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Morse had set up his magnetic telegraph for congressmen to examine and criticize, where, by the narrow vote of 89 to 83, they had handed him $25,000.00 to experiment with, though Representative Cave Johnson said half the money should be used for experiments in mesmerism, while Representative Houghton said half should go to the Millerites who were announcing the end of the world to come shortly, as New York merchants put signs in their windows, "white muslin for ascension robes."

This was Washington; where Senator William Allen of Ohio was saying of the boomers booming themselves for the Presidency, "Sir! they are going about the country like dry-goods drummers, exhibiting samples of their wares"; where Pennsylvania Avenue was a mudhole after a heavy rain, and on Polk's inauguration day parading soldiers slipped and sprawled in the mud; where there were two inauguration balls, one at $10.00 a ticket in Carusi's saloon, and one at $2.00 a ticket in the National Theatre where there was a scramble for supper victuals, the best hats, cloaks, and canes were stolen early in the evening, and Commodore Elliot had his pocket picked and lost not only his money but a lock of hair from the head of General Jackson and a lock of hair from the head of James Madison; where Mrs. Polk was told, "Madame, you have a very genteel assemblage tonight," and replied, "Sir, I have never seen it otherwise"; where General Felix Grundy McConnell of Alabama had come to the congressional assembly wearing a blue swallow-tailed coat, light cassimere pantaloons, and a scarlet vest, accompanied by two sparkling French milliner girls dressed in Parisian dancing costumes; where the Secretary of State, William Learned Marcy, worked at home after breakfast on writing notes to foreign governments, seated in a loose dressing-gown with an old red handkerchief on the table before him, and a snuffbox from which he had used so many pinches that his voice and breath had changed for the worse; where there were congressmen for and against the carrying of mails on the Sabbath; where congressmen sat, spoke, voted according to what they considered the logic, the common

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sense, or the justice of a passionate human cause as presented in a bill before the house; where congressmen sat, spoke, voted according to the tobacco, rice, cotton, or slave-labor interest of their section and district, or according to the iron, steel, canal, railroad, milling and manufacturing interest, or according to the corn, pork, river and harbor, or internal improvement interest of their district and section; where there were fixers always fixing human causes that would not stay fixed, that always broke out in a new place that needed fixing, so that the fixers would again go to work saying that this time they expected it would stay fixed.

Here were the stage and footlights where Jackson, Clay, Calhoun, Webster, and John Quincy Adams had spoken their lines so many years. Jackson, the most passionate and forthright of all, Calhoun offering merciless logic, Webster polished oratorical periods, Clay many sentences varying the styles of all, and John Quincy Adams offering the queries of the perplexed, honest philosopher. Jackson had gone; the footlights were out for him; soon another and another was to go; in a few years the stage would be dark for a little row of players who had put their impress on every large issue and event in the Government for thirty years and more. After them were to come other players; they would have lines to speak on a fiercely lighted stage.

On the halfway line between the states of the North and of the South they had placed and laid out this city; it was built on something resembling an oath that the states North and South belonged together and should meet at a halfway point; and since the year it was platted into streets the human streams had coursed over the crest of the Allegheny Mountains, beyond to the Mississippi River, out to the Rocky Mountains, and now were threshing out the news of the Mexican War and of gold in California and of the Frémont exploring expeditions; so that soon, it was seen, the little city with the big white dome on the Potomac River would be the gathering place of men from states at distances staggeringly beyond anything in the dreams and plans of those who placed and laid out the city.

This was the one planned city in America, with its spaces and outlooks measured by design rather than accident; with an architecture and a layout of streets deliberate and free-handed; in the mystic float of the Capitol dome rested some mystery of the republic, something that people a thousand miles from the Potomac River believed in and were ready to die and make sacrifices for.

Here were libraries, museums, documents, gardens. Here were dialects from Louisiana to Maine, from the Carolinas to Minnesota; the soft southern drawl, the Yankee nasal twang, the slow western slang. Here were more boarders and roomers, ready to pack and go on short notice, than in any other city in the world. Here Abraham Lincoln and his family were to board and room for two years beginning in December of 1847.

Chapter 73

THE Lincoln family, with the two boys, Bob and Ed, one four years old, the other eighteen months old, rented lodgings on Capitol Hill, to live in a city ten times the size of Springfield, Illinois. By the banks of the Potomac, and not the Sangamon, Abraham Lincoln was to spend his thirty-ninth birthday anniversary and round out his fortieth year. He had become a legislative member of the Washington government, which spent sixty million dollars a year; he and two hundred other men were to decide on what the sixty million would be spent for; he was a lawmaker of the American republic.

Into his hands came a 509-page book, embroidered with gilt scrolls, gilt edges, the gilt title "The Constitution" on the back, and on the front cover in gilt letters:

HON. ABRAHAM LINCOLN

REPE. U.S. ILL.

PUBLIC SERVANTS

355

The printer of the book, W. Hickey of Philadelphia, took the first eight pages of the book and filled them with testimonials in ornamental scroll type telling what an excellent book he had assembled and printed. The language throughout the book was splendiferous, and in the style Eighth Circuit lawyers in Illinois called "orgmathorial." Of the Constitution it declared, "Esto Perpetua!!!" three exclamation points being necessary to carry the enthusiasm.

As in Springfield, Illinois, so it was in the national capital: nearly all the lawmakers were lawyers. Already acquainted with many through newspapers and published speeches, Lincoln studied them further as they sat at their desks or rambled through the lobbies, the House post office, the Capitol grounds. He found men, such as Alexander Stephens of Georgia, Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, Joshua Giddings of Ohio, who like himself had come up from cabins of poverty. He took the measure of such aristocrats as Robert C. Winthrop of Boston, Speaker of the House; he searched the gentle, thoughtful face of Horace Mann, full of hope for a universal free school system; he joked the six Democrats from Illinois, who were keeping their eyes on the record of the one Whig from their state.

He sat at breakfasts in the home of Daniel Webster where William, a negro he had freed, and Daphne, a slave negro woman not yet freed, were servants, though the fact of Daniel Webster of Massachusetts having neglected to free the negro woman, Daphne, whom he owned, was a carefully kept secret; he scrutinized the cherubic, bland face of Horace Greeley, with pink skin fresh as that of a farm hand just come from milking, and a little round forehead contemplative of public abuses to be corrected by righteous citizens.

Horace Greeley often would point to an "abuse" and announce, "We propose to attack this abuse." He spread on the front page of the New York Tribune one morning the mileage charges of congressmen, "showing the amount of miles charged and mileage pocketed by each member at the last Session." In the case of Abraham Lincoln, for instance, the official distance from

Washington by the shortest mail-route to Springfield was 780 miles but Lincoln had charged the government for travel by a route of 1,626 miles, and collected $1,300.80, which the Tribune figured was $676.80 in "excess of mileage over what it would have been if the distance had been computed by the most direct mail-route." The Lincoln mileage account, like that of nearly all members of Congress from the West, assumed that the way to travel from the West was to go to Chicago and take a steamboat and ride on the Great Lakes to Buffalo. The law provided payment for mileage by "the usually traveled road," and the Tribune declared: "The usually traveled road for a great many Members of the last Congress was an exceedingly crooked one, even for politicians. The wrong, as respects their cases, is not in them but in the law." Greeley urged: "If the People will only give a little thought to this subject, they will do themselves a service, for I am confident the Mileage abuse is the parent of many others. Let every man do a little, and soon 'the crooked shall be made straight.'"

Lincoln had his money bothers. He accepted from Senator Stephen A. Douglas on December 21, 1847, a note to Messrs. Corcoran and Riggs, reading, "Pay to A. Lincoln or order one hundred and sixty-seven dollars and charge same to my account.”

At the mess table in Mrs. Spriggs's boarding-house, where Lincoln took his meals, he ate with four Pennsylvania congressmen, Patrick Thompson of Mississippi, Elisha Embree of Indiana, Joshua Giddings, and others. As the Mississippi and Ohio members between helpings of victuals clashed over the slavery issue, Lincoln sometimes interrupted and steered the discussion into a good-natured channel. At Caspari's bowling alley, near Mrs. Spriggs's place, he tried for ten-strikes with his long right arm and told yarns between plays and games; men dropped in just to hear him loosen up with his stories. One listener commented later: "He indulged with great freedom in the sport of narratives, some of which were very broad. His witticisms seemed for the most part to be impromptu, but he always told the anecdotes and jokes as if he wished to convey the impression

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