Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and against the slave-trade. On the question of abolishing slavery in the District, he took rather a prominent part. A Mr. Gott had introduced a resolution directing the proper committee to introduce a bill abolishing the slave-trade in the District. On January 16 (1849), Mr. Lincoln moved the following amendment, instructing the Committee to introduce a bill not for the abolition of the slave-trade, but of slavery, within the District:—

Resolved, That the Committee on the District of Columbia be instructed to report a bill in substance as follows: SEC. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress assembled, That no person now within the District of Columbia, nor now owned by any person or persons now resident within it, nor hereafter born within it, shall ever be held in slavery within said District. Sec. 2. That no person now within said District, or now owned by any person or persons now resident within the same, or hereafter born within it, shall ever be held in slavery without the limits of said District: Provided, That the officers of the Government of the United States, being citizens of the slaveholding States, coming into said District on public business, and remaining only so long as may be reasonably necessary for that object, may be attended into and out of said District, and while there, by the necessary servants of themselves and their families, without their right to hold such servants in service being impaired. Sec. 3. That all children born of slave mothers within said District, on or after the 1st day of January, in the year of our Lord 1850, shall be fee; but shall be reasonably supported and educated by the respective owners of their mothers, or by their heirs or representatives, and shall serve reasonable service as apprentices to such owners, heirs, or representatives, until they respectively arrive at the age of years, when they shall be entirely free: And the municipal authorities of Washington and Georgetown, within their respective jurisdictional limits, are hereby empowered and required to make all suitable and necessary provision for enforcing obedience to this section, on the part of both masters and apprentices. Sec. 4. That all persons now within this District, lawfully held as slaves, or now owned by any person or persons now resident within said District, shall remain such at the will of their respective owners, their heirs, or legal representatives: Provided, that such owner, or his legal representatives, may at any time receive from the Treasury of the United States the full value of his or her slave, of the class in this section inentioned, 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. Src. 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 correct 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 be 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 forbidding 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 COnle.

The question of the Territories also came up in many ways. The Wilmot Proviso 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 hav. ing 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 showcases in the large hall of the Patent Office, 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 the sand or obstruction, these bellows are to be filled with air; and, thus buoyed up, the ship is expected to float lightly and gayly 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. Herein 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 devoted to their construction. This is a model of a different kind; carved as one might inagine 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 inforins 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 wher. Abraham Lincoln wrote his bold autograph on the prow of this miniature steamer.

[graphic][graphic]

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 organitations. 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 slave. holders. 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

« AnteriorContinuar »