Abraham Lincoln.

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

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to be in accordance with our republican mstitutions, wLieh can
be best sustained by the diffusion of knowledge and the due en-
couragement of a universal, national spirit of inquiry and discus-
sion 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 confldenth- 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 Depart-
ment, in view of meeting the general wish on this subject, made the
experiment through one of 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 unsatisfac-
tory, 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.

Vol. I.— 8.


(4) The inconvenience of accumulating uncertain and fluctuating
sums at small oflces 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 mails.

(5) The accumulation of such funds on draft offices could not he
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, Balti-
more, 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 aver-
aged $5000 per quarter ; and in other cities of the seaboard it was

(7) The emban-assment 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 tiU collected by special agents, or were transferred
at considerable expense into the principal disbursing offices again.

(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 postmasters,
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 or defaulters.

(10) The transaction of this business for subscribers and publish-
ers at the public expense, and 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 bUl which would not be obnoxious to them in principle or
in practical effect.

It is confidently believed that by limiting the offices for receiv-
ing subscriptions to less than one tenth of the number aiithorized
by the experiment already tried, and designating the county seat in
each county for the purpose, the control of the department wUl be
rendered satisfactory ; particularly as it wOl 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


payment, but to point out the place of payment. If tlicse 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 de-
partment'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 ac-
cumulation 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 occa-
sioned 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 Auditoi"'s examination and approval; and there can
be no risk of loss of funds by transmission, as the certificate wiU
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 depart-
ment is secured by the postage required to be paid upon the trans-
mission of the certificates, augmenting adequately the post-office

The committee, conceiving that in this report all the difficulties
of the subject have been fully and fairly stated, and that these diffi-
culties have been obviated by the plan proposed in the accompany-
ing 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.

March 9, 1848. — Report in the United States
House of Representatives.

, — 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 H. M. Barney, postmaster at Brimfield, Peo-
ria County, Illinois, report : That they have been satisfied by evi-
dence, that on the loth 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 his large individual loss entirely pre-
cludes the idea of embezzlement ; that the balances due the depart-
ment 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.


Marcli 24, 1848.— Letter to David Lincoln.

Washington, Marcli 24, 1848.
Mb. David Lincoln.

Bear Sir : Tour very worthy representative, Gov. McDowell, has
given me your name and address, and as my father was horn in
Rockingham, from whence his father, Abraham Lincoln, emigrated
to Kentucky about the year 1782, 1 have concluded to address you
to ascertain whether we are not of the same family. I shall be
much obliged if you will write me, telling me whether you in any
way know anything of my grandfather, what relation you are to him,
and so on. Also, if you know where your family came from when
they settled in Virginia, tracing them back as far as your knowledge
extends. Very respectfully,

A. Lincoln.

March 29, 1848.— Remarks in the United States
House op Representatives.

The bill for raising additional military force for limited time, etc.,
was reported from Committee on Judiciary; similar biUs had been
reported from Committee on Public Lands and Military Committee.

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 — con-
curring, 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 de-
sired 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 land 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 sepa-
rate 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 pre-
fer 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 aU. He inquired whether
an amendment was now in order.'
The Speaker replied in the negative.

April 2, 1848. — Letter to David Lincoln.

Washington, April 2, 1848.

Bear Sir ; Last evening I was much gratified by receiving and
reading your letter of the 30th of March. There is no longer any
doubt that your uncle Abraham and my grandfather was the same
man. His family did reside in Washington County, Kentucky, just
as you say you found them in 1801 or 1802. The oldest son, Uncle
Mordecai, near twenty years ago removed from Kentucky to Han-
cock County, Illinois, where within a year or two afterward he died,
and where his surviving children now live. His two sons there now
are Abraham and Mordecai ; and their post-office is " La Harpe."
Uncle Josiah, farther back than my recollection, went from Ken-
tucky to Blue River in Indiana. I have not heard from him in a
great many years, and whether he is still living I cannot say. My
recollection of what I have heard is that he has several daughters
and only one son, Thomas — their post-ofice is "Coryden, Harrison
County, Indiana." My father, Thomas, is still living, in Coles
County^ Illinois, being in the seventy-first year of his age — his
post-offlce is "Charleston, Coles County, Illinois" — I am his only
chUd. I am now in my fortieth year: and I live in Springfield,
Sangamon County, Illinois. This is the outline of my grandfa-
ther's family in the West.

I think my father has told me that grandfather had four brothers
— Isaac, Jacob, John, and Thomas. Is that correct? And which
of them was your father ? Are any of them alive ? I am quite sure
that Isaac resided on Watauga, near a point where Virginia and Ten-
nessee join ; and that he has been dead more than twenty, perhaps
thirty, years ; also that Thomas removed to Kentucky, near Lexing-
ton, where he died a good while ago.

What was your grandfather's Christian name? Was he not a
Quaker ? About what time did he emigrate from Berks County,
Pennsylvania, to Virginia ? Do you know anything of your family
(or rather I may now say our family), farther back than your

If it be not too much trouble to you, I shall be much pleased to
hear from you again. Be assured 1 will call on you, should any-
thing ever bring me near you. I shall give your respects to Gov-
ernor McDowell as you desire. Very truly yours,

A. Lincoln.


April 30, 1848.— Letter to B. B. Washburnb.

Washington, April 30, 1848.

Bear WasUurne : I have this moment received your very short
note asking me if old Taylor is to be used up, and who wiU 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 par-
ticularly, before, are since taking ground, some for Scott and some
for McLean. Who will be nominated neither I nor any one else
can teU. Now, let me pray to you in turn. My prayer is that you
let nothing discourage or bafile you, but that, in spite of every difl-
culty, you send us a good Taylor delegate from your circuit. Make
Baker, who is now with you, I suppose, help about it. He is a good
hand to raise a breeze.

General Ashley, in the Senate from Arkansas, died yesterday.
Nothiag else new beyond what you see in the papers.

Yours truly, A. Lincoln.

April 30, 1848. — Letter 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 conven-
tion. 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 wUl 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 ne-
cessary 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,

A. Lincoln.

May 11, 1848. — Remarks in the United States
House of Representatives.

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 rela-


tion 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. CoUamer] in Committee of
the Whole on the state of the Union, and which was afterward re-
newed in the House, in relation to the question whether the reserved
sections, which, by some bills heretofore passed, by which an appro-
priation of land had been made to Wisconsin, had been enhanced in
value, shovild 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 tJie
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 doc-
trine which the gentleman from Indiana had avowed in the course of
what he [Mr. Lincoln] could not but consider an unsound argument.

It might, however, be true, for anything he knew, that the gentle-
man 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 inconsequence 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 for-
bid 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 himself understood.

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 re-
sided — the State of Illinois. The alternate sections were to be given
for the purpose of constructing roads, and the reserved sections were


to he enhanced in value in consequence. "When that bill came here
for the action of this House — it had been reeeived, and was now be-
fore 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 mem-
ber 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
$?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 un-
sound. 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 im-
provements 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 de-
sired to say, and having accomplished the object with which he rose,
he withdrew his motion to reconsider.

May 21, 1848.— Letter to Rev. J. M. Peck.

"Washington, May 21, 1848.
Rev. J. M. Peck.

Bear Sir: On last evening I received a copy of the " Belleville Ad-
vocate," with the appearance of having been sent by a private hand;


and inasmuch as it contained your oration on the occasion of the
celebrating of the battle of Buena Vista, and is post-marked at Rock
Spring, I cannot doubt that it is to you I am indebted for this

I own that finding in the oration a labored justification of the
administration on the origin of the Mexican war disappointed me,
because it is the first effort of the kind I have known made by one
appearing to me to be intelligent, right-minded, and impartial. It
is this disappointment that prompts me to address you briefly on
the subject. I do not propose any extended review. I do not quar-
rel with facts — brief exhibition of facts. I presume it is correct so
far as it goes ; but it is so brief as to exclude some facts quite as
material in my judgment to a just conclusion as any it includes.
For instance, you say, "Paredes came into power the last of Decem-
ber, 1845, and from that moment all hopes of avoiding war by nego-
tiation vanished." A little further on, referring to this and other
preceding statements, you say, "All this transpired three months
before General Taylor marched across the desert of Nueces." These
two statements are substantially correct; and you evidently intend
to have it inferred that General Taylor was sent across the desert in
consequence of the destruction of all hopes of peace, in the overthrow
of Herara by Paredes. Is not that the inference you intend? If
so, the material fact you have excluded is that General Taylor was
ordered to cross the desert on the 13th of January, 1846, and be-
fore the news of Herara's fall reached Washington — before the
administration which gave the order had any knowledge that Herara
had fallen. Does not this fact cut up your inference by the roots ?
Must you not find some other excuse for that order, or give up the
case ? All that part of the three months you speak of which trans-
pired after the 13th of January, was expended in the orders going

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 15 of 91)