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by non-residents, at an election in which the free state men, who numbered three-fourths of the entire population, refused to participate, on account of illegality. This legislature, meeting at Lecompton, passed an act providing for the election of a convention to form a state constitution, preparatory to asking an admission into the Union. In the election of this convention, the free state men took no part, on the ground that the legislature which ordered it had no legal authority. About two thousand votes were cast, while the legal voters in the territory numbered more than ten thousand. The Lecompton Convention framed, of course, a pro-slavery constitution. It is not necessary to recount the means by which this constitution was subsequently overthrown, and one prohibiting slavery substituted in its place. It is sufficient for the present purpose to state that upon the promulgation of the constitution formed at Lecompton, Robert J. Walker, then Governor of Kansas, went immediately to Washington to remonstrate against its adoption by Congress, and that before he could reach the capitol it had received the approval of the President.
These facts have place here to give the basis of the political relations between Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas; for they were approaching their great struggle. The senatorial term of Mr. Douglas was drawing to a close, and he wished to be indorsed by the people of Illinois, and returned to the Senate. The events of the previous year had shown him that a great political revolution was in progress, and that his seat was actually in danger. He saw what was going on in Kansas, and knew that the iniquities in progress there would be laid at his door. It was he who, in a time of peace, had opened the flood-gates of agitation. It was he who had given to the slave-power what it had not asked for, but could not consistently refuse. It was he who had gratuitously offered the slave-power the privilege of making territory forever set apart to freedom its own, if it could. He had divided his own party in his own state, and was losing his confidence as to his own political future. That he knew just what was coming in Kansas, and
knew what the effect would be upon himself, is evident in the speech he made at Springfield, from Mr. Lincoln's reply to which a passage has already been quoted. In this he undertook to shift to the shoulders of the republican party the burden he felt to be pressing upon his own. Speaking of Kansas, he said: “The law under which her delegates are about to be elected is believed to be just and fair in all its objects and provisions. * * * If any portion of the inhabitants, acting under the advice of political leaders in distant states, shall choose to absent themselves from the polls, and withhold their votes with the view of leaving the free state democrats in the minority, and thus securing a pro-slavery constitution in opposition to the wishes of a majority of the people living under it, let the responsibility rest on those who, for partisan purposes, will sacrifice the principles they profess to cherish and promote. Upon them and upon the political party for whose benefit and under the direction of whose leaders they act, let the blame be visited of fastening upon the people of a new state institutions repugnant to their feelings and in violation of their wishes."
In a subsequent passage of this same speech, he amplifies these points, and both passages show that he knew the nature of the constitution that would be framed, knew that the free state men would not vote at all because they believed the movement was an illegal one, and knew that he and his party would be held responsible for the outrage. It is further to be said that, by his words on this occasion, he fully committed himself, in advance, to whatever the Lecompton Convention might do. “The present election law in Kansas is acknowledged to be fair and just,” he says. “Kansas is about to speak for herself,” he declares. By these words alone, he was morally committed to whatever might be the conclusions of the convention. This is to be remembered, for Mr. Douglas soon found that he could not shift the burden of the Kansas iniquity upon the opposition, and that his only hope of a re-election to the senate depended upon his taking issue with the administration on this very case, and becoming the champion of the anti-Lecompton men.
ONE, of the most remarkable passages in Mr. Lincoln's history was his contest with Senator Douglas, in 1858, for the seat in the United States Senate which was soon to be vacated by the expiration of the term for which the latter was elected. Frequent allusion has been made to this already; but before proceeding to its description something further should be said of Mr. Douglas himself.
Mr. Douglas was but little more than twenty years of age when, in 1833, he entered Illinois. He was poor--penniless, indeed. The first money he earned in the state was as the clerk of an auction sale. His next essay was in teaching school. He began to practice law during the second year, and at the age of twenty-two was elected Attorney General of the state. He resigned this office in 1835, and was elected a member of the legislature. It was here that he and Abraham Lincoln met for the first time. In 1837, before he was twenty-five years old, he received the democratic nomination for Congress, and was only beaten by a majority of five votes. In 1840, he was appointed secretary of the state of Illinois, and in 1815 he was elected to Congress, and re-elected in 1841 and 1816. Before he took his seat under the last election, he was elected to the United States Senate; and his second term of service in this august body was about expiring at the present point of this history.
The career of Mr. Douglas had been one of almost uninterrupted political success. He was the recognized leader of the democratic party of Illinois, and had been known and felt as a positive power in national legislation. He had
decided opinions upon all the great questions passed upon by Congress, and, though not unfrequently at variance with the administrations he had himself assisted to place in power, his influence was great in whatever direction he might choose to exert it. He accomplished much in establishing and nourishing the prosperity of Illinois. No man did so much as Mr. Douglas for securin. contributed to the development of his adopted state. To the material interests of Illinois, and the preservation of the power of the democratic party in that state, he was thoroughly devoted; and that party honored him with its entire confidence and almost unquestioning support. He was their first man; and they bestowed upon him, during his life, more honor than they ever gave to any other man living on their territory.
Mr. Lincoln had watched this man, with admiration for his tact and respect for his power with the people. He had seen him winning the highest honors in their gift, and, if he did not envy him, it was not because he was not ambitious. It was because nothing so mean as envy could have place in him. That he regarded Mr. Douglas as an unscrupulous man in the use of means for securing his ambitious ends, there is no doubt; and although he would have refused honor and office on the terms on which Mr. Douglas received them, he was much impressed by the dignities with which the Senator was invested, and felt that the power he held was a precious, aye, a priceless, possession.
From the original manuscript of one of Mr. Lincoln's speeches, these words are transferred to this biography: “Twenty-two years ago, Judge Douglas and I first became acquainted. We were both young then-he a trifle younger than I. Even then we were both ambitious,--I, perhaps, quite as much so as he. With me, the race of ambition has been a failure-a flat failure; with him, it has been one of splendid success. His name fills the nation, and is not unknown even in foreign lands. I affect no contempt for the
high eminence he has reached. So reached that the oppressed of my species might have shared with me in the elevation, I would rather stand on that eminence than wear the richest crown that ever pressed a monarch's brow.”
This extract touches the points of similarity between the two men, and their points of difference. Mr. Lincoln was far from insensible to the honors of Mr. Douglas' position; but he would not have them at the price Mr. Douglas had paid for them. The oppressed of his species had not shared with Mr. Douglas in his elevation. The slave had had none of his consideration; and he was in league with the slave's oppressor. It would not have been pleasant to Mr. Lincoln to wear the honors of Mr. Douglas, if, with them, he had been obliged to carry the responsibility of extending or giving latitude and lease to an institution which made chattels of men. Mr. Douglas looked upon slavery either with indifference or approval. He had publicly said that he did not care whether slavery was “voted up or voted down” in the territories. Mr. Lincoln regarded slavery as a great moral, social and political wrong. Here was the vital difference between the two, recognized as such by Mr. Lincoln himself.
After the adoption of the Lecompton Constitution in Kansas, Mr. Douglas having foreseen its character, and having virtually committed himself to it in advance—having, indeed, undertaken to make the republican party morally responsible for its existence and adoption, a change seems to have come over his opinions. Before he departed for Washington, to attend the session of 1857 and 1858, it was whispered that he was about to break with the administration on the Lecompton business. It is always pleasant to give men credit for the best motives; and those under which he acted may have been the best. * To oppose that constitution was certainly not inconsistent with his pet doctrine “popular sovereignty” when taken by itself, for nothing was more easily demonstrable than the fact that that constitution was not the act and deed of the people of Kansas—that it was in no sense an expression of their will. * While this is true, it is proper to remember that