The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

TO THE EDITOR OF THE “JOURNAL”–In your paper of last Saturday I
see a communication, over the signature of “Many Voters,” in
which the candidates who are announced in the Journal are called
upon to “show their hands.” Agreed. Here’s mine.

I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist
in bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for admitting all
whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no
means excluding females).

If elected, I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon my
constituents, as well those that oppose as those that support me.

While acting as their representative, I shall be governed by
their will on all subjects upon which I have the means of knowing
what their will is; and upon all others I shall do what my own
judgment teaches me will best advance their interests. Whether
elected or not, I go for distributing the proceeds of the sales
of the public lands to the several States, to enable our State,
in common with others, to dig canals and construct railroads
without borrowing money and paying the interest on it. If alive
on the first Monday in November, I shall vote for Hugh L. White
for President.

Very respectfully,



New Salem,
June 21, 1836

DEAR COLONEL:–I am told that during my absence last week you
passed through this place, and stated publicly that you were in
possession of a fact or facts which, if known to the public,
would entirely destroy the prospects of N. W. Edwards and
myself at the ensuing election; but that, through favor to us,
you should forbear to divulge them. No one has needed favors
more than I, and, generally, few have been less unwilling to
accept them; but in this case favor to me would be injustice to
the public, and therefore I must beg your pardon for declining
it. That I once had the confidence of the people of Sangamon, is
sufficiently evident; and if I have since done anything, either
by design or misadventure, which if known would subject me to a
forfeiture of that confidence, he that knows of that thing, and
conceals it, is a traitor to his country’s interest.

I find myself wholly unable to form any conjecture of what fact
or facts, real or supposed, you spoke; but my opinion of your
veracity will not permit me for a moment to doubt that you at
least believed what you said. I am flattered with the personal
regard you manifested for me; but I do hope that, on more mature
reflection, you will view the public interest as a paramount
consideration, and therefore determine to let the worst come. I
here assure you that the candid statement of facts on your part,
however low it may sink me, shall never break the tie of personal
friendship between us. I wish an answer to this, and you are at
liberty to publish both, if you choose.

Very respectfully,


December 13, 1836.

MARY:–I have been sick ever since my arrival, or I should have
written sooner. It is but little difference, however, as I have
very little even yet to write. And more, the longer I can avoid
the mortification of looking in the post-office for your letter
and not finding it, the better. You see I am mad about that old
letter yet. I don’t like very well to risk you again. I’ll try
you once more, anyhow.

The new State House is not yet finished, and consequently the
Legislature is doing little or nothing. The governor delivered
an inflammatory political message, and it is expected there will
be some sparring between the parties about it as soon as the two
Houses get to business. Taylor delivered up his petition for the
new county to one of our members this morning. I am told he
despairs of its success, on account of all the members from
Morgan County opposing it. There are names enough on the
petition, I think, to justify the members from our county in
going for it; but if the members from Morgan oppose it, which
they say they will, the chance will be bad.

Our chance to take the seat of government to Springfield is
better than I expected. An internal-improvement convention was
held there since we met, which recommended a loan of several
millions of dollars, on the faith of the State, to construct
railroads. Some of the Legislature are for it, and some against
it; which has the majority I cannot tell. There is great strife
and struggling for the office of the United States Senator here
at this time. It is probable we shall ease their pains in a few
days. The opposition men have no candidate of their own, and
consequently they will smile as complacently at the angry snarl
of the contending Van Buren candidates and their respective
friends as the Christian does at Satan’s rage. You recollect
that I mentioned at the outset of this letter that I had been
unwell. That is the fact, though I believe I am about well now;
but that, with other things I cannot account for, have conspired,
and have gotten my spirits so low that I feel that I would rather
be any place in the world than here. I really cannot endure the
thought of staying here ten weeks. Write back as soon as you get
this, and, if possible, say something that will please me, for
really I have not been pleased since I left you. This letter is
so dry and stupid that I am ashamed to send it, but with my
present feelings I cannot do any better.

Give my best respects to Mr. and Mrs. Able and family.

Your friend,



January [?], 1837

Mr. CHAIRMAN:–Lest I should fall into the too common error of
being mistaken in regard to which side I design to be upon, I
shall make it my first care to remove all doubt on that point, by
declaring that I am opposed to the resolution under
consideration, in toto. Before I proceed to the body of the
subject, I will further remark, that it is not without a
considerable degree of apprehension that I venture to cross the
track of the gentleman from Coles [Mr. Linder]. Indeed, I do not
believe I could muster a sufficiency of courage to come in
contact with that gentleman, were it not for the fact that he,
some days since, most graciously condescended to assure us that
he would never be found wasting ammunition on small game. On the
same fortunate occasion, he further gave us to understand, that
he regarded himself as being decidedly the superior of our common
friend from Randolph [Mr. Shields]; and feeling, as I really do,
that I, to say the most of myself, am nothing more than the peer
of our friend from Randolph, I shall regard the gentleman from
Coles as decidedly my superior also, and consequently, in the
course of what I shall have to say, whenever I shall have
occasion to allude to that gentleman, I shall endeavor to adopt
that kind of court language which I understand to be due to
decided superiority. In one faculty, at least, there can be no
dispute of the gentleman’s superiority over me and most other
men, and that is, the faculty of entangling a subject, so that
neither himself, or any other man, can find head or tail to it.
Here he has introduced a resolution embracing ninety-nine printed
lines across common writing paper, and yet more than one half of
his opening speech has been made upon subjects about which there
is not one word said in his resolution.

Though his resolution embraces nothing in regard to the
constitutionality of the Bank, much of what he has said has been
with a view to make the impression that it was unconstitutional
in its inception. Now, although I am satisfied that an ample
field may be found within the pale of the resolution, at least
for small game, yet, as the gentleman has traveled out of it, I
feel that I may, with all due humility, venture to follow him.
The gentleman has discovered that some gentleman at Washington
city has been upon the very eve of deciding our Bank
unconstitutional, and that he would probably have completed his
very authentic decision, had not some one of the Bank officers
placed his hand upon his mouth, and begged him to withhold it.
The fact that the individuals composing our Supreme Court have,
in an official capacity, decided in favor of the
constitutionality of the Bank, would, in my mind, seem a
sufficient answer to this. It is a fact known to all, that the
members of the Supreme Court, together with the Governor, form a
Council of Revision, and that this Council approved this Bank
charter. I ask, then, if the extra-judicial decision not quite
but almost made by the gentleman at Washington, before whom, by
the way, the question of the constitutionality of our Bank never
has, nor never can come–is to be taken as paramount to a
decision officially made by that tribunal, by which, and which
alone, the constitutionality of the Bank can ever be settled?
But, aside from this view of the subject, I would ask, if the
committee which this resolution proposes to appoint are to
examine into the Constitutionality of the Bank? Are they to be
clothed with power to send for persons and papers, for this
object? And after they have found the bank to be
unconstitutional, and decided it so, how are they to enforce
their decision? What will their decision amount to? They cannot
compel the Bank to cease operations, or to change the course of
its operations. What good, then, can their labors result in?
Certainly none.

The gentleman asks, if we, without an examination, shall, by
giving the State deposits to the Bank, and by taking the stock
reserved for the State, legalize its former misconduct. Now I do
not pretend to possess sufficient legal knowledge to decide
whether a legislative enactment proposing to, and accepting from,
the Bank, certain terms, would have the effect to legalize or
wipe out its former errors, or not; but I can assure the
gentleman, if such should be the effect, he has already got
behind the settlement of accounts; for it is well known to all,
that the Legislature, at its last session, passed a supplemental
Bank charter, which the Bank has since accepted, and which,
according to his doctrine, has legalized all the alleged
violations of its original charter in the distribution of its

I now proceed to the resolution. By examination it will be found
that the first thirty-three lines, being precisely one third of
the whole, relate exclusively to the distribution of the stock by
the commissioners appointed by the State. Now, Sir, it is clear
that no question can arise on this portion of the resolution,
except a question between capitalists in regard to the ownership
of stock. Some gentlemen have their stock in their hands, while
others, who have more money than they know what to do with, want
it; and this, and this alone, is the question, to settle which we
are called on to squander thousands of the people’s money. What
interest, let me ask, have the people in the settlement of this
question? What difference is it to them whether the stock is
owned by Judge Smith or Sam Wiggins? If any gentleman be entitled
to stock in the Bank, which he is kept out of possession of by
others, let him assert his right in the Supreme Court, and let
him or his antagonist, whichever may be found in the wrong, pay
the costs of suit. It is an old maxim, and a very sound one,
that he that dances should always pay the fiddler. Now, Sir, in
the present case, if any gentlemen, whose money is a burden to
them, choose to lead off a dance, I am decidedly opposed to the
people’s money being used to pay the fiddler. No one can doubt
that the examination proposed by this resolution must cost the
State some ten or twelve thousand dollars; and all this to settle
a question in which the people have no interest, and about which
they care nothing. These capitalists generally act harmoniously
and in concert, to fleece the people, and now that they have got
into a quarrel with themselves we are called upon to appropriate
the people’s money to settle the quarrel.

I leave this part of the resolution and proceed to the remainder.
It will be found that no charge in the remaining part of the
resolution, if true, amounts to the violation of the Bank
charter, except one, which I will notice in due time. It might
seem quite sufficient to say no more upon any of these charges or
insinuations than enough to show they are not violations of the
charter; yet, as they are ingeniously framed and handled, with a
view to deceive and mislead, I will notice in their order all the
most prominent of them. The first of these is in relation to a
connection between our Bank and several banking institutions in
other States. Admitting this connection to exist, I should like
to see the gentleman from Coles, or any other gentleman,
undertake to show that there is any harm in it. What can there
be in such a connection, that the people of Illinois are willing
to pay their money to get a peep into? By a reference to the
tenth section of the Bank charter, any gentleman can see that the
framers of the act contemplated the holding of stock in the
institutions of other corporations. Why, then, is it, when
neither law nor justice forbids it, that we are asked to spend
our time and money in inquiring into its truth?

The next charge, in the order of time, is, that some officer,
director, clerk or servant of the Bank, has been required to take
an oath of secrecy in relation to the affairs of said Bank. Now,
I do not know whether this be true or fa1se–neither do I believe
any honest man cares. I know that the seventh section of the
charter expressly guarantees to the Bank the right of making,
under certain restrictions, such by-laws as it may think fit; and
I further know that the requiring an oath of secrecy would not
transcend those restrictions. What, then, if the Bank has chosen
to exercise this right? Whom can it injure? Does not every
merchant have his secret mark? and who is ever silly enough to
complain of it? I presume if the Bank does require any such oath
of secrecy, it is done through a motive of delicacy to those
individuals who deal with it. Why, Sir, not many days since, one
gentleman upon this floor, who, by the way, I have no doubt is
now ready to join this hue and cry against the Bank, indulged in
a philippic against one of the Bank officials, because, as he
said, he had divulged a secret.

Immediately following this last charge, there are several
insinuations in the resolution, which are too silly to require
any sort of notice, were it not for the fact that they conclude
by saying, “to the great injury of the people at large.” In
answer to this I would say that it is strange enough, that the
people are suffering these “great injuries,” and yet are not
sensible of it! Singular indeed that the people should be
writhing under oppression and injury, and yet not one among them
to be found to raise the voice of complaint. If the Bank be
inflicting injury upon the people, why is it that not a single
petition is presented to this body on the subject? If the Bank
really be a grievance, why is it that no one of the real people
is found to ask redress of it? The truth is, no such oppression
exists. If it did, our people would groan with memorials and
petitions, and we would not be permitted to rest day or night,
till we had put it down. The people know their rights, and they
are never slow to assert and maintain them, when they are
invaded. Let them call for an investigation, and I shall ever
stand ready to respond to the call. But they have made no such
call. I make the assertion boldly, and without fear of
contradiction, that no man, who does not hold an office, or does
not aspire to one, has ever found any fault of the Bank. It has
doubled the prices of the products of their farms, and filled
their pockets with a sound circulating medium, and they are all
well pleased with its operations. No, Sir, it is the politician
who is the first to sound the alarm (which, by the way, is a
false one.) It is he, who, by these unholy means, is endeavoring
to blow up a storm that he may ride upon and direct. It is he,
and he alone, that here proposes to spend thousands of the
people’s public treasure, for no other advantage to them than to
make valueless in their pockets the reward of their industry.
Mr. Chairman, this work is exclusively the work of politicians; a
set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the
people, and who, to say the most of them, are, taken as a mass,
at least one long step removed from honest men. I say this with
the greater freedom, because, being a politician myself, none can
regard it as personal.

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