One of the nation’s most revered presidents, Abraham Lincoln, deserves special recognition in the chamber of the House of Representatives where he once served, says an area congressman.
U.S. Rep. John Larson, an East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol and Southington, said he would like to see Congress restore Lincoln’s “desk and other belongings for permanent display”in the House where the former president served a single term.
“Hailing from the House of Representatives, he deserves to be honored in the chamber in which he served,” Larson said.
“No other man has left the House of Representatives to go on to serve this country with the distinction, honor and courage of Abraham Lincoln,” Larson said.
“By highlighting his legacy in the House chamber, he will be a reminder to each of us every day of the standards and goals we should strive for in our service to the American people,” the congressman said.
Lincoln “heroically held this nation together during one of its most divisive and difficult periods,” Larson said.
Lincoln, who was born in Kentucky but lived most of his life in Illinois, won election to the House in 1846 as the sole Whig Party representative from Illinois.
He served until 1849, when he returned to his law practice, never holding another public office until winning the presidency in 1860.
Lincoln’s stint in the House was little noticed at the time, though he did propose an end to slavery in the District of Columbia and fought to prevent the spread of slavery to the territories acquired in the Mexican-American War that occurred during his time in Washington.
A recent congressman from Lincoln’s old district, Paul Findley, wrote a book about the years Lincoln spent in the House.
"In Illinois slavery troubled him but it was out of sight most of the time and therefore more of an abstract moral issue than a concrete problem that had to be faced," Findley wrote.
But when Lincoln arrived in the nation’s capital, Findley wrote, he was suddenly “confronted slavery every day. The move to Washington put Lincoln and his family right in the midst of slavery and a thriving slave trade. He could not put it out of sight except by closing his eyes. It flourished. It was an everyday, ugly reality.”
“ Slaves worked in Mrs. Sprigg's boardinghouse where the Lincolns lived. If Lincoln walked east from the boardinghouse, in five minutes he could watch slaves being bought and sold at an auction block. If he walked westerly, past the Capitol, in ten minutes he could see the slave pens on the mall,” Findley wrote.
Lincoln himself later indicated that his exposure to the everyday reality of slavery –and his talks with abolition-minded leaders such as William Seward of New York – made him focus his mind on the issue that ultimately created the bloody war that marked his presidency.
The great newspaperman Horace Greeley, who served with Lincoln in the House, said the future president “was one of the most moderate, though firm, opponents of slavery extension, and notably of a buoyant, cheerful spirit.”
Findley said there was no reason to think from Lincoln’s record in the House that he would one day be honored as the Great Emancipator.
“Looking back on Lincoln's congressional career, it is evident that while he remained remarkably silent on slavery the events surrounding him had deep effect,” Findley wrote.
“Stirred by the turbulence provoked by slavery in the District of Columbia, and a thoughtful listener to the slavery debates that swirled around his seat in the House chamber, he began slowly to shift his position.
“The transformation in Lincoln's view of slavery was gradual and moderate, never radical. He was never identified with the ardent abolitionists in the 30th Congress. He would be shocked if one of his colleagues had predicted that most slaves would be freed by executive order in less than twenty years and appalled at the thought that he might give the order.” Findley wrote.
Here is one of Lincoln's speeches as a congressman, quite obviously not written by an aide.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org