• [Missouri Compromise Of 1850] Anti-Slavery Senator Hannibal Hamlin Struggles To Build A Defense Against Defeat

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    One-page, ALS, 7 7/8 x 9 7/8, Washington, June 24, 1850, Hannibal Hamlin (August 27, 1809 – July 4, 1891) , future vice president of Abraham Lincoln, writes to his “Friend Bellamy.”  Marked “Private,” Hamlin is attempting to build support for himself during what was a tumultuous time when he served in the U.S. Senate and strenuously opposed the Missouri Compromise of 1850, which would have expanded slavery.  He remarks that certain influences “are in active operation to defeat me” and strives to build a “strong team.” Senators were elected by state legislatures at the time.


    “I learn from reliable quarters that the same influences which attempted to defeat Dr. Hubbard last Summer are now in active operation to defeat me. My object in writing you is to enquire if you will not confer with Pierce & Wentworth, and have the Reps [Representatives] in So. Brunswick, York, Mills & Lyman...I believe they are all in your vicinity. If not...in your section of the country – will you see that attended to & I will assure you it shall be remembered most faithfully by me & I will pay any expenses you may be out.  I understand that Marston of Piscataquis, Goodwin of Hollis, Lane of Buxton & Lowe of Acton are my friends. You will make 5. Then if the So. Brunswick, York & Mills Reps can be induced to go with them, it will make a strong team. Will you look to this & let me hear from you?  I would write them but have not time. I understand that these men who oppose Dr. H. are having their men all over the state at work with the Reps – Hence the necessity of having our friends seen forthwith. Yours very truly, H. Hamlin”


    The extension of slavery into the territories was the most perplexing issue to face Congress during Hamlin’s long career in the House and Senate. His state of Maine had entered the Union as a result of the Missouri Compromise, which admitted one free state for every slave state.  But in 1846, when the United States entered a war with Mexico, the prospects of vast new conquered territories south of the Missouri Compromise line raised the question of the parameters of slavery.  Hamlin joined with other radical anti-slavery men in the House to devise an amendment that would prohibit the introduction of slavery into any territory taken from Mexico as a result of the war.  Pennsylvania Representative David Wilmot was selected to introduce the measure, which became known as the Wilmot Proviso.


    Hamlin introduced his own version of the proviso, much to the anger of Democratic President James K. Polk. “Mr. Hamlin professes to be a democrat,” Polk wrote in his diary, “but has given indications during the present session that he is dissatisfied, and is pursuing a mischievous course...on the slavery question.”


    The president attributed Hamlin’s stand to a patronage quarrel with the administration, but Hamlin stood squarely on principle. “I have no doubt that the whole North will come to the position I have taken,” he said. “Some damned rascals who may be desirous of disposing of myself, will mutter & growl about abolitionism but I do not care the snap of my fingers for them all.”

    In excellent condition. The letter was apparently hand delivered, possibly to assure privacy.

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