Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; online

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their homes and their gi'owing crops, before the blood was shed, as

in the message stated ; and whether the first blood, so shed, was or

Vol. 1—7,



98 ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

was not shed within the inclosure of one of the people who had thus

fled from it. •, -, i t • i .

Seventh. Whether our citizens, whose blood was shed, as m his
message declared, were or were not, at that time, armed ofiftcers and
soldiers, sent into that settlement by the military order of the Presi-
dent, 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 defense or protection of Texas.



January 5, 1848.— Remarks in the United States
House of Representatives.

Mr. Lincoln said he had made an effort, some few days since, to
obtain the floor in relation to this measure [resolution to direct Post-
master-General to make arrangements with railroad for carrying the
mads — in Committee of the Whole], but had failed. One of the
objects he had then had in view was now in a great measure super-
seded 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 occa-
sion. He wanted to state to gentlemen who might have entertained
such impressions, that the Committee on the Post-ofi&ce was com-
posed 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 aU
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 woxdd 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 iu
politics, while in this respect he agreed with the gentleman from
Virginia [Mr. Botts], whom he wished to oblige whenever it was in



ADDKESSES AND LETTERS OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN 99

power. That gentleman had referred to the report made to the
ise by the Postmaster-Greneral, and had intimated an apprehoii-
1 that gentlemen would be disposed to rely on that report alone,

derive their views of the case from that document alone. Now
) happened that a pamphlet had been slipped into his [Mr Lin-
t's] hand before he read the report of the Postmaster-General :
hat, even in this, he had begun with prepossessions in favor oi
gentleman from Virginia.

.s to the report, he had but one remark to make : he had eare-
y examined it, and he did not understand that there was any dis-
e as to the facts therein stated — the dispute, if he understood
v&s confined altogether to the inferences to be drawn from those
;s. It was a difference not about facts, but about conclusions.
! facts were not disputed. If he was right in this, he supposed

House might assume the facts to be as they were stated, and
ace proceed to draw their own conclusions,
'he gentleman had said that the Postmaster-General had got into
ersonal squabble with the railroad company. Of this Mr. Liu-
1 knew nothing, nor did he need or desire to know anything, be-
se it had nothing whatever to do with a just conclusion from the
mises. But the gentleman had gone on to ask whether so great
rievance as the present detention of the Southern mail ought not
be remedied ? Mr. Lincoln would assure the gentleman that if
re was a proper way of doing it, no man was more anxious than
that it should be done. The report made by the committee had
n intended to yield much for the sake of removing that griev-
se. That the grievance was very great, there was no dispute in
T quarter. He supposed that the statements made by the gentle-
n from Virginia to show this were aU entirely correct in point of
t. He did suppose that the interruptions of regular intercourse,
1 all the other inconveniences growing out of it, were all as that
itleman had stated them to be ; and certainly, if redress could be
dered, it was proper it should be rendered as soon as possible.
3 gentleman said that in order to effect this, no new legislative
ion was needed ; aU that was necessary was that the Postmaster-
aeral should be required to do what the law, as it stood, author-
i and required him to do.

iVe come then, said Mr. Lincoln, to the law. Now the Postmas-
■General says he cannot give to this company more than two
idred and thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents per railroad mile of
asportation, and twelve and half per cent less for transportation
steamboats. He considers himself as restricted by law to this
ount ; and he says, further, that he would not give more if he
lid, because in his apprehension it would not be fair and just.



January 8, 1848. — Letter to Williajm: H. Herndon.

Washington, January 8, 1848.
Jear William : Tour letter of December 27 was received a day or
) ago. I am much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken^



100 ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OP ABRAHAM LINCOLN

and promise to take in my little business there. As to speeeh-
makinff 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.

It is very pleasant to learn from you that there are some who de-
sire that I should be reelected. I most heartily thank them for their
kind partiality; and lean 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 qmte as well for me
to return to the law at the end of a single term. I made the decla-
ration 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 consid-
eration, 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,

A. Lincoln.



January 12, 1848.— Speech in the United States
House op Representatives.

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 under-
stood them, of the vote given a week or ten days ago declaring that
the war with Mexico was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally com-
menced 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 aU those who because of knowing too little,
or because of knowing too much, could not conscientiously oppose
the conduct of the President in the beginning of it should never-
theless^ as good citizens and patriots, remain silent on that point, at
least till the war should be ended. Some leading Democrats, in-
cluding 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



ADDRESSES AND LETTEES OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN 101

that the President and his friends will not allovv it to be so.
sides the continual effort of the President to argue every silent
e given for supplies into an indorsement of the justice and wis-
Q of his conduct; besides that singularly candid paragraph in his
) message in which he tells us that Congress with great una-
lity had declared that " by the act of the Republic of Mexico, a
be of war exists between that Q-overnment and the United States,"
en the same journals that informed him of this also informed
1 that when that declaration stood disconnected from the ques-
a of supplies sixty-seven in the House, and not fourteen merely,
ed against it ; besides this open attempt to prove by telling the
th what he could not prove by telling the whole truth — demand-
: of all who will not submit to be misrepresented, in justice to
mselves, to speak out, — besides all this, one of my colleagues
r. Richardson] at a very early day in the session brought in a set
resolutions expressly indorsing the original justice of the war on
i part of the President. Upon these resolutions when they shall
put on their passage I shall be compelled to vote ; so that I
mot be silent if I would. Seeing this, I went about preparing
self to give the vote understandingly when it should come. I
•efuUy examined the President's message, to ascertain what he
Qself had said and proved upon the point. The result of this ex-
lination was to make the inipression that, taking for true all the
esident states as facts, he falls far short of proving his justifica-
n ; and that the President would have gone farther with his proof
it had not been for the small matter that the truth would not per-
t him. Under the impression thus made I gave the vote before
sntioned. I propose now to give concisely the process of the ex-
lination I made, and how I reached the conclusion I did. The
esident, in his first war message of May, 1846, declares that the
1 was ours on which hostilities were commenced by Mexico, and

repeats that declaration almost in the same language in each
3eessive annual message, thus showing that he deems that point
dighly essential one. In the importance of that point I entirely
ree with the President. To my judgment it is the very point
on which he should be justified, or condemned. In his message
December, 1846, it seems to have occurred to him, as is certainly
le, that title — ownership — to soil or anything else is not a simple
!t, but is a conclusion following on one or more simple facts;
d that it was incumbent upon him to present the facts from which
concluded the soil was ours on which the first blood of the war
,s shed.

Accordingly, a little below the middle of page twelve in the mes-
^e last referred to he enters upon that task; forming an issue
i introducing testimony, extending the whole to a little below
! middle of page fourteen. Now, I propose to try to show that
s whole of this — issue and evidence — is from beginning to end the
ierest deception. The issue, as he presents it, is in these words :
>ut there are those who, conceding all this to be true, assume the
)und that the true western boundary of Texas is the Nueces, in-
ad of the Rio.Grande; and that, therefore, in marching our army



102 ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN

to the east bank of the latter river, we passed the Texas line and in-
vaded 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 boun-
dary; 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 Presi-
dent 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 appheable
to such an issue. When that evidence is analyzed, it is all included
in the following propositions :

(1) That the Eio 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 western 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 rivers.

(6) That our Congress understood the boundary of Texas to ex-
tend 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 Prance 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 1819 we sold
to Spain the whole country from the Eio 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. Chair-
man, the line that once divided your land from mine can stiU be the
boundary between us after I have sold my land to you is to me
yond all comprehension. And how any man, with an honest pur-
pose only of proving the truth, could ever have thought of introdu-
cing 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 J that which may, without impropriety, be called her last will
and testament, revoking all others— makes no such claim. But sup-
pose 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
toundation. Though not in the order in which the President pre-
sents his evidence, I now consider that class of his statements which
are m substance nothing more than that Texas has, by various acts



ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLK 103

of her Convention and Congress, claimed the Rio Grande as her
boundary, on paper. I mean here what lie says about the fixing
of the Rio Grande as her boundary in her old constitution (not her
State constitution), about forming congressional districts, coun-
ties, etc. Now all of this is but naked claim ; and what I have al-
ready 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 my-
self, 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 boun-
dary of Texas. Besides the position so often taken, that Santa Anna
whUe a prisoner of war, a captive, could not bind Mexico by a
treaty, which I deem conclusive — besides this, I wish to say some-
thing 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 " NUes's Register," Vol. L, 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 inquiiy
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 docu-
ment it was never by anybody called a treaty — that it was never so
called tUI the President, in his extremity, attempted by so calling it
to wring something from it in justification of himself in connec-
tion 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 features
of stipulating that Texas shall not go within five leagues of her own
boundary.

Next comes the evidence of Texas before annexation, and the
United States afterward, exercising jurisdiction beyond the Nueces
and between the two rivers. This actual exercise of jurisdiction is



104 ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OP ABEAHAM LINCOLN

the very class or quality of evidence we want. It is excellent so far
as it goes; but does it go far enough! He teUs us it went beyond
the Nueces, but he does not teU us it went to the Rio Grande. He
tells us jurisdiction was exercised between the two rivers, but he does
not ten 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 juris-
diction 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 ex-
tend beyond the Nueces. Well, I suppose they did. I certainly so
understood it. But how far beyond? That Congress did not un-
derstand it to extend clear to the Rio Grande is quite certain, by the
fact of their joint resolutions for admission expressly leaving aU
questions of boundary to future adjustment. And it may be added
that Texas herself is proved 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 anyone 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 therebv the first blood of the
war was shed, there is not one word in aU the President has said
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.

Some time 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 pro-
pose to state my understanding of the true rule for ascertaining the
boundary between Texas and Mexico. It is that wherever Texas was



ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OF ABKAHAM LINCOLN 105

exercising jurisdiction was hers; and wherever Mexico was oxercis-
ing jurisdiction was hers; and that whatever sepanitod the actual
exercise of jurisdiction of tlie one from that of the other was the true
boundary between them. If, as is probably true, Texas was exer-
cising 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 be-
tween the two was. The extent of our territory in that region de-
pended 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 be-
lieve 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 revo-
lutionize, putting down a minority, intermingled with or near about
them, who may oppose this movement. Such minority was precisely
the ease of the Tones of our own revolution. It is a quality of revo-
lutions 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, revolution-
ized against Spain; and still later Texas revolutionized against
Mexico. In my view, just so far as she carried her resolution by ob-
taining the actual, willing or unwilling, submission of the people,
so far the country was hers, and no farther. Now, sir, for the pur-



Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 13 of 91)