The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to
Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following
reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their
people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the
good of the people was the object. This our convention
understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions,
and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man
should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But
your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President
where kings have always stood. Write soon again.

Yours truly,



MARCH 9, 1848.

Mr. Lincoln, from the Committee on the Postoffice and Post Roads,
made the following report:

The Committee on the Post-office and Post Roads, to whom was
referred the resolution of the House of Representatives entitled
“An Act authorizing postmasters at county seats of justice to
receive subscriptions for newspapers and periodicals, to be paid
through the agency of the Post-office Department, and for other
purposes,” beg leave to submit the following report

The committee have reason to believe that a general wish pervades
the community at large that some such facility as the proposed
measure should be granted by express law, for subscribing,
through the agency of the Post-office Department, to newspapers
and periodicals which diffuse daily, weekly, or monthly
intelligence of passing events. Compliance with this general
wish is deemed to be in accordance with our republican
institutions, which can be best sustained by the diffusion of
knowledge and the due encouragement of a universal, national
spirit of inquiry and discussion of public events through the
medium of the public press. The committee, however, has not been
insensible to its duty of guarding the Post-office Department
against injurious sacrifices for the accomplishment of this
object, whereby its ordinary efficacy might be impaired or
embarrassed. It has therefore been a subject of much
consideration; but it is now confidently hoped that the bill
herewith submitted effectually obviates all objections which
might exist with regard to a less matured proposition.

The committee learned, upon inquiry, that the Post-office
Department, in view of meeting the general wish on this subject,
made the experiment through one if its own internal regulations,
when the new postage system went into operation on the first of
July, 1845, and that it was continued until the thirtieth of
September, 1847. But this experiment, for reasons hereafter
stated, proved unsatisfactory, and it was discontinued by order
of the Postmaster-General. As far as the committee can at
present ascertain, the following seem to have been the principal
grounds of dissatisfaction in this experiment:

(1) The legal responsibility of postmasters receiving newspaper
subscriptions, or of their sureties, was not defined.

(2) The authority was open to all postmasters instead of being
limited to those of specific offices.

(3) The consequence of this extension of authority was that, in
innumerable instances, the money, without the previous knowledge
or control of the officers of the department who are responsible
for the good management of its finances, was deposited in offices
where it was improper such funds should be placed; and the
repayment was ordered, not by the financial officers, but by the
postmasters, at points where it was inconvenient to the
department so to disburse its funds.

(4) The inconvenience of accumulating uncertain and fluctuating
sums at small offices was felt seriously in consequent
overpayments to contractors on their quarterly collecting orders;
and, in case of private mail routes, in litigation concerning the
misapplication of such funds to the special service of supplying

(5) The accumulation of such funds on draft offices could not be
known to the financial clerks of the department in time to
control it, and too often this rendered uncertain all their
calculations of funds in hand.

(6) The orders of payment were for the most part issued upon the
principal offices, such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston,
Baltimore, etc., where the large offices of publishers are
located, causing an illimitable and uncontrollable drain of the
department funds from those points where it was essential to
husband them for its own regular disbursements. In Philadelphia
alone this drain averaged $5000 per quarter; and in other cities
of the seaboard it was proportionate.

(7) The embarrassment of the department was increased by the
illimitable, uncontrollable, and irresponsible scattering of its
funds from concentrated points suitable for its distributions, to
remote, unsafe, and inconvenient offices, where they could not be
again made available till collected by special agents, or were
transferred at considerable expense into the principal disbursing
offices again.

(8) There was a vast increase of duties thrown upon the limited
force before necessary to conduct the business of the department;
and from the delay of obtaining vouchers impediments arose to the
speedy settlement of accounts with present or retired post-
masters, causing postponements which endangered the liability of
sureties under the act of limitations, and causing much danger of
an increase of such cases.

(9) The most responsible postmasters (at the large offices) were
ordered by the least responsible (at small offices) to make
payments upon their vouchers, without having the means of
ascertaining whether these vouchers were genuine or forged, or if
genuine, whether the signers were in or out of office, or solvent
or defaulters.

(10) The transaction of this business for subscribers and
publishers at the public expense, an the embarrassment,
inconvenience, and delay of th department’s own business
occasioned by it, were not justified by any sufficient
remuneration of revenue to sustain the department, as required in
every other respect with regard to its agency.

The committee, in view of these objections, has been solicitous
to frame a bill which would not be obnoxious to them in principle
or in practical effect.

It is confidently believed that by limiting the offices for
receiving subscriptions to less than one tenth of the number
authorized by the experiment already tried, and designating the
county seat in each county for the purpose, the control of the
department will be rendered satisfactory; particularly as it will
be in the power of the Auditor, who is the officer required by
law to check the accounts, to approve or disapprove of the
deposits, and to sanction not only the payments, but to point out
the place of payment. If these payments should cause a drain on
the principal offices of the seaboard, it will be compensated by
the accumulation of funds at county seats, where the contractors
on those routes can be paid to that extent by the department’s
drafts, with more local convenience to themselves than by drafts
on the seaboard offices.

The legal responsibility for these deposits is defined, and the
accumulation of funds at the point of deposit, and the repayment
at points drawn upon, being known to and controlled by the
Auditor, will not occasion any such embarrassments as were before
felt; the record kept by the Auditor on the passing of the
certificates through his hands will enable him to settle accounts
without the delay occasioned by vouchers being withheld; all
doubt or uncertainty as to the genuineness of certificates, or
the propriety of their issue, will be removed by the Auditor’s
examination and approval; and there can be no risk of loss of
funds by transmission, as the certificate will not be payable
till sanctioned by the Auditor, and after his sanction the payor
need not pay it unless it is presented by the publisher or his
known clerk or agent.

The main principle of equivalent for the agency of the department
is secured by the postage required to be paid upon the
transmission of the certificates, augmenting adequately the post-
office revenue.

The committee, conceiving that in this report all the
difficulties of the subject have been fully and fairly stated,
and that these difficulties have been obviated by the plan
proposed in the accompanying bill, and believing that the measure
will satisfactorily meet the wants and wishes of a very large
portion of the community, beg leave to recommend its adoption.


MARCH 9, 1848.

Mr. Lincoln, from the Committee on the Postoffice and Post Roads,
made the following report:

The Committee on the Post-office and Post Roads, to whom was
referred the petition of H. M. Barney, postmaster at Brimfield,
Peoria County, Illinois, report: That they have been satisfied by
evidence, that on the 15th of December, 1847, said petitioner had
his store, with some fifteen hundred dollars’ worth of goods,
together with all the papers of the post-office, entirely
destroyed by fire; and that the specie funds of the office were
melted down, partially lost and partially destroyed; that this
large individual loss entirely precludes the idea of
embezzlement; that the balances due the department of former
quarters had been only about twenty-five dollars; and that owing
to the destruction of papers, the exact amount due for the
quarter ending December 31, 1847, cannot be ascertained. They
therefore report a joint resolution, releasing said petitioner
from paying anything for the quarter last mentioned.

MARCH 29, 1848.

The bill for raising additional military force for limited time,
etc., was reported from Committee on judiciary; similar bills had
been reported from Committee on, Public Lands and Military

Mr. Lincoln said if there was a general desire on the part of the
House to pass the bill now he should be glad to have it done–
concurring, as he did generally, with the gentleman from Arkansas
[Mr. Johnson] that the postponement might jeopard the safety of
the proposition. If, however, a reference was to be made, he
wished to make a very few remarks in relation to the several
subjects desired by the gentlemen to be embraced in amendments to
the ninth section of the act of the last session of Congress.
The first amendment desired by members of this House had for its
only object to give bounty lands to such persons as had served
for a time as privates, but had never been discharged as such,
because promoted to office. That subject, and no other, was
embraced in this bill. There were some others who desired, while
they were legislating on this subject, that they should also give
bounty lands to the volunteers of the War of 1812. His friend
from Maryland said there were no such men. He [Mr. L.] did not
say there were many, but he was very confident there were some.
His friend from Kentucky near him, [Mr. Gaines] told him he
himself was one.

There was still another proposition touching this matter; that
was, that persons entitled to bounty lands should by law be
entitled to locate these lands in parcels, and not be required to
locate them in one body, as was provided by the existing law.

Now he had carefully drawn up a bill embracing these three
separate propositions, which he intended to propose as a
substitute for all these bills in the House, or in Committee of
the Whole on the State of the Union, at some suitable time. If
there was a disposition on the part of the House to act at once
on this separate proposition, he repeated that, with the
gentlemen from Arkansas, he should prefer it lest they should
lose all. But if there was to be a reference, he desired to
introduce his bill embracing the three propositions, thus
enabling the committee and the House to act at the same time,
whether favorably or unfavorably, upon all. He inquired whether
an amendment was now in order.

The Speaker replied in the negative.


WASHINGTON, April 30, 1848.

DEAR WILLIAMS:–I have not seen in the papers any evidence of a
movement to send a delegate from your circuit to the June
convention. I wish to say that I think it all-important that a
delegate should be sent. Mr. Clay’s chance for an election is
just no chance at all. He might get New York, and that would
have elected in 1844, but it will not now, because he must now,
at the least, lose Tennessee, which he had then, and in addition
the fifteen new votes of Florida, Texas, Iowa, and Wisconsin. I
know our good friend Browning is a great admirer of Mr. Clay, and
I therefore fear he is favoring his nomination. If he is, ask
him to discard feeling, and try if he can possibly, as a matter
of judgment, count the votes necessary to elect him.

In my judgment we can elect nobody but General Taylor; and we
cannot elect him without a nomination. Therefore don’t fail to
send a delegate. Your friend as ever,



MAY 11, 1848.

A bill for the admission of Wisconsin into the Union had been

Mr. Lincoln moved to reconsider the vote by which the bill was
passed. He stated to the House that he had made this motion for
the purpose of obtaining an opportunity to say a few words in
relation to a point raised in the course of the debate on this
bill, which he would now proceed to make if in order. The point
in the case to which he referred arose on the amendment that was
submitted by the gentleman from Vermont [Mr. Collamer] in
Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union, and which was
afterward renewed in the House, in relation to the question
whether the reserved sections, which, by some bills heretofore
passed, by which an appropriation of land had been made to
Wisconsin, had been enhanced in value, should be reduced to the
minimum price of the public lands. The question of the reduction
in value of those sections was to him at this time a matter very
nearly of indifference. He was inclined to desire that Wisconsin
should be obliged by having it reduced. But the gentleman from
Indiana [Mr. C. B. Smith], the chairman of the Committee on
Territories, yesterday associated that question with the general
question, which is now to some extent agitated in Congress, of
making appropriations of alternate sections of land to aid the
States in making internal improvements, and enhancing the price
of the sections reserved, and the gentleman from Indiana took
ground against that policy. He did not make any special argument
in favor of Wisconsin, but he took ground generally against the
policy of giving alternate sections of land, and enhancing the
price of the reserved sections. Now he [Mr. Lincoln] did not at
this time take the floor for the purpose of attempting to make an
argument on the general subject. He rose simply to protest
against the doctrine which the gentleman from Indiana had avowed
in the course of what he [Mr. Lincoln] could not but consider an
unsound argument.

It might, however, be true, for anything he knew, that the
gentleman from Indiana might convince him that his argument was
sound; but he [Mr. Lincoln] feared that gentleman would not be
able to convince a majority in Congress that it was sound. It
was true the question appeared in a different aspect to persons
in consequence of a difference in the point from which they
looked at it. It did not look to persons residing east of the
mountains as it did to those who lived among the public lands.
But, for his part, he would state that if Congress would make a
donation of alternate sections of public land for the purpose of
internal improvements in his State, and forbid the reserved
sections being sold at $1.25, he should be glad to see the
appropriation made; though he should prefer it if the reserved
sections were not enhanced in price. He repeated, he should be
glad to have such appropriations made, even though the reserved
sections should be enhanced in price. He did not wish to be
understood as concurring in any intimation that they would refuse
to receive such an appropriation of alternate sections of land
because a condition enhancing the price of the reserved sections
should be attached thereto. He believed his position would now
be understood: if not, he feared he should not be able to make
himself understood.

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