Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

that was consistent. Such is the truth, and the Judge has a right to make all he can out of it. But when he, by a general charge, conveys the idea that I withheld supplies from the soldiers who were fighting in the Mexican war, or did any thing else to hinder the soldiers, he is, to say the least, grossly and altogether mistaken, as a consultation of the records will prove to him."

AVe need no more thorough refutation of this imputation upon his patriotism than is embodied in this clear and distinct denial. It required no little sagacity, at that time, to draw a clear line of demarcation between supporting the country while engaged in war, and sustaining the Avar itself, which Mr. Lincoln, in common with the great body of the party with which he was connected, regarded as utterly unjust. The Democratic party made vigorous use of the charge everywhere. The whole foundation of it, doubtless, was the fact which Mr. Lincoln states, that, whenever the Democrats tried to get him "to vote that the war had been righteously begun,"' he would not do it. He showed, in fact, on this point, the same clearness and directness, the same keen eye for the important point in a controversy, and the same tenacity in holding it fast, and thwarting his opponent's utmost efforts to obscure it and cover it up, to draw attention to other points and raise false issues, which were the marked characteristics of his great controversy with Judge Douglas at a subsequent period of their political history. It is always popular, because it always seems patriotic, to stand by the country when engaged in war—and the people are not invariably disposed to judge leniently of efforts to prove their country in the wrong as against any foreign power. In this instance, Mr. Lincoln saw that the strength of the position of the Administration before the people, in reference to the beginning of the war, was in the point, which they lost no opportunity of reiterating, viz. : that Mexico had shed the blood of our citizens on our own soil. This position he believed to be false, and he accordingly attacked it in a series of resolutions requesting the President to give the House information on that point; which President Polk would hav£ found as difficult to dodge as Douglas found it to dodge the questions which Mr. Lincoln proposed to him.

As a part of the history of Mr. Lincoln's Congressional career, we give these resolutions, omitting the preamble, which simply reproduces the language employed by President Polk in his message, to convey the impression that the Mexicans were the aggressors, and that the war was undertaken to repel invasion, and to avenge the shedding of the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil. The quaint phraseology of the resolutions stamps them as the production of Mr. Lincoln's pen. They read as follows:

Resolved ly the House of Representatives, That the President of the United States be respectfully requested to inform this House—

1st. Whether the spot on which the blond of our citizens was shed, as in his messages declared, was or was not within the territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819, until the Mexican revolution.

2d. Whether that spot is or is not within the territory which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary Government of Mexico.

3d. Whether that spot is or is not within a settlement of people, which settlement has existed ever since long before the Texas revolution, and until its inhabitants fled before the approach of the United States army.

4th. Whether that settlement is or is not isolated from any and all other settlements by the Gulf and the Rio Grande on the south and west, and by wide uninhabited regions on the north and east.

5th. Whether the people of that settlement, or a majority of them, or any of them, have ever submitted themselves to the government or laws of Texas or of the United States, by consent or by compulsion, either by accepting office, or voting at elections, or paying tax, or serving on juries, or having process served upon them, or in any other way.

6th. Whether the people of that settlement did or did not flee from the approach of the United States army, leaving unprotected their homes and their growing crops, lefore the blood was shed, as in the messages stated; and whether the first blood so shed, was or was not shed within the enclosure of one of the people who had thus fled from it.

7th. Whether our citizens, whose blood was shed, as in his messages declared, were or were not, at that time, armed officers and soldiers, sent into that settlement by the military order of the President, through the Secretary of War.

8th. Whether the military force of the United States was or was not <*o sent into that settlement after General Taylor had more *.l.an once intimated to tho War Department that, in his opinion, no such movement was necessary to the defence or protection of Texas.

These resolutions, which Mr. Polk would have found it very inconvenient to answer, were laid over, under the rule, and were never acted upon, although Mr. Lincoln commented on them in a speech, made January 12, 1848, which, by the way, was his first formal appearance in the House. In this speech he discussed, in his homely but forcible manner, the absurdities and contradictions of Mr. Polk's message, and exposed its weaknesses.

In these times, when questions of so much greater magnitude and importance have overshadowed those which occupied or agitated the public mind twenty years ago, it seems strange that political opponents could even then have compelled Mr. Lincoln to defend his course in Congress, as having been prompted by patriotic motives. The nation which has been plunged into mourning by his sudden and violent death, would now regard as gratuitous and puerile any argument, the purpose of which should be to prove that Mr. Lincoln's action upon this Mexican question was governed by the same inflexible ideas of honor and right which ruled him so unwaveringly throughout his entire public career, and which have since made his memory sacred.

A Whig from conviction, Mr. Lincoln acted consistently with his party upon all questions of public concern. On June 20, 1848, after the nomination of General Cass as the Democratic candidate for the Presidency, Mr. Lincoln made an able speech in support of the line of policy the Whigs had pursued regarding internal improvements. He ridiculed mercilessly the position taken by General Cass upon this important question, and, in concluding his remarks, thus stated his own views, while he dealt a severe blow at the same pseudo chivalric spirit of the South, which he has since been chiefly instrumental in humbling to the dust. He said:

How to do something, and still not to do too much, is the desideratum. Let each contribute his mite in the way of suggestion. The late Silas Wright, in a letter to the Chicago convention, contributed his, which was worth something; and I now contribute mine, which may be worth nothing. At all events, it will mislead nobody, and therefore will do no harm. I would not borrow money. I am against an overwhelming, crushing system. Suppose that, at each session, Congress 6hall first determine how much money can, for that year, be spared for improvements; then apportion that sum to the most important objects. Su far all is easy; but how shall we determine which are the most important? On this question comes the collision of interests. / shall be slow to acknowledge that your harbor or your river is more important than mine, and vice versd. To clear this difficulty, let us have that same statistical information which the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Vinton] suggested at the beginning of this session. In that information we shall have a stern, unbending basis of facta—a basis in nowise subject to whim, caprice, or local interest. The pre-limited amount of means will save us from doing too much, and the statistics will save us from doing what we do in wrong places. Adopt and adhere to this course, and, it seems to me, the difficulty is cleared.

One of the gentlemen from South Carolina [Mr. Rhett] very much deprecates these statistics. He particularly objects, as I understand him, to counting all the pigs and chickens in the land. I do not perceive much force in the objection. It is true, that if every thing be enumerated, a portion of such statistics may not be very useful to this object. Such products of the country as are to be consumed where they are produced, need no roads and rivers, no means of transportation, and have no very proper connection with this subject. The surplus, that which is produced in one place to be consumed in another; the capacity of each locality for producing a greater surplus; the natural means of transportation, and their susceptibility of improvement; the hindrances, delays, and losses of life and property during transportation, and the causes of each, would be among the most valuable statistics in this connection. From these it would readily appear where a given amount of expenditure would do the most good. These statistics might be equally accessible, as they would be equally useful, to both the Nation and the States. In this way, and by ihese means, let the Nation take hold of the larger works, and the States the smaller ones; and thus, working in a meeting direction, discreetly, but steadily and firmly, what is made unequal in one place may be equalized in another, extravagance avoided, and the whole country put on that career of prosperity which shall correspond with its extent of territory, its natural resources, and the intelligence and enterprise of its people.

The nomination of General Taylor as the Whig candidate for the Presidency, by the Convention of that party at Philadelphia, to which Mr. Lincoln was a delegate, fairly opened the campaign, and Congress prolonged its session until August 14th, as the members,—Senators and Representatives alike,—insisted, each for himself, upon expressing his views, and deiining his position in full, for the benefit of his constituents. The only speech of any length made by Mr. Lincoln, subsequent to that from which we have already quoted, was delivered July 27th, when he defended, with characteristic shrewdness and ability, the position General Taylor had taken regarding the exercise of the veto power. This speech is, perhaps, more strongly marked by Mr. Lincoln's peculiarities than any other of his Congressional utterances. The keen sarcasm with which he exposed the inconsistencies of both General Cass and Mr. Van Buren, is not surpassed in any of his subsequent efforts.

Upon the adjournment of Congress, the members entered energetically into the popular canvass, Mr. Lincoln first making a visit to New England, where he delivered a number of effective campaign speeches in support of General Taylor. The journals of the day note his presence at the Massachusetts State Convention during his brief visit to New England, and speak in terms of the highest praise1 of an address which he delivered at New Bedford. He felt conscious, however, that he could labor more effectively among his Western friends, and accordingly spent most of his time during the canvass in that section of the country. Although he failed to carry his own State for his favorite candidate, his disappointment was entirely forgotten in General Taylor's election.

In December, when the Thirtieth Congress reassembled for its second session, Mr. Lincoln took his seat; but the exhaustion consequent upon the exciting political campaign just closed, reacted upon Congress, and precluded the possibility of any exciting discussions. Important action was taken, however, upon the slavery question in some of its phases. It is needless to state, that during his entire Congressional service Mr. Lincoln steadily and persistently cast his vote upon the side of freedom. He repeatedly recorded himself against laying on the table, without consideration, petitions in favor of the

« AnteriorContinuar »