« PreviousContinue »
He then gave some attention to his opponent's construction of the “house divided” feature of the speech of June 16th, replying substantially as on previous occasions, and in one sentence giving a key to his purpose: “My main object was to show, so far as my humble ability was capable of showing, to the people of this country what I believed was the truth, that there was a tendency, if not a conspiracy, among those who have engineered the slavery question for the last four or five years, to make slavery perpetual and universal in this nation.” As incidental to this “main object” he had added a “bit of comment” containing the illustration of “Stephen, Franklin, Roger and James,” working together in building a house, with the signs of preconcert to be found in the exact fitting of tenons and mortises, and so forth; to which Douglas, when “he took hold of this speech” at Chicago, paid no attention at all, but complimented him as being a “ kind, amiable, and intelligent gentleman,” whereby he was a little “taken,” coming as it did “from a great man.” “I was not very much accustomed to flattery,” Lincoln said, “and it came the sweeter to me. I was rather like the Hoosier with the gingerbread, when he said he reckoned he loved it better than any other man, and got less of it."
He next spoke at some length of the effect and intent of the Kansas-Nebraska bill in combination with the Dred-Scott decision, concluding:
Henry Clay, my beau ideal of a statesman, the man for whom I fought all my humble life — Henry Clay once said of a class of men who would repress all tendencies to liberty and ultimate emancipation, that they must, if they would
ral ligleradicated they låge Dorthing ing
do this, go back to the era of our Independence and muzzle the cannon which thunders its annual joyous return; they must blow out the moral lights around us; they must penetrate the human soul and eradicate there the love of liberty; and then, and not till then, could they perpetuate slavery in this country! To my thinking, Judge Douglas is, by his example and vast influence, doing that very thing in this community when he says that the negro has nothing in the Declaration of Independence. Henry Clay plainly understood the contrary. ... And now I will only say that when, by all these means and appliances, Judge Douglas shall suceeed in bringing public sentiment to an exact accordance with his own views, ... then it needs only the formality of the second Dred Scott decision, which he indorses in advance, to make slavery alike lawful in all the States — old as well as new, North as well as South.
In his half-hour response Douglas wasted further time on the spurious“ Republican platform,” which had figured so largely in his opening speech. Of the “conspiracy” charge Douglas remarked:
He says he will repeat it until I answer his folly and nonsense about Stephen, and Franklin, and Roger, and Bob, and James. He studied that out — prepared that one sentence with the greatest care, committed it to memory, and put it in his first Springfield speech, and now he carries that speech around and reads that sentence to show how pretty it is. His vanity is wounded because I will not go into that beautiful figure of his about the building of a house. All I have to say is, that I am not green enough to let him make a charge which he acknowledges he does not know to be true, and then take up my time in answering it, when I know it to be false and nobody else knows it to be true. .... What does Mr. Lincoln propose ? He says that the Union can not exist divided into free and slave States. If it can not endure thus divided, then he must strive to make them all free or all slave, which will inevitably bring about a dissolution of the Union.
So ended the Ottawa debate. Lincoln wrote next,
day to a friend: “There was a vast concourse of people — more than could get near enough to hear.” A majority were Republicans, very enthusiastic for their candidate, and at the close he was borne on stout shoulders from the platform.
Freeport, the place of their next meeting (August 27th), was in a region where, as in the Ottawa district, even the “regular ” Democrats had repeatedly indorsed what Douglas was now calling Abolition sentiments. The opening was made lively and picturesque by the arrival of the Little Giant in a gay barouche drawn by four white horses and loudly greeted by the throng; and still wilder applause hailed the advent of Lincoln, whose chariot was a plain “prairie schooner.” This occasion is chiefly memorable for one of the series of questions propounded to Douglas and for the answer given, which bore on his subsequent career with the power of inexorable fate.
After some preliminary remarks, Lincoln said of the questions asked him at Ottawa: “I now propose that I will answer any of the interrogatories upon condition that he will answer questions from me not exceeding the same number. I give him an opportunity to respond. The Judge remains silent. I now say that I will answer his interrogatories, whether he answers mine or not; and that after I have done so, I shall propound mine to him."
He then read the seven questions of Douglas, answering in substance that he was not and never had been committed (1) to the unconditional repeal of the fugitive slave law; or (2) against the admission of any more slave States into the Union; or (3) against the admission of a new State into the Union, with such a Constitution as the people of that State may see fit to make; or (4) in favor of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia; or (5) in favor of prohibiting the slave-trade between the different States. He was (6) “impliedly, if not expressly, pledged to a belief in the right and duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United States Territories”; and (7) was not generally opposed to honest acquisition of territory; and, in any given case, would or would not oppose such acquisition, according as he might think such acquisition would or would not agitate the slavery question among ourselves.
After a fuller expression of his views on some of these points, he propounded four questions to Douglas, as follows:
Question 1. If the people of Kansas shall, by means entirely unobjectionable in all other respects, adopt a State Constitution, and ask admission into the Union under it, before they have the requisite number of inhabitants according to the English bill — some ninety-three thousand — would you vote to admit them?
Question 2. Can the people of a United States Territory, , in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the . United States, exclude slavery from its limits ?
Question 3. If the Supreme Court of the United States shall decide that States can not exclude slavery from their limits, are you in favor of acquiescing in, adopting and following such decisions as a rule of action ?
Question 4. Are you in favor of acquiring additional territory in disregard of how such acquisition may affect the nation on the slavery question ?
There were friends of Lincoln to whom he showed these questions in advance, who told him an affirmative answer would unhesitatingly be given to the second one, regardless of any effect except upon the pending contest — to Douglas the vital interest of the moment — trusting to his own skill in making peace with the South afterward. These anxious advisers thought they had persuaded him to drop it, and (as one of them said to the writer a year or two later *) were “thunderstruck” when they heard the question read from the stand, feeling that this insured their candidate's defeat.
When Douglas in his response came to this interrogatory, he read it with assurance and exultation in his voice, promptly answered in the affirmative, and was "immensely applauded.” It seemed as if this were just the opportunity he had longed for. “ It matters not,” he said, “what way the Supreme Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question as to 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 can not 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 com
*The late Hon. Joseph Medill, of the Chicago Tribune.