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AN ADDRESS BEFORE THE CHICAGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY FEBRUARY 17, 1914
131 1 1 1129 1 1 1 1 1 ~'llj00435 l ij~i l~i~l~il 6069 l l l l l l i!1
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS CHICAGO,oILUNOlS
Copyright 1914 By Chicago Historical Society
All Rights Reserved
Published July 1914
Composed and Printed By The University of Chicago Press
LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS DEBATES
subject of this lecture
the Lincohi and Douglas
These debates took place in the year 1858. They grew out of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Doubtless some of you know what the Missouri Compromise was and others do not. It is best that all should know, since without such knowledge the debates themselves would have Httle meaning for you. Fifty-six years have passed One hundred and ten since those debates took place. years have passed since President Jefferson bought Louisiana from Napoleon Bonaparte. Missouri Territory^ was a part of the Louisiana Purchase. Without that purchase there would have been no IMissouri Compromise, and no repeal of it in 1854, and no Lincoln and Douglas debates on account thereof. But there was a remoter and deeper cause for that encounter. President Jefferson might have bought Louisiana with its vast hinterland, and his successors might have carved Missouri out of it and admitted her to the l)nion as a state, without any disturbance, had not African slavery That direful curse was ingrafted existed in this country. upon us in the year 16 10 at Jamestown, Virginia, where a Dutch warship, short of provisions, exchanged fourteen
negroes for a supply thereof.
persons of the present
day reahze how shocking a comlition of society slaver} was. It was a condition in which some millions of human beings had no rights whatsoever, among whom the marriage relation
with a view to preserving the balance of power. nearly all the northern and the southern ones against Senate. them ought In 1819 Alabama. and a feeling existed in both sections that power and mastery over the other. After the emancipation movement came to a pause. but in the states north of Maryland measures were initiated for that purpose before the end of the eighteenth century. This institution was common to all the American colonies until the end of the Revolutionary War. for it Jefferson was the most ardent and or in inffucntial He did not. in order to maintain a balance of power in the national Senate. Then began an emancipation movement of which Thomas advocate. then Tennessee and Ohio. off"ered an amendment providing for the gradual emancipation of slaves in the proposed state. in which slavery existed. The slavery question was not then an issue in poHtics. »^then Mississippi and to acquire a preponderance of Illinois. then Louisiana and Indiana. While Congress was considering the Missouri bill. The territory of Missouri. the fact became apparent that there was a dividing line between free states and slave neither of states.did not exisi. and prohibitmg the introduction of additional slaves. Mr. but a habit grew up of admitting new states to the Union in pairs. at the southern border of Pennsylvania. a new slave state. also was applying for admission. gain sufficient support in Virginia all Maryland to aboHsh slavery there. This amendment was adopted by the House by a for it sectional vote. Thus Kentucky and Vermont offset each other. and where the privilege of virtue was denied to women. however. it. Talmadge of New York. was admitted to the Union and there was no free state to balance it. but members voting it was rejected by the .
will never be obliterated and mark it deeper and deeper. there was already an irrepressible conflict in our land.in 1846-48 brought into our possession.In the following year the Missouri question came up afresh and Senator Thomas of Illinois proposed. me and filled me with terror. The prevailing thought in that quarter was that the southern people were on the defensive. one awakened this is a under date of April This momentous question. In this feeling they were sincere and they gave to it expression in very hot temper. There was a fixed opinion in the North that There was a grovvdng opinion it. A geographical coinciding with a marked principle. New Mexico. in contending for was contending for existence. Two treaties with Mexico following the war with that country. that they were resisting aggression. any part and Cali- Slaver}' did not exist in of this region. that Missouri should be admitted to the Union vdth prohibited. slavery. the territory now embraced in Colorado. considered living. partly by conquest and partly by purchase. and he wrote John Holmes. slavery was an evil which ought not to be extended and in the South that such extension was a vital necessity and that the South. Utah. as a compromise. 1820: this sectional rift portended. He saw what to 22. enlarged. . reprieve only. but Thomas it generally Jefferson still the death knell of the Union. for the moment. moral and every new irritation will political. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. But line. Nevada. fornia. Arizona. indeed. The Missouri Compromise was considered a victory for the South. but that in all the remaining territory north of 36°3o' north latitude slavery should be forever This amendment was adopted and the bill was passed. like a fire bell in the night. It is hushed. H6 was at the age of seventy-seven. of his correspondents. In short. once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men. not a final sentence.
other things. which could not be ignored Henr>^ Clay brought forward a series of which. of Congress during Abraham of those Lincoln was a member two years and he voted for the Wiimot Proviso in one form or another about forty times. The House promptly adopted fight over the but it was rejected by the Senate. Wiimot. and apphed for admission to the Union. Compromise Measures the organization of It was all of 1850. fact. 1849. bills. with- out either the prohibition or the admission of slavery therein. Clay's opinion that slavery was already prohibited by the law of Mexico. among Cahfornia as a free state and the other territory in dispute. that is. of Pennsylvania. and the Pro\'iso Wiimot continued for several years.having been abolished and prohibited by the constitution of Mexico. Here was an accomplished or postponed. while Congress was stiU wrangling over the Wiimot Pro\dso and the spoils of the ivlexican War. the new settlers in California came together in June. The Demo- . The Compromise Measures of 1850 were assumed by there all political parties to be a final settlement of the slaver>' question as far as Congress was concerned. So when a bill came before Congress in 1846 to appropriate money preliminary to the first treaty. Webster's opinion that it was prohibited also by the law of nature. formed a state constitution prohibiting slavery. It was Mr. the admission of became known^as the They included. when finally passed. The discovery of gold in Cahfornia in 1848 caused such a rush of immigrants to the Pacific Coast that. had been introduced into Texas in pubhc sentiment in the North was keenly aUve to the danger of a similar result elsewhere. a proviso was moved by Mr. to the effect that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude should ever exist in territory to it any be thus acquired. by climate and topographical conditions. but as it spite of the local law. Mr.
boundless ambition and self-confidence. untiring industr>^. having just passed away. In the Democratic party he had forged to the front by \irtue of boldness in leadership. he had drifted westward at the age of twenty to seek of life in his fortune. He had a surmounted by an abundant mane. Judge of the Supreme Court. 1854. engaging manners. large head. in his first message to Congress. Webster. He effected lodgment at Jack- sonville. Calhoun. in 1833. during his term of he had power to prevent This was a vain conception. White House on Sunday. if be disturbed it. and unsurpassed powers as an orator and debater. resources. Nobody ever began the battle humbler surroundings or with smaller pecuniaryYet his advance was so rapid that it seemed as though he had only to ask anything from his fellow-citizens in order to have it given to him more abundantly than he desired. Clay. Illinois. and had been a formidable candidate for the presidency in the Member of 1852 Democratic National Convention which nominated Pierce. gi-eat capacity as a party organizer. of the Legislature. Franldin Pierce. Douglas was then forty-one years of age. for within sixty days thereafter he had agreed to support a bill to repeal the Missouri Compromise.crats carried the presidential election of 1852. and John Quincy Adams. January. He had been in Congress ten years and had reached the foremost place there. declared that the repose which those measures had brought to the public councils should not office. made at the instance of Senator Douglas of supported by Jefferson Davis. Representative in Congress. and Senator of the United States. which gave the appearance of a lion prepared to roar or crush his . his great predecessors.22. and the in- coming president. at an interv-iew in the Vermont in 18 13. Born in secretary of war. This agreement was Illinois. Secretary of State. He had filled the offices of State's Attorney.
Browning. On the 5th of December. and in the new states to be formed therefrom are to be left to the decision of the tories. and several other men who gained national reputation and position. It said nothing about slavery. and if not prey. He was the only northern man who would have had the audacity to propose it. all of whom he distanced in the race for preferment up to the time when he linked his Ln fortunes with the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Richard Yates. In stature was only the office. It was referred to the Committee on Terri- which Douglas was chairman. he was color blind to moral principles in politics. not excepting President Buchanan. embracing all the unorganized country west of the state of Missouri and north of 36°3o' north latitude. He was the only man then living who could have carried that measure through Congress. but he had earned "Little Giant" before he ever held a public and he kept it undisputed till the day of his death. stone blind to the evils of slavery was deaf and to dumb he any expression concerning them." their appropriate reprebill In a report accompanying the he said: . Senator Dodge. Abraham Lincoln. H. of it people residing therein through sentatives. 1854 he filled the public eye in larger measure than any other American. of Iowa. five feet four inches high. Nor would any title of southern statesman have ventured to take such a step then if he had not led the way. Lyman Trumbull. Baker. bill introduced a to organize the Territory of Nebraska. 1853. Douglas reported back with an amendment pro\iding "that all questions pertaining to slavery in the territories. WTien he began his pubHc career he had for competitors and rivals in his near neighborhood. Edward D.and the resemblance was not seldom confirmed when he opened his mouth on the stump or in the Senate chamber. O. Although patriotic beyond a doubt.
Stephen Arnold Douglas From a photograph supposed to have been made in 1858 .
This was an unexpected revelation and a ver>' startling one to the people of the free states. and after a desperate struggle in Congress and amid intense bill Douglas' so as to repeal excitement throughout the country it eventually passed both houses and was approved by President Pierce. for slaves. Douglas was disconcerted by this motion. He moved an amendment the Missouri to Compromise outright and admit slavery to the new territory if any slave-owners desired to carry them there. The old parties were rent asunder and a new one began to fonn in order to prevent the extension of slavery into the new territories. Senator Dixon of Kentucky. It was hardly possible that state. Abraham Lincoln was at this time a country lawyer in %]^(Llj .The principles established by the Compromise Measures of far as 1850. they should be allowed to come in. Douglas hesitated a few days but finally accepted Dixon's amendment. Yet a it careful reading of Douglas' amendment shows promise. it that did not repeal the Missouri Com- did not open the door to the admission of any if It was merely a provision that the people of the Union as a slave without ever having had a slave in their borders. Dixon was inflexible. are proposed to be affirmed of the and carried into practical operation within the limits new territory. saw the point at once. When cal the biU actually became a law there was a poHti- explosion in every northern state. He went to Dixon's seat and urged him to withdraw it. saying that it w^ould most probably defeat the bill and prevent the organization of the territory altogether. so they are applicable to territorial organizations. who had never imagined that the Compromise of 1850 reached backward as well as forward so as to render the Missouri Compromise of 1820 nugatory and void. territory should ask to be admitted to the such a thing could happen. the successor of Henry Clay.
Mr. For the first time the thought broke upon him that this country could not permanently endure haK slave and half free. with a not very lucrative practice. party. he was not exactly the leader of the bar. Lincoln never did its so. He was. He would have continued riding the circuit in central Illinois. entertaining tavern loungers with funny and would have passed away unhonored roused to new activity. scanty living as a lawyer. which He was the minority party He had followed Clay and Webster in supin Illinois. and unsung. Lincoln promised to be careful of . porting the Compromise Measures of 1850. In fact. but he was a very popular story-teller. but in 1854 he was practically shelved. since Douglas and his supporters would construe it as a hope that the free states might be separated from the slave states and the stories. he would doubtless have remained in comparative obscurity. a poHtician. without a hope of obtaining any higher place than the one he had or even of obtaining that one again. using this phrase in best sense — man absorbed in the contemplation of pubhc affairs and the desire to participate therein. Lyle Dickey. making a He was promise. public expression to that thought at present. first of all. filled last. T. He was now Union come to an end. for although a hater of slavery he believed that the Constitution required the extradition of slaves escaping into the free states. including the belonged to the fugitive slave Whig law of that period.a Springfield. He had been a member of Congress one term. which came like an electric shock to all the northern states. shortly after the news arrived of the passage Dickey persuaded him not to give of the Nebraska bill. startled by the repeal of the Missouri ComWithout that awakening. He enunciated it to a friend and fellow-circuit-rider. To reach the front rank in the legal profession one must give his undi\'ided attention and best energies to it. Illinois.
the Democratic nominee for president in 1848. But in fact. Obviously the first thing to be done in any controversy with him touching the Nebraska biU would be to expose the ignis fatuus of Popular Sovereignty. not merely that he had been the first to apply it to our outlying territories. that he finally called it "my great principle" and led many unthinking people to believe. It l^ad been expounded by General Cass. as stood. but to his partner. the piece de resistance." " Popular sovereignty " was a more orotund phrase and Douglas was a more orotund speaker than Cass. that they were deadly antagonists which had thus far been held apart. when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was a fresh subject of dispute and when the poHtical elements from which the Republican party was cast were in the boiling and bubbling . are those of 1858. It was then termed "squatter sovereignty. The Lincoln and Douglas debates. that either slavery or freedom must conquer. but that some day they would break their bonds and come to a death grapple. He made such skilful and incessant use of it and rang so many changes on it. and then the great question would be settled. the debates of 185S were only a continuation of the debate between the same champions in 1854. but that he was the original inventor of it as a form of for the or "right of the people to govern themselves" — human government. seven in number. he said that the day of compromise had now passed. of his speeches in Congress and everjrwhere. Herndon. including the joint debates with Lincoln. It constituted the backbone. Yet it was not a new thing.his words for the time being. Douglas' Nebraska bill was based upon the principle of ''popular sovereignty" or "sacred right of self-government" three names same thing. commonly underwhen the two champions were candidates for the United States Senate.
1854. without flinching or doubting or wavering. His next appearance was at Springfield. He first do so at Chicago but the people were intensely hostile to him and literally hooted him from the platform. October 3. to defend his course in repealing the Missouri Compromise. for the most part. His speech was. where the state fair was in progress. a seductive presentation of the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty. a repetition of his arguments in the Senate on the Nebraska bill. upon its hearers was their solemn responsibility to God and man and future generations. I was then twenty years of age. It was the first speech of his that I was privileged to hear. It was my good fortune to hear the debates of both years. This was the first speech made by him that gave a true measure of his qualities. He spoke in the Representative hall of the state house. The impression made upon me was overwhelming and it has lost nothing by the lapse of time. nothing to provoke a smile. to uphold the banner of righteousness and make a rallying-point for the lovers of freedom in the Northwest. to uphold the principles of free to made an attempt government. and always with thankfulness that we had the right man in the right place at that critical juncture. and an attempt to show that the Missouri Compromise had been repealed in principle by the Compromise Measures of 1850. Douglas came home in September. The thought impressed It was a profoundly serious speech. one of the world's masterpieces of argumentative power and moral grandeur. I have read it often since. It was the first pubhc occasion that laid a strong hold upon his conscience and stirred the depths of his nature.stage. although . On the followdng day Lincoln replied to Douglas in the same hall (Douglas himseK being present) in a great speech. In the whole twenty-nine pages of the speech there is not a line of levity.
but if he was a man. Lincoln was an unrivaled master of humor on all proper He was at this time forty-five years of age." He said that the right of self-government was absolutely and eternally right but that whether it included the right to hold negroes as slaves in Nebraska. right to equally their sacred buy them where they can buy them cheapest. Mr. If he was not a man. sententious definition. have been considering is styled the Peoria speech. To deny him that right was a Institute speech total destruction of the doctrine of self-government. the prime of at tht maturity of his powers." he added. 1 will briefly note Mr. had the right to govern himself. although he had heard several of Webster's In Mr. Lincoln's complete writings the speech we best. at life. a man. he. Lincoln's answer to Douglas' Popular Sovereignty dogma. too. although the Cooper is on the same plane with it. or was not. or "sacred right of self-government. no man had a right to object. although he did not use any notes whatever when speaking. depended upon whether a negro was. Before coming to the joint debates of 1858. and that will undoubtedly be on the coast of Africa. Of the latter Horace Greeley said that it was the greatest speech he had ever listened to. he might be reduced to servitude without any violation of the doctrine of self-government. it is "to take and hold slaves there. and soon afterward published from his own manuscript. and those of 1858 two things One was the Kansas war between .occasions." Between the debates of importance occurred. provided you consent not to hang men for going there to buy them. He never made a better speech than this one. it is "If a sacred right for the people of Nebraska. meant that A wanted of 1854 to make a slave of B. or anywhere. because it was delivered at Peoria twelve days later." In his later debates Mr. Lincoln applied to Sovereignty saying third it this Popular humbug a more "if crisp.
His opposition to the Lecompton measure did not change the majority in the Senate. it to the people for rati- In this attempt President Buchanan sided with the Lecomptonites. by his past. 14 . It killed Lecompton. in spite of the To this position he adhered whole power of the administration. commonly called "border ruffians. however.the Free State this strife men and the Pro-slavery men. including Seward and Greeley. without submitting fication or rejection. but it did have that effect in the House. policy of joining forces to re-elect Douglas. although he had assured the Walker. His said repeatedly that he cared not course in this matter was so great a reinforcement it to the Republicans — it took such a burden of apprehension and held out such promise of future the leaders of the party in the eastern dread off their minds. The other was the attempt of the Pro-slavery party in 1857 to get Kansas admitted to the Union as a state under the Lecompton Constitution. If they had followed the advice of their eastern friends. and governor of the territory. but he whether slavery was voted up or voted down. w^hose senatorial term was about to all The Republicans of Illinois. be so submitted. and a national crime. did not think that Douglas could be trusted under course They had to judge of his future and they accordingly rejected the advice of their eastern friends and nominated Lincoln as their candidate for the Senate. and assistance —that states. that any different course would be a barefaced fraud upon Kansas. strongly favored the expire. Lincoln would not possible circumstances. the Lincoln and Douglas debates of 1858 would never have taken place. Included in were the raids of non-residents." from Missouri into Kansas. to seize the ballot boxes and control the elections. Robert stitution should J. that the ConDouglas took the contrary view and insisted that the Constitution ought to be submitted to the vote of the people at a fair election.
.3^^. A^s^ ^^^--^ ^. -/^^--- ^ ^=^ ^^..^---^ [indorsement] ..
Douglas hesitated about accepting the challenge. came side of IlHnois supposed that he would stand up long under the blows of his expert and bard-hitting antagonist. At or near the beginning of it he used the words which have been so often Because . The debates of 1858 WTre the result of a challenge given by Lincoln to Douglas to divide the time and address the people from the same platform throughout the campaign. If he had refused. His friends urged him to decline it. He therefore accepted the challenge but he limited it to se\-en debates in the whole state. Douglas. At the convention where Lincoln was nominated It was for senator he read a brief speech from manuscript. a calm^ dispassionate argument. Lincoln's contention was that it of it ought not to be extended.dential possibility in i860. Douglas was the cj-nosure of all to The people of distant states and communities know Lincoln. Few persons outeyes then. but because his greater fame would draw crowds of people who would otherwar^e never hear Lincoln at all. not because they feared that Douglas would be worsted in the encounter. the case was far different then. not because of his own merits. however. This was quite true. chiefly because of Although Douglas his is now remembered association with Lincoln. and there would have been a modicum of truth in the statement. did not dare to refuse the challenge. have been brought mto the limelight and made a presiand the whole course of history would have been changed. but because he was pitted against Douglas. Why ought it not to be extended ? in a constant broil was wrong per se and because it kept the country and strife and tended to disrupt the Union. slavery to The main issue of the campaign was the extension new territory. the RepubUcans would have said that he was afraid to meet Lincohi on the stump.
Lincoln contended. but that his mind was made up and he was determined to use those very words. *'this government cannot endure permanently half slave and haK free. He said he would rather be defeated in the election than keep silent or half silent any longer. Lincoln. In this case the court held that no negro slave. United States. The court decided also in this case that any citizen had a constitutional right to migrate to any territory with his slave property and hold slaves In order to tion." because the phrase would be misinterpreted and misrepresented and would probably cause his defeat in the election. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved I do not expect the house to fall ^but I do expect it will cease to be divided. He then proceeded to show the steps taken quoted: "A beKeve this — — during recent years to local institution make slavery a national instead of a by means of the Nebraska bill. and of acquiescing in had no rights which they could to enforce in the courts of law. where . when this speech was delivered. or descendant of such slave. It will become all one t>hing or all the other." etc. his and after the con- vention adjourned he handed me manuscript and asked me to read the proof of it it at the office of the Illinois State had already been put in type. I government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. as a reporter. because they were true and because the time had come to say so. I happened be on the platform with Mr. could bring a suit for his of the freedom m the courts there.house divided against itself cannot stand. Journal. and by the decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case. make slavery a national instead it of a local institu- Mr. fall was only necessar>^ for the people generally to slavery into the habit of not caring whether the doctrine that negroes was voted dowTi or voted up. He said to me that he had been urged by his friends in Springfield not to use the words.
afterward General McCleilan. Wilson of the Chicago Evening Journal. These conveniences were placed at his service by George B. on which was mounted a brass cannon with a supply of ammunition to announce his arrival at the places where he was to speak. It took place in the open air. 1^ The first joint debate in pursuance of the agreement was at Ottawa. Wilson took without consultation with anybody. It was this At States senator not customary to nominate men for the Senate in this way. and I never beheld a more queenly person. and it was adopted unanimously. Local committees on both sides had made the customary arrangements of processions on foot and on horseback. To put an end to this clap-trap Wilson made his motion in the convention. The state was now pretty well stirred up.convention Lincoln was nominated for United by the Repubhcan party on the motion of Charles L. formerly Miss Adele Cutts. of Washington City. I think this was the first occasion on which such a nominapolitical party. August 21. McCleilan. without any effort of her own. in order to put a stop to a rumor which had been put in circulation this step tion had been made by any by the supporters of Douglas that if the Republicans should win the next legislature they would elect John Wentworth as senator. the vice-president of the road. with banners and band wagons and The people or by water \^^thin . reaching distance of Ottawa by rail or by wagon road were astir. Her mere presence gained votes for her husband. as did all the other debates. He started on this campaign in the directors' car of the Illinois Central Railway and with a platform car attached. Expectation was on tiptoe. a grandniece of Dolly Madison. I saw her frequently during the campaign. Douglas was a past-master of the art of political display and dazzle. Douglas was accompanied also by the lady to whom he had been married two years earlier.
movement on the had early taken a position overlooking the on elevated ground town and surrounding country. except those of Jonesboro and Alton. including cannon. clouds of dust place.every kind of apparatus. which were in the part of Illinois called ''Egypt. being at Galesburg. unhesitating flow of words. the public square where the meeting took place. gave way with its superincumbent popula- At all the other joint debates. going straight to the subject-matter wdth grace of manner and rapidity and ease of delivery which made it a . Some hours before the time fixed for the speaking. Douglas opened the debate with one hour at Ottawa. and these clouds became more frequent and more dense as the hours began to rolled on. who had also SAvarmed upon the platform itseK and its timber supports. My own it anticipations regarding the assemblage were high but the reality surpassed them. Long before the speakers and reporters ascended the platform. without ornament. witnessed. to announce the arrival of the champions. heavily loaded and bearing canvas signs indicating their habitation and their political belonging. I cloudless. speakers and their appointed escort had much dif&culty in reaching their places and while they were doing so one corner of the platform tion. and the avenues leading thereto. the largest assemblage of all. and had filled the windows of The crowd was so dense that the all houses within earshot." similar crowds and scenes were but nobody was hurt. were densely packed with human beings. It was in his best style. according to my memoranda. but so that the dust rose at every slight had been very dry of late. There were large wagons with four-horse teams for the accommodation of political clubs. He had a clarion voice and a smooth. compulsive. rise on the horizon along the roads leading to the from all points of the compass. The sky was surface.
Hamilton and Jay leave each state perfectly free to it do as it pleased about slavery still? ? Why could not exist on the same principles "Suppose. new channel in company cliief with him. turning the hearers' attention away from the real subject of debate so adroitly that the break would not be noticed. and the only part which need be noticed here. He went on to say that he did not question Mr." he said. what would have been the result?" As there were then twelve slave-holding states and only one free state. had prevailed. slavery would have been fastened upon the whole thirteen. "this doctrine of uniformity preached by that the states should all be free or all slave. Lincoln's conscientious belief that the negro was made his equal and his brother. He was gifted with the faculty of gUding deftly from one thing to another. "If uniformity had been adopted when the government was established it must inevitably have been uniformity of slavery everywhere or else uniformity of negro citizenship and negro equality everywhere. Mr. 19 .pleasure to listen to him. and presently the audience would be swimming in a theme. Didn't our slave and half free." Here was the assumption adroitly introduced that Lincoln was "preaching" the doctrine of uniformity. not having missed the connection with the main This skill in legerdemain constituted the part of Douglas' first hour at Ottawa. fathers make it so? Didn't Washington and Jefferson. and that uniformity meant that all states must be free or all slave. Franklin and Madison. Lincoln. and that if all were free then negro equaHty must prevail everywhere. But this fluency covered many rocks and quicksands. It related to Lincoln's saying that this government could not endure permanently half Why not? he asked. but for his own part he denied such equality and brotherhood altogether.
his was not so impressive to the listeners. of the society in So this fine outburst of justice and generosity and B want to to the negro ended in the reaffirmance of the "sacred right of self-government. he went on without any noticeable hesitation. should would dissolve the Union. He had prevail.." meaning that slaves of if A make C and D. Douglas ended in a whirlwind of applause and Lincoln began to speak in a slow and rather awkward way. On the contrary. as were. every privilege. his ever caught Douglas napping. especially at the beginning of a After getting fairly started. Both his mind and Douglas'. So do not hold that because the negro is our inferior therefore he slave. I hold that humanity and Christianity both require that the negro shall have and enjoy every ought to be a right. no if other person has the right to object. By no means can such a conclusion be drawn from what I have said. voice. It could almost as high- pitched as a boatswain's whistle. and lubricated. but he never had the ease and grace and finish of his adversary. unbroken stream Uke Douglas'. words did not flow in a rushing. He sometimes stopped for repairs it before finishing a sentence. his Douglas concluded belief i. The question then arises what and privileges are consistent with the public good. but Moreover. be heard farther rich and it had better wearing qualities than Douglas' it baritone. . speech.e.: It perhaps occurred to him then that he was talking to in large part of anti-slavery an audience composed he added these words I men. Nobody quick as a flash to body worked more slowly than He was answer any question put to him in debate. half-hour with the expressed that the new all doctrine "preached by Lincoln/' the doctrine of one thing or all the other. and every immimity consistent with the safety rights which he lives. or rather falsetto. it a thin tenor. This is a question which each state and each territory must decide for itself.
Chicago. probably made in 1858.Abraham Lincoln Photograph by Alexander Hesler. .
but he never failed to find his footing and to mamtain it firmly when he had found it. in the right to eat the bread that his own hand had earned. This debate has become the most famous of the whole series by reason of a question which Lincohi put to Douglas and v/hich the latter answered. or all As Lincoln had not preached any doctrine of aU one thing the other. would be delivered with a wealth and overplus of words and an air of assurance.. and not infrequently his reply. This may seem now a very trivial matter. continued to charge him with the desire to bring equahty and amalgamation. that was "a specious and fantastic can prove a horse chestnut to be a chestnut horse. but had merely pouited out the tendency logical it and regions. Certain questions had been . What he lacked in mental agility and alertness he made up in moral superiority and blazing earnestness that came from his heart and went straight to those of his hearers. it was not difficult to point out that Douglas had put civil rights and political and social privileges all in a arrangement of words by which a man mortar and brayed them together hi such fashion that the After several things could not be easil}' distinguished.\nd in regard to negro equahty. 4l Six days later the two champions met again at Freeport. to the end of the negro about He chapter."' . Lincoln required time to gather himself in such emergencies. as he said. the negro was the equal of Judge Douglas and of every living man. quite confusing to the latter. and pity for the ignorance of his questioner. separating them and defining the various kinds of equahty that might exist in mundane affairs he afiirmed that. but in fact Douglas never allowed Lincoln to drop it. not worth recaUing. consequence of the spread of slavery into new was easy for him to expose Douglas' sophistry and it to show. although a manifest non sequitur.
the South would turn against him. It was his opinion also that if Douglas should reply that the people of a territory could exclude slavery. As long ago as 1848. Yancey. just as the majority might decide. in the long run. who has been rightly styled the "orator sion. of Alabama. in this: "Can United States of any citizen of any lawful way. and he could not get the nomination for . and that if he were not nominated the Republicans would win that fight.put by Douglas to Lincoln at Ottawa which were not of much consequence in return. present counseled him not to All of the gentlemen do so because Douglas would reply in the affirmative in order to save his election as senator. against the wish the United States. This doctrine had in the now received the sanction of case. William L." laid of seces- down the doctrine that the people of a territory could not. prevent any citizen of the LTnited States from settling in such territory with his property. particularly those of the Cotton States. whether slave property or other. had come by slow degrees to a different opinion. the Supreme Court Dred Scott On tion the evening before the Freeport debate Lincoln had a conference with some of his party friends at which the ques- was considered whether it would be wise to put the foregoing question to Douglas or not. and when Lincoln the people of a answered them he claimed the right to ask an equal number Among them was territory. But the southern people. It was Lincoln's opinion that Douglas was the only Democrat who could command sufficient strength in the North to be elected president in i860. prior to the formation of a state constitution. exclude slavery from its a state constitution?" limits prior to the formation of Douglas' Popular Sovereignty and his whole campaign were bottomed on the idea that the people of a territory could admit slavery. or exclude it.
" Of course. Senator Trumbull had put it to him in a debate in the Senate more than two years earHer. however. ''Douglas' reply at Freeport was that. . and he announced this doctrine. in "Lower Egypt. . on the 9th of June. before the joint debates began. "Slavery cannot exist a day or an hour any^vhere." he said." The audience was the smallest of the series. So Douglas replied that it was a judicial question and that he and all good Democrats would conform to the decision when it should be made. at one of which Lincoln himself was present. still the right of the people to make a slave territory or a free territory is perfect and complete under the Nebraska biU. This was not the first time that Douglas had been confronted with this puzzling query. or by enacting unfriendly legislation. the people of a territory could by failing to give it legal protection." \^ The next joint debate took place at Jonesboro. neither he nor anybody else then anticipated that the larger game of i860 would be bagged by himself. Lincoln here took up Douglas' Freeport . in two public speeches in Illinois. no matter what the the Dred Scot decision exclude slavery Supreme Court might decide. had not been rendered." This was in a region where the Republican votes were so few that they were usually classified as "scattering. At that tune. the question. and So he decided to put that when his friends still remonstrated. . question. 1856.president in i860 or any other time. the decision of the Supreme Court may be on that abstract . he said: "I am after larger game. the battle of i860 is worth a hundred of this. "unless it is supported Hence no matter what by local pohce regulations. After the decision was made he conceived the idea of territorial unfriendliness as a means for keeping slaver}" out of a territory notwithstanding it had a legal right to go in. rather less than one thousand. Mr. saying he was throwing away the battle.
saying that if a man should take a stock of liquors to a territory. for in fact slaver>^ always began without legislation and so continued until it became so extensive as to require legislation to regulate and support it. and faihng to do so Congress would be bound to supply the deficiency. no law could render road Although Douglas' answer at Freeport blocked to the Charleston nomination. Dred It began in this way in our own country in 1619. If it liis saved him the senatorship. DeWitt County. his it right to sell if would be subject to the local law and it would drive him out just as effectually as though there were a constitutional prohibition of liquor-selling. reply was by likening slavery to liquor-sellmg. He showed that it was not true that slavery could not exist unless supported by local police regulations. where John M. Macoupin County. we went to Carlinville. From this place we went to Clinton. During this journey an incident 24 . keep slavery out of a whole fabric of Popular Sovereignty and sacred right of self-government would have fallen into ruin and he would have been buried immediately under the heap. via Springfield and Decatur. Lincoln. ^Aiter the Freeport joint debate and before that of Jonesboro. Scott himself was held as a slave in Minnesota without any But if citizens had a constitutional local poUce regulations. right to take slaves into a territory and hold them there as property. Palmer divided the time with Mr. his he had said that the people of a territory could not. This was another example of his there that were unfriendly skill in juggling with words. under the Dred Scott decision. right If liquor-seUing in territories territorial were a constitutional that right nugatory. territory.speech and demolished it completely. The logic of this posiThe only way that Douglas could tion was unassailable. the local legislature would be bound to afford them aU needful protection.
"State Line!" This was the name of a shabby little town on the border of Indiana. and when I did awake I had the sensation of having been asleep a long time. Then he began to laugh again. the conductor opened and shouted. It was daylight and I knew that we should have reached Decatur before midnight. Decatur. I went to sleep. that he Washington City when I chanced to meet him. and the Chicago Tribune had lost its expected I wended report. Mr. C. of course.expense. in his haste to get out. Moore. Lincoln was staying and where I too had been an expected guest. H. The affair was so irresistibly funny. told the incident several times in 25 . where we were was pulling myself together. and I was out of pocket for railroad fares. in his view. sans intermission. We left Springfield about nine o'clock in the evening for to change cars and take the northbound train on the lUinois Central Railway. There was nothing to do but to get out and wait for the next About six o'clock in the train going back to Decatur. and I thought he would laugh. Lincoln at m\. asking Mr. Lincoln to wake me up at Decatur. Lmcoln saw me coming up the garden path. evening I found my way to Clinton. When j\Ir.occurred which gave unbounded mirth to Mr. my way to the house of Mr. all about his promise to waken me. The meeting was over. an hour by his dial. which he promised to do. his lungs began to crow like a chanticleer. I was very tired and I curled myself up as best I could on the seat to take a nap. He paused long enough to say that he also had fallen asleep and did not wake up till the train was starting/rom Decatur. and with such contagious drollery that all who heard it would shake with laughter. where Mr. after he became president. to any company who might be present. While I the door of the car He had and. Lincoln's seat was vacant. had forgotten very nearly been carried past the station himself.
"that men are created equal. and I will offer the power to Judge Douglas if he wiU show that ever uttered a sentiment at aU akin to that of Jeiierson. The Declaration was it to He regarded as the moral bedrock him as Holy and foundation stone of our whole system of government. This gave Lincoln the opportunity to unbosom himself on the subject of the Declaration of Independence. a theme that alwa}^s brought out his best powers. as undoubtedly he was. DemoAnd remind Judge Douglas and this audience that while Mr. Nobody could question its sacredness in his presence without arousing his hot mdignation. Jefferson was the owner of slaves. from the date of the Declaration of Independence up to within three years ago. that any president ever said so. In reply to Douglas' remarks on this theme he said: I believe the entire records of the world. imtil the necessities of the cratic part> in regard to slavery had to invent that affirmation. that Washington ever said so. the opening speech but Douglas made was only a repetition of his set speech about his doctrine of Popular Sovereignty and what he called Lincoln's doctrine of negro equahty. he had something to say about Thomas Jefferson and the words used by Jefferall son in writing the Declaration of Independence. in all his God was just. Writ. Here in showing .. October Mr. in my j^The next meeting was at Quincy. tTThe Galesburg meeting came on October it 7. in speaking upon this very subject he used the strong language that he trembled for his country when he remembered that highest premium life. I think I may defy Judge Douglas to show that he ever said so. He afl&rmed that as Jefferson to was himself a slave-holder he never could have intended include negroes in that phrase. he. that any member I will of Congress ever said so. Enlarging upon the odious features of the latter. searched in vain for one single affirmation from one single may be man that the negro was not included in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln had the opening and he employed it 26 13." etc. the largest of tne series in point of numbers in attendance.
15. however. He enlarged upon this theme. ^ The last debate took place at Alton. leading to controversy between persons who thought that slaver}' was wrong and others who did not think it wrong. The fundamental difference between parties arose from the fact that domestic slavery existed in the land and that it was a disturbing element. the . October meeting Douglas' voice was scarcely audible. Lincoln's voice was not in the least impaired although he had made as many speeches additional to the joint debates as Douglas had. constructing a masterly argument in support of the Republican party. which gave Lincoln the opportunity to thank him for his public announcement that his political theories contemplated that slavery should last forever. indulge any offensive language toward the southern people. he was so hoarse that he could not be distinctly heard more same from the platform. Yet he maintained the same look of calm self-confidence that he had shown at the beginning. but at nearly a hundred separate meetings. than twenty feet resolute bearing. not the architects and designers of it. His allusions to them were generally in terms implying that they were the product and the victims of a bad social system. and had taken part in only one presidential contest. out It At this was worn At Alton by incessant speaking. not at the seven joint debates only. When Douglas made his reply he said that if we would all mmd our own business and let our neighbors alone this Republic could exist forever divided into free and slave states. in He did not. Those who thought it was evil and a disturbing element and a breeder of controversy were bound to use their influence and their votes in such ways as to prevent it from increasing and overspreading new territories and thereby becoming more harmful and disturbing than before. which was then only two years old.what were the true issues of the campaign.
the same spirit that says/ I'll and earn bread. as reporter the same and some particular phrases were in frequent use." general The Alton debate was a summing-up of issues on the part of both speakers. the debate began. Mr. no matter how smaU the audience." No matter in 'You toil and work what shape it comes. The only noticeable feature was the following paragraph from Lmcoln: This is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be eternal struggle between these silent. They the It are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time and ever continue to The one It is is common is right of humanity. Lincoln was occupying a seat in the rear His next neighbor was a young lady of the platform. the other the spirit in divine right of kings. seemed to be a new one. friend with whom he had been engaged in conversation before connected with the Alton debate. Lincoln's separate meetings and correspondent of the Chicago Press and Tribune. although the pabulum was I was present at most all of as well as at of the joint debates. and eat it. struggle. He was holding in his lap a linen overgarment to protect himself from the dust. I once asked him how he could 2S find fresh material day after day. and I was struck with admiration and wonder that Lincoln hardly ever repeated himself. It is the two principles —right will and wrong throughout the world. whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race. it is the same tyrannical principle.— One instance of Lincoln's drollery comes to my mind Douglas had the opening speech here. When Douglas had finished his opening speech Lincoln rose and handed his linen duster to the young lady and said in a low tone of voice: "Now hold my coat while I stone Stephen. while Douglas' habit was to repeat the same speech at . Each speech. the same whatever shape it de- velops itself.
was continued for hours together. 29 . of friends warm and eager listeners. Lincoln as a story-teller was the most humorous being I ever knew. as he and he talked to me with the same freedom and seriousness would have talked with a person of his own age and experience. telling such stories was irresistible and He would their sides entertain a roomful of people in this way till was customary then in country taverns for two men to occupy the same room at night. they would probably think that I traveled it was the proper thing to do. if they did know. Lincoln several ached with laughter. subject with which he was charged was crowding for utterance all the tim. whatever might be. It times. many days with Mr.his small meetings everywhere. His manner of inimitable. Lincoln in all sorts of conveyances. or. His stories were not told for the purpose of it causing merriment but to illustrate the subject of the conversation. but that he had formed a theory that the speech which he was delivering at his small meetings was the one best adapted to secure votes and since the voters at one meeting would not be likely to hear him at any other. He said that for his own part he could not repeat a speech the second time although he might make one bearing some similarity to a former one. they would never know that he was repeating himself. it was always enlarging as he went on from place to place. with whom the conversation. times when he had no other companion. At such we engaged in conversation mostly on the subject with which his mind was occupied.e. interspersed with mirth. and thus I slept in the same room with Mr. connected with the campaign. He said that Douglas was not lack- The ing in versatility. either as a matter of necessity or as a matter of economy. or houseful. At the country taverns where we stopped over night there was always a roomful.
all my journeyings with him I never heard any person him "Abe. won the \dctory according to His friends carried the legislature by a majority popular vote. favorable to of three in the Senate a and five in the House.191 in the The districting of the state was unduly Democrats. among the}' not merely by reason of the cause which he contended. and the mighty events which foreshadowed. and he would not have had in the Charleston convention to split the sufficient strength in twain. he would probably not have been nominated for President in i860. here the same felicity that We find marked the papers and messages his presidency. In reviewing this political encounter I have sketched only the saHent points of the campaign. those which must remain a part of our countr>'^'s histor}\ After reading again the whole of these seven joint debates I am more than ever con\nnced that Lincoln's speeches will take a place our American for classics. if Lincoln had been elected senator in i860. Herndon. although Lincoln's friends had the pluraHty of 4. but I am sure that such colloquies are imaginary. There was an impalpable garment of dignity about him which In call forbade such familiarit)^ tions with him all in I have read pretended con\^ersabooks and newspapers where his inter- locutors addressed him as Abe this and Abe that. The it result was bitterly lamented by the Repubhcans and by none more so than myself. but he the rules of the game. includ- and speeches that he gave us during . but looking back upon now it seems to me that Providence directed events better than we could have done. Democratic party whereby a RepubHcan victory was made certain Moreover. Douglas does not make a very engaging picture in the seven joint debates." not even his partner. but also for their literary quality. for if Douglas had been defeated his prestige would have been shattered.
in the midst of noise. This the more remarkable when we reflect that the speeches were extemporaneous and were deHvered in the open air. he ranged himself on the side of Lincoln and came state to Illinois to hold the state true to the Union. passed through my hands. Douglas was the only man who . caused a slight hiatus in the ing the Gettysburg address feUcity of expression is all stenographer's notes. This was the occasion of his last and legislature. came later. When the secessionists fired on Fort Sumter. or some disorder on the platform. Its chief It was an outburst feature was its tremendous earnestness. I was one of the hsteners to that speech and I camiot conceive that Demosthenes. or any orator of ancient or modern times could have surpassed it. confusion. and none other. and patriotism raised to the nth degree. I debates. Robert R. of passion. or Mirabeau. Nobody can form an estimate of its power by merely reading it. before they went to the printers. At that time southern Illinois was hanging in the balance regarding the question of sustaining Lincohi in the policy of coercing the seceding states. The then in session. or Patrick Henry. Lying between Kentucky and Mis- souri. invited liim to address them on the existing crisis and he responded on the 25th of April. although he need not add that Douglas was outclassed in these won the prize for which the debaters His day of true glory" were contending. perspiration. greatest effort. its people held substantially the same poHtical views and prejudices as theirs. and various interruptions. If the roof of the building had been carried away by the tempest that was issuing from the Little Giant none of his Hsteners would have been surprised. All of those speeches as transcribed by the shorthand reporter. Hitt (afUirward congressman). and they underwent no alteration except in a few cases where the wind.and the second inaugural.
out his astounding 1861. always wear the laurel of the joint debates. tender will is like occasion to call 3. potent in the border states. he armed who hath his quarrel just!" . have a "Thrice memory His great competitor. I He died at Chicago. for he never could have found another powers. or exceeded that service to his country. however. counties now followed him as faithfully Union as as they The southern had followed him in previous years fight for the and sent their sons into the field to numerously and bravely as any other His influence was also section of the state or of the Union.could have held them solid for the Union. forty-eight years of age. both of large reinforcements to the which refused to join the Southern Confederacy and sent Union armies. He was now if he had lived forty-eight years longer he never could have surpassed that eloquence. June for him. but Douglas had only a few more days to live. Kentucky and Missouri.
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