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CANVASSES OF 1844 AND 1846.
Mr. Lincoln's Devotion to Henry Clay.-The Presidential Nominations of 1844.-The Campaign in Illinois.-Mr. Lincoln Makes an Active Canvass for Clay.-John Calhoun the Leading Polk Elector.The Tariff Issue Thoroughly Discussed.-Method of Conducting the Canvass.-The Whigs of Illinois in a Hopeless Minority.-Mr. Lincoln's Reputation as a Whig Champion.-Renders Efficient Service in Indiana. Mr. Clay's Defeat and the Consequences.-Mr. Lincoln a Candidate for Congressman in 1846.-President Polk's Administration.--Condition of the Country.-Texas Annexation, the Mexican War and the Tariff.--Political Character of the Springfield District.Mr. Lincoln Elected by an Unprecedented Majority.-His Personal Popularity Demonstrated.
MR. LINCOLN had, from his first entrance into political life, recognized Henry Clay as his great leader and instructor in statesmanship. His reverence and attachment for the great Kentuckian had been unlimited and enthusiastic. When, therefore, Mr. Clay had been nominated by acclamation for the Presidency by the National Whig Convention, held at Baltimore on the 1st of May, 1844, and when a Democrat of the most offensive school was put in nomination against him, Mr. Lincoln yielded to the demands of the Whigs of Illinois, and, for the first time breaking over the restrictions he had placed upon himself in regard to the exclusive pursuit of his profession, he consented to take a leading position in canvassing the State as an elector. In a State that had stood unshaken in its Democratic position, while so many others had been revolutionized during the great political tempest of 1840, there was, of course, no hope of immediate success. It was deemed an opportunity not to be lost, however, for maintaining and strengthening the Whig organization, and a spirited canvass was consequently made.
On the Democratic side, John Calhoun, then one of the strongest and most popular speakers of that party, and in many respects quite another man than he subsequently became, held the laboring oar for Mr. Polk. Mr. Lincoln traversed various parts of the State, attracting large audiences and keeping their fixed attention for hours, as he held up to admiration the character and doctrines of Henry Clay, and contrasted them with those of his Presidential opponent. On the tariff question, which was the chief issue in Illinois that year, he was particularly elaborate, strongly enforcing the great principles on which the protective system, as maintained by Clay, was based. He had always a fund of anecdote and illustration, with which to relieve his close logical disquisitions, and to elucidate and enforce his views in a manner perfectly intelligible, as well as pleasing to all classes of hearers. This campaign, so barren in immediate results, as it was expected to be in Illinois, was not without its excellent fruits, ultimately, to the party. It had also the effect of establishing Mr. Lincoln's reputation as a political orator, on a still broader and more permanent foundation. From this time forward he was widely known as one of the soundest and most effective of Whig champions in the West.
After doing in Illinois all that could have been required of one man, had this arena been of the most promising description, Mr. Lincoln crossed the Wabash, at the desire of the people of his former State, and contributed largely toward turning the tide of battle for Clay in that really hopeful field. Here he worked most efficiently, losing no opportunity up to the very eve of the election. In Indiana, those efforts were not forgotten, but were freshly called to mind, at a later juncture, by great numbers of Old Whigs in Southern Indiana.
If any event, more heartily than another, could have discouraged Mr. Lincoln from again participating in political affairs, it was the disastrous result, in the nation at large, of this canvass of 1844. He felt it more keenly than he could have done if it were a mere personal reverse. Mr. Clay was defeated, contrary to the ardent hopes, and even expectations
of his friends, down to the last moment. Of the causes and the consequences which followed that event, the impartial historian, at some future day, can more candidly and philosophically speak than any of those who shared in this disappointment. That the election of Mr. Polk over Mr. Clay, made the subsequent political history of our country far different from what it would have been with the opposite result, all will concede.
Two years later, in 1846, Mr. Lincoln was induced to accept the Whig nomination for Congress in the Sangamon District. The annexation of Texas had, in the meantime, been consummated. The Mexican war had been begun, and was still in progress. The Whig tariff of 1842 had just been repealed. This latter event had been acccomplished in the Senate by the casting vote of Mr. DALLAS, the Vice-President, and with the official approval of Mr. POLK, the President, both of whom had been elected by the aid of Pennsylvania, and had carried the vote of that State solely by being represented to the people as favoring the maintainance of the tariff which they thus destroyed.
The Springfield district had given Mr. Clay a majority of 914 in 1844, on the most thorough canvass. It gave Mr. Lincoln a majority .af 1,511, which was entirely unprecedented, and has been unequaled by that given there for any opposition candidate, for any office since. The nearest approach was in 1848, when Gen. Taylor, on a much fuller vote than that of 1846, and receiving the votes of numerous returned Mexican volunteers, of Democratic faith, and who had served under him in Mexico, obtained a majority of 1,501. In the same year (1848) Mr. Logan, the popular Whig candidate, was beaten by Col. Thomas L. Harris, Democrat, by 106 majority. There was no good reason to doubt, in advance, that Mr. Lincoln would have been elected by a handsome majority, had he consented to run for another term, nor has it been questionable, since the result became known, that the strong personal popularity of Mr. Lincoln would have saved the district. It was redeemed by Richard Yates in 1850, who carried his election by less than half the majority (754) which Mr. Lincoln had received in 1845. The district, after its reconstruc
tion, following the census of 1850, was for ten years Democratic. Under all the circumstances, therefore, the vote for Mr. Lincoln was a remarkable one, showing that he possessed a rare degree of strength with the people. His earnest sincerity of manner always strongly impressed those whom he addressed. They knew him to be a man of strong moral convictions. An opponent seemed to intend a sneer at this trait, when he called Mr. Lincoln "conscientious," but it was a quality to which the people were never indifferent.
There was a universal confidence in his honest integrity, such as has been rarely extended to men so prominent in political life. The longer he was tried as a public servant, the more his constituents became attached to him. A popularity thus thoroughly grounded is not to be destroyed by the breezes of momentary passion or prejudice, or materially affected by any idle fickleness of the populace.
MR. LINCOLN IN CONGRESS.-1847-49.
The Thirtieth Congress-Its Political Character-The Democracy in a Minority in the House.-Robert C. Winthrop Elected Speaker.Distinguished Members in both Houses.-Mr. Lincoln takes his Seat as a Member of the House, and Mr. Douglas, for the first time, as a Member of the Senate, at the same Session.-Mr. Lincoln's Congressional Record, that of a Clay and Webster Whig.-The Mexican War. Mr. Lincoln's Views on the Subject.-Misrepresentations.Not an Available Issue for Mr. Lincoln's Opponents.-His Resolutions of Inquiry in Regard to the Origin of the War.-Mr. Richardson's Resolutions Indorsing the Administration. Mr. Hudson's Resolutions for an Immediate Discontinuance of the War.-Voted Against by Mr. Lincoln.-Resolutions of Thanks to Gen. Taylor.Mr. Henley's Amendment, and Mr. Ashman's Addition thereto.Resolutions Adopted without Amendment.-Mr. Lincoln's First Speech in Congress, on the Mexican War.-Mr. Lincoln on Internal Improvements.-A Characteristic Campaign Speech.-Mr. Lincoln on the Nomination of Gen. Taylor; the Veto Power; National Issues; President and People; the Wilmot Proviso; Platforms; Democratic Sympathy for Clay; Military Heroes and Exploits; Cass a Progressive; Extra Pay; the Whigs and the Mexican War; Democratic Divisions. Close of the Session. Mr. Lincoln on the Stump.-Gen. Taylor's Election.-Second Session of the Thirtieth Congress.Slavery in the District of Columbia.-The Public Lands.-Mr. Lincoln as a Congressman.-He Retires to Private Life.
MR. LINCOLN took his seat in the National House of Representatives on the 6th day of December, 1847, the date of the opening of the Thirtieth Congress. In many respects this Congress was a memorable one. That which preceded, elected at the same time Mr. Polk was chosen to the Presidency, had been strongly Democratic in both branches. The policy of the Administration, however, had been such, during the first two years of its existence, that a great popular re-action had followed