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Remarks on War Financing,
July 27, 1861 in Congress
Mr. Stevens. I have no objection. I acquiesce in the objects of the gentleman from Illinois. I know that he desires to support the Government; and I know one thing further, that what he desires he is not afraid to vote for. He is not afraid to put his name on the record and to go before his people and ask from them a justification. It may be that all others stand in the same position. When the bill is amended, we shall see who there are on this side of the House, and who there are on that side of the House, willing to support the Government. We shall see who of those who made the most glorifying and glorious patriotic speeches, will be found at last having less fear of their constituents than they have of the death of the country.
Sir, I know that this bill, make it the best you can, will be an unpalatable one. It may be that it will be unpopular. I have a wealthy agricultural constituency, who will be heavily taxed under it. I suppose that, as an agricultural population they are the most wealthy in the Union. Their land certainly bears a higher price than land in any other part of the Union outside of the cities. They are a close German population, who understand their own business; but they are a patriotic people. I shall go before them, sir, if I vote – as I shall – for such a bill as this, and I will take the chance of addressing their judgment, their patriotism, their good sense, and of making them understand the propriety of the conduct of their Representative. If I cannot do so, I shall submit to their condemnation and rejection without a murmur and without regret. I shall vote for this bill, whatever my constituents may think of it. I shall vote for it, when it is put in the best shape we can get it in, although it may not be very pleasant in its consequences to me personally. But I never yet knew the time when I ventured to do right in what, for the moment, was unpopular, and when I trusted to the good sense of the people, that they did not sustain me when it was explained to them. In the course of my public life, I have voted for unpopular measures and trusted to the good sense of the people whom I represented; and they never rejected me on account of it. I am not afraid that they will do so now; although I know that this bill will come to them with a very distasteful sound and aspect. I know that the army of collectors are odious everywhere; but I know, also, that they are not quite so dangerous to my constituents, and I hope they are not to members of this House, as the army of rebels that renders this other army necessary; for the one must be raised or the other will be triumphant. I do not know but that enough has been said on the subject; and as gentlemen ask me to call the previous question, I do so.
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