The Life of Stephen A. Douglas
William Gardner

Part 3 out of 3

gracious compliment to the distinguished Senator whose seat he
aspired to fill. And the contestants, however great their posthumous
fame, were as yet merely ambitious politicians, supremely interested
in winning the splendid prize. To Lincoln the possibility of a
seat in the Senate was stimulus enough. Douglas was in mid career,
assured of the Presidency in the near future, but compelled at all
hazards to hold the ground already won. His commanding eminence
attracted universal attention to the contest. He must not only
win, but bear himself throughout with the air of an assured conqueror.

With all their disparity of rank and fame, they were not badly
matched, and all the substantial advantages of the situation lay
with Lincoln. The greatness of Douglas' fame excited sympathy for
his rival. Success in the contest would give power and prestige to
Lincoln, and even defeat would not be humiliating. Douglas could
not expect much glory even from victory. Though he crushed his
opponent in argument, he must still measure himself with the Douglas
of the Senate and not fall below his own standard. In his contest
for the Senate, he must remember the Presidency and shape his
arguments for a larger audience than that addressed by Lincoln.

During the period of the debates both were actively engaged in the
State campaign, addressing one or two audiences daily, so arranging
their routes as to meet at the appointed times and places. On
August 21st, in presence of a vast multitude, Douglas opened the
first debate at Ottawa.

"Prior to 1854," he said, "this country was divided into two great
political parties, known as the Whig and Democratic parties. Both
were national and patriotic. * * * Whig principles had no boundary
sectional line, * * * but applied and were proclaimed wherever the
Constitution ruled or the American flag waved over American soil.
So it was, and so it is, with the great Democratic party, which
from the days of Jefferson to this period has proven itself to be
the historic party of this Nation. * * * The Whig party and the
Democratic party jointly adopted the Compromise measures of 1850
as the basis of a proper and just solution of this slavery question
in all its forms. Clay was the great leader, with Webster on his
right and Cass on his left, and sustained by the patriots in the
Whig and Democratic ranks. * * * * In 1851 the Whig party and the
Democratic party united in Illinois in approving the principles of
the Compromise measures of 1850. * * * In 1852 the Whig party in
Convention at Baltimore declared the Compromise measures of 1850
a suitable adjustment of that question. * * * * The Democratic
Convention assembled in Baltimore the same year and adopted the
Compromise measures of 1850 as the basis of Democratic action. *
* * They both stood on the same platform with regard to the slavery
question. That platform was the right of the people of each State
and Territory to decide their local and domestic institutions for
themselves, subject only to the Federal Constitution.

"In 1854 I introduced into the Senate a bill to organize the
Territories of Kansas and Nebraska on that principle which had
been adopted in the Compromise measures of 1850, and indorsed by
the Whig party and the Democratic party in National Convention in
1852. * * * Thus you see that up to 1854, when the Kansas-Nebraska
bill was brought into Congress for the purpose of carrying out the
principles which both parties up to that time had indorsed and
approved, there was no division of opinion in this country in regard
to that principle, except the opposition of the Abolitionists. In
the House of Representatives of Illinois upon a resolution asserting
that principle every Whig and every Democrat voted in the affirmative."

In 1854 Lincoln, the leader of the Whigs, and Trumbull, one of
the Democratic chiefs, entered into an arrangement to dissolve the
old Whig and Democratic parties and to unite the members of both
into the Abolition party under the name and guise of a Republican
party. The terms were that Lincoln should have Shield's place in
the Senate, then about to become vacant, and that Trumbull should
have Douglas' seat when his term expired. Lincoln went to work to
Abolitionize the old Whig party, pretending that he was as good a
Whig as ever, and Trumbull began preaching Abolitionism in milder
and lighter form, hoping to Abolitionize the Democratic party.
The party met at Springfield in October, 1854, and proclaimed its
platform. This document christened the coalition the Republican
party. It pledged the party to bring the administration of the
Government back to the control of first principles; to restore
Kansas and Nebraska to the position of free Territories; to repeal
the Fugitive Slave Law; to restrict slavery to those States in
which it existed; to prohibit the admission of any more slave States
into the Union; to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; to
exclude it from all the Territories and resist the acquirement of
more unless it should be prohibited therein. He asked Lincoln to
answer whether he stood pledged to each article in that creed and
would carry it out.

"I ask Abraham Lincoln to answer these questions in order that
when I trot him down to lower Egypt (Southern Illinois) I may put
the same questions to him. My principles are the same everywhere.
I can proclaim them alike in the North and the South, the East
and the West. My principles will apply wherever the Constitution
prevails and the American flag waves. I desire to know whether
Mr. Lincoln's principles will bear transplanting from Ottawa
to Jonesboro. I put these questions to him to-day distinctly and
ask an answer. I have a right to an answer, for I quote from the
platform of the Republican party, made by himself and others at the
time that party was formed and bargain made by Lincoln to dissolve
and kill the old Whig party and transfer its members, bound hand
and foot to the Abolition party. * * * I mean nothing personally
disrespectful or unkind to Lincoln. I have known him for nearly
twenty-five years. There were many points of sympathy between us
when we first got acquainted. We were both comparatively boys and
both struggling with poverty in a strange land. I was a school
teacher in the town of Winchester, and he a flourishing grocery
keeper in the town of Salem. * * * I made as good a school teacher
as I could and, when a cabinet maker, I made a good bedstead and
tables, although my old boss said I succeeded better with bureaus
and secretaries than anything else. * * * Lincoln was then just
as good at telling an anecdote as now. He could beat any of the
boys wrestling or running a foot race, in pitching quoits or tossing
a copper, could ruin more liquor than all the boys of the town
together, and the dignity and impartiality with which he presided
at a horse race or a fist fight excited the admiration and won the
praise of everybody."

After Lincoln and Trumbull had formed their combination to
Abolitionize the old parties and put themselves into the Senate, he
said, Trumbull broke faith by demanding Shield's place for himself
when it fell vacant and leaving Lincoln to fight for Douglas' seat
two years later. Trumbull was stumping the State for Lincoln in
order to quiet him. Lincoln was opposed to the Dred Scott decision
and would not submit to it because it deprived the negro of the
rights and privileges of citizenship.

"Do you desire," he asked, "to * * * allow the free negroes to flow
in and cover your prairies with black settlements? Do you desire
to turn this beautiful State into a free negro colony, in order that
when Missouri abolishes slavery she can send one hundred thousand
emancipated slaves into Illinois to become citizens and voters
on an equality with yourselves? * * * Mr. Lincoln, following the
example and lead of all the little Abolition orators who go around
and lecture in the basements of schools and churches, reads from
the Declaration of Independence that all men were created equal,
and then asks, 'How can you deprive the negro of that equality
which God and the Declaration of Independence awards him?'" * * *

"Now I do not believe that the Almighty ever intended the negro to
be the equal of the white man. If he did he has been a long time
demonstrating the fact. For thousands of years the negro has been
a race upon the earth and during all that time, in all latitudes
and climates, wherever he has wandered or been taken, he has been
inferior to the race which he there met. He belongs to an inferior
race and must always occupy an inferior position. The question,
what rights and privileges shall be conferred on the negro, is
one which each State and Territory must decide for itself. This
doctrine of Mr. Lincoln, of uniformity among the institutions
of the different States, is a new doctrine, never dreamed of by
Washington, Madison or the founders of this Government. Mr. Lincoln
and the Republican party set themselves up as wiser than these men
who made this Government which has flourished for seventy years
under the principle of popular sovereignty, recognizing the right
of each state to do as it pleased. Under that principle we have
grown from a nation of three or four millions to a nation of about
thirty millions of people; we have crossed the Allegheny Mountains
and filled up the whole Northwest, turning the prairie into a garden
and building up churches and schools, thus spreading civilization
and Christianity where before there was nothing but savage barbarism.

"Under that principle we have become, from a feeble nation, the
most powerful on the face of the earth; and if we only adhere to
that principle, we can go forward increasing in territory, in power,
in strength and in glory, until the Republic of America shall be the
North Star that shall guide the friends of freedom throughout the
civilized world. * * * I believe that this new doctrine preached
by Mr. Lincoln and his party will dissolve the Union if it succeeds.
They are trying to array all the Northern States in one body against
the South, to excite a sectional war between the free States and
the slave States, in order that the one or the other may be driven
to the wall."

When the applause subsided, Lincoln rose to reply. Addressing
himself first to the personal matters contained in Douglas' speech, he
denied the charge of a secret bargain between himself and Trumbull
dividing the two seats in the Senate between them. "All I have
to say upon that subject is, that I think no man--not even Judge
Douglas--can prove it, because it is not true." He denied utterly
that he had anything to do with the Republican platform drafted by
the party leaders in 1854, having refused to meet with the committee
or take any part in the organization.

"I have no means," he said, " of totally disproving such charges
as this. I cannot prove a negative; but have a right to say that,
when he makes an affirmative charge, he must offer some proof of
its truth. Douglas' argument about 'perfect social and political
equality with the negro' is but a specious and fantastic arrangement
of words by which a man can prove a horse chestnut to be a chestnut
horse. I will say here, while upon the subject, that I have no
purpose directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution
of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no
lawful right to do so. I have no purpose to introduce political
and social equality between the white and black races. There is
a physical difference between the two, which in my judgement will
forever forbid their living together upon a footing of perfect
equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must
be a difference, I am in favor of the race to which I belong having
the superior position. I agree with Judge Douglas that the negro
is not my equal in many respects--certainly not in color--perhaps
not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat
the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand
earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas and
the equal of every living man. * * *

"In the history of our Government this institution of slavery
has always been an apple of discord and an element of division in
the house. I have a right to say that in regard to this question
the Union is a house divided against itself. The public mind
did formerly rest in the belief that slavery was in the course of
ultimate extinction. But lately Douglas and those acting with him
have placed it on a new basis which looks to the perpetuity and
nationalization of slavery. * * * * I believe we shall not have
peace upon the question until the opponents of slavery arrest the
further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest
in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or,
on the other hand, that its advocates will push it forward until
it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new,
North as well as South.

"Now, I believe if we could arrest the spread and place it where
Washington and Jefferson and Madison paced it, it would be in the
course of ultimate extinction and the public mind would, as for
eighty years past, believe that it was in the course of ultimate
extinction. The crisis would be passed and the institution might
be let alone for a hundred years, if it should live so long, in the
States where it exists; yet it would be going out of existence in
the way best for both the black and the white races. * * * Popular
sovereignty as now applied to the question of slavery, does allow
the people of a Territory to have slavery if they want it, but
does not allow them not to have it if they do not want it. * * *
As I understand the Dred Scott decision, if any one man wants slaves
all the rest have no way of keeping that one man from holding them. * * *

"The Nebraska bill contains this clause: 'It being the true intent
and meaning of this bill not to legislate slavery into any Territory
or STATE.' I have always been puzzled to know what business the
word State had in that connection. Judge Douglas knows. He put
it there. * * * What was it placed there for? After seeing the
Dred Scott decision, which holds that the people cannot exclude
slavery from a Territory, if another Dred Scott decision shall come
holding that they cannot exclude it from a State, we shall discover
that when the word was originally put there it was in view of
something that was to come in due time, we shall see that it was
the other half of something.

"I ask the attention of the people here assembled to the course that
Judge Douglas is pursuing every day as bearing upon this question
of making slavery national. In the first place what is necessary
to make slavery national? Not war. There is no danger that the
people of Kentucky will shoulder their muskets, and, with a young
nigger stuck on every bayonet, march into Illinois and force them
upon us. There is no danger of our going over there and making
war upon them. Then what is necessary for the nationalization of
slavery? It is simply the next Dred Scott decision. It is merely
for the Supreme Court to decide that no State under the Constitution
can exclude it, just as they have already decided that Congress
nor the territorial legislature can do it. When that is decided
and acquiesced in the whole thing is done. * * * Let us consider
what Judge Douglas is doing every day to that end. What influence
is he exerting on public sentiment? With public sentiment nothing
can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who
moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or
pronounces decisions. He makes statutes possible or impossible
to be executed. * * *

"Judge Douglas is a man of vast influence. Consider the attitude
he occupies at the head of a large party. This man sticks to
a decision which forbids the people of a Territory from excluding
slavery, and he does so not because it is right in itself, but
because it has been decided by the Court; and, being decided by
the Court, he is, and you are, bound to take it in your political
action as law. * * * You will bear in mind that thus committing
himself unreservedly to this decision commits him to the next one
just as firmly as to this. The next decision, as much as this,
will be a 'Thus saith the Lord.' It is nothing that I point out to
him that his great prototype, General Jackson, did not believe in
the binding force of decisions. It is nothing to him that Jefferson
did not so believe. He claims now to stand on the Cincinnati
platform which affirms that Congress cannot charter a national
bank, in the teeth of that old standing decision that Congress can
charter a bank. And I remind him of another piece of history on
the question of respect for judicial decisions belonging to a time
when the large party to which Judge Douglas belongs were displeased
with a decision of the Supreme Court of Illinois, because they had
decided that a Governor could not remove a Secretary of State. I
know that he will not deny that he was then in favor of overslaughing
that decision by the mode of adding five new Judges, so as to vote
down the four older ones. Not only so, but it ended in the Judge's
sitting down on that very bench as one of the five new Judges to
break down the four old ones.

"Now, when the Judge tells me that men appointed conditionally to
sit as members of a Court will have to catechized beforehand upon
some subject, I say, 'You know, Judge; you have tried it.' When
he says a Court of this kind will lose the confidence of all men,
will be prostituted and disgraced by such a proceeding, I say, 'You
know best, Judge; you have been through the mill.' But I cannot
shake Judge Douglas' teeth loose from the Dred Scott decision. Like
some obstinate animal that will hang on, when he has once got his
teeth fixed, you may cut off a leg, or you may tear away an arm,
still he will not relax his hold. He hangs to the last to the
Dred Scott decision. These things show there is a purpose strong
as death and eternity for which he adheres to this decision and for
which he will adhere to all other decisions of the same Court. *
* * When he invites any people willing to have slavery to establish
it, he is blowing out the moral lights around us. When he says he
cares not whether slavery is voted down or voted up--that is the
sacred right of self-government--he is, in my judgement, penetrating
the human soul and eradicating the light of reason and
the love of liberty. * * *

"And now I will only say that when, by all these means and appliances,
he shall succeed in bringing public sentiment to an exact accordance
with his own; when these vast assemblages shall echo back all
these sentiments; when they shall come to repeat his views and to
avow his principles and to say all that he says on these mighty
questions, then it needs only the formality of a second Dred Scott
decision, which he endorses in advance, to make slavery alike lawful
in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South."

Douglas, in his brief reply, reminded the audience that Lincoln
had not frankly answered the question put in his opening speech;
whether he approved of each article of the Republican resolutions
adopted in Springfield in October, 1854. Lincoln's only answer had
been that he was not present and had nothing to do with drafting
the resolutions. "But this denial is a miserable quibble to avoid
the main issue, which is that this Republican platform declares in
favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law. His
reply to all these questions is 'I was not on the Committee at the
time; I was up in Tazewell County trying a case.' I put to him
the question whether, if the people of the Territory, when they had
sufficient population to make a State, should form their Constitution
recognizing slavery, he would vote for or against its admission?
He is a candidate for the United States Senate and it is possible
that, if he should be elected, he would have to vote directly on
that question. He dodges it also under the cover that he was not
on the Committee. * * * He knows I will trot him down to Egypt.
I intend to make him answer there. * * * The Convention to which
I have been alluding pledges itself to exclude slavery from all the
Territories. * * * I want to know whether he approves that provision.
* * * I want to know whether he will resist the acquirement of any
more territory, unless slavery therein shall be prohibited. These
are practical questions, based upon the fundamental principles of
the black Republican party; and I want to know whether he is the
first, last and only choice of a party with whom he does not agree
in principle.

"He does not deny but that that principle was unanimously adopted
by the Republican party; and now I want to know whether that party
is unanimously in favor of a man who does not adopt that creed and
agree with them in their principles; I want to know whether the
man who does not agree with them and who is afraid to avow his
differences is the first, last and only choice of the party. *
* * The party stands pledged that they will never support Lincoln
until he has pledged himself to that platform; but he cannot devise
his answer. He has not made up his mind whether he will or not.
* * * I have not brought a charge of moral turpitude against
him. When he brings one against me, instead of disproving it
I will say that it is a lie and let him prove it if he can. * * *

"Mr. Lincoln has not character enough for integrity and truth merely
on his own ipse dixit to arraign President Buchanan, President
Pierce and nine Judges of the Supreme Court, not one of whom would
be complimented by being put on an equality with him. There is
an unpardonable presumption in any man putting himself up before
thousands of people and pretending that his ipse dixit, without
proof, without fact and without truth, is enough to bring down and
destroy the purest and best of living men. * * * The word 'State'
as well as 'Territory' was put into the Nebraska bill to knock in
the head this Abolition doctrine that there will be no more slave
States even if the people want them. * * * The people of Missouri
formed a Constitution as a slave State and asked admission into the
Union; but the Free Soil party of the North, being in a majority,
refused to admit her because she had slavery as one of her
institutions. Hence, the first slavery agitation arouse upon a
State and not upon a Territory. * * * The whole Abolition agitation
arose on that doctrine of prohibiting a State from coming in with
slavery or not as it pleased, and that same doctrine is here in
this Republican platform of 1854."

The peculiar difficult of meeting Douglas in argument before a
popular audience is here exhibited in its most perfect form. The
persuasive force of his last proposition lay in a most ingenious
play on the words "State" and "Territory." Although the people
of Missouri had formed a State Constitution, they did not become
a State until Congress approved it and formally admitted them.
During the entire period of dispute they continued a Territory.
Douglas' argument assumes that they became a State on forming a

Chapter XV. The Debates with Lincoln Continued.

The second debate was held at Freeport on August 27th. Lincoln
opened his speech with a series of answers to the questions asked
at Ottawa.

"I do not," he said, * * * "stand in favor of the unconditional
repeal of the Fugitive Slave law. * * *

"I do not * * * stand pledged against the admission of
any more slave States into the Union. * * * *

"I do not stand pledged against the admission of a new State. *
* * with such a Constitutions as the people * * * may see
fit to make. * * *

"I do not stand pledged to the abolition of slavery in
the District of Columbia. * * *

"I'm impliedly, if not expressly, pledged to a belief in the right
and duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United
States Territories. * * *

"I am not opposed to the honest acquisition of territory. * * * I
would or would not oppose such acquisition accordingly as I might
think such acquisition would or would not aggravate the slavery
question among ourselves."

The questions asked and answered were, whether he was PLEDGED to
any of these things. He was willing, however, to state what he
really thought of them.

"I do not hesitate to say that * * * under the Constitution of the
United States the people of the Southern States are entitled to
a Congressional Fugitive Slave Law. * * * The existing Fugitive
Slave Law should have been so framed as to be free from some of the
objections that pertain to it without lessening its efficiency. *
* * * In regard to the admission of any more slave States into the
Union, I state to you frankly that I would be exceedingly sorry
ever to be put in a position of having to pass upon that question.
I should be exceedingly glad to know that there would never be
another slave State admitted into the Union; but I must add that,
if slavery be kept out of the Territories during their territorial
existence, * * * * and then the people shall * * * adopt a slave
Constitution, * * * I see no alternative but to admit them into
the Union. * * * I should not be in favor of abolishing slavery in
the District of Columbia, unless upon the condition that abolition
should be gradual; that it should be on the vote of a majority
of the qualified voters of the District; and that compensation be
made to unwilling owners. * * * What I am saying here I suppose I
say to a vast audience as strongly tending to Abolitionism as any
audience in the State of Illinois, and I believe I am saying that
which, if it would be offensive to any persons and render them
enemies to myself, would be offensive to persons in this audience."
He then asked Douglas four questions:

1st. "If the people of Kansas shall * * * adopt a State Constitution
and ask admission * * * * before they have the requisite number of
inhabitants under the English bill, * * * will you vote to admit

2nd. "Can the people of a * * * Territory in any lawful way,
against the wish of any citizen, * * * exclude slavery from its
limits prior to the formation of a State Constitution?

3rd. "If the Supreme Court * * * * shall decide that States cannot
exclude slavery from their limits, are you in favor of acquiescing
in, adopting and following such decision as a rule of political

4th. "Are you in favor of acquiring additional territory in
disregard of how such action may affect the Nation on the slavery

When the Nebraska bill was introduced, he continued, it was declared
the intent and meaning of the act not to legislate slavery into
any State or Territory or to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the
people perfectly free to regulate their own domestic institutions
in their own way. Chase of Ohio introduced an amendment expressly
declaring that the people of a Territory should have the power to
exclude slavery if they saw fit. Douglas and those who agreed with
him, voted it down. A little later the Supreme Court decided that
a territorial legislature had no right to exclude slavery.

"For men who did intend that the people of the Territory should
have the right to exclude slavery * * * * the voting down of Chase's
amendment is wholly inexplicable. It is a puzzle, a riddle. But
* * * with men who did look forward to such a decision * * * *
the voting down of that amendment would be perfectly rational and
intelligible. It would keep Congress from coming into collision
with the decision when it was made. * * * If there was an intention
or expectation that such a decision was to follow, it would not be
very desirable for the Democratic Supreme Court to decide one way
when the party in Congress had decided the other. Hence it would
be very rational for men expecting such a decision to keep the niche
in that law clear for it. * * * It looks to me as though here was
the reason why Chase's amendment was voted down. * * * If it was
done for a different reason, * * * he knows what that reason was and
can tell us what it was. * * * It will be vastly more satisfactory
to the country for him to give some other intelligible, plausible
reason why it was voted down than to stand upon his dignity and
call people liars."

Cass, it was said, on behalf of the Democrats in the Senate, proposed
to Chase that he so change his amendment as to provide that the
people of a Territory should have power either to introduce or exclude
slavery, and they would accept it. Chase, having conscientious
scruples on the question of slavery, declined to do this and his
amendment was voted down. But it was quite possible for them to
have accepted Chase's amendment, forbidden by the Senate rule, but
an amendment to the amended bill, which was permitted.

Douglas, in his reply, with admirable readiness, addressed himself
to Lincoln's four questions. "In reference to Kansas," he said,
"it is my opinion that, as she has population enough to constitute
a slave State, she has people enough for a free State. * * * The
next question is, 'Can the people of a Territory * * * exclude
slavery prior to the formation of a State Constitution?' * * * In
my opinion they can. * * * It matters not in what way the Supreme
Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question whether
slavery may or may not go into a Territory under the Constitution,
the people have the lawful means to introduce it or exclude it as
they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an
hour anywhere, unless it is supported by local police regulations.
Those police regulations can only be established by the local
legislature; and if the people are opposed to slavery they will elect
representatives to that body who will, by unfriendly legislation,
effectually prevent the introduction of it into their midst. If
on the contrary they are for it, their legislation will favor its
extension. Hence, no matter what the decision of the Supreme Court
may be on that abstract question, still the right of the people to
make a slave Territory or a free Territory, is perfect and complete
under the Nebraska bill."

This bill provided that the legislative power of the Territory
should extend to all rightful subjects of legislation. It made
no exception as to slavery, but gave full power to introduce or
exclude it. What more could Chase's amendment do? Chase offered
it for the purpose of having it rejected. He expected it to be
capital for small politicians, and he was not mistaken. He was
amazed that Lincoln should ask his third question. He had denounced
in the Senate an article in the Washington Union claiming that any
provision in the laws or Constitutions of the free States excluding
slavery was in conflict with the Constitution of the United States.
Senator Toombs, on behalf of the South, had utterly repudiated the
doctrine. The question cast an imputation upon the Supreme Court.
Such a decision was not possible. It would be an act of moral
treason that no man on the bench could ever descend to.

"As to Lincoln's fourth question," he said: "I answer, that whenever
it becomes necessary in our growth and progress to acquire more
territory, I am in favor of it without reference to the question
of slavery; and when we have acquired it I would leave the people
free to do as they please, either to make it slave or free territory as
they preferred. * * * I tell you, increase, multiply and expand
is the law of this Nation's existence. * * * Just as fast as
our interests and our destiny require additional territory in the
North, in the South or on the islands of the ocean, I am for it;
and, when we acquire it, will leave the people * * * free to do as
they please on the question of slavery and every other question."

At all the Republican Congressional Conventions held in Illinois
in 1854, the resolutions adopted declared that the continued
aggressions of slavery were destructive of the best rights of a
free people and must be resisted by the united political action of
all good men; Kansas and Nebraska must be made free Territories,
the Fugitive Slave Law repealed, slavery restricted to the States
in which it then existed, no more slave States admitted, slavery
excluded from the Territories and no more Territories acquired unless
slavery therein were prohibited; and no man must be supported for
office unless positively pledged to support these principles.

"Yet Lincoln denies that he stands on this platform and declares
that he would not like to be placed in a position where he would
have to vote for these things. * * * I do not think there is much
danger of his being placed in such a position. * * * I propose,
out of mere kindness, to relieve him from any such necessity."

When the legislature elected in 1854 came to choose between Lincoln
and Trumbull for Senator, before a ballot was taken, Lovejoy, the
Abolitionist introduced resolutions declaring that slavery must be
excluded from all the territory then owned or thereafter acquired
by the United States; that no more slave States should be admitted
and that the Fugitive Slave Law should be unconditionally repealed.
On the following day every man who had voted for these resolutions,
with two exceptions, voted for Lincoln. Members so voting were
all pledged to vote for no man who was not pledged to support their
platform. "Either Lincoln was committed to these propositions, or
your members violated their faith. Take either horn of the dilemma
you choose. There is no dodging the question; I want Lincoln's
answer. He is altogether undecided on these grave questions and
does not know what to think or do. If elected Senator he will have
to decide. Do not put him in a position that would embarrass him
so much. He does not know whether he would vote for the admission
of more slave States, yet he has declared his belief that this
Union cannot endure with slave States in it. I do not think that
the people of Illinois desire a man to represent them who would like
to be put to the test on the performance of a high constitutional

"I will retire in shame from the Senate of the United States when
I am not willing to be put to the test in the performance of my duty.
I have been put to severe tests. I have stood by my principles
in fair weather and foul, in the sunshine and in the rain. I have
defended the great principles of self-government here among you
when Northern sentiment ran in a torrent against me, and I have
defended that same great principle when Southern sentiment came
down like an avalanche upon me. I was not afraid of any test they
put me to. I knew my principles were right; I knew my principles were
sound; I knew that the people would see in the end hat I had done
right and I knew that the God of heaven would smile upon
me if I was faithful in the performance of my duty. * * *

At the time the Nebraska bill was introduced, Lincoln says there
was a conspiracy between the Judges of the Supreme Court, President
Pierce, President Buchanan and myself, that bill and the decision
of the court to break down the barriers and establish slavery
all over the Union. * * *

"Mr. Buchanan was at that time in England and did not return for
a year or more after. That fact proves the charge to be false as
against him. * * * The Dred Scott case was not then before the
Supreme Court at all; * * * * and the Judges in all probability knew
nothing of it. * * * * As to President Pierce, his high character
as a man of integrity and honor is enough to vindicate him from
such a charge; and as to myself I pronounce the charge an infamous
lie whenever and wherever made and by whomsoever made."

Lincoln closed the debate. As to the discrepancy between the
various Republican resolutions adopted in local conventions in 1854
and the views stated in his opening speech, he said that at the
beginning of the Nebraska agitation a new era in American politics

"In our opposition to that measure we did not agree with one another
in everything. * * * * These meetings which the Judge has alluded
to and the resolutions he has read from were local. * * * We at
last met together in 1856 from all parts of the State and agreed
upon a common platform. * * * We agreed then upon a platform for
the party throughout the entire State and now we are all bound to
that platform. * * * If any one expects that I will do anything not
signified by our Republican platform and my answers here to-day, I
will tell you very frankly that person will be deceived. I do not
ask for the vote of anyone who supposes that I have secret purposes
or pledges that I dare not speak out. * * * Douglas says if I
should vote for the admission of a slave State I would be voting
for the dissolution of the Union, because I hold that the Union
cannot permanently exist half slave and half free. * * * It does
not at all follow that the admission of a single slave State will
permanently fix the character and establish this as a universal
slave Nation."

In March, 1856, Douglas, speaking in the Senate upon an article
published, apparently by authority, in the Washington Union,
the organ of the Administration, charged a conspiracy between the
President, his cabinet and the Lecompton Convention to establish the
proposition that all State laws and Constitutions, which prohibited
the citizens of one State from settling in another with their
slave property, were violations of the Constitution of the United
States. He declared that a fatal blow was being struck at the
sovereignty of the States. Charges of conspiracy were not entirely
unheard of when the one was made at Springfield so sharply condemned
by Douglas.

"But his eye is farther South now than it was last March. His
hope then rested on the idea of visiting the great black Republican
party and making it the tail of his new kite. He was then
expected from day to day to turn Republican and place himself at
the head of our organization. He has found that these despised
black Republicans estimate him, by a standard which he has taught
them, none to well. Hence he is crawling back into the old camp
and you will find him eventually installed in full fellowship among
those whom he was then battling and with whom he still pretends to
be at such fearful variance."

There is an interesting and well authenticated tradition, perhaps
too strongly established to be questioned, that Lincoln's second
interrogatory was designed as a snare for Douglas and that he was
forced by it to proclaim his unfortunate doctrine of unfriendly
legislation, which gave such deep offense to the South. It is related
on the highest authority that on the night before the Freeport
debate, "Lincoln was catching a few hours' rest at a railroad center
named Mendota, to which place the converging trains brought, after
midnight, a number of excited Republican leaders on their way to
attend the great meeting at the neighboring town of Freeport. *
* * * Lincoln's bedroom was invaded by an improvised caucus, and
the ominous question was once more brought under consideration.
The whole drift of advice ran against putting the interrogatory
(number two) to Douglas, but Lincoln persisted in his determination
to force him to answer it. Finally his friends in a chorus cried:
'If you do, you can never be Senator.'

"'Gentlemen,' replied Lincoln, 'I am killing larger game. If
Douglas answers, he can never be President, and the battle of 1860
is worth a hundred of this.'"

Whatever may be the truth as to the Mendota conference, it is unjust
to Douglas to say that he was surprised by the question, or that
his answer was a mere extemporized feat of ingenuity to meet an
embarrassing exigency. Long before this and on many occasions he
had announced his opinion that the people of a Territory could by
unfriendly legislation, in defiance of the Constitution, the Supreme
Court and Congress, effectually prevent slavery among themselves.
It was one of his most deliberately formed, openly avowed and widely
known opinions. It is incredible that Lincoln and his advisors
were in doubt how he would answer the question. Whatever may be
our view of the soundness of his doctrine, it is not just to the
ablest debater and foremost statesman of the time to say that he
was taken by surprise and driven into a corner by a question which,
as he was taken by surprise and driven into a corner by a question
which, as he said then, he had answered a hundred times from every
stump in Illinois.

The third debate was held at Jonesboro, near the southern boundary
of the State, on September 15th.

Douglas, in his opening speech, stated anew his now familiar
argument that the Republican party was sectional, threatening to
disrupt the Union by its slavery agitation, while the Democratic
party was national, with a wholesome creed, alike applicable in
all latitudes. Lincoln and Trumbull had conspired to abolitinize
the old parties and secure seats in the Senate. Lincoln's doctrine
of the house divided against itself was examined and the implied
threat emphasized that Southern institutions must be overthrown
and a dead level of uniformity reached in order that the Government
should stand. The finality of the Dred Scott decision and the
exclusion of negroes from the Declaration of Independence were
insisted on. Much of the speech was devoted to the local and
transient questions of Illinois politics.

Lincoln, replying to the charge that the slavery agitation was the
result of the aggressive attitude of Northern Abolitionists, again
insisted that the propagandists of slavery were the aggressors,
having attempted to change it from a local and declining institution
and spread it through all the Territories, removing it "from the
basis on which the fathers left it to the basis of its perpetuation
and nationalization." The agitation began with the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise.

"Who," he asked, "did that? Why, when we had peace under the
Missouri Compromise, could you not have left it alone?"

He quoted Douglas' speech in the Senate on June 9th, 1856, in which
he had declared that "whether the people could exclude slavery
prior to the formation of a Constitution or not, was a question to
be decided by the Supreme Court. * * * * When he says, after the
Supreme Court has decided the question, that the people may yet
exclude slavery by any means whatever, he does virtually say that
it is not a question for the Supreme Court. * * * the proposition
that slavery cannot enter a new country without police regulations
is historically false. * * * Slavery was originally planted upon
this continent without these police regulations. * * * How came
the Dred Scott decision to be made? It was made upon the case
of a negro being taken and actually held in slavery in Minnesota
Territory, claiming his freedom because the act of Congress prohibited
his being so held there. Will the Judge pretend that Dred Scott
was not held there without police regulations? * * * * This shows
that there is vigor enough in slavery to plant itself in a new
country, even against unfriendly legislation. It takes not only
law, but the enforcement of the law, to keep it out. This is the
history of this country upon the subject. * * * The first thing
a Senator does is swear to support the Constitution of the United
States. Suppose a Senator believes, as Douglas does, that the
Constitution guarantees the right to hold slaves in a Territory.
How can he clear his oath unless he supports such legislation as is
necessary to enable the people to enjoy their property? Can you,
if you swear to support the Constitution, and believe that the
Constitution establishes a right, clear your oath without giving
it support? * * * * There can be nothing in the words, 'support
the Constitution,' if you may run counter to it by refusing to
support it. * * * * And what I say here will hod with still more
force against the Judge's doctrine of unfriendly legislation. * *
* Is not Congress itself bound to give legislative support to any
right that is established in the United States Constitution? A
Member of Congress swears to support the Constitution * * * and
if he sees a right established by that Constitution which needs
specific legislative protection, can he clear his oath without
giving that protection. * * * If I acknowledge * * * that this
(Dred Scott) decision properly construes the Constitution, I cannot
conceive that I would be less than a perjured man if I should
refuse in Congress to give such protection to that property as in
its nature is needed."

He then stated his fifth interrogatory: If slave-holding citizens
of the United States Territory should need and demand congressional
legislation for the protection of their slave property in such
Territory, would you as a Member of Congress, vote for or against
such legislation?

Douglas in his reply took up Lincoln's rather evasive answer to
his second interrogatory submitted at Ottawa. "Lincoln," he said,
"would be exceedingly sorry to be put in a position where he would
have to vote on the question of the admission of slave States. Why
is he a candidate for the Senate if he would be sorry to be put in
that position? * * * * If Congress keeps out slavery by law while
it is a Territory and then the people should have a fair chance
and should adopt slavery, he supposes he would have to admit the
State. Suppose Congress should not keep slavery out during their
territorial existence, then how would he vote when the people
applied for admission with a slave Constitution? That he does not
answer; and that is the condition of every Territory we have now
got. His answer only applies to a given case which he knows does
not exist in any Territory. But Mr. Lincoln does not want to be
held responsible for the black Republican doctrine of no more slave
States. Why are men running for Congress in the northern Distracts
and taking that Abolition platform for their guide when Mr. Lincoln
does not want to be held to it down here in Egypt? His party in
the northern part of the State hold to that Abolition platform,
and if they do not in the south, they present the extra-ordinary
spectacle of 'a house divided against itself' and hence 'cannot

In answer to Lincoln's last question, he said: "It is a fundamental
article of the Democratic creed that there should be non-interference
or non-intervention of Congress with slavery in the States or
Territories. The Democratic party have always stood by that great
principle and I stand on that platform now. * * * * Lincoln himself
will not answer this question. * * * It is true * * * (he admits)
that under the decision of the Supreme Court, it is the duty of a
man to vote for a slave code in the Territories. If he believed
in that decision he would be a perjured man if he did not give the
vote. I want to know whether he is not bound to a decision which
is contrary to his opinions just as much as to one in accordance
with his opinions? * * * Is every man in this land allowed to resist
decisions he does not like and only support those which meet his
approval? * * * * It is the fundamental principle of the judiciary
that its decisions are final. * * * * My doctrine is that, even
taking Mr. Lincoln's view that the decision recognizes the right of
a man to carry his slaves into the Territories, yet after he gets
them there he needs affirmative law to make that right of any value.
The same doctrine applies to all other kinds of property.

"Suppose one of your merchants should move to Kansas and open
a liquor store; he has a right to take groceries or liquor there;
but the circumstances under which they shall be sold and all the
remedies must be prescribed by local legislation; and if that is
unfriendly it will drive him out just as effectually as if there
was a constitutional provision against the sale of liquor. Hence,
I assert, that under the Dred Scott decision you cannot maintain
slavery a day in a Territory where there is an unwilling people
and unfriendly legislation. If the people want slavery they will
have it, and if they do not want it you cannot force it upon them."

Neither Lincoln nor Douglas could as yet fairly and fearlessly
grapple with the great problem. Lincoln's virtual rejection and
defiance of the decision of the Supreme Court suggests not reform
but revolution. These dark hints that the decisions of the highest
tribunal should not be accepted or obeyed, that they were binding
only on those who believed in them, portended nothing less than
war. Slavery being an established institution, recognized by the
Constitution and regulated by law, had the right to exist. Lincoln
and his party abhorred it and resented the injustice of the law.
Obeying the dominant instinct of the race, the scrupulously observed
the form of the law while waging war upon it. On the other hand
it is impossible to find either legal or philosophical foundation
for Douglas' arguments. Slavery had been adjudged lawful in all
the Territories. The proposition gravely argued by him, that the
people could lawfully exclude a thing from a place where it had a
lawful right to be, was monstrous. He sternly rebuked Lincoln for
his irreverence in refusing to cordially accept the Dred Scott
decision and in the next breath, with shocking inconsistency, dissolved
its entire force in the menstruum of unfriendly legislation. The
decision was utterly repugnant to the people of the State. The
both viewed it as a political rather than a philosophic problem.
Both rejected it and the consequences flowing from it. Lincoln
quibbled when asked to accept it as a rule governing his political
conduct. Douglas, by a cunning device, sought to destroy its force
as a rule of private right. Lincoln insisted on the essential
dishonesty of the juggling trick by which Douglas got rid of the
adjudicated law. Douglas insisted on the anarchic spirit with
which Lincoln bade defiance to it.

It would be tedious to follow the debates through in detail.
Necessarily the later arguments were mainly a repetition of those
made in the earlier speeches. Thee was a marked falling off in
the good temper and mutual courtesy of the combatants in the later
stages of the contest. The abiding question to which the argument
constantly recurred was that of negro slavery, as to which Lincoln
was darkly oracular and Douglas was resolutely evasive. Lincoln
again and again pressed Douglas to say whether he regarded slavery
as wrong. Douglas persistently declined the question on the pleat
that it was one wholly foreign to national politics. Each State
had a right to decide for itself; and that right had been delegated
to the Territories by the Compromise act of 1850 and again by the
Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854.

"I look forward," he said, "to a time when each State shall be allowed
to do as it pleases. If it chooses to keep slavery forever, it is
not my business, but its own; if it chooses to abolish slavery, it
is its own business, not mine. I care more for the great principle
of self-government, the right of the people to rule, then I do for
all the negroes in Christendom. I would not endanger the perpetuity
of this Union, I would not blot out the great inalienable rights
of the white man, for all the negroes that ever existed."

Lincoln persistently pressed his argument: "When Douglas says he
don't care whether slaver is voted up or voted down, he can thus
argue logically if he don't see anything wrong in it; but he cannot
say so logically if he admits that slavery is wrong. He cannot say
that the would as soon see a wrong voted up as voted down. When
he says that slave property and horse and hog property are alike
to be allowed to go into the Territories upon the principle of
equality, he is reasoning truly if there is no difference between
them and property; but if the one is property held rightfully and
the other is wrong, then there is no equality between the right and
the wrong. * * * That is the real issue. That is the issue that
will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge
Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle
between these two principles that have stood face to face from
the beginning of time and will ever continue to struggle. The one
is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of
kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops. It
is the same spirit that says, 'you work and toil and earn bread,
and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from
the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own
nation and live by the fruit of their labor or from one race of men
as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical

In the Quincy debate, and again in the last debate at Alton, Douglas,
with great skill, took up the attack made upon him by the Buchanan
Administration because of his alleged heresies on the Kansas
question. The Washington Union in an editorial had condemned his
Freeport declaration that the people could by their unfriendly
attitude exclude slavery from a Territory. It argued that his plan
was to exclude it by means of his device of popular sovereignty and
declared that he was not a sound Democrat and had not been since
1850. He quoted from Buchanan's letter accepting the nomination,
in which he warmly applauded those "principles as ancient as free
government itself * * * in accordance with which * * * * the people
of a Territory, like those of a State, shall decide for themselves
whether slavery shall or shall not exist within their limits."

He also quoted in vindication of the soundness of his Democracy
a speech of Jefferson Davis declaring that, if the inhabitants of
a Territory should refuse to enact laws to protect and encourage
slavery, the insecurity would be so great that the owner could not
hold his slaves.

"Therefore," said Davis, "though the right would remain, the remedy
being withheld, it would follow that the owner would be practically
debarred from taking slave property into a Territory when the sense
of its inhabitants was opposed to its introduction."

These latter arguments were addressed to the Administration
Democrats, who, however, proved a quite unimportant factor in the
campaign. They were an utter negation politically. Were it an
academic problem, much could be said in their defense. In a time
of stormy passion, they were passionless. In a time of fanatical
convictions and intolerant opinions, they were coldly neutral,
appealing with impotent pride to the traditions and precedents of
the past.

The election was held on the 2nd of November. The Republicans
elected their State ticket by a popularity of nearly 4,000, but
lost the legislature. When that body met Douglas was again chose

Chapter XVI. The South Rejects Popular Sovereignty.

Although victorious in the greatest battle of his life the position
of Douglas was not easy. The people of Illinois were evidently no
longer in sympathy with him. The Buchanan Administration and the
Southern extremists had openly declared war on him for his cool
indifference to the special interests of the South, his carelessness
whether slavery was voted up or voted down in the Territories, and
his hostility to their plans for planting it in Kansas. He was
preparing for his last struggle for the Presidency. Having won
this doubtful victory at home, he decided to make a tour of the
South in the hope of stimulating its waning enthusiasm. In order
to hold the Senatorship it had been necessary to please Illinois,
even though the South were alienated. In order to win the Presidency
he now resolved to satisfy the South, even though he offended
Illinois. Moreover, being at war with the Administration, he
hoped to return to Washington with the prestige of a re-election
and a great Southern ovation. He intended to force Buchanan and
his Cabinet to sue for peace. He was political strategist enough
to understand the importance of a bold front and an imposing display
of power at the outset of his next campaign.

He took boat at St. Louis for New Orleans and enjoyed the leisurely
autumn trip down the River. He spoke at Memphis on November
29th, and at New Orleans on December 6th. He sailed to Havana and
thence to New York, where he received a royal welcome. On reaching
Philadelphia he was formally welcomed at Independence Hall. He
then went to Baltimore and spoke in Monument Square on the evening
of January 5th, returning to Washington next day. On the 10th he
resumed his seat in the Senate.

He had told the people of Illinois that, in spite of the Constitution,
the Supreme Court, the President and Congress, it was within the
power of the inhabitants of a Territory to prohibit slavery by their
unfriendly attitude. This doctrine was utterly abhorrent to the
South, which now rested its entire case on the judicial interpretation
of the Constitution and regarded all attempts to evade the full
force of the Dred Scott decision as little less than treason. The
net result of the struggles of a decade had been the establishment
of a principle that the Constitution carried slavery with it wherever
it went. To lightly treat the Constitution as a thing that could
be quietly defied and annulled by the squatters, was to strip their
great victory of all value and snatch from them the fruit of their
labors. Had this doctrine of local nullification been sound, it
was not to be expected that it would be received with enthusiasm
or even with patience by men whose dearest hopes it must obviously
defeat and whose subtle art and long protracted labors it utterly
thwarted. But that daring sophism which attacked the very foundation
of all legal authority, did violence to every sound principle of
philosophy, and was utterly subversive of the peculiar and cherished
doctrines of the South, should have been resorted to by Douglas to
avoid defeat in Illinois, was viewed as a shameless outrage. It
was believed that he had sacrificed their sacred cause in order to
avoid a local reverse; that his seat in the Senate was dearer to
him than their most valued interests.

It was probable that in his eagerness to win the Illinois campaign
he had not considered seriously the irreconcilable repugnance of
his distinctive dogma to the compact body of Southern political
philosophy. It was now necessary to present it to the South in
such dress that it might, if possible, gain acceptance, at least
that it might not shock the deepest prejudices of that section.

In addressing his Southern audiences he attempted to take the
sting out of his obnoxious doctrine by showing that it was entirely
harmless. The people of the Territories, he said, doubtless had
the practical power, in spite of the Constitution, statutes and
decisions, to exclude slavery by their unfriendly attitude toward
it. But what would determine their attitude? Clearly their selfish
interests. If slavery would be profitable, their attitude would be
friendly and it would take root and flourish under the protection of
the law. If by reason of soil or climate it would be unprofitable,
their attitude would be unfriendly and neither laws nor Constitutions
could successfully foster it. But it could not injure the South
to exclude slavery from regions where it could only be maintained
at a loss. It was not a question of ethics, but purely of physical
geography. Where soil and climate rendered it profitable, it would
spring up in precisely the same way as pine trees or maize.

But it was clear to his keen eye that these feats of ingenuity
were taken at their real worth. While the people treated him with
gracious courtesy, they prudently reserved their judgement. They
paid generous honor to the great leader whom they would gladly use
but dared not trust. He had chosen to hold Illinois and had lost
the South.

While he was vainly trying to woo back the alienated South,
a significant event occurred in Washington. When the Senate was
organized during his absence, he was removed from the chairmanship
of the Committee on Territories, which he had held since his first
election. This was done by the Democratic caucus and indicated a
deeper resentment than he had suspected. The Puritans of Illinois
had once risen in insurrection against him. The Cavaliers of the
South were now sternly protesting against his easy political morals.

For six weeks he preserved almost complete silence. His situation
was anomalous. The quarrel with the Administration was implacable.
A few months before, the Republicans were inclined to court him;
but the desperate battle with Lincoln had made it clear that his
quarrel with them was on perennial questions of principle. Solitary
and out of touch with all parties, he was yet recognized as the
chief of the Northern Democrats and a formidable candidate for the

While diplomatically awaiting developments, he was suddenly drawn into
an important debate. On February 23rd Senator Brown of Mississippi
discussed with great plainness his attitude on the slavery question.
With ill concealed contempt for men whose opinions shaped themselves
to suit the demands of political strategy he said:

"I at least am no spoilsman. I would rather settle one sound
principle in a presidential contest than secure all the patronage
of all the Presidents who have ever been elected to or retired
from the office. * * * The Constitution never gave us rights and
denied us the means of protecting and defending those rights. The
Supreme Court has decided that we have a right to carry our slaves
into the Territories and, necessarily, to have them protected after
we get there. * * * I neither want to cheat nor to be cheated in
the great contest that is to come off in 1860. * * * I think I
understand the position of the Senator from Illinois and I dissent
from it. * * * He thinks that a territorial legislature may, by
non-action or unfriendly action, rightfully exclude slavery. I
do not think so. * * * * The Senator from Illinois thinks the
territorial legislature has the right, by non-action or by unfriendly
action to exclude us with our slaves. * * * We have a right of
protection for our slave property in the Territories. The Constitution
as expounded by the Supreme Court awards it. We demand it, and we
mean to have it."

Douglas at once answered. He said that his obnoxious doctrine
only meant that the territorial legislature by the exercise of the
taxing power and other functions within the limits of the Constitution
could adopt unfriendly legislation which would practically drive
slavery out. The real demand of the South was for a congressional
slave code for the Territories. But no Northern man, whether Democrat
or Republican, would ever vote for such a code. The inhabitants
would protect slavery if they wanted it, if the climate were
such that they could not cultivate the soil without it. It was a
question of climate, of production, of self-interest, and not of
constitutional law. The slave owner had no higher rights than the
owner of liquor or inferior cattle, which the territorial legislature
could exclude. Under the doctrine of the Kansas-Nebraska act the
Territories had the right to pass such laws as they pleased, subject
only to the Constitution.

If their laws conflicted with that it was the business, not of
Congress, but of the Courts to decide their nullity. When Buchanan
accepted the nomination in 1856, he declared that the people of
a Territory, like those of a State, should decide for themselves
whether slavery should exist within its limits. He could not have
carried half the Democratic vote in any free State if the people had
not so understood him. "I intend to use language," he continued,
"which can be repeated in Chicago as well as in New Orleans, in
Charleston as well as in Boston. * * * No political creed is sound
or safe which cannot be proclaimed in the same sense wherever the
American Flag waves over American soil. If the North and the South
cannot come to a common ground on the slavery question the sooner
we know it the better. * * * I tell you, gentlemen of the South,
in all candor, I do not believe a Democratic candidate can ever carry
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."

Davis, the leader of the Southern Democracy, answered him. He
reminded the Senate that Congress had no power to exclude slavery
from a Territory and the legislature had no power except that
given it by Congress. Hence it could not possibly have the power
to exclude it. Douglas could not claim more than this unless he
could illustrate the philosophical problem of getting more out of
a tub than it contained. Congress, having no power to prohibit
slavery, was bound to see that it was fully enjoyed.

"I agree with my colleague," he continued, "that we are not, with
our eyes open, to be cheated, and that we have no more respect for
that man who seeks to evade the performance of a constitutional
duty than for one who openly wars upon constitutional rights."

Mason, of Virginia, insisted that the Constitution construed by the
Supreme Court denied Congress the power to exclude slavery form a
Territory. Douglas admitted that the legislature derived all its
power from Congress. Hence, he must admit that it had no power to
interfere with slavery.

Green, of Missouri, the new chairman of the Committee on Territories,
next attacked him. Slaves, he declared, were property, as decided
by the Supreme Court. The Territories of Kansas and Nebraska could
not, by either direct or indirect legislation, prohibit or abolish
slavery; and if they should undertake to do either it would be the
duty of Congress to interpose. The legislature had no more power,
by direct or indirect means to prohibit the introduction of slaves
than the introduction of horses or mules, and it was a dishonest
subterfuge to say that it could be done.

"What is meant by unfriendly legislation? I had thought that rights
of person and property were beyond the power of legislation. * *
* There never was a legislative body in existence on the face of
the globe that could justly take any right of person or property
from a citizen without rendering a just compensation." He reminded
the Senators that in 1857 Douglas had urged the interposition
of Congress in Utah affairs, even to the extent of repealing the
organic act, thus recognizing that Territories were mere dependencies
of the Federal Government. Why this tenderness about Kansas? A
Territory had no power except what was conferred by Congress.
Douglas said that all legislative power not inconsistent with the
Constitution, was conferred. But if the power to destroy any kind
of property was conferred, it would be consistent with the Constitution
and the grant would be void. If all power not inconsistent with
the Constitution was conferred by the organic act, then the power
to call the Lecompton Convention and draft a Constitution was conferred.
"All the power the Territory has is derived from Congress and can
be resumed at pleasure. The creature can never be equal to its

Douglas said, that if the people of a Territory wanted slavery they
would protect it. But suppose the majority did not want it? The
Constitution still declared slaves to be property and forbade
the majority to take away the property in a slave from a single
individual. If they had no right to take it away, what right
had they by unfriendly legislation to render it valueless? If a
Territory persistently attempted to destroy a species of property
protected by the Constitution, ought not Congress to intervene for
the protection of the citizens?

Douglas replied to these deadly attacks. He reminded them that when
they repealed the Missouri Compromise they had agreed to leave all
these questions to the people of the Territories and the decision of
the Supreme Court. This was the true Democratic doctrine. Davis
and Mason had both said that no man holding his views could receive
the support of the South for the Presidency. Yet this was the
doctrine of Cass when candidate for President, but the whole South
gave him their votes. When did this change of creed occur?

Davis answered briefly, regretting that Douglas had not denied or
explained any of his Illinois speeches, and said he was now satisfied
that he was as full of heresy as he once was of the true theory of
popular sovereignty. He declared that this doctrine was "offensive
to every idea of conservatism and sound government; a thing offensive
to every idea of the supremacy of the laws of the United States,"
and announced plainly that the South would not support him for
President. He persistently pressed him to say whether he meant to
abide by the Dred Scott decision.

The Court, answered Douglas, had decided that neither Congress nor
the territorial legislature could prohibit the settler from bringing
his slaves to a Territory. "In other words, the right of transit
is clear, the right of entry is clear. * * * You have the same
right to hold them as other property, subject to such local laws as
the legislature may constitutionally enact. If those laws render
it impracticable to HOLD your property, whether it be your horse
or your slave, why, it is your misfortune."

He had reached the brink of the abyss. The South was preparing
for treason and rebellion. Its mood was altogether too tragic to
be even amused by his philosophic refinements. It rejected them now,
not with contempt, but with horror. The North, too, was in stern
mood. Its abhorrence of slavery had intensified with constant
agitation. It was grimly earnest in its resolve to resist all further
extension of it and resented the indifference of the statesman who
did not care whether the burning crime of the ages was voted up or
voted down.

Douglas, who regarded the ethics of this question with indifference
and who supremely desired to conciliate the South without alienating
the North, blundered in plunging into this debate. The Southern
Senators were unanswerably right. Since the Dred Scott decision
his position was so clearly untenable that to insist upon it amid
conditions so threatening seemed to them the most intolerable
trifling. The Republicans looked on as pleased spectators while
the battle raged between Northern and Southern Democrats and the
party was hopelessly torn asunder. It was clear the part of prudence
to restrain his impulsive pugnacity for the remaining weeks of
the session. But when challenged to defend himself his impatient
eagerness to speak was uncontrollable.

Chapter XVII. Seeking Reconciliation.

After the adjournment he devoted himself to a new and unfamiliar
task. He prepared an article for Harper's Magazine on the slavery
question and its relation to party politics, in which he defended
his position, explained his philosophy and sought to throw light
on this confused subject. The article made some stir at the time.
It contained nothing, however, which he had not already said much
better in his speeches. He was not a man of literary culture or
habits. His thought was brightest and his eloquence highest when
the battle was raging.

The article had the good fortune to provoke a rather elaborate
anonymous reply from Jeremiah S. Black, Buchanan's Attorney-general.
Black was a profound lawyer and better writer than Douglas. While
he would have been no match for him in senatorial debate or on the
stump, he completely eclipsed him as a literary controversialist.
Moreover, Black was standing on firm ground, simply insisting
that his party accept the decision of the Supreme Court as law and
conform its conduct to it without evasion or pettifoggery; while
Douglas was striving to stand in mid-air, nullifying the decision
by clever tricks and condemning as anarchists the Republicans, who
frankly confessed their hostility to it. He gravely argued that
Congress could grant to a territorial legislature power which the
Constitution denied to itself. Black's answer was crushing and
showed conclusively that there was no basis in either law or logic
for those peculiar doctrines in which Douglas differed from his
party. Black judiciously avoided all discussion of the ethics
of the question, confining himself to an examination of the legal
basis of Douglas' special creed, proving clearly that it had been
utterly swept away.

On the night of October 16th occurred John Brown's mad exploit at
Harper's Ferry. Congress opened on December 5th. On the 12th of
January Douglas' heretical opinions on the right of the people to
exclude slavery from the Territories were called in question. The
Southern Senators pressed upon him the fact that he had agreed to
abide by the decision of the Supreme Court on the disputed question,
and, now that the South had been sustained by the decision, he had
virtually repudiated it by his Illinois speeches. No man holding
such opinions, they declared, was a sound Democrat or could possibly
receive the vote of a Southern State at the Charleston Convention.
They justified their action in removing him from his chairmanship
of the Committee on Territories by a rehearsal of his heretical
opinions and announced their purpose to oppose his presidential
aspirations. He defended himself against this irregular attack
with great ability and courage, maintaining the soundness of his
Democracy and imputing heresy to his accusers, who were seeking
to debauch the ancient Democratic faith by infusing into it their
late-invented doctrines. At last, wearied by the irregular debate,
he sarcastically proposed that, as his health was poor, they all
make their attacks upon him and present their charges; when they
were through he would "fire at the lump" and vindicate every word
he had said.

A few days later he offered a resolution to instruct the Judiciary
Committee to prepare a bill to suppress and punish conspiracies in
one State to invade or otherwise molest the people or property of
another, and addressed the Senate upon it. He expressed his firm
and deliberate conviction that the John Brown raid at Harper's
Ferry was the natural, logical, inevitable result of the doctrines
and teachings of the Republican party as explained and the enforced in
speeches of its leaders in and out of Congress. He said that when
he returned home in 1858 for the purpose of canvassing Illinois with
a view to reelection, he had to meet this issue of the irrepressible
conflict. Lincoln had already proclaimed the existence of inexpiable
hostility between free States and slave States. Later, Seward had
announced it in his Rochester speech. It was evidently the creed
of his party. The Harper's Ferry outrage was a natural and logical
consequence of these pernicious doctrines. John Brown was simply
practicing their philosophy at Harper's Ferry. The causes that
produced this invasion were still in active operation. These
teachers of rebellion were disseminating their deadly principles.
Let Congress pass appropriate laws and make such example of the
leaders of these conspiracies as to strike terror into the hearts
of the others and there would be an end of this crusade.

With all his courage in meeting recent attacks, it was plain
that his only hope of the Presidency lay in the prospect of his
reconciliation with the Southern leaders. They needed his help
to prevent the Radicals, Seward, Chase and Lincoln, from carrying
the next election. He needed their help to compass the nomination.
He decided without lowering his standard to win them back by the
mere efficiency of his service. But the Southern leaders were not
in search of a Northern master. They wanted servants in the high
places of Government not less humble than the blacks who tilled
their plantations. They instinctively knew that he was not and
could not be such a servant. Rather than support him they would
see Seward elected. He at least frankly avowed his hostility. If
they elected Douglas and he declined to obey, their position would
be awkward. If a sectional Republican were elected, they could
secede and set up an independent Government.

On the 7th of May Davis spoke in support of a series of radical
resolutions introduced by him on February 2nd, declaring that
neither Congress nor a territorial legislature had power to impair
the Constitutional right of any citizen of the United States to
take his slave property into the common Territories and there hold
it; that it was the duty of Congress to protect this right; and
that the inhabitants had no power either by direct legislation or
by their unfriendly attitude to exclude slavery until they formed
a State Constitution. He spoke with great force in support of them.
He ascribe the authorship of the pernicious heresy of squatter
sovereignty to Cass, and threw doubt on the soundness of Douglas'
Democracy by a long recital of what he regarded as unsound and
heretical opinions and votes. He showed the complete failure of
his distinctive policy in Kansas and the authoritative rejection
of his principles by the Supreme Court. While the speech was
courteous and dignified in manner, apparently delivered to elucidate
the subject rather than to injure Douglas, it portrayed the wreck
of his statesmanship and exposed the unsoundness of his Democracy
with dangerous clearness while his candidacy was in the hands of
the National Convention.

A week later he replied. Already the Charleston Convention, and
with it his candidacy, had virtually gone to pieces because of
Southern hostility to him and his principles. Davis was the head
o the Southern junta, and the debate in the Senate was known to
express in cold phrase, the passions that had rent the Convention
and threatened to disrupt the party.

As Douglas, anxious but unfaltering, rose to speak, there was
a hush in the crowded Chamber. After a sneering allusion to his
controversy with Black, he announced his purpose to defend himself
against the attack made by Davis. The speech occupied two days
in its delivery and was a unique and artistic piece of senatorial
politics. It was addressed less to the Senate than to the adjourned
Charleston Convention. He exhaustively proved the soundness
of Democracy and repelled the charge of heresy by rehearsing the
history of Democratic Conventions and platforms since 1848, quoting
the declarations of the party and its leaders in Convention, on
the platform and through the press.

Cass, he said, the author of the now deadly doctrine of popular
sovereignty, was nominated in 1848. The Compromise of 1850
embodied that principle. The Kansas-Nebraska struggle was settled
by expressly adopting it. The Cincinnati platform, on which all
Democrats had stood for four years, distinctly affirmed it. The
Charleston Convention, within a few days, had reaffirmed it. His
own speeches showed that he had adhered to it constantly from the
beginning of his career. The change was not in him but in the
Southern wing of the party. He protested that he did not desire
the nomination and only permitted his name to be used that he might
be vindicated against the presumptuous efforts of a little coterie
to cast doubt upon his Democracy and their attempt to proscribe
him as a heretic might be rebuked.

The most hostile critic must feel some sympathy for him in his
new and indefensible position. His now heretical opinions had
but recently borne the authentic stamp of Democracy. His party,
following its real sentiments and the judicial interpretation of
the Constitution, had silently abandoned its old creed to which he
still clung with tenacity and ardor.

Davis, answering, asked him the blunt question, whether, if elected
President, he would sign a bill to protect slave property in States,
Territories, or the District of Columbia. He declined to answer
suggesting the impropriety of declaring in advance what he would
do if elected.

Congress adjourned on June 25th.

Chapter XVIII. A Noontide Eclipse.

While events in Washington in the spring of 1860 were full of
historic interest, greater and more memorable events were occurring
in Charleston. The Democratic Convention met in that city on April
23rd, which brought to the surface a state of feeling at the South
that had long been suspected but not certainly known.

There was but one prominent candidate in the field. Douglas was
incomparably the most eminent Democratic statesman of the time.
According to the settled custom of the party, the South, which
did not ask the Presidency itself, should have supported him. But
the Southern delegates had resolved that in no event should he be
nominated on any platform.

He had a clear majority of the Convention. But the Democrats,
though still wearing a common badge, now constituted two distinct
and antagonistic parties, held together not so much by common
beliefs as by habits, traditions and sentimental attachment to an
old and venerable name. The Northern Democrats were wholly estranged
from those of the South. The two sections of the party quarreled
about the platform; yet the Southerners cared little about that
matter if they could name the candidate. They did not demand a
Southern man, for he could not be elected. They wanted a "Northern
man with Southern principles," like Pierce or Buchanan. Of all
living men the dexterous and domineering Douglas least suited their
demands. He was probably the only man who could have carried a
large enough Northern vote to be elected. But they could not forget
that his popularity at the North was, in part, the result of his
great battle against the South which had caused their disastrous

The Northern delegates insisted on merely approving the Cincinnati
platform, while the Southern delegates, who hoped to render Douglas'
candidacy impossible, insisted on radical pro-slavery declarations
and a denial of all right of the people of a Territory to prevent
the holding of slaves. After a fierce struggle the Northern platform
was adopted by a small majority. Immediately the delegates from
Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Texas,
Arkansas and three-fourths of that from Georgia refused to abide
by it and withdrew.

The seceders organized another Convention, adopted the radical
platform which had been rejected and adjourned to meet at Richmond
on the 11th of June.

The regular Convention, meanwhile, found itself unable to do anything.
The settled rule required a vote of two-thirds of all the delegates
to select a candidate. The chairman ruled that in order to be
nominated Douglas must have two-thirds of all the delegates elected,
notwithstanding the secession. This required 202 votes. He had
but 152 and the other 50 were not to be had. On May 3rd, after
57 ballots, the Convention adjourned to meet at Baltimore on June
18th. Davis, Toombs and the other leaders of the Southern junta
in Congress issued an address approving the course of the seceders
at Charleston, advising them to take no action at Richmond, but
to await the result of the Baltimore Convention and expressing the
conviction that, if fair concessions were not made to the South,
other delegations would join them.

They accordingly came to Baltimore and demanded their seats in that
Convention. But some of the States had elected new delegations
which claimed them. For days confusion prevailed. Douglas sent two
messages suggesting that his candidacy be dropped. But there were
suppressed by his friends, who inexorably demanded his nomination.
Five more States withdrew and the chairman resigned and joined
the seceders. The Convention reorganized itself and proceeded to
ballot. Douglas received all but thirteen votes; less, however,
than the required two-thirds of all the delegates elected. But a
resolution was passed declaring him nominated on the ground that
he had received the votes of two-thirds of all delegates present.
Senator Fitzpatrick of Alabama was nominated for Vice-President
and the Convention adjourned. He declined and the Committee placed
Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia in his place.

The seceders, joined by the recent recruits, held their Convention
in Baltimore on the 28th of June and nominated John C. Breckenridge
of Kentucky for President and Joseph Lane of Oregon for Vice-President.

This did not bring about a new condition, but revealed one which
had existed for many years. The South was technically right in it
demand that the Convention declare itself explicitly in favor of
the honest and faithful maintenance of its constitutional rights
in the Territories. These rights had been vehemently denied by
the Republicans, but triumphantly established on a solid basis by
the decision of the Supreme Court. Douglas had quibbled over the
decision and explained it away until it seemed doubtful whether it
in fact settled anything. The platform adopted by his supporters
in the Convention recited the differences of opinion among Democrats
as to the exact limits of the powers of the territorial legislature
and those of Congress and referred the question again to the Court
with a pledge to abide by its decision. They seemed to forget that
the whole question had already been decided in the most sweeping
terms in favor of the extreme Southern demands. It is not impossible
that, had the South consented tot his vague and disingenuous platform
and vigorously supported Douglas, he might have been elected. But
"the South was implacable towards him and deliberately resolved to
accept defeat rather than secure a victory under his lead."

The Republicans, meanwhile, had held their memorable Convention
at Chicago, where, on May 18th, Lincoln had been nominated. When
the news arrived in Washington, it made a great stir. The Republican
Senators and Members gathered around Douglas to hear his judgement
of the new statesman who had risen in the West.

"Gentlemen," he said, " you have nominated a very able and a very
honest man."

On the adjournment of Congress, disregarding the decorous custom
of seventy years, he entered the campaign, making speeches in his
own behalf. He knew from the outset that with only a fraction of
his party at his back, his chances of election were slight. But he
fought on fiercely, partly from temperament and partly from conviction
that he ought, if possible, to prevent Lincoln's election. Besides,
there was a shadowy possibility of an election by the House of
Representatives. At times his old Democratic enthusiasm returned.
He told one audience that had his party given him undivided support
he would have carried every State in the Union against Lincoln,
except two.

He was sincerely alarmed for the safety of the Union in case of
Lincoln's election, which he believed probable. He urged upon the
South the duty of submitting to the result whatever it might be.
At Norfolk, Virginia, he was asked whether, if Lincoln was elected,
the Southern States would be justified in seceding from the Union?

To this he said, "I answer emphatically, No! The election of a man
to the Presidency * * * in conformity with the Constitution * * *
would not justify any attempt at dissolving this glorious Confederacy."

He further told them that if Lincoln were elected he would aid him
to the extent of his power in maintaining the supremacy of the laws
against all resistance to them from whatever quarter, and that it
would be the President's duty to treat all attempts to break up
the Union as Jackson treated the nullifiers in 1832. His candidacy
was obviously hopeless. He exerted himself to avert the coming
storm. Lincoln received one million eight hundred and sixty-seven
thousand votes, Douglas one million two hundred and ninety-one
thousand, and Brekenridge eight hundred and fifty thousand. Of the
three hundred and three electoral votes Douglas received but twelve.
Lincoln had an electoral majority over all opposing candidates.

On the 13th of November, South Carolina called a Convention to consider
the dangers incident to her position in the Federal Union which,
on December 20th, unanimously adopted an ordinance of secession.
Three weeks later Mississippi declared herself out of the Union
and was promptly followed by Florida, Alabama and Georgia. By the
20th of May eleven States had seceded. The President looked on it
as a lawsuit between the States and exhausted his very respectable
legal learning and ingenuity in proving that he had no power
to raise his hand in defense of the country. It may be that the
lawyer, with his quiddits and quillets, had survived the man. It
may be that he had so long breathed the atmosphere of treason in
the Cabinet counsels that he was tinctured with the widely prevalent
pestilence. It is much more likely that the timorous old man,
finding his term of office ending amid universal ruin, his friends
and masters rushing into mad rebellion against his Government,
weakly adopted that famous sentiment of the French King: "It will
outlast my time."

Congress met on the third of December. In his message the President
charged the entire trouble to the aggressive anti-slavery activity
of the North, which had at last driven the South to open rebellion.
He protested that he was powerless to act and referred the whole
matter to Congress. Three of the Cabinet were serving the enemy
and many seats in the House and Senate were held by unblushing
traitors. The forts in Charleston harbor were besieged by South
Carolina. The Government at first dared not and later could not
relieve them.

Congress, if not as completely palsied as the President, was
without remedy for the fearful evils of the time. Besides its
quota of positive traitors, many of its members were infected with
the mild, moonshiny political philosophy which had been currently
in Washington for a quarter of a century. Many were about to retire
to private life, and, like Buchanan, thought the Government would
outlast their time. A famous Senate Committee of Thirteen, and a
corresponding House Committee of Thirty-three, were appointed to
consider the state of the Nation; both of which toiled much and
accomplished nothing.

The Committee of Thirteen reported late in December that it was
unable to agree, and on January 3rd Douglas addressed the Senate
upon this report. He reviewed at great length the history of
slavery legislation and drew from it all the conclusion that the
trouble had arisen from unwarrantable interference in the local
affairs of the Territories, and that, had popular sovereignty been
given a chance it would have solved the problem long since and
would do it yet if fairly tried. He ascribed the trouble to the
pernicious agitation of the Republicans, and recalled Lincoln's
most radical anti-slavery utterances in the famous campaign of 1858.
He assured the people of the South that Lincoln would be powerless
to hurt them if they remained in the Union, for there would be
a majority against him in both the Houses of Congress. He denied
utterly the right of South Carolina to secede and repudiate its
constitutional duties, and insisted on the right of the Federal
Government to enforce the law in all of the States. Yet, while
there was a ray of hope, war must not be resorted to.

"In my opinion," he continued, "war is disunion, certain, inevitable,
and irrevocable. * * * We have reached a point where disunion is
inevitable unless some compromise, founded upon mutual concession,
can be made. I prefer compromise to war. I prefer concession to
a dissolution of the Union."

He asked the Republicans to consent to the reestablishment of the
Missouri Compromise line, which he had swept away six years before
amid their earnest protestations. He also proposed to establish
popular sovereignty by constitutional amendment, such sovereignty
to begin when a Territory had 50,000 inhabitants, and, by another
amendment, to prohibit future acquisition of territory without
a concurrent vote of two-thirds of each House of Congress. His
purpose, he said, was not to settle the slavery question, but to
expel slavery agitation from the arena of Federal politics forever.

This was his last important speech in the Senate. It was delivered
under circumstances of awful solemnity. He seemed not deeply
impressed with the gravity of the situation and was still interested
in it chiefly as a party problem. He did not expect the baptism
of blood that followed, but cheerfully looked forward to compromise
and reconciliation. The Northern Democrats might yet rescue
the country by mediating a truce between radical Republicans and
radical Southern Democrats. In the present state of affairs who,
but himself, the chief of these neutrals, could lead this great
movement? His mental habits were those of the politician. He saw
all event primarily in their relation to party tactics. Now that
the earth began to rock beneath his feet, he suspected that it
was only a theatrical earthquake and prepared to seize upon every
advantage that might be gathered out of the confusion. He could not
comprehend the deep and unappeasable passions that rent the Nation.
The grim earnestness of his fellow-countrymen was as inconceivable
to him as the demoniac enthusiasm of the great Apostle was to
the scoffing Athenians who heard him on the Hill of Mars. But,
as the great tragedy deepened and darkened, he quit his political
speculations and began to think, not of the success of his party,
but of the possibility of saving the Union from imminent wreck.

He returned to Illinois and addressed the legislature, urging
energetic support of the war, and on May 1st was welcomed back to
Chicago by an immense assembly of all parties. He was escorted
to the great hall in which Lincoln had been nominated and there
addressed the people. He spoke not as a politician but as a generous
patriot. He denounced in unmeasured terms the Southern conspiracy
which had resulted in secession and now had ripened into open and
bloody rebellion. He saw the treason of the South no longer as a
mere element in an interesting political game, but as the blackest
of human crimes and an awful menace to the life of the Republic.

"There are only two sides to the question," he said. "Every man must
be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals
in this war; only patriots or traitors. * * * It is a sad task to
discuss questions so fearful as civil war; but sad as it is, bloody
and disastrous as I expect it will be, I express it as my conviction
before God that it is the duty of every American citizen to rally
around the flag of his country."

Not long after his return home he was stricken with serious sickness.
The disease was not of such a character that it was expected to
prove fatal, but the highest medical skill and most tender nursing
were unavailing. The truth was, although unsuspected, that his
vital energies were completely exhausted by the enormous labors
and deep agitations of the past ten years. He had just passed his
48th birthday but was already gray and prematurely old. He had
dwelt amid the tempest for twenty years and had felt more of severe
strain than most men who had seen the Psalmist's three score years
and ten. When told that his end was near, and asked what message
he would send to his boys:

"Tell them," he said, "to obey the laws and support the Constitution
of the United States."

On the morning of June 3rd he died. His remains lie buried in
Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan, a spot fitly chosen as the
last resting place of this most ceaselessly active and inexhaustibly
resourceful of American statesmen.

History has not been kind to Douglas. The farther we recede from
events the more trivial seem the temporary circumstances which
influence them and the clearer appear the changeless principles
which ought to mold men's conduct. But to the eager, impetuous man
of action, the temporary circumstances are apt to be of overmastering
force. He was a practical man of action, whose course was generally
guided by the accidental circumstances of the hour, rather than
by fixed principles. His education was defective. He entered the
great arena with little of either mental or moral culture. Yet,
severely as we now judge him, he did not fall below the prevailing
standard of political morals. His real sin was that he did not
rise above the ethics of the times; that he remained deaf as an
adder to the voices of the great reformers who sought to regenerate
the age, and who were compelled to grapple with him in deadly struggle
before they could gain footing on the stage. The time was out of
joint and he felt no vocation to set it right. While his ethics
has fared hard, his mental gifts have been over-estimated. The
availability of all his resources, his overwhelming energy and marvelous
efficiency among men of intellect, gave rise to the impression
which still survives that he was a man of original genius. But of
all his numerous speeches, heard or read by millions, not a sentence
had enough vitality to survive even one generation. Though for
ten years of stormy agitation he was the most commanding figure in
our public life and wielded power of which Presidents and Cabinets
stood in awe, the things for which he is chiefly remembered are
his unfortunate doctrine of popular sovereignty and the resistless
power with which he defended his most dubious relation to the
question of slavery.

His powerful influence upon the overshadowing question of the times,
his restless activity in shaping the course of great political
events, fast drifting into darkest tragedy, have obscured his work
in less conspicuous fields. While it does not come within the
scope of this work to do more than portray his relation to the
great national tragedy which was slowly evolving during the entire
period of his political life, it should not be forgotten that his
activity covered the whole field of legislation and that no man
responded more generously or efficiently to the countless demands
upon time and energy which so greatly burden the American statesman.

It is pleasant to find a Lieutenant General of the United States army
in his old age and retirement recalling a visit in his boyhood to
Washington, to seek redress of some West Point grievance, and how
the only man he could find who had the leisure enough to effectively
interview the Secretary of War on his behalf was Douglas.

It is sufficient for our purposes to say that for thirteen years
he had practical control of all legislation affecting the Western
Territories, that he drafted the bills establishing territorial
governments for Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, New Mexico and
Washington and prepared the acts for the admission of Wisconsin,
California, Minnesota and Oregon. He secured for his State an
enormous grant of public land, which resulted in the building of
the Illinois Central Railroad. He warmly advocated the building
of a railway to the Pacific. He consistently favored the most
liberal appropriations for internal improvements, and, with that
provincial patriotism and jealousy of Old World interference which
was fashionable fifty years ago, vigorously opposed the Clayton-Bulwer
treaty as a practical annulment of the Monroe doctrine.

It is not to be set down in his list of sins that he failed to
bridge over the widening chasm between the North and the South;
but it must be charged to him as a mental defect that he hopelessly
failed to comprehend the significance of the great movements which
he seemed to lead, that in the keenness of his interest in the
evolutions of political strategy he failed to discern the symptoms
of coming revolution.

When the storm that had been brewing before his eyes for ten years
broke upon the country it took him by surprise. The ardor of his
temperament, the eagerness of his ambition, make his conduct at
times painfully resemble that of the selfish demagogue. But the
range of his vision was small. He erred less from corruption of
the heart than from deficiency of the mind. But what statesman of
note during those strange and portentous years preceding the war
could safely expose his speech and conduct to the searchlight of
criticism? The wisest walked in darkness and stumbled often. It
was not the fate of Douglas to see the mists amid which he had
groped swept away by the hurricane of war.

What he would have done had his life been protracted ten year
longer, is subject of interesting speculation. By temperament and
habit he belonged to the preceding generation and it is difficult
to conceive him working in harmony with the fiery and unyielding
Puritans who succeeded. He loved the Union heartily and hated
secession. He would have supported Lincoln in the great crisis.
In the regenerated America, which rose from the fiery baptisms of
the war, with its new ideal, its new hopes, its new convictions
and deeper earnestness, he would probably have found himself sadly
out of place. The epoch of history to which he belonged was closed.
Young as he was, he had outlived his historic era and there is a
dramatic fitness in the ending of his career at this time.


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