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1854-1855. First “Anti-Nebraska” Campaign — Lincoln and Douglas on the Stump — Trumbull, and Not Lincoln,
Returning home late in August, Douglas encountered a storm of popular wrath at Chicago, where he attempted to speak. For the first time in his life he found himself facing a turbulent throng, styled by him a mob, which determined that he should not be heard, and which would not be cowed. There was open and serious revolt in the party he had hitherto ruled without question. Later he had willing auditors in minor towns; and on the 4th of October, at the State fair in Springfield, dividing time with Lincoln by agreement, he addressed a multitude gathered from all parts of Illinois. It was now within four weeks of the election at which Congressional representatives and members of the State Legislature were to be chosen. A Senatorship was also at stake, as the term of General Shields was about expiring. Usually aggressive and audacious, it was remarked that Douglas was different in his manner on this occasion. He sought to conciliate, and his words implied a pervading memory of the Chicago storm. Yet it was Douglas who spoke — always able, wary, and plausible. Lincoln was relied upon by
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the Anti-Nebraskans, Whig and Democratic, as their most effective champion, and his speech in turn was so masterly as to surprise both friends and opponents. Hearts and voices went with him, and when he closed, the applause was so general and so tumultuous that Douglas could have enjoyed himself little better here than at his home reception a month before. He rose for a rejoinder, but his remarks were brief. Twilight being at hand, the meeting temporarily adjourned, with the understanding that he would speak more at length in the evening, but this he failed to do, and his absence was a subject for disparaging comment.
Douglas spoke three hours at Peoria on the 16th of October, and was followed by Lincoln in what he regarded in later years as his best speech. As written out by him and published in the Springfield Journal, it probably included a reproduction, in the main, of his speech at the State fair.
Announcing his subject as “the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the propriety of its restoration,” he insisted that distinction be made and kept between existing domestic slavery and its extension. To aid "a clear understanding of what the Missouri Compromise was,” he gave historic details, beginning with the passage of the Ordinance of 1787, which shut the institution out from five great central States of the West. “ Thus," he said, “with the author of the Declaration of Independence the policy of prohibiting slavery in new territory began. Thus, away back of the Consti-tution, in the pure, fresh, free breath of the Revolution, the State of Virginia and the National Congress put that policy in practice. Thus, through more than sixty of the best years of the Republic, did that policy steadily work to its great and beneficial end. And thus, in those five States and five millions of free, enterprising people, we have before us the rich fruits of this policy. But now new light breaks upon us. ... We find even some men who drew their first breath, and every other breath of their lives, under this very restriction, now live in dread of absolute suffocation if they should be restricted in the sacred right of taking slaves to Nebraska. That perfect liberty they sigh for — the liberty of making slaves of other people — Jefferson never thought of; their own fathers never thought of; they never thought of themselves a year ago.”.
He then spoke of the territory acquired by the Louisiana Purchase, in 1803, and the Missouri controversy, “the first great slavery agitation in the nation,” during which “ threats of breaking up the Union were freely made, and the ablest public men of the day became seriously alarmed”— a controversy quieted at length by the act approved March 6, 1820,“ providing that Missouri might come into the Union with slavery, but that in all the remaining part of the territory purchased of France which lies north of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude slavery should never be permitted. This provision of law is the Missouri Compromise. ... It directly applied to Iowa, Minnesota, and the present bone of contention, Kansas and Nebraska.” After noticing the controversy following the acquisition of Mexican territory, and stating the terms of the Compromise of 1850, he gave an account of the “Nebraska” legislation, which declared the Missouri Compromise “inoperative and void ” — “so that the people who go
and settle in Nebraska and Kansas may establish slavery or exclude it, as they may see fit.” Continuing, he said:
cause opread ofindifferen.
This declared indifference, but, as I must think, real zeal for the spread of slavery, I can not but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself; I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world; enables the enemies of free institutions with plausibility to taunt us as hypocrites; causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity; and especially because it forces so many really good men among ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty, criticising the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but selfinterest. ...
I think I have no prejudice against the Southern people. They are just what we would be in their situation. If slavery did not now exist among them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist among us, we should not instantly give it up. This I believe of the masses North and South. Doubtless there are individuals, on both sides, who would not hold slaves under any circumstances, and others who would gladly introduce slavery anew, if it were out of existence. We know that some Southern men do free their slaves, go North, and become tip-top Abolitionists; while some Northern ones go South, and become most cruel slavemasters. When the Southern people tell us they are no more responsible for the origin of slavery than we are, I acknowledge the fact. When it is said that the institution exists, and that it is very difficult to get rid of it in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know how to do myself. If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do, as to the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia — to their own native land. But a few moments' reflection would convince me that whatever of high hope (as I think there is) there may be in this in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible. ... What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this;
its sudnk then.d.conwin natill the ting inven
for permi for revivint he bringinaden the tar
and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment, is not the sole question, if indeed it is any part of it. A universal feeling, whether well or ill founded, can not be safely disregarded. We can not, then, make them equals. It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their tardiness in this, I will not undertake to judge our brethren of the South.
When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives, which should not in its stringency be more likely to carry a free man into slavery than our ordinary criminal laws are to hang an innocent one.
But all this, to my judgment, furnishes no more excuse for permitting slavery to go into our own free territory than it would for reviving the African slave-trade by law. The law which forbids the bringing of slaves from Africa, and that which has so long forbidden the taking of them into Nebraska, can hardly be distinguished on any moral principle; and the repeal of the former could find quite as plausible excuses as that of the latter. ...
Whether slavery shall go into Nebraska, or other new Territories, is not a matter of exclusive concern to the people who may go there. The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these Territories. We want them for the homes of free white people. This they can not be, to any considerable extent, if slavery shall be planted within them. Slave States are places for poor white people to remove from, not to remove to. New free States are the places for poor people to go to and better their condition. For this use the nation needs these Territories.
Still further: There are constitutional relations between the slave and free States which are degrading to the latter. We are under legal obligations to catch and return their runaway slaves to them — a sort of dirty, disagreeable job which, I believe, as a general rule, the slaveholders will not perform for one another. Then again: In the control of the government — the management of the partnership affairs — they have greatly the advantage of us. ... The slaves
raska, cae repeal of the latter.