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Abraham Lincoln Prematurely Bids Politics Farewell
Digital History ID 300

Author:   Abraham Lincoln


A freshman Whig Congressman from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) lashed out against the war, calling it immoral, proslavery, and a threat to the nation's republican values. He introduced a resolution demanding that President Polk identify the spot where the Mexicans had "invaded our territory and shed blood on American soil." One of Lincoln's constituents branded him "the Benedict Arnold of our district," and he was denied renomination.

Lincoln was a staunch advocate of Henry Clay's American System, which emphasized government support for education; "internal improvements," mainly better transportation; and economic development. Lincoln was also a firm believer in the superiority of the North's system of free labor, which, he was convinced, had produced a society that offered unprecedented economic opportunity. "I am not ashamed to confess," he declared, "that twenty-five years ago I was a hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a flat-boat--just what might happen to any poor man's son." But in the free states, a young man knew that "he can better his condition" because "there is no such thing as a freeman being fatally fixed for life, in the condition of a hired laborer." Lincoln's commitment to a system of free labor, mobility, and economic opportunity was the main reason he adamantly opposed slavery: "I want every man to have the chance--and I believe a black man is entitled to it--in which he can better his condition."

In this letter to David Campbell, an Illinois lawyer who served as mayor of Springfield, Lincoln prepares for his retirement from politics.


As one of my votes on the origin of the Mexican war, and my speech on the subject, had been the object of loco foco [radical Democratic] assault, tell Judge Logan I am much obliged to him for his vindication of me. No fair-minded, sensible man can take any other view of the matter.

I have been making an internal improvement speech, of which I will send you a copy when it shall be printed. I do not expect it will interest the people much, in the midst of the political excitement, immediately preceding a presidential election--but, the subject, being one of great and permanent interest, particularly to our district, I felt it a duty to say something about it. I shall seek an opportunity to make one political--Taylor--speech before the end of the session, since that will be about the close of my congressional career.

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: Abraham Lincoln to David B. Campbell

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