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1854 - The Nebraska Bill Agitation in Illinois --Position of Mr. Lincoln Speech at Peoria - Anti-Nebraska Convention - Campaign of 1855.

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FROM 1849 to 1854, Mr. Lincoln was engaged assiduously in the practice of his profession, and, being deeply immersed in business, was beginning to lose his interest in politics, when the scheming ambition of an unscrupulous aspirant to the Presidency brought about the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. That act of baseness and perfidy aroused Mr. Lincoln, and he prepared for new efforts. He threw himself at once into the contest that followed, and fought the battle of freedom on the ground of his former conflicts in Illinois with more than his accustomed energy and zeal. Those who recollect the tremendous battle fought in Illinois that year will award to Abraham Lincoln fully three fourths of the ability and unwearying labor which resulted in the victory which gave Illinois her first Republican legislature, and placed Lyman Trumbull in the Senate of the United States. The first and greatest debate of that year came off between Lincoln and Douglas, at Springfield, during the progress of the State Fair, in October. The Chicago Press and Tribune describes the scene in the following graphic

manner :

The affair came off on the fourth day of October, 1854. The State Fair had been in progress two days, and the capital was full of all manner of men. The Nebraska bill had been passed on the previous twenty-second of May. Mr. Douglas had returned to Illinois to meet an outraged constituency. He had made a fragmentary speech in Chicago, the people filling up each hiatus in a peculiar and good-humored way. He called the people a mob; they called him a rowdy. The "mob" had the best of it, both then and at the election which succeeded. The notoriety of all these events had stirred up the politics of the State from bottom to top.

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Hundreds of active politicians had met at Springfield, expecting a tournament of an unusual character, - Douglas, Breese, Korner, Lincoln, Trumbull, Matteson, Yates, Codding, John Calhoun, (of the order of the Candle-Box,) John M. Palmer, the whole house of the McConnells, Singleton, (known to fame in the Mormon war,) Thomas L. Harris, and a host of others. Several speeches were made before, and several after, the passage between Lincoln and Douglas, but that was justly held to be the event of the season.

We do not know whether a challenge to debate passed between the friends of the speakers or not, but there was a perfectly amicable understanding between Lincoln and Douglas that the former should speak two or three hours, and the latter reply in just as little or as much time as he chose. Mr. Lincoln took the stand at two o'clock, a large crowd in attendance, and Mr. Douglas seated on a small platform in front of the desk. The first half hour of Mr. Lincoln's speech was taken up with compliments to his distinguished friend, Judge Douglas, and dry allusions to the political events of the past few years. His distinguished friend, Judge Douglas, had taken his seat, as solemn as the Cock-lane ghost, evidently with the design of not moving a muscle till it came his turn to speak. The laughter provoked by Lincoln's exordium, however, soon began to make him uneasy, and when Mr. Lincoln arrived at his (Douglas's) speech, pronouncing the Missouri Compromise "a sacred thing which no ruthless hand would ever be reckless enough to disturb," he opened his lips far enough to remark, “A first-rate speech!" This was the beginning of an amusing colloquy.



Yes," continued Lincoln, so affectionate was my friend's regard for this compromise line, that when Texas was admitted into the Union, and it was found that a strip extended north of 36°30′, he actually introduced a bill extending the line, and prohibiting slavery in the northern edge of the new State.”

"And you voted against the bill," said Douglas.

Precisely so," answered Lincoln; "I was in favor of running the line a great deal further South.”

"About this time," the speaker continued, "my distinguished friend introduced me to a particular friend of his, one David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania." [Laughter.]

"I thought," said Douglas, " you would find him congenial company."

"So I did,” replied Lincoln. "I had the pleasure of voting for his proviso, in one way and another, about forty times. It was a

Democratic measure then, I believe. At any rate, General Cass scolded honest John Davis, of Massachusetts, soundly for talking away the last hours of the session, so that he (Cass) couldn't crowd it through. Apropos of General Cass; if I am not greatly mistaken, he has a prior claim to my distinguished friend to the authorship of popular sovereignty. The old gentleman has an infirmity for writing letters. Shortly after the scolding he gave John Davis, he wrote his Nicholson letter

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Douglas, (solemnly.) "God Almighty placed man on the earth, and told him to choose between good and evil. That was the origin of the Nebraska Bill!"

Lincoln. "Well, the priority of invention being settled, let us award all credit to Judge Douglas for being the first to discover it." It would be impossible, in these limits, to give an idea of the strength of Mr. Lincoln's argument. We deemed it by far the ablest effort of the campaign, from whatever source. The occasion was a great one, and the speaker was every way equal to it. The effect produced on the listeners was magnetic. No one who was present will ever forget the power and vehemence of the following passage :

"My distinguished friend says it is an insult to the emigrants to Kansas and Nebraska to suppose that they are not able to govern themselves. We must not slur over an argument of this kind, because it happens to tickle the ear. It must be met and answered. I admit that the emigrant to Kansas and Nebraska is competent to govern himself, but" (the speaker rising to his full height) "I deny his right to govern any other person WITHOUT THAT PERSon's CONSENT." The applause which followed this triumphal refutation of a cunning falsehood was but an earnest of the victory at the polls which followed just one month from that day.

When Mr. Lincoln had concluded, Mr. Douglas strode hastily to the stand. As usual, he employed ten minutes in telling how grossly he had been abused, recollecting himself, he added, abused in a per


though in a perfectly courteous manner, fectly courteous manner! He then devoted half an hour to showing that it was indispensably necessary to California emigrants, Santa Fe traders and others, to have organic acts provided for the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, that being precisely the point which nobody disputes. Having established these premises to his satisfaction, Mr. Douglas launched forth into

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an argument wholly apart from the positions taken by Mr. Lincoln. IIe had about half finished at six o'clock, when an adjournment to tea was effected. The speaker insisted strenuously upon his right to resume in the evening, but we believe the second part of that speech has not been delivered to this day. After the Springfield passage, the two speakers went to Peoria, and tried it again, with identically the same results. A friend who listened to the Peoria debate, informed us that after Lincoln had finished, Douglas "hadn't much to say," which we presume to have been Mr. Douglas's view of the case also, for the reason that he ran away from his antagonist and kept out of his way during the remainder of his campaign.

At Peoria, in the same summer, Mr. Lincoln made a speech, from which we extract.

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This is the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The foregoing history may not be precisely accurate in every particular; but I am sure it is sufficiently so for all the uses I shall attempt to make of it, and in it we have before us the chief materials enabling us to correctly judge whether the repeal of the Missouri Compromise is right or wrong.

I think, and shall try to show, that it it wrong, wrong in its direct effect, letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska, and wrong in its prospective principle, allowing it to spread to every other part of the wide world, where men can be found inclined to take it.

This declared indifference, but, as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot 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 amongst 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 self-interest.

Before proceeding, let me against the Southern people.

say, I think I have no prejudice 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 slave-masters.


When Southern people tell us they are no more responsible for the origin of slavery than we, 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 moment's 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. If they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days; and there are not surplus shipping and surplus money enough in the world to carry them there in many times ten days. What then? Free them all, and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition? I think I would not hold one in slavery at any rate; yet the point is not clear enough to me to denounce people upon. What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; 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, cannot be safely disregarded. We cannot, 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.

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When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly; and I would give

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