Page images


tions in their own way." "These things," he added, all confided by the Constitution to each state to decide for itself and I know of no reason why the same principle should not be extended to the territories." He favored the acquisition of Cuba as soon as it could be honorably accomplished. He opposed the Clayton-Bulwer treaty on the ground that it would prevent the United States from extending southwards. He was a candidate for the nomination to the presidency in 1852 but was defeated. At the congressional session of 1853-4 he introduced the bill to organize on a "popular sovereignty" basis the territories of Kansas and Nebraska- -a measure which revolutionized American politics and brought the discussion regarding slavery to a white heat. It killed the old Whig party and created the antislavery "black Republican" party. It repealed the Missouri compromise which confined slavery to the states south of Mason and Dixon's line and opened the way, claimed its opponents, for the indefinite spread of slavery. The bill itself declared its purpose to be "not to legislate slavery into any state or territory nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the constitution of the United States." On the basis of this doctrine of "popular sovereignty" Douglas tried for the nomination for president in 1856 but was defeated by Buchanan. The Kansas-Nebraska bill was very unpopular with the anti-slavery element and, as Douglas said, he could travel from Boston to Chicago by the light of his own burning effigies. But when the question of secession arose Douglas stood firm for the Union.

Douglas defeated Lincoln for senator in the contest of 1857-8 but his speeches did not add to his strength outside of Illinois. In 1860 Douglas ran against Lincoln for the presidency supported by the northern section of the

Democratic party, the south going for Breckenridge. After his defeat and the declaration of the south for secession Douglas remained staunch to the Union and died in 1861, declaring secession to be "crime and madness."


Letter to Hon. G. Robertson. The Hon. George Robertson had been chief justice of Kentucky from 1829 to 1843. In the closing paragraph of this letter Lincoln strikes the note of his divided house" speech delivered three years later.


87 Letter to Speed. This frank expression of Lincoln's views on slavery has been much quoted. The condition of affairs in Kansas brought about by the Missouri compromise excitement deserved the name it received of "civil war." The commissioners appointed to inquire into it reported that it lasted from November 1855 to December 1856 and that the loss of life was something under 200. It further reported:

Amount of crops destroyed..

Number buildings burned.
Horses taken or destroyed..
Cattle taken or destroyed.





Property taken or destroyed by pro-slavery men. $318,718.63 Property taken or destroyed by free-state men.. $94,529.40

91 Speech at Galena. The closing words of this speech are famous. Secession talk was just beginning to assume importance.

93 Speech at Chicago. In the campaign of 1856 Frémont ran as the candidate of the newly formed Republican party in the organization of which Lincoln had been active. It opposed the repeal of the Missouri compromise and urged the admission of Kansas as a free state. The Know-nothings nominated Fillmore. The Democrats elected their candidate, James Buchanan. Lincoln narrowly escaped being nominated for vice president on the Republican

[ocr errors]

ticket. His closing address in the campaign is known as "Lincoln's lost speech." So moved were his hearers that they arose from their chairs with pale faces and quivering lips and pressed unconsciously toward him." Even the reporters forgot to take notes. Joseph Medill, afterwards editor of the Chicago Tribune, says: "I well remember that after Lincoln had sat down and calm had succeeded the tempest, I waked out of a sort of hypnotic trance and thought of my report to the Tribune. It was some satisfaction to find that I had not been scooped' as all the other newspaper men had been equally carried away by the excitement caused by the wonderful oration and had made no report or sketch of the speech." In this Chicago speech Lincoln shows at least one great gift in a leader of men— that of inspiring new hope in defeated followers.

John Charles Frémont was the brave and high-spirited young explorer who did so much to open the west and earned the title of Pathfinder. From 1842 to 1854 he explored the Rockies, Utah and California. He served in the civil war and was nominated in 1865 by Republicans dissatisfied with Lincoln but withdrew from the contest.

96 Dred Scott. The Dred Scott decision was delivered by the supreme court 6 March 1856. Scott was a negro whose master had removed from Missouri to Illinois taking the slave with him. Two years later Scott's master removed to what is now called Minnesota and there sold Scott to one Sanford. Scott denied Sanford's right to hold him and claimed that his residence in a free state had given him his liberty. The court decided in Scott's favor but the case was appealed to a higher court which reversed the decision, then appealed to the supreme court. That tribunal handed down a decision on two points: (1) Is Dred Scott a citizen of the United States and as such entitled to bring suit in the United States courts? (2) Did Scott's residence of

two years on free soil make him free? The supreme court decided against Scott, although there were dissenting voices. Chief Justice Taney held that when the constitution was adopted "negroes had no rights which the white man was bound to respect and held it as “absolutely certain that

[ocr errors]

the African race was not included under the name of citizens of a state by the framers of the constitution." Thus it was settled that Scott had no right to sue. As to the second point it was decided "that the act of congress [of 1820] which prohibited a citizen from holding or owning [slaves] in the territory of the United States north of the line [36° 30'] therein mentioned is not warranted by the constitution, and is therefore void." The intense excitement caused by this case was no more than it warranted for the decision on the second question, claimed anti-slavery men, practically gave a man the right to own slaves in any part of the country and certainly made slavery possible in the territories.

Roger Brooke Taney (1777-1864) was first a federalist then a Jackson Democrat. He was attorney general of the United States 1831-3 and became chief justice of the supreme court in 1835. He administered the oath of office to Lincoln at his first inauguration.

104 Senatorial nomination. The Illinois state convention 16 July 1856 declared by acclamation Abraham Lincoln to be "the first and only choice of the Republicans of Illinois for the United States senate as the successor to Stephen A. Douglas." Douglas was renominated by the Democrats. The " divided house speech before the convention was widely discussed and by some friends considered suicidal. W. H. Herndon tells that Lincoln, who knew he should be nominated, had been for some time writing it on bits of paper changing and correcting. It was his most carefully prepared address. Herndon writes:

Before delivering his speech he invited a dozen or so of his friends to the library of the state house, where he read and submitted it to them. After the reading he asked each man for his opinion. Some condemned and no one endorsed it. Having patiently listened to these various criticisms from his friends all of which with a single exception were adverse, he rose from his chair and after alluding to the careful study and intense thought he had given the question he answered all their objections substantially as follows: "Friends, this thing has been retarded long enough. The time has come when those sentiments should be uttered and if it is decreed that I should go down because of this speech, then let me go down linked with the truth-let me die in the advocacy of what is just and right."

[ocr errors]

The "divided house assertion was the text for many tirades against Lincoln but he never in any way retracted it.

114 First joint debate. The excitement aroused by the debates was not merely local. The eyes of a country roused almost to frenzy over the questions of the day were centred on Illinois. The debates were attended by crowds, the two parties vying with bands and processions and fireworks. People came for miles and listened to the three-hour speeches with the closest attention. It should be remembered that the northern half of Illinois was anti-slavery and the southern pro-slavery. In the first debate, at Ottawa in the north, Douglas propounded a series of questions to Lincoln designed to make him commit himself to anti-slavery sentiments. In the second debate Lincoln asked Douglas sevéral questions, chief among them: "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 prior to the formation of a state constitution?" In answering to please Illinois Lincoln saw that Douglas must displease the south. When his friends warned Lincoln against putting this question, saying that it would cost him

« PreviousContinue »