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Lincoln's satisfaction, he spent the winter of his first year of marriage very happily, as well as very busily. Yet he found time to write an occasional newspaper article on the growing power of the political South, and, later on, to compose and deliver a very excellent temperance address. About this time, too, possibly. this very winter, he wrote a lecture for a lyceum, designed to show that there was nothing new under the sun, that everything that was claimed as a new invention had existed at some period, possibly very remote, in the history of the world. This lecture was not intended to be taken in cold blooded earnest, but as a bit of pleasantry, mixed with much sober fact. The temperance address, however, was a serious composition. Lincoln never, even to the day of his death, could be persuaded to partake of spirits or wine. He set out in life, surrounded by drunkards and moderate tipplers, determined that he would resist the temptation to drink of these insidious beverages. He made no promises, but, after a few years of manhood (as he used to say), when his associates had become accustomed to his abstemious habits, he had neither temptation nor desire to drink. That part of Lincoln's lecture—which was delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church, Springfield, February 22, 1842—that refers to the drinking usages of society is interesting. He said: “Let us see.
I have not inquired at what period of time the use of intoxicating liquors commenced; nor is it important to know. It is sufficient that to all of us who now inhabit the world, the practice of drinking them is just as old as the world itself—that is, we have seen the
one just as long as we have seen the other. When all such of us as have now reached the years of maturity first opened our eyes upon the stage of existence, we found intoxicating liquor recognized by everybody, used by everybody, repudiated by nobody. It commonly entered into the first draught of the infant, and the last draught of the dying man. From the sideboard of the parson down to the ragged pocket of the homeless loafer, it was constantly found. Physicians prescribed it in this, that, and the other disease; government provided it for soldiers and sailors; and to have a rolling or raising, a husking or 'hoe-down' anywhere about without it was positively insufferable. So, too, it was everywhere a respectable article of manufacture and merchandise. The making of it was regarded as an honorable livelihood, and he who could make most was the most enterprising and respectable. Large and small manufactories of it were everywhere erected, in which all the earthly goods of their owners were invested. Wagons drew it from town to town; boats bore it from clime to clime, and the winds wafted it from nation to nation; and merchants bought and sold it, by wholesale and retail, with precisely the same feelings, on the part of the seller, buyer, and bystander, as are felt at the selling and buying of ploughs, beef, bacon, or any other of the real necessities of life. Universal public opinion not only tolerated, but recognized and adopted its use.”
In June, 1842, Lincoln met Martin Van Buren, then out of office. It was the first time that Lincoln had ever seen the much-hated Democratic ex-President, and he was accustomed to say, in after years, that it was no wonder that Van Buren's admirers called him “the little magician,” for, according to
Lincoln, Van Buren's manners were so affable and delightful that “he could charm the birds off the trees.” But, if Lincoln was pleased with Van Buren, the ex-President was no less gratified by his meeting with the young Whig leader of central Illinois. Being weatherbound at a small town not far from Springfield, the ex-President was forced to remain overnight. Some of his Springfield friends hearing of Mr. Van Buren's plight, made up a party, and, taking with them some refreshments, left Springfield for the village aforementioned. Knowing Lincoln's good-nature, as well as his powers of entertaining, they besought his assistance to lighten the weary } purs of the ex-President's stay at the wretched inn where he was detained. Lincoln, always ready to do a good turn, went out with the party, and, as it is recorded by one of the company, entertained the wayfarers far into the night with Western anecdotes, funny stories, and graphic descriptions of wild life on the frontier. Van Buren was surprised and delighted, saying that the only drawback to his enjoyment was that his sides were sore, from laughing at Lincoln's stories, for a week thereafter. The Democratic ex-President and the Whig leader parted on such excellent terms that they ever after cherished pleasant recollections of that night.
Lincoln had long desired to go to Congress, but it so happened that his dearest friends, also Whigs, were equally anxious to go from the district in which they all lived. This was known as the Sangamon district, and from 1839 to 1850 it was represented by men of marked ability. Edward D. Baker was chosen in
1843. He had been preceded by Stephen A. Douglas. He was succeeded by Abraham Lincoln. In the various moves made to secure the nomination for Congress, Lincoln's fairness and magnanimity were conspicuous. The district was strongly Whig, and a nomination was almost an election. But Lincoln, always preferring his friend before himself, loyally supported each of his most intimate associates, and thought his to be the better claim. On one occasion, having been a candidate for the nomination to Congress, Lincoln was elected as a delegate to the nominating convention, and was instructed to vote for E. D. Baker. Of this predicament he goodnaturedly said: “I shall be fixed a good deal like the fellow who is made groomsman to the man who cut him out and is marrying his girl.” At this time, 1842, John J. Hardin was nominated and elected. He was one of Lincoln's truest friends; he was subsequently killed at the battle of Buena Vista, during the Mexican War.
THE RISING POLITICIAN.
Lincoln's Admiration of Henry Clay-An Irresponsive Idol-Slavery
and the Tariff—Lincoln Elected to Congress—The Mexican War
T was said of Lincoln that he was a born politician
and that, as a political prophet, he made few mistakes. But he was deeply and overwhelmingly disappointed, in 1844, when his idol, Henry Clay, was defeated for the Presidency by James K. Polk of Tennessee. For once, Lincoln had no doubts, apparently, as to the success of a campaign on which he had staked so great expectations. But Clay was defeated, and the Whigs, plunged into the depths of grief, went to the length, in some localities, of wearing mourning badges to show the hoplessness of their woe. Clay was the idol of those who had supported him for the Presidency; and Lincoln, sincere as was his personal disappointment and grief, was only one of thousands who felt as he did. The defeat was unexpected, and its very unexpectedness made it harder to bear. Long after this, Lincoln was accustomed to refer to the defeat of Clay as one of his keenest personal sorrows.
It is very likely, however, that the edge of this