us abandon all idea of acquiring further territory, and ... cease at once to prosecute this war.... Tender Mexico peace, and, my life on it, she will accept it. But, whether she shall or not, you will have peace without her consent. It is your invasion that has made war; your retreat will restore peace.

Let us then close forever the approaches of internal feud, and so return to the ancient concord, and the old way of national prosperity and permanent glory. Let us here, in this temple consecrated to the Union, perform a solemn lustration; let us wash Mexican blood from our hands, and on these altars, in the presence of that image of the Father of his Country that looks down upon us, swear to preserve honorable peace with all the world, and eternal brotherhood with each other."

[ocr errors]

In the course of his speech Senator Corwin, as Representative Giddings had done, paraphrased Lord Chatham, and said: “If I were a Mexican as I am an American I would welcome these invaders with bloody hands to hospitable graves.'

This utterance made him exceedingly unpopular with all but the extreme anti-slavery men in the country.

Abraham Lincoln, a new Representative from Illinois, while he voted for supplying the troops, introduced in the House on December 22, 1847, resolutions calling on President Polk for information as to the circumstances of the origin of the war.

Sketch of Lincoln Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, in a log cabin on a rather sterile farm in La Rue (now Hardin) county, Kentucky, about three miles from Hodgensville.' His parents, Thomas and Nancy (Hanks) Lincoln, were both of Quaker descent. When

[ocr errors]

*A full-sized model of the cabin is contained in a memorial building on the farm which was erected by the Lincoln Farm Association, and this and the farm are preserved as a national heritage.

the boy was seven years old and his elder sister nine, the family removed to an equally undesirable farm near Gentryville, Ind. The hard struggle with pioneer conditions caused the death of Mrs. Lincoln two years afterwards, and Mr. Lincoln returned to Kentucky and brought back as his second wife, Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow with several young children. His stepmother exerted a wise and loving influence over “Abe,” to which he responded so faithfully that she held him dearer than any of her own brood. He transformed his inherited shiftlessness into industry, and for her sake he abandoned his ambition to become a river boatman, and remained on the farm, working on this, and, as a hired man, on neighboring farms, the results of his labors being taken, according to custom, by his father until he attained his majority. He obtained a scanty education from chance schoolteachers who strayed into the region, and read over and over again the few books in the neighborhood, such as the Bible, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Æsop's Fables, and Weems's Life of Washington. He early began to write down his impressions of what he read and his original thoughts, and to work out arithmetical problems. He also practised himself in speaking to imaginary audiences.

By the time he was nineteen he had acquired an excellent handwriting and a clear style of composition, and so was intrusted by the Gentrys, the founders of the community, with a cargo of farm products which he took on a flat-boat to New Orleans, and there sold.

Thomas Lincoln had never been able to pay off the mortgage on his farm, and so, selling the little equity in the property to the mortgagee, he removed, when Lincoln was twenty-one years of age, to Mason Courty,

14

Illinois, and located on rich bottomland of the Sangamon River. Here Abraham helped build the house and split the rails to enclose the field, and then left the family to strike out for himself. The next year Thomas Lincoln, affected by the ague of the river land, removed to a more healthful home on Goose-Nest Prairie in Coles County. Thomas Lincoln died here in 1851, and his wife in 1869. Abraham paid them two visits, once just before he began the practice of law. He thus records this visit and its occasion:

“I was told that I never would make a lawyer, if I did not understand what 'demonstrate' means. I left my situation in Springfield, went to my father's house, and stayed there till I could give any proposition in the six books of Euclid at sight. I there found out what 'demonstrate' means.

The second visit was just before he went to Washington to be inaugurated as President. As he was leaving, his stepmother, with arms about his neck and with tears streaming down her cheeks, prophesied his death before she would see him again.

The first job of the independent Lincoln, now fullgrown to the height of six feet and four inches, and of extraordinary muscular strength, being the champion wrestler of the region, was on another flat-boat expedition to New Orleans. Here he witnessed a slave auction, which gave him such a sickening sense of horror at slavery that he remarked:

"If I ever get a chance at that thing, I'll hit it, and hit it hard."

Returning to Illinois, Lincoln settled at New Salem as clerk in the store of the projector of the flat-boat expedition. Here he spent much time in reading, specially preparing himself in law. He also took private lessons of a local school-teacher in mathematics, geography, and grammar. Soon he entered into partnership with a man of even less capital than himself, and conducted a country store, which did not thrive, owing largely to his partner's drunkenness, and Lincoln's want of business ability. Indeed, he confessed late in life that he had always been a poor financier. In 1832 he volunteered in the Black Hawk war. In the same year he was defeated as the Whig candidate for the legislature, his local popularity, however, being shown by New Salem casting for him all of her votes but three. He was then appointed postmaster of the town and deputy-surveyor of the county. In 1834 he was elected to the legislature, and in the same year removed to Springfield and entered into law partnership with John T. Stuart, an able practitioner whose acquaintance he had formed in the Black Hawk war. He remained in the legislature four terms, declining reelection in 1840. From the first he took a prominent place in that body, and led the State into a wild orgy of internal improvements, which were never completed, though they saddled the poor pioneer commonwealth with a debt of $8,000,000. In his closing term, Lincoln deeply regretted his part in the movement, and confessed his share in responsibility for it. By promising canals, etc., to some counties, and money appropriations in lieu of these to others, he and eight other of the representatives from the Springfield region, who were known as the “Long Nine," because all were over six feet in height, succeeded in accomplishing the removal of the State capital from Vandalia to Springfield, although there were other contesting towns far more deserving of this honor than Lincoln's

« AnteriorContinuar »