The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

The sixth resolution recommends the adoption of the convention
system for the nomination of candidates. This we believe to be
of the very first importance. Whether the system is right in
itself we do not stop to inquire; contenting ourselves with
trying to show that, while our opponents use it, it is madness in
us not to defend ourselves with it. Experience has shown that we
cannot successfully defend ourselves without it. For examples,
look at the elections of last year. Our candidate for governor,
with the approbation of a large portion of the party, took the
field without a nomination, and in open opposition to the system.
Wherever in the counties the Whigs had held conventions and
nominated candidates for the Legislature, the aspirants who were
not nominated were induced to rebel against the nominations, and
to become candidates, as is said, "on their own hook." And, go
where you would into a large Whig county, you were sure to find
the Whigs not contending shoulder to shoulder against the common
enemy, but divided into factions, and fighting furiously with one
another. The election came, and what was the result? The
governor beaten, the Whig vote being decreased many thousands
since 1840, although the Democratic vote had not increased any.
Beaten almost everywhere for members of the Legislature,--
Tazewell, with her four hundred Whig majority, sending a
delegation half Democratic; Vermillion, with her five hundred,
doing the same; Coles, with her four hundred, sending two out of
three; and Morgan, with her two hundred and fifty, sending three
out of four,--and this to say nothing of the numerous other less
glaring examples; the whole winding up with the aggregate number
of twenty-seven Democratic representatives sent from Whig
counties. As to the senators, too, the result was of the same
character. And it is most worthy to be remembered that of all
the Whigs in the State who ran against the regular nominees, a
single one only was elected. Although they succeeded in
defeating the nominees almost by scores, they too were defeated,
and the spoils chucklingly borne off by the common enemy.

We do not mention the fact of many of the Whigs opposing the
convention system heretofore for the purpose of censuring them.
Far from it. We expressly protest against such a conclusion. We
know they were generally, perhaps universally, as good and true
Whigs as we ourselves claim to be.

We mention it merely to draw attention to the disastrous result
it produced, as an example forever hereafter to be avoided. That
"union is strength" is a truth that has been known, illustrated,
and declared in various ways and forms in all ages of the world.
That great fabulist and philosopher Aesop illustrated it by his
fable of the bundle of sticks; and he whose wisdom surpasses that
of all philosophers has declared that "a house divided against
itself cannot stand." It is to induce our friends to act upon
this important and universally acknowledged truth that we urge
the adoption of the convention system. Reflection will prove
that there is no other way of practically applying it. In its
application we know there will be incidents temporarily painful;
but, after all, those incidents will be fewer and less intense
with than without the system. If two friends aspire to the same
office it is certain that both cannot succeed. Would it not,
then, be much less painful to have the question decided by mutual
friends some time before, than to snarl and quarrel until the day
of election, and then both be beaten by the common enemy?

Before leaving this subject, we think proper to remark that we do
not understand the resolution as intended to recommend the
application of the convention system to the nomination of
candidates for the small offices no way connected with politics;
though we must say we do not perceive that such an application.
of it would be wrong.

The seventh resolution recommends the holding of district
conventions in May next, for the purpose of nominating candidates
for Congress. The propriety of this rests upon the same reasons
with that of the sixth, and therefore needs no further
discussion.

The eighth and ninth also relate merely to the practical
application of the foregoing, and therefore need no discussion.

Before closing, permit us to add a few reflections on the present
condition and future prospects of the Whig party. In almost all
the States we have fallen into the minority, and despondency
seems to prevail universally among us. Is there just cause for
this? In 1840 we carried the nation by more than a hundred and
forty thousand majority. Our opponents charged that we did it by
fraudulent voting; but whatever they may have believed, we know
the charge to be untrue. Where, now, is that mighty host? Have
they gone over to the enemy? Let the results of the late
elections answer. Every State which has fallen off from the Whig
cause since 1840 has done so not by giving more Democratic votes
than they did then, but by giving fewer Whig. Bouck, who was
elected Democratic Governor of New York last fall by more than
15,000 majority, had not then as many votes as he had in 1840,
when he was beaten by seven or eight thousand. And so has it
been in all the other States which have fallen away from our
cause. From this it is evident that tens of thousands in the
late elections have not voted at all. Who and what are they? is
an important question, as respects the future. They can come
forward and give us the victory again. That all, or nearly all,
of them are Whigs is most apparent. Our opponents, stung to
madness by the defeat of 1840, have ever since rallied with more
than their usual unanimity. It has not been they that have been
kept from the polls. These facts show what the result must be,
once the people again rally in their entire strength. Proclaim
these facts, and predict this result; and although unthinking
opponents may smile at us, the sagacious ones will "believe and
tremble." And why shall the Whigs not all rally again? Are
their principles less dear now than in 1840? Have any of their
doctrines since then been discovered to be untrue? It is true,
the victory of 1840 did not produce the happy results
anticipated; but it is equally true, as we believe, that the
unfortunate death of General Harrison was the cause of the
failure. It was not the election of General Harrison that was
expected to produce happy effects, but the measures to be adopted
by his administration. By means of his death, and the unexpected
course of his successor, those measures were never adopted. How
could the fruits follow? The consequences we always predicted
would follow the failure of those measures have followed, and are
now upon us in all their horrors. By the course of Mr. Tyler the
policy of our opponents has continued in operation, still leaving
them with the advantage of charging all its evils upon us as the
results of a Whig administration. Let none be deceived by this
somewhat plausible, though entirely false charge. If they ask us
for the sufficient and sound currency we promised, let them be
answered that we only promised it through the medium of a
national bank, which they, aided by Mr. Tyler, prevented our
establishing. And let them be reminded, too, that their own
policy in relation to the currency has all the time been, and
still is, in full operation. Let us then again come forth in our
might, and by a second victory accomplish that which death
prevented in the first. We can do it. When did the Whigs ever
fail if they were fully aroused and united? Even in single
States, under such circumstances, defeat seldom overtakes them.
Call to mind the contested elections within the last few years,
and particularly those of Moore and Letcher from Kentucky,
Newland and Graham from North Carolina, and the famous New Jersey
case. In all these districts Locofocoism had stalked omnipotent
before; but when the whole people were aroused by its enormities
on those occasions, they put it down, never to rise again.

We declare it to be our solemn conviction, that the Whigs are
always a majority of this nation; and that to make them always
successful needs but to get them all to the polls and to vote
unitedly. This is the great desideratum. Let us make every
effort to attain it. At every election, let every Whig act as
though he knew the result to depend upon his action. In the
great contest of 1840 some more than twenty one hundred thousand
votes were cast, and so surely as there shall be that many, with
the ordinary increase added, cast in 1844 that surely will a Whig
be elected President of the United States.

A. LINCOLN.
S. T. LOGAN.
A. T. BLEDSOE.

March 4, 1843.

TO JOHN BENNETT.

SPRINGFIELD, March 7, 1843.

FRIEND BENNETT:

Your letter of this day was handed me by Mr. Miles. It is too
late now to effect the object you desire. On yesterday morning
the most of the Whig members from this district got together and
agreed to hold the convention at Tremont in Tazewell County. I
am sorry to hear that any of the Whigs of your county, or indeed
of any county, should longer be against conventions. On last
Wednesday evening a meeting of all the Whigs then here from all
parts of the State was held, and the question of the propriety.
of conventions was brought up and fully discussed, and at the end
of the discussion a resolution recommending the system of
conventions to all the Whigs of the State was unanimously
adopted. Other resolutions were also passed, all of which will
appear in the next Journal. The meeting also appointed a
committee to draft an address to the people of the State, which
address will also appear in the next journal.

In it you will find a brief argument in favor of conventions--and
although I wrote it myself I will say to you that it is
conclusive upon the point and can not be reasonably answered.
The right way for you to do is hold your meeting and appoint
delegates any how, and if there be any who will not take part,
let it be so. The matter will work so well this time that even
they who now oppose will come in next time.

The convention is to be held at Tremont on the 5th of April and
according to the rule we have adopted your county is to have
delegates -being double your representation.

If there be any good Whig who is disposed to stick out against
conventions get him at least to read the arguement in their
favor in the address.

Yours as ever,

A. LINCOLN.

JOSHUA F. SPEED.

SPRINGFIELD, March 24, 1843.

DEAR SPEED:--We had a meeting of the Whigs of the county here on
last Monday to appoint delegates to a district convention; and
Baker beat me, and got the delegation instructed to go for him.
The meeting, in spite of my attempt to decline it, appointed me
one of the delegates; so that in getting Baker the nomination I
shall be fixed a good deal like a fellow who is made a groomsman
to a man that has cut him out and is marrying his own dear "gal."
About the prospects of your having a namesake at our town, can't
say exactly yet.

A. LINCOLN.

TO MARTIN M. MORRIS.

SPRINGFIELD, ILL., March 26, 1843.

FRIEND MORRIS:

Your letter of the a 3 d, was received on yesterday morning, and
for which (instead of an excuse, which you thought proper to ask)
I tender you my sincere thanks. It is truly gratifying to me to
learn that, while the people of Sangamon have cast me off, my old
friends of Menard, who have known me longest and best, stick to
me. It would astonish, if not amuse, the older citizens to learn
that I (a stranger, friendless, uneducated, penniless boy,
working on a flatboat at ten dollars per month) have been put
down here as the candidate of pride, wealth, and aristocratic
family distinction. Yet so, chiefly, it was. There was, too,
the strangest combination of church influence against me. Baker
is a Campbellite; and therefore, as I suppose, with few
exceptions got all that church. My wife has some relations in
the Presbyterian churches, and some with the Episcopal churches;
and therefore, wherever it would tell, I was set down as either
the one or the other, while it was everywhere contended that no
Christian ought to go for me, because I belonged to no church,
was suspected of being a deist, and had talked about fighting a
duel. With all these things, Baker, of course, had nothing to
do. Nor do I complain of them. As to his own church going for
him, I think that was right enough, and as to the influences I
have spoken of in the other, though they were very strong, it
would be grossly untrue and unjust to charge that they acted upon
them in a body or were very near so. I only mean that those
influences levied a tax of a considerable per cent. upon my
strength throughout the religious controversy. But enough of
this.

You say that in choosing a candidate for Congress you have an
equal right with Sangamon, and in this you are undoubtedly
correct. In agreeing to withdraw if the Whigs of Sangamon should
go against me, I did not mean that they alone were worth
consulting, but that if she, with her heavy delegation, should be
against me, it would be impossible for me to succeed, and
therefore I had as well decline. And in relation to Menard
having rights, permit me fully to recognize them, and to express
the opinion that, if she and Mason act circumspectly, they will
in the convention be able so far to enforce their rights as to
decide absolutely which one of the candidates shall be
successful. Let me show the reason of this. Hardin, or some
other Morgan candidate, will get Putnam, Marshall, Woodford,
Tazewell, and Logan--making sixteen. Then you and Mason, having
three, can give the victory to either side.

You say you shall instruct your delegates for me, unless I
object. I certainly shall not object. That would be too
pleasant a compliment for me to tread in the dust. And besides,
if anything should happen (which, however, is not probable) by
which Baker should be thrown out of the fight, I would be at
liberty to accept the nomination if I could get it. I do,
however, feel myself bound not to hinder him in any way from
getting the nomination. I should despise myself were I to
attempt it. I think, then, it would be proper for your meeting
to appoint three delegates and to instruct them to go for some
one as the first choice, some one else as a second, and perhaps
some one as a third; and if in those instructions I were named as
the first choice, it would gratify me very much. If you wish to
hold the balance of power, it is important for you to attend to
and secure the vote of Mason also: You should be sure to have men
appointed delegates that you know you can safely confide in. If
yourself and James Short were appointed from your county, all
would be safe; but whether Jim's woman affair a year ago might
not be in the way of his appointment is a question. I don't know
whether you know it, but I know him to be as honorable a man as
there is in the world. You have my permission, and even request,
to show this letter to Short; but to no one else, unless it be a
very particular friend who you know will not speak of it.

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