Abraham Lincoln.

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

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and, in short, I was not at all pleased with her. But what could I
do ? I had told her sister that I would take her for better or for
worse, and I made a point of honor and conscience in all things to
stick to my word, especially if others had been induced to act on it,
which in this ease I had no doubt they had, for I was now fairly
convinced that no other man on earth would have her, and hence
the conclusion that they were bent on holding me to my bargain.
" Well," thought I, "I have said it, and, be the consequences what
they may, it shall not be my fault if I fail to do it." At once I de-
termined to consider her my wife, and this done, all my powers of
discovery were put to work in search of perfections in her which
might be fairly set off against her defects. I tried to imagine her
handsome, which, but for her unfortunate corpulency, was actually
true. Excliisive of this, no woman that I have ever seen has a finer
face. I also tried to convince myself that the mind was much more
to be valued than the person, and in this she was not inferior, as I
could discover, to any with whom I had been acquainted.

Shortly after this, without attempting to come to any positive
understanding with her, I set out for Vandalia, when and where
you first saw me. During my stay there I had letters from her
which did not change my opinion of either her intellect or intention,
but, on the contrary, confirmed it in both.

All this while, although I was fixed " firm as the surge-repeUing
rock" in my resolution, I found I was continually repenting the
rashness which had led me to make it. Through life I have been in
no bondage, either real or imaginaiy, from the thraldom of which I
so much desired to be free. After my return home I saw nothing
to change my opinion of her in any particular. She was the same,
and so was I. I now spent my time in planning how I might get
along in life after my contemplated change of circumstances should
have taken place, and how I might procrastinate the evil day for a
time, which I really dreaded as much, perhaps more, than an Irish-
man does the halter.

After all my sufEerings upon this deeply interesting subject, here


I am, wholly, unexpectedly, completely out of the "scrape," and I
now want to know if you can guess how I got out of it — out, clear,
in every sense of the term — no violation of word, honor, or con-
science. I don't believe you can ^uess, and so I might as well tell
you at once. As the lawyer says, it was done in the manner follow-
ing, to wit: After I had delayed the matter as long as I thought I
could in honor do (which, by the way, had brought me round into
the last fall), I concluded I might as well bring it to a consummation
without further delaj', and so I mustered my resolution and made
the proposal to her direct ; but, shocking to relate, she answered. No.
At first I supposed she did it through an affectation of modesty,
which I thought but ill became her under the peculiar circumstances
of her case, but on my renewal of the charge I found she repelled
it with greater firmness than before. I tried it again and again, but
with the same success, or rather with the same want of success.

I finally was forced to give it tip, at which I very unexpectedly
found myself mortified almost beyond endurance. I was mortified,
it seemed to me, in a hundred different ways. My vanity was deeply
wounded by the refiection that I had so long been too stupid to dis-
cover her intentions, and at the same time never doubting that I
understood them perfectly ; and also that she, whom I had taught
myself to believe nobody else would have, had actually rejected me
with all my fancied greatness. And, to cap the whole, I then for
the first time began to suspect that I was really a little in love with
her. But let it all go ! I '11 try and outlive it. Others have beeu
made fools of by the girls, but this can never with truth be said of
me. I most emphatically, in this instance, made a fool of myself.
I have now come to the conclusion never again to think of marry-
ing, and for this reason — I can never be satisfied with any one who
would be blockhead enough to have me.

When you receive this, write me a long yarn about something to
amuse me. Give my respects to Mr. Browning.

Your sincere friend,

Mrs. O. H. Browning. A. Lincoln.

January 17, 1839. — Remarks m the Illinois Legislature.

In the House of Representatives, January 17, 1839.
Mr. Lincoln, from Committee on Finance, to which the subject was
referred, made a report on the subject of purchasing of the United
States all the unsold lands lying within the limits of the State of
Illinois, accompanied by resolutions that this State propose to pur-
chase all unsold lands at twenty-five cents per acre, and pledging the
faith of the State to carry the proposal into effect if the government
accept the same within two years.

Mr. Lincoln thought the resolutions ought to be seriously consid-
ered. In reply to the gentleman from Adams, he said that it was not
to enrich the State. The price of the lands may be raised, it was
thought by some ; by others, that it would be reduced. The conclu-


sion in his miad was that the representatives in this legislature
from the country in which the lands lie would be opposed to raising
the price, because it would operate against the settlement of the
lands. He referred to the lands in the military tract. They had
fallen into the hands of large speculators in consequence of the low
price. He was opposed to a low price of land. He thought it was
adverse to the interests of the poor settler, because speculators buy
them up. He was opposed to a reduction of the price of public

Mr. Lincoln referred to some official documents emanating from
Indiana, and compared the progressive population of the two States.
Illinois had gained upon that State under the public land system as
it is. His conclusion was that ten years from this time Illinois
would have no more pubUc land unsold than Indiana now has. He
referred also to Ohio. That State had sold nearly all her public
lands. She was but twenty years ahead of us, and as our lands were
equally salable — more so, as he maintained — we should have no
more twenty years from now than she has at present.

Mr. Lincoln referred to the canal lands, and supposed that the
policy of the State would be different in regard to them, if the rep-
resentatives from that section of country could themselves choose
the policy; but the representatives from other parts of the State had
a veto upon it, and regulated the policy. He thought that if the
State had all the lands, the policy of the legislature would be more
liberal to all sections.

He referred to the policy of the General Government. He thought
that if the national debt had not been paid, the expenses of the gov-
ernment would not have doubled, as they had done since that debt
was paid.

May 11, 1839. — Lettee to A. P. Field.

Springfield, Illinois, May 11, 1839.
A. P. Field, Esq. > J > .

Bear Sir : At the late session an act passed both Houses of leg-
islature for the benefit of the clerks of the Circuit Courts of Sanga-
mon, Hamilton, and Fayette counties. I can see nothing of this
act in the printed laws, one copy of which has reached us. I know
it passed both Houses, but I am a little suspicious it has not been
duly acted on by the Council of Revision. Will you please learn
and write us what condition it is in, and also send us a copy of the
act? Mr. Butler will pay the charge on sight. Tour friend,

A. Lincoln.

November 14, 1839.— Letter to John T. Stuart.

Springfield, November 14, 1839.
Dear Stuart : I have been to the secretary's office within the last
hour, and find things precisely as you left them. No new arrivals
of returns on either side. Douglas has not been here since you left.


A rej)ort is in circulation here now that he has abandoned the idea
of going to Washington, though the report does not come in a very-
authentic form, so far as I can learn. Though, by the way, speak-
ing of authenticity, you know that if we had heard Douglas say that
he had abandoned the contest, it would not be very authentic.
There is no news here. Noah, I still think, will be elected very eas-
ily. I am afraid of our race for representative. Dr. Knapp has
become a candidate, and I fear the few votes he will get will be
taken from us. Also some one has been tampering with old Es-
quire WicofE, and induced him to send in his name to be announced
as a candidate. Francis refused to announce him without seeing
him, and now I suppose there is to be a fuss about it. I have been
so busy that I have not seen Mrs. Stuart since you left, though I
understand she wrote you by to-day's mail, which will inform you
more about her than I could. The very moment a Speaker is
elected, write me who he is. Your friend as ever,

A. Lincoln.

December [20?], 1839. — Speech at a Political Discussion

IN THE Hall op the House op Representatives at

Springfield, Illinois.

{From a pamphlet copy inpossession of Hon. T. J. Henderson, Illinois.)

Fellow-citizens : It is peculiarly embarrassing to me to attempt
a continuance of the discussiouj on this evening, which has been
conducted in this hall on several preceding ones. It is so because
on each of those evenings there was a much fuller attendance than
now, without any reason for its being so, except the greater interest
the community feel in the. speakers who addressed them then than
they do in him who is to do so now. I am, indeed, apprehensive
that the few who have attended have done so more to spare me
mortification than in the hope of being interested in anything I
may be able to say. This circumstance casts a damp upon my
spirits, which I am sure I shall be unable to overcome during the
evening. But enough of preface.

The subject heretofore and now to be discussed is the subtrea-
sury scheme of the present administration, as a means of collecting,
safe-keeping, transferring, and disbursing the revenues of the
nation, as contrasted with a national bank for the same purposes.
Mr. Douglas has said that we (the Whigs) have not dared to meet
them (the Locos) in argument on this question. I protest against
this assertion. I assert that we have again and again, during this
discussion, urged facts and arguments against the subtreasury
which they have neither dared to deny nor attempted to answer.
But lest some may be led to believe that we really wish to avoid
the question, I now propose, in my humble way, to urge those argu-
ments again ; at the same time begging the audience to mark well
the positions I shall take and the proof I shall offer to sustain them,
. and that they will not again permit Mr. Douglas or his friends to es-


cape the force of tliem by a round and groundless assertion that we
" dare not meet them in argument."

Of the subtreasury, then, as contrasted with a national bank for
the before enumerated purposes, I lay down the following proposi-
tions, to wit : (1) It will injuriously affect the community by its
operation on the circulating medium. (2) It will be a more expen-
sive fiscal agent. (3) It will be a less secure depository of the public
money. To show the truth of the first proposition, let us take a
short review of our condition under the operation of a national bank.
It was the depository of the public revenues. Between the collec-
tion of those revenues and the disbursement of them by the govern-
ment, the bank was permitted to and did actually loan them out to
individuals, and hence the large amount of money annually collected
for revenue purposes, which by any other plan would have been idle
a great portion of the time, was kept almost constantly in circula-
tion- Any person who will reflect that money is only vj&uable while
in circulation, will readily perceive that any device which will keep
the government revenues in constant circulation, instead of being
locked up in idleness, is no inconsiderable advantage. By the sub-
treasury the revenue is to be eoUeeted and kept in iron boxes until
the government wants it for disbursement ; thus robbing the people
of the use of it, while the government does not itself need it, and
while the money is performing no nobler office than that of rusting
in iron boxes. The natural effect of this change of policy, every
one will see, is to reduce the quantity of money in circulation. But,
again, by the subtreasury scheme the revenue is to be coUeeted in
specie. I anticipate that this will be disputed. I expect to hear it
said that it is not the policy of the administration to collect the rev-
enue in specie. If it shall, I reply that Mr. Van Buren, in his mes-
sage recommending the subtreasury, expended nearly a column of
that document in an attempt to persuade Congress to provide for
the collection of the revenue in specie exclusively ; and he concludes
with these words : " It may be safely assumed that no motive of
convenience to the citizen requires the reception of bank paper." In
addition to this, Mr. Silas Wright, senator from New-York, and the
political, personal, and confidential friend of Mr. Van Buren, drafted
and introduced into the Senate the first subtreasury bill, and that
bill provided for ultimately collecting the revenue in specie. It is
true, I know, that that clause was stricken from the bill, but it was
done by the votes of the Whigs, aided by a portion only of the Van
Buren senators. No subtreasury bill has yet become a law, though
two or three have been considered by Congress, some with and some
without the specie clause ; so that I admit there is room for quib-
bling upon the question of whether the administration favor the
exclusive specie doctrine or not ; but I take it that the fact that the
President at first urged the specie doctrine, and that under his
recommendation the first bill introduced embraced it, warrants us in
charging it as the policy of the party until their head as publicly
recants it as he at first espoused it. I repeat, then, that by the sub-
treasury the revenue is to be collected in specie. Now mark what
the effect of this must be. By all estimates ever made there are but


between sixty and eighty millions of specie in the United States.
The expenditures of the G-overament for the year 1838 — the last for
which we have had the report— were forty millions. Thus it is seen
that if the whole revenue be collected in specie, it will take more
than half of all the specie in the nation to do it. By this means
more than half of all the specie belonging to the fifteen millions of
souls who compose the whole population of the country is thrown
into the hands of the public-office holders, and other public creditors,
composing in number perhaps not more than one quarter of a mil-
lion, leaving the other fourteen millions and three quarters to get
along as they best can, with less than one half of the specie of the
country, and whatever rags and shin plasters they may be able to
put, and keep, in circulation. By this means, every office-holder and
other public creditor may, and most likely will, set up shaver ; and
a most glorious harvest will the specie-men have of it, — each specie-
man, upon a fair division, having to his share the fleecing of about
fifty-nine rag-men.' In all candor let me ask, was such a system
for benefiting the few at the expense of the many ever before devised ?
And was the sacred name of Democracy ever before made to indorse
such an enormity against the rights of the people ?

I have already said that the subtreasury will reduce the quantity
of money in circulation. This position is strengthened by the rec-
ollection that the revenue is to be collected in specie, so that the
mei-e amount of revenue is not all that is withdrawn, but the
amount of paper circulation that the forty millions would serve as

1 On January 4, 1839, the Senate of the bly commands a premium of one to three
United States passed the following resolu- per centum. Every year one senator and
tion, to wit : ten citizens are appointed to transact the
"Sesolved, That the Secretary of the whole of the financial concern, both as to
Treasury be directed to communicate to the receipt and disbursement of the funds.
Senate any information he may recently which is always in cash, and is every day
have received in respect to the mode of col- deposited in the bank, to the credit of the
lecting, keeping, and disbursing public chancery ; and, on being paid out, the citi-
moneys in foreign countries." zen to whose department the payment be-
Under this resolution, the Secretary com- longs must appear personally with the
municated to the Senate a letter, the f ol- check or order, stating the amount and to
lowing extract from which clearly shows whom to be paid. The person receiving
that the collection of the revenue in specie very seldom keeps the money, preferring
will establish a sound currency for the of- to dispose of it to a money-changer at a
flce-holders, and a depreciated one for the premium, and taking other coin at a dis-
people; and that the office-holders and count, of which there is a great variety and
other public creditors will turn shavers a large amount constantly in circulation,
upon all the rest of the community. Here and on which in his daily payment he loses
is the extract from the letter, being all of nothing ; and those who have payments
it that relates to the question: to make to the government apply to the

money-changers again for Hamburg cur-

"Hagtte, October 12, 1838. rency, which keeps it in constant motion,

and I believe it frequently occurs that the

" The financial system of Hamburg is, as bags, which are sealed and labeled with

far as is known, very simple, as may be the amount, are returned again to the bank

supposed from so small a territory. The without being opened,
whole amount of Hamburg coined money "With great respect, your obedient ser-

is about four and a half millions of marks vant, John CtrTHBEET.

current, or one million two hundred and " To the Hon. Levi Woodbury,
eighty-two thousand five hundred dollars ; "Secretary of the Treasury,

and, except under very extraordinary cir- Washington, D. C."

cumstances, not more than one halt that

amountisincirculation,andallduties,taxe8. This letter is found in Senate document,

and excise must be paid in Hamburg cur- p. 113 of the session of 1838-9.
rency. The consequence is that it invaria-


a basis to is withdrawn, which would be in a sound state at l^st
one hundred millions. When one hundred millions, or more, of
the circulation we now have shall be withdrawn, who can contem-
plate without terror the distress, ruin, bankruptcy, and beggary
that must follow. The man who has purchased any article — say a
horse — on credit, at one hundred dollar^ when there are two hun-
dred millions circulating in the country, if the quantity be reduced
to one hundred milKons by the arrival of pay-day, wiU find the
horse but sufficient to pay half the debt ; and the other half must
either be paid out of Ms other means, and thereby become a clear
loss to him, or go unpaid, and thereby become a dear loss to his
creditor. What I have here said of a single case of the purchase
of a horse will hold good in every case of a debt existing at the
time a reduction in the quantity of money occurs, by whomsoever,
and for whatsoever, it may have been contracted. It may be said
that what the debtor loses the creditor gains by this operation ; but
on examination this will be found true only to a very limited ex-
tent. It is more generally true that all lose by it — the creditor by
losing more of his debts than he gains by the increased value of
those he collects; the debtor by either parting with more of his
property to pay his debts than he received in contracting them, or
by entirely breaking up his business, and thereby being thrown
upon the world in idleness.

The general distress thus created wiU. to be sure, be temporary,
because whatever change may occur in the quantity of money in any
community, time will adjust the derangement produced ; but while
that adjustment is progressing, all suffer more or less, and very
many lose everything that renders life desirable. WTiy, then, shall
we suffer a severe difficulty, even though it be but temporary, unless
we receive some equivalent for it T

What I have been saying as to the effect produced by a reduction
of the quantity of money relates to the whole country.' I now pro-
pose to show that it would produce a peculiar and permanent hard-
ship upon the citizens of those States and Territories in which the
public lands lie. The land-offices in those States and Territories, as
all know, form the great gnlf by which aU, or nearly all, the money
in them is swallowed up. When the quantity of money shall be re-
duced, and consequently everything under individual control brought
down in proportion, the price of those lauds, being fixed by law, wiD.
remain as now. Of necessity it will follow that the produce or labor
that now raises money sufficient to purchase eighty acres wUl then
raise but sufficient to purchase forty, or perhaps not that much ; and
this difficulty and hardship wiU last as long, in some degree, as any
portion of these lands shall remain undisposed of. Knowing, as I
well do, the difficulty that poor people now encounter in procuring
homes, I hesitate not to say that when the price of the public lands
shall be doubled or trebled, or, which is the same thing, produce and
labor cut down to one half or one third of their present prices, it will
be little less than imi>ossible for them to procure those homes at aU.

In answer to what I have said as to the effect the subtreasury
would have upon the currency, it is often urged that the money col-


lected for revenue purposes will not lie idle in the vaults of the
treasury; and, farther, that a national bank produces greater de-
rangement in the currency, by a system of contractions and expan-
sions, than the subtreasury would produce in any way. In reply, I
need only show that experience proves the contrary of both these
propositions. It is an undisputed fact that the late Bank of the
United States paid the government $75,000 annually for the privi-
lege of using the public money between the times of its collection
and disbursement. Can any man suppose that the bank would have
paid this sum annually for twenty years, and then offered to renew
its obligations to do so, if in reality there was no time intervening
between the collection and disbursement of the revenue, and con-
sequently no privilege of using the money extended to it ? Again,
as to the contractions and expansions of a national bank, I need only
point to the period intervening between the time that the late
bank got into successful operation and that at which the govern-
ment commenced war upon it, to show that during that period no
such contractions or expansions took place. If, before or after that
period, derangement occurred in the currency, it proves nothing.
The bank could not be expected to regulate the currency, either
before it got into successful operation, or after it was crippled and
thrown into death convulsions, by the removal of the deposits from
it, and other hostile measures of the government against it. We
do not pretend that a national bank can establish and maintain a
sound and uniform state of currency in the country, in spite of the
National Government; but we do say that it has established and
maintained such a currency, and can do so again, by the aid of that
government ; and we further say that no duty is more imperative on
that government than the duty it owes the people of furnishing
them a sound and uniform currency.

I now leave the proposition as to the effect of the subtreasury
upon the currency of tiie country^ and pass to that relative to the
additional expense whicb must be incurred by it over that incurred
by a national bank as a fiscal agent of the government. By the late
national bank we had the public revenue received, safely kept, trans-
ferred, and disbursed, not only without expense, but we actually
received of the bank $75,000 annually for its privileges while ren-
dering us those services. By the subtreasury, according to the esti-
mate of the Secretary of the Treasury, who is the warm advocate of

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 3 of 91)