|Wealth and Want
|... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
Abraham Lincoln and the Men of His Time
Robert Henry Browne, M.D., 1901
This page has extended excerpts from a two-volume book entited Abraham Lincoln and the Men of His Time, by Robert Henry Browne, M.D., published in 1901. While I approached the books skeptically, I found myself persuaded that while Dr. Browne was not an academic historian, he did know Lincoln personally, and that the relevant quote, which had sent me in search of the source material, could be quite reliable. It appears in Volume II, starting on page 89, and seems to be set in the early 1850s, quoting Lincoln (pages 89 & 90):
Another quote about land-sharks, sometimes quoted with these sentences, appears elsewhere in the book, in a different context; seach this page for that phrase for more information.
The books are available at books.google, and you might explore them by using the search capability at the lower right part of the page. The reference to "other editions" will get you back and forth between the two volumes.
From Volume II of "Abraham Lincoln and the Men of His Time, by Robert H. Browne, M. D. , Copyright 1901, by the Western Methodist Book Concern. Chapter XXIX, under the heading in the Table of Contents "His Ideas of Land-ownership expressed to Mr. Gridley;" the preceding section was "Lincoln Pre-eminently a Reformer" and the following "Some of his Work in saving Farms to Settlers." One can only guess where one ends and the next begins. Starting on page 82:
[page 82] "Let every one who really believes, and is resolved that free society is not and shall not be a failure, and who can conscientiously declare that in the past contest he has done only what he thought best, have charity to believe that every one else can say as much. Thus let bygones be bygones: let past differences as nothing be: and with steady eye on the real issue, let us reinauguate the good old central ideas of the Republic. We can do it. The human heart is with us; and, better, God is with us. We shall again be able, not to declare that 'all States as States are equal,' nor yet that 'all citizens as citizens are equal,' but to renew the broader, better declaration, including both these and much more, that 'all men are created free and equal.'"
This was the true Lincoln, in mind, purpose, and character, as he revealed himself in his plain and expressive forms of language. He proceeded directly to his subject, and, in well-rounded periods, hammered out the groundings of his faith, in such forcible and unmistakable speech that no prevarication nor misconstruction could fairly becloud or darken it. He was able to contend and differ in the consideration of the theories, logic, and polemics of systems and the details of government; but this was the higher subject, the rights of man, in which every tendency and inclination of his noble nature was wrought up to its highest purpose and action.
It was so congenial and all-engaging to him that, with his untiring strength, his means of research, and his unflagging devotion to the cause, he became the great master of humanity to man and the ablest defender, liberator, and prophet of the century. He was a powerful, wise, and discerning man in any undertaking, who would have succeeded in many; but it was in behalf of oppressed and [p.83] struggling men he exerted himself to his highest capacities, and became God's leader among the people.
Whether it was in chopping wood for the widows and helpless about New Salem in the severe winters, helping many a hard-working settler save his homestead, helping many poor and distressed people in the courts through entanglements beyond their means and knowledge, teaching honesty, justice and righteousness in his laborious campaigns, or in the use of the resources of our mighty Nation in saving the Union and liberating the darker men of our race, he was ever and always the same constant and determined friend and defender of the rights of his fellow-men. He was so true in this work that those who knew him best knew beforehand what would be his relation to any cause or individual in time of need.
Mr. Lincoln could have achieved and won success in many directions, especially in fortune-making, and have reached more than ordinary success among so many willing and helping friends. However, he steadily declined anything of the kind, chiefly because it would have taken his attention from the main purpose of his life. His success in his profession, when established, gave him the means of comfortable living. He could have won a fortune, as many did about him. He was frequently advised by friends to do so, but he always found more pressing duty, and declined.
He was a reformer; not one of those who grew angry and filled their minds with sharp criticism, severe denunciation, or malice toward those who differed with him. He was full of the idea that most men, when properly approached, were fair-minded and reasonable. Hence he was of all men the kindest natured, most considerate, and respectful with all who were anxious to learn, no matter how prejudiced they were. If they were sincere, his patience and good humor never failed him. But to the mere captious [page 84] critic or noisy disturber he seldom gave attention, unless it provoked him to reply in some withering humor that would leave the poor fellow helpless, though generally benefited.
One of these asked him, at the close of an address, "Mr. Lincoln, how would you like to have your daughter marry a nigger?" Without apparent disturbance, he immediately replied, "My dear sir, it so happens that I have not been blessed with a daughter; but under such condition as you state, I would expect her to use as much discretion in the matter as yourself, and that she would find a great many white men that it would be best to avoid. She might, too, if you insisted in pressing your suit, ask you, 'Was your grandfather a monkey?'"
On one occasion, some time in 1856, he came into the private room in the rear of Mr. Gridley's bank. He laid about one thousand dollars on the table. Taking up a part of it, he handed the remainder, about nine hundred and forty dollars, to Mr. Gridley, saying "I have collected more than I expected to-day. I would take it home with me if I was going there; but I am going to Chicago, and will leave it with you for the present." Mr. Gridley was a true friend of Lincoln's, and one of the most anxious that he should be "making more money." So taking the money, very pleasantly he said: "I know of a very good quarter section of land in the southwest part of the country. It belongs to a non-resident, who is anxious to sell it. It can be had for about $1,200, and is worth fully $1,600. It will sell for double that price within a year. I will, if you like, invest your sum here mentioned, and take care of it for you. I think you will double your money on it in a year, or perhaps less. Indeed, I will guarantee that much, if you desire, as you know I have several times wished to do as much as this. It will not bother me, and I will be glad to do it."
[page 85] Mr. Lincoln turned uneasily in his chair, and facing Mr. Gridley with a pleasant but thoughtful look, replied about as follows: "Mr. Gridley, you know that I am deeply grateful for your disposition to favor me, and for the many kind and considerate evidences of it, which do not let me forget it, were I disposed to do so. I am thankful to you, for I appreciate what you do and continue to do for me in so many unselfish ways that no one knows of save myself. Nevertheless, I must decline this kind offer of yours that would, no doubt, profit me, and harm no one directly, as I view it. I have no maledictions or even criticisms of those who honestly buy, sell, and speculate in lands; but I do not believe in it, and I feel, for myself, that I should not do it. If I made the investment, it would constantly turn my attention to that kind of business, and so far disqualify me for what seems to be my calling, and success in it, and interfere with the public, or half-public, service, which I neither seek nor avoid. So, with a feeling of increased friendship for you, I feel that I must be firm in purpose, and not engage in anything that will turn my mind from my present and increasing duties in the work I have chosen.
"In my early career I was unfortunate in business, as you know, which I now attribute to lack of experience and insufficient needs. I am satisfied of that in my own mind, and believe that very men have failed in business in our new, developing country because our ambition is so apt to outrun our judgment; but, notwithstanding these mishaps, I am confident enough of my own capacity to believe that, with the present need and opportunities, especially through the help of a man like yourself, whose business sagacity is beyond question, I could very well conduct some kinds of business and save money. But for the present I am wholly devoted to my work, and do not feel that I could divide the time so much needed in it with [page 86] anything else. My work, too, I must say, presents itself to me now, which I have no right to avoid."
Although Mr. Gridley had known Mr. Lincoln well for at least fifteen years, and intimately for six or seven, he was completely upset and amazed at Lincoln's remarks. He was usually quick-tempered, excitable, and impulsive, and he would not have listened contentedly a minute to such statement as Lincoln's from any other man; but Lincoln's influence over him was so complete that he sat still. He said nothing until Mr. Lincoln finished, when he looked calmly across the table at Lincoln's earnest face, and thus addressed him: "Mr. Lincoln, you astonish me, indeed you do. I have been keeping along with a great many of your advanced ideas and foolish philanthropies, but this surpasses all. I don't take your design nor your work as foolish, mind you; it is good, better than people deserve. They are all about worshiping some stone or wooden god. A great many of them are content with these rich prairie lands of Illinois that I've been trying to point out to you are a real Canaan. You'll work and strive with the people, and some politician will get the turn on you as Trumbull did, and secure the senatorship, and leave you the applause. Really, Mr. Lincoln, I believe that you had better be conservative, like me, keep out of politics, go into the land business, and make a competency out of corn, cattle, and hogs. Let those who will sweat over governorships, senatorships, and judgeships. But, besides this, you have more than surprised me about land ownership. Are you turning, just at the age when men should be getting wise, to the French 'Fourierism' — I believe it is — or to Emerson's school of air and thin soups, a cosmogony or theories attenuated through and beyond the gases to a something beyond nothing? For neither Frenchman nor Yankee has seen enough of it to give it a name or tangibility.
"Do not let me annoy or disturb you. I am going to [page 87] take care of that piece of land myself, and some of these days, when we abolish slavery, and you are old and worn-out in public service, you shall have that identical piece of rich Illinois land to live on, while Emerson and Fourier are getting ready to live on unsubstantial things, on an exact, correct theory, while we will be living on the fat of these fertile prairies."
Mr. Lincoln replied: "You are challenging my judgment as to which to admire or which to do; whether I must admire your sarcastic humor and unsparing analysis, and contend for my side, or forget my own convictions and accept your conclusions. You are aware, however, that I cannot avoid my duty, and whether I succeed or meet frequent disappointments as I have done, there is no man in the State who would require of me a more unflinching devotion to that duty than you would. I grant you, that if I should fail to render that dutiful service, your friendship is so sincere that you would let it burn in your heart and scarcely mention it; but you would know, as few men can, deep in your conscience, how Lincoln had failed, while you expected so much better of him, and had good reasons for it; and if I accepted this generous offer you would not be entirely guiltless."
Mr. Gridley replied: "You are correct, no doubt, in what seems to be a necessity, that no matter what may be the recognition you receive, or what remuneration may come to you for all your years of public service, if any; nevertheless, I see it just as you say. You can have no divided duty, but must diligently pursue the work you have undertaken or give it up altogether. It seems strange, after two thousand years of the spread of Christian belief, that so little of it is put into practical operation. Men are, as I understand, constantly blaming me as greedy and over-reaching in my business, most of which is, I think, no more than envy. Some of these who have [page 88] made these unfriendly remarks have been in undertakings of such doubtful morality that I would not, under any circumstances, engage in them. These are often very loud in their profession of the Master's belief; but money divides their duty, as it does the rest of us, and Pluto's gods possess them all or a good part of the time afterwards.
"You have chosen the life of a reformer. You have, as human affairs go, a self-denying sacrificing career before you. I, as one who desires your highest good, would like to see a more peaceful and comfortable life ahead for you than that can be; but knowing that your course has been determined, no one will be more sincere in your cause as it needs time or the best means at my command.
"I am given to hasty, and sometimes inconsiderate expressions, rash outbreaks, or eruptions, as you might call them, which friends have misunderstood and taken offense at occasionally; but when men know me as well as you do they know it is a harmless idiosyncracy. So do not take any note of what I think you should or should not believe. I think that every one who can, should think, and be earnest about it, and do all he can. There are many things to reform before they are settled right. God put us on the earth to work, and to work out improvement and better living. It seems his plan that man should get only what he earns, for either his mind or body, and hence the struggle of centuries will, in some distant future, come to an honest developed manhood, in which there will be neither tyranny, oppression, murder, slavery, nor extortion, but where men will be brethren as God designed them. How will it be with those who will not come to this belief I wot not." [sic]
Mr. Lincoln said: "I have enjoyed your kind interest. Your eruptions are not unpleasant. In an ordinary sense I have not sought the relation I hold in public affairs. I often come to a point where I feel I have done all the going and talking I can consistently attend to for awhile, [page 89] and settle down more determined to follow my law business; then I find a condition like the present, where I can not decline going into a political campaign without disappointing good friends, which no sensible man would do without much better reason than I have. Besides all that, and above it, the cause to which I have promised my best efforts needs help. It seems more needy of it as the years roll by. I feel that I can not abandon it, no matter whether it brings success or defeat, as it has so often brought in the past.
"Christ knew better than we that 'No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God;' nor is any man doing his duty who shrinks and is faithless to his fellow-men. Now a word more about Abolitionists and new ideas in Government, whatever they may be: We are all called Abolitionists now who desire any restriction of slavery or believe that the system is wrong, as I have declared for years. We are called so, not to help out a peaceful solution, but in derision, to abase us, and enable the defamers to make successful combinations against us. I never was much annoyed by these, less now than ever. I favor the best plan to restrict the extension of slavery peacefully, and fully believe that we must reach some plan that will do it, and provide for some method of final extinction of the evil, before we can have permanent peace on the subject. On other questions there is ample room for reform when the time comes; but now it would be folly to think that we could undertake more than we have on hand. But when slavery is over with and settled, men should never rest content while oppressions, wrongs, and iniquities are in force against them.
"The land, the earth that God gave to man for his home, his sustenance, and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, society, or unfriendly Government, any more than the air or the water, if as much. An individual [page 90] company or enterprise requiring land should hold no more in their own right than is needed for their home and sustenance, and never more than they have in actual use in the prudent management of their legitimate business, and this much should not be permitted when it creates an exclusive monopoly. All that is not so used should be held for the free use of every family to make homesteads, and to hold them as long as they are so occupied.
"A reform like this will be worked out some time in the future. The idle talk of foolish men, that is so common now, on 'Abolitionists, agitators, and disturbers of the peace,' will find its way against it, with whatever force it may possess, and as strongly promoted and carried on as it can be by land monopolists, grasping landlords, and the titled and untitled senseless enemies of mankind everywhere."
If all that Mr. Lincoln did in his busy twenty years or more, to help people get or keep their homesteads or claims, were told, it would throw a clear light on the work and real character of the man. As it is, enough is known to establish beyond doubt that it took much of his time, and that he never gave up the cause of any settler or distressed litigant while there was hope of saving it, and that most of this was done for people who had scanty means of payment, quite often none. Many were not able to pay anything at the time. None of them paid more than very moderate fees. The work was congenial to him, and no earnest man ever came that he did not set to work at once, with all his ability, influence, and untiring perseverance. He seldom failed, and few doubted his success who saw the energy and determination he had about it.
A number of friends talked this over at Bloomington about the time of his inauguration. There were several of us there at court, from the seven or eight counties where he had been actively employed for years, and a few from more distant counties. All of us knew of some cases, some more, some less. Some for two or three years, and some as long as ten years. One man had knowledge of a hundred or more instances. Thus talking and estimating, we reckoned up near one thousand homes and farms which he had saved or helped to save for our people. His work was so complete that no one knew of an entire failure; none that were even partly so could be charged to him. Some of the claimants had emigrated while he was contending for them. He saved several of these after the parties had left, and only a few were were lost to them, and those because of abandonment.
Chicago had grown to over two hundred thousand. It was the commercial metropolis and great Western town for the accumulation, barter, sale, and disposal of farm and manufactured products, with many other attractive advantages. It had unsurpassed waterways — the lakes and canals — to the seaboard. It had railways built or building in every direction, that made it what it continues, the wonder of the Western world. All this the inhabitants mentioned to visitors and new settlers, until they, too, could tell the story as well.
It did not have all the place has to-day, and was nothing near so big or so bad; but along with its commanding position and highways for hauling products to market and returning manufactured supplies in variety, it was the same town in miniature. Everybody hurried, and their faces sharpened, like their wits. The people generally think more of how to do business and make lots of money than of any problem of life or living; and no reputable man, woman or child ever strikes anything other than a rapid gait, with sound limbs and understanding.
In the early fifties a well-planned and complete system of railroads was undertaken. These were about all built from 1852 to 1856, when they were in successful operation. This was the industry that most generally benefited the city in fixing it as the grain, cattle, and hog-shipping center, as well as for all other exported products. It became also the receiving and distributing port for imports and merchandise for the West and Northwest.
The lines in operation of that day were one or two up the west shore of the lake to Milwaukee and north and northwestward. The Northwestern extended to the Galena lead-mine region and the Mississippi River north and westward. The Burlington and Quincy, from which latter point it connected with the Hannibal and St. Joseph across the State of Missouri, made connections at its terminus, St. Joseph, with the freight and stage routes across the plains. The other branch of the same line to Burlington, Iowa, made connection there with the first line built aross that State to the Missouri River. The Chicago, Alton and St. Louis Line went southwest through the towns of Joliet, Bloomington, Springfield, and Alton to East St. Louis. The Wabash began at Meredosia on the Illinois River, going east through Jacksonville, Springfield, Decatur and Danville to Logansport, Indiana, where it connected with lines east. It was very soon extended to Toledo, on Lake Erie. The Ohio and Mississippi went westward from Cincinnatti through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois to East St. Louis. This line, the Terre Haute and St. Louis, and the Wabash were the only lines of any importance not making Chicago a terminus.
In addition to these, which made a very complete railway system in its day, Judge Douglas, with the help of his co-laborers in Congress and the consent of the people, secured a land grant for the building of the Illinois Central Railway, which extended, beginning at Galena, south and easterly, through Freeport, Dixon, Mendota, Ottawa, Bloomington, Decatur and Centralia, to Cairo, at the junction of the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers, its southern terminus— a distance of over four hundred miles. It had also a branch, more important, from Chicago almost due south through Kankakee, Champaign, Effingham, then fifty miles southwesterly to Centralia, on the main line, about three hundred miles south of Chicago and fifty miles east of St. Louis.
This gave the State a north-and-south line of railroad, traversing the State in two lines, with an aggregate of over seven hundred miles. The corporation that built the lines received a valuable land-grant of several million acres. The lands were sold out rapidly to actual settlers during this period of remarkable progress referred to.
The proceeds of the sale of these lands would have built two such railways. It was among the first of what have been called "land-grant railroads." The question is still one of earnest doubt whether it was wise policy to build so many Western roads under the land-grant policy. While we have no intention to discuss the wisdom of the plan, it remains true that, as the railroad was desirable and it was universally agreed that it should be built, Judge Douglas, the State Legislature and the people in approval, made the best terms in building this line of any land-grant railroad that has ever been made.
The company, by its charter, was obliged and required in perpetuity to pay into the State treasury annually seven per cent of its gross earnings in lieu of all taxes for the State, counties, cities and schools. This has proven satisfactory, and remains a permanent income that more than supports the State government. The road and its owners have prospered under the plan and payment. It would have been a wise settlement of the railway and transportation problems if the people of the States and Territories had made the same charter requirement from all land-grant or aided railroads.
The building of these lines and other like improvements, the rapid influx of population and wealth, and the increase in property was one of the most remarkable advances and increase in values ever made by any one of our great States in the ten years. This rapid advance in the material and [p. 362] industrial conditions of the State had built and equipped a system of over five thousand miles of railroads that were built when farming and all commercial enterprises made like progress. By it Chicago became one of the greatest modern cities, mainly through the building of this unequaled extension and grasp of the highways of commerce, centering them in the Illinois town on the sands and marshes at the mouth of the malodorous little stream, or "Polecat" River, translated straight from the plain Indian to the plain Western Yankee dialect. The name became that of the town as well as the river.
The wisdom of those "ancient builders" of the city by the lake from 1830 to 1860 was phenomenal. They were wiser than they knew. Besides building a trading town, they made it the termini of the whole Western, Northwestern and Southwestern railway systems, and kept their place, developing rapidly in all material and intellectual progress. They laid the foundation for an industrial and commercial metropolis, and no less of art, literature, and science, that has so often doubled and quadrupled its population and its business in steady growth, that it remains the marvel of the century.
What has been done there, the immensity of trade, traffic, and commerce that can only be counted in billions annually and the enlightened means of trade that crosses, recrosses, and girdles the continent, is realized only by a few people. What it can be, and what in reason we should expect it to be, in the progress of Christian civilization, is perhaps as marvelous as how Joshua's knowledge of astronomy helped him to be the successor of Moses and the bravest leader in Israel.
In 1860 — the year of the memorable Convention — Chicago had more than three times the people and business it had in 1850. This of itself would appear sufficient proof of the energy and industry of the people of the city and the State, and surrounding States as well. This was done and accomplished through the period of the most earnest and impassioned political discussion held by our people since the days of the Revolution.
The rapid improvement, advancement, and prospering civilization were not exceptional in the State of Illinois or Chicago; for the whole country, from its earliest settlement had never made such progress. Manufacturing, shipbuilding, and commerce had made rapid strides all over the Atlantic States as far south as New Jersey, where the people became interested in such enterprises. The acquisition of California and the Pacific domain of over one thousand miles coast-line, with a belt as wide of fertile and rich mineral lands running eastward, in a few years more than quadrupled our production of the precious metals, and made current money in such abundance and general distribution as to inaugurate an era of improvement such as we had never expected or thought possible.
Our population increased from over twenty-three millions in 1850 to over thirty-one millions in 1860, an increase of eight and a quarter millions of people. During the same time the property values, by the best attainable estimates, were from seven billion dollars to sixteen billions of dollars — an increase that was two billions above twice as much in ten years. This gave, in the aggregate, an average of a little less than eleven hundred dollars for every man, woman, and child in 1860.
Slave-labor had been very profitable. The production of cotton had risen from 2,400,000 bales of 400 pounds each to 5,300,000 bales in 1860, which alone amounted to about three hundred millions of dollars. This was the largest single crop produced. Slave-labor, however, in the production of corn, tobacco, hemp, sugar and rice, amounted to an equal value, reaching an aggregate of more than five hundred million dollars annually. Over one-half of this was net [page 364] increase and profit to not more than four hundred thousand slaveholders from the labor of four million slaves.
The enormous profits of slave-labor by all ordinary estimates exceeded this sum annually. Most of this vast wealth was monopolised in the hands of a few grasping men. This greed and desire for wealth and power and distinction has existed in all ages. It has always been the same in intention and purpose. It had then, and has never had other restrictions than God's moral laws, enforced against wickedness by intelligent, God-fearing men, who, in courage, in success or disaster, have fought it in all forms through the centuries, that the rights and liberties of men might not perish from the earth. When the brave are not fighting and contending against the consumers of men's toil, the lordly Cains are in some way dragging men down, usurping their rights, and deceiving or robbing them of their labor or its products.
Mr. Lincoln sincerely believed that in and with slavery the thirst for money was a potential danger that stood with uplifted arm, threatening the perpetuity of our free institutions. In a speech he made about September, 1858, he said, in substance, "I have no wrought-up prejudices against slaveholders, rich men, or large owners of property as such. Any one of them may have come into use, control, or possession of these innocently enough and without a harmful thought or desire in doing so. It is the use men make of wealth, property, or power, and their purpose, as it is with those who succeed to official place and authority, that determines whether it is rightfully or wrongfully held.
"All property and all that has existence in or upon the earth belongs of right to its Maker. You are for the time the custodian of what you have or get control over, as you are over your talents or your mental endowment. Your purpose, as it is God's in investing you with these — money, property, power, or mind — should be to make as many men [p. 365] happy and comfortable as the means at hand will suffice you to do. You brought nothing into the world with you. You will take nothing with you when you go out of it.
"When you enslave or take men's earnings, or oppress them, you are not doing what your Maker intended with the means confided to your care for the benefit and welfare of your fellow-men, for which purpose he supplied you the ways to do so. In that he has done so to you, in like manner you should do to all mankind as your brethren. All else is wrong and leads straightway to evil, as misuse of God's wealth, property, talents, and blessings, of which he has given you much or little, not alone for your own selfish use and enjoyment, but that, as he has been bountiful and provident with you, so should you be with your fellow-men.
"I am well aware that no man can arrest mankind in the maddened race for wealth, position, and power until God's own time to do it; but I am quite sure that, if one earnestly undertakes it and honestly and courageously adheres to it to the end, he will make some men better and himself what he could not have been without it, and more of what God intended men should be, and more in the line and make-up of our immortal Declaration of Independence, which starts all men out in life or being as equal under law.
"As God never makes men less in right nor worse in life or character, but always make them more merciful, more humane, better and stronger in all that is good and wise, as they observe and follow him, why should not we do all within our limited means that we can to elevate men, and neither sell, degrade, oppress, nor filch the products of their toil? The Master never intended we should. I do not know or even believe that it is always true; but it is true enough to be a rule for the opinion and government of human affairs that, whenever you see a man with a million dollars of his own accumulation in his possession, he has a lot of other people's money, property, or earnings that he [page 366] has in some way extorted from and oppressed or ruined a whole lot of people in the getting of it. The men who have millions accumulated otherwise are the beneficiaries of some person that did all these, and oppressed perhaps a million people for every million dollars so accumulated.
"One million dollars is such a sum that no man can honestly earn it, or anything like it in a lifetime. When it is conceded that it is lawful and morally right for a few men to control such vast sums, we have in so far parted with our liberties, our franchises, and privileges, or by force they have been taken from us in measures, such as the recognition of slavery or the slave-trade, which should never be granted, because in the operation of this same surrendering policy all our rights, franchises, wealth, property, and power will slip away from the people and be eventually concentrated in the hands of the few.
"When this comes, and the wealth or power of the land is in the control of a few, as it exists now in many of the slave States, or in Europe, our liberties will perish, the Republic will die, and, whether in name or not, we will have a monarchy in fact. This, should it come, will surely destroy the Republic, the best and wisest Government God ever gave to men."
This was Mr. Lincoln's opinion on the subject of vast accumulations of wealth and power in the hands of a few men, as it was suggested and brought to his mind by slavery and the iron hold and exercise of power by a few in the slave States and the Nation, as far as their clutching grasp went unrestricted.
As Mr. Lincoln held and believed on these subjects, so did Judge Douglas. No man of his time, or before it, in our country was more firmly grounded and immovably determined in favor of an actual and real democracy than he was; and no one before or since ever believed in or carried out his belief of the direct responsibility of every officer and [p. 367] representative to the people who gave or assented to his official term. In short, he was honest, and believed in the rights of the people, and not in assumed or arrogated power as against them. He was a democrat who not only held office and represented the people who sent him, but lived in public and private life, a democrat; who, when he could have amassed a large fortune, was happy and contented in plain, simple living; who, like Lincoln, left the lasting example of honorable service, and believed that there are better things than wealth or usurped authority that always oppresses some one.
I had several talks on occasions with these men — true-hearted patriots, as they were — on the subject of vast accumulations of wealth and property. They both held the belief that the vast accumulations of those days and the granting of almost unlimited franchises were threatening dangers, and that, as soon as the slavery issue was settled, the people should set about the work in earnest to restrict them. All in office or authority should be held to a strict accountability to the people. Especially railways and public carriers of all kinds should be brought under unqualified obedience to law, and should render good service at reasonable rates, and bear a pro rata tax similar to that required by the charter of the Central Railroad Company. The plan of this tax on the gross earnings of this road was approved by both of them. No plan so fair and just to all concerned has been made since. It was made as the result of combined wisdom and experience, and approved by all in the State as the best plan under which to grant valuable franchises.
In conversation concerning the reckless granting of franchises, lands, and public privileges, Judge Douglas said: "The British people, in order to relieve themselves of the oppressive rule of the Stuarts, invited William III to the throne, that they might give peace, protection, and civil liberty, as kings of that day doled out rights and favors to their subjects when they were so minded. William came, and with him came a host of Hollanders, Lower Rhinelanders, Belgian and Swiss mercenaries. For a time many Britons feared that they had chased out a fox with the help of a wolf. Nevertheless William was there, and, with the people divided, had brought force enough with him to stay and maintain himself. He restored civil order with the grip and strength of a hand of iron, where it could be done no other way. Peace soon prevailed throughout the kingdom, enforced on the Russian plan by the sturdy burghers of the Lower Rhine wherever there was opposition.
Volume I: publishers: Cincinnati: Jennings & Pye; New York: Eaton & Mains; copyright 1901 by the Western Methodist Book Concern
Volume I, page 37-38:
The labor of four million slaves whose every day's toil produced vast quantities of materials such as corn, sugar, rice, and cotton, were all taken from the producers without remuneration, and placed in our own and the world's market in direct competition with our own products, making us the competitors of stolen and unpaid labor. Citizen and Nation were tied down under the dominion and curse of slavery, righteously judged and written, centuries ago, as "the foundation and sum of all villainies."
It will be one of the principal objects of this work to help place Mr. Lincoln in his true relation to the human race, commoner or leader of the plain common people, as he liked to be known; reformer, fearless leader, that defied every power on earth when convinced that he was right; and the counselor, helper, and defender of the poor and lowly under all circumstances. There have been as many as twenty entertaining books, lives or histories of Mr. Lincoln; hundreds of pamphlets, essays, personal recollections, opinions, letters, and valuable contributions of various kinds, published and written concerning him. All of them are different, many of them widely so; and they differ, as the writers themselves, in capacity, knowledge of the man, or want of it and opportunity. Some of them have been written with [page 42] the purpose of adjusting him to the ideas of the writers, careless, almost regardless of the facts that underlie his character and wonderful career. All of these many books and contributions are useful and beneficial, mainly because most of the writers about this pure-minded man have been, in their leading desires, of one mind in trying to place his beliefs, acts, and deeds, his fears and ambitious hopes, before the world in the most pleasing and imperishable form. Another thousand may still be added, and contribute much of what is necessary to complete the full, rounded-out history of this best friend of downtrodden men since Calvary. The work, if it is done wisely and well, will further illustrate the life-work and exalt the character of one of the keenest, most penetrating, and best balanced intellects, and one of the kindest, most sympathetic hearts that ever existed. Narrations and contributions about Lincoln, if truthfully given, cannot be overdone, for if the story be true and in form to be understood, it will in some way add to the knowledge of the delightful, God-imaged man and remembrance of his tireless life's work, devotion, and sacrifice for the relief and welfare of all men.
see also page 123 of Volume I ...
Volume I, page 259:
In Danville and Springfield, where these offices were located, he had constant employment in helping every settler he could in the struggle which he generally had for his homestead, to save it and him from the extortions and the stealing of it by the "land-sharks." Their schemes were so well laid and usually so persistently carried and held in collusion with the officers that in the early days of our Western settlement these "financiers" laid their tribute on and collected it from almost every first settler on our public lands. Lincoln, as a lawyer, soon became known as the able and steadfast friend of the settler; and it came to be said, to his lasting honor, that "he took every settler's case he could attend to, and his work was always the best that could be done. He never took a case against one, and scared the land-sharks more than all the rest of the lawyers in the State."
Many a settler and many a family saved their homestead through the determined will and work of this powerful man. His terrible invectives and ridicule became excruciating torture as he laid open their schemes to defraud and dispossess the toiling, honest settlers of their home. "I respect," said he, "the man who properly named these villains land-sharks. They are like the wretched ghouls of the sea that follow a ship and fatten on its offal."
In those days a settler could file a claim, pre-empt the land as his first entry, and in a term of twelve to fifteen months, under various acts of Congress, complete it. When the settler's claim was filed, the "land-shark" would file his counter claim, as there was no limit to the filing, whether he wanted the claim or not. When the first entry was to be completed, he would, if possible, compel every settler to pay him a fee of ten to a hundred dollars, as he measured the poor settler's ability to pay, or bid the land up to a higher price against him; for in all cases, so contested, the land was sold to the highest bidder. Lincoln did much to break up such work, for which the people thanked and honored him.
page 364 starts with a reference to a Nimmo Browne, in Springfield, Illinois in 1845. Following paragraphs describe him as an Abolitionist, and describe a conversation with Judge Douglas ... Page 371 reveals that Browne died in 1848. Page 372 mentions "The Brownes, father and son" as friends of Douglas
page 368-9 - an interesting argument about slave labor competing with free labor — including the idea that since men, women and children are in the workforce, 80% of them are working, "whereas under ordinary civilization no more than 30% should be put at men's labor."
The number of slaves imported from African shores into what became the territory of the United States, mainly by British and Dutch slavers, under the most careful and accurate enumeration possible, was three hundred thousand in 1776, at the time of our Declaration of Independence. In 1790, by the first census, the slaves numbered 687,897 in the United States. All the States, except Massachusetts, of which Maine was then a part, held some slaves: Vermont only a few, seventeen; New Hampshire only a hundred and fifty-eight. At the next census, in 1800, the slave population increased to 893,041.
At this time Vermont had abolished slavery, and freed her seventeen, and New Hampshire only had eight slaves left. At the next census (1810), there were 1,191,364. At this time there were no slaves in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Vermont, of the original Colonies, and Ohio had been admitted without slavery. This shows that during the twenty years' time demanded by the slave-leaders for the slave-trade, from 1788 to 1808, the number of slaves had [page 381] almost doubled — to be exact, there had been an increase of 503,647, representing a value, at the low price of a hundred dollars apiece, of over fifty million dollars, and as much in the profits of the slave-holders every year.
These statistics are given for the purpose, and should be carefully considered, that we may know and understand the power, force, and influence of a system so widespread and profitable. There was much more behind slavery to sustain and support it than sentiment or patriotic attachment to their section. There was the insatiable desire, as rife and dominant now as then, to make a living and amass a fortune out of other men's labor. In the fourth census, of 1820, there were 1,538,022 slaves; in the fifth, in 1830, 2,009,043; in the sixth, in 1840, 2,487,455; in the seventh, in 1850, 3,204,313; and in the eighth, in 1860, 3,953,760. The sentiment in all the Colonies was strongly against slavery in the beginning, and it would never have been introduced into several of them but for the non-resident owners of large land-grants and concessions. They introduced Negro labor as the cheapest that could be employed; and from this start the planters took up the system, mainly for the cultivation of tobacco in Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas, further extending it in the production of cotton when the cultivation of that plant became one of the principal industries of Southern Virginia and all the Colonies south of it during the eighteenth century.
However, slavery received its greatest impulse and remarkable progress as a labor system from Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin, which will be taken up later. The climate of the Northern States was never so well adapted and agreeable to the Negroes as the milder, more genial South. Many of them sickened and died in the Northern latitudes from pulmonary complaints, particularly those lately stolen from Africa. So, too, it was more expensive to clothe and subsist them in the North. Under these difficulties [page 382] the traders, dealers, and planters crowded them into the milder climate and healthier region, where shelter, clothing, and subsistence were the cheapest, where the climate most nearly fitted them, and where vast, uncultivated regions were open for the employment of their unskilled labor.
In the brutalizing system of slavery the common people of the slave States were the poorest of the land. They should have been the hope and foundation of any righteous Government, but driven into idleness by false pride and cheap slave-labor, were listlessly retrograding, failing, sinking below the horrid level of the better-housed and better-fed Negro slaves. The free men and stronger-sustained industries of the free States were clipped of hundreds of millions of dollars annually in the indirect competition of a system, the entire profit of which fatted and prospered a few thousand slaveholders. By precedent and example it led the way to other labor-robbing and other degrading systems that are with us yet, with their plundering schemes brought upon us by a horde of as cheap statesmen as the pro-slavery leaders.
page 406, Chapter XVIII
This slave system had debased all forms of labor in the slave States. The poor whites of the South were more degraded, worse fed, worse clothed, and worse housed, as a rule, than the slaves. The spirit of freedom had disappeared, and their once intelligent democracy and stalwart, independent men, like Patrick Henry, Francis Marion, Sumter, Moultrie, Sevier, Boone, Jackson, and thousands of others, had passed. Their successors had shrunk and dwindled to dwarfs and pigmies in State and council, and cringed to and served the oligarchy of man-stealing, free-labor-destroying slavery, under the relentless rule of Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, Judah P. Benjamin, Alexander H. Stephens, and John C. Breckinridge.
page 415 At the time it was generally believed that the plan and purposes of the Virginia leaders, which Franklin and Hamilton fully approved as the best for the gradual emancipation and restriction of slavery, would prevail. Perhaps it [page 415] might have prevailed, but Eli Whitney, a progressive, inquisitive Yankee, went South for his health and the betterment of his fortunes. There he saw for the first time the production of cotton, with a nutlike boll, a heavy, oily seed, and a pure white fiber two or three inches in length. From two to five hundred pounds of this excellent fiber, useful for clothing, bedding, and other domestic purposes, could be cultivated and gathered from an acre of land, according to its fertility and adaptation. An industrious Negro man could separate about one pound a day of this valuable fiber, take it out of the pod, and carefully strip it from its tenacious, oily seed.
When Whitney got South among friends, his reputation for invention had gone with him. They assured him that nothing they could think of would equal in value a machine that would separate the cotton fiber from the seed. Whitney earnestly set at work with all the perseverance and energy of his nature on one of the greatest inventions of his age, and in full view, as he believed, of a certain fortune. His hand was unerring; he was right. In a few months he invented and worked out a machine, mostly with his own hands, that would do the work. One man, with the machine which he made, could, with his unaided labor, separate fifty pounds of cotton fiber a day.
This was about October, 1793. He had achieved lasting distinction. He had invented and made the machine that would revolutionize labor and the production of cotton in the States adapted to its cultivation, and shortly all over the world. He made the invention, and reached the distinction which he deserved. He was in all equity and justice entitled to something out of the millions so many amassed by reason of his valuable invention. But others, and the great body of Southern planters in the cotton States, reaped the money reward of his genius and labor. The Southern people were noted for many commendable [page 416] qualities; but this cotton-gin invention reminds us that generosity was never one of them. In their day, they suffered and permitted General Jackson to pay a fine of one thousand dollars for violation of local laws, when the old hero saved New Orleans and the entire State and Territory of Louisiana from the British; and they likewise suffered Eli Whitney and his heirs to go unrewarded for the invention of the plain-working machine, out of which they made individual fortunes by the thousand. His great invention, that created such an overwhelming demand for labor, fastened slavery more firmly on our country for three-quarters of a century than the most drastic code or persevering conduct of the infamous slave-traders could have done. This was not done, in whole or in part, by those who urged him on to his undertaking. They were anti-slavery people, and remained his friends.
[page 475] The slave population of our country was then about four [p. 476] millions, and at the low estimate of $100 each, their value was $400,000,000; but as they were bringing profits amounting on an average to $200 a head for every working man and woman, it brought in at least $250,000,000 annually above the cost of subsistence. With this demonstration it can be seen that if Negroes were kept a safe property investment, well protected under law, they were actually worth over $1,000 apiece, or an aggregate value of $2,500,000,000. This computation is made on the basis of ten per cent, to which could be added the value of the increase, which was as much as ten per cent, making a total of three billions of money in Negro slavery.
With such enormous values recognized as existing in men and women, the profits of which were gathered regularly every year by their few thousand owners, it can be well understood and easily shown in detail why it was no small or ordinary undertaking to raise up a new party able to contend against a power so great and so strongly entrenched, that to human insight and calculation it seemed unassailable.
The powers of the slavery system were great, the leaders had reached stronger control and influence than they expected, which made them more grasping and tyrannical in their exercise of power. They dreaded as one of their chief dangers the competition of free labor, and sought by all their means and ingenuity to exclude it from their States and to degrade and reduce its influence in the Nation. They refused, in every way, social and political, to sustain or protect free labor; but schemed and planned, through low tariffs and large foreign imported manufactures, their free-trade laws and all kinds of unfriendly legislation, to break down and cripple free labor whenever it was possible.
page 496 says that the writer was in college in Chicago in 1854. Some family history appears on page 498. On page 500, there is mention of Mr. Asahel Gridley with a bit of identification of him.
This was in the days when Mr. Lincoln was attending the court terms of McLean County as regularly as any one of the Bloomington bar, and was often there during the intervals. In addition to the good will and oversight of [page 500] Judge Davis that the writer began with, he soon made the favorable acquaintance of Mr. Asahel Gridley, and became office boy, student and general attache of the Gridley-Davis office and bank for several years. This was of incalculable benefit to any student, affording, at the same time, the great opportunity of a near acquaintance and close friendship with Mr. Lincoln through the years of his wonderful rise and development.
Mr. Gridley's introduction of the somewhat backward boy — the writer — to Mr. Lincoln was characteristic; and in those days it was a noted circumstance in any boy's life to be made a near acquaintance and be as favorably introduced to prominent lawyers, who were persons of much distinction to country boys. Our family had known Mr. Lincoln only a few years before, tolerably well, as we have related, but nothing like so intimately as we did Judge Douglas. Hence, to meet Mr. Lincoln in such favorable circumstances as Mr. Gridley had arranged for was a notable, almost exciting, event.
When the time arrived, Mr. Lincoln walked into the office — a tall, mild-mannered, friendly-looking man, with the most comfortable and easy manner about him in his address and presence you could well imagine. Mr. Gridley met him, shook hands with him cordially, and, after some personal remarks, said, in his rapid, clear voice, his words rattling like hailstones on a tin roof: "Mr. Lincoln, I am very glad to have you here with us again. I have made some changes. This will be your desk, and the tables you can arrange as you like. This young man, Robert, will render you any assistance he can. He is here attending school. His people live in the country. He has been thinking about things for himself, and stirring them up very lively in some quarters, and, as I have advised him, he has been more cautious recently; but in spite of it he insists that he is an out-and-out Abolitionist, without any evasion or any [page 501] sort of qualification. I have told him that he was very foolish, and that, if he was a little older, it would bring him a lot of trouble. Anyway, with all my care and prudence, he is a long way ahead of public sentiment."
Mr. Lincoln took my hand with a warmth and expression that lightened up the soul of any one whom he respected or held to be a friend, saying: "Yes, Mr. Gridley, I will get along first rate. This will all suit me very well;" and, turning to me: "The young man will do as well as the rest of us; but he must not be kept out of school an hour on my account. It seems to me, Robert, that I ought to know you; but, then, you never know about boys of your age, who change every year, and grow out of your knowledge." I replied, "Mr. Lincoln, I know who you are very well. My father knew you when we lived in Springfield, when he helped to finish the south front and the top work of the Capitol building." "Yes, yes, I knew Mr. Browne, the Scotchman. I remember him quite well. Of course you are an Abolitionist." When this was done, the friendly relation of a lifetime had begun.
Mr. Lincoln continued: "I was sorry to learn of your father's death. He was a strong, independent man, full of positive ideas, with the capacity and education to defend them. He was the best-informed man on the British emancipation of slavery whom I ever met. I was always pleased and benefited by the chats I had with him. I heard that he contended vigorously with Judge Douglas, who was his warm friend, and I never had a doubt that Browne kept up his side of the question; for he was a fearless man in the expression of his anti-slavery beliefs, so much so that many feared he might get into some personal difficulty. So, Robert, we will be good friends; but you are not to remain out of school on my account. Are you opposed to slavery from anything you know about it yourself, or is it because of your father's opinions?" Here [page 502] Mr. Gridley rose to retire, saying "I must go." As he was retiring, he said: "I see, Mr. Lincoln, that you are taking more and more interest in this slavery question. Beware, and not go too far. The Whigs from the border slave States are going over to Douglas by the thousand. If you should take up the Free Soil cause, which is right in the abstract, there will not be Whigs enough left in McLean County to make a committee." ...
[page 503] This was about 1851, before the Presidential election of 1852.
See also page 506-509, and page 528-9
to email this page to a friend: right click, choose "send"
Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper