Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lincoln, "Lure of Politics" 1

I'm in the third chapter of Team of Rivals about Lincoln and his cabinet team of Republican rivals.

Previous posts:
1. Lead up to election
2. Family background of Lincoln and rivals

The third chapter talks about the entrance of the four men of the book into politics.  In my attempt to die before finishing the book, I only got through the material on Edward Bates this week.

Not much to say about Bates except that he lived in Missouri through the days of the Missouri Compromise, whereby Missouri could come into the US as a slave state as long as Maine came in as a free state.  It was a compromise worked out not least by Henry Clay of Kentucky in 1820.

Bates was in Missouri during the Dred Scott case, where Dred Scott sued for his freedom as a slave since he had lived in free states and would therefore by the law of those states have become free while living there. The Missouri Supreme Court disagreed.  One of Bates' sisters was married to one of the judges who dissented with the judgment.  When DS went to the Supreme Court and they denied Dred his freedom, it in effect ruled the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and moved the country closer to war.

Bates was a moderate.  His family had owned slaves and he sold them rather than freed them. He became well known in the national debate over an internal improvements bill vetoed by President James K. Polk. The Democrats opposed it and the Whigs favored it (interesting how the positions are now reversed, since the Whigs effectively became the Republicans.  Obama's SOTU called for money to fix national infrastructure, a proposal that faces a dubious future in the Republican controlled House).

Bates did such a good job presiding over a national convention on the issue and spoke so well for moderation and compromise that it pushed him into the public eye as someone who should be part of the national conversation.  Lincoln was also at the convention and distinguished himself in his rebuttals of Democratic arguments against internal improvements.

Seward is up next in the chapter.  If you need a placeholder for him, he's the one that bought Alaska for the US from Russia, known as "Seward's folly" at the time.

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