In the canvassing of the spring of 1848 Lincoln was an ardent advocate for the nomination of General Taylor as the Whig candidate for the presidency; for he appreciated how much greater was the strength of the military hero, with all that could be said against him, than was that of Mr. Clay, whose destiny was so disappointingly non-presidential. When the nomination went according to his wishes, he entered into the campaign with as much zeal as his congressional duties would permit,—indeed, with somewhat an excess of zeal, for he delivered on the floor of the House an harangue in favor of the general which was little else than a stump speech, admirably adapted for a backwoods audience, but grossly out of place where it was spoken. He closed it with an assault on General Cass, as a military man, which was designed to be humorous, and has, therefore, been quoted with unfortunate frequency. So soon as Congress adjourned he was able to seek a more legitimate arena in New England, whither he went at once and delivered many speeches, none of which have been preserved.
Lincoln’s position upon the slavery question in this Congress was that of moderate hostility. In the preceding Congress, the Twenty-ninth, the famous Wilmot Proviso, designed to exclude slavery from any territory which the United States should acquire from Mexico, had passed the House and had been killed in the Senate. In the Thirtieth Congress efforts to the same end were renewed in various forms, always with Lincoln’s favor. He once said that he had voted for the principle of the Wilmot Proviso “about forty-two times,” which, if not an accurate mathematical computation, was a vivid expression of his stanch adherence to the doctrine. At the second session Mr. Lincoln voted against a bill to prohibit the slave trade in the District of Columbia, because he did not approve its form; and then introduced another bill, which he himself had drawn. This prohibited the bringing slaves into the District, except