Abraham Lincoln, A History, Volume 2
John George Nicolay and John Hay

Part 3 out of 8

opinion for obedience to the Dred Scott decision, and since its
publication he had undertaken to interpret its scope and effect.
Replying to a memorial from certain citizens of New England, he
declared in a public letter, "Slavery existed at that period, and
still exists in Kansas, under the Constitution of the United States.
This point has at last been finally decided by the highest tribunal
known to our laws. How it could ever have been seriously doubted is a
mystery."[1] In the same letter he affirmed the legality of the
Lecompton Convention, though he yet clearly expressed his expectation
that the constitution to be framed by it would be submitted to the
popular vote for "approbation or rejection."

[Sidenote] 1857.

But when that convention adjourned, and made known its cunningly
devised work, the whole South instantly became clamorous to secure the
sectional advantages which lay in its technical regularity, its strong
affirmance of the "property" theory, and the extraordinary power it
gave to John Calhoun to control the election and decide the returns.
This powerful reactionary movement was not lost upon Mr. Buchanan. He
reflected it as unerringly as the vane moves to the change of the
wind. Long before the meeting of Congress, the Administration organ,
the "Washington Union," heralded and strongly supported the new
departure. When, on the 8th of December, the President's annual
message was transmitted and read, the Lecompton Constitution, as
framed and submitted, was therein warmly indorsed and its acceptance
indicated as the future Administration policy.

[Sidenote] Buchanan, Annual Message, December 8, 1857.

The language of this message discloses with what subtle ingenuity
words, phrases, definitions, ideas, and theories were being invented
and plied to broaden and secure every conquest of the pro-slavery
reaction. An elaborate argument was made to defend the enormities of
the Lecompton Constitution. The doctrine of the Silliman letter, that
"slavery exists in Kansas under the Constitution of the United
States," was assumed as a conceded theory. "In emerging from the
condition of territorial dependence into that of a sovereign State,"
the people might vote "whether this important domestic institution
should or should not continue to exist." "Domestic institutions" was
defined to mean slavery. "Free to form and regulate their domestic
institutions"--the phrase employed in the Kansas-Nebraska act--was
construed to mean a vote to continue or discontinue slavery. And "if
any portion of the inhabitants shall refuse to vote, a fair
opportunity to do so having been presented, ... they alone will be
responsible for the consequences." "Should the constitution without
slavery be adopted by the votes of the majority, the rights of
property in slaves now in the Territory are reserved.... These slaves
were brought into the Territory under the Constitution of the United
States and are now the property of their masters. This point has at
length been finally decided by the highest judicial tribunal of the

However blind Buchanan might be to the fact that this extreme
interpretation shocked and alarmed the sentiment of the North; that if
made before the late Presidential campaign it would have defeated his
own election; and that if rudely persisted in, it might destroy the
Democratic ascendency in the future, the danger was obvious and
immediately vital to Douglas. His senatorial term was about to expire.
To secure a reelection he must carry the State of Illinois in 1858,
which had on an issue less pronounced than this defeated his colleague
Shields in 1854, and his lieutenant Richardson in 1856. But more than
this, his own personal honor was as much involved in his pledges to
the voters of Illinois as had been that of Governor Walker to the
voters of Kansas. His double-dealing caucus bargain had thus placed
him between two fires--party disgrace at Washington and popular
disgrace in Illinois. In such a dilemma his choice could not be
doubtful. At all risk he must endeavor to sustain himself at home.

[Sidenote] Douglas, Senate Speech, December 9, 1857. "Globe," p. 18.

He met the encounter with his usual adroitness and boldness. Assuming
that the President had made no express recommendation, he devoted his
speech mainly to a strong argument of party expediency, repelling
without reserve and denouncing without stint the work of the Lecompton
Convention. "Stand by the doctrine," said he, "that leaves the people
perfectly free to form and regulate their institutions for themselves,
in their own way, and your party will be united and irresistible in
power. Abandon that great principle and the party is not worth saving,
and cannot be saved after it shall be violated. I trust we are not to
be rushed upon this question. Why shall it be done? Who is to be
benefited? Is the South to be the gainer? Is the North to be the
gainer? Neither the North nor the South has the right to gain a
sectional advantage by trickery or fraud.... But I am told on all
sides, 'Oh! just wait; the pro-slavery clause will be voted down.'
That does not obviate any of my objections; it does not diminish any of
them. You have no more right to force a free-State constitution on
Kansas than a slave-State constitution. If Kansas wants a slave-State
constitution she has a right to it; if she wants a free-State
constitution she has a right to it. It is none of my business which
way the slavery clause is decided. I care not whether it is voted down
or voted up. Do you suppose, after the pledges of my honor that I
would go for that principle and leave the people to vote as they
choose, that I would now degrade myself by voting one way if the
slavery clause be voted down, and another way if it be voted up? I
care not how that vote may stand.... Ignore Lecompton; ignore Topeka;
treat both those party movements as irregular and void; pass a fair
bill--the one that we framed ourselves when we were acting as a unit;
have a fair election--and you will have peace in the Democratic party,
and peace throughout the country, in ninety days. The people want a
fair vote. They will never be satisfied without it.... But if this
constitution is to be forced down our throats in violation of the
fundamental principle of free government, under a mode of submission
that is a mockery and insult, I will resist it to the last."

President Buchanan and the strong pro-slavery faction which was
directing his course paid no attention whatever to this proposal of a
compromise. Shylock had come into court to demand his bond, and would
heed no pleas of equity or appeals to grace. The elections of December
21 and January 4 were held in due time, and with what result we have
already seen. John Calhoun counted the votes on January 13 and
declared the "Lecompton Constitution with slavery" adopted, prudently
reserving, however, any announcement concerning the State officers or
Legislature under it. This much accomplished, he hurried away to
Washington, where he was received with open arms by the President and
his advisers, who at once proceeded with a united and formidable
effort to legalize the transparent farce by Congressional sanction.

On the second day of February, 1858, President Buchanan transmitted to
Congress the Lecompton Constitution, "received from J. Calhoun, Esq.,"
and "duly certified by himself." The President's accompanying special
message argues that the organic law of the Territory conferred the
essential rights of an enabling act; that the free-State party stood
in the attitude of willful and chronic revolution; that their various
refusals to vote were a sufficient bar to complaint and objection;
that the several steps in the creation and work of the Lecompton
Convention were regular and legal. "The people of Kansas have, then,
'in their own way,' and in strict accordance with the organic act,
framed a constitution and State government, have submitted the
all-important question of slavery to the people, and have elected a
governor, a member to represent them in Congress, members of the State
Legislature, and other State officers. They now ask admission into the
Union under this constitution, which is Republican in form. It is for
Congress to decide whether they will admit or reject the State which
has thus been created. For my own part I am decidedly in favor of its
admission and thus terminating the Kansas question."

[Sidenote] 1858.

The vote of January 4 against the constitution he declared to be
illegal because it was "held after the Territory had been prepared for
admission into the Union as a sovereign State, and when no authority
existed in the Territorial Legislature which could possibly destroy
its existence or change its character." His own inconsistency was
lightly glossed over. "For my own part, when I instructed Governor
Walker in general terms, in favor of submitting the constitution to
the people, I had no object in view except the all-absorbing question
of slavery.... I then believed, and still believe, that under the
organic act, the Kansas Convention were bound to submit this
all-important question of slavery to the people. It was never,
however, my opinion that independently of this act they would have
been bound to submit any portion of the constitution to a popular
vote, in order to give it validity."

To the public at large, the central point of interest in this special
message, however, was the following dogmatic announcement by the
President: "It has been solemnly adjudged by the highest judicial
tribunal known to our laws that slavery exists in Kansas by virtue of
the Constitution of the United States. Kansas is, therefore, at this
moment as much a slave-State as Georgia or South Carolina. Without
this, the equality of the sovereign States composing the Union would
be violated, and the use and enjoyment of a territory acquired by the
common treasure of all the States would be closed against the people
and the property of nearly half the members of the Confederacy.
Slavery can, therefore, never be prohibited in Kansas except by means
of a constitutional provision and in no other manner can this be
obtained so promptly, if a majority of the people desire it, as by
admitting it into the Union under its present constitution."

In the light of subsequent history this extreme pro-slavery programme
was not only wrong in morals and statesmanship, but short-sighted and
foolhardy as a party policy. But to the eyes of President Buchanan
this latter view was not so plain. The country was apparently in the
full tide of a pro-slavery reaction. He had not only been elected
President, but the Democratic party had also recovered its control of
Congress. The presiding officer of each branch was a Southerner. Out
of 64 members of the Senate, 39 were Democrats, 20 Republicans, and
five Americans or Know-Nothings. Of the 237 members of the House, 131
were Democrats, 92 Republicans, and 14 Americans. Here was a clear
majority of fourteen in the upper and twenty-five in the lower House.
This was indeed no longer the formidable legislative power which
repealed the Missouri Compromise, but it seemed perhaps a sufficient
force to carry out the President's recommendation. His error was in
forgetting that this apparent popular indorsement was secured to him
and his party by means of the double construction placed upon the
Nebraska bill and the Cincinnati platform, by the caucus bargain
between the leaders of the South and the leaders of the North. The
moment had come when this unnatural alliance needed to be exposed and
in part repudiated.

The haste with which the Southern leaders advanced step by step,
forced every issue, and were now pushing their allies to the wall was,
to say the least, bad management, but it grew logically out of their
situation. They were swimming against the stream. The leading forces
of civilization, population, wealth, commerce, intelligence, were
bearing them down. The balance of power was lost. Already there were
sixteen free-States to fifteen slave-States. Minnesota and Oregon,
inevitably destined also to become free, were applying for admission
to the Union.

[Sidenote] Official Manifesto, Oct. 8, 1754.

[Sidenote] Senator Brown to Adams, June 18, 1856. Greeley, "Am.
Conflict," Vol. I., p. 278.

[Sidenote] Official proceedings, Pamphlet.

Still, the case of the South was not hopeless. Kansas was apparently
within their grasp. Existing law provided for the formation and
admission of four additional States to be carved out of Texas, which
would certainly become slave-States. Then there remained the possible
division of California, and a race for the possession of New Mexico
and Arizona. Behind all, or, more likely, before all except Kansas, in
the order of desired events, was the darling ambition of President
Buchanan, the annexation of Cuba. As United States Minister to England
he had publicly declared that if Spain refused to sell us that coveted
island we should be justified in wresting it from her by force; as
Presidential candidate he had confidentially avowed, amid the first
blushes of his new honor, "If I can be instrumental in settling the
slavery question upon the terms I have mentioned, and then add Cuba to
the Union, I shall, if President, be willing to give up the ghost, and
let Breckinridge take the government." Thus, even excluding the more
problematical chances which lay hidden in filibustering enterprises,
there was a possibility, easily demonstrable to the sanguine, that a
decade or two might change mere numerical preponderance from the free
to the slave-States. Nor could this possibility be waved aside by any
affectation of incredulity. Not alone Mr. Buchanan but the whole
Democratic party was publicly pledged to annexation. "Resolved," said
the Cincinnati platform, "that the Democratic party will expect of the
next Administration that every proper effort be made to insure our
ascendency in the Gulf of Mexico"; while another resolution declaring
sympathy with efforts to "regenerate" Central America was no less

[Illustration: JOHN CALHOUN.]

But to accomplish such marvels, they must not sit with folded hands.
The price of slavery was fearless aggression. They must build on a
deeper foundation than Presidential elections, party majorities, or
even than votes in the Senate. The theory of the government must be
reversed, the philosophy of the republic interpreted anew. In this
subtler effort they had made notable progress. By the Kansas-Nebraska
act they had paralyzed the legislation of half a century. By the Dred
Scott decision they had changed the Constitution and blighted the
Declaration of Independence. By the Lecompton trick they would show
that in conflict with their dogmas the public will was vicious, and in
conflict with their intrigues the majority powerless. They had the
President, the Cabinet, the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court, and,
by no means least in the immediate problem, John Calhoun with his
technical investiture of far-reaching authority. The country had
recovered from the shock of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and
rewarded them with Buchanan. Would it not equally recover from the
shock of the Lecompton Constitution?

It was precisely at this point that the bent bow broke. The great bulk
of the Democratic party followed the President and his Southern
advisers, even in this extreme step; but to a minority sufficient to
turn the scale the Lecompton scandal had become too offensive for
further tolerance.

In the Senate, with its heavy Democratic majority, the Administration
easily secured the passage of a bill to admit Kansas with the
Lecompton Constitution. Out of eleven Democratic Senators from free
States, only three--Douglas of Illinois, Broderick of California, and
Stuart of Michigan--took courage to speak and vote against the
measure. In the House of Representatives, however, with a narrower
margin of political power, the scheme, after an exciting discussion
running through about two months, met a decisive defeat. A formidable
popular opposition to it had developed itself in the North, in which
speeches and letters from Governor Walker and Secretary Stanton in
denunciation of it were a leading feature and a powerful influence.
The lower House of Congress always responds quickly to currents of
public sentiment; but in this case it caught direction all the more
promptly because its members were to be chosen anew in the ensuing
autumn. However much they might have party subordination and success
at heart, some of them felt that they could not defend before their
anti-slavery constituencies the Oxford frauds, the Calhoun
dictatorship, the theory that slave property is above constitutional
sanction, and the dogma that "Kansas is therefore at this moment as
much a slave-State as Georgia or South Carolina." When the test vote
was taken on April 1, out of the 53 Democratic representatives from
the free-States 31 voted for Lecompton; but the remaining 22,[2]
joining their strength to the opposition, passed a substitute,
originating with Mr. Crittenden of the Senate, which in substance
directed a resubmission of the Lecompton Constitution to the people of
Kansas;--if adopted, the President to admit the new State by a simple
proclamation; if rejected, the people to call a convention and frame a
new instrument.

As the October vote had been the turning-point in the local popular
struggle in the Territory, this adoption of the Crittenden-Montgomery
substitute, by a total vote of 120 to 112 in the House of
Representatives, was the culmination of the National intrigue to
secure Kansas for the South. It was a narrow victory for freedom; a
change of 5 votes would have passed the Lecompton bill and admitted
the State with slavery, and a constitutional prohibition against any
change for seven years to come. With his authority to control election
returns, there is every reason to suppose that Calhoun would have set
up a pro-slavery State Legislature, to choose two pro-slavery
senators, whom in its turn the strong Lecompton majority in the United
States Senate would have admitted to seats; and thus the whole chain
of fraud and usurpation back to the first Border-Ruffian invasion of
Kansas would have become complete, legal, and irrevocable, on plea of
mere formal and technical regularity.

Foiled in its main object, the Administration made another effort
which served to break somewhat the force and humiliation of its first
and signal defeat. The two Houses of Congress having disagreed as
stated, and each having once more voted to adhere to its own action,
the President managed to make enough converts among the anti-Lecompton
Democrats of the House to secure the appointment of a committee of
conference. This committee devised what became popularly known as the
"English bill," a measure which tendered a land grant to the new
State, and provided that on the following August 3d the people of
Kansas might vote "proposition accepted" or "proposition rejected."
Acceptance should work the admission of the State with the Lecompton
Constitution, while rejection should postpone any admission until her
population reached the ratio of representation required for a member
of the House. "Hence it will be argued," exclaimed Douglas, "in one
portion of the Union that this is a submission of the constitution,
and in another portion that it is not." The English bill became a law;
but the people of Kansas once more voted to reject the "proposition"
by nearly ten thousand majority.

[Sidenote] Douglas, Senate Speech, March 22, 1858. App. "Globe,"
pp. 199, 200.

Douglas opposed the English bill as he had done the Lecompton bill,
thus maintaining his attitude as the chief leader of the
anti-Lecompton opposition. In proportion as he received encouragement
and commendation from Republican and American newspapers, he fell
under the ban of the Administration journals. The "Washington Union"
especially pursued him with denunciation. "It has read me out of the
Democratic party every other day, at least, for two or three months,"
said he, "and keeps reading me out; and, as if it had not succeeded,
still continues to read me out, using such terms as 'traitor,'
'renegade,' 'deserter,' and other kind and polite epithets of that
nature." He explained that this arose from his having voted in the
Senate against its editor for the office of public printer; but he
also pointed out that he did so because that journal had become
pro-slavery to the point of declaring "that the emancipation acts of
New York, of New England, of Pennsylvania, and of New Jersey were
unconstitutional, were outrages upon the right of property, were
violations of the Constitution of the United States." "The proposition
is advanced," continued he, "that a Southern man has a right to move
from South Carolina with his negroes into Illinois, to settle there
and hold them there as slaves, anything in the constitution and laws
of Illinois to the contrary notwithstanding." Douglas further
intimated broadly that the President and Cabinet were inspiring these
editorials of the Administration organ, as part and parcel of the same
system and object with which they were pushing the Lecompton
Constitution with its odious "property" doctrine; and declared, "if my
protest against this interpolation into the policy of this country or
the creed of the Democratic party is to bring me under the ban, I am
ready to meet the issue."

He had not long to wait for the issue. The party rupture was radical,
not superficial. It was, as he had himself pointed out, part of the
contest for national supremacy between slavery and freedom. From time
to time he still held out the olive-branch and pointed wistfully to
the path of reconciliation. But the reactionary faction which ruled
Mr. Buchanan never forgave Douglas for his part in defeating Lecompton,
and more especially for what they alleged to be his treachery to his
caucus bargain, in refusing to accept and defend all the logical
consequences of the Dred Scott decision.

[1] Buchanan to Silliman and others, Aug. 15, 1857. Senate Ex. Doc.
No. 8, 1st Sess. 35th Cong. Vol. I., p. 74.

[2] From California, 1; Illinois, 5; Indiana, 3; New Jersey, 1; New
York, 2; Ohio, 6; Pennsylvania, 4. For Lecompton: California, 1;
Connecticut, 2; Indiana, 3; New Jersey, 2; New York, 10; Ohio, 2;
Pennsylvania, 11.



The anti-Lecompton recusancy of Douglas baffled the plotting
extremists of the South, and created additional dissension in the
Democratic ranks; and this growing Democratic weakness and the
increasing Republican ardor and strength presaged a possible
Republican success in the coming Presidential election. While this
condition of things gave national politics an unusual interest, the
State of Illinois now became the field of a local contest which for
the moment held the attention of the entire country in such a degree
as to involve and even eclipse national issues.

In this local contest in Illinois, the choice of candidates on both
sides was determined long beforehand by a popular feeling, stronger
and more unerring than ordinary individual or caucus intrigues.
Douglas, as author of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, as a
formidable Presidential aspirant, and now again as leader of the
anti-Lecompton Democrats, could, of course, have no rival in his party
for his own Senatorial seat. Lincoln, who had in 1854 gracefully
yielded his justly won Senatorial honors to Trumbull, and who alone
bearded Douglas in his own State throughout the whole anti-Nebraska
struggle, with anything like a show of equal political courage and
intellectual strength, was as inevitably the leader and choice of the
Republicans. Their State convention met in Springfield on the 16th of
June, 1858, and, after its ordinary routine work, passed with
acclamation a separate resolution, which declared "that Abraham
Lincoln is the first and only choice of the Republicans of Illinois
for the United States Senate as the successor of Stephen A. Douglas."
The proceedings of the convention had consumed the afternoon, and an
adjournment was taken. At 8 o'clock that same evening, the convention
having reassembled in the State-house, Lincoln appeared before it, and
made what was perhaps the most carefully prepared speech of his whole
life. Every word of it was written, every sentence had been tested;
but the speaker delivered it without manuscript or notes. It was not
an ordinary oration, but, in the main, an argument, as sententious and
axiomatic as if made to a bench of jurists. Its opening sentences
contained a political prophecy which not only became the ground-work
of the campaign, but heralded one of the world's great historical
events. He said:

[Sidenote] Lincoln-Douglas Debates, p. 1.

"If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending,
we could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far
into 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."

Then followed his demonstration, through the incidents of the Nebraska
legislation, the Dred Scott decision, and present political theories
and issues, which would by and by find embodiment in new laws and
future legal doctrines. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the
language of the Nebraska bill, which declared slavery "subject to the
Constitution," the Dred Scott decision, which declared that "subject
to the Constitution" neither Congress nor a Territorial Legislature
could exclude slavery from a Territory--the argument presented point
by point and step by step with legal precision the silent subversion
of cherished principles of liberty. "Put this and that together," said
he, "and we have another nice little niche, which we may ere long see
filled with another Supreme Court decision, declaring that the
Constitution of the United States does not permit a State to exclude
slavery from its limits.... Such a decision is all that slavery now
lacks of being alike lawful in all the States.... We shall lie down,"
continued the orator, "pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri
are on the verge of making their State free; and we shall awake to the
reality instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave

His peroration was a battle-call: "Our cause, then, must be intrusted
to and conducted by its own undoubted friends, those whose hands are
free, whose hearts are in the work, who do care for the result. Two
years ago the Republicans of the nation mustered over thirteen hundred
thousand strong. We did this under the single impulse of resistance to
a common danger, with every external circumstance against us. Of
strange, discordant, and even hostile elements we gathered from the
four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the
constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy. Did we
brave all then to falter now?--now, when that same enemy is wavering,
dissevered, and belligerent? The result is not doubtful. We shall not
fail--if we stand firm we shall not fail. Wise counsels may accelerate
or mistakes delay it, but sooner or later the victory is sure to

[Sidenote] See O.J. Hollister, "Life of Colfax," pp. 119-22.

[Sidenote] J. Watson Webb to Bates, June 9, 1858. MS.

Lincoln's declaration that the cause of slavery restriction "must be
intrusted to its own undoubted friends" had something more than a
general meaning. We have seen that while Douglas avowed he did not
care "whether slavery was voted down or voted up" in the Territories,
he had opposed the Lecompton Constitution on the ground of its
non-submission to popular vote, and that this opposition caused the
Buchanan Democrats to treat him as an apostate. Many earnest
Republicans were moved to strong sympathy for Douglas in this
attitude, partly for his help in defeating the Lecompton iniquity,
partly because they believed his action in this particular a prelude
to further political repentance, partly out of that chivalric
generosity of human nature which sides with the weak against the
strong. In the hour of his trial and danger many wishes for his
successful reelection came to him from Republicans of national
prominence. Greeley, in the New York "Tribune" as well as in private
letters, made no concealment of such a desire. Burlingame, in a fervid
speech in the House of Representatives, called upon the young men of
the country to stand by the Douglas men. It was known that Colfax and
other influential members of the House were holding confidential
interviews with Douglas, the object of which it was not difficult to
guess. There were even rumors that Seward intended to interfere in his
behalf. This report was bruited about so industriously that he felt it
necessary to permit a personal friend to write an emphatic denial, so
that it might come to Lincoln's knowledge. On the other hand,
newspapers ventured the suggestion that Lincoln might retaliate by a
combination against Seward's Presidential aspirations.

[Sidenote] Wentworth to Lincoln, April 19, 1858. MS.

Rival politicians in Illinois were suspicious of each other, and did
not hesitate to communicate their suspicions to Lincoln. Personal
friends, of course, kept him well informed about these various
political under-currents, and an interesting letter of his shows that
he received and treated the matter with liberal charity. "I have never
said or thought more," wrote he, "as to the inclination of some of our
Eastern Republican friends to favor Douglas, than I expressed in your
hearing on the evening of the 21st April, at the State Library in this
place. I have believed--do believe now--that Greeley, for instance,
would be rather pleased to see Douglas reelected over me or any other
Republican; and yet I do not believe it is so because of any secret
arrangement with Douglas--it is because he thinks Douglas's superior
position, reputation, experience, and ability, if you please, would
more than compensate for his lack of a pure Republican position, and,
therefore, his reelection do the general cause of Republicanism more
good than would the election of any one of our better undistinguished
pure Republicans. I do not know how you estimate Greeley, but I
consider him incapable of corruption or falsehood. He denies that he
directly is taking part in favor of Douglas, and I believe him.[1]
Still his feeling constantly manifests itself in his paper, which,
being so extensively read in Illinois, is, and will continue to be, a
drag upon us. I have also thought that Governor Seward, too, feels
about as Greeley does; but not being a newspaper editor, his feeling
in this respect is not much manifested. I have no idea that he is, by
conversation or by letter, urging Illinois Republicans to vote for

[Sidenote] Lincoln to Wilson, June 1, 1858. MS.

"As to myself, let me pledge you my word that neither I nor my
friends, so far as I know, have been setting stake against Governor
Seward. No combination has been made with me, or proposed to me, in
relation to the next Presidential candidate. The same thing is true in
regard to the next Governor of our State. I am not directly or
indirectly committed to any one; nor has any one made any advance to
me upon the subject. I have had many free conversations with John
Wentworth; but he never dropped a remark that led me to suspect that
he wishes to be Governor. Indeed it is due to truth to say that while
he has uniformly expressed himself for me, he has never hinted at any
condition. The signs are that we shall have a good convention on the
16th, and I think our prospects generally are improving some every
day. I believe we need nothing so much as to get rid of unjust
suspicions of one another."

[Sidenote] Lincoln to Crittenden, July 7, 1858. Mrs. Coleman, "Life
of Crittenden," Vol. II., p. 162.

[Sidenote] Crittenden to Lincoln, July 29, 1858. Ibid., p. 163.

[Sidenote] Crittenden to Dickey, August 1, 1858. Ibid., p. 164.

While many alleged defections were soon disproved by the ready and
loyal avowals of his friends in Illinois and elsewhere, there came to
him a serious disappointment from a quarter whence he little expected
it. Early in the canvass Lincoln began to hear that Crittenden, of
Kentucky, favored the reelection of Douglas, and had promised so to
advise the Whigs of Illinois by a public letter. Deeming it well-nigh
incredible that a Kentucky Whig like Crittenden could take such a
part against an Illinois Whig of his own standing and service, to help
a life-long opponent of Clay and his cherished plans, Lincoln
addressed him a private letter making the direct inquiry. "I do not
believe the story," he wrote, "but still it gives me some uneasiness.
If such was your inclination, I do not believe you would so express
yourself. It is not in character with you as I have always estimated
you." Crittenden's reply, however, confirmed his worst fears. He said
he and Douglas had acted together to oppose Lecompton. For this
Douglas had been assailed, and he thought his reelection was necessary
to rebuke the Buchanan Administration. In addition Crittenden also
soon wrote the expected letter for publication, in which phraseology
of apparent fairness covered an urgent appeal in Douglas's behalf.

[Sidenote] Lincoln-Douglas Debates, pp. 4-5.

In the evenly balanced and sensitive condition of Illinois politics
this ungracious outside interference may be said to have insured
Lincoln's defeat. While it gave him pain to be thus wounded in the
house of his friends, he yet more deeply deplored the inexcusable
blunder of leaders whose misplaced sympathy put in jeopardy the
success of a vital political principle. In his convention speech he
had forcibly stated the error and danger of such a step. "How can he
[Douglas] oppose the advances of slavery? He don't care anything about
it. His avowed mission is impressing the 'public heart' to care
nothing about it.... For years he has labored to prove it a sacred
right of white men to take negro slaves into the new Territories. Can
he possibly show that it is less a sacred right to buy them where they
can be bought cheapest? And unquestionably they can be bought cheaper
in Africa than in Virginia. He has done all in his power to reduce the
whole question of slavery to one of a mere right of property.... Now
as ever, I wish not to misrepresent Judge Douglas's position, question
his motives, or do aught that can be personally offensive to him.
Whenever, if ever, he and we can come together on principle so that
our great cause may have assistance from his great ability, I hope to
have interposed no adventitious obstacle. But clearly he is not now
with us--he does not pretend to be--he does not promise ever to be."

[Sidenote] Lincoln, Springfield Speech, July 17, 1858. Debates,
p. 55.

Lincoln in nowise underrated the severity of the political contest in
which he was about to engage. He knew his opponent's strong points as
well as his weak ones--his energy, his adroitness, the blind devotion
of his followers, his greater political fame. "Senator Douglas is of
world-wide renown," he said. "All the anxious politicians of his
party, or who have been of his party for years past, have been looking
upon him as certainly at no distant day to be the President of the
United States. They have seen in his round, jolly, fruitful face
post-offices, land-offices, marshalships, and cabinet appointments,
charge-ships and foreign missions, bursting and sprouting out in
wonderful exuberance ready to be laid hold of by their greedy hands.
And as they have been gazing upon this attractive picture so long,
they cannot, in the little distraction that has taken place in the
party, bring themselves to give up the charming hope; but with
greedier anxiety they rush about him, sustain him, and give him
marches, triumphal entries, and receptions, beyond what even in the
days of his highest prosperity they could have brought about in his
favor. On the contrary, nobody has ever expected me to be President.
In my poor, lean, lank face, nobody has ever seen that any cabbages
were sprouting out. These are disadvantages all taken together, that
the Republicans labor under. We have to fight this battle upon
principle, and principle alone."

[Sidenote] 1858.

Douglas and his friends had indeed entered upon the canvass with an
unusual flourish of trumpets. Music, banners, salutes, fireworks,
addresses, ovation, and jubilation with enthusiasm genuine and
simulated, came and went in almost uninterrupted sequence; so much of
the noise and pomp of electioneering had not been seen since the
famous hard-cider campaign of Harrison. The "Little Giant," as he was
proudly nicknamed by his adherents, arrived in Illinois near
midsummer, after elaborate preparation and heralding, and made
speeches successively at Chicago, Bloomington, and Springfield on the
9th, 16th, and 17th of July. The Republicans and their candidate were
equally alert to contest every inch of ground. Mr. Lincoln made
speeches in reply at Chicago on the 10th and at Springfield on the
evening of Douglas's day address; and in both instances with such
force and success as portended a fluctuating and long-continued

[Illustration: ANSON BURLINGAME.]

For the moment the presence of Douglas not only gave spirit and fresh
industry to his followers, but the novelty impressed the indifferent
and the wavering. The rush of the campaign was substituting excitement
for inquiry, blare of brass bands and smoke of gunpowder for
intelligent criticism. The fame and prestige of the "Little Giant" was
beginning to incline the vibrating scale. Lincoln and his intimate
political advisers were not slow to note the signs of danger; and the
remedy devised threw upon him the burden of a new responsibility. It
was decided in the councils of the Republican leaders that Lincoln
should challenge Douglas to joint public debate.

The challenge was sent by Lincoln on July 24; Douglas proposed that
they should meet at the towns of Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro,
Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy, and Alton, each speaker alternately to
open and close the discussion; Douglas to speak one hour at Ottawa,
Lincoln to reply for an hour and a half, and Douglas to make a half
hour's rejoinder. In like manner Lincoln should open and close at
Freeport, and so on alternately. Lincoln's note of July 31 accepted
the proposal as made. "Although by the terms," he wrote, "as you
propose, you take four openings and closes to my three, I accede and
thus close the arrangement." Meanwhile each of the speakers made
independent appointments for other days and places than these seven;
and in the heat and dust of midsummer traveled and addressed the
people for a period of about one hundred days, frequently making the
necessary journeys by night, and often speaking two and sometimes even
three times in a single day. Thus to the combat of intellectual skill
was added a severe ordeal of physical endurance.[2]

Lincoln entered upon the task which his party friends had devised with
neither bravado nor misgiving. He had not sought these public
discussions; neither did he shrink from them. Throughout his whole
life he appears to have been singularly correct in his estimate of
difficulties to be encountered and of his own powers for overcoming
them. Each of these seven meetings, comprising both the Republican and
Democratic voters of the neighboring counties, formed a vast, eager,
and attentive assemblage. It needed only the first day's experience to
show the wisdom of the Republican leaders in forcing a joint
discussion upon Douglas. Face to face with his competitor, he could no
longer successfully assume airs of superiority, or wrap himself in his
Senatorial dignity and prestige. They were equal spokesmen, of equal
parties, on an equal platform, while applause and encouragement on one
side balanced applause and encouragement on the other.

In a merely forensic sense, it was indeed a battle of giants. In the
whole field of American politics no man has equaled Douglas in the
expedients and strategy of debate. Lacking originality and
constructive logic, he had great facility in appropriating by
ingenious restatement the thoughts and formulas of others. 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. He could almost invert a proposition by a
plausible paraphrase. He delighted in enlarging an opponent's
assertion to a forced inference ridiculous in form and monstrous in
dimensions. In spirit he was alert, combative, aggressive; in manner,
patronizing and arrogant by turns.

Lincoln's mental equipment was of an entirely different order. His
principal weapon was direct, unswerving logic. His fairness of
statement and generosity of admission had long been proverbial. For
these intellectual duels with Douglas, he possessed a power of
analysis that easily outran and circumvented the "Little Giant's" most
extraordinary gymnastics of argument. But, disdaining mere quibbles,
he pursued lines of concise reasoning to maxims of constitutional law
and political morals. Douglas was always forcible in statement and
bold in assertion; but Lincoln was his superior in quaint originality,
aptness of phrase, and subtlety of definition; and oftentimes
Lincoln's philosophic vision and poetical fervor raised him to flights
of eloquence which were not possible to the fiber and temper of his

It is, of course, out of the question to abridge the various
Lincoln-Douglas discussions of which the text fills a good-sized
volume. Only a few points of controversy may be stated. Lincoln's
convention speech, it will be remembered, declared that in his belief
the Union could not endure permanently half slave and half free, but
must become all one thing or all the other. Douglas in his first
speech of the campaign attacked this as an invitation to a war of
sections, declaring that uniformity would lead to consolidation and
despotism. He charged the Republicans with intent to abolish slavery
in the States; said their opposition to the Dred Scott decision was a
desire for negro equality and amalgamation; and prescribed his dogma
of popular sovereignty as a panacea for all the ills growing out of
the slavery agitation.

[Sidenote] Lincoln-Douglas Debates, p. 75.

To this Lincoln replied that Republicans did not aim at abolition in
the slave-States, but only the exclusion of slavery from free
Territories; they did not oppose the Dred Scott decision in so far as
it concerned the freedom of Dred Scott, but they refused to accept its
dicta as rules of political action. He repelled the accusation that
the Republicans desired negro equality or amalgamation, saying: "There
is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will
probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of
perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there
must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the
race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said
anything to the contrary, but I hold that notwithstanding all this
there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all
the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence--the
right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he
is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge
Douglas he 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 return he pressed upon Douglas his charge of a political conspiracy
to nationalize slavery, alleging that his "don't care" policy was but
the convenient stalking-horse under cover of which a new Dred Scott
decision would make slavery lawful everywhere.

[Sidenote] Ibid., p. 82.

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 under the Constitution neither Congress nor the Territorial
Legislature can do it. When that is decided and acquiesced in, the
whole thing is done. This being true, and this being the way, as I
think, that slavery is to be made national, let us consider what
Judge Douglas is doing every day to that end. In the first place,
let us see what influence he is exerting on public sentiment. In
this and like communities public sentiment is everything. With
public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can
succeed. Consequently, he who molds public sentiment goes deeper
than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes
statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.

The Democratic policy in regard to that institution will not
tolerate the merest breath, the slightest hint, of the least
degree of wrong about it. Try it by some of Judge Douglas's
arguments. He says he "don't care whether it is voted up or voted
down" in the Territories. I do not care myself, in dealing with
that expression, whether it is intended to be expressive of his
individual sentiments on the subject, or only of the national
policy he desires to have established. It is alike valuable for my
purpose. Any man can say that who does not see anything wrong in
slavery, but no man can logically say it who does see a wrong in
it; because no man can logically say he don't care whether a wrong
is voted up or voted down. He may say he don't care whether an
indifferent thing is voted up or down, but he must logically have
a choice between a right thing and a wrong thing. He contends that
whatever community wants slaves has a right to have them. So they
have, if it is not a wrong. But if it is a wrong, he cannot say
people have a right to do wrong. He says that upon the score of
equality slaves should be allowed to go into a new Territory, like
other property. This is strictly logical if there is no difference
between it and other property. If it and other property are equal,
his argument is entirely logical. But if you insist that one is
wrong and the other right, there is no use to institute a
comparison between right and wrong. You may turn over everything
in the Democratic policy from beginning to end, whether in the
shape it takes on the statute book, in the shape it takes in the
Dred Scott decision, in the shape it takes in conversation, or the
shape it takes in short maxim-like arguments--it everywhere
carefully excludes the idea that there is anything wrong in it.

[Sidenote] Lincoln-Douglas Debates, pp. 233-4.

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 the
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

[Sidenote] Lincoln-Douglas Debates, p. 56.

As to the vaunted popular sovereignty principle, Lincoln declared it
"the most arrant Quixotism that was ever enacted before a
community.... Does he mean to say that he has been devoting his life
to securing to the people of the Territories the right to exclude
slavery from the Territories? If he means so to say, he means to
deceive; because he and every one knows that the decision of the
Supreme Court, which he approves and makes especial 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 Territories has no constitutional power to exclude slavery during
their territorial existence."

By no means the least interesting of the many points touched in these
debates is Lincoln's own estimate of the probable duration of slavery,
or rather of the least possible period in which "ultimate extinction"
could be effected, even under the most favorable circumstances.

[Sidenote] Lincoln-Douglas Debates, p. 157.

Now, at this day in the history of the world [said he, in the
Charleston debate], we can no more foretell where the end of this
slavery agitation will be than we can see the end of the world
itself. The Nebraska-Kansas bill was introduced four years and a
half ago, and if the agitation is ever to come to an end, we may
say we are four years and a half nearer the end. So too we can say
we are four years and a half nearer the end of the world; and we
can just as clearly see the end of the world as we can see the end
of this agitation. The Kansas settlement did not conclude it. If
Kansas should sink to-day, and leave a great vacant space in the
earth's surface, this vexed question would still be among us. I
say then there is no way of putting an end to the slavery
agitation amongst us, but to put it back upon the basis where our
fathers placed it, no way but to keep it out of our new
Territories--to restrict it forever to the old States where it now
exists. Then the public mind will rest in the belief that it is in
the course of ultimate extinction. That is one way of putting an
end to the slavery agitation.

The other way is for us to surrender and let Judge Douglas and his
friends have their way and plant slavery over all the States;
cease speaking of it as in any way a wrong; regard slavery as one
of the common matters of property and speak of negroes as we do of
our horses and cattle. But while it drives on in its state of
progress as it is now driving, and as it has driven for the last
five years, I have ventured the opinion, and I say to-day that we
will have no end to the slavery agitation until it takes one turn
or the other. I do not mean to say that when it takes a turn
towards ultimate extinction it will be in a day, nor in a year,
nor in two years. I do not suppose that in the most peaceful way
ultimate extinction would occur in less than a hundred years at
least; but that it will occur in the best way for both races, in
God's own good time, I have no doubt.

But the one dominating characteristic of Lincoln's speeches is their
constant recurrence to broad and enduring principles, their
unremitting effort to lead public opinion to loftier and nobler
conceptions of political duty; and nothing in his career stamps him so
distinctively an American as his constant eulogy and defense of the
philosophical precepts of the Declaration of Independence. The
following is one of his indictments of his political opponents on this

[Sidenote] Lincoln-Douglas Debates, p. 225.

At Galesburg the other day, I said, in answer to Judge Douglas,
that three years ago there never had been a man, so far as I knew
or believed, in the whole world, who had said that the Declaration
of Independence did not include negroes in the term "all men." I
re-assert it to-day. I assert that Judge Douglas and all his
friends may search the whole records of the country, and it will
be a matter of great astonishment to me if they shall be able to
find that one human being three years ago had ever uttered the
astounding sentiment that the term "all men" in the Declaration
did not include the negro. Do not let me be misunderstood. I know
that more than three years ago there were men who, finding this
assertion constantly in the way of their schemes to bring about
the ascendency and perpetuation of slavery, denied the truth of
it. I know that Mr. Calhoun and all the politicians of his school
denied the truth of the Declaration. I know that it ran along in
the mouth of some Southern men for a period of years, ending at
last in that shameful though rather forcible declaration of
Pettit, of Indiana, upon the floor of the United States Senate,
that the Declaration of Independence was in that respect "a
self-evident lie" rather than a self-evident truth. But I say,
with a perfect knowledge of all this hawking at the Declaration
without directly attacking it, that three years ago there never
had lived a man who had ventured to assail it in the sneaking way
of pretending to believe it and then asserting it did not include
the negro. I believe the first man who ever said it was
Chief-Justice Taney in the Dred Scott case, and the next to him
was our friend, Stephen A. Douglas. And now it has become the
catchword of the entire party. I would like to call upon his
friends everywhere to consider how they have come in so short a
time to view this matter in a way so entirely different from their
former belief; to ask whether they are not being borne along by an
irresistible current, whither they know not?

In the joint debates, however, argument and oratory were both hampered
by the inexorable limit of time. For the full development of his
thought, the speeches Lincoln made separately at other places afforded
him a freer opportunity. A quotation from his language on one of these
occasions is therefore here added, as a better illustration of his
style and logic, where his sublime theme carried him into one of his
more impassioned moods:

The Declaration of Independence was formed by the representatives
of American liberty from thirteen States of the Confederacy,
twelve of which were slave-holding communities. We need not
discuss the way or the reason of their becoming slave-holding
communities. It is sufficient for our purpose that all of them
greatly deplored the evil and that they placed a provision in the
Constitution which they supposed would gradually remove the
disease by cutting off its source. This was the abolition of the
slave trade. So general was the conviction, the public
determination, to abolish the African slave trade, that the
provision which I have referred to as being placed in the
Constitution declared that it should not be abolished prior to the
year 1808. A constitutional provision was necessary to prevent the
people, through Congress, from putting a stop to the traffic
immediately at the close of the war. Now if slavery had been a
good thing, would the fathers of the republic have taken a step
calculated to diminish its beneficent influences among themselves,
and snatch the boon wholly from their posterity? These
communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall,
said to the whole world of men: "We hold these truths to be
self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that
among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This
was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe.
This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the
justice of the Creator to his creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all
his creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their
enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and
likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on and degraded,
and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race
of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the
farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children,
and their children's children, and the countless myriads who
should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they
were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and
so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in
the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should
set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men,
or none but Anglo-Saxon white men, were entitled to life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again
to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the
battle which their fathers began, so that truth and justice and
mercy and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be
extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to
limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of
liberty was being built.

Now, my countrymen, if you have been taught doctrines conflicting
with the great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence; if
you have listened to suggestions which would take away from its
grandeur and mutilate the fair symmetry of its proportions; if you
have been inclined to believe that all men are not created equal
in those inalienable rights enumerated by our chart of liberty,
let me entreat you to come back. Return to the fountain whose
waters spring close by the blood of the revolution. Think nothing
of me--take no thought for the political fate of any man
whomsoever--but come back to the truths that are in the
Declaration of Independence. You may do anything with me you
choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles. You may not
only defeat me for the Senate, but you may take me and put me to
death. While pretending no indifference to earthly honors, I do
claim to be actuated in this contest by something higher than an
anxiety for office. I charge you to drop every paltry and
insignificant thought for any man's success. It is nothing; I am
nothing; Judge Douglas is nothing. But do not destroy that
immortal emblem of Humanity--the Declaration of American

[1] It is interesting to compare with Lincoln's letter one from Greeley
to a Chicago editor on the same subject:

"July 24, 1858.

"MY FRIEND: You have taken your own course--don't try to throw the
blame on others. You have repelled Douglas, who might have been
conciliated and attached to our own side, whatever he may _now_
find, it necessary to say, or do, and instead of helping us in
other States, you have thrown a load upon us that may probably
break us down. You knew what was the almost unanimous desire of
the Republicans of other States; and you spurned and insulted
them. Now go ahead and fight it through. You are in for it, and
it does no good to make up wry faces. What I have said in the
'Tribune' since the fight was resolved on, has been in good faith,
intended to help you through. If Lincoln would fight up to the
work also, you might get through--if he apologizes, and retreats,
he is lost, and all others go down with him. His first Springfield
speech (at the convention) was in the right key; his Chicago
speech was bad; and I fear the new Springfield speech is worse. If
he dare not stand on broad Republican ground, he cannot stand at
all. That, however, is _his_ business; he is nowise responsible
for what I say. I shall stand on the broad anti-slavery ground,
which I have occupied for years. I cannot change it to help your
fight; and I should only damage you if I did. You have got your
Elephant--you would have him--now shoulder him! He is not so very
heavy, after all. As I seem to displease you equally when I try to
keep you out of trouble, and when, having rushed in in spite of
me, I try to help you in the struggle you have unwisely provoked,
I must keep neutral, so far as may be hereafter. Yours,


"J. MEDILL, Esq., Chicago, (very) Ill.

"What have I ever said in favor of 'Negro equality' with reference
to your fight? I recollect nothing."

The above is from a manuscript copy of Greeley's letter, but it bears
internal evidence of genuineness.

[2] "Last year in the Illinois canvass I made just 130 speeches."--
[Douglas, Wooster (O.) Speech.] This was between July 9 and November
2, 1858, just 100 days, exclusive of Sundays.

[3] Lincoln's Lewiston Speech, August 17, 1858. Chicago "Press and



[Sidenote] Lincoln-Douglas Debates, p. 68.

What has thus far been quoted has been less to illustrate the leading
lines of discussion, than to explain more fully the main historical
incident of the debates. In the first joint discussion at Ottawa, in
the northern or anti-slavery part of Illinois, Douglas read a series of
strong anti-slavery resolutions which he erroneously alleged Lincoln
had taken part in framing and passing. He said: "My object in reading
these resolutions was to put the question to Abraham Lincoln this day
whether he now stands and will stand by each article in that creed and
carry it out.... I ask Abraham Lincoln to answer these questions in
order that when I trot him down to lower Egypt[1] I may put the same
questions to him."[2]

[Sidenote] Lincoln-Douglas Debates, p. 87.

In preparing a powerful appeal to local prejudice, Douglas doubtless
knew he was handling a two-edged sword; but we shall see that he
little appreciated the skill with which his antagonist would wield the
weapon he was placing in his hands. At their second joint meeting, at
Freeport, also in northern Illinois, Lincoln, who now had the opening
speech, said, referring to Douglas's speech at Ottawa: "I do him no
injustice in saying that he occupied at least half of his reply in
dealing with me as though I had refused to answer his interrogatories.
I now propose that I will answer any of the interrogatories, upon
condition that he will answer questions from me not exceeding the same
number. I give him an opportunity to respond. The judge remains
silent. I now say that I will answer his interrogatories, whether he
answers mine or not; and that after I have done so, I shall propound
mine to him."

Lincoln then read his answers to the seven questions which, had been
asked him, and proposed four in return, the second one of which ran as
follows: "Can the people of a United States Territory, in any lawful
way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude
slavery from its limits, prior to the formation of a State

To comprehend the full force of this interrogatory, the reader must
recall the fact that the "popular sovereignty" of the Nebraska bill
was couched in vague language, and qualified with the proviso that it
was "subject to the Constitution." The caucus which framed this
phraseology agreed, as a compromise between Northern and Southern
Democrats, that the courts should interpret and define the
constitutional limitations, by which all should abide. The Dred Scott
decision declared in terms that Congress could not prohibit slavery in
Territories nor authorize a Territorial Legislature to do so. The Dred
Scott decision had thus annihilated "popular sovereignty," Would
Douglas admit his blunder in law, and his error in statesmanship?

He had already faced and partly evaded this dilemma in his Springfield
speech of 1857, but that was a local declaration and occurred before
his Lecompton revolt, and the ingenious sophism then put forth had
attracted little notice. Since that time things had materially
changed. He had opposed Lecompton, become a party recusant, and been
declared a party apostate. His Senatorial term was closing, and he had
to look to an evenly balanced if not a hostile constituency for
reelection. The Buchanan Administration was putting forth what feeble
strength it had in Illinois to insure his defeat. His Democratic
rivals were scrutinizing every word he uttered. He stood before the
people to whom he had pledged his word that the voters of Kansas might
regulate their own domestic concerns. They would tolerate no juggling
nor evasion. There remained no resource but to answer _Yes_, and he
could conjure up no justification of such an answer except the hollow
subterfuge he had invented the year before.

[Sidenote] Lincoln to Asbury, July 31, 1858.

Lincoln clearly enough comprehended the dilemma and predicted the
expedient of his antagonist. He had framed his questions and submitted
them to a consultation of shrewd party friends. This one especially
was the subject of anxious deliberation and serious disagreement.
Nearly a month before, Lincoln in a private letter accurately
foreshadowed Douglas's course on this question. "You shall have hard
work to get him directly to the point whether a Territorial
Legislature has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you
succeed in bringing him to it--though he will be compelled to say it
possesses no such power--he will instantly take ground that slavery
cannot actually exist in the Territories unless the people desire it,
and so give it protection by Territorial legislation. If this offends
the South, he will let it offend them, as at all events he means to
hold on to his chances in Illinois." There is a tradition that on the
night preceding this 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. Notwithstanding the late hour, Mr.
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 to Douglas; but Lincoln
persisted in his determination to force him to answer it. Finally his
friends in a chorus cried out, "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."

When Lincoln had finished his opening speech in the Freeport debate,
and Douglas in his reply came to interrogatory number two, which
Lincoln had propounded, he answered as follows:

[Sidenote] Lincoln-Douglas Debates, p. 95.

The next question propounded to me by Mr. Lincoln is, Can the
people of a Territory in any lawful way, against the wish of any
citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from their limits,
prior to the formation of a State constitution? I answer
emphatically, as Mr. Lincoln has heard me answer a hundred times
from every stump in Illinois, that in my opinion the people of a
Territory can, by lawful means, exclude slavery from their limits,
prior to the formation of a State constitution. Mr. Lincoln knew
that I had answered that question over and over again. He heard me
argue the Nebraska bill on that principle all over the State in
1854, in 1855, and in 1856, and he has no excuse for pretending to
be in doubt as to my position on that question. It matters not
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. I hope Mr. Lincoln deems my answer satisfactory on
that point.

[Illustration: STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS.]

The remarkable theory here proposed was immediately taken up and
exhaustively discussed by the leading newspapers in all parts of the
Union, and thereby became definitely known under the terms "unfriendly
legislation" and "Freeport doctrine." Mr. Lincoln effectually disposed
of it in the following fashion in the joint debate at Alton:

[Sidenote] Lincoln-Douglas Debates, pp. 234-5.

I understand I have ten minutes yet. I will employ it in saying
something about this argument Judge Douglas uses, while he
sustains the Dred Scott decision, that the people of the
Territories can still somehow exclude slavery. The first thing I
ask attention to is the fact that Judge Douglas constantly said,
before the decision, that whether they could or not, was a
question for the Supreme Court. But after the court has made the
decision he virtually says it is not a question for the Supreme
Court, but for the people. And how is it he tells us they can
exclude it? He said it needs "police regulations," and that admits
of "unfriendly legislation." Although it is a right established by
the Constitution of the United States to take a slave into a
Territory of the United States and hold him as property, yet
unless the Territorial Legislature will give friendly legislation,
and, more especially, if they adopt unfriendly legislation, they
can practically exclude him. Now, without meeting this proposition
as a matter of fact, I pass to consider the real constitutional
obligation. Let me take the gentleman who looks me in the face
before me, and let us suppose that he is a member of the
Territorial Legislature. The first thing he will do will be to
swear that he will support the Constitution of the United States.
His neighbor by his side in the Territory has slaves and needs
Territorial legislation to enable him to enjoy that constitutional
right. Can he withhold the legislation which his neighbor needs
for the enjoyment of a right which is fixed in his favor in the
Constitution of the United States, which he has sworn to support?
Can he withhold it without violating his oath? and more
especially, can he pass unfriendly legislation to violate his
oath? Why this is a monstrous sort of talk about the Constitution
of the United States! There has never been as outlandish or
lawless a doctrine from the mouth of any respectable man on earth.
I do not believe it is a constitutional right to hold slaves in a
Territory of the United States. I believe the decision was
improperly made, and I go for reversing it. Judge Douglas is
furious against those who go for reversing a decision. But he is
for legislating it out of all force, while the law itself stands.
I repeat that there has never been so monstrous a doctrine uttered
from the mouth of a respectable man.

The announcement and subsequent defense by Douglas of his "Freeport
doctrine" proved, as Lincoln had predicted, something more important
than a mere campaign incident. It was the turning-point in Douglas's
political fortunes. With the whole South, and with a few prominent
politicians of the North, it served to put him outside the pale of
party fellowship. Compared with this his Lecompton revolt had been a
venial offense. In that case he had merely contended for the machinery
of a fair popular vote. This was the avowal of a principle as
obnoxious to the slavery propaganda as the unqualified abolitionism of
Giddings and Lovejoy. Henceforth all hope of reconciliation,
atonement, or chance of Presidential nomination by the united
Democratic party was out of the question. Before this, newspaper
zealots had indeed denounced him for his Lecompton recusancy as a
traitor and renegade, and the Administration had endeavored to secure
his defeat; now, however, in addition, the party high-priests put him
under solemn ban of excommunication. How they felt and from what
motives they acted is stated with singular force and frankness in a
Senate speech, soon after the Charleston Convention, by Senator Judah
P. Benjamin, of Louisiana, one of the ablest and most persistent of
the conspirators to nationalize slavery, and who, not long after, was
one of the principal actors in the great rebellion:

Up to the years 1857 and 1858 no man in this nation had a higher
or more exalted opinion of the character, the services, and the
political integrity of the Senator from Illinois [Douglas] than I
had.... Sir, it has been with reluctance and sorrow that I have
been obliged to pluck down my idol from his place on high, and to
refuse to him any more support or confidence as a member of the
party. I have done so, I trust, upon no light or unworthy ground.
I have not done so alone. The causes that have operated on me have
operated on the Democratic party of the United States, and have
operated an effect which the whole future life of the Senator will
be utterly unable to obliterate. It is impossible that confidence
thus lost can be restored. On what ground has that confidence been
forfeited, and why is it that we now refuse him our support and
fellowship? I have stated our reasons to-day. I have appealed to
the record. I have not followed him back in the false issue or the
feigned traverse that he makes in relation to matters that are not
now in contest between him and the Democratic party. The question
is not what we all said or believed in 1850 or in 1856. How idle
was it to search ancient precedents and accumulate old quotations
from what Senators may have at different times said in relation to
their principles and views. The precise point, the direct
arraignment, the plain and explicit allegation made against the
Senator from Illinois is not touched by him in all of his speech.

[Sidenote] Benjamin, Senate Speech, May 22, 1860. Pamphlet.

We accuse him for this, to wit: that having bargained with us upon
a point upon which we were at issue, that it should be considered
a judicial point; that he would abide the decision; that he would
act under the decision, and consider it a doctrine of the party;
that having said that to us here in the Senate, he went home, and
under the stress of a local election, his knees gave way; his
whole person trembled. His adversary stood upon principle and was
beaten; and lo! he is the candidate of a mighty party for the
Presidency of the United States. The Senator from Illinois
faltered. He got the prize for which he faltered; but lo! the
grand prize of his ambition to-day slips from his grasp because of
his faltering in his former contest, and his success in the
canvass for the Senate, purchased for an ignoble price, has cost
him the loss of the Presidency of the United States.

[Sidenote] 1858.

The Senatorial canvass in Illinois came to a close with the election
on the 2d of November and resulted in a victory for Douglas. The
Republicans, on their State ticket, polled 125,430 votes; the Douglas
Democrats, 121,609; the Buchanan Democrats, 5071. By this plurality
the Republican State officers were chosen. But in respect to members
of the Legislature the case stood differently, and when in the
following January the Senatorial election took place in joint session
of the two Houses, Douglas received the vote of every Democrat, 54
members, and Lincoln the vote of every Republican, 46 members,
whereupon Douglas was declared elected Senator of the United States
for six years from the 4th of March, 1859.

The main cause of Lincoln's defeat was the unfairness of the existing
apportionment, which was based upon the census of 1850. A fair
apportionment, based on the changes of population which had occurred,
would have given northern Illinois a larger representation; and it was
there the Republicans had recruited their principal strength in the
recent transformation of parties. The Republicans estimated that this
circumstance caused them a loss of six to ten members.

[Sidenote] Lincoln, Cincinnati Speech, Sept. 17, 1859. Debates,
p. 263.

But the unusual political combinations also had a large influence on
the result. Lincoln, in an Ohio speech made in the following year,
addressing himself to Kentuckians, thus summarized the political
forces that contributed to his defeat: "Douglas had three or four very
distinguished men of the most extreme anti-slavery views of any men in
the Republican party expressing their desire for his reelection to the
Senate last year. That would of itself have seemed to be a little
wonderful, but that wonder is heightened when we see that Wise, of
Virginia, a man exactly opposed to them, a man who believes in the
divine right of slavery, was also expressing his desire that Douglas
should be reelected; that another man that may be said to be kindred
to Wise, Mr. Breckinridge, the Vice-President, and of your own State,
was also agreeing with the anti-slavery men in the North, that Douglas
ought to be reelected. Still to heighten the wonder, a Senator from
Kentucky, whom I have always loved with an affection as tender and
endearing as I have ever loved any man, who was opposed to the
anti-slavery men for reasons which seemed sufficient to him and equally
opposed to Wise and Breckinridge, was writing letters to Illinois to
secure the reelection of Douglas. Now that all these conflicting
elements should be brought, while at daggers' points with one another,
to support him, is a feat that is worthy for you to note and consider.
It is quite probable that each of these classes of men thought, by the
reelection of Douglas, their peculiar views would gain something; it
is probable that the anti-slavery men thought their views would gain
something; that Wise and Breckinridge thought so too, as regards their
opinions; that Mr. Crittenden thought that his views would gain
something although he was opposed to both these other men. It is
probable that each and all of them thought they were using Douglas,
and it is yet an unsolved problem whether he was not using them all."

After a hundred consecutive days of excitement, of intense mental
strain, and of unremitting bodily exertion, after speech-making and
parades, music and bonfires, it must be something of a trial to face
at once the mortification of defeat, the weariness of intellectual and
physical reaction, and the dull commonplace of daily routine. Letters
written at this period show that under these conditions Mr. Lincoln
remained composed, patient, and hopeful. Two weeks after election he
wrote thus to Mr. Judd, a member of the Legislature and Chairman of
the Republican State Central Committee: "I have the pleasure to inform
you that I am convalescing and hoping these lines may find you in the
same improving state of health. Doubtless you have suspected for some
time that I entertain a personal wish for a term in the United States
Senate; and had the suspicion taken the shape of the direct charge I
think I could not have truthfully denied it. But let the past as
nothing be. For the future my view is that the fight must go on. The
returns here are not yet complete, but it is believed that Dougherty's
vote will be slightly greater than Miller's majority over Fondey. We
have some 120,000 clear Republican votes. That pile is worth keeping
together. It will elect a State ticket two years hence."

[Sidenote] Lincoln to Judd, Nov. 15, 1858.

"In that day I shall fight in the ranks, but shall be in no one's way
for any of the places. I am especially for Trumbull's reelection; and,
by the way, this brings me to the principal object of this letter. Can
you not take your draft of an apportionment bill and carefully revise
it till it shall be strictly and obviously just in all particulars,
and then by an early and persistent effort get enough of the enemies'
men to enable you to pass it? I believe if you and Peck make a job of
it, begin early and work earnestly and quietly, you can succeed in it.
Unless something be done, Trumbull is inevitably beaten two years
hence. Take this into serious consideration."

[Sidenote] Ibid., Nov. 16, 1858.

On the following day he received from Mr. Judd a letter informing him
that the funds subscribed for the State Central Committee did not
suffice to pay all the election bills, and asking his help to raise
additional contributions. To this appeal Lincoln replied: "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
expenses so long without earning anything that I am absolutely without
money now for even household purposes. Still, if you can put in $250
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, and with an outstanding note of mine, will exceed
my subscription of $500. This, too, is exclusive of my ordinary
expenses during the campaign, all which being added to my loss of time
and business, bears pretty heavily upon one no better off in world's
goods than I; 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."

[Sidenote] Lincoln to Dr. Henry, Nov. 19, 1858. MS.

The sting of personal defeat is painful to most men, and doubtless it
was so to Lincoln. Yet he regarded the passing struggle as something
more than a mere scramble for office, and drew from it the consolation
which all earnest workers feel in the consciousness of a task well
done. Thus he wrote to a friend on November 19: "You doubtless have
seen ere this the result of the election here. Of course I wished, but
I did not much expect, a better result.... I am glad I made the late
race. It gave me a hearing on the great and durable question of the
age, which I could have had in no other way; and though I now sink out
of view, and shall be forgotten, I believe I have made some marks
which will tell for the cause of civil liberty long after I am gone."

[Sidenote] Lincoln to Asbury, November 19, 1858.

To these one other letter may be added, showing his never-failing
faith in the political future. To a personal friend in Quincy,
Illinois, who had watched the campaign with unusual attention, Lincoln
wrote that same day: "Yours of the 13th was received some days ago.
The fight must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not be
surrendered at the end of one or even one hundred defeats. Douglas had
the ingenuity to be supported in the late contest, both as the best
means to break down and to uphold the slave interest. No ingenuity can
keep these antagonistic elements in harmony long. Another explosion
will soon come."

[Sidenote] 1858.

Douglas was also greatly exhausted by the wearing labors of the
campaign; but he had the notable triumph of an assured reelection to
the Senate and the congratulations of his enthusiastic friends to
sustain and refresh him. Being an indefatigable worker, he was already
organizing a new and more ambitious effort. Three weeks after election
he started on a brief tour to the Southern States, making speeches at
Memphis and New Orleans, of which further mention will be made in the
next chapter. Perhaps he deemed it wise not to proceed immediately to
Washington, where Congress convened on the first Monday of December,
and thus to avoid a direct continuance of his battle with the Buchanan
Administration. If so, the device proved ineffectual. The President
and his partisans were determined to put the author of the "Freeport
doctrine" under public ban, and to that end, when Congress organized,
one of the first acts of the Senate majority was to depose Douglas
from his place as chairman of the Committee on Territories, which he
had held in that body for eleven years.

[1] A local nickname by which the southern or pro-slavery portion of
Illinois was familiarly known.


"_Question_ 1. 'I desire to know whether Lincoln to-day stands, as
he did in 1854, in favor of the unconditional repeal of the
fugitive-slave law?'

_Answer_. I do not now, nor ever did, stand in favor of the
unconditional repeal of the fugitive-slave law.

_Q_. 2. 'I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to-day,
as he did in 1854, against the admission of any more slave-States
into the Union even if the people want them?'

_A_. I do not now, nor ever did, stand pledged against the
admission of any more slave-States into the Union.

_Q_. 3. 'I want to know whether he stands pledged against the
admission of a new State into the Union with such a constitution
as the people of that State may see fit to make?'

_A_. I do not stand pledged against the admission of a new State
into the Union with such a constitution as the people of that
State may see fit to make.

_Q_. 4. 'I want to know whether he stands to-day pledged to the
abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia?'

_A_. I do not stand to-day pledged to the abolition of slavery in
the District of Columbia.

_Q_. 5. 'I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to the
prohibition of the slave trade between the different States?'

_A_. I do not stand pledged to the prohibition of the slave trade
between the different States.

_Q_. 6. 'I desire to know whether he stands pledged to prohibit
slavery in all the Territories of the United States, north as well
as south of the Missouri Compromise line?'

_A_. I am impliedly if not expressly pledged to a belief in the
right and duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United
States Territories.

_Q_. 7. 'I desire him to answer whether he is opposed to the
acquisition of any new territory unless slavery is first
prohibited therein?'

_A_. I am not generally opposed to honest acquisition of
territory; and, in any given case, 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."--Lincoln-Douglas Debates, p. 88.


"_Question_ 1. If the people of Kansas shall, by means entirely
unobjectionable in all other respects, adopt a State constitution,
and ask admission into the Union under it, before they have the
requisite number of inhabitants according to the English
bill,--some 93,000,--will you vote to admit them?

_Q_. 2. Can the people of a United States Territory, in any lawful
way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude
slavery from its limits, prior to the formation of a State

_Q_. 3. If the Supreme Court of the United States 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?

_Q_. 4. Are you in favor of acquiring additional territory, in
disregard of how such acquisition may affect the nation on the
slavery question?"--Lincoln-Douglas Debates, p. 90.



When Lincoln, in opening the Senatorial campaign of Illinois, declared
that the Republican cause must be intrusted to its own undoubted
friends "who do care for the result," he displayed a much better
understanding of the character and aims of his opponent than those
who, not so well informed, desired the adoption of a different course.
Had the wishes of Greeley and others prevailed, had Douglas been
adopted by the Illinois Republicans, the party would have found itself
in a fatal dilemma, No sooner was the campaign closed than Douglas,
having entered on his tour through the South, began making speeches,
apparently designed to pave his way to a nomination for President by
the next Democratic National Convention. Realizing that he had lost
ground by his anti-Lecomptonism, and especially by his Freeport
doctrine, and having felt in the late campaign the hostility of the
Buchanan Administration, he now sought to recover prestige by
publishing more advanced opinions indirectly sustaining and defending

Hitherto he had declared he did not care whether slavery was voted
down or voted up. He had said he would not argue the question whether
slavery was right or wrong. He had adopted Taney's assertion that the
negro had no share in the Declaration of Independence. He had asserted
that uniformity was impossible, but that freedom and slavery might
abide together forever. But now that the election was over and a new
term in the Senate secure, he was ready to conciliate pro-slavery
opinion with stronger expressions. Hence, in a speech at Memphis, he
cunningly linked together in argument unfriendly legislation, slavery,
and annexation. He said: "Whenever a Territory has a climate, soil,
and production making it the interest of the inhabitants to encourage
slave property, they will pass a slave code."

Wherever these preclude the possibility of slavery being profitable,
they will not permit it. On the sugar plantations of Louisiana it was
not a question between the white man and the negro, but between the
negro and the crocodile. He would say that between the negro and the
crocodile, he took the side of the negro; but between the negro and
the white man, he would go for the white man. The Almighty has drawn
the line on this continent, on the one side of which the soil must be
cultivated by slave labor; on the other by white labor. That line did
not run on 36 and 30' [the Missouri Compromise line], for 36 and 30'
runs over mountains and through valleys. But this slave line, he said,
meanders in the sugar-fields and plantations of the South, and the
people living in their different localities and in the Territories
must determine for themselves whether their "middle bed" is best
adapted to slavery or free labor.

[Sidenote] Douglas, Memphis Speech, Nov. 29, 1858. Memphis "Eagle
and Enquirer."

Referring to annexation, he said our destiny had forced us to acquire
Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and California. "We have now
territory enough, but how long will it be enough? One hive is enough
for one swarm of bees, but a new swarm comes next year and a new hive
is wanted." Men may say we shall never want anything more of Mexico,
but the time would come when we would be compelled to take more.
Central America was half-way to California and on the direct road. The
time will come when our destiny, our institutions, our safety will
compel us to have it. "So it is," concluded he, "with the island of
Cuba.... It is a matter of no consequence whether we want it or not;
we are compelled to take it, and we can't help it".

[Sidenote] Douglas, New Orleans Speech, Dec. 6, 1858. Pamphlet.

When Douglas reached New Orleans he substantially repeated these
declarations in another long speech, and, as if he had not yet placed
himself in entire harmony with Southern opinion, he added a sentiment
almost as remarkable as the "mudsill" theory of Hammond, or the later
"cornerstone" doctrine of Stephens: "It is a law of humanity," said
he, "a law of civilization, that whenever a man or a race of men show
themselves incapable of managing their own affairs, they must consent
to be governed by those who are capable of performing the duty. It is
on this principle that you establish those institutions of charity for
the support of the blind, or the deaf and dumb, or the insane. In
accordance with this principle, I assert that the negro race, under
all circumstances, at all times, and in all countries, has shown
itself incapable of self-government."

[Sidenote] Douglas, Baltimore Speech, Jan. 5, 1859. Pamphlet.

Once more, in a speech at Baltimore, Douglas repeated in substance
what he had said at Memphis and New Orleans, and then in the beginning
of January, 1859, he reached Washington and took his seat in the
Senate. Here he began to comprehend the action of the Democratic
caucus in deposing him from the chairmanship of the Committee on
Territories. His personal influence and prestige among the Southern
leaders were gone. Neither his revived zeal for annexation, nor his
advanced views on the necessity for slave labor, restored his
good-fellowship with the extremists. Although, pursuant to a
recommendation in the annual message, a measure was then pending in
the Senate to place thirty millions in the hands of President Buchanan
with which to negotiate for Cuba, the attitude of the pro-slavery
faction was not one of conciliation, but of unrelenting opposition to

[Sidenote] Brown, Senate Speech, Feb. 28, 1859. "Globe," pp. 1241
_et seq_.

Towards the close of the short session this feeling broke out in an
open demonstration. On February 23, while an item of the appropriation
bill was under debate, Senator Brown, of Mississippi, said he wanted
the success of the Democratic party in 1860 to be a success of
principles and not of men. He neither wanted to cheat nor be cheated.
Under the decision of the Supreme Court the South would demand
protection for slavery in the Territories. If he understood the
Senator from Illinois, Mr. Douglas, he thought a Territorial
Legislature might by non-action or by unfriendly action rightfully
exclude slavery. He dissented from him, and now he would like to know
from other Senators from the North what they would do: "If the
Territorial Legislature refuses to act, will you act? If it pass
unfriendly acts, will you pass friendly? If it pass laws hostile to
slavery, will you annul them and substitute laws favoring slavery in
their stead?... I would rather," concluded he "see the Democratic
party sunk, never to be resurrected, than to see it successful only
that one portion of it might practice a fraud on another."

[Sidenote] Brown, Senate Speech, Feb. 28, 1859. "Globe," pp. 1246-7.

Douglas met the issue, and defended his Freeport doctrine without
flinching. The Democracy of the North hold, said he, that "if you
repudiate the doctrine of non-intervention, and form a slave code by
act of Congress, where the people of a Territory refuse it, you must
step off the Democratic platform. I tell you, gentlemen of the South,
in all candor, I do not believe a Democratic candidate can ever carry
any one Democratic State of the North on the platform that it is the
duty of the Federal Government to force the people of a Territory to
have slavery when they do not want it."

The discussion extended itself to other Senators; Jefferson Davis, of
Mississippi, Clay, of Alabama, Mason, of Virginia, and Gwin, of
California, seconded the demands and arguments of Brown; while Pugh,
of Ohio, Broderick, of California, and Stuart, of Michigan, came to
the help and defense of Douglas and non-intervention. Several
Republicans drifted into the debate on behalf of the position and
principles of their party, which of course differed from those of both
Brown and Douglas. The discussion was continued to a late hour, and
finally came to an end through mere lapse of time, but not until an
irreparable schism in the Democratic party had been opened.

[Sidenote] Douglas to Dorr, June 22, 1859. Baltimore "Sun," June
24, 1859.

Silence upon so vital an issue could not long be maintained. In the
following June, an Iowa friend wrote to Douglas to inquire whether he
would be a candidate for the Presidential nomination at the coming
Charleston Convention. Douglas replied that party issues must first
be defined. If the Democracy adhered to their former principles,
his friends would be at liberty to present his name. "If, on the
contrary," continued he, "it shall become the policy of the Democratic
party, which I cannot anticipate, to repudiate these their
time-honored principles, on which we have achieved so many patriotic
triumphs, and in lieu of them the convention shall interpolate into
the creed of the party such new issues as the revival of the African
slave-trade, or a Congressional slave-code for the Territories, or the
doctrine that the Constitution of the United States either establishes
or prohibits slavery in the Territories beyond the power of the people
legally to control it, as other property--it is due to candor to say
that, in such an event, I could not accept the nomination if tendered
to me."

[Sidenote] Ray to Lincoln, July 27, 1858. MS.

We must leave the career of Douglas for a while, to follow up the
personal history of Lincoln. The peculiar attitude of national
politics had in the previous year drawn the attention of the whole
country to Illinois in a remarkable degree. The Senatorial campaign
was hardly opened when a Chicago editor, whose daily examination of a
large list of newspaper exchanges brought the fact vividly under his
observation, wrote to Lincoln: "You are like Byron, who woke up one
morning and found himself famous. People wish to know about you. You
have sprung at once from the position of a capital fellow, and a
leading lawyer in Illinois, to a national reputation."


[Sidenote] David Davis to Lincoln, Nov. 7, 1858. MS.

The compliment was fully warranted; the personal interest in Lincoln
increased daily from the beginning to the end of the great debates.
The Freeport doctrine and its effect upon the Democratic party gave
these discussions both present significance and a growing interest for
the future. Another friend wrote him, a few days after election: "You
have made a noble canvass, which, if unavailing in this State, has
earned you a national reputation, and made you friends everywhere."

[Sidenote] Delahay to Lincoln, March 15, 1859. MS.

[Sidenote] Dorsheimer to Chase, Sept. 12, 1859. MS.

[Sidenote] Kasson to Lincoln, Sept. 13, 1859. MS.

[Sidenote] Kirkpatrick to Lincoln, Sept. 15, 1859. MS.

[Sidenote] Weed to Judd, Oct. 21, 1859. MS.

[Sidenote] Dennison to Trumbull, July 21, 1859. MS.

That this was not the mere flattery of partial friends became manifest
to him by other indications; by an increased correspondence filled
with general commendation, and particularly by numerous invitations to
deliver speeches in other States. The Republican Central Committee of
New Hampshire wrote him that if Douglas came, as was expected, to that
State, they desired Lincoln to come and answer him. The Central
Committee of Minnesota wished him to come there and assist in their
canvass. There was an incessant commotion in politics throughout the
whole North, and as the season advanced calls came from all quarters.
Kansas wanted him; Buffalo, Des Moines, Pittsburgh wanted him; Thurlow
Weed telegraphed: "Send Abraham Lincoln to Albany immediately." Not
only his presence, but his arguments, and ideas, were in demand.
Dennison, making the canvass for Governor of Ohio, asked for a report
of his debates for campaign "material."

That men in all parts of the Union were thus turning to him for help
and counsel was due, not alone to the publicity and credit he had
gained in his debates with Douglas in the previous year; it grew quite
as much out of the fact that by his sagacity and courage he had made
himself the safest, as well as the most available, rallying-point of
the Republican party and exponent of Republican doctrine. The
Lecompton quarrel in the Democratic party had led many prominent
Republicans on a false trail. In Douglas's new attitude, developed by
his Southern speeches and his claim to readmission into regular
Democratic fellowship, these leaders found themselves at fault,
discredited by their own course. Lincoln, on the contrary, not only
held aloft the most aggressive Republican banner, but stood nearest
the common party enemy, and was able to offer advice to all the
elements of the Republican party, free from any suspicion of intrigue
with foe or faction. The causes of his Senatorial defeat thus gave him
a certain party authority and leadership, which were felt if not
openly acknowledged. On his part, while never officious or obtrusive,
he was always ready with seasonable and judicious suggestions,
generous in spirit and comprehensive in scope, and which looked beyond
mere local success.

Thus he wrote from Springfield to Schuyler Colfax (afterwards
Vice-President of the United States), July 6, 1859: "I much regret not
seeing you while you were here among us. Before learning that you were
to be at Jacksonville on the 4th, I had given my word to be at another
place. Besides a strong desire to make your personal acquaintance, I
was anxious to speak with you on politics a little more fully than I
can well do in a letter. My main object in such conversation would be
to hedge against divisions in the Republican ranks generally, and
particularly for the contest of 1860. The point of danger is the
temptation in different localities to 'platform' for something which
will be popular just there, but which, nevertheless, will be a
firebrand elsewhere, and especially in a national convention. As
instances, the movement against foreigners in Massachusetts; in New
Hampshire, to make obedience to the fugitive-slave law punishable as a
crime; in Ohio, to repeal the fugitive-slave law; and, squatter
sovereignty, in Kansas. In these things there is explosive matter
enough to blow up half a dozen national conventions, if it gets into
them; and what gets very rife outside of conventions is very likely to
find its way into them. What is desirable, if possible, is that in
every local convocation of Republicans a point should be made to avoid
everything which will disturb Republicans elsewhere. Massachusetts
Republicans should have looked beyond their noses, and then they could
not have failed to see that tilting against foreigners would ruin us
in the whole Northwest. New Hampshire and Ohio should forbear tilting
against the fugitive-slave law in such way as to utterly overwhelm us
in Illinois with the charge of enmity to the Constitution itself.
Kansas, in her confidence that she can be saved to freedom on
'squatter sovereignty,' ought not to forget that to prevent the spread
and nationalization of slavery is a national concern, and must be
attended to by the nation. In a word, in every locality we should look
beyond our noses; and at least say nothing on points where it is
probable we shall disagree. I write this for your eye only; hoping,
however, if you see danger as I think I do, you will do what you can
to avert it. Could not suggestions be made to leading men in the State
and Congressional conventions, and so avoid, to some extent at least,
these apples of discord."[1]

[Sidenote] Colfax to Lincoln, July 14, 1859. MS.

By this time Colfax was cured of his late coquetting with Douglas, and
he replied: "The suggestions you make have occurred to me.... Nothing
is more evident than that there is an ample number of voters in the
Northern States, opposed to the extension and aggressions of slavery
and to Democratic misrule, to triumphantly elect a President of the
United States. But it is equally evident that making up this majority
are men of all shades and gradations of opinion, from the conservative
who will scarcely defend his principles for fear of imperiling peace,
to the bold radical who strikes stalwart blows regardless of policy or
popularity. How this mass of mind shall be consolidated into a
victorious phalanx in 1860 is the great problem, I think, of our
eventful times. And he who could accomplish it is worthier of fame
than Napoleon or Victor Emmanuel.... In this work, to achieve success,
and to achieve it without sacrifice of essential principle, you can do
far more than one like myself, so much younger. Your counsel carries
great weight with it; for, to be plain, there is no political letter
that falls from your pen which is not copied throughout the Union."

[Sidenote] Lincoln to Canisius, May 17, 1859.

This allusion was called out by two letters which Lincoln had written
during the year; one declaring his opposition to the waning fallacy of
know-nothingism, in which he also defined his position on "fusion."
Referring to a provision lately adopted by Massachusetts to restrict
naturalization, he wrote: "Massachusetts is a sovereign and
independent State; and it is no privilege of mine to scold her for
what she does. Still, if from what she has done, an inference is
sought to be drawn as to what I would do, I may, without impropriety,
speak out, I say then, that, as I understand the Massachusetts
provision, I am against its adoption in Illinois, or in any other
place where I have a right to oppose it. Understanding the spirit of
our institutions to aim at the elevation of men, I am opposed to
whatever tends to degrade them. I have some little notoriety for
commiserating the oppressed condition of the negro; and I should be
strangely inconsistent if I could favor any project for curtailing the
existing rights of white men, even though born in different lands, and
speaking different languages from myself. As to the matter of fusion,
I am for it, if it can be had on Republican grounds; and I am not for
it on any other terms. A fusion on any other terms would be as foolish
and unprincipled. It would lose the whole North, while the common
enemy would still carry the whole South. The question of men is a
different one. There are good patriotic men and able statesmen in the
South whom I would cheerfully support, if they would now place
themselves on Republican ground, but I am against letting down the
Republican standard a hair's breadth."

The other was a somewhat longer letter, to a Boston committee which
had invited him to a festival in honor of Jefferson's birthday.
"Bearing in mind that about seventy years ago two great political
parties were first formed in this country; that Thomas Jefferson was
the head of one of them, and Boston the headquarters of the other, it
is both curious and interesting that those supposed to descend
politically from the party opposed to Jefferson, should now be
celebrating his birthday, in their own original seat of empire, while
those claiming political descent from him have nearly ceased to
breathe his name everywhere...."

[Sidenote] Lincoln to Pierce and others, April 6, 1859.

"But, soberly, it is now no child's play to save the principles of
Jefferson from total overthrow in this nation. One would state with
great confidence that he could convince any sane child that the
simpler propositions of Euclid are true; but nevertheless he would
fail, utterly, with one who should deny the definitions and axioms.
The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free
society. And yet they are denied and evaded, with no small show of
success. One dashingly calls them 'glittering generalities.' Another
bluntly calls them 'self-evident lies.' And others insidiously argue
that they apply only to 'superior races.' These expressions, differing
in form, are identical in object and effect--the supplanting the
principles of free government, and restoring those of classification,
caste, and legitimacy. They would delight a convocation of crowned
heads plotting against the people. They are the van-guard--the miners
and sappers of returning despotism. We must repulse them, or they will
subjugate us. This is a world of compensation; and he who would be no
slave must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others
deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, cannot long
retain it. All honor to Jefferson--to the man who, in the concrete
pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people,
had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely
revolutionary document an abstract truth, applicable to all men and
all times, and so to embalm it there that to-day and in all coming
days it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers
of re-appearing tyranny and oppression."

Lincoln's more important political work of the year 1859 was the part
he took in the canvass in the State of Ohio, where a governor was to
be chosen at the October election, and where the result would decide
not merely the present and local strength of the rival candidates, but
also to some extent indicate the prospects and probabilities of the
Presidential campaign of 1860. The Ohio Democrats had called Douglas
into their canvass, and the Republicans, as soon as they learned the
fact, arranged that Lincoln should come and answer him. There was a
fitness in this, not merely because Lincoln's joint debates with him
in Illinois in the previous summer were so successful, but also
because Douglas in nearly every speech made since then, both in his
Southern tour and elsewhere, alluded to the Illinois campaign, and to
Lincoln by name, especially to what he characterized as his political
heresies. By thus everywhere making Lincoln and Lincoln's utterances a
public target, Douglas himself, in effect, prolonged and extended the
joint debates over the whole Union. Another circumstance added to the
momentary interest of the general discussion. Douglas was by nature
aggressive. Determined to hold his Northern followers in the new
issues which had grown out of his Freeport doctrine, and the new
antagonisms which the recent slave code debate in the Senate revealed,
he wrote and published in "Harper's Magazine" for September, 1859, a
political article beginning with the assertion that "Under our complex
system of government it is the first duty of American statesmen to
mark distinctly the dividing-line between Federal and Local
authority." Quoting both the paragraph of Lincoln's Springfield speech
declaring that "a house divided against itself cannot stand," and the
paragraph from Seward's Rochester speech, announcing the
"irrepressible conflict," Douglas made a long historical examination
of his own theory of "non-intervention" and "popular sovereignty," and
built up an elaborate argument to sustain his course. The novelty of
this appeal to the public occasioned general interest and varied
comment, and the expedient seemed so ingenious as to excite the envy
of Administration Democrats. Accordingly, Attorney-General Black, of
President Buchanan's Cabinet, at "the request of friends," wrote,
printed, and circulated an anonymous pamphlet in answer, in which he
admitted that Douglas was "not the man to be treated with a disdainful
silence," but characterized the "Harper" essay as "an unsuccessful
effort at legal precision; like the writing of a judge who is trying
in vain to give good reasons for a wrong decision on a question of law
which he has not quite mastered." Douglas, in a speech at Wooster,
Ohio, criticized this performance of Black's. Reply and rejoinder on
both sides followed in due time; and this war of pamphlets was one of
the prominent political incidents of the year.

Thus Lincoln's advent in the Ohio campaign attracted much more than
usual notice. He made but two speeches, one at Columbus, and one at
Cincinnati, at each of which places Douglas had recently preceded him.
Lincoln's addresses not only brought him large and appreciative
audiences, but they obtained an unprecedented circulation in print. In
the main, they reproduced and tersely re-applied the ideas and
arguments developed in the Senatorial campaign in Illinois, adding,
however, searching comments on the newer positions and points to which
Douglas had since advanced. There is only space to insert a few
disconnected quotations:

Now, what is Judge Douglas's popular sovereignty? It is as a
principle no other than that, if one man chooses to make a slave
of another man, neither that other man nor anybody else has a
right to object....

If you will read the copyright essay, you will discover that Judge
Douglas himself says, a controversy between the American Colonies
and the Government of Great Britain began on the slavery question
in 1699, and continued from that time until the Revolution; and,
while he did not say so, we all know that it has continued with
more or less violence ever since the Revolution....

Take these two things and consider them together; present the
question of planting a State with the institution of slavery by
the side of a question of who shall be Governor of Kansas for a
year or two, and is there a man here, is there a man on earth, who
would not say the governor question is the little one, and the
slavery question is the great one? I ask any honest Democrat if
the small, the local, the trivial and temporary question is not,
Who shall be governor? while the durable, the important, and the
mischievous one is, Shall this soil be planted with slavery? This
is an idea, I suppose, which has arisen in Judge Douglas's mind
from his peculiar structure. I suppose the institution of slavery
really looks small to him. He is so put up by nature that a lash
upon his back would hurt him, but a lash upon anybody else's back
does not hurt him....

The Dred Scott decision expressly gives every citizen of the
United States a right to carry his slaves into the United States
Territories. And now there was some inconsistency in saying that
the decision was right, and saying, too, that the people of the
Territory could lawfully drive slavery out again. When all the
trash, the words, the collateral matter was cleared away from it,
all the chaff was fanned out of it, it was a bare absurdity; no
less than that a thing may be lawfully driven away from where it
has a lawful right to be....

The Judge says the people of the Territories have the right, by
his principle, to have slaves if they want them. Then I say that
the people in Georgia have the right to buy slaves in Africa if
they want them, and I defy any man on earth to show any


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