BLTC Press Titles


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Vanity Fair

William Thackery


Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller


Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle


Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman


Abraham Lincoln

by John Torrey Morse

Excerpt:

long afterward he used to say that no other success in life had given him such pleasure as did this one.

The company was attached to the Fourth Illinois Regiment, commanded by Colonel Samuel Thompson, in the brigade of General Samuel Whiteside. On April 27 they started for the scene of conflict, and for many days endured much hardship of hunger and rough marching. But thereby they escaped serious danger, for they were too fatigued to go forward on May 12, when the cavalry battalions rode out gallantly, recklessly, perhaps a little stupidly, into ambush and death. It so happened that Lincoln never came nearer to any engagement than he did to this one of "Stillman's Run;" so that, in place of military glory, he had to be content with the reputation of being the best comrade and story-teller at the camp fire. He had, however, an opportunity to do one honorable act: the brief term of service of the volunteers expired on May 27, and most of them eagerly hastened away from an irksome task, without regard to the fact that their services were still much needed, whereas Lincoln and some other officers reenlisted as privates. They were made the "Independent Spy Battalion" of mounted volunteers, were given many special privileges, but were concerned in no engagement, and erelong were mustered out of service. Lincoln's certificate of discharge was signed by Robert Anderson, who afterward was in command at Fort Sumter at the outbreak of the rebellion. Thus, late in June, Lincoln was again a civilian in New Salem, and was passing from war to politics.

Nomination by caucus had not yet been introduced into Illinois,1 and any person who wished to be a candidate for an elective office simply made public announcement of the fact and then conducted his campaign as best he could.2 On March 9, 1832, shortly before his enlistment, Lincoln issued a manifesto, "To the People of Sangamon County," in which he informed them that he should run as a candidate for the State Legislature at the autumn elections, and told them his political principles.3 He was in favor of internal improvements, such as opening roads, clearing streams, building a railroad across Sangamon County, and making the Sangamon River straight and navigable. He advocated a usury law, and hazarded the extraordinary argument that "in cases of extreme necessity, there could always be means found to cheat the law; while in all other cases it would have its intended effect." A law ameliorated by infractions is no uncommon thing, but this is perhaps the only instance in which a law has been befriended on the ground that it can be circum

1 It was first advocated in 1835-36, and was adopted by slow degrees thereafter. Ford, Hist, of Illinois, 204.

2 Ibid., 201.

8 Lamon, 129, where is given the text of the manifesto; Hern- . don, 101; N. and H., i. 101,105; Holland, 53, says that after his return from the Black Hawk campaign, Lincoln "was applied to" to become a candidate, and that the "application was a great surprise to him." This seems an obvious error, in view of the manifesto; yet see Lamon, 122.

vented. He believed that every man should "receive at least a moderate education." He deprecated changes in existing laws; for, he said, "considering the great probability that the framers of those laws were wiser than myself, I should prefer not meddling with them." The clumsy phraseology of his closing paragraph coupled not badly a frank avowal of ambition with an ingenuous expression of personal modesty. The principles thus set forth were those of Clay and the Whigs, and at this time the "best people" in Sangamon County belonged to this party. The Democrats, on the other hand, did not much concern themselves with principles, but accepted General Jackson in place thereof, as constituting in himself a party platform. In the rough-and-tumble pioneer community they could not do better, and for many years they had controlled the State; indeed, Lincoln himself had felt no small loyalty towards a president who admirably expressed Western civilization. Now, however, he considered himself "an avowed Clay man,"1 and besides the internal improvement system he spoke also for a national bank, and a high protective tariff; probably he knew very little about either, but his partisanship was perfect, for if there was any distinguishing badge of an antiJackson Whig, it certainly was advocacy of a national bank.


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