Mr. Lincoln Enlists

One of the more unusual aspects of Abraham Lincoln’s life is his service in the Black Hawk War in Illinois.  In later years Lincoln was fond of making light of his three months service, from April 21, 1832-July 10, 1832.

“By the way Mr. Speaker, did you know that I am a military hero? Yes sir, in the days of the Black Hawk War I fought, bled and came away . . . I was not at Stillman’s defeat, but I was about as near it as Cass was Hull’s surrender, and, like him, I saw the place very soon afterwards . . . 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.”  (July 27, 1848)

This is classic Lincoln.  In a time when almost all politicians were eager to inflate any military service, he made fun of his.

From all that we know, Lincoln was an enthusiastic participant in the war.  He began his service being elected captain of the local militia company, his first political victory.  Lincoln was put in charge of a company of the 4th Mounted Volunteers after militia units assembled at Beardstown, Illinois.  The militia units were marched to Prophet’s Village in Whiteside County which they burned on May 11.  The Indians had abandoned the village prior to it being burned.

On May 14, 1832 a group of 275 militia under Major Isaiah Stillman was defeated at a battle that became known as Stillman’s Run, near what is now Stillman Valley, Illinois.  The militia panicked and ran from about 50 Indians and 12 militia men were slain.  On May 15, 1832 militia, including Abraham Lincoln’s company, arrived at the site of the battle and buried the dead.  The next two weeks Lincoln spent marching his company from place to place near the mouth of the Fox River.  On May 27 Lincoln’s company was mustered out of service.  Lincoln promptly re-enlisted as a private in Captain Elijah Isles’ company.  The officer who mustered him into service was United States Army Lieutenant Robert Anderson, the future commander of Fort Sumter in 1861. After Isles’ company was mustered out of service on June 16, Lincoln enlisted in the spy (scout) company of Captain Jacob Early and served in that company until his military service ended on July 10, 1832. (more…)

Published in: on May 4, 2021 at 5:20 am  Comments (2)  
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Lincoln as Legal Thinker

The above scene from the movie Lincoln (2012) displays well Lincoln’s strengths as a legal thinker.  Lincoln had an ability to take abstract concepts, think about them in concrete terms, and twirl them around in his mind looking at them from various angles, many of which would not be obvious at first glance.  The screenplay captures this ability of Lincoln:

I decided that the Constitution gives me war powers, but no one knows just exactly what those powers are. Some say they don’t exist. I don’t know. I decided I needed them to exist to uphold my oath to protect the Constitution, which I decided meant that I could take the rebels’ slaves from ‘em as property confiscated in war. That might recommend to suspicion that I agree with the rebs that their slaves are property in the first place. Of course I don’t, never have, I’m glad to see any man free, and if calling a man property, or war contraband, does the trick… Why I caught at the opportunity.

Now here’s where it gets truly slippery. I use the law allowing for the seizure of property in a war knowing it applies only to the property of governments and citizens of belligerent nations. But the South ain’t a nation, that’s why I can’t negotiate with ’em. So if in fact the Negroes are property according to law, have I the right to take the rebels’ property from ‘em, if I insist they’re rebels only, and not citizens of a belligerent country?

And slipperier still: I maintain it ain’t our actual Southern states in rebellion, but only the rebels living in those states, the laws of which states remain in force. The laws of which states remain in force.

That means, that since it’s states’ laws that determine whether Negroes can be sold as slaves, as property – the Federal government doesn’t have a say in that, least not yet – then Negroes in those states are slaves, hence property, hence my war powers allow me to confiscate ‘em as such. So I confiscated ‘em. But if I’m a respecter of states’ laws, how then can I legally free ‘em with my Proclamation, as I done, unless I’m cancelling states’ laws?

I felt the war demanded it; my oath demanded it; I felt right with myself; and I hoped it was legal to do it, I’m hoping still. Two years ago I proclaimed these people emancipated – “then, thenceforward and forever free.”

But let’s say the courts decide I had no authority to do it. They might well decide that.

Say there’s no amendment abolishing slavery. Say it’s after the war, and I can no longer use my war powers to just ignore the courts’ decisions, like I sometimes felt I had to do. Might those people I freed be ordered back into slavery? That’s why I’d like to get the Thirteenth Amendment through the House, and on its way to ratification by the states, wrap the whole slavery thing up, forever and aye. As soon as I’m able. Now. End of this month. And I’d like you to stand behind me. Like my cabinet’s most always done.

This reflects the way Lincoln reasoned on legal issues as the following demonstrates:

To the Senate and House of Representatives [1]
July 17, 1862

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate, and House of Representatives,

Considering the bill for “An act to suppress insurrection, to punish treason, and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes” and the Joint Resolution [explanatory of said act,] [2] as being substantially one, I have approved and signed both.

Before I was informed of the passage of the Resolution, I had prepared the draft of a Message, stating objections to the bill becoming a law, a copy of which draft is herewith transmitted.

[ABRAHAM LINCOLN]

[July 17, 1862.]

Fellow citizens of the House of Representatives

I herewith return to your honorable body, in which it originated, the bill for an act entitled “An act to suppress treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes” together with my objections to it’s becoming a law.

There is much in the bill to which I perceive no objection. It is wholly prospective; and it touches neither person or property, of any loyal citizen; in which particulars, it is just and proper. The first and second sections provide for the conviction and punishment of persons who shall be guilty of treason, and persons who shall “incite, set on foot, assist, or engage in any rebellion, or insurrection, against the authority of the United States, or the laws thereof, or shall give aid or comfort thereto, or shall engage in, or give aid and comfort to any such existing rebellion, or insurrection” By fair construction, persons within these sections are not to be punished without regular trials, in duly constituted courts, under the forms, and all the substantial provisions of law, and of the constitution, applicable to their several cases. To this I perceive no objection; especially as such persons would be within the general pardoning power, and also the special provision for pardon and amnesty, contained in this act. It is also provided, that the slaves → of persons convicted under these sections shall be free. I think there is an unfortunate form of expression, rather than a substantial objection, in this. It is startling to say that congress can free a slave within a state; and yet if it were said the ownership of the slave had first been transferred to the nation, and that congress had then liberated, him, the difficulty would at once vanish. And this is the real case. The traitor against the general government forfets his slave, at least as justly as he does any other property; and he forfeits both to the government against which he offends. The government, so far as there can be ownership, thus owns the the [sic] forfeited ← slaves → ; and the question for Congress, in regard to them is, “Shall they be made free, or be sold to new masters?” I perceive no objection to Congress deciding in advance that they shall be free. To the high honor of Kentucky, as I am informed, she has been the owner of some ← slaves → by escheat, and that she sold none, but liberated all. I hope the same is true of some other states. Indeed, I do not believe it would be physically possible, for the General government, to return persons, so circumstanced, to actual slavery. I believe there would be physical resistance to it, which could neither be turned aside by argument, nor driven away by force. In this view I have no objection to this feature of the bill. Another matter involved in these two sections, and running through other parts of the act, will be noticed hereafter.

Go here to read the rest.  Lincoln wrote his first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation in late July and his mind was working on how an abstraction like freedom could be applied to the ugly realities of war and the practical realities of the existing law.

Published in: on April 14, 2021 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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April 9, 1939: Marian Anderson Sings America at the Lincoln Memorial

The rendition at the beginning of this post is by Marian Anderson, perhaps the most gifted songstress of her generation.  A devout Christian, this granddaughter of slaves was denied the opportunity by the Daughters of the American Revolution to sing at Constitution Hall in 1939.  In 1939 the District of Columbia was controlled by committees of Congress.  Democrat segregationists rigidly enforced rules of segregation in the District.  Blacks were rightly upset that during a performance by Miss Anderson, if it had been held at Constitution Hall, they would have been required to sit in the back of the hall.  The District of Columbia Board of Education, controlled by Democrats, declined to allow Marian Anderson to perform in the auditorium of a white school.  To her credit, Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband arranged for Anderson to give her unforgettable performance at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939, Easter Sunday.

During the war years, Miss Anderson spent a large part of her time entertaining troops.  In 1943, at the invitation of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she sang before an integrated audience for a Red Cross benefit at Constitution Hall.  The always gracious Miss Anderson remembered the event:  When I finally walked onto the stage of Constitution Hall, I felt no different than I had in other halls. There was no sense of triumph. I felt that it was a beautiful concert hall and I was very happy to sing there.

Star Trek Lincoln

What a charming Negress. Oh, forgive me, my dear. I know that in my time some used that term as a description of property.
But why should I object to that term, sir? You see, in our century we’ve learned not to fear words.

Conversation between Lincoln and Uhura, The Savage Curtain

Not fearing words would be a useful lesson for Star Trek to teach our own word obsessed time.  Originally broadcast on March 7, 1969, The Savage Curtain is, like most of the final season of Star Trek, not a fan favorite.   I dissent both as to the episode and the Season.  I found the Third Season to have usually highly imaginative episodes, some swings and misses but mostly solid hits and a few home runs.  This was in the aftermath of the Civil War Centennial and interest in Lincoln was strong.  Actor Lee Bergere gives a  convincing performance as a simulation of Lincoln, capturing the man’s nobility, common sense and, yes, ruthlessness in the service of a just cause.  Bergere passed away in 2007 at 88,

Barry Atwater was superb in the same episode of as Surak, founder of the Vulcan philosophy of pure logic:

A nice, and subtle, look at good and evil, evil being personified by the founder of Klingon civilization, Kahless the Unforgettable, Zora of Tiburon, Genghis Khan and Colonel Phillip Green, the leader of eco terrorists in the 21rst century who euthanized hundreds of thousands of irradiated people in the wake of World War III.  (An all too plausible villain for our century.)  Green’s uniform, such is the cheapness of television series, would serve as the uniform, with a white triangle added, for Mork of Mork and Mindy infamy!

Published in: on March 29, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Star Trek Lincoln  
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March 12, 1864: Dramatis Personae

grant-and-lincoln

 

With the ending of winter, the campaign of 1864 was coming close, as careful observers could tell by two executive orders issued by Lincoln.  The first on March 12, 1864 detailed the new command structure, with Grant made General-in-Chief, Sherman placed in command in the West, and McPherson commanding the Army of the Tennessee.  Grant was depending upon his command team from the Army of the Tennessee to win the War in the West, while he took command of the Army of the Potomac.  The useless Halleck was demoted from General-in-Chief and made Chief of Staff.  It is characteristic of Lincoln that he spared the feelings of Halleck by indicating that the demotion was at his request and thanking him for his completely barren services.  The second executive order, calling for a draft of 200,000 men, was issued on March 14, a sure sign that the fighting this year would likely dwarf what had come before.  Here is the text of the executive order of March 12:

 

 

GENERAL ORDERS, NO. 98.

WAR DEPARTMENT,

ADJUTANT-GENERAL’S OFFICE,

WASHINGTON , March 12, 1864.

The President of the United States orders as follows:

I. Major-General H. W. Halleck is, at his own request, relieved from duty as General in Chief of the Army, and Lieutenant-General U. S. Grant is assigned to the command of the armies of the United States. The headquarters of the Army will be in Washington and also with Lieutenant-General Grant in the field.

II. Major-General H. W. Haileck is assigned to duty in Washington as chief of staff of the Army, under the direction of the Secretary of War and the Lieutenant-General Commanding. His orders will be obeyed and respected accordingly.

III. Major-General W. T. Sherman is assigned to the command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, composed of the departments of the Ohio, the Cumberland, the Tennessee and the Arkansas.

IV. Major-General J. B. McPherson is assigned to the command of the Department and Army of the Tennessee.

V. In relieving Major-General Halleek from duty as General in Chief, the President desires to express his approbation and thanks for the able and zealous manner in which the arduous and responsible duties of that position have been performed.

By order of the Secretary of War:

E. D. TOWNSEND,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

Published in: on March 12, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (6)  
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March 4, 1865: God, Lincoln and the Second Inaugural

lincoln_second-inaugural

 

 

Hands down the most moving  inaugural address in American history is the second inaugural address given by President Lincoln, little over a month before his death.  It is short, to the point and powerful.  It is also the most important theological document written by any American President.  Here is the text:

(more…)

Published in: on March 4, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 4, 1865: God, Lincoln and the Second Inaugural  
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History and Rashomon

 

 

Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 masterpiece Rashomon in which a murder is told from four differing perspectives, including that of the ghost of the murdered man, details a problem that always plagues historians:   whenever you have more than one source for an event, they are probably going to differ, sometimes in small particulars, although not uncommonly in large ones.  The larger the event, a battle for example, and the more sources, the more differences.  What one reads in a typical history book often glosses over questions on particular points with the writer, assuming he is aware of the differing materials, picking, choosing and interpreting source material rather like an individual putting together a puzzle where some of the pieces have gone astray and some have been savaged by the family dog.  It is not easy work, and that is why some “historians” merely repackage the various books on the subject they have skimmed and eschew actual research by themselves.  If you read a lot on a particular topic of history, you can often tell what source is being used for a particular event.

On February 11, 1861, Lincoln left Springfield, Illinois with his family to travel to Washington DC to be sworn in as President of a very Disunited States of America.  He made a short and, for him, fairly emotional and personal speech to his friends and well-wishers at the train station.  Three versions of his speech have come down to us: (more…)

Published in: on February 18, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on History and Rashomon  
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Lincoln and Liberty Too

 

Something for the weekend.

A few renditions of Lincoln and Liberty Too (1860), the most memorable American campaign song, for the day after Lincoln’s birthday.

 

Published in: on February 13, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln and Liberty Too  
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Lincoln and the Will of God

Justice exalteth a nation: but sin maketh nations miserable.

Proverbs 13:14

Today is the 212th birthday of Abraham Lincoln.  One of the many things I find fascinating about Lincoln is his view of the Civil War, a view which is not much considered these days.  Lincoln viewed it simply as a punishment for the sin of slavery.  Lincoln put this idea forth clearly in a letter to Albert Hodges on April 4, 1864.  Hodges was the editor of the Frankfort Commonwealth in Kentucky and Lincoln was explaining why he had found it necessary to adopt a policy of Emancipation and to enlist black troops, neither policy being popular in Kentucky or the other border states.  At the close of the letter Lincoln disclaimed that he had controlled the events which had led to his embracing abolition as a war goal:

I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years struggle the nation’s condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.

God was willing the removal of slavery and gave the War as a punishment to both North and South for the sin of slavery.  This was not a spur of the moment thought by Lincoln, but rather the fruit of much anguished contemplation as to why the War came and what it meant.

We see Lincoln’s thought process in development in a note that he wrote and which was not meant for publication.  Lincoln’s secretary John Hay found it and preserved it.  It has become known as Lincoln’s Meditation on the Divine Will:

The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party — and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true — that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds. (more…)

Published in: on February 12, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln and the Will of God  
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Lincoln on Henry Clay and Slavery

Lincoln’s chief political hero was Henry Clay.  It is impossible to understand Abraham Lincoln as a politician and a statesman without understanding his life long admiration for Henry Clay.  Lincoln delivered this eulogy for Henry Clay on July 6, 1852 at the Illinois State House in Springfield.  At the end Lincoln addresses Henry Clay on slavery.  Although a slave owner Clay was deeply ambivalent about it, acknowledging that it was an evil, working to foster colonization of freed slaves and having no use for Southern politicians who argued that slavery was a positive good.  Clay could find no way to end slavery that would command majority support in his day and his disciple Lincoln would end it only as the result of a terrible civil war that cost more war dead than all of America’s other wars combined.  Here is the text of Lincoln’s eulogy;

On the fourth day of July, 1776, the people of a few feeble and oppressed colonies of Great Britain, inhabiting a portion of the Atlantic coast of North America, publicly declared their national independence, and made their appeal to the justice of their cause, and to the God of battles, for the maintainance of that declaration. That people were few in numbers, and without resources, save only their own wise heads and stout hearts. Within the first year of that declared independence, and while its maintainance was yet problematical — while the bloody struggle between those resolute rebels, and their haughty would-be-masters, was still waging, of undistinguished parents, and in an obscure district of one of those colonies, Henry Clay was born. The infant nation, and the infant child began the race of life together. For three quarters of a century they have travelled hand in hand. They have been companions ever. The nation has passed its perils, and is free, prosperous, and powerful. The child has reached his manhood, his middle age, his old age, and is dead. In all that has concerned the nation the man ever sympathised; and now the nation mourns for the man.

The day after his death, one of the public Journals, opposed to him politically, held the following pathetic and beautiful language, which I adopt, partly because such high and exclusive eulogy, originating with a political friend, might offend good taste, but chiefly, because I could not, in any language of my own, so well express my thoughts–

“Alas! who can realize that Henry Clay is dead! Who can realize that never again that majestic form shall rise in the council-chambers of his country to beat back the storms of anarchy which may threaten, or pour the oil of peace upon the troubled billows as they rage and menace around? Who can realize, that the workings of that mighty mind have ceased — that the throbbings of that gallant heart are stilled — that the mighty sweep of that graceful arm will be felt no more, and the magic of that eloquent tongue, which spake as spake no other tongue besides, is hushed — hushed forever! Who can realize that freedom’s champion — the champion of a civilized world, and of all tongues and kindreds and people, has indeed fallen! Alas, in those dark hours, which, as they come in the history of all nations, must come in ours — those hours of peril and dread which our land has experienced, and which she may be called to experience again — to whom now may her people look up for that counsel and advice, which only wisdom and experience and patriotism can give, and which only the undoubting confidence of a nation will receive? Perchance, in the whole circle of the great and gifted of our land, there remains but one on whose shoulders the mighty mantle of the departed statesman may fall — one, while we now write, is doubtless pouring his tears over the bier of his brother and his friend — brother, friend ever, yet in political sentiment, as far apart as party could make them. Ah, it is at times like these, that the petty distinctions of mere party disappear. We see only the great, the grand, the noble features of the departed statesman; and we do not even beg permission to bow at his feet and mingle our tears with those who have ever been his political adherents — we do [not?] beg this permission — we claim it as a right, though we feel it as a privilege. Henry Clay belonged to his country — to the world, mere party cannot claim men like him. His career has been national — his fame has filled the earth — his memory will endure to `the last syllable of recorded time.’

“Henry Clay is dead! — He breathed his last on yesterday at twenty minutes after eleven, in his chamber at Washington. To those who followed his lead in public affairs, it more appropriately belongs to pronounce his eulogy, and pay specific honors to the memory of the illustrious dead — but all Americans may show the grief which his death inspires, for, his character and fame are national property. As on a question of liberty, he knew no North, no South, no East, no West, but only the Union, which held them all in its sacred circle, so now his countrymen will know no grief, that is not as wide-spread as the bounds of the confederacy. The career of Henry Clay was a public career. From his youth he has been devoted to the public service, at a period too, in the world’s history justly regarded as a remarkable era in human affairs. He witnessed in the beginning the throes of the French Revolution. He saw the rise and fall of Napoleon. He was called upon to legislate for America, and direct her policy when all Europe was the battle-field of contending dynasties, and when the struggle for supremacy imperilled the rights of all neutral nations. His voice, spoke war and peace in the contest with Great Britain.

“When Greece rose against the Turks and struck for liberty, his name was mingled with the battle-cry of freedom. When South America threw off the thraldom of Spain, his speeches were read at the head of her armies by Bolivar. His name has been, and will continue to be, hallowed in two hemispheres, for it is–
`One of the few the immortal names
That were not born to die,’
“To the ardent patriot and profound statesman, he added a quality possessed by few of the gifted on earth. His eloquence has not been surpassed. In the effective power to move the heart of man, Clay was without an equal, and the heaven born endowment, in the spirit of its origin, has been most conspicuously exhibited against intestine feud. On at least three important occasions, he has quelled our civil commotions, by a power and influence, which belonged to no other statesman of his age and times. And in our last internal discord, when this Union trembled to its center — in old age, he left the shades of private life and gave the death blow to fraternal strife, with the vigor of his earlier years in a series of Senatorial efforts, which in themselves would bring immortality, by challenging comparison with the efforts of any statesman in any age. He exorcised the demon which possessed the body politic, and gave peace to a distracted land. Alas! the achievement cost him his life! He sank day by day to the tomb — his pale, but noble brow, bound with a triple wreath, put there by a grateful country. May his ashes rest in peace, while his spirit goes to take its station among the great and good men who preceded him!”

While it is customary, and proper, upon occasions like the present, to give a brief sketch of the life of the deceased, in the case of Mr. Clay, it is less necessary than most others; for his biography has been written and re-written, and read, and re-read, for the last twenty-five years; so that, with the exception of a few of the latest incidents of his life, all is as well known, as it can be. The short sketch which I give is, therefore merely to maintain the connection of this discourse.

Henry Clay was born on the 12th of April 1777, in Hanover County, Virginia. Of his father, who died in the fourth or fifth year of Henry’s age, little seems to be known, except that he was a respectable man, and a preacher of the baptist persuasion. Mr. Clay’s education, to the end of his life, was comparatively limited. I say “to the end of his life,” because I have understood that, from time to time, he added something to his education during the greater part of his whole life. Mr. Clay’s lack of a more perfect early education, however it may be regretted generally, teaches at least one profitable lesson; it teaches that in this country, one can scarcely be so poor, but that, if he will, he can acquire sufficient education to get through the world respectably. In his twenty-third year Mr. Clay was licenced to practice law, and emigrated to Lexington, Kentucky. Here he commenced and continued the practice till the year 1803, when he was first elected to the Kentucky Legislature. By successive elections he was continued in the Legislature till the latter part of 1806, when he was elected to fill a vacancy, of a single session, in the United States Senate. In 1807 he was again elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, and by that body, chosen its Speaker. In 1808 he was re-elected to the same body. In 1809 he was again chosen to fill a vacancy of two years in the United States Senate. In 1811 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, and on the first day of taking his seat in that body, he was chosen its speaker. In 1813 he was again elected Speaker. Early in 1814, being the period of our last British war, Mr. Clay was sent as commissioner, with others, to negotiate a treaty of peace, which treaty was concluded in the latter part of the same year. On his return from Europe he was again elected to the lower branch of Congress, and on taking his seat in December 1815 was called to his old post — the speaker’s chair, a position in which he was retained by successive elections, with one brief intermission, till the inauguration of John Q. Adams in March 1825. He was then appointed Secretary of State, and occupied that important station till the inauguration of Gen. Jackson in March 1829. After this he returned to Kentucky, resumed the practice of the law, and continued it till the Autumn of 1831, when he was by the legislature of Kentucky, again placed in the United States Senate. By a re-election he continued in the Senate till he resigned his seat, and retired, in March 1848. In December 1849 he again took his seat in the Senate, which he again resigned only a few months before his death.

By the foregoing it is perceived that the period from the beginning of Mr. Clay’s official life, in 1803, to the end of it in 1852, is but one year short of half a century; and that the sum of all the intervals in it, will not amount to ten years. But mere duration of time in office, constitutes the smallest part of Mr. Clay’s history. Throughout that long period, he has constantly been the most loved, and most implicitly followed by friends, and the most dreaded by opponents, of all living American politicians. In all the great questions which have agitated the country, and particularly in those great and fearful crises, the Missouri question — the Nullification question, and the late slavery question, as connected with the newly acquired territory, involving and endangering the stability of the Union, his has been the leading and most conspicuous part. In 1824 he was first a candidate for the Presidency, and was defeated; and, although he was successively defeated for the same office in 1832 and in 1844, there has never been a moment since 1824 till after 1848 when a very large portion of the American people did not cling to him with an enthusiastic hope and purpose of still elevating him to the Presidency. With other men, to be defeated, was to be forgotten; but to him, defeat was but a trifling incident, neither changing him, or the world’s estimate of him. Even those of both political parties who have been preferred to him for the highest office, have run far briefer courses than he, and left him, still shining high in the heavens of the political world. Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Polk, and Taylor, all rose after, and set long before him. The spell — the long enduring spell — with which the souls of men were bound to him, is a miracle. Who can compass it? It is probably true he owed his pre-eminence to no one quality, but to a fortunate combination of several. He was surpassingly eloquent; but many eloquent men fail utterly; and they are not, as a class, generally successful. His judgment was excellent; but many men of good judgment, live and die unnoticed. His will was indomitable; but this quality often secures to its owner nothing better than a character for useless obstinacy. These then were Mr. Clay’s leading qualities. No one of them is very uncommon; but all taken together are rarely combined in a single individual; and this is probably the reason why such men as Henry Clay are so rare in the world. (more…)

Published in: on January 21, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln on Henry Clay and Slavery  
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