Page images

naturally, the Ohio Republicans called Lincoln to answer him, and the marked impression created by Lincoln's replies showed itself not alone in their unprecedented circulation in print in newspapers and pamphlets, but also in the decided success which the Ohio Republicans gained at the polls. About the same time, also, Douglas printed a long political essay in "Harper's Magazine," using as a text quotations from Lincoln's "House divided against itself" speech, and Seward's Rochester speech defining the "irrepressible conflict. Attorney-General Black of President Buchanan's cabinet here entered the lists with an anonymously printed pamphlet in pungent criticism of Douglas's "Harper" essay; which again was followed by reply and rejoinder on both sides.

Into this field of overheated political controversy the news of the John Brown raid at Harper's Ferry on Sunday, October 19, fell with startling portent. The scattering and tragic fighting in the streets of the little town on Monday; the dramatic capture of the fanatical leader on Tuesday by a detachment of Federal marines under the command of Robert E. Lee, the famous Confederate general of subsequent years; the undignified haste of his trial and condemnation by the Virginia authorities; the interviews of Governor Wise, Senator Mason, and Representative Vallandigham with the prisoner; his sentence, and execution on the gallows on December 2; and the hysterical laudations of his acts by a few prominent and extreme abolitionists in the East, kept public opinion, both North and South, in an inflamed and feverish state for nearly six weeks.

Mr. Lincoln's habitual freedom from passion, and the steady and common-sense judgment he applied to this exciting event, which threw almost everybody into

[blocks in formation]

an extreme of feeling or utterance, are well illustrated by the temperate criticism he made of it a few months later:

"John Brown's effort was peculiar. It was not a slave insurrection. It was an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which the slaves refused to participate. In fact, it was so absurd that the slaves, with all their ignorance, saw plainly enough it could not succeed. That affair, in its philosophy, corresponds with the many attempts, related in history, at the assassination of kings and emperors. An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt, which ends in little else than his own execution. Orsini's attempt on Louis Napoleon and John Brown's attempt at Harper's Ferry were, in their philosophy, precisely the same. The eagerness to cast blame on old England in the one case, and on New England in the other, does not disprove the sameness of the two things."


Lincoln's Kansas Speeches-The Cooper Institute Speech -New England Speeches-The Democratic Schism— Senator Brown's Resolutions-Jefferson Davis's Resolutions-The Charleston Convention-Majority and Minority Reports-Cotton State Delegations SecedeCharleston Convention Adjourns-Democratic Baltimore Convention Splits-Breckinridge Nominated— Douglas Nominated-Bell Nominated by Union Constitutional Convention-Chicago Convention-Lincoln's Letters to Pickett and Judd-The Pivotal States-Lincoln Nominated


URING the month of December, 1859, Mr. Lincoln was invited to the Territory of Kansas, where he made speeches at a number of its new and growing towns. In these speeches he laid special emphasis upon the necessity of maintaining undiminished the vigor of the Republican organization and the high plane of the Republican doctrine.

"We want, and must have," said he, "a national policy as to slavery which deals with it as being a wrong. Whoever would prevent slavery becoming national and perpetual yields all when he yields to a policy which treats it either as being right, or as being a matter of indifference." "To effect our main object we have to employ auxiliary means. We must hold conventions, adopt platforms, select candidates, and carry elections. At every step we must be true to the main purpose. If we adopt a platform falling short



of our principle, or elect a man rejecting our principle, we not only take nothing affirmative by our success, but we draw upon us the positive embarrassment of seeming ourselves to have abandoned our principle."

A still more important service, however, in giving the Republican presidential campaign of 1860 precise form and issue was rendered by him during the first three months of the new year. The public mind had become so preoccupied with the dominant subject of national politics, that a committee of enthusiastic young Republicans of New York and Brooklyn arranged a course of public lectures by prominent statesmen, and Mr. Lincoln was invited to deliver the third one of the series. The meeting took place in the hall of the Cooper Institute in New York, on the evening of February 27, 1860; and the audience was made up of ladies and gentlemen comprising the leading representatives of the wealth, culture, and influence of the great metropolis.

Mr. Lincoln's name and arguments had filled so large a space in Eastern newspapers, both friendly and hostile, that the listeners before him were intensely curious to see and hear this rising Western politician. The West was even at that late day but imperfectly understood by the East. The poets and editors, the bankers and merchants of New York vaguely remembered having read in their books that it was the home of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, the country of bowie-knives and pistols, of steamboat explosions and mobs, of wild speculation and the repudiation of State debts; and these half-forgotten impressions had lately been vividly recalled by a several years' succession of newspaper reports retailing the incidents of Border Ruffian violence and free-State guerrilla reprisals during the civil war in Kansas. What was to be the type,

[ocr errors]

the character, the language of this speaker? How would he impress the great editor Horace Greeley, who sat among the invited guests; David Dudley Field, the great lawyer, who escorted him to the platform; William Cullen Bryant, the great poet, who presided over the meeting?

Judging from after effects, the audience quickly forgot these questioning thoughts. They had but time to note Mr. Lincoln's impressive stature, his strongly marked features, the clear ring of his rather highpitched voice, and the almost commanding earnestness of his manner. His beginning foreshadowed a dry argument, using as a text Douglas's phrase that "our fathers, when they framed the government under which we live, understood this question just as well and even better than we do now." But the concise statements, the strong links of reasoning, and the irresistible conclusions of the argument with which the speaker followed his close historical analysis of how "our fathers" understood "this question," held every listener as though each were individually merged in the speaker's thought and demonstration.

"It is surely safe to assume," said he, with emphasis, "that the thirty-nine framers of the original Constitution and the seventy-six members of the Congress which framed the amendments thereto, taken together, do certainly include those who may be fairly called 'our fathers who framed the government under which we live.' And, so assuming, I defy any man to show that any one of them ever, in his whole life, declared that, in his understanding, any proper division of local from Federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal government to control as to slavery in the Federal Territories."

With equal skill he next dissected the complaints,

« PreviousContinue »