On the next evening the speech was delivered to an immense audience in the hall of the House of Representatives at Springfield. "The hall and lobbies and galleries were even more densely crowded and packed than at any time during the day," says the official report; and as Lincoln "approached the speaker's stand, he was greeted with shouts and hurrahs, and prolonged cheers." The prophetic sentences which dropped first from the lips of the speaker were freighted with a solemn import which even he could scarcely have divined in full. The seers of old were not more inspired than he who now, out of the irresistible conviction of his heart, said to his surprised and unbelieving listeners:
If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far on in the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. 'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this Government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. 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. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States—old as well as new—North as well as South.
Mr. Jeriah Bonham, an old citizen of Illinois, relates that he was present as a delegate at the Springfield convention and heard the famous speech of Lincoln. According to Mr. Bonham, "The speech was prepared with unusual care, every paragraph and sentence carefully weighed. The firm bedrock of principles, the issues of the campaign on which he proposed to stand and fight his battles, were all well considered, and his arguments were incontrovertible. In that memorable speech culminated all the grand thoughts he had ever uttered, embodying divinity, statesmanship, law, and morals, and even fraught with prophecy. As he advanced in this argument he towered to his full height, forgetting himself entirely as he grew warm in his work. Men and women who heard that speech well remember the wonderful transformation wrought in Lincoln's appearance. The plain, homely man towered up majestically; his face lit as with angelic light; the long, bent, angular figure, like the strong oak of the forest, stood erect, and his eyes flashed with the fire of inspiration."
The party that had nominated Lincoln for the Senate was not prepared to endorse his restriction of the coming struggle to the single issue of the slavery question. His friends dreaded the result of his uncompromising frankness, while politicians quite generally condemned it. Even so stanch a friend as Leonard Swett, whose devotion to Lincoln never wavered throughout his whole career, shared these apprehensions. Says Mr. Swett: "The first ten lines of that speech defeated him. The sentiment of the 'house divided against itself' seemed wholly inappropriate. It was a speech made at the commencement of a campaign, and apparently made for the campaign. Viewing it in this light alone, nothing could have been more unfortunate or inappropriate. It was saying the wrong thing first; yet he felt that it was an abstract truth, and that standing by the speech would ultimately find him in the right place. I was inclined at the time to believe these words were hastily and inconsiderately uttered; but subsequent facts have convinced me they were deliberate and had been well matured."
A few days after the delivery of this speech, a gentleman named Dr. Long called on Lincoln and gave him a foretaste of the remarks he was to hear during the next few months. "Well, Lincoln," said he, "that foolish speech of yours will kill you—will defeat you in this contest, and probably for all offices for all time to come. I am sorry, sorry, very sorry. I wish it was wiped out of existence. Don't you wish so too?" Laying down the pen with which he had been writing, and slowly raising his head and adjusting his spectacles, Lincoln replied: "Well, Doctor, if I had to draw a pen across and erase my whole life from existence, and I had one poor gift or choice left as to what I should save from the wreck, I should choose that speech, and leave it to the world unerased."
The Senatorial campaign was now well begun. Douglas opened it by a speech at Chicago on the 9th of July. Lincoln was present, and on the next evening spoke in reply from the same place—the balcony of the Tremont House. A week later Douglas spoke at Bloomington, with Lincoln again in the audience. The notion of a joint discussion seems to have originated with Lincoln, who on the 24th of July addressed a note to Douglas as follows:
HON. S.A. DOUGLAS—My Dear Sir:—Will it be agreeable to you to make an arrangement for you and myself to divide time, and address the same audiences during the present canvass? Mr. Judd, who will hand you this, is authorized to receive your answer, and, if agreeable to you, to enter into the terms of such arrangement. Your obedient servant, A. LINCOLN.
The result of this proposal was an agreement that there should be a joint discussion between the two candidates in each of the seven Congressional districts in which they had not both already been heard. Places were named and dates fixed extending to the middle of October. It was agreed that the opening speech on each occasion should occupy one hour; the reply, one hour and a half; the close, half an hour; and that Mr. Douglas should have the first and last voice in four of the seven meetings.
The champions who were thus to enter the lists in a decisive trial of forensic strength and skill are forcibly contrasted by Mr. Speed, who says: "They were the respective leaders of their parties in the State. They were as opposite in character as they were unlike in their persons. Lincoln was long and ungainly; Douglas was short and compact. Douglas, in all elections, was the moving spirit and manager. He was content with nothing short of a blind submission to himself. He could not tolerate opposition to his will within his party organization. He held the reins and controlled the movements of the Democratic chariot. With a large State majority, with many able and ambitious men in it, he stepped to the front in his youth and held his place till his death. Lincoln, on the other hand, shrank from any controversy with his friends. His party being in a minority in the State, he was forced to the front because his friends thought he was the only man with whom they could win. In a canvass his friends had to do all the management. He knew nothing of how to reach the people except by addressing their reason. If the situation had been reversed—Lincoln representing the majority and Douglas the minority—I think it most likely Lincoln would never have had the place. He had no heart for a fight with friends."
The Hon. James G. Blaine has given a masterly description and analysis of the comparative powers of the two illustrious debaters. Douglas, says Mr. Blaine, "was everywhere known as a debater of singular skill. His mind was fertile in resources. He was a master of logic. No man perceived more quickly than he the strength or the weakness of an argument, and no one excelled him in the use of sophistry and fallacy. Where he could not elucidate a point to his own advantage, he would fatally becloud it for his opponent. In that peculiar style of debate which in intensity resembles a physical combat, he had no equal. He spoke with extraordinary readiness. There was no halting in his phrase. He used good English, terse, vigorous, pointed. He disregarded the adornments of rhetoric—rarely used a simile. He was utterly destitute of humor, and had slight appreciation of wit. He never cited historical precedents except from the domain of American politics. Inside that field his knowledge was comprehensive, minute, critical; beyond it his learning was limited. He was not a reader. His recreations were not in literature. In the whole range of his voluminous speaking, it would be difficult to find either a line of poetry or a classical allusion. But he was by nature an orator, and by long practice a debater. He could lead a crowd almost irresistibly to his own conclusions. He could, if he wished, incite a mob to desperate deeds. He was, in short, an able, audacious, almost unconquerable opponent in public discussion. It would have been impossible to find any man of the same type able to meet him before the people of Illinois. Whoever attempted it would probably have been destroyed in the first encounter. But the man who was chosen to meet him, who challenged him to the combat, was radically different in every phase of character. Scarcely could two men be more unlike in mental and moral constitution than Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln was calm and philosophic. He loved the truth for the truth's sake. He would not argue from a false premise, or be deceived himself or deceive others by a false conclusion. He had pondered deeply on the issues which aroused him to action. He had given anxious thought to the problems of free government, and to the destiny of the Republic. He had marked out a path of duty for himself, and he walked it fearlessly. His mental processes were slower but more profound than those of Douglas. He did not seek to say merely the thing which was best for that day's debate, but the thing which would stand the test of time and square itself with eternal justice. He wished nothing to appear white unless it was white. His logic was severe and faultless. He did not resort to fallacy, and could detect it in his opponent and expose it with merciless directness. He had an abounding sense of humor, and always employed it in illustration of his argument—but never for the mere sake of provoking merriment. In this respect he had the wonderful aptness of Franklin. He often taught a great truth with the felicitous brevity of an Aesop fable. His words did not flow in an impetuous torrent, as did those of Douglas; but they were always well chosen, deliberate and conclusive."
Mr. Arnold, in the course of an extended comparison, says: "At the time of these discussions, both Lincoln and Douglas were in the full maturity of their powers. Douglas was forty-five and Lincoln forty-nine years of age. Physically and mentally, they were as unlike as possible. Douglas was short, not much more than five feet high, with a large head, massive brain, broad shoulders, a wide, deep chest, and features strongly marked. He impressed every one, at first sight, as a strong, sturdy, resolute, fearless man. Lincoln's herculean stature has already been described. A stranger who listened to him for five minutes would say: 'This is a kind, genial, sincere, genuine man; a man you can trust, plain, straightforward, honest, and true.' If this stranger were to hear him make a speech, he would be impressed with his clear good sense, by his wit and humor, by his general intelligence, and by the simple, homely, but pure and accurate language he used. In his long residence at Washington, Douglas had acquired the bearing and manners of a gentleman and a man of the world. But he was always a fascinating and attractive man, and always and everywhere personally popular. He had been for years carefully and thoroughly trained on the stump, in Congress, and in the Senate, to meet in debate the ablest speakers in the State and Nation. For years he had been accustomed to meet on the floor of the Capitol the leaders of the old Whig and Free-soil parties. Among them were Webster and Seward, Fessenden and Crittenden, Chase, Trumbull, Hale and others of nearly equal eminence; and his enthusiastic friends insisted that never, either in single conflict or when receiving the assault of the senatorial leaders of a whole party, had he been discomfited. His style was bold, vigorous, and aggressive; at times even defiant. He was ready, fluent, fertile in resources, familiar with national and party history, severe in denunciation, and he handled with skill nearly all the weapons of debate. His iron will and restless energy, together with great personal magnetism, made him the idol of his friends and party. His long, brilliant, and almost universally successful career, gave him perfect confidence in himself, and at times he was arrogant and overbearing.... Lincoln also was a thoroughly trained speaker. He had met successfully, year after year, at the bar and on the stump, the ablest men of Illinois and the Northwest, including Lamborn, Stephen T. Logan, John Calhoun, and many others. He had contended, in generous emulation, with Hardin, Baker, Logan, and Browning; and had very often met Douglas, a conflict with whom he always courted rather than shunned. His speeches, as we read them to-day, show a more familiar knowledge of the slavery question than those of any other statesman of our country. This is especially true of the Peoria speech and the Cooper Institute speech. Lincoln was powerful in argument, always seizing the strong points, and demonstrating his propositions with a clearness and logic approaching the certainty of mathematics. He had, in wit and humor, a great advantage over Douglas. Then he had the better temper; he was always good humored, while Douglas, when hard pressed, was sometimes irritable. Douglas perhaps carried away the more popular applause; Lincoln made the deeper and more lasting impression. Douglas did not disdain an immediate ad captandum triumph; while Lincoln aimed at permanent conviction. Sometimes, when Lincoln's friends urged him to raise a storm of applause, which he could always do by his happy illustrations and amusing stories, he refused, saying, 'The occasion is too serious; the issues are too grave. I do not seek applause, or to amuse the people, but to convince them.' It was observed in the canvass that while Douglas was greeted with the loudest cheers, when Lincoln closed the people seemed serious and thoughtful, and could be heard all through the crowd, gravely and anxiously discussing the subjects on which he had been speaking."
Soon after the arrangements for the debate had been made, Senator Douglas visited Alton, Illinois. A delegation of prominent Democrats there paid their respects to him, and during the conversation one of them congratulated Douglas on the easy task he would have in defeating Lincoln; at the same time expressing surprise at the champion whom he had selected. Douglas replied: "Gentlemen, you do not know Mr. Lincoln. I have known him long and well, and I know that I shall have anything but an easy task. I assure you I would rather meet any other man in the country than Abraham Lincoln." This was Douglas's mature opinion of the man of whom, years before, he had said, in his characteristic way: "Of all the d——d Whig rascals about Springfield, Abe Lincoln is the ablest and honestest." On another occasion, Douglas said: "I have known Lincoln for nearly twenty-five years. There were many points of sympathy between us when we first got acquainted. We were both comparatively boys, and both struggling with poverty in a strange land. I was a school-teacher in the town of Winchester, and he a flourishing grocery-keeper in the town of Salem. He was more successful in his occupation than I was in mine, and hence more fortunate in the world's goods. Lincoln is one of those peculiar men who perform with admirable skill everything they undertake. I made as good a school-teacher as I could, and when a cabinet-maker I made as good bedsteads and tables as I could—although my old boss says that I succeeded better with bureaus and secretaries than with anything else. But I believe that Lincoln was always more successful in business than I, for his business enabled him to get into the Legislature. I met him there, however, and had a sympathy with him because of the up-hill struggle we both had had in life. He was then just as good at telling an anecdote as now. He could beat any of the boys in wrestling or running a foot-race, in pitching quoits or pitching a copper; and the dignity and impartiality with which he presided at a horse-race or fist-fight excited the admiration and won the praise of everybody that was present. I sympathized with him because he was struggling with difficulties, and so was I. Mr. Lincoln served with me in the Legislature of 1836; then we both retired, and he subsided, or became submerged, and was lost sight of as a public man for some years. In 1846, when Wilmot introduced his celebrated proviso, and the Abolition tornado swept over the country, Lincoln again turned up as a Member of Congress from the Sangamon district. I was then in the Senate of the United States, and was glad to welcome my old friend."
Lincoln, in a speech delivered two years before the joint debate, had spoken thus of Senator Douglas: "Twenty-two years ago, Judge Douglas and I first became acquainted; we were both young then—he a trifle younger than I. Even then, we were both ambitious—I perhaps quite as much as he. With me, the race of ambition has been a failure—a flat failure; with him, it has been one of splendid success. His name fills the nation, and is not unknown even in foreign lands. I affect no contempt for the high eminence he has reached; so reached that the oppressed of my species might have shared with me in the elevation, I would rather stand on that eminence than wear the richest crown that ever pressed a monarch's brow."
A few days before the first discussion was to take place, Lincoln, who had become conscious that some of his party friends distrusted his ability to meet successfully a man who, as the Democrats declared and believed, had never had his equal on the stump, met an old friend from Vermilion County, and, shaking hands, inquired the news. His friend replied, "All looks well; our friends are wide awake, but they are looking forward with some anxiety to these approaching joint discussions with Douglas." A shade passed over Lincoln's face, a sad expression came and instantly passed, and then a blaze of light flashed from his eyes, and with his lips compressed and in a manner peculiar to him, half serious and half jocular, he said: "My friend, sit down a minute, and I will tell you a story. You and I, as we have travelled the circuit together attending court, have often seen two men about to fight. One of them, the big or the little giant, as the case may be, is noisy and boastful; he jumps high in the air, strikes his feet together, smites his fists, brags about what he is going to do, and tries hard to 'skeer' the other man. The other man says not a word; his arms are at his side, his fists are clenched, his teeth set, his head settled firmly on his shoulders; he saves his breath and strength for the struggle. This man will whip, as sure as the fight comes off. Good-bye, and remember what I say."
The spirit and purpose with which Lincoln went into the contest are shown also in the following words: "I shall not ask any favors at all. Judge Douglas asks me if I wish to push this matter to the point of personal difficulty. I tell him, No! He did not make a mistake, in one of his early speeches, when he called me an 'amiable' man, though perhaps he did when he called me an 'intelligent' man. I again tell him, No! I very much prefer, when this canvass shall be over, however it may result, that we at least part without any bitter recollections of personal difficulties."
The speeches in these joint discussions were entirely extemporaneous in form, yet they were reported and printed in all the prominent papers in the West, and found eager readers throughout the country. The voice and manner, which add so much to the effect of a speaker, could not be reproduced on the printed page; nor could full justice be done, in a hasty transcript, to the force and fitness of the language employed. Still, the impressions of those who heard them at the time, as well as later and cooler analyses of them, have agreed in pronouncing these debates among the most able and interesting on record. The scenes connected with the different meetings were intensely exciting. Vast throngs were invariably in attendance, while a whole nation was watching the result. "At Freeport," says an observer, "Mr. Douglas appeared in an elegant barouche drawn by four white horses, and was received with great applause. But when Mr. Lincoln came up, in a 'prairie schooner,'—an old-fashioned canvas-covered pioneer wagon,—the enthusiasm of the vast throng was unbounded."
At Charleston Lincoln opened and closed the day's debate. It was the fourth discussion, and there was no more doubt of his ability to sustain the conflict. According to Mr. Arnold, "Douglas's reply to Lincoln was mainly a defense. Lincoln's close was intensely interesting and dramatic. His logic and arguments were crushing, and Douglas's evasions were exposed with a power and clearness that left him utterly discomfited. Republicans saw it. Democrats realized it, and a sort of panic seized them, and ran through the crowd of upturned faces. Douglas realized his defeat, and, as Lincoln's blows fell fast and heavy, he lost his temper. He could not keep his seat; he rose and walked rapidly up and down the platform, behind Lincoln, holding his watch in his hand, and obviously impatient for the call of 'time.' A spectator says: 'He was greatly agitated, his long grizzled hair waving in the wind, like the shaggy locks of an enraged lion.' It was while Douglas was thus exhibiting to the crowd his eager desire to stop Lincoln, that the latter, holding the audience entranced by his eloquence, was striking his heaviest blows. The instant the secondhand of his watch reached the point at which Lincoln's time was up, Douglas, holding up the watch, called out: 'Sit down, Lincoln, sit down! Your time is up!' Turning to Douglas, Lincoln said calmly: 'I will. I will quit. I believe my time is up.' 'Yes,' said a voice from the platform, 'Douglas has had enough; it is time you let up on him.'"
The institution of slavery was, of course, the topic around which circled all the arguments in these joint discussions. It was the great topic of the hour—the important point of division between the Republican and Democratic parties. Lincoln's exposition of the subject was profound and masterly. At the meeting in Quincy the issue was defined and the argument driven home with unsparing logic and directness. In closing the debate, he said:
I wish to return to Judge Douglas my profound thanks for his public annunciation here to-day, to be put on record, that his system of policy in regard to the institution of slavery contemplates that it shall last forever. We are getting a little nearer the true issue of this controversy, and I am profoundly grateful for this one sentence. Judge Douglas asks you, 'Why cannot the institution of slavery, or, rather, why cannot the nation, part slave and part free, continue as our fathers made it forever?' In the first place, I insist that our fathers did not make this nation half slave and half free, or part slave and part free. I insist that they found the institution of slavery existing here. They did not make it so, but they left it so, because they knew of no way to get rid of it at that time. When Judge Douglas undertakes to say that, as a matter of choice, the fathers of the Government made this nation part slave and part free, he assumes what is historically a falsehood. More than that; when the fathers of the Government cut off the source of slavery by the abolition of the slave-trade, and adopted a system of restricting it from the new Territories where it had not existed, I maintain that they placed it where they understood, and all sensible men understood, it was in the course of ultimate extinction; and when Judge Douglas asks me why it cannot continue as our fathers made it, I ask him why he and his friends could not let it remain as our friends made it? It is precisely all I ask of him in relation to the institution of slavery, that it shall be placed upon the basis that our fathers placed it upon. Mr. Brooks, of South Carolina, once said, and truly said, that when this Government was established, no one expected the institution of slavery to last until this day; and that the men who formed this Government were wiser and better than the men of these days; but the men of these days had experience which the fathers had not, and that experience had taught them the invention of the cotton-gin, and this had made the perpetuation of the institution of slavery a necessity in this country. Judge Douglas could not let it stand upon the basis on which our fathers placed it, but removed it, and put it upon the cotton-gin basis. It is a question, therefore, for him and his friends to answer—why they could not let it remain where the fathers of the Government originally placed it.
In these debates Lincoln often seemed like one transfigured—carried away by his own eloquence and the force of his conviction. He said to a friend during the canvass: "Sometimes, in the excitement of speaking, I seem to see the end of slavery. I feel that the time is soon coming when the sun shall shine, the rain shall fall, on no man who shall go forth to unrequited toil.... How this will come, when it will come, by whom it will come, I cannot tell;—but that time will surely come." Again, at the first encounter at Alton, he uttered these pregnant sentences:
On this subject of treating slavery as a wrong, and limiting its spread, let me say a word. Has anything ever threatened the existence of this Union save and except this very institution of slavery? What is it that we hold most dear among us? Our own liberty and prosperity. What has ever threatened our liberty and prosperity, save and except this institution of slavery? If this is true, how do you propose to improve the condition of things by enlarging slavery?—by spreading it out and making it bigger? You may have a wen or cancer upon your person, and not be able to cut it out lest you bleed, to death; but surely it is no way to cure it to ingraft it and spread it over your whole body—that is no proper way of treating what you regard a wrong. This peaceful way of dealing with it as a wrong—restricting the spread of it, and not allowing it to go into new countries where it has not already existed—that is the peaceful way, the old-fashioned way, the way in which the fathers themselves set us the example. Is slavery wrong? That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles—right and wrong—throughout the world. They are two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle, in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says: 'You work, and toil, and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, 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.
On still another occasion he used these unmistakable words:
My declarations upon this subject of negro slavery may be misrepresented, but cannot be misunderstood. I have said that I do not understand the Declaration to mean that all men were created equal in all respects. They are not our equal in color. But I suppose that it does mean to declare that all men are created equal in some respects; they are equal in their right to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' Certainly the negro is not our equal in color, perhaps not in many other respects; still, in the right to put into his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned, he is the equal of every other man, white or black.
It is not in the scope of this narrative to print extended quotations from the speeches made in this memorable contest, but rather to give such reminiscences and anecdotes, and description by eye-witnesses, as will best serve to bring the scenes and actors vividly to mind. Fortunately, many such records are still in existence, and from them some most entertaining personal accounts have been obtained. Among these is an impressive pen-picture of Lincoln on the stump, as admirably sketched by the Rev. Dr. George C. Noyes, of Chicago. "Mr. Lincoln in repose," says Dr. Noyes, "was a very different man in personal appearance from Mr. Lincoln on the platform or on the stump, when his whole nature was roused by his masterful interest in the subject of his discourse. In the former case he was, as has often been described, a man of awkward and ungainly appearance and exceedingly homely countenance. In the latter case, he was a man of magnificent presence and remarkably impressive manner. The writer retains to this day a very vivid impression of his appearance in both these characters, and both on the same day. It was in Jacksonville, in the summer of 1858, and during the great contest with Douglas, when the prize contended for was a seat in the United States Senate. The day was warm; the streets were dusty, and filled with great crowds of people. When Lincoln arrived on the train from Springfield, he was met by an immense procession of people on horseback, in carriages, in wagons and vehicles of every description, and on foot, who escorted him through the principal streets to his hotel. The enthusiasm of the multitude was great; but Lincoln's extremely homely face wore an expression of sadness. He rode in a carriage near the head of the procession, looking dust-begrimed and worn and weary; and though he frequently lifted his hat in recognition of the cheers of the crowds lining the streets, I saw no smile on his face, and he seemed to take no pleasure in the demonstrations of enthusiasm which his presence called forth. His clothes were very ill-fitting, and his long arms and hands protruded far through his coat sleeves, giving him a peculiarly uncouth appearance. Though I had often seen him before, and had heard him in court—always with delight in his clearness and cogency of statement, his illuminating humor, and his conspicuous fairness and candor—yet I had never before seen him when he appeared so homely; and I thought him about the ugliest man I had ever seen. There was nothing in his looks or manner that was prepossessing. Such he appeared as he rode in the procession on the forenoon of that warm summer day. His appearance was not different in the afternoon of that day, when, in the public square, he first stood before the great multitude who had assembled there to hear him. His powers were aroused gradually as he went on with his speech. There was much play of humor. 'Judge Douglas has,' he said, 'one great advantage of me in this contest. When he stands before his admiring friends, who gather in great numbers to hear him, they can easily see, with half an eye, all kinds of fat offices sprouting out of his fat and jocund face, and, indeed, from every part of his plump and well-rounded body. His appearance is therefore irresistibly attractive. His friends expect him to be President, and they expect their reward. But when I stand before the people, not the sharpest vision is able to detect in my lean and lank person, or in my sunken and hollow cheeks, the faintest sign or promise of an office. I am not a candidate for the Presidency, and hence there is no beauty in me that men should desire me.' The crowd was convulsed with laughter at this sally. As the speech went on, the speaker, though often impressing his points with apposite and laughter-provoking stories, grew more and more earnest. He showed that the government was founded in the interest of freedom, not slavery. He traced the steady aggressions of the slave power step by step, until he came to declare and to dwell upon the fact of the irrepressible conflict between the two. Then, as he went on to show, with wonderful eloquence of speech and of manner, that the country must and would ultimately become, not all slave, but all free, he was transfigured before his audience. His homely countenance fairly glowed with the splendor of his prophetic speech; and his body, no longer awkward and ungainly, but mastered and swayed by his thought, became an obedient and graceful instrument of eloquent expression. The whole man seemed to speak. He seemed like some grand Hebrew prophet, whose face was glorified by the bright visions of a better day which he saw and declared. His eloquence was not merely that of clear and luminous statement, felicitous illustration, or excited yet restrained feeling; it was the eloquence also of thought. With something of the imaginative, he united rare dialectic power. He felt the truth before he expounded it; but when once it was felt by him, then his logical power came into remarkably effective play. Step by step he led his hearers onward, till at last he placed them on the summit whence they could see all the landscape of his subject in harmonious and connected order. Of these two contrasted pictures of Lincoln, it is only the last which shows him as he was in his real and essential greatness. And not this fully; for it was in his character that he was greatest. He was not merely a thinker, but a thinker for man, directing his thought to the ends of justice, freedom, and humanity. If he desired and sought high position, it was only that he might thus better serve the cause of freedom to which he was devoted. From the time when he withdrew, in a spirit of magnanimity that was never appreciated, in favor of a rival candidate for the United States Senate, it was evident that the cause was more to him than any personal advantage or advancement."
Another graphic description of Lincoln's appearance and manner on the stump is given by Mr. Jeriah Bonham, whose account of the famous "house-divided-against-itself" speech has already found a place in this narrative. "When Mr. Lincoln took the stand," says Mr. Bonham, "he did not, on rising, show his full height, but stood in a stooping posture, his long-tailed coat hanging loosely around his body, and descending over an ill-fitting pair of pantaloons that covered his not very symmetrical legs. He began his speech in a rather diffident manner, seeming for awhile at a loss for words; his voice was irregular, even a little tremulous, as he began his argument. As he proceeded he seemed to gain more confidence, his form straightened up, his face brightened, his language became free and animated. Soon he had drawn the attention of the crowd by two or three well-told stories that illustrated his argument; and then he became eloquent, carrying his audience at will, as tumultuous applause greeted every telling point he made."
Mrs. John A. Logan, in her "Recollections of a Soldier's Wife," says: "I always like to think of Mr. Lincoln as he was when I saw him with the eyes of an opponent. His awkwardness has not been exaggerated, but it gave no effect of self-consciousness. There was something about his ungainliness and his homely face which would have made anyone who simply passed him in the street remember him. His very awkwardness was an asset in public life, in that it attracted attention to him. Douglas, on the other hand, won by the magnetism of his personality. Lincoln did not seem to have any magnetism, though of course he actually did have the rarest and most precious kind. Give Mr. Lincoln five minutes and Mr. Douglas five minutes before an audience which knew neither, and Mr. Douglas would make the greater impression. But give them each an hour, and the contrary would be true."
In the party that attended Lincoln in the Senatorial campaign was the Hon. Andrew Shuman, afterwards Lieutenant-Governor of Illinois and one of the veteran journalists of Chicago. Mr. Shuman was detailed to report the joint debates for his paper; and he accompanied Lincoln through nearly all of the campaign, travelling with him by night—sometimes occupying the same room, and when in crowded quarters the same bed. He thus saw much of Lincoln, and had the best of opportunities for studying his character; not only hearing all his public speeches, but having long conversations with him in private, and listening to the stories, anecdotes, and gay or grave discourse by which the journeys and the frequent "waits" were enlivened. The group consisted of several gentlemen, including Norman B. Judd of Chicago, afterwards a member of Congress; Robert R. Hitt, who was Lincoln's shorthand reporter, afterwards member of Congress from Illinois; Mr. Villard, later the President of the Northern Pacific Railroad, then a newspaper correspondent; Mr. Shuman; and, at various times, other politicians and journalists. Of this party Lincoln was always the leading spirit in conversation. He would tell stories himself, and draw out stories from others; and his laugh, though not the loudest, was always the heartiest. Then he would pass to soberer themes, and discuss them with a tinge of that melancholy which, however he might be surrounded, never seemed far distant from him. At night, stopping at the country tavern or at some friend's house, the evenings would be spent in discussion and story-telling, or perhaps in a humorous review of the events of the day; and after retiring, Lincoln would entertain his companion, often far into the night, discoursing on many varied subjects,—politics, literature, views of human life and character, or the prominent men and measures then before the country.
One day, according to Governor Shuman, Lincoln had been announced to speak in a town in the extreme southern part of Illinois, in the very heart of "Egypt," where there was a strong pro-slavery sentiment; and it was feared there might be trouble, as Lincoln's anti-slavery tendencies were well known. To make matters worse, a party of Kentuckians and Missourians had come over to attend the meeting, and it was noised about that they would not allow Lincoln to speak. He heard of it, and both he and his friends were somewhat apprehensive of trouble. The place of the meeting was a grove in the edge of the town, the speakers occupying an improvised stand. The gathering was a large one, and it had every appearance of a Southern crowd. It was customary in those times for the men in that section of the country to carry pistols and ugly-looking knives strapped to their persons, on public occasions. It was a semi-barbarous community, and their hatred of the Abolitionists, as they called all anti-slavery men, was as intense as was their love of bad whiskey. Lincoln privately told his friends, who in that locality were very few in number, that "if only they will give me a fair chance to say a few opening words, I'll fix them all right." Before mounting the speaker's stand he was introduced to many of the crowd, and shook their hands in the usual Western way. Getting a small company of the rough-looking fellows around him, he opened on them. "Fellow-citizens of Southern Illinois—fellow-citizens of the State of Kentucky—fellow-citizens of Missouri," he said, in a tone more of conversation than of oratory, looking them straight in the eye, "I am told that there are some of you here present who would like to make trouble for me. I don't understand why they should. I am a plain, common man, like the rest of you; and why should not I have as good a right to speak my sentiments as the rest of you? Why, good friends, I am one of you; I am not an interloper here! I was born in Kentucky, raised in Illinois, just like the most of you, and worked my way right along by hard scratching. I know the people of Kentucky, and I know the people of Southern Illinois, and I think I know the Missourians. I am one of them, and therefore ought to know them, and they ought to know me better, and if they did know me better they would know that I am not disposed to make them trouble; then why should they, or any one of them, want to make trouble for me? Don't do any such foolish thing, fellow-citizens. Let us be friends, and treat each other like friends. I am one of the humblest and most peaceable men in the world—would wrong no man, would interfere with no man's rights; and all I ask is that, having something to say, you will give me a decent hearing. And, being Illinoisans, Kentuckians, and Missourians—brave and gallant people—I feel sure that you will do that. And now let us reason together, like the honest fellows we are." Having uttered these words, his face the very picture of good-nature and his voice full of sympathetic earnestness, he mounted the speaker's stand and proceeded to make one of the most impressive speeches against the further extension of slavery that he ever made in his life. He was listened to attentively; was applauded when he indulged in flashes of humor, and once or twice his eloquent passages were lustily cheered. His little opening remarks had calmed the threatening storm, had conquered his enemies, and he had smooth sailing. From that day to the time of his death, Abraham Lincoln held a warm place in the respect of very many of those rough and rude "Egyptians," and he had no warmer supporters for the Presidency, or while he was President, than they were.
Mr. Leonard Volk, the sculptor who afterwards made an excellent bust of Lincoln, says: "My first meeting with Abraham Lincoln was in 1858, when the celebrated Senatorial contest opened between him and Stephen A. Douglas. I was invited by the latter to accompany him and his party by a special train to Springfield, to which train was attached a platform-car having on board a cannon, which made considerable noise on the journey. At Bloomington we all stopped over night, as Douglas had a speech to make there in the evening. The party went to the Landon House—the only hotel, I believe, in the place at that time. While we were sitting in the hotel office after supper, Mr. Lincoln entered, carrying an old carpet-bag in his hand, and wearing a weather-beaten silk hat—too large, apparently, for his head—a long, loosely-fitting frock-coat of black alpaca, and vest and trousers of the same material. He walked up to the counter, and, saluting the clerk pleasantly, passed the bag over to him, and inquired if he was too late for supper. The clerk replied that supper was over, but perhaps enough could be 'scraped up' for him. 'All right,' said Mr. Lincoln; 'I don't want much.' Meanwhile, he said, he would wash the dust off. He was certainly very dusty; it was the month of June, and quite warm. While he was so engaged, several old friends, who had learned of his arrival, rushed in to see him, some of them shouting, 'How are you, Old Abe?' Mr. Lincoln grasped them by the hand in his cordial manner, with the broadest and pleasantest smile on his rugged face. This was the first good view I had of the 'coming man.' The next day we all stopped at the town of Lincoln, where short speeches were made by the contestants, and dinner was served at the hotel; after which, as Mr. Lincoln came out on the plank-walk in front, I was formally presented to him. He saluted me with his natural cordiality, grasping my hand in both his large hands with a vice-like grip, and looking down into my face with his beaming, dark, full eyes, said: 'How do you do? I am glad to meet you. I have read of you in the papers. You are making a statue of Judge Douglas for Governor Matteson's new house.' 'Yes, sir,' I answered; 'and sometime when you are in Chicago, and can spare the time, I would like to have you sit to me for a bust.' 'Yes, I will, Mr. Volk; I shall be glad to, the first opportunity I have.' All were soon on board the long train, crowded with people, going to hear the speeches at Springfield. The train stopped on the track, near Edward's Grove, in the northern outskirts of the town, where staging was erected and a vast crowd waited under the shade of the trees. On leaving the train, most of the passengers climbed over the fences and crossed the stubble-field, taking a short-cut to the grove,—among them Mr. Lincoln, who stalked forward alone, taking immense strides, the before-mentioned carpet-bag and an umbrella in his hands, and his coat skirts flying in the breeze. I managed to keep pretty close in the rear of the tall, gaunt figure, with the head craned forward, apparently much over the balance, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, that was moving something like a hurricane across that rough stubble-field."
The contest between Lincoln and Douglas seemed to be, as expressed by Dr. Newton Bateman, "one between sharpness and greatness." Lincoln seemed to Dr. Bateman, "a man strongly possessed by a belief to which he was earnestly striving to win the people over; while the aim of Mr. Douglas seemed rather to be simply to defeat Mr. Lincoln." Yet, although Lincoln was usually earnest and considerate of his opponent, he could, when occasion required, bring his powers of humor and sarcasm into play in a very effective manner. A few pointed illustrations may be given. In his speech at Galesburg, Douglas sneeringly informed the citizens that "Honest Abe" had been a liquor-seller. Lincoln met this with the candid admission that once in early life he had, under the pressure of poverty, accepted and for a few months held a position in a store where it was necessary for him to retail liquor. "But the difference between Judge Douglas and myself is just this," he added, "that while I was behind the bar, he was in front of it."
At the close of the joint discussion at Alton, Douglas led off with a speech an hour long, in which he showed no little irritability. The campaign was evidently wearing on him. Lincoln, on the contrary, was in capital spirits. "He sat taking in the speech of Douglas with seeming immobility," says Mr. Jeriah Bonham, who was present, "and when it was ended, he rose to reply. As in the opening of all his speeches, he spoke slowly, did not rise to his full height, leaning forward in a stooping posture at first, his person showing all the angularities of limb and face. For the first five or ten minutes he was both awkward and diffident, as in almost monotonous tones he began to untangle the meshes of Douglas's sophistry. Proceeding, he gained confidence gradually; his voice rang out strong and clear; his tall form towered to its full height; his face grew radiant with impassioned feeling, as he poured forth an outburst of crushing argument and inspiring eloquence. The people became wild with enthusiasm, but his voice rang loud above their cheers. Frequently in his speech he would turn toward Douglas, and say with emphasis, 'You know these things are so, Mr. Douglas!' or 'You know these things are not so, Mr. Douglas!' At one time he bent his long body over his adversary, pouring in his arguments so sharply, that Douglas, chafing under the attack, rose to explain; but Lincoln would not allow it. 'Sit down, Mr. Douglas!' said he peremptorily. 'I did not interrupt you, and you shall not interrupt me. You will have opportunity to reply to me—if you can—in your closing speech.'"
A good story is told of the occasion on which Lincoln and Douglas spoke in Chicago. A well-known citizen who on account of his age was known familiarly as "Father Brewster"—a man of standing, and a member of the Board of Education—was one of the listeners on the platform. Lincoln admired the old gentleman very much, and the admiration was mutual. They sat together while Douglas made the opening speech. He spoke for more than an hour, and never more brilliantly. When Lincoln's turn came he could see that Father Brewster was exceedingly anxious as to the outcome. Lincoln arose, let out all the joints in his long body, slowly removed his overcoat and laid it across Mr. Brewster's knees. "Father Brewster," he said, "will you hold my overcoat while I stone Stephen?" Everybody shouted and cheered, and even Douglas joined in the laugh at his own expense.
Beneath the humors and excitements of the campaign, the prevailing tone of Lincoln's thought was deeply serious and reflective. Toward the close, when indications pointed to his defeat for the Senate, he seemed somewhat depressed, and occasionally his old habitual melancholy would steal over him and impart to his words a touching pathos. On such an occasion, in one of the smaller cities of Illinois, Douglas, having the first speech, made an unusually brilliant effort. He carried the crowd with him; and when Lincoln rose to reply, it was evident that he felt his disadvantage—felt, too, that do what he would final defeat was probable. He made a good speech, but not one of his best. Concluding his argument, he stopped and stood silent for a moment, looking around upon the throng of half-indifferent, half-friendly faces before him, with those deep-sunken weary eyes that always seemed full of unshed tears. Folding his hands, as if they too were tired of the hopeless fight, he said, in his peculiar monotone: "My friends, it makes little difference, very little difference, whether Judge Douglas or myself is elected to the United States Senate; but the great issue which we have submitted to you to-day is far above and beyond any personal interests or the political fortunes of any man. And, my friends, that issue will live and breathe and burn when the poor, feeble, stammering tongues of Judge Douglas and myself are silent in the grave." The crowd swayed as if smitten by a mighty wind. The simple words, and the manner in which they were spoken, touched every heart to the core.
Lincoln spoke in all about fifty times during the campaign. At its close, says Mr. Arnold, "both Douglas and Lincoln visited Chicago. Douglas was so hoarse that he could hardly articulate, and it was painful to hear him attempt to speak. Lincoln's voice was clear and vigorous, and he really seemed in better tone than usual. His dark complexion was bronzed by the prairie sun and winds; his eye was clear, his step firm, and he looked like a trained athlete, ready to enter, rather than one who had closed, a conflict."
Of the speeches in this campaign, Mr. Henry J. Raymond, the distinguished journalist, pronounced the following well-considered opinion: "While Douglas fully sustained his previous reputation, and justified the estimate his friends had placed upon his abilities, he labored under the comparative disadvantage of being much better known to the country at large than was his antagonist. During his long public career, people had become partially accustomed to his manner of presenting arguments and enforcing them. The novelty and freshness of Lincoln's addresses, on the other hand, the homeliness and force of his illustrations, their wonderful pertinence, his exhaustless humor, his confidence in his own resources, engendered by his firm belief in the justice of the cause he so ably advocated, never once rising, however, to the point of arrogance or superciliousness, fastened upon him the eyes of the people everywhere, friends and opponents alike. It was not strange that more than once, during the course of the unparalleled excitement which marked this canvass, Douglas should have been thrown off his guard by the singular self-possession displayed by his antagonist, and by the imperturbable firmness with which he maintained and defended a position once taken. The unassuming confidence which marked Lincoln's conduct was early imparted to his supporters, and each succeeding encounter added largely to the number of his friends, until they began to indulge the hope that a triumph might be secured in spite of the adverse circumstances under which the struggle was commenced."
Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield (Mass.) "Republican," said that Lincoln "handled Douglas as he would an eel—by main strength. Sometimes, perhaps, he handled him so strongly that he slipped through his fingers."
"In this canvass," says Mr. Lamon, "Mr. Lincoln earned a reputation as a popular debater second to that of no man in America—certainly not second to that of his famous antagonist. He kept his temper; he was not prone to personalities; he was fair, frank, and manly; and, if the contest had shown nothing else, it would have shown at least that 'Old Abe' could behave like a gentleman under very trying circumstances. His marked success in these discussions was probably no surprise to the people of the Springfield district, who knew him as well as they did Mr. Douglas, or even better. But in the greater part of the State, and throughout the Union, the series of brilliant victories successively won by an obscure man over an orator of such wide experience and renown was received with exclamations of astonishment alike by listeners and readers."
Caleb Cushing, the distinguished Massachusetts lawyer, was one of those acute minds whose attention was attracted to Lincoln by his debates with Douglas. Mr. Cushing said that these debates showed Lincoln to be the superior of Douglas "in every vital element of power"; and added that "the world does not yet know how much of a man Lincoln really is." It was soon to know him much more clearly. In less than two years after the great debate this lately obscure Illinois lawyer was elected President of the United States.
A Year of Waiting and Trial—Again Defeated for the Senate—Depression and Neglect—Lincoln Enlarging His Boundaries—On the Stump in Ohio—A Speech to Kentuckians—Second Visit to Cincinnati—A Short Trip to Kansas—Lincoln in New York City—The Famous Cooper Institute Speech—A Strong and Favorable Impression—Visits New England—Secret of Lincoln's Success as an Orator—Back to Springfield—Disposing of a Campaign Slander—Lincoln's Account of His Visit to a Five Points Sunday School.
On the 2d of November, 1858, the State election was held in Illinois. The chief significance of this election was due to the fact that the Legislature then chosen would decide whether Douglas or Lincoln should be sent to the Senate at Washington. The result showed that Lincoln had, by his hard efforts, won a victory for his cause and for his party, but not for himself. The Republican State ticket was elected by a majority of about 4,000 votes; but in the Legislature a number of members held over from the election of two years before, and the Republican gains, though considerable, were not quite sufficient to overcome this adverse element. When the Legislature met, Douglas was re-elected to the Senate by a small majority. It is said that Lincoln was deeply grieved by his defeat. When some one inquired of him how he felt over the result, he answered that he felt "like the boy that stubbed his toe,—'it hurt too bad to laugh, and he was too big to cry!'"
A few days after his return to Springfield, there was pressed on the attention of the defeated candidate a matter which must have been peculiarly unwelcome at the time, but which was accepted with habitual fortitude. What this matter was is revealed in the following letter:
SPRINGFIELD, NOV. 16, 1858.
HON. N.B. JUDD—My Dear Sir:—Yours of the 15th is just received. I wrote you the same day. As to the pecuniary matter, I am willing to pay according to my ability, but I am the poorest hand living to get others to pay. I have been on expense so long, without earning anything, that I am absolutely without money now for even household expenses. Still, if you can put in two hundred and fifty dollars for me towards discharging the debt of the committee, I will allow it when you and I settle the private matter between us. This, with what I have already paid with an outstanding note of mine, will exceed my subscription of five hundred dollars. This, too, is exclusive of my ordinary expenses during the campaign, all of which, being added to my loss of time and business, bears pretty heavily upon one no better off than I am. But as I had the post of honor, it is not for me to be over-nice.
You are feeling badly. And this, too, shall pass away; never fear.
Yours as ever, A. LINCOLN.
Hon. E.M. Haines, who was a member of the Legislature of 1858-9, and a supporter of Lincoln for the Senate, states that Lincoln seemed greatly depressed by his defeat, and that his friends were also somewhat disheartened regarding his future prospects, and neglected him to some extent. "Some time after the Senatorial election," says Mr. Haines, "Governor Bissell gave a reception at his house, which I attended with my wife. After we had paid our respects to the Governor and Mrs. Bissell, we passed on to an adjoining room, where there was quite a throng of people engaged in conversation. Mr. Lincoln was standing near the centre of the room, entirely alone, with his usual sad countenance, and apparently unnoticed by anyone. I said to my wife, 'Here is Mr. Lincoln; he looks as if he had lost all his friends; come and have an introduction to him, and cheer him up.' Mr. Lincoln received us very cordially, and we entered into a general conversation, apparently unnoticed, and attracting no attention from others as they passed and repassed around us. Dancing was going on in the adjacent rooms, and Mr. Lincoln invited my wife to join him in the dancing, which she did, and he apparently took much pleasure in the recreation. My wife afterwards related to me much that Mr. Lincoln said in their conversation during the evening. His despondency became much dispelled after they became engaged in conversation; indeed, she said that he seemed to be putting forth an effort to get out of the gloomy condition which had come upon him from the result of his Senatorial canvass. He had occasion during their conversation to refer to his age, remarking incidentally that he was almost fifty years old; whereupon, as if suddenly reflecting that his age was a good part of a man's life, and as if unwilling to relinquish his hold upon the future, he suddenly braced himself up, and said, 'But, Mrs. Haines, I feel that I am good for another fifty years yet.'"
During the winter following the Senatorial debate Lincoln was occupied with his private affairs. The love of public speaking had become so strong with him that he prepared a lecture and delivered it to the public at several places during the winter. It was somewhat humorous in character, but was not much of a success, and he soon declined further invitations to deliver it. To one correspondent he wrote, in March, 1859: "Your note, inviting me to deliver a lecture in Galesburg, is received. I regret to say that I cannot do so now. I must stick to the courts for awhile. I read a sort of a lecture to three different audiences during the last month and this; but I did so under circumstances which made it a waste of time, of no value whatever."
The following autumn (1859) Senator Douglas visited Ohio and made speeches for the Democratic party there. From the Republican ranks there arose a cry for Lincoln, whose superiority to Douglas in the great debate of the preceding year was still fresh in the public mind. He promptly answered it, and spoke in that State with marked effect. At Cincinnati he addressed himself especially to Kentuckians, and said, in a strain which is now seen to be prophetic:
I should not wonder if there were some Kentuckians in this audience; we are close to Kentucky; but whether that be so or not, we are on elevated ground, and by speaking distinctly I should not wonder if some of the Kentuckians would hear me on the other side of the river. For that purpose I propose to address a portion of what I have to say to the Kentuckians. I say, then, in the first place, to the Kentuckians, that I am what they call, as I understand it, a 'Black Republican.' I think slavery is wrong, morally and politically. I desire that it should be no further spread in these United States, and I should not object if it should gradually terminate in the whole Union. While I say this for myself, I say to you Kentuckians, that I understand you differ radically with me upon this proposition; that you believe slavery is a good thing; that slavery is right; that it ought to be extended and perpetuated in this Union. Now, there being this broad difference between us, I do not pretend, in addressing myself to you Kentuckians, to attempt proselyting you; that would be a vain effort. I will tell you, so far as I am authorized to speak for the opposition, what we mean to do with you. We mean to treat you, as nearly as we possibly can, as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison treated you. We mean to leave you alone, and in no way to interfere with your institution; to abide by all and every compromise of the Constitution, and, in a word, coming back to the original proposition, to treat you, so far as degenerated men (if we have degenerated) may, according to the examples of those noble fathers—Washington, Jefferson and Madison. We mean to remember that you are as good as we; that there is no difference between us, other than the difference of circumstances. We mean to recognize and bear in mind always, that you have as good hearts in your bosoms as other people, or as we claim to have, and treat you accordingly. We mean to marry your girls, when we have a chance—the white ones, I mean—and I have the honor to inform you that I once did have a chance in that way. I have told you what we mean to do. I want to know now what you mean to do. I often hear it intimated that you mean to divide the Union whenever a Republican, or anything like it, is elected President of the United States. [A voice—'That is so.'] 'That is so,' one of them says; I wonder if he is a Kentuckian? [A voice—'He is a Douglas man.'] Well, then, I want to know what you are going to do with your half of it? Are you going to split the Ohio down through, and push your half off a piece? Or are you going to keep it right alongside of us outrageous fellows? Or are you going to build up a wall some way between your country and ours, by which that movable property of yours can't come over here any more, to the danger of your losing it? Do you think you can better yourselves on that subject by leaving us here under no obligation whatever to return those specimens of your movable property that come hither? You have divided the Union because we would not do right with you, as you think, upon that subject; when we cease to be under obligations to do anything for you, how much better off do you think you will be? Will you make war upon us and kill us all? Why, gentlemen, I think you are as gallant and as brave men as live; that you can fight as bravely in a good cause, man for man, as any other people living; that you have shown yourselves capable of this upon various occasions; but man for man, you are not better than we are, and there are not so many of you as there are of us. You will never make much of a hand at whipping us. If we were fewer in numbers than you, I think that you could whip us; if we were equal, it would likely be a drawn battle; but being inferior in numbers, you will make nothing by attempting to master us.
The Hon. W.M. Dickson, whose interesting account of Lincoln's first visit to Cincinnati and the disappointments attending it has already been given in this narrative, says of this second visit as contrasted with the obscurity of the first: "Lincoln returned to the city with a fame wide as the continent, with the laurels of the Douglas contest on his brow, and the Presidency almost in his grasp. He returned, greeted with the thunder of cannon, the strains of martial music, and the joyous plaudits of thousands of citizens thronging the streets. He addressed a vast concourse on Fifth Street Market; was entertained in princely style at the Burnet House; and there received with courtesy the foremost citizens, come to greet this Western rising star."
In December of the same year Lincoln visited Kansas and addressed the people of that troubled State upon the political questions then before the country. At Leavenworth, Atchison, Elwood, and other places, he was met by large gatherings of eager listeners who were charmed and convinced by his fresh and reassuring utterances. His journeys were complete ovations, and he returned to Illinois leaving a host of new friends behind him. As several of Lincoln's biographers make no reference to his Kansas visit, and the entire matter seems more or less obscured, the following letter, lately written by Mr. Harry W. Stewart, of Carlsbad, New Mexico, is of much interest: "I have recently seen a reference to Lincoln's visit to Kansas as if the fact were not clearly established. In this connection I may offer a personal recollection of my father, James G. Stewart, who was a physician practicing in the little town of Elwood, Kansas, from 1856 to 1860. He said that both Lincoln and Seward came out and spoke in St. Joseph, Mo., just across the river from Elwood. On each occasion a large following of 'free state' men went over to St. Jo to hear the speech and incidentally to support the speaker in case of violence, which had been freely predicted. According to this reminiscence, Lincoln crossed the Missouri into Kansas, my father having the honor of taking him in a buggy to a small town fourteen miles distant from Elwood in Doniphan County. They drove out to Troy, where Mr. Lincoln made a speech. From here I think he went on to Lawrence and other places before returning to St. Joseph, but have no account of his movements beyond Troy. I think it was in the year 1858 and must have been in the summer time, for the party took Mr. Lincoln over the Missouri on a ferry. It did not make trips oftener than about once in two hours. When Lincoln came to the bank on the Missouri side the boat had just gone. There was no waiting-room or benches to sit on and some of the party were inclined to think they were in hard luck. When Lincoln found out how it was, he said: 'It's all right. We'll sit right down on the sand and wait for the boat.' Then they all sat down on the ground and listened to genuine Lincoln stories till the time was up. My father often spoke with delight of this incident. I have looked in vain in Lincoln histories for a more definite account of this Kansas trip. Of the actual fact there can be no doubt."
Lincoln's fame, as we have seen, had now extended to the East, where he seems to have been looked upon as a rising man and an interesting figure in national politics. Invitations to visit the East now began to reach him. In the following February (1860) he went to Brooklyn, for the purpose of delivering a lecture in Mr. Beecher's church. The invitation had given him much pleasure, and he prepared himself thoroughly; indeed, it is said that no effort of his life cost him so much labor as this. In the Plymouth congregation of Brooklyn there was an association of young men which was successful in getting an annual course of six lectures of the highest order. This association discerned in Lincoln a man worthy of a place in its course, and invited him to give such a lecture. Meanwhile, some prominent Republican politicians of New York had heard of him as a possible candidate for the Presidency, and desired him to make a speech in that city in order to determine whether he would be the man to present to the Republican National convention in case Mr. Seward could not be nominated. Lincoln informed these gentlemen of his Brooklyn engagement, but said he would speak in New York if the Brooklyn club gave its consent. That club agreed to this arrangement; and thus it was decided that Lincoln's speech should be delivered in New York City, instead of Brooklyn, as had been first intended. Mr. R.C. McCormick, who was a member of the committee in charge of the arrangements, says: "When Mr. Lincoln came to New York City, there was some confusion in the arrangements. He had at first been invited to appear in Brooklyn, but upon deliberation his friends thought it best that he should be heard in New York. Reaching the Astor House on Saturday, February 25, he was surprised to find by announcement in the public prints that he was to speak at the Cooper Institute. He said he must review his address if it was to be delivered in New York. What he had prepared for Mr. Beecher's church-folks might not be altogether appropriate to a miscellaneous political audience. Saturday was spent in a review of the speech, and on Sunday morning he went to Plymouth church, where apparently he greatly enjoyed the service. On Monday morning I waited upon him with several members of the Young Men's Republican Union, into whose hands the preparations for the meeting at the Cooper Institute had fallen. We found him in a suit of black, much wrinkled from its careless packing in a small valise. He received us cordially, apologizing for the awkward and uncomfortable appearance he made in his new suit, and expressing himself surprised at being in New York. His form and manner were indeed very odd, and we thought him the most unprepossessing public man we had ever met. I spoke to him of the manuscript of his forthcoming address, and suggested to him that it should be given to the press at his earliest convenience, in order that it might be published in full on the morning following its delivery. He appeared in much doubt as to whether any of the papers would care to print it; and it was only when I accompanied a reporter to his room and made a request for it, that he began to think his words might be of interest to the metropolitan public. He seemed wholly ignorant of the custom of supplying slips to the different journals from the office first putting the addresses in type, and was charmingly innocent of the machinery so generally used, even by some of our most popular orators, to give success and eclat to their public efforts. The address was written upon blue foolscap paper, all in his own hand, and with few interlineations. I was bold enough to read portions of it, and had no doubt that its delivery would create a marked sensation throughout the country. Lincoln referred frequently to Douglas, but always in a generous and kindly manner. It was difficult to regard them as antagonists. Many stories of the famous Illinois debates were told us, and in a very short time his frank and sparkling conversation won our hearts and made his plain face pleasant to us all. During the day it was suggested that he should be taken up Broadway and shown the city, of which he knew but little—stating, I think, that he had been here but once before. At one place he met an Illinois acquaintance of former years, to whom he said, in his dry, good-natured way: 'Well, B., how have you fared since you left Illinois?' To which B. replied, 'I have made a hundred thousand dollars, and lost all. How is it with you, Mr. Lincoln?' 'Oh, very well,' said Lincoln. 'I have the cottage at Springfield, and about eight thousand dollars in money. If they make me Vice-president with Seward, as some say they will, I hope I shall be able to increase it to twenty thousand; and that is as much as any man ought to want.' We visited a photographic establishment upon the corner of Broadway and Bleeker streets, where he sat for his picture, the first taken in New York. At the gallery he met and was introduced to Hon. George Bancroft, and had a brief conversation with that gentleman, who welcomed him to New York. The contrast in the appearance of the men was most striking; the one courtly and precise in his every word and gesture, with the air of a trans-Atlantic statesman; the other bluff and awkward, his very utterance an apology for his ignorance of metropolitan manners and customs. 'I am on my way to Massachusetts,' he said to Mr. Bancroft, 'where I have a son at school, who, if report be true, already knows much more than his father.'"
On the evening of February 27 a large and brilliant audience gathered at Cooper Institute, to hear the famous Western orator. The scene was one never to be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Upon the platform sat many of the prominent men of the Republican party, and in the body of the hall were many ladies. The meeting was presided over by the distinguished citizen and poet William Cullen Bryant, of whom Mr. Lincoln afterward said, "It was worth a journey to the East merely to see such a man." The orator of the evening was introduced by Mr. Bryant with some very complimentary allusions, especially to his controversy with Douglas. "When Mr. Lincoln came on the platform and was introduced by Mr. Bryant," says one who was present, "he seemed a giant in contrast with him. His first sentence was delivered in a peculiarly high-keyed voice, and disappointed us. In a short time the sharp points of his address began to come, and he had not been speaking for half an hour before his audience seemed wild with enthusiasm." Another account says: "His manner was, to a New York audience, a very strange one, but it was captivating. He held the vast meeting spell-bound, and as one by one his oddly expressed but trenchant and convincing arguments confirmed the soundness of his political conclusions, the house broke out in wild and prolonged enthusiasm. I think I never saw an audience more thoroughly carried away by an orator." This speech was full of trenchant passages, which called forth tumultuous applause. The following is a specimen:
I defy anyone to show that any living man in the whole world ever did, prior to the beginning of the present century (and I might almost say prior to the beginning of the last half of the present century), declare that, in his understanding, any proper division of local from Federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control slavery in the Federal territories. To those who now so declare, I give not only our fathers who framed the government under which we live, but with them all other living men within the century in which it was framed, among whom to search, and they shall not be able to find the evidence of a single man agreeing with them.
Referring to the South, and the growing political discontent in that quarter, he said:
Let all who believe that our fathers understood this question just as well as, and even better than, we do now, speak as they spoke and act as they acted upon it. This is all Republicans ask—all Republicans desire—in relation to slavery. As those fathers marked it, so let it be again marked, as an evil not to be extended, but to be tolerated and protected only because, and so far as, its actual presence among us makes that toleration and protection a necessity. Let all the guarantees those fathers gave it be not grudgingly but fully and fairly maintained.
His counsel to the young Republican party was timely and full of wisdom.
A few words now to Republicans: It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great Confederacy shall be at peace, and in harmony one with another. Let us Republicans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill-temper. Even though the Southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them, if in our deliberate view of our duty we possibly can.
The address closed with the following impressive words:
Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these free States? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored—contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man,—such as a policy of 'don't care' on a question about which all true men do care,—such as Union appeals, beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling not the sinners but the righteous to repentance,—such as invocations of Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said and undo what Washington did. Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith, let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.
The Cooper Institute speech made a profound impression upon the public. All who saw and heard Lincoln on that occasion felt the influence of his strange but powerful personality; and acute minds recognized in the unsophisticated Western lawyer a new force in American politics. This speech made Lincoln known throughout the country, and undoubtedly did more than anything else to secure him the nomination for the Presidency. Aside from its extensive publication in the newspapers, various editions of it appeared in pamphlet form, one of the best of which was issued by Messrs. C.C. Nott and Cephas Brainard, who appended to their edition an estimate of the speech that is well worth reprinting here: "No one who has not actually attempted to verify its details can understand the patient research and historical labor which it embodies. The history of our earlier politics is scattered through numerous journals, statutes, pamphlets, and letters; and these are defective in completeness and accuracy of statement, and in indexes and tables of contents. Neither can any one who has not travelled over this precise ground appreciate the accuracy of every trivial detail, or the self-denying impartiality with which Mr. Lincoln has turned from the testimony of 'the fathers' on the general question of slavery to present the single question which he discusses. From the first line to the last, from his premises to his conclusion, he travels with a swift, unerring directness which no logician ever excelled,—an argument complete and full, without the affectation of learning, and without the stiffness which usually accompanies dates and details. A single easy, simple sentence of plain Anglo-Saxon words contains a chapter of history that, in some instances, has taken days of labor to verify, and must have cost the author months of investigation to acquire; and though the public should justly estimate the labor bestowed on the facts which are stated, they cannot estimate the greater labor involved on those which are omitted—how many pages have been read—how many works examined—what numerous statutes, resolutions, speeches, letters, and biographies have been looked through. Commencing with this address as a political pamphlet, the reader will leave it as an historical work—brief, complete, profound, impartial, truthful,—which will survive the time and the occasion that called it forth, and be esteemed hereafter no less for its intrinsic worth than for its unpretending modesty."
Lincoln's oldest son, Robert, was at this time a student in Harvard University, and, chiefly to visit him, Lincoln made a brief trip to New England. While there he spoke at Concord and Manchester in New Hampshire; at Woonsocket in Rhode Island; and at Hartford, New Haven, Norwich, Meriden, and Bridgeport in Connecticut. These speeches were heard with delight by large audiences, and received hearty praise from the press. At Manchester, "The Mirror," a neutral paper, published the following remarks on Lincoln's style of oratory: "He spoke an hour and a half, with great fairness, great apparent candor, and with wonderful interest. He did not abuse the South, the administration, or the Democrats, nor indulge in any personalities, with the exception of a few hits at 'Douglas's notions.' He is far from prepossessing in personal appearance, and his voice is disagreeable; and yet he wins attention and good-will from the start. He indulges in no flowers of rhetoric, no eloquent passages. He is not a wit, a humorist, or a clown; yet so fine a vein of pleasantry and good-nature pervades what he says, gliding over a deep current of poetical arguments, that he keeps his hearers in a smiling mood, ready to swallow all he says. His sense of the ludicrous is very keen; and an exhibition of that is the clincher of all his arguments—not the ludicrous acts of persons, but ludicrous ideas. For the first half-hour his opponents would agree with every word he uttered; and from that point he began to lead them off little by little, until it seemed as if he had got them all into his fold."
The Rev. John. P. Gulliver, of Norwich, Connecticut, has given a most interesting reminiscence of Lincoln's speech in that city while on his tour through New England. On the morning following the speech he met Lincoln on a railroad train, and entered into conversation with him. In speaking of his speech, Mr. Gulliver remarked to Lincoln that he thought it the most remarkable one he ever heard. "Are you sincere in what you say?" inquired Lincoln. "I mean every word of it," replied the minister; "indeed, I learned more of the art of public speaking last evening than I could from a whole course of lectures on rhetoric." Then Lincoln informed him of a "most extraordinary circumstance" that had occurred at New Haven a few days previous. A professor of rhetoric in Yale College, he had been told, came to hear him, took notes of his speech, and gave a lecture on it to his class the following day, and, not satisfied with that, followed him to Meriden the next evening and heard him again for the same purpose. All this seemed to Lincoln to be "very extraordinary." He had been sufficiently astonished by his success in the West, but he had no expectation of any marked success in the East, particularly among literary and learned men. "Now," said Lincoln, "I should like very much to know what it is in my speech which you thought so remarkable, and which interested my friend the professor so much." Mr. Gulliver's answer was: "The clearness of your statements, the unanswerable style of your reasoning, and especially your illustrations, which were romance and pathos and fun and logic all welded together." After Mr. Gulliver had fully satisfied his curiosity by a further exposition of the politician's peculiar power, Lincoln said: "I am much obliged to you for this. I have been wishing for a long time to find someone who would make this analysis for me. It throws light on a subject which has been dark to me. I can understand very readily how such a power as you have ascribed to me will account for the effect which seems to be produced by my speeches. I hope you have not been too flattering in your estimate. Certainly I have had a most wonderful success for a man of my limited education." Mr. Gulliver then inquired into the processes by which he had acquired his education, and was rewarded with many interesting details. When they were about to part, the minister said: "Mr. Lincoln, may I say one thing to you before we separate?" "Certainly; anything you please," was the response. "You have just spoken," said Mr. Gulliver, "of the tendency of political life in Washington to debase the moral convictions of our representatives there, by the admixture of considerations of mere political expediency. You have become, by the controversy with Mr. Douglas, one of our leaders in this great struggle with slavery, which is undoubtedly the struggle of the nation and the age. What I would like to say is this, and I say it with a full heart: Be true to your principles, and we will be true to you, and God will be true to us all." Mr. Lincoln, touched by the earnestness of his interlocutor, took his hand in both his own, and, with his face full of sympathetic light, exclaimed: "I say amen to that! amen to that!"
After the New England tour, Lincoln returned to his home in Springfield. As often happens, those least appreciative of his success were his own neighbors; and certain reflections gained vogue concerning his motives in visiting the East. It was charged that he had been mercenary; that his political speeches had been paid for. Something of this sort having been brought to Lincoln's notice, he disposed of the matter in the following manly and characteristic letter:
C.F. McNEILL, ESQ.—Dear Sir:—Reaching home yesterday, I found yours of the 23d March, enclosing a slip from the 'Middleport Press.' It is not true that I ever charged anything for a political speech in my life; but this much is true: Last October I was requested by letter to deliver some sort of speech in Mr. Beecher's church in Brooklyn, $200 being offered in the first letter. I wrote that I could do it in February, provided they would take a political speech if I could find time to get up no other. They agreed; and subsequently I informed them the speech would have to be a political one. When I reached New York, I learned for the first time that the place was changed to Cooper Institute. I made the speech, and left for New England, where I have a son at school, neither asking for pay nor having any offered me. Three days after, a check for $200 was sent me, and I took it, and did not know it was wrong. My understanding now is—though I knew nothing of it at the time—that they did charge for admittance at the Cooper Institute, and that they took in more than twice $200. I have made this explanation to you as a friend; but I wish no explanation made to our enemies. What they want is a squabble and a fuss; and that they can have if we explain; and they cannot have it if we don't. When I returned through New York from New England, I was told by the gentleman who sent me the check that a drunken vagabond in the club, having learned something about the $200, made the exhibition out of which the 'Herald' manufactured the article quoted by the 'Press' of your town. My judgment is, and therefore my request is, that you give no denial, and no explanations.
Thanking you for your kind interest in the matter, I remain,
Yours truly, A. LINCOLN.
It appears that on the Sunday which Lincoln spent in New York City he visited a Sunday School in the notorious region called Five Points, and there made a short address to the scholars. After his return to Springfield, one of his neighbors, hearing of this, thought it would be a good subject for bantering Lincoln about, and accordingly visited him for that purpose. This neighbor was generally known as "Jim," just as Lincoln was called "Abe." The following account of his visit, furnished by Mr. Edward Eggleston, shows that he did not derive as much fun from the "bantering" as he had expected: "He started for 'Old Abe's' office; but bursting open the door impulsively, found a stranger in conversation with Mr. Lincoln. He turned to retrace his steps, when Lincoln called out, 'Jim! What do you want?' 'Nothing.' 'Yes, you do; come back.' After some entreaty 'Jim' approached Mr. Lincoln, and remarked, with a twinkle in his eye, 'Well, Abe, I see you have been making a speech to Sunday School children. What's the matter?' 'Sit down, Jim, and I'll tell you all about it.' And with that Lincoln put his feet on the stove, and began: 'When Sunday morning came, I didn't know exactly what to do. Mr. Washburne asked me where I was going. I told him I had nowhere to go; and he proposed to take me down to the Five Points Sunday School, to show me something worth seeing. I was very much interested by what I saw. Presently, Mr. Pease came up and spoke to Mr. Washburne, who introduced me. Mr. Pease wanted us to speak. Washburne spoke, and then I was urged to speak. I told them I did not know anything about talking to Sunday Schools, but Mr. Pease said many of the children were friendless and homeless, and that a few words would do them good. Washburne said I must talk. And so I rose to speak; but I tell you, Jim, I didn't know what to say. I remembered that Mr. Pease said they were homeless and friendless, and I thought of the time when I had been pinched by terrible poverty. And so I told them that I had been poor; that I remembered when my toes stuck out through my broken shoes in winter; when my arms were out at the elbows; when I shivered with the cold. And I told them there was only one rule; that was, always do the very best you can. I told them that I had always tried to do the very best I could; and that, if they would follow that rule, they would get along somehow. That was about what I said. And when I got through, Mr. Pease said it was just the thing they needed. And when the school was dismissed, all the teachers came up and shook hands with me, and thanked me; although I did not know that I had been saying anything of any account. But the next morning I saw my remarks noticed in the papers.' Just here Mr. Lincoln put his hand in his pocket, and remarked that he had never heard anything that touched him as had the songs which those children sang. With that he drew forth a little book, saying that they had given him one of the books from which they sang. He began to read a piece with all the earnestness of his great, earnest soul. In the middle of the second verse his friend 'Jim' felt a choking in his throat and a tickling in his nose. At the beginning of the third verse he saw that the stranger was weeping, and his own tears fell fast. Turning toward Lincoln, who was reading straight on, he saw the great blinding tears in his eyes, so that he could not possibly see the pages. He was repeating that little song from memory. How often he had read it, or how long its sweet and simple accents continued to reverberate through his soul, no one can know."
Looking Towards the Presidency—The Illinois Republican Convention of 1860—A "Send-Off" for Lincoln—The National Republican Convention at Chicago—Contract of the Leading Candidates—Lincoln Nominated—Scenes at the Convention—Sketches by Eye-Witnesses—Lincoln Hearing the News—The Scene at Springfield—A Visit to Lincoln at His Home—Recollections of a Distinguished Sculptor—Receiving the Committee of the Convention—Nomination of Douglas—Campaign of 1860—Various Campaign Reminiscences—Lincoln and the Tall Southerner—The Vote of the Springfield Clergy—A Graceful Letter to the Poet Bryant—"Looking up Hard Spots."
In the latter part of the year 1859, after Lincoln had gained considerable national prominence through events already briefly narrated, some of his friends began to consider the expediency of bringing him forward as a candidate for the Presidency in 1860. The young Republican party had thus far been in the minority, and the necessity was generally felt of nominating a man who would not render himself objectionable by advocating extreme or unpopular measures. The subject was mentioned to Lincoln, but he seems not to have taken it very seriously. He said that there were distinguished men in the party who were more worthy of the nomination, and whose public services entitled them to it. Toward spring in 1860 Lincoln consented to a conference on the subject with some of his more intimate friends. The meeting took place in a committee-room in the State House. Mr. Bushnell, Mr. Hatch (then Secretary of State), Mr. Judd (Chairman of the Republican State Central Committee), Mr. Peck, and Mr. Grimshaw were present. They were unanimous in opinion as to the expediency and propriety of making Lincoln a candidate. But he was still reluctant; he doubted that he could get the nomination even if he wished it, and asked until the next morning to consider the matter. The next day he authorized his friends to work for him, if they so desired, as a candidate for the Presidency, at the National Republican convention to be held in May at Chicago.
It is evident that while Lincoln had no serious expectation of receiving the nomination, yet having consented to become a candidate he was by no means indifferent on the subject. The following confidential letter to his friend N.B. Judd shows his feelings at this time.
SPRINGFIELD, ILL., FEBRUARY 9, 1860.
HON. N.B. JUDD—Dear Sir:—I am not in a position where it would hurt much for me not to be nominated on the national ticket; but I am where it would hurt some for me not to get the Illinois delegates. What I expected when I wrote the letter to Messrs. Dole and others is now happening. Your discomfited assailants are more bitter against me, and they will, for revenge upon me, lay to the Bates egg in the South and the Seward egg in the North, and go far towards squeezing me out in the middle with nothing. Can you not help me a little in this matter in your end of the vineyard? (I mean this to be private.)
Yours as ever, A. LINCOLN.
It would seem that the original intention of Lincoln's friends had been to bring him out as a candidate for the Vice-Presidency. Hon. E.M. Haines states that as early as the spring of 1859, before the adjournment of the Legislature of which he was a member, some of the Republican members discussed the feasibility of urging Lincoln's name for the Vice-Presidency. Lincoln appears not to have taken very strongly to the suggestion. "I recollect," says Mr. Haines, "that one day Mr. Lincoln came to my desk in the House of Representatives, to make some inquiry regarding another member; and during the conversation, referring to his growing reputation, I remarked to him that I did not know that we would be able to make him President, but perhaps we could do the next best thing, and make him Vice-President. He brightened up somewhat, and answered by a story which I do not clearly recall, but the application of which was that he scarcely considered himself a big enough man for President, while the Vice-Presidency was scarcely big enough office for one who had aspired to a seat in the Senate of the United States."