The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

“It may be safely assumed that no motive of convenience to the
citizens requires the reception of bank paper.” In addition to
this, Mr. Silas Wright, Senator from New York, and the political,
personal and confidential friend of Mr. Van Buren, drafted and
introduced into the Senate the first subtreasury bill, and that
bill provided for ultimately collecting the revenue in specie.
It is true, I know, that that clause was stricken from the bill,
but it was done by the votes of the Whigs, aided by a portion
only of the Van Buren senators. No subtreasury bill has yet
become a law, though two or three have been considered by
Congress, some with and some without the specie clause; so that I
admit there is room for quibbling upon the question of whether
the administration favor the exclusive specie doctrine or not;
but I take it that the fact that the President at first urged the
specie doctrine, and that under his recommendation the first bill
introduced embraced it, warrants us in charging it as the policy
of the party until their head as publicly recants it as he at
first espoused it. I repeat, then, that by the subtreasury the
revenue is to be collected in specie. Now mark what the effect
of this must be. By all estimates ever made there are but
between sixty and eighty millions of specie in the United States.
The expenditures of the Government for the year 1838–the last
for which we have had the report–were forty millions. Thus it
is seen that if the whole revenue be collected in specie, it will
take more than half of all the specie in the nation to do it. By
this means more than half of all the specie belonging to the
fifteen millions of souls who compose the whole population of the
country is thrown into the hands of the public office-holders,
and other public creditors comprising in number perhaps not more
than one quarter of a million, leaving the other fourteen
millions and three quarters to get along as they best can, with
less than one half of the specie of the country, and whatever
rags and shinplasters they may be able to put, and keep, in
circulation. By this means, every office-holder and other public
creditor may, and most likely will, set up shaver; and a most
glorious harvest will the specie-men have of it,–each specie-
man, upon a fair division, having to his share the fleecing of
about fifty-nine rag-men. In all candor let me ask, was such a
system for benefiting the few at the expense of the many ever
before devised? And was the sacred name of Democracy ever before
made to indorse such an enormity against the rights of the

I have already said that the subtreasury will reduce the quantity
of money in circulation. This position is strengthened by the
recollection that the revenue is to be collected in Specie, so
that the mere amount of revenue is not all that is withdrawn, but
the amount of paper circulation that the forty millions would
serve as a basis to is withdrawn, which would be in a sound state
at least one hundred millions. When one hundred millions, or
more, of the circulation we now have shall be withdrawn, who can
contemplate without terror the distress, ruin, bankruptcy, and
beggary that must follow? The man who has purchased any article–
say a horse–on credit, at one hundred dollars, when there are
two hundred millions circulating in the country, if the quantity
be reduced to one hundred millions by the arrival of pay-day,
will find the horse but sufficient to pay half the debt; and the
other half must either be paid out of his other means, and
thereby become a clear loss to him, or go unpaid, and thereby
become a clear loss to his creditor. What I have here said of a
single case of the purchase of a horse will hold good in every
case of a debt existing at the time a reduction in the quantity
of money occurs, by whomsoever, and for whatsoever, it may have
been contracted. It may be said that what the debtor loses the
creditor gains by this operation; but on examination this will be
found true only to a very limited extent. It is more generally
true that all lose by it–the creditor by losing more of his
debts than he gains by the increased value of those he collects;
the debtor by either parting with more of his property to pay his
debts than he received in contracting them, or by entirely
breaking up his business, and thereby being thrown upon the world
in idleness.

The general distress thus created will, to be sure, be temporary,
because, whatever change may occur in the quantity of money in
any community, time will adjust the derangement produced; but
while that adjustment is progressing, all suffer more or less,
and very many lose everything that renders life desirable. Why,
then, shall we suffer a severe difficulty, even though it be but
temporary, unless we receive some equivalent for it?

What I have been saying as to the effect produced by a reduction
of the quantity of money relates to the whole country. I now
propose to show that it would produce a peculiar and permanent
hardship upon the citizens of those States and Territories in
which the public lands lie. The land-offices in those States and
Territories, as all know, form the great gulf by which all, or
nearly all, the money in them is swallowed up. When the quantity
of money shall be reduced, and consequently everything under
individual control brought down in proportion, the price of those
lands, being fixed by law, will remain as now. Of necessity it
will follow that the produce or labor that now raises money
sufficient to purchase eighty acres will then raise but
sufficient to purchase forty, or perhaps not that much; and this
difficulty and hardship will last as long, in some degree, as any
portion of these lands shall remain undisposed of. Knowing, as I
well do, the difficulty that poor people now encounter in
procuring homes, I hesitate not to say that when the price of the
public lands shall be doubled or trebled, or, which is the same
thing, produce and labor cut down to one half or one third of
their present prices, it will be little less than impossible for
them to procure those homes at all….

Well, then, what did become of him? (Postmaster General Barry)
Why, the President immediately expressed his high disapprobation
of his almost unequaled incapacity and corruption by appointing
him to a foreign mission, with a salary and outfit of $18,000 a
year! The party now attempt to throw Barry off, and to avoid the
responsibility of his sins. Did not the President indorse those
sins when, on the very heel of their commission, he appointed
their author to the very highest and most honorable office in his
gift, and which is but a single step behind the very goal of
American political ambition?

I return to another of Mr. Douglas’s excuses for the expenditures
of 1838, at the same time announcing the pleasing intelligence
that this is the last one. He says that ten millions of that
year’s expenditure was a contingent appropriation, to prosecute
an anticipated war with Great Britain on the Maine boundary
question. Few words will settle this. First, that the ten
millions appropriated was not made till 1839, and consequently
could not have been expended in 1838; second, although it was
appropriated, it has never been expended at all. Those who heard
Mr. Douglas recollect that he indulged himself in a contemptuous
expression of pity for me. “Now he’s got me,” thought I. But
when he went on to say that five millions of the expenditure of
1838 were payments of the French indemnities, which I knew to be
untrue; that five millions had been for the post-office, which I
knew to be untrue; that ten millions had been for the Maine
boundary war, which I not only knew to be untrue, but supremely
ridiculous also; and when I saw that he was stupid enough to hope
that I would permit such groundless and audacious assertions to
go unexposed,–I readily consented that, on the score both of
veracity and sagacity, the audience should judge whether he or I
were the more deserving of the world’s contempt.

Mr. Lamborn insists that the difference between the Van Buren
party and the Whigs is that, although the former sometimes err in
practice, they are always correct in principle, whereas the
latter are wrong in principle; and, better to impress this
proposition, he uses a figurative expression in these words: “The
Democrats are vulnerable in the heel, but they are sound in the
head and the heart.” The first branch of the figure–that is,
that the Democrats are vulnerable in the heel–I admit is not
merely figuratively, but literally true. Who that looks but for
a moment at their Swartwouts, their Prices, their Harringtons,
and their hundreds of others, scampering away with the public
money to Texas, to Europe, and to every spot of the earth where a
villain may hope to find refuge from justice, can at all doubt
that they are most distressingly affected in their heels with a
species of “running itch”? It seems that this malady of their
heels operates on these sound-headed and honest-hearted creatures
very much like the cork leg in the comic song did on its owner:
which, when he had once got started on it, the more he tried to
stop it, the more it would run away. At the hazard of wearing
this point threadbare, I will relate an anecdote which seems too
strikingly in point to be omitted. A witty Irish soldier, who
was always boasting of his bravery when no danger was near, but
who invariably retreated without orders at the first charge of an
engagement, being asked by his captain why he did so, replied:
“Captain, I have as brave a heart as Julius Caesar ever had; but,
somehow or other, whenever danger approaches, my cowardly legs
will run away with it.” So with Mr. Lamborn’s party. They take
the public money into their hand for the most laudable purpose
that wise heads and honest hearts can dictate; but before they
can possibly get it out again, their rascally “vulnerable heels”
will run away with them.

Seriously this proposition of Mr. Lamborn is nothing more or less
than a request that his party may be tried by their professions
instead of their practices. Perhaps no position that the party
assumes is more liable to or more deserving of exposure than this
very modest request; and nothing but the unwarrantable length to
which I have already extended these remarks forbids me now
attempting to expose it. For the reason given, I pass it by.

I shall advert to but one more point. Mr. Lamborn refers to the
late elections in the States, and from their results confidently
predicts that every State in the Union will vote for Mr. Van
Buren at the next Presidential election. Address that argument
to cowards and to knaves; with the free and the brave it will
effect nothing. It may be true; if it must, let it. Many free
countries have lost their liberty, and ours may lose hers; but if
she shall, be it my proudest plume, not that I was the last to
desert, but that I never deserted her. I know that the great
volcano at Washington, aroused and directed by the evil spirit
that reigns there, is belching forth the lava of political
corruption in a current broad and deep, which is sweeping with
frightful velocity over the whole length and breadth of the land,
bidding fair to leave unscathed no green spot or living thing;
while on its bosom are riding, like demons on the waves of hell,
the imps of that evil spirit, and fiendishly taunting all those
who dare resist its destroying course with the hopelessness of
their effort; and, knowing this, I cannot deny that all may be
swept away. Broken by it I, too, may be; bow to it I never will.
The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to
deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it
shall not deter me. If ever I feel the soul within me elevate
and expand to those dimensions not wholly unworthy of its
almighty Architect, it is when I contemplate the cause of my
country deserted by all the world beside, and I standing up
boldly and alone, and hurling defiance at her victorious
oppressors. Here, without contemplating consequences, before
high heaven and in the face of the world, I swear eternal
fidelity to the just cause, as I deem it, of the land of my life,
my liberty, and my love. And who that thinks with me will not
fearlessly adopt the oath that I take? Let none falter who thinks
he is right, and we may succeed. But if, after all, we shall
fail, be it so. We still shall have the proud consolation of
saying to our consciences, and to the departed shade of our
country’s freedom, that the cause approved of our judgment, and
adored of our hearts, in disaster, in chains, in torture, in
death, we never faltered in defending.


SPRINGFIELD, December 23, 1839.


Dr. Henry will write you all the political news. I write this
about some little matters of business. You recollect you told me
you had drawn the Chicago Masark money, and sent it to the
claimants. A hawk-billed Yankee is here besetting me at every
turn I take, saying that Robert Kinzie never received the eighty
dollars to which he was entitled. Can you tell me anything about
the matter? Again, old Mr. Wright, who lives up South Fork
somewhere, is teasing me continually about some deeds which he
says he left with you, but which I can find nothing of. Can you
tell me where they are? The Legislature is in session and has
suffered the bank to forfeit its charter without benefit of
clergy. There seems to be little disposition to resuscitate it.

Whenever a letter comes from you to Mrs._____________
I carry it to her, and then I see Betty; she is a tolerable nice
“fellow” now. Maybe I will write again when I get more time.

Your friend as ever,

P. S.–The Democratic giant is here, but he is not much worth
talking about.




January [1?], 1840.

To MESSRS _______

GENTLEMEN:–In obedience to a resolution of the Whig State
convention, we have appointed you the Central Whig Committee of
your county. The trust confided to you will be one of
watchfulness and labor; but we hope the glory of having
contributed to the overthrow of the corrupt powers that now
control our beloved country will be a sufficient reward for the
time and labor you will devote to it. Our Whig brethren
throughout the Union have met in convention, and after due
deliberation and mutual concessions have elected candidates for
the Presidency and Vice-Presidency not only worthy of our cause,
but worthy of the support of every true patriot who would have
our country redeemed, and her institutions honestly and
faithfully administered. To overthrow the trained bands that are
opposed to us whose salaried officers are ever on the watch, and
whose misguided followers are ever ready to obey their smallest
commands, every Whig must not only know his duty, but must firmly
resolve, whatever of time and labor it may cost, boldly and
faithfully to do it. Our intention is to organize the whole
State, so that every Whig can be brought to the polls in the
coming Presidential contest. We cannot do this, however, without
your co-operation; and as we do our duty, so we shall expect you
to do yours. After due deliberation, the following is the plan
of organization, and the duties required of each county

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