Page images

mony long. Another explosion will soon come." Horace Greeley says that on the real issue fought out between Lincoln and Douglas, Illinois was about equally divided, and that in the autumn Douglas was elected after borrowing and disbursing in the canvass $80,000, a debt which weighed him down to the grave, while Lincoln, who had spent less than $1000, came out stronger politically than he went in. Herndon tells us about George B. McClellan's taking Douglas around in a special train, while Lincoln sometimes found it hard to secure a seat when he was exhausted. Whatever details counted in the result, there seems to be little doubt that the fight was carried on with such ability that each combatant gained admiration from his party and the country, although it is probably also true that the thorough airing given to the views of Douglas did much to deprive him in 1860 of Southern support on the one hand and Northern support on the other.

After this campaign Lincoln found himself hard pressed for money. His income from the law, according to his partner, was not over $3000, and there were current political expenses. He tried lecturing, one address on "Inventions being delivered in several towns, but his failure was so evident that he soon abandoned the experiment. While he did some law work, he kept very actively in politics. He had tried to get the

[ocr errors]

Springfield publishers to print his speeches and those of Douglas in a book, but they had refused. In 1859 the Republican State Committee asked for their publication, and the next year they were printed at Columbus and used as campaign documents.

He followed Douglas to Ohio in a gubernatorial contest in September, 1859, and made some speeches. In one of these speeches he said: "Now, what is Judge Douglas's popular sovereignty? It is as a principle no other than that, if one man chooses to make a slave of another man, neither that other man nor anybody else has a right to object." Again, of Douglas “I suppose the institution of slavery really looks small to him. He is so put up by nature that a lash upon his back would hurt him, but a lash upon anybody else's back does not hurt him.” The following month he received an invitation to speak during the winter in New York. Herndon had some time previously made a trip East for the purpose of conciliating the Republican leaders, but nothing did so much to strengthen Lincoln in this part of the country as a speech which he delivered at Cooper Union on February 27. Horace Greeley says that from the point of view of the canvasser, by which he means the persuader of all sorts of men, it is the very best address to which he ever listened, "and I have

[ocr errors]

heard some of Webster's grandest." The opportunity to make this great speech, like the invitations of the preceding year to speak all over the Northwest, grew directly out of the Douglas debates, which not only left him known throughout the country at once, but contained such a complete and able statement of Republican doctrine that the more they were read by the leaders the more highly was Lincoln regarded. As Blaine has said, Lincoln "did not seek to say merely the thing that was for the day's debate, but the thing which would stand the test of time and square itself with eternal justice." He was now rapidly reaping his reward.

Of this Cooper Institute gathering the New York Tribune, Greeley's paper, said, "Since the days of Clay and Webster no man has spoken to a larger assemblage of the intellect and mental culture of our city." The speech was serious. It contained none of the raciness intended for Western stumps, but put the whole question in all its branches in the solidest form to confirm or convince the minds of educated men whose interest was keenly centred. Lincoln was always a man who understood opportunity. Stories and jests were laid aside, and he grasped the occasion to paint the situation more accurately than anybody else. In spite of its thoroughness, its treatment of all sides of the central controversy, it had


such unity that one idea dominated the whole : "All they ask we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong." To support duty was the straight road; "then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively."

"Mr. Lincoln," said Greeley's paper the next day, "is one of nature's orators." The Evening Post and most of the other leading papers were almost equally enthusiastic. He spoke elsewhere in the East, holding fast to the main issue, and to the principles on which he believed it should be decided, and when he returned to the West he was in the best of form to try for the great prize to be awarded the succeeding year.



WITH this native wisdom, the shrewdness of a trained politician, and the aid of the men in Illinois most adroit in such manipulation, Lincoln went to work to secure one of the prizes, the highest if possible. In America a presidential candidate usually gains by remaining in the background, and Lincoln found reason to declare himself unworthy of the chief office and unentitled to the vice-presidency, which was sought by other Illinois statesmen whom he did not wish to antagonize. All the time he was strengthening himself as much as he could, and watching events, to see just what steps should be taken as opportunity opened before him. He wrote letters, mostly short ones, to politicians in all parts of the country. The party leaders in the East had their own candidates for the presidency, but they thought much of Lincoln for second place, which would naturally go to the West. Under the adroit management of the Republican State Committee, who were preparing the ground all through 1859, the Illinois papers came out one

« PreviousContinue »