Page images
PDF
EPUB

Mr. Douglas was shrewd enough to see that he could not carry the burden of the Lecompton Constitution through the canvass for the senatorial prize, then imminent. The outrage was too flagrant to be ignored, and the facts too notorious to be disputed. He was also shrewd enough to see that his opposition to the Lecompton fraud would take from the republican party some of its best capital, and greatly distract the opposition in their efforts to defeat him.

During that session of Congress Mr. Douglas fought a gallant and manly fight against the administration on the Lecompton question, and, on that question, voted and labored with the republicans. It was a bold step. Without Mr. Douglas, it is easy to see that the Lecompton Constitution would have been impossible. He voluntarily threw open the territory to this outrage. Then he tried to kill his own legitimate child. He forsook the men whom he had led into the great iniquity. The republicans were grateful for his aid, and were naturally drawn to him in sympathy because, for his efforts on behalf of justice in Kansas, he had incurred the enmity of Mr. Buchanan, who was regarded as a most willing tool in the hands of the slave power.

The democratic state convention of Illinois assembled on the 21st of April, 1858, and endorsed Mr. Douglas in his position as an anti-Lecompton man. They placed a state ticket in the field, and engineered the canvass with such skill and vigor that the administration, through its office-holders, could make no headway against them. The power of Mr. Douglas over the politicians and masses in his own state, was never better illustrated than during this campaign, when all the patronage of the federal government could do nothing to defeat him. Before the close of the session, Mr. Douglas went home to look after his interests, and to prepare for the great campaign of his life.

A large number of republicans in the eastern states who had not known Mr. Douglas at home, and who had witnessed his bold and gallant fight with the administration and the slavepower in the senate, expressed the wish that their friends in Illinois might find it in the line of their duty to aid in returning him to the senate. The republicans of Illinois, however, felt that they knew the man better, and that their duty did not lie in that direction at all. They urged that Mr. Douglas did not agree with them in a single point of doctrine—that he had differed with the administration merely on a question of fact, whether the Lecompton Constitution was the act and deed of the people of Kansas. They averred that he adhered to the outrageous decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case—that a negro cannot sue in a United States court, and that Congress cannot prohibit slavery in the territories--and that they* dared not trust Mr. Douglas. To this it was replied that Mr. Douglas was coming over to the republican party as fast as he could carry his followers with him, and that his extraordinary hold upon the masses of the democratic party at the North would enable him to bring to the republican ranks a reinforcement which would prove irresistible at the approaching presidential election. The rejoinder of the Illinois republicans was that the probability of any sincere change of faith in Mr. Douglas was too remote and uncertain to warrant them in abandoning an organization which had been formed to advance a great and just cause, and which, once dissolved, could not be re-formed in time to render efficient service in the election of 1860. Quite a controversy grew out of the differences between the Illinois republicans and their eastern advisers, and no small degree of bitterness was engendered. The party in Illinois was nearly a unit in its views, but the controversy had undoubtedly the influence to loosen the hold of the organization upon some of its members. The effect was temporary, however, for the issues of the campaign were so thoroughly discussed, and the discussions them selves were so generally listened to, or read in the journals of the day, that it is doubtful whether Mr. Douglas gained any appreciable advantage from the controversy, or the sympathy of republicans in other states.

The republican state convention met at Springfield on the sixteenth of June, nearly two months after the assembling of

:

the democratic convention. Aside from the senatorial question, there was but little interest in the proceedings. For state officers, only a treasurer and a superintendent of public instruction were to be nominated, and, besides these officers, only the members of a legislature were to be elected. Nearly six hundred delegates were present in the convention, and they, with their alternates, completed a round thousand of earnest men, gathered from all parts of the state. The fifth resolution adopted on this occasion covers the grand issue made with Judge Douglas.

6 That while we deprecate all interference on the part of political organizations with the judiciary, if such action is limited to its appropriate sphere, yet we cannot refrain from expressing our condemnation of the principles and tendencies of the extra-judicial opinions of a majority of the Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the matter of Dred Scott, wherein the political heresy is put forth that the federal constitution extends slavery into all the territories of the Republic, and so maintains it that neither Congress nor the people through the territorial legislature can by law abolish it. We hold that Congress possesses sovereign power over the territories, and has the right to govern and control them whilst they remain in a territorial condition, and that it is the duty of the general government to protect the territories from the curse of slavery, and to preserve the public domain for the occupation of free men and free labor; and we declare that no power on earth can carry and maintain slavery in the states against the will of their people and the provisions of their constitutions and laws; and we fully indorse the recent decision of the Supreme Court of our own state, which declares that property in persons is repugnant to the Constitution and laws of Illinois, and that all persons within its jurisdiction are presumed to be free, and that slavery, where it exists, is a inunicipal regulation, without any extra-territorial operation.”

If there were men in the convention who had at first been affected by the representations of the republicans in the eastern states, the action of the democratic convention which met in April had restored their determination to stand by their party and its candidates. That convention had denounced the republicans, had indorsed the old democratic platform of the party adopted at Cincinnati in national convention, and, while it approved the course of Senator Douglas, failed to say one word in condemnation of the course and principles, or, rather, lack of principles, of Mr. Buchanan and his administration. The republican convention had hardly assembled before it was discovered that there was entire unanimity for Mr. Lincoln, as their nominee in opposition to Mr. Douglas. When a banner from Chicago was borne into the convention, inscribed with the words—“Cook County for Abraham Lincoln”--the whole convention rose to its feet, and gave three cheers for the candidate whom it was proposed to place in the field in opposition to the champion of “popular sovereignty.” That the convention was embarrassed and doubtful as to results, there is no question. Mr. Douglas had the sympathy of many republicans abroad, he had attacked a hated administration with great vigor and persistence, he had the enmity of that administration, and, in the state, he had the advantage of an unjust apportionment of legislative districts, by which not less than ninety-three thousand people were virtually disfranchised.* Though it was not according to the wish of many of the members of the convention to make a formal nomination for the senate, yet, as Mr. Douglas had already declared that it was the intention to use Mr. Lincoln's name during the canvass, and to adopt another name in the legislature, the following resolution was brought forward, and unanimously adopted:

« That Hon. ABRAHAM LINCOLN is our first and only choice for United States Senator, to fill the vacancy about to be created by the expiration of Mr. Douglas' term of office.”

The anxiety of the convention to see and hear their chosen man and champion was intense; and frequent calls were made for him during the day. That Mr. Lincoln expected the nomination, and had prepared himself for it, is evident. It was announced at length that he would address the members of the convention at the State House in the evening. During the day, he was busy in giving the finishing touches to his speech, which had been prepared with unusual care, every sentence having been carefully weighed. He had put into it what he believed to be the real issues of the campaign, and had laid out in it the ground upon which he proposed to stand, and fight his battles. Before going to the hall, he entered his law office, where Mr. Herndon, his partner, was sitting, and turned the key against all intrusion. Taking out his manuscript, he read to Mr. Herndon the first paragraph of his speech, and asked him for his opinion of it. Mr. Herndon replied that it was all true, but he doubted whether it was good policy to give it utterance at that time. “That makes no difference,” responded Mr. Lincoln. “It is the truth, and the nation is entitled to it." Then, alluding to a quotation which he had made from the Bible—“A house divided against itself cannot stand," he said that he wished to give an illustration familiar to all, “ that he who reads may run.” proposition is true,” said Mr. Lincoln, “and has been true for six thousand years, and I will deliver it as it is written.”

* Scripps, p. 24.

At eight o'clock, the hall of the House of Representatives was filled to its utmost capacity, and when Mr. Lincoln appeared he was received with the most tumultuous applause. The speech which he made on that occasion is so full of meaning, so fraught with prophecy, so keen in its analysis, so irresistible in its logic, so profoundly intelligent concerning the politics of the time, and, withal, so condensed in the expression of every part, that no proper idea can be given of it through any description or abbreviation. It must be given entire.

Mr. Lincoln said:

[ocr errors]

66 The

"If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, We could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure perma nently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either

« PreviousContinue »