Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Reason To Lament About His Future

11th of 45 excerpts from Lincoln by David Herbert Donald:
Lincoln recognized that the Republican party faced formidable problems in the 1856 presidential contest. Not only was it a new and imperfectly articulated organization, but it had powerful competition. Shrewdly the Democrats passed over the controversial [Stephen A.] Douglas and nominated James Buchanan, the former Secretary of State, who had a distinguished career of public service -- and the inestimable blessing of having been out of the country, as minister to Great Britain, during the controversy of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The nativists, now calling themselves the American party, nominated ex-President Millard Fillmore, whose highly respectable Whig antecedents made him attractive to conservatives of all persuasions. Even Mary Lincoln, usually wholly committed to her husband's political views, confessed that her "weak woman's heart" compelled her to favor Fillmore, who understood "the necessity of keeping foreigners , within bounds." . . .

The nomination of [John C.] Fremont [as the candidate for president] did not discourage Lincoln. As he wrote [Lyman] Trumbull, in a carefully chosen double negative, he was "not without high hopes for the state," though Illinois Republicans would have had an easier time had [John] McLean been nominated. From the start of the campaign he made it his mission to win over Fillmore's supporters to the Republican cause. Most of these were, as a man in Clinton wrote him, "still tender, old time whigs . . . partly with and partly not with us," and they looked to Lincoln for leadership. Responding to the need, Lincoln entered the campaign wholeheartedly and, as he remembered, made more that fifty speeches in behalf of the Republican ticket. . . .

In the end, the canvas verified the prediction Lincoln had made at the start . . . The antislavery vote was split, and in November Buchanan carried Illinois and won the election.

When Lincoln looked back on the events of the past two years, he had to recognize that he had received some severe rebuffs. He had been defeated in his quest for a Senate seat, he had been rebuffed by Eastern lawyers in the McCormick reaper case, and he had been passed over for the first Republican vice presidential nomination. On the other side of the ledger, he could enter the solid distinction he had earned in the campaign against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the respect that was due him as the principal architect of the Republican party in Illinois, and the admiration he received as a powerful orator for the free-soil cause. After 1856, he found no further occasion to lament to [law partner William] Herndon about his future or to grieve that he had done nothing to make his country better.

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