In that same year the Mexican War broke out. Hardin became colonel of one of the three regiments of Illinois volunteers called for by President Polk, while Baker raised a fourth regiment, which was also accepted. Colonel Hardin was killed in the battle of Buena Vista, and Colonel Baker won great distinction in the fighting near the City of Mexico.
Like Abraham Lincoln, Douglas was also elected to Congress in 1846, where he had already served the two preceding terms. But these redoubtable Illinois champions were not to have a personal tilt in the House of Representatives. Before Congress met, the Illinois legislature elected Douglas to the United States Senate for six years from March 4, 1847.
First Session of the Thirtieth Congress—Mexican War—“Wilmot Proviso”—Campaign of 1848—Letters to Herndon about Young Men in Politics—Speech in Congress on the Mexican War—Second Session of the Thirtieth Congress—Bill to Prohibit Slavery in the District of Columbia—Lincoln’s Recommendations of Office-Seekers—Letters to Speed—Commissioner of the General Land Office—Declines Governorship of Oregon
Very few men are fortunate enough to gain distinction during their first term in Congress. The reason is obvious. Legally, a term extends over two years; practically, a session of five or six months during the first, and three months during the second year ordinarily reduce their opportunities more than one half. In those two sessions, even if we presuppose some knowledge of parliamentary law, they must learn the daily routine of business, make the acquaintance of their fellow-members, who already, in the Thirtieth Congress, numbered something over two hundred, study the past and prospective legislation on a multitude of minor national questions entirely new to the new members, and perform the drudgery of haunting the departments in the character of unpaid agent and attorney to attend to the private interests of constituents—a physical task of no small proportions in Lincoln’s day, when there was neither street-car nor omnibus in the “city of magnificent distances,” as Washington was nicknamed. Add to this that the principal work of preparing legislation is done by the various committees in their committee-rooms, of which the public hears nothing, and that members cannot choose their own time for making speeches; still further, that the management of debate on prepared legislation must necessarily be intrusted to members of long experience as well as talent, and it will be seen that the novice need not expect immediate fame.