The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

SPRINGFIELD, April 1, 1838.

DEAR MADAM:--Without apologizing for being egotistical, I shall
make the history of so much of my life as has elapsed since I saw
you the subject of this letter. And, by the way, I now discover
that, in order to give a full and intelligible account of the
things I have done and suffered since I saw you, I shall
necessarily have to relate some that happened before.

It was, then, in the autumn of 1836 that a married lady of my
acquaintance, and who was a great friend of mine, being about to
pay a visit to her father and other relatives residing in
Kentucky, proposed to me that on her return she would bring a
sister of hers with her on condition that I would engage to
become her brother-in-law with all convenient despatch. I, of
course, accepted the proposal, for you know I could not have done
otherwise had I really been averse to it; but privately, between
you and me, I was most confoundedly well pleased with the
project. I had seen the said sister some three years before,
thought her intelligent and agreeable, and saw no good objection
to plodding life through hand in hand with her. Time passed on;
the lady took her journey and in due time returned, sister in
company, sure enough. This astonished me a little, for it
appeared to me that her coming so readily showed that she was a
trifle too willing, but on reflection it occurred to me that she
might have been prevailed on by her married sister to come
without anything concerning me ever having been mentioned to her,
and so I concluded that if no other objection presented itself, I
would consent to waive this. All this occurred to me on hearing
of her arrival in the neighborhood--for, be it remembered, I had
not yet seen her, except about three years previous, as above
mentioned. In a few days we had an interview, and, although I
had seen her before, she did not look as my imagination had
pictured her. I knew she was over-size, but she now appeared a
fair match for Falstaff. I knew she was called an "old maid,"
and I felt no doubt of the truth of at least half of the
appellation, but now, when I beheld her, I could not for my life
avoid thinking of my mother; and this, not from withered
features,--for her skin was too full of fat to permit of its
contracting into wrinkles,--but from her want of teeth, weather-
beaten appearance in general, and from a kind of notion that ran
in my head that nothing could have commenced at the size of
infancy and reached her present bulk in less than thirty-five or
forty years; 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 case 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
determined 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. Exclusive 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 coming 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-
repelling 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 imaginary, from
the thraldom of which I so much desired to be free. After my
return home, I saw nothing to change my opinions 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 through 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 Irishman does the halter.

After all my suffering upon this deeply interesting subject, here
I am, wholly, unexpectedly, completely, out of the "scrape"; and
now I 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 conscience. I don't believe you can guess, and so I might as
well tell you at once. As the lawyer says, it was done in the
manner following, 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 delay; 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 up; 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 reflection that I had been too stupid to
discover 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'll try and outlive it.
Others have been 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 marrying, 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,
A. LINCOLN.

1839

REMARKS ON SALE OF PUBLIC LANDS

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 purchase 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
considered. 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 conclusion in his mind 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 lands.

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 public 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
representatives 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
government would not have doubled, as they had done since that
debt was paid.

TO _________ ROW.

SPRINGFIELD, June 11, 1839

DEAR ROW:

Mr. Redman informs me that you wish me to write you the
particulars of a conversation between Dr. Felix and myself
relative to you. The Dr. overtook me between Rushville and
Beardstown.

He, after learning that I had lived at Springfield, asked if I
was acquainted with you. I told him I was. He said you had
lately been elected constable in Adams, but that you never would
be again. I asked him why. He said the people there had found
out that you had been sheriff or deputy sheriff in Sangamon
County, and that you came off and left your securities to suffer.
He then asked me if I did not know such to be the fact. I told
him I did not think you had ever been sheriff or deputy sheriff
in Sangamon, but that I thought you had been constable. I
further told him that if you had left your securities to suffer
in that or any other case, I had never heard of it, and that if
it had been so, I thought I would have heard of it.

If the Dr. is telling that I told him anything against you
whatever, I authorize you to contradict it flatly. We have no
news here.

Your friend, as ever,

A. LINCOLN.

SPEECH ON NATIONAL BANK

IN THE HALL OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, December 20, 1839.

FELLOW-CITIZENS:--It is peculiarly embarrassing to me to attempt
a continuance of the discussion, 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 subtreasury
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 arguments 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 escape the force of them 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
propositions, to wit: (1) It will injuriously affect the
community by its operation on the circulating medium. (2) It
will be a more expensive 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 collection of those revenues
and the disbursement of them by the government, the bank was
permitted to and did actually loan them out to individuals, and
hence the large amount of money actually collected for revenue
purposes, which by any other plan would have been idle a great
portion of the time, was kept almost constantly in circulation.
Any person who will reflect that money is only valuable 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
subtreasury the revenue is to be collected 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 collected 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 revenue in specie.
If it shall, I reply that Mr. Van Buren, in his message
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:

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