Abraham Lincoln.

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

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tional bank?"' He answers, "Your will, gentlemen, not mine."
" What about the tariff '? " " Say yourselves." " Shall our rivers
and harbors be improved "? " " Just as you please. If you desire a
bank, an alteration of the tariff, internal improvements, any or all,
I wUL not hinder you. If you do not desire them, I will not attempt
to force them on you. Send up your members of Congress from
the various districts, with opinions according to your own, and if
they are for these measures, or any of them, I shall have nothing to
oppose; if they are not for them, I shall not, by any appliances
whatever, attempt to dragoon them into their adoption." Now can
there be any difficulty in understanding this ? To you Democrats
it may not seem like principle ; but surely you cannot fail to perceive
the position plainly enough. The distinction between it and the
position of your candidate is broad and obvious ; and I admit you
have a clear right to show it is wrong if you can ; but you have no
right to pretend yon cannot see it at all. We see it, and to us it
appears like principle, and the best sort of principle at that — the
principle of allowing the people to do as th^ please with their own
business. My friend from Indiana [C. B. Smith] has aptly asked,
" Are you willing to trust the people ? " Some of you answered sub-
stantially, " We are willing to trust the people ; but the President
is as much the representative of the people as Congress." In a cer-
tain sense, and to a certain extent, he is the representative of the
people. He is elected by them, as well as Congress is ; but can he,
in the nature of things, know the wants of the people as well as
three hundred other men, coming from all the various localities of
the nation 1 If so, where is the propriety of having a Congress ?
That the Constitution gives the President a negative on legisla-
tion, all know ; but that this negative should be so combined with
platforms and other appliances as to enable him, and in fact al-
most compel him, to take the whole of legislation into his own
hands, is what we object to, is what General Taylor objects to,
and is what constitutes the broad distinction between you and us.
To thus transfer legislation is clearly to take it from those who un-
derstand with minuteness the interests of the people, and give it
to one who does not and cannot so well understand it. I understand
your idea that if a presidential candidate avow his opinion upon a
given question, or rather upon all questions, and the people, with



138 ADDKESSES AND LETTERS OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN

full knowledge of this, elect him, they thereby distinctly approve
all those opinions. By means of it, measures are adopted or rejected
contrary to the wishes of the whole of one party, and often nearljr
half of the other. Three, four, or half a dozen questions are promi-
nent at a given time ; the party selects its candidate, and he takes
his position on each of these questions. On all but one his positions
have already been indorsed at former elections, and his party fully
committed to them ; but that one is new, and a large portion of
them are against it. But what are they to do? The whole was
strung together ; and they must take all, or reject all. They cannot
take what they like, and leave the rest. What they are already
committed to being the majority, they shut their eyes, and gulp the
whole. Next election, still another is introduced in the same way.
If we run our eyes along the line of the past, we shall see that al-
most if not quite all the articles of the present Democratic creed
have been at first forced upon the party in this very way. And just
now, and just so, opposition to internal improvements is to be estab-
lished if General Cass shall be elected. Almost half the Democrats
here are for improvements; but they wiU vote for Cass, and if he
succeeds, their vote will have aided in closing the doors against im-
provements. Now this is a process which we think is wrong. We
prefer a candidate who, like General Taylor, will allow the people
to have their own way, regardless of his private opinions ; and I
should think the internal-improvement Democrats, at least, ought
to prefer such a candidate. He would force nothing on them which
they^ don't want, and he would allow them to have improvements
which their own candidate, if elected, will not.

Mr. Speaker, I have said General Taylor's position is as well de-
fined as is that of General Cass. In saying this, I admit I do not
certainly know what he would do on the Wilmot proviso. I am a
Northern man, or rather a Western free-State man, with a constitu-
ency I believe to be, and with personal feelings I know to be, against
the extension of slavery. As such, and with what information I
have, I hope and believe General Taylor, if elected, would not veto
the proviso. But I do not know it. Yet if I knew he would, I still
would vote for him. I should do so because, in my judgment, his
election alone can defeat General Cass ; and because, should slavery
thereby go to the territory we now have, just so much will certainly
happen by the election of Cass, and, in addition a course of policy
leading to new wars, new acquisitions of territory and still further
extensions of slavery. One of the two is to be President. Which
is preferable ?

But there is as much doubt of Cass on improvements as there is
of Taylor on the proviso. I have no doubt myself of General Cass
on this question; but I know the Democrats differ among them-
selves as to his position. My internal-improvement colleague [Mr.
Wentworth] stated on this floor the other day that he was satisfied
Cass was for improvements, because he had voted for all the bills that
he [Mr. Wentworth] had. So far so good. But Mr. Polk vetoed
some of these very bills. The Baltimore convention passed a set of
resolutions, among other things, approving these vetoes, and Gen-



ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN 139

eral Cass declares, in his letter accepting the nomination, that he has
carefully read these resolutions, and that he adliercs to tlu'ni as firmly
as he approves them cordially. In other words. General Cass voted
for the bills, and thinks the President did right to veto them ; and
his friends here are amiable enough to consider him as being on one
side or the other, just as one or the other may correspond with their
own respective inclinations. My colleague admits that the platform
declares against the constitutionality of a general system of im-
provements ; and that General Cass indorses the platform ; but he
still thinks General Cass is in favor of some sort of improvements.
Well, what are they? As he is against general objects, those he is
for must be particular and local. Now this is taking the subject
precisely by the wrong end. Particularity — expending the money
of the whole people for an object which will benefit only a portion
of them — is the greatest real objection to improvements, and has
been so held by General Jackson, Mr. Polk, and all others, I believe,
till now. But now, behold, the objects most general — nearest free
from this objection — are to be rejected, while those most liable to
it are to be embraced. To return: I cannot help believing that
General Cass, when he wrote his letter of acceptance, well under-
stood he was to be claimed by the advocates of both sides of this
question, and that he then closed the door against all further expres-
sions of opinion purposely to retain the benefits of that double posi-
tion. His subsequent equivocation at Cleveland, to my mind, proves
such to have been the case.

One word more, and I shall have done with this branch of the sub-
ject. You Democrats, and your candidate, in the main are in favor
of laying down in advance a platform — a set of party positions —
as a unit, and then of forcing the people, by every sort of appli-
ance, to ratify them, however unpalatable some of them may be.
We and our candidate are in favor of making presidential elec-
tions, and the legislation of the country distinct matters ; so that
the people can elect whom they please, and afterward legislate just
as they please, without any hindrance, save only so much as may
guard against infractions of the Constitution, undue haste, and
want of consideration. The difference between us is clear as noon-
day. That we are right we cannot doubt. We hold the true Re-
publican position. In leaving the people's business in their hands,
we cannot be wrong. We are willing, and even anxious, to go to
the people on this issue.

Old Horses and Military Coat-tails.

But I suppose I cannot reasonably hope to convince you that we
have any principles. The most I can expect is to assure you that
we think we have, and are quite contented with them. The other
day one of the gentlemen from Georgia [Mr. Iverson], an eloquent
man, and a man of learning, so far as I can judge, not being learned
myself, came down upon us astonishingly. Efe spoke in what the
"Baltimore American" calls the "scathing and withering style."
At the end of his second severe flash I was struck blind, and found



140 ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

myself feeling with my fingers for an assurance of my continued ex-
istence. A little of the bone was left, and I gradually revived. He
eulogized Mr. Clay in high and beautiful terms, and then declared
that we had deserted all our principles, and had turned Henry Clay
out, like an old horse, to root. This is terribly severe. It cannot
be answered by argument— at least I cannot so answer it. I merely
wish to ask the gentleman if the Whigs are the only party he can
think of who sometimes turn old horses out to root. Is not a cer-
tain Martin Van Buren an old horse which your own party have
turned out to root 1 and is he not rooting a little to your discom-
fort about now? But in not nominating Mr. Clay we deserted
our principles, you say. Ah ! In what 1 Tell us, ye men of prin-
ciple, what principle we violated. We say you did violate principle
in discarding Van Buren, and we can tell you how. You vio-
lated the primary, the cardinal, the one great liviug principle of aU
democratic representative government — the principle that the rep-
resentative is bound to carry out the known will of his constituents.
A large majority of the Baltimore convention of 1844 were, by their
constituents, instructed to procure Van Buren's nomination if they
could. In violation — in utter glaring contempt — of this, you re-
jected him — rejected him, as the gentleman from New- York [Mr.
Birdsall] the other day expressly admitted, for avajlability — that
same " general availability" which you charge upon us, and daily
chew over here, as something exceedingly odious and unprincipled.
But the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Iverson] gave us a second
speech yesterday, all well considered and put down in writing, in
which Van Buren was scathed and withered a " few " for his present
position and movements. I cannot remember the gentleman's pre-
cise language ; but I do remember he put Van Buren down, down,
till he got him where he was finally to " stink" and " rot."

Mr. Speaker, it is no business or inclination of mine to defend
Martin Van Buren in the war of extermination now waging between
him and his old admirers. I say, " Devil take the hindmost" — and
the foremost. But there is.no mistaking the origin of the breach;
and if the curse of " stinking " and " rotting " is to fall on the first
and greatest violators of principle in the matter, I disinterestedly
suggest that the gentleman from Georgia and his present co-workers
are bound to take it upon themselves. But the gentleman from
Georgia further says we have deserted all our principles, and taken
shelter under General Taylor's military coat-tail, and he seems to
think this is exceedingly degrading. Well, as his faith is, so be it
unto him. But can he remember no other military coat-tail under
which a certain other party have been sheltering for near a quarter
of a century 1 Has he no acquaintance with the ample military coat-
tail of General Jackson ? Does he not know that his own party have
run the five last presidential races under that coat-tail 1 And that
they are now running the sixth under the same cover 1 Yes, sir, that
coat-tail was used not only for General Jackson himself, but has
been clung to, with the grip of death, by every Democratic candidate
since. You have never ventured, and dare not now venture, from
under it. Your campaign papers have constantly been " Old Hick-



ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN 141

ories," with rude likenesses of the old general upon them : hickory

Eoles and hickory brooms your never-ending emblems ; Mr. Polk
imself was " Young Hickory," " Little Hickory," or something so ;
and even now your campaign paper here is proclaiming that Cass and
Butler are of the true "HicKory stripe." Now, sir, you dare not
give it up. Like a horde of hungry ticks you have stuck to the
tail of the Hermitage lion to the end of his life ; and you are still
sticking to it, and drawing a loathsome sustenance from it, after he
is dead. A fellow once advertised that he had made a discovery by
which he could make a new man out of an old one, and have enough
of the stuff left to make a little yellow dog. Just such a discovery
has General Jackson's popularity been to you. You not only twice
made President of him out of it, but you have had enough of the
stuff left to make Presidents of several comparatively small men
since ; and it is your chief reliance now to make still another.

Mr. Speaker, old horses and military coat-tails, or tails of any
sort, are not figures of speech such as I would be the first to intro-
duce into discussions here ; but as the gentleman from Georgia has
thought fit to introduce them, he and you are welcome to all you
have made, or can make by them. If you have any more old horses,
trot them out ; any more tails, just cock them and come at us. I
repeat, I would not introduce this mode of discussion here ; but I
wish gentlemen on the other side to understand that the use of de-
grading figures is a game at which they may not find themselves
able to take all the winnings. [" We give it up ! "] Aye, you give
it up, and well you may ; but for a very different reason from that
which you would have us understand. The point — the power to
hurt — of all figures consists in the truthfulness of their application ;
and, understanding this, you may well give it up. They are weapons
which hit you, but miss us.

Military Tail of the Great Michigander.

But in my hurry I was very near closing this sub^ject of mili-
tary tails before I was done with it. There is one entire article of
the sort I have not discussed yet, — I mean the military tail you
Democrats are now engaged in dovetailing into the great Michi-
gander. Yes, sir; all his biographies (and they are legion) have
him in hand, tying him to a military tail, like so many mischiev-
ous boys tying a dog to a bladder of beans. True the material they
have is very limited, but they drive at it might and main. He in-
vaded Canada without resistance, and he OM^aded it without pur-
suit. As he did both under orders, I suppose there was to him
neither credit nor discredit in them ; but they constitute a large part
of the taU. He was not at Hull's surrender, but he was close by ;
he was volunteer aid to General Harrison on the day of the battle
of the Thames ; and as you said in 1840 Harrison was picking
huckleberries two miles off while the battle was fought, I suppose
it is a just conclusion with you to say Cass was aiding Harrison to
pick huckleberries. This is about all, except the mooted question
of the broken sword. Some authors say he broke it, some say he



142 ADDKESSES AND LETTEBS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

threw it away, and some others, who ought to know, say nothing
about it. Perhaps it would be a fair historical compromise to say,
if he did not break it, he did not do anything else with it.

By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I am a military hero ?
Yes, sir ; in the days of the Black Hawk war I fought, bled, and
came away. Speaking of G-eneral Cass's career reminds me of my
own. I was not at StUlman's defeat, but I was about as near it as
Cass was to Hull's surrender; and, like him, I saw the place very
soon afterward. It is quite certain I did not break my sword, for
I had none to break ; but I bent a musket pretty badly on one occa-
sion. If Cass broke his sword, the idea is he broke it in desperation ;
I bent the musket by accident. If Greneral Cass went in advance of
me in picking huckleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges
upon the wild onions. If he saw any live, fighting Indians, it was
more than I did; but I had a good many bloody struggles with the
mosquitoes, and although I never fainted from the loss of blood, I
can truly say I was often very hungry. Mr. Speaker, if I should
ever conclude to doff whatever our Democratic friends may suppose
there is of black-cockade federalism about me, and therefore they
shall take me up as their candidate for the presidency, I protest they
shall not make fun of me, as they have of G-eneral Cass, by attempt-
ing to write me into a military hero.

Cass on the Wilmot Proviso.

While I have General Cass in hand, I wish to say a word about
his political principles. As a specimen, I take the record of his
progress in the Wilmot proviso. In the Washington " Union " of
March 2, 1847, there is a report of a speech of General Cass, made
the day before in the Senate, on the Wilmot proviso, during the de-
livery of which Mr. Miller of New Jersey is reported to have inter-
rupted him as follows, to wit :

Mr. Miller expressed Ms great surprise at the change in the sentiments of
the senator from Michigan, who had been regarded as the great champion
of freedom in the Northwest, of which he was a distinguished ornament.
Last year the senator from Michigan was understood to be decidedly in
favor of the Wilmot proviso ; and as no reason had been stated for the
change, he [Mr. Miller] could not refrain from the expression of his ex-
treme surprise.

To this General Cass is reported to have replied as follows, to wit :

Mr. Cass said that the course of the senator from New Jersey was most
extraordinary. Last year he [Mr. Cass] should have voted for the proposi-
tion, had it come up. But circumstances had altogether changed. The
honorable senator then read several passages from the remarks, as given
above, which he had committed to writing, in order to refute such a charge
as that of the senator from New Jersey.

In the " remarks above reduced to writing " is one numbered four,
as follows, to wit :

Fourth. Legislation now would be whoUy inoperative, because no ter-
ritory hereafter to be acquired can be governed without an act of Congress



ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN 143

providing for its governinent ; and such an act, on its passage, would open
the whole subject, and leave the Congress called on to pass It free to exi^r-
cise its own discretion, entirely uncontrolled by any declaration found on
the statute-book.

In " Niles's Register," Vol. LXXIII., p. 293, there is a letter of

General Cass to Nicholson, of Nashville, Tennessee, dated

December 24, 1847, from which the following are correct extracts :

The Wilmot proviso has been before the country some time. It has
been repeatedly discussed in Congress and by the public press. I am
strongly impressed with the opinion that a great change has been going on
in the public mind upon this subject, — in my own as well as others', — and
that doubts are resohing themselves into convictions that the principle it
involves should be kept out of the national legislature, and left to the peo-
ple of the confederacy in theii- respective local governments. . . . Briefly,
then, I am opposed to the exercise of any jurisdiction by Congress over
this matter ; and I am in favor of leaving the people of any territory which
may be hereafter acquired the right to regulate it themselves, under the
general principles of the Constitution. Because —

First. I do not see in the Constitution any grant of the requisite power
to Congress ; and I am not disposed to extend a doubtful precedent be-
yond its necessity, — the establishment of territorial governments when
needed, — leaving to the inhabitants all the right compatible with the re-
lations they bear to the confederation.

These extracts show that in 1846 General Cass was for the pro-
viso at once ; that in March, 1847, he was still for it, but not just
then; and that in December, 1847, he was against it altogether.
This is a true index to the whole man. "When the question was
raised in 1846, he was in a blustering hurry to take ground for it.
He sought to be in advance, and to avoid the uninteresting position
of a mere follower ; but soon he began to see glimpses of the great
Democratic ox-goad waving in his face, and to hear indistinctly a
voice saying, "Back! Back, sir! Back a little!" He shakes his
head, and bats his eyes, and blunders back to his position of March,
1847 ; but still the goad waves, and the voice grows more distinct
and sharper still, " Back, sir ! Back, I say ! Further back ! " —
and back he goes to the position of December, 1847, at which the
goad is stiU, and the voice soothingly says, " So ! Stand at that ! "

Have no fears, gentlemen, of your candidate. He exactly suits
you, and we congratulate you upon it. However much you may be
distressed about our candidate, you have all cause to be contented
and happy with your own. If elected, he may not maintain all, or
even any of his positions previously taken; but he will be sure
to do whatever the party exigency for the time being may require ;
and that is precisely what you want. He and Van Buren are the
same " manner of men " ; and, like Van Buren, he will never desert
you tiU you first desert him.

Cass on Worhing and Eating.

Mr. Speaker, I adopt the suggestion of a friend, that General
Cass is a general of splendidly successful charges — charges to be



144 ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OP ABRAHAM LINCOLN

sure, not upon the public enemy, but upon the public treasury. He
was Governor of Michigan Territory, and ex-officio Superintendent
of Indian Affairs, from the 9th of October, 1813, tiU the 31st of
July, 1831 — a period of seventeen years, nine months, and twenty-
two days. During this period he received from the United States
treasury, for personal services and personal expenses, the aggregate
sum of ninety-six thousand and twenty-eight dollars, being an aver-
age of fourteen dollars and seventy-nine cents per day for every day
of the time. This large sum was reached by assuming that he was
doing service at several different places, and in several different
capacities in the same place, all at the same time. By a correct
analysis of his accounts during that period, the following proposi-
tions may be deduced:

First. He was paid in three different capacities during the whole
of the time ; that is to say — (1) As governor's salary at the rate per
year of $2000. (2) As estimated for office rent, clerk hire, fuel, etc.,
in superintendence of Indian affairs in Michigan, at the rate per
year of $1500. (3) As compensation and expenses for various mis-
cellaneous items of Indian service out of Michigan, an average per
year of $625.

Second. During part of the time — that is, from the 9th of Octo-
ber, 1813, to the 29th of May, 1822 — he was paid in four different
capacities ; that is to say, the three as above, and, in addition thereto,
the commutation of ten rations per day, amounting per year to $730.

Third. During another part of the time — that is, from the be-
ginning of 1822 to the 31st of July, 1831 — he was also paid in four
different capacities ; that is to say, the first three, as above (the ra-
tions being dropped after the 29th of May, 1822), and, in addition
thereto, for superintending Indian Agencies at Piqua, Ohio ; Port
Wayne, Indiana ; and Chicago, Illinois, at the rate per year of $1500.
It should be observed here that the last item, commencing at the
beginning of 1822, and the item of rations, ending on the 29th of
May, 1822, lap on each other during so much of the time as lies
between those two dates.

Fourth. Still another part of the time — that is, from the 31st of
October, 1821, to the 29th of May, 1822 — he was paid in six different
capacities ; that is to say, the three first, as above ; the item of ra-
tions, as above ; and, in addition thereto, another item of ten rations
per day while at "Washington settling his accounts, being at the rate



Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 18 of 91)