« AnteriorContinuar »
of about fifteen of the leading citizens of the District of Columbia to whom this proposition had been submitted, there was no one but who approved of the adoption of such a proposition. He did not wish to be misunderstood. He did not know whether or not they would vote for this bill on the first Monday of April; but he repeated, that out of fifteen persons to whom it had been submitted, he had authority to say that every one of them desired that some proposition like this should pass. A motion to lay on the table the proposition to re-consider was again lost, and by a much larger majority than before, and the resolution was re-considered, 119 to 81. Mr. Smith, of Indiana, then moved the following substitute : Resolved, That the Committee on the District of Columbia be instructed to report, as soon as practicable, a bill so amending the present law in this District, as effectually to prevent the bringing of slaves into the District, either for sale here, or to be sold and carried to any place beyond the District.
, Mr. Meade, of Virginia, offered the following as an amendment to Mr. Smith's amendment:
And that the said committee is hereby instructed to report a bill more effectually to enable owners to recover their slaves escaping from one State into another.
Here, it is observable, are two of the propositions which were ultimately embraced in the great Compromise “settlement” of 1850, and these several amendments, proposed by Mr. Lincoln and others, may be termed the springs in Congress from which flowed a portion of that celebrated series of In easures.
The Speaker (Mr. Winthrop) ruled Mr. Meade's amendment out of order, and without any decisive action thereon, the House adjourned, leaving the resolution and amendments to disappear among the files of unfinished business on the Speaker's table.
An unsuecessful attempt had previously been made by Mr Palfrey, of Massachusetts, a Free-Soil member who refused to vote for Mr. Winthrop for Speaker, to introduce a bill “to repeal all acts, or parts of acts, of Congress establishing or maintaining slavery or the slave-trade in the District of Colum
bia.” Mr. Holmes, of South Carolina, having objected, the yeas and nays were taken on granting the leave asked, and the negative prevailed by thirteen majority. The Northern Whigs in general, excepting Messrs. Vinton and Dunn, and many Northern Democrats, including John Wentworth, David Wilmot, and J. J. Faran, of Ohio, voted in the affirmative. Mr. Lincoln's name is recorded among the nays. So sweeping and unqualified a measure he had ever been opposed to, as he avowed himself to be in 1858, and he never hesitated, from a fear of popular misapprehension, to vote in strict accordance with his own convictions. On the 31st of January, Mr. Edwards, from the Committee on the District of Columbia, reported a bill, suitably guarded in its terms, prohibiting the slave-trade in the District. On a motion to lay this on the table, Mr. Lincoln voted in the negative, with the friends of that measure, who were a majority. This bill, however, passed over among the unfinished business of the session. In regard to the grant of public lands to the new States, to aid in the construction of railroads and canals, Mr. Lincoln favored the interests of his own constituents, under such reasonable restrictions as the proper carrying out of the purpose of these grants required. This policy had been strongly opposed by Mr. Winton, while one of the bills of this sort was pending. In the brief remarks which Mr. Lincoln offered in reply, there are some points (Congressional Globe, page 533) worth quoting here: In relation to the fact assumed, that, after awhile, the new States, having got hold of the public lands to a certain extent, would turn round and compel Congress to relinquish all claim to them, he had a word to say, by way of recurring to the history of the past. When was the time to come (he asked) when the States in which the public lands were situated would compose a majority of the representation in Congress, or any thing like it. A majority of Representatives would very soon reside West of the mountains, he admitted; but would they all come from States in which the public lands were situated ? They certainly would not; for, as these Western States grew strong in Congress, the public lands passed away from them, and they got on the other side
of the question, and the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Winton) was an example attesting that fact. Mr. Winton interrupted here to say, that he had stood upon this question just where he was now, for five-and-twenty years. Mr. Lincoln was not making an argument for the purpose of convicting the gentleman of any impropriety at all. He was speaking of a fact in history, of which his State was an example. He was referring to a plain principle in the nature of things. The State of Ohio had now grown to be a giant. She had a large delegation on that floor; but was she now in favor of granting lands to the new States, as she used to be 2 The New England States, New York, and the Old Thirteen, were all rather quiet upon the subject; and it was seen just now that a member from one of the new States was the first man to rise up in opposition. And so it would be with the history of this question for the future. There never would come a time when the people residing in the States embracing the public lands would have the entire control of this subject; and so it was a matter of certainty that Congress would never do more in this respect than what would be dictated by a just liberality. The apprehension, therefore, that the public lands were in danger of being wrested from the General Government by the strength of the delegation in Congress from the new States, was utterly futile. There never could be such a thing. If we take these lands (said he) it will not be without your consent. We can never outnumber you. The result is, that all fear of the new States turning against the right of Congress to the public domain must be effectually quelled, as those who are opposed to that interest must always hold a vast majority here, and they will never surrender the whole or any part of the public lands, unless they themselves choose so to do. This was all he desired to say.
With the termination of the Thirtieth Congress, by Constitutional limitation, on the 4th of March, 1849, Mr. Lincoln's career as a Congressman came to a close. He had refused to be a candidate for re-election in a district that had given him over 1,500 majority in 1846, and nearly the same to General Taylor, as the Whig candidate for the Presidency in 1848. His name was prominently presented for the position of Commissioner of the General Land Office, under President Taylor, but, though he zealously labored to bring in the new Administration, he made no complaint, and certainly did not afterward seriously regret that his valued services were not thus recognized. He retired once more to private life, renewing the professional practice which had been temporarily interrupted by his public employment. The duties of his responsible position had been discharged with assiduity and with fearless adherence to his convictions of right, under whatever circumstances. Scarcely a list of yeas and nays can be found, for either session, which does not contain his name. He was never conveniently absent on any critical vote. He never shrank from any responsibility which his sense of justice impelled him to take. His record, comparatively brief as it is, is no doubtful one, and will bear the closest scrutiny. And though one of the youngest and most inexperienced members of an uncommonly able and brilliant Congress, he might well have been ranked, without the more recent events which have naturally followed upon his previous career, among the distinguished statesmen of the Thirtieth Congress.
PROFESSIONAL LIFE.--THE ANTI-NEBRASKA CANWASS.— 1849–1854.
Mr. Lincoln in Retirement for Five Years.-Gen. Taylor's Administration.—The Slavery Agitation of 1850–The Compromise of Clay and Fillmore.—The “Final Settlement” of 1852.-How, and by Whom it was Disturbed.—Violation of the most Positive Pledges.— The Kansas-Nebraska Bill.—Douglas, the Agitator.—Popular Indignation and Excitement.—Mr. Lincoln takes part in the Canvass of 1854.—Great Political Changes.—The Anti-Nebraska Organization.— Springfield Resolutions of 1854.—Results of the Election.—A Majority of Congressmen and of the Legislature Anti-Nebraska.-Election of United States Senator to Succeed Gen. Shields.-Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Trumbull.—A Magnanimous Sacrifice.—Mr. Trumbull Elected.
DURING the five years immediately following the close of his Congressional life, Mr. Lincoln attentively pursued his profession of the law. He took no active part in politics through the period of Gen. Taylor's Administration, or in any of the exciting scenes of 1860. His great political leader, Henry Clay, had resumed his place in the Senate, and was earnestly striving—one of the last great labors of his life—to avert the dangers to the country, which he believed to be threatened by the fierce contests over the question of Slavery. It was, with the slave States, a desperate struggle to retain the balance of power in the Senate, by rejecting the application of another free State for admission, the granting of which would destroy the exact equilibrium then existing.” The policy of admitting a slave State along with every new free one, had substantially prevailed for years; but, at this time, despite the extensive additions of Mexican territory, there was no counterbalancing slave State ready for admission. The exclusion of slavery