Congressman Lincoln 1847-1849

The first session of the 30th Congress was to convene on December 6, 1847. In October the Lincolns rented their house for $90 a year to Cornelius Ludlum, and they left for Washington via Lexington, Ky., where they visited the Todds. After an arduous stagecoach and railroad trip, the Lincolns arrived in the Nation's Capital.

Though Lincoln was active as a new member of Congress, his colleagues generally appraised him as a droll Westerner of average talents. Lincoln's opposition to the Mexican War which had broken out in May 1846 soon made him unpopular with his constituents. In Illinois the patriotic fervor and hunger for new lands disspelled any doubts that the people may have had about the American cause. Lincoln's "spot" resolutions asking President James Polk to admit that the "spot" where American blood was first shed was Mexican territory and his anti-administration speeches created surprised resentment at home and earned him the nickname "Spotty Lincoln." Illinois Democrats called Lincoln a disgrace.

The war debates also raised the issue of slavery. Whether these newly won territories should be open to slavery was perhaps the most serious question before the 30th Congress. The debates over the Wilmot Proviso showed Lincoln the explosiveness and divisiveness of the slavery question. In May 1849, the second session of the 30th Congress ended and Lincoln returned home, happy to be reunited with his friends and family, who had stayed in Washington only a short time. Feeling that he had no future in politics, Lincoln took to the dusty roads of the Eighth Circuit to regain the friends and clients who had slipped away while he was in Congress. Lincoln was offered the governorship of the new Oregon Territory, but he declined it.

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Last updated: April 10, 2015

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