Report of Legislative Proceeding regarding the Admission of Wisconsin into the Union, 11 May 1848
Mr. LINCOLN moved to reconsider the vote by which the bill was passed.1
He stated to the House that he had made this motion for the purpose of obtaining an opportunity to say a few words in relation to a point raised in the course of the debate on this bill, which he would now proceed to make, if in order. The point in the case to which he referred arose on the amendment that was submitted by the gentleman from Vermont (Mr. Collamer) in Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union, and which was afterwards renewed in the House, in relation to the question whether the reserved sections, which, by some bills heretofore passed, by which an appropriation of land had been made to Wisconsin, had been enhanced in value, should be reduced to the minimum price of the public lands. The question of the reduction in value of those sections was to him, at this time, a matter very nearly of indifference. He was inclined to desire that Wisconsin should be obliged by having it reduced. But the gentleman from Indiana, (Mr. C. B. Smith,) the chairman of the Committee on the Territories, yesterday associated that question with the general question, which is now to some extent agitated in Congress, of making appropriations of alternate sections of land to aid the States in making internal improvements, and enhancing the price of the sections reserved; and the gentleman from Indiana took ground against that policy. He did not make any special argument in favor of Wisconsin; but he took ground generally against the policy of giving alternate sections of land, and enhancing the price of the reserved sections. Now he (Mr. L.) did not, at this time, take the floor for the purpose of attempting to make an argument on the general subject. He rose simply to protest against the doctrine which the gentleman from Indiana had avowed in the course of what he (Mr. L.) could not but consider an unsound argument.2
It might, however, be true, for anything he knew, that the gentleman from Indiana might convince him that his argument was sound; but he (Mr. L.) feared that gentleman would not be able to convince a majority in Congress that it was sound. It was true, the question appeared in a different aspect to persons in consequence of a difference in the point from which they looked at it. It did not look to persons residing east of the mountains as it did to those who lived among the public lands. But, for his part, he would state that if Congress would make a donation of alternate sections of public land for the purpose of internal improvements in his State, and forbid the reserved sections being sold at $1[.]25, he should be glad to see the appropriation made; though he should prefer it if the reserved sections were not enhanced in price. He repeated, he should be glad to have such appropriations made, even though the reserved sections should be enhanced in price. He did not wish to be understood as concurring in any intimation that they would refuse to receive such an appropriation of alternate sections of land because a condition enhancing the price of the reserved sections should be attached thereto. He believed his position would now be understood; if not, he feared he should not be able to make himself understood.
But before he took his seat he would remark that the Senate, during the present session, had passed a bill making appropriations of land on that principle for the benefit of the State in which he resided—the State of Illinois. The alternate sections were to be given for the purpose of constructing roads, and the reserved sections were to be enhanced in value in consequence. When that bill came here for the action of this House—it had been received and was now before the Committee on Public Lands—he desired much to see it passed as it was, if it could be put in no more favorable form for the State of Illinois. When it should be before this House, if any member from a section of the Union in which these lands did not lie, whose interest might be less than that which he felt, should propose a reduction of the price of the reserved sections to $1[.]25, he should be much obliged; but he did not think it would be well for those who came from the section of the Union in which the lands lay to do so. He wished it, then, to be understood that he did not join in the warfare against the principle which had engaged the minds of some members of Congress who were favorable to improvements in the western country.3
There was a good deal of force, he admitted, in what fell from the chairman of the Committee on Territories. It might be that there was no precise justice in raising the price of the reserved sections to $2[.]50 per acre. It might be proper that the price should be enhanced to some extent, though not to double the usual price; but he should be glad to have such an appropriation with the reserved sections at $2[.]50; he should be better pleased to have the price of those sections at something less; and he should be still better pleased to have them without any enhancement at all.
There was one portion of the argument of the gentleman from Indiana, the chairman of the Committee on Territories, (Mr. Smith,) which he wished to take occasion to say that he did not view as unsound. He alluded to the statement that the General Government was interested in these internal improvements being made, inasmuch as they increased the value of the lands that were unsold, and they enabled the Government to sell lands which could not be sold without them. Thus, then, the Government gained by internal improvements, as well as by the general good which the people derived from them, and it might be, therefore, that the lands should not be sold for more than $1[.]50 instead of the price being doubled. He, however, merely mentioned this in passing, for he only rose to state, as the principle of giving these lands for the purposes which he had mentioned had been laid hold of and considered favorably, and as there were some gentlemen who had constitutional scruples about giving money for these purposes, who would not hesitate to give land, that he was not willing to have it understood that he was one of those who made war against that principle. This was all he desired to say, and having accomplished the object with which he rose, he withdrew his motion to reconsider.4
1Abraham Lincoln made these remarks immediately after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill admitting Wisconsin as a state.
On April 13, 1848, Caleb B. Smith of the Committee on Territories introduced a bill for the admission of Wisconsin, which the House referred to the Committee of the Whole. On April 25, the House made the bill the special order of the day for May 2 and every day thereafter until the bill was disposed of. On May 9, the House resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole to consider the bill. On May 10, the Committee of the Whole reported back the bill with amendments. Debate continued over the next two days, with the House adopting and rejecting numerous amendments. The House passed the bill as amended.
U.S. House Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 677, 719, 786-89; Cong. Globe, 30th Cong., 1st Sess., 742-44, 745, 747-53, 754-55 (1848).
2Lincoln references the lengthy debate between Collamer, Smith, and other representatives over amendment to the first section of the bill, which dealt in part with the boundaries of the proposed state. During this debate, Collamer expressed his opposition to certain portions of the bill, particularly the second and third sections, and expounded his views on grants of public land for internal improvements. On May 10, Collamer offered an amendment striking out a portion of the second section dealing with previous congressional law granting land for improvements to the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, with a provision for a canal connecting the two. The House rejected Collamer’s amendment by a vote of 46 yeas to 94 nays, with Lincoln not voting.
“An Act to Grant a Certain Quantity of Land to Aid in the Improvement of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, and to Connect the Same by a Canal, in the Territory of Wisconsin,” 8 August 1846, Statutes at Large of the United States 9 (1862):83; Cong. Globe, 30th Cong., 1st Sess., 747-53, 754 (1848); U.S. House Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 788.
3Lincoln references Senate Bill 95, which Stephen A. Douglas introduced on January 20, 1848, and the Senate passed on May 3. On May 4, the House referred the bill to the Committee on Public Lands. The committee reported back the bill on June 23 with amendments. On August 12, the House refused to read the bill as amended a third time by a vote of 73 yeas to 79 nays, with Lincoln voting yea.
S. 95, 30th Cong. (1848); U.S. Senate Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 124-25, 314, 592; U.S. House Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 762, 769-70, 946, 1267-71.
4On May 12, the Senate referred the bill to the Committee on Territories. The committee reported back the bill without amendment on May 16, and the Senate passed it on May 19. The act became law on May 29.
U.S. Senate Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 333, 340, 351.

Printed Document, 1 page(s), Cong. Globe, 30th Cong., 1st Sess., 755 (1848).