The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

Third. Whether that spot is or is not within a settlement of
people, which settlement has existed ever since long before the
Texas revolution, and until its inhabitants fled before the
approach of the United States army.

Fourth. Whether that settlement is or is not isolated from any
and all other settlements by the Gulf and the Rio Grande on the
south and west, and by wide uninhabited regions on the north and

Fifth. Whether the people of that settlement, or a majority of
them, or any of them, have ever submitted themselves to the
government or laws of Texas or of the United States, by consent
or by compulsion, either by accepting office, or voting at
elections, or paying tax, or serving on juries, or having process
served upon them, or in any other way.

Sixth. Whether the people of that settlement did or did not flee
from the approach of the United States army, leaving unprotected
their homes and their growing crops, before the blood was shed,
as in the message stated; and whether the first blood, so shed,
was or was not shed within the inclosure of one of the people who
had thus fled from it.

Seventh. Whether our citizens, whose blood was shed, as in his
message declared, were or were not, at that time, armed officers
and soldiers, sent into that settlement by the military order of
the President, through the Secretary of War.

Eighth. Whether the military force of the United States was or
was not so sent into that settlement after General Taylor had
more than once intimated to the War Department that, in his
opinion, no such movement was necessary to the defence or
protection of Texas.

JANUARY 5, 1848.

Mr. Lincoln said he had made an effort, some few days since, to
obtain the floor in relation to this measure [resolution to
direct Postmaster-General to make arrangements with railroad for
carrying the mails–in Committee of the Whole], but had failed.
One of the objects he had then had in view was now in a great
measure superseded by what had fallen from the gentleman from
Virginia who had just taken his seat. He begged to assure his
friends on the other side of the House that no assault whatever
was meant upon the Postmaster-General, and he was glad that what
the gentleman had now said modified to a great extent the
impression which might have been created by the language he had
used on a previous occasion. He wanted to state to gentlemen who
might have entertained such impressions, that the Committee on
the Post-office was composed of five Whigs and four Democrats,
and their report was understood as sustaining, not impugning, the
position taken by the Postmaster-General. That report had met
with the approbation of all the Whigs, and of all the Democrats
also, with the exception of one, and he wanted to go even further
than this. [Intimation was informally given Mr. Lincoln that it
was not in order to mention on the floor what had taken place in
committee.] He then observed that if he had been out of order in
what he had said he took it all back so far as he could. He had
no desire, he could assure gentlemen, ever to be out of order–
though he never could keep long in order.

Mr. Lincoln went on to observe that he differed in opinion, in
the present case, from his honorable friend from Richmond [Mr.
Botts]. That gentleman, had begun his remarks by saying that if
all prepossessions in this matter could be removed out of the
way, but little difficulty would be experienced in coming to an
agreement. Now, he could assure that gentleman that he had
himself begun the examination of the subject with prepossessions
all in his favor. He had long and often heard of him, and, from
what he had heard, was prepossessed in his favor. Of the
Postmaster-General he had also heard, but had no prepossessions
in his favor, though certainly none of an opposite kind. He
differed, however, with that gentleman in politics, while in this
respect he agreed with the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Botts],
whom he wished to oblige whenever it was in his power. That
gentleman had referred to the report made to the House by the
Postmaster-General, and had intimated an apprehension that
gentlemen would be disposed to rely, on that report alone, and
derive their views of the case from that document alone. Now it
so happened that a pamphlet had been slipped into his [Mr.
Lincoln’s] hand before he read the report of the Postmaster-
General; so that, even in this, he had begun with prepossessions
in favor of the gentleman from Virginia.

As to the report, he had but one remark to make: he had carefully
examined it, and he did not understand that there was any dispute
as to the facts therein stated the dispute, if he understood it,
was confined altogether to the inferences to be drawn from those
facts. It was a difference not about facts, but about
conclusions. The facts were not disputed. If he was right in
this, he supposed the House might assume the facts to be as they
were stated, and thence proceed to draw their own conclusions.

The gentleman had said that the Postmaster-General had got into a
personal squabble with the railroad company. Of this Mr. Lincoln
knew nothing, nor did he need or desire to know anything, because
it had nothing whatever to do with a just conclusion from the
premises. But the gentleman had gone on to ask whether so great
a grievance as the present detention of the Southern mail ought
not to be remedied. Mr. Lincoln would assure the gentleman that
if there was a proper way of doing it, no man was more anxious
than he that it should be done. The report made by the committee
had been intended to yield much for the sake of removing that
grievance. That the grievance was very great there was no
dispute in any quarter. He supposed that the statements made by
the gentleman from Virginia to show this were all entirely
correct in point of fact. He did suppose that the interruptions
of regular intercourse, and all the other inconveniences growing
out of it, were all as that gentleman had stated them to be; and
certainly, if redress could be rendered, it was proper it should
be rendered as soon as possible. The gentleman said that in
order to effect this no new legislative action was needed; all
that was necessary was that the Postmaster-General should be
required to do what the law, as it stood, authorized and required
him to do.

We come then, said Mr. Lincoln, to the law. Now the Postmaster-
General says he cannot give to this company more than two hundred
and thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents per railroad mile of
transportation, and twelve and a half per cent. less for
transportation by steamboats. He considers himself as restricted
by law to this amount; and he says, further, that he would not
give more if he could, because in his apprehension it would not
be fair and just.




WASHINGTON, January 8, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAM:–Your letter of December 27 was received a day or
two ago. I am much obliged to you for the trouble you have
taken, and promise to take in my little business there. As to
speech making, by way of getting the hang of the House I made a
little speech two or three days ago on a post-office question of
no general interest. I find speaking here and elsewhere about
the same thing. I was about as badly scared, and no worse as I
am when I speak in court. I expect to make one within a week or
two, in which I hope to succeed well enough to wish you to see

It is very pleasant to learn from you that there are some who
desire that I should be reelected. I most heartily thank them
for their kind partiality; and I can say, as Mr. Clay said of the
annexation of Texas, that “personally I would not object” to a
reelection, although I thought at the time, and still think, it
would be quite as well for me to return to the law at the end of
a single term. I made the declaration that I would not be a
candidate again, more from a wish to deal fairly with others, to
keep peace among our friends, and to keep the district from going
to the enemy, than for any cause personal to myself; so that if
it should so happen that nobody else wishes to be elected, I
could not refuse the people the right of sending me again. But
to enter myself as a competitor of others, or to authorize any
one so to enter me is what my word and honor forbid.

I got some letters intimating a probability of so much difficulty
amongst our friends as to lose us the district; but I remember
such letters were written to Baker when my own case was under
consideration, and I trust there is no more ground for such
apprehension now than there was then. Remember I am always glad
to receive a letter from you.

Most truly your friend,



JANUARY 12, 1848.

MR CHAIRMAN:–Some if not all the gentlemen on the other side of
the House who have addressed the committee within the last two
days have spoken rather complainingly, if I have rightly
understood them, of the vote given a week or ten days ago
declaring that the war with Mexico was unnecessarily and
unconstitutionally commenced by the President. I admit that such
a vote should not be given in mere party wantonness, and that the
one given is justly censurable if it have no other or better
foundation. I am one of those who joined in that vote; and I did
so under my best impression of the truth of the case. How I got
this impression, and how it may possibly be remedied, I will now
try to show. When the war began, it was my opinion that all
those who because of knowing too little, or because of knowing
too much, could not conscientiously approve the conduct of the
President in the beginning of it should nevertheless, as good
citizens and patriots, remain silent on that point, at least till
the war should be ended. Some leading Democrats, including ex-
President Van Buren, have taken this same view, as I understand
them; and I adhered to it and acted upon it, until since I took
my seat here; and I think I should still adhere to it were it not
that the President and his friends will not allow it to be so.
Besides the continual effort of the President to argue every
silent vote given for supplies into an indorsement of the justice
and wisdom of his conduct; besides that singularly candid
paragraph in his late message in which he tells us that Congress
with great unanimity had declared that “by the act of the
Republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that government
and the United States,” when the same journals that informed him
of this also informed him that when that declaration stood
disconnected from the question of supplies sixty-seven in the
House, and not fourteen merely, voted against it; besides this
open attempt to prove by telling the truth what he could not
prove by telling the whole truth-demanding of all who will not
submit to be misrepresented, in justice to themselves, to speak
out, besides all this, one of my colleagues [Mr. Richardson] at a
very early day in the session brought in a set of resolutions
expressly indorsing the original justice of the war on the part
of the President. Upon these resolutions when they shall be put
on their passage I shall be compelled to vote; so that I cannot
be silent if I would. Seeing this, I went about preparing myself
to give the vote understandingly when it should come. I
carefully examined the President’s message, to ascertain what he
himself had said and proved upon the point. The result of this
examination was to make the impression that, taking for true all
the President states as facts, he falls far short of proving his
justification; and that the President would have gone further
with his proof if it had not been for the small matter that the
truth would not permit him. Under the impression thus made I
gave the vote before mentioned. I propose now to give concisely
the process of the examination I made, and how I reached the
conclusion I did. The President, in his first war message of
May, 1846, declares that the soil was ours on which hostilities
were commenced by Mexico, and he repeats that declaration almost
in the same language in each successive annual message, thus
showing that he deems that point a highly essential one. In the
importance of that point I entirely agree with the President. To
my judgment it is the very point upon which he should be
justified, or condemned. In his message of December, 1846, it
seems to have occurred to him, as is certainly true, that title-
ownership-to soil or anything else is not a simple fact, but is a
conclusion following on one or more simple facts; and that it was
incumbent upon him to present the facts from which he concluded
the soil was ours on which the first blood of the war was shed.

Accordingly, a little below the middle of page twelve in the
message last referred to he enters upon that task; forming an
issue and introducing testimony, extending the whole to a little
below the middle of page fourteen. Now, I propose to try to show
that the whole of this–issue and evidence–is from beginning to
end the sheerest deception. The issue, as he presents it, is in
these words: “But there are those who, conceding all this to be
true, assume the ground that the true western boundary of Texas
is the Nueces, instead of the Rio Grande; and that, therefore, in
marching our army to the east bank of the latter river, we passed
the Texas line and invaded the territory of Mexico.” Now this
issue is made up of two affirmatives and no negative. The main
deception of it is that it assumes as true that one river or the
other is necessarily the boundary; and cheats the superficial
thinker entirely out of the idea that possibly the boundary is
somewhere between the two, and not actually at either. A further
deception is that it will let in evidence which a true issue
would exclude. A true issue made by the President would be about
as follows: “I say the soil was ours, on which the first blood
was shed; there are those who say it was not.”

I now proceed to examine the President’s evidence as applicable
to such an issue. When that evidence is analyzed, it is all
included in the following propositions

(1) That the Rio Grande was the western boundary of Louisiana as
we purchased it of France in 1803.

(2) That the Republic of Texas always claimed the Rio Grande as
her eastern boundary.

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