A. Douglas, a Morgan County representative and rising Democratic star,
who introduced resolutions calling for railroads that crisscrossed Illinois
and other internal improvements. Lincoln and the Sangamon delegation
were later accused of trading votes for internal improvements in exchange
for votes for Springfield as the new capital. Vote trading often took
the form of a process called logrolling. Modern scholarship is divided
on whether there was any logrolling in this instance, yet even if there
was, it should not necessarily be condemned. Balancing interests by
trading votes for disparate pieces of legislation is one of democracy's
messier, but unavoidable legislative tools.
Grand internal improvements passed only
to founder on the rocks of the Panic of 1837, an economic depression
that ravaged the credit of the State of Illinois, greatly reducing the
value of its bonds. None of the magnificent projects funded by those
bonds was ever realized by the state, and Illinois did not retire the
debt incurred until 1887.
A movement to abolish slavery began
in earnest in the 1830s, led by committed activists such as William
Lloyd Garrison. The effort was at first wildly unpopular. Many Americans
considered the abolitionists Constitution-wreckers and zealots bent
on disrupting the sectional harmony essential to the Union. An anti-abolition
backlash swept the nation that had an extreme manifestation in Illinois
when abolitionist newspaper editor Elijah Lovejoy was murdered by an
Alton mob in 1837.
Southern state legislatures carried
resolutions urging their northern counterparts to suppress the abolitionists.
Such pleas received a sympathetic hearing in Illinois, which had been
settled predominantly by southerners and tolerated slavery within its
borders in various guises. In response to southern entreaties, the Illinois
legislature adopted resolutions in 1837 condemning the abolition movement.
In his first public stand against slavery, Lincoln opposed the resolutions
in the legislature.
Two years later, Lincoln and Douglas
engaged in public debates on the issues at stake in the pending presidential
election. A precursor of their famous 1858 exchanges, the two traded
barbs over Martin Van Buren's presidency, the subtreasury, and the abolition
movement. To rebut Douglas's contention that the Whigs supported the
abolitionists, Lincoln discovered that Van Buren had voted to allow
a limited degree of black suffrage in New York, a fact that incensed
Douglas when Lincoln confronted him with it.
Lincoln's use of the black suffrage
issue against Douglas illustrates the limits of his views on African-Americans.
While he condemned slavery, Lincoln was, at this point in his career, unwilling
to advocate black suffrage, and indeed, not shy about using the issue
in anti-black Illinois. Lincoln stumped tirelessly for the Harrison-Tyler
ticket, and although the Whigs failed to carry Illinois, they won the
presidency and Lincoln enhanced his political reputation.
Lincoln married Mary Todd on November
4, 1842, after a rather tempestuous courtship that included an unpleasant
break-up. Raised in Lexington, Kentucky, Mary came to live with her
sister Elizabeth in Springfield in 1839, gaining instant admission into
the prominent social circle around her brother-in-law, Ninian W. Edwards,
son of an Illinois governor. Soon she met Lincoln and their rocky courtship
followed. While the marriage is often characterized as stormy, it had
a calming effect on Lincoln. He had suffered debilitating mood swings,
periods of depression that left him incapable of work and desperate
for relief. "Things I can not account for, have conspired and have
gotten my spirits so low, that I feel that I would rather be any place
in the world, than here," Lincoln wrote from Vandalia during one
Marriage alleviated the worst manifestations of depression in Lincoln's
behavior, but he remained subject to bouts of melancholia throughout
his life. His law partner William H. Herndon described Lincoln as "a
sad-looking man; his melancholy dripped from him as he walked.... The
perpetual look of sadness was his most prominent feature."
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Burlingame, Michael. The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.
Carwardine, Richard J. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
Herdon, William H. and Jesse W. Weik. Herdon's Life of Lincoln, 1942; reprint New York: Da Capo Press, 1983.
Holt, Michael F. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
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Simon, Paul. Lincoln's Preparation for Greatness: The Illinois Legislative Years. University of Oklahoma Press, 1965; reprint, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971.
Wilson, Douglas L. Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1998.