Life and Works of Abraham Lincoln/Volume 3/Preface

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The present volume contains the public addresses of Lincoln from his first recorded speech, the modest announcement of his candidacy for the Illinois State Legislature about March 1, 1832, to the famous "Lost Speech" delivered at the first Republican State convention at Bloomington, May 29, 1856, which made him a figure in national politics, as indicated by his receiving one hundred and ten votes, the second largest number cast for Vice-President in the national Republican convention of that year. Here are to be found his speeches in the State Legislature and Congress, together with such resolutions as the protest against certain slavery resolutions in the Illinois House of Representatives, the first of such protests recorded in the minutes of any State Legislature, and the unanswerable anti-Mexican War resolutions, known as the "Spot Resolutions" from the quaint phraseology used by Lincoln in persistently pressing upon the weak and tender "spot" in President Polk's justification of the unhappy conflict. Besides speeches on slavery and allied subjects, there are included arguments for internal improvements, a protective tariff, and other policies of the Whig party, of which from the beginning of his public career Lincoln was a leading figure in Illinois politics, and its sole representative from his State in the Twenty-ninth Congress. Lincoln as a sociologist is also presented in speeches dealing with capitalism ("Perils of Mobocracy"); mob rule ("The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions"); and temperance ("Charity in Temperance Reform"). His style as a popular lecturer is exhibited in his rather commonplace notes for an address on "Niagara Falls"; and the legal habit of his mind is shown in his sound and practical notes for a law lecture. A eulogy of Henry Clay, delivered on the death of that popular idol, is a rather perfunctory performance, since the future emancipator had already divined the coming of a nobler order of statesmanship than that represented by the author of the compromises of 1850.

While in Congress Lincoln served as a member of the Committee on the Post-Office and Post Roads, and as such made a number of reports, some of which, as dealing with special cases involving no principle, have been omitted from the present collection.

So, too, formal calls for Whig conventions, signed by Lincoln along with the other members of the State Committee of the party, as well as an opinion on the Illinois election law, signed by him as one of three members of a sub-committee of the general one, have been omitted as of no value to the student either of politics or personality.