"The issues between Mr. Lincoln and myself," he said, "are made up, * * * *. He goes for uniformity in our domestic institutions, for a war of sections, until one or the other shall be subdued. I go for * * * the right of the people to decide for themselves. On the other hand Mr. Lincoln goes for a warfare on the Supreme Court. * * * * I yield obedience to the decisions of that Court. * * * * I am opposed to negro equality. I repeat that this nation is a white people, * * * * a people that have established this Government for themselves and their posterity. * * * * I am opposed to taking any step that recognizes the negro man * * * as the equal of the white man. I am opposed to giving him a voice in the administration of the Government."
The reception was recognized by the politicians of both parties as a great success. It was a brilliant opening of the senatorial campaign. The Republicans were anxious to counteract it. On the following evening Lincoln spoke at the same place. He had a large and enthusiastic audience. But he was not an impromptu orator at all comparable to Douglas. While his carefully prepared Springfield speech was decidedly better than Douglas' dashing address in Chicago, his unprepared speech was by no means equal to it. The marked disparity between the two speeches must have intensified the suspicion among Lincoln's friends that he was no match for his rival on the stump.
On the 16th of July Douglas again spoke to a vast multitude at Bloomington. He made an artful appeal for the Whig vote by a well turned compliment to "Kentucky's great and gallant statesman, John J. Crittenden," who proposed to refer the whole question back to the people of Kansas and thus "showed himself a worthy successor of the immortal Clay." The Republicans had "endorsed the great principle of the Kansas-Nebraska bill," they had "come to the Douglas platform in supporting the Crittenden-Montgomery bill." The compromise of 1850 embodied the principle that every people ought to have the privilege of forming and regulating their own institutions to suit themselves. Each State had that right and no reason existed why it should not be extended to the Territories. The Illinois House of Representatives by an almost unanimous vote had asserted that the principle embodied in the measures of 1850 was the birth-right of free men, the gift of heaven, a principle vindicated by our Revolutionary fathers, that no limitation should ever be placed upon it either in the organization of a territorial government or the admission of a State into the Union. In conformity with that principle he had brought in the Kansas-Nebraska bill, for which Lincoln and his friends were seeking his defeat.
"I have known Lincoln well," he said, "for a quarter of a century. I have known him as you all know him, a kind-hearted, amiable gentleman, a right good fellow, a worthy citizen, of eminent ability as a lawyer, and, I have no doubt, sufficient ability to make a good Senator."
He examined Lincoln's "house divided-against-itself" philosophy, pointing out that the house had been divided for nearly seventy years and still stood.
"How is Lincoln, if elected Senator, going to carry out that principle which he says is essential to the existence of this Union; that slavery must be abolished in all the States, or must be established in all? * * * * He invites, by his proposition, a war between Illinois and Kentucky, a war between the free States and the slave States, a war between the North and the South, for the purpose of either exterminating slavery in every Southern State, or planting it in every Northern State. * * * * * What man in Illinois would not lose the last drop if his heart's blood before he would submit to the institution of slavery being forced upon us by the other States against our will? * * * What Southern man would not shed the last drop of his heart's blood to prevent Illinois or any other Northern State from interfering to abolish slavery in his State? * * * * I am opposed to organizing a sectional party which appeals to Northern pride and Northern passion and prejudice against Southern institutions, thus stirring up ill feeling and hot blood between brethren of the same Republic. * * * * How is he to carry out his principles when he gets to the Senate? Does he intend to introduce a bill to abolish slavery in Kentucky? Does he intend to introduce a bill to interfere with slavery in Virginia? How is he to accomplish what he professes must be done to save the Union?
"There would be but one way to carry out his ideas. That would be to establish a consolidated empire as destructive to the liberties of the people and the rights of the citizen as that of Austria or Russia or any other despotism that rests upon the necks of the people * * * *. Who among you expects to live or have his children live until slavery shall be established in Illinois or abolished in South Carolina? * * * * There is but one possible way in which slavery can be abolished and that is by leaving a State * * * * perfectly free to form and regulate its institutions in its own way. That was the principle upon which this Republic was founded. * * * * Under its operation slavery disappeared from New Hampshire, from Rhode Island, from Connecticut, from New York, from New Jersey, from Pennsylvania, from six of the twelve original slave holding States; and this gradual emancipation went on so long as we in the free states minded our own business and left our neighbors alone, * * * * so long as the free States were content with managing their own affairs and leaving the South perfectly free to do as they pleased. But the moment the North said, 'We are powerful enough to control you of the South,' * * * * that moment the South combined to resist the attack and thus sectional parties were formed and gradual emancipation ceased in all the Northern slave holding States * * *.
"Lincoln makes another issue, * * * * a crusade against the Supreme Court of the United Sates because of its decision in the Dred Scott case. * * * * I have no crusade to preach against that august body. * * * * I receive the decision of the Judges of that Court when pronounced as the final adjudication upon all questions within their jurisdiction. * * * * Unless we respect and bow in deference to the final decisions of the highest judicial tribunal in our country, we are driven at once to anarchy, to violence, to mob law, and there is no security left for our property or our own civil rights. * * * * Are we to appeal from the Supreme Court to a country meeting like this? * * * Does Mr. Lincoln intend to appeal from the decision of the Supreme Court to a Republican caucus or a town meeting? * * * He tells you that he is opposed to the decision in the Dred Scott case. Well, suppose he is; what is he going to do about it? I never got beat in a law suit in my life that I was not opposed to the decision. * * * * This Government is divided into three separate and distinct branches. * * * * Each one is supreme within the circle of its own powers. The functions of Congress are to enact the statutes, the province of the Court is to pronounce upon their validity, and the duty of the Executive is to carry the decision into effect."
Yet, he said, Lincoln wants to be elected Senator in order to reverse the Dred Scott decision by passing another unconstitutional statute. He can not get rid of the Judges now on the bench until they die. He must first elect a Republican President by Northern votes bound by pledges to appoint none but Republicans to the bench. He must then persuade the Judges to die. The President must pledge his new Judges in advance to decide this slavery question according to the wishes of his party, regardless of the Constitution. What confidence would the people have in a Court thus constituted?—a Court composed of partisan Judges, appointed on political grounds, catechized in advance and pledged in regard to a decision before the argument and without reference to the state of facts? Would such a Court command the respect of the country? Without regard to the Dred Scott decision slavery will go just where the people want it and not one inch further.
"I tell you, my friends, it is impossible under our institutions to force slavery on an unwilling people. If this principle of popular sovereignty * * * be fairly carried out by letting the people decide the question for themselves by a fair vote at a fair election and with honest returns, slavery will never exist one day or one hour in any Territory against the unfriendly legislation of an unfriendly people. I care not how the Dred Scott decision may have settled the abstract question so far as the practical results are concerned. * * * If the people of the Territory want slavery they will encourage it by passing affirmatory laws and the necessary police regulations, patrol laws and slave code; if they do not want it they will withhold that legislation and by withholding it slavery is a dead as if prohibited by a constitutional provision. * * * * * They could pass such local laws as would drive slavery out in one day or one hour, if they were opposed to it; and therefore, so far as the question of slavery in the Territory is concerned, so far as the principle of popular sovereignty is concerned in its practical operation, it matters not how the Dred Scott case may be decided. * * * * * Whether slavery shall exist or shall not exist in any State or Territory will depend on whether the people are for or against it; and which ever way they shall decide it will be entirely satisfactory to me."
The Dred Scott case, he continued, decides that negroes are not citizens. But Lincoln insists on conferring on them all the privileges, rights and immunities of citizens. "I believe this Government of ours was founded on the white basis. I believe it was established for white men, of the benefit of white men and their posterity in all time to come. I do not believe that it was the design or intention of the signers of the Declaration of Independence or the framers of the Constitution to include negroes as citizens. * * * The position Lincoln has taken on this question not only presents him as claiming for them the right to vote, but their right under the divine law and the Declaration of Independence to be elected to office, to become members of the legislature, to go to Congress, to become Governors or United States Senators, or Judges of the Supreme Court. * * * He would permit them to marry, would he not? And if he gives them that right I suppose he will let them marry whom they please, provided they marry their equals. If the divine law declares that the white man is the equal of the negro woman, that they are on a perfect equality, I suppose he admits the right of the negro woman to marry the white man. * * * I do not believe that the signers of the Declaration had any reference to negroes when they used the expression that all men were created equal. * * * They were speaking only of the white race. * * * Every one of the thirteen colonies was a slave-holding constituency. Did they intend * * * to declare that their own slaves were on an equality with them? What are the negroes' rights and privileges? That is a question which each State and Territory must decide for itself. We have decided that question. We have said that in this State the negro shall not be a slave but that he shall enjoy no political rights; that negro equality shall not exist. * * * For my own part, I do not consider the negro any kin to me nor to any other white man; but I would still carry my humanity and philanthropy to the extent of giving him every privilege and every immunity that he could enjoy consistent with our own good."
Maine allows the negro to vote on an equality with the white man. New York permits him to vote, provided he owns $250 worth of property. In Kentucky they deny the negro all political and civil rights. Each is a sovereign State and has a right to do as it pleases. Let us mind our own business and not interfere with them. Lincoln is not going into Kentucky, but will plant his batteries on this side of the Ohio and throw his bomb shells—his Abolition documents—over the River and will carry on the political warfare and get up strife between the North and South until he elects a sectional President, reduces the South to the condition of dependent colonies, raises the negro to an equality and forces the South to submit to the doctrine that a house divided against itself cannot stand; that the Union divided into half slave States and half free cannot endure; that they must be all free or all slave; and that, as we in the North are in the majority, we will not permit them to be all slave and therefore they in the South must consent to the States being all free.
"These are my views and these are the principles to which I have devoted all my energies since 1850, when I acted side by side with the immortal Clay and the god-like Webster in that memorable struggle in which the Whigs and the Democrats united upon a common platform of patriotism and the Constitution. * * * And when I stood beside the death-bed of Mr. Clay and heard him refer with feelings and emotions of the deepest solicitude to the welfare of the country, and saw that he looked upon the principle embodied in the great Compromise of 1850, the principle of the Nebraska bill, the doctrine of leaving each State and Territory free to decide its institutions for itself, as the only means by which the peace of the country could be preserved and the Union perpetuated. I pledged him on that death-bed of his that so long as I lived my energy should be devoted to the vindication of that principle and of his fame as connected with it. I gave the same pledge to the great expounder of the Constitution, he who has been called the god-like Webster. I looked up to Clay and him as a son would to a father, and I call upon the people of Illinois and the people of the whole Union to bear testimony that never since the sod has been laid upon the graves of these eminent statesmen have I failed on any occasion to vindicate the principle with which the last great crowning acts of their lives were identified. * * * And now my life and energy are devoted to this work as the means of preserving this Union. * * * It can be maintained by preserving the sovereignty of the States, the right of each State and each Territory to settle its domestic concerns for itself and the duty of each to refrain from interfering with the other in any of its local or domestic institutions. Let that be done, and the Union will be perpetuated. Let that be done, and this Republic which began with thirteen States and which now numbers thirty-two, which when it began only extended from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, but now reaches to the Pacific, may yet expand north and south until it covers the whole continent and becomes one vast, ocean-bound Confederacy. * * * * Let us maintain the great principles of popular sovereignty, of State rights and of the Federal Union as the Constitution has made it, and this Republic will endure forever."
On the following day he spoke at Springfield, repeating his Bloomington speech with slight abridgment.
In the evening, Lincoln, who had attended Douglas' Bloomington meeting and accompanied him to Springfield, spoke to a large audience. He twitted him for his noisy, spectacular campaign, "the thunderings of cannon, the marching and music, the fizzle-gigs and fireworks. * * *
"Does Judge Douglas," he asked, "when he says that several of the past years of his life have been devoted to the question of popular sovereignty and that all the remainder of his life shall be devoted to it, mean to say that he has been devoting his life to securing to the people of the territories the right to exclude slavery? * * * He and every one knows that the decision of the Supreme Court, which he approves and makes a special ground of attack upon me for disapproving, forbids the people of a Territory to exclude slavery. This covers the whole ground from the settlement of a Territory till it reaches the degree of maturity entitling it to form a State Constitution. So far as all that ground is concerned, the Judge is not sustaining popular sovereignty, but absolutely opposing it. He sustains the decision which declares that the popular will of the Territory has no constitutional power to exclude slavery during their territorial existence. This being so, the period of time from the first settlement of the Territory till it reaches the point of forming a State Constitution is not the thing that the Judge is fighting for; but, on the contrary, he is fighting for the thing that annihilates and crushes out that same popular sovereignty. * * * He is contending for the right of the people, when they come to make a State Constitution, to make it for themselves and precisely as best suits themselves. That is quixotic. Nobody is opposing or has opposed the right of the people when they form a Constitution to form it for themselves. This being so, what is he going to spend his life for? Is he going to spend it in maintaining a principle that nobody on earth opposes? Does he expect to stand up in majestic dignity and go through this apothesis and become a god in maintaining a principle that neither man nor mouse in all God's creation opposes? * * * What is there in the opposition of Judge Douglas to the Lecompton Constitution that entitles him to be considered the only opponent to it, * * * the very quintessence of that opposition? * * *
He in the Senate and his class of men there formed the number of about twenty. It took one hundred and twenty to defeat the measure. There were six Americans and ninety-four Republicans. Why is it that twenty should be entitled to all the credit for doing that work and the hundred to none? Does he place his superior claim to credit on the ground that he has performed a good act that was never expected of him? Perhaps he places himself somewhat on the ground of the parable of the lost sheep which went astray upon the mountains, and when the owner of the hundred sheep found the one that was lost, there was more rejoicing over the one sheep that was lost and had been found than over the ninety-and-nine in the fold."
In opposing the Dred Scott decision, he said, he was sustained by the authority of Mr. Jefferson, who denounced the doctrine that the Judges were the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions as dangerous and tending to oligarchic despotism and insisted that, while they were as honest as other men, they were not more so, having the common passion for party, for power and the privilege of their crops, and ought not to be trusted with the dangerous power of deciding the great questions of State. The Supreme Court once decided that the national back was constitutional. The Democratic party revolted against the decision. Jackson himself asserted that he would not hold a national back to be constitutional, even though the Court had decided it to be so. The declaration that Congress had not power to establish a bank was contained in every Democratic platform since that time, in defiance of the solemn ruling of the Court. In fact, they had reduced the decision to an absolute nullity. And still Douglas boasted in the very speeches in which he denounced others for opposing the Dred Scott decision that he stood on the Cincinnati platform which repudiated and condemned the old bank decision. He was for Supreme Court decisions when he liked them and against them when he did not like them. Would he not graciously allow the Republicans to do with the Dred Scott decision what they did with the bank decision?
Springfield was Lincoln's home. He knew his audience and met it with confidence. He now felt that he was Douglas' equal in the field in which he had hitherto eclipsed all rivals.
But it was evident that the current was running with Douglas. The great reception at Chicago had been a glorious opening. His journeys through the State were triumphal processions. Special trains, splendidly decorated, were at his service. Military escorts received him with the firing of cannon and the loud music of bands. He commanded and marshaled with the skill of a great artist all the pomp and circumstance of victory. He owned much property in Chicago, which with the growth of the city had greatly increased in value. He mortgaged this for campaign funds, borrowing eighty thousand dollars, a debt that harassed him to the grave. Wealthy friends contributed freely and the campaign was run regardless of expense.
Yet with all these advantages the contest was evidently a hard one. Two years before, the combined Republicans and Whigs of the State outnumbered the Democrats by nearly thirty thousand. The Whig party was breaking up. It was a serious question of practical politics whether they would drift to the Democrats or the Republicans. Illinois comprised two utterly distinct communities. The northern part of the State was settled by people from New England and the Northwest. The Southern part was settled from Kentucky and the other Southern States. The growth of Chicago and the rapid development of the northern counties had made the State extremely doubtful even for Douglas. To any other man his task was hopeless. In the north the anti-slavery sentiment was strong, even to fanaticism, and many of his own supporters prayed fervently for the arrival of the day when slavery would be blotted from existence. In the south, though slavery was prohibited by law, it was cherished in the hearts of the people who remembered with warm affection the old homesteads in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Lincoln had, with more frankness than discretion announced his views on the great question. It was supremely important to compel Douglas to explicitly declare himself, to hold him down to the dangerous issue and force him to speak plainly. Each had the disadvantage of pleasing one section of the State at the cost of offending the other section. But Douglas was further embarrassed by the necessity of avoiding offense to the slave holding States of the South. He was a candidate not only for the Senate, but also for the Presidency.
Chapter XIV. The Debates with Lincoln.
Chicago, Ill., July 24, 1858. "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 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 an arrangement.
"Your obedient servant,
This is the note received by Douglas a week after his return from Springfield. On the same day he returned the following answer:
"Chicago, Ill., July 24, 1858. "Hon. A. Lincoln:
"Dear Sir:—Your note of this date * * * was handed me by Mr. Judd. * * * I went to Springfield last week for the purpose of conferring with the Democratic State Central Committee upon the mode of conducting the canvass, and with them * * * made a list of appointments covering the entire period until late in October. The people of the several localities have been notified of the times and places of the meetings. * * * I cannot refrain from expressing my surprise, if it was your original intention to invite such an arrangement, that you should have waited until after I had made my appointments, in as much as we were both here in Chicago together for several days after my arrival, and again at Bloomington, Atlanta, Lincoln and Springfield, where it was well known I went for the purpose of consulting with the State Central Committee and agreeing upon the plan of campaign. * * * I will, in order to accommodate you, as far as it is in my power to do so, take the responsibility of making an arrangement with you for a discussion between us at one prominent point in each congressional district in the State, except the Second and Sixth, where we have both spoken and in each of which you had the concluding speech. If agreeable to you, I will indicate the following places as the most suitable in the several congressional districts at which we should speak, to wit: Freeport, Ottawa, Galesburg, Quincy, Alton, Jonesboro and Charleston. * * *
"Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
"S. A. Douglas."
"Springfield, July 29, 1858.
"Hon. S. A. Douglas:
Dear Sir:—Yours of the 24th in relation to an arrangement to divide time and address the same audiences, is received; and, in apology for not sooner replying, allow me to say that, when I sat by you at dinner yesterday, I was not aware that you had answered my note, nor, certainly, that my own note had been presented to you. An hour after, I saw a copy of your answer in the Chicago Times, and reaching home I found the original awaiting me. * * * As to your surprise that I did not sooner make the proposal to divide time with you, I can only say, I made it as soon as I resolved to make it. I did not know but that such a proposal would come from you; I waited respectfully to see. * * * I agree to an arrangement for us to speak at the seven places you have named and at your own times, provided you name the times at once, so that I, as well as you, can have to myself the time not covered by the arrangement. As to the other details, I wish perfect reciprocity, and no more. I wish as much time as you and that conclusions shall alternate. That is all.
"Your obedient servant,
On the next day Douglas wrote:
"Bement, Piatt Co., Ill., July 30, 1858.
"Dear Sir:—Your letter, dated yesterday, accepting my proposition for a joint discussion at one prominent point in each congressional district * * * was received this morning. The times and places designated are as follows:
Ottawa, La Salle County ......... August 21, 1858. Freeport, Stephenson County ..... August 27, 1858. Jonesboro, Union County ...... September 15, 1858. Charleston, Coles County ..... September 18, 1858. Galesburgh, Knox County ......... October 7, 1858. Quincy, Adams County ........... October 13, 1858. Alton, Madison County .......... October 15, 1858.
"I agree to your suggestion that we shall alternately open and close the discussion. I will speak at Ottawa one hour, you can reply, occupying an hour and a half, and I will then follow for half an hour. At Freeport, you shall open the discussion and speak one hour; I will follow for an hour and a half, and you can then reply for half an hour. We will alternate in like manner in each successive place.
"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"S. A. Douglas."
To which Lincoln replied:
"Springfield, July 31, 1858.
"Hon. S. A. Douglas:
"Dear Sir:—Yours of yesterday, naming places, time and terms for joint discussions, between us, was received this morning. Although by the terms as you propose, you take four openings and closes to my three, I accede, and thus close the arrangement. * * *
"Your obedient servant,
Now that Lincoln has become idealized and is safely classed with the great men of all ages, his modest challenge seems like a condescension of the immortal President to his rival. It then seemed an act of temerity bordering on madness. Lincoln's friends thought it rash. Douglas' friends had no hope that his adversary would be so easily delivered into his hands.
Yet Lincoln was not a despised antagonist. He was the most prominent Republican in Illinois. But Douglas was the recognized head of a great national party, the giant of the Senate, the most resourceful American statesman then living. Through years of desperate battling he had successfully repelled the assaults of Seward, Sumner and Chase. He had more recently encountered with equal ease all the Southern Senators. It seemed a simple task to meet this humble Western lawyer and make his friends ashamed of their senatorial candidate. Douglas did not share the pleasant illusion of his friends. Before leaving Washington, when he heard that Lincoln was nominated, he said to Forney:
"I shall have my hands full. He is a strong man of his party,—full of wit, facts, dates,—and the best stump speaker, with his droll ways and dry jokes, in the West. He is as honest as his is shrewd; and if I beat him my victory will be hardly won."
Lincoln was burning with jealousy. He believed himself to be Douglas' full equal in mental endowment. Fortune, he thought, with a tinge of bitterness, had dealt with them most unequally, clothing his rival with the glory of a world-renowned statesman, and leaving him to waste his powers on the obscure quarrels of litigious clients in a small town. He yearned for the opportunity to measure himself with the great Senator on a conspicuous stage.
This series of debates was a rare piece of strategy on Lincoln's part. Douglas had so long been wrapped in his senatorial toga that his greatness had become exaggerated to the popular mind of Illinois; while Lincoln had been a plain, modest lawyer, moving among the people in the daily round of routine life. The dogmatic statement of the great Senator carried more weight than the profoundest argument of the clearest demonstration of the country lawyer. But these debates brought them to a common level. They measured their intellectual strength in the presence of the people, with all official trappings laid aside; and while no one could well be disappointed in Douglas' strength, the whole country was amazed at the unexpected power of Lincoln.
There were disadvantages to Douglas in this mode of combat. He must sacrifice the glamour of senatorial dignity and enter the arena on equal footing with his antagonist. He was a brilliant debater. "In the whole field of American politics no man has equaled him in the expedients and strategy of debate. * * * He was tireless, ubiquitous, unseizable. It would have been as easy to hold a globule of mercury under the finger's tip as to fasten him to a point he desired to evade. * * * In spirit he was alert, combative, aggressive; in manner patronizing and arrogant by turns." But he had to meet in argument a man of imperturbably temper, who had thought deeply on the great questions of the time, who by unerring instinct could lay his finger on every flaw in his chain of reasoning, could rise to heights of eloquence beyond the reach of his unimaginative mind and pour out streams of quaint humor that must have filled him with despair.
So great was the interest of the people in this extraordinary contest that it was found impossible to hold the meetings in halls. They were held during the warm autumn days in the open air, where the crowds, numbering from five to twenty thousand, struggled to get within range of the speakers' voices.
It would be difficult to conceive a more picturesque contest than that now waged by these politicians as they strove for the mastery, and the enormous crowds of friends and sympathizers listened with intense interest to the weighty arguments, or shouted applause when their favorite scored a point. The audiences, consisting largely of farmers, who had made long journeys in wagons and lived in tents or camped out in the open air while awaiting the great event, were in stern earnest, despite their holiday appearance, and listened with thoughtful faces and troubled hearts as the grave theme was discussed which had distracted the country for years.
And the orators, who were unconsciously playing a great role on the historic stage, were surely among the most interesting products of modern times. Lincoln's lank, ungainly figure, nearly six and a half feet tall, clad in loose fitting clothes, contrasted oddly with the short, stout figure of Douglas, barely five feet in height, trimly and rather sprucely dressed. The sad, calm face o Lincoln, his humble and unheroic bearing, were in marked contrast with the finely chiseled, powerful, defiant face and magnificent Napoleonic head surmounting the short, thick neck of Douglas, who strode with kingly air before he admiring throngs. The manner of Douglas was so masterful and strong that a wavering audience must have been swept away by it. His finely modulated voice reached with ease to the utmost limits of the crowds as he thundered out his decisive arguments or condescended to compliment his aspiring rival; while Lincoln manifestly labored to so pitch his unmusical voice that the distant listeners could hear, and was never betrayed into a single gracious compliment to the distinguished Senator whose seat he aspired to fill. And the contestants, however great their posthumous fame, were as yet merely ambitious politicians, supremely interested in winning the splendid prize. To Lincoln the possibility of a seat in the Senate was stimulus enough. Douglas was in mid career, assured of the Presidency in the near future, but compelled at all hazards to hold the ground already won. His commanding eminence attracted universal attention to the contest. He must not only win, but bear himself throughout with the air of an assured conqueror.
With all their disparity of rank and fame, they were not badly matched, and all the substantial advantages of the situation lay with Lincoln. The greatness of Douglas' fame excited sympathy for his rival. Success in the contest would give power and prestige to Lincoln, and even defeat would not be humiliating. Douglas could not expect much glory even from victory. Though he crushed his opponent in argument, he must still measure himself with the Douglas of the Senate and not fall below his own standard. In his contest for the Senate, he must remember the Presidency and shape his arguments for a larger audience than that addressed by Lincoln.
During the period of the debates both were actively engaged in the State campaign, addressing one or two audiences daily, so arranging their routes as to meet at the appointed times and places. On August 21st, in presence of a vast multitude, Douglas opened the first debate at Ottawa.
"Prior to 1854," he said, "this country was divided into two great political parties, known as the Whig and Democratic parties. Both were national and patriotic. * * * Whig principles had no boundary sectional line, * * * but applied and were proclaimed wherever the Constitution ruled or the American flag waved over American soil. So it was, and so it is, with the great Democratic party, which from the days of Jefferson to this period has proven itself to be the historic party of this Nation. * * * The Whig party and the Democratic party jointly adopted the Compromise measures of 1850 as the basis of a proper and just solution of this slavery question in all its forms. Clay was the great leader, with Webster on his right and Cass on his left, and sustained by the patriots in the Whig and Democratic ranks. * * * * In 1851 the Whig party and the Democratic party united in Illinois in approving the principles of the Compromise measures of 1850. * * * In 1852 the Whig party in Convention at Baltimore declared the Compromise measures of 1850 a suitable adjustment of that question. * * * * The Democratic Convention assembled in Baltimore the same year and adopted the Compromise measures of 1850 as the basis of Democratic action. * * * They both stood on the same platform with regard to the slavery question. That platform was the right of the people of each State and Territory to decide their local and domestic institutions for themselves, subject only to the Federal Constitution.
"In 1854 I introduced into the Senate a bill to organize the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska on that principle which had been adopted in the Compromise measures of 1850, and indorsed by the Whig party and the Democratic party in National Convention in 1852. * * * Thus you see that up to 1854, when the Kansas-Nebraska bill was brought into Congress for the purpose of carrying out the principles which both parties up to that time had indorsed and approved, there was no division of opinion in this country in regard to that principle, except the opposition of the Abolitionists. In the House of Representatives of Illinois upon a resolution asserting that principle every Whig and every Democrat voted in the affirmative."
In 1854 Lincoln, the leader of the Whigs, and Trumbull, one of the Democratic chiefs, entered into an arrangement to dissolve the old Whig and Democratic parties and to unite the members of both into the Abolition party under the name and guise of a Republican party. The terms were that Lincoln should have Shield's place in the Senate, then about to become vacant, and that Trumbull should have Douglas' seat when his term expired. Lincoln went to work to Abolitionize the old Whig party, pretending that he was as good a Whig as ever, and Trumbull began preaching Abolitionism in milder and lighter form, hoping to Abolitionize the Democratic party. The party met at Springfield in October, 1854, and proclaimed its platform. This document christened the coalition the Republican party. It pledged the party to bring the administration of the Government back to the control of first principles; to restore Kansas and Nebraska to the position of free Territories; to repeal the Fugitive Slave Law; to restrict slavery to those States in which it existed; to prohibit the admission of any more slave States into the Union; to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; to exclude it from all the Territories and resist the acquirement of more unless it should be prohibited therein. He asked Lincoln to answer whether he stood pledged to each article in that creed and would carry it out.
"I ask Abraham Lincoln to answer these questions in order that when I trot him down to lower Egypt (Southern Illinois) I may put the same questions to him. My principles are the same everywhere. I can proclaim them alike in the North and the South, the East and the West. My principles will apply wherever the Constitution prevails and the American flag waves. I desire to know whether Mr. Lincoln's principles will bear transplanting from Ottawa to Jonesboro. I put these questions to him to-day distinctly and ask an answer. I have a right to an answer, for I quote from the platform of the Republican party, made by himself and others at the time that party was formed and bargain made by Lincoln to dissolve and kill the old Whig party and transfer its members, bound hand and foot to the Abolition party. * * * I mean nothing personally disrespectful or unkind to Lincoln. I have known him 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. * * * I made as good a school teacher as I could and, when a cabinet maker, I made a good bedstead and tables, although my old boss said I succeeded better with bureaus and secretaries than anything else. * * * Lincoln was then just as good at telling an anecdote as now. He could beat any of the boys wrestling or running a foot race, in pitching quoits or tossing a copper, could ruin more liquor than all the boys of the town together, and the dignity and impartiality with which he presided at a horse race or a fist fight excited the admiration and won the praise of everybody."
After Lincoln and Trumbull had formed their combination to Abolitionize the old parties and put themselves into the Senate, he said, Trumbull broke faith by demanding Shield's place for himself when it fell vacant and leaving Lincoln to fight for Douglas' seat two years later. Trumbull was stumping the State for Lincoln in order to quiet him. Lincoln was opposed to the Dred Scott decision and would not submit to it because it deprived the negro of the rights and privileges of citizenship.
"Do you desire," he asked, "to * * * allow the free negroes to flow in and cover your prairies with black settlements? Do you desire to turn this beautiful State into a free negro colony, in order that when Missouri abolishes slavery she can send one hundred thousand emancipated slaves into Illinois to become citizens and voters on an equality with yourselves? * * * Mr. Lincoln, following the example and lead of all the little Abolition orators who go around and lecture in the basements of schools and churches, reads from the Declaration of Independence that all men were created equal, and then asks, 'How can you deprive the negro of that equality which God and the Declaration of Independence awards him?'" * * *
"Now I do not believe that the Almighty ever intended the negro to be the equal of the white man. If he did he has been a long time demonstrating the fact. For thousands of years the negro has been a race upon the earth and during all that time, in all latitudes and climates, wherever he has wandered or been taken, he has been inferior to the race which he there met. He belongs to an inferior race and must always occupy an inferior position. The question, what rights and privileges shall be conferred on the negro, is one which each State and Territory must decide for itself. This doctrine of Mr. Lincoln, of uniformity among the institutions of the different States, is a new doctrine, never dreamed of by Washington, Madison or the founders of this Government. Mr. Lincoln and the Republican party set themselves up as wiser than these men who made this Government which has flourished for seventy years under the principle of popular sovereignty, recognizing the right of each state to do as it pleased. Under that principle we have grown from a nation of three or four millions to a nation of about thirty millions of people; we have crossed the Allegheny Mountains and filled up the whole Northwest, turning the prairie into a garden and building up churches and schools, thus spreading civilization and Christianity where before there was nothing but savage barbarism.
"Under that principle we have become, from a feeble nation, the most powerful on the face of the earth; and if we only adhere to that principle, we can go forward increasing in territory, in power, in strength and in glory, until the Republic of America shall be the North Star that shall guide the friends of freedom throughout the civilized world. * * * I believe that this new doctrine preached by Mr. Lincoln and his party will dissolve the Union if it succeeds. They are trying to array all the Northern States in one body against the South, to excite a sectional war between the free States and the slave States, in order that the one or the other may be driven to the wall."
When the applause subsided, Lincoln rose to reply. Addressing himself first to the personal matters contained in Douglas' speech, he denied the charge of a secret bargain between himself and Trumbull dividing the two seats in the Senate between them. "All I have to say upon that subject is, that I think no man—not even Judge Douglas—can prove it, because it is not true." He denied utterly that he had anything to do with the Republican platform drafted by the party leaders in 1854, having refused to meet with the committee or take any part in the organization.
"I have no means," he said, " of totally disproving such charges as this. I cannot prove a negative; but have a right to say that, when he makes an affirmative charge, he must offer some proof of its truth. Douglas' argument about 'perfect social and political equality with the negro' is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of words by which a man can prove a horse chestnut to be a chestnut horse. I will say here, while upon the subject, that I have no purpose directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so. I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which in my judgement will forever forbid their living together upon a footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I agree with Judge Douglas that the negro is not my equal in many respects—certainly not in color—perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas and the equal of every living man. * * *
"In the history of our Government this institution of slavery has always been an apple of discord and an element of division in the house. I have a right to say that in regard to this question the Union is a house divided against itself. The public mind did formerly rest in the belief that slavery was in the course of ultimate extinction. But lately Douglas and those acting with him have placed it on a new basis which looks to the perpetuity and nationalization of slavery. * * * * I believe we shall not have peace upon the question until the opponents of slavery arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or, on the other hand, that its advocates will push it forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.
"Now, I believe if we could arrest the spread and place it where Washington and Jefferson and Madison paced it, it would be in the course of ultimate extinction and the public mind would, as for eighty years past, believe that it was in the course of ultimate extinction. The crisis would be passed and the institution might be let alone for a hundred years, if it should live so long, in the States where it exists; yet it would be going out of existence in the way best for both the black and the white races. * * * Popular sovereignty as now applied to the question of slavery, does allow the people of a Territory to have slavery if they want it, but does not allow them not to have it if they do not want it. * * * As I understand the Dred Scott decision, if any one man wants slaves all the rest have no way of keeping that one man from holding them. * * *
"The Nebraska bill contains this clause: 'It being the true intent and meaning of this bill not to legislate slavery into any Territory or STATE.' I have always been puzzled to know what business the word State had in that connection. Judge Douglas knows. He put it there. * * * What was it placed there for? After seeing the Dred Scott decision, which holds that the people cannot exclude slavery from a Territory, if another Dred Scott decision shall come holding that they cannot exclude it from a State, we shall discover that when the word was originally put there it was in view of something that was to come in due time, we shall see that it was the other half of something.
"I ask the attention of the people here assembled to the course that Judge Douglas is pursuing every day as bearing upon this question of making slavery national. In the first place what is necessary to make slavery national? Not war. There is no danger that the people of Kentucky will shoulder their muskets, and, with a young nigger stuck on every bayonet, march into Illinois and force them upon us. There is no danger of our going over there and making war upon them. Then what is necessary for the nationalization of slavery? It is simply the next Dred Scott decision. It is merely for the Supreme Court to decide that no State under the Constitution can exclude it, just as they have already decided that Congress nor the territorial legislature can do it. When that is decided and acquiesced in the whole thing is done. * * * Let us consider what Judge Douglas is doing every day to that end. What influence is he exerting on public sentiment? With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes possible or impossible to be executed. * * *
"Judge Douglas is a man of vast influence. Consider the attitude he occupies at the head of a large party. This man sticks to a decision which forbids the people of a Territory from excluding slavery, and he does so not because it is right in itself, but because it has been decided by the Court; and, being decided by the Court, he is, and you are, bound to take it in your political action as law. * * * You will bear in mind that thus committing himself unreservedly to this decision commits him to the next one just as firmly as to this. The next decision, as much as this, will be a 'Thus saith the Lord.' It is nothing that I point out to him that his great prototype, General Jackson, did not believe in the binding force of decisions. It is nothing to him that Jefferson did not so believe. He claims now to stand on the Cincinnati platform which affirms that Congress cannot charter a national bank, in the teeth of that old standing decision that Congress can charter a bank. And I remind him of another piece of history on the question of respect for judicial decisions belonging to a time when the large party to which Judge Douglas belongs were displeased with a decision of the Supreme Court of Illinois, because they had decided that a Governor could not remove a Secretary of State. I know that he will not deny that he was then in favor of overslaughing that decision by the mode of adding five new Judges, so as to vote down the four older ones. Not only so, but it ended in the Judge's sitting down on that very bench as one of the five new Judges to break down the four old ones.
"Now, when the Judge tells me that men appointed conditionally to sit as members of a Court will have to catechized beforehand upon some subject, I say, 'You know, Judge; you have tried it.' When he says a Court of this kind will lose the confidence of all men, will be prostituted and disgraced by such a proceeding, I say, 'You know best, Judge; you have been through the mill.' But I cannot shake Judge Douglas' teeth loose from the Dred Scott decision. Like some obstinate animal that will hang on, when he has once got his teeth fixed, you may cut off a leg, or you may tear away an arm, still he will not relax his hold. He hangs to the last to the Dred Scott decision. These things show there is a purpose strong as death and eternity for which he adheres to this decision and for which he will adhere to all other decisions of the same Court. * * * When he invites any people willing to have slavery to establish it, he is blowing out the moral lights around us. When he says he cares not whether slavery is voted down or voted up—that is the sacred right of self-government—he is, in my judgement, penetrating the human soul and eradicating the light of reason and the love of liberty. * * *
"And now I will only say that when, by all these means and appliances, he shall succeed in bringing public sentiment to an exact accordance with his own; when these vast assemblages shall echo back all these sentiments; when they shall come to repeat his views and to avow his principles and to say all that he says on these mighty questions, then it needs only the formality of a second Dred Scott decision, which he endorses in advance, to make slavery alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South."
Douglas, in his brief reply, reminded the audience that Lincoln had not frankly answered the question put in his opening speech; whether he approved of each article of the Republican resolutions adopted in Springfield in October, 1854. Lincoln's only answer had been that he was not present and had nothing to do with drafting the resolutions. "But this denial is a miserable quibble to avoid the main issue, which is that this Republican platform declares in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law. His reply to all these questions is 'I was not on the Committee at the time; I was up in Tazewell County trying a case.' I put to him the question whether, if the people of the Territory, when they had sufficient population to make a State, should form their Constitution recognizing slavery, he would vote for or against its admission? He is a candidate for the United States Senate and it is possible that, if he should be elected, he would have to vote directly on that question. He dodges it also under the cover that he was not on the Committee. * * * He knows I will trot him down to Egypt. I intend to make him answer there. * * * The Convention to which I have been alluding pledges itself to exclude slavery from all the Territories. * * * I want to know whether he approves that provision. * * * I want to know whether he will resist the acquirement of any more territory, unless slavery therein shall be prohibited. These are practical questions, based upon the fundamental principles of the black Republican party; and I want to know whether he is the first, last and only choice of a party with whom he does not agree in principle.
"He does not deny but that that principle was unanimously adopted by the Republican party; and now I want to know whether that party is unanimously in favor of a man who does not adopt that creed and agree with them in their principles; I want to know whether the man who does not agree with them and who is afraid to avow his differences is the first, last and only choice of the party. * * * The party stands pledged that they will never support Lincoln until he has pledged himself to that platform; but he cannot devise his answer. He has not made up his mind whether he will or not. * * * I have not brought a charge of moral turpitude against him. When he brings one against me, instead of disproving it I will say that it is a lie and let him prove it if he can. * * *
"Mr. Lincoln has not character enough for integrity and truth merely on his own ipse dixit to arraign President Buchanan, President Pierce and nine Judges of the Supreme Court, not one of whom would be complimented by being put on an equality with him. There is an unpardonable presumption in any man putting himself up before thousands of people and pretending that his ipse dixit, without proof, without fact and without truth, is enough to bring down and destroy the purest and best of living men. * * * The word 'State' as well as 'Territory' was put into the Nebraska bill to knock in the head this Abolition doctrine that there will be no more slave States even if the people want them. * * * The people of Missouri formed a Constitution as a slave State and asked admission into the Union; but the Free Soil party of the North, being in a majority, refused to admit her because she had slavery as one of her institutions. Hence, the first slavery agitation arouse upon a State and not upon a Territory. * * * The whole Abolition agitation arose on that doctrine of prohibiting a State from coming in with slavery or not as it pleased, and that same doctrine is here in this Republican platform of 1854."
The peculiar difficult of meeting Douglas in argument before a popular audience is here exhibited in its most perfect form. The persuasive force of his last proposition lay in a most ingenious play on the words "State" and "Territory." Although the people of Missouri had formed a State Constitution, they did not become a State until Congress approved it and formally admitted them. During the entire period of dispute they continued a Territory. Douglas' argument assumes that they became a State on forming a Constitution.
Chapter XV. The Debates with Lincoln Continued.
The second debate was held at Freeport on August 27th. Lincoln opened his speech with a series of answers to the questions asked at Ottawa.
"I do not," he said, * * * "stand in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave law. * * *
"I do not * * * stand pledged against the admission of any more slave States into the Union. * * * *
"I do not stand pledged against the admission of a new State. * * * with such a Constitutions as the people * * * may see fit to make. * * *
"I do not stand pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. * * *
"I'm impliedly, if not expressly, pledged to a belief in the right and duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United States Territories. * * *
"I am not opposed to the honest acquisition of territory. * * * I would or would not oppose such acquisition accordingly as I might think such acquisition would or would not aggravate the slavery question among ourselves."
The questions asked and answered were, whether he was PLEDGED to any of these things. He was willing, however, to state what he really thought of them.
"I do not hesitate to say that * * * under the Constitution of the United States the people of the Southern States are entitled to a Congressional Fugitive Slave Law. * * * The existing Fugitive Slave Law should have been so framed as to be free from some of the objections that pertain to it without lessening its efficiency. * * * * In regard to the admission of any more slave States into the Union, I state to you frankly that I would be exceedingly sorry ever to be put in a position of having to pass upon that question. I should be exceedingly glad to know that there would never be another slave State admitted into the Union; but I must add that, if slavery be kept out of the Territories during their territorial existence, * * * * and then the people shall * * * adopt a slave Constitution, * * * I see no alternative but to admit them into the Union. * * * I should not be in favor of abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, unless upon the condition that abolition should be gradual; that it should be on the vote of a majority of the qualified voters of the District; and that compensation be made to unwilling owners. * * * What I am saying here I suppose I say to a vast audience as strongly tending to Abolitionism as any audience in the State of Illinois, and I believe I am saying that which, if it would be offensive to any persons and render them enemies to myself, would be offensive to persons in this audience." He then asked Douglas four questions:
1st. "If the people of Kansas shall * * * adopt a State Constitution and ask admission * * * * before they have the requisite number of inhabitants under the English bill, * * * will you vote to admit them?
2nd. "Can the people of a * * * Territory in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen, * * * exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a State Constitution?
3rd. "If the Supreme Court * * * * shall decide that States cannot exclude slavery from their limits, are you in favor of acquiescing in, adopting and following such decision as a rule of political action?
4th. "Are you in favor of acquiring additional territory in disregard of how such action may affect the Nation on the slavery question?
When the Nebraska bill was introduced, he continued, it was declared the intent and meaning of the act not to legislate slavery into any State or Territory or to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people perfectly free to regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way. Chase of Ohio introduced an amendment expressly declaring that the people of a Territory should have the power to exclude slavery if they saw fit. Douglas and those who agreed with him, voted it down. A little later the Supreme Court decided that a territorial legislature had no right to exclude slavery.
"For men who did intend that the people of the Territory should have the right to exclude slavery * * * * the voting down of Chase's amendment is wholly inexplicable. It is a puzzle, a riddle. But * * * with men who did look forward to such a decision * * * * the voting down of that amendment would be perfectly rational and intelligible. It would keep Congress from coming into collision with the decision when it was made. * * * If there was an intention or expectation that such a decision was to follow, it would not be very desirable for the Democratic Supreme Court to decide one way when the party in Congress had decided the other. Hence it would be very rational for men expecting such a decision to keep the niche in that law clear for it. * * * It looks to me as though here was the reason why Chase's amendment was voted down. * * * If it was done for a different reason, * * * he knows what that reason was and can tell us what it was. * * * It will be vastly more satisfactory to the country for him to give some other intelligible, plausible reason why it was voted down than to stand upon his dignity and call people liars."
Cass, it was said, on behalf of the Democrats in the Senate, proposed to Chase that he so change his amendment as to provide that the people of a Territory should have power either to introduce or exclude slavery, and they would accept it. Chase, having conscientious scruples on the question of slavery, declined to do this and his amendment was voted down. But it was quite possible for them to have accepted Chase's amendment, forbidden by the Senate rule, but an amendment to the amended bill, which was permitted.
Douglas, in his reply, with admirable readiness, addressed himself to Lincoln's four questions. "In reference to Kansas," he said, "it is my opinion that, as she has population enough to constitute a slave State, she has people enough for a free State. * * * The next question is, 'Can the people of a Territory * * * exclude slavery prior to the formation of a State Constitution?' * * * In my opinion they can. * * * It matters not in what way the Supreme Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question whether slavery may or may not go into a Territory under the Constitution, the people have the lawful means to introduce it or exclude it as they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere, unless it is supported by local police regulations. Those police regulations can only be established by the local legislature; and if the people are opposed to slavery they will elect representatives to that body who will, by unfriendly legislation, effectually prevent the introduction of it into their midst. If on the contrary they are for it, their legislation will favor its extension. Hence, no matter what the decision of the Supreme Court may be on that abstract question, still the right of the people to make a slave Territory or a free Territory, is perfect and complete under the Nebraska bill."
This bill provided that the legislative power of the Territory should extend to all rightful subjects of legislation. It made no exception as to slavery, but gave full power to introduce or exclude it. What more could Chase's amendment do? Chase offered it for the purpose of having it rejected. He expected it to be capital for small politicians, and he was not mistaken. He was amazed that Lincoln should ask his third question. He had denounced in the Senate an article in the Washington Union claiming that any provision in the laws or Constitutions of the free States excluding slavery was in conflict with the Constitution of the United States. Senator Toombs, on behalf of the South, had utterly repudiated the doctrine. The question cast an imputation upon the Supreme Court. Such a decision was not possible. It would be an act of moral treason that no man on the bench could ever descend to.
"As to Lincoln's fourth question," he said: "I answer, that whenever it becomes necessary in our growth and progress to acquire more territory, I am in favor of it without reference to the question of slavery; and when we have acquired it I would leave the people free to do as they please, either to make it slave or free territory as they preferred. * * * I tell you, increase, multiply and expand is the law of this Nation's existence. * * * Just as fast as our interests and our destiny require additional territory in the North, in the South or on the islands of the ocean, I am for it; and, when we acquire it, will leave the people * * * free to do as they please on the question of slavery and every other question."
At all the Republican Congressional Conventions held in Illinois in 1854, the resolutions adopted declared that the continued aggressions of slavery were destructive of the best rights of a free people and must be resisted by the united political action of all good men; Kansas and Nebraska must be made free Territories, the Fugitive Slave Law repealed, slavery restricted to the States in which it then existed, no more slave States admitted, slavery excluded from the Territories and no more Territories acquired unless slavery therein were prohibited; and no man must be supported for office unless positively pledged to support these principles.
"Yet Lincoln denies that he stands on this platform and declares that he would not like to be placed in a position where he would have to vote for these things. * * * I do not think there is much danger of his being placed in such a position. * * * I propose, out of mere kindness, to relieve him from any such necessity."
When the legislature elected in 1854 came to choose between Lincoln and Trumbull for Senator, before a ballot was taken, Lovejoy, the Abolitionist introduced resolutions declaring that slavery must be excluded from all the territory then owned or thereafter acquired by the United States; that no more slave States should be admitted and that the Fugitive Slave Law should be unconditionally repealed. On the following day every man who had voted for these resolutions, with two exceptions, voted for Lincoln. Members so voting were all pledged to vote for no man who was not pledged to support their platform. "Either Lincoln was committed to these propositions, or your members violated their faith. Take either horn of the dilemma you choose. There is no dodging the question; I want Lincoln's answer. He is altogether undecided on these grave questions and does not know what to think or do. If elected Senator he will have to decide. Do not put him in a position that would embarrass him so much. He does not know whether he would vote for the admission of more slave States, yet he has declared his belief that this Union cannot endure with slave States in it. I do not think that the people of Illinois desire a man to represent them who would like to be put to the test on the performance of a high constitutional duty.
"I will retire in shame from the Senate of the United States when I am not willing to be put to the test in the performance of my duty. I have been put to severe tests. I have stood by my principles in fair weather and foul, in the sunshine and in the rain. I have defended the great principles of self-government here among you when Northern sentiment ran in a torrent against me, and I have defended that same great principle when Southern sentiment came down like an avalanche upon me. I was not afraid of any test they put me to. I knew my principles were right; I knew my principles were sound; I knew that the people would see in the end hat I had done right and I knew that the God of heaven would smile upon me if I was faithful in the performance of my duty. * * *
At the time the Nebraska bill was introduced, Lincoln says there was a conspiracy between the Judges of the Supreme Court, President Pierce, President Buchanan and myself, that bill and the decision of the court to break down the barriers and establish slavery all over the Union. * * *
"Mr. Buchanan was at that time in England and did not return for a year or more after. That fact proves the charge to be false as against him. * * * The Dred Scott case was not then before the Supreme Court at all; * * * * and the Judges in all probability knew nothing of it. * * * * As to President Pierce, his high character as a man of integrity and honor is enough to vindicate him from such a charge; and as to myself I pronounce the charge an infamous lie whenever and wherever made and by whomsoever made."
Lincoln closed the debate. As to the discrepancy between the various Republican resolutions adopted in local conventions in 1854 and the views stated in his opening speech, he said that at the beginning of the Nebraska agitation a new era in American politics began.
"In our opposition to that measure we did not agree with one another in everything. * * * * These meetings which the Judge has alluded to and the resolutions he has read from were local. * * * We at last met together in 1856 from all parts of the State and agreed upon a common platform. * * * We agreed then upon a platform for the party throughout the entire State and now we are all bound to that platform. * * * If any one expects that I will do anything not signified by our Republican platform and my answers here to-day, I will tell you very frankly that person will be deceived. I do not ask for the vote of anyone who supposes that I have secret purposes or pledges that I dare not speak out. * * * Douglas says if I should vote for the admission of a slave State I would be voting for the dissolution of the Union, because I hold that the Union cannot permanently exist half slave and half free. * * * It does not at all follow that the admission of a single slave State will permanently fix the character and establish this as a universal slave Nation."
In March, 1856, Douglas, speaking in the Senate upon an article published, apparently by authority, in the Washington Union, the organ of the Administration, charged a conspiracy between the President, his cabinet and the Lecompton Convention to establish the proposition that all State laws and Constitutions, which prohibited the citizens of one State from settling in another with their slave property, were violations of the Constitution of the United States. He declared that a fatal blow was being struck at the sovereignty of the States. Charges of conspiracy were not entirely unheard of when the one was made at Springfield so sharply condemned by Douglas.
"But his eye is farther South now than it was last March. His hope then rested on the idea of visiting the great black Republican party and making it the tail of his new kite. He was then expected from day to day to turn Republican and place himself at the head of our organization. He has found that these despised black Republicans estimate him, by a standard which he has taught them, none to well. Hence he is crawling back into the old camp and you will find him eventually installed in full fellowship among those whom he was then battling and with whom he still pretends to be at such fearful variance."
There is an interesting and well authenticated tradition, perhaps too strongly established to be questioned, that Lincoln's second interrogatory was designed as a snare for Douglas and that he was forced by it to proclaim his unfortunate doctrine of unfriendly legislation, which gave such deep offense to the South. It is related on the highest authority that on the night before the Freeport debate, "Lincoln was catching a few hours' rest at a railroad center named Mendota, to which place the converging trains brought, after midnight, a number of excited Republican leaders on their way to attend the great meeting at the neighboring town of Freeport. * * * * Lincoln's bedroom was invaded by an improvised caucus, and the ominous question was once more brought under consideration. The whole drift of advice ran against putting the interrogatory (number two) to Douglas, but Lincoln persisted in his determination to force him to answer it. Finally his friends in a chorus cried: 'If you do, you can never be Senator.'
"'Gentlemen,' replied Lincoln, 'I am killing larger game. If Douglas answers, he can never be President, and the battle of 1860 is worth a hundred of this.'"
Whatever may be the truth as to the Mendota conference, it is unjust to Douglas to say that he was surprised by the question, or that his answer was a mere extemporized feat of ingenuity to meet an embarrassing exigency. Long before this and on many occasions he had announced his opinion that the people of a Territory could by unfriendly legislation, in defiance of the Constitution, the Supreme Court and Congress, effectually prevent slavery among themselves. It was one of his most deliberately formed, openly avowed and widely known opinions. It is incredible that Lincoln and his advisors were in doubt how he would answer the question. Whatever may be our view of the soundness of his doctrine, it is not just to the ablest debater and foremost statesman of the time to say that he was taken by surprise and driven into a corner by a question which, as he was taken by surprise and driven into a corner by a question which, as he said then, he had answered a hundred times from every stump in Illinois.
The third debate was held at Jonesboro, near the southern boundary of the State, on September 15th.
Douglas, in his opening speech, stated anew his now familiar argument that the Republican party was sectional, threatening to disrupt the Union by its slavery agitation, while the Democratic party was national, with a wholesome creed, alike applicable in all latitudes. Lincoln and Trumbull had conspired to abolitinize the old parties and secure seats in the Senate. Lincoln's doctrine of the house divided against itself was examined and the implied threat emphasized that Southern institutions must be overthrown and a dead level of uniformity reached in order that the Government should stand. The finality of the Dred Scott decision and the exclusion of negroes from the Declaration of Independence were insisted on. Much of the speech was devoted to the local and transient questions of Illinois politics.
Lincoln, replying to the charge that the slavery agitation was the result of the aggressive attitude of Northern Abolitionists, again insisted that the propagandists of slavery were the aggressors, having attempted to change it from a local and declining institution and spread it through all the Territories, removing it "from the basis on which the fathers left it to the basis of its perpetuation and nationalization." The agitation began with the repeal of the Missouri Compromise.
"Who," he asked, "did that? Why, when we had peace under the Missouri Compromise, could you not have left it alone?"
He quoted Douglas' speech in the Senate on June 9th, 1856, in which he had declared that "whether the people could exclude slavery prior to the formation of a Constitution or not, was a question to be decided by the Supreme Court. * * * * When he says, after the Supreme Court has decided the question, that the people may yet exclude slavery by any means whatever, he does virtually say that it is not a question for the Supreme Court. * * * the proposition that slavery cannot enter a new country without police regulations is historically false. * * * Slavery was originally planted upon this continent without these police regulations. * * * How came the Dred Scott decision to be made? It was made upon the case of a negro being taken and actually held in slavery in Minnesota Territory, claiming his freedom because the act of Congress prohibited his being so held there. Will the Judge pretend that Dred Scott was not held there without police regulations? * * * * This shows that there is vigor enough in slavery to plant itself in a new country, even against unfriendly legislation. It takes not only law, but the enforcement of the law, to keep it out. This is the history of this country upon the subject. * * * The first thing a Senator does is swear to support the Constitution of the United States. Suppose a Senator believes, as Douglas does, that the Constitution guarantees the right to hold slaves in a Territory. How can he clear his oath unless he supports such legislation as is necessary to enable the people to enjoy their property? Can you, if you swear to support the Constitution, and believe that the Constitution establishes a right, clear your oath without giving it support? * * * * There can be nothing in the words, 'support the Constitution,' if you may run counter to it by refusing to support it. * * * * And what I say here will hod with still more force against the Judge's doctrine of unfriendly legislation. * * * Is not Congress itself bound to give legislative support to any right that is established in the United States Constitution? A Member of Congress swears to support the Constitution * * * and if he sees a right established by that Constitution which needs specific legislative protection, can he clear his oath without giving that protection. * * * If I acknowledge * * * that this (Dred Scott) decision properly construes the Constitution, I cannot conceive that I would be less than a perjured man if I should refuse in Congress to give such protection to that property as in its nature is needed."
He then stated his fifth interrogatory: If slave-holding citizens of the United States Territory should need and demand congressional legislation for the protection of their slave property in such Territory, would you as a Member of Congress, vote for or against such legislation?
Douglas in his reply took up Lincoln's rather evasive answer to his second interrogatory submitted at Ottawa. "Lincoln," he said, "would be exceedingly sorry to be put in a position where he would have to vote on the question of the admission of slave States. Why is he a candidate for the Senate if he would be sorry to be put in that position? * * * * If Congress keeps out slavery by law while it is a Territory and then the people should have a fair chance and should adopt slavery, he supposes he would have to admit the State. Suppose Congress should not keep slavery out during their territorial existence, then how would he vote when the people applied for admission with a slave Constitution? That he does not answer; and that is the condition of every Territory we have now got. His answer only applies to a given case which he knows does not exist in any Territory. But Mr. Lincoln does not want to be held responsible for the black Republican doctrine of no more slave States. Why are men running for Congress in the northern Distracts and taking that Abolition platform for their guide when Mr. Lincoln does not want to be held to it down here in Egypt? His party in the northern part of the State hold to that Abolition platform, and if they do not in the south, they present the extra-ordinary spectacle of 'a house divided against itself' and hence 'cannot stand.'"
In answer to Lincoln's last question, he said: "It is a fundamental article of the Democratic creed that there should be non-interference or non-intervention of Congress with slavery in the States or Territories. The Democratic party have always stood by that great principle and I stand on that platform now. * * * * Lincoln himself will not answer this question. * * * It is true * * * (he admits) that under the decision of the Supreme Court, it is the duty of a man to vote for a slave code in the Territories. If he believed in that decision he would be a perjured man if he did not give the vote. I want to know whether he is not bound to a decision which is contrary to his opinions just as much as to one in accordance with his opinions? * * * Is every man in this land allowed to resist decisions he does not like and only support those which meet his approval? * * * * It is the fundamental principle of the judiciary that its decisions are final. * * * * My doctrine is that, even taking Mr. Lincoln's view that the decision recognizes the right of a man to carry his slaves into the Territories, yet after he gets them there he needs affirmative law to make that right of any value. The same doctrine applies to all other kinds of property.
"Suppose one of your merchants should move to Kansas and open a liquor store; he has a right to take groceries or liquor there; but the circumstances under which they shall be sold and all the remedies must be prescribed by local legislation; and if that is unfriendly it will drive him out just as effectually as if there was a constitutional provision against the sale of liquor. Hence, I assert, that under the Dred Scott decision you cannot maintain slavery a day in a Territory where there is an unwilling people and unfriendly legislation. If the people want slavery they will have it, and if they do not want it you cannot force it upon them."
Neither Lincoln nor Douglas could as yet fairly and fearlessly grapple with the great problem. Lincoln's virtual rejection and defiance of the decision of the Supreme Court suggests not reform but revolution. These dark hints that the decisions of the highest tribunal should not be accepted or obeyed, that they were binding only on those who believed in them, portended nothing less than war. Slavery being an established institution, recognized by the Constitution and regulated by law, had the right to exist. Lincoln and his party abhorred it and resented the injustice of the law. Obeying the dominant instinct of the race, the scrupulously observed the form of the law while waging war upon it. On the other hand it is impossible to find either legal or philosophical foundation for Douglas' arguments. Slavery had been adjudged lawful in all the Territories. The proposition gravely argued by him, that the people could lawfully exclude a thing from a place where it had a lawful right to be, was monstrous. He sternly rebuked Lincoln for his irreverence in refusing to cordially accept the Dred Scott decision and in the next breath, with shocking inconsistency, dissolved its entire force in the menstruum of unfriendly legislation. The decision was utterly repugnant to the people of the State. The both viewed it as a political rather than a philosophic problem. Both rejected it and the consequences flowing from it. Lincoln quibbled when asked to accept it as a rule governing his political conduct. Douglas, by a cunning device, sought to destroy its force as a rule of private right. Lincoln insisted on the essential dishonesty of the juggling trick by which Douglas got rid of the adjudicated law. Douglas insisted on the anarchic spirit with which Lincoln bade defiance to it.
It would be tedious to follow the debates through in detail. Necessarily the later arguments were mainly a repetition of those made in the earlier speeches. Thee was a marked falling off in the good temper and mutual courtesy of the combatants in the later stages of the contest. The abiding question to which the argument constantly recurred was that of negro slavery, as to which Lincoln was darkly oracular and Douglas was resolutely evasive. Lincoln again and again pressed Douglas to say whether he regarded slavery as wrong. Douglas persistently declined the question on the pleat that it was one wholly foreign to national politics. Each State had a right to decide for itself; and that right had been delegated to the Territories by the Compromise act of 1850 and again by the Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854.
"I look forward," he said, "to a time when each State shall be allowed to do as it pleases. If it chooses to keep slavery forever, it is not my business, but its own; if it chooses to abolish slavery, it is its own business, not mine. I care more for the great principle of self-government, the right of the people to rule, then I do for all the negroes in Christendom. I would not endanger the perpetuity of this Union, I would not blot out the great inalienable rights of the white man, for all the negroes that ever existed."
Lincoln persistently pressed his argument: "When Douglas says he don't care whether slaver is voted up or voted down, he can thus argue logically if he don't see anything wrong in it; but he cannot say so logically if he admits that slavery is wrong. He cannot say that the would as soon see a wrong voted up as voted down. When he says that slave property and horse and hog property are alike to be allowed to go into the Territories upon the principle of equality, he is reasoning truly if there is no difference between them and property; but if the one is property held rightfully and the other is wrong, then there is no equality between the right and the 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 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. 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."