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which he probably read soon after its appearance in 1857. It
was the most elaborate study of the effects of slavery upon
white labor available at the time. Lincoln's economic theory
was never developed beyond the brief statements contained in
his first annual message to Congress, his reply to a Committee
of New York Workingmen, March 21, 1864, and in his letter
to Colfax, April 4, 1865.

86 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

well-written address before the Wisconsin Agricul-
tural Society, at Milwaukee, was able to state his
views of labor and capital with greater clearness.
He distinguished between the "mud-sill" theory
held by those who assumed that the hired laborer,
being "fatally fixed in that condition for life," was
as bad off, or worse, than the slave, and the theory
of those who, like himself, held "that labor is prior
to, and independent of, capital — that, in fact, cap-
ital is the fruit of labor, and could never have
existed if labor had not first existed; that labor can
exist without capital, but that capital could never
have existed without labor. Hence they hold that
labor is the superior — greatly the superior — of cap-
ital." He conceded that there was a "relation be-
tween labor and capital." A "few men own capital"
and "hire or buy another few to labor for them,"
but a "large majority belong to neither class of
hirers nor hired," men who "with their families
. . . work for themselves . . . taking the whole
product to themselves, and asking no favors" of
capital or labor. Against the "old general rule . . .
that educated people did not perform manual labor,"
he described "the just, generous, and prosperous
system" of a "prudent, penniless beginner in the
world" who by labor acquires property for himself

Epilogue of the Debates 87

and "at length hires another Beginner to help him."
With this system of "free labor," how could edu-
cation be "most satisfactorily combined?" The
"mud-sill" theory assumed "that labor and educa-
tion are incompatible;" that the education of la-
borers was useless and dangerous, for the heads of
laborers contained "explosive materials" to be kept
as far as possible away "from that peculiar sort of
fire which ignites them." On the other hand "the
Author of man . . . probably intended that heads
and hands should cooperate as friends," that the
head should direct and control the hands and the
mouth "inseparably connected with it; and that
being so, every head should be cultivated and im-
proved by whatever will add to its capacity for per-
forming its charge. In a word, free labor insists
on universal education."

In relation to agriculture, he believed that "book-
learning is available." He advised a knowledge of
botany and mechanics. "Chemistry assists in the
analysis of soils, selection and application" of fer-
tilizers, and in other ways. He advised intensive
cultivation of the soil in preference to extensive
farming. He looked upon education as "cultivated
thought," best combined with "any labor, on the
principle of thorough work ;" and he looked forward

88 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

to the time \\hen tlie "pressure of population wuuld
cause to be esteemed as the most \aluable of all
arts" that "of deriving a comfortable subsistence
from the smallest area of the soil. No community
whose every member possesses this art, can ever
be the victim of oppression in any of its forms.
Such a community will be alike independent of
crowned kings, money kings, and land kings."

Lincoln did not speak so much upon the technic
of agriculture, for which he would not have been
fitted, as upon the practical philosophy and civil
significance of the- art. He believed that a large
farming population of free, intelligent people, tend-
ing constantly to become property owners, was a
safeguard against political and economic tyranny.
This was part and parcel of his ideals of democracy
as against social privilege. The political obstacles
to democracy he knew to be the more immediate and
menacing. This he had indicated a few months
before, in a rather Ijrilliant letter in response to
an invitation to attend, in Boston, a festival in
honor of the birthday of Thomas Jefferson.^ "The
principles of Jefferson," he said, "are the definitions
and axioms of free society. And yet they are de-
nied and evaded, with no small show of success.

1 Letter to H. L. Pierce and others, April 6. 1859.

Epilogue of the Debates 89

One dashingly calls thcni 'glittering generalities.'
Another bluntly calls them 'self-evident lies.' And
others insinuously argue that they apply to 'superior
races.'" These expressions, differing in form, are
identical in object and effect — the supplanting of the
principles of free government, and restoring those of
classification, caste, and legitimacy. They would de-
light a convocation of crowned heads plotting against
the people. They are the vanguard, the miners and
sappers of returning despotism. We must repulse
them or they will subjugate us. This is a world of
compensation, and he who would be no slave must
consent to have no slave. If Lincoln had sought to
unite his industrial and political philosophy in a
single conception, perhaps he could not have given
it a more splendid statement than he gave to the
beautiful sentence with which he closed his high-
minded address at Milwaukee : ^

Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of
the physical world beneath and around us, and the
best intellectual and moral world within us, we shall
secure an individual, social, and political prosperity

I It is remarkable that Lincoln, in his Wisconsin address,
spoke with such clearness upon the very aims in agriculture
which were subsequently to be promoted by his Presidency, in
the land grants of 1862, and later, in the establishment within
the States of colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts.

90 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

and happiness, whose course shall be onward and
upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall
not pass away.

Here we have a clear note of that individual style
which Lincoln's remarkable experience as a writer
and public speaker was gradually fashioning. Spir-
itually, he was yet to be perfected through suffering.
But his mind had already stood the stiff tests of
courage and sympathy, of severe study and patience,
of faith in the essential nobility and aspiration of
human nature. The individuality of that style like-
wise was yet to be perfected. His experience was
to be extended and his mind mellowed by a crisis
far more vast and refining than lay in the intellectual
adventure with Stephen A. Douglas. His prose had
already felt, at points in his recent development,
the heart-borne elevation which was to sustain and
distinguish the Gettysburg Address, and wdiich cul-
minated in the music of that "sacred poem" which
we know as the Second Inaugural.^

I Carl Schurz spoke of Lincoln's Second Inaugural as a
"sacred poem," in his essay, "Abraham Lincoln."



The great difference between a real statesman and the pre-
tender is, that the one sees into the future, while the other
regards only the present ; the one lives by the day, and acts
on expediency ; the other acts on enduring principles and
for immortality. — Burke.

By 1859, when Lincoln and Douglas participated
in the Ohio campaign, the feeling between the North
and South had become perilously unfriendly. Doug-
las was fast losing the support of the Southern
Democrats. Jefferson Davis, typical of Southern
political sentiment, openly broke with him in the
Senate, and contemplated a movement of indepen-
dence for the States of his section.^ A schism in
the Democratic party was inevitable. Both Davis
and Alexander H. Stephens were favorable to the
reviving of the African slave-trade, prohibited by
Congress in 1818 and made a piracy two 3'ears later.
President Buchanan inclined to the side of the slave-
holding statesmen; or, perhaps, through the lack
of personal strength and a policy of his own, de-

I See Rhodes, "History of the United States, from the Com-
promise of 1850," II., chap. X, for a full exposition of this


92 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

f erred to their views. ^ Sectionalism, menacing and
defiant, was rapidly overwhelming statesmanship
in Congress.

For want of a dominant mind and personality in
control, the federal government was drifting be-
fore the gathering storm of disunion. The John
Brown raid deepened the feeling of hostility. The
press of the land was arrayed on one side or the
other in the impending cleavage over slavery. The
church was soon to be riven ; and scholarship and
public opinion throughout the countr}', violently dis-
turbed by the time-worn contention, were settling
down to a definite and irrevocable party alignment
destined to be made the immediate occasion of

As the old-line Democracy dixided, the Repub-
lican party consoHdated under the impulse of new
leadership. Seward in the East and Lincoln in the
West were its ablest interpreters. Of the two, Sew-
ard w^as regarded both in the North and the South
as the probable Republican nominee for President.
Davis had called him "the master mind" of his
party.- His speech at Rochester on the "irrepres-
sible conflict" had declared that the United States
must become "either entirely a slave-holding nation

I Ibid., pp. 349-350, Z72.. 2 Ibid., p. 345.

At Cooper Institute 93

or entirely a free-lalxtr nation." ' This was the
Lincoln doctrine in the Springlield speech of the
same year. 1858. Each of the men had worked
out the doctrine independently. Seward was oi)enly
a candidate for the honor. Lincoln had said he
would support any good man, North or South, as-
suredly loyal to Rei)ublican principles. He wrote
that he felt kindly to Chase, and further: "I must
say I do not think myself lit for the presidency."-
Later he wrote (December 9, 1859) : "You know
I am pledged to not enter a struggle with him
[Trumbull] for the seat in the Senate now occu-
pied by him ; and yet I w^ould rather haye a full
term in the Senate than in the i)residency." •'

1 During Lincoln's speech at Cincinnati in September, 1859,
he quoted the phrase "irrepressible conflict." A voice in the
audience intimated that the phrase was original with him. n<it
with Seward. Lincoln replied: "Neither I, nor Seward, nor
Hickman, is entitled to the enviable or unenviable distinction
of having first expressed that idea. That same idea was ex-
pressed bj' the Richmond Enquirer in Virginia, in 1856, quite
two years before it was expressed by the first of us." He
referred to the Enquirer and it^ editor, Roger A. Pryor, again,
in the same connection, in his speech at New Haven, in March,

2 Letter to Samuel Galloway, July 28. 1859.

3 Letter to N. B. Judd, December 9, 1859.

On April- 16, Lincoln had written to T. J. Pickett, of Rock
Island, a newspaper friend who wished to announce his name
for the Presidency, as follows : "As to the other matter you
kindly mention. 1 must in candor say I do not think myself
fit for the Presidency. ... I really think it best for our
cause that no concerted effort, such as you suggest, should be
made. Let this be considered confidential."

94 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

Yet Lincoln was already being seriously thought
of in connection with the Republican nomination
of i860 by party leaders, particularly in his own
State. He had added to his reputation in Ohio,
where Chase was the leading party man. In the
closing month of 1859. in response to solicitations,
he gave a number of addresses at different points
in Kansas. Only fragments of these addresses sur-
vive, but they are full enough to afford a clear
indication of what he said. His Kansas speeches
interpreted Douglas's popular sovereignty thus: "If
one man would enslave another, neither that other
nor any third man has a right to object." He fol-
lowed up Douglas's article in "Harper's Magazine."
as at Columbus; he defined the Republican policy
as opposed to the further spread of slavery and to
the revival of African slave-trade. "Douglas's po-
sition," he argued, "leads to the nationalization of
slavery as surely as does that of Jeff Davis and
Mason of Virginia. The two positions are but
slightly different roads to the same place — with this
difference, that the nationalization of slavery can
be reached by Douglas's route, and never can be
by the other." He urged party leaders to organize:
"hold conventions, select candidates, and carry elec-
tions. At every step we must be true to the main

At Cooper Institute 95

purpose. . . . And as to men for leaders, we must
remember that 'He that is not for us is against us ;
and he that gathereth not with us, scattereth.' "

The mental state of the natit)n in i860 was un-
favorable to almost any form of literature outside
of what contained a political tang. It was a period
when much was written and spoken. Both verse
and prose were written, but the literary conscious-
ness as such was stayed by the electric atmosphere
of the national tempest which all felt was immi-
nent. Education, religion, and literature, alike suf-
fered partial eclipse; these, like the business inter-
ests of the nation, stood for the time being in abey-
ance, waiting the fresh resiliency that was to come
with a restored Union. Speeches, news, and com-
ment were in great request by readers of every
class. Buchanan's administration, with its inepti-
tude in administering the government, was soon to
close, and all parties were awaiting anxiously the
results of the forthcoming national conventions. The
utterances of those most competent to fathom and
offer a solution to the unhappy political incertitude
was the literature most eagerly sought. Lincoln's
speeches and debates had already been published in
Ohio and were used to influence public opinion. In
ivS6o, the demand for his speeches was strong, and

96 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

an edition was published at Columbus, Ohio. Of
this edition there were various issues. In the case
of some, from fifteen to thirty thousand copies were
said to have been sold.^

Lincoln's Illinois friends were busy with plans
to promote his candidacy. Jesse W. Fell, corre-
sponding secretary of the Republican Central Com-
mittee, assured him of the increasing demand for
his nomination, and procured from him a few para-
graphs of autobiography. The composition, in style
and content reflecting his humble life and oppor-
tunities, was too apologetic for the purpose, and
some months afterward he furnished, as the basis
of a campaign biography, an autobiographic sketch
written with more detail and dignity. On February
1 6, the Chicago Tribune editorially endorsed Lin-
coln's nomination, and Norman B. Judd, member
of the Republican National Committee for Illinois,
managed to secure the convention for Chicago.-
Even yet Lincoln's following was slight outside of
Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Iowa.'' An event took
place, however, which gave him immediate distinc-
tion in the East. On February 27, i860, in response
to an invitation he had received to deliver a lecture

1 Sparks, Illinois Historical Collections, III :592.

2 Tarbell, 1 :339-

T, Rhodes. II :458.

At Cooper Institute 97

in Henry Ward Beecher's church in Brooklyn, he-
gave, instead of a lecture at Plymouth church, an
address at Cooper Institute in New York.' This
great address was pivotal for the East, where the
sentiment had strongly favored the nomination of

Over three months had elapsed between the
invitation (in October, 1859) and the delivery of
the address. During the interval he gave much
time to its preparation. "He searched through the
dusty volumes of congressional proceedings in the
State library, and dug deeply into political history.
He was painstaking and thorough in the study of
his subject, but when at last he left for New York,
we had many misgivings — and he not a few himself
— of his success in the great metrop(jlis." -

Lincoln spoke to "a great audience, including all
the noted men — all the learned and cultured — of his
party in New York: editors, clergymen, statesmen,
lawyers, merchants, critics. They were all very
curious to hear him. His fame as a powerful speaker
had preceded him, and exaggerated rumor of his
wit — the worst forerunner of an orator — had
reached the East. \Mien Air. Bryant presented him.
on a high platform of the Cooi)er Institute, a vast

I Page 22,2,. Appendix. 2 Herndon. Ill :454.

98 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

sea of eager upturned faces greeted him, full of
intense curiosity to see what this rude child of the
people was like. . . . When he spoke he was trans-
formed. . . . For an hour and a half he held his
audience in the hollow of his hand. His style of
speech and manner of delivery were severely simple.
What Lowell called 'the grand simplicities of the
Bible,' with which he was so familiar, were reflected
in his discourse. With no attempt at ornament or
rhetoric, without parade or pretence, he spoke
straight to the point." ^

In conception and content the Cooper Institute
Address is remarkable. It was perhaps the best forti-
fied as well. as the most convincing and effective po-
litical address of an argumentative nature before an
American audience up to that time. It aimed to
promote the popular endorsement of the Republican

I Joseph H. Choate, "Abraham Lincohi," an address before
the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution. 1900.

Previous to his announcement for the Legislature, Lincoln
had served as captain of volunteers in the Black Hawk war.
During that year, 1832, William Cullen Br3-ant came west to
visit his brothers, who had settled near Jacksonville, 111. The
poet's biographers have told a story of his being introduced
to a "raw youth" of quaint and pleasing speech by the name
of Captain Abraham Lincoln. The story was interesting from
the fact that it fell to the poet-editor to introduce Lincoln to
his Cooper Institute audience, twenty-eight years afterward.
Miss Tarbell explodes the story, 1:80. 81. It illustrates how
easily a "Washington hatchet" myth may spring up around a
life that has become famous. Bryant's most interesting legacy
from his western trip is his poem, "The Prairies," finely de-
scriptive of "the unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful."

At Cooper Institute 99

party at the next national election. It sought to
confirm in the faith of that party any who were
doubtful which of the parties or principles it would
be wiser to support. It purposed to show a distinct
and unanswerable difference in goal between the
Douglas policy and that maintained by the Repub-
licans. Moreover, it intended to disarm the leaders
of the South of disunion arguments, to present with
exactness the attitude of Lincoln's party toward
slavery, and to inspire the nation with confidence
in the high moral purpose and sense of justice which
he believed to be the soul of that attitude.

Lincoln's unusual capacity for research and ex-
position is fully shown in his answer to a statement
made by Douglas at Columbus, Ohio :

Our fathers, when they framed the government
under which we live, understood this question just
as well, and even better, than we do now.

This statement Lincoln endorsed. - Then he pro-
ceeded to show from historical facts that "our
fathers" had actually favored the opinion that Con-
gress possessed the power to prohibit slavery in the
Territories. He showed that certain of the "thirty-
nine" men who framed and signed the Constitution
participated, as members of Congress under the
Articles of Confederation, in framing the Ordinance

100 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

of 1784 and the Ordinance of 1787, and voted for
the provision against slavery in the Northwest Ter-
ritory. Only one of these six men had voted against
the anti-slavery proviso. He pointed out that, in
the first Congress under the Constitution, the sixteen
members who had been among the "thirty-nine"
voted unanimously "to enforce the ordinance of '87.
including the prohibition of slavery in the North-
western Territory"; that President Washington, an-
other of the "thirty-nine," signed the bill. Subse-
quent history disclosed the probability or the fact
that members of the "thirty-nine" surviving in Con-
gress had voted for laws to control the relation of
slavery to the Territory of Mississippi and the Loui-
siana purchase. The last act of Congress on Fed-
eral control of slavery in which signers of the
Constitution \oted was the Missouri Compromise.
Here the two survivors divided for and against on
that measure. . The question which Douglas had
raised was the attitude of the P^athers on the con-
stitutional division of local and Federal control of
slavery in the Territories. Douglas maintained that
the Fathers favored local control ; Lincoln showed
conclusively that twenty-one out of the twenty-three
Fathers who acted on the question, had voted favor-
ablv for Federal control, while none of the sixteen

At Cooper Institute 101

others, including Franklin. Hamilton, and Gouv-
erneur Morris, was known to be unfavorable to
Federal control. None of these was known to be
favorable to slavery, "unless it may be John Rut-
ledge, of South Carolina."

In similar manner he punctured the reasoning of
the Supreme Court, which based the Dred Scott
decision upon the Fifth amendment, and Douglas's
intrenchment behind the Tenth amendment, by
showing that these amendments were "in progress
toward maturity" under the same Congress which
A'oted to enforce the Ordinance of 1787. He dem-
onstrated the inconsistency of the South in calling
for congressional authority to revive the slave-trade,
or in supporting "popular sovereignty," and at the
same time opposing the right of Congress under the
Constitution to prohibit slavery in the Territories.
He quoted Jefferson's hope of the ultimate emanci-
pation of the slaxes, maintained the impossibility of
the South's charge of connection between the Re-
publicans and the John Brown raid, and explained
what must, it seems, become the historic feeling
upon that episode. "J<jhn Brown's effort," he said,
"was peculiar. It was not a slave insurrection. It
was an attempt by white men to get up a revolt
among slaves, in which the slave? refused to par-

102 Lincoln as a Man of Letters

ticipate. . . . An enthusiast broods over the oppres-
sion of the people till he fancies himself commis-
sioned by Heaven to liberate them. . . . Orsini's
attempt on Louis Napoleon, and John Brown's at-
tempt at Harpers Ferry were, in their philosophy,
precisely the same. The eagerness to cast blame on
Old England in the one case, and on New England
in the other, does not disprove the sameness of the
two things."

In 1837, when Lincohi was twenty-eight years
old, he had eloquently pleaded for the enforcement
of the laws and respect for them. In the debates
with Douglas, he had insisted on fidelity to the con-
stitutional provision for a fugitive slave law. He
deprecated, now, on the same principle of observ-
ance of the law, the attempt of John Brown and his
associates to fly into its face in an effort to subvert
a system they regarded as iniquitous. His oppo-
sition to the South's desire to extend slavery would
recjuire him at the same time to oppose the acts of
northern States to obstruct the return of slaves
escaped from their owners. But his position in
favor of law observance would not justify the South
in maintaining against him that the Supreme Court
decision had supported the desire of the South to
extend slavery to Federal Territories in spite of

At Cooper Institute 103

Congress, for the "bare majority of the judges" in
that decision "disagree with one another in the rea-
sons for making it." The decision was "mainly
based upon a mistaken statement of fact — the state-
ment . . . that the right of property in a slave is
distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitu-
tion." Since the Constitution contains no such af-
firmation as the Court asserts, Lincoln held it would
doubtless reconsider the decision based upon it.

Lincoln closed his Cooper Union Address by ar-
guing that the South, now threatening disunion,
would not be satisfied with the unconditional sur-
render of the Territories; it would eventually de-
mand the overthrow of free-State constitutions
which forbid slavery. This his party could not
grant, because it believed slavery to be wrong. But
in the face of the wrong, the party could afford to
"let it alone where it is, because that much is due

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