The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, v2
Part 1 out of 6
This etext was produced by David Widger
THE WRITINGS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WRITINGS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN VOLUME II.
TO JOSHUA F. SPEED.
SPRINGFIELD, May 18, 1843.
DEAR SPEED:--Yours of the 9th instant is duly received, which I
do not meet as a "bore," but as a most welcome visitor. I will
answer the business part of it first.
In relation to our Congress matter here, you were right in
supposing I would support the nominee. Neither Baker nor I,
however, is the man, but Hardin, so far as I can judge from
present appearances. We shall have no split or trouble about the
matter; all will be harmony. In relation to the "coming events"
about which Butler wrote you, I had not heard one word before I
got your letter; but I have so much confidence in the judgment of
Butler on such a subject that I incline to think there may be
some reality in it. What day does Butler appoint? By the way,
how do "events" of the same sort come on in your family? Are you
possessing houses and lands, and oxen and asses, and men-servants
and maid-servants, and begetting sons and daughters? We are not
keeping house, but boarding at the Globe Tavern, which is very
well kept now by a widow lady of the name of Beck. Our room (the
same that Dr. Wallace occupied there) and boarding only costs us
four dollars a week. Ann Todd was married something more than a
year since to a fellow by the name of Campbell, and who, Mary
says, is pretty much of a "dunce," though he has a little money
and property. They live in Boonville, Missouri, and have not
been heard from lately enough for me to say anything about her
health. I reckon it will scarcely be in our power to visit
Kentucky this year. Besides poverty and the necessity of
attending to business, those "coming events," I suspect, would be
somewhat in the way. I most heartily wish you and your Fanny
would not fail to come. Just let us know the time, and we will
have a room provided for you at our house, and all be merry
together for a while. Be sure to give my respects to your mother
and family; assure her that if ever I come near her, I will not
fail to call and see her. Mary joins in sending love to your
Fanny and you.
Yours as ever,
TO Gen. J. J. HARDIN.
SPRINGFIELD, May 21, 1844.
Knowing that you have correspondents enough, I have forborne to
trouble you heretofore; and I now only do so to get you to set a
matter right which has got wrong with one of our best friends.
It is old Uncle Thomas Campbell of Spring Creek--(Berlin P.O.).
He has received several documents from you, and he says they are
old newspapers and documents, having no sort of interest in them.
He is, therefore, getting a strong impression that you treat him
with disrespect. This, I know, is a mistaken impression; and you
must correct it. The way, I leave to yourself. Rob't W.
Canfield says he would like to have a document or two from you.
The Locos (Democrats) here are in considerable trouble about Van
Buren's letter on Texas, and the Virginia electors. They are
growing sick of the Tariff question; and consequently are much
confounded at V.B.'s cutting them off from the new Texas
question. Nearly half the leaders swear they won't stand it. Of
those are Ford, T. Campbell, Ewing, Calhoun and others. They
don't exactly say they won't vote for V.B., but they say he will
not be the candidate, and that they are for Texas anyhow.
As ever yours,
SELECTION OF CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES
TO Gen. J. J. HARDIN, SPRINGFIELD, Jany. 19, 1845.
I do not wish to join in your proposal of a new plan for the
selection of a Whig candidate for Congress because:
1st. I am entirely satisfied with the old system under which you
and Baker were successively nominated and elected to Congress;
and because the Whigs of the district are well acquainted with
the system, and, so far as I know or believe, are well satisfied
with it. If the old system be thought to be vague, as to all the
delegates of the county voting the same way, or as to
instructions to them as to whom they are to vote for, or as to
filling vacancies, I am willing to join in a provision to make
these matters certain.
2d. As to your proposals that a poll shall be opened in every
precinct, and that the whole shall take place on the same day, I
do not personally object. They seem to me to be not unfair; and
I forbear to join in proposing them only because I choose to
leave the decision in each county to the Whigs of the county, to
be made as their own judgment and convenience may dictate.
3d. As to your proposed stipulation that all the candidates
shall remain in their own counties, and restrain their friends in
the same it seems to me that on reflection you will see the fact
of your having been in Congress has, in various ways, so spread
your name in the district as to give you a decided advantage in
such a stipulation. I appreciate your desire to keep down
excitement; and I promise you to "keep cool" under all
4th. I have already said I am satisfied with the old system
under which such good men have triumphed and that I desire no
departure from its principles. But if there must be a departure
from it, I shall insist upon a more accurate and just
apportionment of delegates, or representative votes, to the
constituent body, than exists by the old, and which you propose
to retain in your new plan. If we take the entire population of
the counties as shown by the late census, we shall see by the old
plan, and by your proposed new plan,
Morgan County, with a population 16,541, has but ....... 8 votes
While Sangamon with 18,697--2156 greater has but ....... 8 "
So Scott with 6553 has ................................. 4 "
While Tazewell with 7615 1062 greater has but .......... 4 "
So Mason with 3135 has ................................. 1 vote
While Logan with 3907, 772 greater, has but ............ 1 "
And so on in a less degree the matter runs through all the
counties, being not only wrong in principle, but the advantage of
it being all manifestly in your favor with one slight exception,
in the comparison of two counties not here mentioned.
Again, if we take the Whig votes of the counties as shown by the
late Presidential election as a basis, the thing is still worse.
It seems to me most obvious that the old system needs adjustment
in nothing so much as in this; and still, by your proposal, no
notice is taken of it. I have always been in the habit of
acceding to almost any proposal that a friend would make and I am
truly sorry that I cannot in this. I perhaps ought to mention
that some friends at different places are endeavoring to secure
the honor of the sitting of the convention at their towns
respectively, and I fear that they would not feel much
complimented if we shall make a bargain that it should sit
Yours as ever,
TO _________ WILLIAMS,
SPRINGFIELD, March 1, 1845.
The Supreme Court adjourned this morning for the term. Your
cases of Reinhardt vs. Schuyler, Bunce vs. Schuyler, Dickhut vs.
Dunell, and Sullivan vs. Andrews are continued. Hinman vs. Pope
I wrote you concerning some time ago. McNutt et al. vs. Bean and
Thompson is reversed and remanded.
Fitzpatrick vs. Brady et al. is reversed and remanded with leave
to complainant to amend his bill so as to show the real
consideration given for the land.
Bunce against Graves the court confirmed, wherefore, in
accordance with your directions, I moved to have the case
remanded to enable you to take a new trial in the court below.
The court allowed the motion; of which I am glad, and I guess you
This, I believe, is all as to court business. The canal men have
got their measure through the Legislature pretty much or quite in
the shape they desired. Nothing else now.
Yours as ever,
TO WILLIAMSON DURLEY.
SPRINGFIELD, October 3, 1845
When I saw you at home, it was agreed that I should write to you
and your brother Madison. Until I then saw you I was not aware
of your being what is generally called an abolitionist, or, as
you call yourself, a Liberty man, though I well knew there were
many such in your country.
I was glad to hear that you intended to attempt to bring about,
at the next election in Putnam, a Union of the Whigs proper and
such of the Liberty men as are Whigs in principle on all
questions save only that of slavery. So far as I can perceive,
by such union neither party need yield anything on the point in
difference between them. If the Whig abolitionists of New York
had voted with us last fall, Mr. Clay would now be President,
Whig principles in the ascendant, and Texas not annexed; whereas,
by the division, all that either had at stake in the contest was
lost. And, indeed, it was extremely probable, beforehand, that
such would be the result. As I always understood, the Liberty
men deprecated the annexation of Texas extremely; and this being
so, why they should refuse to cast their votes [so] as to prevent
it, even to me seemed wonderful. What was their process of
reasoning, I can only judge from what a single one of them told
me. It was this: "We are not to do evil that good may come."
This general proposition is doubtless correct; but did it apply?
If by your votes you could have prevented the extension, etc., of
slavery would it not have been good, and not evil, so to have
used your votes, even though it involved the casting of them for
a slaveholder? By the fruit the tree is to be known. An evil
tree cannot bring forth good fruit. If the fruit of electing Mr.
Clay would have been to prevent the extension of slavery, could
the act of electing have been evil?
But I will not argue further. I perhaps ought to say that
individually I never was much interested in the Texas question.
I never could see much good to come of annexation, inasmuch as
they were already a free republican people on our own model. On
the other hand, I never could very clearly see how the annexation
would augment the evil of slavery. It always seemed to me that
slaves would be taken there in about equal numbers, with or
without annexation. And if more were taken because of
annexation, still there would be just so many the fewer left
where they were taken from. It is possibly true, to some extent,
that, with annexation, some slaves may be sent to Texas and
continued in slavery that otherwise might have been liberated.
To whatever extent this may be true, I think annexation an evil.
I hold it to be a paramount duty of us in the free States, due to
the Union of the States, and perhaps to liberty itself (paradox
though it may seem), to let the slavery of the other States
alone; while, on the other hand, I hold it to be equally clear
that we should never knowingly lend ourselves, directly or
indirectly, to prevent that slavery from dying a natural death--
to find new places for it to live in when it can no longer exist
in the old. Of course I am not now considering what would be our
duty in cases of insurrection among the slaves. To recur to the
Texas question, I understand the Liberty men to have viewed
annexation as a much greater evil than ever I did; and I would
like to convince you, if I could, that they could have prevented
it, if they had chosen. I intend this letter for you and Madison
together; and if you and he or either shall think fit to drop me
a line, I shall be pleased.
Yours with respect,
REQUEST FOR POLITICAL SUPPORT
TO Dr. ROBERT BOAL.
SPRINGFIELD, January 7, 1846.
Dr. ROBERT BOAL, Lacon, Ill.
DEAR DOCTOR:--Since I saw you last fall, I have often thought of
writing to you, as it was then understood I would, but, on
reflection, I have always found that I had nothing new to tell
you. All has happened as I then told you I expected it would--
Baker's declining, Hardin's taking the track, and so on.
If Hardin and I stood precisely equal, if neither of us had been
to Congress, or if we both had, it would only accord with what I
have always done, for the sake of peace, to give way to him; and
I expect I should do it. That I can voluntarily postpone my
pretensions, when they are no more than equal to those to which
they are postponed, you have yourself seen. But to yield to
Hardin under present circumstances seems to me as nothing else
than yielding to one who would gladly sacrifice me altogether.
This I would rather not submit to. That Hardin is talented,
energetic, usually generous and magnanimous, I have before this
affirmed to you and do not deny. You know that my only argument
is that "turn about is fair play." This he, practically at least,
If it would not be taxing you too much, I wish you would write
me, telling the aspect of things in your country, or rather your
district; and also, send the names of some of your Whig
neighbors, to whom I might, with propriety, write. Unless I can
get some one to do this, Hardin, with his old franking list, will
have the advantage of me. My reliance for a fair shake (and I
want nothing more) in your country is chiefly on you, because of
your position and standing, and because I am acquainted with so
few others. Let me hear from you soon.
TO JOHN BENNETT.
SPRINGFIELD, Jan. 15, 1846.
Nathan Dresser is here, and speaks as though the contest between
Hardin and me is to be doubtful in Menard County. I know he is
candid and this alarms me some. I asked him to tell me the names
of the men that were going strong for Hardin, he said Morris was
about as strong as any-now tell me, is Morris going it openly?
You remember you wrote me that he would be neutral. Nathan also
said that some man, whom he could not remember, had said lately
that Menard County was going to decide the contest and that made
the, contest very doubtful. Do you know who that was? Don't
fail to write me instantly on receiving this, telling me all-
particularly the names of those who are going strong against me.
Yours as ever,
TO N. J. ROCKWELL.
SPRINGFIELD, January 21, 1846.
DEAR SIR:--You perhaps know that General Hardin and I have a
contest for the Whig nomination for Congress for this district.
He has had a turn and my argument is "turn about is fair play."
I shall be pleased if this strikes you as a sufficient
TO JAMES BERDAN.
SPRINGFIELD, April 26, 1846.
DEAR SIR:--I thank you for the promptness with which you answered
my letter from Bloomington. I also thank you for the frankness
with which you comment upon a certain part of my letter; because
that comment affords me an opportunity of trying to express
myself better than I did before, seeing, as I do, that in that
part of my letter, you have not understood me as I intended to be
In speaking of the "dissatisfaction" of men who yet mean to do no
wrong, etc., I mean no special application of what I said to the
Whigs of Morgan, or of Morgan & Scott. I only had in my mind the
fact that previous to General Hardin's withdrawal some of his
friends and some of mine had become a little warm; and I felt,
and meant to say, that for them now to meet face to face and
converse together was the best way to efface any remnant of
unpleasant feeling, if any such existed.
I did not suppose that General Hardin's friends were in any
greater need of having their feelings corrected than mine were.
Since I saw you at Jacksonville, I have had no more suspicion of
the Whigs of Morgan than of those of any other part of the
district. I write this only to try to remove any impression that
I distrust you and the other Whigs of your country.
TO JAMES BERDAN.
SPRINGFIELD, May 7, 1866.
DEAR SIR:--It is a matter of high moral obligation, if not of
necessity, for me to attend the Coles and Edwards courts. I have
some cases in both of them, in which the parties have my promise,
and are depending upon me. The court commences in Coles on the
second Monday, and in Edgar on the third. Your court in Morgan
commences on the fourth Monday; and it is my purpose to be with
you then, and make a speech. I mention the Coles and Edgar
courts in order that if I should not reach Jacksonville at the
time named you may understand the reason why. I do not, however,
think there is much danger of my being detained; as I shall go
with a purpose not to be, and consequently shall engage in no new
cases that might delay me.
VERSES WRITTEN BY LINCOLN AFTER A VISIT TO HIS OLD HOME IN
[In December, 1847, when Lincoln was stumping for Clay, he
crossed into Indiana and revisited his old home. He writes:
"That part of the country is within itself as unpoetical as any
spot on earth; but still seeing it and its objects and
inhabitants aroused feelings in me which were certainly poetry;
though whether my expression of these feelings is poetry, is
quite another question."]
Near twenty years have passed away
Since here I bid farewell
To woods and fields, and scenes of play,
And playmates loved so well.
Where many were, but few remain
Of old familiar things;
But seeing them to mind again
The lost and absent brings.
The friends I left that parting day,
How changed, as time has sped!
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,
And half of all are dead.
I hear the loved survivors tell
How naught from death could save,
Till every sound appears a knell,
And every spot a grave.
I range the fields with pensive tread,
And pace the hollow rooms,
And feel (companion of the dead)
I 'm living in the tombs.
VERSES WRITTEN BY LINCOLN CONCERNING A SCHOOL-FELLOW
WHO BECAME INSANE--(A FRAGMENT).
And when at length the drear and long
Time soothed thy fiercer woes,
How plaintively thy mournful song
Upon the still night rose
I've heard it oft as if I dreamed,
Far distant, sweet and lone;
The funeral dirge it ever seemed
Of reason dead and gone.
Air held her breath; trees with the spell
Seemed sorrowing angels round,
Whose swelling tears in dewdrops fell
Upon the listening ground.
But this is past, and naught remains
That raised thee o'er the brute;
Thy piercing shrieks and soothing strains
Are like, forever mute.
Now fare thee well! More thou the cause
Than subject now of woe.
All mental pangs by time's kind laws
Hast lost the power to know.
O Death! thou awe-inspiring prince
That keepst the world in fear,
Why dost thou tear more blest ones hence,
And leave him lingering here?
TO JOSHUA P. SPEED
SPRINGFIELD, October 22, 1846.
DEAR SPEED:--You, no doubt, assign the suspension of our
correspondence to the true philosophic cause; though it must be
confessed by both of us that this is rather a cold reason for
allowing a friendship such as ours to die out by degrees. I
propose now that, upon receipt of this, you shall be considered
in my debt, and under obligations to pay soon, and that neither
shall remain long in arrears hereafter. Are you agreed?
Being elected to Congress, though I am very grateful to our
friends for having done it, has not pleased me as much as I
We have another boy, born the 10th of March. He is very much
such a child as Bob was at his age, rather of a longer order.
Bob is "short and low," and I expect always will be. He talks
very plainly,--almost as plainly as anybody. He is quite smart
enough. I sometimes fear that he is one of the little rare-ripe
sort that are smarter at about five than ever after. He has a
great deal of that sort of mischief that is the offspring of such
animal spirits. Since I began this letter, a messenger came to
tell me Bob was lost; but by the time I reached the house his
mother had found him and had him whipped, and by now, very
likely, he is run away again. Mary has read your letter, and
wishes to be remembered to Mrs. Speed and you, in which I most
sincerely join her.
As ever yours,
TO MORRIS AND BROWN
October 21, 1847.
MESSRS. MORRIS AND BROWN.
GENTLEMEN:--Your second letter on the matter of Thornton and
others, came to hand this morning. I went at once to see Logan,
and found that he is not engaged against you, and that he has so
sent you word by Mr. Butterfield, as he says. He says that some
time ago, a young man (who he knows not) came to him, with a copy
of the affidavit, to engage him to aid in getting the Governor to
grant the warrant; and that he, Logan, told the man, that in his
opinion, the affidavit was clearly insufficient, upon which the
young man left, without making any engagement with him. If the
Governor shall arrive before I leave, Logan and I will both
attend to the matter, and he will attend to it, if he does not
come till after I leave; all upon the condition that the Governor
shall not have acted upon the matter, before his arrival here. I
mention this condition because, I learned this morning from the
Secretary of State, that he is forwarding to the Governor, at
Palestine, all papers he receives in the case, as fast as he
receives them. Among the papers forwarded will be your letter to
the Governor or Secretary of, I believe, the same date and about
the same contents of your last letter to me; so that the Governor
will, at all events have your points and authorities. The case
is a clear one on our side; but whether the Governor will view it
so is another thing.
Yours as ever,
TO WILLIAM H. HERNDON
WASHINGTON, December 5, 1847.
DEAR WILLIAM:--You may remember that about a year ago a man by
the name of Wilson (James Wilson, I think) paid us twenty dollars
as an advance fee to attend to a case in the Supreme Court for
him, against a Mr. Campbell, the record of which case was in the
hands of Mr. Dixon of St. Louis, who never furnished it to us.
When I was at Bloomington last fall I met a friend of Wilson, who
mentioned the subject to me, and induced me to write to Wilson,
telling him I would leave the ten dollars with you which had been
left with me to pay for making abstracts in the case, so that the
case may go on this winter; but I came away, and forgot to do it.
What I want now is to send you the money, to be used accordingly,
if any one comes on to start the case, or to be retained by you
if no one does.
There is nothing of consequence new here. Congress is to
organize to-morrow. Last night we held a Whig caucus for the
House, and nominated Winthrop of Massachusetts for speaker,
Sargent of Pennsylvania for sergeant-at-arms, Homer of New Jersey
door-keeper, and McCormick of District of Columbia postmaster.
The Whig majority in the House is so small that, together with
some little dissatisfaction, [it] leaves it doubtful whether we
will elect them all.
This paper is too thick to fold, which is the reason I send only
Yours as ever,
TO WILLIAM H. HERNDON.
WASHINGTON, December 13, 1847
DEAR WILLIAM:--Your letter, advising me of the receipt of our fee
in the bank case, is just received, and I don't expect to hear
another as good a piece of news from Springfield while I am away.
I am under no obligations to the bank; and I therefore wish you
to buy bank certificates, and pay my debt there, so as to pay it
with the least money possible. I would as soon you should buy
them of Mr. Ridgely, or any other person at the bank, as of any
one else, provided you can get them as cheaply. I suppose, after
the bank debt shall be paid, there will be some money left, out
of which I would like to have you pay Lavely and Stout twenty
dollars, and Priest and somebody (oil-makers) ten dollars, for
materials got for house-painting. If there shall still be any
left, keep it till you see or hear from me.
I shall begin sending documents so soon as I can get them. I
wrote you yesterday about a "Congressional Globe." As you are all
so anxious for me to distinguish myself, I have concluded to do
so before long.
RESOLUTIONS IN THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES, DECEMBER 22, 1847
Whereas, The President of the United States, in his message of
May 11, 1846, has declared that "the Mexican Government not only
refused to receive him [the envoy of the United States], or to
listen to his propositions, but, after a long-continued series of
menaces, has at last invaded our territory and shed the blood of
our fellow-citizens on our own soil";
And again, in his message of December 8, 1846, that "we had ample
cause of war against Mexico long before the breaking out of
hostilities; but even then we forbore to take redress into our
own hands until Mexico herself became the aggressor, by invading
our soil in hostile array, and shedding the blood of our
And yet again, in his message of December 7, 1847, that "the
Mexican Government refused even to hear the terms of adjustment
which he [our minister of peace] was authorized to propose, and
finally, under wholly unjustifiable pretexts, involved the two
countries in war, by invading the territory of the State of
Texas, striking the first blow, and shedding the blood of our
citizens on our own soil";
And whereas, This House is desirous to obtain a full knowledge of
all the facts which go to establish whether the particular spot
on which the blood of our citizens was so shed was or was not at
that time our own soil: therefore,
Resolved, By the House of Representatives, that the President of
the United States be respectfully requested to inform this House:
First. Whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens was
shed, as in his message declared, was or was not within the
territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819, until the
Second. Whether that spot is or is not within the territory
which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary government of
Third. 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.
Fourth. 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
Fifth. 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.
Sixth. 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, before the blood was shed,
as in the message stated; and whether the first blood, so shed,
was or was not shed within the inclosure of one of the people who
had thus fled from it.
Seventh. Whether our citizens, whose blood was shed, as in his
message 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.
Eighth. Whether the military force of the United States was or
was not so sent into that settlement after General Taylor had
more than once intimated to the War Department that, in his
opinion, no such movement was necessary to the defence or
protection of Texas.
REMARKS IN THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
JANUARY 5, 1848.
Mr. Lincoln said he had made an effort, some few days since, to
obtain the floor in relation to this measure [resolution to
direct Postmaster-General to make arrangements with railroad for
carrying the mails--in Committee of the Whole], but had failed.
One of the objects he had then had in view was now in a great
measure superseded by what had fallen from the gentleman from
Virginia who had just taken his seat. He begged to assure his
friends on the other side of the House that no assault whatever
was meant upon the Postmaster-General, and he was glad that what
the gentleman had now said modified to a great extent the
impression which might have been created by the language he had
used on a previous occasion. He wanted to state to gentlemen who
might have entertained such impressions, that the Committee on
the Post-office was composed of five Whigs and four Democrats,
and their report was understood as sustaining, not impugning, the
position taken by the Postmaster-General. That report had met
with the approbation of all the Whigs, and of all the Democrats
also, with the exception of one, and he wanted to go even further
than this. [Intimation was informally given Mr. Lincoln that it
was not in order to mention on the floor what had taken place in
committee.] He then observed that if he had been out of order in
what he had said he took it all back so far as he could. He had
no desire, he could assure gentlemen, ever to be out of order--
though he never could keep long in order.
Mr. Lincoln went on to observe that he differed in opinion, in
the present case, from his honorable friend from Richmond [Mr.
Botts]. That gentleman, had begun his remarks by saying that if
all prepossessions in this matter could be removed out of the
way, but little difficulty would be experienced in coming to an
agreement. Now, he could assure that gentleman that he had
himself begun the examination of the subject with prepossessions
all in his favor. He had long and often heard of him, and, from
what he had heard, was prepossessed in his favor. Of the
Postmaster-General he had also heard, but had no prepossessions
in his favor, though certainly none of an opposite kind. He
differed, however, with that gentleman in politics, while in this
respect he agreed with the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Botts],
whom he wished to oblige whenever it was in his power. That
gentleman had referred to the report made to the House by the
Postmaster-General, and had intimated an apprehension that
gentlemen would be disposed to rely, on that report alone, and
derive their views of the case from that document alone. Now it
so happened that a pamphlet had been slipped into his [Mr.
Lincoln's] hand before he read the report of the Postmaster-
General; so that, even in this, he had begun with prepossessions
in favor of the gentleman from Virginia.
As to the report, he had but one remark to make: he had carefully
examined it, and he did not understand that there was any dispute
as to the facts therein stated the dispute, if he understood it,
was confined altogether to the inferences to be drawn from those
facts. It was a difference not about facts, but about
conclusions. The facts were not disputed. If he was right in
this, he supposed the House might assume the facts to be as they
were stated, and thence proceed to draw their own conclusions.
The gentleman had said that the Postmaster-General had got into a
personal squabble with the railroad company. Of this Mr. Lincoln
knew nothing, nor did he need or desire to know anything, because
it had nothing whatever to do with a just conclusion from the
premises. But the gentleman had gone on to ask whether so great
a grievance as the present detention of the Southern mail ought
not to be remedied. Mr. Lincoln would assure the gentleman that
if there was a proper way of doing it, no man was more anxious
than he that it should be done. The report made by the committee
had been intended to yield much for the sake of removing that
grievance. That the grievance was very great there was no
dispute in any quarter. He supposed that the statements made by
the gentleman from Virginia to show this were all entirely
correct in point of fact. He did suppose that the interruptions
of regular intercourse, and all the other inconveniences growing
out of it, were all as that gentleman had stated them to be; and
certainly, if redress could be rendered, it was proper it should
be rendered as soon as possible. The gentleman said that in
order to effect this no new legislative action was needed; all
that was necessary was that the Postmaster-General should be
required to do what the law, as it stood, authorized and required
him to do.
We come then, said Mr. Lincoln, to the law. Now the Postmaster-
General says he cannot give to this company more than two hundred
and thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents per railroad mile of
transportation, and twelve and a half per cent. less for
transportation by steamboats. He considers himself as restricted
by law to this amount; and he says, further, that he would not
give more if he could, because in his apprehension it would not
be fair and just.
DESIRE FOR SECOND TERM IN CONGRESS
TO WILLIAM H. HERNDON.
WASHINGTON, January 8, 1848.
DEAR WILLIAM:--Your letter of December 27 was received a day or
two ago. I am much obliged to you for the trouble you have
taken, and promise to take in my little business there. As to
speech making, by way of getting the hang of the House I made a
little speech two or three days ago on a post-office question of
no general interest. I find speaking here and elsewhere about
the same thing. I was about as badly scared, and no worse as I
am when I speak in court. I expect to make one within a week or
two, in which I hope to succeed well enough to wish you to see
It is very pleasant to learn from you that there are some who
desire that I should be reelected. I most heartily thank them
for their kind partiality; and I can say, as Mr. Clay said of the
annexation of Texas, that "personally I would not object" to a
reelection, although I thought at the time, and still think, it
would be quite as well for me to return to the law at the end of
a single term. I made the declaration that I would not be a
candidate again, more from a wish to deal fairly with others, to
keep peace among our friends, and to keep the district from going
to the enemy, than for any cause personal to myself; so that if
it should so happen that nobody else wishes to be elected, I
could not refuse the people the right of sending me again. But
to enter myself as a competitor of others, or to authorize any
one so to enter me is what my word and honor forbid.
I got some letters intimating a probability of so much difficulty
amongst our friends as to lose us the district; but I remember
such letters were written to Baker when my own case was under
consideration, and I trust there is no more ground for such
apprehension now than there was then. Remember I am always glad
to receive a letter from you.
Most truly your friend,
SPEECH ON DECLARATION OF WAR ON MEXICO
SPEECH IN THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
JANUARY 12, 1848.
MR CHAIRMAN:--Some if not all the gentlemen on the other side of
the House who have addressed the committee within the last two
days have spoken rather complainingly, if I have rightly
understood them, of the vote given a week or ten days ago
declaring that the war with Mexico was unnecessarily and
unconstitutionally commenced by the President. I admit that such
a vote should not be given in mere party wantonness, and that the
one given is justly censurable if it have no other or better
foundation. I am one of those who joined in that vote; and I did
so under my best impression of the truth of the case. How I got
this impression, and how it may possibly be remedied, I will now
try to show. When the war began, it was my opinion that all
those who because of knowing too little, or because of knowing
too much, could not conscientiously approve the conduct of the
President in the beginning of it should nevertheless, as good
citizens and patriots, remain silent on that point, at least till
the war should be ended. Some leading Democrats, including ex-
President Van Buren, have taken this same view, as I understand
them; and I adhered to it and acted upon it, until since I took
my seat here; and I think I should still adhere to it were it not
that the President and his friends will not allow it to be so.
Besides the continual effort of the President to argue every
silent vote given for supplies into an indorsement of the justice
and wisdom of his conduct; besides that singularly candid
paragraph in his late message in which he tells us that Congress
with great unanimity had declared that "by the act of the
Republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that government
and the United States," when the same journals that informed him
of this also informed him that when that declaration stood
disconnected from the question of supplies sixty-seven in the
House, and not fourteen merely, voted against it; besides this
open attempt to prove by telling the truth what he could not
prove by telling the whole truth-demanding of all who will not
submit to be misrepresented, in justice to themselves, to speak
out, besides all this, one of my colleagues [Mr. Richardson] at a
very early day in the session brought in a set of resolutions
expressly indorsing the original justice of the war on the part
of the President. Upon these resolutions when they shall be put
on their passage I shall be compelled to vote; so that I cannot
be silent if I would. Seeing this, I went about preparing myself
to give the vote understandingly when it should come. I
carefully examined the President's message, to ascertain what he
himself had said and proved upon the point. The result of this
examination was to make the impression that, taking for true all
the President states as facts, he falls far short of proving his
justification; and that the President would have gone further
with his proof if it had not been for the small matter that the
truth would not permit him. Under the impression thus made I
gave the vote before mentioned. I propose now to give concisely
the process of the examination I made, and how I reached the
conclusion I did. The President, in his first war message of
May, 1846, declares that the soil was ours on which hostilities
were commenced by Mexico, and he repeats that declaration almost
in the same language in each successive annual message, thus
showing that he deems that point a highly essential one. In the
importance of that point I entirely agree with the President. To
my judgment it is the very point upon which he should be
justified, or condemned. In his message of December, 1846, it
seems to have occurred to him, as is certainly true, that title-
ownership-to soil or anything else is not a simple fact, but is a
conclusion following on one or more simple facts; and that it was
incumbent upon him to present the facts from which he concluded
the soil was ours on which the first blood of the war was shed.
Accordingly, a little below the middle of page twelve in the
message last referred to, he enters upon that task; forming an
issue and introducing testimony, extending the whole to a little
below the middle of page fourteen. Now, I propose to try to show
that the whole of this--issue and evidence--is from beginning to
end the sheerest deception. The issue, as he presents it, is in
these words: "But there are those who, conceding all this to be
true, assume the ground that the true western boundary of Texas
is the Nueces, instead of the Rio Grande; and that, therefore, in
marching our army to the east bank of the latter river, we passed
the Texas line and invaded the territory of Mexico." Now this
issue is made up of two affirmatives and no negative. The main
deception of it is that it assumes as true that one river or the
other is necessarily the boundary; and cheats the superficial
thinker entirely out of the idea that possibly the boundary is
somewhere between the two, and not actually at either. A further
deception is that it will let in evidence which a true issue
would exclude. A true issue made by the President would be about
as follows: "I say the soil was ours, on which the first blood
was shed; there are those who say it was not."
I now proceed to examine the President's evidence as applicable
to such an issue. When that evidence is analyzed, it is all
included in the following propositions
(1) That the Rio Grande was the western boundary of Louisiana as
we purchased it of France in 1803.
(2) That the Republic of Texas always claimed the Rio Grande as
her eastern boundary.
(3) That by various acts she had claimed it on paper.
(4) That Santa Anna in his treaty with Texas recognized the Rio
Grande as her boundary.
(5) That Texas before, and the United States after, annexation
had exercised jurisdiction beyond the Nueces--between the two
(6) That our Congress understood the boundary of Texas to extend
beyond the Nueces.
Now for each of these in its turn. His first item is that the
Rio Grande was the western boundary of Louisiana, as we purchased
it of France in 1803; and seeming to expect this to be disputed,
he argues over the amount of nearly a page to prove it true, at
the end of which he lets us know that by the treaty of 1803 we
sold to Spain the whole country from the Rio Grande eastward to
the Sabine. Now, admitting for the present that the Rio Grande
was the boundary of Louisiana, what under heaven had that to do
with the present boundary between us and Mexico? How, Mr.
Chairman, the line that once divided your land from mine can
still be the boundary between us after I have sold my land to you
is to me beyond all comprehension. And how any man, with an
honest purpose only of proving the truth, could ever have thought
of introducing such a fact to prove such an issue is equally
incomprehensible. His next piece of evidence is that "the
Republic of Texas always claimed this river [Rio Grande] as her
western boundary." That is not true, in fact. Texas has claimed
it, but she has not always claimed it. There is at least one
distinguished exception. Her State constitution the republic's
most solemn and well-considered act, that which may, without
impropriety, be called her last will and testament, revoking all
others-makes no such claim. But suppose she had always claimed
it. Has not Mexico always claimed the contrary? So that there
is but claim against claim, leaving nothing proved until we get
back of the claims and find which has the better foundation.
Though not in the order in which the President presents his
evidence, I now consider that class of his statements which are
in substance nothing more than that Texas has, by various acts of
her Convention and Congress, claimed the Rio Grande as her
boundary, on paper. I mean here what he says about the fixing of
the Rio Grande as her boundary in her old constitution (not her
State constitution), about forming Congressional districts,
counties, etc. Now all of this is but naked claim; and what I
have already said about claims is strictly applicable to this.
If I should claim your land by word of mouth, that certainly
would not make it mine; and if I were to claim it by a deed which
I had made myself, and with which you had had nothing to do, the
claim would be quite the same in substance--or rather, in utter
nothingness. I next consider the President's statement that
Santa Anna in his treaty with Texas recognized the Rio Grande as
the western boundary of Texas. Besides the position so often
taken, that Santa Anna while a prisoner of war, a captive, could
not bind Mexico by a treaty, which I deem conclusive--besides
this, I wish to say something in relation to this treaty, so
called by the President, with Santa Anna. If any man would like
to be amused by a sight of that little thing which the President
calls by that big name, he can have it by turning to Niles's
Register, vol. 1, p. 336. And if any one should suppose that
Niles's Register is a curious repository of so mighty a document
as a solemn treaty between nations, I can only say that I learned
to a tolerable degree of certainty, by inquiry at the State
Department, that the President himself never saw it anywhere
else. By the way, I believe I should not err if I were to
declare that during the first ten years of the existence of that
document it was never by anybody called a treaty--that it was
never so called till the President, in his extremity, attempted
by so calling it to wring something from it in justification of
himself in connection with the Mexican War. It has none of the
distinguishing features of a treaty. It does not call itself a
treaty. Santa Anna does not therein assume to bind Mexico; he
assumes only to act as the President--Commander-in-Chief of the
Mexican army and navy; stipulates that the then present
hostilities should cease, and that he would not himself take up
arms, nor influence the Mexican people to take up arms, against
Texas during the existence of the war of independence. He did
not recognize the independence of Texas; he did not assume to put
an end to the war, but clearly indicated his expectation of its
continuance; he did not say one word about boundary, and, most
probably, never thought of it. It is stipulated therein that the
Mexican forces should evacuate the territory of Texas, passing to
the other side of the Rio Grande; and in another article it is
stipulated that, to prevent collisions between the armies, the
Texas army should not approach nearer than within five leagues--
of what is not said, but clearly, from the object stated, it is
of the Rio Grande. Now, if this is a treaty recognizing the Rio
Grande as the boundary of Texas, it contains the singular feature
of stipulating that Texas shall not go within five leagues of her
Next comes the evidence of Texas before annexation, and the
United States afterwards, exercising jurisdiction beyond the
Nueces and between the two rivers. This actual exercise of
jurisdiction is the very class or quality of evidence we want.
It is excellent so far as it goes; but does it go far enough? He
tells us it went beyond the Nueces, but he does not tell us it
went to the Rio Grande. He tells us jurisdiction was exercised
between the two rivers, but he does not tell us it was exercised
over all the territory between them. Some simple-minded people
think it is possible to cross one river and go beyond it without
going all the way to the next, that jurisdiction may be exercised
between two rivers without covering all the country between them.
I know a man, not very unlike myself, who exercises jurisdiction
over a piece of land between the Wabash and the Mississippi; and
yet so far is this from being all there is between those rivers
that it is just one hundred and fifty-two feet long by fifty feet
wide, and no part of it much within a hundred miles of either. He
has a neighbor between him and the Mississippi--that is, just
across the street, in that direction--whom I am sure he could
neither persuade nor force to give up his habitation; but which
nevertheless he could certainly annex, if it were to be done by
merely standing on his own side of the street and claiming it, or
even sitting down and writing a deed for it.
But next the President tells us the Congress of the United States
understood the State of Texas they admitted into the Union to
extend beyond the Nueces. Well, I suppose they did. I certainly
so understood it. But how far beyond? That Congress did not
understand it to extend clear to the Rio Grande is quite certain,
by the fact of their joint resolutions for admission expressly
leaving all questions of boundary to future adjustment. And it
may be added that Texas herself is proven to have had the same
understanding of it that our Congress had, by the fact of the
exact conformity of her new constitution to those resolutions.
I am now through the whole of the President's evidence; and it is
a singular fact that if any one should declare the President sent
the army into the midst of a settlement of Mexican people who had
never submitted, by consent or by force, to the authority of
Texas or of the United States, and that there and thereby the
first blood of the war was shed, there is not one word in all the
which would either admit or deny the declaration. This strange
omission it does seem to me could not have occurred but by
design. My way of living leads me to be about the courts of
justice; and there I have sometimes seen a good lawyer,
struggling for his client's neck in a desperate case, employing
every artifice to work round, befog, and cover up with many words
some point arising in the case which he dared not admit and yet
could not deny. Party bias may help to make it appear so, but
with all the allowance I can make for such bias, it still does
appear to me that just such, and from just such necessity, is the
President's struggle in this case.
Sometime after my colleague [Mr. Richardson] introduced the
resolutions I have mentioned, I introduced a preamble,
resolution, and interrogations, intended to draw the President
out, if possible, on this hitherto untrodden ground. To show
their relevancy, I propose to state my understanding of the true
rule for ascertaining the boundary between Texas and Mexico. It
is that wherever Texas was exercising jurisdiction was hers; and
wherever Mexico was exercising jurisdiction was hers; and that
whatever separated the actual exercise of jurisdiction of the one
from that of the other was the true boundary between them. If,
as is probably true, Texas was exercising jurisdiction along the
western bank of the Nueces, and Mexico was exercising it along
the eastern bank of the Rio Grande, then neither river was the
boundary: but the uninhabited country between the two was. The
extent of our territory in that region depended not on any
treaty-fixed boundary (for no treaty had attempted it), but on
revolution. Any people anywhere being inclined and having the
power have the right to rise up and shake off the existing
government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a
most valuable, a most sacred right--a right which we hope and
believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to
cases in which the whole people of an existing government may
choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can may
revolutionize and make their own of so much of the territory as
they inhabit. More than this, a majority of any portion of such
people may revolutionize, putting down a minority, intermingled
with or near about them, who may oppose this movement. Such
minority was precisely the case of the Tories of our own
revolution. It is a quality of revolutions not to go by old
lines or old laws, but to break up both, and make new ones.
As to the country now in question, we bought it of France in
1803, and sold it to Spain in 1819, according to the President's
statements. After this, all Mexico, including Texas,
revolutionized against Spain; and still later Texas
revolutionized against Mexico. In my view, just so far as she
carried her resolution by obtaining the actual, willing or
unwilling, submission of the people, so far the country was hers,
and no farther. Now, sir, for the purpose of obtaining the very
best evidence as to whether Texas had actually carried her
revolution to the place where the hostilities of the present war
commenced, let the President answer the interrogatories I
proposed, as before mentioned, or some other similar ones. Let
him answer fully, fairly, and candidly. Let him answer with facts
and not with arguments. Let him remember he sits where
Washington sat, and so remembering, let him answer as Washington
would answer. As a nation should not, and the Almighty will not,
be evaded, so let him attempt no evasion--no equivocation. And
if, so answering, he can show that the soil was ours where the
first blood of the war was shed,--that it was not within an
inhabited country, or, if within such, that the inhabitants had
submitted themselves to the civil authority of Texas or of the
United States, and that the same is true of the site of Fort
Brown, then I am with him for his justification. In that case I
shall be most happy to reverse the vote I gave the other day. I
have a selfish motive for desiring that the President may do this
--I expect to gain some votes, in connection with the war, which,
without his so doing, will be of doubtful propriety in my own
judgment, but which will be free from the doubt if he does so.
But if he can not or will not do this,--if on any pretence or no
pretence he shall refuse or omit it then I shall be fully
convinced of what I more than suspect already that he is deeply
conscious of being in the wrong; that he feels the blood of this
war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to heaven against him;
that originally having some strong motive--what, I will not stop
now to give my opinion concerning to involve the two countries in
a war, and trusting to escape scrutiny by fixing the public gaze
upon the exceeding brightness of military glory,--that attractive
rainbow that rises in showers of blood, that serpent's eye that
charms to destroy,--he plunged into it, and was swept on and on
till, disappointed in his calculation of the ease with which
Mexico might be subdued, he now finds himself he knows not where.
How like the half insane mumbling of a fever dream is the whole
war part of his late message! At one time telling us that Mexico
has nothing whatever that we can get--but territory; at another
showing us how we can support the war by levying contributions on
Mexico. At one time urging the national honor, the security of
the future, the prevention of foreign interference, and even the
good of Mexico herself as among the objects of the war; at
another telling us that "to reject indemnity, by refusing to
accept a cession of territory, would be to abandon all our just
demands, and to wage the war, bearing all its expenses, without a
purpose or definite object." So then this national honor,
security of the future, and everything but territorial indemnity
may be considered the no-purposes and indefinite objects of the
war! But, having it now settled that territorial indemnity is
the only object, we are urged to seize, by legislation here, all
that he was content to take a few months ago, and the whole
province of Lower California to boot, and to still carry on the
war to take all we are fighting for, and still fight on. Again,
the President is resolved under all circumstances to have full
territorial indemnity for the expenses of the war; but he forgets
to tell us how we are to get the excess after those expenses
shall have surpassed the value of the whole of the Mexican
territory. So again, he insists that the separate national
existence of Mexico shall be maintained; but he does not tell us
how this can be done, after we shall have taken all her
territory. Lest the questions I have suggested be considered
speculative merely, let me be indulged a moment in trying to show
they are not. The war has gone on some twenty months; for the
expenses of which, together with an inconsiderable old score, the
President now claims about one half of the Mexican territory, and
that by far the better half, so far as concerns our ability to
make anything out of it. It is comparatively uninhabited; so
that we could establish land-offices in it, and raise some money
in that way. But the other half is already inhabited, as I
understand it, tolerably densely for the nature of the country,
and all its lands, or all that are valuable, already appropriated
as private property. How then are we to make anything out of
these lands with this encumbrance on them? or how remove the
encumbrance? I suppose no one would say we should kill the
people, or drive them out, or make slaves of them, or confiscate
their property. How, then, can we make much out of this part of
the territory? If the prosecution of the war has in expenses
already equalled the better half of the country, how long its
future prosecution will be in equalling the less valuable half is
not a speculative, but a practical, question, pressing closely
upon us. And yet it is a question which the President seems
never to have thought of. As to the mode of terminating the war
and securing peace, the President is equally wandering and
indefinite. First, it is to be done by a more vigorous
prosecution of the war in the vital parts of the enemy's country;
and after apparently talking himself tired on this point, the
President drops down into a half-despairing tone, and tells us
that "with a people distracted and divided by contending
factions, and a government subject to constant changes by
successive revolutions, the continued success of our arms may
fail to secure a satisfactory peace." Then he suggests the
propriety of wheedling the Mexican people to desert the counsels
of their own leaders, and, trusting in our protestations, to set
up a government from which we can secure a satisfactory peace;
telling us that "this may become the only mode of obtaining
such a peace." But soon he falls into doubt of this too; and
then drops back on to the already half-abandoned ground of "more
vigorous prosecution." All this shows that the President is in
nowise satisfied with his own positions. First he takes up one,
and in attempting to argue us into it he argues himself out of
it, then seizes another and goes through the same process, and
then, confused at being able to think of nothing new, he snatches
up the old one again, which he has some time before cast off.
His mind, taxed beyond its power, is running hither and thither,
like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no
position on which it can settle down and be at ease.
Again, it is a singular omission in this message that it nowhere
intimates when the President expects the war to terminate. At
its beginning, General Scott was by this same President driven
into disfavor if not disgrace, for intimating that peace could
not be conquered in less than three or four months. But now, at
the end of about twenty months, during which time our arms have
given us the most splendid successes, every department and every
part, land and water, officers and privates, regulars and
volunteers, doing all that men could do, and hundreds of things
which it had ever before been thought men could not do--after all
this, this same President gives a long message, without showing
us that as to the end he himself has even an imaginary
conception. As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He
is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God
grant he may be able to show there is not something about his
conscience more painful than his mental perplexity.
The following is a copy of the so-called "treaty" referred to in
"Articles of Agreement entered into between his Excellency
David G. Burnet, President of the Republic of Texas, of the one
part, and his Excellency General Santa Anna, President-General-
in-Chief of the Mexican army, of the other part:
"Article I. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna agrees that
he will not take up arms, nor will he exercise his influence to
cause them to be taken up, against the people of Texas during the
present war of independence.
"Article II. All hostilities between the Mexican and Texan
troops will cease immediately, both by land and water.
"Article III. The Mexican troops will evacuate the territory
of Texas, passing to the other side of the Rio Grande Del Norte.
"Article IV. The Mexican army, in its retreat, shall not
take the property of any person without his consent and just
indemnification, using only such articles as may be necessary for
its subsistence, in cases when the owner may not be present, and
remitting to the commander of the army of Texas, or to the
commissioners to be appointed for the adjustment of such matters,
an account of the value of the property consumed, the place where
taken, and the name of the owner, if it can be ascertained.
"Article V. That all private property, including cattle,
horses, negro slaves, or indentured persons, of whatever
denomination, that may have been captured by any portion of the
Mexican army, or may have taken refuge in the said army, since
the commencement of the late invasion, shall be restored to the
commander of the Texan army, or to such other persons as may be
appointed by the Government of Texas to receive them.
"Article VI. The troops of both armies will refrain from
coming in contact with each other; and to this end the commander
of the army of Texas will be careful not to approach within a
shorter distance than five leagues.
"Article VII. The Mexican army shall not make any other
delay on its march than that which is necessary to take up their
hospitals, baggage, etc., and to cross the rivers; any delay not
necessary to these purposes to be considered an infraction of
"Article VIII. By an express, to be immediately despatched,
this agreement shall be sent to General Vincente Filisola and to
General T. J. Rusk, commander of the Texan army, in order that
they may be apprised of its stipulations; and to this end they
will exchange engagements to comply with the same.
"Article IX. That all Texan prisoners now in the possession
of the Mexican army, or its authorities, be forthwith released,
and furnished with free passports to return to their homes; in
consideration of which a corresponding number of Mexican
prisoners, rank and file, now in possession of the Government of
Texas shall be immediately released; the remainder of the Mexican
prisoners that continue in the possession of the Government of
Texas to be treated with due humanity,--any extraordinary
comforts that may be furnished them to be at the charge of the
Government of Mexico.
"Article X. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna will be sent
to Vera Cruz as soon as it shall be deemed proper.
"The contracting parties sign this instrument for the
abovementioned purposes, in duplicate, at the port of Velasco,
this fourteenth day of May, 1836.
"DAVID G. BURNET, President,
"JAS. COLLINGSWORTH, Secretary of State,
"ANTONIO LOPEZ DE SANTA ANNA,
"B. HARDIMAN, Secretary o f the Treasury,
"P. W. GRAYSON, Attorney-General."
REPORT IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
JANUARY 19, 1848.
Mr. Lincoln, from the Committee on the Post-office and Post
Roads, made the following report:
The Committee on the Post-office and Post Roads, to whom was
referred the petition of Messrs. Saltmarsh and Fuller, report:
That, as proved to their satisfaction, the mail routes from
Milledgeville to Athens, and from Warrenton to Decatur, in the
State of Georgia (numbered 2366 and 2380), were let to Reeside
and Avery at $1300 per annum for the former and $1500 for the
latter, for the term of four years, to commence on the first day
of January, 1835; that, previous to the time for commencing the
service, Reeside sold his interest therein to Avery; that on the
5th of May, 1835, Avery sold the whole to these petitioners,
Saltmarsh and Fuller, to take effect from the beginning, January
a 1835; that at this time, the Assistant Postmaster-General,
being called on for that purpose, consented to the transfer of
the contracts from Reeside and Avery to these petitioners, and
promised to have proper entries of the transfer made on the books
of the department, which, however, was neglected to be done; that
the petitioners, supposing all was right, in good faith commenced
the transportation of the mail on these routes, and after
difficulty arose, still trusting that all would be made right,
continued the service till December a 1837; that they performed
the service to the entire satisfaction of the department, and
have never been paid anything for it except $----; that the
difficulty occurred as follows:
Mr. Barry was Postmaster-General at the times of making the
contracts and the attempted transfer of them; Mr. Kendall
succeeded Mr. Barry, and finding Reeside apparently in debt to
the department, and these contracts still standing in the names
of Reeside and Avery, refused to pay for the services under them,
otherwise than by credits to Reeside; afterward, however, he
divided the compensation, still crediting one half to Reeside,
and directing the other to be paid to the order of Avery, who
disclaimed all right to it. After discontinuing the service,
these petitioners, supposing they might have legal redress
against Avery, brought suit against him in New Orleans; in which
suit they failed, on the ground that Avery had complied with his
contract, having done so much toward the transfer as they had
accepted and been satisfied with. Still later the department
sued Reeside on his supposed indebtedness, and by a verdict of
the jury it was determined that the department was indebted to
him in a sum much beyond all the credits given him on the account
above stated. Under these circumstances, the committee consider
the petitioners clearly entitled to relief, and they report a
bill accordingly; lest, however, there should be some mistake as
to the amount which they have already received, we so frame it as
that, by adjustment at the department, they may be paid so much
as remains unpaid for services actually performed by them not
charging them with the credits given to Reeside. The committee
think it not improbable that the petitioners purchased the right
of Avery to be paid for the service from the 1st of January, till
their purchase on May 11, 1835; but, the evidence on this point
being very vague, they forbear to report in favor of allowing it.
TO WILLIAM H. HERNDON--LEGAL WORK
WASHINGTON, January 19, 1848.
DEAR WILLIAM:--Inclosed you find a letter of Louis W. Chandler.
What is wanted is that you shall ascertain whether the claim upon
the note described has received any dividend in the Probate Court
of Christian County, where the estate of Mr. Overbon Williams has
been administered on. If nothing is paid on it, withdraw the
note and send it to me, so that Chandler can see the indorser of
it. At all events write me all about it, till I can somehow get
it off my hands. I have already been bored more than enough
about it; not the least of which annoyance is his cursed,
unreadable, and ungodly handwriting.
I have made a speech, a copy of which I will send you by next
Yours as ever,
REGARDING SPEECH ON MEXICAN WAR
TO WILLIAM H. HERNDON.
WASHINGTON, February 1, 1848.
DEAR WILLIAM:--Your letter of the 19th ultimo was received last
night, and for which I am much obliged. The only thing in it
that I wish to talk to you at once about is that because of my
vote for Ashmun's amendment you fear that you and I disagree
about the war. I regret this, not because of any fear we shall
remain disagreed after you have read this letter, but because if
you misunderstand I fear other good friends may also. That vote
affirms that the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally
commenced by the President; and I will stake my life that if you
had been in my place you would have voted just as I did. Would
you have voted what you felt and knew to be a lie? I know you
would not. Would you have gone out of the House--skulked the
vote? I expect not. If you had skulked one vote, you would have
had to skulk many more before the end of the session.
Richardson's resolutions, introduced before I made any move or
gave any vote upon the subject, make the direct question of the
justice of the war; so that no man can be silent if he would.
You are compelled to speak; and your only alternative is to tell
the truth or a lie. I cannot doubt which you would do.
This vote has nothing to do in determining my votes on the
questions of supplies. I have always intended, and still intend,
to vote supplies; perhaps not in the precise form recommended by
the President, but in a better form for all purposes, except
Locofoco party purposes. It is in this particular you seem
mistaken. The Locos are untiring in their efforts to make the
impression that all who vote supplies or take part in the war do
of necessity approve the President's conduct in the beginning of
it; but the Whigs have from the beginning made and kept the
distinction between the two. In the very first act nearly all
the Whigs voted against the preamble declaring that war existed
by the act of Mexico; and yet nearly all of them voted for the
supplies. As to the Whig men who have participated in the war,
so far as they have spoken in my hearing they do not hesitate to
denounce as unjust the President's conduct in the beginning of
the war. They do not suppose that such denunciation is directed
by undying hatred to him, as The Register would have it
believed. There are two such Whigs on this floor (Colonel
Haskell and Major James) The former fought as a colonel by the
side of Colonel Baker at Cerro Gordo, and stands side by side
with me in the vote that you seem dissatisfied with. The latter,
the history of whose capture with Cassius Clay you well know, had
not arrived here when that vote was given; but, as I understand,
he stands ready to give just such a vote whenever an occasion
shall present. Baker, too, who is now here, says the truth is
undoubtedly that way; and whenever he shall speak out, he will
say so. Colonel Doniphan, too, the favorite Whig of Missouri,
and who overran all Northern Mexico, on his return home in a
public speech at St. Louis condemned the administration in
relation to the war. If I remember, G. T. M. Davis, who has
been through almost the whole war, declares in favor of Mr. Clay;
from which I infer that he adopts the sentiments of Mr. Clay,
generally at least. On the other hand, I have heard of but one
Whig who has been to the war attempting to justify the
President's conduct. That one was Captain Bishop, editor of the
Charleston Courier, and a very clever fellow. I do not mean this
letter for the public, but for you. Before it reaches you, you
will have seen and read my pamphlet speech, and perhaps been
scared anew by it. After you get over your scare, read it over
again, sentence by sentence, and tell me honestly what you think
of it. I condensed all I could for fear of being cut off by the
hour rule, and when I got through I had spoken but forty-five
TO WILLIAM H. HERNDON.
WASHINGTON, February 2, 1848
DEAR WILLIAM:--I just take my pen to say that Mr. Stephens, of
Georgia, a little, slim, pale-faced, consumptive man, with a
voice like Logan's, has just concluded the very best speech of an
hour's length I ever heard. My old withered dry eyes are full of
If he writes it out anything like he delivered it, our people
shall see a good many copies of it.
ON THE MEXICAN WAR
TO WILLIAM H. HERNDON.
WASHINGTON, February 15, 1848.
DEAR WILLIAM:--Your letter of the 29th January was received last
night. Being exclusively a constitutional argument, I wish to
submit some reflections upon it in the same spirit of kindness
that I know actuates you. Let me first state what I understand
to be your position. It is that if it shall become necessary to
repel invasion, the President may, without violation of the
Constitution, cross the line and invade the territory of another
country, and that whether such necessity exists in any given case
the President is the sole judge.
Before going further consider well whether this is or is not your
position. If it is, it is a position that neither the President
himself, nor any friend of his, so far as I know, has ever taken.
Their only positions are--first, that the soil was ours when the
hostilities commenced; and second, that whether it was rightfully
ours or not, Congress had annexed it, and the President for that
reason was bound to defend it; both of which are as clearly
proved to be false in fact as you can prove that your house is
mine. The soil was not ours, and Congress did not annex or
attempt to annex it. But to return to your position. Allow the
President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem
it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so
whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such
purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see
if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after
having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should
choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent
the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may
say to him,--"I see no probability of the British invading us";
but he will say to you, "Be silent: I see it, if you don't."
The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to
Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following
reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their
people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the
good of the people was the object. This our convention
understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions,
and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man
should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But
your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President
where kings have always stood. Write soon again.
REPORT IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
MARCH 9, 1848.
Mr. Lincoln, from the Committee on the Postoffice and Post Roads,
made the following report:
The Committee on the Post-office and Post Roads, to whom was
referred the resolution of the House of Representatives entitled
"An Act authorizing postmasters at county seats of justice to
receive subscriptions for newspapers and periodicals, to be paid
through the agency of the Post-office Department, and for other
purposes," beg leave to submit the following report
The committee have reason to believe that a general wish pervades
the community at large that some such facility as the proposed
measure should be granted by express law, for subscribing,
through the agency of the Post-office Department, to newspapers
and periodicals which diffuse daily, weekly, or monthly
intelligence of passing events. Compliance with this general
wish is deemed to be in accordance with our republican
institutions, which can be best sustained by the diffusion of
knowledge and the due encouragement of a universal, national
spirit of inquiry and discussion of public events through the
medium of the public press. The committee, however, has not been
insensible to its duty of guarding the Post-office Department
against injurious sacrifices for the accomplishment of this
object, whereby its ordinary efficacy might be impaired or
embarrassed. It has therefore been a subject of much
consideration; but it is now confidently hoped that the bill
herewith submitted effectually obviates all objections which
might exist with regard to a less matured proposition.
The committee learned, upon inquiry, that the Post-office
Department, in view of meeting the general wish on this subject,
made the experiment through one if its own internal regulations,
when the new postage system went into operation on the first of
July, 1845, and that it was continued until the thirtieth of
September, 1847. But this experiment, for reasons hereafter
stated, proved unsatisfactory, and it was discontinued by order
of the Postmaster-General. As far as the committee can at
present ascertain, the following seem to have been the principal
grounds of dissatisfaction in this experiment:
(1) The legal responsibility of postmasters receiving newspaper
subscriptions, or of their sureties, was not defined.
(2) The authority was open to all postmasters instead of being
limited to those of specific offices.
(3) The consequence of this extension of authority was that, in
innumerable instances, the money, without the previous knowledge
or control of the officers of the department who are responsible
for the good management of its finances, was deposited in offices
where it was improper such funds should be placed; and the
repayment was ordered, not by the financial officers, but by the
postmasters, at points where it was inconvenient to the
department so to disburse its funds.
(4) The inconvenience of accumulating uncertain and fluctuating
sums at small offices was felt seriously in consequent
overpayments to contractors on their quarterly collecting orders;
and, in case of private mail routes, in litigation concerning the
misapplication of such funds to the special service of supplying
(5) The accumulation of such funds on draft offices could not be
known to the financial clerks of the department in time to
control it, and too often this rendered uncertain all their
calculations of funds in hand.
(6) The orders of payment were for the most part issued upon the
principal offices, such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston,
Baltimore, etc., where the large offices of publishers are
located, causing an illimitable and uncontrollable drain of the
department funds from those points where it was essential to
husband them for its own regular disbursements. In Philadelphia
alone this drain averaged $5000 per quarter; and in other cities
of the seaboard it was proportionate.
(7) The embarrassment of the department was increased by the
illimitable, uncontrollable, and irresponsible scattering of its
funds from concentrated points suitable for its distributions, to
remote, unsafe, and inconvenient offices, where they could not be
again made available till collected by special agents, or were
transferred at considerable expense into the principal disbursing
(8) There was a vast increase of duties thrown upon the limited
force before necessary to conduct the business of the department;
and from the delay of obtaining vouchers impediments arose to the
speedy settlement of accounts with present or retired post-
masters, causing postponements which endangered the liability of
sureties under the act of limitations, and causing much danger of
an increase of such cases.
(9) The most responsible postmasters (at the large offices) were
ordered by the least responsible (at small offices) to make
payments upon their vouchers, without having the means of
ascertaining whether these vouchers were genuine or forged, or if
genuine, whether the signers were in or out of office, or solvent
(10) The transaction of this business for subscribers and
publishers at the public expense, an the embarrassment,
inconvenience, and delay of the department's own business
occasioned by it, were not justified by any sufficient
remuneration of revenue to sustain the department, as required in
every other respect with regard to its agency.
The committee, in view of these objections, has been solicitous
to frame a bill which would not be obnoxious to them in principle
or in practical effect.
It is confidently believed that by limiting the offices for
receiving subscriptions to less than one tenth of the number
authorized by the experiment already tried, and designating the
county seat in each county for the purpose, the control of the
department will be rendered satisfactory; particularly as it will
be in the power of the Auditor, who is the officer required by
law to check the accounts, to approve or disapprove of the
deposits, and to sanction not only the payments, but to point out
the place of payment. If these payments should cause a drain on
the principal offices of the seaboard, it will be compensated by
the accumulation of funds at county seats, where the contractors
on those routes can be paid to that extent by the department's
drafts, with more local convenience to themselves than by drafts
on the seaboard offices.
The legal responsibility for these deposits is defined, and the
accumulation of funds at the point of deposit, and the repayment
at points drawn upon, being known to and controlled by the
Auditor, will not occasion any such embarrassments as were before
felt; the record kept by the Auditor on the passing of the
certificates through his hands will enable him to settle accounts
without the delay occasioned by vouchers being withheld; all
doubt or uncertainty as to the genuineness of certificates, or
the propriety of their issue, will be removed by the Auditor's
examination and approval; and there can be no risk of loss of
funds by transmission, as the certificate will not be payable
till sanctioned by the Auditor, and after his sanction the payor
need not pay it unless it is presented by the publisher or his
known clerk or agent.
The main principle of equivalent for the agency of the department
is secured by the postage required to be paid upon the
transmission of the certificates, augmenting adequately the post-
The committee, conceiving that in this report all the
difficulties of the subject have been fully and fairly stated,
and that these difficulties have been obviated by the plan
proposed in the accompanying bill, and believing that the measure
will satisfactorily meet the wants and wishes of a very large
portion of the community, beg leave to recommend its adoption.
REPORT IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
MARCH 9, 1848.
Mr. Lincoln, from the Committee on the Postoffice and Post Roads,
made the following report:
The Committee on the Post-office and Post Roads, to whom was
referred the petition of H. M. Barney, postmaster at Brimfield,
Peoria County, Illinois, report: That they have been satisfied by
evidence, that on the 15th of December, 1847, said petitioner had
his store, with some fifteen hundred dollars' worth of goods,
together with all the papers of the post-office, entirely
destroyed by fire; and that the specie funds of the office were
melted down, partially lost and partially destroyed; that this
large individual loss entirely precludes the idea of
embezzlement; that the balances due the department of former
quarters had been only about twenty-five dollars; and that owing
to the destruction of papers, the exact amount due for the
quarter ending December 31, 1847, cannot be ascertained. They
therefore report a joint resolution, releasing said petitioner
from paying anything for the quarter last mentioned.
REMARKS IN THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
MARCH 29, 1848.
The bill for raising additional military force for limited time,
etc., was reported from Committee on judiciary; similar bills had
been reported from Committee on, Public Lands and Military
Mr. Lincoln said if there was a general desire on the part of the
House to pass the bill now he should be glad to have it done--
concurring, as he did generally, with the gentleman from Arkansas
[Mr. Johnson] that the postponement might jeopard the safety of
the proposition. If, however, a reference was to be made, he
wished to make a very few remarks in relation to the several
subjects desired by the gentlemen to be embraced in amendments to
the ninth section of the act of the last session of Congress.
The first amendment desired by members of this House had for its
only object to give bounty lands to such persons as had served
for a time as privates, but had never been discharged as such,
because promoted to office. That subject, and no other, was
embraced in this bill. There were some others who desired, while
they were legislating on this subject, that they should also give
bounty lands to the volunteers of the War of 1812. His friend
from Maryland said there were no such men. He [Mr. L.] did not
say there were many, but he was very confident there were some.
His friend from Kentucky near him, [Mr. Gaines] told him he
himself was one.
There was still another proposition touching this matter; that
was, that persons entitled to bounty lands should by law be
entitled to locate these lands in parcels, and not be required to
locate them in one body, as was provided by the existing law.
Now he had carefully drawn up a bill embracing these three
separate propositions, which he intended to propose as a
substitute for all these bills in the House, or in Committee of
the Whole on the State of the Union, at some suitable time. If
there was a disposition on the part of the House to act at once
on this separate proposition, he repeated that, with the
gentlemen from Arkansas, he should prefer it lest they should
lose all. But if there was to be a reference, he desired to
introduce his bill embracing the three propositions, thus
enabling the committee and the House to act at the same time,
whether favorably or unfavorably, upon all. He inquired whether
an amendment was now in order.
The Speaker replied in the negative.
TO ARCHIBALD WILLIAMS.
WASHINGTON, April 30, 1848.
DEAR WILLIAMS:--I have not seen in the papers any evidence of a
movement to send a delegate from your circuit to the June
convention. I wish to say that I think it all-important that a
delegate should be sent. Mr. Clay's chance for an election is
just no chance at all. He might get New York, and that would
have elected in 1844, but it will not now, because he must now,
at the least, lose Tennessee, which he had then, and in addition
the fifteen new votes of Florida, Texas, Iowa, and Wisconsin. I
know our good friend Browning is a great admirer of Mr. Clay, and
I therefore fear he is favoring his nomination. If he is, ask
him to discard feeling, and try if he can possibly, as a matter
of judgment, count the votes necessary to elect him.
In my judgment we can elect nobody but General Taylor; and we
cannot elect him without a nomination. Therefore don't fail to
send a delegate. Your friend as ever,
REMARKS IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
MAY 11, 1848.
A bill for the admission of Wisconsin into the Union had been
Mr. Lincoln moved to reconsider the vote by which the bill was
passed. He stated to the House that he had made this motion for
the purpose of obtaining an opportunity to say a few words in
relation to a point raised in the course of the debate on this
bill, which he would now proceed to make if in order. The point
in the case to which he referred arose on the amendment that was
submitted by the gentleman from Vermont [Mr. Collamer] in
Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union, and which was
afterward renewed in the House, in relation to the question
whether the reserved sections, which, by some bills heretofore
passed, by which an appropriation of land had been made to
Wisconsin, had been enhanced in value, should be reduced to the
minimum price of the public lands. The question of the reduction
in value of those sections was to him at this time a matter very
nearly of indifference. He was inclined to desire that Wisconsin
should be obliged by having it reduced. But the gentleman from
Indiana [Mr. C. B. Smith], the chairman of the Committee on
Territories, yesterday associated that question with the general
question, which is now to some extent agitated in Congress, of
making appropriations of alternate sections of land to aid the
States in making internal improvements, and enhancing the price
of the sections reserved, and the gentleman from Indiana took
ground against that policy. He did not make any special argument
in favor of Wisconsin, but he took ground generally against the
policy of giving alternate sections of land, and enhancing the
price of the reserved sections. Now he [Mr. Lincoln] did not at
this time take the floor for the purpose of attempting to make an
argument on the general subject. He rose simply to protest
against the doctrine which the gentleman from Indiana had avowed
in the course of what he [Mr. Lincoln] could not but consider an
It might, however, be true, for anything he knew, that the
gentleman from Indiana might convince him that his argument was
sound; but he [Mr. Lincoln] feared that gentleman would not be
able to convince a majority in Congress that it was sound. It
was true the question appeared in a different aspect to persons
in consequence of a difference in the point from which they
looked at it. It did not look to persons residing east of the
mountains as it did to those who lived among the public lands.
But, for his part, he would state that if Congress would make a
donation of alternate sections of public land for the purpose of
internal improvements in his State, and forbid the reserved
sections being sold at $1.25, he should be glad to see the
appropriation made; though he should prefer it if the reserved
sections were not enhanced in price. He repeated, he should be
glad to have such appropriations made, even though the reserved
sections should be enhanced in price. He did not wish to be
understood as concurring in any intimation that they would refuse
to receive such an appropriation of alternate sections of land
because a condition enhancing the price of the reserved sections
should be attached thereto. He believed his position would now
be understood: if not, he feared he should not be able to make
But, before he took his seat, he would remark that the Senate
during the present session had passed a bill making
appropriations of land on that principle for the benefit of the
State in which he resided the State of Illinois. The alternate
sections were to be given for the purpose of constructing roads,
and the reserved sections were to be enhanced in value in
consequence. When that bill came here for the action of this
House--it had been received, and was now before the Committee on
Public Lands--he desired much to see it passed as it was, if it
could be put in no more favorable form for the State of Illinois.
When it should be before this House, if any member from a section
of the Union in which these lands did not lie, whose interest
might be less than that which he felt, should propose a reduction
of the price of the reserved sections to $1.25, he should be much
obliged; but he did not think it would be well for those who came
from the section of the Union in which the lands lay to do so.
--He wished it, then, to be understood that he did not join in
the warfare against the principle which had engaged the minds of
some members of Congress who were favorable to the improvements
in the western country. There was a good deal of force, he
admitted, in what fell from the chairman of the Committee on
Territories. It might be that there was no precise justice in
raising the price of the reserved sections to $2.50 per acre. It
might be proper that the price should be enhanced to some extent,
though not to double the usual price; but he should be glad to
have such an appropriation with the reserved sections at $2.50;
he should be better pleased to have the price of those sections
at something less; and he should be still better pleased to have
them without any enhancement at all.
There was one portion of the argument of the gentleman from
Indiana, the chairman of the Committee on Territories [Mr.
Smith], which he wished to take occasion to say that he did not
view as unsound. He alluded to the statement that the General
Government was interested in these internal improvements being
made, inasmuch as they increased the value of the lands that were
unsold, and they enabled the government to sell the lands which
could not be sold without them. Thus, then, the government
gained by internal improvements as well as by the general good
which the people derived from them, and it might be, therefore,
that the lands should not be sold for more than $1.50 instead of
the price being doubled. He, however, merely mentioned this in
passing, for he only rose to state, as the principle of giving
these lands for the purposes which he had mentioned had been laid
hold of and considered favorably, and as there were some
gentlemen who had constitutional scruples about giving money for
these purchases who would not hesitate to give land, that he was
not willing to have it understood that he was one of those who
made war against that principle. This was all he desired to say,
and having accomplished the object with which he rose, he
withdrew his motion to reconsider.
ON TAYLOR'S NOMINATION
TO E. B. WASHBURNE.
WASHINGTON, April 30,1848.
I have this moment received your very short note asking me if old
Taylor is to be used up, and who will be the nominee. My hope of
Taylor's nomination is as high--a little higher than it was when
you left. Still, the case is by no means out of doubt. Mr.
Clay's letter has not advanced his interests any here. Several
who were against Taylor, but not for anybody particularly,
Back to Full Books